Must You Answer That? plus, Curb Your Enthusiasm
Dear Dr. Hurd,
My friend and I have been dating for a few years. He’s ten years younger than I am, but I don’t feel that’s an excuse for what I’m about to tell you. I’ll put it as delicately as possible: A few weeks ago, during an “intimate moment” between the two of us, I looked up—and he was emailing somebody from his phone—right in the middle of our…moment! I was angry and hurt and still feel that way, though I’m at least speaking to him now.
Please don’t tell me I’m the only person this has ever happened to.
Dr. Hurd replies,
I haven’t yet heard of this happening (and I hear a lot!), but I don’t doubt for a minute that it has happened before. People text or email during every other conceivable situation, whether or not it’s rude or inappropriate. Why not this too?
Chatting or reading on the phone whether it’s appropriate or even physically safe (e.g., while driving) has become the new normal. You don’t have to like it or participate in it, but you have to be ready for it and not take it personally.
It really doesn’t matter whether you’re the only one this has ever happened to. What matters is that this friend/sexual partner did this to you. And it matters what you think about it and what you’re going to do about it.
Nobody wants someone with whom they’re having sex to be otherwise occupied during (what is supposed to be) the heat of the…moment. I guarantee your friend wouldn’t like it either, and his behavior shows a lack of empathy on his part. Empathy is the ability/willingness to see things from another’s point-of-view. Many people lack that skill, but I guarantee that everybody wants it from others.
Rather than chastise him, why not take a look at whether you really want to take this relationship seriously? The absurdity of what he did speaks for itself. You’ve learned something new about him, but there’s no point pressuring him to change. He has shown you who he is, and it’s obviously not a stellar performance. Let go of your expectations of him and move on with new and more engaged people.
Dear Dr. Hurd,
My girlfriend and I live together and enjoy one another’s company. However, our sex drives are very different. I am always up for a little fun, but more often than not she puts the brakes on.
Recently, an old girlfriend from school contacted me and wants to get together. I know for a fact that she and I are much more compatible in the “fun” department, and we’ve both hinted at that very thing in our emails. I have no desire to end my present relationship, so is it OK to explore a friendship with my old school chum?
I get excited just thinking about it. Mmmmm…maybe I just answered my own question.
Dr. Hurd replies,
Above all else: Never lie to yourself. In your letter, you’re telling me a half-truth. You know full well that you’re interested in a lot more than just a platonic friendship with your old chum. If the feeling is mutual, then you will be presented with that opportunity every time you get together with her. You therefore have three choices:
The first is to ignore what I just wrote. Keep lying to yourself, let nature take its course, and then lie to your girlfriend about having an affair. This is the route a lot of people take. I see it as untenable for you, especially if you truly want to remain with your girlfriend. You can’t have it both ways. That’s not me lecturing; it’s simply a fact. Whenever you give rise to two realities, one will inevitably collide with the other. It’s only a matter of time.
Option two is to pull back from your old chum and avert disaster by letting go of your impulses. It won’t be easy, but many people do this as well. And in terms of potential unpleasantness, it’s certainly more prudent than option one.
Choice number three is to tell your girlfriend the truth. Tell her you love her and want to stay with her, but you are also disappointed in your present sex life. Maybe she’s willing to do something about this problem, or maybe she’s not. This option includes the possibility that you two could have an improved sex life. You might also pursue couples’ counseling to address this and any related issues. It’s possible you could break up, but if you’re not happy now, is that really so unthinkable?
The choice is yours, but I strongly suggest that you avoid option one. Left unchecked, that’s where your emotions and self-deceit will take you. And one way or another it will blow up in everyone’s face. Your email implies that sex is important, but not so important that it’s worth ending your relationship. Some might agree with you, and others might not. That doesn’t matter. What does matter is, “to thine own self be true.”
Dr. Michael J. Hurd, Ph.D., LCSW is a psychotherapist and author. His office may be reached at 302-227-2829. Email Dr. Hurd