Advice from sister-surrogate sages

Having lunch with two friends, both 16 years my senior, we were discussing relationships. They asked about my love life, always wanting an update on the soap opera of my dating situation. One had been married nearly 50 years, the other was a divorcée from a 30-year marriage. I often bounced my relationship dilemmas off them.

I shared I was torn between two really great guys, one of whom I’d been seeing for 5 weeks, the other for 3. Both were generous, affectionate, communicative, tender, intelligent, and successful. The 5-week one had also shown he was reliable, thoughtful about pleasing me, and emotionally mature, but I wasn’t physically drawn to him. He wasn’t unattractive; it was more his kiss and touch didn’t do it for me. The 3-week man also displayed some of the same positive characteristics, but since we hadn’t spent as much time together, the evidence was less apparent. But I got goose bumps with his touch and kiss. We definitely had chemistry.

I was wondering if it was right to keep seeing the 5-week guy since I didn’t have the same physical reaction to him. Was I being fair to him? Would I grow to get excited by his touch? Should I let him loose and focus on the one who got my blood boiling? Or should I continue to see both a bit longer and see if one emerged as the clear front runner?

wisdomMy two sages offered their input.

The longer-married one began: “After a while, the physical part of a relationship wanes, no matter how hard you try. If you have to choose between a good man and a hot one — at least for the long term — always choose the one who treats you the best. The hottie may be good for a tryst, but sex appeal is not the primary basis on which to build a relationship.”

The other chimed in, “Yes, passion fades, but respect, kindness, and emotional maturity are more likely to stay intact. If you’re looking to stop dating around and settle down, focus on the one who shows more solid character, even if you’re less drawn to him physically.”

“But,” I protested, “if I can’t get excited about him physically, how will that bode for the relationship? In the beginning if one isn’t pulled to a man, can you learn to be passionate toward him?”

“Do you think he’s teachable? Could he learn how you like to be kissed and touched?” asked the 50-year veteran.

“Yes, I believe he would want to learn. He does seem interested in pleasing me.”

The divorcée added, “You can be swept off your feet by passion. It is exhilarating. But it often blinds us to the lack of other important criteria by which to make a long-term decision. Yes, ideally your future mate and you will have passion for many, many years. But the relationship should be grounded on mutual respect, caring, kindness, and wanting to make each other happy — not only in the bedroom, but in general.”

The long-married friend capped the conversation with, “Dear, you’ve only just begun to get to know these men. You don’t have to choose at this juncture. Just enjoy having two great guys in your life, be respectful of their feelings, and when the time is right, it will be clear which one should get your focus. Or maybe neither of these is the right one for you. Have a good time while being mindful of not doing or saying things that make them think you are focused on one exclusively.”

These surrogate big sisters served thoughts to chew on as we nibbled our lunch. Having their 80+ years of relationship wisdom in which to marinate my thoughts was the seasoning I was looking for.

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7 responses to “Advice from sister-surrogate sages”

  1. nysharon Avatar

    They have good insight but every time I tried to continue when I didn’t feel “pulled to a man” as time went on it felt empty. Especially if the lack of pull increases with each date or the need for alcohol to feel it. I think the attraction scale should be between 4 and 8. Any thing lower or higher is dangerous. So maybe you need to look at that. AND maybe you are asking this question about man #1 because you are feeling like you are leading him on.

  2. Rod Avatar

    Aw, DG, this one’s easy… invite ’em both to lunch and then pistols at 50 paces. Best shot wins.

    Seriously though, I agree that in the long run I’d want to date someone who treated me with love and respect, even if I didn’t think she was the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen. Besides, as you get to know someone like that its amazing how much their beauty can grow in your eyes. You can build “pull” but you cant build respect, kindness and emotional maturity.

  3. k Avatar

    I’m waiting for it all….

  4. Sassy Avatar

    If the kiss and the touch doesn’t do it for me at the beginning, I think it’s time to stop. After all, passion does wane, but it hardly ever builds. The building part is called falling in love. Of course, this is how I feel. Certainly all people are different. I’m looking for three things in a man: a physical attraction, an emotional connection and an intellectual equal.

  5. sd Avatar

    Here’s some hope regarding Mr 5 weeks:

    My very best gf in the world is…driven… by her hormones, feels the ‘spark’ is critical and pleasing her is paramount in a relationship.

    So, when this non-spark guy who treated her better than even her most secret hopes of love came along and declared he wanted to date her….she consented to dating because they had mutual friends.

    Turns out he ALSO was almost completely inexperienced, so he had zero idea of WHAT to do, let alone HOW to please her!

    Sounds terrible so far, doesn’t it?
    Hang in there….

    Along about 5 months into the sporadic dates (distance relationship of 2-3 hours) and very ho-hum sex she decided it’s time to break it off.
    Yes, she really cares for him; yes, he’s said he loves her; yes, she told him about likely never being able to have babies and he bravely told her he could live with that; yes, he had learned minimally what to do in bed and was willing to try; yes, he was mature, responsible, and faithful and treated her like she was perfect (NOT!).

    But…. well, she’d had SUCH HOT partners in the past, ones that really rocked her boat! And there was this guy she’d met at work that had major ‘sparks’ going on!

    She declares that she is waiting until after the holidays, and at his next visit down to her she would break it to him.
    So his work prevents him from coming for 2 weeks and she doesn’t drive up instead.

    Wait for it…….trust me here…

    And she ‘gets the flu’ and can’t stop throwing up.
    And he tells his boss he simply isn’t working another weekend and drives down in torrential storms to see her and feed her chicken soup and empty the wastebasket hourly, and brave her nutty roommates.

    She feels SOOO bad physically and emotionally about this she doesn’t say a word…

    And after *I* make a joke about how no one else we know has the flu and maybe she’s pregnant, she starts to worry and takes a test-
    Yep, you got it, PLUS SIGN!

    Well, after a long and crazy 3 more months of biting her nails and not breaking up but not telling him, she realizes that maybe, MAYBE she CAN carry to term.

    He goes crazy.

    In a good way.

    Immediately wants to marry her and look for a house big enough for a family to buy.
    Agrees to delay the marriage so she can have ‘the dream wedding’ after the baby.
    Agrees to her staying all those hours away until after the birth so she can keep the doctors and hospital she wants.
    Agrees to live with her two cats, which freaks him out.
    Agrees to anything she wants, in fact.

    She realizes that karma had come and kicked her in the butt for being so shallow and trying to walk away from such a good man, and marries him.

    Now, 2 babies later, she has the kids, the house, the cats, the dog, and the life she always dreamed of but thought she would never find.

    And, yes, never a ‘spark’ per se, but he ‘learned much grasshopper’ and can keep her happy that way (BIG task, trust me!).

    I vote for keeping your own counsel for now, seeing how it goes for at least through the holidays.
    But be honest too.

    After that you should know what you want if they are both in the picture.

  6. greendaze44 Avatar

    For me, the only reason I would even go out with someone is I have to feel some kind of attraction. A man can be drop dead gorgeous, but be a jerk and I don’t want to be around him. A man can be average looking, but is funny or nice or smiles really cute or has a twinkle in his eye, something that makes him unique and he becomes better looking.
    If you still don’t feel a spark after 5 dates, I would say it ain’t gonna get there. When i was younger and desperately wanted to get married I didn’t care if they were any good in bed. Then I also had a relationship with a guy that is still to this day the best I’ve ever been with. I was with him 2 years, but he wasn’t ready to get married, so I moved on. I met my husband a few months later and we were married 2 years later. He seemed to have so many of the qualities I was looking for in a man, and seemed to want to please me. And didn’t show any signs of sexual disfunction. (We usually drank when we went out, so he was partially numb and could last a long time.)
    Well, I just left him after 10 years of marriage and it had gotten to the point that if he even touched me I wanted to throw up. So I feel that the attraction is “VERY” important. Of course there are many other parts of the relationship that made the whole thing unbearable, but that was just an added thing. I bought books to learn about his problem and then he would say it was my fault that I didn’t take enough time to help him. Ugh. On and on.
    Relationships are so hard. The other thing that I realized is very important to me is smell. I love for a man to smell manly and good. (Not overpowering, but good.) My husband stopped wearing cologne b\c he decided it was too expensive. When I tried to buy it for him, he didn’t like it. If I went and bought a perfume for me without him there, he didn’t like it. I love baby powder scent anything, deoderant, perfume, etc. he decided one day after we had been together for years that he didn’t like baby powder scents. I felt totally unattractive.
    Well, as you read this, you can tell that is was a very controlling and power struggle relationship. But, so many things are important in a relationship and I feel that the attraction is a very important one.
    Good decisions to you DG!

  7. Another Ellen Avatar
    Another Ellen

    Gosh, am I the only one who really wants to just LIKE someone? I guess I had enough experience in my 20s and 30s spending the night with “sparks” I struggled to have a conversation with over breakfast. Maybe the nature of spark has changed–it’s no longer entirely physical, but has more to do with emotional, intellectual, psychic connection. Okay, nice flat abs, broad shoulders, and hair (on his head) doesn’t hurt either!