Dear Carolyn:

I am male and I guess more conservative than I realized or would like to be. After spending two years alone trying to figure out what went wrong with a long relationship, I began dating a year ago. I try to put off sex as long as possible -- it seems that having sex when I do not know how the relationship will go ends up misleading the woman (no matter what I say) and causing a fair amount of pain on both sides. On the other hand, I've been alone for some time and really want a warm, caring and sexually exciting relationship.

Perhaps most of all I do not want to put that relationship on a marriage track early on. When I try to be honest, women seem confused and upset and I'm thinking I should stop going overboard with the honesty. This problem seems even more intense when I date (older) women who sense their clock ticking or are just incredibly lonely, and anxious (understatement of the year) to get married. I have a terrible fear of hurting somebody (or myself?). Should I just try to hit singles bars or date younger, noncommittal women?


I think you should hit the stand-up circuit with that definition of "conservative": You want sex with no strings attached, but these desperate old chicks keep pressuring you to commit. (I took the liberty of condensing.)

Maybe you don't realize how patronizing you sound; you get some leeway because you do seem to have a conscience. But then the remedies you seem to be weighing for your problem -- less honesty or more promiscuous chicks -- are leeway killers. Especially when you consider that the former brings more pain, not less, and the latter simply brings it to women who are arguably more vulnerable than the ones you date now.

To be fair, you're quite old-fashioned in one way: You want everything for nothing. There's a whole worldful of humans in a position to be sympathetic to that -- if you would only stop harping on what a righteous guy you are and start being honest, with yourself, about what you really want.

And, more important, about what that desire entails: You either go for your sexual gratification fully aware that pain is involved, or you decide that even a deep well of frustration is still better than inflicting pain. Your call.

Hi Carolyn:

I met this really great guy and proceeded to do all the dumb things I know I shouldn't, including wanting to spend as much time with him as possible, wanting frequent phone calls and sleeping with him too soon. Luckily, this hasn't sent him packing (he's extremely laid-back and mature), but I want to back up and back off. Can I feasibly pretend the last three weeks never happened, stop sleeping with him and still salvage a friendship? Or should I give up and try my new plan with someone who hasn't seen me act stupid?

Whoa Nelly

And squander someone who has seen you act stupid and stayed? What a waste.

Don't pretend anything. The last three weeks happened. Tell him you feel like you got carried away, and ask how he'd feel if you hauled yourself back. Uphill, granted, but worth a try nonetheless.

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