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Ask Dr. Laura: Breaking Up Is Hard to Do

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How to let your partner—and yourself—down easy.

Ask Dr. Laura
Dr. Laura McGuire

Dear Dr. Laura,

How do you know when to walk away, especially when the relationship is very new? We get along great, and have lots in common. But I’m beginning to think we aren’t compatible. We have similar health issues, both physical and mental, and that honestly makes me uncomfortable about the future. Also, I don’t like the way she kisses.

Dear Breakup Buddy,

As the 1960s song says, “Breaking up is hard to do.” For real, y’all—it is incredibly hard. How to do it, when to do it, and what happens after? So many questions, so many opinions, so few answers. But when you start to get that stirring in your gut that this just might not be right, you have to listen to it and make a plan for your relationship curtain call.

You mention in your question that this is a new relationship, which is to your benefit. The longer you have spent with someone—the more history and memories you share—the harder it is to step away. The more your lives are intertwined, the more difficult it is to remember who you are as an individual—and to imagine a happy future without the one you love (or loved). Almost every long-term couple on the brink of breaking up will tell you that looking back, they wish they had broken up sooner, when they first saw red flags. It is great that you already suspect that things will probably not go well down the road, and can be honest with yourself about that. This will save you a ton of heartache. Congrats! You have completed the first step in a successful breakup: knowing when it’s time to bow out. It seems as though you’re also working on the second step: listing the reasons that this isn’t right for you.

Everyone has good and bad sides to them; no one is perfect. A successful relationship isn’t about two perfect people finding each other. It’s about two people who reinforce and stabilize each other’s weaknesses, which makes them stronger together. As you mentioned, you seem to be weak and strong in the same areas, which means you might break in the same places over time and not be able to hold each other up. Secondly, not having the right physical chemistry can be a huge hurdle to overcome. While there are some content couples whose mojo doesn’t flow quite so, it can be deeply frustrating long-term. If you feel in your heart and mind that it is better to make an early exit to avoid further pain for both of you, you should move on to step three: the talk.

Make a bullet-point list of all these things you’ve thought about. Having things written down can help you clear the clutter in your mind. Also, I think it’s only fair to give the other person fair warning about what you need to discuss with them. Few things are as traumatic as an ambush breakup (trust me: been there, survived that). Text or call her and say you have some concerns about your relationship and that you would like to talk about them in person. Say that you don’t know if things are working out as more than friends, and set a time and neutral location that works for both of you. I suggest picking a place where you can both exit if things get uncomfortable. By meeting there, you both have your own vehicles if you need to leave. Then sit down and share your heart, explain your reasons, and state honestly what you want moving forward. Don’t say you want to be friends or hang out if you don’t truly mean it. Give her time to process what you have said and offer to talk about it again later, if you feel comfortable with that. Remember that she may feel blindsided or confused by your perspective. She may decide to not ever talk to you again, or she may want to clarify things you’ve said later. All the feelings that come up are real and valid. Respect the disappointment that can arise when things end.

Remember, above all, that you are your first and truest love. Protecting your heart and mind is paramount in all relational situations. So move forward with kindness and compassion, and be grounded in the truth that you know what’s best for you.

In Sex Positivity,

Dr. Laura

Dear Dr. Laura,

I’m a cisgender guy, and I want to last longer during sex. Should I masturbate before I go on a date? Does that help?

Dear Lusting Longer,

Why do so many people want to make penises work so hard (pun intended)? Why do we ask vaginas to work so quickly on the opposite end? It’s like curly-haired people who want straight hair, and straight-haired people wanting curly hair. Why can’t we ever be content with what we have? I understand that you want to get the most out of your sexual experiences, and that’s certainly a reasonable desire. But I also want you to feel comfortable with how your body works naturally.

There is no conclusive research on whether masturbating before sex really delays the next orgasm, thus prolonging intercourse. For some penis owners, it does work well under certain circumstances, but for others it has little or no effect. It’s something you can experiment with to see how your body functions. From a medical perspective, after the nerves of the penis have been stimulated to orgasm it is logical that they would have slightly less sensitivity, thus helping achieve your objective.

In the bigger picture, I ask that you consider two main points. First, sex is a buffet, not a single dish. Just because you reach orgasm does not mean that sex is “over.” All genders can have multiple orgasms. Even if intercourse is off the table for you, you can still help your partner climax in a dozen different ways—with or without an erection on your part.

Second, as I mentioned in my first statement, it is completely ridiculous that we ask certain sexes to last insanely long before climaxing, and others to come immediately. Regardless of whether you need a long, slow buildup or you get there super-fast, you should always feel happy and proud of your pleasure. Never let a partner make you feel like you ruined things because your body reacted quickly in pleasure, or that you are wasting their time because you need a lot of patience and attention. You deserve to be with someone who will work with you just as you are.

You can never love yourself too much, emotionally or physically, but you should also know that “lasting longer” is not a prerequisite for a fulfilling sex life.

In Sex Positivity,

Dr. Laura

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Laura McGuire

Dr. Laura McGuire is certified as a sexuality educator through the American Association of Sexuality Educators Counselors and Therapists.

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