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#317: This crush is really distracting me from my sexless relationship.

 Dear Captain Awkward:

I’m a 25-year-old male with a girlfriend of a little over two years. We’ve had our ups and downs over time, but for my recent memory, which probably means the last year, things have been going well. We have a lot of fun together, usually on our own as most of our friends have moved away as they get real people jobs. She is supportive, caring, funny, we have good communication in most areas (caveat upcoming!) and is someone I can see myself being with for a long, long time. The only negatives with our relationship before last week were 1) we have issues that have prevented us from having sex for our entire relationship, 2) she can become obnoxious when she drinks, and she drinks semi-frequently, and 3) she has a far shorter attention and tolerance span than I do. That hasn’t been much of an issue historically, but lately I have been reading up on feminist stories and consuming a lot more information, and it’s just not something we can share in doing because she isn’t that interested in it while I am bordering on obsessive.

     These three problems have seen little flare-ups throughout our relationship where they become more than just a thought regarding our future and become actual issues, but we’ve worked through them at the time and they never really resolve, just slide back to low heat. I have been focused on her for our two years and building a relationship with her.  I’ve never had a problem liking someone else or thinking about another woman in any romantic way. She’s been my only long-term girlfriend, and occasionally I’ll feel like I missed out because of my lack of past meaningful relationships, but that’s been more of an esoteric thought, less “I wish I had gotten to date _______.”

     I was unemployed for most of this year with a brief temp job in the middle, but I’m currently working somewhere new and loving it. One of my coworkers caught my eye within the past two weeks, and I’ve been crushing hard on her. We brushed arms once or twice and it felt exhilarating, and I’m exceedingly attracted to her. This is the first time in my relationship with my partner I’ve actually liked another girl, and I really like this other girl. I don’t know her too well, although she’s friendly and funny and been fun to talk to. I think I’m mostly physically attracted to her, because that attraction’s strong. For the past week, I’ve felt like shit about this. I feel like an asshole, especially knowing I can’t say 100% I wouldn’t cheat on my girlfriend. I like to think I wouldn’t, but I can’t say I wouldn’t, and that makes me feel as worthless (I think, never cheated) as if I had done something.

     These feelings for my coworker have brought the previous problems I have with our relationship to the forefront in my head. Especially not being able to share a consumption of social media with her. I have just recently started using Twitter a lot, mostly to keep up on social justice issues, and I want to do more. Start blogging, volunteer, maybe become politically active. We have little time as it is, and these things would eat into that time. It would be a point of contention no matter what. But before starting my crush, things were going well. These were concerns, but I didn’t think about them as often as I have in the last two weeks. I feel like I can’t trust any feelings I have because they may stem from my lustful thoughts and not any valid concerns over whether my partner and I should continue to be together.

     One of the big difficulties is I don’t feel I can bring this up at all to my partner. We have excellent communication, but I don’t think I can bring up “I really wish I could fuck this woman, and I worry that’s an impulse I would act on in a moment of weakness” constructively, nor could I bring up “I think you’re holding me back from producing the thoughts and things I want to by not being as engaged as I am socially” constructively. I don’t know how I’d start working through this with her, so I’ve just been letting time pass and hoping my feelings change.

     My question is, should I treat this as a crush I need to wait to pass before having any thoughts about where my relationship is with my partner? And is there any constructive way to discuss this with my partner?

Dear LW:

You could have a conversation with your partner where you ask if you can open up the relationship and pursue your crush. And if she says yes, you could approach Work Crush and see if she’s up for the same. People are always recommending The Ethical Slut around here, and another book called “Opening Up” which might help you frame the issue for yourself and discuss it for your partner. Haven’t read ‘em, can’t vouch for ‘em, but smart people say they’re good. Dan Savage would argue that a partner who won’t or can’t have sex with you should let you explore sex with other people so that you can get your needs met and be happy. I can imagine situations where that is a solution, but I’m pessimistic that this is one of them.

My personal opinion is that open relationships & poly- stuff don’t work in relationships that are already not working. “I know, let’s take this thing that isn’t working and add more people to it!

My other personal opinion is that, while work crushes develop into work relationships all the time, if you get shot down by this girl a lot of your personal business is going to come out at work. Where you work. So hang back on this one. Do not actively pursue. See if she comes to you.

Hard Truth: You can love people who can’t give you what you need from a relationship. You can love people who are incapable of making you happy. Love isn’t enough to solve certain kinds of incompatibilities. It doesn’t conquer all.

Sex is really important to me. I would have a hard time maintaining a relationship where that was not part of the deal, and an impossible time maintaining a relationship where that was NEVER going to be an option. I’m sure there are Reasons that sex isn’t possible or isn’t happening for you right now. Is that going to change in the future? Is there hope? Some kind of plan? Therapy? Does your partner identify as asexual? If so, there is likely a fundamental incompatibility between you around sex. Is it something you can talk about?

Self-expression – writing, communication – are really important to me. I would have a hard time maintaining a relationship that clipped my wings around, say, making movies, or writing this blog.

I would have a hard time maintaining a relationship with someone who drinks too much and especially with someone who is mean to me or “obnoxious” when drunk. “Too much” can mean a lot of things. If you’re dreading the thought of her getting drunk, of seeing her when she’s drunk, if you’re thinking about her drinking or working around her drinking in a way that affects your life….it’s too much. For you.

I would have a hard time maintaining a relationship with a partner where I could not bring up needs and dreams that are important to me.

I can tell that you are a sweet, loyal, caring, loving, ethical dude and that you want to do only right by your partner. But your needs – for sex, for self-expression and creativity, to be able to talk about anything and everything with your partner – are not being met inside this relationship. Your girlfriend doesn’t have to do anything objectively wrong in order to be wrong for you.

I know what it is to stay up all night with someone because you can’t decide whether you want to talk more or $%#! more so you just keep trading off until you eventually fall asleep, only to start over again in the morning. And I know what it is to stay too long in a relationship where there is plenty of love and laughter and loyalty but that essential spark – of desire, of shared dreams and passions – is not there.

Leaving someone you love involves some hard decisions and some pain for sure. Loyalty is great and admirable quality, but staying loyal to something that is hurting you and making you frustrated and small is not necessary. I think that you’re making sacrifices that you don’t have to make and that some of your loyalty is more about the idea of “having a girlfriend” and “proving you are a loyal dude and not a selfish ass” than it is about the actual relationship.

I think you will ultimately be happier if you end things with your current partner, take a few months to grieve and recover, and then jump back into dating and really look around for the kind of person who can make you happy. I think this crush, your happiness at work, are a message from the universe: “It can be so much better than it is now!”

I wish you well whatever you decide.

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112 comments
  1. Stray Cat said:

    This must be Decent Reasonable Folks With Normal But Nonetheless Important Problems Week! :)

    • JenniferP said:

      Honestly? Fuck normal. People don’t write in when everything’s okay.

      And fuck the idea that people with larger problems (like being stalked, for instance, to call up your other comment about this) aren’t “decent.”

      Sometimes I too need a break from the really serious stuff – I’m not trained to handle it, for one thing – but people trust us with real problems and shouldn’t feel ashamed or like they’re ruining your breakfast reading with their actual pain.

  2. Sheelzebub said:

    Hi, LW.

    First, I’m seeing three dealbreakers in your relationship, though number 3 is different from what you think.

    1) No sex for two years. It’s not shallow or bad to want a sexual relationship with your partner. I don’t know what the issues were for two years, and if you were able to engage in any kind of sexytimes at all or not. If you had no sexytimes at all–and the issues weren’t being addressed–that can get frustrating.

    2) Obnoxious when she drinks and she drinks a fair amount. Um. That doesn’t sound like fun.

    3) I’m actually unclear on this issue. Is it that you want to blog and she’d get angry about it because it would mean time away from her? Is it that you want to “share” social media with her? If it’s the latter, that’s kind of a big deal because dude, you two are not and should not be joined at the hip. You are each allowed to have your own passions and pastimes, and this idea that you must share hobbies/passions is something you need to let go. If it’s the former–she would not be happy about your blogging or tweeting or volunteering or doing anything that doesn’t involve her–well then she’s the one with the issue.

    The biggest dealbreaker I’m seeing here is that you don’t feel comfortable discussing these things with her.

    I suspect this crush is a way for you to show yourself that you’re not happy in this relationship. There is nothing wrong with calling it a day and setting yourself and her free to find more compatible people.

    Although–I’d advise you to take it slowly with crush-girl, if you do break up with your girlfriend. You said yourself that you don’t know her that well and that it’s physical. That’s great–it is always exhilarating to get pants feelings about someone–but you have no idea how she feels about you and/or if she’d be open to anything. She’s also a coworker.

    • Esti said:

      I think your framing of the three issues is really helpful. 1 and 2 sound like pretty reasonable things to not be happy with, and if you’ve tried to address them and it hasn’t worked then in your place I would be thinking pretty seriously about ending this relationship, whatever it’s good qualities.

      Number 3 is a little different because it’s hard to know from the letter what’s going on there. If it’s that LW’s partner doesn’t show any interest in the things he’s passionate about (not even in the “sweetie, I don’t really know or care about Obamacare, but if you read something you’re really excited about then of course I want to hear about it [for a reasonable period of time]“), that’s definitely a big issue and I wouldn’t be happy with that either. And if the issue is that the LW is really passionate about his political beliefs and it’s important to him to have a partner who gets at least somewhat enraged whenever Romney opens his mouth, I can definitely understand that, too. But if the issue is more that the LW thinks that they must share all interests and activities, then that’s not a particularly healthy or realistic expectation. And if the issue is that, as the LW says, he’s so excited about the issues he’s exploring that he wants to discuss them obsessively, then I don’t think the partner is holding him back by wanting to occasionally change the subject.

      LW, if you want to read and blog about social justice issues, that’s something that you can do while sitting on the couch next to your partner with some TV show you both like playing in the background. That’s actually perhaps the very easiest not-shared interest to accomodate, because it doesn’t actually require you to leave your joint space and spend a bunch of your limited free time apart. Even volunteering and activism can be done in virtual spaces, if your primary concern is about not having enough time to spend with your partner (though I think that volunteering in person somewhere is a lot more fun, personally, and unless you have very limited time with your partner already, I don’t think an hour or two a week is a big sacrifice of shared time).

      You definitely shouldn’t feel like you need to stay with your girlfriend if you don’t want to (especially since issues 1 and 2 exist, and they seem like pretty big ones), but maybe just keep in mind that there are tons of people in very happy relationships where one is super engaged in politics and the other couldn’t care less, or one is an obsessive sports fan and the other could not tell you a single baseball player’s name. Both people just need to be happy with a compromise (“I will be excited about this thing because I know you are excited about it” in exchange for “even though I would love to talk for 6 hours about this thing I’m excited about, I’ll make sure that I don’t overdo it and that we talk about the things you’re interested in, too”). I say this not to make you question your doubts about your relationship, but more because your letter also talked about how being attracted to another woman felt like a terrible betrayal to you, and that made me think that you might be pretty invested in the idea that a good relationship requires you and your partner be all things to each other.

      • Lilly said:

        “there are tons of people in very happy relationships where one is super engaged in politics and the other couldn’t care less, or one is an obsessive sports fan and the other could not tell you a single baseball player’s name”

        Yes! This! I am one of those people!

        My bf is super into board games – he can literally spend all night playing Twilight Imperium with his equally board game geeky pals. And he does – he goes out and spends all night with his chums eating pizza and playing! I don’t like really loooong board games too much but I like stuff like Settlers of Catan so we play that and other short games together.

        I on the other hand love reading novels and writing poetry so that’s what I do, sometimes my bf reads my poems but he is not so au fait about poetry so I get feedback from my poetry group mates.

        I would not like to be joined at the hip and to do everything together, anyway. It would be way too intense for me. And why would I stop someone I love from being happy and doing stuff he enjoys the hell out of?

        So LW, whatever you do with your gf, knock yourself out blogging! Tweet your heart out. Your gf surely wants a relationship with YOU not just a warm body to keep her company?

        • Alice said:

          What sounds like the awesome thing with Lilly and (her? I assume?) partner is that they each have other friends who are super into the thing their partner is less into. LW, maybe that would help here? If your partner just isn’t into social justice and blogging etc. then perhaps part of the solution here is to go find some awesome people who are. That’s not going to solve your other problems, obviously, but perhaps solving this one might give you some space to work out what’s going on with the rest of your stuff.

  3. Rachel Scotland said:

    LW, you could be me from six months ago. I think you know what you have to do, and I’m sorry that it’ll hurt.

    Blanket Statement Monday: Relationships are hard work like rock climbing, not hard work like endlessly pushing a rock up a hill only for it to roll back down. If your relationship feels like its going nowhere -and not in a one-off, what-next kind of way, in a I-don’t-know-how-to-get-the-rock-to-stay-up-there-but-I’ll-worry-about-that-when-I-reach-the-top kind of way, then it’s probably because the relationship has reached the end of its journey. That’s OK! Try and leave with good grace instead of waiting until the rock rolls over your foot and you start swearing.

  4. MHM said:

    There seems to be more to the LWs story. Especially re: problem 1- what are these issues- maybe they are his and not hers? If he does not feel ready to break up so soon, perhaps it would be good to talk it out a bit more? Just to get more clear on where he stands regarding his needs in a relationship.If he has a job, he may have an Employee Assistance Program that could offer a phone session or brief counselling. They can be free and confidential (mine is). Discussing problem 1 and the coworker situation could be helpful.

    • Tosca said:

      I agree, I can’t help feeling that the LW is holding back on something.

      *Why* is there no sex? If she’s asexual then I think you aren’t compatible. By your comments, you seem sexual. Heck, you could’ve thought you WERE asexual, but are coming to realize you actually aren’t. And that’s ok! It doesn’t make you a terrible, shallow person.
      If the no sex thing is due to something like trauma, then you’re going to feel like an even more terrible person for leaving. But you’re not! It’s like the previous letters about living with a life altering, untreated mental illness. Is she in therapy? Has she decided against therapy and/or that she’s perfectly happy with no sex for her entire life? Then regardless of where the “no sex” came from, you two are fundamentally incompatible now.

      Also, you didn’t mention in any way how your coworker returned your feelings. I’m willing to bet that she might like you, but has no earthly clue about your strong feelings. Please tread carefully here. Falling in love with the fantasy woman in your head is easy, but respecting her feelings and boundaries is important.

      • emilyperson said:

        Yeah, details would be good here. Off the top of my head, reasons for celibacy include asexuality, PTSD, religious objections to nonmarital sex, physical disabilities, and general problems having relationships. “My girlfriend can’t work and I’m the one who supports her” is a very different situation from “I only feel sexually attracted to people I’m not emotionally intimate with.”

        I still advise breaking up with your girlfriend, though, just because you… don’t sound like this relationship makes you happy.. Even if she’s not interested in the passions and hobbies themselves, any partner should support you having them. Most importantly, the people in any close relationship (friends, family, romantic partners) should be able to ask for what they want, with the understanding that the answer might not be “yes.” If you’re afraid saying or hearing one “no” will destroy your relationship, it’s already broken.

        Nth-ing all the stuff about taking it slow with Coworker Girl. Go ahead and flirt– in a friendly, low-key way while you’re in your current relationship, and with more sexual undertones if/when you’re single– as long as she seems to like and reciprocate it. You don’t have a lot of experience with romance, so follow her cues and don’t be too sad if it doesn’t go anywhere. You still got to flirt with someone cute for a while, and that’s fun all on its own.

        • emilyperson said:

          I proofread three times and STILL didn’t notice how incoherent that first paragraph is until I hit Publish. What I was TRYING to get at is that some things bring more guilt than others. “It’s not you, it’s my commitment issues” shifts blame from the dump-ee, “it’s not me, it’s your PTSD” makes the dump-ee feel terrible because it’s not like that’s something they can control, and “it’s not me, it’s the severe MS that keeps you housebound” makes the dump-ee feel terrible and the dump-er feel guilty.

          … I feel like that’s not any better. Words, why won’t you do what I want?

      • f said:

        Why is the reason for the sexlessness even important?

        Is the LW somehow morally obliged to spend another couple of years next to his girlfriend to find out if her therapy (if she’s doing one) finally works out?

        And then find out that she still 2) probably has an alcohol problem and 3) doesn’t seem to be such a great fit personality-wise?

        No.
        What the Captain said:
        ‘I think this crush, your happiness at work, are a message from the universe: “It can be so much better than it is now!”’

        • Tosca said:

          No, what I meant to convey (I hadn’t had my coffee yet, derp!) was that it seemed like he *intentionally* left out the reason because he was afraid it would make him look bad to be leaving a GF “just” for lack of sex (especially if that lack was borne from a vulnerable reason, like trauma). That, coupled with the feminism reference, made me wonder if maybe he was mistakenly thinking that, in order to be a good ally, he had to put up with the situation. But you’re absolutely right, regardless of the reason, he *can* leave if he isn’t happy. 100%!

    • Chickie said:

      I don’t think the specifics of 1 actually matter in this situation, and LW is not obligated to tell us the dirty details of why they’re not doin’ it. It’s enough to know that the current situation is a negative for him, enough that he mentioned it – it wasn’t even the main focus of the rest of the letter, so I think Captain’s advice (think about this means to you and whether you’ll be happy) is sufficient and could be applied to any details.

      • MHM said:

        I agree the LW does not need to share the specifics here! I am advocating that the LW use this as a learning experience toward better understanding his needs and the meaning behind his crush. Some comments below made some good points about this. A better understanding may inform his decision of whether or not to break up. I think it does not hurt to meet the LW where he is at in this process. I.e., he is confused about the meaning of his feelings. It is not to try and prevent the break up, but to learn more about himself and the relationship, and maybe to potentially inform future relationships.

  5. About the current relationship… you don’t really mention any of the good stuff about your partner. Do you have good times? Do you have fun together? Does she think you are the coolest thing ever? I’m guessing… probably not. So the now-relationship is okay but not that great.

    You do talk a little about the possibilities for the future-relationship here and you don’t seem enthused. All those problems you’re not dealing with have to get dealt with sometime if a relationship is going to last a really long time. You don’t sound optimistic about that, and furthermore you want to change and grow in ways that you think your current relationship will not allow. So the future-relationship possibilities are really not all that good at all.

    After two years, I think it’s reasonable to put in a good-faith effort to fix stuff. But it shouldn’t hold you there just because it’s where you’ve been for a couple of years.

    You have the power to make changes! You can assert that you are going to change in these ways and be interested in this stuff and blog and write and so on, and if your partner wants to come along with you that’s awesome! And if she doesn’t want to join you, you can negotiate that you do it on your own time. She doesn’t get to say, in words or deed, “I don’t like it so you don’t get to do it”.

    People grow apart in relationships. People find that this partnership that was so awesome… isn’t anymore. This happens to good and awesome people!

    As for the work crush… you were unemployed for a long time, you don’t know her well, and you love this job. Enjoy the fizzle! But don’t do anything else. Work crushes can turn into the Real Deal, but it’s a one in a million shot. If it doesn’t work, it can screw up your career for good.

    When you start up that blog, give us the URL!

  6. case-in-point said:

    Crushes can be incredibly useful things– whether you are available or not. Obviously, crushes are less fraught when you are unavailable, but humans with human feelings are prone to crushes whether or not they are inconvenient. I’m married and I still develop crushes time to time. What I find is important is, rather than be eaten up by guilt or to feel like having a feeling means I’m going to act on it, is to sit back and try to identify why I’m vulnerable to having a crush on this person at this moment. Having feelings that make it necessary to re-evaluate our relationships gives us the opportunity to re-assess problems that we’ve been ignoring or sweeping under the rug. It can be good to re-evaluate existing relationships in light of new ones coming on the scene because it makes things feel more urgent, which, in my case at least, makes me less likely to sweep my concerns under the rug because that’s easier than dealing with them.

    Real-life outcomes I’ve had from this– 1. relationship is fundamentally not working… abort 2. relationship needs tweaking… fix 3. relationship is fine, life is boring and stressful…keep boyfriend, take acting class 4. relationship is fine, life is fine… hot dude is hot and we need to figure out what to do about that. I just wanted to point all of this out because I don’t think it’s part of our cultural narrative about crushes– that they’re sometimes about things other than sex or about the person that we’re crushing on. They can be about dissatisfaction in our current relationships, but also about stress and the desire to run away from your responsibilities. I think it’s very important to figure out the need beneath the desire because then you can make adjustments to meet the need without acting on the desire.

    I just want to say one more thing– in a good partnership not all of your interests need to always line up with each other. My husband and I have interests that we pursue together, but also things that we pursue separately. You ought to be able to talk to each other about separate interests and each partner should be willing to do things that are important to the other, but it shouldn’t be a requirement that she become interested in the same things as you at the same time as you. I’m an artist, but visual art isn’t something that my husband has a particularly strong interest in. He’s interested for my sake, but he’s not going to read as many blogs or magazines or obscure articles about it as I am. What he does do is read articles I’m really excited about, listen to me when I read something fascinating that I need to share, and he’s almost always game to take me to openings. I behave similarly towards my husband’s passions that I don’t share (math and computer programming). We can talk to each other about anything and everything and support each other without sharing everything. (This includes being supportive of the amount of time we need to pursue separate interests)

    • thegirlfrommarz said:

      I really love this “what might your crush be telling you?” message, because it’s so helpful to think beyond “this person I’m crushing on is amazing!” to “why do I think this person I’m crushing on is amazing?”.

      Society tends to frame crushes when you’re in a relationship in two ways: either the crush-ee is The One and you’re in the wrong relationship (hello, rom-com world!), or you’re a perv who is a slave to your lusts, and your current partner is a saint for putting up with you. Neither of those is very helpful given the complexity of real life.

      You said: “She’s been my only long-term girlfriend, and occasionally I’ll feel like I missed out because of my lack of past meaningful relationships”

      I remember reading about some research that suggested that a large proportion of serious relationships have a natural lifespan of about 3 years before they reach a kind of watershed. At that point either the couple split up or they make a deeper commitment (marriage, children, moving in together, or just a mutual understanding that this is for the long haul). Your relationship might just have reached its expiry date a little sooner (my last one took a year longer than the average). I think it’s particularly hard in your first serious relationship to come to terms with the fact that it isn’t working, because you feel more for the person than for anyone else previously and you can’t quite believe that something that felt so momentous and amazing is no longer fixable. Once you’ve been through this once, you tend to recognise the signs more easily and although it is still sad and awful when something that was wonderful becomes not-so-wonderful, you know you can get through it.

      If you do decide to stay with your current girlfriend, I think some open and honest communication about how you’re feeling (including about the lack of sex and the fact that you’re getting interested in feminism and social justice issues and want to spend more time on that – yay you, by the way! – and if her drinking seems problematic, then about that too) would be a good baseline for moving forwards. If you can’t talk about these issues, they will fester.

      Good luck with whatever you decide to do!

      • NessieMonster said:

        Ahhh, both these comments are really important! And revelant to me on occassion. It’s good to have a reminder that what society says is truth, is often not because the real-life situation is far more complex. I’ve had crushes on co-workers before. One turned into sex that was kinda a repeated one-night stand with lots of feelings but reverted fairly quickly (about several months later) to two people with a bit of knowledge of each other but an understanding that all’s well that ends well, with a dose of careful respect. Another exposed itself to me through my totally bizarre dreams but I realised that what I was attracted to was their air of competence. A thing I want for myself but am sorely lacking in. Sigh.

      • Lilly said:

        “Society tends to frame crushes when you’re in a relationship in two ways: either the crush-ee is The One and you’re in the wrong relationship (hello, rom-com world!), or you’re a perv who is a slave to your lusts, and your current partner is a saint for putting up with you. Neither of those is very helpful given the complexity of real life.”

        Recently I read something that said that no one person can be everything to any other person, so it’s understandable that you will at some point have a crush or two and that you will need friends who are not your partner.

        I think it’s normal to be sexually attracted to someone who is not your partner/ spouse even if your relationship is fantastic and you are having as much sex as you want/ need. I don’t believe there is just one person on the planet whom you will find attractive to such a degree that it will blot out all pantsfeelings for others. Of course acting on those feelings is a different question.

        So I am not sure I agree totally with the comment that the crush signifies some sort of issue in your relationship.

        • I don’t think she’s saying so much that the crush signifies an *issue* in the relationship so much as that it could be there for any number of reasons, very few of which are included in popular ideas of What A Crush Means.

          For instance, I currently have two slightly embarrassing crushes on two teacher-types in my life right now. Both people are competent and intense and also good at teaching what they do. Neither of those crushes are going to go anywhere physical for a large number of reasons, and I’m also pretty sure that what’s going on is more “I want to be them” than “I want to do them” (though, pantsfeelings ahoy!).

          • thegirlfrommarz said:

            Hello Lilly and quartzpebble! quartzpebble is right – what I was trying to say is that there could be a lot of reasons for a crush, but we don’t really have a cultural frame of refence for crushes other than. Some might be about you (like quartzpebble’s “I want to be them”), some might be about your relationship, and some might just be “rawrrr!”.

            I think it wasn’t clear because I was trying to make two separate points (“crushes happen for a lot of reasons” and “most long-term relationships reach a point where you either separate or commit more deeply at around 3 years”) but I did it in the same comment.

          • thegirlfrommarz said:

            Oops, that should have been “other than ‘you’re in the wrong relationship’ or ‘you’re a lech’”.

      • Any time I’ve had hard crushes while in relationships, they show me what I’m missing in my current relationship; most importantly, they tell me I’m not in love. There are different types of crushes (lusty type crushing vs. personality talk-all-night type crushing), people are poly and have multiple partners, but your crush could be the big signal that you’re not in love with your partner any more.

    • FlyBy said:

      Yes, this.

      Crushes can happen for a wide variety of reasons, and IME they’re more common when you’re making a major life change (like finding a job after a season of unemployment). Emotions are running high because new job, new people, new stresses. Sometimes the emotion gets channeled into a crush. It’s not a bad thing, it just is. You can decide what you want to do with it.

      Office romances can backfire spectacularly, especially if they’re impulsive. Some offices even have policies against it. If you decide to do anything with your crush, please take it slowly and thoughtfully!

  7. stentord said:

    1. Work Crush is an unrealistic fantasy. You don’t really know her, so it’s easy to project all kinds of “wow, she’s so perfect” stuff onto her. If she’s a co-worker, the potential for everything to go very pear-shaped is quite high. You need to train yourself to catch your crushy thoughts, then think “I am having an inappropriate crush. I am now going to think about my TPS reports instead.”

    2. I can’t imagine why your girlfriend (who is probably already feeling a bit insecure over the no sex thing) wouldn’t be receptive to being told “hey babe, I might cheat on you — you gotta help me fix it.”

    3. Why does your girlfriend have to be involved in your social justice Twitter stuff? That seems like a perfect avenue to cultivate an activity separate from her (maybe something to do while she’s out drinking?). I admit I get a bit of a creepy vibe from the way you frame it as arising from getting just so obsessed with reading about feminism, as if you want to justify yourself by saying “I’m too awesome of a feminist for my girlfriend!”

  8. maggie said:

    LW, you really sound a lot like me from my first real relationship. He wasn’t really interested in doing new things with me, or anything but extremely vanilla sex on occasion. He was also supportive and caring, and other good things.

    But…that really didn’t make up for the stuff where we weren’t compatible. It took me a long, long time of getting sad and frustrated and unhappy before I gave up thinking it was enough. I took would flare up into fighting and crying, and nothing ever changed.

    I regret that it took me as long as it did, because I became slowly became a worse partner, because I was so unhappy and couldn’t really recognize it (or kept telling myself every relationship has ups and downs…true, it’s not 100% sunshine and roses, but it still should be a pretty darn high percentage of enjoying the relationship).

    You deserve someone who matches you better, and really? She does too. It totally sucks to break up, and it’s scary. And you think “she’s really great in X, Y, and Z ways!” So maybe you should let her go find someone else who doesn’t add “but…” to the end of that sentence.

    I am far happier now and have *all* of my basic needs met. In 3 years with my husband, I have never doubted my fundamental happiness with him.

    • withywindling said:

      Ugh, I *too* would flare up…

  9. LW, I noticed that you refer to your feelings of attraction for your crush as “lustful thoughts.” That is… super sweet and a little Biblical! But you seem to think that they’re the problem here, and I don’t really think they are. Something about the phrasing and the way you approach these feelings makes me want to share this with you: even in your happiest, most fairy-tale-styled marriage-with-children-and-house-and-a-Golden-Retriever, you will find yourself experiencing attraction for other people. Brief, temporary, passing attraction that you never act on! Most sexual people – and it seems that you are a sexual person – absolutely do! I think this could be a Geek Sexual Fallacy, actually – I mean, even Aragorn goes through a period of “BUT I THOUGHT ARWEN’S PERFECT LOVE WAS SUPPOSED TO PROTECT ME FROM THESE UNCOMFORTABLE PANTS-FEELINGS! PERHAPS HER LOVE IS NOT PERFECT AFTER ALL?! OR PERHAPS … I HAVE FAILED HER!”

    I want to assure you that “lustful thoughts” for people who are not your partner are quite normal for sexual people in committed relationships! It’s not like changing your Facebook status to “In a Relationship” or sliding a gold ring over your first knuckle suddenly blocks all of the chemical receptors for attraction in your brain, rendering you permanently unable to desire anyone but your partner. Even being in love doesn’t necessarily “protect” some people from experiencing sexual attraction for others, or enjoying erotica, or having sexy dreams, or finding actors or fictional characters appealing and fantasy-making. By themselves, things like “physical attraction” and “lustful thoughts” are not feelings that should produce guilt and shame, and certainly not to the point where you’re tormenting yourself and “feeling worthless/like shit for a week.” You could certainly feel bad for cheating, but you haven’t cheated on her, you’re just experiencing attraction. This isn’t really about these feelings; it’s about your relationship with your girlfriend. A good possible place to start may be letting yourself climb down from the pedestal you’ve put yourself on, and allowing yourself to admit things like “my partner is not perfect!” and “I would like to express my sexuality more!” and “I want to experience shivers of attraction!” and even “my partner’s magical female body does not have sparkly sex-absorbing powers, and my sexual attraction for another female does not mean that my girlfriend’s mystical shields are somehow faulty or broken!”

    I believe the Captain’s advice is correct, I think your lustful thoughts are a red herring, and I think you’re going to be okay.

    • Ethyl said:

      On a similar line of thought, the LW also contended that he didn’t know whether he would cheat on his partner. LW, maybe its worth thinking some deep thinky thoughts about what physical intimacy means to you, and about how you think it should/does happen.

      You make a decision *to* cheat, just as much as you make a decision not to (I am a person who has cheated in previous relationships occasionally). It sounds like you are maybe giving yourself pre-permission to cheat, by claiming essentially that you can’t control yourself. That seems to tie into this idea that you are having wicked lustful thoughts, like sex is some sort of mystical force that just….happens. It might be worth thinking about that maybe?

  10. Esti said:

    LW, your crush may be helpful in getting you to question whether you’re happy in your current relationship, but I think you’re smart to recognize that a crush is (usually) not a good reason to leave your relationship. There may be lots of other reasons to leave, and the Captain did a good job of tackling those, but I’d suggest you try to take the crush out of that equation. “If I wasn’t with my girlfriend, I could look for a partner who shared my political interests” is a good thing to consider. “If I wasn’t with my girlfriend, I could look for a partner who shared my political interests… like how yesterday I was talking to Sally about abortion laws and she was really passionate about the issue and I can’t stop thinking about how great it would be if we dated and talked about abortion a lot and then had a lot of sex and a million babies” is…. not helpful to deciding what you want to do about your current relationship.

    And btw, it’s TOTALLY NORMAL AND FINE to be attracted to other people while you’re in a committed, monogamous relationship. It’s not realistic to expect that you’ll never notice other women if you love your partner, and it doesn’t have to interfere with your relationship at all so long as you don’t act on it or get too fixated on it. I know we all get fed the idea that when it’s True Love you only have eyes for each other and that you should stop noticing that other women exist, but that’s just not how it works for the vast majority of people.

  11. duck-billed placelot said:

    How does ‘not interested in social media/feminist politics’ translate into ‘she has a far shorter attention and tolerance span than I do’? Also, she’s not holding you back from ‘producing thoughts’. This feels like a really tacked on, cookie-seeing afterthought missile. Listen, you have the perfect reason to end things with this woman you’ve (obsessively?) focused on for two years: the relationship doesn’t fulfill your needs. More importantly, you don’t need a reason. You want out? Get out! But don’t turn her into a villain if she’s not – that’s not fair to her, and it’s a crappy pattern to set up for your relationships and the way you interact with women/lovers. She’s not stopping you from tweeting your heart out (although it would be valid for her to say, ‘Listen, self-described obsessive lover-person, please do not blog until five am EVERY day/expect me to read your three hundred tweets tomorrow.’ That’s not stopping you, that’s just being a person who does not share your level of interest. And also maybe having a bit more balance than this hypothetical version of you I am imagining).

    If things have been one way your whole relationship (no sex), you can still decide to opt out without it being shallow or mean or a lie or dishonorable. You have to be true to your own needs and desires, because no one else is privy to your shifting landscape of self – no one else can understand you like you do. You don’t need an airtight, admirable reason to go, but you do need to be honest and kind to this person and the memory of the time you’ve shared. Your girlfriend has been dating former you for a long time now, the you that wasn’t politically active and was committed to a sexless relationship. It is not suddenly that your girlfriend doesn’t measure up; it is that you have changed. Nobody is the villain, but you have to take the responsibility of being your own hero.

    • alphakitty said:

      I was thinking something similar: sometimes it feels like the other half of a partnership is limiting you, when really you’re limiting yourself in anticipation of conflict that you think would result if you did what you really wanted to do.

      Sometimes you’re right — your partner would be annoyed. They’d push back. There would be conflict, and maybe a period of readjustment, that either wound up right back where you started (except that at least you would have clarified both your feelings on the subject, which could help you decide whether you can be happy together or not), or somewhere better. Maybe you’d make it as a couple after that. Maybe you wouldn’t.

      Sometimes you’re wrong — they don’t actually mind at all, they’re more flexible than you think they are, or they really do hate it but they want you to be happy so they try to accommodate, and together you find a work-around. Sometimes what’s really happening is that you’re projecting your own fear of change onto your partner (even though at least part of you yearns for that change).

      Either way, there is much to be said for taking a deep breath and starting to act like the other person is *not* limiting you. Don’t be obnoxious about it, but stop cowering and self-limiting for fear of what might happen if you acted like who you really want to be.

      Maybe your girlfriend will be cooler about the changes than you think. You could then decide whether the *other* issues in your relationship are dealbreakers.

      Maybe she’ll say “I don’t like the way you’ve changed and if this is who you are I don’t want to be with you after all.” It doesn’t sound like you’d be devastated if that happened. And then you could go find other people you have as much or more in common with, and with whom you have and can act on mutual pantsfeelings.

      But at least it is all honest and straightforward and, in its own way, more respectful of your girlfriend than deciding on her behalf that she can’t handle the real you.

      • JenniferP said:

        “I was thinking something similar: sometimes it feels like the other half of a partnership is limiting you, when really you’re limiting yourself in anticipation of conflict that you think would result if you did what you really wanted to do.”

        This, and the rest of your comment, and definitely Duckbilled Placelot’s entire comment, are so very wise. People stop taking risks and being real with each other.

    • This.

      There are a lot of wise words in the thread above, about compatibility and the meaning (or lack thereof) of having a crush. Crushes with completely inaccessible people *can* be highly pleasurable and poetry-inspiring experiences if we’re happy in ourselves. Like most others, my instinct is that the LW’s level of misery is due, not to lust and the fear of cheating, but the accumulative dissatisfaction with his relationship. Which doesn’t make him a bad guy.

      I think lots of us have stayed in unhappy and even abusive relationships because of the sense that the other person isn’t *so* bad and therefore we must be bad for wanting out. But it doesn’t work like that – lovely wonderful people deserve to be left rather than led on or be given hope about a relationship that’s likely to deteriorate as frustrations and resentments increase. Making it about whether the other person is good enough for us is not only unfair on them, it makes us blame ourselves for our unhappiness and stops us moving on.

      LW’s girlfriend may be a wonderful person. Things like her being “obnoxious” while drunk and I sense, being possessive of LW’s time (which is how I read his frustrated activist dreams) sound like maybe she’s not. But this is completely irrelevant. What matters is whether this particular coupling is making one or other of them less happy than they have the potential to be.

    • Baytree said:

      I didn’t get the impression that he was painting Girlfriend as the villain. The things he’s mentioned as problems are generally framed in a non-blaming way – for example “we can’t have sex” as apposed to “she won’t have sex.” Whose fault is it? No one’s, according to the letter.

      Same thing goes for the attention span. Saying she has a shorter attention span than he does is not necessarily an insult! I know I tend to hyperfocus on one thing and NOTHING ELSE until all my friends are sick of the topic. Even if they like cats they don’t want to discuss feline anatomy for hours…. they don’t have that kind of attention span. And that’s a good thing, because they can move on to other enjoyable activities while I’m still stuck on cats. The problem for LW is that he doesn’t have much together-time with Girlfriend, and his blogging is a solo activity that’d take up some of their together-time. She might be (understandably) peeved that she doesn’t get to see her boyfriend much because he’s too busy on twitter.

      • duck-billed placelot said:

        I see your point, but he did specifically say she was ‘holding him back’, which is hard to interpret in a blameless light.

      • Elsajeni said:

        But if that’s the problem, then what does her attention span have to do with it? What’s coming off a little weird to me is that he’s kind of conflating several different things — “she has a shorter attention span than me” and “I’m more interested in feminism/social justice than she is” and “I want to start a blog but it would eat into my free time to spend with her” — into one big problem, and it’s not really clear what those issues have to do with each other or what the problem really is. I wonder if maybe the LW himself is not totally sure what the problem is on Issue #3, but just has a nebulous sense of “not right, not happy” about it.

        • Ethyl said:

          Yeah, that attention span thing stood out to me, as well — I wonder if, combined with “she’s not as into social justice as I am,” that it’s maybe code for “less intelligent than I am”? Something about it rubbed me the wrong way, I guess is what I’m saying?

    • no one else is privy to your shifting landscape of self

      That is a lovely way to phrase that idea.

  12. MissPrism said:

    LW – I agree with the others.

    The crush is an escape fantasy. CrushGirl has only been your colleague for two weeks – not to say nothing can ever come of it and it’s all in your head, but you don’t actually know her yet. I wouldn’t discuss your crush with your partner – what on earth can she say or do in response that will make the situation better? – but you do need to discuss the other problems.

    As for your new interest in politics – well, people in long term relationships are probably going to pick up new interests at times, unless they are very boring people. I can imagine a situation where one partner’s all-consuming new interest necessitates a break-up (“I am sorry, but I am leaving you to sail solo round the world until I die. It is what I have to do”) but it sounds like it would be a very rare thing. More often the interested partner pursues the interest, and the non-interested partner combines learning to care a bit by proxy with polite feigned interest, and it is not a problem even when the fucker can’t drag his arse out of bed before noon to spend any time with YOU but if it’s to see some stupid BIRD he’s fully dressed and polishing his binoculars by five a.m.

    Ahem.
    That was a joke, sweetie, if you’re reading this.

    • MissPrism said:

      (I’m now racked with guilt about dissing my beloved even anonymously and for humorous effect, and feel the need to point out that he got up early to spend a few minutes with me just this very morning despite a late night taking me out to the theatre.)

      • thegirlfrommarz said:

        I’m sure anyone smart enough to be the beloved of the divine MissPrism appreciates her for her humour and wouldn’t mind at all being dissed for humorous effect.

        Seriously, even thinking about your review of The Bone People after however many years makes me snort with laughter.

        Ahem. I’m not a stalker, honest.

        • MissPrism said:

          Wow, thank you!

          If my calculations are correct I just not-stalked you right back and followed you on twitter.

          • thegirlfrommarz said:

            Your calculations are totally correct, and I am following you back in a totally non-stalkerish fashion. Also, apparently if I follow you, I should also follow Mariella Frostrup and the Queen.

      • sasha said:

        As one of those people who will get up at 5 a.m. polishing her binoculars to see some stupid BIRD, I can tell you that we’re quite used to hearing others (including – maybe especially – our partners) joke about it! Most of us know our hobby is, well, pretty inexplicable to non-birders, and tend to be pretty good-humored about well-intentioned joking, such as yours here.

        Gotta run, I think I see a rare bird out my window….;)

  13. emptysea said:

    Hey LW,

    I’ve never commented here before, but parts of your letter really struck a chord with me – I sort of did a double-take because some of what you wrote feels like it could have been written by my ex-boyfriend. We weren’t able to have sex for Reasons and while we had some overlapping interests, they were quickly diverging as we got older and started pursuing different career paths. We also had very different ways of relaxing/decompressing, which probably left both of us thinking the other had a short attention span. All together, those things were really taking their toll on both of us.

    Anyway, I just wanted to say that, from the other side of this situation, the Captain’s advice really rings true. It sounds like a lot of your needs aren’t being met in this relationship, and perhaps your girlfriend’s needs aren’t being met either. I think that can be a hard thing to realize and come to terms with, especially in your first long-term relationship. My ex was great, and I was pretty great too, but together we weren’t actually extra great, or even as great as we were individually. For a while, we operated on this unspoken agreement that sure, we weren’t all that happy, but we’d be even *more* unhappy apart. Which just…oof.

    Towards the end of that relationship, I too developed a crush, and I think that may be a little gift in some ways. It helped me realize that this “more unhappy apart” thing was a fallacy, because I was already envisioning a situation where I thought I could be happier. I’d venture that acting on a coworker-crush may not be the best course of action, but it can be a nice reminder that you can and should hope for a relationship that’s meeting your needs.

    As the Captain says, it’s really hard to end things with someone you love and care about, but at least from the outside, it seems like that could be a good thing for both of you.

    Best of luck and as carbonatedtwit mentioned – I hope you’ll share a link to your blog when you get it set up!

  14. Nicole said:

    While I agree with a lot of Captain Awkward’s advice, I am just wondering why you don’t try talking about the issues specifically with your current relationship first, before you bring up the crush. Bringing up the crush could go over fine, but it has the possibility to be a gigantic bomb that destroys your relationship…especially if it is brought up in a “you aren’t meeting my needs so now I have a crush” way (which I don’t THINK you’d do, seeing as you are already extremely guilty, and obviously care a lot about this girl).

    It isn’t clear from your letter if you have tried having this discussion before- I’m not trying to imply you are lazy, or aren’t trying or really anything. But have you had a completely honest discussion in which you say “a) The no-sex thing is bothering me (because I think the fact that you mention it here means that it is) b) we need to get better at communicating and c) I love you but you can be obnoxious when you drink”? (or going through the 3 issues Sheezlebub mentioned)

    If you haven’t had that conversation, do it. See if you can fix the things in your current relationship that are making you so focused on this crush. And if you HAVE had the convo, then I think that it’s probably pretty clear that your current relationship can’t give you what you need. And you need to move on (just not to someone in your office!).

    Be honest with yourself about what you need, and be honest with your partner. And then see where the gaps are.

    Also, don’t pursue the office crush. If you do, and a) she isn’t interested or b) she is interested, but it blows up in 6 months it could make your work REALLY awkward. Plus, if she is a co-worker you work with on a regular basis, it seems a little unprofessional. I work in a male-dominated field, and I want to the men I work with to be thinking of me as a competent co-worker, not the hot girl they’d like to bang… and if they DID feel that way, and told me about it, I would feel extremely uncomfortable. Now, if I had a crush in return, that would be different, but you need to be aware of what could happen if your crush is not crushing back,

  15. We need a new acronym besides DTMFA.

    DTPOBNRFYPA.

    (Dump the perfectly okay but not right for you person already!)

    ‘Cause someone shouldn’t have to be a MF for you to decide the relationship just isn’t meeting your needs.

    • Jake said:

      How about DTPA? The P can stand for person, partner, or (if warranted) poopyhead.

      • alphakitty said:

        Silly aside: years ago one of my then elementary-school son’s classmates sent him an email that said, in its entirety, “you are a poopyhead.” I forwarded it to his parents, who responded by reassuring me that their son had not meant it in a mean way. I let it drop — my son wasn’t particularly traumatized, I’d just figure they would *want* to know how their son was using his new internet privileges. But I have to say I’m not aware of any flattering connotations of “poopyhead!” You either, eh?

        • apricity said:

          There is a school of thought that you can use insults to indicate closeness – “Anyone else would be hurt by this, but we are such good friends that you know it isn’t hurtful and instead are warmed by the reminder of how close we are.” So, perhaps that?

          • Alphakitty said:

            Nah. I think they just didn’t get along and the parents were in denial that their little darling could be rude. My son also thought it was funny — “oh, ’cause there are so many nice ways to mean poopyhead!”

      • Copcher said:

        I prefer DTPOBNRFYPA, but only because it’s a lot of fun to try to say. I do like how broad DTPA is. It can apply to a perfectly okay but not right for you person, but it can also apply to someone who is not perfectly okay (like a poopyhead).

        Also, alphakitty, did you by any chance ask them what their son might have meant? I’m guessing you didn’t since you said you let it drop, but I’m kind of curious to know what way they would have said he meant it in.

        • alphakitty said:

          Too flabbergasted.

          • Copcher said:

            I totally understand.

      • statusstories said:

        Pants! I vote the P stands for Pants (Which, Though Objectively Sweet, Are Not The Pants For Me).

        • Or, to really stretch the metaphor to the breaking point, RTPA — Return The Pants Already! I have gotten so much mileage out of the “relationship/significant other as pants” metaphor.

          • Alphakitty said:

            I like this one!

  16. CL said:

    I agree with everyone that partners don’t have to share all of your interests, but I do feel like people can be incompatible based on the types of conversations they like to have. Some people are very interested in reading, and learning, and discussing ideas — and they are probably most compatible with someone who is the same way, even if they have different interests and hobbies.

    Like the LW, I’m also addicted to reading things like the news, political blogs, feminist blogs — and I recently dated someone who did not share those interests and really had no interest in those sorts of conversations. She never, ever, looked at the news, never reads nonfiction, and so on. If I tried to bring up something that I was thinking about or working on, she would listen politely, but she really had nothing to say about it. She mainly wanted to talk about things that had happened at work, and I realized I found most of our conversations pretty boring, like it was an effort to participate for hours. She was great otherwise, and I was very attracted to her, but I decided this was a deal-breaker for me.

    It’s not that I have to be with someone who likes politics, or feminism, or something specific –but I want to date someone who likes to have the sorts of conversations that I like to have. All of my overeducated friends are like this, but I know a lot of people without formal educations are like this as well, so it’s not about education. I know this probably sounds elitist, and I think it’s important not to judge someone for having different interests — people are smart in different ways, smart people are interested in very different things. But if you’re not feeling really interested and engaged in conversations with someone, then maybe it’s just a compatibility issue.

    • Ethyl said:

      … it’s important not to judge someone for having different interests — people are smart in different ways, smart people are interested in very different things.

      Right, exactly. And the line between “Eh, I’m just not that interested in your thing,” and “OMG YOUR THING IS SO STUPID AND ANNOYING” is much easier to cross the longer you stay in a relationship that isn’t working, because resentment will start to fester and next thing you know you’ll be saying really hurtful things because you just can’t take even one more conversation about your partner’s Thing.

      Also, your breakup sounds exactly like the breakup a good friend of mine went through not too long ago, except, as I mentioned above, they stayed in the relationship far too long and they both wound up saying really mean, hurtful things at the end, which they kind of didn’t really mean, and everyone got hurt much worse than they needed to :(

      • CL said:

        For me it was just a few dates, not an actual relationship — but I decided that if I’m already not enjoying talking with someone all evening, it’s a big red flag that we’re not right for each other.

  17. figleaf said:

    “My personal opinion is that open relationships & poly- stuff don’t work in relationships that are already not working. ‘I know, let’s take this thing that isn’t working and add more people to it!’”

    The poly people say this a lot, and if it’s not stated expressly in The Ethical Slut or Opening Up it’s still strongly implied.

    It’s a brilliant insight and one that, of course, makes it a lot harder to turn long-term “closed” relationships into “open” ones.

    figleaf

  18. zuzu said:

    Don’t shit where you eat, dude.

  19. Official dick comment: I’m unclear how you can cheat on someone you don’t have sex with and have never had sex with. “Monogamy” means you only have sex with one person, not you don’t have sex ever again. The word for that is “celibacy”.

    • alphakitty said:

      I hear what you’re saying, but if she for whatever reason can’t have sex/it would be emotionally damaging for her, and he’s said (for example) “that’s ok, I love you more than I want sex, so I can be faithful even if that means not getting to have sex,” then *in terms of the understanding they have* it would be cheating. People have a right to relationships on whatever terms feel right to them, whether that would work for someone else or not. Which I suspect you acknowledge, since you labeled your comment “Official dick comment!”

      • Sure, but unfortunately, in our sex-negative culture, saying, “I think you should find someone who is also not into sex, so you can not be into sex together” is often treated as shallow. I’m skeptical of the idea that a sexual person is making a completely free choice when entering in a relationship with an asexual person who has, as the price of being their not-romantic-but-close friend, demanded that you give up sex for life. Even if the asexual isn’t meaning to, they’re employing abusive cultural messages about how needing sex is “shallow” in order to get this relationship. They should move on and find another asexual to be in a relationship with. I don’t date people who are gay and expect them to give up their gayness as the price of admission. No matter how in love I am with a gay guy and no matter how much he might want to be with me, the only honorable thing to do is to set him free. You suppress sex long enough, and it comes out, and it won’t be pretty. Which is what’s happening here; do you think she’s really going to be happier when he cheats on her? Letting him go in the first place would have been easier.

        • alphakitty said:

          That seems like a lot of assuming. Just because the LW’s feeling some pantsfeelings for someone now doesn’t mean he felt like a sexual person in general. As other threads on this blog show, there are plenty of people who would have said “sex? Meh. Not my thing so much” — until all of a sudden they discovered sex *did* appeal, either across the board or in response to a particular person. All we know is that these are the choices the LW made; we have no reason to think he was submitting to pressure when he did.

        • Starling said:

          I’m pretty sure that the price isn’t for not-romantic-but-close friend, it’s for romantic partner, sans sex. Not the same. It’s not necessarily a good choice for sexual people–you know it, I know it–but it is a choice that people are offered, and some people take. Same with the stop-being-gay-and-then-you-can-be-with-me offer: people have that deal going on, and I don’t think it’s a great idea or destined for long-term success, but it is a real thing.

          There are actually a bunch of interesting cultural traditions of celibate monogamy, too. It’s not just a thing for this couple, it’s a thing with cultural traditions and rules going back to Arthurian legend.

          It’s not our choice of relationship, but dismissing it as “not really real” because we don’t like it? That’s not cool. It’s a real romantic relationship, they are a real couple, and if LW says it would be cheating to have sex with someone else, it’s real cheating.

        • Copcher said:

          I don’t think relationships work on dictionary definitions.

          I agree that our sex-negative culture can make it hard to feel comfortable expressing a need for sex, and I can see how some people might use that to their advantage and manipulate their partners into staying in sexless relationships even if they would rather be in one that includes sex. However, we don’t know that that’s the case, or even if the Reasons are that LW is sexual and his girlfriend is not. If the LW is not being abusively manipulated, and has made an agreement to not have sex with other people while in this relationship, I think it’s much more productive for the two of them to have a conversation about this than for the LW to just decide that having sex with someone else isn’t cheating because of one possible definition of monogamy.

          • Pterinochilus murinus said:

            “I don’t think relationships work on dictionary definitions.”

            I think you you’re very right. And even if they did? Dictionaries change as usage changes. Let’s be relationship descriptivists, not prescriptivists, or at least err on that side.

        • Ldubs said:

          Also, the sexual person not agreeing to be in a sexless relationship in the first place would be have been easier, too.

          But in this case, I didn’t get the vibe that asexuality is the issue. If ‘”the issues that have prevented them from having sex” throughout the relationship are temporary or solvable eventually, then the conversation is a different one than “sexual person is in a relationship with asexual person and something is going to be unsatisifed forever”.

          Either way, dude knows what the terms are of his relationship and if he’s going to break them or is just simply not happy with them, then something needs to change.

        • Marie said:

          It doesn’t look like you know anything about aexuality. Maybe you should poke around at AVEN a little bit?

          http://www.asexuality.org/home/

          Asexuals don’t live in a world where we can happily slut-shame anyone in a sexless relationship with us. We live in a world where the prevalent cultural message is that a romantic relationship involves sex, and you owe it to your partner to have sex with them on a regular basis whether you like it or not. Many asexuals come out of the closet when they’re in a long term relationship because, no matter what they do, they can’t seem to enjoy sex even though they love their partner. And guess what happens when they come out to their partner or spouse? They get summarily dumped. Just look around on the AVEN forums, you’ll see how common this scenario is.

          Asexuals are perfectly capable of falling in love and forming romantic relationships. We’re fully aware that the sexual person in the relationship has needs we don’t have, and more often than not the asexual partner compromises on sex. Sexual people who agree to have a sexless romantic relationship are rare.

          And sure, there are manipulative asexuals out there who abuse their sexual partners. But guess what? There are jerks in every sexual orientation.

          • LMM said:

            I’m going to have to go with Amanda on the cultural slut-shaming (if not on the moral consequences). I was in a relationship with someone who turned out to be a grey-a. I stayed because I was convinced that love should have been enough — that somehow sex (let alone even remotely non-vanilla sex) wasn’t supposed to be important. And yes, slut-shaming had a fair amount to do with that.

            We do live in a society in which romantic relationships among young people are expected to involve sex. (Things change as one gets older, perhaps in part because very few people in our culture want to believe that our parents have regular sex.) But that message doesn’t seem to translate into “if the sex isn’t regular, or if it’s not the kind of sex you want, that’s a perfectly permissible reason to end a relationship.” Breaking up because one partner wants children and the other doesn’t is almost expected. Breaking up because one partner wants sex and the other doesn’t is not.

            Identifying as asexual and effectively being asexual are also two entirely different things. If the scenario you cite is true — people dump their partners immediately after the partner has “come out of the closet” as asexual — that means those people are not breaking up because they are sexually unsatisfied. They’re breaking up because their partner identifies as being asexual. Which, again, actually enforces the fact that breaking up just because the sex is unsatisfying is not seen as acceptable in our society — it’s only justified (perhaps) when the partner realizes that the sex isn’t going to get better.

            Again, I get that there are people who are happy in companionate relationships. I also don’t think that cheating is an acceptable response when one partner does become unhappy. (Full disclosure: I did wind up cheating in the above relationship. It didn’t lead to the break-up — it was clear it was going to happen by that point — but it definitely facilitated it.) But I do think that, in this case, the LW does need to accept that it is okay to break up due to sexual incompatibility. That’s true no matter what the reasons are for not having sex. That’s true even if the LW were fine with a sexless relationship initially. And referring to “lustful thoughts” suggests to me that the LW has not accepted that.

          • Much as being summarily dumped sucks, for many people (including me) being told their partner never, ever wants to have sex with them would suck just as much – indeed, would feel very similar indeed to being dumped. Breaking up is exactly the right outcome in those situations.

            Society’s collective disbelief that sex drive differs unprerdictably between individuals (and insistence that it differs predictably between sexes) is probably behind both the invisibility of asexuality and the expectation that a sexual person, and particularly a woman, should just forgo a huge part of her life’s joy forever rather than break up a relationship. Sod that.

        • Baytree said:

          Excuse me, but I’m finding your comments about asexuality rather offensive and hurtful.

          Even assuming the lady here is asexual (which != someone who doesn’t have sex! Maybe she has medical problems! Or something else. Who knows?) even assuming that, it’s not saying it’s a platonic relationship she’s “trapping” him in. Asexual people can be romantic and want to have romantic relationships. Some of us enjoy snuggling or kissing or going out to the movies. Some of us even have sex for reasons of our own choosing. The idea that asexual relationships are all platonic friendships is just not true – there can be just as much love and romance as between two sexual partners. While I agree with your point that a very sexual person might not want/be able to stay in a relationship with no sex, ultimately that is their choice to make. What if really, he’s happy in spite of the no-sex? And she broke up with him because it wasn’t “fair” to him? Is it fair to take away something HE thought was positive because it sounds unfair to HER? No. Putting it in the terms of “setting them free” implies that they only stay because you’re forcing them. No one, regardless of sexuality, has the power to keep another person in an unhappy relationship.

          It’s really offensive to both describe her as asexual when she hasn’t identified as such, and to insinuate that she’s using her asexuality to coerce or trap him in an unsatisfying relationship.

          • alphakitty said:

            At this point the LW has clarified what their issue is. But your points are definitely valid, all the same.

    • Esti said:

      Yup, that’s a dick comment. Lots of people are in monogamous relationships that don’t involve sex, particularly if your definition of sex is PIV intercourse. If someone isn’t happy in a sexless relationship, they are totally free to break up with their partner — but being in a sexless relationship doesn’t mean that having sex with someone else is no longer cheating.

      • But you’re not in a monogamous relationship if you don’t have sex. You’re in an asexual partnership.

        I repeat: Guilt-tripping someone with our culture’s claim that one should be ashamed to want sex in your sexual relationship is abusive, even if you don’t mean it to be and even if they come pre-guilt-tripped. The end result is that by clinging to an untenable relationship instead of finding another asexual to be asexual with, you will have a spectacular and ugly break-up as they eventually create an actual sexual relationship with someone else you’ve constructed as a betrayal.

        No one said that sex is PIV intercourse. It can be whatever you want. But using “love” as an excuse to cut someone off from the possibility of a sexual connection with another person, possibly forever? Isn’t love. Real love means wanting someone to be happy.

        • alphakitty said:

          That’s not even the dictionary definition of monogamy. I had an ethics professor in college who exhorted us not generalize overmuch in our writing based on our own rather limited perspectives, i.e., not to write as if everyone in the world shared our level of security and privilege. It’s good advice, only I’d extend it to say one should not write as if everyone shares your normative views about sex and relationships.

        • Esti said:

          No one is saying that anyone should be ashamed for wanting sex, and no one is saying that anyone should stay in a sexless relationship because of love. But your assumption that anyone in a sexless relationship is either asexual or spectacularly unhappy is untrue and, frankly, offensive. As is your refusal to let other people define their own relationships by denying that anything can be a relationship if it doesn’t involve sex.

          I understand that *for you* a romantic relationship needs to involve sex. I understand that’s true for many other people. It’s mostly true for me, though I’ve been the sexual partner in a relationship with someone asexual (which ended for entirely unrelated reasons) and for the right person it’s something I would consider again. And yes, it was a romantic relationship, not a “not-romantic-but-close friend” or an “asexual partnership”.

          If someone is unhappy in a sexless relationship, they should absolutely leave. But the fact that they aren’t having sex with their partner doesn’t make it less of a betrayal if they go have sex with someone else. Wanting sex is completely valid, but it doesn’t mean you get to ignore the boundaries you and your partner have agreed to live within. As in every other situation, if you don’t like those boundaries you need to either use your words or end things.

        • Pterinochilus murinus said:

          “But you’re not in a monogamous relationship if you don’t have sex. You’re in an asexual partnership.” [citation needed]

          • alphakitty said:

            Exactly!

  20. MaryKaye said:

    LW wrote:

    We have excellent communication, but I don’t think I can bring up “I really wish I could fuck this woman, and I worry that’s an impulse I would act on in a moment of weakness” constructively, nor could I bring up “I think you’re holding me back from producing the thoughts and things I want to by not being as engaged as I am socially” constructively.

    I can understand how bringing up the first one could be a problem. But if you can’t find a constructive way to bring up the second, the relationship has a big problem–that’s the kind of thing you *have* to be able to deal with in most long-term relationships, because it will keep happening over and over until one of you rebels.

    “We can’t talk about X” for almost *any* value of X is a huge warning bell for me. There is no way I would still be married after 20 years if my partner and I couldn’t talk about the big issues; in fact the closest we’ve come to divorce has involved failing to talk about them for a while, which led to them getting really troublesome.

    But I wouldn’t put it the way it’s put here, because that pre-judges whose problem it mainly is, and I don’t think you know that yet. I’d start with “I feel creatively stifled. I’m not accomplishing what I yearn to accomplish.” Then brainstorm together–what could we do about that?

  21. Jillian said:

    First time commenter- just want to say thanks to the Captain for sharing her opinion that “open relationships & poly- stuff don’t work in relationships that are already not working.” I started reading Dan Savage last year and, although it’s opened my mind a lot about things like open relationships, I think a lot of people just take from it that open relationships are the answer in all relationships with sexual incompatibilities (not that this is what he says, but that this is what people get from it). And that, to me, is really problematic. Maybe it’s what’s best for some couples, but I think a lot of people just want it as a bandaid to paste over a bad situation or because they think it will magically fix all other relationship ills. Sex is *so* not the only issue in this relationship and I think the rest of the captain’s advice is great. So, just wanted to say thanks for being a voice for the opening-it-up-is-not-always-the-best-idea crowd.

    • FYI, a lot of people in the poly community regard Dan Savage’s portrayal of non-monogamous relationships as pretty fucked up. For the reasons you state, and also because seems to have a difficult time understanding non-monogamous relationships shaped in different ways from his, and doesn’t tend to regard or present them very well.

      If you’re interested in non-mono stuff particularly, you might want to seek out other resources as well.

  22. zuzu said:

    Another reason not to pursue the work crush: You’ve been there two weeks. You don’t know the office dynamics yet, and where she fits in. Or what her history/relationship is with other people in the office. If you jump into something with someone who seems nice but is the office pariah or the person who can’t be trusted, it could hurt your career.

    • Sheelzebub said:

      Yes. Also, s/he’s sort of projecting on this woman–the LW even said they don’t know that much about her–and it’s not even clear if she’d welcome any advances from the LW. It’s work, so. . .just work.

  23. LW said:

    Hello everyone! I am the letter writer (just got LW that was being used). I unfortunately started writing this after a busy day, so I’ve only read about half the comments, but a few issues popped up often and I wanted to address them.

    A few people brought up my comments about my partner’s lack of attention span and my budding feminist and political engagement. I absolutely do not view her as smarter than me; I’d put us on equal footing. She’s smart without all the dumb moments I’ll have not realizing how what I am saying is coming off. She’s also a feminist, and our political leanings match up nearly identically. We are both fans of the Daily Show and Colbert Report to give an idea, although I’m losing some interest in them, and we’re probably both equally fearful of a Romney Presidency. The attention span comment was mostly in regards to the gap we have in ability to consume media. We’ll both be interested in the same thing, but for her, some things are too long to consume, especially if they involve reading, while my free time is usually spent between Twitter and news articles linked on there anymore, for hours at a time. She also needs some level of interest to watch or read something, whereas I’m excited to read most anything, even if I can have a reaction breaking down why I disliked it, or disagreed with it. I’d like to meet in the middle on this; I don’t think she should be as inclined to read everything as I am, but when I see a related video on Youtube or an article I really want to consume and she isn’t interested in it, I do feel negatively.

    I think two great ideas from all of you in regards to above were 1) have separate interests and 2) do things apart. Both have problems, mostly because all of our friends save two have moved away in recent months. She has fewer interests to keep her occupied, whereas I have a backlog of reading to do. She mostly peruses Tumblr, Twitter and FB when we aren’t together. So if I begin cultivating many interests separate from her, there’s nothing currently to fill the void. In the past, she pursued learning to make soap, learning to make herbal remedies, and learning to work with aromas, although she quickly became disinterested in all three. Currently I work out three days a week after work (M W F) so those are days we don’t see each other and we try to see each other the other four. I’ve been doing my Twitter thing on those days mostly, and that could be my writing time, but I’d like to keep that time to read. Which is the crux of my worry about conflict. She has been supportive of my working out and the idea of me writing, but when I first started working out, she wasn’t happy that I was taking three days out of every week. She hasn’t had a problem with it since though (that she’s reported).

    The sex issues are basically that I am too big. She very much wants to have sex with me, but it’s still painful any time we try, and I get very little penetration. We use a number of relaxation techniques and body placement whenever we try, and she bought a phallus that was a bit too uncomfortable to use in an attempt to widen. We’ve talked about her using it regularly before when we’ve made concentrated efforts at sex, but she usually does not use it at home. I haven’t been able to find much of anything that works on me (even unsafe bullshit suprisingly). As people were saying, the why isn’t much of an issue. It is a big issue for me that it isn’t happening, and would be a deal breaker all on its own.

    The alcohol problem is mostly that she isn’t fun to be around when she gets past a certain point drinking, which is something we’ve talked about before, mostly through her realizing she drank too much when she drinks. She cut back on her drinking, completely at first, but then resumed but at a lower level. She has problems knowing when to cut herself off; most nights drinking are cut off when I take her home, and that used to mean a lot of binge drinking when I was unemployed and we could hang out late. When i used to bring up “Maybe a good time to stop” it usually didn’t work out well, although it’s not been an issue lately and might be worth revisiting as a discussion point.

    Mostly, my takeaway is that I am going to talk to her about everything save the crush. Our sexual life, times when she drinks to excess, and also hobbies she’d be interested in pursuing so we can spend time together while doing separate things. Those are all things I want to have a long conversation about, and we’re seeing each other tomorrow.

    I apologize, because I had a notepad open while I read and made a bunch of quick comments I wanted to expand upon, but it’s already 1a here, and I go to bed at midnight at the latest normally. I’ll paste it below (sorry for rough reading), but mostly, thank you everyone, and especially to CA. Literally every comment posted was kind and very helpful with something unique to ponder in it, and the main post turned around a lot of assumptions I had in a wonderful way, with the title alone smacking me with a lot of reality about my relationship. I’m going to try to return by Friday to catch back up and answer any more questions people have.

    -Sheelzebub, Alice, Chickie, MHM, thank you for thought-expanding words!

    -emilyperson “Even if she’s not interested in the passions and hobbies themselves, any partner should support you having them.” She does, but I didn’t make that at all clear. Thank you.

    -carbonatedwit “About the current relationship… you don’t really mention any of the good stuff about your partner. Do you have good times? Do you have fun together? Does she think you are the coolest thing ever? I’m guessing… probably not. So the now-relationship is okay but not that great.” One of my main worries, although I know it has to not be if I end up figuring out I’m not happy enough in this relationship, is I’m most of her social interaction and she loves me deeply. I love her deeply too, but I do feel like she loves me more than I love her. And we do have fun together, but a lot of it is gaming, or watching random non-topic videos, or a movie occasionally, and lately I’ve been exclusively craving and consuming media that has a point and not being as interested in gaming/ random video surfing.

    -case-in-point, thank you for defining crushes wonderfully and expanding thoughts on that! Also on interests and what sharing them should mean.

    -thegirlfrommarz, I agree about the binary view, especially rom-com framing! Thank you for great advice on relationship lifespans.

    -Many, many thanks to everyone’s advice on work crushes. Slow and steady and more slow and seeing where it goes sounds like a winning strategy.

    -elodieunderglass “I mean, even Aragorn goes through a period of “BUT I THOUGHT ARWEN’S PERFECT LOVE WAS SUPPOSED TO PROTECT ME FROM THESE UNCOMFORTABLE PANTS-FEELINGS! PERHAPS HER LOVE IS NOT PERFECT AFTER ALL?! OR PERHAPS … I HAVE FAILED HER!”” Hahaha. Your words on “lustful” feelings were wonderful, as were your words on everything else. Thank you.

    -Ethyl – Very true question. My problem is I make a decision not to cheat. I do not want to cheat on my girlfriend. The worries have been more, “Am I capable of doing it in a moment of weakness?” Although I think you’re absolutely right that these thoughts could be creating the thought loops I would use to justify cheating if I did it.

    -duck-billed placelot “How does ‘not interested in social media/feminist politics’ translate into ‘she has a far shorter attention and tolerance span than I do’? Also, she’s not holding you back from ‘producing thoughts’. This feels like a really tacked on, cookie-seeing afterthought missile. ” also “it is that you have changed. Nobody is the villain, but you have to take the responsibility of being your own hero.” Lot of brilliance in your words. I think that was definitely an issue, but being honest, she has been very supportive in other positive endeavors I’ve made before, like eating healthier, previous attempts at writing more, and exercising. If the time I need to pursue things I need physically and mentally is too much for our relationship, then it’s an incompatibility, not her holding me back. Also if I’m holding me back, it’s me. Lot of wisdom, and I thank you for sharing it with me.

    -alphakitty “I was thinking something similar: sometimes it feels like the other half of a partnership is limiting you, when really you’re limiting yourself in anticipation of conflict that you think would result if you did what you really wanted to do. ” I think you stated it perfectly, including your followup about outcomes. I think I’m fearing my perceived reactions she’ll have. Also on realizing my partner is not limiting me. “But at least it is all honest and straightforward and, in its own way, more respectful of your girlfriend than deciding on her behalf that she can’t handle the real you.” Also very true. I make a lot of assumptions due to not discussing this with her.

    -Baytree – I think you nailed a lot of what I unfortunately left out! Thank you.

    -Ethyl “Yeah, that attention span thing stood out to me, as well — I wonder if, combined with “she’s not as into social justice as I am,” that it’s maybe code for “less intelligent than I am”? Something about it rubbed me the wrong way, I guess is what I’m saying?” Thank you for pointing out how unclear I was being there! I hope I’ve clarified well enough. Thank you.

    -MissPrism – Joke hit. =) Thank you.

    • Jake said:

      LW, it kind of sounds like you don’t really like your girlfriend. You talk about how her lack of interest in reading articles bugs you, and that she goes on tumblr, fb, etc while you’re doing your much more important and interesting (that’s the subtext) reading about feminism and shit, but you don’t say if she’s unhappy with that. If she’s happy to be on those sites, and you’re happy to be on your sites, what’s the problem?

      Also, if the lack of PIV sex is a “dealbreaker” for you, why have you stayed with her for two years? What’s going on here? I feel like there’s still a lot of info missing here, and I get cranky when I feel like people are asking for advice but withholding important information about the problem. And I have to say, you saying you “absolutely do not view her as smarter than me” doesn’t exactly endear you to me, you know?

      Does anyone else feel like nothing about this situation makes any damned sense?

      • “I am too big for sex” sounds extremely bloody unlikely for a start. Vaginas are stretchy. Babies come out of them. Could be vaginismus or some other medical problem, but there’s always the possibility that it’s just a flattering excuse.

        • Esti said:

          That is absolutely something that happens. Some women are naturally pretty small, and yes, you can do stretchy things to work on it, but sometimes with a big size disparity it can be pretty hard to fix.

        • staranise said:

          Nah, it’s something that’s happened to me. Even after a lot of work, “being physically able to achieve penetration” can fall pretty far short of “enjoying said penetration”. I guess I’m just naturally small. (Desiring a small penis in a partner: not something you can put on your dating site profile.)

      • Lilly said:

        What is not clear to me is what are the LW’s expectations from the relationship.

        I’ve never been in a relationship where I read or watch everything that my partner does at the same time.

        (E.g. right now my bf loves watching tech and engineering videos but I don’t understand that stuff so I do other things. And, like, I never even thought about that as a thing.)

        LW, are your expectations that when you spend time with your partner you will do everything together, like sit together and read blogs and watch videos? And if you don’t like everything the same then that’s bad? Can’t she just do her thing and you do your thing?

        Or is there something else going on, like you feel you don’t have anything to talk to your partner about? What about doing something like going on a date night one of the days you spend together, so you can talk to each other and do something fun? Also, your gf should not be seeing you as her only social life, that is very unhealthy, can she not try to make friends? You are not responsible for amusing her all the time even if she does not want to try to make friends (not necessarily deep BFF friends even just going to some activity once or twice with other people.)

        Also, it sounds like your life with your gf is very regimented – you have your set days when you have to spend time together. That sounds like a lot of pressure too.

        Agree with the other commenter that the sex thing sounds like a deeper issue than “I’m too big”.

        • Jillian said:

          I’m totally with you here, Lilly. LW, it sounds like you are taking too much responsibility for your girlfriend’s social life and entertainment. You can have separate interests and activities and that is A-OK. If she refuses to cultivate interests, that’s on her, not on you. It’s not fair of her to expect you to entertain her all the time.

          By the same token, it’s not fair of you to expect her to be interested in everything you’re interested in. I understand wanting to share things with her and have her show some interest and response, but if you want to be with this girl, you have to accept that maybe that’s not how it’s going to go. You can expect her to respect your interests, but you cannot force her to be interested in things she’s not or to expand her attention span to accommodate those interests. If you want to stay with her, you’re going to have to work to not take it personally when she does not want to take up reading/watching/doing something that you are interested in.

      • What about lube? Have you tried lube? Lots and lots of lube.

        when I see a related video on Youtube or an article I really want to consume and she isn’t interested in it, I do feel negatively.

        I know one can’t control how one feels, but this seems . . . nitpicky. You listed all of these views that you have in common, but if she isn’t interested in the same YouTube video, that starts to be a dealbreaker? I’d try getting over that. It sounds like you’re looking for excuses to break up with her. If you want to break up, break up, but don’t say it’s because she doesn’t care about the same articles you care about.

        I also have a tip about drinking! I like to drink but I have a tendency to have one or two too many that makes me stupid. And the next day I think “ugh, if I had stopped one or two drinks sooner, I would have been fine.” Here is my solution: Keep track! If you’re at a solo cup-style party, have her mark her cup for every drink. If you’re at a fancier party, get her silly bandz (or something like that) and have her put on a silly band every time she makes a drink. When you look at your wrist and say “ah, the reason I’m having such a good time is that I’m on drink #5! I will switch to water now,” the night is more pleasant, as is the next morning. This obviously only works if she agrees with you that she gets out of hand sometimes.

        I think it’s all irrelevant, though, because it sounds like you want to break up with her and are just looking for excuses. If that’s the case, just do it, man, you don’t have to justify it to us or to her. It would be a kindness to pull the trigger, rather than stringing her along.

      • LW said:

        Oh god. Just starting to read comments, but I meant to say I absolutely do not view ME as smarter than HER. 1am comment slipup in the worst possible way. Thank you for catching it!

    • Elsajeni said:

      Hey LW, I want to point one big thing out: it is NOT YOUR JOB to find your girlfriend something “better” to do while you’re doing the stuff that interests you. It’s not clear to me whether she’s actually unhappy about spending her free time on Tumblr, or whether you’ve just decided she must be. If she’s actually expressed that she wishes she had something better to do with that time, it’s probably fine for you to make suggestions (“You seemed to enjoy making soap; maybe you could pick that back up”) or be on the lookout for things she might enjoy (“Look, our favorite theater is running classics in [that genre you like] every Tuesday!”); my husband and I are doing this for each other right now. But if she hasn’t asked for your help, try trusting her. Assume that she can regulate her own happiness, and that she’s spending time on Facebook because she enjoys it, and that if she wants your help she’ll let you know. You run the risk of coming off very, very condescending and insulting here — assume she knows better than you about what she wants.

      (Also: a lot of your social-justice stuff is on and around Twitter, right? So… you spending a lot of time on Twitter is a valuable new interest that you should pursue, but her spending a lot of time on Twitter is a problem and evidence that she needs a real hobby?)

    • boots mcgee said:

      Maybe I am asking too much of the TMI variety here, but PIV sex is not TEH ONLY SEX. Blowjobs! Eat out sessions! Mutual masturbation! Whither tittyfucking!? I mean penetration is a lovely thing for people who enjoy it, but there are plenty of people who could leave it forever and still be very sexually active and satisfied.

      My question, then, is: are y’all doing all these other sexytime things and you, LW, are upset that PIV is not happening and therefore you perceive that you’re not having “real” sex? Because I would imagine your feminist reading will lead you to realize that uh, that view of sex is kind of … not progressive, if it already hasn’t.

      • I was going to say something like too, but then I remembered that IME performing blowjobs on the extremely large is not very much fun. But yeah, that other stuff, and maybe she is better at it than I.

        • Jinian said:

          Oral can be pretty hot even if you can’t get your mouth all the way around a penis. I’m definitely in the “do some other stuff” camp. I wouldn’t say I wasn’t having sex with someone if we didn’t do my particular favorite thing, culturally enshrined or not.

    • OH, and one more thing in re: the cheating: lots of people are capable of cheating. I am, I cheated on almost every one of my pre-marriage boyfriends. (I’m not proud of it, but it’s the truth.) But I don’t want to cheat on my husband, so I won’t put myself in situation where that might happen. I very rarely have crushes anymore, but if I do, I’m not going to get drunk and hang out with them alone. Because that would be foolish. So thinking you’re capable of it is not wrong; putting yourself in a situation where it could easily happen, and then having it happen, is.

    • Sheelzebub said:

      “She also needs some level of interest to watch or read something, whereas I’m excited to read most anything, even if I can have a reaction breaking down why I disliked it, or disagreed with it. I’d like to meet in the middle on this; I don’t think she should be as inclined to read everything as I am, but when I see a related video on Youtube or an article I really want to consume and she isn’t interested in it, I do feel negatively.”

      First, going between Twitter and news articles doesn’t mean you have a longer attention span, even if you do it for hours—not if you’re flitting from one to the other. Ahem.

      Second, I don’t understand why you feel negatively because she’s not interested in a Youtube video or article you’re reading. Watch it! Read it! No one is stopping you! Why does she have to be interested in these things? I’m unclear on why this is so important to you and why it’s such a problem. I mean, if you must have that in a relationship, you should go find your ideal partner, but be advised that such partners are very few and far between. I’d get shitty with someone who felt negatively about the fact that I wasn’t interested in videos or articles he was interested in. I’m totally fine with it if a BF is not interested in some of the stuff I’m into.

      Honestly, it is sounding here like you want her to spend more time with you on stuff you like. I want to be kind, but I do wonder how much of this stuff is projection on your part. She doesn’t appear to be stopping you from reading or tweeting or blogging. She seems to be doing her share of that herself, just on her own terms and her own schedule.

      “The sex issues are basically that I am too big.”

      Um. OK. I don’t know if she’s small, or if there’s a medical condition. There are other sexual things you can do besides PIV intercourse—you know that right? You can masturbate each other, go down on each other, etc. I. . .I am kind of at a loss here, since the problem isn’t a lack of sex (since there are other things you can do) but I guess incompatibility or inability. If PIV sex is something you must have (and that’s okay), I don’t think you should stay for two years with someone who’s incapable of that.

      As far as the drinking goes—is she still doing it? Does she still drink too much and get mean? Or is it something she really doesn’t do now? I’m seeing you talk about her not knowing her limits but talking about her past behaviors when she drank too much. But no mention of her acting badly and getting drunk now (“although it’s not been an issue lately”). This was red flaggy when you mentioned it but now it seems a little. . .I dunno. Less definite.

      “So if I begin cultivating many interests separate from her, there’s nothing currently to fill the void. In the past, she pursued learning to make soap, learning to make herbal remedies, and learning to work with aromas, although she quickly became disinterested in all three.”

      I’m not seeing how this is a problem for you or her. You’re saying that there would be nothing to fill the void for her if you did other stuff, but why is that? I doubt that she feels that way—though she might miss you if you’re not around. But “I miss you” doesn’t mean “You must drop this and spend every minute with me.” It also doesn’t mean “I cannot survive on my own or develop my own interests, please fix me.” Your comments about her in this regard are veering very close to that territory. (And I still don’t get how you cannot Tweet every so often while you’re chilling in front of the Daily Show or something—people Tweet while they’re mountain climbing these days.) Let her figure out what she wants to do with her time. She has free time, she can do stuff and meet people and become friends with them. She can pick up interests. FWIW, I’ve tried things out and dropped them but it didn’t kill me—I enjoyed them while I did them. You’re not obligated to parent her, and I doubt very much she wants that from you.

      I’ll echo what others have said—you seem emotionally done with your GF, which is fine—but then just end things. The more you’ve told us about her, the less bad she sounds. That’s fine—you can break up with perfectly-nice-but-no-longer-right-for-you-people—but don’t create problems where there aren’t any. “I’m not feeling it anymore and I want to move on” is as good a reason as any to end things.

      • JenniferP said:

        I second this comment in its entirety.

    • duck-billed placelot said:

      OH HEAVENS TO MURGATROYD, LW, do not pass go, do not collect $200, stop. Stop, immediately.

      As a feminist ally, you may: break up with a person if the sex doesn’t do it for you. That’s not shallow or unfair, please see any number of smart Captain Awkward posts on the subject.

      As a feminist ally/decent human being, you may not: pressure a person for one specific sexual act – times a million for a thing that said person has made clear hurts. If she wanted to have PIV sex with you, she would be using that sex aid phallus on the reg, looking up videos on the subject, and asking you to use the thing on her, etc. etc. etc. If she wanted to do that thing, she’d be trying to do that thing. It’s been years. She doesn’t want to. (I don’t care whether she physically can’t or not; doesn’t want to is all that matters.)

      Gah, gah, stop stop stop.

      • JenniferP said:

        Indeed. There is more on heaven and earth than is dreamt of when a penis goes inside a vagina.

      • duck-billed placelot said:

        Ok, having calmed a bit: It’s also ok to be dissatisfied with your sex life and talk to your partner about it, but the lead in should be, “What fun NEW things can we try, because I definitely don’t want you to be doing that thing (anything) you don’t want to because of me.”* As it sounds like you have tried a bunch of things/times on the PIV sex, you’ll need to hit the “No, really, I mean not that” conversational note extra hard, and make sure it’s not a “PIV sex or I’m gone” convo. Again, if that’s what you really want/need, it is ok to go. It’s not ok to lean on her for it. Maybe you weren’t going to? It just seems like in Twitter you find her lack of loving exactly what you love to be a problem, so my brain decided to extrapolate that attitude to your view of sexual preferences, and the klaxons started blaring.

        *She might rush in with the, “Oh, I DO want to, it’s just”, but remember that if she wanted to, she would be the one asking about it, and whatever follows ‘it’s just’ probably means ‘if someone else’s P and someone else’s V were being used, rather than ours, because reasons.’

  24. Bad Caregiver said:

    “This crush is really distracting me from my sexless relationship.”

    I’m impressed by how The Captain was able to sum up the letter AND her advice in her phrasing of the question.

    I wish I had some advice for you, LW. I’ve been where you are … though the inappropriate pantsfeelings aren’t so much of an issue anymore … and still don’t know what the best thing to do is.. Case-in-Point’s questions about what your crush means aren’t always easy to answer.

  25. LW said:

    Thank you everyone for continuing to provide wonderful responses! Also sorry for slobbering everywhere, but I really appreciate the conversation. It has helped immensly.

    Lilly- “LW, are your expectations that when you spend time with your partner you will do everything together, like sit together and read blogs and watch videos? And if you don’t like everything the same then that’s bad? Can’t she just do her thing and you do your thing?” First part yes, second part not necessarily. When we’re together, she wants to be doing things with me. I want to be doing things with her, but usually I’m picking out the things we’re consuming. Her strength is planning days and dates, big ideas for something to do for awhile, but on our days where we’re lounging at home, she usually isn’t driving our plans. 90% of the time when I ask her what she wants to do, she’ll say “I Don’t know,” so I’ll suggest something. She’ll let me know if she doesn’t want to do it, which I appreciate, but when I’m out of ideas, it can be a bit of a dead space. Which I think is where the negative feeling can come in.

    Jillian- Very great point about expecting her to want to do everything I want to do being unrealistic and demanding. I am almost exclusively the person to pick out what we do. I ask her often what she’d like to do, and if she has an idea, she’ll tell me, but often our together time is spent at home and I am picking what we do. I think that’s one of the reasons her getting bored of something I picked can bother me. Not because I picked it, but because then there’s no replacement thing.

    geniusscientist- Thank you. I used the word negatively because I couldn’t describe what my response to the situation was, and I think you’re absolutely correct that it’s just a nitpick and really nothing. Also great ideas for drink tracking! She’s always in control sober and does not want to drink to excess, not as much when drunk, and when I say that she should drink some water when she’s intoxicated and we should drink more, she either agrees or she disagrees and it can be a point of contention. Although lately we have not had occasion to be together late enough for her to get too drunk, so it just hasn’t come up.

    Elsajeni- I think the only unhappiness comes with wanting to do things with me when we’re together and not sit and be on Tumblr/FB/Twitter alone. They’re things she enjoys, and it is an experience we can share, which is good, but when it’s her alone because I’m not interacting with her for extended time, she can become unhappy. And I think you nailed it. She’ll let me know when she’s been doing her own thing for too long and would like to be doing something with me. And her doing her own thing is definitely not a problem for me! But I think I covered that above.

    boots mcgee- Mostly I’ll answer any question asked hah. We do not have a sexless relationship, and I agree that penetration’s nowhere near the only game! She definitely enjoys me going down on her, and I love to do it, although she was initially lukewarm and sometimes resistant to it. She’s since told me usually she’s out after I go down on her, so it may have been that, may have just been trying something new. Most of our sex times are fooling around and playing with non-genital parts of the body. She doesn’t like to go down on me, mostly due to taste, although she has on occasion. When she is tyring to get me off, it’s almost exclusively a handjob, and it takes me some time to get there, so usually she gets tired. She’s always fine with me finishing myself off, as am I, although it’s worlds better when she is the one. I feel like we’re varied in our foreplay pretty well. Some roleplay, some other stuff, and we’ve tried many things, but acts with the intent to cause orgams are narrow.

    Sheelzebub- Amazing insight, and on pretty much every subject of conversation! Thank you. Especially the bit about projection. As I read people’s further analysis, I am thinking more and more that a lot of my worries about the relationship may be from my thoughts. For instance, the negativity comment about us watching and reading things together that, now that I’m discussing it, I realize is pretty much a non-issue! Thank you again. =)

    duck-billed placelot- Thank you for spelling out an issue I’m worried about so well! In pushing for more effort towards sex, I’m very worried I’ll make my partner feel pressured into the act of it. She’s said she also wants to be doing PIV sex, multiple times, and I believe her. I also think there’s truth to what you’ve said. I don’t think her not using the phallus is necessarily a signal that she’s been saying she’d like to be having PIV sex and feeling a different way, but it’s also never happened (phallus use), and I’m trying to keep in mind that “Future promises aren’t good enough for current issues”

    Bad Caregiver- Thank you for the sentiments. =)

    I did discuss a number of the issues with her tonight, and it was a great conversation with a lot of plans to tackle a lot of the issues I brought up! She’s been wanting to mention penetrative sex as well, so she was up for focusing on making that happen. She suggested reading, which she’s been wanting to do more of, while I write. And we decided we should go out biking again, which we started in the Spring then stopped doing. I didn’t bring up the drinking because, as mentioned above, it’s not been an issue lately, although if it comes up again I feel free to talk about it.

    Everyone’s advice on breaking up with people that are great still needing to happen has been important. As has the advice about not being happy currently being a big thing. Tonight, I’m feeling really positive about my relationship and where it could head. If these plans don’t pan out, I’m going to have a lot of thinking to do, but I’m also excited to see where we, and I, can go from here. Not going to duck out on the comments however, if anyone has other questions or points.

    Also, I agree with everyone about work relationships being a bad idea to pursue. Thank you all for the stories and advice there; I was obviously blinded by my feelings, but it’s best to work at work. =)

    • Blue said:

      I know this is super late in the game on this conversation, but I’ve been reading backlogs and came across this post. LW, reading through your responses to everybody’s comments really bolstered my own feelings about my own relationship. Honestly, when I read through your letter, some of the concerns reminded me of little worries I have in my own relationship, though I don’t have a crush on anybody else. After reading most of the discussion here and what you came to conclude from all of it, it makes me feel more solid that I am just a little paranoid about various things in my relationship and perhaps I need to step up to the plate a little more myself. Sorry if it isn’t much of a contribution, but I wanted to say thanks for generating all this talk!

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