Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“My Boyfriend Lost His Virginity To His Cousin”

My boyfriend and I recently were in bed, both a little intoxicated after a night out, and he asked me if I had any crazy secrets I’ve never told anyone. We’ve been together almost a year, and he asks me deep questions a lot, so I obliged and told him some. In return, he told me that when he was 13, he lost his virginity to his cousin of the same age. The following summer it happened again, and the next summer again, and after that they no longer continued. Hearing about it makes me feel really weird, because they were so young on top of it being his cousin. Now I feel this strong sense of unease, like he doesn’t think it was wrong or that he’s maybe still attracted to her. I’m just trying to decipher if it’s a deal-breaker for me, as it is not quite six years ago since the last time it happened. Anyway, an outside perspective would be appreciated because this is certainly a super weird scenario. — The Girlfriend He’s Not Related To

It’s not surprising that you feel confused and uneasy about this confession from your boyfriend. Chances are, HE is confused by his sexual history with his cousin, and his feelings towards her, as well. Talking to you about it, while drunk no less, is probably his way of trying to unpack the scenario and make sense of it, and part of that making-sense is likely based on your reaction to the news. Be honest with him about how you’re feeling — that you don’t blame him for it happening or for telling you about it — that you’re grateful he trusts you as much as it seems he does — but that you are surprised by the information and don’t know exactly what to make of it. Ask him what *he* makes of it, and if it’s something he’s ever shared with anyone else or considered discussing with a therapist.

If he hasn’t discussed it with a therapist, I would encourage him to do so, without suggesting he should feel any shame. At 13, he was still a child. You can’t appoint adult-like emotions to decisions made by a child, including feelings of romantic love. There are a host of reasons he had sex with his cousin at 13, and romantic love is not among them. Even sexual or physical attraction is low on the list. Much higher on the list of reasons two 13-year-old cousins would have sex with each other may include traumas that should to be addressed by a professional who can help your boyfriend heal. Even if zero traumas preceded the loss of his virginity to his cousin at 13 years old, it’s likely that he carries some feelings around the sexual interactions for which he’d benefit from some counseling.

Whether or not your boyfriend seeks counseling, you need to decide if this is a relationship you want to continue. Certainly, the information about his past, as well as the way it was shared with you, gives you pause, and you should honor that pause and deeply consider your feelings about your boyfriend and your relationship in general. Some questions to ask yourself: Do you trust him? Do you enjoy his company? So you feel attracted to him? Do you feel you share common values? Do you feel valued and respected by him? Do you value and respect him? If the answer to any of these questions is “no,” than you have your answer to whether you continue your relationship with him.

This isn’t a relationship question because I’m doing well in that area, but I figured I’d give you a new kind of Question. I’m a 29 year-old woman living in NYC. Up to five months ago, I was in very good health, physically and mentally; I practiced good habits like prayer/meditation nightly, regular exercise, healthy eating, and reading on the regular. For all intents and purposes, I was doing well at treating my body well.

Then (without getting into too many details) I was seriously injured and all of my routines went out the window. Since I’ve completed my physical therapy and worked through most of the mental trauma with professionals, I’m slowly getting back into going to the gym like I used to love doing (I love being back at my yoga and dance cardio classes!). Other areas are harder to get back into though because I used binge-watching tv, eating junk food, and browsing the internet in excess as a coping tool when I couldn’t move. Sadly, I can’t afford going to a therapist anymore to work on this since my insurance changed as soon as the clock struck 2019. Nutritionists and other specialists are no longer covered either and are way out of budget. I asked my support network to help with accountability, but unfortunately they said they can’t help much because they’re struggling too much on their own to pick up better health habits. What do you recommend doing to get back into healthier habits/do you have any resources that can help me with it? — Wanting to Quit Bad Habits

 
Any time I want to quit bad habits, I set small, attainable goals for myself, often in the form of replacing the bad habit with a good habit. So instead of telling myself to limit screen time to so many minutes a day, I set the goal of reading a book, say, 30 minutes a day. That’s an attainable goal for myself and, in meeting it, I am spending 30 minutes less time scrolling Instagram or whatever. I also look at how I can make bad habits work to my advantage. For example, I spend too much time on my phone because I have a screen addiction, but if I can use some of that phone time reading things that are educational or supportive, I don’t feel so bad about my screen time and I can use the information I’m gathering to better myself.

One way you can apply this idea is by finding an online support system since your offline support isn’t as helpful as you’d like/you need. There are literally thousands of apps, forums, and groups all over the internet and social media dedicated to every kind of nutritional diet or goal, every kind of mental and physical health quandary, and everything in between. For no money at all, you can get meal-planning advice, recipes, tips, and inspiration. You can go to the library and check out cookbooks and self-help books. And you can get and share ideas for replacing the perceived comfort of TV binge-watching and eating junk food with more healthful activities (like walks, phone calls with friends, meditation, etc.).

Getting into a new routine isn’t rocket science. You simply start doing something and you do it regularly enough that eventually it becomes a routine. Pick one thing you want to turn into a routine, find an app that helps support that goal (say couch to 5K, for example), and start using it. I’m not much of an app user, so I will ask readers to help out here: Do you all have a favorite app that has changed your life for the better that you’d recommend to someone needing help getting and staying motivated?

***************

Follow along on Facebook, and Instagram.

If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.

40 comments… add one
  • avatar

    MP March 11, 2019, 10:17 am

    Oh cool, thanks for publishing my letter Wendy! I’m LW #2 casually outing myself and I’d like to ask y’all readers to be nice and please NOT jump all over me, I’m just a regular lady asking for very innocuous help. FYI: It’s not that I think y’all will tear me to bits but people treated me like an idiot on Reddit health forums and told me “just Google it” when I asked for apps they like or other subreddits to follow. The Internet can be a mean and condescending place, even spaces that are supposed to exist to support people getting into a better place health-wise. :/ so here I am, being vulnerable.

    To better frame this question – I mostly wrote in to ask for recommendations (like apps and stuff like that) and asking what worked for people because I’ve seen on the forums here and there about health pursuits and getting into shape etc. There’s definitely a ton of stuff out there but wanted to ask this community in particular because y’all seem to be a well-intentioned, savvy, and generally progressive bunch.

    Thanks in advance for the helpful tips and kindness.

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    • avatar

      JD March 11, 2019, 11:09 am

      Why would someone tear your apart for wanting tips on getting back to healthy after an accident 🤦🏼‍♀️

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      • avatar

        MP March 11, 2019, 12:51 pm

        @ JD I have no idea… after browsing a bit it looked like there was more condescension and snide remarks more than actual fitness talk. I haven’t been on that site since. I’d share a link but it’s from a while ago and I rage-deleted my post hah….

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    • avatar

      FYI March 11, 2019, 12:00 pm

      zenhabits. That’s the site you want.

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    • avatar

      anonymousse March 11, 2019, 12:16 pm

      I think knowing you need to work on better habits and taking baby steps is great progress. You should be proud of that. Some people just keep on procrastinating. I agree that setting attainable goals is the easiest thing and honestly, it will be a great mood boost when you reach them.

      If you can, I’d try to walk outside everyday and maybe try to go half a block further each day or something like that. I work out a lot at home and I can recommend Nike Fit Club app or I often look for workouts on women’s health magazine. com. Yoga might also be a good easy workout for you. The studio I used to go to had a more relaxed, slower poses class twice a week that was advertised as good for those recovering from injuries.or you could check out yoga withadrienne on YouTube. Her voice puts me to sleep, it’s great.

      I think for healthier eating, you just have to stop buying the junk food.or maybe allow yourself one thing one Friday’s or something like that. I guess it s all howmuch willpower you have. I have none. It’s really hard for me, because I absolutely LOVE potato chips. And I have kids and they enjoy pirates booty and we constantly are getting candy gifted to them….but I just don’t buy it for myself anymore. I can’t keep the things I like in the house, because i know I’ll eat them. I have been buying a lot of vegetables and roasting them, making salads and eating pretty clean most of the day. I find that when I fill up on veggies or even fruit, I dont feel the craving for my one true love, salty chips.

      I also don’t eat after seven unless it’s dinner. I was a nighttime snacker. If I am super hungry at night, I eat a banana.

      Be easy on yourself. You’re still recovering. Good luck!

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      • avatar

        MP March 11, 2019, 12:34 pm

        Thank you so much anonymousse for your thoughtful response! I just subscribed to Yoga With Adrienne. She has so much variety, I love it! I’ll give your Friday treat days a try and have downloaded NFC. 🙂

        @ FYI I am on zenhabits right now, reading. Thanks for this rec!

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      • avatar

        anonymousse March 11, 2019, 12:36 pm

        Sorry for all the typos!

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    • avatar

      Loo March 11, 2019, 12:35 pm

      MyFitnessPal is a good free app for tracking nutrition macros (protein/fat/carbs).

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    • Moneypenny

      Moneypenny March 11, 2019, 12:52 pm

      I’ve heard good things from friends about the app Noom. I haven’t used it myself so I can’t speak from personal experience, but it has helped people I know who struggle with keeping healthy habits and the focus is on changing how you think about food and not just dieting. Seems like a possible option to look into! Good luck!!!

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  • avatar

    Ele4phant March 11, 2019, 10:43 am

    “Almost six years since the last time this happened”…sooooooooo that means it happened more than once?

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    • bittergaymark

      Bittergaymark March 11, 2019, 11:18 am

      Yeah. It says so in the letter. It happened a couple of times… over three consecutive summer visits from 13 to 15.

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      • avatar

        Prognosti-gator March 11, 2019, 12:47 pm

        Though, we’d assume the “losing virginity” part of the sex only happened the first time. 🙂

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      • avatar

        ele4phant March 11, 2019, 4:21 pm

        🙁

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  • avatar

    Fyodor March 11, 2019, 11:29 am

    Lw1 should keep in mind in dealing with this that depending on where he lives the boyfriend can be criminally prosecuted for what happens. Depending on where the events happened, his own youth may not matter, especially given how young his partner was.

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    • avatar

      Vathena March 11, 2019, 11:49 am

      Really?? Two 13/14-year-olds involved here (no one over 18 at any point, consensual to whatever point 14-year-olds can consent to one another, sounds like) and one of them could be held criminally responsible and the other considered a victim? I mean, I’m not familiar with all the legalities, but that seems crazy to me.

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      • avatar

        Fyodor March 11, 2019, 12:48 pm

        There are people who are on lifetime sex crime watch lists for consensual sex they had as teenagers.

        The fact that it seems unfair or crazy won’t keep him from being prosecuted.

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      • bittergaymark

        Bittergaymark March 11, 2019, 1:37 pm

        There are age differences in those cases…

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  • avatar

    Fyodor March 11, 2019, 11:35 am

    Happened, not happens.

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  • avatar

    ron March 11, 2019, 11:37 am

    LW#1- I think the first time was just exploration with a ‘safe’ and available person, for both your bf. That doesn’t explain the 2nd and 3rd summers, which would have required some level of attraction. Well, maybe not. Perhaps they were both just super horny and regarded the other as a safe partner to approach as they shared the experience of the first summer and neither had ratted the other out.

    LW#2 — Your friend’s answer that they can’t help, because they also have healthy eating/living issues seems strange. Sharing a concern, can’t you all work on it together and support each other: share recipes, light cooking techniques, get together for exercise and activities more active and useful than vegging in front of TV and computer? Or, perhaps they know they have unhealthy habits but aren’t at the point of wanting to make better habits.

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    • avatar

      MP March 11, 2019, 12:47 pm

      @ Ron reading what I said, I realize I made a vague blanket statement. I should have been more specific about what my friends said so it makes more sense. A chunk of my circle have an ideology where they believe any eating healthy/exercise talk is inherently toxic and bad for mental health. They’re supportive of me getting healthy but aren’t up for discussing the details if that makes sense. I empathize because they have their own struggles and complicated relationships with their health. Others simply conveyed that they aren’t interested by not responding to text messages or posts where I ask if they can help with accountability.

      I hope that’s clearer.

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      • avatar

        SpaceySteph March 11, 2019, 1:12 pm

        For some people with a history of disordered eating this can be true. Your friends are telling you what they need for their own mental health and I don’t think its fair to question that. I would recommend instead seeking out other people who are already interested in healthy lifestyle stuff.
        I lost a fair amount of weight awhile back with the LoseIt! app (there is a free version) which does food logging/calorie counting, and they have a social network so you can join groups, friend people, etc. Those will be folks who are also interested in accountability and you can use that network for support. Also there are probably facebook groups or maybe even meetup groups in your area that do the same kind of thing.

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        MP March 11, 2019, 1:20 pm

        @ SpaceySteph, I hope you didn’t get the impression that I’m questioning them. I haven’t pushed that conversation with them after they expressed their boundaries. My mother almost died of an ED when she was young so I definitely know when/when not to talk food!

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        MP March 11, 2019, 1:21 pm

        And thank you, will have a look at LoseIt! 🙂

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      • avatar

        SpaceySteph March 11, 2019, 2:41 pm

        @MP, no I was trying to push back on Ron’s questioning that they can’t help you. I think its good you accepted them at their word that they can’t help!

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  • avatar

    Bess Marvin March 11, 2019, 12:01 pm

    I’ve found a combination of Fitbit and MyFitnessPal to be helpful in increasing physical activity and eating better.

    If you need more motivation, a friend recommended the waybetter.com apps such as StepBet, DietBet etc. Essentially you enter a pool in which you bet you’ll meet certain goals — if you meet the goal you share the pot; if you don’t meet the goal others who do get your $. I haven’t used it as I find myself pretty motivated already but I can see how people would like it.

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    • avatar

      MP March 11, 2019, 12:48 pm

      @ Bess Marvin I hadn’t heard of any of those before. Am looking up now, thank you!!

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    • avatar

      JD March 12, 2019, 3:24 pm

      Those are the apps I use and love them. I also have a Hydrate bottle that inks with Fitbit. They are a bit pricey, I got mine for free, but if you really really have issues with getting enough water can be worth it.

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  • avatar

    anonymousse March 11, 2019, 12:24 pm

    LW1: Does he see his cousin often? Was it consensual?
    I think Wendy had great advice about how to ease into a conversation about what he confessed to you. I also would worry that there was some kind of trauma that preceded these incidents.

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    • avatar

      su.m March 12, 2019, 1:07 pm

      Based on what he told me it was consensual. I had never considered it to be something traumatic until now though. It may have been that I was caught up in the fact of it even happening to think about how it affected him too. Maybe it’s worth a little more digging 🙂

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      • avatar

        anonymousse March 12, 2019, 3:04 pm

        Do they have a relationship now? Or does he avoid events she is at?

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  • avatar

    Anonymous March 11, 2019, 1:40 pm

    Sorry to hear about your accident and setbacks, MP. Wendy gave great advice. I love my fitbit. And try binge listening to podcats on extra walks, etc.

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  • avatar

    Betty March 11, 2019, 1:46 pm

    I recommend the app “Lose It!”. It does calorie counting as well as macros and you can enter in your workouts. It has group competitions (e.g., entering your info daily) to help you stay focused, sets reasonable goals for you, and it has badges for people like me who need awards.

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  • avatar

    anonymousse March 11, 2019, 1:53 pm

    You might want to look on meetup.com or even Facebook. There are often groups you can find full of people that are interested in the same things., likeexercise or healthy eating. I did a thirty day challenge by Women’s health on Facebook in January. It was really positive and encouraging.

    It’s hard to discuss this stuff around kids or people who might have EDs.

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  • avatar

    Rava March 11, 2019, 3:50 pm

    MP, I was going to recommend Yoga with Adriene, but you’ve found her already, yay! Enjoy. I wasn’t much of a yogi but nowadays I regularly turn to her videos. They do help a lot. I’ve gotten over some minor back pain because of her videos, too.
    The app I’d recommend is Cronometer. It not only tracks your calorie intake but has an impressive nutrient tracker. That way you’ll not only notice when you go overboard on the kcals, but also when you’re not getting enough Vitamin C for example.

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    • avatar

      MP March 11, 2019, 4:53 pm

      Another new one, thank you!! I got in my last blood test that my Vitamin B12 levels were somehow low so this could be a good fit. 😀

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    • Skyblossom

      Skyblossom March 12, 2019, 1:43 pm

      I like Cronometer. I’ve used it some. Because I buy almost nothing processed I had to weigh everything I eat so I did it for several days. I found that I was eating too many Brazil nuts so getting way over my daily limit of selenium and I was eating too much protein which was running up my blood sugar level. I tweaked my diet and have been pleased. It’s been a while so I’ve been thinking for the last week that I should enter everything I eat into Cronometer again and see how I’m doing.

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  • avatar

    dinoceros March 11, 2019, 6:23 pm

    LW1: What Wendy said. I think you need to not look at this just as some kind of “I hope he’s not into her still!” and think about the actual implications of a 13-year-old having sex with a 13-year-old relative. It brings up a lot of questions about how this came to be and how two kids of that age felt confident enough about sex to have it. Meaning, I think there’s some serious dysfunction in at least of one of their childhoods that led to this. To act like the only concern here is if he’s attracted to her implies that a 13-year-old and an adult are going to be attracted to someone in the same ways (and that a 13-year-old would choose to have sex simply because they are attracted to that person) and ignores, like Wendy says, that he was a child. And I mean, most children are aware that they should not have sex at that age, much less with their cousin, so it wouldn’t be surprising if his view on it were sort of abnormal even now, because something (this and potentially other things) really disrupted his normal development as a preteen.

    LW2: I think it’s easy to get overwhelmed by thinking of ALL the goals you want to achieve. You have a long list and it sounds like you feel like you’re way behind, so I can see how this might be the case. Choosing one smaller goal and doing it well can really empower you to do more. I started drinking lots of water every day (meeting my daily water goal) and it made me more motivated to do things like be sure to floss every day and start going to the gym, etc. Because when you do something little, your mind gets a little overly excited (YEAH! I drank a bunch of water — I’m a rockstar!!) and feels very confident in its ability to achieve more goals.

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    • avatar

      MP March 11, 2019, 7:23 pm

      Ahh yes, I do feel SO behind and overwhelmed, thank you for the validation. I’ll work on my floss game too, I do always feel victorious when I floss my teeth. Will set other small goals too. <3

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      • avatar

        JD March 12, 2019, 3:27 pm

        I use the floss sticks Easier so I do it daily, which is hopefully working since I see the dentist Friday ha

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  • avatar

    su.m March 12, 2019, 1:01 pm

    Hey thanks for the feedback on the boyfriend – cousin scenario! Definitely will have a good chat with him 🙂

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