BREAKING UP IS HARD TO DO

Dear Dating Girl,

I’ve been with my boyfriend for a year and a half now, and I feel like it’s time for me to move on. However, he has no idea that I have been thinking about breaking up with him. In fact, I truly think that he is very in love with me and sees a future for us. A while back, I thought that I loved him as well. We are extremely good friends and always have fun together, but I just don’t think I love him anymore. This truly tears me apart because I can’t imagine hurting him and I know if I were to break up with him, he would be completely shocked. I really think that breaking up with someone can be harder than being broken up with for a lot of reasons. I don’t feel like I can do this, even though I know that it is the right thing. Any suggestions?

Breaking Up Is Hard to Do

Dear Breaking,

I suppose you could save him the hurt and simply stay in a relationship with someone you’re not in love with. Because I can really see that working out well. He’ll continue to live under the delusion that there are actually two of you in this relationship when in fact, you know your heart’s not in it. I’m sure he’ll never sense the distance, lack of emotional presence and eventually resentment that will build if you stick around. I know it’s tough to hurt someone you really care about but don’t you think you’re hurting him by pretending everything is fine? You’re just stretching the hurt out over a longer period of time, because, yes, he will begin to sense you pulling away (if he hasn’t already) and you will do more damage to his self-worth and sense of trust (one of the hardest things to shake when someone breaks up with you is that feeling of not being able to trust your own judgment) by dragging it out. So, while it may feel harder for you right now than for him, yours will be a short-lived pain. The longer you lead him on, the longer his pain will last. I am curious however, that you have not even raised the idea of talking to him about what’s going on with you. While I know and have experienced that feeling when you suddenly just “stop loving someone,” I would think that a year and a half in, he at least deserves a kick at the can to convince you otherwise. That the two of you should at least discuss whether or not there is anything that can be done to rekindle your feelings and salvage the relationship. Worth at least a moment’s consideration, no? You should also consider that you will most likely lose all that friendship and the fun once you break up. People who have just had their hearts broken by someone they imagined spending their future with usually don’t feel all that chummy towards that person, at least until he can get back on his emotional feet. If you really care about this guy, you’ll grant him this space and back off once you do the deed. Yes, that’s right, in case you weren’t clear about my suggestion: you must do the deed. Be kind and good luck.

DG CONFUSED

A few weeks ago, I published a letter from Confused Behaviour who wrote in for advice on how to deal with his girlfriend’s bad behaviour. As part of my advice, I suggested that this guy’s girlfriend’s behaviour was abusive and warned him that, “Remember, people who have been abused, often go on to abuse. Keep going back and you’re just continuing the cycle.”

One of you wrote in:

“For the past two years, I have been volunteering & working at The Network/La Red, an organization dedicated to ending abuse in the lesbian, bisexual women’s, and transgender communities. I am also a survivor. Myths such as “batterers’ partners go on to become abusers” are as harmful as they are false. The vast majority of survivors are not abusive, even though some may struggle to re-learn to be in healthy relationships. Certainly, some survivors are also batterers, but this is not a result of having been abused.

The story in the ‘confusing relationship’ letter did not necessarily concern partner abuse, even though it was about an unhealthy relationship. The woman was treating her partner poorly, and you were absolutely right in calling her out on that. It was nonetheless damaging to survivors to find a negative stereotype included in your response. And, given that 1 in 4 people (GLBT and straight) experience partner abuse at some point in their lives, I would imagine that a lot of your readers are survivors.”

Even Dating Girl needs advice sometimes. Thanks so much for setting me straight.

IN NEED OF A LINGERIE LESSON

Dear Dating Girl,

I’ve been seeing my girlfriend for about six months and things are going really well. I think the world of her and our physical relationship keeps getting better and better. She has a birthday coming up and I’m thinking of taking the plunge and buying her some nice lingerie as a gift but I’m nervous I’ll screw it up and give her the wrong idea. Do you think lingerie is an acceptable gift at this stage in our relationship and, if so, do you have any suggestions for how not to screw it up?

In Need of Lingerie Lesson

Dear In Need,

Given a choice between buying your lady lingerie and attempting to pick your way through an active mine field, I’d go with option two: far less dangerous.

However, if you’re brave enough, and armed with the proper intelligence, not only can you conquer your fear of women’s underthing shopping, you can become one of those guys who knows how to buy a woman lingerie. And that my dear soldier, will earn you a lot more than a medal.

Rule 1: Anything crotchless, buttless, polyester, or edible does not qualify as lingerie.

Rule 2: If you like it, she probably won’t. Remember, if she doesn’t feel sexy in it, you’re not going to get to enjoy it either.

Rule 3: Just because it looks hot on the Victoria’s Secret model, doesn’t mean it’ll look hot on her.

Rule 4: Shell out for the good stuff.

Rule 5: Lingerie isn’t all thongs and push-up bras. Sexy camisoles, long satin negligees or a sexy bustier can make even the most self-conscious woman feel like a sex goddess. Just make sure whatever you get is well designed and well made.

Rule 6: Go to a specialty shop where they know their stuff.

If you’re still nervous, take your gal on a “lingerie date,” where you go to the store together and pick out something you both like, she gets fitted properly, and you pay for it. This way, you get avoid the “weird guy in the underwear store” factor, your gal gets gitch that fit, and, well, you both get to go home and take it for a test drive. Win-win.

HOW DO I PROPERLY PRESENT PORN?

Dear Dating Girl,

As a man, I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve always enjoyed pornographic movies as part of my sexual repertoire. It’s not like it’s a problem or anything but I find so many women I have dated, have immediately take issue with this. In these days of female sexual liberation, there must be women out there who enjoy porn. I would love to meet someone with whom I could share this with, rather than feel like I have to hide this side of my sexuality. Is there a way to introduce porn into a relationship without your female partner thinking you’re a total pervert?

How Do I Properly Present Porn?

Dear How,

Perhaps it’s because so many guys grow up watching porn they can more easily accept it as a fact of life. More likely, because they don’t feel pressure to live up to the fantasy women in these videos, men have a much less politicized relationship with it. Women, on the other hand, have spent so many years feeling objectified and offended by porn (and if we didn’t, there are plenty of social forces at work to make us think we should), that yes, we’re a little sensitive about it.

Lucky for you, some of are starting to relax and admit that sometimes, heaven forbid, we like a little visual stimuli too. And we’re starting to pipe up about what we like and don’t like in our porn. Unfortunately, because the industry has been focused for years on getting guys off, they’re a little slow on the uptake in catering to female sexuality. Catering to women doesn’t mean tossing in some elaborate costumes and a plot. Women want to see stuff that gets us off – that is, hot guys and hot sex that goes beyond the “go down on him, go down on her, do it missionary, do it doggie style, come on her face” script. We also prefer it when the women actually get off rather than faking it.

It can still be tricky getting her on board. Showing up on her doorstep with a bouquet of porn is probably not the best way to introduce the idea unless you’ve already talked about it and she’s game. Going to the video store together and picking out some titles you’re both game to try, might be a better way to go.

CONFUSING BEHAVIOUR

Dear Dating Girl,

I have been seeing this girl for just under a year. She has suffered a lot of abuse in the past and I am one of the first guys she’s been with to show her any compassion. I’m not one to blurt stuff out but recently, with a few drinks in me, I said, “I love you” to her. I realized by her behaviour afterward that I shouldn’t have said it. Two days later, she said she needed a break, even though, at the time, she was crying and telling me I was the best boyfriend she’s ever had. Two days later, she was calling and texting me. She said my comment freaked her out, even though she’d been the one spending all her time at my place and talking about moving in together. A couple weeks later I was in the bar with some co-workers, one of them an over-friendly female who happened to have her arm around me when my girlfriend walked in. When she saw us, she was so upset, her friend had to hold her back. She and I talked that night and she ended up staying with me (no sex) and we’ve been on the phone talking constantly since (and believe me, I hate talking on the phone), going on a few dates and getting back to what seemed normal. Then, I arranged for us to get away together for a weekend and spoke to her boss (whom I know quite well) about getting the time off. When she found out, she was totally pissed and said I had no right to go behind her back and speak to her boss or to assume that she’d even want to go away with me for the weekend. She suggested we break up again. Now, I just don’t know what to do. I don’t want to be the guy that keeps going back every time she decides she needs me again. A friend suggested I ignore her for a few days/weeks to make her realize what she’s lost, but I don’t know if I’m strong enough to do that if she contacts me.

Confusing Behaviour

Dear Confusing,

I’m always amazed at how much pain we are able and willing to endure when we are being treated badly by someone, yet we somehow can’t imagine how we will ever be able to endure without them. I understand how fun it must be to get constantly jerked around by this woman. I appreciate your compassion for her situation and your understanding of how her past is no doubt a big contributor to her current bad behaviour. But there is a difference between being compassionate and being a doormat and passively accepting someone’s abuse. Because that’s what this is. Remember, people who have been abused, often go on to abuse. Keep going back and you’re just continuing the cycle. This woman is not going to learn how to conduct a healthy, respectful adult relationship if you continue to put up with her crap. If you can’t be strong for yourself, be strong for her. If you really care about her, you will ignore her. If you want to show her some real compassion, stop putting up with her bad behaviour. No need to be mean. Just be firm. If she’s ready and able to have an adult relationship, she’ll soon learn how to command the respect she desperately needs without bullying you into it.

COFFEE SHOP DATE?

Dear Dating Girl,

Every time I go for coffee in the morning at my local coffee shop, I see this really cute woman there, alone, reading the paper, having her morning coffee. I’d like to talk to her but I’m not sure how to approach a woman in that environment. She might just want to be left alone. Is there any way I could approach her without getting the brush off or intruding on her space?

Coffee Shop Date?

Dear Coffee,

I appreciate you differentiating between approaching a woman in this environment as opposed to say, a nightclub. Needless to say, shimmying up to her in your tightest dance duds and asking her if she’d like to boogie, is certainly not the approach you want here. But I’m not sure your approach should be all that different from any other time you approach a woman you don’t know. Approaching a stranger is awkward, especially when they are content in their own little world. This is clearly her morning ritual and she no doubt values this time in her day to sit and read the paper, enjoy her coffee and just be.

But that doesn’t mean you don’t stand a chance. If you can casually maneuver yourself within eye range, wait until she looks up and then briefly catch her eye and flash her a quick smile (no drooling, staring or maniacal grins). See if she smiles back. If she does, try snagging a table nearby and see if you can’t engage her in a little informal conversation.

I know it’s really tempting to open with something like: “I see you here all the time” or “Do you live nearby” but both of these have a potential stalker whiff about them and could be a turn off. Notice what’s she’s reading and comment on it. Or mention something about the service or something you like about the coffee shop. You want a topic that’s neutral but potentially more engaging than the weather to see whether she is open to conversation. If she barely looks up or seems curtly polite in her response, don’t push. Simply wish her a good day and return to your own little world. If she seems open and responsive, take it from there. The key is to be subtle and perceptive of her signals. It’s a delicate little dance but with the right steps and a little flair, you stand a chance. If she doesn’t respond, what’s the big deal? At least you tried, right?

For the record, that shimmying up to us in a bar thing probably isn’t going to work either, unless you’ve got a lot of nerve, a really good sense of humour and a thick skin that can handle the rejection you’re more than likely to encounter.

PHYSICALLY CHALLENGING RELATIONSHIP

Dear Dating Girl,

I met a great guy online about three months ago. We saw each other casually for a couple of months, going for a quick coffee now and then. About a month ago, things started to get a little more intense. We finally went on a “real” date (dinner followed by cuddling on my couch watching a movie) as per his suggestion, and have been inseparable ever since. The problem is, I don’t know what to make of our (non-existent) sex life. When we part, we kiss on the lips, but it’s only ever a quick peck. We have sleepovers, during which we cuddle and spoon, but it never goes beyond that. This past weekend, one of my friends put him on the spot and asked if we were dating, to which he responded, “We’re completely in love with each other, sleep in the same bed, but we don’t have sex!” So many mixed signals… I’m lost as to whether this is a very close friendship or a loving relationship. He is very flirty and outgoing, and often makes comments about others he finds attractive. But he’s also very open about expressing how much he appreciates me, and send texts when we’re apart that say: “I miss you,” etc. I find it all very awkward and don’t know how to approach him without making a fool of myself. Please help.

Physically Challenging Relationship

Dear Physically,

You might want to start by telling him that you’d appreciate him not revealing the intimate details of your relationship to friends, especially when he hasn’t even revealed them to you! It could be, however, that in responding to your friend’s direct question, he was indirectly speaking to you, and letting you know that he’s aware that you’re not having sex…in case you hadn’t already noticed. I suggest you employ your friend’s tactic and put him on the spot, in a nice way, of course. Simply ask him what’s going on. Tell him you like him very much and you’re really happy with the way things are going but you find it a little odd that you haven’t gone beyond cuddling, considering the fabulousness of it all. It may be that he’s simply not ready to get physical but, since that’s against what we expect from most red-blooded males, he’s embarrassed to admit it. Or it could be that he has issues with sex. Perhaps he suffers erectile dysfunction, for example, and is worried he won’t be able to perform and you’ll reject him.

The fact that he is flirting and outgoing could just be a personality thing, or it could be a safe way to exercise his sexual side when having sex with the person you supposedly are “completely in love with” is terrifying for some reason. But I can only speculate about what’s going on.

The most important thing to focus on is that he is totally into you, but for some reason, unable or unwilling to have sex. So unless you’re happy with a cuddle partner (which may be enough for some people), you need to find out why.

I know it’s not easy but you have to go there. The sooner the better. If you can’t talk about sex now, it will continue to be an issue in your relationship. Speak up!

ATTENTION SEEKER

Dear Dating Girl,

I am a very good-looking, professional and charming 39-year-old man and therefore very successful with the ladies. I hope this doesn’t come across as too self-centered but I need to make my point clear. Over the last few years, I have developed what I think is an addiction to women’s attention. I am an extremely successful flirt and thrive on the attention it gets me. The more I get, the more I want but my addiction is keeping me from having committed relationships. I have had two in the last six years (one lasted three and the other two years) but the issue of other woman was always present. I don’t cheat but I have to repress my desire to flirt until I eventually give in. I am not interested in sex with these women, just their attention. I have strong family values and would love to marry and have a family but I don’t know how to get other women out of my mind.

Attention Seeker

Dear Attention,

First of all, you were in a relationship for five out of six years. I wouldn’t say that qualifies as someone incapable of having committed relationships. Plenty of people out there would be thrilled if they could have even one relationship that lasted more than a year or two. The fact that you had a two and then a three-year relationship in the span of six years is not to be dismissed. However, the fact that your need for attention from other women during both of these relationships contributed to their failure is, as you say, an issue. Luckily, you seem like a bright guy who’s aware of the problem. And awareness is the first step to getting better. But you need some help to get at why you need all this attention. We’re encouraged from a young age to focus on what we’re good at. You’re good at getting attention. You say it yourself. You’re extremely successful at it and it works. This is basic reward stuff we learn in childhood. The toddler figures out something he can do to get attention, so he keeps doing it, even if it results in negative attention. When we’re starved for it, we’re not really fussy that way. We take what we can get, even if it creates other problems. Like any “addiction” you get a high from it. You start needing that attention just to feel good. However, once you get your high, you come down and need another fix. You need some professional help to kick your habit.

PHYSICALLY LIMITED

Dear Dating Girl,

I am a 24-year-old guy who has been dating a 22-year-old girl for about three months. She comes over almost every night and we have incredible sex, then she goes home (she lives with her parents). For some reason, she never wants to stay overnight, and we rarely do anything away from my place. I have strong feelings for her beyond the sex, though. Is there a way to tell if she has the same feelings for me? And if she does, how can I encourage more of a “relationship”?

Physically Limited

Dear Physically,

Could the fact that she never wants to stay overnight have something to do with the fact that she’s 22 and lives with her parents? Never wanting to do anything away from your place, on the other hand, is a little more suspect.

I know it sounds crazy but why not ask her what’s up? I’m always amazed that people can share bodily fluids night after night but can’t be intimate enough to share feelings. How about having a conversation with her that starts with, “Hey sweetie, I love having sex with you and think you’re swell, but I’m wondering if you are interested in a relationship with me beyond the sex?”

She might not be. But you need to know that before you invest any more of yourself into this.

SICK OF PRIVATE BEHAVIOUR

Dear Dating Girl,

I’ve been seeing my boyfriend for about six months now and I am starting to feel like he is embarrassed by me. He has never introduced me to any of his friends and when we do stuff, it is always just he and I and it often involves hanging out at his place, having sex and not going out. I recently confronted him about it. He admitted he was still getting over his last relationship with a woman that he thought was the love of his life. He said he wasn’t sure he was ready to embark on something new and didn’t want to let his friends know we were involved until he was. I don’t know what to do. Should I stick around and hope our private relationship can become public once he feels confident about it?

Sick of Private Behaviour

Dear Sick,

Wow, that must have been a real ego-hoister of a conversation: “Honey, I don’t want to be seen in public with you because I’m still in love with someone else and I’m not sure I like you enough to tell my friends about you. Oh, but I’m happy to sleep with you. Actually, come to think of it, could you maybe put this bag over your head while we’re doing it.”

Yowza. I don’t know how hooked you are on this guy but I’d head for the hills, honey, before your only slightly bruised self-esteem gets completely crushed.

I suppose I should give the guy credit for being honest with you, but when someone makes it so obvious he is still sick in love with someone else, no matter how loud your heart beats to the tune of“I’ll just be his secret sex slave and he’ll eventually get over her and fall madly in love with me,” you need to let your brain win this one and get out.

INTIUTION WORKING OVERTIME

Dear Dating Girl,

In the past, my boyfriend “Mark” and I always managed to get through arguments by telling each other truthfully what we’re thinking. We’ve both agreed we need to work on our communication skills. But lately I’m getting that natural female sense that something is still wrong, though he insists all is well. I really don’t want to lose this one, so do I just play it out or watch out?

Intuition Working Overtime?

Dear Intuition,

Ah, don’t you just love good old female intuition. I swear though, sometimes, I wish there were an “off” switch for the damn thing. I mean, sure, it comes in handy sometimes, but sometimes it sends us looking for trouble where there just isn’t any.

You know how it goes. He hesitates for one extra second and our female sensors start twitching and soon we’re convinced something’s terribly wrong. We get all paranoid and start reading into every word or gesture, badgering the poor guy into spilling his guts, and then, bingo — faster than self-fulfilling prophecy — he really is bugged. “Aha, see, I knew something was wrong,” we claim in victory!

In general, women have a greater need to analyze things to death. Why did he say that? What did that tone mean? What is behind that look on his face? We’ll drag it over the coals, look for clues, retrace our steps, discuss it with our girlfriends, but sometimes — and I know how hard it is to admit it — we’re simply wrong, and in actual fact, all really is well.

But even if it isn’t, pressuring him into telling you what is wrong is not going to work. Trust me. Women generally talk through our problems. In my experience, men don’t like to release information before it has developed into a fully formed thought and are less inclined to share the process that got them there. Also, possibly due to some historically and genetically ingrained battlefield mentality, they definitely won’t release information while in hostile territory.

I’d lay off and give him some space, while making it clear that you love and support him. That way you take the pressure off but leaves the lines open so that, if something is bugging him, he’ll hopefully feel safe enough to talk about it without fear of being pounced upon — which means no pouncing once he spills.

Developing good communication is hard work. It is not just about being honest with each other after a fight. It is a long and challenging process of trial and error, compromise and good will. It is about letting go of our need to win arguments or be right. And sometimes it is about learning when to shut up for awhile.

PROP GIRL

Dear Dating Girl,

My roommate is a basket case when she’s not with a man. I love her dearly but I find it very difficult to deal with her when she is single. She mopes around the house feeling sorry for herself. She usually ends up going out with guys who are completely wrong for her just so she won’t have to be alone. Then I barely see her until it doesn’t work out and she comes to me to make her feel better. It’s not fair and it’s making me want less and less

to do with her. I want her to realize that she can be happy without a guy in her life. And to stop using me to prop her up when things don’t work out.

Prop Girl

Dear Prop Girl.

Having played Prop Girl a few times in my life, I can sympathize. There is nothing quite as annoying as playing the role of supportive, single girlfriend, only to have your services

quickly rendered obsolete as soon as your friend starts sucking face with a new guy.

I went through this with a friend not so long ago. She was falling apart after yet another totally unsuitable guy and turned to me to help her pick up the pieces. Except this time I was busy.

And then a weird thing happened. Without me to pick her up and reassure her that what she was doing was OK and that eventually things would work out for her, she started to recognize for herself what she was doing. She’s now in a healthy relationship for the

first time in years.

Sometimes, in our capacity to be forever understanding and supportive, we women end up perpetuating a situation that keeps everyone unhappy. I think a little tough love is in order. Next time your roommate asks you to pick up the pieces, you need to tell her sorry, but this time your hands are full. But you’d be happy to take her to lunch so you can tell her what’s going on in your life.

PEEKED AND NOW PIQUED

Dear Dating Girl,

A few months ago I did something stupid and snooped through my boyfriend’s email and found a recent letter from his high-school sweetheart talking about getting back together. I dismissed it, thinking if he wanted to get back with her, he wouldn’t be with me. Later, I casually asked if they were still friends. He denied having any contact in the last five years. I dropped the issue and vowed never to snoop again, until this weekend when it became apparent that they are still e-mailing each other. He still denies it. I’m trying my best not to mind him being friends with his ex, but the dishonesty is making me mad. The rational side of my mind and the insanely jealous side of my mind are at war. What should I do?

Peeked And Now Piqued

Dear Peeked,

Well so much for vowing never to snoop again, huh? That’s the problem with snooping. Once you cross that line, it’s hard to go back to respecting that person’s privacy, especially when you find something suspicious. And let’s be honest, there aren’t many of us who don’t have a few innocent or not-so-innocent secrets tucked away somewhere among our personal effects. And, while snooping once required more planning and sneakiness – finding a good time to rifle through a private drawer or picking the lock of a diary – these days, snooping opportunities abound, thanks to voice mail, email, text messaging and internet surfing histories. There are also more opportunities for innocent and not-so-innocent indiscretions. It’s easier to fall into an innocent flirtation outside the relationship through something like email, for example. Here are your options: You come clean, tell your guy you peeked (though you know you shouldn’t have) and want to know why he denied his correspondence with his ex. Once he’s done ranting about how you’ve violated his trust and his privacy and how his correspondence is innocent and he only denied it because it didn’t mean anything and he didn’t want to create problems where there weren’t any by telling you about it (even if this isn’t true, this is what he will tell you because he’s clearly not at a point where’s made any kind of clear decision about all this), you can enjoy the ensuing tension, lack of trust and general ickiness that this will dump onto your relationship. Or you can trust that, as you say, “if he wanted to get back with her, he wouldn’t be with me” and would tell you if there was something to this that needed to be told. I’m not saying we should simply tolerate dishonesty or infidelity from our partners. I just don’t believe you can prevent it by destroying trust. It won’t save you from getting hurt if your suspicions and fears come true. But it will save you from being at war with constant paranoia and jealousy.

PRESENT DILEMMA

Dear Dating Girl,

I need help with finding a gift for an ex. She has a new boyfriend and I have dallied a bit as well since we were together, but we do speak quite often and the feelings are still there, from both sides. (We met while traveling and had only decided to break it off — even though we were in love — because of circumstances with my passport.) I want to send her a gift that says I still love her, but I don’t want to rock the boat with her new beau. Ideas?

Present Dilemma

Dear Present,

It’s hard enough figuring out what to give to someone you’re in an active relationship with, never mind an ex. That’s because, while most of us measure the quality of our relationships on silly things like the quality of your communication and sex, or whether or not you share the same values, we all know that the true test of a relationship is in the gift giving.

But the etiquette of gift giving isn’t always obvious. Emily Post never included a rule for how many times you have to sleep with someone before they warrant a Christmas present.

And, should you risk giving a gift to someone you’ve just started seeing, what you get them can be even more revealing. Something too personal might have too much meaning; something impersonal might not have enough. Something too practical lacks romance; something too romantic is too risky.

Before you know it, an innocent little gift has taken on the ability to define a relationship faster than you can say, “I hope you kept the receipt.”

Consider not giving her anything. Because, really, what are you trying to say with a gift? I know you’re with someone else but let me just mess you up a little by reminding you of me?

Are you maybe just trying to see just how strong those lingering feelings still are?

Think long and hard about why you want to give her a gift. If you still feel you must give her something, keep it generic. A nice bottle of wine is a safe bet.

Got a question for Dating Girl?: letters@joseyvogels.com

ORAL REACTION

Dear Dating Girl,

I recently met an amazing woman online. We’ve been dating for about a month and have recently exchanged “I love yous.” She also told me that she had been married but that it only lasted a short while because he cheated on her. My first thought when she told me of her cheating ex was that the number one reason guys cheat has something to do with sex. We’ve slept together a few times and I did notice she didn’t pay me a whole lot of attention, if you know what I mean. I’m not a shy person, so next time sex came up in conversation I asked her what she’s into sexually, what she’s tried and what she will or won’t do with someone. Along with a few other things, he said that she didn’t perform oral sex on guys and told me that if I had a problem with that, it was too bad. I felt confused and bewildered as to how this little angel suddenly became so furious at such a simple question. I told her it was no big deal and let it go. Obviously, something in her past has made her react this way but now I don’t know what to do. Should I bring it up again? I think sex therapy is a bit soon after only a month together. Do you think she needs some personal therapy? I would support her 100% because even though it’s early in the relationship, I have a feeling she is “the one.”

Oral Reaction

Dear Oral,

First of all, people cheat for many reasons. Every relationship involves two people and attributing the break-up of this woman’s marriage entirely to her sexual hang-ups isn’t exactly putting you in a good starting position from which to deal with the relationship between the two of you. So, let’s start by letting go of the past, and focusing on your present situation. Based on her reaction and her adamant refusal to engage in it, this woman clearly has some issues around performing oral sex. It’s good that you didn’t push it when she became belligerent about the idea because, as you say, some past experience has probably created this reaction, but badgering her about it is the last way you’re going to get her to come around. At the same time, while we’re all certainly entitled to our sexual preferences and boundaries, it seems a little unfair of her to cut you off entirely from something you clearly enjoy sexually. I mean, I could maybe understand if you were asking her to, I dunno, dress like a monkey and play with your “banana” or something but plain old-fashioned oral sex is a fairly common sexual pleasure.

If it’s really important to you and you love each other, it seems to me she should be at least open to trying to address her issues surrounding it. Of course saying, Hey, honey, why don’t you go get your head examined on this issue,” probably isn’t going to get her to address the issue. She has to come to that decision on her own. All you can do is say something like, “I respect your boundaries on this, and I won’t bring it up again, but know that this is something that I really enjoy, so I hope for the sake of the relationship, that you’d at least consider cracking that door open at some point. And know that I would support you 100 per cent if you decide to do so.” Then drop the subject and focus on using your wonderful capacity for sexual communication to build a loving, trusting sexual relationship in every other department. If she feels loved, sexually satisfied, and unpressured, she may surprise you.

UNSATISFIED

Dear Dating Girl,

Divorced after many years of marriage, I am a 40-something woman who has finally decided it is time to date again. While I am having no trouble finding intelligent, attractive men, the last three I have been interested in—all in their late 40s, all experienced erectile problems. Alcohol was involved, but is there something I don’t know about men this age. I have heard every excuse from “I was thinking of something else” to “I respect you too much.” I would like to know how to tactfully handle these situations without bruising anyone’s ego. All three had expressed an interest in me, but I couldn’t see a healthy long-term partnership developing without sex or some form of it, and I already have plenty of friends. Must I swim in the 30-something pool to get satisfaction?

Unsatisfied

Dear Unsatisfied,

I love that. “I respect you too much.” What, if you only more of a tramp, these guys wouldn’t lose their erection? Anyway, I know these guys are just trying to navigate an awkward situation but really, boys, insulting our intelligence isn’t going to help. Certainly, erectile problems become more common as men get older and their arteries aren’t pumping blood the way they once did and yes, alcohol can certainly add to the problem. And while over half of men over 40 experience occasional erectile dysfunction (only about 5% have complete dysfunction), given the odds you’ve been experiencing, you might want to consider buying some lottery tickets. I think it’s wonderful that you’re so clear on your own sexual needs, but I don’t think you should give up on men over 40, or even these men necessarily. There are lots of things one can do to deal with the occasional problem from Viagra to certain toys that can help keep him at attention. And obviously, laying off the booze will also help. If the problem is more chronic, and/or there is a psychological element to it, therapy can also help. As for dealing with the problem tactfully, all you can do be respectful, helpful and non-judgmental. The rest is up to his ego.

CHILLLED OUT

Dear Dating Girl,

I met this guy last summer when he was here on a five-month contract from the U.S. We fell in love and he asked me to marry him. I said yes and we planned a life together. A few months later, he got cold feet, but we worked it out (I thought). I went to the U.S. for a holiday and met his family. All went well. He moved home and we made plans for me to move there. I left my job, got my visa, etc., and three weeks after my arrival, he said he wasn’t ready.

I was absolutely heartbroken and went to stay with a friend. He called five days later and asked me to come back. I flew back the next day. Incredibly, six days later his feet were freezing again and I left, again, this time back home.

Now, here I am, 40-something with no job and no confidence. I am devastated. How could any feeling person do this to me? The kicker is that recently he has started emailing and phoning, professing his love for me. He wants us to take a holiday together. I am thinking that maybe we can patch this up. Am I wrong? Is this a lost cause? Why do men get cold feet?

Chilled Out

Dear Chilled,

Why do men get cold feet? Because we let them. You’ve let this guy run things from the start. Come here, he says and you come; go away and you go; drop everything in your life and come back, you drop everything in your life and go back. And even after he is a complete – albeit confused – and insensitive jerk to you, you actually consider giving him another chance as soon as he calls you again.

And all this for a guy you knew for five months. C’mon, girl. You were obviously suffering from lack of confidence before you met Mr. Chilly Feet.

I know you feel lonely and devastated and it is tempting to think that if you keep trying, Brisk Boy will eventually come around and it will all be OK. But you can’t take that risk again. If he knows you’ll put up with whatever he dishes out, you’re hardly in a good position to build a strong, equal relationship. Of course, if you enjoy being an emotional basket case in your relationships, by all means, go a few more rounds with him.

Personally, I think the biggest favour you can do for yourself and this guy is to tell him to walk his chilly feet right out of your life and invest your energy instead on building up some own self-esteem so you won’t let people (feeling or unfeeling) treat you like this.

HATCHING A PLAN

Dear Dating Girl,

My boyfriend and I are ready to start trying to get pregnant. But I’ve been on the pill for about three years, and I’m wondering how long it takes for the Pill to work out of a woman’s body? Also, as an aside, what do you think about having children outside of marriage?

Hatching a Plan

Dear Hatching,

There is no magic formula for getting pregnant. Standing on your head while chewing gum and rubbing your tummy will not increase your chances. According to stats, even if his sperm arrives exactly when your egg is accepting visitors, there is still only about 30-per-cent chance things will take and this number gets higher with age.

Most doctors recommend you stop taking the Pill two or three months before you want to start trying to get pregnant. This allows the return to your natural hormone cycles. You might be irregular for a while and some doctors recommend using another form of birth control until your cycle is more predictable so you avoid getting pregnant without knowing it. That way you won’t risk harming the baby if you’re partying like a maniac or sucking back 16 coffees a day.

As for what I think about having kids outside of marriage, I don’t know that I’m the best person to ask. I have no problem with the idea of having sex and kids without being married.

However, this is a personal decision that tends to be affected by one’s moral upbringing, beliefs, values and family. Some people feel being married makes them more committed to their children, and it keeps things tidier legally should things not work out and you have to negotiate custody.

AM I BEING A BOOB

Dear Dating Girl,

I’ve been feeling bad about myself ever since my boyfriend told me he prefers bigger breasts than mine. The fact is, he’s not a jerk. He’s very caring. He always tells me he’s

very attracted to me and we have a really great sex life. We just had this conversation one night about physical preference and he told me he preferred larger breasts. I never thought I would take it like this. The other night I noticed him glancing more than once at other women’s breasts. He’s sad this has affected me so much. I’ve tried to be rational about it, but I feel wounded and hurt. I do believe in accepting yourself as you are, and I thought I had done so all my life. But, I can’t shake this.

Am I Being A Boob?

Dear Am I,

Oh honey, why do we do this to ourselves? It’s like wanting to know the details of an affair. You can’t stop yourself, but then when you have the information, you just torture yourself with it. I did the same thing with a guy once when I asked him what kind of body type he preferred. When he told me he was attracted to thinner women, I just about slugged him.

To me, it was the cruelest thing he could have said, but he was just being honest. Those crazy boys, they think you actually want the truth when you ask them a question like this. But women know it’s merely our convoluted little way of looking for reassurance. So when you say to a girlfriend, “Does this make my butt look big?” she knows you’re feeling insecure and that she must fawn and coo and say lots of nice things about your shape. Silly I know, but hey, it’s just the way we are.

So yes, of course it’s going to suddenly seem as though he likes every other woman’s breasts more than yours, but be truthful with yourself. I’m sure that there is stuff about him physically that if you were completely honest about, wouldn’t live up to your ultimate fantasy. But you know that doesn’t make you love him one iota less.

Swallow your pride and give him some slack. Then next time he asks you what you think of his penis, tell him not to worry, you love him anyway. Just kidding.

NEED TO FIND THE PROPER PROCEDURE

Dear Dating Girl,

How should an unattached guy behave with a seemingly attached woman who has been flirting with him at work, but who then drops a comment about her boyfriend into the conversation? It used to be that before asking out a woman I was interested in, I would worry about whether or not she had a boyfriend, and only make a move if she didn’t. But I also realize a lot of people go out with someone “in the meantime,” hoping to meet somebody better along the way. A friend of mine tells me if you’re interested in someone, just ask her out, plain and simple – whether she has a boyfriend or not, that’s her problem to deal with, not yours. But is it?

Need to Learn the Proper Procedure

Dear Need.

I think your friend is right. If you want to ask this woman out, she has every right to say no. The only thing you might want to consider is that if you have to continue to work with this woman after she turns down your request for a date, it might be awkward.

As for what it means when a seemingly attached woman flirts with you, well, it could mean several things:

One: She likes to flirt and sees no harm in it.

Two: The fact that she flirted with you first and then casually mentioned her boyfriend might mean that she enjoyed flirting with you, but doesn’t want it to go any farther, and either genuinely has a boyfriend or doesn’t and is just making it up to deter you.

Or three: She does have a boyfriend that she’s not completely into and wants to see whether you’re worth dumping him for – the old “going out with someone until someone better comes along” trick you mentioned.

Fun, this flirting thing, isn’t it? I still say, if you like her, ask her out and let her answer decide things. But I also will say this: whatever she’s up to, she sounds to me like quite a piece\ of work. Your call.