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Flirty politics

There's this very sexy girl in my new boyfriend's circle of friends who flirts with all the guys. They all play along, including my boyfriend, who doesn't do this with other girls. Because he's basically shy, I wonder if something's going on. Whenever I ask, he says he can't imagine her ever being more than a friend, yet I'm still bothered to the point of obsession. Today, I brought it up again, hoping to keep something from happening between them, but also looking for reassurance. He got angry, and said I'm the one creating tension between us. Should I have to apologize for my feelings? Is it too much to ask that my boyfriend stop flirting? -- Threatened

Theft-plagued retailers could learn a thing or two from you. Why wait for a customer to stuff a can of hairspray and a box of Wheat Thins down her nylons? Arrest her for shoplifting before she even enters the drugstore! The same goes for a variety of societal ills, like drunk driving. Forget making the police patrol the highways for cars doing figure-eights over the median -- just have them bust people in liquor stores for asking directions to the Chardonnay!

Ooh, your boyfriend flirted with a girl! (As opposed to, what, nominating himself for group wussyboy by bowing out on account of a girlfriend gag order?) Don't discount your role in this. Having a girlfriend probably is what freed the shy guy up to play Mr. Semi-Suave, flinging back quips from the safety of his committed relationship. Without his official unavailability as a buffer, chances are the mere thought of flirting would cause him to disintegrate into a mound of crumbs. Come on, is this really such a threat? It's not like you opened your shower door one morning and found him in there with Hussy Galore: "Honey, you remember Tiffany?"

So, you have insecurities. That doesn't mean you should release them like a shoebox of field mice into your relationship. Take a moment to review your objective. Is it making a man want you, or making a man want to escape? Right now, your boyfriend probably feels like a cornered ferret staring up at the Animal Control lady -- when he's done nothing more animal than letting the uni-flirt fluff his ego. In the words of lyric poet John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten), "You got a problem/ The problem is you."

Making a relationship last is like selling a car. I bought my Honda Insight hybrid because the salesman convinced me I was getting great wheels at a fair price, not because he chased me down Dealer Row, screaming that I'd better not even look at a Prius. You can't berate a man into loving you. Should your boyfriend want to be with somebody else, there's nothing you can do to change that. What you do need to worry about is whether he's ethical. If he isn't, move on. If he is, let him be. You can get a good guy, but you can't get a perfect guy. Efforts to micromanage a good guy into the perfect guy will eventually turn him into a gone guy.

The best defense is no offense at all -- simply being the most fun person your boyfriend possibly could spend an evening with, in or out of bed. (You might also keep in mind that "commitment" is not Swahili for "license to dress like you just rolled out of a dumpster.") When you need a reminder that fencing a guy in is the problem, not the solution, note the difference between prison and the Playboy Mansion, where the issue isn't making men stay, but convincing them to leave.

At his beck and stall

The guy I started seeing was just out of a long relationship, so I waited two months to ask the dreaded, "What are we?" He wasn't sure what he wanted. A month later, after spending almost every night together (without him ever sweet-talking me or making moves on me), I asked again. He said he cares for me, but still isn't comfortable calling us a couple. Do I have to blow him off to finally make him come around? -- Detained

No, you have to blow him off to finally answer the dreaded, "What's beneath my dignity?" Apparently, staying in a relationship that resembles being on endless hold for computer support has yet to make your list. It isn't wrong to hope that a man will resolve his emotional issues -- providing you pass the time by dating other people, not by keeping a vigil at his side. Guys want what they can chase, not what sits around waiting to be wanted. For future reference, "What aren't we?" is a much better question than "What are we?" -- which is something people only ask when they already know the answer. In this case, it's "Working our way up from a distant wave to a perfunctory handshake goodnight."

Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave, No. 280, Santa Monica, CA 90405, or e-mail AdviceAmy@aol.com (advicegoddess.com).

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