The Advice Goddess

The Advice Goddess

Better luck nest time

For nine months, I’ve been having fun seeing a nice woman a few times a week. We’re both 50ish. I told her I didn’t want a serious relationship. She went along with this but now clearly wants more. She has a picture of me at her desk. (I wouldn’t think of displaying her picture on mine.) She talks about our future, once even saying we should move in together, and said we should make plans to celebrate our upcoming one-year anniversary. Perhaps I’m emotionally blocked from being only one year out of a 33-year marriage, but I don’t have lovey-dovey feelings for her now. (Part of me wants to date every woman available.) Is it wrong to keep this going when I know she wants more and may even be convincing herself that we have more?

— Torn

It’s got to be unsettling, coming into this woman’s office and seeing what’s basically a framed billboard advertising the serious relationship you told her you aren’t ready to have. In her defense, she does have more contact with you than the guy whose stock photo came with the frame.

You were only looking to hang out with her a few times a week, not wear her around your neck at all times like a scarf. Maybe she thought she could go along with this, or maybe she figured she could nudge you into wanting more. She probably works hard to contain her true feelings, but they sometimes tiptoe out and whisper suggestions, like romantic ideas for your upcoming “anniversary.” Which for you is the anniversary of “I’m dating you in the wake of my 33-year marriage hitting the wall — mainly because it seems more life-affirming than curling up in a fetal position and sucking my thumb for a year or two.”

The big myth of relationships is that you just have to find “the right person.” The reality is, it has to be the right person at the right time. A year ago, a giant meteorite landed on your life, and you’ve just about collected your wallet, your keys, and all the change that blew out of your pockets. Now’s the time to crawl out of the hole, look around, and figure out what you want. Unfortunately, this is difficult with a woman clinging to your ankle, campaigning to change her Facebook relationship status to “engaged” while you’re hunting for the button for “entrapped.”

If you decide to date around, explain that you really like her but the timing’s off. (“Great moments in bad timing” is easier on the ego than “Great. I spent nine months with a guy who never really wanted me.”) If you want to keep seeing her exclusively, remind her that you’re far from ready to shop for bathroom accessories together. She may decide that some of you is better than none of you, but the ground rules will be clear: You can drag a guy to a chick movie, but you can’t make him buy into the plot — unless it’s the first chick movie ever that ends with the male lead waking up hung over in Thailand with two bar hostesses, a tattoo, and a monkey on his belly.

 

You deplete me

I don’t have a romance issue, but it feels just as complicated. I need to dump a close friend. We meet for coffee each morning and e-mail daily, but I’ve finally admitted to myself that I don’t enjoy her company. Her dour outlook really depresses me. We spent two hours having drinks yesterday, and I felt a physical discomfort, like I could actually see my time being wasted. I can’t tell her the truth: “You drain me.” I’d really like to just disappear.

— Done

When you’re breaking up with a romantic partner, you can at least put a positive spin on things: “We can be friends!” What do you say to a friend you’re dumping, “We can be strangers who wordlessly pass each other on the sidewalk!”? There’s no wonderful way to shut down a close friendship, but the cruelest way is just disappearing on somebody you see and talk to daily. You actually need to tell her it’s over — as briefly and kindly as possible — and a note does that better than a face-to-face firing, which is icky and humiliating. Avoid personal attacks: “You’re too this or that.” Make your explanation about the dynamics — you just have “different approaches to life,” you’re just not “clicking” anymore (don’t mention that you never have). She may call and press you for details, so be prepared to stick to your short but vague story. In the future, avoid mistaking tenure for friendship. A friend worth having is somebody you respect and admire — and the kind of person who’s there for you when you’re down, not the giant iron anchor that takes you there.

(c)2012, Amy Alkon, all rights reserved. Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave., #280, Santa Monica, CA  90405, or e-mail AdviceAmy@aol.com (www.advicegoddess.com)


It’s Amy Alkon’s Advice Goddess Radio — “Nerd your way to a better life!” with the best brains in science solving your love, dating sex, and relationship problems. Listen live every Sunday — http://www.blog
talkradio.com/amyalkon/ — 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).


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

Bitter homes and gardens

If your wife says another man’s name while making love, what does that mean? It was her ex’s name — my stepson’s dad. She apologized, saying it was only because she remembered needing to call him about problems their son’s having at school. Although I don’t think she’s cheating, I can’t say I believe her excuse, as she compares me negatively with previous men in her life. Had I blurted out another woman’s name, she never would’ve forgiven me. She has lots of anger and a very suspicious nature. She goes through my phone and constantly checks up on me. I know she’s had men cheat on her, but I’ve given her no reason to doubt me. Her response when I try to have a healthy discussion about this or anything is either “whatever” or calling me names and starting a full-blown argument, then suggesting we shouldn’t be together. That’s the last thing I want for our kids.

— Upset

There you are, trying your best to give your wife an orgasmatastical time in bed, and not only does she belt out another man’s name, she decides to get a head start on her to-do list. (Apparently, what you thought was her sex face is also her “Did I schedule that parent-teacher conference?” face.)

Chances are, your wife’s explanation, that this was just a brain burp, is the truth. And people’s minds do wander during sex — especially when it’s not exactly their first time with a particular partner. They just don’t usually let on that they’re talking dirty but staring up at the crown molding and resisting the impulse to reach for the telescoping feather duster.

Although every relationship gives rise to wounds, slights, and things you wish you could unhear, how you respond depends largely on what your “base” is — personally and as a couple. If you’re emotionally secure and your relationship is loving, you can shrug off a whole lot — maybe even tease your wife about her sexual faux pas by yelling out your own name in bed or moaning your to-do list: “Ohhh … when you do that to me, it makes me think about calling to change our health insurance to a PPO.”

When you get married, it isn’t just to a woman and all her annoying inlaws; you also marry all her unresolved issues. Your wife’s insecurity makes her feel vulnerable, but instead of expressing her fears and giving you the chance to allay them, she takes the emotionally “safe” way out — attacking you. Her motto: “Don’t go to bed mad. Stay up and scream about what a worthless worm your husband is.”

Tell your wife that you need to remake your marriage to save it — because you love her and for your kids’ sake. Because she fights dirty and you seem unable to stand up to her, you should bring in a therapist as a referee. What you can do yourselves is make a pact to never treat each other like you’ve forgotten you love each other. For backup, the way couples have a “safe word” in sex, you can agree to call “Empathy!” if the poo-flinging gets out of hand — your signal to stop and call up some compassion for what the other person must be feeling. It won’t teleport you into instant maturity. But, because it’s really hard to be a hugger and a hater at the same time, it should remind you that “till death do us part” is supposed to be a really romantic promise, not a battle cry.

 

Making shove last

My wife of five years wants us to go to couples counseling. We’ve been fighting a lot these past two years, but I don’t think that’s reason to talk to some stranger about our issues. We love each other. Shouldn’t that be enough for us to work through things together?

— Do-It-Yourself-er

Is this also your approach to a broken leg? “Who needs some stranger with a medical degree? Lemme see what I got in the garage.” Or when your house is burning down: “I see no reason to invite some stranger from the fire department into my life.” Love might be the answer to some things, like who to get chocolate for on Valentine’s Day, but it doesn’t make you a great communicator. When you aren’t getting through to each other on your own, the wise (and courageous) thing to do is seek help. This does require letting go of the need to be right and overcoming qualms about being judged. But, exposing what isn’t working is your best shot at fixing things … much as you’d probably rather stamp your feet and insist, “Everything I need to know about being married I learned in kindergarten!” (Apparently, “Don’t eat paste” is a little-known cure for everything from financial woes to erectile dysfunction.)

(c)2012, Amy Alkon, all rights reserved. Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave., #280, Santa Monica, CA  90405, or e-mail AdviceAmy@aol.com (www.advicegoddess.com)


It’s Amy Alkon’s Advice Goddess Radio — “Nerd your way to a better life!” with the best brains in science solving your love, dating sex, and relationship problems. Listen live every Sunday — http://www.blog
talkradio.com/amyalkon/ — 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).


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

Dew drop your pants

I broke up with my guy a while ago, which was the right thing to do. But, I’ve found myself hooking up with guys for no reason other than getting caught in a provocative moment. Of course, as you’ve often written, men and women are very different when it comes to casual sex, and what’s casual for men ends up feeling not so casual for a lot of women. Including me. So, I have to wonder, knowing what I know, why I keep going for pleasure and excitement in the moment when I know I will feel empty afterward.

— Own Worst Enemy

Some women have a long list of requirements a man has to meet before they’ll have sex with him. You, for example, require a man to walk into the bar, be reasonably hot, be reasonably hetero, and say things that make you feel really special, like “This seat taken?”

Humans evolved to live in the now: “Eat the berry. You’ll never know when you’ll see your next berry.” This psychology made a lot of sense in the evolutionary environment, about 1.8 million years before 7-Elevens and Walmart grocery megastores. But, these days, our propensity to grab for immediate benefits (while blocking out future costs) can cause some misery — as you’ve discovered whenever the answer to “So, how long have you two lovebirds been together?” has been “Oh, about two-and-a-half beers.”

It’s possible that your need-for-stimulation jets are set on high. In psychology-speak, this means scoring high in “sensation-seeking,” a personality trait with a strong biological basis, expressed by a lust for novelty, variety, and intense experiences and a willingness to engage in risky behavior to get them. Not surprisingly, sexual sensation-seekers often use alcohol to lubricate the way. (Just a guess, but you probably aren’t hooking up from a park bench or after getting hammered on an immuno-boosting peach smoothie with a wheatgrass chaser — the absinthe of the juice bar.) 

   
It’s time to ditch “the power of now” for the power of no. You create a personal culture through behavior you repeat over time, like repeatedly not giving in to the temptation to seize the moment (and whatever’s in the pants of the person on the next barstool). Being conscious of the psychology behind your behavior helps you change it. If you are a thrill-seeker, feed that in ways that don’t involve dropping thong. If you’re really looking for love, remind yourself that you aren’t likely to find it between your underwear and a stack of old porn mags under some bar dude’s bed. And consider other reasons you’re drawn to casual sex, like maybe loneliness or a need for touch. (A massage will cost you money, but there’s no “walk of shame” afterward.)

You might also try “precommitment,” a strategy originated by economist Thomas Schelling that involves prearranging to make it hard for yourself to duck a goal. Tell friends you’ve sworn off one-night soul mates, ask them to support you in that, and avoid going alone to bars. As your last line of defense, do things that would make you too embarrassed to get naked with a guy, like wearing ratty granny panties and writing a message in permanent magic marker across your stomach — something real come-hither-y, like “Got herpes? (I do, and I love to share.)”

Snail male

This woman I’ve been dating is smart, sweet, and kind in addition to being beautiful, but I feel we miss more than we click. It’s like we almost connect but never fully do. I’ve finally admitted to myself that that’s not enough. My only other girlfriends both cheated on me, so cutting the cord was easy. How do you break up with somebody who has done nothing wrong except seem kind of wrong?

— Procrastinator

When you need to break up with a woman, you’d think she’d at least have the decency to cheat on you, clean out your bank accounts, and hit kittens over the head with a two-by-four. As awful as it seems to pink-slip a girlfriend whose character flaws run the gamut from kindness to hotitude, what’s really wrong is sticking around past the “ditch by” date. This just eats time — maybe taking months or years off her biological shot clock. The right thing to do is to tell her you don’t click as soon as you’ve figured that out. So, buck up and set this one free. And try to have some perspective. There are worse things you could do to a woman than tell her it’s over — such as faking your own death and turning up in Mexico five years later.

(c)2012, Amy Alkon, all rights reserved. Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave., #280, Santa Monica, CA  90405, or e-mail AdviceAmy@aol.com (www.advicegoddess.com)


It’s Amy Alkon’s Advice Goddess Radio — “Nerd your way to a better life!” with the best brains in science solving your love, dating sex, and relationship problems. Listen live every Sunday — http://www.blog
talkradio.com/amyalkon/ — 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).


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

Mourning breath

At 19, I married the first man I slept with. He died last year after 23 years of marriage, and within a month, I was in a new relationship with a wonderful man I met online. I’m certainly still grieving, sometimes horribly, but my new man understands, and he’s patient. He appreciates me and insists on my total commitment to him (meaning that I can’t date anyone else). The problem is, he lives in another state, and in our year together, his work schedule has kept him from visiting me. He can make me quiver when we talk on the phone, but the distance leaves me lonely at night. Can a long-distance relationship ever work?

— Cradling The Phone
 

So, in an entire year, your Mr. Wonderful couldn’t line up a single weekend to come see you because of his work schedule? Well, that sounds perfectly reasonable — if, for him, getting out of work early means digging a tunnel with a sharpened spoon so as to avoid the electrified razor wire and the armed guards.

As a rule, Internet dating should be composed of very little Internet and a whole lot of dating. (Phone dates don’t count.) Until you spend considerable time in a man’s presence, your view of him will be part him and a good part you filling in the blanks with who you’d like him to be. And sorry, quivery romantic moments are just the sparkly topping on a relationship. The actual relationship is mostly the day-to-day stuff — how you are together at the grocery store and whether he’s mean to you when you forget to pick up the dry cleaning. And while your heart might be singing for him across the miles, you could hate the way he kisses and find that your nostrils make a strong argument for lashing him to an old mattress and putting him out with the trash.

Where you go right is in not appearing to buy into cookie-cutter ideas about how you “should” be mourning, like the widely held myth that there are specific, neatly ordered “stages of grief” everyone must move through and Freud’s notion that grieving people need to slog through all their thoughts, memories and emotions about the deceased. (Never mind that he had no evidence for this or that actual evidence suggests that ruminating can cause depression; he had some serious eyeglasses and that groovy Persian rug-draped armless couch.)

When life as you knew it for a quarter-century suddenly developed a big husband-shaped hole, it’s understandable that you started rummaging around the Internet for a scoop of human grout. But, being desperate for filler meant that any critical assessments about this guy were drowned out by “Cripes! I’ll be alone!” At the same time, maybe you weren’t quite ready to be with anybody, so it worked to have a boyfriend who demanded your “total commitment” — creepy! — while not actually bothering to show up. You can strongly suggest that he hop a plane in the immediate future, but chances are whatever’s prevented him from giving you a peek at the real him will continue to prevent it. Maybe now would be a good time to try to get comfortable being alone. Only when you are will you be able to choose a man for the right reasons — and not simply because he talks a really good game, giving him something of an edge over the guy in the urn.

 

Deflower arrangement

I’m almost 30 and still a virgin, but not because of religious beliefs. I have strong sexual urges, but I was a really late bloomer (mid-20s), traveled constantly for work and never had a relationship take off. (I’m not into casual sex.) How do I reveal my virginity to guys I date? Won’t they think I’m a freak?

— Undone
 

Some guys will be weirded out that you’re still a virgin, but for many, it’s preferable to starting to have sex with a girl and having balloons and confetti fly around and a loudspeaker crackle: “Congratulations, son! There’s been quite a bit of traffic in and out of this particular garage, but you’re lucky number 100!” Don’t announce your virginity on the first date, like it’s the most relevant thing about you. Wait till a guy’s a little attached, and when the making out gets heavy, explain, “Oh, by the way … late bloomer, blah, blah, blah. Also, I’ve been saving myself for a virgin sacrifice on the edge of an active volcano.” Coolly offering an explanation and even poking fun at yourself suggests that your virginity is just a fluke, not a sign that you have psychological problems or low sexual desire — or that your pa came out with his shotgun and offed all the other guys before they could, uh, pull into your garage.

(c)2012, Amy Alkon, all rights reserved. Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave., #280, Santa Monica, CA  90405, or e-mail AdviceAmy@aol.com (www.advicegoddess.com)


It’s Amy Alkon’s Advice Goddess Radio — “Nerd your way to a better life!” with the best brains in science solving your love, dating sex, and relationship problems. Listen live every Sunday — http://www.blogtalkradio.com/amyalkon/ — 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).


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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