Dear Miss Emily:

My girlfriend and I have have been in a relationship for over 5 years - that includes a 2-year 'break' in the middle during which we both dated other people.  Even during those 2 years, however, we had a relationship that was intimate, involving hand-holding and even cuddling (needless to say, our girlfriend/boyfriend at the time would not have approved).  We are both only 21 years old.  I have had one other sexual partner, but I have been her only sexual partner.  We have an incredible chemistry and we both love each other more than anything in the world.  One concern however has always been the bedroom.  Sex was always painful for her.  Every once in a while we would go at it but she could never fully overcome the pain (she even got a tool kit to help with the problem).  One thing we did to substitute that was to have oral sex on a consistent basis.  Unfortunately I believe she preferred it as a 'once in a while' kind of a thing and I viewed it as something I would prefer to happen more routinely.  The result was me always asking for 'favors', and I believe she came to view oral sex as a bit of a chore.  This has compounded another issue for her that she feels she is 21 years old and has only had 1 sexual partner and wants to see what else is out there.  She is an incredibly beautiful, intelligent, attractive girl and can basically have any single guy she wanted.  She views me as handsome but perhaps a bit more boyish than what is deal for her - I am 21 but haven't quite reached that point in my life when I physically look like a more mature man (whereas some guys reach this point at 18).  The other day she had a conversation with me and told me about her feelings, and suggested that we might want to 'take a break' from each other, and gain some experience with different people.  She said that she still viewed me as her 'soul mate' and the 'type of person I would want to marry." But that this also made her a bit afraid over the fact that we have such a strong relationship at such an early age, it seems to be heading towards marriage - and she is so young that the very thought scares her a bit.  I told her flat-out, however, that even though she is the great love of my life and even though it would be incredibly difficult for me, if she decided she wanted to date other men we could no longer continue seeing or speaking to each other.  I was not blackmailing her but telling her how it was.  I had been her 'best friend' for 2 years before, all the while pining for her, diminishing any real feelings I could have for any other girl.  The whole experience tore my insides and consumed my thoughts for that period of my life.  At this point it's not something I could do again.  Faced with the choice of risking losing me forever or giving into her desire to try to 'play the field' for a while and only 'possibly' have the chance of getting back with me, she had decided to stay in a relationship with me for now until we figure things out together.  For now, we are going to have a sexual break and try to see if her sexual desire for me comes back.  There are also a lot of little things we have talked about and I know I can improve (the bedroom issues I mentioned, being more punctual and taking the initiative on things more are some of the issues we discussed).  So now here's the question I have for you - where do we go from here?  How do I make her 'regain' her physical desire for me?  We have all the love in the world for each other, we really do - but this needs to be solved or else it jeopardizes everything we have together.  Thank you for your advice.

-----------------------Miss Emily's Advice---------------------

I don't think this has to be an either or situation.  And this is why:  There are no set rules on how this should play out, and if you sit back and look at the totality of it, you might find it reasonable to weather this period in your life, all the while braving everything it entails -- and come out at the other end, okay.  Now I have seen a couple of relationships that started early in life, and they were the best ever.  Good friends, devoted to one another, and ending up happy as a married couple -- a partnership, and a life with children and great success. And this may be true for you and this girl at some time down the line.  But if she feels the need to take a break, let her. You seem like an incredible guy (albeit very young, as well) with a good head on your shoulders, so that begs the questions:  Why try to thwart this when you know, in your heart, you want to be with her without any doubt; without thinking she's missed something because of her youth; and because being young, there is a natural inclination to wonder if what she is doing is right at this time in her life and knowing little about what else the future could hold? No, I think you are wrong on this score. Let your ego take a vacation on this, and play this out without these clear-cut boundaries. Yes, you don't want to be in a position to hear about her dates and any sexual experience she may have, but be the friend you can be under the circumstances. Your stalwart, emotional strength in this is your best bet, and it will allow you to see things unfold, good or bad, without letting an either or criterion blow it to irreparable bits.