Archive for the 'romance' Category


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.


romantic comedies

Reader O. B. writes:

I am a highly educated, intelligent, independent, successful, takes-shit-from-nobody woman. I wouldn’t say I’m a feminist, but I do agree with a lot of feminist ideals, and one of the things I find ridiculous is the obsession with romantic love and marriage that we girls are subjected to. That said, I am often completely overwhelmed by a need to watch a romantic comedy. What is wrong with me?

Dear O.B.:

There is nothing wrong with you!

Romantic comedies are like candy. In fact, that is a perfect metaphor, the more I think about it. Like candy, these movies are made exactly to speak to the parts of you that want indulgence, fantasy, and sweetness. They’re crafted to appeal to you, even though you know they’re not good for you.

And, actually, sometimes they are good for you. Just like a really good piece of chocolate (hand-crafted, high enough cocoa content, possibly from Europe) can bring you health benefits, so, too, can a good romantic comedy.

Sometimes, they just own us. Image: porbital /

But I know you’re not talking about the hand-crafted, high-cocoa-content European romantic comedies. (No, I don’t know what a high-cocoa-content would be in a movie, sorry.) You’re not even talking about the John Cusack comedies from the 80’s, which are like those Dove chocolate squares. You’re talking about peanut M&Ms. You’re talking about those new romantic comedies that are mass-produced, totally predictable, full of A-listed-yet-talentless celebrities with two-dimensional characters, and somehow even more poorly-written and -directed than the buddy comedies that our boyfriends also fall prey to.  (And yeah, I fall prey to those suckers, too. Sometimes they’re cross-over buddy comedy/romantic comedy, like “Wedding Crashers” or even “Bridesmaids”. Man, are those ever bad news!)

Yeah, we can all admit they’re bad, the same way Halloween candy is bad.

But I think it’s okay to want to watch a stupid movie from time to time, even if it’s a stupid movie that reinforces some sort of stereotype (like, “all women want to get married to prince charming and have babies”). Your brain needs some time off from all that ass-kicking you do in your regular life. Fantasy is great from time to time, just like chocolate. As long as you don’t overindulge.

Yes, sure, someone who lives in a fantasy world has got problems. If all you did was watch romantic comedies and mourn how unlike a romantic comedy your life is, I’d say you have a real problem.

But I think just the fact that you’re aware these cravings aren’t terribly healthy for you means you’re probably more capable of handling it than, say, someone who’s watching romantic comedies because she feels part of her life isn’t going well. A lot of people find solace in movies rather than fixing what’s wrong in their own lives. Not that I have any scientific evidence of this, I’ve just watched TV and movies be soma for so many of my friends and family members.

So go see a stupid romantic comedy once in a while, or read a book that doesn’t have any edifying social value. It’s okay. We’re all allowed a guilty pleasure from time to time.


flying the freak flag

Reader S. E. writes:

I’m a polyamorous bisexual who is part of a few S&M and swingers groups in my hometown, but I’m not out at work or with my family. I’ve started trying online dating recently, and I’m wondering just how far I should let my freak flag fly on these kinds of sites?

Dear S.E.:

Blank for now

Keep the flag blank til they need to know otherwise. Image: Rawich /

While online dating is generally totally anonymous — you don’t use your real name on the site, and smart people don’t use a name that could be tracked back to their email address, etc., — your pictures are up there, and anyone with access to the site can see them. In a huge town like New York or LA, this is no big deal — there are literally hundreds of thousands of people on the site and people who know you have a slim chance of finding you without searching for your exact name.

However, in a town like, say, Albuquerque, things are a bit different. There aren’t that many people in the town to begin with, and the few who are on dating sites are very likely people you live and work with (if you happen to live and work with single young professionals, especially). And there’s a pretty good chance they’ll see your pictures and your information before you even know they’ve clicked through.

If you’re not out to those people, they could have quite a surprise waiting for them online. And so could you.

The fact that you’re not really open about your sexual orientation or preferences at work or in your family life may be a tip that this is something you should keep somewhat private on the dating site, but be prepared to discuss it early in the relationship. Don’t fly the flag on your dating profile, but pack it along on your date.

On the other hand, it sucks to get on a first date and have them spring something like that on you. (Worse if it’s a second or third date and you’re starting to get attached.) While most people probably can’t even qualify their sexual preferences, people who are poly and bi tend to know a bit better than anyone else, so you already know what you want, and if the other person can’t provide it, it’d be nice to know that from the get-go. I’m pretty sure a monogamous, straight-only person would probably want to know the same about you before jumping in, too.

Yes, it’s true that online dating sites are supposed to weed out the people who don’t fit your criteria so you never even see them (and they don’t see you). But in small(er) towns, and on small sites, that tends not to be the case.  You’ll see people who don’t even come close to having the same interests as you (sexually, artistically, or even professionally), but someone’s gotta’ fill up that space on your page, so here they are. And of course, they’re seeing you, too. So in this scenario, you’re basically outing yourself (and all your fun preferences) to people you have a great likelihood of running into on the street even if you don’t agree to meet beforehand.

Sexual preference is something between you and whatever partner(s) you choose to have, not strangers on a dating website who can leak your secrets to your professional world. If it’s at all a concern to you, I say keep it under wraps until you meet someone who, you know, needs to know.

Also, there are online dating sites that cater to swingers, S&M, and polyamorous people. Just by being on those sites you’d be flying the freak flag to a group of people who fly the same flag, so that covers all those bases. Again, those sites are going to cater to a very small group of people in smaller towns, and to some extent they’ll probably be the people you already know, but at least you don’t have to explain who you are (or aren’t) to a complete stranger every single time you meet up.


flash cards for failing boyfriends

Reader S. R. writes:

My boyfriend doesn’t seem to understand what it is that I need him to do when I’m sad, or emotional, or PMSy, or whatever. Usually he does exactly what I don’t want him to do. What should I do?

Dear S.R.:

I have made some handy flashcards for you! Or, well, at least some handy slogans you can print on flashcards and give to your boyfriend. This way when you act in a certain way, he will know what to do. Set aside some study time each night and use the flash cards so he can memorize the proper reaction and won’t have to pull them out when one of these situations arises (although that could be a last resort if he can’t remember).

study hard

All these couples are studying hard! Image: photostock /

The “Situation” goes on the front of the card; the “Response” and “Bad Response” go on the back. Bad response is probably what he’s already doing. Your responses may be different from mine, so feel free to get creative and write your own.

Situation: GF is crying.

Response: Hold her and don’t say anything.

Bad Response: Leave the room, especially with a frustrated sigh.

Situation: GF is overly emotional/freaking out/bitching.

Response: Just sit and listen until she wears down (which she will); then suggest something fun to do together (see a movie, take a walk).

Bad Response: Tell her she’s overreacting.

Situation: GF can’t sleep.

Response: Turn on an old movie and hold her ’til she falls asleep.

Bad Response: Fall asleep on your own, whether she can or not.

Situation: Girlfriend is complaining about PMS or her period.

Response: Buy her chocolate or flowers and tell her it’s a celebration of NOT BEING PREGNANT! YAY (unless you’re trying to get pregnant, in which case… well.. that’s another advice column).

Bad Response: Make fun of her womanhood or talk about how gross it is.

Situation: GF says she’s feeling fat.

Response: Kiss her, hard.

Bad Response: Recommend some exercises she could do or say, “Of course, you just ate that whole cheesecake!”

Situation: GF is frustrated with her wardrobe and can’t find anything to wear.

Response: Pull out your favorite dress from her closet and insist that she wear it for you.

Bad Response: Go play a video game.

Situation: GF has sent you a text message/called you/IMed you.

Response: Respond to all communication as soon as you possibly can. Even if it’s just, “Busy now, more later.”

Bad Response: Ignore it/forget about it. Because that’s what she’ll do to you sooner or later. 

My basic point here is that boys (okay, hell, anyone you’re in a relationship with — girls, too!) need direct instruction a lot of the time, and assuming he’s just magically going to know what you want is not going to work. You have specific needs; if he’s not fulfilling them, he needs to be told what you need.

Yes, there are things that a good BF (for you) would know or like automatically (you probably ought to have similar interests to begin with), but you can’t blame him for doing stuff wrong if you haven’t ever corrected him. Being in a relationship starts with chemistry, but staying in a relationship requires work.

Often, women are more intuitive than men when it comes to knowing what the other person wants (or so they think — it may just be that men are less choosy and/or basically just want sex), so don’t be surprised if you have to do a little teacher-student role-playing. That could add some fun in the bedroom, too. Hm.

If you want to be super fair, have a discussion with him about things you’re not doing right. Be prepared for total honesty. You can’t expect him to make mindful changes to his automatic reactions if you’re not willing to make a few yourself.


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.


initiating a threesome

Reader S. R. writes:

I want to have a threesome with my girlfriend. How can I initiate this?

Dear S.R.:

The first rule about threesomes is: YOU DO NOT TALK ABOUT THREESOMES.

Okay, that’s not really true, but the fact is, if you ask your girlfriend directly to have a threesome with you, you are very likely going to get a drink thrown in your face.

So my advice is that you wait for her to bring it up as her own idea.

yeah right

See? Her idea. And he's not happy about it. Image: graur codrin /

Of course, you can plant the seed in her brain and let it take root. Ask your girlfriend if she’s ever considered a threesome before. Gauge what she thinks about it.

Note that by suggesting you want a threesome, you could really hurt your girlfriend’s feelings. She may wonder if you don’t think she’s enough for you. And if you are a complete idiot and say you’d love to have a threesome with one of her friends, she will never ever trust you ever again. You’d basically be saying that you check out her friends when she’s around, and that is a huge no no.

Not everyone is open to that kind of sexuality. In fact, from my highly scientific IM research, most of my friends are generally opposed to it. Even the dudes. The most common answer to my scientific study via IM (“Would you ever participate in a threesome?”) was: it depends. Most of my friends who would be willing to participate in a threesome would only be willing to do so if it was with two people they’d never have to see again (i.e. not your girlfriend or boyfriend). And many of my friends said flat out that they don’t like to “share”. Furthermore, the ones who have done it say they’d probably never do it again.

As I’ve mentioned time and time again, not everyone is cut out to be polyamorous. It sounds fun and exotic, until you get down to how much hard work it really is. Dealing with feelings of jealousy and inadequacy and feeling like you’re comparing yourself to someone is really difficult. And don’t forget the awkward mechanics of a first threesome. It may just be a total bust.

You’ve also got to consider that she may not be into girls, if that’s what you’re thinking. Most of my girlfriends would only participate in a 2 guys, 1 girl kind of set up. So what if your gf only agreed to a threesome with another guy? How would you feel about that?

If you do find out that she’s open to having a threesome, remember that most of the time, these sorts of things have to be totally organic. Scheduling a threesome takes all the fun out of it, unless you’re going to join a swingers club or make this a regular part of your lifestyle. You can post an ad on Craigslist that you and your gf are looking for a third, but don’t be surprised if you get a lot of unsavory responses.

If you’re going to have a threesome without pre-arranging it or hiring someone to join in, you’re going to need to be in a setting where it’s probably going to happen. Your best bet is to play spin the bottle with a group after a night of drinking at a house party somewhere. Or something like that. The point is, don’t force anything. Let it happen. If your girlfriend wants to make out with another girl (or guy), then encourage it. You may find at the moment of truth that you’re too jealous to go through with it. Again, let her initiate it,

But realize that really desperately wanting a threesome is the worst thing you can do to yourself. The more you want it, the less likely it is to happen, and the less likely it is to be enjoyable if it does happen. And if your girlfriend isn’t open to it, you can get yourself in a whole lot of trouble.


christmas hints

Reader M. T. writes:

As a woman, I make a study of my awesome man’s needs and get him the most appropriate thing(s) for his birthday or Christmas. He of course loves it, but he skips out on reciprocating and makes up for it with a nice dinner. In the past I’ve talked him into buying me something sexy, so he gets a benefit too, yeah – he likes it… But bottom line, I’m telling him what to get me. Those two times a year I would love to be surprised with something he took time to think about that fits me and my needs to a tee. Since he’s generous, protective, responsible and sensitive to me, should I just let this go? Or is there a way he could learn to gift to me that would boost both of our good feelings about ourselves and our relationship?

Dear M.T.:

It sounds like you have a wonderful relationship, so congrats.

One thing about wonderful relationships is that we forget that they can evolve and change, and that there is always room for improvement. Asking your significant other to try something new is not a sign that your relationship is falling apart, or that you should break up, or anything like that. In fact, introducing new aspects to an old relationship can bring back the spice, if you know what I’m saying. It’s part of intimacy — sharing and growing together.

a surprise

What could it be?? Image: Suat Eman /

I think you should talk to your man about how you’d like to be surprised. Do it gently, of course — assure him that you love the dinners and you love him and you don’t want him to change (just his Christmas process). Tell him that you would just like him to try surprising you, maybe even just this once, for Christmas or your birthday. Tell him he’s known you long enough to take a stab at what you’d like without you having to tell him, and that you’ll like whatever he gets you.

And of course, then you really do have to like whatever he gets you.

Encourage him to go on impulse when he’s out shopping for you. Tell him just to get the first thing that comes to mind and surprise you with it. If you want to be extra nice, you could drop hints the week beforehand, such as: “Wow, those rings at that store are gorgeous.” OR “You know, I still don’t own a red lace bra.” True, you’re technically telling him what you want, although it’s less direct than telling him “Go to Victoria’s Secret and get me the Very Sexy Push Up Bra in a 36C.”

Buying gifts can be a stressful experience. As I’ve said before, we buy gifts for people because we think we know them and want to show this off. He may not be confident in his gift-buying abilities, and you’re going to have to convince him that those abilities are good enough for you, regardless of how he uses them.

Furthermore, if there’s any kind of financial strain going on in his world, you should take great pains to empathize and let him know it’s the thought that counts. He may have been dodging the present-buying bullet because he doesn’t feel he could get you a present worth as much in money as he feels you’re worth in love (or something similarly corny, sorry). If he can’t get you anything more than a ring from a Cracker Jack box, you should take it with a grain of salt. (And FYI – rings from Cracker Jack boxes are extremely romantic, especially if you’ve seen “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”.)

He may have any number of reasons for not getting you surprise presents in the past. But, just like with other relationship things (like sexual preferences), talking about it can only increase your intimacy.

Remember, he may have no clue that this is bothering you. In fact, he will probably be completely and totally surprised that you feel shortchanged by his lack of gift-giving. Make sure you’re not accusatory when you bring it up. Use “I feel” statements, not “you never” statements. This is, technically, you’re problem. If he had a problem with it, he’d be trying to change it.

And you should also keep in mind that he may never learn the skill of gift buying. He might be willing to try it once because you ask him to, but he may never be able to come up with ideas on his own. Some people just aren’t gifters.

Therein lies what is probably my best advice in this matter:

I may have mentioned this before, but there is some theory out there somewhere (told to me and a group of impressionable teenagers by a youth pastor at some point) that human beings show love in one of several ways: spending time, acts of service, physical love, talking, and/or gift-giving. So people who show love by spending time will just show up and hang out with you, or make plans to do so. People who are talkers will call you. People who do service will unload your dishwasher or rake your lawn.

On the flip side, these people will also think you love them if you do their love-show right back.

It’s a nice idea to observe your partner and figure out how he shows his love, because that is how he will understand love from you, too. It sounds to me like he’s a time-spender/service-type (hence the nice dinners). He may also be a physical type. (NB: “sex” is not the same as  “physical love” in this sense — physical affection types are the ones who give and receive hugs openly and love holding hands, etc. Most men like sex. That doesn’t mean they all interpret physical affection as love. And neither do all women.) So keep in mind that while you interpret giving gifts to him as a show that you’ve been paying attention and love him, he may not interpret it in the same way.

Suggest to him that you two can learn to show love for each other in different ways. You’re a gift-giver and therefore a gift-receiver, so it means a lot to you to get surprises. He’s a time-spender, so it means a lot to him to plan things together, and you’re willing to do more of that if need be.

If you two can both study each other’s methods of showing affection and try to craft your own skills to match your partner’s, you’ll be in good shape. Better shape, I should say, since you’re already in good shape.

Just make sure it’s not a one-sided attempt at improvement, or one or the other of you is going to get resentful at having to do all the work.


moving in

Reader D. M. writes:

I’ve been with my boyfriend for six months. His lease is coming up due in a few weeks and he has told me that if we get a lease together somewhere he won’t renew the lease and will instead live with me somewhere else. I live with my parents right now and would love to move out. Living with my BF would be easier than living alone (I can’t afford that) and way better than having roommates. But is it too soon for me to move in with him?

Dear D.M.:

Moving in with your BF/GF is a pretty common occurrence for our generation. In fact, according to the Wall Street Journal, fewer of those of us who are 25-34 are married than have never been married. “They” think it’s because of the economy, and we’re putting off marriage until we’re more stable. Whatever the reason, living with your SigO is apparently almost the norm these days.

That said… just because it’s perhaps a sound financial decision and “everybody else is doing it”,  I’m not saying you and your boyfriend should just jump in here. There’s a lot to consider about living with each other, especially if it’s the first time you’ve lived with a boyfriend.

The difference between having a roommate and living with a significant other has to do with how much you mix your stuff. Living with a BF means you (typically) sleep in the same bed, split the food bills, and mix your CD collections together. Whereas with a roommate you keep your own stuff in your own space (most of the time), living with a lover is a much more intimate relationship.

sharing a home

Image: Filomena Scalise /

And there’s also the consideration of what happens when/if you split up Breaking up with someone you live with is much more like a divorce than breaking up with someone who has his or her own space. Also, you don’t have the legal protections marriage provides if you just live with someone (although if you live together long enough, there’s common law to consider), so you’ll have to do your own mediating when it comes to splitting the stuff you owned mutually.

Also, I think when you live with someone you’re in a sexual relationship with, a lot of rules are thought to be implicit, whereas with a roommate, you’ll actually have conversations to set up rules and regulations. A lot of times in relationships, we take it for granted that the other person knows us well enough to understand what we need or want. This is rarely the truth. In this sense, living with your significant other can be a lot harder than living with a roommate.

I’m not sure if how long you’ve been together is an accurate gauge of whether or not it’s a good idea for you two to live together. We all know stories about people who have fallen in love in a flash and stuck with it, and people who have been together for decades still break up. It depends on your relationship.

There, then, is what you have to weigh. Regardless of how long you’ve been together, moving in with him will most likely prolong your relationship, because even if things go sour, it’s really difficult to break up with someone you live with. I have watched plenty of ladies stay in relationships with boys they weren’t necessarily in love with anymore just because it would be too inconvenient to move out.

In my eyes, if you have this kind of uncertainty about the move, you’re probably not ready to move in with him. Honestly, if you have to ask an advice columnist if it’s “too soon”… It’s probably too soon.

Why not find a roommate on Craigslist and try that for a while before you move in with your boyfriend?

And one final word: I don’t think moving in with a BF/GF is ever a good idea if you don’t feel capable of standing on your own two feet financially. You don’t ever want to be in a situation where you are relying on a significant other for your food, housing, or any other mainstays. It just makes the relationship that much more complicated. Trust me on this one.


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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