Unmet Demands and the Eternal “Are You Sure You’re Sure You’re Sure?”

Hey there, I’ve got a question. My long-term boyfriend and I are absolutely inseparable. We talk about anything and everything, and our communication is great. I’m a very, very sexual person and if something isn’t right I’m not afraid to speak up. For the past few months I’ve had little to no oral sex because he just doesn’t do it right. I’ve been trying to teach him for months. I’ve even demonstrated on him what I want him to do, to no avail. He just licks it. I’ve literally said ”Suck on the clitoris” and he just makes a weird clicking noise, no saliva just dry lips. It makes me angry how bad he is, because it ISN’T hard to do. I’ve even asked his opinion on bringing a lady friend to the bedroom for an oral sex lesson, but he’s not open to it. He’s read online articles, watched pornos and everything else we can think of. But he still just isn’t getting it! My patience is wearing thin, especially because I make sure that he is pleased. It’s not that he’s selfish, he *wants* to please me. He’s just lacking in the skill department. Thoughts? Advice?

The other day I was having dinner with some friends, and there was a lull in the conversation which I attempted to fill by explaining why my man and I keep saying our new catchphrase, “It’s all goooood,” and why it’s so funny!

See, ’cause it’s lame, sure, but when you say it, you KNOW how lame it is, which makes it a double flip of lameness so then it’s not lame anymore. GET IT? SO FUNNY RIGHT?!

Obviously, the more I tried to explain it, the less funny it got. (Obviously.) And the more frustrated I got by no one else understanding how funny it truly was, because what was wrong with them! Ugh! PEOPLE!

Anyway, what I’m trying to say is, sometimes the more you try to explain something — especially something kind of magical like jokes or sex — the less explicable and more fraught it gets. So I think you should pipe down for a bit. At least about head … at least for a while.

Now let me say that, in general, I believe that everyone should totally speak up about what they want, especially in bed. But not you. You are speaking up so much that you’re actually making it worse. You’re at an impasse, my dear, and everyone knows the only solution to that is for someone — namely, you, the aggressor — to back off. Did we learn nothing from The Zax?

To be honest, your tone here is giving me a twitchy eye. Seriously, are you getting angry about this? Frustrated, I can see. Baffled, sure. But angry? In the context of an otherwise idyllic relationship? Time to swap shoes for a minute: how would you feel if he got pissed at you for the way you go down when you’d tried and tried again to do it just like he said? Wouldn’t you just be like, “Oh, all right then, let me just get out of the way so you can suck your own …”? No? Just me?

You gotta remember, there is no objectively right and wrong way to Do It — his method might get another chick off in 20 seconds flat. If isn’t working FOR YOU in a particular moment, that doesn’t make it, or him, “bad.”

And may I remind you that no one signed a contract entitling you to head that meets your precise specifications or else you get your money back? It doesn’t work that way. Relationships aren’t about figuring out how to get what you want out of the other person — they’re about creating something together, something that sustains and fulfills you both.

Right now, what you’re creating does not involve your favorite variety of oral sex, but it does seem to involve lots of frustration and disappointment and self-fulfilling prophecy. You have both created this monster, and you specifically have the power to stop it. So relax! Try something else. Open up a little space around this so that something new can happen.

I mean, haven’t you ever been in bed with someone when they’re doing something that’s not working and you’re thinking about something else and getting frustrated and then you remember to breathe and let the moment be what it is and realize that you care about this person and it actually IS working if you can just shut your brain up for a minute and respond to what’s actually happening rather than expecting one particular thing to be happening?

If not, that’s what you should try.

Please understand that if you had told me he was grossed out by going down on you, or he was inattentive or unconcerned, my advice would be totally different. But your letter paints a picture of harsh judgement and grim determination, which … Yikes! Not sexy, and kind of sad, and totally unnecessary. Cease fire, girl! Let the poor guy up for air!

SO. A good friend just moved in with her boyfriend. She’s the type who longs for kids and a house in the suburbs. After lots of failures, through online dating she finally found one she liked. When all of her close friends met him he was affable enough, contributed to conversation, seemed like he enjoyed our company. There was a hitch in their giddyup when she found out he had a child from a previous marriage (that happened when they were tres young, around 21). He didn’t see his child often but assured my friend that he was supporting his child, and she said she’d never want to be with a man who wouldn’t take care of his own children.

Fast forward two years. They make the leap and move in together, and she’s determined that this will be it for her, her ticket to the suburban life with a nuclear family. The problem is that we’ve all decided the guy is an asshole. The niceness toward all other people seems to have been an act aimed at winning her favor, and for the last six months or so she’s sometimes dragged him out so that he can sit in the corner with his iPad and ignore everyone in a way that indicates he thinks he’s too good for us. Plus she no longer seems to care about this other child of his. A large group of us went on a trip together, and over the course of four days he didn’t say a word to anybody else there unless he was making a snide comment about something. (And at one point he did something hugely disrespectful in front of a huge group of friends and strangers.)

The assumption is that they’re going to get married, but as friends, we all know she can do better. Is there ever a time (short of when there is physical/mental abuse) that friends can say something to another friend about her choice in a mate? Or is it our duty as friends to plaster smiles on through their wedding and wave at them fondly as they head out to Westchester and hope they stick and are happy enough?

I should say, if I thought he was the perfect man for her and if I thought she was getting everything she wanted, I wouldn’t give a shit about whether he liked me or I liked him. There is a strong feeling among the people who know her best that she’s settling and putting up with things she’d have never put up with –lowering her standards, adjusting her expectations — because she’s in her mid-30s and wants a family. There’s a Stepford quality to all this that makes me feel like she wouldn’t want to see the problem if it were there.

Yup. He sounds like a juicebox. And, just like our albino alligator doppleganger ancestors before us, we love our friends and want better than mere juiceboxery for them. “Him? Really? Are you sure?”

But you have to know that the last sentence of your question contains all the answer you need. Your friend isn’t an idiot — she’s getting something out of this situation, something that she either wants or thinks she wants. “Are you sure you’re sure?” isn’t going to make her change her mind. She’s all in already.

Which, I know, kind of sucks. I KNOW. When otherwise capable, brilliant, beautiful women make jaw-droppingly horrible decisions with men, it is unbearably, hideously squirmy to watch. Worse than bad rapping, even. Erggh! Make it stop!

(Until you’re the one making the questionable decision, but it doesn’t seem like that at all until a few years later and then you’re like, Oh. Right. Oxytocin is a hell of a drug.)

At any rate, I don’t think you’re beholden to pretend to be happy over something that makes you feel ill. And as a very close friend, I do think you get to express your feelings to her — once, or maybe twice if you’re drunk together and it’s after 2 a.m.

But there are some bounds on what you can say. “What the hell is wrong with that guy / you for liking him?” is not on the approved list. You have to be gentle with him, and you have to be clear that you respect her autonomy and will love her even if she does marry this utter ass. Things like, “He’s not who I imagined you with” and “I wonder sometimes if you’re making the best decision with him” are about as harsh as you want to get. And then you want to back waaaay the heck off.

Because, unless something remarkable happens, she IS going to marry him and start building a life with him. And if she’s mid-30s and wants a family, it will probably all happen pretty fast. Is it a mistake? A Lady knows not … but we all know that it’s her mistake to make. So if you want to continue to be part of her imperfect life, you should probably refrain from insulting the star to which she and her wagon are getting hitched.

Here’s a question: how does one move on from infidelity, and by infidelity I mean infidelity lite. Basically five months in to our now two-year relationship, my boyfriend got snogged by a sexy (I hope) French girl. He felt bad, nothing else happened, and he decided never to tell me. Like, diet cheating. When he got back I knew, just knew, but could never really prove that anything had happened, until two weeks ago. He left his Facebook on, from out of nowhere a little psycho bubble popped up and was like “you know how you suspected…way back when…well here’s your chance!” and I read the messages between him and the friend he went with — there was mention of both of them having had incidents. I rang him, hissing like some kind of evil death cat for him to come back from wherever he was and explain himself (we had just moved in together — zing!). He explained himself, I threw (soft) things at his head then went to an all-day seminar, because I can keep my cool when I need to like that.

So that’s that. I forgive him, these things happen. I can understand that had he told me at the time I would probably have ended it, and we wouldn’t have the AWESOME relationship we have now. I feel like we can move on. When we thought about ending it we cried a lot. So by that measure, why then am I now a thinly veiled Glenn Close death wreck? I feel as if I’m very pretty and have large but pert breasts, so why then do I feel like a manatee? How does one rebuild that trust? I am a sensitive lady, I believe in things taking time, and so given how much time I’ve invested in this I’m having trouble getting over the hurt — some ladies may be cool with stuff like this, but for me it’s a major transgression. We’re (both!) working hard on moving on, but I’m having trouble accepting that my boyfriend is probably just a normal guy that does find other women attractive sometimes as opposed to the vaguely monotheistic idol worship that I had (completely rationally) assumed he felt for me? How do I not view other women as a threat and/or not become some kind of … anti-sexy-French-woman racist? How do I deal with him looking hot while not in my direct line of vision? Is this normal, do other women just move on from this?

Aww, you’re funny. That helps when your boyfriend does infidelity lite on you and when you snoop around on him. (Quick PSA: folks, please, can we stop with the snooping? NOTHING GOOD EVER COMES OF IT. EVER.)

So, yeah, big steaming pile of trust issues. I see that. And there’s something else going on, too — for the first time, you’re starting to see that although Love Itself is divine, relationships are every bit as adorably fucked up as we are. Which is oddly liberating, but also kind of depressing. Sorry about that. :(

But first things first: have you gotten a proper apology from him? Like, heartfelt, sincere, you totally believe that he regrets his actions? And have you apologized for snooping in his Facebook? Because that is totally necessary before anything good can happen. Everyone screwed up here, and that needs to be acknowledged honestly.

From there, getting over it can be done, but it takes a good deal of time and effort. You start by asking yourself, “REALLY do I trust him? Am I sure I’m sure?” And you take a good long while to make up your heart/vagina/mind. And then, if you ARE sure, then you decide to act like you trust him.

Even more important, you decide that whatEVER anyone else in the world does, including him, you’re not going to let it affect how you feel about yourself. Because fundamentally, each of us is 100% responsible for our own thoughts and actions. He’s responsible for his, and you’re responsible for yours. What he does has NOTHING to do with how cute / awesome / worthy of love you are. So put your hand solemnly over your heart, and repeat after me: I reject that bullshit sexist script. I vow to protect my brain-space like a lioness protects her tiny lions.

And here is how you do that: when you start to feel jealous, un-pert, or manatee-y, you take a breath and remind yourself that those emotions are Just Emotions, not Accurate Reflections of Reality. In fact, you really don’t even have to think about these issues anymore, because the rational part of you has already decided your stance: we trust him. We like ourselves a lot. We are not a manatee.

Warning: this is really fucking hard. Writing it all down can help. I happen to have several notes to myself that I pull out and read whenever I’m starting to feel and/or act crazy. These notes say things like, “Are you about to start bleeding? ‘Cause remember, that shit makes you crazy!” And, “Why don’t you knit something, honey? And maybe smoke a bowl and watch G.I. Jane? You’ll feel better tomorrow, promise, xoxox!”

It sounds goofy, but in my psycho-bubble moments, it really helps to (a) laugh at myself at least a little, and (b) remember that I do sometimes exist in another, more rational and easy-going form. Maybe it will help you, too.

So yeah, just give it some time, and try to maintain a little objectivity on how you feel — as much as you can. Radically easier said than done, I know. I know! But it’s one of the worthiest endeavors, and will serve you well in rebuilding things with your man and in just about everything else you try to do in general.

Over time, trusting him won’t be so hard anymore. Even better, you’ll start to see that feeling like a manatee is a mechanical, predictable thing that your brain does. Brains make thoughts like butts make poops, and none of it necessarily means anything. We get to decide what is important and true. Thus sayeth A Lady.

You will also notice that the less you indulge that old sea-cow feeling, the less you will be tempted to snoop. Truth!

Previously: Delicate Subjects, Erratic Cycles, and the “Best Friend.”

A Lady is one of several rotating ladies who know everything. Do you have any questions for A Lady? (300-word max, please.)

Photo by AigarsR, via Shutterstock

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