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.
Heavy letter for a Friday. And yes, I'll stay in touch with the letter writer.
Q: I have been married for more than 20 years. My husband had some affairs (with different women) three years ago. I know that he is still talking to these women, as he makes comments about what they are doing and it seems pretty current information. I have not been able to gain back the trust and love that I once had. We have two children who are under 18.
My husband constantly calls me fat [and other inappropriate things] when our younger child is nearby. (I don't think that our child sees it though.) He pinches me until I tell him to stop because it hurts. He jokes, "I haven't even begun to hurt you." He flirts with friends and neighbors until we're all uncomfortable. When we tell him to stop, he says something like, "Oh, you can't take a joke."
He now accuses me (at least once a week) of having an affair with someone. I honestly will say I have never had an affair with anyone. If I refuse sex with, he gets very mad takes all the blankets.
He also threatens to divorce me and leave me with nothing. I used to kiss him after these threats, but now I'm at the point where I tell him to go ahead and leave me. I am at the end of my rope. We have tried counseling, both individual and marriage, and it hasn't worked because he has quit going after a few sessions.
– So Now What?, North Carolina
A: This is an abusive relationship, SNW. And I'm going to reveal to the readers (after much thought) that you emailed me several years ago about similar issues. It was a letter that we just didn't get to -- and it was much less severe than this version (it was about the affairs, not the abuse) -- but these problems have plagued your marriage for a long time. You've been pinched, harassed, questioned, and shamed, sometimes in front of your children. You need a way out. (And for the record, kids see and perceive more than you think they do. I'm sure that your younger child is aware of what's happening.)
You need to check in with a local domestic violence organization. North Carolina has them. (Click here if you're at a safe computer.) Pinching might not seem like real abuse, but it is. So are threats and intimidation. You must meet with a professional who can help you navigate this process. Because it will be process. If you can continue individual therapy, please do.
It's also a good time to reach out to your community. Don't be afraid to call friends and family. You mention that your neighbors have shared your discomfort over the years. Are any of these people real friends? Can you spend more time with them, just to feel less isolated?
You can't go through this alone, and you certainly can't put it off any longer. You might think I'm misusing the word "abuse," but find a safe computer and do some reading. You might be surprised by the definition.
Readers? Is this abuse? What should the letter writer do? Are the affairs relevant? Talk.
We won't chat today because I'll be in London. But -- if you send me notes on Twitter with the hashtag #LoveLetters, we can talk throughout the day. I'll be at a George Michael concert at about 3 p.m. your time, so I'll have plenty to say, I'm sure.
Q: Hi Meredith,
I'm wondering if you and your readers can weigh in on a potentially large dilemma. I am the parent of two small children, married many years. I recently started a new job where I am in contact several times a week with a colleague who I -- completely unexpectedly -- am drawn to almost unlike anything I've ever felt before.
We share a profession, which makes us look at the world similarly. But we also have a similar sense of humor, and this person makes me feel interesting and smart. Our conversation flows naturally without gaps. It helps that this person is also very interesting, well-traveled, intelligent, and good looking.
Literally from day three, I felt like I have known this person for years. I have a feeling that if we were both single, we would have already been dating. We have been emailing here and there outside of work, but nothing overtly unprofessional, mostly just funny things. There is an energy unlike anything I've experienced, yet I have to play poker face because of my situation.
My kids are so important to me, but my marriage, while it has its good times, is what I might describe as so-so right now. The difficulties that come with raising two children (there are joys too, of course) and managing two careers are not faring well with us.
And of course there is the possibility that my radar is completely off and this person simply sees me as a friend, and I'm freaking out for no reason.
My question is naturally: Am I being silly and selfish by even letting myself feel drawn to this person and wasting my time wondering how this person feels, too? Do you meet people at a certain point in your life for a reason and should I not ignore this? Or, do I need to just relax and make my kids my biggest priority right now? Obviously, the dissolution of a marriage would have ridiculously huge ramifications, and frankly not something I'm not sure I'd consider.
Further, I am not sure I would have the guts to say anything to this person about it, and I have a feeling this person is far too respectful to do anything either. I appreciate that, but again, I also can't help but wonder if you meet people for a reason at certain times.
I'm sure you'll say something like I should remove myself from the situation and stop talking to this person, but for the next couple months that will not be doable due to work. And yes, work is too important to leave right now as I am trying to establish myself in a new position. I feel like a scattered mess and thinking about it is eating me up. And yes, for the record, I feel incredibly guilty for even feeling or thinking any of this. Who wouldn't? I am only human.
Please be gentle, commenters.
– Scattered, Mass.
A: Calm down, Scattered. I can't speak for the Love Letters commenters, but I'm not going to yell at you for having a crush. I'm not going to tell you to quit your job. I'm not even going to tell you that you're selfish.
That said, I'm not going to validate your feelings for this guy. I don't believe that we're "meant" to meet certain people. And I certainly don't believe that your new friend is your destiny. But I do believe that this guy has taught you a big lesson.
He's taught you that you miss being you. You miss being someone who isn't just a mom. You miss being someone who has time for jokes. You miss having a husband, not just a busy co-parent.
So give your marriage a break and ask for some help. Instead of shutting the world out and focusing only on your kids, spend money on childcare (or call friends and family) and take a vacation. See movies with your husband. Do some of the things that you used to enjoy before you became overwhelmed with daily obligations.
You had this kind of connection with your husband once. That's why you fell for him, right? You can get that back. It just takes time and energy and some shared experiences. Again, this new guy is just a reminder of what you're missing. Don't let him become more.
Readers? Does she have to leave her job? Has she done anything wrong? How can she have this banter with her husband when they have so much to do? How should she set boundaries with this new friend? Discuss.
Q: Dear Meredith,
I am in my late 40s and have been married for almost 25 years. I love and respect my wife -- she is intelligent and is a great mother to our two grown children. We have had a good life. There was a time about a decade ago where I was not in a good place personally. I was in a job I hated and just generally not happy. During this time I had a few one night stands with women I met through my job. I eventually confessed to my wife because I felt so guilty about it. She was devastated but said she forgave me and I have tried very hard to be a better husband and better person. I found another job that I enjoyed more (and where there were not many women). Things have been pretty good for the last nine years.
Recently my wife has been depressed, anxious, and sometimes has unpredictable outbursts. I think she is suffering with the whole empty-nest thing. I have tried to be supportive but it seems like she takes all her emotional issues out on me and several times has thrown my past cheating in my face even though she claims to have forgiven me. During this time, I happened to meet a woman (Sarah) and we have gotten close and have been physical a few times. I felt really guilty about it though so cut off the friendship. But I found I was miserable because I had no one to talk to about what was going on with my wife. So after several weeks of no contact, we have resumed our friendship and spend a couple of hours a day talking on the phone or emailing. We have only been physical once in that time. Sarah's a good listener and is also going through something similar (she is in an unhappy marriage and contemplating divorce).
After many conversations with her, Sarah helped me realize how unhappy I've been in my marriage for a long time. And that my wife has never forgiven me for my past cheating and probably never will. I am contemplating leaving but I'm worried about how that would affect my wife. I don't want to hurt her. I also worry about the financial aspects. My wife is the bread winner in the family and came into the marriage with some family money. We enjoy an above average lifestyle - without her income I'm not sure I could even afford a decent place on my own. I think my friend would be willing to move in with me (assuming she gets a divorce) but she doesn't work so would only have whatever alimony/child support comes her way after the divorce. Sarah says her husband does reasonably well though so we could probably enjoy a comfortable lifestyle especially if she were able to keep their house. But she also has two young boys and I'm not sure I'm ready to be in a step-dad type of relationship.
I know my wife would be devastated if I asked for a divorce. I have asked her to get counseling but she refuses. She's a good person and I do care about her but I'm just not happy. Should I do what's best for her or what's best for me?
– Unhappy, Mass.
A: Should I do what's best for her or what's best for me?
You should do what's best for both of you. You should stop cheating and get your act together.
Maintaining the status quo and lying to your wife isn't what's best for anybody. It's certainly not in your wife's best interest to live with someone who's miserable and lining up a second life behind her back. You have to drop Sarah, like right now. You're not entitled to her attention, and you both need to focus on your real lives.
You must also go to therapy, even if it's just for you. Perhaps you can go for a while and then ask your wife to join you for a session or two. Sometimes a visit on someone else's behalf is less intimidating.
And please know that you can't jump from your wife to Sarah. You sound crazy for prioritizing your escape plan and discussing your standard of living as your marriage is dissolving. You should show this letter to your therapist. I think it'd be quite revealing.
Again, in no particular order: Drop Sarah (now), go to therapy, ask your wife to join you, and be honest with her about what you want from your marriage, if anything. No more coasting, cheating, and planning for a live-in girlfriend. Sarah is married and so are you.
Say it with me: Married. You need to be a husband and figure out what's best for you and your wife.
Readers? Is there some narcissism going on here? Should he tell the wife about Sarah? Does he have to cut her off? What happens his wife continues to refuse therapy? Help.
Great chat yesterday.
As for today, just remember to be helpful. You can be critical, but please give advice.
Q: I carried on an affair with a man -- who later became my boss -- on and off for over two years. It is an extremely long story filled with unbelievable circumstances, so I will summarize the events.
This charming man has insisted to many, including myself, that he and his wife "have an agreement" that if she doesn't know, him having extramarital relationships is fine. I took this as truth, maybe because I wanted to, and have known others he has approached this way, though none that followed through. I had intended it to be a short-lived affair, and he is well-known as somewhat of a womanizer, which added to my belief in his claim. I met his wife on a number of occasions and based on things she said and allowed us to do as friends, I was pretty convinced they really did have the agreement.
When I showed no interest in "dating" him, he laid it on thick and seemed genuine; however, when I would show interest, he would disappear completely. This became a recurring theme. If I tried to talk to him about "us," he would often lose his temper, blame things on me, break me down, and claim he just wanted to be friend ... only to seduce me a short time later. He often accused me of having personal ads up and trying to "cheat" on him, which I later found out was something he had been actively doing to me.
Why did I carry on this affair? Because when he made me feel good, he made me feel like the only person in the world. It sounds pitiful, I am aware.
After two years of fighting, I finally had enough. I started encouraging him to leave me alone, be my friend, and be with his wife, but he was unrelenting. He wouldn't stop hassling me about getting back together. We finally had a huge fight and he became afraid I would tell his wife, so he told her. I did not believe he told her, as he often seemed to lie, and when he recounted what he said to her, he revealed he had lied at least about the length of the affair, so who knows what else. I believed him after she confirmed it in an email to me and asked me to cease all contact.
Still, we kept in contact. On and off, we were friends, but we often talked about getting back together (mostly fueled by him). We did not engage in sex, but he would still give me little presents and often made plans with me, which one of us would cancel. Over the last six weeks, he tried to come back to me multiple times, only when I wasn't interested, and when I finally became interested, he unloaded hell on me. I told him I couldn't handle the emotional strain of his mercurial emotions and to either come back or leave me alone.
Shortly after, he contacted me under innocent pretenses as a friend, and began the begging anew. I was resistant, but finally believed him again and wanted him back. A few days ago, we had a short phone conversation in which he accused me of being the juggernaut in this recent scenario (though I have emails that show otherwise) and was outright cruel. He claimed to me that he now honest and wants to work on his marriage (which he has claimed several times, only to come back to me), when just a few hours before he was trying to arrange a meeting with me. I am tired of him coming back. I feel gullible and stupid for believing him so many times and have told him to leave me alone multiple times.
I am considering "helping" him to be honest by contacting his wife with texts and emails, but there are literally thousands. I don't want to hurt her, I just need him to leave me alone and I think it's unfair that he broke my heart repeatedly, cost me my job and some mutual friends, and continues to wreak havoc on my heart whenever the mood strikes him. Should I send all of our communications and alert her to the reality of the relationship, or a select few showing that he has not kept his word and has been seeking me out repeatedly?
I am not malicious. There is something wrong with him and I have come to realize she lives in a bubble of her own denial. I want to be left alone and I want him to have no avenue whatsoever to come back to me, be it innocent or otherwise.
– Enough is Enough, Calif.
A: Do not send emails to the wife, EIE. And stop trying to be this man's friend. Change your email address and cell phone number so that only safe people know how to reach you. Cut him off.
You keep taking about his bad patterns, but you're the one who succumbs every time. His wife actually wrote to you and asked you to stay away, and you dismissed her request. You ignored her. She might be in a bubble of denial, but so are you. You started this because you thought he had an open marriage, but you continued it even though you knew you were the other woman.
My advice is to give yourself what you want. "I want to be left alone and I want him to have no avenue whatsoever to come back to me, be it innocent or otherwise." Fine. It's not that hard. You just have to change that phone number and go away.
This situation isn't out of your control. Everything that's happened to you has been a choice. Let this letter be the start of the rest of your life. Don't forward any emails. Just disappear from this man's world so that you can have a world of your own.
Readers? Why can't she let go? Is she addicted to this situation? How can she cut him off? Advice? Help.
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.
Empathy. (I know, I know, this one's tough.)
I'm a 20-something guy in a long relationship. I can see myself being with her forever, and I bought an engagement ring a couple months ago.
Now comes the hard part. I recently went to the beach for a bachelor party with a group of close friends. This was a week for us to forget, cut loose, and live like we did when we were in college.
I am generally an outgoing guy that will talk to just about anyone. One night at a bar, I started talking to a very attractive girl, and I could immediately tell she was into me. I, of course, did not mention my girlfriend. Nothing beyond conversation happened that first night, but when I got back to our house that night, I could not stop thinking about this girl I just met.
Fast forward two nights and I saw her again. We talked again, and had some drinks. I asked if she wanted to go for a walk on the beach. She did and very shortly into our walk/conversation, I kissed her. After making out for some time (maybe 30 minutes), I walked her back to her place and she invited me in, but I did decline, saying how it was late. I saw her every night for the rest of the trip, and every night we would have drunk make-out sessions and talk and joke and have a good time together. I was torn because I have this serious girlfriend back home, but I could feel myself falling for this girl, and very quickly. I even bought protection -- just in case this "vacation romance" were to progress.
On the last night of our trip, she and her friends came to the house we were renting and she threw herself at me. I told her I felt sick and had to go.
She and I have since exchanged a couple text messages back and forth, but nothing scandalous. I have thought several times to go and visit her to see if there is truly a big enough spark there for me to run away from my current situation.
I know what I did was not right, and I have not told my girlfriend about any of my indiscretions. Since I came back home, sex with my girlfriend has not been the same, as I am racked with guilt. I am constantly thinking of this woman and wondering what a life with her would be like.
I am happy with my girlfriend and love her. But, if I am having these doubts, that can't be a good sign for my existing relationship, right? If I tell her what happened, I am afraid I will lose her. Should I tell my girlfriend? Should I go on a trip to see this woman again? Should I delete her from my phone and cut off all contact? Am I a total jerk for (1) doing this and (2) now debating leaving a good situation?? Help!
– Heart Robbed on the Shore, Boston
A: Tell your girlfriend. You might lose her, but at least you won't be lying to her anymore.
You're having serious doubts about your long-term relationship. You're actually wondering whether you might be happier with a woman you met at the beach. You're a guilty mess.
My advice is to tell her everything. Like, everything. Tell her that you've been planning a proposal. Tell her that you regressed as soon as you set foot on the sand. Tell her that you spent your vacation week pretending to be a younger, single version of yourself. Tell her that you couldn't quite go through with the cheat, at least not all the way. Then discuss.
She might kick you out. She might be a friend. She might tell you about her own fears and concerns. Or maybe she'll just yell. Regardless, you can't pretend this didn't happen, and if you were her, wouldn't you want to know?
Yes, you're a jerk for doing this, but you're not a jerk for questioning what this means about your relationship. This cheat is now a part of your history. Your girlfriend needs to be part of the discussion.
Readers? Should he propose? Does he have to confess? Should he go see this other woman? Was this just a panic move because he's about to propose? Would you want to know if you were the girlfriend? Should he tell her about the ring? Help.
A reminder: Please be thoughtful about your comments.
I don't mind critical comments, but they should be constructive. People are asking for help, so help them. Empathy.
Q: I am a single woman in my late 30s. I never thought I would say this, but I have fallen in love with someone who is married with young children. He is planning on leaving his marriage but wants to do it as gently as possible -- in order to protect his kids and also to minimize the hurt and pain for his wife. He is a very good man. Our affair -- if it is even that -- has been very brief. Not even two months. The physical contact has been minimal -- only a few days out of that time. (We live on different continents, met at a birthday weekend, and most of our contact has been in the form of emails and video chats).
He says the marriage was over in any case, and I believe him. We have talked about building a life together, and both of us believe it's possible. I agree with him that his children must come first in this next bit of time, and I would be happy to try to be a loving person (or perhaps even a stepmom) in their lives if we ever got to that stage.
The affair is over and we are now in a period of no contact. I have said that I don't want to meet again until he has talked to his wife and begun the process of leaving. But we love each other and I want to support him. My question is this: Is it possible to stay in touch (but not see each other) while he leaves his marriage or should I cut him off entirely and wait until he is a free agent? Please don't be too harsh. We fell in love, we didn't mean to, and now we are trying to do the right thing.
Thank you for your advice.
– Want to do the right thing from now on, Cambridge
A: Stay away from him until he's a free agent. You don't want to get caught in the middle of a divorce, and frankly, this process could take years. You need to protect yourself. Leave him alone.
I also want you to continue to live your life. You're thinking about potential stepmom duties, but you haven't spent any real time with this guy. In real life, after a few dates, you might not be so compatible. You have no idea whether this guy is capable of being a good partner.
Please don't save yourself for him. He's not "the one." Right now he's just a married guy who swept you off your feet. It's very possible that there are other people -- local people -- who can do some similar sweeping. Don't put blinders on just yet.
You've set appropriate boundaries. Now go live your life. Maybe he'll show up, maybe he won't. But for right now, he's unavailable.
Readers? Is she allowed to keep in touch with him? Will he leave his wife? Does her age have anything to do with this? Why do you think she fell for him so quickly? Should she wait this out? Help.
Good morning. Make sure you check out yesterday's self-help reviews.
In other news, yes, we have some thoughts (positive and negative) about the new comments system. The folks in charge are watching to see what works and what doesn't. Feel free to leave some *constructive* feedback in the comments section. It will be read and considered. Just make sure that you give your advice to the letter writer first.
Q: I have been in a relationship for eight years. About three years ago, my fiance learned that his father had been having a long-term affair. His mother had found evidence, confronted her husband, and was preparing for a divorce. She shared this with my fiance.
Ultimately, they did decide to stay together. However, the experience wreaked havoc on my relationship. My fiance was angry at his father for the affair and angry at his mother for telling him about it. Not surprisingly, my fiance was upset and withdrew with worries that the "sins of the father would be bestowed upon the son." And though I hate to admit it, I too suddenly had doubts. Would my fiance also have an affair? Could I trust him? Instead of starting from a place of trust, I found myself beginning from doubts and becoming even more possessive and insecure. Ultimately, his father apologized to him but never to me. It has been the elephant in the room at every family gathering.
I have told my fiance that I am hurt as well, and that I would like to discuss it. My fiance's response: "Why?" He doesn't think that my feelings are justified because his parents experienced a greater loss than me. The issue has driven a wedge between us because I feel like he doesn't value my feelings. It's also hurt my relationship with his parents because I have lost all respect for his father.
I know that this experience has exposed many weaknesses in this relationship, but I'm curious about just one aspect: Am I wrong to believe that there should be a discussion with his family that includes me, in which the affair is at least acknowledged? Am I expecting too much to believe that his father owes me an apology as well?
– Still Wondering About My Place, Boston
A: Your fiance's dad hurt a lot of people when he cheated on his wife. For all you know, his co-workers are thinking, "Why isn't he apologizing to us for bringing his relationship stress into the work place?" For all you know, your fiance's parents' friends are thinking, "Shouldn't he be chatting with us about how he messed with the dynamics of the group?"
You're one of many people who got caught up in this mess. Your fiance's dad might bring this up with you eventually, but for now he's focused on his wife. That's understandable, even though I absolutely empathize with your anger and frustration.
My hope is that he rallies as a parent and explains to his son that every marriage is different. My hope is that your fiance can watch his parents overcome a relationship tragedy with love and support. That would be a great lesson.
In the meantime, you need to focus on your own relationship. Separate yourself from this indiscretion and maybe your fiance will follow your lead. His parents are not the Ghosts of Christmas Future. They're just two people trying to make it work.
Readers? Is she entitled to a talk with the father? Is the fiance being insensitive? What should she do? Help.
Q: Hi Meredith,
I've been reading Love Letters from the beginning. I was hoping I wouldn't ever have to write in for guidance but alas, here we are.
My boyfriend "Tom" and I have been dating for over a year and half. We moved in together earlier this year and things have been absolutely amazing. We openly and easily talk about our future together. Things just click in every department. For reference, we are both in our mid/late 20s.
Tom is more of a night owl than I am (he also goes into work a bit later than I do in the morning) so I usually turn in a couple hours earlier on weeknights. The other night, I got up to get a drink of water and I walked into the living room. Tom was furiously typing away on his laptop and clearly was so engaged in whatever he was doing that he didn't see me at first. When he did notice me, he immediately minimized the screen and shut his laptop. I obviously called him out for his sketchy behavior and asked what he was doing. He opened his laptop back up and showed me a pornographic literary website -- a lot of erotic reading material. I don't have a problem with porn in general, reading or watching.
My problem is that there are also chat rooms where people interact with one another. From what I gathered, it can range from actual personals (let's meet up) to group stories (someone writes out a scenario, another person jumps in with the next part of the storyline until 20 people have made up a story). My boyfriend was partaking in the latter.
I was shocked to say the least. We have (or so I thought) an extremely active and fun sex life. He apologized profusely and said he'd never partake in the chats again. He said he had known about the website for a long time and had always just read the stories. He said he only very recently decided to check out one of the chat rooms.
He also claimed that he never interacts with people one on one. Although he knew I probably wouldn't be thrilled about it, he thought there was no harm in a group chat putting together stories. I reiterated that while I thought reading/watching pornography was fine, he crossed the line by actually interacting with other people.
My question is: Should I believe that he's never taken it beyond a group chat? Even if I do think he hasn't cheated physically, is that where he is progressing to? What if he likes some girl's storyline? Is he going to want to try out her ideas in person? Am I just overreacting about this entirely?
– My Boyfriend Has a Late-Night Problem
A: I understand why you're uncomfortable about the chat room stuff, but I just don't think that Tom planned to use this website to set up an in-person cheat. I can't make you any guarantees, of course, but based on what you've told us, Tom likes erotic fiction and found a snazzy website. He got carried away, probably chatting up a bunch of people who just read "Fifty Shades of Grey."
You've explained your boundaries and he's accepted them. He didn't get defensive and he certainly didn't hide. (He opened that laptop pretty quickly, didn't he?)
Again, I can't promise you that he's never going to cheat on you, but this website stuff doesn't sound very serious. You've told him that you don't want him to chat with others. Now he knows the rules.
This is the kind of thing that happens when you're learning how to live with someone. You want to do all of the weird stuff that makes you happy, but suddenly there are witnesses. It takes time to adjust. Take a deep breath and keep communicating.
Readers? Was this cheating? Was it going to lead to a cheat? Is she setting the right boundaries? Discuss.
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.
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?
I met a very cute, charming, southern boy on my birthday in Boston. I must have been seven vodka and sodas in at that point and I was feeling great. He was looking over at me and shot me the kind of the smile that melts a girl's heart. Naturally, I went over and started talking to him. Turns out, he's in the Coast Guard and stationed here.
We sat at that bar and talked for at least an hour. Opened up about deeply personal things, which, being as intoxicated as I was, probably wasn't a good idea. We kissed, exchanged numbers, and he left early. I didn't think much about it. He texted me immediately.
The Officer: I'm actually really sad that I had to leave
Me: You shouldn't have left! We could have had a lot of fun.
The Officer: We could still have a good night ;)
Me: Oh yeah?
The Officer: I plan on hanging out with you soon :-) I gotta make up for the time I missed your birthday.
We continued texting almost 12 hours a day for the next 4 days. We asked questions and I learned a lot about him. It got to the point that he was even calling me to ask me how my day was.
A few days later we finally went out. It was unreal. After we went out to eat, he invited me back to his apartment to see the view of Boston. We went to his roof then started to walk inside and I literally fell down the stairs. We both laughed hysterically. Went back to his room, kissed a lot, and then I went home.
He texted me "Did you make it home alright?" This guy was too good to be true. He continued to tell me "I had such a good time with you." I thought this guy might actually work out.
We continued talking for the next few days. Then one afternoon I was doing a little Facebook stalking and I noticed that there was one girl who was constantly writing on his wall. I clicked on her profile. It was private, but I could see her pictures. So I started to go through them and there were some major red flags. Posts about her boyfriend being in the Coast Guard, a boyfriend that appeared to be him. So naturally I text him. The exchange goes as follows:
Me: I have a really important question
The Officer: Go ahead!
Me: Do you have a girlfriend?
The Officer: Lol no I figured that would come. Are we talking about [name]?
The Officer: No, she is probably one of my best friends !
The Officer: A lot of people ask that. But she and I are just close. What made you ask?
Me: I was on Facebook and I clicked on her. She had under one picture something about how her boyfriend is in the Coast Guard ...
The Officer: I don't think she meant literal boyfriend
The Officer: Let me make it up to you. I want to bring you out tonight.
So being the stupid girl that I am, I met up with him that night and slept with him. Big regret. He dropped me off at the T that morning and that was the last time I ever saw him. He texted me a total of 3 times after that.
So here is the question that only you and your faithful readers can answer: Do I tell the girl? After more research it looks like they have been together for over a year. I feel dirty. I need some guidance. Help me!
– Lost in the City, Boston
A: I want you to send her a message, LITC. An email would be best, but if you can't come up with her address I suppose you can send her a private note on Facebook. Keep it short and sweet. Let her know what happened and then sign off.
I don't always recommend that people tattle on cheaters (I always worry about the emotional and physical safety of the tattler), but in your case, disclosure is important. First, you slept with him. She should know that her boyfriend is putting her body at risk by having sex with other people. Second, her boyfriend is telling people that she's just his friend. She should know that according to him, he isn't her "literal boyfriend."
If it turns out that he was telling the truth and that she's just his buddy, you've lost nothing -- because he's already gone. But if you're right, you're doing her a big favor. Wouldn't you want to know?
Just keep your note brief and respectful. Don't let your anger seep into the message. Explain that you don't want to get involved beyond the note. You might get a response from her or an angry message from him about your disclosure, but you don't have to respond. That first note should tell her everything she needs to know.
One last request: Before you send the message, tell your friends. You'll need their support, and they can probably help you figure out the safest way to send this note. Disclosure is important, but I don't want you to put yourself at risk. Your friends should be able to walk you through the logistics while they hold your hands and make you feel loved.
I'm sorry this happened, but don't be too hard on yourself. You got caught up in a mess, but you're not the villain here.
Readers? Would you tell the girlfriend (assuming that's what she is)? Should the letter writer just stay out of it? Anyone have ideas about how she should make contact? Would you want to know if you were the girlfriend? Is it possible the guy was telling the truth? Help.
Happy Friday. I don't know where this letter writer is from.
Q: Hi Meredith,
I can't seem to get over a possible cheat. I say "possible" because my husband will not admit that he cheated. But I know in my gut he did.
About a year ago, he became very withdrawn from our family. He would come home and read a magazine while I got the kids their dinner. He would not initiate any affection or intimacy toward me. I did try to initiate "couple time" away from the house, but he always came up with an excuse as to why we shouldn't leave the kids or he'd say he was too tired from work. For fear of an argument, I didn't confront him and just focused on the kids, my career, and my relationships with my family and friends. Yes, I enabled him to withdraw, so part of this is my fault.
As time went on, I started to become suspicious. He was on his BlackBerry a lot. I snooped on his BlackBerry and sure enough there were quite a few emails between him and another (younger) woman at work. I didn't say anything right away and just monitored the emails from time to time. One morning, when we were eating breakfast as a family, I watched him write an email on the BlackBerry and smile and laugh. When he walked away, I picked it up and read it. Sure enough it was correspondence between him and the other woman.
I point blank asked him what was going on between him and Lady X. Of course he denied it and said how dare I cause him additional stress during what is a very busy time for him at work. He also said she was ugly and that they didn't get along. (I saw her Facebook page and she isn't ugly.) Also, from their emails it appeared they got along just fine. The email content was mostly flirting and joking. But why had he never mentioned her? And why was this happening during our family time?
I will say that he usually comes home from work at a reasonable time so he's not hooking up with her after work. At the very least, I think this was an emotional affair, which still hurts just as bad since I don't feel I get the emotional support I should as a his wife. In his defense, he is an excellent dad with the exception of when he was withdrawn last year. He also has made more of an effort to be a loving husband.
However, I can't get past this incident. He made me feel like I was being the jealous wife. I told him that this whole thing makes me feel insecure and he said, "That's your problem." However, since this confrontation, he has become more attentive and does not use his BlackBerry in my presence. But what happens when I'm not around? What happens at the office? Sometimes I feel that if he just admitted he had feelings for her but doesn't anymore, I could move past this. But then again, I'm not so sure. I want so badly to move forward but this alleged affair continues to cloud my thoughts. I feel I just need closure. I need him to admit to me it was some kind of affair. Then I either figure out a way to move past this or divorce him.
– Want to Know
A: Let's pretend I have proof that your husband never had an affair and that this woman is just a super awesome work friend who makes him laugh. Let's pretend that your marriage is just your marriage and that there are no third parties, just pals.
In this pretend world, are you satisfied with your relationship? Do you love your husband? Are you capable of intimacy? Do you have fun with him?
I don't know what your husband has been up to, and he's handled this so, so poorly. But you've asked him a question and he's given you an answer. He says he's not cheating, so that's that. Instead of focusing on sleuthing to prove that he did, please use your energy to consider your daily life with your husband. If he's trying a bit harder these days, take advantage. Tell him what you need.
This woman is a bit of a red herring. You keep asking about her and what she represents, but my questions for you and your husband are: "Do you want to be married?" and "How do you want that marriage to look?" Really, it's so much more productive to figure out what you want for yourself than to obsess about this woman.
It'll be easier to talk to your husband about your marriage if you keep her out of it. I empathize (I'd be obsessed with her too), but your investigation just isn't constructive right now. Feel free to investigate your marriage, but leave her out of it.
Readers? Am I right or should she figure out what's happening with this woman? Am I right to say that the woman is a red herring? Is she the cause of all of the problems? What should the letter writer do? Help.
Q: Hi. I'm "Pam" and I just got back to my country from an exchange program in Boston.
I have been dating a guy for 6 years. He is a sweetheart and I know he loves me very much. Before I left for my exchange program, we had a long conversation about how things would work while I was living far away from him. Everything was just fine. After a year living in Boston, I met a guy (he is 27 and I'm 22) and I fell in love with him. We had so much fun together. He is a wonderful man and I can't stop thinking about the moments we spent together.
In the beginning I really tried to stay far from him because of my boyfriend, but what I was feeling for him was too strong. We kept it slow but saw each other about once a week. Now I'm back to my real life (school, work, etc.). And I'm also back to my boyfriend, but it seems that I just think about the guy I met in Boston. He calls me almost every day and we have Skype dates very often, like once or twice a week.
I'm so confused about my feelings because when I see/talk to this guy, I feel like there are butterflies in my stomach, but when I'm with my boyfriend, I feel in love with him again too. I really don't know what's wrong with me. Is it possible to be in love with both guys? Should I forget about this guy I met in Boston? Should I let my boyfriend move on?
– Pam, Brazil
A: Break up with your boyfriend, Pam.
I believe that you love him, but you don't want to be committed to him anymore. You're pursuing a relationship with someone else.
You didn't tell us whether your boyfriend knows about the American guy, but I assume that he doesn't. That makes this a cheat.
I'm not saying that there's any real potential with Mr. Boston. He's here and you're there. You might wind up alone. But that's OK. You need to be on your own for a bit so that you can figure out who you are and what you want.
End it with the boyfriend and then buy a ticket to visit your guy in the US. You know that's what you want to do, so do it. Take the leap and become a single person. You haven't been single since you were like... 16? It's time.
Readers? Is Boston guy a reality? Should she visit him? Should she stay with the boyfriend if she loves him? Is she cheating? Is she in love with two people? Help.
Q: Hi Meredith,
I am 55, a widow dating a handsome guy (age 59) who is divorced, and after several years of being alone, this is not the first but the most serious relationship I have been in. We have been dating for 8 months and agreed to be exclusive after a couple of months. We have both said we love each other and things were going great, having fun times and serious times, lots in common, borderline living together (3/7 nights each week) and discussing forever. My family likes him and I recently traveled out of the country with him to meet his family.
Last weekend while using his computer, he left an open tab and I clicked on it -- only to close it. (I am not a nosy person). What I saw was an email answering a personal ad! It was already sent. It said, "Hi, I am 59, etc." !!!!
I was in shock. I confronted him immediately. He said he was sorry, that he didn't want to hurt me, that he really did love me, and that he didn't know why he had done that. He admitted doing it a few times since we started dating. We have since talked about it and he said had no interest in doing it again and would not.
He begged me to stay with him and for us to re-commit. I agreed to continue but cautiously, I like everything else about him and I want this to work out. I must admit that early in our dating I still looked at the old dating sites a couple of times myself, out of curiosity -- but I never emailed anyone. I guess I thought we had advanced to a different level.
What do you think?
– Widowed in Massachusetts
A: This stinks, WIM. I'm not stressed out about the browsing, but he went as far as messaging someone. Awful.
He's either lining up another girlfriend or he's addicted to internet attention. My guess is that it's the attention. Or boredom. Or he just wants to know that he's still got it. The question is: Does it matter why he was doing it? Can you go back to feeling safe in this relationship?
You say that you're going to have to proceed with caution. I want you to figure out what that means. Will you force yourself to spend less time with him? Or will you spend more time with him to make sure that he's not on his own and on the computer?
I fear that you're going to exhaust yourself by trying to make this right on his behalf. If it were up to me, you'd walk away from this. I know it's easier said than done because there's a lot of good here, but you need to be able to relax in a relationship, especially at eight months. He's made this so fragile.
If you're going to continue on with him -- and I assume you will for now -- please be honest with yourself about whether you can just enjoy this man without doubting him. Pay attention to what's going on in your head and your gut. If you can't relax, it's not worth it.
Readers? Should she proceed with caution or bail? Is her age relevant? Would you give her the same advice that you'd give to a 25-year-old? What do you think he was doing? Help.
Q: I am a lesbian woman who has been in a committed relationship for seven years. Although we have had our share of issues, I truly believe that we both love one another. Last fall, I went back to school and was unable to pay my girlfriend the amount of attention she requires. She's not needy -- just needier than I am. She's also unmedicated for bipolar disorder.
We were both working and in school during this time, but we had very different ways of dealing with stress. I work out while she goes out. This led to problems because I didn't like her being out during the week and staying out overnight at her friends' places, and I especially didn't like the amount of alcohol she was consuming. I am not a fan of self-medicating and felt that was what she was doing.
I'm at fault here too because I detest, and I mean detest, talking about my feelings. So I can just carry on like nothing is wrong and then we have some big explosive argument where things get said that are hurtful and disrespectful. Anyway, she has long believed that I was unfaithful in the past because of a friendship I developed with another woman. I didn't cheat, but I guess it's called "emotional cheating," which I am probably guilty of.
She confessed that on one of these drunken nights, she slept with someone to get me back. If that wasn't enough, she slept with a man and now she's pregnant. I feel so lost. She is keeping the baby because she has always wanted to be a mom and we had planned on having children someday. She wants me to raise the child with her and I don't know if I can. A big part of me wants to; I mean, I've wanted this experience with her for a long time. But now I have no rights, my pride and ego are in the toilet, and I don't actually feel like a parent to the child. I mean ... I had nothing to do with this.
Her plan is to keep the father out of the loop so long as I am in the loop. But she says that if I wasn't around, she would involve him because she can't make it financially on her own. The financial part is true. But now I feel so many conflicting emotions. The only constant is that I really am in love with this woman. But this choice, to stay ... it affects my whole life too. How do I raise a child under a lie? What do we tell people?
Despite everything, I love her, and the thought of not having her in my life is devastating. The thought of her raising a child with someone else is heartbreaking too. What do I do?
– Too Loyal for Love, Mass.
A: I've read this letter about 1,000 times and I keep going back to the "unmedicated bipolar" sentence. That's what gets me.
Can your girlfriend parent this child if she's not getting the professional help she needs? How has her behavior changed (the drinking, going out, etc.) since she found out she was pregnant? Does she want you around for this experience because she loves you -- or because you represent the other half of a financial arrangement?
I understand that it would be devastating to lose her, but wouldn't it be more devastating to stay with someone who cheated on you, ignores her own health issues, and copes with stress by drinking too much and acting out?
If the baby weren't in the picture, I'd be telling you to get into therapy and to take some space from this woman. I'd be telling you to figure out why you repress your emotions, why you had an emotional affair, and why you stay with someone who forces you through highs and lows.
The baby doesn't really change my advice. You need therapy and an exit.
We're supposed to feel safe in relationships. Baby or no baby, you're just not safe.
Readers? Can she raise this baby? What about the cheating? What about the bipolar? Can they save this seven-year relationship? Should they be in therapy together? Help.
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.
Q: Hi Meredith,
I recently joined a fitness website for support and encouragement with my exercise regime and diet. The site is similar to Facebook; you set up a profile with pictures, you state your fitness goals, and you add people to your friend list.
I'm a single gal and recently ended my engagement with a man who was deceitful. One of the fitness people on the site sent me a message commenting on how young I looked and we started chatting back and forth. It seemed harmless enough -- he was really sweet and fun to chat with. We then exchanged personal emails and cell numbers and began communicating via text and emails.
He's in the military and lives far away, but he mentioned that he was going to be in the area this summer and really wanted to meet me. I was excited, and after numerous phone calls, emails, and texts, I felt fairly safe. Well, come to find out, he's married.
My gut was telling me there was something wrong. For instance, he never called me when he was home (he insisted that he didn't have cell phone service and didn't believe in a land line). I did a little investigative work via the internet and discovered his wife's name, their address, etc.
I immediately sent him a text telling him that I knew he was married, that I felt sorry for his wife, and I made sure to mention her by name to put the fear of God in him. I told him not to contact me again.
Here's the dilemma: Do I contact his wife and tell her? Also, I noticed that he is still on the fitness site probably trolling for innocent women. Do I contact the fitness site customer service and report him? Or do I leave well enough alone and move on?
– Do I out the cheater?, Boston
A: Contact customer service and then move on, DIOTC. You don't know anything about this guy's marriage. You never saw him in person.
Sometimes I recommend outing cheaters to spouses, but in this case there are just too many questions. Protect yourself by walking away from this mess.
I'm so sorry that you had to follow up your broken engagement with this romantic experience. Not everyone is so deceitful. Please remember that this guy was always going to be a placeholder. He lives too far away.
If you're ready to date guys in your zip code, tell your friends. See if you can get to know someone who has been vetted by the people you trust.
Readers? Should she reach out to the wife? Should she contact the site administrator? Is this just part of life when you're on social networking websites? Do you think he really intended to see her?
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.
Q: Hi Meredith,
I have recently found myself in the awful, awkward, uncomfortable position of learning that my friend's boyfriend is cheating on her. If that situation on its own isn't complicated enough, it gets worse.
To start, my friendship with her began because she is my boyfriend's friend's girlfriend. We used to hang out together all the time: double date dinners, drinks, and even weekend trips together. Through that I became good friends with her, but the reason we got to know each other in the first place is through our boyfriends.
About a month ago, my boyfriend and I heard about the cheating. We confronted the cheater and he insisted he had ended things and realized how wrong his actions had been, is turning over a new leaf, and that his relationship is better than ever. I personally don't believe a word he says, but perhaps that's beside the point.
I am absolutely disgusted with the cheater and have avoided hanging out with him and his girlfriend as a couple since I've heard about this. She talks about marriage and her future with him, and I feel guilty and terrible that I know about her boyfriend’s infidelity and am not telling her.
The final complication is that my boyfriend and his friend started working together, so now there is a professional element of their relationship. I certainly don't want to do anything that will complicate their professional or personal relationship, but knowing about this and not telling her is absolutely killing me with guilt!
Should I tell her? Is it even my place to tell her? Is this my business at all?
– Having a Moral Dilemma, Boston
A: These questions make me squirm ... because there's no answer that will bring anybody any peace. I squirmed about a similar question in March. I squirmed about cheating in chat the other day.
My gut always says, "Leave the cheaters alone. Don't get involved." Then I think, "But I'd want to know." After that I usually wonder whether the cheater might be carrying some awful STD that he/she will now give his/her innocent, unassuming partner.
In your case, you have to tell. You mention that the guilt is killing you. You became this woman's friend and now you're avoiding her. You believe in your heart that she should know. That's your answer.
You and the boyfriend did the right thing by approaching this problem as a couple. Please explain to your boyfriend that you're just not done, and that he needs to stand by you as you reveal the truth. You must handle the aftermath -- whatever it is -- as a team. Decide whether you're going to confront this guy for the second time or go straight to her.
Again, my answer to these types of questions tend to change based on the situation, but you need this woman to know, and by confessing to the cheat, this guy made it your business. Talk to your boyfriend and come up with a plan for your next move. Get it done.
Readers? Am I wrong? Does the new work relationship mean that they should keep silent? How should they go about this? Should she warn the cheater that she's going to reveal his cheat? What if her boyfriend disagrees with her plan? Help.
Q: Dear Meredith and LL commenters,
My boyfriend and I have been dating for nearly a year. We met in college almost 10 years ago (we're now both in our late 20s) but we were just friends and dating other people. We eventually realized that we wanted our relationship to go to the next level and started dating. I have always found him very attractive, fun, and one of the nicest guys I know. I have since fallen very deeply in love. After knowing him so for long and now so intimately, I have seriously started to picture a future with him. I know from what he says and how he behaves that he loves me, enjoys spending his time with me, and also has thoughts about the future. We've both been very happy.
So here's my problem. The other night I was at his condo sitting next to him as he worked on his computer. As he closed down some browsers there was a picture of a teeny-waisted, large-busted female in her underwear -- clearly from the internet, not someone we know. I immediately got very upset in a pathetic and crying, not angry, sort of way.
I know that men do this all the time but I never thought about him doing it (because, of course, I naively thought he was perfect). I know that other people would have handled this better than I did.
I consider myself a sexual person but only with the person I'm with. We're intimate most days that we see each other (about 4 times a week) and I know he's satisfied (he re-stated this after the incident). But I've never watched videos or looked at pictures or even imagined doing anything with anyone else. I was in shock and greatly hurt. I hate thinking about him wanting someone else -- even just a woman in a picture -- who was not me. Additionally, it made me feel really insecure because I do not look like her. I have an athletic build and will never have those Barbie dimensions. He was clearly very sorry that I was hurt, told me how much he loved me, and that he would never, ever cheat on me. He spent a lot of time just holding me and trying to make me feel better and reminded me that I am the person with whom he wants to experience life. But he never uttered a single thing about stopping what he was doing.
My questions are: Why do people do this? How do I get over it? Will I ever understand where he's coming from? How can I move forward? Every day I picture him thinking about this anonymous girl and it breaks my heart. I would appreciate any insight or advice, and someone to talk some sense into me.
– Only Have Eyes for Him, MA
A: I'm so glad that he didn't make empty promises about the pictures. He soothed you and made you feel better without lying. He was a good friend -- and a good boyfriend.
I can't get into the psychology of why people like these pictures, but I can tell you that you're going to have to become more empathetic about your boyfriend's fantasy life. He doesn't really want to be with anyone else. Trust me, if Barbie came up to him in real life -- with her un-photoshopped face and body -- I'm sure that your boyfriend would run away.
Think of these pictures as a good movie or book. They bring him to another place -- and then he returns to his happy reality.
I have to admit that I'm a bit like you. When I'm in a great relationship, the love of my life is generally the center of my fantasy world. That said, I still thumb through celebrity magazines and gawk. I still imagine getting into bed with this -- the equivalent of a Barbie model, at least compared to my old boyfriends. I think about the Barbie ... and then I choose the real world and have a fantasy about what might happen in my actual apartment.
Your guy isn't cheating. He isn't looking at pictures of women you both know. He wants to be with you almost every night of the week.
He sounds pretty great to me. He just needs to learn how to close out of windows on his computer.
Readers? Can someone explain these pictures? Can someone make the letter writer feel better about the fact that the Barbie didn't look like her? Will she ever have fantasies of her own? Discuss.
Q: Dear Meredith,
Long time lurker, first time writer here.
I met a man through an online video game about 5 years ago. We played together a lot over those years and we became good friends. I'm in my mid-30s and divorced. He's in his late 30s, never married. His job takes him on the road often, and when he ended up in a nearby city not that long ago, we decided it was time that we finally met face to face.
We had a blast that weekend. We got along great and I was sad when it was time to go back home. Shortly after that weekend he told me he was interested in me as more than friends. I felt the same way. The problem, of course, was the fact that we lived in different parts of the country. He asked me to leave my job and my town and spend time with him on the road, promising he'd take care of me. I was a bit hesitant because even though we knew each other for some time, we only really spent that one weekend together.
A month later, he came back to that nearby city and we spent another weekend together. I should probably stop here and mention that we didn't move too quickly physically. We took our time and decided to build a foundation. After that weekend we decided that we would officially try having a relationship.
Now the flags. The first time we met, his company was in trouble and there was a pay freeze. When I left after the first weekend, he was stuck in that city for a while so I lent him some money (not much since I'm broke too) so he wouldn't starve. I'm the type of person that treats others the way I want to be treated. I help out people I care about, no questions asked. Usually when I help people financially, I do so with the mindset that I'm never going to see that money again. I had helped him out before and he had paid me back, so I didn't hesitate to help him again.
His company was also doing away with their cell phone plan. Since I'm struggling myself and looking for ways to save money, I agreed to add his phone to my account and we agreed to split the bill. That would save me about $40/month. He also said that he was going to add my name to his debit card, and we were making tentative plans for me to move with him later this year.
The first phone bill was due a few months later. But he didn't pay it. I kept getting excuses. I was getting a bit peeved and I let him know that I was upset that I was paying for something I wasn't supposed to have to afford. I then asked him how he thought he was going to support me if he couldn't support himself? That's the last time he spoke to me. All of a sudden he took me off Facebook, took me off his friends list in the online game, and pretty much cut off all contact with me while bad mouthing me to other people we knew in the game, calling me every name in the book, saying what a terrible person I was for "making him feel bad." After all I've done for him.
We haven't spoken in almost a month. I'm stuck in a 2 year contract for his phone. He took advantage of me and I'm very upset about it. I want to yell at him, scream at him, and tell him off. My friends tell me I should not have any contact with him and move on. My problem is, I have a hard time moving on without closure. Why did he do this to me?
Should I write him? If so what do I say?
– Left Hanging, Cambridge
A: You've learned a lesson, LH. The right guy will not ask you to quit your job and hang with him on the road. Not after spending one weekend together. The right guy will not borrow money from you after your first date. If he's that desperate for cash, he'll ask his friends and family for help. You would never ask a new suitor/pen pal for money, right? The Golden Rule goes both ways.
This guy is a self-absorbed child. There's no point in screaming at him. It would just validate his ridiculous theory that you're a terrible person.
Don't worry about your reputation on the gaming website. People will see through him -- and something tells me that he's done this before. His online behavior would have us all hitting "report abuse" on Love Letters.
This experience will help you make better decisions. You can be nice without taking major financial risks. You can say no.
Get closure by paying the fee to get out of that cell phone contract. Cut ties. It can't be any more expensive than paying the bill for two years. Then go have a toast (using very cheap wine) with the friends who've earned your trust.
As they say in "The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask," "A puppet that can no longer be used is mere garbage. This puppet's role has just ended."
Readers? Should she yell? Is this how the Golden Rule works? How should she approach him in this online community? Will people see through his act? What are your rules about borrowing/loaning money? Help.
Congrats to film critic Wesley Morris who won a Pulitzer Prize yesterday.
(Let's not forget that he likes the movie "Wild Things.")
Q: I have an amazing boyfriend. We've been together for well over a year and live together. I'm in my mid 20s and he's a couple of years older. Let's call him John.
When John and I met, we had an instant connection. After dating several weeks, we easily transitioned into spending almost every day together. We decided to move in together sooner than one might expect.
Living together has worked out very well overall, and I can see myself spending the rest of my life with him. However, when we were having some problems, I met another guy who I started flirting with online. Nothing physical ever happened, but I knew the brief interaction was wrong. I knew that I would end the "affair." I liked the extra attention, but I loved my boyfriend more. But -- before I ended it -- my boyfriend found out. To say it was a horrible feeling that I would probably lose my boyfriend is an understatement. I have never felt so guilty in my life (or done anything like this). I still feel incredibly guilty. He ultimately forgave me and wants to stay together.
I learned my lesson. I love him in a way that I never thought was possible. He has told me he feels the same. Based on some conversations, I think we would be engaged now if I hadn't sought attention elsewhere. We've talked through our problems, and we're much better about communicating. We both really want this to work. The major issue left is rebuilding his trust in me. Based on some questions he asks me, he still needs reassurance that I'm not going to leave him. However, we've started planning longer term again (things like vacations). I'm taking that as we're moving in the right direction.
As much as I love John, I also fear being in a relationship that goes on for years and never leads to marriage. I understand that we need time, but I'm unsure of when it's safe to say that he will never trust me/be ready for that step. I know it's not now, since it's only been a few months. However, in a couple more months we'll have to decide whether we want to renew our lease. I've specifically not raised the topic of marriage, but before we commit to another year together I also need some assurance that we're moving in the right direction. Is there a safe way to raise the topic without pushing him? I'm not looking for a proposal now, but I want to know it will happen if we stay together. I'm also wondering what's reasonable before I start pressing the issue. Is a year after my screw up okay, should I wait more, less?
Thanks for any advice!
– Unsure How to Proceed, Boston
A: You're not entitled to answers right now, UHTP.
If you guys decide to renew the lease, that's a big step, but you shouldn't pretend that it represents more than it does. You certainly shouldn't demand answers that your boyfriend doesn't have.
You don't have any answers either, by the way.
I mean, do you know that you want to marry him? Because I'd argue that you're still figuring it all out. Don't confuse guilt and the desire to be forgiven with the desire to commit to someone for life. I understand that you don't want to waste years living with someone who doesn't want to marry you, but you also don't want to jump into marriage for the wrong reasons. You guys are just not there yet. Not even close.
My advice is to get through another full lease before you even think about having the conversation (with him -- or yourself). Reevaluate then. And please, don't spend the whole year trying to please him so that he forgives you. Just love him and be normal. That's the best way to get answers.
Readers? Is her desire to commit being ruled by guilt? Should she sign another lease? When is she allowed to feel normal in this relationship again? Can you give her a timeline for her next move? Discuss.
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.
Q: Back in January I met someone who I thought was a pretty stand-up guy. I was showing a friend a notorious, open-after-2 a.m. bar for a drink and cliché Irish Boston scenery. After one drink and about 30 minutes of my toes getting stepped on, I somehow struck up a conversation with this stand-up guy. I proceeded to break the cardinal preliminary-talking-points rule by nervously chatting about my ex cheating on me (due to the fact that my ex's best friend was randomly there and interrupted our conversation to introduce himself). This guy didn't seem fazed by the awkwardness of the situation and actually asked for my number.
We texted daily and went out on a first date that I thought was pretty fantastic. Stand-up guy put my coat on for me and paid the tab. We had solid conversation and a quick kiss before I got into the cab. Classic first date material. Although I was excited about meeting someone new and interesting, I was a bit apprehensive because I had to begin studying for the bar exam. Studying for 10+ hours a day is not an opportune time to try and get to know someone. But stand-up guy proved once again that he was pretty stand-up. He visited me for a coffee study break almost every day for the entire time I studied. He didn't even drink coffee. At this point, he was almost too good to be true.
After the bar exam he became harder and harder to make plans with. I knew something wasn't right -- super big red flag -- but I couldn't help thinking back to how great he had been, how his actions were matching his words and all of that other great stuff. I also didn't want my past relationship trust issues to carry over.
Fast forward to last week. I finally had some time to do normal things again so I asked stand-up guy to come over for dinner. He graciously accepted, asked what was on the menu, and then ended up texting me the day of with a family related excuse. I felt terrible for even beginning to think he would use a family excuse to blow me off and sent back a "Family first. Hope everything is OK" sort of text. No response. After about five days of zero communication and girlish over-analysis, I pieced some things together using my laptop and intuition (which I had regrettably been tuning out). I told stand-up guy that I thought he had a girlfriend and that it was an unfortunate situation and thanked him for everything during the bar exam. We finally spoke about it and he neither admitted nor denied the girlfriend part. We both know that if he didn't have one the entire time he would say so.
I feel awful for his girlfriend, I've been there, but I'm not in the business of ruining already-ruined relationships. I know I'm not a victim in all of this -- I consciously and/or subconsciously missed red flags along the way. It all just seemed too improbable to be true and I was afraid to let my past experiences cloud my judgment about someone new.
So I guess I have a few questions: What was the end game here? Do people really just cheat for the sake of cheating? Do you have to ask every new person you meet if they have a significant other? Can you no longer assume people are single if they act very, very single?
– Hi, my name is do you have a girlfriend, Boston
A: You're allowed to feel like the victim here, HMNIDYHAG. You were duped and it wasn't your fault. You didn't know that this "stand-up guy" had a girlfriend until you did some serious online sleuthing. You have every right to be angry and disappointed that it didn't work out.
As for why people lie about significant others, well, it's complicated. In some cases, the cheaters are liner-uppers. They've already moved on from their current relationships (despite the fact that they're still in them), so they don't even see the overlap as cheating. In other cases, the cheaters are just bad people who tell horrible lies so that they can get attention from someone new. In your case, who knows? Maybe your guy was single when he met you but got back together with someone while you were studying. Maybe they were on a break -- until they weren't.
But here's the thing: Most people don't have the time and energy to juggle big lies. And had you not been studying for a massive, life-changing exam, you would have wanted to see this guy more often and his issues would have come out that much earlier. You would have wanted to meet his friends. You would have asked to see his apartment and the red flags would have smacked you in the face. You would have asked him personal questions that he wouldn't have been able to answer.
You are an open, thoughtful, and studious person who's looking for genuine emotional intimacy. You're probably destined to have some failed romances (because we all are), but in the end, you'll get to the bottom of every case -- law-school style -- until you find someone who makes you feel safe.
And for the record, this is why it's great to date friends of friends of friends. Make sure that the people in your circle know that you're looking for a nice guy (who's single). Let your friends know that the exam is over and that your priorities have changed.
Readers? Is she allowed to feel like the victim? Does this happen often? How can you be sure that you're on a date with a single person? What happened here? Help.
Q: Dear Meredith,
I have two friends who have been married for more than a decade, and one of them was (is?) engaged in an affair with her ex. I am equally close with both parties. I asked the spouse who is having the affair if something was going on and she admitted her dastardly deeds but claims the affair has ended. I'm not convinced.
To make matters worse, I often see this couple at parties with the person she was having an affair with. I care deeply for both of my friends, but I feel I am being disloyal to the friend who is being cheated on. If my friend knew, their marriage might end and there are children involved.
Should I say something? Should I stay out? I have a hard time believing her spouse doesn't know what is going on, but it might be easier for me to see the affair from the outside. For those of you who have been cheated on, would you want a friend to tell what they know? I'm in uncharted territory here, and just not sure what to do. I want to maintain a friendship with both parties.
– Should I Stay Out or Say Something, Boston
A: There's no right answer here. Even if there were, it would depend on the couple in question -- and on you. Maybe the cheater confirmed the wrongdoing to you because she knows that you're the kind of person who'd tell her partner and clear the air on her behalf. Or maybe she told you because you're a vault with secrets and you represented a safe way to confess.
And as for the couple -- do they seem unhappy? Does the cheater want to stick around for the right reasons? Does the victim of this cheat ever complain about the relationship? Would the news of the cheat shock anyone? Are these people honest with each other about other things?
I've changed my mind again and again about whether I believe friends should disclose cheats. In your situation, you have to think about your own needs first. There are too many unknowns for you to base this decision on what you think is best for your friends and their family, so it has to be about what you can live with.
Once this woman confirmed the cheat -- which was a very intentional decision, by the way -- she put you in a bad place. You have every right to cope with this information by doing what feels right to you, whether that means disclosing the betrayal or staying silent and watching how things play out. This has to be about your sanity.
You can start figuring out what you want to do by asking the cheater what she expected you to do with this information. You can ask her why she confirmed this cheat to you (as opposed to her spouse) and why she wants to stay in her marriage. You can ask why she's keeping this a secret and why she continues to hang out in social circles with the ex. You can ask whether anyone else knows, because it'd be great if you could make this decision with other friends.
Get more information and then decide what feels right in your brain and heart.
Readers? Should the letter writer tell? Would you want to know? Are there any rules with this? Discuss.
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.
Q: Dear Meredith,
I have been married for five years, and a few months ago, while I was nine months pregnant with our second child, my husband slept with another woman. I was made aware of the affair when I found a note from the woman in his work bag written on hotel stationery. I confronted him, and he admitted to the affair. He had met the woman a few months earlier, while attending a conference for work. They kept in touch and by coincidence (he claims), they were both in New York on business trips at the same time and she met him at his hotel and they slept together. He said that was the extent of the relationship, and that he felt so guilty afterwards that he cut the trip short to come home to me and he never talked to her again.
When all of this came to light, I was adjusting to life with a newborn baby and a toddler and felt that I could not mentally and emotionally deal with another thing. Of course I was devastated, but other than a lot of screaming at him, crying, and making him sleep on the couch for about a week, things slowly returned to "normal" and the affair was kind of swept under the rug. Our relationship on the surface has been fine, but I am still dying inside. We have not been intimate since I found out, I can't bring myself to even kiss him.
Recently, he left his computer on when he was out of the house and I checked his email. There was no correspondence with this woman, but I did find her email address in his contact list and I also saw an email receipt from an upscale body and bath store, from which he often bought me gifts when we were first dating. I sincerely thought, with Valentine's Day coming up, that he had bought something for me. V-Day came and went and nothing. This latest discovery is eating me up inside, especially because he continues to go to conferences.
Should I confront him with this? I will have to admit that I went through his email, and I'm not sure if he will even tell me the truth once I bring it up to him. I feel so alone in all of this, as I cannot bring myself to confide in anyone, because I don't want them to think badly of my husband, as crazy as it sounds.
Any advice would be a huge help.
– Once a Cheater, Always a Cheater, Boston?
A: You must tell your husband that you saw the receipt, OACAAC. Then tell him that you need some time for a real talk. Make plans to go to therapy and discuss. Ask a family member to watch the kids. Have the discussion that you've been putting off since last year. If you don't confront this issue right now, it's going to keep oozing out from under the rug. You might as well deal with it on your own terms.
My advice is to tell someone (maybe a few people) in your life what happened. I understand that you don't want to tarnish your husband's reputation, but you need help and that's what communities are for. Wouldn't you want your friends to confide in you? Wouldn't you be supportive? Disclosing the cheat will help you process the fact that it really happened. You need honesty right now. You need an inner circle of companions who can help you deal. You need perspective.
As for your "once a cheater, always a cheater" question, my answer is no, I don't believe that people who cheat are destined to repeat their mistakes. In fact, I don't even like to use the label "cheater." Let's call your husband someone who cheated. Will he cheat again? I have no idea. All I know is that he did once, and that it's time to accept what happened and talk about it so you can heal and figure out the next step. Please break the silence.
Readers? Once a cheater, always a cheater? Am I right to say that it's important that she tell her friends and family what happened? Or will that make the situation messier than it needs to be? Anybody else sweep a cheat under the rug? What should she do to deal with this? Help.
Today's letter has an appetizer. It's a cute note that isn't worth a full day, but I thought you could give the writer some tips before or after you deal with the main course. - M
Q: Not necessarily a LOVE question. But I need some advice!
My dad lives in a gated community and most of the time when I go over, there's a seriously attractive male working the gate. I'm never sure how to start up a conversation with him, or if it's even worth it! I only pass through the gate for a matter of 5 seconds -- we wave and smile to each other and then I'm on my way. What should I do?!
– KB, Delaware
Q: Late last fall, I attended a convention for bicycling enthusiasts where I met an attractive, interesting, outgoing woman. After a bit of small talk, I asked for her phone number and suggested that we get together for bike rides or platonic social events. She agreed, so we planned a first date a month or so later.
On that first date, she admitted that she was married (unhappily), and that her husband spent half the year abroad on business. She told me she agreed to the date because of its platonic nature. We had a great time and have seen each other a few times subsequent to that day.
The problem is that she is giving unmistakable signs that she wants something more. I made it clear, early on, that I would not get romantically involved with a married woman. That reality has not changed anything between us. We still see each other, and nothing happens beyond a quick hug goodbye. We meet in public places and mind our manners in every case. Aside from moral considerations, the last thing is want in my life is an irate husband armed with a shotgun.
I realize that this relationship has no romantic future. I personally don't romantically date someone until they have been divorced for at least a year, and since we don't know each other very well yet, I certainly can't expect her to alter a marriage on account of me. Besides, she indicates that divorce is not an option. As I said, I will not do anything physical with a married woman. I'm free to date others, and can live my life as I choose without interference from her. Most important, she has no children that could be affected by this activity.
Is it wrong to date this married woman as a friend, or am I doing something wrong?
– Concerned in Connecticut
A: It's fine to have a married friend, CIC, but only if she's really a platonic pal. This woman has feelings for you, and you describe your outings as dates. That doesn't sound platonic to me.
I'm worried that after more time together, your relationship boundaries will begin to bleed. A friendship will become an emotional affair. An emotional affair will turn into something you never wanted.
My advice is to see her in groups -- and less frequently. Bring her out with a pack of bikers and let her see that she's one of many friends, and that she doesn't get special treatment. Many commenters will probably tell you to cut her off altogether (and I can't say I disagree with them), but if you feel like there's something to save here, turn her into a member of your greater biking community. It's what's best for her, too.
You mention that there are no kids to confuse, which means that you're doing something confusing. Reserve your date time for someone who's really available.
Readers? Does he have to cut her off? What is he getting out of this? What will happen if they continue this? What are his obligations here? Help.
1. Boston University is hosting a very fun panel on Tuesday night about love, Love Letters, and college relationships. It is open to all college students -- not just BU folks -- so if you're matriculated anywhere, please forget all Beanpot rivalries and attend.
2. I'll be teaching kids how to write advice next Friday as part of a February break program at 826 Boston. I want kids to be answering real letters, so if you have a problem that you want the 12-and-up crowd to answer, please help by emailing me your dilemma to meregoldstein at gmail dot com with "826" in the subject line. This will be a very fun activity for these kids, and I'll post some of their advice. Keep the subject matter family friendly, please. Make them think. And if you have a Boston kid who's going to be bored next week, feel free to sign them up.
Q: Hi Meredith,
I'm in my mid-20s and for the past eight months have been working for a small business in the industry I want to specialize in. My boss is about 20-ish years older than me and established enough that his name is worth dropping in some circles. I'm a friendly person (or so I like to think), and he is always cheerful and open. We have a very easy working relationship that has extended to a mentorship. Although there is a big age difference, we have many similarities -- our backgrounds, ambitions, sense of humor, family loyalty, etc. Over the past several months I have come to regard him not just as my employer and mentor, but as a good friend.
In the last few weeks, however, it has become increasingly clear that my boss is interested in taking our relationship to the next level. He is charming by nature, and flirts with practically everyone he meets, so I was caught off guard when he became more flirty than usual one night after work. Up until that moment, I had never even considered him in a romantic light, partly because he is my employer, and mostly because he is married and has a young child.
At first I thought he was just lonely and in need of company (he has to stay in the city alone a lot) and I just happened to be nearby. However, he's made it clear that his interest in me is not purely sexual. I haven't felt harassed by his attention (I've done the corporate harassment training and know what is inappropriate). It honestly feels like he is pursuing me as if he were single and wants to date me properly.
My first reaction was knee-jerk -- to get away as soon as I possibly could. Regardless of how this all plays out, I have a lot to lose. The industry we work in and his reputation in it are such that he could damage my career prospects, not just by firing me, but also by blacklisting me in academic and internship placements. Obviously, I'm not the first girl to find herself in this situation, and it seems like the standard is that the junior people are the ones who have to quietly disappear. Of course, his family is also on the line, but I do wonder if this is even an issue for him, given how blatant he's been thus far. He often mentions his child, although rarely talks about his wife.
What makes it hard to go against my first reaction is that I'm finding it terribly hard to think badly of him (here's the part where I feel like a horrible person). I've considered him a close friend for a while now, and I'm certain that he feels the same. We've shared both professional and private worries, and I have always felt at ease with him. We have a natural, comfortable dynamic to the point that other people we've worked with have said that they've never seen two people more well-matched. Apart from his current circumstances, he is someone with whom I can easily see myself becoming seriously involved. He has told me that he is happily married, but is confused about where I belong in his life.
All this being said, I like to think I am a good person with a healthy set of morals. I have been cheated on before, and I don't think I could ever be responsible for making another woman feel that way, especially when there is a child involved. I've turned to friends for advice, many of whom have not been supportive. I've been called and accused of lots of unpleasant things, which has been upsetting to say the least. My guilt at what he is proposing does not change my feelings for him -- it's just added to the jumble of emotions inside my head. I could really use some constructive advice on how to move forward. Thanks in advance to you and the readers.
– Possibly the other woman, NY
A: I'm so glad that you emailed us now, PTOW. So many letter writers check in after they've become the other woman. I always wish I could throw them in a Love Letters time machine and give them pre-affair advice.
But you're catching yourself and asking big questions at just the right time. You know that a great professional friendship has evolved into a romantic relationship. You know that you like that relationship -- but that it's very wrong. I understand that you're charmed by this guy and that you're similar in some ways, but ... you're actually very different. Like opposites.
1. He's married and you're not.
2. He has a kid and you don't.
3. He's a pro in his career and you're just starting out.
4. He's 20 years older than you.
He did you a big favor by telling you that he's happily married. Now you can say to him, "I think it's wonderful that you're in a good marriage and I have no plans to spoil that. Let's focus on professional respect. Let's be responsible, trustworthy, professional adults." Set boundaries and respect them. No hanging out outside of work. No date behavior.
You emailed us now because you know what's right. Frankly, even if he wasn't married, I'd tell you to stay away. Mentors and bosses aren't supposed to be boyfriends. And you don't want to be with a guy who "flirts with practically everyone he meets." Ask those smart friends of yours to help you look for better dating options. Keep yourself busy after work. Read that list of differences over and over and over.
Readers? How can she stop this relationship from progressing? Is this a sexual harassment issue without her knowing it? What is happening here and how should she proceed? Should she report this to anyone? Discuss.
Q: Hi Meredith,
About two years ago I met this guy, Eric. We hit it off instantly and basically became inseparable from day one. After a few months of dating I was staying at his apartment every night. I was 100% positive that I had found the man I was going to marry. Things continued to be great, and about one year into the relationship we decided to find a new apartment and move in together.
We were both really excited about moving in together at first, but then as the time came closer I started having doubts. All of a sudden everything just seemed to be happening so fast. One important thing to mention here is that I'm in my mid-20s and Eric is about 30. Although he wasn't pressuring me, it was very apparent that he was ready to get married and have kids. I did not feel quite ready for those things. The fear about marriage/kids then turned into doubt about how I can be sure at 24 that I want to spend the rest of my life with this person. I can hardly bring myself to say the next series of events, but I ended up cheating on Eric a few months ago. I told him everything and we tried to work it out for awhile, but it was hard to keep the relationship going without a foundation of trust and with all of the hurt/pain I caused him. I ended up moving out a few weeks ago.
Here's the issue: although I've moved out, Eric and I still talk all of the time. We even spend one or two nights/week together. I love him so much, and I want things to work out. I wish I could erase the past few months because all of my reckless behavior made me realize that my concerns were unfounded and I do want to marry him. But now I've just made a horrible mess of everything. Eric says that he wants to forgive me and work things out but that we need some time apart to heal. I also know that he's been doing some online dating though ... basically I just don't know what to do at this point. I feel like I'm in an endless waiting room just hoping that Eric will come through the door and say that he's ready to try again.
Do you think I should give Eric some more space and hope that he can come to terms with what happened and forgive me? If yes, how long do I wait? Or should I cut ties now and try to move on? Help.
– Waiting in Boston
A: If you really want Eric, you have to give him more time, WIB. You cheated, you moved out, and now you're in a confusing, messy situation that has him reevaluating his options. Some of this just has to run its course, which means you might be stuck in that waiting room for a few more months.
As for how long you should wait, well, you have to go with your gut on that. If you feel taunted by his online dating or if it's been months and there are no plans to reinstate exclusivity, you can tell him that you need your own space and walk away. You did a bad, bad thing and he deserves some time to process it, but processing is different than punishing. Trust your instincts.
I'm also going to advise that you use this time wisely. Are you sure that you want to marry this guy soon? If he calls you tomorrow, asks you to move back in, and wants to make a baby, are you open to that? I know that you miss him, and I do believe that the threat of losing someone can give us real clarity, but please, don't make promises you can't keep. Knowing that you miss him doesn't mean that you're any more committed than you were before. Use this waiting room time to think about your own needs.
Readers? Obviously she knows she messed up, but what happens next? Does she really want to marry him? If so, how much time should she give him? Should he be online dating in her face? Should they be seeing each other at all during this time? Help.
Happy you know what.
Q: Hey Meredith,
I have to admit that I feel awkward writing to you. I don't know just how much help I need, but here it goes. I'm in my early-mid 20s and with a fantastic girl. She loves me unabashedly, and I love her with all of my heart. We've been together for a little over a year, and it is the longest relationship for both of us. We're planning to move in together this summer, and I feel like things are on a great path. So what's the problem? Frankly, she's incredibly insecure, and it's exhausting.
She has had issues with men cheating on her in the past, and in the interest of full disclosure, I have had issues with cheating on people in the past. I have never cheated on her, and I have turned down every opportunity that I have had to do so. However, she needs constant affirmation that I love her and will not cheat on her. Whenever I go out without her, she is compelled to ask if I talked to any other woman, or was flirty/flirted with. Her insecurity has caused her to be wary (to put it lightly) of my relationship with my best friend, who is female. My friend and I have known each other for over a decade, had a failed relationship in the seventh grade, and have been happily platonic ever since. However, my girlfriend has constantly had issues trusting me when I say this girl is a friend and nothing more. This has led to constant fights whenever I spend time with my friend.
I am exhausted. I honestly try my hardest to show her all the love and support that she needs to get through this. She is against seeing a therapist, for reasons that I'm not too certain of. And in her defense, she has made efforts to improve on these things, but sometimes it's just too frustrating to deal with. It honestly drives me away from her. I definitely love her and I want to be with her. But I want to be able to have my own life separate from her, where I can see friends, and go out, without having to deal with the drama afterward. I worry that when we move in it will be the end of "independent me" (a la "Seinfeld"). I need her to find a way to resolve her insecurities. But it seems like something she has to do on her own. Any ideas for ways that I can support her while keeping my sanity?
– Exhausted But Committed, Boston
A: EBC, don't move in with her. Not yet, at least. Moving in won't solve these jealousy problems. Moving in certainly won't stop you from being exhausted all of the time.
You're supposed to move in with someone when things are going really well. That's not what's happening here. You're using words like "constant," "wary," and "drama." You're worried about losing your best friend. I know it's all balanced by good stuff, but you're signing up to make your relationship a full-time job.
I do believe that that you guys are in love. And I will admit that a move-in can sometimes put insecure people at ease (they know that no matter what, their partners will eventually come home). But your relationship is too shaky for major change. And your girlfriend is just beginning to work on making this better.
My advice is to slow this down. Tell her that you want to be with someone who's open to therapy if there are problems in the relationship. Tell her that you want to do this right so that you actually have a shot at staying together. Tell her what you need to know before you move in with her.
Readers? Is this relationship too flawed to fix? Can people prone to jealousy explain how moving in helps ... or hurts? How can he slow this relationship down without making her more insecure? Discuss.
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.
About a year ago, Boston Globe film critic Wesley Morris and I made a list of our 16 favorite romantic movies and let you vote on them. We called it the Romance Rumble, and when it was over we screened the winner --- Wesley's pick, "Casablanca" -- at the Somerville Theatre.
Today marks the start of the second Romance Rumble. This year, Wesley and I opted to choose our favorite sexy movies (as opposed to romantic) and again, we're putting them to you for a vote. We'll screen the winner in Somerville on Feb. 10.
Vote and join us. No matter what wins, it'll be a fun night, and a great way to spend the Friday before Valentine's Day.
And now a letter ...
Q: My husband and I are in our 40s and have been married for 15 years. We have 3 good kids, and both hold rewarding jobs. Over the years, things have been up and down, as I think is natural in a long-term relationship, but it really started to go downhill a few years ago, with neither of us really paying attention to the other, then feeling hurt because the other was not paying attention. I had been depressed and put on some weight and felt unattractive, and he did not seem to want me. He also felt that he was unwanted. The fact that he travels for his job also meant that he was not home during the week to help with the house, kids, etc. and by the time weekends rolled around, both of us were just too tired to take care of the relationship.
Several months ago, I discovered he was having an affair with a much younger woman. The "relationship" is over, and I am working very hard to get past it. To give him his credit, he is working hard on this too -- being more considerate and accessible when he is home. Of course, I have my doubts, but I really want to get past this and get to a better place in our marriage.
However, there is a sticking point. He wants a sexual relationship, like now. I agree with him that sex is an important part of a healthy marriage, and I too would like to have a good sex life, but he has actually set a deadline for when he expects sex to resume. I feel so insecure about making myself open and vulnerable -- I just cannot relax enough to even think about being physical, and the more he pressures me, the more tense and anxious I get. And yes, I even feel resentful.
We did try couples' counseling, but that did not work out. I still think that it's important to try counseling, but I have hit a brick wall. He completely refuses to try that again. I just don't know where to go from here. It seems unfair to put so much pressure on me to resume a sexual relationship -- I feel as though this part of our lives will grow back organically and should not feel forced.
– Rock and a Hard Place, Somerville
A: Well, I'm on your side about deadlines, RAAHP. You can't force physical intimacy, and deadlines don't work. You've only had a few months to process this betrayal, and it's going to take time. That said, the longer you go without being intimate, the scarier it might get.
My advice? Tell him that you want to meet in the middle. Sex is overwhelming right now, but maybe some cuddling and first base isn't. Maybe first base will lead to second on its own. Maybe you can stay there for a while. Maybe you can start with some simple making out in front of a movie, something you watched when you first got married.
This shouldn't be something you do for him. It shouldn't be something that you have to get through. It should be an act of love for both of you.
If you can commit to testing the bases (or even the cuddling in front of the TV), he should be able join you in in couples therapy, Part 2. And please, no matter what, go to therapy on your own.
Let him know that you're willing to test out the bases if he reconsiders talking to a professional (and drops his ridiculous deadline). Trust is built on first and second base -- and on open and honest discussion. He either wants that stuff or he doesn't.
Readers? Deadlines? How can she reestablish physical intimacy after a betrayal? Thoughts on getting him back to therapy? Anyone have empathy about his deadline? Will the physical intimacy just come back naturally? Discuss.
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?
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.
Q: Dear Meredith,
I am in my late 20s and a newlywed. My new husband started working the late shift three months ago and things haven't been the same since. Now that we are married and have joint finances, I was shocked to discover how many bills have gone unpaid. Starting about six months ago I began receiving calls from creditors looking for payment. Most of these bills are in my name. I have confronted my husband about the situation and he admitted to hiding the mail so I would not see late notices. He seems to have no sympathy for paying bills devastatingly late. My credit has been ruined by these late payments. Most recently I received a call from our mortgage company explaining that our mortgage hadn't been paid in three months. I cannot just "let it go" and accept yet another excuse from my husband. I quickly became the only one putting money into our joint bank account, and also the only one to take action to remedy these embarrassing phone calls. His check now goes into a separate account that I have no access to. I don't know how much money he's making, or where he is spending it.
Here is where it gets messy -- we have a young daughter together. Beyond money problems, one night in particular I found out he slept at another women's house who my husband has always claimed to be "just a friend." This is the third time he has been MIA for the night. I have found myself to be a single mother married to a totally unpredictable spouse. I have made multiple exhaustive attempts to communicate my concerns to my husband who barely seems to be listening and laughs at my thoughts of another woman. He has refused couples or individual counseling and has asked me to move out half a dozen times. My emotions have gone from acting like the situation doesn't bother me to feeling completely alone and helpless.
I never would have predicted this situation and I just don't know how to move forward. I could use your advice!
– Incomplete in Boston
A: There's not a lot you can do about a bad marriage when your partner refuses counseling -- and honesty in general, IIB. Your only choice right now is to focus on yourself and your kid. Start by finding a financial adviser who can help you get out of this credit mess. You need to know about every bill that's out there and how this has affected your record. You also need to know what will happen and how you can budget your life if this marriage ends. Do some Googling and look for an expert who deals with couples. I recommend bringing a friend or family member to these appointments. It can be overwhelming to deal with on your own.
You should also be seeing a therapist during all of this. Yes, it'd be better if he came with you, but regardless, you need help figuring out how you can go back to feeling safe in the world. If he's this unpredictable, is it best for you to move out? If so, where can you go that will give you some stability?
My hope is that when he sees you making these moves, he'll realize that this is serious and join you for these appointments. But it's very possible that he won't. His reaction to your planning will also give you some big answers. At the end of the day, is he working to stay together ... or is he relieved that you're making plans to move on?
Take deep breaths. And again, bring friends to appointments even if it means calling someone you haven't seen in a long time. You don't have to be alone.
Readers? Does his night shift have anything to do with this? Advice from people who have dealt with partners not paying bills? Is this relationship fixable? Discuss.
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.
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.
Remember to be constructive with advice.
Q: Dear Meredith,
I can hardly believe I am writing this. But here it goes:
A few years ago, I got involved with someone. I was married at the time and he was allegedly single. We had been talking as friends online for years before that. I never thought I would do that, but I did. I had been trying to save my marriage on my own for many years and I finally succumbed to the temptation of someone new. Let's call him Steve. During this time I never once lied to anyone about my current state. My then husband knew exactly where I was and even knew who I was with. I went away weekends with Steve and my husband knew. I knew my marriage was over for good then.
I fell head-over-heels in love with Steve. He was everything I ever wanted in a man. Then I learned Steve was indeed still married. I should have walked away then but it was too late. I was in love, my marriage was over, and he assured me his was over long before he met me. I came to find out that he had walked away from his marriage several times prior to meeting me but that he always went back for the sake of his young child.
After I divorced my husband I found a place. It was with the understanding that once my divorce was final, he would start to finalize his.
He didn't. The first excuse was he didn't have the money to do so.
We broke up for a while after that. He wanted to come back. I told him I wasn't taking him back until he moved forward with his divorce. He promised me he was going to and had even talked to his wife about it and she agreed to the divorce. He moved in with me, and I let him borrow the money he needed to get his divorce done. His excuse then was we needed to wait until we were settled into our house together. That was in the spring.
I put my foot down again this summer and told him he had a month to file his divorce papers. He said he would, he made a lame attempt to do the paperwork ... but it sits uncompleted and unfiled.
I've made another demand for it to get done and this time the excuse is he's afraid of losing his son (ridiculous -- they have a great relationship) and his retirement to a divorce.
Please, Meredith and readers, give me the kick in the pants I obviously need. He's never going to divorce his wife and I really need to move on.
– Needs a Good Kick in the Pants, Mass.
A: You already know what you have to do, NAGKITP, so I'm not going to focus on kicking you.
Instead I'm going to boost you up and assure you that you're going to be OK. You've learned so many things about yourself during this relationship, and it helped you find our way into a new life. That new life is set (you're divorced, you're in your own place, etc.), and you can finally focus on enjoying it -- alone or with someone who isn't caught up in a lie.
I don't want you to punish yourself for wasting time. Sometimes we need to get the runaround three or four times before we're sure about a decision. I bet that a year or so ago you wouldn't have been confident enough to write the last sentence of your letter, but you did this time around and that means you're ready for great things.
Prepare yourself, because when you tell him that you're done with him, he might run and file that divorce paperwork. And if he does, do you care? Because it seems to me that it's too late, no matter what.
Readers? If he runs and gets a divorce because she breaks up with him, should she take him back? Thoughts on recovering after such a long, messy relationship? Help.
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.
Q: Dear Meredith,
This is a tough letter for me to write. I am a 30something wife and mother of two small children. My husband and I have had numerous relationship problems over the past few years that have basically left me on emotional life support. I have not cheated physically on my husband; my father cheated on my mother which left me absolutely repulsed by the thought of infidelity. I have been leaning on one of my close male friends during this time for support. This includes after-hours talking, texting, other contact, lunches together, etc. It has also included the occasional hug, hand-holding, and that sort of minimal physical contact. My husband is aware of our friendship and has already once falsely accused me of cheating. To say that I feel closer to my friend than my husband at this point is absolutely true. I am trying to figure out a way to extricate myself from my marriage that leaves the least negative impression on my children (my primary concern). But in the meantime, this thought keeps coming up (and hence my question)... is what I am doing "emotional cheating"? What is emotional cheating? Does the fact that I am closer emotionally to a man that isn't my spouse make me a cheater?
– Haunted by the Thought, Boston
A: Is it cheating to be closer to a friend than a spouse? Not necessarily.
Are you cheating on your husband with your friend? Pretty much. Sorry.
You're pursing your feelings for another man. And you're holding hands, an act that can be more physically intimate than sex (depending on the hands and the sex).
That said, I'm not so sure that what you're doing with your friend is worth focusing on right now. The specifics or your relationship have nothing to do with what happened to your parents, and you have other, more important concerns to deal with.
My advice is to stop worrying about your friend and deal with your marriage. Get into therapy with your husband. Start talking about the fact that you want to extricate yourself from the partnership. Make plans for your children. Consider logistics. Worry less about how to label what's happening.
Obsessing about your relationship with your friend and how your behavior might parallel your father's is just a way to distract yourself from the real issue, your potential divorce. Going into a shame spiral about cheating won't help you right now.
Work on defining what it means to be in a broken marriage.
Readers? Is she cheating? Is that important? What should she be focused on right now? Should she be drawing parental parallels? Discuss.
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.
Hey there. No chat today. I'm in New York -- and I'm actually meeting with someone about our next Love Letters event, which will be Dec. 15. Save the date. It will be lovely. Details soon. We will chat again next week.
Q: Hey Meredith,
I'm engaged and getting married soon. We've been together for a few years. Before we met, my fiance went on a couple dates with "Steve." She stopped seeing him because he was very busy with his job and wasn't really looking for a relationship. A couple of months later she met me and we started dating. Things got serious pretty quick. She told me about Steve but said she was done dating that kind of guy. She does tell me that once in a while she will text him but it's just to say hello.
Anyway, she recently saw on Facebook that Steve is getting married. She thought it was funny because he didn't seem like the type to settle down.
The other night she was on the computer looking at wedding stuff. I also suspected she was messaging someone, but I didn't say anything. She said a couple things about Steve, so then I knew that's who she was talking to. I don't mind her briefly talking to other guys but this was going on for a long time and it was kind of upsetting me. I didn't want to start a fight so I didn't say anything. She kept the screen turned slightly away from me.
I don't snoop but obviously her behavior was a little out of the ordinary. So the next morning I logged into her Facebook page and the whole conversation was still there. Basically, they started talking about the wedding and then Steve said he really did want a relationship with her but by the time he realized it, she and I were already serious. She kind of implied that if he had said something she might have left me for him. I'm not sure about that part though. She then told him that if she wasn't in the situation she is in right now, she would "be there in a heartbeat."
There are several things that bother me about this conversation. I really don't like that she purposely hid the conversation from me. That's never a good sign. I don't know how to feel about the "I'd be there in a heartbeat" remark. I understand that everyone gets tempted -- it's human nature. But I would have felt better if she didn't admit she was tempted.
I don't want to bring this up to her because she will get mad at me for snooping. I trust my fiance but this does alarm me. I also am angry that Steve is getting married and he is sneaking around, too (I assume his fiance doesn't know about this).
– Hoping I'm Wrong, Massachusetts
A: I'm sorry, HIW. Getting married is a big deal. No one should have to deal with this kind of thing when they're so close to making a huge commitment.
The good news here is that your fiance's crush is on an imaginary man. She only went on a few dates with this Steve character. She learned that he was getting married through Facebook, so she's obviously not in his inner circle. She's invented Magic Steve, the guy she could have fallen for had she not met you. Magic Steve doesn't really exist, and on some level she knows that. She told him, "If I wasn't in the situation I'm in, I'd be there in a heartbeat." That's very different than, "Just say the word and I'll ditch the guy I'm with."
My advice is to keep the snooping to yourself for now. But when you're having a nice moment with her, admit your insecurities. Try, "I'm so in love with you, but every now and then I freak out about whether you want this – especially when you bring up Steve. I don't want to be the crazy, jealous fiance, but is everything OK? Am I what you want?"
Try not to accuse. If you're nice, you're more likely to get honest answers. My guess is that this thing with Steve is her way of working out all of her premarital what-ifs. It's not ideal, but for some people, testing boundaries is a part of the commitment process.
Wait until a pleasant moment and then see what she has to say -- about you and the marriage, not Steve.
Readers? Is she cheating? Is Steve a real threat? Can you imagine what letter she'd write in (because I can)? Is this simply a Facebook problem (that it's so easy to talk to anyone, whenever)? Should the LW make rules about whether she's allowed to talk to Steve? Should he admit the snooping? Discuss.
Q: I've been friends with "Matt" for about seven years. From day one I felt instantly connected to him. During our first conversation we realized we had one very important thing in common -- surviving the same illness.
Initially, we met, exchanged emails, and hung out a couple times. I started to think, "Hey, this has the potential to go somewhere." And then I met his WIFE and KIDS. So I threw on the emergency brake. I no longer was in the pursuing mode and quickly retreated into friend zone. Only there was one big problem. I had already fallen head over heels for this guy.
Over some time, I tried distancing myself from him and was even in a relationship for a couple of years, but fate (our mutual love for sports) brought us back together ... as friends. The friendship was great. I enjoyed having him in my life. He made me feel completely at ease. Completely myself. Completely safe. Completely happy. We’ve been like that for years.
Which brings us to the present. "Matt" is fighting with his wife all the time. He is not happy. He talks about leaving her because he truly thinks the environment is unhealthy for him. He comes to me to release his frustrations and sit peacefully, watching the game, without any nagging interruptions. Meanwhile, his wife does consider me a friend.
I know that I should not offer much advice to him because my opinion is biased. I know that I should just let him talk and get it out, and just be there for him as a friend. But I'm conflicted. I think there's a possibility that I could love this man -- and have loved him for many years. Because of this, any opinion I could offer would have an ulterior motive.
In any other situation with any other guy, I have always told them how I felt. If the feelings weren't shared, I moved on. Simple. I want to do that now. I want to know if I should just move on. I don't know that I would be able to be with someone else completely until I know if "Matt" and I had a chance. I also know that I can't or shouldn't get involved because he's married. So, in the meantime, I just wait ... and hope ... and pray that the stars align and he somehow gets magic mind reading abilities to hear what is going on in my mind and in my heart.
What should I do? Do I tell him how I feel? Do I just be his friend forever and enjoy what we have (always wondering "what if")? I'm barely surviving over here ...
– Barely Surviving, Great Lakes
A: You have to tell him, BS. Otherwise, you might wind up watching TV with him for years.
He's your friend, so when you talk to him, you can give him the entire story. You can tell him that you've had feelings for him for a long time but that you were able to control them. Now that he's mentioning marital problems, your head is a mess. You don't feel comfortable giving him advice. You don't feel comfortable being his sounding board. You're sitting on the couch next to him with your fingers crossed. It doesn't feel good.
No matter what happens, you are not allowed to get physical with him while he's married. If you tell him how you feel and he leans in for a meaningful kiss, you must push him away. And you must set boundaries. Maybe you should only be seeing each other in a group. Maybe (probably), during this marital turbulence, you shouldn't be seeing him at all. Maybe you won't want to see him anymore after you hear his response to your feelings.
After you force the issue, you have to get your brain open to the idea of dating other people. Matt might give you a big "maybe someday" speech, but that's not good enough. You can't spend your nights watching him watch games.
You say that he makes you feel completely safe and happy. But how safe and happy can you be if you signed this letter "Barely Surviving"?
Readers? Any chance she'll wind up with this guy? Should she wind up with him? Should she stay silent and simply cut him off so that she doesn't get involved or tempt him? Should she confess her feelings? Help.
Q: Dear Meredith,
A friend of mine -- who I used to like a lot -- has been exhibiting a lot of risky behavior. I don't usually interfere in another adult's risky behavior, but this situation has me concerned. Since I have known her, she has made a name for herself among our social group for hitting on, making out with, and throwing herself (literally) at any man she sees when she has been drinking -- as a married woman. Her marriage recently ended and she almost immediately began dating a man who used to be her boss. She has continued with her drunken antics with other men while she has been dating him.
Why do I care? He has children. They are planning a future together. I am having a hard time standing by and watching her behave recklessly in yet another relationship, and this one with higher stakes. What should I do? Tell him? Give her a stern talking to? Stop being her friend (which will likely happen anyway)?
– Friend of Out of Control Woman, Boston
A: FOOOCW, your question isn't a traditional Love Letters query, but I get so many "How can I stop my friend from being a jerk in his/her love life?" questions that I try to answer a few.
Most of the time, I tell letter writers like you to box up your judgment and ask questions. Because we can't control what our friends do, and often, we don't really know what’s best for them. But in your case, it's impossible not to judge, and your friend's actions are affecting you. That means you have to protect yourself.
I'd tell her that you're worried. I'd tell her that you're having a tough time watching all of this. I'd tell her that the stress of keeping secrets on her behalf makes you not want to be around her. I'd tell her that you don't know what to do and that you need guidance from her.
See what she has to say and then set boundaries. We don't have to support our friends' love lives if their relationships force us to lie. We certainly don't have to support anyone who puts us in unsafe situations.
I don't recommend telling anyone about her cheats. It's just not worth it. Focus on yourself, and if it seems like the right thing to do, walk away.
Readers? Should the LW tell the new guy about the bar antics? Should the LW walk away from the friend? Would a "talking to" really help the friend? What is the LW's role here? Help.
Q: Hi Meredith,
I'm in a bind. I think? I've been with my boyfriend for almost a decade (since we were teenagers, we are now in our 20s). We used to fight CONSTANTLY, but somehow, miraculously, we stopped. We get along better than ever and it just feels like the healthy relationship it once was. I see us having children, getting married, the whole nine yards. However, there is another gentleman. Let’s call him "B."
I've known him longer than my boyfriend. "B" and I have never dated and we never really hung out back in the day. We had crushes on each other but we were both too afraid to do anything about it. He comes in and out of my life periodically. (He had his own long-term relationship for years, not too sure what happened with that but it’s over.) We have hung out a few times recently and I notice that when he comes back into my life, I have doubts about my current relationship. When he leaves, I am content with my life, everything is great, and I couldn't be happier (because I'm not thinking about "B").
I'm confused. I like "B" but I'm also in love with my boyfriend. I feel like "B" knows when to come back into my life to mess it up. I feel like this is a game he enjoys playing. He told me recently that he could see me as his girlfriend, however he doesn't like introducing me to people he knows.
I need help.
– Confused Lover, Boston
A: B is nothing, CL. If you ever break up with your boyfriend, it won't be because of B.
You've known B longer than your boyfriend? That means you've known him since you were a very young teenager. There's a whole world of other guys out there, right? B just represents the unknown.
You say that every time B shows up, you begin to doubt your loving relationship. The solution? Stop seeing B. Remove the confusion. End the mind game.
Over the next few years, you'll have millions of reasons to doubt your relationship. B shouldn't be one of them. He's not your friend. He's not your more-than-friend. He's just a dangling, moldy carrot that you picked up in high school. Throw him out.
Readers. Does the fact that she sees B mean that she wants the temptation? What do you make of the fighting with her boyfriend? Is B a bad guy? What do you make of the last line of her letter? Can she keep B around as a fun distraction? What's going on here? Discuss.
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.
Q: My stay-at-home wife recently became friends with a stay-at-home Dad (connected by our respective children). Initially, it was a play date here and there, but since the summer started, the frequency of play dates has increased and my wife has become friends with him and texts him often (very often). After a few days of feeling uneasy, I sat down with her and told her I was uncomfortable with the level of communication. She expressed her care for me and we moved forward.
The communication died down somewhat but after a recent long day together, I let her know how I was feeling, that I was still upset. After a long argument, we both said some hurtful things and I strongly advised that the communication with him cease. She now (of course) sees me as trying to control her. She is angrier at me than she has ever been and I am having an extremely hard time reconciling. She expressed the need for space but continues to make extremely hurtful comments. I am so afraid that this could potentially ruin on marriage.
I have attempted to move forward but she will not join me and shows no sign of doing it anytime soon. I am lost. I know she would never do anything physically but I felt that their connection was emotional and I was scared and threatened. She did tell me I have nothing to worry about, but I cannot change the way I feel. I felt awful when they were spending lots of time together, not just as a mom and dad -- but as friends!
– Extremely Uncomfy Dad, 93 North
A: I'm extremely uncomfy on your behalf, EUD. Really.
But let's think for a minute about why your wife might want to maintain a friendship with this guy. Sure, maybe she likes the male attention, but maybe it's more about having someone around who understands what it's like to feel isolated with kids. Maybe they bond about how much they dislike the neighbors, or about traffic on the way to the playground, or about ... well, the life they share as stay-at-home parents.
The trick isn't to say, "Honey, this makes me feel jealous and I want you to cut him off." I mean, you can say that a little. But it might be more productive to say, "We all need friends, but ... is there anything I can do to be a better friend to you? Are you enjoying the stay-at-home lifestyle? Do you feel isolated? Are there things that we can do to preserve our friendship while you make new companions?"
It sounds like you guys have been fighting too much about this man instead of being better friends to each other. My advice (and this is just a first step) is to ask her about her day-to-day and how the two of you can be more respectful in your marriage. It'll take some work on both sides. And here's a hint: Telling her that you're scared is important. You want her to have friends, you just don't want to lose her. Once she trusts your motives, you can set some boundaries together.
Readers? Anyone think this friendship is OK? Any stay-at-home people want to weigh in on the lifestyle? Anyone read "Little Children"? Thoughts on what this letter writer should do next? Discuss.
Q: Hi Meredith,
I am a married man in my early 30s. Been in Boston my whole life but moved to the West Coast two years ago with my wife in search of sun, beaches, and a job. I found the first two but the job is ever elusive. Found some temporary work here and there but nothing long term. During this time our relationship deteriorated and I started abusing substances. We argued constantly about our careers, finances, and how we didn't have a community of friends and family. On top of that, her family kept urging her to leave me and come back to the Bay State. Basically, we had very little support from family and friends since they were all back on the East Coast. I wanted to try some counseling, but obviously being a temporary employee you do not get any benefits so that was out of the question. We are very unhappy with each other.
Not too long ago, I started seeing this woman I met at a job. I knew it was extremely risky because I could get caught. But I found myself falling for her -- and this other woman does not know I have a wife. I'm just unsure of what to do. I know I can never get away with it, eventually someone will find out. I also run the risk of losing them both and ending up with nothing but my miserable self. Furthermore, I'm not sure how this other woman feels about me. What should I do? I've always been told I should do whatever makes me happy. I'm much happier with this other woman, but things are moving real slow. I think I'm just a "rebound" guy for her, since she just got out of a relationship. So my options are go back to an unhappy marriage and try to work it out, or pursue someone else who may or may not feel the same. Any advice?
A: "I've always been told that I should do whatever makes me happy."
Who told you that? They don't even say that to little kids on "Sesame Street." Please wipe that piece of advice from your brain. It doesn't make any sense and it's turned you into an entitled liar. Here you are, worried that you might be this new woman’s rebound guy, and you haven't even told her that you're married.
I hate oversimplifying with tough love (or as Bart Simpson calls it, "soft hate"), but with you I have no choice. You must tell this other woman that you're married and cut her out of your life. Then you must sit down with your wife and tell her you've been pretending that your marriage is already over. Maybe she feels the same way. Maybe she's been waiting for a cue from you to move back to Boston. Or maybe your news will shock her and she'll tell you that she wants more than anything to work it out. Maybe she'll tell you that she wants both of you to come home together so that you can be surrounded by the people who care about you.
The wife stuff is complicated, but it'll help if you start having honest discussions. You also need to look into subsidized therapy. It exists, especially for substance abuse. Google some local programs -- and maybe call your family for help. But before you do any of that, come clean with this other woman. Have some empathy. You are not the center of the universe.
Readers? Any hope for his marriage? Any hope for the LW and this other woman? Is his unemployment relevant? Ideas for couples therapy during unemployment? Discuss.
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.
Q: Hi, I'm a longtime lurker and first time caller. My question deals with the etiquette of online dating. I am a professional in my mid-30s with a terrific career (that probably consumed too much time) and a history of long, rewarding relationships that have for one reason or other not ended in marriage. I moved to a new city for career reasons and decided to give online dating a try. I had previously dabbled in it during down periods before, but never seriously. I did not have high hopes, but sent out a number of emails and ended up meeting two of the women in person. To my surprise, I ended up really clicking with both women, and they both seem to like me as well. We share a number of interests (though different common interests with each woman), and each are attractive, age-appropriate, and successful professionally. By the end of this week I will have had dinner with each of them 3 times (no sex yet, as I would want that in the context of a more committed situation), in addition to getting-to-know-you phone calls and emails with each of them proposing activities we could do in the future of our relationship -- meaning that they are both open to a relationship.
I am starting to feel guilty seeing both of them at the same time, but do not feel that I have more of a connection with one than the other just yet. I also have not yet broached the topic of whether I am one of several guys that they are seeing from the same website or if they are seeing me exclusively. It just feels very strange going from having absolutely no history with someone to deciding that you want to date them after only meeting them three times, but at the same time, I don't want to lead one of them on nor blow it with both.
What are women's expectations of someone who they meet online? How many dates is too many before making a decision?
– Don't Want to Two-Time, Pittsburgh
A: You're right, DWTTT. It's almost impossible to make a decision about someone after three dates. Or even five. Or even ten.
But I'm giving you a five-date limit. You don't have to choose a partner by date five, but you do have to discuss the issue with both women. After five dates, you have to tell them that you're still dating other people, just so they know where they stand. Maybe having the talks will help you make your decision. If Woman A says, "Duh, you're one of six guys I'm dating," and Woman B says, "Wow. I really just want you," you'll have a better understanding of your options. And if you find yourself unwilling to tell one of them that you're dating other people, she's probably the one you want -- the one you're unwilling to alienate and potentially lose.
Of course, these women might beat you to the punch with these talks, so get ready to ask questions and give answers at date four.
Readers? Is my five-date rule for this guy fair? Is he leading these women on? Is it possible that he's really 50-50 about the whole thing? What's the etiquette here? How can he tell them without losing them? Am I right to say that the one he doesn't want to alienate is the one he probably wants? Discuss.
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.
In chat on Wednesday, I was telling everybody that I had received a letter that made me very nostalgic for youthful times on the beach, summer romance, and the original "Beverly Hills: 90210."
I told everyone that I wasn't going to run the letter because it seemed too ... young ... but everyone said they wanted to read it, so here it is. It's a bonus letter for a beach day.
Be nice. Remember the drama of summer love. For the record, I am Team Belle.
I love your column and advice. Here is my issue. I am working at a Cape Cod beach resort this summer with a few friends from college, including a guy and a girl who dated off and on during the school year: "Mark" and "Tiffany." They were "on" this past spring when Tiffany started working at our school's cafe and became interested in the cafe's manager, "Jeff," who reciprocated her feelings. She was upfront with Mark about her feelings for Jeff and they broke up.
Fast forward to now, and Mark is dating the daughter of the resort's director, "Belle," who also works on staff. Seeing them together, Tiffany is having second thoughts about breaking up with Mark. Worse, Jeff came out from Boston to visit her for the day, but Mark saw him that night at a local club dancing with some random girls. None of us have told Tiffany. My question is whether I should.
I personally think she and Mark should be together, and this would be one step in that direction if Tiffany ended up dumping Jeff. At the same time, I don't want to interfere with Mark's relationship with Belle, as he's happy and any break up there may make working conditions painful. Save me from making a bad decision because all I want is to enjoy this summer with my friends. Thanks.
– Summer Loving
A: SL, let everyone figure this stuff out on their own. Tiffany is already doubting Jeff. She doesn't need a push from you. And really, what is there to tell her? That you heard from someone else that Jeff was dancing with women? You didn't even see it yourself. And dancing isn't a cheat.
Even though it'd be fun for you if Mark and Tiffany got back together, Mark has to do what's best for him. And right now (and probably just for the summer), that means dating Belle.
You've only got about a month left of all of this. Let everybody do what they're doing. Keep silent. It'll all fall into place when you get back to school. Focus on trying to find your own romance in these last few weeks (assuming you haven't already).
Chapin's anyone? Readers? Discuss.
Q: Hi Meredith,
During my two-year relationship, I cheated on my boyfriend with a good friend of mine, "Rob." I knew it was wrong the moment it happened and asked for forgiveness from my boyfriend right away. My boyfriend forgave me and we tried to make it work. However, it was so hard not to think about Rob and how he made me feel. I enjoyed his company so much. My boyfriend told me that I was not allowed to be friends with him anymore. Rob and I stopped being friends and this only made it harder for me not to think about him.
After six months of trying to work it out with my boyfriend, we broke up. We both knew that we did not feel the same way about each other anymore. We had grown apart.
Rob found out about our break up and wanted to be friends again. Since I was not dating my boyfriend anymore, I thought this was a good idea. We were really good friends before anything happened and I really enjoyed being with him.
We started hanging out more and those old feelings started coming out again. I really like how I feel when I am around him. It is easy and I am just happy. I really like him. Recently, we started talking about what the next step was. My friends say that I should try to stay single for a while. I just came out of a long serious relationship. I'm in my 20s and I am in no rush to get married or anything. Rob fears that I am only using him as a rebound. He thinks it's unhealthy to get back into another relationship.
I really like him and I would love to see if things would work out between us. Is this just not the right time for both of us? Is it wrong for me to date the guy I cheated on my boyfriend with? Should I wait and try to be single longer? Should I just realize that I am happy with him and go for it?
– Wrong time, Right guy, Boston
A: I think you should go for it, WTRG. Not pursing this would be ... unnatural. You want to be with him. You've wanted him for a long time. You guys know each other well. Despite everything that's happened, you're still drawn to each other.
I understand what your friends are saying, but you can't plan your life based on perfect timing. Yes, it would be great to be single for a while, but forcing it is just a different kind of dishonest behavior.
It seems to me that you're keeping your romantic distance from Rob because you feel guilty about the cheat. And you should feel guilty. You betrayed your ex and that was very, very bad. But you learned from it. You wouldn't do it again. You need to forgive yourself and move on from it. Rob needs to do the same.
Tell Rob what you want -- how your relationship would work in your ideal world. See if he feels the same way. Explain to him that rebounds (which I don't quite believe in, by the way) don't work this way. He's your friend and you fell for him a long time ago. This isn't a quick, thoughtless decision.
You're allowed to be together if you both want to pursue this. And I think that you should. You sort of already are.
Readers? Is it too soon to date Rob? Should she date Rob? Is she punishing herself because of the cheat? Why are her friends telling her to wait? Discuss.
Q: Hi Meredith,
My boyfriend is about to move for a year to a city 10 hours away and I'm not sure if we should stay together.
Here's the background: We met on a dating website and went on our first date around a year and a half ago. I was living at home at the time because I had just graduated college and hadn't yet found a job; he's a med student. We started seeing each other, but we didn't become exclusive until 8 months later when I moved to the city.
We've had a good relationship since then -- I've met his parents a couple times, he has come to my house for holidays, he spends all his free time with me -- but I still see that he goes on the dating site every day. I've called him out on this, but he just says he doesn't do anything bad on it and won't talk about it further. I think he shouldn't be on there if he is happy in our relationship; it isn't a social network. I can't keep tabs on him from more than 500 miles away, and I'm concerned that he will meet someone else in his new city on there.
He went home, which is a few hours away, a month ago and just returned to Boston to move out. He has a few exams to take before moving, and I understand he needs to dedicate most of his time to studying, but I am hurt because I thought we would be able to spend his last few weeks together. He also wasn't great about keeping in touch while home, and doesn't really understand why I've been upset about that.
I don't know if he is still immature (he's 25) and doesn't know how to be a boyfriend, or if I'm really not that important to him. He says he wants to try to stay together while he's gone, but he also claims he isn't sure if he'll be able to visit me at all due to time and money.
We're really good together, but I'm scared things will go sour when we're apart thanks to the above problems. He doesn't know anyone in the city where he is moving, so I have a hunch I will be bombarded with calls every day out of boredom and loneliness. Still, I don't want to waste a year pining for someone who isn't as dedicated to me and still on the prowl. Help!
– Unsure if distance will make the heart grow fonder, Boston
A: I gave up on him in paragraph three. He's still on a dating website? Come on. He's disrespecting you. He's looking for other women. I'm not sure I'd want you to stay with him even if he had plans to remain local.
"I don't want to waste a year pining for someone who isn't as dedicated to me and still on the prowl." That's the answer to your question, isn't it?
Long distance isn't easy. One person can't do all of the work. You're already exhausted. He has given you every indication that he's just not ready for this. Think about your own needs first and make decisions accordingly. I know it stinks. But it shouldn't be this hard.
Readers? What do you think about the dating website thing? Does he get a pass because med school is crazy? Should they try to stay together and evaluate after a few more months? Is it possible that he'll mature? Discuss.
Q: I am a divorced woman in my early 30s. I am of the mindset that you can fall in love several times, especially when the right person comes around. For the last three years, I've had an increasingly friendly relationship with a coworker who is married.
Because of the nature of our work, we have spent many hours together in social settings. In the last year, our relationship became closer, as we would text, email, and discuss everyday minutia and work. We would also find ourselves running errands or doing activities together that we both enjoy.
Eventually, our relationship changed. He confided in me that his life at home was not good and that he had feelings for me. At this point I backed off and told him that he should concentrate on his life and work things out at home. I always had feelings for him, but I knew that he was married and that I had to keep those feelings to myself.
That lasted a very short time. I felt such a connection to him and it was difficult to go back to that "he's not available" mindset knowing that he had feelings for me. At that point it seemed like things intensified. Before we knew it, we were right back in an inappropriate relationship. After some time, I again tried to stop communication with him, but because of work, would still end up around him where he would say things that would lead me to believe that he wasn't sure what was going on with his relationship.
I know that he is married, I know that he isn't going to leave his wife, but there is a part of me that can't let go of the connection we have. If he were single, this would be an amazing relationship. I've been miserable not being able to talk with him and so we recently met to digest everything that has happened over the last months and mutually decided that we could remain friends, but without the constant contact we had been having. He also made it very clear that his relationship with his wife is still undecided. My question is, is it morally wrong for me to remain friends with him? Or should I just do the strong woman thing and move on and forget?
It isn't easy for me to find meaningful relationships. My struggle is that I know deep down inside that I may be keeping him close just in case ... just in case he does leave his wife or just in case it makes it easier for him to leave his wife. I don't want to be a homewrecker, but I also don't want to lose a very meaningful relationship in my life either. I know that the rational thing to do is to stop all communication with him and move on, but my heart is telling me otherwise.
– Knows the Right Thing to Do but Hopeful, NYC
A: It's probably morally wrong to continue a friendship with him, but that's not why I want you to cut him off. I want you to cut him off because this is a bad friendship for you. It's one big tease. It involves too much effort and too much hope, and I'm not convinced that either of you are capable of setting real boundaries.
I know it's frustrating. You finally got to know someone you like, fell for him, found out that he reciprocated those feelings … and there's nothing you can do about it. But it is what it is. He's married and you're a single person who has to take care of herself. This is one of those awful situations where you have to ignore your heart and let your brain to do the talking.
I recommend minimizing him as much as you possibly can. You don't have to give him a dramatic speech about cutting him off. Just ban yourself from texts and calls. Make plans with real friends who can keep you busy. Try to develop a crush -- even if it's on a celebrity. Start training your brain to think about someone else's face when you start to daydream.
Every time you second guess yourself, write down the facts. "He is married." "He has a wife." Reality lists always help.
And remember, you're only in your early 30s. You've already had two meaningful relationships -- the one with your ex, and the one with this guy. There will be others, and you have plenty of time to find them.
Readers? Is she allowed to be his friend? What should happen here? Will this guy leave his wife? Does it matter? Is her age relevant? Discuss.
I'll run an update or two on Monday. Letter writers: If you want to send me an update to run with the others, please do. Just sent it from the original email address so I know it's you. We'd all love to hear from you.
Q: I am a year out of college and still working at my first job, which I love. Right after I began working here (a month or so) I began a causal relationship with a co-worker, Max. I know, I know, terrible idea. And it was. He did not treat me well. Though we weren't exclusive, he was actively hiding that he was sleeping with other girls, and he pretty much walked all over me. I thought I really liked him, which is why I hung on. This went on for about six months until I met Jake.
Jake and I met in December and were instantly attracted to each other. Even though I was still a bit caught up in Max, things there were fizzling, I knew I wanted them to be over, and I really liked Jake right away. We started hanging out all the time, and within a month or so we were dating exclusively. Only once during the period before we were in a serious relationship did I slip and hook up with Max. During that time period, though, Jake also had a few nights of his own.
Fast forward to now. Jake and I are completely in love. We spend every night together, talk for hours, make each other laugh, and support each other. We are each other's closest friends right now and we are constantly talking about how lucky we are. This is the healthiest relationship I have ever been in, and without a doubt the most fulfilling.
Here's the problem: Max is still in my life (we still work together) and still flirts with me nonstop. Most of this takes place at work, but he does occasionally text me outside of work. This drives Jake insane. We have had countless fights about it, and I have explained over and over that I do not have feelings for Max, that he is just a friend (and I really mean that), and that what I have with Jake is so much more important. After we have a fight like that, he says OK and we move on. But it keeps coming up. At least once a week it comes up. I am so tired of having the same argument, tired of feeling like I am hurting Jake, but I don't know how else to prove that I love him and that Max means nothing to me in comparison.
Max is still my friend -- we get along well and enjoy each other's company. I don't feel like I should have to cut him out of my life. I am trustworthy, would never, ever betray Jake, and am willing to be totally open with Jake (show him the texts, etc.). I should admit here that I did used to hide that Max and I still talked -- but that was because I feared Jake would get upset over something that I knew was nothing. Now I know to be open and honest. Still, every time I get a text from Max it ruins our whole evening together. How do I make him believe, for good, that I am faithful, and that he has nothing to worry about? I can say it until my face turns blue, but that seems to be just a temporary solution.
– Stuck, Allston
A: I'm on Jake's side, Stuck. You have to see Max every day because you work with him, but there's no reason for you to be texting him. He's just some guy you dated who continues to flirt with you to imply that at any moment, something physical could happen again. He's not a real friend.
This is your first post-college relationship lesson. You're not entitled to keep exes around just because you're honest with your new boyfriend about it. Showing Jake the texts doesn't mean that it's OK to communicate with Max after work. You can't do whatever you want anymore. You're in a grown-up partnership. Annoying, right?
Your two options: Stop texting Max and limit your interaction with him to the workplace, or tell Jake that you're just not ready for an exclusive, mature, adult relationship. It's really one or the other. Jake isn't being unreasonable about Max. You wouldn't want Jake texting some flirtatious ex, would you?
Be honest with yourself about what you want right now. Are you ready to do what's best for you and Jake – as opposed to just you? If so, set boundaries with Max. It's that simple. Sorry.
Readers? Is she allowed to be friends with Max? Is Jake being unreasonable? Can you explain the post-college rules of being a couple? Does it help that she shows Jake the texts? Discuss.
Please eat some birthday candy in my honor.
Q: Hi Meredith,
I'm a long time reader, first time writer. I am a married woman in my mid-40s. My husband and I met when we were both undergrads. At the time I was wrestling with the fact that I was probably a lesbian. I had just started to date women and found an emotional and sexual connection I had never felt with men.
And then came my husband. He was extremely bright and funny. He was outgoing and athletic, I was quiet and studious. He had a string of women running after him, while I did not have members of either sex running after me. We became great friends and I really adored him. One night he kissed me and the rest is history. I had told him I had an interest in women but the truth was that I fell very much in love with him and was attracted to him. We were married more than 20 years ago. He is a great husband and father. He has a great career and has been extremely supportive of my career. He pitches in around the house and is as adoring today as he was when we met.
Things are more challenging for me. I ignored any feelings I had for women for years. After all, I was a married woman and it doesn't matter the gender because I made a vow to my husband. The problem is that something inside me is changing. I just don't find my husband attractive any more. I want to, but I really don't. I notice women everywhere. I feel silly writing this, but I buy lesbian fiction and hide the books from my husband. I'm always extra friendly around gay women thinking one of them will certainly notice that even though I'm not wearing the uniform that I'm part of the team. At night when I close my eyes I see women's bodies. It's driving me crazy and driving a wedge in my amazing marriage.
Anything I say to my husband is going to make him feel inadequate or bad. I realize he's not the problem, I am. I've tried to tamp down this overwhelming desire for women, but sometimes it's all I can think about. I should note that I've never cheated on him.
I keep telling myself that I have to control myself. I made my choice back when I was 22 … but it's hard to understand the consequences of the life choices we make when we are young.
So, wise Meredith, how am I supposed to handle this? I'm afraid I will meet the right (or wrong!) woman and end up cheating. I'm also afraid I’ll never meet the right woman and spend my life with this unrequited longing.
– Confused in the Suburbs, Suburban Boston
A: You were physically attracted to your husband for a long time, CITS. That's excellent -- and very, very important.
The fact that you were attracted to him for years means that you're probably experiencing what many people deal with after 20 years of marriage. Bedroom boredom. Fantasies about other people. FOMO (fear of missing out). Mid-life questions (let's not call it a crisis).
If you were 100 percent straight, you'd probably still be having fantasies about people other than your husband. You'd just be thinking about men.
My advice is to tell your husband about these fantasies. Not to make him feel bad, but to involve him. Talking it out might give him his own real estate in your private world. You don't have to say, "I'm not thinking about you anymore; I'm thinking about pretty girls." You can just say the part about the girls. The conversation could get interesting. It could bring him into the part of your brain that you've been hiding under the bed (that's where I assume the lesbian fiction is kept).
Because at the end of the day, you don't seem to want to leave your husband. And really, that's the only other option here.
You said that he's been a great friend to you and that he knows about your attraction to women. Let him in on what's happening in your head. And maybe loan him some books. Do you really think that any of this will shock him? Because I don't. I think that the more you tell him, the more he becomes a part of the story.
Readers? Is this normal I've-been-married-for-20-years boredom or is this something more? Does it change matters that her default fantasies involve women, not men? Should she go explore this other side of her? Should she talk to her husband about this? Discuss.
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.
Update: Letter writer has two updates on Pg. 11.
Here's the overview: I met my husband right after high school. I was 18 he was in his late 20s. I already had plans to move away for college but of course that all changed after I met him. We got married after one year of knowing each other. We were both blown away, madly in love, the whole nine.
At first things were good. We had our days but managed to make things work. Well, here we are yeas later with two young kids, living with my parents. He's got an unstable job situation, he's dealing with depression, and we're both disappointed/unhappy with our lives. I have feelings for him, I love him, but it doesn’t feel the same as I did years ago. I feel unhappy most of the time. When I'm alone with the kids I feel free and I can be myself -- fun, spunky, and easy going. At times I feel like he's holding me back.
My question is: Is it worth it to try to make things work or are things over between us? Should I continue to be unhappy? Should I be more sympathetic to his emotional instability? Am I just being selfish?
There are a few things I should throw out there:
1. I've managed our household and been responsible for the finances for most of our relationship.
2. I recently confirmed that he cheated early on in the relationship (I always had my suspicions).
3. He came out of an ugly divorce and has another child he doesn't see. That's always bothered me).
4. I briefly started talking (over the phone) to an ex of mine. My husband found out and was understandably very upset. I have since completely cut that relationship off.
The past 5 months our relationship have been very rocky. I don't want to hurt my kids. I just want to be happy whether it's with or without him. What do you think I should do?
– I've Hit My Breaking Point, Boston
A: I think you should go to therapy, IHMBP. Obviously. Maybe you've already thought about that, but you didn't mention it so I'm going to.
Your situation sounds pretty terrible. But you didn't answer two questions that I think are relevant.
1. How have finances affected his depression? Was it like this when you had more independence (and cash) as a couple?
2. Does he want to fix this relationship? Just curious. It seems to me that you haven't had an honest discussion about what's making you both unhappy and whether he wants to make this better. If he doesn't, there's your answer. But if he does and is willing to prioritize your feelings for the right reasons -- and talk about the kid he doesn't visit -- there's hope. He might have no idea that you've hit your breaking point even though it's obvious to the rest of us.
I always say that therapy will get to the heart of whether you want to break up or stay together. That's where you start. But you should also spend some time talking to your husband about how your relationship would be if you were in your own place with some more money. Because most couples would be miserable living with parents and feeling strapped for cash.
And a question worth asking yourself during this process: If you had all the money in the world, would you want your husband by your side? If so, that says a lot. If not, that says a lot, too.
You're not selfish for wanting to be happy. You're allowed to ask questions and tell him what you need.
Readers? Is there something worth saving here? Are their problems about the money? Is his cheat relevant? Is the unknown kid relevant? Is the age difference relevant? Is she being selfish? Discuss.
One more time. Congrats, Bruins.
Q: Hi Meredith,
I've been dating a wonderful man for just over a year. He is so smart, fun, funny and kind, and has really become my very best friend. I really adore him and hope that we can have a life together. One thing that could really get in the way of that is the fact that I am jealous and tend to suspect the worst.
Here's some background: I have had one other multi-year relationship. I was young and he was in the military. The majority of our time "together" was long distance. He was very charming and always said the right thing (which helped him get out of a large number of sketchy situations). He also had a wandering eye and a very flirty personality. I don't know everything that went on while he was stationed elsewhere, but I do know he was sleeping with at least one other person. I was the very best girlfriend to him that I could be. I wrote frequent letters, picked my brain for care package ideas, and supported him when he was deployed. You can imagine I was devastated when I confirmed that he was cheating.
I guess since I haven't had a lot of other positive, healthy relationship experiences, I expect to be cheated on. I expect a man who tells me he loves me to betray me. In every other part of my life I am extremely confident. I'm outgoing, pretty, and good at my job. There's nothing any other girl would have that I DON'T have, yet I expect to be cheated on.
My current boyfriend knows about my past and knows that I was left a little damaged. He's very patient with me, and responds well to my interrogations (Why were you there so long? Were there girls there? Who are you texting? etc, etc). We have great communication and he always encourages me to share what's on my mind. I'm just waiting for the day that he throws up his hands and says he's done. I know it's irrational. I know that he is like night and day to my ex. He loves me and tells me often that he wants a life with me. But ... my ex told me that, too. How can I work toward believing I won't be cheated on? I don't want to sabotage this relationship because I love him so much, but I'm waiting to be played a fool.
– Painfully Paranoid, Boston
A: He might cheat on you, PP. I mean, for all I know he's cheating on you right now with six very beautiful women who have perfect measurements and PhDs. Totally possible. But not probable.
He doesn't have a wandering eye (right?). He doesn't charm you to get out of trouble (right?). He's not living far away and in a high stress situation. He's right in front of your face behaving like a best friend and putting up with your crazy questions.
You know better. You know that your ex's betrayals weren't about you. You know that your current boyfriend doesn't want to risk losing a good partner.
So the question is: How do you stop the obsessive jealous behavior? The answer: A new routine. Self-control. It's just like dieting. In the beginning, you have to force yourself to tame you desires, but after time, it becomes natural. You begin to crave strawberries instead of a full cheesecake. You watch two hours of television instead of wondering where your boyfriend might be.
Start by making a list of good, honest things about your relationship. I know it seems silly, but do it. Take it out every time you start to go nuts. Sleep with that list if you have to.
And if you find that the jealousy is still taking over your life, see a professional. Sooner than later. Talk about cognitive behavioral therapy. It might be something to consider.
Readers? Is she going to lose him because of jealousy? How can she stop her brain from jumping to the worst conclusion? Is jealousy addictive? How long would you put up with a jealous partner? Discuss.
Q: Hi Meredith,
A few nights ago, my husband confided in me that one of our good friends told him that he'd been cheating on his girlfriend. His girlfriend and I are close. We play softball together, get our nails done, see "Twilight" movies and giggle like schoolgirls, etc. My husband is torn up about it because he feels really awkward being around this guy now since we spend so much time together double-dating. He only told me what the guy was doing because the girlfriend and I were planning a trip for the four of us and my husband doesn't want to go and pretend that everything is peachy.
Besides that, a long time ago, I was cheated on. Like, full on, my boyfriend is sleeping with my best friend kind of cheated on. Ex-boyfriend and ex-best friend secretly hooked up behind my back for an extended period of time and it tore my life apart when I finally found out. As it turns out, a lot of our mutual friends knew that this was going on, turned a blind eye to it, and never told me. Meanwhile, I was planning a life with this man. It took therapy and moving to get it out of my life, and there are a lot of people I was once close to that I had to cut off in order to regain control of my feelings/relationships.
Now that I know about what's going on, I want to tell the girlfriend. My husband is adamant that I stay out of it because it's between them, but I've been in her shoes, and I wish someone had the guts to have told me what my ex was doing.
I don't want my husband to regret telling me, but I also don't want this poor girl to keep planning a life with a man who not only disrespecting her, but counting on the rest of us to keep our mouths closed.
– No Friend to Cheaters, Woburn
A: There are no right answers here, NFTC, but whatever you do, you have to do it as a united front with your husband. You have to decide what you think is right as a team and then stand by each other no matter what. You're the letter writer, so it's your relationship I'm worried about. If you tattle about this cheat, it'll get ugly, so you need your husband by your side. And if you don't tattle, you'll need to navigate this mess together.
Based on your letter, I think that you and your husband are on the same page about what to do. He told you about the cheating knowing that you're close with the girlfriend and that you might spill the beans. Then you emailed me a somewhat specific letter about the activities you do with this woman. (Luckily, zillions of people like softball and "Twilight" so nothing about this letter is identifiable -- but you were secretly hoping she might see this, right?)
And on some level, her boyfriend also wants her to know. If you want to keep a cheat a secret, you don't tell anybody about it. He told the husband of the woman who likes his girlfriend most. What was he thinking?
Do what you need to do -- but with the support of your husband. Come up with a plan that you both can live with, whether it's talking to the boyfriend, talking to the girlfriend, or distancing yourselves from both of them. Stand strong together. Remember that the most important relationship here is yours.
Readers? Should she tell? Should the husband have disclosed his friend's cheat? Does he have the right to ask the letter writer to stay out of this couple's business? Am I right about everyone in this situation secretly wanting to get caught? Discuss.
Q: My husband and I have been married for a long time. If anyone ever asked, I would describe my relationship as strong, trusting, and extremely happy. We're best friends who can talk about anything with each other. This is the first time in the 20 years that I have known him where I have been at a loss for words.
He has a large group of friends. Many are women. That never bothered me as most of my friends are men and I believe that you can be just friends with a member of the opposite sex. But there is one particular woman who makes me uneasy. And lately that uneasiness has turned into sleepless nights and a feeling of heart sickness that I've never experienced before.
She has known him as long as I have and previous to our relationship expressed interest in him as more than friends. He rejected those advances but they have always been good friends. Good friends who text and write to each other incessantly. Practically every day they are going back and forth on their cell phones almost every hour on the hour. It started some time ago and was getting to be so much that even our friends noticed and mentioned it. I talked to my husband about it and told him that while I knew nothing inappropriate was going on between the two of them, that didn't mean that their constant contact wasn't hurting me. He was very understanding about it and agreed to temper the texts.
Which he did for about a year. But recently it has started up again full force. And this time it isn't as open. He waits until he thinks I'm not in the room and is practically glued to his phone. There have been many times when I've come in and the phone has disappeared again, but not before I see her name.
And this is the part I'm not proud of. I'm not a snoop. I like my privacy so I try and give him his own, but my jealousy and curiosity were getting the better of me. I've looked at the phone without his knowledge once. Most of the texts were just back and forth about every day minutiae, but there were some that really bothered me. Her saying she missed him and his replying back with the same. Affectionate back and forth that was not consistent at least in my opinion with a normal friendship. No concrete plans for meeting or anything that was not above board, but enough to make me uneasy. Banter that I recognized as what we had at the beginning of our relationship. He was being more affectionate and attentive with her than he has been with me in some time.
What do I do? I want to trust him and I want to believe that there isn't anything more going on than just this. I'm not as confident as I once was. Could it be that his hiding it was his idea of continuing what is an innocent friendship but without hurting me further? If this continues, should I be that woman who lays down an ultimatum? Her or me? Or should I trust my husband and swallow my misgivings?
– Tired of Texting, Massachusetts
A: Your letter makes me heartsick, too, TOT. My guess is that this is simply a flirtation, but it's still awful.
I'm worried, but you have a very important thing going for you that many couples don't have: "We're best friends who can talk about anything with one another." Thank goodness for that.
The last time you asked him about this, he was honest and understanding. He didn't get defensive; he simply did what he needed to do to make you comfortable again. That's pretty great. And it means that when you talk to him about this again (and confess to him that you snooped), he'll probably explain what's going on in his head.
I have to wonder whether the texting is simply an addiction. It almost sounds like he's blogging -- but just to her. And let me tell you, when you write something down and someone comments on it, validating your existence by the hour, it feels good (said the blogger). It can become a part of your routine. It can be the thing that keeps you going. I'm not condoning his behavior, but I'm open to the possibility that he's using her as an audience.
It's something for you both to consider when you have the talk, which should be soon. I'd save the ultimatums and start with an honest discussion.
Readers? Could I be right about the blogging? Is this other woman just his audience? Or is he having an emotional affair? What should the letter writer say and do? Help.
Q: Dear Meredith,
I'm 30 and I have two kids. I was in a relationship with this man for approximately three-and-a-half years before finding out that he cheated on me for several months. We found out that I was pregnant with our first child only few months into our relationship. That sort of forced us to live our relationship on fast-forward. We didn't have a lot of courting or alone time before the kids came along. Approximately a year ago, he started texting this married woman that he works with. He insisted that it was platonic -- that nothing was going on -- that they were just friends.
Last summer, I went on Facebook and saw a little endearing message (I did not snoop. He forgot to log out and it was right there on the computer screen for me to see). I confronted him about this and again, he claimed that it was just a friendship. I felt sick, I was devastated, and I knew something was going on. I asked him not to speak to this woman outside of work.
A few months later he drops the bomb on me and tells me that he has not been happy with me and that I expect a lot from him (because we have children together et cetera). I ask him if there was someone else. He, again, said that there was no one else.
Recently, I found out he had a secret email address. I snooped and found hundreds of emails back and forth with this married woman from work spanning for at least the last few months professing love for each other, plans to leave their significant others and to live together, to find an apartment together, and they also spoke of marriage. I showed up at his work and asked for house keys and car keys and I left. I moved out of state within 48 hours with our two young children. Currently living with my parents and basically I had to start all over again.
A few days after leaving him, he texts me and tells me he made a mistake. That he wants me. That losing everything made him realize what he really wanted all along. Losing all of this, our home, our family, me and the kids made him gain some insight. He tells me that they never went as far as sleeping together (which I do have a hard time believing). I do still love him but I have a hard time believing anything he says. Currently, he is living in a friend's basement and basically he was left with nothing. And the married woman? I confronted her by text and she claimed she was happily married with her husband. The married woman no longer wants anything to do with him.
I often find myself wondering if he says he misses me because he lost the comforts of having a home. Every day I struggle with self-esteem issues stemming out of this whole affair. I have trust issues now. He and I have talked a lot these past few weeks. He wants to prove me wrong. He wants to do couples counseling. He says he is actively seeking a job that will put him close to the kids and I again. He says he hates himself and wants to atone for what he did. He wants to make all these wrongs right again. He says he wants to marry me now.
I am devastated, not only because he actually cheated on me but because he had been lying to me for all these months. He kept insisting that I was being paranoid by having all these suspicions about him and this married woman from work. Now I beat myself up because I should have trusted my gut instincts.
So Meredith, what do you think? Do you have any advice for this girl here with some major trust issues? What do your readers think?
– Trust Issues
A: It's natural to want to beat yourself up for letting this go on for so long, but you shouldn't, TI. Because your gut was right. You read him well. That means you can also trust your gut as you make decisions about his intentions and how much you want him in your life.
Right now, your gut says that you're not sure if he misses you or if he's just uncomfortable in his new living situation. So trust your gut. Wait and find out. And if your gut eventually says, "Let him back in," know that you're taking advice from the same gut that led you in the right direction about his affair. And if your gut says, "I just can't trust this guy," that means you should move on.
No matter what, you have to take your time with this. Marrying him right now is out of the question. He wants couples counseling? Fine. But let him come to you. Do what makes you comfortable, which at the moment is staying with your parents and giving your brain a rest. You're allowed to take deep breaths and take your time. I'm sure your gut is telling you that, too.
Readers? Should she even consider taking him back? How can she deal with her trust issues? What happened with this guy and the affair? Is this just about his discomfort? Discuss.
Chat at 1.
Q: Dear Meredith,
A few months ago I drunkenly hooked up with my best friend's boyfriend. Let me give you a little bit of the back story: A group of us had gone away for the weekend and at the last minute my best friend, "Mia," was unable to go. At the end of a very drunken night, my best friend's boyfriend, who I will call "Darrell," and I ended up in bed together. The next day I felt horrible and for the subsequent weeks I debated telling my friend time and time again, but ultimately decided against it and have attempted to move on. I have been away for the past few months since the "incident," and just returned home to where Darrell also resides. Mia has also been away and will not be returning for several more weeks.
My dilemma is this: I have been tortured by guilt these past few months but never did I consider the added complication of having feelings for Darrell. Ever since I have been back I find myself (naturally) thinking about what happened and considering what I would feel it if were to happen again. Darrell and I have hung out a couple of times since I have been back, and I really enjoyed our time together, coming to realize all that we have in common. It was a great hookup, from what I can recall, and now with these developing feelings I feel like I am headed toward a cliff. I do not want to hurt Mia but I also have put my own feelings aside time and time again in order to put my friends' feelings first. I know that Darrell loves Mia but I think we have something, too. He isn't exactly trying to keep his distance.
I've tried to avoid him but I can't seem to keep my distance either and I know given the right situation something will happen again. But I have a history of wanting what I can't have so I guess my question is this: Am I wrong to test the waters and see what this could be? I don't want them to break up and then realize I just wanted him because he was "untouchable." I also don't want to jeopardize my friendship with Mia for Darrell -- she is so important to me and I can hardly believe I am even considering this. I know this whole situation will probably end badly but I am sick of never putting my own feelings first. Is there any hope for a happy ending here?
– Careless and Confused, Cranston
A: No happy endings, CAC. Sorry. You can maintain the status quo and stay guilty and smitten with your best friend's boyfriend, or you can tell Mia what happened and maybe lose her as a best friend. If you do that, you'll probably lose Darrell, too. And if you don't, and he drops her for you, you probably won't be able to enjoy him.
What can you live with? Telling? Not telling? Losing Mia? Living the rest of your life without ever kissing Darrell again?
Let me answer those questions for you. You said in your letter that you know that you love Mia and that you don't want to lose her. As for Darrell, you're not sure. You said that you don't even know whether your desire for him is about him or about wanting what you can't have.
So trust your own words. You can either tell Mia what you did and grovel, or don't tell her and live with it (for the record, I'd tell). Either way, stay away from Darrell. He's not yours. I don't care if there's an attraction. I don't care if you always put your friends' feelings first. You're not entitled to sleep with your best friend's boyfriend. No one is.
There are a zillion dudes out there. Take some space, deal with your conscience, and force yourself to let go of what's not yours.
Readers? Should she tell Mia? And should she pursue Darrell? Is she entitled to anything here? Help.
Q: My wife and I are approaching our 20th anniversary. We have a beautiful 5-year old daughter. It hasn't been a smooth 20 years. There has been a lot of admitted deceit by my wife, and most of it over finances. Since I took control, we are back into a good financial position and on the surface, we are moving ahead as one.
Three years ago, I found out about a non-physical emotional infidelity she had. She swears up and down it was just a friendship. It would have become physical, I believe, over time, but I do believe it didn't get there. We got past it, but it was rough. I felt very betrayed.
I recently found out about another relationship that started probably eight years ago and lasted for about two. I am less confident that this one was purely emotional, but so far, that is all she is telling me. She admits to wandering, wanting out, as we were not in a good place at the time. I can understand the want to get out. I can't fathom following through with it, but I do at least understand.
I am really torn on how to move ahead. On the surface, it's old news and doesn't affect where we are today. But, I can't get this out of my mind. I pointedly asked her if she could guarantee this will never happen again. She said she cannot. She doesn't want it to. She isn't trying to. But, she can't guarantee it.
Maybe I'm a fool, but I still want to stay with her. I'm at a total loss on how to proceed.
– Trying, New Hampshire
A: I don't have any easy solutions for you, T. And I empathize; it's incredibly confusing to find out about a cheat that happened years ago. Your wife has already processed it. You're dealing with it like it’s a fresh betrayal.
I'm going to suggest therapy (the "duh" answer) so you can talk this out over time, but I'm also going to advise you to focus on enjoying each other. After a betrayal, it's tempting to obsess over the possibility that something could go wrong again. Instead of thinking about all the negative what-ifs, I want you to find out whether the two of you are still capable of making good memories. Do you enjoy each other's company? Do you laugh? Can you be romantic? Because if you can -- if she's still with you because she's chosen you – you should be able to make new, good memories that minimize some of the bad ones.
I want you to figure out whether you're moving ahead as one because you can pull it off or because you really want to. And again, you do that by wallowing in the positive, not the negative. It'll give you better context.
Readers? Can he move on from the cheats? Should he? Did he tell us enough about why she wants to stay with him? How do you get over something that happened years ago? Will he even be capable of making new, positive memories? Discuss.
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.
Book reviews will be posted tomorrow.
Q: Hi Meredith,
My boyfriend and I are happily in love, good for each other, and it's pretty great.
Recently, a friend of my boyfriend came on to him; she asked him to break up with me and be with her. I had always had my suspicions about this girl, and though I made them known, I never asked him not to see her or anything as they had been friends for years. She's one of those girls -- dresses just a little too provocatively, feels the need to touch members of the opposite sex while in conversation just a bit too often, and in my opinion, is obviously insecure.
After this happened, I was pretty upset, but decided that since he had done nothing wrong, I wouldn't let it ruin us. Unfortunately that's not the end of this story. She continues to periodically reach out to him to see how he is doing, make plans, etc. The message back to her has always been clear -- thanks, but no thanks.
It's inevitable that I will run into her at some point. Never once has she made any effort to acknowledge me (or her outrageous actions) when trying to get back into his life. How do I handle it when I see her? I know the high road is best, but I would really like to express to her that her inconsiderate actions were very hurtful to me and that she put my boyfriend in a terrible position (some friend, right?).
– Can I Put Her in Her Place and Still Be the Bigger Person?
A: Would you get anything out of telling her that she has been disrespectful? Besides the instant gratification of speaking your mind? I don't think you would, CIPHIHPASBTBP. She knows that she has misbehaved. She doesn't care. I know the high road seems, well, lame, but it's the safest route.
My advice is to be nice. Not just diplomatic, but really, really nice. You have some empathy for her -- you've already figured out that she's insecure -- so use that empathy to fuel your smiles. Ask her how she's doing. Remind her that you're in the room. Be genuine and friendly and maybe she'll learn to follow your lead.
As for your boyfriend, well, it's his job to keep you comfortable. It's his responsibility to set boundaries and to say to his so-called friend -- if it becomes necessary -- "I need you to respect and support my relationship." It sounds like he's figuring this out, and I'm glad he's keeping you in the loop.
Hang in there and stay on the high road. It's a good road to be on. You'll never have to doubt yourself up there.
Readers? Should she have a talk with the woman? Should the boyfriend be doing more to help? Should the LW engage this woman or ignore her? Discuss.
Q: Hi Meredith,
I have been single for a little over a year after a two-year relationship. I date a good amount and enjoy my single life a lot. My last relationship didn't end well and I only recently completely got over it. Let's call my ex "George." I don't care about George at all and I feel triumphant that I can now say that and truly mean it. Occasionally, I run into George while out with friends and we always say a brief awkward hello. Recently I decided it was time to defriend him and his friends on Facebook after seeing some photos of him with his ex-girlfriend and other girls. I felt this was the last step in my healing process.
So that brings me to this weekend. I was out with some friends at a bar. And who do you think comes over to say hello ... my ex. We say a forced hello and chat for a couple minutes about family and life. I go over and politely say hello to all his friends. The conversation then takes a turn to why I recently defriended him on Facebook. I explain to him that I thought it was the mature thing to do. I no longer wanted his life popping up on my news feed. I say goodbye and we part ways.
After I got home, I receive a text from George asking whether I got in safely. I respond that yes, I did make the short trip to my apartment safely and that I am sorry that he was so upset that I ended our virtual friendship (note the sarcasm). About 20 minutes later as I am getting ready for bed, I receive a phone call from George. George says that he is on his way over and that we need to talk. Once again I laugh in his face, but tell him he can come over. We had both been drinking all night and this affected my judgment but hey, I am young (26). I knew why he was really coming over. We discuss how neither of us are currently seeing anyone and that this night is a one-time thing and it will never happen again. Anyway, he spends the night. We say our goodbyes the next morning and that was that. I felt so good. It was killing him that I no longer cared about him at all, that I was in control and that part of my life was over for good.
Flash forward to Saturday night. I am sitting at my apartment waiting for my roommate to finish getting ready. I am on Facebook and see George's profile. We still aren't friends but the Facebook gods are suggesting that we know each other. And what pops out at me immediately is that he has a girlfriend!! I text him a rather jolting note about his morals. I would have never had him over if I knew this was the case. I am completely against cheating. He apologizes to me and said it was a mistake and that he was drunk.
Now this is why I am writing in: Do I contact his girlfriend to let her know about Friday night? I know I did nothing wrong but at the same time it is nagging at me and I feel bad for her since she is so oblivious. I was too, because he puts on a good act. My friends have all gone 50/50 on this question. Some are strongly against it. Others suggest I do it because he sure as hell isn't going to come clean and this girl deserves to know. I feel like I should tell her so I feel better and it’s the right thing to do. But is it? Does the girlfriend have a right to know that her boyfriend cheated on her? Should I be the one to tell her?
– The morally confused, Boston
A: This is a tough one -- and there's no right answer. Telling seems intrusive. Not telling seems dishonest.
I want you to do what's best for you -- because you're my concern (when George's new girlfriend writes in, I'll focus on her). And what's best for you is to leave this alone. I want you to walk away and not dwell on George. Wasn't that your original plan?
George didn't have a girlfriend when he was your Facebook friend not long ago. I'm not sure when he committed to her, but it's his business -- and it's his cheat. Yes, you might be doing her a favor by letting her in on your Friday entertainment, but I fear that the disclosure will only put you in the middle of a mess. You're trying to separate yourself from this guy. It's bad enough that you share friends. Do you really want to reach out to his girlfriend?
My advice is to move on. Don't "re-friend" him on Facebook and avoid him when you see him out. Start focusing on your new life.
You're only recently over this. You don't owe anybody anything right now. Please, protect yourself.
Readers? Do you disagree? Sometimes I vote for disclosure, but in this case it seems best for her to run without making it her responsibly. Or am I wrong? Will contacting the new girlfriend make it hard for the LW to stay away from her ex? Discuss.
I 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.
I think it's time for another round of self-help/love book reviews. On Thursday morning, I'll post a list of self-help books that have been sitting on my desk for the past few months. If you want to review one, e-mail me (meregoldstein at gmail) with the title, your mailing address, and put "BOOK REVIEW" in the subject line. I'll send books until I run out of them.
Those who get a book will have until March 25 to review it for us. Like last time, the trick is that you have to review your book in one sentence. And just like last time, our Globe interns will pick best review. The winner will get a lame prize. Make sense? The books go fast (I only have about 30 to 40), so be an early bird on Thursday.
Q: Dear Meredith and LL Sages,
I'm taking a deep breath before spewing this out. Maybe 2 days ago got a phone call informing me that the guy I've been chilling with for the past 5 or so months has actually had a long-term, long-distance girlfriend. She's moving in this weekend. Wait. Stop. Excuse me?!? How did I miss that? To be fair, he withdrew a little last weekend, but really, that withdrawal should not have been the first tip that something so big was going on.
Now, here comes the harder part for me to say. I seem to have caught a chronic case of otherwomanitis. This is the 3rd guy I’ve dated who has had commitments elsewhere. One "forgot" to break it off with me. With the other guy, one of his buddies tipped me off. Examining it all, I guess it's pretty easy to carry on an affair with me. I'm not quite 26 and working to keep my head above water while trying to earn a master's degree. I work anywhere between 40 and 50 hours a week, am enrolled in two classes, and sometimes pick up between 10 and 15 of extra work. I enjoy getting the heck out of town on the weekends with my buddies. We always saw one another 2 or 3 days a week, usually at least one weekend day, and had a decent amount of phone and e-mail contact. That seems like a lot of contact to me but there are 3-4 other days a week that I was not physically around to play with him. Short of running hiring a private investigator, how can I verify a guy is telling me the truth when he says that he is single? (I always ask before I agree to go out on date #1.)
In dating, I'm really just looking for someone to play with in my non-work time. If something deeper develops, that'd be great but ... chances of finding Mr. Forever and a Day seem pretty slim at the moment. After this string of bad luck, I'm annoyed with myself for being a bad people reader. There's a lesson being missed here, but I can't seem to grasp it. I just ... almost feel like it's unethical for me to keep dating. I keep thinking of that girl who just moved her life for him! I don't even have the right to feel this way because he wasn't mine -- he was *hers* and I was stealing him. How do I deal?
– Thief, Western Mass.
A: You asked these people if they had girlfriends, Thief. They said no. You saw this last guy three times a week. You had every reason to believe that he was your boyfriend. I have no idea why you've had such bad luck, but it seems to me that it's not your fault. Being busy shouldn't make you a magnet for cheaters. Let's blame this on coincidence, age, and place in life.
As for reading people, all I can say is that you should feel as though you're building emotional intimacy with people over time, even if you're busy. You don't have to be looking for a husband, but over the course of a few months you should be introduced to someone's friends and family and let in on secrets and routines. If you're not feeling any closer to a person after many dates, go find another companion. Because yes, you're busy, but sometimes that's the best time to find Mr. Forever and a Day. Your Mr. Forever and a Day is probably going to be the kind of guy who appreciates busy.
Don't let this bad luck mean more than it does. It's not as though you were ignoring framed wedding pictures and ladies' underpants around your boyfriend's apartment. You were shocked to find out that this guy lied to you. You're doing your due diligence. Let's keep the blame where it should be. On him.
Readers? Is she really a bad people reader? Was she ignoring signs? How can she be sure that her suitors are single? Does being busy really affect her ability to get closer to someone? Is this just bad luck? Discuss.
Q:I enjoy reading your column every day and think that you and your readers could give appropriate guidance about the following situation:
A few months back, I began to realize that I was falling in love with a woman I have known for some time but never got to know well. Being a hopeless romantic, I penned a letter to her stating that I had come to cherish our time/conversation and that I didn't know where our relationship was headed, but that I was so blessed to have her in my life.
She did not respond directly to the letter, though at other points she had told me that I was "endearing in every way" and made me blush (inside and out, I imagine) with other generous (albeit exaggerated) compliments.
Over the following months, we texted every night before we go to bed, hung out after work, talked intimately about life, and generally appeared to be engaged in the process of falling in love as I have come to know it -- the breaking down of barriers and the full sharing of oneself with another.
Yesterday, after playing board games at a local cafe for a few hours after work, she invited me to her apartment. I accepted, not thinking/expecting that anything physical would occur, but with heart aflutter that this was yet another sign of a desire for romance.
After looking at photos/artwork on her bed, I told her, in no uncertain terms, that I had fallen hard for her. She seemed excited to hear this first-hand, but also cautious, because, as it turns out, she is in an open relationship.
Such relationships are not for me (though I certainly do not begrudge others for engaging in them), but I now find myself between a rock and a hard place with two emotions/thoughts: (1) A wish that she had told me about her status earlier so that I could try to emotionally reorient myself (though I admit that I probably could not have stopped falling for her), and, connected with #1, (2) A concern that our relationship, somewhat paradoxically, cannot continue because we are so close, but cannot take the next step.
Should she have said something earlier? Exclusivity isn't important to her but was it reasonable to assume it wouldn't be for me? Do I try to slowly move away from the intimate communications we've been having, so as to create distance while not being reactive?
Thanks for your thoughts and your column
– Befuddled, NYC via Cambridge
A:Yeah, she should have said something about the fact that she was in a relationship, Befuddled. She wasn't considering your feelings. She wasn't treating you well. To be blunt, she was lying.
If you date her, you want to be the only one dating her. It's either you and only you -- or nothing at all. Yes, people are allowed to date more than one person at a time when they're on the hunt for a relationship, but she has already developed real intimacy with you. It's not like you'd be starting your relationship from scratch.
I'm befuddled, too. Tell her how you feel -- including the fact that you're irritated about her lack of honesty. If she can't make you feel safe in a romantic relationship that meets your standards, you're allowed to walk away thoroughly disappointed.
The lesson here is to ask questions. "Do you have a boyfriend?" "Are we falling for each other?" "What do these board games mean to you?" Ask these things sooner than later. You're entitled to answers.
Readers? Should she have disclosed her status? Even if she ends her open relationship, can she be trusted? What happened here? Discuss.
I am assuming the fact that I am happily married and wish to remain that way does not preclude me from using this forum.
I have an interesting problem, and yes, I recognize that the problem may be mine. I have been married for nearly 20 years. I love my wife more than anything else. More than this, I am in love with my wife. We have a great relationship, we do most things together, and we truly enjoy most of our time. I am not saying that we do not have our issues. We have arguments and fights. We mistreat each other at times, and take worldly frustrations out on each other. But, this is part of having a life together. We respect each other and apologize when necessary.
Ok, now here is the problem. Years ago (more than 15) things weren't quite as good. My wife had an affair. It was a long affair, over a year I think. During this time she would bring up social things that she and "the other man" would talk about, like common interests, along with problems that the other guy was having in his life and marriage. Now, the affair is long since over, and somehow we survived and I have forgiven her. We have both dramatically grown over the years, and as I said before, we are great. However, when my wife talks about social conversations she has with men at work I find myself immediately bothered to a great degree. I don't care who you are, or how much therapy you may go through, when a spouse has an affair it is always there.
Now I find myself telling my wife not to have social conversations with men at work and to keep topics solely professional. I have even explained why, citing a correlation between what she was telling me in a conversation to what she had told me from dialogues so many years before.
Am I going too far by asking her to not associate socially with men from work? Should she understand my position on this as someone with "post whatever syndrome" that will probably always be there?
– Extremely Happy, But…, Framingham
A: Are you going too far by asking her not to be social with men at work? Yeah, EHB.
It's really difficult not to make friends at work. It's sort of unnatural to ignore the people you're around all day. This affair -- it happened 15 years ago. And while you're allowed to have some post-traumatic stress, you're not helping anyone by making rules that are too easy to break. Is she supposed to sit silently at her desk (assuming she has a desk)? Is she supposed to avoid all outings with peers?
My advice is to set boundaries that make sense. Maybe it's not OK for her to go out alone with male co-workers. But is it really so bad for her to chat about movies with them by the water cooler? Also, can you meet these co-workers so you know what you're dealing with? Maybe they're just nice guys who love their own wives. Maybe they're interns who treat your wife like a mom. Tell your wife that if it's ever appropriate, you'd love to say a brief hello to these people. Be honest and explain that it'll help you calm your nerves.
You both learned plenty from what happened 15 years ago. Don't underestimate her. She made mistakes, but those mistakes went beyond simple social time in the office. You can't force her to wear blinders. Just tell her to practice the Golden Rule. Meaning, she shouldn't do anything behind your back that she wouldn't want you doing behind hers. That's the best you can do.
Readers? Am I wrong? What rules are acceptable? Is he setting her up to fail? Is it possible to avoid being social at work? What boundaries should he set? Should he meet her work friends? Discuss.
Here are the winners of the Love Letters Second Anniversary Cotton Contest. And here's today's letter ...
Q: I have been dating my boyfriend for two years. He is very attentive, takes me away on vacation with his family, and is never disrespectful. However, I have a big trust issue that I can't seem to get over.
When we first started dating we got really close really fast. He would text me all day and I just assumed we were exclusive. But I found out that at a party, he hooked up with a girl, who, get this, went shopping with me for my outfit on my first date with him. Go figure! Anyway, I stopped being friends with her. I found out about their hook-up from a friend because we went to a small college and I confronted him. We weren't technically exclusive so I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt and continue with things.
Throughout our relationship I have seen his friends cheat on their girlfriends so many times, and I couldn't help but think they would urge my boyfriend to do the same. However, I always thought he was different.
Then I saw a message between my boyfriend and his friend after he started an internship months ago. In the message, he told his friend that a new girl had started working with him and that she was hot, but too bad because she lives with her boyfriend. Well sir, you have a girlfriend too, and it's me! That was the last I heard about her and I don't think anything happened.
He's a big partier and a huge flirt. It's what I love about him -- and fear about him. A few months ago, a friend randomly called me and told me not to trust my boyfriend because he saw him hook up with this girl I used to think he flirted with. I remembered that night and how the next day he came over to my place and didn't say anything to me, just got right back into bed with me. We almost broke up when I found out, but for some reason I decided to keep with it because he begged me not to end it.
My friends all see how much he loves me, and I know it too. It's hard to talk to anyone about it because they just see one side of things, but inside I'm so exhausted from worrying about this. I recently saw a Facebook picture of him dancing with this girl and I keep thinking of all the times he was away with his friends on vacation, what was he really doing?
If he can call me up the next day after he kissed a girl (in front of people we knew) and pretend like nothing happened, how many other times did he do that?
I just want to be free from all those thoughts of him cheating. It could be my own insecurities at this point, but any advice helps.
– Mary, Boston
A: Strike 1: The text to the friend. I mean, it could have been a joke -- my married/committed friends and I certainly kid around about cute new co-workers (not at the Globe, of course) -- but his text rubbed you the wrong way. It didn't seem playful. It's a mini strike.
Strike 2: The call from the friend who told that you that your boyfriend was spotted with someone else. That's a major strike. Major. He did something terrible in front of people you know. So much for never being disrespectful.
Strike 3: The Facebook picture. I mean, come on. At the very least, have the courtesy to de-tag yourself.
I don't doubt that he loves you, Mary, but he's not ready to be in an exclusive relationship. And that's fine. He's young, right? What isn't fine is that he's lying to you about his intentions. What isn't fine is your exhaustion.
You can stay with him, look the other way, and hope that he grows out of this -- or you can do the tough thing and tell him that there's not enough trust to continue the relationship. He'll probably argue with you because he certainly doesn't want to lose you, but pay attention to your gut. And to Facebook. In this case, it speaks the truth.
You're not being paranoid or unnecessarily insecure. You're getting phone calls from people who have seen your boyfriend with others. You're like … Carmela Soprano. That's not cool.
You're tired. Give yourself a break. Being single is actually far less draining than being in a relationship that has you doubting yourself. You said it best -- you want to be free.
Readers? Read her first paragraph and remember that it's not all bad. How can she walk away from the bad without being miserable about losing the good? If she stays with him, will his party attitude eventually go away? Is this an age issue? Is there any reason to stay? Ever received a phone call from a stranger about your partner's bad behavior? Discuss.
It's the second anniversary of Love Letters tomorrow. I'll post winners of the cotton contest on Monday.
Just wanted to say happy anniversary. And that you still satisfy my needs.
Q: Hi Meredith,
Let me start out by saying that my significant other "Joe" and I are no longer together for multiple reasons. Prior to our breakup we had a debate about internet cheating. Toward the end of our relationship I was having trust issues with Joe so I browsed his computer (which I admitted to him). What I found in his history was a Chatroulette-like site geared toward video sex. I considered this a form of cheating because Joe would have been interacting with someone other than me. When I talked with Joe about it, he said he only did it a couple times and didn't see the harm in it.
I got outside opinions and it brought up an interesting debate. Some considered it cheating while others didn't. Many who thought using the site was cheating also thought looking at pornography was, as well. Personally, I don't see pornography as cheating because there is no interaction.
So I have to ask, with all the forms of technology these days, what is considered cheating (besides the obvious)? Is interactive video intimacy with another person considered cheating?
– Internet Killed the Pornography Star, Boston
A: Is it cheating, IKTPS? I don't know. Some people don't want their spouses to have extramarital friendships. Some people consider Facebook relationships to cross the line. Some people are cool with open marriages. Every couple makes its own rules. You learned that by asking your friends. They couldn't give you a straight answer.
I see interactive, Chatroulette-style sexy stuff as … interactive pornography. If the interactive part makes it a cheat to you, then it's a cheat. It's funny – I have a friend who once caught her ex-boyfriend doing something similar. She was upset, but not because she felt sexually betrayed. She was angry because her boyfriend didn't have anything better to do than to talk to some woman in Italy at 2 a.m. She was upset because he was so bored.
Be honest with yourself and make rules based on what gives you bad feelings in your gut. And don't jump to conclusions. If your next boyfriend is looking at a similar site, check it out with him. See what you think. Does it feel like simple eye candy? Does it feel like a real cheat? Research and set boundaries.
At the end of the day, you had other issues with Joe. If you had been in a supportive, trusting relationship, the video stuff might not have concerned you.
Readers? Where do you draw the line when it comes to cheating? Ever played with a Chatroulette-style site? Was this really about Joe's other issues? Anniversary thoughts? Discuss. And help add to our songs of the day. I'm loving the soundtrack.
I so should have read the recent cheating letter and the advice that was given in the forum. I made the brutal mistake of telling my new boyfriend about my past infidelity with my ex-boyfriend. Needless to say, he did not take it well and has pretty much ended things with me. Let me give you a little background …
Four years ago, I was in a long-distance relationship with the ex. In some not-so-proud moments of unhappiness, I cheated on him and never told him. Eventually, for other reasons, he left me. I was devastated, single at 30, and knew that it was time to focus on myself.
The new man in my life came around at a great time. He has his own past, which includes a broken engagement (he called it off), but for the past month (yes, we've only been dating a month) we have been nothing but open and honest with each other. I've never felt so happy or at ease with anyone before in my life. I know he feels (or felt) the same way. We have talked about the future and both acknowledge that we are very lucky to have found each other.
The other night while eating dinner, he went fishing for some information about my past to make sure that I was over my ex. I told him in a non-confrontational way that I was over him and that while I regret it, I did cheat on my ex four years ago. He freaked out, barely spoke to me, but spent the night at my house in a very awkward silent state. I tried talking to him but he didn't want to hear anymore.
An hour after her left, I get an e-mail from him saying that he's calling off a weekend away and is not responding to any of my texts, e-mails, or phone calls. Now I know I'm not a bad person. I made some stupid mistakes when I was younger that I regret. I do not believe in "once a cheater, always a cheater." I was very unhappy four years ago and I do not think that my past should be any indication of who I am and my future. I've been spending time in therapy to ensure just that, and I really do believe that if I'm going to have a future with someone, that they should know the good, the bad, and the ugly.
New boyfriend doesn't see it that way, wishes I never told him, and has more or less ended things with me in a very immature way. Should I give him more space and let him come to me? I don't want to grovel anymore for something I did four years ago to someone else but recognize that what I did in my past has freaked him out. I do know that his previous relationship may have given him some trust issues. I've already sent him a long e-mail trying to give him as much insight to the situation as possible and have asked to not end things based on my past. So far, I've heard nothing from him. Is this totally doomed?
– Should Have Read Love Letters First, Boston
A: Well, SHRLLF, you're certainly learning about each other. He learned something about you that he didn't like. And now you know something awful about him. He's not forgiving. He made you regret your honesty. And he ended things with you in an immature way.
I don't want you to be sad that you told him about the cheat. Because telling him was what felt right to you. The guy who's right for you would want that kind of honesty. He'd be open to someone who has learned from her mistakes and isn't afraid to talk about them.
My thought? It has only been a month. At a month, we're still looking for reasons to forgive each other's flaws, not vilify each other. If he can't deal with your truth, better he knows it now. And the fact that he wishes you hadn't been honest with him -- well, that's pretty telling, isn't it? You've dealt with your past -- in therapy. He hasn't.
You've done all you can. You've told him that you want to keep dating and that you're not looking to betray him. If this relationship is doomed, it's not your fault. If he hasn't responded in a week, start picking up the pieces.
And for the record, yes, you should always read Love Letters first, but in this case, I'm happy you didn't. I'm glad you told him.
Readers? Should she wait a week to hear from him? Is he right to ditch her? Was she wrong to tell him? Would this have lasted had she not told him? Thoughts? Discuss.
Keep the cotton entries coming.
Q: I have been dating my boyfriend "Kurt" for about five months now. He's charming, clever, and very kindhearted. Having been dumped by a somewhat (emotionally) abusive boyfriend half a year before, he is a breath of fresh air. The only problem is, I don't know where this relationship is going.
Kurt and I met through his sister, who is also my best friend. There was definitely a strong connection initially, but the need to rush things forced itself upon us on account he was leaving to study a semester abroad for the next three months. While there, he informed me that two days before he left, he cheated on me with his ex-girlfriend. I forgave him, keeping in mind that we made the mistake of "falling" too fast due to the time constraint. We got back together a month before he came back to the US.
He's back home now and everything seems to be going extremely smoothly. He hasn't been speaking with his ex-girlfriend and when he does it's only to check in on her (she has an illness, which complicates this even more). He's three years older than me and attends a different college than I intend to. He goes back to school in less than a month and that scares me. A few nights ago, he said something on the lines of, "I don't take this relationship as seriously as previous ones [such as the one when he was engaged to a girl, but not the girl he cheated on me with] because it hasn't matured to its potential. It'd be five years until we actually had a stable relationship and could live together. But I want to do whatever I can to make this work."
Can we make this work? Should I push through this and see what happens? What if I can't trust him while he's at school? Is this a waste of my time?
Please Help Me, Meredith!
– Flustered in Framingham
A: Five years, FIF? I'm sad to say that Kurt is probably right. You can't get serious now because of distance. Even if you could, he just doesn't seem ready.
My advice is to keep dating him -- because you want to -- but take three big steps back in your head. Tell him that based on trust, distance, and school, you'll both just have to take this day-by-day. It'll be difficult to ease up on the commitment, for sure, but he's going away and so are you. You're having your boundaries set for you.
You asked whether this is a waste of time. It isn't. But that doesn't mean you'll be together forever. Love is a worthy experience, even when it doesn't last. So is dating. All you can do is make daily decisions about whether you're getting something out of your relationship with him, or whether staying with him is making you feel worse about life.
I think I said this last week, but sometimes you just have to let a relationship play out. You can't jump ahead and get answers until you're sure you know what you want. A resolution will come in time. Enjoy him while he's around.
Readers? Am I right to say that they should keep dating until the answers become clear? What do you think of Kurt telling her they can't be serious and that he has cared about other people more? Discuss.
Good morning. I am in Los Angeles visiting family. That's why today's letter was posted at a crazy hour. I'm posting letters before bed this week so I don't have to get up early.
I hear we got some snow at home. I'll be thinking of you in sunny Solvang today as I drink wine and eat Dutch pastries (yes, I'm rubbing it in).
Q: Hi Meredith,
For the past few months, I've been in a wonderful relationship with an equally wonderful girl. It has been the most natural, comfortable relationship I've ever experience. Both of us feel at home with each other and I really couldn't be happier with the way things are going.
But if I didn't have a predicament, I wouldn't be writing to you. I was in a long-term relationship that lasted several years and ended over a year and a half ago. While I was with her, I cheated on her several times. I recognize what a despicable thing this is to do to someone, and to the best of my knowledge, she has no idea about my misdeeds. I really do feel horribly about what I did, and I realize that even wanting to cheat was a sign that I needed to examine or possibly end that relationship.
Now that I'm in a new relationship, am I under any obligation to disclose my past indiscretions to my current girlfriend? I don't want to hide anything from her about who I am and what I've done (and we both certainly know about at least some of each other's less-proud moments), but I'm afraid that for so many people this is an issue that is simply never acceptable. I feel dishonest for not revealing my history, but I don't want to ruin something this great for no reason. What should I do?
– Do I Tell?, Somerville
A: I'd tell her, DIT, but only when it feels organic. Don't make it a big, nasty confession. A guilty sit-down implies that your bad behavior is going to continue and that cheating is something you do in all relationships. Your disclosure doesn't have to be a warning.
When you do tell her about the cheats, give her some context. Let her ask questions. Tell her what you told us -- that you cheated because you were sabotaging a bad relationship. You learned a lesson.
Many people do awful things at the end of relationships. We know that from Love Letters, right? They check each other's e-mails, they say mean things about each other's family members, and they behave like children, in general. I'm sure this woman has her own list of misdeeds from her past, including some you don't already know about.
Don't alarm her with a big dose of dramatic news unless you feel it's relevant to your relationship.
And if this is really about wanting forgiveness from your ex, let it go. Allow everyone (including yourself) to move on.
Readers? Am I wrong? If you used to be a cheater, do you have to tell your new significant other? And if so, how? Does the letter writer's anxiety mean that he wants to apologize to his ex? Should he? Discuss.
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.
Romance Rumble Final 4. This could end up being Swayze vs. Swayze. Or Swayze vs. Bogart. Or Lloyd Dobler vs. Bogart. I can't handle it. Get your tickets to the Dec. 10 screening. It'll makes for a good date night or night out with friends. The pre-party will be 7 to 8:30 at a nearby bar (which I will announce early next week). There will be yummy food and cool trinkets for movie ticket holders.
Q: Hi Meredith,
To cut to the chase, I've been in a relationship with a great guy, "Dan," for the past two years, and we are both in our mid-twenties. I love him very much and know I want a future with him. He is loving, faithful and talks about our future together. You're probably wondering why I'm writing to you.
Let's call him "Joe," a guy who works in my office in a different department. I had a crush on Joe for a couple of months before I met Dan. Joe and I eventually started to hang out, text, and talk all the time in the beginning of my relationship with Dan. Joe and I had so much in common and developed an intense emotional connection. Eventually, I told Joe we had to stop hanging out so much because I felt weird about having such a close male friend in my life, and I had developed feelings for him, which wasn't fair to Dan. I think Joe might have liked me during this time (we never talked about our feelings for each other), but would never cross a line due to my relationship status. Nothing ever happened between us physically. I saw him again a few weeks ago for the first time in six months, and all of my old feelings came rushing back in an instant. Joe met someone else and is moving in with her, which I have known for some time, but I don't know if I'll ever get over him completely. I find myself wondering what could have been, then I feel guilty for thinking these thoughts when I have Dan, who is wonderful.
My question is -- how do I get over him and move on completely? It has been almost a year since we stopped communicating regularly, and then eventually at all. There is a chance we may be working closely together in the future. I miss our friendship and connection, but I don't want to feel weird about feeling to close to him or start to hang out with him again. I don't want to have my cake and eat it too -- I love Dan and have chosen him. Do you have any coping strategies?
– Stuck in the Past, Providence
A: You might not get over him, SITP. You'll probably always get butterflies when you see Joe. I mean, we don't get over everyone. Sometimes crushes linger like a sinus infection. If Joe showed up at your door tomorrow and asked you to ditch Dan for him, would you? Of course not. You already made that decision.
My advice is to stop putting pressure on yourself to get over it. If you accept that things will always be a bit weird between you and Joe, life will get a bit easier. Maybe you'll be capable of meeting your own expectations. And as for hanging out with him, well, he lives with someone now. I don't think it will be a temptation. He's not as available as he used to be.
I think that the most difficult thing if you wind up working with Joe will be realizing that the connection isn't the same as it was. Time will have passed. He'll be giving his emotional intimacy to his girlfriend. And by the way, it's OK if that makes you sad. You're only human.
The most important thing is that you still love and want Dan. I'm pretty sure that you do.
Readers? Am I wrong to say that sometimes we just don't get over people? Is it healthy to accept that some feelings linger? How should the letter writer set boundaries? Discuss.
Remember to buy your tickets for the Love Letters/Movies event. Film critic Wesley Morris and I will be posting our favorite romantic movies soon. You'll vote on them bracket-style, and we'll screen the winning film Dec. 10.
We have a special guest on Love Letters today -- Milan Lucic of the Boston Bruins. Milan, 22, is the second athlete in my "Sports People Trying to Give Love Advice" series, which featured Manny Delcarmen earlier this year.
Milan answered some letters on Friday, the day after he earned a hat trick against Florida. (I hope I said that right.) Turns out, Milan is not only great at hockey -- he's also a natural at giving love advice. He oozed empathy. He was a natural. I hope he joins us again (and I hope his teammates don't make fun of him too much).
Q: So my boyfriend and I have been together for almost three years. Last year, we went through a little a rough patch. (OK, "little" might not be the best way to describe it.) He cheated on me twice, and the only reason why I found out is because I saw a text he sent to his friend about making out with two girls at a bar (so that's four different women). I confronted him about the text and he apologized and said it would never happen again. We had many discussions about it, and eventually we ended up getting back together (at this point I only knew about him kissing the two girls).
A month or two later, it came up in a conversation that he had slept with two separate women during that time as well. I wasn't really sure what to make of it. We had already worked through the first issue and were trying to put it in the past, yet, here it was again, cropping up worse than before. I was devastated. But I truly believed that he was sorry (not just sorry for getting caught), and that he was/is trying to be a better person.
But it's a year later and I still find it hard to trust him when he goes out with his friends. When we are together, everything feels great. But as soon as we are apart, I just get this gut feeling that we aren't right for each other -- that there isn't a future for us. He's my best friend, and when its good, its great, but when its bad, it's heartbreaking and painful. I'm obviously not over what happened last year.
I know the obvious answer is to break up. If I read this, that would totally be my advice. It's harder when you are in the situation. I'm not worried about being alone or not finding someone else because I am confident that I could find someone (and he's my first boyfriend, so I was alone for 21 years before meeting him, so I'm not worried about that either). But it has been three years and we are starting to talk about marriage, and I just can't figure out if I want that or not. I can picture our life together, and in a perfect world, we could have something great. But if I feel this way now about trusting him, won't it only get worse over time? Is there a way to fix this? Is there a tangible way to work on my trust issues?
– Jaded by Love, Boston
A: JBL, your boyfriend has been a pretty terrible best friend. He lied to you. He only told the truth after getting caught. Then, after telling the truth, he lied to you again. He cheated with four women. You can't undo that, certainly not within a year.
You don't want to start a marriage with big doubts, and at this point, I don't even know why marriage is on the table. Yes, breaking up with your closest companion is easier said than done, but that's why they say that breaking up is hard to do. Because it is. Because yes, you lose the bad, but you also have to say goodbye to the good.
Is there a way to fix the relationship? Not right now. Right now, you have to focus on you -- doing all that you can to experience what's out there so that you know what you deserve. Maybe you'll find that trust isn't so hard to come by when you're with someone who doesn't make out with girls at bars. Maybe you'll find that your boyfriend makes a better acquaintance than romantic partner. Or maybe, after some big learning experiences, the two of you will grow up and be together again. Maybe.
But for now, you're just a young woman who's dating a man who hasn't proved his worth. You don't have "trust issues." You just don't trust him. This isn't your problem to work on. If your gut is telling you that you have reason to worry, please listen to it.
Readers? Should the letter writer stay with her boyfriend? She says that she would advise someone in her shoes to bail, so why doesn't she? Can cheaters change? Can trust be restored? Thoughts on my advice? Milan's? Milan vs. Manny? Discuss.
Tickets are now on sale for the Dec. 10 Love Letters/Movies event. Please join film critic Wesley Morris and me for the screening. We'll be posting our favorite films next week. You'll vote on them, and we'll screen the winner at the Somerville Theatre that night.
And have a good weekend. After this letter.
Q: A couple years ago, I met the most amazing man. He was fun, funny, smart, handsome, and a great listener (I love to talk), and we just seemed to connect. The only problem was that I hadn't met him sooner. I was already living with my boyfriend of almost two years. Since the other man and I were both students, we had a similar schedule, worked together, studied together, and on our days off, we hung out. I knew this was wrong, but I did it anyway.
I thought of leaving my live-in boyfriend, but this decision was complicated first by the fact that I had no where else to live, and second, by the fact that we had always gotten along great. A couple months went by, and my live in boyfriend proposed to me. I was anything but excited, but I said yes anyway.
I spent the following two years of the engagement trying to find a way out. I feared that I would regret leaving him and so I struggled with the decision. I tried going to counseling, but I was never able to make the decision to leave and found my time running out. I was sure I'd leave him when I found the "right time." As my (already postponed) wedding approached, I wondered if I was making a huge mistake. I still saw the other man frequently (and should mention that my fiance discovered this and forgave me).
I've been married for two months now, and although the other man and I live in the same town, we don't speak or see each other. So many things remind me of him, and I think about him from the moment I wake up until I fall asleep. To say that I miss him immensely is a huge understatement.
I do enjoy the time that I spend with my husband but we don't connect on the same level as I did with the other man, and I've always known this. I want to move on and build a good life with the man I chose, but my heart aches every second of every day for this other man who became my best friend.
Did I marry the wrong man? Will I ever be able to forget the love I left behind? How long will it take before it doesn't hurt so much?
– Unsure in Melrose
A: Ugh, UIM, I never thought I'd say this to a letter writer, but yeah, I think you married the wrong man. Not because I think you should have married the other guy, but because you shouldn't be married to anyone right now.
I'm not sure what led to the disappearance of the other/better guy -- whether you cut him off or he gave up on his own -- but to me, he's irrelevant. I believe that even if he hadn't been around, you wouldn't have been psyched about marrying your husband. You never wanted to take that step. You just didn't know how to leave.
My advice is to (gulp) come clean -- to yourself and your husband. Be honest. Tell him that you went along with things for years, and that while you "enjoy" your time with him, you're not 100 percent in. That's the truth, right?
You've made a mess, but you know that. The time has come to clean it up. I can't promise that the other guy will want to be with you if you become single, but I don't believe in making do with what you have because you're too passive to do anything else.
Be brave. Be honest. Sooner than later.
Readers? Is she not telling us enough good stuff about her husband? Does she have to end her marriage? Is the other guy the right guy? Is it possible that she thought she was doing the right thing by maintaining a relationship with the man who had already committed to her? Can this be fixed without divorce? Discuss.
I am a 33-year-old guy who has been divorced for about a year and a half, and now I am having the same problem over and over. For history, while I have no proof that I was cheated on in my marriage, I think I was. The fact that someone (a friend of mine) moved in with my ex a month after I left makes me think so.
Now, anytime I meet someone I am interested in, I seem to have the same problem. Whenever I am with that person, I am funny, charming, confident, and very easy to get along with. But when I am not with them, I start thinking too much and can't get out of my own head. I seem to fall for people fairly fast and believe I come off too strong.
Just recently, I met someone I really like. She is successful and confident, and I think she would see any insecurities on my end as a turn off. She tells me how "we are quite similar" and that she enjoys my company, and that "the comfort we have had since day one has her a bit hesitant." The only word I hear is "hesitant" -- and now I'm just waiting for things to go bad. What is maddening is that my fears only take over when she's not around. What can I do?
– In My Head in New Hampshire
A: Ah, heads. Annoying, aren't they?
Your problem, IMHINH, is that you think that you're unique. You should see what's inside of my head. I imagine that when I'm dating someone, it looks like Alcatraz or "Labyrinth" in there.
We're all a wreck when we're lonely and dating. We're all preparing for potential loss. The only thing we can do is distract ourselves when we get super crazy. I highly recommend "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" marathons on Logo. That show is a real anxiety killer. I also recommend hanging out with friends as much as possible. They're a good reality check.
Yes, you have every reason to be extra insecure, but don't assume that this confident, successful woman doesn't have her own list of what-ifs. Perhaps she goes home after dates and stews about all that could go wrong. I wouldn't be surprised if that's what she means when she says she's hesitant.
It's all about distractions and remembering that even if it goes sour, you're going to be OK. You've already been through the worst of it.
Readers? How do you get out of your head? Is it normal to sit around expecting the worst? Does this fear of failure mean that he hasn't dealt with his divorce? Discuss.
Q: I can't believe I'm writing this all down, but here goes. I met this man through a friend about a month ago. We are both in our late 20s. The night we met we instantly hit it off -- common interests, same sense of humor, the whole deal, we just clicked. I never meet anyone I click with, so I was ecstatic. He asked for my number and started texting me almost immediately.
The next day, I e-mailed our mutual friend to ask about him, and she broke the devastating news that Mr. Perfect was, in fact, Mr. Engaged. I was baffled. We had talked the whole night and he didn't mention anything about a girlfriend, let alone a fiancée. From his behavior I would never have imagined that he was attached. I convinced myself I'd misread all his signs and that Mr. Engaged just wanted to be my friend.
Well, before I knew it, we were texting all day every day, and constantly making plans to hang out (always in a group). But even in the group setting we just find ourselves in our own conversation talking and flirting. A few nights ago he asked me on a date. Hesitant to go out alone I asked one of my friends to come with. Later in the night he flat out told me that he liked me. I told him that it wasn't fair, that I am the only one getting hurt in this situation and that I wish we had met at a different point in both of our lives.
My friend took me away at that point and tried to end the conversation knowing very well it wouldn't lead to anything productive.
Since then nothing has changed. We still talk, text and hang out all the time. He never speaks of his fiancée with the exception of one or two brief conversations where she has come up. I find myself constantly thinking about him and wondering what he is doing. It is so difficult for me to find someone to connect with and when I finally do, he is engaged. I am not out to ruin their relationship, but I do not know what to do. The rational side of me knows I should run, I should never have gotten involved to begin with, but I can't seem to help myself.
And since I know all the readers are probably wondering -- they're in a long distance relationship right now. They only see each other once a week, and when he is with her, he is still texting me.
– Wondering What Could Happen, Boston
A: I suppose your question is in your sign-off, WWCH. But I think you know the answer. Nothing good can happen. Not with a guy who's leading you on while lying to his fiancée. He's either really into you and too confused and cowardly to deal with his engagement, or he's using you as a placeholder while his fiancée is away. Either way, it's bad news.
Of course, you're using him as a placeholder, too. He's special because you like him, but if you had another nice guy to text and hang with, you'd drop Mr. Engaged.
You know what I'm going to advise you to do, but I'll say it anyway. Tell Mr. Engaged that you're looking for the real thing and that you're not comfortable dating someone who's already betrothed. Delete his number from your phone. If he shows up on your doorstep single (and I wouldn't put it past him) we can talk more then, but for the moment, I'd rather you be single, lonely, and looking for something right than filling the void with something wrong.
Loneliness makes us do things we're not proud of, but at some point, we have to hold ourselves accountable. Be good to yourself and walk away.
Readers? How can she say no to the attention when she has been so lonely? Is this guy going to drop his fiancée for the letter writer, and if so, should the letter writer date him? Am I right that they're simply using each other as placeholders for what they really want? How does one learn self-control in these situations? Discuss.
Q: Longtime lurker, first time writer.
I dated my ex for five years including a few months living together after college. He had his share of problems, which he frequently took out on me, and very few friends. This was exacerbated by his problem with alcohol.
To make a long story short, he broke up with me saying he just didn't feel like he used to but there wasn't anyone else. A few days later my gut told me something wasn't right about it and I used my "resources" to find out the truth, which was that he had been cheating for months with someone I had considered a close friend. (FYI for Meredith and readers, I am not the jealous type at all and do not typically snoop, spy, or anything of the sort. I am actually usually more trusting than is deserved! Sometimes you really SHOULD listen to your own intuition!)
After the break-up, I started dating a good friend who I've known since before the ex and I even met. My family and friends can't stop gushing about how much they love seeing me with the current bf. He is wonderful in more ways than I could ask for … good to me, fun, social, responsible, family-oriented, the best grilled cheese sandwiches … but I can't get rid of this nagging feeling that the ex and I were meant for each other. I've never had anyone "get" me like that, and I don't think it's just the five years. An example: the current boyfriend tries to finish my sentence but is usually incorrect. With the ex, he didn't even have to finish my sentence if I was at a loss for words because he already knew exactly what I was trying to say.
I understand that it probably sounds silly. I have the current boyfriend who is everything I want on paper and is an incredible person, and then there's the ex who doesn't deserve me and maybe never did, but we have that deeper connection. The ex and I still talk on occasion (yes, the current bf is aware of this). He has also been dating someone else for a while now, but we have talked about how neither of us currently has the connection we had (and still have) with each other.
I have no delusions about the relationship with the ex being perfect, but when someone has betrayed your trust in such a major way, is there any coming back from that? Am I wrong to compare the current boyfriend to someone who treated me as if I was disposable? I already feel like I'm damaged goods and possibly not capable of loving the way I used to. Am I even more damaged and broken than I realized?
I always think that the songs that ring true to you tell you more about yourself than you might already be aware of. Before things even ended with the ex, the Sara Bareilles song "Gravity" hit me to the core, and currently La Roux’s “Bulletproof” is having that effect.
– I've Been Thinking of Writing This For Months Now, Boston
A: OK, IBTOWTFMN, if these songs tell us about you, let's look at "Gravity," shall we?
A sample lyric: "The one thing that I still know is that you're keeping me down."
"Bulletproof" isn't any more uplifting: "All you do is fill me up with doubt."
The ex fills you up with doubt. Who cares if he finishes your sentences?
I do believe that he "gets" you, but that's not enough. I'd rather have you spend the rest of your life with someone who wants to learn how to finish your sentences than with a guy who already knows how to finish them but is happy to leave you and date someone else.
I don't believe in soul mates, but I do believe in people who seem like soul mates. They're often very exciting, very perceptive, and not quite right for the long haul. I don't know why that is. All I know is that your ex bailed and that the new guy is here, making good on his word. That makes me think that the new guy gets you more than you think. He knows what he has.
Your strong feelings for your ex are just a confusing mix of loss, anger, pain, rejection, and love. It's difficult to feel so much for someone without assuming that those intense feelings mean that you want to be with them. Try to untangle those feelings and see them for what they are.
My guess is that after five years or so, the new boyfriend will be better at finishing your sentences. And in the meantime, tell him to let you finish them on your own. Less annoying that way.
Readers? Want to suggest any songs for the letter writer? Is this ex as important as she thinks he is? Does the ex actually want her back? Does her letter imply that she doesn't quite dig the new guy enough to stay with him? Advice? Shall we check out the video? Discuss.
I hope you're all working. I mean, not that I want you to be miserable at work on a holiday ... I just want this letter to get some attention.
(And despite the headline on this letter, it's not about drugs.)
Q: I am 26 and have been living with my long-term boyfriend (on and off) for almost a year now. We have been "on" again for about 2 ½ years and we are finally at a point where our relationship has become mature and the best it has ever been. Meeting during our college years (he went to school with a close friend), we (more so I) definitely went through our share of immature times over the years and have broken up more than once.
But these past years we have really grown as a couple and have frequently discussed marriage and our future, although the thought of actually taking the plunge scares me half to death.
Since I was 15, I have pretty much always been in long-term relationships and have been lucky enough to be with some amazing guys. But for some reason (which I have come to despise) the grass has always been greener for me. I had gone back to school a few years ago and soon after became friends with one of my classmates who was also living with his long-term girlfriend. For a while we were just friends and really only talked when we saw each other in class or were working on school related projects. However, beginning early this May (and I don't even know how it happened) I found myself talking to him more and more and it got to the point where we were talking every day, all day. I knew it was the wrong thing to do, yet I couldn't help it and kept at it. We really got to know each other on a personal level and eventually he shared with me that he had felt a "connection" from the moment we met. Mind you, this is almost two years later and he was still with his girlfriend.
He was finishing up school early this summer with plans to move back to his hometown. I had known this all along and the original plan was that both he and his girlfriend would move there together, but in June he told me that he broke things off with her. She ended up moving out of Boston and he was now living by himself. We began hanging out here and there and he told me he was going to stay around Boston to see where things were going to go with us. I hadn't really given him any indication that I was planning on leaving my boyfriend, but I was quite flattered that he was going to stay for me, as I knew his entire life was back at home.
Finally late in the summer, with no real moves being made on my end and without warning, he told me that he was lonely here and was leaving and going back to New York. Not in a month, not in a week, but basically right at that moment. I went to his place to say our "goodbyes" (as he put it) and to my surprise, found myself filled with uncontrollable emotion. I cried and cried and told him not to go, but ultimately his mind was made up and we parted ways.
Shortly after, he ended up writing me a letter. It was the most touching and heartfelt thing I had ever received from anyone. In it, he said that he had to leave and be with those closest to him during this transitional time in his life and that he truly believed we would meet again and hopefully our lives would permit us to continue where we left off that night. We do not speak anymore.
Ever since that day, everything has changed for me. I didn't want to and wish it hadn't happened, but I honestly think I fell in love with him, though I fought very hard not to let him know or admit it to myself until it was too late. Obviously this has made me seriously question my current relationship. Why would this happen if I was 100% committed to my boyfriend?
Overcome with what occurred, I recently told my boyfriend I needed a break and he has given it to me. Although he had already moved away, I told my new "friend" that I had done this and made it clear that I wanted to explore what happened between us, but without coming out and directly saying it, he has made it apparent that isn’t happening.
I know I am a good person and I definitely do NOT condone any type of cheating whether it is physical or emotional --never have and never will -- but this unexpectedly happened to me and though people may say I am responsible for my actions, I feel as if it was somewhat out of my control.
I am now left to wonder if my feelings for this kid were real. Or is it me and my grass-is-always-greener problem? If that's true, should I work things out with my boyfriend and forget about this short-lived "affair"?
– Lost in Greener Pastures
A: I don't think you should run back to the boyfriend. You haven't said anything about missing him or feeling as though you made a gigantic mistake. At your age it's possible that shiny new grass is actually greener.
If you had your choice, you wouldn't be back with your boyfriend. You'd be rolling around in greener grass. Don't go back to the old grass simply because the new grass has decided to go off on its own.
I think that if you follow your heart and stay single if the new grass isn't an option, you'll probably be more likely to know what to do with pretty green grass the next time you see it. It's amazing how much smarter we get when we allow ourselves to be lonely.
Readers? What should she do? Is the greener grass really gone? Anything I'm missing about the boyfriend? Discuss.
Q: I have been with my girlfriend for almost two years and she is wonderful, funny, makes me happy, and I love her very much. We had a blip last winter where she was toying with the idea of being with someone else when things were bad between the two of us (just fighting a lot, not seeing eye-to-eye, and then not communicating about our needs and problems). I found out that she had gone on a date or two with this guy, they had kissed, and that was it. She suggested couples therapy, which we did a few times. She really came around. I would say it helped our relationship.
However, I find myself STILL not fully trusting her. I have resisted the strong temptation to snoop through her e-mail/Facebook when she steps out and leaves her computer on. But the other day I gave in. I checked her Facebook messages when her account was left open and she was in the shower. I saw a message she had written to her ex-boyfriend only a few weeks back when things were amazing and wonderful (or so I thought). She had written that they hadn't talked in a while and she really wanted to see him. He had written back that he would be in town around the holidays with his new girlfriend, that he hoped she was well, and that maybe they could catch up soon. She wrote back "no big deal."
Do I bring this up with her -- and if so, how? Do I actually mention I was snooping? If so, how can I be trusted?
She has several male friends and is always on her phone texting and sending messages through Facebook. I just don't know if I am becoming paranoid and need to chill and trust her, or if I am right to still feel uncomfortable so many months later.
– Paranoid, Boston
A: You're not being paranoid, Paranoid. I mean, you are, but the Facebook message confirmed your fears. I'm not saying that there's anything going on with your girlfriend and her ex, but her desire to see him was news to you. It made you feel bad. That's not good.
You can confront your girlfriend about what you saw, but I don't think she can answer your big questions. Only you know why you don't feel safe in the relationship. Only you know whether you want to be with a woman who seeks attention from other men, including friends and exes. You might prefer a fresh start -- or a girlfriend who's less social and more of an open book. I don't know.
What I do know is that counseling helped. You said you went a few times. Perhaps you weren't finished.
My advice is to go back, whether it's with her or alone. You're not done talking. The more you come clean about these fears and what you need to feel secure in a relationship (with anyone, not just her), the easier it will be to decide if your girlfriend is the right partner.
Stopping therapy too soon is like not finishing a prescription of antibiotics. You just wind up sick again.
Readers? Is there hope here? How can he get over the past? Is the note to the ex cause for concern or was it a simple catch-up? Am I right about him having his own answers? Discuss. (And yes, that was really Rico in the chat yesterday.)
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 note at 4:22 p.m. -- yes, there's something wrong with the comment box. Boston.com is working on the problem. Will be fixed soon. Thanks for your patience.
Q: Hi Meredith,
I'm in love with a married man. He and I have known each other since we were kids and there was always something between us. We had a little fling during our school years and then separated when we went off to college. After that, we didn't see or even talk to each other.
One day out of the blue we bumped into each other and something happened. One thing led to another and we started to see more of each other. In the beginning of our relationship, we talked a lot about how unhappy he was with his marriage. At that time we both held back from getting too deep. I tried to be his friend and tell him that the marriage might not be as bad as he thought and that maybe some marriage counseling would help. He knew I meant well and he didn't want to tangle me in this love triangle -- but our feelings were undeniable.
We are no longer together but we do occasionally bump into each other, and I can't deny that I still love him. When I see him with his wife, my heart sinks to the lowest of low because it was wrong to be with him and because I think to myself, "Why can't that be me with him?" I am having a hard time moving on. It hurts. I try to hang out with friends and keep myself busy but deep down I know that I still love him. I keep telling myself maybe I just need more time to heal but I feel like it's been taking too long and I want it to be over and done with.
– Stuck, Boston
A: Stuck, the first way to get unstuck is to stop bumping into him. I don't know why that keeps happening. You live in a city. Do your best to avoid him. If you take 128, start taking 93. Switch from the Orange Line to the Red. You get the point. You shouldn't be staring at this guy and his wife. Ever.
I believe that you love him, but we don't get to wind up with everyone we love. Sometimes we love people who are already committed to someone else. Sometimes we never stop loving the person we abandoned as a kid but now we're too different to be with them. Loving someone doesn't mean we're supposed to pursue them. It certainly doesn't mean we're supposed to sleep with them.
This guy is just one person you're going to love. He gets a tiny bit of real estate in your brain, a small bedroom in the nostalgia wing of your mind. There's still plenty of space up there for new and better loves. Allow your heart to sink when you think of it, but remember that the more time you go without him, the lighter your heart will get.
There's no quick fix. No magic get-over-it potion. I say that a lot. If I had a quick remedy, I'd sell it and make lots of money. Just keep living. And remember, in this case, love didn't mean you were supposed to make a life together. He's a part of your history -- and that's where he has to stay.
Readers? I think Stuck knows that she did wrong, but is there a way she can move on in her head? Was it real love? Does it matter? We get a lot of letters from people idealizing childhood loves. Why? Any suggestions for Stuck? Talk.
Q: Hi Meredith,
I am 61 and have been engaged for the past four years. I have had a relationship with my fiancé, who is about my age, for 10 years. We are both divorced.
My fiancé's 16-year marriage was ruined by his infidelities. He cheated with at least four to five other women. He was up front about this from the beginning. I met him when he had been separated for six months. He has always had many platonic female friends, some for over 20 years, and my friends find him charming and handsome.
Months ago, I was informed by another woman that he has been in a physical and emotional relationship with her while I have been with him. The woman is someone he has always been close with. Their first affair lasted on and off for years and then continued with breaks up until last year. I am very hurt but feel that he is committed to our relationship. I have asked that he cease connections with all his women friends and seek counseling.
The longer I stew over his history the more I realize he has treated a lot of women poorly in the past. At this point he has been deceitful and betrayed every woman he's ever been with, including myself. I have only this one mark against him but the ghosts are lurking in my mind. I have read about narcissism and pathological personalities and I am worried he may be a man that has long periods between his affairs or that a real personality disorder exists for him.
We live with each other on weekends and see each other every night but he sleeps in his condo during the week due to his job requirements. He has stated that he is unhappy with this separation during the week but abides by my wishes that I remain in my home in the country. I have no desire to live in the city.
I want a future I can feel secure about, but I can't easily forget the past. Should I continue to ask him not to have contact with his female friends and believe the one was a red herring? Should I remain in a status quo situation forever or just press on for marriage. He wants to marry me and tells me he will never be unfaithful again. Is there hope for a man with such a history? He has always claimed that his unfaithfulness was due to no woman meeting his emotional needs. Something doesn't sound "kosher" to me. I would appreciate other women's feedback and can't turn to my friends or family because of my professional position.
– Can he be fixed?, Western Mass.
A: CHBF, get thee to therapy. With him. As soon as possible.
"I have only this one mark against him." Um, that one mark is a long-term affair with one of his close female friends. That's one big, fat mark. And it's not like he was the one who came clean. You heard from the other woman.
From what you're telling us, your fiancé blames his affairs on his partners. It's their fault for not giving him enough attention. And here you are telling us that you don't give him attention on weekdays, when he lives in the city. Recipe for disaster.
You need to ask him all of your very fair questions in front of a third party who can help you navigate what happens next. For whatever reason, it's difficult to avoid the truth with a professional in the room. It's also difficult to forgive the unforgivable when someone with a license is watching. Gross proclamations of narcissism sound even sillier with an audience.
Yes, you're always going to wonder if he's cheating. That's just the way it is. He cheated on others. He cheated on you. You either live with that anxiety and trust that he's working to ignore his desires, or you walk. The therapy should help with that decision. It's not easy to figure out on your own after 10 years.
And if he refuses to see a professional, well, there's your answer. At this point he should be doing everything possible to convince you that he's for real, including making your country abode his home base. If he has no interest in working this out in therapy, he isn't taking you/this problem seriously.
Readers? Can chronic cheaters change? Will therapy do any good? After 10 years, what is worth saving? Is it relevant that they've been engaged for four years but didn't get married? Discuss -- and have a nice weekend (and New Year, for those who celebrate).
I had to edit some bad words out of this letter. She was angry, understandably.
Q: Hello Meredith,
My husband and I have been married for over 15 years and we've been together since we were teenagers. Over the past year, my husband's ex-girlfriend has made her presence known. She "found" him on one of the internet networking sites and has since been a pain in my rear end.
Ever since she arrived, things have gone from bad to worse. Our marriage was a bit rocky at the time. We were constantly fighting. He was always in a bad mood. He started working out. He became very secretive and paranoid about my being anywhere near him whenever he was doing certain things. He no longer wanted to be intimate. I was always saying or doing something wrong. And at the time I couldn't understand why. I tried to rationalize it to stress from work or something. Then I found out about her and that explained a lot of things.
When I first found out about her, I questioned him. I pointed out all of the reasons for my suspicions, even told how I came to that point. Questioned him about specific things. About how I knew that they were communicating by phone, e-mails, and text. Of course he denied it – looked me right in the eye and lied. Even when I confronted him and quoted things she had said, just to get a reaction from him, he still denied everything.
I begged and pleaded for the truth, and to this day I haven't gotten any real answers from him. He has only been telling me what he thinks I want to hear. He tells me that since I have no proof I can't accuse him of anything. But I did and still do have proof. I even showed him and he still denied everything. I even went as far as to confront her and she also denied everything. She claimed they were just "friends" -- but seriously, do "friends" who haven't seen or spoken to each other since high school talk about becoming physically intimate? It apparently came up in conversation and was seriously considered by both of them.
I felt not only hurt but insulted when he confessed to that. I had no qualms about telling him what I thought of her. What I don't understand is why he encourages her. By "encourage" I mean by calling and texting her and answering her phone calls and texts. She's not even supposed to be able to contact him because he changed his number twice already. She even has his work number and has called him there, which of course he denies.
Everything cooled down for a while, but recently I found out that she's back.I once again confronted him and he once again denied it. All I have ever wanted was the truth. He claimed he didn't want to tell me the first time because I would leave him. And I should. I told him if he hadn't done it in the first place, or if he had just told me the truth when confronted with proof, we wouldn't be at this point. How can I get him to tell the truth without giving away my aces?
Please advise me on what to do.
– Confused In A Hopeless Marriage
A: Really? All you want is the truth? If I were you, I'd also want a happy marriage, CIAHM. I know it's frustrating that he hasn't come clean, but honesty is just one thing that's missing in this relationship. It's a huge thing, but you've got other problems. Even if he confesses, he's still answering texts from an old girlfriend.
I'm glad you've explained to him that you're more likely to stay if you start hearing the truth, no matter how unpleasant. Your next job is to stop trying to catch him in the act and start thinking about what kind of relationship you want. You want someone who doesn't have to keep changing his phone number. You want someone who doesn't keep giving his new number to the same woman who inspired him to change it. You want someone who isn't trying to get away with things. You're tired.
You said in your last paragraph that you think you should leave him. Is that because there's no way to return to the first 14 years of your relationship? Is it too late? Do some soul-searching (maybe in therapy). I'd also ask your husband -- forgetting this new woman for a moment -- why he was afraid to lose you. Why does he want you around? Where does he see you both in five years? What is he trying to save? Forcing him to say it out loud -- assuming there's something to say -- might clarify whether you're on the same page about your future.
You might not be on the same page. I don't know. But neither do you. You're letting the investigation obscure the real issues.
Readers? Has she lost perspective about what's important here? Does it matter that she keeps catching him in lies? If he told her the truth would that help at this point? Do you think he really wants to stay married? How can she save her marriage -- and should she? Discuss.
Q: A few years ago my husband and I were separated for six months. We both felt like our marriage was ending -- we were living far from family and friends and we had no resources (like counseling) available to help us deal with it. The situation was miserable but we resolved to maintain a friendly co-parenting relationship. I moved back to Boston for work with our two small children -- absolutely the toughest months of my life. After a few more months, he landed a job here and moved.
Well, many of our older problems started to seem kind of trivial and we discovered that there were some very strong parts of our 10-year relationship that had survived. It seemed natural to start spending all our free time together, and after a few months he moved back in. He still tells me every day how much he loves me and how grateful he is for this second chance. We're making plans for buying a house. We're talking about having more children (we had both always dreamed of a big family). We have great friends and family who are happy to see us back together. And thankfully our children barely remember the time we were separated. Sometimes it seems like a bad dream -- although we both learned a lot about ourselves during that time and hopefully came out of it wiser.
Our relationship had several issues that led to the separation. We were married young and after 10 years, there were still issues both of us needed to resolve. But the immediate trigger was (of course!) another woman. She was quite a bit younger and she believed whatever he told her -- that he already planning to leave me, that he was sleeping on the couch, that he was staying around for the kids, etc. Now that we're back together, she still holds onto the idea that he's just sticking it out with me until our children grow older and will then be "free" again. She still e-mails him and tries to make plans with him occasionally. He answers her e-mails but hasn't seen her in person -- mostly he just tells her he's busy.
I would like him to set the record straight with her and explain that he was not quite so "finished" with his marriage as he made it appear. He doesn't think it's right to burden her with the knowledge that he lied and says she'll eventually figure out that he's serious about staying in our marriage and growing old with me. He says she's naive and a bit silly but genuinely a nice person and he doesn't want to hurt her feelings. What do you think? Would it be kinder for him to tell her the truth? It would certainly make me feel better, but then again, he hasn't done anything in these few years to give me a reason to worry and I don't want to be paranoid about this.
– The Other Woman Won't Give Up, Boston
A: You're right and your husband's wrong, TOWWGU.
There are only two reasons for your husband to be vague about his marital status with this other woman. Reason 1) He wants to know that she'll be waiting for him, just in case. Reason 2) He's behaving like a big-time coward because he feels ridiculous about leading her on for so long.
It's probably 2. It's usually 2. But 2 is still pretty bad. Yes, this woman should take the hint and stop waiting around for a guy who's living with his wife, but your husband is giving her reason to be confused.
He has to tell her for her sanity. He has to tell her for your sanity. He has to tell her because marital do-overs take courage. Your husband needs to prove he has some.
Your gut is right. By not being the bad guy, he's being the bad guy. It's sort of inexcusable.
Send him a link to this. Because I think everyone's going to agree with me (and you).
Readers? Is he really scared to hurt this other woman's feelings? Does he have to be cruel to be kind? Does he want this other woman around as a back-up plan? How can the letter writer make her husband understand why this is cowardly? Talk.
Book reviews soon. I promise.
Q: Oh, Meredith. I am spinning myself in circles
I am a big over-thinker who has dated a wonderful and infuriating guy for two years. I'm 23, working in Midwestern city. He's 21 and still in college, where we met. We have both been in long-term relationships before. Perhaps our age renders all this moot. But please bear with me and pretend I'm an adult.
Somehow, we have kept the long-distance going for a year with visits during the school year and Skype during summers when he leaves the country. We have some big problems though. I feel like I have spent way too much of our relationship freaking out about it, threatening to break up with him and backpedaling.
I'm at a fork in the road. I'm likely going to get laid off, which could be an opportunity to start again. I need to either finally break it off and deal with the fallout -- however much I may regret it -- or, I need to learn to love him without the constant vacillations. Please help me find a fresh way to look at this! Here's the long-winded deal.
I can think of so many logical reasons why we should not be together: We live two hours from each other (by plane); we are both incredibly young; he cheated on me six months in and it was so devastating that we are still rebuilding trust; the grilled cheese is good now but was troubled when we were in the same city, and I wanted more than him.
More worrisome: He's a very wealthy ex-pat, the son of a banker, and I'm a middle class American public school kid, the daughter of ex-hippies. He aspires to be an investment banker or the founder of a company. I want to dedicate my life to shedding light on injustice. He wants to maintain the lifestyle he grew up with. I think it's way too opulent. He wants to send his future kids to boarding school. I don't know if I could deal with that.
We do have some warm and fuzzy things going on. We laugh together. We love each other. We support each other. We both want to spend our careers traveling the world. We always have things to talk about, even if we fight about politics. I believe that despite his past actions (the infidelity), he is taking his mistakes seriously and learning from them. We've talked about every issue I've raised here. He wants me in his life and is willing to figure the rest out as we go along.
I know this sounds nuts, but when he graduates, if we are still together, we will consider moving abroad together wherever he finds a job. (He has to leave the country. My profession can go anywhere.)
He's getting back to the U.S. soon. I suspect that after a weekend of cuddling and nice dinners and grilled cheeses I will forget all of this and recommit to staying with him. Until things unravel and the cycle repeats...this is where I need help.
Do opposites attract or is that crap? Is love all I need? Or am I setting myself up for a big disappointment down the road, when moving on will be harder?
Basically, am I insane? Or should I listen to myself?
– Can't afford therapy. Probs need it.
A: Yes, opposites can attract, and yes, they can stay together for the long haul, CATPNI. Your problem isn't the wealthy ex-pat vs. kid-of-ex-hippies thing -- it's the age/distance. He shouldn't have cheated, but he's not a criminal for being 21 and all over the place.
My advice is to cuddle, play, enjoy, visit, and maybe even move abroad -- but without all of the serious over-analysis. You're at a great place in life to run off with this guy without worrying about the consequences. Stop obsessing about what he did when your relationship was new. And stop thinking about his opulent lifestyle and boarding school for your unborn children. You can really only plan for the next year right now.
If you take the big rules and anxiety out of the relationship, you might actually have a shot with this guy. I'm not saying, "If you love someone set them free, ignore all flaws, and forgive all cheats." What I am saying is, "If you love someone, keep reasonable expectations." Repeat these sentences: "I hope that this cool-yet-infuriating guy and I wind up following through on our plans to see the world. And if we break-up on a flight over Nepal or before we even get on the plane, I’ll see the world myself. And it will be awesome." Spend the time before he graduates doing whatever you want to do. Move to a different city, get a job, don't get a job, travel -- go with your temporary gut.
You're not insane. It's just that when you're 21 and 23 and living in different cities, most promises wind up being empty. All you really know is that for now, you want to keep seeing him. Get off the hamster wheel of crazy. It only goes in circles.
Readers? Should they break up while things are so ... temporary? Is this about opposites attracting? Is the boarding school/lifestyle stuff relevant right now? And -- should she be getting on a plane with this guy? Discuss.
We all scream for ice cream.
Longtime lurker, first time writer. I need your objective reasoning and advice with a somewhat complicated issue. To protect the innocent and not so innocent, I’ll make it a tale of two half gallons.
So, I’d love your take, as well as your readers, on the idea of passion versus love. I relate it to vanilla versus chocolate. Say you are married to vanilla. Vanilla is good. Vanilla is a perfectly acceptable dessert every night. Vanilla respects you, admires you. Vanilla has committed to always being in your freezer, whenever you need it. Vanilla is love.
Then there’s chocolate. One day, a bowl of chocolate gets set in front of you, and you scoop up a tentative spoonful. You’re mouth explodes with excitement. You want more. Chocolate satisfies your taste buds, makes you realize you *have* taste buds that vanilla seemingly never even knew existed. Chocolate all of a sudden takes over your appetite. You want it for breakfast lunch, and dinner, and THEN dessert. But, alas, this half-gallon belongs in someone else’s freezer. Pints find your way into your freezer here and there, and, in the meantime, you go back to vanilla. Chocolate is passion. Chocolate introduced itself to you, chocolate told you your freezer is the best freezer it’s ever been to. That it dreams of your freezer. You and your freezer feel the same way.
You start to notice vanilla’s flaws. But, vanilla is there for you, so you make do with vanilla, but dream about chocolate. You sneak a kiddie scoopful here, a pint there, but dream about having that half gallon in your freezer. There’s only room for one in there though, and you can’t bear giving vanilla the boot. Meanwhile, chocolate is attached to its own freezer anyway, and nearly melted the last time it tried to visit yours, and is now seemingly staying put where chocolate belongs.
So, the question is, how do you make yourself satisfied with the vanilla that’s yours, after you’ve had the taste of forbidden, but delectable chocolate? Vanilla is good. Sometimes, it’s rich and creamy and feels like a nice treat. But the taste of chocolate is still there, the craving for it, while dulled, is still there. You walk buy the freezer’s glass door every day and see the chocolate. You know not to even try to open the door that is locked, b/c it ain’t for sale, but that doesn’t mean you don’t pause to look. Can one go back to Happily Vanilla ever after? Will the desire for chocolate ever go away?
– I Could Eat Chocolate Ravenously Even After Meals, Foxborough
A: ICECREAM, what you're describing isn't vanilla vs. chocolate. It's vanilla vs. rocky road. And here's the thing about rocky road – it's awesome (so many marshmallows, nuts, etc.), but if you ate a dish of it every day, you'd get sick. It would make you want to puke. I swear.
I'm here to tell you that vanilla is the base of all things. It goes with everything. As you put it, vanilla is love.
All rocky road does is remind us of vanilla's potential. It gives us ideas for spicing up vanilla -- like toppings. Skittles? Fruit? Perhaps vanilla could be served with a slice of tart apple pie. Vanilla is flexible -- you just have to see its potential and ask for what you want.
Rocky road is a temporary joy. I'm telling you, if given the chance to have it live in your freezer for the rest of your life, you'd decline, especially if it meant never eating vanilla again. Can you imagine a life without vanilla? No vanilla ever? I can’t.
Desire for rocky road may never fade. And there will be desires for other flavors (I'm partial to coffee ice cream), but whenever you have these urges, remember how bitter the world would taste without vanilla. Rocky road is all hype.
Readers? Does she have to tell vanilla about rocky road? How do you suppress the urge to go out and get a rocky road brownie sundae when you're married to vanilla? Does this letter writer win for best sign-off ever? Discuss.
I'm sad to say that I remember a "Friends" episode about this. Sort of.
Q: I met my girlfriend a few years ago as I was finishing up school in the summer, right before I left for grad school here in Boston that fall. We had a strong connection, and even though we hadn't spent much time together, we both thought that a relationship would be worth trying, so when I left in the fall, we started a long-distance relationship (and it is true long distance -- not one of these two-hour drive things). We've had our ups and downs and many Skype dates, but we try to see each other about once a month and for holidays (my family lives near her). My outlook has been that if we can survive the distance, we can survive anything. When we see each other in person, we both feel the wait is worth it.
OK, now for a little disclaimer. I'm 25 and she's 21, and this is by far the most meaningful relationship either of us have ever had. I've felt a little guilty for being her boyfriend when she could be enjoying life as a college student and have a traditional, local boyfriend, but at the same time, I love her and think the distance is still worth it. She has sometimes been insecure about our relationship, and has emotionally invested more than is healthy at times, but I've always offered her support and encouraged her to be independent and spend time on her friendships as well.
This summer she went on a study abroad, and since her mom has always had a strong presence in her life while in college, this was her first time really feeling independent and free. She told me that this new found freedom and independence has made her want to take a break from us so she can live for herself and re-evaluate what she wants in life. She doesn't see an end to our distance without her having to sacrifice and move to Boston (she graduates at the end of 2011). She would have good career options for her here, but she doesn't want to feel forced to move here where she doesn't have friends and family. She called for a break, and when I asked if there was a guy in the picture, she admitted there was someone she was interested in, but he wasn't the reason for the break.
I've been having a hard time with this break since it started earlier this summer. I stayed in contact with her some, and have been pretty jealous about this guy despite her saying there was nothing there. I wanted to believe her, but I told her that if she kissed this guy, I don't know if I could ever really trust her again or forgive her. I've really wanted to just forgive her and move on; let it be water under the bridge. This whole break seems like a selfish exercise, and not very fair to me. It has never been mutual, but I've tried to make the most of my free time so I went on few dates and tried to see what's out there. I kissed a girl, but it was awful and I immediately regretted not avoiding it more. She has since told me that she did kiss the boy, and it was empty, but she lied and had denied it earlier. She says she wants to work things out, and knows what she wants now.
I'm deeply hurt that she kissed the one guy I was worried about, and the only person I asked her to avoid. It feels like the only difference between what she did and cheating is that she asked for time off. I feel as if I'm being treated like a fool. She took advantage of how I felt during this break to do what she wanted, didn't find anything better, and now expects me to take her back. We need to talk in person, and she's planning to come visit after she gets back, but I don't know what to do. On the one hand, I want us to work and rebuild what we have because I know how great we can be together. On the other, I am hurt, angry, and feel like I was treated like a floor mat. I'm aware that this is complicated as it being first love, us being young, and the distance being a factor, but what we had was really great, and if it comes back fully, I could imagine proposing to her in a year. I was willing to fully forgive her before I found out about the guy, but now I don't know. I'm curious what you and your readers think of this, and if you have suggestions on what to do. Can I learn to trust her again?
– I still don't understand breaks, Cambridge
A: ISDUB, here we go:
1. She took the break to kiss the boy. Sorry.
2. I'm glad she took the break to kiss the boy. She needed to -- and it says a great deal that she took a break first as opposed to just cheating. You may feel like a "floor mat," but she was honest about her feelings for someone else. Many 21-year-old girlfriends studying abroad wouldn't have bothered with disclosure.
3. "My outlook has been if we can survive the distance, we can survive anything." Not true. I don't know where you got that. I've known long-distance couples who imploded when they lived in the same city. I've also known couples who lied, cheated, and cried when they were on opposite sides of the country but wound up doing beautifully when they moved into the same apartment.
4. She wants you back because the new guy didn't work out. And because she misses you. That's fine. Her feelings are real. Just know that her need for independence and self-discovery didn't vanish over the summer. She's not old enough to know that but you are.
This is tough. You're young. She's younger. You're in very different places -- literally. You can keep her in your life, but please manage your expectations. If you set the bar too high, you'll both fail and hate each other. Try to see her as much as you can and expect that until 2012 -- or maybe 2012 ½ -- things are going to be far less stable than you want them to be. The rules will change. Feelings might get hurt.
If she's the woman you want in 2012.5 or maybe even 2013, that's great. But please, don't even think about a proposal right now. There's no rush. An engagement won't ensure that there won't be another break.
And know that this isn't about trust. It shouldn't be about her proving to you that she'll never do this again. This is about dating a 21-year-old who will live very far away for the next year. It is what it is. Give her (and yourself) some space to mess up -- that way, if you wind up together in 2011, you'll know it's real and not about obligation.
Readers? Is this about a kiss? Is this about trust? What does it mean that she wanted a break? Is she treating him like a "floor mat" or is she just trying to live without losing him? Should they even attempt to see each other over the next year? Do your thing.
Have a good weekend.
Q: I’ve been an avid reader of you're column ever since I moved to Boston. I never thought I would write in myself, but, that seems to be the way of things. Here is my dilemma:
I am a 30something woman who has been in a relationship for 3 years. We met out in the mid-west. We were both in grad school at the time. We knew from the start of the relationship that I would be moving to Massachusetts at the end of that first year, and he was OK with that. We agreed that we would see how things went. When it was time for me to move, he said he wanted to make it work long distance. I agreed. I was totally, madly in love, and believed he was as well.
That year apart was one of the hardest I've experienced. But we made it work and were able to see each other at least once a month. We maintained the relationship because we both wanted it to grow. We had talked about trying to live in the same city again, since we still both wanted to be together. But he continued to explore jobs in places I wasn't, and to make a long story short, I started to wonder whether he was being faithful and if he was serious about moving ahead with the relationship. One day while he was visiting and had his computer out, as much as I hate to admit this, I looked at his e-mail. What I found completely astounded me. Not only had he been planning dates with a woman who worked at a company where he was hoping to get a job (and later found out that he went on a date with her, and they kissed), but I also found that he had been sending naked pictures of himself to his ex-girlfriend (whom he always denied having contact with), and had also carried on a serious e-mail flirtation with a classmate of his. I was devastated, as he was always saying how he would never cheat on someone, because he had been cheated on. He had good values. Was from a good family. I didn't get it.
He begged me for forgiveness and again said he wanted to make it work. He moved to Boston to show how committed he was to changing, and attempted to find jobs here. We moved in together, and began the long and arduous process of healing and moving forward. I did end up forgiving him, and we had many, long talks about what happened and why. He said he had been miserable at the time because he couldn't find a job, felt worthless, etc., and ended up cheating. He was going to go to counseling, but never did. I had wanted to marry him and he said he wanted to marry me. But, for whatever reason (he said financial) the ring never came. Still, things were going great this year, and I was happy. I thought we both were.
Fast forward to a few weeks ago. He still hasn't been able to find the job he wants out here (but has been able to work from home this past year). I again checked his e-mail while it was open (which I hadn't done all year). I again discovered that he had been sending naked pictures of himself to women, only this time it was to strangers he had found on Craigslist. Again, I was devastated.
So here we are again. He still wants to make it work, but I don't understand why, or if I want to go through this all again. I've been wanting to get married and begin that part of my life for a while now, and while I still love him, I fear that this person is for obvious reasons, just not the right person for me.
Is it possible to move on AGAIN after something like this? Is it likely it will happen again? Should I give him another chance? He started going to counseling this time, because he says he too wants to figure out why he has done these things, and prevent them from happening in the future. He has been ring shopping, and says he wants nothing more than for us to be married. I don't understand the motivation behind cheating, and wanting to maintain our relationship. I fear that I know the answer to my questions, that I will never be enough for him, but just don't know how to start all over again by myself.
– Confused and Afraid To Be Alone, South End
A: I don't know whether he'll send pictures of himself to strangers again (although, if I were a betting man, I might put some money on it), but I do know that rings and a lifetime commitments should not be on the table, CAATBA. I know you want to get married, but you have yet to make this work. It didn't work long distance. It hasn't worked with him living in the same house.
People who are just out of school and can't find jobs are often miserable and insecure. But -- that doesn't mean everything he's done is about his temporary situation. And it certainly doesn't mean all should be forgiven.
You're telling us that you know what you have to do but that you're afraid of being alone. I get that. But I would think that spending more time on a guy who isn't marriage material might be scarier than trusting your gut.
If you need to give him another chance before walking away, fine. But marriage shouldn't even be in the mix until you've had a good relationship for longer than you've had a bad one. At the moment, you're not even close.
Readers? Should she give him another chance? Is this about his unemployment? What’s with the ring talk? Should I run some updates on Monday? Because I think I want to. Now help CAATBA.
Looking forward to seeing some of you at the movies on Thursday.
Q: Dear Meredith,
Like everyone else, I never thought I would write. For one, I am married, so I never thought I had reason to. Until now. I have no idea where to begin. There are so many different chapters to this story.
I had a baby almost a year ago, my second. With my first, I had postpartum and cried a lot because she never wanted to sleep in her crib at night. When I got close to my due date with my second, my excitement turned into anxiety of repeating the few months of what happened before.
Fast forward, I had the baby. While home on maternity leave, I saw the internet as a lifeline -- my connection to the outside world. I also started chatting on Facebook with someone I'll call Brian. Brian had friend-requested me a few months prior to this point and we exchanged a few msgs here and there. Because of his job, Brian kept the same hours I did. So after I had the baby, we chatted often, catching up. Instead of fearing the last feeding, I stayed up until then (2AM) and looked forward to it. I truly believe that he helped keep the postpartum from returning. I thought of Brian as a distraction. When I returned to work, my hours would be back to normal, no more five hour chats (no exaggeration.)
Brian and I had liked each other in school. We were too young to date and so it was one of those young teen crushes. He ended up moving a few hours away and that was the last I saw of him. He called me about 20 years ago when I was in college and told me that he still had feelings for me. I was flattered, but dating someone, so we lost touch again. Throughout this time, I have thought about him off and on, wondering whatever happened to him and what he's doing now. Now, it turns out, he and I are both married, both have kids. And he still lives a couple of hours away.
He is also not a distraction. It's been about eight months and we still chat, text, and call. Lately, I find myself not being able to stop thinking about him, and according to him, the feeling is mutual. He has also recently told me that his feelings for me never went away, and he has thought about me too all along. That doesn't scare me off at all.
Don't get me wrong, I love my husband. This letter isn't to ask you if I married the wrong guy. I know I did not and if given the choice, I would still pick my husband over anyone. I know the grass isn't greener, and I'm not looking to explore that. My friends tell me that adult crushes and flirting is healthy, and maybe they are. Brian is planning a visit to the area to see family and we have tentative plans to get together when he does. My husband knows I have reconnected with him and told him if he wasn't comfortable with us getting together, then I wouldn't. He's OK with it. And no, I would never physically cheat on him.
My question is whether you think I am emotionally cheating on him. Is it okay to be in love with two people? And could this be love, or just still a puppy crush from 20 years that hasn't gone away.
– Mrs. Brightside, Massachusetts
A: MB, I believe that you have no intention of starting anything physical with Brian. And for the record, I do think it's OK for people to have friendships with exes and past crushes, even if they're married, even if the interaction with those exes still causes butterflies. I mean, whatever gets you through a 2 a.m. breast feeding, right?
But (you knew there would be a "but," right?) Brian has a wife. Brian tells you he still has feelings for you. You chat with Brian frequently. I'm all for getting an ego boost from an ex-crush every now and then, but Brian has become a part of your routine. I'm not loving that.
I can't tell you whether you're cheating on your husband. I don't mean to cop out on my answer, but cheating is subjective. Some people think that going out alone with someone who is not your spouse is cheating. Other people think it's cool to sleep with other people as long as there's disclosure. Every couple comes up with its own rules.
I do think you should be concerned about what Brian represents and how he will affect your marriage. You want to be with your husband now, but if you continue to bond with Brian, will you stay committed to your marriage? What if Brian asks for more? What if your husband eventually decides that he’s uncomfortable? Are you prepared for all of the problematic possibilities?
My advice is to limit your interaction with Brian. I know, I know -- you don't want to. But is his attention worth all of the risks? And do you really understand what those risks are? Do some soul searching about where this is supposed to go, because like all relationships, it has to go somewhere.
Readers? Is she cheating? Does it matter that her husband condones the contact with Brian? Is she really in love with two people? Is this a post-baby thing? Discuss.
If you RSVP'd to email@example.com, that's fine. Those will be counted, too. Just make sure you RSVP soon. I think we're about halfway to our capacity, and I keep hearing great things about the movie.
Q: Hi Meredith,
I am an avid reader of your column and to be honest, I read some of the stuff everyday and think to myself ... how can people involve themselves in these types of situations? Then I found myself in one. Earlier this year, I met a couple at a party while on a trip with a group of my close friends (ages 27-32). It was a weekend away. Everyone was visiting our friend down there and it was good to catch up and meet new people. On the second night of festivities, the guy from the "nice couple" resurfaced without his girlfriend. His girlfriend had decided to stay in at the hotel while he came out with his party pants on. Fast forward to later in the night when everyone was having a good times, good drinks, good laughs and, of course, you guessed it, there was a late night hook-up with Mr. Nice. The next day I figured I'd just ignore it and pretend like it didn't happen. After all, I live in Boston and he lives in halfway across the country, so I would never see him again. He started calling and texting and I replied, setting myself up for drama. Both of our jobs brought us frequently to the same city, and it was there that we began a relationship. I knew this was wrong, as the story always goes, but I didn't have the control to end things or back myself out of this situation.
This secret relationship lasted for about 3.5 months and I began have feelings for this guy. Every time we parted, he claimed he was going to be single the next time I saw him. I laughed and secretly hoped it would be true, although I knew I’d be dealing with a guy straight out of a relationship. I should have written to you then for advice.
As predictable as this story can get, his girlfriend went through his cell phone and found text messages that we wrote to each other. They were bad on so many different levels. I cringe thinking that someone else read these. He got busted and it seemed very intentional and he said he was relieved. I knew she didn't break up with him though, which was mind-boggling. We lost touch for about six weeks while the dust settled and I found out the other day from our mutual friend that he got engaged shortly after he got caught. These stories always end this way, but for some reason, I was telling myself it was going to be different. He is lucky that I am not a crazy psycho, but at this point I feel like turning into one. I'm trying to tell myself that this guy is a loser and to drop it. Out of sight, out of mind isn't working here. I need to be talked out of doing regretful, revengeful things because this news has made me want to be mean. How do people really exist like this aside from Jerry Springer? Thanks for your help.
– Turning from cool girl to crazy girl, Cambridge
A: I'm sorry, TFCGTCG. I mean, you're at fault for much of this (I hate pointing fingers, but we both know it's true), but it still hurts.
I know this is tough, but please remain a cool girl. Yes, this guy is getting married, but that doesn’t mean he's happy -- and it doesn't mean he's any less of a coward. He has to walk around knowing that he was desperate to be single and that he was too lame to do anything about it. He has to say "I do" to this woman knowing full well that he has already betrayed her repeatedly. You don't have to go Springer on him. He has already Springer'd himself. And really, what can you do to get him back? She already knows he cheated.
You're upset because you wanted a boyfriend and you didn't get one. That's all he was -- a placeholder where a boyfriend was supposed to be. You didn't even know him that well, and what you did know about him wasn't appealing. It was just the excitement of a romantic possibility.
Get revenge by pitying him from afar and looking for someone who's all over you in real life. Smiting your enemies and being fatal attraction-ish will just give you gas.
Readers? It seems this reader knew better, so why is she so angry? Is there anything she can do to get back at this guy? Is her issue even about this guy? What does it all mean? Discuss.
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.
There's a lot going on in this letter. I mean, a lot.
Q: Dear Meredith,
I met my wife on vacation in college. We had a fun couple of days then went our separate ways. Daily e-mails turned into phone calls that turned into her staying with me for a month. After graduations and a summer together, I went into the military and she went off to grad school. We were again miles apart, but kept the relationship alive with nightly phone calls and bimonthly trips to see each other. We were married by year's end, a mere nine months after first meeting.
We continued the long distance now-marriage while she finished her degree -- until I was diagnosed with an illness. She left school to come be with me and although I had numerous no-kidding near death moments, I pulled through. The military decided I should be medically retired. We were in our mid-20s at this point.
Realizing that I was going to be jobless in a few months, my wife took her dream job a few states away. I was supposed to join her six months later when I was released from the military. During this time I had a gut feeling that something wasn't right and I considered not moving out to be with her.
I was able to get into her e-mail accounts and found suspicious emails between her and another guy. She said that nothing had happened but that we were losing touch. We decided I would come out and we would work on our marriage. Our marriage remained pretty rocky with frequent arguments. Then she received a promotion which moved us to Boston.
Things were going well in Boston and we decided to have a baby. We were blessed with a healthy son and I was fortunate to get a great job.
A few years after moving to Boston I started seeing regular e-mail and text contact between my wife and the guy, and I again got into her accounts to try and find some sort of evidence. I ended up finding some suspicious email between her and different man. We agreed that we had other issues and that we should try marriage counseling.
My wife eventually confessed she'd had an affair. My first reaction was "It's over," but over time I agreed to continue with the marriage counseling. While my wife started to put forth great effort to improve our marriage I didn't feel the same way about her that I had; I just fell out of love. This is where things get complicated. For the past few months I have been friends with a girl I see at the gym who is younger, married, and has a child. It started out innocently but escalated into hand-holding and lengthy chats about what we were doing and how we felt.
Now I'm wondering if I'll ever be able to feel the same way about my wife that I once did. Given all of our other issues I believe I will just be settling and not truly happy. I don't believe I will ever be able to trust her and I believe we may be incompatible.
And are my feelings for this new woman real? If we end our marriages, we'll need time alone, and she should have a chance to be single. Are we doomed anyway and is what we are having just a means to tell us we don't want to be married anymore?
– Marital Troubles, Boston
A: MT, you're falling for your gym friend for all of the reasons you fell for your wife years ago. Gym friend wants to get to know you. You have intimate conversations with her. You have dates. Isn't that how it started with your wife back in the day?
You were in the military for a long time. Then you were dealing with an illness. That means you didn't have time to learn to live like a normal couple and experience being in a relationship with the usual, everyday stresses. Staying happily married is sometimes more difficult when you're living together with jobs, routines, a kid, and threats to your relationship.
I understand she had an affair, but before you see your wife and raise her one, sit down with her and talk. Find out what she wants. In therapy again, if possible. Don't divorce her in your head just yet. I think it would do you both good to have some verbal diarrhea about all that's happened in the last few years and how you want to proceed.
What I don't want you to do is commit to your new gym friend in your head before you deal with your wife. Gym friend is a catalyst. Gym friend is a reminder of what you want from your marriage. And if you lived with gym friend and paid bills with her, she'd be a different gym friend, maybe more like your wife.
This is between you and your wife -- not between you and gym friend, and not something you decide by yourself. I'm not trying to get your hopes up, but sometimes hitting rock bottom with someone brings you closer. Sometimes you can get to know someone all over again. Sometimes you build the friendship that's been missing. It's worth finding out if it's possible. And if not, you'll have come up with a plan with your wife instead of around her.
Readers? What does gym friend represent? Can he save this marriage? Was the distance a factor in his marriage? What should he do? Discuss.
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.
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.
Thank you to those who entered the worst advice-"Lady With All the Answers" contest yesterday. I picked a winner last night. There are still tickets for sale. Just make sure you type LANDERS (as in Ann Landers) on the Central Square Theatre site to get a discount, and make sure you buy for the Saturday show, which is when I'll be there to say hello.
In other news, our marketing department tells me that RSVPs are rolling in for June 4. I'm excited to see you, too.
In other, other news, someone affiliated with the Red Sox (I'm not supposed to say who) is going to help me answer some letters next week to celebrate the aforementioned Love Letters/Extra Bases party. Any letter that comes to me between now and next Wednesday might wind up in the hands of this Red Sox-type person. If you want love advice from me and from someone wearing red and blue, now's the time to send. Remember when we got help from the Celtics legends? It will be something like that.
And now, meet Mitch.
As a guy, I admittedly feel odd/weird for writing you. But so be it. I'm a 33-year-old, college-educated white male. Not exotic by any means, but pretty normal when juxtaposed with the next random guy. I married my college girlfriend at 23; heartbroken, shocked and divorced by 27. We both made mistakes -- minor and major -- so I don't blame her for my current state. (There's a reason people say you're too young to get married, but I digress.) I'm not sure what exactly it was, but that experience changed me.
Since then, I feel that I subconsciously sabotage relationships after a few years. For example, I lived with my post-divorce girlfriend (and another male roommate) for 18 months. We both had issues, but I believe I exacerbated them with my primal desire to "find something new" and unwillingness to fully commit to her. That relationship ended. After three or so years I'm now living with my current girlfriend. She's sweet, friendly, and a really great person. So why am I always looking at other women wondering, "What if?" Why am I attracted to her friends? Am I just a normal male? Or simply just selfish?
This will sound odd, but sometimes I wish I could have my sex drive reduced so I could maintain a normal, loyal relationship with my current girlfriend. To be clear, I haven't been with anyone else since we moved from dating to exclusivity, but the desire is definitely there. Am I still really this immature at 33? Or am I just addicted to the drug of "newness"?
– Mitch in Dallas
A: Mitch, this isn't about your sex drive. It's about the fact that you got married young and it didn't work out. You're over all that (as much as you can be), and now you're suffering from desire to roam and too much opportunity. More than a few women have wanted to be your girlfriend. And those women have had friends, and their friends have had friends, too. I'm not so sure I'd call this immaturity. You just flipped 23 and 33. You're out of order. And it's difficult to motivate to choose from a pack when your first choice didn't work out like you planned.
I'm sure your current girlfriend is wonderful, but I'm not so sure you can give her what she wants right now. You need to get yourself from 23 to 28 (or 26, at the very least). It's up to you to decide how strong these urges are. It's one thing to fantasize about other women. It's another to know in the back of your mind that at some point, you're going to need to act on these instincts. If you know you can't stay with this woman forever and that you need more experience, you have to tell her.
Regardless of whether you stay with her, these flighty, flirty instincts will go away eventually. I'm confident about that -- not because all wandering eyes can be cured, but because your wandering eye is a result of an ill-timed experience. At one point in your life, your instinct was to give yourself to one person. You'll want that again. Eventually, being with anyone besides your current love will seem like too much work without the right benefits. That's when you'll be ready. You just jumped into more commitment too quickly.
Readers? Is Mitch a bad guy? Am I right to say he'll work through this? Do some people have drives that make it impossible to think about just one person? Does he have to break up with his current girlfriend just because he's thinking about other people? Help Mitch on a Friday.
A long letter ... but I feel like it's all stuff we need to know.
Q: Hi Meredith,
I am in a bit of a bind here. Not because of the relationship, so to speak, but more because of me in said relationship. Some background first:
When I met my girlfriend, I was married. I wasn't happy in my marriage and neither was my wife, but we never did anything about it. We both just assumed it was an extended "funk."
Well, then I met her. It started off as friendly, then it led to flirting, then it led to transgressions. This took a few months.
Immediately after the first transgression, I knew I had to do something about my marriage. Not for this new girl, but more for the fact that the bad marriage had to end, so I took that transgression as a sign that things needed to change.
So I changed them. Over the course of a few painful months, the marriage ended and all the while this new girl waited in the wings for me not wanting to commit herself to a man who was already committed. Once I was officially "de-committed", we began the slow process of dating. What helped was that since we had met she had moved out of state, so having that distance allowed us to take it slowly. Over the course of that time as well, there were things about me that I wanted to change. I wanted to be a better, different person. Not only for me, but for any partner I would have in the future. I didn't want to make the same mistakes I did when I was married. This new girl, she helped me with that quite a bit. Basically, at the age of 31, I was finally growing up.
This took many months, and I can honestly say I am a MUCH better person now than I ever have been. Because of that, I have a confidence and inner peace that I have never felt before. I know how to recognize and correct my mistakes, and even prevent them from happening. Well, at least I thought I did.
Fast forward to the present day. My girlfriend has since moved back to the Boston area and we have been living together for a few months. Although living together after having a long distance relationship has taken some work, we are both incredibly happy. I am head over heels for this girl. My family loves her. My friends love her. She is everything that I want. But, the old me seems to sneak up and smack me in the face occasionally, and one incident has thrown us for a loop.
I had a female co-worker who I was talking to about a week ago ask me some relationship advice. She was starting to see a new guy, wasn't sure what to do or how she felt, etc. That's not the point. The point is that during our conversation we started flirting and some explicit things were said. Mind you, I had no intentions of ever acting upon them, and I immediately felt guilty about it afterward. The conversation was over text message.
I am open and honest in every way with my girlfriend. I leave my computer open as well as my two cell phones (work and personal), all around the house. I have nothing to hide. Unfortunately, she picked up my phone and saw the conversation I had with the co-worker. And now, as you can imagine, all hell has broken loose. She obviously cannot trust me, especially if you consider my past, and she is unsure about the future of our relationship.
I cannot say it enough: I love this girl with every atom of my being.
I cannot justify what was written and why, nor do I want to, but I know it was wrong and should not have happened. I had no ill intentions with this co-worker and in a million years would not do that to my girlfriend, or anyone else for that matter. It was a moment of idiocy during a time when I though I had nothing but clarity. And I cannot blame my girlfriend for feeling the way she does.
My question is, first, how to I win her trust back? And how do I prevent situations like this from happening again? I love my girlfriend to death, and this incident was pure stupidity on my part; I got caught up in a "moment." I realized what I did and stopped. And the girl I was talking to knew that I wasn't serious and also knew that I loved my girlfriend. It was a weird situation, one that I don't want to be in again.
– Fighting My Former Self, Boston
A: As for winning your girlfriend's trust back, you're going to have to ask her what you should do. It may just take time. She's either into forgiveness or she's not.
As for preventing this from happening again … well, just know that it will.
There are some people who are naturally good at exclusivity. They don't need second and third sources of attention. Cheating doesn't occur to them. Then there are the others, the folks who can't help themselves from seeking out glances, texts, and full-on cheats, even when they're in a happy relationship. We've been reading about those people in the news a lot lately.
Most likely, you're somewhere in the middle. You have selfish desires and you're suffering from a bout of entitlement because of a bad marriage. You may think you took it slow after your divorce, but in reality, you jumped from one relationship to the next without giving yourself time to get the insignificant flirtations out of your system. There was no time to play around with attraction, push limits, and make mistakes. And here you are now, in a serious relationship, totally confused about why you talked up a hot co-worker even though you're happy with your status quo.
My answer is that you did it because you spent a long time justifying that you deserved to do whatever makes you happy so that you could get out of your marriage. And now, after all that self-lobbying, you still feel justified to do questionable things, even though you aren't. All that "I deserve to be happy" stuff you told yourself to make it OK leave your wife ... it no longer applies. You trained yourself to act impulsively. Now you have to undo all that. Start telling yourself that you're no longer entitled. You got what you wanted. That's all you get.
It will help to stop thinking of yourself as a "new self" who is being haunted by an "old self." You're just one self. An evolving self. There's no little devil or angel on your shoulder. There's just you, confronted with choices every day. This is about you making the right choices based on what you want for your future. If you want this girlfriend in your life without having to lie to her, then the selfish choice is doing right by her. It's best to think of it that way. It will make saying "no" to attention seem like less of a sacrifice.
Readers? How can he avoid mistakes next time? Will there be a next time? Is his old self really battling his new self? Am I right to suggest that he taught himself to be entitled? Discuss.
Speaking of categories, I've been flooded with letters about cheating this week. Not "my partner has cheated" letters, but "I worry my partner will cheat" letters. I blame this on Tiger Woods and Sandra Bullock's husband. We all just need to take a deep breath.
And chat today at 1.
Q: I'm seven months in to a very fulfilling relationship with a wonderful man. (Some background: I'm 25, he's 27. We're moving in together the summer.) Things couldn’t be more perfect. He's kind, loving, and a true partner.
The only problem is that I have major trust issues. He's never done anything to warrant my mistrust. In fact he's a very open person (he even shares his email and Facebook passwords with me). I've brought up my fears to him a few times and he always assures me that he has never and would never cheat; having been cheated on in all his previous relationships (three serious, including one engagement), he says he knows how it feels and would never do that to anyone.
When we talk I believe him and I feel better, but the worried feelings always creep up again sooner or later. You see, last year, after the end of a three-year relationship (my only serious boyfriend prior to my current one), I found out that he had cheated on me. I wasn't especially upset, since it was clear we weren't the right people for each other, but it still made me feel that all my efforts to be the perfect girlfriend were in vain. Now it seems like everywhere I look I see men cheating on their girlfriends and wives. Adding to my fears, my current man is a bartender whose work nights are filled with young, drunk people.
We spend six nights a week together (with nightly "pajama parties") so I know that it's highly unlikely he has anything suspect going on, but I still can't get over my paranoia. I've never felt so strongly about anyone but I’m terrified that he’s going to cheat, if not now, then eventually. I was hoping you and your readers could help convince me that good men do exist, men for whom cheating is not an option. I've heard that trust is a decision you make when you enter into a relationship. Do you agree? I also know that being paranoid does nothing except tear you apart, because if someone is really going to cheat, they'll find a way regardless. I know all these things, but I still need help truly believing them and overcoming my fear so I can enjoy what I have and allow this relationship to thrive. Thanks.
– Do They All Cheat? Framingham
A: I'm always surprised when people panic about cheating, DTAC. When I think of a worst-case scenario in a relationship, I think of one person falling out of love with the other. Many people manage to do that without cheating. And many people cheat on someone they still love.
I think that when you say that you're worried that he'll cheat, you mean that you're worried that something will go wrong, in general. And it might. It's a relationship. It's a risk.
You've described your partner as someone who goes above and beyond to make you feel confident and comfortable in the relationship. For that reason, I'm taking out my imaginary tranq dart gun and shooting it at you. Calm down. Train yourself to stop obsessing about this. When you start doing the "Is he cheating?" freak-out, stop yourself and find a television or a book. Use that anxious energy for something else. This fear is unwarranted. And for the record, drunken bar patrons aren't appealing to everyone. Your guy wants marriage. He has already been engaged.
Sometimes it's scarier to be in a good relationship than a bad one because there's more to lose. That's what you're feeling. You weren't devastated by the loss of your last relationship because it wasn't that great. You know that the loss of this relationship would be horrible. It's normal to feel some stress about all of this, but you can't let it take over. Put your fear of cheating in the back of your mind next to other fears that aren't worth thinking about on a daily basis (fear of aging, fear of being wiped out by a tornado, fear of being wrongly imprisoned, etc.). Save your anxiety for something else.
Readers? Do all men cheat? Has Tiger, etc. made us crazy? Is this about a fear of cheating or simply a fear of losing something great? How can she stop from obsessing about this? Thoughts.
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Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith at www.meredithgoldstein.netand on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.