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The aftermath of a messy breakup

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Not sure where to go, Cape

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

Did she cheat on me?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What should I do?

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

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

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

– Meredith

He's not a grown-up

Posted by Meredith Goldstein October 24, 2012 07:33 AM

The Globe Magazine wants me to remind you all to apply for Dinner With Cupid. Feel free to enter yourself -- or friends who might need a date. Yes, it's a long questionnaire, but they actually try to do some good match-making, so they want to know as much as they can. You can find the entry form here.

Also, it's chat day.

Q: Dear Love Letters,

I've been dating a guy for about 8 months. We have a lot of fun together, enjoy each other's personalities, and have similar family values. He makes me laugh and he mostly makes me happy. There are two issues though. The first is that he had an injury when we first started to date that had him bedridden for about six months. He said the injury ruined his motivation and made him depressed and that he's just starting to come out of it. So during our "honeymoon" months I played the doting nurse, tried to cheer him up, took him out to dinner, and tried to get him out of his apartment. I grew very tired and resentful of playing mom. Toward the end of this injury I felt like he didn't really do much to push himself and just sort of wallowed in it. I tried to break up with him and he said ''you haven't even seen the real me because of this injury'' and begged for a second chance. I gave in and we are still together.

The second part of this issue is that he's a young 30 and I'm an older 34. I am a very independent driven person who pays all her own bills, has a house, and a good job. At many different times in my life, I have had two jobs to support myself. He is, well ... a stop and smell the roses kind of person. He is financially dependent on a parent who is extremely involved in every aspect of his life and employs him. It doesn't seem like he's very motivated to become independent and I'm wondering how much longer I should wait to ''see'' who this guy really is. If we go out on a date, I know his parent is footing the bill. He's asked me to move in, and I said no. He's a great guy and my family likes him and he tells me I'm the love of his life, but I'm just concerned that he will never outgrow this ''take care of me'' mentality. This is impeding our moving forward and every time I try to talk to him about how I'm feeling he just keeps blaming things on the injury and says that he's working really hard trying to get his career going and that I haven't ''seen who he really is.''

I want to get married and have a family, not a 30-year-old child who needs to be taken care of. I feel like I'm at a crossroads and should just move on. Am I being too harsh? How much time do you give someone to ''prove who they really are''?

– From Sneakers to Shoes ...

A: You know who he is, FSTS. If he shared your priorities, he'd be on the computer every night preparing his resume. He'd be obsessing about his plans for the future. At the very least, he'd be expressing some serious frustrations about his lack of independence.

Based on what you've told us, this guy is pretty content with the status quo. He had a rough time during the injury, but he's OK with how things work.

You can give this another month or two if you want to be 100 percent confident about your decision, but you know what's happening here. You want someone who can be a caretaker. This guy just doesn't have that in him. He's great for someone, but he's not what you're looking for.

After eight months, you've seen who he really is. At the very least, you've seen his potential. I like him for being so into you, but that's just not enough.

Readers? Should she drop him now or wait a few months? Ever had an injury that turned your world upside down with a partner? Does she know who he really is? Could she benefit from dating an opposite? Help.

– Meredith

More than friends?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein October 23, 2012 07:04 AM

Q: I met "Jake" two years ago when a mutual friend introduced us. Instant attraction, but I was dating someone. We ran into each other several times over the next few months and my friends were in shock about how much chemistry we had. I called him out on it two years ago through an email and he replied that while I was attractive, we clicked better as friends. Since I was dating someone at the time I took it with a grain of salt.

Fast forward two years later and we are friends, we text daily, talk on the phone several times a week, he meets me out for drinks, and we talk about how hard it is being single. People still comment on our chemistry but he has not asked me out or implied that he wants more and seems happy when I meet a new guy. (He does hound me with questions about the new guy and gives advice or says, "Don't date him he sounds like a tool.") I compliment him all the time but he rarely returns the compliments.

Since I already asked him about his feelings for me two years ago and was shot down, I don't want to ask again, nor do I want to ruin our friendship. He has hooked up with random girls over the past year but nothing serious. I want more but am afraid of ruining our friendship. Maybe "he just isn't that into me," but really, what guy texts a girl countless times a day if he doesn't like her?

– Just a Friend?, Mass.

A: There are many men (and women) who text platonic friends countless times a day. Texting is the easiest way to get a pat on the back. It's instant validation. It doesn't have to mean much.

My advice is to talk to Jake about his feelings again. It's been two years and it's time for an update.

If he says that he still doesn't see you as girlfriend material, you should rethink how much time you spend with him and whether you want to continue with all of the texts. I understand that you don't want to lose a friend, but no matter what happens, this relationship has to evolve. Jake must become a romantic partner or turn into a real, platonic, I-forgot-to-call-him-back-because-I-was-too-busy-with-my-boyfriend buddy. This is purgatory, and it isn't fun.

Tell him how you feel and what you want. Ask him specific questions about what he wants from you. If you don't have the talk, you could wind up thinking about this for another two years. There are better ways to use that time.

Readers? Is Jake just scared because she's dating other people? Would he give her this much attention if he wasn't interested? What's holding him back? Should she bring this up again? Help.

– Meredith

He's into his job

Posted by Meredith Goldstein October 22, 2012 08:15 AM

Happy to be back from London and Germany. Thank you for putting up with our temporary long-distance relationship.

My trip taught me that Germans don't really have advice columns. At least not in the newspaper. And the people in London call me an "agony aunt" columnist. I'm kind of into that. That makes our commenters ... agony cousins?

Q: I just recently started dating this great guy. He's sweet, crazy adorable, ridiculously nice, super reliable, and very successful in his chosen career path. This was one of the things that attracted me to him in the first place -- the fact that he's such a hard worker and passionate about his job. On our first date he spent a lot of time talking about his job, which was a little bit of a red flag, but it really is a very impressive gig and he certainly had to pay his dues to get to where he is now. It's also worth noting that the job is new.

But now it's two months later and I'm beginning to feel like I'm competing with his job for his attention. He works odd hours anyway, but then he also spends his evenings out at work related events (which he does bring me to occasionally). Even when we're just hanging out, he's always connected on his phone or computer. The lack of time we have available to spend together has made the relationship progress very slowly, which is fine, but I don't know at what point I'm allowed to be like, "Hey! What are we? What's going on here? Focus on me!" I'm a young, red-blooded woman just beginning an exciting relationship and right now all I want to do right now is hang out with him, but I feel like I'm his second choice.

I wish I loved my job as much as he does. I like my job, but it only exists between 9 and 5 and then I'm out and ready to spend time with people -- and I'd love for that to be him more often. Am I wrong in thinking this? Am I just jealous? I don't feel like I have enough authority yet in his life to bring it up without scaring him away. I mean, he's worked all his adult life to get to where he is right now. I just showed up 2 months ago.

– Stuck in Limbo, South Shore

A: You can say something, SIL. He just started this job and needs to give it his all, but that doesn't mean you have to stay out of his way. This isn't about whether you have the "authority" to ask questions. It's just about stating your needs. You don't have to say, "Will you be my boyfriend? And put away your cell phone!" You can try: "I wish we could see each other a little more often. I'm excited about you." You might want to throw in that "red-blooded woman" line. (No one wants to say no to a red-blooded woman.)

I do want you to ask yourself whether he seems interested in your life. Is he asking you questions? Is he curious about your world? Your "Focus on me!" line made me shake my head. His behavior isn't a deal-breaker yet, but it's an issue. His work stuff would bother you less if he was truly interested in getting to know you during his free hours.

Have the talk and see what he says. Then reevaluate after another month. And please remember, you're just telling him how you feel and asking questions. You have the authority to do that with anyone, anytime.

Readers? Should the letter writer bring this up? If so, how? Will the job issue ever change? How much can she ask for at two months? Is this just bad timing because the job is new? Help.

– Meredith

We're so different

Posted by Meredith Goldstein October 19, 2012 07:14 AM

Q: Hi,

I am currently dating a great guy. We live together with very few problems, we like the other's friends and family, and generally have a great relationship. We've been talking about a future together more often lately, and while part of me definitely sees him as the man I can build a life with, part of me can't stop thinking about the life I wouldn't have if I marry him. For example, I always envisioned having a big family. However, for money reasons, he only wants two kids. I love dogs; he is allergic. I'm Jewish (and envision raising my children that way); he is Christian. I'm up for having an adventure at some point in my life; he is content moving to his hometown and staying at the same job for thirty years. By no means do I think negatively of what he wants, but when we talk about these things, his general answer is, "We'll deal with it when the time comes." I'm just worried that by that time, his flat answer will be no --two kids, no dog, we can't move because of work -- and I'll have wondered why I waited so long.

He loves me more than anything and I love him. But should I keep going and plan on compromising, or get out not knowing if I will find someone with a similar vision as me? Any advice would be great. Thanks!

– Confused, Boston

A: These issues aren't deal-breakers -- yet. You both want kids, so that's a start. And really, he knows what you want from life and he hasn't run. That suggests that he's open to compromise.

(Of course, the dog is a non-starter. You can't expect him to sacrifice his health.)

But you're right -- you can't put off the discussion. My advice is to start asking my second favorite question in relationships: "How?" Don't expect him to have any specific answers, but tell him that you'd like to start planning a life that works for both of you.

Are you open to celebrating Christian and Jewish holidays? How much does he know about what it means to be Jewish? And how does he feel about travel, in general? Is he interested in trying some smaller adventures? (You don't have to ask all of these questions in one sitting. Take your time.)

You both should also admit how much you don't know about yourselves. You say that you want lots of kids, but maybe after a kid or two, you won't want more. And maybe after you have kids, you'll love the idea of living close to family and limiting adventure. And maybe he'll realize that he loves to travel.

Differences are inevitable. You just have to figure out if you're open to working together, and if so, how much. If he can't talk about any of it, that's a bigger problem.

Readers? Are these deal-breakers? Is it time to talk? What if he doesn't want to? Do they really know what they want?

– Meredith

A chat room relationship

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

Q: Dear Meredith,

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

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

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

Looking forward to your advice.


– Should I be her confidant?, Cyberspace

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

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

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

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

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

– Meredith

Anxious about the future ... and everything else

Posted by Meredith Goldstein October 15, 2012 02:38 PM

Just had a computer issue in Germany. Posting this (retyped) on a German computer that has weird keys (and the Y is in the wrong place), so I hope it all makes sense. I'll read your comments tonight.

(Writing this in a tiny German hotel at a weird hour makes me feel like Jason Bourne.)

Ok. Have fun.

Q: I am in my mid-20s and have been dating a wonderful man for a few months. He is all that I am looking for -- smart, kind, attentive, interesting, funny, and fun to be with. I would venture to say that I love him. I'm very physically attracted to him, trust him, and know he feels the same way about me. I would like letter readers to know that I have had a number of fairly serious, functional relationships and also that I am in therapy because I suffer from anxiety, often connected to relationships. This relationship feels adult in a way that the others haven't.

So what's the problem? Well, I recently started my first real "job" after a long bout of unemployment. It coincided with the beginning of my relationship. Although the job may help me in my career, it's a bit harrowing and not really what I'd hoped for. I began my job search after traveling and teaching in Europe. While abroad, I was part of a relationship that got out of my control (we moved in together too quickly, I suspect he was cheating on me, there were language barriers, etc). I suffered from so much anxiety and depression while abroad and in that relationship that I am extremely fearful in continuing my current relationship, even though I had been single for a year and a half before meeting my new beau.

I love my current boyfriend and want to explore this new relationship, but I am really scared of what it means to give up my single and unemployed life. It sounds dumb, but I was able to define my identity as that person. I feel really "settled" all of a sudden, and he has finished graduate school and is working a job he loves. I'm scared because I know most relationships don't last forever. I'm scared because some of my friends are getting married and I really don't feel ready for that. I'm scared because I will probably leave this city in the next year or two. I'm scared because I don't really know what I want from my career or from a relationship, but I want to be open-minded about exploring the possibilities, especially when I've met someone so great.

How do I hold all these "knowings" and "not-knowings" and be OK with them? How do I stop myself from running away from a relationship that is really healthy, fun, and great? How do I let myself be in my mid-20s without taking myself so seriously?

(I'd like to note that I have discussed this in depth with my therapist and we've agreed some anti-anxiety techniques and medication may help.)

– Anxious Explorer, NY

A: I'm happy that you're in therapy, AE. Please continue going. It's important to learn techniques to help you cope with "not-knowings." Because there are so many not-knowings in life.

It's also important that you ask questions. Lots of questions. If you quiz your friends and your boyfriend about their choices, you might learn that you're not the only person who's worried about the future. We spend most of our lives with our fingers crossed, hoping that things work out for the best. It's easy to get overwhelmed and to forget that everyone has doubts. Reality checks from peers will help you feel less alone.

Also, give yourself some time. You found a new job and a new significant other just a few months ago. Let it all sit for a bit and see how you feel. You might realize after time that some of this anxiousness is just the butterflies caused by excitement. Butterflies can be uncomfortable and scary, but they're not bad.

Readers? How can she calm down about the future? Is this just too much change at once? Does her last relationship have anything to do with this? Help.

– Meredith

I miss the sparks

Posted by Meredith Goldstein October 15, 2012 03:14 AM

I'm in London and Germany this week. In fact, as I write this, I'm watching "Good Will Hunting" in my hotel room. It's the only thing that's on.

I'm here visiting the foreign publishers of my book. (In Munich, they call Love Letters a Ratgeberkolumne, it seems.) I promise to look out for good European self-help books to bring home. I'll be posting letters before you get up in the morning.

We'll be doing British/German songs of the day on Twitter all week. Feel free to recommend some. Now go get your ratgeberkolumne on.

Q: How do adults date? (And I don't mean in the "should we go out to dinner and politely exchange questions about our interests?" sense.)

I'm writing you because it's been five years since the last time I was in love and in a relationship with someone who reciprocated that love. In the time since that relationship I have been in several other relationships -- none longer than a year -- that just never grew into love for me. I've also fallen for men that I cannot have due to their unavailability or the geographical distance between us.

It seems when I meet a nice guy, who I get along with, that is perfect on paper that I just don't feel a spark. Yet, I've managed to fall for co-workers on multiple occasions. I've considered that my problem is that I want what I can't have or that I like the chase. But I also think maybe I just miss the buildup that comes with liking someone you see in an everyday setting -- the way it used to be in high school, college, and now the work place.

How do I find those sparks again without sizing up my coworkers as potential boyfriends?

– Searching for Sparks, Boston

A: How do adults date, SFS?

They try harder than they did when they were kids. They think less about meet-cutes and learn to appreciate good company. They get to the point where long, will-they-or-won't-they games seem tiring.

And, of course, sometimes they date co-workers. That's OK, provided everybody's single and no one is a superior.

The way I see it, you've had a bunch of relationships. Some have lasted almost a year. And you've had a few crushes. That sounds about right. In fact, your stats are pretty good.

I understand what you're missing. It'd be great if grown-up life exposed us to dozens of single, good-looking people who fell in love with us over time. But ... here we are -- older, busier, and more responsible. There's less time and opportunity for the chase.

My advice is to join activities that emulate school and work. Do something that meets regularly, even if it just exposes you to a new circle of friends. I'd also just keep dating. It is possible to get that smitten feeling after a first date. You just have to keep trying. And please remember that meet-cutes make for a great "how we met" story, but they don't always make for great relationships. Pay more attention to date five and six than how you got there.

Readers? Is she doing anything wrong? Does she like the chase or is it just hard to meet people? How to you find that school and workplace kind of love if you're not in school and everyone at work is married? Help.

– Meredith

I want her back

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

Q: Dear Globe Love Letters,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Loved Her, Boston

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Meredith

Can I convince him to have a kid?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein October 10, 2012 07:16 AM

Chat day.

Q: I've been with my boyfriend for almost 4 years. I can't imagine life without him. He is everything I could ask for -- except for the fact he does not want any more kids.

He has two children from a previous marriage (11 and 13), and I have none. There is a 15-year age gap between us and he thinks he is too old to have any more children. (He is 45 I am 30.) When we started dating I did mention I never wanted kids. Since then my outlook has changed. I'm so in love with him and his kids now that I want to start our own family. He is an amazing father and I adore his kids to pieces. They have expressed interest in having a baby sibling. We have had many discussions about this and although he has never come out directly and said he doesn't want more kids, I just have this feeling he is stalling so he doesn't have to say it. I know deep down he would love one but is so concerned out our age difference and him being too old to raise another child.

How do I convince him that he would be an amazing father to another child and to not worry about our age difference??

– Kids, Mass.

A: He's either scared of having another kid or he just doesn't want one. Ask him if it's A or B, because if it's B, the conversation is pretty much over.

You can't convince a 45-year-old with two kids that he should have more kids. If he doesn't want to start over, it's legit. He certainly understands the process. Keep in mind that he fell for you believing that you shared his plan for the future. We're allowed to change our minds in relationships, but that's often why we break up.

You need to ask the very specific question -- "Do you want to have more children?" -- and then decide what to do if he says no. It's time for some clarity. No more guessing and talking around the issue.

No matter what he says, please don't lobby him by telling him that his kids want another sibling. They're 11 and 13. They probably also want One Direction tickets and new TVs in their bedrooms. It's nice that they're open to change, but at the end of the day, they just want happy parents.

Go get a definitive answer. He has one for you. You just have to hear it and accept it, whatever it is.

Readers? Is this about his age or about not wanting kids? Can she convince him to have one if he's on the fence? Should she have a kid with someone with these concerns? What if he just doesn't know what he wants? Help.

– Meredith

Are these real red flags?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein October 9, 2012 08:38 AM

Q: Hi Meredith,

I have been single for the past two years after ending a physically and verbally abusive relationship.

In the two years that I have been single, I made a concerted effort to work on myself as a person. I found a great therapist and took the time to learn about myself, what I want, what I can offer, and who I am. I can honestly say I feel more confident than I have in years, and recently landed a job I love and got my own place!

I was also lucky enough to meet a great guy a few weeks ago. We really hit it off and spend most of our free time together. I honestly love being around him. We share so many of the same ideals, hobbies, and humor. It's almost like he is the male version of me (which I think is fantastic!). I've never clicked with someone so quickly, or felt so safe and secure. He takes the time to build me up and point out my successes every chance he gets. But for as much I like him when I am with him, when I am away from him and have time to think, there are some things that don't sit well with me. He is very open about the fact that he was devastated when his last relationship ended, and a lot of our conversations always seem to end up back at him pointing out how he had wanted his ex to be more like me. This makes me feel jealous -- like he wishes it were her beside him, not me. Is that my own insecurity, or will I always fall short because I'm not her? On top of that he is unemployed, not as financially stable as I am, and has pretty terrible criminal record from when he was younger.

Am I selling myself short? Am I trying to make something work with someone who is clearly not over his ex? Should his past matter if I love the person that he is today? Or, at the end of the day, am I finding red flags and over analyzing them because I'm afraid to be in a relationship again?

– Overanalyzing in Watertown

A: These red flags seem legit to me, OIW. You're upset about his obsession with his ex, his "pretty terrible criminal record," and his financial instability. It's not like you're overreacting to him showing up late for a date.

It's pretty clear that you're not ready to walk away just yet, so please use this time with him to get your questions answered. Ask him to stop talking about his ex and see if he can respect your wishes. Also have a few more conversations about his past and how it will affect his future. Does he share your priorities? Does he have a plan?

My big piece of advice is to take things slow. Like, very slow. You barely know this man, so there's no need to turn him into a serious boyfriend. After just a few weeks, you're still figuring out what makes you happy. My guess is that after a few more dates these red flags will either shrink or grow. Maybe there will be new ones.

Just know that if you're having issues and asking questions, it's not because you're afraid to be in a relationship. It's because you're smart and capable. It's because you've learned to trust your gut. If your gut says walk away, you must follow orders. If you don't, you're selling yourself short. And please, keep your therapist and friends in the loop. You're not supposed to do this alone.

Readers? Criminal record? Ex? Male version of the letter writer? Should she walk away now or keep this going? Is she selling herself short? How can she slow this down? Help.

– Meredith

My girlfriend and my 'special friend'

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

Chat at 1.

Q: Hi Meredith,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Demoralized Under My Blanket, Providence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Meredith

Can I date while broke and living at home?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein October 1, 2012 08:38 AM

Happy October. We'll start the week with a self-esteem letter.

Q: Hi Meredith,

I am a longtime reader of your column and have spent time analyzing my own issues through the lens of the other readers whom you advise.

My question has less to do with having a relationship than it does with not having one. Having lived abroad for the better part of two years earning my master's degree, I find myself back in the Boston area trying to start my adult life over again after having been gainfully employed in here in the city for several years prior to leaving. As you can imagine, studying and traveling overseas for two years costs quite a bit, and I have returned home (degree in hand) as the source of my funds has now been thoroughly exhausted. I find myself engaged in a full time job search, which can be frustrating in this market, living at home with parents etc..., very low on disposable income, no car, and otherwise pretty limited.

I know much of this is temporary, as I have faith that my education will land me an excellent position, which will no doubt remedy the other deficiencies in my life, but my real question to you is: Am I datable? Am I relationship material? I had a couple of relationships during my time abroad that were both wonderful and challenging, mostly because I knew that it wasn't permanent, but now that I find myself with geographic stability, I feel like I would like to meet someone special. The problem is this nagging self-doubt given my current station in life. I am a handsome guy, athletic, intelligent; not always great at meeting women because I get a little nervous and perhaps somewhat fearful of rejection. That aside, I feel like if I asked a girl out to dinner or something, talking about myself would be really painful having to disclose the various aspects of my situation. As a result, I have totally dismissed any prospect of meeting someone until my life is in a more presentable state of affairs, which stinks because I would really like to be enjoying someone else's company.

I am young, but not that young (30), and I just don't want my dating life to pass me by. Is this reasonable? I need your sage wisdom here Meredith.

– Long Time First Time, Boston

A: You're datable, LTFT. You're not for everyone, but who is?

There are certainly people out there who'll want nothing to do with a broke person who lives at home, but there are also folks who'll adore you because you're intelligent and engaging. And some people will share your problem. Boston is full of grad students who have just exhausted their funds. It's a common situation.

My guess is that most potential partners won't care where you live and what kind of dinner you can afford right now as long as you have a plan for the future. They'll want to know that you're positive about life and excited about what comes next. That's the most important thing -- that you know this is temporary.

You can ask people out. You can tell friends that you're looking to date. Not everyone will say yes, but again, that's the way it is for everyone. Some people worry about dating with kids. Some people ask me whether they can date if they've put on a few pounds. Everyone is in transition in some way. You'll never be a finished product, so you might as well live now.

Readers? If he's not very confident right now, should he wait to date? Would you date a 30-year-old who lives at home? How should he explain his situation? Help.

– Meredith

She 'likes' everything he does

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

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

Q: Hi Meredith,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Too Bad Too Sad, Boston

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

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

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

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

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

– Meredith

I fell for a bandmate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I don't know what to do!

– Sad in Boston

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Meredith

He lost the spark

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

We chat at 1.

Q: Meredith and Faithful Readers,

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

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

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

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

– Heart Broken, Boston

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

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

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

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

– Meredith

I scared her away

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

Q: Meredith,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Meredith

Am I allowed to break up with him?

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

Q: Dear Meredith,

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Distance Made the Heart Shrink, Boston

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Meredith

I dislike my friend's boyfriend

Posted by Meredith Goldstein September 21, 2012 06:51 AM

This is barely a Love Letter, but I've received a few of these lately, so it seemed worth addressing.

Q: Dear Meredith,

One of my best friends in the city has been dating her boyfriend for a little over a year. Since they began their relationship, I have seen less and less of her. If I see her at all, they're usually together. It also seems to me like her personality has completely changed. I find her boyfriend obnoxious and a bit rude, and I don't particularly enjoy spending time with the two of them. They have also recently moved in together, and they act like an elderly couple.

She is constantly trying to get me to do things with the two of them (I went to an event with the two of them a few months ago and their behavior was revolting), or get me to hang out with her boyfriend as two friends might (I mentioned a group I had joined and she wants her boyfriend to start going).

I feel like I've lost my best friend to a boyfriend, but not for the better. I know I sound like I'm coming off as bitter, but other friends of mine have mentioned they feel the same way. I have confronted her before, but it didn't seem to work. Should I face that I may have lost my besty forever to this guy I can barely tolerate, or is there something more I can do?


– Frustrated Friend, Medford

A: Your besty has changed, FF. There's not much you can do about it. You've already confronted her and nothing got better.

My advice is to treat her like a relative. She's someone you love even though she's driving you crazy. See her when you can. And when you do make plans with her, tell her that you want it to be just the two of you, for bonding purposes. She should be able to honor that kind of specific request.

Friendships ebb and flow just like romantic relationships. And while I truly believe that we need friends even more than we need romantic partners, our friendships tend to change when we introduce a third party into the mix, even if that third party is someone we like.

She should be doing her best to make sure that her friends are comfortable. She's not doing much of anything, is she? All you can do in return is to smile, be nice, and protect yourself.

I've learned the hard way that it's just not worth getting aggressive about your distaste for a friend's significant other. You can voice concerns and discuss your needs, but you can't say, "That guy is wrong," unless the guy in question is legitimately abusive or a criminal ... or other bad things. You just have to be polite and keep your distance.

Also know that your besty might come back. Relationships end. Old friends become new friends. For now, let things evolve and keep your other friends close.

Readers? Is she just bitter or has she been wronged here? Should she be happy that her friend is so happy? Should she talk to her friend about this again? Is this the end of their friendship? How do you deal with your friends' significant others? Discuss.

– Meredith

Are texts enough?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein September 18, 2012 08:41 AM

Q: I have been back in the dating world for the past year for the first time since my teens. I am now in my late 30s. I have met some nice guys, but for various reasons it has not worked out.

I believe that communication is key if you are trying to develop dating into a long-term relationship. I get easily frustrated when men just want to text and no longer take the time to pick up the phone to talk.

One of the gentlemen that I used to date called me emotionally needy because I told him that I wanted to have an actual conversation on the phone instead of always texting. I know texting is convenient, but I believe that there are times that something you write can be misconstrued and taken the wrong way. I also feel that if someone can't take five minutes each day to call and talk to you that they are really not that invested into progressing to the next step.

I don't feel that this is emotionally needy, but I know sometimes I am wrong, and being new back into the dating world, I am questioning whether this may be too demanding. Is asking someone to call instead of texting emotionally needy or demanding?

– Confused About Dating, NY

A: You're not wrong about texting, CAD. Texts shouldn't replace phone calls or face-to-face communication.

But ... phone calls every day? Do you really need daily phone calls in the beginning of a relationship? Check-in texts can be a nice way of saying hi in between real dates.

You don't sound needy, and it's fine that you're not a big texter. (I wish I was less into texting, to be honest. It's made me quite lazy about the phone.) But please, don't enforce quotas. Wouldn't you rather get three great phone calls a week than a series of five-minute check-ins that make you feel like an obligation?

As long as these guys want to see you in person, I'm not so worried about the calls. Phone calls are lovely, but real dates are what get you to the next step.

Readers? Are daily phone calls necessary? What about texts? Is she being needy? What are the rules here? Discuss.

– Meredith

His profile is active

Posted by Meredith Goldstein September 17, 2012 08:35 AM

Q: Hello,

I have been dating a guy I met on online for about a month and a half now. We have gone out about eight times or so. We hit it off right away and he was always the one to plan the next date and ask when he can see me again. One evening, we started talking about whether we're dating other people. He said he wasn't dating anyone else and didn't plan on it either, that he liked me a lot and wanted to see where things would go. We even discussed going away for the weekend in a few weeks.

I still have an active subscription to the dating website even though I blocked my account so I wasn't "active." I know I shouldn't have done it, but out of curiosity, I went onto the dating website and checked out his profile. It shows that he has been active on the site, fairly frequently actually.

I know we haven't been seeing each other very long but I guess I don't like to think I am developing feelings for someone only to be let down.

Am I wasting my time with this? Am I a filler while he continues to shop for the next best thing? What is the "protocol" with all of this online dating stuff?!

– To Date or Not to Date, NH

A: I can't read his mind or pretend to understand his intentions, but I wouldn't jump to any conclusions about the website. Maybe he logged in because he was bored. Maybe he was on the site to see what you had done with your profile.

Honestly, if you had met this guy through friends or at a bar, you'd have no idea how he represents himself when you're not there. You need to focus on how you feel when you're with him and whether the relationship seems to be growing.

If things continue to go well and you're at the point where you've stopped counting dates, feel free to ask him what he's done with his profile. Online daters almost always have to have this chat. It's awkward, but it's kind of inevitable. There's no protocol, so we have to ask specific questions.

For the record, I don't think that you're a "filler." You're just in a new relationship. You're both figuring out whether you actually want each other. Online or offline, there are no guarantees.

Readers? Should she talk to him about his profile? If so, when and how? Should they be discussing exclusivity this early? Should he have his profile hidden? Help.

– Meredith

I cheated at the beach

Posted by Meredith Goldstein September 14, 2012 08:28 AM

Empathy. (I know, I know, this one's tough.)

Q: Meredith,

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.

– Meredith

Dating my boss

Posted by Meredith Goldstein September 12, 2012 08:40 AM

Good morning. It's chat day.

In other news, if you have ever been a bridesmaid, or know one, or wish you were one, or like dresses, or like me, or like music, or like Adam 12, or are just bored, you can still register for Running With the Bridesmaids, which takes place Sept. 29. I will be there to sign my book, mingle, give out some prizes, etc. Fun will be had. Good causes will be supported. There will be gift bags.

I haven't decided whether I'm going to run yet, but I certainly have plenty of outfits to choose from.

Q: I recently turned 21. My life is everything I've ever wanted it to be.

I have a wonderful older (he is 30) boyfriend who is very committed to me. Committed to the point of living with me and co-signing on a car for me. I never thought I could be this happy with someone.

The only problem with my love life is that my boyfriend is also my boss. I have worked at our company for almost a year, and he has been there around 6 years. He is a very important supervisor, and our company policy prohibits our relationship. As a result, no one at work knows that we are together.

It's very strange going to work with him every day and pretending like we barely know each other when we sleep in the same bed every night. So I guess my question is this: Should I maybe be looking for another job? I love my job and have been promoted twice, which has been great for my resume and self-esteem. I think I have a future at the company and could possibly become a supervisor in the next year or so. I'm a bit afraid to move on to another job because I don't think I could earn what I'm making now elsewhere.

What should I do?

– Love Sick in the Work Force, MO

A: Look for another job, LSITWF. You and the boyfriend will either break up or stay together. No matter what, you're going to need space and autonomy.

I understand that you don't want to leave a good professional opportunity, but ... what did you think would happen? What was your boyfriend's plan when this relationship started? Did he ever suggest that he might look for jobs? Did he tell you how this would play out? You can't keep this kind of secret forever. You both should be polishing your resumes and seeing what else is out there.

Honestly, even if the work rules didn't exist, I'd want you out of the office. Your boyfriend has too much power right now. He's your boss. He's on your car loan. He knows your secrets. I don't like it.

If you know deep down that you're not going to make a job change, please talk to your boyfriend about disclosing this relationship to his superiors so that you can be reassigned to report to someone else. It's always better to come forward than to get caught, and the company is bound to figure this out.

You both chose love over your careers. That's fine, but there are consequences. One of you has to leave or you both have to tell the company. Soon.

Readers? Should she have to leave her job? Should he? Should they disclose this at work? Should the boyfriend have pursued this without a plan? Am I right about the power issue? What about their age difference? Help.

– Meredith

How can I change her mind?

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

Q: Dear Meredith,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Smitten, Cambridge

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

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

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

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

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

– Meredith

Am I allowed to move on?

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

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

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

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

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

– Sadly Unsatisfied, Boston

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Meredith

Did I overreact?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein September 7, 2012 03:12 AM

Q: Hi Meredith,

I'm hoping you can help me with an online dating relationship question. I started talking to this guy -- "Mark" -- about a month ago. A week after we began talking, Mark took me on a date and it was the best first date I've ever been on. He was so polite, funny, cute, such a gentlemen, and didn't even try to kiss me. I have never been so attracted to someone.

We both work crazy schedules so we planned to finally meet up again a week later. We were going to go out for dinner and a movie, but weather was putting a damper on those plans and he asked if I wanted to go to his place to watch a movie and order in. I agreed.

It was the most comfortable and amazing second date. We ended up kissing -- a lot. He walked me to me car, holding my hand, and I was on Cloud Nine. From the beginning, he was extremely open about his last relationship (2.5 years long that ended 6 months prior) and the way he felt about me. He told me that he wasn't dating anyone else from the website.

To make a long story short, he cancelled on me THREE times before I finally had to send him a long email stating that I clearly wasn't worth his time and that he didn't seem ready to date. I also expressed how much fun I had with him and that I thought he was a great guy. The next day he texts me something completely random (and he HAD to have seen my email at this point) and I responded. I haven't heard from him since.

I know it was only two dates and that maybe I should've been more forgiving of his hectic schedule, but it seemed to me like he could've made more of an effort. Do I just forget about him or try contacting him again -- either now or in the future? The email kind of left the ball in his court, but I'm having a hard time forgetting this because he was such a great guy. What do you think?

– Confused in Cambridge

A: He wasn't a great guy, CIC. He cancelled three times. Three. You wrote him an honest letter about your issues and he responded with a text. That's not so great.

I understand why you're disappointed (the kissing sounds nice), but please don't second guess yourself. You gave this guy the benefit of the doubt and he blew it.

My friend Danielle always says that "busy is bunk." There are exceptions to that rule, of course (sometimes people are really, really busy), but no one is that busy. He should have made more of an effort, for sure.

Let's not call anyone "great" until they've shown up at least three times in a row. You deserve that. You're not overreacting.

Readers? Is there ever an excuse for three cancellations? Should she contact him? Was the email too much? Help.

– Meredith

The boyfriend at home

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

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

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

And now a back to school letter ...

Q: Dear Meredith,

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

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

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

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

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

– At a Loss, Boston

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

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

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

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

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

– Meredith

I'm the 9th wheel

Posted by Meredith Goldstein September 5, 2012 08:34 AM

Chat at 1.

Q: I am one of the only single people in my group of friends. We're at a point in our lives where most of my friends who have been with their significant others since college (we are in our late 20s) are getting engaged, and sometimes I feel left out of their wedding conversations.

My hooked-up friends are wonderful and know that I feel out of the loop in these conversations. I love them very much, but I think that they see my being single as a problem. They spend hours and hours trying to set me up with guys so that I don't have to be the 7th or 9th wheel anymore, and I really do appreciate their efforts. The issue is that I am not interested in dating. I don't know if there is something wrong with me, but I just don't feel like it. Any guy they try to set me up with I end up turning down, and I don't know if they are setting me up with the wrong people or if there is some other subconscious reason that I don't want to date them.

It has gotten to the point where some of my friends get angry with me for turning down the guys they set me up with. I don't want to make them mad, but I've never asked them to set me up.

Is there something wrong with me? What should I do?

– Just Not That Kind of Girl, Boston

A: There's nothing wrong with you, JNTKOG. You're enjoying life, and you just don't need a partner right now.

Please explain to your friends that you're not in a good place for set-ups. You obviously don't like blind dates and high-pressure introductions. You just want to hang out.

For that reason, they should focus on having parties and group dinners where their single friends can relax and have a good time. I don't want you to wear blinders and limit yourself with a "no dating" rule. If your friends have friends, I want you to meet them. But parties are better for mingling without expectations. Tell your betrothed pals that you'd rather socialize in a big group of couples and singles so that you can expand your community on your own terms.

Also, I understand that these friends are probably your core group, but you need to make sure that you surround yourself with some single peers. Like-minded 9th wheels make great company. Find them and stay close. They might even inspire you to want to date.

Readers? Is she really opposed to finding a relationship or does she just hate dating? Should she tell her friends that she doesn't want to meet people? Should she be giving these guys a real chance? What's happening here? Help.

– Meredith

Thinking about my first boyfriend

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Meredith

Comparing dates to my ex

Posted by Meredith Goldstein August 29, 2012 08:39 AM

Chat day.

Q: I am one of your stereotypical 27-year-old Bostonian women looking to find that right guy. I've been online dating for at least 2 years and try to get out and meet people when I can. Honestly, I'm starting to lose hope and wonder if I am being far too picky.

I've had three long-term relationships (ranging from 6 months to 4 years) in the past decade. The last relationship, which was 6 months, started online and I seriously thought was going to be "the one." He was attractive, friendly, smart, understanding, treated me exactly how I wanted to be treated, and we had a great physical relationship. Everything seemed to be going fine until my father passed away a little over a year ago. I spent some time back in my hometown, and when I got back, it was a little under a week before he told me that he didn't think he was falling in love with me. He did exactly what he should have when I was in a painfully depressed state -- made sure I had friends and family to support me, and then disappeared out of my life once he knew I would be OK.

That's all well and good. But he was exactly what I wanted (with the exception of not being in love with me, which just cannot be helped). I'm dating again, both online and otherwise, but I can't seem to find anything that makes me feel that same way. It's that "how do I find better than amazing?" mentality. While I feel that I have moved on, I can't help but compare. I know it's terrible.

I am definitely yearning for a partner to share my life with, but I refuse to accept a guy who doesn't treat me how I feel I deserve to be treated. I have the occasional crushes, but they tend to become friends and begin dating "pretty girls." (I am certainly cute and attractive, but I'm not a tall, skinny bombshell.)

My question is, do I need to lower my idea of the right guy? I don't want to settle, but I can't help notice that all of my friends are settling down, and I can't even find a guy worth a 3rd or 4th date.

Should I stop being so hard on myself? Should I stick with it with the hope that my perfect guy is just floating around somewhere and I haven't bumped into him yet?

– Too Picky, Boston

A: I get a lot of letters in August and September from people who want to know whether they should lower their standards. I think it's something about the anticipation of cold weather. These people are angry with themselves for not finding a mate over the summer. They're upset because they didn't "get it done."

I always tell them that it's just not possible to lower standards like that. I mean, if I told you to stop being so picky, would you really be able to force yourself to couple up with a mediocre guy? You have strong instincts for a reason. You have to follow them.

You've had three long-term relationships in a decade. That's pretty fantastic. Despite what you see on television, single people have long droughts. You're supposed to go through phases where you only get to second dates, if you're going on dates at all.

My advice is to be patient and to keep dating. I also want you to be honest with yourself about your ex. He was perfect because you only dated him for six months. You went through a devastating loss just as you were getting to know him, so it makes sense that you've been longing for his return. He represents an easier, more exciting time of life. In reality, he didn't earn this adoration.

Don't settle. Keep dating. Don't put anyone on a pedestal unless they've put you on one too. If you're getting to second dates right now, you're in great shape.

Readers? Is the ex so great -- or is this about her other loss? Is she too picky? How can she deal with being a single while her friends are coupling up? What about her male friends who date "pretty" girls? Why do I get so many of these letters this time of year? Help.

– Meredith

Did his grief cause this breakup?

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

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

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

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

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

– Worried and Broken, Mass.

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

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

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

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

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

– Meredith

I visited my ex

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

Q: Meredith,

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Lucky but Lost, Boston

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Meredith

They won't initiate the breakup

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

Q: Dear Meredith,

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

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

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

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

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

– Feeling Foolish in Boston

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Meredith

My boyfriend hates my friend

Posted by Meredith Goldstein August 23, 2012 08:02 AM

Q: Dear Meredith,

After years of dating, I have met the definition of a "great guy" -- caring, understanding, good communicator, etc.

So far, we have succeeded in working through issues as they come up and tackling our different views. But there is one issue where we are at an impasse:

I have a friend named "Chris." He is not a close friend, but he's in my friend circle and frequently attends the dinners, parties, and get-togethers that my friends throw. My boyfriend, Paul, cannot stand Chris. He thinks that he is rude (which Chris is) and feels extremely uncomfortable in the same room as him. Paul believes that Chris was personally rude and mean to him in the past and that he actually spit into his drink at a party.

We agreed that we would not go to small gatherings if Chris is attending, but my boyfriend does not want to attend any event if Chris will be there. I feel like this is putting me in an awkward position. If one of my friends invites us over for a large dinner party, I have to make up some excuse why Paul cannot attend too. We debated telling some of my friends that Paul does not get along with Chris, but we think that will develop a rift between people.

From my perspective, I think that Paul should not let Chris determine his actions and control where and when he goes. Paul does not want to be in the same room as someone who treated him poorly in the past.

What should we do? We have started debating this every weekend since there have been frequent events that both Chris and Paul are invited to. How should we handle it so that both of us feel content?

– Stuck in the Middle, Boston

A: I'm getting the sense that you don't like Chris at all, SITM. Does anybody like Chris? Do you believe that Chris spit in Paul's drink? (Just curious.)

I wish I could tell you that Paul is overreacting and that he should be capable of hanging out with anybody in a big group, but this Chris character sounds pretty terrible. At the very least, Paul deserves some time to cool down from this situation before he's forced to show up at a party where Chris is in the mix and being his awful self.

My first piece of advice is to make sure that Paul understands that you're in his corner. My second piece of advice is to be proactive about signing up for smaller events so that Paul can attend. My guess is that the closer Paul gets to your more appealing friends, the less he'll worry about Chris, even at parties.

I understand why you're annoyed, and I hope that Paul can rise above Chris's disrespectful behavior. But honestly, if a significant other's acquaintance called me a name, made me feel uncomfortable, or spit in my beverage, I'd probably avoid a few parties, too.

Tell Paul that you're on his side. Go to (and plan) smaller events. Attend the big parties alone for a while. See how this feels in a few months, after Paul gets to know your real friends a bit better.

Readers? Should Paul be able to deal with Chris at these big events? Will this change over time? Should the letter writer tell her friends that Paul dislikes Chris? Would it be so bad for her to go to these events alone? Should they confront Chris? Help.

– Meredith

I'm not attracted to her

Posted by Meredith Goldstein August 22, 2012 08:21 AM

It's chat day. At 1.

Q: Meredith,

I have long been someone who has been plagued by unreasonable expectations. It is a flaw in my character, and I am both aware of it and burdened by it. I wish I could change, but my "default switch" seems permanently set to the irrational pursuit of perfection.

In the past, my unreasonable mindset has cost me dearly. I have lost high paying jobs and promising careers, as well as a series of losses in my personal life. None of these consequences, nor the intervention of therapy, have managed to change my approach to life at all. Today I am very much alone, financially insolvent, and without any direction or resources. There is nobody to blame for my current state other than myself.

Against all odds, I met a woman. She and I share a common Irish heritage, which is important to both of us, and she is kind, funny, honest, and hard working. She is a devoted single mother, as well as a strong and capable person. She has expressed that she is falling "madly in love with me." I should feel lucky, blessed, and eternally grateful for her acceptance of my current problems and her willingness to love me despite them. To an extent, I do.

My problem is this: I am not physically attracted to her. I want to be. I wish I was. Each morning when I wake up I hope that I will feel differently. I don't. We do not live together. I have not exploited her feelings toward me for my own benefit. I have always been honest and forthright with her about my life and my problems. However I know that sooner or later this issue of attraction will become a matter of discussion, and in all likelihood, lead to a termination of our friendship and our exploratory relationship. I dread that discussion and the pain it could cause her.

She is an amazing woman -- someone who deserves to be adored by a capable and devoted man. She deserves to have someone look at her and long for her. I want to be that man. I want to feel that way about her. I am hoping that the day comes when I wake up and feel differently. I do not know what to do.

I don't want to hurt her. I don't want to hurt her kid. I don't want to do anything but love her and her child. However, when I look at her, I feel no attraction. She accepts me and all my flaws, yet I seemingly cannot accept how she looks? I can't accept the one thing about her that troubles me? What kind of man am I? Other than, you know ... horrible.

So what do I do? Do I try to continue to wait it out, hoping that I one day feel differently? Do I end it now, before her feelings or her family's attachment to me grow all the more extreme? Do I tell her exactly how I feel and let her decide? Or, do I just force myself to love her, knowing that nobody can be perfect, and thank God that such an extraordinary woman is even willing to take a chance on someone like me?

– Selfish in NY

A: End this relationship now, SINY. You're not attracted to her so you shouldn't be with her. You've turned this situation into a big, dramatic mess in your head, but it's really quite simple. You tried dating her and it's just not working. You can't force this kind of thing.

You're not a terrible person for feeling lukewarm about her, but you are in the wrong for stringing her along. Please tell her that you're just not falling in love with her and that you want her to go find someone who'll treat her right.

You say that you've tried therapy for your issues, but you're not done, my friend. You have so much more to do, and so much to learn about self-acceptance.

You seem to have convinced yourself that you'll find redemption if you learn to love this woman. Fortunately, that's not how life works. There is no redemption here. Let her go. You both deserve more.

Readers? Should he be attracted to her? What about his mindset, in general? Should he be dating at all? Is he a bad person for not finding her attractive? Help.

– Meredith

My boyfriend's late-night activities

Posted by Meredith Goldstein August 21, 2012 08:30 AM

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.

– Meredith

Can I be friends with my ex-wife?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein August 20, 2012 08:30 AM

Q: My ex-wife and I divorced amicably and remained friends. We finalized our divorce 4 years ago. At the time we owned a home together and spent 3 years trying to sell it. During that time we spoke 3-4 times per week, and got together several times a month.

I have dated two girls since then. The first was OK with the friendship, the second one was not. One distinct difference was that I sold the house right before I met girlfriend number 2. After selling the house, the friendship with my ex-wife was obviously in a transition because we no longer had logistical reasons to speak to each other. The new situation had yet to settle into a routine, so I was somewhat undecided on what type of friendship was going to be maintained.

While building a relationship with girlfriend number 2, I found that she was completely uncomfortable with the friendship, and I was forced to decide between my ex-wife and my current/future girlfriend. Compounding the problem was the fact that I couldn't really explain the friendship because it was in the midst of change. I chose the girlfriend because I couldn't rationalize breaking up with her over someone from my past. I continued to speak to my ex occasionally, and told my girlfriend each time I did (the contact was initiated by my ex).

The transition was difficult for me, but I loved my girlfriend and wanted to see where the relationship would go. My ex was not terribly understanding, but eventually retreated into the background.

My girlfriend and I broke up recently due to what amounts to a miscommunication that we are still working out. During one of our conversations, I mentioned that it was important to me that I have my ex in my life. Meanwhile, I told my ex about the breakup, and she was excited that "we can be friends again."

I don't know the future of either relationship, but my fear is that in the future I am going to run into the same problem over and over again. I don't want to hurt my ex, but I also don't want to miss out on a happy future because of it.

I have received a mixed bag of opinions from friends and family. I really don't know who is right or wrong here or if there is even a right or wrong answer.

– Lost Between Venus and Mars, Boston

A: I can't figure out what kind of relationship you want with your ex, LBVAM. You say that you don't want to hurt her, but that's not why you want her around, is it? If it were up to you, how often would you talk to her? Once a week? Once a year? You need to make some decisions about your own needs and then talk to your ex about boundaries. My guess is that your latest girlfriend was frustrated because your ex seemed to have so much power.

Your ex isn't a bad person at all, and I think it's cool that you guys want to have a real friendship. I just want to make sure that you're both getting what you want. She should be asking you what makes you comfortable.

As for this recent ex ... well ... maybe it's best that it's over. You broke up over a simple miscommunication? That's rather telling.

My advice is to figure out what you want with your ex and then let her know. New girlfriends should pick up on your confidence and find it easier to trust your motives. If I were your girlfriend right now, I'd be more concerned about your passive role in the friendship with your ex than I would be about the friendship itself.

Readers? Do you get a sense of what he wants? Should he cut off the ex? Should the latest girlfriend have been skeptical about the letter writer's friendship with his ex? What’s happening here? Help.

– Meredith

We want different things in the bedroom

Posted by Meredith Goldstein August 17, 2012 08:39 AM

Please behave in the comments section today. I don't want your opinions to disappear (and this letter is tricky).

Q: I've been with my boyfriend for six years. We are talking about getting married in the next year. We get along in every way, balance each other well, and love each other very much.

Here's my problem: I think he's addicted to sex. Instead of holding my hand or wrapping his arms around me lovingly, he grabs my hand for other reasons and gives me affection that is overtly sexual. He constantly says explicit things to me (many things I can't state here) that make me feel extremely uncomfortable and creep me out. He is always complaining that he never "gets any" and that he wants to "explore" in the bedroom in ways that I am not comfortable with. I've been struggling with it for years and now I've caught him browsing the Casual Encounters ads on Craigslist.

I don't think he's cheating on me, nor I do I think he's contacted anyone from these ads. It may be more of a visual thing but I'm worried eventually he may cheat. I’ve tried talking to him about it and he just gets defensive (it's a "he can dish it but he can't take" it scenario). I wouldn't mind trying to spice it up in the bedroom but his version of that and mine are two different things. I want more romance and he wants ... something else.

Help! What do I do? I love this man and I want to marry him but I just think we may want to TOTALLY different things in the bedroom and I don't know that we will ever find compromise.

– Touchy Subject, Oregon

A: The bedroom is a very important place, TS. If you can't compromise in the bedroom, this relationship won't work. I'm actually shocked that you've made it to year six with these issues.

I'll trust the third sentence of your letter and assume that your relationship is awesome despite the sex stuff. If that's really the case, I want you to talk to your boyfriend about this issue one more time. Let him know that the conversation is important (not just a nag) and that you're doing some serious thinking. Focus on the positive -- what you enjoy about your physical relationship -- and maybe he won't get so defensive. Ask him what he wants your sex life to be like in five years. Then tell him what makes you happy. Honestly, if you can't fulfill each other's needs, you're just going to leave each other wanting.

Wouldn't it be nice to find someone who wants to hold you instead of grabbing your hand? Wouldn't it be nice to feel like you're satisfying someone in the bedroom instead of finding that person on Craigslist looking for more? Every couple goes through sexual highs and lows, but you're dealing with a constant low. Nothing is right. Your boyfriend of six years is creeping you out.

Try the discussion again. If you can't meet in the middle, please walk away and start looking for someone who can give you a big, romantic kiss without pushing for more. That's what you want.

Readers? Can this kind of problem be fixed? How should she bring this up? What if her relationship is really great in other ways? Is he addicted to sex? Help.

– Meredith

Dealing with my boyfriend's friend

Posted by Meredith Goldstein August 15, 2012 08:45 AM

Rainy day chat at 1.

Q: Dear Meredith,

I have been with my boyfriend for five months now. He is wonderful, consistent, loving ... and I could not be more attracted to him. It is hands-down the best relationship I've ever been in. He is significantly older than I am, but age has never been an issue for me (my parents are 17 years apart and very happily married for over 25 years).

Here's what's been bothering me: My boyfriend’s daughter (let’s call her Carrie), who is 21, pays her own bills, and has a toddler, is now dating his best friend. Having met my bf's best friend (who is his age, and let's call him Steven) several times very early in our relationship, I was pretty shocked when my boyfriend told me Carrie had asked his permission to date Steven. I was even more shocked when my bf told me he had (reluctantly) given his blessing. He said he felt he had three choices: estrange himself from his daughter, estrange himself from his best friend, or deal with it because Carrie and Steven are presumably "gonna do what they're gonna do."

From the moment my bf told me about this, I've been uneasy. I know …. none of my business, right? Except that Steven is my boyfriend's best friend, and best friends usually spend a lot of time together. That means I've been spending a lot of time on double dates with him and Carrie and Steven. I can't pinpoint where my discomfort stems from exactly (I am no prude by any means), but it makes me painfully uncomfortable watching Carrie and Steven touch each other, especially when they whisper intimately to one another while my boyfriend is out of the room and they think/don't care that I can hear them. I want to be clear that Carrie's young child is usually in the room when this happens.

I love my boyfriend with all of my heart and I couldn't be happier with every other aspect of our relationship, but this is very uncomfortable for me. I've considered a bunch of different reasons why this may be the case: me being protective of my boyfriend and his own discomfort with the situation, projecting my own insecurity about our age difference onto Carrie and Steven's relationship, or maybe I am worried that my boyfriend has boundary issues? I don't want to burden him, but I don't know what to do? Or should I just suck it up?

– Anxious In The City, Boston

A: You're right about why you're feeling uncomfortable, AITC. You're worried, you're projecting, and you're being protective. All of your feelings are totally understandable. This is a creepy situation. I flinched quite a bit while reading your letter.

Your best bet is to make sure that you're having enough alone time with your boyfriend. It’s only been five months, so you're still getting to know each other. Occasional double dates are OK (and I hope you're having them with your friends, too), but you need to be with this guy one-on-one. I fear that these group outings are making it difficult for you to focus on the right person. Carrie and Steven are a distraction and a bit of a spectacle.

If you're not getting enough alone time, please ask for it. You can reevaluate how all of this makes you feel in another three months. Try to stay focused on the most important couple -- you and the boyfriend.

Readers? Is it weird that her boyfriend has been so accepting of his friend's relationship with his daughter? What does that say about his own dating philosophies? Can the letter writer ask to spend less time with Steven and Carrie? Thoughts? Discuss.

– Meredith

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

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

Q: Dear Meredith,

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

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

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

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

– What's Next, Boston

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

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

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

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

– Meredith

Job vs. guy

Posted by Meredith Goldstein August 9, 2012 08:23 AM

Q: Dear Meredith,

I've been in a serious relationship for almost a year. Serious meaning he's "the one." It's not even been a year, but in that time we've spent every day together. I moved in with him after five months. He treats me better than anyone has. He's supportive, kind, and funny.

The problem? We met in grad school, and now we're searching for jobs. The "plan" was to find jobs in the same area, and luckily in our field, that's quite possible. We decided that whoever got their job first would take it, and that the other person would move with them and find a job nearby. The problem is, I've always been independent. I keep asking myself, "What if a really great job comes up that's not where he is, but it's the job I've been thinking about for years?" He said he'll follow. I would want him to.

But I don't know what to put first, the job or the guy. I love him, but I don't want to sacrifice my own career (I have a fear of my education going to waste). If it helps, I'm 24 and he's 26. We want to be together but are in no rush to tie the knot. I've done distance before and it's not really an option. So what should a girl with a master's go with -- the job or the guy? Please, tell me something.

– For Love Or Money?, Boston

A: Stop making this a job vs. guy thing, FLOM. There is no "vs." here. It's about balancing the personal and the professional. It's about being good to yourself and the people around you.

You want to stay in this relationship? Then you have to make decisions about your career with your boyfriend in mind. Moving to a random city or rejecting a job for a significant other doesn't make you a sellout or someone who's wasting her degree. It just makes you someone who has personal and professional priorities.

You pursued a career that doesn't restrict you to one place. You have a boyfriend who loves compromise. Take advantage and find the right mix of work and play. Answer questions as they come based on what's best for you and everyone else in your world. For now, stick to the plan.

Readers? At 24, should she be planning her life with this guy? Is this a job vs. guy issue? Does her letter suggest that she isn't as committed as she says she is? Should she make decisions with him in mind? Help.

– Meredith

He's not sure he wants kids

Posted by Meredith Goldstein August 8, 2012 08:28 AM

Chat at 1.

Q: I've been in a serious and committed relationship with a wonderful man for seven months. We're in love and I can't imagine a better relationship. I've had serious relationships before, and it finally seems like I have truly found the man I want to marry. I think he feels the same way too. I'm so happy right now with our relationship and our life together.

There's just one problem: I want children and he's very uncertain when it comes to the topic. While he says he's not necessarily against the idea of having children, he is constantly going back and forth about wanting them. He's 36 and many of his friends have children, and I guess I thought by now he would have a better idea of what he wants when it comes to having kids. The few times we've talked about it (I'm always the one to bring it up), he seems to hedge and I don't get the sense that he's very enthusiastic about the prospect of having children. This concerns me, as I'm in my early 30s and have a very strong urge to settle down and start having kids in the next few years. I'm afraid that he might never make up his mind about wanting kids. Part of me believes that he might agree to have them in order to stay together, but I don't know if that's fair or ideal.

I don't know how to handle this situation. On one hand, I can't imagine my life without him, and part of me thinks I should just risk it, stay with him, and hope he eventually comes around. On the other hand, I'm slightly terrified of getting deeper and deeper into a relationship with someone who might have different views when it comes to something that's a deal-breaker for me, especially at a time when I really want to settle down. For this reason, I sometimes think that I should end it with him and find someone who is sure about wanting kids.

Is it too soon to be thinking this seriously about the kid issue, especially with everything else being nearly perfect right now? I don't want to lose him, but I also don't want to potentially waste time and risk greater heartbreak for both of us down the line. I know this is an issue that ruins even the best relationships, and my biological clock is ticking very loudly, so I want to make sure I'm protecting myself and making the right decisions. Please help me!

– Torn, Boston

A: If you want to be with a guy who's thrilled about the idea of having kids, you're with the wrong person. If you need to have kids within the next year, you should walk away. That's the simple answer.

But if you're open to giving this just a little more time and being with someone who's unsure about what comes next (and I get the sense that you are), please be patient for another month or two. This is a new conversation. Frankly, you're still trying to figure out whether you love each other enough to commit for life. I'm not sure that anyone has all of the answers at seven months.

I know that this is vague advice, but you need to do some more talking. At 36, he's seen the reality of kids. He's watched his friends become parents. He's observed the best and the worst of it. He's giving all of this some serious thought, which is a good thing.

Just make sure that you're asking the right questions. If you stay together, where would you both want to live? What has he learned from his friends? What appeals to him about parenting? What doesn't? And after seven months, how does he feel about the idea of committing to you?

You don't have enough answers to make a confident decision about anything right now. If you walk away today, you'll always wonder about the lost potential. Let the discussion continue.

Readers? If she knows she wants kids, should she bail? Will he come around? At 36, should he know what he wants? Should they be talking about this at seven months? Help.

– Meredith

He's angry that I dated other people

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Reluctantly in love, Boston

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Meredith

Caught my husband online dating

Posted by Meredith Goldstein August 2, 2012 08:44 AM

Q: Hi Meredith,

I have been with my husband for 12 years, and married for almost 10. I am 34 and we have two kids. A few months after my second one was born, I happened upon a dating site left open on my husband's laptop. He had not only created a profile but also corresponded with several women looking to have an intimate fling. It's a pay for dating kind of site.

We have had several things going on in our life. He is finishing up his studies. We recently relocated to a new state to be closer to my family. We have never had a great sex life because of issues on both sides. It's something we have both tried to work on, off and on. I feel the issues are more on his side though (physically mostly). It frustrated me terribly in the beginning, but I learned to live with it because I thought everything else was perfect. He was thoughtful, helpful, always remembered anniversaries, and always had something special planned. We are great friends, I admired and respected him, and I trusted him completely.

When I confronted him about the website, I found out that he had been doing it for six months (from the time my second daughter was a month old). He said he never intended for it to go anywhere, though he did meet one of the women once. But I don't know how much to believe him. When I first found out, I asked him to not touch anything on his profile until I had time to think about it. And when I finally decided a couple of days later that I needed to go through the site and find out the extent of his betrayal, I found that he had changed some things to tone down what he had done. That eroded my trust further because he had promised he wouldn't change anything on the site. Now I don't think I can believe anything he says.

I don't know what to do. He is a good father. He says he will never do it again. But my trust is lost.

I don't know if I can leave him. I don't want my kids to grow up in a broken family, and I am certain I don't want to remarry or have any other men in my life. I have always been against marriage and felt that it was only because my husband was so exceptional that it made sense (my father abandoned us when we were kids). A divorce would also cause a lot of heartache in both our families (we are from a country where this is not common).

Is this a big deal or is it a deal breaker? I don't really have anyone to talk to. I don't want to tell my family because I am afraid they will stop respecting him. I have asked him to come clean with his parents because it would make me feel like it's a sign of being truly repentant. (I am not religious.) It's been two months since I found out and he hasn't done it yet. He is seeing a psychiatrist and telling her his life story so that's more a shoulder to whine and cry on than someone who will hold him accountable for what he did.

Shall we live together and find a way to make this bearable or should I move on? Am I right in insisting that he tell his parents or at least someone who will hold him accountable? He has lost that chance with me since I already found out on my own. What should I do to make this situation livable?

– Looking for Answers, Massachusetts

A: I'm not convinced that things will get any better if he tells his parents, LFA. Sure, you'll get some temporary pleasure from watching someone else get mad at him, but then what? Don't assume that he'll learn a lesson by confessing. Don't assume that his parents can shame him into being a better guy.

I want you to talk to your inner circle about all of this because you both need support. Forget the redemption and punishment stuff for a bit and focus on getting help from the people who love you.

And please, let's not assume that the psychiatrist is just sitting around and validating him. That's not how it's supposed to go. Tell him that you want to join him at these sessions. And please, see a therapist on your own. Therapy is a good thing.

I wish I could tell you whether to stick it out, but I just don't know enough about what's happening in his head. All I can say is that you have to find people to lean on. You moved closer to your family for a reason. This is no time for isolation.

Also know this: Broken families are bad, but so are tense, resentful families who stay together without love and trust. You need to figure out what will make you a happy parent. That's the most important thing. Find help and start asking questions.

Readers? Thoughts on her telling her community and him telling his parents? What about their sex life? And the online dating? Can a couple move beyond this kind of betrayal? Help.

– Meredith

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

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

It's chat day.

Q: Dear Meredith,

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

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

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

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

– Can't Stop Thinking About Him, Boston

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Meredith

Do I have to cut her off?

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

Q: Hi Meredith,

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Trying to be a Good Guy, Mass.

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

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

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

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

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

– Meredith

Hooked up with my roommate

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

We'll start with our youngest letter writer of the week ...

Q: Hello Meredith,

I'm writing because (of course) I have a major issue. I've been in college for about two years now and, as part of that package, I live with roommates. Now, one of those roommates I met before moving in together. We became really close friends and pretty soon, we moved in together. (I don't know if it's obvious but we're both guys.)

The problem arose when we started doing things like cuddling, making out, and just basically hitting every baseline without actually having sex. Recently I admitted my feelings for him.

Here's the fun part. Apparently, he never felt that way about me. All those little escapades were nothing more than physical to him. He told me that he thought I felt the same way, but I don't.

He's a really awesome friend so I don't want to put too much distance between us, and in spite of everything I don't want to lose that friendship. But since we live together, it's not like I can have much distance from him outside of locking myself in my room.

I'm just at a loss right now. My emotions are all over the place and I really don't know how to approach him or the situation. I want to get over this because I need to move on.

What should I do?

– Crushed by a Crush, Jacksonville

A: Your best bet is to spend time with a different circle of friends. Create a busy life outside of the apartment. Put a television in your room. You need space wherever you can find it, CBAC.

I understand that your roommate is probably a good guy. You say that he's "awesome," so I'll believe you. But I want you to admit that he wasn't awesome when he put your friendship at risk by getting physical, especially after you moved in together. He was reckless. So were you. But he knew his intentions (or lack thereof) from the start. You're allowed to be upset with him. You're allowed to take a step back.

You don't have to cut him out of your life, but please admit that things have changed. Mistakes were made. You got hurt.

Don't put too much pressure on yourself to bounce back and become the perfect roommate/friend all over again. You can't speed up this process. Distance (especially the emotional kind) is necessary.

Readers? What can he do to make this better? Is his roommate a good guy? Should he move out? Is this a friendship worth saving? What was the friend thinking? Is it the letter writer's job to make this better? Help.

– Meredith

I want her to cut ties

Posted by Meredith Goldstein July 27, 2012 05:04 AM

Please enjoy the last day of Commonwealth Shakespeare Company week at Love Letters.

Today's letter will be performed as a monologue by actor Jeremy R. Browne, who plays a Volscian Senator in the Free Shakespeare on the Common production of "Coriolanus."

The original letter and my answer are below. Thanks to CSC for making these letters 3D.

Q: OK, I need some help here. I have a girlfriend of one year. I have asked her since the beginning of our relationship to cut off all ties and communication with anyone she previously had any romantic dealings with.

There is one person that she is reluctant to do so with. Apparently she has known him for 15 years, slept with him later in this "friendship," and now has a problem letting him know that she has moved on. If they see each other out in town she wants to be able to speak to him as any normal human being would, but he has no idea that the friendship has changed. So if he, for example, wants to hold a conversation with her, she will most likely hold that conversation even though I have asked her to cut off all ties. She says to me, "this person has done nothing" to her.

I know that friendships only needs opportunity to become something different.

In my opinion, in this case of loose sexual contact in the past, what is to prevent this from occurring again?

– Old Friends, Texas

A: What's to prevent her from sleeping with him again? You. She's in a relationship with you. That's her choice. You either trust her or you don't, OF.

Your girlfriend isn't actively seeking out a relationship with this man. She just wants to be able to talk to him if she sees him out around town. That seems fine to me.

Of course, she should let him know that you exist. That's a no-brainer. If he asks about her relationship status, she should be clear. You can make that demand.

But you can't forbid her from having acquaintances. She's allowed to make new friends and to keep in touch with people from her former life.

If the success of your relationship depends on her ability to cut ties with everyone who could be a threat, this just won't work. As long as she's open about your relationship and clear about her commitment, she's doing her part. Again, you either believe in her or you don't. If you don't, let her go.

Readers? Can he forbid her from seeing this friend? Should he have asked her to cut off all ties with exes? Are there other problems here? Help.

– Meredith

Are we bored of each other?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein July 26, 2012 08:12 AM

Commonwealth Shakespeare Company week at Love Letters continues.

Today's letter will be performed as a monologue by actress Esme Allen, who plays Virgilia in the Free Shakespeare on the Common production of "Coriolanus." Enjoy.

The original letter and my answer are below.

Q: Hi Meredith,

I'm in my mid-to-late 20s and have been with my boyfriend for just over 2 years. We live together and are happily in love. We have discussed marriage and both seem ready to settle down. However, there is one thing that is bugging me: Our relationship has evolved from full-out infatuation to daily-routine comfortable.

What I mean is that there used to be a time when we would say "I love you" at the end of every phone call and make out just for the sake of making out. Now we give each other little pecks in the morning when we head off to work. It reminds me of my parents and other older couples who have been together for many years. But we're only at year two!

This hasn't affected anything in the bedroom (thankfully!) but it has me wondering about other things. Is this an attraction issue or are we just too convenient to each other?

I keep telling myself that we're growing up together, but is it possible that we're actually growing tired of each other?

– Growing Old Together Too Soon?, Mass.

A: You're still having fun in the bedroom? And you have a nice, comfortable daily routine? All of this sounds pretty good to me.

It's been two years. Infatuation doesn't last forever. If your boyfriend is still the guy you want to talk to (and sleep with) at the end of the day, you're good. You seem to be focusing on what your relationship has lost and ignoring all that it's gained.

Some of this romantic stuff is in your hands. You want to make out for no reason? Initiate. You want to feel smitten all over again? Plan a date or a trip. Rent a romantic movie.

You're not growing old together, you're just growing. You say that you're "happily in love." That's your answer.

Readers? Does the letter writer understand what "happily in love" looks like? Does the letter writer have anything to worry about? After two years, should there be making out for no reason? Are they too comfortable too soon? Help.

– Meredith

She wants me to pay

Posted by Meredith Goldstein July 25, 2012 08:03 AM

There's no chat today. (I'm in Cleveland at a book event.) But Commonwealth Shakespeare Company week at Love Letters continues!

Today's letter will be performed by actor Zachary Eisenstat, a.k.a Second Citizen in "Coriolanus." The Free Shakespeare on the Common production begins tonight.

The original letter and my answer are below.

Q: Dear Meredith,

My girlfriend of three months, Selena, who's from the Dominican Republic, is generally unselfish and considerate of others to a degree that is unique in my experience. I cherish her for it.

Lately, we were talking about going on a week-long trip to Europe, something to do maybe six months from now if our relationship sticks. I said, "Sure, you can just pay for your ticket and I'll take care of everything else, the hotel, the food, all the trip's other expenses." She replied, "No. If a man and woman go on a trip together, the man should pay for everything." Convenient belief, I thought. She has even set aside funds for just such a trip she had hoped to take with her mother, but her mother in the end decided she didn't want to go to Europe. So Selena has the funds. But the issue isn't the amount. It is the principle that she should contribute something, no matter how small. If she had replied, "I'd love to, but I can only scrape together about four hundred dollars towards it," I'd have been happy.

Selena's hard line on this is contrary to her generally giving nature. When she visits me she always brings a bag of groceries. It's kind of funny to know that every time you open your door to let your girlfriend in, she will be carting a dozen eggs, paper towels, two boxes of cereal, and some light bulbs, or a similar bag of goods.

I've encountered a few gold diggers over the years, including one girl who broke up with me when I would not spend three thousand dollars to buy her a mink coat. So I'm a little sensitive about this issue.

Am I the one who is off base, my view colored and made cynical by those past gold diggers? I just don't know how to feel about this.

– Señor Ciento, NY

A: They say that the two biggest relationship killers are sex and money. Based on what I see in my inbox, I have to agree. (I might add internet cheating to that list.)

Some disagreements about money just can't be anticipated. It's difficult to know your philosophies about giving money to a sick family member or paying for private school for your child until you're confronted with the need. I don't expect couples to have everything worked out before they commit to each other.

But I do expect couples to share some basic beliefs about money, and I expect them to be flexible. Your girlfriend is setting her own rules. She pays for bags of light bulbs and paper towels, and you pay for the big stuff. That's how it goes. End of discussion.

You don't like her rules. They make you uncomfortable. That's your answer.

I'm not saying she's a gold digger (I can't believe I just typed that); she sounds generous in her own way, for sure. But her way isn't your way, and this dynamic isn't sustainable. You need to find someone who doesn't have rules and wants to be your peer.

Readers? If she's generous about the groceries, does the trip matter? What are the gender issues here? Can this relationship be saved? Help.

– Meredith

She took a step back ... and disappeared

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Far From Her and Far From OK, Boston

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

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

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

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

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

– Meredith

He doesn't invite me out with his friends

Posted by Meredith Goldstein July 23, 2012 09:00 AM

I recently gave five letters from my Love Letters inbox to members of the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company, who begin their run of this year's Free Shakespeare on the Common production, "Coriolanus," on Wednesday.

Five actors from the cast volunteered to interpret the letters as monologues and performed them for us on camera in the scenic South End. I'll admit that it was weird for me to watch these actors take on the personas of real letter writers. It made me wish I could sit down one-on-one with everyone who writes in.

Today's letter will be performed by Angela Smith, who plays Valeria in "Coriolanus." The original letter -- and my answer -- is below.

Q: Meredith,

I've been with my boyfriend for four years throughout high school (we finished last year) and now we are moving into the real world and trying to adjust to a very different life.

My boyfriend has a group of friends, both male and female, and he hardly ever invites me to hang out with them. He initially said it that would be kind of weird, which sparked a lot of anger from me. I felt like he was embarrassed of me. Later, as he got more accustomed to the idea of me having out with them, he was more open to it and said it could be fun -- but he never invited me.

Yesterday he was talking to me about a good restaurant that the whole group could go to, and asking me for ideas. I gave him some suggestions and expected that he might invite me along -- but he didn't. So I said to him, "What would you think of me coming along?" And he said "You know, I didn't even think about that." I was offended given that I have been expressing for months that I would like to be invited to such things and it didn't even cross his mind to think about inviting me. He could definitely tell I was offended but I didn't want to make a big deal out of it, as it sparks a lot of tension.

I can't stop from seeing it as a pity invite and still feel like I'm the fun police and that I'm only getting invited because he feels bad. Is it immature of me to remain offended by such a thing, or should i just get over it and suck it up?

– Left Out, Mass.

A: You need your own friends, LO. And you need to be out of this relationship.

He excludes you and makes you feel bad. Meanwhile, you're more focused on getting an invite from him than finding a way to transition out of high school on your own.

People in couples are allowed to have their own separate groups of friends, but you shouldn't have to walk around feeling as though your partner is embarrassed by you. And you should have a list of people who you can call on a Friday night, friends who represent your "real world" life outside of high school (and your high school boyfriend).

My advice? Take space. Join clubs. Find roommates who are around your age. Be single. Learn to walk on your own before you couple up again. I know that it's easier said than done to drop a boyfriend of four years, but it's time to be alone. He wants to have his own, new life. Don't you?

Readers? Should she stick around? Is it OK for him to have his own friends? Is he just being rude about his plans? What about the restaurant anecdote? Can this relationship be saved? Help.

– Meredith

I want to end this relationship

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– CatLady, Michigan

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

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

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

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

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

– Meredith

He hasn't told his parents that he's moving in

Posted by Meredith Goldstein July 19, 2012 08:45 AM

Q: Dear Meredith,

I'm 22 and have been with my wonderful boyfriend for almost four years. We met our freshmen year of college and have basically been glued at the hip ever since. He's my best friend and the love of my life. Occasionally, he'll say things like "When we're old..." and "When we have a big house..." that imply that he thinks about marrying me. I definitely think about marrying him and if he asked me in a year or two I would say yes. (I would marry him now, but we both just graduated and I think our parents would say we are too young.)

I have a one bedroom apartment that he spends every night at because it doesn't make sense for him to stay with his parents out in the suburbs. I can tell that his dad, who is traditional and religious, doesn't really approve of this but doesn't say much about it because his son is 22 and clearly an adult. My boyfriend is definitely moving into the apartment in September when his full time job starts. Yet, it's July and he still hasn't told his parents that's his plan.

His dad says he is going to start charging him rent if he is going to be living at home (which really struck me as surprising and strange -- do a lot of parents do this?) and his extended family keeps asking him where he plans to live when he starts his job. I am almost always around during these conversations and my boyfriend just shrugs and says he'll find a place in Boston eventually. It's really irking me that he can't just tell everyone that's he's moving in to our apartment. I say our apartment because he basically already lives there. I get that he's nervous about telling his dad, and that his dad would really only be comfortable with this if we were engaged. We're happy the way we are and don't want to be engaged but we do want to live together.

I'm tired of the awkward uncomfortable look his dad gives me whenever my boyfriend tells him he's spending the night. How do I get my boyfriend to just suck it up and tell his parents? Am I being too demanding to ask that he tell them sooner rather than later? Do I need to be patient or am I right to be discouraged by this?

– Frustrated in Boston

A: My guess is that your boyfriend has a weird passive-aggressive plan, FIB. That's fine, but he needs to tell you what it is.

If his plan is to tell his dad about the move to your apartment as he pulls out of the driveway on Sept. 1, that's OK, but you should be in the loop. If his plan is to rent a separate, cheap room somewhere so that his parents don't know where he's actually living, that's not so fine -- but he should tell you that too. You need to know what's going on. If he talks to you about this stuff, you might be able to help him craft a better Plan C.

Your boyfriend has been navigating a difficult situation with his dad for his entire life. That's not going to change. I'm sure that even if you get married and have kids, your boyfriend's dad will be surprised and maybe even offended by some of your choices. I'm all for bravery, but sometimes it doesn't make much sense to stand up and give the whole, "I don't want your life" speech to a parent. Sometimes it's better to make very quiet choices without much discussion.

That's why I'm advising you not to tell your boyfriend how to deal with his parents. Because you don't know what's best for him. Just tell him how to deal with you. You're the person who should always be in the know. You're the person who should understand everything. As long as you're in on the plan, you shouldn't be discouraged. Ask him to tell you what's going on.

Readers? Should she demand that he tell his father what's going on? Or is it better for her to stay out of it? Is he really planning to move in? Thoughts about their future? His family? And all of this engagement talk? Help.

– Meredith

Should I break up with the guy back home?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein July 18, 2012 08:29 AM

We chat today at 1.

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.

– Meredith

He was messaging another woman

Posted by Meredith Goldstein July 17, 2012 09:00 AM

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.

– Meredith

I don't want to meet his ex

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

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

Q: Dear Meredith,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Trouble with his ex, Out of State

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

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

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

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

– Meredith

I lost her ... again

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

Q: Meredith,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Déjà vu, Chapel Hill, NC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Meredith

She doesn't want people to think that we're dating

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

We received so many requests for self-help books yesterday. There are only about 30, so they went fast. If you're getting a book, you'll hear from me by the end of the week. Thanks to everyone who wrote me nice notes. They were fun to read.

We have a chat today at 1. And you can still join Love Letters on Pinterest.

In other news, this letter writer didn't give me his hometown. Let's pretend he's from ... wherever you live.

Q: There is a girl who I consider to be my closest friend in the world. Over the last three years we have spent a lot of time together and have had ups and downs in the friendship.

Last year I admitted to her that I had feelings for her, and unfortunately she didn't feel the same. We managed to work through it and now she's been in a relationship with a guy for a few months. I have been very supportive of her relationship and she and I are comfortable where we are as friends. We are certainly on the same page.

What I don't understand is why she gets uncomfortable and mad at me if people see us out in public and assume we are in a relationship. I tell her that it doesn't matter what people think. As long as we know what we are and aren't, that's all that matters. She doesn't feel that way. If someone assumes that we are dating, it really bothers her. However, it's not my fault what other people think, especially when I am not spreading false rumors that we are dating. I don't feel like I need to go up to everyone and tell them that we aren't dating. Instead of us laughing it off, it causes an argument between us. I care for her very much but I can't put up with this anymore.

– What should I do?

A: She sounds pretty immature and passive-aggressive, WSID. My guess is that she's freaking out because she feels guilty. If other people assume that you're a couple, does that mean that she's leading you on -- or betraying the guy she's actually dating? I'm pretty sure that she's angry at herself.

I want you to talk to her about this when she's not angry, when you're both relaxed and just hanging out alone. You can say, "Every time someone assumes that we're dating, you seem so upset, and I'm not sure what you want me to do about it. Why is it so important to you? What do you think we can do to prevent people from making assumptions about our relationship? Am I doing something to provoke your anger?"

I also want you to ask yourself a few questions when you're nice and calm. You say that you've come to terms with the nature of this relationship, but are you happy? Are you capable of dating other people? Do you want to?

This doesn't sound like a platonic friendship. I'm not sure what it is. When things are calm, find out.

Readers? Why does she get angry? Is this his fault? What do you think she'd tell us if she wrote a letter? Are we missing information here? Is he happy with this friendship? Help.

– Meredith

How can we fix this?

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

It's time for another self-help book review project. If you want to participate, the info is here.

Also, as I mentioned yesterday, Love Letters is now on Pinterest. I'm just posting things that I think we'd like. Pinterest makes me a little dizzy, but I'm doing my best.

Q: Two years ago I met the woman of my dreams. She was beautiful, smart, and funny. We took things slow for a very long time because both of us had just come out of tough long-term relationships. I had been going through a really rough time professionally. I had been laid off twice in two years and was extremely frustrated.

During this time, we saw each other a few times a week but never got very physical. After eight months of casual dating, she approached me about getting more serious and making our relationship official. While I had strong feelings for her, I felt terribly inadequate. She was finishing up her master’s degree and was taking steps toward the life that she had been working so hard for. I was just this guy who couldn't hold a job and was barely making ends meet. My self-confidence was at an all-time low and the prospect of meeting her friends and family made me very self-conscious.

I told her that I needed a little while to get my act together. In reality, I just wanted to get to a point where I felt comfortable being around her family and close friends. After a month or so, we reconnected and rekindled our relationship and shortly thereafter I was able to find a job.

Of course, when I acquired this new job I had already accumulated quite a bit of debt and picked up a second full-time job working at a bar to cover expenses. Shortly after I was hired, I was arrested for DUI and my problems worsened.

We had a very big argument where she made some hurtful comments regarding the DUI (which she regretted). Over the next few months, as I dealt with the aftermath of the DUI, I withdrew from her as our relationship grew more tenuous and stressful. I didn’t feel like she was supporting me in my "mistake" and was chastising me for my terrible error in judgment. After months of fighting and threats of just breaking up, I ended things.

I immediately sought therapy and realized I had broken up with her because I never accepted her apology. I told her that I wanted to try our relationship again. After a few weeks she decided to let me back into her life. We tried to get back to that place where we were both head over heels with each other, but her fear of getting hurt kept getting in the way.

Recently she decided that if we were going to have a future she needed a few weeks to come to terms with the hurt that I had caused her in breaking up and the hurt that she had caused me by saying the things that she did. I'm at a loss and don't know what to do. She's the love of my life but I'm starting to wonder if I deserve her after breaking her heart so many times or if she deserves me after making cruel comments to me during a very vulnerable time in my life. It's been a few weeks and I'm having a hard time dealing with her loss from my life. Please help.

– heartbroken and hopeless in boston

A: If your girlfriend wrote me a letter, I'd tell her to walk away from you, H&H. I'd remind her that you pushed her away when you felt threatened -- long before the DUI -- and that you're just not comfortable enough with yourself to have a significant other.

I'll tell you the same thing to you even though you're the one writing the letter. She should walk -- not because you don't deserve her, but because you've never really been capable of treating her like a real life partner.

Even before you behaved recklessly, you were an inconsistent and insecure. She wanted a relationship with you despite all of your flaws, but you backed away because of how you felt about yourself. You spent eight months warming up to her and you still weren't ready.

I believe that you love her. You just have some work to do on yourself before you can truly commit to someone else. You need to continue with the therapy. You need to be around real friends, the kind of people who can support you as you sort yourself out. You need to ask yourself some big questions about your second job.

I understand that you're sad about losing her, but the relationship wasn't working. And again, I truly believe that the root of the problem existed long before that DUI.

Readers? Can they work this out? Do they "deserve" each other? Can you make a judgment about her reaction to the DUI without knowing what she said? How can a couple get through something like this? What about his insecurities? Help.

– Meredith

After a death in her family, she disappeared

Posted by Meredith Goldstein July 9, 2012 08:30 AM

Some Love Letters announcements:

1. I'm hoping to run some updates in a few weeks. If you're a letter writer and can update us on your situation, please send me an email soon. Put "UPDATE" in the subject line. Make sure that you send your update from the same email address that you used to send the original letter so I know it's really you.

2. Love Letters is now on Pinterest. Feel free to follow along.

3. It's time for another self-help book review project. I'll post the list of books and review rules tomorrow. Stay tuned if you want to participate.

Q: Hi Meredith,

I have been dating this girl for about three months. Her last relationship ended in divorce about a year ago. Everything was going well, but a few weeks ago her uncle died. The same day this happened, I was supposed to meet her dad.

She was very close to her uncle. Ever since this happened, she has been very distant with me. I made it clear that I'm here for her, but she has just put up a wall with the world. I know everyone deals with death in different ways, but is this normal? I attended the funeral, which she appreciated. I have tried contacting her for the last week or two but no response. Before her uncle passed away, she was praising me to her friends, family, and co-workers and telling them what a good guy I am. I don't understand why she is not talking to me.

What should I do?

– She's gone, Fresno

A: It's difficult to know whether she's distancing herself because of the loss or because she just doesn't want this anymore, SG. I wish I could read her mind but I can't. All I know is that there are ways to be persistent without being intrusive, and that no matter what, you have to protect yourself.

You've probably called her a few times, but talking on the phone can be overwhelming when you're coping with a loss. I'd wait a few more days (just to give her adequate space) and then send her an email explaining that you're very worried about her and that you'd like to see her.

Tell her that if she wants you to go away, that's fine, but she has to give you some guidance -- even if that means replying to your email with a one-line response. Explain that you're wondering whether you should just show up. Try something like, "I'd just want to be there for you. Please, please tell me what you need."

I don't want you to burden her with your questions, but frankly, it's been a few weeks. She's a grown-up. She owes you some honesty.

I assume that if you put it like that, she'll respond. Just know that when she does, it might not be great news for your relationship. Prepare yourself for the possibility that she changed her mind about what she wants. It happens.

Readers? Should he just show up? Should he contact her friends? Should he give her a few more weeks? What does she owe him? What's happening here? Is this normal? Help.

– Meredith

We fight too much

Posted by Meredith Goldstein July 6, 2012 08:46 AM

Q: Dear Meredith,

I am in my late 30s, and my boyfriend (of almost 4 years now) is 35. We have a very solid relationship in many ways and are highly compatible (we both love travel, cooking, working on our home that we own together, music, and the outdoors among many other things). We have similar goals in life. However, I feel like over the last year or so, our relationship has come to a turning point and I don't know what to do.

Typically, when we have an argument it becomes a massive fight -- often lasting several days. Many times the fighting devolves into us talking as if we are both at our breaking point, both of us feeling that "we can't continue like this." Usually it's because he thinks I've had an "attitude" with him, and I get mad/frustrated at him because I feel like he's not valuing my opinion or that he's unable to just "agree to disagree." He also has completely flown off the handle at times during arguments in the past (screaming in my face in public, punching holes in doors), but thankfully that hasn't happened in the past 7 months or so and it seems like he is working on that.

Sometimes I feel like he'd rather fight with me than be on the same team. If I make a valid point, he gets downright infuriated. He'll try to redirect the real issue by bringing up past issues or nit-picky things. I keep telling him that this is not a debate -- there is no winner -- but it doesn't seem to be getting across. What's most disheartening is that after we fight, there is usually very little or no make-up. He holds grudges much more than I do. I am usually the one who tries to bring us back together on good terms, while he will continue to give me the cold shower for another 24 to 48 hours. My friends have even started to notice when he acts like this, and it can be embarrassing for me. From my perspective, arguments should be carried out in private or put aside when around the company of friends.

Finally, if we can work this issue out (learning how to fight and make up better), I want to get married. We are committed to each other, we own a home together, and I think he is the love of my life. We have talked about marriage several times. Almost two years ago now he said we could "go ring shopping together," but he never brought that up again since. He says he won't marry someone who yells at him or has an "attitude" -- but I think that's part of having human emotions, and part of being in a relationship. I worry that he will keep putting it off and never ask. At the same time, if we can't fight fair or reconnect after arguments, I don't know that we should get married.

My question to you is, should I give this relationship another six months to a year and then leave if things don't change? I worry that I will never find someone as compatible, handsome, intelligent, and challenging (I do enjoy being challenged, but only to a point). We love each other very much, but I wonder if this relationship is turning dysfunctional and if he'll ever fully commit to me.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

– At a Turning Point in Somerville

A: It's time for therapy, AATPIS. Don't wait six months to ask for it. You guys are fighting like crazy. Your friends are noticing the problems. Your boyfriend truly believes that you're instigating these arguments. This isn't going to get better until you let a third party help.

Just know that the third party might give you the tools you need to walk away from this with confidence. You say that you have a lot in common with your boyfriend, but you don't mention feeling safe, having fun, and being told that you're loved. You don't mention laughter and friendship. Maybe that stuff goes without saying, but I'm not so sure. And what's with all the "attitude" talk? What kind of partner does he want? Can you be that person?

Get to a professional's office where all will be revealed. Make sure that you spend some of your therapy time talking about how this relationship would work in your perfect world. Your boyfriend should understand what you're hoping to get out of this.

Again, don't wait six months for anything. You're already at a turning point. You must act now.

Readers? Should she try therapy? What about punching doors? Yelling at her in public? Is it possible that her attitude is truly a problem? Can this be fixed? Help.

– Meredith

What am I doing wrong?

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

There was a letter yesterday ...

Q: Hi Meredith,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Am I a Lost Cause, New Hampshire

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Meredith

Dating while bald

Posted by Meredith Goldstein July 4, 2012 08:53 AM

Have a safe and happy 4th. No chat today. Here's a holiday letter.

Q: Hi Meredith,

I know this is a bit of an atypical question. I'm a 30-something who has been able to snag some very beautiful and amazing women in the past. I've always been confident in that respect, but the last few years my hair has been thinning on top, and my confidence isn't what it used to be.

Now I've heard lots of people say that there are plenty of attractive balding men and that balding shouldn't hold you back at all. But at the same time, I've never heard a single woman say how attractive they find thinning hair or balding men to be. In fact, when I wear a baseball cap, I get a ton of female attention and most women check me out. When I'm not wearing it, I get far less, so I know firsthand that it makes a difference. It's gotten to the point that when I'm flirting with a girl with my hat on, I get self-conscious about what she'll think when I take it off.

I know, given the choice, a woman would rather have great hair on her guy than the thinning variety. My question is: Is my thinning hairline drawing as much attention as I think it is? What would make a beautiful woman, who has options, look past this unattractive quality? If I ask a girl out who met me with a hat on, should I expect her to be disappointed when she sees me sans cap? I'd really love to know from a woman's perspective, as I've been too shy to ask, yet these questions run through my head anytime I'm talking to a beautiful girl I otherwise click with.

Sorry ... but I guess boys can be vain too. Thanks.

– Anxious About Follicle Challenges

A: Bald doesn't bother me. Bald can be great. It's all about confidence and wearing it right, AAFC.

Wearing it right is so important. You mention that your hair is thinning on top. Please ask a hair stylist or stylish friend whether you should keep the hair you have or just shave everything off. That can make a big difference.

I know it sounds cheesy, but the rest of this is about self-confidence. You must remember who you are and what you have to offer. You must forget about your hair when you're talking to people. You have to keep that cap off as much as you can. Don't walk around looking like you have something to hide.

You don't have to be a guy who's going bald. You can choose to be a cool guy who just doesn't have much hair.

Figure out how to wear it -- and then work it.

Readers? Advice? Is it all about confidence or do women want a guy with hair? Is thinning hair worse than just being bald? Are you sad when someone takes a hat off and you find out that there's no hair under it? Help.

– Meredith

Am I too controlling?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– In Limbo in Boston

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Meredith

I want to marry the father of my child

Posted by Meredith Goldstein July 2, 2012 08:43 AM

Q: Hi Meredith,

I met this guy at work a few years ago. We hit it off and started dating. He seemed like a nicer guy than I was used to, a gentleman who took me out on real dates. We actually waited like two months before we slept together. Our relationship started to dwindle -- I really don't know why -- and then I found out that I was pregnant. I was in love with him I think, but he didn't want kids. I told him that I was having baby no matter what and that he could walk away. He decided to stay.

Our daughter is now 3 and the most beautiful little girl. I am so proud and blessed. We broke up when she was about a year old. To make a long story short, there was a lot of ugliness but we did become friends for the sake of our daughter. This past spring, we slept together. It was a shock because we hadn't been affectionate with each other since before we broke up. Now he will not call it what it is -- a relationship. We are not just sleeping together, but we are affectionate and spend time together.

One of the big issues on my end when we broke up was that he said he would marry me but I never saw any effort on his part to do so. He owns his house and lives alone. My daughter and I live with my mother. When we were together, he never once asked us to move in. I need to know, given the current events and how we're getting along, do you think he will ever marry me?

Not too long ago, I said something about him being afraid to commit and it seemed like he was offended. He said, "I'm not afraid to commit, I just chose not to." Should I walk? Am I wasting my time? Everyone around me is engaged and I am so bitter that it didn't end up that way for me. I am now 32 and he is in his early 40s. If he was going to marry, wouldn't he have already? Please help.

– Lost and Abandoned, Southie

A: You're too focused on the marriage thing, LAA. If he asked you to marry him tomorrow, would you really want to say yes? Would you be able to trust his intentions? He hasn't earned that kind of commitment from you. I understand why you want to wind up with the father of your child, but this man has been irresponsible with your heart. Your first priority should be creating a stable life for your kid.

I don't want you to give him an ultimatum, but I do want you to make this decision for him. If he doesn't want more from this, it's time to set boundaries. He can spend time with you for parenting purposes. The two of you can make schedules and figure out expenses like other non-couples who share children. Explain to him that if this isn't a real relationship with potential, you have to stop hanging out.

He told you that he doesn't want to commit to you. He won't call this a relationship. That seems to be the answer. He's obviously still attracted to you, but that's just not enough. You're only 32. There's a big world out there full of people your age who just want to find someone who will stick around. You need to start scheduling your life so that you have just a little bit of time to go out and meet them.

You signed your letter "Lost and Abandoned." Doesn't that say it all?

Readers? How can she turn the father of her child into a real ex? Should she? Why is he spending so much time with her? Does that mean that there's hope? What's best for the kid? Help.

– Meredith

She's having someone else's baby

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

Q: I am a lesbian woman who has been in a committed relationship for seven years. Although we have had our share of issues, I truly believe that we both love one another. Last fall, I went back to school and was unable to pay my girlfriend the amount of attention she requires. She's not needy -- just needier than I am. She's also unmedicated for bipolar disorder.

We were both working and in school during this time, but we had very different ways of dealing with stress. I work out while she goes out. This led to problems because I didn't like her being out during the week and staying out overnight at her friends' places, and I especially didn't like the amount of alcohol she was consuming. I am not a fan of self-medicating and felt that was what she was doing.

I'm at fault here too because I detest, and I mean detest, talking about my feelings. So I can just carry on like nothing is wrong and then we have some big explosive argument where things get said that are hurtful and disrespectful. Anyway, she has long believed that I was unfaithful in the past because of a friendship I developed with another woman. I didn't cheat, but I guess it's called "emotional cheating," which I am probably guilty of.

She confessed that on one of these drunken nights, she slept with someone to get me back. If that wasn't enough, she slept with a man and now she's pregnant. I feel so lost. She is keeping the baby because she has always wanted to be a mom and we had planned on having children someday. She wants me to raise the child with her and I don't know if I can. A big part of me wants to; I mean, I've wanted this experience with her for a long time. But now I have no rights, my pride and ego are in the toilet, and I don't actually feel like a parent to the child. I mean ... I had nothing to do with this.

Her plan is to keep the father out of the loop so long as I am in the loop. But she says that if I wasn't around, she would involve him because she can't make it financially on her own. The financial part is true. But now I feel so many conflicting emotions. The only constant is that I really am in love with this woman. But this choice, to stay ... it affects my whole life too. How do I raise a child under a lie? What do we tell people?

Despite everything, I love her, and the thought of not having her in my life is devastating. The thought of her raising a child with someone else is heartbreaking too. What do I do?

– Too Loyal for Love, Mass.

A: I've read this letter about 1,000 times and I keep going back to the "unmedicated bipolar" sentence. That's what gets me.

Can your girlfriend parent this child if she's not getting the professional help she needs? How has her behavior changed (the drinking, going out, etc.) since she found out she was pregnant? Does she want you around for this experience because she loves you -- or because you represent the other half of a financial arrangement?

I understand that it would be devastating to lose her, but wouldn't it be more devastating to stay with someone who cheated on you, ignores her own health issues, and copes with stress by drinking too much and acting out?

If the baby weren't in the picture, I'd be telling you to get into therapy and to take some space from this woman. I'd be telling you to figure out why you repress your emotions, why you had an emotional affair, and why you stay with someone who forces you through highs and lows.

The baby doesn't really change my advice. You need therapy and an exit.

We're supposed to feel safe in relationships. Baby or no baby, you're just not safe.

Readers? Can she raise this baby? What about the cheating? What about the bipolar? Can they save this seven-year relationship? Should they be in therapy together? Help.

– Meredith

He can't spell

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

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

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

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

Am I being too critical?

– Confused, Mass.

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

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

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

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

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

– Meredith

I'm not excited about marrying him

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

We chat at 1.

Q: Dear Meredith,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Should I Stay or Should I Go, Boston

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Meredith

Should we have a baby?

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

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

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

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

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

– Blinded By Baby Fever, Quincy

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

You can start with these:

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Meredith

He went to rehab; I read his journal

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

Q: Hi Meredith,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– So confused in Southie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Meredith

Am I too picky?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein June 22, 2012 08:40 AM

Happy Friday. Stay cool.

Q: I've gone out with this guy a few times. He's pretty nice, very cute, and funny. Right now he's working a lower-end job, which doesn't bother me. What does bother me is that he has no drive to change it. He told me that he could go back to school to get a better job but it would be "too much work" and "too hard." I guess my big problem is that he doesn't seem very motivated. This is a real turnoff to me. I push myself pretty hard in my career and I want to be with someone who does the same. He's also a few years older than I am. My gut is telling me to stop going on dates with him, but there's still that doubt that I'm doing the wrong thing or being a "jerk" or "too picky."

What do you think?

– Picky or Realistic, Boston

A: Your gut is right, POR. You want to be with someone who cares about his job. That doesn't make you a jerk. This guy just isn't a match for you.

Some people would be similarly turned off by a guy who isn't very cute. Some people need to be with a partner who makes a lot of money. We all have different priorities when it comes to dating. You want a guy who's passionate about his career. That's fine.

I usually tell letter writers to go out on at least a few dates with nice and cute people before making any big decisions about deal-breakers. Every now and then those deal-breakers become tolerable and maybe even endearing after a few dinners. But you've gone out with this guy a few times and it's just not sticking. You gave it a fair chance. You kept an open mind.

You should be able to end this and feel good about yourself.

Readers? Too picky? Why does the letter writer doubt this decision? Is the LW afraid of not being able to find anyone else? What if this isn't the first time the LW has called off a relationship after a few dates? What's up with the guy and the whole "too much work" thing? Discuss.

– Meredith

Single and almost 40

Posted by Meredith Goldstein June 21, 2012 08:42 AM

Q: Hi Meredith,

I am approaching 40 and I've never been in a serious relationship. Never brought anyone home to meet the parents, no one who has ever met my friends, etc. I'm not a virgin, but I'm not promiscuous by any means. I've tried online dating a few times, but no one I have a real interest in getting to know responds, and the ones who do just end up stopping the conversation before we even meet. I wasn't a shy child, but the older I get and the more shy I become, the more difficult it is to get to know any guy I actually meet (which isn't many). I feel like my inexperience and lack of past relationships is going to be a turn off to the majority of guys. People always tell me "Just be patient," and "It will happen," but my response is that I HAVE been patient. I've joined organizations that interest me, volunteered for causes that are important to me -- all the things that people suggest to try and meet guys. But I'm failing miserably. I would really like to have kids (at least ONE) someday, and being that I'm approaching 40, I'd like it to be soon. Do you have any other advice for me?

– Hopeless(?) Romantic, Walpole

A: I'm not going to give you any clichés, HR. There's no need for patience right now, and love doesn't always happen. (Sorry. It's true.)

My advice is to go out with as many guys as humanly possible on that dating site. I mean, skip the ones whose profiles actually offend you, but if someone contacts you, make a date -- because you never know.

As you date and meet people in the real world, remember that everyone feels inexperienced. Many 40-somethings are just getting out of long-term relationships and first marriages. They probably feel insecure and inexperienced too. You know what it's like to be alone and on the scene. They don't. You're more experienced than you think. Your past doesn't concern me at all. Please stop dwelling on it.

I also want you to ask yourself some big questions about your future. I can't promise you that you're going to meet a magic guy in six months who will fall for you and want to make babies. If I told you that you weren't going to meet a guy until you were 44, would you want to have a baby on your own right now? Are children a necessity? Be realistic about your needs. If "approaching 40" means that you're 39.5 and want a kid no matter what, start figuring out what you need to do to make that happen.

The goal is to be hopeful and realistic at the same time. No clichés. Just do the best you can, ask your friends for help, and make plans to get what you want, with or without a partner.

Readers? Why hasn't she had a relationship? Is she like any other single 30-something who writes in wanting a partner? What about the babies? Should she assume that she will meet someone eventually? Help.

– Meredith

How do I deal with my doubts?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein June 19, 2012 08:46 AM

Q: Dear Meredith,

I have been dating my boyfriend for almost seven years (since we were 21), and we have lived together for the last five. We are happy and in love and continue to enjoy each other's company. We are best friends and much more.

Recently, though, I have been struggling with nagging feelings of doubt and worry. We are in a season of weddings and many of my friends are head-over-heels in love with partners who they are committing to with what appears to be unwavering certainty. However, when I think about getting married, I feel mildly terrified (a sign I take to mean that I am not ready). Don't get me wrong, I do daydream about eventually (down the line) marrying and starting a family, and when I picture this future it is my current boyfriend who I absolutely imagine by my side. Yet I sometimes long to be single, and I feel a nagging worry that I will regret not having spent more time on my own and getting to know myself during my 20s (which are rapidly disappearing).

I also find myself frequently fantasizing about what it would be like to see other people, even though I suspect in my heart that it would lead me right back to the man I am with now. I want these doubts to go away, but they just seem to keep resurfacing. I have talked to my boyfriend about these feelings, and although he was understanding, it hurt him deeply. He said that he didn't share any of these types of doubts (or any doubts what-so-ever), and instead of making our relationship stronger, sharing my feelings just seems to have made him insecure and mildly paranoid that I am going to leave him or that I don't love him anymore.

I don't want to screw up and lose the love of my life, but I also don't want to ignore feelings that continue to plague me and may come back to bite me later. Should I try to get over my doubts and face up to what commitment really means? Do I have a classic case of commitment issues? Is this something that will just pass with time, or is it better to take action (despite the risk)?

– Needing Advice in New York

A: You don't have commitment issues, NAINY. You're just realizing that you can't have it all.

By having one great experience, you skip another. I figured that out in my late-20s, too. It freaked me out big time. I realized that by nesting in Boston in my 20s, I'd probably never travel the world. It's for the best; Boston is my home (and I get bad allergies when I travel a lot). Still, I had to mourn the loss of an experience I realized I was never going to have.

You mention doubts, but I have to tell you that your concerns are pretty tame compared to most of the "what-if" letters I find in my inbox. "I do daydream about eventually (down the line) marrying and starting a family, and when I picture this future it is my current boyfriend who I absolutely imagine by my side." That's a huge statement, assuming it's the truth.

You say that you might eventually regret not getting to know yourself in your 20s. I'd argue that you have been getting to know yourself -- very well. It's possible to grow up with a partner by your side.

My advice is to forget the married people. You're not on their schedule, and that's fine. Find out whether your boyfriend needs to get married soon or whether he can maintain the status quo. Make sure he knows all of the positives. Make sure he understands how much you adore him. Relax and see how you feel after wedding season is over.

Readers? Should she end this relationship and deal with her doubts? Should she have told her boyfriend about her concerns? Is this just about the stress of wedding season? Thoughts? Help.

– Meredith

I want to be engaged before I move

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

Q: Dear Meredith,

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Devastated, Woburn

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

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

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

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

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

– Meredith

Moving on from a nice guy

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

Q: Hi Meredith,

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

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

– Wants to Move On But How, Boston

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

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

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

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

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

– Meredith

Do I follow the one that got away?

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

We chat today at 1.

Q: Hi,

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

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

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

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

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

– Stuck in the Middle, Location Unknown

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Meredith

Pregnant ... and thinking about my ex

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

Q: Dear Meredith,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for any advice.

– Torn Up for No Reason, Atlanta

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Meredith

Do I tell his wife?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein June 11, 2012 08:33 AM

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?

– Meredith

Dating a bad kisser

Posted by Meredith Goldstein June 8, 2012 08:30 AM

Q: Let's be honest, that first kiss is supposed to set the tone for the rest of your relationship. Well, what happens when you start to date someone who is a TERRIBLE kisser but has all the great qualities you are looking for? I've just recently started dating "Matt" and we have a great connection, enjoy many of the same things, have the same sense of humor, etc. We were set up by a mutual friend who believed we would hit it off, which we did. Unfortunately, our first kiss was not what I had anticipated. He asked if he could kiss me in this sweet, romantic way, and then when he did. He sort of puckered his lips out and it was just a series of weird pecks. It was like we were strangely making out but without crossing the boundaries of respective zones. I chalked it up to the fact that it was late and we'd been at the bar all night. But the next kiss was the same. And so was the one after that. I truly do not know what to do. Kissing is a deal breaker for me! I want that hot, sexy, passionate kiss. But it's not coming. Do I ask our mutual friend what the deal is? I know he's had girlfriends (he's in his late 20s). Did they never tell him? Why doesn't he know how kiss?

– Tongue Tied, New Hampshire

A: First kisses do not set the tone for relationships, TT. They are often awkward and weird and we laugh about them later.

But third kisses should be nice. And fourth kisses should make you want a fifth.

I don't know why he's kissing you like a bird, but it's time to sit down on a couch and tell him how you like to be kissed. Tell him what you enjoy. You don't have to be critical. The talk should actually be sexy and sort of fun. You can even say, "Let me show you how I want you to kiss me."

If it's bad after that -- or if an honest conversation about your needs freaks him out -- please bail. But hopefully it will work. A hint: Sometimes it helps to show right after you tell.

As for whether you should tell your mutual friend, well, that depends on the friendship and whether he/she wants details. If I were the friend, I'd want to know -- and I'd want to be thanked for trying. Organizing a set-up takes courage.

Readers? Are first kisses important? Is he bird kissing her to be respectful because she's a friend of a friend? How have you helped a bad kisser? Is there hope here? Should she tell her friend about this? Help.

– Meredith

We have to wait to get married

Posted by Meredith Goldstein June 7, 2012 08:18 AM

Q: Hello Meredith,

I have been seeing a wonderful man for almost six years. The first year was a friends-with-benefits type of situation that turned into a relationship and has lasted since. He is gentle, affectionate, romantic, responsible, funny, and kind -- just a good man who is good for me. He is also very attractive to boot. We are both on the higher end of mid-20s.

We have chosen to delay getting married because of a financial situation. It is not the wedding (we both want a very small wedding) or the ring (I would be thrilled with any ring he chose with care and meaning). It is my student loans.

I am in public interest and qualify for the public interest loan forgiveness program; after 120 payments the remainder will be forgiven. My payments are income-based because I do not make a lot of money, and there is the rub.

If we marry, my monthly loan payments will triple. He also has student loans but they are substantially smaller. We have enough to live but we are not going on vacations or going out to eat every week, and the additional payments will be a strain.

I was depressed realizing it didn't make sense to marry for 10 years, but I am coming to terms with it. My extended family is not so understanding. They have said that if I really loved him, the money wouldn't matter. This is incredibly hurtful to me, and also the basis of my question. Is there any truth to this? I feel like I cannot possibly love someone more than I love him, and this is not my first relationship. I personally think that if I really love him, what's the matter with waiting until it makes sense? But these relatives have all been married and I haven't. If I really loved him, would I say to hell with the six grand a year and do it anyway? Can you reassure me about how I should feel? How do I deal with these relatives while being firm but not rude?

– Too Cautious, Boston

A: I want you to make an appointment with a financial adviser, TC, because there might be some loan loopholes that only a professional can find. It's a good thing to do anyway, especially if you really want this guy to be your life partner. Sit down and have a pre-martial discussion about money. Talk about everything.

If this really can't be fixed, you have two options. One is to continue the status quo and to assure your relatives that you're happy. Tell them that your happiness should be their only concern. That's not rude. It's the truth. You have a great life. That should please them. Remind them that if your financial situation changes, you and your boyfriend can always change your minds about getting married. Maybe it will be more affordable in a few more years.

Your other option is to have a party. Maybe a religious ceremony (if you're affiliated) or just a big old barbecue. Do the paperwork for the marriage later but celebrate your love now, just like you would if the loans didn't exist.

For the record, I'm with you. I believe that you can have a fantastic lifelong partnership without ever having a wedding or signing the official paperwork. And I absolutely believe that you love him as much as other people love their spouses. The stress of coming up with a few hundred extra dollars a month is enough to make any new marriage pretty miserable.

Go meet with the financial professional and see what you can do. And while you sort it out, just tell family and friends, "We’re just so happy. You don't have to worry about us." Because that’s true, right?

Readers? Should the money matter? Should they really wait until her loans are paid off? What should she tell the relatives? Should they be pressuring her? Anyone in a similar situation? Help.

– Meredith

He changed his mind ... again

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

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

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

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

Q: Hi Meredith,

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Should I hang on, New Jersey

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

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

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

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

– Meredith

She seems ambivalent

Posted by Meredith Goldstein June 5, 2012 08:31 AM

Q: I met a woman online a couple of months ago and we met up for coffee. Sparks flew, lightning struck, and the angels wept. From my side anyway. Since then we have been not dating. I say "not dating" because she has set up some boundaries that she says have to do with a previous relationship, an on-and-off sort of deal with a guy who was emotionally abusive and an alcoholic. She says she is not yet ready to date. That said, we see each other almost every weekend for a benign brunch or walk in the park. We email and text each other almost every day. To me this feels a lot like dating except without the physical part. I'm in no rush to get to that part, but am in a rush to get to know her. That said, most of our non-dates end with some smooching. The last time we met, the kissing was a bit more intense than before. Yes, I feel like a 9-year-old even putting it this way, but there's a reason why I bring it up. I'm not 9, by the way. We're both in our 40s, both divorced and with children.

This last weekend we had a picnic that I carefully organized, complete with flowers and caviar. At the end of the afternoon we talked about where we are in our non-relationship, what we're doing, and what we should expect from each other. She may have even warmed up to the idea of going out at night (dare to dream).

My problem is this: It feels like I'm getting a lot of ambivalence from her. The "I'm interested" signals are there, with some texts and emails telling me how excited she is to see me. But the "stay away" signals seem equally strong, with all of the boundaries, and occasional gaps in the communication.

I am so intensely drawn to this woman that I can't sleep at night. It's not that I want to move in with her or anything. I just want to have a chance to play this out and see what could develop between us. But it's not clear to me whether her ambivalence is solely because of bad history or because of reservations about me. A big part of me feels that if she were really interested, we would be having much different dates, and we'd be having some of them in the bathtub, rather than squeezing in a couple of hours every week to have coffee and a danish. That part tells me that I just can't come to terms with the fact that she's not interested, and that the wise thing would be to move on. There are other women out there after all.

Based on those tiny shreds of information, what do you think?

– Basking in the Glow of her Ambivalence, Massachusetts

A: You have to tell her that you're at a breaking point, BITGOHA. She has to take some steps forward -- like in the next week or two-- or it's over. You've gone out of her way not to rush her. You've been respectful of her schedule. I understand that you've already had a talk about where she is with all of this, but what about where you are?

My advice is to be very specific about what you want. If you want a dinner date, tell her you need one soon. If you want to be making out horizontally, please ask. You're human. You're in your 40s. You want to move this to the next level. It's understandable. You're allowed to say, "I feel like you're ambivalent about me. If you're not, I really need more."

I have to admit that when I first read this letter I thought, "She's enjoying the attention but not that interested." Then I remembered that I was once in a similar situation. I was like your woman, trying to delay the inevitable so that I could remain safe. When I was finally confronted with a "make out or else" conversation (he said it much more sensitively than that) and I realized that my self-protecting behavior had turned into selfishness, I cut it out. I pounced. Rather literally. I didn't want to lose him, and the pouncing was not as scary as I thought it would be.

I can't promise you that she'll pounce. But she might plan or accept a dinner date. And dinner dates lead to bathtubs.

If she continues to move at this pace and remains all talk and no action, you must bail. Soon. Because you're right -- there are other women out there, and you sound fantastic. Your needs are just as important as hers. Start asking some very specific questions.

Readers? Is it possible she's interested and just holding back? What should he tell her? Is her lack of availability attractive to him? What should he do? Help.

– Meredith

He cheated via email

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

Q: Hi Meredith,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Want To Be Strong, Boston Boston

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

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

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

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

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

– Meredith

I'm wearing the pants

Posted by Meredith Goldstein May 31, 2012 08:28 AM

Q: I've been with my boyfriend for the past two years. We live together (a first for both of us) and he's by far my greatest love.

Our main issue is that I feel like I'm the man in the relationship because I tend to take care of everything and it's progressively been getting worse.

I make all reservations, take care of all the bills, and if something goes wrong in the apartment, I'm the one on the phone with the landlord. Any date we go on, I plan it all. Any weekend trip, I plan it all. We're invited to many weddings this year and I've planned everything for every one of them. And I know this sounds sexist to some, but I also have a hard time with the fact that I make a lot more money than he does. So not only am I the breadwinner, but I get to come home to make dinner and clean up the place after my long day.

We've had many discussions about how I don't like the role-reversal feeling, but he tends to get defensive and claims that he "does stuff too," and will use taking out the garbage or doing our laundry (he doesn't actually do it) as examples. After explaining to him that it's not just about chipping in at home, he agrees that he needs to start being more involved in planning and also talks about going back to school in order to further his career.

All this talk is great and it makes me feel better, but we've had this discussion three times in the past two years and nothing has actually changed. No actions, just talk.

I know you can't tell me how long to wait it out, but I need to know suggestions for how to make this work better. I've tried the "wait until he actually does it" on a lot of things. It just ends badly. Just as reference, he's in his mid-30s and he wasn't/isn't a "mamas' boy"...

– How Do I Get Out of Wearing the Pants In The Relationship?, Boston

A: This has nothing to do with gender roles. This has nothing to do with pants.

If we're going to make generalizations about men and women (and I'd rather not), I'd actually say that women are better planners. You should see the RSVP list for Love Letters events. Women tend to RSVP the day I publicize the event. The men email me at the last minute -- after the event is booked up -- with notes that say, "I meant to sign up but I forgot. Will you please let me in?" Again, I don't like to generalize about who does what, but I think that some of your assumptions about what men do might be a bit off.

Your issue is that you're wearing the pants, a dress, a travel agent's uniform, a maid's outfit, and everything in between. You're running the show and you're tired.

My advice is to make a list (on paper) of the things that you want him to do. Make it short. Just one or two tasks. As in, "Book hotel room for July wedding." Hand him the list. Put it on the fridge. Give him a deadline, one thing at a time.

I also want you to consider hiring help. You make money? Fine. Spend some of it on a cleaning service. Make your life easier so that you don't have to nag.

As for the bigger issues with his lack of motivation, you just have to accept him for who he is. He's in his mid-30s. He might never go back to school or change his job situation. Can you be happy with him the way he is now? Consider that question. Because after two years, you have to be open to living with the status quo. You can't expect too much more. There is no waiting it out.

Readers? Should she walk away from this? Are the gender stereotypes fair? What can she do to get him to do more work? Anyone else have this problem with a partner? Help.

– Meredith

He's keeping score

Posted by Meredith Goldstein May 30, 2012 08:31 AM

We chat today.

Q: I am in my early 50s and a single mother of college-age children. One lives at home and goes to school nearby. I work full time and do some community and volunteer activities. I also keep active and healthy and have responsibilities with my extended family.

For the past few years I have been dating a man who is in his early 60s. He is retired and has children who are out of college and on their own. We see each other about once a week and talk on the phone every day. In his words, he is kind of a hermit; he enjoys spending time with people but mostly likes being alone doing stuff around his house.

When I first got divorced I thought I would want to find a new relationship. Now I'm leaning toward appreciating the freedom of being single and having the comfort of a relationship that's "there" but not intense.

My main problem? We don't have the easy give-and-take that I would hope for in a relationship. He keeps track of whose turn it is to cook dinner and who has done what household task for the other. About half the time I carry groceries to his house on the T and cook there. This is fine, but sometimes if I've had a busy week I'd like him to cook even if it should be "my turn." He sometimes does small favors for me, like fixing something, but I feel like I am indebted for the favor. And, in fact, I know he mentally "keeps track" of favors he does for people, including things he does for me. He says that he believes that you should always have favors in the bank with people in order to maintain good relationships.

I think that people who are in a close relationship shouldn't keep track of everything too closely and should recognize that one person may need more support than the other sometimes. Even though my boyfriend and I aren't married and don't live together, I'd like to have some of that easy give-and-take.

My boyfriend has more free time, more money, and better resources. I'm more idealistic and community-oriented. He somewhat values the fact that through me he can connect with community events and get to know people. But he doesn't see that as a "contribution" to the relationship in the way fixing something in someone’s house might be.

I know this is a crazy situation and I'd like to improve it. So I guess I'd like some perspective - how do other people handle taking turns cooking and exchanging household repairs and the other small things that people do for each other?

– Is it my turn to cook dinner?, Boston

A: You sound really cool, IIMTTCD, which is why I want you to end this relationship. You can't improve this situation. Not really. You can't change how he sees the world. Some men would consider it a privilege to come over and cook for you. Some men would enjoy the process of picking out what to make and running it over to your house. This guy is too busy keeping score to understand what it means to enjoy a life with someone.

If he were just a friend, what would you think of him? Would you put up with a friend who made you feel bad when you needed help? Would you put up with a friend who didn't value everything you bring to the table?

I want you to be with an enthusiastic partner, not someone who keeps track of who does what. You say that you're happy with this once-a-week relationship, but wouldn't it be nice to be with someone who likes being around more often? Is this guy capable of more?

You don't have to try to repair this relationship just because you've been with him for years. You're allowed to walk away and find someone who shares your values. You should be dating someone who's a better friend.

Readers? Can she fix this? Is it possible that she's asking for too much? Is this an age difference thing? What should she do? Do you keep track of favors? Help.

– Meredith

Dating a silent artist type

Posted by Meredith Goldstein May 29, 2012 08:35 AM

Q: Hey Mere,

I tend to date artist types. Musicians, painters, actors, etc. My newest flame is a writer (he's 27). I am also a writer and 24. We are crazy about each other. He is ridiculously kind, handsome, talented, and charming. We have goals and morals in common, and many of our tastes are similar. We have both been in many relationships and feel that ours is special and unique. We often talk about how lucky we feel to have found one and other.

I haven't felt this comfortable with someone in a really long time. We have sleepovers up to five nights a week, and often spend the next day together. Sometimes we even sit in coffee shops and have "writing dates." This has been the most rewarding relationship I've ever been in.

The problem? And the problem that I've had in other relationships? When the bedroom door is closed and it's just him and me, he lets down his guard. We'll talk for hours about any topic that may come up. Endless conversations about the world, our thoughts, dreams, ambitions, sex, past relationships, friends, work, family, politics, money ... you name it. We play games, joke, and laugh a lot. He lets me in, in the way that I need to be let in to feel comfortable and desired.

But sometimes when we spend the days together we hardly talk about anything. I try to start conversations but his answers are short, he seems distant, and a little closed. He is by no means rude, but his mind seems to be elsewhere. Sometimes it eventually turns into a silence that makes me really uncomfortable, and to have someone be SO open one minute and so closed the next is confusing to me. I have had two other relationships where this has happened and in the end was part of why we broke up.

As a writer I like to talk and share. When a man puts a wall up I tend to panic and question his feelings for me. I grew up around lots of lies and a bad divorce, which might be the problem. But what's this about, Mere? Why do the men I date seem so comfortable with me behind closed doors, but become closed when we are out and about? I don't question how he feels about me; we are together all the time and I know he wouldn't be around so much if he wasn't into this. Someone once told me that if you are able to be silent with someone it means you are truly comfortable with them. But to me silence feels like there is something not being said. A few of my friends have also suggested that artists have a number of layers that are sometimes hard to understand. What do you think? Is there a way I can bring my concern up to him without looking like a manic girl? Is there a way I can feel more comfortable in the silence?

– Uncomfortable Wall Of Silence, NY

A: I get it, UWOS. I am the queen of sharing. Sometimes I talk about empathy and self-awareness when I'm on the lunch line in the Globe cafeteria. And I know I've been the annoying girlfriend who asks, "What are you thinking?" when her boyfriend is just trying to drive a car.

But I also love silence. And I have errands to deal with during the day that have nothing to do with my soul. If I spent all day engaging with people about feelings, I'd probably forget that I need an oil change and a haircut.

This isn't about dating moody artists. Your guy isn't even that moody. Your problem is the amount of time you spend together. All day and all night? That's a lot. That's like ... every waking and sleeping hour. Perhaps it'd be better for both of you if you separated more often during the day so that you could get stuff done without having to question the emotional state of your partner. Sometimes it's better to have a break and shoot for quality instead of quantity.

You're thinking of your time together as one long date. That's too much pressure.

Don't bring this up with him -- at least not in the context of a big, important conversation. Just use some of those daytime hours to walk away and call a friend. If you need to talk, fine. Just talk to someone else. You can find your boyfriend again at night and make up for lost time.

Readers? Is this about dating an artist or is this about her issues with silence? How does one become comfortable with quiet? Will walking away help? Should she talk to him about this? What are you thinking?

– Meredith

Should I reveal a cheat?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein May 25, 2012 08:33 AM

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.

– Meredith

Will he ever commit?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein May 23, 2012 08:04 AM

We chat at 1.

Q: My whole dating life has been filled with long-term relationships. Even my attempt at a one night stand didn't end for a year. But here I am in another long-term relationship, and for the first time in a long time I'm confused.

I started dating this wonderful guy (with commitment issues) about three years ago. Things have been great and we both knew going into this that we would have to be patient with each other to make this work. Right from the start I let him know what I want in life: a family, a house in a nice town, stability, etc. I knew there was a chance that I would drive him away if I brought up the topic, but it didn't. After our first discussion he told me I was worth it to try to see if he could want that as well ... eventually.

The pro of our relationship: He loves me and will do just about anything for me. The con: His inability/inexperience with long-term relationships, which at times can have me feeling as though I need to battle to have my feelings matter to him as much as his own. And no, not just during the trivial fights.

So, here I am three years later and something just isn't clicking and I'm not sure if it will eventually click or if I'm waiting for something that will never happen. Having his family joke at the thought of him getting married doesn't help my confidence in "us." But then again his family has also told me that if he’s going to take the plunge they can see that happening with me.

Unfortunately he lives too much in the moment and his long-term planning skills are terrible, but he says he does see a future with me in it. I guess I'm not sure if that’s a forever-future.

My friends are split about 50/50. Some think that I need to be patient, but I think I have been patient for three years. Others think I need to walk away, but it really isn't that easy because our relationship is great day-to-day.

So I guess my questions are: Am I finding a problem in a relationship that seems to be working? Or am I justified in constantly doubting the extent of our future.

– What Does the Future Hold, Boston

A: Is your relationship really that great on a daily basis, WDTFH? You mention having to fight to make your feelings matter. You imply that you're living on his schedule. I'm not convinced that this partnership is so rosy.

My advice is to be 100 percent honest with him about what you want -- and to be as specific as possible about your timeline. If you want to be engaged within the next year, tell him. If you want a baby in two years, make that known as well.

I'm all for living in the moment, but not at the expense of another person's sanity. There's no game to play here. There can't be any more waiting for answers to the big questions. It's been three years.

You say that something "just isn’t clicking." I want you to trust your gut on that, no matter what 50 percent of your friends think -- and what his parents say about the "plunge." (Hate that word.)

I get the sense that you're his first girlfriend. Ask him if he wants you to be his last. He should have an easy answer for that one.

Readers? Is it even worth asking these questions? Has she been clear about her needs? Does he just need more time? What should people know after three years? Is her dating history relevant? Discuss.

– Meredith

Should I just end it now?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein May 22, 2012 06:50 AM

This is "grad school ruins everything" week, apparently.

Q: Dear Meredith,

I am a 30-year-old female and have been dating my 28-year-old boyfriend, Tim, for more than a year. I bought a house in January (by myself) and we moved in together. Although our relationship is not perfect, our life together is pretty awesome. We have a great group of friends, host game nights and BBQs, go to the farmer's market, work out together, ride our bikes, watch sports and movies, talk about politics and life, etc. I laugh at his wacky sense of humor, appreciate his desire to make holidays and birthdays extra-special and fun, respect his commitment to a healthy lifestyle, share his political views, and admire his ambition and his drive to achieve great things in his life. I feel lucky that he is in my life and I know he feels the same way about me.

Except for the major thing looming over our relationship, which is Tim's recent decision to pursue a PhD in his field no matter where it takes him. He already has a master's and the PhD program would be 5-years, full-time. He will only go if he gets funding from the program. We live in North Carolina and although he will be applying to two schools here, he also plans to apply to schools around the country for admission in fall of 2013. Previously he had decided that he would only go for his PhD if he got accepted to a school in NC -- hence our decision for me to buy a house and for him to move in with me. Now, he has decided that getting a PhD trumps everything else in his life and that he won't be satisfied unless he achieves this goal.

Until this point, I never imagined myself leaving North Carolina. After a rocky start, I have now lived here for almost 5 years and love my job, have good friends, and just bought a beautiful brand-new house. We both know it is unlikely that I would follow Tim if he left (although I would be lying if I said I haven't started thinking about what a more adventurous life might look like, going wherever his education and work takes us). With that in mind -- that I am not sure I would go with him if he left North Carolina -- the question is what to do with our relationship now, when we won't know where he gets accepted until mid-2013.

We have talked about this at length. Tim doesn't want to break up now. He wants to take life day-by-day and get as much out of this relationship as we can, even if he leaves for school next year without me. He says he doesn't like to think about going through the next year without me and my support. I don't want to break up now either, but I also don't want to invest another year in this relationship only for him to tell me he is leaving in the fall of 2013. I don't feel truly happy and secure in this relationship anymore when the thought of it ending is always in the back of my head. Worse, it is hard for me to hear about him planning for this future and what he needs to do to ensure he gets into a good program. Sometimes it feels like he is making all these plans to better his future -- a future that may not include me. I truly admire his ambition and I want him to pursue his dreams but it also hurts to think of what it all means for our relationship. At the same time, I love our life together and don't want to mess that up before I really know there is no hope for our future.

I know I need to make this decision on my own, but I am curious what you and other people think. Sometimes I feel like I should live in the moment and enjoy all our time together and just see what happens next year. Other times it breaks my heart to think of becoming more invested in this relationship knowing there is a good chance it will end. Please help.

– Expiration Dating

A: I'm a little confused about how Tim has framed your options, ED.

If Tim knows that he doesn't want to be with you outside of North Carolina and has asked you to be a placeholder, please kick him out. You're not his cheerleader.

But if Tim is open to the possibility that you might move with him, I want you to live in the moment. Because you don't know what you want.

You just started processing this change and you're already having a few private fantasies about what life would be like in a new place. If Tim framed this as something that you might want to do together after another good year, please give this time.

You've only lived in North Carolina for five years, and Tim is such a big part of your happiness. After a year of dating, no one knows what promises should be made.

Houses can be rented out. A few years in a new university town might be pretty cool. 2013 is far away.

Again, as long as Tim is open to anything, this isn't over. Because you're undecided. By this time next year, you might be.

Readers? Should she stick this out? Are you getting the impression that Tim wants her there? Do you have a problem with him applying to out-of-state schools at this point in their relationship? How can she explore this relationship without feeling as though it's going to expire? Discuss.

– Meredith

He has to move for grad school

Posted by Meredith Goldstein May 21, 2012 07:27 AM

Q: Dear Meredith,

I'm a longtime LL reader. About a year-and-a-half ago, I started dating a wonderful guy after we had become close friends. Our relationship is everything I want -- we laugh, we support each other, we have fun, and there is plenty of physical attraction. Any other ex-boyfriend pales in comparison. We have talked many times about the future, and we both see us getting married and having kids (we are both in our early 30s).

Boyfriend has worked very hard, and he just got accepted to graduate school. He's elated. I'm proud of him. But the downside is that he has to move to a new city for two years. We will soon be shifting from inseparable to a long-distance relationship. I am trying to support him in his new adventure, but I am also terrified. We had started to plan on living together if he got into a school in Boston. Now we will be three hours apart. Will this delay our plans to get married and start a family? Should we get engaged before he leaves to solidify our commitment? Will we grow tired of the distance and fight all the time? How will we make this work?

These questions are wearing me down, and putting it mildly, I have not been my best self around Boyfriend. I'm snippy and emotional. All I can think about is what is going to happen with us. It's been difficult to enjoy my time with him, and I am fighting the urge to avoid him. I have told him how I feel and asked him these questions. He tries to be sympathetic, but he doesn't have any answers. He says he needs to think about it. So I have backed off. He is leaving in two months.

I don't want to rush the guy, but come on. I'm freaking out. Give a girl some answers. Show me that you're still in this relationship for the long-term and how you want to make it work. It's been about four weeks and I am losing my patience. Is there a way to balance his need to process with my need to know what's going to happen next? This is obviously a big change for him too. Should I be pushing for answers and for a sign of commitment or should I just let things run their course? Am I being a crazy lady?

– Losing My Cool, Boston

A: I understand why you're freaked out, LMC. This kind of change is scary, especially when you're in your early 30s and feel ready for kids. But I'm a little confused about the answers you're looking for.

You were supportive about grad school and knew that he might have to go far away. You obviously didn't have a discussion about how distance would work. What are your specific questions now? Are you asking him whether you're going to stay together at all -- or whether this move simply delays some of the hypothetical plans you've been talking about over the year? Does he understand what you need to know? If you don't know the answers, should he?

All he can really say right now is: "I love you and I want to make this work." That's the statement you should be looking for.

My advice, for now, is to make these questions a bit smaller. Instead of talking about your timeline for marriage and procreation before he even knows what grad school will be like, can you sit in bed with him and Google restaurants for you to try together in his new town? Can you talk about how you might spend summers?

You shouldn't get engaged just because he's going away. If he was going to propose anyway, fine, but you can't jump from point A to point M (marriage) just because you have a new challenge as a couple. You can't speed this along out of fear.

Just ask smaller questions and consider the spirit of his answers. I've found that tiny questions often turn the big, scary questions into no-brainers.

Readers? What should she be asking for here? Should they get engaged? Is it weird that he needs time to process what happens next? Are her questions too intimidating? How can she relax as she waits for this distance to begin? Help.

– Meredith

Ending a camp romance

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Torn and Confused, NY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Meredith

How do I see through lies?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein May 17, 2012 06:51 AM

This is a first ...

Q: Dear Meredith,

I went out on a "Dinner with Cupid" date set up through the Boston Globe Magazine. I was very optimistic about the experience. I love trying new things and I was excited about embarking on this new opportunity. My date and I had a great time. Throughout the date I felt comfortable and our conversation was very engaging. At one point during the date he asked me what I was looking for in a relationship. I explained to him that I am looking for a companion and partner, someone to spend time with and try new things with. My date said he agreed and that he was looking for the same thing.

He asked when my last relationship was and I told him it had been a year or so. He told me he had been dating but hadn't been in a serious relationship in a long time as well. After the date, we exchanged numbers and he said he would be interested in getting together again soon. The following day after I completed my interview with the Globe, I got a text from him. He asked me how my interview went and then landed some harsh news. He said he had a great time on our date but that he needed to be honest with me and tell me that he was actually in a relationship with someone.

Obviously this was shocking. After about an hour of mourning the loss of a potential relationship brewing, I moved on with my life but not without doing a little soul searching. It seems that I am so optimistic and hopeful that I believe every word my date says. I always believe that what my date says is true and expect him to follow through. Maybe I am hearing only what I want to hear. Am I reading into what my date says too much? Should I compromise my openness and put my guard up? Why can't people be honest about how they feel and what they want?

In some of my past failed relationships I definitely jumped all in whereas my partner was more hesitant to really be fully emotionally invested in the relationship. I just can't help myself. I am a hopeless romantic who sees the best in everyone. How can I fix this so that I can see through the liars and find someone who wants to be in a healthy committed relationship with me?

– Gullible?, MA

A: This is so weird. I mean, this guy couldn't have been lying to his girlfriend, right? She'd see him in the magazine.

My guess is that this guy signed up for Dinner With Cupid, met someone, and then didn't think he could call off the date. Which stinks. And he handled it so poorly.

This wasn't your fault. You're not gullible and you're not doing anything wrong. This guy lied to you through an entire date -- on behalf of a newspaper! You had every reason to assume he was legit.

My only advice is to try to save your extreme excitement until your dates have earned your loyalty. Let's say DWCL (Dinner With Cupid Liar) had been single. He still might have been weird and wrong for so many other reasons. You filled in the gaps on his behalf, but that's his job. You should be asking yourself questions like, "I wonder if he's as fun on date 10 as he is on date 4?" First dates are exploratory, no matter how good they are.

I promise you, most people are good and honest. This guy was an exception to the rule. You can go back out there as a hopeless romantic. Just take your time.

Readers? Does this Dinner With Cupid date mean that people are dishonest? What should she take from this experience? How can she stop herself from getting too excited after a good first date? Discuss.

– Meredith

I found a racy picture on his computer

Posted by Meredith Goldstein May 15, 2012 08:30 AM

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.

– Meredith

He doesn't want me there

Posted by Meredith Goldstein May 14, 2012 08:22 AM

Q: Hi Meredith,

About four years ago on a summer internship in Europe I met my current boyfriend, "Bob." We were both 20 and had the best summer of our lives. For the next three years we stayed in contact with monthly emails but were not together. Both of us had other relationships, etc. Our reconnection occurred during a family trip last year when I went off to visit him for a few days. That kind of jump-started a new relationship and we began talking on phone and online every day. We've visited each other many times since then and met each other's friends and family. He will be here for many weeks this summer (yay!).

That brings us to now. I am about to graduate and he still has one year of school and then another optional internship year, which he seems very interested in doing. We have discussed the future in that he knows that I am willing to go over there for a year or so with the understanding that I'd be working at a job that I am likely very over-qualified for (I'm a dual EU citizen so visas aren't a problem). He is adamant that when he's done with his obligations he plans on coming to the US to work so that he can be with me. We have discussed how we want to be together. We have the same world views, interests, career goals, love of travel, the list goes on (oh, and we're MADLY in love). There's a future here Meredith, I'm just not sure how to go about it.

I've been applying to jobs both here and in his country (which I love), but I'm so confused. Last week I found a job in my field at his school and applied to it immediately. When I told Bob about it, he freaked. He said that having me in his school would be too stressful. He said he would have to study all next year and would have to ignore me, and that he prefers a long-distance relationship now because I am a great "escape" from his stressful life. He said that I am the best thing in his life right now because I am not in the city and school that he hates. That totally threw me off, as he is well aware that I have been applying for jobs there and that I thought that this would be a great option until we can really be together. I've made it clear to him that I can't do more years of long distance. I think we both deserve someone who can be there for us. He is "looking into" coming over permanently next May (a year earlier than he had planned), but I'm not sure if he is just telling me that because that’s what I want to hear.

My questions are: Is he just a stressed student freaking out about commitment or am I just a place-holder until he isn't bogged down by school? Why would he invest so much if I'm just a place-holder? Should I move to his country for the next year even though it would be a back-pedal on my career? And more importantly, should I move even though it seems that he doesn't want me there? We have an entire summer together to look forward to, but after that it's a big black hole. Thanks for your help.

– One of us is on the wrong side of the ocean, New Haven

A: Honestly, if he doesn't want you over there while he's in school, I want you to end it. You're offering to move to another country so that he can work on his degree. You're not asking for an engagement or some unrealistic commitment. You just want to try the relationship without the distance. He should be thrilled.

You're not with him to be his escape. This isn't about him having somewhere cool to go while he's on summer break. You guys got serious and then he changed his mind. It's possible that the idea of you working in his building freaked him out, but he could have just said that. He could have asked you to find a job outside of his university so that he can maintain some boundaries in his life. Instead he told you to stay in the US so that he can ignore you without feeling bad about it.

You've got the summer and I assume you want to enjoy it after all of this planning. But please use it wisely. Get to know him better. Have some in-person conversations about the next year.

If he doesn't want you there and wants more "escape," you have to escape him. You're in this to be serious. If he's in this for a distraction, it's not enough.

Readers? Am I right? What about this summer? What should she do? Should she keep applying for jobs? Discuss.

– Meredith

He said he was falling -- and then he left

Posted by Meredith Goldstein May 10, 2012 08:27 AM

This letter is about half its original length, just so you know.

Q: Dear Meredith,

Five months ago, I started dating a veteran, "Chris."

As cliché as it sounds, I knew I loved him the first day I met him. It's an unexplainable feeling, one I've never felt before. I knew he was the one -- or thought he was. For the majority of the relationship the feeling seemed to be reciprocated. Everything just fell into place. He admitted to feeling the same way, and we had so many plans for the months to come. But now I'm not so sure any of it was ever true. By the end of March, things managed to come to screeching halt.

The week before we stopped speaking lingers in my mind. 1. We had an argument (It took me a while to remember what we were fighting about, that's how stupid it was), 2. He was leaving town for a bachelor party, and 3. We had a pregnancy scare.

The fight was about the fact that he had been moody (an occasional problem) and I brought it up. Shortly after that -- when we had the pregnancy scare -- he was great. He was there for me. Then he went to the bachelor party and returned in good spirits. Then, days later, he ended it without warning. The last thing that he ever said to me after ending it was that he was doing great and didn't want to be friends because just seeing my name show up on his phone reminds him of a time in his life that he much rather forget.

Most people reading this blog would tell me to get over him and move on but that's the problem. The heart feels what it feels. I want to contact him but I'm afraid of the outcome.

I am in my late 20s and at this point I'm so tired of being a fly strip for the world’s most dysfunctional men. How can my feelings for someone be so wrong?

How do people claim to "fall in love" and just walk away? Do you think we could ever be friends again? The way things ended was just so confusing. It happened in a flash. Wednesday, after his trip, he was expressing how much he was falling for me, and Saturday he decided he wanted nothing to do with me.

I guess what it comes down to is that a huge part of me feels betrayed, but more than that I just am not buying into the whole "he was emotionally unstable" bit. Other than getting moody every now and then there had never been any red flags. The biggest part of me feels like he didn't want to be "that guy," so when he knew he was free of any possibility of fathering a child, he jumped ship. I don't know.

Should I write him? If so what do I say?

– Needs closure, NJ

A: You had an intense three months. Too intense, if you ask me. You say that you felt love, but it was really just infatuation. It was excitement. It was hope.

I'm sure that he left because of the fight and the baby scare. The fight bothered him because you were finally bringing up something that bothered you (his moodiness) and he didn't want to be held accountable. And the baby thing just highlighted the fact that as much as he was "falling" for you, he had no plans to stick around in the long run. But let's not worry about his motivation for leaving. Let's focus on your motivation for loving him so much.

You had some good weeks with him. That's all. He never proved himself. He never earned your love or trust. The first few months of a relationship are for deciding whether someone deserves your long-term attention. This guy failed the test.

You're not a fly strip. If you were a fly strip you'd be stuck to the wrong guy. You're just someone who's looking for the right partner, and this guy really messed with your head. I know the heart wants what it wants, so let yourself mourn. Keep in mind that the pregnancy scare probably altered your perception of reality and turned him into someone more important than he was.

Be sad, spend time with friends, and when your heart feels overwhelmed, let your brain take over. It will get better. And there's no need to contact him. You don't need another friend.

Readers? Should she reach out? Why did he leave? Is the bachelor party or the fact that he's a veteran relevant to the discussion? Is she a fly strip? Am I right about the pregnancy scare? Can you fall for someone that quickly? Words of wisdom? Please share them.

– Meredith

He spends his money on concerts

Posted by Meredith Goldstein May 9, 2012 08:55 AM

We chat at 1.

Q: I have a great boyfriend. We have been together for two years and live together. We love to do the same things, have mutual friends, and enjoy each other. I really love him and he is the most important person in my life. I have great girlfriends who support me and I am not afraid to be alone. I know that I am with him because I want to be with him.

The issue is, sometimes he tends to be selfish. He'll buy me a CD as a present but then and open it and download it to his computer before he gives it to me. He will tell me that he will pick something up from the store and never do it.

He always complains about not having any money but then will go and spend hundreds of dollars on concert tickets. He is willing to spend hundreds of dollars and travel hundreds of miles to go see a band but is unwilling to spend $15 on the trash can that I asked him to get the other day. Not only that, because he spends his money on concerts, it has made it impossible to ever take a vacation together. I know I am part of the problem as well -- I won't nag him to follow through and then when he doesn't I am disappointed. I am more disappointed by the fact that when HE needs something, it is done immediately.

I noticed this lackadaisical attitude also translates over to his work as well. He has been working for the same company for years which is great (especially in this economy) but complains and comes home depressed every day. He has shown interest in getting a new job but refuses to take the steps to find a new job (like creating a resume). Three months after he stated he wanted a new job I began looking for a new job, and I have had three interviews. He hasn't finished his resume yet.

We have discussed all of these issues numerous times. Immediately after the conversation it gets better, but then over time he goes back to his old ways.

I guess my questions is, is his lazy attitude a deal breaker? Is this just typical of most men? Should I just be happy with the way things are since he is such a good person and we are so compatible?

– Is good enough, good enough?, Boston

A: This isn't a man thing, IGEGE. There are plenty of guys out there who plan, save, motivate, and get it all done in record time. Your guy just isn't one of them. And he loves music. It's his religion.

My advice is to take charge of the parts of your relationship that affect you. Instead of giving him a speech about his lazy personality and his concert expenses, tell him that he has to give you $30 every Friday for a vacation fund. After a few months of saving (and matching that money), you'll plan a nice, overnight trip for the both of you. Maybe after he sees how much fun it is to get away with you, he'll start making his own plans.

Some people will say that his behavior is a deal-breaker. (Honestly, some people are going to object to the fact that he still buys CDs.) But you wrote a first paragraph that overrides all of these annoyances. You want to be with this guy. You just need a system to avoid the fights. And you need to accept that you fell for a selfish music fan, the kind of guy who wants to spend every penny on that festival in the Midwest or that club show in the city. I'm just happy that he's passionate about something.

Come up with practical solutions instead of nagging. Start with $30.

Readers? Is that first paragraph enough to save the relationship? Is the job application thing so unique? Is all of this a deal-breaker? Anyone have thoughts on the concert stuff? I once spent $250 on a Justin Timberlake ticket. For a show in Philadelphia. Just saying. Help.

– Meredith

We went from making out to a hug

Posted by Meredith Goldstein May 8, 2012 08:24 AM

Q: Hi Meredith,

I need an outsider's perspective on this:

I met a guy, "Jack," online about two and a half months ago. We really sparked immediately and even made out at the train station. He was the first guy to really strike my fancy since a bad break up last summer, and we kept it slow but saw each other about once a week. There was lots of kissing and staring longingly at each other but not much more.

Things slowed even further at one point with us not seeing each other for more than two weeks. When we did finally hang out, we suddenly weren't even making out. Now we're at a point where at the end of our last hangout, he gave me a hug.

My frustration comes from the fact that even though I don't see him often, I'm still very attracted to Jack when we do hang out. We laugh, we have spark, we call each other adorable. I feel like he acts like he's still romantically interested in me but he doesn't make any moves any more. Normally I'd just go for it with him, but I'm afraid he wants to be platonic and that's why he's slowed.

So, my question: Do I talk to him about this? Should I ask if he still wants us to be dating or if we've officially moved into friend zone? Or would that just make things awkward and potentially alienate him from me completely? My gut is to ask, but my friends keep telling me to wait it out. It's never been very serious and I'm not looking for him to commit to me. I just want to know if he's now my cool fun buddy or if I can still make out with him like I really want to.

– Befuddled and Bamboozled, Somerville

A: Your friends are wrong, BAB. (Sorry, friends.)

It's been almost three months and you've gone from making out at the train station to hugging goodbye. There's no need to wait this out. Ask him if you're actually dating and why things haven't moved past first base.

My guess is that he's still seeing other people and wants to make sure that your relationship isn't becoming more serious. And if that's the case, do you really want to stick around? I mean, you say that you're not looking for a commitment, but don't you want to be with someone who's excited about you and wants to take steps forward each week? At the moment, your relationship is aging in the direction of Benjamin Button. (Next week you're going to get a high five instead of a hug.)

Ask him what's up and then ask yourself if this is worth pursuing. Because there are a lot of guys out there who will want more. You're not in this for a "cool fun buddy."

Readers? Is he just a nice guy who's trying to take things slow? Should she talk to him or wait this out? Are you put off by the fact that he seems to want to see her less? Cool fun buddy? Discuss.

– Meredith

One of us has to move

Posted by Meredith Goldstein May 7, 2012 08:31 AM

Q: Dear Meredith,

For the last two years my boyfriend and I have been separated by 3,000 miles. We see each other for a few days every few months, because as young professionals just starting out (he's 24, I'm 23) that's all we can manage. I have tried to convince myself that it's good enough, that a promise of a tomorrow together makes all the days in between -- even the most miserable ones -- worthwhile.

The truth is, it's not and it doesn't. We both know this. So, after countless phone calls, many arguments, and costly visits, we've decided this is it. Something needs to change. Either we're going to live in the same place and give this a real shot, or we're going to call it quits for good. We have a deadline of two months. If we can't figure out a way to be together by then, we're going to break off our nearly 4-year relationship.

Here's the problem: I just started my job here and can't move. He has been working in his for about two years and is in a better position to leave. But the job market is awful and the career we're both in isn't exactly burgeoning. In fact, most jobs are being shrunk, consolidated, or eliminated. It's unlikely he'll find the kind of work he's been doing if he were to move here, and I'm concerned he won't be able to find a job in the business at all. He's started thinking about going back to school.

Though I know I love him and I want him close, I'm nervous and guilty about asking him to give up his life to be a part of mine. What if things don't work out when we're in the same place? What if he begins to resent me for asking this of him? Is a deadline even practical? Or should we cut our losses now and go our separate ways?

Any advice would be helpful, because the way things are now isn't working for either of us. Staying thousands of miles apart is no longer an option. We need something more.

– Fed up with the distance, Washington D.C.

A: Ask him to move, FUWTD. See what happens.

You're not making any silly promises. You're not pretending that this will be easy -- or that you won't break up after he gets to D.C. You're just saying that you want to try a real, grown-up relationship and that he's in a better position to relocate.

Ask him how you can make the move easier for him. Would it be more desirable if you lived in a specific neighborhood? Can you help him with the job search and introduce him to some contacts?

You say above that you "can't move." But … you can. You just don't want to, and that's OK. If he moves it won't be just because of you. He'll move because he's ready to try something different and you're a part of what he wants.

Tell him what you want from him without feeling selfish about your boundaries. In another two years, after living in the same place, you might feel better about quitting a job and picking up your life for him. You just don't know what your relationship is worth right now. Find out.

Readers? Is it selfish for her to ask him to relocate? Should he move for her? If he does move, will it just be for her? How can she make this easier for him? Are their ages relevant? Help.

– Meredith

Desperately seeking closure

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

Q: Hi Meredith --

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Craving Closure, Boston

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Meredith

One more try?

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

Q: Dear Meredith,

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

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

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

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

– Do I Give Him Another Shot, Boston

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Meredith

Am I going to get hurt again?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein May 1, 2012 09:39 PM

We chat at 1.

And "New Girl"/"21 Jump Street" fans, Jake Johnson chats at 11:30. Maybe from my desk! If I clean it in time.

Q: Hi Meredith,

I have been dating this guy since last summer. We hit it off right away and things were great ... until his ex came back in the picture. He said he needed to go back to her and make sure he did what he could to make that relationship work. Well, it didn't work and he came back to me after a couple of weeks. A month later, he decided to go back to her. When that didn't work, he came back again and we've been going at it since then. I know, you must be thinking ... didn't this girl ever hear the saying, "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me?!" Yes, I have. There is something about this guy that keeps me around.

I expected him to come back and make an effort to tell me or show me that he's here to stay this time. Well, he says and does nothing to tell or show me those things. When I've talked to people about this, they say, "That's how guys are. They don't talk about their feelings." Whenever I bring it up his response is, "What's the rush? Let nature take its course." It wasn't until very recently that he admitted that he knows he needs to step it up. I'm getting to the point where I can't take it anymore. I'm too old for these games. OK, I'm only in my late 20s but this seems like high school behavior to me. I'm a confident girl and I know I deserve better, but I want him to be the one who is better. He says he really likes me, that I'm 100% better than his ex, and that he's just still working on things in his head. She was his first love and the only girl he ever opened up to and she betrayed him. He doesn't want that happening again.

I should probably mention that we've talked about moving out of town together, which would scream commitment to some people but to me only confuses me more. I don't want to move away from my family and friends with someone who hasn't really proven their feelings to me yet.

Do I wait to see if he comes around or do I turn and run before I get hurt ... again?

– Too Old For This, New York

A: I'm shaking my head, TOFT. And the first word out of my mouth after reading this letter was no.

You can't move with him to another city (obviously). Your gut says you should drop him.

He left you twice. And now he's telling you that he "likes" you and that your future together has something to do with nature "taking its course." What does that even mean?

What bothers me most is that he's openly comparing you to his ex. You're 100 percent better than this woman? (Again, how is this possible?) It's shouldn't be you vs. her -- but in his mind it's everything vs. her.

After almost a year of dating he has yet to satisfy you and make you feel special and safe in this relationship.

I'm sorry. I wish I could say that I have faith in his ability to rally but I don't. If you stay with him you're going to exhaust yourself trying to get him to be the right guy. And for the record, this isn't about your age. If you were a 21-year-old asking me this question I'd tell you the same thing.

Readers? Am I being too harsh? Will this guy rally? Should we have more empathy about his bad experience with the ex? Does his desire to move with her imply that he's committed? Discuss.

– Meredith

Is it too soon to ask for more?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein May 1, 2012 08:36 AM

Q: I have been dating a man for a handful of months. I started seeing him after getting out of a long and serious relationship. I was reluctant at the beginning to really be out with him because I was scared of hurting my former partner. I think I disappointed him on a number of occasions by not going out.

More recently we have been going out and I am no longer concerned about being publicly involved with someone else. However, not long ago, when I asked about our status, he told me he didn't want a commitment, and I think he said this because he knew he was going to hook up with an ex. He did hook up with his ex, and because we had no commitment I went along and dated and hooked up with others.

His hook-up with his ex-girlfriend didn't work out the way he was hoping, and now he has been acting like he's more into our relationship. I like it and I enjoy his company. I like how it feels when he holds me and feel my heart glow a bit when he does. This scares me because I don't want to get hurt, and so I continue to date other people. That said, I would chose to only see him, if he asked me.

I need to ask: Is it too soon to ask about our status again? The "no commitment" chat was about a month ago. Should I be bothered by being second fiddle -- even though I can understand the draw of an ex? If I am not jealous about the hook up, could I possibly have the feelings I think I do? And how aware should I make him of my dating other people if he doesn't ask questions and has told me we have no commitment? Should I have to ask if he has slept with someone else, if he is sleeping with me? Or should I expect to be told.

– Seems Like a Mess for So Many Reasons, Boston

A: It's not too soon to re-check your status, SLAMFSMR. All you need to say is, "I'm enjoying this more and more and I'd rather not see other people while I figure out where this relationship might go. I'm also not comfortable sleeping with someone who's sleeping with other people." Then ask him how he feels.

People do a lot of weird, passive-aggressive things -- sometimes unintentionally -- when they start a new relationship. You put this guy off to spare your ex's feelings. He put you off to see his own ex. But this relationship is now a few months older and you can safely say that he makes your heart glow. If he knows for a fact that he doesn't want to be with you beyond these casual dates, you need to know.

Just make sure that your question isn't too intimidating. He can't tell you exactly how he feels about you and what he'll want in six months. He can only tell you whether he's having a good time and wants to try for more.

If you don't ask and you continue to date other people as a defense mechanism, you're prolonging the passive-aggressive and tainting what could be a great relationship. Set an example and give him with some honesty.

Readers? Is it time for her to ask about their relationship or is it too soon? Should she continue to date other people? Is it weird that he put her off to pursue his ex? What's happening here? Help.

– Meredith

Her best friend is causing trouble

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

Q: Hey Meredith,

I'm 24 and have been dating a wonderful girl for almost 8 months. We have a great relationship and recently moved in together. My problem isn't with her, but rather with her best friend!

The friend is one of those people who won't allow others around them to be happy if they aren't. My girlfriend has told me that the friend has never liked any of her ex-boyfriends. The friend and I have always gotten along until recently, when my relationship with my girlfriend became more serious and we moved in together. Since then the friend has instigated fights with me by saying passive aggressive things and even tried to drag my girlfriend into it. To give you a little background, the friend and my girlfriend lived together for the past year until we moved in together so we've all had a lot of exposure to each other. My girlfriend is starting to get fed up with the shenanigans that this girl keeps pulling, but she's afraid to lose her best friend since they've been besties for 11 years.

I keep trying to tell her that if this girl were really her friend she would want her to be happy, but my girlfriend is afraid of losing her even when she's starting all this drama. I'm not one to give ultimatums, but I'm really at a loss for what I should!

I need help!

And for the record, I strongly believe the problem isn't that the girlfriend's best friend is romantically interested in me. I knew her before I started dating my girlfriend.


– Fed up with the Bestie, Mass.

A: You must remain kind, FUWTB. And please, stop telling your girlfriend that her bestie isn't really her friend. That's just not true.

This is going to be a rough transition for your girlfriend and her friend, and you just have to let them get through it. They're in their mid-20s and coping with so much change. I'm not excusing the bestie's bad behavior but I'm not shocked by it. She's acting out because she's scared. You have to combat her bad attitude by smiling and making her feel welcome in your home.

My guess is that the bestie is lonely, jealous, threatened, and perhaps a little bit annoyed that your relationship progressed so quickly. You mentioned that you moved in with your girlfriend after eight months of dating. Did your girlfriend break a lease with bestie by choosing to live with you? Was this an inconvenience? Did bestie expect to live with your girlfriend for another year?

Their friendship is going to evolve into something less intense because it just can't remain this way forever. Bestie will eventually focus more on her own life, and she and your girlfriend will become less tethered, for better and worse.

In the meantime, your best bet (when you really start to lose it) is to excuse yourself from the room and let your girlfriend and her bestie have some space. Don't participate in fights. Don't play games.

This woman has been around for 11 years and you're only eight months into this relationship. Don't encourage your girlfriend to drop her friend. Just stay calm and set an example.

Readers? What's happening here? Am I right about him just staying quiet? Is he allowed to protect himself? Is this about the eight months thing? Or about being 24? Will this get better? When can he speak up? Discuss.

– Meredith

I drove her away

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

Q: Hi Meredith,

I met my girlfriend in college. We instantly hit it off and fell deeply in love very quickly.

Things were going great. After I graduated I decided to go to grad school and she was happy to come along. We moved in together that year; this was 5 years ago. We have lived together ever since. She is loving, kind, intelligent, and beautiful. My family loves her and she loves them. About a year ago, we decided to move to Boston to pursue bigger and better things. We did not know anyone except for a couple of college friends who happen to live in Boston. We transplanted our life together, and I had plans of proposing to her as soon as I found a steady job.

During the first several months in Boston, I went through a depression about my job search, which was difficult. My girlfriend was supportive and caring, but at the same time she was growing very tired of the situation and said she felt like she was walking on eggshells. It is also true that I have in the past shown a very dark side as far as my temper and mood swings are concerned. I want to make clear that I never touched her, but I would yell and fly off the handle. I never called her ugly names or insulted her, but I will admit that I was condescending and used a mean tone of voice. I have also become less romantic over the years, perhaps even letting her feel as if I didn't care about her.

She eventually told me that she has been going to a counselor about our situation, and that the counselor has informed her that she has to figure out things for herself before committing time to working on our relationship. My girlfriend has asked me for space and says that she does not know if our situation is fixable.

Since this conversation, I have been an absolute wreck. I admit my faults and I know that I can be difficult, but this is the woman that I want to spend the rest of my life with. I have no idea what to do. I have spoken to my family about this and they have helped me out in feeling better about the situation, but I still don't know how to approach it. We live together and we made an enormous move to Boston. I have finally found a job and hoped to propose soon.

I want to give her time to figure out the things that are in her head, but in the meantime I have been left with a huge void in my life. I feel as if I don't know how to act around her anymore. Please help me out, and let me know if this is something that can be fixed.

– Confused and heartbroken, Mass.

A: Is she still in the apartment? Do you see her every day? If so, just enjoy your time with her. Ask her questions. Try to relax with her. For now, take marriage off the table.

You messed up and you can't change that. All you can do is let her know how you feel and show her that you want to do whatever you can to make this work for both of you. Tell her that you'll join her in counseling. Tell her that you'll go to counseling on your own -- because you need it. Explain that your goal is to make her feel good again, even if that means having to leave her alone for a while. You're allowed to say, "I'm scared to lose you and I want to give you what you need."

There is no Control-Z in relationships. You messed up and can't hit "undo." Your only plan of action should be to support her as she makes decisions, ask her how you can help, and try to figure out how you can better cope with bad feelings in the future. You can't promise her that this won't happen again if you don't figure out why you behave the way you do, so get to work. Let her see that you're making this a priority.

Readers? Did he ruin what he had? How can he prove to her that he can make her happy? Can he make her happy? What should he do? How will this end? Help.

– Meredith

Our sex life isn't what it used to be

Posted by Meredith Goldstein April 26, 2012 08:32 AM

Q: Hey Meredith,

I feel kind of silly writing in about this but it's a real issue. Let's get right to it without any food-related innuendo (I promise no grilled cheese euphemisms here).

Basically, I am in a phenomenal relationship. My fiance and I -- both in our early 30s -- are like puzzle pieces. All of the obnoxious cliches are true. We are best friends, we never fight, we have each other's best interests in mind, etc. etc. There is no doubt that I want to be near this person on the regular for the rest of my life.

But one thing has gone mysteriously missing ... our sex life. And I'm scared about that. Now I know all about the end of the "honeymoon period" where you're amazed that you even got dressed long enough to leave the house. I know that moving in together can also take some of the steam and sizzle out of the bedroom. We don't have any weird expectations about it happening every night, so it's not even like there's too much pressure on it. What I'm afraid might be happening has unfortunately been confirmed by others who have been in very long relationships or have been married: we're becoming roommates.

We are still very much physically attracted to each other and still in love so it's not disinterest in that sense. But I guess the easiest way to put it is that we just don't think about it as often anymore. I know I was starting to feel that way and so I asked him about it, and he admitted that despite being a guy and the fact that he could pretty much be ready at the drop of a hat if I was so inclined, he doesn't just sit around thinking about it. We've both just become content with each other's company and friendship, and I'm really afraid of letting that comfort level overtake sexual intimacy, which I believe is a really vital ingredient to a healthy, successful relationship.

My bottom line is that I don't know how to make myself get in the mood or how to put us back to a place where it's a priority again without making it this weird agenda item that feels insincere and forced. I find that I often have a hard time relaxing enough to want it, and sometimes, even if the whole mood is set (candles, wine, etc.), I still have a hard time being present. I thought 30s were the sexual peak for women!? I feel slightly defective, and we're not even married yet!

How can we regenerate our sex life in a way that doesn't feel forced or inauthentic? Have your readers in long-term relationships gone through this? How do we avoid the roommate curse on our otherwise perfect relationship?

Thanks for any and all advice,

– Friends with No Benefits, Boston

A: This is about time, FWNB. Sex tends to happen when you're 100 percent focused on your partner -- when you're really listening to them, when you notice the way they breathe ... the way they return your stare. (Cue the Sade.)

In the beginning of a relationship, focus is easy because of the infatuation. But when you get into a daily routine with someone you love, you have to make time to shut out the rest of the world.

Yes, you guys live together. But do you actually have time for flirtatious dinners and naps that involve more than just napping? I'm not talking about cheesy, "inauthentic" dates with candles. I'm talking about real hangout time. Make sure that your quality hours together aren't just about paying bills, planning a wedding, and eating in front of the television quickly so that you can pass out before the next day.

Also, sex is great and all, but hand-holding is a lovely gateway drug. I'm not talking about walking-down-the-street hand-holding. I'm talking about we're-on-the-couch-and-touching-just-for-the-sake-of-it hand action (yeah, I just said hand action -- be grown-ups). When you get close for no good reason, your brain is reminded of the possibilities.

Make time. Stay relaxed. Don't put too much pressure on yourself. Work the gateway drug. Evaluate again after a few more months.

Readers? Is this normal? Any suggestions? Will their sex life return? Does it ever get better? What can they do without trying too hard? Tips, please.

– Meredith

He won't exercise

Posted by Meredith Goldstein April 25, 2012 06:36 AM

Q: Hi Meredith!

My boyfriend and I have been together for a little over 2 years. We are in our mid-to-late 20s, live together, have pets, talk about marriage and kids, but are in no rush to take the plunge ... just enjoying what we have and where we are for now.

When we first started dating, we would go on hikes and other athletic activities together 4 to 5 days a week. I was a runner by hobby and being active was a big part of my life. He enjoyed being active and shared an interest in staying physically fit as well. After we moved in together, it became more and more difficult to get him to join me in the gym or just a walk outside. After a minor running injury last fall, I found myself sitting on the couch with my boyfriend and becoming sedentary. Depression set in and I (and my boyfriend) gained weight. We were both in a rut.

A few months ago, I picked myself up and decided to make a lifestyle change. I'm back into a workout routine where I'm constantly challenged and setting goals. I have a more positive outlook, I'm noticeably happier, and I'm getting back into a body I'm more comfortable in. I'm working on becoming the best me I can be, not just for myself, but for my relationship. I know that only when you are happy with yourself, can you extend that happiness to your partner.

Here's my dilemma: I need to get my boyfriend off the couch. He's still in a rut and I KNOW he was 100x happier when he was physically active (he's told me so). I know his weight gain has bothered him and he often talks about how he used to be healthier and athletic. I've asked him to run, weightlift, elliptical (anything!) with me, but he doesn't want to. I've encouraged him to work out on his own by telling him how much I enjoy a little alone time with my thoughts, but he doesn't want to do that either. We have tons of workout equipment in our apartment, I have a gym membership that allows me to bring a guest, and we live near some beautiful state parks with trails. I don't know what to do. I love him and I'm crazy about him (he can make me laugh like no one else), but I see so much potential in him to be so much happier with himself ... he doesn't get it. Honestly, I don't have a problem with his weight gain. I'm just as attracted to him now as when we first met. It has everything to do with his attitude. He never wants to do anything and he's crabbier more often than he used to be. The most I can convince him to do is occasionally go for a walk, but after less than a mile, he calls it quits.

I'm all for separate interests and individuality, but it's hard to come home after accomplishing a small victory in the gym to my boyfriend who’s only interested in the TV. I'd love to hear about his accomplishments for the day, but other than work, he's not doing anything.

It almost seems like the more I accomplish in my athletic life, the less he wants to hear about it. I mean, I trained for months for an intense team relay race across the state and I couldn't get him to come to watch one of my three legs of the race (and it went right through our town!). He's supportive in other ways, but when he chooses not to be a part of such a big accomplishment like that it really hurts my feelings. He shows almost no interest when I come home after accomplishing a personal best lift or shed a few seconds off of my mile pace, so I've stopped talking about it.

I guess my questions would be: How can I convince my boyfriend to get off the couch and experience things (like he used to)? Am I trying to change someone who doesn't want to be changed, or trying to bring out the best in someone? Should I lay off of him and hope he eventually comes around when he gets sick of being in his rut? Any and all advice is greatly appreciated!

– Running for Help, Mass.

A: Lay off, RFH. I get what you're trying to do, but he wants a girlfriend, not a personal trainer. You can tell him that you're worried about him based on his moods, but please stop trying to get him to run around and then celebrate your athletic accomplishments. I'm sure that he's proud of you, but it's probably tough for him to separate your milestones from his own habits and how you feel about them.

Something tells me that you're more aggressive about exercise this time around and that it's making him feel lonely. You used to like hikes. Then you liked television. Now you're someone who sets new lifting records. He probably wants a happy medium.

My advice is to stop with the exercise talk and ask him out. If he's not doing anything, maybe he wants to go to the movies. Or to the library. Or to a nice restaurant. Maybe you can take one of your gym nights and turn it into a great date night. Prove that you want to spend time with him without training him.

I'm not blaming you for any of this, by the way. It's great that you're active. I just think that he's overwhelmed -- and that he's never going to be the type of guy who's into relay races. I mean, was he ever that guy? Focus on improving the time you spend together without connecting your activities to weight loss. Understand that watching TV with someone can actually be a really great way to bond. Maybe if you drop the issue for a while he'll find exercise on his own terms, without an audience.

Readers? Is it so terrible that he watches TV every night? Is she too obsessed with working on her fitness? Should she drop the subject or should she be worried about him? What should she do? Help.

– Meredith

Ambivalent about the man of my dreams

Posted by Meredith Goldstein April 24, 2012 07:20 AM

Q: Dear Meredith,

I've been a longtime reader of your column and finally have a problem that I think is worthy of your attention!

My boyfriend and I have been together for over 4 years. We met in college and now live together. Like any long-term couple, we have been through ups and downs but have managed to work through it all. We share similar life values, money styles, parenting beliefs, and career ambitions. We are on the same page about having a family, how we want to raise our kids, and how we see our future going.

He is a wonderful person -- funny and smart, hard-working, stable, kind, and totally committed to me. Whenever we talk about the future, he always says that he doesn't care when we get married, but he wants to spend the rest of his life with me and so he's ready whenever I am.

And that's the problem. When I think about marrying him, I have to wonder if he's really the right person. Maybe I'm expecting a fairy tale, but I just feel like something is missing. We don't really have a spark anymore and the passion from our relationship has definitely dwindled. We have sex, but it feels like I'm having sex with a close friend, not the man of my dreams. When I think about raising kids with him or buying a house with him, I know he would be the most wonderful partner. But when I think about passion and romance and sex, I come up empty.

I tell myself that real love is built on mutual respect and willingness to work things out, that sex comes and goes ... and isn't a man who thinks I'm beautiful and wonderful and wants to have a life with me more important than bed-rockingness? But still, there's a voice in the back of my head that says, "This is it?"

I think about leaving but the idea of someone else being with him and having to start over alone always stops me. Leaving him would mean completely changing my life -- giving up my home and my life partner.

So do I break things off now because I don't feel the spark? Or am I just waiting for a Disney princess ending that doesn't exist? I'm afraid that I'm never going to meet someone who I respect like my boyfriend and who treats me so well, but I also want a life that's filled with passion and someone who knocks my socks off.

– Ambivalent, NYC

A: This hurts to write, but you have to let him go. You found a husband long before you were ready to have one. You're already wondering who else might knock your socks off. This isn't an I-fear-the-grass-is-greener question; this is about you being bored of your grass altogether.

If I told you that a socks-rocking guy was already waiting in the wings, you'd bolt, right? You can't start a marriage if that's how you feel.

You mention the fear of being alone. You mention the fear of someone else snagging your wonderful guy. But you seem less concerned about having to go through new experiences without him by your side.

After four years of dating, some people are begging for a ring. You're looking for a way to avoid one.

You said it best: "I don't feel the spark." That's your answer. After four years of dating the perfect guy, that's where you are.

Readers? She seems to have it all. Any way she can save this? Can she get the spark back? If she bails will she regret it? Is this a Disney princess issue? What should she do? Help.

– Meredith

Can I bring up marriage at 5 months?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein April 23, 2012 08:11 AM

Please say hi.

Q: Dear Meredith,

About 5 months ago, I met a great guy. He is nice, funny, and most importantly, "normal." So far this has been one of the healthiest relationships I have had in a long time. However, there is one problem: He's 27 and I'm 30. Like most women my age, I am looking for someone who is looking for a more serious commitment. And when I say serious, I of course mean marriage and family. I'm not saying I want/need all of this tomorrow, but I would like for this to happen within the next few years.

All of my friends are engaged or married and naturally it's something I want as well. My problem is that I don't believe this new man in my life (let's call him Frank) is ready for all of this. Frank still lives at home and never discusses these topics with me. Now I understand that it has only been five months and I am rushing into things here, but I want to know that these are things he is hoping for as well. My question is, do I stay and hope that within the next few years (if we are still dating) that he will want marriage, etc. -- or do I leave and hope to find someone else who wants those things that I want right now? Also, do I bring the subject up (and how, without scaring him off)? I don't need to hear that he is going to want to marry me tomorrow, but I would like to have the peace of mind of knowing that this is something he thinks about and that I'm not wasting my time.

Please help!

– Ringless in Rockland

A: It's too soon to ask this guy whether he's ever going to marry you, but it's not too soon to talk about life goals. That's a part of the dating process no matter how old you are. High school kids talk about whether they see themselves in college. New grads talk about whether they want to move to the same city. Sixty-something retirees talk to new partners about how they'd like to spend their free time.

You're absolutely allowed to ask your "normal" guy what he wants to do with himself over the next few years. He'll probably ask you too, and then you can say, "I want to be happy. I also want to be married to someone awesome who makes me laugh."

In another six months you can have a more specific conversation, but for now you can get a lot from a few discussions about hopes and dreams. If he tells you that his dream is to still be living at home in two years -- or to move to another country -- you can make decisions accordingly. But if he says, "In two years I want to be in my own place with an amazing girlfriend" ... well, that's a start. If he says, "I have no idea what I want," well, that's just honest -- and at least he'll know where you stand.

Five months isn't about big answers -- it's about asking a million little questions.

Readers? Is their age difference significant? Should she bring this up at all? Will it help to keep the focus on herself and her own wants and needs? When can she have a real discussion about marriage? Should she bail now? Help.

– Meredith

They bail after a month

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

Q: Hi Meredith,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Meredith

Should I let her go this soon?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein April 19, 2012 08:21 AM

Q: Hi Meredith,

I have a relationship question and I'd appreciate some insight -- mostly because I'm uncomfortable with the advice that my friends are giving me.

I'm 37 years old and still single. I live alone, am gainfully employed, and either 1) I'm generally disinterested in what I perceive to be the requirements of being in a relationship, or 2) I just haven't found someone I'm truly interested in. Most of friends are married and having kids, and these are the guys I've gone to for advice.

Right now I'm dating a woman who's smart, good looking, and for the most part easy to get along with. It turns out she's also a little insecure, and any issue we've had over the past two months has been about "the attention I give her" (she wants more). We typically see each other once or twice a week, and touch base one other time (text or phone call). Ultimately, to me, it just seems that she's more into this relationship than I am.

Now here's where opinions diverge. I believe I should tell this woman (who's 30 years old and likely pursuing her own relationship goals in life) that this just isn't working out with the understanding that we'd either be seeing more of each other (if I was on her wave-length) or she wouldn't be upset with how often we see each other (if she were on mine). I see this as responsible.

My friends, however, have accused me of being a patronizing idiot who's over-thinking the situation. "Do what you want," they counsel, "and be super clear about where you stand, and she'll do what's best for her." To my question of whether someone with self-esteem issues would ever break-up with someone unless it was unbearable, they simply say "this is why you're still single." I certainly don't want to think or act for two people (another of my friends' charges), but I guess I think in a healthy relationship you shouldn't have to.

And so I'm kicking this one upstairs for further review. Am I over-thinking this relationship? Are my friends counseling me to string her along? What else should I consider (if anything)?

– Damned if I do or don't, NJ

A: Has it really only been a few months, DIIDOD? If that's the case, you need to give this more time. You're just starting to get to know her.

You also need to stop referring to this woman's self-esteem issues -- because I'm not convinced that she has any. She wants to see you more often. That doesn't mean that she's some wilting flower who feels bad about herself. Please don't frame her loving qualities as personality flaws.

My advice, besides hanging on, is to increase the number of times you see her in a week. Invite her over to watch TV. See if it's fun to have her around more often. I completely understand that you don't want to string her along or make decisions for two people, but you're not doing that just yet. You're figuring this out for yourself because you're clueless. You don't know how you feel about her. If after more time with her you become increasingly ambivalent, sure, by all means, let her go.

The big thing to understand is that this woman isn't a ball of issues just because she wants attention. Humans like attention. You wouldn't want to date a robot. Get to know this human a little bit more and test your limits so that you can make an educated decision about what you really want.

Readers? Should he let this woman go? What do you think of what his friends are telling him? Are there self-esteem issues here? Should he date someone who's more like him? Help.

– Meredith

When will I be forgiven?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein April 17, 2012 08:22 AM

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.

– Meredith

I lack experience

Posted by Meredith Goldstein April 16, 2012 08:35 AM

Happy Patriots Day.
Happy Marathon Monday.
Because it's a holiday, I'm running a letter that's urgent -- but similar to another letter that we dealt with last year.
Be kind. Stay hydrated.

Q: Dear Meredith,

I have an awkward issue that until recently I was never embarrassed to admit. I'll be turning 28 in a few months and I've never been in a serious relationship and am still a virgin. For some vague background: I had some serious life issues in high school and a social life was the last thing on my mind. By the time I got to college, I was just trying to calm down and relax, and was more interested in friendship and my schoolwork. After college, there was more turbulence in my life and when everything finally straightened out, the last thing I wanted to do was enter a relationship. I went through some rough years and I admit I had some trust issues because of it.

My life has finally been on a good path for the past year or so, and I figured it was time to explore that unknown territory of dating. Going on dates isn't my problem. The problem is letting anything progress into a relationship or having sex. To be honest, I never thought I should be ashamed of my lack of experience, but I know people can be cruel about it. People tend to either laugh in disbelief and pity, think I'm joking, or wonder what's wrong with me. And I know that you're supposed to go through the awkward learning stages of dating and sex in high school and college. I'm pretty sure men my age won't find it charming to have to take on the responsibility of teaching me about sex and dating. I've found that they're usually looking for someone who has it all together.

So, I need some advice on what to do. Am I worrying too much about this? Is my problem weird? How do I go about admitting to someone that I'm almost 30 and completely new at this?

– New at this, Boston

A: First of all, no one has it all together. Second, you have life experience that others don't have. While your peers were dating and having sex, you were learning how to get through tough times on your own. That makes you experienced. Just in a different way.

We learn from every relationship, which means that when you start dating someone new, you'll have plenty to teach.

My advice is to get comfortable with your status in your own head and understand that even the most sexually experienced people fumble through new relationships. Ignore anyone who is cruel -- but if someone scoffs because they are surprised, give them a moment to recover and apologize.

Also, you don't have to volunteer this information until you're ready to disclose the other details about your past (those serious life issues). Something tells me that if you put your lack of experience in context, it won't be that much of a shock.

There's no right time to tell someone this stuff, but you should probably wait until you're having one of those lets-share-everything conversations. And when you're having that talk, make sure you ask him about his life. He'll have his own stories to tell and they might make you scoff in surprise.

Readers? When should she volunteer this? Is it a big deal? Are people really cruel about this stuff? Discuss.

– Meredith

He doesn't want to get married

Posted by Meredith Goldstein April 13, 2012 08:29 AM

Q: Dear Meredith,

I am a successful, never-been-married woman in her late 30s who has been in a wonderful relationship with a divorced man in his late 40s for about 18 months. By all accounts, this has been the most fulfilling relationship I have ever been in on many levels. He is a funny, loving, smart, and generous man who is also a standout father to his three (now older) children from his previous marriage. His children have grown up to be smart and polite human beings who also treat me with great respect and for whom I have grown to care deeply.

So where does my problem lie? Well my boyfriend made it clear initially that he never wants to get married again. He had a terrible first marriage and his parents also had difficulties in theirs. He has also has seen the marriage of many of his friends end in bitter divorce, whereas I was raised with parents who have been blissfully married for 50+ years and I have many friends in (seemingly) happy marriages. Of course I thought that I could change his mind over time, but I am beginning to realize I was naive in thinking so. Over the years my perception of the importance of marriage has diminished to some degree, and I truly believe my boyfriend and I could have a great long term relationship for many years to come. That being said, I almost feel like I am selling myself short in this deal as I have been nothing but a wonderful girlfriend and often ask myself why I need to pay the price now for his ex-wife's terrible behavior?

By stating he will never again remarry, I take it as a personal insult that I myself am not good enough to marry, which I know is not the case. My dilemma now is whether to stay in this (almost) totally fulfilling relationship and just try to come to peace with the fact that it won't end in marriage, or do I cut my losses and hope to find something half as fulfilling with someone I might not care as deeply about, but who is at least willing to show long-term commitment to me? I am hoping your readers who are married can shed some light on the big question here: "Is marriage totally overrated and should I just be happy with what I have got?"

– Do I need a ring to make me happy, Cambridge

A: We're not really talking about marriage here, DINARTMMH. This is about love and commitment. You want to be with someone who plans to stick around, even when things get rough. There's nothing overrated about that.

If your guy told you that he wanted to grow this relationship with the hope of being together forever, would you be satisfied? If he began to treat you like a partner -- as opposed to a girlfriend -- would it be enough? I think it would. Because you don't seem desperate for a ring or a wedding. You just want to know that he feels bound to you.

Many people aren't comfortable with the idea of marriage. That doesn't mean that they can't commit. Your guy, however, seems to be saying that he doesn't buy into the idea of lifelong relationships. And you do. That's not good.

You don't want to be a girlfriend forever. Talk to him and explain your needs. Find out what he wants ... as opposed to what he wants to avoid. If he intends to keep things status quo forever, you can't stick around. You're capable of so much more.

Readers? Should she be happy with what she has? Is this about marriage or commitment? Do you think he's more committed to her than he lets on? Is her age relevant? Should she even settle for a committed non-marriage? Help.

– Meredith

Is this love or lust?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein April 12, 2012 08:26 AM

Q: I love your column. There are so many entries about how to conduct yourself in a relationship. My problem is that I don't really know how to have a relationship, and that I want one with a younger man I recently met. The man is a dreamboat -- smart, funny, witty, handsome, driven, and a successful actor. He is five years younger than I am (he is in his mid-20s). We have intense physical and mental chemistry. We've only been out five or more times and were intimate on our second date (which was amazing). Now I can't do anything except think about him. I want to see him and be with him all of the time. I know I really want a relationship because I haven't had a serious relationship ... basically ever. The actor and I have discussed our past dating history. He knows where I'm coming from, and we agreed that we wouldn't put any pressure on the relationship and would see how things go. He doesn't seem like a player -- but I am so skeptical.

He continually stops by my place but also has joked that he is fine with me "until someone better comes along." He really seems to like being with me and is very emotionally and physically aware of how great our chemistry is when we are together. When we are apart, however, he doesn't go out of his way to ask me how I'm doing, and he's not taking me out for dinners and walks along the harbor (I'm a romantic, can you tell?).

I have dated men who have "wined and dined" me, however the chemistry was never there. With this younger man, the chemistry is there but I am pessimistic about whether he will want a mature relationship or one that makes me feel emotionally fulfilled and loved. Am I wasting my time? Should I stick through it and possibly get hurt in the end? (Did I mention he is very sexy and verrrry attractive???)

Thanks, Meredith...

– In Lust or In Love?, Boston

A: You're in lust and it sounds fantastic, ILOIL.

Not every relationship is meant to go the distance. And sometimes we get hurt by the mature guys who wine and dine us. All I know is that you're enjoying this, so by all means continue.

Usually relationships like this run their course in their own time. Yours will either get deeper and more satisfying ... or it'll start to feel very, very shallow, and the actor's verrrry attractive face will become less stunning because your emotional needs will begin to cancel out the physical.

I don't like his "until someone better comes along" joke, but I assume it's just a joke. It's certainly not a deal-breaker, because frankly, after five dates or so, you don't know whether you might dump him if someone better comes along.

You want this right now and you're learning, which means it's not a waste of time. Go have fun. Stare at the phone. Make out with your very sexy actor. Just stay on top of your feelings and be honest with yourself if/when the relationship turns from exciting to tiring. And in the meantime, if you want to take a long walk by the harbor, just ask. He's learning too. Be clear about your needs.

Readers? Is there any potential here? Does there have to be? What about his not-so-nice joke? Is this just a fling? Is it relevant that he's an actor? Is she as inexperienced as she thinks she is? Help.

– Meredith

Why didn't it work?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Meredith

I fell for his friend

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– What do I do?, Anywhere

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Meredith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Utterly Confused, Worcester

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Meredith

He lied about having a girlfriend

Posted by Meredith Goldstein April 5, 2012 08:32 AM

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.

– Meredith

Are we still getting married?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein April 4, 2012 08:11 AM

We chat at 1.

Q: Hi Meredith,

I am in a world of confusion and not quite sure where to go from here. My girlfriend and I met in college. We hit it off immediately and had a great, loving, and passionate relationship. She is from another state and I'm from Massachusetts. At the time of graduation, I offered to look for jobs in her home state so that she could return to her family's farm. It was my No. 1 priority to stay with the woman I love. She expressed no interest in returning down there, saying that she wanted to stay in Massachusetts. All of her friends were here and staying together was important to us. She also said that she wanted to get married. I agreed; we loved each other so much it was the best plan for us. I was thrilled and was lucky enough to find a great job in Boston. I bought us a house and eventually proposed to her about a year after graduation. This is when the problems started.

After the initial excitement of getting engaged and we started to settle down and make wedding plans, I noticed some problems. She was burning through jobs. It ended up being nearly 4 in a 5 month stretch. She's also become very paranoid. I constantly find her going through my phone, email, and bills. When I catch her, she usually makes a joke. She stopped making wedding plans and her attitude changed to "we will figure it out as we go."

Then things came to a head. Two days after she asked a family member of mine to be a bridesmaid, she said she was leaving and moving home for a while to help with the farm. After being gone for six years, I was a little taken aback but I understood and I ended up visiting her just about every weekend. She promised that she would eventually come home but didn't. My visits started to turn worse, she began to ignore me and make plans with other people. After a recent visit, I got a text message saying we should postpone the wedding. I was devastated and horribly confused.

I have tried talking with her, her response is usually, "I don't want to talk about this," then she either hangs up or changes the subject. I've been advised by some not to force discussion. I really don't know where to go from here. I love this woman, but I am very hurt. I planned my life around her and she just turns on me in such a short time. All of my friends and family said that she was constantly discussing wedding plans with them. Where did this come from? Is this worth fighting for or should I accept this is the end of the road and cut ties? I am really hoping for some advice on this!

– Where to go, Brookline

A: Sometimes relationships that work in college just don't seem as rosy a year or two after graduation, WTG. Your girlfriend/fiancee obviously didn't know what kind of life she wanted when she signed up for this big commitment. And as we all know, planning a wedding isn't the same thing as planning a marriage. She's been capable of choosing bridesmaids because that's part of the fun, but has she been capable of discussing what she'll want from your relationship in five years?

I understand that you've been advised not to nag her about all of this, but how can you not?

My advice is to tell her how you perceive the situation and what you need right now to keep yourself sane. You can say, "Based on what's happening in our lives, I assume that this wedding is off and that we're both taking some time to reevaluate what we want. I'd like to stop talking about the wedding and start thinking about whether we should stay together at all, and if so, how we should proceed.”

She's given you time for yourself so use it, please. Consider what you want from her. She was one thing in college but has become something else. Do you want to be with her now? Should you be pushing her to return?

Her move home is a gift. You were already having doubts. Right now, the idea of a party is distracting everyone. You need to focus on the basics. Take the wedding off the table and see how everybody feels.

Readers? Should he just cut ties now abruptly, or should he follow my advice by calling off the wedding and then reevaluating the relationship? What happened here? Discuss.

– Meredith

She wants commitment from overseas

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

Q: Dear Meredith,

Three years ago I met a wonderful man (let's call him James) online who lives in London. It quickly became apparent that we had an amazing connection. We've visited each other many times since then, met each other's friends and family, and he even stayed with me here in the US last summer. We always have a fabulous time together. I'm crazy about him and he has become a very important person in my life!

The problem is, I'm not sure that he's crazy about me. I get very mixed messages. Although he writes every day, says that he loves and adores me, and we talk often, he still refuses to call me his girlfriend. He says that he would ask me to be his girlfriend if we lived in the same country. He was burned by an American girl some years ago after having gone through the visa process and says that he's terrified to go through that again. He has taken contracting work with a company based in Boston (yay!) but as of now there are no plans to bring him here as a regular employee although this could change in the future. He is unable to visit the US for the next 2 years due to some complex visa issues, so the only way that I will see him is if I am the one to make the trip or if he gets special permission for a business trip.

I am tired of being in this quasi-relationship; I want more. I am so confused as he says that he loves and misses me, but then acts very distant and aloof at times. I know that he has suffered from anxiety and depression in the past and this is still an issue for him and he is not receiving help. James often states that things never work out for him no matter how hard he tries. As of now it seems like the only way to be together would be to fill out fiance visas or for one of us to get a job in the other's country. He's obviously not ready to fill out visa forms if he chokes on the word "girlfriend" and it is very competitive to get a job in London in my field (although I have sent out applications and am trying!). He says that he wishes that our relationship could just unfold naturally. I have told him how I feel and he has said that he thinks that everything will be OK but offers no concrete plans as to how that will happen.

How do you know when to throw in the towel? I almost feel as if I'm gambling... if I put one more quarter in the machine/wait a few more months maybe something will happen to bring us together, which has worked before. I know that being in this quasi-relationship is keeping me from pursuing other options, and while I have great friends and family I often feel lonely. When I was in London in January I gave him a ring and asked him to be my boyfriend. He said that he loves me but can't make that commitment, yet wears the ring every day and raves about how much he loves it, how special it makes him feel, and that he wishes he had money to buy me one too. While I know he cares for me, I am starting to feel that he's stringing me along and likes knowing that someone loves him.

When I was in London last November visiting James I met another guy, we can call him Gavin, at a party. We instantly hit it off. As I was at the party with James, I was doing my best not to flirt, but boy was there a spark with Gavin! He found me on Facebook the next day and sent me a very sweet note. I friended him to make it known to James so that I wouldn't feel that I was being sneaky. A few months ago, I got a note from Gavin that he was taking a break from Facebook, and that started a series of emails back and forth; it started to get a little intense and I felt guilty so I stopped writing back but I thought about him a lot. Last month I got another email from him that has started the email exchange again. He is planning on visiting the US for a week in April and spending a few of those days with me in Boston (I offered to show him around). While Gavin seems interested, I don't know what his intentions are. It could be a steamy visit or it could just be a few friends hanging out! Maybe he just wants a tour guide?! In the last year he ended a very long relationship, so he might not be looking to get into another one any time soon.

So, I've got a lot of questions! Is it time to set James free if he's not willing to make solid future plans or do I keep hanging on, and if so on what conditions? Do I need to tell James about Gavin? At this point I don't even know what to say as Gavin's intentions aren't clear and neither are mine. I don't want to be sneaky, and I really do want to be with James, but I am tired of his mixed messages and have to admit that I am enjoying this attention from Gavin. James and I have no clear rules about our relationship, yet why do I feel like I'm breaking them with Gavin?

Thank you for reading my letter. I'm looking forward to some much needed advice!

– Languishing in Long-Distance Love Near Boston

A: I empathize with James. It seems silly for him to call you his girlfriend when he'll probably only see you a handful of times over the next two years. He's said that he'd commit if you lived nearby, and that's the best he can do. It's horribly frustrating, but why should he make big romantic promises that he just can't keep? All he can say is: "I hope this works out."

My advice is to take another trip over there and meet with some potential employers. If you're serious about making this move, you have to see these people in person and start working the employment opportunities from every angle. Set up meetings. Ask James to ask his friends for help with the job search. Find out whether he can be enthusiastic about helping you become a local. His reaction will be telling. Understand that until you're down the street from him, you just don't know what that ring represents. Push and push to make this happen.

As for Gavin, you're allowed to see him. And you should absolutely tell James that you're playing tour guide. He already knows that you're friends with Gavin, so it shouldn't be a shock. I don't think that Gavin is a real romantic option, but if you find yourself smitten with him, you need to consider that James isn't the only one out there and that maybe you're not ready to take the next big step either. Honestly, your need to commit is more about loneliness than about James. Yes, you love him, but there are so many unknowns. That ring is about hope. That's all you have right now, which is OK.

No matter how it goes with Gavin, push this move forward because you obviously have a thing for London and want answers. Use all of your nervous, frustrated energy to get where you need to be because you won't find any answers as long as you're on this side of the pond.

Readers? Should she be moving for James? Is this about James or about her? Can we talk about Gavin? Should I be advising her to stay here and find a local boyfriend? Should she see Gavin while he's here? And is James doing the right thing by not committing? Is this about his depression? Discuss.

– Meredith

The return of the one that got away

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

Q: Hi Meredith,

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

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

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

Any words of comfort?

– Nostalgia or true love?, Boston

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

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

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

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

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

– Meredith

She never contributes

Posted by Meredith Goldstein March 30, 2012 08:26 AM

Q: Hi Meredith,

I need some advice that I am sure many other male readers could benefit from. I've been dating a great girl for over two months but I need some help in the "money & dating" department. My problem is that every time we go out I pick up the check and don't even get a "thank you" in return. So my issue is twofold. One is the lack of the words "thank you," and the other is -- how long is it appropriate for the guy to always pick-up the tab? I am 30 years old and probably make two or three times as much as she does. She is 26 years old and has a good job but doesn't make much money. On average we see each other 3 or 4 times a week.

Admittedly, I enjoy going to the nicer places in Boston so each date runs around $150-$250 with drinks, cabs, etc. Multiply that by 3 or 4 and you get the weekly expenditures. I've dated a lot, the training wheels were off quite a while ago, but I've never really experienced this issue. First 8 to 10 dates is totally understandable, of course the guy pays. My thought has always been that after that period things don't need to even out but once in a blue moon it really would be appropriate for the girl to at least pay for a round of drinks, maybe a cab ride, maybe for lunch. I've got no issues paying for dinner all the time if I saw at least some minimal hint of reciprocity. Do you think I am being unreasonable here? I'm not asking to split the tab every time ... a simple "thank you" and "let me get this round" would be enough.

This issue is really starting to be on my mind a lot when I am with her. Is this an appropriate subject to bring up with her? What do you think is the right way to approach it? Maybe my time frame is off and it's really the first few months of dating that the guy needs to bankroll? Again, I've been around and never had this issue. Every other girl I've dated said "thank you" and at least covered a lunch tab after some time.

Thanks Meredith!

– Tired of Paying All The Time, Boston

A: I wish you had told us more about why she's so great, TOPATT. Because without having that information, my gut tells me that you have to let her go. The "thank you" thing really bugs me. And while I absolutely empathize with her for being too overwhelmed to even speak when you drop more than $500 a week on dates, she should have said something nice by now. Like, "I want to take you to this cute coffee shop by my place. It's nothing fancy, but it's my treat."

There's something wrong here. She's either too uncomfortable around you to speak up about financial reciprocity (which is pretty much a deal-breaker), or she's the kind of person who's happy to eat $150 meals all week without ever expressing gratitude (also a

If she's really that wonderful otherwise, explain to her that you're happy to go to less expensive places so that she can feel like a financial equal in the relationship. See how she responds to that. But honestly, only pursue that conversation if her behavior at dinner seems out of character. She's a grown-up and should say "Thank you." She should also want to contribute.

There's no gender issue here, by the way. If you ask someone out because you want the pleasure of their company, you'll be expected to pay. But after a date or two, there are no rules.

Readers? Is she just in shock by his lifestyle? How should she be contributing? Are men still expected to pay for more than a few dates? Should he bring this up with her? Help.

– Meredith

Getting over a quick rejection

Posted by Meredith Goldstein March 29, 2012 06:12 AM

I forgot to tell you that I had a doctor's appointment and couldn't chat yesterday. Sorry.

Q: I am a faithful reader of your column and I hope you can steer me in the right direction.

I am in my late 40s, and I went through a divorce about two years ago. The ink was no sooner dry on the divorce agreement when I was laid off. I do my best to keep my chin up and be optimistic, but after almost two years of single fatherhood and unemployment, I have only a part time job and one date to show for it.

I recently met a woman at work. She is in the final stages of her divorce. We talked a couple of times and we connected. I asked her out for coffee and we talked more. I have enjoyed talking with her, and I have felt engaged and challenged like I have never felt before. She is not looking for a serious relationship right now, but would like to have one at some point in the future.

I asked this woman out for coffee again, and I got a note back saying that she did not feel a deeper connection. She went on to say that since we work in the same place, she did not want a relationship with me outside of work (even though because of our schedules, we have almost no interaction at work). She added that there were changes she wanted to make in herself and her life in order to find the kind of relationship she wanted.

I felt confused, disappointed, and hurt. I felt like we did connect, at least enough for me to want to see her again. I can only guess, but I think she was uncomfortable with the fact we both work in the same place. I also think she was uncomfortable with our age difference (she is about 15 years younger). Beyond that, I wonder if I did or said something wrong (like possibly mentioning my children or my ex-wife).

So I am left to wonder what I need to do in order to find someone else. I have a fear of not having someone special in my life and winding up alone. Through the whole process of my divorce and losing my full time job, I have just felt alone. I do know that people (mostly at my church) care and will listen, but I still feel alone. I guess I could use some insight and another point of view.

– Trying to Be Optimistic in Metrowest

A: There are so many reasons why this woman wasn't the woman, TTBOIM. I mean, there's the age difference, her divorce (would you have been ready to date two years ago?), the workplace stuff, and your shared insecurities about the future. As much as water seeks its own level, she's probably looking for someone who can make her feel confident about her new, independent life. You can't be that person for her right now.

You need to stop focusing so much on what you don't have and start making a list of what you want. You know you want a full-time job, so that remains a priority. As for love, what are you looking for? Do you want someone with kids? Do you want someone your age? Who do you think would make a good partner? Honestly, that's what you should be talking about with friends at church. Your friends are supposed to listen to your rants about being lonely, but you can't limit the interaction to just that. It's more productive to ask these people to help you create the life you want for yourself.

As for what you did wrong on your date, well, probably nothing. Again, there were other negative forces at work with this woman. That said, you should keep long rants about sadness and exes to a minimum when you meet someone new. And make sure that you ask a lot of questions and smile. Happiness is attractive. I know that things seem bleak right now, but they're not. You're hunting for a new and exciting job, you're single and free to meet people, and you're a self-aware man who isn't going to push the right person away. If you believe all of that, someone else will too.

Readers? Was he on the right track with this woman at work? Advice about dating while under-employed? Can you give this letter writer a boost? What's happening here? Should he be trying to date at all? Is he asking too much of two years? Help.

– Meredith

His ex is in the way

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

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

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

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

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

– Can't Handle the Ex, Boston

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

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

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

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

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

– Meredith

We have trouble sleeping together

Posted by Meredith Goldstein March 26, 2012 08:32 AM

Q: Dear Meredith,

I need advice with an issue that may seem small in new relationships but I can see it becoming a big deal for long-term relationships and marriages.

I've been with my boyfriend for 2 years in a long-distance relationship. We spend a weekend together once a month and take a week-long vacation once a year. He is a caring, thoughtful, and smart man. We have a great relationship and plenty of laughs together. We really complement each other well ... except for our sleeping pattern. He's an early-to-bed, early-to-rise person. He usually goes to sleep around 10 p.m. and wakes up around 5 a.m. His work schedule fluctuates between the first and second shift, but he seldom goes to sleep later than midnight and almost never wakes up after 7 a.m., even on weekends and during vacations. He also feels sleepy around midday and takes afternoon naps whenever he's not working and especially during vacations. I'm more of a night owl. I usually go to sleep after midnight and wake up around 8 or 9 a.m. My work schedule allows me to do so. I don't like to take naps because I feel like it takes away time that I could be doing something else.

Our sleeping pattern might seem to be a trivial matter. But I wake up whenever he wakes up, and it leaves me feeling really tired. I try to sleep early with him, but find myself just lying there feeling like I could be doing something more productive. We've talked about how our sleeping pattern doesn't mesh too well, and agreed that there must be some compromises when we do live together. Maybe we'll stay out later and sleep in during the weekends. But I'm not sure if this will work for long. It's so ingrained in him to wake up early, and in me to sleep late. So my questions to you and your readers who are in long-term committed relationships with a live-in partner are: How can our sleeping habits mesh more seamlessly? Can it even be seamless? I don't think we should break-up because of this issue, but I do wonder how much it will affect our marriage when we do get married. Any advice and suggestions will be greatly appreciated.


– Need Precious ZZZs, New York

A: This issue is made worse by the distance, NPZZZ. If you can get yourselves to the same place, you'll be able to adjust to a new routine instead of getting shocked once a month.

My big piece of advice is to invest in a king-size bed. I truly believe that all couples who were singles in queen beds should bump themselves up to king when they start sharing with a partner. It's easier to get out of a king bed without waking someone up. It's easier to drool and snore in a king bed without somebody else noticing. It's expensive and consumes a lot of space, but sleep is important. If the bed saves you from bickering and getting sick from lack of rest, it's worth it. If one of you can pull off having a king-size bed now, even before you move to the same place, please go for it. Split the cost.

Also, try to make your current situation as romantic as possible. Put him to bed. Ask him to wake you up with breakfast. See if you can make some of his naps more ... productive.

Readers? Thoughts on my king-size bed idea? Is this a distance thing? Will they find a routine when they live in the same place? Can you tell this letter writer how you deal with sleep? Be helpful.

– Meredith

Meeting men in a new place

Posted by Meredith Goldstein March 23, 2012 08:34 AM

Q: Hi Meredith and company!

I will start off by noting that I am a native of New England who relocated to the Deep South as part of a strategic career move. I continue to read as a way of maintaining my connections to the area and have recently found myself drawn to Love Letters. In light of recent events, I decided to step up to the plate and seek your advice.

Here's a little information about me: I am a single guy in my mid-twenties, educated, with a steady job that I enjoy, an active social life, and a great group of friends. I consider myself to be attractive, easy going, fun to be around, and a genuinely nice person. The least exciting thing about me is that I am gay. My longest, and only, relationship lasted a whopping 4 months when I was in college. After that experience, I took a 6-year hiatus from dating to finish my degree and build a career. This was absolutely the best decision for me and I do not regret it in any way. I am very independent and have never felt that something was missing in my life simply because I wasn't in a relationship. However, now that I am older I realize that it would be nice to spend time with someone I care about.

After 6 years of absolutely no dates, I am having a really hard time meeting guys. I do not know where to begin or how to even put myself out there. Gay bars just aren't my cup of tea and I don't know of any respectable dating websites. The few guys I have interacted with just seem to be looking for a one night stand and not an actual relationship. Can you help me out and get me pointed in the right direction?

– Missteps in the South

A: I can't tell you exactly where to go, MITS, but I can tell you that it's always nice to meet friends of friends of friends. Can you tell some of your new friends -- even if they're at work -- that you're looking for a nice boyfriend? Can you ask neighbors and pals who they know?

I'd also recommend looking up every organization in town to see whether they have any nice clubs and activities. I'm thinking of the Huntington Theatre's "Out and About" program in Boston. There have to be some equivalent groups down where you are.

I have to admit that after reading this letter, I want to give you a talking to about your proclivity to compartmentalize. I understand that you've needed to focus on work, but you can no longer afford to ignore one part of your life while you prioritize another. It's too much pressure. It's why you feel that after a six-year hiatus from the dating world, you suddenly have to dive in deep and focus on finding a boyfriend like it's your new job.

I'm guilty of this kind of compartmentalizing, too. It's easy to say, "I'm going to put 100 percent of my effort into priority 'A,' and ignore priority 'B.'" Truth is, it's better to do A and B at the same time. So try not to put too much pressure on yourself. You're working on your job, building a life, and meeting new people at the same time. It's OK if you only take small steps while you multitask. That's how it works.

Readers? What should he do? And am I right about the compartmentalizing? Anybody else focus on one part of their lives while ignoring the other? Can you give him words of wisdom? Help.

– Meredith

His new girlfriend wants me gone

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

Chat day.

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

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

– Cut Off, Boston

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

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

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

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

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

– Meredith

Has the spark returned?

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

Q: Hi Meredith,

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading!

– Unexpected Feelings, Boston

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

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

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

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

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

– Meredith

It just isn't there for her

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

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

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

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

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

– Hopelessly Holding On, Salt Lake City

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

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

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

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

– Meredith

Should we get engaged before moving in?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein March 15, 2012 08:25 AM

Q: Dear Meredith,

(I am writing this letter on behalf of myself and my boyfriend.)

I have been dating this wonderful guy, "Justin," for almost a year and a half. He is an amazing person and I cannot wait to spend the rest of my life with him. We have purchased a few books along the lines of "1,001 questions to ask before getting married," and have had many of those deep discussions. Though we don't see eye-to-eye on every last thing, we have not found any deal breakers. We appear to agree on the topics that are important to both of us. We would like to get married in the summer of 2013. The problem? We disagree on some of the minor details of how to go from being dating to engaged to married.

Justin would like to live together before we get engaged. On the other hand I am not willing to live together without an engagement and a wedding date set. Some background on both of us. Justin was once engaged, but it did not work out. They did not live together at any point, but Justin believes if they had lived together before becoming engaged the relationship would have ended before a ring appeared. I on the other hand did live with an ex without being engaged. Needless to say it didn't work out and since my ex owned the house, I was the one who needed to move out. Along with moving out of the house I was also out several thousand dollars, which has taken me four years to recoup.

I need to make a choice about renewing the lease on my apartment by the first week of May. I have told Justin if I have a ring by then I am willing to renew my lease for 6 months, which will give us time to pick a venue, date, and allow me to move into the house he owns slowly. If I don't have a ring I am going to renew for a full year. (I have talked to my landlord and they are willing to give me a 6 month lease for about $150 more a month). I am willing to pay that extra money a month for a short term lease for a little while. Justin believes he won't be prepared to propose until late this summer/early fall. He is also upset that I won't trust him enough to follow through on the proposing to sign the shorter term lease without a ring.

We both are a little scared, though we both want the same end result. We want to respect each other’s beliefs and want to spend our lives together. Can you give us any advice on how to get from where we are now to where we want to be without hurting each other? We are turning to you instead of our family and friends since we would like to seek advice from someone neutral.

– Catch 22, Worcester

A: You're not going to like this (well, one of you won't), but I side with Justin. You want him to promise you that he'll definitely want to marry you no matter what, but that promise would be a lie. Yes, the ring would be a real symbol of commitment, but Justin has already told you that he wants to propose by the fall and get married next summer. He doesn't sound like a guy who's looking for reasons to end this.

Some people believe that they have to get married before they live with a partner. For those people, the choice is usually about family, religion, and tradition. But for you it's simply about wanting a promise. That's understandable, but I'm here to tell you that you already have a promise from Justin. He wants this. He just doesn't want to give you the matching accessory and wedding date until he's comfortable and confident. That seems fair to me. If he gave you a ring now, would it really have any meaning? The ring would only symbolize what you want. If you wait until he's ready, the proposal will be a genuine, two-sided gesture.

So yeah, I'm with Justin. I want you to move in there as soon as you can so that he can propose with fanfare in time for you to get married next summer. You both want that. Have faith.

I empathize with all of your concerns, but let's just move this along before the stress of the proposal ruins the 1,001 things that you guys get right.

Readers? Am I right or is Justin in the wrong? Both parties seem to be stressed about what happened with their exes. Should they be making comparisons? Thoughts on a compromise? Help them.

– Meredith

I miss the turbulence

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

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

Q: Meredith,

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

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

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

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

– Will This Mess With My Head, Los Angeles

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Meredith

The return of the exes

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

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

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

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

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

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

– What do I do?, Boston

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Meredith

I'm bad at dating

Posted by Meredith Goldstein March 9, 2012 08:38 AM

I can confirm, by the way, that updates posted on Wednesday's addict letter are legit. I think she posted them at the end of the day.

Q: Meredith,

Please help me get back in the dating game. I have little experience being single and have primarily always been in relationships. As a result, many women who may have been attracted to me had I been single have now grouped me into the "friend zone."

Fast forward to present day. I'm single (under 25), work long hours, and have little time to meet new people. When I do, I focus too much on my own flaws. I feel I have little to offer them and sometimes don't initiate anything further.

My main issue is confidence. I am told I dress well, I'm no model obviously but I'm not a bad looking guy, but I feel I can't compete with the rest of the single guys who are accustomed and know the ins and outs of the dating world. Being single and meeting new people is scary for me, and I've spent the last year feeling as if I'm never going to meet anyone. I feel as if I can't compete with Mr. X who has supremely high confidence, and more experience. Women I deem attractive intimidate me, and I often won't pursue them because I feel as if they won't give me the time of day.

As a result, I tend to settle for girls I feel are more "on my level" even when the women I really would like to get to know (see: more attractive in terms of what I seek, more accomplished career-wise) may be more along the lines of what I am looking for.

My question: How do I resolve my confidence issues (counseling, therapy, going on a few dates?) and is there a more efficient way to meet new people than online dating or the bar scene? Am I setting the bar too low?

Any help, from you, the readers, I assure you is greatly appreciated.

– Looking For Love In All The Wrong Places, Boston

A: This letter reminds me of a letter from January. It was from a guy having a meltdown about something that makes everyone feel meltdown-ish. There's really no way to be a dating pro. No one knows exactly what they're doing. We all worry about being stuffed in the friend zone. We're all equal in this.

I do want you to think about what it means to look for a partner. I receive a lot of letters about standards and "setting the bar too low." My question to you is: Why is there a bar? You shouldn't be categorizing people based on whether you think they're too good for you. You shouldn't be labeling other men as peers or possible threats. Dating isn't about finding someone who meets a set of standards. It's about finding someone you like to be around who wants to be around you too.

So that's my advice. Find a group of people, men and women, who are good company. (You can join teams, alumni groups, etc.) Then think about whether you like any of the women more than the others (enough to kiss them). Don't think about their on-paper statistics. Don't think about what you offer them. Just think about how you get along. That's what matters here.

You're welcome to go to a therapist and talk about your confidence, but your problem is really about how you perceive the dating world. It's not a competition. It's just about finding someone you like.

Readers? We do get a lot of letters about dating and standards. Is that the right way to look at the dating experience? Can you give this guy a reality check? Help.

– Meredith

Dating a recovering addict

Posted by Meredith Goldstein March 7, 2012 08:31 AM

It's chat day.

Q: Dear Meredith,

I met my most recent boyfriend (now ex) at church. He's an alcoholic/addict. We're in our mid-20s. When I first met him, he was smoking pot (more and more as time progressed) and drinking a lot. We slept together the first time we hung out. In the beginning, we were happy and had fun, although I always noticed he seemed unable to have reciprocal conversations. About six months into our relationship, he decided to get sober again, but declined to go to AA or NA meetings. He took on more things in his life (music, school) and had less and less time and mental space for me, as well as himself. We were together for more than a year.

I recently expressed my issues with his inability to be present and engage me in conversation, as well as his lack of time to spend with me. He felt attacked, got defensive, and broke up with me a few days later. He told me that unless I could accept who he is and think of a way to move forward, he felt that we were out of options to continue our relationship.

Then last night we went for a walk. He told me that he wants to make time for me and for himself. That he realizes now that he is just dry and the things I've been wanting in him (and him for himself) occur naturally when he is in a program. He apologized for blaming everything on me and explained that he is now seeing that he was just being stubborn, and the things I wanted were not hard for him to provide. He said he wanted to cut down on his involvements so he can have a personal life again (he literally spends all of his free time doing homework and music). I told him I wasn't sure, that he broke my heart and I don't know if I should compromise on my needs from a partner.

I told him that I wasn't totally closed off to the idea of seeing how he is when he's in a program. We wound up being intimate that night and were both confused afterwards. He kept asking what it meant, and feeling scared that he had ruined his chance of being with me. I'm feeling a little foolish, unsure of where my desire to be with him is coming from. Would it be totally ridiculous to see if this could work?

– Confused in Arizona

A: It sounds like your ex has a lot of potential and that he's working hard to create a better life for himself, CIA, but I'm not so sure about what's going on in your head.

What drew you to him in the first place? What compelled you to stick around when you realized there were problems? Did you feel obligated to stay? Or was it something more?

Rather than focusing on this guy's habits, I want you to focus on you. See a (say it with me everybody) therapist and talk about what comes next in your life, with or without him. I don't know enough about your past to make guesses about why you were with someone who wasn't capable of "reciprocal conversations," but something tells me that it's been easier for you to worry about him than it's been to focus on yourself.

While you figure this out, please be honest with him. Tell him that you don't know what you're doing and that this isn't just about whether he can cut it as a boyfriend. You're not sure about your own motives and you're also in a period of self-discovery.

He's learning how to have a personal life without succumbing to temptation. You're learning about why you need a partner, how you choose one, and what fills your life. For now, I'd put this whole thing on hiatus -- not because I think he's going to relapse, but because you both need to sort out your motivation for being with each other and what you want and need as individuals. Take some space.

Readers? Am I right to say that this is just as much about her as it is about him? He's in a program now and seems quite motivated, so should she stick around to see how it goes? What's happening here? Discuss.

– Meredith

He's bad with money

Posted by Meredith Goldstein March 6, 2012 08:29 AM

Q: Dear Meredith,

I have been with my boyfriend for a little over 2.5 years. We started out very passionate and head over heels for each other. He's very kind, understanding, funny, handsome, and intelligent. My family and friends adore him. But lately, when I sit down and think about our future together, it's hard to envision.

This is due to the fact that he has very, very, very poor money management skills and is always spending too much on short term things (a new truck, bars, clothes) and never saving for a ring, a home, and the things I am looking toward now. There have been times when he leaned very heavily on me for financial support while living together to the point where I told him that once our lease was up he would have to move home.

We are currently living apart but he is over my place the majority of the time. I tried to help him manage his money, but as a 27-year-old managing her own finances that involve two school loans as well as several weddings a year, it became frustrating and hard for me to stay on top of him about these things.

This has all had an effect on my participation in the bedroom, and it's the first time I've ever experienced that. He's in the midst of a career change after recently being laid off from work. He's looking for a more secure job with good benefits. But I worry that even with a new career the problems will still persist, a life of financial insecurity. This has left me feeling angry, frustrated and asking myself if there's something I should be doing to help him. I would love to get a clear, objective answer on how to handle this situation.

– Should I Stay or Should I Go, Boston

A: I'm confused about the plan, SISOSIG. Is he supposed to move back in at some point? Does he know that you're hoping for a ring and a home? Does he know that you want those things soon?

My advice is to have a big talk with him about what's next. Ask him where he wants to be in five years. Married to you? In a house? Does he share these goals at all? My guess is that the lack of planning for a future together has tainted the whole bedroom situation.

Don't ask him these questions in an angry voice, by the way. He's unemployed right now and can't take that stress. Ask him in an excited voice. The conversation should be about dreams, not demands.

If he says that he likes things the way they are, there's your answer. If he says that he doesn't know what he wants, that's also a pretty clear answer. If he says that he wants the ring and the house, tell him that you want to go with him to a premarital financial adviser to figure out how all of this great stuff can happen. Those financial advisers exist, and they're trained to teach young couples how to live within their means and contribute to the same goals. It's so much easier to have a third party ask about spending habits and debt.

Your boyfriend might get defensive about going to a professional, especially because he's still out of work. Let him know that you're willing to wait to make an appointment until he's employed. All you need to know is that he's willing to go. After 2.5 years together, money is still a source of stress. You need to get in front of a professional to find out how to deal, and if he won't go with you, you'll be able to make an informed decision about staying or, more likely, going.

Readers? Should she just go now? Does this money stuff work itself out once you get a little older? Has anyone visited a financial adviser with a partner? Can anyone talk about how their spending habits changed from 27 to 37? What's happening here? Help.

– Meredith

We hate his ex

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Nice Chick Otherwise, New England

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

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

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

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

– Meredith

He keeps disappearing

Posted by Meredith Goldstein March 1, 2012 08:36 AM

Lots of drama yesterday. Two letters. Updates. I'm still reading all of it.

Q: Hi Meredith,

I read your column often and am looking for some advice. I am a single woman after almost 20 years of marriage. After hearing that some of my friends had success with online dating, I decided to try it myself. I was nervous since my last first date was 25 years ago, but I went for it.

I am happy with my life. Mom to a great kid, successful at work, have good friends and a supportive family, but I miss having a connection with that special someone at the end of the day. I met a few men online, but for whatever reason it didn't work out. Either I wasn't attracted to them or they weren't to me.

After a couple of months, I did meet a man and it seemed like we hit it off. We went out for dinners or drinks once or twice a week and sent several flirty emails. Knowing that he still had a profile online, I asked him what we were doing. His reply was: "Casually dating and let's see where it goes." He said he "enjoyed my company and that was a start." After a couple of months it was getting more difficult and expensive to get babysitters, so I invited him to hang out at my house. This became the norm for a few weeks. And we became intimate. And again, knowing he still had a profile on a dating website, I told him I didn't think we could be intimate anymore. We agreed that we should just see each other when we go out for dinner, etc. I was disappointed, since I started to develop feelings for this man. But he again said it was casual and he liked my company.

A week later, he told me he was moving out of state for work. He had been traveling a lot for business anyway. He promised that when he came back (his family still lives here), we would get together. His online profile disappeared. Occasionally, I would get a flirty email from him. And once he said he was coming back for a few days and would contact me but never did. The emails became less frequent and I had given up hope of seeing him.

Eventually, I heard from him. He was in town and asked if I wanted to get together. (Yes, I did.) We had a nice time and were intimate again. This occurred for the next six months when he was in town for work, etc. I saw him almost every six weeks and thought we were fine. He was complimentary and sweet. Always promised that we would see each other again. Once, when I hadn't heard from him, I snooped and found that he had a profile online from this state again, I was devastated. But never said anything to him.

A month later, it disappeared from the website. We saw each other a few months ago and had a nice time. That was the last time I saw him.

Not too long ago, I sent him an email congratulating him on meeting a milestone at work. We sent each other a few emails back and forth. But this time, there was no mention of a visit or a promise to see me when he returned.

I've tried dating a few men since he moved, but they didn't work out. I miss him terribly. And don't understand how he can just date me casually. We seem to have a great connection and he has even said "we are good together." I keep telling myself that if he were into me, he would let me know. So I guess I need to move on and forget him. Or should I tell him how I really feel? I have been too chicken to put myself out there. And afraid to hear his answer. Is he just not into me? Is he afraid of committing to someone? Maybe someone with a child? What should I do??!! After all, he was back online from this state.

– Standing by in CT

A: I'm pretty sure that you've already put yourself out there, SBICT. You've made yourself available. You've asked him about his intentions several times and have tried to set rules about intimacy. If he wanted a commitment from you or to see you more often, he would have asked. You've made it really, really easy for him.

Dating has certainly changed a lot over the past 20 years. People meet online. They text. Women have taken a more active role in the courting process. But none of those changes mean that we're supposed to put up with nonsense or accept less than we deserve. This guy is all over the place and unreliable. Even if you just wanted a casual fling, this guy wouldn't be your best option.

I don't know whether it's your kid, a fear of commitment, or him not being into you, but it sort of doesn't matter. He's not fulfilling your needs so you should be ditching him.
There are other people out there. I can't say that they're easy to find, but looking for a new partner will be less work than trying to figure out whether this guy is online, in your home state, or avoiding you. Stay on these dating sites and keep browsing. Mourn the loss of this magnetic, dramatic, exciting, and very annoying relationship -- and then move on. Use the babysitting money you save to buy yourself a fantastic outfit for dates with other people. Feel good about the fact that you were very much desired -- just not by the right person.

Readers? Should she tell him how she feels or does he know? After 20 years out of the scene, what should she know about expectations? What’s happening with this guy? Help.

– Meredith

He's abroad ... for another year

Posted by Meredith Goldstein February 29, 2012 12:15 PM


Q: Hi,

I am currently in my senior year of college, and last August my boyfriend of two years decided to study abroad in Europe for an entire calender year. We decided that it would be best if we wouldn't be together. However, this past winter I decided to fly out and see him for two weeks. We explored Europe together and found ourselves in love and calling each other "boyfriend" and "girlfriend." After I came back to the States, he said he missed me so much and promised he would come back after his study abroad experience was done. Well, he then asked me if we wanted to date again. I told him that I did not want to and I wanted it to be like last semester (which was talk all the time, but not commit). However, I told him I was not going to date anyone and I assumed the same for him.

Well, the day after we had this conversation I asked him if he was OK, and he said he was. So, I thought that that meant we were going to be like last semester. Well, we didn't talk for a few days and I asked if we could Skype because he told me he had been hanging out with another girl. He stood me up two times to Skype (where I was going to tell him that I wanted to be with him). Long story short, by the time I got to tell him that I loved him (three weeks later), he had just got into a relationship with this girl and changed his Facebook status. I finally got the chance to Skype him and tell him how I felt, and he was confused and told me he thought it was over at the time and that he wishes we would have communicated better, but that this girl really liked him and he was going to date her.

He then dropped the news that he decided to study abroad for ANOTHER year in Europe. I feel he made those decisions because he was so heartbroken over me, when in fact I wanted him all along.

So confused and upset over the whole thing. Do I delete him as a Facebook friend and move on forever?

– Confused, Boston

A: Delete him. As a Facebook friend and in real life. Move on forever. If he had been that heartbroken, he wouldn't have ditched you on Skype. He would have jumped at the chance to get back together. And really, if you loved him that much, you wouldn't have avoided commitment. You adore him -- when he's close by -- but you didn't want to be his long-distance girlfriend. You're just uncomfortable letting go.

You didn't do anything wrong. Neither did he. You're just young and far away and you can't put your lives on pause. He wants to stay in Europe, and you want someone who can be a real boyfriend. Do yourself a favor and press delete. If he changes his mind, he knows how to find you.

Go out and build your local life. Be honest with yourself about why you didn't want to commit.

Readers? Tips for moving on? Will he come back? What happened here? Discuss.

– Meredith

He's a dud in the bedroom

Posted by Meredith Goldstein February 29, 2012 08:42 AM

Happy Leap Day.
We have an extra day this month, so shouldn't we have an extra letter?
We won't chat today, but check back at 1 p.m. for a link (right here) to a Leap Letter.

Q: Hi Meredith,

I've been dating my boyfriend for a little more than a year and a half. He's 33; I'm 27. We were casual acquaintances for about two years before we started dating, and are fairly serious now. I love him for many reasons, including his sense of humor, his love of sports, his intelligence, his love of dogs, his sociable and extroverted nature, and his unconditional support of me in whatever endeavor I've undertaken. However (and of course there is a however), he is terrible in bed. Our sex life is an absolute dud.

It was incredibly underwhelming right from the start, but he had enough good qualities for me to want to work through this issue. He is a former frat boy and spent his college (and post-college) years with a variety of ladies who he obviously did not try to please. Before me, as he admitted himself, his standard operating procedure was to take, take, take, not give. I told him the status quo was not going to cut it with me, and he has since tried very hard to be a giving partner. At first he complained a lot about back pain, and he blamed that for why our sex life had to be very simple. But then he and I got to exercising together, and dropped a significant amount of weight. His performance got significantly better for months, but the last couple have seen us right back where we started. He's been blaming back/hip/leg pain for his inability to perform, or whatever other physical excuse he can find, and it's making me feel awful. He plays a competitive sport a few times a week and he runs regularly with me, but nothing changes in the bedroom.

I feel ugly and undesirable most of the time we are intimate because I'm not getting what I need from him in this setting, and no matter how many conversations we have about it (outside of the bedroom, usually, when things are calm and there's no pressure to perform at hand), no lasting changes have been made. I'm tired of breaking down in tears after yet another failed attempt, and this is becoming a deal-breaker. I don't know how to fix it. I am out of ideas. Please help.

– Tears in the Bedroom

A: There are many variations of "simple," TITB. Try to figure out other ways that "simple" can work for both of you. I mean, I can't run on pavement or flat surfaces for more than a few minutes, but that doesn't mean I have to stick to the elliptical machine at the gym. I can also do that stair climber machine, and I can walk at an incline on a treadmill. I can also do the elliptical machine backwards without aggravating with my shin splits. Catch my drift?

I'm sure that a sex therapist would have a lot to say about this, but as a brain-focused person, I'm mostly worried about your self-esteem, his apathy, and what the bedroom issue means about your relationship. So much of great physical intimacy is about eye contact, emotional bonding, and the ability to be playful with a partner. It sounds like you're missing some of that big stuff, and maybe not just in the bedroom.

As you try to redefine "simple," please spend some time thinking about whether you feel intimacy in your daily emotional life. Yes, he's a great guy with a dog and a sense of humor, but is there real chemistry in your relationship? Is there a romantic, intimate bond? Or is he basically a fantastic friend who signed on to be your boyfriend? Something tells me that the tears are about the big picture. Please take some time to think about all of it before you decide what counts as a deal-breaker.

Readers? It sounds like she's already approached this guy about their bedroom problems in a thoughtful way. What else can she do? And what's the other side of the story here? Is this just about their sex life? Discuss.

– Meredith

My new friend is married

Posted by Meredith Goldstein February 24, 2012 07:49 AM

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

Main course:

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.

– Meredith

Insecure about his move

Posted by Meredith Goldstein February 23, 2012 08:26 AM

As you've probably noticed, it's Out-of-Towners week here at Love Letters.

Q: Dear Meredith,

My boyfriend wanted me to move in with him a year ago, after I graduated from college and got a job near him. As much as I wanted to, I decided against it because we'd only been dating for a year and I come from a family that doesn't believe in living together before marriage. So I found an apartment four minutes away, and it's been the best of both worlds -- we've been able to live together, without the commitment.

He's wanted to find a better apartment for some time now, and at first planned on staying in town. But now two of our friends are looking for a place and he wants to move in with them, 35 minutes away. I completely understand that he'd want to live with them (after all, I haven't really changed my mind about us living together yet), but I'm scarred he won't want to see me as often.

In the past year, he's only stepped inside my apartment a handful of times (he says the building smells musty, plus there's no parking), so it's been mostly me going to his place. Also, he works days and I work nights, so I often go there on my way home from work. This has worked fine, but I feel like I'm going to be the one driving back and forth all the time after he moves.

Each time I bring this up, he shrugs it off and reminds me his future roommate needs to be near a commuter rail. I'm sure 35 minutes is nothing for most couples who don't live together. However, I have a lot of insecurities about relationships growing/falling apart and they're already popping up just at the thought that he wants to move a little bit away. Thinking about this is making me cry (rare for me). How do I better explain my feelings without sounding needy or like I'm trying to ruin his plans?

– Scared of Change, NJ

A: You are a bit needy and you are trying to ruin his plans, SOC. (Sorry. It's true. We love you anyway.)

My advice is to move to a place that's less musty and has great parking. Because you're right -- he doesn't want to stay at your place, which means that it'll be you doing the driving. Make this change for your sanity. Make it for his roommates, who won't want you at their place all of the time.

And please do some thinking about how you want this relationship to look in a year or two. Do you want to continue working nights or will that schedule make you feel left out of your boyfriend's plans? Do you see yourself changing your mind about the move-in? Instead of focusing on all of your fears, concentrate on your future. Figure out what you want and take steps to make it all happen. Some of this panic has to do with the fact that you don't have a plan.

Once you come up with a strategy, tell him about it. As in, "I'm going to look for a better apartment so you have the option of visiting me without being uncomfortable. And after another year with these leases, I'd like to revisit that move-in." It's more effective to explain your plan than list your insecurities. He'll leave the conversation with an understanding of your hopes, dreams, needs, and expectations. He'll know that you're working to keep this great for both of you.

Readers? Thoughts on freaking out about 35 minutes? Do you think she regrets not moving in with him? Do you think she has to move out of her current apartment? Where do these insecurities come from? Help.

– Meredith

Regretting the breakup

Posted by Meredith Goldstein February 22, 2012 08:28 AM

Chat at 1.

Q: I recently broke up with my boyfriend of 5 years because every 8 months or so I would find myself questioning if he was the person I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. The doubts started after about a year together. Usually, they crept in when we were talking about getting serious and moving in together or during a relationship lull. Usually, after a few more weeks, we'd go back to normal.

I always enjoyed spending time with him. He was my best friend. We laughed together, we enjoyed relaxing and playing with our dogs together, spending time with our respective families, etc.

A little information about us: I'm a law student and he began his career living just over an hour away. We would typically see each other every weekend, but not during the week because of my school requirements. He was wonderfully supportive.

My parents divorced when I was a kid and they've been miserable about each other for most of my life. My dad's second marriage also ended miserably. Needless to say, I'm terrified of marriage, serious commitment, etc. I'm not really sure what it means to be "in love." From what I can see with dealing with divorcing couples on a regular basis through our school's family law clinic, the best you can hope for is to find someone who you get along with well, can work through difficult times with, and who overall makes you happy. I knew I loved and still love my boyfriend, and at times would believe I was in love with him, but when I would start questioning us I would start wondering if I was really in love with him.

Now that we're broken up, I'm not sure if I made the right choice. I miss him and still love him, of course. I don't know what was causing the doubt. Was it my fears? Was it that there was something missing emotionally? Was it our circumstance (being long distance), or was it my selfish coveting of the life I didn't have (which now I realize is not what it's chalked up to be)?

My question is: Was I right to break up with him? Does it seem like it could be something that could be fixed and otherwise we would be good together? Why did I continue to go through those times of questioning? Just any advice, insight you can give would be amazing.

I just don't want to be like my parents and 35% of the US married population and make the wrong decision about a partner and divorce.

– Did I Make A Mistake, Baton Rouge

A: I can't tell you whether you and this guy are good together, but I can tell you that you miss him and love him and that you're confused. So call him and tell him that. He might say, "Please, enough already, leave me alone," or he might hear you out. But it's worth asking. You're not making any promises. You're just being honest.

Every relationship has lulls and moments of doubt, especially when one person in the couple is in law school, trained to ask questions, and grew up around divorce. My guess is that your doubts and reasons for breaking up with him were legitimate, but that you're entering a new phase of life. You're imagining life after law school. You're wondering if he might be a better fit for you once you've settled down.

My advice is to call him and be clear about the fact that you don't know what's going on in your head. He'll either tell you he's not interested or agree to explore this one more time. If he does want to explore, you might find yourself in this position again in a few more months. But at least you won't be plagued by self-doubt. And here's a tip: If he is open to seeing you and you start hanging out again, don't ask yourself any huge, is-he-the-one questions. Ask yourself, "Am I having a good time? Do I feel good? Do I want to see him tomorrow?" For a little while, the simple stuff is all you need to know.

Readers? Should she reach out? Will she be messing with his head? Is this about being a student? What about those doubts? Should she have time alone? Help.

– Meredith

He's obsessed with work

Posted by Meredith Goldstein February 21, 2012 08:16 AM

A reminder: All college students (not just BU people) are invited to tonight's event at Boston University.

Q: Dear Meredith,

I have been in a relationship for more than a year. We love each other very much and I can picture myself marrying him someday. But recently we had a problem. One of my family members passed away, and he couldn't come to the funeral to support me because he was having an anxiety attack about missing work. This need to work is something that has bothered me the entire time I have been with him. My worry is that he cares more about work than me. He says that he doesn't, that he loves me more, and that I am more important than anything. But he just can't be happy unless he completes his work. He is impossibly stressed and distracted, not to mention the occasional anxiety attacks.

I don't want him to be unhappy or stressed, but at the same time, I feel neglected. His response when I talked to him was along the lines of "well this is me and you are just going to have to accept it." He is a kind and gentle person that treats me well, except when it comes to this. I am at a loss. I love him and even the thought of being without him is almost too much to bear. But I don't want to be unhappy for the rest of my life. And most of all, I am terrified that when something like that happens again, the one person I depend on won't be there to help me.

– Holdingontolove, New York

A: I'm sitting here trying to decide what he does for a living and whether there's any profession that excuses this type of abandonment. Because even the president takes time off for funerals. Even international pop stars cancel tours for family emergencies.

He's telling you that you have to accept this obsessive part of him but you don't, of course. You need someone who can finish his work and come home to you without becoming an anxious, resentful mess.

If he admitted that he has a problem -- that he's obsessed with work and needs to be treated for anxiety attacks -- I'd be more hopeful about this relationship. But he's not self-aware about any of this and it's making you miserable.

My advice is to ask him how he defines his work-related anxiety. Does he plan to be this way forever? Does he want to get help? Can he acknowledge that he left you alone during a time of need? How did he feel when he was at work and he knew that you were alone at a funeral? Will there ever be room for compromise?

If he sticks to the "this is me" routine, you can't continue the relationship. You say that you're terrified. That's no way to be. He either wants to make this better or he doesn't.

Readers? Is there any job out there that excuses this behavior? Have you ever dated someone who's work obsessed? Is this a problem that’s related to the economy? Can their relationship be fixed? What should she ask/tell him? Discuss.

– Meredith

Falling for my married boss

Posted by Meredith Goldstein February 17, 2012 08:42 AM

Two things:

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.

– Meredith

Sex after 'the change'

Posted by Meredith Goldstein February 16, 2012 08:28 AM

This letter writer didn't tell me where he's from. So let's just picture him living in ... Jamaica Plain.

Please keep your comments respectful -- and PG.

And as for updates on letters in the comments section -- don't assume they're real until I verify them. And letter writers, if you have an update, email me (from your original email address) to let me know that it's really you.

Q: Meredith, here's one I don't remember seeing addressed.

I love my girlfriend of many years, we get along great, she's low maintenance, and we've cohabitated for many years (she's older than me). No problem there! In that time, however, she went through the change of life. I thought, no more birth control, great! But it was so much more. While she's just as loving a person as ever, the entire sexual tension aspect is just gone! She'll still be intimate and enjoy it (when I start it), but the buildup, the teasing, and the sex drive in general is gone.

And the smells are different too, in a bad way, making certain things we used to do (and enjoy) rather unpleasant. While I'd never hurt her, I now can understand why men go for younger women. You'd have to have a pretty golden relationship to survive this. What can I do to reconcile myself to this new reality? I'm not ready to be this old!

Thank you.

– The Big Change

A: I know you're upset, TBC, but there are so many wonderful things about your letter. You love this woman. You want her to be hot for you. You've had a fantastic sex life for years. Even now, as she's coping with a major biological change, you guys are working to be intimate. You have a lovely foundation here. Have faith in it, and consider this an adjustment period, not your new reality.

Go see a doctor. With her. Because you need to find out what's going on and whether there's anything you can do to make it better. The pharmaceutical industry has put a great deal of effort into developing pills that make us want to get it on (and maybe even smell right). Go find out what your options are and whether all of these changes have to be permanent.

I want you to know that menopause isn't the only thing that can mess up your sex life. Many people will tell you that their libido changed after having kids. For all you know, your own sex drive has changed over the years in small ways that have affected your girlfriend. No matter what we do, our bodies are always in flux. Finding a younger girlfriend doesn't prevent these issues.

I empathize. This is all scary, weird, and uncomfortable. The good news is that you're in love with your girlfriend, you can be honest with her, and there are doctors who specialize in this kind of thing. Hang in there, and start getting some answers.

Readers? Is this why people find younger partners? Have you gone through a similar situation? What should he do? How can he cope with feeling older because of his partner? Help.

– Meredith

Surviving a cheat

Posted by Meredith Goldstein February 15, 2012 06:33 AM

Chat at 1.

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.

– Meredith

She's jealous and I'm exhausted

Posted by Meredith Goldstein February 14, 2012 08:12 AM

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.

– Meredith

We're having trouble after moving in

Posted by Meredith Goldstein February 13, 2012 08:36 AM

Thanks to the folks who attended the "Cruel Intentions" screening on Friday. It was ... scandalous. With high-waisted jeans and bittersweet symphonies.

Q: My boyfriend and I having been living together for over a year. He lived with me at MY old apartment and then we decided to get one together. I'm 26, he's 24. I'm a working a professional, he works from home. In the time that we have lived at the new apartment, we’ve had a lot of up and downs, mostly with him having commitment issues after moving. But we have gotten through it and are at a good point in our relationship -- sort of.

I think it's important to have time out individually but he NEVER invites me out with his friends. For example, I am a football fan, and we watched every game this season at home alone together -- but when he got invited to a Super Bowl party, he didn't bring me. It's upsetting because I'd like to be invited sometimes.

Also, he's not very interested in sex anymore. I know we've been together for a while and it’s not going to be every night, but he just seems to have no interest. I've talked to him about it and he says he wants to work on it, but nothing changes. I've also talked to him about the hanging out issue, and he says "I hang out with you all the time, I want to go out sometimes, you shouldn't make me feel bad about it." I'd like some advice. I don't want to break up but I don't know what this all means?!!!

– Nurse J, New York

A: This doesn't sound promising, NJ. As soon as you started living together (as opposed to just crashing in the same place) he became disinterested and began looking for ways to escape.

His working from home doesn't help matters. I'm sure that the isolation makes it that much more important for him to have alone time with peers. But why didn't he have these problems in the old place? And why the lack of interest in sex?

There's certainly an adjustment period with move-ins, but you can only be so understanding and accommodating. He seems unhappy with this living arrangement, so you have to ask him why. Is this job angst or does he regret moving into the new apartment? If he could design his perfect life right now, where would he live? Where would you live? How often would you have sex? How would you spend time together?

Instead of telling him why this isn't working for you, ask him those big questions. You might find out that when it comes to goals for cohabitation, you're simply incompatible. Or maybe you'll learn that these issues are easy to fix and temporary. So ask. Discuss his answers and your own. Find out whether you can be happy with his plan for the future. If not, get a new roommate.

Readers? Is this a weird move-in phase or is there a bigger problem? If you live with someone, should you invite them out with your friends? How does his job affect their issues? Discuss.

– Meredith

When he's bad, he's awful

Posted by Meredith Goldstein February 10, 2012 07:46 AM

"Cruel Intentions" stars at 8. Be there or be Selma Blair. Get your tickets here.

(And yes, we will be playing the drinking game that I've created with your help on Twitter.)

Q: Hi Meredith (and commenters),

I have been in a relationship for almost 1.5 years with a good-hearted guy that I'm in love with. We're both in our mid-20s. We have been through a lot together, and we live together. We have a lot in common and I can see a bright, loving future with him.

We have occasional to frequent issues. When things are good, they're great. When they're bad, they’re awful. He has a hard time trusting me. I think it has a lot to do with his past. His parents had him very young and they only stayed together for about a year after he was born. They did not show him a lot of genuine affection and care growing up, and he did not have a stable life. He also has had bad relationships, where the girlfriend betrayed him emotionally, physically, and even financially (which I understand, but most people deal with at least one bad relationship experience). When something goes a little sour with us, he overreacts. He also assumes the worst about me -- that I'm lying about being faithful, and he seems to expect to find out negative things about me. He will have outbursts where he is mean and irrational. He has also recently been feeling very depressed.

He is an emotional person, and I knew that from the get-go. But I don't feel that I deserve any of his skepticism. I have been nothing but honest and trustworthy in our relationship. I have worked very hard to make things work in our relationship. I tolerate a lot of his doubts and reassure him when he asks about things (although now I doubt whether I should have kept doing so after a certain point). I pick my battles, walk away when I see we need to cool off, and I also took my current job in order to afford an apartment together (it's not my ideal job).

I have suggested therapy, but he refuses. I suggested other methods to try to feel better, but he ignores me or says I'm pushing him. He hasn't tried anything to overcome his negative feelings, lack of trust, or depression. I know it's beyond my control, but I'm starting to feel helpless. I can't understand why he’s letting this continue when it's harming our relationship. I don't know what else to do. I have thought about breaking things off, but I can't stand the thought of being without him. What do I do?

– Helpless in the Hub, Boston

A: I understand that you already live with your boyfriend, HITH, but at 1.5 years you're still getting to know each other. And you've just learned something important -- that when your boyfriend has a problem that affects both of you, he won't seek out help.

My advice is to go to therapy yourself so that you have a safe place where you can make decisions. Your boyfriend will also see that you're taking your own advice. Ask him to come to your therapist -- as a guest -- and see if he calls that "pushing."

At 1.5 years you're hoping for promises of longer commitments, happiness, more love, etc., but that's not what you're getting. How long will you feel safe in this relationship?

If he won't work on himself, you're going to have to let go -- because the bad stuff is outweighing the good. Get to therapy and see if he follows your lead. If he doesn't and continues this, then you have to walk away. You’re doing too much and he's just not doing anything.

Readers? I imagine that there are many wonderful things about this relationship that we're not hearing, but do these negatives outweigh everything? Is she "pushing" him? What can you do about a partner who won't get help? Discuss.

– Meredith

I'm feeling stuck

Posted by Meredith Goldstein February 8, 2012 08:19 AM

Tickets for Friday's "Cruel Intentions" screening are available here. I mean, come on.

And we chat today at 1.

Q: Dear Meredith,

I have been going out with a guy off and on for the past 3 years. A family friend introduced us. Initially, we were going out every 1-1.5 weeks. We would keep in touch in between by email or text and a few times by phone. After about 7 months of this, I was wondering where the relationship was going and wanted to spend more than once a week getting together. Hence, I made the decision to "have a discussion." He pretty much told me that he did not feel the same so I broke off all contact. After 1 month, I decided to contact him via email that I wanted to return to him his belongings.

Fast forward 2.5 years and we get together once or twice a month, usually for brunch or dinner. We do email or text once a week and talk on phone occasionally. Also, in this time, we have gone on one away trip that lasted 3 days. When we get together, we have fun (I do and think he does too). Our families, who have met twice, seem to interact well. He has met some of my friends and I have met some of the people he works with. In hopes of trying to get past the "let get together for lunch/dinner," I have invited him to join me for activities I enjoy (e.g. basketball game or going to see a movie/musical) but he has declined. He has told me, at times, that he enjoys being able to get home at night and not having to deal with others. I will admit that in the past 1.5 years, when I have become frustrated with him, I have gone out with other guys but none have progressed past a few dates.

Have I settled on a "relationship" that is going nowhere? Should I close this chapter and move on, as it may be holding me back? Thanks for your advice (and to all the readers)!

– Am I Stuck?, Boston

A: You are absolutely stuck, AIS. Sorry.

I'm a little confused about the timeline here and why you started hanging out with him again after you first cut him off, but you've basically spent the better part of three years trying to change someone's mind. Pursuing someone like that can become an addiction. You lose track of whether you're really interested in the object of your affection or whether you're just trying to undo the rejection.

Your guy isn't worth this much energy. He enjoys being able to "get home at night and not having to deal with others." Even if you were the exception to that rule (you're not) he doesn't seem like the right match for you. You're a people person.

Please cut him off. Please stop coming up with ways to win him over. Please stop counting how many times you get to see him. Please imagine what it would be like to have someone around more than 1.5 times a week -- or month. It's time to un-stuck yourself. Call some real friends and tell them to help you along.

Readers? Why is this guy seeing her at all? Is there any chance for a relationship here? Is pursing him an addiction? Help.

– Meredith

Men and strip clubs

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

Buy your tickets to Friday's screening of "Cruel Intentions." Film critic Wesley Morris and I will be there to answer questions about this film and why it's so darn sexy. You can also enter this contest to have a free dinner with us.

Also, the woman who wrote this letter did not say "ice cream cones," but I'm keeping it PG. Please keep it PG.

And let's try to keep that off-topic stuff in the message boards (the champagne rooms) -- or save it for late in the day. I don't mind conversation, but these letters deserve some undivided attention.

Q: My fiancé of 3+ years is planning a vacation with his buddies/co-workers to Atlantic City. I asked if I could come along, since we had been talking about planning a similar trip. When he said it was an all-guys trip, I brushed it off until he mentioned that a woman, who happens to be a lesbian, is also attending. This raised a flag to me because I instinctively know what this means: strip clubs. When I asked why she was allowed to go, his response was, "Well, she's not gonna mind if I have [ice cream cones] in my face."

Keep in mind that his friends either have been married for a while or are single. Now I know that it is in every man's DNA to want to see a naked woman, but I can't help but be bothered by this. I am not sure if it's because we were trying to plan a trip like this for the two of us and now he's decided to go with his male friends, or if I'm just bothered that his sole purpose for going is for a strip club.

Regardless, I am bothered by the fact that his whole weekend will be spent blowing money at strip clubs -- money that we're trying desperately to save for a house and a wedding. I never thought of myself as a jealous person, but now that I am faced with this issue, I am beginning to think that's exactly what I am.

It's not that I think he's going to cheat, but cheating for a male means different things than for a female. If I knew that he was [looking at ice cream cones] and was very [close to sampling ice cream cones], I would be extremely upset. The counter-argument I brought up was, "If you found out I had my hands or face in some guy's [ice cream cones], you would be upset too."

Knowing that men go to strip clubs to see beautifully-sculpted naked women (and pay them to be their eye candy) makes me resentful that he isn't satisfied with what he has at home. I will give myself credit and say that I am a stunning young woman, who could stand to lose a few pounds, but nevertheless I am very good-looking and like to make my man happy.

Is this irrational? Am I crazy to get so upset by this, and do I just have to let it go? Or do I have a right to voice my concerns without seeming like a nagging girlfriend who can't let her man go to a strip club for a weekend. I know that telling/asking him not to go will only make him resentful and want to do it even more in the long run, but I won't be able to sleep the whole weekend he's gone, and I probably won't be able to get bad thoughts out of my head. I also probably wouldn't be able to look at or touch him knowing where he's been.

I just need some guidance from some rational men and women, in healthy, long-term relationships who have faced similar situations. Why do men feel the need to touch and look at other women, when they have their own beautiful women at home?! Who they don't have to pay...

– ConfusedAboutMen, Medford

A: I get a lot of letters from people who want to know how I feel about strip clubs, and, well, my answer is too complicated to stick into a simple Q&A.

But I can tell you that the people who write in about strip club issues often have other big problems in their relationships. If your guy was doing a good job of saving money for the wedding, would you be as upset about this trip? If he gave a more respectful, loving answer to your question about the vacation, would you be so focused on the strip club? Are you really jealous about what he'll do with these women -- or is this about your fiancé's priorities?

It seems to me that after a 3.5-year engagement, you're feeling a bit forgotten. I mean, even if the "ice cream cones in my face" thing was a joke, you were obviously upset. He could have comforted you and made you feel safe. He could have discussed boundaries for the trip.

My advice is to take the strip club thing off the table so that you can clear your head. Think (and talk) about the stuff that bothers you on a daily basis. Those are the issues that are worth your attention. And feel free to tell him how you define cheating. He should be open to (and expect) that kind of conversation before this trip.

Readers? Thoughts on strip clubs and cheating? Is this really about the strip club? Am I wrong to say that she'd be more comfortable with the trip if he were better on a day-to-day basis? Discuss.

– Meredith

I want to meet his kids

Posted by Meredith Goldstein February 6, 2012 08:24 AM

Just a note: If you have a comment for the letter writer, please post it, even if it's later in the day -- and even if other commenters are talking about other things. The letter writers sift through every comment to get advice no matter what time it's posted. Never assume your comment will be lost in the shuffle. It won't.

Also, do you have your ticket to go to the movies with me on Friday? I win, by the way.

Q: My boyfriend and I have been dating for a little over six months and we have a very loving and trusting relationship. We both recognize the long-term potential in this and have started the discussion of getting engaged and moving in together. After a long marriage with five wonderful kids, he got divorced a few years ago. I am also divorced with a young son who adores my boyfriend. Although there is a 15 year age difference between the two of us (I'm younger), we have proven compatible so far in all the important areas of our relationship. Our friends and family have all been extremely supportive of us, and we have both fit comfortably in each other's circles, with one exception: he has not introduced me to his children (except for the eldest).

My boyfriend tells me that the other children know that he has a girlfriend, and that the eldest has been supportive of our relationship in front of his siblings. But I would still like the opportunity to meet the other children in the near future and begin working on having a relationship with them. (They live with their mother.) My boyfriend says he doesn't want to confuse them. I trust his judgment and know that he wants what is best for all parties involved. But I feel like he has two different lives right now: one with me and one with his children. It makes me sad at times when I'm not included in activities with them.

I am trying to be gentle with broaching this topic again with my boyfriend because I know he feels pulled in a bunch of different directions. I just wonder whether his reluctance to introduce me to his children is a sign of his insecurity about our future. Are we moving too fast? Shouldn't I meet the children before we move in together? Do I even have a right to influence this important decision?

– I want to be part of the family too, Newton

A: You should absolutely meet his kids before you move in with him, but it just might be too early for any of your big plans. Sure, you're talking about long-term goals, but it's only been six months. Do you really need to do these things right now? Maybe he wants some time to enjoy you and this wonderful, fun phase of your relationship before he begins to deal with a more complicated reality. Once you meet the kids (and the ex-wife), it becomes a different kind of partnership. When you talk about getting engaged, do you mean right now?

My advice is to tell him what you need, as opposed to telling him how you think he should deal with his kids. You can say, "I'm just not comfortable moving in with you until I've met the kids." You can say, "I respect that you're not ready for me to meet your family, but can we come up with some ideas about when and how I should introduce myself?"

My guess is that as happy as he is, he's overwhelmed by the next steps. I don't blame him. I would talk to him about his timeline and ask questions about how he feels. (As in, "I imagine that this introduction will be scary for you. How do you feel about it?") Be clear about your needs and ask him about his. Understand that even after you meet the kids, you won't always be a part of these family activities.

And … enjoy all of the great things that happen at six months. It's fantastic that you're serious about each other, but six months is six months. You need to have a conversation with this guy about whether your long-term plans should be called just that.

Readers? Should he be coming up with a timeline? Should marriage be on the table? How can she manage her expectations? Should they be discussing these big things if he's not ready to introduce her to his kids? Discuss.

– Meredith

I can't be a damsel in distress

Posted by Meredith Goldstein February 3, 2012 07:32 AM

At first I was puzzled by the outcome of the Romance Rumble finals, but then I thought: I cannot wait to see one of these movies with you guys. You can buy tickets for next Friday's screening of the winner of this hot mess here. Film critic Wesley Morris and I will be there with buckets of popcorn. And maybe, no matter what wins, Wesley and I will do a quick reenactment of the losing film. (I'll be the Denise Richards or Selma Blair; Wesley will be Kevin Bacon or Sarah Michelle Gellar.) Bring friends. Tickets are only $8.

Q: Dear Meredith,

I am an early-30s, female physician-in-training who is attractive, smart, well-traveled, funny, kind and ... single. I don't mind being single. In fact, I think there are lots of great aspects to being un-partnered. Yet, it's been years since my last serious relationship and I'm yearning to wake up with the same person every day, to have a travel companion, to cook dinner and converse with someone about our daily activities, to have regular sex, and yes, to find the person I'll marry and have children with.

My trouble is that while I'm very attractive and have no problem attracting men (heads turn when I walk into a restaurant for instance), I am almost never asked out on dates. Several people, mainly friends from work, have told me that they initially found me intimidating but that after getting to know me, they've realized that I have a heart of gold.

I think there are a few reasons why I may give off this vibe. First, I have a horribly dysfunctional family, which has forced me to do many things on my own. For example, moving and paying for all of my education. I can't play the damsel in distress because I haven't had the luxury of knowing Prince Charming would save me. Secondly, I've moved several times for school, have worked and lived abroad, and have traveled extensively. In doing so, I've mastered the art of appearing very confident even when I was clueless so as to protect myself from getting mugged or taking advantage of. Third, I work in a profession that doesn't reward the damsel in distress. As a budding doctor, I need to study, learn, and know a lot to best care for my patients. So, outside of work, I have a hard time smiling and saying yes to the sweet man at the gym who offers me an umbrella for the deluge outside or the man who offers to carry my groceries. Along those same lines, I'm a very cerebral person. I'm a thinker, and when I'm in my daily routine, for example walking to the train from my apartment, my brain is contemplating a multitude of things. In total, I've just done so many things on my own, most of which I've been very lucky to have had control over, that it's hard for me to let my guard down and be in the moment to let Mr. Right in.

Let me add, however, that I do meet men whenever I happen to travel. There's something about me being in a foreign environment where I'm in the moment, not thinking of something somewhere else, that relaxes me and invokes my curious fun-loving side which attracts men.

My question to you is how do I tap into the adventurous, fun loving side of me in my everyday life to become more inviting to men without having to play the ditzy, helpless maiden in distress or coming across as a cougar who wants a romp in the hay? I'm curious to hear what light you can shed on my situation.

– Funny, Well-Traveled, Cerebral Hottie in Need of Love

A: I don't think that cool guys (guys worth dating) want to date damsels in distress, FWTCHINOL. Ditzy maidens are annoying after about 45 minutes. I mean, even in Disney movies, the ladies wind up saving themselves. Guys (and gals, for that matter) want to date someone who is fascinating -- and fascinated by them. They want to be around someone who pays attention to what they do and say.

When you're away and on vacation, you're out of your own head and capable of putting the focus on someone else. That's what makes you charming. At home you're focused on your job, bills, friends, family, and whether there will be traffic by Fenway or the Garden. Home life can make a person ... weirdly self-absorbed.

My advice is to make it a goal to talk to at least a few strangers every week. And by talk, I mean listen. When you go to a party or are out at a bar in a group, seek someone out and ask questions. Get to know them. Make it homework. Don't even think about whether they're datable or whether you're turning them off with your power and independence. Just think about them.

At the end of the day, people want to be cared for as much as they care for someone else. That's what's missing here. I don't think that you're intimidating because you're awesome (you are, by the way). I do think that you might seem unapproachable because you aren't giving off the vibe that you're interested in learning about someone else.

Just food for thought. We get a lot of "Why am I single?" letters and I never have a magic answer. But ... this is my guess based on what you've told us. There's a big difference between being a damsel in distress and being deeply interested in another human being.

Readers? What's happening here? Am I right? Is there someone else that she can do? What about the damsel in distress stuff? Is she any different than anyone else who's having trouble meeting someone? Help.

– Meredith

Am I too young to commit?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein February 1, 2012 07:55 AM

It's chat day.

And remember to vote in the next round of the Romance Rumble. I'll give you a link to buy tickets to next Friday's screening soon. Looks like you've chosen Sarah Michelle Gellar over Natalie Portman.

Q: I have been with a 30-year-old man for about 1.5 years. It's been long distance the entire time so it's been tough, but we've suffered through it because of the depth of our love. However, we've hit a wall. We know that to stay together, we need to move in together, but that requires one of us making a trans-Atlantic move. So the plan is for me to come to Europe for 3 months, and then him to the states permanently after that.

I have no issue going to Europe, because I want to be with him so bad. My issue with him moving to the States is that is sounds too much like marriage. I can't have anyone moving here without promising them some serious commitment. This scares me, because I'm only 20 and I'm worried that I would be settling down too young and missing out on a plethora of crazy experiences. However, I love him dearly.

And so now we're on a break -- imposed by him -- because of how I feel. The purpose of it is for me to experience things and see how life is without him. But now I just feel depressed.

I love him so much and it's so unfair that to be together we have to make such a big decision. I know for a fact that if I were to stay with him I'd have a happy, fulfilled life. The bigger risk is looking around and figuring out what's out there. Some small voice inside of me is telling me that what's out there is awful, but it still has not killed my curiosity.

I'm plagued by this 20-year-old "I don't know what I want" mindset. Although I'm a firm believer in holding onto love whenever you find it, I'm worried that all the people who tell me never to settle down young are right.

However, before you comment I urge you to remember that stats show that going along until your 30s to find someone to settle down with actually makes things harder on yourself as far as love. Studies have proven that the dating game tends to give you psychological scars that you could have prevented by settling down younger. Moreover, studies show that by committing your 20s to being carefree and "finding yourself" actually decreases your chances of finding a long, lasting and healthy relationship, considering the lasting effects of having a "me" disposition for so long. Also, who wants to be old with kids? Furthermore, who wants to be without someone who will love and support you?

I'm at a point where I'm worried that I'm making the biggest mistake of my life by taking a break and walking out of my relationship. I don't know what it means to define myself without him anymore.

– Advice?, Chicago

A: That second to last paragraph was awesome. Unparalleled awesome. It was you making a massive case (citing studies!) to convince us that your relationship is worth preserving.

If that's how you feel, preserve it. I'm not going to tell you that there's nothing else out there or that settling down at 20 is always a fantastic idea, but I will tell you that if you're excited about the person you're with, you should pursue your relationship with high hopes. What else can you do?

His moving here doesn't have to mean that you're on the cusp of marriage. Yes, he'll be making a big move for love, but after a few months in Europe, you both might feel better about what comes next. And if he does move here, he doesn't have to live with you. He can get his own place nearby.

All you can promise him right now is that you have the best of intentions. That's all he can promise you. You don't know what it'll be like to live in the same city. You either want to find out or you don't.

Forget the studies, stop trying to force yourself to be single, and go to Europe to see how you feel. If you're still as into this guy after the trip, work with him to develop a realistic, less-scary plan for his move.

Readers? Does his moving to the US have to mean marriage? Should she end this break or give herself more time to be single? Is she right about the studies and the dating scars? What do you think she wants to/should do? Help.

– Meredith

Should I wait for him to mature?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein January 31, 2012 08:16 AM

Have you voted for your favorite sexy movie? Round 1 is already over. (No more "Fear" and "Fright Night.")

Keep in mind, we're screening the winning movie at the Somerville Theatre on Feb. 10. Tickets will be available shortly. They're $8. It's a cheap pre-Valentine's Day night out with me -- and film critic Wesley Morris.

Q: Hi Meredith,

I met my boyfriend of a year when I had just gotten out of a serious relationship. He was two years younger than me and I was just looking for some fun so I didn't let the immaturity and flaws that come with his age faze me. Eventually, however, we fell in love and suddenly letting the immaturity and irresponsibility go wasn't so easy.

He is going through a tumultuous time trying to figure out who he is. (He is only 19) These ups and downs include depression, struggling to keep up in school, lashing out at family and in the workplace due to some pent up angst, and spending time with a group of friends who smoke a lot of weed.

However, when he is with me, he is everything I could ever want in someone. He is passionate, thoughtful, reflective, and loving. Most importantly, we have a blast together.

We attended the same college but he transferred to another school to go part time because he was struggling so much with the workload here. I am actually finding that I enjoy my space from him and it worries me.

I am graduating in May and hoping to get a job in the Boston area (where he is also from). He claims that this semester he will be taking time to really organize his life and get his act together. I trust if he grows out of his immaturity and irresponsibility and this "phase" he is in, that we have what we need to make it through anything.

Is it wrong for me to hold out hope that he really will change? I know that old adage about how waiting for someone to change is a waste of time. But part of me remembers being his age and feeling restless and making similar mistakes. I am patient and independent enough to wait it out without it effecting me too much (I think...) but it's a risk and I don't think I can handle the disappointment if my waiting doesn't pay off.

What do you think?

– Robbing the Cradle, Boston

A: Of course he's going to change, RTC. He's going to change like 17 more times in the next three years.

Fundamentally he'll be the same person, but you met him when he was 18. He was barely out of high school. He has so much growing to do. And really, so do you. The age gap between 18 and 20 probably felt huge, and it sort of is, but that doesn't mean that you're a finished person at 21. You're still figuring out what you want to be, how you want to live, and what life choices feel comfortable.

My question for you: What exactly are you waiting for? You mention being patient and waiting this phase out, but what happens when it's over? If he becomes a more stable guy, do you want to run off and get married? At 19 and 21? What's the goal here?

My advice is to become a selfish 21-year-old. Make decisions based on what feels good to you -- because you're supposed to be doing the self-exploration, not waiting on someone else.

If being with him feels right for now, you can stay together. But if you find that you continue to enjoy your space, then you have to be on your own. Because it's what you want. Focusing on your own needs is one of the best and most important parts of being 21. The right partner won't get in the way of that.

Readers? What is she waiting for? Should they stay together? Do you remember the age gap between 19 and 21? People sometimes meet in their teens and early 20s and stay together forever. Is there potential for that here? Discuss.

– Meredith

Am I living in a fantasy?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein January 27, 2012 08:15 AM

A quickie contest:

I'm doing a quick Q&A after Sunday's performance of the Huntington's "God of Carnage" with the beautiful and wise Miss Conduct.

If you want a pair of tickets, send me a paragraph (less than 300 words) about the most childish fight that you've ever had in an adult relationship -- and why you want passes to Sunday's matinee. Send your paragraph to meregoldstein at gmail dot com with CARNAGE in the subject line. Entries are due at 12:30 today. I'll pick winners and alert them by 6.

Q: Dear Meredith,

I reunited with my middle school buddy two years ago thanks to Facebook. We live in separate states, but despite the distance we kept in touch. Fast forward two years later, and, well, our relationship has blossomed into a beautiful friendship. We talk about being together, and usually express to each other how we feel. He never misses a birthday and holiday, and always says that he says he loves me.

Recently, I decided to finally visit him for the first time after 15 years. The meeting went great, it was perfect! I met all of his friends, met his parents and the entire family. At least for me, this trip helped me solidify my understanding of what I wanted from him. I am in LOVE!!

Fast forward a few days later and I am now back home and wondering what is going on ... We were having a conversation last night regarding how much his friends and family have been wondering about the status of our relationship. I was shocked, because I thought that we were officially together. So we discussed this, and well the guy is hesitant about us and doing the whole long-distance thing. However, he never falls short to tell me that HE loves me. He also says that he had the most amazing weekend, that he wants me close, and that he doesn't want to let me go.

What should I do? I am a strong believer that if you care for someone, the distance and circumstances don't really matter. But also, should I not pressure the long distance issue any longer and just be pen pals or leave this experience in the past?

– Am I Living in a Fantasy, West of Boston

A: Right now, this is a fantasy, AILIAF. Middle school friends who are soul mates are basically human unicorns.

Most of your communication with this guy has been online or on the phone. You had one great weekend, but that's not enough to start a committed long-distance relationship.

You have two options. You can either make it possible to see him more often and gradually decide whether it's worth maintaining a relationship, or you can leave this experience in the past. The pen pal thing is too distracting, and it allows you to pretend that he's more important than he is. The pen pal stuff is what led you to fantasy land.

If you choose the first option, see him soon. Very soon. Like within the next month. If he's not open to another quick visit -- and isn't open to visiting you -- move on. And please, keep reminding yourself that this guy isn't the center of your universe. He's just an old friend who cares about you. You saw him once and liked it. That's all you know right now. He's just a horse with unicorn potential. And there are many horses in the sea (you know what I mean).

Readers? What's going on here? How should she proceed? What does this guy want? Unicorns? Discuss.

– Meredith

I love him after two months

Posted by Meredith Goldstein January 26, 2012 08:27 AM

Q: Hey Meredith (and readers),

I've been dating a guy for a couple months. I'll call him John. John and I dated briefly last year for a month, all good times until he dropped a bomb on me that he didn't want to be in a relationship. Not where I thought things were headed, but he was nice and sweet about it and truly apologetic and strangely enough (on my end at least) we remained friends.

We've hung out here and there, and it was always enjoyable, but I thought all he wanted out of it was my friendship since he started dating someone a few months after we split. Fast forward to a couple of months ago. Over Thanksgiving, he told me he never lost his feelings for me and he wanted us to try again. Color me surprised; I didn't see this one coming from a mile away. I was hesitant at first, but he was so genuine and sweet about it, saying he wouldn't want to start something up if he thought it was going to end quickly or badly and he truly liked me and wanted to give it another chance.

I've dated my fair share of morons, so I'm slightly guarded with my emotions (can you really blame me?) but I gave in because honestly I don't think I ever lost my feelings for him either. The problem you ask? I think I love him but it's been two months. TWO MONTHS. I'm so absolutely terrified to tell him and rush things and I'm even more scared that it's going to slip out at such an awkward moment that it won't seem genuine. I've never said those three little words before (slight technicality) but it's the little things like him offering to take care of me when I got the stomach flu (which no one has ever done before), buying me a Christmas present when he was pretty much broke, and just all the little things that make me fall for him.

So now my slightly ridiculous question. Do I just go with my feelings, potentially scaring the crud out of him and possibly wrecking a good thing, or keep it in? See where things go and see if the feeling is still there in another couple of months? Any advice would be greatly appreciated! Thanks in advance everyone! Love you! (I'm just practicing, just in case, sorry.)

– I'm Afraid It'll Slip, Boston

A: If it slips, it slips, IAIS.

But if you can control it, say other things instead.

Those three words are important, but they're actually rather vague -- especially in your case, because you've probably grown to love him as a friend over time.

Whenever you want to declare your love, try defining that love instead.

"No one has ever brought me food while I've had a stomach bug. Thank you."

"It means so much to me that you bought me a Christmas gift. You are incredibly romantic."

"I love spending time with you -- and I'm so glad we're trying this again. I'm loving every minute of it."

If this relationship continues, you'll probably need to get simple and try the old "I love you." But if you start with specific statements about how you feel, he'll understand exactly what you mean when you finally say it. I'm all for being specific.

Readers? When should she say it? Am I right about being more specific? How does their previous friendship affect her feelings? Could she love him after two months? Show the LW some love.

– Meredith

What are we?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein January 25, 2012 08:28 AM

It's chat day.

Q: I met this guy about a year ago. He was a new student at law school. We became friends, and soon our relationship became quite flirty and intimate, physically and emotionally. At the time, I wondered whether he was just fooling around because he had just broken up with his girlfriend.

A couple of months later, longer after their break up, we started hanging out more often, having pseudo-dates. We go out for food, go for long drives out of town, talk for hours, and have drinks. And whenever we go out, we act like a couple. We hold hands, hugs and kisses, get intimate, etc. He's been dropping hints, so I'm pretty sure he has feelings for me, too. Seems like a good love story, right? Problem is, we haven't really talked about us. And our "relationship" is not in the open -- although we don't really intend it to be a secret. (But it helps because his ex has been jealous of me since we became close friends and there are still issues about it, rumors going around and stuff.)

He is also hot and cold, and I wonder whether I am just a rebound girl or something. On the other hand, he's close to my friends and he knows my family and I've met his too -- but not in a mom-dad-I'd-like-you-to-meet-this-girl way, unfortunately.

I am really confused right now. I don't want to push the relationship or rush it, but it would really help to know where I stand or where we stand. I don't want to ask him outright because I might put him off. I'm scared to sound like I want to rush things. I am also shy and quite an introvert when it comes to talking about personal things and emotions. What sound I do? Should I just wait? Or should I keep my options open? Do you think he isn't really serious about this?

– Confused Wallflower, San Francisco

A: You have nothing to lose by asking, CW. I know that it's scary to rock the boat, but it's time. You can try, "Are we dating?" Or, "Think we'll ever be able to go public?" Or, "Are we at the point where we shouldn't be dating other people?" Or, "What the heck is this?" Ask with a smile on your face. It doesn't have to be a big sit-down talk or an accusation.

My guess is that he'll answer with a big "I don't know." And that's OK. Just take that opportunity to establish the rules together. Explain your needs (that he be less hot and cold, that you make this public, and that you both agree not to date other people) and see how he responds. Up until now, this almost-relationship has been all about him. It's time to change that -- and you can't worry about being a burden. He'll either respond well because he wants to make you happy and doesn't want to lose you, or he'll continue to prioritize his own needs, which should fuel you to move on.

Honesty can be scary, but self-confidence is very attractive. He should want to be with someone who knows what she wants and asks for it. He's going to be a lawyer. He's trained to have this conversation.

Readers? Should she be worried about asking for too much? Should she just take it day by day without having a big conversation? Do you think they're in a real relationship? What should she say to him? Advise.

– Meredith

Our problems might be dealbreakers

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

Q: Hi Meredith,

I have been dating a man for just about two years now. He's sensitive and funny, great with kids, and absolutely stunning socially. He treats me right, he runs his own company, we communicate well, laugh a lot, and value each other's opinion. His family is stellar and they love me back. I'd like to know, though, other than cheating and substance abuse, what are the biggest breakups of marriages? Because my man and I are obviously on that path, and I worry that our issues are big ones.

For one, he can't leave a city that I can't stand. I came to the city we're in now for work, years ago, and as soon as we met we knew we had something really special so I've stayed, but the city is depressing to me and I miss the green and gratitude of the West Coast. I also love traveling. He can't move because his family is here and everyone is very close. His company is also here, and he can't leave it for more than a few weeks at a time.

Also, because of his work, hobbies, and family, I don't get the type of attention I crave. I grew up as a lone wolf, whereas he sees friends he's known since he was 8 every week. I'm used to being the center of a man's world, and although I don't *need* it, I do need to know I'm his priority.

And finally, there are financial issues. I grew up relatively well-off, traveling at least once a year. His profession isn't very lucrative.

Right now we are on a collision course for family -- we both want children, we love each other, and we're in our late-20s to early-30s. But with location, attention, and financial stress, will adding kids just push us over the edge? It's kinda the perfect time, but is this really just the perfect set up for disaster??

– Worried about marriage, Philadelphia

A: I can't predict the future, WAM, but this does sound like trouble.

The money stuff is big. His wonderful circle of friends bothers me less (I think you'd come to appreciate the community, especially if you had kids with this guy). But the biggest issue is location. You don't want to live on the East Coast anymore. The East Coast makes you sad. Meanwhile, he plans to live here forever. Isn't that the answer to your question? Would it be enough to visit the West Coast twice a year?

I know you love him, but this isn't the life you want. He deserves to be with someone who appreciates his beautiful East Coast life. And you deserve the right scenery.

Sit down and talk to him about how you'd like to spend the next decade. Don't hold back about your hopes and dreams. Then let him tell you his plan. If there isn't a compromise, give each other a break and seek out the lives you really want. Let go because you love each other.

Readers? Any ideas for compromise? Is love enough to keep them together? Should she walk away from someone this great? Is that easier said than done? Discuss.

– Meredith

Bouncing between exes

Posted by Meredith Goldstein January 23, 2012 08:48 AM

Q: I have been on and off with my boyfriend for about two years. He is beyond wonderful at times -- but he can also act as if he's not happy with his life at all.

I broke up with him because of that. My life wasn't going anywhere and I was beginning to feel stuck. The same night we broke up, I ran into an old friend that I used to text a lot. We kissed that night and I forgot all about my ex. This guy is amazing -- he has a great education, great family, great everything, and is so into me. He is so passionate.

We dated for about 6 months until my ex came back into the picture. I saw him at a few parties and I started to miss him. So I start texting him, sending him pics, etc. Eventually, I broke up with the new boyfriend and got back with my ex. The newer guy was heartbroken (I mean devastated) but I suddenly had no interest in him. I was all about my ex.

I'm still with my ex now but have also been texting my old fling. I am in desperate need of help. I love my ex and am so comfortable around him, but I love the second guy, too.

How do I choose? I've hurt these guys way too many times. I keep going back and forth between the two of them and I always get caught and never feel bad about it. I don't know what do to. Please, please help.

– Can't Choose, MA

A: CC, you spent most of your letter referring to your current boyfriend as your ex and your real ex as an "old fling." And I'm pretty sure that's what these guys are at this point. One guy gives you constant attention, while the other serves as a distraction when you get bored. The reality is that you're done with both of them.

You're not afraid of losing either of them, which means that both relationships are over. Please let them go so that you can experience life without the safety net of two adoring ex-partners. Time alone will help you answer questions about what you want out of a relationship.

And about those texts ... please stop. I'm all for texting inside jokes to a significant other as a way to pop in to say hello during the day, but you're using texts to cheat and tease. Next time you're feeling antsy and bored and you want to use your phone to get attention, try a game. That's what Brick Breaker is for. See if you can beat my score (10,500). If you can't control yourself with the exes, block their numbers.

Readers? What's with her impulsive decisions? Why do these guys take her back? Any thoughts about the texts? Confused by how she labels these men?

– Meredith

I'm paranoid after dates

Posted by Meredith Goldstein January 20, 2012 08:28 AM

Q: Dear Meredith,

I am currently single and have been for about three years now. I am 28 years old. I dated and lived with a great girl previously for about a year, but it didn't work out.

Back to why I am writing you. I am totally lost and hopeless in the dating arena. I have so many issues. I think I am attractive, in good shape, have a good job, and am very honest. But sometimes I think maybe I am trying to go out with girls who are too "attractive," at least based on my definition (not everyone agrees). When I say, OK, let me try someone who maybe I am not attracted to but could be good for me, I am totally not into it and end up feeling I wasted my time and hers. So that's one issue. Am I attracted to girls who are out of my league?

The more important issue is that while I actually do pretty well with getting dates and meeting women, I drive myself absolutely CRAZY with (1) when to call, (2) when to text, (3) when to meet, and (4) freaking out that maybe she doesn't like me and on and on and on. I self-destruct. I could go on an awesome first date but then smother the girl, texting the next day what a great time I had, asking her to go out again right after, and trying to contact her too much. One girl said that she got a sense of paranoia from me and that I could be insecure. Others say that I am too forward sometimes. I am just trying to be honest when they ask personal questions. I feel like it is more anxiety than anything! Friends always tell me to play it cool, but I totally can't. I already met a cute girl and asked for her number, but I am afraid I will screw it up again. I know others have much bigger problems, but I feel like a lot of my issues are what single guys and girls are often feeling -- when to call, what to do, etc. It feels like everything is magnified at the beginning so when being too careful, I actually mess it up. I probably sound desperate!

Please help ... I just want to meet someone and settle down. I am 28 and not getting younger!

– Totally Lost in NYC

A: Your first problem doesn't bother me, TLINYC. You should be attracted to the people you date. And you seem to be finding plenty of women to pursue, which means that you're not being too exclusive.

As for your second problem, it's true, you do sound a bit anxious and intense. You want to go from 0 to 100 with women after one date. That's not good for anybody. You can certainly call or send a text to thank someone for a nice night out, and you're allowed to be nervous when you hit the send button on your phone, but not every date is going to turn into a relationship. And if you don't see a woman right after a first date, it doesn't mean that she's going to disappear.

You mentioned that you come off as too "honest" on dates. I have to wonder whether that really means "self-absorbed." Yes, these women are asking personal questions, but there's no need for ridiculously long answers on a first date. And I would hope that you're asking these women just as many questions about themselves.

You seem like you might be obsessed with your own needs. What about theirs? Are you listening?

It's also important that you surround yourself with single friends. Couples are fine too, but this whole "I'm already 28!" thing means that you've lost perspective of what it means to be your age. Hanging out with peers will remind you that there's no need to rush any of this.

I want you to be so busy with friends that you only have one or two nights a week to date. Plans with friends will stop you from trying to see a woman 14 times in a row. They'll also keep you from feeling lost. That's important, especially in New York City.

Readers? How can he deal with dating anxiety? Am I right about the self-absorbed thing? How do you get out of a three-year lull? Discuss.

– Meredith

Importing a bride?

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

Remember: Be constructive. Have empathy. Even when you want to yell at the letter writer. Even when you want to yell at each other. I know it can be difficult, but the point is to help.

(And today is a tough one to deal with.)

Q: Meredith,

I am a divorced man in my early 30s. I met my wife when I was a young working professional right out of college. She was right out of high school at the time. We fell hard and fast for each other, but over time it was evident we had little in common, plus her family and friends didn't really like me. In total I was with my ex-wife for over 8 years.

Today I find it increasingly difficult to meet anyone, let alone date, find someone attractive, someone who wants the same things and not play games. Instead, I've been doing a ton of research on finding a wife from a 3rd world country. Old school matchmaking as they call it.

I understand it is not love. These foreign brides come from almost nothing, most are just trying to help pay off family debt. Sometimes these girls are simply forced into it ... as in human trafficking.

There are many cases where 3rd world brides are abused, murdered, and subject to deplorable conditions in their adopted homes. Many run away just to end up as prostitutes because of the language/cultural barrier.

I'm a big believer in helping the less fortunate. My intentions are to find a suitable wife, not to take advantage of someone in a desperate situation. Most relationships are based on love, but love alone can't sustain it. We often act out of blind love, sometimes it works sometimes it doesn't. Instead, I'm looking for a relationship based on mutual respect and appreciation first.

I believe there are merits to this "arrangement." It is a different type of marriage/relationship but one that could last even longer. There are so many divorces today. Clearly the love was right at THAT moment (whenever it was), but wrong at THIS moment. I need a relationship that can sustain itself with or without love. I'm not a frog, have a successful career, only 30, tall, no physical handicaps. I'm perfectly capable of finding my match here. But nowadays nothing is for certain.

There are many types of "arrangements" today: one-night stands, hook ups, booty calls, friends with benefits, open relationships, etc. This one is just more old school, using matchmakers.

What do you think about going on a marriage tour?

– Third World Bride, Boston

A: Nope. Sorry.

You want to do your part to stop human trafficking and help the less fortunate? Volunteer for an organization. Donate money. Take on the cause.

You can't compare this kind of bride shopping to a matchmaker service. If you want a real "marriage tour," hire a local matchmaker, someone who will set you up with a peer who's looking for a similar life.

And speaking of the word peer ….

You had an unsuccessful marriage with someone you met when she was right out of high school. Yes, you were almost just as young at the time, but you were a working professional and she was just a kid. And now you're looking for someone who's helpless and dependent. An employee. What does that say about you?

Many relationships do end, but there are just as many successful unions out there, and countless women who are looking for an honest, stable partnership. There are no guarantees in life -- even arranged marriages can fail -- but it's worth searching for someone who does actually love you. Love isn't everything, but ... it's almost everything.

My advice is to make more friends. You need to be around peers who can give you a reality check. Make sure that some of those pals are female. And please, go find a therapist and talk about your concerns.

No marriage tours. No Googling mail-order brides. You're in your early 30s. There's no rush here. Concentrate on friendship and working on yourself. If you eventually want to hire a real matchmaker (and your therapist thinks you're ready), go for it. Just pick a service that matches you with someone who has the means to walk away if it's just not right.

Readers? What should he do? Thoughts about his plan? What's going on here? Help.

– Meredith

He says he's finally ready

Posted by Meredith Goldstein January 18, 2012 08:50 AM

It's chat day.

Q: Hi,

I am in my early 30s and was, until a year ago, in a tumultuous 5-year relationship. Although we loved each other very much and got along well, my ex couldn't make up his mind about whether he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me, whereas I was ready for a real commitment on his part after being together for 3 years. To be fair, he was in an unstable financial and career situation the whole time and felt he had nothing to offer. He had already tried to end the relationship a few times because even though I didn't make any demands on him, it was obvious I wanted something that he couldn't provide. He was just not mentally ready. But each time, our feelings pulled us back together.

We finally broke up last year when he decided it was unfair to keep me waiting until he made up his mind.

It took me a while to get over him, but two months ago I met a wonderful guy and we have developed strong feelings for each other. But after I announced to my ex that I had met someone, he called me back to tell me he loved me and was now sure he wanted to marry me and that he's ready to spend the rest of his life with me. It's been a few weeks and he is much more communicative (he couldn't say the words "I love you" before), loving and caring.

So here I am, not sure if I should give my ex another chance or try and figure out where this new relationship is headed. Both options feel risky. My ex hasn't made me happy in the past due to his emotional unavailability, but I have some doubts about my new boyfriend's ability to make me happy too. He had trouble getting over an ex until recently, he hasn't gone to grad school yet, which is usually a big strain on relationships and delays family and kids (and frankly, I don't want to experience grad school a second time), he has a busy life (friends, hobbies), and I feel as though I can be just another activity to schedule...

Meredith, I need your help. I need to either tell my new bf I cannot pursue this relationship or tell my ex I will not marry him. How do I figure out if it's worth pursuing this new relationship or if I can trust my ex and give him another chance?

– Which One?, Boston

A: This is a tough one, WO, but based on what you've told us in your letter, you should probably drop the new guy. You want marriage and kids and he's thinking about grad school. And the whole "just another activity to schedule" thing doesn't make me feel good about what he has to offer.

I can't tell you whether your ex is for real this time, but you seem to want to know. You're talking to him (more than once, right?) and letting him tell you that he loves you. It sounds like you're already negotiating with him. I've got a big problem with the fact that he only changed his ways after you met someone else, but ... I can't say for sure that he's not capable of being what you want.

You could wind up losing both guys. The situation is certainly risky. But you spent a good three paragraph discussing your angst about the ex, and one paragraph listing your new guy's faults.

If you need to find out if your ex is for real, go do it. Get to know him all over again and listen to what he has to say.

Again, there are no guarantees, but that's life.

Readers? Which one? Is the ex for real? Is there more to the new guy? What should she do? Discuss.

– Meredith

I have a type

Posted by Meredith Goldstein January 17, 2012 08:35 AM

Q: Hi Meredith,

I am a successful, attractive, African-American female in my mid-20s who APPEARS to have everything going for me. I emphasize "appears" because people who know me believe I'm a young, vibrant, well-educated woman who has many opportunities awaiting her (and they are right). They think I don't stay up at night worried about anything.

And here is where they're wrong.

I have trouble dating and meeting men for a variety of reasons, but there are two that stick out most:

1. I have only been attracted to tall, attractive, white men. I'm talking about Tom Brady/Josh Duhamel/Paul Walker types. No one else. I have very good friends of all different cultural and racial backgrounds and I love them dearly, but as far as attraction goes, I'm only drawn to white males. I don't tell many people this because I'm afraid I'd be judged and looked down upon. But I only get that electric feeling with white men. [P.S. I'm working on breaking away from the pretty boy types I listed above because history has proven that the pretty ones are usually the dudes that break hearts.]

2. I'm still trying to get over a man I dated back in 2009 and 2010. I feel like he was the one that got away. I know it's been a while but it's like I can't completely get over him ... I just don't find that "spark" that I had with him with anyone else. He was so many things to me: smart, wicked attractive, educated, driven, funny, well-rounded, and his personality clicked well with mine. But he lived far away and it wasn't going to work. So I had to let him go. The icing on the cake is that I found out recently that this guy got married. Cue the water works. I was pretty hurt by it but he's been gone for so long, so it is what it is. The real downside is that I find myself only being attracted to men that resemble his physical features. Dark hair, brown eyes, tanned, beautiful.

The dating pool shrinks even more.

Anyway, I don't know what else to do. Men that meet me say they're surprised I'm single (probably because I love sports, action movies, and don't pay much attention to pop culture). I moved to Boston a year ago, so I don't have many friends that can play my wingman at bars or outings to meet guys. Going solo, I've tried extracurricular activities, going out, visiting bars...but I have this sinking feeling that I'm never going to meet someone that I'm wholeheartedly attracted to. I.JUST.FEEL.ALONE. Any advice?

– Living in a Black and White World, Massachusetts

A: We all have a type, LIABAWW. And when we're asked to imagine our perfect mate (or sexual partner), many of us picture Tom Brady. Or if you're me, this guy.

There are certainly some big issues at play here -- race is just one of them -- but I actually think that your problem has more to do with age, a breakup, and a recent move. You had a long-term boyfriend for some of your early 20s and then made some big life changes. You're still creating your world in Boston. It's an exhausting process.

My obvious advice is to join clubs, hang out with people after work, and say yes to every social opportunity. My less obvious advice is to stop using words like "only" and "don't" and "never." Don't be rigid. Whenever we have a terrible breakup we say things like, "I'll never fall for anyone who isn't just like him/her!" In reality, you don't know who you're going to fall for. And you don't know how your type will change as your peers get older (not every pretty boy gets to keep his hair and Tom Brady physique). Just get to know people and see how it feels. When you turn 29, you might see a serious change in what grabs your attention.

And as far as feeling like you're never going to meet anyone, well ... everyone has that fear. You're only in your mid-20s. You've got so much time. You will be hot for someone again. They'll be hot for you. It's inevitable.

Readers? Am I right to say that she’s making too many assumptions about what she likes? Has your type ever changed? Are the race politics important here or is she jumping to conclusions about her priorities based on her ex? Help.

– Meredith

He'll be gone in two months

Posted by Meredith Goldstein January 16, 2012 08:49 AM

A short letter for the holiday ...

Q: Dear Meredith,

I have been dating this guy for about three months. Things appeared to be going great until a few weeks ago when he dropped an atomic bomb. He is moving to CA either March or April 1st. He still wants to see me up until he moves, and I want to see him. Problem is, I am really falling for him and am already upset. Not sure if I should just end it now and be heartbroken or enjoy our last couple of months until he moves away and risk a bigger heartbreak!

I thought about the possibility of a long-distance relationship however my last one ended badly and that was only one state away.

I am devastated! HELP!

– Not Sure What to Do, Wakefield

A: I'd keep dating him, NSWTD. We're allowed to enjoy relationships even if we know they're not going to last forever. Also, the extra months give you time to figure out what you'll be missing. Maybe you'll decide mid-February that he's not as great as you thought he was in December. That would make it easier to move on -- and to prevent you from romanticizing all of the what-ifs after he moves. Of course, you also might wind up liking him more over the next few months, but that will also be a good lesson. Yes, there will be heartbreak, but you could have your heart broken by someone who lives down the street.

You've got to figure it out, so go for it. Just pay attention. Focus on who he is, not his impending departure. And enjoy yourself because you just never know. If things are still this great on April 1, you both might want to reevaluate.

Readers? Is it worth seeing someone if you know the relationship has an end date? What should the letter writer be doing with this time? Discuss.

– Meredith

I don't want to break up

Posted by Meredith Goldstein January 12, 2012 08:38 AM

A reminder: Please give the letter writer some real advice and empathy in the comments section. I don't mind off-topic conversation (especially in the discussion boards where it belongs) but I don't want the letter writer to get lost in the comments shuffle. - M

Q: Meredith,

After two years together, my boyfriend and I recently broke up. (I'm in my early-to-mid 20s.) I am having a hard time coping with the loss of a person I envisioned spending the rest of my life with. Our relationship began with love at first sight but took us two years to get up the nerve to ask each other out. We lived together for a year but because of a program for his job, he had to move back home with his parents (about 45 minutes away). He and I tried very hard to make time for each other but were both frustrated because so many other things kept coming up that limited our visits. This is the most serious relationship either of us has ever had.

The fight that led to our breakup happened a week before we graduated from our academic programs. He said that we are headed in different directions because he knows I want marriage and kids but he doesn't want those things right now (I am not ready to be a parent for at least another 3-4 years and am fine putting off marriage as long as I know he wants to be with me), but he doesn't seem to hear what I am saying. He said that he would rather break up now than later and brought up other what-ifs for the future, like where I will get a job next year. I did not want to fight about what-ifs and still don't, but once he made his decision he said that if we gave it a second chance until May that we would be "living a lie." He still says that he's in love with me but his continually telling me that this is for my own good is frustrating. I know that we obviously need space right now but I would like us to revisit these issues once the job situation is settled here in a few months.

I don't know how to get around this. We still hang out, but because I am so deeply hurt by this, our conversations eventually end up with me asking for reiteration of his reasons (because I don't understand how the what-ifs years down the road can lead to the breakup of a fantastic, loving two-year relationship), and me telling him how hurt and confused I am. I have also been dealing with feelings of being worthless because I feel as though he feels our relationship is not worth working on and I am deeply hurt by what I perceive as his refusal to fight for me or our relationship.

I don't know what to do, so any advice would be helpful.

– Lost and Confused, CO.

A: You're not worthless. You're just single. And that's OK. He doesn't want what you want, but that doesn't mean that you're suddenly flawed. It just means that you're sad about the end of a relationship. Be sad. But don't let this breakup define you.

My first piece of advice is to stop hanging out with him. Cut him off. He broke up with you, which means he's no longer entitled to your time. You need to be moving on and these visits are painful. You both need to process this on your own.

My second piece of advice is to listen to what he's telling you. He's saying that if you don't break up now, you will break up later. You want to get married in four years, and he wants ... well, he isn't saying anything definitive about what he wants four years from now, probably because he doesn't know.

You can't negotiate yourself out of a breakup. (Trust me, I've tried.) We've talked about the stages of grief in Love Letters, and you're stuck on bargaining. Bargaining is exhausting.

Give yourself time to mourn and to fantasize about what else is out there. Imagine how it will feel when someone is smitten with you for the first time, because that will happen. Tell the ex that you're miserable to lose him and then then walk away. If he changes his mind, he knows where to find you.

Readers? Can you help her feel less worthless? Can you explain the stages of grief in breakups? Is he telling her everything she needs to know Help.

– Meredith

He has daddy issues

Posted by Meredith Goldstein January 9, 2012 08:30 AM

Q: Dear Meredith,

I have been with my boyfriend on and off for almost five years. There are ways that we are so much in tune with each other -- intellectually, politically, and physically -- but the connection that I think is most important, our emotional connection, remains elusive. From what he's told me, his dad was emotionally abusive and his mother, who wasn't emotionally expressive herself, just went along with things. Often, when we have problems, he'll say it reminds him of something with his dad. I feel like our relationship has three people in it.

He is seeing a therapist but things don't seem to be changing. We've split up several times because we cannot communicate. When I try to bring up a problem to discuss and try to work through it, he immediately goes on the defensive because he says it seems like an attack to him no matter how calmly and gently I speak. I know his father resented him and showed it clearly in almost all their interactions, but I'm not his dad and we are both middle-aged. Could this ever change?

– Three's Not Company, NJ

A: The quick answer to your last question is that yes, sometimes people can change the way they cope with old problems, especially with the help of a professional ... but your guy might not change into the right partner for you, TNC.

You can go to therapy with him and discuss all of this, but before you tag along, please think about what you're trying to save. On your best days, is this relationship what you want? When there's nothing wrong, do you feel emotional intimacy? Are you ever the center of attention? Is the relationship fun?

You've been together (sort of) for five years so there's a lot on the line, but this relationship sounds so limited. You have to be careful about what you say. You told us that your emotional connection remains elusive. That's huge.

You can't have a relationship with a work-in-progress. If that's what he is to you, move on. And if you're really not sure, go to therapy with him and all will be revealed.

Readers? Is there something worth saving here? Can someone move on from family issues this late in the game? Should she drop him now. Try therapy? Help.

– Meredith

He gave up on me

Posted by Meredith Goldstein January 6, 2012 08:26 AM

Q: Hi Meredith,

I broke up with my boyfriend last summer. We had been together for a year and a half and had lived together for a few months. I was going through a very difficult time while we lived together. (I lost my business, my money, a family member, etc.) I could barely afford to take the T to my part-time job. He might say otherwise, but what happened is that he gave up on me, checked out of us, and started hanging out with another woman behind my back. There were dates, texts of adoration, the whole deal. I moved out, found a place, found a job, and started to feel good again. My summer was full of introspection and tears, but I got to a point where I was done putting energy into being angry with him.

We met up to talk and we hashed it out. We met up a few more times and we became less of two people who used to date, and more like two people who were friendly and actually enjoyed a laugh. Fast forward to now. We've been talking, texting, and have seen each other a number of times, and yes, I never thought I'd do it, but we became physical.
I thought I could do the casual thing, but he gets drunk and texts/calls and says things like "I'm so in love with you," "I miss you," "I had a hard day and want to hear your voice," and I just can't hear that as someone whose heart was broken by him, you know? So, I finally gathered the strength to say, I can't do this. We're not together, nor are we moving toward that. We're exes and I need distance in order to really move on and be open to a new guy who won't give up on me.

I really enjoyed being friendly with him and I do care about him as a person, but it was just too hard. I think it was right, but I miss him. I miss hearing from him and I'm doing this thing in my head where I don't think I'll ever meet anyone else. Oh, one other important piece of information: he was my first real boyfriend (I'm in my late 20s). I had had other "situations" in the past, but never called anyone my boyfriend, nor was I considered anyone's girlfriend. Is that why I'm having such a hard time?

I also think that this all happened because it gave me back the control. It's essentially what I should've done in the spring when he started checking out of our relationship, but at the time, I was so stressed out and in the dumps that losing something else was too much for me to consider. I did the right thing, right?

– So Confused, Boston

A: It's completely understandable that you cut him off as a "friend" -- at least temporarily -- because you don't want him to distract you from finding a real partner. It was a smart move even though you're missing him.

He was your first big relationship and you postponed the mourning process. Also, your good months with him represent simpler times. You're letting go of all of it.

This is also difficult because despite the fact that he was an idiot, he probably does love you. You were dealing with issues that people tend to tackle in their 30s and 40s, and he responded to it all like someone in his early 20s. On some level, you know that he probably does mean all of these texts, despite his inability to carry them out like a grownup. His legitimate feelings make this all the more complicated. (I have to point out, of course, that all of his texts are about his needs. I'd have a tougher time giving you advice if he sent a text that said, "I want to be there for you when you've had a hard day.)

I know you feel lost right now, but you've put your life back together like a pro. You're coping with the aftermath of a difficult year. You're doing what you need to do to see the world clearly. This phase hurts, but it's all part of the process. Compare these feelings to how your body responds after a tough day at the gym. You're sore all over, but that just means you're on your way to being in very good shape.

Readers? Why is she so sad about losing him the second time? What about these texts? Did he give up on her? Should she keep him in her life? What about her fear of never meeting someone new? Discuss.

– Meredith

Does he drink too much?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein January 5, 2012 07:48 AM

Q: Hey Meredith,

I love my boyfriend but I don't know if we are compatible. We're in our mid-late 20s, each other's first serious relationship, and he means so much to me and takes such good care of me. He's sweet and cuddly and funny. We've been together a year and a half, part of which we were long distance. However, I can't figure out if there are real problems or if I have found someone awesome who loves me like crazy who I need to accept as is.

Specifically, I am not sure about his drinking. I don't think I drink much -- maybe a glass of wine at dinner on a weekend or a beer or two at a party tops. He's a big sports-watching, likes-to-have-a-drink-or-two-to-relax at night kind of guy. At a social event he'll drink a lot -- I've seen him binge drink in a social setting two or three times. Also, I recently saw a half empty bottle of vodka in his cabinet and it freaked me out because I think that's a lot to drink. I don't think he's had it for more than two to three weeks and he's the only one who could have consumed it. Based on his family history and things he's told me about himself and his past, I think he has addictive tendencies, though I don't think he's an alcoholic now.

I know that I have addictive tendencies myself, and I have family members with alcoholism. I am careful never to have more than a glass once in a while because I know my limits and I'm not going to tempt fate. I've also talked to professionals about these issues. I do not want an alcoholic in my life, or as my partner. My boyfriend and I have talked about my concerns and he reassures me that he is in control of his drinking. I believe him and I'm sure he could let it go if he needed to, but he doesn't. I have doubts, but I don't think it's my place and I don't want to nag him to stop drinking either.

There's added pressure to figure this out because we're both about to finish grad school and we'll need to figure out where we're going next career-wise and location-wise. We're at a point in our relationship where he wants to think about maybe moving in together and to think about marriage. I feel like it's rushed and that I still need to take care of my career and explore and live in new places. (I've told him as much.) We're on separate pages.

Are these drinking behaviors a "guy" thing? Am I being oversensitive about his drinking? Does it matter? Will it matter in the future? Are we just not compatible?

– Lost in Lynn

A: I can't tell you whether he has an alcohol problem, LIL. What I can tell you is that his habits make you uncomfortable, and beyond that, you're not even sure if you want a serious commitment with him right now. You don't feel safe in this relationship and you'd rather prioritize yourself anyway.

So do this: Tell him where you stand. Instead of asking him whether he's in control of his drinking, be specific about what you can live with. Are you comfortable keeping alcohol in the house? What are your rules for the future? Will you want a partner who only drinks on weekends?

Also tell him how the next few years of your life look in your mind. Do you plan to move around? Will you be working 70 hours a week at a new job? Find out whether your vision looks anything like his. The more specific you are about what you want, the easier it will be to figure out whether he should join you.

The bottom line is that alcohol, in relationships, is as important as money or sex. It can be a catalyst for big problems so you have to make sure you share a philosophy about it as a couple.

I also recommend continuing your therapy. You have alcoholism in your family and seem to be confused about your own boundaries. It's always best to talk to a professional about that stuff. It's a conversation you should continue as you get older.

Readers? Is this a relationship worth saving? What about the good stuff? How do you know whether someone has crossed a line with alcohol? Could his habits be related to age and school? Should she see how this feels after graduation? Help.

– Meredith

Is she my destiny?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein January 3, 2012 08:44 AM

Q: Meredith,

I just recently separated from my wife of 15 years. Totally my fault. I was not totally happy in my marriage so I had an affair. Not the right thing to do, but can't change the past. I know that it will be a tough road ahead, but I made my bed and now I am lying in it.

Here is my dilemma. My high school sweetheart, who was also married, is also in the process of a divorce. We have started chatting again -- nothing serious -- but talking/texting/emailing. I told her that I did still have feelings for her after all these years. It was a great relationship, but it ended quickly when I went off to college. She agreed that there was unfinished business, but she did not want to be the reason that I got divorced.

Since I moved out, I have asked her out a few times but something always comes up. I am thinking I may be too sensitive? Maybe she does not want to go out, maybe she does -- but why does she not have the same time table I do? Am I crazy for being so sensitive? Every time I decide that I am not going to contact her, she calls or text me!

When we dated in high school she had seen a movie, Mr. Destiny. The theme of the movie is: "Would you give up everything you have ever had for everything you ever wanted?" At the time I said no, because she was what I had, but now is she everything I ever wanted?


– Mr. Destiny, Central Mass.

A: MD, one of my first rules about dating and marriage is: Do not compare your relationships to movies that feature Jim Belushi. Not even "About Last Night." Although I do love that one.

In real life, you're separated from your wife of many years and have no idea what you need. Instead of deciding that this high school sweetheart is the answer to your problems, get to know yourself. Think about what you've done and what's to come. Consider that you might need time to process all that's happened. You can't give up what you have for this ex like you're in a movie. No one is giving you that option -- especially not her. Please take some time off from pursuing a relationship and get into therapy.

And know this: In the real world, we all have unfinished business with exes and crushes. Life just isn't long enough to finish our business with everyone. What-ifs are normal.

The warm feelings you're having for her right now? They're fueled by nostalgia. That's why you're quoting '90s movies. Take some space, get back to the present, and deal with your loss. It's too soon to ask anyone to be on your time table -- because you don't have one yet.

Readers? Can you help Mr. Destiny? What's happening with the ex? Help.

– Meredith

I need to tell her how I feel

Posted by Meredith Goldstein December 29, 2011 08:40 AM

New Year's Updates tomorrow.

Q: Hi Meredith,

I'm not usually one to write into a blog, though I've been a semi-frequent reader of yours over the years. I'm writing today because there is this great woman, "Kay," I've known since my first day of college. She is drop-dead gorgeous and also has the sort of sparkling personality that catches your attention pretty quickly. Throughout many years of school (we were in a medical program) we became very close friends but never seemed to be single at the same time. One night, when we were briefly single, she even broached the subject of friends with benefits, but I said I didn't like the idea because I don't think I could do FWB without developing feelings for the person eventually (the discussion was in the abstract but it was clear to me where it would have gone).

We graduated and now live a plane trip away from each other. We have stayed in contact and I finally made a trip to visit her a few weeks ago. We had a grand time just talking about life and our hopes and dreams and how we both feel adrift at this point in our life even though we both have the satisfying jobs we want. We are both happy but want something more. We are both truly single, simultaneously, for the first time since we have met and over the course of my trip I started thinking that she may also have feelings for me too. She even suggested that we would share a bed, adding that "nothing sexual would happen." I declined, thinking I wouldn't be able to hold back from trying something, though in hindsight I'm wondering if she was doing it to just try and get me into bed with her without scaring me off. (Side question: How many people sleep with a person they are attracted to without any sexual thoughts going through their head?)

Luckily, it appears that she'll be coming to New England in a few months. I am dying to tell her how I feel. I almost told her several times when I went to visit her but fear of losing her as a friend kept me from doing it.

After reflecting on it for a while, I don't know if I can keep her as a friend knowing how strong my feelings are and how much stronger they became when I went to visit her. Every person I've talked to says I should just tell her. She's even met my parents and they are completely baffled as to why I haven't pursed her openly yet. So my problem is this: Why am I more petrified than a mosquito in amber? The bigger question is that I have no idea how to start the conversation with her. What do I say to start? I feel like if I could just get the first few lines out the right way everything will work out.

– Can't Just Do It, New England

A: Do it, CJDI. Tell her. Say, "Kay, when I was visiting you, I turned down sleeping in your bed because I have feelings for you and didn't want to tempt myself. I know we're living far away from each other, but I'd like to lean in and kiss you and then see if we can turn this into something awesome."

If I were you, I'd tell her before she gets here -- by phone -- so that she can ponder it all before she's standing right in front of you. Maybe she'll let you down easy before she gets here. Or maybe she'll spend the next few months picking out an awesome pair of pajamas for the trip.

I know it would be more romantic to tell her in person, but you guys have a habit of not being single at the right time. She could get a boyfriend within the next two months. Don't miss your window.

And for the record, the bed sharing thing is suspect (in a good way). It sounds like she had a perfectly nice couch. So yeah, it's very possible that she wanted to see if you were willing to sleep by her side. It's possible she wanted to give you an in for that first kiss.

Put it out there and then tell us what happened. You have every reason to be hopeful and nothing but bottled-up feelings to lose.

Readers? Should he tell her now that she lives far away? Should he tell her in person or before she gets here? How should he say it? Script him and help.

– Meredith

Am I incapable of commitment?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein December 28, 2011 08:13 AM

Hey there. We're going to take a vacation from chat today for the holidays. If you have questions, write them up as a letter, please.

Q: Dear Meredith,

I've been dating a very kind, sensitive and thoughtful man, "James," for nearly 8 months now. We have fun when we're together, he treats me better than any man I have ever been with, and at 23 it’s the longest "relationship" this Miss Independent has ever been in.

The problem is, despite all of the wonderful qualities this man has, I can't seem to fully commit to him. Originally I was telling myself it was a matter of distance -- he lives 2 hours away (by car) -- though he travels to see me whenever he can (2 to 3 times a month) and we talk every day. From the time we started dating, I continued to see other people here in Boston, thinking that James and I were just going to keep it casual considering the distance. About 5 months after we met, James invited me to a big event with him and shortly thereafter mentioned wanting to organize a weekend getaway so that I could meet his parents. I responded noncommittally and about a week later broke things off with James over the phone. Always a bit of a self-proclaimed commitment-phobe, I reasoned with myself that it was for the best considering I wanted to keep my options open with him living hours away, and would probably end up hurting him more if we continued seeing each other.

After a few weeks of not speaking, I found myself out and about on dates with different men, but continuing to think about James and missing him a lot. He got in touch this fall to mention that he was coming to Boston and I went out to meet him at the bar as a "friendly" gesture. This of course led to more and we have resumed seeing each other since then, at a similar rate of 2-3 times a month.

We haven't had the talk again yet, but I know that James would like to be exclusive. It seems like I've gone through every excuse in the book to keep things casual. Though the distance is unfortunate, we've been making it work with regular visits, and so I don't think that that’s actually the problem. Then I thought that I may just like getting the attention from this very caring man -- but I don't have much trouble attracting male attention and dates outside of my relationship with James. Finally, I considered the option that I'm just not that into James, but after 8 months of dating and not being able to keep away from him, I don't think that’s the issue either. So what’s my problem? Is it because I've never been in a serious relationship? Is there an actual thing as a completely commitment-phobic woman?

– Still "Single" in Somerville

A: You're 23 and want to explore your options, SSIS. James sounds like a serious guy -- maybe someone who could wind up marrying the person he starts dating now. I'm not sure you're on the same path.

My advice is to explain to James that while you're with him right now, you're not sure about later. It's just not in your personality to think big at 23. After having that talk, test the waters by bringing him out with friends, family -- whatever you can do to make these visits seem more like a relationship. I mean, who wouldn't want a nice boyfriend who shows up to give you attention and then disappears before he gets in the way? You need to bring James into your real world as much as possible to find out whether you wind up feeling more attached to him ... or less. Getting closer will help you get to an answer.

You are not monumentally commitment-phobic, but you could use a push. This distance with James has allowed you to stay in a comfortable relationship waiting room. See how it feels to get just a little bit closer, and keep him informed about where you are in your head.

Readers. Is she in a relationship waiting room? How can she figure out how she feels about James? How do you think she feels about James? Discuss.

– Meredith

I miss her during the holidays

Posted by Meredith Goldstein December 26, 2011 08:16 PM

We'll have regular letters through Thursday and then New Year's updates on Friday.

If you missed yesterday's spam, it's here. And if you missed Friday's updates, they're here.

Q: Hi Meredith,

You've probably heard this story before, someone having trouble getting over an ex especially around the holidays. My ex and I dated for a year and things were OK but we would have the same argument every month. I thought she had anxiety issues and suggested counseling, which she's done before, but she thought I just didn't want to deal with her emotions (which was also sometimes true).

We dated for a year and then stayed friends for a long time after that. For the first couple of months we were friends with benefits, but I stopped that because I was afraid I was leading her on. Just before our last FWB encounter she told me she "would always love me as a friend" and that's why I shouldn't feel guilty. I took that very seriously since I don't make friends easily and we were really close. I considered her my best friend even after we stopped having sex. But I always knew she wanted to get back together.

Fast forward to about three months ago. I knew she was dating but she finally got serious with another guy. I, being an idiot who has trouble reading my own emotions, didn't deal well with it and told her I thought I still had feelings for her. She told me that we needed time apart to help me get over her. I've been in this situation before and "some time apart" turns into "I'll never speak to you again." And this was a week after I helped her move.

Since then I've seen pictures of her and her new bf -- her taking him to meet her family and going on vacations with him (I consider that pretty quick, but my opinion doesn't matter). I defriended her and all of her friends on FB because I can't handle seeing updates with her and her BF without getting incredibly hurt. I've sent her an email for Christmas just wishing her the best but I doubt she'll respond.

I understand through therapy and friends that I can't control her actions and that she's an ex, etc.. I've also been told that since she won't talk back to me that's a sign she still feels something too, but I'm trying not to read into her emotions. But I've always felt that because we were friends and especially because she said she would always love me as a friend that I'm particularly hurt (even though I know people say things they mean at the time but won't follow through with). I've been dating someone else and I'm not even sure I'd want to date my ex again. There's just this huge amount of hurt that I haven't been able to get rid of. And the uncertainty of knowing if we'll ever even talk to each other again makes it hard for me to move on properly.

Am I being unreasonable? Do I just need more time? And is there anything I can do to help this situation?

– Home Alone, Cambridge

A: She cut you off because you're both dating other people and trying to move on, HA. I mean, how else could this possibly work? Do you think that you could have an easygoing friendship with her right now? Do you think that her boyfriend would embrace you as a platonic pal? Do you think you could keep your mind straight about what she represents?

Your ex wants to make sure that if you ever speak again, it's truly platonic. You need this space. Be thankful that she's giving it to you. And for the record, she has every right to focus on her new relationship. You should focus on whether you want to be in yours.

"Some time apart" doesn't always mean "I'll never speak to you again." This isn't "taking a break" in a romantic relationship -- you guys are already broken up. In your case, time apart means time for perspective. It's about giving each other the chance to mourn the end of a relationship, something you never got the chance to do.

You're right -- the holidays are particularly rough, but you just have to get through the week and try to stay close to your friends. And if you feel sad, that's OK. You had a bad breakup. It's just taken you a long time to admit it. Even if you're the breaker upper, you're supposed to be miserable. You're supposed to miss her friendship and want to text her little inside jokes. That's how it goes. But the truth about why you broke up is still relevant. Remind yourself of that, and assure yourself that she will speak to you when it feels less urgent. Of course, by then you might not care so much.

Readers? Tips for a guy whose heart hurts during the holidays? What happened here? Be nice. It's the most wonderful time of the year, after all. Help.

– Meredith

Avoiding the friend zone

Posted by Meredith Goldstein December 22, 2011 08:40 AM

Updates coming tomorrow ...

Q: Meredith,

I'm hoping you and your readers can help me out. I was introduced to this girl, let's call her Emily, several months ago through one of my good friends, but not in an effort to set us up. What I've come to realize is that I like this girl. There is of course a complication -- I've suspected that she was dating someone else, "Jim."

Emily met Jim when they were freshman in college and they dated a while. Jim went abroad, and while he was gone, he and Emily broke up because she met someone else. She and that guy ended their relationship earlier this year. Everyone is now graduated and Emily and Jim have been spending a decent amount of time together. According to my friend, they started officially dating again two days ago.

The friend who introduced us has suggested that I tell Emily how I feel anyway. So now I need to decide whether I say anything to Emily about how I feel and let her know that there is someone other than Jim out there -- or say nothing.

Worth mentioning is that Jim is a jerk to people quite often, especially to Emily, and other people beside me notice this as well.

Part of me wants to tell her now because I have a habit of becoming friends with girls I like and getting stuck in the friend zone and I don't want this to happen with Emily. But another part of me says sit back and see what happens. I'm just tired of being too cautious around people and missing out on something good, but don't want to screw up by doing something stupid. Please help.

– Looking for Some Guidance, Western Mass.

A: This would be a complicated mess if Jim was your close friend, LFSG. But he isn't, right? He's just the friend of a friend, and no one seems to like him very much. You don't have to worry about losing him, which makes this rather easy.

Tell her. Be brave. Explain that you've developed a crush on her and that you were bummed to hear that she's dating her college boyfriend. Then give her space. I have no idea how she'll respond, but at the end of the day you're doing this for you. You're letting the world know that you don't want to "sit back and see what happens."

For the record, I don't advocate hitting on other people's girlfriends, but this is more about staying honest. You're just letting everyone know how you feel.

The only risk here is that you might lose Emily. If she doesn't reciprocate and wants her life to be simple, she might keep her distance from you after your disclosure. But that's OK. She's not your close friend. You know what zone you're shooting for.

Readers? Is it OK for him to tell Emily how he feels? What is his friend's role in this? Thoughts about Emily and Jim? How can he stay out of the friend zone? Help.

– Meredith

Why hasn't he pursued this?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein December 21, 2011 08:38 AM

Chat at 1.

Q: Hey Meredith,

I have something that's been on my mind for a little while and need your advice on how to deal with it.

I used to work with this guy, "Dave." When we worked together we got along great and I ended up having pretty strong feelings for him toward the end of my stay there. I never knew if he felt the same way but there was constant flirting between the both of us.

On my last day all my coworkers went out together and Dave came out too. We were inseparable the entire night and everyone was noticing. At one point he turned to his friend and said, while looking at me, "I hate how much I love this girl." I felt like that was it -- that we definitely have feelings for each other.

Fast forward a couple of months and I haven't heard a word from him. There were a couple of texts that I initiated, but that was it. I can't figure out what happened. Was he just being funny? Did he really "love" me? I'm so confused! I think about that night and him and still remain confused.

What should I do? I get the urge to text him or call him and just ask why he hasn't talked to me or why he said what he said. Then I think that I should just let it go. If he really liked me he would have followed up. But I need closure because I feel like he might be waiting for me to make the move!

– Never know when to let go, Boston

A: I see three possibilities here, NKWTLG. The probable one is that Dave is a big-time flirt who finds you very attractive but doesn't plan to do anything about it. He might be one of those magnetic people who can make you feel like you're the center of the universe. Those people are great, but that's often their whole plan -- they get a high from attention, but it stops there.

Another possibility (much less probable) is that Dave is super shy and needs you to ask him out. This wouldn't make a whole lot of sense -- he was forward enough to flirt pretty publicly in front of friends -- but maybe alcohol fueled that aggressiveness.

The third possibility is that Dave has a girlfriend. If that's the case, none of this matters.

So you tell me. Is Dave shy? Is he the kind of guy who's too scared to ask someone out when he's sober? When you sent those texts, did he seem relieved that you had made a first move? Are your old friends from work pushing you to ask him out? Or ... was Dave the kind of guy who lit up a room no matter who was in it? Did you ever feel like he was desperate to get to know the real you -- outside of work?

Be honest with yourself and make decisions accordingly. I'm willing to accept that Dave is a shy guy who needs help if you tell me that's the case, but nothing you've said in this letter makes me want to jump to that conclusion.

And for the record, "I hate how much I love this girl!" -- as a statement yelled in public -- doesn't mean much to me. It means that there's an attraction, but it doesn't mean love.

Readers? Should she ask Dave what happened? What do you think about Dave? Am I right about the options? Help.

– Meredith

It's not easy dating green

Posted by Meredith Goldstein December 19, 2011 08:02 AM

I'll run updates later this week. If you're a letter writer and you want to send an update, email it to meregoldstein at gmail with "UPDATE" in the subject line.

Q: Dear Meredith,

I have recently ended a relationship with a wonderful guy. Let's call him Mr. Green. He was my stab at "green dating" (the recycling of ex-boyfriends) after my marriage of 15 years ended. Mr. G contacted me out of the blue via Facebook almost a year after my breakup and we reconnected there. We have spent the past 2+ years in a relationship that I knew was doomed from the start.

I was honest with him from the get-go. I am not interested in ever being married again or even living with another man. I enjoyed his company, he was great with my kids, but the same issues we had 20+years ago were still valid. We are just ultimately not compatible. He has never been married and has his own emotional issues. He's a wonderfully sensitive guy and I love him very much but love isn't enough.

I ended the relationship last year but accepted a friendship with him. It was infrequent visits at first but then it became a monthly thing. We became friends with benefits and I felt like we were back in the thick of it again. I wasn't feeling compelled to go out there and meet others, nor was he.

One of our major differences is that I am demonstrative of my feelings and he lives in an emotional straight jacket. I get why, but it doesn't make me want to stay with him. I have now ended it for good and this time there will be no "friendship." I still care for him, I am still alone and he is too. Seeing each other will end up only one way. It’s unproductive for both our lives.

He is hurt that I won't be his friend. He says it's unprogressive of me, someone who prides herself on being a liberal-minded person. Am I wrong to not try to just be his friend? Can lovers really be friends after such intimacy? More than the proverbial innocuous holiday email that some exes can share, I don't believe you can just be friends without that tension or those old feelings coming up. Maybe I just wear my feelings too outwardly? Maybe I should restrain my feelings like him. Or maybe we just can't be friends. What do you think?

– Green Dater, Boston

A: It's not "unprogressive" to keep your distance, GD. It's honest and wise. Some exes are more than capable of being friends, but you guys aren't. So that's that. No friendship, at least not while you're single and vulnerable to making mistakes.

You can't change who you are. You can't bottle up your feelings and stay on your side of the friendship couch while he's sitting there just two cushions away. My guess is that he knows this, and that he's hoping that after another reconciliation or two you'll change your mind about him.

Explain that you need this space to figure out what it really feels like to be broken up. And tell him that dealing with the loss of an ex isn't about being liberal-minded. It's about protecting yourself. It's about reality. Assure him that a friendship might be possible -- later. But for now you need space. Your gut is right about that.

Readers? Thoughts on being "liberal" about post-breakup friendships? Thoughts on green dating? Is she being fair? Discuss.

– Meredith

I've been cut off

Posted by Meredith Goldstein December 14, 2011 07:03 AM

Chat day.

Q: I'm in my mid-20s and I recently ended my relationship with my girlfriend of six years. We lived together for several years but I recently moved to another state for work. There were problems outside of distance. I felt like I carried the entire relationship.

I'm ashamed to admit that before we broke up I cheated. My work sent me to another city (4 hours a way) for the month and I met someone who was also in a long relationship. We just clicked instantly and I've never had that sensation before. It started out as something physical, but it very quickly became something more. She told me she loved me and I said the same back. She said she's never felt this way about someone and that I taught her what it means to truly be in love. She said that I am the first person who's made her feel like part of a team and that I'm the first person she's ever liked cuddling with. We became very emotionally attached. I left town and we continued talking on the phone and texting daily. She even came up to visit and said she saw us having a future together.

I realized I needed to break up with my girlfriend -- I had been with the other woman for a month and my relationship was clearly over. The day before I was going to break up, this other woman phoned and said she was pregnant. She decided to end the pregnancy (a decision I agreed with) and I put my feelings aside to help her in any way I could. We still talked about how much we loved and cared for each other even while dealing with the pregnancy.

When this happened we both ended our respected relationships. It was difficult and she had a hard time dealing with the infidelity on her part. We talked a bit about what was going to happen next with us and she was confused and said she needed time but that she loved me so much. A week after the abortion she called and said that we shouldn't talk and that we both needed to move on. She said that I only reminded her of what happened and what we had before meant nothing. She said I have honestly never felt this way about anyone before, but all I represented was the abortion.

I am having such a hard time accepting this. I am really confused that over the course of two weeks I could go from the love of someone's life to meaning absolutely nothing to them. The pregnancy and the abortion were hard on me and I will never know what it must have been like for her, but I still love this person dearly and still see a future with her. I don't want to just jump into another relationship, but I feel like I shared a lot (albeit briefly) with this other woman and wish we could communicate and work through this. I don't know why she just completely gave up on me and wants me totally out of her life.

– Sorry for the long letter, Massachusetts

A: You can't control her decisions, SFTLL, but you need to understand that that you don't suddenly mean "nothing" to her. In fact, you mean plenty -- which is why she doesn't want to look at you. You symbolize the good and the terrible. You symbolize infidelity, the end of a pregnancy, and life-changing intimacy that came out of nowhere. You symbolize the end of a long relationship. Most of all, you symbolize confusion.

You can tell her (via email) that you hope she changes her mind. You can tell her that you're confused too but that you're willing to process what's happened to both of you while continuing to get to know her. You can tell her that you don't want to overwhelm her but that you’d like to stick around so that you can enjoy all that you experienced before the pregnancy. You can also tell her that you could both use some therapy after all of the confusion.

If she bites and wants to talk more, that's great. If she doesn’t, there's nothing you can do. For all you know she's back with the ex, and if she truly wants you gone, you have to go away and start dealing with the loss. And while you're at it, give yourself some time to mourn your ex. You never had the time to think about the end of your long relationship. Take some space. You need it just as much as she does.

Readers? What should he do? Should he be alone right now? What should he tell this woman? How can he process this? When should he reach out? Help.

– Meredith

I've moved on with his friend

Posted by Meredith Goldstein December 13, 2011 08:46 AM

Q: Dear Meredith,

Almost a year ago, the man I lived with for many years passed away tragically. During the last few years that we shared a bed together, we were more like best friends sleeping side by side, having no sexual contact besides hugs and cuddling. We were best friends, however, and every part of the life we lived was together. We were extremely close with each other's families and friends, and I received an overwhelming amount of support after his passing, and still do.

One friend in particular has been an ongoing and consistent source of peace of mind for me. He has talked me out of some of my worst thoughts and lowest points, simultaneously managing to bring back happiness. Our friendship eventually escalated and we became physical. We have a mutual friend who is aware and supportive, but other than that no one else knows. We spend a few nights a week together and I find myself counting down the days until our next date.

Originally we had both decided that it would be best if no one else knew of our situation. On my end, I didn't want to hurt my late partner's family members who might not think enough time had passed. Meanwhile, he worries about what his friends will think. As we approach a new year and my early 30s seem to be flying by, I am beginning to want more out of this and have started dropping hints. I had avoided the sit down conversation until now because I have been so happy with our situation and didn't want to change the dynamics. Despite my hints, he has demonstrated that he is more comfortable keeping us under wraps.

I am challenged with the idea that as long as we stay under wraps, he is able to avoid a commitment, although he has openly said that he is not dating or sleeping with anyone else. At this point, do you think it is healthier for us to just break ties? I wouldn't betray his trust and let it slip out to our group of friends, yet I don’t want to end up in another unconventional relationship. What do you think?

– Going With the Flow, Boston

A: GWTF, have you asked him if he ever plans on telling anyone? Have you asked him whether he sees this as something that will continue? Have you asked the one friend who knows about your situation what this looks like from the outside?

It's time to ask. No more dropping hints. Just explain that you have enough going on in your head without having to keep secrets. His fear of going public is understandable but you can't continue like this for much longer. And he shouldn't be lying to his friends.

Have the talk and figure out whether his secrecy is about guilt or a fear of commitment. My guess is that it's both. My guess is that he's worried about what his friends will think, and that he doesn't know how to deal with the fact that dating you is anything but casual.

It's not uncommon for people to wind up dating the friends of their deceased former partners. There's a shared loss, a strong history, and often, it winds up being a great thing. But these relationships can be confusing. Obviously.

Right now, you need to take care of you. Tell him that while the secrets were understandable in the beginning, they can't continue. Assure him that dating you publicly doesn't mean that you have to stay together forever -- it just means that you're seeing how it works. That's all he has to tell his friends. (And trust me, they want you both to be happy.) If he needs help figuring out what to say to his community, you can take him to a grief counselor for help. That's what they're for.

If he doesn't want anything to do with you out in the open, you need to start making connections and finding new outlets for support. You said it best -- your early 30s are flying by. You want love. I don't want you to keep falling harder for this guy if he's not going to let you enjoy him.

Readers? Is his hesitation understandable? Will his friends be upset? Is this about loss or commitment issues? Discuss.

– Meredith

How can I forgive?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein December 12, 2011 08:02 AM

Q: Dear Meredith,

While my current relationship is storybook, it is this past one that almost three years later sometimes keeps me up at night.

My ex, "Sam," was my high-school sweetheart. We dated for five years without many of the hiccups that are usually associated with young love. We did not attend the same college but both made an equal effort to see each other every weekend. Sam and I enjoyed sharing our time with our families and many mutual friends. We survived the stresses of college and entered our professional lives together.

And just like that, the relationship abruptly ended ... in a text message. The reason? Undisclosed. I begged for an explanation (quite pathetically, in fact), but all Sam could gather was that he had a feeling that he needed to be alone. At my request we met up one week later for the sorriest excuse for a discussion that I have ever been privy to. Sam was cold -- clearly uncomfortable, effectively mute -- and yet somehow trying to convince me that I would always be part of his life. He still offered no explanation for his decision but repeatedly told me that we would "talk soon." That was the last time we spoke.

Sam immediately took affirmative steps to erase me from his life, ranging from disengaging with our mutual friends to cleansing his Facebook account of any connections to me, however distant. People I believed were my friends did the same. My heart broke in more ways than one. I cannot put to words exactly how I felt, but a near lethal combination of devastated and disrespected conveys the start of it. If you guessed that this situation reeks of another woman, you'd be right. As time always tells, the reason turned out to be someone new. Sam and this new crush of his launched straight into a relationship. To quote my mother, that is neither here nor there and frankly, I felt relieved to finally have a reason.

I suffered through the heartbreak and then the anger, re-established my sense of self, and moved on. Moved on with baggage that is. I still want the discussion that I still feel that I deserve. Sam never apologized for his actions beyond the "sry" that I received in the initial break-up text. Since Sam's great disappearing act, he slowly began to reappear through mutual friends -- inquiring about me whenever the situation presented itself (to, as I'm told, the new girl’s visible dismay), stating that he thinks about me often, and even claiming that it is "shame" that we cannot be friends. As we have gotten older and friends have moved, these situations are few and far between. Beyond a lousy Facebook friend request that I promptly rejected, Sam has never reached out to me directly -- but infrequently posts on my friends' Facebook profiles just to wish them well or comment on something seemingly random. I have never reached out to him or any of our ex-mutual friends. Once Sam made it clear that he intended to erase me from his life, I promised myself that I would do just that. I just can’t shake the fact that I want to speak with Sam, at least one last time. I don't want an enduring friendship, but I want to be civil. I don't want to feel like Sam is taboo. Do I break my long-kept promise? Do I continue to wait? I often believe that I have accepted the fact that we will never speak again but ever so suddenly, my desire to contact him rouses. Help!

– Once and for All, Hartford

A: One way to end this is to forgive him, OAFA. He was young. He met someone else. It happens.

Forgive him (in your head) because it was his first big breakup and he didn't know what he was doing. Forgive him because he misses you. Forgive him because he and his friends weren't trying to delete you as a person when they de-friended you on Facebook (and in real life). In reality, they were trying to protect you from seeing information about your ex and his new girlfriend. They were attempting to establish boundaries on your behalf, as was your ex, who didn't understand that telling you about the new girl would have given you a better sense of closure than simply running away without explanation.

Forgive him for being an idiot and not knowing how to do this right. And forgive yourself for wanting to call. We all want to call our exes sometimes. There's nothing wrong with you for longing to reach out. Longing is a part of being human.

If you see him commenting on Facebook know that it's just because he misses you and your community. He's not trying to torment you. And know that if you see him online -- or in real life -- you can nod and maybe even smile. Because you're going through a shared experience. You're screaming on the inside, wondering what happened and why it didn't work. He's screaming on the inside, ashamed that he couldn't sustain the relationship and that he sent a text that said "sry." (Trust me, that haunts him.)

Assume that every time he reaches out, he's striving for normalcy -- and to make everything less taboo. Control you urge to reach out because this is about showing, not telling. You can show each other that you're OK, that you'll always care, and that you're looking for peace. I think that's what he’s trying to do.

Readers? How can she deal with this? Should she reach out? What is he trying to do? How can she forgive? Help.

– Meredith

There's an issue with gifts

Posted by Meredith Goldstein December 8, 2011 05:37 AM

Q: Dear Meredith,

I am a lurker who is finally compelled to write in after yet another conversation surrounding gift giving or lack thereof….

I have been dating my boyfriend for a few years. We are both in our mid-20s and see a future together. It is definitely a serious relationship with basically no drama other than the occasional, typical disagreements.

One thing that really irks me, especially around gift-giving season, is that he won't give me jewelry. He asks directly what I would like, but says "no" when I say that I would really like jewelry. (I didn't even ask until 2 years into it when I realized that he clearly wasn't planning on it.) It is not because of the cost because apparently he has no problem buying me other expensive gifts (I don't ask for them, he just gives) but he flat out refuses. He will not give an answer as to why. His response is "I don't give jewelry." Nothing more. I realize this might sound materialistic, but if it's something that means so much to me, why it is different than the other things he gives me? I am not asking for anything expensive. It could be $25 or $10,000, I don’t care. It's just something that would make me happy and feel special (you all know what I mean). He will not give a reason other than "I don't give jewelry." I'm not asking for an engagement ring. Is it me or is this weird? I like to get him exactly what I know will make him happy. Is his stubbornness selfish or is it me?

– More Than Annoyed in Massachusetts

A: It's a little weird, MTAIM. I mean, it'd be much easier if he gave you a reason. Like, "I'm afraid of picking out the wrong thing." Or, "I'd prefer to buy you pretty holiday sweaters." Any reason -- no matter how ridiculous -- would be something.

Maybe he had an ex who was obsessed with jewelry. Maybe he thinks you look nicer when you're not accessorized. I don't know.

But here's what I do know: If he only buys you presents that he can enjoy (like a trip, electronics, or a nice dinner that he gets to eat too), I'd talk to him about how you approach gift giving in general. Because like you said, you want to get him things that make him happy, no matter what. If you think that his gift giving is selfish, you can certainly discuss what you'd like and why.

If his gifts are actually selfless and he's creative about giving you nice things that you'll enjoy (just not jewelry), I'd just accept his aversion to accessories as one of his weird things. We all have weird things. Like being afraid of heights or refusing to give foot massages because we don't like feet. Everyone has phobias and rules. As long as he's considerate without always needing to benefit from every gift, it's OK.

Readers? Weird? Not weird? Jewelry? Thoughts? Help.

– Meredith

Choosing between x and y

Posted by Meredith Goldstein December 7, 2011 08:48 AM

A note about next Thursday's (Dec. 15) gathering: You're invited to attend a Brookline Booksmith party for Sophie Blackall, who illustrates Missed Connections she finds online. (I've sort of fallen in love with her stuff.) After her book signing, Finale in Coolidge Corner is hosting an after-party for Love Letters readers. The night is free and I'd love for you to join me. RSVP at with "Missed Connections" in the subject line. You can enter your own Missed Connection for Blackall to draw here.

And ... we chat today at 1.

Q: Meredith, I need advice.

Background: Years ago, I was in a FWB relationship with Miss X. We met in college and were off/on for about a year. I never really made the push for a proper relationship. During one of our "off seasons" she got a boyfriend. We remained friends but I had decided I wanted a relationship with her. I was basically waiting for them to break up.

Once they did, our FWB thing continued, but I made my intentions known. She said she wasn't ready to get into another relationship, so I told her I'd wait. I then backed off and we didn't hang out as often.

A few months later we were at a club with a group of friends and she starts dancing with some guy, then kisses him, then leaves with him ... right in front of me. I was very upset and didn't talk to her for months. They wound up dating for a few years.

We talked months later. Apparently, she took my backing off as a loss of interest. (I didn’t believe that.) She knew I was interested, but I now think she has issues with needing attention from men. So the space I gave her probably drove her to seek attention elsewhere.

Her relationship with that guy ended badly. She moved out of state for a while and we hadn't kept in touch. I eventually met someone else ... Miss Y. She's great, and loves me to death. Been together 2 years.

Now: During my current relationship with Miss Y, I still carried around my anger for Miss X for a while. Recently I've accepted some responsibility for my role in the debacle. I didn't put up a fight for Miss X, and I honestly think it would have made a difference. Instead I just turned away and gave up. My anger with her has become regret for my own lack of action.

So Miss X is back in town and single. We wound up at a mutual friend's house and talked. She confessed how terrible she has always felt about what she did to me, and she wants to be friends. I told her this is difficult for me because I still have this regret, and my feelings for her still exist. She said she has feelings for me too. So which is it that she wants?

The truth is, I haven't been very happy with Miss Y for a while, so this makes me think even more about a potential reunion with Miss X. I don't know if Miss X wants just friendship, or if she's trying to give me the chance I never got before. Or maybe she's just single, unhappy, and looking for that male attention again.

I have no intention of being unfaithful to Miss Y, but I'm very tempted to find out where things could go with Miss X ... which I realize is a risk given her track record. I just can't help the physical attraction and feelings I still have for her. I still wonder ... what if? I'm not sure if I can let that go.

Do I see what Miss X wants, or try to make things better with Miss Y?

– Mr. Z

A: Z, my gut tells me that you should carefully break up with Miss Y and then spend some time alone. You're done with Y. She loves you to death but you don't reciprocate. And X? She says she wants to be friends. You have feelings for each other -- but they're old ones.

Let X be a catalyst for change. She's made you more self-aware about what you need to do about Y and she taught you that you can't be passive-aggressive about your feelings.

After you've spent some time with yourself (and without female attention), figure out if there's an A, B, and C. Please don't limit yourself. There are more than two people in your world. Start getting to know them.

Readers? Was he really responsible for what happened with X? Could there be a future with her? What about Y? Discuss.

– Meredith

I'm having second thoughts about moving in

Posted by Meredith Goldstein December 6, 2011 08:35 AM

Q: Dear Meredith,

I have been dating my boyfriend for a few years now and the topic of moving in together has finally come up. A little bit of background: I come from a very strict upbringing in which you only live with a man once you are married and there are no such things as "boyfriends" until you are engaged. I am also very close with my family and consider myself the Mother Theresa of the group -- helping everyone whenever they are in need, no matter what. My boyfriend, on the other hand, is very close with his family but knows how to put himself first. His mother doesn't object to us living together.

At first I was happy with the thought of moving in together and we both agreed we would -- we even lived together over the summer in a vacation house as a trial. Everything was fine. The conversation about moving into a new place directly from the vacation house came up, but I wanted to move home for a while to be close to my parents (I have been living at home all my life and this is a very big deal for me, especially since I know my mother will refuse to visit me if I live with my boyfriend). My upbringing was also on my mind; I really felt like I did not want to move in with someone until I was married or at least engaged. I have a fear that we would be playing house with no commitment, and statistics show there is a higher divorce rate in couples that live together before marriage. I expressed my feelings to my boyfriend, which were opposite of my original feelings of wanting to move in. He said that he wanted to live together before getting married and there was no question in his mind about it. He also said I hurt him because he felt like I put him behind my family (this has been a continuous battle) and he became bitter at me for not moving in.

I do not want to keep giving my boyfriend high hopes and then yanking his heart out. I understand why he feels I put him second. He believes that if we live together he will no longer have this feeling because we will see each other more often.

Now I am stuck. Why am I second guessing my thought process? Do I really want to be married that bad, and if so, why so sudden? In the past year, I was totally against marriage due to the many divorces happening around me. I thought about it, and if he were to ask me to marry him, I would be ready to move in a heartbeat. My problem now is I don't want to move in because I feel as if I am being forced in order to save our relationship. But I am scared that if I don't move in, he will continue to be bitter at me and we will eventually break up. Please help!

Thank you,

– Move in?, Out of State

A: This doesn't seem to be about your family, MI. It's about your fear of relationship failure. You're anxious about "playing house" without a plan. You're even more anxious about divorce. That's why you're not moving in. You want a guarantee.

But there are no guarantees. Even if your boyfriend proposes before you move in, there's no telling what will happen in six months or a year. And those statistics? Don't focus on them too much. For the record, I have no official opinion about whether couples should live together before marriage -- every twosome is different -- but my official opinion about statistics and studies is that they only tell part of a story. Some couples get divorced after living together because they have the financial means to do so. And at least a few of the married people who never lived together before getting hitched wind up staying together because they want to honor family and commitment no matter what, even if they're unhappy.

My advice is to explain to your boyfriend that this isn't about your family and that you've developed a real fear of living together without a commitment. If you move in and successfully live together for six months or a year, does he want to get married? Is that the goal?

Listen to his plans and hear him out. Explain that you're really putting him first, which is why you're so petrified.

Readers? Should she move in? Does her family have anything to do with this? Help.

– Meredith

I want to confess

Posted by Meredith Goldstein December 5, 2011 08:37 AM

Good morning.

Q: Meredith,

I have never done something like this but I feel lost. I broke up with my boyfriend of a few years a little while ago. We both still love each other but we couldn't manage to make a relationship function. We both have very different personalities and struggled with communication since the very start. It was a mutual break up; we both realized that the relationship was not what we wanted. We want to stay friends in the long run.

I have come to terms with the fact that we were not working as a couple and it was both our faults. The issue is something deeper though. I still have guilt because of my actions in the relationship.

When we first started dating, I cheated on my boyfriend while extremely drunk. My friends had to tell me it happened because I didn't remember a thing. I have never felt so horrible and disgusted with myself. I told my boyfriend, and he forgave me, and I thought we had moved on.

Fast-forward a year and I spent a semester abroad in a different country. I still had problems controlling my drinking, and again I found myself cheating on my boyfriend while drunk. I couldn't believe myself and felt incredibly guilty. I still do. Since then I have gained control of my drinking, and I have been focused on improving myself.

The thing is that I never told my boyfriend (or I guess now ex) that I cheated on him while abroad. I feel like since then I have become a different, more controlled, and more loyal person. I almost feel like it wasn't me who cheated, but my evil twin. I do eventually want to get back together with him once we work out our differences, but I can't handle the guilt that I have for cheating on him. I struggle to sleep at night and I feel like I need to tell him. I don't know if this is the right approach at all or if I should just let it be. HELP!!!

– Cheating Chick, Chicago

A: Leave this alone, CC. Take it to a counselor. Take it to a friend. Please don't call your already-ex boyfriend and say, "By the way, do you want to know some more awful stuff about me?"

Just assume that you both misbehaved during your relationship. Old information is pretty useless at this point.

My guess is that you want to reveal this stuff because you want the chance to say, "I'm loyal! I'm better!" You want to ensure that you'll get back together and you figure that this dramatic confession -- along with tales of your maturity -- will make that happen.

My advice? Show don't tell. Don't call him to read off a list of infidelities followed by a resume of awesome girlfriend traits that you now possess. Instead be his friend. If/when he calls, listen. See him at a party and watch him watch you control your behavior. And while you're acting like a champ, get to know yourself all over again. Because maybe over time you'll realize that you'd actually prefer to date someone new.

Your sleepless nights are about getting over a breakup. Give yourself a fresh start, and if you need to cry it out about what you did in your past life, tell a real friend. That's what they’re for.

Readers? Am I wrong? What's with this need to confess? How can she move on from her bad behavior? Help.

– Meredith

I notice flaws

Posted by Meredith Goldstein December 2, 2011 08:48 AM

A reminder: no blog bullying. Everyone's allowed to be passionate in the comments section, but please, avoid being mean and getting personal with other commenters. I've been getting some complaints about people being unnecessarily ... unpleasant ... so ... be pleasant or, at the very least, respectful and constructive. And clever, as usual.

And RSVP for our next party -- a good, easy, Thursday-night activity with friends.

Q: Hi Meredith,

I have been in and out of relationships for the majority of my life. Although I have had a few successful stints with women, I ALWAYS find a flaw in my partner. It is a real problem for me.

It all started in college when I would ask a girl out for the first time. I would always have certain girls I was very attracted to and would do anything to date. However, when they showed interest in me, I suddenly found them less attractive. I have asked my friends and it makes no sense why this would happen to me. I am definitely attracted to women; I just constantly struggle to stay attracted to a woman for more than a month or two.

I find ridiculous flaws like their chin, their eyes, their figure, teeth and other miniscule things. Women who other men find attractive I eventually find a miniscule flaw with. The crazy thing is that I notice my flaws just as much. (I inherited terrible posture from my father.) I know that no one is perfect on the outside.

My most recent relationship was with "Taylor." She was attractive and all my friends reassured me. However, her chin was abnormally large and I couldn't help but consistently notice it. She also bit her nails. I realize these are two small flaws but for some reason they bothered me way too much to stay with her.

I really would like some advice on this, Meredith, because I am no longer as young as I used to be and want to find someone perfect for me, but I realize I have to reduce my definition of perfect. Please help me on how this could happen.

I appreciate your help,

– MT, Winthrop

A: MT, you don't have to reduce your definition of perfect, you have to expand it. Not once do you mention these women's personalities. I have to assume that you're not really getting to know them. I have to assume that they never become your friends. Men (and women) are visual creatures and looks count for a lot, but personality and confidence can change a person's appearance. Is it possible that these women become less attractive to you because their personalities just don't cut it? Were you bummed about Taylor's chin -- or was it her chin and her sense of humor? Were you turned off by her biting her nails -- or was it that the habit never became endearing because you just weren't connecting with her?

My guess is that you're the kind of guy who's better off falling for a friend. Someone you really know. Someone whose flaws don't even look like flaws because they're a part of one big package.

My advice: Get to know people without thinking about whether you want to date them. Expand your community. See who you fall for organically. Maybe by the time you have a first kiss with a friend, you'll have fallen for her weird chin, her nervous habits, and her whole being.

And for the record, it doesn't bother me that you pick at yourself a little, as long as it's not obsessive (if it is, get to a therapist). And it doesn't bother me that your tastes are unique (I know guys who think Gisele is bony). And when we're young, we often want what we can't have. A lot of what you described is very, very normal.

But now that you're a grown-up, start getting to know people for real. The more you fall for the stuff on the inside, the better it looks on the outside. Think about how the inside is affecting what you see.

Readers? Is he really shallow or are these physical judgments about him not connecting with them as people? Are you someone who notices other people's flaws? Can you help this guy? Discuss.

– Meredith

Dealing with a depressed partner

Posted by Meredith Goldstein December 1, 2011 08:19 AM

It was a good chat yesterday.

In other news, information has been posted about the next Love Letters contest/event. Please sign up for the Dec. 15 reading and party. It's all about missed connections.

Q: Hi Meredith,

I am a 30-year-old woman who has been married before. My ex-husband was obsessed with video games and basically chose to play them instead of spending any time with me. A few years ago I finally got a divorce and left the situation.

After going on dates here and there, I eventually met my current boyfriend, "Jay," through mutual friends and I felt instantly attracted to him. We started dating and have been together for over two years now. Things have been up and down. We've briefly split up a few times, but things have been great lately and I love him more than anything.

Here comes the problem: We both struggle with depression. Mine is seasonal, while his is sporadic and seems to be more severe. He tends to go through fits of depression where he will sleep all the time. Lately he's been sleeping or playing video games instead of wanting to spend time with me. The problem is that he doesn't realize that it's as bad as it is. When I've gotten upset and said that I feel like I haven't spent much time with him, he thinks I'm being over-dramatic. The other problem is that he hasn't been as attracted to me as he was just a few months ago. He says it's just because he's depressed, but yesterday he said that it's because he's bored with me and doesn't feel like being physical. I asked him if it would always be this way -- because I can't live like that ... so now I'm at an impasse.

At what point does me being understanding and wanting to wait it out through this fit of depression turn into me being a doormat and letting him walk all over me? It's genuinely wearing on me and now I am feeling depressed as well. I love him more than anything and always want to be with him in the future, but is there a future if he doesn't even want to sleep with me anymore?

– Beyond Depressed, Boston

A: BD, you asked him whether it would always be this way. Well …. what was his answer? Is he concerned about these feelings of apathy? Is he seeking treatment for this depression? Is he doing what's necessary to save this relationship? Does he want you around in a year?

Sorry to pepper you with questions, but you should be asking him (and yourself) about all of these issues. I believe that most couples can get through lulls bad patches, but both partners have to put in the effort. You learned in your first marriage that you can't fix a relationship on your own. If Jay isn't willing to help with this, you're doomed.

The big question for Jay is: "What do you propose we do now?" He knows that you can't stay together without having a sexual relationship. He knows that you're unhappy when he's off napping. He either wants to work on finding a compromise and fixing this (which calls for therapy – maybe even with you), or he's willing to let you go.

Get some answers. See what he's capable of. Be honest with yourself about how much you can get done on your own. You can't wait out bad patches for the rest of your life. Depression has to be treated -- yours and his. Are you both getting the treatment and help you need?

Readers? Is this fixable? Should she just leave now? Anyone have advice about dealing with a depressed partner? What's with the video games? Discuss.

– Meredith

He's back to tempt me

Posted by Meredith Goldstein November 30, 2011 07:36 AM

It's chat day.

And ... I'll be posting some information about a Dec. 15 Love Letters event on Twitter later today, so check in.

Q: Hi Meredith,

Daily reader. Love you and the commenters. Just a little lost at the moment and was hoping you all could point me in a direction ... any direction.

I'm a smart, attractive (at least *I* think so), almost-30-year-old gal who hasn't had the most luck in love. I've been single for the past year and half (healing from an ugly break-up: destroyed my self-esteem, etc.). I tried online dating over the summer and after a string of film-worthy nightmare dates, decided against really trying to find love. I should clarify: I'm in the midst of applying to return to school next fall (nowhere in Mass.), and I felt I should probably focus more on that.

Of late an old boyfriend from half a decade ago (let's call him Ike) has re-surfaced. Ike is 6 years my senior and extremely charming. We shared a brief, volatile few months together years ago. But we're very, very different. He's immature, very wealthy, and has had a lot handed to him. I have always worked really hard for every position I've ever had, and part of our volatility simply came from this fundamental difference.

Anyway, every year or so, back comes Ike. Charming as ever and throwing all sorts of inappropriate comments at me about how he's thought about me so much over the years, how I'm one of the most intelligent, opinionated, strong people he's ever met, and how he wants to be "in my life in some way." Yet he often flakes if we make plans, typically initiated by me in the first place. He's evasive and resistant to any real connection. Each time he's done this I’ve told him (diplomatically, of course) to [expletive] off. I've explained that I don't like, nor do I wish to engage in superficial relationships with anyone, much less an ex I have such a strange history with. The most recent occurrence of this was just a few months ago over the summer. Usually after I tell him to leave me alone, he does so. For awhile at least. Yet he just popped back up last week and acted completely surprised by my wariness. And in that conversation it also came up that he'd ended a relationship over the summer -- a relationship he never bothered to mention when he reappeared in June (Shocking. No wonder you contacted me ...).

Meredith, help. I'm in this strange limbo where I'm just really frustrated and lonely and trying to be satisfied with a future that still seems so far away. So I can feel myself drawn to the attention from Ike. But I know at the end of the day, I can't and shouldn't trust this person's intentions (whatever they might be). Any suggestions what to do?

– Lost!, Somerville

A: You're moving. You're about to start a whole new life at a new school. You're experiencing a lull. You need a boost.

So use Ike. I mean, you know he's not for you, right? Take the compliments if you feel like hearing them. Redefine him as the guy you use for some attention when you need it. Accept him for what he is -- an exciting distraction.

It's a challenge to keep these non-relationships in perspective when you're in a rut, but you're on your way out. You have so much to look forward to. Right now, Ike is a reminder that you're the object of somebody's affection. He just can't seem to let you go.

You know what's going to happen. He's going to swoop in and then disappear. Instead of trying to get yourself to ignore him -- something you know you don't want to do right now -- call it what it is and enjoy. Don't get angry. Have a scandalous phone call or dinner and let him tell you how awesome you are. Giggle and roll your eyes.

And while you're Ike-ing it up, start fantasizing about 2012 and all it has to offer. Because it's coming sooner than you think, I promise.

Readers? Can she enjoy Ike without getting confused? What should she do? Help.

– Meredith

I'm more educated

Posted by Meredith Goldstein November 29, 2011 09:19 AM

Q: I have spent the last year in the world's longest-distance relationship; the door-to-door trip is over 24 hours. "Rob" and I have known and taken vacations with each another for several years prior to engaging in the LDR. Rob is in his mid-40s, I am in my mid-30s, and we are both divorced with no children.

We are ready to take the relationship to the next level; we plan to move in together in the same city (the location is yet to be determined) with the intent of marrying if all goes well. We are both fortunate enough to have careers that, with some financial sacrifice, would allow us to work from anywhere. The question is whether we have enough of a foundation to take this next step. He is low-maintenance, kind, affectionate, witty, and intelligent. I can be a prima donna -- but I'm also fiercely fun-loving.

I am also more educated than he is. I hold a PhD while he did not finish his undergraduate degree. Although he is not ambitious (I am), he earns a high salary (mine is a bit lower) due to danger pay and has managed to put away a substantial nest egg (I have no assets). Any move would halve his salary.

Is it possible to plan a future with someone whose educational attainment is so far below mine and whose income, after the move, would be as unremarkable as his job? I love this man, but I worry that someone more articulate with a shinier career could pull me away.

– Not in Boston, Europe

A: So, are you saying that if he didn't earn a great living you wouldn't be in love with him? Are you saying that without that big salary he just doesn't offer enough? It seems to me that you fell in love with him because you liked spending time with him. You've been with him for years despite meeting people with shinier jobs along the way. You've stayed committed for a reason -- you haven't wanted to let him go.

You're coming off as judgmental in this letter, but I'm convinced that your anxiety is about something else. My guess is that you're having cold feet about turning this into a real, not-long-distance relationship. You realize that as soon as he relocates, you're in it for good, and that's scary. You’re coming up with a panicky list of reasons why it might not work out.

My advice is to visit him soon so that you can remind yourself that he is "low-maintenance, kind, affectionate, witty, and intelligent." Instead of making lists of the reasons it might not work, make a list of why you want to do this -- why you've stayed with him all this time.

I know you're scared, but all you have to do is focus on whether you love him. Jobs are fluid. He might wind up making more than you in the future. He might wind up getting his own PhD. The only relevant question right now is: Do you want more of him?

Readers? Do they have the foundation to move to be together? Are her concerns about his education and salary? If so, why didn't this stuff bother her before? Discuss.

– Meredith

A co-worker crush

Posted by Meredith Goldstein November 23, 2011 08:06 AM

Hey there. No chat today.
You'll get updates over the next two days, so enjoy.
And have a happy Thanksgiving.

Q: Dear Meredith,

I work with this guy who is fairly new to the office. I have taken an interest in him and it would appear that he has an interest in me as well. He was very shy at first (most people in the office think he is shy), however I don't find him to be shy at all. Every time I walk by him he starts acting like a five year old ... throwing stuff at me, etc. A number of mutual friends and co-workers have questioned him about his interest in me and have flat out asked why he hasn't asked me out yet or made a move. His response is always, "I don't want to date or be romantic with someone I work with but she is really cute and cool."

I'm very inexperienced with dating. I don't have a lot of confidence in myself when it comes to guys, strictly because I am not ever approached or asked out. I am not saying that I am head over heels in love with this guy, but I am very comfortable around him and I have a great time when he is around. This is someone I am very interested in getting to know better to see if there really is something there.

So, my question: Is this something I can change his mind about? If so, how do I go about it without making things awkward? And if he really isn't interested why does he go out of his way to talk to me, acknowledge me, and be a constant flirt? (Please keep in mind that he does not act like this around anyone else in the office.)

– Is He Interested?, Boston

A: Ask him out. For coffee. Something easy.

He's telling mutual friends that he won't date a co-worker but he hasn't told you a thing. Instead of getting this information third and fourth hand, approach him directly. And don't let your confidence mess with you. You already know that he thinks you're cute and cool. He is interested. Even if he says no to an evening out, you know that he digs you. No matter what he says, this will be a wonderful practice activity.

You have every reason to be self-assured. Yes, it's possible that he'll stick to his rules about dating in the work place, but honestly, it's easier to tell friends that you're not going to pursue a crush than it is to look into the face of your crush and say, "No thanks."

Ask him to hang out. Keep us posted.

Readers? Should she respect his rule? Do you think that he’d say yes to her even though he said no to their friends? Is asking someone out any easier if you're experienced? Discuss.

– Meredith

Can I date my friend's ex?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein November 22, 2011 08:22 AM

Q: Hi,

John and Sara are both great people who have been my friends for a long time, though I am closer to her. We are all in our early 30s. Sara is someone I met in my 20s and John and I grew up together. They met through me and dated for a few years almost a decade ago. I was thrilled to have two great friends fall in love but they had a messy breakup and haven't spoken in years.

Fast forward to now. Sara is still pretty sensitive about the relationship but has since moved on and is with a wonderful man she will spend the rest of her life with. John and I both find ourselves single and have realized we have a mutual attraction; we recently shared a passionate kiss that surprised both of us.

We've always been friends but perhaps there is something more. He has all the qualities I am looking for in a life partner. John invited me to spend a weekend away with him to try to find out if there could be more to our friendship that we've been missing all these years. I would love to explore this but if we did end up in a relationship, I know Sara would feel betrayed and it would definitely not be OK with her. But maybe over time she could come to accept it. Her current relationship is amazing but John will always hold a strong place in her heart.

Should I keep my distance from John and keep things on the casual friend level like they've always been? Or keep an open mind, explore things with him to see if there's even some possibility for more first, before worrying about the rest and Sara?

– Once a friend's boyfriend always a friend's boyfriend?, Boston

A: My first piece of advice? Don't take a weekend trip with John to figure this out. Weekends away don't solve anything. You need to ask John -- while you're here in the real world -- whether he wants to pursue this or whether he's just scratching an itch. Spend an evening or two as friends and see how it feels. On an average Wednesday, are you thinking about kissing him? And on that average Wednesday, what does he think of you?

If both of you do want to try dating, you've got three options.

1. Pursue this, come clean to Sara, risk losing her.
2. Don't pursue this, resent her.
3. Tell Sara that you kissed John and that you're freaking out. Ask her if it's possible to date him without losing her. Let her know how conflicted you are. (Crying wouldn't hurt.)

I'd go for 3. It's very possible that Sara will say, "Stay away from him," but it's more likely that she'll look at her single friend and say, "Let's try to deal with this." She'll be angry, but at least she'll know that you aren't keeping any secrets.

We've all been the Sara, the person who can't quite get over a John from long ago. The idea of a close friend dating any of my Johns is pretty overwhelming. But my love for my Saras, and my desire for them to be happy, trumps my resentment toward any of my Johns.

Talk to John about his intentions -- here in the real world, not on a weekend away. If after some normal friend outings you both want to take the next baby step, sit down with Sara and ask for guidance.

Readers? Should she stay away from John? What are the rules here? What about this weekend away? How is Sara going to react? Discuss.

– Meredith