I’m a guy in my late 20s. Two years ago I started a friends-with-benefits thing with a woman, which honestly has turned into one of the most relaxed, comfortable relationships I’ve had. Unfortunately, the sex isn’t that great. I’ve tried to get her to work with me on that but she just isn’t very physical. I also get the sense that she’s holding out for a serious relationship with me (babies/marriage/house). I’m just not in love with her that way. I don’t want to hijack her uterus but I’m having trouble breaking up with her. The relationship isn’t broken, and I don’t want to hurt her. I’m not sure I have it in me to say, “You’re bad in bed, so I’m out.” – Shallow
Surely, you wouldn’t find the bunny-hugging vegan “shallow” for not being up for the long haul with the guy who electrocutes the cows.
The rational decision is clear: You don’t have what you need; you should move on. The problem is what the late Nobel Prize-winning cognitive scientist Herbert Simon deemed “bounded rationality.” This describes how our ability to make rational decisions is limited – by, for example, incomplete information about our alternatives, how much time we have to decide, or, as in your case, our emotions: dreading hurting somebody and feeling like kind of a pig for dumping a perfectly nice woman just because her sexual spirit animal is the paperweight.
Simon didn’t just point out the decision-making problem; he came up with a solution – his concept of “satisficing.” This combo of “satisfy” and “suffice” means making a “good enough” choice – as opposed to incurring the costs of endlessly searching for the best choice. (Think of somebody who spends an hour looking for the primo parking space by the store entrance – in order to save time walking to and from their car.)
To decide what’s “good enough,” figure out the minimum stuff (good sex, etc.) that you absolutely must have to be satisfied in a relationship, and keep searching until you find somebody who has it. Forget about what you “should” need. If your life is not complete unless a woman will, say, wear a doorbell on each nipple, well, ring on, bro.
As for breaking up, this means telling somebody it’s over, not that their sexual technique is a ringer for hibernation. Give her only as much info as she needs to make her way to the door, like “I love you, but I’m not in love with you, and I need that.” Though she won’t be happy to hear it, what’s cruel isn’t telling her; it’s waiting to tell her.
© 2016, Amy Alkon, all rights reserved. Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave, #280, Santa Monica, CA 90405, or e-mail AdviceAmy@aol.com (advicegoddess.com). Weekly radio show: blogtalkradio.com/amyalkon