Hello Ms Peirano,

my boyfriend Patrick (32) and I (34) have been together for five years. We met in a club. We danced all night, then kissed, and then it was clear that we would drive to my place and have sex. We were like magnets and didn’t leave the apartment for a week because we couldn’t get away from each other. Neither of us have experienced that before.

And physically it’s still like that. We have a lot and very intense sex, have no taboos and try a lot. But that’s actually not necessary. Even “normal” sex feels fantastic. Exciting and relaxed at the same time. He knows exactly which buttons to push, how to talk to me and how to touch me. And I also know what gives him pleasure. And we just find each other physically very attractive and we’re very close.

On other levels it doesn’t fit so well. His life is relatively simple: football, fitness, fast food, motorbike tours. I like stimulating conversations, profound films and series, design and aesthetics.

That’s why we live separately and allow ourselves our freedom, but not sexually.

And there are always violent arguments, especially when we’ve had too much to drink. I doubt that we have a future and I also accuse him of making more of himself. He stonewalls and tells me to find someone else if he’s not good enough for me.

After the last argument, that was in March, he packed his things and left. This wasn’t the first time we broke up. I was sad, but also kind of relieved. But I also thought that it wasn’t the end yet.

And so it was. He was at my door one night in April and I was so glad to see him I didn’t say anything and just kissed him and then we ended up in bed and stayed there for a few days.

Then he took a deep breath and said he had something to tell me. He confessed to me that he had been so mad at me in the meantime that he had signed up for Tinder right away. He sought validation and dated other women, and it didn’t stop there. He must have had sex with around 10-12 women in just 5 weeks!

I find that disgusting. I can’t even say exactly what it is. Superficial, disgusting, unemotional. There must be something special about me when I have sex with someone. I used to have two or three one night stands and felt bad afterwards.

It’s totally alien to me to imagine someone meeting strange women, having sex with them quickly and then leaving. And I have images in my head of Patrick kissing all sorts of other naked women, undressing them, having sex with them. I can’t figure out how to get that out of my head.

He’s also not willing to talk about it, or it doesn’t help either. He’s not very good with words and apart from explaining that he was mad at me and that we broke up, he can’t think of anything.

I would “actually” like to take that as a reason to separate. But that doesn’t make the images in my head any less, and I feel better now when I sleep with Patrick a lot and deeply and when I’m physically close to him. We’re even closer now than before, and it reassures me when he tells me that he came back because he realized with the other women that sex with me is the real thing and that he misses me and our sex has.

I’m going in circles and I feel like an idiot too. If this had happened to anyone else, I’d be like, “Is that a complete idiot?” But I’m obsessed with Patrick and I having as much sex as possible because then I don’t have to think about anything else and it lifts me up.

Do you have some help for me?

Best regards and thank you, Estelle G.

Dear Estelle G,

it sounds like certain control centers within you want completely different things.

Your mind (located and located in the cerebral cortex, by the way) is the logical and rational command center. He can make predictions for the future from the past and the present, has values, criteria and guidelines and can use these specifications to assess the relationship. And the judgment of your mind is devastating: Patrick is too simple for you, does not suit you as a socially acceptable partner, maybe even as a partner for starting a family, and he is also driven by instinct. When he’s offended, he just has casual sex with other women indiscriminately to boost his self-esteem.

I work as a behavioral therapist and love coach in private practice in Hamburg-Blankenese and St. Pauli. In my PhD, I researched the connection between relationship personality and happiness in love and then wrote two books about love.

Information about my therapeutic work can be found at www.julia-peirano.info.

Do you have questions, problems or lovesickness? Please write to me (maximum one A4 page). I would like to point out that inquiries and answers can be published anonymously on stern.de.

Your mind finds this behavior reprehensible (perhaps primitive?), and I imagine you are also ashamed that you are with a man who is far from your image of a suitable partner.

And then we have the body command center (located in deeper and older layers of the brain, by the way). Your body LOVES and DESIRES Patrick, feels desire, confirmation, security and fusion with him.

Have you ever thought about how precious these physical feelings actually are that you experience with Patrick? Consider the relationship between mother (and father, of course) and children, in both mammals and humans. It’s an extremely physical relationship. The children grow in the mother’s body and are cared for by her via the umbilical cord; they hear her stomach noises and her heartbeat. And because of the physical processes of the mother, such as hormones, heartbeat, voice, they sense how she feels and whether it is welcome herself.

Ideally, after birth, the newborn will have a very close physical relationship with the mother or other people who are close to them. It is breastfed, carried in the arm, the tummy is rubbed gently and it may sleep in its parents’ bed. And this close physical connection is the basis for basic trust, for emphatic contact and for healthy mental and spiritual development. In Romanian orphanages one could see that many children who were cared for without physical closeness and loving speech were developmentally delayed or even died!

Even later, the physical connection plays a crucial role in relationships. I have been dancing tango for many years and experience again and again that a deep relationship can develop through a nice hug while dancing and physical harmony while dancing, even if you only make small talk and hardly know anything about each other. And on the contrary, haven’t you experienced that you can talk to many people on an intellectual level and challenge and inspire each other, but the relationship can remain kind of cold if things don’t click physically? And no one can relax me better than my cat when it decides to let me pet it for two hours while purring…

You obviously chose to be with Patrick BECAUSE it’s just a perfect physical fit and it’s very special for both of you. For the sake of interest, you might ask yourself what your physical relationship with your parents was like in early childhood. Have you perhaps fallen short and have some catching up to do, e.g. because your parents do not show love in a physical way or are afraid of contact? Or because you were separated from your parents due to a hospital stay as a small child, for example?

If that were the case, I would recommend that you do some therapeutic work that deals with the inner child. We therapists call the world of our needs and feelings the inner child. And the therapeutic work aims to recognize and fulfill the feelings and needs of the inner child, i.e. to provide, protect and love the child emotionally. This work works best in trusting individual or group therapy with a therapist who specializes in this topic. Podcasts or online courses can be dangerous because old traumas like fear of abandonment can be activated. In addition, working with the inner child is about a personal, loving approach and care, and for that you need loving and personal approach and guidance from a therapist. Otherwise, in my experience, you overwhelm yourself or stay too superficial.

Sometimes it is the case that people who cannot take care of their inner child themselves willingly leave it to other people. It looks like yours: Estelle (maybe) has early childhood deficits and doesn’t feel loved and accepted enough on a physical level. Instead of taking matters into her own hands and developing an inner mother (that is, an adult maternal Estelle) to take care of the child, she leaves the child with its needs to Patrick because he is so good at caring. Patrick is fantastic at giving closeness and physical affirmation…

Imagine a mother doing this to a real child: she cannot physically love her child and then leaves it to her new boyfriend because he is so affectionate. Alarm bells go off at the thought, don’t they? At least for me.

I imagine you will be in this dependency on Patrick until you learn to take care of your inner child. And that also applies to the physical and mental area. A good inner mother will hug their child, tell them how adorable they are, caress them lovingly, and make sure they exercise and relax to feel physically comfortable and balanced.

And a good inner mother will also comment on the inner daughter’s choice of partner and advise the daughter wisely and lovingly.

How about, for the moment, accepting that you can’t get away from Patrick because he gives you precious physical closeness and intimacy that you obviously need more than intellectual exchange? Try not to fight it anymore, because that saves stress.

If you want to change something, you would have to strengthen your good inner mother and take care of your inner child yourself. This usually takes about two years in therapy. And only then can you decide better and more freely who you really want to have as a partner at your side.

Herzlich GrüßeJulia Peirano