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Grill Seeker

Have you ever heard of a guy taking a woman on a trip, saying he loved her, and not wanting to be intimate? I’m at least vaguely hot, but the (hot) 30-year-old Ph.D. science professor I was dating lost interest in sex for six weeks. He swore it wasn’t me; he just inexplicably had no libido. We’d been dating then for seven months, during which he was completely stressed, devoting all his time to his career. He’d always said I wanted more than he could give, but he didn’t want to lose me. Well, after five sex-free days on vacation, I called it quits. Regretting this, I tried to retract the breakup. He responded by complaining about getting only six hours of sleep in two days, lecturing nonstop, and being way behind on his grant application. He said he missed me “as a matter of affection, not romance,” and implied I was demanding and needy. I got nasty in return. I guess hearing his feelings had gone from romantic to indifferent set me off! He’s agreed to my request to talk about it this week. I still have two more “feeling questions” for him: When, exactly, did it go from romance to affection, and what’s really the story with the sex thing? Do you think talking about it will help me get him back?

--Verbal Remedy

Before you ask The Professor those “feeling questions,” I would encourage you to consider the stunning lack of porn films adapted from Dostoevsky, Jane Austen, and Henry James. Next, note how few porn films are slammed by critics for being “dialogue heavy.” Hmmm, why would this be? Probably because men generally don’t want to “talk about it,” they just want to see it naked.

Many men will agree to talk about it -- when the alternative is something like being slowly gnawed to death by hamsters. Of course, in men’s minds, whether to be chewed up by hamsters or chewed out by a woman...well, it can be a close call. Judging from the e-mail exchanges you forwarded me, endless chewing out is what went down here: “Why Won’t You Crumple Up That Silly Ph.D. And Love Me The Way I Need To Be Loved!?” The answer? If you love somebody, let him be. If you simply need constant companionship, get a Pekingese small enough to fit in your handbag.

Men are about what they do, not who they’re with. Simulating the South American jail experience and interrogating this man for information he probably doesn’t have will not change that. Not needing him to be the vending machine for your self-worth -- well, that would be a start. At the very least, it would keep you from hammering him about how inadequate he is at meeting your crushing needs. Hmm, just a guess, but could that have been part of the stress contributing to Mr. Stiffy getting all sulky and refusing to come out and play?

Getting tweaked because The Prof’s feelings have changed makes about as much sense as exploding into a rage because somebody doesn’t like spinach. Chances are, their dislike isn’t a conspiracy to spite you or The Spinach Lobby; it’s merely a point of fact. The facts, in your case, might have turned out differently if only you’d made the relationship fun. Fun is somewhat hard to define, but it tends to involve a minimum of stress and pressure -- probably just what a sleep-rationed assistant professor with way too much on his plate needs. Well, that and a smiling girlfriend who gives him a pillow as a present and says, “Have your way with this, and when you’re done, come to me for sloppy seconds!”

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.