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Dear Yana,

I have a cold, dead heart.

Well, not really but pretty much, yeah. I was married to my ex-wife for nearly a decade and the end of our relationship was really complicated. I feel almost certain that I don’t have the capacity to be in love or be in a relationship ever again.

That being said, I still want to get laid, of course. But my issue is this: I feel as though I’m being pretty up front with my dates about my emotional limitations from the start. However, even though they tell me that they’re okay with not being in a relationship and just having sex, it always ends up feeling like they actually aren’t okay with keeping it casual, expect more from me than I have to give, and I end up disappointing them and being the bad guy.

To make things more complicated, I take a little longer to warm up to people so I’m not very well suited for random, one-night stands. I’m more looking for a friends-with-benefits arrangement that can stay that way without becoming more.

Is this possible? Is there some way that I can avoid this pattern from happening over and over again? It makes me feel as though I just shouldn’t date or have sex with anyone at all and am incapable of not hurting the people that I get involved with and that just sucks.

Thanks for any advice,

-Hopelessly Heartless

Dear Heartless,

I’m catching a whiff of at least a tiny bit of heart left in that chest in your concern that you’re hurting the people that you date when you can’t give them as much emotional connection as they would like. So, we can at least cross off the idea that you truly do not care for others and/or have the emotional landscape of a serial killer — phew!

Being guarded after such a long-term relationship and what sounds like a very disappointing heartbreak is understandable. It’s also understandable that you feel stuck between a one-night-stand rock and a just-enough-emotional-connection-but-not-too-much hard place. It’s not an easy balance to strike and it’s certainly not an easy one to strike with another person’s mind, body, and emotions involved.

To achieve this kind of connection, you’ll have to get better at stating your boundaries even when they’re not ones that your date wants to hear, and probably at times re-stating them, with plenty of check-ins and honesty.

Know that you’re allowed to have boundaries around your emotions, body, time, and space. They don’t have to be the boundaries everyone else has and they certainly don’t have to be the boundaries that anyone else wants you to have. Part of a consent process in any capacity — emotional, legal, sexual, etc. — involves a negotiation process: you present what you want and are interested in (sex outside of a true blue Relationship plus friendship), your date does the same, and then you each decide for yourselves if you want the thing the other person is offering.

Your responsibility here, Heartless, is…continue reading…