Dear Ms. Behavior:
Suzanne and I met at a conference. We hit it off, and I invited her to come spend a weekend with me. Suzanne stayed six days, a little longer than I’d been prepared for. We had a nice time together though, with lots of movies, conversation, and sex.
The problem is that I thought it was just a fun date. Suzanne, on the other hand, says that she experienced our time together as life-altering and that she now understands who she is, what she wants, and what her life means.
In the week since she’s been home, Suzanne has sent me a copy of her doctoral dissertation, a valuable carving of a breast which is also a mug, and a photograph of a dripping mango that she says reminds her of me. She wants me to visit next weekend so that she can introduce me to her friends.
I have been careful not to encourage her or to make any promises, although I may have accidentally said something intimate that I shouldn’t have said during sex.
I’d like to see Suzanne again because I enjoy her company (and I’ll admit, I haven’t had sex for a while and want more), but I worry that her desire for me or for a relationship has a momentum that I can’t control. Can we slow this down? Or is this destined to turn painful?
What do you mean you “may have accidentally said something intimate that you shouldn’t have said” during sex? Ms. Behavior hopes it was something mild like, “Oh, yes, it’s been so long,” or even “Oh, do me, Big Girl, you make me feel so fine,” and not something a bit more misleading, like, “I love you Suzanne, and I’ve never felt this way about anyone before.”
For the sake of self-knowledge, you might explore whether you encouraged Suzanne to fall for you. Some people long to be passionately desired even though they can sustain nothing longer than a half-lotus or an orgasm. Did you lead Suzanne to believe that you are more available or interested than you really are? Such indications are not necessarily verbal. Perhaps it’s because you squeezed her ears between your thighs for hours at a time and screamed her name all night. Or maybe you looked into her eyes adoringly and held hands with her for six days.
If you were neutral and light, perhaps Suzanne’s feelings for you are all her own projection. The origin of the problem, i.e. the difference in how you feel about each other, probably doesn’t matter. The spell of infatuation is not easily reversible—especially by you, the object of it.
If Suzannes’ feelings for you are as intense as you think, casual sex will only be possible if she is the kind of person who gets masochistic pleasure from unrequited passion.
The only way to change the intensity of another person’s feelings for you is to disappoint that person in some way. You can do it quickly or slowly, intentionally or not.
Unfortunately, you are likely to break Suzanne’s heart. But Ms. Behavior won’t bother suggesting that you stop (though it’s the kindest thing), because she predicts you are both unable. The urge to pursue an attraction until it is played out is too compelling for most people to resist. It’s like trying not to touch a sore spot in your mouth with your tongue. You must constantly chant, “Don’t touch it. Don’t touch it.”
Dear Ms. Behavior:
My boyfriend, who lives in the suburbs, stays with me several nights each week. I love having him here. The problem is that he is a slob. No matter what I say, he leaves laundry on the floor, pizza boxes on the counter, and crumbs everywhere. I’ve tried leaving the mess with the hope that he’ll clean it eventually; he never does.
When I complain, he says I’m picky. When I don’t, I’m extremely angry. He wants to live together, but I’m sure he’d drive me mad. What should we do?
If you and your boyfriend can afford it, hire a house-cleaner. While it may seem trivial, differences about cleaning can soil an otherwise pristine relationship.
Don’t ever pretend it doesn’t matter just to keep the peace. Tell him how much his filth bothers you even if he accuses you of being petty. And do not let him move in until he demonstrates that he can be different or unless you come to an agreement about how to address the mess. Otherwise, the only long stiff object you’ll fantasize seeing his hand around will be the end of the broom.
© 2012 Meryl Cohn. Address questions and correspondence to firstname.lastname@example.org.