-- Question for John --
I am at a fork in the road on whether to move towards marriage or to leave. One major issue is in the bedroom. He will not kiss at all and doesn’t like foreplay. I’ve explained to him how this makes me feel and wonder if he is attracted to me. However, he has asked on his own or hinted rather that he’d like me to marry him and I blow him off.
I am 33 and my boyfriend is 46 and have been together 10 months. We live together too by the way. I can’t imagine committing to a relationship like this. However he refuses to seek counseling, to change and told me I’d grow out of need of kissing and romance because only teenagers do that!.
-- Answer from John --
If he holds fast to his refusal to seek counseling or — even more seriously — to change, well, then, you have all the information you need to know you are with a partner who expects YOU to do all the changing in the relationship. I personally would NOT recommend this kind of relationship, unless you like being in a one-down, non-equal, boss-to-employee type of arrangement.
For me, presented with that kind of situation, I’d do this to give him the best chance to reverse his position….
1. Ask him for a 5 minute appointment in the next day or two. During this appointment you want to tell him your response to his offer of an arrangement around kissing and foreplay. Make sure you set a time in advance, and do not just spontaneously launch into this discussion.
You need time to emotionally prepare for it, and knowing exactly when it will be will help you get yourself in a resourceful state. Tell him all you want him to do is to listen to you for 5 minutes. That you will not want him to verbally respond AT ALL at that time… but just to think about what you will say… for at least a few hours, if not a day or two.
2. In advance of the appointment, start centering yourself. Make sure you show up to it in the following emotional state: Be calm, cool and collected. Realize you are emotionally strong. Get yourself into the state of mind where you realize that expressing your authentic position on this is MORE important than whether he will respond to it favorably or not. In other words, let go of the outcome. You are making a statement about who you are. It does not depend on how he will respond. That’s out of your control.
In fact, let go of having to have this relationship work out at all, at least for the 5 minutes you will talk to him. Because, at this point in time, the truth is, if he is serious about his “I’m not changing” position, it will not work. Sorry about that. But this is out of your control altogether, and the only thing you can do now is get yourself emotionally centered and make yourself be truly known. This is a healthy thing for you to do, and if you do it in a non-judgmental, non-needy way, you will grow and make yourself more invincible to having this kind of thing happen in the future (whether with this guy or anyone else).
3. When the appointed time for the 5 minutes rolls around, say something like this (make sure it’s in your own words, don’t just memorize this script):
“OK. I guess you have issues around kissing and foreplay, and I can accept that you have issues at this time. I don’t really know what they are. I hear you say that only teenagers do that, and I’d like to tell you that this is absolutely not true. Real live adults who have passionate sex longterm kiss and engage in foreplay. But that doesn’t mean they could or should always do that. And it’s not really a technique thing or a “performance” thing, either. It comes from the heart, ultimately, and there is no “right” way to do it, other than with heart.
I’d like you to consider that this judgment of yours around kissing and foreplay — like all judgments in relationship and especially around sex — is covering over some deeper emotional reality that you prefer not to expose to me. I can understand that. We all have fear. We all have things we would like to hold back. You better believe I have big fears around committing to the next stage of this relationship, too. And I have emotional things I do not at all feel comfortable sharing with you. I’ve got “stuff” — you’ve got “stuff” — everyone has “stuff”
But I do know this much. While I can accept that you now have issues around kissing and foreplay, I cannot agree to a relationship in which these elements do not eventually come into play, in a way that mutually works for both of us, that turns both of us on. It simply is not going to work for me in the long run. And it absolutely stops me from moving forward to any deeper level of commitment at this time.
Yet there is something much more troubling to me than our differences around this issue. Not that that isn’t challenging enough. It is. But there is something that really concerns me FAR FAR more than the issue itself. That is your apparent refusal to even look at it, be open to change or to get outside help. This is a total show-stopper as far as I’m concerned.
Realistically, issues and differences come up, even in the best of relationships. This may be our first one, and it may be a hard one, but it will not be our last issue. That you can count on. Relationship is about nothing if not change and growth. I am only interested in being in relationship with a man who is willing to grow beyond his own fears and be open to change and personal growth. That is really my bottom line. That is non-negotiable.
You are a fantastic guy, and I could fantasize having a rich and rewarding longterm relationship with you. But I know that is only a fantasy. What it really takes to make it a reality is two partners who are each willing to own and deal with their stuff, and to do their own personal growth, and not just lay any issue of difference on the other person and hope they can avoid looking at themselves. To make a relationship work longterm will require us both — and I do include my self in this equation — to look at our patterns and limits and who we are willing to become.
If you are set in your ways and want to stay convinced that it’s all my problem, that’s fine. It’s your choice, really. All choices have consequences. Be aware that what ultimately turns me on — far more than kissing or even foreplay — is a partner who is willing to really show up in the relationship, whether that is sexually or emotionally, and be willing to explore and change and grow personally. I know that’s not comfortable and I know that can be hard. But I don’t really see any alternatives.
Take a few days and consider what I just said. If you have any questions about it, don’t hesitate to ask me later. For now, I’d just like to thank you for listening to me.”
4. Do not talk about this subject again for at least a few hours, or a couple of days. Let him think about it. He will have to move through several layers of fear to even really think about it at all.
5. Wait. If he responds clearly, it will be one of two things. Either he says he is not willing to change, or he will say that he is willing to change. His answer will all depend on his own ability to face some fears inside himself and own some things and be willing to show up in a new way. Just his saying he is willing to change is already a first step to change. If he never gets back to you on this subject, he is silently saying he has so much fear that he cannot even tell you verbally he is not willing to change.
6. You make a choice now (most likely within a week or two of step 1 above) based on much clearer information than you now have about what kind of partnership you can expect to have with this individual. Know that despite whatever positive qualities he offers, if he is truly not committed to change and personal growth, you are only setting yourself up for deeper ongoing suffering and dissatisfaction in this relationship. You choose….