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Dear Mrs. Web,
I have read many of your advice columns. You discourage emotional or physical intimacy without life-long commitment. I am a 31-year-old male who has never been married. If I followed your advice I would still be a virgin and never have had an emotionally significant relationship with a woman. More and more people today are postponing marriage. Does this mean they should not have significant relationships or sex? I have sex occasionally, it boosts my self-esteem, and I feel good about myself. Is that bad?
Thank you for taking the time to read my column. I appreciate your thoughtful comments. I do not think that my advice would require you to be a 31 year old virgin without an emotionally significant relationship. If you reserved emotional and physical intimacy for a life-long commitment, you most likely would make different choices in your life. Marriage might take a higher and earlier priority.
I agree that the average age of marriage has increased, I think that one significant reason for this increase is that instead of life-long committed marriage, young adults often have serial monogamous pseudo-marriages. I have seen many twenty and thirty year old people reeling from the breakups of these "marriages without strings." They are actually a kind of divorce. In my opinion, playing house is a path to guarded emotions, inability to trust or commit, and training grounds for divorce.
You find that sexual intercourse boosts your self-esteem and helps you feel good about yourself. This is sex, although with a partner, that is all about you. It sounds isolated and lonely.
Is it bad? I think it would be more helpful to evaluate it differently. Does it protect or enhance your emotions and ability love and commit, now and in the future? Or are you meeting a short-term need at a greater cost than perhaps, you realize.
In a committed relationship there are additional reasons to have sex: To make love, to feel totally accepted, safe and secure. To drop your pretenses and emotional boundaries to be with one who loves you endlessly, to make the one you love happy, to revel in your mutual oneness, to explore the body of your beloved, to conceive and nurture children, to bond after a time apart, whether by argument or distance…the list is endless and the difference, profound.
Dear Mrs. Web,
Do you think it is appropriate for a woman to send a man flowers? I ordered flowers to be sent to my boyfriend at work. Now I am having second thoughts. Should I send them or should I cancel?
Send them! Absolutely. I know my husband has been delighted when I have sent him flowers when he is on business trips. Men need to be romanced too!
Dear Mrs Web,
I met the man of my dreams 3 weeks ago. I feel like I could be with this man for the rest of my life. He is a great guy, except he has a girlfriend who lives out of town. He tells me he does not love her and he does not want to marry her.
He refuses to give me his home phone number because he says that she pops in unexpectedly sometimes and might answer the phone. I know. I know...this should be a BIG red flag but I feel that he is still with her out of convenience. He really wants me in his life.
I like him a lot but I am also concerned about the cheating. Am I just filling a void, would he cheat on me too…? I just am not sure what to do.
A man who refuses to give you his phone number does it so he controls the time and place of communication. The story about the out-of-town girlfriend just doesn’t sound right.
I have never been a fan of men (or women) who don’t end their ongoing relationships, but instead, cheat. There is, in my opinion, something lacking in their characters. My gut reaction is "walk away now." I think you already know this.
Dear Mrs. Web,
I am man in my early thirties, a professional, who has been divorced now for 6 months and separated for a year before that.
I want to start dating and am finding it very difficult to meet women. I know they are out there. Do you have any advice on how to ask women out so they won’t think I am trying to pick them up? Where else besides bars can I meet women?
You need to decide what your values and interests are and go to places that have the kinds of people who share them. I recommend volunteer organizations, churches, hobbies, and classes as places to meet people. Find organizations or political groups, which reflect your philosophy and beliefs.
It is best to get to know a woman when you both are involved together with a common goal. Relationships become dramatically easier when you unload the man/woman angst (as much as possible) and reach beyond it. You also will get a better flavor of her personality than mere dating provides.
When dating, be creative. Go biking, hiking, picnicking, or skiing, for example. Look at my Things to Do for Couples. for more ideas.
Dear Mrs. Web,
I have been dating a guy for two weeks. Last night we went to a club with a group and drinking got out of hand. I ended up sleeping with him. I didn’t mean to. Do you think that was a mistake of me to sleep with him right away? Should I discuss this with him? This is not the way I normally behave.
Yes, I do think it was a mistake to sleep with him. It sounds like you may not have control yourself when you drink. That is information you should use. If you lose your boundaries when drinking – stop.
I would talk to this young man. Explain that you stepped all over your beliefs and values. You behaved out of character. He needs to know that. You both need to make some decision the relationship. It is hard to backtrack out of sex. You may not be able to.
You need to set up some rules and develop some skills if you decide to keep dating. I would take some time and make some decisions about how you want to behave and in what kind of relationships. Personally, I think a sexual and emotional relationship without marriage is a heartbreaking situation. No commitment at the cost of ones heart and emotions. Look on my Bookshelf for some different, more modern ideas about dating and courtship.
Dear Mrs Web,
I met this guy through one of my friends. We started seeing each other. One day I went out of town, on a visit, and when I got home I called him. He told me that he had called one of my friends while I was gone. He said he was confused because he liked me and he liked her at the same time.
I was mad. Later I found out that she likes him too. I think it is all her fault. What should I do?
Talking and dating are when people are shopping around. Your male friend and your girlfriend have been shopping together. I wouldn’t get too bent out of shape about it. There is no commitment going on here. You didn’t have much if he couldn’t manage a day without you and had to talk to some one different.
I think you have a friend who likes someone you like. Moreover, he likes her too. Gracefully bowing out is always an option. There are a lot of fish in the sea.
Dear Mrs. Web,
I am divorced. An old friend has come into my life. He has been plaguing me with dirty phone calls. Last night he invited me out to dinner. I thought it would be nice to have a meal with an old friend. I offered to pick him up. When I arrived, he said he had ordered take out. We ate and I had some wine. Then he extracted me from my clothes.
Rather reluctantly, I agreed to sex (I had condoms in my bag as I do have a partner with whom I have a wonderful, trusting relationship).
We then proceeded to do it three times and I hated every minute of it. He was not an impressive partner (Dear Mrs Web will spare everyone the details).
I was so upset with him that I left a used package of condoms in his girlfriend’s underwear drawer. I wanted her to know what a rat he is. Should I end my friendship with him?
You chose to have a tacky night with an annoying person who has been plaguing you with "dirty phone calls?" You didn’t enjoy it. You say you didn’t want it. Then you complain about his performance! It doesn’t add up.
You breached that "wonderful, trusting relationship" with your own beloved, and you left a packet of condoms in this creep’s girlfriend’s drawers to stir things up. Now you wonder whether you should end your friendship with this man?
Dear, you don’t have friendship with him. You were his depository. You took the bait and were used - behind the backs of both love-interests. Sounds tawdry to me.
The amazing thing about this whole letter is how little responsibility you take for what happened. He did this. He did that. On top of it he wasn’t very good…where on earth is your brain, woman?
To answer your original question, yes, I would end the relationship, such as it is.
Dear Mrs Web,
I am a 32 year old African American female and a white male has asked me out for a date. I have never dated outside of my race and I am not offended by him asking me out.
My question is should I accept his invitation to go out on a date with him or not? What are the things that should not be brought up while I am with him? Please help me out on this one!
I don’t know whether you should date him or not. I think you will have to decide your comfort level. I would not actively encourage anyone to become emotionally entangled with someone, whose religion, race, ethnicity, or beliefs would rule out marriage. This is, in my opinion, just asking for pain and hurt for both. This is because I don’t consider dating a recreational activity.
On the other hand, I live in an African-American and Caucasian family and don’t see any problems with interracial dating and marriage. If you decide to date the man, I would treat it like any other date. If neither of you have had any experience with interracial dating; you might feel a bit awkward at first. When I am with people who are different than me, I always assume good will and good intent and overlook awkwardness, or ignorance.
I don’t think there is any subject in particular you shouldn’t talk about. Get to know this person as a human being not as a member of a race or group. Share bits of your life, talk about your family, and work…. If you decide to accept, have a wonderful time.
By the way, it never would have occurred to me that you could be offended by being asked out by someone of a different race. What’s to offend?
Dear Mrs. Web,
When I receive a voice mail from my boyfriend that says "Hi, it’s me, just called to say hello, - my day is going well. I’ll talk to you later," am I suppose to return his call? When I call back immediately, it is usually a bad time for him, during a meeting, for example. Is he expecting a return call?
It sounds like he calls when he has a free moment. He is touching base during the day, just connecting. I know women who would walk miles - barefoot - over sharp glass, for that sort of attention.
The best way to find out how he want you to respond is to ask him the next time you are together. My husband does a variation of this; he wanders in from his office to my office, just to say hello. Not because he wants anything in particular, but just because he loves me, and we are connected. Or he’s bored.
Dear Mrs. Web,
I have two young women who like me. One is so-so but she goes far. The other one is really pretty but won’t go far at all. Which one should I start a relationship with? Please write back as soon as possible.It sounds like you have been a busy guy. You have some choices here. You could use the less attractive girl as a sexual release or convenience. On the other hand, you could develop a deeper caring and committed relationship with the girl who obviously attracts you.
The only thing that hangs in balance here is whether you want to be a man of integrity and character - or just a moral zero. The fact that you bothered to write tells me that you really want to make the best choice, for yourself and others. Remember, life is not a free-for-all. When we use someone, we hurt ourselves.
Dear Mrs. Web,
I am 27 years old and in a committed relationship with my boyfriend. He has moved in with me and we have been very happy for the last six months.
We often talk about our future, what we will name our kids or what our old age will be like, for examples. He is completely committed to me. The problem is I want to get married. He, however, does not want to think about marriage for another couple of years.
My spiritual beliefs and family values are making it hard for me to continue to live with him without any step towards our future, but I do not want to force him into anything nor do I want to lose him. I know he is the one for me. What should I do?
I am think you are in a tough spot. You want this man to fit your hopes and dreams. You are even willing to put aside your core self (spiritual beliefs and family values!!) to accommodate him. This concerns me.
You said being married is important for you. You must honor this need by being honest with your beloved. It is time to sit down and, lovingly but clearly explain this to him. If I were in you position, I would stop playing house.
Don't worry, unless your beloved is a spineless wonder, you will not be forcing him into anything he doesn’t want. I can’t guarantee you won’t lose him. Taking a stand on your needs and beliefs requires risk. But some things are worth it, like personal integrity.
Dear Mrs. Web,
I have been dating a woman for over two years. A while back, she saw me follow her in my car. I had followed her because of my own insecurities and lack of trust She has never given me a reason not to trust her. She was very upset and accused me of "stalking". I didn't make too much of it and told her it wouldn't happen again.
Recently I felt as though I needed to see where she was going. She caught me again! This time she totally flipped.
I am not the "creepy stalker" type! I just wanted peace of mind by knowing where she was and what she was doing. She said she did not want to be in an unhealthy relationship and broke up with me.
I can't believe she ended such a great relationship because of these 2 minor incidents! Our relationship was flawless besides these 2 occurrences! Am I out of line?
Yes, you are way out of line. We normally don’t follow people for peace of mind. We usually have internal resources to rely on when feeling insecure, to help us remain calm and think of appropriate responses. You seem to be missing or unable to use your internal resources.
Your girlfriend most likely ended the relationship because these behaviors indicate insecurities and controlling actions way beyond what is healthy in a relationship. She is wise.
In your shoes, I would make an appointment with a therapist, or clergy. Your insecurities, and your ways of responding to them to it are making a significant negative impact in your life: you lost your relationship.
You need to find, with help, a better way of coping with your feelings.
Dear Mrs. Web,
I have been dating my girlfriend for 6 months. When we go to the movies, I want to hold her hand or put my arm around her shoulder. I never know how to do it. Do you have any advice?
Just reach over and take her hand gently. Keep those public displays of affection to a minimum. Remember, the more physical contact you have with your girlfriend, the more you are going to want. That’s the way we are wired.
Dear Mrs. Web,
I've been involved with my girlfriend for a year and a half. We been fighting lately and I have started thinking about other women I know.
I still love her but I really don’t like her at times. I don’t know what to do. I am confused. Help!
You are running smack into the biggest problem of intimacy without commitment. You have opened your heart to someone, you have built a history with her, but now your feelings are changing despite your continued love.
Feelings change and flux, it is normal. Commitment doesn’t. Commitment is the glue that holds couples together when the feelings jump around and follow the pretty girl walking down the street, or the handsome guy who charms. Feelings are momentary, and change over time. They are not the foundation of lasting love.
This is why Dear Mrs. Web does not encourage emotional or physical intimacy without life-long commitment.
In your shoes, I would look at the love, history, and meaning of your beloved in your life. I would then decide whether to commit to my beloved permanently.
Dear Mrs. Web,
My boyfriend and I both divorced our spouses about six months ago. We both want to get married. We have been dating for almost a year exclusively. We both have children and our families would like to merge as soon as possible.
My boyfriend asked me what is the "appropriate waiting period" after divorce. He is worried about how it will look to other people, particularly the members of his church, if we were married or even engaged so soon.
Let’s see if I understand you. You have been dating a man for a year. Your divorces were final six months ago. Therefore, while still legally married you both were dating each other. Now that you are legally divorced, you want to become engaged or even married.
At this point, your beloved is concerned about how things look. It seems a bit late to me.
Make an appointment for the both of you, with the church pastor and ask for his opinion. He will be able to give you a better perspective about divorce and remarriage within the local church as well as the denomination.
Dear Mrs. Web,
I cannot stand Howard Stern and his show. My boyfriend listens to him. He discusses the interviews and the details. Yuck! What can I do when the topic comes up? I usually don't say anything.
Not just Howard Stern, but second-hand Howard Stern! Sometimes there is no mercy.
In your shoes I would listen politely and then change the subject. I would have rather have my husband talking to me about what is on his mind, even if I didn't like the content.
Dear Mrs. Web,
I am divorced and dating a man who I love dearly. I have 3 children ages 8, 10, and 13. This man is never-married and childless. He is having a difficult time relating to my children. He teased them until they objected. Now he ignores them, even when they are in the same room with him. He wants them to be more forthcoming with him.
I think my boyfriend needs to be sensitive and try to fit into their lives. He said would listen to anyone but me about this issue because I'm emotionally involved and couldn't possibly be thinking clearly on this issue. I need advice.
You are supposed to be involved, they’re your children. I object to the idea that emotional involvement precludes clear thinking. I am passionately involved with my family and make choices and decision that are the best for my children because of my great love for them. Those who are not invested would not make the choices and sacrifices I do.
I am going to say something you are not going to like to hear. This man is not good for your family. He may be good for you, but you are not alone. Given the ages of your children, you will not be alone for a good long time. This is the time for you to evaluate him to see how he fits in to in your whole life, not just the couple’s part. I am sorry to say he flunks.
He does not have the empathy or compassion to be involved in a relationship with a woman with children. Children require lots of work, and, as you know, can be inconvenient, upsetting, frustrating, unpleasant and at times, difficult. It takes a person with a heart commitment to weather this. Your children deserve better than to be ignored or casually treated in the intimacy of their home.
If your family and your boyfriend want to work on this issue, I would recommend and family counseling. However, not unless there is a commitment to marriage. Otherwise, It wouldn’t be fair for the children.
Dear Mrs. Web,
My girlfriend and I have been dating for a little over two years. We are very close. Since we have been so serious, she has basically given up most of her friends.
Recently, she said she wanted to take a break from our relationship so she could enjoy her senior year and have fun. I told her that would be fine, and I would give her space. We agreed that we would still hang out and stay close, but we wouldn't act as if we were together. This was incredibly hard, for the both of us, and only lasted a couple of days after we broke up.
I can tell she wants to have her friends and me at the same time. She always calls me, and I always call her. I really love her. I want to know what I should do to get her back so I am her number one priority, and get things back to where they were when we were really serious.
Should I just continue doing what I am doing, and be patient, or should I refuse to act as if we are together, and hope she realizes what she is giving up. I am just afraid that this is going to last more than a month or two, and I want to do whatever it takes to get back together with her ASAP!
The problem here is that being "together" for the two of you is an either/or situation. We are either together or we have friends. There is no balance. Your girlfriend has started to feel the relationship’s exclusivity as too heavy a burden to bear despite her love for you.
You might get her back to the old ways for the short term, but it won’t work forever. Love is having someone in the center of your heart, but not necessarily in the center of your attention at all times.
One can be involved (or married!) and still have friends and interests outside the couple. Women have and need a circle of supportive women friends. Many men do too. You cannot expect her to be the focus of your attentions indefinitely and vice versa. That does not mean there is no love. It means a person functions in the world from a base of love.
Something else I see relating to this issue is that many couples have the intensity, depth, and intimacy of a married couple, without the commitment of marriage. So they feel intense emotions but have no platform to build on. Instead of having the comfort of standing on the solid ground of love and commitment and reach out into the world, they have to put all these outside strictures and checks around the relationship to guard their hearts.
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