Q: The major stumbling block in my relationship to "Dave," and the reason for my reluctance to commit to marry him, is sex. He feels that sex is unimportant and something of a chore. At 51, I heartily disagree. We make love once or twice a month, and he is very happy with that arrangement.
I, on the other hand, believe that sex is an integral part of a relationship, an integral part of life. My sexuality is a source of energy, optimism and enthusiasm. I have discussed this with him, but mostly his response is sympathy for me because he thinks it must be terrible to be "oversexed and so dependent on base, animal responses."
We are very compatible in other areas, and I feel caught between the fear of growing older alone and the fear of giving up a part of life that can be so rewarding. I had almost convinced myself that the trade-off would be worth it, until I ended up in the arms of an old friend recently. I feel terrible for being unfaithful, but it made me see that this unhealthy balance had started making me feel old and unattractive.
Should I insist on counseling? For him? For me? Or should I consider the death of sex an acceptable loss in return for an otherwise wonderful partner? Could a 47-year-old man find enthusiasm for something he's always disdained? What are your thoughts?
A: Counseling is not the answer because the gap in the relationship is too wide to be breached. Every relationship requires compromise and trade-offs, because none comes perfectly formed to fit both partners' needs. But to squelch something so basic to your well-being, so much a part of your psyche and so central to your happiness, would be not only a wrong decision but a dangerous one. Sex is a form of communication, and when the priorities do not match in a couple, serious resentment -- even physical deterioration -- can result. Your recent affair proved all that beyond a shadow of a doubt. Your hunger proved too much to deny, and it certainly would not lessen with marriage to this man. Some trade-offs make sense. Not this one.
Q: I've been seeing "Ray" for about three months; we met at the end of a local dance. There has been no sex, just very nice dates to the movies, dinner and dancing. The problems are 1) Ray has no home telephone. When I asked why, he said he ran up the phone bill. 2) Ray is not married but has had a girlfriend for some time now. I was given this news by his buddy. 3) Ray says I can't come over to his house because . . .
My girlfriend says to stick it out, people change. I told her no way. She thinks I have a chance. I say I'm in a no-win situation and can only get burned.
Susan, need I say more?
A: You said it all after problem No. 1! For all intents and purposes, Ray is functionally married, and you represent a night out with his cheating heart, to prove to himself that he's still wild and free and desirable. Better check on your friend, because her advice is way off base and could only bring hurt and pain to you. Instead, rely on your instincts; they are on target. Run for your life.
+ Los Angeles Times Syndicate