Dear Em & Lo,
I feel like I’m stuck right now. I meet plenty of young men that are very interesting, and eventually, after spending some time with them, I get attached. Something that sounds very normal but turns out to be very painful in the end. So here’s my problem: no matter how hard I try, I can’t stop myself from getting intimate with all these guys quickly. (I respect the “no sex on the first date” rule but I’ll go for it sooner than later.) Also, these guys are never “available” to be a boyfriend to me because they are so busy with their lives. They all seem to have something else on their minds that prevents them from building something with me. So I end up happy in bed (most of the time!) but lacking for anything to call a relationship. It never seems to stick, like as if there was a problem with my approach. I really enjoy sex and I’m afraid that it’s jeopardizing my chances to fall in love.
— Stuck in the Booty Ghetto
You don’t have to give up sex to get a relationship, and you don’t have to give up relationships to get sex, but you DO have to figure out (a) whether or not the person you’re seeing is relationship material, and (b) if they’re not, then whether or not you’re one of those people who can enjoy sex without becoming TOO attached.
If you’re not one of those (b) types, then, yes, you’ll have to sacrifice partner sex until you find a guy who’s relationship material. (Hey, that’s why god made vibrators.) But if you are, then the solution to your problem is really just a mental trick: Sleep with the guy whenever you feel like it, but if he’s not relationship material, then just be sure to tell yourself — in a very stern voice — “This is just scratching-an-itch sex.”
However, based on your history of getting attached to interesting young men, we’re guessing that you’re not really made for scratch-an-itch sex. In which case, you’ll want to avoid sleeping with guys who aren’t relationship material. And this is the really tricky part. We wish we had a fail-safe solution for you. Normally, our default position is communicate-communicate-communicate — which, in this case, would simply mean asking point-blank, “So are you looking for a relationship, or is this just a casual thing to you?” Unfortunately even if a guy IS looking for a relationship, a question this blunt very early in a courtship — like, on the second date — may scare the shit out of him.
Which means that you’re just going to have to learn from experience. Why don’t you look back at all these guys who blew you off and see if you notice a pattern. For example, did they not return your calls or texts, or did they take a week to do so? Did they seem uninterested in hearing about how your day went? Was it always you suggesting the next date? Did they text you at 11pm “just to say hi”? Once you’ve established some kind of pattern, be extra wary of guys who seem to fit the type. And by “extra wary,” we mean DON’T HAVE SEX until you get to know them a little better. And once you know them a little better, then it’s more than acceptable to break out the R word.
For the record, we’re not big proponents of “holding out” on having sex in order to steer a guy toward a relationship. Sure, there’s a lot to be said for not having sex on the first date — some guys are just weird about that (fortunately not our wonderful Wise Guys, however!). But holding off on the sex until you’re comfortable with them and trust them and feel like they might want a relationship — you do that for YOU. You don’t do it because you think it’ll change the guy’s opinion of you. Because if a guy is only interested in you for the sex, then he’ll disappear as soon as he’s reached that goal, whether you made him wait 24 minutes or 24 dates for the pleasure.
All that said, we would be remiss if we didn’t mention a third thing you may have to figure out: c) if there’s something about you that’s scaring everyone off. A propensity to talk about your exes or Oprah, an immediate clingy-ness that borders on stalking, a creepy teddy bear collection…? We’re not assuming it’s “your fault” — you could be a real catch, but plenty of young guys just aren’t interested in anything serious — we just want to be sure we cover all the bases.
No attachment without written approval!
Em & Lo