Archive for the 'love' Category


getting married in a hurry

Reader E. E. writes:

I have two friends who are eloping and it really bothers me. I just don’t think they’ve thought it through. She’s not pregnant (that I know of) and I just don’t think it’s wise to rush into a marriage, especially given the current divorce rate. How do I get them to think about it?

Dear E.E.:

By the time two people have announced they’re getting married, it’s far too late in the game to tell them they need to “think it over”. In fact, the more you tell them you don’t approve, the more likely they are to go through with it and just not invite you to the ceremony or the after party.

Telling someone you don’t think they should get married is just like telling a friend you don’t like their significant other — it’s going to drive a wedge between you. People who have decided to get married are every bit as headstrong as people who are dating, if not more so. If you are that certain that this elopement is going to completely ruin their lives and you’re willing to sacrifice your friendship over it, then by all means, tell them.

One ring to rule them all

Image: vichie81 /

If you were a parent or direct relation to the engaged parties, your say might have a little more weight. You could withhold inheritance money or something. And in fact, if it’s really that serious to you, saying you can’t be friends with them if they’re making this decision might sway them, although I doubt it.

I can understand your concern, of course. According to every statistic out there, our generation takes marriage about as seriously as we take reality TV (by which I mean, not at all). Britney Spears can do it in Vegas and get it annulled six hours later; gay people aren’t allowed to do it; half our friends and family members have gone through divorce, and it’s never easy or pretty, even if it’s mutual.

But don’t believe for a minute that eloping means they’re not taking marriage seriously or that they haven’t thought it through.

First of all, the fact that they’re not having a giant, stressful wedding could be a life saver for their relationship. We put a lot of pressure on people to make their wedding days the best days of their lives, and sometimes that’s a death knell.

Second, the length of an engagement is not a good gauge for a couple’s commitment level. We all know stories about people who met and got married within a week and are still together 50 years later. It’s not how long you’ve known each other that makes a marriage last; it’s how willing you are to work on staying together.

Third,  they’re adults, and you have to let them make their own decisions, whether it’s going to be a complete mistake or the best idea they’ve ever had.

Finally, try to take a step back and see if you feel like they shouldn’t married because you wouldn’t be ready in this situation, or because you really think they’re not ready. Your feelings on marriage are your own for your own reasons, and they’re perfectly valid, but remember: you’re not the one getting married. I think you will have a much better time with this if you ask your friends their reasons for getting married rather than telling them you think they’re too hasty, which comes across as judgmental. Talking with them about their reasons for such a quick wedding might actually put your mind at ease; just don’t plan on your input changing their minds at all.

My best advice: be happy for them. Whether they’re going to last together or not, they’re going to need your support and love, and that’s all there is to it.


what to get your boyfriend this holiday season

Reader A. G. writes:

You wrote a post to let the guys know what their ladyfriends want this Christmas. So what should we ladies be buying our menfriends?

Dear A.G.:

Guys love presents! Image: Stuart Miles /

Excellent question.

I conducted a similar bit of scientific research with my menfolk friends as I did with my womenfolk friends to get the ideas below.

A few notes:

While guys and girls both definitely appreciate personal touches (as in, the gift-giver has paid enough attention to go and get a gift for you that you really want), guys are a bit less likely to take it personally if the gift is more generic. Also, gift cards are not out of the question, as long as they’re to the right shop. Furthermore, the element of surprise is not necessarily as important to the gents as it is to the ladies,  so don’t be afraid to ask the guy what he wants, and take notes, because he’s probably going to be very specific.

Like the ladies I talked to, the guys also said that, in their dream worlds, the gifts they get would be something they wouldn’t get for themselves, either because of finances or time or because it’s too whimsical. Gift certificates fit into this mold, because you’re giving him more resources to get stuff he actually wants.

Whatever you get him, it’ll remind him of you whenever he uses it, so keep that in mind. What I mean is: At what point in his day do you want him to be thinking of you? Or: Do you really want to be associated with that?

Finally, here is the one best rule for gift-giving: Know the person you’re giving the gift to. Don’t get sports equipment for the couch potato unless he’s asked for it; don’t buy XBox Live for the PC gamer; don’t buy the Almodovar DVD collector’s set for the guy who only watches Bruce Willis movies. Christmas is not about crafting your mate in the image you want him to be, capisce?

Here, then, are the top things my guy friends want for the holidays this year:

– Sex. Yes, this may sound like it’s coming from a complete stereotype, but a lot of guys said they wanted sex, and even if they were joking (I took answers like “a hooker” and “a threesome” as jokes), I’m not too stupid to get the hint. Sex is important to men (not to say it’s not important to women, too, but we’re talking about guys right now), so it shouldn’t be a surprise they’d like some over the holidays. The key to making sex a “present” is to do something you wouldn’t normally do. Maybe consider getting dolled up in a new set of lingerie, or buy a new kind of lube that you can try together. Some of my guy friends suggested arranging a threesome (again, they dismissed it as a joke, but it was a reflex reaction, so we’re going to assume it’s something they’re thinking about), which is something you can consider if you and your partner are into that sort of thing. (Although I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it unless it’s something you’ve both talked about extensively in the past and decided you are both completely comfortable with.) Sometimes, an unexpected BJ can be gift enough (and I just heard about these things [NSFW!], which I haven’t tried, but might be worth it). This is a good time to expand your intimacy repertoire together, so have fun and do something you’re going to really enjoy, too. One guy suggested “Sex Coupons” that a guy can redeem throughout the year, but I think that ruins the fun of it. Best idea is to light some candles, get both of you in the mood, and do something new or really interesting for a change. If the whole idea of having sex this holiday season just freaks you out… you’ve got other things you need to worry about more than what gift you’re getting your BF.

– Technology and toys. The new Transformer Tablet came up several times, as did a camera, phone, and other gadgets. Most guys have a very specific brand, make, and model of what they want, and they won’t mind you asking to double check. If you want to make it a complete surprise, do the research yourself and find the most popular, useful piece of technology that caters to your man’s specific needs. A few of the guys I talked to said “toys” and really meant “toys” — remote-controlled stuff, robots, whatever. This includes video games. If your guy is like any other gamer I have ever known, he’s probably already bought Batman: Arkham City for himself, but if he hasn’t… you know what to do.

– Being taken on a date. Guys dig this as much as ladies do, but this is a particularly idea if he’s always the one taking you out. Get dressed up, pick him up, and take him to a nice dinner and a movie. Or make him his favorite dinner and have the movie he’s been wanting to see queued up on Netflix. Add candles and turn off the phone to make it special. And then you can segue really easily into gift idea #1 above!

– Equipment he needs for his sport/hobby. If your man is really into working out, get him gym stuff. If he’s into motorcycles, motorcycle stuff. Is he thinking about making beer? Get him the kit to get started. One guy told me his dream gift this holiday season would be a carbon fibre tandem bike (and he sent me this pic to boot). While I’ve mentioned that guys won’t take it as personally if you give them something more generic, you still have to be careful about giving gifts that send the wrong message. Sports equipment can fall under this category if he’s got a weight problem you’re both aware of. Err on the side of stuff he’s already interested in, and not stuff you wish he would be interested in. He’ll probably be happy to tell you exactly what stuff he wants, too.

– Toiletries and skin care products he doesn’t even know about. As ladies, we tend to be more in the know about skin and beauty upkeep products than the guys, but they need pampering, too. Use your knowledge for good! Get him the best tools for skincare, shaving, ingrown toenails, or whatever other things plague him. This is good because he may actually be too embarrassed to buy them for himself, but when he starts using them, he’ll be extremely happy. (As one friend put it, “That apricot scrub stuff? I mean, who knew! Awesome!”) Be careful about solving problems that are too medical, because, again, this is something he’s going to associate with you every time he uses it. Plus, nobody wants Preparation H in his stocking, even if he needs it.

– A watch. This depends on the guy, of course, but watches are “jewelry for dudes”, which guys so rarely get to indulge in. (Cuff links are even more specific, because who wears cuff links anymore?) And they can be extremely personal. This falls under the “when I’m wearing it, I think of her” charm, too. Watches can run the gamut from breaking the bank to pretty inexpensive while still maintaining quality. Find something that matches his personality.

– A new job. This was quite possibly the weirdest response I got, but there were several guys who honestly said this. Obviously, you can’t magically give someone a new job (and there are ethical questions about giving your boyfriend a job even if you could), but I think the fact that this response was so prevalent means a few things. Possibly the most obvious is that we are all a little preoccupied with the economy these days, and not just for monetary reasons. Notice these guys asked for a new job, not a boatload of cash. I think that means they feel that they are stuck in a job that they don’t enjoy or in which they aren’t paid enough because they can’t find another job that’ll take ’em. It’s a mixture of feeling inadequate (“I don’t have enough talent or the right skills to get the job I want”) and trapped (“This organization doesn’t function properly or take care of me but there’s nowhere else for me to go”). While you could spend time finding jobs he could apply to, help him with his resume, and do some networking with him, I think the best gift to give him in this situation is support for when he’s not at work. Make him feel needed, loved, and important. Encourage him to do stuff he enjoys (those aforementioned hobbies and sports) and treat them with the same sort of respect as something that earns him a paycheck. If you know he’s having trouble at work, you’re probably already experiencing some of the backlash in your relationship, so go easy on him as much as you can. Treat him to something that’ll get his mind off of it, and don’t let the holidays make an already stressful situation worse.

That’s basically all the guys I knew said they wanted. Guys can be hard to shop for, because if they don’t have any ideas, they really don’t have any ideas, but as you can see above, they’re pretty easy to please. Remember: You can’t go wrong with a BJ. Mostly.


holiday gift ideas for the hopeful BF

Reader M. B. writes:

The holidays are fast approaching and I am at a complete loss about what to get my girlfriend this year. We’ve been together for a while and I want to really get her something special. I’m not really good at getting gifts, and I really don’t want to mess up. So what do you suggest?

Dear M.B.:

I’m so glad you asked! You might remember this piece once upon a time, wherein I spent several hundred words consoling a lady to be glad her husband got her any gift at all for their anniversary, and telling her that it was her job to let her husband know what to get her if she didn’t like his gifts.

That still goes — it’s your girlfriend’s job to let you know if your gifts are terrible. But the fact that you know you’re a terrible gift-giver to begin with and are asking for advice means maybe you don’t want her to have to have that conversation with you. Good job!

Gift-giving around the holidays can be a pretty stressful event, but there are a few things I can say for sure about what you should look for. It all depends on your girlfriend, of course. You’ve got to know what she likes, However, most of the ladies I know have the following rules for gift giving on “major” occasions (aka anniversaries, winter solstice holidays, and birthdays):

  1. Give me something I wouldn’t just buy for myself (either because it’s too expensive, or it’s impractical, or any other number of reasons).
  2. Give me something that I will actually like or use (i.e. not something you’re getting because you actually want it).
  3. Give me something whimsical and romantic.

Now, let’s be honest: there are girls out there who don’t care about gifts. These girls are actually angels, and as we all know, angels are sexless, so be careful with them.

If your girl does care about gifts, then you’re going to have to figure out what she likes for yourself and go from there. If she has said over and over again how much she loves X, get it for her. She’s making life easy for you.

Low on money? Services count, too, but not IOUs for services. Don’t give her a promise that you’re going to clean the house; actually clean the house. It’s a much better surprise if you just do it without promising beforehand than if you say you’re going to and then never get around to it.

I decided to conduct one of my highly scientific surveys and ask my girlfriends what they want for Christmas this year. I told the girls to “dream big”. Here’s what I heard:

"Yay! Presents!" Image: photostock /

  • A massage and/or spa day (mani, pedi, facial, soak). This was definitely the one all my girlfriends could agree on. These can get expensive, but they’re extremely thoughtful and say “go on, pamper yourself”.
  • The house cleaned (not just “picked up” but seriously scrubbed). The laundry done. The dishes done. Not just now, but forever. In other words — buy her a year’s worth of a cleaning service. Even just one visit from a cleaning service can make everything better for a long time. It doesn’t sound really romantic, but it’s extremely thoughtful.
  • A trip somewhere (with you!). “A vacation” came up more than once (we must be a stressed out group — massages and vacations for all!) Of course, you can take her somewhere that isn’t too far away and isn’t too expensive. Even just cleaning up your apartment, lighting some candles, and turning off the phone for a night can be good. Your time can be your greatest gift.
  • A CSA or Co-op membership. If she’s a foodie, being able to get amazing ingredients at lower prices will matter immensely. Having them delivered to her door every other week? Amazing!
  • A wine club membership. So you can share a bottle or two together every month.
  • Extremely nice lingerie. Nope, not Victoria’s Secret — try La Perla or Aubade. Worth the price upgrade, plus you’re going to have to do a little detective work to get the size right. And, you know, it’s kind of great for you, too.
  • An iPad or Kindle pre-loaded with some of her favorite books or magazines, and a few new ones to boot. Technology + you’re thinking about what she likes to read.
  • All the work done on the car (oil change, tune-up, a fix for “that clicking sound” — this is stuff you can maybe do yourself!)… Followed by a nice little drive to a romantic dinner (food you made yourself counts!).
  • A piece of designer clothing (“boots” was a big response among my friends) that you know would look sexy on her and is maybe a bit out of her price range. Again, you’ve got to know the girl’s taste, and her size. When you get this one right, you get it exactly right. Also: consignment stores and good antique shops are excellent for this. And the women who run those shops will be tickled that you’re looking for your lady.
  • Tickets to a show — her favorite band, opera, or musical. Bonus points if you get them a few months in advance. Extra bonus points if she didn’t even know the show was coming through your town.
  • Jewelry. Girls love sparklies. BUT WATCH OUT. If she’s expecting “the ring” and you get her diamond studs, it’s going to be a really awkward moment. Furthermore, if she’s not sure how serious she wants to be and you get her a really expensive necklace, you’re heading for doom. Just put some thought into it and be smart. If you know a jewelry designer and can have something made for her, that’s pretty awesome.

Here are a few gifts I’d steer clear of:

  • Any pet. Yes, kittens and puppies are cute, but they’re also a huge responsibility. No one should ever be given a pet as a gift unless a lot of discussion has gone into it first. (Don’t even get me started on people giving bunnies as gifts. Oh man.)
  • Any exercise equipment or gym memberships unless she has specifically asked for it. Are you encouraging her new running habit, or inadvertently telling her that you think she’s fat? Careful!
  • Nothing. This is absolutely the worst thing you can get a girl for a holiday, even if she swears she doesn’t want anything. Get her a card, at least.

Now, again, I must stress that every girl is different, and my girlfriends are probably crazier/funnier/awesomer than most, so don’t just trust what I write. Listen to your girlfriend and take some time to think about what she likes. That’s the most important thing about gifts — the thought. If you really, really can’t think of anything, ask her for a list. It’s a bit lame, but you can’t go wrong that way. You already know you’re not great with gifts, and if she’s the right girl for you, she’ll be able to accept that, too.


is she over me?

Reader M.T. writes:

I broke up with a girl because I was scared things were going too fast, but I’ve come to the conclusion she’s the one for me. I want to get back together with her, but I don’t know if she’s over me already or what. How can I tell if she’s done and unwilling to come back or if she’d be ready to give me a second chance?

Dear M.T.:

Oh, you’re such a chicken shit! Just ask her already! Say you’re sorry, bring a bouquet of roses, and if she says no, then tough luck, you effed that up, and it’ll be your turn to get over it for real. Quit torturing yourself. If you’re worried she’s “over” you and the relationship, then your decision that she’s “the one” doesn’t hold much weight, does it? Go ask her if she’ll take you back. That’s the only way you’ll know for sure.

Think she's over it?

Think she's over it? Image: Ambro /

Not enough advice? Okay, okay, I’ll keep going.

If you’re really not sure she’s over you or not, and you really think you want to get back together with her for sane, healthy, lovey-dovey reasons, well… Here are a few ways you can tell she’s over it, or is trying to get over it:

You text her and she writes back, “Who is this?” This means she’s deleted you from her contacts, which could mean she’s NOT over it. But I wouldn’t bet on her taking you back.

She’s said anything hateful about you to her friends, family, or social network. If she’s Tweeted that you’re an asshole, you’d be twice the asshole to think she’d take you back.

She has a new significant other.  If you’re still friends, you probably already know.  If you don’t know this from conversations you’ve had with her, you can generally find this out through Facebook, her friends, or seeing her in public. Of course, having a new BF or GF doesn’t necessarily mean she’s totally over you; it just means she’s taken steps to move on, which you should probably respect, unless you’re a drama queen and want to have a really bad Adam Sandler movie on your hands.

She doesn’t appear in the list of “Friends” on your Facebook profile (on the left side, right over… there, yep, you’ve got it). There’s some complicated algorithm that determines which friends go on this list in what order, but it has something to do with who’s been looking at your profile, who’s been looking at stuff you’ve been looking at, etc. If you’re still friends on Facebook and she’s pretty active on it, yet she’s not in that top 10, she’s probably over you.

She’s too busy to hang out, or it takes her a long time to respond to texts, phone calls, emails, IMs, etc. This probably means she’s moved on, or is at least trying to.

Fair warning: If you get a reaction opposite to that which I’ve listed, it does not mean she’s NOT over the relationship. In fact, the calmer and more capable of talking to you that she is, the less likely it is you have any affect over her anymore, which could be a bad sign for your cause. (But great for her, probably.)

Keep in mind that you’re the one who broke up with her, and I may need to tell you to stop torturing her, too. You technically have the power in this relationship, even though it’s “over”, and if your conclusion that she’s “the one” is just because you’re afraid she’s gotten over you and you want that power back rather than because you’re truly in love, then you’re going to have some serious issues in the future (in fact, you probably already have some).

I’m not saying you know you’re just playing for control, but you should be aware that it may be a factor. The y0-yo relationship is definitely not a fun game to play for the party who has no control over it, and any steps she’s made in a direction away from you are probably healthier for her if that’s what’s happening.

I hope things work out for you, however they’re supposed to go.


more ex communication

Reader S. G. writes:

My new BF still talks to his ex. It is obvious to me that she is still in love with him. This really bothers me. Does he just like the attention? Is he just keeping her on the hook if things go sour with me? Does he still love her? What’s the deal? And is it wrong for it to bother me so much or just normal?

Dear S.G.:

Fret not, you are completely normal. It would bother almost anyone if their current fling were talking with an ex who was clearly enamored.

The number one way you can figure out why he still talks to her is to ask him.

But first I think you need to address what’s really up here. The only emotions you can be sure about are your own. So let’s focus on those.

Why does this bother you? Why are you jealous? Do you not trust him? Are you afraid he loves her and not you?

just talking

He still talks to his ex. Image: photostock /

Remember, you have absolutely no control over what he does with his life. Anyone who feels certain that nothing wrong will ever happen in their relationship is blissfully unaware of the truth of the situation. The only aspect of the relationship you have any control over is your input into it.

So let’s address first and foremost why this bothers you.

If you confront him about it before you’ve gotten to the bottom of why it bothers you, you’re not actually addressing the problem. He can tell you that there’s nothing going on between them, and if you’re just destined to be jealous regardless of what he says, that’s not gonna cut it. Or he can quit talking to her altogether, which will make you feel even better until you find some new reason to be jealous about something. Or you can confront your jealousy head on and figure out if this is something that will bother you for the long run, and if it’s a chronic issue you have with all boyfriends, in which case, you need to figure out how to deal with it yourself.

After you’ve admitted you’re jealous, figured out why you’re jealous, and figured out how you’re going to deal with that, you can move on to what you should do in your relationship.

Jealousy is a projection of our insecurities on someone else. This does not, however, mean that you don’t have anything to be worried about from his end. It’s quite possible he could hurt you very badly because he’s not over his ex, but being hurt is just one of the risks we take in being with anyone, anyway. If, after you’ve owned your jealousy, it still really bothers you that he talks to her, make an ultimatum out of it — “her or me”. And if he picks her, well, problem solved.

I’ve talked before about dealbreakers. If something your BF does bothers you, you confront him about it. If it bothers you so much you can’t be with him because of it, it’s a dealbreaker. And if he can’t stop the dealbreaker, then you break up.

So after you’ve admitted that you own the reasons it bothers you and this jealousy is yours, then you can let him know it bothers you. My advice is to be completely open about this with your partner. Either you will get over the fact that he talks to this ex, or he’ll quit talking to her, or you’ll break up. In my mind, the best way for you to get to any of these eventual outcomes is to talk with him about it.

Rest assured: lots of people talk to their exes. I do, in fact. Not all the time. And not in the same way we talked when we were together.

If he is talking to his ex as if she’s still his GF, okay, yes, you have a big problem, and it’s coming from him rather than from you. You’d probably be better off dumping him and finding someone who’s ready for a current relationship, rather than one that’s in the past. This is a hard thing to decide. It’s very easy to be cut and dry in an advice column on a blog on the Interwebs instead of living in the real world.

I’m going to say what I always say: trust your gut. I broke up with a guy when I was in 7th grade because he wasn’t over his ex. It took me exactly two weeks to figure this out. And I broke up with another one when I was 28 because he wasn’t over his ex either. It took me two months to do this because 13-year-old me is better at listening to her gut than 28-year-old me. Trust me — you’ll feel better if you cut it off than if you just wait around for him to realize how much better you are than she is. He either knows that already or he never will.

Furthermore, if you’re not capable of being in a relationship without being extremely jealous, you’ve got issues you need to address in your head before you subject someone to this kind of relationship stuff. It’s quite possible he’s not doing anything wrong, and it’s your problem. Be aware of that — it’s not fair to him to be jealous about everything he does.

If the two of you are interested in each other, and want to make it work, it has to be about what you two are doing, not who else in the world is in love with him. Work it out between the two of you. Just make sure you’re not projecting your own issues onto the relationship. You can work through your individual issues with him to some extent, but it’s got to be open and fair. Just communicate with each other, and things will work out how they may.



Reader P. C. writes:

I am realizing that I have always had an interest in polyamory. There are several things I am unclear on however. For instance, what is the difference between polyamory and just dating more than one person? What are some things to be leery of? How do you know you can hack it in a poly lifestyle? What is the best way to get over the jealousy? And any other advice you may have regarding the subject.

Dear P.C.:

I’m probably going to get a lot of flak from a lot of different people on all sides of the polyamory discussion by responding to your questions, but I’ll do my best.


Is polyamory right for you? Image: photostock /

First off, I want to say I don’t advocate any one lifestyle for anyone. I can’t say that polyamory is right for anyone, nor can I say that monogamy is right for anyone. Don’t take my advice as the end-all be-all of your romantic endeavors. I also can’t say that any one course for someone’s life will make them more happy or less happy. All relationships are work, whether they are polyamorous, monogamous, asexual, or something else entirely. Don’t think that by changing from one to the other you’re going to feel suddenly fulfilled or that all your relationships will be smooth from then on.

At the same time, you have to be true to yourself. Monogamy is considered the standard in our society (although few people appear to actually subscribe to it), and polyamory may sound like a lot of fun, or even a more honest way to live. But it may not be the lifestyle you fit into. Furthermore, you may be interested in polyamory not because you are polyamorous, but because you’ve had relationship issues that you’re just not interested in addressing for whatever reason. My number one advice in all this is listen to yourself.

Okay, now I’ll dive into answering your questions.

1. What is the difference between polyamory and just dating more than one person?

I would say the biggest difference is that while “dating more than one person”, the person still tends to have the goal of ending up with one person in the end; this is not the goal of polyamory. There may be other differences; for instance, polyamorous people tend to have one “home base” kind of lover (a person they live with or the person they’re “in love with”) that they report back to, and the other people that they are seeing fall on a different hierarchical level. If you’re just dating more than one person, you probably won’t tell the folks you’re dating about the other people you’re seeing.

There are different ways to be polyamorous, too. It’s an honest to goodness lifestyle, and it takes a lot of work, just as being monogamous does. Also, polyamory is not “a phase” you go through until you meet “the one”. Keep that in mind.

2. What are some things to be leery of in polyamory?

As I’ve mentioned above, avoid thinking that polyamory is a great respite from all that hard work of trying to be monogamous. Polyamory can be even harder than being monogamous, and not just because you’re less likely to find large groups of people or counselors ready to support your lifestyle and get you through the rough spots. There’s jealousy to deal with; there are preconceived notions and reactions you’ve got buried in your mind that you probably don’t even know are there; there’s the ability to find partners who are actually polyamorous as well… the list goes on.

I’d also say be careful of being taken advantage of, especially if you are a woman. As girls, we’re often pressured to participate in sexual ideologies we don’t necessarily buy into — like, that we’re all bisexual, or that we should be interested in pursuing sex as much as the guys we know are, or that we should want to get married and have babies eventually. Some of those may be true for you; some may not. Is there some pressure in your mind to participate in a polyamorous lifestyle that is not coming from your own belief that you may be polyamorous? Think about it and make sure.

3. How do you know you can hack it in a poly lifestyle?

I don’t really know how to answer this one. Let me put it to you this way: how do you know you can hack a monogamous lifestyle? You don’t know until you try. Also, polyamory doesn’t have the same defined edges as monogamy: in monogamy, if you’ve slept with more than one person [while in a committed relationship], you’ve failed. There isn’t a singular rule in polyamory, perhaps other than “be true to yourself”. And it’s pretty hard to decide when or if you’ve broken that rule.

Each polyamorous person (or couple, or group) sets his/her/its/their own rules. These rules can change.

I say if you’ve really thought about it, and FELT about it (love does not involve just your rational mind; your feelings are important here, too), and you have decided you may be polyamorous, the only thing to do is try it out.

Ask yourself this: Is my end goal to be with one single other person as a couple eventually? If the answer is yes, then you’re probably not really polyamorous.

4. What is the best way to get over jealousy?

The problem with jealousy and other feelings is that they’re feelings, and you’re probably always going to FEEL them. The issue isn’t that we have these feelings; the issue is what we do with them. My best advice for getting through jealousy is to sit with it, address it, and talk about it with the person(s) who is (are) making you feel jealous. I think the time span for this can be very long, and the “sit with it” and “address it” periods may take several hours or days. Write about it; sing about it; access the feeling in a way other than through your rational mind. Then talk about it with the person or people involved and see what comes out.

5. Any other advice?

I’ve recommended a lot of books in the past, most notably The Ethical Slut, for learning about polyamory and ways to deal with the big issues that arise if you decide to adopt the polyamorous lifestyle. You should get reading, get investigating, and get a group of people you can trust to talk to about this. Polyamory is a pretty big lifestyle change for most people, and not something you just kind of flit into.

Also, remember that you are allowed to go through phases in your life. You may not be interested in committing to one person right now, and that may not mean that you’re polyamorous — it may just mean you’re tired of relationships. Let yourself grow and change as you must. And if you try being polyamorous for a while and discover it’s not right, then stop.

My final note is that I don’t believe there’s any single type of sexuality or love or lifestyle that can define the different emotions and relationships we all go through in our lives. It may be easier to put labels on things, but in reality, your sexual style is your own, and calling it “monogamy” or “polyamory” doesn’t make it any less (or more) so.


how not to be a tease (for the ladies)

Reader F. T. writes:

There has been a rash of guys lately who told me I’ve been leading them on. I haven’t been dishonest with them, but apparently they’re getting the wrong idea. What should I do differently?

Dear F.T.:

As ladyfolk, we are often less direct than we probably ought to be, especially with the malefolk. It’s kind of a double-bind issue: we’re taught not to be demanding or rude, but then when we’re indirect, we get called out for being “passive-aggressive” or “leading someone on”. There’s a fine line between “nice” and “too nice”. Furthermore, we’re afraid of being “overly aggressive” or “unladylike”. This is why we often don’t get what we want.

My best advice: be direct with the men and they’ll appreciate it.

My next best advice: Trust your gut. Know what you want. Do not settle. Half the time, we’re being teases because we just can’t make up our minds. So make up your mind, lady. Do it.

Oh, sure, telling them you’re not interested will hurt their their feelings. But it won’t be a long, drawn-out affair, which is what leading someone on is all about. If you just tell them you’re not interested from the get-go, everyone will be better off in the long run.


Sometimes it's good to be a tease. Image: bk images /

Of course, I do understand that you may not know you’re not interested until you’re on the second or third date. I’ve been there. It happens. This why I advise that you drop him after the first date if there aren’t the sparks you’re looking for. Yes, some people have a longer courtship ritual than the rest of us, but that won’t stop chemistry from getting through, even if you’re not kissing or holding hands. As the cliché goes, you know when you know. If you don’t know, then it’s a no.

Here are a few examples of times you can stop yourself before things get too hairy:

Scenario 1: He wrote you a message on an online dating service. You go to his profile, and things look fine, but you find out he’s got some trait that is a dealbreaker for you (e.g. he smokes, he has kids, he plays MMORPGs, whatever it is you swore you would never date again).

DO: Write him back and tell him you’re sorry but you don’t think it’d work out. You don’t have to tell him why.

DO NOT: Write him back a really long, flirtatious email to get his interest going, and then end it with: “BUT this-trait-you-have is a dealbreaker for me, so sorry.”

DO NOT: Waver on your dealbreakers. Dealbreakers are black and white. They may change over time, but if you know you can’t stand a guy who smokes, don’t agree to go on a date with him just to remind yourself of that fact. That makes you a tease. Once again, if you know from the very beginning you’re not going to be interested in anything further with a guy, you are technically leading him on if you pretend it’s going to be okay. Trust your gut.

Scenario 2: He’s kissed you after a second date and you just didn’t feel it.

DO: Write him an email the next day thanking him for the nice time but telling him that you don’t think it’s going to work out.

DO NOT: Agree to a third date with him. Or agree to a date with him and then cancel later. Or agree to a third date and then let him kiss you goodnight again.

Scenario 3: You’re in a monogamous FWB relationship. You’re allowed to date other guys, but you’re probably not going to be sleeping with any of them.

DO: Tell your prospective dates that this is the case right off the bat. By not telling them, you’re being a bad polyamorist. The first tenet of true, ethical polyamory is complete disclosure with all involved parties.

DO NOT: Go on three dates with the guy, allow him to give you a massage, let him kiss you goodnight, and then tell him via IM the next day that you’re already getting all your sexual needs filled by someone else but thanks for dinner. I can almost guarantee that he will not be pleased.

Scenario 4: You’re at a bar or club and this dude you’re not into asks for your number.

DO NOT: Give him your number.

DO: Tell him you’re not interested. You can do this nicely. If he doesn’t get it, and bothers you, and is noticeably drunk, you have every right to ask a bouncer to help you tell him you’re not interested.
NB: I have in the past advocated getting a drink from him and THEN telling him you’re not interested. But if you’re working on not being a tease, I wouldn’t advocate this in your case. Remember: We’re trying to teach you how to be direct.

Scenario 5: After a few dates, you decide you’d really rather be friends.

DO: Tell him you would really rather be friends.

DO NOT: Expect him to be okay with this or want to talk to you ever again. If he falls off the face of the planet, let him go. Do not pester him or invite him to your next event or write stuff on his Facebook wall. Do not text him telling him how great you think he is. Leave him alone.

UPDATE: LAST SCENARIO: You’ve told a guy you’re not interested and he writes you a mean, nasty email telling you you’re ugly or stupid or whatever. Or he calls to beg for you back. Or any number of things he could do to try and save face.

DO NOT: Respond. Block him on the social networking sites you have if you have to. Do not answer his phone calls.

DO: Let him have the last word. You’re being a better person by not teasing, so don’t let him drag you down.

Now, dear readers, feel free to share your stories of being led on, and let us know how you dealt with it.


the half-age plus seven rule

Reader M. A. writes:

A friend of mine who is 40 is dating a girl who is 22. His friends (including myself) are all in our late 30s/early 40s, and while she’s pretty hot and smart, it still icks us out. Are we just a bunch of old fogies being jerks, or is he violating some rule by bringing this girl around?

Dear M.A.:

I’m going to state for the record that yes, you are an old fogey. And you may just be jealous that he can still score hot young chicks and you can’t. (Notice I’m not saying that women in their 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s can’t be smoking hot, please. ‘Cause I know plenty.)

But you’re also right. He is violating a rule. It’s not necessarily a rule he may know about, and there aren’t any laws about it, but it’s a pretty good rule I think many people follow, even unconsciously, as they decide who to date in life, and how not to be a creep.

So if we’re going to impose rules on our loving, then I guess the half-age plus seven rule is as good a rule to live by as any.

If you are incapable of clicking on that Wikipedia link, I’ll tell you the general premise:

It is acceptable to date anyone younger than you as long as they are no less than half your age plus seven years. On the flipside, it is acceptable for you to date anyone older than you as long as your age is at least half theirs plus seven years.

Make sense?


Yay math! Image:

So your friend is 40. According to our rule, his acceptable dating age range would be (40/2 + 7 =) 27 and older for the youngsters, and (40= x/2 + 7 (solve for x)…) 66 and younger for the older age of the spectrum. (Yes, I did have to pull out a sheet of paper and utilize my seventh grade algebra skills, so thanks, Mrs. Cook!)

Your friend is obviously dating someone who is five years too young for him, according to our rule. And if your friend believed in this rule, then you could ridicule him incessantly for breaking it.

According to this rule, your friend is a creep, and you guys have every right to be icked out by his relationship.

But if there’s one thing we all know we can’t control (maybe), it’s who we fall in love with. You can meet someone who’s practically perfect in every way on paper, and find there are no sparks off the page. And you can meet someone who is just clearly wrong for you and fall head over heels without warning. It’s all chemistry (plus good lighting and probably alcohol, in many cases), and there isn’t much anyone can do about it.

It’s possible he’s just dating this girl because she’s, ya’ know, hot. (The story goes that when Lauren Bacall started dating Humphrey Bogart, she was 19. He was 44. She told her mom, “He likes me! He really likes me!” And her mom said, “You’re 19. What’s not to like?”) In which case, it’ll fizzle out when she gets bored of his taste in music (“What, no Ke$ha?”) and he gets tired of her not getting his jokes. Possibly your teasing will help highlight to him the generational disparity in their tastes, and push the break up right along.

Or it’s possible they’re just one of those odd couples who are going to work out, regardless of generational differences or what the world thinks of them. In this case, you can make fun of your friend mercilessly, but that may just drive him closer to his newfound beloved. They may just start seeing themselves as a team — us against the world!

Like I’ve said before, you can’t tell someone who’s in love that you don’t like their beloved without endangering your friendship, so if he’s really sold on her, you’re just going to have to get used to it. Of course, if you think there’s anything to be concerned about (is he acting differently? dressing younger? not hanging out with his friends as much? doing things you don’t think he enjoys just to keep up with her?), let him know, even if it could mess up your friendship.

If this is just some weird crisis thing he’s going through (after a recent break up with a serious gf, perhaps? or a divorce? or the loss of a parent?), the whole relationship isn’t fair to the young lady, either. When a relationship isn’t right, sometimes we need our friends to pull us back to reality. He could use your help in this situation.

Otherwise, you could be a real pal and just watch as their relationship develops, and possibly get to know her. Maybe you’ll find she’s an old soul. And maybe you’ll get over the ick factor. If it’s meant to be, they’ll be together, whether you, the rules, or anything else likes it or not. And if it’s not meant to be, their relationship will end, possibly in a fireworks show, at which point you can thank them for the entertainment, at least.


the dreaded vday

Reader E. G. writes:

I’m the single girl yet again for Valentine’s Day this year. What’s the best way to get through the holiday without wanting to kill myself?

Dear E.G.:

arrow and heart

Sometimes we'd all like to murder Valentine's Day. Image: Idea go /

I have to throw it out there that I love Valentine’s Day, not because of the commercialized nonsense of it all or the chocolate or the flowers or whatever, but because it’s basically the first day of the year when you realize the sun has started to come back and is setting later. And that, my dear, is how I have come to cope with Valentine’s Day, whether I’m single or not.

What I’m saying is: you’ve got to reframe it. It seems like our society has given us two ways to look at Valentine’s Day. Either it’s a stress-inducing event for all couples to try and prove how they feel to each other and the world, or it’s a pity party for single people. Those are not the only options. You have to find a way to look at Valentine’s Day that suits your needs and doesn’t get you down. The world has made a holiday of it, but you can celebrate it for your own reasons. Think of Valentine’s Day as a celebration of love — all love, from familial to friendly to love of nature to love of whatever else — and couch it in your terms.

Some great ideas I have:

Show your love for humanity.

Make VDay a service day this year so you’re not thinking about how lonely you are. You could go all out and volunteer your evening at a homeless shelter. Or give blood at a local clinic. Imagine all the folks at “old folks homes” who happen to have lost their beloved, or perhaps never had one. They could use your love on a day like today. Take yourself outside of your head and put yourself to work for someone else.

Show your love for your friends and family.

Instead of focusing on your lack of a partner, rejoice in your friendships. Regardless of whether I’m single or not, I always try to send Valentine’s to a few of my friends, particularly anyone who’s been having a rough year. One year I sent hand-painted cards to all of my girlfriends, my sisters, and my mom. (Just the ladies!) I’ve sent flowers to friends who were bummed about being single. It doesn’t have to be heart-shaped or dipped in chocolate. Just show the people you love your appreciation for their existence. If you put some real time and effort into it, I promise you’ll be pleased at how well things turn out.

Show your love for nature.

Get out and hang with the trees and the birds, even if it is freezing out. Just get a little sunshine in and marvel at how this world works regardless of human intervention. It’ll get your mind off the goopy gunk going on in the commercial world. Remind yourself that a commercial holiday has nothing to do with your worth as a person.

Show your love for yourself.

Take yourself out for a treat. Get a facial and a massage, or get your toenails done. Get a new haircut. Buy yourself the flowers you want or a new piece of jewelry you’d like to have. Remember that being in a couple isn’t all fun and games, especially not on pressure-filled Valentine’s Day. Revel in the fact that you’re not expected to get anyone a present or enjoy their company on this day. You’re free to do whatever you want with yourself.

Enjoy the longer days and the love for things other than commercial romance you already have in your heart. That’s what makes VDay livable, in my opinion.


how many is too many

Reader L. S. writes:

How many sexual partners is too many?

Dear L.S.:

Now there’s a question asking for judgment if I’ve ever heard/read one.

I’m going to take the grand old cop out on this one: Your personal sleep number is yours, and only you can determine how many partners is “too many” for you.

“Too many” is a very relative term. For many people, two partners is “too many”. For some others, hundreds might not be enough. Unfortunately, you may not know how many is “too many” until you’ve passed your limit. So perhaps you should decide before you start sleeping around if you’re ready to do so.

So how will you know what your personal sleep level is before you hit it?

Know thyself, amigo.

flames of love

If you are on fire, you may have had too many sexual partners. Image: Filomena Scalise /

Sex in our culture is chock-full of politics, religion, social pressure, and mixed cultural expectations. There’s a virgin-whore dichotomy for the ladies, and a stud-asshole complex for the gents. Depending on your social circle, you can be equal parts pariah and god(dess) for sleeping with fewer or more people.

My very first recommendation is to keep your decision to yourself, or at least to a very select few trusted advisors and friends. While I think we should keep our noses out of other peoples’ sexual business, this is not, unfortunately, how most of the country feels. Frankly, your sex life is nobody’s business but yours and your partners’. Don’t give the crazies the satisfaction of knowing what to label you if they feel the need to judge.

Next up, really think about it. How much do you care about a religion or other social order having a say in your sexual partnerships? If you are firmly of the belief that sleeping with someone you’re not married to is a sin in a higher being’s eyes, then you should probably not do it. Easier said than done for many, of course, but I think that feeling guilty about sex is quite possibly one of the worst things you can do to yourself, not to mention your partner(s). Search your soul on this one. While many people may not believe this, there are people in the world who go their entire lives with only one sexual partner. I can assure you it is usually a very conscious decision to do so.

If you don’t care so much about religious or social stigma, consider your own level of maturity on the issue, both emotionally, physically, and mentally. Are you prepared to deal with jealousy? Are you prepared to deal with STIs and safer sex? Do you believe monogamy is a virtue? Do you value quality vs. quantity? Do you get attached easily?

To be totally honest, I don’t think most people are capable of setting a number for themselves and saying, “Nope, no more, I’m not going to have sex with one more person.” For people who aren’t committed completely to abstinence until marriage, sexual partners tend to appear naturally. I know a few of my friends who would definitely wish for more sexual partners, too.

But you’ve got to watch out for your heart. The truth is that while monogamy may not be for everyone, “no strings attached” sex doesn’t work for everybody, either. In fact, I’d say it doesn’t work for a majority of people, regardless of how much they wish it would. Be honest to yourself.

If you feel like you’ve had “too many” sexual partners, slow down and ask yourself what it is that you’re going through. Are you caving to someone else’s demands for sex, rather than listening to your own needs? Are you trying to find validation in sex? Sometimes a bit of forced chastity can clear your head.

Otherwise, my call on this is that nobody can decide how many sexual partners is “too many” except yourself.

So there.

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