My heroine, Carrie, in Streetwalker has commitment issues. And so does my hero. That makes for a very difficult relationship.
Carrie doesn’t trust any man since she thinks she is only "tits and ass" to them. And she made her living based on that presumption for a good many years.
Harlan is a sex addict. Not officially recognized by the DSM-5 (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), sex addiction has been tossed around for years as a possible syndrome that merits inclusion. Psychiatrists are split on whether sex addiction is an official syndrome or a manifestation of a syndrome, like obsessive-compulsive disorder.
So you put together someone who doesn’t want to be touched with someone who has to be touching everyone, and, well, you see the problem.
If I were Carrie’s psychologist, I’d be advising her to take some advice from the research. Harlan’s issues notwithstanding, this couple can make it. They love each other but they don’t communicate about feelings, issues, desires. Their conversations are relatively superficial.
So, as an unofficial family counselor, here’s what Angelica French says the research says about staying together once you get together.
Relationships are like gardens. You can’t neglect them. You must prune away the dead stuff and the weeds. You must feed and water them. Watch your relationship for signs of disease or blight, then apply the proper fix.
You can’t neglect your relationship.
In the early stages of your relationship, you were very attentive and supportive. You cared about what you looked like and how you were coming across. Now some of that was over the top. You reallllly wanted him to like you more. You worried she would break off the relationship. So while you have a comfort level with your SO now, there should always be some slight tension leftover from those early days of doing and being your best, even now.
Taking someone’s affection and attention for granted is a potential road to heartache. Make serious and regular efforts to show your partner that you really want to be with him/her, and you are appreciative of the relationship you have.
Prune away the dead stuff and weeds.
All relationships have detritus after while. It’s like outgrown shirts or worn out shoes. Take a look at your relationship and see if you’ve outgrown something now that your relationship is firming up. Do you really want to go clubbing every weekend night? Maybe you do, but examine the relationship’s patterns of activities, interactions, and friendships and consciously re-choose them, together.
Are you getting into a rut with movie-and-a-show? Why not mix it up with a picnic in the park where there’s an outdoor movie showing? Do you always go to a particular friend’s house for card games? Why not meet instead once in a while at a game store that has a game night? Boredom kills relationships, so keep it fresh.
“Feed and water” your relationship.
Too much togetherness can stifle a relationship, however. You’ll each have more to talk about if you each have a wide circle of friends and interests. Read and talk about what you’re reading. Watch out for competitiveness and instead aim for a collaborative relationship. Be spontaneous and not always predictable--in a good way--to add a little extra nourishment to the relationship.
Meet your partner at a coffee shop, excuse yourself to go to the bathroom, give a note to a waiter telling your partner where to meet you next, and then disappear. Head to the next stop and do the same thing. Keep him/her guessing about how you might bring some pop into your relationship.
Watch for relationship blight.
While you shouldn’t overanalyze a relationship, you should pay attention. There are always warning signs that things are going south. Always. The people who say they were blindsided simply missed or misread the clues. Maybe your partner isn’t as physically affectionate as early on. Find out why. Free, easy, frequent communication is one of the surest ways to nip blight. There should be nothing off limits for discussion, ever. If there is, are you sure this is THE ONE?
If your partner begins spending unusual amounts of time away from you, there are problems. If you notice avoidance of topics you could always talk about, there are problems. If you are being controlled/criticized/isolated/blamed there are serious problems to work on. If you feel jealous or needy, start working on the problem. If one of you is cheating or wants to … uh, oh!
Relationships are both fragile and durable, resilient and vulnerable. Let me mix metaphors here. Building a strong foundation allows the relationship to take some storm lashings, but without keeping up regular maintenance and needed repairs, the house will crumble over time. Keep your house a mansion; don’t let it become a ruin.
Need a last minute gift for someone who likes erotic romance? There's always Streetwalker!
Here are a few of the resources I used for some additional reading: