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Feminspire | April 20, 2014

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Relationship Advice: The ‘L’ Word And A Wandering Mind

Relationship Advice: The ‘L’ Word And A Wandering Mind

Hey, everyone! This will be a truncated column, because I’m traveling this week. In fact, by the time you read this, I will be in San Francisco, 2000 miles away from where I am now, so I’m writing it a little earlier than usual before my flight tonight.

Thinking about your problems while waiting on line with my big suitcase at the outdoor Dunkin Donuts in midtown Manhattan.

As always: I’m doing questions in the order I get them, so if your question isn’t answered… have life problems sooner, okay? You can leave questions here, e-mail them to JessMary@Feminspire.com, tweet them to me, or leave a question on our Facebook page. (Have you “liked” our Facebook page yet? You do know that you can win a 250 dollar gift certificate, right?)

My boyfriend never says he loves me. He wants to build a future with me and says he cares about me immensely, but he says he’s unsure of what love is. He’s very dedicated to the relationship and I have no complaints about how he behaves, but this worries me. – T, 24

I’m about to get real deep with you, T.

When anyone has a problem where one person feels they are in love and the other person does not believe in love, or know what love is, I always go back to Gilbert Ryle and his book The Concept of Mind,which is a dense philosophical text and I would not recommend reading it unless you have a strange love of epistemology. (I studied a lot of philosophy in college, but epistemology is my favorite.) A category mistake, to sum it up briefly, is when “things of one kind are presented as if they belonged to another”. (This definition is from the Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy, which is not online but is something I have in my bookcase.)

My favorite epistemology professor (who taught a class on the epistemological aspects of feminism that was the best thing ever, but I digress), used this story to help us grasp what a category mistake is. “Every morning, a little girl goes to school, and her parents tell her they love her before she goes. When she gets home, they listen to her describe her day. They help her with her homework. They play with her. They make her dinner, and make her a delicious lunch for the next day. Then they give her a bath, read her a story, and tuck her in. They kiss her goodnight and tell her again how much they love her. One night, she looks up at them and says, “when are you going to love me?” The little girl has made a category mistake–believing that love is an action. But this thought experiment has stayed with me because I think it goes beyond Ryle’s definition of a category mistake.

Obviously, the things the parents did for the little girl were expressions of their love, as is telling her they love her. We can easily categorize these things together. But what category is love? Is love an emotion? A state of being? A choice? I’ve come to believe that it’s different for everybody. This is why sometimes, when I see people who jump from relationship to relationship and say they’re in love each time, I feel skeptical. I don’t think their experience  and knowledge of love is the same as mine. That doesn’t mean they aren’t truly experiencing love. However, when you have two people in a relationship who have different ideas and concepts of what love is, it can be problematic. I would take some time to think about what it means to you to love your boyfriend. I’m willing to bet he feels the same about you, he just might not categorize that as love.

If you’re worried, you have to bring it up, because that doubt and anxiety will gnaw away at you and eventually affect your relationship. Just remember that sometimes words are imperfect means of communication and “I love you” has different meanings to different people (but they’re the best we got.) Communication is obviously important, but it has to be good communication, too!

Sometimes when I’m in bed with my S/O, my mind wanders onto other situations/fantasies that don’t necessarily include him – usually with other girls, or sometimes with him and a girl. I’ve had sexperiences with girls before and he knows it turns me on, and we’ve talked about having a threesome. But for some reason I feel incredibly guilty when I’m in bed with him and my mind wanders without me realising, it almost feels like a betrayal. Is it normal or terrible that my imagination sometimes goes crazy? – BV

First of all,  I would like to compliment your use of the word sexperiences. I always appreciate a good portmanteau.

I don’t think you have anything to worry about. If you’re lying there and thinking about your grandmother, what you’re going to make for dinner tomorrow, or the last task you have left at work, then maybe you have a problem. (You’re bored with your sex life.) That’s not to say that everyone’s mind d0esn’t wander occasionally–if I’m having a super-stressful day, sometimes it’s hard to turn off completely. But your mind isn’t wandering to the mundane, it’s wandering to a sexual fantasy you have. It’s something that turns you on, and possibly makes you enjoy the sex more.

But whether or not you’re in the wrong here (you’re not) or whether or not you’re normal doesn’t negate the fact that you’re having these feelings. I don’t know what your relationship or your sex life is like, so I can’t really say what’s going on, but maybe something’s not satisfying you and these fantasies are and that’s why you feel guilty? I mean, this could be your subconscious telling you that it really, really wants to be with a woman right now, not a man. (Maybe not, I don’t know your subconscious.)

The good news is that it seems like you’ve communicated the fact that you’re turned on by the ladies and he seems willing to help you out.  Would you and he be comfortable letting him into the fantasy? Maybe you can watch some lesbian (real lesbian) porn together? Tailor some dirty talk to fit your fantasy? Make it something you share, and the guilt should go away. If it doesn’t, it’s worth really thinking about where it comes from.

That’s all for this week, everybody. Enjoy your weekend! Ask me more questions! I’ll be back in hot, stinky NYC soon. (I walked through midtown today and it smelled overwhelmingly of piss. Ah, summer in the city…)

Written by Jess Mary Aloe
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