Real World-er’s relationship argument tactics are misguided

I find the characters of this season’s Real World fascinating. Different upbringings, different religions, different personalities — and this week we learned that Dustin once was paid to live in a house with a bunch of straight men, which was streamed online through a webcam, and sometimes had sexual relations with other guys while living in said house. I don’t judge Dustin for doing this — I do, however, judge him for how he handled telling his current romantic interest, Heather, and the aftermath that ensued.

When it comes to arguing with a significant other, everybody has specific inclinations/style/habits/quirks. For instance, I tend to repeat and drill into my sig other’s head why whatever he did was so hurtful/annoying/douchey, which I’ve been told can be excessive. I tend to stew about things, even after the fight is over, and then feel the need to reopen the fight so I can include, for the record, whatever other point I forgot to mention. I focus a lot on the language and wording people use and sometimes read into it too much.

Dustin has his own set of inclinations. You see, Heather and him have sex, so it was pretty important that he disclose his sexual history with her. When she discovers that he had been lying/withholding some parts of that sexual history, she has a right to be upset; but Dustin deflects this anger and then tries to make Heather the bad guy in the following ways:

1. Before they begin to fight, he immediately implies that whatever she has heard is not the truth; he immediately tries to discredit her argument and invalidate her reasons for being mad by insinuating that they are baseless or not “the real story.”

2. He belittles her being upset, asking, “You’re really that mad?” as if he is really surprised that learning your sexual partner has an entire sexual history he hasn’t shared with you isn’t reason to be concerned. He’s doing this in hopes that it’ll convince her that it really isn’t a big deal; considering all her roommates support her being mad, this tactic didn’t work very well.

3. She actually tries to comfort him after he discovers everyone in the house knows his secret, and he tells her to get away from him; he says that her being there is making him mad and pushes her away, which seemingly only makes her more persistent not to leave.

4. The most outlandish thing is when they are out to dinner and he turns the tables and says that he can’t believe she is the type of person who would judge him for this. Heather seems partly mad because she has said before she’d be uncomfortable being with a guy who has been with another guy, but she is partly mad because he lied about his sexual history. She is rightfully concerned that she should be tested, and he shrugs it off and tries to focus the attention on her being an intolerant person rather than him being a liar.

Dustin’s tactics are ones I’ve seen before, but I really couldn’t believe that he was so blatantly saying to Heather, “Oh, you’re mad at me, well I’m mad at YOU!” regarding something as serious as him lying/withholding information about his sexual history. In relationships, this tactic most surely will not solve any problems. Just trying to make your sig other feel crazy will probably postpone having to deal with the problem, but inevitably they will talk to other people, be reaffirmed in their anger, and the problems will surface once more.

And I don’t know if they discussed their sexual histories with each other or not — but everyone should do this. Dustin claimed the porn industry was the cleanest business out there when it comes to sexual health (I’d search for statistics but I’m work and the search results might be NSFW), but regardless, he — as well as any other sexually active person — should get tested regularly for STIs. And he shouldn’t direct Heather away from getting tested, either.

Instead of being manipulative, Dustin should have done the following:

1. Been upfront when Heather asked if he was hiding anything about his past. He knew what she was talking about, and instead of running away, he should’ve suggested they talk about it somewhere private (as private as you can be while filming a reality TV show).

2. Let Heather talk and get out her feelings and frustrations. You might not agree that it’s a big deal, or you might be thinking downplaying it will get you out of trouble, but it’s still a big deal to the other person. Heather has said that she has very limited sexual history, so while Dustin’s life experiences lead him to believe it’s no big deal, he should still appreciate that to her, it is a big deal, and her feelings should be respected and taken into consideration.

3. After listening and respecting Heather’s concerns, Dustin should’ve then told his side of the story. And he should’ve said everything that he knew needed to be on the table. He was still withholding even when Heather was asking about the sexual things he did with other men, trying to skate by without divulging further information. Sorry Dustin but they have Internet access — anything you say can and will be Googled. Heather only found out he had performed oral sex on another guy because she asked a specific question, and that’s what sparked her concern about STIs. When your sig other finds out you’ve been lying and you want forgiveness, continuing to lie or omit the truth is not going to help your case — that’s when you need to just be completely honest.

4. When Heather asked if she should get tested, instead of getting defensive, Dustin should’ve told her his history of being tested for STIs to calm her fears, and suggested that it would be a good idea for her to get tested if it would make her feel better and more relieved.

5. Dustin should have apologized for not disclosing this aspect of his sexual history sooner, instead of trying to frame the fight as a manifestation of Heather’s prejudice and judgmental personality. Your sexual partner has a right to know your sexual history, and when you’re continuously trying to avoid discussing it, that’s unacceptable.

Things would’ve gone much more smoothly if Dustin, when confronted, would’ve been open and honest instead of defensive and deflective. I think Heather wouldn’t have felt compelled to tell everyone in the house about his past if Dustin hadn’t tried to quash the fight by making Heather feel like she was overreacting. She sought the opinions of the roommates specifically because Dustin refused to validate her being upset — Dustin was mad she spread the word, but considering it was already all over the Internet, I’m not that sympathetic.

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