It always comes back to food metaphors with us, even when it shouldn't.
Love your column. I am an avid reader and part time poster. My problem is not a "do I stay or go" problem, but an appeal to the masses for advice on how to either fix it or learn to live with it.
A little background ... I'm about 40, female, with children from a previous relationship. My partner is about my age. We are getting married in a few months. He is, hands down, the most awesome man I have ever known. He is affectionate, loving, kind, easy-going, close to his mother, sexy, funny, etc. I never doubt that he loves me. I trust him completely (it's been a long time since I've been able to say that!). He tells me he loves me all the time, is respectful, a great step-dad-to-be, and my kids absolutely adore him. I honestly believe I have the best relationship of anyone I know.
So, what is the issue, right? Intimacy is RARE in our house -- especially intimacy that's centered on me. In the beginning it was great, but a few months after we started dating, it dwindled to weekends. Now it's become basically scheduled maintenance once a week. He has said he’s not a fan of intimacy at night, so I started setting my alarm. We ended up cuddling and chatting. For a while he said it was stress at work. That should be resolved by now because summers are easier for him. Finally we had a serious talk about it, and he said he was perfectly happy with intimacy once a week.
You probably noticed I specified that intimacy is rare when it's about me. He's very appreciative for all of the "attention" I shower on him -- and I am not the type to stop serving dishes just because I’m not getting fed in return. That seems petty and passive-aggressive, and it’s not the tone I want to set for our relationship.
When we do manage it, the intimacy is wonderful. When he comes to the table, he brings a five-star meal. Of course, I'm starving a few days later because it was really delicious, and I'm a fan of fine foods. He tells me he's attracted to me. He makes comments that let me know he finds me appealing. I'm in pretty decent shape -- a big gym person. He reassures me that he understands that he doesn't participate enough, and stresses that it’s not a reflection of his desire for me.
So, what do I do with this? It's not a deal-breaker. I'm old enough, and experienced enough to know that guys like him don't come around that often, especially willing to take on a single mom. But the prospect of being intimate three times a month for the next 40 years, ESPECIALLY when I know I have a master chef lying right next to me, is beyond frustrating.
– AandD, South of Boston
A: This is a big, loaded problem, AandD, but in some ways it's like any other relationship problem because the answer is compromise. On both sides. He can step up his game and you can manage your expectations. I would have the talk again. This time, make it less about what he lacks and more about how you can meet in the middle.
I understand that he's content with the schedule, but both of you have to be content for this to work. And really, it's not like you're asking him to do the dishes more often. There's something in it for him, too.
With some of these lack-of-intimacy letters, I suspect physical problems or depression. If he's participating once a week, I doubt that's the issue. Sounds more like laziness, stress, and his natural drive. Again, compromise. You have to respect his drive. Perhaps six times a month is all you're going to get. That's not so bad if he can make those six times all about you.
I'd also ask him how you can help get his mind in the right place to participate. Morning vs. evening is just one thing. But … a weekend away? Dinner out? Kids out of the house for a night?
Be sensitive. This is a problem that causes defensiveness and hurt feelings. You need to know that you can't expect everything you want. When you have your next conversation about this, maybe ask him what he'd like more of -- TV time? Cuddling? Alone time for him? See what's missing and where compromises can be made. That's more productive than, "I need more. Step up your game." Come up with a real strategy so it's not just a complaint.
And remind him that this is important. Sex and money. This is big stuff.
Readers? How do you deal with someone who says, "I’m fine with once a week." Is it wrong that he hasn’t tried to compromise already? Is she expecting too much? Discuss.
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Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith at www.meredithgoldstein.netand on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.