Q: Hi Meredith,
I have been in a relationship for a little over two years. I am coming from a long relationship that ended due to infidelity (on his part). I realize it will take time to heal those wounds and completely trust someone again. The feelings I have now are very strong, and I think he feels the same way about me. When we are together, we get along and enjoy each other's company. But those moments are few and far between.
The problem I am facing is quite simple but still difficult to handle. He is not very good at communication or being considerate. There are times that he simply forgets to call. He also doesn't seem to be putting much effort into trying to get together. I realize this may sound selfish or immature, but I am realizing that if I do not make the first move to see him, he doesn't seem to try. Things become more complicated when I notice that he finds time to see other friends (including an ex). The time he does spend with his friends and ex, he keeps secret from me. His excuses are either that he forgets to mention it or that he didn't want me to be upset.
I have spoken to him on occasions about my feelings, but his response is usually that he "is just not good at relationships." He has had numerous relationships in the past, which have ended because of his work schedule. I obviously suggested we not be in a relationship, and he seemed shocked that I would say that. He has said he wants to be in a relationship with me. I am not the type that wants to move in together or spend every day with him. I would just like to see him once in a while (couple of times a month if that). I do not believe he is seeing his anyone else. That is not his personality. When we are together, I see how much he does care.
There is also another issue -- he is not very affectionate. I am completely opposite and show affection. Sometimes I find myself beginning to doubt his true feelings for me when there is such a lack of communication and affection. I try to not let those insecurities of my past take over, but it's becoming so difficult.
I am just getting so many mixed signals that I don't know what to do. Is this something that we won't be able to overcome? He is such a wonderful guy once you get past the tough exterior. Please be kind in your responses -- he is not in it just for sex.
– Confused in Boston
A: I don't understand why you're only interested in seeing this guy a few times a month. Aren't you supposed to be getting closer over time? "Once in a while" just isn't enough if you want to grow as a couple. I'm all for him seeing friends, and perhaps this time issue is all about his job, but "few and far between" won't work -- at least not for you.
You're too focused on what he wants and what he might be doing with his time. Instead, can you think about what you require from the relationship? It's possible that he's an OK guy who just can't give you what you need. Sometimes people are just a bad match.
If few and far between is really all he can offer, you have to chalk this up to incompatibility. It's not about trust or betrayal -- it's just ... a mismatch.
Readers? Is this just incompatibility? Do you believe that a few times a month is enough? What about her last sentence about him not being in it for sex? Discuss.
My husband and I are in our 60s. We have been married for more than 20 years, and this is a second marriage for us both. Our children are grown and we had none together. Spelling it out, I am unhappy. My husband is bipolar, and after we got married he began to rage at me, saying really terrible things to me, insisting they were true, even though I knew they were not. Back then, I would cry and wonder where my sweet and fun husband went. Getting a bipolar diagnosis didn't mean much to him, but he took medications, and his psychiatrist has tried several combinations. It seems that nothing has really changed this pattern of instantaneous rage and I have felt emotionally abused. We have seen at least three counselors over the years.
We have alarming and real money problems because my husband mismanaged our finances. I so badly wanted a PARTNER, a companion. He tries to be these things, but seems not to know how. He does not follow through on promises. I have started to stand up for myself, to convince him I didn't do the bad thing he thinks I did, but I never get him to acknowledge his own part. The counselors all try to say for me to just ignore him, but I get so upset to hear him say abusive things to me. I am so drawn to trying to convince him I didn't do whatever he says I did.
Also, because of some of his other health issues, we cannot have sex. I realize this is not his fault, but still, I miss that terribly. Whenever we've tried to separate, even for a week or a month, we both cry and go on about how we cannot stand to split up. I feel unsafe when he tries to go, and he is just distraught. So we never really do it. I am scared of living alone, and we really don't have money to pull this off anyway.
I have my own history of depression but have been steady for many years now. But lately I've been having signs of returning depression which terrifies me. My husband has another side, the one the rest of the world sees. They see a kind and gentle man, funny and dedicated. My grandchildren love him.
I do not know what to do about my husband. I waver back and forth. I'm petrified to have very little money, and loneliness is like a death to me. My husband wants to stay with me, get me to stop talking about what he has done, and he wants us to "renew our vows." I could never do that -- I could not make such a vow again. Please help -- am I too old to start over?
– Indecisive senior, Western Mass
A: I want you to get your own therapist. Couples counseling is great, but you should be having an independent discussion about your own needs and priorities.
I also get the sense that you need more time with your community. You sound isolated with your husband – so much of your life is just you and him. Can you spend more time with family? Can you participate in activities that expose you to new friends -- and see old friends more often? Your life can't be just you and him and the occasional visit with a grandkid. You need real family support and a social life to give you some perspective.
Clearly these are problems that can't be diagnosed and solved in a few paragraphs. You require professional help and time to consider all of your options. But please know: You are not too old to start over, and you don't have to renew vows if you don't want to. And your family should be there to help, not just put a grandchild in your lap. Make sure that the people who know you best understand what's happening at home.
Readers? Any advice about how to move forward? What are her options? Should she try couples counseling again or does she need her own therapy? Help.
Q: Hi Meredith:
I have been dating my boyfriend for almost four years and living together for a little more than a year. We are in our early 30s. We have known each other for a very long time. We love each other a lot and he is the most loyal guy I have dated. My problem is that he won't grow up. I am ready to get married and he apparently isn't. When I bring up marriage/the future, he changes the subject or tells me I'm bringing it up at a bad time.
He always has a reason why it isn't a good time to get engaged or married. Last night he told me that he wants to marry me but "needs to get things in order first." He said that he needs his finances to be squared away. He has no debt and we share bills. He has been saying this since we started dating. I have a family ring and don't care about weddings. He said that he needs at least another year to get "things" in order. I don't see what his finances or other things have to do with setting a date, and I feel like this is just yet another excuse to delay.
He also sometimes acts and lives like a 16-year-old. He smokes pot from the moment he wakes up until bedtime. He often plays video games with his office door closed. Every night I come home from work to a dark house with the office door closed. I feel like I'm interrupting my teenage son sometimes when I go in. I don't mind pot or video games, but it's excessive behavior; I'm talking constant. I feel like he is stunted.
I'm not looking to change who he is, but I want him to grow up. I just don't know if he will ever grow out of this behavior or if this is it. Whenever I bring up the pot or video games, I get a response like, "Do you know how many thousands of people unwind this way!?" Fine, but his life seems to almost revolve around it. I'm looking for a straight answer about the future after almost four years together, but I never get one. He says yes to marriage but can't commit to when. I am just asking for a time frame but he can't even do that.
I love him and want a family together eventually. He says he wants the same but his behavior says otherwise.
Do you think he will ever grow up or is he just delaying a breakup?
– Should I Stay or Should I Go
A: You need to decide whether you can put up with him as is. If your boyfriend doesn't see the pot/video games thing as a problem, then it's not something he'll work to fix. His behavior is more important than the marriage stuff right now. You don't sound like someone who's ready to sign on to this relationship forever.
This is one of those letters that omits the good stuff about the relationship. I have to assume that there are plenty of positives that you simply forgot to share. Are the good things good enough to keep you happy for decades? And do you know whether he's happy with the way things are now?
You're supposed to want to marry what you have, not what you think you might get down the road. Don't push for a commitment if you're not sure that he's what you want.
Readers? Should she stay or go? Is he delaying a breakup? Will his behavior change? Have they lived together long enough to know if this works? Help.
We chat at 1.
Q: Dear Meredith,
I've been married 30 years, the last 15 to 20 years sexless. I love my wife, but am no longer in love with her. She is more like a sister to me. If I had more courage and financial capability, I would have divorced her years ago. I also hate confrontation. I tried confronting her about the sex issue at times but never was able to. I hated her for it.
In the last year I've met a woman, a friend of friends, who I've fallen in love with. We have lots of common interests and always have a great time together. She is always sweet to me and feels like my soul mate. I feel alive again. The time we get to spend together is always in a group. She is married, but is strongly considering a divorce, from problems before we met. Her husband treats her terribly, which I've witnessed, but thankfully is not physically abusive. I have not told her about my love for her, and she has not said anything about love to me. She and I have both told each other how much we like spending time together, that the time together is the best time of our lives right now. Due to our circle of friends, we get to spend a lot of time together. The friends have sometimes expressed concern about the two of us, but we assure them that nothing is going on, which is the truth. They believe us, and so does my wife, but she is still suspicious. My love and my wife are now good friends!
Now even more complications: A couple of months ago, my wife and I finally had the sex talk. I think she had concerns about what was going on with me and the other woman, and she brought it up. She admitted it was mostly her fault, not that fault matters at this point. We have had sex since the talk, at first quite a bit, but it is already tapering off rapidly just like 20 years ago. I enjoy the sex, but don't really feel anything for her. I am no longer attracted to her. I've tried to fall in love with her again by trying to notice her good qualities and actions and so on, but to no avail. I feel no emotional connection to her, just responsibility. We fight a lot and she is never sweet to me. I try to be nice to her, but it is difficult.
I'm sure you or your readers will suggest counseling. This would be financially very difficult, and I don't think this would help me fall in love again. There has been too much damage, too much rejection, to ever have that happen again.
The funny thing is, this woman and I cannot even stop seeing each other. The group gatherings prevent that, and to tell everybody why we need to stop seeing each other would cause more pain than it would solve. Plus, seeing her socially is my only source of happiness right now. The pain inside me is building, and I feel like a dam ready to burst.
I know this sounds made up, but every word is true. Any advice at all?
– Hopeless Soul, Mass.
A: I don't know why you think that this letter sounds made up. Sadly, your issues are common. Marriage is hard. Lots of people develop crushes during long relationships. And I'd say the bulk of our letter writers want to avoid confrontation.
You guessed right -- I'm going to suggest counseling, at the very least just for you. Find out whether it's covered by your health insurance and ask your primary care physician for some recommendations. You need professional help to figure out what's next. It might not fix your broken marriage, but it'll put you in the right place to come up with a real plan for staying or going.
As for this other woman, you need to assume that she won't leave her husband. Even if she does, I'm not convinced that she'd jump into your arms. If you decide that you want to live without your wife, you'll be starting over without a partner -- and maybe without that group of friends. This woman isn't your magic plan B.
Many letter writers talk about the expense of counseling, but if you're sick, you go to the doctor. And if you're very sick, you look into every treatment possible. Your marriage needs that kind of attention right now.
Readers? Is counseling necessary? What about this other woman? What should happen next? Help.
Chat at 1 on Wednesday.
Q: Dear Meredith,
I have started to write this letter to you so many times and stopped -- maybe because I'm afraid of what your answer could be.
I'm completely in love with one of my best friends. Hopelessly, stupidly, Rachel McAdams movie-type love. I've known him for over a decade and the more I know him, the more I fall for him over and over again. And inevitably, there are multiple complications. Like the fact that he has a girlfriend of several years. And I can't tell you this story without the full disclosure that I'm almost 30 and I've never had a boyfriend. I've casually dated, and I've just never found someone that measures up or gives me the feeling that he does.
I've done so much to get over him, and to put myself out there for other people. I've agreed to set-ups, tried online dating, and even tried to slowly back off from our friendship. I spend a lot of time wishing that I could find someone else who makes me feel the way he does, because it doesn't seem fair that I'm so stuck on someone so unavailable. I truly don't think that the lack of availability is what appeals to me. I'd marry him tomorrow if he asked.
Even though I'm sure he will end up with the girl he's with now, I still have a small flame of hope that he feels something with me. I feel as though our chemistry is electric and I know he can feel it too ... even if it's too much for him to even consider going down that road. We've done a lot of growing up together and it's overwhelming to think about. Sidenote: I'm also pretty plain-looking compared to the others on his dating resume.
So, any chance you think he could have been harboring secret romantic feelings for me over the past years? I know I watch too many rom-coms, but I figured this letter was worth a shot. Thanks in advance for any advice.
– Wish I Could Make Him Really See Me, Nashua
A: Trust me, he sees you. And maybe he's had some feelings here and there.
But ... if this were a Rachel McAdams movie (romantic comedy, not Sherlock Holmes or Woody Allen), she wouldn't wind up with this guy, right? She'd wind up with some new person at the end of the film. I mean, that's how this works. The ideal narrative isn't that he falls for you; it's that you realize that you've been pining for someone who hasn't earned it. He's been content to be with someone else for years. That's not OK.
I believe that he's fantastic, but the fact that you say that you'd "marry him tomorrow" means that you've lost perspective. You don't know what it's like to be bored of him. You don't know what it's like to count on him as a romantic partner during a tragedy. He's become something imaginary in your head, and you must believe me when I tell you that there’s no way he'd measure up to your fantasies.
You need to keep dating and widen your circle a bit. And you probably need to minimize your interaction with him and make plans with new faces. I know that you know all of this, but you have to start believing it. Trust me when I tell you that reality with someone new will trump this fantasy relationship.
Readers? Is there any chance that he has feelings for her? Should she tell him how she feels? How can she get excited about dating other people? What's happening here? Help.
Q: I met a guy at the end of the summer and we have been dating for the last few months. Things were going well at first, but then a few weeks ago he became a little distant. For example, he wouldn't return my texts sometimes, and he stopped making plans with me in advance and instead he would just wait until I asked him to do something or would call me at the last minute to hang out. I started to get the feeling that he wasn't really looking for a super committed relationship, which was OK with me because he was fun to hang out with and I enjoyed his company, at least for the time being.
Then today I found out on the Facebook page of one of his friends (he and I are not Facebook friends, which I always thought was kind of odd) that there is a girl who lives down South that he appears to be dating as well and has been for quite some time based on the pictures I ended up finding. Pictures going all the way back to last fall.
Truthfully, I am not that upset since things haven't really been great for the last couple of weeks, but I am torn on actually even telling him I know about the girl. I am thinking it may be easier to just stop responding to his texts/calls. At the same time I don't want him to think he got away with being a cheater.
– Cheater, Boston
A: I'd take 10 minutes and end the relationship. Not just because he's a cheater, but because I believe in clarity. Just say (over the phone or in person), "Hey, we've obviously been growing apart -- and I get the sense from your behavior (and the internet) that you don't want to be in a committed relationship. It's time for me to move on."
He might disagree and try to keep you around, but you can handle that conversation. It just seems to me that you've been doing a lot of guessing. I find that talking it out – even if it's just to break up – is more helpful in the long run. I don't believe that people learn much about themselves and their relationships when they simply disappear.
Readers? Should she have a breakup talk or just stop responding to texts/emails? Is she making too many assumptions about the Facebook findings? Is it weird that they're not Facebook friends? Discuss.
I didn't want to cheat a letter writer out of good comments on the Friday after Thanksgiving, so today I'm posting the self-help reviews that readers did this fall.
For those who don't remember, I posted a list of self-help books that were sent to me by publishers over the last six months or so. Love Letters readers requested them, and I sent them out for review. (You'll notice that I had two copies of some books, so a few got reviewed twice.)
I told our intern, who compiled the list, to choose her favorite reader review. The winner is posted first. (Congrats KLC.)
We'll be back with a regular letter on Monday. - Meredith
“Beyond Soul Mates: Open Yourself to Higher Love Through the Energy of Attraction,” Cyndi Dale.
"Beyond Soul Mates" by is the hippie's take on the law of attraction. The concept isn't new, but this book will appeal to those who believe in eternal soul mates, reincarnated lovers, and anyone who smells faintly of patchouli. In seriousness though, the book provides reminders that in order to love truly, and be loved, we must first truly love ourselves. -- KLC
"Love Him or Leave Him, But Don’t Get Stuck with the Tab," Loni Love
I guess the main thing I got out of this assignment is there is no magic solution to our dating dilemmas that we're going to find in a "self-help" book. That being said, what can be helpful about reading something like this is that we get a kind reminder to focus on making positive choices while having a good laugh along the way. – Caitlin
"It's Your Move: How to Play the Game and Win the Man," Nick Savoy
Mr. Savoy's manual about the best ways to flirt with men predominately focused on maximizing your physical (womanly) attributes to make a man notice. A machismo perspective and nothing we haven't heard before. – R.S.
"Love @ First Click: The Ultimate Guide to Online Dating," Laurie Davis
Being relatively new to online dating, I chose this book in hopes of getting some helpful advice. While I did find much of the book useful, it suffers from three main issues: trying to cater to a broad age range, consistently plugging the author's online eFlirt Expert service, and the most annoying recurring device of all: transforming things in to "ePhrases," such as "eRelationship,""eBachelorette," and the "Wink Wide Web." So if you can get past the eOverkill, Davis offers up-to-date and handy tips for the online dating novice. -- MB
"How to Be an Adult in Love: Letting Love in Safely and Showing it Recklessly," David Richo.
I am a bit of a self-help book junkie. Good nuggets of information are buried in this book. I did feel though the book is a bit dense, took me a while to get into it and I did not feel like I bonded with it. -- dmcathome
"WTF Are Men Thinking?: Surprising Answers (from Thousands of Men) Women Won't Want to Miss," Christopher Brya and Miguel Almaraz
This book has the straight-forward survey results about what men are really thinking about regarding women in terms of communication, sex, looks, romance, dating, marriage, work, and more. Unfortunately, they pretty much only surveyed men in their early 20's! #nohelptome -- WickedMcCool
"Bedded Bliss: A Couple’s Guide to Lust Ever After," Kristina Wright
A collection of erotic vignettes about different couples at all stages of life along with snippets of advice for each. The vignettes were good, the advice was just pages to flip through until getting to the good stuff! -- Misty Falange
"The Five Flirting Styles: Use the Science of Flirting to Attract the Love You Really Want," Jeffrey A. Hall, Ph.D.
This is the perfect book for people who prefer research based analysis from someone with a PhD. after their name to explain why their flirting efforts aren't giving them the results they want. Luckily, this PhD. details the pros, cons, and research analysis of each flirting style with humor and ease while detailing how to enhance and switch up each style to be more effective in the game of love. I've already recommended this book to friends -- after already analyzing their flirting style, of course. -- Amy
"The Geek's Guide to Dating," Eric Smith
Generalizes Geeks assuming that all Geeks are socially inept and on the spectrum. If you are a Geek, you have already learned everything in this book via reddit. -- Momma Merlot
"Happily Ever After: A Light-Hearted Guide to Wedded Bliss," Jane Fearnley-Whittingstall
This book is chock full of fascinating quotes from 400 years of writings on marriage. And each time I read one of those quotes, I thought, "Damn! I wish I was reading that book instead!" -- EnjoyEverySandwich
"Cheat: A Man's Guide to Infidelity," By: Bill Burr, Joe DeRosa, and Robert Kelly
A ribald, racy, risqué, and rip-roaring hilarious spoof on the Art of Cheating, "Cheat: A Man's Guide to Infidelity" is an absolute howl; not to be taken too seriously and may offend even the faintest of heart with its blunt use of female anatomy adjectives. The chapter on picking up hookers alone is worth the read ... sorry ladies, this book is off limits to you! -- Ken
"How to Fall Out of Love," Dr. Deborah Phillips with Robert Judd
"How To Fall Out Of Love" is a book for people who can't get past their ex. The advice about how to move on is extreme and is based on conditioning yourself to want nothing to do with your ex. -- Lydia
"How to Get Out of the Friend Zone: Turn Your Relationship into a Relationship," Jet and Star, the Wing Girls
Sigh, unfortunately Bloggers and now authors (if you use that term loosely) Jet and Star wrote a book that’s geared for an audience who watch the CW network; while the authors are secretly hoping that the movie rights get sold to Warner Bros and Selena Gomez and Justin Bieber will be the lead character. Overall this book is good for the awkward geek girl college student who is pining to find a way to get Johnny to like her. – Red Foxx
"Why Men Fake it: The Totally Unexpected Truth About Men and Sex," Dr. Abraham Morgentaler
The differences between men and women are why we find each other so intriguing and even endearing, yes? Truth be told by this compassionate urologist's recounting of his long and varied practice, men are every bit as complicated as the women they try to please. Am I faking this review? Read the Boston Dr.'s book and find out for yourselves. -- Deb
"Modern Dating: A Field Guide," Chiara Atik
A quick read but cute and fun. I found myself laughing out loud. -- Kristin
"The 30-Day Love Detox: Cleanse Yourself of Bad Boys, Cheaters, and Commitment Phobes—And Find Your Perfect Relationship," Dr. Wendy Walsh
I recommend The 30 Day Love Detox for the many women in their 20s and 30s who, like myself, are trying to have some sort of healthy romantic relationship with guys and find themselves in fun, sometimes hot, often ridiculous but ultimately unsatisfying situations. While I find the author's writing is cheesy at times and some of her rules absurd in this day in age (ie..only kiss a guy ON THE CHEEK for a month of dating him), her book holds some wise gems that have in fact caused to reevaluate my actions and useless pining for "junk food men." -- BlondieBostonian
"The 7 Minute Marriage Solution," Stephen Arterburn
"7-Minute Marriage Solution is not for someone who's not religious. It's almost a turn off when I read 'start praying for [spouse/yourself/situation]' or 'to believe in God'!" -- Krystal
"I Only Want to Get Married Once: The 10 Essential Questions for Getting it Right the First Time," Chana Levitan, MSc
This book starts by treating you like a middle schooler (infatuation ≠ love?), convinces you that most long-term relationships are doomed to either boredom or constant value clashes, and then ends up with practical, proactive, and ultimately heartening tips for preventing and addressing plausible conflicts. Good for its lists, and the inclusion of a few sympathetic couples with realistic troubles. -- Lauren
"Not Your Mother’s Rules: The New Secrets for Dating. Grand Central Publishing," Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider
Not Your Mother's Rules are EXACTLY your mother's rules but for the 21st century: don't sit, stand, or flirt with a guy first; don't text or call; don't ask him out; wait at least 4 hours before responding to any communication; don't be friends on social media; don't sext or accept booty calls; wait before sleeping with him; and don't date indefinitely without a commitment. Basically, look pretty and hope he likes you. Be passive (or have patience?) - he'll make the moves and he'll be in touch. -- Caitlin
"I Saw Your Future and He’s Not It: A Psychic’s Guide to True Love," Louis Helene with Kim Osborn Sullivan, PhD.
To help you find out if he is the one, Psychic Louise shows you how to bring out your inner psychic by interpreting food coloring shapes in water, chanting what you want at the ceiling, and watching which way your ring swings over a drawing of a clock. If you still cannot figure it out, remember that he doesn't want to hear from you unless you make him laugh by texting a crotch joke. – Julie F.
"The Remarriage Blueprint: How Remarried Couples and Their Families Succeed or Fail," Maggie Scarf
Not so much a "How to" rather more of a "Here's why" book, "The Remarriage Blueprint: How Remarried Couples and Their Families Succeed or Fail" by Maggie Scarf provides unique, instructive insights on the pitfalls confronting blended families. An eye-opening must-read for any couple contemplating remarriage. -- Ben
"The Book of Love," Dr. Laura Berman
To be successful in love, your partner should be able to challenge you mentally, which causes you to open and broaden your mind, and once achieved, the intimacy you reach is phenomenal. -- Twinkie
"The Two Truths About Love: The Art and Wisdom of Extraordinary Relationships," Jason B. Fischer with Sabrina Kindell
Transform your relationship by letting go of expectations and judgements while not being a puppet to your emotional responses. Great read with powerful and actionable takeaways emphasizing the "self" in self-help. -- Susan
"WTF Are Men Thinking?: 250,000 Men Reveal What Women REALLY Want to Know," Christopher Brya and Miguel Almaraz
This tome cautions women against jumping to conclusions when trying to decipher men's behavior. However, the men's explanations can vary, showing how opinions, unlike the words on a page, are rarely black and white. – Seattle Single
"Jane's Guide to Dicks (and Toms and Harrys)," Kathryn Petras and Ross Petras
This is a comical book that should not be taken too seriously. Jane says call your guy every half hour to say I love you. Jamie says, please don't. -- Jamie
"The Five Flirting Styles: Use the Science of Flirting to Attract the Love You Really Want," Jeffrey A Hall, Phd
The best insights from the book: "The Five Flirting Styles: Use the Science of Flirting to Attract the Love You Really Want" were: 1. very different flirting approaches can all lead to success though at very different speeds. 2. how to spot the 5 flirting styles (physical, polite, playful, sincere, and traditional) 3. where each flirting style is most effective and 4. how to match your style with your relationship goals and who you are interested in. My results with a guy I've liked for quite some time: I minimized my playful flirting which wasn't communicating interest in his flirting language and I got up the courage to bring out more of my sincere flirt; despite my previous attempts at flirting, it was the first time he actually realized I was interested in him. :-0 :-) – Social Butterfly
"How We Love Now: Women talk about Intimacy After 50," Suzanne Braun Levine
The independent generation has allowed themselves to come of age -- without guilt or restrictions – finally! Second Adulthood is now accepted and understood and if you don’t think so, then How We Love Now by Suzanne Braun Levine will inform you how/why. -- Eileen
"Not Your Mother's Rules: The New Secrets for Dating," Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider
Not your mother’s rules is a bit of a game with a lot of waiting times included on when to respond back to a text, Facebook message or the like. The mantra throughout is to be a creature unlike any other (CUAO) which I agree with, however, when you recommend weighing the benefits of a nose job to get a man to notice you, that’s kind of sad. The rules is fine to use as a basic refresher, however I'd adapt them as needed. – Annie M.
Happy Thanksgiving. As always, I am thankful for the internet because it makes Love Letters possible.
For today's holiday, if you happen to check in, I'm asking for a favor. We celebrate the 5th anniversary of Love Letters early next year. I'm trying to get a list of people's favorite letters from LL history. Can you tell me yours -- and why it was so memorable (the letter itself, the advice, the comments)?
Feel free to debate most memorable letters.
But don't debate for too long. Go eat.
Q: Dear Meredith,
I've been going out with this guy for almost seven years now. Unfortunately, I've been feeling unsatisfied with our relationship as of late. Two main problems come to mind. First, I love him very much, but I feel like he is not working hard enough toward his goals. I just finished my degree, have a job, and I am planning to go back to school in order to get a better career. He, however, still has yet to finish his two-year schooling over the past five years. I have confronted him about it, but he tells me that he wants to do things at his own pace. I'm afraid that his pace is too slow for me. I am a pretty independent woman, but I’ve been thinking that we should move in together sometime soon, but not if he can't get his act together, finish his schooling, and get a career (he has a job but not a career). He is a pretty temperamental guy (not in a dangerous way), and will try to avoid confrontation and conflict whenever I bring this up. Is there any way for me to let him know how much this means to me?
Second, I feel as if our communication has dwindled. Over the course of seven years, I expected as much, but not to this extent. He doesn't call, and texts are very seldom. I am always the initiator when it comes to contacting each other. Heck, he doesn't even ask me how I'm doing or what my plans for the week are anymore. He recently got new roommates who also happen to be his friends. I have a feeling that he prefers to hang out with them than with me. I've also confronted him about this, but he assures me that he loves me very much. I can't shake this feeling that he may be getting tired of me.
We have a great relationship, and we do settle our differences for the most part, but these two things are starting to get to me. Is he falling out of love? Is there any way for me to work around this? Is it time to let go and move on? I don't want to let seven years go down the drain, but I don't want to be unhappy either. What should I do?
– Happy, but Unhappy, Boston
A: It doesn't matter how much his career status means to you. He's told you that he wants to work at his own pace, so you can either accept that or move on. You can't force him to share your priorities, and you can't think of him as a work in progress.
As for paragraph two, yeah, that sounds bad. My guess is that you guys are in a serious rut because you're not working toward anything in particular. Every couple needs something to look forward to. It's time to ask him where he sees the two of you in a year. Find out whether there's a plan that you can get excited about.
Honestly, you've written one of those letters that's mostly miserable until the "we have a great relationship" sentence at the end, which makes me wonder what I'm missing. I have to assume, based on paragraphs one and two, that unless you can accept his job status and start planning a move-in, this relationship isn't enough for you. And if that's the case, that's OK. It wouldn't be seven years down the drain; it would just be seven years of experience.
Readers? Can she expect him to work harder at the degree for her? Should they stay together? After seven years, what does she need from him? Discuss.
And when it's dry and ready, we'll chat at 1.
Q: Dear Meredith,
I am a 29-year-old woman. I'm a college graduate, gainfully employed, I have great friends and family, and I've been told I'm pretty by people who are not related to me. However, I have never had a boyfriend or had sex -- ever. I do online dating and go to singles events and date fairly frequently, but I've just never clicked with anyone, and while there have been a few guys I've had strong feelings for, none of them have reciprocated.
That's why I've never had a boyfriend. I've never had sex because, although I do desire to have it, the idea of having sex with someone I don't have a connection with has no appeal to me. My only two criteria for losing my virginity are that we must be in a committed relationship and we must be in love, and that has just not happened yet.
Here is my question: How unreasonable are my expectations? Is it realistic to expect a guy I do click with not to be freaked out by my lack of experience? Are there any guys willing to wait until there's a commitment (not marriage or anything like that, just an official relationship) to have sex? Do most guys just expect sex after a certain number of dates? In the past, it's come up on dates that I’ve never been in a relationship, and those guys reacted as if I was admitting to something truly shameful. I can't imagine what a guy would say if he knew that I'm a virgin for non-religious reasons.
Let me know what you and your readers think.
– Trying to Get Un-single, Boston
A: Your expectations aren't unreasonable ... except ... sometimes being intimate with someone is a part of what helps you fall in love with them. If you find someone you like, I want you to get to know them emotionally and physically. You don't have to have sex with anyone before you're ready, but you can't always jump to love before you hit the start button. I think that liking someone very, very much is enough to justify some kind of sexual relationship.
As for disclosing your lack of relationship experience on dates, you can frame that however you want. You can say, "There's been no one significant," or, "I've spent my 20s getting myself together." And be confident about those answers -- because they're true. Had you been desperate to have sex and get a boyfriend in your 20s, you would have put all of your energy into that and forced it to happen. You did spend your 20s getting to a comfortable place. Now you're ready for more.
Continue the dating, and if someone is worth a few dates, maybe they're worth some intimacy. It's all about getting used to someone. And if you have any questions about expectations, just ask. You'll be relieved to find that most people in the dating world are equally clueless about what's supposed to happen next.
Readers? Should she talk about her virginity? How should she frame her relationship history? Are her expectations unreasonable? Help.
Q: Hi Meredith,
I am a woman in her mid-20s who has had one real relationship, and it was fairly abusive and terrible. It lasted for about two years and ended well over three years ago. Since then, I haven't been worried about getting a boyfriend and have concentrated on making my own life better, and so far everything is going really well.
A little over two years ago, I met a guy I'll refer to as Jake. I met Jake through some mutual friends, and he is gay. Jake is almost eight years older than me, and I immediately liked him because he would laugh at my terrible jokes and liked a lot of the same activities I liked. We exchanged contact information and started hanging out right after.
Fast forward a little over a year, and I am now totally in love with Jake. He is big into random hook-ups, not interested in anything to do with a relationship, and someone I can have so much fun with. It was confusing for a while though because from time to time, we would make out and sleep in the same bed and I'd get a little too drunk and tell him how in love with him I was. This was the point that my friends/family started saying I needed to stop feeling like this because he was gay and things would never really work out (they did not know about the physical aspects).
Fast forward to this current year and our relationship has grown even more. We talk every day, hang out at least three days a week, and he is constantly talking about how much he loves me and how much he wants to marry me. Last week, he made a joke about how I am going to need to pick out a ring soon because he wants to marry me soon and spend every day for the rest of our lives with me. We talk like this frequently though, so it was not a big deal.
This past weekend, he was hanging out with some old friends. They brought up how he was supposed to move to another city halfway across the country. After they left, we were sitting on the couch watching TV and he grabbed my hand and said "I don't want to freak you out or anything, but I'm waiting to move until you want to. I know you change your mind a lot about what you want to do/where you want to go in your next phase, but I want to be there with you. I love you, and I want you to be part of my life every day for the rest of our lives." I didn't know what to do, so I just responded with "OK" and left shortly after the movie (usually I stay over his place curled up in bed with him).
Given that background, I have multiple questions on what to do from here. Part of me is saying that I should just tell him that I'm in love with him, but explain that I want more than just what we have. Part of me is saying that I should just move on because he is gay and our relationship will never be as good as it could be, and I could never be enough for him (though I have always been OK with open relationships). I'm also afraid that if I try to bring any of this up, he is just going to brush it off like it was nothing (he has been far less communicative the past few days). How should I approach talking about this with him? What if it ruins everything?
– Uncertainty, Boston
A: You can't worry about ruining this because it's already a mess. You're in love with your gay best friend. The only thing you could ruin is the safety of it all. You're getting relationship perks without having to take a real risk. If you tell him how you feel and the relationship becomes more platonic, you might have to date other people -- and yes, those people might disappoint you.
But that's life. That's dating. You can't avoid it all by immersing yourself in a relationship that has limitations. You need to tell Jake how you feel -- because he's your best friend. Ask him to clarify his own feelings and to be honest about how he sees this partnership.
My guess is that Jake adores you -- and that he'd love to have you as a life partner/best friend forever -- but that he wants to continue having relationships with other people. And my guess is that as much as you love Jake and say that you're OK with open relationships, you'd like to be involved with someone who is totally into you. Because that's what you deserve.
My hope is that an honest discussion will clarify your priorities. If Jake can't give you what you need, you have to spend time with other people (including other friends) and look for someone who offers more.
Readers? Is it possible that Jake wants to be with her romantically? How should she tell him about this? Does she have to let him go? Help.
Q: Last May I proposed to my boyfriend, and while he didn't turn me down, he couldn't say yes, either.
We are both in our late 30s, met in college, and reconnected a year and a half ago and started dating. I've been out as a gay man for most of my adulthood, and while he has been out to his parents and closest friends for a few years now, he'd never been with another man—or in any relationship—before me. This hasn't caused any problems one-on-one; I've been pleasantly surprised at how naturally and organically our relationship has evolved. We are passionate about each other on every level.
There is one sticking point, and I believe this is why he can't say yes to my proposal: He is very apprehensive about being seen as a same-sex couple to the outside world.
His coworkers and extended family do not know that he is gay, and I never accompany him to his work events. He dislikes me posting photos of us together on Facebook, and he refuses to add them to his own timeline. He doesn't introduce me as his boyfriend to people we meet, and he recoils at any public displays of affection. I am friendly with his parents, but he forbids any physical contact between us in their presence. These are not deal-breakers, but it does disappoint me.
Besides his apprehension about being out -- a challenge for any gay person in the beginning -- he is a naturally shy and very private person. We've talked about it, and he reminds me that he's come a very long way in a short amount of time, and that he's come out to the people who matter to him most. All true. Nonetheless, I don't think that if he were in a straight relationship, he would be nearly as guarded.
He assures me that I'm "the one" for him. But being engaged, and eventually married, is a very public declaration of his sexual orientation, and it makes him extremely nervous. The idea of a wedding where we state our love for each other in front of others gives him tremendous stress. In contrast, I love him so much that I want to shout it to the world. I want to have a ceremony with our friends and family present. And I want that kiss after we exchange our vows.
He has assured me that his hangups are not an indication that he is ashamed of me, but that he is adjusting to the idea of being in a relationship with any man. I am mostly understanding, but there are times when I can't fathom how anyone could be so fearful about being gay and out in 2013, in Boston, Massachusetts, with both of us in professions surrounded by educated, enlightened people.
I want to give this time, as his comfort level could continue to evolve, but I'm not sure how long is reasonable to wait. I am not looking to wave a rainbow flag wherever we go, but I do want to get to a point where being seen as a couple is no big deal, and nothing to conceal to anyone.
In case you're wondering, he has zero interest in dating others or "sowing his oats" -- I asked him several times early on, before things got serious. It seems the problem is purely about his comfort with acknowledging that he's gay in public.
I've tried to model behavior to him, where my sexual orientation is just another mundane fact that makes no difference in my daily interactions. What else can I do to help him along?
– In Love With Him, Not His Fears, Boston
A: You need to decide whether you can enjoy a relationship with someone who isn't comfortable sharing his love with the world. Because his evolution is going to be very, very slow. He's never going to be someone who posts smiley couple pictures on Facebook. I'm not convinced that he'll ever come out at work. And a wedding, if it happens, might be tiny and private. Can you live with that? Does it matter?
To me, this letter is more about you than him. It's about whether you can be happy with someone who isn't comfortable disclosing your role in his life. It's OK if the answer is yes, and you decide that you want to be with this guy no matter what, but if so, you have to make peace with his personality and accept that this relationship will be about you pushing – and him resisting -- maybe for a long time ... or forever. Because his fears are a part of the package.
As for practical advice, I recommend hanging out with that inner circle as much as possible. The more comfortable he is with them, the better he'll feel about the rest of the world. And please be clear about your needs. Use those "I" statements. He should know where you are in your own process, and you need to find out how he responds when you're the one who wants help.
Readers? Is there anything he can do to help this guy along? Should he be with someone who isn't comfortable referring to him as a partner? Should marriage be on the table? Help.
Q: Dear Meredith and Readers:
I'm in relationship with my boyfriend of a year. We love each other very much and work well as a team. We are in our 40s, divorced, and have teenage and young adult children from our marriages. Since we are cohabitating, this will be our first holiday season together as a family unit.
I adore Christmas and everything about it, as do my kids. Ever since his divorce and loss of anything other than weekend visitation, he absolutely dreads Christmas and everything about it.
He has struggled with bipolar disorder and emotional issues since he was a child (which he acknowledges and controls to the best of his ability, and which I know I can't fix and I have no control over) and he's taken to completely isolating himself for the entirety of Christmas Eve/Christmas as sort of a defense mechanism.
Obviously, I would love for him to be a part of at least some of my family's traditions, and to include his children in mine as time constraints allow, but I don't want to leave him in an even worse emotional spot than he would have been in if I left him alone to isolate. I know that he has a penchant for agreeing to do things just because they make me happy, but I don't want him to participate to his own detriment, especially if it will trigger a depressive episode.
Is there a compromise to be had here, or should I just act "single" for the duration of the holidays and let him alone to do what he feels he needs to do?
– Hoping for Good Cheer, MA
A: I believe there's a compromise. Maybe just one meal or activity during the 24-hour holiday. You don't have to demand that he participate -- just ask. Explain that it can be a simple, quick breakfast in front of the TV. If it doesn't feel right, he can always retreat to his isolation zone.
I also recommend suggesting a new Christmas tradition. This is your first year in the same house, so maybe your activity list has to change a bit. Maybe this year, you all go to the movies so that you're isolated and quiet together. It's worth talking to him about what he might actually want to do that day. If it were a random Wednesday off from work, how would he celebrate?
You can remind him that as the kids get older and move around, these routines will change. You two are the unit now, so you might as well come up with just one activity that's just yours. Maybe it's a midnight dessert in the bedroom. Maybe it's an early-morning walk. It can be the simplest of activities and it doesn't have to involve everyone.
(And perhaps this goes without saying, but if he's seeing a professional, he should talk to that person about coping mechanisms for the holidays. It's an uneasy season for so many people. It's time to ask for help.)
Readers? Should she ask or just leave this alone? What’s the right way to ask? Any ideas for a compromise? Help.
Q: I'm a guy in my mid-30s. About 10 or so years ago, I foolishly got involved with a very attractive married woman at work. She was a bit older and in a higher position at the college where we were employed. I was single and attracted to her looks, and because of my immaturity at the time, I was also attracted to the intrigue and danger that a married woman was interested in me. She said she wasn't happy with her husband but couldn't leave him because of family and the stigma of getting divorced. Thinking back, it didn't bother me much. I was able to have a sexual relationship with her and I didn't want much more than that at the time.
As weeks turned to months, she and I started spending more and more time together and it started to feel more like a relationship. To the best of my knowledge at the time, her husband never knew about the affair. He traveled often and they had no kids. After a year or so, I started to have moments of clarity and I started to feel that I needed to end things with her. Around the same time, I started looking for a new job and as fate would have it, I was offered a position over two hours away. It was a great career opportunity so I accepted it and ended things with her. She took it very hard.
Ultimately I cut off all contact when I moved and that was the last I heard from her. This was well before social media existed so it was easier to run from your past. Time moved on and feelings on my end subsided. I excelled in my new job, met new friends, and I am now a newlywed. I think of that time with her has one of the biggest mistakes of my life -- a learning experience that I blame on being young and ignorant. Not long ago I accepted another position and I moved again. My marriage is great but I never told my wife about this affair I had when I was in my early 20s.
Now the boom: This woman was just hired at the college where I work. She won't be directly supervising me but she will be involved in my job. I'm not clear if she knew I was now working at this college when she applied but I also don't think this is a fatal attraction thing. I have seen her since she was hired and we exchanged some small talk but nothing about our past. She looked happy. This past weekend she sent me an email and asked if I would meet her for coffee off campus. She said it would be for the best to resolve issues and that her husband was not very happy that we were working together again so we needed to talk about that among other things. So at some point I assume he found out about the affair.
I am in such a different place in my life right now and have zero interest in her. I also don't think she has any interest in me either. I am so in love with my wife but now I feel this dirty secret is the elephant in the room. The whole situation is uncomfortable. What do I do? Do I tell my wife a married woman I had an affair with more than a decade ago is now a co-worker or do I just let the past be the past?
– You can run ..., Mass.
A: Tell your wife. She needs to know what's happening. If you have a bad day at work, you have to be able to go home and be honest about it. You can't keep this kind of secret.
After you tell your wife, set some boundaries with this woman. Email her back saying that you're happy to have coffee, but that you can't get into any discussions about her marriage and how her husband feels about you. It's none of your business, and talking about the details of their relationship probably won't make anyone feel any better. Tell her that you're excited to work together as two grownups who can start fresh.
If you do meet up with her, stay close to work. No need to drive far. And keep the conversation about the present. Talk to her about her new department. Let her know that you've let this go.
I don't think that this is a fatal attraction thing, but at the very least it's uncomfortable. You'll do yourself a favor by keeping your wife in the know and by telling this woman that you're working with a clean slate.
Readers? Should he have the coffee or reject the offer? Should he tell his wife? Is there a need for a paper trail here? Help.
Q: Dear Meredith,
Shortly after graduating from college, I made a terrible mistake and broke up with the love of my life. He was my best friend and though we were young, we had an incredible bond that I thought could take us through the ups and downs of a long-distance relationship. We began dating at the beginning of senior year, which meant that in less than a year we were forced to jointly confront a major life change. We spoke comfortably of our future and how we dreamed of moving to a new city and starting our new "adult" lives together. My boyfriend had already tacked on another minor and was forced to stay in school for another semester, so after graduating and realizing that I was too broke to chase my dreams where he was, I decided to return home to Boston to save up money for grad school. We spoke every day and were supportive of each other's new goals.
I eventually found a temporary job and new friends to occupy my time and gradually, our relationship began to deteriorate. Our conversations were still the highlight of my day, but I had a hard time finding time for him in my new life. About halfway through the summer, I realized how unfair I was being and decided that the best thing was to end the relationship. He had a feeling that something wasn't right, but was still devastated and said he that he "needed some space," which I completely understood. We ceased all contact and I was honestly unsure if I would ever hear from him again. About a month later, however, he sent me an email just to check in and see how I was doing. I responded and we had a small back and forth. Then, in September, I found myself back near school for alumni weekend. We ended up meeting for coffee and I was reminded of just how wonderful he really is. Even though I had been so terrible to him, he was still the charming, sweet, goofy guy that I had always loved. I cried the whole way home.
Now, several weeks later, we have had a few conversations over text message where I hinted that I wasn't happy without him and I just can't get him off of my mind. I know that I want him back in my life but I don't know how to go about doing it. Things would be incredibly different if we were in the same city but that still might be a year down the road. It's not like we can casually meet up to chat and I feel as though a spontaneous phone call is probably a bad move. How do I show him that I am sorry and still love him and care about him? Especially without being too blunt. Am I over-thinking this?
– My Head and Heart Hurt, Boston
A: You can tell him that you want to visit him with the hope of getting back together ... or you can be sad and nostalgic and let this go. And really, if the idea of getting back together seems too difficult right now, that's your answer.
Some couples would be cool with a long-distance relationship if it meant that they could be together in a year. But you needed space -- until he was right in front of your face. Alumni weekend wasn't reality. I'm not convinced that you want to be in a relationship right now.
Of course, if I'm wrong and you really believe that you want him back, you can call him up and ask him for a second chance. Do it now and be blunt. There's no harm in asking. Just don't wallow in the middle. Don't think about how you can save him for later. Don't send hints via text because hints are the worst. Your job is to be clear about what you want so that no one has to guess.
Readers? Does she want him back? Should she tell him how she's feeling? Does alumni weekend count? What about the hints? Help.
Q: I met a guy eight months ago who had been in a long relationship. About a year before he was supposed to get married, his fiancée left him and never looked back. It had been two years since the heartbreak. We hit it off well and soon we were together frequently and met each other's families. We always had a great time together. We're in our 30s.
One issue that came up in the relationship was that he would drink frequently until he was drunk, even when he was alone at his home. I received very drunk phone calls from him on two occasions. I always called him out on the excessive drinking and then I realized that he would drive when intoxicated. I was furious and explained all the potential dangers to others besides harm to himself. He always tried to make it up to me the following day and seemed so ashamed. I caught him in many lies about drinking.
Another issue was that he would get moody and seem distant. I asked him every time if it was our relationship, but he would assure me that it was not. Well, I finally said that I had had enough and he needed to change, but instead, he said that he wasn't 100 percent into the relationship and he did not see a future with me and didn't want to marry me. I am devastated. But I guess I need to be reassured that the problem lies with him. I still wish I could contact him after some time passes and try to help him. Despite it all, I loved him and wanted a future with him.
– Unlucky in Love, Cambridge
A: This breakup is a gift. Had he been desperate to marry you, you would have had to decide whether you could really be with someone who lies about his drinking. You would have had to put up with his moodiness and made guesses about his ability to change. Instead, you're free. You can walk away knowing that it wasn't about you at all. The problem -- and the fate of your relationship -- was all about him. He made a choice.
Applaud yourself for being clear with him. You explained your needs and got an honest answer, which saved you time and energy. Good for you.
I'm pretty sure that you want to contact him because you miss the company. That's totally understandable -- you guys liked each other a lot. But don't confuse the breakup loneliness with a desire to have his problems in your life. You can be sad that he's gone without wanting him back.
Readers? Why does she want to help him? Did the problem lie with him? Thoughts about why he ended things? How should she feel about what happened? Help.
I already miss Torey Krug.
Q: A year ago, I met this wonderful woman in my circle of friends and acquaintances. We all participate in the same sport. It's a good group of people and everyone knows everyone else. I was relatively new to the community and getting involved with it as I was coming out of a long marriage that ended amicably.
I'm 40 and this woman, "Angela" (a little older than me), and I would participate in group outings and we worked well together as a team. I knew that she had a boyfriend of a couple of years, although they're not married or living together, but we connected on a deeper level than just athletics and we shared stories and drinks and just good times. She was very hesitant at first to go further than conversation, but we eventually broke down and kissed for the first time. After that, I tried to maintain a certain distance because she's still involved, but I kept falling for her. Things escalated and we shared several encounters together and have had a couple of sleepovers. Before everyone goes nuclear and labels her as immoral and irresponsible, I (and ALL of her friends) would never have thought that she would be capable of cheating. It's clear to me that she's not 100 percent happy with her boyfriend or else I wouldn't be in the picture. That said, she's also didn’t seem to be leaving him.
She would send me signals like she wanted me, but when push came to shove, she was with her boyfriend (not for financial reasons). I had hit the point where I felt like the fifth wheel but also felt that I had dug a hole that was just too big for me to climb out of.
She recently had a falling out with her ex and since then, we've been spending a lot of time together, and have been together for the past few weeks. We're in that stage of the relationship where we're just getting our bearings and integrating each other into our individual lives. It's odd but we technically haven't been together that long but we've known each other and we're comfortable with each other.
We're both old enough to know how to behave in a relationship. All in all, we're happy, both a little tentative at times, but we want to make it work. I'm really quite emotionally invested in her. Is this OK?
– Weary, West of Boston
A: I don't love that she was physical with you before ending things with her ex, but it happened and now you seem happy, so let's focus on the present.
My concern about your story is that she had a "falling out" with her ex, and I'm not quite sure what that means. Considering she cheated on him with you, are you sure that it's over between them? Can you get some clarity about his place in her life?
She doesn't sound like a great communicator, so you're going to have to push these issues. I just want you to make sure that your assumptions about what's happening here are correct. I hope they are ... but I'm not convinced. Please ask.
Readers? Should he start a relationship with someone who was wishy-washy? Is this woman capable of having a good relationship right now? Does age matter here? Help.
Last day for Bruins help. I like their facial expressions in this one.
Q: I have been with the same guy for two years now and we are engaged. We love each other very much and he has been my rock through a lot of difficult situations.
My problem isn't exactly a problem ... it's a child.
Before we were together, his ex got pregnant from another man while still with him. Being the great guy that he is, he decided to be the father figure to the child despite finding out that the kid isn't his (she isn't sure of who the real father is). At first I was fine with it -- she lived in the same town and we saw him often. I'm not a mean soon-to-be step-mother like in the movies -- I really enjoy the time I get to spend with him and his father.
Then the ex decided to move in with another man ... about three hours away. So he has to drive to get his toddler "son" six hours away every three weeks and then bring him home (because she doesn't drive). He also has no legal rights being the non-biological father.
I love them both very much but I have no grounds to talk to the mother and be like "you need to get your act together?" What do I do?
– Confused About Kids, Worcester
A: You went into this relationship knowing that your boyfriend considered himself a father to this kid. That means that there's very little you can do. You can talk to your fiancé about getting some legal advice -- perhaps he has more rights than he thinks he does -- but that's about it for now. When the kid is a bit older, he can hop on a train for visits. You just have to wait it out.
Please do your best to preserve your relationship with your fiancé by making peace with the fact that his ex is always going to be in your life, ticking you off. If you expect it, it'll be less annoying. Because ... the kid isn't a "son." You have to delete those quotes and approach this like any other step-mom.
Also talk to your fiancé about how he can plan for the future. Has he talked to his ex about how this will work in a few years? Does he know whether this new guy will play a real role in the kid's life? Help your partner get some answers so you feel less helpless in the relationship. That's the best you can do.
Readers? Anything she can do? She's asking about how to deal with the ex, but how can she preserve her relationship? Discuss.
Let's chat at 1.
More Bruins help today. Matt Bartkowski sort of takes over on this one. I like it.
Q: Hey Meredith and LL readers!
I am a long-time fan/reader/sometime commenter who never thought she'd find the day when she was writing in for love advice, but here I am.
I am in a relationship with "Matt" that, admittedly, is my first serious relationship. We are both in our early 30s, and when we met a couple years ago, our relationship moved very quickly and we moved in together within a couple of months. We love each other and we enjoy a lot of the same things, but there is one thing that is starting to wear on me a little. I am curious to know if this is normal and I need to just get over it, or if I should be upset enough to move on. Sometimes I feel that the thought of being the only single person left in a group of mostly coupled off family and friends might be urging me to force this along. (I hope I didn't just answer my own question.)
Anyway, to the issue, I am much more social than he is. I have a larger group of friends and family who are very close and try to see each other at least a couple times a month. In the beginning of our relationship, Matt would fairly willingly tag along to my events, but after we moved in together, things seemed to change. He wouldn't be so willing to accompany me to my friend/family oriented events. Now, it's often me showing up alone and having to give excuses why he isn't there. And when he is with me, I almost feel tense, like I need to make sure that he is having a good time. Usually we end up leaving early, which is not my style, and occasionally he heads out and I get a ride or take a cab home. It's to the point that even though they are always polite, I know my friends are almost offended by him not coming.
I go to all of his family/friend oriented events with no questions asked, and I am nice, friendly, and make sure to chat with all of them. Am I being silly thinking that he should do the same for me, even though there are more events on my side? It's a struggle for me, because when we are alone, we have a great time, and I know he loves me and I love him, but I also love my friends and want him to enjoy them, too. Also, having a significant other means having companionship and compromising, right? However, I know I am never going to become less social. Am I over reacting?
Be gentle ...
– Socialized & Confused in New England
A: You're not overreacting. That tension you describe at social events ... well, it sounds pretty awful.
You have to talk to him about this problem (obviously), but please start the conversation with some empathy and a compromise. Explain that you understand that he isn't going to want to tag along for every gathering (especially now that you live together), but that you want him to be present when he's there. Like, emotionally present. Honestly, if he made the attempt to engage with your community at these events -- like really talked to people and looked happy to be there (and didn't leave early) -- you'd probably be more open to him missing some parties. Quality is more important than quantity here.
Prepare yourself, because he might not understand what you mean when you ask him to be better about engaging with your friends. He might not know how his behavior is perceived by your community, and it's possible that he'll get defensive. Please let him talk it out and ask questions. Also: Ask him whether there's someone in the group he'd prefer to avoid. Tell him that it's better for you to understand where he's coming from so that you can make these outings as easy as possible.
If you really want a partner who's with you at every event with a smile on his face, this guy isn't for you. But I'm not convinced that you're the kind of person who always needs a plus-one. I'm confident that if your boyfriend was awesome and engaged during some of your community events, you'd feel happy at all of them, with or without him.
Readers? Is she asking for too much? Is it bad that she winds up going home alone? Is she with him for the right reasons? How often does your partner come to events with you? Help.
As promised, we have some celebrity help for Love Letters this week. Boston Bruins Torey Krug and Matt Bartkowski were given three letters and worked together to come up with some advice. I think they did a pretty good job.
Q: A few months ago I started dating an old friend. We're both in our 30s. I went into it with a casual attitude since he had loose plans to move to another state next year, but we began to have serious feelings and had "the talk." He asked me not to see anyone else, but he had a little predicament for himself. By his description, he was in love with both me and his roommate (a previous ex-girlfriend and longstanding friend). According to him, the notable difference was that he was physically attracted to me but had no sexual feelings for her. He explicitly stated that they weren't sleeping together. Him loving her didn't bother me, so we were on.
Everything was so effortless. We were intimate to the point where I questioned if it was too much for me, but I figured if I was in, I was going to be all in. But a few months ago, it suddenly cooled down. He made a series of major promises that he didn't keep and wouldn't explain why, so my intensity lessened.
After two weeks with the AC on, he wanted to talk. I told him that I was only interested in doing this if he was right there with me. I needed to know I wasn't the only one making an effort. He apologized for not being there and told me he loved me. We had plans later that night, but he never showed and didn't answer my texts. The next day, I sent a third message just asking if he was OK, and he responded by telling me that we're over, he can't believe how I talked down to him (??), and that he's been with his roommate for months now.
He seems to want to stay politely distant. I still don't know what happened exactly, but I don't really need to. If they're happy together, I can be happy for them, but my benevolence stops there. When you're on the losing end of a love triangle, is there anything to do but walk away for good? He had to know that by choosing one of us he'd be losing the other. Didn't he?
– Ultimatum Aftermath, South Shore
A: I don't know whether he thought he'd lose you for good or whether he secretly intends to return to you whenever it suits him, but his game is over. You're gone. He can't be trusted and he clearly lied to you about his feelings for this longtime friend (something tells me that he's attracted to her enough to sleep with her).
There's no need for benevolence. All you have to do is make him go away. You can spend some energy mourning this, but please think of it as a lesson. If someone tells you that they're in love with someone else at the start of a relationship, you don't have to be OK with it. It's lovely that you were open-minded, but you deserve someone who's all in -- just for you.
Readers? Can you date someone who also loves someone else? What happened here? What happens on the losing end of a love triangle? Will he change his mind? Help.
On Veterans Day, a letter from someone who wants love after deployment ...
Q: Hi Meredith,
I read these things daily and like most admire from afar but decided it was my turn to air out some of my dirty laundry. So readers digest version: I am in my mid-30s and dating a girl in her late 20s for nearly six months. I have been married before and divorced due to infidelity (not me) while I was away on military deployment. Fairly devastating, but water under the bridge so to speak. It had been a while since I truly had any sort of feelings about someone. I have feelings for this new woman that I have not felt in a very, very long time -- maybe even ever.
Like most things in life, there is a give and take, and anything worth doing isn't easy right? I believe she is terribly scared of commitment. I can't even bring it up. Her previous relationship was no good; she dated an alcoholic go-no-where kind of guy. She says she loves me, but every time I bring up the next step, the war drums beat and we go nowhere, if not backwards. So I decided to take the pressure off and drop it completely for now. It does create some anxiety for me though. I do like stability, and right now I feel like our relationship hangs in the balance. We get along great, have fun with each other ... but we are not at the same spot.
So the question is ... how long does someone in this position wait? I have conceded for now that there will be no pressure. But I will at some point be more inclined to dig my heels in. To be clear, I am not talking about marriage. What I am talking about is a serious adult relationship where we can entertain the future.
– Commitment, Mass.
A: You say that you're not talking about marriage, so I have to wonder what she's resisting. Is it that she wants to see other people? Or is she simply focusing on the present?
This woman tells you that she loves you, so my guess is that she just wants to enjoy the status quo without thinking about the future. If that's the case, and she says it's too early to think big, that's OK. At five or six months, she's still getting to know you. Are you really sure that you want to have a serious adult relationship with her right now? Aren't you in the process of getting to know her too?
I want you to think about how you define "serious adult relationship" and about what you really need. I understand that you want answers and security, but sometimes we have to admit that we just don't know what should happen next. Sometimes we have to wait and see.
If she tells you that she's into you and isn't seeing other people, let this sit for another few months. At eight or nine months, your questions should be much easier to answer.
Readers? Is this too much too soon? Should she be able to talk about the future at five months? How should the letter writer define "serious adult relationship?" Is the LW's gut just saying something is off with this one? 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.