Q: I had an e-mail romance with a 42-year-old man from Ireland. At my request, he sent me erotic letters. They sounded great, as if he were a very skilled lover. Then he came to visit and stayed for five weeks, and he was totally different: very shy and introverted. He acted as though he had no desire for me at all, and would not even make eye contact. He said that he had sex only “once or twice” during his marriage, and has had no other sexual experience in his life. He doesn’t date, hardly communicates, won’t answer questions directly, and has no friends. He says he’s attracted to me, but is afraid to go too fast. We had sex while he was here when I initiated, but he was so remote during it. Isn’t it very unusual for a man to act this way? What should I do?
Dr. Klein: Maybe it’s cultural, maybe it’s religious, maybe he was damaged as a child, and maybe he’s simply nuts. In any case, he has let you know exactly what he’s like in real life. Unless you want to be an unpaid, and extremely frustrated, social worker, do not try to change him.
You had a wonderful cyber-fantasy. He didn’t exactly “pretend” to be someone else on-line–he is someone else when he is alone and free from the pressures of actual intimate contact. In person, however, he’s someone who is uncomfortable with communication and sexuality. Most of us are this way to some extent or another. Yes, he is this way to an extreme degree. His lack of interest in sex is less uncommon in Ireland than it is here. On the other hand, if he is comfortable with his life, it isn’t up to us to judge, focussing only on its limitations.
Take your loss seriously. Take the time to grieve, say goodbye, have an appropriate period of mourning and isolation, and get on with your life. Adventures await you.