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Two Sense: What To Do When Your Boyfriend Is Too Sweet

Illustration by Caitlin Kuhwald

My sweet, sensitive boyfriend of three years is my best friend, and I can’t imagine life without him. But he’s not very masculine, and that’s had a huge effect on our relationship. About six months after we started dating, he began using baby talk, and I foolishly indulged him. Now we don’t even know how to be around each other without it. I feel like his mother. I want to talk to him about this, but I worry it would crumble his self-esteem. I find myself increasingly attracted to other men, so much so that I’ve quit drinking when my boyfriend isn’t present because I’m afraid of what I might do. I desperately want to make our relationship work, but I also desperately want to feel feminine, desired, and taken care of. Please help.

He Said: The good news is that when we men are in a serious relationship, most of us will change to be more of what our partner wants us to be. The bad news is that this change is usually imperceivable and often unacceptably slow. You sound committed to this relationship, so listen up: If you want your boyfriend to be more of a man, present tangible ways for him to be more masculine. Ask him to fix something, get his opinion on a decision, have him move furniture, carry the groceries, haul your luggage, drive the car every time you go out. Tell him you’ve had a rotten day and that you just need him to listen to you or hold you. Tell him you like to rub his scratchy face when he hasn’t shaved for a couple of days and smell him after he’s exercised. Navigate him into sexual positions that require him to use a lot of strength to support his body, your body, or both. There are endless ways a woman can show a man how to be more of what she wants him to be.

On the flip side, stop mothering him. Don’t use baby talk even when he does. Act more like a woman who wants a man and less like a girl who wants a best friend. If you try this and still feel like you need to move on, be kind but leave your boyfriend. Never stay with a man out of guilt. It robs us of a challenge—a chance to get bigger and better—and also delays us from finding a partner more suited to who we are.

She Said: Another way to evoke your partner’s masculine energy is to magnify your feminine energy. I don’t just mean makeup, sexy dresses, and high heels (though those certainly help). It’s more internal than that. Some ideas: Hang out with your girlfriends more, the kind of sessions where you laugh and talk a lot. Take a dance class, especially a sensual one like belly dancing or pole dancing. Those men you fantasize about when you’re out and abstaining from drinking? Think of what you imagine them doing to you, and whisper some of that to your boyfriend in bed. Every time he uses baby talk with you, place your hands on his upper arms, lean back from him a foot or two, and silently look into his eyes. Channel all your desire into your expression, and see how he handles it.

When you do talk it out, keep the message simple: You want to feel desired, protected, and womanly. For that to happen you need him to do A, B, and C. Reaffirm that you love him. And then keep your fingers crossed because he may develop in the way you need, or his own temperament or resistance may impede him, in which case, you must move on. You can’t commit to a life partner you’re constantly afraid of cheating on, no matter how nice he is.