Dear Allie: Is Social Media a Relationship Killer?

Dear Allie,

Last year, my boyfriend lost his restaurant job, and since my career can support us both, I encouraged him to take some time to stay home and find himself. He did and, to my great surprise, has become a successful TikTok content creator.

When his first video blew up—the story of one of our early dates—we were both caught off guard. It led to a hard conversation about limits. We decided he could share old dating stories (about me and others) as long as they didn’t identify anyone. For anything about our current relationship, we developed a solid review and approval process.

But a few months ago, things shifted. He kept telling the same kind of stories, but now in sexier lighting with a lot more lip biting. He started making occasional thirst traps. Comments filled up with peach/eggplant/droplet emojis from followers more interested in his body than his words. His numbers shot up, and, almost immediately, he got sponsorship offers and started offering Cameos.

Of course, we argued. I said he should have asked before crossing into sexualized content. He said I was being prudish and possessive. I said he might as well be selling his body. (It wasn’t my finest moment.) He smirked and said he guessed it would be a bad time to bring up OnlyFans.

I don’t know what to do. I can’t stop thinking about all of his fans and all of their thirsty comments. Am I being a jealous prude? We’ve been together for ten years, but I feel like things are changing. Help!

Used to Being His Only Fan

Dear UBH Only Fan,

Without knowing more about your relationship, it would be impossible for me to know whether his behavior warrants concern. In some relationships, your boyfriend’s videos would cross clear boundaries, but in others they would just be playful fun. As long as his behavior does not cause harm to himself or anyone else, it has no objective moral value. Even if he were engaging in sex work, apart from legality, there is no default moral assumption. So, let’s set his behavior aside and talk about yours.

You mention that you have been together for ten years, and I think that is relevant. When we have been with someone a long time, it is easy to assume that we know them inside and out. We fall into roles and patterns. We forget to be curious because we assume we already know everything. We grow blind to our relationship’s power dynamics and stop questioning whether they serve both partners equally.

Here, I suspect that the old power dynamics of your relationship may have focused more on your sense of self than your partner’s. Your part in perpetuating this
unequal dynamic is likely subconscious. But if you want your relationship to last and thrive, it is time to set aside defensiveness and look inward.

Let’s start with what your letter shows. First, despite a ten-year relationship, you use the term boyfriend instead of partner. The term boyfriend conveys romance but no sense of duration or commitment. The term partner, while less romantic, conveys equal standing in all aspects of a committed, long-term relationship. Second, you seem to consider your work more important than his. You describe his work as a “job” and yours as a “career.” When he began pursuing a new venture, his success came as a great surprise. Finally, it’s not his sexy content that bothers you as much as the thought of his thirsty new fans with their salacious comments—the idea that you are no longer his only fan. It doesn’t paint a pretty picture. But maybe the pretty picture is the problem. Your old relationship dynamics seem reliant on you playing knight-in-shining-armor to his damsel-in distress. Before his career shift, you provided financial stability and got to be the only one who appreciated his true beauty and worth. This classic, fairy-tale dynamic certainly devalues the damsel, but it usually exists because the knight does not believe he is truly worthy of love and needs the security of the damsel’s dependence on him for support and validation.

I suspect that, in the wake of your partner’s TikTok success, you are finding yourself at sea in your relationship—uncertain of your value if he doesn’t need you for validation or financial support. If you can be honest with yourself and with your partner about these feelings, you might be able to set aside this outdated and dysfunctional dynamic and work together to create a new one—one that honors and values both his contributions as an equal in your partnership and your inherent worth and value apart from what you can provide.

Once you begin working towards this new dynamic, you’ll find that you have room to be truly curious about and supportive of his work. And I hope you’ll find that
you don’t need to be his only fan in order to be his most important one. That should get you started.

Your friend,

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