Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.
June 22 2006 6:55 AM

No Satisfaction

I want a sexual relationship that my boyfriend doesn't—what should I do?

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Dear Prudence,
I have been seeing the most delightful man for eight months. We are together every day, and have dinner either at his house or mine every night. A month ago, he went with me to my home state for my daughter's graduation. He's the sort of person everyone likes and wants to be around. When we first started seeing each other, he made it very clear that he was not interested in a sexual relationship. He is 55 and I am 62. He is gorgeous and I am a little less than that! I want the relationship to move forward, but I do not know how to do this without becoming extremely vulnerable. It would crush me if I made the advance and he turned it down. He says he is impotent, and I believe that he truly believes he will never have sex again. Should I just force myself to forget it? I know he could do things that would help with erectile dysfunction, and we've talked about it. I never initiate those talks—he does, but he always drifts off to another subject very quickly, as if he can't discuss it. I would go the rest of my life this way before I would humiliate him.

—Wanting a Touch

Dear Wanting,
Take your boyfriend by the hand (if he allows that much contact), sit him down, and tell him your feelings are such that you need to know what's going on. Maybe he has been so embarrassed by impotence or has such a low sex drive that he gave up trying long ago. If so, there is a world of new treatments he could explore. Tell him you would be happy to look into this together. He might have nonstandard genitals; he could be a transsexual; possibly he's gay; maybe he's the 55-year-old virgin. Think through how you would react to any of these situations—you want to do him the favor of not appearing shocked. If he can't say the words himself, ask about the above possibilities—it might be easier for him to say, "Yes, that's it." If he wants to keep things as they are, you have to decide if you can be happy in a platonic relationship now that you know the reason. Or you could reassure him you can accept physically whatever you uncover; there are many ways to sexually satisfy each other. But explain that it is too difficult for you to have such an emotional connection without better understanding why there's no physical one.

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—Prudie

Dear Prudie,
Two years ago, I married a great guy who has two preteen stepdaughters and a nasty ex-wife. They live 500 miles away. We see my stepdaughters one weekend a month and on holidays. My husband's relationship with the ex is not good. Once a year, they argue bitterly through lawyers about child support. We pay a king's ransom. The ex sends gifts to all of my husband's relatives each Christmas and at birthdays, though they had agreed in their divorce settlement not to contact each other's relatives. My husband has asked her numerous times to stop contacting his family. This woman is a nasty, manipulative, dishonest person who has sought at times to break us up and at other times to poison my stepkids against their dad. A year ago, my husband and I had a baby. The ex sent a gift for her birth, for Christmas, and her first birthday. I can't send the gifts back because my older stepdaughter hand-delivers them, then asks excitedly when they can be opened. I don't want my daughter to expect gifts from this woman, have to write thank-you notes to her, or even know this woman by name. Should I ask her to stop sending gifts to my child?

—Address Unknown

Dear Unknown,
"This woman" is the mother of your daughter's sisters. When your daughter gets old enough to want to understand her family, are you going to explain to her that her sisters live with someone named "This Woman"? You may hate her, but you're not going to completely get her out of your life, and you're letting yourself be driven crazy by the fact that she sends presents. So what if she's in contact with her former in-laws, who remain the relatives of her two daughters? Unless she's sending your baby toxic teething rings (or Trojan horses), it sounds as if she is giving her daughters a way to feel excited about being part of the life of their new sibling. As for the "king's ransom" in child support, that's what it takes to raise two children whose father sees them rarely, and your husband is morally and legally obligated to pay. You have a happy marriage, a beautiful baby, and two sweet stepdaughters. Stop dwelling on "this woman" and be glad for your good fortune.

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—Prudie

Dear Prudence,
How do you put an office busybody in her place without hurting her feelings and harming the working relationship? We have a recent college graduate working as an assistant in our office. While she is a very pleasant young girl, she is very annoying. She constantly chimes in on private conversations, looks over your shoulder at computer monitors to see who you are writing to and what the content of the e-mail or letter is, and listens to phone conversations and then makes comments on everything. If you are in a private conversation with another co-worker, she will actually leave her work space, walk to your area or office if the door is open, and join in on the conversation. Everyone who works with her is irritated by her. What to do?

—Bugged

Dear Bugged,
You have a chance to do a huge favor for someone just starting her professional life. It sounds like Ms. Busybody is both a natural snoop and trying to make herself seem more grown-up. In a friendly though professional way, you need to set her straight. Arrange for a private talk, praise her for whatever it is she does well, then tell her that she needs to correct something in her office manners. Explain that she is making everyone uncomfortable by joining in private conversations, listening in on phone conversations, and looking at other's e-mail. Say that since she's just starting her career it's important for her to learn to respect her colleagues' personal and professional privacy. If that doesn't cut back on the surveillance, arrange a group intervention.

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—Prudie

Dear Prudence,
I am a college girl. I've been with my current boyfriend for approximately two years and have never dreamed of cheating or imagined breaking up. I find him very attractive and funny, but I do not find our conversations very stimulating. While I was at a special program, I met someone that fit all three of those interests. It started as a simple friendship, but recently I've found myself thinking about him more and more. He appears to be doing the same. I don't want to leave the man I've been committed to for so long based solely on a crush that could easily fade. Another problem is that this new man is a professor (at a different school than the one I attend—he lives in the same town, though) and is much older than I am—so much so that I know my family and friends would probably faint from shock. Is this just a schoolgirl crush or should I turn my life upside-down to pursue something that may never exist?

—Having a Crush

Dear Crush,
No, you should go through life with your nice, though dull, boyfriend because (oops, I don't know how to end this sentence). Even if nothing happens with the professor, he has made you realize what it feels like to connect to someone on another level than you are connecting with your boyfriend. Opening your eyes to the world's possibilities is one of a professor's jobs, after all. It may be inappropriate for this professor to date any undergraduate (and is he 30 or 50?), but you should pay heed to your feelings that you may be settling for something less than you need. Since you describe yourself as a "girl," why is it so impossible to imagine that you would want to be with someone other than the guy you met when you were a teenager? Your boyfriend sounds like a decent person, so do the decent thing: Tell him you want to date other people.

—Prudie