Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:
Matthew and I have lived together for four years. He is 15 years older
than me, has a teenaged son, and has not contributed his fair share of
rent/food/household in all that time. I’ve lost respect for him and
consequently been less to completely uninterested in physical
intimacy. Small household habits and poor personal grooming have
contributed to the problem: his breath is bad, he doesn’t shower after a
hard day in a blue-collar job, and he expects me to cook dinner and be
hungry for his affections. I am not ready to end the relationship, but I
don’t think I should say Yes when I feel No. How can we get closer
again or, eek, do I sound done?

Dear Over:
You need to proceed on two parallel tracks. For yourself, which frankly
I think is most important; you need to do a very simple exercise. Make
a list of ten things you really value about him and about your
relationship. That can be one list of ten or two, depending on how hard
it is to get to the first ten. Only one rule, and it is an important one:
none of the lists can include the phrase He loves me. If you cannot
write that list, your relationship probably will not make it even if he
were modeling underwear and cologne.

With him have a different set of conversations, ones that will not
include any mention of the first task. You are going to say, in essence,
If you want to have sex, here’s how you need to change. The
conversation, when you have it looks like striped wallpaper: every
other sentence/stripe is I love you. The alternate stripe is But, I need
you to…where the end of those sentences is brush our teeth, shower,
pick up your clothes, etc etc., whatever the list is. He’s either going to
respond or not. If he doesn’t, the relationship is doomed. If he’s willing
to try, and you are too, there’s a chance it will work. But if this were a
work question, I’d tell you to brush up your resume. In a dying
relationship that may mean dieting, a new hairdo, or individual or
couples counseling. No matter what, don’t go into denial if you want a
happier future.