the advice goddess

the advice goddess

Give till it hertz

For 10 years, this woman and I have had a hot-and-cold long-distance relationship, the temperature of which she’s always controlled. She’s 56; I’m 46. Last year, she felt ready to try for something lasting. She couldn’t afford to travel, so I paid for her flight. She stayed with me for two wonderful, passionate months, and then we vacationed together in February. I paid for her flight, rental car, hotel, and meals. Again, it was very passionate. Last month, we vacationed together again, funded by me. The day she arrived, she declared her sex life a thing of the past. I was stunned and found sharing the bed rather challenging, but I’ve never forced myself on any woman and I’m not about to start. My friends are now fuming. I counter that in funding everything, it was never my intention to be paying for “horizontal refreshment.” Was she wrong to agree to this trip and then change the terms of our relationship? Am I in denial in not feeling angry?

— Wondering

When you’ve been romantic with a woman for a decade and you’re taking her on yet another “passionate” getaway, it’s reasonable to expect she’ll be interested in doing more in bed than letting you watch as she does the crossword puzzle. (If she’s feeling kinky, you could be in for some mind-blowing sudoku.)

It cost you, what, $3,000 — the price of a TV the size of a small European country — to have her personally deliver the news that she wouldn’t be having sex with you? You’d be leading your friends in fuming if you hadn’t gotten all tangled up in your self-image as a gentleman. And no, just because a man buys a woman something — dinner, for example — that doesn’t mean she owes him sex. But, let’s be honest; we all know he isn’t buying dinner out of an overwhelming desire to feed hungry females free lobster, and it isn’t brotherly benevolence that’s behind an all-expenses-paid vacation from a man who does not earn a living as a game show host.

The question is, was this woman’s lack of pre-vacation disclosure a random act of jerkhood, utterly unpredictable, like a Russian satellite landing on some poor schlub’s beater Yugo? Or, more likely, was it utterly predictable based on years of your showing her you’d take whatever she dished out? Your lack of anger is telling. Anger gets triggered when you feel somebody’s shorted you on something you were entitled to — like the courtesy of a phone call (before you paid for yet another “passionate vacation”) informing you that the birds are taxidermied and the bees are dead.

Chances are, you’re a too-nice guy — a guy whose “niceness” is actually suckuppy-ness, who believes his perceived loserhood will be “cured” if only he can get into a relationship. Ironically, the loserhood is caused by the willingness to do anything for love. That doesn’t get you love; it gets you doing anything and everything for it and ending up with blue balls and a big hotel bill. In the future, even if you can’t quite believe you deserve a mutual relationship, you need to risk acting as if you do, and speak up and even bail whenever one turns out not to be. Everything won’t always be 50/50, but you and a woman you take on a romantic vacation should be on the same page about the proper placement of the “Do Not Disturb” sign: on the doorknob all weekend, as opposed to around her neck.

Odd Manischewitz out

Several of my Jewish friends have found love on JDate. I am a 32-year-old man who isn’t Jewish and has no aspiration to convert but would like to give JDate a try. Huge faux pas?

— Lapsed Catholic

 JDate advertises that its mission is sustaining “Jewish traditions” — apparently including the tradition of pissing off one’s parents by getting together with a Catholic. Where I live, in the 21 to 41 age group, I counted 279 non-Jewish JDaters, including four lesbians looking for nice Jewish girls. The thing to be wary of is that people are prone to be overly inclusive at the point of sale. A woman may sincerely believe some interfaithy thing can work, and then the relationship gets serious and her parents lay on the pressure, and before you know it, you’re getting dumped for Shlomo McShlomowitz. Should you end up dating some hot Hebrew, as tempting as it is to focus on all the ways you’re compatible, you’d better dig into all the ways you’re not. Sure, relationships are compromise, but it’s one thing to put off the zombie movie till next weekend and another thing entirely to try to answer the question “What will the children be?” with “Jewish on Wednesdays and Catholic on the weekends?”

(c)2011, Amy Alkon, all rights reserved. Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave, #280, Santa Monica, CA  90405, or e-mail AdviceAmy@aol.com (www.advicegoddess.com)

Read Amy Alkon’s book: “I SEE RUDE PEOPLE: One woman’s battle to beat some manners into impolite society” (McGraw-Hill, $16.95).

the advice goddess

the advice goddess

Snorting hope

I’ve been with my boyfriend for three years. The first year was rocky. He was selling drugs, got addicted and went to prison. Three months after getting out, he relapsed. I persuaded his mother to send him to rehab, and afterward I found us an apartment, where we’ve been for six months. He has remained drug-free, helps with cooking and cleaning, and pays half the rent and bills. His job just got cut back to 16 hours a week. He has applied for a handful of positions but isn’t consistently looking, and he spends lots of time fishing. Meanwhile, I’m paying for groceries, dinners out and any puny vacations, and I’ve bought him new clothes so he’ll look his confident best. When I say I’m exhausted pulling this much weight, he uses his sobriety as a tool, saying, “Look how much better I am; I did this all for you.” My last relationship was much more equal, and I ended it because I felt like I didn’t matter. I do like feeling important to this person, and I do like the love, affection and kindness he shows me.

— Wetary
 

It must have been hell for you in your previous relationship when stopping your boyfriend’s self-destructive behavior only involved putting out messages like “Just say no to chicken-fried steak and the occasional cigar.”
Some women do volunteer work; some women date it. You and your boyfriend are a classic combination, the drug addict and the enabler. Addict behavior is immature brat behavior — throwing over tomorrow to get your rocks off (or snort some rock) today. These days, your boyfriend’s nose might not be powdered (“Crack: The other white meth!”), but he’s leaving you “gone fishing” notes instead of going looking for “help wanted” signs. Then again, why should he man up when he can always count on you to mommy up?
Welcome to “the well-intentioned path to hell,” as Dr. Barbara Oakley puts it. Oakley, author of the fascinating book Cold-Blooded Kindness, studies “pathological altruism,” help that actually ends up hurting — sometimes both the helper and the person she’s supposed to be helping. Oakley explains that your boyfriend may not be the only one in the relationship who’s been getting a buzz on: “Part of our sense of altruism — of wanting to care for others at cost to ourselves — is related to the positive feelings we get from our nucleus accumbens and related areas (the brain’s pleasure center) … the same areas that are activated when we get high on drugs or gambling.”
You have a choice: Keep pressing your paw on the little lever for your do-gooder’s high, or accept the risk of seeking real love with the sort of man who can live without you but would really rather not. Real love means having a crush on a man as a human — respecting and admiring who he is, as opposed to pitying him for what he’s done to himself. A man who really loves you wants the best for you; he doesn’t guilt-trip you (“I did this all for you!”) into ignoring your own needs so you can better meet his. Should you decide to stay with your help object, inform him that you’ll bail if he doesn’t start putting out more than a clean urine sample. If he doesn’t come through, either accept your fate as Mommy II or finally act on what you’ve spent three years pretending not to know — that a woman without an addict is like a fish without a Smart car.

 

You’ve got stale

I’m a woman who’s been online dating for two years. I’ve noticed that people who’ve been on the dating site as long as I have often put up different pictures. By never changing my picture in two years, am I broadcasting that I’m a loser? I feel changing it seems more loserish, as in, “Hey, anyone want me from a different angle?”

— Still Here

Do you also suspect Banana Republic is going out of business every time they update their store windows? Changing your picture is a way to say “New and Improved!” — a classic advertising gambit that seems to perk up sales despite everybody knowing it probably means “Toothpaste’s largely the same, but check out the butterfly and sparklies we added to the package!” Keep in mind that research has shown that men are drawn to flirty, smiley shots of women, and common sense says to avoid cropping all your photos at the shoulders, as this leaves a little too much mystery about what shape the rest of you is in. Have fun while posing and you should seem like you’re having fun putting yourself out there — as opposed to having fears that the next man at your side will be the utility worker who discovers you sitting mummified on your couch. 

(c)2011, Amy Alkon, all rights reserved. Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave, #280, Santa Monica, CA  90405, or e-mail AdviceAmy@aol.com (www.advicegoddess.com)


Read Amy Alkon’s book: “I SEE RUDE PEOPLE: One woman’s battle to beat some manners into impolite society” (McGraw-Hill, $16.95).

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