Flattery got him somewhere

Dr. Daley on Sex and Relationships

Flattery got him somewhere

photo / Dusty Davidson 

Dear Dr. Daley: Okay, I have a confession: I’m dating someone because he flattered me. We started out as friends – we both had a history class together last semester – and on one of the last days of class, he told me I was the smartest, funniest, and most beautiful, amazing, talented girl he’d ever met and that he’d very much like to date me. I said yes, but I don’t find him attractive at all. I just really like the nice things he says to me. But here’s the thing: So far we’ve only been out three times, and every time we’ve made out (three times), I’ve gotten really sick the day after. Sore throat, headache, fatigue, nausea, you name it.

And, no, I’m not lying about what we did – I swear, all we did was kiss for about 30 minutes. What is going on? Is this some kind of weird karma payback?

Hoooowaahhhshhhbrrrbrrrbrrugh! Your letter has given me flashbacks like I haven’t had since the late ’70s! I married my second husband because he flattered me! (And also because he had certain talents, which are none of your business.) During his lengthy pursuit, I even told him I didn’t find him attractive. His response was, “So?” Wow, was that a match made in Purgatory!

I don’t think it has to be “weird karma payback” when your body is telling you something you are trying not to hear. After all, think about all those guys who get into a big struggle when Mr. Stiffy fails to show up. They breathe hard, they pant, they rub that thing red, they try to stick it in when it’s as flaccid as the last scene of a really stupid porn flick. Why don’t they just accept the fact that maybe their penis is trying to tell them something? Like RUN AWAY! RUN AWAY!

Flattery is nice. Being wanted is nice. Having a fan is nice. These yummy things are just not enough. To fall in love with the way someone loves you is an interesting kind of a trap. What if you change? What if he changes? What if reality insists upon rearing its ugly head? What if someone can worship you but not really like you at all? And what if that someone smells bad, or eats with their mouth open, or dedicates his first book on fatalism (which you typed) to his dog?

Your body is telling you that you just don’t like this guy in a way that promotes a deep (i.e. genuine) love relationship. Making out with him flies in the face of everything you truly value about intimacy and mutual liking. He worships you, you love how he worships you, and that’s about it. This level of conflict is making you sick.

Love is great and romantic and all that, but I think you need liking just as much. Liking makes sex yummy and the day-to-day of life a source of joy and laughter. When you like somebody, your heart always beats faster when their car pulls up, and you are glad to hand them a Kleenex, and you don’t mind stopping at the store after a long day at work, and you are as happy when good things happen to them as you would be if they happened to you. When you just love somebody, on the other hand, you can also hate them and leave their clothes to wrinkle at the bottom of the basket when you pull stuff out of the dryer. Or have lots of affairs because worship turns out to be pretty cheap and boring and inauthentic. When someone worships you, the real you ceases to exist. You’re a dream, an icon, a figment.

By all means, if you think this guy or this relationship may be worth pursuing, feel free to take a step back, spend lots of time with him, quit making out, and see if the next few months produce a shift in your feelings toward him. Talk about all this with him. Tell him you want him to treat you like a real person: challenge your flaws, question your decisions, scold your spending habits, get frustrated with your messy ways – all that reality stuff. See what happens. There are those who believe that if sexual chemistry isn’t there from the get-go, the relationship isn’t worth trying for. I, however, think chemistry can develop alongside feelings of trust and fondness you find quite surprising. Either way, you can’t force the issue. These feelings develop, or they don’t.

If history hasn’t taught us anything, it should have taught us that it’s a short trip from the pedestal to the pyre (Cf. Jean D’Arc). It should have taught all of us would-be goddesses to wait for more.

About the author Dr. Nancy Daley is a licensed psychologist and adjunct assistant professor who teaches Human Sexuality at The University of Texas at Austin. If you would like to submit questions for her to answer in this column, please send them to drdaley at thatotherpaper dot com.

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Anonymous's picture

Uhh are you seriously saying that making out with someone you aren’t that attracted to is going to cause you some crazy latent nausea and sore throat action a whole day later? Where did you get your degree? Duck Pond University? Quack Quack. No wonder psychologists get a bad name.