I broke up with my boyfriend because he didn’t prioritize our relationship and wouldn’t commit. He now wants to get back together and has been sending me cards and letters for weeks. Is it foolish to give him another shot?
— Red Flag?
A man who’s all, “Forget the Tinder randos! I need you!” is a man whose sexual freedom means less to him than being with you. It’s basically like a lion knocking on the door of the zoo: “Got a cage for me?”
Still, it’s natural you’re giving his pleas to get back together the side-eye: “Hmmph. So…I wasn’t good enough for you before, but I’m suddenly good enough for you now?!” However, his unwillingness to commit may have had little to do with you.
There’s this myth that you just need to find “the right person” and then you and Senor Perfecto ride off into the sunset together to Happily Ever After. In fact, clinical psychologist Judith Sills explains that you need to find not just the right person, but the right person at the right time: when both you and he are ready to commit. “Readiness” doesn’t strike lightning bolt-style; it develops. It’s a psychological shift that acts as a “catalyst for commitment”: for the intimacy, vulnerability, and responsibility for another person that commitment entails.
Evolutionary psychologists David Buss and David Schmitt observe that having sex can ultimately cost women vastly more than it costs men: nine months of pregnancy plus a squalling kid to feed versus a teaspoon of sperm plus a wave goodbye. So, for men, “a short-term sexual strategy” — casual sex with a variety of women — has “reproductive benefits,” allowing them to leave more descendants carrying their genes (in contrast with a “long-term sexual strategy,” commitment). However, which strategy is optimal for an individual man or woman is context-dependent. Contexts that motivate a man to commit include wanting a family, a meaningful partnership, and/or a “highly desirable woman” who can afford to put her foot down: “Relationship or bust, Bob.”
Chances are the “foot” scenario is behind your previously blase Bob’s transformation (probably along with how we don’t always realize what we have until we’ve lost it). Tell him something soon — either that you’ll hear him out or that it’s over. If it’s the latter, knowing now will allow him to go out with dignity — before he scrapes bottom on chick flick lines to poach for his letters and decides begging for love can be genderfluid: “I’m also just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her.”
All Night Yawn
I’m a 32-year-old woman with a pattern of getting into relationships and then not wanting to have sex. I’m really into sex when the relationship’s new. But about a year in, I stop wanting to have sex, even when the emotional part of the relationship is good. Why does this happen, and is it preventable?
Over time, everything gets old. Even men and women who are into the freakiest sex eventually look over at their partner all, “Ugh. Not another night of the same old-same old in the sex dungeon.”
Where men and women tend to differ is in their motivation for having sex once they’re in a relationship. There’s an assumption that, in relationships, women’s sexual desire will work just like men’s — that is, rise up out of nowhere (like teenage boys’ inappropriate erections). Sexual medicine specialist Rosemary Basson, M.D., finds that this “spontaneous hunger” to have sex is a thing for women in the initial dating stage and for some women in relationships, especially if they and their partner are apart for a few weeks.
But many women in long-term romantic partnerships stop having the physical craving to get it on — the urge for sexual “release.” However, they might still be motivated to have sex for other reasons, like to feel close to their partner. Unfortunately, like you, they and their partners often assume their sexual desire is dead and gone. But Basson explains that a woman’s desire is probably arousable, meaning triggerable. (It just needs waking up.)
In practical terms, if a woman who wants to want sex starts making out with her partner, she’s likely to get turned on. This becomes the springboard to her feeling that physical urge to have sex. However…this assumes she was seriously attracted to him to begin with and didn’t just succumb to advice to be “open-minded” about a great guy she found sexually meh. Initially, excitement over what’s new (new guy!) is often mistaken for the excitement of finding somebody hot. However, if actual attraction wasn’t there at the start, there’ll be nothing to revive once the early sexual disbelief — “How do you even do that? Are you double-jointed? In Cirque du Soleil?” — erodes into “Cirque du So Tired Of This.”
(c)2020, 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. @amyalkon on Twitter. Weekly podcast: blogtalkradio.com/amyalkon
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