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That ‘N Sync-ing Feeling

Last year, my boyfriend moved from 300 miles away to live with me. We’ve been together for three years, and I absolutely adore him. Recently, he started a new job, and he acts like he wants me to have nothing to do with his work world. I’ve found some suspicious things, including a page in his notebook with some coworker’s name written all over it in big bubble letters. When I confronted him, he said he was just doodling; he barely speaks to this girl. She’s no threat looks-wise, but I’m still concerned. He goes out after work with his coworkers, and never invites me along. He’s pushing me to go out with my girlfriends more than ever. Also, our sex life has become almost nonexistent. If I ask him about this stuff, he gets angry and defensive. I know this man loves me, and I can’t imagine he would have uprooted his whole life if he were just going to cheat on me...would he?

--Bubble In Paradise

Doodling somebody’s name in big bubble letters in one’s notebook is totally normal behavior -- for a girl in seventh grade with a thousand-pound crush on Justin Timberlake. The next thing you know, your boyfriend will be decorating his power drill with sparkly stickers and stashing Hello Kitty mini-pads in his wallet. His regression is, indeed, cause for concern, as it could indicate the presence of an ‘N Sync-playing tumor pressing on his brain. Chances are, however, that a brain scan will reveal only a girlfriend pressing on his freedom.

Ideally, the guidelines for successful togetherness follow the guidelines for successful cologne application: spritzing on just enough to say, “I washed recently,” as opposed to “Gas the populace.” The goal, obviously, is getting people thinking sensual thoughts about you, not fantasizing about hosing you down.

When applying yourself to a relationship, you should lean more toward simulating unrequited love than personifying soapy buildup. The goal, obviously, is making the person long for you, not making them long to exfoliate you. Please note: Somebody longs for you when you’re stranded in the Baltics, not when you’re off on a rare trip alone to the corner 7-11.

This brings us to what’s missing from your relationship; namely, 300 miles separating you from your boyfriend. Now, maybe you don’t need to put a plane ticket between you. You do need to recognize that uninterrupted togetherness is the death rattle of romance. Don’t believe me? Just rewrite a little fiction: Let’s see...Romeo and Juliet get together and move into a tract house in the suburbs, just down the block from Heathcliff and Cathy, Rick and Ilsa, Carrie and Mr. Big. (“Romeo, Romeo...where are the trash can liners?”)

Stop expecting your boyfriend to be your everything. He’s a man, not a mall. And you’re a girlfriend, not a mind-reader. If he still loves you and wants to be with you, he needs to start forming words about what’s bothering him and inserting them into your ears. If he can’t do his part, ask him to go in with you on hiring somebody to fish the words out of him. It’s your best shot at turning the clock back to “Can’t Get Enough Of Your Love” from “can’t figure out how to get you deported.” Then again, why stop the clock three years ago? There’s much to be said for going back to a little seventh-grade fun -- Spin The Bottle, Truth Or Dare, and Strip Twister -- much more than can be said for boring grownup games like “Seven Million Minutes In The Closet” and “With This Ring I Thee Weld.”

Copyright ©2003, Amy Alkon, from her syndicated column, "The Advice Goddess," which appears in over 100 papers across the U.S. and Canada. All rights reserved.