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Amy Alkon


Fawn Juan I'm a 31-year-old single guy with a problematic pattern. Women I ask out seem to love how I'm open and very complimentary from the start, but then, suddenly, they get cold feet. It seems that once women know they're desired, they're done with you. …Read more. The Hurt And Confused Locker I was dating a sociopathic compulsive liar for three months. I had a gut feeling that he was lying about his work, education, and finances, but I had no real proof. This allowed him to manipulate me and convince me that I was crazy, insecure, and …Read more. The Alone Ranger Sometimes, when my boyfriend is upset, he wants comforting, just like I would. He'll vent or lay his head in my lap, and I stroke his hair. But sometimes, he just sits on the couch and says nothing. How do I know what he needs, and how do I feel …Read more. High, I Think I Love You Two friends of mine are in "love at first sight" relationships. (One went from chills at seeing the guy to moving in with him weeks later.) Each has said to me, "When it's right, you just know." Well, as I get to know this new guy I'm seeing, I …Read more.
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The Gospel Of Lukewarm


I've been in a long-distance relationship with my dream man. When we aren't together, I feel super-disconnected and needy. I've never been that sort of person, but he is a master of compartmentalization and just calls or texts back when I contact him and is happy to see me when he sees me. This just isn't working for me. I need a guy who's excited enough about me day to day that he takes a little initiative to talk to me. I've asked him repeatedly to even just text me first from time to time so I can feel like I matter to him. However, nothing changes. I now think I should end it. I do love him, though, and my friends are telling me that I've already invested nine months of my life in this relationship and I might as well see it through now. There is the possibility he'd move to my city, but that wouldn't be for at least eight months, and it is only a possibility. — Across The Country

In situations like this, "absence" would be more useful if, instead of making the heart "grow fonder," it made the heart grow little legs and trot off to a bar to chat up somebody new.

You've told this guy what you need — no, not diamonds, furs, and surgical conjoinment; just a textiepoo at some point in the afternoon or maybe a call as he's on his way someplace. He pretty much responded, "I hear ya, baby — and can't wait to keep doing the exact same thing!" This led you to the obvious (and healthy) conclusion: Time to jump off the lost-cause train. But just then, up popped your friends to yank you back into the boxcar, advising you to put up with the unhappy and see where it goes — because you've already put in so much unhappy.


This sort of thinking is called the "sunk cost fallacy." It's a common cognitive bias — an error in reasoning — that leads us to keep investing in something simply because we've already invested so much. Behavioral economist Daniel Kahneman explains that even when we sense that investing further is futile, we're prone to do it because of how powerfully loss affects us. His research finds that we may even feel twice as much pain from a loss as we feel happiness from a gain. So, rather than take the hit to our ego by admitting we've wasted our time, we waste more time doing whatever wasted our time in the first place.

The rational (and misery-reducing) approach is recognizing that the time we've already put in is gone and that throwing more time in after it won't change that. What makes sense is deciding what to do based on how likely it is to pay off in the future. In this case, sure, your boyfriend could have a near-death experience, re-evaluate his life, and start texting you heart emojis every 20 minutes — and Elton John could divorce his husband and start dating women.

Of course, if you do ditch this guy, your replacement dream man may not pop up immediately in his wake. But at the very least, you should find that there are many men out there who can fail to meet your needs without your spending thousands of dollars a year on plane tickets.

Lip Bomb

I love my girlfriend but don't love how aggressive she is with her tongue when we kiss. I like softer kissing, but I think she thinks I won't find her "passionate" enough that way. She has big, beautiful lips, and she's intense, and I don't need her tongue down my throat to feel connected. How do I navigate this difference in styles? — Uncomfortable

It's great to have your girlfriend's kisses kick off a fantasy in your head, but not that you're playing spin the bottle with a camel.

Unfortunately, there's really no such thing as "constructive criticism." As I explain in "Good Manners for Nice People Who Sometimes Say F*ck," "Criticizing people doesn't make them change; it makes them want to clobber you." That's because we're living in modern times with an antique psychological operating system. A verbal attack sets off pretty much the same biochemical alarm as a guy in a loincloth and face paint coming after you with a bloody spear. The good news is that turning criticism into opinion often makes all the difference in getting it heard. In this case, this simply involves telling your girlfriend how you like to be kissed — and then (fun!) showing her. It's great to have a woman who takes your breath away — but not because she's trying to give you a laryngectomy with her tongue.

Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave., #280, Santa Monica, CA 90405, or email ( Her latest book is "Good Manners for Nice People Who Sometimes Say F*ck."



It's Amy Alkon's "HumanLab — The Science Between Us." Amy brings in the luminaries of behavioral science to solve our problems in love, work, and life. Listen live every Sunday — — from 7 to 7:30 p.m. Pacific time; or listen or download at the link, at iTunes, or on Stitcher. This week, Amy interviews anthropologist Dr. Kermyt Anderson on how fatherhood transforms dads and kids and how to be a great dad.


7 Comments | Post Comment
LW1, re: "I've asked him repeatedly to even just text me first from time to time so I can feel like I matter to him."
I'm sorry to have to say this, but I think the problem don't matter to him. I'm sure he likes you, and he's happy to have a good time with you, but he's just not that into you. I suspect he has "other company" to keep him busy in his hometown. Sorry. And your girlfriends are ridiculous to tell you to invest more time in an unhappy relationship than you already have. Break free.
Comment: #1
Posted by: Jane
Tue Nov 24, 2015 8:37 AM
LW1: I've read about this before, the woman who thinks a guy doesn't love her because he doesn't send her a constant stream of text messages. I guess this would prove that he thinks of her 24/7, even when he's driving to work or in a business meeting, but all he does is text back. The monster! She has asked him to send her lots of stupid text messages that aren't just responses to her text messages and he doesn't do it. And the "seeing it through" advice from her friends is ridiculous. He's her dream long-distance man, or he would be if he would only send her a text every 5 seconds. I agree with the LW. She should end it. Let the guy move on with his life with a grown-up. Have mercy.
Comment: #2
Posted by: LouisaFinnell
Tue Nov 24, 2015 1:08 PM
LW1: Invested? I love how people think relationships are investments - too funny. You should continue living life by poll and do what the poll results tell you. Ignore evolution.

LW2: You love her? Doubtful. There is no way you are attracted to her. Kissing is important. When someone tries to eat your face - that's not attractive. Kissing is the first step to compatibility. You two aren't. Learn to accept reality.

Comment: #3
Posted by: Diana
Tue Nov 24, 2015 1:38 PM
LW1--Honey are you for real?!? Who do you think you are, Anne Baxter in the Ten Commandments? Let me get this straight, you're considering ending a relationship with someone whom you describe as your "dream man" because he isn't falling all over himself to validate you on a daily basis? Sweetie, you seem to have more issues than National Geographic and if you think you're entitled to someone who needs to act "excited" about you on a day to day basis then quite simply, you need to see a shrink! My god, clingy much? Where in the hell is your self-esteem? I'm guessing it's in the toilet. I'm sorry but being with someone who makes such stupid and unreasonable demands would get real old real fast and frankly I'd drop you faster than a bad habit after about a month of your bullshit! Grow up!!!

LW2--Um, you tell your girlfriend point blank that you don't need her tongue down your throat to feel connected and then you leave the ball in her court to respond accordingly. If she still insists on playing tonsil hockey during make out sessions than you'll know that she believes her needs are more important than yours. End of story, what else do you need to know? Decide if you want to stay or go. Personally I don't like sloppy kissers so I'd toss this one back into the dating pool and cast your line anew.
Comment: #4
Posted by: Chris
Tue Nov 24, 2015 2:34 PM
"I think she thinks I won't find her "passionate" enough that way"
How do you know what she thinks? You aren't a mind reader. Tell her, or pull back when she starts pushing the tongue in. Chances are someone or some magazine article told her that men like that sort of kissing. It's up to you to tell her what you like - she isn't psychic.
Comment: #5
Posted by: Seabeast2
Tue Nov 24, 2015 3:10 PM
LW1 -
Look. Just because you've sunk 9 months into some wishful thinking daydream doesn't mean you should put good money after bad. Why do your friends have such a stranglehold on your life? Live and love by poll, why don't you.

This guy's already made it plain with his actions where he stands. You don't like where he stands. So stand somewhere else. End of problem. Yes, that hurts if you love him, but not as much as staying will - precisely because you love him. Trust me on that one.

Comment: #6
Posted by: Lise Brouillette
Wed Nov 25, 2015 7:44 PM
LW1 - Go back and read your own letter: you "feel super disconnected and needy," so you want him to text you regularly to pat your feelings back into place. This is not a description of a healthy relationship. He may or may not "love" you ... I expect the word means something very different to him, than it does to you... but it's clear that he has no interest in being a living therapy doll. The whole situation sounds balmy. Stop pursuing him.

P.S. There is a small chance that once you stop pursuing him in your needy and disconnected way, he may start missing you and call or text. If he does, it would be an opportunity to set up a new relationship on a better foundation. If he doesn't, there's your answer -- time to move on.
Comment: #7
Posted by: sarah morrow
Wed Nov 25, 2015 10:37 PM
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