I went with a messy one today. I don't know where this letter writer is from. Based on our recent letters, it's probably Boston ... or Florida.
Q: Dear Meredith
My wife and I have been married for seven years -- this is my second, her third. We met online while I was in a marriage with the first wife. It was a bad marriage so I decided to divorce her, and within two years I married my current wife. I noticed that within a year's time that her behavior was different. She would have these outbursts and snap at me. I shrugged this off and thought it would pass, but things never really got much better. She would scold me about the strangest things and even talk down to me.
I began to panic and thought a fling would ease things with me, but somehow she read my email exchange with another woman and things really got bad. Nothing ever happened and I don't even think I would have gone through with it actually -- it was more flirting then anything. I promised her that I would never attempt this again and have not since. But she will not forgive or forget. She gets really suspicious when I'm texting or if I'm on my laptop for a certain period of time, even though she knows how to access both my phone and email accounts.
Recently I met a female acquaintance at the gym I found out she was from an area that I was familiar with. I soon realized that she is a caring person and easy to talk to and she is also married. I told my wife about her. Both she and her husband wanted to meet with us, and my wife seemed fine with it first, but when I would bring her name up in a casual conversation, she would get jealous and suspicious. Long story short: My wife wants me to end the friendship. My wife asked me why I needed to have her as a friend. What should I do? I don't like to have my social life regulated like this. It feels demeaning.
– Can't Have Friends
A: You guys need to figure out whether you want to stay married. You're not happy, she doesn't trust you, and you've already tried to have a fling. It doesn't sound like there's much love in the relationship. If this hadn't become a marriage, you would have just broken up.
It's always good to make big marriage decisions after therapy. If you have no interest in getting help as a couple, go alone. But do it soon. Talk about your history.
As for the friend thing, you can do whatever you want. You can tell your wife that you're going to pursue this friendship against her wishes. You can tell her again that you'd appreciate hanging out during a double date -- because that was your intention from the beginning. Just be empathetic. Her demand is unfair -- in a good marriage, people can make new friends -- but she caught you trying to cheat. Of course she assumes the worst.
If you're addressing the problems in your marriage and confronting what's been happening for six years, the friendship stuff will become less important. It's time to tell her that you want to fix the big stuff. Explain that you're deeply unhappy and that you both need help.
Readers? Thoughts on addressing the marital problems? Thoughts on this new friend? Should he be allowed to have friends right now? And what about his marital history? Help.
Thank you to everyone who came to the Romance Rumble screening of "Serendipity." I'll try to post a pic or two tomorrow. It was a lot of fun.
I'm a single mom and have been dating this guy for seven years, living with him for two years, and engaged for one year. We broke up recently because he is a selfish jerk. He initiated the breakup by giving me the silent treatment and then telling me he was tired of the fighting and that we should just stop spinning our wheels. I agreed because I didn't want him to think it was hurting me or that I was weak.
My son and I still live under his roof because I need time to find my own place. We pass each other without saying a word every day. I see him come in late at night, but that is really all I see of him. It's been a week since we've spoken and he recently came into the room where I was sleeping and kissed my forehead and said "sorry" and walked away. Why would he do that?? I don't know if he thought I was sad, but this guy is emotionally confused and mean. He then texted me "What are your plans?" and I responded "for ..." and he said "for our conversation a few days ago."
I don't know what he means because the conversation we had was about how much we fight and just need to break up (his choice). I don't know what he means by "plans." My mind is telling me that he is curious of my plans for moving out, but he said he wasn't kicking me out. I just never responded to him and now he has me wondering. What is your input on this?
– Confused, Laredo
A: 1. The kiss was a goodbye. This relationship went horribly wrong, but I'm sure that there were some nice moments in seven years. The kiss was his weird (and selfish) way of saying, "Sorry it didn't work." It's confusing, but it doesn't mean much.
2. The text was his way of confirming that you're looking for a new place to live. He's not kicking you out, but this awkward living situation shouldn't go on for too long. After all of the silent treatment, he probably just wants to make sure that you understand that you need to come up with a timeline for departure. And you do.
3. It's time to respond to him and tell him that you'd like to sit down and talk about how the move-out will work. I understand that this is horrible and that you have legitimate reasons for calling him a selfish jerk, but you have to push pause on your feelings and come up with an exit plan. Call your friends and ask them to help. Make sure that your son is surrounded by loved ones. You can process this loss once the practicalities are settled.
Readers? What was the meaning of the kiss and the text? Should she be participating in silent treatment right now? What should she be doing? Does she have to talk to him about her timeline? Help.
We chat at 1.
Q: My boyfriend and I, both in our 50s, have been together seven years. He has been legally separated for three and we are living together. His ex does not know about me. Last year I found out that he had left her flowers on Valentine's Day. He does not know that I know. I have every reason to believe that he did it again this year.
I am trying to be understanding -- that he just wants to be nice and make her feel good -- but I am having a hard time with this. I know that if I ask him, he will get defensive. He did get me beautiful roses and a sweet card. I do not question his love for me but I do wonder if he is still in love with her.
– Sleepless, Boca Raton
A: The flowers seem less important than the fact that he's still legally separated. Why isn't he divorced yet? And why doesn't his ex know about you? If you're serious enough to live together, he should be telling people in his community that you exist. Including her.
It's time to have a talk, but not about whether he still loves his ex. Ask him about your future together and how he plans to end his marriage. Ask him whether he feels comfortable letting the people in his life know that you're his significant other.
Something tells me the flowers wouldn't bother you so much if you knew where you stood. Yes, you know he loves you ... but is he committed to making a life with you? It's time to find out.
Readers? Are the flowers a big deal? Would she care about them if he was divorced? Is it weird that the ex doesn't know about her? Help.
Q: I have been in a relationship for about seven months. Both of us are in our mid-20s. Our relationship is a lot of fun and I can see definite long-term possibilities for us. I'm not ready to proclaim that this is the one, but I am certainly headed in that direction.
Here is the situation. A little while before I met my current boyfriend, I dated a different guy. Our relationship only lasted about three months. We fought constantly and the relationship was rocky except for the sex. We had the absolute best sex and we had it a lot. It was the only time we didn't argue. We broke up because we both knew the relationship wasn't going to work. In the time after our break up, we would get together every so often, maybe once every month or two, and have sex. These encounters were mutual and each one of us would initiate them at different times.
My current relationship is headed to the exclusive stage. We have not had the official talk but I know he already is being exclusive. I have been getting serious and I fully want to be exclusive down the road. I also want to meet up with my ex for some more mind-blowing sex before "down the road" becomes now.
I love having sex with my current boyfriend. We have such a strong intimate connection. I don't believe the pure physicality of sex with my ex ruins that nor does it take away from the fact that I only want to date my current boyfriend. I'm reasonably certain that my current boyfriend would not want me meeting up with my ex just for sex even though we are not officially exclusive. I just don't see him taking it well. I am not the cheating type and I know I will give up my ex for my current guy.
How should I negotiate this situation?
– Question in Cambridge
A: You should negotiate this situation by not having sex with your ex. Sorry.
You haven't had an official talk with your current boyfriend about exclusivity, but it sounds like your commitment is implied. This wouldn't be a cheat, but it would be a violation. Based on what you've told us about your new relationship, it just doesn't seem like a risk worth taking. And I'm not convinced that the mind-blowing sex would feel as good now that you're emotionally connected to someone else.
"I know I will give up my ex for my current guy." That's your answer. If you want this relationship to evolve into something more, you have to start making a few sacrifices. Skipping sex with your ex seems like a good way to start.
Readers? Can she get away with having sex with this guy one more time? Should she want to? Are they exclusive, even if they haven't had the talk? Help.
Q: I've been going out with this girl for the past two years and we've had our ups and downs. She also has a daughter I love very much. She broke up with me about a month ago because she couldn't be in a relationship that revolved around making ME happy and me not really do much for her. I actually agreed with her, and while it did hurt, it's true that I also just let her break up with me without putting up a fight.
At first the relationship was great, but as time went on I started to doubt whether this was the right thing. Yes, I felt happy with her, and I knew she loved me and respected me, and that was something I haven't had with other relationships. She has been the best thing that's ever happened to me, but that doubt in the back of my head never left. I used to be a hopeless romantic, and with her it was like that part of me just left. I felt like I had to do romantic things just to make her happy, but not because it truly came from my heart. Our arguments started getting worse and I sort of stopped caring about them. I tried breaking up with her but the thought of breaking her heart just killed me because I've never wanted to hurt her. She doesn't deserve it.
Everyone else tells me that we made a good couple and it's got me thinking. Am I just not in love with her? Am I afraid to commit to her? What if there's someone better for me out there? Now I'm sitting here wondering whether I should try to get her back. I know if I try to get her back, things have to change. I have to prove to her that I'm not going to just get up and leave anytime I want. I will have to move in with her, but I'm afraid if it doesn't work out, I will hurt her again more than I already have and I don't want that. I'd rather be in pain myself than make her shed one more tear because of me. Please help me shed some light because I can't for the life of me figure it out. Is this love?
– Confused Guy, NY
A: If you let this woman go after two years, you probably shouldn't be getting back together with her. You're asking whether there's someone better for you out there. With that question running through your head, you can't fully commit to this relationship.
It does sound like you miss her and that you have some legit feelings, but you don't sound thrilled about doing the work to make her happy. You can't do this halfway, and she deserves so much more than a last-ditch effort.
Give this breakup more time and see how you feel. My guess is that in a few more weeks, you'll stop asking these what-if questions and get used to being on your own.
Readers? Should he have let her go? Does he really miss her? What happened here? Help.
I feel like we keep getting bummed out letters from Florida.
Q: Hey Meredith
I am writing today to ask advice about my long-term boyfriend. I've been with him for almost seven years, and generally we have had a great relationship. He's an amazing guy and I love him very much but he has a huge flaw -- he is a very smart person but has always had a hard time keeping a job. He is constantly quitting and having long periods of joblessness, and I have been supporting him for the majority of the time we've been together! I feel like he isn't even trying anymore and I can't watch him continue to throw his life away. I'm 25 and I am ready to move on with my life and get my education, but he just wants to do nothing. I've tried everything I can think of -- nagging, discussions, threats, deadlines, etc. -- and nothing has worked. Is it time to call it quits? I just don't know what to do.
– Not Working, Gainesville, Fla.
A: Time to move on. This guy has become your dependent, and that's not the kind of relationship you want. You started dating as teens and had no idea what kind of adult he'd become, but now you do, and you guys just aren't a match.
I understand that ditching him is easier said than done because you probably can't imagine life without him (he's basically been around forever), but please know that the anticipation of change is often scarier than change itself. And it is so clear that you're ready for what's next.
Readers? Validation? Any reason to stay? Discuss.
Q: Hi Meredith,
My longtime boyfriend rocks. We're a great team and we have a loving, supportive, fulfilling relationship.
I would prefer to be married before we start a family (we're 27). I know he has something expensive in mind for his future proposal, but he doesn't make much money and I don't need a ring or anything extravagant. We could wake up tomorrow and simply declare ourselves engaged, and I would be thrilled -- just being with him is what makes me happy.
We've discussed all of this and agree that we're ready, but he still wants to propose the "right" way ... the way he says I deserve. He shouldn't have to do anything crazy just to pay for it, though, like change careers. He enjoys his work, and I am content with being the breadwinner -- and I know he wouldn't want me to propose to him.
I appreciate how much he cares and am super curious about this grand gesture, but I would love it if we could take the next step sooner rather than later. However, I also know it's not all about what I want. Is there anything I can do to help him overcome his own high standards/idealism? Or should I be patient and trust he has it figured out?
– In Love & Ready, Boston
A: Be patient about the time frame and the logistics of the proposal -- at least for now -- but talk to him about the cost. As we learned from J. Courtney Sullivan at a recent Love Letters event, the whole "two months' salary" ring thing is arbitrary. Tell him that you love the romance, but the expense? Not so much.
It'll be good practice to talk about his budget -- because you need to be comfortable discussing money issues, even when it zaps some of the romance from the relationship. You guys are partners. You can't pretend that he has some weird extra bank account that he uses to lavish you with gifts.
It's his proposal, but the gift part of it is for you. If you're going to spend your time looking at a fancy ring and resenting its price tag, let your boyfriend know. Talk about your priorities.
Readers? Should she let him spend money on this proposal? Should she ask him to drop some of the romance so they can speed up the process? What do you think of his high standards? Help.
Q: I have been with this guy for six years and I moved with him across the US. We were about to break up our first year -- because I found him on an online dating service -- but then we worked things out. Then I moved a year later. Things were going great, but then I was pressuring him about getting married. He took me to a bar and told me he didn't want to get married right now. He said, "When I'm ready I'll let you know." I said OK but I was hurt.
Things were going well again, but then I found him on another dating site. We argued about it and then he deleted it. I've found out that when he's out, he tells girls that he is single. He would get text messages from girls and I would see them, and they would be simple messages, but when I asked him about them, he told me he has known them for years. I don't believe him.
I just recently caught him having a sexual conversation with a friend who is married. I still have a screen shot of the message. He apologized to me. Again, I thought things would be OK. Then, on Saturday, I turned my back and saw that he was messaging her -- but then he claimed he was calling his son. I know he wasn't. He erased her messages. I have not talked to him about this because every time I try, he makes these sounds and avoids everything, and I tell him that he put himself in the situation and that he needs to deal with it. I love him very much and care for him, but the trust is kind of gone. We laugh all the time and hang out all the time. We are pretty much joined at the hip. I am really confused about what to do. I think I know what to do but scared. HELP!!
– Confused, Daytona
A: "I have not talked to him about this because every time I try, he makes these sounds."
I would love to hear these sounds. I would love to make them my ringtone.
This guy sounds awful. Yes, you've had some good times and laugh a lot, but he's been texting a married woman and has lied to you about being on dating sites. He refuses to change his behavior, and your life has become a race to catch him in the act. Leaving a long-term relationship is scary, but you can't continue on like this. If there is no trust, you can't grow as a couple.
My advice? Start reaching out to friends who can help you make plans for a move. You need community support as you decide what's next. Remind yourself that you're not really joined at the hip with your boyfriend -- because sometimes his hip is signing up for dating sites or texting other women.
If you want to be in a great relationship -- the kind that could become a marriage -- you need to let this one go.
Readers? Is there hope here? Is he really seeking out other women or is this just about boredom? Help.
We chat at 1.
Q: Dear Meredith,
A few months ago I was on vacation and I met someone who, it turned out, was the brother of one of my friends (we'd never met because he lives halfway across the country). We hung out during our entire vacation and really connected. REALLY connected. We would talk for hours, had the same sense of humor, and I had butterflies every time he was around. Unfortunately, he had a girlfriend of two years back home. Nothing physical happened ... but it definitely felt like an emotional affair at times. We hypothetically talked about what we would be like as a couple, how compatible we were, etc., and his last night on vacation was one of the most romantic nights of my life, although we didn't even hold hands. He said to me, "I've spent all week trying to find one reason why you might not be the one for me, and I can't find a single thing to convince me that we're not supposed to be together."
Although I told him it wasn't a good idea, I couldn't resist emailing him back after we left, just chatting casually about movies we liked and things of that nature. After a few weeks he abruptly said he needed to stop talking to me, that his feelings for me were growing and it wasn't fair to his girlfriend. He said that although their relationship didn't always feel right, he wanted to see it through as long as he could. I agreed and told him although I hoped we could be friends, I knew it wasn't possible, and that I would respect his wishes. I hadn't heard from him since.
Until a few weeks ago, that is. His sister texted me that he's coming to visit and that he mentioned he'd like to see me. Oh, and that he'd broken up with his girlfriend a few weeks ago. The timing felt suspicious -- the first visit planned so soon after breaking up with his girlfriend? But I didn't want to read too much into it. Today, he reached out and confirmed that he was coming to Boston next month, and said that while he's here he'd like to take me on a date.
I'm feeling so many different emotions ... I'm excited, anxious, scared ... and his visit is still a few weeks away. In my mind we have three BIG problems: 1. He's the brother of a good friend. 2. He lives in far away. (Who willingly enters into a long-distance relationship from the beginning?!) 3. He's just getting out of a long-term relationship. Although it seems that his relationship was over a long time before he ended it, he will still only have been single for two months by the time we see each other.
Is this doomed from the beginning? I want to point out that we're both in our early 30s and have had our fair share of relationships, and it's not like I'm desperate and he's the only person who's interested in me ... he's just what my heart hasn't been able to get rid of in the last few months. In the past two weeks since he reached back out, we've logged about 15 hours on the phone, talking about everything we can think of. The conversation is always fun and easy and unintentionally goes on for hours at a time; we've discussed his breakup and what we might do when he's out here. I strongly feel that he might be the one for me, but I am already worried about all these obstacles.
– Compulsive Worrier, Brighton
A: Please calm down. Please. There's no reason to freak out right now. It sounds like you're confusing excitement with panic.
Have your date. Try to enjoy it and get to know this guy in a more realistic context. Don't think about whether he's "the one" for you, just consider whether you'd like to see him again and how that would work. You shouldn't be making any massive decisions after this trip. Take this one visit at a time and see what grows.
Something tells me that even if you met a guy down the street, you'd be thinking about obstacles and asking big questions about the future. That's just your thing -- because you like control. Some of your anxiety is natural, but you can't let it take over. And you can't predict the future, no matter how hard you try.
Every time you start to ask massive questions about the future of this potential relationship, repeat this mantra: "I'm going on a date. I hope it's good. We'll see what happens." Then watch some TV. Find the perspective you so desperately need, because if you keep spiraling about the big unknowns, you're not going to be able to enjoy yourself.
Readers? How can she chill out about all of this? Is there too much buildup for this date? Is the relationship doomed because of where he is post-breakup? Help.
I have been dating my girlfriend for two years. We have been living together for about six months. We get along very well. We lead a pretty active lifestyle -- skiing, hiking, walking around the city. We both get along with each other's family.
I am 30, she is 27.
For the most part we have a great relationship. There is one big issue though. She loves kids, works with them, and definitely wants them in the future. I, on the other hand, do not like kids and know I do not want them in the future. I do not mind them in short periods, such as nieces and nephews, but the thought of being responsible for them full time and losing sleep and money does not appeal to me.
This seems like an issue that would be a deal breaker, but I want to try to find a way to stay with her but get around this. Do you have any suggestions?
– Conflicted, Lexington
A: It's a deal breaker. Sorry.
The only way to get around this problem is for you to change your mind. It's wonderful that you guys get along so well and like the same outdoor activities, but if one of you wants a baby and the other doesn't, your mutual interest in skiing doesn't matter.
Sit down with her and confront the issue. She should know that you're serious about not wanting kids. And you should take the time to listen to what she wants so that you can feel better about walking away.
There are plenty of relationship conflicts that can be solved with a compromise, but this is not one of them. There is no workaround when it comes to children. Deal with this sooner than later.
Readers? Any hope for them? Is there a way to get around this? Help.
Q: I recently began talking with an old high school friend. We both agreed on a strictly physical relationship, but one thing lead to another and we found ourselves going on dates and having sleep overs that did NOT involve any type of physicality. He brought me to meet his friends (who were quite surprised and happy that he was doing anything with a girl other than taking her home for the night) and also introduced me to his mother.
Other than the title of a relationship, every part of our actions pointed to committed relationship. Neither of us was seeing other people, and we spoke every day. One night while lying in bed, my curiosity got the better of me and I asked him very straight forwardly, "I thought all you wanted was sex?" He shook his head no and explained that originally, it was all he wanted but that "things change." He said that he was not at the girlfriend stage with me yet, but he had feelings for me and wanted to take things slow. I feel it's important to point out he did NOT try sleeping with me afterwards.
Two days later he was out with some friends at a bar where I picked him up. We went back to his house and everything seemed completely normal. Out of absolutely no where he told me that I needed to leave. Dumbfounded, I started to get up to go and he told me we had to talk. He started by explaining that he liked me -- a lot. He named everything he liked about me and said he loved spending time with me and always had fun with me. He then explained that the reason why he's never been in a committed relationship is because a girl from his past had broken his heart and never gave him a chance. He obviously loved her. He told me that I had to leave him because he would never be able to commit to me out of fear. I know that is usually a line guys use as a cop-out, but he seemed like he was being very honest and teared up a few times.
He told me he couldn't possibly let me like him since he does not even like himself, no matter how strong his feelings were for me. I really like this guy and want to continue things with him, but I don't know what to do or how to approach the situation. Please help.
– Hooked and Confused, Massachusetts
A: It sort of doesn't matter whether this is a cop-out or not. If he's telling you that he doesn't like himself and that he doesn't want you to fall for him, you have to walk away.
We've all been hurt. We're all afraid of rejection. Starting a relationship takes bravery, and if he doesn't have that, there's not much you can do.
If you need any clarity after all of his confusing talk about himself, please tell him what you want and ask him whether he's interested. If he says that he just can't move forward, that's that.
You guys have done a lot of worrying about him. It's time to think about your own needs and whether this guy will ever live up to his own hype.
Readers? Anything she can do? Are you buying his fears or is this just a cop-out? What about the tears? Help.
You can sign up for the free Love Letters screening of "Serendipity" here. Please join. I am told there will be cupcakes.
Q: Hi Meredith,
My question is about sex after breaking up with a live-in boyfriend.
I dated my boyfriend for about 3.5 years and broke up with him about a month ago. It started as a couple of years of friendship that turned into a hookup that turned into a relationship. There were a million red flags from the get-go that I willfully ignored because I was planning to leave for an out-of-state job opportunity that, as luck would have it, fell through about seven months into dating. I was fully prepared to leave him behind for said opportunity, but when it didn't happen and I had to remain in town and we had to have a talk about what we wanted.
For the sake of clarity, he knew all along I was supposed to be leaving him and that our hookup had a shelf-life. He was fine with it, but he loved me and I was very emotionally attached to him as well, so against my better judgment, I decided to stay in the relationship.
Fast-forward three bumpy years and we live together and are in the middle of hosting an exchange student. After nearly five months of next-to-no sex (not for my lack of trying) and some couple's counseling, I dumped him last month.
I agreed to stay in the house we share (rented, and we have had separate bedrooms since Day 1 -- my preference) until the kid goes home in June so as not to put the ex out financially or disrupt the kid's life, but it is really awful to think about three to four more months living with someone who wouldn't have sex with me for the last five.
So what do I owe him now? He really didn't want this breakup and told me when I dumped him that he loved me and hoped I would change my mind. I have been emotionally checked out for a while, and I want to discreetly find someone on the side specifically for physical intimacy, but it almost feels like having an affair. Is it okay as long as I keep it out of the house and I'm taking care of all my responsibilities at home first? Or am I expected to just grin and bear the current situation for the last three to four months?
I just need a little guidance. I'm too stuck on what I haven't been getting to think clearly!
– What now?
A: If you want to look for somebody else to date (or sleep with), that's fine. Just make sure that your ex understands the terms. He should know that you're really over, even though you're still in the house. And yes, if you meet someone, keep it out of your shared space. Be respectful.
But ... please know that three months is not a very long time. It might take you a while to find a new place and prepare for a move. You'll need to pack and tour apartments. It makes sense that you're longing for physical intimacy and something new, but you don't have to make up for lost time right this second. If dating (or sleeping with someone) while living with an ex feels complicated, there's no reason to do it. June is right around the corner. It would be so much easier to start the next chapter on your own, without an audience. Think about biding your time.
Also, if there's any way to leave the house early, do it. Perhaps you can escape in May and have one month of paying two rents. Or maybe you can stay with a friend for a while. I'm not worried about the exchange student – the kid will be fine. It's all about what's best for you and the ex. If space is what you guys need, find it.
Readers? Should the LW wait for sex? What about the student? Why is this so urgent? Help.
Here is the signup page for the Romance Rumble screening on March 5 at Theatre 1 at the Revere Hotel. Ty Burr and I will show the big guilty-pleasure winner, "Serendipity," and there will be treats and a bar. The event is free. Sign up fast and bring friends.
And we chat today at 1.
Q: After three marriages I finally met a man that made my world turn. His heart was the best thing about him. Forget the six-pack and the personality; he was kind and he fell in love with me. I think. After 10 years, I'm starting to doubt whether he did or not. For seven years we NEVER had one argument, then some things happened with kids and parents -- no adultery -- but he has changed into a completely different person. It's like I don't exist anymore. This has been going on for 18 months now. This was what I had wanted and waited for all of my life and I had it for seven years, and then suddenly it's gone. But I still love him with all my heart and I am a good wife. I do everything for him. That's the problem -- I do everything, he has gotten lazy, and I am wearing myself out. I feel that if he loved me, he wouldn't let me do that. What have I done wrong?
– What happened?, Texas
A: You gloss over some important details in your letter. You say that "something happened with kids and parents -- no adultery," and while I have no idea what that means, it sounds like a very big deal.
I hate to simply throw the therapy card, but you're in desperate need of a safe place where you can ask your husband about your marriage in front of a professional. Tell him that you need to figure out how to get happy again. If he says no, go to therapy on your own.
Something bad went down and your relationship has changed. You won't be able to hit rewind and get back to those first seven years, but you can make some educated decisions about whether you have a future with this man. Start that process and make an appointment now. Don't let 18 months turn into two years ... or three ... or five. If you can't find a therapist, ask your doctor for help.
Readers? Can they deal with this without therapy? What happened? Is he depressed? Can she get back to those first seven years? Help.
We chat at 1 p.m.
As I mentioned last week, I'm getting a lot of spam through our Love Letters entry form. Send your letters directly to meregoldstein at Gmail dot com to bypass the system. And if you sent a letter that didn't get posted, please resend to the Gmail address so I can see it.
Also, information about the Love Letters Romance Rumble screening will be posted tomorrow.
And make sure you read yesterday's advice from 826 Boston.
I can't get over my First Love. We might as well refer to her as Voldemort because my friends swear I should never mention her name again. I am 24 now, and we broke up over three years ago. Yes, we started dating in high school. In total, we were on and off for almost four years.
Our last break up was actually my decision for once. I became suspicious that she was more interested in someone else and it turned out that I was right.
She has been with him ever since, and I think of her on a daily basis. I can't help it. If I were ever given the chance to ever be with her again, I would take it in a heartbeat. I have tried to date other girls since, but always seems to compare them to my ex.
I can't progress past the first few dates because of this. Anytime a girl is interested in me, I keep her at a distance. I eventually go on to tell them that I don't feel a connection.
My sister tells me I am too picky and should just try to "settle down."
– Will I ever get over her?, Boston
A: Well, your sister is wrong. You don't need to settle down. But you do need to remind yourself that no one wants to be with Voldemort. You're confusing grief and rejection with desire. You can be sad about the way things ended without wanting her back.
It's time to start thinking of her as your high school girlfriend. Because that's what she is -- your first love (lower case). She's an important part of your history, but she's not your end game. Keep going on dates and expanding your peer group so that you're exposed to new people on a regular basis. The bigger you make your world, the smaller she'll seem.
And for the record, your friends are right to limit the Voldemort talk. They should be there for you and listen, but they should also stop you from making your ex more important than she is. Sounds like they're doing a good job.
Readers? How can he get over this? Should he settle down? Is he making her more important than she is? Help.
The winner of the 2014 Romance Rumble is (drum roll) me! And by me, I mean one of my picks, "Serendipity," which took the prize for best guilty pleasure.
Film critic Ty Burr and I will screen the film March 5 at Theatre 1 at the Revere Hotel. We'll also tell you some fun things about the movie. I'll post a sign-up page for the event on Wednesday. Please join us. There will be cupcakes.
As for today ...
You might remember that in December, I asked Love Letters readers to submit questions that could be answered by the young people at 826 Boston, a non-profit writing and tutoring center in Roxbury. I picked two of your questions and let the kids be advice columnists for an afternoon. Today, for the holiday, I'm running their answers. They did a fantastic job in a short amount of time (and a few of them chose funny pen names). Please think about your comments -- they'll be reading.
Q: I think it's really easy to text rather than call my friends. But some of my friends and family return my text with a call. I find that really annoying, because when they call, I might not be able to talk. What's the difference between texting and talking, anyway, and am I allowed to tell them I'd rather text than talk, or tell them that "now isn’t a good time" when they call?
Too Many Phone Calls
Dear Too Many Phone Calls,
I think it is easier to call because when you text it goes back and forth. When you call you can say what you want and finish. Therefore, I think calling is better.
-- Wahaaj Or
Dear Too Many Phone Calls,
I advise you to pick up the phone when you are able to, but if you cannot answer the phone then you could just text them say, "I'm busy right now," or, "Hey, can I call you in like an hour so?" You are not being rude.
Understanding Person, 16
Dear Too Many Phone Calls,
You can text them that you can't talk. Also, you could tell the person that you prefer to text. In some cases the person, i.e. parents, don't understand texting and the way it works. You could turn your phone silent.
Dear Too Many Calls,
You should choose texts and ignore calls. It is up to you.
Q: My baby brother is always in the way. He ruins my crayons, breaks my dolls, and changes the channel when I am watching TV. My mom always lets him get his way because he is the baby. How can I stop him from bothering me?
You should ask your mom for your own lock on your door so he can stay out of your room.
Sincerely, Lebron James (11)
Heat All Day Son
I think you should close the door so he cannot get in.
What I think you should do, Michelle, is just let him use them. Eventually, he'll get bored and stop playing with your toys. Little kids just want someone to play with and annoy. If you just ignore him, he'll stop.
Samsam Ismail (10)
You should bribe him with something big and tell him to stop. And for your mom, tell her that you need space.
Kiara Michelle Gomez (10 ˝)
I'm getting a lot of spam through our Love Letters entry form. Send your letters directly to meregoldstein at Gmail to bypass the system. And if you sent a letter that didn't get posted, please resend to the Gmail address so I can see it.
Also, no matter what wins the Romance Rumble, it'll be a good screening. The winner and the event information will be announced Monday.
Q: After a little over four years of marriage (and 10 years total of being together), my marriage is coming to an end. Not my decision. There were communication problems and things unsaid that I took for granted that she knew. We tried couples counseling for about six months, but all it revealed was that things were not going to improve. I did try to improve, but it was either too little, too late, or she didn't fully trust what I had to say. She felt we had become, at best, just excellent roommates, and while I agree, I thought it could get back on track and she did not.
Anyway, we are separating on our way to divorce. But before we dated, we were friends. We met in graduate school and knew each other for about a year before we started dating. At that point, we were best friends. Even now, through everything, we still get along and still can have fun together. She has said that she does not want to be married anymore but that she wants to be friends -- that she cannot imagine me not in her life.
This leads me to my question -- is it an awful idea to try to remain friends after all this? I too can't imagine her not in my life. But, if it were up to me, we would stay married. I don't know how the friendship works if we are just friends. If we hang out and have fun, either it will upset me because I will want more or think more may still be possible, and/or it may upset me that she can be perfectly fine just being friends. And thinking ahead, what happens when either one of us start dating someone? I know at this point I wouldn't want to hear about her dating life. How can a friendship work if there are parts of our lives we can't share with each other?
Almost every day since she moved out, I am tempted to text or email about my day, and I already miss talking to her and seeing her tremendously. But at the same time, I worry about mixed signals and that if she is friendly, I am going to take it as a sign she might want to get back together.
I just am really torn. I don't want her out of my life, I know she wants us to remain friends and it makes me feel pretty mean and cold to say, "OK, we can divorce if that is what you want, but if so, that will be the end of anything between us." It sounds mean in my head and very selfish. But I don't know if any other option works.
– Can we be just friends?, Boston
A: You don't have to make a big, final decision about this right now. You're incapable of having a friendship with her at the moment, but maybe that will change down the road. I think she'd be OK with you saying, "Right now I need space, but we'll see how it goes."
Your gut is telling you that if you talk to her right now, you'll want her back. Listen to those instincts, because it's too early to think about anything beyond self-preservation. Shutting her out now does not mean that she's gone forever. Your relationship has evolved into many things over 10 years -- you've been close friends, partners, and exes. That evolution hasn't stopped.
Focus on the immediate issue, which is getting through the day and finding new people to text and call when you feel like you want to talk. And let her know, if she asks, that your relationship is a work in progress. You want her in your life, but you need to build a life without her before you can invite her in.
Readers? Can they be friends? Should he be thinking about friendship right now? What is their future? Help.
In the Romance Rumble, Doris Day beat Sandra Bullock. But I'm still rooting for my picks.
Q: Dear Meredith,
I recently ended a four-year relationship with a man who was very kind, thoughtful, caring, drama-less ... really wonderful in every capacity except for the fact that we weren't connecting. We didn't connect mentally and had issues connecting physically. Over those four years I lost my attraction to him, lost the "spark," and as hard as I tried, I just didn't feel it coming back. Our sex life was almost non-existent toward the end. I do find myself missing his companionship a lot, as we did enjoy each other's company and had fun hanging out together.
Here's the thing though: I'll be 50 this year.
I was married and divorced in my 20s, spent most of my 30s and early 40s chasing my career, which involved multiple moves to different states (but that's in a really good place now). Admittedly I did not focus on the relationship part of my life during that time, but have had a few long-term ones that didn't work out for various reasons. I have good friends, and I'm comfortable being on my own, but a relationship would be nice.
At this age I'm feeling that my options are becoming limited, unless I consider crazy old cat lady an option. So, here's my question: At what point should the physical part become less important than the companionship part? Am I crazy for walking away from a "good enough" relationship? I don't want to be alone, but I still really don't want to settle either. Thoughts?
– Avoiding Cats, Plymouth
A: It's understandable that you're doubting the breakup. But please remember that your relationship wasn't just lacking in the sex department. You say that you and your boyfriend "didn't connect mentally." That doesn't sound like a "good enough" relationship to me.
In some relationships, the physical is essential. In others, attraction and sex are important, but there's enough going on mentally to make up for any lulls and gaps.
You need to find someone more compelling. Yes, your options have probably changed, but that doesn't mean that they're bad. And even if no one is waiting in the wings, you had to break up with this guy. As soon as you start using words like "settle," it's over.
Readers? Should she have walked away from this nice guy? How important is the physical connection? Help.
No chat today. I'm still out of town.
But it's Day 3 of Romance Rumble 2014. Keep in mind that we'll host a screening of the winner in a few weeks. With popcorn. And Ty Burr.
Q: Around five years ago, I was in a long-distance AND online relationship. Before you ask, it started via World of Warcraft. We'll call him "Justin."
Justin was fine until after I went and visited him across the country. After that point, he became controlling and extremely jealous of any guy I spoke to. Note that I said we played WoW together. Majority of the players are male. At the time I was also playing in a group that consisted mostly of people he knew in real life.
At one point I moved servers to play with another friend. He hunted me down and berated me through private messages.
Many times I'd do or say something and he'd get upset. When I asked what I did, he'd tell me that I should know what I did and that he wouldn't tell me. Eventually things came to a head and it was a rather ... explosive break up.
The funny thing is, when we aren't under the "couple" flag, he's normal. He doesn't go berserk. Currently we have an "Oh hey, how you doing lately?" relationship.
But that was all backstory.
Here's where I admit to doing some Facebook spying. I'd noticed a few of his status updates sounded oddly similar to the ones he'd have when we were together. So I poked. Found his new girlfriend. He's pretty hush-hush about specifics, but she elaborates. She says things about not having to be scared in a relationship. Just yesterday she posted something about how she doesn't like it when they fight but knows it'll all be better soon. She even said how she doesn't know what she did, but she's sorry.
I see everything that happened to me playing out with this poor girl. She's young (just got out of high school) and she's swooning over him and is enamored with the idea of marrying him.
I feel like I need to do something. I want to tell her but I don't think it's my place to just show up out of nowhere and be all "Yeah, your boyfriend can be emotionally abusive. You should run while you can."
Any ideas on how to proceed (or not)?
– Past is Repeating, Boston
A: Proceed by removing yourself from this situation.
I believe that you have good intentions, but there's no reason to involve yourself in your ex's new relationship. You can't spend the rest of your life reaching out to his girlfriends to let them know what they might be getting themselves into.
And really, if you send this woman a message to tell her that you've seen her Facebook posts, what is she supposed to think? Why would she believe that you're a reliable source?
Stop checking her status updates. Know that if she's posting messages about her fears, the people in her life are probably seeing them.
If you have residual anger about your own breakup, find a therapist. You might need to talk about what happened with a professional so that you can let it go.
Readers? Should she reach out to his new girlfriend? How can she stop herself? Any thoughts about navigating online, long-distance relationships? Help.
It's Romance Rumble, Round 2.
Q: Greeting Internet World!
I was in a year-long relationship with a wonderful man -- up until a month ago, when he decided to tell me (the day before our one-year anniversary) that he "found someone else." I had no idea it was coming. We never really fought and he never expressed any concerns about our relationship. Everything was grand in my eyes. Needless to say I was shocked and speechless and left very quickly, so I never got a chance to respond in any intelligent way, or hear any further explanation on his part.
I do not want this person back. I don't really hold a grudge against him; he didn't love me and I know that I can't force him to feel something that's not there. It stinks but I am dealing with it as best I can.
Fast forward a month and I am still not over it. The problem is that he sent me a message that he wants to "talk things over" sometime soon. I'm assuming that he wants to explain his side of what happened. We were pretty close friends for a few years before we started a relationship.
I'm just not sure that I see that point in hearing his side of the story. It would be nice to get a better understanding so I stop feeling responsible or silly for not having picked up the signs, but at this point does it really matter?
Do you think it is worth it to try and hear out what he has to say? Or should I put the past in the past and just accept it as it is -- over. Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks!
– DUMPED, Boston
A: I hope you know that a month is nothing. A month is a blip. Even if you're not holding a grudge against this guy, you're allowed to feel bummed out and disappointed for a while.
As for meeting up with him, there's no right answer (sorry). If you do see him, it's possible that you'll wind up confused -- or hear an answer you don't like. And if you don't see him, you'll have to wonder what he might have disclosed.
My advice is to tell him that you're not ready to meet up right now, but that you might be in the future. Take your time with this decision. Also tell him that if he needs to get something off his chest right now, he can email you.
You don't have to make any plans on his timeline. You're in charge now.
Readers? Should she see him? Or not? Or table the issue? Help.
It's time for this year's Romance Rumble. I'm on the left, Ty's on the right.
Q: I started dating my boyfriend when I was 20 years old and he was 29. He has been a life-long friend of my family, so it was very exciting for everyone when we started dating. We moved in together about eight months into our relationship and have been together ever since. We're both are successful in our careers, we have a wonderful group of friends, our families are incredibly supportive of us, and we truly enjoy each other (most of the time!).
I am now 27 and he's about to turn 36. We've had many conversations about marriage and children and agree that it's something we both want. My girlfriends have lost hope that he'll ever propose ... and quite frankly, I'm getting there. As cliche as it sounds, he is truly my best friend and I couldn't imagine my life without him in it. So the thought of leaving because he won't propose sounds incredibly selfish to me. However, that's the advice that everyone keeps giving me. I don't like to bring up the topic of marriage too much because I don't want to pry or push, but I'm at the end of my rope.
– Impatiently Waiting, Small Town, VA
A: Talking about your future doesn't mean that you're prying or pushing. You're allowed to discuss this stuff, and there's no reason to feel like a nag.
Tell your boyfriend that you'd like to come up with a timeline. It's not about finding out when he's going to propose, it's about working together to devise a plan. He's already said that he wants what you want. Now that you're 27, you're ready to get specific about when.
If he won't talk about this stuff, explain that you're concerned that he no longer shares your vision for the future. Don't spit out any ultimatums. Simply ask: "Do we still want the same things?"
After seven years, you shouldn't feel like you're waiting around for a boyfriend to propose. You should feel like you're working with your partner to figure out what's next. This is supposed to be a team effort.
Readers? Should she be waiting for a proposal? Do you side with her girlfriends? How should she talk to him about this? Help.
Q: My boyfriend and I have been dating now for a year and several months. We are in a long-distance relationship and we see each other basically every other week. Lately I have noticed that we aren't having as much sex as I would think normal couples in a long-distance relationship would have. It has been over eight weeks since we had sex and we have spent eight days together.
I did ask him if he was sleeping with someone else. He said no. I asked him if I was boring in bed and he said no. He said that he wasn't with me for just sex -- that if we had a lot of sex now, what will we have later (he don't want it to get boring), and that he has noticed that his sex drive hasn't been what it used to be. He has still wanted me around and he has even came to visit me more. But we aren't having any sex! I have noticed that he is watching porn.
I am getting to the point where I want to walk away because I am feeling like the intimacy in my relationship is gone. Should I just assume he is cheating? I don't want to put any more effort into a relationship that is showing signs of infidelity.
– Dry Spell, Atlanta
A: This isn't about infidelity. I'd be shocked if he was seeing somebody else. It's more likely that he's dealing with some libido issues. Maybe it's less imposing for him to watch porn than to deal with someone who has real expectations.
It's time to tell your boyfriend that you need physical intimacy. If his sex drive is truly suffering, maybe he should see a doctor. Explain that if you can't talk about this stuff and work it out together, the relationship will fail. Remind him that you're not judging or trying to make him feel bad. You just want to make it better ... and you want him.
If he refuses to consider your needs and to discuss possible solutions, you're allowed to walk away.
Readers? Is this a cheating issue? How can she talk to him? Should she walk away? Help.
Q: Hi Meredith,
I met this guy online in June. He lives across the country, and I'm here in Boston. Since we started speaking, he's visited me in Boston twice, and I visited him once. I really like him. I mean, I think he's very attractive, he's a good person, and he's good between the sheets.
But I feel like he shows no interest in my life. Meaning, he doesn't ask me any questions, shows no curiosity about what I do, where I come from, what I like, who I am ... anything. I'm not used to this, I guess. Usually, when I first start to date people, there is a passion, a light, an energy where we are both starved to learn about the other.
With this guy, for example, when I visited him in his hometown, at one point we were in the car for three hours, and the car ride was essentially silent. We don't know each other that well yet so I felt/feel like there should be so much to explore, talk about, and learn about each other. But when I tried to start conversation, he responded, "You don't like silence very much, do you?"
I tried to explain that I have nothing against silence, but I feel like we should be chatting and learning more about each other at this early stage. So then he asked me, "How was your day?" and I responded, but I had spent the entire day in the car with him, so there wasn't much to say. But then it fell flat again, though I did my best to reply with open answers and questions back at him, modeling the behavior I was hoping for from him.
When I try to bring up the fact that this really bothers me, he responds defensively, saying something along the lines of "Ugh, why are you complaining?" So, I end up laughing it off for fear of coming across as needy or uptight. When I tell him it really bothers me, he assures me I shouldn't take it personally. However, when I am with him, he always seems interested in other things -- his phone, outside, something else, anything else.
Despite this, I am somehow still attracted to him and somehow still think he is a good person. The occasions when he does seem tuned in to what I'm saying, he comes across as kind and insightful. In between visits, we do talk on the phone, but the conversations are light, casual, and mostly about him.
I know that I won't be able to get everything I'm looking for in one person. But given the fact that we live so far apart, and that this is a substantial concern (right?), I don't know what to do. There are some times that I have an absolute blast with him and we have similar goals and desires and come from similar family backgrounds, so I could see myself possibly building a future with him. But then there's the rest of the time.
What do you think?
– Troubled in Maynard
A: You're not compatible. Sorry.
You want to develop an emotional connection with this guy, but he wants to talk about himself and look at his phone. He's not curious about your life and he wants you to be quiet. He's not a bad person, he's just wrong for you.
It sounds like you're sticking around for the sex. You're attracted to him and you like that part of the relationship. If there were a way to enjoy him with no strings attached, I'd say go for it. But you're already in too deep and you're clearly looking for a real partner. Sex can't keep a relationship together. I mean, it can ... but not for very long.
Let him go and find someone who wants to know more about you. Leave him with his quiet time.
Readers? Is this a long-distance problem or a personality problem? Should she walk away? Help.
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Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith at www.meredithgoldstein.netand on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.