The Non-Expert

Illustration by Jennifer Daniel

What You Gave Me

Experts answer what they know. The Non-Expert answers anything. This week, we partner with the Association for the Betterment of Sex to help three readers with their love quandaries.

Have a question? Need some advice? Ignored by everyone else? Send us your questions via email. The Non-Expert handles all subjects and is written by a member of The Morning News staff.

 

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This week’s Non-Expert desk is being staffed by TMN Contributing Writer Todd Levin and two of his co-authors from Sex: Our Bodies, Our Junk, Jason Roeder and Mike Sacks.

Question: Is love really worth it? How do you know it’s true? —Megan

Answer: Is love really worth it, Megan? First answer us this: Is a beautiful sunset worth the blind darkness that follows? Is the delicious pleasure of an orgasm worth the assortment of pipe clamps, jig lures, and crème brulée torches required to bring you to climax? Was it worth suffering through 11 dreadful years of M*A*S*H for two exquisite seasons of AfterMASH? The answer is yes, yes, emphatically, yes!

However, it’s the second, less idiotic part of your question that really intrigues us. It used to be that people believed love could only be detected by burning lovers at a stake and studying the color of the flame. Of course, this barbaric practice ended in the late 1970s, and now we know true love also manifests itself with more subtlety. It can be measured by certain physiological changes, such as a radiant flush in one’s skin, or the appearance of glitter in your stool.

True love also manifests itself through sudden and specific cognitive behavioral modifications—or sudspecogbevmodificats, for short. Often, these are barely perceptible changes in your normal behavior. Take note: Have you recently changed brands of dijonnaise lately, or decided you need more white friends? Have you found yourself standing in the middle of Radio Shack, suddenly unable to make a simple and obvious choice between a Crimp-On RG-59 “F” Connector or Crimp-On RG-6 “F” Connector? If so, congratulations—you’re probably in love.

Of course, there is an even more commonsense approach to determining if your love is bona fide: trust. Letting go of one’s petty insecurities about the “status” of a relationship is both a sign of maturity and conviction. That means biting your lip upon discovering his secret second cell phone, or even his third cell phone—the one with a Thai keyboard. And if you honestly feel you can’t depend on your faith alone, you can always inspect your stool for glitter. Happy hunting!




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Question: OK Look, When my husband and I started dating and then getting serious, we always said “I love you forever, I love you all over, I love you:” With big words. Lately though, when I ask how much do you love me, he says I love you alot. I don’t think the word Alot is adequate, not for me anyway. We had an Argument over it. He sees nothing wrong with the word, it just not a word I use to describe my love for him… Tell me what you think.

Kind Regards,
Sherry

Answer: Your feelings are understandable. In everyday life, “a lot” often satisfies us. We’re generally pretty happy if we have a lot of friends or if our Popeyes fried chicken franchise gets a lot of foot traffic from the construction workers building those condos two blocks down. But most of us like to think of love in superlative terms, and “a lot” feels unnervingly qualified.

In bed, are his caresses conducted via a mannequin hand on the end of a pool skimmer?It seems like your husband reacted rather defensively when you attempted to discuss his diction, and I wonder if, upon reflection, anything has changed. Does he seem more aware of his thoughtlessness or is he still exasperatingly halfhearted? E.g., “I love you enough to fill most of this paint can,” “My love for you is respectable but still vulnerable to the filibuster unless we get Olympia Snowe on board,” etc. It might be time for another conversation because there’s a good chance something’s going on.

But before you do that, take an inventory of other aspects of your relationship. If there’s a deeper issue in play, it’s probably manifesting itself in other ways. If you still go out on “dates,” is your husband attentive and flirty, or disengaged and tense, complaining that he’s tired or feels like a Hessian conscript in your company? In bed, are his caresses as loving as they’ve ever been or are they stiff, perhaps even conducted via a mannequin hand screwed on to the end of a pool skimmer?

I mention these bigger-picture concerns because when the time comes to confront your husband, there’s a good chance he’ll accuse you of splitting hairs about vocabulary again in order to avoid the bigger issues. Be ready.




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Question: She calls me baby, she told me she loves me, she cant stop contacting me, she kisses me, she says she gets aroused just being in my presence, and she wishes sometimes she was my wife, but she’s married… Does she really love me? —Corey

Answer: In cases like this—tricky cases with possible negative outcomes—it might be best to go straight to the source. In this case, the woman’s husband. Show up at his workplace or, better yet, accompany him on a weeklong trip to the mountains, as he hunts for wild game. Pull him aside, preferably before things get too uncomfortable, and talk to him. But really talk to him. “May I ask you a personal question about your wife?” is a good way to start. Another option: “We’re both men, right? With sexual needs? Put down the gun for a second. We’re about to do some serious conversin.’”

With that out of the way, delve into the deepest of personal issues. How is this man’s sex life? Are there any major problems that you should know about? Let’s face it: All men have, at one point or another, an “off” month or year. Again, have him put down that gun.

It’s time to dialogue your way through this. Maybe you could even both cook a simple dinner of baked beans and then participate in a round of trust games?

Now is your time to break through the wall of shyness and masculinity and caress the unyielding face of this stranger. He is all that stands before you and your future lover, but can’t you all be winners? You with a new girlfriend, him with a new best buddy? Have you ever heard the phrase “a rising tide lifts all boats?” How about “baked beans and trust games equal friendship?”

Success is up to you. Do not fail.

OK, we’ve just noticed that you had another question at the bottom of your email—something about the correct way to rid bedbugs from your grandmother’s retirement condo. According to our informal studies—and, really, this is just personal observation—a quick shpritz of Lysol or aerosol antiperspirant should do the trick just fine.