I helped my girlfriend during an embarrassing moment and I can't stop thinking about it.

Here’s The Thing is an advice column/newsletter where I mostly beg people to either stop dating someone or to ask their crush out. Or I talk about weird things that came to my mind that no one is paying me to write about. I can never decide if I should capitalize the “the” in Here’s The Thing or not; apologies on lack of consistency. 

You can submit your own question—or yell at me about how I’m wrong—by emailing me at 1followernodad@substack.com

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A SWEETIE:

Over the weekend my live-in girlfriend of a few years (we'll call her Ashley) and I were invited to a formal cocktail attire event. There was free alcohol and we took advantage but Ashley went a bit over her limit. She didn't embarrass herself at the event fortunately, but as soon as she got in my car to go home Ashley puked. After arriving home, I helped her in then came back to clean my car enough for it to air out overnight. 

Back inside, she wasn't in the living room nor was she in our bedroom. I found her asleep on the floor of the shower with - not sure the most tactful way to say this - poop on her butt and on the floor next to her. I picked it up and wiped up as much of the mess as possible while she was asleep, flushing it all and removing the evidence, then gently woke her up and asked if I could turn the shower on so I could help get her cleaned up. I sat with her in there after we were done and reassured her that how awful she felt would pass. 

Ashley of course felt terrible in the morning but to my relief only remembered what was next to her in the shower as more puke. I obviously don't want her to know the details but the scene I walked in on shook me a little bit. I know these things happen and it's primarily just the recency. I don't blame her nor do I think less of her or anything; I still love her and I'm still attracted to her. But when we started to have sex last night, I had trouble getting aroused and it worried me. I couldn't stop thinking about those couple of hours in the middle of the night and the shock of what I saw when I opened the bathroom door. 

I think I'm mostly just looking for reassurance here but wanted to write you anyway. I know this will pass but it still feels so new and I'm sure there's some perspective or words of wisdom someone not in the middle of it could potentially offer. Couples are bound to go through situations like this at some point—now that I'm in one, what can I do to maybe compartmentalize? Or just be comfortable knowing it will feel weird at first but go away soon? 

SOPHIA:

Before I start this, I want to say that nothing that follows will be a pun. Unfortunately, a lot of curse words are shit-related but I promise I am not trying to make light of this!!

When I was a sappy teenager who had never been in love and who assumed I never would be, I used to do this incredibly pathetic1 thing. I would google stories of how people knew they were in love with their partner and the most fruitful results came from Reddit threads. The question comes up on AskReddit or another big page about once a year or so, so there were hundreds of answers for me to pour through. Do you want to know what one of the most common popular answers was? “I knew my partner was the one when he cleaned up my shit.” WHAT!! I KNOW!!! I was, frankly, shocked.

A lot of the top answers involved vomit or shit. Often people were very sick or drunk and their partner helped them and people on both sides of the equation—those who were cleaned up and those who did the cleaning up—cited this as the moment they just knew. Either, “This person is so great, they’ll clean me up with no questions asked,” OR “I love this person so much I’ll clean them up with no questions asked.” Because that, I’m happy to report, is what you do when you love someone, I suppose. And it’s not just partners! Frankly, cleaning shit and vomit and drool off people so often is the bookends of love in this crazy world. It’s how you come into the world, and if you’re lucky to live long enough, it’s how you leave.

I say this because you have just joined a loooooooong line of people who have done something incredibly similar for their partner, whether we talk about it or not. It’s not hot, it’s not glamorous, it’s not attractive, it’s not pleasant. It’s the literal dirty work of loving someone. I would not be shocked, if things last between you and Ashley, if she one day was cleaning doo doo off your ass!

The great news is that time will absolutely diminish this mental image!!! There are all kinds of things that momentarily pervert the images we have of our partners. (Like when my boyfriend insists that certain colors are red when they are orange and I can’t believe he lives like that). There are also periods of time with long term partners where the relationship we have to them simply doesn’t feel as sexual. Often, that comes with health-related concerns. Sometimes one partner has to take on a more caretaking role, and it’s often hard to feel sexy in caretaking mode. But once you have more interactions with your girlfriend that remind you that you two are actually romantic partners, I promise that the feelings of attraction and sexual desire will return.

Unfortunately, intrusive thoughts happen to us all. There is no guarantee that you never think of this moment again, but when intrusive thoughts/images happen, it’s good to label them as such. You literally think to yourself, “That is an intrusive thought. That is none of my business right now.” Try to force your brain to think of something else. Sometimes, when I’m having an intrusive thought, I try to think of as many different things as I can as quickly as I can. I will literally be like, “Picture a chicken wearing tennis shoes, picture a rotten banana, picture a castle, picture a swimming pool filled with beanie babies.” Rapid fire. Sometimes just moving your brain along with a nudge helps. Don’t beat yourself up for thinking about it—that often just makes your brain fixate more. Of course your brain is thinking of the one event that was very incongruous and memorable!

To go back to reddit (sorry, sorry), there was a question once that asked “What’s the secret you’re keeping from your partner?” and the top answer was a guy saying that his wife’s absolute biggest fear about giving birth was that she was going to shit herself in front of strangers (most people do, sorry!). When he got to the hospital he pulled a nurse aside and told her this and she was like, “I got you.” So his wife gives birth and of course, she shits. After the birth his wife was like, “Did I shit?” and the nurse and he were like, “Nope! Not at all! Can’t believe it! A Christmas miracle!” Anyway, my point in telling this sweet little story is that sometimes it’s nice to just save face for other people and shield them from their own “worst” moments. If you feel virtually CERTAIN it’s something that you’d both laugh about, then ok, you can tell her about it, but I don’t think you gain very much from that.

Just keep moving forward and making new memories. You might try to create some new hot moments together, if possible. If she’s into sexting that might help, or if you have older photos of her that could also be worth revisiting. Make out without having sex. Try having sex in a new place. Watch porn together and jerk off next to each other. Anything to remind you that your girlfriend is a hot, sexy person! Your brain will pick up on this in no time.


You can submit your own question—or yell at me about how I’m wrong—by emailing me at 1followernodad@substack.com

1

Not to judge my past self. I love Past Sophia, but it’s funny!