Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

Getting Personal: We Weren’t Having Sex, But I Was Still Getting Screwed

Today’s guest essay comes from “His Take” contributor, Dennis Hong, who writes about relationships and other topics at Musings on Life and Love.

For months after Julie and I broke up, we remained friends. It was a mutual decision. No, really. We still cared about each other, and we still enjoyed each other’s company. We just realized that, romantically, we weren’t all that compatible. We were like peanut butter and bacon: You love ‘em both. Just not together. We continued to hang out fairly regularly, though. In fact, we joked that we were kind of/sort of still going on dates. Except that they didn’t end in anything physical…Wait, they were exactly like many dates I’ve been on.

I was fine with that. We both knew that muddling the boundaries we’d established wouldn’t be a good idea. So, we continued our platonic dates, going out to dinner, chatting about what was going on at home and at work, slipping into deeper conversations about our lives… our hopes…our fears…

That’s when I had an epiphany: I was totally getting screwed in this arrangement.

In recent years, scientists have discovered that the hormone oxytocin is responsible for feelings of attachment in women. Most notably, oxytocin is released when a woman orgasms, which reinforces their emotional attachment to the man they’re with. In contrast, not as much is known about male attachment. Recent studies have implicated the hormone vasopressin as the burlier, ball-bearing counterpart to oxytocin’s feminine mystique. Studies on both animals and humans have demonstrated that vasopressin does indeed stimulate feelings of attachment in males. Furthermore, this attachment can be initiated in the absence of sexual activity. Still, scientists don’t know when exactly vasopressin is released.

Based on my own personal experiences, I’m venturing a guess: it’s not during sexual intimacy, but during emotional intimacy.

Men are generally not as communicative as women. And while some argue that this is a socially conditioned behavior (that men close themselves off emotionally because, as boys, they are taught to not show vulnerability), the end result is still the same: men have emotions; they just aren’t as expressive with them. Add to this the likelihood that men have fewer same-sex friends they can intimately converse with, and I’d argue that confiding in one’s partner requires a much greater emotional investment for a man than for a woman, and that this added investment translates to attachment.

Basically, it’s harder for men to be verbally intimate. They also have fewer people to be verbally intimate with. Thus, when they do learn to be verbally intimate with their significant others, they are much more likely to develop an emotional attachment to them.

Months after our breakup, Julie and I were still meeting up regularly. And I often found myself talking to her about personal matters: how my family was doing, my secret goals and dreams, what was stressing me out about life, and so on. Julie, of course, always listened. As it turns out, that was the problem.

All this time we were spending together — platonic as it may have been — was only increasing my attachment to her. Even worse, I could tell that her attachment to me was fading. From the way she looked at me and the way she spoke to me, I could sense her mushy feelings just withering away. That made sense. After all, the intimate conversations simply weren’t as big an emotional investment for her as they were for me. Plus, we weren’t having sex, so there wasn’t any orgasm oxytocin to mess her up.

But, man, was there a raging cocktail party of hormones swirling up inside my head. I could practically feel the vasopressin (or, admittedly, whatever other factors might be responsible for these feelings of attachment) permeating my brain cells. So, I got the ole’ emotional screwing. By biology.

And what it took for me to finally break that attachment was to stop engaging her in these conversations. We continued to see each other. We still chatted. We still laughed. But, I forced myself not to reveal too much about my personal feelings. It wasn’t easy. I constantly found myself wanting to tell her… stuff. Stuff that I was used to telling her. But, I held back. I found other friends to talk to, whether online or in real life. I found blogging. I met others who were getting over similar breakups.

And, I finally got over her.

So, maybe that’s how it really works: women get over their exes by not having sex with them. Because sex involves those creepy love hormones for women. And men get over their exes by not talking intimately with them. Because talking involves those creepy love hormones for men.

Remember that old joke about how many men it takes to screw in a light bulb? Good.

Remember that old saying about skinning cats? Good.

Well, I’m creating my own personal mash-up of the two:

There’s more than one way to screw a man.

*Dennis Hong blogs about the life lessons he’s learned. Check out his and his friends’ musings here.

64 comments… add one
  • leilani

    leilani December 21, 2011, 1:25 pm

    I have definitely witnessed this in my life. My ex-boyfriend and I broke up loads of times, and every time, we stayed in each other’s lives. When it was in a sexual way, I was always the attached party. When it was in an emotional/friendly way, he was the one that was still attached. i dunno if its all hormones though….I wasn’t having orgasms when we were broken up anyway (long story) so I wouldn’t say that’s what attached me. I agree that guys stay attached to a girl they have an emotional connections/openness with because they aren’t getting that anywhere else. Any emotional release or support I got from my ex I could get from my friends anyway. I wonder if women stay more attached to ex-boyfriends they’re sleeping with because they are generally sexually pickier and have trouble finding that kind of sexual connection with someone else? So men stay more attached to that emotional connection because its more rare, and women do the same with sexual connection?

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    • Will.i.am

      Will.i.am February 8, 2012, 2:53 pm

      This is true. I was more attached to my ex, because I also shared a lot with her about my personal life and my feelings. Those are things I just don’t share with anybody, and I usually share them with my significant other.

      Sex is just sex to me, unless I’m in a committed relationship, and then it becomes serious and emotional. Just a random hook up, is just that for me, a random hookup.

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  • avatar

    sarolabelle February 8, 2012, 2:36 pm

    I know I read this one before – someone validate my claim so I know I’m not going crazy!

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    • avatar

      Addie Pray February 8, 2012, 2:39 pm

      I thought the same thing. But I think we’re remembering another piece by Dennis about being stuck in the friend zone.

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      • Dear Wendy

        Wendy February 8, 2012, 4:15 pm

        They are two separate essays.

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    • bagge72

      bagge72 February 8, 2012, 2:43 pm

      Yeah I definitely remember reading something very very similar to this, if not the exact same thing.

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      • avatar

        Addie Pray February 8, 2012, 2:52 pm

        I dunno. It’s possible Dennis got stuck in the friend zone – and wrote about it – more than once. After all, Dennis seems like a good guy – self-aware, considerate, funny, sweet, and outgoing – don’t those guys ALWAYS get stuck in the friend zone?

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      • Will.i.am

        Will.i.am February 8, 2012, 2:55 pm

        Yes we do. Why do women keep choosing the bad boy hoping that he will turn nice, but they keep saying they want a nice guy.

        Me and my guy friends have a theory. Women who say they want a nice guy, want the guy to look like Channing Tatum but be able to support her every emotional needs. In our eyes it’s just not possible.

        This may sound very crude, but I blame movies like “The Notebook” for this distorted view that men and women have on what they can and cannot get in a relationship.

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      • LadyinPurpleNotRed

        LadyinPurpleNotRed February 8, 2012, 3:04 pm

        That’s definitely true. I keep having to remind my best friend that she can’t expect her boyfriend to be out of a romantic movie like that because it’s so unrealistic.

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      • Lili

        Lili February 8, 2012, 3:09 pm

        I refuse to watch the vow. It is my stand to validate the REAL guy! And crucify me for saying this-but I HATE the notebook. I hate it because it creates a false sense of OO I want that kind of unconditional love+happy story no matter what. I get that love is a powerful thing and can’t wait for it it happen to me again, but we should also accept that just because there is a love story there does not mean a ‘happily ever after’ is to follow.

        I logically know this, but somehow after watching stuff like the vow and the notebook I start to hope for the impossible and that messes me up all over again.

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      • Budj

        Budj February 8, 2012, 3:13 pm

        haha – the notebook was one of the only pure chick flicks I liked….for the record an ex gf made me watch it…but if I stumbled on it on the tv I might forget to change the channel.

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      • Budj

        Budj February 8, 2012, 3:27 pm

        I also have a special place in my heart for “how to lose a guy in ten days”…

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      • Will.i.am

        Will.i.am February 8, 2012, 3:32 pm

        How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days is awesome. Now, that story is actually believable. This isn’t the same situation, but think of how many relationships have formed between two people, when the man or woman initially wasn’t very attracted to the person!

        The movie has somewhat of the same idea. Two people are setup to try and trick the other person, but they end up falling in love with each other. That’s a movie that I watch almost everytime I catch it on television.

        It’s the perfect story of men trying to change women and vice versa.

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      • Lili

        Lili February 8, 2012, 3:52 pm

        I like how to lose too! And ya its totally tongue in cheek but still accurate!

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      • iwannatalktosampson

        Iwannatalktosampson February 8, 2012, 3:32 pm

        I have never met a guy say they don’t like the notebook. I have no idea what separates it from other romantic and emotional movies, but it’s like pure gold. Oh god and then she chooses Noah. It’s like all the underdogs of the world fist pumping at the same time.

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      • bagge72

        bagge72 February 8, 2012, 3:55 pm

        I have managed to avoid that movie very effectively, but my fiancee (did I do it right Wendy!?) almost cries every time she sees a commercial for it!

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      • Budj

        Budj February 8, 2012, 4:03 pm

        This was with one of my more drama filled college ex-gfs. She broke up with me because she was too scared to meet my parents over 4th of July weekend and she then spent 3 days crying about it and watching the notebook. When she wanted to reconcile she wanted to watch it with me…I’m a sucker at heart.

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      • bagge72

        bagge72 February 8, 2012, 4:15 pm

        Yeah I did watch one of the other Nicholas Sparks movies, but I’m not really sure what it was call, though. Something about a house on a beach, and a writer?

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      • avatar

        Taylor February 8, 2012, 4:41 pm

        Was it with Richard Gere? Nights in Rodanthe?

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      • LadyinPurpleNotRed

        LadyinPurpleNotRed February 8, 2012, 3:21 pm

        I’m with you on the notebook. It’s so absurd to me.

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      • Lili

        Lili February 8, 2012, 3:58 pm

        I think most nicholas sparks books are–he also wrote a walk to remember. Give me some Eugenides anyday over Sparks. In in effort to be funny on facebook I have in my ‘about me’ I prefer nicholas kristof to nicholas sparks. No one seems to find it funny as me.

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      • Will.i.am

        Will.i.am February 8, 2012, 4:03 pm

        I have a soft spot for “A Walk To Remember” as well. I cried in high school when I saw it. I actually think that situation is possible too, post 25 years old. The Notebook just makes my balls itch (thank you Kevin Hart)!

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      • Will.i.am

        Will.i.am February 8, 2012, 3:30 pm

        What people have forgot is Rachel McAdams left her husband for that guy. I’ve watched it too, but it seems everyone forgets that bit of information. Wait….maybe it wasn’t her husband yet, but I swear he was at least her fiance. There’s a bit of betrayal there that everyone tends to just skip over, because the movie just effin oozes mushy romance. I can be very romantic and I would love to die right next to my wife, but I just don’t think that’s going to happen.

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      • Lili

        Lili February 8, 2012, 3:54 pm

        I know I HATE that-it almost seemed to be advocating euthanasia/double suicides. Wait was I the only one who took that message away?

        What can I say, the notebook messes with me in weird ways!

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      • avatar

        Addie Pray February 8, 2012, 3:35 pm

        Thank you — I HATED the Notebook too!

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      • avatar

        Addie Pray February 8, 2012, 3:37 pm

        Oops, that was supposed to be a reply to Lili.

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      • iwannatalktosampson

        Iwannatalktosampson February 8, 2012, 3:40 pm

        Wait – what? Really? “You tell me when i’m being an arrogant son of a bitch and I tell you when you’re being a pain in the ass – which you are – 99% of the time. I’m not afraid to hurt your feelings. They have like a 2 second rebound rate. It’s going to be hard, and we’re going to have to work at this everyday. But I want to do this, because I love you, I love all of you”.

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      • avatar

        Addie Pray February 8, 2012, 3:43 pm

        Exactly. Pure cheese!

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      • avatar

        Addie Pray February 8, 2012, 3:46 pm

        But it’s ok if you love it. I won’t hold it against you. Girls of your generation all loved that Notebook shit. … (No, let’s not talk about generations again, I regret this reply already.)

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      • Budj

        Budj February 8, 2012, 3:50 pm

        Tell the women of your generation to stop making dive bars an uncomfortable place for young bucks to grab a drink.

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      • iwannatalktosampson

        Iwannatalktosampson February 8, 2012, 3:50 pm

        That is so typical of someone of your generation to say. You don’t understand how hard we have had to work in our lives to be respected! Of course you would just discount my opinion. We like one mushy movie that gives us hope and happiness in the world and you’re stomping all over it.

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      • iwannatalktosampson

        Iwannatalktosampson February 8, 2012, 3:55 pm

        Budj that is such a good point. I think I asked you on another thread Addie but you dodged the question. How is your cougar quest going with the 25 year old alumni guy?

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      • avatar

        Addie Pray February 8, 2012, 4:00 pm

        @Budj: Oh whatever, you young bucks LOVE it.

        @Iwanna: I know! We have no tolerance for your optimisim and eternal search for love and happiness. So just knock that shit off.

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      • avatar

        Addie Pray February 8, 2012, 4:03 pm

        @I wanna… oh, the (soon to be) 25 year old. The young pup who is currently 9 — NINE, I say! — years my junior. We’re going to dinner and a movie on Friday. I’m working up the courage to tell him frankly at dinner: “Look, young balls, I like you. Like, I like like you. So you need to either make out with me or we can’t continue doing dinners and movies all over town because it just gets me all hot and bothered.” [I’m still fine-tuning this.]

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      • iwannatalktosampson

        Iwannatalktosampson February 8, 2012, 4:03 pm

        Well now you’re just blatantly avoiding the question. So answer that one and also how was your 30 day bikram experiment? I am planning on doing one in March (well corepower sculpt style – but same thing, hot yoga + weights) because my unemployed ass will have nothing better to do than work on the bod. But hey that might help with the job search anyways – amiright?!

        Psh they say us 80’s babies have poor work ethic, I can work what my mama gave me!

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      • bagge72

        bagge72 February 8, 2012, 4:03 pm

        They make dive bars uncomfortably hilarious!

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        Addie Pray February 8, 2012, 4:05 pm

        (and of course I welcome your suggestions.)

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      • iwannatalktosampson

        Iwannatalktosampson February 8, 2012, 4:05 pm

        I think that approach is appropriate on a few different levels. Hopefully this is post wine pre dinner, because liquid courage always helps. Plus i’m pretty sure all love stories involve the words “young balls”

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      • bagge72

        bagge72 February 8, 2012, 4:06 pm

        I would say go with that, and if he doesn’t whip it out right there then maybe he cut himself while trying to open a condom wrapper once, and doesn’t want to ever have sex again.

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      • iwannatalktosampson

        Iwannatalktosampson February 8, 2012, 4:14 pm

        Ah Bagge! Amazeballs. It’s like we have DW inside jokes.

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      • avatar

        Addie Pray February 8, 2012, 4:15 pm

        @ anybody who cares: holy shit, I just got notice of my new billable rate this year. It has been increased to $410 per hour. Wtf? This is some recession we’re in….

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      • avatar

        Addie Pray February 8, 2012, 4:19 pm

        @bagge and iwanna: so, what you’re saying is that Young Balls will either jump me right then and there or else he cut himself years ago and has refrained from sex ever since. I like these two options because it means I can’t possibly get personally rejected. Ok, ask me later if I worked up the courage to confess.

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      • Budj

        Budj February 8, 2012, 4:22 pm

        I bet you don’t do it….but if he has any sense of humour at all the way you phrased it is a good way to break the ice…and if he doesn’t…then your wit(t?) will be better enjoyed by someone else.

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      • iwannatalktosampson

        Iwannatalktosampson February 8, 2012, 4:24 pm

        Addie – this is Budj saying if it doesn’t work out he’s ready to fill the shoes.

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        Addie Pray February 8, 2012, 4:32 pm

        Aw, Budj. But I am going to do it. I turned over a new leaf last week. The leaf where I decide to be direct about my feelings, no matter how uncomfortable it is for me (or them). And if it means we aren’t good friends anymore, that’s ok; I have lots of friends who I can turn to that I don’t secretly want to bone. There, that’s my deep thought for the day. “Deep” used loosely.

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      • avatar

        Taylor February 8, 2012, 4:44 pm

        AP – definitely confess! I love it! He’ll love it! And let us know how it goes =)

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      • avatar

        Taylor February 8, 2012, 4:49 pm

        Pure cheese, sure, but cheese that is so so so good. Like warm brie on crusty bread. Or a gooey grilled cheddar cheese sammich. Hmm. Now I’m hungry and I want to watch the Notebook.

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      • avatar

        rachel February 8, 2012, 4:09 pm

        I hated the Notebook too. And I usually love cheesy romance.

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      • avatar

        CottonTheCuteDog February 8, 2012, 2:59 pm

        I wish we had that search feature back. Then I would know for sure.

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      • avatar

        Dennis Hong February 8, 2012, 3:03 pm

        Umm, yeah, I got stuck in the friend zone once, and that was plenty, so no, I didn’t write another essay just like this one.

        I think what happened was that when Wendy switched hosting services, this piece was accidentally published for like a day, as part of those threads that were gonna get lost forever once the migration was complete.

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      • avatar

        sarolabelle February 8, 2012, 3:07 pm

        I think you are right!

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      • Will.i.am

        Will.i.am February 8, 2012, 3:26 pm

        I thought this was a “The Frisky” piece?

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    • Jess

      Jess of CGW February 8, 2012, 2:45 pm

      I think it might be an accidental re-post because we definitely read it before. Well, I am almost sure anyway.

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    • landygirl

      landygirl07 February 8, 2012, 2:51 pm

      I will validate you.

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  • avatar

    Addie Pray February 8, 2012, 2:40 pm

    Very cute and nicely written, Dennis! You write purdy good.

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  • Lili

    Lili February 8, 2012, 2:46 pm

    Thanks Dennis! I needed this today.

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    • Lili

      Lili February 8, 2012, 3:11 pm

      Even if it is a repost 😉

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  • avatar

    Erica February 8, 2012, 2:57 pm

    I really like this piece. Totally agree, too.
    I’ve had a couple guy friends that have been very open with me, and me with them. While I saw this as a great friendship, guys do tend to see it as more, because they’re able to be open with someone and be themselves.
    It’s unfortunate that this happens, because I lost one of those friends, and am less close with the other, now. But reading this article definitely gives insight as to why these relationships often don’t last.

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  • Budj

    Budj February 8, 2012, 2:59 pm

    Reeeepooost (Ryuken)

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  • avatar

    Taylor February 8, 2012, 4:47 pm

    Super interesting essay – and it explains a lot about past relationships for me =)

    I love the Notebook, even if I turn into a sobbing mess every single time I see it. It cemented Ryan Gosling as my celebrity crush. So hot.

    Happy hump-day all!

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  • avatar

    Anna February 9, 2012, 12:45 am

    Nice essay and so true! I did want to correct you about peanut butter and bacon though. One time I found a recipe for a grilled peanut butter, banana, honey, and bacon sandwich. I had to make it. Oh. My. God. You make it just like a grilled cheese. It was so good.

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    • avatar

      jlyfsh February 9, 2012, 1:15 am

      I agree Anna! I felt the same was as Dennis until I tried it based on a friend who kept telling me it was the best thing ever. I have never added banana though, this is something I must try! 🙂

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  • avatar

    Francine February 12, 2012, 5:45 pm

    Dennis, I absolutely love the way you write. I wouldn’t normally read an article about the differences in emotional attachment between men and women (yawn) but you’re always so amusing. Great article. Cute headline too but I hope your ex isn’t offended by the “getting screwed” part. It might convey to some that something was being done to you rather than just happening to you. You developed an emotional attachment because of what you were doing, confiding in her, not because she used her feminine talents to reel you in emotionally. If anything, you screwed yourself by not (or rather than) screwing her.

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  • avatar

    Ashley February 21, 2012, 4:54 pm

    Peanut butter and bacon sandwiches are delicious. Just saying.

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