One of my first ambitions in life was to write an advice column (I'm of a generation that enjoyed "Dear Abby" in the newspaper). I am not a therapist. All the forums on this site including this one, offer suggestions for resolving your concerns. This one includes matters of sex, love and dating. I think you're gonna have some fun while you're visiting this page, and perhaps learn some pertinent, valuable information you can add to your romantic, social and sexual repertoire.


Q. My husband and I have been married for just under 3 years. Two days ago I walked into our bathroom for something, and caught him masturbating in the shower. I'm dazed and confused by this, and feel like our marriage is in trouble--and may even be over. Why would he do that, when he has me? Our sex life has been regular and good since we've been together, so I'm totally shocked by this. Help!

A. We are all sexual beings, and pleasuring oneself is a very normal/natural outlet, even when we're in a committed relationship. Your husband's body belongs to him, not you--and vice-versa. Masturbation can be a healthy form of release/relief from tension and stress. These sensations are considerably different from making love with somebody else (it would be like comparing apples to oranges--they're nothing alike). Most (honest) folks would admit to enjoying both--and would be hard-pressed to give up either. Both sex and masturbation fulfill different needs in us. Relax. Ask your husband if you can watch sometime (this can be exciting/erotic--if you don't make it about your insecurities), and begin to expand your sexual repertoire together.

Q. My first husband hardly ever made love to me, and now I'm married to a man who's wonderful--but can't have intercourse, because of a variety of meds he's taking. I'm frustrated, and wondering how I could end up in this situation again. My present husband is very generous, giving and kind. He often cooks for me, and always supports my interests and goals. My only complaint is that sex has always been missing from our relationship, and I really want that. He's a lot older than I, so I'm not sure what my options are (if any).

A. I've always believed that we set up our lives the way we need them to be, which is strongly influenced by long-standing subconscious beliefs and fears. I don't think it's simple coincidence that you've gotten with two men who can't or won't have sex with you. Perhaps something in your background makes you fear males who have any real masculine power. It appears that what this guy does give you, might be elements you couldn't get from your mother in early childhood. It's entirely possible you've tried to heal some primal needs, which always take precedence over our adult needs. Get help to resolve early parental deficits, so you can make satisfying adult choices.

Q. I've been seeing someone for awhile, and we've recently gotten sexual. I like this guy--but he ejaculates prematurely, and it's very frustrating for me. It seems like just as I'm heating up, he climaxes. He says he's always been very 'sensitive,' and that other lovers haven't minded, but it's driving me nuts that he can't go beyond about 90 seconds. He's able to recharge fairly quickly, and can do it several more times--but this still isn't satisfying, and I'm left feeling aroused and angry afterward! Is there any hope for us?

A. This situation is horribly frustrating, and no amount of foreplay makes up for abbreviated sexual intercourse, when this part's important to you. If your lover sustains his erections and is able to delay climax during other forms of stimulation (manual/oral), he could have attachment/engulfment fears. This issue's considered a form of impotency--and in some circles, it's regarded as passive-aggressive withholding. If all types of sensual interplay trigger rapid release, the two of you can try special exercises that will help him gain more control over his orgasm. It seems this hasn't been an issue for him, so I'm not certain he'll be motivated to resolve it. Given this is a new relationship, you may not want to invest the time/patience it takes to surmount this--but only you can come to that determination.

Q. Is it wrong for me to keep seeing someone (sexually) if I know it's not going anywhere, and there's no future?

A. This depends on whether the other person is apprised of where they stand with you! If you've been honest about your feelings (or lack of them), and you're both able to appreciate/enjoy the nature of this connection with no strings attached, I see no harm in continuing.

Q. Shari, my buddies and I have had an ongoing debate about this for years; does size matter to women??

A. Dear Sir, this depends on the woman. Just as males are anatomically different, so are females. When a woman's vaginal canal is deeper than average, she can accommodate/enjoy a larger penis. Others may be built considerably smaller or shallower inside, and (to avoid pain) need to be with a man who can't thrust as deep, or irritate sensitive tissues. Some females consider oral stimulation more pleasurable and satisfying than intercourse. Others like having their cervix (opening to the uterus) stimulated during sex by someone who can reach it, and relish deeper/fuller penetration. So it seems that old saying; "different strokes for different folks" still holds true!

Q. I'm dating a great guy, but I hate the way he kisses! There's too much tongue, and it's like I've got this thing shoved in my mouth, and I'm unable to respond. I've always been very oral, and can get totally aroused (and even climax) while only kissing, but with him, it's just not working. The rest of our contact is pretty good, but I can't fully connect when this part's off. He always leads with his tongue (such a turn-off) and I've barely ever felt his lips! I've tried to explain/show him what 'works' for me, but he gets angry or sullen when I do. This has become such a frustrating issue, I'm about ready to move on. Am I being too hasty?

A. The Romantic Kiss is our first intimate contact beyond a handshake. It's supposed to be an interactive exchange--a sensual dance shared by two. Kissing helps us discern potential; if our mouths don't fit, the rest of it won't matter. "Good kissing" is completely subjective; if someone shares your style, you'll think he's a great kisser! If not, you'll be right where you are. Sensory explorations during the kiss can be erotic/compelling, but a man who routinely leads with his tongue, might have control issues. You can't respond, because you're not being allowed to--but you must accept what he chooses to give, whether it's pleasurable for you or not; this is just one description of narcissism. There are many different styles of kissing--but between humans, it's generally done with the lips. If your guy isn't willing to connect with you in this way, you should anticipate other struggles as well.

Q. Shari, I've recently had a phone interaction with a man I felt a wonderful (and rare) connection with. He contacted me through a single's dating site, and frankly, I'd almost given up on finding someone who sparked feelings of "potential." Our dialogue flowed easily and naturally and our cerebral/ spiritual chemistry was terrific. We were both so excited about the uniqueness of our contact, we made plans to get together that same night to see if there was physical attraction as well. Sadly, he never phoned (as promised) to firm up our plan, but called an hour before we were scheduled to meet (finally returning my 2 calls to him) explaining he'd gotten "hung up" with a meeting. It quickly became obvious we wouldn't be able to meet that night, but he said he'd call over the next couple of days to "talk and set up another date," which he never did. I feel disappointed and perplexed by this incident. I've never been comfortable chasing after men, so I'm not sure what to do. "Confused"

A. Dear Confused, welcome to the harsh reality of online dating. It can be a useful tool for meeting people, but may yield more quantity than quality. It seems a lot of folks on these services are ambivalent about being in a relationship. They may be licking their wounds from their last failed attempt, but craving the interaction, stimulation and ego refueling this "safe" contact offers. Personally, I think these sites are a sort of relationship pergatory for people not yet ready to bond again. Some have unfinished business from a past relationship that makes them scared to re-engage, and some have been terrified of real intimacy and closeness their whole lives! Often, what people say they want is very different from what they truly desire (or are 'ready' to have). Bottom line, trust your instincts. When you meet someone whose words aren't congruent with his actions, pay attention, 'cause he's showing you what you can anticipate from him in the future. Try getting involved in new activities or taking classes in areas of interest. You're likely to find more substantive people with whom you're compatible.

Q. I love a man who's considerably older, by 22 years. We're compatible on so many levels, the age thing doesn't seem to matter. We have wonderful times together, and (after 19 months) he's asked me to marry him. I'm very excited, but the problem is, he's not much younger than my parents, and they've had a hard time accepting this relationship. A few of my friends have been concerned about the age issue, and have jokingly referred to him as my "sugar-daddy." I've dated quite a bit, and was once married to someone 'age-appropriate,' but have never felt a connection like this with anyone else. I think I'm a bit afraid of what my friends and family will think about our engagement, and I'm literally losing sleep over how to break this news to them!

A. Love can arrive in surprising packages. Your parents may want to save you from making errors in judgment that could hurt you--but at some point, they must accept that you're capable of making sound, adult decisions. What matters most, is the quality of connection the two of you share. It's natural to want everyone to accept and appreciate this man as you do, but give them time to know him better. When they observe how happy you are, how could they object? As you focus on your fiance's lovable qualities, your friends and family will probably follow suit. You cannot control other people's feelings or responses; when you attempt to, you'll be miserable. Stay positive, and don't try to predetermine their reactions. Let loved ones know how excited/thrilled you are to be marrying a man that you adore, and can hardly wait to share your life with.

Q. I've been seeing a man for over a month, and we've gotten very close during this time. Our intimacy is steadily deepening, and I'm feeling great about this--but I'm a bit concerned and afraid. When I convey that I love him, he doesn't always say it back, and this feels really hurtful to me. I feel like I'm going out on a limb by telling him how much I care, and it makes me want to run away when I think he doesn't feel the same. I'm sensing this relationship has potential to grow, but how can I get him to be more expressive about his feelings for me?

A. Whoa, my dear. Love and trust take time to develop/establish, and there's just no way around that. Shortcuts seldom work out, and are typically driven by an inner emptiness we're trying to fill up. This is still a very young relationship, and infatuation at this stage is natural. People move at different paces with respect to emotional bonding--and the phrase, "I love you" might be considered more sacred/meaningful to someone else, than it is to you. Those three little words can't actually mean much, if there's expectation or demand for reciprocation. If you have irrepressible urges to verbalize affection for your partner, it's probably springing from genuine feelings, and you've determined it's safe to tell him. Your beau should never have to feel obliged to parrot the words back (any more than you should), as this renders them inauthentic. If he's caught up in intensely loving emotions at the exact moment you are, he might return the sentiment--but this presumes that the two of you are having identical emotional experiences at any given time, and that's unrealistic! Can you both agree to keep it honest, and try to share (all) your feelings as they come up? At this juncture, it may be less scary for you both to say; "Wow, in this moment, I'm really crazy about you!" or, "I'm really loving you right now." These qualifiers can diffuse concerns that might be swirling around about the future, and allow each of you to stay grounded in the Now. Give him space to grow his feelings and ease into this attachment, or you may frighten him off.

Q. Why are good girls are drawn to "bad boys"? My friend's terrific; she's a good student, a hard worker and a great friend. The trouble is, she keeps getting involved with the wrong kind of guy. He's usually a drop-out, seems a little dangerous and can't hold onto a job. My girlfriend often ends up paying for their dates and complaining about it--but she keeps going back for more, and then gets her heart broken. I just don't get it! This happens over and over, and it seems a little crazy that she continues to date these guys.

A. This is a complex issue, but here are a couple of possibilities: Your friend may be drawn to certain elements in others, that she's not comfortable owning for herself. Getting involved with "bad boys" might feel balancing, if she's disowned/discarded her darker facets, to maintain a "good girl" image (perhaps to satisfy her parents' expectations). Another aspect of this might involve a fear of closeness/attachment; since there appears to be a pattern of romantic disappointment and she continues to make these (poor) choices, I'd say that dating someone who's emotionally available, probably feels too scary.

Q. My wife has not made love with me in over two years. No matter how many different ways I've tried to get information on this or fix the situation, she won't communicate with me about why. I've begun thinking about getting my needs met elsewhere, but I know there'd be hell to pay if she found out (she gets furious if she even catches me masturbating)! I'm feeling lonely, and so in need of sensual expression and affection, I can barely stand it. Is it wrong to want/need this in my life? I really don't want to cheat on my marriage, but it's starting to feel like I have no choice. Any suggestions?

A. You're trapped in a control game, but you can choose to stop playing it. Any partner who withdraws/withholds attention or affection and won't speak with you about it, isn't seeking a solution to the problem. Sexual problems in a relationship almost always indicate deeper issues--but it's the bedroom stuff that (finally) prompts a couple to seek help! Ask your wife if she's open to couple's therapy. For some, talking about sexual preferences or needs can be very difficult/awkward; a skilled professional should be able to facilitate this, and generally enhance communication between the two of you. David Schnarch, PhD. authored a book called, Passionate Marriage. Schnarch discusses the relational dynamics you're struggling with, and what to do about it. To unhinge from a spouse's sexual control, he suggests using an approach such as this: I want a loving/satisfying sex life with you. If you don't want this, I accept your choice--but please know that I'm determined to get these needs met, even if it's elsewhere.

Q. Shari, I recently met with an online connection. We'd shared some phone time and emails, but from the moment I saw him, he was all over me! I'm just not comfortable with physical contact until I start to feel a level of affection for someone--but this guy threw himself around me when I arrived, and kept touching my arms/hands while we sat and talked. In short, it turned me off. I've had this happen a few times before, and I'm not sure how to avoid it. Seems like these men presume you want to be treated this way, or it's their right to put their hands on you immediately. Is there any way around this?

A. You've highlighted an important issue, and you're fully entitled to these feelings. Each of us has a personal comfort zone, and yours has evidently been breached. The internet allows for non-physical intimacy, which (for some) spills over into the first physical meeting. There are times these feelings/desires will be mutual, and other times they won't. Some men are connected enough to their own senses to read/respect your non-verbal cues or body language, and some aren't! Convey your position on this before you meet someone; let him know that while you're comfortable with a hand-shake, you generally need to know him better before a hug. If he disregards this boundary when you meet, you've got a fuller sense about this guy, which could help you avoid difficulties later on.

Q. Shari, do men have any sense of smell? I just can't get past bad breath or their over-use of cologne. Aren't they even aware of these things? It seems they'd want women to get closer, not be repelled. I can't bring myself to talk about this stuff, so even when I really like someone, it's easier to make up another kind of excuse to stop dating him.

A. If you're planning an exit anyway, seems like there's nothing to lose by saying that you can't get close because of this issue, and seeing if he's willing to do something about it! Men's olfactory nerves can be less sensitive than women's, but no man wants to "repel" a lady he's interested in! If he's wearing too much cologne, express how extra-sensitive your nose is, and ask him to use much less, or none at all. Breath problems can be trickier, depending on whether they're related to food odor or poor hygiene. If you're sharing odorous foods/condiments (garlic, onions, etc.) this is usually a non-issue--but if not, ask if he can be more mindful of his intake before your date, and use breath fresheners when he's with you. Chlorophyll capsules or tablets taken after a strong smelling meal can mitigate some of this problem. If he has hygiene issues (breath is yeasty or smells like garbage), gently tell him his breath is offensive, and gift him a package of dental floss. If he's looking forward to kissing you, he might be motivated to clean up his act.

Q. Do you have resources/help for an issue concerning a divorced father idealizing his relationship with his children, two of whom live with their mother and three who are older and on their own? He can't see any of their flaws and becomes outraged if anything negative is pointed out to him, or any questions are raised about how much time or money he spends on them. Thank you.

A. If you're romantically involved with this man, I'd say you're treading on very dangerous territory! How someone relates to his/her children is usually sacred ground, and most people aren't open to outside input, unless it comes from a professional (and even then, it may not be well received)! It sounds as if your voiced concerns about his kids could be experienced as a personal assault. If your man's narcissistic, he'll be incapable of confronting his own shortcomings, or seeing "flaws" in anyone he views as an extension of himself. But aside from this, I can't help wondering why you seem compelled to alter how this man spends his time and money. How and when did this become your business? Is this a nourishing/satisfying relationship for you? If not, do you think that changing how he treats his kids will enhance this? Leave it alone, or move on.

Q. Dear Shari, I went back to a man I was seeing over a year ago. Well, we know where this is going: I'd had intensive therapy related to boundary issues, and thought I was better. I've recognized that I generally attract abusive men, and worked on my self-esteem issues. I got back with this guy and he went through his own emotional upheaval, and began saying that I was not 'present.' He'd rant and interrupt me--and finally I started to shut down. I can't believe that I allowed myself to get to the point where I would argue with him! Now, in his mind of course, I'm the one with "all the problems." I really need to get out of this cycle. I didn't resort to name calling, tried to be patient and helpful while he wigged out--but gees, after awhile it was too much to bear. Finally, I just exploded. My business went haywire, and I was so focused on paying my mortgage, that his neediness for sex and attention was too much to accommodate. I need to be solidified in my own skin and better at making choices for myself--I'm 49 years old, for goodness sake! I've read nearly every article on your site. I met a guy awhile back, who appeared to have clear cut boundaries, and I let him go! Help me break this cycle of dysfunction!!!

A. In my experience, re-runs never work out; after all, you've already seen that movie, and you know exactly how it ends! I think it would be useful for you to reframe your statement about attracting "abusive men"; more accurately, you are attracted to them. Healthier choices entail resolving/ healing childhood wounds that impact self-worth, and (subconsciously) perpetuate these selections. Meaningful inner work can dismantle early 'core' issues, so we're not compelled to repeat them within our adult attachments. We tend to get with/stay with people who match our level of emotional development. In a sense, they're a mirror for us, helping to reflect where we'd benefit from working on ourselves. I'm sensing an (internalized) 'critical parent' in your expressions of what you think you "need" to do. Try changing your statements to "I want," and you'll lower your rebellion/resistance to making better, more sound adult choices.

Q. Should I tell a romantic interest about my genital herpes diagnosis in the uncertainty stage of a new relationship?

A. This is actually a timing issue, but you're demonstrating solid character and consideration for others, in thinking this through. There are no absolutes regarding when to have these conversations, but they're never easy. Bringing this up too soon exposes you unnecessarily, and may be more information than a very new romance can handle. Waiting too long can be emotionally wrenching, because there's more on the line (in terms of potential loss). If/when you start to sense that this relationship could have a future and/or you've chosen to sexualize it, this is the time to discuss your diagnosis (but not as you're climbing into bed!). Begin by describing your feelings about broaching this topic; "this is difficult, scary, awkward," etc., which will help you share the rest more easily. Saying you've "been exposed" to the herpes virus and are feeling a responsibility to let him/her know before you move ahead, is a good way to continue. Allow for questions, and answer them as best you can. Sharing this news may invoke less concern if you've already established some emotional trust--and you might learn that he/she has the virus as well, which makes this a non-issue. If your friend freaks out, there probably wasn't potential for something beyond the physical.

Q. Can you please tell me why so many females are shaving their pubic areas? Being with someone who's shaved makes me feel like I'm with a little girl, not a woman; frankly, it's not an erotic or sensual experience for me. I'm not even buying men's magazines anymore, because the pictures are of girls who are mostly bare down there! I think women are supposed to have fur on this part of their bodies. Pardon me, but why else would we call them "pussies?"

A. Each of us has different preferences in terms of what we consider alluring, but I think you may be speaking for a significant number of males. Furtively looking through Dad's Playboy magazines during adolescence may have influenced what's erotic to you as a grown man, but it's hard to know exactly what drives sexual proclivities or fetishes. As we mature, we discover what 'sparks' us about another's physicality, and (thankfully) "there's a lid for every pot." Females can differ in personal comfort with respect to this body feature, and usually express their own style/taste in grooming it. A woman's pubic hair actually funnels urine away from the body, which can help keep her cleaner. Many have noticed that these hairs function as tiny antennae that invoke pleasurable responses to the lightest/most subtle touch. Some men love being with a woman who's clean shaven (and insist on it), as oral sex is more pleasurable for them when this area's completely exposed, and their lover(s) may feel similarly. Others like yourself, want to be with a partner who looks (and feels) more natural and womanly. For many, it makes no difference either way. Your reference to pedophilia is intriguing, and could certainly be a topic for debate. Interestingly enough, preferences for or against pubic hair don't seem to be confined to a specific demographic, as I've heard differing opinions from men of all ages on this. Fad and fashion have always dictated personal trends; some of 'em stick, and some don't. Sadly for you, it appears this one's destined to be around for awhile.

Q. Is it true that men become better lovers later in life?

A. In a word, yes. More accurately, there's greater potential for it. Sexual changes occur as we age, due (in part) to decreasing hormone levels. If our emotional/psychic development keeps up with our chronology, priorities can't help but shift with respect to connection and attachment; our lovemaking usually reflects this. In our youth, relationships are primarily driven by sexual attraction--later on, we tend to look for additional values in a partner that are compatible and nourishing to us. Men who've navigated this part of their growth successfully, tend to take more time with a lover, have less focus on climax and derive greater pleasure from a variety of sensual and intimate aspects of sharing, besides intercourse. This means, the entire experience takes on richer dimensions that make it more fully satisfying and intense (mature women may crave this as well). Vasodilators like Levitra, Viagra, Cialis, etc., enable older men to have spontaneous erections, and some of them think this should still happen like when they were thirty-something. Others realize it's the quality of connection they share with a partner that matters most, and allow themselves to respond (naturally) to those feelings.

Q. Shari, I'm dating a man in his late fifties who keeps asking for my input on dressing himself. At this age and with a closet full of Armani, it's doubtful he's lacking confidence in this area, and he does just fine when I'm not there to help him! At first, I was flattered he valued my opinion and admired my style sense, but this has gone way beyond occasionally asking which tie goes best with a suit. Frankly, it's becoming a turn-off. I mean, what the hell did he do before I came along?? I want/need to be with a grown man (not a boy), and if I'd wanted to have a kid, I'd have figured out how to make that happen years ago! How can I get it across that I don't want this job?! "Stuck in the closet."

A. Dear Stuck, there could literally be thousands of women reading this right now, who'd switch places with you in a heartbeat! Nevertheless, your man's behavior repels you, and this should be respected. Frankly, almost nothing kills sexual excitement/tension between a man and woman faster, than when a partner is parentified (no matter who's promoting it)! First, encourage him to trust his own "excellent" sense of style. Second, stop responding with this type of assistance. If you've already discussed this issue and he's failed to be responsive to your concerns, try letting him know that this behavior doesn't feel erotic/compelling to you, and it could inhibit your sexual desire. If that doesn't get his attention, he may need a mother more than a lover.

Q. I'm unable to climax with a woman during intercourse. Other times are no problem, but I'm wondering why this happens.

A. There could be many reasons you're having this difficulty, which is actually considered a form of impotency. If you're practicing safe sex, latex condoms inhibit conduction of body heat and sensations of friction; polyurethane condoms (Avanti) or a lambskin variety (Forex) help circumvent these issues, but are only available in a standard size. If this is happening when you're not wearing protection, your inability to orgasm could have a psychic/emotional basis, and be related to deeper issues. You might have some fear or anxiety about getting someone pregnant, or getting too close. Men are extremely vulnerable (physically/emotionally) at the point of climax, and subconsciously you may not want to surrender control. Wanting to hold back your orgasm to please a sexual partner is natural and fine, but if you're overly focused on this, you might push beyond the level of physical sensitivity that makes it possible. All these elements can be influences, but consistent inability to climax inside a woman's vagina may be worth exploring within a therapeutic context.

Q. Shari, I recently met a man I felt a unique connection with, and it was thrilling to (finally) be on the same page with someone I'd met totally by chance! It seems he felt similarly, and immediately began talking about "our future together." This felt premature to me, and I said so--but we shared some great conversation, kissed a little and made plans to spend the following day together. The upshot is, he never called, and I have no way of reaching him. I thought this guy was genuine, but now I'm feeling like a fool. What do you make of this?

A. Ahhhh, chance meetings. These can be delicious, but you really don't know 'who' you're actually dealing with. A man who 'fast-forwards' is generally not comfortable being in the moment or feeling his way through a situation, which suggests a lack of confidence. He may have been seeking a quick, easy sexual encounter, and you didn't accommodate that fantasy (thank goodness). His inability or unwillingness to give you the courtesy of a follow-up call to say he wouldn't be meeting with you again, is passive-aggressive behavior that speaks to a lack of emotional development (and character). You're not foolish. You've just met someone who's good at seducing women, but scared of getting close to them; this can stem from unresolved mother issues.

Q. I recently met a woman I felt a strong attraction with, and asked her out. After our initial get-together, I asked to see her again and she indicated she didn't feel we were compatible. I was very disappointed by this, and tried to change her mind. It didn't seem like her reasons were substantial enough to avoid getting better acquainted; we live in different worlds (career-wise), there's roughly a 15 year age gap (she's older), but she said we didn't seem to have enough in common to allow "potential for more." Frankly, I don't think she's even open for a relationship, but I'm really pissed off! I feel dismissed without being given a chance, and it seems unfair. What do you think?

A. Dear Dismissed, situations like this are probably not fair. When our excitement isn't matched by another, a variety of feelings (besides disappointment) can get triggered; insecurity, unworthiness, self-doubt, etc. An older woman may be more romantically experienced, and have acquired a solid sense of herself and her emotional needs. This could mean her priorities are very different than yours; she may be interested in building a long-term, meaningful bond with a compatible partner, rather than taking advantage of opportunities for casual dating or sex (particularly if her career's gratifying). Intuitive ability to discern whether a man's capable of meeting her needs could be enhanced at this stage, which saves both of you a lot of time (and grief). But there's a question that begs to be asked here: What do you think drives your desire/need to pursue someone who's not returning your interest??

Q. Shari, what keeps a man from complimenting a woman he's involved with, or demonstrating that he cares, or values her? It seems the man I'm dating is attracted, excited by me and wants me, but there's alot missing in terms of any thoughtfulness on his part. I've gently expressed my desire for (small) gestures of appreciation/caring, and have been very generous & patient in this relationship, but I've begun to feel used, and that's a turn-off. Any thoughts?

A. Assuming your guy does care (and why would you be with someone who doesn't?) if he can't tell or show you how he feels about you, he may be either ignorant or scared. Some (younger) men don't know how to treat a woman if their social or romantic experience is very limited, or they've never witnessed loving interactions between their parents. Others (of any age) may have unhealed childhood wounds, and need a "mommy"; this type of relationship is not (inherently) reciprocal, so as long as you're willing to give, they're happy to take. A few think that bestowing compliments gives you too much power; on some level, they're afraid that if they let you know you're beautiful or special, it gives you the upper hand, and you might treat them poorly--or think you can do better, and leave! This ridiculous notion is bourne out of a deep sense of insecurity and inferiority, and is totally opposite of how women feel and function (which brings us back to the ignorance element). You are entitled to feel appreciated and admired by someone you're sleeping with. Determine if this man is trainable to become more responsive to your feelings/needs, or find someone more confident, and able to express himself.

Q. Shari, my boyfriend (of 6 months) wants to have anal sex, and I don't! I love sex, am fairly adventurous, and I've been open to all his other requests, but this kind of thing just doesn't do it for me. He insists I should be more "open minded," so I've asked how he'd feel about being penetrated this way. He's a total hypocrite of course, 'cause there's no way he'd allow it! I've repeatedly explained my reasons for not wanting to do it, but he still keeps trying to go there when we're having sex, which takes me out of the mood and makes me mistrust him! His constant pestering is getting on my nerves, and we've been arguing. How can I get him off my back (no pun intended)...!?

A. Well my dear, I think a lot of women have been wondering just when and how the term "open minded" became a euphemism for "must like anal sex"(and isn't that a logistical contradiction?). Sexual experimentation within an ongoing relationship can help keep it exciting and fresh, but both parties must feel at ease with trying something new, and agree that either can pause or stop the activity if they experience discomfort of any kind. We all have different pleasure, pain and erogenous zones, and we're entitled to have these respected. It seems your guy may have control issuesand (in my mind) some questions beg to be asked: 1. If anal sex is so important to him, why did he wait until now to approach this topic with you, rather than exploring it (verbally) at the onset of your relationship? 2. If you had given into this, what might he 'need' from you next? 3. Why is your "boyfriend" being persistently unresponsive to your feelings and needs? Bottom line (pun intended!) plenty of females find anal stimulation and intercourse extremely arousing and pleasurable--and with any luck, they'll hook up with partners who appreciate that. But nobody should be coerced/pressured into doing anything that makes them feel uncomfortable. As for your boyfriend's current fascination with 'rear-ending' you; tell him to lay off, or you'll be tempted to suspend his 'regular' parking privileges!

Q. Hi Shari, I'm up against a really frustrating issue! Several months ago I began seeing a man whom I like a great deal. In the past few weeks, we decided to forego using condoms, because neither of us wants to date others, and we're ready to be sexually exclusive. Our most recent contact has felt even more intimate, intense and wonderful than before, but I've been suffering with yeast infections ever since! As soon as I recover (using over-the-counter medication for a week) I get it all over again as soon as we make love. I've never had this problem before, and I'm baffled by it and very discouraged. My boyfriend isn't circumcised, and I'm wondering if this has anything to do with my body's reaction. Am I allergic to him? HELP!!! SL

A. Hi SL, thousands of women are yeast sensitive, and since your symptoms began several months into this relationship with the only variable being unprotected sex, you may be one of them. There's a tremendous controversy surrounding this topic (to circumcise or not to circumcise), but it seems nobody's talking to women about health concerns related to sex with males who've retained their foreskins! Any amount of moisture in the form of perspiration and/or traces of urine trapped between the penis and it's sheath (or prepuce) becomes a breeding ground for microbial (yeast) growth. Early studies suggested that women married to uncircumcised men had higher incidences of cervical & uterine cancer from repeated exposure to microbes and certain types of bacteria. Some women prefer their men "natural" (or uncut) and have absolutely no problems with yeast sensitivity. Others have confided that unless their partner fastidiously washes himself with an anti-microbial soap just prior to sex, they'll have a yeast infection within a day or two after contact. Yeast cells multiply rapidly in warm, moist, dark environments (like your vagina) and all it takes is exposure to a few of them!Antibacterial soaps destroy bacteria, but are not effective against microbes(they're different organisms). Talk with your gynecologist about this issue, and in the interim, try having your boyfriend cleanse with an anti-microbial product such as Summer's Eve Feminine Wash before intercourse (or enjoy this together, as part of your foreplay). Once you've completely cleared up your condition, use condoms for more spontaneous contact, until you feel confident you've found a way to 'circumvent' this problem. As a final note; if any man you're sleeping with has recently taken (oral) antibiotics, his semen can cause an imbalance in your vaginal 'flora' (healthy bacteria) and leave you vulnerable to yeast growth.

Q. Shari, your insights on soy have changed my life! I was eating tons of soy products; tofu, soy milk, etc. I was dieting and lost weight, but had sexual difficulties, and wondered if I had erectile dysfunction. I cannot take Viagra because I see 'blue' for two days after. But when I quit soy, my sex drive and performance returned to a good, normal level. Imagine my surprise, to have a rocket in my pocket again! Do you think most men have been alerted to the dangers of consuming soy? Thanks again!

A. Dear Sir; I am delighted to learn that your sex life has returned! Research has revealed that the plant or phyto-estrogens in soy products can throw a male's testosterone levels way off balance, and diminish his sex drive, motivation and concentration. Also, when men ingest large amounts of soy, it contributes to a 'doughy' rather than muscular body mass, and can present a number of health risks, such as tooth loss! This happened to a vegan-vegetarian I once knew; he frequently needed dental implants, but (sadly) never related this problem to soy consumption. Unfortunately, his ability to rise to the occasion was (also) affected. ADD/ADHD can be aggrivated by this 'food' as well. A little soy is fine on occasion, but a lot has been shown to be toxic for men and women. Dr. Kaayla Daniel has done extensive research into health risks related to soy consumption, and wrote a book about it! Go to; for more on "the dark side of America's favorite health food," and sign up for Kaayla's newsletter.

Q. Shari, I've been dating a great guy in his late fifties, and I'm growing increasingly fond of him. We've recently started getting physical as a result of feeling closer, but it seems he has difficulty getting hard or maintaining an erection. I've begun to question whether he finds me attractive enough. Intercourse has always been my favorite part of lovemaking, so this worries me a little. I think we have enough 'good stuff' to (at least) contemplate a future together--but frankly, I'm afraid to invest myself more deeply because of this issue. I imagine this is a sensitive area for him, and I'm not sure how to approach discussing it (or whether I should!) but the longer this goes on, the more awkward it feels not to. "So near and yet so far" pretty much sums this up, and it's troubling. Any suggestions would be most appreciated.

A. There are many reasons for ED (erectile dysfunction) in a man this age, and performance anxiety can be one of them (impotency is frequently a state of mind). Do not take this personally; if you weren't appealing to him, he wouldn't be spending time with you. Men experience a decline in testosterone as they age, and this impacts sexual spontaneity (this can happen as early as one's mid-thirties). Understanding that your man might be needing a bit more sensual foreplay (without expectation to perform) can usually rectify this problem. Typically, men get to their feelings through sex, and for women it's the other way around. When a male bonds emotionally (before sexually), bridging to physical closeness can be psychologically challenging. The reasons for this are simple; you've already begun to matter to him (and he's overly concerned with pleasing you) or he's feeling emotionally vulnerable, which is a little scary for him. You haven't mentioned health issues, but these can definitely impact sexual performance. If your guy's taking blood pressure medication, ED is a fairly common side effect. Doctors may be reluctant to prescribe vasodilators; Viagra, Levitra, Cialis, etc., for treatment under these circumstances (due to drug interactions) but careful medical evaluation can mitigate potential harm. Penile injury or circulation problems related to Diabetes, heart disease or other health concerns can also inhibit erectile function. A vasodilator that's self-injected locally (into the penis) prior to intercourse can circumvent this issue~but while effective, this method is not readily accommodated by most men. It's important he's examined by his internist and a urologist to rule out medical issues. As a final note, if your man consumes a lot of soy products, these can definitely undermine male hormone balance and contribute to impotency. For now, do your best to remove any pressure/expectation surrounding intercourse by reassuring him this is not an immediate priority (you're still getting acquainted, remember?). Play, touch, kiss, talk, laugh and enjoy other aspects of lovemaking. Penetration can be accomplished with other body parts or 'reasonable facsimiles' purchased from a sex shop. With a little guidance, you can help him learn how to satisfy your needs, while taking the pressure off performance. Have this be a sensual time for the two of you, and you may both be surprised at what comes up!

Q. I noticed an attractive woman at the supermarket today and as luck would have it, she turned up right behind me in the checkout line. She seemed very open and friendly, but I couldn't tell if she was interested or not. I was hard on myself driving home, because I never know what to say or do in these kinds of situations, and this probably has me missing out on romantic opportunities. Do you have any tips for a guy like me? Speechless in L.A.

A. Dear Speechless, if you were from the east coast, it's unlikely I'd be receiving this letter. Apparently, Los Angeles men are reluctant to approach women, and the reasons for this are multi-layered, but first things first: You need to know that the more beautiful a woman is, the less she's approached! While beauty can be intimidating, too many men assume a female will resent the 'intrusion' or she's already spoken for--but this kind of thinking will have you spending the rest of your days alone in your cave. If you're attracted, carry on a little banter or small talk (especially if she's initiated an opening)and pay attention to her eye contact and body language. Unless she's like a lot of women (in L.A.) who've had to become aggressive in this mating dance with men, she'll wait for you to initiate further contact. Ask if you can phone her, and meet for coffee or cocktails sometime very soon. If she's hesitant to give you her number, offer yours--but most women these days have a business line or voicemail they're comfortable sharing with you. Do not wait a week before calling (so you can seem 'cool'), because any woman with any brains and self-esteem will see right through that, and you'll have already shot yourself in the foot! Don't think beyond coffee or cocktails; see how that goes, and decide if there's enough mutual chemistry to set another date. Sometimes (regardless of visual attraction) there's not enough of a spark to ignite a flame, and that's nobody's fault. Maybe there's room to explore a friendship and maybe not, but you're only out the price of a couple of Starbucks. This approach takes practice; just promise yourself you won't let the next one get away so easy.

Q. I've been seeing a woman I'm nuts about for roughly 7 months. She's amazing; talented, smart, worldly, successful, vivacious and great in bed. The trouble is, I get the feeling I'm just a 'fling' for her, and there's really no future in this deal. When I talk about wanting more time, attention, commitment and sense of continuity in our relationship, she either changes the subject or details how she thinks we're incompatible. My bullshit barometer keeps telling me that no matter what I do or how much I change, it's not gonna make a difference in my shot at a future here. I don't know what to do, as for all intents and purposes, I see her as the 'perfect' woman for me! Any suggestions? Boy Toy

A. Dear Boy Toy: When a man wants to share his heart with a woman, he needs to pay particular attention to her capacity for connection, compassion and humanity. He should also look at her romantic history; what kind of relationships she's chosen in the past, how long they've lasted, and their interpersonal dynamics. Assess whether the two of you share similar goals for this relationship--or are you trying to fit square pegs into round holes? Your lady may be the most sensual/sexual creature on the face of this earth, but if you can't get near the soft parts behind her breastbone, you'll be trapped in yearning for something that's unattainable, and never feel you measure up! If you have a high threshold for the feelings this invokes, it's extremely likely you had parallel experiences in childhood, and still carry those wounds. There's an old saying; If you wanna know what you want, look at what you have. Painful, negative experiences are easier to repeat than positive ones, because on some level, they're familiar to us (we already have that road map). If you're looking to give your heart (along with the rest of you) find someone who can treasure it, and return your interest.

Q. Shari, what is it with men? I recently met a guy I seemed to have a nice (mutual) connection with, and after a couple of phone conversations we decided to meet. I was attracted, but my intuition picked up on issues that made me seriously question whether we had potential for a relationship. In response to this, I thought there might be a chance we could just be lovers. The upshot is, he called at virtually the last minute to cancel our date, saying "something had come up." I'd been looking forward to seeing him despite my reservations, and suggested he call again when he wanted to see me. I haven't heard from him, and it's been a couple of weeks. What do you make of this? Am I just stupid about the opposite sex? "Clueless"

A. Dear Clueless, there are probably a zillion reasons this date wasn't kept, and you could drive yourself crazy trying to figure out what they are, but this won't serve you! One thing you should definitely remember is that men are not looking for women "friends." Sex is what motivates males to pursue females, and this will never change. If they sense you're uncertain about them or the potential for sex, they'll cool down pretty fast. I'm not saying this is a bad thing or that all men are wired this way, but it's a pretty reliable rule of thumb. Men get to their feelings through sex, and women get to sex through their feelings. Females generally need more emotional and cerebral foreplay, before they need someone in their bed. Given your reservations, perhaps some kind of protection was sent your way, because (bottom line) this may not have been a healthy or congruent fit for you. Try and trust this, and let yourself off the hook. Maybe the next man you meet won't bring up caution flags for you, and you'll have opportunity for a fuller relationship. In the meantime, let me leave you with an extremely useful four letter word: NEXT...!

Q. I'm needing feedback on a confusing situation, Shari. I felt a 'spark' with a woman I met at a social function, and asked her out on a date. During our first (arranged) meeting, her vibes were negative from the minute she showed up, and I strongly sensed she didn't want to be there. She explained her mood by saying she'd had a "stressful day" at work--but as our evening wore on, I felt like I was experiencing something akin to oral surgery! In short, it was a lot of work trying to connect with her. Always the gentleman, I gave her the benefit of the doubt (we all have bad days!) but frankly, I wanted to leave within the first few minutes, and (in retrospect) I wish I had! Can you shed some light this, and how to avoid having it happen again? "Disappointed"

A. Dear Disappointed, I wish you'd left in the first few minutes too! Humans are complex, and occasionally something simple (like poor timing) can derail a potential connection. It's fine to cut someone a little slack, but first dates shouldn't have to feel like "work." Your note suggests the woman you initiallymet, seemed very different than the one who showed up for your date, and this is noteworthy! We sometimes have fantasies & anticipations as we're heading into a social function, and these can cause us to 'ramp up' for the party. We might be a little inebriated shortly after arriving (notice how everyone heads first to the bar?), which takes the edge off anxiety and eases our inhibitions. This engages our seductive natures, because alcohol (a social lubricant) allows us to be more in our bodies than our heads (hence, the number of unplanned pregnancies, STD's, etc.). Some women and men have acquired seduction skills or strategies that are foundational to their sense of confidence/self-worth, and they automatically revert to these defaults, when meeting someone new. Sadly, this could be all they have to bring to YOURparty, and (sober) there may not be much else there. In the future, one or two phone conversations before you meet should give you a better sense of a woman's interest, and whether you have potential for developing something more. Next time you find yourself in a situation like this, listen to your gut! Graciously thank her for meeting with you, but share your sense that this isn't "good timing" for her. You may (or may not) invite her to call you, if/when she'd like to try this again, but pay the check and take your exit. If she objects to your leaving, follow your intuition--but it's perfectly acceptable to let her know that this moment has passed for you, and say "goodbye."

Q. Can you give me some tips on getting my husband to pay more attention to me when he gets home at night? It seems like all he wants to do when he walks in from work, is sit in front of the TV with a beer! He practically ignores me and our kids, and I feel like he doesn't care about us. "Lonely"

A. Dear Lonely, I usually hear complaints from men on the opposite side of this issue, so perhaps my 20-Minute Marriage Miracle can help: Working men (and women) need a little time to 'space out' when they get home. Try meeting your husband at the door with a smile and a cold beer, turn on the TV for him, and leave him alone for 15 - 30 minutes to discharge his day and RELAX. Men stop at their local bar instead of coming straight home, because they need time to decompress from high levels of stimulation and demands at work. Understand, that while you're with the kids for 8+ hours and craving adult interaction, he's basically putting out fires and slaying dragons all day! About half a century ago, clever wives 'freshened up' (remember this during your courtship?) and greeted their husbands with chilled martinis when they returned from the office; this went a long way toward keeping the romance alive. His beverage doesn't have to contain alcohol, but gifting him 'quiet time' is the most important element here. Your man requires this period to regroup and regenerate himself, so he's able to switch gears and be more loving with you! He'll be grateful for this special consideration, and start looking forward to coming home.

Q. Shari, I have always been attracted to women older than myself, but have trouble finding someone who is compatible with me. It seems women are usually attracted to men older than themselves, so the ladies I meet want a 'fling' but not a serious relationship. This is fun of course but not exactly what I want. My neighbor is a lady of 63 and I am 40. We see each other quite a lot - just go out. It is fun being with her, but I worry about moving on to the next level. We have come close, but both of us are a little nervous.Then I worry a little about long term, what will happen when my partner is 70, how will I feel then, and is it such a sensible idea? I think I'm more worried about being neighbors than the age difference. So my basic question is: should I settle for someone closer to my age or someone I desire now? Thanks for responding - I am most grateful. R.

A. Dear R, first of all, you should never "settle" when it comes to matters of the heart. Start by initiating honest conversations with your friend to see what it will likely mean to each of you if/when this relationship is sexualized, and where each of you stands on the notion of commitment. You should address how your expectations of each other might change, once you go to bed. The fact that you live very close could make for a sticky situation if either of you becomes attracted to (and wants to date) someone else--and what will happen to your friendship if this occurs? Open dialogue can mitigate uncertainty and explore potential for something more serious, before you two bridge to a physical relationship. You'll be far more successful at love (and sex) if you can enter into them honestly and consciously. Your predicament suggests a pattern of attraction that's repeatedly disappointing to you, but may keep you safe from attaching. In dating someone considerably older than yourself, you have a built in "deal breaker" (or exit strategy) in place before investing your time and feelings. This strategy may help you avoid real closeness and it's called a 'payoff' (regardless of whether the consequences are positive or negative), as it supports your subconscious desires. Living in the future can be a way to avoid intimacy and engagement in the present! When your friend is 70 you'll be nearing 50, and how does a 23 year age disparity become more crucial for you at that juncture than it is now? Does it invoke anxiety about loss of attraction, or fear of loss in general?? Younger women may desire marriage and/or children, and you may not; older females could have fewer expectations, and be satisfied with a relationship that offers only sex and companionship. But the emotional, psychological and spiritual development that women have (ideally) acquired in later years might not be matched by you--which could be why they're not able to take you more seriously. Finally,older women seldom have a child or children at home, so there's potential for you to receive the kind of focus, attention and/or nurturance you may have longed for (but lacked) as a child from your own mother. Any (or all) of these elements can factor into your existing attraction strategy, and are worth exploring therapeutically if/when you feel you're ready to love and be loved.

Borrowed from Mini-Strategies:

For women, on love and sex: use extreme caution when bestowing qualities or attributes to someone just because he makes you happy in bed, 'cause no matter how you slice it, you can't make a fruit salad out of a banana!

For men, on love and sex: women like sex as much as you do, and they're far more inclined to respect and trust you if you're straight with 'em! If you're attracted to someone and want to get physical, but you don't feel ready for something more serious, say that before you get to the bedroom! Women learn to distrust (and sometimes, despise) men, when they feel they've been deceived or betrayed. 

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