Dear Harlan,

How do you keep a guy interested when you’re not planning to have sex? I don’t want to have sex with him because that has ruined other relationships and friendships in the past. Any suggestions on how to move slowly?

Sex on Hold

Dear Sex on Hold,

You can learn to cook (food can be almost as good as sex). You can learn to dance (try not to do dirty dancing). You can get tattoos in places that aren’t so private (makes for good reading). You can make movies or go to movies together (keep them clean). You can play sports (but avoid contact sports). You can kiss a lot. And, of course, be yourself. You are interesting, right? If you don’t think you’re interesting, you might have a hard time believing someone is interested in you. A lot of men and women panic or get impatient. They don’t think they’re all that interesting with their pants on and get scared. They get worried about losing someone. That’s when they lose their pants and they get it on. Having sex with someone can make someone more interested, but once the sex ends, the interest also can end. That’s when people get hurt. The safest approach is to see if someone is interested in you. Do things you love to do. Try doing new things you’ve always wanted to do. Do things the person you’re dating has always wanted to do. If anyone ever wants to have sex with you and you’re not ready, suggest doing something else that’s interesting. If that person doesn’t listen, suggest he go have sex with himself. Make it clear that you don’t want him to be in the room — you want him to leave and never come back again.

Dear Harlan,

What would you do if your ex cheated on you and lives with your friends? How do you keep things from getting awkward? I want to be friends with my friends, but I don’t want to have to make them choose me over him.

Awkward Situation

Dear Awkward,

Wait. He cheated on you. You didn’t cheat on him. In theory, it should only be awkward for him. He’s the one who screwed you over, right? Here’s the deal — don’t allow him to hurt you more. Give him permission to be a lying, creepy ex-boyfriend who betrayed and hurt you, but is friends with your friends. Avoid him. Don’t talk about him with your other friends. Don’t ask about him. Let the pain subside. Hang out with other friends. When you see him again, avoid calling him names or kicking him in the groin. Treat him like an ex who hurt you. If he starts a conversation with you, make it clear that it’s hard to talk to him. Don’t get aggressive or defensive. Just be hurt. His job is to feel awkward. Your job is to rise above his immature and hurtful behavior. Yes, it’s sad. Yes, it’s unfair. But it’s reality. Focus on moving on to better, more mature and more loving relationships. If it’s too hard to be around him, avoid him and hang out with other friends. Again, not fair, but it’s the downside of dating friends of friends.

Harlan is the author of “The Happiest Kid On Campus: A Parent’s Guide to the Very Best College Experience (for You and Your Child)” (Sourcebooks). Write Harlan at [email protected] or visit online: www.helpmeharlan.com.