#619: I want my partner to kiss me (and to make more of an effort in our relationship).

Dear Captain Awkward:

I am a gay man. I am seeing this guy that I like a lot. He comes to my place every week and we have sex, I make dinner and we enjoy watching TV. The sex is awesome but there is no kissing. He is a divorced man. ( Two years). I know he enjoys being with me but he hasn’t asked me to go anywhere with him. I would like to go to a movie with him and on some trips to places he goes but he never asks. Is this a lost cause or what do I do. I am very frustrated. I want to kiss him so bad but every time I try he turns his face. I am very clean and I know I don’t have bad breath. This seems silly to ask but I am hoping for some help.

Thank you, 


Hello T.! This isn’t silly! Not at all! 

I think you should ask this guy some questions, and you should make them as simple and direct as you can, and I think you should ask him for what you want. Scripts for that:

  • “When I try to kiss you, I feel like you turn away or pull away. Is there something I should know about that?” 
  • “When you I try to kiss you, you pull away. Can you tell me what’s up with that? I don’t want to make you uncomfortable, but I also really, really want to kiss you. What’s up?”
  • “Let’s go out tonight. I’m in the mood for _______. What’s your favorite _______ place?” Don’t ask permission, and in fact, if it feels like you are asking permission at any point, RUN. 
  • “Hey, want to see Love Is Strange* with me?” 
  • “Your trip to _______ sounds great. Would you ever be up for going away for a weekend together sometime? I’ve always wanted to visit _______.”

These are all very simple questions that one partner in a relationship should be able to ask the other partner without a lot of hullaballoo. What could be more basic than “How do we like to touch?” “How will we spend our time?” “Where will we eat?” 

These are all the riskiest questions in the world when your basic worry or fear is that the other person doesn’t feel the same way you do or doesn’t want the same things you do. “Simple” doesn’t mean “easy” when what’s at stake is “Do I like you way more than you like me, and what will happen to our pleasant status quo if that becomes glaringly evident?”

I think you should ask the questions, and I think you should pay attention to the answers. Recognize phrases like:

  • “I want to keep this casual.”
  • “But I enjoy what we’re doing now so much, why change it?”

…for what they are, namely, “I super like coming over here and having sex with you, but I plan to make zero effort to do anything differently in the future.” And if he says “please don’t ruin this by being serious/needy/clingy/like my ex” in any form, if you catch even a whiff of him guilting you for having needs and bringing them up, please kick him out of your house and never touch him again. He’s allowed to have different needs and desires. He is not allowed to shame you for having some of your own. 

If the talk seems to go well, pay attention also to actions and follow-through after you talk. Does he insist there is nothing weird going on with the whole kissing thing, but then, does he still refuse to kiss you? Does he promise you that next time you’ll go out to dinner, but tonight he’s just really tired and wants to stay in, but then there never seems to be a next time? Then cut him loose, or relegate him to the most casual of very occasional hook-up partners. He is showing you that you can’t trust what he says. 

This dude sounds kind of lazy and entitled, to be honest. You cook every time? He never takes you out or even suggests ordering dinner? He never cooks? Does he at least help with the dishes or bring/buy groceries or bring wine? Are you the only one who makes and initiates plans? You never go to his place? Has he met your friends? Have you met any of his? (I don’t want to read too far into this, but something about a completely hermetically-sealed relationship with no kissing reads as “possibly closeted?” to me. Am I alone?)

I’m going to give him one tiny, teensy, microscopic benefit of the doubt along the lines of: Maybe you’re the one who has been offering to cook and suggesting that he just come over until now and he doesn’t know that you want anything different. Sometimes in the early stages of a relationship you fall into a pattern, and it’s pleasurable and easy, and you don’t know if it will be an ongoing thing so it doesn’t seem worth it to spend time – time that you could be constantly, joyously fucking –  on second-guessing and negotiating whose turn it is to select and procure the food. But if it becomes an ongoing relationship, a non-lazy dude, one who really likes you, will presumably eventually begin suggesting things that you might enjoy and appreciate, right? Like, “Hey, I want to show you my place, why don’t you come over there next time.” “I love how you cook for me, but let me take you out tonight!” People you’d actually want to be with longterm don’t relax, unquestioningly and perpetually, into a status quo where you do all the work and they do none. 

T., you sound like a total sweetheart, and you deserve someone who kisses you and who takes you places. You deserve someone who cooks for you and who creates a relaxing sexy evening for you. You deserve someone who wants to make plans with you for future trips away. Maybe that romantic, thoughtful dude is some unknown future dude, and this dude is just a hot casual-sex-fun-right-now dude. That’s okay, as long as everyone is on board with it and as long as you are enjoying yourself, but you should decide that and ask about that and not default into something just because it’s easy (easy for him). 

*Possibly Too On The Nose, I realize, though I am very excited to see it. Insert your preferred specific movie (vs. “the movies, sometime”) here instead.


73 thoughts on “#619: I want my partner to kiss me (and to make more of an effort in our relationship).

  1. “I don’t want to read too far into this, but something about a completely hermetically-sealed relationship with no kissing reads as ‘possibly closeted?’ to me. Am I alone?”

    As an out gay man, I would say that “closeted” isn’t a strict binary. We pretty much all do things to get by with a little heteronormativity at least sometimes, and when you’re newish out, you have A LOT of habits to break. There are plenty of guys who are more or less out who aren’t through hangups (which might be based on a very real, very recent negative experiences) about intimacy and being “gay acting” in public.

    Point is, he may be closeted, he may be in that awkward figuring-out-being-out phase. But no, I don’t think you’re off base to wonder about that.

      1. My first question isn’t about closeting, it’s about his divorce. If he always comes over, doesn’t want to go out, or take the LW anywhere, or introduce him to his friends, I would ask: from whom does the LW know this man is really divorced? Just the LW’s word for it? Because he’s acting like a man who may not be quite as divorced as he’s trying to pretend he is, especially if he comes over once a week and you don’t see him in between. (And all of this would be just as likely regardless of his orientation, or the sex of his former/possibly present spouse.)

        1. I think he may still be married and on the down low. Seems weird to me that he doesn’t want to kiss, doesn’t want to go out and only comes over once a week. That stinks of secret keeping to me.

    1. I had exactly the same reaction to the word closeted, and I wondered whether it was a UK/US difference! “Closeted” / “in the closet” doesn’t really mean “in denial about being gay” to me: everyone’s always in and out at the same time. I am civil-partnered and pregnant and every one of my friends, my family and pretty much every colleague I’ve spoken to in person knows I’m gay, but that doesn’t mean I’m not still making decisions about whether or not to come out every time I get a taxi.

      Having said that, “we fuck, but we don’t kiss” does suggest intimacy issues, and if the LW is Other Guy’s first same-sex relationship, then he might have some unresolved stuff going on there. But equally, some people just don’t like kissing and don’t see it as being part of a sexual relationship. As the Captain says, the only way to know what’s going on is to talk about it.

      Good luck!

      1. I can find a different word. Should I find a different word? I don’t think that he’s in denial about being gay, I just wondered if there is something there that’s affecting why they never go out. Could be it’s a really new relationship, not ready to introduce each other around. Could be that it’s a casual sex (vs. dating) relationship and there’s no intention to ever do that. Not kissing doesn’t have to be a big deal (though if it’s a big deal to the LW it is a big deal and he should find a partner who is into it) but the not kissing AND the never going out together and being recently divorced (maybe from a man, but maybe from a woman) and seemingly older than the LW gave me a weird vibe, when taken altogether.

        1. For me closeted doesn’t have that in denial association unless someone actively suggests that it does. I also sometimes say “maybe he’s not out” or “maybe he’s not out to a lot of people” instead, but it’s pretty YMMV I think. I’m one person though so don’t take my word for it.

          1. I’ve always understood it as “closeted” meaning you know you are whatever but you hide it from the people you are dealing with in that context, and “deeply closeted” usually means more in denial or not aware of that aspect of yourself, so you’re in effect hiding it from yourself at the same time as everyone else. Mind you, that’s just what I’ve interpreted from the phrase being used around me, I’m not gay myself, so take that definition with a grain of salt.

        2. I’m good with closeted here, personally. If they’re never going out anywhere and LW hasn’t met any of this dude’s friends and vice versa, then that certainly suggests that possibility that dude is hiding his relationship with the LW, which, in turn, suggests the possibility that the dude is hiding that he likes men, which does in fact qualify as closeted. It’s not a sure thing, but’s it’s definitely a thing that jumps to mind as maybe what’s going on.

          1. I feel the same – it’s the LW’s relationship that is possibly “closeted,” not necessarily any of the parties involved. As in, LW’s existence is being excluded, either deliberately or by omission, from his partner’s social circle, implying that he is not socially acceptable in that circle.

            As for the UK/US divide, I haven’t necessarily noticed a difference in usage. But as a bisexual married-to-a-dude lady, I don’t necessarily get to use the “closeted” usage/narrative, so I might be way off here. (I’m perfectly comfy and public with my identity, but whenever I mention it, my hetero friends immediately erase it from their memories… and act surprised the next time it comes up. Not a “closet” effect so much as Schrodinger’s box…)

          2. (this is really a response to elodieunderglass but the comments are too deeply nested)

            “I’m perfectly comfy and public with my identity, but whenever I mention it, my hetero friends immediately erase it from their memories… and act surprised the next time it comes up. Not a “closet” effect so much as Schrodinger’s box…”


            My hetero friends do that to me, too, and it is SO WEIRD.

          3. Also to elodieunderglass:

            Do I understand the “Schrodinger’s box” idea as “it’s not real until it’s staring them in the face”? I can see that perspective…kinda….

            and in response to J. Preposterice:

            Some of the people I know seem to go with the “You ‘are’ who you’re currently dating” scenario (i.e. straight if dating the ‘opposite’ but queer if dating the ‘same’). Occasionally I’ve had “But you gave up/quit dating men, right?” tossed at me with apparent genuine confusion. It feels like they’re more comfortable with the idea that I’ve “chosen a side” than with the idea that I don’t see sides, I see a lot of people flailing around trying to be friends and to date.

            Maybe they think they’re being supportive of our current relationships?

        3. Well, I’m not sure what the connotations are the way you’re using it, but I’m also English so it might be that it makes sense to Americans the way you’ve used it. So I don’t know! I definitely don’t find it offensive or anything, I’m just not entirely sure what it means in this context.

        4. From my perspective, I use the concept in other areas too — with polyamory/nonmonogamy and kink. I maaaay have had too many of these kinds of “relationships”.

          To the LW: I would strongly suggest not staying with him if your dude isn’t making you part of his life (meeting friends, going out, etc). Unless of course you are okay with how it is now, but I would be very very honest with yourself if that’s what you really want. It really really sucks when you like and/or care about the person, but it sucks harder being a secret, in my experience.

          If he’s not prepared to start going public, if he’s not legitimately working on his hangups, then gird your loins LW and accept all the jedi internet hugs from us that you’d like. You’re an awesome person who should be with an awesome person who is proud to have you on their arm.

          (Note: I’m not assuming anything here except that the LW’s guy doesn’t want a public relationship, for whatever reason. The reason doesn’t really matter.)

          1. From my perspective, I use the concept in other areas too — with polyamory/nonmonogamy and kink. I maaaay have had too many of these kinds of “relationships”.
            It’s also used in other contexts, such as by people who have non-mainstream religious beliefs. My personal experience is with pagans/Wiccans (who use the term “broom closet” – gotta have a sense of humour, right? 🙂 ) and atheists, both of whom talk about being closeted and coming out.
            To me, as a Canadian, the term “closeted” means “There is this aspect of my identity which I claim for myself but do not share with other people who, had I a more socially acceptable identity, would know.” So for example, you don’t have to come out to the cab driver, because the cab driver wouldn’t necessarily know that you’re straight.

        5. With the person being in a same sex relationship, I have much more sympathy for, “possibly closeted or in denial” than I do with the other options that come to mind.
          If it were a hetero relationship with one partner wanting to stay in all the time and not wanting to kiss at all it would be stomping on all my “affair” and “possibly actually a cheater” buttons.

          1. You can be sympathetic about that, for sure! I am, very.

            But it doesn’t mean you have to be a part of it. I saw someone for a while who was in the army and very very closeted about his fetishes (they weren’t “manly” ones, so he was terrified he’d be run out of the army if anyone found out…he wouldn’t even go WATCH the Pride parade). Also there was the poly thing — same kind of deal.

            I like and care for him a lot, even now. He is a good dude. But it’s not fair to me to stay a secret, if secrecy was his choice. And it was! So I don’t see him anymore. Which sucks. But ultimately less soul-crushing.

        6. Lesbian/bisexual (it varies) woman speaking: you’re using the word ‘closeted’ the way I’ve always heard it used. It does not necessarily, or even frequently, mean in denial about being gay — it usually just means, “haven’t told X person or group of people,” so that “closeted to my mom,” means “haven’t told her yet, even though I may have told everyone else important to me.”

          “Closeted” in general, without using a modifier, would probably mean “haven’t told too much of anyone, except the guys I sleep with and maybe a very close friend or two,” in my eyes. HTH.

    2. I basically was going to say your second paragraph. So seconding that.

      I’ve seen this play out a lot. Newly out person + person that has been out for years, yeah that’s not always an easy combination. Anyway I really like the Captain’s scripts!

      Straight people could maybe compare it to deciding whether you want to have a relationship with someone who’s a lot less sexually experienced than you. It’s not quite the same thing but I think it’s similar in the way you think about it when you’re hypothetically thinking about dating. Like you might think, “It’s fine that people have lots of different sexual histories, but right now this week, I’m not in the mood to date someone way more/way less experienced than me.” You might also think, “Right now this week, I’m not in the mood to date someone who just came out this year/came out 10 yrs before me.” There’s different dynamics that come out of these levels of experience in relationships.

    3. You are so not alone (spake the dyke). Also what Pocketnaomi said, below, about the divorce not being completely finalized. That said, none of that is LW’s problem to manage and I think he still deserves a BF who wants the same kind of relationship that LW does.

      1. Oh, he certainly deserves better. Better than a BF who’s not really divorced but lies about it, if that’s the case. Better than a BF who is scared limp of leaving the closet, if that’s the case. Better than a BF who just isn’t that into him, except for the sex and the free and effortless meals, if *that* is the case. If this alleged BF doesn’t shape up and start acting like a BF when talked to, he is going to prove himself toxic, and at that point it doesn’t much matter the reason — it remains time to leave. If he *does* shape up, then he was probably OK all along and our fears will have been groundless, but that is not the vibe I’m getting at the moment. I am hoping I’m wrong. Because my money currently is on “not really that into LW,” with a second place exacta of “not really divorced,” and either of those is bad news for a LW who sounds like a really sweet guy who deserves someone who cares for him and tells him the truth and shows up proudly with him in public and generally treats him as awesomely as he deserves.

  2. T, I agree with the Captain that you sound very sweet. I wonder if you are young and/or inexperienced. These aren’t bad things at all – we’re all young/inexperienced at some point! – but unless you come from a culture with very specific rules about courtship (which most people don’t), you’ve grown up in a world where everyone acts like romance is something you just know, not something you learn. People like the Captain are both rare and wonderful for being willing to share the fact that relationships (not just romantic and sexual relationships!) take some work and it’s okay not to know what to do all the time. Reading your letter made me think back to the day when I was young and inexperienced and even though I was pretty smart about a lot of things, I made a lot of unnecessary mistakes when it came to dating because I’d never really known that it’s okay to ask for what you want.

    Most of the representations we see in the media (which is where so many of us get our ideas about how things are “supposed to be”) about dating, love, sex, and all that tell us that when we’re in a good relationship things will just happen on their own. There’s very little representation of people communicating their needs and wants directly and engaging in the necessary negotiation to make sure that everyone’s interests are being protected and promoted. I can’t really add to the Captain’s excellent advice because I think she’s done a fantastic job here, but I really, really want to emphasize the part about how good it is to speak your desires directly. No one can promise that you’ll always get exactly everything that you want but I do promise you that learning to ask for what you want will help you get a lot more of it.

  3. I like an open ended question, like “What’s your favourite way to kiss?” Something that invites talking about the subject. One you know more about his likes and dislikes, hopefully you’ll figure things out! I’m rooting for you, LW!

    1. I am totally going to use this on the guy I am seeing tonight! Super cute and sweet but a tonsil-hockey player. I have been trying to say…’Hey, can we do it like this instead?’ and this is a much softer technique. Thank you!!!

    1. Cool, then T. and his partner can talk about it, and everyone will be saved from a cycle of awkward attempts and rejection.

  4. LW, have you two ever kissed, even once? If so, it could be there was something he didn’t like about it (or maybe he’s had experiences prior to you that have put him off kissing), in which case asking how he likes to kiss would be a good way to go 🙂

    Otoh my ex wasn’t much into kissing (though we did kiss), but he was hella into sex – that *he* enjoyed. His lack of interest in not-sex reciprocal physical acts, or showing me affection (while being happy to receive and demand it the other way around) turned out to be a huge red flag. It sounds like there are other reasons that are more likely in your case that could explain your partner’s reluctance to do much more than have sex, dinner and watch TV at your place, but if they turn out not to be the case when you talk to him to find out more, and things stay the same even after you’ve told him how you feel and what you’d like from the relationship, it’s totally okay to walk away.

  5. Not to be too cynical, but are you sure he’s divorced? Someone who doesn’t want to go out with you, introduce you to friends, kiss, etc., sounds kind of like a guy who sees you as a diversion rather than part of his real life- although that could also be the case if he is actually divorced.

    If he is single, I recommend that you ask him to kiss you. Ask him to go to the movies with you, or for a walk in the park, or whatever you want to do. If he says no, that tells you what you need to know.

    1. That was EXACTLY where my mind went. Doesn’t matter whether his marriage was to a man or a woman, I’d really question whether a “partner” who never wants to go out with you, travel with you, introduce you to his friends, or see you more than once a week on a set schedule is really as divorced as he’s telling you he is.

      1. I’m not sure yet if these are red flags- but they’re definitely seem like hot pink ones in my book.

  6. I wish someone had sat me down years ago and told me the piece about “And if he says “please don’t ruin this by being serious/needy/clingy/like my ex” in any form, if you catch even a whiff of him guilting you for having needs and bringing them up, please kick him out of your house and never touch him again.”

    Here I was thinking “when he says “please don’t be like this,” he’s being intimate! I’m learning about his needs!” and………….. yeah.

    1. Nicole, you must be Visa, because you are everywhere I want to be. Seriously, between here, The Billfold, and The Toast, I keep seeing you pop up. And I love it!!

      Also I totally agree with you. I was super afraid of having needs for a really long time.

    2. “I thought you were so much cooler than you are being right now” = manipulative dude strategy since the dawn of time.

      1. I had the flip of that comment when I did things “right” according to him. “This is why we’re so good together. If you weren’t this forgiving/relaxed/whatever we probably wouldn’t last.”
        Code being: do what I want or I’m getting rid of you.

        1. Thing I heard repeatedly at my husband’s memorial: “No one but you could have spent so long with him, Novel. You are a saint for making it work.” I spent a week later that summer just sitting on my bed and thinking really hard about how that recontextualized the stress I thought was normal.

          Bringing this back to the LW’s plight, if any of these phrases sound familiar, you really should just run very quickly in the other direction. Most people just can’t make the shift from thinking it’s a relationship to disengaging the feels and having an ongoing noncommittal and uncommitted series of sexual encounters from that person. (That’s not bad, it’s just a thing I’ve noticed.) Basically, the HMS My Feels, steaming into relationshippy waters, is a gigantic cruise ship full of banquets and glass-roofed natatoria, and it is not going to make an abrupt turn into the Port of the Casual Bonk, which it probably passed some time ago without noticing.

          It’s late, and extended metaphors amuse me. Please forgive me.

          1. I thought the “HMS My Feels” was hilarious. Probably because I am also amused by extended metaphors.

      2. Oh dear sweet Athena, THIS. “I thought you were a cool chick, but you know, if you’re gonna act like that, well…” He didn’t even have to threaten to leave me, just the revocation of Cool Chick status was threat enough.

      1. Do you know what’s even more awesome than being threatened with the Spectre of the Ex? Spectre of the Parent (because anytime I express a negative thought I “remind him of his mother” and “that’s why I don’t talk to my mother” – implication of course being, “and if you keep this up I probably won’t talk to you anymore”). Marriage problems, I haz them.

        LW, if the dude you’re seeing uses any version of “come on, I thought you were cooler/better/nicer/more positive/more whateverer/less whateverer than Ex/My Mother/My Father/Whoever” in response to you expressing your needs, show the dude the door. Seriously. Nothing good comes of playing the “am I cool enough NOW?” game with a romantic partner (or, well, with anyone, really).

    3. That is on my Top Ten Reasons To Flee On Your Donkey At Godspeed. Along with, “If you won’t do X for me, I’ll get it somewhere else.” Whether X is cooking dinner every night, blowjobs or color coordinating hir underwear with my kitchen tablecloth, that is a semaphoring “Run away, RUN AWAY!” sign.

  7. When my husband and I started dating, he was a working person and I was still a student. I liked to cook, and he didn’t so much. The general rule was that if we stayed in, I would cook (although allergen-free shortcuts were doable) and if we went out, he would pay. It worked for us.

    In addition, when we first started dating, he was of the “I don’t kiss anybody I’m not going to marry” variety, although that changed.

    All of those things were fine, and we negotiated them, but we talked about it. I don’t think it matters whether your relationship is straight, gay, poly, or something else altogether. If something feels wrong or uneven, say something. You deserve a relationship that meets your needs, and it could be that this guy isn’t it, or that he has hangups you don’t know about. It might not be entirely analogous, but my husband eventually loosened his restrictions on kissing and we explored many things before we tied the knot. Maybe he’s just not there yet, but he needs to know how you feel, and what you want.

  8. Absolutely yes to asking about the kissing thing! It could be something completely random. I didn’t want to kiss my husband during the time between diagnosed to need a root canal and the actual root canal over a year later. My mouth hurt all the time and I couldn’t get rid of the notion that my tooth was rotting in there. Super gross for me, not a time for kissing.
    Not that I’m saying it’s a dental issue for the guy, just that you can’t know until you ask! And at least his answer (or non-answer or whatever) will give you an idea of where you want to go from there.

  9. The kissing thing weirded me out for a little… then I remembered that when I first started dating my current partner (nearly ten years ago, wow, time flies), I didn’t like to kiss. I told him that pretty early on, and we stuck to face nuzzling and such. After a few months I decided I wanted to try again, and today I love kissing him ^_^

    Which is not to say that if he says he’s not into kissing you should hang around waiting for him. You know your own needs and you deserve to have them fulfilled. Do note that if you want to kiss because of a need for intimacy (which seems to be lacking from this relationship as I’m reading it), there are alternate methods of intimacy, both physical and non-physical, and if your partner has a specific aversion for kissing you can try being intimate in other ways.

    1. Yep, I’m not a big lover of kissing, but I think that’s because, like anything else sexual, if you think too much about it, it gets weird. You’re putting your face! On my face! Our saliva is mingling! AHAHAHAHA NO. And yet sometimes it is nice? I don’t know. Maybe, like you, I haven’t just met the right Mutual Face Masher.

  10. Hey LW, definitely do as the Captain says and ask out loud with direct words. I just wanted to emphasise though – really really listen to the answers he gives. It’s so easy to listen mainly with the wishful-thinking-centers of the brain rather than with the ears. 🙂

    I say this particularly because there are some shady not-quite-red-but-maybe-they-are flags in your story. I have been someone’s secret girlfriend who no one was allowed to know about and on hindsight that was my first warning of endless BS to follow. That guy I think was trying to keep his options open because there was someone he liked better than me. We did finally become an open couple, but uh, yeah, he was the kind of guy who did stuff like that (among many other emotionally abusive things), and I would have been better off without him. At the very least it’s possible you guys want very different things from your relationship, and it’s good to know that sooner rather than later.

    1. Ah yes, the listening with wishful-thinking filters clapped firmly onto the ears. I’ve done it. It doesn’t end well.

      LW you absolutely deserve to be in a relationship where your partner is as attentive and responsive to your needs as you are to theirs. Go forth, be brave, use the captain’s scripts! We are rooting for you.

  11. I think you know you need to have a conversation with him and see what he thinks your relationship is. Whether he thinks you’re just friends who fuck, whether he sees this as becoming boyfriends in the future, or whether you’re boyfriends now.

    Because sure, the kissing thing is odd, without at least a sort of “I don’t like kissing!” type explanation, but definitely this is about whether your relationship with him is what you hope it is.

    Depends on the situation, but if he married a childhood sweetheart, for example, or someone who was a friend for a long time, he might not be used to the idea of dating and, you know, making an effort. But there’s no point wasting your energy educating him in that unless a relationship with you is where he wants to be. So sort that out, then discuss the rest.

    I hope you’re right, and he does like being around you, and he’s just not had enough relationships to know what’s expected.

    1. That’s a really interesting point about the childhood sweethearts thing, especially if he was married to a woman and is now dating a man – he may assume because gender roles that men don’t care about romance or kissing or something. But even someone who hasn’t dated since high school or college is going to have a vastly different idea about how to treat a newer romantic partner than someone who has dated as a full-on adult. My mom and dad married shortly after my mom graduated high school, and her advice on dating is grounded in that mentality. I had a boyfriend once who was being aloof and refused to make concrete plans, or would cancel when I could manage to nail down a date. She came up with all these ideas for how to stand him up or appear like I wasn’t interested….which, as a 16 year old, seemed reasonable. Though as someone who has dated as an adult now, I would tell that same 16 year old, “Hey, so if he’s not willing to make plans with you, he doesn’t see you as very important. Don’t date people who don’t think you’re important.” So, yeah, this could be a factor. Be aware, though, LW, that the appropriate response to, “You haven’t been treating me the way I would like,” is, “How can I fix this?” And then fixing it. If he needs you to remind him how to treat you well, or feigns ignorance more than once, it’s not because he doesn’t know anymore – it’s because he doesn’t want to. You don’t owe someone instructions on how to date, and you certainly don’t owe them repeat instructions when they insist that they still don’t understand.

  12. I’m another who’s side-eyeing the whole divorced-but-our-love-is-a-secret situation. I met a guy hitchhiking once. There were sparks and phone numbers exchanged. We started dating. I was working a seasonal job in the area and didn’t know anyone local, just the other seasonal employees, so no way to check around about this guy. He always came to visit me at first. There was a woman’s voice on the answering machine, but he had a story to explain that. I never met any of his friends, and he never talked about the people in his life. He took me home once, but I had to duck below the dash on his street–again a story for that. Eventually, the story went from he’s divorced to they’re separated to he manufactured a fight to encourage her to move out temporarily. Totally not divorced and was hiding our “relationship.” I so wanted to believe my faith in him was justified that I let myself believe his stories and explained away all the evidence that he was still married. Don’t do that.

    You deserve better. You deserve to have your needs met. Do your best to start having these difficult conversations. Your relationship will either get better, or you will escape a relationship that will likely only get more unhealthy.

  13. I know a couple in which one person would not kiss the other on the mouth because that’s how he kisses “slutty girls” and he respected his current girlfriend too much to treat her like that. His very kind, baffled girlfriend eventually left him and I can’t say that I blame her.

    1. I knew a guy who made out constantly, public and private, with his gf. They broke up and he decided never to kiss future gfs until he married. Because somehow kissing in a not-for-life relationship was “ruining” the kisses he would have with his for-life partner? It didn’t make any sense to me.
      He did find a partner who agreed to the no-kissing-until-marriage thing. So their first kiss was at the ceremony. In front of all their family and friends. It worked for them (good for them for communicating!). For me it seemed like an even weirder offshoot of purity culture.

      1. I can kind of understand it. When I was with my first girlfriend- who obviously was the perfect person for me and we were going to be together forever and ever and nothing could possibly take us apart- I liked that I hadn’t kissed anyone besides her and that I was getting to do it for the first time with someone I cared about. It seemed more “special” if it’s something totally unique to that person. I’m going with the “any relationship I have is unique and special” route nowadays but I can imagine a hypothetical me having gone in the other direction, even if I can’t see how that decision would actually have helped me.

        This is a totally off topic comment from me again but I feel like other people have covered everything helpful I could say.

      1. Yeah…he’s not my favorite person. I have to see him socially and be polite because he works with my boyfriend. He’s never been rude to me, but he exudes a really fucked-up vibe and I’m pretty sure that I am not a proper sort of woman in his eyes. Oh darn…

  14. I find that interesting–like, bizarre interesting–because I’ve only ever heard that the other way around. Like, kissing on the mouth is too intimate to share with someone you’re just casually involved with. Good for the girlfriend to get away from that guy.

  15. Some people don’t like to kiss, sure. But, LW, does this guy ever express physical affection in other, nonsexual ways? Does he hug you or give back rubs or run his fingers through your hair or rest his head on your shoulder? It’s very easy to absorb toxic narratives about how men especially find all the mushy romantic stuff a tedious chore and so it’s selfish/demanding of you to expect your partner to express affection for you on a regular basis. But one thing my current relationship is teaching me is to accept that my BF really does want to touch me, that I can relax and enjoy it without feeling like I’m accruing some sort of debt, because guess what, he likes me and likes making me happy! If your guy doesn’t want to touch you except to have sex, and he isn’t showing his appreciation for you in other obvious ways (examples: checking in on you during the week to see how you’re doing, helping you with things that need doing/fixing around the house, buying you that thing you’ve been saying you wanted/needed, complimenting the things he likes about you and telling you he’s grateful to have you in his life) I’m strongly inclined to assume that he’s some combination of a) extremely selfish, b) not that into you, and/or c) intentionally avoiding emotional connection without having made clear that that’s what he’s doing, see above comments about “divorced” partners and shady secret relationships.

    Of course all this speculation on the LW’s relationship is probably pointless when the Captain’s scripts remain his best shot at solving things regardless of the exact cause of the problem, but I can’t resist sharing my two cents because I find myself a bit angry on the LW’s behalf — you have a right to expect kindness and appreciation even from partners who want to keep things casual with you.

    1. > Some people don’t like to kiss, sure.

      My wife of 20+ years doesn’t like to kiss. *with her mouth open* We kiss each other’s cheek’s, we kiss each other’s lips, the kisses even linger sometimes. She just doesn’t like the whole tongue thing. I miss it, but hey, we touch and show affection (and passion) in lots of other ways.

      But the impression I strongly have from the LW is that he’s not even getting a peck on the cheek when the not-BF comes in the front door. That guy is *turning his head away* when the LW tries to kiss him. I’ve got nothing but side-eyes for that guy.

  16. “Maybe you’re the one who has been offering to cook and suggesting that he just come over until now and he doesn’t know that you want anything different. ”

    Does not compute. Mind = blown. I guess this is my thing that I should project onto others, but my train of thought goes, “ooh, I like when SO invites me over for sex and tv and dinner. Hey, I bet SO would also like it if I did something for them! And that would be more fair than them always putting the effort in!” I simply cannot even begin to imagine thinking only of what I am getting and not what I am contributing.

    1. You’re assuming the Other Person sees the situation as Dinner Cooker being the only one “always putting the effort in,” but that’s not necessarily how Other Person is thinking of it.

      Example: I have a friend who loves to bake. She bakes stuff, and when we see each other, she gives me yummy baked goods. I *suck* at baking, so I do not reciprocate this particular thing (because I like my friends and I don’t want to food poison them). If you were *only* looking at the baking, you’d be like “hey, Baker Friend does *all* the baking and MellDiss doesn’t do a dang thing.” And purely looking at our baking habits, you’d be right. But, with that said, I’m more of a planner than Baking Friend, so I’m the one who is always finding us new restaurants to try and new activities to do, and hunting for cool Groupons and stuff. So if you look at the entire interaction (instead of just who is baking for who), it ends up looking a lot more balanced than if you only looked at one piece of our relationship.

      So, to apply here, we only have the LW’s view of what’s happening. Maybe Mystery Dude picks the movie every time, or brings the booze, or does some other thing that Mystery Dude perceives as “reciprocating,” even though it’s not the identical thing that the LW is providing to him. Of course, based on the sum total of LW’s letter, I’m guessing Mystery Dude isn’t doing much of anything, and that’s a problem that should be addressed as recommended by the Captain, but I don’t think it’s necessarily fair to assume that anyone who doesn’t reciprocate a particular action with the identical action is selfish or clueless or not contributing to the relationship.

      1. Agree — especially if there’s an implicit misalignment about the seriousness/nature of the relationship, it may be more of a “hey, a sex-friend who also loves to cook, rock on!”.

  17. I agree with the suggestion that you ask your partner to change things up, go out to dinner, or on other outings. Also, make it clear that non-sexual affection is important to you, and you need more kissing, cuddling, non-sexual touching, in order to be happy in this relationship. His response will be very telling. If he says, “Sorry, I didn’t realize you were unhappy. Let’s go to your favorite sushi place and then we can go to my place and I’ll give you a foot rub.” You have a great potential partner.

    If he says, “Nah, I’d rather stay in” or “I’m not much of a cuddler” or “It makes me feel loved when you cook for me” (possibly one of the most manipulative tactics tried on an LW here.) you’ve got a guy who is perfectly happy hiding your relationship from the world while you serve as an unpaid domestic servant/sex vending machine. He drops a “not-quite-a-date” token in the machine and sex falls out.

    You have decide how to handle that response.

    1. “He drops a “not-quite-a-date” token in the machine and sex falls out.”

      Husband just came in to see what had me rolling with laughter. This is awesome. And also, man, I may have played the role of that vending machine once or twice.

  18. Oh honey, this letter makes me feel really sad for you. I think you do have to ask what’s up with this guy, and be prepared for a not-great answer. People above have made some nice guesses about what could theoretically be going on with this guy and the kissing, but in my view, the odds are much greater that he’s either got some kind of hangup or he’s not that into you… I think you’ll respect yourself more if you decide in advance how long you’ll give this thing and then at some point cut your losses and start looking for someone who’s going to be enthusiastically into being with you.

  19. “Does he promise you that next time you’ll go out to dinner, but tonight he’s just really tired and wants to stay in, but then there never seems to be a next time? Then cut him loose, or relegate him to the most casual of very occasional hook-up partners. He is showing you that you can’t trust what he says.” THIS IS THE TRUEST ADVICE IN THE HISTORY OF TRUEVILLE.

    Having said that, I don’t know how his divorce went or what’s happened since but with my benefit of a doubt glasses on it’s possible that he’s enjoying being taken care of now and just floating along on that initial happiness. Doesn’t make it okay, and a decent person who is into you will respond by kicking up their effort a gear, just floating a possible reason for the behaviour that isn’t nefarious.

    All the best to you LW, you deserve it.

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