Q: How do you know whether a guy is worth staying with, or if you’re on a slowly sinking ship? My boyfriend of three and a half years treats me well, but he suffers bouts of depression and his divorce six years ago has hung a shadow over our relationship. He’s never told me he loves me, which I need at this point. His divorce also left him financially scarred, and he’s taken a roommate, who happens to be female, to stave off foreclosure. It turns out she was raped some time ago. Soon after moving in, she told my boyfriend she was uncomfortable with others in the house having sex. She doesn’t have a job now, so even afternoon trysts are out. I think it’s terrible what happened to her, but I also find it awfully presumptuous of her to dictate this aspect of our lives. We can’t have sex at my place, except when my kids can stay at my mom’s. I needed more from my boyfriend even before the roommate came, but too often now, there’s only that seven-minute exhausted call at 11:45 at night. I’m disturbed that he’d basically sell out our relationship for some rent money.
— Sexless In The City
A: Are you on a slowly sinking ship? Well, if this were the Titanic, DiCaprio and Winslet would’ve had time before the ship went down to have four kids, three affairs, and a bitter divorce.
It’s terrible, what happened to his roommate, but moving into somebody’s place and then announcing, “Oh, by the way, I’m traumatized by people having sex…” is like saying, “Did I mention that I’m deathly allergic to cats? Not to worry, I hear they don’t feel a thing when they get put down.” Of course, a guy who wants to have sex with his girlfriend but takes in a roommate who’s “uncomfortable” with it passes on the bad news: that he’ll be giving said roommate time to pack, not that he’ll be sleeping with the girlfriend from 11:45 to 12:02, but only over the phone, and he really does mean “sleeping.”
If you were boyfriend-shopping right now, imagine answering this ad: “Emotionally and financially devastated divorced man with deeply troubled roommate seeks girlfriend: no pets, no sex, no ‘I love you.’” Clearly, what you really need to hear isn’t “those three little words” but those eight: “I just can’t give you what you want.” Chances are, you succumbed to what economists call “the sunk cost fallacy” — investing more and more time in this relationship because you’ve already invested so much time. You should instead be looking at what the guy currently has to offer: basically, seven minutes a night for you to work on convincing him “If you really loved me, you’d be living out of your car.”
Is it possible he’ll change? Sure it is — if he wins the lottery and meets a good witch who’ll wave her magic wand over him, instantly curing his depression, or if you can invent a time machine so he can go back and stay in bed with a hangover on the day he met his now ex-wife. On the bright side, you should find it easier to coax him into saying “I love you”… at gunpoint, or by attaching jumper cables to his nipples.
Q: My boyfriend of three years has always suspected that I had a sexual history with one of my male friends. I lied and said I didn’t. (The sex was a one-time mistake, three years before I met my boyfriend.) The problem is, I have lunch with this friend two or three times a year to catch up (always in public places). So far, I’ve refused to stop seeing my friend, which hurts my boyfriend. Should I cut him off to spare my boyfriend’s feelings?
A: Poor Booboo, does he have an ouchie day, two or three times a year, whenever you bring home mints from the Olive Garden? There’s a telltale sign — that you had lunch. Your boyfriend, like too many grown adults, is under the impression that life should always be one long Princess Cruise. Sure, he feels jealous (and apparently, that you’re sleazy, trampy, and not to be trusted). Being jealous is human nature, and reflects insecurity on his part, which you shouldn’t be catering to by cutting friends out of your life. Continue keeping mum about your sexual history, and help your boyfriend feel more secure by letting him know how hot and wonderful you find him, and by being touchy-feely, like you can’t keep your hands off him. Of course, these tactics are most effective if you also avoid returning from lunches three days later, claiming to have escaped your kidnappers, the Mexican drug kingpins.
© 2010 Amy Alkon, all rights reserved.