The sex is great, but he's not my type

He's coarse, crude, temperamental, testy ... and great in bed.

By Cary Tennis
Published October 18, 2004 11:00PM (UTC)
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Dear Cary,

Where do I begin? I've been in this off-and-on-again relationship with a man who is 20 years younger than me (I am a month shy of 50). What's so extraordinary about our relationship is that the sex is nothing short of transcendent. We read each other like a book, his touch sends me to the moon and we love each other's smells. Oh, it's tantric and dare I say mystical at times, and agonizingly slow when it needs to be and just plain lusty and a bit rough at others. He is the most thoughtful, kind, generous lover I could ever hope for. We trust each other implicitly, we don't take ourselves so seriously in bed, we laugh at the body and bawdy sounds we make.


We also love to spend hours talking about God and the world, Nietzsche and Chomsky, American Republicans and Canadian liberals. I love his articulate views on things although they tend to be rather different and more conservative than mine. He challenges me on my belief systems, I learn from him, he loves to hear me talk of my adventures when I was young and foolish. We enjoy listening to music together, and the crossword puzzle in the Sunday New York Times is our weekly denouement to the sleepover.

So what's the problem here? He's not my type, not just physically (I tend to prefer the English bicycle type and he's built more like a refrigerator), but also socially. Truth be told he embarrasses me in public with his rather bullish ways. He tends to be suspicious of others before any suspicion is warranted, and you can almost see the hairs on the back of his neck start to bristle, ready to pounce on a poor unsuspecting individual who accidentally bumped into him while in the grocery line. He has appointed himself the platonic form of the alpha male, and although I find it rather lovely to be enveloped in his big burly arms, I tend to cringe when I see the alpha part in action in a public forum. My mother and two daughters don't particularly like him. They find him vulgar and crass. I don't disagree with them.


We've known each other for three years, but for the last year and a half we've seen very little of each other as the relationship broke off on less than amicable terms. The time we spent together was tumultuous. He was ready to marry me one minute and told me a baldfaced, hurtful lie the next. I couldn't deal with his jealousy. I felt I couldn't be me when I was in public with him. We've reconnected lately. He seems to have learned a few things during our hiatus and right now things are easy and relaxed between us. And then there's the sex, of course, which is pretty much as grand as it always was.

My question is, is it possible to be addicted to a person, because it sort of feels like an addiction. I don't think I'm addicted to sex per se. (Although I love sex so very much, you won't find me skulking around in bars trolling for a one-night stand.) It seems more to do with him. I can't say I love him (I do care for him, however), but I do love the time we spend together as long as it's in his apartment.

For some reason I always thought if the relationship was good, the sex is good, but based on my past experience with him the relationship sucked but the sex is great. What does this mean exactly?


Part of me is looking for someone I can spend the rest of my life with. I can't imagine it being him, but I also can't imagine having sex with anyone else. Am I weird?


Dear A.,

I suppose it's possible to be addicted to a person in a metaphorical sense. You're not cooking him up in a spoon and shooting him into your arm I hope. That would be a weird high. But there may be aspects of your relationship with him that resemble aspects of an addiction, like the secrecy part, the shame part, and the sense in which you may be using him for a sexual high rather than relating to him as an individual. Also, you may feel a little out of control about seeing him, as one does when one is addicted. You might not consciously want to see him and yet you find yourself seeing him anyway. You may also be hiding him from your family, as one hides an addiction. And you may feel guilt and shame about what you do with him, as one feels about what one does when one is high. In these ways, I suppose it might be helpful to say you're addicted.


But there the usefulness of the metaphor ends. I don't see how calling it an addiction will help you figure out what to do. When you have a drug addiction, usually the only thing to do is to quit using. Sometimes a drug user may not consider herself addicted per se, and yet still wants to quit -- because the drug use is clearly harmful in a behavioral and/or a medical sense. I do not get the sense that your activities with this man are harmful per se. I do not hear you asking "How can I stop seeing this man?" I only see that you feel confused about some aspects of this relationship. That seems normal. This is a passionate relationship. There is some conflict in this relationship. There are specific differences of opinion. You disagree about politics. You don't like some of his behavior. Your mother and your daughters don't like him. You don't feel comfortable with him in public because he does not act in a refined manner. You're not able to relax because you fear he will embarrass you. And yet you are intensely drawn to each other.

At the root of this relationship seems to be something rare and wonderful. Conflicts can be solved. You can make decisions. You can come to agreements. You have control and discretion, which would not be true if you were addicted.

However, while this relationship does not seem to be pathological, part of the sexual excitement may lie in the private abandonment of those very social codes that you insist must be observed in public. That conflict takes place within yourself, rather than between you and him. There may be an allure that has to do with perceived transgression, and that may be another way in which you suspect this is an "addiction." It is possible that what you have is the classic secret lover of whom society disapproves, the noble savage, the one who satisfies you in private but not in public. Again, this is a conflict that can be managed. It's not out of control. But it's an internal conflict.


There is a possibility, though, that solving these conflicts may take some of the forbidden allure out of it. If you make this relationship more adult, more rational, he may lose some of his potency, metaphorically speaking. He may become less interesting if less exasperating.

Your choice appears to be whether to abandon this relationship, confine it to the sexual, or broaden it to a partnership in life. I don't see why you should abandon it. Though you say he has a temper and is often disagreeable, I don't get the sense that he is violent or coercive.

It seems to me you could solve it like this: If each of you could say to the other, "I want to make this work. I want to be committed to you. I want to find ways to resolve our conflicts so we can live together," then you might have the basis for a lasting relationship. If, however, one or the other of you is unwilling to make such a commitment, then you still have the basis for a satisfying sexual friendship, if you can accept it as simply that.


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