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Ever Got Tricked Into Accepting Unwelcome Touch?

UnwelcomeTouchPerhaps it's Time to Bring Back the Hatpin

The recent video that captured Donald Trump’s reprehensible behavior towards women has brought up traumatic memories for many women. Some of my clients, especially those who have been sexually assaulted, were so upset that they wondered whether it’s worthwhile continuing to try to date. They worried that they might find themselves alone with a man who has a similar attitude towards women.

I reminded them that each man is different. Most men would never consider treating a woman in this way. We talked about how a woman can have better control of her safety and maintain her dignity if she is prepared to deal with a man with a false sense of entitlement about her body.

Sexual assault or harassment has happened to most women I know. I don’t remember a time in which we have talked about it openly and unashamedly. When it happened to me, I thought it was my fault, so I was quiet about it. So were most of my friends and clients.

It often happens so suddenly, and unexpectedly. You’re just going about your business. Perhaps you’re on a date, on a bus or at work. Maybe you’re meeting with your boss, a mentor or a business connection. Perhaps it's the coach for your kid’s baseball team. He is supposed to be a friend, to be kind, to help you. He is supposed to be someone safe to be around.

It happens in the blink of an eye. One minute you are doing something completely normal. In the next minute, he talks about your body in graphic terms. He unexpectedly touches your body with his hand, his mouth, or even more disgustingly, his crotch.

Your first reaction might be to freeze. You are instinctively aware that you are smaller or weaker than him. You know he can overpower you. No question about that. So, you buy time and try to figure out what to do in a way that doesn’t anger him or call attention to the situation.

If the man is a stranger on the bus or your relationship is otherwise inconsequential, you are more likely to do something that will keep you safe without fearing that you will offend him or get him angry so he might hurt you. You can move away and you might be able to command your voice to tell him to stop.

It’s not so easy if he is your superior at work, if he is a business connection or if he has power or influence over any part of your life. In this case you have to rapidly measure your options and the consequences of standing up for yourself. You will also have to consider what might happen if he retaliates.

Even though this kind of sexual harassment is over very quickly, it leaves you feeling disgusted, ashamed and humiliated for a long time to come. It can also leave you feeling helpless and powerless.

After all, a man is not likely to be prosecuted for pinching your bottom, putting his hands on your breasts or rubbing his crotch against your body.

You know that the American justice system says he is innocent until proven guilty. If you bring it up to the authorities, it will be his word against yours. You know you will have to explain what happened to strangers, who may not believe you. You will be forced to relive the experience over and over again.

I think it's important that every woman be prepared for this sort of situation.

Some of our grandmothers went out in public armed with hatpins so that they could deal with men who put them in this type of situation. But in this day and age, we don't expect men to behave so badly and as a result we're not always ready to protect ourselves from this all-too-common experience.

Predatory men like Donald Trump count on women’s acquiescence in these situations. They expect that we’ll be quiet, not make a scene or defend ourselves. If we fight back, they are likely to try to discredit us.

Don’t let that stop you from speaking up. It’s likely to help if you have decided what you’re going to say beforehand. Practice it in your most confident, clear tone of voice, so that it becomes automatic.

Tell a stranger, “I need you to stop. Please back off. Get away from me now!” Repeat these words as necessary speaking them louder each time.

If the man is someone you already know, say, “Please stop. This is making me uncomfortable. I’m sure you don’t intend for me to feel this way. I appreciate your offer of help, but I need it to be above board.” Most men will back off.

If he doesn’t, you should be prepared to walk away. Tell him you need to leave, then do so. Even if he’s providing you with a favor, he knows that you’re not a prostitute. If the only way he will help you is if you submit to his advances, he is not a reliable friend.

While the vast majority of men are kind and respectful to women, it helps if you are prepared to handle the potential misbehavior on the part of others. Or, you could always bring back the hatpin.

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Where Can a Guy Meet "Normal Single Women in Their Forties?"

Romantic date sunsetDear Annie, I'm a 53-year-old man who has been in the dating scene for three years after my fourteen-year marriage ended in divorce. I would love to be in a long-term, committed relationship.

Unfortunately, no matter what I do, I’m not meeting the right kind of woman. I’m looking for a single or divorced lady in her forties, who is intelligent, attractive and classy. She’s got to be active, fit and most importantly "normal."

The few women, in their forties, I have dated briefly were all strange in different ways. For example, one smoked a lot of pot. Another’s week-long meditation sessions prevented us from going out of town. How could I, as a normal, hardworking, educated and responsible guy who enjoys travel live with that?

I’ve gone to singles events, Meet-Ups and used online dating sites and apps. I’ve met dozens of women in their mid-fifties and sixties, but very few in their forties.

I agree with a male friend who said, "There aren't any normal women in their forties. They are all married and raising children.”

Where are all the attractive and normal, good women? Mike

The simple answer is that you can probably find women who are in their forties who meet your definition of normal in a wide variety of places. They almost certainly work, go to the gym and shop. You might find them in classes, Meet-Ups or singles events. Some of them are also on online dating sites.

One of the problems that today’s dating scene causes is that people are more inclined to be solely attracted to external traits. In your case, you are only seeking a woman in her forties, even though you are well into your fifties.

Ironically, one of the issues that you face when you only want to date a woman who is at least four years younger than you is that many women in their forties don’t want to date men in their fifties because “it sounds so old.” By the way, I am simply reporting what I’ve seen and heard; I’m not saying that I agree.

If we were working together, I would ask you this question: What do you need a relationship with a woman to provide?

Because you’re not here to create your own list, I’m going to guess that your reply would include some of the following, in no particular order: You want to feel attraction. You desire sex, companionship and romance. Attention, affection and appreciation. A sense of feeling simpatico together, a sense of acceptance and feeling loved for being your authentic self. You probably want a woman who you can trust to have your back, one you can count on and someone who is easy to be around.

The next question I would ask you is this: Why are these things only possible to obtain if a woman is at least four years younger than you are? What do you believe is so different about a woman who is forty-eight than one who is your age, fifty-three?

It’s true that some women lose interest in sex after menopause. However, many women become even more sexually responsive, passionate and uninhibited. Lots of women find it easier to handle their mood-swings after menopause, which leaves them less prone to drama.

What if you became open to dating a woman who is, like you, in her fifties? There are a lot of attractive women in their early to mid fifties who are likely to share your values.

By limiting yourself to a specific age, you are effectively lowering your chances of finding the intelligent, attractive and “normal” woman you so desire.

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How to Motivate Your Ex to Move Out

TugofWarDear Annie, I can’t get my former boyfriend, Scott, to move out of my house. He moved in a couple of years ago. He became disenchanted with his job, which caused him to turn increasingly moody and withdrawn. His consequently growing resentment towards me, triggered by my successful career, was palpable.

At first, I could handle it. But as his dark moods became more frequent, I grew more frustrated. We tried to work it out, but finally agreed to break up a few months ago. He moved into the guest room, but has done nothing about finding a new place of his own in which to live.

He comes and goes as he pleases, but I feel that my life is on hold until he leaves. I have begged and pleaded for him to move, but he says that he just hasn’t found the right place yet. Short of getting an attorney, I have no idea what to do. Help! Frances

Scott has a sweet deal right now. He still has a comfortable home, the pleasure of your company when he wants it and none of the obligations of a committed relationship.

You may have to take on the tough-love parental role, since you have every right to live without him and he is not taking responsibility for moving in a timely manner. It’s not ideal, but it will allow you to get you out of your current situation.

Start by giving him strict deadlines to pack, find a place to live and move. Ask him what he needs from you in order to help him to get things done by your target dates.

Tell him that, since you have given him plenty of time to find a place on his own, you will need to take serious action if he has not left within a specific period of time. Show him you are serious by giving him 30 days written notice.

Even if your area may be under rent control, you should have the right to evict a roommate. If you are in doubt, check with your local rent-control entity.

Ask him to start packing on the first day of the coming weekend. If he has not brought boxes home by Sunday morning, do it for him. This is about doing what is needed so that you can get your long-term needs met.

Schedule a mutually agreeable time to go through items that you may have purchased together. Sort out who gets custody of which item. Pack anything that belongs to him as you’re sorting through your possessions.

Scott is more likely to be inspired to move once most of his stuff is boxed up. Ask him how his housing search is going every day. Offer to go apartment hunting with him. If you discover that he’s not taking action, go over Craigslist ads daily and direct him to places that are within his budget.

This is a lot of work. It can be really difficult to be the heavy, nagging ex after a loving relationship has gone sour. But if your former partner is not cooperating in moving on, you sadly may be left with no other choice.

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How to Overcome Political Differences in A Relationship

Difficult conversationDear Annie, Greg, my life-partner, just told me that he is planning to vote for Donald Trump. I’m crushed. We’ve had our differences in the past, but I was under the impression that we shared the same core values.

I’ve always been a staunch Democrat. While I believe that Hillary Clinton has many flaws, I am committed to voting for her because I believe that Trump’s impulsivity, selfishness and amorality will destroy this country. Greg and I have built a life together for over a decade.

While I have always known that we somewhat disagree politically, I have been able to accept those differences because we are mostly aligned in innumerable other areas. Previously, it’s been relatively painless to ignore the few ways in which we differ around politics.

This year, it’s different. I feel that the future of the free world is at stake. I hate to break up our household on account of this, but I feel like I hardly know how to handle this difference. It’s impossible for us to have a sane discussion about the upcoming election because I so badly want to convince him to not vote for the Republican ticket.

I get extremely emotional when either of us brings up the subject. How can I handle this situation while remaining true to myself and save my relationship? Debra

This presidential election season is extraordinarily stressful for couples in your situation. I’m also finding that many single people who previously would have been somewhat open to dating someone in the opposite political camp are unwilling to do so these days.

You need to become clear about the consequences you are willing to accept should you insist that Greg vote your way. Only you can decide if it’s worth throwing away a long term, otherwise compatible relationship over his vote in this presidential election.

As you sort this out, you owe both of you the opportunity to discuss your values openly on a deeper level. Wait for a time when you feel patient and open to really listening to him. Make sure you commit to not interrupting him. Your conversation will be far more productive and informative if you stay calm. Take several deep breaths and ask him to slow down or take a break if you find yourself feeling defensive or angry.

Ask Greg how his values align with those of Donald Trump. Listen carefully to what he says so that you’re able to learn more about him. Once you’re sure he has no more to say, ask him your questions about discrepancies between his values and those of his candidate.

Ask him how he feels that a Clinton presidency would create more damage than a Trump presidency and listen to him in the same way.

At this point, I suggest that you take some time to think about how you want to respond to his answers. Bring up topic again in the next couple of days and discuss the ways in which your values are in or out of sync.

If the results of these conversations feel that you are at a stalemate, you need to figure out whether you’re going to draw a line in the sand. Ask yourself how much importance you want to put on Greg’s vote as you evaluate your long-term relationship.

Political differences in this election cycle are more toxic than ever. With people’s defenses at an all-time high, practicing the art of civil conversation around politics has become a real challenge. My advice: Your life, loved ones and relationships are your treasures. Don’t sacrifice them on account of Washington’s political games. 

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Your Live-in Boyfriend Wants an Open Relationship: Now What?

Why is she never the oneDear Annie, I’ve been living with Jerry for six months. He just told me that he wants to open up our relationship so we can have sex with others. I’m deeply hurt. Although I was aware that he had been in polyamorous relationships in the past, he told me that he was fine with our relationship being one hundred percent monogamous.

Now he insists that it is unnatural and unrealistic for men and women to be sexually monogamous. He says he loves me and needs me to be his primary emotional relationship, but that he craves sex with other women or he doesn’t feel like a whole man.

He tells me that I’m being selfish, disloyal and unreasonable because I don’t want to step out of the bounds of our monogamous relationship.

I love him. But, it doesn’t feel as if this feeling is truly mutual. His desire for intimacy with others leaves me feeling terribly insecure.

I told him that I don’t think I can stay in our relationship if he starts sleeping with other women. He says that I am being unreasonable and I have no reason to feel jealous. I still don’t feel comfortable about it.

We are at an impasse. What do I do? Lucille

I can see why you feel betrayed. You entered into a relationship under one set of agreements and assumptions and suddenly your partner is demanding that you do something that he knows is unacceptable to you.

It sounds like Jerry made you a promise that he couldn’t keep. Although he previously enjoyed being in open relationships, he thought that he could forsake them because he wanted to be with you. Unfortunately, he revisited his priorities after the two of you established a household together. This leaves you with two difficult options.

Option one is to draw a line in the sand and walk away without looking back. You have to be firm and unwavering. It’s not about playing a game of pretending to leave, and hoping that he will change his mind.

Tell him that you must break up because cannot tolerate being in an open relationship. If he tells you that you’re being unreasonable, let him know that it is about honoring your values and that this is something about which you are unable to compromise.

Give him notice, and start packing your boxes and looking for a new place to live.

Option two is to be open to researching the different types of open relationships and exploring the possibility that there may be a way to allow other sexual partners into your relationship in a way that would also allow you to feel safe.

In that case, you and Jerry should to set firm parameters around how that relationship would work and negotiate an agreement that is mutually acceptable to both of you.

If you did so, both of you would need to agree on the following:

  • Timing: When, for how long and how often can each of you go on a “date.”
  • Duration: You may want to restrict the amount of dates that each of you can have with another person in order to minimize the possibility of becoming emotionally involved.
  • Activity: You can limit the type of sexual activity that happens between your partner and someone else.
  • Conditions: You could only allow it under certain circumstances, such as when he’s on a business trip.

Sex columnist Dan Savage has many more suggestions for how to negotiate an open relationship.

However, if being in an open relationship leaves you feeling as if it will make you miserable or drain the life out of you, just say no and leave.

The most fundamental problem you’re facing isn’t simply whether you can accept a form of open relationship. The bottom line is that you’ve discovered that you can’t rely on Jerry to be true to his word.

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The Perils of Sharing Your Sexual Secrets Over Text Message

Flirt over white wine.1Dear Annie, Kevin texted me that he enjoys cross-dressing during sex right after our third date. I was taken aback. We’ve only kissed a little and now he’s texting me about his sexual preferences. Ugh.

I like him and was looking forward to seeing him again, but I don’t understand why he wouldn’t share intimate information like this during an in-person conversation. Getting a text like this feels cold, clinical and impersonal.

I was excited about the prospect of us gradually becoming physically and emotionally closer, but now I’m not sure. I’ve never been with a man who enjoys wearing women’s clothes in bed (or out.)

Frankly, the idea turns me off. But, I might have a different attitude if someone I cared for wanted to experiment. I told him I wasn’t interested. Did I do the right thing or should I have been more open? Elaine

The short answer is that you don’t need to be open to everything.

I wonder if you were more put off by the fact that he enjoys cross-dressing or by the way that he communicated it. Texting is a medium where the person’s tone of voice and emotional response isn’t present.

The juxtaposition between the cold, tone-deafness of a text message and the intimacy of the topic might have caused you to feel uninterested in moving forward with the relationship. You may have gotten the message that he seems to be more comfortable talking about intimate topics over text messages than doing so in person.

His method and timing of sharing this information were not designed in a way that would encourage you to be open to the possibility of enjoying his kink. Things might have worked out differently if Kevin had waited until you were in a more intimate phase of the relationship before he revealed this secret.

You might have been more open to the possibility of cross-dressing if he was able to communicate his interest in it in a loving, caring way that caused you to want to please him.

Kevin didn’t ask for my advice, but if he had, this is what I would have told him:

You’re more likely to elicit a positive response if you establish an intimate relationship before you talk about sensitive sexual needs in person. Usually this happens somewhere between the third and sixth date.

Bring up the topic late in a date if things are going well.

Tell your date a little bit about your kink and what it provides. Ask if they have any questions. Allow your date time as much time as needed to think about whether this is something to which they feel open. 

Texting is the one of the riskiest way to divulge personal information. It can feel abrupt and it’s easy for the recipient to misinterpret the sender’s intentions. Conversations about sex, whether they are about STDs, sexual fetishes or preferences are likely to be better received when they are communicated in person.

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How to Talk to Your Boyfriend About His Porn Addiction

Man with LaptopDear 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.

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Can You Ever Trust a Boyfriend Who Lied About Herpes?

Romantic midlife coupleDear 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.

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