It's time for another self-help book review project. If you want to participate, the info is here.
Also, as I mentioned yesterday, Love Letters is now on Pinterest. I'm just posting things that I think we'd like. Pinterest makes me a little dizzy, but I'm doing my best.
Q: Two years ago I met the woman of my dreams. She was beautiful, smart, and funny. We took things slow for a very long time because both of us had just come out of tough long-term relationships. I had been going through a really rough time professionally. I had been laid off twice in two years and was extremely frustrated.
During this time, we saw each other a few times a week but never got very physical. After eight months of casual dating, she approached me about getting more serious and making our relationship official. While I had strong feelings for her, I felt terribly inadequate. She was finishing up her master’s degree and was taking steps toward the life that she had been working so hard for. I was just this guy who couldn't hold a job and was barely making ends meet. My self-confidence was at an all-time low and the prospect of meeting her friends and family made me very self-conscious.
I told her that I needed a little while to get my act together. In reality, I just wanted to get to a point where I felt comfortable being around her family and close friends. After a month or so, we reconnected and rekindled our relationship and shortly thereafter I was able to find a job.
Of course, when I acquired this new job I had already accumulated quite a bit of debt and picked up a second full-time job working at a bar to cover expenses. Shortly after I was hired, I was arrested for DUI and my problems worsened.
We had a very big argument where she made some hurtful comments regarding the DUI (which she regretted). Over the next few months, as I dealt with the aftermath of the DUI, I withdrew from her as our relationship grew more tenuous and stressful. I didn’t feel like she was supporting me in my "mistake" and was chastising me for my terrible error in judgment. After months of fighting and threats of just breaking up, I ended things.
I immediately sought therapy and realized I had broken up with her because I never accepted her apology. I told her that I wanted to try our relationship again. After a few weeks she decided to let me back into her life. We tried to get back to that place where we were both head over heels with each other, but her fear of getting hurt kept getting in the way.
Recently she decided that if we were going to have a future she needed a few weeks to come to terms with the hurt that I had caused her in breaking up and the hurt that she had caused me by saying the things that she did. I'm at a loss and don't know what to do. She's the love of my life but I'm starting to wonder if I deserve her after breaking her heart so many times or if she deserves me after making cruel comments to me during a very vulnerable time in my life. It's been a few weeks and I'm having a hard time dealing with her loss from my life. Please help.
– heartbroken and hopeless in boston
A: If your girlfriend wrote me a letter, I'd tell her to walk away from you, H&H. I'd remind her that you pushed her away when you felt threatened -- long before the DUI -- and that you're just not comfortable enough with yourself to have a significant other.
I'll tell you the same thing to you even though you're the one writing the letter. She should walk -- not because you don't deserve her, but because you've never really been capable of treating her like a real life partner.
Even before you behaved recklessly, you were an inconsistent and insecure. She wanted a relationship with you despite all of your flaws, but you backed away because of how you felt about yourself. You spent eight months warming up to her and you still weren't ready.
I believe that you love her. You just have some work to do on yourself before you can truly commit to someone else. You need to continue with the therapy. You need to be around real friends, the kind of people who can support you as you sort yourself out. You need to ask yourself some big questions about your second job.
I understand that you're sad about losing her, but the relationship wasn't working. And again, I truly believe that the root of the problem existed long before that DUI.
Readers? Can they work this out? Do they "deserve" each other? Can you make a judgment about her reaction to the DUI without knowing what she said? How can a couple get through something like this? What about his insecurities? Help.
Q: I am a lesbian woman who has been in a committed relationship for seven years. Although we have had our share of issues, I truly believe that we both love one another. Last fall, I went back to school and was unable to pay my girlfriend the amount of attention she requires. She's not needy -- just needier than I am. She's also unmedicated for bipolar disorder.
We were both working and in school during this time, but we had very different ways of dealing with stress. I work out while she goes out. This led to problems because I didn't like her being out during the week and staying out overnight at her friends' places, and I especially didn't like the amount of alcohol she was consuming. I am not a fan of self-medicating and felt that was what she was doing.
I'm at fault here too because I detest, and I mean detest, talking about my feelings. So I can just carry on like nothing is wrong and then we have some big explosive argument where things get said that are hurtful and disrespectful. Anyway, she has long believed that I was unfaithful in the past because of a friendship I developed with another woman. I didn't cheat, but I guess it's called "emotional cheating," which I am probably guilty of.
She confessed that on one of these drunken nights, she slept with someone to get me back. If that wasn't enough, she slept with a man and now she's pregnant. I feel so lost. She is keeping the baby because she has always wanted to be a mom and we had planned on having children someday. She wants me to raise the child with her and I don't know if I can. A big part of me wants to; I mean, I've wanted this experience with her for a long time. But now I have no rights, my pride and ego are in the toilet, and I don't actually feel like a parent to the child. I mean ... I had nothing to do with this.
Her plan is to keep the father out of the loop so long as I am in the loop. But she says that if I wasn't around, she would involve him because she can't make it financially on her own. The financial part is true. But now I feel so many conflicting emotions. The only constant is that I really am in love with this woman. But this choice, to stay ... it affects my whole life too. How do I raise a child under a lie? What do we tell people?
Despite everything, I love her, and the thought of not having her in my life is devastating. The thought of her raising a child with someone else is heartbreaking too. What do I do?
– Too Loyal for Love, Mass.
A: I've read this letter about 1,000 times and I keep going back to the "unmedicated bipolar" sentence. That's what gets me.
Can your girlfriend parent this child if she's not getting the professional help she needs? How has her behavior changed (the drinking, going out, etc.) since she found out she was pregnant? Does she want you around for this experience because she loves you -- or because you represent the other half of a financial arrangement?
I understand that it would be devastating to lose her, but wouldn't it be more devastating to stay with someone who cheated on you, ignores her own health issues, and copes with stress by drinking too much and acting out?
If the baby weren't in the picture, I'd be telling you to get into therapy and to take some space from this woman. I'd be telling you to figure out why you repress your emotions, why you had an emotional affair, and why you stay with someone who forces you through highs and lows.
The baby doesn't really change my advice. You need therapy and an exit.
We're supposed to feel safe in relationships. Baby or no baby, you're just not safe.
Readers? Can she raise this baby? What about the cheating? What about the bipolar? Can they save this seven-year relationship? Should they be in therapy together? Help.
We're down to the Final Four. If you like any of those sexy movies and want to see them with friends (or a date) on Feb. 10, buy your $8 tickets here. Film critic Wesley Morris and I will be there to watch and squirm with you.
Also, someone in yesterday's chat asked me to explain why the time stamp on letters is usually about 20 to 30 minutes off from the time the day's letter is actually posted. I answered that question at about 1:38, if you're interested.
Q: Hi Meredith,
I am a divorced father of a wonderful daughter. I've been divorced for almost 10 years, and while it's been a rocky road for me at times, I think I've moved on for the most part. My ex (let's call her Jane) and I have shared custody of our daughter. We have gotten along very well when it comes to raising our child. Recently, however, I have grown increasingly concerned about some of Jane's behavior and how it might affect my daughter. I just don't know how to handle it appropriately.
A bit of background: My marriage ended because Jane had been cheating on me for several years with several different people. I tried everything under the sun to try and save the situation for our daughter's sake and for my own. We tried counseling and various other things to try to fix the situation. In the end nothing helped, and Jane finally told me she was leaving me for a guy she had been seeing for some time and she was going to file for divorce regardless of what I wanted. Jane ended up marrying this guy a year or two later. He has kids of his own, and whether I like it or not, my daughter has grown close to his kids and now considers them to be family.
I told Jane when we broke up that regardless of how I felt, she better not "mess up" again because of the impact it would have on our child. I told her if she broke our daughter's heart again by messing up another marriage and once again turning her life upside down, I would not hesitate to file for full custody. As far as I am concerned, another divorce would show that Jane is completely self-absorbed and an unfit parent.
Flash forward to today. I'm still very close to Jane's family, since my daughter is their family. They also know the basics of what happened between Jane and me, and they have always been very supportive. Recently, one of them added me as a Facebook friend. This means that all of a sudden I can see a lot of Jane's Facebook activity, as we are now "Friends of Friends" of each other, in Facebook terms. For a while I tried not to look. But eventually my curiosity got the best of me. I can't see a lot, but I can see some of her activity and her friends' list, etc.
Facebook ethical dilemmas aside (I will do whatever I feel I need to do as a father to protect my daughter's best interests, and I can't help it if Jane doesn't understand the ins and outs of Facebook's byzantine privacy configurations), I now know things that are of great concern to me. Jane has been spending a lot of time with an old friend. My daughter told me that her mother even shared a "scorpion bowl" at lunch with this guy one day (and then drove with my daughter in the car, which is a whole different concern!). I think a lot of this time has been spent without the current husband around.
The bottom line is that I am seeing what appears to be a re-emergence of a pattern of behaviors that I am unfortunately very familiar with. Given Jane's history, I think my concerns are legitimate. I don't really care about how this impacts the new husband. It would be karmic justice if it only affected him, as far as I'm concerned. Unfortunately, such behavior doesn't just affect the new husband. My only concern is that Jane may once again be cheating, or is certainly tempting fate, and that this could lead to another messy divorce, which would hurt my daughter in ways I don't even want to think about. She would lose a family that she's become close to.
What do I do here? How do I confront Jane about my concerns? Is it even appropriate for me to do so? I just want to do whatever I can to protect my child in this mess. It took her several years to adjust to one new reality. I don't want her to have to start all over again if her mother is being as selfish as I think she is. Am I way off-base here?
– Concerned Father in Boston
A: You have every right to protect your child, CFIB. That means you can ask for custody if you feel that your ex is truly an unfit parent. You can absolutely talk about the rules (drinking, driving, who she brings the child around, etc.) and seek legal counseling about what can be done to enforce those rules. You can confront her about the scorpion bowl and the fact that your daughter has mentioned being exposed to new people who may or may not be appropriate company.
But … you can't determine the fate of your ex's marriage. You can't tell her that she's not allowed to get a divorce. If your ex-wife does turn out to be miserable in her marriage and wants to leave her husband, you can't force her to stick around. All you can do is respond to her behavior. You can ask her to reevaluate custody. You can set new rules. You can ask professionals for guidance.
My advice is to tell your ex that your daughter has mentioned some weird things. Tell her that you're concerned about what those things mean. Listen to what your ex has to say before Facebook allows you to create your own narrative. You told us that you usually get along with your ex when it comes to raising your daughter. Work with that.
No matter what she says, know that you can't change this woman. You can't force her to be a good wife or to stay put if she wants to leave. All you can do is make decisions based on how she behaves. That's certainly a good lesson to teach your daughter as she gets older.
Readers? How should he address this with his ex? Can he help her stay married? Is she really an unfit parent if she gets divorced again? What should he do? Help.
Q: My ex of nine months broke up with me a few months ago. I was devastated. He told me that he "couldn't be himself around me" because he was nervous that I would get mad or start an argument. He said that those fears started a few weeks prior to him breaking up with me.
He told me that he still wanted me in his life and wanted to be friends. I thought I could do that, so we tried for about a month. We just talked by texting and if I saw him out at the bar we would say hi and talk for a little bit. He told me he was still attracted to me, and we would flirt through texting and stuff, and it just seemed like he really did miss me.
One night, he told me to come outside of the bar, and I did. He was waiting for me out there by himself. We talked for about five minutes and he really was acting like he missed me a lot. At the end of our talk, he put his forehead on mine and we just stood there in silence. Then he abruptly walked away. I asked him later that night to walk me home and he said no. I said all I wanted to do was talk and that's it. He said we'd talk the next day.
So the next day I texted him and asked him if he wanted to talk. He said, "What is there to talk about?" And right then I knew I had screwed up by thinking that he actually wanted to get back together. He told me that our outside talk had meant nothing because he was drunk, so I reacted the same way I used to react in our relationship -- angry and upset and saying mean things. He then told me, yet again, "I know we can be happy together, but I can't be myself around you because I don't know how you are going to react." Maybe he was testing me.
The day after, I apologized to him for the things I said, but then told him that he was leading me on. He told me that he is "done being sympathetic to me, I reacted the way he thought I would." It's been a few weeks and we still haven't talked.
Did I ruin my second chance? He knows we can be happy together, but will he give me another chance down the line? I am working on changing how I react to things, not just for him but for myself. Are there such things as third chances? I miss talking to him and I want to be his friend, but after the way I reacted to him he doesn't know if he can be friends with me. What should I do?
– Hurt and Confused, NY
A: You do need to work on your communication skills, HAC, but he's the one who caused this most recent mess. It wasn't a second chance. It was him behaving like a jerk, getting drunk and doing a forehead kiss when he knew it would mess with your head (no pun intended).
The grown-up thing to do is to cut him off, accept that you both made mistakes that contributed to the end of your relationship, and then find a different bar. There are so many bars out there. You shouldn't be anywhere near him. Keep your forehead safe.
I understand that you're feeling accountable right now -- and again, you do need to work on calm, mature communication -- but please remember that your ex has been selfish about his needs. He shouldn't be leading you on. He shouldn't be demanding friendship and texting you after breaking up with you. The forehead bump would have sent most people over the edge. You might have failed some tests, but so did he. Missing him doesn't mean that you want him back.
Ask some friends to take you shopping for a new bar this weekend. It'll be fun – and therapeutic.
Readers? Did she fail a test here? Is this her fault? Is it possible that he was only upset about things for just a few weeks before the breakup? What do you think of the forehead fiasco? Help.
Q: Hey Meredith,
I love my boyfriend but I don't know if we are compatible. We're in our mid-late 20s, each other's first serious relationship, and he means so much to me and takes such good care of me. He's sweet and cuddly and funny. We've been together a year and a half, part of which we were long distance. However, I can't figure out if there are real problems or if I have found someone awesome who loves me like crazy who I need to accept as is.
Specifically, I am not sure about his drinking. I don't think I drink much -- maybe a glass of wine at dinner on a weekend or a beer or two at a party tops. He's a big sports-watching, likes-to-have-a-drink-or-two-to-relax at night kind of guy. At a social event he'll drink a lot -- I've seen him binge drink in a social setting two or three times. Also, I recently saw a half empty bottle of vodka in his cabinet and it freaked me out because I think that's a lot to drink. I don't think he's had it for more than two to three weeks and he's the only one who could have consumed it. Based on his family history and things he's told me about himself and his past, I think he has addictive tendencies, though I don't think he's an alcoholic now.
I know that I have addictive tendencies myself, and I have family members with alcoholism. I am careful never to have more than a glass once in a while because I know my limits and I'm not going to tempt fate. I've also talked to professionals about these issues. I do not want an alcoholic in my life, or as my partner. My boyfriend and I have talked about my concerns and he reassures me that he is in control of his drinking. I believe him and I'm sure he could let it go if he needed to, but he doesn't. I have doubts, but I don't think it's my place and I don't want to nag him to stop drinking either.
There's added pressure to figure this out because we're both about to finish grad school and we'll need to figure out where we're going next career-wise and location-wise. We're at a point in our relationship where he wants to think about maybe moving in together and to think about marriage. I feel like it's rushed and that I still need to take care of my career and explore and live in new places. (I've told him as much.) We're on separate pages.
Are these drinking behaviors a "guy" thing? Am I being oversensitive about his drinking? Does it matter? Will it matter in the future? Are we just not compatible?
– Lost in Lynn
A: I can't tell you whether he has an alcohol problem, LIL. What I can tell you is that his habits make you uncomfortable, and beyond that, you're not even sure if you want a serious commitment with him right now. You don't feel safe in this relationship and you'd rather prioritize yourself anyway.
So do this: Tell him where you stand. Instead of asking him whether he's in control of his drinking, be specific about what you can live with. Are you comfortable keeping alcohol in the house? What are your rules for the future? Will you want a partner who only drinks on weekends?
Also tell him how the next few years of your life look in your mind. Do you plan to move around? Will you be working 70 hours a week at a new job? Find out whether your vision looks anything like his. The more specific you are about what you want, the easier it will be to figure out whether he should join you.
The bottom line is that alcohol, in relationships, is as important as money or sex. It can be a catalyst for big problems so you have to make sure you share a philosophy about it as a couple.
I also recommend continuing your therapy. You have alcoholism in your family and seem to be confused about your own boundaries. It's always best to talk to a professional about that stuff. It's a conversation you should continue as you get older.
Readers? Is this a relationship worth saving? What about the good stuff? How do you know whether someone has crossed a line with alcohol? Could his habits be related to age and school? Should she see how this feels after graduation? Help.
Q: Dear Meredith,
My boyfriend of six months and I have a dilemma. Let's start with the basics. I am caring, understanding, and accepting. I look at him and see a man who absolutely adores me, and our relationship is honest, true, and full of acceptance. Here's the catch -- I found out that he has a slew of problems. On paper, he is a mess. He has had addictions to drugs and alcohol and suffers from depression and schizophrenia. He is 26.
I know ... it sounds horrible and you're probably questioning my sanity for staying in a relationship with him.
The thing is, I see him for the man he is. He has a gentle soul and can always make me smile and laugh. My friends say that we glow every time we are together. We are exceptionally close and he has treated me a million times better than my previous boyfriend who was highly intelligent, motivated, and had a great job -- and looked exceptional on paper.
My boyfriend's family doesn't approve of our relationship because they feel that he isn't healthy enough for a serious partnership. When I say serious, I mean in a relationship, period. We do not live together or have any plans to move in or talk about a future. Still, they've asked me to stop seeing him. I am at a crossroads because I know that he has serious issues, but I also know that we make each other happy.
Am I wrong to stay in a relationship with him? Should I end it because his family thinks he isn't healthy enough for a relationship? What about the good that I do for him? The acceptance, appreciation, understanding, and love that give him gives him something to smile about? But maybe I’m not being honest with myself.
– Love hurts...Am I wrong?, Massachusetts
A: I can't make guesses about boyfriend's metal health, LHAIW. But I bet your guy's doctors can give you some answers. If your boyfriend is treating his mental illness, he's seeing a professional. And that professional can chat with you and your boyfriend (with your boyfriend's permission, of course) about what all of this means and whether it's safe and appropriate to pursue a serious, romantic relationship.
This decision requires fact-finding and soul-searching and it might be exhausting. So ... are you up for it? At six months, with no promise of a future together, are you ready to take on the risks and responsibilities that come with this relationship? Because that's the real question. Is it worth your while, even in the best of circumstances? Only you can answer that one. I haven't seen the "glow."
Go find out what all of this really means and then be honest with yourself about what you need to be happy. Right now, you don't have enough information and I fear that you're not asking enough of the right questions. Go get educated.
Readers? Are there too many obstacles here? What about his family? At six months, is this relationship worth preserving? Discuss.
You'll get to see "Bridesmaids" entries on Monday. Still waiting to get OKs from readers to post.
And ... go Bruins.
Q: Dear Meredith,
My husband and I have been married for a few years and I am reaching the point where I want to start thinking about children. I am in my mid-twenties and he is a few years older. Problem is, my husband seems to be moving in the opposite direction. He tells me he wants to have children soon but his actions say otherwise.
I'm not sure if he has really changed or if I have matured and he has stayed the same. He has gone out a few times over the past year and gotten into fights at bars. While I don't think fighting at any age is acceptable, it is certainly not acceptable at his age.
Recently he took a boys vacation for a long weekend and didn't call me once. This has happened before and I was livid after the first vacation (and also hurt that he did not feel the need to make sure everything was OK at home). I thought I got my message across after the first vacation but obviously I didn't. Now he is planning another boys’ vacation for later in the year. I don't think it is my right to say he can't go (and he also would never tell me what I can and can't do), but how do I make sure I get my point across?
Another time, I was traveling for work all week and he made plans to hang out with friends the night I got home. I would understand if he had had the plans for a while, but he made them at the last minute and didn't see anything wrong with it. It really hurt my feelings that he did not want to see me after I was gone all week.
And it has been numerous little things over the past year or so. I am a very easygoing person but I feel like he completely takes advantage of it.
We have "talks" and he always says I am right and that he can see my point, but nothing changes. How do I get him to see me as his number one priority, not his friends? How do I get him to believe that I am serious and will not continue on in a relationship like this? Should we try therapy? Or is it not realistic to think he can change?
– Confused, Charlestownr
A: I'm not worried about his occasional insensitive decisions, his self-absorbed trips with friends, or the fact that he forgets to check in with you while he's gone. But the bar fights concern me. I mean, what are the bar fights all about? Is he depressed? Does he have a problem with alcohol? Anger management?
That's what I'd talk to him about, what he's trying to accomplish (or escape) with this behavior. Because the other stuff is pretty typical. Most people don't start behaving like perfect parents until they're really parents. To me, this is about what he does when he's not with you -- how he behaves and why.
Not surprisingly, I'm going to say a big yes to the therapy question because I think that you should talk about the fights in an emotionally safe place with help from a professional. I think that your other questions -- the ones about insensitivity -- will be answered when you start asking about the bigger stuff.
And when you tell him that you want to go to therapy, keep your tone empathetic. He sounds like he's just yessing you whenever you give him a lecture. Treat him like a friend. Tell him you just want to make things better for both of you.
Readers? Am I right about the real problem? Is it so bad to go on trips and not check in? How can the letter writer fix her marriage? And should kids be on the table? Help. Weigh in on song of the day.
Q: Dear Meredith,
My live-in girlfriend of almost three years left me a month and a half ago. I cannot blame her for this, as it was due to my alcoholism. Back in the winter I lost my job, which was unrelated to my problem but very seriously exacerbated it. I had nothing but time on my hands and used it the only way I knew how to deal with the depression I was experiencing. Within two months I had a very serious problem. I lashed out at her emotionally, said a lot of hurtful things I would never say sober, scared her, and she was scared for me. Eventually this led her to moving in with a friend for a couple weeks and then buying a plane ticket home.
Before she left, I sobered up and started going to AA meetings and continue doing so today. She had said that if I flew out to prove to her that I was better and showed her I truly love her that she would come back. That was initially the agreement anyway … but in the last couple weeks that agreement has changed on her part. To the tune of, "You aren't the right person for me, I don't love you, and we will never be together again. Goodbye forever." Two days later, we are texting again under the condition that I don't talk about "us." So far I have kept my word and given her space but I can't help but get the feeling she is seeing someone else. But I know that if I were to even ask I would be immediately shut out again and possibly for good.
Do I just keep in contact with her through texts and see if things change or do I sever all ties completely? I feel like I could only cut her out of my life is she was with someone else but I have no way of knowing. I truly love her and marriage was once a frequently talked about subject. I'm still unemployed so even if I got a job tomorrow it would be months before I could go visit her. A lot can happen in that time and I don't even know if it will be an option again. I just want her back but this is looking to be a long and heartbreaking process.
– I Just Want Her Back, Boston
A: IJWHB, I understand that you want to restore your life to what it was before you lost your job and allowed the alcohol to take over, but that's not going to happen right this second. You're looking for a quick fix for a big problem.
It has been less than two months since she left. You've barely processed what you've done and why, and she's probably just as confused as you are. My advice is to tell her that you need to spend some time figuring out why you handled your problems the way you did. Explain that you don't want to lose her in the process. Then tell her you love her and that you're confused. Because you are.
Then continue getting healthy. I know you're unemployed, but call your insurance company and ask about therapy. Try to stop wondering who your girlfriend is meeting wherever she is because it's sort of irrelevant. She was with you for three years, which means she knows what you have to offer when you're at your best. Again, it has only been a little over a month. She just unpacked her bags.
Focus on you and take your time. That's easier said than done, I know, but it's the only thing you can do -- whether she sticks around or not.
Readers? Is he trying to fix this too quickly? How can he taking his time with this process without losing her? How can he stop wondering what she's doing wherever she is? What should he tell her? Help.
As I mentioned yesterday, I'm doing a talkback after tonight's performance of "Reasons to Be Pretty" at the BCA. I have some tickets I'd like to give away, so here's the contest: Because the play is about a woman who finds out that her boyfriend has described her appearance as "regular," as in average, I want you to email me (meregoldstein at gmail dot com) the best/worst physical compliment/insult you've ever received from a partner. My favorite entries will get tickets to tonight's show, which starts at 7:30. Entries are due by 1 p.m. I'll notify winners by 2. Sound good? It's a great play and it'll be a very fun night out with good, post-show Love Letters talk.
(For the record, the worst thing I've ever been told about my appearance was: "I'm sure there are a lot of guys out there who like your body type." Yikes.)
Q: Hi Meredith,
This past year I was diagnosed with epilepsy and my days of enjoying cocktails at the bars of Back Bay are, much to my 27-year-old chagrin, currently shelved alongside my dating books. One of those very books on that shelf says that dating at this age without adult beverages is virtually impossible, and I can assure you that is a fact. I recently went on a first date and couldn't have my patented first date glass (or 3) of wine.
The date went surprisingly well and at 2 a.m. it was time to go home. Thank god, because Cute Boy was clearly digging this Back Bay blonde and I wanted to ride the wave to date number two. Here's where it got awkward. Ugh. He made a comment about me not drinking. "So I need to ask you, are you always dry?" The question was fine. I mean, it is weird when people don't drink and you don't know why. But here's the thing -- we hadn't met up on our date until midnight (I was tied up at work before then), so really, for all he knew I could have been taking shots until I met up with him and simply switched to water, right?
Here is my problem, Meredith. It made me feel insecure because I wasn't about to go into some soliloquy (even though he had quoted Shakespeare earlier in the night -- Pro #43) about why I don't drink.
After he made the comment about me being dry, it kind of ruined the moment. He ended up saying, "Maybe I'll see you around Back Bay this weekend." (Awesome, Cute Boy. See you at Shaws. I'll be in the H20 aisle.) Apparently I am cursed to a life of dating guys who don't drink -- or really, really drunk guys at the Beacon Hill Pub who are so blacked out they don't notice I'm drinking water. And I don't want to "fake drink" like some friends have suggested because I'm not a liar and I think that is simply ridiculous.
Funny thing is, Mere, I was drinking club soda, which looks same as the vodka-soda I normally drink, but I never get my drinks with a lime because Matt Lauer, the love of my life, says it's the germiest thing in the bar.
So what should I do Meredith? Stalk AA Meetings? Fake Drink?
– Dry Blonde in Back Bay
A: There are ways to answer the booze question without getting into specifics, DBIBB. You can try, "I'm on meds that don't mesh well with booze." Or, "I'm a vodka-tonic girl, but only on special occasions." There's also the good old, "I can't drink much because of a health condition. But I make a fantastic designated driver."
You don't have to get into the whole epilepsy thing, but you do have to come up with some sort of answer. And as long as you're easygoing about that answer, it'll be OK.
The right guys aren't going to freak out about your dryness, especially if you seem comfortable with it. And I'm pretty sure that Matt Lauer would agree with me when I say that alcohol isn't a necessary part the courting process. It helps -- I'm not going to lie about that -- but it's possible to woo without booze. Dry wooing is the ultimate woo. And you, my friend, are clever enough to make it happen.
This is more about you becoming comfortable with your illness. It takes time to figure out how to deal with a chronic health problem as a tiny part of your identity. Once you can talk about it without it meaning too much, explaining it (and your lack of drinking on dates) will be a breeze. It just takes practice.
Readers? Does she have to be honest about why she doesn't drink on dates? What's the best way to explain it? Is fake drinking a real option? Is alcohol necessary on first dates? Is this really about learning how to cope with an illness? Discuss.
Q: I recently began dating a smart and gorgeous girl who treats me exceptionally well. I like to think of her as the one that came along and rescued me from a Charlie-Sheen-like lifestyle that consisted of hard partying with relationships not lasting more than a night. (Disclaimer: By "Charlie-sheen-like" I mean general heavy partying without the worry of consequences the next day, NOT the parts about doing drugs, sleeping with multiple porn stars, and having abusive relationships.)
When we first started dating a few months back, I found her to be somewhat clingy. She required my attention almost more often than I could handle (even though I've got tiger blood and Adonis DNA). She always initiated the first step in moving ahead with our relationship, such as proclaiming to others that I was her boyfriend, making sure I met and received good grades from her girlfriends, and telling her family how awesome I was. This was a bit smothering and uncomfortable to me at first, but I stuck it out and actually started enjoying her attention. I also found myself opening up quite a bit, something I've always refused to do with anybody besides my closest friends. She's now a person I can have an amazing time with, without the need for alcohol and partying.
The problem that haunts me is this: Charlie Sheen still lurks inside me. I feel the need to sleep with other women, and more specifically, the need to do 100% of what I want to do without repercussions from anybody else in my life. I know inside that most likely I will want to start a family someday and certainly would leave Charlie behind for that, especially for a girl like this. The problem is, I don't know if he will ever leave me, at least anytime soon. Have my many years of partying as a twenty-something-making-a-lot-of-money permanently gotten the best of me and will Charlie continue to haunt me into being a single man for the rest of my life?
– Charlie Sheen's Distant Cousin, Somerville
A: Are there really only two options here, CSDC? Drunken one-night stands or a serious commitment? I'm going to suggest a happy medium -- a grown-up relationship that you take one day at a time. That's all you're capable of right now.
No matter what happens with this woman, you can't pretend that you're locking the Charlie Sheen part of you away like a criminal. You can't think of him as this little devil who's eventually going to bust out of his cage and take over. You are a collection of personality traits, impulses, habits, wants, needs, etc. The Charlie Sheen part of you is as important as the part of you that wants to be dating someone you love. You just have to figure out which part of you is screaming the loudest.
If you decide that your Charlie Sheen desires are more important than your relationship with this woman, it doesn't mean that you're a lost cause. It just means that you're not quite sick of that lifestyle -- or that you're not interested in spending your life with this specific person. And that's OK.
Really, there's some Charlie Sheen in all of us. We can't deny it. We just have to make responsible, honest decisions and do our best to treat people well while we're "winning."
Readers? How can the LW tame the inner Charlie Sheen? Is this relationship the problem? Is Charlie simply the LW's conscience? What's going on here? Discuss.
Q: Hi Meredith,
I have been single for a little over a year after a two-year relationship. I date a good amount and enjoy my single life a lot. My last relationship didn't end well and I only recently completely got over it. Let's call my ex "George." I don't care about George at all and I feel triumphant that I can now say that and truly mean it. Occasionally, I run into George while out with friends and we always say a brief awkward hello. Recently I decided it was time to defriend him and his friends on Facebook after seeing some photos of him with his ex-girlfriend and other girls. I felt this was the last step in my healing process.
So that brings me to this weekend. I was out with some friends at a bar. And who do you think comes over to say hello ... my ex. We say a forced hello and chat for a couple minutes about family and life. I go over and politely say hello to all his friends. The conversation then takes a turn to why I recently defriended him on Facebook. I explain to him that I thought it was the mature thing to do. I no longer wanted his life popping up on my news feed. I say goodbye and we part ways.
After I got home, I receive a text from George asking whether I got in safely. I respond that yes, I did make the short trip to my apartment safely and that I am sorry that he was so upset that I ended our virtual friendship (note the sarcasm). About 20 minutes later as I am getting ready for bed, I receive a phone call from George. George says that he is on his way over and that we need to talk. Once again I laugh in his face, but tell him he can come over. We had both been drinking all night and this affected my judgment but hey, I am young (26). I knew why he was really coming over. We discuss how neither of us are currently seeing anyone and that this night is a one-time thing and it will never happen again. Anyway, he spends the night. We say our goodbyes the next morning and that was that. I felt so good. It was killing him that I no longer cared about him at all, that I was in control and that part of my life was over for good.
Flash forward to Saturday night. I am sitting at my apartment waiting for my roommate to finish getting ready. I am on Facebook and see George's profile. We still aren't friends but the Facebook gods are suggesting that we know each other. And what pops out at me immediately is that he has a girlfriend!! I text him a rather jolting note about his morals. I would have never had him over if I knew this was the case. I am completely against cheating. He apologizes to me and said it was a mistake and that he was drunk.
Now this is why I am writing in: Do I contact his girlfriend to let her know about Friday night? I know I did nothing wrong but at the same time it is nagging at me and I feel bad for her since she is so oblivious. I was too, because he puts on a good act. My friends have all gone 50/50 on this question. Some are strongly against it. Others suggest I do it because he sure as hell isn't going to come clean and this girl deserves to know. I feel like I should tell her so I feel better and it’s the right thing to do. But is it? Does the girlfriend have a right to know that her boyfriend cheated on her? Should I be the one to tell her?
– The morally confused, Boston
A: This is a tough one -- and there's no right answer. Telling seems intrusive. Not telling seems dishonest.
I want you to do what's best for you -- because you're my concern (when George's new girlfriend writes in, I'll focus on her). And what's best for you is to leave this alone. I want you to walk away and not dwell on George. Wasn't that your original plan?
George didn't have a girlfriend when he was your Facebook friend not long ago. I'm not sure when he committed to her, but it's his business -- and it's his cheat. Yes, you might be doing her a favor by letting her in on your Friday entertainment, but I fear that the disclosure will only put you in the middle of a mess. You're trying to separate yourself from this guy. It's bad enough that you share friends. Do you really want to reach out to his girlfriend?
My advice is to move on. Don't "re-friend" him on Facebook and avoid him when you see him out. Start focusing on your new life.
You're only recently over this. You don't owe anybody anything right now. Please, protect yourself.
Readers? Do you disagree? Sometimes I vote for disclosure, but in this case it seems best for her to run without making it her responsibly. Or am I wrong? Will contacting the new girlfriend make it hard for the LW to stay away from her ex? Discuss.
I have compiled a massive rundown of Love Letters history for Saturday's paper – as in, the age range of letter writers, geography, topics of problems, number of times "grilled cheese" references were used (or food euphemisms, in general), and which commenter got the most number of recommends during our second year.
I'll try to have Boston.com post it online on Friday. It's cool.
Also, we chat today at 1.
Q: Meredith and Gang,
I will start with some back story:
I grew up with alcoholics all around me, my mother and grandfather being the most notable. My mother sobered up when I was a teenager and hasn't looked at it since.
I am 28 and engaged to a wonderful man. He is smart, funny, treats me well, and is very good with my 4 year old son. We love each other very much.
He drinks. Less now than before we met and got serious. We have been together 2 years, lived together for 1 and set to get married in April 2012. We have had both serious, sit-down conversations and big blow out fights over his drinking. He knows it borders on a problem. He drinks every night. If my son is there, he doesn't drink until after he goes to sleep and he will not drink if he's there alone with him. But it's still every night otherwise. Every once in a while he likes to spend his weekday off playing video games and drinking beer. He is home alone when he does this. Most of his friends are the go out and drink type. They rarely do anything else when they hang out. I admit that I like to have a drink every now and then but definitely not every day and not in too much excess.
My previous relationship (not my son's father) was with a severe alcoholic. I am talking first thing in the morning until he passed out at night, with little to no recollection of what went on in between (this man was NEVER around my child). So here's my problem: I know I have had bad experiences with alcohol and alcoholics. I am unable to tell if my fiancé’s drinking is "normal" or if it's a problem. I compare every little thing to this last relationship and can't tell if I am over-reacting. He has altered his drinking habits since he knows it’s a big deal to me. I tend to get snippy and defensive if I know he is drunk, but since this doesn’t happen EVERY time he is drunk I end up sending mixed signals to him. I also feel guilty when we go out together. I told him if he committed to stop drinking altogether I would never touch the stuff again. He is not interested in AA.
There is so much good here. He is respectful, loving, a good father-figure, and he literally makes my heart melt and knees weak when we are together. But I live in fear of putting my son in the same situation I grew up in. So where do I go from here?
– Drunk with Love and Resentment, CT
A: My advice, which might seem lame, is to take the fiancé to therapy. I say that because you can't decide what kind of drinking feels "normal" because of your family and your ex. I certainly can't tell you what's normal. We all have different boundaries when it comes to alcohol. We just have to figure out what they are.
You need to sit down with him -- and a counselor -- and talk about when you're OK with the drinking and when it feels scary. Then allow your fiancé to give his impressions of his own substance use. There's no need to shame him right now; from what you've told us, you can be confident that you're both on the same page when it comes to prioritizing safety. What's unclear is whether his drinking is a habit or an addiction. What's also unclear is whether you're allowed to enjoy some social drinking with him without feeling like a hypocrite. It's time to throw your hands up, admit to your fiance that you're thoroughly confused, and go work it out as a team in a safe place. Because again, boundaries can only be respected if you know what they are. It's best if you figure out your rules together -- and before the wedding.
Readers? Do they need a third party to help? Is she projecting her own family's past onto her fiance? Care to share any stories about partners, alcohol, and boundaries? Discuss.
Q: Longtime lurker, first time writer.
I dated my ex for five years including a few months living together after college. He had his share of problems, which he frequently took out on me, and very few friends. This was exacerbated by his problem with alcohol.
To make a long story short, he broke up with me saying he just didn't feel like he used to but there wasn't anyone else. A few days later my gut told me something wasn't right about it and I used my "resources" to find out the truth, which was that he had been cheating for months with someone I had considered a close friend. (FYI for Meredith and readers, I am not the jealous type at all and do not typically snoop, spy, or anything of the sort. I am actually usually more trusting than is deserved! Sometimes you really SHOULD listen to your own intuition!)
After the break-up, I started dating a good friend who I've known since before the ex and I even met. My family and friends can't stop gushing about how much they love seeing me with the current bf. He is wonderful in more ways than I could ask for … good to me, fun, social, responsible, family-oriented, the best grilled cheese sandwiches … but I can't get rid of this nagging feeling that the ex and I were meant for each other. I've never had anyone "get" me like that, and I don't think it's just the five years. An example: the current boyfriend tries to finish my sentence but is usually incorrect. With the ex, he didn't even have to finish my sentence if I was at a loss for words because he already knew exactly what I was trying to say.
I understand that it probably sounds silly. I have the current boyfriend who is everything I want on paper and is an incredible person, and then there's the ex who doesn't deserve me and maybe never did, but we have that deeper connection. The ex and I still talk on occasion (yes, the current bf is aware of this). He has also been dating someone else for a while now, but we have talked about how neither of us currently has the connection we had (and still have) with each other.
I have no delusions about the relationship with the ex being perfect, but when someone has betrayed your trust in such a major way, is there any coming back from that? Am I wrong to compare the current boyfriend to someone who treated me as if I was disposable? I already feel like I'm damaged goods and possibly not capable of loving the way I used to. Am I even more damaged and broken than I realized?
I always think that the songs that ring true to you tell you more about yourself than you might already be aware of. Before things even ended with the ex, the Sara Bareilles song "Gravity" hit me to the core, and currently La Roux’s “Bulletproof” is having that effect.
– I've Been Thinking of Writing This For Months Now, Boston
A: OK, IBTOWTFMN, if these songs tell us about you, let's look at "Gravity," shall we?
A sample lyric: "The one thing that I still know is that you're keeping me down."
"Bulletproof" isn't any more uplifting: "All you do is fill me up with doubt."
The ex fills you up with doubt. Who cares if he finishes your sentences?
I do believe that he "gets" you, but that's not enough. I'd rather have you spend the rest of your life with someone who wants to learn how to finish your sentences than with a guy who already knows how to finish them but is happy to leave you and date someone else.
I don't believe in soul mates, but I do believe in people who seem like soul mates. They're often very exciting, very perceptive, and not quite right for the long haul. I don't know why that is. All I know is that your ex bailed and that the new guy is here, making good on his word. That makes me think that the new guy gets you more than you think. He knows what he has.
Your strong feelings for your ex are just a confusing mix of loss, anger, pain, rejection, and love. It's difficult to feel so much for someone without assuming that those intense feelings mean that you want to be with them. Try to untangle those feelings and see them for what they are.
My guess is that after five years or so, the new boyfriend will be better at finishing your sentences. And in the meantime, tell him to let you finish them on your own. Less annoying that way.
Readers? Want to suggest any songs for the letter writer? Is this ex as important as she thinks he is? Does the ex actually want her back? Does her letter imply that she doesn't quite dig the new guy enough to stay with him? Advice? Shall we check out the video? Discuss.
I had a great time at that play the other night. I have to say -- assuming the script is accurate -- Ann Landers and I would have been good friends. She had great pajamas, loved candy, danced around her apartment while she read letters, and thought of her readers as close friends. I can relate.
Q: I have been in a serious relationship with my boyfriend for about 5 months. He is 33, I am 35. Ninety-five percent of the time, I could not ask for a better boyfriend. He cooks dinner for me every night, tells me he loves me all the time, is very affectionate, helps around the house, has a good job, and is great with my son (from a previous relationship). During these times, I am the happiest, luckiest woman in the world. I know it's "only" been 5 months, but we are together everyday for the most part.
HOWEVER ... when he drinks, he becomes a total different person. He gets mood swings -- one minute he loves me and can't live without me, the next minute he is mad at me (just out of the blue). The first time I saw him like that, a family member just died, so I took it as, oh, he is just under a lot of stress, and didn't say anything that night. I did let him know the next day, and he just said "Next time I get like that, just punch me in the face." I laughed it off.
A month later he was out with his buddies from work. I knew he was going out for a little bit and that he would be home around 9. He started texting me around 7 p.m., same scenario -- loving at first, then mean and cruel. I asked him when he was coming home (as he takes the train), and by then (it was 10 p.m.) he was overly drunk, incoherent, and walking around Boston aimlessly by himself. Of course I was worried, drove to Boston, and drove around two hours looking for him, because he was so drunk, he had no idea where he was. Then the whole car ride back he was calling me names, being mean to me, just hurting my feelings.
The next day, I told him about all the things he said (he didn't remember), and he was very apologetic. Now fast forward another six weeks to last night. He called me to tell me he was going to be an hour late. I waited at the train station, and waited, and waited. After two hours I went home. Then, of course, the same texts came in, he was drunk, wandering around Boston, no clue where he was, first being sweet, then being a jerk. I stood my ground and told him he can find his own place to sleep, as I was not going to drive around Boston looking for him again. Of course he was texting me all night.
As I was writing this, being worried about him as I didn't hear from him since around 3:30am ... (I was tossing and turning the whole night), he just called. He again apologized, saying he handles stress wrong, and that it has nothing to do with me, and that he won't do this again, and he will cut down on his drinking.
I am wondering how many times I should give him a chance. Please note that he does NOT drink everyday, or every weekend, as I think he knows how bad he gets. But when he does drink, I always dread it, as he does not know how to moderate, he goes to full blown drunk.
When he is sober, which is 95 percent of the time, he is amazing! As I said before, he takes care of me, bonds really close with my son and my family, and helps around the house, cooks everyday. I get nightly massages, he’s always loving and affectionate, has a great job, and wants to marry me and have children with me. I just don't know how to deal with his drinking when he drinks, as he becomes a horrible person that I wouldn't wish on anyone.
– At a Crossroad, Dracut
A: AAC, I'm about to state the obvious here, but your boyfriend has a drinking problem. It doesn't matter that he only shows it some of the time. It's still a drinking problem. It's a drinking problem that puts you at risk, hurts your feelings, and has you searching for your partner in the middle of the night like he's a lost dog.
You have two options: drop him -- or make a list of demands that include no more booze and major counseling. I'm not sure the second option is really on the table, of course. You can't force him to admit his problem and seek help. But unless he wants to admit that he has a problem and has the desire to fix it, there's not much you can do besides walk away.
Even if this man is open to confronting his problem, you need to think about whether this mostly good (and slightly scary) relationship is worth sticking around for. It's not that people with drinking problems can't manage their issues and aren't worth dating, it's just that you're new to this partnership. You haven't invested too much just yet. This process won't be easy for him. Do you want to be a part of it?
I'd also note that 95 percent of the first five months of a relationship isn't an accurate snapshot of reality. My guess is that 95 percent of your relationship with him in three years would look pretty different. Aren't we usually on our best behavior during the first five months?
The bad 5 percent is an important 5 percent. You said you wouldn't wish this on anyone. Do you wish it on yourself?
Readers? Should she stick around? What is this about? Can he fix the 5 percent? Is the 95 percent real? Thoughts.
Discussion boards on the right of the page. Love Letters/Extra Bases party June 4.
The booze chapter of the Love Letters book will be a thick one ...
Q: First of all, love the column. Best 10 minute break in my work day, when I discreetly pull up Love Letters on the computer. I'm a sucker for a good story and even better advice.
I will try to be succinct with this one -- I'm 27, he's 31. We've known each other for four years and realized that we had romantic feelings for each other almost two years ago. Things are great and not so great, but that's par for the course as people get to know each other more intimately and eventually live together (which we do). We always work through things by communicating our concerns/feelings/etc. I love him-- he's amazing and supportive, gives into my crazy whims, and is just ideal in every way (I know I'm setting myself up with that phrase, but the whole good-on-paper thing is true here). Anyway, I totally have baggage with our relationship ...
Just before we started to "officially" date, we tested out the waters with date-like activities and grilled cheese types of sleepovers. As it turns out, he was also dating three other people at the time but never told me. OK, fair enough, we weren't in a relationship, and I knew that if I wanted to be with him, I had to forget about what happened before he and I became "us."
Fast forward to the present. He has a lot of girl friends with whom he plays co-ed sports. I'm good with that -- I have a lot of guy friends. On occasion, when we're out drinking, he might touch one of the girl teammates a little more than he should or just say something odd. I've confronted him about it. He is always apologetic. Mind you, this has happened maybe once or twice, and yes, I've gotten to know most of his teammates, male and female, just because they are super nice people I see out a lot.
BUT, what do I do when he is blatantly drunk and does something obnoxious right in front of me? We were at the Hong Kong (before it burned down), and he apparently grabbed some girl's rear. I only know because the girl yelled at him about it when I was trying to leave the bar. This past weekend we were out, and just before last call, we were standing near the doorway when he started texting some girl I don't know and gave her a pet name in the text (not a harmless one either). I only know this because I was standing right beside him and looked over at his phone while he was typing.
I'm a wreck. I always thought I was smarter than this, staying in a relationship with a guy who does dumb things when he is drunk.
I question where this leaves us and our future. At some point (and maybe it's now), he has to know that drunken antics at our age when we have started talking about our future together are not okay. So … what do I do? Am I making too much of this?
– Trying to be Trusting, Boston
A: TTBT, you're not making too much of this. He can't handle alcohol. It makes him do very, very dumb things like flirt with women while you're standing right next to him.
And ... what happens if you don't join him for one of these nights out? How can you trust that the flirting won't cross the line or that the woman whose rear he grabs next won't reciprocate?
His behavior is ridiculous. But what bothers me even more is that he knows he has upset you and misbehaved, yet he continues to drink and put your relationship at risk. Does that mean he's comfortable with this behavior? You'd think that he'd feel so silly about what he's done that he'd avoid the late-night bar scene and stick to the sports.
Another talk is in order. A real one. Apologies are useless at this point. There needs to be a real solution to the problem. Is he willing to stop drinking to save the relationship? Even if he does stop drinking, will you be able to trust him when you're not around? Does he see himself on the Scorpion Bowl scene in another year or two?
Have the talk you've been avoiding. And have it with yourself, too. Is there anything he can do to make you feel safe within the relationship? If not, start making your own plans. Becuase when your gut tells you that you're not safe, you probably aren't.
Readers? If he stops drinking, should she stay with him? Does his need to pursue women while drunk mean that he's not really committed? Should he have to stop drinking? Will he grow out of this? Does his past (dating three women while having pajama parties with the letter writer) have anything to do with his present? Thoughts.
This one's long, juicy, and complicated. Just remember as you read my answer: I don't work in human resources.
Q: Oh Meredith,
This one is both an ethical and a love question and I am in dire need of advice. Literally, three careers could hang in the balance.
I'm an intern at a fairly large corporation here in Boston. (For obvious reasons, the company will remain nameless, but trust me, you've heard of it.) I've been working there for several months and I love every aspect of my job. If I had my way, it's where I'd work full-time once I graduate in about a year.
One of the great things about my already fantastic job is my fellow intern, who I will call Jim. He goes to the same university as me (though we hadn't met before this job) and we really get along well. I've come to consider him a close friend, and, if I'm being honest with myself, I've always hoped that it would become something more after we finish our internships. The flirting has been undeniable, and it seems apparent to others in the office judging from some lighthearted comments from coworkers about how we'd be perfect for each other.
Everything between us had been innocent until the entire department went out for drinks a couple months ago. We all got a little more intoxicated than we should have and Jim and I were put in a cab to go to our separate homes. The details are hazy, but I do specifically remember some very clumsy making out happening in the back of that cab. Though we never talked about it, we continued to grow closer and closer.
Now fast forward to last week, when things got complicated. Jim confided in me that he and a coworker of ours, who I'm calling Karen, have been making grilled cheeses and having late night pajama parties together for about a month now. Karen is a decade older than us. She's also our boss. To be fair, she didn't hire us (someone above her did that), but we do answer to her and work with her all day. Obviously Karen is an idiot for starting something with an intern, I know that much, but my problem is with how I reacted to the whole thing.
I literally felt sick to my stomach when he told me. He made me swear I wouldn't tell anyone because of the obvious consequences, but it's really starting to affect my work life in terms of how comfortable I am in the office with the two of them. Karen is not aware that I know.
I ended up telling Jim that we could be friends but I never want to hear about his and Karen's activities ever again. So that's where I left the situation with him for now. Oh -- and just so you know, we did sign documents at the beginning of our internship promising that office romances with full-time employees would not happen.
My question is: What's the appropriate reaction in this situation? I'm trying my best to make sure that it’s my logic that’s running the show and not my jealousy. It's hard to do this without an outsider's perspective. Can I be friends with Jim? Should I mention something to my friend and boss Michael Scott? How do I deal with Karen?
I wish I could forget I know, but now it's become a larger-than-life elephant in the room.
Thanks for any insight. Hopefully you can help me sort this out before I explode!
– Pam, Boston
Pam sent this update yesterday:
I talked it out with Jim. He said that he's basically just having pajama parties with Karen for the thrill of it. He also said that he's considering ending it and that he’s sad that he doesn't have a chance with me. (Because I told him he didn't. I don't want anybody's sloppy seconds.)
The problem gets more complicated, because I find myself wanting him anyway (unbeknownst to him, of course). I was hoping that my disgust about the situation and its ethical consequences would deter my attraction to him, but it hasn't seemed to at all.
So do you think I should keep trying to keep my feelings out of the equation and attempt to stop being attracted to him? Should I give in and tell him about what I'm really thinking in the hopes that he'd pick me over Karen? Should I get Karen fired? (Just kidding about the last one. That's not what I'm worried about. I promised that under no circumstances will I say anything ever. I'm a woman of my word.)
A: Your original question seemed to be about how to cope in the office, but your update implies that you're more concerned with your feelings for Jim. That makes life easier for me. As I said before, I don't work in human resources.
No one in this scenario is sloppy seconds, Pam. Jim liked you first. He made out with you long before he allowed himself to be seduced by Karen. I want to dislike him for not acknowledging the cab make-out after it happened, but you didn't either. You've both been passive-aggressive about this crush. You're both to blame for the relationship not moving forward.
I also want to dislike Jim for giving into Karen, but as he said, it's a thrill. A stupid thrill, but a thrill nonetheless. Jim is young. He's still learning that his romantic actions have consequences. That's not shocking, assuming that he's still in college. And that's why this sounds like classic sexual harassment to me.
I blame Karen for this, which is why I wouldn’t feel too icky about Jim. I mean, go ahead and feel icky that Jim and Karen have been together, but don't assume that Jim is now somehow tainted forever. He's in the middle of a big life lesson and it sounds like he's already figuring that out.
You're also in the middle of a life lesson. Jim has to learn to think before he acts, and you need to learn to put your feelings on the line. Tell Jim that you were hoping for more after the cab make-out session but that you didn't have the courage to tell him at the time. Then explain that the Karen situation made you feel icky about him, but that you still hope there's potential for him to have a non-icky relationship with you.
My guess is that he'll drop Karen and jump at the chance to be with you. That seems to be what he wants to do. If it turns out that you're not what he wants, well, you put yourself out there, and you'll never have to wonder.
My fear, of course, is that after he does decide to be with you, Karen won't be a happy boss. Please know that if she does make life difficult for you (or Jim), you can always run to HR (Toby) or Karen's boss (Michael Scott). That's your right no matter what promises you've made.
Readers? Is Jim immature and a victim of sexual harassment or is he just a cad? Should Pam tell Jim how she really feels? Should she even consider Jim after what’s happened with Karen? Discuss.
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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.