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Long-distance relationship needs to proceed more slowly

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Q: I've been in a long-distance relationship for two years, and we will be meeting for the first time. We have deep feelings for each other, and to take it to the next level one of us must relocate to pursue dating. We have decided to move in together. This is a big leap of faith, but we agree that this would be the best way to get to know each other on a daily basis. We agree there will be no obligation to stay if we aren't a match. There will be sex involved. What would your advice on this be?

A: This plan of yours makes no sense to me. I understand that you can learn a lot about someone from being in constant communication on the Internet, but it's not the same as being with someone. Can't you two meet and spend some time together first without moving in? The person who is moving will be giving up a lot if this doesn't turn out right. I know that many arranged marriages work, and that there are such things as mail-order brides, but I still don't understand the rush to move in without first meeting each other in person.

You talk about taking it to the next level, but there are an infinite number of levels. You don't need to rush to the highest level, and maybe in doing so, you'll actually be making it harder for yourselves to have a successful relationship. Maybe taking it slower would allow you two to get used to each other, adapt to each other. If the option exists for you two to just meet somewhere in the middle for a week or a weekend, I'd suggest doing that first.

Q: Sunday morning I was sleeping lightly when I heard my boyfriend masturbating. Why? I'm only a few feet away. Should I be worried? Could there be someone else? Has he lost that loving feeling?

A: I'm guessing that you just lay there and said nothing, pretending to sleep. What you should have done was slid over to him and said something like, "Can I help with that?" There's no way of knowing why he was masturbating. Maybe he woke up from some erotic dream — about you, some starlet or the neighbor next door — but having an erotic dream is a far cry from cheating, especially as it's hard to control one's dreams. So, rather than assume the worst, you should have just joined in the fun. Now, if you two are having other problems besides this one time you caught him masturbating, and that's why you just lay there, then that's another story. Then you have to be proactive and try to fix whatever is wrong. But if this was an isolated incident, I'd say to forget it.

Q: My husband and I are approaching our 25th anniversary. He is 66; I am 57. I can't remember the last time we were intimate. The only time he even tries to initiate sex is the rare occasion when we go on vacation or go away overnight. The last two times when he reached out to me in bed while we were on vacation in the past year, I didn't respond to his overture because I feel so out of touch with him and uncomfortable with this infrequent vacation sex attempt on his part. My main question is: Do you believe a marriage can survive without sex?

A: If you are writing to me, then my sense is that the answer for you is no. If you didn't care about sex and could live comfortably in a sexless marriage, then you wouldn't be writing. But the fact that you have written tells me that you miss having sex.

Here's my suggestion: You and your husband should watch the movie "Hope Springs." It's about a couple in your situation. Seeing it should lead the two of you to discuss seeing a sex therapist, and hopefully the therapist will be able to reconnect you. While I know that what happens in the movies doesn't always occur in real life, we sex therapists do meet with success if the relationship isn't too badly damaged, so why not see what you and your husband can do to reconnect?

Q: My partner has type 2 diabetes, which means he can't have erections. He gets very frustrated by this. What can I do to give him some pleasure?

A: First of all, even if he can't get an erection, he'll enjoy being touched, caressed and kissed all over. Yes, intercourse is important to having sex, but it's not the only way to give pleasure.

And it is possible via surgery to implant an inflatable mechanism that would allow him to have intercourse. I don't know whether he would be able to ejaculate, but at least he could enjoy the feeling of having intercourse. The procedure isn't cheap, and I don't know if his insurance would cover it, but it's something to look into.

"Dr. Ruth's Sex After 50" (Quill Driver Books) is Dr. Ruth Westheimer's latest book. Send your questions to drruth.com.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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