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Ill-Equipped? (Who Isn't?)

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Jennifer Lehr answers your questions about sex, love, and relationships.

QUESTION:

Dear Jennifer,

I recently purchased Arianna Huffington's Becoming Fearless and it has
caused me to examine the relationship I have been in for the past
year. We are both in our early 50's. Several times during the past
year I have caught him posting ads for casual sex on the internet.
When confronted, he claims he does not want to date anyone else, just
me. In this year, we have also done nothing to merge our lives
together and there has never been any discussion of any future life
together.

He will be a hard act to follow because he is just a lot of fun and
full of life. I've been out with many men, but he is the first one
I've really liked in a long time. He is also financially quite
unstable and every relationship with a women he has ever told me about
has always included infidelity on his part. This is sounding worse and
worse. I think he has made it abundantly clear he does not want a
future with me.

I have been lazy about meeting anyone else because I am in process of
starting a business and my time is so limited. My friends tell me I'm
nuts to stick around and I have tried to end the relationship several
times...with out success. I am sure I am wasting my time and wish
someone wonderful would drop from the sky. I am not interested in
living alone for the rest of my life and am sure that when his business
is more stable he will dump me.

I would like to head this situation off at the pass. Do you have any
suggestions for a woman my age meeting a 'nice guy' and how can I end
this relationship before I waste too much more time on it.

Thanks,
Susan

ANSWER:

Susan,

When I was 26 years old, a facialist named Sonya was inspecting the
state of my skin through a very large magnifying glass when she
matter-of-factly said, "Okay, zhere iz prematoor aging around zee
mouse." Meaning of course, my mouth. Fuck. I thought, Now I'm really
going to have to quit smoking.
jennifer smoking.jpg

Ten years of smoking fully aware that it would more than likely lead to
an agonizing death by lung cancer and that's what did it for me--two
small wrinkles that said my collagen was being depleted and that if I
didn't do something quick, my mouth would soon be ruined by those ugly
deep lines that cut into aging lips every two millimeters. My looks
were going to be robbed from me forever.

Do you see what I'm getting at Susan?

The analogy here is that you dating Mr. Fun-and-full-of-life is like me
smoking. It's hard for you to stop dating a guy who you know has a long
history of infidelity, who solicits casual sex on the internet, who is
not interested in a future with you whose finances are a mess.
Similarly, it was hard for me to quit smoking knowing it was killing
me.

After I digested this news from Sonya, I didn't quit right away. I just
thought about it--constantly. This stewing sucked the joy right out of
my favorite activity. And I suspect that now that you've read Ms.
Huffington's inspiring book Becoming Fearless, the revelation that
you're wasting your time has started to suck the fun out of spending
time with Mr. Fun-and-full-of-life. It's not so fun anymore, is it?

After a couple of months of knowing that I was robbing myself of my
looks, I just couldn't take it anymore. I finally quit. I suspect that
you'll reach that breaking point too. Of course I hope it is sooner
than later, because obviously you and everyone else reading this knows
that Mr. Fun is a bad idea. But these things don't happen on other
people's clocks. You'll know when the fun-to-be-with-Mr. Fun-scale has
tipped to no-longer-fun-at-all.

In the meantime, I recommend you spend more time with friends, exercise
as often as possible and work hard at launching your business. Perhaps
getting wrapped up in things that are good for you will help you quit
Mr. Fun-but-wants-to-cheat-and-not-commit.

And as for finding a great guy? I must say that my sister found her
incredible husband on Match.com. My husband's best friend is currently
moving in with a super fun/smart/interesting woman he found on Match as
well. And one of my best friends is dating a really super guy from
Match too. So, I endorse match.com. But, I highly recommend that you
check out the following on my sister's site: "Suzanne Schlosberg's
Really Important Rules For Internet Dating.
"

By the way, it's been ten years since I quit. Besides marrying John and
having my baby, Jules, it's the best thing I've ever done.=

----

About this column:

I called my memoir Ill-Equipped for a Life of Sex because that's exactly how I felt -- ill-equipped . . . not only for a life of sex, but for love and a relationship.

In high school I was a late bloomer and then found myself sleeping with the wrong boys for the wrong reasons. Things got worse in college. Tormented by my lack-of-love life, I endlessly wondered if I'd ever find someone who loved me, who I not only loved but loved sleeping with. It's no surprise that my fancy undergrad and graduate education were of no help when it came to these super-important parts of life. Where was the course on attraction, communication, love, commitment, sex, finances in a relationship?

It took hitting rock bottom at age 28, when I was constantly fighting with John -- the man I loved, with whom I was barely screwing -- to create my own ad hoc Relationships 101. I decided to do whatever it took to make our relationship work. My efforts to equip myself, as it were, landed me in therapy, in double sessions of couples therapy for three years, at a Making Marriage Work class, and in the self-help aisle of the bookstore. Almost ten years later, John and I are still together and I'm relieved to report that I feel pretty well equipped. (But now that I'm a new mom, I have a whole other area to feel ill-equipped about!)

So if you too are feeling ill-equipped, please e-mail me your questions at Jennifer@jenniferlehr.com and I'll do my best to be of some help. I look forward to hearing from you.

-- Jennifer Lehr

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