Dear John: An Inflexible Girlfriend
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
What’s your problem? Write to John at email@example.com.
I’m writing to you because I have a very personal question and I find it very, very hard to talk about this in person with someone. I’m too shy and get embarrassed very easily.
My problem is I have been dating a man I’m very serious about for several months. Around a month ago, we took the step of becoming intimate. I can’t say it has been a bad experience, exactly, but I can’t say it’s right for me, either. Every encounter (there have only been a couple) has been too…I guess athletic or acrobatic is the word. Too much contorting into uncomfortable positions, too much direction from him, too much moving around, and not nearly enough slow, unhurried intimacy. I don’t feel like it’s for both of us; I feel almost like a prop if that’s not too harsh.
I know I have to talk with him about this, but I feel like I can’t! It’s a difficult enough conversation for me to have, period, but I know how crushed he’s going to feel. He’s the kind of guy who is very eager to please and gets very down on himself when criticized about something. I’ve even considered breaking it off with him so as to avoid talking about this, but I know that’s wrong. I care about him a lot, and if we can work on this, it will be worth the discomfort it’s going to cause both of us. How can I say it in a way that will protect his ego?
Can’t Bend Like That
Dear Can’t Bend Like That,
Yes, you have to force yourself to talk about it. But the conversation needn’t come off as critical – “You have to stop doing this, which I don’t like, and start doing this, which I do.” Because what you have to understand is, he’s probably running you through this regimen because he thinks you like it or it will make you think of him as being sexually proficient. Men feel a lot of pressure to do things in bed that will define them as good lovers, and this often finds expression in a de-emphasis of anything that doesn’t seem sufficiently imaginative or “exciting.” I think it’s because of this that sexual intercourse is described as a man’s “performance” – it’s one of those words we use without thinking of how it came to apply to this particular context. But he is performing for you, and he wants you to like the performance.
The next time the two of you are intimate, take the lead. Show him what you would prefer. And as difficult as it may be for you, talk with him afterwards about why you liked it. Again, you don’t have to contrast it with previous exertions; just let him know, “I really like it when you ________.” If he’s like most guys, he would rather be told than have to guess. And the more frequently you have conversations like these, the easier they will become.
What is it with guys liking to wear t-shirts promoting what bands they’ve seen, what sports teams they like, etc. (Although there’s not actually too much “etc.” because those two things make up about 90% of the style of dress I’m writing about.) And why do men not seem to realize that there are only certain ages that you can wear certain things – the sports team t-shirt that looks fine on a 20-year-old is just sad on a 40-something?
I recently started dating a guy I like quite a bit. Except he’s 43 and his non-work wardrobe consists mostly of concert tees and things that let everyone within a hundred yards know what sports teams he likes. I’m hoping you can give me some insight into why men dress this way in the hopes I can be more understanding, or tell me what to say to get him to shape up.
I Like Him, He Likes The Celtics
Dear I Like Him,
There are several factors that play into this, I think. One is that men take a much more functional approach to dressing than women do. Women think in terms of what will look great; men think in terms of what is appropriate for the weather outside. Women will gladly tolerate uncomfortable but flattering clothes; men would never think of deliberately wearing something that causes discomfort. (The only exception being those guys with fifty-inch waists who seem to think if they manage to button a pair of 45-inch pants, they have handily trimmed five inches off their waistline.) But I think the biggest factor is that no one ever teaches guys how to dress. They learn at a very young age to take the next pair of jeans and a shirt from the stacks in their drawers, and that’s the extent of it. And no one ever shares with them the concept of age-appropriate clothing.
But while most guys loathe clothes shopping, they do like to look good. So help him learn. Tell him that, tedious as it is, you want to go shopping for some clothes with him because you saw something you thought would look really nice on him. Explain that he’ll have to try some things on, but you’re not expecting him to wear anything that isn’t “him.” And be patient. He wears the stuff that he wears because he likes it. Don’t approach this expecting to replace his wardrobe; you’re just trying to broaden it so that the shirt he wears to the game isn’t the same one he wears out to dinner with you.
I recently broke up with a guy – got dumped, to be precise. It wasn’t what led to the breakup that leads me to write, but how he went about it: by texting me. Not even an email! To be honest, the relationship was going nowhere, so this was actually for the best, but is texting an acceptable way to let someone know you no longer want to see him (or her)? It has been many, many years since I have dated (divorced) and I really don’t know what passes for a standard today. The friends whom I have asked are fairly evenly split on this question. What’s your opinion?
Ending a relationship with a text message is certainly becoming more common, but my opinion is that it’s a cowardly way to deliver bad news.
These types of social mores do evolve, and it’s common to hear crotchety old people (that would be me) decrying the new ways and insisting that in THEIR day, people did things right. But of course, back in their day, there were crotchety old people complaining that people were breaking up over the impersonal telephone. The world moves along whether we keep up or not.
Even so, my impression is that the breakup-by-text is on its way to becoming acceptable, but who cares? If enough people do something wrong often enough and for long enough, it becomes acceptable, but it never becomes right. If you’ve been in a relationship with someone, romantic or otherwise, it strikes me as disrespectful to cut them from your life in such a brusque, impersonal way. What’s more, it reveals the texter to be a coward because he or she lacks the courage to say what they have to say, then stand there to absorb whatever reaction their news provokes. It’s taking the easy way out, and that’s not the route that people of integrity choose.
John is a middle-aged family man from Providence, Rhode Island. If you learn from your mistakes, he’s brilliant. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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