For many guys, being a male stripper is a dream job: getting money and a huge ego boost from women who just want to admire your body. But is that kind of career compatible with romance? Every successful relationship is built on mutual trust, which can take time to cultivate for anyone, but what happens when one partner makes a living getting oiled up and ogled? Men’s Health spoke with two rock-solid couples who have made it work.
“From the very beginning I knew what his job was,” says Carri Ann Cedeno, who has been with her partner Anthony Rodriguez, a dancer at the Hunk-O-Manianightclub, for three years. “So from day one that was a decision I had to make: Is this something I can deal with, [or] can I not?”
One thing that took some getting used to was the reaction from other people when they hear what her boyfriend does for work: “I’ve found that people can be put off by it at first, they’re really surprised, it’s not what they expect me to say. But I’ve never had a really negative reaction; more than anything people just like to ask questions. Like, ‘How do you deal with it? Is it exciting? Is it fun? Do you get jealous?’”
Carri Ann is remarkably secure in her answers to those questions. No, she doesn’t get jealous or feel insecure about the thought of Anthony dancing for other women—because there is a clear line between what he does for work, and their private life together.
“We’ve always been very straightforward and open with each other,” she says. “I think as long as you’re secure with one another and what you have—I mean I’m a very confident person on top of that—but that really helps me keep an open mind and realize that it is a job at the end of the day… And he’s not going to want to lose us, to risk the last three years, over someone who’s there for maybe 15 minutes.”
Fran Peri has been with her husband Armand Peri, the founder of Hunk-O-Mania, for 15 years, and they have three children together. They are living proof that this kind of relationship can go the distance, provided the trust is there.
“At first it’s strange, of course,” says Fran, “but if you feel like your partner is treating the job as a business, and he’s not there to have fun, it creates this mutual trust… The respect has been there since the beginning, I’ve always felt respected by Armand, and I don’t think he would want to lose what we have over a club fling. I’m not particularly jealous, because he doesn’t give me a reason to feel that way.”
Of course, that doesn’t mean there aren’t times when the guests at the club themselves misbehave and cross a line, but Armand shuts that down every time. “I focus on being professional at all times, I have a job to do, and that job is to provide entertainment—and that’s all,” he says. “You want to create an environment where the women coming in to watch the show feel safe, and it feels like an escape, but you have to maintain professionalism.”
“If they start to get frisky, it’s up to us to control the situation, and to make sure that everything remains in line. There have been times where the customers have been aggressive because they’re intoxicated, they try to touch you, and you just have to hold your hand and say, ‘This is my job, please remain respectful, we’re only here to entertain, nothing more.'”
This article originally appeared on Men’s Health