I am 22 and my boyfriend of 15 months is 41. He has an extremely difficult time expressing any affection or emotion, and our physical intimacy has been dwindling despite my efforts to seduce him. His family says I\’m the first girl he\’s brought home since 1987, and his longest relationship. They\’re rooting for me, and say I should call them if he starts pushing me away. They want him to have a family, and he says he wants one, too, but has never come close. I realize I\’m young, but for the first time, I feel selfless. I would happily sacrifice my happiness for his. It\’s so important to me that he is able to become a father, even if it is not with me. But maybe our age difference means we were supposed to meet so I can bear his children. I strongly believe this man is my soul mate, even if he is not so sure. How do I keep from going crazy while not pressuring him so much that I lose him?

— Holding Pattern

Just what every kid needs — father who\’s incapable of expressing any affection or emotion. Should work wonders when your little girl wakes up screaming for her daddy to protect her from the monsters. Oops, Daddy doesn\’t do hugs. Could she work with a pat on the back, or maybe a nice firm handshake?

As for you, proud holder of the title, \”First Girl He\’s Brought Home Since 1987,\” I\’m guessing the others didn\’t find emotional constipation such a strong selling point. Apparently, it works for you. (Pops was a cold chap?) Clearly, you don\’t want a man who\’s affectionate. If you did, you\’d be with one. It seems what you really want is a challenge: Go where no woman has gone before! Only you can unlock the love within! (Yeah? Wanna bet?) When a guy shows you he\’s incapable of affection, the appropriate response isn\’t to latch onto him like a tick and go celebrate with his family.

Chances are, your parents sent you through school so you could make something of yourself, not make something of a broken, middle-aged man. At 22, you\’re faced with all these big questions: Who are you, where are you going, what are you doing? The answer shouldn\’t be making some guy your project in hopes of avoiding the looming uncertainties of you. Once you actually do the work to develop a self, you might be a little pickier about where you sacrifice it: Maybe for world peace, or for those little babies with the distended bellies — not for a guy who won\’t caress your neck unless you call his mother and get her to talk him into it.

Putting aside how silly it is to believe that everybody has one designated \”soul mate\” (some women say that about each of their six husbands), you can\’t actually believe yours is a guy whose emotional availability rivals that of a cinderblock. Instead of clinging to this picture of the life you could have if only he were completely different, why not ditch him and work toward the life you could have if you were completely different? Like if you had a strong self and felt you deserved to be happy and to have love in your life. It beats setting yourself on a path to wake up at 30, bitter and resentful, realizing you aren\’t the only couple in need of marital aids — just probably the only one turning to gallon jugs of de-icer and a portable defibrillator.

Dial \”o\” for over

A man I was dating moved across the country and we started having these intense phone conversations. Then he stood me up for two separate phone \”dates\” without a word of apology. When I said something a day later, he claimed he texted me to say sorry, but I never got those messages. Obviously, I\’m not a priority for him, so I cut him out of my life. My friends say I\’m being too harsh.

— Hung It Up

OK, let\’s say the guy didn\’t lie about texting you. He\’s still admitting to apologizing via the lowest form of communication, save maybe a chain e-mail. (\”FWD: Send this to 20 friends and Bill Gates will call this girl and apologize!\”) He\’s telling you how much he cares — not enough to hit speed dial and deliver a spoken word apology. And where\’s that big bouquet of flowers to make you feel better? (Wait! Maybe he texted you a picture of a rose!) Are you really going to throw away an \”intense\” connection simply because he missed a couple of calls? Well, it does seem a better idea than waiting by the phone until he finally texts you the obvious: \”Sorry, I\’ve switched to a local provider and I was too busy having sex with her to pick up the phone.\”