Q: I have been with my boyfriend for about three years. He's in his 40s and I'm in my 20s, and we love each other very much. I have one problem: When something is bothering him, he just shuts down and won't talk to me. We are talking about marriage, but I'm worried. What should I do?
Steve: This is an evolution problem. Men, being further behind on the evolutionary scale in communication skills, are far less likely than women to resolve problems through talk. Often, chopping a cord of wood or running five miles will do the trick. Nevertheless, it's important that a married couple discuss what's bothering them. Ask what you can do to make it more comfortable for him to share his problems.
Mia: Being able to work though your problems is crucial for a successful marriage. Given that your boyfriend is older, I wonder if he's had some bad experiences in the past, or if he just never really learned how to communicate. Either way, I think a couple of sessions with a therapist might be helpful. You guys need a safe space to work on this.
Q: My girlfriend and I have been together for three years, and as soon as I get the money, I am going to propose. Our sex life is good, but I would prefer it more often. Recently she brought up the idea of going to a swingers club. Although I wouldn't mind having sex with other women, I don't want other men having sex with her. Now I worry that she wants to do this because she's not satisfied with me. Should I take her desire as a sign she's not satisfied? How open should I be about this?
Mia: Be careful what you wish for, eh? If you're really worried about this, then you need to talk to your girlfriend. She may be proposing this because she thinks it's what you want. Talk about what you both want out of your sex life and think about ways to make it better together without bringing other people into the equation.
Steve: Communication is the key to good sex. Ask her directly about why she suggested swinging. Tell her how it makes you feel. If you're considering marriage, being honest and straight with each other is a basic requirement.
Q: My boyfriend and I have been together for seven years. We're both in our mid-30s, have bought a house together and are very happy. But I want us to get married, and he doesn't see the point. He thinks we have everything a married couple has, and he hates what he calls "cookie-cutter commercial weddings." We don't want to have kids, but I really want to be married. How do I get him to come around?
Mia: This is the point where Steve might quote "You Can't Hurry Love," or some such oldie. But it doesn't really apply here. This guy has been with you for years and wants a quasi-married life; he just doesn't want to be married or have a wedding. Maybe you could get married in a less traditional way. Go away to Europe with a few family members and friends, or go somewhere just the two of you. Try to work together on this.
Steve: Actually, Mia, this is where I quote Peter Pan:
"I won't grow up,
I don't want to wear a tie.
And a serious expression
In the middle of July.
And if it means I must prepare
To shoulder burdens with a worried air,
I'll never grow up, never grow up, never grow up
Not me . . ."
Every man feels like Peter at one time or another, but nearly all of us grow up anyway. Some, alas, never do. You might have to fly away to find what you want. *