Advice

Miss Information

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Have a question? Email erin@nerve.com. Letters may be edited for length, content and clarity.
Want to see Miss Information live? She’ll be appearing at “Revenge of the Sex Advice Columnists,” part of In The Flesh, an erotic reading series tonight at Happy Ending Lounge. Visit inthefleshreadingseries.blogspot.com for more details.


   
Dear Miss Information,
     I’m in a sexless long-term relationship. My partner has informed me that he is no longer interested in having sex with me or anyone else. He knows this makes me unhappy, so during one of our discussions he gave me a “free pass” to have sex with other people as long as he doesn’t know about it. At the time that seemed impossible, but now I have both the desire and the opportunity to take advantage. Do I have to confirm that he still feels this way? Is there an expiration date? The discussion was a year ago. How can I make sure he still feels that way without making it super-obvious that I am considering an affair? If I bring it up, aren’t I defeating the purpose? — Free Lunch



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Dear Free Lunch,
     As much as I empathize, Free Lunch, you want to get by on a technicality, and I’m not going to let you. You’re going to have to sit down and have that discussion. You know, the one where you go to your partner and say, "Hey, remember that talk we had a year ago? Well, I’m about to make good." You’re not defeating the purpose, you’re being mature and ethical. It sounds like the situation was different a year ago, and now you’re laying the cards on the table and giving him a chance to respond. Just because you’re having a conversation doesn’t mean you have to get into the nitty-gritty. You husband doesn’t even have to know your paramour’s name if he doesn’t want to. But he should know that something extracurricular is going down.
    “Don’t ask, don’t tell" works for a lot of couples. Other times it’s used as a crutch when one partner feels conflicted about an open relationship, but doesn’t feel they can demand monogamy from their partner. Does that sound like your significant other? I’m not trying to turn this into a commercial for monogamy, but you might also be underestimating the deluge of emotions you’re going to feel after getting the intimacy you’ve been going without for so long. Even if it’s "just sex," it’s still going to generate all sorts of craziness in your head. All the more reason to tell your partner. If your conscience is clear, it’ll be much easier to incorporate this new relationship into your life.
    If you talk to your partner and it turns out that he’s changed his mind, then you’ve got a decision to make. You can go with the status quo (not recommended), you can split up, or you can go see a counselor. Let us know how it goes.



Dear Miss Information,
     I’m a guy in my late thirties. I really want to settle down and get married. Here’s my dilemma: All the girls I date are average-looking at best. Most aren’t even that. I know that if I want to find someone that I must be realistic. Should I commit to someone I don’t find that attractive, hoping I’ll grow more attracted to them with time? It seems like the only plausible course of action. — Bachelor With Honors


Dear Bachelor With Honors,
    The first part of your letter is dead-on. You do have to be realistic if you want to find a missus, especially if you’re in a hurry. It’s the last few sentences where you take a left turn. You know that whole joke about being "kind of pregnant"? Attraction is that way too. You either are or you aren’t. The whole matter is frighteningly easy. It’s when we over-intellectualize that it gets hard. You have my full permission to think with your dick on this one and let your brain take a back seat (ladies, that goes for your vaginas as well).
    It’s true that physical attraction can build. We’ve all had that one friend who grows hotter and hotter right under our nose. But that person is usually someone we already know in another context. A coworker. A classmate. A trainer at the gym. It’s like our libido’s been given a running start. Not so with your typical dating situation. The pressure to make a decision is much more intense. That’s why talking yourself into feeling it when a person leaves you dead below the waist is such an uphill battle.
    I know what you’re going to say. "But Miss Information, this girl is so great in every other way! She’s such a nice person." To which I’ll reply, "Yes, but is she a nice person you want to fuck? If not, find a new girl and get back to me." Looking for a mate can be hellish, and it’s tempting to cut corners. The thing that sucks about that is, the more corners you cut, the less permanent your union will likely be.

Dear Miss Information,
     I recently got back in touch with an ex. We’re both single, but we’re feeling a bit lonely and sexually frustrated. We’ve discussed resuming a physical relationship with the understanding that it will be nothing more; we will remain friends and discuss other relationships and people we like while hooking up. I know these arrangements rarely work, but if we both know the rules from the outset, is it possible? Or should we both just wait it out until someone more serious comes along? — Uncertain in Jersey

Dear Uncertain in Jersey,
    One thing you don’t talk about is the breakup itself. If it was particularly bloody and/or one-sided, then the answer is no and you can ignore everything I’m about to say.
    If it’s the way you described, I think it can work. It sounds like you’re both in the same boat. It’s called the S.S. Emo, and there’s an Elliott Smith shirt substituting as a sail. The only area where you might run into trouble is when one or both of you starts to get serious (heck, even halfway serious) about another person. A lot of people are uncomfortable with the idea of exes being friends, let alone recent fuck buddies. Think about how you’re going to address that with the people you date.
    Finally, make sure that this ex sex isn’t making you complacent. Lonely and horny are a dangerous combination and an idle ex is the Devil’s tool. (Really. It says so in the Bible.) After seven years of having cat chow dumped in her dish, my cat couldn’t kill a spider to save her life. Keep your instincts sharp, Uncertain in Jersey. When the right girl comes around, you’ll need them.

My reply to Happily Healthy (Miss Information, 9/13/06) drew this very savvy and informative email in response:

Dear Erin,
    I read your response to Happily Healthy, and I was concerned by assumptions about risk implied in your correspondent’s letter and your response. In any given city in the USA, depending on which sunny or skeptical statistics you prefer, between one in a thousand and one in a hundred people have HIV. Condoms are highly effective in preventing transmission of HIV. While getting HIV would be horrible news for most people, the chances of exposure even without a condom are quite low. (I’m not saying I’d risk it, but them’s the odds.) In comparison, depending on the study you cite and what age group you’re in, between one in five and one in three people have genital herpes. (And 80% to 90% are asymptomatic. Most don’t know they have it: you can ask people who have it and they will "in all honesty" tell you they don’t.) Condoms
do not offer much protection against transmitting HSV, and HSV is transmissible even without a visible outbreak.
     Admittedly, the results of HSV are more horrible as a social stigma than as a long-term health threat, but the chances of getting HSV even while using condoms are higher than having unprotected sex and getting HIV. While Happily Healthy may not be at risk for HIV infection with her strategy, she won’t stay happily healthy for long if she thinks that condoms and HIV-testing are an effective safer-sex strategy. I would call it strict, as you did, but ineffective.  If I were her friend, I would have said, "Good for you! Are you aware of the other risks of being sexually active, such as HPV and HSV?"  I would want my friend to be as aware as possible of her risks, so that she would feel in control of her consequences.  —
Punzel  

 


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©2006 Erin Bradley and Nerve.com