Dear John: Is She Just Not Good Enough For Him? Is Anyone?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013


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


Dear John,

I have been seeing a guy for about six months. We were introduced by mutual friends. One of the things that attracted me to him at first is how intelligent he is. This is something that I have always found irresistible in a man, but I may have overreached this time because I’m getting the impression that he’s instructing me as much as he’s dating me. It seems like every time we go out, it’s to “enrich” me somehow, whether it’s going to a museum to see a particular exhibit, or to a play, or to a talk – even if we stay home to watch a movie, it’s likely to be Citizen Kane or something else he can’t believe I’ve never seen. (Or heard of, to be honest.)

He’s a really sweet guy and he never gives me the idea he wishes I were more cerebral, it’s just the conclusion I have to draw based on the types of things we always end up doing. And to be completely honest, some of these things are very interesting, but I don’t want a steady diet of them. And there doesn’t seem to be a lot of reciprocation, either. For example, when I suggested he might like something like Breaking Bad if he gave it a chance, his response was when he has seen everything better than Breaking Bad, then he will move on to that. He meant it as a joke, but there was something serious about it, too.

If he weren’t so great in a lot of ways, I would just move on. But I’m not quite ready to give up yet. What would you do if you were me?

Not A Project

Dear Not A Project,

From what you’ve said here, I’m not so sure he’s trying to turn you into his personal Eliza Doolittle. Based on his reaction to your Breaking Bad proposal, it sounds like he would be seeking out the same, uh, refined entertainments whether the two of you were together or not, right?

So is the problem that he is trying to improve you, or that you and he have different ideas about what makes for a fun date, and so far he has made all the plans?

Whichever one it is, it’s time – past time, actually – for you to be more assertive about what you’d like to do. Tell him a lot of the things you’ve been doing lately have been his idea, and you’d like your next date to be your idea. Then plan the type of thing you wish you spent more time doing, even if that’s just hanging out at home together with some wine and mindless television. If he resists, I’m not sure it matters whether it’s because you’re not being a compliant student or because he can’t enjoy anything he deems insufficiently highbrow. Neither explanation sounds like much fun to me.

Dear John,

I have never seen my girlfriend naked. We have had sex a number of times, but I’ve never seen her naked. How is this possible, you ask? Because when we have had sex, she has insisted on the room being completely dark, and I mean pitch black. If she has to take a shower, she disappears into the bathroom completely dressed and comes out again the same way. We haven’t been dating too long, but it’s obvious that she’s very self-conscious about her body. Very much so. When I suggested turning on just a night light in her room, she said it makes her too uncomfortable. I should add that we are both well into our 30s and we are both in very average/typical shape for our age. It’s not like I have a level of fitness that makes her self-conscious, or that she has any reason herself for being as self-conscious as she is. Do you have any suggestions to help her get over this? Is her attitude likely to get better on its own or is this pretty much how I should expect our relationship to be?

In The Dark

Dear In The Dark,

If your girlfriend is extremely self-conscious about her body, and it sounds like she may be, you can’t badger her into being less so. You can’t use logic to persuade her to be less so. And you can’t treat her anxiety as a problem to be solved as quickly as possible so you can get on with having your idea of exciting sex with her.

This is fundamentally a trust issue, and it will take a lot of patience on your part to earn her trust. (Note that you haven’t done anything to earn her mistrust, either, but for reasons you’re not aware of, this is her baseline, and trust is not given until it’s earned. I’m not suggesting that any of this is conscious on her part.)

So the best thing you can do for now is to stop thinking about it. Stop fighting it. Stop trying to change it. Just accept that this is how she feels least vulnerable – this is how she feels “comfortable,” as she put it. Give her time to learn to trust you, and show her that she can. And when she does, you’ll find that your sexual relationship will be deeper and better in ways that have nothing to do with whether the lights are on or not.

Dear John,

I’m writing to you not with a question, but with a request. Halloween is coming and, while it has never been one of my favorite holidays, this year I am especially dreading its morbid and ghastly displays.

I lost someone very, very special to me a couple of months ago. His loss was sudden, unexpected, and simply heartbreaking. I know I will never stop feeling sadness for a beautiful life cut far too short, but I also know that the intensity of the pain I’m still feeling will wane in time. Right now, though, it is still strong enough to cause me burst into tears at the slightest provocation.

And that’s why I dread Halloween with its death-filled imagery. When I was a child, it was laughing cartoon witches on brooms; now one is exposed to the most appalling things just walking through a department store.

So my request is that we all exercise a little restraint and compassion this Halloween. Before decorating your home or office, ask yourself how what you’re putting up would make you feel if you had lost a loved one recently. Because you never know what your neighbors or colleagues are going through. Mind you, I’m not trying to take the fun out of anyone’s celebration. Considering how grim Halloween has become, I would say I’m trying to put the fun back in it.

Still Grieving

Dear Still Grieving,

You’ve given all of us something to think about this Halloween. Thanks for sharing your point of view.

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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