Ever wondered what you'd say to a therapist, given the chance? We asked Dr Sheri Jacobson, a retired psychotherapist with over 17 years' clinical experience and the cofounder of Harley Therapy Platform (UK Online Therapists), for advice on the things we worry about in private.
I know it sounds silly but despite being very comfortable with my partner, I will do everything in my power to avoid farting in front of them. I know it’s just the human body but revealing that I, too, fart feels almost humiliating. It’s been nine months and it feels like it’s too much of a big deal now to start.
Is this normal? Should I keep running from the room or holding it in? Or should I just, in every way, let it go?
– Lina, 25
All of us have an inclination to want to present our best self, especially in romantic relationships. From the way we look and smell to the way we behave, we're probably more aware of our behaviour when getting to know someone. When trying to impress, that often means avoiding 'frowned upon' or embarrassing behaviour like burping, farting, swearing, having bad breath in the morning and so on.
Not being seen without makeup is a particularly common one: I've had a number of clients who struggled to let their partner see them bare-faced, which could go on for several months. But it really depends on the relationship. For a lot of people it's important to keep up appearances as it's something they learned young and they will often keep it up for longer than is comfortable.
Whether or not this is a problem for you depends on your set of values – if keeping composure and not emitting sounds or smells is important to you, there's nothing wrong with that! Maybe you both feel that you shouldn't do certain things in front of each other. But it's worth remembering that most people will, at some point, ease into a level of comfort with each other. For most couples that's just natural evolution. It's not impossible to keep those appearances up for extended periods of time if that's your choice but for the most part, couples will get into a position of ease with one another and know each other warts and all.
In this particular case, you should consider two things. One is that farting is very natural – it's only because we've given it meaning socially and loaded it with embarrassment and even disgust that it carries that weight. Also, most people will pass wind during the night. So it's possible you're going to hear or smell your partner passing wind in the night – no matter how much you contain it during the day, you're totally at ease at night and you just can't help it. So you may have already broken your rule without realising!
And then there's this question of how much you are at ease with sharing more of yourself. What kinds of other things are you not comfortable in sharing with your partner? Could it be sexual fantasies? Could it be desires or long-term goals? Whether you do or don't want to have children? Your political views? It's possible that the farting aspect is just one dimension across the whole spectrum of openness. It could just be isolated to that! But maybe it isn't and this guardedness comes from a trust issue or previous experiences. Someone who's got a hang-up over something often will have a wider set of things that they're nervous and anxious to share as well. Though not always!
The main thing is that this is something that tends to solve naturally over time. If it doesn't or it continues to evoke terror or distress, then maybe it's worth further exploration.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity