Dear Annie, How can I tell whether Jeff, my boyfriend, simply likes porn or is addicted to it? He watches it almost every day. He says that there is nothing wrong with it and that I should accept it as part of a normal, healthy man’s sex life these days.
I feel ashamed, but I’m really insecure about it. While I’m pretty attractive for a forty-six year old woman, I can’t compete with the very agile, young and curvy women that he sees on a daily basis. I think that it’s also giving him ideas about the kind of sex acts we should engage in. He’s been putting me under a lot of pressure to have anal sex, even though that doesn’t interest me. In fact, it grosses me out. I really don’t want to come across as judgmental and critical. How do I deal with his porn habits? Linda
Before getting into the porn aspect, I want to address your insecurities around other women. It’s easy to forget that one of your assets is that you are actually present for your partner. The women you’re worried about are unattainable.
It’s best not to perceive other women as competition. There will always be a woman who is more beautiful, more enchanting and seems as if she might be more desirable. If you view another women as a threat to your relationship, you are diminishing your sense of your own worth. Jeff loves you for his own reasons, and you must trust that this is enough.
In my close to a decade as a dating coach, I have been thoroughly convinced that the intensity of the male sex drive is almost impossible for most women to understand.
Jeff, like any normal man, is bound to be attracted to numerous women. His desire for sex has little, more likely nothing, to do with his desire for a relationship with any of them. He needs to be sexually attracted and emotionally connected in order to be in a relationship.
Regarding porn: I’m not going to get into the political thicket of it–that’s another column or even a book. However porn is so widely accepted and available at this moment that many men are drawn to partake. But, just because Jeff indulges in it doesn’t mean that he needs to share the details with you.
Tell him that, from now, on you would prefer that his porn habits become private. Ask him to refrain from sharing all the details. Tell him that it is not something that you wish to hear about. If he has been watching porn when you are present, ask him to stop doing so because it isn’t a shared pleasurable activity.
If he wants to try a porn-inspired sexual activity, request that he communicate his desire as if it was something that he thought of on his own. Then you can decide whether it’s something that you might want to try.
If not, decline. It’s okay to not want to try a specific sexual act. Whatever you do, don’t feel like you have to be a porn star in bed in order to please Jeff. All you need to do is be open, responsive and enthusiastic.
One of my concerns about porn is that it sends the message that your performance in bed is more important than your connection in real life. As long as Jeff is making love with you, then I suggest you allow him the space and privacy to enjoy other parts of his sexuality without offending you.
Dear Annie, I just discovered that my boyfriend, Rich, has genital herpes. We have been sleeping together for almost a year! We were tested before we became intimate. He told me that his results were negative and it didn’t occur to me that I needed to look at the actual report.
I feel incredibly betrayed that he lied to me. He says that he wasn’t brave enough to tell me because he was so worried about losing me. At this point, I don’t feel that I can trust him any more.
To my knowledge, he hasn’t lied about anything else. But, this is big. He risked my health! Is this something that is worth my breaking up with him? Beth
Some people—especially those who are insecure—may be tempted to hide the truth about something that might seem shameful if they think they can get away with it.
The problem is that his lie has possible long-term consequences, and his disregard for this potential outcome reveals his selfish side. He purposely did not allow you to make the choice of whether you wanted to take the risk of contracting the disease.
On the other hand, herpes is a highly stigmatized, yet very common disease. This makes it unusually difficult to discuss. Estimates vary, but according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about one in six adults in the US between the ages of 14 to 49 has herpes. Many are silent carriers who don’t even know that they have it.
Rich’s fear of telling you is understandable. He didn’t want to lose you. However, he betrayed you by not revealing the truth.
While deception is valid grounds for ending a relationship, you might want to consider whether this is a one-time incident or part of a pattern. This is not an excuse, but being infected with herpes carries a huge stigma, and many of those afflicted agonize over how and when to reveal it to potential romantic partners.
Not everyone is brave enough to broach the topic at an appropriate time. They may believe that they can’t transmit the virus if they are careful. The problem is that they neglect to provide their partner the opportunity to assess risk and make a decision for themselves.
In deciding whether you want to leave him, I suggest that you look back and consider whether he has been otherwise honest and ethical in his dealings with you and others. If that is the case, I suggest that you consider giving him another chance. But if you find that he has a continuous tendency to twist things to his own advantage, you might want to cut your losses.
If you leave and discover that you have contracted herpes, I suggest this is how you approach telling your future partners.
Plan to inform your date at a neutral time in an environment that is not sexually charged
Say that you have something important to talk about. Be prepared for any type of response
Say that you, like one sixth of the population, have been infected with herpes. Your date may be in the same situation. If he is not, provide the following information:
Give him details so that he can assess risk potential: how long have you been infected? How often do you have outbreaks? Have you ever transmitted it to anyone?
Tell him whether you’re willing to take antivirals in order to mitigate your risk of transmission
Give him the name of a reliable website so that he can do some research
Allow him to make a decision at his own pace.
One of the biggest problems with herpes is the shame and stigma that surrounds it. If you know how to clearly, calmly and honestly discuss it, you won’t have to risk revealing a secret that could unravel your relationship at a later date.
Dear Annie, What does a man mean when he says that he wants to be in a committed relationship? John told me that he wanted to be in a committed relationship before we slept together on our third date.
I didn’t hear much from him after that. When I called, he said that he was busy with a work project. I was flabbergasted when I ran into him in in the mall a week later. He was holding hands with another woman! When I got the opportunity to ask him about it, he said that we were only in a committed relationship for the night we were together.
I was speechless! I thought that being in a committed relationship meant that we would continue dating exclusively and see where it goes. Now I’m not sure. How can I tell whether I can trust someone? Jane
John probably knew that you weren’t going to allow him to have sex unless he told you he wanted to be involved in a committed relationship. He may have even thought it was a good idea at the time, but changed his mind after he satisfied his sexual desire.
While many women agree on the definitions of the words “exclusive” and “committed,” men vary in their interpretations. I learned this early in 2009, when I gave a co-ed dating class and asked how many participants wanted a commitment before they would engage in sex.
One of the men asked how long that kind of commitment should last. “Just that night? For the next week or month?” I couldn’t believe my ears. As a woman, the meaning of the word seems obvious. Clearly, that doesn’t translate the same way to all men,
That is when I learned that it’s one of the many areas where it’s important that the person who wants commitment to protect herself by having a discussion about what she must have in a relationship, especially one that includes sex. It’s incumbent on her withhold intimacy until he’s demonstrated that he’s willing to provide what she needs. (The same goes for a man in a similar situation.)
Have this conversation in a non-sexually charged situation so that he’s not under the impression that a correct answer will immediately get his sexual needs met.
First, you should find out what level of commitment he wants. Ask what he would expect each of your roles to look like should you become more intimate. Discuss what your expectations and hopes would be if you move forward.
Does being committed or exclusive mean that either of you are still open to being in a relationship with someone else if a different opportunity presents itself? Does it mean that you’re only seeing each other while exploring the possibility of a relationship with a future?
It’s OK to tell him what you need. The only men you will scare away are those who aren’t interested in a relationship—and you are better off if you eliminate them early on.
It’s also unreasonable to believe that you know each other well enough to commit to each other until you’ve spent significant time together—far more than just three dates.
Dear Annie, Ralph, my boyfriend of two years, is always having some sort of emergency. He’s a good man: loving and kind, but it’s been a while since he’s been able to pay his own way.
When we met, he was charming, generous and fun. Our romance was spectacular. He even took me to the Caribbean after we had only known each other for a few months.
He was initially a fantastic partner. He took care of things around the house and was a delightful companion. I have never felt more connected to anyone. He was completely supportive in a thoughtful and attentive manner.
Although he remained somewhat physically affectionate, he began to withdraw after a few months and started criticizing my body. We stopped having full-on sex. He told me that he loved me, yet he wanted me to commit to being best friends for life if our relationship didn’t work out.
I never completely understood what he did for living. He was in business with several partners, most of whom I never met. He owned a luxurious custom-designed home with lovely views in another state. When I visited, I thought it was rather odd that he had a roommate who dominated the house. However in a way, it made sense because Ralph was rarely there.
After we were together for six months or so, his business had a sudden downturn and he fell behind on his house payments. It went into foreclosure. He started borrowing money from his sister and discovered that the best way to save his house was to declare bankruptcy. Since he was living with me most of the time, I thought that it might be nicer not to ask him to pay for groceries when he was under such financial stress.
He had one perplexing crisis after another. Each situation made me feel sorry for him. I wanted to be a good partner. He ended up owing me several thousand dollars before I got suspicious. I reluctantly started snooping, which I have never done before.
When I insisted that he pay his way and contribute $100 a month towards his living expenses debt, he reluctantly agreed. Suddenly, he had to go on many more business trips than before.
I hired a private investigator to figure out what was going on. I discovered that he had history of owing friends money; it amounts to tens of thousands of dollars to date. I also discovered that his house was not in foreclosure.
I’m completely confused. I have no idea what, if anything, he told me was true. When I confronted him he was angry and told me that I had no business spying on him. He accused me of being disloyal and told me that my past romances have failed because I’m unable to be a real partner.
When I try to break it off he says that he still loves and needs me. He promises he will do better; that this is just a temporary situation and that things will be better as soon as various difficulties have been solved. He asked me to stand by him and that his life won’t be worth living if we break up.
He has started to pay his way, even though sometimes he pays with a postdated check. But he has yet to put a real dent in the thousands of dollars he owes me.
I love him. But, I’m not sure that I can trust him. He treats me very well when he’s here, but when he’s away, which is most of the time, he barely has time to talk on the phone. What do I do? Francesca
You sound like you have lost faith in your own perceptions. Rather than expecting Ralph’s values to be aligned with yours, you’re trying to rationalize why he would behave in this way. Your belief that he has good intentions has made it possible for you to ignore the way his actions are impacting you.
If you can’t identify with the way that your partner approaches life, it’s time to question whether this is a viable relationship.
When someone is incredibly charming at first glance, but his later behavior scares or confuses you, you may have a sociopath on your hands. A sociopath doesn’t have a conscience—it’s all about them. They don’t believe that the normal rules that bind others—such as repaying loans or earning money at real job—apply to them either.
They don’t question how what they do affects others. They only wonder why they didn’t get what they wanted at the time.
They are experts at charming people in order to get what they want. The understand how to make people feel special and to generally be perceived as fun, likable and interesting. Identifying a sociopath takes time and getting to know them well, without making excuses for their behavior.
According to sociopath expert Martha Stout, PHD, the author of The Sociopath Next Door, “When deciding who to trust, bear in mind that the combination of consistently bad or egregiously inadequate behavior with frequent plays for your pity is as close to a warning. ... as you will ever be given.”
Stout cites following as a partial list of the signs that someone may be a sociopath:
Glibness and superficial charm: They are engaging, likable and fun to be around.
Lack of a realistic life plan and a parasitic lifestyle: They tend to move a lot or make all-encompassing promises for the future. They have a poor work ethic but are able to effectively exploit others.
Lack of concern about wrecking others' lives and dreams: They are oblivious or indifferent to the devastation they cause. They do not accept blame themselves, only others, even for acts they obviously committed.
Manipulative and conning: They don’t recognize the rights of others and see their self-serving behaviors as permissible. They appear to be charming, yet see their victim as merely an instrument to be used.
Grandiose sense of self: They feel entitled to certain things, such as others paying their way, as "their right."
Pathological lying: They have no problem lying and it is almost impossible for them to be consistently truthful. They can create--and get caught up in--their own powers and abilities. Their lies are extremely convincing and most are even able to pass lie detector tests.
Lack of remorse, shame or guilt: They do not see others around them as people, but only as targets and opportunities. Instead of friends, they have victims and accomplices who end up as victims. They believe that the end always justifies the means and they let nothing stand in their way.
It sounds like Ralph’s behavior matches some of these criteria. The most important thing you can do is to take steps to protect yourself. Because you can’t reason with a sociopath, your best bet is to accept your losses and completely cut him out of your life.
Dear Annie, The last three men I dated told me that they were single, but I later found out that all of them were married! I’m a 57 year-old, single woman who wants to be in a relationship. I went online to meet single, divorced or widowed men near my age.
I dated one of these guys for almost three months before I found out that his wife was alive and well. I was crushed, as we had gotten along wonderfully and I was beginning to think that we might have a future together.
I discovered that he was married when I ran into them at the dog park. When I saw him, I kissed him hello and he ignored me. She put her arm around his waist and he put his around her shoulder. That was completely humiliating! He called later and told me that his marriage has not been working for a long time.
He said that he and his current wife live separate lives and begged me to continue our relationship. After a lot of soul-searching, I reluctantly decided to stop seeing him. After all, what are they doing together in the dog park if their lives are so separate?
I decided that the online dating scene is not great for me. I don’t feel like I can trust anyone online, so I have decided to go a different route and try to meet through a mutual connection.
I have asked some people I know to introduce me to their single male friends. I have two upcoming blind dates.
Why do men lie about their marital status? Coral
Meeting men in person is a great way to go, especially if your friends can make introductions.
Online dating is just another way to meet people. All it does is introduce you to men who have described themselves by answering some questions and posting a few photos. It favors those whose photos are engaging, write well and who understand how to best use a particular site.
One of the problems with online dating is that it’s easy to get the impression that you can make assumptions about someone’s character and relationship potential from information gleaned from reading a profile and a handful of email correspondence. But, in reality, the only way you can find out about someone is to meet him in person as quickly as possible and take it from there.
I suggest that you approach getting to know a new man in the same way as you would if you met a gentleman at a bar. Ask lots of questions. Verify his answers. Observe how he behaves over time. Find out how he thinks, what he values and what his life has been like until you met. This is a "buyer beware" situation.
The same is true when you meet someone through a friend. Your friend can't possibly know how the person to whom they introduce you handles love and romance. They can't possibly know whether you'll click in the long term.
In either case, I suggest that you always take the following steps when you meet someone new, whether your introduction originated online or in real life.
Ask for his last name and other identifying information. It makes no sense to go out with someone without having such basic information. You are not prying when you ask for a man’s name, address and place of employment. That is information that you’re entitled to if you’re going to go out with him. If he’s reluctant to provide it, consider it a red flag.
Look him up on the Internet. Take it a step further than just Googling him. Search on sites like Zabasearch.com, Spokeo or Zillow, which provide homeowner information. If his home has a woman on the title, you should investigate further. It could be innocent – he might have his daughter or ex-wife on the deed. Or, it could be his current wife.
Many work or social media bios provide good information. Take a look at the website at his place of employment, LinkedIn or Facebook profile. While it’s not unheard of for someone to create a false social media profile, this information should corroborate with other research that you may have done.
If he is widowed, find out when his wife died. Ask for her name and Google death notices to make sure she is actually dead. One of my clients became suspicious when her widowed date was reluctant to have her over to his home. It turned out that the man’s wife was very much alive. It's why I recommend that you see a man's home before the fourth date and definitely do so before becoming emotionally entangled. A married man is likely to bolt before allowing you anywhere near his home.
Technology has made cheating on one’s spouse easier than in years past. All family mail used to arrive in the same mailbox. Families shared phone lines. But, the advent of separate cell phone numbers and email addresses has made it very easy for a married person to have a secret life.
All kinds of men are looking to meet women, in person and online. Many are ethical and seeking relationships. Some are not. The best way to proceed is to prioritize discovering who the other person is while you take your time becoming involved with someone you don't really know.
Hi Annie, I often see interesting women at the grocery store and gym, but I’m hesitant to start a conversation for fear of intruding upon their privacy.
What is a woman’s point of view on being approached when she’s out and about? Is there any way I can introduce myself without making women feel uncomfortable? Ron
Introducing yourself to a stranger requires courage. It helps if you can appear casual and self-assured, even if you’re not feeling that way. Take a few deep breaths and go for it!
There is no guarantee that you’re not going to offend a particular woman. Each woman is going to respond in her own unique way. You can’t fault yourself for making an effort if you express yourself in a respectful, polite and friendly way.
Consider other factors, such as time of day, what she’s doing and location. Obviously, there is a big difference between approaching women at a grocery store or gym in broad daylight and saying hello when you encounter her in a dark street. Your best bet is to approach someone when she’s not focused on accomplishing something. Say hello when she’s walking, sitting down or waiting in line. You’ll quickly discover if she’s open to a casual, lighthearted chat.
Women who are unavailable will often let you know in the course of a short conversation. Otherwise, you can find out if she’s single by complimenting something she’s wearing and asking if her husband gave it to her. If she says that she’s not married, ask if it is from her boyfriend.
If she’s single, tell her that you’d like to get to know her a little bit better at a more convenient time and offer her your phone number. She’s more likely to respond positively if you do this in a friendly, open manner.
It helps if you know what to say to a woman who is unavailable. You could tell her that her significant other is a lucky guy or ask her how they met. I suggest that you practice chatting with new women as often as possible. You’re likely to find that the vast majority of them are open to a brief conversation. You can’t predict how some women will react. The right woman might be happy that you made the first move.
Dear Annie, I met Mark online a few weeks ago. We had a delightful first date. He texted me the following Thursday and we went out that same evening.
The problem is that he always asks me out at the last minute.
I love spending time with him, so it makes it difficult to make plans with my friends. The only dates that we’ve ever planned ahead are those that I have initiated.
As a modern woman, I think it should be fine for a woman to ask a man out. He almost always says yes. Since I like to plan ahead, I’ve become the person who initiates most of our dates. I wish that he would ask me out as often as I ask him.
How do I get him to ask me out ahead of time? Kathleen
You and Mark have an understanding that has been brought about by the behavior patterns that both of you established as you've gotten to know each other. He knows that you will call him if you want to see him, so he has no reason to ask you for a date.
You need to do things differently if you want to break this pattern. First, let him know that it would make you happy if he would ask you out in advance more of the time. This tells him that you’re not blowing him off if he doesn’t hear from you.
Your direct communication will provide him with a heads-up that things are going to be different. If he wants to see you, he will know that he needs to make a date earlier in the week. If he says he can’t plan in advance, that is a sign that he may be unwilling to compromise with you.
If he asks you out when you are busy, you don’t have to tell him what you’re doing. You’re not accountable to him after just a few weeks. In fact, if he is like many guys, he will feel relieved when he realizes that you are not relying on him as your sole source of entertainment.
When he calls for a last-minute date and you’re busy, tell him that you are sorry because you would love to see him. Remind him that you prefer to plan a few days in advance, and that you wish you were free that evening. You can also say that you would love to have a rain check. That way he won’t interpret your unavailability as a subtle form of rejection.
I suggest that you keep your calendar somewhat open until a day or two in advance. Of course, it’s necessary to plan some things ahead of time. But for anything else, tell your friends that you don’t want to make a final decision until a day or two before a casual get-together. That way a man who asks you out beforehand is more likely to be rewarded by your availability.
A man who likes you will want to spend time with you. You will turn most men off if you are always too busy.
Dear Annie, Tom and I went out for a few months. We had an extraordinarily passionate relationship. He was very loving and attentive in the beginning, but he lost interest over time. I did everything I could to please him, but nothing seemed to work.
He told me that he was ending our relationship because he couldn’t be the kind of boyfriend that I deserved. That made no sense, because from my perspective, he was exactly the kind of boyfriend I’d been seeking! He was everything I wanted in a man. I couldn’t get him to understand that he was already perfect for me.
He had a difficult relationship with his mother, which resulted in him struggling when he was involved in other intimate relationships. I’m OK with this; after all, almost everyone has some sort of pain from their past. Even though it’s been over six months since we dated, I miss him and would still be willing to be supportive in the event that we got back together.
I told him that my intuition led me to believe that we would be fantastic together. He said that a successful relationship consists of two people who want to be together. He told me that he is sure that he will never love me. I did my best to stay away, but couldn’t help but call or email every once in a while. He has now made it very clear that he wishes no further contact with me. He won’t return my phone calls, texts or emails.
I still hope that he will come back because I don’t believe that he will ever find anyone as good as me. I think that one day he’ll recognize that he threw away the best thing he ever had. Despite this, I have decided that it is time to move on. I started dating again about six weeks ago. I’m on OkCupid and have an easy time getting dates.
The problem is that no one resonates with me like Tom did. I go out with these guys and I feel absolutely nothing except boredom during the date and despair when I go home. I worry that I’m never going to feel anything for any other man. What can I do to get over Tom? Or, maybe get him back? Nancy
You have two problems: 1) Getting over your break up and 2) not being able to meet someone new and interesting.
Chances are that you’re not going to meet anyone appealing until you’ve dealt with the first problem.
Because you haven’t let go of your hopes for a reconciliation with Tom, you’re comparing every man you meet to him—which means that no one except Tom’s identical twin is going to have a chance with you.
This is your fundamental problem with Tom: Whatever other desirable characteristics he may possess, he is not interested in engaging in a relationship with you.
It sounds like he was initially attracted to you and enjoyed your company. But he didn’t want to take it any further. Your hope that Tom is going to rekindle your romance is holding you back. He’s made it unambiguously clear that he has no romantic feelings for you, to the point where he insists on completely disconnecting. It doesn’t matter why he broke it off. Maybe it has to do with his relationship with this mother. Perhaps he’s interested in someone else. Maybe he’s not ready for a relationship at all. In any case, it seems obvious that he didn’t feel the connection in the same way as you did. Whatever his reason, your first task is to accept that he is gone forever. This isn’t easy. It often feels like a death, because you are dealing with the finality of the end of a relationship that deeply resonated with you.
Treat yourself gently. It’s important to acknowledge the depth of your sorrow. Set aside dedicated time to mourn each day until you no longer feel the need to do so. Write in a journal. Get exercise. Do something that brings you even a tiny bit of joy or satisfaction each day.
In order to move on, it’s best if you let go of everything that reminds you of Tom, including photos, jewelry and gifts. Disconnect from his social media. Rearrange your furniture. Do whatever it takes to make your home relaxing and inviting without having reminders of Tom lurking around every corner.
It’s hard to become involved with someone new while you’re still attached to an old love. Once you have emotionally disconnected from Tom, you’ll have an easier time opening up to a new man.