Why hasn’t he called? Monogamy or polyamory – what’s the best kind of relationship for me? Are my genitals normal? Five experts answer these and other frequently asked questions
The Guyliner has been blogging anonymously about dating and relationships since 2010 and is also a columnist in Gay Times magazine.
Why hasn’t he called?
Short answer: who knows? You certainly don’t, and probably never will, so you’re wasting valuable energy and headspace when you could just move on. It’s easy to blame yourself, but dates involve two people; it’s pointless trying to second-guess what was going on in your date’s head while you downed endless bellinis. Maybe he’s still hung up on his ex. Perhaps he’s only going on a date to get out of the house – some see dating as a social activity rather than a gateway drug to eternal happiness. Don’t dwell; you’ll drive yourself mad. If you need closure, why wait for him to call you? Send a text and jog things along yourself.
I’ve been on hundreds of first dates. Why do I never meet the right person?
Most online daters have an idea in their heads about the kind of person they want, rejecting those who don’t perfectly match their usually narrow criteria. But there really isn’t a science to this. Men who look good on paper don’t necessarily measure up in the flesh; ticking boxes isn’t everything. Widen your net, taste the unfamiliar, kiss some frogs en route to your prince. You’re dating, not driving a lorry – you can afford to be reckless. Take chances. A chance night out with a “maybe” will always end less disappointingly than a colon-twisting, excruciating two hours with the one you mistakenly thought was the man of your dreams.
Is it OK to sleep with someone on a first date?
This idea that sex is the reward for sitting through three or four very chaste dates is not only nonsense, it’s also standing in the way of you having sex. There are no rules. Nobody worth being with would slate you for going home with them, if that’s what you both want to do. If you feel a connection and want to have sex with someone on the first date, what’s to stop you? As long as you’re doing what feels right for you and are under no illusions that the intimacy may be more than temporary, just go for it. Sometimes, when you know, you know. You only have yourself to answer to. Let the others judge; you’re the one getting some, not them.
Dr Meg Barker is the author of the Rewriting the Rules book and blog on alternative relationship models. She is a sex and relationship therapist and a senior lecturer in psychology at the Open University.
What kinds of relationship are the most successful?
I write a lot about different possible ways of doing relationships: monogamous, monogamish and openly non-monogamous relationships; living apart together and long-distance relationships; sexual and non-sexual relationships. Something I’m often asked is whether a certain form of relationship can be successful. My question back is always: “What do you mean by successful?” It generally turns out that people mean longevity. While studies have found that all these forms of relationships can last over time, I question whether that is the best measure of relationship “success”. Perhaps that is something else that is worth thinking about.
Will things get easier if I change how I approach relationships?
When people contemplate a different kind of relationship – such as an open relationship or polyamory – they often imagine that it will solve all of the problems they are currently having. I have called this the “poly grail” (although it happens with all kinds of relationships). Sadly, the answer is that any different way of doing relationships has its own challenges. It’s tough to be in monogamous, it’s tough to be single, and it’s tough to be non-monogamous (whether you do that openly, or secretly in the form of affairs). It’s well worth finding a kind of relationship that works for you, but it’s far too much pressure to expect to find the “one true way” of doing relationships, just as it’s too much pressure to expect to find “the one” partner who will fulfil all your needs.
How do I go about finding the kind of relationship that works for me?
Instead of searching for the perfect relationship, it’s helpful to figure out what is important to us, and to communicate that. For example, where do you stand between wanting just one very close person in your life and wanting lots of friends or partners who are equally close? What about between sexual exclusivity and having many sexual encounters (online or offline)? Is it important to have a clear, agreed contract for how you do relationships, or for everyone to be free to make their own decisions? Do you like to be private or are you keen to share everything with partners? Communication won’t resolve all the differences we have in relationships, but it definitely helps to be open about such things from the start and to accept that people can feel very differently about them.
How do I get over him?
Slowly. It isn’t a linear process; you might feel better today than you did yesterday, but tomorrow could be A Bad Day, and that’s all right. You’re not failing because you are “off schedule” with the grieving process of ending a relationship. Date yourself for a while instead. Put on your brightest lipstick and head on out to interact with the world – even when you don’t feel like it. That’s when you need it most. Know that sometimes the most courageous thing you can do is continue to put one foot in front of the other, day after day, until you hurt a little less. You’ll get there. I did.
How can I deal with the pressure from my parents to give them grandkids?
My favourite way to handle this is to say, simply and without guilt: “I’m still becoming the mother I need to be for my unborn children.” I’m pretty zero tolerance with my own parents on the matter: it’s incredible how awful an off-hand comment about next door’s new grandson can make us feel. Don’t give in to it. We’re all doing the best we can, and if comments about ticking clocks get too much you can also try: “You’re hurting my feelings.” Most mums shut up sharpish then. This also works with frenemies and snarky colleagues, on an array of offensive subjects.
The sex we’re having is crap, but I really like him. How can I make it better?
This is way more common that you might think. What not to do is shag somebody else to get your rocks off. I’m an advocate of exploring what works rather than lingering on what doesn’t: the better something feels, the more I would emphasise it to my partner. For example, “I love it when you touch me there”, is the kind of positive reinforcement that means you will, indeed, get touched there again. Working through bad sex is a process, so it’s important that you both feel safe and unthreatened. The biggest turn-off imaginable is hearing: “You’re rubbish at this.” But telling your partner that you want to make them feel good, and how they can make you feel good, opens up an honest, natural dialogue about satisfying each other’s needs without upset. Added bonus? Talking about sex is great foreplay.
Justin Hancock is a sex educator working with young people over 14. He blogs at bishuk.com.
How can I have sex and it not hurt?
Sadly, I deal with this type of question a lot. One of the reasons for this is the myths that poor sex education feeds: “First-time sex always hurts so just do it anyway”; “If you find the right person, it will all be fine”; or “Sex = penetration”. I ask the young people I work with to think about what kind of sex they actually want rather than what they think they should have (if any). I talk about negotiation and consent with practical suggestions (as well as acknowledging the barriers). I also teach them some basic anatomical information about arousal, for instance how the vagina stretches deep inside, how important lubrication is (for all kinds of sex) and how erections work (for the penis and clitoris).
We had mutual masturbation and we’re worried about pregnancy
There is a lack of nuance when it comes to teaching about fertility which means that many young people worry about pregnancy risks even when there are next to none. So I often get emails from panicking young couples who worry that some seriously magic sperm may have got through someone’s underwear or that pre-ejaculatory fluid found its way on to someone’s thigh. If someone ejaculated semen on to their hand which they immediately put inside their partner’s vagina then there could be a risk of pregnancy (smaller than that for penis-in-vagina sex), but other than that the risks are nearly none. However, this often doesn’t stop young people worrying about it. This may be due to additional general anxieties or the absence of anyone to talk to about sex in real life.
Is my penis/vulva normal?
Questions about genitals are common and they often relate to their appearance rather than function, particularly penis and labia size. Often young people are comparing themselves with what they see in porn (which is often more diverse than people give it credit for), and this can lead to anxiety that their genitals don’t look “normal”. However young people don’t really get to see other “real-life” genitals, so they have little to compare with. I explain that although there are average sizes and shapes, there is also a broad range. I focus more on the function of genitals and how they feel. Challenging the idea of “normal” and also pointing out how similar the penis and clitoris are can be helpful. And it’s more inclusive for people with DSD (disorder of sex development).
Last night, I drunkenly did something shockingly out of character, possibly something involving up to three sailors. It was hot, but should I tell my boyfriend?
In this mixed-up world, where hot sailors and cocktails coexist, there are occasionally times where caution is thrown to the wind in favour of a brilliant sexy time. Unfortunately, when the hangovers lift and the sailors have returned to the SS Gaultier, you are left thinking about Graham, your pleasant boyfriend, who might not be cool with this. You may also have to address the issue that your current relationship might not be as fulfilling for you as you would like it to be.
If you’re worried about gnawing guilt, then honesty is probably best, and you will just have to deal with the consequences. Indeed, Graham might be interested in opening up the relationship, resulting in a sexual voyage of discovery for you both. Or he might chuck you. Either way, be sensitive to the idea that it may take him a while to process, and avoid buying any food featuring Captain Birdseye on the packet in the meantime.
I am a financially independent, self-actualised woman with a winning smile. Why do men keep sending me pictures of their penis on dating sites?
It’s not you. It really isn’t. Since the dawn of time, men have been consumed by the desire to demonstrate their virility. Show me a prehistoric cave without a crude painting of a knob, and I’ll show you a Kardashian with a sense of self-awareness. It’s a primal urge, then, but fortunately most men are evolved enough to keep it in their pants at least long enough to shake your hand first.
Of course, there are still some neanderthals around, and if you find yourself on the receiving end of an unsolicited cock pic on a dating site, then don’t engage, just report and then block the user. It’s also wise to keep yourself safe generally on dating sites; use a pseudonym and don’t give out any information on a public profile that’s too specific. And guys, unless your penis somehow resembles Ryan Gosling’s face, I can guarantee no girl wants to see it unsolicited. Stop it. Really.
I really like this girl at work, but I’m not quite sure how to broach the subject. She always seems interested when I talk to her, but I’ve heard she has a boyfriend. Should I send her a picture of my penis?
Firstly, no, you should definitely not send her a picture of your penis, as that would definitely constitute sexual harassment in the workplace, plus it’s creepy and weird and just … no (see above). But if you genuinely like this girl, then the only thing you can really do is screw your courage to the sticking point and ask her if she would like to go for a coffee. Or a drink. Or combine the two with an espresso martini.
But think about it carefully before you do – there is a strong chance your feelings won’t be reciprocated (especially if she does, indeed, have a boyfriend), and you’ll probably have to see her on a daily basis afterwards. Essentially, you have to ask yourself: “Am I prepared to hide under my desk every time she goes to use the photocopier?” If the answer is yes, then go for it, my friend.
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