Hi Al,

I hope you can help me with this because I am really confused. My boyfriend and I have been dating for about a year, and lately all he seems interested in doing is having sex.

When we were first together, we did that a lot, but we also went out more—to parties, movies, dinner, concerts, etc. Now we seem to spend most of our time together at my place. Occasionally we hang out with friends, but always go home and have sex. It’s not that I don’t like it, it’s more that I feel that he doesn’t like to do much of anything except that.

When I say I’d really like to do something else, he gets playful and physical—kind of like wrestling, or he’ll start tickling me.  Once I begin laughing, he sees it as some kind of giving in, I guess, because he starts initiating sex.

Sometimes, I wish I didn’t given in and wish we’d gone out with friends. Afterward, I don’t feel good about it, but I don’t know how to go about making it better.

Not Feeling Sexy

Dear Not:

You don’t say why you are with this guy or what attracted you to him in the first place.  My guess is that it was physical and circumstantial. By that I mean that you and he were ready to meet someone and that  you each looked good to each other.

Now you have reached the point where the flush of new love has worn off (or down), and all that is keeping you together is the rush of old lust (for him).  And rather than liking you, what he seems to like is having sex with you.  You might not have consciously admitted this reality, but I suspect that you suspect it. Sex can make you (and just about everyone) feel that all’s right with the world when actually it’s just covering up what is wrong.

At this point, you need to ask yourself some essential questions: What makes me happy? What do I enjoy, whether with someone else or by myself? What do I hope for in a romantic relationship? Then, compare your answers to what you are getting from this relationship. From your letter, you sound young and probably haven’t thought about what you are looking for in a partner because simply having a partner is so exciting and so all-consuming.

Ideally, every relationship you have should teach you something about yourself, i.e., you discover what doesn’t matter to you, what does matter, and what you are willing to do to make sure that what matters to you is what happens to you.  According to Plato, Socrates said that the unexamined life is not worth living. But what if, as Kurt Vonnegut mused, “the examined life turns out to be a clunker as well?’ If that is the case for you, you need to do something about it.  Examining your life it is just the start of improving it.

As you, no doubt, are beginning to see, inertia can be one of the most powerful forces in a relationship and requires sustained energy to resist. Be glad that you aren’t married or have kids. In fact, since you two aren’t living together, you don’t have complicated loose ends that need to be cut or tied up. If your life with your boyfriend is indeed the “clunker” that it seems to be, you just need to summon all of your emotional forces to chuck it—and don’t look back.

Don’t let the familiar become the acceptable–you deserve someone who loves about you what you love about yourself. If you find someone who just likes you rather than just having sex with you, the sex will be so different, it will make what you were doing before seem, as you put it, “kind of like wrestling.”

Readers: Am I being too harsh? Do you think this relationship has a chance?

8 replies on “When Too Much of a Good Thing Becomes a Bad Thing”

  1. Al,
    One of your best columns. Thought the advice was solid and no, you’re not being too harsh. Some of these women need to say sayonara to these serial Doc Ocks.

    1. Thanks for the kudos,R. It’s all about girls/women worrying more about what’s good for them instead of what’s going to hurt some Doc Ocks’s feelings.

  2. Isn’t every romantic relationship clouded in some way by sex? But most of us are afraid to discuss these tensions with our partners. In my experience, the couples that can talk openly about their individual needs, desires, fears, fantasies, etc., are the couples that have the healthiest, most enduring connections. I think “Not” should face the issue head-on: tell her boyfriend what she’s thinking. In Whit’s words, “summon the emotional forces” to have that tough conversation, and maybe they’ll find enough common ground so that both of their needs can be met. Give the boyfriend a chance to know what’s eating away at you!

    1. Thanks for your take, Paul. What do you think the reaction will be when she tells him how she feels?

  3. I really hate to see this young woman being victimized in a way that could ruin sex for her for a long time to come. It’s not just this relationship and its soundness or lack thereof that’s at stake here. When she says, “It’s not that I don’t like it,” I suspect the truth is that she’s “liking it ” less and less. No wonder, since the sex she’s having is clearly for his benefit, not hers. Even if she later finds a boyfriend who is much more considerate and concerned about her, it could take a lot of time before she stops feeling like a sexual ATM machine.

    1. You make an insightful point about actually liking it less and less, Momzilla. So I’m guessing that you think that she has no reason to stay with this guy and try to work it out. Loved the image of the sexual ATM machine.

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