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I have been seeing a really sweet guy for three months. He is intelligent, fun, considerate, and generous. My issue is that he is a virgin and doesn’t seem very interested in changing that. We are both in our early 30s. I am recently divorced—my husband was a compulsive cheat—and have a 2-year-old son. I have discussed sex with “James” and he said that he originally wanted to wait until marriage for religious reasons, but now doesn’t feel that is necessary, he just wants it to be with the right person. We were making out the other night and I whispered to him how much I wanted him. He said he wanted me, too, but he sounded awkward and unconvincing. He always tells me that we can’t do anything because he doesn’t have condoms, but he hasn’t made any attempts to purchase some. I can tell he is aroused when we kiss, but I’m worried that he just isn’t very interested in sex. That would be tough for me to handle long term. Is it wrong that I expect our relationship to be further along after three months? My friends say I need a man with more heat and passion but I am hesitant to pass up an otherwise great guy.
“I don’t have a condom” is “The dog ate my homework” of the lifetime virgin. You say you’re worried he’s not interested in sex. Since he’s never had it, despite your giving him the opportunity, you may be onto something. Of course, it’s possible he is interested in sex but, having gotten to this point in life without knowing what to do, he may be terrified about disappointing a sophisticated woman like you. It could be that he has some kind of sexual hang-up, or feels self-conscious about his body for some reason. But here he is, with a knowledgeable partner eager to get him over the hump, and he keeps balking. You have just been deeply hurt by the man you thought you would spend your life with, and I understand there is not an abundance of lovely, eligible men. But having a partner you’re certain will never cheat on you because he’s apparently incapable of doing the deed is not the answer. You also must know that even if you do get him in bed, it’s likely to be a frustrating experience. See the hilarious consummation scene at the end of The 40-Year-Old Virgin. I believe in the value of going slow, but three months is long enough to see if a relationship is worth investing more time; one way to find out is to explore your sexual compatibility. If you’re willing to lead the guy by the hand, then have a discussion with him explaining you think it’s time, and you will purchase the condoms. If you two still can’t get into bed, that’s evidence enough your relationship won’t survive outside it. —Emily Yoffe
From: “Help! My Boyfriend Is a 30-Year-Old Virgin.” (Oct. 24, 2013)
I’m 31, and I’ve been with my husband for eight years. I always had the occasional zit, but for some reason, over the past three years, my skin has gotten a bit worse. Every few weeks I get a horrific pimple, and I have a few spots of acne on my neck. I still think I have overall good skin, and my best friends tell me they haven’t noticed a change at all. I’ve seen multiple dermatologists, always wash my face thoroughly, use prescription acne medication twice a day, and get the occasional facial. I view the acne as a minor annoyance that I’ve done the best I can with, and I’m really not too bothered.
The issue is that my husband is obsessed with my skin problems. Every time I get a pimple, he insists on popping it for me, even though I find it painful and unnecessary. He comments on my skin constantly, always saying it is “for my own good.” He acts like the fact that I am not overly bothered by my acne indicates that I don’t care for myself properly, that I am unclean, and that I don’t care if I later have acne scars. I find myself dreading when he looks at my face because it leads to his comments on how he needs to pop my pimples for my own good. If I resist and beg—often I SCREAM—that I don’t want him to pop my pimple, he gets angry and acts like I’m just “not caring for myself.”
He is otherwise a great husband! What do I do to make him back off and not touch or comment on my skin?
This is way past the point where you could find a fun, low-impact compromise like those little clear overnight acne patches. You say you often have to “resist and beg” your husband not to forcibly press your skin, sometimes to the point of screaming, and you wrote scream in all caps—and his response, when you beg and plead and scream and turn away from him, is to get angry. That’s a pretty significant red flag. I also don’t want to get too lost in the weeds of best dermatological practices here, because even if popping whiteheads were the absolute best thing you could do for your skin, it would still be horrible that your husband forced you to let him do it. But it’s not “for your own good,” and you’re not harming yourself or setting yourself up for future scarring. There’s nothing sanitary or helpful about grabbing someone and squeezing their zits; his attempt to justify his terrifying, creepy behavior by claiming it’s “good for you” is total bullshit.
That’s why I don’t recommend, say, that you bring him along to the dermatologist with you, or try to explain the theoretical underpinnings of your skin care routine. If seeing his partner screaming and flinching isn’t enough to get him to take his hands off of you, then no explanation will suffice. I think part of you feels like you have to downplay this because it’s “just” about acne, but it’s actually about the pretty basic, fundamental principles of physical safety, bodily autonomy, and trusting that your partner will listen when you say “Don’t touch me.”
Physically separate yourself from him. Stay with a friend or family member you trust. Talk to the people you love about what your husband’s been doing to you. I don’t think anyone who cares about you is going to hear “My husband grabs me and pokes at my skin while I scream for him to stop” and think you should go back and try to explain to him why he shouldn’t do that. He hurts you, then gets angry with you for asking him to stop. I don’t care how great a husband he is the rest of the time because nothing can make up for that lack of safety. He’s not confused or misguided. He hears you screaming, watches you try to twist away, and keeps hurting you. You cannot trust him. —Danny M. Lavery
From: “Help! My Husband Is Obsessed With Popping My Pimples.” (Dec. 16, 2019)
I’m about to get married and am caught in an argument between my fiancée and my parents. This will be the first time in over five years that our whole family will be together. My parents want to take a picture of just them, me, and my siblings, and a family photo obviously means a lot to them. My fiancée heard this and became immediately offended. She says it’s rude to exclude her on the day she “joins the family” and any family photo should therefore include her in it. We’re not talking about taking an hour for a separate family photo shoot; my parents simply want one photograph of themselves and their children. I don’t understand why my fiancée is so annoyed and now she’s even more angry because I’m not supporting “her side.” Should I back up my fiancée on principle, even if I disagree with her?
Apparently your fiancée wants to be the “Where’s Waldo” of her wedding album. When the photographer calls for a shot of all the groomsmen, she plans to puts herself in the middle. Photographs take only a short time to compose and an instant to snap. Presumably, both of you want a variety of pictures of groups of people to commemorate this event. Since your family is apparently far-flung, there is nothing wrong with your side wanting to piggy-back on the big event and get a couple of family photos added to the mix. This is one of those silly little fights every couple has. Calmly tell her you understand how she may have misperceived your family’s request, but it has nothing to do with excluding her. Your parents just want to take advantage of all of you being together for this happy day to have a long overdue photo of your immediate family. Explain to her that of course all the many and traditional wedding photos will take place. If she won’t back off, then it’s important that you two figure out how to resolve an issue—trivial as this is—that has you each in opposite corners, certain you are right. —E.Y.
From: “Help! My Fiancée Thinks She Should Be in My Family’s Photo at the Wedding.” (Oct. 28, 2013)
“Nick” and I have been dating for five months. It has been unbelievable, and I have never felt like this before—not even when I married my late husband. Unfortunately, his ex is seven months pregnant. She didn’t bother to tell Nick until someone caught her going out. They had been on and off for years. Nick met me in an “off” period and declined to get back together when she asked. We are all in our mid-30s. Nick is upset. He is angry at his ex, at the situation, and at himself. His own dad pulled a disappearing act when he was a child, and Nick refuses to do that to his own kid. I want to be supportive, but I feel stuck. I can’t have kids. I have dealt with that, and I think I could deal with being a stepmom, but not like this. I feel petty, but I hate the idea of the man I love having a baby with another woman. A woman whom I don’t like and who doesn’t like me much either. This hurts. Nick has begged me to stay and said that we will work things out. I don’t think we can. Not even as friends—I told Nick he needs to focus on getting a lawyer and establishing paternity. My sister has told me to come and stay with her. I can change positions pretty easily in my field. Can I leave? Should I leave? I feel like a coward. This is a small town, so there is no avoiding Nick or the situation.
If deciding to end a five-month relationship because the guy’s about to have a child with another woman is your idea of petty, then I’m having a hard time imagining what you might consider serious. You know already that you are going to leave, that you have to leave, that the only sensible, wise, self-respecting decision for you is to leave. Nick is going to be deeply involved—legally and financially, even if he were to commit to being totally unavailable to his child—with this woman, and their kid, for the next 18 years. There is nothing cowardly about deciding not to keep dating a guy you’ve known less than half a year because he’s about to have way less time and energy for you. It would be totally absurd if you pretended it didn’t affect your decision. Go visit your sister, wish Nick the best, and delete his number. —D.L.
From: “Help! My New Boyfriend Is About to Have a Baby With His Ex.” (Jan. 23, 2020)
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