by Amy Alkon
Q: My girlfriend of a year is 51 and lovely in most areas—except one: She often passes gas and recently started belching audibly. She is a psychotherapist, dresses nicely and has a great figure. However, she grew up in a male-dominated, military home. She thinks I’m “weird” and “overly sensitive” to be disturbed by these behaviors, but I, like most men, like the whole “feminine” thing. I now feel less attracted to her, and our sex life has diminished somewhat. I wonder whether I’m being tested in some way.—Bummed
A: “Audible” is an audiobook producer; it shouldn’t describe your girlfriend’s butt.
OK, so she grew up in a military family—the lone sister trying to fit in with the “band of brothers.” (Semper fffffffffft!) But that was then, and this is now. These days, if she spots some lady with 11 items in the “10 items or less” lane, I’m guessing that she doesn’t whip out the sat phone to order a drone strike on the woman’s minivan. Likewise, you aren’t unreasonable in asking her to respect the difference between free expression and too-free expression. (Your role in the relationship shouldn’t be “Courage Under Fire.”)
Some couples do view being gross in front of each other as an endurance test for love—a sort of “Survivor: El Baño”—as if they’ve got something so special that it transcends their seeing their beloved straining on the throne. And, sure, if you love someone and they get sick, you don’t stop loving them because you’re holding their hair back while they’re puking their guts out. But the reality is, it’s hard enough to keep the sexy alive over time even when you really make an effort. As for your girlfriend’s insistence on crop-dusting her way across the bedroom: Way to clear a room, lady—of all sexual attraction.
Explain to your girlfriend that of course there’ll be the occasional accidental toot in yoga class. (To air is human!) But love involves treating someone as if they matter. Even when you think their concerns are “weird.” (Crazy that you don’t find it the height of femininity when your girlfriend interrupts sexy time with, “Come on, pull my finger!”)
Tell her that you’re hurt that your feelings don’t seem to mean enough for her to curtail her behavior in the most minor way—the way that she surely does at cocktail parties and around her patients. (Please tell me that as some tearful guy tells her about his traumatic childhood, she isn’t lifting a leg and letting one rip: “Wow, those nightshade vegetables really don’t agree with me!”)
If she keeps on keeping on, give some thought to whether she’s loving enough for you to continue seeing her. When you have a girlfriend who blows you away, it should probably be with her kindness, intelligence and beauty—and not the chimichangas she had for lunch.
Q: I’d really like the guy I’m dating to compliment me more. I know he’s super-attracted to me, but he’s not very complimentary, and it makes me feel that he doesn’t think I’m pretty. How do I get him to compliment me without the awkward, “Don’t you think I look hot?”—Insecure
A: Unfortunately, men tend to do poorly at hint-taking. So, no, you can’t just stand next to the kitchen table in your cute new skirt after laying out Doritos in the shape of a question mark. But because male sexuality is visual, it’s comforting to know that your boyfriend’s looking across a party at you and thinking, “I want you” and not, “I want you to move over so I can see that hot woman behind you.” And it turns out that complimenting you is actually good for him, too. Research on gratitude by psychologist Sara Algoe suggests that the stock-taking that goes into a person’s expressing appreciation for their partner works as a sort of emotional Post-it note, reminding them of how good they have it. And the appreciation itself tends to leave both partners feeling more bonded and satisfied with the relationship.
Instead of fishing for a compliment in the moment—yicky and humiliating—take advantage of how men like to know that they’re making their woman happy and tell him (and remind him, if necessary) that you love hearing it when he thinks you look good. But you might also recognize that he’s been complimenting you, just not in a chatty way. (As you noted, “I know he’s super-attracted to me.”) And sure, there are men out there who’d be far more naturally verbal about their feelings—men who haven’t exactly walked a mile in your stilettos but have a pair that looks a lot like them in size 14 extra-extra-wide.