Dear Ms. Behavior:
I’ve been dating Mary for a few weeks, and am smitten. We’ve made out a few times, but only in public. The problem is that we always meet in the middle of the day for lunch, for a walk, or for tea, and she always has to get back to work.
I’ve asked a thousand times for a nighttime date or a weekend outing, but Mary always comes up with an excuse. A friend of mine has nicknamed her “No-Sex Mary.”
Am I wasting my time here? Should I cut my losses, deliver an ultimatum, or make a move for public sex?
The problem is that she seems perfect in every other way.
Dear Prosex Jodi:
If Mary won’t see you at night, four possible explanations are:
(1) She has a secret girlfriend, and can’t get out at night.
(2) She knows she looks horrific in incandescent light.
(3) She’s a vampire, and is protecting you from herself.
(4) She fears that a nighttime date will lead to sex, and she’s not ready to get naked with you.
You’re not really in a position to give Mary an ultimatum, or to hump her in a public garden. Next time you invite her to an evening activity, and she insists she’s only available for lunch, try asking directly why she doesn’t want to see you at night.
You don’t have much to lose. You already are spending your nights alone, so you may as well find out if you’re barking up the wrong lesbian.
Dear Ms. Behavior
My girlfriend, Randi, and I have been a couple for six months, but we live in different cities. Mostly because I have a looser schedule, I travel to see her, and spend long weekends visiting.
Everything is always great when I arrive—the weekend is fun and affectionate, and we have good sex. The problem rolls around when it’s time for me to leave. I notice that Randi becomes silent and withdrawn about five or six hours before my departure.
Usually, she is slow during the early part of the week in returning my phone calls, until about Thursday, when she warms back up again. She claims that it’s because she’s busy, but I suspect she is mad at me for having to leave, which is necessary because of my job.
I hate the push-and-pull of the situation, as it only makes our separation worse.
Why can’t she just act normal, and be close to me the whole week long? What can I do to get her to change?
Dear Long-Distance Lover:
It makes sense that Randi feels sadder than you do at the end of your weekends together, because you’re the one who goes home, and leaves her behind. In some not-so-conscious way, she probably is triggered by your departure into feeling abandoned.
If you can arrange to have her visit you more frequently, it may help her to feel in control and to stay more connected when you’re apart.
Separation in a new relationship can be difficult, particularly if a sense of constancy and commitment hasn’t been established yet.
Psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott, an object relations theorist, described stages of child development that also seem to apply to the stages of a new relationship. Early on, the infant needs an illusion of being connected with her mother, until she realizes she can exist and survive as a separate being. Prior to this development, the infant can be helped by a “transitional object,” a doll or blanket that substitutes for Mommy, and helps the infant to develop a healthy sense of self.
When you visit Randi, try leaving a transitional object when you depart. This can be a T-shirt or a pillow that smells like you—to remind her you still exist in the world, and you’re coming back.
Let’s hope after a while she’ll remember that you’ll return, and that it’s safe for her to have feelings for you even when you’re away.
Her ability to trust you and the situation will unfold slowly. It’s an organic process, and there’s not much you can do to “get her to change,” other than remaining constant and reliable (like a “good enough mother”).
Don’t take the Mommy stuff too literally, though, or it may kill your sex life.
© 2008 Meryl Cohen. Address questions and correspondence to firstname.lastname@example.org. She is the author of Do What I Say: Ms. Behavior’s Guide to Gay and Lesbian Etiquette (Houghton Mifflin). Signed copies are available directly from the author.