Open up before relationship shuts down


April 10, 1994|By SUSAN DIETZ | SUSAN DIETZ,Los Angeles Times Syndicate

Q: I'm 18 and engaged to a man who lives a state away. We've known each other seven years and have lived apart for nearly a year. We've seen each other a couple of times since I moved; we talk rarely, and I'd like to change that, but when we do talk it's very close and gut-level.

We love each other a lot and dream about the time when we'll be together. Two weeks ago we talked about having sex with other people; I haven't done it, but he has. (The girl he slept with doesn't care about him and he feels the same.) We both agreed to this openness, but I changed my mind about being OK with it.

I don't know whether my discomfort with openness comes from a feeling of inadequacy; we both know what we have and these are probably last-ditch experiments. The trust in an open relationship is a nice ideal, but it's not making me feel OK in practice.

I'm sure the monogamy of marriage is a little scary to him, a man in his sexual prime. But why do I feel so shaky?

A: Your shakiness is a mix of anger and confusion, a combination that's a time bomb on its way to shattering the golden relationship you have with your fiance.

The remedy? Stop shaking and start sharing your feelings: Make your discomfort known. That is the sort of openness that bonds people and is called candor; the kind he favors is destructive and in the end only erodes all that has been built between them. Speak up. Being open now could prevent the relationship from being shut down forever.

Q: You asked for ideas for a screenplay about single life. I would most certainly include the lie of "safe sex," given the failure rate of condoms. Yes, I suggest including mention of the singles dying of AIDS because they believed a condom protected them from the virus. I'd also include singles who become pregnant using a condom, and the struggles of raising a child

alone and/or the heartbreak of abortion.

I'd like to present the joys of those singles who saved themselves for their marriage partner.

A: Abstinence before marriage was a radical option during the '70s (some readers howled when I reminded them that true sexual freedom included the right to refuse sexual activity), and now that we've come to a time of sexual fear, it is looking better all the time.

The letters that came in response to my essay on abstinence were most impressive and convincing; compared to the outpourings of casual-sex casualties, they become even more meaningful.

Q: Not all men you meet are honest about their marital status, especially when you are dealing with a long-distance relationship and it is not easy to confirm it. Two years ago I met a man who said he'd never been married; I've never met any of his family or close friends because of the distance, but in the past year I've heard rumors he may be married and now separated.

I can't get the truth.

A: You know the truth; instinct and intuition say it every time you think about this man. Trust them, and raise the issue with him the next time you speak with him. Nagging suspicion never did anything positive for a relationship. Get the doubts off your mind and clear the air.

Consider telling him of a rumor you've heard, and let him take it from there. My money's on your gut feeling.

Q: Single senior women share many problems with younger females, yet their world is complicated further by fears and loneliness that make them more vulnerable to the pain (and occasional joys) they face daily.

Personally, I am a very busy, involved woman who doesn't sit back and wait for life to lighten up. But it is a chore to be faced every single morning when I rise: what to do, where to go, whom to be with? Leisure time is spent mostly with other widows at dinners, movies, meetings, sports activities. But there are few opportunities to meet decent, still-presentable men; men without potbellies and sagging knees are rare.

I've belonged to two dating services, suing one in Small Claims Court for being a rip-off, only to learn they disappeared. The second dating service, a large and well-known group, offered me the world for my large fee but gave me nada.

Ads that I answer (and even place) have produced the dregs, making me sadder rather than more fulfilled. What I do after meeting the gentleman (?) is to write a short tale of the occasion. So far, each experience has been very upsetting, but once I get my laments on paper I can read the episode and laugh.

A: Laughing at the twists and turns of your dating life is the remedy for the blues that threaten to come to call. There is no way to prevent disappointment if you're out there involved and active, but you've discovered a fail-safe approach: Put it in black and white.

Writing lifts the spirits, gets the creative juices flowing and puts distance between you and the less-than-spectacular evening. Hope your idea gets readers to start a Dating Diary they can read to grandchildren as they journey through the single world. Keeping a sense of humor means keeping perspective on the trip. Isn't that the bottom line?

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