Surviving Feb. 14

Q: What are people who are not coupled supposed to do for the first two weeks of February? Hide our heads in the sand? Stick them in the oven? Every ad I see, read or hear is about spending money on your sweetheart for things from diamonds to chocolates. It's getting so I hate the color red! Surely I'm not the only uncoupled person in the universe, but everything is conspiring to make me feel that way. Can't you start a campaign or something?

A: You have my absolute sympathy — as do non-Christians during the Christmas season and atheists every time U.S. currency passes through their hands. Our nation may be a melting pot, but does the majority ever rule when it comes to commercialism. I don't think there has been a February since I've been writing this column that I haven't published a similar letter. Buy yourself some flowers or silky undies and rejoice in being able to eat crackers in bed and snore without apology. There are some definite advantages to the single state. Count them.

Q: I am madly in love and am scheduled to marry the (almost) man of my dreams. He is lovely to behold, smart, funny and altruistic to the point of saintliness. We've been doing the cohabitation thing for about three years. Not counting a smattering of spats about housecleaning, this has provided for a mostly idyllic existence ... minus (no surprise here) the sex. We are both in our mid-30s. If I recall correctly, this would mean I am at my so-called sexual peak, while Let's-Call-Him-Fred is well past his. When we first started seeing each other six years ago, we had mind-blowing, screaming, thrashing, dripping sex every time we were together. Let's-Call-Him-Fred had a perpetual hard-on and I, the female equivalent. My female equivalent is still raging; but now that we live together, if I'm lucky, we have sex once a month. I understand that after time relationships settle into a kind of post-honeymoon normalcy, and that often it's the wife who feels her needs being ignored while the husband starts screwing younger women or develops a lusty relationship with the TV. Fred and I have talked many, many hours about this. He says he's sorry, but he's just too in love with the "cute, childlike" side of me that he's gotten to know over the years. Indeed, sex with me now feels incestuous to him. I have proposed several alternatives in the hope of enlivening his drive (bringing in other parties, videos, vegetables and other, less-perishable toys); I’ve even suggested we try having an open relationship. I have advocated this latter option because, quite simply, I would get to have my cake (Fred) and eat it too (unlimited amounts of safe sex with people who I am not in love with), while Fred would — should he so desire — get to have unlimited safe sex with women who don't remind him of his sister or cousin or (yuk!) mother. Then, sexually satiated, we'd both get to benefit from the lovey-dovey, cozy-at-home-together stuff that we enjoy so much and, hey, maybe even do it once in a while. But none of these, says Fred, is in his realm of possibilities: "I do not see my desire increasing significantly through any of these means," he says clinically, while an open relationship would just make him jealous. I either get to stay with Fred and put up with the infrequent sex or break up with him. I do not want to leave this man, but I do not relish a life of lonely self-pleasuring either. Are there any statistics on the survival rate for consensual open relationships? When will my "sexual peak" be over, and can I wait that long?

A: His concentrated delight in the cute, childlike side of you just emphasizes his indifference to the lusty grown-up-woman side of you. Unless (let's call him My Way or the Highway instead of) Fred is willing to see what he can do about recharging his libido (a test for testosterone levels and/or herbal vitalizers such as Damiana) and rekindling his lust for you (therapy), I'm afraid it does not look good. Statistics on open relationships is not going to convince Fred it's a good idea for him and, again, other women's peak periods will not help you survive such a desire imbalance. (I'm a lot older than you are and I am definitely still extremely interested.) Unless your "saint" is willing to help you solve this problem and unless you reach some workable arrangement before you marry, I'd caution you not to get hitched. Isadora Alman is a board-certified sexologist and a California-licensed marriage-and-family therapist. Contact her via this paper or [email protected]. Her Sexuality Forum is at

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