Savage Love Letter of the Day: Why Won't This Guy Take Off His Shirt?

Comments

1
At the point where you’re no longer having causal sex, but are planning a vacation together, I think you need to insist on seeing him in the nude before you go away together.

You may be fine discovering he has few extra nipples, a large birthmark, a huge scar from the open heart surgery he had as a child, but do you want to find out that he’s been hiding a MAGA tattoo?
2
@1
That's exactly what I was going to say.

@Dan
Thanks for the Arrested Development mention.
I love that show.
3
@1
Although you did forget parasitic mutant twin as a possible explanation.
4
@1 @2

Me too, though I was going to say swastika tattoo, which is just a type of MAGA tattoo.
5
I suspect this guy might have a stoma?
6
If it's loose skin from fat loss, that can be easily fixed with surgery. Might be too shy to look into that option, at least for now.
7
@5: Just wondering, would one not be able to feel the stoma through the shirt? Or pretty much everything else except for maybe stretch marks or a probably highly questionable tattoo? I would say something like 'I find you very hot and exciting and I couldn't care less if you are hiding a parasitic mutant twin or something as normal as a stoma, man boobs or a bit of extra skin under your T-shirt. I also promise I will not start yelling right away if you have a fucking Hitler portrait tattooed down there, but actually listen to you, since you obviously feel very embarrassed about it. So what is it? I would really love to snuggle up skin on skin with you.' Feel free to adjust the grammar, because English is not my mother tongue. ;-)
8
I'm guilty of this as well occasionally and it's definitely a holdover from earlier times, which my awesome partner is aware of. She calls it the "Porky Pig" and it still cracks me up every time.
9
@7 I'm not sure. The one thing I will say, as someone with some lightweight body image issues myself: Promises ain't worth shit.

Ultimately I think shaming this guy into taking his shirt off (the underlying element of "i dont care if you have x/y/z" is "you shouldn't be afraid" which is essentially "it's wrong that you're afraid") is probably a bad path. Taking off his shirt just to appease his partner is unlikely to bring him closer with her.

I think i'd just suggest taking a sexy shower together or something, somewhere were taking off the shirt is required but not the purpose.
10
"I'm obviously really physically attracted to him or I wouldn't be seeing him or sleeping with him."
Huh. Is this the case for everybody else? You only date or sleep with people you're really physically attracted to?
11
@10 - I imagine that's the way it is for quite a few people, yeah. I can't fuck someone who physically repulses me, and if they're just sort of okay, there has to be some other level of attraction there for me to want to put forth the effort of sex. Do you drop trou for just anyone who expresses an interest in bedding you?
12
Overweight most of my life; I'm finally to a weight where I am happy (I won't ever be 170) and that's fine. Body image is a big deal; if he ever had a woman tell him to put his shirt on before sex because she can't stand his flabby tummy... that will pretty much do it

People are generally cruel to fat people and you learn (incorrect, and correct) behavior to try and avoid awkward situations.

Lastly you wouldn't say that you are really physically attracted to him; or you wouldn't be sleeping with him.

I would keep my shirt on if I was him. You think you are better than him because he used to be fat.

Shameful cruel people who don't care who they hurt just to make themselves feel better for a moment or two.
13
If Dan re-posts a column from 1993, shouldn’t he put, “Hey, faggot” at the top?
14
I am guessing third nipple or a giant Phoenix rising from the ashes tattoo on his back
15
@10 I think that's the case for most people who sleep with and date someone for several weeks and plan vacations with them.

I also thought he's hiding a bad or embarrassing tattoo, but it could just be shame around loose skin and/or stretch marks. Some people do look better with clothing on, but I think refusing to take a shirt off would make people notice things they otherwise wouldn't. I've known a few people who had no problem being naked to have sex but who would not walk around shirtless before or after, etc. Whatever it is he's insecure about, the LW sure is going to look for it and notice when he finally does take his shirt off, no matter how kind the response.
16
He takes off his shirt and reveals a giant tattoo of a purple cartoon horse with heart shaped eyes sliding down a rainbow.

"You see, I was at a different place in my life and My Little Pony felt very liberating. The fandom gave me a place to express my true self."
17
I thought it could be an embarrassing tattoo--maybe an ex's name. Or he could have pectus excavatum.
18
One thing you notice as you gain or lose weight, people who formerly would not even see you as human are suddenly extremely nice to you, go out of their way nice (or the opposite depending on which side of the pendulum you're on at the time). This was the goal of the weight loss, right? That and to be able to fuck hotter people? But those people who before the weight loss at best wouldn't notice you - you're not going to like them once you've lost the weight. And if you're dating someone who you aren't sure would have dated you before? You don't want to find out exactly how shallow they are. It's going to make it very hard to continue dating them.

You might make some progress if you share your body image issues with him. I would try this out with a fat friend first (who knows what you're trying to do) so you can avoid landmines. It seems unlikely you have anything equivalent or you would already have known what to say but it's worth trying. If you have no fat friends you can see why he's worried. Perhaps you should make some - if in America, that's 40% of adults at least.
19
Like some other commenters, I immediately thought there is something else he is hiding, like tattoos or scars.
20
Re: surgery - it's expensive, usually not covered by insurance (although he should ask about this if he's got a doc, sometimes it can be), often takes multiple surgeries, is very painful and he'd likely be unable to work for weeks or months depending on his job, pain tolerance and speed of healing which varies. He would also not be able to work out for at least that time which may terrify him. It's possible he had gastric bypass and rapid weight loss he's now maintaining with obsessive working out, or just did it other ways that resulted in the same excess skin situation that's impossible to avoid unless very young or very lucky.

LW - there's an episode of this American Life called "you can call me fat" that might be useful for you to listen to -no male perspectives but good guidance as to where he may be emotionally. If anyone has any leads on similar stories from men I'd love to know.

@16 the pony thing is kinda sweet. Do you think there are guys out there who would be as shallow about a girl they were into?
21
A pony tattoo sounds awesome. Hopefully that’s what it is.
22
Also I don't see much point in pushing this before the vk. He's probably trying to push himself into being fully naked in front of you and the vk together (to the beach! High bar.) is part of that plan. Letting him be in full control of it is a good idea at this point - it's not like you're three years in. Worst case scenario you have vacation with a never nude and it'll either be a great story or something you tell the grandkids about. I guess the question I have is - why is this important to you? If it's cause you want cuddle time, let the man be. If it's because you're trying to fix him at six weeks and don't know how - relax. Trust is built slowly where there are wounds, and this sounds like a big one. At six months, a year? Ok. If you're still counting the relationship in weeks and as you say you don't know what you're doing? Don't step in it.
23
What is most likely the problem is not so much belly flap as saggy tits. Good idea to Google image search this in advance so your face doesn't do that surprise thing, he won't be able to interpret that positively or forget it.
24
@21 I'd get that man a pony shirt the same as his pony tattoo so he could wear it to the beach, take it off and underneath? Identical pony!

There are a lot of things that are red flags and everything else being good that emphatically isn't one of them.
25
Maybe the LW is being nice, but "on the heavy side" in high school doesn't sound like he was big enough to have so much loose skin and stretch marks that she needs to prep with google image searches- it's either body insecurities that may not even be a big deal in real life or else he's hiding something else. If it's the second, yes I hope it's something silly like a tattoo from a former interest in something that is now embarrassing to him. Bronies before Nazis, any day, I was trying to lighten the mood. So I'm not sure what this means: "Do you think there are guys out there who would be as shallow about a girl they were into?" Guys that would be as shallow as what? The shallow response that the guy fears the girl will have in my imaginary joke scenario? The idea of the pony shirt with the pony tattoo underneath made me laugh out loud.
26
Many many kudos to the LW for respecting his body and wishes and not peeking when he's asleep!
27
@25 i think straight men, despite all the talk, are a lot less shallow than straight women. It's easy to imagine a straight woman rejecting a dude for a tattoo like that, but I have a hard time imagining the reverse scenario.
28
@25 we don't know about the years between - late twenties for her, he's maybe older. Stressful decade for many. Them's the brony years for sure.
29
I honestly think a giant my Little pony tattoo would actually make the average guy a lot more attractive to me. I've never thought about it before, I don't care about my Little pony, but honestly? 1000000000% better than a football tattoo or much of anything else. I'm having a hard time thinking of something better to find.
30
@25 you start w the gently tubby pics and gauge reaction.
31
A friend was dating one of our colleagues, a funny gorgeous blond giant Polish guy. He was a buff 20 year old, but he never took his shirt off around her. One night during sex, she ran her hands up his back under his shirt and felt some serious acne and pustules. (FYI, hormones, genetics, and/or steroid use can cause this.) Between the two of us, he is forevermore known as Zit-Back Jack.
32
no, I think you are taking my very little joke way too seriously. If we keep it up though, we'll come full circle and it will be hilarious.
33
LW, when he's ready he'll take his shirt off. Like Dan said he may have stretch marks/ loose skin and he still doesn't feel safe enough with you to let you see. He is allowed his own time to disclose himself to new lovers, so be patient.
34
@6 and @20 - @20 is correct. Surgery is not something that is 'easily done.' Not even if you are the surgeon. I've had 2 so far after losing 200+ pounds(My picture is under Rollercoaster in the dictionary. This time for sure.) Before the first surgery, there was literally 8 inches of lose skin hanging down ever time I bent over, chest, arms, abdomen, thighs, etc. I had a huge flap hanging over my penis. The first, abdominoplasty, was covered by insurance. The second, brachioplasty, and the upcoming third for my thighs and buttocks, cost $10,000 each.

For the first, I was in the hospital overnight and was off work for 2 weeks. Luckily I don't have a physically demanding job, because I could not stand up straight or lift more than 10-20 pounds for a couple of months. Two years later I can still fill the strain on the incision when I stand up straight.

The second as 4 months ago. I didn't have to stay overnight, but they put me out at 6am and I didn't wake up until 7pm. It was a lot easier with my arms, but I couldn't hold even a toothbrush or razor correctly for a week. My hands were too weak. It took a month before I could hold and pour a jug of milk.

And there's at least 3 days of surgical drains, emptying them and recording how much fluid was captured, etc. All of the cool stuff you get after surgery.

Even if he had the surgery, he may be self conscious about the scars. I have close to 12 feet of scars. From hip to hip, with a sort of W on my lower abdomen, straight up to mid sternum. Then from forearm to underarm, a little curl and then across my chest and around each nipple. My belly button has changed location( 6 months of phantom belly button itching was weird) and my nipples have moved and sort of collapsed.

So it is not surprising that he would want to keep his shirt on. My wife has put up with my looking a lot worse because of fat and/or loose skin.
35
We may have a winner with Rusticle @31!

Almost everyone—myself included—was quick to connect his problem with his past overweight condition, and conclude: bad tits.

Instead, you have thought to connect his current condition—gym rat—with likely accompanying steroid use and resulting pizza effect. You could be right, or wrong, but you've seen another interesting angle.

But whether it's bad tits or whether its pizza skin, unless his "shirt" is of heavy canvas, burlap or thick neoprene—or unless the LW omitted the fact that she either has no hands or arms, or else she avoids any sexual position besides doggie or reverse-cowgirl (aka a “neverface”)—she would have been able to feel what's going on through his shirt during sex.

Did his back feel like the brail edition of Ulysses? Did his torso feel like Pudding In a Cloud? Were his nipples located somewhere below his 7th or 8th ribs? Does he flinch and bat her hands away (assuming she has any) when she tries to explore his body?

If not, then we're probably dealing with something very superficial, like Little Ponies, or something much more profound, like swastikas or MAGA-mania.

PS: Kudos to ylene @7 for correctly suggesting that the LW say that she “couldn't care less”. That's better English grammar than most native-speakers employ.
36
Ankyl @10: This woman is in her late 20s and straight. Yes, she has the luxury of only sleeping with people she is really physically attracted to. (And yes, this goes for me too, though I accept that it may have to change in the next decade or so. Sigh, ageing.)

Dumnogenous @12: What evidence do you have that she thinks she is better than him because he used to be overweight? Or that she's "shameful and cruel"? I think you are talking about other people here, not the LW. I'm sorry you've been body shamed; it does hurt, yes, but it can be at least partially got over. You're obviously carrying a lot of anger around; consider seeing a therapist to get your psyche as healthy as your body now is?

Ms No @18: Good point. If he has loose skin from the weight loss (the most likely scenario, even if there is also an embarrassing tattoo, birthmark etc), and if she's made a huge deal out of how sexy she finds him, he's probably aware that his looks are what netted her and if he shows her his imperfections, he's afraid she'll bolt. BOD, maybe try complimenting his non-physical qualities, and see if that gets him more comfortable with your relationship.

Ms No @20: I know a guy who went home with a woman and discovered she had a Nazi tattoo. He bolted. (Good for him.) Something like a bad, but not offensive, tattoo, or loose skin or fake or saggy or too-small breasts... it would depend on the guy. I have a male friend who dated a woman who would never take off her top, and when he finally convinced her, it turned out she too had lost a lot of weight and her breasts were saggy as pancakes. I can't remember how that story ended unfortunately, sorry! So, yeah, some guys would be that shallow, but I expect more would have the sex and then lose her number -- whether that's better or worse, I'll withhold judgment.

Rusticle @31: So did she continue dating Zit-Back Jack?

Gaspar @35: Seconded, ylene's English was perfect.
37
BobR @34 thank you for sharing your story.

38
Another thing for LW to consider: is she judgy or accepting of other people's bodies in general? If he's self-conscious about whatever, he's gonna note how she remarks (or doesn't) on others and it will greatly affect how safe he feels getting naked with her.
39
@38 part of this may also be what her exes look like (and to some extent, her friends). He can look around and see what she values in other people, and those commenting on her focus on his physical attractiveness are right that it may convey the opposite message than what she wants to achieve. Being told you're beautiful all the time doesn't build confidence if you aren't actual perfection and often doesn't even then. Especially if he's afraid of going back to where he was weightwise.
40
On the subject of steroids: I've had sex with five or six guys who were using steroids. I noticed no "pizza effect", but there was another symptom that was extremely obvious and systematic and that the LW would be much more concerned about than the guy refusing to take his shirt off: steroid dick.

Granted, he could have stopped using steroids by now and have regained full penile function and length.

I'm going with body issues. Embarassing tattoos are a valid possibility, but you can get those "erased" somewhat or tattooed over, so body issues seem more logical to me.
41
@36 don't worry about it. You'll find that the high bar for physical attractiveness you've required in partners so far is pretty much irrelevant.

If you, as you say, haven't been deemed physically repulsive by others, I don't know that you can refer people to therapy based on your experience. Like you, it seems possible the LW has never dated a fat guy or been fat herself. That matters here, when she's trying to figure out how a fat guy might feel. Perhaps listening to fat men would provide more insight than you can. A truly supportive partner is going to be more valuable here than a shrink, the LW needs to learn as much as she can do she's ready when he is finally able to trust her with this deep hurt. Information that in a decade or so you too may find useful when you must deign to date mere mortals, although I can't imagine you haven't dated anyone with body image issues before. Physical perfection does not preclude.

Not dating Nazis isn't shallow, I just can't think of a non-hate tattoo on a woman that would be enough to repel a guy or even slow one down. Maybe a giant cock? But you know I've seen that on a woman and the guys were all very approving. So... ?

Most women would have the sex too and then lose the number if repulsed. Flat tits will happen to us all though, and the thing about straight/bi men is generally they've seen a lot more naked female bodies up closer and are a hell of a lot less judgemental about them. I don't know many that would be an actual problem for.

Zit back is highly entertaining for those who love to pop them!

42
"Every time I try to bring it up" was rather telling. It makes me think of Lady Middleton's giving Sir John a gentle reprimand (about his having invited the Miss Steeles to Barton before she'd met them) five or six times every day. That someone pouring so much time and energy into a pose of concern for a partner's responses and well-being wouldn't realize that perhaps one might stop bringing it up inclines me to think that this has become less about contact and more about Winning, with bonus points if she can win while looking like a good person in the process.
43
@32 I am dead serious about @29
44
@41 those few guys I know for whom flat tits would be a deal breaker are all completely unfuckable/unfriendable btw.
45
@42 distinctly possible although I would add if she herself has body image issues she may be trying to save herself by saving him, cause it's always easier to muck about beyond other people's clearly stated boundaries than deal with your own stuff.

Maybe she should consider how she'd feel if the situation were reversed. And not in an imaginary way like "oh I'd love it if someone else pushed me into seeing my own beauty" but "I think with someone who made me feel safe by respecting my limits and letting me go at my own speed, who I really trusted, I could show them my body and know they wouldn't reject me or be repelled by me or show even a flicker of dismay. By their acceptance of me, themselves and others, I would know with 100% certainty that they would be equally as attracted to me no matter what I really look like".

For reference, anyone here ever really truly fully and forever got over a body image issue? If so, please write a book!
46
@35 Madame Butterfly?
47
@no, I guess what is surprising to me (or confusing) is that we are speculating if the LW's bf has something to hide. Perhaps a scar, perhaps something on his body, perhaps an offensive or embarrassing tattoo. Maybe something silly like the symbol for a fandom.

I don't see how you'd extrapolate from this (silly imagined all speculation) scenario that the gf would be repulsed by it or shallow or make a judgement in the first place. The point of our (silly imagined all speculation) scenario is that the LW's bf is hiding it- not that the gf would be offended/shallow. So that's already got me scratching my head. But then from there to make the assumption and move on to speculating if men every behave this way- this way like what? Like the assumed response of an imaginary person in a made-up scenario? If we are going to speculate whether or not the revelation of silly tattoos ever stop people from fucking someone they were totally geared up to fuck just seconds before, then I don't see why we're starting with the premise that women might be shallow here, would men be?

It takes a while to beat a dead horse to a pulp and then sculpt that pulp back into something we can ride, but I'm sure we could do it if we put our minds to it. I'm less optimistic that it will be funny since my original joke wasn't really funny to begin and you are dead serious, but I have faith in the absurdity of most things, so...
48
@12 dumnogenus & @18 no. show up some of the far-fetched explanations for ... just that, far-fetched. It’s a pity that the commentariat as a group give the impression that only hot, thin people have sex (or sex in adventurous and non-normative configurations or are able rationally and sensitively to turn their minds to sexual problems).

Why has the guy suggested a beach holiday, rather than eg hiking or going to a cultural centre, a convention, an art show? I'd think no has it again; he wants the shirt to come off on his own terms and to his own schedule. So ... she should wait.
49
@34 Sorry to hear that your surgeries were that expensive and painful. Congratulations on losing that much fat though, your body will thank you in the long run. I was basing my experience from a customer at a bike shop where I used to work. I never saw him before he lost weight but the after worked out well. He also said the recovery wasn't bad.
51
Ms No @41: My suggestion of therapy was for the commenter Dumnogenus, not the LW or her boyfriend. I may never have been fat (which does not mean I've never had crippling body anxiety), but I can recognise debilitating chips on shoulders when I see them. Despite LW's wanting to make her partner feel good about himself, Dumnogenus jumped to "you think you are better than him" -- I didn't see that at all. Dumnogenus will not get an understanding partner if they pre-emptively feel every person is negatively judging them, so I'm afraid your solution won't work here.

You're right that most women who discovered something they didn't like about their partner's body -- for instance, a small dick as was discussed in a recent SLLOTD -- would have the sex anyway and not go back for seconds. So who is more shallow? I don't think we can make a final decision.

Venn @42: I read "every time I bring it up" as probably meaning when she tries to take off his shirt before sex, which is pretty much a universal thing to do during foreplay if your partner hasn't taken their own shirt off (unless it's some kind of public sex thing, or perhaps very cold). I agree, if he's made it clear sex is shirt-on only, she should stop trying to disrobe him.
52
@48 I gather this is a new situation for the guy since he either hasn't navigated it before (or he'd be handling it better - this is why I don't want to take my shirt off, give me time, don't pressure me, I've had people have bad reactions and it cratered my self esteem), or she's significantly different than anyone he's dated previously (hotter, younger, thinner, more emphatic about his hotness, or he's just gotten out of a dry spell/ltr - except I think she would know if it was that last one) and he thinks she's more likely to walk as a result. He doesn't feel comfortable bringing it up which is why I don't think it's a hate symbol - you want to get ahead of that. Beach vk might have been her idea - he's said he's going to keep his shirt on. We don't know if he lets her touch his shirt area, but if he does scarring from skin removal (or possibly burns? But you'd talk about burns, probably. Maybe scars from childhood abuse?) seem most likely. He's afraid it's a relationship extinction level event, maybe that's happened to him before. He needs to be sure of her, she wants him to be sure of her, and the way to do that is to take off the pressure and stick around.

@49 it probably depends on how much you need done.
53
@47 the worst thing he could have under that shirt is a perfectly normal torso
54
Am I the only one seeing big red flags with the works out TWICE a day thing. That's not about health or fitness, that's well and truly crossed into obsessive behavior and I would be recommending this guy seek out professionals who can help him deal with this. When does that guy have time for a girlfriend?
55
@54 I thought that too. Then I checked myself. It depends on the number of hours and also (probably) the weather/lifestyle where they live. In the winter, I do weights, treadmill/bike and sauna, at least 4 days a week, usually 5. It takes about two hours a day. I'm an early bird so I don't mind- it fits into my schedule. It's excessive probably. I have no body issues and I've never had any problems with weight or eating disorders, etc. I just like it. In the summers, I climb mountains and paddle so I almost never go to the gym, but if I were to work out less in the winter, I'd have some trouble getting back into shape before each season. It's rational to me that if I want to spend large portions of my summers in prime enough shape to do extreme sports, then I have to spend large portions of my winters maintaining a decent level of athleticism. Plus I just like it. So... back to the LW's bf. My first thought was someone with weight fluctuations plus body image issues who goes to the gym twice a day- that might be a red flag. But what is he doing twice a day? Why? How long each time? If he runs on the treadmill every morning before work and then lifts weights every evening after work instead of doing it all at once, is that excessive? If he finds that a regular routine and staying in really good shape helps him manage his diet/lifestyle better (some of us are all or nothing types) is that really a big deal? What if he said he watches two TV dramas a night? Would we think that is a red flag? Or that he surfs the net and chats on message boards every day? In the end, I decided it's probably not a red flag, unless it is, and we have no way to know. :)

@53 No-
ha ha. He takes his shirt off, and it's just a normal average maybe even hot torso. She has to wonder forever what the reluctance was about. Is he nuts? Is she?
56
Climb on top and do nipple play with him over, then under the shirt as you give him the juiciest snapper fuck you can manage until he explodes. I can't imagine the shirt being an issue when you are cleaning semen out of your ear canal.
57
I'm not so interested in "why won't he take off his shirt?" and more in "why won't she respect his clear boundaries?" He's made it clear it doesn't want to do it, and doesn't want to talk about it. So your good choices are to back off and give him time to trust you, or or decide you don't want to be with a guy who holds things back, and break up. All this "How do I make him do something he doesn't want to do even though it doesn't really have a big impact on me!!??!!" is no way to run a relationship.

My guess as to what it is? I'm going to go with scars from the abuse he suffered as a child - his stepfather burning him with cigarettes, say - that he has learned from experience tend to shift the dynamic of the relationship when revealed too soon. Sweet fun sexy "Hey, we're getting to know each other and having a good time" turns to "Oh, you poor victim!" and he's not interested in her pity at this point in their relationship.

I know quite a few people with some serious shit in their pasts, who have come to terms with it but who would really prefer not dragging it out to be pawed over by every acquaintance. If these two stay together and it becomes serious, eventually she'll find out what's up, when he's ready to let her in.
59
That might be, Agony, but I don't think it's unhealthy for her to want to help him through this. It depends on how she's handling it. Most humans want skin to skin contact. I think it would reasonable affect anyone's long term sex life to refuse to take off clothing, even while fucking in private in a long term relationship. I don't think her choices have to be limited to accepting this or leaving the relationship. It makes sense that if they are good otherwise, she'd want to help him get comfortable taking off his shirt. Relationships involve gently nudges out of comfort zones and lots of compromise. She's not asking for something unreasonable. It's just the way she's going about it- might be fine, might not, we don't know. But it doesn't appear she's being pushy or that she's not supportive. I don't think it's fair also to say that it doesn't have a big impact on her. If sex and physical intimacy are a big part of a relationship then yes it actually does matter. I'd find it pretty gross to have a wet sweaty piece of cloth between me and another body every time we fuck, and I'd miss the basic bonding moments like putting your head on someone else's chest. If he's going to refuse, OK, but that does come with consequences- understandable or sympathetic as it may be. Anytime a person puts up inflexible barriers to intimacy and then refuses to even discuss them, that limits the intimacy they will experience. It might not be their fault, it might be understandable, they might not be ready for that intimacy anyway, and yes, the other person should respect that, but those barriers do create consequences and isolation. And if a loving partner wants to help you, I don't think it's so simple as "back off" or "break up". This is a two-way street, and if he really does need her to back off about it and not break up, he should be willing to at least talk about it. If he can't even talk about his boundary, then he probably isn't ready for any sort of relationship at all, and that's not the LW's fault either.
60
@54 if he did gastric bypass, was big before, your metabolism never really recovers (the longest study was six years out, but it's likely permanent. Your body continues to fight to get to your max set point. After bypass, you ingest maybe 800 calories a day at most but you only lose 40-60% of the weight regardless of where you started. Exercising for many hours a day is literally what it takes to maintain what a normal body type is perceived to be. That's why you have to do the surgery, because very few people can commit to that.
61
@54 even if he didn't do bypass, the metabolism set point remains. You can take yourself down to very low calorie intake and be unable to maintain weight loss. Very few people are that good at self starving and/or exercising themselves like that.
62
Solution: use Google, come up with a picture book of every possible horrible thing it could be. Have your friends help. Definitely look into some medical dermatology texts. Dig deep. Put it together and tell him you're fine with all of it, which one is he?

Perhaps it's a photorealistic tattoo of his dead wife? Who knows? Have fun with it!

Alternative plan - find a makeup artist and recreate each effect, one per night, progressively getting worse, until he finally tells you what it is. I am certain this will get you answers. Of some kind.
63
Emma @ 59 - "If he can't even talk about his boundary, then he probably isn't ready for any sort of relationship at all, and that's not the LW's fault either"

I agree.
64
@59 how about a median step of always having sex in complete darkness? No touching of abdomen or chest. Ala Cupid and Psyche. Maybe she wears a blindfold?

Let's just assume he has a torso that is completely covered in nipples. Perhaps it's one giant nipple, inverted for the belly button.

Partially absorbed parasitic twin?
65
@63 sure but we don't know what it is. I can think of stuff, six weeks in, you aren't really interested in divulging.
66
@63 and you can't get past six weeks if you aren't allowed to date.
67
@59 ugh for people wanting to fix you at six weeks aquaintance with no experience in the subject/trauma at hand.
68
Four months is no time at all. He's got a serious hang-up. Those can take a long time to open up about. A polite... 'Feeling your skin against mine is important to me. So at some point I'd like to get there, assuming we develop the trust you need,' seems appropriate and then you let it go. If it crosses over a time barrier for you, bring it up gently again... and then break up if it isn't going anywhere.

But don't push this guy. Give him time to get comfortable. Maybe he opens up. Maybe not. If you aren't comfortable with that level of uncertainty... do both of yourselves a favor and move on.
69
@59 it is as simple as wait until vk.

If she isn't interested in paying the price of admission she is free to walk. If I were with someone who was that self conscious of a part of their body I'd hope I could work around that re my own needs. How is a shirt different than a sheet?
70
@59 personally I'd be hoping he'd stay never nude throughout vacation just for the story it definitely would turn into.
71
I keep thinking of worse and worse things. So many options! I really hope the LW updates us.
72
@54 also Type A types - they run like maniacs, exercise like maniacs, or become addicts. Endorphin high, adrenalin high, some people are able to make it work for them.
73
No @ 65 - First, who came up with the six weeks figure? The letter says "it's been a few months". That's more than six weeks.

Second, they're already planning a vacation together, which implies reaching a certain level of comfort/intimacy (or stupidity/immaturity, but LW sounds neither stupid nor immature).

Someone who, after a few months, is not only unwilling to take his shirt off, but also to talk about it is not in Good Working Order - a principle dear to Dan - so he should try to fix himself before he gets into a relationship, period.
74
Does this guy keep his shirt on at the gym as well?
He's in good enough working order for this woman to enjoy him, Ricardo @73. Yes not taking his shirt off is weird, then hidden parts of us all can be weird too. His weird is just in the LW's face. We don't disclose all of ourselves to others early in the relationship, we often keep the difficult bits hidden till we feel trust in our lover.
75
@59 I'm just so against this kind of disregard of a "no". Went back and read the letter and it's clear he gets upset when she pushes this, and it's also clear that she continues to push it - from the wording, I'd say it looks like she has actually tried to take his shirt off more than once.

And if the boundary is "I don't want to talk about it" then there's not much to discuss. At this stage in their relationship, something like "I hope we'll be able to get there some time" is reasonable, and then back off. The way you become trusted is by being trustworthy, not by refusing to hear when being told no.

I can certainly see that some people would have trouble with this situation - it's not a sign that she is a terrible person that she doesn't like this.

But, surely, when it comes to intimacy, "No, I don't want to do that" is something that should be respected.

BTW, I think it is unlikely that the problem is something like loose skin. He is apparently OK with having no pants on, and if this was just about weight loss, loose skin and stretch mark issues would exist on his butt and thighs, too. I think it's scars, and I think it's traumatic to him, and I think she should just calm down and give him some time.
76
@75 granted, reading comprehension fail on my part. Argument still stands. You haven't even met the real me after a few months much less my surgically attached helper monkey (we're very close).

@59 absolutely. On reread she has tried to take it off it sounds like multiple times. Stupid stupid stupid. Gender flip this if it helps you to see, c'mon LW, he's been very clear and that is a jerk move. Maybe first time you sleep together before you have any idea - try again after that and nope. No wonder he's slow to trust you.

@75 if it wasn't that bad and he was young enough it can just be the chest.

77
@76 correction to myself, describing excess weight as bad is bad. My apologies.

LW I don't know how excessive your imagination is but working on this for a mere day has gotten me several extremely dark scenarios in which you would be eager to pay quite a lot of money for him to keep that shirt on. And for several of those it wouldn't even be anything you could even qualify as bad. So I don't know about you but patience! You might not want what you wish for.
78
@73 we have different definitions of stupid and immature. I'm not saying that she is but hey behavior is. I'd chalk it up to inexperience if she weren't female. I don't know any women who don't know what having body image issues is like at a visceral level. Level of personal attractiveness doesn't matter.
79
BOD, what if this (never seeing your bf without a shirt on) was the price of admission for being with him?
Do you like him enough to let this slide? You should treat it as an unchanging condition. Don't try to change it; don't constantly bring it up. This is who he is--a man who, for whatever reason, doesn't want to take his shirt off.

Can you live with it?

If you can, then I think you should back off, though you might want to tell him that whatever he's afraid of, he can tell you anything (if that is indeed the truth) and you'll still like him.
If you can't, that's fair enough, but then you should break up.
80
Yeah but one of the whole points of Cupid and Psyche is that if you don't communicate the reasons for your boundaries, then even people who wish to respect them can be easily led into wild bitter/jealous/curious imaginations about their cause, even though it might be something that would endear you to them even more if you were trusted with even a teeny bit of knowledge. Blind trust and acceptance isn't a thing without coercion- people have to build it upon something, and communication is the best way. Sympathetic as she might be, if he refuses to communicate even a little bit, then she's going to have to entertain a whole slew of possibilities- and it's unfair to expect someone to grapple with that endlessly. In short, I think it's a really unhealthy relationship to start with the assumption that a partner is just supposed to accept boundaries and lack of communication around them period end of sentence until the person is ready to break them down and that the flip side to this is either leaving or violation. That's a nonsense dichotomy. No one should violate your boundaries no matter what. But to expect that someone just stays around without any communication around them and waits until (when?) you are ready to talk about them- that is an indication that you are not ready for intimacy. In which case, I'm sure you can find plenty of people who will fuck you now and then without worrying or caring about why you are insecure and/or traumatized.

I disagree adamantly that we should tiptoe around our partner's traumas to the point that we can't even talk about them. I think trust is built upon learning to share these things with others- even if it's the sharing that you aren't ready to share and some discussion of how you get to a place where that might be possible. I also disagree with the implication that this means you get to hound someone or violate them or nag at them- this is surely not what we are talking about here. The fact that the LW has mentioned repeatedly that the bf might take off his shirt is not evidence that she is violating his boundaries but rather that the bf is doing something that is not the norm by any means and also refusing to talk about it- if the LW pretended not to notice that would be even weirder. If the LW's bf needs her to respond in some different way, he needs to communicate that. He has done that with the vacation- clearly stating that he will not take off his shirt. If the LW then asks about it while they are surfing or something, that would be pushy and bitchy. But bringing it up over the course of their time together is not. And if the bf needs to say "Hey don't ever ask me to take my shirt off again" then the LW is going to have to respect that. But then it's the bf, not the LW, that is pushing the relationship away by refusing to even discuss it. Let's keep in mind that the LW has no idea what the reason is. She's not necessarily asking to make him take off his shirt (not violating his boundaries) but asking to have some sense of what the reason is. If you can't even begin to discuss this, then you are not ready for even a basic relationship. The wild speculation here is evidence. It could be embarrassment, could be body images, could be trauma- could be anything. The refusal to clarify (and I don't even mean details here) is a wall. And there's no way around that. This is not the LW's fault, and the LW seems compassionate and well-intentioned. If you need something more than that even without the ability to ask for it or communicate whatsoever, then you are not looking for a partner or a relationship. You are looking for someone who will let you stay well within your comfort zones and never push you no matter how confusing it might be for them and who will swallow all their concerns without explanations.
81
Totally agree with EmmaLiz @80 and Ricardo @73 here. The LW is not being out-of-line. The point of conventions is that people tend to follow them. It's fine to be weird--to flout convention-- but to expect that people won't want reasons for that is naive. Certainly you don't owe everyone an explanation for your behavior, but in close relationships, people want to understand each other. The more standard the convention (appearing naked in front of someone with whom you have a sexual relationship), the more unusual it will be to flout it, and therefore the greater level of explanation will be required. He may have excellent reasons, but surely he knows this behavior is odd; if he doesn't have a standard line to feed partners about why he refuses to do this (or at the very least, when he'll be comfortable talking about it), then yes, it's he who is not in good working order here, not her.
82
*not she.
83
@80 the reason is the problem. Whatever it is he thinks she'll either leave because of it or never look the same way at him again. So he can't say why.

Yes of course it bothers her, but repeatedly trying to take his shirt off isn't a productive method. It seems she wants to have a deep emotional convo about it and isn't getting one - hurts too much, too soon, who knows. When you've had something that is a deep emotional scar did it help you to have someone push you about it? How did they do it?
84
@80 Psyche loses the dude cause she pries without his consent. Perhaps Cupid wanted to be loved for something other than his beauty.

85
Can someone here please explain how they've overcome this same problem but it's the female partner that's reluctant? Can't be rare.
86
To clarify, I believe people should be able to talk to their partners. I don't think it is unreasonable to expect someone to explain why they don't do a commonplace thing like take their shirt off when they have sex.

But I think that a good way to approach all issues of potential incompatibility in all relationships is to ask oneself whether you can deal with ------- if it never changed. Assuming that your partner is the way your partner is and that your partner won't change lets you figure out what's really important to you.
87
@84 You might want to re-read the myth. It's not nearly so simplistic as that. She is kept in a palace away from her family with a dude (who despite his good intentions and his love for her) refuses to give her even the slightest information about who he is- either by choice or b/c he is not allowed to. He is expecting her to sacrifice her family and her autonomy in order to display blind trust- it's love with an ultimatum. She is lonely and finally gets permission to visit with her sister who plays into her totally rational and understandable anxieties around who her lover might be. Who is this creature to whom she's given her life and her body? Does she have the right to know? Of course since it's a great myth there's more going on here, including jealousy and lack of faith and issues of trust (what were the sister's intentions? what were Psyche's darker motivations?) and there are loads of variations on it and my summary is no doubt a mixture of them, but the basics are the same. Regardless, as relates to this relationship, you are using the wrong metaphor for this relationship unless you mean to prove the opposite point you are arguing. The expectation of blind trust with no communication and no knowledge opened them up to outside interference and wild interpretations/insecurities and destroyed their relationship plus very nearly destroyed Psyche's entire life.

Also I think it's disingenuous to say that the LW is repeatedly trying to take off his shirt. There is no indication that she has done anything more than mention it at appropriate times and she writes nearly a full paragraph talking about how she respects his boundaries, doesn't try to push conversations, doesn't expect him to take off his shirt if it makes him uncomfortable, etc. She is simply looking to start a conversation and even going out of her way to do it on his terms. But he is meeting her with a wall. And if he continues to do that, then this is HIM destroying the relationship, not her. You can't have a relationship without any communication.
88
@87 "he says he doesn't want to when I try to take it off"

Difficulty communicating on one issue=/= any communication. Let's say you had something rough in your past - an assault, say. Is your partner of a few months justified in making you talk about it just because they want to?
89
@87 put another way - your partner wants to push on your PTSD trigger to satisfy their curiosity. You aren't ok with that but they insist.
90
WAAAY too complicated with all the dermatalogical diagnoses. I say just move on. LW is clearly NOT happy with him over the shirt issue.. and that will always likely be an issue to fall back on even if it ever comes off. Plus LW seems to have a strong reference for "perfect body".He has resisted the seeming pressure and will hold a grudge. This AIN'T gonna work over time.. so stop trying to fix it.. They both deserve and would probably be happier with someone else eventually, so just do the split now .. and move on.
91
@87 can you force someone to trust you?
92
No, as I've repeatedly said, no one has any right to force anyone to do anything. But if you aren't ready to have even a conversation around boundaries and issues, then you are not ready for a relationship. A relationship without communication is impossible. Also can you acknowledge that you are making a huge assumption here about trauma, abuse, PTSD, actual physical scars from childhood abuse, etc that the LW never mentioned? The LW knows the bf much better than you, and she is under the impression that it's probably just a matter of the bf having body image issues which, while important, are not the same thing as PTSD. Moreover, if a person is suffering from some sort of trauma that could be worsened by someone touching them in the wrong way even when it's totally expected and normal (such as trying to pull off someone's shirt when you are leading up to sex) and on top of this that person can't even acknowledge the situation enough to use words to say so, then they probably shouldn't be in a sexual relationship in the first place. Victim or not, body image or not, the LW's bf needs to take some responsibility for his role in the relationship. And as to your analogy of assault in the past- (again you are talking about people making people to do things even though no one here has suggested that)- a reasonable response would be to say something along the lines of "I am not ready to talk about this, but I have some issues around an assault in my past, and it's triggering for me when you do X so please don't do that. As we get to know one another better and I feel more comfortable talking about it, then we can discuss it more. But right now, I hope you will respect my boundary so we can get to know one another in a way that feels safe to me" or some such similar response that acknowledges the situation. What would not be cool is if you say, "Don't do X" then shut down any future conversation around it. If you take this approach, the other person still would be shitty to try to make you do something, but they would not be shitty to try to figure out why. There's a huge difference between trauma and a simple preference, and the other person - yes 4 months in b/c that's enough time to consider it a relationship not just dating- has a right to know where on the trauma to preference spectrum it is because that bodes a lot for the future. And if you can't do this, as I said repeatedly, you really shouldn't be dating. While I suppose you could conclude from this that you should therefore just dump the person who refuses to communicate, it seems much more loving and healthy to try to get that person to open up a bit and see if you can work it out together. This is how people grow.

93
LW, this sounds frustrating for you! Hope your vacation went/goes well. I agree with the other commenters who are in favor of giving this man some time. Just to throw my own dermatological hypothesis in-- it could be self-inflicted scarring. Like, he could cut or have picked his skin since childhood. This might cause the embarrassment and reluctance you're seeing. I have picked my skin for 15+ years, and am very careful about staying covered at the beach, etc. It can take a lot to trust someone to see the scars. Good luck to both of you!
94
@92 at which point in a relationship do you divulge your deepest traumas?
95
@92 I don't think I've ever assumed it's my role to make a partner grow/change.
96
@93 another extremely common situation that most of us have come across, and one that would make anyone reluctant as it involves discussion about mental health. There's a lot of stigma out there, being sure you can trust someone before opening up about past or current diagnoses is totally understandable, especially if currently vulnerable.
97
@92 also, and maybe this is just me, but I don't think I have any inherent right to know my partners deepest traumas. I wouldn't ever assume that I did, for one. Everyone gets to have stuff they take to the grave. It's this guys misfortune that his is visible. When people trust you they tell you. If they want to. When they want to. The idea that I deserve to know - I can't fathom that.
98
EmmaLiz, if not being able to talk about something makes a person too traumatized to be dating - which indeed could be a reasonable way to look at it - then I can't see how "then stay with this person who should not be dating and traumatize them further" is better than just finding someone else.

You see her actions as gentle help, I see them as repeatedly violating boundaries. Her refusal to hear his no might very well be the thing that is standing in the way of him opening up more to her - if she had shown respect, he might be able to trust her a bit more by now.

Communication is important to a relationship, but so is sensitivity, and respect. If I say to a person I am dating "Please don't do that" and indicate by body language that I really don't want it, "Why not?" is not the right answer from them. "Oh, OK." is. They could then add "I really like to do that, though, so it would be nice if we could, some time in the future. Let me know if you ever change your mind". This is what you'd expect, surely, if the issue was, oh, biting nipples, or anal penetration, or any other sexual matter. "I don't want to" is enough of an answer on other issues, why not this one?
99
No, there is a difference between acknowledging that one has a trauma and divulging in it. Where in my example of what one could say, did I say they should indulge in a tell-all? And remember, this is assuming there is any trauma in the first place, which we have zero evidence for. I'm not just going to repeat myself- you are not engaging with the words I'm saying.

Agony, I fundamentally disagree with what you think is a right/wrong response in a relationship. I think "why nots" are super important and "oh oks" and then keeping your questions to yourself so that you have no idea if the issue is a body issue / simple preference or a deep PTSD triggering trauma is a horrible foundation for a relationship. I suppose that people like you and people like me are wholly incompatible, which is fine, it takes all types.
100
Note also that a "why not" (appropriately phrased and probably not so brunt or in the moment) has a range of options that does not include the requirement for total trust, intimacy, divulgence, breaking of boundaries, etc, including "I don't feel comfortable with other people seeing me naked and I don't want to talk about it right now" and "I have some stuff in my past, and other people seeing me naked is triggering for me, and I don't want to talk about it" and in both cases, the LW would be on more solid ground and know how to advance in the kindest way. A why not that is answered with "don't challenge my boundaries" or a complete refusal to talk at all leads to this nonsense spiral and speculation, and will no doubt end the relationship.

Also I think that people who have super triggering traumas to the point that they require absolute compliance with their wishes coupled with a refusal to discuss them AT ALL should not be in relationships with others until they sort their shit out a little. This isn't their fault, and by no means should anyone else violate their boundaries, but it's too much to expect of most people and will result in a higher likelihood of attracting relationships with people who have a complimentary set of issues. Which could be good or it could be toxic, but certainly it's not the only way to handle the situation.
101
@98

Also you totally miss the point here. Take it one step farther and you'll see:

"if not being able to talk about something makes a person too traumatized to be dating - which indeed could be a reasonable way to look at it - then I can't see how "then stay with this person who should not be dating and traumatize them further" is better than just finding someone else. "

Exactly. If you are so traumatized that you can't even acknowledge the trauma or use your words AT ALL then you could not possibly handle even the most gentle and well intentioned communication in a basic healthy relationship without being farther traumatized (especially since you might be filtering for people who are going to feel best in a sort of codependency or else people who want to take advantage of you).

On the other hand, if you can bring yourself to crack your wall a little and let another human who loves you see your vulnerability just a little bit- honestly and with well-established boundaries - then you probably can handle a relationship with a well-intentioned person who cares about you, taking it step by step. It requires you to be honest and step out of your comfort zone, and while it admits the possibility that you will be further traumatized (all intimacy carries this risk), it also admits the possibility that you will grow and have a meaningful relationship. Putting up boundaries with no chance of communication at all closes yourself off from both.