Readers react to a recent column about several couples with pre-marriage problems:
First, thank you Dan, for the column and podcast. You have helped me immeasurably. If I could buy you drinks or chocolate or whatever, I would. And now some advice from me for Bi Bi Bridie and Right Handed Man: WORK THIS SHIT OUT NOW.
My fiancé and I had the signs of sexual incompatibilities before our engagement. And more cropped up during our engagement. We both thought things would improve and that we would relax and get better once the rings were on. Well, seven years, tons of counseling, one son, and one divorce later, I know this is not true. Things got worse, to the point of years of no sexual contact at all.
So, from someone who has been in your shoes, BBB and RHM, I say this: Listen to Dan! Talk about this now. Be honest now. And I can't stress this part enough: Be totally, fucking, brutally honest about what you need/want/feel. Now is not the time to tell the other person what you think they want to hear. It will be difficult, but for God's sake, don't get married with this on the table and unexamined. If you do, misery awaits; trust me.
And, if that seems too scary, get a counselor and do it in front of them. Having a support system in the room can help.
The Voice Of Experience
I just read your response to Right Handed Man (jerks it a lot instead of having sex with his fiancée) and wanted to chime in with my two cents. While I agree with your advice (open communication is almost always the correct action), I think you may have been a little harsh in your psychoanalysis of RHM as an insecure bag of slop. I don't know the guy, maybe he does have insecurity issues, probably does, but there is at least one other possibility. I am recently divorced, and one of the issues the ex and I had was this same thing: I masturbated more than we had sex, and it bothered her (and me, I just didn't realize it at first). After talking about it with her, I realized that I would rather masturbate than have sex with my beautiful wife because SHE had such control issues when it came to sex that it felt like a fucking performance review every time. There was a precise script that I was not to deviate from, or else she would be unable to come—and not just positions or specific foreplay, either.
As you might imagine, this kind of pressure and control made sex unappealing compared to my oh-so-undemanding hand. The initial approach to this issue by my ex was, "Why don't you want sex more often? I thought men wanted sex all the time?" My defensive response to that approach sidetracked us from understanding the true underlying issues (mine and hers) for some time. Attacking RHM without allowing that he might not be 100 percent the problem could easily be counterproductive.
Worked It Out
I really hope that RHM is my ex-boyfriend; otherwise, there are at least two masturbating, non-communicating egotists out there. He dreamed of a woman more passive than me, and it looks like he found her. What I want to know is why the fiancée isn't writing in to you. I think your advice to RHM is spot on, but I'd like to add some advice for his fiancée: Break it off, move out, and move on. If this is the same guy (if you live in the Twin Cities, Minnesota, area) then I gotta tell you, there is a lot more going on than communication issues.
I'm engaged to a wonderful man, and wanted to offer a general response to all the engaged and want-to-be-engaged people in last week's column. (Oh, and there's a reason my man and I are engaged, and not married, and that's because marriage isn't something to rush into, especially if you have unresolved issues. Especially sexual issues.)
To RHM: You know what his girlfriend is probably doing while he's in the other room jacking off? Jacking off. Couples that have been together a long time, and have work, volunteering, and other commitments don't always want to jump into bed every night, and that's okay. On the nights when partner feels frisky and the other doesn't, they both need to be okay with being content with their right hand. And on nights when they're both in the mood for a little self-love, masturbating with your partner is a great way to both get off, and still feel close.
To Bi Bi Bridie: Wow. You're not ready to get married if your husband can't accept that he's marrying a bi woman, and that at some point, you'll need an outlet besides lesbo porn. My fiancé and I are both bi, and early in the relationship, we discussed that in depth. Our agreement? Bi dirty talk in bed, the occasional pegging for him, and a lot of oral sex for me. And if that's not enough, we've both agreed that bringing someone else into the bedroom, with both partners there, is a reasonable outlet for both of us.
To Adam: I find it heartwarming, but misguided, that people think that the dickwads that run this country will give a shit if liberal heterosexual couples stop marrying—or at least enough of a shit to suddenly make gay marriage legal everywhere. So if you're ready to get married, get married. But always remember you're damn lucky to be able to do so, and let you voices be heard (on the Internet, in letters to your congressmen, at uncomfortable Republican dinner parties). And if we still can't secure the legal right to marry for everyone in this country, you can follow the plan that my fiancé and I plan to follow: We're going to have several adorable children and teach them when they're tots that some people love people of the same sex and that they have as much a right to get married as mommy and daddy. A future generation of pro-gay-marriage voters will have more power than a handful of heteros refusing to go to the altar today.
Engaged Boston Babe
In regards to your answer to Bi Bi Bridie, the engaged bisexual girl who misses the lesbian sex, I am in complete agreement with you, except for this: "his irrational ultimatums…"
To me, this situation just seems to be one of basic sexual incompatibility. Asking that one's future spouse remain faithful to you is not irrational; it's something that many, many people consider a basic foundation for commitment or marriage. This guy isn't comfortable with his wife having extramarital sex, regardless of gender. He wants monogamy; he doesn't want to be cheated on. That doesn't make him an irrational tyrant. It just makes him probably not the best long-term partner for someone who isn't comfortable with long-term monogamy.
I've been reading your column for many years now. I consider you to be more enlightened than most of the populace, at least when it comes to human interaction. I frequently quote your advice, even! So it felt like a kick in the nuts to see you make a wonderfully ignorant, flippant remark about schizophrenics and schizophrenia in your last column.
Do you remember when humor was the weapon used to justify persecuting homosexuals? Funny how mental illness is still fair game. It's perfectly okay to make a joke about "schizos" and their "multiple personalities," but the truth is, any mental illness can, and should be, treated no different than cancer, or HIV. I was diagnosed with schizophrenia nearly 10 years ago. I'm good-looking, my IQ puts me in the top 10 percent, I'm successful, and I'd be glad to write your column for a week to prove I know the ins and outs of reality and human interaction just as well as any "normal" person. I don't see or talk to God, I don't cover my bedroom walls with tinfoil, I don't feel like the CIA is spying on me, and I don't start wars because God tells me to. Ninety-nine percent of schizophrenics are nonviolent, harm no one, and a huge portion do not live in a delusionary dream world. Most of us can function quite normally in society.
Perpetuating stereotypes about people who many times are misunderstood and ostracized does nothing but justify alienating them and making it acceptable to make them the brunt of jokes. I know it wasn't intentional, Dan, but as I respect you, as I respect your intelligence and compassion, that means I need to hold you accountable.
Come on, Dan. You're a hero to this skinny straight white boy, who happens to have a mental illness. Don't be a Santorum. Sincerely,
P.S. I don't need a fucking acronym; I'm proud of who I am.