Read as much as you want on BostonGlobe.com, anywhere and anytime, for just 99¢.

Love Letters

He’s afraid to get physical

Q.I am a 55-year-old widow and I met a 50-year-old guy online. We had an emotional relationship from the start. We talk and text constantly and he always tells me how much he loves and cares for me and how he hasn’t felt this way in a long time.

He has had his struggles with alcohol and went from being a productive, home-owning member of society to living in a halfway house. He has his own place again and is doing well, but I wonder if his past life has traumatized him — because there is no physical intimacy. Just a quick peck after two months. He likes to walk and hold my hand, but that’s about all.

Continue reading below

I let him know that I am hurt by what I perceive as a lack of interest on his part, and he says that he is nervous and that having sex will take it to the next level. I just don’t understand why he doesn’t want to sleep with me.

A.He’s saying “I love you,” but he doesn’t want to take it to the next level? Honestly, Misunderstood, it sounds like he just wants a friend, at least for right now. But you want more, and you have to prioritize your own needs.

My advice is to make some very specific requests. As in, “Will you trying kissing me right now?” Or, “I thought we’d try a sleepover on Friday. It doesn’t have to lead to sex, but it’d be nice to sleep in the same room.” If he won’t — or can’t — do these things, you have to go back online and do some more fishing.

You went on a dating website to find a romantic partner, not a platonic (but loving) companion. I’m all for taking things slow and having empathy, but he’s not giving you any indication that he’ll get beyond this. He’s just not ready.

Ask questions, and if you don’t get what you need, please walk. You’re looking for physical intimacy. There is nothing wrong with that, and it’s out there.

Readers? Should she be patient with this guy? If so, for how long? What is he doing? Should she give him a break because of his past? What about their emotional connection? Help.

READERS RESPOND:

If you’re looking for a physical relationship, this doesn’t sound like the one. . . . It sounds like a friendship. If you like this man, talk to him about it. If he doesn’t want to get physical and you do, this isn’t the relationship for you.

My thoughts exactly, she’s a widow who wants to have passion in her life and she should find out right away if this person is a fit for her. My only advice to the letter writer is to realize that not everyone’s drives or urges are the same, but that doesn’t mean she should tolerate it.

This guy is still reeling from all of his own issues. Unless you are willing to go at his snail’s pace, I don’t think this is the man for you. It sounds like you are settling because you are maybe lonely. Don’t.

Clearly he’s telling you he’s not ready for a physical or serious relationship. Listen to him. You can’t force someone to be ready for something. You’re not on the same page, and you can’t nudge his timeline. He’s being honest with you, honor that.

Two months isn’t really that long. Can’t you just enjoy the relationship for now and see where it goes? If it makes you feel better, you can put some online feelers out — there’s no law against dating more than one man at a time. I would not pressure this guy though/ . . . Imagine if this letter were reversed and it was a woman reeling from a series of life events who was dating a man for two months who was getting tired of waiting for sex.

Forget the sleepover. If you are happy to keep him as a friend, go ahead, but let him know that although you value his friendship you are looking for more and are going to start dating other people. Don’t take this personally. It shouldn’t hurt your feelings that he doesn’t want a physical relationship. It has nothing to do with you.

You know, I’ve only been with one woman for the past 25 years and I can’t say that I wouldn’t be worried about getting it on with someone new. Probably not the frightened puppy that this guy is, but he may be really worried about being embarrassed by his performance. Especially if he and his last partner were very “idiosyncratic” in their routines, and he’s concerned about getting aroused in another way, or he may just be worried that he’s going to embarrass himself in front of a woman whose approval is really important to him.

Ordinarily I would say “He’s just not that into you,” however, at his age, with a history of alcohol abuse, it could very well be a medical issue that he is embarrassed about: Perhaps he can’t perform? Or perhaps he isn’t as back on his feet as you think he is, and doesn’t want to you to know. There are just so many things here that it could be besides that he isn’t interested in you that way. The key I think is to open the conversation, let him know what you want, and make sure to be understanding with him so that he can be honest with you if it is something he might be embarrassed to talk about.

He is afraid that sex will lead to commitment. I would suggest that you tell him what sex means to you. Does it mean some type of commitment? Marriage? Being “there” for you when he is trying to be “there” for himself? If you can offer him sex without there truly being any strings or expectations attached, he may jump in with you.

Yup. He told you why. You just don’t like the answer. Move on to the next fish in the pond. It sounds like this guy has some major baggage anyway . . . the kind that the airlines charge extra for, because it’s too heavy.

This column and reader comments are edited and reprinted from www.boston.com/love
letters.Meredith
Goldstein can be reached at mgoldstein@
globe.com
. She chats online Wednesday at 1 p.m.
Loading comments...
Subscriber Log In

You have reached the limit of 5 free articles in a month

Stay informed with unlimited access to Boston’s trusted news source.

  • High-quality journalism from the region’s largest newsroom
  • Convenient access across all of your devices
  • Today’s Headlines daily newsletter
  • Subscriber-only access to exclusive offers, events, contests, eBooks, and more
  • Less than 25¢ a week
Marketing image of BostonGlobe.com
Marketing image of BostonGlobe.com