Q: Hello Meredith,
I recently started a relationship with an incredible woman. I've known her for years -- we went to college together. Our only communication after college was a few emails and/or texts over the years. That is until a year ago when we really started to talk on a frequent basis (usually text and email and once or twice a week by telephone), and eventually these talks started to be on a more romantic wavelength. For reference, I am a lesbian (and no, not the first woman she has been with). We are both in our mid-30s.
Here is where things get kind of tricky. Currently we live across the country from one another, but I am moving to her neck of the woods in a few months and I have been out to see her a few times. We only decided to start dating about six months ago and decided that the long distance was OK initially as we grew our relationship and got to know one another. She is a very slow mover and I think the long distance has been a relief for her, truthfully. She's also very much a private, quiet person and I believe she will need more alone time than I will in the relationship. I, on the other hand, cannot wait until we live close enough to see each other more often, go on dates, hang out, etc. I can barely contain my excitement just thinking about it. I want to be with her all the time and frequently let her know I am missing her. She doesn't always say she misses me back or return the same sentiments, and admittedly, that is a little worrisome to me. I think that she is happy and excited I'm moving out there, but I am clearly not a main priority in her life (she has definitely become a priority in mine).
She is a single mom, has a great career, and has been all around pretty successful in her ventures. She works hard and would do anything and everything for her children (two teens who are awesomely supportive and protective of her -- so far they like me!). They are most definitely her priority in life. I really admire that about her, but sometimes I wonder where I will fit into her very busy life. There have been times when I have brought up future activities that we can do all together, or even trips we could take, but I feel like she gives me non-committal type of answers -- she doesn't blow me off, she just won't make any major future plans. Even something as simple as taking the kids to a fireworks show on the 4th of July didn't gain a real yes or no answer, instead I get maybes or "we'll see" answers.
She is an amazing woman and I couldn't be luckier to have her in my life. I'm practically ready to say the big "L" word but I am certain it would freak her out. I am so afraid to move too quickly and lose her, but I am also wishing that she acted a little more excited about our future together. I like that she's easygoing, but I would love to see some bubbly excitement occasionally too! How can I balance my falling in love with her and my crazy excitement about our future together when she doesn't seem to be experiencing the same level of feelings for me as I am for her?
– Falling Hard, San Francisco
A: Be excited, but please acknowledge that your relationship is in a "we'll see" phase right now. You assume that when you move to her city, everything will be amazing. You've invented a scenario that involves you joining the family and living happily ever after. That's great, but you have no idea what you'll want when she's living down the street. Perhaps you'll get sick of her or the two of you will realize that you're incompatible. There's no reason to go negative, but just admit that you don't know what this will feel like when you close the distance gap.
Anticipation is awesome, but please change the scope of your plans. Instead of thinking, "I've met the woman of my dreams and I hope we stay together forever," try, "I'm falling for a wonderful woman, and soon I'll live nearby and get to know her better."
She's into you, but she can't make promises about how things will work -- and neither can you. You have to do the move and then find out whether you're really a match.
Readers? Does the letter writer need perspective? How can she calm down? And does it matter that the girlfriend isn't as lovey dovey about all of this? Is this too much at six months? Help.
Q: Hi Meredith,
My question is probably insane, but I need help desperately.
I've been with my husband for almost 4 years. Married almost two years next month. Anywho, this is my problem. When I met my husband I told him that I did not want to know anything about his past, and that's how it was until a few months after I moved in with him. A wife of his friend started telling me about his ex-girlfriends and just different things about his past that I never wanted to know.
He is the first guy I ever had sexual interactions with, and I'm very insecure of myself and I can't get over the fact that he has had sex with other women.
I feel like he constantly remembers them and compares. I don't know how to get over the fact that his past is his past and that's it.
What can I do?
– Is this normal? Revere
A: Thank goodness he dated around before he met you. If he hadn't, you'd have to worry about whether he feels like he's missing out. It's great that he spent time figuring out what he wanted. He had those women in his life but they were temporary -- and he chose you.
Please think about whether your insecurity is really about these old stories – or whether there's something happening now that's triggering your anxiety. Is it possible that you've settled into a routine in your marriage and that you're worried that he might want more? Try to pinpoint the source of your stress. It might have more to do with the present than the past.
Also -- if you have any questions about his past relationships, please just ask him. It's best to get your information from the right source.
Readers? Is this about his past or is something wrong now? Why does she care about his past life? Is this about her own lack of experience? What should she do? Discuss.
Q: I need help. I found out my long-term boyfriend who I was living with was cheating on me. How long it had been going on and how many times I don't really know and don't want to know.
Regardless, I packed my things, moved out, and ended it. Or tried to end it. I started dating other people as a means to distract myself from missing him, but it just backfired on me and left me missing him more, even though he cheated on me. We now hang out pretty frequently and he wants to get back together. He has really shown me that he is trying to be better by doing little things that he knows will make me happy. Right now things between us are going great. But I am still so worried that if we get back together he will cheat on me again.
I know I am probably crazy to go back to someone who cheated, and everyone says "once a cheater, always a cheater," but I think he saw how badly he messed up when I moved out and started dating other people.
So, what should I do? Give him a second chance or move on completely?
– Confused Carrie, Boston
A: I don't believe in the "once a cheater, always a cheater" thing. Many couples can move past this kind of betrayal.
But in your case, something is missing -- and it seems to be the gory details. You have no idea what this guy did or how long he was doing it. You say that you don't want to have this information, but how can you decide whether it's worth sticking around if you don't understand what happened and why? You can't take him back until you know what went down and why he wants a second chance. If you don't get the story, you're going to fill in your own narrative -- and it probably won't be accurate.
It's great that he's being nice to you, but nice isn't necessarily honest. Tell him you that need to talk about what happened during the cheat. After you get his story, you can decide whether you want to forgive or just walk away.
Readers? Does she need to know what happened? Would she be able to trust his answers? Can they get over this betrayal? Discuss.
We chat at 1 p.m. Wednesday.
Q: Hi Meredith,
Longtime lurker, first-time writer here.
I am a 30-year-old working professional whose last serious relationship ended a little over two years ago. I gave myself some time to heal from what was a very rough break up (he was controlling, emotionally abusive, and an alcoholic), as well as learn from it, grow, get in touch with myself, and clear my head. I vowed to never date that type of person again, made myself aware of the warning signs, and have done quite well so far avoiding this sort of situation. A part of this process has included allowing myself to date different guys in order to better assess what it is I want in a partner. I believe that I have fully moved on from my last relationship and am a much healthier, focused, and happier person as a result.
The reason I am writing to you is because I first met "John" thorough an online dating website in September. Since our first date, we see each other every week, sometimes up to three times per week. We have even taken a weekend trip away together. We have a lot in common, similar values and work ethic, and get along really well. He treats me with respect and kindness, and is really sweet and funny. It's really refreshing to be around.
My qualm lies in the fact that we have never officially put a title on our relationship, discussed our status on dating other people, or deleting online profiles (I took the liberty to delete mine on my own because I am happy dating only him, but didn't tell him). Truthfully, I am afraid to bring it up, in part because we are having fun and still getting to know each other, and also in part because I do not want to rush anything and scare a potentially great guy off. One of my trustworthy guy friends thinks he could be keeping me in a holding pattern, meaning that he knows I may not be the "one," but he keeps me around because he enjoys my company for time being. While I think that we have been dating only a short time, I can't help but wonder if this is going anywhere, or if I am just being strung along. His actions don't suggest so (he never mysteriously disappears and is free every weekend to be with me), but eventually I would like this to go some somewhere if we do continue to see each other.
What are your thoughts? Do I simply need to put on my big-girl pants and talk to him? Or should I let things flow the way they have been and simply enjoy it for now? Do I let him make the first move? Perhaps the snail pace is a good thing?
– Wondering, NY
A: You called it. It's big-girl pants time. You've been dating this guy for six months. You're allowed to ask for a status update.
One thing to consider: At no point in this letter do you suggest that John is someone you'd like to be with forever, so keep that in mind. Yes, you like him and he's super nice, but you don't know him well enough to make any big decisions. Talking to him about where you stand is just another way to figure out what he's like in a long-term relationship. Can he discuss uncomfortable things? Does the talk bring you closer? If not, you'll have some answers. If you scare him away, he's just not the right guy.
And really, it doesn't sound like you're moving at a snail's pace -- not with three visits a week. All you're doing is avoiding the talk. It's time to make it happen.
Readers? Time for the talk or is it too early? Is the talk even necessary? Do you agree with her friend? Help.
Q: Hi Meredith,
My girlfriend and I have been dating for about a year now. We live together and really have a great time together, but there is one small problem: her sister. We are in our 30s and her sister will turn 30 this year. We all live together, and we all do get along really great.
When we first got together, her sister was in a relationship so we had our space. However, over the summer she broke up with her boyfriend and ever since has been involved in every part of our relationship. We rarely have time to ourselves, and when we do, her sister is either calling or texting!
When the three of us go out, I am often left to feel like the third wheel because the two of them have their own conversations and I'm left just sitting there. At home there are some times when it's like I'm not even in the room the way they carry on.
I really don't know what to do. I love my girlfriend and I really see myself spending the rest of my life with her, and her sister is a really nice person. When I bring up going out alone to my girlfriend, she starts to feel bad about leaving her sister alone. We have tried to get the sister back into the dating world, but she just doesn't seem interested in going out unless we all go together.
What advice do you have to share? I know that once her sister finds someone again things will go back to how they use to be, but I am really at the end of my rope in sharing my time with my girlfriend.
– Three's Company, Massachusetts
A: Sounds like it would be best for everybody if you didn't live together as a threesome. You and your girlfriend need to figure out whether you can cohabitate without a third-party distraction, and your girlfriend's sister needs to set up her own life. Really, she has to know that this living situation is temporary.
Your girlfriend probably won't love the idea of asking her sister to find her own place, so be gentle with the suggestion. Ask your girlfriend how long she expects the current living situation to continue. Ask her whether she really thinks that this setup is best for her sister.
No one has to move out immediately, but if there's a plan in place to find separate homes, everyone will start preparing themselves for what's next. You can't just wait around until the sister finds a new boyfriend. That's not the solution you're looking for.
Readers? Should they be living together? How can he talk to his girlfriend about this? Help.
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.
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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.