Ms. Behavior©: Friend or More?

Dear Ms. Behavior:

About three months ago, my friend Kirk confessed his romantic feelings toward me. I adore Kirk and wish I felt the same. It’s confusing, because when we’re not together, I can imagine dating him. But when I’m in Kirk’s physical presence, I can’t conjure up any romantic or sexual feelings.

Now I’m casually dating a few guys, and I’ve noticed that I’ve been avoiding telling Kirk. I don’t know why I’m being evasive. Does it mean I secretly want Kirk? Can my friendship feelings for Kirk grow into romantic ones?

—T.

Dear T.:

It’s a sad fact that it’s nearly impossible to manufacture chemistry. Sometimes friendships change to romantic relationships, but usually only when there’s a bit of attraction from the start. ??If it were possible to rationally select partners based on compatibility rather than the influence of pheromones and hormones, fewer insanely mismatched couples would be subsidizing their therapist’s second homes and their children’s orthodontists.

Maybe you’re keeping your dating life a secret from Kirk to protect him from feeling rejected. Or, a shallower analysis might suggest that you want to maintain your role as the object of Kirk’s attention. It’s flattering to feel desired.??You should tell Kirk about your dates. Maybe he’ll withdraw from you for a while; he may not totally get over you until he gets a new boyfriend himself. But once Kirk does have a new boyfriend, feelings of competitiveness may trump the lack of chemistry and Kirk may become the most magnificent creature you’ve ever smelled.

Dear Ms. Behavior:

I’ve been with the Love of My Life for about four months. At first, the sex was tentative, tender. Because I already loved her so much, I was terrified the first month we were together. A few times, I said I had an orgasm when I didn’t — mostly when I had some incest feelings and didn’t feel present enough to come. (I’m an incest survivor who has worked very diligently on recovery, but occasionally those feelings still rise up and slap me in the face.) I didn’t think it was exactly romantic to say, “Honey, my father is here in bed with us.” The thing is, my girlfriend had been very open and supportive and made me promise to tell her if I had any issues. She actually made me promise to never fake an orgasm — as if she could look right inside me and see what was going on.??Our sexual connection has deepened and I’ve been able to stay very present during sex. In fact, fake orgasms haven’t been an issue at all. ??I recently confessed about those early few times and now my girlfriend is very upset. She feels betrayed and angry, and I don’t blame her. I feel confused and miserable. What can I do to repair this damage and regain her trust???I want to promise to be completely honest, but I fear that total honesty might mean sometimes discussing my unsexy past trauma. What if this honesty kills our deepening sexual connection and makes her see me as damaged and gross? What should I do?

—Trying To Be Real

Dear Trying To Be Real:

Honesty doesn’t kill a sexual connection. Lying does. You can repair the damage and regain your girlfriend’s trust by being consistently truthful. You don’t need to tell her the details of your traumatic past, but telling her when something keeps you from feeling engaged during sex will let you both feel closer, more trusting, and more present.

Distracting thoughts come up for a lot of people during sex, even when incest isn’t an issue. It’s hard to feel connected unless you can ask for specific things you need, like, “I have to stop for a minute and look at you,” or “Please get your knee off my windpipe.”

Your honesty won’t make her see you as “damaged and gross.” It will more likely make her feel tender toward you.

Ms. Behavior doesn’t think she needs to tell you not to fake any more orgasms, but it will also help if you make it a practice to not lie about anything. In fact, if your girlfriend asks you if you like her hideous new shoes, say, “No, I think they’re hideous.” If she asks if her snoring awakened you, don’t pretend it didn’t.??If you’re lucky enough to have found The One, don’t blow it. Be kind and clear and truthful, and she’ll probably insist on staying with you forever.

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