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Amy Alkon


Mr. Throng I'm a 35-year-old woman, and I've been involved with a guy around my age for almost two years. It's been "open." Well, that is, he's had the freedom to sleep with other people. I haven't wanted to. I finally realized that I am not happy with this …Read more. Ben Hurry I'm a woman in my 40s, and I've been happily married for 22 years. Unfortunately, my husband and I have never been very compatible sexually. I had read so much Cosmo in college that I believed sex was something we could work on. Well, he is quick in …Read more. Shove Hurts I've spent hundreds of dollars on a relationship coach, who instructed me to cut off all sex and even all contact with the guy I was dating until he agreed to marry me. I knew he loved me and wanted to marry me; I just wanted him to do it faster. …Read more. Livid And Let Livid You responded to a woman who was very proud of herself for leaving the room to compose herself when she got really angry with her boyfriend. It is very unhealthy to stuff your anger. Why would you give this terrible advice — encouraging her …Read more.
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Some Unenchanted Evenings


My boyfriend lacks romantic ambition. In our two years together, we've never gone out to dinner someplace I can wear a dress and heels, and he never brings me flowers or does anything for our anniversary or Valentine's Day. I've suggested he pick out lingerie he'd like to see me in and shown him how to set a romantic mood in our apartment. I've told him things like "Nothing makes me happier than fresh flowers, especially lilies," and tried flat-out asking him why he never brings me flowers. He said, "I was thinking about doing it yesterday, but then I forgot! But now that you've asked me, I don't want to because it will seem like I bought them just because you asked." When I encourage him to take initiative in planning a night out, he'll say that he's worried he'll choose wrong and that I complain about things I don't like, so I always end up deciding what we do. I know he loves me (from his other actions); I just want some romance! It's as important to me as good sex and intimacy. Should I just accept this as his flaw? — Roseless

You two have a fairy-tale romance. Unfortunately, it's the part of the fairy tale where two elves stand around scratching themselves in a mud hut.

You aren't asking for much. It would just be nice if Valentine's Day felt like something other than a Tuesday and if, on some random Tuesday, he'd stop at the grocery store and pick you up some flowers. Otherwise, even St. Paddy's Day can be a downer. You'll see him getting himself a green paper hat and drinking two-for-one green beers — which stands in stark contrast to how he celebrates your anniversary: by getting amnesia.

You've done everything but hand him a pictorial to-do list complete with store addresses and closing times. So what's stopping him? Well, maybe because he doesn't need this flowers and chocolates business, he thinks you shouldn't, either. And if he starts doing sweet things for you, he'll have to keep doing them. And we all know how buying flowers and making reservations at a restaurant with white tablecloths is like breaking rocks in a quarry.

The problem is, as I wrote in a recent column, women evolved to feel a need for commitment cues from men. They didn't have cute cards back in the Stone Age, but a thoughtful giftie of fresh roadkill (some wildebeest that got trampled by elephants) probably made some ancestral lady's heart go pitter-patter. And that's the point here. Falling in love isn't like falling in a big bottomless hole (one tumble and you're done).

There's maintenance required. Your boyfriend should care about doing the little things that make you happy. If he doesn't, maybe instead of going for "long walks on the beach" (planned by you), he should be making short trips out to his car to load up boxes of his stuff.

Explain that you need him to do these things so you feel loved, and explain that the only way he can really go wrong is by doing nothing. Even the smallest remembrances count — like scrawling a heart on a Post-it and anchoring it with a chocolate or drawing "You 'N' Me Forever" on your dirty car window. You, in turn, need to be sure you show appreciation for whatever effort he does make — even as he's seductively drinking Champagne out of your scuzzy old bedroom slipper.

Once You Go Lewis Black...

My boyfriend loves making fun of me, although he calls it "just ribbing." I'm not humorless, just tired of hearing about how badly I drive or how long I take to order food. Yesterday I mispronounced "cumin" while reading a recipe, and he had a field day. What ultimately bugs me is that I'm most often made the brunt of a joke when others are around to witness his hilarity. — Ridiculed

Just because a convenient subject for humor presents itself (or you happen to pick it up in your car and take it out to a restaurant) doesn't mean you should seize the opportunity. If your current relationship were a movie, it would be "Eat Prey, Love." Good-natured teasing can be a bonding thing, but publicly making fun of somebody sensitive is often an act of aggression. It's possible that the behaviors your boyfriend "ribs" you about annoy him and his joking is scorn dressed up in clown shoes. Tell him that being the joke butt isn't working for you and that he either needs to find another source of material or another girlfriend. If he loves you, he'll take the mature, restrained approach to getting laughs and stand on a chair trying to light his farts on fire.

Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave, #280, Santa Monica, CA 90405, or email ( Alkon is the author of "I See Rude People: One Woman's Battle To Beat Some Manners Into Impolite Society."



It's Advice Goddess Radio! Amy Alkon answers your questions on love, dating, sex, relationships, and manners. Listen live every Sunday from 7-8 p.m. Pacific time, or download the podcast at the link. The call-in number during the show is 347-326-9761. This week, evolutionary psychologist Dr. Gad Saad on sex, “sensitive men,” and why you have to buy her an engagement ring and she doesn’t have to buy you an engagement boat.


16 Comments | Post Comment
LW1 -- A few things stand out for me in this letter:

1) "I was thinking about buying you flowers yesterday, but I forgot..." OK, seriously, I have had stuff like that happen to me -- where I really was going to call someone or e-mail someone or whatever, and then before I have a chance to actually follow through with it, that person calls me first, and then I feel like a complete heel. But seriously, your guy is lacking a bit of credibility on this issue.

2) He says he's afraid he's going to pick the right thing, and you complain when you don't like something, so he always leaves event planning to you... When coupled with the fact that you have hinted about what you want and need, shown him what you want and need and even flat-out asked for what you want and need, one has to wonder how he's not sure about picking the right thing, when you clearly have made a point of telling him what you want. Either you are super exacting and demanding, and so he figures he can't win and leaves it up to you (in which case, you are as much a part of the problem as he is -- possibly more so), or he really is this wishy-washy and/or lazy.

3) You say you know he loves you from his other actions. Well, what are those other actions? Are they "big" enough and/or meaningful enough and do they happen often enough?

If it's possible that you really are as much a part of the problem as he is (and make sure you're being really honest with yourself on this), then start thinking about what actions YOU need to take. Are you too quick to complain if things aren't exactly just so? Have you set the bar so high -- and are so apt to complain -- that he figures he can't win no matter what he does, so he figures inaction is his best bet? Then maybe you need to show him you can be happy (and not complain) when he makes the slightest of efforts and try to build his confidence in these matters, and then go from there (which is what Amy basically suggested).

But if you're sure it's not you (and it may not be), then only you can determine whether his lack of "romantic ambition" is a deal breaker or not. Only you can determine if knowing he loves you and those "other actions" are enough or not. For some people, it would be a deal breaker and for others it wouldn't be. My guess is, since it bothered you enough to write an advice columnist about it, it's a deal breaker for you.
Comment: #1
Posted by: Lisa
Tue Feb 21, 2012 9:21 AM
LW2 -- Amy has hit this one on the head. Tell him you don't like it and it needs to stop. If it stops, awesome. If it doesn't, DTMF. It is possible that you are one of those people who just can't take a joke. If that's the case, it's still DTMF, because then you two are not well-matched. It's also possible that his "just ribbing" bit is part of a slippery slope that can actually be downright abusive over time (it starts out as "just ribbing" and then slowly builds to denigrating). And if that's the case, we're back to DTMF.
Comment: #2
Posted by: Lisa
Tue Feb 21, 2012 9:25 AM
Yes, your boyfriend "should care about doing the little things that make you happy" but, by your own admission, you do know that he loves you by the "other things" he does, and this is the one thing he doesn't do.

Look, nobody ever has it all. If you want that restaurant date with the black dress and the spike heels, then why don't plan it yourself? You're supposed to be an equal partner with equal power, so pick up the phone already and make those reservations. You can't be the empowered woman, and the helpless little thing waiting te be taken care of and wooed and romanced, both at the same time. Go watch a Disney movie if you want to see princes setting the doe-eyed, lash-fluttering girl in front of them on their white horse.

P.S.: "When I encourage him to take initiative in planning a night out, he'll say that he's worried he'll choose wrong and that I complain about things I don't like"
Why? Did you do that in the past? If you did, then don't whine about getting the direct results of your actions. Nobody likes to be put in a position where they can do no right no matter what.

If the only one laughing is always him, never you, then it's not humour, it's hostility in disguise. And, if he still continues after he's been told more than once, then it becomes verbal abuse. Your boyfriend is a bully, and one who enjoys hurting.

I don't know how old you are and how long this clown has been your boyfriend, but as for me, it took me a few years to understand what was going on enough so to be able to write the first paragraph.

Another thing I learned through sorry experience is that tolerating this yurunda is only giving permission to inflict more of it. One last warning and then you should just DTMFA. This is only gonna get worse, not better - wait until you give him children and he gets started on your stretchmarks/weight gain/lower boobs. You wanna let him chip away at your self-esteem until there is none of it left? I sure hope not.

The examples of "ribbing" she gave are not humour - they're denigrating put-downs. Like I said - If he's always the only one laughing, then he's not really being funny.

Comment: #3
Posted by: Lise Brouillette
Tue Feb 21, 2012 10:50 AM
LW1: Different people have different strokes when it comes to showing love. They pretty much boil down to words, deeds, gifts, time, touch. If gifts are not something he values, he's like mindblind in this area. If you can appreciate what he does value, there's hope.
Comment: #4
Posted by: partsmom
Tue Feb 21, 2012 11:03 AM
Re: partsmom
Short and to the point. Right ON!

Comment: #5
Posted by: Lise Brouillette
Tue Feb 21, 2012 11:09 AM
LW1: It seems most people are so afraid to be alone they'll pick anyone to be with that shows the slightest interest and then try to mold them into the model they actually want. It's ridiculous. Get some self-esteem and some therapy.

LW2: Unless you're a sadist drop kick this fool out of your life. But not before having a revenge night where you openly mock him in front of a group of people so he can see how it feels.
Comment: #6
Posted by: Diana
Tue Feb 21, 2012 11:14 AM
@Lise -- Agreed. I offered two scenarios -- one where perhaps she's one of those people who can't take a joke (which I think is actually the far less likely case) and one where his "humor" is actually a slippery slope toward abuse (and even if it's not outright abuse, as you correctly pointed out, it is veiled hostility). Interestingly enough, in both cases, the advice is basically the same: DTMF. If the problem really is her, then they are simply not well-matched, and they should both move on -- i.e., DTMF. If the problem is really him, then we're back to veiled hostility, and we're back to DTMF.
Comment: #7
Posted by: Lisa
Tue Feb 21, 2012 12:49 PM
Re: Lisa
Each and every time I've seen this kind of "humour" - it was an attack disguised as neing funny, the little dig about the target having no sense of humour being a bonus attack, a little desert to go with the main course. Each and every one of them, bar none.

Comment: #8
Posted by: Lise Brouillette
Tue Feb 21, 2012 3:41 PM
RE: LW2 - I am a little sensitive to "teasing" criticism because my brother bullied me growing up and this is how he got away with it. He'd just say he was kidding so it was deemed "fine". I am still scarred to this day and really have a hard time discerning between hostile and non-hostile jabs sometimes. I don't react to them, even though my brother still tries to pull this stuff with me and we are in our 50's. It's a lot about power and control and it is meant to keep you down. Unless he is really standup-comedian funny, you know it is just a passive-aggressive way of saying what he wants without having to pay the consequences. Then he blames you for not having a sense of humor, so, either way, he wins his little battles, in the short run. Hopefully, you will dump him and you will win the war.
Comment: #9
Posted by: Julie
Tue Feb 21, 2012 8:49 PM
Regarding LW2...

Guys often rib each other something fierce. Sometimes it is over the top, but that's part of the goal. Plus, this is a form of male bonding - those guys will be there for each other.

That situation does not work at ALL with male/female relationships. Of course a couple can tease each other, but here is a big limit. A gentle prod said lovingly could even bring about bonding as long as everyone knows it is just teasing. When done in front of others to humiliate, that's not teasing. That's called being an ass.

As for the "cumin" comment, I really wonder how she said it. If said phonetically, while there is a sexual overtone, it is also a corrent pronounciation (that is, kum-in). Another pronounciation is koo-min. Even kyoo-min or koo-min are acceptable. Therefore, I cannot see her messing up the word in any capacity. My guess is she said it the first way - which is correct - and her "intelligent" boyfriend had fun with it. She should just grab a hardback dictionary and throw it his head. He clearly needs it.
Comment: #10
Posted by: JJH
Tue Feb 21, 2012 11:28 PM
LW2- My in-laws are like this. I hate to even speak around them since they will use any mistake I say or do as a loudly blasted “did you hear that!!” And the laughter isn't a funny ha ha, it has a sneer in it…My husband of 33 years is not normally like that when we are alone, however he changes when he's with his family and didn't see the abuse behind the humor, or he chose not to since this is what he was raised with. Luckily we now live 700 miles from them and I don't have to see them very often, and my husband now can see it for what it is. A couple of weeks ago my BIL made a snarky (nasty) comment on my facebook page and my friends flew to my defense, I didn't have to type a word, and I got a great feeling inside knowing that others saw it for what it was.
Comment: #11
Posted by: commentator
Wed Feb 22, 2012 7:35 AM
Re: commentator
Isn't it interesting that facebook friends can be more friendly than people who are actually related... ;-) I'm glad you don't have to see these horrible people often.

Comment: #12
Posted by: Lise Brouillette
Wed Feb 22, 2012 11:30 AM
LW1: some people just don't do romantic. I'm one of them, and I'm a woman! Doing, or in my case, being the recipient of something romantic, seriously makes me cringe, so I sympathize with your boyfriend, who seems to be similarly inclined. It really is that hard for him. If that's a dealbreaker to you (nothing wrong with that, we all have our preferences), then leave him now, because he's not going to get better at it - it's just like being good at math or being able to write poetry - you either have that or you don't. On the other hand, if his not being romantic is something you can live with, because he's awesome in other ways, then keep him and learn to live with it. It is really up to you to decide. (In my case, my current SO is as romantic as they get, and I made a conscious decision to learn to live with it, because we have a great connection otherwise.)

As an aside, I really disagree with Amy's hinting that lack of "romantic ambition" makes this guy some kind of an insensitive slob. In my experience, romantic ambition or lack thereof are not in any way related to a person's character. I worked for a very romantic guy a long time ago, who was married, was hitting on me, and was dating another woman in our department, all at the same time. But hey, he remembered all of our birthdays and anniversaries and made sure to get all three of us something nice for Valentine's day! But wait, there is more - with each of his women, he made sure there was "our song", a different one for each of us. What a hopeless romantic! Ugh. My point is, romantic ambitions in and of themselves do not a good person make, and I believe the opposite is also true.
Comment: #13
Posted by: Goldie
Thu Feb 23, 2012 7:43 AM
@Goldie -- I agree wholeheartedly with the first portion of your post. Since she has already had all sorts of conversations with him about this, she needs to realize that this is the way he is, and then she needs to decide if she can live with it or not. It really is that simple.

As to the second half of your post... Yes, a person can be "romantic" and be totally lacking in integrity, and a person can be "unromantic" and be a really wonderful person. But I don't think that Amy's suggesting that all unromantic people are bad people. I think she's suggesting that this guy just doesn't want to make the effort, and if that is the case, then he doesn't much care about the LW's feelings. You said yourself that although you aren't into romance, you make the effort for your partner, because he is -- because, of course, you CARE about his feelings. The fact that he "lacks romantic ambition" isn't what makes him an insensitive slob. It's the fact that he apparently doesn't care about his GF's feelings that does.

Of course, she also needs to care about his feelings, and if it really is "painful" for him to "do romance," then she needs to understand that -- but then he also needs to communicate that. From what she is telling us, he's not saying "that's painful for me," he's basically using the adult equivalent of "the dog ate my homework." But we are also only getting her side of the story, so perhaps he HAS tried to explain to her that this isn't laziness or insensitivity on his part, but that it would actually make him cringe to buy her flowers...
Comment: #14
Posted by: Lisa
Fri Feb 24, 2012 2:51 PM
@ LW2: “Oh, for God's sake, I was just kidding! Can't you take a joke? Where's your sense of humor? What a dull, boring prig you are. You're so sensitive! You're so thin-skinned! You're such a precious little princess! Get over yourself!”

Sound familiar? It's abuse. Your dude is an abuser. Dump that thing.

Comment: #15
Posted by: Khlovia
Fri Feb 24, 2012 4:55 PM
I agree with you Kop* sorry can't see your name now to spell it. That is definitely abuse and I got plenty of it from inlaws when I was married to their son/brother.
Comment: #16
Posted by: Marg
Sat Mar 3, 2012 7:04 AM
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