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Roller Coaster of Lust

Emily Flake

By Mink Stole | Posted 11/20/2002

For the last couple of months or so, I have had what is basically a sexual relationship with a man. He is lovely and sweet, and was up-front from the very beginning that he wasn't looking for a permanent relationship. He warned me not to fall in love with him. I was just coming out of a pretty bad breakup, and he was so much fun to be with. It was so wonderful to feel desirable for a change that I thought I could be cool with that, but, alas, I'm not. I didn't tell him, but he could sense that I was becoming more attached. So now he wants to stop seeing me because he says it's not fair to me when he can't give me what I want and that he doesn't want to hurt me. I don't want to give him up, so I told him that I'm not asking him for anything, that I'm willing to let things go on just like they are and that I'm not going to try to make him give me more than he can. I may be deluding myself, but I also think if he cares enough not to want to hurt me, maybe he cares for me more than he is willing to admit. If that's the case, if I could get him over his fear, there might be hope for us. Can a relationship that starts out purely physical ever become anything more?

Crazy for Him

Dear CFH:
To those of us who are susceptible to it, "Don't fall in love with me" can be a very effective line, because it comes off as much a dare as a warning. It adds an element of danger, of ride-with-me-at-your-own-risk so tempting as to be irresistible, feeding as it does into our fascination with "wicked" men (and women), and our fantasies of giving in to pure, uncomplicated lust. (It can also feed in to our worst insecurities, our belief that, deep down, we're not really worth loving. So having someone tell us from the start that he won't just confirms our puny expectations anyway.) For some of us, it's a super-thrill ride we can walk away from as casually as we climbed on. But some of us get hooked.

That's where the at-your-own-risk part comes in. As selfish and manipulative as his terms may be, when you got involved with him you implied agreement with them; you gave him permission to be as charming, attentive, and seductive as he wanted, with no obligation to be careful of your feelings. You can't accuse him of leading you on--he told you not to love him. While I'm sure it's true that he doesn't want to hurt you, that doesn't mean he loves you. It means he doesn't want to deal with your pain. He doesn't want to feel guilty and he doesn't want to have to make you feel better. Giving him up could be like going through withdrawal, and you might find therapy or counseling helpful. But when you've recovered, you may find yourself ready to meet someone who's open to all you have to offer.

I'm 34 years old and I'm dating a great-looking guy who is 24. We have a wonderful time together and have been seeing each other exclusively for about six months. I've even met (and get along with) his parents and some of his friends. I'm pretty happy with the relationship except for one thing: I almost never see him on weekends. We spend at least two nights a week together, going out to dinner or to the movies, and we usually spend the night together, but weekends he hangs out with his guy pals, going to sporting events or to various clubs. His friends are mostly his age, and none of them is married or even has a serious girlfriend, so they're always available. So I figure he could see them during the week and spend Saturday and Sunday with me, but he says as long as we're spending time together I shouldn't care when it is. We both work full-time and we each have our own apartment, but I'm beginning to wonder if he's really mature enough for a real relationship. What do you think?

Older Woman

Dear OW:
Ordinarily I would holler out a big "you go, girl," to any woman who openly and happily dates a much younger man, but that's hardly what's going on here. At 34 you certainly should qualify as a woman, but, while some 24-year-old guys can legitimately be called men, your little guy pal is in a state of prolonged adolescence. It isn't the age difference that's the problem. If all you wanted was some fun with a good-looking boy, you'd be fine--no harm, no foul. The problem is that you want a grown-up relationship with someone who hasn't grown up yet. You're not going to get it, so you need to decide whether "exclusively" dating a kid who still wants to play with other kids, no matter how cute he is, or sexy or fun, is worth the aggravation. If not, perhaps you should be looking for companionship in a more mature environment elsewhere.

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