Q: I've been married for 18 years, have two wonderful kids, and quit my job to raise them. My husband thinks I have it made by staying home and raising our kids. I know he works hard and makes a ton of money; that's why I OK'd his request to purchase a boat. He deserves it because he's worked really hard. He also thinks the house and kids are MY responsibility since he goes to work Monday to Friday. I disagree. I understand that he works very hard and that allows me to choose to stay home, but it doesn't mean that I'm a maid or babysitter -- so please don't treat me as that. I handle everything with kids -- food, bathing, clothing, medical appointments, schooling, socializing, etc. Itís hard. It's very hard to always put someone else first every day. When he comes home, there's a hot meal on the table waiting and he doesn't appreciate anything I do.
Today is Mother's Day. He had nothing planned. For breakfast, he made me coffee, which consisted of him pushing a button on a machine. No gifts. No plans. No flowers. I'm sorry if I sound selfish, but can I at least get some flowers? Is it that hard to make one day a little special for me? I told him I wanted to spend time as a family today, so why is he outside while I take care of the kids? My birthday was last month and I got nothing as well. Not even a homemade card from the kids. Why is my husband such an idiot? Or am I being too selfish?
– The Babysitter, Mass.
A: It's time for a talk about division of labor, TB. Your husband doesn't seem to understand what it's like to manage a household. Perhaps he should stay home one day and watch. Perhaps he should calculate the cost of daycare and imagine what it would be like if you decided to work.
As for Mother's Day, he should have done more, mainly because of the kids. He missed the chance to teach them about appreciation.
The question is: What can you do about all of this? You can certainly talk to him about how you feel and even suggest couples therapy. You can also tell him that you need extra help in the house. He makes a "ton of money," so can he pay for a cleaning service or a nanny for a few hours a week?
You can also ask him about his expectations. Maybe if he says them out loud he'll see why you're upset. And if he hears your expectations of him, he'll see how he's fallen short. It sounds like there are just too many assumptions in your marriage.
You can also ask for more alone time as a couple. If you get a real babysitter and find some time to enjoy each other's company, your marriage should improve. That, I know.
Readers? How can she change this marriage? Is he being an idiot? What should she do? Help.
I am not sure this is Love Letters material since there's not a big decision point. Rather, I'm looking to tap the collective wisdom for general advice. I am a serial clinger. I have had three significant-ish relationships in my life. In each one, I fought the end. I felt them coming. Something was off in each case. Yet I didn't accept their endings gracefully. I fought it, talking ad nausium, analyzing every detail, replaying every would-have could-have, should-have. Ultimately, it just made the endings more painful than necessary. One relationship was six years, with an engagement at the end. I gave myself the grace to dwell in the ambivalence for that was sure to accompany such a meaningful, complex relationship -- of course I would want to cling a little. The other two, however, were only 4 months or so -- flashes in the night. Any yet, despite my rational brain reminding me otherwise, I clung to each one. I feel like it's an important part of emotional maturity to be able to accept the end, and yet, despite the years under my belt, I am still a 14-year-old in this department. What is the formula for moving on gracefully?
– Serial Clinger, Boston
A: I wouldn't call you a clinger, SC. Serial Clingers cling during relationships. You just fight the breakup.
Frankly, it's better to over-analyze and fight breakups than walk away without thinking about the experience at all. Some analysis is a good thing. And please know that your loyalty will come in handy when you find a more permanent relationship.
My guess is that you were upset about those flash-in-the-night breakups because you still have some bad feelings about the end of your epic relationship. That's normal.
I also think that it's easy to become addicted to grief and analysis. For you, it's not about the guy you lost, it's about figuring out what went wrong. You're looking for answers when there usually aren't any. You get yourself stuck on the hamster wheel.
Perhaps if you learn to understand that your clinging is about addiction to analysis (as opposed to the guy), you'll be more self-aware when it happens again and better about shutting it down before you wind up lobbying.
Also listen to the people you trust. What do they say about these relationships? Can they help you bring meaning to the breakups?
Please know that I don't know anyone who is 100 percent graceful during breakups. Even if they're great in the moment, they usually throw tantrums in private. It's OK to freak out a little. It happens.
Readers? Is she doing anything wrong? Is there a formula for getting over things with grace? Analyze.
Q: Hello Meredith,
I'm a 25 y/o female who accomplished the thing all young twenty-somethings want right now. I got my dream job straight out of college and then got a promotion that moved me to Chicago. After about a month in Chicago, I met my current boyfriend "Mitchell." He's a 28 y/o who went to college for six years but only got a tech degree after dropping out from his school. I don't care about that -- but what has been getting to me in the last six months of our 2.5-year relationship is his inability to get motivated. He doesn't like the job he has, isn't happy, and we're starting to move apart. We moved in together seven months ago, and the first three months were great. I travel a lot for my job, and am constantly feeling like I not only have to manage my clients, but also him. He's a really sweet guy who adores me, but I am always feeling like I am the older and more responsible person in the relationship. I've noticed that a lot of this "It's not my problem" or "I'm smart but I just didn't have the right things given to me" stems a lot from his family too, so it's been ingrained in him.
I come from an extremely hard-working Italian/Portuguese family from the Southcoast, so I work really hard all the time. And I'm fiercely stubborn - I don't want to give up on this because I really do love him, but I'll try to talk to him about our issues and it seems to just go on deaf ears. I keep getting advice from my friends my age that I need to give him an ultimatum, but I feel like that's really immature. I feel like I keep giving him the second chance he asks for, but his actions do not reflect his words. I'm mature enough to know when something isn't working, but when I love someone, I really love them and don't want to give up. My good friend out here keeps telling me that I should just end it now and find that great forever-guy, but I just don't know. What do you think?
– To Do or Not to Do, Chicago
A: I'm not sure what ultimatum you could give him, TDONTD. "Become someone else or I'm breaking up with you?" "Get motivated or we're through?"
You either love him as is or you walk. It's very possible that he'll mature and become more self-sufficient as he gets older, but you can't count on that. After almost three years, you're either happy or you have to move on.
So that's my question for you: Do you want to keep him around if he's going to stay like this forever? My guess is no. Accepting him as is would require you to stop nagging and asking for more. You'd just have to let him live and be his partner through all of it.
If that doesn't sound like a good plan, you're better off being single, enjoying your travel, and starting the hunt for a grown-up. I don't know if "forever-guy" exists, but you can certainly try your best to find him.
Readers? Any hope here? Is she asking for too much? Should she end it? Are all 25-year-olds so focused on career? Will he change as he gets older? Help.
I'm still out of the office for mom stuff (today I deal with my godchild, a massive Steinway piano). I'm not sure whether Glenn is hosting chat. If he can, he'll post a link soon. If not, we'll see you next week.
Q: I am in love with this guy who lives across the country. We have a history. We dated in high school 20 years ago. We found each other three years ago and became very close. Even intimate.
But we agreed to date others since we live so far away. It has been great and tough at the same time. But I feel like I can't let anyone get close to me because I am waiting for him. I love this man. I love him!! We have something special and I don't want to let it go. But I don't want this to hurt me in the end.
He doesn't want to lose me -- he has told me this. But why hold on to me if we are no longer making plans?
He has issues with a woman he's dating who knows about me. She knows he still has feelings for me and because of that, I think I should let go. I feel like our hearts get in each other's way when it comes to dating. But I don't want to close the door. I am a daily conversation in their relationship.
If I did close the door on what we have and focus on a friendship with him, it would be OK. He's the only man I have ever dated I could remain best friends with without anything taking place. We were friends first.
What should I do? HELP.
– Hold On or Let Go, Illinois
A: Let go, please.
Unless you have a specific plan to be together, this partnership isn't happening. Right now it's just a pseudo-relationship that's preventing you from having a real one.
You and this man are either going to commit to moving to the same place (or frequent travel) to give this relationship a shot, or you're going to make him disappear. The fact that he's not making plans foreshadows the answer.
As for a friendship, well, you said you loved him and used two exclamation points. That doesn't say "friends first" to me.
Talk to him about choosing each other or walking away. If you do walk but decide that you have to keep him as a Facebook friend, consider your privacy settings.
Readers? Can she be his friend? What does she mean when she says that they're not making plans? Anyone have a similar relationship with an old love who lives far away? What do we think of him? What about this other woman? Help.
I'm writing about a recent end to a complicated relationship that still has me wondering.
I'm in my late 40s and divorced. For a few months I have been experimenting with an online dating service. After exchanging emails with a guy who is in his 40s with two divorces (his last marriage ended because his wife had an affair) and three children, we met for dinner. It was spontaneous combustion in all dimensions: intellectually, emotionally, and physically, and we both knew it right away.
The first time overnight at his home (weeks into dating), he vocalized his frustration in bed and said, "I haven't done this in a while."
As the dating evolved into once-a-week get-togethers, this same "problem" persisted when we were intimate. I did not react, nor did I contribute negatively in any way. One evening, while we were having dinner and watching sports in his living room, he proceeded to strip. He was initiating. My brain immediately knew what was going on: he could do it then. We went to his bedroom and sure enough, he was capable. The rest of our encounters (a few more) resulted in the problems surfacing again and again.
Somewhere nearing the end of the second month, his contact (email, phone calls) was lessening, and it seemed as though he was keeping me at arm's length.
When we talked about our relationship at a safe time without pressure, I requested that we spend more time together. He suddenly announced that there was no connection for him. And, of course, he wanted to be friends.
One thing I noted in our conversations: He had many women friends, all of whom he dated but it never worked out.
Although we are not in touch and he has not made contact with me, my thinking is that friendship is easier for him because it does not involve sex. He reacted emotionally to my dismissal of a friendship (I said absolutely not).
We are all entitled to our decisions. Sadly, my guess is that he is always occupied (kids, work, hobbies) as a shield from reality.
Do you think this relationship ended because of the sex issues? Men usually do not pursue additional dates after the first or perhaps the second if there is no connection. I thought it was selfish of him to continue to see me for almost over two months if he was slowly figuring out what he wanted.
– Extreme Dysfunction, Albany
A: You're jumping to the right conclusions, ED. He has issues and doesn't want to confront them, so he goes from relationship to relationship hoping that it'll be easier the next time around.
Did he ever mention talking to a doctor about the problem? Was he capable of having honest conversations about what was happening (and not happening)? It doesn't sound like he was very forthcoming. You can't be with someone who's going to run from honest discussions, especially when they're about sex.
I'm happy to hear that you didn't accept a friendship. That's not why you pursued him, and he hasn't been your friend throughout this process.
And please know that you're right -- he wouldn't have pursued you if there hadn't been a connection. Don't let this experience mess with your self-esteem. Just accept that this was his issue and that he just couldn't deal with it.
It's time to get back on that dating site and see what actually works.
Readers? Was he selfish? Did he end this because of the sexual issues? Was he ever interested in her? What about a friendship? Sports? Help.
I'm just starting to go through your comments from Friday. I wasn't quite emotionally ready over the weekend, but I started looking through them last night. All I can say is that I'm stunned, touched, and doing a lot of the good kind of crying.
I can't begin to explain how important your responses have been, and just how closely I have been reading every story, listening to every song, and considering all of your thoughtful advice.
Now please can go back to sending me lots of letters. Like this one.
Q: Long-time reader, first-time writer. My situation is kind of a mental mess. My boyfriend of almost three years, "Jack," is my best friend. We spend almost every weekend together going out in the city. He loves me so much and treats me like gold. My situation is that I might not be intimately in love with Jack anymore. We never have sex. It's been almost, boy, three months now? I can hardly remember. I listen to all of my friends and they have much more experimental and regular intimacy with their partners. I, on the other hand, have to lie and say that we do just to save face.
I want more and I've spoken to Jack about this. We always say we'll try but it never happens. It's both of us, though, and I've come to the point where I don't even want to anymore. Jack is six years older than I am and we also work together, so breaking up would make work very hard, and we also share a lot of the same friends now. He's even come to my house for a few of the most recent holidays. I don't know what to do. Every time I try and talk about it with friends they pretty much dismiss me or tell me not to break up with him because I would regret it. Does going on a minor separation ever work?
Also, before dating Jack, there was my ex-girlfriend "Emily." We had a rocky relationship and she was my first love. I think and dream about her almost every day. I know I shouldn't contact her because I know the reason I think about her so much is because maybe I'm having inner deep urges from my soul telling me I'm actually a lesbian (Jack, for the record is my first real boyfriend, all other relationships have been with women).
I apologize for this being confusing. I just don't know where to go or what to do. I don't want to hurt anyone here. I've thought about going to therapy but I don't even know where to begin besides Googling "therapy."
Any advice would be appreciated. (Thank you Meredith and LL readers.)
– Confused About it All
A: First: You can ask your primary care physician or call your insurance company for a referral to a therapist.
Second: You have to end things with Jack. You can't stay with him because you work together. And you can't keep him around for friendship. All relationships have ups and downs with physical intimacy, but you don't want to have sex with him anymore. You're daydreaming about a woman, and your reasons for not wanting to break up are more about logistics than anything else.
You need to explain all of this to Jack. It will be difficult at work, but you're grownups. You'll miss Jack, but you won't be allowed to reach out to him to talk about your self-discovery. Lean on other people as you figure out whether you need to be with a woman and why all of this went down the way it did. And please, tell your friends the truth. It'll help them give you the right kind of support as you move forward.
For the record, minor separations can work -- but rarely. In your case, there's nothing minor about your needs. You need space for big questions.
Readers? Any reason to stay with Jack? Should they go to couples therapy? What should she do? Help.
I lost my mom yesterday. It was unexpected -- sort of.
She was actually diagnosed with cancer about a year after I started Love Letters. The cancer wasn't what ended things. It was some weird, acute infection. Very random, very rare. Everyone at the hospital looked shocked because they thought she had many years ahead of her.
I'm over-sharing a bit today because you letter writers are always so exposed in this column, and I get to be nice and private for the most part.
Four years ago, when my mom was diagnosed, we decided that she'd move to Boston. She loved it here, and we tried to forget that cancer was one of her reasons for relocating.
During these years, I've had many Love Letters questions of my own. How can I be fun on a date when I'm anxious about my mom's health? Or yesterday, shortly after she died, was it safe to let ex-boyfriends show up to comfort me? Will their attention confuse me? Because my instinct was to want to stand next to them, remembering a different time, when things were easier.
Maybe you have some advice for me. I don't know.
What I do know is that Jewish people sit shiva, which is basically a mourning period after death where you sit around. It's probably more complicated than that, but my immediate family isn't very observant. Yesterday, when the doctors asked me if my mom was religious, I explained that she was a musician. She went to Juilliard, and concert halls were churches to her. (I know you all hate that I love the movie "Twilight," but one of the reasons is that it got my mom's piano students excited about Debussy. Robert Pattinson listens to Clair de Lune in that movie, and all of a sudden my mom's young students were desperate to learn the piece. Mom called the film "piano teacher porn.")
My version of shiva involves sweatpants, food, and taking a day off from Love Letters, which entertained her so much, especially during boring cancer treatments. We'll be back to regular letters on Monday, but for today, I'd like you to do me a favor. My mom was a ridiculous romantic. She was weirdly incapable of cynicism when it comes to love, which earned her more than a few eye-rolls from me. I'd love you to use today's comments space to tell me a romantic story, post a link to a romantic song, or give me some advice about the questions I mentioned earlier.
Thank you for helping with shiva and all of this. And as I mentioned yesterday, she was the best lurker.
Now, if you don't mind, help.
Dear everyone, I'm posting this from Mass General. My mom is very, very sick. I'm without my normal computer and today's letter. This was an acute thing, and I don't know how it will turn out. I can't leave the hospital, and this was just ... well, it's scary and it's after 2 a.m. and I am at a loss.
To deal with today, I'm posting a letter and hope that you'll run rampant with your advice to make up for the lack of mine.
My mom is a very big fan of Love Letters, not just because she has to be (she's my mom), but because she finds you hilarious, helpful, and sometimes ridiculous, and because she appreciates the letter writers for sharing their stories. She especially loves the lurkers, because she's one too.
Thank you. I don't know what I'm thanking you for -- maybe just for entertaining for her so much, and for being such a weird, nontraditional community, and for existing, in general.
For the record, mom would say that these people should break up.
Q: I've been with my boyfriend for about a year and a half. We're both in our early 20s and live together. He is a wonderful guy -- caring, sweet, makes me laugh, and loves me so much. I love being with him. Things got serious pretty quickly, since he introduced me to his extended family and they're all waiting for us to get engaged. The problem is that he plans to leave for a year-long backpacking trip to Europe this winter. He wants me to visit him during that year that he's away, but he doesn't want us to be in a relationship while he's gone. He has said that he wants to sleep with other people during his travels. I understand that we're young and it's unreasonable to expect him to commit to me forever, but I just can't fathom taking a break for an entire year and then just picking up where we left off. I feel like a year apart will break our bond and he has this "if we're meant to be, it'll work out" attitude about it. Am I being unreasonable to not want a year-long break? I really think that this guy is fantastic, but his laid-back attitude towards this freaks me out.
– Going the Distance, Boston
No chat today. But we will make up for it next week with extra-special chat (and this long letter ... which was a lot longer before an edit).
Q: I have been dating Lauren for almost three months now. She is 26 and I am about to turn 28. She actually feels like I am her partner and that she has finally found someone that she can be herself with. I feel the same way about her and I'm very happy.
About three weeks ago she decided to update her relationship status on Facebook. She told me she wanted everyone to know about us and I was crazy excited. Her ex-boyfriend (Chris) also saw that she updated her status. They also ran into each other on the street very briefly that day and he immediately started texting her about how she hurt him and how she should have told him about this new relationship instead of finding out on Facebook. I thought this was strange considering he broke up with her eight months ago and they only dated for about five months. I also found it incredibly immature for someone to yell at a person about their Facebook status. She was very upset because she felt like she hurt him.
I have never met this guy but she has told me stories. I know that she called off a wedding to be with this guy and they had a great few months and then it fizzled. She tried to fix it and he didn't care so they broke up. This guy never made her a priority in his life. He'd plan trips with her only to cancel them and invite his friends instead. He would withhold sex when he wasn't getting his way and would come home drunk. After they broke up, Lauren still had feelings for him. She confessed it to him and he would come back for sex when he wanted it or use her as an emotional crutch when he was lonely. She started to pull away from him a few times and every time she did that, he would give her a bit of a promise of commitment to get her to come back, but nothing ever came from it. She saw a therapist for a few months because of this guy. When we started dating she told me she was a bit concerned because in the last two months she was finally happy again and was happy being single and that she was afraid of having another man break her heart.
Anyway, he kept texting her, saying that he was devastated and needed to see her, and she acquiesced to a meeting. I told Lauren that I wasn't comfortable with this because if five minutes of texting left her sad and crying for 12 hours, I was scared of what a meeting would do to her mental health. I am not the type of person to forbid a girlfriend from seeing an ex. It isn't right and I am still friends with many of the women I have been involved with.
They met for a couple hours and she came back to my place confused. Apparently he cried and apologized for what he did wrong saying he was in a bad place during their relationship and he wanted her back because he had changed and promised to do things differently. We stayed up late talking about what had happened and our relationship. I pointed out that this guy treated her terribly for so long and that I have only treated her well. The next morning we woke up and she said I'm the only one she wants to be with. She texted him asking him not to contact her.
Three days later he was back contacting her. And Lauren was again confused and asked for space from both of us since she didn't know what to do. She said that she they had an intense history and she felt the pull of the past. I told her that I am the one who can give her a great future. We didn't see each other for over a week but then she said she really missed me and wanted to see me. I went over to her place and she told me that she met with Chris and told him that she didn't want to be with him. She said that over the past week she missed our relationship and realized that my love was the kind of love that she wanted.
We had a great four days and I felt like things with us were finally returning to normal. However, Chris runs into her on the street and again accosts her for being so hurt and upset by what has happened and needs to meet with her. Two days later, he is texting her again. Lauren confessed to me that this situation made her depressed and that having to push someone away that you care about is hard, but she kept saying she is very happy with me and she needs time to work through this. I was willing to work through this with her, but now she wants space.
I don't know what to do. Our relationship was great before this man came back into her life. I also feel like he is an emotionally abusive person and is just harassing her. If she is able to shake him from her life and see this man for the creep he is, we can go back to what we had before. I am trying to get her to see a therapist but she won't go. I also finally told her that this man is abusive and has no respect for her decisions or her space. She just accuses me of attacking him and mischaracterizing his behavior. She also tells me that she doesn't deserve my love and I noticed that she has started to blame herself for everything. She blames herself for the failed relationship with Chris and blames herself for him always coming back into her life. I love this woman and I don't want to give up and walk away. I know you are going to say that sheís let me down twice, but I understand how hard this must be for her and I don't just want to walk away.
– Let Down, Massachusetts
A: This is hard for her. I get it. But you're the one writing me the letter, so I'm worried about you. If she wants space, you have to give it to her. You're allowed to make a last speech (or send an email), just for your sanity, but keep it simple. Tell her that you care about her and that your goal is to have a great, supportive relationship. Please make it clear that you can't be in a relationship with someone who needs space every time she runs into an ex. You've hit a wall, but before you leave her behind, you want to make your intentions known.
But please know this: She might really need space, with or without this guy in her life. If she were in therapy, she might discover that she hasn't forgiven herself for calling off a wedding. She might discover that she's hooked on Chris because she bailed on a serious commitment to be with him. She might figure out that she never gave herself time to heal from her losses and that she just needs to be alone.
You're in the market for a healthy, easy relationship. I understand that you're into this woman, but if she can't make decisions and stick to them, she's just not for you. It's only been three months. The relationship should be fun right now. Instead, it's a mess. It's not your job to save her. Save yourself.
Readers? Any reason to stick around? Should he send a note stating his intentions? Should he just run right now? How does she keep running into Chris? Help.
Q: I'm 20 years old and have been dating my girlfriend for two years. We are in a same-sex relationship and I was her first and only woman. She was one of my first female experiences, but after dating for six months, we both went to college where I cheated on her several times with different girls. I broke her heart and we separated for a few months but got back together as soon as we saw each other again. Since getting back together our relationship has been incredibly strong and we've both been loyal.
We both suffer from mental disorders that can mesh in negative ways. She suffers from depression and an eating disorder, often feeling incredibly insecure. Sometimes she tells me I am the only person who makes her feel important and validated. I suffer from a form of bipolar disorder which leads me to externalize issues that can feed her insecurities.
She is the love of my life. When I am with her it is the only time I feel true relief from my own demons.
We have been long distance for the greater part of our relationship and the only way we get through it is because we know we want to spend the rest of our lives together. We talk about our future together and that gives us hope to get through these difficult years. But still I have doubts.
Sometimes I feel like I'm giving something up. In my life at college, and by limiting myself so early to just one person. I have difficulty being close to people I am not sleeping with, and am afraid my experiences with the world and people will be squandered if I don't have the opportunity to explore. Lately I've been feeling the urge to cheat again.
I can't imagine my life without her and feel like my disorder is instigating destructive behaviors because of my instinct to escape from things that tie me to reality and stability.
I don't know if this is all in my head, or if maybe I shouldn't be with her, but the thought of losing her is too much for me to bear.
I don't know if I should indulge just to see how I feel, or stay loyal and feel repressed.
– Confused in the Head, NY
A: I assume you've talked to a professional about all of this, yes? You must keep your doctors in the loop.
Also, you need to be single. You're in a long-distance relationship but you want to cheat. That's no good. More importantly, you both need to be able to exist as independent adults. These things that you're saying -- that you're what she needs to feel good about herself and that she keeps your demons away -- they're of cause for concern. Romantic partners support us, but they don't define us or make it possible for us to live. This relationship has become too important (and too dramatic), and it just doesnít make sense.
My advice is to talk to her about separating so that you can learn to live on your own. You don't have to tell her that you want to sleep with other people. This is about learning to be happy no matter who's standing next to you.
You're 20. You're an adult. I don't want you guys standing in each other's way. That's all you're really doing right now. It's time for independence.
Readers? Should they be together right now? Why does she want to cheat? Are they good together? Any reason to feel repressed at 20? Discuss.
Q: Dear Meredith,
A long time ago, I had a relationship with a man who I thought I was going to spend my life with. We were both in our mid-30s and divorced -- over a decade for me, under a year for him.
Short story: we dated for almost two years and split acrimoniously. There were lots of issues but it boiled down to him not wanting a serious commitment and both of us acting out in immature ways rather than just calling Time of Death. One night after a drunken fight (neither of our proudest moments), it was over -- HIS choice. I was devastated for a very long time but accepted it and moved on with my life.
That was three years ago. My current problem revolves around establishing healthy boundaries and what to do about his strange behavior. Since the split, he's tried force a friendship -- periodic emails, random texts, stalking my online profile, even leaving a gift at my home. I don't do the friends-with-exes thing and just ignored it all, thinking he would get the message and move on. There's been no contact or engagement on my part. Most recently: I got a text after the Boston Marathon bombing asking if I was OK. I don't appreciate this or his other weird behaviors. He broke up with me! He's in a new relationship now and I still feel a little pain over our ending even though it's been a very long time.
My questions to you and LL are: Why would an adult persist in forcing communication after all this time when he knows it is unwanted? Is it poor boundaries and/or guilt? Do I need to be forcefully direct? Moreover, what's the most mature way to convey: "You made a choice, leave me the %$@* alone?" Am I missing something that I should be more sensitive to when it comes to setting boundaries with an ex? I did love this man at one point and don't want to be cruel.
– Boundary Hunter, Boston
A: My guess is that he's contacting you because he misses your friendship, BH. And yes, maybe there's some guilt. He might also want to keep you around just in case ... but let's not go there. At the moment, he just wants you as an acquaintance. You have no use for that.
The best way to establish a boundary is to set it. Instead of just ignoring the contact and hoping that he gets the message, send one note. Something that says, "Hey, I wish you the best, but it's confusing to hear from you and I'm not interested in a friendship. I'll let you know if I ever change my mind." Then block his email address and phone number.
Don't worry about cruelty. Stating your needs isn't cruel, especially when he's been so thoughtless. There's no need to make calls and buy gifts when your ex is trying to move on.
As for the post-Marathon text, well, I give him a tiny pass for that. Many of us checked in with everyone we knew that day. That text would have bothered you less if that had been his only attempt at contact over the years.
He's not getting hint, so spell out the boundary. Then block him -- with technology and in your brain.
Readers? Does she have to tell him to stop contacting her or can she just block and ignore? Why is he reaching out? Is any of this communication forgivable? What does it mean? Advise.
One more location letter ...
I have been in a relationship for about 2.5 years with a great guy. He is everything I want in a guy with one major problem: his choice location.
We met in Boston and currently live together in LA. He is an actor and a writer and needs to be here to start his career. However as we grow together and start to talk about the future, I envision myself moving back east to be closer to family, and he sees himself living here potentially for the rest of his life.
I don't need to move back today, and I don't need to move back to Boston, just within driving distance to my family within 5-10 years.
We have talked about compromise but I am not sure if we are able to meet in the middle with this. Since I am a teacher, I suggested that during the summertime when I am off from school, I could spend a few months in Boston, as long as we could afford flights for myself and our future kids. However, he believes that it would be unfair for me to leave for an extended period of time every year.
I am at a loss. I feel like I have to choose between my family and the love of my life. What should I do?
– Lost in LA
A: Your boyfriend has made it clear that he's staying in LA. If that doesn't work for you and you're just biding your time until you move home, please end this relationship. I don't see a real compromise here. He's not planning to get a job on the next Boston-based Ben Affleck movie. He doesn't like the idea of summers away. The only other option is for you to go home during your shorter breaks -- maybe a week or two here and there. If that's not going to cut it, you know the answer to your question.
But ... here's something to consider: You mention that you wouldn't mind living in LA for another 5 to 10 years. That's a very long time. Are you throwing out those numbers to give your boyfriend adequate time to accomplish a few goals? Or would you be legitimately happy staying on the West Coast for another decade? Perhaps you like it out there. Perhaps this angst about moving home is more about what you think you should do, as opposed to what you want to do.
Frankly, I can't figure out what your gut is telling you. I just want to make sure that you're asking yourself the right questions and getting to the bottom of your own motives. I'm stuck on the fact that you'd be open to doing this for another decade. Ask yourself why.
Readers? Is there any room for compromise here? Does she seem happy in LA? Why is she open to doing this for another 5 to 10 years? Is that relevant? Help.
Q: I've been dating a great guy for a year and a half. It's a long distance relationship on the East Coast. What started out as "I'll see how this goes because he seems awesome and what do I have to lose" has become the best relationship I've ever been in. He's made me a better person, and it's hard to imagine what my life was like before we met. We love each other's families, our families like each other, and we've discussed getting engaged when we finally live in the same place. He's said he would ask me today, but I want to live in the same place before we make that jump.
When I got a job opportunity on the West Coast, we decided that it would be a great adventure for the two of us. I have a great career, and at the time he was considering making a job change. He encouraged me to take the job, and we decided he would figure things out if he didn't find a job before he got out there. We both knew it would be hard, but we were willing to make it work because we wanted to take this step forward in our relationship. He said that it wasn't his first instinct to give up a job, but knew that this was a great opportunity and that he wanted to go with me. He said he understood the risk he was taking -- the risks we were both taking -- and was OK with it.
Fast forward a few months -- a month before we leave -- and he has now decided the risks are too much, not to mention things have gotten much better for him. Things at his current job are now good. He's getting the recognition I know he's always deserved, and people have come knocking. The problem is all of these opportunities are on the East Coast. Now he feels like he has a career. Now he doesn't want to move there without a job and assumed if he didn't go we would maintain the status quo. He never even gave thought to the idea that maybe, just maybe, I wouldn't like the idea of a transcontinental relationship (much of the travel burden has been on me for the past year and a half, by the way) where I would be the one making trips because of the nature of his job. Now he says he has a decision to make ... a decision that I thought had been made months ago. He wants to go out for a few weeks over the summer and see if he can find something he likes, and if not he wants to go back East and take one of the jobs he's been offered. He has the flexibility to do that.
So here we are. I'm giving up my current job, my family, and my friends because I have a job waiting for me on the West Coast. It's a city I love. It's wonderful for my career, but the personal sacrifice I'm making is no longer offset by the gain we had planned on getting. I feel like a total fool for trusting the plan we had made together. I feel like he lied to me when he said he was OK with the risks. I'm not mad at him for having reservations (I'm scared, too), I'm mad he wasnít honest about it. If I don't go, my career is done (I work in a small, close-knit field) but now I don't know if I can handle being there without family and friends on top of just losing who I thought was my person, the love of my life. He says I'm being "doom and gloom."
So ... my questions are: Are my feelings of anger and betrayal unreasonable? Is it unfair of me to be opposed to the idea of him coming out and checking out his options, which may leave me just as heartbroken and alone as I feel now? Is there any way we can recover from this? Can I ever count on him again?
– Coastal Confusion, NY
A: You have every right to be furious, CC. I understand how difficult this must be for him, but he made a promise. And if I am to believe your claim that you've done most of the traveling in this relationship and that your career advancement requires this jump (whereas he can pursue his career anywhere), your move should be the priority.
It sounds like he didn't really understand his own promise, and that as much as he wanted you to have this great experience, he was only supportive of the move because it was also what was best for him at the time. These questions about whether you can count on him in the future -- well, I just can't answer them. It seems to me that if he starts pushing to get a job on the West Coast, there's hope. But this will require a real job search, not just a three-week visit. He has to commit to the hunt.
If he's getting this many offers at home, he should be desirable to someone on the other side of the country. I'm OK with him getting to the West Coast later than you -- perhaps he needs some extra time to make connections out there -- but I'm not comfortable with his breeziness and indifference. If he doesn't seem to be hatching any sort of plan, you have to do some soul searching about whether you can continue this relationship.
Only you can decide whether you can recover from this. I'm not sure I could -- unless he started blanketing the West Coast with resumes and asking these interested companies whether they have any connections on the other side of the country. The point is, he has to get there.
Readers? Is she being unreasonable? Should she understand that things have changed? Should he have to move? Are you satisfied with his reaction to all of this? Discuss.
Q: I've heard people my age (30) make ridiculous statements like "I'll never find anyone" or "I'm going to end up alone." I have never been one of those people, but lately ... well it's not that I believe I will end up alone, rather I recognize that if I don't actually put some effort in to finding love, I won't find any. And this is what I'm having trouble with.
I never dated in high school or college, so with my first boyfriend after college, I didn't immediately recognize it was an unhealthy relationship. He was a big drinker, controlling, and hyper-jealous, and although he never "raised a hand," looking back, it was an emotionally abusive relationship. When I eventually broke things off, it took a long time to forgive myself for allowing the relationship to continue for as long as it did.
My second boyfriend seemed like a dream in comparison. Unbeknownst to me, he had a history of mood instability and debilitating anxiety. He was self-medicating, so I broke up with him.
That was 3 years ago, and lately I've been thinking it might be nice to date again. But I can't even go through the motions. It's like I have writer's block. The thought of flirting makes me gag and I avoid it at all costs. I see people being affectionate in public and cringe. And the worst is, if I get a crush, a cascade of events topples through my head like a bad '80s montage, and none of my crushes ever seem worth the trouble. Plus I also gained a significant amount of weight as a side effect of my own depression and a terrible job. I don't even recognize myself. And to think about kissing or having sex ... ugh ... I don't even want to think about it because it all seems gross now.
I'd like to snap out of it and feel positive and vibrant and excited to date, but so far nothing has helped. Even the fake-it-till-you-make-it route has failed me. Please help.
– Lovers Block, Boston
A: This problem calls for a doctor, LB. You mention your own depression, which makes me wonder whether you're on medication right now. If so, it's possible that the meds just aren't right for you. (Many of them affect sex drive. Some affect weight.) If you're not taking to a professional about your depression, it's time to start. All of your health care providers should be in on this problem.
You can't get excited about dating until you're excited about yourself. That's why I'm not going to pressure you to look for a partner right now. I'd rather you spend your energy on figuring out ways to recognize yourself again. It's time to look for new jobs. It's time to get healthy. I promise you that kissing won't seem so gross after you've dealt with some of these issues.
Also, I'm not sure that it's possible to fake it 'till you make it when it comes to dating. There has to be at least some genuine excitement there or it just won't work. I want you to picture the version of yourself that you fantasize about in that '80s montage (Molly Ringwald?). You deserve to be that person. Let's work on that. Honestly, I think we all have to feel montage-worthy in order to date.
Readers? Should she be dating right now? How have her previous relationships affected her ability to date? Have you ever been in a rut like this? Does she have to deal with her problems before she starts looking for a partner? Help.
Chat at 1.
Q: Hi Meredith,
I am a 49-year-old divorced woman who was married for 26 years. I married my high school sweetheart so I do not have a lot of dating on my side. I have been alone while raising my youngest daughter for 6 years now. My question is: What do men and women expect nowadays? What does it mean to be a girlfriend? Does being a girlfriend mean being exclusive? Do men my age want to actually date? Or do they just want to hang around each other's houses? Or maybe they just want to go out with the guys during the day hours then hang with the females at night?
I'm asking because I have dated a little, then I was asked to be a girlfriend, but the man just did not want to go OUT with me. He would go out with his buddies to the bars, and then around 6 p.m. we would meet up at each other's places and just sit around and not go out. I am out of that relationship. I am just confused now about what men in their late 40s want out of a relationship? Maybe I am expecting too much.
– Managing Expectations
A: You're not expecting too much, ME. If you want to go out on dates, you should be looking for someone who likes to leave the house. You don't have to sit around if you don't want to.
There's no cheat sheet to this. I can't make generalizations about what 49-year-old men want. They're all different (thank goodness). The only way to figure them out is to ask questions. If someone calls you a girlfriend, you can ask, "Does that mean we're exclusive?" If you find that you're spending too much time on the couch, you can ask, "Is this your normal routine? Do you prefer staying in to going out on dates?"
The most important thing is to consider your own needs. Instead of trying to figure out what all men want, think about what makes you happy. What are you looking for in a companion?
This one guy just wasn't the right match. He drank with his friends and then sat around with you. You didn't like it, so you moved on. The next guy will present an entirely new set of questions, so get ready to ask.
Readers? Any rules of the road that you can give her? Any generalizations you can make about dating in your late 40s? What does she need to know? Help.
**I'm having trouble seeing comments. Apparently others are too. I've alerted Boston.com. - M (at 9:30)
Don't be harsh. She loves your opinions (see last line) ....
Q: Dear Meredith,
I'm sure you hear this all the time but ... long-time reader, first-time writer. I could really use some unbiased advice. I have been at my job for a while now. I love and respect everyone I work with. There is one gentleman, we'll call him Alan, that I work with very closely, every day. I enjoy working with Alan and sometimes don't know what I'd do without him (at work). I always assumed that we had a very friendly, professional relationship.
Recently, Alan had started giving me small compliments here and there. I thought nothing of this at first, as we were always so comfortable with each other. I never reciprocated these compliments or lead him to believe that they were appropriate whatsoever. I kind of just ignored them and pretended they never happened. I have to say, we work well together and get compliments all the time on how we make a good team. But lately, it's become a little uncomfortable for me. He ended up buying me a gift, but again, I graciously accepted it, saying thank you, and that was it. I don't want it to sound naive, but I truly thought he was just being a nice friend.
As I said at first, I just brushed off the compliments, either pretending they never happened or assuming he's complimenting me at my job. But then it happened. He told me how he felt, basically telling me he wanted to be with me and asking how I felt about him. Since this wasn't directly in person, I've chosen to pretend that it never happened for now. But eventually I have to tell him my feelings. I do care for him as a colleague and friend, and I'm terrified of losing what we have. I don't want to lose our great working relationship, but need to tell him that I don't feel the same. But again, I do not feel the same way at all, and don't want to keep this weird question up in the air between us.
How do I respond politely, without hurting him, but letting him know that I'm only interested in a working relationship? Any help you could give would be very appreciative. I know your readers can be harsh after reading what they say every day, so please let them know that I love their opinions and would truly love some guidance on how to deal with this issue.
Thanks in advance!!
– Work Friend And Nothing Else, Boston
A: You have to tell Alan how you feel, WFANE. Like, now. The rejection is going to sting, but this waiting around has to be worse. I assume he sent you some sort of note about his feelings, which means you can respond in writing. (That also gives you a paper trail, just in case things gets worse at work.)
Tell him that you love your work relationship and want to keep things platonic. Apologize for not responding immediately, and explain that you've been anxious about the possibility that you might lose him as a friend. Tell him that you hope to have a relationship that's fun and supportive without being confusing.
Sometimes we can ignore problems (and people) and hope they go away. But you see this guy every day. This problem requires action. You have to be braver about confrontation and honesty because your silence is creating more problems. The longer you ignore this, the weirder it's going to get.
Put Alan out of his misery so he can start adjusting to reality.
Readers? Can she just ignore this problem and hope that Alan will get the point? What should she say? Is there any way to talk to him about this without ruining the work friendship? Should she do this in person? How long can she wait before having the talk? Help.
This guy needs to hang with Tuesday's letter writer. So many "break" letters these past few weeks.
Q: Dear Readers and Meredith,
I was most recently in a relationship with a girl for the past year and a half roughly. We met through friends and are in our mid-20s. We're both finishing up our master's degrees and deeply in love with each other.
She has been the only girl I've opened up to and had a real relationship with. We've been on a break for over a month. She told me the reasons for our break are that something is missing in our relationship. She has not told specifically what is missing.
While we were together, it was the greatest time of my life. We talked about the future. I became close with her family and her friends and we seemed like the perfect couple.
She says she understands that I've been there for all of her bad days. She has expressed to me that our break might be a mistake and that she hopes for nothing more than we find each other in the future.
I've given her all the space she needs but I don't know what to do. I still have feelings there and she is the one who I thought was my soul mate.
Any help would be appreciated.
– On a Break, Massachusetts
A: She says something is missing, and now you're on a break. That means it's over, OAB. I don't care about her hopes for the future. What counts is right now. Right now you're not together.
There's nothing you can do to make this better because this is on her. You've already asked her what she needs and she told you space. Now it's time for you to tell her what you need -- which is a boundary. If you're not a couple anymore, you need to call this a break up so that you can spend your energy mourning her and moving on. No more breaks. No more ambiguity. You need to take the next step.
No matter what happens, stop using the phrase "soul mate." This woman might be one of the great loves of your life, but there are others out there. If soul mates existed, they wouldn't ask for breaks. What you have is a girlfriend. You love her, but she might not want to stick around. If that's the case, something's missing for you too.
Readers? Any possibility this woman will come around? Should he force a breakup? Advise.
Q: I am dating this guy. We have known each other since we were little. We became really close like three years ago, and started dating just five months ago. We live in different cities (like 50 minutes apart from each other), but we still see each other almost every weekend. And we do a lot of Skype.
We are both in college so we are pretty busy. I also have a job and work a few hours a week.
Now to the point. Last weekend, I asked him not to come see me. I just kind of wanted a break. Time for myself. Time with my friends (whom I hadn't hung out with more than twice since we started dating). And it really has nothing to do with him. I just needed some "me time." Yesterday we were talking and he said that sometimes he felt like he misses me more than I miss him. He even said that he feels my attitude is indifferent about seeing him over the weekend. It made me think, how bad is that?
I know I love him. There's no doubt. I feel great when we are together. But it's true that I don't miss him all the time. And also, spending too much time with him (an entire spring break) can get annoying by the end. I feel like I am busier than he is. I care a lot about school. I have priorities and so does he, but it's like I am his priority No. 1. He's told me that he wishes to marry me some day in the future. And I do like the idea as well. But we are talking about four to five years in the future. I mean, we are 22 and 23. We are young and barely starting life. Is he getting too serious and dependent, or am I being too detached? I need some opinions.
– Too Detached?
A: You're not detached, TD. At five months, you like him a lot and want to make some time for him. Sounds good to me.
But he's a serious guy. Very, very serious. He wants more than you can give. You're not capable of sitting around and missing him all of the time (especially when he's just 50 minutes away). You're someone who occasionally wants a weekend alone, which is understandable, especially when you're in school and have so much to do.
Explain to him that you're as into this as you can be. Tell him what you told us -- that you love being with him but that you have a long list of priorities. If he needs more from you right now and this situation is making him miserable, you guys just aren't a good match. And that's OK. Take advantage of his communication skills (he seems like a talker) and have an honest discussion about whether you can meet each other's needs. You might love each other, but are you compatible? Can he compromise on pace ... and space?
For the record, it doesn't mean much that you were annoyed with him after spending an entire spring break together. You can be in love and irritated with someone at the same time. It's not always going to be perfect.
Readers? Does he want too much? Is she indifferent? Are they a good match? What should she do? Help.
We chat at 1 today.
Q: Dear Meredith,
I have been dating "Matt" for a little over a year now. A few months after we met online, he asked me to move in with him. I didn't say no, but I waited a few more months to be ready because I felt we needed to get to know each other better. We are in our 40s. We enjoy doing many things together and have similar life goals. We are planning for a future together. He is very good to me and I love him dearly.
The relationship has been great save for a few jealous occasions. He has trust issues because of his past relationships. He gets suspicious when I go out with my friends and needs to know who is going.
He has had an ex lingering around for years. They met young and dated for about a decade. He said they never got married because she couldn't take the relationship to the next level and didn't enjoy doing many of the things he likes to do. They have stayed in touch through the years. I know they still communicate because when I asked him to stop, he said he couldn't. All I asked was that he tells me if he talks to her or sees her. He said he would but he hasn't.
I accepted the fact that he will always communicate with her because they have known each other for a long time. I also know that they rekindled their romantic relationship a few years ago to try to see whether they could have a future together. It didn't work out.
Friendship is important, especially the lifelong friendships. That 30-plus year connection is something they will always have. I don't want to take that away from him.
But now that he and I are together, I want to be the one he comes to when he needs something. I want to be the one he comes to when he is sad and needs a shoulder to cry on.
I want to have an honest relationship with this man. Is it OK for him to keep the communications with his ex a secret?
– Lost in Love, Boston
A: We don't have to tell our partners everything, LIL. Sometimes over-disclosure can imply that there's a problem when there isn't. If he's not interested in this woman and just enjoys catching up with her on occasion, he probably doesn't need to make a big confession about it. Old friends are OK. Not all exes are threats.
What's not OK is the double standard. Do you really have to tell him everything? Has he eased up on the jealousy over time? Because that will get old.
And ... how often is he talking to this woman? I can understand the occasional phone call, but is this ongoing? If sheís a close friend -- someone who's a big part of his life -- he's going to have to do a better job of bringing her into your shared world. If you're living together, you have to have a good sense of each other's communities. That's only fair.
But let's get to the last part of your letter, where you tell us that you want to be his support system. Forget about this woman for a second and ask yourself, "Are we getting closer? Does he confide in me? How is our friendship?" Those are the important questions. If you feel like things with Matt are getting better -- and more fun -- with time, none of the other stuff matters so much. If you're feeling alone in this relationship, it probably has nothing to do with this woman. It's about him. And you.
Focus on what's happening between the two of you. It's been a year now. It's time to ask yourself whether you're really happy and can relax in this relationship.
Readers? Should she be worried about this woman? What about the speed of this relationship? Do you get the sense that they're happy? At a year, how should the letter writer feel about things? Discuss.
We chat at 1 p.m. Wednesday.
Q: I just broke up with my girlfriend of about a year because she wanted to step back in the relationship and have the possibility of dating other people. I am a 34-year-old man who is set in his career and she is 25 years old and just finishing up grad school.
When she first told me how she felt, I was taken aback. The first night I was fine, but I thought about it more and I just felt it was the beginning of the end, which is why I broke up with her. We had broken up once, a year ago, when she went back to her ex-boyfriend. During the relationship we had our ups and downs, but I thought we were happy. Whenever she doubted the relationship, we communicated what we wanted and we were good. Even though I thought we were happy, we weren't having sex as often as before and I chalked it up to her being tired because of school, work, and her addiction to over-exercising.
We still go to the same gym and sometimes run into each other. I always think about what could have been since we did talk about marriage and kids. We even glanced at wedding rings. Was I selfish in not giving into her request or did I make the right decision?
– Lost, Boston
A: You made the right decision, Lost. I'm sure of it. You guys had already broken up once. Despite all of the good things (and talk of wedding rings), she wanted space and to see other people. She let you let her go. That says it all.
You were not selfish. You did what was best for you and kept it honest. You saved yourself from unnecessary pain, so please don't second-guess your gut.
Try not to think about the what-ifs, because I Iím pretty sure all you missed was more wishy-washy behavior. Start thinking about what's next, and please, join a new gym. A fancy one with cool machines. The real issue is that you're running into her and getting confused. It might be nice to have a change of scenery.
Readers? Did the letter writer do the right thing? Was this a selfish decision? Did she want the letter writer to break up with her? New gym? Why is there any second-guessing going on here? Help.
Q: Dear Meredith and LL Readers,
Over the past year (more so lately) I have had trouble being supportive to a friend Iíve known all my life.
Some background info: Last year, she ended a 6-year relationship with her fiancť who she was scheduled to marry that summer. He was her first boyfriend. According to her, he just wasn't able to meet her standards, and while she tried to deny or overlook the issues, she just couldnít go through with it in the end. It was a very long process for her to come to her decision (as is expected when ending such a long relationship) but everyone around her already knew the answer. Yes, she loved him. Yes, he loved her. But she just wasn't happy. We were all very patient with her and tightly buckled our seat belts for the long roller coaster ride as she went back and forth. We were honest with her every step of the way, trying to give an outsider's view of the situation. At times, I guess we were too honest and said some things that hurt her.
Now, almost a year later, she is in a much better and happier place finding herself. But this happier and much bolder person is purposefully keeping her ex in limbo. She says she's just being friendly with him because he will take her back just in case she doesn't find anyone else. But her behavior is beyond friendly and is creeping into relationship behavior. For example, she recently told him flat out that she was not interested in having a relationship with him in the near future. Yet, literally two days later they went on a date. She said she was being nice. I guess she was also being nice when they fooled around, too.
Iím not OK with her purposefully keeping him in limbo; after 6 years, he's also become somewhat of a friend to me, too. It just isn't fair to him or her to put their lives on pause for a relationship that she admits she doesn't want. And if she's not purposefully leading him on, she's lying to herself -- which she insists she's not. I should mention that I am glad they are not together and think that they should remain apart (at least for now). I donít want to say anything that pushes my bias on her but I want to be honest at the same time. Ever since I found out she was hurt by some of my opinions, I scaled back and censored myself only to find out that this hurt her even more because true friendship needs no censorship. I just don't know how to talk to her about the issue. I try to just listen, I try to reassure her that she is an adult and can make her own decisions, but for her, that's not enough. So, what do I say to her?
– Nauseous from this Never-Ending Roller Coaster Ride, Boston
A: This is Love Letters, so I can't help but wonder what this problem has to do with your love life. You have every reason to be annoyed with your friend -- her situation sounds awful and monotonous and you're being forced to watch -- but I want you to ask yourself why this stresses you out so much. Are you allowing her choices to mean too much? Have you been sad about your own relationship status while observing hers? Has watching all of this made you cynical about why people stay in long-term relationships?
For all I know, this is just about your friendship. But sometimes when we get angry and confused about other people's decisions, it's because we're projecting and worried about our own lives. Please remember that your friend's choices are her own. They have nothing to do with your future or relationships in general.
My advice for communicating with this friend is to be honest about your needs. You can say, "As someone who has become friends with your ex over the years, this is difficult to hear." Or, "I'm having trouble giving you advice about this -- I've been too close to it for too long. I can support you and care about you, but I've lost some necessary perspective over the years."
Also, give yourself breaks. Spend time with new friends. Maybe even bring your friend out with a new group so that you're both experiencing a different scene, far from the roller coaster.
And again, please make sure that you're not allowing this friend to be a symbol of anything. I might be doing some of my own projecting here (double projection!), but I fear that one of the reasons you've hit a wall is that her decisions are bumming you out about relationships. Remember, they're just two people. You're on the outside and you know better.
Readers? Is she growing out of this friendship? Is she projecting? Am I projecting? What do we do when we accidentally board someone else's roller coaster? Advise.
I guess we'll do Love Letters?
Q: Hi Meredith,
I had to write in after reading "Should I not have asked about our relationship status?" I, like the letter writer, have long struggled to find a balance between going with the flow in a new relationship and needing things to be defined so that we are both on the same page. I have a habit of falling for/dating guy friends and my current situation is no exception. The guy is nice to me and we are both very attracted to each other. He has made it clear that he wants to be with me, but told me that "the door wasn't opened, but it wasn't closed" to the possibility of being boyfriend and girlfriend in the future.
We have known each other for a year and a large part of my concern is my past experiences dating friends. My dating history has shown me how badly relationships/emotional entanglements with guy friends can end and I want to make sure that both of us could see a future with the other person before jumping into it. Dating without knowing that the possibility of a future is there means that I could lose his friendship and it could mess things up without our mutual group of friends.
I go back and forth between wanting to be happy in the "now" and preparing for the future. I know that I over-think things but I'm worried about being with him and then having him realize that although he wants to be with me, he doesn't want a girlfriend in general. I don't know if I want him to be my boyfriend, but I know that I want that option there. Otherwise, it feels like the relationship would have a shelf-life of sorts.
Making things more complicated, he is newly unemployed so he can't even fathom the future beyond getting a job. Should I just go with the flow and be with him or should I wait until he has a job and talk to him again?
– Trying to be happy, Hyannis
A: "I go back and forth between wanting to be happy in the "now" and preparing for the future."
Are you happy in the now? It doesn't sound like you're very happy. You're already sweating this situation and feeling a bit ... put off. Meanwhile, he's in charge of some magical door that's not open or closed. If you're ready to meet someone who's interested in investing in a relationship, this "friend" might not be the guy for you.
You've given this guy all of the power, but this is your choice, too. You're supposed to be trying to figure out what it's like to date him and whether he's worth your romantic energy. Are you asking yourself these questions? Or are you simply focused on whether he'll want you?
You can't ask him for answers about the future. No one knows how this will play out, even if you're both in it for the same reasons. But it's fair to want to be with someone who's open to more if things go well. That's the only guarantee you need. If it feels like you're just orbiting him, waiting for his decision about you, it's time to walk away.
Readers? Is she having fun? Should she be with someone whose door isn't quite open? How can she stop herself from wanting guarantees? What about the friendship? Help?
I have been dating this great guy for three months. He's someone with whom I could see building a life. We're both older (mid-30s and early 40s) and have a better sense of who we are and what we want, as well as baggage. Both of us have had serious relationships. In his case, it's an ex-wife of seven years who left him after multiple affairs he knew nothing about at the time.
Understandably, it was heartbreaking. He has taken five years working through it and feels like he is in a place to try again. However, the ex is still around in spirit -- the house they bought, fixtures she selected, and pictures where she's not visible but somehow has a connection to the subject. We talked early on because I was worried after she somehow was mentioned in every date. She's a huge part of his past and I don't want to discredit her role. The references are always devoid of emotion, usually just made in context as he shares stories from his life. Alas, her name still comes up in almost every date. I don't know what to think. On one hand, it doesn't bother me because I really do sense she is a part of his past. On the other hand, I find myself wondering if I would want to build a life around these memories. I'm not sure what to think. Is it normal to frequently reference past loves, even in an emotionally-neutral context? How do you know when someone has truly let go?
– Wondering About a Ghost, Between Land and Sea, Mass.
A: It's normal to bring up an ex if he/she was a part of your life for a long time, WAAG. But your guy has been single for five years. I'm surprised that his ex is a part of so many stories.
What did he say when you first talked about this issue? Was he sensitive? Did he understand? Does he ever talk about the last five years of his life -- when his ex wasn't around?
My advice is to bring this up again. He should know that your concerns haven't vanished. It'd be one thing if he brought her up because he sees her every week to co-parent, but it doesn't sound like there are any kids in the picture. And by now he should know how to tell stories without bringing up his ex-wife. He can say, "I've been to Paris twice." He doesn't have to say, "I've been to Paris twice ... with her."
When you have the conversation, tell him the good stuff too. Explain that you see big potential here, which is why you care so much about working this out. You understand that her name is going to come up on occasion, but hopefully not all the time. You want to hear about him. You don't need the context.
Readers? Is this normal? Is there a way for him to tell stories without mentioning the ex? Should she bring this up again? Is this a deal-breaker? 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 new novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith here and on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.