Dear Stranger: I’m Engaged, and I Can’t Stop Thinking About Other Women

Sometimes, there are fundamental differences that mean a relationship just isn’t going to work.

Welcome to “Dear Stranger,” the Observer’s advice column.

Who am I? Well, I’m Dana Schwartz, a girl who spends too much time on Twitter, and who orders in too often when she should really cook the vegetables she bought at the grocery store the other day that are slowly rotting in the fridge. But, more importantly, I’m also a stranger. And sometimes you need advice from a completely unbiased party (who just happens to always be right.)

Email with your questions or concerns, big or small. Put “Dear Stranger” in the subject line so I pay attention to it.

Pre-wedding peaches
Pre-wedding peaches Getty/Schwartz

Dear Stranger,

So, I’m engaged, right? And we live together—just signed a new lease in fact! For the most part, we’re happy. I mean, we have our moments like everyone else, and sure, I’ve had thoughts of leaving. That’s just cold feet, right?

Except I keep having thoughts about other women, and it only seems to grow every day. Like women all around me, especially at work. There’s this girl that really fucking annoys me—really, really just fucking annoying—but I can’t stop picturing having sex with her. There’s been dreams even! With other women. Where the sex is so good we break, just, like, everything. Nothing like the sex I have . . . Ugh. Is marriage for me? Should I act on these other urges? Ignore them? Am I potentially psychotic? WHAT SHOULD I DO?


Hi there! Nice to meet you. I’m going to make a few guesses about your life based on your email. You didn’t say so, but I’m going to guess you love your fiancée. I mean, you did propose. And you live together, which is usually something you do with someone you love and with whom you want to share a life.

I had a dream about Milo Ventimiglia last night, and the dream sex was really, really good. (What can I say? He’s very handsome with that mustache.) But then I wake up and I get to kiss my boyfriend and joke with him and spend a life with him.

To answer your questions in order:

1) Marriage isn’t a death sentence—it’s a commitment to be with someone, and go through life together. It will ebb and flow and your sex life will improve and lull and improve again. You proposed, and you live with someone, which are both signs you wanted to get married.

2) No.

3) Yes.

4) No.

5) Think of all of the things you love about your fiancée, and how lucky you are to be at the beginning of your life with someone who wants to share their life with you. It’s going to be hard and terrible and incredible. If you want to spice up your sex life, you can do that! Buy some lube and some handcuffs and get to it on the counter of that new place with the lease you’ve just signed.

Besides, the girl you say you’re imagining having sex with is super annoying—would you even want to be in a relationship with her? I once met Milo Ventimiglia at Chicago ComicCon and to be honest, he was kind of rude and boring. Zero chemistry.

Don’t self-destruct because you’re scared. You didn’t mention anything in the letter that would indicate your current relationship has fundamental flaws, which leads me to believe this is regular cold feet and not growing certainty about some bigger problem.

Best of luck. And feel free to send me a slice of cake post-honeymoon.

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Dear Stranger, 

I have been with my boyfriend for three and a half years. We have lived together for two of those years. He is in his late thirties whereas I am in my early thirties. We have always gotten along and I fell pretty deeply in love with him. There are several minor issues around cleaning and cooking, but the biggest issue is that we aren’t intimate very often. We never have been. I have repeatedly brought it up over the last several years and have tried changing tactics to get him more interested (be more aggressive, be more passive, dress up “sexier”, go to bed earlier, etc…) but nothing seems to have changed. After the last time we talked about it I came to a realization that nothing was going to change and have since closed up emotionally and physically towards him. I don’t know whether I should get past this and try to get things to work or give up and move on. 

I had him talk to a doctor and there is nothing medically wrong. He said he has tried a couple things, but I haven’t been able to tell a difference. I can’t tell if I am not putting enough work into the relationship or if we just aren’t compatible. Thoughts?

How Much Work is Too Much Work?

Sometimes, there are fundamental differences that mean a relationship just isn’t going to work.

Your relationship seems like its being held together by force of habit at this point. It’s hard to break up with someone you’ve loved for a long time, and that’s not even acknowledging how much of a nightmare it is to move. But as the facts stand, the two of you just aren’t sexually compatible, and you’re the only one trying to solve that problem.

To be clear, sexual chemistry is really important in a good relationship. I am staunchly of the school of thought that everyone deserves someone who provides them a reasonable amount of orgasms. But that’s not the only problem here: you’re the one putting in the work—bringing it up, trying sexy strategies, having him talk to a doctor. Him “trying a couple things” is not good enough. A relationship needs two invested parties, and the fact that you’ve closed up emotionally and physically towards him means maybe your body has come to the right conclusion before your mind has.

Someone you’ve lived with for two years with minor issues about cooking and cleaning is a roommate, not a romantic partner. You deserve someone who can give you everything you need, and fight alongside you to make things better when they stall. Dear Stranger: I’m Engaged, and I Can’t Stop Thinking About Other Women