Dear Prudence

I Love My Boyfriend but Want a Girlfriend

He doesn’t want to open up our relationship.

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Dear Prudence,

My partner is the most compassionate, loving, and respectful partner I could ask for. He has supported me through difficult times, weight fluctuations, questioning my gender, changing my name, and sobriety, among other things. I am incredibly attracted to women. He knows this, and we have talked about opening our relationship. However, he is on the spectrum of asexuallity and is only interested in having sex with me. The thought of me having sex with other people makes him deeply uncomfortable, as we both relate to sex in very different ways. We have had this conversation a few times in the year that we have been together, but with no solid plan or outcome. I respect and appreciate our relationship more than my desire to sleep around, but I’m worried that I will be missing something. I’m only 20, and I know that feelings change, but he is an incredible domestic and sexual partner, and I would like to be with him for a long time. Is there a way to figure this out? Or will this core incompatibility be what breaks us apart?

—Love My Boyfriend but Want a Girlfriend

The answer to both of your questions is some version of “yes,” I’m afraid, which doesn’t make the decisions facing you or your boyfriend any easier. I cannot promise you that if you break up with him in order to date women that you’ll never experience a moment of regret; conversely, I can’t promise you that if you two stay together and remain sexually monogamous that you won’t start to chafe at what feels restrictive for you but necessary for him. The key thing here is to remain honest with each other about what you want and don’t want, to pay attention to what works and what doesn’t, and not to assign moral weight to either of your sexual desires.

It’s also worth acknowledging that you mention being “incredibly attracted” to women, but the signoff you chose doesn’t just have to do with sex but with romance. You’re not just thinking about looking for women to sleep with but women to date, to flirt with, to charm, to get to know better, to establish sexual and nonsexual intimacies with. That’s worth paying attention to. Your desires for women may not be compatible with your boyfriend’s goals for this relationship. That incompatibility may cause both of you pain, but it doesn’t mean that your own desires are wrong, or selfish, or any less important than his. He sounds like a wonderful person who’s treated you well, which is great, but it’s not a reason to stay in a relationship if you don’t want to. This isn’t to say you should dump him tomorrow, merely that I want you to avoid, if possible, thinking of him as a good person with reasonable desires and yourself as a selfish person with harmful desires. If this core incompatibility does eventually cause you two to break up, it may ultimately be for the best, so that you can each seek out the kind of relationship you want most with a partner (or partners!) looking for the same thing.

Help! My Husband Calls Out His Dead Wife’s Name While We’re Having Sex.

Danny M. Lavery is joined by Cecilia Corrigan on this week’s episode of the Dear Prudence podcast.

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Dear Prudence,

My husband is an interrupter. He talks over me constantly, both when we are having a normal conversation and when we argue. I never feel like I can get my thoughts out. This has been going on for years, and I’m at my wits’ end. I feel like giving up. I feel disrespected. I’ve told him how it bothers me and how I feel unheard. I’ve even tried talking through his interruptions. Nothing works. I think he does it to silence me, but he argues that I have sometimes interrupted him in the past, so his isn’t any worse? I feel like I’d have to be perfect for him to even try. What should I do?

—Interrupting Husband

This situation sounds exhausting, interminable, and like a profound barrier to intimacy, trust, respect, and love—all the things that make a lifelong partnership desirable. Your husband is completely locked into his position and is attempting to use your request as a wedge to make demands of his own, rather than trying to meet you halfway. You do not need to spend another five or 10 or 20 years trying to argue with him about whether he’s disrespecting you. You can take him at his word when he says he’s not going to stop interrupting you, that he thinks you’re wrong to be upset by it, and that you don’t deserve to participate fully in everyday conversation because once on May 15, 2003, you cut him off when he was trying to give you directions to a friend’s birthday party. So many relationship problems can be worked out as both parties are willing—even if that willingness is small, or begrudging, or half-hearted—to call it a problem. But your husband is determined to maintain his position—that he doesn’t really interrupt you, or it’s not that bad, or you do it too—no matter how many times you’ve tried to ask and explain and plead and compromise. You can’t substitute for a lack of interest in changing on his part. You have my permission to give up, if that’s what you choose, and acknowledge that your marriage to this man is over in all but name. I think it will feel like a profound relief.

Dear Prudence,

I’m a health care professional who has been working from home for the past six weeks. A small part of my job is considered essential, so I occasionally work out of a community hospital for nonurgent assessments. I’ve also been dating a lovely guy since January, and we’re very much in love. Recently, there’s been an urgent need for health care professionals at a long-term care facility in a large city about three hours away. They put out a call for volunteers in my profession last week, and I casually mentioned to my boyfriend that I was considering it. We didn’t really discuss it beyond that. The next day I put my name forward and texted him about it; he didn’t say much beyond expressing concern for my safety and then telling me he was proud of me. A day later when we were talking, he started crying, and said he was upset that I didn’t discuss this any further with him before deciding. I realize now that I should have done that. But then he gave me an ultimatum, saying that he “didn’t sign up for this,” and wasn’t sure he could handle the length of time (about five weeks) we would have to be apart.

Before this I felt very secure in the relationship—so secure the thought of being “long distance” for a month did not concern me at all. I felt for sure we could handle it. He came back later that night and was very apologetic. We talked a lot, and he regrets giving me an ultimatum. But I feel deeply hurt and like something has been broken between us. I want to get over it, but I’m worried it’s a red flag for future challenges that are sure to come our way. What should I do?

—Long-Distance Anxieties

You realize now that your certainty was one-sided, because you did not actually ask your boyfriend if he thought he could handle these changes. You also now know that you ought to have incorporated him into this decision sooner, not necessarily because you would have given him veto power over your final choice, but simply because you two are in love and presumably want to stay up-to-date about each other’s decisions.

I don’t think it’s necessarily a red flag that your boyfriend briefly freaked out and expressed uncertainty about the future. He was able to take a little time to cool down, apologize for delivering an ultimatum, and mend fences within the same day. You are entitled to your own feelings and reaction to his reaction, and if you find the hurt still lingers in a day or two, and you want to revisit the conversation, you should do so. But I think you two handled this conflict fairly well, given that you’re both operating under pretty extreme circumstances at the moment. Learning to fight well with a partner—in my opinion, at least—doesn’t necessarily mean everyone always stays calm, never panics or freaks out, never overstates something in the heat of the moment. It means doing what you two did: taking time to cool off, apologizing when necessary, listening to each other, and reevaluating what you could have done differently. You’ve volunteered to do a good and a necessary thing; your boyfriend has expressed both pride in your decision and fear about his own ability to handle being the one who waits at home and worries about your safety. Obviously, if you decide you want to break up with him over this, you can—but I think you two are doing better than you’re giving yourself credit for.

Catch up on this week’s Prudie.

More Advice From How to Do It

My husband and I have been married for 15 years, together for 20. He’s a wonderful husband and father and a great match for me in many ways. I love him very much. However, our sex has always been a little less than satisfying. It’s lovely and comforting and connecting, and not infrequent, but it doesn’t get me off. In general, it’s too brief and too low-key and basic to get me to come. A lot of the time it’s enough to have so-so sex and get myself off on my own time. There are so many other things about our relationship that mesh I was OK with making great sex less of a priority. But every once in a while it would be nice for the sex to be of the superhot, primal, more intense variety.

It’s not that our sex life started out spectacular and faded; it’s always been this way. I don’t fake orgasms—I don’t know if he thinks I’m having one. It’s not something he would ever, ever talk about. He’s the type of guy who doesn’t talk about sex. Ever. It makes him uncomfortable and squeamish—it’s just his personality, plus how he was raised (and kind of the way I was raised as well). And at this point, it’s been this way so long it seems impossible to bring up. I don’t want to make him feel bad or inadequate, and the idea of bringing up a subject we haven’t talked about for 20 years is deeply uncomfortable. Is this the way things are always going to be? Is there anything I can do? How do you get out of a 20-year rut?