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My husband talks about strip clubs and it hurts my feelings

Dear Alice,

How do you tell your husband that talking about going to topless bars bothers you and that it hurts you? My husband of 6 yrs. keeps talking lately about going to these places and it hurts my feelings very much that I cry. I know it is man's nature to admire women but I feel these places are for guys that have no respect for themselves or their mates. We have a good sex life and get along great. He thinks he's teasing me but it really hurts to hear him talk this way. I would never do it to him, to go to a male strip bar. What can you tell me to say to turn him away from these thoughts?

Signed,

Loving Wife

Dear Loving wife,

The line between good hearted teasing and hurting the feelings of a partner can be difficult to negotiate. It sounds as though his joking is crossing some boundaries for what you feel comfortable with or feel is respectful in your relationship. By having an open and honest conversation with your partner, you both may be able to come to a resolution. Keep reading for more suggestions on how to broach this conversation with your husband!

First and foremost, it sounds like you already know what aspects of your husband's adventures are most bothersome to you, which is a great place to start! Taking the time to assess your feelings around a particular situation is key, as this will allow you to have a better idea of how to communicate your concerns. Answering the following questions may help clarify your thoughts and feelings further, if you haven't done so already:

  • When did he start talking about going to topless bars?
  • Did something happen to trigger the topic of this discussion?
  • Why does it bother and hurt you?
  • Would you mind if your partner went to topless bars but didn’t tease or tell you about going?
  • Why do you think he teases you about going?
  • You mention you would never go to a male strip bar. Why would you never go to a male strip bar?
  • Have you discussed this issue with someone you trust, such as a friend, family member, faith leader, or a mental health professional?

Once you have the answers to these questions, it may help you guide the conversation you have with him. It may also help determine the types of changes you'd like to see moving forward, as well as determine what types of boundaries you'd like to set. Some individuals may not want their partners to go to topless bars or strip clubs at all, while others don’t mind it as long as they’ve set ground rules together before hand. Additionally, some couples may even go to strip clubs or topless bars together. Given that you've mentioned you're currently pleased with your sex life and relationship, would you ever consider incorporating his interest in topless bars into your mutual sex life? Perhaps when you talk with your husband, and if he wants to continue talking about or going to these venues, you both could discuss exploring this and other mutual fantasies together.

When you feel ready to talk to your partner, try picking a time where you both are relaxed and not distracted. It's also helpful for you to be honest with him when having the conversation. Telling your husband how upset his teasing makes you and why it hurts you will help him understand why his behaviors are harmful. You can start by saying something along the lines of “it bothers me when you talk about going to topless bars” or “I know you admire women, but I feel uncomfortable when you talk about going to these places because...”  While it may be bothersome and hurtful to find yourself in conflict with your husband, being open and honest with your thoughts and feelings may help in resolving the dilemma.

Finally, it might also be helpful to speak with someone about your concerns. A mental health professional can help you explore why this topic is so upsetting and how you can focus on communicating your feelings with your partner. Couples counseling is one option, but you could also try individual counseling if you prefer. Additionally, you could try talking to a trusted family member or friend about your concerns. Talking through things with someone, whether it be a professional or a close friend, may help you plan out your next move.

All in all, being able to communicate openly and honestly is critical for any relationship. So, hats off to you for thinking about starting the conversation and all the best to you and your partner as you both works towards a solution.

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Last updated Feb 04, 2022
Originally published Dec 20, 1996