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Dear John: She’s Not Fit To Be Tied

Wednesday, September 26, 2012


What’s your problem? Write to John at [email protected]

Dear John,

I’ve been dating a guy for a little while. (I’m a middle-aged woman who’s been divorced about ten years. We were introduced by mutual friends.) From early on, it has been really easy. We just clicked. Enough similar interests and attitudes that we get along great; enough differences that it’s not boring. He’s smart, funny, nice, etc.

We recently started having sex, and for the first time in this relationship, things don’t feel right. Because he likes sex that brings in a lot of things I have zero experience with and, to be honest, zero interest in. Mostly things related to light bondage, S&M kinds of things. One example – he wanted to have sex with me handcuffed to the bed after offering to be handcuffed to the bed first himself. From what he explained, the restraint and control or lack thereof are the turn-ons. In other words, this is not escalating into something involving causing or receiving pain, humiliation, etc. It’s just restraint.

I say this because I want to be perfectly clear that the problem I have with this isn’t about fear or a lack of trust. I trust him completely. It’s that I just find it to be completely unarousing. Completely. I tried his handcuff experiment, and I just don’t get any kind of erotic charge out of stuff like that. To be completely honest, I think it’s silly and a little weird. I get that people like very different things in the bedroom, but when we try these things, all I do is wonder to myself what happened when he was a kid to find this sexually exciting. It couldn’t be more lost on me.

I tried expressing this to him, but he got defensive and seemed to think I was criticizing, which I really wasn’t. But I have noticed when we have the kind of sex I like, which is just regular great sex without any props or power aspects, he shows less enthusiasm than when we do it “his way.” And now this has become an issue between us and I think we are avoiding opportunities for sex because we are at an impasse. Which is not what I want at all.

So what do you do in a situation like this? How do you compromise when you’re at opposite ends? I’ve had so many boyfriends who I hit it off with sexually but didn’t like the rest of my time with them. I really don’t want to give up on a guy whose company, personality, and spirit I enjoy 99% of the time.


Knots Not For Me

Dear Knots Not For Me,

If you both want to find a way to make this work, you can. But if either of you thinks the only sex worth having is the way you want to have it, that’s a serious problem.

You have to start by being open-minded. You are (you tried the handcuffs), and yet you aren’t (you sound like you decided it wasn’t for you before they were even on). Let your boyfriend know that you trust him and you’ll really give these things he wants you to do a try. In return, he should do the same for you. And he has to remember that trying something is no guarantee you’ll like it. He can’t get pouty if you give something a shot and just don’t enjoy it. But if you both patiently approach sex with this attitude, you may find that you like things you were skeptical about at first.

The other thing you both have to do is realize that it doesn’t always have to be your way or no way. People tend to frame their sexual desires in terms of needs, but really, they’re wants. So sometimes the handcuffs or silk scarves or whatever come out, and sometimes they stay in their drawer. Sometimes, it’s about what he likes; sometimes, it’s about your preferences. Neither of you should do anything you find distasteful, obviously, but from what you’ve written, it sounds like there’s still a lot of interesting options left even once the deal-breakers are removed.

Most of all, it comes down to your attitudes: do both of you want to make this work, or are you just intent on persuading each other that your idea of great sex should be great for both of you? In my opinion, you’re past the hard part, which is finding someone whose company you really enjoy when you’re fully clothed. There’s no reason that with a little work, the sexual aspect of your relationship can’t be as good as the rest of it.


Dear John,

I recently learned that a woman I dated many, many years ago is very sick and probably doesn’t have more than a few months to live. We haven’t stayed in touch since those days because I destroyed our relationship by doing something incredibly cruel, selfish, and thoughtless. I have thought of what I did many times over the years, and it always fills me with shame. I’ve considered getting in touch with her to apologize, but I would tell myself, “Let it go. She’s probably long over it, and the last thing she wants to hear is your lame apology for something that happened a hundred years ago.” The news of her illness has lent these speculations added urgency, though. This is no longer a decision I can defer because if I don’t apologize soon, I may never be able to. But with all she’s facing, is it fair of me to bring up something so unpleasant? Is it presumptuous and egotistical to think she even cares – or even remembers? I have wrestled with this for weeks now. What do you think?



Dear Ashamed,

You did something wrong that you’re sincerely sorry for. So you should apologize. Just be sure to apologize in a way that places absolutely no demands on this woman. I would write to her, and I'm old-fashioned enough (or just plain old enough) to believe this is the kind of situation that calls for a hand-written note sent through the mail, assuming you have her address. I don’t think an apology, no matter how long ago the offense, is ever a bad idea.


Dear John,

I was lucky enough to purchase my dream car but didn’t have it a month before a small dent appeared in it. I brought it to my neighbor’s attention because his sons and their friends are always playing football in the street and it looked exactly like the mark a football could make. And I had just seen them out there the day before I discovered the dent. Granted, I was pretty steamed, but I didn’t accuse the kids of doing it, but that’s how he took it. I was just trying to get to the bottom of what happened and it turned into a pretty heated argument. Well, my daughter saw how things with the neighbors were deteriorating and she admitted to me that she did it. She ran into the car with her bike and didn’t say anything. I called my neighbor and apologized up and down, but he will not accept my apology. He said he saw a side of me he didn’t know was there and he’s not interesting in doing the friendly things we used to do like have cookouts together and stuff. I feel bad. Our kids are friends, and I don’t want to have a next-door neighbor who won’t say hi to me. At the same time, I think he’s overreacting. What else can I do besides apologize?


Still Neighbors, Not Friends

Dear Still Neighbors,

Sounds like you’ve see a side of him you didn’t know was there, either: the petulant, childish side. You handled this situation poorly (you may not have technically accused the kids of causing the damage, but I’m sure that’s how it came across), but you apologized for it. At this point, grown-ups chalk it up to you having a bad day, accept your apology, and move on. What else can you do? Nothing – nothing I’d recommend, at least. If he refuses to let this go, that’s on him. Hopefully, he’ll realize life’s too short to nurse petty grudges by the time next cookout season rolls around.

John is a middle-aged family man from Providence. If you learn from your mistakes, he’s brilliant. Write to him at [email protected]


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