An interview with Sexual Health Educator, Samantha Bitty
Q. I struggle so much with investing time to meet new people and develop intimate relationships because life is so busy. Do you have tips or tricks to invest more time/energy in your sex life?
First things first, what do you want? Is it casual sex, or building a long-term relationship? Is it a long-term, casual sex relationship? Knowing that will determine how, or even if, you can allocate resources to the task. That said, the idea of finding the resources (time, energy, etc.) to invest in our sex lives is a really capitalistic way of imagining our relationships with other people. And why wouldn’t we think about it in this way? Our whole lives are structured this way…
However, this way of thinking is rooted in a place of scarcity or lack. Lack of time, lack of energy, lack of good candidates…Does dating have a burn rate? I invite you to pivot this thinking!
As opposed to focusing on what you’re lacking, focus on what you have in abundance to drive this effort! Whether it is an abundance of sex drive, or an abundance of desire to be a partner, this is surely a more motivational approach, whilst also being more empathetic to whomever you’re embarking on companionship with. Ask yourself - do I have it to give, that which I’m looking to get?
If you’re still having challenges, schedule the time in your calendar, like you would any other activity for your life. And if you still can’t make it happen, you may have to reconcile dating is not a priority for you at the moment - and that’s ok!
Q. How should I react when I feel like my partner is gaslighting me? I often get defensive and it only escalates.
I’m not a psychologist, but if you feel like you are being gaslighted, then it is possible you are, or there is at least some manipulation going on. The following suggestions require your emotional labour, so firstly I invite you to consider: is it worth it?
If so, during a peaceful time, send your partner an article (about gaslighting) that resonates with your experience. Explain that when you’re in conflict, you feel like this is happening. If the gaslighting is unintentional - some people legit don’t know they’re doing it - chances are they will want to work on themselves to stop.
But, if your partner is unresponsive, defensive, or the gaslighting continues, it may be intentional/there probably isn't a healthier way to engage without a mediator or counsellor. Lastly, if counselling isn’t an option, you can always take the advice of the great comedian Amanda Seales: “When you see a gaslight, don’t try to cook with it. Fucking bounce!”
Q. I identify as straight but can’t stop flirting with a new friend of mine (who is a lesbian). Is that bad?
Flirting can be totally healthy and harmless - regardless of sexual or emotional availability. It’s still important to see others as whole, and be responsible/respectful while we are getting our kicks. Also, don’t assume because your friend is sexually attracted to your gender, that she is interested in more than just harmless flirting too!
A general guideline for flirting: regardless of the participants’ sexual orientation, be present to your intent (what am I seeking?) and be accountable to your impact (how do my actions affect others?)!
Q. What do you do when your boyfriend won’t stand up for your relationship with his parents?
Sometimes people can have family dynamics that are hard to understand, or empathize with. Still, you feel frustrated, and that’s ok. Are you spending (adequate) time together otherwise? Check in with yourself about what you feel this inaction says about your relationship - ex. I’m not worth fighting for. My feelings don’t matter… etc.
You may have to accept this is a boundary he isn’t able/willing to cross at this moment. A possible solution is to come up with ways that he can show he cares and is invested in the relationship, that makes you feel like your needs are being met. Maybe set up a schedule to check back in about it - 3 months, 6 months or whatever makes sense for you, feeling pressure isn’t usually ideal, and some people can shut down even more.
How everything else is going in the relationship is a factor for how to proceed, but if everything else is feeling good, try to find empathy for how the scenario makes both of you feel, and come to terms you can both agree makes your needs feel seen.
Q. My partner and I are exploring a sexually open relationship and it’s brought us closer and also been hard at times. How do you overcome things like jealousy while you’re exploring?
Open relationships are definitely a journey, not a destination, so lots of navigating ahead! Jealousy is a perfectly normal reaction, even at different intervals throughout an open relationship beyond the beginning.
Jealousy (or any other emotion) serves a purpose. I invite you to look inward at what the jealousy is showing you - are there boundaries to clear up/reevaluate/redefine? Are you simply adjusting to new circumstances? It’s possible that jealousy is part of a learning curve/growing pains. Find ways to support yourself and each other through it - a schedule of some kind, weekly check-ins, daily reassurance… Chances are, when it’s served its purpose it will pass. And come back!
Develop a practice of self-care specific to when this feeling crops up, and remember: love and sexual desire is something you have in abundance.