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The aftermath of a messy breakup

Posted by Meredith Goldstein October 29, 2012 08:19 AM

Q: I have been having a lot of trouble getting over my breakup with my first serious girlfriend. We had been together for five years (I am 25), and we moved in together last summer. I helped her with some serious health issues while we lived together. She finally started getting better this time last year and we had a good couple of months, but in December she told me she was breaking up with me. She said she needed to find herself after her health issues and didn't have time or energy for another person. She didn't move out of our apartment until April, during which time we continued on essentially as boyfriend/girlfriend, at least emotionally, and to a lesser degree, physically.

That situation was bad, but it got worse when she started seeing another guy about a month before she moved out of our apartment. She started spending multiple nights a week out of our place, and I knew she was probably with him. I felt so betrayed and hurt. I would have done anything for her, for us, including moving somewhere far away to grow potatoes together if that's what it took. They are still together.

I moved to the Cape for the summer and tried out the local dating scene. I've had the classic situation of people I am attracted to and interested in not seeming interested in me and vice versa.

More recently, I've felt a really strong desire to have more consistent contact with my ex. I am struggling to live by the boundaries I set for myself when it comes to her. I tell myself I will not be her friend because of what she did to me during our last few weeks of living together, which I view as her cheating on me. But I sent her a copy of her favorite fall fashion magazine in the mail. I can't stop looking at her blog. I'm not friends with her on Facebook, but I look up her name now and then to see if she's changed her picture. It's pretty pathetic in my mind. And when we do communicate, she gives me all sorts of compliments about how great I am and how happy I will be. That throws me for a huge loop because why would she have done what she did to me?

I'm headed back to reality to get ready for grad school soon. I'm excited, but I'm very intimidated by the prospect of the dating scene because I feel like my best qualities won't show up until later on in any potential relationship. I am also fairly concerned about intimacy with someone other than my ex.

What should I do? Did she cheat on me? How do I get myself to respect my own boundaries in relation to my ex? Are other women going to be able to get enough of a glimpse of who I am over the course of one or two dates? And how do I deal with the fact that the physical standards I look for are so high because of how attractive my ex is?

– Not sure where to go, Cape

A: You have many questions, NSWTG. Here are some answers:

Did she cheat on me?

Nope. She broke up with you before she started dating someone else. She was just a jerk about it, but she didn't break any rules. The real problem was that you continued living with each other after the breakup. You exposed yourself to daily rejection from December to April. Somebody should have moved out.

How do I get myself to respect my own boundaries in relation to my ex?

It's like quitting anything else. You just stop. You block websites on your computer. You find someone else to stalk on the internet. (Maybe Google a high school crush instead of your ex.) You become obsessed with grad school. That's all you can do.

Are other women going to be able to get enough of a glimpse of who I am over the course of one or two dates?

Yes. Your ex did, right? She got to know you over time, which is what happens when you date. After an outing or two, a woman might think, "Hmm. I'd like to know more." That's all you need.

And how do I deal with the fact that the physical standards I look for are so high because of how attractive my ex is?

I don't think she's that attractive. I mean, I'm sure she's lovely, but you've lost perspective. You've turned her into something supernatural. She's just a woman, like anybody else. There are millions of pretty 25-year-olds out there.

What should I do?

Please focus on yourself. And when you think of your ex, get angry. She bailed on you after you were there for her during the worst of it. She dated someone while living with you. She said she wanted to go find herself, but she went and found another person. She tells you nice things to make you feel better, but she doesn't want you back.

You deserve better, and there's plenty of better out there, I swear.

Readers? Can you answer his questions? Did she cheat? How can he get her out of his head? Should he feel better about dating other people? What happened here? Help.

– Meredith

She wants her stuff back

Posted by Meredith Goldstein October 25, 2012 06:40 AM

Q: Hey Meredith!

My ex-girlfriend decided to contact me after 7 months of nothing. We dated for a year, and we both decided things were not working out about 10 months ago. Sure, I reached out a couple times to see if we could re-kindle, but she told me she needed space and I politely granted that to her. We stayed in contact here and there for a couple months through text, but we have not seen each other in months. I have pretty much moved on and have been going on dates.

Last week, she decides to email me out of the blue to say she is moving away. It turns out she met a guy during a vacation and has decided to move to be with him. The reason she was contacting me was to see if we could meet up for a transfer of items left behind at one another's place. I left some clothing there. She left a few things at my place ... nothing of any serious value, honestly speaking. I offered to give those things back to her the last time we saw each other, but she declined and said it was not a big deal. Now she is demanding her stuff back. We wound up on the phone for an hour talking about this and catching up. And now I've also seen a picture of this new guy. (Thank you, Facebook). He's significantly older and has a child. What does this mean? If anything at all ...

– What Gives?, Mass.

A: What gives, my friend, is that your ex-girlfriend wants her stuff back. I understand that you were on the phone with her for an hour, but that doesn't mean much. It was just a catch-up. She knows that you've been waiting in the wings for months and she hasn't pursued it.

Offer to mail her the stuff. Send it and be done. Also, get rid of her on Facebook. You don't need to see those pictures.

I'm sorry. I wish I could tell you this meant something interesting, but it doesn't. Maybe this guy is wrong for her (who knows?), but it doesn't mean that you're her Mr. Right. Keep dating and let her go.

Readers? Is she messing with him? What should he do? How do you handle the items left behind? Help.

– Meredith

A chat room relationship

Posted by Meredith Goldstein October 18, 2012 04:23 AM

Q: Dear Meredith,

About 13 years ago I met this young lady (Alex) in a chat room. At the time, she was only about 18 years old. I'm 12 years older than her and as you may have surmised, I'm now 44 and she's 32. Throughout the years we have maintained a sort of friend/platonic relationship. On a couple of occasions at the beginning of our "cyber relationship" she was quite curious to meet me in person, but I remember declining it because I thought I was too old for her. Soon after I "cyber met" her, I got married. My marriage lasted about 11 years as I got divorced about 1 year ago (nothing to do with Alex). During the ending stages of my divorce, I confided in her about some things and she was supportive, which was very helpful to me. As fate would have it, she is now going through the end of her 5 year serious relationship. She and I have talked a lot about us one day having a relationship despite the fact that we have never met in person. We have, however, exchanged many pictures throughout the years as well as many emails, text messages, and phone calls.

If I really wanted to have a relationship with her, I wonder if it's better for me to try to stay out of her current breakup process or should I be supportive like she was with me when I was going down that path?

I also wonder if she's opened to talking about ''us" because she's going through her problems or does she really like me?

Looking forward to your advice.


– Should I be her confidant?, Cyberspace

A: There are so many issues here, SIBHC. I'm still upset about the fact that she was 18 when you met. I could say so much about this -- and about chat room relationships, in general -- but I'll focus on your question. And my answer to that is: No, you shouldn't be the voice of reason about her break-up. If you're trying to line yourself up as her next suitor, your intentions aren't honorable. She needs to find real friends for honest discussion.

Please encourage this woman to seek advice from her real-life peers. You say that she's still going through this break-up, which means that she's not quite broken up just yet. That means she has a significant other. She's off limits. Tell her to talk to her off-line friends, and please, focus on your off-line life, as well.

I understand that people meet in chat rooms. I understand that age gaps close. I understand that you guys have known each other for like 15 years and that the relationship feels significant, and maybe it is.

But at the moment, she's a woman with a partner who needs to talk to a platonic friend. That's not you. You're a pen pal with expectations. That's not OK.

Readers? Can the letter writer be her sounding board? Should the LW be thinking about dating her? How well can they possibly know each other? What should the LW do? Discuss.

– Meredith

I want her back

Posted by Meredith Goldstein October 12, 2012 08:50 AM

Q: Dear Globe Love Letters,

Nearly three years ago, I randomly met a girl while taking a walk one night around my apartment complex. This girl also lived in my apartment complex, and we instantly hit it off. By that January, we were dating regularly.

That spring, I inexplicably told this beautiful young woman that I needed time to myself, even though I knew I had tremendously strong feelings toward her. We remained friends but didn't see each other as often, and in the fall we tried dating again.

But when we resumed dating, I still didn't feel it was the right time for me to be in a relationship because of different personal issues, mainly that I was scared of how quickly things were progressing, and because of self-confidence issues, which I have since worked out.

Also, when we started dating again that fall, I was extremely unhappy with my job in Boston, so when I found an opportunity with a different company in another state, I quickly packed my bags and left. A large part of the reason I left so hastily was because I couldn't admit to myself the feelings I had toward this girl, and I literally ran away from the situation.

Although I think I made the right move vocationally, I could have definitely handled things better from a relationship standpoint. We talked a few times the first year I was away, and saw each other once when I visited that following summer.

While away, both of us saw other people, but I didn't meet anyone I liked as much as her. About a year ago while still out of the state, I went through some tough times at my job and became severely depressed and homesick. At that point, we stopped talking completely because I cut myself off from everyone.

This past spring, there was a job opening through my company back in the Northeast, and I willingly accepted. Right around the same time, the girl who I had left made it public on Facebook that she was in a relationship. I sent one email to her this past summer saying I was back in the area, but we haven't talked since. I don't feel comfortable contacting her because she looks extremely happy in all of the Facebook photos with her boyfriend, and I truly want her to be happy. I most definitely do not want to complicate her life any more than already did last year.

I guess I don’t really have a question. I would just like to use this column to tell this girl what I never had the courage to do before, which is that I loved her. I never knew what the emotion felt like with someone outside my family at the time, but I now have the perspective and relativity to know what I felt was real. On some levels I'm scared I'll never feel this way toward another human being again.

I know if it was meant to be, it'll be. I just wish there was something I could say or do that could convince her, that if she ever did let me back in her life, in any capacity, that I wouldn't run off again. Any thoughts?

– Loved Her, Boston

A: "I would just like to use this column to tell this girl what I never had the courage to do before, which is that I loved her."

No, LH. That's not what we're here for. You packed your letter with personal details so that you'd be recognizable to this woman (I assume she reads Love Letters), but I removed most of them. Telling someone you love them in a blog is a seriously passive move. If you want to tell her that you made a mistake, you must do it directly, like a grown-up.

My advice (because you need some) is to give yourself more time to get adjusted to Boston life. Your desire to reach out to this woman might be about loneliness. You shouldn't make any big decisions about your needs until you're used to living here again.

If you're still desperate to email her in a few more months, you can. Just be honest. You don't know for sure that you wouldn't run off again. I'm certainly not convinced. Just tell her what you know. As in, "I have no idea why I cut you off so many times. I feel like an idiot for letting you go. If you're ever single and open to trusting me again, I'd be thrilled to take you to dinner."

Don't make any big promises. Don't be passive. Give yourself time.

Readers? Should he reach out even if she has a boyfriend? Does he really want her back? Why did he leave her so many times? What should he tell her if he reaches out? Think she's reading this? Help.

– Meredith

My girlfriend and my 'special friend'

Posted by Meredith Goldstein October 3, 2012 07:08 AM

Chat at 1.

Q: Hi Meredith,

This is about two women in my life -- complete with unhappy ending. But it wasn't always so.

Times were great when I had both Cindy and Karen. I have known Karen for many years; we live together and are a couple. Cindy is a relative newcomer in my life. Only a couple of years have passed since I met her.

Karen and I have what most consider a good life together: pleasant, efficient, and without major issues. Cindy and I had a good relationship together: fun and interesting, full of banter and laughs and joy and jokes and intimacy and flirty, curious stares. The kind of thing that makes time sneak behind your back and surprise your tired eyes when you look at your watch. Funny that a guy could be happy without anything more than sporadic hand holding, I used to tell myself.

I was happy, I had all my needs met. I had the physical, stable relationship with Karen and the rejuvenating, energizing {friendship} with Cindy. My lizard brain was too drunk in feel-good chemicals to notice the brewing storm.

Cindy thought otherwise. The arrangement was just candy to her and she was looking for a full meal. So it ended, very painfully but peacefully. I swallowed the bitter pill and quietly continued with Karen.

Heartbreak #2 has been slower in the making: Karen is either unwilling or unable to provide the things Cindy had. Karen is not a woman who understands about expressing positive emotions, creating intimacy, or injecting adventure or common interests into a relationship. Home is impeccable and peaceful, but it is dreadfully boring and sometimes impersonal. And somehow this is enough for Karen. She is content with this life.

I have tried with Karen to explain the things I need and even lead by example. Communication breaks down into her tears and self-recriminations of inadequacy. I pull back and forget my needs, but in time discontent gets me again. Her reluctance and fear get in the way of us trying new things. And our conversations are all about the mundane and logistics -- nothing too personal. What do I feel for Karen? Tenderness and an unwillingness to see her suffer. But it is not the full range of adult emotions Cindy helped me experience.

I also miss Cindy. I feel like I made a terrible mistake.

How can I recreate some of the Cindy experience with Karen? Has time really ground this relationship into the ground? Would time have destroyed things with Cindy the same way if we were together? Is it healthy, or even possible, to have a special friend to pick up the slack from your relationship?

– Demoralized Under My Blanket, Providence

A: I don't want to kick you while you're under your sad blanket, but ... ugh.

You turned Karen into an insecure mess. You spent years using Cindy for attention before she finally set a boundary and let you go. Your lizard brain should have known better.

You're certainly allowed to have friends while you're in a relationship, but Cindy was a special friend. You had two girlfriends. That's not OK.

It's time to break up with Karen. You can't turn her into a different person, and if anyone is demoralized under a blanket right now, it's probably her. Please explain to her that she's created a lovely home but that it's not the home for you.

As for Cindy, well, I have no idea whether that relationship had any potential. I've been the Cindy, so part of me is tempted to tell you to show up on Cindy's doorstep with a bottle of Riesling and an ice cream cake (this is my fantasy, right?), but I know in my heart that she's moved on for all the right reasons. If you were content to keep her at a distance for years, she was just candy for you, too.

You need to be alone under that blanket. You also need to learn from this experience. Cindy (and Karen) taught you that you'd rather fall in love with a best friend than live with someone who's good at playing house. Give yourself some space and then start over with that in mind.

Readers? Why did Cindy stick around for so long? What's Karen's role in this? How do you know whether you're using your friends to make up for problems in your relationship? Is that so wrong? Should he contact Cindy? Help.

– Meredith

She 'likes' everything he does

Posted by Meredith Goldstein September 28, 2012 08:37 AM

A final reminder to register for this. I will be there with books and dresses, and as far as I know, there will be food. Food.

Q: Hi Meredith,

I am a divorcee with children. The marriage was awful and went on way too long, but that's another story. I've been steadily seeing someone for a year now. He's a good guy and we get along great. Sounds like we are on track for what could be a great, long-term relationship, right?

The problem is that the boyfriend has an 'ex-sort-of-girlfriend.' They met online and it just didn't work for him, but they have remained friends. (Note: She was interested in him). I have friends both male and female, so I have no problem with 'friends'.

The issue is that she is relentless with liking and commenting on Facebook. Usually within minutes of him posting something. Like a stalker. They also text each other. After a few months of dating, I mentioned that it seemed sort of strange to me. He asked her to back off. I did NOT ask him to do that and told him it was silly because they text too, so what's the point. He has reassured me many times that it is just friendly talk, about kids, etc.

She was quiet for a month or so. Then one day I figured out, based on seeing a Facebook comment, that they had seen each other in person. I asked him about it. He said he did her a favor and met her briefly. He said he didn't think it was a big deal, but eventually admitted that he didn't want to tell me because he knew I wouldn't be happy. I felt that he basically lied to me by omitting the information and that he was being sneaky, not protective. I was very hurt.

After some arguing, I asked him to put himself in my shoes and asked him how he would feel. He admitted that he would have felt the same way.

We agreed to work through it. He said he wouldn't go behind my back again. He has assured me time and time again that he loves me, and only wants to be with me. Since they met that one time, she has taken to being a Facebook stalker again. I've tried to let it go, but I just can't take it anymore. I think it's time he tells her to go away.

I don't know what to do. If I bring it up, he gets mad at me saying to stop being jealous over someone who basically just exists on Facebook (not true - they text). If I don't, I'm stewing inside. This could be a deal-breaker for me.

Thoughts? Am I being too insecure? Does he need to let go of that part of his past now and say it's not worth throwing away his relationship with me?

I do not want to tell anyone what to do with their lives, but this is going to ruin our relationship.

– Too Bad Too Sad, Boston

A: I'm on your side, TBTS. The Facebook "likes" don't bother me so much, but the texting? It's inappropriate. I'm all for having friends, but he isn't treating her like a platonic pal. She's not someone who hangs out with you guys as a couple. She's hasn't done much to show that she acknowledges and respects your relationship. She's basically a secret pen pal, which is sketchy.

When you brought this up before, your boyfriend was capable of empathy. He admitted that he'd be upset if you lied to him about seeing an ex. Perhaps it's time to ask him how he'd feel if he saw you in a corner of the room texting a male "friend" who isn't a part of your lives in any other way.

I'd also ask him, without judgment, "How do you want your relationship with this woman to evolve?" Is he hoping that she'll become the kind of friend who can hang with you guys at a party? Or is he hoping that she'll disappear once she finds her own partner? He should consider his goals and then share them. You need to understand the plan.

He has to admit that it can't go on like this. He texts, you feel bad, and the cycle continues. If you tell him that you're looking for ways to break the cycle, he should want to help. If he doesn't, you can make decisions accordingly.

Readers? Why is he texting? Am I right to suggest that she ask about this woman's future in their lives? Do you think he knows what he wants from this woman? Does she have the right to ask the boyfriend to drop her? Help.

– Meredith

I fell for a bandmate

Posted by Meredith Goldstein September 27, 2012 06:38 AM

Q: I am a musician, and until recently I was dating the drummer in my band. We knew it was risky, but he was the most amazing guy I'd ever been close to and we were so head-over-heels for each other at the time that we risked it, and now it's over for the time being. I had originally been worried that I'd break his heart, but things got really messed up and at some point in the last three months, he started really pulling away and eventually ended it. Now I'm the one whose heart is really broken.

He developed interest in other girls and even kissed someone else. We've only been broken up for a month, but he says he's felt distant from me for a lot longer.

My question is this: What can I do to restart with him? I know that for the time being we can't be together and that I can't force him to revisit the relationship. He says he isn't interested in having a relationship at all right now, and that whenever we talk things just end up going around in circles. He's probably right. I just can't handle having inane pointless conversations with him. I miss our closeness and being a person he felt connected to and cared about. I would even be happier at this point with some sense of friendship at the very least ... to me it's all happened so fast that I don't know what to do with myself. I feel like every time I reach out to him, no matter how little pressure or little pain I show him, it only pushes him away.

I should mention that we recently took a trip with the band, and I could feel his attraction to me getting stronger and stronger, which I found really confusing and disconcerting. That night, after the gig was over, in the excitement of a fun day spent together, we hung alone and eventually our chemistry won over and we slept together again. It was incredible, though I know it was probably a mistake because it made me vulnerable. The next day I tried to calm myself down, tried to figure out how to not bring it up, but we ended up talking about it. When I pressed him to say something about his feelings, he said that he doesn't think he's in love with me. He also said he's not in love with anyone, he said he feels emotionally numb. He also admitted, after being asked, that he's not over the pain he felt from a previous relationship that hurt him deeply, and that he doesn't feel like he can really trust anyone enough to let himself fall all the way in love with them.

We are still involved professionally and I think we're both pretty committed to making that work for the time being. But he's hot and cold. I can't seem to let go of some hope that I have for the future with him.

How do I handle myself? What do I do to take away his negative image of me and restart? It's hard to really play the "hard-to-get" game when you're involved with someone professionally, and if I quit playing with this band and find another one to join then I might not see him for a very long time.

I don't know what to do!

– Sad in Boston

A: If the drummer is the only reason that you're with this band, find a new band.

But if you love the band, you must stick with it and learn self-control. The drummer is attracted to you but he doesn't want to be your boyfriend. That means you can't sleep with him. Ever.

This is like any other failed office romance. You must set boundaries and maintain them. You must keep your distance as much as you can until it starts to feel platonic again. I know that's not what you want to hear, but it's the truth. Sorry.

If you're stressed and sad about all of this, write a song. Date another musician. Cover your favorite break-up song. The energy that comes with this kind of passionate breakup ... it's kind of priceless. It spawns the best music. Be the Stevie Nicks. Put on a dreamy outfit and be the star. That's what has to happen here.

The sooner you stop dreaming of a future together, the sooner you'll be able to reset your relationship. Let this be over. Break the chain.

Readers? How do you work with an ex? How can she ignore his attraction? Should she quit the band? Is this a different experience for musicians? What should she do?

– Meredith

He lost the spark

Posted by Meredith Goldstein September 26, 2012 08:36 AM

We chat at 1.

Q: Meredith and Faithful Readers,

I recently broke up with my boyfriend of 4 months. It doesn't seem long, I know, but I fell for him hard and fast. He was the first guy who didn't play games. He was open and honest about his feelings for me, and told me that he "saw a future with me." He was kind and affectionate and did things for me because he wanted me to be happy. I've never had a relationship like this.

A little over a month ago, I noticed a change. He was slightly more distant, and our sex life was dwindling. Then it came to a dead stop. I tried talking to him about it. From what he said (which I later realize I misunderstood, or he failed to communicate) is that he had been in a rut and not feeling himself. So I tried to not put any pressure on him and looked for creative ways to help him out of his rut. But nothing changed and he became more distant.

Everything culminated in a very long and difficult discussion that led to me finding out that he had simply lost the spark. He found me attractive, wanted to be with me, and wanted to care for me, but romantically, there was nothing there. I couldn't (and still can't) understand this. I thought of some solutions that might work, but it felt hopeless. How do you make someone like you? And so we broke up.

I feel crushed and devastated. I feel like we didn't try -- we just both agreed that it was easier to break up. Is it possible to get that spark back when everything else was great? Has anyone heard/been through anything similar? Is there anything I can do to save this, I'm not ready to let go.

– Heart Broken, Boston

A: You did the right thing by breaking up, HB. Do you really want to deal with this problem at four months? Do you really want to have to force this guy to like you? Sticking it out would be horrible for your self-esteem. You'd feel even worse than you do now.

For the record, I understand why you feel so terrible. Short-term breakups are a special kind of awful. You didn't even get the chance to get annoyed with this guy. At four months, it's still hopes and dreams and firsts. He went and pulled the rug out from under you in the middle of all of that bliss. You miss the rug. I get it.

You can't force a spark. It's time to mourn (a little) and hang out with friends. It's time to take him out of your narrative and start over. I'm sorry.

Readers? Can you recreate a spark? What happened here? Why are these early breakups so awful? Can you answer her questions? Help.

– Meredith

I scared her away

Posted by Meredith Goldstein September 25, 2012 06:56 AM

Q: Meredith,

I am in a serious relationship (that is ending). Over the past several months I have grown closer to a friend. I had planned to move out of Boston and subsequently never see that friend again. Even if we did a good job of staying in touch and got together every so often, it just wasn't going to be the same. As we were getting closer to this last day, we decided to go out for dinner and spend some time together.

During dinner she told me that she likes me and that she's had a crush on me. She said some pretty significant things. She told me that she didn't expect me to have a reaction or a response. She is a respectful woman and I absolutely do not feel she was trying to make a move. I think she was just confessing something, and in a way I can appreciate and respect that.

The thing is, I feel the same way about her. I wasn't going to tell her because 1) I'm in a relationship. Yes, my relationship was ending, but I'm not a cheater. 2) I would not have expected her to feel the same way. 3) I was moving.

So there we were, two people with crushes on each other. She said that she would have asked me out if I had been available. We hung out for some time that night. I held her hand for a few moments and it felt right. When we parted ways I gave her a hug and a kiss on the cheek. She said thank you. An amazing end to a beautiful night.

The next day I saw her and she basically said "let's forget last night" and extended a hand for me to shake as friends. At that time I basically indicated to her that I liked her, whereas the night before I hadn't been so clear. I started to tell her how I felt and she basically ran away.

We live very close to each other. I didn't want the potential last time I saw her to be her running away from me feeling (confused? upset? angry? disgusted? bad?). I walked over to her place and rang her doorbell. I think I might have called first, but I honestly don't remember. The thing is, she wasn't home, but I thought she was.

Let me paint a clearer picture here, so you and the readers can relate. It was nighttime, and it was raining. Basically, I was outside her door, waiting only 15-20 seconds for what I had hoped would be a response from my doorbell ringing, when she actually walked by me (I was under a big umbrella so she didn't even know it was me). She went to go inside her building and looked over to see who this person standing outside her building was … and at that exact time I had looked up from my phone. Basically, she looked TERRIFIED. It was as if she had this concern/fear about a man outside her building (which she absolutely should), but that man was ME.

I had gone over there with a heart full of hope and happiness, but I literally watched her become confused and fearful. I stood outside stunned and trying to process what had happened for about 30 seconds and then went home. I did text on the way home. I remember texting something like, "Last night was a big deal. Please talk to me."

I called her a few times, hoping she would answer, and then later again after letting some time pass. I called one final time to leave a message to apologize for what had happened.

Then...about a month went by. I had not moved (the opportunity fell through). I saw her one morning and approached her. We talked a bit and I learned a lot about how she had been "scared" by my coming by her apartment and the calling and texting. She told me that even talking to her then made her uncomfortable.

I am not a weirdo. I am a good man. I feel like some pretty poor timing made the situation horrible, and by trying to communicate I only upset her more.

At one point, not very long ago, this wonderful person had expressed some very significant feelings for me. When I tried to talk to her about it everything fell apart in pretty much the worse possible way.

When I saw her recently I tried to explain the poor timing. I needed her to know that it wasn't like I was camped out in front of her building all night. I think that resonated with her a little bit, but she said, "I had a crush on you, and you're unavailable. Grow up." She had no idea my relationship was ending.

Can our friendship (or anything more) be saved? Any suggestions? After seeing her the other day I am absolutely resolved to respectfully giving her time and space.

– Trying to Reconnect with Friend ... or More?

A: My dear letter writer, where is your girlfriend? Do you have a significant other? Are you officially single?

You keep telling us that your relationship is "ending," but ... is it over? Because if not, there's no reason to even think about this other woman. She's not just a platonic friend. She's a woman you hope to pursue.

My guess is that your "friend" felt bad for confessing her feelings, and then decided it would be best to sever ties and keep her distance. But then you went and rang her doorbell, waited on her front porch, and hid under an umbrella like a character in a romantic comedy (or horror film). I know that wasn't your intention, but that’s how it went down.

I truly believe that she's more upset out about the girlfriend than the calling/umbrella stalking. You weren't up front with her and she got a bad vibe. That's understandable.

All you can do is leave her alone. You've tried to make this better and she told you that she's just getting more and more uncomfortable. Meanwhile, she hasn't set any understandable boundaries. She ran away (who does that?) and then expected you to read her mind. Perhaps this isn't such a big loss.

The lesson here that you must be honest (about the state of your relationship), clear (you kept pretty silent during that dinner), and respectful.

It seems that you're focusing on the wrong woman right now. Because again, I just have to ask, where is your girlfriend? The first line of your letter is upsettingly present tense.

Readers? What happened here? Where is the girlfriend? Is the friend to blame? Is she overreacting about the rain incident? Help.

– Meredith

Am I allowed to break up with him?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein September 24, 2012 08:25 AM

Q: Dear Meredith,

My boyfriend of more than two years and I are going through a very difficult and odd time in our relationship. We had been together long-distance for nine months until I moved back to Boston in early summer. The first few months I was away passed without any drama or problems; we both missed each other and spoke nearly every day. But as more time passed, I started to reflect more on our relationship and compatibility. This guy makes me laugh without fail and loves me genuinely and deeply, yet we have grown to have too few interests in common and I see us moving in different directions.

In the winter I got the discussion going about the state of our relationship, but he had no interest in questioning whether we were meant to be together. He more or less convinced me that we should stick it out, and so we made it through our long-distance period, albeit with occasional disagreements and less frequent contact.

When I returned to Boston, I had already decided to break up with him in person. But when we reunited and I said this to him, he could not understand my perspective, calling me selfish and saying that if we just spend a few weeks or months together again like we used to, our relationship would happily revert to the way it once was. Halfheartedly I accepted this, and ever since, we have been seeing each other, but infrequently -- once every two weeks on average.

When we are together it's rather awkward because I am reluctant to even be there pretending we're still a real couple, and he senses my distanced behavior and doesn't know how to act. I can't go on like this, and after making some effort, I still do not want to go on in the relationship.

But at the same time my boyfriend is currently in between jobs. He's also not from the area so he has no friends or family here to serve as a support system if we break up. How can I end things with him once and for all if he doesn't understand my feelings and is without people close to him to help cope?

Should I hold off calling it the end for a while, until his life perhaps is more settled or until he can accept that our relationship is not working out? This would be an indefinite timeline, and while I do not want to hurt him, I feel like carrying on with this weird semi-relationship is making this worse and preventing us from making positive life changes.

– Distance Made the Heart Shrink, Boston

A: I can't think of a better time to break up with this guy, DMTHS.

He's between jobs, alone in the area, and should be putting himself first. If you set him free for good, he might decide that he doesn't want to live here anymore or that he wants to make a serious career change. You'll be giving him the opportunity to be selfish in all the right ways.

You've done your best to resuscitate this relationship and it's just not working. You're already down to once-a-week visits, so he's not even using you as a daily crutch. He's no dummy. He knows that this is over.

You just need to learn how to be an assertive breaker-upper. Tell him that it's over. Tell him that you just can't make it work. If he starts to negotiate, say, "I'm so sorry. I've made my decision. Let's talk about how we can move forward from here." Suggest that he call friends and family for support, even if they're far away. Repeat yourself until he gets it.

It'll be awful, but less awful than having to keep this alive for another few months. Please put this relationship out of its misery.

Readers? How do you break up with a good bargainer? How can she break up with someone who doesn't have a support system? Am I right to say that this is a good time to end things? Can you help her move this forward? Help.

– Meredith

Second-guessing the break-up

Posted by Meredith Goldstein September 20, 2012 08:41 AM

Q: Hi Meredith!

I'm a fun, nice girl in my late 20s who just got out of a two-year relationship. There were a lot of ups and downs and we lived together for a little while, but we just ended things. I'm having a really tough time with the breakup for a lot of reasons, and I just don't know if we did the right thing.

We never had a perfect relationship, but I'm of the mindset that there's nothing perfect in life. He has sweet qualities, but also bad ones, as well as a hefty amount of issues from his childhood and a lacking social life. He wasn't always great to me. He did some hurtful things (unintentionally). Nothing abusive, but sometimes he just doesn't get it.

I have my own issues, but I put my friends (who don't like him) first because they've always been there for me. I'm always busy with plans -- the polar opposite of him. He's used being alone, while I am the ultimate caretaker (to a fault), which might be why I'm second-guessing myself.

Every time we do something like this (we've broken up before), he ends up being amazing and awesome and there for me and tells me that he can't live without me, so I fall back into the routine. It's a frustrating cycle and I made the choice to break it, but I am obviously second guessing myself.

I'm not in a rush to settle down but I'm wondering if I should have stuck it out. Should I have waited around for him to grow up a bit and become the guy I know he wants to be and has the potential to be? Was I too rash in ending things when I might not have put in enough effort myself? (I don't think this is true, but again, I'm second-guessing.) I don't know what’s right, and my heart and my head can never seem to agree on anything. I've kind of left things to the universe, like if we find a way back to each other in the future then it's meant to be -- but of course, I'm nervous we might not. And what happens then?

– Up&Down, Cape

A: You were right to end this, U&D. There's no need to "stick it out" when you're in a relationship that involves frequent break-ups and bad feelings. You can't wait for someone to grow up. He is who he is, and he just can't make you happy.

But you know all of that, right? This second-guessing is really about your fear of being alone. Suddenly he's gone, and you're freaking out about what's next.

I can promise you that there will be a next. You're outgoing, flexible, and you've got a great group of friends. You just have to get through this uncomfortable phase, which is basically about learning to be by yourself sometimes. It's not supposed to feel great. You just have to get through it.

You're allowed to mourn the relationship, but don't let yourself romanticize it. There is no "meant to be" when it comes to this guy. Sure, "there's nothing perfect in life," but there's definitely something better than what you had. Let him go.

Readers? Is this about missing him or a fear of being alone? Can the guy grow into a better person? Was she wrong to put her friends first? What should she do to get herself through this transition? Help.

– Meredith

He called off the wedding

Posted by Meredith Goldstein September 19, 2012 08:36 AM

We chat at 1.

Q: Hi,

My fiance and I have been in a relationship for almost 10 years, engaged for 3. We were ready to get married in a few months when he confronted me about my attraction to him.

I told him honestly that I wasn't attracted to him anymore and he called off the wedding. I told him that the loss of attraction is normal for couples and that we could work it out, but now he is questioning our entire relationship. He says that at this point, he doesn't want to be in a relationship. He says he questions his love for me and mine for him.

I admit that during our relationship, I haven't communicated with him as I should have, but I have started going to counseling to work on my issues of self-esteem, negativity, and communication. He feels as though he's been putting so much into the relationship (and that I haven't been doing my part) that he is burned out. I feel as though it's still too early for him to honestly decide if he wants to be in a relationship.

I have tried to tell him that couples counseling would be best to help us sort out our feelings clearly, but he is unwilling to go. He is only open to going to my therapy to have the psychologist tell me that he doesn't want a relationship anymore. I am working on myself, and am ready to give my all into saving our relationship. I don't want to lose everything that we have shared, and I told him that all I want is one last chance.

– Frustrated and Lost, Las Vegas

A: If he's open to going to your therapist, take him, FAL. That's your fiance's best offer and you just can't force him to do more right now.

You told your partner of 10 years that you're just not attracted to him anymore. It seems pretty fair that he decided to cancel the wedding and re-consider his options. He's putting himself first. I can't say I blame him.

You're in a state of transition. You might discover in therapy that you don't want to get married, at least not to your fiance. You might decide that you need some space to figure out what makes you happy, and that you waited three years for this wedding because it wasn't something that you could ever be sure about. Don't beg your fiance for a life together until you're sure that you want it.

Continue the therapy. Bring him along. Be honest with yourself about what's best for both of you.

I know that sex ebbs and flows in relationships, but you're telling us that you're not attracted to the guy you planned to marry. That's a pretty big deal. You should want more for yourself, and he has every reason to want to walk away.

Readers? Do they need couples therapy? Should the letter writer ask the fiance to stay? Should people be attracted to each other after a decade? What about their other issues? What's happening here? Discuss.

– Meredith

How can I change her mind?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein September 11, 2012 08:32 AM

Q: Dear Meredith,

I'm a married man and recently separated. I was in a long-term marriage that should have ended some 11 years ago. I've made peace with the end of that relationship and am working on being happy while being alone.

I made a decision that it would take me three years to work though my marriage ending before I was ready for anyone else. I also decided that I was NOT interested in anyone with children -- been there, done that.

Recently I joined a support group as a way to help process some of the loneliness. At the first meeting, something wonderful and completely unexpected happened. A woman approached me and was very interested in talking. I was flattered by her attention and found her to be a very open and genuine person. That night after the support group, we went off to karaoke and the friendship I was NOT looking for instantly blossomed.

Things have been wonderful for the three short weeks we've been together. We've seen each other frequently, have shared a lot about our lives and relationships, and our friendship seemed to be going great. We made plans for an official first date, and I had some great things planned, wanting to create a special night of fun and the foundation to what I was hoping would be a lasting friendship. My friend is a separated woman with three children.

We never had that date; she cancelled and has pulled away. I've been downgraded to maybe not even a friend although she's told me that I am. My involvement with her may have been a distraction to her bad breakup after falling in love with the wrong guy. She has openly shared the details of that bad situation with me, for which I am grateful.

So here's my dilemma: She's awakened feelings that I tried so hard to bury. I am smitten, can't deny it, won't hide it, dismiss it, or make small of it. I do know that I am not in love with her, but over time I see that could happen. She has changed my world completely. I think about her a lot -- about our talks, how we kissed and hugged so passionately.

I am an emotionally available man, sensitive, honest, trustworthy, and dependable. It may sound egotistical and I'll accept that, but I can rock her world in time if given a chance. I am not the guy who caused her so much emotional pain (I want to take it away and make it all better), not her former husband, but a guy who's different.

I need advice on how I can save this friendship. I do not want to lose her because in her mind I'm associated with the man who broke her heart. I KNOW she has feelings for me but may be afraid to get hurt again. I get that completely.

Thank you for reading this and for any/all helpful suggestions and advice.

– Smitten, Cambridge

A: All you can do is tell her how you feel. If she doesn't want her world rocked, you must refrain from rocking it. You have to respect her boundaries.

Just make sure that you're honest with her (and yourself) about what you want. I mean, if she doesn't want to date you, do you really want to save the friendship? You're smitten and you want to hug and kiss. I'm not convinced that you have any interest in keeping her around as a platonic pal.

You've learned so much from her in just a few short weeks. She taught you that you're ready to date and that you're open to being with someone who has kids. She taught you that your stomach still produces butterflies. She's just a sign that there's more.

There are plenty of fantastic women out there who genuinely want their world rocked. Find them. And find a great therapist to supplement that support group.

Readers? What's up with this woman and her mixed signals? What can the letter writer do to keep her around? Should he keep her around? Should he care this much after just a few weeks? Discuss.

– Meredith

Am I allowed to move on?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein September 10, 2012 08:34 AM

Q: I have been with my boyfriend for 4 years. He is my absolute best friend and I adore him. We live together and for the most part have a wonderful relationship. Here's the problem: We have a non-existent sex life!

To me, this is not something I can overlook. I want to feel desired. If I bring this up to him (which I have many times), he makes a joke or shrugs me off. I'm so fed up and don't know what to do. I can't picture my life without him, but at this point he's more of a friend than anything. I feel that the only reason we're still together is that we've already been together this long. It's just convenient.

To make it even more complicated, I recently met a guy quite randomly and we hit it off and have become fast friends. I have unbelievable chemistry with the new guy and can see myself with him easily, which makes me realize what I'm missing. When I think about the new guy, I am happy and relaxed as opposed to stressed and dissatisfied at home.

I know my boyfriend is a catch and that I should feel lucky, but I feel that we're just not compatible anymore. I guess I feel guilty about my needs/wants. Is sex (or lack of) enough of a reason to call it quits? I'm confident that it will not change. Should I try, try, try some more or salvage what friendship is still intact between us and move on?

– Sadly Unsatisfied, Boston

A: Is sex (or lack of) enough of a reason to call it quits?

Yes. Absolutely. There's no need to drag this out. You're already shopping for a new partner.

You say that you adore your boyfriend, but you've made it clear that you're "just not compatible anymore." The end.

My advice is to prepare yourself for some loneliness because you will lose your boyfriend's friendship during this breakup. Your routine will be destroyed. You'll need to find a new home.

Please make sure that you have platonic friends who can help you (and maybe house you) as you take these big steps. And whatever you do, don't use the new guy as your support system during this process. He's not really a friend. You're lining him up for more.

Readers? Does she really adore her boyfriend? Does this new crush have potential? Does anyone think she should stay in her relationship? Is this really just about the sex? Discuss.

– Meredith

The boyfriend at home

Posted by Meredith Goldstein September 6, 2012 07:10 AM

A quick note: Some of you have emailed to tell me that whenever you try to make a comment, you get bumped off Love Letters. The tech folks are working on this glitch, but in the meantime, if that happens to you, try a different browser. I've heard that Explorer doesn't work so well but that anything else is fine. I use Firefox and it seems to work for me.

I've also been told that it helps to clear your cache, as they say.

And now a back to school letter ...

Q: Dear Meredith,

I am a young college student in the city with promising career options. I have experienced a lot since I have moved to Boston and have found that this is possibly the place I see myself spending the rest of my life in.

I have been dating the same guy for 2 years. He is sweet, quirky, loving, and can get me to laugh when all else fails. We have gone through many ups and downs in these past 2 years. He lives two hours away in another state. I met him when I was home visiting my parents from college. He has become my best friend, my boyfriend, and we haven't gone a day without talking to each other.

My dilemma? We are on two different planes in our lives. While I am in college, interning, working, etc., he is back at home working a part-time gig and living with his parents. While this doesn't completely faze me, it's his lack of motivation that stinks. He has different values (I am family oriented and an animal lover while he could do without both) and he has very strong, negative views about things while I am fairly optimistic.

These past few months have seemed to get the best of us. He was testy, angry, and at one point was talking down to me. I threatened to leave him, and he seems to be trying to be better. The problem is that I have this bad taste in my mouth that I can't get rid of.

I love him, and it has been a hard but fulfilling 2 years. I just keep thinking about our relationship and whether I still have it in me to push through this awkward standstill. Should I work on things or do I leave? I don't like thinking of him not being with me, but I don't know if this relationship is the end all. What should I do?

– At a Loss, Boston

A: The answer is in your third paragraph, AAL. Your relationship has deteriorated and requires too much work. That bad taste in your mouth is important. That's your gut talking.

Sometimes it makes sense for people in rocky relationships to wait until they hit a wall so that they can feel confident about their decision to leave. But in your case, you've already hit the wall, right? That's why you're writing me this letter. You're not confused about what has to happen. You just don't like it.

It sounds like you're asking for permission to initiate this breakup. And if that's the case, I'm happy to give it to you. You don't need his negativity right now.

Go enjoy Boston. Because you're right -- it is awesome.

Readers? Does she have to break up with him? What about that first paragraph? How can a student balance a relationship with someone who isn't in school? Help.

– Meredith

Thinking about my first boyfriend

Posted by Meredith Goldstein August 31, 2012 07:59 AM

Hey there. I'll post self-help reviews on Monday. Have a good weekend.

Q: I'm younger than most of your writers. I am 19 but I don't believe that a lack of maturity is an issue in my story.

My ex, "C," and I have been broken up for almost two years. We started dating when I was much younger and he was much older. He was my first real boyfriend (and first everything). We had a great relationship. We dated for a year and a half until I ended it because I was young and felt trapped. The relationship was too serious for me and I guess I got scared and wanted out. I was on and off with C while being on and off with my current boyfriend, "J," for a month or two. The day after I finally ended it with C for good, I started dating J more seriously. Now J and I have been dating for the two years, but every day I think about C and regret my decision. Sometimes I think about how C was the right person, wrong time, but I know that's not true. My current boyfriend is everything I want in a man, but for some reason I'm not happy. Well, I'm happy as long as I don't think about C.

I know C feels the same way. We can't be in the same place because it's too heart-wrenching. We both care so much about each other, and I'm the one who just won't go back. I just know that he isn't the kind of boyfriend I want, not abusive or anything terrible, just lazy, snobbish, and not very romantic. J Is perfect, attractive, attentive, romantic, and so in love but for some reason I'm just not happy. I get scared when I think about breaking up with him and just figuring things out partially because I haven't been alone in years, but also because I'm terrified of breaking up with J only to find myself longing for him the way I do for C.

Please help. I'm so confused about why I can't let this past ex go. We have been apart longer then we dated, and my current relationship has always been 10 times better. Is this a "want what you can't have" issue?

– I left him, but I can't leave him, Vancouver

A: You sound quite thoughtful and mature, ILHBICLH, but you're still 19. You can't change your place in life just because you're self-aware.

Your last relationship haunts you because it was your first. C was older and larger than life. He always will be.

As for J, he's just too much right now. He's so serious -- and you just want to be 19. I understand that you're afraid of being alone, but you don't have much of a choice. You're not ready for this. J deserves to know.

Timing is important, especially at your age. Based on what you've told us, I just don't think that you'll be confident about any relationship until you've spent some time by yourself.

One of the lessons here is that it's pretty normal to mourn the loss of a relationship. You might be miserable and sad about a breakup, but it doesn't mean that you want the person back. It just means that you don't take things lightly. That's a good thing.

If you break up with J (and you will, right?), you will miss him and doubt your decision. You will mourn, for sure. And that's OK. You'll read this letter and remember why you're learning to be on your own.

You know what you have to do about J. Your obsession with C isn't really about C. C represents an out. You want an out. That's all you need to know.

Readers? Is this about her age? If she drops J, how can she avoid going back to C? Does she have to be single for a while? Why is she thinking about C? And will she regret dropping J? Help.

– Meredith

Did his grief cause this breakup?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein August 28, 2012 08:30 AM

Q: My boyfriend of 11 months is the love of my life. We met online and instantly had a connection. We always got along, had a lot of fun, and never had any disagreements. We always made a point of discussing things, knowing that without communication it wouldn't work. He was the first to say "I love you" and the first to introduce to me to his family and friends.

For the entire time that I've known him, he has been the backbone of his family. He helps them with money, with chores, fixing things, etc. They always come first, as they should. One of his older brothers was also sick. Recently, that brother got very sick and was basically put on hospice. I tried to let my boyfriend know that I would be there through it all and do anything I could, but he said he was fine. I gave him his space.

The other day, on our regularly scheduled day to hang out, he came over. I had cooked a week's worth of food for his family, as it was the only thing I could think of to do for him that wasn't invasive. He seemed annoyed. Then he said, "We need to talk." I started to cry. He first wanted a break, and when I said no, he said he no longer loved me. He cried and said he was sorry, then left. He asked his friends to look after me, sent me a text that night to see if I was OK, and that was it.

My question is: What now? I know I need to give him space, and I will and have. But is this the grief talking? This came completely out of the blue! Will he come back?

– Worried and Broken, Mass.

A: My guess is that your boyfriend is so overwhelmed with family responsibilities that he doesn't want to manage another person (you). Or maybe he's been feeling less excited about your relationship for a while and just hasn't had the energy to deal with it until now.

Either way, it makes sense that he walked away. If he sees you as one more responsibility -- as opposed to a partner -- this just won't work. And if he's been thinking about this breakup for a while, there's nothing you can do.

This doesn't strike me as a crazy, heat-of-the-moment-decision. He prepared a speech and delivered it. He sent the stupid "Are you OK" text. He obviously gave this some thought.

My advice is to treat this like a breakup and to allow yourself to be annoyed that he pulled the rug out from under you. The timing is awful and confusing and painful, but you're allowed to feel your own grief and anger even though you're worried about him. Please surround yourself with your own friends and family (not his), and spend some time putting yourself first. It's your turn to be someone's first priority. That's what's been missing here.

Readers? Is this breakup real? What happened here? How can she deal with this loss knowing that he's going through such a difficult time? Would he have been a good partner if his family always comes first?

– Meredith

I visited my ex

Posted by Meredith Goldstein August 27, 2012 08:33 AM

Q: Meredith,

Three months ago I met a man who is kind, smart, stable, and gorgeous. Let's call him Luke. I was thrilled to have found someone -- finally -- with whom I could laugh, be myself, and discuss issues that we are both passionate about. Also, we are incredibly attracted to each other. We have been taking it relatively slow, though we have agreed to see each other exclusively.

Late last month I went on a previously planned vacation to a foreign city where I lived during graduate school in my early 20s. I had organized to see an ex-boyfriend (let's call him James), with whom I had remained good friends. (Luke was aware of this and was comfortable with my meeting up with him.)

Despite having not seen James in years, we found ourselves feeling as though no time had passed, and nothing had changed between us. The connection was unreal -- we were both surprised, considering the time and distance between us. We saw each other several more times during my visit, and I felt like I had rediscovered my best friend. I feel it is important to note that I did not cheat on Luke (although some may maintain that some emotional betrayal was clearly present), and I shared with him my somewhat confusing discovery of feelings for James.

When I left, James and I both were wondering if we could possibly ever make the relationship work again. However, he lives in another country. I feel like it was a miracle that we reconnected, but overcoming our geographical differences seems both scary and nearly impossible.

Also, I'm crazy about Luke. He makes me laugh, he's incredibly thoughtful and kind, and our physical connection is impressive.

Clearly, I do not want to stay in a situation where either man, or I, could get hurt (more than may already happen). Does it seem ridiculous to see where the old flame goes? Or should I stick it out with the new man who has so much potential?

– Lucky but Lost, Boston

A: Stay with Luke, LBL. James sounds great, but I'm pretty sure that you only fell for him this time around because you were on a big, awesome, foreign vacation. You returned to the place where you attended grad school and you regressed.

Something tells me that if you lived in the same city as James and had to balance your relationship with everyday stresses, you'd begin to long for someone like Luke, and James would become your ex all over again.

You're crazy about Luke and you used the word "impressive" to describe your physical relationship. He's your real-world guy, the man who found his way into the life you've chosen for yourself.

Old flames don't always go out. Sometimes they flicker forever and we're forced to wonder about the what-ifs. But please don't let your what-ifs distract you from the present and all that Luke has done to earn his place in your world. I'm not saying he'll turn out to be your life partner, but he deserves a real shot.

My guess is that in a few more weeks, the James angst will fade away like summer vacation. Refrain from talking to him (you're in an exclusive relationship, right?) and focus on the now.

Readers? Should she let Luke go? Are her feelings for James legit? Do they mean that she's not as into Luke as she says she is? If she stays with Luke, can she talk to James? Should she drop them both? Help.

– Meredith

They won't initiate the breakup

Posted by Meredith Goldstein August 24, 2012 08:35 AM

Q: Dear Meredith,

I am a woman in my early 30s. I started dating this year after my marriage to my high school boyfriend ended and I have never really experienced dating before now. So far, I have only dated people from online dating websites. I have met some really nice guys with whom there just wasn't a connection and I have also met some real losers. The problem comes from the guys in the middle. I will start dating a seemingly great guy who says he is interested and then seems to lose interest without ever telling me. Just to be clear, I'm not talking about the guys I go out with once who I never hear from. It's the ones that act like they like me and I like them. Often, they act more interested than I would expect them to so early. For example, they will text me every day, talk about future plans like meeting friends and parents, call me baby or honey, or in some cases even discuss exclusivity very early.

Then I quickly start getting the hint that they have changed their mind or lost interest. For example, they stop initiating calls/texts, they cancel planned dates, they stop using their pet name for me, they say they are too busy to hang out when I suggest something, or when I do see them they don't act happy to see me and don't initiate kisses or hand holding anymore. They never tell me that they don't want to see me anymore. Eventually I either have to pull it out of them, end things myself, or just stop contacting them.

I think of myself as an intelligent person, but I also give people the benefit of the doubt, so I usually believe that they are "really busy" or "too tired" a few times before I get the hint. In the end, I find myself feeling like a fool on top of the disappointment of finding out that someone I liked didn't like me back. I've only gotten to the physical relationship stage with one of them and it hurt a lot to get there and then have him lose interest fast. What's worse is that he stayed with me for weeks afterwards until I finally confronted him and forced him to admit that he really didn't want to be with me anymore. He said that he didn't tell me earlier because he was afraid to hurt me since I had been hurt so much when my marriage ended. That's what he said, but getting cut loose would have hurt a lot less than the weeks of trying to figure out what was happening. I'm pretty cautious now and I don't want to move forward physically unless I feel like the guy actually likes me. So far, I haven't found one because they all start strong and then disappear, so to speak.

I'm not a model by any measure, but I'm an average-looking, nice, sweet person with a great, stable career; amazing friends and family; hobbies; a decent sense of humor; and interesting things to talk about. Most of the guys I am talking about don't have as much education as I do or don't make much money, but they have all been intelligent, interesting guys that I was excited about. They have told me that their past girlfriends were volatile, irresponsible, or just really immature, and have mentioned that they are happy to be dating someone who is responsible and communicates like an adult for a change. I'm starting to wonder if guys want to like me more than they actually do because on paper I seem to be the right kind of girl, but then they realize that I'm not really what they want.

Whatever their reason for losing interest, why don't they just come clean? I'm interested in hearing from you and your readers. Are guys just afraid to be honest because they don't want to hurt me? Are they just cowards who want to avoid an uncomfortable situation hoping it will just go away?

– Feeling Foolish in Boston

A: It's not just a guy thing, FFIB. No one wants to end a relationship if it means hurting a nice person. It takes maturity to get a breakup done right.

I don't know why you've had this run of passive relationships. Maybe it's just bad luck. Maybe it has something to do with how these guys are responding to your past. Regardless, all you can do about it is to look for signs and take things slow. Pet names are kind of unnecessary after a few months, right? Do you really want one so soon?

Also consider that some of these guys might not know what they want. They could be taking their time with the breakup because they're still thinking about what comes next. I get the sense that your suitors are not very self-aware about their needs. You might know it's over before they do.

The bottom line is that dating is strange (sometimes in a good way, I promise). If you're having this much trouble after just starting the process, you're probably doing it right. You'll eventually date some assertive people. Maybe there will be a passive guy who falls madly in love with you for all the right reasons.

You just have to keep going and remember that this isn't a guy thing. It's a human thing. And humans are weird.

Readers? Is it a male thing -- to wait out a breakup so that the other person delivers the bad news? Is this about online dating? Is she allowing these relationships to move too quickly? Is her past relevant? Advise.

– Meredith

Should I forgive him? (And I'm pregnant.)

Posted by Meredith Goldstein August 14, 2012 08:35 AM

Q: Dear Meredith,

Two years ago I started dating for the first time since my divorce. It had been 5 years, so I figured it was time to try and get into a relationship. I met my neighbor who was undergoing a separation, we talked, shared stories, and our children got along really well. We kept a very healthy friendship until things started to change, and then about eight months later we were into a relationship. The first few months were great. But once the honeymoon phase wore off, he started the drama with his ex. He made me feel like he was comparing me to her. We were not heading down a healthy road.

I told him that we should end things, and he kept coming back and saying that he could change. So I did. I took him back. I must admit that he did change and that the drama seemed to cool off. But a few months later, he grew distant and was not as invested in the relationship. I felt like there was no emotional connection. He did some things that really hurt me emotionally, and once again I let him go so he could figure things out. Once again, he came back, and I forgave him.

Now, a year-and-a-half later, I am expecting his child, and I just discovered a long-distance affair that ended just a few months ago. The affair was with an old childhood sweetheart. He had the affair for 10 months. When I confronted him about it, he claimed that she was just a friend, and that she did favors for his business. He trusted her with all his heart, and he just was being appreciative to her. I understand that people can have some communication with exes, but not with the intensity or with the attention he was giving her. He would say things like, "Call me, I want to hear your voice," or "I love you and don't forget that." He would basically be in touch with her every other day during the hours I was not around. I feel hurt and stuck in a position where I wished none of this were happening.

He did end the affair two months ago, prior to me getting pregnant. Should I let this go? Or shall I just forgive him and try to start all over again now that we are expecting a baby?

– What's Next, Boston

A: Your relationship with this man has been unsatisfying and turbulent, WN. He's behaved for a few months at a time, but he always comes up short. He might be capable of more, but you can't focus on the what-ifs right now. Your first priority has to be your own comfort. It's time to set up a stable life for yourself that allows you to focus on this child instead of your boyfriend's emotional inconsistencies.

You need to find a nice, warm place where you can raise your children on your own. You can keep the boyfriend nearby -- he's going to be involved in this plan no matter what -- but you don't have to live with him. You also don't have to try to start over with him. There are no do-overs in relationships. Not really. All we can do is move forward.

Get your family and friends together and ask them to help you create this new home. Then talk to your boyfriend about how you'll raise this child together. Make sure that your discussion is about the child, not your romantic relationship. Because as I see it, the romantic relationship has been over for a long time.

Readers? Should she give him another chance because of the baby? What happened here? What about the affair? Help.

– Meredith

Do cheats ever end well?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein August 13, 2012 08:34 AM

Make sure you read Friday's updates.

Q: Dear Meredith,

I know this is not going to go over well with the readers, but here it goes:

I am having a purely sexual affair with a co-worker. We are both late 30s, in decade-long unhappy marriages. We do not report to one another. Neither of us wants a "real" relationship, and neither knows whether our marriages will work out. We have been sleeping together for around a year, probably about once a month. We are very discreet, do not go out in public together, and only get together on business trips.

Either one of us can walk away and decide to fully commit to our marriage (This is not the typical "will he ever leave his wife for me?" situation). Alternately, if either one of us divorces and wants to start dating someone for real, it would also end our affair. We both have eyes wide open that this is a short-term fling and that we are in no way meant to be together.

Love Letters is generally filled with tales of woe from the cheated-upon -- hurting spouses, suspicious fiancés, etc. I am not trying to justify my behavior. I am not looking for people to condemn it, nor to tell me it is OK. Here are my questions:

Do you know of anyone who has had an affair that ended WELL? Has anyone had an affair and been able to salvage their marriage? Has anyone had a long-term "background" affair that didn't affect their marriage either way?

I guess I'm just looking for some insight as to how this might end...

– Am I kidding myself?, South Shore

A: To answer your first two questions, yes, many couples bounce back from affairs. Some couples come out stronger after dealing with a betrayal. It's possible, but it's certainly not a guarantee. It takes work, honesty, and the desire to stay together.

To answer your last question, no, you can't have an affair without it affecting your marriage. It's going to change your relationship even if you're the only one who knows about it.

You don't seem to want advice or to be scolded, AIKM, but … too bad. Here it goes:

If you're a Love Letters reader, you know that many of my letters come from people who are desperate to figure out whether their partners are cheating. These letter writers feel frantic and hopeless. They feel alone. How do you feel when you read their letters? Do you have empathy?

I won't make assumptions about your partner -- for all I know, your spouse is cheating too -- but I will say that for every month you continue this "background" affair, you're putting off the most important thing in your world: your unhappy marriage. Isn't it time to address your problems? Isn't it time to figure out what to do next?

If you can't stop cheating out of respect for your spouse, please stop for yourself. Because you're wasting your own time. You have questions to answer. This is no time to stall.

This affair is standing in the way of everyone's happiness. You will regret dragging this out. Stop kidding yourself and start dealing with reality.

Readers? Do affairs always end marriages? What can you tell this letter writer? What would the letter writer's partner say?

– Meredith

He's angry that I dated other people

Posted by Meredith Goldstein August 7, 2012 08:25 AM

Q: I am in my mid 20s and a young professional. "Jack" is 25. We both live in Boston. Last fall, after five years together, Jack dumped me. It wasn't completely out of the blue. We had been unhappy for a while but it didn't hurt any less. When he broke up with me, he was very final, he said his goodbyes, ignored my pleas to work out our differences, and stopped answering my calls and texts. During the early break-up stages, I had a major family emergency. Naturally I reached out to him for support, but he was not there to help. I had no choice but to pick up the pieces of my life and enjoy being in my early 20s in the city.

Fast forward to the spring. After almost six months of not speaking, Jack worked his way back into my life. I had never stopped loving or caring for him and although I was hurt by his inability to try to push through our faults, I realized that the time apart had been the best thing for us. I couldn't have been happier that he wanted to give it another go.

The inevitable catch is that Jack is very conservative, and when we were getting back together he made a very bold statement that if I had "dated" or "been with" anyone while we were apart, he wouldn't be able to be with me. I attempted the response of "we weren't together so I'm not talking about it," but he refused to accept that as an answer. So I did what I thought was right and went with the "what he doesn't know won't hurt him" strategy. Although he really pushed the issue and begged for my honesty, I flat out lied to his face when he asked me if there had been anyone else. I wanted him back so badly that I truly didn't feel like I had a choice.

Last Saturday night, after four months of bliss and far too many cocktails, he brought up that he had heard I was lying about what had happened during our time apart. I reluctantly confessed that I had lied and that there had been other people.

To say he flipped out would be an understatement. I was called every name in the book, my belongings were dropped off at my house, and I have been getting seething and hurtful texts ever since. I don't know if he is more mad about the lying (an admitted mistake on my part) or about what I did. I think both. But he has called it quits AGAIN. I told him that adults don't just walk away from relationships, they work through problems, but he has stated that he doesn't think that he can ever trust me again and would never want to be intimate now that he knows I have been with other people.

I want to be with him more than anything, but after his recent proclamations about not being able to forgive me, I am not sure where to go from this point. Do I continue my apologies and pleas or do I walk away for a final time?

– Reluctantly in love, Boston

A: If you have to lie to maintain a relationship, it's probably not a relationship worth having, RIL. Had you written to Love Letters four months ago, I would have told you not to get back together with this guy.

He had no right to expect you to stay out of the dating game after he bailed on you. You say that he's "conservative," but he sounds selfish and irrational.

If he was worried about his health, he could have asked you to take an STD test. His real concern has been his own weird definition of purity and your commitment to him when he wasn't committed to you.

You say that you want to be with him more than anything, but he hasn't earned that loyalty. He ditched you, made irrational demands, and then ditched you again. This relationship isn't worth saving.

My advice? Let this go. Allow yourself to get angry. Yes, you messed up by lying (please, never do that again), but he made mistakes too. Unless this guy acknowledges that he also owes you a serious apology, it's over.

Readers? Who's at fault here? Does he have the right to be angry? Does she? Is there something worth saving? Help.

– Meredith

I don't want him to be the one that got away

Posted by Meredith Goldstein August 1, 2012 06:53 AM

It's chat day.

Q: Dear Meredith,

I met this wonderful guy at the end of last year and he's fantastic. He's sweet, attentive, and when I'm with him I feel like the luckiest person in the world to have met someone as kind and generous as he is.

Although I have been single and dating a fair amount over the last four years, I hadn't met anyone until him who I could see myself with long term. Unfortunately, things got bad for this guy in his personal life with the stress of his work, not being where he wanted to be in his career, and the constant worry of potentially losing his job altogether. I started to notice that the stress of his career was starting to change his mood and that he became more distant and less engaged when we were together, but I still didn't think anything of it. I finally got to the point where I was frustrated. He stopped making plans with me and we started seeing each other less and less, although he still contacted me on a daily basis to check in every day. I finally told him I was upset that he wasn't making time for me anymore. He told me that he couldn't be in a relationship with anyone right now. He said that he thought that he could be, but that he was in a depressed state and needed to focus on finding a new job. I was devastated but I told him I still wanted to be friends and he agreed.

I think about this man almost every day and although we have had some conversations here and there, we haven't seen each other since this happened. I decided to reach out to him recently and we chatted for a couple of hours talking about where we were and what we have been up to. I told him that I was still single and hinted that it can be lonely sometimes. I was hoping deep down that he would pick up on my hints and ask if I wanted to meet up, but nothing came of it. It was just that, a friendly conversation. I never told him I still had feelings for him but I do.

Do you think this is worth pursuing? Should I tell him I still care for him very much or wait it out and see if he comes back around? I do think he still cares for me very much and that it's simply a timing issue, but I don't know what to do because although I've dated others, he's still the "one that got away" in my mind. I haven't stopped dating and I lead a very active life filled with friends, family, traveling, exercise, and a good career, but that doesn't fill the void. Help!

– Can't Stop Thinking About Him, Boston

A: Leave him alone for your own good, CSTAH. He knows your number. He also knows that you called him. You've made it clear that you're available. You gave him an opening. That's all you can do.

I'm not convinced that this was about work stress. His job probably influenced his decision to let you go, but at the end of the day, if you want to see someone, you do. He's had many opportunities to reach out, even as a friend, but he hasn't taken them. You need someone who doesn't shut you out when life gets uncomfortable. You're ready for a real relationship and he just isn't.

He's not the one that got away. He's the guy who ran away. There's a big difference.

Please keep dating. You can remember all of the great things about him, but please, don't forget the most significant moment in your relationship, when he chose to bail on you.

The first sentence of this letter is in the present tense. Put it in the past.

Readers? Should she tell him she's still interested? Is he the one that got away? Work stress? What's happening here? Discuss.

– Meredith

Do I have to cut her off?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein July 31, 2012 08:36 AM

Q: Hi Meredith,

I need some breakup advice. I am in my early 30s and ending my three-year relationship with my late-20s girlfriend. This is by far the most serious romantic relationship of my lifetime and even though I love her very much, we aren't very good at being together. We have had numerous breakups over the years, including a seven month breakup last year before reuniting for "one last chance."

One last chance lasted a couple of months before we settled back into our pattern of constant arguing. It all came to a head last week, which is when we made the mutual decision for her to move out of my apartment after a month of living together.

My mind is made up and although it's extremely difficult and sad, I know we need to split up. She is less sure and here is where my problem lies. The number of healthy relationships in her life is much smaller than mine. Her family hasn't been supportive of her, and her friends have never been very compassionate people. The closest she had come to being part of a functional family has been with mine. I am in a much different situation with the most loving and supportive family and friends anyone could ever ask for. She has told me that her entire support system is me, and I know that it's true. I feel terrible and have tried to be as helpful as possible during this process, but it has it's been a challenge.

She texts and calls multiple times a day alternating between anger, acceptance, making me feel guilty, and apologizing. I have agreed to help her move as I have a truck and am not sure there is anyone else that can/will help her. That much I am committed to. I want to be there for her when she needs me, but I feel like I may be doing her a disservice by being available to her.

The last time we broke up, I had to cut off all communication and be the bad guy, but she had a better support system that time. This time, we have both acknowledged that it feels different and that we would like to maintain contact in some way in the future (even though I have been clear that it would never be in a romantic capacity).

Is that a bad idea? Am I hurting the situation more than helping by answering her calls and texts? I want to do right by her and right now it isn't easy to see what the right thing is.

– Trying to be a Good Guy, Mass.

A: Move her out of your place and then give her indefinite space, TTBAGG. Once she's gone, there's no real need for calls and texts -- unless she forgot something at your apartment.

It's possible that you guys have what it takes to be pals in the future, but it's way too soon to think about that. She needs to start a new life without you. She won't be able to move on if she's leaning on you for support.

Give her some guidelines so that she's not blindsided by your sudden disappearance. Explain to her that you're going to leave her alone so that you're not in her way. Make sure she understands that you also need the distance. It's confusing to be around a recent ex. It hurts. You want her to start a new life, but you don't want to have to watch. At least not yet. You can revisit this issue in the future, but you have to focus on your present.

You don't have to erase her phone number and pretend that you don't know her, but you do have to move her out and start treating her like an ex. It'll be painful, but that's the point. It's a breakup. So go away. That's the nicest thing you can do.

Readers? Should they be in touch at all? What about her lack of support system? What should he do? Help.

– Meredith

She took a step back ... and disappeared

Posted by Meredith Goldstein July 24, 2012 08:15 AM

As I mentioned yesterday, it's Commonwealth Shakespeare Company week at Love Letters.

Actors from this summer's Free Shakespeare on the Common production of "Coriolanus" -- which starts Wednesday -- have taken a week's worth of letters and interpreted them as monologues on video.

Today's letter will be performed by Brough Hansen, also known as First Citizen in "Coriolanus." The original letter and my answer are below.

Q: Up until recently I was dating the girl I thought I would marry. When I look at her I see a future, kids, and a white picket fence. Basically all the things I was never sure I wanted throughout my 20s.

Things were going great for a year and a half and we decided to move closer to one another. At first she was going to move to Boston because I was working up here and planning on going back to school. Then I got laid off and we decided that I should move to her city.

I thought things were going well, but then we got into a small fight about some of the logistics of moving. I thought we had gotten past it. Then she got really distant.

Then she called one night and said that she had taken a step back after the fight and just couldn't get back to where she was before, leaving me lost, confused and any number of other things. This is going to sound stupid but I think it hurt the most when she de-friended me on Facebook.

I just feel like I will get no closure and that the best thing that ever happened to me walked out of my life with almost no explanation.

– Far From Her and Far From OK, Boston

A: How awful, FFHAFFOK. I don't believe in closure, but I do believe in answers. Girlfriends aren't supposed to "take a step back" and then just disappear without explanation. How cowardly.

She hasn't left you many options. You have no choice but to move on without an answer. My guess is that she'll eventually reach out to make herself feel better, but please, don't forget how this felt. Don't forget how she left you.

Mourn her, stay close to friends, and start a life without her. That's all you can do. She wasn't the best thing that ever happened to you. Best things stick around. Best things certainly don't walk away after a small fight.

As you deal with this, be thankful that you now know what you want for your future. Your desire to partner up and settle down was about you, not her. Keep that in mind as you move forward.

Readers? Is she going to come back? Should he talk to her if she calls at this point? Can you help him with the closure situation? What happened here? And what about the Facebook thing? Help.

– Meredith

I want to end this relationship

Posted by Meredith Goldstein July 20, 2012 06:47 AM

Q: I'm an artist in a relationship with a very linear-thinking man. I'm something of a tree-hugging hippy, while he's extremely technically minded, logically based, and acts more like a computer than a person sometimes. He's sort of a grumpy-old-man Spock in a 20-something's body. We're both very introverted.

My boyfriend is a very sweet man and he always means well, but he handles our relationship clumsily. Our sex life is awkward and frequently one-sided (though in his defense, he really tries). He doesn't really understand how my brain works or why I'm such an emotional creature. He doesn't catch unspoken signals or body-language AT ALL, which is a huge problem for me.

We've been together for about 3 years. Things started going downhill for us as we neared our second anniversary.

My boyfriend was moving back to my city after living about an hour away for the duration of the relationship up to that point. I was excited to have him closer and suggested that we move in together since we were spending all our free time at each other's houses already. I thought we were ready, especially after almost 2 years. He balked and made excuses for why we couldn't do it, citing money, time, parking, etc. I eventually realized that he just didn't want to but was afraid to tell me so, so I backed off and tried not to take it personally.

That lasted for about 6 months, but I eventually got tired of spending all my time at his new place and still paying rent at my house (and never seeing my cat), so I offered him a choice: either I move in or I stop coming over more than once a week. Eventually, he agreed to my moving in.

Living together in a one-bedroom apartment only made things worse. (I will go ahead and admit here that I was probably wrong about us being able to live together in a 600-square-foot apartment with a cat and a ton of stuff crammed into it for very long.)

We bickered a lot and started to disconnect from each other. After a while, I realized that I relished times when he was out of the house and I didn't have to interact with him. I started resenting him touching me all the time and pushed him away when he tried to snuggle or kiss me.

My boyfriend recently bought a house in a nice neighborhood not far from where our apartment was. He already wanted to buy a house in the area and we REALLY needed to live somewhere with more breathing room.

We moved into it in the spring and things have become less tense, but now they just feel empty. I've kept busy fixing up the house, painting, etc., but I feel like real damage was done to the relationship during those very compressed months, and I have no idea how to fix it.

We've discussed the problems and we've tried very hard to bridge the gaps and devise strategies to connect again, but nothing works. I feel like there's a big sheet of Plexiglass between us at all times. I can see him, but I can't really reach him. More than that, I've started to question if I WANT to reach him. We never had a lot in common, and lately we have even less.

My boyfriend is a good person and I don't want either of us to suffer if we don't have to. I know he'd be upset if I left him, but I feel like I'm unintentionally leading him on, and I know he could find someone better suited to him than I am. Whether or not he'd actually look for someone ... I have no idea. I pursued him when our relationship began, and I am the only woman he's ever dated long term.

My question boils down to this: Is there anything we can do to bridge this gap, or is it time to cut our collective losses and part ways?

Please help me out. I don't want either of us to get hurt.

– CatLady, Michigan

A: Get out, CatLady. You don't want to be with him anymore. You don't want to touch him anymore. You're sticking around because you feel guilty, but you just can't prevent the hurt. It's unavoidable.

You're strong enough for a fresh start. So is he. You say that he can't perceive body language and that he doesn't understand your brain, but he obviously knows that something is missing. He seems to understand that the love is gone. You can't protect him from this.

You've tried so hard, but the Plexiglass sounds permanent. And for the record, based on what you've told us, this relationship was pretty doomed even before you moved into the small place. You don't communicate well and he's just not what you want for the future. You need so much more.

I feel claustrophobic just reading about the atmosphere in your house. Free yourself, please. You're allowed.

Readers? Is she asking for too much? Was it the small apartment that killed the relationship? Why didn't he want to move in to begin with? Is there anything to save here? How should she tell him? Discuss.

– Meredith

I don't want to meet his ex

Posted by Meredith Goldstein July 16, 2012 08:30 AM

A reminder: I'm looking for updates from former letter writers. Send them to meregoldstein at gmail dot com with "UPDATE" in the subject line. Email me from the same account that you used the first time around so I know it's really you.

Q: Dear Meredith,

My boyfriend (I'll call him Drew) and I are in love and beginning to talk seriously about a future together. I'm in my late 30s and he's in his mid-40s, so we're both older and approaching this with significant past relationship experience and a clear sense of what we want.

We're good at talking things out, and we know how to communicate and compromise. However, one recent issue seems likely to resurface -- how Drew can maintain his friendship with a longtime ex-girlfriend in a way that doesn't interfere with our relationship.

Although it generally hasn't been my experience, I completely understand that many people maintain comfortable platonic friendships with exes, and I have no concerns about Drew's intentions with any of his. Despite Drew's good intentions, and despite my being open and comfortable meeting any of the others, everything I learn about this particular ex (I'll call her Suzanne) gives me reservation.

In Drew's words, he and Suzanne bonded to provide each other support for their extremely difficult young adult lives. They lived together throughout their 20s and into their early 30s, and despite being highly intelligent and well educated, both were socially and emotionally restricted, and also severely clinically depressed, Suzanne to the point of attempting (or gesturing) suicide.

Drew has since worked on his past and grown into an accomplished, stable person. Suzanne, although now married, is still troubled and has "serious limitations" (his words).
What got me thinking and prompted this letter is overhearing the nature of a recent phone call. Instead of casual conversation about their lives, the tone seemed emotionally entangled, with Drew in the role of constantly offering reassurances: Yes, they're "different" when it comes to their friendship, and although neither he nor I have ever felt happier with a partner, he of course "was very happy when he was with [her]," and, yes, I do realize "how important [she] is to [him]." Is this normal behavior?

Drew keeps in touch with Suzanne by occasional emails and phone calls, and he meets her for lunch once or twice a year when he visits Massachusetts, which seems within the bounds of appropriate behavior. I'll be going with him to Mass. later this summer, and although he asked me to meet Suzanne, I said I'd rather not. He understood, and he realizes that I don't want this connection to become a part of our life together.

I feel deeply loved and secure in our relationship. Drew says I mean everything to him, and without my asking, he offered to not have lunch with Suzanne. I said I wouldn't mind his doing so, and I meant it. No matter what their dynamic, meeting up once or twice a year to catch up isn't much, and I don't believe it's right for me to insist he cut contact with someone whom he shares history with and still cares about.

That said, is it rude for me to want no contact with Suzanne? Is his offer to cancel their lunch an appropriate thing for him to do? What boundaries should their relationship maintain so that it doesn't interfere with our relationship, especially if we end up getting married and having a family? Most importantly, is it right for me to ask that he keep personal details about me and our life together out of their conversations (this would upset me)?

What seems reasonable here? Looking forward to the perspectives of you and your readers.

– Trouble with his ex, Out of State

A: It's absolutely appropriate for you to stay away from this woman, TWHE. You're setting boundaries and trying to keep things healthy. There's nothing rude about your attitude. You're just being honest and smart. Good for you.

I do wonder whether Drew needs some help setting his own boundaries. He offered to skip lunch with this woman. Perhaps that was his way of admitting that he doesn't want to see her. Perhaps he was hoping that you'd set some rules for him. Those phone calls sound exhausting. He doesn't seem to have a way out. You might want to ask him what he wants from their platonic relationship and how his occasional interaction with her affects his head. Something tells me that he'd love to talk to her even less than he does now.

You've been so understanding when it comes to this woman. Your boundaries are fair. Your only job now is to talk to Drew about his own needs and what he wants this situation to look like in five or ten years. Help him come up with a plan. Figure this out as a couple.

Readers? Should she want to meet the ex? Should he have asked her to? How do you distance yourself from a needy ex? What about her marriage? Am I right to say that Drew's offer to skip lunch might have been a cry for help? Discuss.

– Meredith

I lost her ... again

Posted by Meredith Goldstein July 13, 2012 07:45 AM

Q: Meredith,

I am 45 and single, have never been married, and have no kids. Recently I reconnected with someone I had been very seriously involved with almost 15 years ago. She and I were coworkers when we met but lived in separate states. For two years we spoke by phone on a very regular basis on a professional level. She had to make occasional trips to my location, so we became friends. She had a young son and had been in the process of a divorce. During one of her trips to my location, we were able to spend time together and the relationship became personal.

After about three months, she asked to be transferred to my office. I knew that I wanted to marry her, but after her relocation with her son (who I had never met), she had issues with custody. Things got complicated and I got cold feet. I made the tragic mistake of telling her that I wanted to slow things down.

This hurt her terribly and damaged our relationship. Things suddenly became chilled, and within a few weeks I saw her walking out the door for lunch with another coworker. Long story short, our relationship deteriorated, we ended things, and she wound up marrying this other man. I left the company and went on to have another relationship that lasted for 8 years.

Fast forward to this spring. I needed to make some changes to my 401K and found myself having to contact my previous employer's corporate office. When I had the specialist on the phone, I asked her about some former coworkers and suddenly my ex came to mind. When I mentioned her by first name only, the specialist replied with her maiden name. Obviously she had gotten divorced from the aforementioned co-worker and I asked to speak with her.

We started emailing and visiting each other. We discussed making a life together and we both apologized for hurting each other so long ago. It was very special. I cannot remember having felt this way in so long -- to truly care about somebody, be so attracted to them, feel confident that they too want to make a future, and to also have a chance to correct the past.

But when I went to visit her a few weeks ago, things went wrong. I'm going through some career issues so I'm not at my best. We spent time with her friends and it didn't go well. We had trouble sharing the same space. I wound up leaving a day early because of weather. I knew that the chemistry felt off.

We spoke once briefly about an hour after I left and I tried to reaffirm my feelings and explain to her that I was willing to do anything to make this work this time. That's the last time we spoke. We went from speaking every day for a month and now nothing.

I've tried to contact her many times and have left messages to reassure her of how I feel. Flaws or no flaws, I know that I love her and that we were meant to be together. We've already lost so much time and at 45, I'm just not up for games. I'm making a big move for work soon and she had told me that she wanted to join me. I have no idea what's going on in her head. If she calls at this point, I can't say I'll be that excited to hearing from her.

– Déjà vu, Chapel Hill, NC

A: Move away. Go. This woman isn't your soul mate. She's just someone from your past. I'm not convinced that you guys ever had what it takes to sustain a relationship in person.

My big issue with your history (Part 1 and Part 2) is that you rushed it. You decided that you wanted to marry her before she was even living nearby. You hadn't even met her child. You didn't know her well enough to make any big promises.

And when you reconnected the second time around, you both jumped to more conclusions. You committed right off the bat. She told you that she wanted to move with you and make a life together. After just a few visits? That's a huge step, especially for someone with a kid.

After you get settled in your new home, I want you to date local. Get to know someone well before you commit. Don't rush it. Don't romanticize the unknown.

I understand that you're stressed about being 45 and single, but don't let that cloud your brain. You'll just wind up in a mess.

If/when she calls, just let yourself say goodbye.

Readers? Should I be more optimistic about this relationship? Will she come around? Any potential here? Thoughts about her? Advice for him? What should he say when she calls? Discuss.

– Meredith

He didn't love me enough

Posted by Meredith Goldstein July 12, 2012 08:22 AM

Q: I had been with my boyfriend for 2.5 years before he dumped me unceremoniously and out of the blue a few weeks ago (we're both 25 and have both been in serious relationships prior to this one). I was (and am) devastated. I love him with all my heart, and I thought he was the one. He told me he felt the same way. When he broke up with me, his reasons ranged from "I'm not good enough for you" to "I don't love you like I used to." I'm assuming the latter is his real reason and the rest were designed to soften the blow/his guilt.

Background: This has happened before, and when he asked for me back, he promised to be more committed, to love me like no one else could, and to make an effort when things got rough instead of running away.

Looking back, perhaps I can see signs that he didn't love me as much as I loved him. He was no longer as excited to see me as I was to see him, he lost interest in investing time, energy or money into our relationship, and I didn't feel like a priority. I attributed these things to normal post-honeymoon stage settling down and typical 25-year-old guy behavior. The good outweighed the bad by a longshot. We were partners in everything we did, we were in contact 24/7 and saw each other as often as we could, and shared a sense of humor I doubt I'll be able to find in anyone else.

What I need help with is this: How do you face rejection from the person who means more to you than anyone else? I was not enough to keep his love. How do I stop that fact from breaking my confidence completely? Mentally I can find no way around the fact that I love him to death, but he doesn’t even want to talk to me (don't worry, I haven't contacted him since the breakup). People keep telling me we just weren't a good fit, but the fact that I thought he was fantastic makes me feel like I was the one who didn’t fit. I have hobbies, good friends, a good job, a handful of a dog, and though I don't bike, I have a love for marathoning.

Even with all these distractions, though, I still feel like each day is something to get through. I know I shouldn't, but I use hopes that he'll come back to push down thoughts of him finding someone else and forgetting about me. I almost don't want to get over it. I feel defective, but the sense of loss has sucked all the joy out of my life, and the guilt of anything that I might have done wrong is all I can think about. Am I an over-emotional drama queen in need of major therapy? How do I become the kind of girl who doesn't need anyone, who can brush this kind of thing off and move on?

– Unloved, Somerville

A: You are not a drama queen. There is nothing wrong with you. This is supposed to be awful. It's supposed to feel like you're wading through a pool of bricks.

He was your best friend. He loved you. He just didn't want to spend the rest of his life with you as your romantic partner. After dating you for more than two years, he realized that he had to let you go.

Believe me when I tell you that he misses you. He is in pain. He probably can't even explain to himself why you weren't right for him. He just knows that he had to move on.

Instead of trying to figure out what's wrong with you, I want you consider all that's right. You are so magnetic and fascinating that a guy in his early 20s couldn't stay away from you. And you weren't easy to leave. This guy could have bailed for good after the first break up, but he just couldn't let go of your awesomeness.

He's always going to love you, even if he doesn't want to be with you. You're the woman he'll Google at 4 a.m. when he can't sleep. You're the one he'll ask about.

Meanwhile, you're still magnetic. You're still you. When you're ready, you'll get to share all of your awesome traits with the rest of the world -- and maybe somebody new.

It does get better. And you will find someone with a great sense of humor. Just stop making this about you. It's about your ex. And now you don't have to deal with him.

Readers? Is this about what's wrong with her? How can she make this about him? What will help her get over this? Can you give her some perspective? Help.

– Meredith

How can we fix this?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein July 10, 2012 09:00 AM

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.

– Meredith

What am I doing wrong?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein July 5, 2012 08:40 AM

There was a letter yesterday ...

Q: Hi Meredith,

This is a stupid question, but I guess I'm a little stupid in the dating area.

I'm in my mid-20s and have been divorced for about a year. I got married young to a recovering addict who relapsed in a big way. I tried to honor my vows but eventually the betrayals and threats of violence were too much and I ended it.

Since getting divorced, I have dated a bit. One guy was in the area for work for a few months. He was nice and cute and we had fun pajama parties, but then he told me about his wife and kid back home. Oh well.

One guy was extremely smart (which is a big deal for me) and liked to do a lot of the same things I do, but about a month into the relationship he told me he wasn't falling for me, and then spent the next five months using me as his backup girl while he looked for someone better. Yes, I know, I'm equally at fault for allowing him to treat me in such a manner. Believe me, I'm more angry at myself for letting that happen than I am at him for doing it.

Other than that, there have been a few dates that just didn't spark. I'm signed up for some dating sites, everything from the paid "we will serve your soul mate up on a silver platter" kind to the free kind that many people just use to find NSA fun times. The former sends me a bunch of people who live in Michigan (I guess they think MI is only 60 miles from NH?), which is unhelpful. The latter sends a stream of either unemployed or unambitious boys who want a one-night stand, or desperate nerds who can't get out of their own way long enough to carry a conversation. I know I sound like a witch, but I'm not interested in a one-night stand and while I want someone who can teach me new things, he needs to be at least as interested in what I have to say as he is in hearing his own voice. I have tried the old stand-by, going to bars, but I feel like I'm invisible.

I'm beginning to think it's me. I am not Barbie but I am an attractive girl. I do not bring up my ex the second I meet someone (although I won't lie to someone who asks me if I've been married). I am intelligent and funny, I have had many interesting experiences, and even though I sound like a princess in this letter, I am genuinely interested in the thoughts and opinions of other people. I just want someone who is interesting and intelligent, reasonably attractive, can take care of himself financially and emotionally, is attracted to me, and cares about me. It doesn't seem like too much to ask.

So what's the deal, Mer? Is love a myth? How can I regain my confidence in it if I can't even find the smallest beginning of a little tiny spark of it anywhere? I am happy, I love my friends, my career is going well, I'm going back to school soon, and I feel good about who I am. My mom says that's all too intimidating for men, but I disagree. I think confident men are attracted to confident women. I don't expect Prince Charming to sweep me off my feet, but some cute guy offering to buy me a drink would be nice. So where is that guy?

– Am I a Lost Cause, New Hampshire

A: You've only been divorced for a year, AIALC. And in that year you've had good dates, bad dates, an affair, and a not-so-great relationship. You're doing just fine. Better than fine.

It's supposed to take longer than a year to find someone fabulous. You're supposed to have some awkward experiences and life lessons. I'm sure your single friends will tell you that all of this is normal. Did you really expect to be in a serious relationship within months of the divorce?

I do empathize with your situation, of course. It's tough to be alone and frustrating to have bad dates. It can feel hopeless. But it's not, I swear.

You're outgoing. You take risks. You're about to go back to school. You've surrounded yourself with a good group of friends. Your life is going to continue to change for the better. You just have to be patient and realistic.

And please have a friend check your online dating profiles to make sure that you've registered correctly. Because … Michigan?

Readers? Michigan? Is she asking for too much? Should she have a spark with someone within a year of her divorce? Can you give her some reality without depressing her? What should she be doing to improve her situation? Is the ex relevant? Help.

– Meredith

Am I too controlling?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein July 3, 2012 08:38 AM

Q: I'm a guy and in my early 20s. I'm educated and have a great career, and by most accounts I am an attractive person.

I've been seeing this girl for a few months but we have a history together. We dated for a while before. Let's just say I was immature when we first dated and we both had just gotten out of prior relationships, so it ended.

A few months ago we went out again and hit it off. That's kind of how we are. If we're together we have an amazing time. When we're not together, we're fine as well. She goes out, I go out, and at the end of the day, everything is fine. I am absolutely in love with her.

When we first started to hang out again, we were obviously seeing other people. During that time she was seeing a friend and he had asked her to come visit him. He had asked her to make this trip before she and I were back together. I was not OK with it, but she went anyway, which I understood. When she got back, she told me that they hooked up, etc. I couldn't see past what she had done. Then I realized she was free to do as she wanted. Eventually I got over it, and we began to talk again.

Fast forward to now and we're exclusive again. Due to our history, we can't exactly take things slow. We're together most of the week and talk whenever we aren't. Everything is pretty much all I could ask for and more. Except for one major issue. She still talks to this guy. He texts her all the time and she always texts him back. I tried to respect that maybe they are just friends until I found out (sort of on accident) that he talks to her in a manner that I would talk to someone I was interested in dating.

He has asked her to visit, which she obviously declined. My issue is that she never mentioned why she cannot visit him, or why it might be inappropriate for them to talk all the time. I feel like because of the distance, she thinks that I should not feel threatened by anything. My issue is that distance aside, I think there is something wrong with this.

At one point not too far back, I told her how I felt. I said that when she hooked up with him, it hurt me. After a bit of apprehension, she agreed that she should stop talking to him.

Fast forward to today and they are talking again. She lied to me about it at first, but then told me that I have nothing to worry about and that she cares about me more than anyone she has ever met. He has now asked her to Skype (seems trivial, I know) and I am not quite sure what she is going to do. She said she wouldn't, but she also said she would no longer speak to him.

I am kind of in a jam here. On one hand I know that nothing will ever develop between them. On the other hand I felt slighted. Is it fair of me to not be comfortable with their friendship, or am I being too controlling?

– In Limbo in Boston

A: You're not too controlling, ILIB. She's hurting you for no good reason. Sure, she's allowed to keep old friends, but this guy wants to be more than friends. She knows it. And she seems to like the drama. I mean, why else would you know about the whole Skype thing? I understand that she wants to be honest with you, but she keeps bringing him up. It's unnecessary.

She should be making responsible decisions about him on her own so that you don't have to know and stress about every little detail.

I want you to tell her that you're sick of talking about this guy. The whole issue has become boring, hasn't it? Let her know. You just want to focus on your own relationship.

See how it feels to take him out of the discussion. It should bring you relief, and it should empower her to figure out what she's doing and to behave like a grownup.

If it doesn't, and her actions continue to drive you up a wall, take a step back from this. You're both young and learning so many lessons. She's learning about her priorities. You're learning about boundaries. If those priorities and boundaries just don't match up without constant discussion about some guy in another state, you have to walk away. And that's OK. It doesn't mean that you did anything wrong. It just means that this isn't working.

Readers? What's happening here? Should he end this? Is he being too controlling? What's the other side of the story? Am I right to tell him to stop focusing on this guy to see what it's like with no drama? What should he do? Help.

– Meredith

She's having someone else's baby

Posted by Meredith Goldstein June 29, 2012 08:46 AM

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.

– Meredith

He can't spell

Posted by Meredith Goldstein June 28, 2012 08:41 AM

Q: I dated a guy five years ago for almost a year. I broke it off because I no longer found myself attracted to him and for some reason everything he did irritated me. However, we have stayed in touch over the years, talking at least once a month. Lately I have been spending time with him and find myself starting to have some of the old feelings from when I first met him.

My problem is that I can't seem to get over the fact that he can't spell. I find it a huge turnoff that every single text he sends me has misspelled words. It makes him look stupid, but I know he is not. He does have a form of dyslexia that I think contributes to this problem, but he refuses to even attempt to get help. He is also extremely socially awkward to the point that he embarrasses me.

I feel horrible saying all this because he is the kindest and most generous guy. I know he loves me and would do anything for me. He always has. I love being with him and he is my best friend. I don't want to hurt him again. We are about to go on a vacation together and I'm hoping my feelings will continue to get stronger. We both want a family and he would be a great father and family man. I just have trouble overlooking these problems.

Am I being too critical?

– Confused, Mass.

A: I'm so glad that someone finally wrote a letter about misspelled texts and emails. They can be quite a turnoff. We're so dependent on writing these days. It's a necessary skill, especially for people who are dating online.

Many people have asked me whether bad writing is a deal-breaker -- whether they're allowed to reject someone for putting an apostrophe in the wrong place or writing "there" instead of "their." I always tell those people to consider the spirit of the message as much as the writing style.

In your case, this isn't a new relationship and you understand the spirit of the messages. You know this guy well and you love him -- just not enough. You find him socially awkward and embarrassing. You want him to get help for a problem he doesn't want to fix. You're hoping that you can bring yourself to love him more, but it's just not happening naturally.

My advice? Take that vacation. Immerse yourself in him. It's a good way to figure out whether you can actually do more than just date this guy. Can you see yourself living with him? Do you want to see him every morning for the rest of your life? If the answer is the same as it was five years ago, bail as soon as you can. Better to break up with him than string him along. Just be prepared to really lose him this time. You'll need to find a real best friend.

Readers? Are you bothered by misspelled texts and emails? Does it matter more when you're online dating? Is spelling really the problem for this letter writer? Is there hope here? Is she being too critical? Help.

– Meredith

I'm not excited about marrying him

Posted by Meredith Goldstein June 27, 2012 08:42 AM

We chat at 1.

Q: Dear Meredith,

I'm 27, stuck, and am seriously hoping for some feedback.

I've been in a relationship for 10 years with a truly great person. He is kind, considerate, loving, etc. He always wants to be in my presence and constantly needs attention and to be taken care of. He is my best friend. He is also selfish, lazy, and angry at times, and finds it difficult to move past obstacles (fights, disagreements, etc). We have been engaged for a couple of years.

We met through mutual friends and hit it off. I was still in high school and had gone through some very bad experiences in my life that made it difficult to be around men in general, but we hung out a lot and had a lot in common. We were in a relationship for about five years and I started having second thoughts. I ended up breaking up with him. I couldn't give him a reason as to why I was breaking up. Within a week of us breaking up, he went out a found a replacement (I don't blame him for this).

My mistake was staying in touch with him. I wanted to be friends. I found out about this other girl and became afraid to lose him and spent a month trying to get him back. We got back together but he continued to see the other girl on occasion. I think he was trying to hurt me the way I hurt him.

Six months later he moved in and we have been living together since then. We lived together for about two years when he proposed, but I couldn't answer yes or no. I just cried. I am not sure I want to marry him. I am 100 percent sure that I need to figure myself out before wasting time and energy on a wedding.

Although I respect him greatly, I am not happy in the relationship. I do not know if love him the way I should. I definitely don't love him the way he loves me. And let me be a bit shallow here -- there is not much physical attraction either (maybe I'm just messed up in that department). I feel like I shouldn't complain. This guy took me back after I screwed up and I don't want to hurt him any more than I already have. Looking at the situation rationally, however, I am probably hurting him every day because I am sure what I am feeling comes though my daily actions.

I still care for the man, but he deserves much more. Perhaps I am being overly rational and should go with my gut, but I am afraid of making a mistake. I don't think I will get a second chance at a do-over. I have never cheated on him (my parents are in a situation where one is openly cheating on the other).

I want to be happy, to want to run home from work because I can't wait to see the person I am involved with. I want to be giddy with excitement about getting engaged. Does this actually happen? Do these emotions exist outside of the Lifetime network movies and books? I haven't had particularly good role models when it comes to happy, healthy relationships. Is happiness not a part of the package? Other than this mess, I am a well-established, rational individual.

– Should I Stay or Should I Go, Boston

A: Get out now. You love this guy because he's your closest friend, but you're not attracted to him and you don't want to marry him. The end.

The Lifetime network stuff does exist (well, some of it). You should be excited about getting married. You should feel romantic about the process.

You shouldn't stay with someone because you're afraid of the unknown. That seems to be your issue. You've never really dated anybody else. You have no context. It's time to get some.

Letting go of him will be awful, but you have to make it happen. There will be loneliness. You will second guess yourself a million times. You'll also get just as jealous as you did years ago when you eventually hear that he's moving on. But this time around you'll have to fight the urge to call him.

It's going to be messy. But it'll be messier if you stay with him. You say that he deserves more, but so do you. So go. Your gut knows this is over.

Readers? Is there any reason to stay? Can you tell her what she's missing? Can you explain what she'll experience if she breaks up with him? Can you help her through this? Help.

– Meredith

Should we have a baby?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein June 26, 2012 08:45 AM

Q: Meredith! I'm hoping that you and your readers can help me. I'm a never-married 34-year-old. I've had a few serious long-term relationships but I'm currently single.

I've recently started dating an ex-boyfriend (early 40s) who I've been off and on with (more off) for the past seven years. We know each other very well. He's ambitious, successful, handsome, smart, and kind ... everything that I've always wanted. We have a strong and intense physical connection even after all of these years. The problem is that he's afraid to commit. He has deeper issues regarding this that I won't get into ... let's just say his dad abandoned him and leave it at that.

During a recent discussion about birth control, he stated that he no longer wants to use any with me. We're both extremely diligent when it comes to protection and we've both been screened for STDs, so that's not the issue. The issue is baby-making. When I probed this further, it came out that he'd be OK with having a baby ... with me. No marriage, just the baby.

What is going on here? Isn't a commitment to have a baby an even STRONGER commitment than being in a relationship? The confusing and scary part is that I'm actually thinking about it. Time is running out for me and I have to be realistic that the conventional marriage and children might not be in the cards. He and I are both financially stable. I know that he would be supportive emotionally and financially. But this isn't the way that I imagined my family to be. Should I be worried that I'm just blinded by the prospect of having a baby and that I'm not really looking at the big picture here?

– Blinded By Baby Fever, Quincy

A: You need to ask this guy about 1,000 big-picture questions, BBBF. Maybe more.

You can start with these:

Would you raise this baby as a couple? Would you live together? What prompted this decision? How does he feel about being connected to you for the rest of his life because of this child? Is he really opposed to a relationship -- or just marriage? Why now? Why you? Does he see himself dating other people after you have the kid?

After you get some answers, please tell him what you want when it comes to family. Say it out loud so that you can hear it too. It'll probably go something like, "I want to have a baby with someone who's in love with me and committed to me."

The moment you disclose what you want (in a loud, confident voice), it'll be clear whether he's up for it. And let's face it, he probably won't be up for it. He hasn't been up for much of anything over the past seven years. He'll either admit that he's actually in love with you and just scared to move ahead, or he'll just sit there. My money's on him just sitting there.

I acknowledge that at 34, the clock is ticking. But that doesn't mean that you should procreate with someone who's so passive about big decisions that he just wants to drop birth control and see how it goes.

Base this decision on what you really want, not what's "in the cards." The cards aren't relevant. There's always time to make choices based on what's best for your heart.

Readers? What is he doing? Does he actually want to be with her? How passive is he? Should she consider this option? Is her age an issue? What is happening here? Is she in love with him? What if he says the right things? Should she believe him? Help.

– Meredith

He went to rehab; I read his journal

Posted by Meredith Goldstein June 25, 2012 07:58 AM

Q: Hi Meredith,

About a year ago, I met a wonderful (or so I thought) man. We'll call him "George." George is 28 and I am 25. I am more physically attracted to George than I ever have been to any other man, and I thought George felt the same about me. From the second we first met, we had a very strong connection and felt incredibly drawn to each other. After a month or so of getting to know each other, we officially began dating. I knew pretty much immediately that he was the person I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. George initiated almost daily conversations very early on in our relationship about how much he liked me and wanted to spend the rest of his life with me. He made me feel beautiful and loved. I thought we would be engaged after a year or so.

Sounds too perfect, right? Bingo. Just five months into our relationship George admitted that he struggled with prescription drug abuse. At the time, I knew he had a problem, but I did not know the seriousness of his addiction nor did I have any idea just how bad drug withdrawal could be. All I knew was that I really loved this man and wanted to spend the rest of my life with him. I decided that I would have stood by him if he had grown seriously ill, so I was going to stand by him now.

George started an intensive rehabilitation program and went through drug withdrawal that made him violently ill. I did whatever I could to support him while he was sick -- his laundry, cleaning his house, caring for his dog. I was at every doctor's appointment and went to family support groups with his parents. I didn't even think about doing these things -- I loved him and he needed me.

After two months of this, I was exhausted and overwhelmed. I wanted our life to continue happily ever after, but instead our relationship fell apart. He was angry and emotionless. It was as if he wanted nothing to do with me. I couldn't understand why he was acting this way. I contacted the drug rehabilitation program for answers and was told that this behavior is common for newly sober people but should get better with time. I endured three months of this.

I told him multiple times how much his behavior was hurting me, and each time he apologized, assured me he loved me, and said this was all related to his recent sobriety.

I felt like he just didn't love me anymore and I wanted the truth so I could have closure and move on, so I found the notebook that he uses for therapy and read it. Wrong or not, I have to be honest in saying I don't regret it because it gave me the answers I was looking for.

In his notebook he wrote that he is not attracted to my body type (I have a small frame) but feels obligated to me because I was so nice to him during a difficult time, and that he wishes he was more attracted to me because I have everything he's looking for in a woman.

I was completely shocked and never would have guessed that he felt this way. I have to admit that I'm a very attractive girl who receives a lot of attention from guys (having a small chest has never bothered me) and I've never faced rejection. But most of all, I was so disgusted and hurt that after all this time all he can say is that he wants a girl with bigger breasts. With the love we shared (and frankly at our age), I thought we were beyond that. I didn't think I could ever get over what he wrote about me, so I had to end things (and yes, I told him I read his notebook). Now, just a week after our break-up, he's on a dating website.

So Meredith, my question is simple and one that haunts me every day:

What happened? My chest didn't just shrink overnight. Did he even love me and think I was beautiful in the first place, or was I the only one gaga over him? I don't think I'll ever be able to understand it. Despite all that happened, I want to be with him and think about him all the time and I just don't get it. Why would I still want to be with someone like this? I'm sad, ashamed, confused, and feel ugly and rejected by the one person who I want to be with in this world. And for the record, I have never used drugs and would never envision myself dating someone who did.

– So confused in Southie

A: He was physically attracted to you, SCIS. He was drawn to you. Please don't take the breast comment too seriously. People tend to get pickier about their partner's appearance when they're just not into the emotional part of the relationship anymore. It wasn't about your chest. He just wanted a fresh start.

I commend you for being so committed and loyal during George's ordeal, but I have to ask: Why was he your boyfriend? You jumped into this so fast. You say, "I knew pretty much immediately that he was the person I wanted to spend the rest of my life with." That doesn't make much sense to me. You found out within a few months of dating him that he had serious problems. Instead of admitting to yourself that you didn't know him well enough to commit, you jumped in deeper.

You're allowed to be smitten with someone and fall hard at first sight, but please don't decide to spend the rest of your life with someone until they've earned it -- and until you know what it's like to be in a normal, drama-free relationship with them. This guy earned very little. He was just magnetic, exciting, and needed you more than he should at five months.

I want you to start giving some of those other guys a chance -- as soon as you can. Date new people without asking big questions.

And promise me that you'll never read a significant other's journal again. It might have helped move this breakup along, but you learned something that you weren't supposed to know -- something that I'm not convinced was very true. Again, he didn't want out of the relationship because of your breasts. He just wanted out.

You fell for a man who couldn't live up to his own hype. Recovering from that kind of relationship is rough. It takes a different kind of detox. Allow yourself to be angry. Remember what life was like before you met George. Let someone new flatter you. It'll feel good and remind you of your reality.

Readers? What happened here? Why did she fall for him? Is it OK that she read his diary? Was it good that she got the truth? Should she have stuck around during the drug issues? Did you notice that she suspected that he had a pill problem before that? Can you give her a pep talk? Help.

– Meredith

I want to be engaged before I move

Posted by Meredith Goldstein June 15, 2012 08:14 AM

Q: Dear Meredith,

I recently ended a 3 1/2-year long-distance relationship. We were high school sweethearts who lost touch and reconnected a few years ago after almost 20 years apart. At the time we were both going through divorces and supported each other. Things progressed and we fell back in love and had a fantastic relationship -- up until the past few months.

We had always planned on a future together (getting married). This would require my relocating with my children to the other side of the state, finding a new job, selling my house, moving away from family and friends, etc. I was willing to do all of that but wanted to be married or at least engaged first. I told him that from day one.

About a year ago he bought a home that would accommodate all of us. I picked out all of the paint colors, carpeting, furniture, etc. That was a huge step (or so I thought) toward our future together, but still no proposal.

We have had our share of issues, mostly revolving around not being together more often. When we did argue, we just would not talk to each other for a few days and then pretend like the argument never happened. He is also of the mindset that even though we have two separate households and are not married or engaged, we should be "working together financially," something I strongly disagree with! (We both make very good money. We split most of our expenses or take turns paying.) Am I wrong to think that unless you are living together the financials should be kept separate?

Recently he ended the relationship via text message (mind you, we are both in our late 30s; this to me was extremely immature), saying the distance was too much, he didn't have the desire for a long distance relationship, etc. I was devastated to say the least.

My problem is that I can't let him go, I am trying, but he keeps texting or calling and we rehash our "issues," all of which I feel are resolvable with the right time and effort. Whenever I try to talk to him about an issue, I am told I am "picking a scab." I love him very much and want a future with him, but I'm not sure how to get us back on track, or if it is even possible to do so.

– Devastated, Woburn

A: Many people write to me because they want an engagement before cohabitation and their partner wants to live together first. Usually these couples compromise with a "soft engagement" -- the expression of an intent to get engaged if the cohabitation goes well. I think that could happen here.

But -- and this is a big but -- even if you guys work out the engagement issue, your boyfriend will still be a terrible communicator. Can you live with someone who shuts off for a few days after a fight and then sweeps it under the rug? Can you share your life with someone who can't listen when it matters most?

As a last-ditch effort, I want you to write down all of your questions and feelings (including the good ones) and then send him your list in a long email for his consideration. Write an intro paragraph that says, "I can't have an honest conversation about my needs without picking scabs. The scabs must be picked." Ask him to wait a few days before writing back so that he can really think about what you have to say.

If he can't talk (or write) about these problems, this is over. Not because of the engagement, but because you need to be with someone who can communicate like a grownup. After three years, this shouldn't be so difficult.

Readers? What happened here? Why does he want to combine finances if they don't live together? Should she move without an engagement? Is there any potential here? Help.

– Meredith

Moving on from a nice guy

Posted by Meredith Goldstein June 14, 2012 08:36 AM

Q: Hi Meredith,

I was dating a man for a few months about six months ago. I had known him and was attracted to him for a long time before anything happened between us. There was always a sort of tension there, but he was seeing someone pretty seriously. Eventually they broke up and a few months later we ended up hanging out a few times (with friends). I knew that he was recently single, but I ignored my misgivings and we started seeing each other. Things were going well but then it got too serious too fast and it freaked him out. He was looking for a rebound, and I was looking for something more. He broke up with me and I was pretty devastated. It was awful, but he's actually a lovely person. He was never cruel to me and always treated me very well, even when breaking up with me. I feel like I sound like one of those pitiful girls who puts her ex up on a pedestal, but he truly is wonderful.

But that's what makes it awful. I was fine for a few months. I was going on dates, meeting people, picking up new hobbies, reconnecting with friends -- doing all those things that you're supposed to do when your heart is broken. But then it hit me like a ton of bricks: I miss him terribly and I want him back and there's absolutely nothing I can do about it. So I guess my question is: When the relationship doesn't end badly, how do you get closure? How can I move on from this guy when I still think he's so great?

– Wants to Move On But How, Boston

A: This kind of breakup can be so awful, WTMOBH. You don't even know what you're trying to get over. It's just lost potential. Sometimes it's easier to move on from someone after you've fought with them for two years and you can't even stand to look at them.

Anger can be such an important part of the healing process. You could use a little of it. You're allowed to be upset at him for turning to you (of all people!) when he wanted a rebound. You can be angry that after six months he hasn't run back to you because he misses your company.

It's not that I want you to walk around stomping your feet and fuming. I just want you to be honest about how you feel so that you can forgive and really move on. I don't care that he ended things for an understandable reason. I don't care that he was polite. He hurt you and left you disappointed. He wasn't careful with you. And now you're sad.

The bad feelings will bring you as close to closure as you're ever going to get. I don't believe in real closure, but I do believe in rising up from loss. That's why you've fallen -- so that it can get better, for real. You want to know how to get over this? You're doing it. Let yourself be bummed.

Readers? Should she get angry? Did she try to skip the stages of grief? Is this guy really so great? Is anger a necessary part of moving on? Help.

– Meredith

Do I follow the one that got away?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein June 13, 2012 08:27 AM

We chat today at 1.

Q: Hi,

A number of years ago I dated a wonderful woman, let's call her Beth. We had many things in common and really clicked. A real power couple! The problem was that I was moving for graduate school and did not want to have a long-distance relationship. We ended up breaking up, but over my first year of grad school we kept in touch, flirted, and remained somewhat affectionate.

Fast forward to the next summer and she is moving to Texas for her own graduate program. I came home for a couple of weeks that summer and we reconnected in person. We decided that we wanted to try the distance thing. The problem was that we never had much of a plan and it fell apart rather quickly. Since then we have again kept in touch, flirted, and talked about how we miss each other and wish things were different.

To make things more complicated, I've been dating another woman for a little over a year. We'll call her Michelle. Things died down between me and Beth basically because I started dating Michelle, who is in my area code. The problem is that I constantly think about Beth, miss her, and believe that she could have been the woman to share my life with. She has also shared these feelings. Both women are incredible in their own ways, but I don't feel the same kind of connection with Michelle as I did with Beth.

I've thought about breaking it off with Michelle but I am terrified of moving to Texas, realizing that it was a horrible choice, and kicking myself for ruining things with her. That being said, the thought of losing Beth forever due to my inability to act breaks my heart.

Is this a case of the grass is always greener on the other side? Am I crazy, especially since I haven't seen Beth in person in more than a year? Have I built up Beth in my mind into something she'll never be able to live up to? Should I break up with Michelle and move to Beth's area (she has 1 more year of school) or is this infatuation with Beth merely blocking my ability to truly connect with Michelle? I'm going out of my mind with indecision. Do people make crazy decisions like this in real life or is it just reserved for Hollywood?

– Stuck in the Middle, Location Unknown

A: Break up with Michelle, SITM. Now. Let her find someone who isn't using her as a backup plan. She deserves better, no matter what happens with Beth.

After you've cut all ties to Michelle, tell Beth that you want to be with her. If she wants to try again, you can absolutely volunteer to move there. If that's too much for her to deal with during her last year of school, you can also volunteer to take long trips to see her.

If Beth tells you that she doesn't want to try this right now, be single. Please. Don't run back to Michelle.

It's time to find out whether you and Beth really want each other or whether your off-again relationship has just been a long-term, long-distance bluff to pass the time. More importantly, it's time to free Michelle so that she can go and be awesome.

Be honest with everyone. You do have the ability to act. Find out what's real.

Readers? Are his feelings for Beth legit? Or is Michelle a better reality? Should he move to live near Beth during her last year of school? What should he tell Michelle? Should he be single? Discuss.

– Meredith

Pregnant ... and thinking about my ex

Posted by Meredith Goldstein June 12, 2012 08:36 AM

Q: Dear Meredith,

I've known my husband for 3 1/2 years. We're happily married and we're excitedly expecting a baby in a few months.

Before I met my husband, my best friend for two years was a guy I slowly fell in love with. During this time, I was getting out of a bad relationship/breakup, and my friend was long-distance dating someone who turned out to be cheating on him. We had a great time together and were always very real with one another. We didn't start a physical relationship until we were both single.

When we both became single we tried to go slowly, but we got intimate pretty quickly. In a sense we did go slowly because we knew we weren't in a place to commit to each other. I was, since I had been single for longer, but I played it cool. We decided to stay just friends several times but we would always keep coming back to one another. I think we both knew it was inevitable.

Then his housing fell through, and instead of getting a new apartment, he decided to move to a different state to live with his sister and her husband. I was confused by the distance and why he didn't try to stay around me and all his friends. He was also acting wishy-washy at this point, being very hot and cold depending on his mood. Then one day he told me he had never realized how much I loved him, and he didn't want to be with me like that.

I got upset and didn't talk to him for four days. It was during this time that I met my now husband. When my friend and I talked again, he did apologize. But at this point it had been a couple months of confusion with him, and my husband was like a knight in shining armor, even though I hadn't intended on dating anyone else for a while. He liked me, we had a wonderful time, and all my friends and family loved him.

My friend and I talked for about six more months and he visited a few times, but there was never any big declaration for me to be with him and not my now-husband. In retrospect there were a few mini-declarations, but nothing to push me away from my great new guy. Why would I be with someone who had hurt me over someone who never had? As the time passed, our conversations got more superficial, and now we rarely talk, if ever.

In the end, I know I made the right choice. There are many, many reasons why my husband is so good for me, better than my friend. But deep down, I miss my friend so very much. Why do I still miss him so much? And can I write him a letter expressing how I feel, knowing that I do not want to change the way things are now? He and I have both moved on and are very happy. I tried writing him a letter and throwing it away, but it didn't help.

Thanks for any advice.

– Torn Up for No Reason, Atlanta

A: You're never going to get that friendship back because it was never a friendship, TUFNR. Please don't write to him. There's nothing to say. Just know that he's gone. He's an ex.

You've experienced some serious life changes over the past few years. From what I can tell, you met your husband while you were in love with someone else, you got married pretty quickly (right?), and now you're having a child. Your brain is having trouble processing the meaning of all of these big choices.

You never gave yourself time to mourn the loss of your friend/ex. You can't skip that step. That's what you're doing now -- mourning. That's OK.

Be miserable that you can't reach out to him. Feel your feelings, as they say. But make sure that you feel your happy feelings, too. You married a guy who makes you feel good and safe. You're about to have a kid with him. You can be thrilled about that and sad about your friend at the same time.

You're also allowed to feel anger. Your friend was never that great to you. He was actually a pretty bad friend. Anger might help you speed up the mourning process.

Feel all of it -- and then snap out of it. That's your only option.

Readers? Should she reach out to him? Why is she still thinking about him? Is this about the baby? How can she get over the friend? What does this say about her marriage? Help.

– Meredith

He changed his mind ... again

Posted by Meredith Goldstein June 6, 2012 08:14 AM

1. I am in NY doing book stuff at the Book Expo America so I can't chat today. Glenn will moderate. I promise that when I am not dealing with my own book I am checking out all of the new self-help titles for us. Maybe it's time for more self-help reviews by you.

2. I can confirm yesterday's letter writer update. Sorry I'm confirming so late. Reception is spotty at the Expo.

And since I'm in NY, how about a letter from Jersey ...

Q: Hi Meredith,

About 3 months ago I broke up with my boyfriend of 2 years. In reality he broke up with me because he no longer wanted "the responsibility" (his exact words) of being a boyfriend anymore. I was crushed. I knew that our relationship wasn't perfect but it worked, or so I thought. For about 3 weeks I kept calling him, emailing, and texting. Eventually I just accepted the fact that he no longer had any interest in me. I cleaned up my act, got myself together, and began to go out with my close friends.

A few more weeks passed by and I began to date someone. It wasn't anything serious and I let the new guy know about everything. He understood and agreed to take things slow. After a couple of dates with this new guy, my ex called me. He wanted me back. He said that he had made a mistake and he didn't understand what he had until he had lost it. I didn't know how I felt about it. I was even more confused and hurt.

Just when I was starting to completely move on from him, he comes back into my life. I don't know if it was the right thing to do at the moment, but I told him that I just couldn't go back to that. Part of me believed that but the other part of me was wrapped up in school, work, and the new guy.

After rejecting him I focused on me because honestly, I had lost sight of what I wanted in a man/relationship. I stopped dating the new guy and took care of me. Everything was going great up until a couple of weeks ago. I thought about my ex and the possibility of trying to have a relationship with him again. So with my new found confidence, I reached out to him.

I began to talk to him again but this time, I was the one ready for a relationship. He said that he really cares about me and wants to be with me but is not ready for the type of commitment that I want. He was still trying to move on when I came back into his life and he can't jump back into it. So once again, I'm left feeling hurt and confused.

I just don't know what to do. Should I move on again? Should I stick around? I'm in love with him and he knows that but is it really worth it?

– Should I hang on, New Jersey

A: I'd chalk this up to bad timing, but all of this happened within three months, SIHO. If he was really wanted to save this relationship, he would have given you time to recover from his original rejection. He would have shown some empathy and patience.

Your ex tells you that he doesn't want to be committed to you. That's the answer. I'm so sorry that he confused you by briefly changing his mind, but all that matters is what he wants now. This flip-flopping thing is just another strike against him. I understand that you changed your mind too, but he's the one who ended things to begin with.

He's not giving you the option to stick around, so don't. Continue to be good to yourself. Find other people to date. Go back to focusing on you, please.

Readers? What if he changes his mind again? What should she do? Why isn't he interested this time around? Help.

– Meredith

He cheated via email

Posted by Meredith Goldstein June 4, 2012 08:36 AM

Q: Hi Meredith,

I've been dating this guy for 2.5 years. I love him. We're long distance (he's in NY), but we see each other pretty regularly and talk every day. He's never been great at communicating about the big things, but he makes an effort when he knows that something is important to me. He deployed to Afghanistan in the winter and we did a lot of Skype, phone calls, and e-mails.

Our biggest problem before he left was the distance. He had said he would move to Boston but hadn't taken any steps toward doing it. We put the issue "on hold" until he came back.

He will be back very soon. We had a week of fun Boston activities planned along with lots of down time to just be together at my place. But recently I was looking for an email address (he had given me his password) for a friend of his to see if we could set up a party for him in NY when I saw a bunch of emails between him and someone I didn't recognize. I opened the most recent one and I've been a mess since. These emails were recent (the last one being 5 days ago) and very sexually explicit. He was telling her that he wished that he could be there so they could spend a day in bed together. He said he wanted to admire her body and see if they were sexually compatible.

I didn't see this coming at all. I dug around and figured out that she was in a wedding he was in back in August (I couldn't attend). Their emails were infrequent and normal at first. She mentioned her 4" heels and it exploded from there. From what I can tell (and I feel pretty sure), there hasn't been anything physical yet. She is supposed to go out with him and a group of friends in NY shortly after he is back.

Although there hasn't been any physical cheating, the fact that he would even send these emails has me clearly not trusting him at all. He has no idea I know. I feel so dumb for not seeing this, but I still don't see any of the warning signs. We have a lot of fun when we're together and he's great about letting me know I'm on his mind and talking to me frequently. We see each other about every other weekend and have had some great vacations together. I don't understand why this happened.

I don't know what my next steps should be. I need to confront him, so I will be picking him up at the airport, but we will not be coming back to my house. I booked a hotel room near the airport for one night and we will be going there so I can leave if I need to. I want to be strong on this one and leave him, but I love him. He just told me yesterday how much I'm a light in his life and that he wants to spend the rest of his life with me.

Is this something we can recover from? How can the trust be built back up? I feel like the only way is if he moves here immediately and I have access to his emails/accounts/no guys' nights, etc. and that seems extreme to me and not the person I want to be. Is there a healthy way to recover with him living in NY? Is it worth it? Should I just let this go?

– Want To Be Strong, Boston Boston

A: If monitoring his life is the only way that you can feel safe after this betrayal, this isn't going to work, WTBS. You can't become that person. What's the point?

Your guy is pursuing a sexual relationship with someone who knows his mutual friends. He has plans to see her. He's been intimate with her in emails. It's a cheat. A big one. I'm frightened by his ability to compartmentalize. I'm glad you feel the same way.

You know what you have to do. Just be prepared, because when you confront him he's going to have a million excuses. He's going to say many perfect things. It's going to be difficult to stay strong. Just imagine him admiring someone else's body. Then walk out the door and go straight to a friend's house. Keep yourself surrounded. You're going to need a lot of support.

Please know that this is not your fault. You didn't miss warning signs. This guy made a commitment to you before he was ready. He wanted the benefits of a serious partnership without the rules that come with it. He lied. That's his issue, not yours.

Readers? Any hope for these two? What was he doing? Should she hear him out? How can she stay strong when he shows up? Is the whole Afghanistan thing relevant? Did he want to get caught? Help.

– Meredith

He still contacts me

Posted by Meredith Goldstein May 24, 2012 08:23 AM

Q: Hi Meredith,

For 8 months I dated a man in the military. Due to his job, he was away more often than not, but every time he came back, I was the one he wanted to be with.

I fell hard for him. He was so considerate and always could leave me smiling. I thought I had finally found the one.

The problem was: He never committed to me. He never called me his girlfriend or said those three little words. Yet he always told me how awesome I was and how he cared about me. When he went away on tour for 2 months, we constantly emailed and he called any chance he could get. So I stayed. I thought we had a future.

The day he returned from tour, he told me the bad news. He was re-locating more than 10 hours away. He told me that he couldn't do a long-distance relationship. That he didn't think he felt strongly enough about me.

I was crushed but I accepted it and let him go. Once the distance started we spoke fairly often and even sent each other birthday gifts. But eventually, communication from his side waned and I felt like he didn't care anymore.

Less than a year after he left, thanks to the wonders of Facebook, I noticed he was in a relationship. A long-distance one. It ended fairly quickly, but it still made me feel like our whole relationship was a lie. That I was just a convenience for him.

Now I no longer initiate any contact. But occasionally he'll message me and we'll talk. Sometimes he suggests my visiting, which never comes to fruition. I always feel empty and confused after our conversations.

What does he want from me? Should I leave him alone entirely? It's been a while but I still love him. I just don't know how much more emotional turmoil I can handle.

– Never Felt Like Enough, Boston

A: I know you love him, but you have to leave him alone, NFLE.

He still likes you a lot and occasionally wants your attention. That would be cool if you could be casual about him. But you're the opposite of casual when it comes to his affection. You want meaning and direction and hope. He can't give you any of those things.

Relationships don't have to be all or nothing. He wasn't lying when he said he cared for you back in the day. He cared quite a bit and he obviously enjoyed your company. He just didn't want you to be his serious girlfriend.

He still seeks you out because, well, it's easy (thank you, Facebook/email), and because he wants to see if you're open to joining him somewhere between nothing and something. But you're not. It doesn't work that way for you.

If you're going to have turmoil, please have it locally. This guy gave you his answer a long time ago. No matter how much he muddles your brain with these messages, let it be. He cares. Just not enough.

You're allowed to be the one who says no.

Readers? Is there any hope here? Why is she having so much trouble getting over this? Is his subsequent long-distance relationship a big deal? What happened here? Is the military part of this relevant? Help.

– Meredith

Ending a camp romance

Posted by Meredith Goldstein May 18, 2012 07:20 AM

Q: I am 18 years old. A college freshman. I have been dating my boyfriend for 10 months. We met last summer because we work together. He is a wonderful person -- sweet, very romantic, loving, understanding (to an extreme degree), and in my head, when I think about him, I just think about how he is just absolutely the perfect guy. But for some reason that I can't pinpoint, I am not at all IN love with him. Whenever I think about him, I also have this feeling of guilt. It just feels wrong, and although I don't know why this feeling came about, it is still very much there.

The thing is, I'm away at college, and once our summer jobs were over for the year, we have been a minimum of a 40 minute drive away from each other. In the beginning we were constantly texting each other and Skyping almost every single night for hours and hours on end. But it’s become much more difficult to communicate.

And above all else, I am so busy with schoolwork and stressed out that I am despicably flaky when it comes to communication with him. He is so wonderful, and I just feel like he deserves so much better than me.

But I have no idea how to end it. He really has never ever messed up at all, and I am very, very far from perfect. Also, we work together in the summer around kids, and I don't want there to be a lot of awkwardness between us-for the campers' sakes. I don't know how to do this.

Can someone please give me some advice? I have never broken up with anyone before. The only other relationship I have ever been in lasted two weeks, and then there was just awkwardness between us, so we broke up. I don't know what to do. Someone please help me out here.

– Torn and Confused, NY

A: There's no way to break up with someone who loves you without being the bad guy.

But here's some advice: Wait until you get to camp again before you make any big decisions.

Camp romances are strangely powerful. You get close to someone and start dating them, and then camp suddenly is over, which makes you feel estranged. Then, just as you're about to end your summer relationship because it's just too difficult to maintain, it's time for camp again.

In a few weeks you might find that you are in love with him -- or that you like him enough to date him again during the summer. Or maybe he'll show up to camp and decide that he's the one who's ready to move on.

Something tells me that when you get back into the camp routine, you'll be able to make these decisions together.

And don't worry about the campers. They're used to counselor drama.

If you do wind up having to break up with him, just tell it like it is. You're 18 and unsure about what you want, and he deserves a better summer romance. The best way to break up with someone is to be honest and then give them space.

Readers? Ever fallen for someone at a summer job? How did it end? Any advice for someone who’s about to break up with someone for the first time? Help.

– Meredith

Desperately seeking closure

Posted by Meredith Goldstein May 4, 2012 07:33 AM

Q: Hi Meredith --

I've spent the last few weeks contemplating this question, and though I'm usually one to know what the "right" answer is, I can't seem to figure this one out. As a faithful reader I figured I'd turn to you and your readers for some advice.

Three months ago I was dumped by a guy I liked … a lot. Initially I thought things were going great and was willing to make a lot of effort in our relationship. I stayed in on nights I wanted to go out, got close to his group of friends, met his parents after just two months together, and even stayed in Boston when I was contemplating a move. He soon proved that he wasn't willing to reciprocate those gestures, and when I asked him to meet me halfway he confessed he had major trust issues. I told him that though we'd only been together for a few months, I cared about him deeply and wanted to be there for him to prove to him he could trust me. Two days later, he gave me the ol' "we need to talk."

Since the night of the breakup we have not exchanged a single word. He immediately defriended me on Facebook (within a few hours -- a trivial thing, but very telling of his deep emotional issues/immaturity) and made it very clear that he wanted absolutely nothing to do with me.

Three months, lots of tears, and a huge heartache later I'm in a much better place. I'm gearing up to quit my job and making plans to travel and to move to New York where I've always dreamed of living.

The thing is, I never got closure. While most of my friends have suggested that he simply copped out -- that he got scared of being committed and vulnerable with someone and the easy answer was to run -- part of me is still incredibly confused as to how and why he was so willing to let go of everything we'd built. This was the guy who, just before we broke up, bought tickets for us to upcoming sporting events, talked about plans for the winter, and kept telling me how much is parents absolutely loved me.

I'm moving to New York in just over a month. Is it worth reaching out to this guy to ask him to ask him all the questions I've been contemplating for months? Part of me is scared to leave Boston without closure, but will his answers satisfy me or just open the wounds all over again? Am I naive to think that a conversation would bring me any peace? Please, help.

– Craving Closure, Boston

A: If you want to hear him ramble and make you feel bad, CC, you're welcome to call him. But I'd rather you just leave it alone.

I mean, what could he possibly say to give you closure?

If you need a speech to make you feel better, just read this (below). Hear it in your guy's voice, because I'm pretty sure I know what he's thinking.

"I'm sorry. I don't know why I bailed but I did. I was all excited about our relationship and then things got … normal. And scary. And I couldn't say for sure that I wanted to stick around and get closer to you. I know that's lame, but that's where I am. At the end of the day, losing you was less scary than keeping you around. That sounds awful, but it's the truth. And that stuff I said about trust? It was just something to say. I trust you. I just can't sustain what I started."

Did that do it? Because that's as good as it's going to get. You were building a relationship, but he was just enjoying himself. And now you get to move to a fabulous city.

I'm all for saying everything that needs to be said, but in this case there's nothing he can say to make this less painful.

My guess is that you're hoping he changed his mind and is just too afraid to call. And if you're feeling that way, you should just keep re-reading that speech above and start packing for new adventures. That's the only way to erase this pain.

Readers? Would it be so bad if she called? Can she get closure? What happened with this guy? Do you have a speech of your own for her? Discuss.

– Meredith

One more try?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein May 3, 2012 08:33 AM

Q: Dear Meredith,

About 6 months ago, my boyfriend of less than a year broke up with me abruptly, citing a number of reasons ("It shouldn't be this hard," "I just can't do this," "I'm a loser," and the whole gamut of commitment-phobe type reasons). To say that it broke my heart is an understatement. I truly loved him and still do.

When he first asked me out I was elated but cautious. We had been good acquaintances for years and I always liked him but knew about his commitment issues. I definitely fell for the idea that I was the only girl he had ever loved, and used that as a reason to justify him not being the world's best boyfriend. Throughout our relationship I tried my best to be patient with him through our ups and downs. We fell into a pattern of getting really close, usually following some beautiful love-filled weekend, then he would freak out and backtrack, and then we'd start over again. When we broke up I assumed we'd never get back together as I had done everything possible to try and give him the space throughout our relationship to adjust to being in one. Getting over him was one of the hardest things I've had to go through, but I've made a lot of progress -- applied to school, moved, etc., all the while thinking about him every day.

Then about a month ago, I was asked to make a decision that I thought I would be really happy about. My ex wanted to see me again and see if we could make it work. I was nervous, excited, and afraid all at once. Since that time, we've had a few dates, each one fantastic. But I already see some of the old patterns coming out -- days without talking, unanswered phone calls, and a tendency to regress as soon as we start to talk about our relationship.

So my question is this: How long do I see if we can "make this work?" At 28 I find myself falling for him again, but am so afraid of getting hurt that I can't just let go and trust him. Then when I do decide to let go, I don't hear from him for a couple of days. How do we move into this slowly while still building up our relationship? I love him but am not sure if he really wants to work on our relationship or just misses me and knows I'll always be there for him.

– Do I Give Him Another Shot, Boston

A: I don't have high hopes for this relationship -- in fact, my money's on it lasting another four months -- but you have to finish this cycle with him. Call this your last shot and if he bails on you this time around, you'll know that you did everything you could. I can tell that you need a real final answer and that if you walk away from this right now you'll wonder if he might have rallied. Go ahead and play this out. Destroy the what-ifs.

My big concern is that he might become a great boyfriend. That would be confusing, right? How long would you have to be together before you could trust him again?

For now, just be clear about your needs and then let him do his thing. If he doesn't call for a few days, tell him that his behavior is unacceptable. Make sure that he understands your expectations. If he runs, fine. You'll have your answer.

There should be no walking on eggshells. That didn't work last time. You should embrace this cycle of the relationship by asking for what you want without being petrified of his response.

Again, my money's on another ending, but sometimes I'm wrong. And either way, you have to see where this goes. I want you to be able to walk away from this without any second-guessing.

Readers. We have another fool me twice situation today (sort of) and I want her to play it out. Thoughts? Should she end this now? Can she? What if he behaves this time around? Help.

– Meredith

They bail after a month

Posted by Meredith Goldstein April 20, 2012 08:03 AM

Q: Hi Meredith,

My story is this: A guy I knew through a friend asked me out. I was flattered and said yes. We had a great first date that quickly turned into a second, third, and fourth date. He texted and called when he said he would, and even when he didn't. I was very cautious though; I had been through a similar experience where the dating hit the one month mark and the guy ran for the hills. This guy seemed different, though. I traveled out of state one weekend and he checked in everyday, seemingly very interested in my life. He even said he was ready to be dating exclusively. I was really happy.

One night, a week after saying he wanted to be exclusive and not see anyone else, he came over for what was supposed to be a dinner date. Instead, he completely freaked out, first saying he wasn't ready for a relationship. He said that *if* we kept dating and got to the point where it became a relationship, he wasn't sure if he would say yes so he didn't want to waste my time, and so on. I knew something wasn't right because his story kept changing. Did I mention this was completely out of the blue? Just the night before he had sent me a goodnight text that said he was so excited to see me the next day.

I rationalized every point he brought up, defended myself by saying I, too, wasn't looking for a relationship right now, that we had only been dating a month so obviously things were not that serious and that he was freaking out for no reason. He came in wanting to end things on the spot, but when he left he said he needed some time to process and think about what I had said. (Also, this was a few days before we hit the one month mark of dating).

It has been over a week. Not a single phone call. Four days in, I sent him a text saying look, don't feel bad either way but I don't want to be kept waiting ... and he responded, "I definitely feel bad either way," but nothing more. I have no idea what went wrong. I played everything right by the man book. He said he could be exclusive and then a week later changed his mind? I thought he was a good guy and I trusted him. I really want closure, but part of me thinks it isn't worth it to call him and confront him. Should I try to get the whole story? Or do I just have to forget it without closure?

– The Month-Long Curse Strikes Again, Arlington, VA

A: Forget him, TMLCSA. He doesn't have any answers for you. If he comes up with any, I'm sure he'll call.

This happens sometimes. It doesn't mean that there's a one-month curse. It just means that all new relationships are fragile.

We spend the first few weeks of every relationship getting to know someone so we can decide whether we want them to stick around. Your guy was a confusing mess who committed too quickly and didn't keep any of his promises, but that's why you should be happy to be rid of him after four weeks. You saw his true colors pretty quickly. That's a blessing, not a curse.

I want to remind you that there is no man book. It doesn't exist. All you can do is treat people the way you want to be treated, ask questions, and take your time. You barely knew this guy but you were more concerned about snagging him than figuring him out. Were you really ready to commit to him after just a month?

You're allowed to be disappointed, but please, don't mourn him for longer than you dated him.

Readers? Is there a curse here? Man book? Did she commit too quickly? What happened here? Should she call him? (I'm adding "I definitely feel bad either way" to my list of Love Letters favorites, by the way.) Help.

– Meredith

Still crazy about an ex

Posted by Meredith Goldstein April 18, 2012 08:19 AM

Chat at 1.

Q: What happens when you can't get over a former significant other from almost 7 years ago? I've dated many others since then but none compare. I've given those others a chance but can't help comparing them to her and thinking about her when I'm with them. I've had no contact with this significant other -- until a random correspondence through a good old social media site. We found each other on there and exchanged messages. She claimed that she was "so happy" I found her.

Just as fast as she appeared, she was unresponsive and then gone. After not answering a couple more of my messages she deleted her account. My messages were not psycho at all; I didn't mention anything about us or our past or ask about her current love life. I was just asking general questions about how she's been and what she's been up to. It almost makes me feel that she knew what she was doing and had spiteful intentions.

I know people will tell me she doesn't even deserve any bit of my attention and how I have to move on -- but it hasn't happened yet after 7 years. I want somebody else to come along who I'm crazy about, but it just hasn't happened yet, and at 33 I feel that it should have by now.

– Nice Guy Who's Sad, Cambridge

A: She just wanted to say a quick hello on that social media site, NGWS. She didn't want questions. She just wanted a shallow, virtual "friend" with no expectations. She probably hid her account because she could tell that you wanted more. Or maybe she has a boyfriend who wondered why she was getting questions from an ex. I doubt she was being spiteful. She was just sending an honest message. She didn't want to get your hopes up.

You broke up seven years ago, which means that something went wrong back then. Your selective memory has turned her into some unattainable angel, but she's not. She's just someone who had potential but didn't stick around.

My guess is that you're mourning an entire period of your life. You miss your mid-20s. She was a part of that. Put her in context.

There's nothing I can say to make the process of moving on any easier, but it might help to make a list of what you want from a partner now that you're 33. You want someone who's available (she's not). You want someone who responds when you send a message (she doesn't). You want someone who makes you laugh (she makes you feel like a stalker). At 33, you want someone else. Embrace that. She failed. Break up with her.

Readers? Can you tell him why he's still thinking about her after seven years? How can he erase her from his mind? What did he do wrong online? Was she being cruel by disappearing? Help.

– Meredith

Why didn't it work?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein April 11, 2012 08:37 AM

I can't chat today because I'll be out of the office planning a Love Letters event, which you will hear about very soon. I promise I'll make it up to you.

Q: I just wanted to pick your brain about a situation I had last year. I am a man in my late 20s, and I met a girl (same age) last year who I dated for about 4 months. It obviously wasn't that serious, but for some reason the lost potential still bothers me.

We met on an online dating site and things started off really well. However, after a few dates, I started getting vibes that she was already ready to be in a relationship with me, which freaked me out a little bit. I'm pretty selective about who I date, and although I liked her, I didn't want to rush things and I didn't want to give her the wrong impression so I pulled back a bit. But then as I got to know her, I realized that this is just her personality -- she's an extreme extrovert who gets excited and wears her heart on her sleeve while I am more reserved and don't always show a lot of emotion. Regardless, we continued dating, and I began to see that she really was an awesome person. I started developing feelings for her and I was beginning to think that there could actually be some long-term potential.

I don't fall for too many girls like that, and it had been years since I had felt that way about anyone. But there was one thing that was a little frustrating/weird to me -- she was never available to hang out on weekends. She grew up in another state and went to college in a different state, so a lot of her friends live elsewhere, and she would make plans for weekend visits weeks/months in advance. I would ask her early or mid-week what her plans were for the weekend, and it was always the same answer -- she already had plans. After getting this response a number of times and then having her tell me her weekends were basically booked solid for 3 months, I lost a lot of motivation. I wanted to start making more of an effort, but I felt limited in what I could do, as the only time I could see her was on Sunday nights and one or two other nights during the week, and it got to the point where all we did was sit on the couch, order take-out, watch TV, and go to bed. As I looked back on it after things ended, I realized we had never gone out together on a Saturday night, and she never had the chance to meet any of my friends, which I think is an important part of getting to know someone.

I was pretty baffled when she broke things off, saying that things weren't progressing and that she had lost the feelings she once had because of my seeming lack of interest/effort, and that the push-back she felt from me in the beginning is what made her start to shut down. To be fair, I was not great about calling/texting just to chat between the times we hung out … but part of the reason was that I wasn't ready to do that when all I could get from her was weeknights. I don't need too much in a relationship and I actually like it when a girl has her own friends and a life, but at some point, social lives usually start integrating at least a little bit.

The reason it still bothers me is because we got along well, seemed to have similar values, and we both really liked each other ... just at different times -- her at the beginning and me at the end. I did ultimately let her know how I felt and I (regrettably) pleaded with her to give it another chance to try and make it work, but she was just done. What really killed me was that as she was breaking things off, she told me that on paper I am exactly what she wants, but she didn't think she could get back the feelings she once had. I've been out with a number of girls since all this, had a couple 1-month stints, and have felt some decent connections, but nothing like what I felt with this girl last year, so I'm left with a lot of regrets about the whole thing because I think we could have made things work if we had just communicated better and discussed things sooner.

So here are my questions: Was it normal for me to pull back like that in the beginning when I felt like she was coming on so strong, or should I have embraced it? How often should a guy be calling/texting with a girl during the first few weeks/months when he sees (and sleeps with) her twice a week? Was I wrong in thinking her expectations for relationship progression were unrealistic when we never saw each other on weekends?

– Can't Believe I Am Writing to a Dating Column, Boston

A: I'm not convinced that this is your fault, CBIWTADC, at least not the stuff that happened at the start of the relationship. We're all a bit weird when we're trying to figure out whether we like someone. You pulled back -- but then you stuck it out and rallied. You wanted more and more of her time and you made that clear. In the end, she broke it off and you pleaded with her to stay.

Of course, it would have been great if you had said, maybe during month two, "I'm starting to feel slighted that you can't see me on weekends -- and I’m desperate to see you on a Saturday night and wake up with you on a Sunday." But she could have asked you to come with her on a weekend trip. And she absolutely could have cancelled plans with friends to spend some time figuring you out. She didn't make you a priority.

And as for the texts, don't even think about them. You wanted to see her in person. That's all that counts. Texts don't make or break a relationship.

I need you to know that you're not as smitten with this woman as you think you are. You liked her a lot, but the relationship had serious flaws, and you were never really satisfied with the way she handled herself. You need someone who makes you feel comfortable, someone who encourages you to be honest. This woman inspired you to feel helpless and passive-aggressive. You've learned a lesson about communication for sure, but I believe that this relationship would have ended no matter what. So let her go and give some of these other women more than just a month of your time.

Readers? Am I right to say that this would have ended no matter what? Or is he just so silent about things that she thought he wasn't interested? Should she have cancelled her weekend plans? Did he fail by distancing himself in the beginning? Is this about everybody wanting what they can’t have? Discuss.

– Meredith

My friends hang out with my ex

Posted by Meredith Goldstein April 10, 2012 08:38 AM

Q: Hello,

I am not sure which category this falls under. My boyfriend of two years and I broke up a little over a month ago. We lived together and I fully expected to share the rest of my life with him. He pulled that rug out from under me when he told me that he wasn't ready and that he didn't want to bother trying to deal with the issues we had. Needless to say, I was devastated.

I moved out, found my own place, and am trying really hard to move on. Besides dealing with the fact that he was never really clear with me about why he gave up, it seems he has also inherited our friends. They hang out with him and go drinking with him and I never hear from them. All women by the way, who I had been close with for years before he ever came to town and met them. They pretend to care about me, but they are hanging out with him all of the time. I do not know what I did to push them away but the fact is I really need my friends right now. A few of my good friends have been really great to me during my heartache but it is hard for me to ignore the ones who haven't. Maybe he is just a ton more fun than me but I have to admit it really hurts to see them spending so much time with him -- considering I was there for each of them through every heartache and up and down they had. I guess I was just hoping for some reciprocity.

How do I deal with my disappointing friends? Also, how do I move on and make new single ones? It doesn't seem fair that he gets everything.

I am heartbroken and devastated to say the least and I am just looking for the best ways to move on.

– Newly Lonely, Boston

A: I'm so sorry, NL. Your friends should know better -- and your ex should be going out of his way to separate himself from your old life as much as possible.

These friends have been pretty useless, but you might as well try and tell them what you need. Some people require instructions even when they shouldn't. Call them and be clear about what you want. As in, "I'm feeling so shaky right now. Can you come over to the new apartment and distract me? I don't want to hear about the ex. I just want to be surrounded by people who care for me and can make me feel hopeful about what comes next." They'll either rise to the occasion quickly (maybe with apologies and explanations), or you'll know that they've chosen to minimize your friendship.

I could tell you a bunch of ways to meet new friends while you're coping with this, but I'm not going to do that right now. This breakup happened a month ago. Four weeks. You're still in shock and shattered. This is not the time to saddle yourself with a life-changing to-do list.

All I want you to do right now is to stay close to those few loyal friends and to make some fun plans for yourself for the next few weeks. Book a trip to visit someone who lives out of town. Buy two tickets for a concert you want to see later this summer and start thinking about who might want to join you. (Huey Lewis is coming in August, I hear.)

At a month, it's all too new to define. Your only responsibility should be telling people what you need from them and coming up with new ways to make yourself smile. This will all look different in another month. You'll have a better perspective, and hopefully, so will your friends.

Readers? Should she even approach her friends about this or should she just let them go? And what should she be doing with herself after a month? Help.

– Meredith

I fell for his friend

Posted by Meredith Goldstein April 9, 2012 08:20 AM

Q: My ex broke up with me about a year and a half ago after 7 years together. He dragged his feet through the breakup and it was really painful for me. Despite all of that, I moved forward, took control of my never-been-single-before life, and moved into the city. I got a new job and landed on my feet. I still missed him terribly, but I pushed forward. Because we were together for so long, we had a lot of mutual friends. While it was painful, it wasn't a bad breakup, and we both maintained those friends so we crossed each other's paths on occasion.

When I moved to the city, most of my friends were too far away to randomly hang out, so I took advantage of those who were close by. One of whom was a mutually close friend, and happens to be one of my ex's best friends, since, like, ever. He and I hung out regularly, sometimes in groups, sometimes by ourselves. Our relationship was completely platonic, but we had a lot of the same interests and also had been through similar situations in terms of breakups, so we kind of supported each other. He was the best friend I could have asked for, always giving me advice about what to do and not to do to get my ex back, and also telling me when I needed to just back off and let it be. He called me out when I needed it, and not many people do that for me.

At the end of this past summer, I started texting my ex, inserting myself back in his life and trying to make it "easy" for him to get me back. Our friend told me not to, but for some reason I thought it was the right thing to do at the time. We talked, had a few casual evenings, but all of them were pretty much after a group hang out. We never went on a "date" -- we grabbed a drink together, alone, ONCE. And I asked.

I put in all of the effort. Without going into too much detail, it took me a few months to realize I should have never put myself on that silver platter to make things easy for him because I was clearly not a priority. I backed off. THEN he came running -- when he realized I wasn't there anymore. As far as I'm concerned, I'm done.

Getting back with him, I realized, was the easy thing. I had dated around a little since the break up and wasn't really meeting new people, and this relationship was already established. We already had a history. But how could I go back to someone who clearly didn't have the gall to try to get me back himself? If he wanted to be with me, he would have been with me. He had ample opportunity. I made it clear how I felt. I just wanted him to want it. And to act on it. And he didn't.

And then about a month ago, I got drunk. And I kissed my friend -- our mutual friend. And drunkenly said some things about how I felt about him. And we met up the next day and had a conversation and it turned out we have feelings for each other. Like, real feelings. Like, heart skipping a beat, can't catch your breath feelings. And I can't make them stop. But they are best friends. We both know how we feel and know it isn't going away, but ... it's still his best friend. I'm skeptical about how this all plays out ... but we both really want to try.

– What do I do?, Anywhere

A: What happens next isn't really your decision, WDID. It's up to your friend-turned-crush, the guy who'll have to tell his best buddy that he plans to pursue you.

Is this guy willing to risk his friendship with your ex? That's what you have to find out. If he is, and you can say for sure that you aren't going to run back to your ex (you're positive about that, right?), you can commence this new relationship, which seems to have great potential.

(Honestly, if you aren't sure about the ex, hit pause on everything.)

My guess is that your friend-crush will risk his relationship with your ex in order to move forward because, well, he already has. Frankly, if he wasn't interested in taking the risk he would have set some very clear boundaries with you from the start. But he didn't. And you fell for each other. And you've already kissed. And liked it.

Tell your friend-crush that you're ready whenever he is. Talk to him about all of the possible outcomes with the ex and discuss how you'll navigate any discomfort. Assure him that you'll be there for him no matter what. Because you will, right?

At some point, after the new guy tells your ex about his feelings for you, you should do the classy thing and reach out to let your ex to let him know that you acknowledge the awkwardness of this. Tell him that you will always care for him, that you've appreciated his civility, and that you hope everyone can continue to get along. You were together for seven years and he's in your heart. And that's OK, as long as you're being honest with everyone -- especially yourself -- about what you want for your future.

Readers? Do they owe anything to the ex? Do you believe that she won't change her mind about the ex? Does this new relationship have potential or should she start looking outside of her immediate circle? Should she reach out to the ex to explain all of this? Help.

– Meredith

My ex or a new not-so-committed love?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein April 6, 2012 08:45 AM

Q: I started dating this guy when were in our early 20s. We fell in love quickly and moved in together for three years, and then lived separately for various reasons for another five years. We moved back in together again five years ago, and one of the conditions of my moving back in with him was that we would get engaged and married shortly thereafter. However, my boyfriend kept putting it off, saying he was scared, wasn't ready, etc. I gave him an ultimatum and we tried couples counseling but nothing worked. I gained a lot of weight and became depressed, and our sex life became virtually non-existent. Then, about two years ago, I started losing weight and began to feel better about myself. Our relationship improved greatly and I started realizing that I didn't need a wedding ring to prove that he loved me. I started to feel like I was falling in love with him again and we felt much closer. Our sex life started to come back slowly.

Fast forward to last summer. My boyfriend confessed that he had had an affair with a co-worker during the whole previous year. He claimed that it was purely sexual and he never had any feelings for her, and that the reason for his confession was that he was ready to get married to me and did not want to have any secrets from me. Needless to say, I was completely devastated. I had had no idea that anything was going on. I told him I couldn't be with him as boyfriend/girlfriend at the moment, and that if we were ever going to reconcile we would have to do couples counseling, which he agreed to, and we started doing and continue doing. We also kept living together in the same apartment, as our lease does not end until later this year. We do not sleep together.

Shortly after my boyfriend's confession, out of anger and hurt and wanting revenge, I contacted a guy with whom I have had chemistry for years and almost hooked up with when I was younger. We agreed that our relationship would be just sexual or friends with benefits while I figured out what do to with my boyfriend and since he was not looking for anything serious. This guy and I are the same age, and he's had several bad relationships that have made him very guarded and cynical. At first I would see him a few times a week, just for sex, but over time (it's now been almost 9 months), our relationship deepened to where I see him five or six days out of the week. We go out to dinner, hang out, talk on the phone, etc. He goes on dates with other women but none have progressed to anything serious, mainly because he continues to maintain that he doesn't want to be in a relationship with anyone. He's said to me recently that he isn't interested in dating anyone, including me, because he is afraid of getting involved with someone and getting hurt. Yet all his actions indicate to me that he likes me and at this point. I feel like we are basically dating without making it official.

I decided to move out of my apartment with my boyfriend for a month to try to get some space to figure out my next move, and I've sublet an apartment and been there for a few weeks now. However, I feel no closer to making a decision than I did before I moved in.

On one hand, I could go back to my boyfriend, who loves me and is ready to get married now. I do love him and the couples counseling has really helped us with a lot of issues that we had. But I don't know if I will ever trust him again, and I'm still so hurt and angry.

On the other hand, I could end things with my boyfriend and see where things go with the other guy. But while it's clear that this guy likes me and has feelings for me, he continues to say that he doesn't want anything serious with anybody. I do think that part of that, at least in regards to me, is that he believes that I will get back together with my boyfriend and therefore he doesn't want to risk exposing his feelings to me only to lose me.

I feel that if I were 25 years old, this would be an easier decision. I would probably end things with my boyfriend and move out, and see what happens with the other guy, with the possibility of getting back with my boyfriend if it was meant to be or just being single and finding someone new. But I'm going to be in my late 30s, and if I ever want to have kids, that window is quickly closing. I feel like I'm on the edge of a cliff with my whole future in the balance -- on one side marriage and kids and hopefully happily ever after, on the other uncertainty and anxiety with the possibility of never having kids. I am completely frozen by indecision and fear and have no idea what to do next.

– Utterly Confused, Worcester

A: It's over with the boyfriend, UC. You don't want him. If you did, this would be a no-brainer. You fell out of love with him after many long and turbulent years. You moved out. The end.

As for the new guy, he's your age (almost in his late 30s), and he's telling you that he doesn't want to be in a relationship. Please listen. Sure, he's actions might imply that he wants more, but I'm not convinced.

My advice is to free your ex and then tell this new-ish guy that you can't be in a casual relationship that takes up all of your time. Admit that you're dropping your boyfriend because you want to be able to pursue someone else. My guess is that the new guy will remain negative and noncommittal, in which case it'll time to do what you'd do at 25 -- start over.

If I thought that happily ever after was an option with the ex, I'd advise you to stay with him -- but I don't. Despite all that great, effective couples therapy, you're still considering other options.

And If I thought that the new guy would eventually give in to happily ever after, I'd tell you to hang on no matter what. But I don't trust him.

Happily ever after seems out of your reach, or at the very least, outside of your sublet. Start by being honest with everyone about what you really want, and then accept what you've already chosen to become -- a single person starting over.

Readers? Is the ex still an option? Is the new guy just protecting himself because of her history with the ex? Does she have to be single right now? Should she be factoring kids and marriage into her decision about who to keep around? Constructive advice please.

– Meredith

The return of the one that got away

Posted by Meredith Goldstein April 2, 2012 08:06 AM

Q: Hi Meredith,

Tim and I dated for a year in college (6 years ago), half of which was long-distance. He was, and is, an amazing person. Smart, funny, caring, and carries some kind of karmic energy that just seems to click with me. The distance part worked fine for a while, but once he graduated and got a job and I was still in college, it was difficult to keep the relationship intact. He ended it, I didn't beg, but made my opinion clear that I wanted to try to make it work. It was the worst heartbreak I've ever had (I was only 20!) I've dated several people over the years, but no one that comes close to how I felt (and still feel) about Tim.

Last week, he texted me to say he was in Boston (he lives out of state) and asked if I'd like to meet up. I haven't seen him in 5 years, and have only been in sporadic contact via email and texts a few times over the years, so this invitation came as a surprise, but I was excited to hear from him. We sat in a Starbucks for 2.5 hours talking until I realized I would be late for work and had to leave. I would have stayed all night! He told me he had gone through a rough time about a year ago, including receiving a diagnosis of depression, for which he is now receiving treatment. He said that he really wants to keep in touch and made it a point to say that he will call. He asked about my love life and I was honest, but didn't ask about his. The time with him was amazing and fun...and it's been distracting me ever since.

I know a part of me will always be in love with him, but now that I've seen him, I'm curious if things could work between us. Distance is still an issue, although I am not against moving. My friends know he was the one that got away and are saying things like "you never know" and encouraging me to act on my feelings. He seemed happy, but depression can be delicate and I don't want to throw any wrenches his way if he's still trying to stabilize. I don't want to chase and I'm afraid of being rejected again, and risk losing him. I think I would much rather have him as a friend than nothing at all, but is that possible with feelings like this? Is it silly for me to be thinking this way after one meeting? Do I tell him how I feel? If so, how soon? If not, what do I do about the friendship part?

Any words of comfort?

– Nostalgia or true love?, Boston

A: It's not silly to feel this way after one meeting. You loved Tim. You've been thinking about him for years. And then, like magic, he's sitting across from you at your local Starbucks, behaving like a self-aware grownup who's interested in your life.

My advice is to contact him (not a text; email or phone is fine) and tell him that it was great to see him but that it was also rather confusing. Admit that you felt some sparks. Ask him if he felt the same way. Honestly, it's a low-pressure question. You're just asking if the meetup gave him a few butterflies. If he says that it did, you can ask more questions. If he says he was butterfly-free, you'll be able to make some informed choices about how to reciprocate contact with him in the future.

Just don't feel silly or stupid. If my one that got away showed up and took me out for coffee and looked interested in me for 2.5 hours, I'd probably go home and daydream for 2.5 hours about our next first kiss. Your reaction is understandable.

It might be nostalgia, but that doesn't mean it can't become something real. Just find out sooner than later so that you don't stew too much about the what-ifs.

Readers? Is this all in her head or is this a real possibility? Is the depression relevant? Should it stop her from contacting him about a romantic relationship? Is this nostalgia? Thoughts on Tim's motivation for getting together? Help.

– Meredith

His ex is in the way

Posted by Meredith Goldstein March 27, 2012 08:03 AM

Q: I have been with this guy for over a year now but we actually have only been dating seriously for the past couple of months. When we first started hooking up, it was casual and neither of us wanted anything out of it. He had a lot of drama going on with his ex from a year ago, and I was just someone he hung out with as a good escape from it all. Over time we did get much closer, and his ex found out about me one day while snooping through his email. We were completely open about our relationship after that -- but his ex would go around saying she was depressed, would talk about what she read in our conversations pertaining to our sex life, and would tell people how he actually wanted to be with her. She completely destroyed my reputation and made me so embarrassed to show my face.

She began becoming extremely depressed, and her father was diagnosed with a bad illness toward the end of the year. She would put really heavy things on my guy by constantly crying and saying her happiness depended on him. She had a new boyfriend, but would continuously text him telling him how she loved him. Finally he told her we were getting more serious and she needed to stop, but she still continued to do the same things over and over. I also tried talking to her to get her to stop, but nothing seemed to work. In the midst of all of this, I heard that they had hooked up during the earlier parts of us talking. He did at first lie about it, but I told him I didn't believe him and he eventually admitted to it.

Now that her father is ill, he feels responsible for the way she is behaving and for her depression. He feels as though he should talk to her about how she feels, but I don't know what to take of it. I hate this girl for what she did to me and put me through when I didn't even know her, and I hate her for what she did to him (she cheated during their relationship). I feel absolutely crazy telling him not to be there for her, but it makes me feel incredibly uncomfortable. All of her friends have stopped talking to her as a result of her actions toward this situation, so he feels as though she has no one.

This isn't a trust issue for me; it's more that I just don't feel entitled to my boyfriend since she knows he will always be there when she needs it. I feel like she takes advantage of that and he allows her to do that. I really don't know what the sane way to feel about this is, and I hope you could give me some guidance.

– Can't Handle the Ex, Boston

A: I understand that there's history here and that her father is ill and that she's friendless, but this can't be your boyfriend's responsibility. Because when will it stop? And how does this woman's new boyfriend feel about all of this? This can't be working for anyone.

I don't expect that your boyfriend will leave this woman depressed and alone, but I hope that he's capable of setting boundaries and explaining to her that he can't be her first phone call. I want your boyfriend to talk to her (again) about what works for him, and to give her some tools to find help on her own. You're allowed to ask him to minimize contact. You're allowed to help him figure out what to say. You're allowed to tell him all about your boundaries and what you can live with as he deals with someone who used to be the most important person in his life.

Realistically, your best-case scenario is that your boyfriend sets boundaries so that his ex-girlfriend fades away. I don't see it getting better than that. He's not going to cut her off right now, certainly not out of the blue.

And that's why you need to be honest with yourself about what you'll put up with. This woman has been a problem since you started this relationship, and you've only been serious for a few months. Meanwhile, you didn't tell us much about the good stuff. Is there enough positive to counter the negative? Can you be happy with your probable best-case scenario? If not, you know what you have to do. Is this worth the hassle?

Readers? Can the letter writer ask the boyfriend to stop talking to the ex? Does it matter that the ex is going through a family crisis? Will the boyfriend ever minimize the ex? What should the letter writer do? Help.

– Meredith

His new girlfriend wants me gone

Posted by Meredith Goldstein March 21, 2012 06:26 AM

Chat day.

Q: My boyfriend of five years and I broke up about a year and a half ago. We have both since moved on and are in serious relationships with new people. I miss my ex very much as we lived together for many years and were not just boyfriend and girlfriend, but also just really great friends. We shared so much together and even though we ended up splitting up (he ended it because of commitment issues), I wish to maintain some sort of friendship with him.

The problem is, he is dating a girl who is many, many years younger than he is, and who has serious jealousy and insecurity issues. According to my ex, she has forbidden him to see me, even in social situations where many of our mutual friends are around, and even with our new partners. He emails and texts me occasionally about non-important things, my guess is just to maintain some sort of contact with me and because his new girlfriend won't know about this kind of communication. I've stopped writing back because I've really lost respect for him. My question is, is it worth trying to maintain a friendship with an ex who lets his new partner's insecurities interfere with his life -- or do I confront him and tell him I'm not interested in a friendship unless it's a real one?

– Cut Off, Boston

A: I'd tell him that you're just not comfortable being part of a lie.

I mean, what if his new girlfriend found these innocent texts? Would she feel betrayed? Would she tell your ex that he's been cheating? Your ex should understand that you can't contribute to that kind of dishonesty.

Before you lose all respect for him, know that friendships with exes are often this tricky. Even if they start out great, they don't always last. My guess is that this young woman is freaking out about you because she sees the writing on the wall -- writing that tells her that she's going to be his next ex-girlfriend. Maybe he mutters your name in his sleep. Who knows?

You can't tell him what's best for him or what he should do in this new relationship. All you can tell him is that you can't be part of a lie, which is why you're not writing back to these texts. Let him work out the rest of it on his own. Give him space to figure out whether he wants to be with someone whose rules force him to be dishonest.

Readers? Is this new girlfriend in the wrong for not wanting a serious ex around? Is the boyfriend in the wrong for accepting the rules? Am I right to say that the texts are a problem because he's probably lying about them to his new girlfriend? Should the letter writer demand a "real" friendship? Can we stay friends with exes like this? Discuss.

– Meredith

Can we keep in touch with our cousin's ex?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein March 20, 2012 08:26 AM

Q: Dear Meredith,

My cousin is currently going through a painful divorce (what divorce isn't painful?), and while her soon to be ex-husband was the one who initiated the divorce proceedings, both of them are responsible for the failure of their marriage. I should also note that the grounds for the divorce are on differences -- there were no extramarital affairs, and no one was abusive. Also, there are no children or any properties involved.

Since we are all a very large and close extended family, we are all friends on Facebook. All of us were on excellent terms with her ex, and welcomed him into the family. And while her ex and I do not keep in regular contact, we still remain friends on Facebook. During this time, her ex has periodically been in touch with me during my father's terminal illness, asking about his health, and sending a beautiful card when my father passed away. All in all, he is a very nice guy.

Now for my problem. For the past couple of months, my cousin has been repeatedly emailing everyone in the family to cut all contact and de-friend him. Since her ex has shown noting but kindness and compassion to me and my immediate family during our period of grief and loss, I feel reluctant to de-friend him and cut all contact. I understand where my cousin is coming from, but it seems rude and passive-aggressive for me to do this. I don't want to be a bad cousin, but I don't believe it is her place to tell all of us whom we can and cannot speak to. What would you advise me to do?

– Trapped by Facebook Drama, Brighton

A: Don't think of this as your cousin telling you what to do, TBFD. Think of it as her telling you what she needs. This isn't about who's at fault in the divorce. It's about losing her husband against her will. She's angry, confused, and doesn't want to be reminded of this great loss. She certainly doesn't want to see her close family members commenting on his Facebook status.

I understand where you're coming from, of course. This guy made you feel safe when you suffered a great loss against your will. Still, my advice is to minimize the Facebook stuff as much as possible. Keep the Internet safe for your cousin. You might not even have to de-friend him. Isn't there a way to put him on a more private or distant list of acquaintances? (Facebook savvy commenters: Please help with this.) He might be less available to you this way, but that's what happens during a divorce. We all lose something.

If this guy wants to reach out to you, he has your e-mail, phone number, and address (I assume). He'll find you, and if/when he does, you don't have to share that information with your cousin. You said that you don't speak to him regularly anyway, so this shouldn't be much of an issue. For you, this is just about knowing that he's out there. That should be good enough.

Readers? Is the letter writer allowed to stay in contact with her ex and keep it a secret? Can someone explain Facebook privacy settings so the letter writer can make this work? Is the cousin being unreasonable by asking her family to cut off her soon-to-be ex-husband? Is the letter writer lacking empathy for the cousin? Help.

– Meredith

Has the spark returned?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein March 19, 2012 08:29 AM

Q: Hi Meredith,

I am a single woman in my early 30s and am involved in a "friends with benefits" situation. The gentleman is an ex-boyfriend from about a decade ago. We dated on and off for over 3 years but have stayed very close since we decided to finally call it quits. The break up was mutual.

We have supported each other through good times and bad over the years. We've been through deaths, other relationships, breakups, new jobs, and new apartments. We have a great connection that I never want to give up. We think alike and have the same dry wit. There is only one other person who can make me belly laugh like he does and that is my best friend from elementary school. We truly enjoy each other's company (in and outside the bedroom).

There are multiple reasons why we finally ended it but I will touch on just a few. We were young when we started dating, and we were both (admittedly) having a hard time committing and picturing ever settling down. He had a hard time believing that I didn't want to get married and have kids anytime soon. At one point he and his roommate started hanging out with a new group of friends, most of whom were women. Knowing he did not have many friends I encouraged it at first. Long story short, I started to get jealous. I have never been jealous in any other relationship prior or since and I hated how it made me feel. He started treating me differently and the spark was no longer there. I had to call it quits.

Over the years we have dated other people and keep a respectable distance during those times but always stayed in contact. The minute we are single, the "friends with benefits" arrangement kicks in. Over the past year we have really enjoyed each other, but there was no spark -- until the other night. It totally caught me (and I think him) off guard. We have kissed many times over the years since we separated but the kiss the other night sent shivers through my body and tears to my eyes. It was that spark that we had been missing. Not saying a word or knowing what to do, he snuggled in close to me and we just fell asleep. We've talked since then but "it" has not been discussed since. So here is my question: Do I bring it up? Do I leave it alone so not to rock the boat? I think I would be open to dating again but I am nervous of the rejection. I cannot stop thinking about it.

Thanks for reading!

– Unexpected Feelings, Boston

A: You must bring it up, UF. Even without that magic kiss, it'd be time for a discussion. You guys have been half committed to each other for years, which means that you've only been half committed to finding a real partner. The spark is obviously there. You just need to decide what to do about it.

Bring it up. Tell him that you want to try dating him again, because you do. If he doesn't, it's time to rock the boat so hard that he falls out of it.

And please know this: The spark never left. Sure, you didn't feel it until that kiss the other night, but it takes some spark to fuel a friends-with-benefits situation. The spark was moving things along, making you want to run into each other's arms every time you could. Your guy either wants to pursue that spark or he doesn't. And if he doesn't, you need some time and space to accept your reality.

Have the talk before you spend years feeling hopeful and confused for no good reason. Explain to him that all you want to do right now is try.

Readers? Was the spark ever gone? What's happening here? What should she tell him? What happened with the kiss? Will he want this? Does she have to rock the boat?

– Meredith

It just isn't there for her

Posted by Meredith Goldstein March 16, 2012 08:12 AM

A Friday treat: Some advice from young people in Boston.

Q: I have been off and on dating a girl for the past year and a half. We are basically best friends and have amazing communication. We have talked hypothetically about being more serious, and even marriage. She has admitted to me that I am the first guy she has pictured marrying and being a father to her 3-year-old child. I am everything right to her.

However, as I said, we have been off and on for the past year and a half. She breaks things off and comes back to me. Most recently, when we officially tried being together, it lasted about 3 weeks. She admitted to me that it just isn't there for her. She still wants to be friends and still admits I am everything right, however it's just not there even though she really wants it to be.

My question is, do I still be a friend to her? Or do I need to move past her and let her completely go? I still have a lot of feelings for her, and I'm still very attracted to her. Why do I still hold on to her when I have so many other options with other girls?

– Hopelessly Holding On, Salt Lake City

A: You can't be her friend right now, HHO. As soon as she said that "it just wasn't there for her," it was over. She tried being with you many times and managed to walk away from all of your qualities. You need to cut her off so that you can accept your reality. Consider this a real breakup. Treat it like one.

As for why you want her so much when you have so many other options ... well, you fell in love with her. It's just that simple. It's also possible that you became a bit obsessed with winning her affection. The courting process can be very, very addictive. After a few false starts, this was about getting it right as much as it was about love.

Cut her off. Get some clarity. Explain to her that you need space to figure this out. Crawl under the covers and be sad about this. You need to mourn so that you can start getting excited about your other options.

Readers? Can you help him start the process? Should he continue to be her friend? Does motherhood play a role in her decision? What happened here? Untangle this for him.

– Meredith

I miss the turbulence

Posted by Meredith Goldstein March 14, 2012 08:25 AM

Let's see if the chat software works today. We'll start at 1.

Q: Meredith,

I have loved Love Letters since 2010 when I lived in Boston and went through a really hard break up. I was with my ex, let's call him Brian, for 5 years. We were young and had the kind of love that consumes you in an unhealthy way. I was completely sucked in and obsessed. We were so passionate, loving each other one second and fighting uncontrollably the next. When we broke up I was devastated.

Soon after our break up, I met Nate, an older and more mature guy. Our relationship blossomed and we fell fast into a more mature, adult love. We live together now, moved across the country together, and 95% of the time everything is great. We drink tea, watch TV together and "make grilled cheese sandwiches" before bed. It feels very natural and grown up.

But then there is the 5% of the time where I miss the obsessed feeling, the fighting just to make up. I do not know if I am just romanticizing what Brian and I had or if I am just really missing it.

I am going back to Boston soon for a week and part of me wants to see Brian, to see if feelings come back. But is that crossing lines? Am I playing with fire? How do I ignore these feelings and appreciate what I have 100% of the time. Or is something wrong in my relationship that I feel this way?

– Will This Mess With My Head, Los Angeles

A: Brian isn't the issue here, WTMWMH. The issue is whether you want to be "grown up" and serious with Nate or whether you need more time on your own. Do you like the security of your life with this older, stable guy? Or do you need to be someone who's wandering around, looking for new loves, and experiencing the range of emotions that comes with dating?

My guess is that you're mourning the loss of your former, turbulent life because you know that you've moved on from it.

I base that opinion on your numbers. You told us that you're happy 95 percent of the time. That's like an A+, right? If your percentage was 60-40, we'd have more to talk about. If you were questioning things 40 percent of the time, I'd have to wonder whether you should be drinking tea and living across the country with some grown up.

If you're truly free from doubts about 95 percent of the time ... well, I'm just not sure it gets better than that. Three to five percent of us always wonders whether we should quit our jobs, sleep with other people, and move to a different city. You're supposed to have some what-ifs and daydreams. Pay attention to your percentage, because if it's really 95-5, you're in good shape.

And as for Boston, there's no need to see a guy who made you feel unhealthy. Instead, visit your old friends and think about how much you miss the rest of the life you left behind.

Readers? Should she see Brian for a basis of comparison? Is there a problem here? Does she want to be with Nate? Is her upcoming trip spawning these doubts? Discuss.

– Meredith

He's haunting my dreams

Posted by Meredith Goldstein March 13, 2012 07:30 AM

Q: Dear Meredith,

I started dating Jake about six years ago. We had a very immature, young, and passionate relationship. I had so much fun with him but also lost most of my identity as an individual (and self-respect). It unfortunately ended abruptly and horribly with betrayal, confusion, and many unanswered questions. This break-up happened about two years ago. To be completely honest (don't judge me), our break-up was basically hugging good-bye after a party, and blocking each other's Facebook and phone numbers. There was no confrontation. It was almost as though we both knew it was over and felt there was nothing to talk about.

Fast-forward to now. I am doing well with a guy who I have been seeing for a year. I am my own person and I have no regrets. I am honestly much happier without Jake. Or so I consciously think ...

From the break-up to now I have had tons of dreams about Jake. It is the same dream in different forms. For instance, one night I had a dream that we were in a grocery store. Jake walked up to me and told me he wanted to talk things out. He told me to meet him in a certain aisle, but we never seemed to be in the same aisle at the same time. Similar dreams include Jake asking me to talk things out but my mouth is severely taped shut and the tape won't peal, being in a forest and losing each other mid-sentence because a tree crashed in between us, and being in a parking lot and getting into different cars. After I wake up from the dream, even if I realize that I am a better, healthier person without him, I get the same gut feeling a heartbroken person feels. I go about my day feeling as though someone just dumped me.

Have I mentioned it's been almost two years!!

There have been no encounters with Jake because he does not want to see me. Even if I tried to contact him, I would 100% be ignored. He moved out of town and changed his phone number. He even stopped talking to mutual friends so I literally have no connection to him. Therefore, trying to seek closure with him face-to-face is NOT an option. He is a different, cruel person now and I don't even think talking with him would even make the dreams go away. I only have the dreams about three or four times a month, but even that seems like way too many.

I don't understand why I continue to have these dreams. I really do think I'm over Jake and I am much more grateful to have found my current boyfriend. Can I find closure without facing Jake? This is not only a problem for my own mental state, but my boyfriend is getting angry. He understands that I cannot help what I dream about, but he views dreams as random, and far from meaningful. He hates when I analyze them and try to figure them out. It makes him think I still have feelings for Jake. We have been arguing about it frequently and I feel trapped in my own sleep. Please help me!

– Dreaming in Derry

A: My first piece of advice is to stop talking to your boyfriend about these dreams. He doesn't want to sit around and analyze this stuff. You're supposed to call platonic friends for that kind of conversation.

My second piece of advice is to accept that these dreams mean many things, and that we're all prone to having dreams over and over again. The Jake in your dreams seems to represent guilt, loss, anger, and insecurity. You feel bad that you didn't get to end it right, so poor Mr. Jake has become of symbol of all that you can't fix. The Jake in these dreams is also the old Jake, the one you fell in love with. That Jake is gone. You wake up to that reality. That's why you feel dumped.

To some extent, these dreams are also about fear of the new. You seem to be serious with this new guy, and whether you're happy or not, there's bound to be some anxiety about settling down. That's OK.

I've got to say, I'm with your boyfriend on this. The less you sit around analyzing Jake's dreaminess, the less your brain will be focused on using him as a symbol. Give your brain -- and your boyfriend -- a rest. Stop the discussion and focus on what's running through your mind when your eyes are open.

Readers? Why is Jake in these dreams? Should she try to find the real Jake and reach out? What about talking to her boyfriend about these dreams? Think she's really happy with the new guy? Analyze.

– Meredith

The return of the exes

Posted by Meredith Goldstein March 12, 2012 08:45 AM

Q: I'm 22 years old and I need some advice. I've been contacted by three exes in three weeks, all of whom broke up with me at one point in time. I will talk about each of them and what they said to me in the order that they've contacted me.

About three weeks ago, an ex-girlfriend who I dated for a year and a half (the longest I've ever been with anybody) contacted me and has been reaching out ever since. It began with her awkwardly saying, "Hey, what's up?" I responded nicely and asked her how she's doing. She started talking about how she hopes I find a nice girl and that she feels responsible for the fact that I haven't. That weekend she texted, "Am I gonna see you out tonight?" That was really weird to me, because we don't ever run into each other. Three weeks later, she's still reaching out for brief conversations. I don't really have any desire to get back together with this girl.

This second girl is one who I was seeing more recently. I had and still have feelings for her that I've never had for anyone. We dated last year but it ended abruptly due to different agendas. She told me she was seeing somebody else and I didn't get mad. I have always been nice to this girl. She's different than any other girl I've met. I would like to keep her around in any way I can, even if that means just as friends. It's like I care more about her well-being than my own, and I've never felt that way about anybody before. But after we ended, I was pretty hurt. I had to cut off contact with her so that I could move on. But then a couple weeks ago, she texted me asking about my weekend. We got into a little conversation, joked around a little bit, and then it ended. This has happened a couple of times. This past weekend, I wound up seeing her at a party. I admit that upon first sight of her, I froze and I couldn't bring myself to talk to her. She came over to me, hugged me, and asked how I was doing. Then we talked and joked around for a little while. The party moved over to this bar shortly after. Long story short, we talked to each other and nobody else from the time we got to the bar until the time she left. Mind you, this was a loud place where it is hard to have a conversation in the first place, but that's exactly what we did. When she left, she suggested that we hang out again soon. Now, as far as I know, she's still seeing this guy. We wound up going out with our roommates, and not even an hour later, she texts me that she'd like to do that again. She said she has a fantastic time with me whenever we hang out, and that she misses spending time with me. Then she said that she trusts me more than anybody. I don't want to read into this incorrectly, because she could just be trying to establish a friendship. But I find this very odd, and being that this could be the first girl that I've ever actually loved, I don't want to mess anything up.

Finally, this last girl is one that I was seeing a couple years ago. We ended pretty badly and eventually stopped speaking to each other. She tried to mend our relationship a few months later, but the first girl I told you about wouldn't let that happen. So we continued not talking to each other, and we both kind of held our own grudges. Today, she messages me on Facebook to ask what I've been up to and says that she wants to meet up and have a drink. I would like to do this because I feel bad for the way we stopped talking to each other. And I'm curious to see where this goes.

Now, everywhere I turn to find answers, people say that if you want a girl to miss you and to come back to you then you need to ignore her when she reaches out. They say to treat her as she treated you when it ended, but I find it hard to do that. The way I see it, what's wrong with being nice to them when they reach out to you? I'm thinking that as long as you show that you're not desperate to get them back and you're doing well without them, is that really going to hurt your chances of maybe getting back together with them one day? I guess this is my question to you. Also, what are these girls doing? Why did this all happen at once? Clearly, I'd like to have another shot with the second girl I talked about. But I'm not ruling out anything, and I'm not jumping the gun on anything. If they want something, they're going to have to ask for it. But my head is spinning, and I could use some direction.

– What do I do?, Boston

A: I don't know why these exes are reaching out. Maybe it's the weather. Or maybe it's a Rule of Threes thing.

All I know is that you shouldn't attempt to manipulate these women or play games with them. Don't ignore them because you think that your elusive behavior will make them fall back in love with you. Don't behave like a jerk because that's how they behaved at the end the relationship. Instead, be honest with them. If you're honest, they'll follow your lead. Behave like a human and they'll have no choice but to treat you like one.

You have my permission to ignore Ex No. 1. There's nothing to save there, and it doesn't sound like she's a real friend.

You can absolutely have a drink with Ex No. 3. My guess is that when you see her, you'll be reminded of negative things, but it sounds like you need to satisfy your curiosity. So go.

As for Ex No. 2, you have to be clear about your intentions. Tell her (in person or in an email – not by text) that you still get butterflies in your stomach when you're with her. Explain that you want to hang out more often, but that you can't promise that your intentions are platonic. Ask how she feels. Tell her that it's OK if she's confused -- you just need to know where you stand.

I don't mean to be corny, but I believe in the Golden Rule. If you're empathetic, confident, caring, warm, honest, and awesome, these women will want to return the favor. But please know that if Ex. No. 2 says that there's no chance of a real romantic reconciliation, you'll need to limit your contact with her again. Explain that to her. She sounds great, but you're not in it for friendship and there's still too much on the line.

Readers? How can he get Ex No. 2 back? What does Ex No. 2 want? Is she trying to get back together with him? What about Ex No. 3? What about 1? What about treating someone like they treated you at the end of your relationship? Discuss.

– Meredith

His ex keeps calling and calling

Posted by Meredith Goldstein March 5, 2012 08:28 AM

Q: I am writing for a few hundred unbiased opinions on a situation I have been having with my boyfriend. My friends are amazing listeners who are very supportive, but being agreed with repeatedly is not helping me. I need some fresh points of view. So, here's my "I love him, but…" story.

I live with an amazing man and his two kids from a previous relationship who we have about 50% of the time. We were together when we were younger and found our way back to each other about two years ago, both of us now in our 30s. Nothing in my life has ever felt so right. I am not perfect, he's not perfect, but we're perfect for each other. Before him, I was happily single and I could be again, so I am not with him out of a need to be in a relationship.

The problem has to do with his kids' mother. We all get along, she is recently married, they were apart for years before we got together, and we easily navigate custody without legal assistance. Neither of them has the slightest desire to be with the other in a romantic way. The problem is how frequently she calls/texts him. Their children are young, so there is bound to be more calls than with older children, but she calls at least once most days, usually a couple of times and that is often in addition to multiple texts. The kids have their own phone, so she is not calling to talk to them. The children are healthy, normal kids who do not require any special attention, so I can't figure out what is so important it can't wait until they see each other, which they do almost daily to drop off/pick up the kids. There have been times I know they've spoken more than once and exchanged a few texts and he still doesn't know who has the kids that night. Most calls have something to do with the kids but not always. Even when it is about the kids, it is often something trivial that really doesn't necessitate contact.

The other day, I asked when he last went a day without her calling. The only day he could come up with was the day he drove her and the kids to the airport. We fight about this constantly; he says he doesn't care because she is such a nonentity in his life that he doesn't even notice. I can't understand why it wouldn't bother him unless he wants to hear from her (he never calls her unless he has to). It has gotten to the point where I cannot even be rational when she calls for legitimate reasons.

Am I being unreasonable? Why doesn't he want less of her in his life? Should he set boundaries? How can he do that without creating waves (she can easily be tipped into crazy land and things wouldn't be so good for the kids)? Can you suggest ways for me to just accept it as "the thing" in our relationship?

– Feeling Like the Other Woman, CT

A: I understand why this bothers you, FLTOW, but there isn't much you can/should do about it right now. You've told him that her calls bother you, but it's not like he can ignore his ringing phone. The one time he ignores a call it might be a kid emergency.

I'm giving this woman a break right now for two reasons. The first is that she's sharing custody of two young kids, which means that she can be forgetful. She's probably overwhelmed. She's probably making many to-do lists and then leaving them in the car. Your boyfriend's ex could probably get all of her comments out of the way in one phone call, but she's calling whenever she remembers something tiny. That's just how it goes sometimes.

The other reason I'm giving this woman a temporary break is that she's a newlywed. It takes a long time to establish a good routine with kids, and despite the fact that this custody situation is relatively old, her marriage is new. My guess is that she's basically calling to ask, "Are we doing it right? Are we all still happy and friendly?" If she's calling this many times a day for no good reason in a year or so, you can absolutely talk to your boyfriend about making better choices about when to answer. But by then the circumstances will be different, so just sit tight.

For now, take a deep breath and remember that it could always be worse. She could be calling to yell. She could be not calling at all, which would be bad. Like your friends, I'll validate your feelings, but I can't endorse doing anything about them right now.

Readers? Should the boyfriend limit the calls with the ex? Is it worth rocking the boat with the ex? Am I right about the reasons for the frequency of calls? Is there something she can do to cope with the frequent communication? How can they avoid fighting about this? Discuss.

– Meredith

We hate his ex

Posted by Meredith Goldstein March 2, 2012 08:35 AM

Q: This letter may be just as much about me as it is about my guy or his ex-girlfriend. My boyfriend, whom I met about four years ago, is loving, caring, sweet, funny, sexy and everything I have ever wanted. We dated for a few months when we met, and started dating again this past fall. Things have become very serious. We are long distance and see each other every 2/3 weeks. We've made plans for him to live up here for the summer and I am moving back down there once I am done with my graduate degree.

My major problem (with myself or my boyfriend or his ex -- I am not quite sure at this point) is that his ex -- who, incidentally, is the local girl who lured him away from me after I left years ago -- is a rotten egg. She wormed his way into his life. At the time, he was about 27, I was 24, and she was 21. Now we are four years older. Why did he pass me over for her? Well, he was living in a rural town, felt lonely, and I was 600 miles away. At the time, it was all a very logical bad decision on his part. I didn't have much choice but to pick up and concentrate on my own life. I just never expected to hear from him again. Well I did, and here we are -- happy but confused!

During those three-plus years apart, he was extremely unhappy and struggled with his ex being verbally (sometimes physically) abusive and manipulative. In addition, a lot happened to us both personally -- he bought a house, I lost a parent, he lost two relatives, and he began a business with his ex that is still up in the air. He has admitted he made horrible choices and was always thinking about me. He is also very much past her and she is not a threat to our relationship at all -- at least not in the sense that he would resume things with her again.

However, she is a threat in that our bad feelings about her are somewhat poisonous and have become embedded into what he and I are trying to rebuild. Although she has moved away from him, she still tries to needle her way into things -- she calls and capitalizes upon the legalities of their business and then it becomes all about her. The fact that they ran this business together makes this almost like a divorce. Whenever she gets mean, he ends the conversation then and there. However, it doesn't stop him from making an unpleasant comment about her -- which, of course, I empathize with completely.

I have no issues with his honesty -- he is the most honest guy I have ever met and always has been. He never lied to me once -- not even when things began with her way back when. I have never met this woman and I absolutely hate her -- which is something I feel uncomfortable about. I hate her because she was a major player in our initial separation, caused me so much hurt, hurt him so much and is still hurting him.

The two of us agree that the years apart were beneficial for us. We are older and wiser and treasure what we have, which is why I just want to find a way for us to not despise her so much. I understand if this letter is a bit confusing, but honestly, it just reflects the resentful bewilderment I feel about her -- or me. I am not sure. I have found myself more than a few times looking her up online and mentally bashing her with the sort of derision I reserve for the Kardashians. That, I know, is not healthy OR constructive.

Our love is strong. This is the one struggle we have. The distance is nothing. Simply put, we are two good people who are feeling really mean and frustrated about this one person. So ... now I am very curious about the armchair online analysis you and your readers have to offer. I just don't know what I can do to make the hateful thought of her less pervasive.

– Nice Chick Otherwise, New England

A: I see two big issues here, NCO. One is that you and your boyfriend are using your shared hatred of this woman as a bonding mechanism. Yes, your boyfriend is trash-talking her because he's processing his anger, but beyond that, it's about using negativity to make your relationship stronger. That's not good.

I want you try to introduce new bonding topics. Whenever you find yourself obsessing about this woman with your boyfriend, shift the conversation so that you're making plans for your life together after your return. When you're on the phone with him, watch the clock. Have you talked about his ex for more than two minutes? If so, distract him (and yourself) by bringing up your eventual move home.

The second big issue here is that it's easier to be angry with your boyfriend's villainous ex than it is to be angry with him. He had practical reasons for ditching you years ago, but you were still hurt. And when he returned, he unearthed a lot of bad memories of you being passed over for a younger woman. You acknowledge your boyfriend's need to process feelings, but you have the same need. You're allowed to be ticked off that he let her worm her way into his life. You're allowed to scream about the past (even if it's to yourself) so that you can really, truly forgive him. Admitting that you're still angry will put things in perspective -- and will make his ex look like less of a monster.

Readers? How can they stop obsessing about his ex’s awfulness? What’s happening here? Am I right about the bonding and the anger at him? Ever become obsessed with a partner’s ex? Help.

– Meredith

Regretting the breakup

Posted by Meredith Goldstein February 22, 2012 08:28 AM

Chat at 1.

Q: I recently broke up with my boyfriend of 5 years because every 8 months or so I would find myself questioning if he was the person I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. The doubts started after about a year together. Usually, they crept in when we were talking about getting serious and moving in together or during a relationship lull. Usually, after a few more weeks, we'd go back to normal.

I always enjoyed spending time with him. He was my best friend. We laughed together, we enjoyed relaxing and playing with our dogs together, spending time with our respective families, etc.

A little information about us: I'm a law student and he began his career living just over an hour away. We would typically see each other every weekend, but not during the week because of my school requirements. He was wonderfully supportive.

My parents divorced when I was a kid and they've been miserable about each other for most of my life. My dad's second marriage also ended miserably. Needless to say, I'm terrified of marriage, serious commitment, etc. I'm not really sure what it means to be "in love." From what I can see with dealing with divorcing couples on a regular basis through our school's family law clinic, the best you can hope for is to find someone who you get along with well, can work through difficult times with, and who overall makes you happy. I knew I loved and still love my boyfriend, and at times would believe I was in love with him, but when I would start questioning us I would start wondering if I was really in love with him.

Now that we're broken up, I'm not sure if I made the right choice. I miss him and still love him, of course. I don't know what was causing the doubt. Was it my fears? Was it that there was something missing emotionally? Was it our circumstance (being long distance), or was it my selfish coveting of the life I didn't have (which now I realize is not what it's chalked up to be)?

My question is: Was I right to break up with him? Does it seem like it could be something that could be fixed and otherwise we would be good together? Why did I continue to go through those times of questioning? Just any advice, insight you can give would be amazing.

I just don't want to be like my parents and 35% of the US married population and make the wrong decision about a partner and divorce.

– Did I Make A Mistake, Baton Rouge

A: I can't tell you whether you and this guy are good together, but I can tell you that you miss him and love him and that you're confused. So call him and tell him that. He might say, "Please, enough already, leave me alone," or he might hear you out. But it's worth asking. You're not making any promises. You're just being honest.

Every relationship has lulls and moments of doubt, especially when one person in the couple is in law school, trained to ask questions, and grew up around divorce. My guess is that your doubts and reasons for breaking up with him were legitimate, but that you're entering a new phase of life. You're imagining life after law school. You're wondering if he might be a better fit for you once you've settled down.

My advice is to call him and be clear about the fact that you don't know what's going on in your head. He'll either tell you he's not interested or agree to explore this one more time. If he does want to explore, you might find yourself in this position again in a few more months. But at least you won't be plagued by self-doubt. And here's a tip: If he is open to seeing you and you start hanging out again, don't ask yourself any huge, is-he-the-one questions. Ask yourself, "Am I having a good time? Do I feel good? Do I want to see him tomorrow?" For a little while, the simple stuff is all you need to know.

Readers? Should she reach out? Will she be messing with his head? Is this about being a student? What about those doubts? Should she have time alone? Help.

– Meredith

Dealing with my ex's marital problems

Posted by Meredith Goldstein February 2, 2012 08:26 AM

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.

– Meredith

What are we?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein January 25, 2012 08:28 AM

It's chat day.

Q: I met this guy about a year ago. He was a new student at law school. We became friends, and soon our relationship became quite flirty and intimate, physically and emotionally. At the time, I wondered whether he was just fooling around because he had just broken up with his girlfriend.

A couple of months later, longer after their break up, we started hanging out more often, having pseudo-dates. We go out for food, go for long drives out of town, talk for hours, and have drinks. And whenever we go out, we act like a couple. We hold hands, hugs and kisses, get intimate, etc. He's been dropping hints, so I'm pretty sure he has feelings for me, too. Seems like a good love story, right? Problem is, we haven't really talked about us. And our "relationship" is not in the open -- although we don't really intend it to be a secret. (But it helps because his ex has been jealous of me since we became close friends and there are still issues about it, rumors going around and stuff.)

He is also hot and cold, and I wonder whether I am just a rebound girl or something. On the other hand, he's close to my friends and he knows my family and I've met his too -- but not in a mom-dad-I'd-like-you-to-meet-this-girl way, unfortunately.

I am really confused right now. I don't want to push the relationship or rush it, but it would really help to know where I stand or where we stand. I don't want to ask him outright because I might put him off. I'm scared to sound like I want to rush things. I am also shy and quite an introvert when it comes to talking about personal things and emotions. What sound I do? Should I just wait? Or should I keep my options open? Do you think he isn't really serious about this?

– Confused Wallflower, San Francisco

A: You have nothing to lose by asking, CW. I know that it's scary to rock the boat, but it's time. You can try, "Are we dating?" Or, "Think we'll ever be able to go public?" Or, "Are we at the point where we shouldn't be dating other people?" Or, "What the heck is this?" Ask with a smile on your face. It doesn't have to be a big sit-down talk or an accusation.

My guess is that he'll answer with a big "I don't know." And that's OK. Just take that opportunity to establish the rules together. Explain your needs (that he be less hot and cold, that you make this public, and that you both agree not to date other people) and see how he responds. Up until now, this almost-relationship has been all about him. It's time to change that -- and you can't worry about being a burden. He'll either respond well because he wants to make you happy and doesn't want to lose you, or he'll continue to prioritize his own needs, which should fuel you to move on.

Honesty can be scary, but self-confidence is very attractive. He should want to be with someone who knows what she wants and asks for it. He's going to be a lawyer. He's trained to have this conversation.

Readers? Should she be worried about asking for too much? Should she just take it day by day without having a big conversation? Do you think they're in a real relationship? What should she say to him? Advise.

– Meredith

Bouncing between exes

Posted by Meredith Goldstein January 23, 2012 08:48 AM

Q: I have been on and off with my boyfriend for about two years. He is beyond wonderful at times -- but he can also act as if he's not happy with his life at all.

I broke up with him because of that. My life wasn't going anywhere and I was beginning to feel stuck. The same night we broke up, I ran into an old friend that I used to text a lot. We kissed that night and I forgot all about my ex. This guy is amazing -- he has a great education, great family, great everything, and is so into me. He is so passionate.

We dated for about 6 months until my ex came back into the picture. I saw him at a few parties and I started to miss him. So I start texting him, sending him pics, etc. Eventually, I broke up with the new boyfriend and got back with my ex. The newer guy was heartbroken (I mean devastated) but I suddenly had no interest in him. I was all about my ex.

I'm still with my ex now but have also been texting my old fling. I am in desperate need of help. I love my ex and am so comfortable around him, but I love the second guy, too.

How do I choose? I've hurt these guys way too many times. I keep going back and forth between the two of them and I always get caught and never feel bad about it. I don't know what do to. Please, please help.

– Can't Choose, MA

A: CC, you spent most of your letter referring to your current boyfriend as your ex and your real ex as an "old fling." And I'm pretty sure that's what these guys are at this point. One guy gives you constant attention, while the other serves as a distraction when you get bored. The reality is that you're done with both of them.

You're not afraid of losing either of them, which means that both relationships are over. Please let them go so that you can experience life without the safety net of two adoring ex-partners. Time alone will help you answer questions about what you want out of a relationship.

And about those texts ... please stop. I'm all for texting inside jokes to a significant other as a way to pop in to say hello during the day, but you're using texts to cheat and tease. Next time you're feeling antsy and bored and you want to use your phone to get attention, try a game. That's what Brick Breaker is for. See if you can beat my score (10,500). If you can't control yourself with the exes, block their numbers.

Readers? What's with her impulsive decisions? Why do these guys take her back? Any thoughts about the texts? Confused by how she labels these men?

– Meredith

I'm paranoid after dates

Posted by Meredith Goldstein January 20, 2012 08:28 AM

Q: Dear Meredith,

I am currently single and have been for about three years now. I am 28 years old. I dated and lived with a great girl previously for about a year, but it didn't work out.

Back to why I am writing you. I am totally lost and hopeless in the dating arena. I have so many issues. I think I am attractive, in good shape, have a good job, and am very honest. But sometimes I think maybe I am trying to go out with girls who are too "attractive," at least based on my definition (not everyone agrees). When I say, OK, let me try someone who maybe I am not attracted to but could be good for me, I am totally not into it and end up feeling I wasted my time and hers. So that's one issue. Am I attracted to girls who are out of my league?

The more important issue is that while I actually do pretty well with getting dates and meeting women, I drive myself absolutely CRAZY with (1) when to call, (2) when to text, (3) when to meet, and (4) freaking out that maybe she doesn't like me and on and on and on. I self-destruct. I could go on an awesome first date but then smother the girl, texting the next day what a great time I had, asking her to go out again right after, and trying to contact her too much. One girl said that she got a sense of paranoia from me and that I could be insecure. Others say that I am too forward sometimes. I am just trying to be honest when they ask personal questions. I feel like it is more anxiety than anything! Friends always tell me to play it cool, but I totally can't. I already met a cute girl and asked for her number, but I am afraid I will screw it up again. I know others have much bigger problems, but I feel like a lot of my issues are what single guys and girls are often feeling -- when to call, what to do, etc. It feels like everything is magnified at the beginning so when being too careful, I actually mess it up. I probably sound desperate!

Please help ... I just want to meet someone and settle down. I am 28 and not getting younger!

– Totally Lost in NYC

A: Your first problem doesn't bother me, TLINYC. You should be attracted to the people you date. And you seem to be finding plenty of women to pursue, which means that you're not being too exclusive.

As for your second problem, it's true, you do sound a bit anxious and intense. You want to go from 0 to 100 with women after one date. That's not good for anybody. You can certainly call or send a text to thank someone for a nice night out, and you're allowed to be nervous when you hit the send button on your phone, but not every date is going to turn into a relationship. And if you don't see a woman right after a first date, it doesn't mean that she's going to disappear.

You mentioned that you come off as too "honest" on dates. I have to wonder whether that really means "self-absorbed." Yes, these women are asking personal questions, but there's no need for ridiculously long answers on a first date. And I would hope that you're asking these women just as many questions about themselves.

You seem like you might be obsessed with your own needs. What about theirs? Are you listening?

It's also important that you surround yourself with single friends. Couples are fine too, but this whole "I'm already 28!" thing means that you've lost perspective of what it means to be your age. Hanging out with peers will remind you that there's no need to rush any of this.

I want you to be so busy with friends that you only have one or two nights a week to date. Plans with friends will stop you from trying to see a woman 14 times in a row. They'll also keep you from feeling lost. That's important, especially in New York City.

Readers? How can he deal with dating anxiety? Am I right about the self-absorbed thing? How do you get out of a three-year lull? Discuss.

– Meredith

Importing a bride?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein January 19, 2012 08:29 AM

Remember: Be constructive. Have empathy. Even when you want to yell at the letter writer. Even when you want to yell at each other. I know it can be difficult, but the point is to help.

(And today is a tough one to deal with.)

Q: Meredith,

I am a divorced man in my early 30s. I met my wife when I was a young working professional right out of college. She was right out of high school at the time. We fell hard and fast for each other, but over time it was evident we had little in common, plus her family and friends didn't really like me. In total I was with my ex-wife for over 8 years.

Today I find it increasingly difficult to meet anyone, let alone date, find someone attractive, someone who wants the same things and not play games. Instead, I've been doing a ton of research on finding a wife from a 3rd world country. Old school matchmaking as they call it.

I understand it is not love. These foreign brides come from almost nothing, most are just trying to help pay off family debt. Sometimes these girls are simply forced into it ... as in human trafficking.

There are many cases where 3rd world brides are abused, murdered, and subject to deplorable conditions in their adopted homes. Many run away just to end up as prostitutes because of the language/cultural barrier.

I'm a big believer in helping the less fortunate. My intentions are to find a suitable wife, not to take advantage of someone in a desperate situation. Most relationships are based on love, but love alone can't sustain it. We often act out of blind love, sometimes it works sometimes it doesn't. Instead, I'm looking for a relationship based on mutual respect and appreciation first.

I believe there are merits to this "arrangement." It is a different type of marriage/relationship but one that could last even longer. There are so many divorces today. Clearly the love was right at THAT moment (whenever it was), but wrong at THIS moment. I need a relationship that can sustain itself with or without love. I'm not a frog, have a successful career, only 30, tall, no physical handicaps. I'm perfectly capable of finding my match here. But nowadays nothing is for certain.

There are many types of "arrangements" today: one-night stands, hook ups, booty calls, friends with benefits, open relationships, etc. This one is just more old school, using matchmakers.

What do you think about going on a marriage tour?

– Third World Bride, Boston

A: Nope. Sorry.

You want to do your part to stop human trafficking and help the less fortunate? Volunteer for an organization. Donate money. Take on the cause.

You can't compare this kind of bride shopping to a matchmaker service. If you want a real "marriage tour," hire a local matchmaker, someone who will set you up with a peer who's looking for a similar life.

And speaking of the word peer ….

You had an unsuccessful marriage with someone you met when she was right out of high school. Yes, you were almost just as young at the time, but you were a working professional and she was just a kid. And now you're looking for someone who's helpless and dependent. An employee. What does that say about you?

Many relationships do end, but there are just as many successful unions out there, and countless women who are looking for an honest, stable partnership. There are no guarantees in life -- even arranged marriages can fail -- but it's worth searching for someone who does actually love you. Love isn't everything, but ... it's almost everything.

My advice is to make more friends. You need to be around peers who can give you a reality check. Make sure that some of those pals are female. And please, go find a therapist and talk about your concerns.

No marriage tours. No Googling mail-order brides. You're in your early 30s. There's no rush here. Concentrate on friendship and working on yourself. If you eventually want to hire a real matchmaker (and your therapist thinks you're ready), go for it. Just pick a service that matches you with someone who has the means to walk away if it's just not right.

Readers? What should he do? Thoughts about his plan? What's going on here? Help.

– Meredith

He says he's finally ready

Posted by Meredith Goldstein January 18, 2012 08:50 AM

It's chat day.

Q: Hi,

I am in my early 30s and was, until a year ago, in a tumultuous 5-year relationship. Although we loved each other very much and got along well, my ex couldn't make up his mind about whether he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me, whereas I was ready for a real commitment on his part after being together for 3 years. To be fair, he was in an unstable financial and career situation the whole time and felt he had nothing to offer. He had already tried to end the relationship a few times because even though I didn't make any demands on him, it was obvious I wanted something that he couldn't provide. He was just not mentally ready. But each time, our feelings pulled us back together.

We finally broke up last year when he decided it was unfair to keep me waiting until he made up his mind.

It took me a while to get over him, but two months ago I met a wonderful guy and we have developed strong feelings for each other. But after I announced to my ex that I had met someone, he called me back to tell me he loved me and was now sure he wanted to marry me and that he's ready to spend the rest of his life with me. It's been a few weeks and he is much more communicative (he couldn't say the words "I love you" before), loving and caring.

So here I am, not sure if I should give my ex another chance or try and figure out where this new relationship is headed. Both options feel risky. My ex hasn't made me happy in the past due to his emotional unavailability, but I have some doubts about my new boyfriend's ability to make me happy too. He had trouble getting over an ex until recently, he hasn't gone to grad school yet, which is usually a big strain on relationships and delays family and kids (and frankly, I don't want to experience grad school a second time), he has a busy life (friends, hobbies), and I feel as though I can be just another activity to schedule...

Meredith, I need your help. I need to either tell my new bf I cannot pursue this relationship or tell my ex I will not marry him. How do I figure out if it's worth pursuing this new relationship or if I can trust my ex and give him another chance?

– Which One?, Boston

A: This is a tough one, WO, but based on what you've told us in your letter, you should probably drop the new guy. You want marriage and kids and he's thinking about grad school. And the whole "just another activity to schedule" thing doesn't make me feel good about what he has to offer.

I can't tell you whether your ex is for real this time, but you seem to want to know. You're talking to him (more than once, right?) and letting him tell you that he loves you. It sounds like you're already negotiating with him. I've got a big problem with the fact that he only changed his ways after you met someone else, but ... I can't say for sure that he's not capable of being what you want.

You could wind up losing both guys. The situation is certainly risky. But you spent a good three paragraph discussing your angst about the ex, and one paragraph listing your new guy's faults.

If you need to find out if your ex is for real, go do it. Get to know him all over again and listen to what he has to say.

Again, there are no guarantees, but that's life.

Readers? Which one? Is the ex for real? Is there more to the new guy? What should she do? Discuss.

– Meredith

I have a type

Posted by Meredith Goldstein January 17, 2012 08:35 AM

Q: Hi Meredith,

I am a successful, attractive, African-American female in my mid-20s who APPEARS to have everything going for me. I emphasize "appears" because people who know me believe I'm a young, vibrant, well-educated woman who has many opportunities awaiting her (and they are right). They think I don't stay up at night worried about anything.

And here is where they're wrong.

I have trouble dating and meeting men for a variety of reasons, but there are two that stick out most:

1. I have only been attracted to tall, attractive, white men. I'm talking about Tom Brady/Josh Duhamel/Paul Walker types. No one else. I have very good friends of all different cultural and racial backgrounds and I love them dearly, but as far as attraction goes, I'm only drawn to white males. I don't tell many people this because I'm afraid I'd be judged and looked down upon. But I only get that electric feeling with white men. [P.S. I'm working on breaking away from the pretty boy types I listed above because history has proven that the pretty ones are usually the dudes that break hearts.]

2. I'm still trying to get over a man I dated back in 2009 and 2010. I feel like he was the one that got away. I know it's been a while but it's like I can't completely get over him ... I just don't find that "spark" that I had with him with anyone else. He was so many things to me: smart, wicked attractive, educated, driven, funny, well-rounded, and his personality clicked well with mine. But he lived far away and it wasn't going to work. So I had to let him go. The icing on the cake is that I found out recently that this guy got married. Cue the water works. I was pretty hurt by it but he's been gone for so long, so it is what it is. The real downside is that I find myself only being attracted to men that resemble his physical features. Dark hair, brown eyes, tanned, beautiful.

The dating pool shrinks even more.

Anyway, I don't know what else to do. Men that meet me say they're surprised I'm single (probably because I love sports, action movies, and don't pay much attention to pop culture). I moved to Boston a year ago, so I don't have many friends that can play my wingman at bars or outings to meet guys. Going solo, I've tried extracurricular activities, going out, visiting bars...but I have this sinking feeling that I'm never going to meet someone that I'm wholeheartedly attracted to. I.JUST.FEEL.ALONE. Any advice?

– Living in a Black and White World, Massachusetts

A: We all have a type, LIABAWW. And when we're asked to imagine our perfect mate (or sexual partner), many of us picture Tom Brady. Or if you're me, this guy.

There are certainly some big issues at play here -- race is just one of them -- but I actually think that your problem has more to do with age, a breakup, and a recent move. You had a long-term boyfriend for some of your early 20s and then made some big life changes. You're still creating your world in Boston. It's an exhausting process.

My obvious advice is to join clubs, hang out with people after work, and say yes to every social opportunity. My less obvious advice is to stop using words like "only" and "don't" and "never." Don't be rigid. Whenever we have a terrible breakup we say things like, "I'll never fall for anyone who isn't just like him/her!" In reality, you don't know who you're going to fall for. And you don't know how your type will change as your peers get older (not every pretty boy gets to keep his hair and Tom Brady physique). Just get to know people and see how it feels. When you turn 29, you might see a serious change in what grabs your attention.

And as far as feeling like you're never going to meet anyone, well ... everyone has that fear. You're only in your mid-20s. You've got so much time. You will be hot for someone again. They'll be hot for you. It's inevitable.

Readers? Am I right to say that she’s making too many assumptions about what she likes? Has your type ever changed? Are the race politics important here or is she jumping to conclusions about her priorities based on her ex? Help.

– Meredith

Did I ruin my second chance?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein January 13, 2012 08:38 AM

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.

– Meredith

I don't want to break up

Posted by Meredith Goldstein January 12, 2012 08:38 AM

A reminder: Please give the letter writer some real advice and empathy in the comments section. I don't mind off-topic conversation (especially in the discussion boards where it belongs) but I don't want the letter writer to get lost in the comments shuffle. - M

Q: Meredith,

After two years together, my boyfriend and I recently broke up. (I'm in my early-to-mid 20s.) I am having a hard time coping with the loss of a person I envisioned spending the rest of my life with. Our relationship began with love at first sight but took us two years to get up the nerve to ask each other out. We lived together for a year but because of a program for his job, he had to move back home with his parents (about 45 minutes away). He and I tried very hard to make time for each other but were both frustrated because so many other things kept coming up that limited our visits. This is the most serious relationship either of us has ever had.

The fight that led to our breakup happened a week before we graduated from our academic programs. He said that we are headed in different directions because he knows I want marriage and kids but he doesn't want those things right now (I am not ready to be a parent for at least another 3-4 years and am fine putting off marriage as long as I know he wants to be with me), but he doesn't seem to hear what I am saying. He said that he would rather break up now than later and brought up other what-ifs for the future, like where I will get a job next year. I did not want to fight about what-ifs and still don't, but once he made his decision he said that if we gave it a second chance until May that we would be "living a lie." He still says that he's in love with me but his continually telling me that this is for my own good is frustrating. I know that we obviously need space right now but I would like us to revisit these issues once the job situation is settled here in a few months.

I don't know how to get around this. We still hang out, but because I am so deeply hurt by this, our conversations eventually end up with me asking for reiteration of his reasons (because I don't understand how the what-ifs years down the road can lead to the breakup of a fantastic, loving two-year relationship), and me telling him how hurt and confused I am. I have also been dealing with feelings of being worthless because I feel as though he feels our relationship is not worth working on and I am deeply hurt by what I perceive as his refusal to fight for me or our relationship.

I don't know what to do, so any advice would be helpful.

– Lost and Confused, CO.

A: You're not worthless. You're just single. And that's OK. He doesn't want what you want, but that doesn't mean that you're suddenly flawed. It just means that you're sad about the end of a relationship. Be sad. But don't let this breakup define you.

My first piece of advice is to stop hanging out with him. Cut him off. He broke up with you, which means he's no longer entitled to your time. You need to be moving on and these visits are painful. You both need to process this on your own.

My second piece of advice is to listen to what he's telling you. He's saying that if you don't break up now, you will break up later. You want to get married in four years, and he wants ... well, he isn't saying anything definitive about what he wants four years from now, probably because he doesn't know.

You can't negotiate yourself out of a breakup. (Trust me, I've tried.) We've talked about the stages of grief in Love Letters, and you're stuck on bargaining. Bargaining is exhausting.

Give yourself time to mourn and to fantasize about what else is out there. Imagine how it will feel when someone is smitten with you for the first time, because that will happen. Tell the ex that you're miserable to lose him and then then walk away. If he changes his mind, he knows where to find you.

Readers? Can you help her feel less worthless? Can you explain the stages of grief in breakups? Is he telling her everything she needs to know Help.

– Meredith

Coping with my parents' crumbling marriage

Posted by Meredith Goldstein January 11, 2012 06:45 AM

We chat at 1 today.

Q: Dear Meredith,

I'm writing to you and the LL readers about a bit of a different issue today: my parents' marriage. For some background, my parents have been married for more than 20 years and have my little sister, who's in her teens, and me (I'm in my 20s).

My parents have never had a particularly happy marriage due in large part to their different personalities and communication styles. My mom is Type A and has a "my way or the highway" approach to communication. My dad is much more laissez-faire but completely lacks the capacity to communicate. I do not think they love one another.

In the past, my parents would go through ups and downs but generally it was mostly peaceful in our house. Recently, however, my younger sister has experienced some serious psychological issues, and this has sent my parents over the edge. They can't have a conversation about my sister or her treatment (she's in therapy, meds, the whole nine yards) without it turning into a power struggle over who's at fault for the recent situation. I no longer live at home but have been put in the position of playing the moderator between my parents because they can no longer communicate with each other.

The constant fighting is driving me crazy and I believe it gets in the way of what is most important: my sister's health. I'm fairly certain that my mom at least wants to get a divorce but doesn't want to rock the boat until my sister is better. Counseling is also not an option -- my dad doesn't believe in the "mental health system" and getting my sister into treatment was hard enough.

I guess my question is this: How can I best mediate the situation so that my sister is the focus? I'm not looking to "fix" my parents' relationship; I'm only looking to help them tolerate each other until my sister is better and off to college. I have voiced my feelings/opinions to both parents numerous times without much success.

Any insight would be much appreciated.

– My Parents Need to Get Along, Boston

A: You're right, MPNTGA, this isn't a typical love letter. In fact, it barely fits under our LL umbrella. But I want to discuss it because for whatever reason, I'm getting a lot of letters from readers coping with other people's messy relationships. In your case, you're the kid so it's extra complicated.

My advice is to stop trying to mediate. You can't. All you can do is tell your parents how you feel in the moment. As in, "I understand that you're upset right now, but this arguing is making me anxious. Can we move on to the next topic of conversation?" Or, "Mom, I understand that you want me to call Dad on your behalf, but I'm not comfortable with that."

Spend your energy being there for your sister by making her laugh, visiting as much as you can, and helping her define what she sees happening in front of her. You can say, "Yes, they're fighting, but as we both know, this tension predates us. They just want you to feel better."

Of course, I'd love it if they went to therapy, separately and together. I'd love it if they found a support group for parents dealing with the same issues. But ... they're not going to, right? They're not asking you what they can do to get along and cope with this mess.

Your parents might actually learn something by watching how you deal with the situation. So focus on your sister. Focus on you. No one (not even me) has the ability to fix a couple's communication problems, especially if the couple isn't asking for help. All we can do is set boundaries about what we'll put up with as spectators.

Readers? Should she be trying to mediate? How can she help her parents help her sister? Can you help a couple get along (or break up) if no one is asking for guidance? Help.

– Meredith

Should I tell him I'm coming back to town?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein January 10, 2012 08:17 AM

Q: My ex-fiance and I ended our eight-year relationship last year, shortly after I moved out of town for work. I am now relocating back to Boston for work. I will be moving back into the neighborhood where we used to live because it feels like home -- I lived there for years before my ex moved in with me. My ex still lives in my old apartment, hence my dilemma: should I give him a heads up that I will be returning to the area? Though I have reached out on multiple occasions and would like to remain in contact, he wants absolutely no communication (it was a messy break-up). Given the size of the community, however, it is likely we will run into one another at some point. Is it better to let him know in advance that I am in the area so he can mentally prepare or just let things run their course?

– Moving Back, Another State

A: He wants "absolutely no communication," MB, so that's what he gets. Don't reach out. Don't make it a bigger deal than it needs to be. He'll find out about your homecoming through mutual acquaintances. Or Facebook. Or by Googling you.

I should mention that I'm torn about where you should live. I know that you've got dibs on the neighborhood, but you guys were together for eight years and he's still in that apartment. Do you really want to have to drive by the old place when you buy groceries? Would it be so bad to have a fresh start?

You'd be doing everyone a serious favor by drawing a half-mile circle around the old apartment and finding a place outside of it. I'm not saying that you have to jump T lines, but if you were in Porter Square, can you move closer to Harvard? If you were in the South End, can you try … SOWA?

It was a long relationship and you were engaged. I just want both of you to be able to live here without running into ghosts around every corner. And it wouldn't hurt to meet some new people on an unfamiliar street.

Readers? Should she tell him she’s coming back to town? If so, how? Who has dibs on the neighborhood? Discuss.

– Meredith

He gave up on me

Posted by Meredith Goldstein January 6, 2012 08:26 AM

Q: Hi Meredith,

I broke up with my boyfriend last summer. We had been together for a year and a half and had lived together for a few months. I was going through a very difficult time while we lived together. (I lost my business, my money, a family member, etc.) I could barely afford to take the T to my part-time job. He might say otherwise, but what happened is that he gave up on me, checked out of us, and started hanging out with another woman behind my back. There were dates, texts of adoration, the whole deal. I moved out, found a place, found a job, and started to feel good again. My summer was full of introspection and tears, but I got to a point where I was done putting energy into being angry with him.

We met up to talk and we hashed it out. We met up a few more times and we became less of two people who used to date, and more like two people who were friendly and actually enjoyed a laugh. Fast forward to now. We've been talking, texting, and have seen each other a number of times, and yes, I never thought I'd do it, but we became physical.
I thought I could do the casual thing, but he gets drunk and texts/calls and says things like "I'm so in love with you," "I miss you," "I had a hard day and want to hear your voice," and I just can't hear that as someone whose heart was broken by him, you know? So, I finally gathered the strength to say, I can't do this. We're not together, nor are we moving toward that. We're exes and I need distance in order to really move on and be open to a new guy who won't give up on me.

I really enjoyed being friendly with him and I do care about him as a person, but it was just too hard. I think it was right, but I miss him. I miss hearing from him and I'm doing this thing in my head where I don't think I'll ever meet anyone else. Oh, one other important piece of information: he was my first real boyfriend (I'm in my late 20s). I had had other "situations" in the past, but never called anyone my boyfriend, nor was I considered anyone's girlfriend. Is that why I'm having such a hard time?

I also think that this all happened because it gave me back the control. It's essentially what I should've done in the spring when he started checking out of our relationship, but at the time, I was so stressed out and in the dumps that losing something else was too much for me to consider. I did the right thing, right?

– So Confused, Boston

A: It's completely understandable that you cut him off as a "friend" -- at least temporarily -- because you don't want him to distract you from finding a real partner. It was a smart move even though you're missing him.

He was your first big relationship and you postponed the mourning process. Also, your good months with him represent simpler times. You're letting go of all of it.

This is also difficult because despite the fact that he was an idiot, he probably does love you. You were dealing with issues that people tend to tackle in their 30s and 40s, and he responded to it all like someone in his early 20s. On some level, you know that he probably does mean all of these texts, despite his inability to carry them out like a grownup. His legitimate feelings make this all the more complicated. (I have to point out, of course, that all of his texts are about his needs. I'd have a tougher time giving you advice if he sent a text that said, "I want to be there for you when you've had a hard day.)

I know you feel lost right now, but you've put your life back together like a pro. You're coping with the aftermath of a difficult year. You're doing what you need to do to see the world clearly. This phase hurts, but it's all part of the process. Compare these feelings to how your body responds after a tough day at the gym. You're sore all over, but that just means you're on your way to being in very good shape.

Readers? Why is she so sad about losing him the second time? What about these texts? Did he give up on her? Should she keep him in her life? What about her fear of never meeting someone new? Discuss.

– Meredith

I miss her during the holidays

Posted by Meredith Goldstein December 26, 2011 08:16 PM

We'll have regular letters through Thursday and then New Year's updates on Friday.

If you missed yesterday's spam, it's here. And if you missed Friday's updates, they're here.

Q: Hi Meredith,

You've probably heard this story before, someone having trouble getting over an ex especially around the holidays. My ex and I dated for a year and things were OK but we would have the same argument every month. I thought she had anxiety issues and suggested counseling, which she's done before, but she thought I just didn't want to deal with her emotions (which was also sometimes true).

We dated for a year and then stayed friends for a long time after that. For the first couple of months we were friends with benefits, but I stopped that because I was afraid I was leading her on. Just before our last FWB encounter she told me she "would always love me as a friend" and that's why I shouldn't feel guilty. I took that very seriously since I don't make friends easily and we were really close. I considered her my best friend even after we stopped having sex. But I always knew she wanted to get back together.

Fast forward to about three months ago. I knew she was dating but she finally got serious with another guy. I, being an idiot who has trouble reading my own emotions, didn't deal well with it and told her I thought I still had feelings for her. She told me that we needed time apart to help me get over her. I've been in this situation before and "some time apart" turns into "I'll never speak to you again." And this was a week after I helped her move.

Since then I've seen pictures of her and her new bf -- her taking him to meet her family and going on vacations with him (I consider that pretty quick, but my opinion doesn't matter). I defriended her and all of her friends on FB because I can't handle seeing updates with her and her BF without getting incredibly hurt. I've sent her an email for Christmas just wishing her the best but I doubt she'll respond.

I understand through therapy and friends that I can't control her actions and that she's an ex, etc.. I've also been told that since she won't talk back to me that's a sign she still feels something too, but I'm trying not to read into her emotions. But I've always felt that because we were friends and especially because she said she would always love me as a friend that I'm particularly hurt (even though I know people say things they mean at the time but won't follow through with). I've been dating someone else and I'm not even sure I'd want to date my ex again. There's just this huge amount of hurt that I haven't been able to get rid of. And the uncertainty of knowing if we'll ever even talk to each other again makes it hard for me to move on properly.

Am I being unreasonable? Do I just need more time? And is there anything I can do to help this situation?

– Home Alone, Cambridge

A: She cut you off because you're both dating other people and trying to move on, HA. I mean, how else could this possibly work? Do you think that you could have an easygoing friendship with her right now? Do you think that her boyfriend would embrace you as a platonic pal? Do you think you could keep your mind straight about what she represents?

Your ex wants to make sure that if you ever speak again, it's truly platonic. You need this space. Be thankful that she's giving it to you. And for the record, she has every right to focus on her new relationship. You should focus on whether you want to be in yours.

"Some time apart" doesn't always mean "I'll never speak to you again." This isn't "taking a break" in a romantic relationship -- you guys are already broken up. In your case, time apart means time for perspective. It's about giving each other the chance to mourn the end of a relationship, something you never got the chance to do.

You're right -- the holidays are particularly rough, but you just have to get through the week and try to stay close to your friends. And if you feel sad, that's OK. You had a bad breakup. It's just taken you a long time to admit it. Even if you're the breaker upper, you're supposed to be miserable. You're supposed to miss her friendship and want to text her little inside jokes. That's how it goes. But the truth about why you broke up is still relevant. Remind yourself of that, and assure yourself that she will speak to you when it feels less urgent. Of course, by then you might not care so much.

Readers? Tips for a guy whose heart hurts during the holidays? What happened here? Be nice. It's the most wonderful time of the year, after all. Help.

– Meredith

Avoiding the friend zone

Posted by Meredith Goldstein December 22, 2011 08:40 AM

Updates coming tomorrow ...

Q: Meredith,

I'm hoping you and your readers can help me out. I was introduced to this girl, let's call her Emily, several months ago through one of my good friends, but not in an effort to set us up. What I've come to realize is that I like this girl. There is of course a complication -- I've suspected that she was dating someone else, "Jim."

Emily met Jim when they were freshman in college and they dated a while. Jim went abroad, and while he was gone, he and Emily broke up because she met someone else. She and that guy ended their relationship earlier this year. Everyone is now graduated and Emily and Jim have been spending a decent amount of time together. According to my friend, they started officially dating again two days ago.

The friend who introduced us has suggested that I tell Emily how I feel anyway. So now I need to decide whether I say anything to Emily about how I feel and let her know that there is someone other than Jim out there -- or say nothing.

Worth mentioning is that Jim is a jerk to people quite often, especially to Emily, and other people beside me notice this as well.

Part of me wants to tell her now because I have a habit of becoming friends with girls I like and getting stuck in the friend zone and I don't want this to happen with Emily. But another part of me says sit back and see what happens. I'm just tired of being too cautious around people and missing out on something good, but don't want to screw up by doing something stupid. Please help.

– Looking for Some Guidance, Western Mass.

A: This would be a complicated mess if Jim was your close friend, LFSG. But he isn't, right? He's just the friend of a friend, and no one seems to like him very much. You don't have to worry about losing him, which makes this rather easy.

Tell her. Be brave. Explain that you've developed a crush on her and that you were bummed to hear that she's dating her college boyfriend. Then give her space. I have no idea how she'll respond, but at the end of the day you're doing this for you. You're letting the world know that you don't want to "sit back and see what happens."

For the record, I don't advocate hitting on other people's girlfriends, but this is more about staying honest. You're just letting everyone know how you feel.

The only risk here is that you might lose Emily. If she doesn't reciprocate and wants her life to be simple, she might keep her distance from you after your disclosure. But that's OK. She's not your close friend. You know what zone you're shooting for.

Readers? Is it OK for him to tell Emily how he feels? What is his friend's role in this? Thoughts about Emily and Jim? How can he stay out of the friend zone? Help.

– Meredith

It's not easy dating green

Posted by Meredith Goldstein December 19, 2011 08:02 AM

I'll run updates later this week. If you're a letter writer and you want to send an update, email it to meregoldstein at gmail with "UPDATE" in the subject line.

Q: Dear Meredith,

I have recently ended a relationship with a wonderful guy. Let's call him Mr. Green. He was my stab at "green dating" (the recycling of ex-boyfriends) after my marriage of 15 years ended. Mr. G contacted me out of the blue via Facebook almost a year after my breakup and we reconnected there. We have spent the past 2+ years in a relationship that I knew was doomed from the start.

I was honest with him from the get-go. I am not interested in ever being married again or even living with another man. I enjoyed his company, he was great with my kids, but the same issues we had 20+years ago were still valid. We are just ultimately not compatible. He has never been married and has his own emotional issues. He's a wonderfully sensitive guy and I love him very much but love isn't enough.

I ended the relationship last year but accepted a friendship with him. It was infrequent visits at first but then it became a monthly thing. We became friends with benefits and I felt like we were back in the thick of it again. I wasn't feeling compelled to go out there and meet others, nor was he.

One of our major differences is that I am demonstrative of my feelings and he lives in an emotional straight jacket. I get why, but it doesn't make me want to stay with him. I have now ended it for good and this time there will be no "friendship." I still care for him, I am still alone and he is too. Seeing each other will end up only one way. It’s unproductive for both our lives.

He is hurt that I won't be his friend. He says it's unprogressive of me, someone who prides herself on being a liberal-minded person. Am I wrong to not try to just be his friend? Can lovers really be friends after such intimacy? More than the proverbial innocuous holiday email that some exes can share, I don't believe you can just be friends without that tension or those old feelings coming up. Maybe I just wear my feelings too outwardly? Maybe I should restrain my feelings like him. Or maybe we just can't be friends. What do you think?

– Green Dater, Boston

A: It's not "unprogressive" to keep your distance, GD. It's honest and wise. Some exes are more than capable of being friends, but you guys aren't. So that's that. No friendship, at least not while you're single and vulnerable to making mistakes.

You can't change who you are. You can't bottle up your feelings and stay on your side of the friendship couch while he's sitting there just two cushions away. My guess is that he knows this, and that he's hoping that after another reconciliation or two you'll change your mind about him.

Explain that you need this space to figure out what it really feels like to be broken up. And tell him that dealing with the loss of an ex isn't about being liberal-minded. It's about protecting yourself. It's about reality. Assure him that a friendship might be possible -- later. But for now you need space. Your gut is right about that.

Readers? Thoughts on being "liberal" about post-breakup friendships? Thoughts on green dating? Is she being fair? Discuss.

– Meredith

Dumped at a big game

Posted by Meredith Goldstein December 15, 2011 08:23 AM

As many of you know, Love Letters is invited to tonight's party in Brookline for artist Sophie Blackall who illustrates Missed Connections she finds online. We had a contest for Sophie where we solicited Missed Connections from locals and she illustrated her favorite. This (below) is the winner.
Everyone (especially Mr. Cat Guy) is invited to Sophie's book signing at the Brookline Booksmith at 7. The contest winner will be there to read her Missed Connection in person. Then, all Love Letters readers are invited to an after-party at the Coolidge location of Finale. We'll talk, eat sweets, and there will be a raffle with prizes. RSVP to It's a good, free pre-holiday shopping event (books are the best gift), and it's dessert and friends on a Thursday night. Looking forward to seeing you.


you hooked me in with your sweet robot moves and cat shirt. none of that grinding stuff, just natural robotic talent. you said "hey, you're cute." and i said, "you, too" and then i elbowed you in the ribs because i'm not very smooth when it comes to romance. i thought this exchange meant we agreed on a sloppy bar makeout? whenever i busted out the robot arms, your robotic arms chopped mine in half. kept looking at your cat shirt thinking, "yesssss, i can see us marrying and having lots of cats."

went to dance on stage with friends and then lost you?!? my friend said you got shy, which makes you and your cat shirt even more cute!!! spent a ridiculous amount of time searching for your pussy shirt, but alas, i lost both you and my heart on the dance floor.

find me cat shirt guy, find me.

p.s. i also put up "LOST: cat shirt guy" signs for you.

- Ana

Here's hoping Mr. Cat Guy shows up tonight. And now today's letter …

Q: Meredith, my ex-boyfriend broke up with me three months ago. We both knew the relationship was over, we just weren't feeling it anymore. We stopped hanging out on the weekends and only saw each other during the week or hungover on Sundays. He only wanted to hang out on his time. I enjoyed his company but it was more like he was a close friend than a boyfriend. The breakup itself was tragic. It was at a huge sporting event. He asked what we were doing, why we only see each other on the weeknights. I told him to stop and we'll talk about it later but he said he couldn't wait. He said he didn't want to lie and pretend like everything was OK. But why now? We had gone months unhappy.

Halfway through the event I left because he wouldn't stop talking about our dysfunctional relationship and he was breaking up with me. I've never been so upset in my life, I never lost it so bad, never cried so hard. I know I said I wasn't feeling the relationship either but it hurt so bad that he "beat me" and dumped me. Honestly, I didn't think it was going to happen that day, and I certainly didn't think he would be the one ending things.

After the break up I initiated a meet up because I needed closure. I hated how he ended things. Really, I should have just walked away and never talked to him again ... who dumps someone at a huge sporting event? And what kind of idiot (me) still talks to the guy? Anyway, fast forward to a month later and well we met up and I was stupid (we hooked up). I realized that I still had feelings for him and decided I couldn't see him, I realized I still needed to get over him. I started to ignore him but he’d text me stupid things like hey heard you ran into so and so and happy thanksgiving, etc. I've ignored all his texts. It’s awful. Sometimes I really want to hang out with him as a friend, which I know is so wrong given how he ended things and how he was disrespectful during the end of our relationship. I try and take the "500 Days of Summer" advice and just only think about the bad things.

His most recent communication was asking me why I'm ignoring him and saying that he would like to have a decent relationship and that he would like to know that we can be civil. Meredith, why am I still hurting? Why do I want to pick up the phone and ask him to just let it go or ask him to meet up for a friendly drink?

– Just let it be?, Boston

A: JLIB, this must be your first big breakup because a lot of what you're feeling is totally normal. You're supposed to feel the pain of rejection. You're supposed to miss him. You're supposed to get angry for no good reason and then suddenly want to pick up the phone and have drinks. All you can do right now is tell him that you want to be civil but that you need some space right now to get back to normal.

As for getting dumped at a big sporting event, well, it's not so bad (unless you're on a team playing in said sporting event). I mean, it's terrible and not very classy, but it sounds like you both were holding this stuff in and that he just exploded at the wrong time. And let me assure you that no matter where you get dumped, the location feels wrong. If you're at home you think, "Why is this person creating this awful memory -- in my house?" If you're at a restaurant you think, "Why is he/she making me react to this in public?" If it's by phone or text, it feels impersonal. If it's in person, you feel put on the spot.

I remember someone breaking up with me at his house on a very quiet weeknight. And my first thought was, "How dare he! Who breaks up with someone on a weeknight? I have to work tomorrow! And why would he force me to spend 30 minutes finding non-resident parking by his apartment just so he could dump me?"

My point is, forgive the game thing. It wasn't a nice thing to do but breakups are never nice. You guys were putting of an ending and he made it happen. Tell him you need to take your space, and then spend some time remembering that you wanted this breakup too. The fact that he beat you to it shouldn't mean so much. Process this loss and get some perspective.

Readers? Am I missing something? Where have you been dumped? What can she do? Help.

– Meredith

I've been cut off

Posted by Meredith Goldstein December 14, 2011 07:03 AM

Chat day.

Q: I'm in my mid-20s and I recently ended my relationship with my girlfriend of six years. We lived together for several years but I recently moved to another state for work. There were problems outside of distance. I felt like I carried the entire relationship.

I'm ashamed to admit that before we broke up I cheated. My work sent me to another city (4 hours a way) for the month and I met someone who was also in a long relationship. We just clicked instantly and I've never had that sensation before. It started out as something physical, but it very quickly became something more. She told me she loved me and I said the same back. She said she's never felt this way about someone and that I taught her what it means to truly be in love. She said that I am the first person who's made her feel like part of a team and that I'm the first person she's ever liked cuddling with. We became very emotionally attached. I left town and we continued talking on the phone and texting daily. She even came up to visit and said she saw us having a future together.

I realized I needed to break up with my girlfriend -- I had been with the other woman for a month and my relationship was clearly over. The day before I was going to break up, this other woman phoned and said she was pregnant. She decided to end the pregnancy (a decision I agreed with) and I put my feelings aside to help her in any way I could. We still talked about how much we loved and cared for each other even while dealing with the pregnancy.

When this happened we both ended our respected relationships. It was difficult and she had a hard time dealing with the infidelity on her part. We talked a bit about what was going to happen next with us and she was confused and said she needed time but that she loved me so much. A week after the abortion she called and said that we shouldn't talk and that we both needed to move on. She said that I only reminded her of what happened and what we had before meant nothing. She said I have honestly never felt this way about anyone before, but all I represented was the abortion.

I am having such a hard time accepting this. I am really confused that over the course of two weeks I could go from the love of someone's life to meaning absolutely nothing to them. The pregnancy and the abortion were hard on me and I will never know what it must have been like for her, but I still love this person dearly and still see a future with her. I don't want to just jump into another relationship, but I feel like I shared a lot (albeit briefly) with this other woman and wish we could communicate and work through this. I don't know why she just completely gave up on me and wants me totally out of her life.

– Sorry for the long letter, Massachusetts

A: You can't control her decisions, SFTLL, but you need to understand that that you don't suddenly mean "nothing" to her. In fact, you mean plenty -- which is why she doesn't want to look at you. You symbolize the good and the terrible. You symbolize infidelity, the end of a pregnancy, and life-changing intimacy that came out of nowhere. You symbolize the end of a long relationship. Most of all, you symbolize confusion.

You can tell her (via email) that you hope she changes her mind. You can tell her that you're confused too but that you're willing to process what's happened to both of you while continuing to get to know her. You can tell her that you don't want to overwhelm her but that you’d like to stick around so that you can enjoy all that you experienced before the pregnancy. You can also tell her that you could both use some therapy after all of the confusion.

If she bites and wants to talk more, that's great. If she doesn’t, there's nothing you can do. For all you know she's back with the ex, and if she truly wants you gone, you have to go away and start dealing with the loss. And while you're at it, give yourself some time to mourn your ex. You never had the time to think about the end of your long relationship. Take some space. You need it just as much as she does.

Readers? What should he do? Should he be alone right now? What should he tell this woman? How can he process this? When should he reach out? Help.

– Meredith

I want to confess

Posted by Meredith Goldstein December 5, 2011 08:37 AM

Good morning.

Q: Meredith,

I have never done something like this but I feel lost. I broke up with my boyfriend of a few years a little while ago. We both still love each other but we couldn't manage to make a relationship function. We both have very different personalities and struggled with communication since the very start. It was a mutual break up; we both realized that the relationship was not what we wanted. We want to stay friends in the long run.

I have come to terms with the fact that we were not working as a couple and it was both our faults. The issue is something deeper though. I still have guilt because of my actions in the relationship.

When we first started dating, I cheated on my boyfriend while extremely drunk. My friends had to tell me it happened because I didn't remember a thing. I have never felt so horrible and disgusted with myself. I told my boyfriend, and he forgave me, and I thought we had moved on.

Fast-forward a year and I spent a semester abroad in a different country. I still had problems controlling my drinking, and again I found myself cheating on my boyfriend while drunk. I couldn't believe myself and felt incredibly guilty. I still do. Since then I have gained control of my drinking, and I have been focused on improving myself.

The thing is that I never told my boyfriend (or I guess now ex) that I cheated on him while abroad. I feel like since then I have become a different, more controlled, and more loyal person. I almost feel like it wasn't me who cheated, but my evil twin. I do eventually want to get back together with him once we work out our differences, but I can't handle the guilt that I have for cheating on him. I struggle to sleep at night and I feel like I need to tell him. I don't know if this is the right approach at all or if I should just let it be. HELP!!!

– Cheating Chick, Chicago

A: Leave this alone, CC. Take it to a counselor. Take it to a friend. Please don't call your already-ex boyfriend and say, "By the way, do you want to know some more awful stuff about me?"

Just assume that you both misbehaved during your relationship. Old information is pretty useless at this point.

My guess is that you want to reveal this stuff because you want the chance to say, "I'm loyal! I'm better!" You want to ensure that you'll get back together and you figure that this dramatic confession -- along with tales of your maturity -- will make that happen.

My advice? Show don't tell. Don't call him to read off a list of infidelities followed by a resume of awesome girlfriend traits that you now possess. Instead be his friend. If/when he calls, listen. See him at a party and watch him watch you control your behavior. And while you're acting like a champ, get to know yourself all over again. Because maybe over time you'll realize that you'd actually prefer to date someone new.

Your sleepless nights are about getting over a breakup. Give yourself a fresh start, and if you need to cry it out about what you did in your past life, tell a real friend. That's what they’re for.

Readers? Am I wrong? What's with this need to confess? How can she move on from her bad behavior? Help.

– Meredith

Dealing with a depressed partner

Posted by Meredith Goldstein December 1, 2011 08:19 AM

It was a good chat yesterday.

In other news, information has been posted about the next Love Letters contest/event. Please sign up for the Dec. 15 reading and party. It's all about missed connections.

Q: Hi Meredith,

I am a 30-year-old woman who has been married before. My ex-husband was obsessed with video games and basically chose to play them instead of spending any time with me. A few years ago I finally got a divorce and left the situation.

After going on dates here and there, I eventually met my current boyfriend, "Jay," through mutual friends and I felt instantly attracted to him. We started dating and have been together for over two years now. Things have been up and down. We've briefly split up a few times, but things have been great lately and I love him more than anything.

Here comes the problem: We both struggle with depression. Mine is seasonal, while his is sporadic and seems to be more severe. He tends to go through fits of depression where he will sleep all the time. Lately he's been sleeping or playing video games instead of wanting to spend time with me. The problem is that he doesn't realize that it's as bad as it is. When I've gotten upset and said that I feel like I haven't spent much time with him, he thinks I'm being over-dramatic. The other problem is that he hasn't been as attracted to me as he was just a few months ago. He says it's just because he's depressed, but yesterday he said that it's because he's bored with me and doesn't feel like being physical. I asked him if it would always be this way -- because I can't live like that ... so now I'm at an impasse.

At what point does me being understanding and wanting to wait it out through this fit of depression turn into me being a doormat and letting him walk all over me? It's genuinely wearing on me and now I am feeling depressed as well. I love him more than anything and always want to be with him in the future, but is there a future if he doesn't even want to sleep with me anymore?

– Beyond Depressed, Boston

A: BD, you asked him whether it would always be this way. Well …. what was his answer? Is he concerned about these feelings of apathy? Is he seeking treatment for this depression? Is he doing what's necessary to save this relationship? Does he want you around in a year?

Sorry to pepper you with questions, but you should be asking him (and yourself) about all of these issues. I believe that most couples can get through lulls bad patches, but both partners have to put in the effort. You learned in your first marriage that you can't fix a relationship on your own. If Jay isn't willing to help with this, you're doomed.

The big question for Jay is: "What do you propose we do now?" He knows that you can't stay together without having a sexual relationship. He knows that you're unhappy when he's off napping. He either wants to work on finding a compromise and fixing this (which calls for therapy – maybe even with you), or he's willing to let you go.

Get some answers. See what he's capable of. Be honest with yourself about how much you can get done on your own. You can't wait out bad patches for the rest of your life. Depression has to be treated -- yours and his. Are you both getting the treatment and help you need?

Readers? Is this fixable? Should she just leave now? Anyone have advice about dealing with a depressed partner? What's with the video games? Discuss.

– Meredith

He's back to tempt me

Posted by Meredith Goldstein November 30, 2011 07:36 AM

It's chat day.

And ... I'll be posting some information about a Dec. 15 Love Letters event on Twitter later today, so check in.

Q: Hi Meredith,

Daily reader. Love you and the commenters. Just a little lost at the moment and was hoping you all could point me in a direction ... any direction.

I'm a smart, attractive (at least *I* think so), almost-30-year-old gal who hasn't had the most luck in love. I've been single for the past year and half (healing from an ugly break-up: destroyed my self-esteem, etc.). I tried online dating over the summer and after a string of film-worthy nightmare dates, decided against really trying to find love. I should clarify: I'm in the midst of applying to return to school next fall (nowhere in Mass.), and I felt I should probably focus more on that.

Of late an old boyfriend from half a decade ago (let's call him Ike) has re-surfaced. Ike is 6 years my senior and extremely charming. We shared a brief, volatile few months together years ago. But we're very, very different. He's immature, very wealthy, and has had a lot handed to him. I have always worked really hard for every position I've ever had, and part of our volatility simply came from this fundamental difference.

Anyway, every year or so, back comes Ike. Charming as ever and throwing all sorts of inappropriate comments at me about how he's thought about me so much over the years, how I'm one of the most intelligent, opinionated, strong people he's ever met, and how he wants to be "in my life in some way." Yet he often flakes if we make plans, typically initiated by me in the first place. He's evasive and resistant to any real connection. Each time he's done this I’ve told him (diplomatically, of course) to [expletive] off. I've explained that I don't like, nor do I wish to engage in superficial relationships with anyone, much less an ex I have such a strange history with. The most recent occurrence of this was just a few months ago over the summer. Usually after I tell him to leave me alone, he does so. For awhile at least. Yet he just popped back up last week and acted completely surprised by my wariness. And in that conversation it also came up that he'd ended a relationship over the summer -- a relationship he never bothered to mention when he reappeared in June (Shocking. No wonder you contacted me ...).

Meredith, help. I'm in this strange limbo where I'm just really frustrated and lonely and trying to be satisfied with a future that still seems so far away. So I can feel myself drawn to the attention from Ike. But I know at the end of the day, I can't and shouldn't trust this person's intentions (whatever they might be). Any suggestions what to do?

– Lost!, Somerville

A: You're moving. You're about to start a whole new life at a new school. You're experiencing a lull. You need a boost.

So use Ike. I mean, you know he's not for you, right? Take the compliments if you feel like hearing them. Redefine him as the guy you use for some attention when you need it. Accept him for what he is -- an exciting distraction.

It's a challenge to keep these non-relationships in perspective when you're in a rut, but you're on your way out. You have so much to look forward to. Right now, Ike is a reminder that you're the object of somebody's affection. He just can't seem to let you go.

You know what's going to happen. He's going to swoop in and then disappear. Instead of trying to get yourself to ignore him -- something you know you don't want to do right now -- call it what it is and enjoy. Don't get angry. Have a scandalous phone call or dinner and let him tell you how awesome you are. Giggle and roll your eyes.

And while you're Ike-ing it up, start fantasizing about 2012 and all it has to offer. Because it's coming sooner than you think, I promise.

Readers? Can she enjoy Ike without getting confused? What should she do? Help.

– Meredith

Can I reach out to her?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein November 18, 2011 08:28 AM

I'd like to run some updates next week. If you're a letter writer and can update us on your situation, please email me (meregoldstein at gmail dot com) with the word "UPDATE" in the subject line. Tell us what's up -- and make sure you send the email from the account you used to send the original letter so I know it's really you.

Q: I'm a man in his mid to late 20s who has made some mistakes in his life. In my early 20s, I treated women like they were conquests. I realized what I was doing when I was 23, felt guilt, and buried myself in a not-so-great three-year relationship (I was treated like a doormat until I walked away). I have spent some serious time thinking about one girl in particular who I met before I was in that relationship.

I met this particular woman when we were freshmen in college and I instantly fell in love with her. The problem was that I was a "grass is always greener" guy back then. For five years she and I dated on and off until I officially ended it. She saw what was good in me. She always saw past my bravado and would keep me in check. We haven't spoken in 3 years and I want to reach out to her. Not because I instantly think we should get back together but because I sincerely want to apologize. I have lived with this guilt for years now because I know in my heart that I should have stuck with her. I also know that I screwed her up emotionally. I believe people can change and I know that I have.

Do you think it would be a bad idea for me to reach out an apologize after three years of no contact? Eventually we will cross paths because we have mutual friends who have weddings coming up. I know with my luck we will be seated at the same table because our friends have sick senses of humors and always loved us together. What should I do?

– Time Changes, CT

A: I'd wait until you see her at the weddings, TC. It's been three years. You don't know her anymore. You're romanticizing the relationship and thinking of her as the soul mate you left behind. In person, you might want to give her a quick apology and walk away.

If you want to give her a real, extended apology after seeing her, go for it, but keep your expectations low.

A disclosure: I've been on the other end of this kind of apology (Draco Malfoy). Getting it made me angry -- because it put me in the position of having to focus on someone who had already sucked up a lot of my time. I remember complaining to friends that the ex’s apology note was symbolic of so much -- that even after years of no contact, he was still reaching out to say, "Me! Me!"

But ...

I wouldn't undo the fact that he sent it.

The thing is, it was nice to know that he felt like an idiot, and it was therapeutic to read (via email – that's the best way to reach out) that he understood the importance of the relationship.

My advice is to do what feels right in your gut after you see her. And if you send the note, don't focus too much on yourself. "I feel ... I need ... I did ..." ... those kind of phrases are going to make her roll her eyes. Keep it to an apology and some honesty. As in, "I don't know if writing this note was a good idea ... it might be selfish. That said, I want you to walk around knowing that I've always understood your awesomeness." If she writes back, fine, but make it clear that she doesn't have to.

Get yourself to those weddings and then do what feels right.

Readers? Should he reach out? Are his intentions pure? Would you want to hear from him if you were the ex? Should he wait until he sees her at these weddings? Help.

– Meredith

Should I tell her that I snooped?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein November 10, 2011 08:25 AM

Please reserve Dec. 15 for a Love Letters/Brookline Booksmith event involving Missed Connections. Details to come.

Q: Dear Meredith,

Does my girlfriend still like her ex?

My girlfriend and I have been together for 18 months. Not only is this is longest relationship of my life (I'm in my mid-20s), but it is also the most fulfilling. We get along incredibly well, have tremendous chemistry, and our sex life is great.

One thing that concerned me early on in our relationship was the connection she maintained with her ex-boyfriend. They were living together for a year and then had a very emotional breakup (he cheated on her and she kicked him out). We started our relationship shortly after, so I'm not sure if she was able to get full closure on that relationship.

After a few months of dating, she was very honest with me about meeting up with her ex occasionally for coffee in order to "catch up." I tried being supportive and never voiced my concerns, but one night I looked at her cell phone and noticed that they were having open conversations about their relationship and where it all went wrong. This obviously made me very upset but I never said anything. I was worried that she would not forgive me for looking at her phone. I told her that I didn't want her meeting with him anymore for coffee and she obliged.

I thought this was the end of it, figured she just needed to lay her cards on the table and get closure, but it was not. Recently she left her email open on my computer and I ran a search for any dialogue between her and her ex. Needless to say, I found a lot of correspondence.

She has never written anything to him along the lines of "I still like you, I still have feelings for you, I think we should get back together, etc." But she does bring up a lot of nostalgic memories like "remember that time…" or "I heard this song and it made me think of you, etc." Also, I noticed that she is always the one reaching out to him or messaging him, not the other way around. It appears they have a conversation at least once a month and there is usually some reference to their previous relationship.

I love this girl with all of my heart and she expresses the same feelings toward me, but I just don't know what to make of this. Am I being a chump? Is it all innocent post-relationship behavior? Will she forgive me for invading her privacy? We are set to move in together in a few months so I need to figure out what to do as soon as possible. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

– Concerned Boyfriend, Boston

A: You're not a chump, CB. I believe that she's emailing her ex to figure out why he cheated, something she should have done before meeting you. But ... you can't control timing.

I don't always advocate that people disclose their snoops because sometimes, it's just not productive. But in your case, I want you to tell. If you don't tell her, you're going to keep looking at her personal messages whenever you get the chance. And you're going to move in with her with your fingers crossed for good luck -- instead of being confident about why she's chosen to live with you.

Sit her down and tell her that you saw some of her messages to her ex and that you're ashamed for looking. Explain that while you didn't see anything more than nostalgia and two people processing the loss of their relationship, it made you insecure -- and concerned about her. Apologize for crossing a boundary, and then tell her that you're so in love with her that you just want to make sure that she wants this, too. This isn't about not trusting her with the ex; it's about being sure that she's as excited about the move-in as you are.

Maybe she'll freak out and decide not to forgive you (for the record, that would be rather telling), but my hope is that she'll be empathetic. You won't be demanding that she stop the communication, you'll just be asking her whether she's moving in with you for the right reasons.

If you don't have this conversation, you're going to drive yourself crazy, so just get it over with. Remember: Don't accuse, stay positive, and remind her that you're disclosing all of this because you never want to snoop again -- and because you want to make sure that you're both excited about the next step.

Readers? Am I wrong here? Should he keep the snoop a secret? Are these harmless closure emails or is this ex a real threat? What's happening here and what should he do? Help.

– Meredith

I'm still angry at my ex

Posted by Meredith Goldstein November 8, 2011 07:50 AM

Q: I am engaged to a wonderful man who is most certainly the love of my life. My problem is not my current relationship; it is anger about my past relationship.

My high school boyfriend was my first love. We broke up but continued to date after we went to college, finally ending our relationship and cutting off all contact during my sophomore year. I dated someone else semi-seriously, but when that ended I found myself thinking about my ex more and more. Even though we hadn't spoken in more than a year, I was convinced that I was still in love with him. I made it my mission to get him back after I graduated. We ran into each other "accidentally" (on purpose on my part) and made plans to see each other. After some liquid courage that evening, I confessed to him that I was in love with him and we slept together. He was leaving on a trip the next day but told me that he would be back soon and that we would see each other again. After not hearing from him for several weeks, I called, only to have a casual conversation in which he did not mention our night together, or anything about us seeing each other again. I was devastated.

About a month later, my fiance finally asked me out on a first date. I said yes, if only because I knew that I needed to move on, and because there had always been an attraction (I knew my fiance through friends). I fell head over heels in love with him, and years later, we are engaged to be married next year.

I've only see my ex three times since my current relationship began. They were all awkward run-ins that included a meal that he initiated when he was near my workplace. During that lunch, he told me that he still knew who I was -- because people don't change. The rage that I had worked hard to suppress came bubbling up again when I realized he had never mentioned that one night or apologized for how he acted.

I don't think that I have a working phone number for him now, and beyond an email address and a Facebook friendship I don't have any way of contacting him, but I am still royally ticked off. I feel like I was taken advantage of. I feel used. I feel like he did a bad thing and has never had the guts to apologize for it.

This is not a fear of missing out letter; I am certain that I am engaged to the right man for me. I just don't want to bring these negative feelings into my marriage. I want to find a way to get over them so that I never have to think about my ex again. Sometimes when I'm at the gym, I find myself imagining what I would say to him to get through an extra mile on the treadmill and I leave enraged and wishing for resolution. I don't want to be angry anymore. Should I contact him and tell him how wrong I think his actions were? Is there anything that I can do to get over my anger?

– Sick of Being Angry, New York

A: SOBA, I'm going to validate you and then scold you, so prepare yourself.

These angry feelings are normal, especially the gym/revenge stuff. We all have tell-off fantasies about exes, especially when we're working out. And many of us have recurring dreams about victory over an ex. Sometimes those dreams are silly and immature, but they're therapeutic.

Your ex sounds pretty awful. I have no idea why he'd call you for lunch and then sit there, smug. If he cared about you as a friend, he'd send his best wishes from afar. And you're right -- he should have apologized.

But he didn't. And thank goodness he didn't. Had he been a prince, you might not have gone out on that date with your fiance. Only good things have come from your heartbreak. Be thankful.

You're allowed to dislike your ex, but you're not allowed to contact him. He can't give you closure. You have to get it on your own by breaking up with him in your head. Instead of thinking of him as the guy who wronged you, label him as the guy you'd never date again. Allow this to be your choice, because it is.

And now for the scolding …

That one night of passion? You're accountable for it, too. Yes, he took advantage, but you orchestrated the whole night. You made sure that you guys ran into each other. You consumed "liquid courage" and then allowed yourself to have high expectations for no good reason. He shouldn't have slept with you and then disappeared, but you should have been clear about what you wanted. You didn't call him up, ask him out, and calmly tell him that you'd like to start dating again. You dived in with no plan. You have to let that night go.

Forgive yourself. And know that anger (within reason) is OK. Sometimes that leftover sadness and rage fuels and informs our best decisions. It certainly did in your case.

Readers? How can she let this go? Do we ever stop being angry at our exes? Should she call him to get closure? Discuss.

– Meredith

Will I be his next 'crazy' ex?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein November 2, 2011 08:25 AM

Chat at 1.

Q: I've been in a relationship with "Kevin" for about two years. We're both in our late thirties/early forties. I love the time I spend with him. We travel a lot and spend time with my young child and his young kids. Our lives have merged nicely together over the last year or so -- family dinners with the kids, vacations, the whole nice family scene. So when Kevin asked my child and me to move in with him and his kids, it only seemed natural. He suggested we buy a house together.

But I'm having second thoughts. He says he's not ready to get married. His first marriage ended in a very bad divorce. I sense that he's gun-shy about doing it again. I get that. My divorce was no picnic either.

My big concern is that he'll never be "ready." It recently occurred to me that people don't stay around his life for very long. The people that have been around more than a few years are either colleagues -- or high school buddies who like to hang out at his really nice house. People stick around if there's a financial aspect to the relationship.

It's the people he knows on a purely social level that seem to disappear after a while -- neighbors, parents of his kids' friends, etc. If they just faded away naturally, I wouldn't be so concerned, but at least three former friends have told him off about something and angrily stopped talking to him -- all of them women. From the stories his kids tell, it seems that these people used to spend a lot of time with them – birthdays, weekend trips, etc. I've asked him what happened, and the explanation always centers on some minor disagreement. He can't understand why the person would "overreact" like they do and then he claims the person is "crazy." I haven't met any of these people and I don't know enough about the arguments to know if these people are crazy or not, but it's weird for it to happen over and over again.

I also have reservations about his divorce. He still refers to his ex-wife by a derogatory nickname -- even in front of the kids. He'll tell anyone who listens that the divorce was all her fault. He also has no explanation for why she left other than "she's crazy." Then he will go on and on about everything he did for her and how he couldn't understand why she wouldn't be happy. My husband left me, too, and it took me by surprise, but years later I have some insight into how our marriage broke down. Kevin has no insights like that at all. It's all very strange and uncomfortable and I'm not convinced he's over her.

This leads me to wonder if he's capable of a stable, long-term relationship with anyone, especially a woman. Our relationship seems wonderful. He and I and our kids have a nice life going here. Am I the next "crazy" person to leave in a huff or should I stop worrying about it? Should I move in with him and see how it goes or insist on a marriage proposal?

– Am I The Next Crazy One?, Massachusetts

A: My first piece of advice: Don't insist on a marriage proposal. You don't know if you want to marry him, so it seems weird to demand that he ask. You're allowed to take your time and answer these questions before you pressure him (or yourself) to move forward.

My questions for you: Does he make you feel safe? Does he listen to you when you have problems? Does he ever show signs of empathy for others? Does he only empathize when it suits him?

Based on what you've told us, my biggest issue with you guys moving in together is the name calling. You have every right to tell him that you don't want to combine households with a guy who calls his ex by a mean name. You want to set an example for your young child. No negative nicknames. That has to be a rule.

Make a list of other rules you keep in your own home. Can this man respect them? Does he understand them? Will he listen? If you're not so sure, it's not safe to buy a house with him. You don't want to get stuck.

Bring up the name calling and see how he responds. If he respects the complaint and can participate in a good discussion about how you want to frame your divorces in front of your children, that's a sign that he's not "crazy." If he barks at you for questioning him or accuses you of being nuts, that's a sign of something else.

Good luck. Ask your questions and make that list. I want you to feel safe and respected in your home.

Readers? Anyone call their ex names in front of kids? Is that ever OK? Should this LW be concerned about marriage? What should she do? Is it possible that all of the people who left him were crazy? Discuss.

– Meredith

How do I say no?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein October 28, 2011 08:43 AM

Q: Hi Mere,

The short summary of my question is: How do I indicate to a lady friend that I'm no longer interested in her? My situation is complicated because (a) I previously did indicate that I had an interest in her but was unavailable (I was responding to her asking me out); and (b) the way she's acting right now is why I'm no longer interested. She seems to be making bad life choices.

The background: We worked together and became friends. We're in our 40s and have similar interests. She is divorced.

When she first expressed an interest in me, it was probably because I was showing new signs that I was single. I was flattered that she showed interest in me and told her so, but explained that I was still married and would be for a while for many reasons. I feel I made the mistake of agreeing with her assessment that "it was too bad, because we both seemed very compatible."

We remained friends and while we continued to talk, I didn't notice anything different or troubling about our interactions. I also got the impression that she had started to see someone -- and I was happy for her. Meanwhile, I did start my divorce proceedings and moved away from my wife.

The potential complication is that a mutual friend recently informed me that my friend is wondering what she should do about her current guy now that I'm "available." I'm thinking "Nice ... but wow, what if I was in his shoes? That wouldn't be nice.” This also tells me that another invitation from her is headed my way.

To complicate this, I've learned from friends that they really feel I ought to stay as far away from her as I can. Apparently, she has dated a married man we both know. This has since been confirmed to me.

My assessment is that this woman might be going through a big rebound phase. I think that she'll come back to earth eventually and be somewhat the same person I liked as a friend -- and maybe a potential partner. I can take the high road and say, "I've met someone else, sorry...," which is a downright lie. Or I can tell the truth and say, "I was very concerned seeing you date inappropriate people and that's just not the type of person I'd like to start a new relationship with."

So have at it advice givers. Give me some food for thought. I'll make up my own mind, but how would "you" handle this if you were in my shoes and you received a re-invitation?

– How do I handle this?, Massachusetts

A: HDIHT, you don't have to initiate a conversation with her about this. If she asks you out, you can decline. You can explain to her that you're just in different places in life (that's the truth, by the way). She's been out of her marriage and dating for a while. Meanwhile, you're just figuring this stuff out. You'd rather be her friend. No need to lie or get nasty.

You mention that she's rebounding and might be a good partner down the road. I'm not so sure you're right. She slept with a married person, and that person is someone you know. That mess would follow you around.

My advice is to set some boundaries with her and to start expanding your circle of friends. Your world is too small right now. You need new faces, new experiences. Once you start seeking that stuff out, everyone in your world -- including this woman – will get the hint.

Readers? Are there nonverbal ways he can tell her that he doesn’t want to date her? Will she be a better partner later? Does she deserve a shot? Help.

– Meredith

It worked out for Gisele ...

Posted by Meredith Goldstein October 19, 2011 08:31 AM

Chat at 1.

Q: Dear Meredith,

I am reeling emotionally from what appears to be the end of what could have been a great relationship.

I met this great guy, Kenneth, six months ago. A mutual friend set us up. I was attracted to him instantly. None of that, "Should I go out on a second or third date to see if there's chemistry?" There was chemistry for both us. I'm in my mid-30s. He just turned 40.

We started dating and things were going very well. He was busy with his job (which involves a lot of travel) so we didn't see each other much. He told me up front that he was looking to date and to get serious but that his job took priority. I've always been attracted to men with unusual jobs. I wasn't fazed by his career at all.

About a month ago, 10 days went by without a phone call or email from Kenneth. I finally sent him an email asking if things were okay. I was really anxious when I didn't immediately hear back from him. He was always good about emailing me frequently.

Well, I heard back from him a few days later and it wasn't anything I had ever expected. He said he had just found out a week ago that a girl he had slept with a month before meeting me was pregnant with his child -- and keeping the baby. What's worse is that she waited months to tell him, so (in her words, he says) he wouldn't pressure her into terminating the pregnancy.

I was sick at this news, and then sicker when he told me he had his "hands full" and couldn't see me anymore. One expects to get dumped from time to time but not like this.

(As an aside, I know he didn't cheat on me. After our first date he was out of the country for weeks.)

While I get that Kenneth has had a huge life change, I can't help but feel like I still have a place his life and him in mine. Am I crazy to think this? It was unfair of him to shut me out. Our budding relationship was full of great chemistry, laughter, deep conversation. In other words, it felt right to me.

I need to know: Can our relationship recover? He is going to be a new father in a few months with a woman he basically barely knows. Where do I fit in? Do I fit in? If I don't fit in, how does one recover from a baby mama drama such as this? Am I kidding myself? Either way, what do I now?

– This Worked Out for Gisele, Right?, Wrentham

A: It worked out for Gisele, TWOFGR, because Tom Brady said to her (and I'm guessing here), "Gi Gi, I just found out that my ex is having my child. But I've fallen in love with you and I hope that you don't go anywhere. Despite this big life change and my hectic schedule as a professional athlete, I'd like to continue this relationship."

Your guy didn't say that to you. He didn't ask you to consider sticking around. (And I'm assuming that you volunteered, right?)

I know you don't want to hear this, but it's probably best that he walked away. Yes, he's great and there was chemistry, but do you really want to stay in a relationship with someone who'll put you third? The baby will become his new priority. Then the job. Then ... eventually ... you. Can you commit to that kind of life after just a few months of dating?

If Gisele, Tom, and Bridget were on Love Letters today, they'd probably tell you that while it all worked out for them, it hasn't always been easy. I'm sure they'd tell you that their success as a family depends on the empathy, patience, and responsibility of three busy adults who want to do right by their partners and children. Right now, you're the only one in your triangle who wants this to work for everyone.

Kenneth didn't come to you with his news to have a respectful discussion. He waited 10 days while you stewed and then made all of the decisions himself. Gisele wouldn't put up with that. You can start getting over this drama by allowing yourself to be ticked off.

Readers? Should she tell him that she wants to try this? Should that request come from him? Is this worth pursuing? What's happening here? Discuss.

– Meredith

Breakup turned me into a zombie

Posted by Meredith Goldstein October 18, 2011 09:00 AM

It's "validate the dumped" day. Please. This letter writer needs it.

Q: Hi Meredith. This might be a question more for a therapist than for Love Letters, but I love this column and would like to hear the wisdom and experience of the peanut gallery.

I'm suffering through my first heartbreak -- a bit later than most people, but I'm still quite young. I had a wall up (my friends called it the Anti-Man Forcefield) for a long time, but my ex managed to crash through it and sweep me off my feet. It was my first relationship, first time, first love -- and the first person I'd ever dared let my guard down with. We were together for well over a year. It would hurt that it's over no matter what, but I'm devastated because in the end he cheated on me.

I'm having difficulty coping. I have cut off all contact and tossed all mementos, I'm keeping busy and exercising, I'm spending time with friends and family, but at the end of the day I am still the crying mess that I was two months ago when it ended. I feel like a zombie trudging along. I'm still in love with him. When does it get better?

Friends tell me that in order to get over a man, you need to get under another one. That idea is so depressing to me. Are we supposed to just hop from person to person, trying to fill whatever hole the last one left? For me, that's no way to love. That's no way to live.

I wasn't expecting to marry this man, but I thought I would at least ultimately walk away from the relationship believing in love. Now that I have been betrayed, I don't know what to believe. How do you trust someone again? I don't know what positive lessons to take away from this relationship. I feel like it all just serves to reinforce my former determination to not let anyone it.

How do you people do it? How do you move on? How on Earth does anyone subject themselves to more than one of these? Are you all crazy or am I?

– Zombified, New England

A: My dearest zombie,

Not all breakups will be this monumental. And if you don't want to get under someone else, don't do it. For most people, hopping into bed -- or into a new relationship -- is not a real solution.

It's only been two months. That's nothing. That's a blip. You're still in the anger phase and that's OK. After you've had some more time to work this out, you'll be able to see all of the layers of this relationship. You were betrayed, but you also experienced some wonderful things. With a different, more mature partner, you might get a better ending. If you put those walls back up, you'll miss the good stuff. I know it doesn't seem like it right now, but the good stuff is worth the risk.

I promise you, most people are, in fact, looking for someone who'll love them for a very long time and for all the right reasons. Don't let this ex represent all men and all loves. It isn't hopeless.

It'll look different after a few more months, so let yourself heal. You'll go from zombie to werewolf to angry vampire to heartbroken vampire until you eventually turn back into a better, more open version of your original self.

And in the meantime, zombies are in, so good for you.

Keep busy. Stay close to friends. Watch movies that make you laugh. Don't assume the worst. Take your time.

Readers? Can you help the Walking Dead here? When should she start feeling better? Must we revisit Deredith Boldstein? Help.

– Meredith

She moved on after a month

Posted by Meredith Goldstein October 17, 2011 08:43 AM

Q: Hi Meredith,

My girlfriend of 2.5 years and I recently broke up. We broke up for what seemed like very good reasons. We didn't get to see each other at all, we were in different places in our lives, etc. We parted ways on good terms and I felt great about it ... at the time.

Now that we've been apart for a month, I've had some new perspective. One of the reasons we broke up was that she refused to put any effort into our relationship. We didn't spend time together because she would only hang out when it was convenient for her. I spent every weekend at her place with her friends and she would never spend time with mine.

I also recently went through a severe health scare in my family, which took up a lot of my time. The only way I was going to get to see her during this ordeal was if she went out of her way to visit me. She didn't.

Flash forward to last week and I find out she is dating one of her "close guy friends." After one month! On top of that, her friends were saying things like "Finally!" and "It's about time!" on her Facebook wall. The short turnaround is what ultimately made all of this anger bubble to the surface.

I'm angry, Meredith. I'm angry about our one-sided relationship, I'm angry that she wasn't there for me during a time of need, and I'm angry that her friends, who I thought were mine as well, were smiling to my face while rooting for us to break up so that she could be with someone else.

My question is: How do I discuss this with her without it dissolving into a giant mess? She was a huge part of my life for a long time and I don't believe in keeping emotions like this inside. Any help you and the Love Letters community can give me on this would be most appreciated.

– Lost in Cambridge

A: The first thing to know, LIC, is that her friends probably liked you and cared about you a lot. My guess is that they wanted her to break up with you because she wasn't treating you well. They're probably saying "Finally!" because she's in a relationship that she's not phoning in. They probably thought you deserved better.

You have every right to be angry, but please know that nothing has changed since the breakup. You ended things because she wasn't into your relationship enough to make it work. That's still the case.

I know you're desperate to tell her how you feel, but what will that accomplish right now? There's no way for her to undo this. All you'll get is the temporary relief that comes with disclosure -- and maybe an apology. But will that really make you feel better?

My advice is to "defriend" her entire community. I love the internet, but not after a breakup. You're supposed to be allowed to date a new guy without your ex finding out. You're supposed to have the freedom to mourn the loss of a relationship without finding pictures of your ex's new relationship online. Protect yourself by disconnecting.

After that, make a list of people who make you feel happy and safe -- the friends and family members who make you laugh. Spend time with those people. Rant to them about your ex. Ask them to take you to the movies.

Wait a few weeks and then decide whether it'll really make you feel better to tell your ex that you're angry. Because again, I'm not so sure that you'll get anything out of telling her how you feel, at least not right now. Your real priority should be surrounding yourself with people who make you feel good, online and in real life. Focus on that.

Readers? Should he tell her how he feels about her moving on so quickly? What will he gain from disclosure? Should he be furious about her moving on? Thoughts about her friends and their reaction on Facebook? Help.

– Meredith

My ex's wife is jealous

Posted by Meredith Goldstein October 4, 2011 08:30 AM

Q: Dear Meredith,

I'm not really sure what to do, and since it involves love, I thought I'd give you and your readers a try.

In the mid-2000s, I dated a very nice man, "Noel," who was great, just not a good fit. I was the one who ended it, but we both saw it coming, and while it was painful, we were both OK with it.

I have since started dating "Ben," who I've known for a long time. Noel met a nice woman and got married. Good for them.

The problem is Noel's wife. Noel and I don't talk much, but we know each other's major life changes. We are friends on Facebook (and here's where it's about to get icky). Noel recently posted that he finished a long race. I knew he'd been working up to it for a while, so I commented my congratulations. Nothing inappropriate.

When I got up the next morning, I had a Facebook message from Mrs. Noel. It was not nice. "Don't talk to my husband!" was just one of the choice phrases.

I am tempted to tell my ex that his wife is crazy, but that feels like tattling. On the other hand, I would want to know if my significant other was doing something like that.

– Should I Say Something?, Boston

A: You need to stay out of it, SISS. And no more commenting on his Facebook profile. I'm not saying that you're in the wrong for saying a quick congrats online, but you don't know what this woman has been told about you. For all you know, Noel has mentioned you over the years with a bit too much love in his eyes. For all you know, they're having problems.

If she really is a crazy person, he'll find out without you having to tell him. If she behaves like this with other people, Noel will figure it out. This isn't your problem to solve, and you're not his platonic friend. You're just a well-meaning ex who needs to fade away.

If he ever asks why you've stopped checking in, you can tell him that you want to respect the boundaries of his marriage. That will be enough of a hint.

Readers? Should she reach out to Noel? Is Noel's wife wrong about the contact or is this more about her delivery? Would you want to know from an ex if your new wife had acted out? Discuss.

– Meredith

How do I know he won't leave me?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein September 30, 2011 09:00 AM

Q: I have been a notorious failure in relationships most of my life, always building a wall or finding someone who is emotionally unavailable. However, this past year I have been through some serious trauma with the death of a close family member and a few friends leaving me behind during this difficult time. This created major trust issues and multiple insecurities.

For the past few months, I have been seeing a new guy, who is great. He claims to not want to have a label or be in a "relationship," but his actions say otherwise. He goes out of his way to do little things for me to show that he appreciates me and I don't feel as if he is out trying to find someone better. We have been bickering lately because I am beginning to think that it is only a matter of time before he walks out on me, too.

I know that I feel this way because I have experienced so much loss lately that I am now sort of just expecting it. If some people who were in my life for years can just give up on someone at their weakest moment, how can I not be afraid that this guy will do the same? He tells me that he isn't going anywhere, but these days, my gut trusts no one.

I don't know what to do to fix this. I truly want things to work with him, as he is the only thing that has made me happy, but I don't know how to relax and shut my mouth to prevent pushing him away...???

– Abandoned, Massachusetts

A: You've had a rough go of it, Abandoned, and you have every reason to fear that the other shoe will drop -- and smack you in the face.

There's nothing I can say to convince you that this guy won't leave -- and really, I don't know what he's going to do. But I will tell you that you have to have faith that no matter what happens, you can take care of yourself. If you know that, there's less to fear.

I want you to spend some real energy working to find a new community of friends -- and maybe reach out to those old friends to figure out what happened. Then I want you to ask your boyfriend for the one thing that he can do to make you feel more secure. It's time for him to say the words. "I am your boyfriend and we're in a relationship." If he can't do that, you're just not going to feel safe. He doesn't have to promise you his entire future, but you need to know that you both have similar, hopeful intentions.

Readers? Should she be in a relationship? What's up with the friends? What does she need to feel safe right now? Discuss.

– Meredith

My fantasy life is ruining things

Posted by Meredith Goldstein September 20, 2011 08:43 AM

This letter writer references "Pootie Tang." That's a first.

Q: Dear Meredith,

I am a mid-30s woman, former Boston resident. I've been dating, on and off, a very good man for about two years. Neither of us has ever been married, no children, and we both are interested in families. And although my clock is ticking, I have not turned insane yet.

"Billy" is a wonderful guy. Steadily employed, good work ethic, he cleans and cooks, he loves children, and he loves me. I have not always been good to him and have struggled with many of his perceived faults. We are very different in many ways. I have college education while he never finished school. I cut drugs and alcohol out of my life, and while he would like to do the same, he’s struggling with it, which has prevented us from living together. I love reading. He can't read two paragraphs without falling asleep, and he's like "Pootie Tang" (We never knew what he was saying, but we always knew what he meant.) I am not tied to my current area (my family is still in Massachusetts) whereas he seems hesitant to leave. Despite all this, our relationship works on multiple levels.

I have struggled with broken hearts from several men over the course of my life. The men I loved left me and it took years to get over them. But I thought they were everything, made my life interesting, fun, with purpose, and I still think of my last "love" as being my soul mate or something, even though we were only together for a short time. I still miss him and think "what if ..." despite how fruitless and crazy that is.

I can't seem to shake the whole fantasy man. Like if I just accept Billy, I am missing out on the person I am truly meant to be with. Believe me, I know Billy is a gift and I have always thought he was the perfect man, but for somebody else. Every day I try to appreciate the stability, the fact that this man puts up with my teenage-like expectation of what "love" is as he lays next to me and watches six hours of a “My So-Called Life” marathon. He has so many fine qualities.

I've dated. I've been alone. I have hobbies and friends. I've done it all (I feel like). Why can't I just be happy with what I have? Why don't I want to give up on my fantasy life? It's so beautiful and terribly painful. I've tried to let him go to find somebody who will love him better than me. Am I an extreme example of this generation of women who want the unattainable??

– Living in a Fantasy World, Out of Boston

A: 1. Your recent ex isn't your soul mate, LIAFW. I don't believe in soul mates, but your ex ... he was just a magnetic guy who entered your life at a meaningful time. That's all. There is no "what if" with him.

2. Billy does sound wonderful, but not quite right for you. You compare him to Pootie, you mention drugs and alcohol, and you seem to imply that his main strength is that he's just ... there, watching you watch Jordan Catalano. That's not enough.

3. I don't believe that you (or an entire generation of women) want the unattainable. You want someone who sticks around and challenges you. That doesn't seem crazy to me.

4. We all fantasize. It's healthy and normal. Fantasies aren't preventing you from being in a good relationship.

5. You want someone who's not quite Pootie, not quite Jordan. That's a pretty fair request. I can't promise that he'll be right around the corner and ready to date you (and silence your ticking clock) as soon as you drop Billy, but I can promise that it's not crazy to keep looking for him. You call Billy the right guy for someone else. That's a pretty big statement -- one that's rooted in reality.

Readers? Should she stay with Billy? Are her fantasies a problem? Is she right about a generation of women wanting the unattainable? Is she being too hard on Billy? Did you know that Louis C.K. wrote "Pootie Tang"? What's going on here? Discuss.

– Meredith

His ex won't leave us alone

Posted by Meredith Goldstein September 14, 2011 08:00 AM

Chat at 1.

Q: Dear Meredith,

I am in a serious long-distance relationship that has been going great. My boyfriend lives out of state -- where he has to stay for a year because of work -- and I live in the Boston area. We see each other every two weeks and so far everything is perfect ... except one thing. He has a stage five clinger ex-girlfriend.

He dated this ex-girlfriend for a few years more than five years ago. She moved out of state and they have been "pen pals" for some time now. When we were planning his recent move, she got very inquisitive about the details. It made me uncomfortable so I suggested that he tell her about us. He sent her a nice email saying he had met someone and that it was pretty serious. She went bonkers. Emailing, calling, texting, the works. She claimed she just wanted to make sure he was happy and even asked to see a picture of the two of us. Long story short, it all came to a head this summer. She was calling and texting nonstop even though he asked her to stop, and she and I got into it.

While it wasn't my place to get involved, he was very uncomfortable with how strong she came on and he isn't confrontational. I asked her nicely to give us some space and she was very angry and told me it wasn't over between them. He cut off all communication with her but she still emails. I am worried that her threats about coming to claim him are going to come to fruition. I would not have minded they remained friends, in fact -- one of my best friends is my first love. But she is clearly still in love with my boyfriend. My boyfriend thinks we should continue to ignore her but I'm afraid she is losing it. Her emails sound more and more desperate and I am getting nervous. She doesn't threaten bodily harm, just goes on and an on about the past and that he owes her an explanation. She sounds a little crazy to be honest. Please send me some advice.

– You Can't Cure Crazy, Boston

A: You must stay out of this, YCCC. Don't address her again. Not directly. That's your boyfriend's job.

The ex says that she wants an explanation? Your boyfriend should send one. He can say something simple like, "My relationship with you has ended, and I'm happy in my new one. I don't have room in my life for the friendship we once had. I'll be putting a block on your email address, so I won't be receiving your messages. I wish you all the best."

Like you said, she's not threatening bodily harm. She just needs some solid answers and a definite boundary. Your boyfriend hasn't done a great job of communicating with her, but it's time for him to be the bad guy.

My advice is to help him craft the note. Then drop the whole issue. Her name shouldn't come up. With emails blocked, she shouldn't be on his mind.

And please, tell your boyfriend that he has to be honest with people even if it's uncomfortable. You shouldn't have had to suggest to him that he tell his ex-girlfriend that you exist. Why hadn't he already told her? He shouldn't have let you anywhere near the phone when she was calling. Why didn't he take charge? You can't be in a relationship with someone so passive, because, well, how will you know if there's ever a problem between the two of you if he's afraid to cause trouble?

Talk to him. See if he'll block her email address. See if he can commit to being honest with you when he needs to be, even if it means hurting your feelings. That's the real issue here.

Readers? Is the ex crazy or did the boyfriend mess up with communication? How can you stop someone from emailing without engaging them? Is there a problem with the boyfriend, in general? Discuss.

– Meredith

Between two divorcing friends

Posted by Meredith Goldstein September 9, 2011 07:53 AM

Q: Hi Meredith,

A married friend of mine (yes, this truly is a friend) in his early 30s confided in me more than a year ago that he's bisexual and that he had recently told his wife. She was a little blindsided, seeing as how they had been together for a long time, but she was very supportive. He realized that it would be tough having to suppress a side of him that he's never truly been able to explore, but he acknowledged that he wanted to make his marriage work.

When the topic came up between us, he always had indicated that the situation was going well and that he wasn't worried about the future. But soon enough, he and his wife told our group of friends that they were getting a divorce. They maintain that they are best friends and that there are no hard feelings, but it is a devastating situation for both of them. For financial reasons, they'll be staying in the same place for a while, which in my opinion isn't such a good idea. My wife and I are very close with both of them, as are all of our mutual friends.

I would appreciate some advice on how we (me, my friend, his wife, our group of friends, etc.) support this major change in our close friends' lives and make it easier for him and
his (soon to be ex-)wife to move forward. One issue that we (friends) have run into is deciding how soon to try to set either of these people up on dates or introduce them to other singles that we know. And while the friends have not taken a side, we have all agreed that if the ex-husband decides that he does in fact want to be with a woman after he tries dating men, and if that woman isn't his soon-to-be ex-wife, then more than a few of our female friends are going to be pretty angry with him.

– Looking to be supportive, Mass.

A: LTBS, let's not even worry about the "What if he dates another woman?!" question. That hasn't happened, so don't go there.

The best thing to do right now is to ask your friends what they want. Do they want to be invited to the same events? Do they want to be set up, and if so, do they want that information kept secret? Let them guide you.

And do your best to spend some alone time with each of them. They might be best friends, but the group can't pretend that nothing has changed. They shouldn't be treated like a couple. Alone time gives each of them the chance to talk about how they really feel.

Also, expect that one or both of them might find some new friends. He might seek out a different community, and she might want to be around some folks who don't know about this mess. Be flexible and don't take anything too personally.

I know it's tough to be in the middle. Just keep asking questions, and make sure to get them alone for real discussions as often as you can.

Readers? Should the LW even be thinking about setting these people up with others? What do you do if you're a friend in the middle of this? What about the idea of the husband seeking out other women in this process? Discuss.

– Meredith

Can I reach out to my ex?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein September 6, 2011 08:25 AM

Q: Hello,

First time writer, long time reader! A few years ago I was in a relationship with a young man. This relationship was anything but healthy and rewarding. It was tumultuous, depressing, and isolating at times. The chaos was caused by both of us. We were both immature and wanted attention in any fashion. I turned into a person I didn't recognize and it was just bad all over. Eventually we lost contact and continued down separate paths. I was informed that he moved out of state and fell off the map.

Several days ago a friend told me that he is back in town. I am very happily married and living a very fulfilling life. From what I hear he is, too. I am very happy for him but am compelled to tell him this. I have been debating whether or not to contact him just to see how he has been and to let him know that I am happy for him. I am happy that he is no longer in that dark place. Do I contact him to say congratulations on all the good things we should be grateful for? Or do I leave it alone and pretend like he doesn't exist?

– Just want to say hi!, Mass.

A: Leave it alone, JWTSH. If you see him at the corner store, give him a warm smile and wave hello. If he stops to talk to you, be kind and congratulate him. But don't seek it out. If you've heard that he's happy, he's probably heard the same about you. Assume that good vibes are being sent from all directions.

I'm all for disclosure and hashing things out, but in this case, nothing would come of it. What happens after you say nice things to each other? What's the goal?

Also, what if he's not happy? What if the rumors aren't true? What if you reach out to him and he's a major jerk? It's not worth the risk.

I understand that you want to fix things and that you feel awful about how you behaved, but you don't have to make it all better with a cinematic closure conversation. All you can do is say nice things whenever a friend tells you that he's doing well. At some point, those positive remarks will get back to him. That's good enough.

Readers? Is she allowed to reach out? Am I right about it not being a good idea? Is it ever rewarding to reach out to an ex? Discuss.

– Meredith

Dealing with mutual friends after a breakup

Posted by Meredith Goldstein August 24, 2011 08:05 AM

Chat at 1.

Q: Hi Meredith,

I just broke up with my boyfriend of 4 years. It was mostly mutual and we agree that we need some serious time apart. The problem is that we have the same group of friends. My best girlfriend has become his best friend as well. My boyfriend and I broke up about almost a year ago, then got back together, and finally broke up again. While we were apart before, I had a lot of trouble dealing with my friend hanging around him all the time and not being more supportive of me. Whenever I cry on her shoulder, now or then, she is fully supportive of me, saying how wrong he was and how he didn't treat me right and he doesn't know how to compromise. Then she turns around and is his best friend.

They spend a lot of time together, alone and with a group. I admit that I am completely jealous, and though I know that there is absolutely nothing romantic going on at all, I hate that they are so close. I feel like I can't trust her as a best friend who tells me he's the jerk while she remains best friends with him. My friends feel like I can't ask them to choose between us -- we are all friends -- however I feel like she owes more to me since I was the one dumped (the first breakup at least), we've been friends longer, and we're both females. She feels that she is an equal friend to both of us and that means hanging out with whoever calls her first and that sort of thing.

She is having a party at her house and claims that it's inappropriate of me to ask her not to invite him. It's only been two weeks since we broke up, and I went away both weekends to give everyone space. I now want to spend time with my friends and not have him around since he had that opportunity the last two weeks. My friends think I'm asking too much, my family thinks I'm right to expect her to be more on my side. I want an impartial opinion.

– Lonely, Massachusetts

A: Two of my best friends happen to date. They met through me. I knew the guy first, but I've become just as close with his girlfriend. And if they ever break up (they won't), I think I will have a nervous breakdown. I can't imagine how I'd balance the relationships.

For that reason, I empathize with your friend. But frankly, I think I'd do a better job managing the situation than she is right now. Your best friend should be going out of her way to make things easier for both of you right now. She should be your guide. She should be thinking, "I'm only going to invite one of them to the party, and I'll make the other person feel good about not going." She should be splitting her time without making everyone feel awkward about it.

But she's not good at this. And I'm not convinced that she's going to get any better at finessing her commitments. For that reason, my advice is to lean on other friends who are closer to you than him. Maybe call on acquaintances who are outside of this group. Seek out friends who only know you, or members of this shared group who are willing to hang out with you alone.

Your best friend just isn't the right shoulder to cry on at the moment. That's awful, but that's how these things go sometimes. Your friendship with her is evolving based on this breakup. I'm sure she's conflicted about it, too. She has to know that after all of this, she might be a friend, not your best friend.

So yes, my impartial opinion is that she's not handling this quite right, but it doesn't matter. You need to do what's best for you, which is to find safe friendships that don't make this breakup worse. Instead of sitting around and resenting her, try to use that energy to call on new faces. (And those new faces, by the way, might be the key to meeting someone when you're ready to date again.)

Readers? Is the friend handling this right? Should there be more loyalty because they were friends first (and because she's female)? How should the LW cope with the jealousy? Help.

– Meredith

Will he drop her for me?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein August 18, 2011 08:17 AM

Your "One Day" entries ....

Q: "Gus" and I were together for four years and broke up at the beginning of this year. I still love him, haven't felt a connection like that with anyone else, but we had plenty of ups and downs over the course of the relationship. The last couple of months prior to the breakup were worse than usual with more fighting and bickering. This was partly due to stress from my work in school and the fact that I felt like he didn't include me very often in his social plans. Of course, I acknowledge I was to blame, as well. We did not live together. He's 30, I'm 29. We both had plans for marriage and kids.

There was a moment of infidelity on my part, which was the reason for the breakup. I never tried to justify it, but I was truly ashamed and wanted to work on things. I ultimately respected his wishes and we parted ways. I tried my best to move on, finally going on a few dates, surrounding myself with a few close friends, but I had a hard time getting over him, still missing him very much. About two months after breaking up, he contacted me (via email) stating that he was seeing someone but that he continued to think about us. We agreed to meet up for coffee and we were able to laugh together and talk about the good times. We didn't discuss the elephants in the room -- infidelity or his girlfriend -- but from then on we texted constantly, phoned a few times, and would make occasional plans to get together for dinner/movies. Most recently we became physical, with him initiating the first move.

He has said he doesn't want to be pressured into a decision about me because he doesn't want to get back into a situation where we would be unhappy again. This whole time I never pressured him. But I finally made it clear that for everyone involved, he needs to make up his mind as I can't continue to put my life on hold while he decides what he wants. It most certainly isn't fair to her. He indicated to me that he had some commitments with her he felt he had to honor but remained vague about the details and would not give me a specific time frame.

At this point, I feel like he's just appeasing me by saying he needs more time and I wonder whether he has any intention of ending things with her. Do I have the right to insist that he immediately break it off with her if he's serious about us? Should I cease communication altogether until his decision is made? Should I just walk away even though deep down I want us to be together?

– Tired of Waiting, Boston

A: Do I have the right to insist that he immediately break it off with her if he's serious about us? Yes.

Should I cease communication altogether until his decision is made? Definitely.

Should I just walk away even though deep down I want us to be together? Probably.

This whole thing is a mess. I mean, let's say he breaks up with her and you guys become a couple again. Would you be able to trust him? Would he be able to trust you? He seems pretty comfortable living a lie right now. Would you be able to feel safe in a relationship with him?

My advice is to really think about why you want him back. Yes, texts and lunches are fun, but if you become a couple again, the elephants in the room will return. And this time, they will be bigger and smellier. Really, you fought for months before you broke up. Then you cheated. And now he's cheating. The history will travel with both of you.

If you're really determined to keep him, please stop talking to him (and texting, emailing, lunching, etc.) until he is legitimately single. He's behaving like a bad guy right now, and you're helping. Stop.

Readers? Should she demand that he end his relationship or walk away no matter what? What is she trying to save? How can this be fixed? Talk.

– Meredith

Is she the one that got away?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein August 8, 2011 08:22 AM

Q: I'm an early 30s guy who tried out a dating site years ago. The first person I met was the cool girl, we'll call her Miranda. She was finishing up her master's while teaching and I was already working full time. We seemed good for each other, went on dates, hung out, enjoyed the company. For whatever reason, it didn't work out. We were never "official" so nothing really ended. We've stayed in touch through email/text/FB throughout. She moved out of state and has been with a guy on and off. Meanwhile, I went back on the dating site and the next girl I met is the one I am now engaged to.

Recently, Miranda and I had a sort of soul cleansing text-a-thon (we had both been out drinking) where we both opened up about feelings that never really got put out there five years ago. She regrets that we didn't keep at our budding relationship and I have always regretted the same thing.

I love my fiance and nothing would turn me away from her. This isn't a morality question, i.e., "What should I do, stay or try with Miranda?"

This is a human dilemma of how do I get Miranda out of my head, because despite my love for my fiance, the "what if?" with Miranda is always present.

– Reading my Miranda Rights, South of Boston

A: I read this letter and I thought, "Woulda, coulda, shoulda." Maybe Miranda had the potential to be great for you, but she never committed. And instead of running after her and disclosing your feelings, you hopped back on the dating site.

What-ifs are annoying, but I'm not convinced that you even have one. You and Miranda dated and were able to walk away from each other.

Consider yourself lucky to have a "one that got away." It makes for a good story. But that's all she is. Someone you were more than happy to let go.

You have the right remain content and confident about your choices. (Sorry. I had to.) If you had wanted Miranda to be more than she was, you wouldn't have been able to move on so easily. You would have chased her.

Redefine her in your head and you'll stop thinking about her.

Readers? Is he as sure about his fiance as he says he is? Should he be allowed to contact Miranda? Is there a real what-if here? And -- is it relevant that he's only dated two women from the website and fallen for both of them? Discuss.

– Meredith

I feel no remorse

Posted by Meredith Goldstein August 5, 2011 08:36 AM

Every year, the Globe welcomes two high school interns from Boston schools. And every year, I get them for a day. They were with me earlier this week and asked me a lot about Love Letters. I told them all about it, showed them a few letters, and then asked them to try to answer one. Today, I'm posting their responses. (And yes, I picked a letter from a young writer with a young problem so that the interns could get their teenage brains around it.)

I've posted their answers here. Click over if you have time.

Q: I recently broke up with my boyfriend of four months and I'm a little confused. The background is that I am 23 years old and have only had one relationship before this one, and it probably was emotionally damaging. I met this latest guy on a dating website and we seemed to click instantly, which was rare for me. However things began to move too fast and I expressed that to him. After about a month we got into an awful fight because he had some serious jealousy issues. We moved past it, but then, two months later, we broke up because he became jealous of my male friends. We somehow worked it through but I made it clear if he continued being jealous, I couldn't stick around.

Recently he began arguing with me more and more, saying stuff to intentionally hurt me. I just decided to end it because he made me unhappy more than he made me happy. Now, a few days after the break up, I am already talking to someone else and feel guilty. I feel like I should be upset or need to process my feelings but I literally feel no remorse. I don't want people thinking I'm a heartless person but I think the relationship meant a lot more to him than it did to me. I have nothing to "get over" and I haven't cried. All I feel is relief.

I guess my only question is: How long should I wait to start dating again? Because I'm literally ready to start ASAP but I don't want to be viewed as heartless. What's wrong with me?

– Not heartless, Massachusetts

A: My young friend, there is nothing wrong with you. There's nothing to mourn. It's like ... you tried a new food, didn't like it, and then found out you were allergic to it. No big loss. It's not like this guy was your friend for a long time before you dated. Yeah, you "seemed to click instantly," but all that means is that you had a few good dates.

The only lesson here is to trust your gut as soon as it starts barking at you. You broke up with this guy twice in four months. You don't have to give people second chances if you don't want to.

Enjoy the dating experience and trust your instincts. You really do know what's best for you.

Readers? When is it OK not to feel remorse? Does the emotionally damaging relationship have anything to do with her hanging on to this bad guy for four months? Is there ever remorse in online dating? Discuss.

– Meredith

Her gay ex is her bff

Posted by Meredith Goldstein August 3, 2011 08:41 AM

Chat at 1.

Q: Dear Meredith,

My girlfriend of 6 months is smart, kind, and sensitive, but is also "best friends" with her ex. They were together 13 years. He came out as gay 2-and-a-half years ago, they split, and he moved to another country. But they maintain a joint bank account (it's not her only bank account) and their joint belongings are still in storage. She has traveled to visit him 3 times since the breakup (for 3 weeks at a stint, most recently last fall) and slept with him each night (just cuddling, she says) during those visits. That was before she and I dated. When I asked why she slept with him, she said "it was a given." She concedes that since she was 21 (she is now in her mid-30s) she has slept with him whenever they have been in the same city. I recently learned that they Skype/IM almost every day and have done so since I've known her and before.

This month he moves to NYC, where we live. He assumed he would stay with her upon his return (though he knows about me). He actually said, "As soon as I get to your place from the airport I'll have to take a shower." She told him no and promises me that when he returns she will no longer sleep/cuddle with him. Though she says they do continue to "have an intimate emotional relationship" and she wants to hang out with him when he returns, alone, have him over her place, and even share ownership of her dog with him (they had the dog when they used to live together).

I will take her out for her birthday late this month, but the next day, a Saturday, she wants a birthday picnic with friends, including the ex. She said that it's OK if I don't want to go (I've told her I don't want to meet him), but she cannot exclude him (for my comfort) because without him the picnic would be "ruined" (as he is part of her established group of friends). I made a mental note, "OK without me; ruined without him. Check."

Yes, he's gay and I supply the physical part of the relationship, but I feel our relationship is behind the curve emotionally. I don't want him taking any part of that emotional role appropriate to a couple, and I believe that is exactly what is happening. She has not let go of him as the term "breakup" suggests, and so he is crowding the emotional space properly reserved to a romantic couple.

I think that she should stop her daily communications, shouldn't hang out with him when he moves to NYC, and that she really shouldn't even have him at her birthday picnic. If you have a romantic relationship with someone and cease only the sex, but maintain all the other emotional bonds, have you really broken up and moved on? And is that fair to the new boyfriend? What should I do?

– Hetero Joe

A: HJ, you summarized this problem like a pro. She's got a best friend/ex who's making it hard for you to feel like a real boyfriend. You want to be her go-to guy, not an extra.

But you have to know that her ex isn't going anywhere. He's her best friend. He's family. He's part of the package. That's your reality.

A great therapist guy once told me, "You can't control what other people do. You can only control how you respond to those people." That should be your mantra here.
This ex might become less important over time, but he's always going to be in the picture. That means you will have to meet him. It's unavoidable. And I think that you should get to know him. Perhaps seeing him interact with your girlfriend will make the whole thing seem less threatening. Or maybe it will make you so uncomfortable that it becomes easier to bail.

Do some fact-finding (meet him) and then adhere to the mantra. You can't change your girlfriend's behavior. You can only tell her how you feel, explain what you need to be happy, and then make decisions based on what she's willing to offer. It doesn't matter who's right or wrong. (For the record, I'm on your side about the intimacy and hers about the picnic.) What matters is that this man is your girlfriend's best friend. If you can't adjust to that, you have to let her go.

Readers? What role should the ex play in her life? Is the letter writer asking for too much here? Picnic thoughts? Shower thoughts? Discuss.

– Meredith

Should she give it a second chance?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein August 2, 2011 08:32 AM

Update at 1:30 p.m. ... Some questions answered by the letter writer via email:

Yes, he was deployed and saw combat many years ago (before we were together). He is out now and has a new career. The period of long distance was toward the beginning of the relationship. We've been living separately but close to each other and spending many nights together for the past 2 1/2 years. Yes, he is continuing therapy alone. There have been some failed or failing marriages and engagements very close to us recently. He has referred to these. Yes, the final decision to cancel the wedding was mutual, but he was the catalyst for the conversation.

Q: My fiance and I just called off our wedding and I don't know if I should stay with him.

Background: I am a mid-20s professional working in Boston, he's in his early 30s and was in the military. We've been together for over 5 years. We've been through a lot together including long-distance. He's the first person I've dated that I really thought I could marry. We started having problems a few months ago when we moved in together. Once a loving, affectionate person, he became distant and cold. We didn't talk much (unless we were arguing) and all of a sudden I felt like I didn't know this person I've been with for so long. I tried many times to talk about what was bothering him, but we never really got anywhere. We both realized there was a problem, but didn't know what to do. I suggested counseling and we started going.

Finally he tells me that he's unsure about getting married. He's afraid that things will continue the way they've been for the last few months and we'll end up getting divorced. (Honestly, I've had the same nagging fear, but truly believed that we could work through this tough time together.) He says it's not me, but his own fears that are causing him to feel this way. After a lot of talking, we both decided that we should not get married this fall like we had planned. Of course I'm devastated, but I'm also relieved that this has come out now rather than later.

I stayed for a while and we tried to work on things, but I ended up moving out of our house. He had become really resistant in counseling and didn't want to try any of the things the counselor suggested. I felt like he had completely given up on us. I was so frustrated that I had to take myself out of the situation, even though it was the hardest thing I've ever had to do. I am still in need of help though, because now he's decided he wants to work it out. He has completely changed his tune, saying that it was a huge mistake to let me go and he'll do anything to fix it. I really do love him but is it healthy for me to stay with him? Or should I try to move on with my life? It's true that I've been unhappy for the past few months, even miserable at times, but for years we were smitten together. Is it possible for us to ever get back there again?

– Should I stay or Should I Go, Massachusetts

A: It's not possible to go back to where you were, but it is possible to evolve into something more honest.

My advice is to spend some time with him without rehashing all of the problems. Go out for some dinners and watch some movies. Cuddle up. Take a day trip. See if the romance is still there. If it isn't, and you can't be in the same room without bickering or feeling bad about yourself, that's your answer. Sometimes the damage is just too great to get beyond. But if you find that you can enjoy each other and that the space has given your relationship new life, keep dating. Then maybe visit that therapist once or twice to talk about what comes next.

Usually, when it's over, it's over. But your situation is a bit trickier. You were long distance. He was in the military. Then you were suddenly learning to live together and planning a wedding at the same time. Without all of the pressure and rushing, you just might thrive.

You have to find out whether you're trying to save something that's still there, or if you're just hanging on to history. Explain to him that you just want to enjoy him without all of the pressure. Find out if that's possible.

Readers? Any possibility of a second chance? Was this just about the pressure? Can they go out without rehashing all that happened? Thoughts? Discuss.

– Meredith

Can an affair turn into a good relationship?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein July 29, 2011 08:54 AM

For the record, this person is a regular lurker and knows that cheating is very, very bad. She told me she was worried about getting yelled at for her cheat and not getting advice. So ... make sure to get some advice in there. She needs it.

Q: Dear Meredith,

I am a 30-year-old female (divorced, no children). I experienced some tough things growing up, which made my high school years difficult (I won't get into it because I want to remain unidentifiable, but my high school years were bad for my self-esteem). I met my husband when I was a freshman in college. We married when I was in my mid-20s and then moved to Texas in search of a cheaper and warmer way of life. We were homesick and lonely, and the experience drove us apart instead of bringing us together. Even before that, we had a pretty depressing and unexciting relationship. I thought that we worked well because we didn't fight very much. What I didn't realize was that there was almost nothing (no emotion, no feeling, no passion, no love) between us.

After starting my new job in Texas, I became entangled in an affair with "Brad." When I started this new job, Brad was extremely persistent in pursuing me. Brad and I had a mutual attraction and friendship, and he was very clear that he wanted more with me (for example: asking if he could touch me, making comments about my body or looks, etc.). He was married with a son and 10 years older than me. By nature I am shy and reserved, especially with men, but I could only resist his extremely forward advances for so long. Before I knew it, I relented and let down my guard. We talked and emailed all the time, went out for lunches, drinks after work, etc. He was funny, strong, caring and supportive of me. I fell madly in love with him and started one of the worst periods of my life. As anyone who has been in love with a married man/woman probably knows, an affair is isolating, heart-breaking, guilt-inducing, self-esteem lowering, etc. I couldn't handle the guilt, the stress, the secrets, or the sadness, and tried to break if off with him unsuccessfully many times. Somehow, even though I felt guilty about the affair, I had become completely dependent on him and I honestly felt incapable of living without him in my life. I always knew that the only way I'd be able to break if off permanently was if I left the job where we both worked.

Last year, I set 3 goals for myself: talk to my husband about our depressing marriage, leave my job, and end my affair for good. I am happy to report that I accomplished all 3 goals by the end of the year. My husband agreed we didn't have much of a marriage and we have since divorced. I found a new job that I love. I told Brad that we could not have any contact, and that I was going to live my life thinking of our relationship as dead and that we would never have a future together. After millions of tears and countless self-help books, I turned a corner and started feeling stronger than I have ever felt in my life. I was amazed at my capacity to live on my own, to build my own life, and find my own happiness by rediscovering the things I love to do. I even slowly started dating for the first time in my life and have been having a great time.

Recently, Brad came back into my life and told me that he and his wife are getting divorced. He thought that I would immediately run back into his arms and was shocked when I didn't. I was not ready to leave all of the happiness I had worked so hard to build on my own behind. He started texting and emailing me constantly, crying, and pressuring me to go back to him. He has said some pretty hurtful things in this time period as he has tried to convince me to go back to him (no lie, one of his many emails was how he has met somebody else at work who makes him feel the way I used to, so that if I don't go back to him now, I'll never have the chance again).

I feel as though I’m at a crossroads right now. Part of me wants to leave Brad behind and continue building my life without him in it. The other part of me remembers how much we loved each other during those two years and is scared to lose out on this opportunity of being together that we had dreamed about for so long. He has told me that this is the only chance we will ever have where we are both single and available for a real relationship, and if I don't take it, there will never be hope for a happy future again.

Wise Meredith and readers, which path should I choose? Do I continue living on my own with the hope I will eventually find a love like him again, or should I give the two of us a real chance?

– Torn, Texas

A: I don't want you anywhere near Brad, and I am willing to bet all of my favorite T-shirts and pajama pants that 99.9 percent of the wise and beautiful people reading Love Letters today will agree with me.

Brad is super annoying. Brad is a selfish, thoughtless person. Brad pursued you, a married woman, by talking about your hot bod and asking if he could touch you. And now, after all of this, Brad is threatening you. Brad is pitiful.

You've created a wonderful life for yourself and for the first time ever, you're happy on the inside. You're confident about your decisions. You're being honest about what you want. Please don't ruin that. Brad took advantage of an isolated, unhappily married, younger woman with self-esteem issues. Go find someone who wants to date a beautiful, confident, fun, and single woman who knows how to live on her own.

And for the record, I'm proud of you. I hope that doesn't sound patronizing. It's just … not many people do all of those amazing things in one year. Keep living the good life.

Readers? Any reason to consider Brad? Am I missing something? Is it weird/wrong that she's done so much in a year? Should she be dating? Anyone on Brad's team? Should I have more empathy for him? Discuss.

– Meredith

I fear that we'll get back together

Posted by Meredith Goldstein July 26, 2011 08:20 AM

Q: Eight months ago I called off an engagement with a man I'd started dating very young and had been with for many years. As we grew into adults, we became very different people. While there was nothing inherently wrong with the relationship, I realized I had become complacent and wasn't happy. (And around this time I actually reached out to a few LL lovelies off-blog, maybe they'll remember me!)

Post-break up, I think I've been doing pretty well. I had been living way out in the 'burbs, and am now in a great apartment near the city. I've been running and biking a lot, joined an online dating site/have been meeting up with guys from that, and have always had a great group of girlfriends to spend time with. I'm really happy with my life, and it feels more like what I had imagined for my mid-20s.

Here's my problem: I am terrified I am going to wind up in a relationship with him again. It's a completely irrational fear. Aside from the handful of civil conversations required to separate our assets, I haven't had any contact with him since our break up. Apparently my subconscious is on the same page because my latest recurring dreams start with me having accidentally gotten back together with him and feeling a total state of confusion/panic as to how I let that happen. During our relationship, we did break up and get back together a few times, so it's almost like I don't trust myself to remember why I ended things (of those breakups, I only initiated one myself). I've tried not thinking about him, I've tried talking to friends about him so much that I wind up apologizing for beating the topic to death. It's just a bad feeling to have lurking. How do I get rid of it?

– What Irrational Fear? Somerville

A: Don't take your irrational fears so literally, WIF. Your ex symbolizes a greater anxiety -- the fear of the unknown. No matter how great it's going after this breakup, you're probably a little disoriented. Your ex is in most of your memories. Your routine as a single person is still brand new. You're probably scared (albeit excited) about your next relationship. And no matter how complacent and unhappy you were with your ex, it's natural to have a tiny fear of missing out.

I imagine that it's weird and rather upsetting to wake up after having a dream about getting back together with your ex against your will. But every time it happens, and every time that you find yourself panicked about an unwanted reconciliation, remind yourself that your ex is no longer your ex. He represents something bigger.

You might have dreams about your ex for the rest of your life, and that's OK. I still have nightmares that I've missed high school exams and won't be allowed to graduate. I'm in my 30s and I still have that dream at least twice a month. That one's a symbol, too. It means that I'm worried about work or that I forgot to take out the garbage or that I ate too much candy before bed. It's just simple anxiety. Take a deep breath and redefine this fear. Give it less power. Try to watch television or read before bed.

Readers? Is this fear literal or does the ex represent more? Can you relate to the fear of getting back together with an ex against your will? What is this about? Is she having regrets? Discuss.

– Meredith

Should I have ended the engagement?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein July 21, 2011 08:31 AM

Q: My fiance and I broke up about 2 months ago. We'd be together for just over 5 years after meeting our freshman year of college. I find myself constantly questioning whether I made the right decision to end the relationship. I'll briefly explain some of the things that led to my decision to end it.

My fiance was very emotionally closed off. He wouldn't talk about his feelings and when I shared mine, he was quick to simply apologize and say whatever it took to stop me from being upset, even if he wouldn't/couldn't follow through on his promises. His idea of showing me he loved me and was attracted to me was spending time together and cuddling. I rarely got a "you're beautiful/hot/sexy" and he almost never initiated sex. I became paranoid that he really didn't find me attractive or wasn't IN love with me. I knew he loved me, we were best friends, I never questioned that. But I decided I needed to be in a relationship where I felt wanted, physically and emotionally.

I'm also a very motivated person and he struggles to find direction in life. When we moved (in order for me to attend graduate school) he struggled to find work. I supported us for over 6 months before he found something and I had to prod him every step of the way in his search. Once he got that job he started to take some pride in it, but it still concerned me that he didn't seem to have the same motivation I did. I'm the kind of person who jumps in and solves a problem as soon as possible, whereas he puts it off till the last minute. This made me concerned that if something big happened in our lives, I wouldn't be able to depend on him to deal with his share of life's challenges, that I would be his mother, telling him what to do and nagging him until he did it.

Now that we've been apart for a while, I wonder whether the things that bothered me were really that important. Were they worth giving up a person who took care of me when I was sick, talked with me late into the night, was always there to listen when I had a hard day at school, made me laugh when I was stressed? Basically, were they worth losing my best friend over? I also question whether I'll ever be able to find another guy who doesn't have those bad qualities. And if that's the case, will I have given up those wonderful things in hopes of finding something that's not out there?

– Heartbroken, Colorado

A: There are guys out there who are awesomely proactive about their careers. And I can assure you that there are guys out there who will make you feel desirable in the bedroom. But those guys might not want to cuddle. They might not take care of you when you're sick. Humans are packages of good and bad. No one's going to do everything right.

I have mixed feelings about your letter, to be honest. Part of me thinks that you simply moved on and should find someone else. You were young when you met him and your lack of context is part of the problem. You could use some dating/alone time. But another part of me is thinking, "He moved for her. He loved her. She loved him. After five years, he still wanted to listen to her all night. Who cares if it took him six months to get a job in a bad economy?"

But I'm missing some important information (and maybe you are, too). Do you miss hearing his perspective? Do you wish you could call him to tell him something funny? When you're alone at night, do you wish he was next to you -- or are you picturing some faceless fantasy man? When you ended the relationship, did he fight it? Or did he simply let you walk out the door? If you had more dating options, would you be thinking about the ex as much? Does dating seem like cheating?

You're mixed up about the reality of this right now, which means that you might need to see him to get answers. You might have to be face-to-face with him to figure out whether these feelings of regret are about a fear of being alone or about realizing that you actually do want to spend the rest of your life with him. You're muddled. Go unmuddle yourself. Talk to him and figure out what happened.

Readers? Did she make a mistake? Is this about needing a warm body or realizing that she wanted something that doesn't exist? Can you tell how she feels about him based on this letter? Is it relevant that he isn't knocking on her door (as far as we know)? Should she see him? Or will that muddle her more? Discuss.

– Meredith

He popped up in my dream

Posted by Meredith Goldstein July 5, 2011 09:00 AM

Please spend some time with yesterday's updates. They're good.

Q: Dear Meredith,

My ex-boyfriend and I had gone out for about six years and things were not great. He found someone else. I have not met anyone else since. I spend time on a dating site but haven't had any success (chatted with some of the members through the site or thru e-mail, but I have only met one member in person). I'm a single parent/workaholic, so my personal life and work life keep me busy. I try to relax by watching movies at home or shopping. On occasion I volunteer for an organization. I have also become involved with a "Meet Up" group. Basically, I'm not twiddling my thumbs.

I'm currently reading a book titled "Conversations with God," and so far what I've taken from it is that you create your own reality. So yesterday evening, I decided to not think about my ex. After I made that decision, I immediately stopped thinking about him and I felt comfortable, at ease, and OK doing so -- no issues. What do you know? I went to bed, fell asleep, and "dreamt" about him. He was in my dream the entire time, sitting at a table with someone else (another male figure?). I was occupied in my dream, maybe 50 feet or so away from the table, running around doing things here and there. I never had contact with my ex in my dream. I just knew that he was "there."

I have to also mention here that he did tell me, in real life, not to contact him after we broke up.

What is the significance of him appearing in my dream when I made a conscious decision to let go of him in "real life." Maybe the answer is as clear as day -- but I don't see it right now.

– Bothered and Bewildered in Boston (BABIB)

A: The answer is as clear as day, BABIB. Just because you tell yourself not to think about your ex doesn't mean that he's out of your subconscious. In fact, by forcing yourself not to think about him, you're thinking about him, aren't you? It reminds me of my favorite lines by Edna St. Vincent Millay.

And entering with relief some quiet place
Where never fell his foot or shone his face
I say, "There is no memory of him here!"
And so stand stricken, so remembering him!

Poetry is cool. Sometimes.

My point is, the dream doesn't tell you anything that you don't already know. You think about your ex, especially when you close your eyes. You can create your own reality all you want, but you can't control your brain once you fall asleep. I had a dream last week that I made out with Steve Martin. That's not me creating my own reality. That's just me watching too much TV.

My advice is to keep doing what you're doing -- and maybe meet a few more of those online suitors in person. It's tough to get to know someone over email. See if you can fit some more dating time into your busy schedule.

And know that dreams only mean as much as you want them to. Your ex is as important as the other, unidentifiable guy in your dream. Maybe it's the other guy who you should be spending your time thinking about. Who was that mysterious man?

Readers? Why was her ex in her dream? Does it mean anything? Can anyone help this letter writer make sense of what happens when she goes to sleep? Should she be having more in-person dates? Thoughts about creating your own reality? Discuss.

– Meredith

I'm still thinking about her

Posted by Meredith Goldstein June 23, 2011 07:54 AM

Q: "Matilda" and I (both late 20s) dated for a year. She was the only woman I can say I have ever loved (and I guess I still do). We had serious talks about marriage, etc. Long story short, we had to do the long-distance thing because of grad school and she did something that was a deal-breaker. We broke up (and I should add this now -- there is no way I would ever date her again, damage is done, pride took over).

Fast forward a year and a half. I have been doing everything I can think of to move on; talking to friends and family, anti-depressants, working out heavily, focusing on school work, dating at the gym, dating at work/school, flirting at bars, online dating, playing in sports leagues, going out with friends, avoiding her at all costs (I tried being friends at first, didn't work, too much pain, making me the ex that avoids but still thinks about the person), and not dating and just having fun on my own.

All these things do make me feel better in the short term, but at the end of the day, I still think about her every day. She is the first thing that pops in my head when I wake up and last thing that I think of before bed. Although over time I start to feel better with the lack of contact, she contacts me every few months to say hi and all the emotions come rushing back. I always tell her to give me space but I end up becoming depressed and anxious, literally at the snap of a finger, hearing her voice. I feel at a loss as to why things ended, when it seemed like it was supposed to be forever (I should add that avoiding her hasn't been that easy either. Now that we are back in the same area again (school reasons, cant relocate), we work in the same system and in the same field so everything around me is a reminder of her. Plus, I occasionally have to see her and the reason why we broke up).

To quote "Californication," this is how I feel:

Movie Karen: Why does he love her so much? I mean what is it about her?
Hank: I don't know. I don't think I've ever known. I think sometimes you get it right the first time and then it defines your life. It becomes who you are.

So I guess my question is this: What am I doing wrong? Why can't I move on? It's been enough time, I remind myself of the negatives constantly (and there are more than enough), I date around, keep busy, and really do make an effort not to think about her. It's like I have put her in a pedestal and no matter what I do, I haven't been able to knock her down. My brain is saying move on, don't be weak, don't be pathetic, have some pride, love yourself more, but my heart is stuck in neutral. Do I like to suffer? Why am I stuck on these questions and not just accepting things for what they are? Is it just a matter of finding someone else, or should I just embrace it and be like Hank Moody, get myself into crazy shenanigans with the ladies???

– Stuck in Neutral, NYC

A: This is taking forever, SIN, because you're in love with her, you thought you were going to marry her, and she pulled the rug out from under you.

There's always going to be a part of you that asks, "Could she have redeemed herself?" There's always going to be a part of you that longs for the life you had before that betrayal.

My advice is to stop avoiding her. I'm not saying that you should make lunch plans with her, but this whole "avoiding her at all costs" thing has turned her into some powerful, make-believe monster.

Also, grief is addictive. It's a legitimate feeling and we have to deal with it, but we also have to watch ourselves to make sure that it doesn't become a part of our routine forever. Can you read before bed instead of thinking about her? Can you fall asleep to a TV show she hated? Train your brain to think about other things.

Really, you're doing quite well. You're living your life and having fun. It sounds like you just haven't met anyone who makes you laugh enough to distract you. You will. It just takes a long time. So keep dating. You don't have to be Hank, but you can be someone who's funny, cute, getting over and ex, and looking for nice company. The rest will sort itself out, I swear. There's no pill to make it go faster. All of this is normal.

Readers? How can the letter writer be less sad about Matilda? Should they have broken up? Is the letter writer on the right track? What are Matilda's motives when she checks in? Discuss.

– Meredith

He wants me to cut off my ex

Posted by Meredith Goldstein June 13, 2011 09:30 AM

I'm in Ireland. With family. Tracing my Goldstein roots through Galway. (Kidding. Not Irish.)

I'll be posting Love Letters at weird times, but I'll be reading comments and emails. And drinking. And eating stew. Continue on.

Q: I just went through a breakup with a guy I had dated for a few years. He was my first incredibly serious relationship and we both took the breakup really hard. However, after many months of heartbreak, screaming, and revealed secrets, I feel that we are finally at a place where we can be good friends. We have so much in common and we get along so well, it's not hard to see how this could possibly work as a friendship.

However, I have gotten to the point where I feel comfortable dating again. I have started dating one of my friends and we've been seeing each other for a couple of months. It's quite nice, although it's nothing serious yet. My ex has some jealousy and anger for this new guy but he never lashes out. The real problem is though that my new guy doesn't want me to see my ex. My new guy feels that two exes can never be friends and that my ex will just continue to hurt me (there were a lot of very public outbursts between my ex and I when we first broke up and we still occasionally have arguments over regret, guilt, and secrets). Recently he told me that I had to put my foot down and give my ex the final "no" to sever the ties.

I honestly don't know what to do in this situation. I really do love my ex, not as a lover or a boyfriend but as a person. I feel like severing the ties with him would cause me to lose a very important friendship. We both worked so hard to just remain friends I don't feel like I could throw all of that effort away. However, I do really care for this new guy (we were friends first, after all) and would really like to see if a potential relationship could spawn and evolve into something more. I would like to have both in my life but I know I can't.

Meredith, can exes really be friends? Which is more important? An old friendship or a new relationship?

– Can't have your cake and eat it too, Boston

A: You have to decide who's more important, CHYCAEIT. I can't do that for you. Only you know who you'd rather keep.

My only piece of advice is to offer your new guy a compromise -- because he's probably open to one. Acknowledge that you're probably a few years away from a real friendship with your ex (because you are) and that you agree that you should distance yourself from him for the time being. (And by "distance" I mean no calls, texts, etc.) But explain that you won't be able to ignore the ex forever. You're the type of person who'll want to check in periodically and maybe send a card. You want to respect your new relationship, but you don't want the ex to turn into some larger-than-life forbidden figure from your past. You just want him to fade naturally.

I'm hoping that your new guy will be open to that compromise -- a natural fading as opposed to a dramatic friend breakup with your ex. Because that's better for all three of you.

I have to say that I empathize with your new guy. He wants to be the priority, and he should be. There's real potential with him, right?

Saying goodbye to your ex for now doesn't mean that he's gone forever. It just means that you're moving on and accepting that he has a new role in your life. He won't disappear.

Readers? Who's more important? Is there a compromise? Will she ever be friends with her ex? Discuss.

– Meredith

My ex won't acknowledge me

Posted by Meredith Goldstein June 1, 2011 08:30 AM

I'm giving away two sets of tickets to the Friday night performances of "Mortified". I'll be reading at the event -- from a journal I kept for a few weeks when I was 6. If you want the free tickets, e-mail me at meregoldstein at gmail dot com with "MORTIFIED" in the subject line. Tell me why you want the tickets and who you'll bring to the show. I'll pick two winners and e-mail them by 6 p.m. today.

And we'll chat at 1.

Q: “Jeff" and I were together for two years. Although we had arguments, we shared a very deep love for one another.

However, toward the end of our relationship, we began arguing more regularly. The stress of work, roommate issues, etc., began taking its toll on us. Jeff ended the relationship despite the fact that I wanted to give it another shot.

Flash forward months later. Jeff is in a new, committed relationship and I'm still on the dating scene. I miss him. I miss him a lot. And although I have done the whole "keep yourself busy" breakup routine, I always seem to revert back to thinking of Jeff.

It doesn't help that I see him quite often. We live near each other and frequent the same bars and restaurants. We agreed at the end of our relationship to be friends, but every time we have seen one another, he has acted like a complete stranger. He has gone well out of his way to avoid me in any situation.

What's strange is I don't know why he is acting this way. I've been respectful of his new relationship. I never call or text him. I have sent the occasional e-mail when I heard through friends he had been promoted, or a note wishing him a happy birthday, but nothing serious. Just a quick, "Hope you're well" and that's all.

The reason I am writing is because in the time we have been apart, he has done nothing of the sort for me. Yes, I realize he has a new girlfriend, but I know for a fact he was friendly with all of his exes and would speak with them once in a while when we were together. It hurts to go from talking every day and seeing each other frequently during the week to never speaking at all.

I feel as though the years we spent together meant nothing to him. It seems like I have turned into an enemy, and I don't understand why. My friends have told me I am better without him and that I should focus on myself. They also have told me that he is insecure and immature. One of my friends suggested that he could he be acting this way because he is not over our relationship. If he was secure in his current relationship, I would think he could at least say hi to me when he sees me. What's his problem?

– Has he moved on for good?, Cambridge

A: He probably has moved on for good, HHMOFG, but that's not really the issue here, right? You want to know why Jeff isn't acknowledging you when he sees you in public and why you're not getting the obligatory birthday e-mail. I can't read his mind so I'm not sure.

It could be that he's not over the relationship and that he wants to make sure he doesn't slide back into it. It could be that he's trying to make life easier for you by not leading you on. Maybe the new girlfriend has asked him to keep you at a distance.

No matter the reason, it's for the best. Because if he did send you a friendly text, e-mail, or birthday card, you'd be hopeful, right? You'd be confused. Because you're not over him. You're not looking for a friendship.

For now, his behavior is a gift. It would be much worse if you were wondering, "What did he mean when he sent that e-mail?" Or, "What did he want when he smiled at me at the bar?" It's better that he disappear for now so that you both can mourn. It's only been a few months. The wounds are fresh, and no matter how he's behaving, this is a difficult time for both of you. He'll come out of the woodwork when he's ready.

As you mourn, ask your friends to try some new venues with you. It's a big(ish) city. Get a change of scenery.

Readers? When will he contact the LW? Is he doing the right thing by ignoring her? Does his silence mean that he still wants to be with the LW? What does it mean that he's already in a relationship? How can the LW deal with his behavior? Discuss.

– Meredith

Did I break up with him too soon?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein May 16, 2011 09:06 AM

Find the "Bridesmaids" entries here.

Q: Hi Meredith,

You column is not just a daily diversion, it's also a great resource. As I'm facing relationship uncertainty, I find myself wishing you were a friend, so I'm writing for your friendly advice.

A month ago I broke things off with my boyfriend of six months. We are both in our mid-30s, never-married, no kids. He is extremely easy to get along with, we never had any arguments, and got along wonderfully. He's a great guy: considerate, extremely competent, good-natured, even-tempered, fun, funny, successful, responsible, and helpful. We are both independent professional types but whenever we had free time we would generally spend it together. He would often arrange weekend trips away for us, which I loved. The issue was that he wasn't expressive or very affectionate. Also, a month ago, while we were both away on business trips, I didn't hear from him for a week. He was unreachable. This wasn't the first time this happened. A month previous to this incident, he disappeared for two days when we were supposed to get together. I had a serious talk with him at that time. He said he was very sorry, he screwed up -- but as I mentioned above, it happened again. During that week, I won an award for a project that meant a lot to me and it was dampened by the fact that my boyfriend had disappeared again and I couldn't share this great news with him.

We talked when we both got home. He felt bad, had excuses, and apologized. I had made up my mind that it was over and I broke up with him. I told him that the combination of the disappearing and lack of affection was too hard on me. I told Joe that I can tell when a guy is crazy about me and I could tell he wasn't, that he didn't seem that curious about me (wouldn't he want to know whether or not I won the award?). I told him he didn't seem all that willing to be a part of my life or make me a part of his (I had never met his friends, family and vice versa). He replied "I know I'm not affectionate, I guess I show it in other ways." When I asked him if he was "crazy about me" Joe replied, "I don't' know what that means. I think that comes with time. I know I like spending time with you." That was about as expressive as he got.

Now, a month later, I'm still upset. I miss him terribly. I liked my life better with him in it. I loved him and still do. I'm wondering if in a rash moment I ended things too soon. I am still surprised and hurt that he walked away without talking me out of the break up, or making a grand gesture. Rational me knows grand gestures are not how an even-keeled man operates and I knew what I was doing. Now I don't know if I did the right thing. So much about him is very much what I want in a partner. Should I have given this another chance? Should I have tried to work with him on being more expressive and affectionate or do people not really change? Should I just move forward or should I go back and try to work things out with him? Thank you for your advice.

(By the way, a week after our break up he was already active on a dating website.)

– Severed Ties Too Soon, Houston

A: My philosophy has always been that people should stay in relationships until they're almost positive that they want out, STTS. There are exceptions to my rule, of course. Abusive relationships don't count. And there are statutes of limitations for time. It shouldn't take you years to decide whether you're smitten with your significant other.

In your case, you're not sure what you want and you were only with him for a few months. He disappeared on a business trip and didn't bring you to meet mom and dad, but he surprised you with weekend trips and is apparently "considerate, extremely competent, good-natured, even-tempered, fun, funny, successful, responsible, and helpful." You broke up with him and regretted your decision almost immediately. You're kind of a mess.

My advice is to call him -- because you want to. Tell him that you're confused and that you miss him. Tell him that you have no idea what you're doing. He'll either tell you that he's not interested in reuniting (and that means he isn't crazy about you, so no big loss), or he'll be open to a discussion.

If you do get back together, you'll either learn to satisfy each other over time or you'll break up again. It's important to play these things out until questions are answered so that you don't waste time with the what-ifs.

(And as for him joining the online dating site, who cares? He might have done that to distract himself from the pain. Some people believe that the best way to move on from a romantic loss is to start dating as soon as possible.)

Readers? Am I right or should she listen to the part of her gut that told her to break it off? Is the disappearing for a week thing a problem? Is she expecting too much? Should she call? Why didn't he introduce her to his friends? What do we think about him surfacing on a website? Discuss.

– Meredith

Obsessing about my ex

Posted by Meredith Goldstein May 10, 2011 08:41 AM

Winners for the "Bridesmaids" contest have been chosen. I'll post some entries Friday. Thanks so much for the submissions. They were great reads.

Q: Hi Meredith,

I recently came out of a serious two-year relationship. While she was an excellent, beautiful, smart woman, our relationship just waxed and waned too much and occasionally I felt completely disconnected. As it was my first very serious relationship, I was often questioning whether she was "the one" and I found myself wishing to meet other people. After months of struggle, I finally ended things for good.

Fast forward a month or so and I am now starting to see another beautiful woman. I really wasn't planning on jumping back into things so quickly, but when I met her I knew I had to see more of her. I cannot express how much fun I have with her, and she really is a catch.

However, I find myself thinking about my ex non-stop, and constantly comparing the "new one" to her in my mind. I so enjoy this new woman but because of my constant thoughts I am not sure whether I have made a mistake. I know it is natural to think about your ex, but at what point should I be finding myself feeling 100 percent clear about this situation? Are these feelings unfair to the new woman?

– Confused Bloke, Boston

A: CB, you're thinking about the ex nonstop? Really? Like, all the time?

If that's true, you're probably just moving on too quickly. You said it yourself -- you started dating this woman before you were ready. You're comparing your experiences with her to your two-year relationship. Apples to oranges, my friend.

My advice is to put on the brakes. See this new woman but make it clear that you're just dating around right now, not dating seriously. Give yourself some Saturday nights alone. Because much of what you're feeling is loss and guilt. You let go of your partner of two years. You loved her. You thought she was wonderful. Of course you're going to long for her. It's difficult to mourn a loss while being someone's fun, new boyfriend at the same time. Give your brain a break. You can only multitask so much.

And for the record, you'll never be 100 percent clear about any of it. Sorry.

Readers? Is he allowed to contact the ex? Is he still in love with the ex? Is he being fair to this new woman? Should he be dating at all? Will he ever be 100 percent over it? Discuss.

– Meredith

Is he out of love or just busy?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein May 9, 2011 07:00 AM

Please enjoy this last-minute contest.

Q: Hi Meredith,

Long time, first time. Back story is that I started dating my best friend of about five years this past September. He is the most kindhearted, gentle, and fun person I know. He has seen me go through my share of bad relationships and heartache. He's two years older than me and this is his first real relationship and longest relationship. We both started to like each other early last year but didn't act on it until the summer. We were scared to cross the line and he was studying for Part 2 of the CFA (crazy finance test!) all last winter/spring so I didn't want to distract him.

He was always the one pushing for us to start dating once it was on the table, and after spending time with him, I grew to love him. It's by far the best relationship I've been in and he treats me so well I could see myself spending the rest of my life with him (I'm 23. I've been around the block. I've known him for 5 years).

He is in the thick of studying for part 3 of the CFA right now and has been since January. The test is in early June. I have been incredibly understanding about his priority (passing this test!). When his job and the studying became extra stressful last month, he threw a curve ball at me and said that he felt like something was missing in our relationship but that he couldn't decipher if it was his external stresses or just us. We decided to work on it, but more recently the conversation came back up and he said he still feels something is missing. I'm deeply hurt by this and I really just hope it's the stress of the CFA that is sucking the life out of him, but I also don't think it's fair for me to sit around and wait until after the CFA for my "trial period" to be up.

We called it off last night and I'm just looking for some help on how I should be feeling about this situation and what to do after the CFA is over in June. Reevaluate? Move on? Is he just a commitment-phobe?

– CFA is ruining my life, Boston

A: There isn't anything you can do besides treat this like a breakup, CFAIRML. From what you've told us, he isn't begging you to wait it out until June to see what's what. He told you twice that something was missing from the relationship. After discussing it more, you called it off. That's your reality.

If he comes running back to you in June you can reevaluate if you want, but there's no need to plan for that now. There's no guarantee that he'll change his mind in a month. And it's only May 9th.

My guess is that this isn't about the CFA stuff. I would bet that his problem is that he hasn't been around the block like you have so he doesn't know exactly what he wants from this relationship after a year of dating. That's enough to kill something good.

As for how to deal, I want you to give yourself space and try not to fantasize about June. I know it's tempting to play out the post-CFA possibilities, but I fear that your dreams about his potential revelations will just leave you disappointed. Treat this like a real ending with anger, pep talks, misery, shopping, and whatever else you do to get over a loss. Because for now, that's what it is -- an ending, not a pause. Make May more important than June. Give yourself what you need right now.

Readers? Is this really about the CFA thing? Anyone taken that test? Should she wait until June to see how he really feels? Is it possible that he's just overwhelmed? Or should he be doing more to keep her around? Discuss.

– Meredith

Should I go to the wedding?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein May 4, 2011 08:38 AM

Chat day.

Q: Dear Meredith,

My mornings during the week are always about my friend and I drinking our iced coffees and talking about Love Letters. Sure, sometimes we struggle with finding sympathy for the young twenty-somethings who worry about finding the one but then we realize love hurts no matter the age.

I'm your typical 34-year-old, never-been-married, got-it-together (for the most part) girl. I sometimes have relationships (2 yrs, 8 yrs, 6 mo), sometimes try all activities they say to meet someone when I am single (even lowered my salary on an internet dating site) and then sometimes just go out with the gals for vino because dating gets draining. Eight months ago I met a guy organically and even though at first I didn't think I'd want to date someone with kids, I realized how much I loved being with him. He moved in and the kids were going to live with us this summer. His cousin asked me to be her maid of honor and I agreed even though this is my 8th wedding and I swore I would politely decline after the 7th. But I stepped up and due to a short timeline there were three days of non-stop wedding planning to the point I was given the sole task of planning the meal. The night I got home from trying on the bridesmaid dress I left to the bedroom to privately feel sorry for myself and have a good cry. I have always wanted to get married but it just hasn’t worked out for me. When my boyfriend asked what was wrong, I exposed that all the wedding planning has been hard because it makes me think about my own situation of turning 35 and not ever being asked myself. When we moved in together I was clear that marriage and kids were something I wanted and that he shouldn't move in (for my sake or the sake of his two girls) if he wasn't interested. He did move in and I loved every minute of us being together. Two weeks ago, I came home and his stuff was gone and that was it. No goodbye, no waiting around to tell me. I didn't even get the post-it note Carrie got.

When I say I that I felt like I got punched in the gut, I'm not sure that even describes the feeling. I was sick for days over this but I pulled myself together. This past weekend he declared that he has decided that he does want to get married and have kids with me and that he just panicked. Can I really believe him? Should I put myself through being the maid of honor? The wedding is four weeks away and he is the best man, and I cannot think of more torture than that. I know the bride didn’t do anything -- she was supportive of me the whole time so I feel obligated to do it -- but I'm not sure if I will keep it together.

– Always, Always the Bridesmaid, Lowell

A: AATB, you're going to feel wrong no matter what you do about the wedding. Let's say you back out of being the maid of honor. Will you regret not being there? Will you wonder what you're missing? Will you spend the day obsessing about the whole thing? I'm not sure that showing up for the wedding will feel great either, but consider that you're going to be miserable either way.

The bigger question is about your relationship -- whether you can believe that your boyfriend really wants you back. And the answer is: I don't know. It's normal to panic when your girlfriend of eight months has a wedding-induced meltdown and starts talking about kids and marriage, but it's not acceptable to pack up all of your stuff and move out while she's gone for the day. That kind of behavior is cruel and cowardly. And frankly, it's a bit dramatic. He knew he'd see you again. It's almost like he did that for effect.

I can't give you a definitive answer about his motives, but I'm all for getting as many of your questions answered as possible. If it were me, I'd talk to him about what happened and why he wants you back. Then I'd go to the wedding. Because I'd want to see what it feels like to be near him at a joyous occasion. I'd want to see if it feels right to be by his side.

Sometimes the best way to get answers is to immerse yourself in the problem. See if going to the wedding with him feels like coming home – or returning to something that you're ready to leave behind. And remember, the wedding isn't the big question, the relationship is.

Readers? Should she go to the wedding? Should she forgive the weird move-out? Has she been focusing on the wrong thing? Were they just not ready to move in together? Should she let go of some of that wedding angst? What happened here? Discuss.

– Meredith

I sabotaged the relationship

Posted by Meredith Goldstein April 26, 2011 08:33 AM

Q: Dear Meredith,

I dated someone for six years who I thought I would marry. One day he just told me he wasn't happy and that he was done. He left me with major abandonment issues. After he left, I started dating guys who I knew were wrong for me so I didn't have be as vulnerable as I was in my six-year relationship.

My problem is that I've had a friend for years who has always been an important part of my life. We both have strong-willed personalities, which have caused disagreements even in our friendship. But one of the things I've always loved is that it's easy for us to just say OK, we don't agree, and move on, friendship unscathed.

About two years ago, I confessed that I felt something more than friends and wanted a romantic relationship with him. Well, I pulled such a coward move and did this while he was living in across the country knowing that I wouldn't have to act on my feelings. A year later, we were both back in Boston and he really wanted to try a relationship. I had just gotten out of a relationship with one of those guys I shouldn't have been dating because they were wrong for me. My friend and I tried to make things work but he ended up getting hurt because I wasn't fully in it because of my feelings for my ex.

After this, we didn't talk for a while and our friendship really suffered. But in the winter, we saw each other and all the feelings rushed back in for both of us. We ended up going home together that night and deciding that we were both going to just be happy together -- but I wouldn't be writing if this all worked out. I ended up bringing a lot of my feelings of abandonment into the relationship. I would be really happy for a week and then I would freak out and look for reasons that we wouldn't work or pick a fight to test him. Well, I succeeded and sabotaged everything. He finally decided that we were just too different. He was apologizing a lot because I would keep picking fights about stupid little things and he just didn't want to continue to apologize for the way he is or feel like he didn't to change for me to be happy. Just to give a brief example, he is very passionate about video games and I would just say I hated them and that I didn't want to know anything about them even though I knew it was important to him. I was just trying to push him away and it worked.

I didn't realize what I was doing until it was too late. It's been two weeks and I feel like such an idiot that I let my fear of abandonment get the best of me and hurt him in the process. I've explained all of this to him over the weekend and he took it all in but needs some time to process and decides if he can give me another chance, which I completely understand.

What do you think? Have too many bridges already been burned?

– Pusher, Boston

A: Pusher, I'm not convinced that you sabotaged this relationship because you have abandonment issues. Maybe you have them. I don't know. But isn't it possible that you're picking fights with this guy because you're annoyed? Or because you don't want to date a guy who loves video games? You told us that you and this friend have always had strong, conflicting opinions. That's why I think that the failure of this relationship wasn't about "issues." Maybe it was just about two people not being compatible.

Before you make promises you can't keep you should consider why you're begging this friend to stick around as a romantic partner. Because I don't think that you sabotage relationships. I think that you try to prolong them when you shouldn't. You're obviously attracted to your friend but that might not be enough.

Think about what you really want and why it's not working out, abandonment issues aside. He just might not be the right guy.

Readers? Is this about abandonment issues or about a relationship simply running its course? Is this guy just another person she's dated knowing that it wouldn't work? Should she be trying to work it out with him? Discuss.

– Meredith

His friend reminds me of him

Posted by Meredith Goldstein April 21, 2011 09:00 AM

Q: Hi Meredith,

I was dating a guy we will call "Joe." We ended up breaking up because he was moving across the country -- and because he looked through my phone and had unnecessary trust issues. While we were dating, we set up my best friend with his best friend (we can call him Charlie) who are a great match. Our friends are still dating, but for some reason, I can't get past thinking about Joe every time I see his friend Charlie. It's gotten to the point where I just choose not to see my best friend if I know Charlie will be there. I'm still hurting from the breakup with Joe, which is why I try to avoid seeing Charlie. He just reminds me of Joe and brings back the memories of all of us spending time together.

I know the best answer to this is to just get past it, and understand that Joe and Charlie are two separate people. I understand that I should not hold any of this against Charlie, but I find myself not being able to move past that. If there is a solid reason to break up, I can typically get through a breakup quickly, but this is starting to affect my friendship with one of my best friends.

Do you have any advice for trying a new way to look at the situation? I am usually the one giving my friends advice but I can't crack this one.

– Unintentionally taking it out on our friends, Needham

A: I have a Charlie, UTIOOOF. It used to be that whenever I saw him, I was reminded of an ex who's a mutual connection. I couldn't see Charlie without thinking about the ex. Sometimes I was tempted to bring up the ex in front of Charlie just to see if he'd react. I wondered if my Charlie knew whether my ex was dating other people. I wondered if my Charlie talked to the ex about me.

For me, the answer was to communicate with Charlie as much as I could. Not in an unnatural way, but just enough to make things normal. The more I talked to Charlie, the more Charlie was just … my Charlie. Not a friend who also knows my ex. These days, I sometimes forget that Charlie even knows the ex. Charlie's his own guy. My pal.

So that's my advice. See your Charlie when it makes sense to do so. The more you embrace the new situation, the more it will be come your present, not your past. The Joe-free Charlie memories will take over before you know it.

And remember -- some of this angst might be your reaction to hanging out with a still-happy couple. It's difficult, but you have to do it for your friend.

Readers? Should she avoid Charlie and give herself time to mourn or see Charlie more to get over it? Should she talk to her friend about the problem? Is this about Joe and Charlie or about hanging out with a couple? Discuss.

– Meredith

We haven't said we're back together

Posted by Meredith Goldstein April 20, 2011 09:00 AM

Chat at 1.

Q: My fella and I have been on/off for 3 years. I was the first (and only) girl he'd ever been in love with. Each off period commenced with both of us crying and saying how much we love each other but acknowledging that it wasn't working. Each of the reunions has involved him promising to try harder. It comes down to the fact that he has some emotional baggage that prevents him from being everything I need and want from him. He can't express his feelings well. I, on the other hand, work perfectly for him. He thinks he's bad for me, isn't giving me what I need, and that he doesn't deserve me. But all I want is him.

A year ago December we broke up "for good." It was comical how badly I took it. I spent months crying, never falling out of love with him -- but we agreed to not talk and to try to move on. We decided we couldn't be friends because we were too in love. He moved 2 hours away. I spent 2010 trying to get my life in order and trying to get over fella to start dating again. And I did. I tried. HARD. But never got my fella out of my head. This past December I had had enough. It had been a year and I felt exactly the same as when we broke up. I was in love with this man and it wasn't going away.

I sent a text (I know, I know, but I'm the product of the modern age). It was an "I miss you" text. I didn't expect a response but I got one that said he misses me too, wants to get together, etc. The reunion was amazing. It's now been 3 months. We see each other every other weekend. Every visit is perfect. We talk everyday -- he's affectionate, listens, talks more than ever -- like a new and improved fella.

When we go out, though, I'm introduced as "his friend" even though to anyone with eyes, we're together. When someone asks if we're dating, we both just kind of make odd noises and give blank stares. I finally got sick of this. During a recent visit I said, "We need to stop seeing each other. If this is going nowhere, I can't do this." He starts crying. Sobbing. Saying I'm the only person he wants to be with. Says he wants to bring me home, says he wants to meet my parents (yeah we never did that). But still we have not had the "are we back together" part of the conversation.

I think I'm afraid to have the conversation because if we become official then there it is, the "official commitment" that potentially could end in another break up. This unofficial togetherness seems safe because since we're not boyfriend girlfriend we can't "break up," right? But what are we doing? Am I wasting my time? If I bring it up, will he think it's a bad idea? I know this might seem trite but I'd like to hear your advice/insight -- it's always so level headed. Sorry for the novel.

– Sentence Fragments and Dashes, Massachusetts

A: The thing is, SFAD, no matter what you call this thing you're in, you can't avoid the possibility of a breakup. If you ended it now, there would have to be a talk. You don't have to be somebody's girlfriend to get dumped.

And that's why my advice is to have Part 2 of the talk. You started it, so finish it. He wants to meet your parents? Fine. Then he should also want to be your boyfriend and confirm that you're in a relationship. You restarted this thing in December and now it's almost May. He shouldn't be freaking out when people ask him if he's dating you. You're back together. If the two of you can't call it that, you're setting yourself up to fail.

My advice: Don't make the talk a huge deal. You don't have to ambush him with questions. All you need to say is, "Do you mind if I call you my boyfriend? Because I'd like to." Some of these talks are supposed to be fun. Explain that you're just psyched to celebrate what you have.

Readers? What's her boyfriend's problem? Is this really about the title? What should she do? Is what they have good enough? Would another talk be bad? Discuss.

– Meredith

She left because of my drinking

Posted by Meredith Goldstein April 13, 2011 07:53 AM

Chat 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.

– Meredith

Did I pick the wrong guy?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein April 11, 2011 08:10 AM

Q: Dear Mere,

I have been dating this guy -- let's call him Jake -- for about six years. We grew up in the same town, hung out with the same group of people, and we just clicked. Our relationship started off far from perfect. I cheated on him with my previous ex, who was my first love but also cheated on me. That one mistake has haunted me ever since.

Jake and I got past my cheat (or so I thought) and started off fresh. I was loyal, honest, I spoiled him, and went above and beyond to prove to him that it was a mistake and that I would never put him through that again. For a long time, things were going awesome but I learned the hard way that the sun has to set at some point. Jake started to become this whole different person. He wanted to hide me from the world and have me when it was convenient for him. Before I knew it, I had given up everything -- my friends, my social life, my time, everything for this kid who couldn't possibly still love me. He would break up with me repeatedly and I would apologize for doing nothing.

After a while our relationship became nothing. I gradually started going out again and experiencing life. One night at a party I took a leap and started talking to his other guy, Ray. I found him so attractive. We started a text relationship after the party which later led to meeting up, first kiss, the whole nine.

For once I wasn't crying myself to sleep. I was smiling again. But like I said, the sun always sets at some point and Jake got wind of this "new guy" and all of a sudden demanded answers. Jake admitted to his mistakes and was all of a sudden saying things I always dreamed he would say.

Jake and I are now back together. We encounter rough patches here and there but our relationship has dramatically improved. I smile, laugh, and can honestly say I am happy. But here's where the mixed feelings take place. Ray and I ended on a civil note. I apologized for rushing things with him. But I find myself constantly thinking about him and regretting my decision to go back to Jake even though I am happy. I just feel like sooner or later, the sun is going to set for Jake and I again and it's killing me waiting for that day. Did I make the wrong decision?

– stuck between two, south boston

A: I don't know if you picked the wrong guy, SBT. If you had stayed with Ray, maybe he would have turned into a jerk, bored you, or moved away. I have no idea. But I understand why you're having second thoughts about Jake. You know how bad it can get with him. Ray never wronged you.

The trick is to trust yourself. You picked Jake because you needed to know if it could be good again. And that's that. If "the sun sets" on the two of you this time around, you'll be able to walk away with your questions answered. And you certainly won't stick around if it starts to get bad again. You've learned that lesson.

If you had written this letter when you were deciding between the two guys I might have had a different answer for you. But you've chosen. And at the moment, you're in a relationship that makes you smile. Get off the what-if hamster wheel and enjoy it.

Readers? Should she drop Jake? How can she forget about Ray? Did she make a mistake? Help.

– Meredith

She's a STAGE FIVE clinger

Posted by Meredith Goldstein April 8, 2011 08:55 AM

Note at 10 a.m.: They're working to fix the comment box!

Your book reviews are here ... and this (below) has "Friday letter" written all over it. Enjoy.

Q: Hi Meredith,

I'm considered a pretty nice person, which at times is not good. Yes, I have gotten the whole "You're too nice" malarkey several times. And no, this is not one of those "waaahhh I'm too nice, I hate my life waaaahh" stories. No, I'm not like that I, I don't play that card, I find it pathetic. But every once in a while I wish I could be more of a jerk.

I'm a single person in my late 20s. I love my independence. I do things for myself and answer to no one. Would I like to have a girlfriend? Sure, if it's right, but right now I have other priorities. So, a couple weeks ago, I hooked up with this girl and she stayed over. Sweet, right? Wrong. I've known this person for a long time and had a sense that she liked me but I wanted no part of her beyond what we were doing that night and made that explicitly clear. Before anything physical began I reviewed the ground rules (this is what it is and not anything more, I don't want you calling me all the time, I will not visit you, I do not feel for you romantically, this is just a hook up etc etc). And now I am being mercilessly bombarded with numerous daily texts, phone calls, Facebook chat messages and wall posts, she's friended my friends ... I hate when my cell phone buzzes. Seriously it's NON STOP. I've reminded her of my pre-bedroom riot act speech but nothing changed. Currently I'm ignoring her and it’s not working.

So this where the whole "nice" thing comes in. I'm not totally unaccustomed to clingers, but this is for sure a STAGE 5 CLINGER. I usually have good radar for them, but I definitely let my guard down to satisfy an urge, and now this has become my life. My friends think this is hilarious, but even she's annoying them. Any breakup or parting of ways, aside from a couple nasty heartbreaks, has either been mutual, cordial, or ended by passive disinterest. I have never had to resort to being a jerk to get rid of someone and I really do not want start now. I feel like that might be my only resort unless you can figure out an alternative.

– Exploding Phone, South Shore

A: My dear EP, feel free to cut this next paragraph and email it to your clinger.

Dear [insert clinger's name here],
This is a difficult email to write. I'm concerned about our friendship. I allowed our relationship to become physical a few weeks ago and it was probably a mistake. I've been noticing that you're contacting me a lot more often than you used to, and while I think that you're pretty great, I just can't be the friend/partner you're looking for. I'm starting to feel guilty when I don't pick up the phone, and when I do pick up the phone, I afraid that it means more than it should. I think that we should take some space to figure out how to make our relationship more like it used to be. I care about you and don't want to hurt you. But I also want to be honest and make it clear that I was happy with what we had before we crossed a line. I hope you understand. For now, let's keep our distance.
[your name here]

That answer falls somewhere between passive and jerky and makes it possible for you to block her on Facebook and to ignore her calls without feeling as though you're disappearing without explanation. Just be clear about what you need -- and do it respectfully. It's called being empathetic and assertive. You're capable.

Readers? How can he tell her to back off? Should he have known better than to start a recreational relationship with someone who likes him? Should his "ground rules" have been enough for her? Anybody else want to draft the e-mail (or should it be a phone call?) for this LW? Discuss.

– Meredith

We lived with his parents

Posted by Meredith Goldstein March 31, 2011 08:30 AM

Here are those insults and compliments. And here's today's letter:

Q: Hi Meredith,

I met my ex seven years ago when we were still in college. He thought I was a total snob, and I thought he was completely weird. Fast forward to a few years ago. I found him on Facebook through a mutual friend and we immediately started talking every day. Problem was, he was in Massachusetts and I was living a few states away. We talked for a few months before he drove up to surprise me. I was way less snobby, and his weirdness was adorable. We dated long distance like that for eight months until I lost my job and we decided I should move down to MA. At the time he was living with his parents, who welcomed me with open arms and said we could stay as long as we needed to until we found an apartment of our own.

At first, everything was great with us. We were best friends, completely in love. But months went by and he was still dragging his feet to get a place. We were cramped in our little room in his parents' house, and as welcoming as they were, it never really felt like my home and I was getting restless. I found some really cute places within our price range, but he always found some kind of excuse (like "the street leading up to the apartment is too steep" ... seriously?) not to move.

We had been living with his parents for about two years when things just fell apart. I was so resentful of him not understanding my need for my own space and he was getting tired of hearing me nag him about it. I moved in with a friend while I started looking for an apartment and he stayed with his parents.

At first, we didn't talk because it was too hard. But then we saw each other a few times and even spent New Year's Eve with friends. I was really hopeful that things were working out.

When I found my own apartment, he helped me move in. But that's when the switch flipped. He stopped calling and stopping by. And when I did see him, there was no warmth. I quickly found out that he was seeing someone. I felt so betrayed but I finally understood that we were really over. Unfortunately, I did say some pretty catty things in the heat of the finding out about her (I know it was none of my business, I was just upset). I just felt like my life was falling apart. I was alone in this town I didn't know, and I wanted so badly to save us, but I pushed him even further away.

I met someone, a friend of a friend, who took me out a few times. My ex heard about it -- and don't you know that I got a text from my ex saying some hurtful things. It was obviously out of jealousy and I know he didn't mean it but I was still upset. He was dating other girls. Who does he think he is to call me out for moving on too? I eventually changed my number to eliminate the drama.

Well, a few months have gone by now and the dust has settled. I'm not seeing anyone and I'm working 70 hours a week to compensate for the loneliness. Lately, he's been calling my friends to see how I'm doing and emailing my mom and siblings "just to say hi." Does that mean he's just being nice, or maybe that he misses me?

Can relationships bounce back from a bad break like this? Do you think we could ever "start over" and make it work?

– Broken But Can't Let Go, Boston

A: You can't start over -- there's really no such thing -- but you might be able to forgive each other, BBCLG. You can certainly call him, give him your new phone number, and make peace.

But please, don't expect anything more than that. This breakup wasn't about dating other people or mean texts. It was about him refusing to move out of his parents' house. It was about him being a coward while you put up with an uncomfortable living situation for two years.

My advice is to call him and ask him why he's checking in with your family. Forgive him and let him forgive you. But leave it at that. Unless he shows up at your door begging for your return and holding keys to his own place, there's really nothing to talk about.

You have every reason to be confused, lonely, sad, and a bit hopeful. But don't forget your needs just because you miss him. I'm sure he misses you, too. But that's not that point. Right?

Readers? Should she give him her new number? Is there hope here? Should she forgive the whole "we lived with your parents for two years" thing? Was his behavior acceptable? Help.

– Meredith

Do I have a bad track record?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein March 28, 2011 07:50 AM

Reminder: If you need a night out, get tickets to tomorrow night's performance of this. I'll be doing a talkback after the show.

Also, if you were assigned a book review and haven't turned it in, send it. And as you send it, picture me doing the "you missed your deadline" finger wag.

Q: Hi Meredith,

I have been reading your column since before I moved back to this great city. On to my dilemma/question. I am a 56-year-old twice divorced guy. First marriage was when I was 19 and "did the right thing." Second one lasted 18 yrs until she decided she didn't want to be married anymore. I have been dating someone now for about six months and she recently told me that while she enjoys my company she doesn't see me as marriage material. When I asked her why, she commented that my "track record" makes me a poor candidate for marriage. Meredith, I was a good husband and father for 18 years and I am very much a relationship kinda guy.

Am I going to be blacklisted for life because of two marriages (one of which was at 19) that didn't work??? Is there still hope for someone my age to be able to find someone that can see past my track record?

– Back in Boston at last

A: There is hope for you, BIBAL. And as far as I'm concerned, this woman is a "poor candidate for marriage." Marriage is about acceptance and honesty, not about finding the person with the best dating resume.

There are zillions of women out there who would happily date a self-aware guy who has been married twice for understandable reasons. It's not as though you bailed on nice people because you were bored. You got married too young and then committed to someone for almost two decades. That's not a terrible track record, in my opinion.

Keep in mind, it's possible that this woman was lying about the reason she ended the relationship. It's possible that she just didn't know how to break up with you without blaming your divorces.

Either way, she's out and you're still dateable. I'm sorry it took her six months to object to something you probably told her right off the bat. When you're ready, get back out there and keep fishing -- with confidence.

Readers? Does the LW have a bad track record? Was this woman just coming up with an easy reason to end it? Are two divorces a red flag? Discuss.

– Meredith

Thinking about a guy I didn't like that much

Posted by Meredith Goldstein March 23, 2011 08:30 AM

Chat day.

Q: Hi Meredith,

I've recently found myself in an unusual situation, by my standards. About five months ago, I got out of a very messy relationship that had been on and off for a couple of years. Usually the "off" periods would be punctuated by the realization that my boyfriend had either been cheating on me, or lying to me about something important. Our breakups would last anywhere from two weeks to two months. I've since gotten over this relationship, and I'm actually feeling a lot stronger and healthier as a person than I have in a very, very long time.

But, over the past week or so, I've found myself thinking about a different guy that I dated during one of my off periods with my ex-boyfriend. The relationship with the guy took place over a year ago and only lasted about a month. While there had been a spark when he and I first met, when we tried to pursue something, the chemistry just didn't ignite. I can't say why I've been thinking about him, but I feel that there must be some connection between the breakup with my long-term boyfriend and my sudden renewed interest in the other guy. Can you explain what the connection might be, or why you think I would be suddenly thinking of the short-term boyfriend from last year?

– Blue Forgetmenot, California

A: You're thinking about him because he had potential – potential that you didn't see because you were blinded by your ex. Now that the blinders are off, BF, you're wondering about missed opportunities.

Contact the guy. Tell him that you weren't emotionally present last year because you were still tied up with someone else. Tell him that you'd like to have dinner (assuming he's single) to see how you feel about each other.

He might say no – and chances are, he's dating someone else. But it's worth a try.

The explanation is simple. Once we're really over an ex, we have major FOMO about all the people we ignored along the way. This guy is one of those people. You dated him, but not really.

Readers? Is the LW thinking about the guy because there was real potential? Or is the LW just lonely and recycling? If you were the guy, would you want to hear from the LW? Help somebody in California.

– Meredith

Fantasizing about what could have been

Posted by Meredith Goldstein March 16, 2011 09:00 AM

Chat day.

Q: Hi Meredith,

Three years ago I met a guy through an internship. Nothing really sparked until after the job was over. We started exchanging e-mails and texting a lot, all leading up to a romantic kiss when he came back to town for a few days for work. By then he was living and working out of state. I visited him a few times and he came to visit me. No solid relationship was ever established but he was the only one on my mind.

I was very emotionally invested. He was quiet, kept to himself, and never really shared his feelings. He finally revealed his feelings two years in and then a month later decided he needed "space" because the distance was just too much for him. Needless to say, I was heartbroken.

I regrouped and met a man who has been nothing but a prince to me. The problem is that this other guy popped back up through e-mail to say that while he understands that I am happy and in a stable relationship, he does wish he had done things differently and still cares about me. He doesn't want to be that thorn in my side and get in the way of my current relationship, but did say that if ever given a chance, he'd be completely different.

I don't plan on leaving my current relationship to take a chance on what could have been, but I can't lie and say that I haven't been thinking back to old times and wondering exactly how things would have turned out. I am in love with my boyfriend -- but how do I get the other guy out of my head?

– Needs to Stop Thinking About What Could Have Been, Waltham

A: It could be great with the internship guy, NTSTAWCHB. It might even be better with the internship guy than it is with your boyfriend. But you know what? It might also be amazing with about 1,000 guys you've never met. That's life. As we get older, we're forced to choose a path -- and that means missing out on an infinite number of others paths. Pretty paths. Exciting paths. We just have to cross our fingers and hope that we're getting something good from the path we're on.

It'd be one thing if you were telling us that you were on the fence about your current relationship, but you've made it clear: "I don't plan on leaving my current relationship to take a chance on what could have been."

So that's that. It's fine if you want to fantasize about the what-ifs, but remind yourself that if you picked the other guy, you'd be having the same fantasies about your current boyfriend.

Go watch "Sliding Doors" or "The Adjustment Bureau" or any of those "What would my alternate path look like?" movies and remember that you can only live one life. The fantasies are part of that life. They're totally normal. Try to balance them with memories of the years of uncertainty you had with the other guy and you should be fine.

Readers? Is she not as sold on her relationship as she says she is? Is it normal to keep thinking about an old flame? Why is this old flame messing with her head? Are these fantasies OK? Should she cut off communication with the other guy? Discuss.

– Meredith

It ended and I'm miserable

Posted by Meredith Goldstein March 11, 2011 07:21 AM

Happy Friday. It's "validate the dumped" day.

Q: Hi Meredith,

I've read your column for months and have always thought you give great advice. I also thought it was pretty great to read your column and compare it to my wonderful relationship. I realize now how naive I was to believe that my relationship was any more bullet-proof than the next.

I met J. my sophomore year of college and we hit it off immediately. I had just come off a string of miserable flings with guys who treated me horribly and I was delighted to find J., who truly wanted me to be his. I reciprocated those feelings. We started dating after only a month and we fell in love.

This was only my second boyfriend and certainly the first serious one. Eventually, however, we began to fight. Now, after an entire year together, he has abruptly broken my heart. Two days ago, after one particular, alcohol-influenced fight, he decided to end it.

I won't get into specifics -- it's no different than any other relationship. But this was the first guy I loved.

My question, Meredith, is how am I supposed to get over someone I am still so in love with? I realize everyone goes through this at some point in their life (unless they're lucky enough to marry their first sweetheart), but I don't even know how to being to address the pain.

Since we live on a fairly large college campus with thousands of students, I know it's rare that I will run into him. Yet we live only a block away from each other, and every restaurant I pass, every park bench -- they all remind me of places we've been together, and intimate times we shared.

I want to so badly to talk to him, but he was very clear in expressing his need to cut off communication. This is especially hard for me, as he was not only my boyfriend, but my best friend. I shared everything with him.

I can't eat, I can't sleep. I can't even walk outside without tearing up in public. How can I mend my first broken heart, Meredith?

– Lonely in Wisconsin; Wisconsin, by way of Boston

A: This is like asking me how to cure a head cold, LIW. I can tell you to go out and buy chicken soup and sleep a lot, but really, the cold just has to run its course.

But let me address a few points you made in your letter.

You say that people who never experience this kind of pain are "lucky." I’m not so sure. This kind of pain spawns creativity. Life changes. Renewed friendships. Really great mix CDs. It's like making it over Heartbreak Hill during the Boston Marathon. It's awful when you're doing it, but when you're done, you feel pretty great about yourself (I'm just guessing on that one. There's no way I'm ever doing that). Use this time wisely. Feel your feelings and channel them into school, work, television, and friendships -- all of the good stuff.

Also, you mention that you had a string of not-so-nice relationships before J. That doesn't mean he is the only person who will respect you and love you for the right reasons. He's just the first.

All you can do is wait this one out. Take long walks and call a lot of people. I promise you, one day you'll pass those restaurants and benches and they'll have new memories attached to them.

In the meantime, welcome to the world of heartbreak. It's a well-populated world with good music and food. If you think of it that way, it's not the worst place to be.

Readers? Is there anything she can do to speed this along? Thoughts on dealing? Words of wisdom? Discuss.

– Meredith

My Shakespeare's not in love

Posted by Meredith Goldstein March 9, 2011 06:59 AM

Chat at 1.

Q: Meredith,

I have been seeing someone, let's call him Pete, for almost a year. We met last spring when I was doing an internship in Boston and he was finishing up his first year of grad school. We were very happy for a while, all the wonderful rushes of first love, etc.

And then the summer ended. I had to move a few hours away for the fall to finish up my last semester of school. The place where I had interned offered me a job upon graduation, so Pete and I decided to do long-distance, just for a couple months, since I'd be back so soon.

Halfway through the fall, I started noticing that he was being really distant. The next time I came up to see him, I told him how much it was hurting me when he was distant like that, and he confessed to me that he had been suffering from depression for a while. He told me he was starting therapy and starting going on medication, and things seemed to be getting better. I even suggested -- and we did -- spend Christmas with his family.

The new year started and I moved back to Boston, but things were different. He only wanted to see me when he didn't have anything pressing for school -- so it meant only on weekends or, if during the work week, only me coming over to sleep at night.

I wrote a letter to him, full of "I statements," supportive comments, statements of love, and things that I felt that we, as a couple, need to work on to have a more fulfilling relationship.

He started crying. I mean, hysterically. He told me he loves me, so much, and that he doesn't want to lose me. That he had to break up with his last girlfriend when he moved to go to grad school and that he didn't want to hurt me like that. He said that he just couldn't do it, that he feels like he can't give me what I want, what I need.

Pete is a man who is very introverted, needs a lot of alone time. I thought about it and all the times we were physically together until this year, he was not in school. Except this fall, but we weren't even in the same city. I think he just doesn't know how to deal with stress - and that right now our relationship is the only thing he has that he has control over.

I just don't know how to feel. He wrote me the sweetest card for Valentine's Day, it was a freaking sonnet! Like, Shakespearean sonnet! How does someone write their girlfriend a romantic, beautiful sonnet on Monday and rip their heart out on Thursday?!

Last week, it had been two weeks since I heard from him. So I texted him, asking if he was OK, and he said that he misses me, misses us, and that he's sorry. I texted back, telling him I was sorry too, but above all else I want him to be happy, and if that means that we're not together then so be it. It'll hurt for a while, but so be it. He didn't respond that night but texted me yesterday that he’s incapable of a serious relationship right now.

I haven't responded yet. I don't know if I even should -- and what to say if I did. I'm not even sure I'd want to be in a relationship with him again. But part of me wishes we could just go back to the way things were between us and pretend that this whole incident never happened.

– Dealing with a Stressed, Depressed Shakespeare, Boston

A: The thing about Shakespeare is that he was super good at writing plays and whatnot, but he was a pain to date. At least that's what I learned from "Shakespeare in Love."

You're telling me that part of you want things to go back to the way they were. But things weren't great for very long. You were having problems months and months ago. And even when things got better, you were still a long-distance girlfriend. You put it best -- when he's in school, he's just not very good at being good to someone else.

And that's your answer. He can write you a sonnet on Monday and break your heart on Thursday because he's selfish and bad at multi-tasking. Yes, he's depressed, but he's not asking you for your support. He's not asking you to stick around.

It's time to take Shakespeare's advice and "examine other beauties." Because even though this is a big loss, there are others out there.

Readers? Is this guy going to show up again when he has a break from school? Is there something here to save? Should she send him another note? Discuss.

– Meredith

Note from the Mod: Our comment box problem this morning was all across the website, not just on Love Letters. Thanks for sticking with us. It seems to be fixed now.

Do I tell her he cheated?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein March 7, 2011 06:46 PM

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.

– Meredith

He didn't leave his girlfriend

Posted by Meredith Goldstein March 4, 2011 07:44 AM

I received hundreds of e-mails from people asking for copies of self-help/love books yesterday. And I only have about 30 books. Those who were quick enough to get books will hear from me by Monday. If you don't hear from me, thank you for the e-mail. Many of you sent funny messages, which made my day. I wish I had more books.

And now a Friday letter ...

Q: I recently got out of a five-year relationship with my boyfriend because we finally accepted the fact that neither one of us was willing to sacrifice our needs and move to be together. Months ago, when this was all crumbling down, my coworker and I became close when we realized we both were in very similar situations; however, his relationship was still intact.

Once this connection was made, we would talk a lot during the day and started hanging out after work. We sent texts constantly and he would always mention things that we could do come the springtime and summer. He had told a mutual friend that he had a crush on “someone” (which was obvious to the mutual friend that it was me) even though he still did love his girlfriend. I was a little disheveled from just walking away from a great guy, so all of this was an easy distraction and I felt myself becoming attached to the relationship.

After a few too many drinks one night, the relationship turned from just simply being "two friendly coworkers." The same thing proceeded to happen a few more times but then all of a sudden, he did a complete 180 on me. No longer was he asking me to hang out, and if I sent a message, hours would go by before he responded and that was if he responded at all. After a little over a week of this, I asked what the deal was and he said that maybe what we were doing wasn't a good idea. He said we could still hang out together, it just had to be in public. I responded that maybe we should just cool it all together then. I wanted to play the "I'm cool with this" card so I acted like it didn't bother me when, in reality, I was devastated. Perhaps because it filled the void that my boyfriend had just left and made everything easier for me, but I felt like we could have been great together (and so did everyone else at work as they constantly are always making comments about the two of us).

It has been almost two months since that conversation and he is still seriously involved with his girlfriend. We do not hang out at all after work anymore, but he comes into my office constantly and he will send me messages randomly every now and again. I still feel like I'm stuck on the situation and not sure of what to do next. His visits and texts give me false hope that maybe if I wait it out, his relationship will end and we can start something good. But then another part of me, and I must say the smarter part of me, thinks that if he really wanted to be with me -- plain and simple -- he would be. And I have to remind myself that this is a guy who cheated on his girlfriend on more than one occasion and then just went back like nothing happened. Do I really want that type of guy? No. So I am trying to get over it but am having a really hard time doing so. Do I ask him to stop the visiting and texts, allowing him to know that I really did care for him and that it wasn’t just some care-free thing for me as I had let on? Or do I just wait it out and hope I can get over it on my own so that our work relationship can stay intact and my pride won’t be wounded? Help!!

– Trying To Get Over This, Boston

A: My advice is to ignore the texts and keep it simple when you talk to him at work, TTGOT. He'll pick up on your vibe. He's no dummy. If you feel like you need to tell him why you're pulling away go ahead, but I fear the disclosure will result in a long conversation that confuses you even more.

Why is he visiting your desk and sending you texts? Maybe because he likes the attention. Or maybe because he wants to make something abnormal feel normal. Or maybe because it makes him feel less guilty. Or maybe because he's an idiot. Or maybe because he's liner-upper.

None of these options are good ones. And you're right about everything -- that he made your breakup easier, that he filled the void, and that he's a jerk who cheated on his girlfriend and then acted like nothing happened.

This is going to be difficult, but it's all part of the breakup. Start looking for other distractions and allow yourself to mourn what you're really missing.

Readers? Does she need to have a talk with the office guy? Why is he stopping by? Did she have reason to believe he'd leave his girlfriend for her? Was he just filling a void? Discuss.

– Meredith

Can I date his ex?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein March 2, 2011 08:30 AM

Chat day.

Q: Hi Meredith,

I'm a divorced 30-something father (separated about 3 years ago) who has been trying to adapt to life after a nasty divorce. Now that the dust has settled, I can safely say that things between myself and my ex-wife "Jen" are amicable, although it is clear that we will never be friends again.

About a year ago, a close friend "Steve" (who is also divorced and now with someone else), without even the nerve to inform me, decided to end our friendship and has since barely uttered a word to me to the point that others are noticing his blatant avoidance. My understanding (based on observation) is that Steve became friends with someone who took my ex-wife's side in my divorce.

Over the summer, I ran into Steve's ex-wife "Mary" (whom I had not talked to since before Mary and her Steve separated) at a sporting event. We talked, caught up on old times, and swapped phone numbers -- with the intent of getting our children together. About a month later, Mary called me to arrange time for our children to see each other. At the play date, which had to wait a few weeks because of parenting schedules, everyone had a great time and my friendship with Mary resumed.

Fast forward about 2 months: Mary tells me that she had been thinking about me in a different light and wants to go out on a date with me (neither of us are seeing anyone now). She also told me that her pre-teen daughter has noticed Mary's reaction whenever my name has been brought up -- and offered an approval to us dating. Quite honestly, I am intrigued at the idea as well ... but is it OK to date the ex-wife of a former friend?

My gut feeling: It is none of Steve's business who his ex-wife dates; Steve chose to end our friendship (for whatever reason) and Mary and I are both free to date. So, what harm is there to see if there is more than a spark?

– Cautiously Interested In The Next Step, Boston

A: Your gut is right, CIITNS. To me, this is a no-brainer. The fact that Steve bailed on you is a major bonus. You can go into this without having to worry about his blessing.

But know this: If Steve and your ex-wife's friends think that you're the enemy now, it's only going to get worse. Assuming they find out about you and Mary (and they will), they'll probably talk trash. You'll probably wind up having to see Steve, especially if it works out with Mary. It'll be awkward. And maybe awful. But ... love after divorce is always a bit messy. You just have to own your feelings.

My only advice is to make sure that Mary understands your history with Steve -- the fact that he bailed without reason long ago. She probably knows that, but just in case she doesn't, be clear about the timeline. Mary should know that the bad feelings with Steve have nothing to do with her.

You have my permission to be not-so-cautious.

Readers? Should the LW stay away from Mary to respect Steve? Should he tell Steve? Should he talk to his ex-wife about it? Should Mary be concerned? What are the rules here? Discuss.

– Meredith

Why am I thinking about my ex?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein February 28, 2011 08:30 AM

Q: Hi Meredith,

I'm 35 and about 4 years ago, my fiance and I split up. We had been dating for over 2 years and had been discussing marriage, but after he proposed I began having panic attacks and did not feel that he was fully committed. We were also living out of state and I was homesick, and after many stalled talks about our future, I decided to move back home. A few months passed and he moved to my home state to try to give it another run, but eventually he left because he was unhappy. When he left I was devastated, but also felt relief because it had seemed like we were fighting a losing battle.

Fast forward four years later: I'm in a new relationship. We started seeing each other about 10 months after my previous relationship ended. Although I was trying to take it slow and keep myself open to date others, I really was only seeing him. He is someone I've known for quite some time (about 10 years) and he was a good friend and really helped me move on. Eventually we fell in love.

So, now we've been together for almost 4 years and we've been talking about marriage. I love him and can see a great future with him, but all of a sudden, I'm thinking about my ex again. I had thought about him occasionally over the past few years, and while these memories were always fond, I also felt that I had dodged a bullet. In fact, one time he tried to contact me and I didn't respond because I was with my current boyfriend. So, I don't understand why now that my current relationship is going so well I'm having thoughts and regrets about my ex. I keep thinking that maybe I shouldn't have moved back home and that I made a mistake "abandoning" him. It doesn't help that we have several mutual friends that spend a lot of time with him and I keep hearing about all the exciting things he has been doing lately, and I keep seeing pictures of him and his new girlfriend. I keep thinking how that could have been my life. It's as if the pain I felt right after we broke up is back. I'm assuming that maybe these thoughts are connected to the fact that I'm thinking about marriage again, but that doesn't make me feel any better, nor does it help relieve any of the guilt I feel about having these thoughts while in a relationship with a great guy. Why am I all of a sudden stuck in the past?

– moving on, again?, Pembroke

A: You're not stuck in the past, MOA. You're just having jealous FOMO (fear of missing out). It's a temporary feeling and it's normal.

I'm not even convinced that your obsessive thoughts about your ex have anything to do with your fear of commitment. I think that this is all about seeing those pictures of your ex and his new girlfriend. Those pictures would drive anyone crazy.

It's never fun to hear about exes through friends. You'll always be jealous when you hear that your ex is doing well. You'll always wonder if he'd be doing as well with you. That's often how it goes with big, important exes. We have doubts about leaving them and fantasies about reconnecting with them -- but then we wake up next to the person we actually chose and remember why we're there.

If you allow yourself to define these feelings as a simple reaction to news about the ex, you'll be able to write them off. And maybe focus on what's real. Because your reality sounds pretty great.

Readers? Is this about the ex or is she unhappy with the new boyfriend? Is it relevant that she got more serious with the current partner sooner than she would have liked to? Is it normal to think about an ex this much? How do you stop the pattern? Discuss.

– Meredith

I have the urge to keep calling

Posted by Meredith Goldstein February 25, 2011 08:02 AM

Q: Dear Meredith,

Months after a major breakup from a big relationship, I started talking to this guy from a dating website. He told me he wanted to buy a house, get married, have kids ... the works. I'm 25-years old and I'm ready to settle down, so this was exactly what I was looking for. We started dating and we hit it off like we had known each other for years.

Things moved along pretty quickly in the next 2 months, except he never said anything about a true commitment, as in calling me his "girlfriend." I, of course, wanted a relationship, not just someone to date and spend the night with. I started asking when we were going to become "official." At first he didn't want to talk about it at all, but then he went into a whole story about how he's worried about his job security and how he would have to move back to his parents' house in a different state if he lost his job, etc. He said he hasn't committed to anything since living here in MA. I became very emotional and told him that I don't know what my future holds either, but I was willing to give it a shot. He stuck to his story and I was left trying to figure out what to do.

Long story short, I didn't know if I wanted to wait for him to figure it out or feel more secure about his job. I went back and forth, telling him that I wanted to slow things down to a friendship level until he was sure, and then the following day, I told myself to stop worrying and just go with the flow. I told him this as well, thinking that everything would be OK. He said that we were fine and not to worry. The following day, we talked briefly online, but he didn't call like usual. When I called him, he seemed annoyed.

That was the last time I heard from him. The days following were filled with me trying to get a hold of him via texts and calls. I want him to "man up" and tell me what happened.

It has been about 2 weeks now and I can't stop thinking about the situation. I stopped contacting him because it wasn't getting me anywhere, but I keep having these urges to call or text again. How do I get past this? Do I give it more time and try to contact him to get some answers? All my girlfriends tell me he's going to come around sooner or later. Do you think that's true? Why am I so hung up over this?

– I Want Answers Now, North of Boston

A: You want answers, IWAN? It seems to me that you have all the answers you need. At two months, you asked about commitment. He answered with a long list of issues that don't have anything to do with you. Then he started backing away from the relationship. That's a big answer, just not the one you wanted.

Did he behave like a coward? Sure. But that's another good thing to know, that he made this all about him and didn't put you at ease.

I'm glad you mentioned your last relationship. To me, it's very relevant. Sometimes, after we get out of a big relationship, we want our next relationship to become as important as the previous one in record time. We're worried that we wasted our good dating years with the ex. We're impatient. We forget how long it took us to get where we did with the previous person.

I'm not saying that you asked for a commitment too quickly with this new guy, but I am saying that you have to keep reminding yourself that it's not a big loss. Some of this sadness, anger, and wanting to call might have a lot to do with your ex. Your body is trained to mourn in a certain way. Your brain is having trouble separating one loss from the other. Just remember that you didn't waste any time here. You got all the answers you need within a matter of weeks.

Every time you have the urge to call him, call a friend. Or hop online and browse your options.

Readers? Am I right about the ex stuff? Am I right about her not needing answers? Did his job concerns have anything to do with her? How should she deal with the urge to call? Discuss.

– Meredith

I need to break up with a great guy

Posted by Meredith Goldstein February 23, 2011 08:00 AM

Chat at 1.

Q: I need to know that it's okay to leave the good guy. The guy that listens and puts up with the crazy and brings breakfast to bed. The one that makes you laugh and tells you when to stop being so serious but knows that life isn't just a game. The one who will know what to make for dinner after a tough day just to cheer you up and send pictures to let you know that he's thinking of you. The one who will make chicken soup when you're sick and wipe all the tears from your eyes. The guy who wants to have a dog and loves kids, can fix a car, and can spend a day doing nothing on a couch and read with you when it's raining outside.

The background: We're both young, in our 20s, and have been together 6 years. He has a career and I have a job. We live together. We don't argue much and if we do, it's usually about spending time with family. We've never have serious problems or "deal-breaker" issues. I only know that despite everything being textbook right, I feel wrong.

I need to know that despite all the qualities, it is OK to leave and that I will be OK. I need to know that leaving my best friend for time for myself (and no, this is not to go sleep with someone else) is not the wrong choice. I need to know that there is someone else out there for both me and the guy whose heart will break. Because to leave will break a part of me but to stay no longer feels right.

I just need to hear it will be OK and that I'm not giving something good up for a bad reason.

– lost and loved, Boston

A: I can't tell you that it'll be OK, LAL. I can't promise you that in three years you won't look back and say, "I'd pay a million bucks to be able to have that perfect guy back in my life." I can’t promise that someone else is waiting for you. Dropping a wonderful guy (or woman) is always a risk. But based on what you've said, it's a risk you have to take.

You want to go it alone, so get going. Write a note to yourself reminding the future version of you that you broke up with your boyfriend because, as you put it, you "feel wrong." Write in the note that while timing isn't everything, it's huge, and you couldn't stay with Mr. Perfect without having doubts.

You'll miss him. You'll go through long periods of regret. You'll hear that he's dating someone else and you'll feel like a fool, even if you're happy with someone else. But then you'll read that note and remember that you had to explore on your own. You'll be confused and miserable, but being confused and miserable is better than being dishonest in a loving relationship.

I wish I could guarantee you something. All I can say for sure is that you've already made a decision.

Readers? Can you help the letter writer let the boyfriend go? Or convince the LW to stay? Can you say something that makes this feel any safer than it is? Discuss.

– Meredith

Was I right to break up with her?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein February 15, 2011 08:00 AM

Q: Meredith,

I read your column every day and often contribute to the message board. I have had a bit of baggage in my life and many of your writers have had experiences that I can relate to. Finally, I have my chance to ask a question.

I just broke up with my girlfriend of seven months. Using your advice, I wrote down the reasons so that I would not forget when I got rattled.

Our major issue is communication -- that my ex avoids issues and we do not resolve issues to my satisfaction (I was married before and this was the major issue, so this is a definite deal-breaker for me). When I told her this was a reason for wanting to leave, she said it was the wake-up call she needed and that she wants to change.

What I am worried about is that she wants to change for me and not for herself. I do not want another person to compromise who they are because she does not want me to break up with her. It seems like it is giving me too much power. I don't want power, I want the right person.

In addition, I am having trouble figuring out whether, even if she succeeds in communicating better and we do get back together, I will fall in love with her. It's only been seven months, but it's already been seven months if you get my meaning.

We are taking a week to figure out what we both want (which is to say, I am mulling this over for a week).

My questions are: Should I have fallen in love by seven months? What advice can you give me for dealing with this negotiation phase my ex is going through? and Is there any guidance you can give me for coming to a decision?

– Bad at Breaking Up, New York

A:I can't give you a timeline for falling in love, BABU, but I can tell you that at seven months, you should want to work it out with her if that's an option -- and you should be excited that she wants to learn to communicate better for you. If the idea of losing her doesn't make you miserable, stress you out, or give you weird stomach pains, this breakup is about more than communication issues. It's about not digging her enough to stay with her.

But know this: No matter what relationship you're in, there's a learning curve for communication. She might not resolve issues to your liking, but you might require more discussion than she believes is necessary. The point is to learn to compromise. And you can't do that if you're projecting the bad stuff that happened with your ex. She's not your ex. Try not to compare.

I'm sure I did advise making a list of the bad stuff for rattled moments (that sounds like me). But keeping a list of the good stuff is important, too, especially if you're prone to focus on the negative. See if you miss her. And if you do, be happy she wants to work on it -- and let her try.

Readers? Is he focusing too much on his ex's faults? What should he feel after seven months? Are his girlfriend's promises really about changing for the wrong reasons or is that simply how people compromise in relationships? What's going on here? When did I give that advice about the lists? I can't remember. So, discuss.

– Meredith

I can't break the toxic cycle

Posted by Meredith Goldstein February 3, 2011 07:56 AM


The "Mortified" contest is still going on. You have until tomorrow at 11:59 p.m. to enter. I posted details about that contest here.

And, as that entry says, I'll be with "The Bachelorette" guy Chris Lambton at the Cask 'n Flagon tonight for a pick-up line contest. (Wow. I can't believe I just typed that sentence. My fingers actually just curled up in shock.) Chris is a very cool guy, and actually, to promote the event, he'll be doing a chat today at 1 p.m. Feel free to bug him with questions about why he turned down the chance to be "The Bachelor" and about my messy desk. He'll be chatting from here.

Q: I met my now-ex during my freshman year of college. We started dating our junior year. He studied abroad for a semester. I went to visit him. He surprised me with a trip to Paris. We both admitted how "in love" we were.

We dated through the end of college. Mind you, the petty fights, drunken jealously, etc. all got in the way. We stayed together until the dreaded "where do we go from college" stuff set in and it was too much for me to handle.

After much soul searching, I ended it and moved to the city. He also moved to the city -- on his own -- and it only took a few weeks before we found each other again.

Throughout college and into our post-college city lives, we have had the same friends and same nightlife. Ever since we have lived here, it's been an out-of-control routine of seeing each other and then ending it again in the worst imaginable way.

In the process of our breakup, his way to "cope" was to trash my name to family and friends -- anyone who would listen -- but then he'd see me in secret. He would lie to our friends and his family, and I would forgive it because I was focused on trying to fix us, rather than let anyone else get in the way. It wasn't until after the falling outs that I would fully hear all the lies that he was telling. This had always been the routine. We'd see each other for a few weeks and then he would snap and say it wasn't working and that couldn't lie anymore. I encouraged him to just come clean with everyone, but he didn't want to. I'd breakdown, scream, fight, become furious and would be left to pick the pieces, meanwhile none of our friends would know we were even in contact.

I don't pretend to be a victim in this. I know what is right and what is wrong, but when one "I love you" comes out of him, I melt. I'm back at it, the emotional abuse and the one-sided feelings. Most recently, we started contacting each other after spending the summer apart, and he convinced me it was different this time. I was brought around our friends for a short period of time, without secret, before he snapped again and shut me out of his life. All he says is that he loves me but doesn't know what he's doing and why he can't figure out what he wants. There are two antagonists, two victims, and two people who can't seem to let go. And in the two years we've both lived in the city, it has been impossible not to see each other, even if we're not talking, because we travel around with the same large group of people from college.

So my question is, I've done the "give him space" thing, I've done the "I don’t deserve this" emotional roller coaster, but no matter what happens or how I vow to never let him back in my life, we find a way back to each other. What do I do now to stop this toxic routine from continuing? Will he ever figure out what he wants?

– Toxic Roller Coaster, Boston

A: TRC, not long ago (I can't remember when – does anybody else?) we had a letter from a person who couldn't snap out of her routine, and I told her to keep participating in the cycle, because at some point, she'd just get sick of it.

But your circumstances are a bit different. You characterize what you're putting up with as emotional abuse. I just can't condone you sticking around for that. You're also lying to your friends and having your name dragged through the mud. I can't condone sticking around for that either.

My advice is to tell everybody everything. Tell your friends and family every little thing that has happened with this guy in the last two years. Part of your problem has been accountability. If no one knows what's going on, there's no one to be accountable to except yourself. Once you say this stuff out loud, you'll not only have to hear it, you'll have to look at the faces of the people who love you. You'll have to see their concern and disappointment. The people in your circle of friends, assuming that they're good friends, won't want to be out with two people who are being awful to each other. They won't want to let you and the ex anywhere near each other. Right now, no one knows about the cycle of destruction. As soon as they do, they won't want to be a part of it.

After you tell your people what's going on, expand your circle. It's always lonely when you first move to a city, but you've been here for two years now. If you never branch out, you'll never meet new men or new friends. You need both. Join a club. Play some recreational floor hockey. Start creating a world without him.

Readers? How do you break the habit? Why hasn't she told their mutual friends? What's going on here? Discuss.

– Meredith

I'm delaying the breakup

Posted by Meredith Goldstein January 28, 2011 08:45 AM

Some announcements:

1. On Thursday (Feb. 3), I will be co-hosting a pick-up line contest at the Cask with Chris Lambton, formerly of "The Bachelorette." Why am I doing this? Because every now and then, I love a good train wreck. And because I wrote about Chris. And because … well, train wreck. But if you need something to do that night, come give me moral support. We'll eat nachos. The event is free. (I think it starts at 9.)

2. Feb. 14 (VD) is "Mortified"'s annual love night. Love Letters had a big event with "Mortified" last year, and really, it's one of my favorite shows in this city. This year, they're asking Love Letters readers to send me copies/transcriptions of any old love poem or diary entry about crushes and failed love. The older the better. I'll pick a winner, and that person will read their dated, embarrassing love note on stage during the performance. Even if you don't want to read, you can sit in the audience and giggle. Buy tickets here. Send me submissions to meregoldstein at gmail dot com with "Mortified Love" in the subject line. You have until … oh, let's say, 11:59 p.m. on Friday the 4th to enter.

Q: Hi Meredith!

I have been dating my boyfriend "Jason" for over four years. We met in college and then moved to the same city upon graduation. We live in the same small neighborhood, and our lives are completely intertwined with the same group of friends and activities. I am completely in love with Jason, and he is with me. Our everyday interaction is wonderful; we're constantly laughing, and are both very happy together.

Despite our happiness, we have no long-term future together. I know it sounds crazy after 4 (mostly) great years together, but I've finally been able to open my eyes to this reality in the last 2 months. Our communication styles differ (his is virtually nonexistent), he is far too immature, and underlying family issues have left him with incredibly low self-esteem that make it difficult for him to ever make his own decisions or assert himself in any capacity. These have been ongoing issues throughout our relationship, but after years of struggle to support him, I've finally realized that nothing will change, and I can't settle down with him.

On top of all of this, I just got into graduate school and will be relocating out of state this summer. Although we've briefly discussed moving together, but he's made no effort to prepare. I wouldn't be at all surprised if he is thinking the same thing about our future, but due to his lack of assertiveness, I know I have to be the one to end it. The problem is if I end it now, the next few months will be utterly miserable for both of us. Although we don’t live together, it would be impossible not to see him due to our social circle and our living proximity. I see my departure in June as an easy way out, and I know we could thoroughly enjoy our remaining time together because our everyday life is so great. It is logistically and emotionally easier, but is it a cop-out? Am I being a coward about all of this, or just realistic? And most of all, am I being unfair to him? I envision a simple, not-messy, respectful end to a beautiful relationship in June. But am I creating a bigger mess for the both of us? Please help!

– Time to End It, Jamaica Plain

A: If it were May, even April, I might say, "Oh, just wait a few weeks." If you lived together, I might say, "OK, ride out the lease." But it's January, TTEI. And you don't live together. You need to have a big conversation, at the very least.

You have four very long months before the summer. Four months of confusion. Four months that Jason could be using to plan his life after you leave. Four months that you could be using to learn how to live without him (because I don't think it's going to be easy).

All you need is a discussion. Just tell him that you don't envision staying with him after you leave because as much as you love him, you don't want to spend the rest of your life with him. Cry. Let him cry. Fight. Hug. Deal with your reality together. It's going to be messy no matter what. It's going to be awkward with your mutual friends no matter how you play this. Maybe you'll decide to enjoy your last few months together. Maybe he'll decide he needs space. What matters is that it'll be an honest plan.

You said it best -- he probably knows the truth and is waiting to hear you say it. You have like ... 3,000 hours before June (did I do that math right?). You can't possibly stay silent about this until then.

Readers? Should she wait to end the relationship? Will it be easier to do it now? Would it be easier for him to separate after she leaves? Is she giving up a good thing? Discuss.

– Meredith

She didn't give me a reason

Posted by Meredith Goldstein January 26, 2011 09:00 AM

Chat at 1. And I promise to be there.

Q: This girl and I had been dating for about 10 months and things were starting to get serious. We loved hanging out. We were consistently on the phone with each other when one of us was out of town for business or vacation. We spent each night at my place or hers. We talked about taking the next step.

Then, two months ago, I was over at her place. We had just made some dinner and were on the couch watching a movie. I noticed that she was being unusually quiet. When I asked what was up, she started bawling her eyes out. Completely out of left field. When I asked what was wrong she gave me an "it's not you it's me" kind of response. She said, "I don't know if I can keep you happy." We had been dating for 10 months -- I don't think I would have been with her that long if that was the case!

After that, the friends I had met her through asked what had happened. My response? I have no idea. After putting some thought into it, I came up with three theories: 1. She is a career-driven woman and wants to focus on that; 2. She is really confused and doesn't know what she wants; and 3. There is some one else. Our mutual friends say I should rule out that third option because she would never do that to me.

Since that night two months ago, she has sent me e-mails and the occasional text message. Normal stuff – "How was your holiday," etc. Being polite, I do respond. Then there's no response for a few week, then I get another e-mail.

Should I respond to these e-mails? Should I just let this die? Mind you, I still have not received a solid response about why she wanted to break it off. This is why I am bloody confused.

– Bloody Confused, Quincy

A: I'm also bloody confused, BC, but I like your three theories. My guess is that it's No. 2 or 3.

My advice is to send her an e-mail explaining what's going on in your head. Something like, "Hey there -- I'm sort of a mess, not knowing exactly what happened with us. I'd appreciate a real answer, even if it hurts my feelings. And I hope you understand that because of our break-up, I just need space without e-mails and texts."

If she writes back, take it from there. If not -- or if she gives you the same vague breakup lines -- assume theory No. 2 is correct and accept that her emotional status isn't going to change.

I'm sorry it ended this way, and she owes you so much more than tears and confusing statements. But please, unless she shows up asking for forgiveness, let this go. The answer is that she isn't giving you what you need anymore, so you mourn and start looking for someone else.

And if you're really going nuts, get your friends on the case. Yes, it puts them in the thick of an awkward conflict, but that's what friends are for. Sometimes you just need a good middle man.

Ugh. A note to everyone: when you break up with someone, tell them why -- so they don't have to send this letter.

Readers? How do you move on without a reason? Is the letter writer missing a theory? What's the meaning of her texts and e-mails? Should the letter writer involve the mutual friends? Is that too much to ask? Discuss.

– Meredith

Will he come around?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein January 20, 2011 08:00 AM

Lots of unrequited love this week.

Q:Hi Meredith,

I met "Brad" 10 years ago at work. We worked together for two years. After that, he and I remained friends and then became more. We had a very close romantic relationship for a couple of years, then broke up because he couldn't/wouldn't move forward (live together, become engaged, etc.). After a couple of months, he wanted me back and promised to work at his commitment issues because he couldn't imagine a future without me. Then, after about a 6 months together, he stopped being physical with me. His reason for this was "physical/emotional issues." He didn't want to break up but refused to get any help or even to discuss it with me. So after almost a year of this, I felt I had no choice but to end the relationship. It broke my heart.

We've now been apart for three years (and are now in our 40s) but because there is so much love there, we managed to remain close friends. I have dated other people, but "Brad" has not had a girlfriend since me. We've truly been best friends. We hang out and talk for hours. It's like we're together except for the physical part. I've always been in love with him, it never stopped, and finally told him about a year ago that I wanted to try us again. He said he had to think about it. Then finally said that he was too afraid of losing me forever if we tried a relationship again and it didn't work, and that he's got too many "issues" to chance it. He's not happy with himself or his professional/financial situation to be with anyone. He said he couldn't bear to lose me, and I couldn't imagine my life without him in it after all these years. But it became too difficult for me to remain his friend while hoping it would turn into more. I kept thinking that he'd change his mind and realize how crazy it is that we're not together. He didn't. So I told him I had to stay away from him for a while so I can get over the romantic feelings I have.

How can one get over someone if they see him and talk to him all the time? He says I'm his best friend and he can't live without me ... but I don't know what to do. I'm not sure I believe the reasons he's given me for not wanting to try us again, which makes me angry to think he may not be being honest with me. "Brad" does have some issues. He's 44 and has never married, engaged, or even lived with anyone. And again, hasn't dated since he and I broke up …

I'd love to know your thoughts on this. Should I try to stay away completely? Should I hang in there with hopes he'll come around? We were friends first, and then it changed ... Couldn't it again?

– Not Sure What To Think, Massachusetts

A: I can't read Brad's mind, NSWTT. I wish I could. But I can read your mind, thanks to your letter. You want a real romantic partner, not a best friend. You've told us that you can't be Brad's friend without wanting more. You've told us that it's too painful to maintain the status quo.

I think you know the answer to your question. You just don't like it.

My advice is to tell Brad that even though he can't live without you, you can't live with him like this. If at 44 he has no plans to fix himself -- even if ignoring his physical/emotional/financial issues means losing you -- well, you're better off moving on.

I'm sorry, though. And I do wish I could read his mind. But let's just focus on your mind for now. Brad has given you a decade of questions. You're allowed to give yourself a final answer. And Brad needs to know that what's happening now is not sustainable.

Readers? Unlike yesterday's letter, this love seems … requited in some ways ... but not the most important ones. Should she hold out? What's wrong with Brad? Is his age relevant? Discuss.

– Meredith

Should I keep in touch?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein January 12, 2011 08:22 AM

Snow chat at 1.

Q: I kind of feel like a fool for being so saddened over this particular issue, but it's weighing heavily on my mind.

I met this guy online about a 1 or 2 months ago and we hit it off e-mailing and texting. We finally met up in person and it was great! There was no awkwardness, no weird silent moments, just great conversation and laughs. We had a wonderful kiss at the end, which led to us hanging out more. I saw him 2 or 3 more times in the same weekend, and we ended up sleeping together. This in and of itself is a major feat for me. I have a lot of issues regarding intimacy so the fact that I was so comfortable with him to be able to do that speaks volumes to me about what was happening between us.

Then, out of the blue, he e-mails me. He can't see me anymore. He's going through a lot of personal issues and trying to become more stable etc. He told me his whole long story about his past and why he is where he is now and why this can't work right now. He ended the email saying "maybe in a few months, when I'm more stable, we can try this again." I understand where he's at, and more than appreciate his honesty. He said in the message that he "really, really liked" me and I feel the same.

I'm willing to let him work himself out, but I'm terrified he's not going to remember me, or he'll meet someone else on his journey. So do I just let him go completely? Or do I try to maintain an element of friendship with occasional text messages? I'm not sure how to play this out. I don't want him to forget about me so I feel like a few texts here and there will remind him I still exist, but would that be too much for him? I don’t know what to do, but I'm completely heartbroken right now.

– Saddened in Somerville

A: How disappointing, SIS. He pulled the rug out from under you, and it was a beautiful rug. It was a rug he put there himself. It was one of those soft rugs that feel good on your feet. And now you're stuck on hard wood. Without warning. You deserve better.

My advice is to cut this off. Don't do the "I'm-pretending-to-be-breezy-but-I-really-want-you-back" thing. It gets you nowhere, and every time you text him, you'll be obsessing over his replies, assuming he sends them.

You can tell him that you're open to hearing from him in a few months, but don't count on it. Even if he shows up, will you be able to trust him? Do you really understand why he bailed? Because I don't. I mean, we all feel unstable and weird sometimes. But it's possible to work through that with someone else in the picture. I'm not sure what difference a few months will make.

Send an e-mail explaining that you get the message and that he's welcome to reach out whenever he's ready. Then start living like he won't. As for him forgetting you, it won't happen. If he doesn't return, it's because his issues are bigger than the both of you. He should be worried that you're going to forget him. And I sort of hope that you do.

Readers? Should she continue any communication? How can she be less saddened in Somerville? Do you buy his reasoning for vacating? Will he return in a few months? Discuss.

– Meredith

We can't stay broken up

Posted by Meredith Goldstein January 6, 2011 08:24 AM

Next week is the second anniversary of Love Letters. It's the 11th, I think.

Yes, we will eventually have an event to celebrate (details soon), but in the meantime, I have an idea that involves elastic pants. Because the traditional gift for a second anniversary is cotton, I want pictures of readers in their best cotton get-up. You don't even have to include your face in the photo -- just neck-down in cotton works for me. The most creative, fun pic will get a prize. Don't send me naked photos, not that you would. I want cotton. Cotton on groups of people. Comfy cotton on loners. Cotton on cotton. E-mail them to meregoldstein at gmail dot com by Monday at 11:55 p.m. and I'll pick a winner by Tuesday.

* 1 p.m. update. Love Letters anniversary is actually Jan. 22. You can send cotton photos to me at the e-mail address above, or submit here. Deadline is now Jan. 17 at 6 a.m.

Speaking of nudity, tomorrow's letter is about naked people and hot tubs. Today's is less controversial.

Q: I was with my college boyfriend for several years. We broke up just before I graduated and he (being a few years older) took a job in the city. Several months later I went to Boston for work and we quickly fell back in touch. We began communicating daily and things started to feel like they used to. We never officially got back together, but it was like a committed relationship for several months. We got into a fight about our future and I quickly cut off all communication.

Things haven't changed much. We go from fighting to making up. I erase his number, he shows up at my doorstep. We've discussed it and we both find it nearly impossible to sever all ties. We have just become so dependent upon each other that we can't move on. There was a large gap between us last year when I moved out of state and we both saw other people, but it just didn't work out and I ended up moving back.

I feel like he's the love of my life and I just can't let him go. But I also feel like if he is the love of my life it shouldn't be this hard to make a relationship work. Please help!

– Still Attached, Cape

A: My advice is to hang on to him, SA. Not because I think that this relationship is going to work, but because you need to get thoroughly sick of it before you move on. Stay with him. Call him. Call him again. Break up. Get back together. Get nauseous about the whole thing. Wallow in frustration. Eventually, you won't have the energy for the routine. Or he won't. One of you will walk away.

Worst case scenario -- you stay together and start making it work. Really, you'll either hit a wall and drop each other or start doing what you need to do to make each other happy. But you have to exhaust yourself before you go one way or the other. You're just not exhausted yet. Sometimes maintaining the status quo is the best way to get to the right decision.

Readers? Is the answer to continue until they hit a wall? Or will they just keep the cycle going forever? What should SA do? Is there a way to cut him off? Discuss.

– Meredith

I'm afraid to break up with her

Posted by Meredith Goldstein January 4, 2011 08:15 AM

Q: Hi Meredith,

I'm having a dilemma. I've been seeing someone for the past year. Things started very well with us. We were very into each other and within three months we were finally comfortable to say "I love you.”

Months ago, things turned for the worse when she told me she was questioning our relationship. I found out that she had a crush on this guy she knew from high school. One night, she went to a party with him and cheated on me. She called me that night and told me how much she regretted it and that it made her realize how much she wanted to be with me.

Our relationship was pretty rocky at that point. I decided to stay with her because I really felt like she regretted her mistake. Not long after that, they both hung out at a bar together. Me, not trusting the two together, found some text messages that they exchanged about their feelings for each other. I confronted her with that, and she blamed the alcohol.

Months later, she got a job that required her to move several hours away. Things changed directions completely after that. She became clingy, jealous, and demanding/controlling. She gets angry if I don't text her enough, if I don't show her my e-mails, or if a female posts on my Facebook. Even when I am visiting my guy friends, she gets angry with me for something or another. I feel like we always fight now and I'm feeling very confined. I feel like she's constantly angry with me for things completely out of the blue.

My dilemma is that I'm pretty sure I know what I have to do. I think I need to break up with her because I'm not happy in the relationship. But for some reason, when I have opportunities to call it off, I choke. I don't do it. I feel like I can't do it. She's talking about moving in with me and marrying me (ad nauseum) and I know that I can't do either. Do you have any advice? Does this reflect my own insecurities? Is this a common issue?

– Seeking Help, Massachusetts

A: You're "pretty sure" that you know what you have to do? You should be 100 percent sure, SH. It's over, or at least it should be. Your relationship sounds pretty awful.

As for whether it's common to fear breaking up with a controlling woman with a temper, well, of course it is. You fear dumping her for the same reason that I fear going to the dentist. Even if it goes well, it's not going to be pleasant. The best case scenario is still pretty awful.

My advice is to get it done -- soon. Write something down so you don't trip up. Practice your speech in front of the mirror. Drive to see her and deliver it in person. Be honest but kind. Tell her that you care about her, but that too much of your relationship has been spent in conflict. Tell her that you don't see yourself marrying her. Tell her that you're sorry that you can't meet her expectations.

She'll probably yell at you. She'll probably cry. And she'll probably try to bargain with you. That's why you have to write it all down, so you don't lose your train of thought -- or your will to finish it off.

No one likes to be the bad guy. No one likes to go to the dentist. But we have to do what we have to do. Write it down and force yourself to say it.

Readers? Is he afraid of losing her? How can he get over the fear of her reaction? Does writing it down help? How does a good guy learn to deliver bad news? Any advice to get this moving? Discuss.

– Meredith

Is my ex punishing me?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein December 30, 2010 03:00 AM

So you like the early letters, eh? Maybe that will be my New Year's resolution, to post letters before 8 a.m., even after I get back to the East Coast. I'm shocked that some of you are up at 5. You make me feel lazy.

This is really our last letter of 2010 because you'll get updates tomorrow. I'm thinking of you, in my West Hollywood hotel. I'm staying next to this. It's sort of ridiculous.

Q: Roughly six years ago, when I was 21, I met J. I loved him, but I was not ready to settle down.

I often found J to be overbearing and sometimes obsessive about our relationship. We dated on and off for a few years before calling it quits when I met someone else. I lived with that person for two years and we just recently broke up. Over the last few years J and I would occasionally reconnect on birthdays, just the normal chit chat.

Fast-forward to now. I moved home a few months ago, and J found this out through mutual friends. He asked me out and we started getting together periodically, once every couple of weeks. Eventually, during one of our hangouts, I spent the night. The next day, I expected to hear from him, and the day after that and after that. Eventually I called him (I was not too pleased). I let him know that after all we had been through together (yes, I broke his heart but we did have wonderful moments) I thought he would have respected me enough to call. Needless to say we then had a very long talk. I apologized a million times and and we said that we loved each other, but he still wasn't sure.

We have hung out a few times since my outburst -- simple hangouts that have included drinks and a night spent at his place. Each time there has been an extended period of no contact before I hear from him again. He mentioned needing time, so I have not contacted him at all. I am letting him work this out at his own pace. Each time I finally hear from him, he seems to be more interested in the sleepover that comes after the drinks.

My question is -- how do I show him that I love him and that I'm sorry for the past? Is he just scared? Are these sleepovers his way of getting back at me?

– Not sure we can go back, Boston

A: You dropped J for someone else, NSWCGB, but you paid your dues. You apologized profusely. You've been attentive. At this point, he either wants to be with you or he doesn't. Tell him what you want, and if he doesn't want in, move on.

You could have handled the break-up better years ago, but you did the right thing. You weren't ready to commit and you wanted to be with someone else. Sounds like typical 20s behavior to me.

I guess I'm wondering whether you're pursuing J because you love him, or whether you're just having trouble adjusting to life after your most recent break-up. Are you sure that a relationship with J is what you want? Or are you just seeking his approval because you feel guilty and alone?

No matter what happens, start thinking about what you want and deserve, not what you have to do to win someone back. You broke up with J years ago, and for appropriate reasons. Keep your expectations high. This shouldn't be a chase.

Readers? Tough love for the end of 2010? Does she deserve to be toyed with because she left him for someone else? Is he not calling her after dates because he's scared? Is there a future here? Discuss.

– Meredith

Can we start over?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein December 17, 2010 09:00 AM

Here are some pictures from last week’s Love Letters party. I'm just throwing them up without IDs – so you can get a sense of the scene. I wish we had pics of the food. It was quite good. (Thank you to Orleans and Kickass Cupcakes).

Q: About nine years ago, I met a great guy -- let's call him JD -- and we dated for seven years before becoming engaged. But the engagement only lasted two months before I called it off. JD is Indian and Hindu and I'm white and Christian, and his mother, who feared that marrying a non-Indian would cause her son to lose his cultural identity and be unhappy, started to get involved in our relationship and start fights between us. JD never stood up for himself -- or me -- when it came to dealing with his mom and, after two months, I couldn't deal with it anymore.

After the engagement, we fumbled along with on on-again, off-again relationship for the next year and a half. During a difficult time, but still "on-again," I had a one night stand. It was wrong and inexcusable. But, when JD found out, he cut off all communication. This was over a year ago.

Fast forward to this past summer when JD and I randomly ran into each other in a store and reconnected, talking and eventually meeting up, going on a few dates, and enjoying some grilled cheese sandwiches. Our relationship is so much different now -- I've matured and his relationship with his mom is improving. We have talked openly about our past issues, especially his mom's disapproval, and he seems understanding and ready to move forward. But he also knows that it's going to take a lot for him to let go of his anger and trust me again. He's spent the last few months trying to decide if he can get past them, but hasn't figured it out yet.

We both agree that this is our last go at an "us." He is 32 (and ready to start a family) and I am 29. I have told JD that I want to be with him and am committed to the relationship and the ball is in his court now. He tells me that he doesn’t want to hurt me, but can’t seem to figure out what to do. (I've suggested talking to close friends or a therapist, both of which he has tried.) I know trust has to be earned, but how can I make up for the past? Do you think he can get over it?

– Waiting for the Sacred Cow to Come Home, Boston

A: Can he get over it? I don't know. Should he be able to get over it? Yes.

You got over the fact that he let his mother's beliefs ruin your relationship. It's apples to oranges, for sure, but he should be able to accept that your slip-up was a symptom of a greater problem. I'm not so sure that you trusted the relationship after you got back together.

You both messed up. But this "last go" shouldn't be about groveling. It should be about two people who want to start over without guilt. It should be about two people who just can't stay away from each other because they like each other so much. If he can't let go of the anger, there's just no reason to try again.

My advice is to be good to yourself by walking away if he continues to obsess about the cheat. You feel horrible. You're ashamed. But you both made terrible mistakes throughout your relationship. He's either willing to drop it or he's not. And if he can't, fine, but you don't have to sit around being punished while you wait for a big answer. It either starts now -- without resentment -- or it doesn't start at all.

Readers? Is there any hope here? Is her cheat forgivable? Should the cheat be compared to his issues with his mom? Happy Friday.

– Meredith

Get out of my dreams

Posted by Meredith Goldstein December 16, 2010 08:30 AM

Now you have a Billy Ocean song in your head, right? But that's not the Love Letters song of the day.

Q: Hi Meredith,

About five years ago, I had a brief but intense relationship with a beautiful woman, "Suzanne." I had known her almost a decade prior and had a crush on her back then, and one day years later we bumped into each other and it seemed like kismet. In reality, though, it was bad timing; the relationship ended more or less amicably not long thereafter.

Now, I'm happily married to a woman who is truly my soul mate. We have a baby on the way and the future looks bright. Suzanne should be a distant memory, except she keeps popping up in my dreams.

This is happening more frequently now than it ever has over the past five years and I can't explain why. And these dreams are vivid. Suzanne appears just as I remember her, her voice is clear and articulate, and she always seems to pose questions as to why things never worked out with us. Nothing is ever resolved in these dreams, and I invariably wake up confused and angered by her intrusion, for lack of a better word.

I have not kept in touch with Suzanne, but for no particular reason we are "friends" on a certain social network. I say no particular reason because aside from the initial friending part, we have never contacted each other -- not once -- and I've looked at her page maybe twice. In one sense, I think de-friending her would be liberating because it would sever the last remaining tie -- albeit tenuous -- to Suzanne. On the other hand, in the days following a dream about Suzanne I feel compelled to contact her, but I have no idea what I would say and I doubt it would yield anything constructive.

Like you've often said, there is no such thing as closure. I believe that. I just want my dreams back.

– Get Out Of My Dreams, Boston

A: I have this recurring dream, GOOMD, that the Globe sends me to a local hotel to interview Justin Timberlake. But when I get to the hotel, I can't find the room. I'm running down hallways with a notebook and pen in my hand, banging on doors, desperately trying to figure out where he is.

I'm telling you this because my dreams don't mean that I'm going to date Justin Timberlake or that he and I have some sort of spiritual connection. The dreams mean that I'm stressed about deadlines, or that I've had too many Skittles before bed, or that I've gone to the bathroom in the middle of the night and caught a glimpse of Justin Timberlake on the tabloid magazine that's sitting on top of my toilet.

Dreams are just dreams. They're revealing, of course, but your dreams aren't telling you anything you don't already know. You're still curious about your ex. That's fine and not at all unusual. And I'm sure the fact that you've got a baby on the way is making you extra emotional. Impending fatherhood is enough to cause weird, paranoid dreams about everything that seems unfinished.

For your own sanity, I'd de-friend Suzanne online. Then I'd accept the fact that you're always going to have feelings for her and wonder about her. I promise you, the dreams won't last forever. Soon enough, you'll be too busy to sleep. In the meantime, it might help to avoid Facebook (and other social networks) before you get into bed. Maybe read something significant before you turn off the lights. And keep a picture of Justin Timberlake in your bathroom. You'll wind up having my upsetting dreams, which might be a nice change.

Readers? Do the dreams mean anything? Is this about the baby? If not, what is it about? Anybody have dream problems? Should he contact Suzanne? Discuss.

– Meredith

Sick of the hunt

Posted by Meredith Goldstein December 15, 2010 09:22 AM

Chat at 1.

Q: Hey Meredith,

I'm 32 and I live in rural New England. I moved here for a job after completing a master's degree. The job is great and the area offers lots of outdoor activities that interest me. The problem? A man shortage. And from talking with friends who live in more populous areas, this "shortage" isn't necessarily unique to my rural life -- so we're not thinking that moving is necessarily the answer. I travel enough for work to mingle outside of my local network.

I'm very social and have a large network of friends. I'm out and about in many clubs, from alumni activities to athletic organizations. I've spent plenty of time dating online and am open to these opportunities. I'm not shy at all! Blind date? Sure. Want to set me up? Go right ahead. Speed dating? Done it.

I've been in several long-term relationships, including a five-year romance in my 20s that I thought would lead to marriage but didn't. It ended over three years ago, so it is safe to say I've recovered and made it out to the other side wiser and more confident.

I've made sure not to live by a "check list," which resulted in spending two years dating a ski bum who lived with his parents. The relationship was fun but you can guess where it led: nowhere. I'm old enough to realize that at this point, I may find love with someone who is already divorced, has kids, or has some other situation that at one point would have been on my "deal-breaker" list. And yet, where are all the educated and employed men? Am I asking for too much? (I'll even make concessions for employment, given the economy.)

I know I'm not alone: I have plenty of female friends (both gay and straight) who are well-educated, many of them own their own homes, and live independently and yet yearn to share their lives with someone. The seven-weddings-a-year pandemic has passed us by and we're now all invited to baby showers and wondering when it is appropriate to consider freezing our eggs (no joke).

So here's my fear: while my dream is to find true love that eventually leads to marriage and kids, the last thing I want to do is go "munting" (man hunting). Everyone knows that husband hunting gives off a whiff of desperation. And yet the alternative is to "give it time," "be patient," and "let fate do its thing" while the biological clock keeps ticking.

Is this a lose-lose situation? Who's better off: the single ladies who put their name in their hat online or those who refuse to submit to the (somewhat justified) stereotype that we’re all munting and wait it out? I'm turning to you because advice from married friends is exhausting and not helpful. And the rest of us haven't figured it out.

– Munting Season, Vermont

A: I'm going to blame your problem on television, MS. I know I've said it before, but television shows make us think that we're supposed to be dating all of the time. Like, every episode.

Life isn't "Sex and the City." Life isn't even "30 Rock." If it were, I'd date Jon Hamm or Matt Damon at least a few times each season -- with hilarious results.

In real life, there are lulls. Sometimes long ones. You had a significant relationship in your 20s and have dated around in your early 30s. You haven't met anyone fantastic, no one episode-worthy. That sounds about right to me.

You're telling us that you have a big community. You're telling us that you're doing what you need to do to meet someone nice. I guess my advice is to keep doing that -- and to stop thinking of it as your desperate search for a husband. It's really your search for love. That's got a better ring to it, doesn't it?

And take the pressure off yourself to speed this along. Again, only fictional characters have awesome and interesting partners all of the time. I know it's exhausting and that your clock it ticking, but love isn't easy to find and maintain. Even the marrieds have to work like crazy to keep it going.

Readers? Advice for this single person? Is she underestimating the role of her hometown in all of this? Should she be freaking out at 32? Is this a female issue? Am I right about the role of TV? And the lulls? Discuss.

– Meredith

Afraid to break up with him

Posted by Meredith Goldstein December 13, 2010 03:49 PM

Q: Hi Meredith,

I am a huge fan of your column and this is my first letter. I am 27 and my best friend/boyfriend is four years older than I am. We'll call him Henry. I love Henry so much, but things between us seem to be going down the drain. We've been together for almost two years. But about a year ago we separated for a few months because I felt our long term goals didn't match.

Lately I've been thinking about both of the guys I dated during that separation and how much better they treated me. They asked me what I wanted to do when we went out and they did little things to show that they cared about me physically and emotionally. Henry has always done whatever he wants to do and I have settled. When I have felt strongly about things I have kept quiet about them for months -- sometimes 6 months. I just tend to do everything his way. He also criticizes me constantly. I recently lost my temper twice and we had a fight about my roommate who was annoying me and my driving. I think I lost my temper because I'm fed up with his general behavior. Things have been this way between us for six months or so but we have both been busy with work and just content enough to stay together. I don't think he likes someone else but I'm sure he fantasizes about other women/things. I think he feels that he is tied to me so he shouldn't be expected to do other things that make me happy.

Overall he is a wonderful person and I even love his family. I would love to marry this person further down the road, but it seems like he is more independent than I am and critical. I love him so much and have tried to give him what he wants, but I don't know if I can take it any more. Is it possible to change this pattern with Henry and did I set myself up for it to end this way? Should I do the scary dating thing again? I know it is also a rough world out there. The upside to all of this is all of the frustration I didn't take out on Henry I spent at the gym for the past 4 months! So I am in the best shape of my life, but the person I'm with hasn't even noticed. Thanks!

– Holding on to Lost Expectations, Boston

A: You want to marry this guy? What? Please read your letter a few times -- out loud.

The part of your letter that interests me most, HOTLE, is this question: "Should I do the scary dating thing again?" I assume that’s why you're staying with good-old Henry. Dating was frightening. Maybe those nice guys ended relationships before you were ready.

Dating new people is scary, for sure, but not as scary as wasting time with someone you know isn't right for you. You don't want to marry Harry. You don't even want to keep dating him. I don't know if he's fantasizing about other women, but you're certainly fantasizing about the men you dated during your break from Henry.

You're not dating Henry's family. You're not dating the fictional Henry of the future. You're just dating someone who isn't making you very happy.

My advice is to get back out there with your awesome gym bod. And again, if you're feeling insecure about doing the right thing, read your letter aloud. Over and over.

Readers? Why is this difficult for her to see? Or am I wrong? Can you tell her something to make the "scary world out there" less scary? Discuss.

– Meredith

Can I date my friend's ex?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein December 6, 2010 02:47 PM

I have a few pairs of tickets to give away for Friday's Love Letters screening of "Casablanca." If you want them, e-mail me your casting choices for a remake of "Casablanca" with present-day actors (blasphemy, I know). Keep your entries at 150 words or less. If you've never seen the movie, make some good guesses and include the fact that you're a "Casablanca" virgin in your e-mail. Entries should be sent to meregoldstein at gmail dot com. Write "Tickets!" in the subject line. They're due tomorrow at 9 a.m. I'll notify winners by 5 p.m. tomorrow. If you want to just buy tickets, you can get them here.

I wonder if Alice (as in commenter Alice) will return just to make a point about this letter. For the record, it's not about her. Still ....

Q: One of my best friends is an avid LL reader, and when she heard my dilemma she suggested I write in. I'm hoping you and your readers can help me sort out this situation.

"Jim" has been my friend since I remember -- we grew up together and were always close. After high school we went to separate colleges but continued to stay in touch and get together during every break. His freshman year, he met "Alice" and they began date -- staying together for all four years of college. Since they dated for so long, I hung out with her many times throughout their relationship, going on trips, going out on group dates, etc. Jim broke up with Alice at the end of this past summer after meeting somebody else, whom he began dating almost immediately after ending things with Alice. Because of the time I've spent with Alice over the past four years, I have come to consider her one of my good friends. Having just gone through a rough break up myself, I reached out to her after Jim ended things (after asking his permission to keep in touch with her, which he granted.)

The problem is that I've had feelings for Alice ever since we were introduced. My feelings were simply attraction while she was dating my friend, as I was in a relationship for the majority of time as well. But now that we're both single and we've continued to talk, my feelings for her have grown to something more. Recently, we've had a conversation about how we both have feelings for one another. We went on a date that was absolutely amazing and had a nearly perfect first kiss. However, throughout the night, she did voice her concern that she felt guilty and the only reason she doesn't want to commit to dating me 100% is because she was with my friend for so long. I too feel incredibly guilty -- here I am breaking the number one rule, dating my best friend's ex.

Am I a terrible friend? Is it fair to date Alice? How long do I wait to see if the two of us are actually going to work out before I approach Jim about the situation? Or, despite my belief that Alice and I could be a great fit, should I completely back off?

– A Confused Friend, Boston

A: You're not really asking me whether it's OK to date Alice, ACF. You've already made that decision. It's happening.

As for when you have to tell Jim, well, the answer is right now. Just be straight with him. Tell him you know the rule ("Bros before … amazing, intelligent women"), but that you've always been smitten with Alice. You're hoping that he has really moved on with this new woman and that he'd like to see Alice happy. Most of all, you're hoping that he'd like to see you happy.

My advice is to tell him sooner than later because "I think I dig Alice" sounds a lot better than, "Alice and I have been dating for three months." Be calm and respectful -- and don't ask, just tell. If you're not really asking for permission, don't pretend you are. Just tell him what's happening and that you're hoping he can put up with it.

There are exceptions to every rule and I hope this is one of them. And if it isn't and he can't forgive, well, it sounds like you're just not as close with Jim as you used to be anyway. I'm not downplaying the importance of old friends, but if you were really scared to death of losing him, you'd have avoided Alice from the start. Instead, you developed a close friendship with her -- one that you knew might lead to more. You've made it clear that whether she's a friend or girlfriend, Alice is your priority. It is what it is. Just come clean.

Readers? Does he have to back off and follow the rule? Is it realistic to think that he should? He's obviously young -- does age play into this? Discuss.

– Meredith

Avoiding a holiday hookup

Posted by Meredith Goldstein December 6, 2010 09:00 AM

The results of the Romance Rumble are in -- and I lost. Film Critic (and Romance Rumble winner) Wesley Morris explains it all here. I'm trying not to be a sore loser. I bet Lloyd Dobler watched a lot of "Casablanca" before he got on that plane with Diane Court.

Wesley and I will host the Romance Rumble pre-party on Friday (Dec. 10) from 7 to 8:30 at Orleans in Davis Square. All are welcome. No RSVPS/movie tickets necessary. Feel free to show up at 6:30 to get a good seat. I'll be there with plates and plates of food. A note to straight, single men: I'm not stereotyping, but Love Letters events tend to draw a number of nice, single, straight women. Fish. In. A. Barrel. Really. (Just be nice to the fish.)

At 8:30, Wesley and I will walk to the Somerville Theatre for a quick Q&A and screening of "Casablanca." If you haven't seen it, please join us. If you have, please see it again. It will be wonderfully cozy night and a great way to watch a classic. Tickets for the movie can be purchased here.

Q: Dear Meredith,

I could really use your help this holiday season before I make a huge turkey of myself. Here's the back story: I'm a single mom in her mid-30s and I've been separated and divorced for five years. My problem is with my ex-boyfriend, whom I dated for a little over a year. We broke up one year ago when he moved away to go back to school.

To say I had a hard time with the breakup would be a bit of an understatement. I knew it was the right thing to do, particularly since he is significantly younger than I am, but my will is awfully weak when my heart is involved. It didn't help that he was one of those "I love you, but -- " and "let's be friends" kind of ex-boyfriends. My dating experience at that point had been really limited, and I didn't realize that still communicating but not getting any caring out of it would be so destructive. After nearly a year of frustration, we stopped talking for awhile, and I started feeling like myself again. Dating has been horrible so far, though; just a series of awkward first dates with no connection whatsoever. I can't seem to find anyone I like as much as I liked my ex (nor, to be honest, as much as I like my mail man, my chiropractor, and the friendly check-out guy at Whole Foods).

Here's the problem with my ex: we're friendly again, and e-mail very occasionally. However, when he comes home for holidays, it's a different story -- he writes and calls often, making it very clear that he's between girlfriends and wants to hook up. He has always claimed that he loves me and that I'm the only person in the world who understands him -- but I know the truth about such things. Even knowing this, though, I have to confess that I am so weak-willed that I have taken him up on his offers. The memory of love is strong, and it's hard to not want to revisit it. And even though it's usually just for a day or two, it's awfully nice to have someone care about you for awhile.

I'm at the point where I'm forcing myself to go out of town (all my family lives out of state, which doesn't help) for the holidays, even though I'd rather stay home. I know he'll be here for the holidays and looking to "reconnect," and I know also that, while it gets easier to say "no" as time goes on, saying "no" to even a single day of love and attention isn't something I can do easily even though I know it's the right choice.

Can you please give me some advice for keeping my distance? Other than making up a fantasy boyfriend (I tried that once, but it fell through pretty quickly), is there anything I can say to him that will make a difference other than "no"? I'd like him to understand that you can't treat people like this, but somehow I can't reach him. Oh, and if you could throw in a side dish of consolation for those of us who feel like we're going to be alone and disconnected from humanity for the rest of our natural life, I'd be grateful!

– Better Than a Booty Call, Newton

A: BTABC, my advice is to be startlingly honest with him. If he comes over for a pajama party, say something like, "I'm so happy that you still find me attractive because I'd really like to get back together and revisit the issue of commitment!" Then watch him run away. If he says, "No one understands me like you do," fire back with, "You're right -- let's get hitched!" I'm telling you, nothing ruins the hook-up mood like a blunt wish list that involves exclusivity and accountability.

The bigger problem, of course, is what you so brilliantly call "the memory of love." I don't blame you for wanting to revisit the relationship when possible, but perhaps there are other ways to fill the void. Maybe it's time to tell all of your friends that you're ready for set-ups. Maybe it's time to take an exciting trip. Maybe it's time to make more single friends so that you can sit around with peers and talk about the availability of the mail man. What I do know is that it's your job to set boundaries. It's difficult, but you can't count on your ex to learn a lesson and remove himself as a temptation. You have to fend for yourself.

And if you really need a side dish of consolation, I'll give you this: I guarantee you that at some point during the holidays, probably on Christmas, someone will Google you. Maybe it will be a guy from your childhood or one of those men who took you on a terrible date. Maybe it will be your ex. I have no idea. But someone will be feeling lonely without you. Someone will be wondering where you are. It's inevitable.

It's also inevitable that you'll eventually go on some not-so-terrible dates. Eventually. Just stay in the mix and continue to be honest about your intentions. Be upsettingly honest. That'll keep you out of trouble.

Readers? Is my side dish of consolation any good? How do you stop yourself from having a destructive hook-up? Should she stop herself? Is there potential with the ex? Advice for the lonely during the holidays? Discuss.

– Meredith

Can we be friends?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein November 30, 2010 09:18 AM

The Romance Rumble continues. I am shocked by some of the early casualties. Please buy your tickets for the Dec. 10 screening. There will be news on the pre-party soon. Even if your favorite film doesn't win, it will be fun and social and ... well, I just want to hang out on a cold Friday night.

Q: Dear LL,

Almost three weeks ago, I was dumped for the first time. We're both 23 (young love, I know) and dated for about two years. After about six months together we began a long-distance relationship (three hours apart). He started working and I started medical school. Over the next year and a half, we built a wonderful and honest relationship, talking every night and spending amazing weekends together.

Then, over the past few months, he began distancing himself. He said that he needed space to "find himself," so I backed off and tried to understand/support him. We joked that it was his quarter-life crisis. After a while, he seemed more interested in our relationship and making future plans, which I took as a positive sign. Apparently, he thought otherwise. Two days before I was going to visit him, he called and dumped me. I was completely devastated. He said that he couldn't handle the distance anymore since there is no end in sight (I have two more years of school). From my perspective, our time together was well worth the drive. Either way, the real problem is now getting over him, especially since he is insisting that we remain friends.

Since the break-up, we've talked plenty and he even came to visit for an afternoon to discuss things in person since we broke up over the phone (lame, right?). All this time, his focus was on being friends and he kept on setting rules about our new "friendship." We can talk two nights a week, see each other every month or two, etc. While I would love to keep him in my life, I know that I need to get the idea of us out of my head before considering any type of friendship with him (and only one without those ridiculous rules). He seems to think that ending our relationship and starting a new friendship can blend seamlessly into one another.

When we talked tonight, I finally told him that we need to stop communicating completely so that I can try to move on and then maybe come back to the idea of being friends. He told me that the decision was mine to make, but was clearly upset about it and immediately began asking when I thought we could talk again. Just when I was confident about moving on, he's suddenly afraid to lose his "best friend." Talk about confusing?!

So here's my question: am I finally making the right moves to move on? I'm feeling partly confident/partly confused about my decision and just need advice and encouragement because I still feel heart-broken too. And I don't really understand how this will ever come full circle into a friendship.

– Making Moves to Move On, New York

A: Yes, MMTMO, you're making all the right moves. You're setting boundaries. You're prioritizing yourself. You're deeming your ex's rules to be selfish and irrational. You're on the up, I swear.

The way I see it, this guy just lost out on dating his "best friend," who also happens to be a doctor-in-training. His loss.

Is it possible to have a friendship with him? Maybe. But do you want one? Again, he's three hours away. If there isn't a "pajama party" at the end of the drive, will either of you want to make the journey?

Your friendship was a part of your romantic relationship. He has to realize that by breaking up with you, he loses all of you. He can't assume you'll want a platonic friendship. He can't script the break-up. I assume that this is his first big romantic loss. Don't assume he knows anything you don't.

I know it's confusing and tempting to be around him as much as you can, even if it's as a friend. But you're doing it right. Cleaning the wound. Treating it. Letting it heal. Like a good doctor.

Readers? Any suggestions? Is she doing this right? Should she have to tell him when she'll be open to a friendship? Discuss.

– Meredith

He lied about his divorce

Posted by Meredith Goldstein November 17, 2010 09:01 AM

Good morning. 1 p.m. chat.

Q: I'm going to get this out fast before I lose the nerve to send my emotional distress out into the universe for judgment. I've been with my boyfriend for three years and we've lived together for half that time. I'm in my late 20s and he is in his late 30s, divorced with kids.

Our relationship progressed pretty quickly -- we fell in love and experienced all of the wonderful things about a new romance. Overall, everything has been really good between us. We laugh together, travel together, and have planned our future together. My only concern throughout our relationship surrounds his divorce. Boyfriend does not like talking about it, didn't willingly share information about it, and doesn't like to answer my questions about it. From the beginning I assumed that his divorce was final (he never said otherwise), but I recently found out that the divorce wasn't legally finalized until last year (around the time we moved in together). I had a feeling this was the case because certain things did not add up but he kept denying it. I didn't want to press the subject because it would always end up in a fight and I wanted to believe him. He finally confessed.

I have no doubts about his feelings toward me and his dreams of being with me forever. The ex-wife is a non-issue for us as they have been separated for years. The delay with the divorce was simply technical difficulties with paperwork. My question to you and the readers is -- will I be able to trust him now that I know he has withheld information? He admits that he made a mistake and assures me that he was trying to protect me because I didn't deserve to go through it and he was afraid he would lose me. I understand that divorce is just an official legal date but I feel misled. Does his fear of loss -- and his attempt to protect me from the mess of his past relationship -- justify his long-lasting lie? I have been told by people who have gone through divorce how devastating and embarrassing it can be, so does this qualify him for a second chance? My heart wants to be with him but my head tells me this is a deal breaker. Boyfriend tells me he has never been happier in his life now that he is with me, but I'm not feeling too happy at the moment.

– Follow My Heart or Throw In The Towel?, Boston

A: "Does his fear of loss and his attempt to protect me from the mess of his past relationship justify his long-lasting lie?" No way, FMHOTITT. He caused you more pain by lying to you. But the lie only a deal-breaker if you want it to be. And really, it's only a deal-breaker if he doesn't understand why lying to you was wrong.

Did he apologize for the cover-up because he made you feel bad -- or because he truly understands that disclosure is necessary from now on? If you're going to stay together, 99.9 percent of his life is going to be your business. He has to be on board for that.

My advice is to ask. Ask as many questions as you want about the marriage and divorce. Ask about the kids. Ask about everything. If you get the sense that he's being closed off about anything, there's your red flag. "Boyfriend does not like talking about it, didn't willingly share information about it, and doesn't like to answer my questions about it." That just doesn't work. What if he was that way about money? Or his health? Protecting you means telling the truth. He either understands that or he doesn't.

Talk to him. Find out if this was really a learning experience for him. If not, consider that while your heart is important, your head (which is somehow attached to your gut) has a point.

Readers? Would you leave someone after three years if they lied to you about their divorce? Is this mistake more forgivable after three years than it would have been after one? Has he learned a real lesson? Does the pain and embarrassment of the divorce justify the lie? Get to it.

– Meredith

Do men's websites offer good advice?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein November 15, 2010 08:51 AM

Q: Hi Meredith,

I've never had a problem meeting women. My problem has always been maintaining a long-term relationship. I dated the same girl from the age of 19 until 25. Things unfortunately didn't work out, and that led to my current predicament. Since the breakup, most of my relationships have only lasted between three and four months, and they usually end with the fun "you're a great guy, but ..." cliche. Obviously I'm doing something wrong. How do I figure out what it is? I will add that I have ended some relationships, but the majority of them have been ended by the girl.

I've asked my female friends for advice and they've told me to keep doing what I'm doing and eventually someone will realize what they have in me. Not terrible advice, but it hasn't solved my problem. I've also tried using Google -- and that brought me to various advice sites for men ( and the like). The only things I've gathered from them is that I should be confident, aloof, and act like the last thing on Earth I would want to do is spend time with a girl. Is that stuff true? And how would I know when to stop acting that way?

Is it possible to meet a girl and build a relationship while being myself? Do I follow the advice men's sites provide? I know I have a lot to offer. I'm not needy, clingy, or jealous. I have a job I love, a great group of friends, a house that keeps me way too busy, and plenty of my own hobbies and interests. How do I find someone to share that with? Trying to figure this out has been driving me crazy. It feels like I'm looking for the answer to a riddle I'll never figure out.

– Frustrated & Confused, Keller, Texas

A: I just spent about an hour on to see what you've been reading, F&C.

Some of it is ridiculous. The advice section of the site seems to be one big advertisement for a book written by an advice columnist named "Doc Love." And then there's a guide to faking a male orgasm. (As if that kind of lie is going to help anyone.) There are also a number of photo galleries of lovely ladies in tight dresses. (I don't know who Lucy Pinder is, but whoa. Good for her.)

I will say that there are a few not-so-terrible features on the site. I didn't hate the Top 10 gallery about ways to improve relationships. And who doesn't want a good Greek yogurt recipe?

My assessment of your situation is that you are capable of a long-term relationship. In fact, you had one that lasted for half of your 20s. Now you're just dating. You're ending mediocre relationships or having them ended for you. That sounds pretty normal to me. Remember that most people were doing the unsuccessful dating thing in their early 20s while you had a girlfriend. Most of us have to date around at some point.

I'm with your female friends -- keep doing what you're doing. Finding the right partner isn't always easy. It's even more difficult if you use weird tips from men's dating sites to manipulate women. I mean, if you can't be yourself, what’s the point?

All I can advise you to do is to make sure that your busy life doesn't isolate you. Keep meeting new people. Relax.

And my final piece of advice: only trust advice columnists who tell you their real names. (Yes, that includes Margo Howard, Dan Savage, and, of course, Miss Conduct, who we know is Robin Abrahams.)

Readers? Is there a problem here? Anything worthwhile from men's sites? Discuss.

– Meredith (thinking I should buy the rights to

How did he move on so quickly?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein November 11, 2010 08:33 AM

Q: Hi Meredith,

My relationship of close to two years recently came to an end. In the beginning things were perfect between "Joe" and I. We had great chemistry, shared many interests, and genuinely loved spending time with each other.

However, the last several months of our relationship were not that great. I was unhappy at work and having problems with my roommate. I took a lot of my frustrations out on Joe. I became dependent on him because I feared losing him, and I spent little time with my friends. I picked fights with Joe for no reason, or simply because I was unhappy with my job. Slowly, he began to withdraw. He finally had enough and broke up with me.

Since our breakup I changed companies and I'm now living on my own. My relationship with my former roommate is perfect and I'm no longer depending on one person for a social life. I'm going out again, meeting up with old friends, and really enjoying my new freedom.

The only thing that's missing is Joe. I still love him and I think about him constantly. The two of us said that our relationship was the most meaningful one that either of us had ever had. I pictured myself marrying him and having children with him one day. If I could change the last months of our relationship, I would in a heartbeat.

However, a week after we officially broke up, Joe started dating someone else. The new girl, "Jane," is from the same town as him. They met through friends and are now in an exclusive relationship.

I'm devastated. It's been a little over three months since we broke up, and I agree the two of us need to move on, but how can he move on so quickly? When we broke up he told me that he was not a relationship guy, that he didn't know what he wanted. But now he is practically in another relationship with someone else.

When will I be able to move on? I lost a wonderful guy because of my inability to handle my own drama, and I also lost my sense of pride. I gave everything to him and I was there for him through thick and thin. I thought about him constantly, bought him things he needed, cooked him dinners, helped him with work. How can I be replaced so quickly? Was I really that bad? Is this a rebound, or do I just have to suck it up and deal with the fact that I lost him and things will never go back to the way they were?

– Upset and Not Ready to Move On, Boston

A: How can he move on so quickly, UANRTMO? He didn't. He moved on over a period of months. Every time you fought about something that had nothing to do with him, he took a step away. Every time you seemed dependent and unwilling to see friends, he took another step. For him, this is a long time coming.

But can I point out a few things? Yes, you loved him. But you used him as a punching bag knowing full well that he might leave. A part of me believes that you not-so-subconsciously instigated this break-up -- that by misbehaving with Joe you were really forcing yourself to make positive changes on your own terms.

You did things to put your relationship at risk. And he is dating someone else -- which means he's willing to risk losing the best version of you. That's where you are. You're both responsible, and despite missing him, I'm not sure you'd want it any other way right now.

My advice is pretty basic -- to learn from your experience and go out and date. He knows you want him back, right? Now all you can do is live. And remember what you told us -- that you're a cool, independent person who knows how to cope with difficult situations. Maybe this new, better version of yourself wouldn't put up with the real Joe. Go find some alternatives.

Readers? Am I right to say that she did this on purpose? Would he have left anyway? Is she to blame for his departure? How did he move on so fast? Did he? Any chance for reconciliation? Talk.

– Meredith

He wants to work with me

Posted by Meredith Goldstein November 9, 2010 06:05 PM

It's chat day. 1 p.m.

Q: Dear Meredith and Loyal Readers,

I might be in the biggest possible pickle of my life. OK, well not the biggest, but it's up there. I had been dating a guy for about a year and we talked about moving in together when my lease was up this winter. He got scared back in August and decided that he needed to take a step back. Which is fine. We're both 27 and I'd rather him be sure than not sure. Granted, we've talked every day since his decision to take a step back, and we see each other on occasion. Although at times it doesn't seem romantic, I still have a little bit of a flame flickering for him.

That little flame, unfortunately, is the least of my problems.

My problem is the bombshell he dropped on me this afternoon. Hold on, let me back up to Friday. Friday night he met me for a drink and a movie. The conversation over the drink was great. Things seemed to be going well and I was hopeful that we might be taking a step back in the right direction. I decided not to get my hopes up and talked myself into letting things progress naturally. Why push the subject if there's no subject to push yet, right? The drive home was also great and we talked about when we could see each other again. He was very active in communicating the rest of the weekend, which surprised me a little.

Fast forward to Monday morning. So he IMs me from "ABC Company," where he works, and we chat throughout the day. We made plans for the next week and mentioned an event he thought we would both like to attend in December.

Then, shortly after lunch, he told me he was interested in my company, "XYZ Company," which is ironically down the road from ABC. Needless to say, I felt like I was punched in the stomach. I know how miserable he is at ABC and that he would like it at XYZ. So I told him I would pass on his resume to the HR Director. He said he would put together his resume this week and send it over to me to pass along.

Here's what I'm thinking -- that this is the end of the chances of us getting back together. Do office romances really work in the long run? So what should I do? Do I actually pass along his very qualified resume or do I lie and say we're on a hiring freeze and continue on with our current situation? I know it sounds selfish if I lie but do I consider my feelings or his? What a mess.

Please help!!!!!!

– Stuck Between a Rock & My Heart Place, Burlington

A: I wouldn't worry about an office romance at the moment because I'm not quite sure you're in an out-of-office romance. Are you still together? How would you define your relationship, SBAR&MHP?

You have to be selfish. But you also have to be honest. Tell Mr. I'm-taking-a-step-back that you're a bit confused about the status of your relationship and that having him in an office down the hall won't help. He's more than welcome to apply for a job at ABC Company, but he shouldn't be asking you to facilitate. You're doing a lot for him -- stepping back, stepping forward, being a friend, being more than a friend. Let's be honest -- it hurts, right? Can he consider your feelings for a few minutes or more?

Maybe he'll be ticked off that you don't want to help him. Maybe he'll stomp his feet because he's used to getting his way. Or maybe he'll say, "Wow -- I've been a bit selfish, and I had no idea this hasn't been easy for you. Let's get back together and make out."

Maybe. But don't lie -- to him or yourself. This step-back thing has felt like a break-up, and you certainly wouldn’t a recent ex to be bumping your cubicle with his own, at least not right now. Right?

Readers? Should she pass on his resume? Was he wrong to ask? Should she be worrying about office romances? Was he suddenly being nice to get her to support him at ABC? Discuss.

– Meredith

Should I tell my ex I'm getting married?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein October 29, 2010 07:30 AM

Quickie contest -- the Central Square Theater and the storytelling group massmouth are having a Love Letters night Nov. 6th. They want people to share their personal tales of love and redemption -- and I get to choose those tales. Send me a love/redemption story and I'll pick a few of my favorites. Winners will get tickets to that night's performance of Eugene O'Neill's "A Moon for the Misbegotten." Don't apply unless you're free on the 6th and willing to read your submission in front of people before the show. (I know, I know, you're not shy.)

Entries are due Monday by 3 p.m. Keep them to 400 words. I'll pick winners by Tuesday morning. Send to meregoldstein at gmail dot com. Put "love and redemption" in the subject line.

Q: I was married for six years, but left my husband after he turned into a controlling, conceited, self-absorbed hermit who thought his paycheck was where his contribution to our relationship began and ended. I left him -- and his financial security -- because I was losing myself and couldn't accept what my life had become.

Our divorce was quick. He was devastated but cooperative. Our post-divorce ties went on forever because of real estate that wouldn't sell in a bad market (the super-size house he saw as the route to his happiness was not popular with buyers).

He had intensive therapy, which led him to apologize for the years of bad behavior. He moved away, met a woman, and reported being really happy. At that point we tried to maintain a friendship. Six months into his new happy relationship, I had just started dating someone and didn't tell him because it was so new. He came back to town and hired people to do some work on the house and so that it would be easier to sell. I stayed with friends during this time.

My new boyfriend came by while a not-so-great contractor was working and pointed out areas of the work that were in dire need of improvement. He told the contractor not to mention his presence to my ex-husband because things were strained between us. Of course the contractor mentioned my boyfriend's presence when following up with my ex over the phone, and that resulted in my getting the silent treatment and a bitter e-mail asking about my boyfriend. This was almost two years after our divorce and more than six months into his new, happy relationship.

My ex and I now only interact by e-mail when there's official business that comes up. He was prone to temper tantrums, making me want to opt for as little communication as possible. When we do communicate, it's with a fake friendliness. We still have some mutual friends, and our parents still keep in touch a few times a year. I don't know where he's living and don't really care to ever see him again. I do know he's still with the same person he met a few years ago.

My quandary: my boyfriend and I are planning on eloping (we very much want to make a lifelong commitment but don't want to deal with the hoopla and expense of a wedding). What is the right thing to do -- should I tell my ex when we are married? And if so, by what means? I don't want to deal with drama and I don't know if there would be more drama if I did or didn't tell him, and he's bound to find out by some other means.

– Happily Moved On, Providence

A: My advice is to tell him, HMO. Not because it's any of his business, but because you have mutual friends and family connections, and if he's going to find out, it might as well be from you.

He was angry and jealous when he found out about your boyfriend because that's how he behaves -- but also because he shared news about his own relationship and probably expected you do the same. Instead, he heard from the contractor. Ouch.

That's not to say that I'm on his side about this. Really, I'm on yours. But save yourself the trouble of a tantrum down the road. Send him an e-mail that says something like, "I just wanted to share the news that my boyfriend and I are eloping. I'm not sure if you want/need to know -- but I didn't want you to hear about it through the grapevine. I'm so happy that you and I have moved on to such great new experiences. I hope you're doing well."

I'm not convinced that there will be crazy drama. More time has passed since the divorce, and he's been capable of pleasant business e-mails. Maybe he'll reply with a fake-friendly note. Or maybe he'll surprise you by not caring enough to respond.

Readers? Am I wrong? Does she have to tell him? Should her ex have had to hear about the boyfriend from the contractor? Is his issue jealousy or being blindsided? Will telling him just make it worse if she has already set an effective boundary? Discuss.

– Meredith

The ex still finishes my sentences

Posted by Meredith Goldstein October 28, 2010 08:00 AM

Great chat yesterday.

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.

– Meredith

Am I a bad person for ending it?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein October 27, 2010 07:30 AM

Chat at 1.

Q: I just broke up with my significant other ... due to some things about him that I found distasteful. Like certain mispronunciations he makes that make him appear less intelligent, and a strange facial tic.

I don't think he can change these things, and I don’t think I could stand them forever. He treated me very well and is a good person. I thought that I loved him, but recently these habits began to really bother me. Am I just a coldhearted witch for not being able to overlook the small things and be grateful for the good? At my age, should I just have been happy to have a partner that treated me well? (We are both hard-working, divorced, over-40 adults and have been together less than a year.) Thank you for any insight! (If it makes a difference, I am female!)

– Coldhearted Witch

A: One of my wise acquaintances always says that if it bothers you now, it will drive you crazy in a few decades.

You're not supposed to have unreasonable expectations for suitors (and that's not an age thing -- there's no Prince Charming), but if life without this guy seems more appealing than life with him, you were right to leave, CW.

If it makes you feel less witchy, I'm pretty sure this isn't about the tic. It's the whole package. When you're really in deep with someone, tics and mispronunciations are forgivable. Maybe even cute.

We're supposed to be realistic. But we're not supposed to settle for someone we don't really want simply because we're over 40 and they're nice. If you were a real witch (and I mean "witch" in the scary, green, "Wizard of Oz" sense, not the I-live-in-Salem-and-practice-Wicca sense), you would have stayed with someone you didn't love simply because you were afraid of being alone. If you're a witch, you're a good witch.

Readers? Am I right? Is she overlooking too much good? Is this really about the tic and the pronunciations? Should her age matter? Discuss.

– Meredith

My mom hates him

Posted by Meredith Goldstein October 26, 2010 08:21 AM

Q: Dear Meredith,

Here are the facts: I am in love with my ex-boyfriend and he is in love with me. We are both divorced from marriages that lacked affection, communication, etc. -- things we both need in a relationship. We have been in each other's lives for the better part of 17 years.

Ten years ago, I made a big move to be with him, and he decided 10 days later to disappear. It was agony and instant devastation for me. Although we were in our early 20s, I truly had no doubts about being with this man (obviously he had doubts about me). In hindsight, I may have dramatized the break-up because I was incredibly hurt. I even moved out of the country to try and find a retreat to heal, and five years later I was still seeking answers. I finally worked up the courage to contact him and ask him outright. He said he had tried to contact me and even knew my previous addresses. I had been blaming myself for years when in reality, it was his issues.

The thing is, we rushed in, and because I was so devastated, everyone around me now hates him for leaving me somewhat stranded the way he did. My mother thinks he was a complete coward. He and I keep in touch regularly and we truly believe that maybe now that we are older and surer of ourselves and each other -- that we could have 'our time' and be truly happy. I would like to at least try because I have no desire to move on until I've given it one more chance.

Recently, I have tried to work his name into the conversations with my mother and she told me that if I ever try to contact him again, she would walk out of my life because it would put her in her grave. (Talk about drama!) This is a man who really screwed up, but it’s not unforgivable in my mind -- because I have never stopped being in love with him. Don't get me wrong, he will have to move mountains to prove himself.

I just don't know how we can try this when my mother is placing such a huge ultimatum on me. He and I are willing to fight this fight together but hurting her (and I truly believe it would affect her health) is scary. How can we help her be more comfortable to let us try this again? I was thinking that seeing a therapist, maybe all together might give her a chance to really get to know him better, as well as get some concerns on the table for discussion. Plus it would show a real effort on our parts that I hope she can recognize we are doing for ourselves but also because we care so much about her. We want her in our lives and being apart makes us so unhappy..

– A Mum-timatum, Boston

A: AM, I'd hate for you to start this relationship in a therapist's office with your mom. Talk about a not-so-sexy way to reunite with your ex.

This is between you and your mom, not your ex and your mom. People ditch one another all the time in their 20s. Assuming you're telling us everything (and this guy isn't some sort of criminal), your mother's fears are about your reaction to the break-up. It's up to you to assure her that this time around, you're not going to move out of the country if you get hurt.

All you can do is say to Mom, "Listen, this guy and I dated when we were both young and dumb. And I realize he was a total idiot. But I'd like to give him one more chance -- because frankly, I was a bit too invested back then, and I'd like to see what we’re capable of now that he's less cowardly and I'm more independent and self-confident." And you are, right?

Then you tell her what you told us: "Don't get me wrong, he will have to move mountains to prove himself."

Also consider that parents and friends are a good barometer of happiness. If you move forward with this relationship, watch your mom. If she sees you happy, she'll be happy. If she sees you agitated or fearful, she will be, too. So pay attention. If she begins to relax, you'll know you’re in good shape, and if not, well, consider why. Meanwhile, tell the ex that if he wants to win mom's love, he has to keep showing up. That's all it takes --showing up over time with a smile on his face.

Readers? Is her mom right to put such pressure on her not to date this guy? Should the letter writer be giving her ex a second chance? Ever left the country after a break-up? Discuss.

– Meredith

I want her back

Posted by Meredith Goldstein October 25, 2010 08:17 AM

I went to a lovely wedding in Philadelphia over the weekend. The most amusing part about it was that the DJ kept playing Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam's "Head to Toe" over and over and no one knew why.

Guess the song of the day.

Q: Hi Meredith,

I've been with my girlfriend for about seven years. We've talked about marriage and everything. We started dating in high school and spent so much time together that we kind of lost touch with friends. At the time, that seemed OK. We went to the same college, which is when I realized I wanted to connect with my friends again. This is where I think things started to go wrong.

I was spending more time with friends and less time with her, which started fights and temporary break-ups. I made mistakes but rationalized them because we were young. After college we moved in together, which started off great. But we fell into this routine, and we started hanging out with our friends more again and spending less time with each other. A year ago, we both questioned if we were still in love. A few months back, we agreed to move into separate apartments with friends. She moved in with a coworker, and I moved in with strangers from Craigslist, which couldn't have worked out better because my new roommates are great people. She said this move would put perspective on our relationship, make us appreciate our time together more, and not take each other for granted anymore. I agreed.

After the move, things got progressively worse. Not with me, but with her. She stopped calling me and paying any attention to our relationship. She told me she hasn't been happy for a while, mostly because of my actions and her distrust in me (which I understand). She wanted to take a break/break-up. I agree, I was unhappy at times, I questioned if I was truly in love with her. I haven't been the best person.

The time spent away from her since the move has given me perspective on my life and what I truly want. I no longer question if I'm in love with her. I've fallen head over heels for her … again! But she doesn't feel the same. She feels stressed, guilty, and sad for doing this to me. I don't want to pressure her into getting back with me because she feels guilty -- that's not right. She says she still loves me a lot, she says she can still see her self marrying me in the future, but she's not certain. I've been pouring my heart out to her, hoping something will click. And I feel like its just making things worse.

I've been finding ways to be happy, but those feelings are only temporary. I think about her constantly. I still have so much to say to her, I still have so much left in me to give to her. What should I do? She says she needs time, which I agree with. However, she thinks it's not a good idea to even talk. She is completely cutting me out of her life because she's confused. How does a person fall back in love with someone when they’re not around?

I know I still have a lot of growing up to do, but I'm ready to share the rest of my life with her. Should I keep fighting for her or give her all the space she needs? Maybe she just isn't in love at all anymore but can't admit it? I don't want to be the person saying that she's the one that "got away." Should I go for broke?

– Falling to pieces, Brookline

A: What does "going for broke" entail, FTP? It sounds destructive to me. She knows how you feel. You've spelled it out. It's time to stay away.

I know you're falling to pieces, but I'm not convinced that your discomfort means that you're supposed to get back together with this woman. You say that you've fallen head over heels "again!" -- but why? How? What changed besides her bailing on you?

My advice is to take a deep breath, hang out with those new roomies, and wallow when you're feeling sad. Accept that you're supposed to be miserable for a bit. I'm also advising you to admit that there's more to this wave of emotion than regret and desire. There's also confusion. Fear of being single. Fear of loss. Wanting what you can't have. Nostalgia. Sadness about the end of childhood. It's more than just a need to have her by your side.

Please take this time-out and use it wisely. You don't want to return to the relationship you had, which made it impossible for you to balance a life outside of her. Create the life you want -- with friends, hobbies, etc., and then see if she even fits into that equation.

I know it's difficult, but try to tame these feelings of urgency. It's best to make big life decisions about break-ups and love when you're not falling to pieces.

Readers? Does he actually want her back? Has she moved on? What can he do? Should he do anything? Discuss.

– Meredith

Am I the rebound?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein October 19, 2010 08:46 AM

Q: Dear Meredith,

This letter could go on for pages. I'll spare you my psychoanalyzing. That's what your reader comments are there for.

My girlfriend is 35 -- ten years older than me. We met at a party about six months ago and began seeing each other casually. We moved slowly at first, but things organically developed into a serious relationship. We work full-time, enjoy each other's company, have overlapping interests, and spend about 75 percent of our time together. Our relationship has progressed quite quickly compared to my longest relationship of four years and hers of ten.

All would be hunky-dory if it weren't for the fact that her ten-year relationship ended about two weeks after we met. They had intertwined finances, property, professional, and social lives. Their relationship ended amicably -- all I know about why is that they had just fallen out of love. Understandably, she was and is still saddened by her loss, which is why I was initially hesitant to start anything more than casual hooking up with her. However, she initially said that things were tough but getting easier, that she was out of love for a few years and so the fact that her relationship was over wasn't going to affect what we had.

Recently (for the past two months) she's been more distant, sad, crying at times, and reflective about her past relationship. When we do things or go places that she did with the ex (essentially everything because they'd been together since she was a student in Boston), she is noticeably sad and sometimes withdrawn. To complicate things, most of their mutual friends started as her ex's, and still are. She tells me she feels like she had lost herself in that relationship and doesn't have anyone besides me and a couple out-of-state friends to rely upon.

It's gotten to the point where she's said she isn't sure about continuing dating, that she's still devastated by the break-up and loss (of her extended family, their home, their life), and that she needs to find herself, but wants to do so with me. She tells me she's a mess, and doesn't know why I'm with her. I've definitely shown and told her in many ways that I love her dearly.

We've decided to stay together and try to weather this storm together. I'm more emotionally invested in this relationship than I've ever been, and don't want to cut things short where I see such potential. On the other hand, I don't want to continue giving all of myself if she is going to realize (in 2 weeks/months/years) that she needs to be single in order to fully recover from this break-up.

Will she get over her loss? Do we need to break things off in order for her to heal? Are there actions I can take to remedy this situation while we stay together? Any advice you have is appreciated.

– Am I a Rebound Boyfriend?, Boston

A: You're not a rebound boyfriend, AIARB. Your girlfriend adores you. In fact, it sounds like you pulled her out of a long-dead relationship that she was afraid to leave.

But your timing is off. Her head is cloudy. She didn't have time to process the break-up. And she misses her ex -- as a best friend. She's still mourning the loss of him. As you said, it's all understandable.

My advice isn't to end things. It's to ride it out and to tell her to make the most of the 25 percent of her life that doesn't involve you. (And perhaps she could increase that 25 percent to 30.) She needs to talk about what she learned and lost. She needs friends. She needs new hobbies. She needs new memories. She needs some alone time so that she can be confident that when she's with you, it's by choice, not by necessity.

Yes, it would be great if she could be single for a while and then date you. But that's not possible. She has to mourn while dating someone new, and you have to be sensitive as she figures it out. If you guys stay together for a long time, she'll return the favor at some point.

She says she wants to do this with you. All you can do it take her word for it and see if it gets better. And as for guarantees that she won't leave in two years, well, no relationship has that. Not really.

Readers? Is this doomed? Is she mourning the ex as a friend or as more than a friend? Does she have to be single first to make this work? Is age relevant? Discuss.

– Meredith

Why can't she get over it?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein October 12, 2010 08:55 AM

If you were off yesterday, please take some time to give yesterday's letter some love.

And good LL song of the day today.

Q: Hi Meredith,

My friends and I love your column and (usually) consider your advice to be law. I'm writing about a friend. Not quite a "love" letter. I hope it counts as one because I love my friend and I need some advice on how to pull her out of her funk.

My best friend (26) recently terminated a bad relationship. From the things that she has said about him and the times that I saw them together, I feel like she should be thrilled to be away from him. He was verbally abusive to her in front of her friends, and while she won't talk much about their actual relationship, I have some pretty serious suspicions about what went on that she is not telling me. Since breaking up, he has continued to contact her despite her changing her phone number. He always seems to find her.

It's literally all she talks about. This ex. She's morbidly convinced that he is going to continue to reach out to her and that he might be a danger. I've heard some of his messages, and while I'm unhappy he's contacting her, I think she may be overreacting.

In the past few weeks I've noticed that she's been avoiding me. When I question her she says she's fine -- but she's not fine. She hasn't been eating, she's been drinking more, her usual bouncy attitude is just not present, she's crying all the time, and she's just sort of miserable to be around. She admits that she's not her usual self but gets defensive when I say anything to her. She says she has every right to be angry, that she is talking to a professional, and that she really just wants me to back off.

So Meredith, when is a kick in the pants appropriate? I want my friend to realize how lucky she is to be away from this creep and to stop dwelling on him and what he did. I want my awesome, positive best friend back! What do I say? What do I do? How can I make her realize she's an awesome, wonderful person and that she needs to get back to normal?

– She Should Be Happy It’s Over, Brookline

A: I don't know if she needs a kick in the pants right now, SSBHIO. She needs a friend who will allow her to process what happened without telling her she should be psyched she dodged a bullet.

It's impossible for her to rally right this second. She committed herself to someone who was terrible to her. That means she's dealing with two horrors, the nature of the relationship and the break-up itself. It's a lot to deal with at once, especially when you add in her fears, irrational or not.

My advice is to listen. You said it-- she might not be telling you everything. Tell her you want to be there for her. Ask her questions. Lower your expectations for a quick recovery.

Right now, at least in your letter, your concerns sound like criticisms. I understand your point -- the less energy she spends on this guy the better. But getting over it isn't that simple. She needs to be able to wallow, express fears, talk about what happened, and even say she misses this guy without fearing she'll be judged or punished. Talking to a professional will help, but it will also put her in the middle of a lot of repressed emotions, including some that have nothing to do with the relationship. Let her deal. Be kind. No tough love yet.

Readers? Am I right? Or should the letter writer continue to tell her friend to get over it? Why isn't the friend happy she got out of a bad situation? Is she seeking unwarranted attention from the letter writer? Discuss.

– Meredith

I loved her and lost her

Posted by Meredith Goldstein October 5, 2010 07:49 PM

No one is helping me with Love Letters songs of the day on Twitter. It's making me sad. Help. And chat at 1.

And while you're validating me, validate me some more.

I get so needy when it rains.

So does this letter writer.

Q: Dear Meredith,

I am not sure if this qualifies as "love" advice, but I would like your advice all the same. A few years ago I met a remarkable girl. She is stunningly beautiful, but that doesn't even begin to explain how unbelievable she is. When we first met, we hit it off immediately, and I would have liked nothing more to date her if it wasn't for the fact that she had a boyfriend. Knowing that she wasn't going to break up with her boyfriend, I accepted her as a friend and felt very lucky to have her in my life. We laughed all the time, engaged in many intellectual conversations, and exchanged our secrets. We were inseparable.

Earlier this year, she broke up with her boyfriend and I made my move. Unfortunately, she told me that the reason she broke up with her boyfriend was because she liked another man. I was heartbroken. I did not know what to do. Our friendship started to deteriorate from there. We both began to suffer personal problems with our families. My father was diagnosed with an illness, and her mother had problems, too. We began fighting constantly. I had a hard time accepting her new boyfriend and had suspicions about him, even though I recognize that those suspicions rose out of jealousy.

After much arguing we did not talk for a few months, then about a week ago I decided it was time to try to rebuild that bridge. I tried to apologize, but she just viewed it as more of the same drama we had been experiencing in the past. I tried to explain that I wanted to be friends again, but she just said "we were once great friends, but not anymore. Don't contact me again."

It has always been hard for me to maintain friendships throughout my life. I have never had a friendship like hers. I know the same is true for her, yet it is impossible for me to make her see that the past could have just been a rocky patch in our friendship and nothing more.

How do I earn back her trust and friendship? Will time heal?

– Without a Friend in Boston

A: It wasn't a rocky patch in your friendship, WAFIB. You imploded because you were (and are) in love with her. I'm assuming she's aware of your strong feelings, which is why she set such extreme boundaries.

I know you have trouble maintaining friendships, but she isn't a friend. She never was, at least not in your head. She was the object of your affection. An unrequited object. That's not the platonic pal you need.

My advice is to write her a note (I love notes, don't I?) explaining that you love her and that your strong feelings made you a disingenuous friend. Tell her that if you ever get over it you'll reach out -- but not until you're sure that you can handle being a buddy.

Then work on finding some real friends, people you don't want to kiss. It's not easy but it’s possible. Who are your acquaintances? Is there anyone you ignored while you were focusing on this woman? Is there anyone in your life worth promoting? Any family members who can help?

You can also try dating, maybe even online. See how it feels to evaluate someone as a potential partner from the start. You shouldn't have to wait around forever for someone to reciprocate.

I'm sorry for the loss, though. Let it be a lesson. At this age (whatever that age is, in your case), if the chemistry isn't there, you’re supposed to move on.

Readers? Any empathy for this letter writer? How does he let go of a friend who happens to be the woman he loves? Is he right to believe he's capable of having any sort of relationship with her? Help.

– Meredith

How do I get her back?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein October 1, 2010 08:00 AM

Details on a Love Letters event coming soon.

And this, well, I'm flattered. Can you imagine? I have to admit, the idea of discussing grilled cheese with George Stephanopoulos is sort of intriguing.

Today's letter brings us back to college, but it's an ageless problem. Wanting someone back.

Q: Where to start. I am a college student and I have been dating this girl I love for almost three years now. We were practically married; spent a majority of the day with each other, slept in each other's rooms every night, and things were going pretty well.

But last weekend she told me that she was flying to visit her father down south. When she returned on Monday she seemed very distant, cold, and like a completely different person. The next day we grabbed lunch together, and here's the real kicker -- she tells me that she actually didn't visit her father. She spent the weekend at this guy's house, someone she met at her grandfather's funeral a month ago. She cheated on me. I'm so in love with her that I forgave her and told her I wanted to make us work. She is now in a limbo and tells me she has no idea if she wants to be with me or be with this guy. We still see each other almost everyday for a meal and we act as if everything is normal. We hug, say we love each other, and when I ask her how she feels about us she still tells me that she has no idea what to do. And she continues to wear the necklace I gave her, but also the dog tags her new friend gave her last weekend.

And I blame myself for her cheating on me completely. My mother passed away suddenly two years ago and I took a lot of my anger out on her. Nothing physical -- but I would say some very demeaning, hurtful things. I never really fully appreciated her in our relationship and now I fully regret it. Now that she is gone I know what I had and I want to make it better. So what should I do? Should I give her time and wait for her? Do I move on and try to forget? And what do I say and do to try to get her back? Thanks a lot for the help!

– I Want Her Back, Pembroke

A: She's walking around wearing trinkets from two guys? Wow. She's confused -- and maybe a bit insensitive, yes?

I'm not sure that these ambiguous meals and hugs are helping either of you. My advice is to make your case one more time, possibly in writing so that she can read it more than once, and then give her (and yourself) some space. Just make sure that you're honest in your note. Don't promise her the world. Admit that you're confused but that you want to at least try to do this relationship right before calling it quits.

Know that no matter what she decides, you'll be just fine. You learned a major lesson about how to process tragedy, and now she's the one testing your limits. Yes, you might have contributed to the problem, but you have to be good to yourself. You can apologize, you can even grovel for a few hours, but you don't have to punish yourself on a daily basis by looking at some other guy's dog tags while you're trying to eat a sandwich.

Readers? Does he deserve to be put through these meals and hugs because he misbehaved? How can he undo what happened? Does he really want to be with her or is this about fear of more loss? Should he be promising her anything before he takes some space? Discuss.

– Meredith

Am I a baggage magnet?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein September 25, 2010 08:00 AM

This is the second Confused we've had this week. We're all confused. Get creative.

Q: I'm 28 was recently told by my fiance (whom I dated for 4-plus years before getting engaged) that he didn't want to marry me. I had relocated to a god-awful place in WNY to be with this person prior to our engagement. When it was broken off abruptly, I hightailed it out of there and returned home to be with my family after about 10 years away.

Since moving home, I have reconnected with past flames and been on a few dates with people I just met, all ending in complete lack of interest on both sides. It seems, however, that the people who are in the same proverbial "boat" -- either in the midst of a divorce or recently out of a long-term relationship -- seem extremely interested in me. I am a bit weary about jumping into a relationship like this, which leads to my questions:

Do people with baggage seem to cling to others with baggage in order to cope with their situation? Is a relationship stemming from said baggage less real/meaningful?

– Confused, Boston

A: Yes, Confused, people with "baggage" might be more attracted to you after hearing that you've been through your own ordeal. That's not necessarily a bad thing. It just means that they're looking for an understanding peer.

But water seeking its own level is just a part of it. This is also about age. After 28 or so, everyone has history. Everyone is coping with something, whether it's a divorce, a bad break-up, or simply being single when their friends aren't. It may seem that everyone drawn to you has mega-baggage, but really, you're just re-entering the dating world four years older.

And yes, I believe that people who have survived heartbreak (and Western New York) are capable of having meaningful relationships, even with each other. It's not about misery loving company. It's about empathy loving empathy.

Readers? Does baggage seek out baggage? Is she seeing a legitimate pattern here? Does she seem ready to date? Discuss.

– Meredith

What is he hiding?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein September 20, 2010 09:32 PM

You're loyal. And witty. But you already knew that.

Q: Hi Meredith,

I love your column, including the commentary from your loyal and witty readers. I'm writing because I'm rather peeved with a long time friend/could-have-been suitor, Jay. I met Jay about 15 years ago when I was 19 and he was 29. Timing and other issues (he was weird and a bit too intense/I had a boyfriend) prevented us from pursuing a relationship. We remained friends until it became too awkward being around him knowing he had feelings for me that I didn't reciprocate.

After losing touch for a few years, we became reacquainted. We spoke and e-mailed each other throughout the day, hung out several times during the week, and later we started an intimate relationship. I introduced him to my family and friends but never met any of his. He would speak about his family in the vaguest terms, never even mentioning them by name. Still, I found myself developing strong feelings for him, but Jay was hesitant to acknowledge we were anything other than friends. I wasn't okay with this, so I made clear we could be friends but there would be no more sex.

When I started dating other people, he admitted he was jealous and expressed happiness when things didn’t work out with the new guy(s). He hinted that we should be together and constantly reminded me that if I had "chosen" him, we'd be married with children today. He even planned a weekend trip out of town -- nothing romantic, just something to do (a sudden death my family caused us to nix those plans).

My feelings for him never really diminished -- actually quite the opposite -- but during this time some red flags went up (no home or cell phone/roommates denied Jay actually lived with them, even though I've spent several nights there). I've always joked that Jay is married or living with someone, but he has always been ready with a plausible excuse. I don't have concrete proof that he is involved with anyone else and he has never changed his story, but lately I just don't feel right about this situation. To be honest, it shouldn't even matter considering I'm currently in a relationship (fyi - I never cheated on my boyfriend with Jay). However, I do love Jay and at the very least, I've always considered him one of my closest friends. I'm angry and saddened that he would lie to me like this for so long, and a small part of me feels that I should get some actual proof before cutting him completely out of my life.

Meredith, what is the likelihood that there's a perfectly logical explanation for Jay's situation? Does he deserve a chance to prove that he is not married or in a relationship with someone else? Why would someone who purports to be a good friend do something like this?

– I Need Better Friends, Boston

A: Jay isn't your friend, INBF. He's your ex. (Thank goodness.) And because he's your ex, it doesn't matter what he's up to.

Maybe Jay is married. Maybe he's a spy. Maybe he is a superhero like Batman and has no family (besides Alfred) and doesn't want to expose you his lair. Or, more likely, his roommates are just total jerks who want to see if they can pull one over on you. The truth doesn’t matter. You don't have to know the details. You just have to know that he's a guy who's now a part of your past.

Treat him like any other ex. Catch up with the occasional e-mail, send the holiday card (to his fake address), and stop to chat if you happen to run into each other at Fenway. But don't think of him as a close friend. You don't even know where he lives.

As for loving Jay, well, let's work on that. You're allowed to care about him because you dated him, but you should have other priorities now. Don't let the fact that Jay is older, unattainable, and mysterious make him seem more important or more desirable.

Take the energy you've spent trying to play detective and use it to set some new boundaries. And yes, find some new friends. Better friends. Close friends are not people who hide things from you and tell you that you’d be married to them if you’d have made different/better choices. Close friends are people who tell you everything -- even the stuff you don’t want to hear.

(Of course, if you do happen to figure out what Jay is hiding, please send us an update. Yeah, you've got me curious.)

Readers? Is she still in love with Jay? Can you have a close relationship with someone who discloses so little? Is Jay a superhero? Married? Or a bank robber? (Sorry. Just saw "The Town.") Why is she still thinking about Jay to begin with? Help.

– Meredith

My boyfriend's quarter-life crisis

Posted by Meredith Goldstein September 9, 2010 08:48 AM

He's been unhappy for two weeks. That's a long time if you're 25, apparently.

Q: I feel like such a tool writing about this because it seems so minuscule compared to the other letters you post. But I'm stuck and I'm hoping you might be able to make some sense of my situation.

To sum up a really long story, I'm 24 and my boyfriend turned 25 last week. We have been dating for six years. We met one month before I graduated high school. We went to different colleges, but both in the state and both still live at home with our parents for financial reasons. I am ashamed of this because I feel I should be out on my own at this age, as should he, but that's an issue for another day.

A few weeks ago after work one night we did the whole date-night thing, but he seemed a little distant. When we went our separate ways he was still acting weird, so I called him to ask him what was up. One thing led to another and we met back up so that he could tell me he is unhappy and has been for two weeks. He said that it's not that he's unhappy with me -- just unhappy in general. He can't pinpoint why he feels like this. He loves me. He sees himself with me. He doesn't want to break up. He just needs space.

We have taken two breaks over the course of our relationship -- one for two weeks when we were 19, the other for eight months after he turned 21. I think, while many disagree with breaks, it was the smartest thing we could have done since we had been together at such a young age, and we both got our immature stuff out of our system. After that eight-month period, we decided we wanted to get back together. Since then our relationship has been pretty close to perfect, as far as I can tell.

Anyway, since his birthday was last week and I had already had a surprise get-together planned for all of his friends, we decided to go through with it. He said he couldn't think of anyone he'd rather spend his birthday with, so we had the party. We got along fine during the night, and honestly, if you didn't know we were "taking a break," you really wouldn't have known there was a problem. At one point at dinner I had to bring it up because it was eating away at me not knowing what has been bothering him. He couldn't tell me. He "doesn't know." He's asking for a maximum of two months. And he says he really doesn't think that I have anything to worry about, and that he really doesn't see this ending. In my gut I believe him.

We have activities planned for the next few weekends, and they are things that I cannot miss. One of them is a concert we have already bought tickets for and are both looking forward to, and the other is a weekend-long fundraiser for a mutual friend. We have many mutual friends who were his first, but they have become just as close to me over the course of our relationship.

I don't even know what I'm really asking. I'm defining this as a mid-20s crisis, since he's really got a lot going on in terms of family, not having a job, and dealing with the pressure of us growing up. I mean, we're 24 and 25. I don't have a need to get married and have kids in the next year or two. Although that is what I'm surrounded by, and I'm kind of thinking he might be feeling that pressure.

I really have faith that we'll work it out and that in the end we will be fine, but it is killing me not to talk to him or to know what's going on in his head or why he's unhappy. And I'm trying to respect his space and not call him, especially because I know I have set-in-stone times that I will see him, even if it is with a group of people. But it's hard not to think about the what-ifs. What if it's over? Could there be someone else? Is this something I should be concerned about? Is it normal for a guy to have a mid-life crisis at 25, especially given our situation?

I'm hoping you can provide some insight, advice, or just maybe a hammer across the head telling me it's going to be fine. Or that it's not. Whatever. Readers, be kind.

– Hopelessly devoted, Southern Mass.

A: HD, he's not having a mid-life crisis. He's having a quarter-life crisis (cue that John Mayer song). Actually, let's not even call it a crisis. He's just being 25.

I do think it's weird that he needed a break after being unhappy for two weeks. Two weeks is a blip. And what's with the everything-will-be-fine-in-two-months thing? Where is he getting these arbitrary timelines for happiness?

There might be someone else. Or maybe he just wants to know what it would feel like to attend a few social events as a sort-of single guy. Who knows?

My advice is to ride out the next two months. See how you interact at these social events. Is he distant? Is he more like a friend than a boyfriend? At the end of two months (which isn't a very long time, by the way) see where he is. If he needs more time, take some time for yourself, too. You said it best-- you're both quite young. You can keep taking little breaks here and there to sow oats, or you can split for real so that you know what being alone is really like. If at the end of two months he's still feeling queasy about life in general, consider a real, grown-up split. Branch out and make some new friends. Expand your circle. Have your own quarter-life experience.

A real break-up doesn't mean you won't ever get back together, by the way. It just means that you're being honest about what you are now -- 25, home with your parents, and unsure about everything.

I can't promise you that the two of you are going to stay together. But I can tell you that everything is going to be fine.

Readers? Thoughts? Is two months all it takes? What's with all of the breaks? Can you give her some words of wisdom? Discuss.

– Meredith

I can't let him go

Posted by Meredith Goldstein August 31, 2010 08:42 AM

Q: I am 27 and have been in an on-again, off-again relationship for seven years with a man who is a month older than I am. My ex, as I cannot refer to him as my boyfriend, has told me repeatedly that he is afraid of committing to me, due mostly, he says, to the fact that I have "rage problems." I have never physically harmed him, but have on two occasions grabbed his cell phone only to discover that he had been texting inappropriately and calling other women. He continues to limit his communication with me, and I find myself becoming obsessive about calling him. I wonder constantly where he is, what he is doing, and why he is not answering my calls or texts. I've explained to him that if he communicated better with me, I could "back off" and act like the independent woman that I am. If he backed away completely, I could see myself moving on, but the moment in which I'm moving away from him BOOM he's back in my life, telling me he loves me, wants to provide for me, but just isn't ready YET.

This is a very complicated relationship, but it seems to be the typical push and pull in some male and female relationships. The more I pull away, the more he comes back to me. The more he pushes me away, the more I desire his company. It's exhausting. I am tired. But I love him. How do I move on and not act crazy calling him 30 times in a row? How do I move on and meet someone new who doesn't bore me? I know in my heart we'll be happier with other people, but I love him. Help!

– Can't Let Go, Boston

A: How does one end a toxic relationship? One hits a wall, CLG. You haven't hit your wall yet, at least not hard enough.

My advice is to contact him and ask him about that temper of yours. You need to know what he means by "rage." You say you've never physically harmed him, but you don't seem to think his rage accusations are crazy. It's time to get self-aware and find out if your coping mechanisms are destructive.

I also recommend telling him how much you're thinking about him and explaining what you want right now. And tell him that after seven years, it really does have to be right now. Most likely, he'll shrivel up like a turtle (do turtles shrivel?) and run away with his cell phone. And then perhaps you'll have finally hit that wall and you'll want nothing more than to be with someone who doesn't make you feel like a stalker. You'll want to be with someone who makes you feel good.

He has been with you since he was 20 and he wants to date other people. And his obvious need to do that has turned you into someone you don't like. After seven years, this is a habit. It's time to get a real final answer and commit to it. It's also time to take a good look at what you've become in this relationship. You should want to be in a relationship that makes you feel cool, not crazy. Trust me, when you find that kind of relationship, it will be just as addictive as this one, not at all boring.

Ask him about the rage. Demand what you want. Commit to a decision. Wipe the slate.

Readers? What's going on here? Are the rage issues a real problem? Usually these toxic relationships aren't seven-year itches, just short-term messes. What makes this one different? Did his commitment issues drive her crazy? Is there something to save here (and if so, why didn’t she say so)? And -- is the push-pull a man-woman thing? Talk.

– Meredith

I'm looking for an honest woman

Posted by Meredith Goldstein August 23, 2010 08:34 AM

It's all in the delivery ...

Q: Mere, here is a question that I struggle with as a man. I have just recently learned that women friends lie to each other regularly and withhold feelings from one another if they feel that the other might be upset by their own feelings, truth, or opinion. They think that it is loving to save them from their own negative feelings. It is apparently an exception that one might be honest with the other and share any truth about feelings that they have with the other if they perceive that the other might get upset. Men value honesty, clarity, and directness in their friendships.

In the past couple of relationships I've had, women seemingly wanted to be treated in the same manner they would by their friends. For example, my last relationship ended because my girlfriend had fear about paying a bill. After the crisis passed a couple weeks later, I told her that I was concerned about her deteriorating financial situation (partially reflecting her own fear back to her) and asked her about what priorities she had in her life. Because I was aware of her situation, I had been paying for the vast majority of dating expenses and helped her with other tasks so that she wouldn't be further financially burdened. She blamed me for causing her to go into a deep sense of fear and told me that I shouldn't have expressed my feelings or concern. When I told her that I wouldn't accept blame for her feelings, she basically told me that I needed to change. I've always put what is best for the relationship first. Obviously, allowing her to control me would be unhealthy for our relationship and for me. Sadly that happened in my previous marriage of over 20 years.

I believe that you can only have an authentic and intimate relationship if non-harmful self-expression is encouraged. Non-harmful self-disclosure might be something like "I feel sad about ...," "I feel worried about ...," without any criticism or blame. Since a healthy relationship was not modeled for me by my parents, I am following what relationship experts consistently advise couples to have a loving, healthy, and intimate relationship.

I don't want to dwell in the past. I am ready to move on. So now as I begin dating again, what qualities do you think I should look for in a woman that would suggest that they can take responsibility for their feelings and invite their partner to be authentic, vulnerable, and intimate? Or is that impossible and you can only tell once the power struggle in a relationship commences six-nine months down the road?

– Looking for a Self-Responsible Woman, Cambridge

A: LDASRW, we're going to have to take a big time-out here.

All women are not created equal. Some women are afraid of honesty. Some women are so honest they'll make you cry. Same goes for men. Please, please, please do not generalize when it comes to gender. And please, please, please do not make decisions about "what women do" based on one ex-wife and an ex-girlfriend who's embarrassed about debt. Really.

Honesty is all about intent and delivery. You're right -- relationship experts love open communication, but they also love empathy. "I'm concerned you don't pay bills. Really, what's up with your priorities?" sounds different than, "You seem stressed about your finances. I'm sort of good at managing money. Can I sit down, as your friend, and work through it with you?" And yes, you're allowed to add, "I'm asking, partly because if I keep paying for everything, I'll be skipping bills, too. Can we have one of those awkward talks about cash flow?" (Said with a sheepish grin on your face, not a look of judgment.)

It's not about lying. It's about presenting information so that the truth doesn't obscure itself by clouding the recipient's brain with more anxiety.

My advice is to look for someone you really respect -- someone you want to befriend, not just date. In fact, I recommend seeking out some women friends (this will help you stop generalizing) and perhaps one of them will turn into something more. I think it'd be great for you to date someone you already know well.

If you already have some close female friends, ask them what they think is going on. Something tells me you'll be startled by their honesty.

Readers? What happens when we generalize? Are his generalizations accurate at all? Could this be his delivery? Is this about his ex-wife? Should he start by finding more female friends? How should he do that? Do I look fat in this dress? Be honest.

– Meredith

He's punishing me

Posted by Meredith Goldstein August 19, 2010 09:07 AM

Q: Dear Meredith,

I would truly appreciate your advice and the advice of your faithful followers.

My boyfriend and I get into pretty big arguments 1-2 times a week. He will say something touchy, and I'll overreact, or vice versa. We have been dating off and on for two years. We have truly broken up twice, both of which were on my terms. The first time was because of a certain way that he was acting that I found inexcusable (and he would admit that it was inexcusable as well). But it was nothing that couldn't be worked through and forgiven. The second break-up was caused by my general unhappiness and feeling overwhelmed. I panicked and tried to squeeze him out of my life. I later regretted it, apologized, admitted my shortcomings and asked for his forgiveness. To my credit, I have completely changed for the better. I really have committed myself to him, I am more affectionate, and I have done things to prove myself. I have admitted all of this to him and have accepted the blame for the second go around. I should also mention that we have been back together for three-ish months, and have always been in a long-distance relationship. I am in my late 20s and he is in his late 30s. He usually makes me happy and makes me laugh. I do love him.

Because of our past, does he have the green light to be a jerk intentionally? Does he reserve the right to say hurtful things to me as a way to get back at me for my shortcomings in the past? Sometimes I even wonder if he hates me. He sarcastically refers to me as a martyr. I can't count on both hands the number of times that he was told me that I do everything for myself and that it's "all about me." I know that I would never date anyone that I felt that way about. And he has told me these things on more than one occasion, so it is more than a simple slip of the tongue during a fight.

I am not perfect and I know sometimes I upset him, but I do not do anything to provoke this type of hatred and misery.

I guess I just wonder if things will ever change -- is it possible to move on from a rocky past into a healthy, happy relationship? Or is this a period of time that I just need to endure because I kind of have it coming to me? I am so exhausted from the fighting and from his "you're going to break up with me again, it's what you do" comments. He is the one who is miserable, and I haven't done or said anything to make him believe that I would do that to him again. It's quite the opposite.

Please help.

– Misery in Massachusetts

A: You're right, MIM, he’s not supposed to punish you. He either accepts that you've grown and allows for a do-over, or he admits that he can't forgive the past and you both move on. You were able to forgive him after his "inexcusable" behavior. You didn't punish him, right? He isn't returning the favor.

Based on what you've told us, it doesn't sound good. He makes you feel bad. You fight twice a week. You said that you've "truly" broken up twice, which leads me to believe that there have been a number of other almost-break-ups.

I do think that distance is part of the problem. You go from not seeing each other at all to being together for two straight days. That's a lot of pressure, especially when things are turbulent.

My advice is to make a list of reasons why you've stayed with him. Include specific memories. "That time we went to the movies and stayed up all night, that time we made dinner from scratch, that time he introduced me to his family … ." Then show him the list. Tell him the list must grow. List-worthy interaction should be most of your relationship. He either helps you with the list or it's time to move on. You're done with the punishing and the second-guessing. If the weekly arguments continue, that's it. That’s your answer.

If your happy list isn't very long and you know for a fact that it's trumped by a much longer list of negatives, don't even bother showing it to him. Just let it be the evidence that you need to try something new. Take what you've learned from this relationship and use it somewhere else.

Readers? Is the list even necessary? How long are we allowed to punish a partner after they've wronged us? Is distance the issue? Is age the issue? Discuss.

– Meredith

I miss my awful boyfriend

Posted by Meredith Goldstein August 18, 2010 08:15 AM

Chat at 1.

Q: I've just started reading your column on a daily basis. Never did I think that I would actually be writing in with a question!

I am sitting here, right now, bawlin' like a big 'ole baby, because I just had the misfortune of discovering that my boyfriend of three years, who I'd been fighting with for the past few weeks/months, decided to take down his relationship status (“In a relationship”) from his Facebook page. Now, I knew that this was coming. We had been arguing for quite some time now, over stupid stuff. It was becoming quite obvious to both of us that this relationship was not going to last forever. He is uneducated, irresponsible with money, immature, possessive, domineering, and obnoxious. I know that sounds like a lot of things that should have made me run the day I met him, but when you dig down into his background and upbringing, you can almost justify some of the way he is and acts. At least, I did. Stupid me, fell in love.

I am not looking for advice on how to save this broken partnership. I know it is useless to even try anymore. There is no more respect on either side because of things that were said. What I would like to know is how the heck does someone get over these things quickly and, somewhat, painlessly? I know it's not the right relationship for me. I get that. But why does it still hurt so much and how do you get over it? I feel like a lost little puppy. Any help you can provide would be greatly appreciated.

– Feelin' sorry for myself at 42, Worcester

A: There is no break-up pill, FSFMA42. This stuff is like the common cold -- you just have to wait it out.

There are some ways to help expedite the process. Consider how much emotional energy it took to keep this not-so-great relationship alive. A lot of energy. More than you even know. Now you’re stuck with all of this excess time and energy and you don’t know what to do with it, which is why you feel so overwhelmed. All of that energy is being used to obsess about what went wrong and why. That analysis isn't going to get you anywhere at this point.

My advice is to take that energy and put it somewhere else. Use 20 percent of it to spread the word to family and friends that you're going to start looking for a partner who’s right for you. That 20 percent includes spending more time with those friends. Use another 30 percent for a creative project -- perhaps an apartment renovation? Playing music? Something that involves self-expression. Use another 30 percent for self-improvement. Maybe a class or the gym. Allow yourself 15 percent for feeling bummed out. Because you can't avoid it. Break-ups take some mourning. You're supposed to consider the loss and what you've learned.

You should notice that there's a 5 percent hole on my pie chart. That last 5 percent is the effort it will take to not get back together with this person. I fear the Facebook status was an attention-seeking bluff. Maybe I'm wrong, but just in case, save 5 percent for reminding yourself what you have to look forward to -- an easier life, possibly with someone new.

Readers? Would you rearrange my pie chart? Any thoughts for the letter writer? Is his past relevant? Do you think he's going to come back? And -- if anyone wants to draw me their own break-up pie chart and e-mail it to me, I will post it. I love art projects. Now discuss.

– Meredith

My mom and my ex

Posted by Meredith Goldstein July 14, 2010 09:05 AM

This letter writer told me to come up with a fake name for her ex. I have named him Anderson after Anderson Cooper.

Chat at 1.

Q: Six months ago I broke up with a guy I'd been dating on and off for about eight years, since high school. In many ways it was not a healthy relationship, and as much as I had trouble finally breaking it off with Anderson, my mother, who lives in the Midwest, just can't seem to let go.

Anderson comes from a background very different than my own. None of his family members have a college degree, so when we were preparing to graduate high school, his parents were unsure how to proceed. My mother has always been a very kind-hearted and generous person, especially when she sees someone who can benefit from her help. As a result, Anderson became quickly interconnected with my family who "financially adopted" him during his college years. I'm not sure the total amount of money they gave to help him through six years of school, but I know they co-signed at least one of his student loans.

My mother has grown increasingly attached to Anderson over the years. I understand that he may have to maintain some sort of communication with my parents due to the financial aid, but my mother continues to be in regular contact with him like nothing has changed. And this is not new. When we had a split in college, my mother talked to Anderson over the phone often and assured him he would always be a part of our family no matter what. And Anderson is acting like he wants to maintain their relationship as well. This year on Mother's Day, he called my mother to catch up.

As of this month, I am finally settled into a new apartment and moving forward with my life, friends, and career. I've never felt more healthy, independent, and self-confident. However, lately, when I talk about anything happening in my life to my mother, it seems like she's not listening. She'll change the subject, say she has to let me go, or act hypercritical. I feel like she's not on my side. I hear from the rest of my family that my mother is constantly worried about Anderson's well-being. In the last six months, my mother has never once asked about my own emotional well-being.

I want to have a good relationship with my mother, but am getting increasingly frustrated and discouraged by her negative attitude towards my life choices. I've asked her to please not bring up Anderson, yet she can't seem to accept this break up. Help!

– Tired of sharing my ex-boyfriend with my mother, Somerville

A: TOSMEWMM, your mother loves underdogs. You, my friend, are not an underdog, at least not in her eyes. You're the one who had the supportive family. You're the one with the money. You're the one who ended the eight-year relationship. And now you're the one moving forward with your life. Your whole "healthy, independent, and self-confident" thing isn't winning you any points with your mom.

You could reach out to your ex and ask for some space (he has his own family, after all), but I wouldn't do that. I'd simply show some vulnerability to your mom. No matter how independent and awesome you are, you're still coping with the end of an eight-year relationship. You need some support. You need a parent. She made a choice to make Anderson a part of the family, and for that reason, he won't go away. But she has to learn to balance both relationships.

Have you had a real discussion with your mom about why you initiated this split? It's not necessarily any of her business, but explaining your choices could help. You didn't tell us why the relationship with Anderson wasn't healthy for you. Perhaps you should tell her. You should also tell her what you need from her. Really, she may not know.

Also learn to accept that this is going to be complicated and unpleasant no matter what. By signing loans and "adopting" Anderson, your mother basically married you off. Your split with this ex is going to feel like a divorce. He'll always be around in some way. I'm sorry that wasn't up to you.

When you talk to your mom, go easy on her. It sounds like her heart is in the right place. She just needs a reminder that we're all underdogs, even her brilliant, self-confident daughter.

Readers? Should she address this with her mom or confront the ex? Will Anderson ever go away? Is it her mother's duty to ditch the ex now that her daughter isn't with him anymore? Discuss.

– Meredith

Can I get the love back?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein July 9, 2010 09:40 AM

Friday I'm in love. But she may not be.

Q: Dear Meredith,

I cannot believe I am writing to LL…but here it goes. I’ll try to keep it as brief as I can; I know people dislike diatribes.

I am in my early thirties and have been in a relationship for about eight yrs. We are not married but we own a home and have a dog together so we are more than invested in things. Over the past year plus, I have been feeling less and less physically and emotionally connected to this person. Our sex life is pretty bad and has been for a few years but we both just seemed to block it out because there were other things (house, dog, peaceful coexistence). We've talked about the problems before but we always just seem to go back to the same pattern of no intimacy. From a compatibility stand point we do, however, make a good "team."

We had a big talk about this recently. I told him I don't think I can handle the lack of intimacy anymore and that I don't feel it’s something we can get back. While I was somewhat doomsday, he seems determined that we can regain some sort of physical connection. We never really talk about marriage but now he tells me he was looking for a ring a week before our talk (oy vey)! Ever since we talked he has really been trying, which I do appreciate, but to put it plainly, I am just not feeling it. I feel no connection and almost become nervous at the thought that he may try to "make a move." I guess I am asking if there is any way to salvage an otherwise decent relationship. This man is really wonderful – honest, hard working, laid back, and caring. As a person and a friend, I truly love him. But I fear that if I try to force or convince myself I can overlook the missing chemistry I may come to regret it several years down the line. I'm not getting any younger and may want to have children before I am 80. Can a relationship survive on good companionship alone? And should/does a relationship even still HAVE chemistry after so long? UGH!!

Thanks for any help,

– Worried, Confused, Celibate, and Feeling Guilty in South Boston

A: A relationship can survive on good companionship alone. Many people think that's enough. But you don't. And that's fine.

I think you're done with this person, at least as a romantic partner. You're talking about staying in it for him, not for you. You're trying to squeeze out the love. Not once did you mention a fear of being alone. Not once did you mention a fear of what life would be like without him as your boyfriend. The thing that scares you is the ring. The thing that scares you is him "making a move."

This decision is loaded because you're in your early 30s. That's when people get married. That's when people walk around thinking, "Thank goodness I'm with someone who wants to stick around." But that's also when people get married out of fear. You're not clinging to your guy because you're afraid there's no one else. You're saying, "I want to leave now as opposed to years from now." It’s upsetting, but it's honest.

Yes, a decent relationship can be saved -- if both partners want to save it. I'm not getting the sense that you do. This won't be easy. Oy vey, indeed. Hang in there as you go with your gut.

Readers? Do you agree? Is this relationship over? Discuss.

– Meredith

Missing my fiance

Posted by Meredith Goldstein July 2, 2010 10:24 PM

Happy almost fireworks.

Q: Meredith, I met my ex-fiancé in another state in 2004. We'd been out of college for a few years and working while applying to grad schools. He was accepted to a MPH program in Boston and I agreed to move there with him despite it being very hard to leave my friends and family. We have been living in Boston for a few years and have been doing quite well, though both of us are very busy and not very social. He asked me to marry him last fall and I ecstatically accepted his proposal. We had set a wedding date and had told everyone about it, bridesmaids and groomsmen, the whole nine yards. However, earlier this year I began talking to a man who I see at work. As the months went by we talked a lot just being friendly, him giving me advice on where me and my fiancé could go for our honeymoon, where me and my fiancé could move after we had saved up enough money. However, it was apparent, at least to me that there was this connection.

One day, he said he loved everything about me and that I was his favorite person, but in a platonic way. I was shocked to find he felt the same way about me as I did about him and a few days later I said I felt the same way. From there our talks became almost entirely centered on how great each of us thought the other person was. I was convinced that though there were these feelings, I would never act on them and thus everything would be fine. One weekend when my fiance was out of town, I slept with my "friend." I've slept with him several times since as well. Eventually, I made the decision to break the engagement -- not because my "friend" wanted me to be with him, as my friend was actually very adamant this not be about him and that it would have to be something I would do whether he was around or not -- but out of guilt that I cheated on my fiancé and my feeling that he would be better off without me.

It has been five weeks since we broke up and I moved out. Over the last eight days I have been alone a lot since my "friend" has been out of town, and I am beginning to feel more and more that I have made a huge mistake. My fiancé and I are great together, and though we never had the most passionate of relationships, we do have some passion, and we have been together for five years and worked wonderfully well together until my infidelity. If I try to get back with my fiancé, I feel almost certain he will take me back with some begging, but not if he knows I cheated on him. And if he took me back and somehow found out about my indiscretions he would be hurt again and possibly worse. I also feel that the relationship with my "friend" will never work since it is severely tainted because of the circumstances during which it began.

This whole thing makes me sick and my gut tells me the only way this will end well is if I sever ties with both.

– Wanting my fiancé back, Massachusetts

A: I appreciate that your gut wants to bail on everyone, WMFB. My gut tells me that your gut should probably be alone so that you can do some soul searching.

See how you feel when your "friend" is around more often. You said it yourself -- you started to miss your ex when your "friend" went out of town. Sounds to me like this is a fear of being alone.

If you continue to regret your decision to end the relationship with your ex and you decide you want to do some begging, please come clean about everything -- not just the affair but all of your insecurities. Your relationship might have been great, but quite obviously you weren't ready to commit for the long haul. Talk about the busy schedules. Talk about how life in Boston has changed the relationship.

It might do your ex some good to know the truth. Maybe he'll forgive you, maybe he won't. But he'll probably be relieved to get some answers. I'm sure he's been wondering why you left him. I'm sure he's been struggling to make sense of it all. He might be open to moving on from this with you if he knows and understands what he's moving on from. Make sense? I’m all for coming clean.

Readers? Is this just a fear of being alone? Should she keep the affair to herself and move on from both? What does her affair suggest about her engagement? Is it possible that her relationship with the "friend" could work? Discuss.

– Meredith

She left me with the dog

Posted by Meredith Goldstein June 29, 2010 08:30 AM

Dog days of summer.

Q: This will be the first time I've ever written to an advice column, but there's a first for everything or so I've been told. I find the act both slightly embarrassing and therapeutic. I am currently undergoing the pain of a 4+ year relationship ending. For a period, I was deeply in love and could only see the good. We lived together and even adopted a wonderful little screwed-up dog that we shared the care of. Now I am living by myself with sole custody of the pooch. My companion moved out over two months ago but things started going south slowly long before then. She became sad and I became withdrawn, perhaps not in that order.

For each of us it was the longest romantic relationship we have ever been in, and neither of us has ever been married or anything like that. When it was good, it was great. She's several years younger, and I think she changed more over the years than I did. That may be a large contributing factor to how things have ended up. At the time I had no plans of dating someone so much younger than me, but we both made each other happy so ignored that part and went for it.

After she moved out, we agreed that we wouldn't look elsewhere but would take time to try to sort things out, as whatever happened, taking a little time to think would be healthiest for us. We agreed we both needed to think about ourselves and not cloud anything up with having another person enter the picture. I, for one, had zero interest in looking for anyone else, especially before we achieved some sort of final resolution. I was the one who brought up the "let's not see anyone else" to make sure we were on the same page, as experience seems to have taught me that being explicit about certain things can prevent issues from arising.

The day I planned on asking her to move back in, and the first time I was seeing her after she moved out, I found out she began a relationship almost immediately (as in within days) after moving out. I am not sure of the details, nor do I think knowing them would actually help, but I know it involved kissing on at least "a few" occasions, and I have reason to believe more. While largely irrelevant, the real twist is the relationship she began was with a woman. I know my ex is not a lesbian, and I think her fling is over, but the hurt I felt when I found out was tremendous.

Of course, there are two sides to every story, and you're obviously only getting my side. I think from her side, I withdrew and became uncommunicative and failed to "step up to the plate" so to speak by not being sure about which direction we should go. I try to be honest, and I said things that were probably quite hurtful, including that some days I could see us making a life together, while other days I was not entirely sure. I have interacted with her twice since she left, once when I found out about the affair, and once when we spent hours together talking, which was both sad and a relief, and was instigated by me. She doesn't want to see me or the dog, as she says it hurts her too much. I spoke with her last night again, and it was clear that in her mind it is totally over, which I'm not sure I am/was ready to accept, but I kind of think I don't have much of a choice in the matter at this point.

We both have separately started going to therapy on the theory that if we both are hurting as much as we are, therapy certainly couldn't hurt. It's a first for me, and I believe it is for her as well. It certainly hasn't solved anything (I'm only five weeks into it), but being as unhappy about how things have turned out I am pretty much willing to try anything.

I guess my preamble is my way explaining the questions I am struggling with:
1) what happened?
2) how do I deal with not seeing my best friend/lover/companion/co-dog adopter from the last four years of my life?
3) how do I not miss her profoundly?

– Confused But At Least I Have A Nice Dog, Boston

A: CBALIHAND, what happened is that you had a four-plus year relationship with a younger woman who went out looking for new experiences. What happened is that you contributed to her want to leave by being a moody guy who didn't communicate. What happened is that you had your first terrible break-up. Welcome.

Yeah, it's a twist that there was another woman involved, but I'm not so sure gender is relevant. Your ex was looking for something else. I'm don't think you'd be any happier right now if the "something else" had been male.

It seems to me that much of what you're struggling with is the loss of control. You changed your attitude during the relationship. You told her you weren't sold on a life with her -- as if it was your decision. Then, when she moved out (signifying a break-up?) you made a rule against dating other people. She broke your rule and now the fate of the relationship is up to her. Not fun.

Therapy will help you process what you've experienced. You'll learn coping skills. You'll learn how to be a good single parent to your dog. More importantly, you'll be able to talk about why you withdrew and how you could have better handled whatever weirdness was going on in your head. But therapy won't fix your broken heart. Therapy doesn't cure sad feelings. It does help you understand them. You're supposed to miss her profoundly. Eventually, you're supposed to start thinking about what comes next.

Readers? Is this just your average break-up? What can therapy do? Thoughts on the other woman? Thoughts on the dog? Thoughts on his mixed-up-ness? Discuss.

– Meredith

Still waiting for him to move

Posted by Meredith Goldstein June 25, 2010 08:00 AM

I know you like the early letters. Doing my best.

Q: Hi Meredith,

I'm a 48-year-old gay man in his first serious relationship. Yes, I came out late in life. My boyfriend, “Chuck,” is 42 years old and tells me that this is also his first serious gay relationship. We met when we were both living in another state --- and things were going reasonably well for few years when we both lived there.

We are very much opposites in personality. I’m more introverted and he's an extrovert, a true people person. I'm an academic while he's a great bartender. That's only important because my job pays more and provides the health insurance. His pay fluctuates greatly depending on the tourist economy. The plan was that once we got married, he'd go back to school.

We have had some rocky times and some absolutely great times. But we've run into trouble this past year. When things got shaky with my old company in the state where we met, we talked for almost four months about what to do, whether I should restrict my job search to a specific geographic region or expand it. We also talked about what it would take for him to move with me. He had said things like "I want to be with you, where you go I'll go." The best job, which was in a state that would allow us to get married, was up here.

Unfortunately, one of Chuck's parents became seriously ill and he wound up staying down there longer than expected. During this time, he kept telling me that he was moving and would keep setting new dates to move, delaying each date by two weeks or so, even when I would have just been OK if it was a simple "I'm not coming up until things are stable." Eventually, his sick parent passed away. At the funeral, he introduced me to everyone as "just a friend" one minute and then he talked about eloping the next. A whole series of events that weekend led me to pull back a bit and realize that we weren't as ready to get married as I had thought we were. I came back feeling that I was a boyfriend of convenience: there when he needed a boyfriend or extra money or dinners out.

After the funeral, he asked for more time to do some work at his family's house. But it has now been six months and he keeps sliding the date to move up. I had to push him hard to follow through to come up for a visit. When he did finally make it up, we sat down and talked about how much time he would need and even extended it by a month. Now he says that he won't live his life by external arbitrary deadlines and he can't say how much time he'll need. The answer to a question of "will you need two weeks, two months or two years?" was that he doesn't think he'll need two years.

My problem is after a year of being told "I'm moving" and "I'm coming up next weekend," I've lost faith that he'll do what he tells me he'll do. My head is telling me that he has been telling me through actions rather than words that he's not going to move. But my heart keeps saying to find a solution to go on; that we're better together than being separate.

We actually discussed breaking up over the weekend as we just seemed to drive each other crazy. Right now, we’re in a cooling off period. Friends keep saying that I just can't depend on him, and are frustrated with me that I don't get angry and break it off.

At this point in my life, after three years, I wonder if I'm fighting because I don't want to be alone rather than this being the great fit I thought we grew into.

– Still Waiting, Massachusetts

A: I have a question, SW. Does he want you to visit him more often? If he does, there might be something to save. I'm sure the death of a parent makes it incredibly difficult to want to move away from family. I get that. But he should also want to be with you. If he wants you in his life, he should be telling you that he's not ready to but that he wants you around.

Unfortunately, based on what you've told us, he basically wants you to stay up here and wait. That doesn't say togetherness to me. Again, I'm empathetic about his loss, but why doesn't he want to see you more often?

If he wants to cool off, cool off. You can only do so much, and it's hard to start a new life in a new city when you feel like you're on hold. If he says he wants to be with you and that visiting is a priority, fine. But so far, it hasn't been.

It wouldn't be the worst thing if this was your first relationship -- the first of more than one. Yes, being alone is scary, but waiting on a person who makes empty promises is scarier.

Readers? Should he wait? Should the letter writer be empathetic based on the death in his boyfriend's family? What's with all of these broken promises? Discuss.

– Meredith

He shut down

Posted by Meredith Goldstein June 23, 2010 09:00 AM

Our letter writer either named herself after a novel I had to read in high school … or an upcoming movie starring 50 Cent. Either way, I'm into it.

Chat at 1.

Q: Meredith,

I had been dating a guy for about five months. Things went really well. We were both amazed at how we could spend hours talking. While we had very different backgrounds and interests, our common ground was our morals. I was very happy. I felt adored. I felt listened to and cared for. I felt like I had a partner in crime and in happiness. He would interrupt a conversation to tell me how happy I made him.

Early on, he had been honest with me about his past, that he had a serious drug problem that required intervention, nasty breakup with a girlfriend, depression, and a stressful family situation. I was honest with him and told him those things were in the past and that I didn't feel right judging him based on past events, however if they reappeared we would have to deal with them.

Cut to the past two weeks.

I went on a trip to visit some friends cross country -- while I was away, he ignored every text, email, phone call, voicemail. I was so hurt. I’m not clingy, but a funny text here or there or a good night phone call never hurt anyone. Mind you, we email frequently while at work, text while not at work, and see each other about 4-5 times per week – so a form of communication per day is not asking for a lot based on experience.

I come back and express that I was really hurt. He goes into this long drawn out conversation about how unhappy he is, how I don’t trust him, how he’s busy "making moves," and that we should break up – this is all at 2am. We talk it out and he admits that he's been really unhappy with himself, doesn't feel he’s where he should be (job, house, education, etc.). I promise to support him however he needs it (through space or through actual support). Things are fine for a week. We have dinner with his mother, she gives me a gift she got me while on her vacation, and pulls me aside and tells me how happy she is, and that she thinks her son is very lucky to have me in his life. Next day I take him to meet my extended family – which I have only done on one other occasion, so it’s a VERY big deal. Everything goes well.

Day after that, on the way to look at condos for him, he makes a very hurtful comment to me. I was really upset and didn’t want to derail the process of house hunting so I said I was going to go home. He had no objections. The next day I had a job interview, and when discussing it with him that night, all he could do was pick it apart and was so extremely judgmental and argumentative. He tried to get off the phone, but I told him I wanted an explanation for his behavior, why he was acting so cold to me.

He gave a very distant speech about how he needed to worry about himself and couldn't deal with me stressing him out and that it was best if we parted ways. I called him out on speaking to me like it was a business transaction – his response -- "I apologize."

So here's the question, do I walk away and forget about him, seeing how I can't really talk to someone who doesn't talk. OR Do I fight? I know something is up with him. He's obviously depressed again and refusing to talk to anyone about it. I really care about him, but where do I cross the line and worry about myself rather than him?

– Things Fall Apart, Boston

A: We get a lot of letters from people who want to know if they should fight for their relationships, TFA. I’m all for fighting to save things but only when two people are fighting together. You'd be fighting against this guy. That doesn't seem like a good use of your fighting powers.

He's either mixed up and doesn't want you near him, or he's less mixed up than he seems and he doesn't want you near him. Maybe this is more depression. Maybe he has commitment issues. Maybe he doesn't understand that the whole "I'm not feeling like I am where I should be" thing doesn't entitle you to be a jerk. Also, while we're on the subject, how many of us are exactly where we think we should be? Unfortunately, we can't script our lives so that we meet the perfect partner right after we find the right job, purchase the right property, and lose the right amount of weight. He either wants a partner right now or he doesn’t.

If you're really worried about his depression and think he might be a danger to himself, e-mail his mom. I'm sure pretty sure she's already aware of his issues and is watching over him. She bought you a gift and told you her son was lucky to have you around. Seems to me she knows he's not so easy to deal with.

At this point, your job is to worry about yourself, which means lots of time with friends and that extended family of yours.

I'm sorry. The good news is, he may have changed his behavior, but you're still awesome.

Readers? When are you supposed to "fight" for a relationship? Should his personality change be the letter writer's concern? What should the LW be doing now? Discuss.

– Meredith

Can't let go of a recent ex

Posted by Meredith Goldstein June 21, 2010 07:00 AM

Interesting read in yesterday's magazine about Emily Dickinson's lover. It reminded me of one of my favorite Emily Dickinson poems, which is very Love Letters-ish.

Points to anyone who can find a Dickinson poem that matches the sentiment of this letter.

Q: Hello Meredith

I am a daily reader and a first time writer with a question about moving on. I have been divorced for seven years with teenage children, a great career, and what seems like a good-to-great life.

I am currently seeing a wonderful woman who is smart, caring, attractive, and has it together. We have been seeing each other for about five months. My problem is that back in September I broke off a relationship of a year and a half. The woman I was seeing was divorced with two children.

The relationship began rocky due to her having several personal and professional issues, which caused her above-average stress. But through it all, I was falling in love with her, and she with me. I loved this woman and felt loved like I had never felt in my life. So I stayed, and constantly supported her through a bad business-partnership breakup, repair and sale of a home, and several medical issues. Again, the love was real and pure.

Fast-forward a year-plus later, she began to talk marriage and engagement. I admit, this was not what I wanted at this point, but I agreed to living together. She was adamant about the engagement. I continued to say, “After your life is settled, we can revisit this, but I love you, and would like to be with you everyday and the rest of our lives.” Her children adored me and I treated them as if they were mine. We all spent a month traveling together last summer.

The relationship went down hill after that, with many small disagreements. Once there was a disagreement, she would shut down for days and not want to communicate. Well, after so much of this, I broke it off. My problem is, there was no closure, and I still think about her and in my heart, I truly love her. I know this has an affect on my new relationship. What do I do?

– Need to Move On, Andover

A: I don't believe in closure -- no such thing, NTMO -- but I do believe in reality checks. You need to reach out to your ex before you start turning her into something she wasn't.

When there's a nagging question messing up your life, I always recommend answering it. Seeing your ex (or just talking to her) will make it clear that the love is gone... or maybe you'll both decide that you miss the heck out of each other.

Do you have to tell current partner that you plan to chat with your ex? I'm not sure --because you've given me no indication of how committed you're supposed to be to this new woman. In fact, you really haven't told me anything about her. All you did was give me a vague list of her positive attributes. That's something to consider. You wrote two sentences about your new partner and about four paragraphs that suggest that you believe your break-up with your ex was more about frustration and over-reaction than loss of love.

Know that no matter what happens with the ex, you should consider whether you can rally for this new woman. You seem "good-to-great" – as opposed to excited-to-ecstatic – about her place in your life. If you knew your ex was gone for good, would you be any more excited about this new woman? Five months of thinking about someone else means it's time to consider whether you're wasting her time. Get these questions answered pronto.

Readers? Did he start dating too soon after the ex? Can he be interested in this new woman and stuck on the ex at the same time? How can he move on? Am I wrong to suggest that he should reach out to the ex? What would a reclusive poet in Amherst say about this? Help.

– Meredith

Ditched by a Marine

Posted by Meredith Goldstein June 15, 2010 09:04 AM

Go Celtics again.

Q: Hi Meredith,

My ex-boyfriend and I dated for a little over a year. He is a brother of a friend, so I've known him for years. We're both in our mid-20s. While we were dating, he decided he wanted to join the Marines. I told him that I would support him either way, but that if he decided to join, we would have to break up and just be friends. While I respect everything that the Marines do and think that it is great that they are willing to serve our country with such honor, courage, and commitment, it would be too difficult for me to date someone who would be committed for four years and might make a career out of it. All of the time apart and distance from my family would be too difficult for me.

Our relationship was great. Although we had our differences (he's conservative, I'm liberal, he's country, I'm pop, he's a meathead, I'm ... not) we got along very well. Lots of grilled cheeses and everything! My family loves him and vice versa. We really became a part of each other's lives. I could have really pictured us getting married if it hadn't been for the looming Marines departure.

Fast forward to a month ago when he broke up with me. This was a complete sucker punch. I know this sounds hypocritical considering I wanted to break up with him when he left, but I thought the break-up would happen when he left. During the break-up he told me that the reason why he wanted to end things now was because he wanted to be able to concentrate on preparing for the Marines. He told me he still loved me and that he thought that it would be too hard getting over me. Because he wants to make officer, he would need to commit himself more than anyone else and he didn't want our break up to distract him. This reasoning made sense to me and I did not want to stand in the way of his goals. We kept in frequent contact and proceeded to hook up a few times. The last time was recently, on my birthday. We had a great time and made plans to go to on a day trip the following Monday. That weekend, though, he went to a wedding as a date of a girl he went to high school with. Because she had a boyfriend, I thought nothing of it. However, after texting/calling him on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday to see if we were still on for Monday, I never heard back from him. Monday morning he called to say that he couldn't take the day trip because he needed to help out his father and that he HAD to go to the girl's barbeque later on.

Later that night, he called and I asked him if he had hooked up with her. He told me the truth and said that they had (apparently it didn't matter that she had a boyfriend). He was not apologetic. I was heartbroken. It seemed like he didn't think he did anything wrong. And while I understand that he is not committed to me, some human decency would have been nice. After telling me he still loved me, that it was going to be too hard getting over me, and then hooking up with me, he had hooked up with this old friend just FIVE days later. In a moment of weakness, I begged him to come over the next night but then he dropped another bomb on me. He couldn't because their mutual friend had a couple extra Sox tickets and he was bringing her.

The next day I came to my senses and realized, he does not love me anymore! You don't treat people that you love like that -- not returning phone calls, cancelling plans, hooking up with other girls just five days later … He is a different person now, nothing like the great guy I dated.

I have been avoiding his phone calls and text messages (they are not apologetic either). But my question is: if he is leaving for training in a month (for three months), should I listen to what he might have to say? Should I put this in the past so when he leaves we are on cordial terms? I would hate for something to happen to him and not be speaking to him. But on the other hand, he is the one who broke up with me and then hurt me again when he hooked up with this girl. I don't think I owe anything to him. What should I do?

– Not In Love With Him Now, But the Man He Used To Be, Newton

A: NILWHNBTMHUTB, he did love you. He does love you. Everything he said is true.

We all have different ways of getting over lost loves. Some people (me) curl up in a ball and mourn until we get sick of feeling miserable all of the time. Others become compulsive shoppers. Others lose weight. Others distract themselves with new women, men, nightlife, etc.

Your ex is leaving for the Marines. He told you that he has to focus on becoming a person who can cut ties and act like an officer. I'm not saying that this new girl is an essential part of that process, but she's most likely someone whose company he can keep without it causing him too much pain when he leaves. If he spent these last few weeks becoming even closer to you, it would be more difficult to bail when the time comes.

You're coping with a big loss. The fact that there's a practical reason for the break-up doesn't make it any less stressful. Don't assume he isn't going through the same process. He's just doing it differently.

All you have to do is tell him that this hurts. I'm sure he'll tell you he feels the same way.

The meathead you love isn't gone. He's just trying to get over you. Follow his lead. Semper Fi.

Readers? Any advice for the woman left behind? What does this new woman represent? Has the letter writer's ex become a different person? Thoughts on the many ways of getting over someone? Talk.

– Meredith

Is there any reason to stay?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein June 10, 2010 09:18 AM

A "Mortified" ticket winner was chosen. I sent the entries to one of the "Mortified" producers and let her pick her favorite. Thanks to everyone who entered.

Reading yesterday's comments I was thinking … remember empathy. I'm not scolding, and tough love is welcomed on Love Letters … just make it tough and helpful love.

I think "Tough and Helpful Love" will be the first single on the first Love Letters album. Second album: "Grilled Cheese: The Remixes."

This one is obvious, but talk her through it. Again, empathy. Remember that it's not so easy when you're the one in the middle of it.

Q: I have been with my current boyfriend for over a year now. We just went through a really nasty break-up and then decided to give it one more try. I fought so hard to try to have us make it work, and now I am just wondering if I am just scared to be alone.

This relationship has been a tumultuous one. I ended a three year relationship to start seeing him, and we also have an 11 year age difference (I am 24, he is 35). He is also still married, but in the middle of getting a divorce. Without getting into too many details, the marriage ended because he doesn't want a family. I do. It's hard to feel like this doesn't automatically doom us. He has made it clear that right now, he does not want kids, and while that may change in the future, he would only want one. This is an area I am not willing to compromise in. I know I want a big family. I know I would never be fulfilled in life if I didn't. He let me know his wishes from the beginning and I jumped in knowing this and accepting that the relationship may end because of it. He did the same knowing what I want as well.

There have been lots of other problems. The first month of our relationship was basically him figuring out if he wanted to be with me or with another girl he started seeing when he and his ex separated. Then it was about remaining friends with her, which I was very against. I never made him choose between us, but he knew how much it bothered me. He finally realized that she wasn't worth it and was wasting his time, and tried to make it work with me. There were a couple other incidents involving his ex that he blamed on his guilt over how things ended, which I understood because there is a lot more to that story. We fight constantly and constantly get caught up in past events that make us not trust each other. We are trying really hard to gain that trust back.

When things are good, they are amazing. We get along perfectly, we have the same sense of humor, and he is the first person who will tell me I am beautiful, and I really believe he means it. We have so much in common -- way more than I have had with anyone else I dated. So I guess my question is -- am I wasting my time? We fight so often that it makes me wonder if this is all worth fighting for anymore, and that we are just too different.

I know how clear cut this sounds, but I love him very, very much. He is a very good person and his intentions are good, he has just had a lot of misfortune in his life. I have not been an angel to him either, and he still wants to try and work things out with me. I just wonder how much time I should put into this and if I am building a future with him that doesn't exist.

– Bummed in Beantown

A: BIB, just because you love a guy doesn't mean you have to stay in a relationship with him.

"He has made it clear that right now, he does not want kids, and while that may change in the future, he would only want one. This is an area I am not willing to compromise in. I know I want a big family."

I mean, there you go. The end. I didn't even have to get to the part about the fighting and the cheating. I was done before I even knew that stuff. You want different things. You're on different paths. Sorry.

Don't feel like you've wasted time with him. It has been a tremendous learning experience, and you get to walk away feeling beautiful.

You're scared to be alone and to let go of someone who cares about you. That's pretty normal. But now is the time to start looking for someone who shares your goals. You sound ready for the next step. You might be more ready than he is, so this break-up might have to come from you.

Readers? Is there any reason for her to stay? Any words of wisdom about letting go? What does her age have to do with her problem? Think he'll change his mind about family if she decides to leave? Discuss.

– Meredith

Rules of the pick-up game

Posted by Meredith Goldstein June 9, 2010 09:21 AM

It's giveaway Wednesday.

Remember Mortified? We did a party with them back in February. Anyway, they'd like a Love Letters reader to have two tickets to their Friday show. It's people reading from their old diaries, and it's very, very funny. A good way to close out the week. If you want the tix, e-mail me a line or two about something that recently had you mortified. I'm at meregoldstein at gmail dot com. Put "Mortified" in the subject line.

We chat at 1 today.

Q: Dear Meredith,

I have a problem regarding a post-breakup situation. I dated a man twice over the past six years, both times ending in heartache and disappointment. The first breakup ended because he was cheating with a few other people who I always assumed were just his friends. To add insult to injury, he told me the reason he cheated was because, "I'm not good enough for him, and never would be." We worked together (same building, not same company) and seeing him on a daily basis with one of his many new girlfriends was just unbearable. Eventually, I made the decision to move to the West Coast for medical school just to get away.

Fast forward two years (of NO contact might I add) he shows up out nowhere and tells me how sorry he is for the things he's done. (And when I say "shows up," I mean that literally. He came out to the West Coast). I was extremely suspicious, but he kept telling me he wouldn't have gone through all this effort for just a fling. Still, I was cautious, and took things slowly. I went back to Boston that summer for a medicine-related internship, and things were great. He seemed as though he really had changed. But since I still lived on the West Coast, things were strained. I started to feel it too, but I just couldn't bring myself to leave my medical school. He kept pressuring me, which eventually turned into threatening me; if I didn't come back, he was bound to cheat. I was so enamored that I just ignored this red flag and finally, after about eight months of him pushing me, I went to discuss things with my dean.

I transferred to a Boston-area school and gave up a number of really important friendships from out west, in addition to a hospital I loved. As I was going through the transfer process, he started to become more distant. He continued to tell me he wanted me to move back and he loved me, so I attributed his behavior to stress. Well, you can guess what happened -- about three weeks went by when I hadn't heard from him, and when I finally got him on the phone he tells me, "Well, I'm kind of seeing someone else." My response was, "Uh, I didn't know we'd broken up?"

It was a complete nightmare. I was moving back to Boston the following week. I don't think there are words to describe how I felt. It has been EXTREMELY hard for me not only because we broke up, but because I originally left Boston BECAUSE of him, and I felt as though I was just right back where I started.

Ok, sorry for all the background, but it's important, I think. Now to my question. We both used to play on a pick-up sports team in Boston, and I've actually become very close to these people since I moved back. I would say they are my closest friends in Boston. Recently, my ex has been attending these pick-up sessions (with his new 23-year-old girlfriend .... he's almost 40), though he hasn't played with these people for over a year. Furthermore, he doesn't even really play when he shows up, they just sit there watching or do things on their own. He might jump in once or twice, but we play for probably five to six hours at a time. Is it wrong for me to be angry that he's just showing up out of the blue like this? Especially when he still knows how much he hurt me, and how much I sacrificed for him? I guess what I'm asking is, do I have the right to be angry he's there?

– Pick-up trouble, Boston

I asked PUT who joined the pick-up team first. She said the ex. Which is why I have to say …

A: PUT, we live in a world of dibs. Unfortunately, your ex has dibs on this team. He joined first. Yes, you're allowed to be furious that he's showing up to games with his trophy girlfriend, but you're not allowed to ask him to disappear. Dibs. He's got 'em.

My advice is to keep playing on the team, and see if you can make plans with these people socially, outside of the activity. The more you see them on your own time, the more they'll become yours. And really, the more they see him sitting on the grass, twiddling his thumbs, and not participating, the more these people will understand what he is -- a guy who does whatever he wants without regard for others.

I'd also recommend joining a few other, unrelated activities. I don't like that the one escape you have from your work life is tied to your ex. You need to see Boston as your place. You're making a fresh start here without him, so you need new scenery and new friends. You need change. Is there a pick-up league on the other side of town?

Readers? Am I right about the dibs? Can she ask him to scram? How can she get comfortable with Boston the second time around? Should she attempt to move back to the West Coast? Is this guy showing up to get her attention? Discuss.

– Meredith

Moving on from a bad experience

Posted by Meredith Goldstein June 8, 2010 09:46 AM

Great letter yesterday. I pretty much thought about it all night.

Anybody ever been to Columbus?

Q: Ten years ago, I went through a rough patch when I discovered that my boyfriend was cheating on me with a married friend of mine. I was angry and humiliated, but I managed to let it go. I moved on with my life and went to law school. The three others involved in this nastiness (my ex-boyfriend, my ex-friend, and her now ex-husband) did pretty much the same thing. The four of us all stayed in the same town, and I would see them often. At first I hated them, but eventually I began to tolerate them, then I felt a grudging respect for them and finally a certain fondness. Ten years, after all, is a long time to be mean and angry.

The problem is this: In the past two years these three people have gotten married and had babies, they’re all very close and friendly, and their families spend a lot of time together. I have not had a serious relationship in 10 years, though -- not, however, for lack of trying. Over the past 10 years I’ve been on countless dates and had several short, ugly relationships. One of these awful guys was physically abusive, one disappeared suddenly, one married a stripper, and one had a secret wife and baby in another city. Anyway, I’m no longer dating.

My problem is that when my ex-boyfriend, my ex-best friend, and her ex-husband all got married and had babies, my furious, angry rage of 10 years ago returned, only much, much worse. The sight of these people made me physically ill. When I was 30 I felt hurt and sad and embarrassed, but also relieved to be free of a man who was (let's be honest) a jerk. At the time I believed that someone better would come along, but now I'm not so sure. I’m 40 and I haven't been on a date in almost three years. Three months ago I was offered a job in a different city in another state, so I grabbed that opportunity, packed up everything, and left town.

So here I am starting over again at age 40. I'm trying to get some perspective on what’s happened, I'd like to find peace or at least some understanding. I would also like my life to be different. Moving is a start, but I'm wary of just repeating the same old mistakes but in a different zip code. Do you have any advice?

– Beatrice, Columbus, Ohio

A: We had a reader who recently mentioned that her problem was "two-pronged." I'd like to come up with a three-pronged plan for you, B. I love prongs.

Prong 1: The therapy prong. My favorite prong. I'm not blaming you for dating a string of awful men, but I do want you to sit down with someone and discuss whether you could have exited these relationships earlier than you did. Is there a way to better spot the bad so you can leave before it gets very bad? What did you learn from these relationships? How are they tied to one another? How can you move past them?

Prong 2: The dating/friend prong. You haven't been on a date in three years, and now it has become a "thing." An "I don’t date" thing. The longer you go without dating, the scarier it's going to be when you start up again. I like the idea of online dating in your situation because it gives you some control, and because as soon as you get a bad vibe or notice that someone's in-person story doesn't match their profile, you can bail and start over with the browsing. It's also something to do and a good way to get to know a new city. Consider it an exercise in confidence-building. As for friends, they are so instrumental in the dating experience. I don't care if you haven't made friends in Columbus yet. Call your old law school friends and use them as sounding boards as you date. They have your best interest in mind and will be the first to come to your aid if something seems off. If you don't have a group of friends for this, getting one should be your priority. Join a professionals group. Join a bike club. Join something that helps you meet people who can be your support system.

Prong 3. The happy prong. George Herbert once said that "living well is the best revenge." Easy for him to say. He was a priest. And back in his day, people only lived to be about 40. But he does have a point. All you can do is enjoy yourself and not make any assumptions about the lives of the trio of people who messed up your life a decade ago. Don't assume that their lives are any more perfect than yours. Don't assume that you know what their marriages are like behind closed doors. Focus on figuring out all the things you can do that will make you laugh throughout the day. Focus on your new home. Your anger is justified, but it isn't a good use of your energy. You have a new life in a new city. I bet they're pretty jealous.

Readers? Any more prongs for Beatrice? Are my prongs the right prongs? Did she simply suppress her anger and now it’s back to haunt her? Discuss.

– Meredith

I cheat to break up

Posted by Meredith Goldstein June 4, 2010 09:37 AM

Looking forward to seeing everyone tonight. I'll be wearing a dress that is somewhat orange.

I've been getting some e-mails from people who didn't RSVP in time. My advice: there's a bar upstairs at Game On!. I assume the party will float up and all around, so please come and seat yourself upstairs and the party will find you.

Also, for those who did RSVP, food will be passed earlier than later, so get yourself moving if you want those free apps.

And really, who doesn't want free apps?

Today's letter will give us all something to talk about tonight.

Q: Hi Meredith,

Love, love your advice. Been an avid reader for over a year now. I never miss a column.

Maybe you can help me with this ridiculous situation that I have put myself in.

I'm 30, I've been with my bf Mike, 33, for a year and a half now. We moved in together last fall when he got a house. When we first started seeing each other I couldn't believe how much I liked him. I never had any intention of dating him. He had tried to pursue me before and I blew him off. Well finally I gave him a chance and I couldn't have been happier that I did. I've never had so much fun or felt so loved in such a short amount of time. I literally did everything with him. I even disappeared from my friends and family for a few months, which, let me tell you, didn't go over very well. In the beginning we had our ups and downs, though. Sometimes he would disappear and not tell me where he was. If we fought, he would say mean things to me like I ruin all his fun and I never let him do anything. Meanwhile, he never wants me to do anything without him! And there was also his ex factor, someone he couldn't break ties with at first. I almost broke up with him twice because of it. But as far as I know that doesn’t exist anymore. And part of me doesn't really care now anyway. Sounds like I'm becoming desensitized, huh? But that's the least of my problems.

Fast forward to now. Here we are, 1.5 years later, and even though he tells me a million times a day that he loves me, there is no affection. We are hardly ever intimate, maybe once a month, if that. I'm a very sexual person and I count the days because being intimate is very important to me. I've mentioned this to him before and he always steps up at first but then it just goes back to being the way it was. He’s constantly in a bad mood when he comes home from work. He's less mean then he used to be, but there are still times when he tells me to shut up, that he doesn't want to listen to me. All in all, I've been finding myself very unhappy recently. Even so much to the point that I've actually cheated on him. And not once, like four times with the same person. And I can't guarantee that it's not going to happen again. This person that I've been cheating with is someone I've known for years. We kind of had a friends-with-benefits relationship like once a year for the past few years, until I got together with my bf. It was fine to not have any contact with him since it was never anything serious. Basically I would see him out at a bar randomly and then we would hook up. And it's pretty much how this happened as well, except now there’s planning involved. I've been sneaking around behind my bf's back. And I know that I should feel guilty, but I don’t. Well I do a little, but not as much as I should. I don't get anything else from my friend-with-benefits besides affection, as in there's no real feelings. Besides, I know that I am just trying to make up for what is lacking in my relationship. I've cheated before, but it was always a way to make myself break up with someone that I didn't want to be with any longer. I have a really hard time just walking away, so cheating always made it easy. I cheated. I had to breakup because I couldn't be dishonest.

But what about now? I don't want to breakup with my bf. Why am I doing this?? I definitely love him more than I've ever loved anyone else and that hasn't changed for me. I can’t imagine my life without him. I keep trying to tell him that I'm not getting what I need from him and he isn't listening. Also, I can't even say anything to him without it turning into a fight. It's so frustrating. I could never suggest therapy, and I'm not even sure that I'd be ok with that. So please, any other advice you could send my way would be so appreciated.

– Love Starved, Boston

A: Let's say I told you that you could never seek physical intimacy outside of your relationship. Pretend that you live in an alternate reality where if you attempted to cheat, you'd be struck by lightening or tasered. Would you want to stay in your relationship knowing you could never get the intimacy you craved? My guess is that you'd probably choose to start over and find someone who meets your needs. If you want an exclusive relationship, starting over is your best option.

Honestly, even if intimacy wasn't an issue, I'd tell you to consider whether this guy is who you want in the long run. He allowed you to ditch your friends and family. He has told you to shut up.

You're not a liner-upper. You're a cheat-to-break-upper (can someone coin a better term than that?). This whole cheating thing is not the right way to end a relationship. By pretending that your dishonesty is what caused the break-up, you're preventing your partners from learning what they did to drive you away.

You need to learn how to leave a relationship when it's best for you without having a human bridge to get you to the next step. You also have to learn to be honest with yourself. "I definitely love him more than I've ever loved anyone else and that hasn't changed for me." Um, yes it has. It has changed big time.

Breaking up is never easy. Usually, people still care for the person they've decided to ditch. My advice: stop the cheating. Don't take the easy way out. It's time to break up like a grown-up.

Readers? What's going on here? Does she want to be with this guy? Why does she cheat to break up? Advice? What are you wearing tonight? Discuss.

– Meredith

Old guy or new guy?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein May 25, 2010 07:17 AM

The ex vs. Mr. Interested ...

Q: I had been dating this guy for almost nine months until the relationship started going sour. I say this because he started working more (very demanding job) and paying less attention to "us." I finally had cut ties with him and ended the relationship. He was devastated and could not understand why I wanted to break up. He just plain and simple did not make time for us. I loved him to death but his effort was no longer there.

Toward the end of my relationship, I had met someone else. Someone I have been interested in for a while and who actually asked me out waaay before my ex and I even met. I turned him down when we first met because I had been seeing someone else at the time. So anyways, Mr. Interested (that's what I'll call him) shows up again in my life, like I was saying, toward the end of my relationship, and asked me out again. I had it already programmed in my head that I was going to break up with my boyfriend so I said yes. After my first date with Mr. Interested, I felt confident enough to call it quits with my boyfriend and move on to greener pastures. Or so I thought.

Everything was