the advice goddess

the advice goddess


A divorced male friend and I recently became “friends with benefits.” However, I’m not receiving the same, uh, level of benefits as he is. He isn’t giving me orgasms from intercourse, and his pleasuring of me is measured in seconds rather than minutes, despite my telling him that this is a problem. (I haven’t felt this pressure before: “You’ve got 60 seconds to orgasm!”) He also keeps reminding me that he doesn’t want any kind of commitment. I get that, and I keep telling him so, but he’s persisted with the warnings to the point where I have to say stuff like “I hear and understand the boundaries of this relationship and am in agreement with them.” I’ve known him since we were 8, and he isn’t a player. Part of me thinks he isn’t attracted to me. He’s fit and I’m … less-than-fit and have big boobs, and I think they freak him out. However, out of bed, we laugh and have fun and connect. Oh, what to do …

— Bothered

This guy treats pleasuring you like it’s something on a chore wheel.

Bizarrely, you’re in “friends with benefits” relationship that’s short on benefits, which is like buying a blender that doesn’t blend, a Cuisinart that doesn’t cuise. Unfortunately, the elusive female orgasm is especially persnickety when one’s partner sets up a sexual ambience reminiscent of one of those movies where Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson are staring down a ticking time bomb: “Hey, baby, just relax, lay back and let it happen — anytime before this kitchen timer I’ve placed on your nightstand strikes: 60!”

Sure, poor Booboo might have niggling fears you’ll get attached, but it isn’t like you’re buying baby clothes and leaving wedding magazines around. It’s unlikely he’d force numerous icky conversations about boundaries on some chickie of his more recent acquaintance. But, probably because he’s known you forever, he feels free to go manners-optional and let his worries all hang out: “Don’t take your coat off. You won’t be staying. And by the way, I’d prefer if you’d fake your orgasms. It would be so much less work for me.”

Yep, this boy toy of yours is a real animal in bed — a rat gnawing away at your self-confidence. Why are you still involved with him? Well, there’s a tendency to try to fix a thing instead of just bailing and to get so caught up in the momentum of your efforts that you neglect to consider whether the thing should just be put out on the curb. In continuing to get in bed with a man who can keep his hands off you and pretty much does, you’re a co-conspirator in your feeling like crap. It’s really damaging to be with somebody who isn’t into you. Even in an FWB situation, you need a man who finds you hot — or at least is enough of a friend to give you the sense that he’s undressing you with his eyes, not using them to drop a refrigerator box over you.


Epic frail

I’ve had a crush on a guy who’s been flirting with me at my neighborhood coffeehouse. Today, he sat by the door, watching as four elderly people struggled to go out — a couple pushing walkers and, about five minutes later, a couple who were all hunched over and using canes. I was seated in the back, but when I saw nobody was helping them, I ran over and held the door. Is his behavior a clear sign that he’d be bad boyfriend material?

— Door Closing

Sometimes it’s hard to know what to do when you see somebody in need. A person falls down on the sidewalk in front of you. Do you just step over him? Or do you stop and take his wallet and then step over him? In assessing people, I tend to go with F. Scott Fitzgerald’s notion: “Action is character.” Or, in this case, inaction. I personally don’t know how you sit back and enjoy the view as a parade of infirm elderly people struggle out a door, but I do know that things aren’t always as they seem. Maybe it looked like he was looking but he was in some sort of fugue state. Maybe he has a cranky, independent granny who sees any help as an insult: “Why don’tcha just throw me in a hole and stick a wreath over my head?!” If you end up going out with him, do what you should with any guy you date: Look closely at his behavior, especially when he thinks nobody’s watching. Be honest with yourself if it seems a fundamental lack of empathy kept him in his seat — much as you’d like to believe that there’s a rash of pranksters going around to coffeehouses and gluing all the hot guys’ feet to the floor. 

(c)2011, Amy Alkon, all rights reserved. Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave, #280, Santa Monica, CA  90405, or e-mail (

Read Amy Alkon’s book: “I SEE RUDE PEOPLE: One woman’s battle to beat some manners into impolite society” (McGraw-Hill, $16.95).

It’s Amy Alkon’s Advice Goddess Radio: Nerd your way to a better life through fascinating and fun discussions about love, dating sex and relationships with the top brains from psychology and science. Listen live every Sunday, 7-8 p.m. PT, 10-11 p.m. ET (, or download the podcast at the link (click “play in your default player”). Call-in during the show: 347-326-9761 (NYC area code).

the advice goddess

the advice goddess

The cad catalogue

Three years ago, I was divorced six weeks from a 22-year marriage when I got involved with a married co-worker and persuaded him to divorce his wife for me. He has been married five times and cheated on all of his wives. I have reason to believe he’s still having sex with his ex-wife. I’m not sure what to do. I refinanced my house a few months after meeting him and paid off his and his wife’s $14,000 credit card debt (my idea, to help him out of the marriage). He’s been repaying me $250 a month, although I also usually pay for his plane ticket here. (I moved for work.) He’s a pretty bad alcoholic. Not a mean one, just a goofy one. I know he has a bad marital track record, but he’s in his 50s; his marriage-hopping has to stop … you’d think. Crazy as it seems, I’m madly in love. He is charming, is generous, and shows me he loves me in little ways — cards, phone calls, etc. Really, I’m not dumb. I’m a librarian with a master’s. But, tell me: How bad is this?

— Shhhh …

Oh, the charming, generous things he does, like putting your credit card back in your wallet and closing the snap.

He doesn’t sound like an evil person; he just is who he is: an undercapitalized, serially married goofy drunk who’s probably sleeping with his ex-wife. Three years ago, you were just-divorced and probably panicking about your prospects, when you spotted your Mr. Right (aka an age-appropriate, conveniently located, attractive man with a pulse). Hellooo, confirmation bias! That’s a common human irrationality — the tendency to snuggle up to information that confirms what you want to believe and to ignore any information that doesn’t. Before long, you were slammed with “cognitive dissonance,” the clash of two simultaneously held opposing beliefs — your belief that this is a worthy love thing versus how this guy goes to the altar more often than some men go to the carwash.

To reduce the psychological friction of cognitive dissonance, you’re prone to justify whichever belief shines up your ego. The more some choice costs you the more driven you’ll be to defend it — like when you’ve abruptly thrown 14K at the idea that you can change a man who thinks soul mates come in six-packs. And no, you aren’t that “dumb”; you’re just that human. Deep down, you know that love — real love — is never having to say, “Are you cheating on me with your ex-wife?”

Keep in mind that the term “madly in love” refers to a state where you aren’t making rational decisions. You need to get in the habit of standing back from your life and assessing what you’re doing — especially when you’re at your neediest. Recognize your human propensity to act irrationally — to let your emotions lead and then to mop up afterward with a bunch of self-justifications. If you can accept yourself as human and fallible, you won’t feel so compelled to toss less-than-flattering facts in the hall closet behind the badminton net. Be open with yourself (and even your friends) about your flaws and fears and you should start managing them in healthier ways — instead of paying off a bunch of pantsuits a guy’s wife bought five years ago at Macy’s and telling yourself you’ve found love.

If the shoo fits?

Through no one’s fault but my own, I am a rather pathetic, washed-up character — a man approaching 40, slaving away for $10/hour, and getting around on my bike after having to sell my car. Yet, I’m ever driven by my wants — for pretty ladies in their early 20s. Do I have any hope?

— Seeking

It’s tough attracting the ladies when you have transportation issues: “I’ll be over at 8. Wanna run behind my bike, or would you prefer to balance yourself on my handlebars?” This might fly if you’re 23 and parking your bike outside the drafty garret where you write mind-blowingly beautiful poetry or if your hobbies include shrinking your “carbon footprint” while snarling that the eco-posers tooling around in their Priuses are fouling the environment. Unfortunately, most hot young chickies willing to date a guy cresting 40 expect him to have achieved some status and position, and not a position paying slightly better than fast food. Still, if you can’t substantially increase your income, you might increase your status by making a difference. You could start and run a humanitarian organization (like Robert Werner, who started BC Digital Divide, refurbishing donated computers and giving them to the needy). But, if you do this solely to get chicks, they’ll surely see through it. Ultimately, this mostly has to be about a passion to help others, and not just to help others who are 23 and hot out of their clothes.

(c)2011, Amy Alkon, all rights reserved. Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave, #280, Santa Monica, CA  90405, or e-mail (
Read Amy Alkon’s book: “I SEE RUDE PEOPLE: One woman’s battle to beat some manners into impolite society” (McGraw-Hill, $16.95).

the advice goddess

the advice goddess

Blister wonderful

I’m starting to have feelings for this guy friend I’ve been fooling around with, but I’m worried he isn’t feeling the same way. He’s stopped short of having full-blown intercourse with me, which I find odd, although I don’t want to have sex yet because I have genital herpes and I’m not ready to tell him. (I take an antiviral drug for this daily, and I’d have him wear protection during intercourse.) Do you think he knows I have herpes? Maybe he just isn’t interested in me romantically and doesn’t want me getting too attached.

— Puzzled

When you start to care about somebody, it’s nice to give him little romantic gifts — flowers, a gourmet cupcake, a sweet card, weeping genital sores.

Surely you’d tell the guy pronto if you had a cold: “Hey, don’t get too close, because you could catch this and have an unpleasant few days.” But colds go away. Herpes is forever. Yeah, I know, so are diamonds. But, unlike a mammoth rock on a girl’s finger, a big genital pustule isn’t anything you want to be showing off to the crew at the office: “Look at it gleam under the fluorescents!” 

Genital herpes hasn’t always been such a big stigmatized deal — to the point where it’s led to the tanking of countless potential relationships. Until the late ’70s, it was seen as “cold sores down there” and often not even worthy of a visit to the doctor. Except in rare cases, the physical symptoms are relatively minor. At the first outbreak, especially, it feels a bit like the flu, with fever, headache, and muscle aches. There’s also tingling and itching, and there can be pain, burning during urination (and don’t forget the yucky sores!).

So, what led to all the stigma? The sexual revolution, for starters. In the mid-’70s, with lots of people having lots of sex, genital herpes spread (as probably did the common cold). In 1979, the CDC, seeing the herpes stats rising, got a little hysterical and announced an “epidemic” (of cold sores!), and the media ran with it. In 1980, Time magazine declared herpes “The New Sexual Leprosy,” and in 1982, The Miami Herald called it a “cruel disease.” “Cruel disease”? Multiple sclerosis is a cruel disease. But, an infection that gives you the itchies and makes you walk funny for a few days? As herpes simplex expert Dr. Adrian Mindel told The Independent in 1987, “For the majority of people herpes is … nothing more than an occasional nuisance.”

The thing is, if you’re having an outbreak of your “occasional nuisance” and your naked parts are rubbing against somebody else’s naked parts, you could infect him. The risk of transmission may be reduced by daily antiviral treatment and condom use — provided there are no contagious areas outside the condom zone. But, you can be in a contagious stage and not know it. Of the approximately 1 in 6 U.S. adults ages 14 to 48 who have genital herpes, 80 percent don’t show visible symptoms, says herpes researcher Dr. Anna Wald. Research by Wald and her colleagues found that even when herpes carriers showed no symptoms, they were contagious 10 percent of the time. Of course, that’s on average. Wald explained to me that there’s a range: “Some people may be contagious 1 percent of the time, and others 30 percent, but we don’t have a good way to predict who is who.”

Putting this guy at risk for herpes without giving him any choice in the matter was not only unfair but pretty dumb. For many people, the betrayal is the biggest problem. If you tell somebody before he fools around with you and maybe pull a fact sheet off the Internet to allay his fears, he’ll be less likely to ditch you, and he won’t have the rage he would at being unwittingly exposed. To launch the conversation, maybe say something like “Ever gotten a cold sore? I get them sometimes … but not on my lip!” And then, as advises, don’t say “I have herpes,” which makes you sound like you’re having an outbreak right then. Instead, say “I carry the virus for herpes” and explain how often you have outbreaks … which should make it sound more like a manageable annoyance than the guy’s ticket to a lifetime of Crusty Pustules Anonymous meetings.F

NOTE: There are press reports, tracing back to the respected Herpes Viruses Association of the U.K., that drug company Burroughs Wellcome caused the initial stigmatization of people with herpes by marketing the stigma to sell its drug. The association could provide me no evidence supporting its accusation, nor could I find any in 51 years of newspaper and journal articles (from 1960 to 2011). I’m very much for going after drug companies for malfeasance, but not in the absence of evidence they’ve committed any.

(c)2011, Amy Alkon, all rights reserved. Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave, #280, Santa Monica, CA  90405, or e-mail (

Read Amy Alkon’s book: “I SEE RUDE PEOPLE: One woman’s battle to beat some manners into impolite society” (McGraw-Hill, $16.95).

It’s Advice Goddess Radio — bringing you the best people from science … fascinating, fun professor and therapist guests who will nerd you out of your love, dating sex, and relationship problems. Listen live every Sunday, 7-8 p.m. PT, 10-11 p.m. ET, or download the podcast at the link. Call-in during the show: 347-326-9761 (NYC area code).

the advice goddess

the advice goddess

Her best friend’s waiting

My girlfriend’s best friend is her ex. They broke up six years ago (upon mutual agreement). She swears she’s much happier being his friend and says they both feel they weren’t meant to be romantic partners. Well, she clearly adores the hell out of him, and he’s her go-to guy for her problems (family, career, and probably any issues with me). She respects my opinion, but sometimes I feel she only asks for it so I won’t feel second banana to him. We’ve only been dating eight months, and I feel she believes what she says about their friendship, but part of me worries that she’s still in love with him but not aware of it. During one of their long phone chats, if he said he wanted to be with her after all, I suspect I’d be dumped fast.

— Second Best

If this were a chick flick, you’d be the plot device — the guy the girl’s with just so she can figure out that she should marry the other guy. (Start worrying if you roll over in bed and see a couple of prop men unplugging your lamp.)

Of course it’s hard for you to believe that a guy who once wanted her body now just wants her ear. Their insistence that they’re just friends does run contrary to the wisdom of the noted therapist Billy Crystal, who warned in his seminal work, “When Harry Met Sally,” that “men and women can’t be friends because the sex part always gets in the way.” Sure it does — mainly when they have yet to have sex with each other. But, these two have been there, done each other (and done each other and then some). Chances are, the thrill of the chase really has given way to the thrill of getting on the phone so they can cluck like two excitable hens.

People commonly think love is only supposed to come in groups of two, like on the ark. But, this “two-topia” — the notion that one person will meet your every emotional, sexual, and career counseling need (while leading you in a killer ashtanga workout) — is actually an impossible ideal. The truth is, in addition to your romantic partner, you can have another deeply important person in your life — a friend-plus! — who you love more than a typical friend but who you don’t love naked (or don’t love naked anymore).

And sure, if your girlfriend has a BFF, you’d prefer it to be somebody named Melanie, whose interests run the gamut from shoes to shoes. And yes, she could suddenly decide to “put the ex back in sex.” But, six years post-breakup, it’s likely her attraction is more therapeutic — having a longtime friend to lean on who’s probably helped her dust all the skeletons hanging in her closets (home, office, and beyond). Don’t get all wound up in trying to compete with him or meet her every need; you just need to meet enough of them and keep getting to know her. Throw yourself into your relationship instead of obsessing that it will end, and try to focus on the merits of their friendship. This guy enhances her life, and if her life is enhanced, she’s enhanced, and so is her life with you … even if that flies in the face of everything you’ve ever heard about how love is “supposed” to play out. (Shakespeare wrote “Romeo and Juliet,” not “Romeo, Juliet, and Bob.”)


Poach class

Two male friends who know I’m happily married have made a pass at me recently. One’s kind of a player, so … whatever. The other I considered a very good friend (of seven years), and I find myself remarkably angry with him. Some friend. I feel like posting a blog item, “I have never been unfaithful to my husband and never will be.”

— Betrayed

When one dog tries to hump another, it generally isn’t because he finds the other dog ethically sketchy. I get that you aren’t a chihuahua with computer privileges, but there’s a good chance the thought process for these guys was dog-humpingly deep. I had you send me your photo, and you’re gorgeous. Men make passes at women who are blindingly attractive — and not necessarily because they devalue them as friends or think they’ll be quick to toss their wedding ring on another man’s night table. Sometimes, impulse, dirty martinis, desperation, and seven years of a woman’s hotitude just come to a head. This isn’t to say you should excuse what these guys did or continue being friends with them if that’s painful, but it may help to understand that the calculation here may not have involved a comprehensive risk/benefit analysis … beyond you’re beautiful and they’re drunk, and if they’re going to be relegated to meaningless anonymous sex, they’d like it to be with you.

(c)2011, Amy Alkon, all rights reserved. Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave, #280, Santa Monica, CA  90405, or e-mail (
Read Amy Alkon’s book: “I SEE RUDE PEOPLE: One woman’s battle to beat some manners into impolite society” (McGraw-Hill, $16.95).

the advice goddess

the advice goddess

Pest wife regression

Two years ago, my man left his 22-year marriage to be with me, but he told me he loved his former wife and would always want a friendship with her. I accepted that (I’m friends with my ex), but I’m bothered by the amount of contact they have. They do have two adult children and own property together. But, although she’s living with a new partner, she sometimes wants to borrow his car, have him pick up the dogs, or drop off some paperwork. They phone about every other day, and not a week goes by without his stopping over — occasionally for a family dinner. I get plenty of his time, energy and affection, and I know their relationship isn’t romantic. The issue is split loyalty — all the effort he’s putting into remaining “loving friends” with a woman who’d love to see our relationship fail. Am I being petty and jealous? It feels like she’s clinging hard — and so is he.

— The One Who Stole Her Man

Once you get to a certain age, there’s no starting a relationship with a clean slate. You meet somebody and it’s never “Hi, here I am, just me and this little suitcase!” — unless his entire family disappeared into a giant sinkhole or went back in time while on vacation and was caught in the volcanic eruption at Pompeii.

There is much to be said for having a mature attitude about one’s divorce. Friends of the divorced encourage it by emailing inspirational quotes like “When one door closes, another door opens.” Annoyingly, in this case, that quote continues “And then that first door opens back up and a woman leans out and asks what time your man’ll be coming over to take the dog to the vet.”

Jealousy is the guard dog of human relationships, an evolutionary adaptation that helps us defend ourselves against mate-swiping. As cognitive psychologist Dr. Nando Pelusi and I discussed recently on my weekly radio show (, jealousy is productive when there’s a real threat that your partner might fall for someone else and leave you for them. Jealousy is counterproductive when you know he’s going to leave you for someone else — but just for a few hours a week to drop off some paperwork and deworm the dog.

Of course, to be human is to be small and petty. (To be successfully small and petty is to not let it show.) Lashing out, snapping, “Excuse me, but wasn’t she supposed to get her husband privileges revoked in the divorce?” will just make him defensive. Instead, use your vulnerability in a powerful way. Evoke his sympathy by saying something like “Listen, I understand that you two have kids and property and a friendship, but I’m feeling a little insecure about all the time and attention you’re devoting to her.” Chances are he’ll reassure you by explaining why you have nothing to worry about, and maybe even consider dialing it back a little. On the bright side, you’re with a guy who isn’t one to drop-kick his obligations the moment some husband-stealing hussy comes along. Maybe try to laugh at how happy endings are sometimes the messiest and enough to make you pine for a good old Jerry Springer-style breakup. At least when one’s dumping the other’s clothes on the front lawn, pouring gasoline on them, and lighting them on fire, the logical human response isn’t ringing the perpetrator up and asking to borrow their car.

Speaking ill of the dud

One of my coolest girlfriends is in love with a total dud. He gets wasted at every party, talks in front of her about how hot other women are, and is generally pretty disrespectful of her. I keep wanting to yank him aside and ask him whether he knows how lucky he is. Now I’m thinking I need to yank my friend aside and tell her she can do better.

— Disgusted

It’s considered an act of friendship to tell a girlfriend that she’s got a piece of spinach stuck between her teeth. You’d think she’d be equally appreciative when you point out that she’s got a soulmate stuck in some other woman’s cleavage. But, her ego is probably all tied up in her belief that she’s found love, and she’d probably just get combative. Instead of telling her she’s making a mistake, try to get her to come to that conclusion by borrowing from an addiction therapy technique called “motivational interviewing.” Get her to talk about what she wants (all the wonderful qualities she’s seeking in a man), and then gently ask her how that stacks up against what she has. By drawing the discrepancies out of her, you’re leading her to do the math: She hasn’t so much fallen in love as she’s slipped in a pile of something somebody should’ve picked up with a plastic bag.

(c)2011, Amy Alkon, all rights reserved. Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave, #280, Santa Monica, CA  90405, or e-mail (

Read Amy Alkon’s book: “I SEE RUDE PEOPLE: One woman’s battle to beat some manners into impolite society” (McGraw-Hill, $16.95).

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