Today is the 12th anniversary of Love Letters. The traditional 12th anniversary gift is silk. Do with that what you will.
I plan to celebrate with wine and flannel pajamas later, but here are some requests: I'd love to hear from new commenters today. Come up with a name. Weigh in. Broaden our world for kicks. Also, old-school commenters from the first years, pop in if you can. Say hello. Give some advice.
But mostly, send your own relationship question to [email protected] today or this weekend. You can also use this form. This column is its own weird empathy library – a place where people with even the smallest questions can feel like they're not alone. Do you want to know about dating during/after a pandemic? About how your marriage might change when we can go outside? About committing during this weird time? Send your letter. We're ready to read.
My husband and I have been together for about 10 years now, and from the beginning, he's been a terrible kisser. He was really sexually inexperienced when we met, and I thought that over time he'd learn to kiss me the way I want, but that hasn't happened. His kissing technique is a huge turnoff for me – so much so that I avoid kissing him during sex. The problem is that he has confidence issues in bed and if I tell him I don't like something, he takes it personally and mopes. So I've tried to frame my feedback in a positive way – praising the stuff I like, but it hasn't stuck.
I feel like a broken record and I'm also just so frustrated and worry we're not compatible. I've even considered affairs. The kissing example is just one of many things he does that bother me, and I'm not sure how to tell him that the stuff he's been doing for 10 years now just isn't working without him feeling like a failure. All I want to do is be honest! I just want a good sex life and I want to talk about what I want in bed without him moping around like a sad sack. I find a lack of confidence a huge turnoff, too, so it's a self-perpetuating problem. What to do here?
– Turned Off
Many good sex columnists have written great takes about what to do with bad kissers. Dan Savage has talked about it on his podcast.
I am not a sex columnist, but I do care a lot about feelings and relationship problems that sit unaddressed until someone hits a wall. That's where you are, and what I'm hearing from you is that you've felt unsatisfied for 10 years. Not just with the kissing, but with other stuff too. You feel like you can't talk about any of it because it makes things worse. You’re considering affairs.
For all you revealed, you declined to tell us even one reason you're with this man – what makes you happy in the marriage. The "moping around like a sad sack" comment makes me think the two of you could use some counseling so you can work on communication. I think it's worth it, because you need help getting through the uncomfortable conversations. Like, maybe he likes doing some of the kissing things you find unpleasant. It'd be nice to highlight incompatibilities and learn how to work around them ... assuming you can.
I want you to think about why you mention affairs but not leaving for good. Maybe there's a lot keeping you in the relationship, or perhaps it’s about convenience. But the kissing issue – and the fear of talking about it – speaks to a greater problem. If using positive feedback isn't moving things along, you need more help.
Readers? How would you talk about this kind of thing with someone who already lacks confidence? Is this letter about other problems, too?