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I was hoping that you might have some advice for communicating with my partner during this pandemic. I want to start by saying that I still love and adore my partner, I'm just finding it really difficult to communicate with him because he gets so emotional whenever there is even the slightest bit of conflict. I'm the first person who has ever been in a serious relationship with and anytime things don't seem to be going perfectly he breaks down into tears and worries that our entire relationship is about to come to end, even though we've been going strong for nearly three-years now.

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The problem is that I've been deemed an essential worker and he hasn't. So while he's staying at home all day I still have to go to work. Unfortunately, my car broke down recently and I've had to resort to using public transit to get to/from work everyday which makes for really long days and leaves me stressed about being exposed to the virus on a bus. My partner has a car, and it's just sitting there in our parking space, unused, while he sits at home all day. Not once during all of this has he offered to allow me to use his car. It kind of feels like he might care more about his car than he does about me. I feel like I can't bring this up to him because I don't have the mental capacity to handle him breaking down into tears on top of everything else going on including, full-time work, 3-4 hours of commuting, cleaning the house, and cooking dinners.

I really don't want to lose him but I also don't feel like I can communicate effectively with him if he's just going to panic every time we have a serious conversation. Any advice on how to communicate with someone in a situation like this?

Concerns About Relationship

You feel like you can't bring this up—the car or really any other potential point of conflict—because your partner has worked hard to make you feel that way. I'm not saying it was a conscious effort on his part... but I'm not saying it was an entirely subconscious effort either. But intentional or not, CAR, the tears and drama and constant demands for reassurance haven't just left you reluctant to confront him about anything but seemingly incapable of confronting him even about life and death issues.

Like that car.

He hasn't offered you his car and you haven't asked for it. (If you'd asked to use it and he'd said no, you sure would've mentioned that in your letter.) So you're literally risking your life riding the bus for hours every day—an avoidable risk—because you're afraid to ask your boyfriend if you can use his car in what amounts to an emergency. If you'd rather die than risk upsetting your partner.... that's not a relationship, CAR, that's a hostage situation.

You need to view his meltdowns in a less charitable light. Don't regard them as evidence your partner is so fragile that you can never "go there," i.e. wherever conflict is or could be, but as emotionally manipulative and borderline abusive behaviors. When we think about controlling and emotionally abusive behaviors we usually picture someone screaming and yelling and being scary and intimidating. But sometimes controlling behavior comes in the drag of emotional vulnerability. I think that's the case here. Your partner is leveraging your own desire to be a good guy and a good partner—your desire to avoid causing someone you love pain—against you, CAR, in what appears to be a successful effort to control you.

So here's what you're gonna do: You're gonna identify this dynamic to your partner and you let him know that it's this behavior—this behavior of his—that's threatening your relationship. You're gonna say something like this to him: "I find myself incapable of raising any subject that might upset you and that's fucked up because if we can't address and resolve even simple conflicts then there's really no hope for us over the longterm. If we continue on like this, honey, then things that need saying will go unsaid and resentment will grow and some minor conflict we might've defused together will become a huge deal and eventually blow up and destroy everything."

If he gets emotional, so be it. If he breaks down in tears, let him cry him out. But refuse to drop the subject: you have to be able to talk with him—you have to be able to talk with each other—about the stresses of daily life, about misunderstandings, about the shit you might be doing wrong and the shit he might doing wrong. And you need to talk about that damn car. I can't imagine why he wouldn't let you use it and it was thoughtless of him not to offer. And if he refuses to let you use it after you ask... well, then I would advise you to exit this relationship just as soon this pandemic allows.

And a bonus COVID question...

What's the protocol for fucking one's opposite-sex housemate during the lockdown? We're both single cishet mid-30s stuck together in a house in a huge city while our third housemate is quarantining elsewhere. Under any other circumstances this would be an obviously imprudent choice, but the lack of other suitable outlets for our exponentially increased horniness mixed with this pervasive mood of uncertainty and surrealness has resulted in really great sex so far, so wondering about your thoughts on this.

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Requesting Opinion On Mutually Mitigating Aloneness Through Energetic Sex

Fucking your roommate during a public health crisis that has confined all of us to our homes carries obvious risks. (If it comes to shit, ROOMMATE, you can't get away from each other.) But if fucking your roommate helps pass the time and keeps you both sane... well, then not fucking your roommate carries risks that are less obvious but just as real. So I would advise you to err on the side of continuing to fuck your roommate. Keep those lines of communication open, keep your expectations in check, always remember that having feelings ≠ catching feelings, and give each other permission to call off the sex with no hard feelings (verbalize it)—that doesn't mean you won't have hard feelings if or when the sex and/or pandemic ends, of course, but you're likelier to be kind to each other if you made that commitment in advance.


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Listen to my podcast, the Savage Lovecast, at www.savagelovecast.com.

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