I've had the same boyfriend for six years. He claims he loves me, but refuses to get married. How is this possible? He is sweet, but we have very little (if any) sex. The last time was three months ago. It's been like that since year two of the relationship. I'm also paying for more than half of everything. Do you think he's just using me?--Under-satisfied
Despite valiant efforts by those who make commercials showing bonfires coming out of people's toes, nobody cares if you have athlete's foot. That's probably because it's called "athlete's foot," not "deadly athlete's foot." Sadly, the standard for concern about a medical condition has always been in danger of becoming clinically dead, not merely irritated to death. It's why people sprint across restaurants to bear-hug chicken bones out of choking victims, but never to tear the ugly off a fashion victim (any girl wearing cargo pants and stiletto heels). Still, it seems only fair, if you had a big green thing stuck between your teeth during a romantic dinner, that paramedics would rush to your side with dental floss -- just like they'd rush over with electroshock paddles if you had a big gob of something stuck in your heart.
If only the relationship world weren't plagued by medical world prejudices. Unless one's romantic situation seems likely to cause convulsions or death, it's considered bad form to run away screaming. Thankfully, your boyfriend isn't chasing you around the living room with an ax. Then again, he isn't chasing you around the bedroom with flavored, scented massage oil, either. And while it's great that you aren't a victim of domestic violence, shouldn't domestic violent boredom be cause for alarm? You aren't alarmed because you've got your head full pondering why this guy (who won't have sex with you and won't pay his way) won't marry you. Marry you? Hello? What is it about vague dissatisfaction that inspires you to try to make it permanent vague dissatisfaction?
Your big worry is whether the grass looks less brown on the other side (i.e., is he just using you?). What really matters isn't his motivation for sticking around, but your own. There's no mention anywhere in or near your letter about "boundless happiness" or anything even remotely Hallmark-cardy in tone. Okay, so the guy's "sweet." Wouldn't you be, too, if somebody else were paying most of the bills? What you share with him is like flesh-eating bacteria, but with an extremely slow digestive process: the life-eating relationship. Days come, days go. More days come, more days go. On a positive note, you're not dead yet. Clinically speaking. Plus, you probably still have your left arm where your left arm used to be. Oh, joy.
If you were new boyfriend-shopping today, would you look for one who offers you lack of sex, refusals to get married and financial dependency? So, why are you still there? Because 911 operators will get mad if you call and ask them to rescue you from your boring life? Because you've put in all this time and you'd have to admit you've wasted it if you left now? (Why not waste more time instead?) Maybe you're afraid of being alone. Newsflash: You're alone now. It's just a crowded kind of alone. Until you do the other kind of alone, the one where you work on your relationship with yourself, you won't have a happy relationship with anybody else. Sure, it'll be terrifying, braving the big, hairy, green-fanged unknown. On a positive note, it shouldn't be anywhere near as frightening as the dull, joyless known.
I met this really nice guy when I was on vacation. We hit it off so well that he's flying from Canada to see me. The bad news is that I'm a struggling artist (he's a well-to-do professional), and my old car doesn't pass the test. The only car that looks worse is the one on the Beverly Hillbillies reruns. I know material things are superficial, but pushing my car to get it started isn't exactly seductive. When I pick him up at the airport, should I rent a car and say mine is in the shop?--Parked Carcass
What's going through this guy's head right now is probably not "Gee, I hope she's got a great car, or I'll have to dump her at the airport and fly right back home." He probably hasn't given it a moment's thought. Supply him with the facts -- that your car has CARS, the mechanical version of SARS -- and present the notion that renting might be a good idea. Chances are, the person whose job description doesn't include the word "struggling" will volunteer. If he wants to ride with you in your clunker, getting stalled isn't the worst thing in the world. After all, it does have a back seat, doesn't it?