What To Do When Your Partner is Against Your Sex Work?

You’ve found it, that new opportunity that makes your heart hammer: joining a Prince cover band like you’ve always wanted, maybe, or a connection to break into the local drag scene. You’ve never been more sure that this new passion is the thrill for you...until a little voice reminds you that your partner may be less than excited about this new pursuit. Even worse, maybe you genuinely assumed they’d be supportive, and texted them eagerly, only to be met with a response that took the glimmer away from your goals.

It can be beyond discouraging to have a partner try to convince you to abandon something you’re excited about pursuing. You don’t want to give up your dreams, but you don’t want to lose your love, either – and you’re feeling pushed to make a decision. 

But having a passion at odds with your partner doesn’t mean you have to toss your hands up and surrender either. If your partner’s worth keeping, you can have your cake and eat it too. All it takes is a little communication.

Gearing up to talk

Most of the time, a partner’s distaste for your budding interests isn’t because they don’t love you or don’t want you to thrive. Instead, it often has something to do with deep insecurity that chokes communication and traps you in toxic argument cycles of blame and guilt

To complicate it even more, you don’t immediately have identical boundaries, visions, or senses of propriety just because you’ve fallen in love. So when you bring up a new decision to your partner, especially one as sensitive as selling panties, camming, or performing naked, you may already be bracing yourself for a cataclysmic fallout over it.

But what if it didn’t have to be? There are strategies to help you transform WWIII into a productive talk that leaves you both loving each other more. Open yourself up to a conversation that has space to surprise you with its tenderness and prepare yourself before you have the talk with your partner. 

One of the best ways to prepare, even before getting into it, is by visualizing the best possible outcome from your conversation. As silly as it sounds, sinking in and picturing your partner accepting and supporting your life choices can powerfully affect how you enter into a difficult conversation. Before talking to them find time to close your eyes and conjure up a scene of them accepting your new decision. Use as many senses as possible to bring the scene to life. What does it look like when they celebrate your decision? Maybe they help you pick out the right outfit for your next event, or help you pick the panties to sell. Maybe they ask you about your day, and you answer with a long story all about this new choice.

Visualizing the best possible outcome isn’t some magic trick or wishful thinking. Instead, it helps because it empowers you to approach the conversation better, in a way that assumes a happy outcome. Because of that, your body language, isms, phrases, and all those little nonconscious choices that inform your day are poised to channel a smoother conversation that ends with you living your dreams – and your partner being dang supportive about it.

Timing is key

When you’re ecstatic for a new side hustle or passion, you may want to dive right in and shoot off a text telling your partner, or even bombard them at the door as soon as they get home. Instead, pick a time when you both have energy, and are in a calm, happy space. Dinner, or cleaning up afterward, is a great time to talk about it. So is a lazy weekend morning or as you’re unwinding before bed. Whatever you choose, opt for a time when both of your spirits are high and any kind of tension is low. 

Whatever you do, never send the anxiety-inducing text “we need to talk.” That will only raise your partner’s hackles before they even know what hit them. Reading a text like that while at work or apart doesn’t make your partner feel at ease, and they’ll enter your important conversation with walls already lodged in place. 

By choosing a time (and an intro) that is friendly and calm, you’re not just giving them the bandwidth to receive this information; you’re giving yourself the space to make your case, as well.

The talk

Regardless of if you’re bringing up your new dream for the first or fiftieth time, think about what you’ll say before broaching the subject. If you’re taking your partner’s feelings into such careful consideration, you probably know them well. What kinds of phrases or keywords make them defensive or sad? What’s happened in their past that makes them insecure about your new pursuit?

If your partner is getting upset about your decision to start stripping, try to think from their perspective. How would you want to be spoken to if your partner decided to do something you were struggling to support? What would help you support them?

Hold those things in your mind and let them inform your other choices. By now, you ought to know your partner well enough to run through different scenarios and imagine how they might respond to some various approaches. When you finally do find that best angle and start actually having the talk with your partner...

...mind your language.

I’m not just talking about avoiding f-bombs, although that’s important too. Our word choices, at all levels, deeply impact the path a conversation takes. The word “why” is a great example. It’s how we start so many questions, but it immediately requires your partner to defend and justify their standpoint, rather than engage in a dialogue based on sharing perspectives. Compare the temperature between these two questions:

  • Why don’t you want me to start camming?
  • What makes you not want me to do cam work?

The first one has your partner justifying their actions, setting the table for a defensive retort. The second question, on the other hand, asks for more information, but doesn’t push your partner’s back against the wall. 

Regardless of how carefully you ask questions, however, you’ll still get nowhere if you’re asking without truly listening to what they have to say. When they answer, open up and listen without a reply already in your pocket. If you have a retort prepared before they’ve finished their thought, you aren’t truly listening. Let the talk move like water, and don’t anticipate its flow.

You’re still going to get to do what you’ve got your heart set on, but by listening well, you can help your partner uncover the root of their resistance, and do your part in helping them learn to support you as best they can.

Another great way to watch your word choices is to talk about the way you feel – and skip all the stuff that invokes blame. Instead of saying, “I feel frustrated that you’re trying to stop me from doing this,” try something like, “I feel frustrated because I’m so excited about this new venture.” Phrasing it with a lens on what’s in your power, helps your partner hear your desires better without getting caught up in defending their own perspective.

And your body language

When gearing up for such an important talk, body language is crucial, too. Folded arms, hands braced on the table, throwing your hands up in frustration, and rolling your eyes are all very combative – and in some cases, your partner can even find them frightening or aggressive. 

A radical suggestion? Hold hands. Touching each other kindly instantly puts the intensity from a rolling boil to a simmer, and triggers a reminder that you love each other. Don’t be shy about it. If the disagreement starts to turn bitter or harsh, ask them directly, “Can we hold hands while we talk about this?” It will surprise your partner at first, but if they agree, then this kind of touch will help you both come home to your love and talk about your new passion more rationally.

If holding hands just isn’t your cup of tea, sit down together, face each other, touch knees when you do, or find any other thing that signals your special togetherness, whatever that means to you. 

Teammates, not competitors

Body language doesn’t just cool down a battle, it reminds you and your partner that you’re on one team. You can’t control your partner’s attitude, just like they can’t control your dreams, but you can master your approach. In doing so, your empathy for them will help make a more productive conversation and encourage empathy for you in return, making for a conversation that ends with you both content.

Partners who get past the honeymoon phase can actually feel threatened by change. It can feel like their own approach to living is being looked down on when their partner deviates from ideas previously agreed on. You can appreciate their perspective and hear their insecurities, nourishing your love while moving forward with your plans.

At the end of the day, if you and your partner truly love each other, you’re on the same team. That team has one common goal: keeping the sweet jigsaw puzzle of your love together. All relationships – poly, monogamous, queer as the rainbow, or straight as a board, are founded on strengthening that bond and hearing each other’s needs while supporting your true desires.

It’s easier said than done, sometimes. If they’re having a hard time supporting you, a gentle reminder that you aren’t competitors can help. Say it explicitly, free of any judgmental tone or frustration, and do your best to show you mean it.

Don’t yield

While you and your lover are on one team, neither of you are the captain. If you’re dead set on your new plans and your partner doesn’t want it to happen, even after all the right conversations, you still have the authority to do what you want. Acknowledge your partner’s emotions, do what you can to alleviate their concerns and insecurities, but move forward with your choices.

It’s your life, and sometimes it pays off to remind a partner that they fell in love with you, not some idealized version of you that always agrees with them. Sometimes partners get so caught up in the relationship routine that they don’t quite notice the beautiful ways their partner has evolved. As obligations and life weigh on them, they may get into the habit of seeing you as a fixed being. By continuing to embrace yourself as you are and digging into your new choice, whatever that is, you’ll hopefully remind them of the beauty of your evolving personality, and invite them along for that sweet ride.

But this all seems like work!

And it is. As someone who’s been in a thriving relationship for nine years that’s navigated surgeries, death, van life, marriage, monogamy, and polyamory, I’ll be frank: relationships are work – hard work. But for the right one, that work pays off a thousandfold. And with the right person, you’ll never compromise your passions to make that love shine. 

My husband and I definitely have no say in each other’s hobbies, experiences, gigs, haircuts, or anything else – and if some resistance comes up, we talk it out. Reading articles or listening to talks on how to communicate better is a great place to start. Working hard at your love helps you build something incredible with a best friend you get to be sexy with  – and nothing’s better than that.

The exceptions

There are always certain things you should reach a consensus with your partner about – and things where your partner’s opinion shouldn’t even be a discussion.

When your partner has a say

When your new interest takes a more intimate turn, your partner’s input is critical. The most obvious example of this is deciding to open your relationship. Polyamory works because its core tenet is communication. In fact, if you took all the stereotypes of polyamory being constant sex and replaced it with constant communication, you’d probably have a better understanding of day-to-day polyamory (although, okay, there is a lot of good sex, too). That’s why failing to communicate with your partner about polyamory and not honoring their boundaries  is so totally at odds with the foundations that make open loving so sweet. Opening a relationship requires both parties’ consent – and you should be checking in regularly as your relationship evolves. 

Likewise, consent is mandatory for any kind of new venture that includes a potential for swapping fluids. Whether you’re poly and dating separately, date someone together, or are becoming a full-service sex worker, fluids and transmission risks are a valid concern for your partners to have. With this, your partner deserves more space in the conversation – and it’s the one thing that has the least wiggle room in your relationship. If you can’t compromise with them about when protection is used, or they just can’t get behind your career change, then it’s time to move on and let each other fall in love with new people who support each other’s sexual boundaries.

When it’s your choice alone

All these considerations for your partner’s feelings go out the window when it comes to choices about your body. Nobody has dominion over your physical form except for you, and you don’t have to try and cajole your partner into supporting your choice. If they’re telling you not to get a tattoo, wear an outfit, dye your hair, take a prescription, or get a new piercing – they’re wrong. It’s that simple. The only person who can dictate what you do to your body is yourself, and if that kind of control is a common theme in your relationship, you’re better off alone.

“Let” is a dirty word

The one word you should never hear from a partner’s mouth is “let.” Mostly, this word rears its toxic head in relationships that follow straight culture norms and values, but it can be found everywhere and isn’t exclusive to monogamy. Permission for anything – singing a certain song at karaoke, getting a tattoo, befriending someone, or going to a certain bar – isn’t a healthy aspect, no matter your relationship’s composition.

Straight, queer, poly, monogs, if your partner is blocking you from something you want to do, then run. No matter how many times you call them daddy, your partner is never your parent, and unless you’ve drawn up a contract with firm boundaries and a safe word, they never have the authority to set terms on your autonomy.

Making it work

A good partner holds space for the other to process their feelings about new information. If they feel confused or stressed, they’re allowed to talk out their reservations – but you still have the power to make your own choices. And at the end of the day, you aren’t responsible for your partner’s anger, bitterness, or bad attitude. If you try your best to smooth over every conversation and hold space for them, and they’re still combative about your decisions, it isn’t your weight to carry. 

If you move forward with your plans and can’t seem to get them to budge and accept you as you are, keep communicating. Ask your partner what you can do to make both of you as happy as possible with the new arrangement. Seek common ground. If they’re unwilling to accept you as you are, then follow that new path with all your heart and hope that they’ll keep up with this new you. If they can, you’re in for the best new chapter of your relationship – and if they can’t, you’d be happier with a partner who nourishes all of you, anyway.

But remember, if they’re arguing with you over something regarding your own body modifications, like a haircut or tattoo, just don’t ask; do it anyway. Your partner never has dominion. And when you go ahead and get that new haircut, don’t let them talk shit about it, and don’t stand for being talked down to for it, either. At best, they’ll realize that you are really happy with your new look, and they’ll shrug off their old judgments. At worst, they never get over it, and you meet a new cutie who thinks you look rad.

I know these things work because of years of trial and error. Diving into being my fullest self ended up being the best thing I’ve ever done for my relationship. When we’d just moved in together, we were both guilty of buckling under the pressure of typical monogamous behavior, and we got stuck on these fixed visions of each other. We didn’t see each other as fluid beings. Unsurprisingly, we fought. A lot. Those first few months living together were nothing short of a tornado, even though we loved each other like wildfire.

Within months of moving in, I got tired. Finally, I gave up on trying to be who I thought my partner wanted, and I gave up trying to make him into someone I wanted him to be, either. Instead, I leaned my whole body into being myself – the person I liked best and the person he’d fallen in love with, anyway. I was saltier to our guy friends I disliked. I branched out musically. I started nude modeling. I went vegan. 

You know what happened? He did the same. When I stopped bending to the rules neither of us liked anyway, he stopped bending to them, too, and we realized how much these rules and insecurities had kept us from thriving as individuals and as a team. 

Now, when we disagree, we hold hands. And since pushing through those first few things that made us different, we never fight about lifestyle choices or new passions. Before, I couldn’t have imagined that we could unleash our queer, artist selves and live this crazy life in love without crashing and burning – but living that truth made my life better than I thought possible.

And it all started with me deciding to do all the things I figured he might not be thrilled by. So try it – you may be surprised by what your partner’s capable of.