This question isn't specifically about polyamory, but my friend and I are both polyam. The thing is, I like him, and he likes me, but sometimes I'm uncomfortable with him expressing that he likes me because he is a lot more aggressively sexual than I am, and I get turned off by the types of words he has used to describe me in the past (like hot/sexy). I talked to him about it and he stopped, but it still feels awkward to me. How can I work past this and form a healthy relationship with him?
It’s such a ‘green flag’ that he stopped using those words when you told him how it made you feel! This person has demonstrated to you that he is safe - that when you express a feeling or a need, he takes it seriously and acts on it. That’s pretty cool. It’s not his fault for using those words before he knew that they made you uncomfortable, since it’s a pretty fair assumption that many people like being told that they are hot or sexy, especially if you two were already flirting or expressing attraction. He is starting to show you that you can trust him in the future to respect your boundaries.
That said, if that doesn’t convince your gut feelings, that’s okay. Not all feelings can be rationalized or re-framed away. If something deep inside you is saying “it’s not possible yet to ‘work past’ this,” you need to listen to that. You’ve had some experiences of this person calling you “hot” or “sexy,” so now when he shows you affection or expresses attraction to you, somewhere in the back of your mind, you remember that he sees you that way, and thinks those words apply to you. If that feels too painful to you, if that makes any of his attentions too uncomfortable, that’s okay. It’s frustrating and disappointing that you may not be able to “form a healthy relationship with him,” but sometimes our emotions can’t be overcome that simply.
You may also need to think about where this serious discomfort is coming from, especially since it’s preventing you from moving forward with relationships that you seem to otherwise want. Are there trauma memories associated with those words? Are there sexualized or gendered hurts in your past, or in your current life, that make them harder to get past? What else in your experiences and your sense of self is impacting this? Has your relationship with your body, your sexuality, or men been damaged by specific ideas or experiences? It may be worth working with a therapist, not with the goal of “become okay with being called hot/sexy” but with the goal of processing and healing these hurts so you can get to a more comfortable, confident place.