My ex always kept a stack of men’s magazines. In the bottom drawer of his bedside table.
In a weird way, it was so cliched.
I thought people would get more creative about where they hid their arousal material. At least in a place where their partner would be less likely to look. Behind his cricketing uniform would have been better. I would have never found them there.
But there was this stack that wouldn’t move. Magazines specifically, but I never questioned what else there was. Upon reflection, there was likely more. Videos, downloaded pictures, who knows?
And as we became closer, committed more of our lives to each other, as we explored what it meant to be a couple, the stack didn’t deplete. In fact, it only grew larger.
As the drawer reached the point of overflowing, we stopped. Our relationship ground to a halt.
The intimacy suspended to the pace of an aging marriage. And I feared and hypothesised everything that I was doing wrong. But deep down, I knew it wasn’t me. It was the magazines. The more they stacked, the less he wanted me.
Until this very day, I’m of the belief that I could never live up to the women of those pages. I could never be his fantasy. I could never be his fantasy realised into real life.
Here is my experience with the man and the magazines.
I Have Zero Objections To Adult Material
Before I begin with my account, I want to establish my bias towards adult material. It would taint my experience with my ex had I felt a negative way towards them prior to our relationship beginning. Or even after.
I have nothing against men’s, or women’s, magazines. I have nothing against the people who create them, nor who features in them. I also have zero prejudice against the people who buy them. There is no hate or shame in people’s pleasure.
But when it came to my ex, I wished they didn’t exist. It was the third person in our relationship. An uninvited, unwelcomed third party.
The Feelings Didn’t Happen Overnight
It wasn’t long after we started dating that I stumbled across the magazines. I wasn’t bothered. It’s only normal for someone to have sexual content in their private space. What was the big deal?
The honeymoon phase of our relationship ended, and our intimacy faded. But it didn’t fade the way it had with other relationships. It felt different.
I found myself begging him to pay attention to me. Like I had to convince him to become intimate. Or remind him that sex was part of our relationship.
I couldn’t figure out what had changed. Our relationship status quo hadn’t shifted. Work and living were the same. We hadn’t had a fight, nor any source of tension.
I remember being in his bedroom, sitting on the side of his bed, and I noticed the draw wouldn’t shut. I wedged open the timber to discover more magazines than ever.
I concluded that our dwindling sex life was due to his increased magazine fixation. Now some will say that was an assumption I shouldn’t have made. But as time passed, the magazine increased and the sex evaporated.
He was getting his pleasure from somewhere else.
I Said How Unhappy The Magazines Made Me
My relationship with my ex wasn’t my first. From my previous relationships, I knew staying silent wasn’t going to help the situation. Not only would the problem grow, but my resentment would soon follow.
My silence would also indicate that I was content with his behaviour. That I was accepting of this third party in our relationship. I couldn’t live with myself staying silent. I cared about what happened to us.
If something he did made me uncomfortable, I also had the right to say something. So I did.
When I first told him how uncomfortable I was with him and the growing collection, and how I thought he wanted them over me, pride came over me.
I felt like I wasn’t letting the chokehold of his obsession take over my voice. In some ways, speaking out gave me confidence in myself.
But He Took Away My Voice
I couldn’t expect the reaction my ex delivered that day.
I knew it was possible he wouldn’t understand my point of view. That he wouldn’t like the idea of giving up his magazines to make me happy. Even though I didn’t ask him to do that. Or it was possible he hadn’t put together the pieces of our sex life the way I had.
But with his reaction, I never felt more robbed of my emotions and thoughts, or my voice to say what I felt.
I remember him looking at me and staring back at the draw. “You’re going to have to get used to it. I’m not throwing them away, and you can’t make me stop using them. Especially when you’re not here. So get over it.”
Get. Over. It. Three little words as simple as I love you. Yet, for more cutting. It took me out at the knees that he wouldn’t even consider what I was saying, or how I would feel.
At that moment, the greatest feeling of emptiness flooded my body. When someone I cared about dismissed me, the loneliness took over.
I Couldn’t Keep Up With The Demands
I didn’t want to end the relationship over magazines. What a ridiculous excuse. Who would believe me if I said we broke up over a stack of men’s magazines? How lame, I thought.
I didn’t want to come across to the wider world that I was threatened by magazines. Nor was that actually the case.
Despite my incredible emptiness, I tried to accept the situation. It was worth trying, worth giving it a shot, I reasoned.
But as I accepted the situation, and kept my mouth shut, the magazines pilled. And the sex dwindled even more. It felt like he was buying them now out of spite, to see how far he could push my anger.
What he didn’t know is that I wasn’t angry. There was no anger at all. It was a deep sadness, a sense of helplessness. The feeling that I wasn’t good enough took over my body.
I Still Don’t Know What The Magazines Meant To Him
I had no idea if his addiction was actually an addiction he needed to break. Nor did I know if it was a fantasy he wanted to include me in.
I didn’t know what he gained from the magazines, or what pleasure points it struct within him. I had no idea if our relationship could be saved. I didn’t know if the issue was me, him or the magazines.
That’s the problem when someone shuts you down. You can ask all the questions you want. But you won’t get answers. I asked everything, and the three cutting words silenced me every time.
Get. Over. It.
Without any explanation and my fragile self-esteem, I blamed myself. It had to be me that was the problem. I must be the reason he prefers the magazines to me.
Surely if I was enough he wouldn’t need them, I reasoned. And if it wasn’t me, he would be telling me that, right? He would be desperately trying to reassure me, right?!
The Feeling Of Rejection Was Real
I’m not jealous over paper, staples and women paid to look lustfully at the camera. If they were in his room, in real life, pawning over his body, it would be a different story. But how could I feel threatened that he would leave me over the women in magazines?
Yet, in a weird way, he did. Anthony put these women on a pedestal that I couldn’t compete with. I wasn’t going to get breast implants, nor was I going to have airbrushed legs, bottom and face.
I couldn’t be someone I wasn’t, nor could I be an unrealistic standard of beauty.
When he raised the standards of beauty to a level I couldn’t reach, I didn’t feel good enough. I didn’t feel like I was worthy of his affection or attention. Nor did I think any of the affection he did give me was real. I felt like he was waiting for me to transform into one of the women in the magazine.
I’m worth more than a magazine. I’m worth more than unrealistic ideals that I could never live up to. I’m worth more a fantasy that he built in his head with the pages of a magazine. I’m worth more.
Yet It Was More Than Just A Stack Of Magazines
What I felt was more than competing with magazines. Or the women in it. It was about the way our relationship suffered, and that he wasn’t willing to work on it. He wasn’t willing to open up. He wasn’t able to be accountable for his actions. He shut me out.
And he was happy with knowing my sadness, knowing my frustration. He was happy that I didn’t have a voice.
He was happy that I was unhappy. That was the true problem.
It’s not the way a partnership works, any partnership. Where one person hurts, and the other sits by and watches without taking action. It’s not a partnership I want to be apart of.
And that’s why I walked away, and never looked back.
I’m Ellen McRae, writer by trade and passionate storyteller by nature. I write about figuring about love and relationships by analysing my experiences. Some of the stories are altered to protect the people in my life. But my feelings are never compromised.
This post was previously published on medium.com.
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Photo credit: Ellen McRae ( Author )