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Dear John: Stealing Away

Tuesday, January 03, 2012


What’s your problem? Write to John at [email protected].

Dear John,
About a year ago, I was shopping at a department store. My hands were full, I was carrying a lot of stuff, I was in a rush, and so I put an eyeliner I wanted to buy into my coat pocket because I had no other way to carry it. I had every intention of paying for it when I got to the checkout, but since I was hurrying, I forgot all about it and didn’t realize my mistake until I found the eye liner in my coat pocket that night. The thing I most remember about that discovery was thinking how easy it was. If I PLANNED to steal the eyeliner, I would have been so nervous I couldn’t do it. (I never stole anything before in my life.) But since I didn’t even know what I was doing, it was the easiest thing in the world. It made me think, can I do this again? If I got caught, I could simply say it was an oversight. I played it over and over in my mind and loved the idea of doing something risky without any real possible negative consequences.
Since then, I have taken things from different stores I shop in maybe once a week. Always small things, always when I am carrying a lot of stuff so I have an excuse for putting something in my pocket. Surprisingly, I have only set store alarms off a couple of times and I simply acted embarrassed about being so forgetful and paid for what I had.
I know it’s technically wrong, but the things I’m taking are so minor, I’d be lying if I said I felt guilty about it. But I do want to stop. I can’t go into any stores now without thinking, “Should I buy this? Should I take it? Are my pockets big enough? Do I have enough other stuff to buy?” And I recently found myself thinking about whether I should take something from someone’s home I was at. I didn’t, but that made me think this is getting out of control. It’s gone from being a pleasant diversion to a burden that I spend too much time thinking about. The last thing I expected, though, is that it’s become a difficult habit to break! What should I do – any advice?
Paying For It Now

Dear Paying For It Now,
This is far more than a bad habit. The urge to steal things is a compulsion that you need professional help to understand and to overcome. You should try to find a therapist with experience in helping people with obsessive-compulsive disorders. If you don’t know where to begin, contact a local hospital or the psychology department of a university near your home to get pointed in the right direction. A qualified therapist can help you understand why you feel compelled to steal things and help you develop strategies to stop doing it. As you acknowledge, the problem is escalating, so do this now before your luck runs out and this compulsion starts to affect your relationships and other parts of your life that have so far gone unscathed.
Dear John,
My fiancé has a problem that he is so touchy about, he won’t even discuss it. He has to go to the bathroom almost all the time. It’s very inconvenient – we can’t drive anywhere or do anything without stopping every twenty minutes or so so he can relieve himself – but the real problem is his refusal to deal with it. I’ve brought it up a couple of times and he’s blown up, saying there’s nothing wrong with him, he just doesn’t like the feel of anything at all in his bladder, and if that’s my biggest complaint about him, I should consider myself lucky. (It is, but I don’t.) Sometimes, it has even prevented us from doing something I wanted to do (like go to the symphony) because he hates having to crawl over an entire row of people or wait for an intermission that might take an hour or more to arrive. I’ve considered calling his doctor, but if he found out about that, forget it. Do you have any other ideas? What do you do when someone you love is in such denial about his health?
Worried Sick

Dear Worried Sick,
Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do, especially when this person’s m.o. is to overreact and lash out the moment the topic is raised. And no, calling his doctor would accomplish nothing besides angering him because his doctor would be unable to discuss his health issues with you.
This is about far more than how frequently your fiancé urinates. His way of managing his own health is immature at best, and his reaction to your legitimate concern is simply unacceptable. Do you really want to share your life with a man who is afraid to confront his own medical issues, who rationalizes this by saying things could be worse, and who takes his fear out on you? If you do, get used to the frustration and worry you’re feeling right now, because you’re in for a lot more of it.
Dear John,
I’m in my late forties and I am in a situation with a guy that’s a new one on me: we have been dating about six months and he has not initiated any physical contact. I mean none. What little there has been was initiated by me and it didn’t go anywhere. In my experience, this is very unusual – typically, I hit it off with men sexually quite easily; it’s the rest of their personality that doesn’t quite do it for me. With this man, it’s the exact opposite. We share a lot of interests, we have great conversations, we talk and laugh all the time. It’s just not very physical. I have wondered if he’s gay (not just because of this, there are other signs, too), but he got very snippy when I suggested he might have some unresolved sexual issues. He insists he’s not, though, and claims to resent that his only options are to have sex with me when he’s “not ready” or to be considered gay. I would like to hear your thoughts.
Never Been In This Position

Dear Never Been In This Position,
All I can say based on your letter is that at this early stage of your relationship, you and he are not sexually compatible. Mind you, that’s not to say you won’t be compatible at some point in the future. You seem to want to figure out why he is not acting the way you expect him to act, but there are any number of possible explanations: he may be gay or bisexual, he may be asexual, he may have an aversion to sex for some reason, he may have cultural or religious reasons for avoiding sex outside of marriage…or maybe he’s being as frank as he can be when he says he’s simply not ready. None of these explanations except the first one doom your prospects for a romantic relationship with him, but getting there will take patience, honesty, and a willingness to modify your expectations. Only you can decide if you’re up for that. I will say, though, that it’s easier to get someone with a great personality to open up sexually than it is to get an uninteresting person who’s great in bed to wake up one day with a personality to match.

John is a middle-aged family man from Providence, Rhode Island. If you learn from your mistakes, he’s brilliant. Write to him at [email protected].

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