RadioBDC Logo
Tessellate | Alt-J Listen Live
< Back to front page Text size +
all entries with the category


He can be awful

Posted by Meredith Goldstein October 26, 2012 07:52 AM

Heavy letter for a Friday. And yes, I'll stay in touch with the letter writer.

Q: I have been married for more than 20 years. My husband had some affairs (with different women) three years ago. I know that he is still talking to these women, as he makes comments about what they are doing and it seems pretty current information. I have not been able to gain back the trust and love that I once had. We have two children who are under 18.

My husband constantly calls me fat [and other inappropriate things] when our younger child is nearby. (I don't think that our child sees it though.) He pinches me until I tell him to stop because it hurts. He jokes, "I haven't even begun to hurt you." He flirts with friends and neighbors until we're all uncomfortable. When we tell him to stop, he says something like, "Oh, you can't take a joke."

He now accuses me (at least once a week) of having an affair with someone. I honestly will say I have never had an affair with anyone. If I refuse sex with, he gets very mad takes all the blankets.

He also threatens to divorce me and leave me with nothing. I used to kiss him after these threats, but now I'm at the point where I tell him to go ahead and leave me. I am at the end of my rope. We have tried counseling, both individual and marriage, and it hasn't worked because he has quit going after a few sessions.

– So Now What?, North Carolina

A: This is an abusive relationship, SNW. And I'm going to reveal to the readers (after much thought) that you emailed me several years ago about similar issues. It was a letter that we just didn't get to -- and it was much less severe than this version (it was about the affairs, not the abuse) -- but these problems have plagued your marriage for a long time. You've been pinched, harassed, questioned, and shamed, sometimes in front of your children. You need a way out. (And for the record, kids see and perceive more than you think they do. I'm sure that your younger child is aware of what's happening.)

You need to check in with a local domestic violence organization. North Carolina has them. (Click here if you're at a safe computer.) Pinching might not seem like real abuse, but it is. So are threats and intimidation. You must meet with a professional who can help you navigate this process. Because it will be process. If you can continue individual therapy, please do.

It's also a good time to reach out to your community. Don't be afraid to call friends and family. You mention that your neighbors have shared your discomfort over the years. Are any of these people real friends? Can you spend more time with them, just to feel less isolated?

You can't go through this alone, and you certainly can't put it off any longer. You might think I'm misusing the word "abuse," but find a safe computer and do some reading. You might be surprised by the definition.

Readers? Is this abuse? What should the letter writer do? Are the affairs relevant? Talk.

– 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

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 crush on a work friend

Posted by Meredith Goldstein October 17, 2012 01:16 AM

We won't chat today because I'll be in London. But -- if you send me notes on Twitter with the hashtag #LoveLetters, we can talk throughout the day. I'll be at a George Michael concert at about 3 p.m. your time, so I'll have plenty to say, I'm sure.

Q: Hi Meredith,

I'm wondering if you and your readers can weigh in on a potentially large dilemma. I am the parent of two small children, married many years. I recently started a new job where I am in contact several times a week with a colleague who I -- completely unexpectedly -- am drawn to almost unlike anything I've ever felt before.

We share a profession, which makes us look at the world similarly. But we also have a similar sense of humor, and this person makes me feel interesting and smart. Our conversation flows naturally without gaps. It helps that this person is also very interesting, well-traveled, intelligent, and good looking.

Literally from day three, I felt like I have known this person for years. I have a feeling that if we were both single, we would have already been dating. We have been emailing here and there outside of work, but nothing overtly unprofessional, mostly just funny things. There is an energy unlike anything I've experienced, yet I have to play poker face because of my situation.

My kids are so important to me, but my marriage, while it has its good times, is what I might describe as so-so right now. The difficulties that come with raising two children (there are joys too, of course) and managing two careers are not faring well with us.

And of course there is the possibility that my radar is completely off and this person simply sees me as a friend, and I'm freaking out for no reason.

My question is naturally: Am I being silly and selfish by even letting myself feel drawn to this person and wasting my time wondering how this person feels, too? Do you meet people at a certain point in your life for a reason and should I not ignore this? Or, do I need to just relax and make my kids my biggest priority right now? Obviously, the dissolution of a marriage would have ridiculously huge ramifications, and frankly not something I'm not sure I'd consider.

Further, I am not sure I would have the guts to say anything to this person about it, and I have a feeling this person is far too respectful to do anything either. I appreciate that, but again, I also can't help but wonder if you meet people for a reason at certain times.

I'm sure you'll say something like I should remove myself from the situation and stop talking to this person, but for the next couple months that will not be doable due to work. And yes, work is too important to leave right now as I am trying to establish myself in a new position. I feel like a scattered mess and thinking about it is eating me up. And yes, for the record, I feel incredibly guilty for even feeling or thinking any of this. Who wouldn't? I am only human.

Please be gentle, commenters.


– Scattered, Mass.

A: Calm down, Scattered. I can't speak for the Love Letters commenters, but I'm not going to yell at you for having a crush. I'm not going to tell you to quit your job. I'm not even going to tell you that you're selfish.

That said, I'm not going to validate your feelings for this guy. I don't believe that we're "meant" to meet certain people. And I certainly don't believe that your new friend is your destiny. But I do believe that this guy has taught you a big lesson.

He's taught you that you miss being you. You miss being someone who isn't just a mom. You miss being someone who has time for jokes. You miss having a husband, not just a busy co-parent.

So give your marriage a break and ask for some help. Instead of shutting the world out and focusing only on your kids, spend money on childcare (or call friends and family) and take a vacation. See movies with your husband. Do some of the things that you used to enjoy before you became overwhelmed with daily obligations.

You had this kind of connection with your husband once. That's why you fell for him, right? You can get that back. It just takes time and energy and some shared experiences. Again, this new guy is just a reminder of what you're missing. Don't let him become more.

Readers? Does she have to leave her job? Has she done anything wrong? How can she have this banter with her husband when they have so much to do? How should she set boundaries with this new friend? Discuss.

– Meredith

My friend made a pass

Posted by Meredith Goldstein October 11, 2012 08:21 AM

Q: I'm a man in my mid-30s who was in a friend's wedding recently. One day prior, I got to hang out with an old friend I've known for more than 20 years, "Jeff." Jeff and I are both married with children, and as groomsmen, we had obligations to attend to the day before the wedding. Our wives stayed behind with the kids before joining me and Jeff at the festivities the following day.

Jeff was always an odd duck. He lives in Europe and just carries himself differently than most guys I know. A few of my other friends have always suspected that Jeff is gay, but I tend to shrug it off and insist that being a European metrosexual doesn't mean he's gay. Well, after this weekend, it seems my friends' suspicions are confirmed.

Jeff and I split a hotel room for one night. The moment we got into the room and put our bags down, he made a comment that if we pushed the beds together, there'd be an even bigger surface on which to "fool around." I laughed, assuming he was joking, and gave it no more thought. Later, we went to a nearby pub for dinner. He insisted on buying me dinner and then said that I didn’t have to sleep with him unless I wanted to. I feigned amusement and tried changing the subject to the draught beer menu. But he persisted, asking, "So, do you?" Humiliated, I replied, "No, thanks, and you’re not buying me dinner."

The rest of the evening went on without incident, but the next morning, Jeff made another pass. "Breakfast sounds good," was my terse reply.

Our wives arrived later that day. Once my wife and I were alone, I couldn't help expressing my relief that she was there, and I had to tell her what had happened with Jeff. She was wide-eyed and sympathetic. I admitted that I was not completely surprised, but certainly in shock, as I never expected to be the object of my friend's sexual advances.

Now what? The only person I've told is my wife. If Jeff had simply come out to me, I'd be honored and supportive. Instead, he hit on me and made me feel shamed and degraded. If I confronted him, I'm sure he would deny it, find a way to explain away his untoward actions, and I will in all likelihood lose him as a friend. Should I just forget it ever happened and leave Jeff to come to terms with his true sexual identity? And was I wrong to ignore his advances simply to keep the peace?

– Gloomsman, Maine

A: Your friendship with Jeff has changed forever, Gloomsman. There's no way to delete the weekend.

You can either ignore the issue because he's an ocean away, or you can bring it up and hope that he listens. And you never know -- he might be longing for someone to ask him what's going on. He might appreciate some honesty.

My advice, for the moment, is to give yourself more time to process what happened. You don't know what you want to do about this guy, and that's OK. There's no statute of limitations here. You can even wait to see how it feels the next time you see him in person.

For the record, you didn't make a mistake by staying silent and getting through the night. You were harassed in a hotel room by a guy who's supposed to be your friend. Your instinct was to set boundaries and make it to morning. That's understandable.

For now, you're entitled to time.

Readers? Should he confront Jeff? Will Jeff deny the issue? What should he say to Jeff? Did he do the right thing in the hotel room? Should he have this discussion soon? 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

I want to leave my wife

Posted by Meredith Goldstein October 5, 2012 08:21 AM

Q: Dear Meredith,

I am in my late 40s and have been married for almost 25 years. I love and respect my wife -- she is intelligent and is a great mother to our two grown children. We have had a good life. There was a time about a decade ago where I was not in a good place personally. I was in a job I hated and just generally not happy. During this time I had a few one night stands with women I met through my job. I eventually confessed to my wife because I felt so guilty about it. She was devastated but said she forgave me and I have tried very hard to be a better husband and better person. I found another job that I enjoyed more (and where there were not many women). Things have been pretty good for the last nine years.

Recently my wife has been depressed, anxious, and sometimes has unpredictable outbursts. I think she is suffering with the whole empty-nest thing. I have tried to be supportive but it seems like she takes all her emotional issues out on me and several times has thrown my past cheating in my face even though she claims to have forgiven me. During this time, I happened to meet a woman (Sarah) and we have gotten close and have been physical a few times. I felt really guilty about it though so cut off the friendship. But I found I was miserable because I had no one to talk to about what was going on with my wife. So after several weeks of no contact, we have resumed our friendship and spend a couple of hours a day talking on the phone or emailing. We have only been physical once in that time. Sarah's a good listener and is also going through something similar (she is in an unhappy marriage and contemplating divorce).

After many conversations with her, Sarah helped me realize how unhappy I've been in my marriage for a long time. And that my wife has never forgiven me for my past cheating and probably never will. I am contemplating leaving but I'm worried about how that would affect my wife. I don't want to hurt her. I also worry about the financial aspects. My wife is the bread winner in the family and came into the marriage with some family money. We enjoy an above average lifestyle - without her income I'm not sure I could even afford a decent place on my own. I think my friend would be willing to move in with me (assuming she gets a divorce) but she doesn't work so would only have whatever alimony/child support comes her way after the divorce. Sarah says her husband does reasonably well though so we could probably enjoy a comfortable lifestyle especially if she were able to keep their house. But she also has two young boys and I'm not sure I'm ready to be in a step-dad type of relationship.

I know my wife would be devastated if I asked for a divorce. I have asked her to get counseling but she refuses. She's a good person and I do care about her but I'm just not happy. Should I do what's best for her or what's best for me?

– Unhappy, Mass.

A: Should I do what's best for her or what's best for me?

You should do what's best for both of you. You should stop cheating and get your act together.

Maintaining the status quo and lying to your wife isn't what's best for anybody. It's certainly not in your wife's best interest to live with someone who's miserable and lining up a second life behind her back. You have to drop Sarah, like right now. You're not entitled to her attention, and you both need to focus on your real lives.

You must also go to therapy, even if it's just for you. Perhaps you can go for a while and then ask your wife to join you for a session or two. Sometimes a visit on someone else's behalf is less intimidating.

And please know that you can't jump from your wife to Sarah. You sound crazy for prioritizing your escape plan and discussing your standard of living as your marriage is dissolving. You should show this letter to your therapist. I think it'd be quite revealing.

Again, in no particular order: Drop Sarah (now), go to therapy, ask your wife to join you, and be honest with her about what you want from your marriage, if anything. No more coasting, cheating, and planning for a live-in girlfriend. Sarah is married and so are you.

Say it with me: Married. You need to be a husband and figure out what's best for you and your wife.

Readers? Is there some narcissism going on here? Should he tell the wife about Sarah? Does he have to cut her off? What happens his wife continues to refuse therapy? Help.

– Meredith

Fell for a married man

Posted by Meredith Goldstein September 13, 2012 08:28 AM

A reminder: Please be thoughtful about your comments.

I don't mind critical comments, but they should be constructive. People are asking for help, so help them. Empathy.

Q: I am a single woman in my late 30s. I never thought I would say this, but I have fallen in love with someone who is married with young children. He is planning on leaving his marriage but wants to do it as gently as possible -- in order to protect his kids and also to minimize the hurt and pain for his wife. He is a very good man. Our affair -- if it is even that -- has been very brief. Not even two months. The physical contact has been minimal -- only a few days out of that time. (We live on different continents, met at a birthday weekend, and most of our contact has been in the form of emails and video chats).

He says the marriage was over in any case, and I believe him. We have talked about building a life together, and both of us believe it's possible. I agree with him that his children must come first in this next bit of time, and I would be happy to try to be a loving person (or perhaps even a stepmom) in their lives if we ever got to that stage.

The affair is over and we are now in a period of no contact. I have said that I don't want to meet again until he has talked to his wife and begun the process of leaving. But we love each other and I want to support him. My question is this: Is it possible to stay in touch (but not see each other) while he leaves his marriage or should I cut him off entirely and wait until he is a free agent? Please don't be too harsh. We fell in love, we didn't mean to, and now we are trying to do the right thing.

Thank you for your advice.

– Want to do the right thing from now on, Cambridge

A: Stay away from him until he's a free agent. You don't want to get caught in the middle of a divorce, and frankly, this process could take years. You need to protect yourself. Leave him alone.

I also want you to continue to live your life. You're thinking about potential stepmom duties, but you haven't spent any real time with this guy. In real life, after a few dates, you might not be so compatible. You have no idea whether this guy is capable of being a good partner.

Please don't save yourself for him. He's not "the one." Right now he's just a married guy who swept you off your feet. It's very possible that there are other people -- local people -- who can do some similar sweeping. Don't put blinders on just yet.

You've set appropriate boundaries. Now go live your life. Maybe he'll show up, maybe he won't. But for right now, he's unavailable.

Readers? Is she allowed to keep in touch with him? Will he leave his wife? Does her age have anything to do with this? Why do you think she fell for him so quickly? Should she wait this out? Help.

– 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

Having kids ruined our sex life

Posted by Meredith Goldstein August 30, 2012 08:27 AM

Q: My wife of almost 12 years and I are from different backgrounds and cultures. Those differences are the glue that has held us together.

We have two beautiful children. We've given our lives to them and are on the same page in terms of their upbringing. She has put her career on hold (it has been 10 years), and I have been fortunate enough to be able to provide a very comfortable lifestyle.

Here's the problem: We have virtually no intimacy anymore. It has been like this since my youngest child (he's 9) was born. We've talked about it millions of times, but nothing ever changes. Her explanation? All women change sexually after having children. I need to get over it. Yes, she's that abrupt. As for me, well, I'm a physical cling-on, which I know can be annoying. I'm also a man, so I could exercise between the sheets on a daily basis.

My problem is, 90% of our relationship works. The other 10% doesn't. She feels everything is just peachy and avoids intimacy as much as possible. Sometimes her behavior makes me feel insecure and sometimes even not loved.

What advice can you offer us?

– Gottohaveit, Boston

A: "What advice can you offer us?"

Am I really advising two people here? Or just you?

If this letter had come from both of you, I'd tell your wife to visit her doctor to see if there's anything she can do about her missing sex drive. I'd tell her that sex is important and that she's lucky to have a husband who's desperate to stay close to her.

But ... she's not asking me for advice, is she? It's just you here. So the real question is: How can you get your wife to acknowledge that this issue is legitimate?

My advice for you is to take it slow. Ask for kissing. Suggest visiting first base with the hope of a trip to second. Sit close to her while watching TV. Your wife might be less overwhelmed by light physical intimacy, and the light stuff often leads to the rest.

Also try to plan a trip for just the two of you. It won't necessarily lead to sex, but it'll give you time and space to talk about your wants and needs without kids around. You can ask her about that doctor idea. You can tell her that you feel lonely when she pulls away. "I feel lonely" is more difficult to dismiss than "I want sex." "What should we do?" is a better question than "How can I get what I want?"

Make sure you choose the right words and ask her questions about her own needs. Find out what makes her feel good. Ask her what used to make her feel great. Don't overwhelm her with demands. Just have a discussion -- as two people who still love each other. Because that's what you are.

Readers? What can he say to get her attention about this? Is it a lost cause? Is her reasoning valid? Are their cultural differences relevant? 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'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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My parents are more generous

Posted by Meredith Goldstein June 18, 2012 08:45 AM

Q: I am getting married to a wonderful man. My complaint is not about him but rather his family. My family is extremely generous. My parents are paying for the majority of the wedding. They also gave my fiance a very nice birthday present and have given us things in general, including frequent flier miles for our honeymoon so we don't have to pay for airfare.

His parents are contributing, but not much. They are giving us what they gave his brother and really have no idea how much this wedding will cost (mind you, his parents split the cost of his brother's wedding with the bride's family ... in our case they are paying around 1/6th of the total bill). It makes me uncomfortable that my family is so generous and his family does very little (we had to ask if they were going to contribute to the wedding as they never offered, and we knew how much they contributed for his brother's wedding). His parents can afford to do more but they don't even offer. I am not having an engagement party, bridal shower, or bachelorette party, which saves everyone money (especially his parents, who live far away) but yet my fiance's brother did.

I don't know how to discuss this with my fiance but it really bothers me because I feel like his parents should do more for us. I don't expect them to be as generous/even as my family but I just feel like it's unfair. What do you think?

– Uneven/Unfair, Boston

A: It's not unfair, U/U. It's just the way it is.

You can't go into a marriage assuming that you'll get stuff from parents. Anything you get from them is a bonus.

You also can't expect two very different families to share the same philosophies about money. You decided to have a certain kind of wedding. Your parents offered to pay for it. His parents are helping with the expenses. That's awesome. The end.

If your fiance brought this up as a problem, that would be one thing. They're his parents. But he's not freaking out about this, is he? It makes me wonder about your fiance's financial priorities. Do they line up with yours?

You might want to use this as a get-to-know-you moment. After the wedding is over and you guys have been showered in cash, have a talk about what to do with the money and how you feel about giving and receiving gifts.

Also know this: You never know how much money people have. You say that his parents "can afford to do more," but are you sure about that? Do you understand their expenses and what they have in the bank? Are you basing your statement on how they keep their home? Because having a nice house doesn't always mean that there's extra cash to throw around. Having a good job doesn't mean that there's always extra in the bank. Don't make any assumptions.

When it comes to financial philosophies and generosity, worry about yourself and your soon-to-be husband. That's the only couple that matters in this scenario.

As long as your parents and in-laws are respectful, involved, and show you love, you're in great shape.

Readers? Is this unfair? How do you balance families that have different philosophies about money? Should she bring this up with her fiance? 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

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

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

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

Unemployment killed the relationship

Posted by Meredith Goldstein June 1, 2012 08:32 AM

Q: I've heard it said that there are fewer divorces because of the bad economy, but I wonder how many layoffs become the catalysts of divorces.

I'm married with kids and am back to work after more than a year of unemployment. Before actually being laid off, my boss made me go from salary to hourly. When there weren't enough billable hours, he took away health care. I agreed to be laid off. We knew this could happen and I had already had my resume on the street for a good 6 months.

Yet when I told my wife I'd been put on billable hours she screamed, "What did you do?" As if the worldwide recession had been my fault. She assumed the lack of billable hours meant that I had been lazy at work. Those comments struck me and effectively knocked the wind out of our marriage. I felt like I was only a paycheck to her. That feeling festered during the time I was at home job hunting, as I saw how little she actually accomplishes at home (she says she's a stay at home mom, not a housewife). Nearly a third of our home is unusable because of her lack of organization. I've tried to help with this but she has to be in charge.

Frankly I'm ready to leave, except after a year out of work and a lower paying job I have no money for a place of my own. When I'm home I'm angry, and walking around (or trying to) makes me even angrier. When I'm at work I'm distracted by the anger and I dread coming home. We don't talk anymore and when we try, it usually becomes another argument. I haven't felt this lonely and anxiety ridden since I was a kid. I don't hate her, I just don't think I can live with her...

...and I need your advice/thoughts.

– Mr. Ampersand, Massachusetts

A: I'm throwing out the therapy card. Sorry. It might be too late for therapy to do magic things, but you have to try. You need to sit in front of a third party and talk about how unemployment made you feel -- and how she treated the situation.

I wish I knew what your marriage had been like before the unemployment. I wish I knew whether there had been a real friendship. Do you remember?

The thing is, unemployment is scary. Fear can make us say some awful things. It can also make us so much more sensitive. It's a bad combo.

You both learned things about each other that you never wanted to know, and I'm sure that if she wrote in to Love Letters she'd tell us a very different story. Maybe her story would be wrong, but it would be her truth.

Demand therapy. And after you've had a little time to relax in your new job, please continue the hunt. This new job isn't enough for you. Regardless of whether you're moving out, you need more. I want you in a more stable place when you make big decisions about what's happening at home.

Also, when you do search for jobs, do it out of the house. Go to the library or check out a career center. It'll be better for your brain.

Readers? Therapy? Does unemployment reveal a person's true feelings -- or does it just make them say crazy things they don't mean? How have other people dealt with these issues in their marriage? Can they get through this? What about how she runs the house? Thoughts?

– Meredith

What if he doesn't want children?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein May 16, 2012 08:28 AM

I can't chat today. I'm in Maryland and Virginia for book dates. It's so cool that the people at these readings have checked in with Love Letters and think that the commenters are awesome. (You are, by the way.) Perhaps we'll have some new participants from Baltimore.

Also, it's 7,000 degrees here.

Q: I have been with my husband for over 6 years. We've been very happy together in that time. We aren't without our disagreements, but we've always gotten through them and wound up stronger for it. Lately we've been working on being even more honest with each other and more honest with ourselves. It was working out great for us -- we were getting even closer and developing a stronger bond -- but then my husband came to the realization that he doesn't want children. I've always wanted children and he had previously agreed that we could have kids someday, he just wanted to wait. I was fine with waiting so I never thought much of it.

Now that he knows he doesn't want children though, it's changed everything. I immediately went into a depression because I can't handle the thought of never getting the chance to become a mother. I tried to dismiss it, to tell myself it was okay if I could stay with him forever, but it's just not. Now I'm on the verge of tears every time I see a happy family, or pictures of my friends' children.

He felt bad that I took it so hard and he offered to someday have children with me. I'd just have to accept that he may not be happy about it. As much as I want to accept this offer, as much as I want both him and children, I know I can't accept it. If there's any chance he could be unhappy and it would be my fault for guilting him into children, it would kill me.

We're still young, both 24 years old. I was thinking that the best thing to do is to stay together for another few years, finish paying off our college debts, and see if he's changed his mind by then. If not, as much as it would hurt, I feel like we should split up.

But is it really worth giving up everything that we have? We're so perfect for each other in every way except for this. I don't know if I could ever find anyone again that I'd love as much as him, and I don't know that it would even be fair to anyone I would ever try to date again to bring all this baggage with me. I also know that my husband doesn't want to split up.

The only other two options I see are that we stay together and don't have children, and I won't be happy, or we stay together and have children, and he probably won't be happy. He's not as sure about how he feels as I am; it feels black and white for me while it's more gray for him. But is it really fair to him for me to hang on and hope he changes his mind?

– Torn over children, Mass.

A: I like your plan, TOC.

I hate telling people in troubled relationships to wait and see, but you guys are so young. In another few years (maybe two?) you both might have different priorities. His gray might turn into black and white.

You're in a unique situation, one that calls for more discussion until certain questions are answered. He knows that you're struggling with this, so you shouldn't be concerned about stringing him along.

It's so difficult to anticipate how children will affect your life. Some of my friends who were desperate to have children admit that the experience, while fantastic, isn't what they expected at all. And some people who were on the fence about kids have embraced parenting in ways they never expected. Based on what you told us in your last paragraph, your husband is unsure about all of this, which means that he just doesn't know. Allow this conversation to continue.

Frankly, it says so much to me that you guys are having honest discussions about this. Many young couples just move ahead with their plans because they're too passive to ask themselves whether the decisions they made in their early 20s are still appropriate.

Spend some time being 24. And when it isn't too stressful, talk about all of your options for the future -- what your lives might look like in five or ten years. If he doesn’t want kids, what does he want? Travel? Work? And for how long? How would a child change those plans?

Gray means pause. Take a deep breath and give yourself some time.

Readers? Should she quit now? Or wait? Does anyone know a final answer at 24? What should she do? Did anyone change their mind about kids? 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

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

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

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

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

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

Should I tattle about a cheat?

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

Q: Dear Meredith,

I have two friends who have been married for more than a decade, and one of them was (is?) engaged in an affair with her ex. I am equally close with both parties. I asked the spouse who is having the affair if something was going on and she admitted her dastardly deeds but claims the affair has ended. I'm not convinced.

To make matters worse, I often see this couple at parties with the person she was having an affair with. I care deeply for both of my friends, but I feel I am being disloyal to the friend who is being cheated on. If my friend knew, their marriage might end and there are children involved.

Should I say something? Should I stay out? I have a hard time believing her spouse doesn't know what is going on, but it might be easier for me to see the affair from the outside. For those of you who have been cheated on, would you want a friend to tell what they know? I'm in uncharted territory here, and just not sure what to do. I want to maintain a friendship with both parties.

– Should I Stay Out or Say Something, Boston

A: There's no right answer here. Even if there were, it would depend on the couple in question -- and on you. Maybe the cheater confirmed the wrongdoing to you because she knows that you're the kind of person who'd tell her partner and clear the air on her behalf. Or maybe she told you because you're a vault with secrets and you represented a safe way to confess.

And as for the couple -- do they seem unhappy? Does the cheater want to stick around for the right reasons? Does the victim of this cheat ever complain about the relationship? Would the news of the cheat shock anyone? Are these people honest with each other about other things?

I've changed my mind again and again about whether I believe friends should disclose cheats. In your situation, you have to think about your own needs first. There are too many unknowns for you to base this decision on what you think is best for your friends and their family, so it has to be about what you can live with.

Once this woman confirmed the cheat -- which was a very intentional decision, by the way -- she put you in a bad place. You have every right to cope with this information by doing what feels right to you, whether that means disclosing the betrayal or staying silent and watching how things play out. This has to be about your sanity.

You can start figuring out what you want to do by asking the cheater what she expected you to do with this information. You can ask her why she confirmed this cheat to you (as opposed to her spouse) and why she wants to stay in her marriage. You can ask why she's keeping this a secret and why she continues to hang out in social circles with the ex. You can ask whether anyone else knows, because it'd be great if you could make this decision with other friends.

Get more information and then decide what feels right in your brain and heart.

Readers? Should the letter writer tell? Would you want to know? Are there any rules with this? Discuss.

– Meredith

I resent his parenting style

Posted by Meredith Goldstein March 22, 2012 08:25 AM

Q: My husband is being emotionally abused by his adult child. Junior demands money from Hubby, always gets it, and still goes on to say terrible things about Hubby to his extended family and friends, trying to garner sympathy (and further cash payments) from anyone who will listen (and via Facebook). He has lived with us now and then, does not work, is sullen and violent, helps with NOTHING, eats all our food, had caused property damage to our home, and is mean to our pets. From what I have seen, he does nothing but complain and suck everyone dry. There has not been any physical violence, but I see firsthand how much the emotional abuse takes a toll on Hubby, and it breaks my heart.

WHY IS THIS OK? If I pulled a fraction of this stuff even one time, Hubby would divorce me so fast it would make my head spin, as well he should. But because the Junior shares his DNA, he's regarded as a Precious Angel who is not to be scolded. I have never seen Junior punished for anything -- not one single time. Not so much as a stern talking to. Hubby occasionally suggests "rules" that are routinely ignored without consequence. As his behavior worsens, his enablers simply lower their expectations further to accommodate him. Hubby says "at least he's not doing drugs." Really? This is the benchmark you set for your offspring?

Do we live in a world where children are raised to believe this kind of behavior is acceptable? This is the only -- and I mean ONLY -- thing Hubby and I disagree or argue about (we married late in life and are late 40s). For the most part I keep my mouth shut and grit my teeth, but once in a while I just can't take it anymore and I finally speak my mind, but it makes no difference; nothing changes except the mood of our relationship, so it's not worth fighting about.

While the kid's behavior appalls me, it is the lack of response from Hubby and his ex-wife that bothers me even more. Precious Angel is the only child of a stay at home mom, and has never lifted a finger in his lifetime. He sits around watching TV, playing video games, and complaining on his cell phone (that Hubby pays for) to his delinquent friends about how much his life sucks ... and then cashes the next round of checks that Daddy just gave him while he hurls insults and punches holes in the walls.

I wish I could love my stepson and have peace in my home, but the truth is I don't like him even a little bit. I don't have children of my own, and now that I see what it's like, I'm glad I don't. It's gotten to the point that I can't even listen to Hubby's stories of "can't believe what this kid pulled today," because it's his own fault that his child acts this way. For my part, I smile, clean up after him, try in vain to engage him in conversation, serve him dinner, and keep gritting my teeth.

I'm at a complete loss as to how to handle the anger that this is causing in me. Someone out there please help me find a single redeeming quality in this person!

Thanks for letting me vent,

– Frustrated With Rotten Kid, Formerly Boston

A: I don't know whether this kid is just a spoiled, entitled jerk or has a real personality disorder, FWRK. He certainly has some anger management issues. And I don't blame you for freaking out about all of this. Your husband has put you in an awful position.

I hate to play the therapy card, but if there were ever a time, it's now. Hubby needs therapy. You need it with hubby so you can stop biting your tongue. The kid needs it, but I'd be shocked if anyone tries to get him into an office for professional help. My hope is that if you and your husband go as a twosome, you can learn to be a united front. The therapist needs to give you some tools to cope with the kid without ruining the marriage. I also want the therapist to get to the bottom of your husband's guilt. Does he believe that he has to help his kid because of the divorce? Or is it something more?

You've been smiling and silent, and I'm not sure it's helped. You have to explain to your husband that this could be a deal-breaker, and for the record, you won't be exaggerating. I've seen couples destroyed by the differences in parenting philosophies. Your husband must know that if this doesn't change, your occasional need to get angry and vent will ruin all of the good stuff.

In the short term, you must tell your husband that you don't feel safe with this kid in the house. Not right now. He punches things and is mean to animals. There's been no physical violence in your direction, but what if that changes? What if he decides to take something out on you? The kid is a grown-up, and he shouldn't need to crash at your place. Your husband can make and ignore his own rules, but it's time for you to come up with a list of your own. If you don't feel safe having more than a quick dinner with the kid -- or if you prefer to be out of the house while the son is there -- make it so. You have that power.

Readers? How do you deal with a partner whose parenting style you detest? How can the letter writer get her husband to enforce rules? Am I right to say that she's allowed to make a few demands of her own? Should she should feel unsafe? What's happening here? Anyone dealt with a similar situation? Help.

– Meredith

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

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

Q: Dear Meredith,

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

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

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

– Trapped by Facebook Drama, Brighton

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

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

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

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

– Meredith

Still unhappily married

Posted by Meredith Goldstein March 8, 2012 08:36 AM

A big sorry to everyone who tried to chat yesterday. The software rebelled and shut down. We will make up for it next week, I promise.

Q: Dear Meredith,

I met my wife through some mutual friends about two years ago. She was visiting Boston and ended up falling in love with the city and decided to give it a try. We ended up spending a great deal of time together and dating.

During that time, I had felt rather happy and satisfied with my life except for one thing -- I had not had a chance to pursue a meaningful relationship. I had spent almost all of my time after college building my life into what I wanted with my job, friends, and family. Because I was new to the dating game, I did anything I could to keep this new relationship alive.

After about five months of us dating, she became very critical of me and began to complain about various details of my life. I would often hear that I would be spending too much time at work, with my family and friends, or that I didn't spend enough time with her. She began to threaten leaving me, and due to my weak sense of self at the time, I did all I could to accommodate her. I changed my job, moved, and essentially devoted as much time as I could into making her happy.

Soon enough we became pregnant and quickly got married. We never got a chance to finish the dating part of our relationship and essentially put it on hold as we prepared for raising a child. We now live closer to her family.

As you can probably guess, we have had a rough marriage. It is now a few years later and I still have problems being happy with our situation and working out our differences. We argue about everything from the smallest quirks to our plans for the future (although we have ensured these emotions don't leak to our child). In a desperate attempt to save our marriage and keep our family together, we saw two different marriage counselors. The first one pushed the idea of a divorce, so we left him to look for another one who would be willing to encourage us to stay together.

Fortunately, the second counselor has been helping us see past our differences and we have become considerably more loving and caring as a couple. We rarely argue now but no matter what happens through the sessions, I cannot be happy. It does not seem like I have any emotional issues, I am just so upset about what has happened and where I am in my life at the moment. My wife seems to be happy and I want nothing more than to be able to share that feeling with her.

As of right now I am having trouble becoming intimate and excited about life again. What can I do? I just want to get over the feeling that I lost control of my life and be happy.

– Want to Stay, Formerly Boston

A: Are you still seeing that second marriage counselor, WTS? Because you have to admit these lingering bad feelings in front of a third party. Counselor No. 2 obviously helped you guys make some huge improvements in your marriage, but you're still stuck. That's something worth discussing.

I can't fix this for you or give you a magic pill to prevent resentment and misery, but I can tell you that you need to start imagining ways to be happy in this relationship. Would you feel closer to your wife and happier about your situation if you lived near your friends and family again? Is there a geographic compromise?

I find it interesting that you bailed from the counselor who pushed you to get a divorce. That person was giving you a way out. You could have easily turned to your wife and said, "Well, the professional has spoken. Let's get this separation rolling." Instead you opted to find a person who could save the marriage. Is that because you love your wife or because you feel obligated to stay? You need to be able to answer that question -- out loud.

I want you to know that you're not the only person who feels like they lost control of their adult life. Sometimes change happens and we just have to cope. That said, your whole goal in life before meeting this woman was to have a great job and to be close to friends and family. By hooking up with her, you've lost all of it. There has to be a way that you can get some of those great things back (proximity to friends, an inspiring job, etc.). I have a feeling that if she prioritized creating a better environment for you, you wouldn't be so sad about staying committed.

I don't know whether I agree with counselor No. 1 or 2., but it sort of depends on whether your wife understands that you need a big community and a full life in order to be happy. Get the answer to that question, even if it means disturbing the peace.

Readers? Do any of us have control? Is he in a marriage that can be saved? How can he let go of this resentment? Am I right to say that he'd be happier if he was closer to friends again? Help.

– Meredith

His ex keeps calling and calling

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Feeling Like the Other Woman, CT

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

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

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

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

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

– Meredith

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

We swept the cheat under the rug

Posted by Meredith Goldstein February 28, 2012 08:29 AM

Q: Dear Meredith,

I have been married for five years, and a few months ago, while I was nine months pregnant with our second child, my husband slept with another woman. I was made aware of the affair when I found a note from the woman in his work bag written on hotel stationery. I confronted him, and he admitted to the affair. He had met the woman a few months earlier, while attending a conference for work. They kept in touch and by coincidence (he claims), they were both in New York on business trips at the same time and she met him at his hotel and they slept together. He said that was the extent of the relationship, and that he felt so guilty afterwards that he cut the trip short to come home to me and he never talked to her again.

When all of this came to light, I was adjusting to life with a newborn baby and a toddler and felt that I could not mentally and emotionally deal with another thing. Of course I was devastated, but other than a lot of screaming at him, crying, and making him sleep on the couch for about a week, things slowly returned to "normal" and the affair was kind of swept under the rug. Our relationship on the surface has been fine, but I am still dying inside. We have not been intimate since I found out, I can't bring myself to even kiss him.

Recently, he left his computer on when he was out of the house and I checked his email. There was no correspondence with this woman, but I did find her email address in his contact list and I also saw an email receipt from an upscale body and bath store, from which he often bought me gifts when we were first dating. I sincerely thought, with Valentine's Day coming up, that he had bought something for me. V-Day came and went and nothing. This latest discovery is eating me up inside, especially because he continues to go to conferences.

Should I confront him with this? I will have to admit that I went through his email, and I'm not sure if he will even tell me the truth once I bring it up to him. I feel so alone in all of this, as I cannot bring myself to confide in anyone, because I don't want them to think badly of my husband, as crazy as it sounds.

Any advice would be a huge help.

– Once a Cheater, Always a Cheater, Boston?

A: You must tell your husband that you saw the receipt, OACAAC. Then tell him that you need some time for a real talk. Make plans to go to therapy and discuss. Ask a family member to watch the kids. Have the discussion that you've been putting off since last year. If you don't confront this issue right now, it's going to keep oozing out from under the rug. You might as well deal with it on your own terms.

My advice is to tell someone (maybe a few people) in your life what happened. I understand that you don't want to tarnish your husband's reputation, but you need help and that's what communities are for. Wouldn't you want your friends to confide in you? Wouldn't you be supportive? Disclosing the cheat will help you process the fact that it really happened. You need honesty right now. You need an inner circle of companions who can help you deal. You need perspective.

As for your "once a cheater, always a cheater" question, my answer is no, I don't believe that people who cheat are destined to repeat their mistakes. In fact, I don't even like to use the label "cheater." Let's call your husband someone who cheated. Will he cheat again? I have no idea. All I know is that he did once, and that it's time to accept what happened and talk about it so you can heal and figure out the next step. Please break the silence.

Readers? Once a cheater, always a cheater? Am I right to say that it's important that she tell her friends and family what happened? Or will that make the situation messier than it needs to be? Anybody else sweep a cheat under the rug? What should she do to deal with this? Help.

– 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

We have marital problems

Posted by Meredith Goldstein February 9, 2012 08:33 AM

Tomorrow night's Love Letters screening of "Cruel Intentions" is at 8 p.m. at the Somerville Theatre. You can get tickets for $8 here. Film critic Wesley Morris and I will be there to watch it with you.

In the meantime, I'm trying to come up with a "Cruel Intentions" drinking game for us to play. I'm taking suggestions on Twitter. It's going to be fun.

Now please give this letter writer some deep thoughts. She didn't tell me where she's from, but really, with this letter, she could be anywhere.

Q: Hi Meredith,

I've been married for almost a decade and have three kids with a man I adore. But over the years I have caught him in little lies. I haven't always confronted him for fear of an argument. My concern is if there are little lies, there must be big lies. Where there are little fish there are big fish not far behind. I can't help but feel he is keeping more from me.
He is never one to admit that he did anything wrong; any problems/issues that have arisen over the years are always someone else's fault. A good example is when I got pregnant with our third child; he acted as though he didn't sleep with me. He didn't accuse me of cheating but instead acted as though he thought I was on the pill. I haven't been on the pill in more than a decade.

We rushed into marriage because I was pregnant. I'm not 100% sure he would have chosen me for his wife if I wasn’t pregnant. I didn't give him an ultimatum but did give him the option to choose with me as to what we were going to do. I wanted marriage but did not in any way push it, since even back then I wasn't sure he truly loved me.
He almost never makes an effort for us to do things as a couple. The excuses over the years have included that he is tired or we can't afford a babysitter. However, the minute a friend calls to get together, he's there. Which doesn’t happen that often but it's frustrating that he can find energy, time, and money to go have drinks with his friends. We do take a trip as a couple usually once a year. But usually it's me who makes all of the arrangements.

I also work full-time but very close to our home, so I'm usually the one who shuttles the kids around. My office job is demanding but my employer flexible so I can spend more time with the kids. However, balancing a full-time office job and a job as a mom leaves me exhausted most of the time.

I don't expect a "mom of the year" or "wife of the year" award but would like some appreciation. I get absolutely none. I also never get compliments like, "you look nice." I do get I love yous. We are intimate -- that is the one thing that is great in our relationship. Not sure how that exists since I feel everything else is a problem.

Communication is null. He comes home and we basically say the same things to each other ("How was your day?"). It's difficult to make decisions with him, it seems he disagrees with any suggestions I have. As a result, I usually hold back feelings and don't want to talk to him. But I end up keeping everything inside, until it erupts.

Most recently, we had a huge argument where we both agreed we were emotionally drained from the marriage. When the dust settled from the argument, I tried to resolve things with him; he didn't want to talk about it. But he wanted to be intimate. We still haven't discussed how we are going to resolve our issues or save our marriage. It's business as usual. But it feels very different this time. He assures me he loves me but I'm not so sure.

Is he emotionally unable to communicate or just gliding by until the kids are older enough, at which time he will want a divorce? I really don't know how much longer I can glide by. A marriage is built on trust, communication, friendship, love, intimacy, etc. We only have one of those items. I would love to go to couples counseling but am almost convinced he will never go for it. My mother recently confided in me that she thinks he is depressed. I never really thought of that as being the issue, it could be but it's so hard to tell.

Thanks in advance for reading my letter. I really appreciate it. I really don't have anyone I can talk to.

– Where there are little fish, there are big fish

A: WTALFTABF, you have to ask for the therapy. You say that he won't go for it, but you might be surprised. Explain to him that you need it. He's not going to be shocked by the request and whether he admits it or not, he knows you both need help.

There's a lot to this letter, and I can't tell you exactly what to do to undo years of repressed feelings, confusion, and exhaustion (balanced by a surprisingly solid sex life). But I can tell you that you need to stop thinking about whether your husband would have married you had you not been pregnant. Many couples will tell you that their decision to get married was based on temporary circumstances and reasons that only made sense when they were young. It doesn't mean that their marriages aren't worth maintaining. It doesn't mean that they're marriages won't last for all the right reasons.

I do think that your mom might be right. Depression would explain a lot, including his inability to be accountable. But again, that's something to figure out in front of a professional. You and your husband are in an incredibly difficult phase of life, with three kids, a ridiculous schedule, and no energy for honesty. It sounds like you never learned to treat each other like friends. A third party might be able to show you how.

When you talk to him about therapy, focus on the positive. Explain what you want, not what's wrong. As in, "I want to laugh more with you. I want to go to bed in a good mood. I want our sex life to be even better. I want us to have a friendship, not just a marriage." Make the request, sooner than later.

And again, stop thinking about whether your husband would have chosen you in a parallel, child-less universe. It doesn't matter. You're living in this universe, he did choose you, and you're still married. He says he loves you and hasn't walked out the door.

Readers? I know this is a lot at once, but can you help her with baby steps to figure this out? Help.

– 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

Dealing with my ex's marital problems

Posted by Meredith Goldstein February 2, 2012 08:26 AM

We're down to the Final Four. If you like any of those sexy movies and want to see them with friends (or a date) on Feb. 10, buy your $8 tickets here. Film critic Wesley Morris and I will be there to watch and squirm with you.

Also, someone in yesterday's chat asked me to explain why the time stamp on letters is usually about 20 to 30 minutes off from the time the day's letter is actually posted. I answered that question at about 1:38, if you're interested.

Q: Hi Meredith,

I am a divorced father of a wonderful daughter. I've been divorced for almost 10 years, and while it's been a rocky road for me at times, I think I've moved on for the most part. My ex (let's call her Jane) and I have shared custody of our daughter. We have gotten along very well when it comes to raising our child. Recently, however, I have grown increasingly concerned about some of Jane's behavior and how it might affect my daughter. I just don't know how to handle it appropriately.

A bit of background: My marriage ended because Jane had been cheating on me for several years with several different people. I tried everything under the sun to try and save the situation for our daughter's sake and for my own. We tried counseling and various other things to try to fix the situation. In the end nothing helped, and Jane finally told me she was leaving me for a guy she had been seeing for some time and she was going to file for divorce regardless of what I wanted. Jane ended up marrying this guy a year or two later. He has kids of his own, and whether I like it or not, my daughter has grown close to his kids and now considers them to be family.

I told Jane when we broke up that regardless of how I felt, she better not "mess up" again because of the impact it would have on our child. I told her if she broke our daughter's heart again by messing up another marriage and once again turning her life upside down, I would not hesitate to file for full custody. As far as I am concerned, another divorce would show that Jane is completely self-absorbed and an unfit parent.

Flash forward to today. I'm still very close to Jane's family, since my daughter is their family. They also know the basics of what happened between Jane and me, and they have always been very supportive. Recently, one of them added me as a Facebook friend. This means that all of a sudden I can see a lot of Jane's Facebook activity, as we are now "Friends of Friends" of each other, in Facebook terms. For a while I tried not to look. But eventually my curiosity got the best of me. I can't see a lot, but I can see some of her activity and her friends' list, etc.

Facebook ethical dilemmas aside (I will do whatever I feel I need to do as a father to protect my daughter's best interests, and I can't help it if Jane doesn't understand the ins and outs of Facebook's byzantine privacy configurations), I now know things that are of great concern to me. Jane has been spending a lot of time with an old friend. My daughter told me that her mother even shared a "scorpion bowl" at lunch with this guy one day (and then drove with my daughter in the car, which is a whole different concern!). I think a lot of this time has been spent without the current husband around.

The bottom line is that I am seeing what appears to be a re-emergence of a pattern of behaviors that I am unfortunately very familiar with. Given Jane's history, I think my concerns are legitimate. I don't really care about how this impacts the new husband. It would be karmic justice if it only affected him, as far as I'm concerned. Unfortunately, such behavior doesn't just affect the new husband. My only concern is that Jane may once again be cheating, or is certainly tempting fate, and that this could lead to another messy divorce, which would hurt my daughter in ways I don't even want to think about. She would lose a family that she's become close to.

What do I do here? How do I confront Jane about my concerns? Is it even appropriate for me to do so? I just want to do whatever I can to protect my child in this mess. It took her several years to adjust to one new reality. I don't want her to have to start all over again if her mother is being as selfish as I think she is. Am I way off-base here?

– Concerned Father in Boston

A: You have every right to protect your child, CFIB. That means you can ask for custody if you feel that your ex is truly an unfit parent. You can absolutely talk about the rules (drinking, driving, who she brings the child around, etc.) and seek legal counseling about what can be done to enforce those rules. You can confront her about the scorpion bowl and the fact that your daughter has mentioned being exposed to new people who may or may not be appropriate company.

But … you can't determine the fate of your ex's marriage. You can't tell her that she's not allowed to get a divorce. If your ex-wife does turn out to be miserable in her marriage and wants to leave her husband, you can't force her to stick around. All you can do is respond to her behavior. You can ask her to reevaluate custody. You can set new rules. You can ask professionals for guidance.

My advice is to tell your ex that your daughter has mentioned some weird things. Tell her that you're concerned about what those things mean. Listen to what your ex has to say before Facebook allows you to create your own narrative. You told us that you usually get along with your ex when it comes to raising your daughter. Work with that.

No matter what she says, know that you can't change this woman. You can't force her to be a good wife or to stay put if she wants to leave. All you can do is make decisions based on how she behaves. That's certainly a good lesson to teach your daughter as she gets older.

Readers? How should he address this with his ex? Can he help her stay married? Is she really an unfit parent if she gets divorced again? What should he do? Help.

– Meredith

Getting intimate after a cheat

Posted by Meredith Goldstein January 29, 2012 07:45 PM

About a year ago, Boston Globe film critic Wesley Morris and I made a list of our 16 favorite romantic movies and let you vote on them. We called it the Romance Rumble, and when it was over we screened the winner --- Wesley's pick, "Casablanca" -- at the Somerville Theatre.

Today marks the start of the second Romance Rumble. This year, Wesley and I opted to choose our favorite sexy movies (as opposed to romantic) and again, we're putting them to you for a vote. We'll screen the winner in Somerville on Feb. 10.

Vote and join us. No matter what wins, it'll be a fun night, and a great way to spend the Friday before Valentine's Day.

And now a letter ...

Q: My husband and I are in our 40s and have been married for 15 years. We have 3 good kids, and both hold rewarding jobs. Over the years, things have been up and down, as I think is natural in a long-term relationship, but it really started to go downhill a few years ago, with neither of us really paying attention to the other, then feeling hurt because the other was not paying attention. I had been depressed and put on some weight and felt unattractive, and he did not seem to want me. He also felt that he was unwanted. The fact that he travels for his job also meant that he was not home during the week to help with the house, kids, etc. and by the time weekends rolled around, both of us were just too tired to take care of the relationship.

Several months ago, I discovered he was having an affair with a much younger woman. The "relationship" is over, and I am working very hard to get past it. To give him his credit, he is working hard on this too -- being more considerate and accessible when he is home. Of course, I have my doubts, but I really want to get past this and get to a better place in our marriage.

However, there is a sticking point. He wants a sexual relationship, like now. I agree with him that sex is an important part of a healthy marriage, and I too would like to have a good sex life, but he has actually set a deadline for when he expects sex to resume. I feel so insecure about making myself open and vulnerable -- I just cannot relax enough to even think about being physical, and the more he pressures me, the more tense and anxious I get. And yes, I even feel resentful.

We did try couples' counseling, but that did not work out. I still think that it's important to try counseling, but I have hit a brick wall. He completely refuses to try that again. I just don't know where to go from here. It seems unfair to put so much pressure on me to resume a sexual relationship -- I feel as though this part of our lives will grow back organically and should not feel forced.

– Rock and a Hard Place, Somerville

A: Well, I'm on your side about deadlines, RAAHP. You can't force physical intimacy, and deadlines don't work. You've only had a few months to process this betrayal, and it's going to take time. That said, the longer you go without being intimate, the scarier it might get.

My advice? Tell him that you want to meet in the middle. Sex is overwhelming right now, but maybe some cuddling and first base isn't. Maybe first base will lead to second on its own. Maybe you can stay there for a while. Maybe you can start with some simple making out in front of a movie, something you watched when you first got married.

This shouldn't be something you do for him. It shouldn't be something that you have to get through. It should be an act of love for both of you.

If you can commit to testing the bases (or even the cuddling in front of the TV), he should be able join you in in couples therapy, Part 2. And please, no matter what, go to therapy on your own.

Let him know that you're willing to test out the bases if he reconsiders talking to a professional (and drops his ridiculous deadline). Trust is built on first and second base -- and on open and honest discussion. He either wants that stuff or he doesn't.

Readers? Deadlines? How can she reestablish physical intimacy after a betrayal? Thoughts on getting him back to therapy? Anyone have empathy about his deadline? Will the physical intimacy just come back naturally? Discuss.

– 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

Coping with my parents' crumbling marriage

Posted by Meredith Goldstein January 11, 2012 06:45 AM

We chat at 1 today.

Q: Dear Meredith,

I'm writing to you and the LL readers about a bit of a different issue today: my parents' marriage. For some background, my parents have been married for more than 20 years and have my little sister, who's in her teens, and me (I'm in my 20s).

My parents have never had a particularly happy marriage due in large part to their different personalities and communication styles. My mom is Type A and has a "my way or the highway" approach to communication. My dad is much more laissez-faire but completely lacks the capacity to communicate. I do not think they love one another.

In the past, my parents would go through ups and downs but generally it was mostly peaceful in our house. Recently, however, my younger sister has experienced some serious psychological issues, and this has sent my parents over the edge. They can't have a conversation about my sister or her treatment (she's in therapy, meds, the whole nine yards) without it turning into a power struggle over who's at fault for the recent situation. I no longer live at home but have been put in the position of playing the moderator between my parents because they can no longer communicate with each other.

The constant fighting is driving me crazy and I believe it gets in the way of what is most important: my sister's health. I'm fairly certain that my mom at least wants to get a divorce but doesn't want to rock the boat until my sister is better. Counseling is also not an option -- my dad doesn't believe in the "mental health system" and getting my sister into treatment was hard enough.

I guess my question is this: How can I best mediate the situation so that my sister is the focus? I'm not looking to "fix" my parents' relationship; I'm only looking to help them tolerate each other until my sister is better and off to college. I have voiced my feelings/opinions to both parents numerous times without much success.

Any insight would be much appreciated.

– My Parents Need to Get Along, Boston

A: You're right, MPNTGA, this isn't a typical love letter. In fact, it barely fits under our LL umbrella. But I want to discuss it because for whatever reason, I'm getting a lot of letters from readers coping with other people's messy relationships. In your case, you're the kid so it's extra complicated.

My advice is to stop trying to mediate. You can't. All you can do is tell your parents how you feel in the moment. As in, "I understand that you're upset right now, but this arguing is making me anxious. Can we move on to the next topic of conversation?" Or, "Mom, I understand that you want me to call Dad on your behalf, but I'm not comfortable with that."

Spend your energy being there for your sister by making her laugh, visiting as much as you can, and helping her define what she sees happening in front of her. You can say, "Yes, they're fighting, but as we both know, this tension predates us. They just want you to feel better."

Of course, I'd love it if they went to therapy, separately and together. I'd love it if they found a support group for parents dealing with the same issues. But ... they're not going to, right? They're not asking you what they can do to get along and cope with this mess.

Your parents might actually learn something by watching how you deal with the situation. So focus on your sister. Focus on you. No one (not even me) has the ability to fix a couple's communication problems, especially if the couple isn't asking for help. All we can do is set boundaries about what we'll put up with as spectators.

Readers? Should she be trying to mediate? How can she help her parents help her sister? Can you help a couple get along (or break up) if no one is asking for guidance? Help.

– Meredith

He gave up on me

Posted by Meredith Goldstein January 6, 2012 08:26 AM

Q: Hi Meredith,

I broke up with my boyfriend last summer. We had been together for a year and a half and had lived together for a few months. I was going through a very difficult time while we lived together. (I lost my business, my money, a family member, etc.) I could barely afford to take the T to my part-time job. He might say otherwise, but what happened is that he gave up on me, checked out of us, and started hanging out with another woman behind my back. There were dates, texts of adoration, the whole deal. I moved out, found a place, found a job, and started to feel good again. My summer was full of introspection and tears, but I got to a point where I was done putting energy into being angry with him.

We met up to talk and we hashed it out. We met up a few more times and we became less of two people who used to date, and more like two people who were friendly and actually enjoyed a laugh. Fast forward to now. We've been talking, texting, and have seen each other a number of times, and yes, I never thought I'd do it, but we became physical.
I thought I could do the casual thing, but he gets drunk and texts/calls and says things like "I'm so in love with you," "I miss you," "I had a hard day and want to hear your voice," and I just can't hear that as someone whose heart was broken by him, you know? So, I finally gathered the strength to say, I can't do this. We're not together, nor are we moving toward that. We're exes and I need distance in order to really move on and be open to a new guy who won't give up on me.

I really enjoyed being friendly with him and I do care about him as a person, but it was just too hard. I think it was right, but I miss him. I miss hearing from him and I'm doing this thing in my head where I don't think I'll ever meet anyone else. Oh, one other important piece of information: he was my first real boyfriend (I'm in my late 20s). I had had other "situations" in the past, but never called anyone my boyfriend, nor was I considered anyone's girlfriend. Is that why I'm having such a hard time?

I also think that this all happened because it gave me back the control. It's essentially what I should've done in the spring when he started checking out of our relationship, but at the time, I was so stressed out and in the dumps that losing something else was too much for me to consider. I did the right thing, right?

– So Confused, Boston

A: It's completely understandable that you cut him off as a "friend" -- at least temporarily -- because you don't want him to distract you from finding a real partner. It was a smart move even though you're missing him.

He was your first big relationship and you postponed the mourning process. Also, your good months with him represent simpler times. You're letting go of all of it.

This is also difficult because despite the fact that he was an idiot, he probably does love you. You were dealing with issues that people tend to tackle in their 30s and 40s, and he responded to it all like someone in his early 20s. On some level, you know that he probably does mean all of these texts, despite his inability to carry them out like a grownup. His legitimate feelings make this all the more complicated. (I have to point out, of course, that all of his texts are about his needs. I'd have a tougher time giving you advice if he sent a text that said, "I want to be there for you when you've had a hard day.)

I know you feel lost right now, but you've put your life back together like a pro. You're coping with the aftermath of a difficult year. You're doing what you need to do to see the world clearly. This phase hurts, but it's all part of the process. Compare these feelings to how your body responds after a tough day at the gym. You're sore all over, but that just means you're on your way to being in very good shape.

Readers? Why is she so sad about losing him the second time? What about these texts? Did he give up on her? Should she keep him in her life? What about her fear of never meeting someone new? Discuss.

– Meredith

I want to be close to family

Posted by Meredith Goldstein January 4, 2012 08:32 AM

It's Wednesday. Let's chat at 1.

Q: Hi Meredith,

My husband and I married a little over a year ago and we have a very healthy, loving relationship. However, we seem to keep having the same fight over and over and have never been able to come to a reasonable conclusion. The fight is always about where we plan to eventually settle down and live.

I grew up on the West Coast surrounded by a large, close-knit family, who all still live in the same city. I am very close with my family and think it is important that my future children are able to grow up in that type of close-knit family environment.

My husband grew up on the East Coast and is also a part of a smaller but still very close-knit family. I know family is important to him, but he doesn't seem to think it's important for us to live near family like I do. He thinks it would be nice if it happens to work out that way, whereas I think its important that we make it work out that way.

I know some people probably think this is a conversation we should have had prior to actually getting married, and we did, but we're relatively young (mid 20s) and settling down just always seemed so far away that it was never something we needed to resolve right away. But now we are approaching the end of grad school and the job searches and location decisions that come along with that. Everything suddenly seems much more real and urgent.

Obviously I would prefer to move closer to my family. I am the only member of my family that doesn’t live in the same city and it's very difficult for me to be far away. However, I know it's not fair of me to demand that he pick up and leave his family so that I can be closer to mine. I have requested that we try to only focus our job searches on areas where we have family nearby; it doesn't matter if it's mine or his. He thinks we should just go wherever we get the best job and feels like I'm being unfair to limit him like that. I have even tried to compromise and say that we can go wherever he wants now, but once we have kids (which is still a few years down the road) we will need to move close to family, but he still finds that limiting.

I know you can't tell me what to do, but I would really like some advice on how we can resolve this. I'm worried that one of us will end up resenting the other no matter what we end up deciding.

– Lost and Drifting, NC

A: I hate to put it this way, LAD, but you're right and he’s wrong, at least when it comes to communication. Marriage is all about compromise, and from what you've told us, you've offered up a number of options to make this easier for him. You've told him that you'd stay close to his family as opposed to moving to be near your own. You've told him that you're open to moving around for a few years before you settle down near family to have kids.

Has he offered up any compromises? Has he budged at all? Because I can come up with a few compromises on his behalf. Maybe the solution is to apply for jobs within a two-hour drive of family. Maybe, depending on what you do for a living, you can spend a few weeks every summer close to the people you love.

My guess is that he's worried about finding any job right now and that he can't get his head around making sure it's in the exact right spot. Or perhaps this is about age, and he can't quite envision a reason he'd want or need to be so close to family.

My advice? Explain to him that you've taken two steps toward him in this debate. Now it's his turn. You’re not asking him to pick up and move to your parents' house; you're simply asking him to show good faith and add to your list of compromises.

During the conversation, ask him what scares him about these decisions and what his ideal living situation would look like. These might be questions he hasn't even asked himself, and they might help him learn to take baby steps in your direction.

Readers? How do you teach someone to compromise? Any ideas for them? Is this about job search angst? Will they change their priorities as they get older? Advise.

– Meredith

He's ruined our finances

Posted by Meredith Goldstein December 20, 2011 08:47 AM

Q: Dear Meredith,

I am in my late 20s and a newlywed. My new husband started working the late shift three months ago and things haven't been the same since. Now that we are married and have joint finances, I was shocked to discover how many bills have gone unpaid. Starting about six months ago I began receiving calls from creditors looking for payment. Most of these bills are in my name. I have confronted my husband about the situation and he admitted to hiding the mail so I would not see late notices. He seems to have no sympathy for paying bills devastatingly late. My credit has been ruined by these late payments. Most recently I received a call from our mortgage company explaining that our mortgage hadn't been paid in three months. I cannot just "let it go" and accept yet another excuse from my husband. I quickly became the only one putting money into our joint bank account, and also the only one to take action to remedy these embarrassing phone calls. His check now goes into a separate account that I have no access to. I don't know how much money he's making, or where he is spending it.

Here is where it gets messy -- we have a young daughter together. Beyond money problems, one night in particular I found out he slept at another women's house who my husband has always claimed to be "just a friend." This is the third time he has been MIA for the night. I have found myself to be a single mother married to a totally unpredictable spouse. I have made multiple exhaustive attempts to communicate my concerns to my husband who barely seems to be listening and laughs at my thoughts of another woman. He has refused couples or individual counseling and has asked me to move out half a dozen times. My emotions have gone from acting like the situation doesn't bother me to feeling completely alone and helpless.

I never would have predicted this situation and I just don't know how to move forward. I could use your advice!

– Incomplete in Boston

A: There's not a lot you can do about a bad marriage when your partner refuses counseling -- and honesty in general, IIB. Your only choice right now is to focus on yourself and your kid. Start by finding a financial adviser who can help you get out of this credit mess. You need to know about every bill that's out there and how this has affected your record. You also need to know what will happen and how you can budget your life if this marriage ends. Do some Googling and look for an expert who deals with couples. I recommend bringing a friend or family member to these appointments. It can be overwhelming to deal with on your own.

You should also be seeing a therapist during all of this. Yes, it'd be better if he came with you, but regardless, you need help figuring out how you can go back to feeling safe in the world. If he's this unpredictable, is it best for you to move out? If so, where can you go that will give you some stability?

My hope is that when he sees you making these moves, he'll realize that this is serious and join you for these appointments. But it's very possible that he won't. His reaction to your planning will also give you some big answers. At the end of the day, is he working to stay together ... or is he relieved that you're making plans to move on?

Take deep breaths. And again, bring friends to appointments even if it means calling someone you haven't seen in a long time. You don't have to be alone.

Readers? Does his night shift have anything to do with this? Advice from people who have dealt with partners not paying bills? Is this relationship fixable? Discuss.

– 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

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 know I need to leave

Posted by Meredith Goldstein November 17, 2011 08:32 AM

Remember to be constructive with advice.


Q: Dear Meredith,

I can hardly believe I am writing this. But here it goes:

A few years ago, I got involved with someone. I was married at the time and he was allegedly single. We had been talking as friends online for years before that. I never thought I would do that, but I did. I had been trying to save my marriage on my own for many years and I finally succumbed to the temptation of someone new. Let's call him Steve. During this time I never once lied to anyone about my current state. My then husband knew exactly where I was and even knew who I was with. I went away weekends with Steve and my husband knew. I knew my marriage was over for good then.

I fell head-over-heels in love with Steve. He was everything I ever wanted in a man. Then I learned Steve was indeed still married. I should have walked away then but it was too late. I was in love, my marriage was over, and he assured me his was over long before he met me. I came to find out that he had walked away from his marriage several times prior to meeting me but that he always went back for the sake of his young child.

After I divorced my husband I found a place. It was with the understanding that once my divorce was final, he would start to finalize his.

He didn't. The first excuse was he didn't have the money to do so.

We broke up for a while after that. He wanted to come back. I told him I wasn't taking him back until he moved forward with his divorce. He promised me he was going to and had even talked to his wife about it and she agreed to the divorce. He moved in with me, and I let him borrow the money he needed to get his divorce done. His excuse then was we needed to wait until we were settled into our house together. That was in the spring.

I put my foot down again this summer and told him he had a month to file his divorce papers. He said he would, he made a lame attempt to do the paperwork ... but it sits uncompleted and unfiled.

I've made another demand for it to get done and this time the excuse is he's afraid of losing his son (ridiculous -- they have a great relationship) and his retirement to a divorce.

Please, Meredith and readers, give me the kick in the pants I obviously need. He's never going to divorce his wife and I really need to move on.

– Needs a Good Kick in the Pants, Mass.

A: You already know what you have to do, NAGKITP, so I'm not going to focus on kicking you.

Instead I'm going to boost you up and assure you that you're going to be OK. You've learned so many things about yourself during this relationship, and it helped you find our way into a new life. That new life is set (you're divorced, you're in your own place, etc.), and you can finally focus on enjoying it -- alone or with someone who isn't caught up in a lie.

I don't want you to punish yourself for wasting time. Sometimes we need to get the runaround three or four times before we're sure about a decision. I bet that a year or so ago you wouldn't have been confident enough to write the last sentence of your letter, but you did this time around and that means you're ready for great things.

Prepare yourself, because when you tell him that you're done with him, he might run and file that divorce paperwork. And if he does, do you care? Because it seems to me that it's too late, no matter what.

Readers? If he runs and gets a divorce because she breaks up with him, should she take him back? Thoughts on recovering after such a long, messy relationship? Help.

– Meredith

Should we have kids?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein November 16, 2011 07:00 AM

Chat day.

Q: Meredith,

I am a mid-thirties male who has been married for more than six years and have been with my wife for over a decade. The relationship is great. We love to travel to exotic places, see goofy movies, eat adventurous food, and all around have a wonderful life. So why am I writing, you ask? Well, as we are both now in our mid-thirties the question of having a child keeps coming up. We talk about it often and go back and forth about the issue. At any given moment I can be totally against having children (especially when we are out somewhere and there is a screaming child throwing a tantrum). But then I will see a couple with their young child playing in a park and the kid will run up and hug them and it melts my heart. To be totally honest I think I am slightly more on board then my wife is about having children (she calls it the big fade).

I have many concerns that I have expressed to my wife and we communicate openly. There are two major sides to the issue. The first in the negative camp is -- Will a child ruin the relationship we have now? I have been with my spouse for one third of my life and not to be corny, but she is perfect for me. We will have an issue from time to time but we are quick to resolve it through communication and respect for each other. What if we have a child and we start to fight more or she resents me because there is not nearly as much freedom as we used to have. What if we both resent the child for what it did to our relationship? Right now we can do what we want to do when we want to do it. Also, if we do not have a child we could most likely retire younger and just enjoy our lives together. But is that selfish?

That brings me to the pro side of the child debate. My wife is an intelligent caring person who I know would make a great mother. I hope that I could be a good father. I worry that we would be missing out on an essential part of human experience if we chose not to procreate. Would we look back in 30 years and wish that we had a child? I have always been a very content person. Before I met my wife I was happy. But after meeting her life was that much more fulfilling. A child might bring another level of enrichment to both of our lives. I love the idea of having a little piece of her and me to share my life with in a child.

I wanted to ask you and all the readers their thoughts on this conundrum. It would be useful to hear from both camps (pro/con) and how they live their lives. What are your thoughts, Meredith? Are you pro or con?

– To Child or Not to Child, Boston

A: Oh, TCONTC, I wish I could tell you what to do, but I can't. I give advice about love -- but I'm not a Magic 8 Ball. I can't tell you whether a child will make your life better or worse. I can't tell you whether a child will destroy what you have with your wife or enhance your relationship.

But I can tell you that there's always something to miss out on in life. We can't do everything. If you don't have a kid, you'll miss out on raising a child with your partner, which is huge. And if you do have a kid, you'll miss out on more travel, giggling in front of the television without interruption, sleeping in on Sundays, and other fun things that make a relationship beautiful. Also huge.

I can't say whether I'm "pro" or "con" when it comes to kids, but I can say this: Couples don't have to have kids to have a complex, meaningful relationship. And the word "selfish" isn't a part of this decision. I know many childless couples who are a part of a greater community of family and friends. No matter what you do, you'll have a chance to give back to your world.

Please continue to have this conversation with your wife, but try not to frame it as FOMO (fear of missing out). It's not about which option deprives you of the most; it's about what you want to be doing in five years, how you define family, how you like to interact with each other, and what's important to you, in general. Don't make it about regret, because I promise you, both options have the potential to be very, very fantastic. Think of it as, "Which awesome and overwhelming life choice appeals to us most?"

Readers? How should a couple navigate this decision? Should it be about FOMO? Can people with/without kids speak up, please? Help.

– Meredith

My fiance and his ex

Posted by Meredith Goldstein November 15, 2011 08:06 AM

Q: Hi Meredith,

I am currently engaged to a great guy, who is sweet, loving ... and sometimes totally clueless. Or I hope it's cluelessness ...

We got engaged only after being together for less than six months, both of us being out of relationships shortly before we met. Trust me, we knew it was fast and didn't go get married or anything. We are still engaged after over a year and a half. We just knew it was what we wanted. We have our wedding set for next fall and things are moving along.

The problem is that my fiance has this ex-girlfriend who refuses to leave him alone. When we were first dating she immediately tried to get back together with him (I found this out later, of course) but he denied her and took things to the next level with me. I know, I know, I should feel confident about our relationship. But she constantly texts him, writes him on Facebook, and has her family members contact him. I even reached out to her one time, asking her to stop because of how disrespectful it is to me. She did for about a month. Then it started again.

My fiance claims it is just because he was close with her family. They want to see how he is doing, etc. There was a death in his family shortly after we started dating so a lot of people were there to support him and he claims that is all she is doing. I disagree. She texts him how she misses him, her family member sent him messages about how they always pictured her marrying someone like him, and how they hope he's not settling, etc. That is not being supportive about a situation; that is clear disregard for the fact he is engaged.

Why won't he just write back and tell them to stop?? Am I crazy? Should I just let this go because he is with me and not her?

– Frustrated in New Hampshire

A: I wouldn't let this go, FINH. This issue should serve as a big premarital life lesson for both of you.

I'd ask him to minimize his activity with his ex on Facebook and to set boundaries with her family. Quick one-sentence responses to them are fine. Nothing rude, just clear. "I'm very happy! Thanks for your concern!"

I don't think that your ex is clueless, but I do think that he's passive. And I think that the death in his family is causing a lot of these problems. His ex and her family assume he committed to you too quickly because he suffered a loss. He's afraid of being rude to these people because they were there for him when he needed it most.

But it's been almost two years. It's time for him to make some rules.

My advice is to start posing your needs as questions to see how he feels about them. As in, "Do you want to receive texts from her? Do you think it's appropriate?" Or, "Is there a way you can set boundaries with her family without being rude?" And, "In a perfect world, how often would you hear from your ex? How do you think you can make her understand?" See what you can come up with together. And make sure that you ask the most important question/statement: "I feel threatened by all of this activity with the ex. Do you understand why?" I'd also ask mutual friends for advice. Do they know this woman? Do they feel that she's in the right? Just curious about who's in your shared community at the moment.

When you get engaged after five months -- after a death -- some friends (or exes) feel they have the right to step in with questions and concerns. And that's fine. But this woman hasn't learned to accept her role as an ex, and your fiancé has been complicit.

You're not overreacting, but it’s time to get thoughtful with him about what to do next. You can't be doing this as a married woman. Make that clear.

Readers? Is this going to ruin their marriage? Am I right about the significance of the death in the family? Is it weird that his family is reaching out? Help.

– Meredith

My family thinks my boyfriend is ugly

Posted by Meredith Goldstein November 3, 2011 08:44 AM

Q: Dear Meredith,

I am in my early 30s, as is the man I am dating. We have been together for a little under a year. I am very secure in our relationship and respect and love him as he does me. I can definitely see a future with him. He treats me like gold and we do all kinds of fun stuff together. We get along great.

The problem is that my mother and sister think that I am selling myself short. The main argument that they have against me dating this man is that he is not attractive enough and that physically we don't appear to be a match. I can't even begin to explain how hurtful this is to me. I am honestly saying that there is nothing wrong with his appearance. He is an in-shape man who I find attractive. Also, I can't believe that the two women closest to me would react like this to someone I clearly care about and hope to have a future with. If he is to be my husband, isn't it plain awful that I already have their opinion in the back of my head?

I went out with my sister a few weeks ago and she said to my face, "How are you honestly attracted to him?” I was shocked. This isn't a scenario where I am dating some old man to support me; my boyfriend and I are on the same scale as far as education, income, and age.

My question is, how can I not let this get to me? What can I say to my mom and my sister to let them know that this is not acceptable to say to me? How can I make them see the guy that I see, the one who is caring and kind? I’m just so tired of their opinions …

– Beauty in the Eye of the Beholder, Boston

A: BITEOTB, your mother and sister are in the wrong (obviously). You're allowed to tell them how you feel and order them to stop making these comments.

Try: "You know what's unattractive? Two people making me feel bad for being in love with a wonderful man." Follow that up with: "I'd appreciate it if we didn't discuss my boyfriend’s appearance ever again. I think that he is lovely, and you should be happy that I'm happy. I am no longer interested in what you think about my partner's face."

Your boyfriend sounds awesome. And you're right -- beauty is subjective.

As far as making them understand why he's attractive, well, I just wouldn't worry about that. They don't have to think that he's cute. Many people are repulsed by the look of this guy. But I'd make out with that. So ... yeah. Forget the rest of the world. If you're happy and he treats you well, you're doing just fine. Let your family know that they've crossed a line, and then move on with your fantastic boyfriend.

Readers? Should she be as aggressive with her family as I've suggested? Anyone else have a good speech for her to give the sister and mother? Why would her family be so concerned about his appearance? Is there something else going on here? Has this ever happened to any of you?

– Meredith

Will I be his next 'crazy' ex?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein November 2, 2011 08:25 AM

Chat at 1.

Q: I've been in a relationship with "Kevin" for about two years. We're both in our late thirties/early forties. I love the time I spend with him. We travel a lot and spend time with my young child and his young kids. Our lives have merged nicely together over the last year or so -- family dinners with the kids, vacations, the whole nice family scene. So when Kevin asked my child and me to move in with him and his kids, it only seemed natural. He suggested we buy a house together.

But I'm having second thoughts. He says he's not ready to get married. His first marriage ended in a very bad divorce. I sense that he's gun-shy about doing it again. I get that. My divorce was no picnic either.

My big concern is that he'll never be "ready." It recently occurred to me that people don't stay around his life for very long. The people that have been around more than a few years are either colleagues -- or high school buddies who like to hang out at his really nice house. People stick around if there's a financial aspect to the relationship.

It's the people he knows on a purely social level that seem to disappear after a while -- neighbors, parents of his kids' friends, etc. If they just faded away naturally, I wouldn't be so concerned, but at least three former friends have told him off about something and angrily stopped talking to him -- all of them women. From the stories his kids tell, it seems that these people used to spend a lot of time with them – birthdays, weekend trips, etc. I've asked him what happened, and the explanation always centers on some minor disagreement. He can't understand why the person would "overreact" like they do and then he claims the person is "crazy." I haven't met any of these people and I don't know enough about the arguments to know if these people are crazy or not, but it's weird for it to happen over and over again.

I also have reservations about his divorce. He still refers to his ex-wife by a derogatory nickname -- even in front of the kids. He'll tell anyone who listens that the divorce was all her fault. He also has no explanation for why she left other than "she's crazy." Then he will go on and on about everything he did for her and how he couldn't understand why she wouldn't be happy. My husband left me, too, and it took me by surprise, but years later I have some insight into how our marriage broke down. Kevin has no insights like that at all. It's all very strange and uncomfortable and I'm not convinced he's over her.

This leads me to wonder if he's capable of a stable, long-term relationship with anyone, especially a woman. Our relationship seems wonderful. He and I and our kids have a nice life going here. Am I the next "crazy" person to leave in a huff or should I stop worrying about it? Should I move in with him and see how it goes or insist on a marriage proposal?

– Am I The Next Crazy One?, Massachusetts

A: My first piece of advice: Don't insist on a marriage proposal. You don't know if you want to marry him, so it seems weird to demand that he ask. You're allowed to take your time and answer these questions before you pressure him (or yourself) to move forward.

My questions for you: Does he make you feel safe? Does he listen to you when you have problems? Does he ever show signs of empathy for others? Does he only empathize when it suits him?

Based on what you've told us, my biggest issue with you guys moving in together is the name calling. You have every right to tell him that you don't want to combine households with a guy who calls his ex by a mean name. You want to set an example for your young child. No negative nicknames. That has to be a rule.

Make a list of other rules you keep in your own home. Can this man respect them? Does he understand them? Will he listen? If you're not so sure, it's not safe to buy a house with him. You don't want to get stuck.

Bring up the name calling and see how he responds. If he respects the complaint and can participate in a good discussion about how you want to frame your divorces in front of your children, that's a sign that he's not "crazy." If he barks at you for questioning him or accuses you of being nuts, that's a sign of something else.

Good luck. Ask your questions and make that list. I want you to feel safe and respected in your home.

Readers? Anyone call their ex names in front of kids? Is that ever OK? Should this LW be concerned about marriage? What should she do? Is it possible that all of the people who left him were crazy? Discuss.

– Meredith

Am I cheating?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein October 31, 2011 08:24 AM

Happy Halloween.

Q: Dear Meredith,

This is a tough letter for me to write. I am a 30something wife and mother of two small children. My husband and I have had numerous relationship problems over the past few years that have basically left me on emotional life support. I have not cheated physically on my husband; my father cheated on my mother which left me absolutely repulsed by the thought of infidelity. I have been leaning on one of my close male friends during this time for support. This includes after-hours talking, texting, other contact, lunches together, etc. It has also included the occasional hug, hand-holding, and that sort of minimal physical contact. My husband is aware of our friendship and has already once falsely accused me of cheating. To say that I feel closer to my friend than my husband at this point is absolutely true. I am trying to figure out a way to extricate myself from my marriage that leaves the least negative impression on my children (my primary concern). But in the meantime, this thought keeps coming up (and hence my question)... is what I am doing "emotional cheating"? What is emotional cheating? Does the fact that I am closer emotionally to a man that isn't my spouse make me a cheater?

– Haunted by the Thought, Boston

A: Is it cheating to be closer to a friend than a spouse? Not necessarily.

Are you cheating on your husband with your friend? Pretty much. Sorry.

You're pursing your feelings for another man. And you're holding hands, an act that can be more physically intimate than sex (depending on the hands and the sex).

That said, I'm not so sure that what you're doing with your friend is worth focusing on right now. The specifics or your relationship have nothing to do with what happened to your parents, and you have other, more important concerns to deal with.

My advice is to stop worrying about your friend and deal with your marriage. Get into therapy with your husband. Start talking about the fact that you want to extricate yourself from the partnership. Make plans for your children. Consider logistics. Worry less about how to label what's happening.

Obsessing about your relationship with your friend and how your behavior might parallel your father's is just a way to distract yourself from the real issue, your potential divorce. Going into a shame spiral about cheating won't help you right now.

Work on defining what it means to be in a broken marriage.

Readers? Is she cheating? Is that important? What should she be focused on right now? Should she be drawing parental parallels? Discuss.

– Meredith

How do I say no?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein October 28, 2011 08:43 AM

Q: Hi Mere,

The short summary of my question is: How do I indicate to a lady friend that I'm no longer interested in her? My situation is complicated because (a) I previously did indicate that I had an interest in her but was unavailable (I was responding to her asking me out); and (b) the way she's acting right now is why I'm no longer interested. She seems to be making bad life choices.

The background: We worked together and became friends. We're in our 40s and have similar interests. She is divorced.

When she first expressed an interest in me, it was probably because I was showing new signs that I was single. I was flattered that she showed interest in me and told her so, but explained that I was still married and would be for a while for many reasons. I feel I made the mistake of agreeing with her assessment that "it was too bad, because we both seemed very compatible."

We remained friends and while we continued to talk, I didn't notice anything different or troubling about our interactions. I also got the impression that she had started to see someone -- and I was happy for her. Meanwhile, I did start my divorce proceedings and moved away from my wife.

The potential complication is that a mutual friend recently informed me that my friend is wondering what she should do about her current guy now that I'm "available." I'm thinking "Nice ... but wow, what if I was in his shoes? That wouldn't be nice.” This also tells me that another invitation from her is headed my way.

To complicate this, I've learned from friends that they really feel I ought to stay as far away from her as I can. Apparently, she has dated a married man we both know. This has since been confirmed to me.

My assessment is that this woman might be going through a big rebound phase. I think that she'll come back to earth eventually and be somewhat the same person I liked as a friend -- and maybe a potential partner. I can take the high road and say, "I've met someone else, sorry...," which is a downright lie. Or I can tell the truth and say, "I was very concerned seeing you date inappropriate people and that's just not the type of person I'd like to start a new relationship with."

So have at it advice givers. Give me some food for thought. I'll make up my own mind, but how would "you" handle this if you were in my shoes and you received a re-invitation?

– How do I handle this?, Massachusetts

A: HDIHT, you don't have to initiate a conversation with her about this. If she asks you out, you can decline. You can explain to her that you're just in different places in life (that's the truth, by the way). She's been out of her marriage and dating for a while. Meanwhile, you're just figuring this stuff out. You'd rather be her friend. No need to lie or get nasty.

You mention that she's rebounding and might be a good partner down the road. I'm not so sure you're right. She slept with a married person, and that person is someone you know. That mess would follow you around.

My advice is to set some boundaries with her and to start expanding your circle of friends. Your world is too small right now. You need new faces, new experiences. Once you start seeking that stuff out, everyone in your world -- including this woman – will get the hint.

Readers? Are there nonverbal ways he can tell her that he doesn’t want to date her? Will she be a better partner later? Does she deserve a shot? Help.

– Meredith

His friend hates me

Posted by Meredith Goldstein October 20, 2011 08:22 AM

Q: Hello Meredith and fellow LL devotees,

I'm desperate for your advice, or at the very least, a reality check. Help a girl out.

I am in my mid-20s and have been in a wonderful, loving relationship for about a year and a half. (I always hate letters that start out like this -- my initial reaction is always something along the lines of "so shut up and be happy!") My boyfriend is in his early 30s and is everything I have ever wanted or looked for, and I'll spare you the nauseating list, but it stretches long and far. It has not always been smooth sailing for us, and we've had to navigate some tricky situations -- he has a child from a previous relationship and is a very involved father -- but we always seem to find a way around the difficulties. We both truly believe we were meant to find one another, and we are better people with each other than without.

The problem is not my boyfriend, but his female friend. She works with my boyfriend and was around long before I came into the picture. They carpool, she helps with his son, and she is a regular fixture in both of their lives. Although they do not usually socialize on weekends, she is invited to birthday parties and other family events, and on a couple of occasions she has joined us out with friends or to eat. All of this is A-OK in my book.

Where I begin to have an issue is her feelings toward me. It was made clear to me before I met this woman that she has long carried an unrequited torch for my boyfriend. When he broke up with his child's mother, this woman made a not-so-subtle effort to start dating him. He always politely refused her invitations for one-on-one socializing, and soon after, he and I met and began dating. The first few times I met her last summer she was cold, snide, condescending -- all of which I expected from a woman scorned. I realized it would take her a bit of time to get over the slight and that eventually she might come around.

Unfortunately their carpooling routine seems to have prevented her from getting over anything. She still texts my boyfriend constantly, even on weekends. She is still very cold to me, even going so far as to be upset with my boyfriend for not "warning" her that I would be stopping by his house when she was still hanging around after carpooling one afternoon. She said she was "caught off guard" -- well, considering that my boyfriend lives here, and I am his girlfriend, I find that to be a tad ridiculous and presumptuous on her part.

This has become a big problem recently, as my boyfriend just purchased a new home. I assisted him financially with the purchase and after his child gets settled in the new house, the intention is to have me move in with them. My name is not legally on the mortgage, but this was very much a joint endeavor emotionally. We see ourselves in this house for many years to come and expect my name to go on the legal paperwork a few years down the road. This woman has been around to help my boyfriend with the move, and despite my deep involvement with the house, she continues to request to receive a "heads up" from my boyfriend when I will be there. Also, after hearing me talk about "our house," she expressed to him via text message (no snooping -- we are very open with our phones and I saw her message) that she is concerned that I'm under the impression that it's my house too and started asking if I was planning on moving any of my stuff in. In my opinion, none of the above is her business. But my boyfriend's response was measured -- he told her that it is legally his house, but that since I am his girlfriend, that makes it partly mine as well. Which is true, but his response felt like a tiptoe around her attacks rather than the rebuttal I was hoping he'd give.

Mere, is it wrong to expect my boyfriend to put an end to her hater parade once and for all? Am I being unrealistic or catty? I've asked my boyfriend to say something directly, but he feels too badly about "breaking her heart" and thinks I should just have some sympathy for her and let it go. She is no threat to our relationship, but I'm uncomfortable and angry still.

Gah. I'm baffled.

– She Can't Stop Being A Hater, CT

A: You're right, SCSBAH. You're right about everything. Your boyfriend must set boundaries with this woman. If he doesn't, he's disrespecting your relationship and leading her on. I mean, how does he think this is going to play out? This situation won't fix itself.

She shouldn't be texting him all weekend. She shouldn't be around so much. She shouldn't be intimating you. And you shouldn't be expected to defend yourself to some woman who wishes you were out of the picture.

My guess is that your boyfriend doesn't want to be the bad guy and that he's trying to avoid alienating a woman who's been a help when it comes to single parenting. He's probably conflict averse in general after all he's been through. He's used to just saying what he needs to say to keep as many people as happy as possible. But it's time for some honesty. You're moving in and this woman deserves to know.

Tell your boyfriend that it's time to start disclosing to friends and family that you're preparing for cohabitation -- and that the house belongs to both of you. That should silence this woman -- or send her over the edge. Either way, there will be a change.

I don't think your boyfriend is capable of having a real sit-down with this woman about her bad attitude, but telling her the stuff about the house should send her all the right messages. Make that disclosure your one demand. For now. One demand isn't overwhelming.

Readers? I know the boyfriend is in the wrong, but should the LW have more empathy for this woman? Why isn't he saying what he needs to say? Will a disclosure about the house change things? Thoughts about the house and her contribution? Discuss.

– Meredith

It worked out for Gisele ...

Posted by Meredith Goldstein October 19, 2011 08:31 AM

Chat at 1.

Q: Dear Meredith,

I am reeling emotionally from what appears to be the end of what could have been a great relationship.

I met this great guy, Kenneth, six months ago. A mutual friend set us up. I was attracted to him instantly. None of that, "Should I go out on a second or third date to see if there's chemistry?" There was chemistry for both us. I'm in my mid-30s. He just turned 40.

We started dating and things were going very well. He was busy with his job (which involves a lot of travel) so we didn't see each other much. He told me up front that he was looking to date and to get serious but that his job took priority. I've always been attracted to men with unusual jobs. I wasn't fazed by his career at all.

About a month ago, 10 days went by without a phone call or email from Kenneth. I finally sent him an email asking if things were okay. I was really anxious when I didn't immediately hear back from him. He was always good about emailing me frequently.

Well, I heard back from him a few days later and it wasn't anything I had ever expected. He said he had just found out a week ago that a girl he had slept with a month before meeting me was pregnant with his child -- and keeping the baby. What's worse is that she waited months to tell him, so (in her words, he says) he wouldn't pressure her into terminating the pregnancy.

I was sick at this news, and then sicker when he told me he had his "hands full" and couldn't see me anymore. One expects to get dumped from time to time but not like this.

(As an aside, I know he didn't cheat on me. After our first date he was out of the country for weeks.)

While I get that Kenneth has had a huge life change, I can't help but feel like I still have a place his life and him in mine. Am I crazy to think this? It was unfair of him to shut me out. Our budding relationship was full of great chemistry, laughter, deep conversation. In other words, it felt right to me.

I need to know: Can our relationship recover? He is going to be a new father in a few months with a woman he basically barely knows. Where do I fit in? Do I fit in? If I don't fit in, how does one recover from a baby mama drama such as this? Am I kidding myself? Either way, what do I now?

– This Worked Out for Gisele, Right?, Wrentham

A: It worked out for Gisele, TWOFGR, because Tom Brady said to her (and I'm guessing here), "Gi Gi, I just found out that my ex is having my child. But I've fallen in love with you and I hope that you don't go anywhere. Despite this big life change and my hectic schedule as a professional athlete, I'd like to continue this relationship."

Your guy didn't say that to you. He didn't ask you to consider sticking around. (And I'm assuming that you volunteered, right?)

I know you don't want to hear this, but it's probably best that he walked away. Yes, he's great and there was chemistry, but do you really want to stay in a relationship with someone who'll put you third? The baby will become his new priority. Then the job. Then ... eventually ... you. Can you commit to that kind of life after just a few months of dating?

If Gisele, Tom, and Bridget were on Love Letters today, they'd probably tell you that while it all worked out for them, it hasn't always been easy. I'm sure they'd tell you that their success as a family depends on the empathy, patience, and responsibility of three busy adults who want to do right by their partners and children. Right now, you're the only one in your triangle who wants this to work for everyone.

Kenneth didn't come to you with his news to have a respectful discussion. He waited 10 days while you stewed and then made all of the decisions himself. Gisele wouldn't put up with that. You can start getting over this drama by allowing yourself to be ticked off.

Readers? Should she tell him that she wants to try this? Should that request come from him? Is this worth pursuing? What's happening here? Discuss.

– Meredith

Our parents are religious

Posted by Meredith Goldstein October 10, 2011 07:42 AM

I decided to run a letter today even though many people are off for the holiday. I assume that some folks are around to comment. Right?

Today's letter is about religion, which is appropriate because I'll be speaking about love and religion after Wednesday's performance of "Next Fall." If you want free tickets, please email me (at meregoldstein at and tell me why you want to see the play. Put NEXT FALL in the subject line. I'll pick a few winners. Feel free to include your own stories about love and religion -- conflicts, resolutions, etc.

Entries are due tomorrow by noon. Winners will be notified by tomorrow at 3.

Q: Dear Meredith,

I'm 25 years old and I've been dating my boyfriend for almost four years. After more than two years of a long-distance relationship, I moved from another state to live near him (in my own apartment). He lives with friends.

There are a lot of positives about my life after the move -- my new job is much better than the one I had before, and I don't mind living alone ... except for the financial part. It's tough to afford a decent, safe apartment by myself. And honestly, it does get lonely once in a while, which leads me to the next point.

Like many couples these days, my boyfriend and I would like to move in together when my lease is up late next year. The only problem? Our parents. Both of us come from Catholic families who disapprove of living together before marriage. My parents actually said that our wedding would "no longer be special" and seemed genuinely hurt and upset (not angry) when I told them about my plans. They pressured me to get married instead, saying it was essentially the same thing as living together. He hasn't approached his parents yet because they're more strict and have made their opinion on the matter known before.

My boyfriend and I routinely discuss getting married and intend to do so within a few years, but we feel 25 is a bit too young. We're independent adults, so we aren't asking our parents for permission, but we also respect and love them and we don't want to cause a major rift. Do you have any advice for a couple struggling to be independent without making our families angry? Is it worth the risk, or should we just wait it out living separately if we intend to get married in a few years anyway?

– Family ties (that bind), Boston

A: It seems to me that you have a bunch of options, none of which are great (sorry). One is to defy everybody, which just isn't ideal, especially for your boyfriend. You could also get roommates, of course, but that's not what you really want.

A third option is to consider getting engaged -- just engaged, not married -- next year. Something tells me that his parents will be less concerned about cohabitation if you're "promised" to each other. You can choose to enjoy a long engagement -- very, very long, if you want. Set your own terms once you've appeased them a bit. It's not quite all-the-way married, but it's something to keep them at bay.

It seems to me that your boyfriend has to weigh in here because he's the one whose parents might get angry about whatever choice you make. Does he think that an engagement is the best compromise? If not, what is?

My advice is to talk about the possibilities and then revisit the issue again in ... let's say ... six or eight months. By then, you'll be more confident about whatever decision you want to make. Take advantage of your long lease.

Readers? Will an engagement be enough? Should they be worried about their parents? Should they just suck it up and postpone the move in? Anyone have parents opposed to premarital cohabitation? Discuss.

– Meredith

Sick of being a caregiver

Posted by Meredith Goldstein September 26, 2011 08:41 AM

Q: Dear Meredith,

"Jack" and I have been together for years. We are in our mid-twenties and met during college. We were on and off a couple of times during school but have been going strong for five years. He is the love of my life, best friend, confidant and savior, and I couldn't imagine being with anyone else. A few years ago, he battled with addiction and depression. After that, he dealt with some family tragedies. But I stayed by his side and helped him get through it. I was his lifeline and his bank during that time, never once complaining.

Fast forward to a couple years later. I moved to live with him and to be near his family. It's a daily struggle for me because it's a long commute to Boston. My work hours are intense. He is employed, but he doesn't make much money and he's unhappy with the work. But for some reason he has zero motivation to do anything about it. He has random bills that have collected around the house that would take seconds to take care of, but he just can't seem to get the motivation to just get it done.

I'm tired and frustrated and over being his caregiver. When I do end up snapping, his response is "No one asks you to do it!" and he's right, but I feel like I have to. I guess my question is: When is enough, enough? Should I get out now before I end up resenting the entire thing and the stress that it puts on me? I have never ever insisted on being taken care of, but I do expect to be a team.

– The Caregiver, Outside of Boston

A: You said it best: "I have never ever insisted on being taken care of, but I do expect to be a team." Your guy doesn't want to be a team. He wants to be helped.

I understand that life has been rough for him, but some guys would have gone out of their way to rally after tragedy and to make sure that you weren't sacrificing too much. Again, your guy just sat there.

My advice is to step back and consider this statement: "He is the love of my life, best friend, confidant and savior, and I couldn't imagine being with anyone else." Is that true? He might be your best friend based on how long you've been dating, but your five years of commitment have involved some truly awful stuff. You say that you want him to change, but what do you mean by that? Hasn't he always been this guy? Can he really become another person?

Decide what you need to be happy (write it down in list form) and be honest with yourself about whether he can ever be the right partner. For the record, based on what you've told us, I don't think he can. He's never going to jump to pay bills. He hasn't asked, "What will make life easier for you?" Your lives have always been about him. And that's just not good enough.

Readers? Should she stay or go? How do you get someone who's dealing with depression, addiction, and family tragedy to rally? Is there anything to save here? Discuss.

– Meredith

Can I yell at my in-laws?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein August 19, 2011 08:03 AM

A few people asked me to post the rest of the "One Day" entries. It'll take me a little while to sort through them, so expect to see them on Monday. Glad you liked reading them.

Q: Dear Meredith,

I am a somewhat sporadic follower of your column. My question/issue is somewhat of a different variety than most of your writers. My husband and I have been married for two decades, and have been together for more than half our lives. We are very happy in our marriage (and I say that with complete confidence) and both know that we will live out the rest of our lives with each other.

My problem is with his family, specifically his stepmother AND his mother. (I hit the jackpot as far as in-laws go). First, let me start by saying that my father-in-law is an absolutely wonderful man. He is simply fabulous as a father-in-law, spends lots of time with his grandkids, and he and my husband are extremely close. My father-in-law's one fatal flaw is his choice in women. His first wife, my husband's mother, is a selfish, vain and small-minded woman, and so his second wife! They are eerily alike as far as seeing only to their wants and needs, and can be petty and downright mean toward family members.

My question is this: When the mother/stepmother crosses the line as far as what I can tolerate, when is it OK for ME to speak out directly to THEM? I would never, ever want to cause my father-in-law grief or anguish, nor my husband, but there have been a multitude of times where they've said/done/caused things that have been so downright awful that I've bitten my tongue not to say anything to them directly. I'm in this for the long haul, and over the years it gets increasingly difficult not to tell them how horrible they are, and how they are directly affecting the relationship between my husband and his Dad, never mind how it might someday affect the relationship between my kids and their grandfather.

– Biting My Tongue in Boston

A: Love Letters is about love so I'm going to avoid the etiquette part of this question (let's leave that to the awesome Miss Conduct) and concentrate on what's best for you and your husband as a couple. For many couples with in-law issues, the answer is to work as a unit. You must decide which battles you want to fight as a twosome and then have your husband (yes, he'd be the spokesperson) communicate the issues to his mother/step-mother/father. It seems like a roundabout way of dealing with problems, but from what you've told us, these women are not going to have a thoughtful discussion about their actions, especially not with you. If you call them out on their bad behavior you win nothing.

I know you want to freak out and scream at them or even sit them down and calmly tell them why they're awful. But really, it won't help. It'll just alienate the wrong people. You and your husband are the most important relationship in this situation. You have to stand together and protect your partnership. The question should be, "What do we want to do about this?"

There is one exception to this rule. If the mother or stepmother's bad behavior involves your kids, you're allowed to sternly explain how you do things in your household. In those situations, you can be the crazy mom.

Readers? Can she ever just speak out on her own or should this go through her husband? What battles are worth fighting? How can you deal with a terrible in-law without messing up your own relationship? Discuss.

– Meredith

Am I living his life?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein August 17, 2011 09:00 AM

A one-day contest for "One Day" tickets:

Send me two sentences about the most significant day in any of your past relationships -- with the year on top. Here's an example:

He took me to Plum Island and I stood on a rock so that I was his height. Then he gave me a kiss.

The most interesting two-sentence descriptions will win a pass to see the movie "One Day," which is based on a very good book. Send entries to meregoldstein at gmail by 2 p.m. with ONE DAY in the subject line. I'll pick winners by the morning.

I'm going to pretend I'm Anne Hathaway and read all of your entries out loud to myself in a British accent. Cheerio!

And remember to chat at 1.

Q: "Brian" and I have been together for about a year. I'm in my early 30s and he's in his mid-40s. We had a friendly work relationship for several years. When my husband suddenly left me, Brian, who is divorced, was very supportive. We became lovers and he was my knight in shining armor during the worst period of my life. Things eventually got serious. Now we're inseparable. We spend every weekend together – mostly at his vacation house nearby. We take vacations when our kids are not with us. He regularly invites my friends and family to his beach house and is very generous with them. He recently asked me (and my kids) to move in with him.

I love the time we spend together, but something bothers me. I feel like I'm living his life, not mine. We talk a lot about his work. We spend time at his houses, and now he wants me to move into his house. If I want to do something that doesn't interest him, he suddenly has to work or do something with his kids. If I suggest something that prevents him from going to his vacation house, he won’t do it. It's not that I don’t like going down there, but can’t we do something that’s my idea once in a while?

This extends to my family and friends, too. Every time one of them invites us to a get together, he seems to have an excuse not to go. He's OK with me going by myself but he won't go with me. When he has gone, he's been uncomfortable. He loves to have my friends and family on his turf and he's a totally different person in those situations.

I was also upset with him last summer when one of my close relatives was seriously ill. This relative had to have a procedure in Boston and I wanted my boyfriend to come with me for support. Instead, he stayed home. He did call in occasionally to check on things but it wasn't the same as him being there.

It seems that if something isn't about him or his interests, he's won’t do it. He’s even like that with kids. Brian gets this glazed look in his eyes when they talk about what happened in school, but if they talk about one of his interests, he's all ears. I've also noticed that his kids don’t seem to have any hobbies that don't match one of Brian's interests.

I've tried addressing this issue with him but every time I bring it up, he always argues something like "I thought you liked going to the beach" and then accuses me of being ungrateful. He also thinks I don't understand how busy he is with work and his kids. But if he has time to go to the beach regularly, is he really sacrificing something that important to do something on my terms?

I don't know, maybe he's right. Maybe I expect too much of him. He is very generous and very busy with work and his kids. Brian is everything I’ve looked for -- smart, ambitious, adventurous and much more -- and I'm very much in love with him. We have a nice life and we have a lot of fun together. Should I just be grateful for what I have or potentially ruin a good thing by expecting more?

– Why Can't It Ever Be About Me?, Boston

A: We all have flaws, WCIEBAM. Brian's is that he likes things on his terms. He's in his 40s so that's probably not going to change too much.

It's annoying, but his major flaw does force both of you to take some space from each other. You get to have alone time with your friends without having to worry about him. He gets to sit on the beach without distractions while you're off doing something with your pals.

If he were belittling your passions, I'd be worried. If he were avoiding your friends and family, I'd be upset. But he's just ... behaving like a guy who doesn't want to leave his awesome cocoon. I'm not saying he's right, I'm just saying that we have to pick our battles.

I am bothered by your hospital story. My advice regarding that is to be very clear about when and how you really need him. As in, "I'm not just asking you to hang at the hospital; I'm telling you that I need you there as a partner because I'm scared to death about losing a relative. Calls will not be enough today." There's no way to misunderstand that request.

As for the rest of it, well, it sounds like Brian isn't going to be your everything. Your best friends will still be your best friends. Your family will be your family. Brian will be the guy who offers love when you get home. I don't think that's such a bad thing, but you have to decide for yourself. Maybe after you move in with him, you'll be psyched that he gives you space to enjoy things on your own.

Readers? Is she asking for too much? Is the sick relative thing the same as the not-going-to-other-people's things? Is there anything she can do to feel like she's not living life on his terms? Help.

– Meredith

He's married and dating

Posted by Meredith Goldstein August 9, 2011 08:52 AM

Q: Hi Meredith,

I am a married man in my early 30s. Been in Boston my whole life but moved to the West Coast two years ago with my wife in search of sun, beaches, and a job. I found the first two but the job is ever elusive. Found some temporary work here and there but nothing long term. During this time our relationship deteriorated and I started abusing substances. We argued constantly about our careers, finances, and how we didn't have a community of friends and family. On top of that, her family kept urging her to leave me and come back to the Bay State. Basically, we had very little support from family and friends since they were all back on the East Coast. I wanted to try some counseling, but obviously being a temporary employee you do not get any benefits so that was out of the question. We are very unhappy with each other.

Not too long ago, I started seeing this woman I met at a job. I knew it was extremely risky because I could get caught. But I found myself falling for her -- and this other woman does not know I have a wife. I'm just unsure of what to do. I know I can never get away with it, eventually someone will find out. I also run the risk of losing them both and ending up with nothing but my miserable self. Furthermore, I'm not sure how this other woman feels about me. What should I do? I've always been told I should do whatever makes me happy. I'm much happier with this other woman, but things are moving real slow. I think I'm just a "rebound" guy for her, since she just got out of a relationship. So my options are go back to an unhappy marriage and try to work it out, or pursue someone else who may or may not feel the same. Any advice?

– CaliforniaGurlz

A: "I've always been told that I should do whatever makes me happy."

Who told you that? They don't even say that to little kids on "Sesame Street." Please wipe that piece of advice from your brain. It doesn't make any sense and it's turned you into an entitled liar. Here you are, worried that you might be this new woman’s rebound guy, and you haven't even told her that you're married.

I hate oversimplifying with tough love (or as Bart Simpson calls it, "soft hate"), but with you I have no choice. You must tell this other woman that you're married and cut her out of your life. Then you must sit down with your wife and tell her you've been pretending that your marriage is already over. Maybe she feels the same way. Maybe she's been waiting for a cue from you to move back to Boston. Or maybe your news will shock her and she'll tell you that she wants more than anything to work it out. Maybe she'll tell you that she wants both of you to come home together so that you can be surrounded by the people who care about you.

The wife stuff is complicated, but it'll help if you start having honest discussions. You also need to look into subsidized therapy. It exists, especially for substance abuse. Google some local programs -- and maybe call your family for help. But before you do any of that, come clean with this other woman. Have some empathy. You are not the center of the universe.

Readers? Any hope for his marriage? Any hope for the LW and this other woman? Is his unemployment relevant? Ideas for couples therapy during unemployment? Discuss.

– Meredith

He's apathetic at 29

Posted by Meredith Goldstein July 25, 2011 08:31 AM

Q: Hi Meredith,

I have been with "Rob" for over two years. We've lived together for over a year and have a dog together (kind of a big deal, this dog is like a child to me). His family is great and overall we do have a good time together. The last few months though, a couple things are bugging me. He's a little older -- he's 29 and I'm 26 -- and he seems to lack any ambition/goals/drive for a successful career or to better himself.

I have a decent job, although our first year together was the roughest year I have ever had as I was laid off and couldn't find a solid position for a year. I thought we'd get through that and we'd be cool, but now he is a "freelancer" and is more off than on, and when he is off there is no urgency in looking for the next gig.

I have been working my butt off going to school to change my career to something I feel I will love, and he seems to be content with "just floating by, earning just enough to do the things he actually wants to do." When I ask what he means by that and what he sees for himself in the next few years, he says (aside from being incredibly defensive and assuming that I'm looking to talk about marriage) that he will never love any job, so he will just do whatever he can to make enough to travel, make music, go to bars, and ride his bike. I calmly listen to what he says, he asks if it bothers me, and I tell him that it's fine for now, but not when I want a family etc. I also note that none of his responses include me. I tell him we don't have to talk about it now, it's just something to think about, and the next day he apologizes.

I'm not sure if it's that he grew up in a well-off family, but he seems to have a real disconnect between money and being able to do things ... or earning the things you want vs. just getting the things you want. After we have these talks and he apologizes, nothing changes at all. He's incredibly defensive, shows no initiative with anything (if I want to go somewhere, eat something together, make the apartment look decent, I'm required to do all planning, etc.) I love him more than anyone and it isn't just about money, but when do I say I deserve someone who actually has drive and wants a career? I'm not naive enough to think people will just change, although I think people can certainly improve, but I can't see myself marrying him or having kids because I won't do either without being financially stable. I do eventually want these things, so when do you give up hope that someone will provide what you need?

– Increasingly Disappointed, Boston

A: ID, it seems to me that you actually do want to talk about marriage and kids right now. The future is more than "just something to think about." And that's fine. He's 29. You've been together for two years. You live together. You want to be planning for something. So my advice is to be honest about that. Instead of asking him if he eventually wants a real career, say, "Where do you see us in five years?" Instead of asking him why he doesn't plan, say, "I want to take a trip with you next year -- an amazing voyage to another country. How can we make it happen? How can we afford it?"

Sure, some of this could be upbringing, but my guess is that a lot of this is age. Some people hang on to 29 like a floatation device while others see it as a stepping stone to real life. And that's why it's good to ask him about his five-year plan. Remind him that in five years, he won't be 29. Find out what he imagines his grown-up life will look like. And when you ask, keep your tone supportive, not accusing or patronizing. Be his friend and tell him what he's good at. You should sound excited, not disappointed.

If he looks at you and tells you that he doesn't care what happens in five years or that he might want to continue doing what he's doing until he's 40, that's when you reevaluate your partnership. But if he does see a future with you (marriage, kids, travel, etc.) and just doesn't know how to make it happen, listen and help. Again, 29 is a weird age. Find out what he wants 34 to look like, see how he responds to your own honest fantasies about 34, and then make decisions accordingly.

Readers? Has she been asking the right questions? Is it OK that he wants to work to live as opposed to live to work? Is there any hope here? Am I right to say that some of this is 29? Discuss.

– Meredith

Dating while grieving

Posted by Meredith Goldstein July 8, 2011 08:39 AM

Some extra info from the LW (at noon): "The tragedy was a parental figure taking their own life after years of suffering from mental illness, leaving young children behind. I am in therapy, but there's a lot going on. Things are starting to slow down, I have a little more time to myself, but I'm still struggling."

Q: Advice columns are my guilty pleasure, but I've always been a lurker, never a writer, so I'm not sure where to begin. I guess some background.

I'm an attractive girl in my late 20s with a successful career that I'm proud of. I have an amazing family and great friends. I date enough, but not a lot, and am usually the one to walk away.

I suffered a tragedy a couple of months ago and am still grieving. I have a lot of additional responsibilities now, but I take them on willingly because of what it means for those suffering around me. But I'm incredibly lonely.

Grief is one of the loneliest emotions in the world. But is it the only reason for my loneliness? Should I ignore it until I'm in a healthier and stronger mental state? The thought of having someone who makes me their No. 1 priority and supports me while I support those around me makes me want someone -- but dating can also be
dreadfully lonely.

What do I do? Wait? I'm sad, and my heart is already broken, and I'm alone despite some amazing people around me. Will dating help or hurt? Could I even form a healthy attachment?

– Grief is the loneliest number, Boston

A: GITLN, I know that you have many responsibilities right now. I mean, you didn't give us any specifics about the cause of all of this grief, but it sort of doesn't matter. You're quite obviously under a lot of stress right now, and you have people depending on you.

But despite all of that, despite those important responsibilities, you have to make sure that you're having some fun, being a twenty-something, and meeting some new people. You won't be any good to the people who are depending on you if you don't have some time that's all about you. Really.

And part of that selfish time should be about love, which is why you have to keep dating. This loss hasn't turned you into a person who shouldn't find a partner. It's just turned you into a person with a better perspective of what she wants.

You can't put dating on hold until you're in a better place. And it’s not about whether dating will help or hurt, as you put it. Dating -- and looking to love other people -- is just a part of living. You have to let yourself live.

And when the dating gets lonely, talk about it with friends. That's what they're there for right now -- to give you some time to think and talk about yourself.

Readers? Should she wait to date until she's grieving less? Are these feelings of loneliness and wanting a partner about new priorities or her loss? Should people date while they're dealing with a big life change? Discuss.

– Meredith

Dating a recent widower

Posted by Meredith Goldstein July 6, 2011 08:50 AM

It's chat day.

Q: Hey Meredith,

More than a year ago I began dating a recent widower. By recent I mean that he had lost his wife less than six months prior. I knew him vaguely through work, never knew her. At the time, I had sworn off dating and was pretty focused on raising my kids and enjoying the occasional weekend they were with their dad. But I agreed to a *date* under the pretense that this would be dating, no relationship, no happily ever after. Then those pesky feelings got in the way.

So the issue: When we are together, we have a great time. Lots of fun and laughs. We will have three to four great weeks, then he'll suddenly pull back. I've got some severe whiplash. Since we've been together, neither of us has dated anyone else and we are viewed by friends and family as a couple. We talk every day and see each other two to four times a week.

After the latest falling out, we spent a few weeks "not seeing each other" but still talking/texting daily. We both got to air a lot of grievances/fears, etc. In the end, he concluded that yes, he did want me in his life. And he has made an effort to be more of a friend to me, be more supportive of my emotional needs (and honestly, I'm rarely needy). While he is seemingly doing what I asked ... how crazy is it that I had to ask in the first place?

I'm struggling with how I feel about this summer's vacation plans. The week my kids are visiting their father, new guy is going to an island for a week with six couples and their kids. I am completely understanding that these were *couple* friends. He went on this trip last summer and was miserable feeling like the 13th wheel all the time. So, after what will be a year and a half of dating, am I wrong to feel left out on this trip? We've spent holidays together with both sets of kids. I've met his family, he's met mine. I know all of the friends going and have bent over backwards to befriend them (still way outside of that loop). I don't want to sound whiny, but I rarely ever have time without my kids in tow (maybe two weeks total a year, usually in one-night increments). It seems to me like serendipity that I would be able to go ... but no invite. I accept the possibility that his kids are not comfortable, in which case, I would understand completely, but he says they like me and are OK with our relationship.

I find myself wondering if I am staying with him merely because it's fun to get out once in a while and make grilled cheese. I will also add that this quasi-relationship is the longest one I've had, besides my marriage ... so I wonder if I'm holding on to something that isn't, just because he's been around so long.

– when it's good, it's very, very good, but when it's bad, it's awful, Florida

A: I wouldn't worry about the trip. I know that it's upsetting to be left out, but for all you know, your boyfriend and these couples spend half the week reminiscing about his late wife. It might be their time to mourn. It sounds like your boyfriend is doing all that he can to keep you around but that bringing you on this trip crosses a widower line that he's just not read to hop over. I wish he had communicated that to you, but all of this is so new to him. He barely understands his own feelings. I'm not shocked that he can't explain them to you.

Your job -- while he's gone -- is to think about your feelings for him. My guess is that you're in this for more than grilled cheese, but you don't seem sure. So figure that out. When he's gone, are you missing him -- or are you just missing a warm body? When you think about your ideal future, is he in it?

If you do want him around, you have to be patient. You're dating a recent widower. He's processing a major loss while figuring out how to be a boyfriend to someone new. I'm surprised that he's done as well as he has. All adult-with-children relationships have hiccups, second guessing of priorities, mistakes, pauses, and some weird feelings. That's just how it goes. Your issues with him are going to be extra sensitive and awkward because he's coping with a death.

All you can do is work on communication. Assure him that he can be honest with you about anything, and assure yourself that you can ask questions – politely. You should have asked, "Should I feel weird that I wasn't invited on this trip?" And he should have answered, "My friends and I are just not ready." And then you should have said, “I understand. I hope that someday, I can join you."

Stay empathetic and keep the discussion flowing. In your situation, a year and a half isn't a very long time. If you want this, you have to be willing to wait.

Readers? Should she be upset about this vacation? Should she continue this relationship? Discuss.

– Meredith

I don't want to have children

Posted by Meredith Goldstein June 30, 2011 08:23 AM

Q: Hi Meredith, love the column!

From what I've read in the comments, it seems that at 23 I'm considered a baby by the LL crowd. Yet, even at this age I am thoroughly convinced that I don't want any children and most likely will NEVER want any. Of course, I recognize that I'm still young and that people change, but I feel this way for many reasons (I won't bore you with my exhaustive list). Ultimately, while I don't dislike children in general, I'm just not any good with them. I admire the mothers of this world (including my own), but I'm seriously not up for parenting myself.

I've made my feelings on this subject abundantly clear to my friends, family, and boyfriend. (Let's call him Charlie.) We've been dating for over a year now and we're very happy. Charlie accepts how I feel about having kids and acknowledges that I have legitimate reasons for feeling that way, and he agrees that he doesn't want children right now (thank goodness!). However, Charlie keeps mentioning that there's a possibility that he will want children someday but that he's not sure how much he might want them. Just last night, he tried to open up a discussion about life with/without children, and he told me that he can't really imagine that spending your life doing anything other than raising kids could be "worthwhile."

Charlie's almost 30, and it seems that already his biological man-clock is ticking. He's said that he could be happy just being Uncle Charlie -- but the fact that he keeps bringing up this topic makes me think that he actually REALLY REALLY wants kids and is just trying to change my mind. He's told me before that he wants to spend the rest of his life with me.

When does this situation become a deal-breaker? Am I supposed to just wait until he realizes I'm not going to change my mind? I believe that if he wants a family, then he deserves one. I don't want to invest myself in this relationship for years and years if it's going to blow up spectacularly when his man-clock goes off.

– Child-Free and Happy, Somerville

A: It's time to talk to Charlie about how you want to spend the next five to ten years. Forget the kids for a minute and think about the immediate future. Do you want to travel? Move? Go back to school? He needs to understand where you are in life. You've only been dating for about a year and it doesn't sound like marriage is even on the table for you right now. Does he understand that, CFAH?

After that discussion, look at him right in the eyes and say, "I love you. I want to be with you right now. But I don't want to make a baby with you. And while I might change my mind in a decade or so, I probably won't. And I don't want to be ditched by you when I turn 29 because you realize when you're 36 that you're desperate for a kid."

I know that all of this information is sort of out there already and hovering over both of you like a dirty diaper, but it needs to be stated clearly so that you both get what all of this means.

See if your five-year plan appeals to him at all. If it doesn't, you're just in two different places. You're 23. He can't make you 30 just because he is. In your situation, age really matters. You're not his peer. He needs to respect that and plan accordingly.

Readers? Will she change her mind? Should Charlie be dating someone his own age? Is it possible that he could be happy without kids? Should they break up or wait this out to see if their desires change? Discuss.

– Meredith

He's not in love with me anymore

Posted by Meredith Goldstein June 24, 2011 08:31 AM

Q: Dear Meredith,

My husband and I have been together for 30 years (high school sweethearts). Neither of us has ever "been" with anyone else. We have two kids, a nice home, nice friends, and everyone thinks we have the perfect marriage. I included myself in that until about six months ago when he started to question whether he is in love with me or not. That's when I found out about it, but he says he's been feeling it for much longer.

He hasn't come near me for months, and there was some trouble prior to that. (Up until then, the sex was great). I have gained about 40 pounds since he met me, and he says that's part but not all of it. He feels like he doesn't know if he wants to be an empty nester with me. Depression runs in his family. He has a stressful job, and provides for almost all of the financial needs of our family. He's very athletic and I'm not, so we really don't have many common interests. In hindsight, I guess our marriage was far from perfect since he's never really been affectionate with me outside of the bedroom and that's something I think I need. Now that that the bedroom activity is gone, there's nothing. He says he's sorry, I didn't do anything wrong, he still loves me, but isn't in love with me.

Needless to say, I am beside myself. I feel rejected and blindsided by this whole thing. My question is this: Would you call this a mid-life crisis or depression? (We're both in our late 40s.) If so, how do these things usually end? I don't know how long is fair to wait it out before I have to move on. We had another blip on a much smaller scale many years ago, went to marriage counseling, but I don't really think it helped that much. I know I still love him, I don't want a divorce, but I also don't want to live my life in a loveless marriage.

– Lost In Limbo, Suburban Mass.

A: I don't think that this is a mid-life crisis, LIL. Your letter suggests that there have been problems over the years and that whatever is happening right now is the cumulative result of two people growing apart. I guess my question for you is: What does your husband want to do about all of this?

He told you all of these upsetting things ... and now you're asking us how long you have to wait it out before you move on. Does that mean that he expects you to be the one who devises a plan? Is he giving you options? Is he suggesting that he wants to work on this again?

My advice is to ask him what he wants to do. Like, in a dream world, would he magically fall in love with you again? Would he move into his own place and be your friend? Even a maybe-depressed person can fantasize.

And I want you to think about your life as an empty nester. What do you want to do? Hike? Travel? Move to a new town? Paint? Can you see your husband tagging along as you live your perfect life after 50?

I wish I could tell you how these things usually end. There's no "usually." But for now, you have unanswered questions. Your husband has given this a lot of thought but he hasn't come up with a plan. He hasn't said, "I want to separate to see how it feels." He hasn't said, "I want to stay and work on this." He hasn't asked, "What do you want to do?" Not really.

Have those talks and get some answers. Find out whether he's waiting to make a move because he wants you to be the one to do it.

Readers? Am I right to say that she doesn't have enough information from her husband? Is there hope here? Is this depression or a mid-life crisis? Do his financial responsibilities have anything to do with this? Discuss.

– Meredith

His family won't accept me

Posted by Meredith Goldstein June 20, 2011 07:55 AM

Q: Meredith,

I've been dating my boyfriend for almost a year and we moved very quickly into a serious relationship. It didn't feel quick to us, though. It just felt natural so I went with it. The problem isn't the fact that we were finishing each other's sentences the day we met or that we moved in together after six months because it just made sense all around. The problem is, and I suspect will continue to be, his parents' acceptance of our relationship.

His mother is perfectly polite and never rude to me when I go to visit them, but she has told Steve that we are moving too fast, that we spend too much time together, and that she is terrified I will get pregnant and ruin his life. I have been as warm and as open to her as my family raised me to be, but I have not gotten the same warmth and openness back. I can handle making progress slowly and just being my naturally effervescent self, but I cannot spend my entire life feeling like I'm kept at a polite distance and never really feeling like his parents -- his mother, especially -- see me as an important part of their son's life, rather than a passing phase.

To give you an idea of the familial differences, what impresses his mother is perfect etiquette and a quiet demeanor. My family is loud, often offensively so, and extremely open. Steve's slightly intimidated by my family and their exuberance, but I'm turned off by his family's meekness and formality. I've always known my parents were in love and more in love every day, whereas Steve's always known that marriage means an instant end to romance and passion. My family has never made him feel anything less than totally a part of us, but my hope that I'll ever feel like a part of his family is dying.

He just informed me that his mother is making plans to go on a trip with his father, his brother, and him this winter. I feel hurt and excluded by this. It feels like a deliberate slight, a way for her to say that her family hasn't changed and to minimize the relationship that I have with her son. Even if it is not deliberate, it is still incredibly insensitive. I don't want to alienate Steve or his mother, but I'm also not comfortable with him going on this trip without me for the holidays, or with being excluded from his family life. We're in our mid-20s and his mother is treating this like a high school relationship. I don't know how to bring this up since Steve is fiercely protective of his mother and might not see this as odd. It is strange and DOES make me feel uncomfortable. What do I say that isn't going to hurt anyone's feelings? How do I even bring this up? What do I say to make it not seem like I'm trying to take him away from his family in favor of my own?

– His Family Dislikes Me, Boston, Boston

A: My first piece of advice, HFDM, is to accept that your boyfriend is going to go on this trip without you and that it's not a big deal. I understand that you're offended, but his family needs some time alone with him. And frankly, without you there, his mom will be able to ask him questions about the relationship, which will give him the chance to tell her some nice things about you. Also, if you don't make a stink about this trip, his mom will know that you respect her need for bonding time with her son. Everyone's afraid of losing their kid to a romantic partner. I think his mom is just scared to death of what you represent.

My second piece of advice is to tell Steve that you want to be closer to his family and that you need his help. Rather than giving him a list of gripes about how you've been treated, ask him for advice about how to get to know them better without being too pushy. He'll probably have some good ideas -- and he'll appreciate the request.

My third piece of advice is to be patient. His mom isn't going to fall for you as quickly as you fell for her son. A year isn't a very long time. Reevaluate all of this in six months. And in the meantime, don’t get pregnant and ruin his life. (Kidding.)

Readers? How long will it take for them to accept her? Should she be upset about this trip? Help.

– Meredith

I'm not ready for her to move in

Posted by Meredith Goldstein June 8, 2011 06:26 AM

Thanks for your contest entries. I picked a few winners. It wasn't easy.

We chat at 1 today.

Q: Meredith,

I am a divorced father of a young child. I had a particularly rough marriage that had me on the receiving end of quite a bit of verbal abuse and a few incidents of physical abuse. The divorce wasn't much better and I had to fight for fair visitation. All the while, with mounting legal expenses, I lost my home to foreclosure.

During the divorce process and in the months following its completion, I had two relationships. The first one was with someone who had commitment issues. The second relationship was long-distance and had all the early signs of becoming just volatile as my marriage.

Needless to say, neither of those relationships were healthy and I turned to professional therapy to attempt to figure out why I kept finding myself in situations where I allowed other people to walk all over me. Therapy helped me make a lot of positive changes in my life.

Last fall, I had managed to pull myself enough out of debt to make the decision to move back out of my parents' home and get my own place. Shortly after that, I met a great woman. She is supportive of me and understanding of my deficiencies. Where I am forgetful and a daydreamer, she is organized with lists and has her feet firmly planted on the ground. Most importantly, she is amazing with my child. I think she will make a great step-mom someday.

There are a few problems that I am wrestling with, however. I have felt constant pressure from her about when I am going to be comfortable moving in together. I am in my 30s and she is in her late 20s, and I think that maybe she's feeling more urgency to make that leap than I am.

I have tried to explain my side of the situation, which is that I have only just gotten myself out of the financial mess from the divorce, and just moved out on my own, and that I need time (for both myself and my child) to settle into this new situation. More importantly, I feel an overwhelming responsibility to prove to myself that I can handle life on my own before having someone else move in with me.

She is uncomfortable without a timeline, so I recently suggested that at some point, we should maybe think about spending a few weeks with her staying at my place just to see how it goes.

At first she thought it was a great idea, but now she's upset about it because she already spends most of the week at my place and doesn't understand what more could be learned from spending a few weeks here. Perhaps she is right, but the idea of it made me feel a lot more comfortable and prepared to have a discussion about where we're at. After all that I've been through, I need reassurance that I am making the right decision and not rushing into anything.

I am disappointed that she is not understanding to my need to take it slow. Is she right? Am I making her suffer and wait because of my relationship history? Or am I just doing what I need to do to make sure I don't repeat the mistakes of the past?

– Thrice Burned, Once Shy

A: I'm on her side about the trial run thing, TBOS. That just doesn't make any sense to me. An extended sleepover isn't going to make you any more comfortable with the idea of her moving in than you are now.

But I'm on your side about everything else. You haven't even been together for a year and she wants final answers. All you can do is tell her this: "I'm into you, I don't want to lose you, and yes, if we're happy and comfortable after a reasonable amount of time (at least a year?), we can revisit the cohabitation issue." Because that's how you feel, right?

If she can't give you at least a year to be in a relationship with her before moving in, she's just another woman who isn't considering your needs and you should reconsider the whole relationship. It's possible that she has her own past to deal with -- that she's been strung along in previous relationships -- but that doesn't mean you have to live on her schedule.

My advice is to bring her to therapy with you so that you can have this discussion in a safe zone. Don't attempt to keep her at bay with long-term sleepovers and promises you can't keep. Just set your boundaries, be honest, tell her all of the good things you told us, and see if she's capable of empathy. Because that's what you need from her.

Readers? Should this woman be asking to move in after just a few months? Is she just another woman who's telling him what to do? Do you think there's more to this story? Is the trial run/extended sleepover idea a fair one? What’s happening here? Discuss.

– Meredith

Wife vs. Mom

Posted by Meredith Goldstein May 20, 2011 07:56 AM

Q: Dear Meredith,

My wife has never really had a good relationship with my mother. I actually thought things had gotten a little better, but a few weeks back, things took a major turn for the worse.

I know my mom can be difficult to handle at times. She is definitely lonely and lives a long drive away from us. When we do see her, she does some things to make sure I am giving her my entire attention. I understand how that can bother my wife. But I don't think my mother is acting out of any ill will or with any ill intent.

A few weeks ago, we went to my mother's house for a visit. My wife and I were doing some married couple bickering over something trivial, but it was really nothing. But when I went to another room, my mom told my wife that she needs to treat me better. She was wrong and never should have said anything. But my wife responded by telling my mother she overstepped her boundaries and then essentially made us leave. After that, my wife told me that she hates my mom and that she intentionally acts in an evil way.

That is my problem. My wife says she feels like my mom is always trying to get me to choose between the two of them. And I can see that, but I also feel like my wife is making me choose, too. I agreed to speak to my mom, to tell her there are boundaries and things she just should not say to my wife, but that wasn't enough for my wife. I want my wife to also give my mom a break. We don't see her that often (maybe once a month). They don't have to be friends, but just be friendly, civil. But my wife has said she can't do that.

I really don't know what to do. I love my wife and I know my mom can be difficult. But I also don't know if I can shake what my wife said either (that she hates her and thinks she is evil), and I also feel like as a mature adult, she should be able to look the other way every now and then.

Ultimately, I love my wife, but I worry that there is this wedge being driven between us. My wife is really asking me to make a choice and to choose her every time all the time. And if I can't do that, I feel like we can't survive. What should I do?

– My wife hates my mother, East Coast

A: Yeah, you'd think that two adults would be able to figure this out, MWHMM. But it doesn't always work that way. For the record, I think the "evil" talk is just your wife's way of letting you know that she's serious. She's being dramatic. She might despise your mom (which wouldn't be an uncommon mother-in-law situation), but there's no way she really thinks that your mom is Voldemort.

You need to make demands of both women in your life based on your needs. Don't ask your mom to change her behavior to please your wife. And don't ask your wife to tone it down out of respect for your mother. Ask them to do (or not do) specific things for you. Because you're annoyed. Because you're putting your foot down and you've grown tired of all of this. Because you're not going to dump your mom, and your wife knows that.

If you have married siblings, please ask them for ideas. I bet their spouses feel the same way about your mom, and maybe they've come up with a good routine. And consider compromises. Do you really want your wife to hang out with your mother once a month if you have to sit there watching her fake it? (I don't know the answer to that question, by the way.) Would it be easier if you went alone every other month?

Also: Do you think your wife treats you well? Just curious. Because while I understand why this mom thing is complicated, hurtful, and uncomfortable, I'm surprised that you're worried about the survival of your marriage. I'm wondering what else might be going on here. It might be worth asking your wife, "Besides the mom stuff, are we OK?"

Readers? How can the letter writer manage these women? Is the wife being unreasonable? Is the letter writer being too loyal to mom? Discuss.

– Meredith

Can I get over his affair

Posted by Meredith Goldstein May 19, 2011 07:30 AM

Q: Dear Meredith,

I'm 30 and I have two kids. I was in a relationship with this man for approximately three-and-a-half years before finding out that he cheated on me for several months. We found out that I was pregnant with our first child only few months into our relationship. That sort of forced us to live our relationship on fast-forward. We didn't have a lot of courting or alone time before the kids came along. Approximately a year ago, he started texting this married woman that he works with. He insisted that it was platonic -- that nothing was going on -- that they were just friends.

Last summer, I went on Facebook and saw a little endearing message (I did not snoop. He forgot to log out and it was right there on the computer screen for me to see). I confronted him about this and again, he claimed that it was just a friendship. I felt sick, I was devastated, and I knew something was going on. I asked him not to speak to this woman outside of work.

A few months later he drops the bomb on me and tells me that he has not been happy with me and that I expect a lot from him (because we have children together et cetera). I ask him if there was someone else. He, again, said that there was no one else.

Recently, I found out he had a secret email address. I snooped and found hundreds of emails back and forth with this married woman from work spanning for at least the last few months professing love for each other, plans to leave their significant others and to live together, to find an apartment together, and they also spoke of marriage. I showed up at his work and asked for house keys and car keys and I left. I moved out of state within 48 hours with our two young children. Currently living with my parents and basically I had to start all over again.

A few days after leaving him, he texts me and tells me he made a mistake. That he wants me. That losing everything made him realize what he really wanted all along. Losing all of this, our home, our family, me and the kids made him gain some insight. He tells me that they never went as far as sleeping together (which I do have a hard time believing). I do still love him but I have a hard time believing anything he says. Currently, he is living in a friend's basement and basically he was left with nothing. And the married woman? I confronted her by text and she claimed she was happily married with her husband. The married woman no longer wants anything to do with him.

I often find myself wondering if he says he misses me because he lost the comforts of having a home. Every day I struggle with self-esteem issues stemming out of this whole affair. I have trust issues now. He and I have talked a lot these past few weeks. He wants to prove me wrong. He wants to do couples counseling. He says he is actively seeking a job that will put him close to the kids and I again. He says he hates himself and wants to atone for what he did. He wants to make all these wrongs right again. He says he wants to marry me now.

I am devastated, not only because he actually cheated on me but because he had been lying to me for all these months. He kept insisting that I was being paranoid by having all these suspicions about him and this married woman from work. Now I beat myself up because I should have trusted my gut instincts.

So Meredith, what do you think? Do you have any advice for this girl here with some major trust issues? What do your readers think?

– Trust Issues

A: It's natural to want to beat yourself up for letting this go on for so long, but you shouldn't, TI. Because your gut was right. You read him well. That means you can also trust your gut as you make decisions about his intentions and how much you want him in your life.

Right now, your gut says that you're not sure if he misses you or if he's just uncomfortable in his new living situation. So trust your gut. Wait and find out. And if your gut eventually says, "Let him back in," know that you're taking advice from the same gut that led you in the right direction about his affair. And if your gut says, "I just can't trust this guy," that means you should move on.

No matter what, you have to take your time with this. Marrying him right now is out of the question. He wants couples counseling? Fine. But let him come to you. Do what makes you comfortable, which at the moment is staying with your parents and giving your brain a rest. You're allowed to take deep breaths and take your time. I'm sure your gut is telling you that, too.

Readers? Should she even consider taking him back? How can she deal with her trust issues? What happened with this guy and the affair? Is this just about his discomfort? Discuss.

– Meredith

Help me save my marriage

Posted by Meredith Goldstein May 6, 2011 08:24 AM

Q: Dear Meredith,

It's very painful for me to write this letter because I'm a middle-aged man who is considering leaving a loving but troubled wife, and I would like to have primary custody of our two young children. My question to you and your readers is: When is it time to leave?

I'd describe myself as introspective, serious, and shy. I've always had a few friends and people generally like me, but until recently it has been hard for me to make friends out of acquaintances. By the end of college, I had never had a girlfriend. My self-esteem was so low that I honestly thought I might never find someone who would love me.

I was in this miasma when I first met my wife. I saw immediately that she's extremely intelligent, caring, attractive, athletic, and that she really liked me. She saw me as an honest and true person and admired my kindness. But from the start, she was also very critical of me, was constantly upset with me and tried to change almost everything else about me. Our relationship was completely imbalanced and I took all of her criticism to heart. After a year of trying to appease her and absorbing her anger, I finally meekly began to defend myself. She'd always say that things would get better after certain situations had passed -- like the death of a loved one, or a difficult apartment situation -- and I'd hope that she was right because she is an extraordinary woman.

If things hadn't gotten better bit by bit over time, we wouldn’t have stayed together, and there were a few golden periods. As is often the case, one of those golden periods led to the conception of our first child. But then, my wife immediately decided that independence and fun were now completely out of the question. Her anxiety and foul treatment reached new highs. Again I rode out the storm, hoping that life would improve as our little one grew up. Our second child is much loved but was unplanned.

Currently our relationship has recovered to some degree but we are struggling. Last week, my wife took a much needed four-day vacation with a girlfriend and I took time off from work to take care of our kids. To say I enjoyed those four days would be an understatement. With some help from family and friends I fed them, got them to their appointments, played with them, got them to bed on time for naps and the night, and generally had a great time. I expected my wife to return with new energy and the patience necessary to attend to our children, but have been sorely disappointed. Nothing has changed. She's constantly battling with them, me, and everyone else close to her.

So when is enough, enough? I am in therapy. She is in therapy. She's still miserable. I'm miserable when I’m around her and ecstatic when she's gone. Tom Waits sang "I wish to God you'd leave me, Baby, I wish to God you'd stay." We've lived that song, "Please Call Me, Baby," so many times that our movie would be a comedy not a drama. The inner peace I experienced during her absence last week came like a revelation. I even stopped reading Love Letters for that time. When I came back to work, I told myself why spend the time. Well, today, two days later, I remember why. Because my inner being is desperately searching for answers, and I want to do the right thing, but the world and my options all seem wrong.

– BG, I can't …

A: BGIC, I wish she hadn't taken that trip with girlfriends. I wish she had taken it with you. Because I wonder if she'd be capable of enjoying herself with you, even on vacation. It's not as though you guys were having a ball before the kids came along. Your golden periods sound like blips.

You say that you're in therapy and that she's in therapy. If you're not already in therapy together, you should be. Because in therapy you can ask this big question: "If we had all the money in the world for babysitters, would you want to stay married to me?" If she says that she would, it's time to make a list. Tell her what you need to be happy, whether it's specific help with your kids, a certain amount of positivity, date nights, etc. Then, with her help, come up with a second list of practical ways to make those things possible. Maybe you need hired help around the house (I know, it isn't cheap), more vacations, or more involvement from friends and family. The lists give you specific goals. And if those goals aren't met, you can feel better about whatever choice you need to make.

Tom Waits sings, "I wish to God you'd leave me, Baby, I wish to God you'd stay," but that's not your lyric. You sang, "I'm miserable when I'm around her and ecstatic when she's gone." You're not longing for your relationship to return to what it used to be. You're longing for brief, unexplained golden periods.

Get to therapy with her if you haven't already. Ask her if she wants you. Then make your lists. Check those lists twice as you move ahead. In the end, if your needs can't be met, remember that doing "the right thing" should involve being able to smile in front of your kids -- and in front of a mirror.

Readers? Any ideas for this LW? Is there something to save? Was his euphoria during his wife's vacation about her being gone -- or about not working and having so much extra help? Is this about the stress of kids or a marriage that was wrong from the start? Help.

– Meredith

Should I go to the wedding?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein May 4, 2011 08:38 AM

Chat day.

Q: Dear Meredith,

My mornings during the week are always about my friend and I drinking our iced coffees and talking about Love Letters. Sure, sometimes we struggle with finding sympathy for the young twenty-somethings who worry about finding the one but then we realize love hurts no matter the age.

I'm your typical 34-year-old, never-been-married, got-it-together (for the most part) girl. I sometimes have relationships (2 yrs, 8 yrs, 6 mo), sometimes try all activities they say to meet someone when I am single (even lowered my salary on an internet dating site) and then sometimes just go out with the gals for vino because dating gets draining. Eight months ago I met a guy organically and even though at first I didn't think I'd want to date someone with kids, I realized how much I loved being with him. He moved in and the kids were going to live with us this summer. His cousin asked me to be her maid of honor and I agreed even though this is my 8th wedding and I swore I would politely decline after the 7th. But I stepped up and due to a short timeline there were three days of non-stop wedding planning to the point I was given the sole task of planning the meal. The night I got home from trying on the bridesmaid dress I left to the bedroom to privately feel sorry for myself and have a good cry. I have always wanted to get married but it just hasn’t worked out for me. When my boyfriend asked what was wrong, I exposed that all the wedding planning has been hard because it makes me think about my own situation of turning 35 and not ever being asked myself. When we moved in together I was clear that marriage and kids were something I wanted and that he shouldn't move in (for my sake or the sake of his two girls) if he wasn't interested. He did move in and I loved every minute of us being together. Two weeks ago, I came home and his stuff was gone and that was it. No goodbye, no waiting around to tell me. I didn't even get the post-it note Carrie got.

When I say I that I felt like I got punched in the gut, I'm not sure that even describes the feeling. I was sick for days over this but I pulled myself together. This past weekend he declared that he has decided that he does want to get married and have kids with me and that he just panicked. Can I really believe him? Should I put myself through being the maid of honor? The wedding is four weeks away and he is the best man, and I cannot think of more torture than that. I know the bride didn’t do anything -- she was supportive of me the whole time so I feel obligated to do it -- but I'm not sure if I will keep it together.

– Always, Always the Bridesmaid, Lowell

A: AATB, you're going to feel wrong no matter what you do about the wedding. Let's say you back out of being the maid of honor. Will you regret not being there? Will you wonder what you're missing? Will you spend the day obsessing about the whole thing? I'm not sure that showing up for the wedding will feel great either, but consider that you're going to be miserable either way.

The bigger question is about your relationship -- whether you can believe that your boyfriend really wants you back. And the answer is: I don't know. It's normal to panic when your girlfriend of eight months has a wedding-induced meltdown and starts talking about kids and marriage, but it's not acceptable to pack up all of your stuff and move out while she's gone for the day. That kind of behavior is cruel and cowardly. And frankly, it's a bit dramatic. He knew he'd see you again. It's almost like he did that for effect.

I can't give you a definitive answer about his motives, but I'm all for getting as many of your questions answered as possible. If it were me, I'd talk to him about what happened and why he wants you back. Then I'd go to the wedding. Because I'd want to see what it feels like to be near him at a joyous occasion. I'd want to see if it feels right to be by his side.

Sometimes the best way to get answers is to immerse yourself in the problem. See if going to the wedding with him feels like coming home – or returning to something that you're ready to leave behind. And remember, the wedding isn't the big question, the relationship is.

Readers? Should she go to the wedding? Should she forgive the weird move-out? Has she been focusing on the wrong thing? Were they just not ready to move in together? Should she let go of some of that wedding angst? What happened here? Discuss.

– Meredith

Getting over the old betrayals

Posted by Meredith Goldstein April 29, 2011 07:44 AM

Q: My wife and I are approaching our 20th anniversary. We have a beautiful 5-year old daughter. It hasn't been a smooth 20 years. There has been a lot of admitted deceit by my wife, and most of it over finances. Since I took control, we are back into a good financial position and on the surface, we are moving ahead as one.

Three years ago, I found out about a non-physical emotional infidelity she had. She swears up and down it was just a friendship. It would have become physical, I believe, over time, but I do believe it didn't get there. We got past it, but it was rough. I felt very betrayed.

I recently found out about another relationship that started probably eight years ago and lasted for about two. I am less confident that this one was purely emotional, but so far, that is all she is telling me. She admits to wandering, wanting out, as we were not in a good place at the time. I can understand the want to get out. I can't fathom following through with it, but I do at least understand.

I am really torn on how to move ahead. On the surface, it's old news and doesn't affect where we are today. But, I can't get this out of my mind. I pointedly asked her if she could guarantee this will never happen again. She said she cannot. She doesn't want it to. She isn't trying to. But, she can't guarantee it.

Maybe I'm a fool, but I still want to stay with her. I'm at a total loss on how to proceed.

– Trying, New Hampshire

A: I don't have any easy solutions for you, T. And I empathize; it's incredibly confusing to find out about a cheat that happened years ago. Your wife has already processed it. You're dealing with it like it’s a fresh betrayal.

I'm going to suggest therapy (the "duh" answer) so you can talk this out over time, but I'm also going to advise you to focus on enjoying each other. After a betrayal, it's tempting to obsess over the possibility that something could go wrong again. Instead of thinking about all the negative what-ifs, I want you to find out whether the two of you are still capable of making good memories. Do you enjoy each other's company? Do you laugh? Can you be romantic? Because if you can -- if she's still with you because she's chosen you – you should be able to make new, good memories that minimize some of the bad ones.

I want you to figure out whether you're moving ahead as one because you can pull it off or because you really want to. And again, you do that by wallowing in the positive, not the negative. It'll give you better context.

Readers? Can he move on from the cheats? Should he? Did he tell us enough about why she wants to stay with him? How do you get over something that happened years ago? Will he even be capable of making new, positive memories? Discuss.

– Meredith

Should we move in with my dad?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein April 25, 2011 07:00 AM

Q: Dear Meredith,

I have been dating my current boyfriend (Harry) for 8 months. He is 28 and I am 26.

Harry and I have basically lived together for the past few months and we've decided to get our own apartment this summer. There is one catch. My dad lives in the area and he is a widower. My mom passed away almost 10 years ago. Dad is a great guy and gets along well with Harry. Anyway, my dad suggested that Harry and I move in with him instead of getting our own place so we could save some money. This might sound like a strange idea, but my dad works a LOT so he really isn't home that much, his house is very big, and he isn't overprotective at all.

At first I said no way; we don't absolutely need to save money. But I've been thinking about it more lately and I'm starting to believe that my dad wants us to move in because his is lonely. He has lived by himself for two years and before that just with my younger sister, who is now in college. So I now really feel like I should move in with him -- not because I feel obligated to, but because he has always been great to me and I really don't want him living all by himself. I honestly feel like this is something I have to do.

I explained this to Harry and was a little surprised by how against this idea he was, especially since he is always so easy going about everything. The reason he gave me was that it "would look weird" for him to be living with my dad. And while I agree that in 99% of cases it would, this is a different situation. I've asked a bunch of friends and the opinion is pretty mixed as to whether I would be expecting too much of Harry to ask him to do this. I've come to realize that if this is so important to Harry, I should really respect his feelings about this.

I don't want to hurt Harry but at this point I feel like the most important thing is for me to be there for my dad. I am not at all thinking about ending things with Harry, but I need to figure out a way to do what I feel like I need to do (be there for my dad) while continuing to have Harry in my life. I don't believe that living in our own apartment and seeing my dad on the weekends is enough. I know that even if I did live with my dad we wouldn't see each other much during the week, but it would still be significantly more than otherwise, especially since I work most weekends. I also think that it would just make my dad feel better to know that someone else is living in the house.

What would you suggest?

– Good Daughter or Good Girlfriend?, Boston

A: I'm with Harry, GDOGG. I don't think you should move in with Dad. Not because it would "look weird," but because it wouldn't be healthy for anyone involved. You can't live with your dad forever so you'd essentially be creating another temporary situation for him. It would be better for all three of you if you lived close to your dad, made lots of plans with him, forced him to do some social things outside of the house, and then went home to Harry to live the normal life of a young couple.

You can't be a fake spouse for your dad and he really doesn't seem like the kind of guy who wants to be babysat. He works a lot, he's a capable guy, and he needs to learn how to be independent. He might want to date. He might want to make friends his own age. He can't do that if his kid is filling all of his emotional voids.

This thing you're feeling with your dad might have to do with some of your needs and insecurities, by the way. Maybe you feel overwhelmed because you've met the guy you might marry. Maybe you miss your mom and fear that coupling off will pull you from your roots. And that's why you have to move in with Harry -- alone. Commit to spending a lot of time with Dad and being a good daughter but balance that by living the life of a 26-year-old in a good relationship. That's all you can/should do. Let everybody (including yourself) evolve.

Readers? Should she move in with her dad? Is Harry right? Does Dad even want her there? How can she balance her concerns about her father with the needs of her relationship? Discuss.

– Meredith

We've been engaged for years

Posted by Meredith Goldstein April 19, 2011 07:33 AM

Q: Hi Meredith,

I am in my mid 30s and have never been married. I would like to experience this in my life. I have a beautiful daughter I have raised by myself. I sometimes feel I have failed her by not giving her the childhood I had with both parents. I have tried to find a person to share our lives with for most of hers. That brings me to "Greg."

I have been in a relationship with "Greg" for eight years. He is a wonderful man who I love very much ... however ... we became engaged four years ago and he won't set a date.

I took my ring off because I feel he doesn't want to marry me. When I mention it, he just avoids the conversation or plans a surprise trip to keep me from ending it. He was in a bad marriage before and I think he's scared to try it with me. I think this is unfair and he should have faith and trust in me. Isn't that what a relationship is all about?

I don't know what to do.

Although Greg is good to my daughter he is not a dad to her. They don't have a relationship I would consider a close one.

Our relationship has suffered because of my closeness with my daughter. At times I think he's jealous of her. I actually feel guilty about it. Like it or not, I am a mother first!

As I read this back I think ... this is SO obvious that it's time to move on ... but I feel stuck.
I guess my question is...when is enough, enough?? How do you move on when you thought you were going to spend your life with someone??

– Heartbroken, Massachusetts

A: Sounds like you have a great boyfriend who isn't doing much to be a great husband. He loves you. He takes you on trips. After eight years, he still wants you. But you want more.

I want you to make a decision about this relationship based on your needs, not your daughter's. I know that you're a mom first -- and that's great -- but you're not shopping for a new dad for your kid. You're looking for the right partner for you, someone who respects that you're a parent and can give you the support you need to do the job. If your partner bonds with your daughter, that's just a bonus.

And because I'm prioritizing your needs, I keep coming back to the opening of your letter: "I am in my mid 30s and have never been married. I would like to experience this in my life." Daughter aside, you want a different relationship than the one you're in. I can't promise that something better is waiting if you leave -- ending things with Greg is a risk, for sure -- but you have to stay true to yourself. After eight years, your wants haven't changed. Get some final answers from Greg so that you can make a real decision.

And as for moving on, well, there's no easy fix. You'll need a new routine and some time to mourn. That's another letter for another day.

Readers? Greg does seem to love her, but what's holding him back? Is she being unrealistic about the dad stuff? What should she say to Greg? Should she end this relationship or give it a chance? Discuss.

– Meredith

I like my friend's dad

Posted by Meredith Goldstein April 1, 2011 08:00 AM

Q: Dear Meredith,

I'm a longtime lurker. And since I can't turn to my friends for advice, I thought I'd turn to yours. A few months ago, my best friend from childhood, "Stacey," got married. I was her maid of honor. Stacey's parents have been separated since we graduated high school but just haven't divorced yet (financial reasons). They live apart but in the same town. Anyway, at the wedding, I had more than a few drinks (after all, it was open bar and my job as MOH was to lead the fun). Stacey's dad, "Bob," and I started talking. A lot. When we were teens, Stacey's friends and I used to joke that her dad was hot. Well, wow. He actually is. There was a connection. Needless to say, it was awkward around Stacey's mom since she used to make us cookies all the time and here I am flirting with her almost ex-husband. He's my best friend's dad. It's weird, I know. But hey, at least I didn't throw a shoe! Anyway, after the wedding, Bob and I started dating. We didn't tell anyone. He makes me laugh, has great taste in wine, and well, let's just say that there's some benefits to dating an older, more experienced man.

I've wanted to tell Stacey but there really is no easy way to say it. Her parents are separated and are going to divorce, but it still really bothers her. Bob wants to tell her,
but I've been taking an "I'll deal with it tomorrow" approach. But here's the real problem. Bob has Red Sox season tickets. He has four seats for Opening Day. He wants to invite Stacey and her husband. And me. Can we say awkward? I know I need to tell Stacey and I certainly don't want a scene at Fenway. (I mean, it's the Yankees!). How do I tell her? I don't want to ruin anything. I am enjoying my time with Bob. I like him and I want to keep seeing him. I also don't want to lose my best friend. Do I just show up at the game with Bob and hope she doesn't flip out? Do I talk to her ahead of time? Does Bob tell her?

– I'm In Love With Stacey's Dad

A: You are not allowed to go to this game, IILWSD. You are certainly not allowed to surprise Stacey by showing up at Fenway Park on the arm of her dad. I mean, even if Stacey knew about your relationship with Bob and was cool with it, she might not be ready for a double date. Please put yourself in her shoes.

Before you sit down and tell Stacey that you're in line to be her stepmom, please think about whether this whole Bob thing is worth it. Can you really see yourself with him in five or ten years? You don't have to know for sure whether you want to be the next Mrs. Bob, but you do have to be honest with yourself if this is just a fun fling. Because if it is, you must end it -- for the sake of everyone's sanity.

But if Bob is worth the risk and you do want to stay with him, tell Stacey as soon as you can. Explain to her that you understand how weird this is and that you're confused and looking for guidance. Ask her what she needs you to do to make this work.

And again, whatever you do, don't spring this on her at a game. Opening Day against the Yankees is stressful enough on its own.

Readers? Is she going to lose Stacey? What are your thoughts about Bob? Could you deal with one of your peers dating one of your parents? Discuss.

– Meredith

We lived with his parents

Posted by Meredith Goldstein March 31, 2011 08:30 AM

Here are those insults and compliments. And here's today's letter:

Q: Hi Meredith,

I met my ex seven years ago when we were still in college. He thought I was a total snob, and I thought he was completely weird. Fast forward to a few years ago. I found him on Facebook through a mutual friend and we immediately started talking every day. Problem was, he was in Massachusetts and I was living a few states away. We talked for a few months before he drove up to surprise me. I was way less snobby, and his weirdness was adorable. We dated long distance like that for eight months until I lost my job and we decided I should move down to MA. At the time he was living with his parents, who welcomed me with open arms and said we could stay as long as we needed to until we found an apartment of our own.

At first, everything was great with us. We were best friends, completely in love. But months went by and he was still dragging his feet to get a place. We were cramped in our little room in his parents' house, and as welcoming as they were, it never really felt like my home and I was getting restless. I found some really cute places within our price range, but he always found some kind of excuse (like "the street leading up to the apartment is too steep" ... seriously?) not to move.

We had been living with his parents for about two years when things just fell apart. I was so resentful of him not understanding my need for my own space and he was getting tired of hearing me nag him about it. I moved in with a friend while I started looking for an apartment and he stayed with his parents.

At first, we didn't talk because it was too hard. But then we saw each other a few times and even spent New Year's Eve with friends. I was really hopeful that things were working out.

When I found my own apartment, he helped me move in. But that's when the switch flipped. He stopped calling and stopping by. And when I did see him, there was no warmth. I quickly found out that he was seeing someone. I felt so betrayed but I finally understood that we were really over. Unfortunately, I did say some pretty catty things in the heat of the finding out about her (I know it was none of my business, I was just upset). I just felt like my life was falling apart. I was alone in this town I didn't know, and I wanted so badly to save us, but I pushed him even further away.

I met someone, a friend of a friend, who took me out a few times. My ex heard about it -- and don't you know that I got a text from my ex saying some hurtful things. It was obviously out of jealousy and I know he didn't mean it but I was still upset. He was dating other girls. Who does he think he is to call me out for moving on too? I eventually changed my number to eliminate the drama.

Well, a few months have gone by now and the dust has settled. I'm not seeing anyone and I'm working 70 hours a week to compensate for the loneliness. Lately, he's been calling my friends to see how I'm doing and emailing my mom and siblings "just to say hi." Does that mean he's just being nice, or maybe that he misses me?

Can relationships bounce back from a bad break like this? Do you think we could ever "start over" and make it work?

– Broken But Can't Let Go, Boston

A: You can't start over -- there's really no such thing -- but you might be able to forgive each other, BBCLG. You can certainly call him, give him your new phone number, and make peace.

But please, don't expect anything more than that. This breakup wasn't about dating other people or mean texts. It was about him refusing to move out of his parents' house. It was about him being a coward while you put up with an uncomfortable living situation for two years.

My advice is to call him and ask him why he's checking in with your family. Forgive him and let him forgive you. But leave it at that. Unless he shows up at your door begging for your return and holding keys to his own place, there's really nothing to talk about.

You have every reason to be confused, lonely, sad, and a bit hopeful. But don't forget your needs just because you miss him. I'm sure he misses you, too. But that's not that point. Right?

Readers? Should she give him her new number? Is there hope here? Should she forgive the whole "we lived with your parents for two years" thing? Was his behavior acceptable? Help.

– Meredith

Should I tell my friend she's wrong

Posted by Meredith Goldstein March 25, 2011 08:40 AM

Forgot to mention yesterday that there were two updates in Wednesday's chat. If you fish through it, you'll find updates from Drunk With Love and Monday's March Madness letter writer.

And, if you're a theater person (or a Love Letters person), come to Tuesday's performance of this. I'll be doing a "talkback" after the performance. It will be fun, and the play is right up our alley.

Q: Dear Meredith and LL community,

I am a major lurker on the LL scene and I truly think that this is a great place to come for advice. Like most others, I never thought I would be writing in, mostly because after a few failed relationships I decided it was time to focus on me rather than on boys. My reason for reaching out is that I'm worried my best friend is making a terrible mistake and I don't know how to stop it/if it's really my place.

My friend "Kate" has constantly been in relationships since she was a teenager. She's a naturally flirty person and attracts a lot of guys, so while I've never seen her as a liner-upper, I've also never known her to be single for more than a month or two. We used to joke about this and laugh it off as it didn't seem like a really big issue.

She's now in her mid-20s and in a new relationship. He's in the military which means he's deployed for six months at a time and moves around, so they've only ever spent about a month actually together. He also has kids and is going through a custody battle. I tried not to judge these parts of his life (she's a lot more spontaneous than I am so I guess she can handle these sorts of things). What got to me is that she's now rearranging her life and goals to be with him and I think it's wrong.

Kate's always had dreams of getting more degrees and has worked her butt off to get all the necessary internships in place to do so. She told me that her next internship was going to be in the state where the guy in question was going to be stationed for the next few years. When I asked her about this, she promised that she wasn't making the decision for him and that it was just a lucky coincidence. Now it turns out that he's going to be in a different state and she's decided to follow him. She also tells me they are hoping to get married so he can help her pay for her schooling.

I've told her in a very non-confrontational way that I feel like she's losing herself in her relationship and that I’m worried she's giving up on her goals for the wrong reasons. I'd like to believe in love at first sight/finding your soul mate but, being a more cautious person, I think it's important not to make major life decisions for a guy (especially early on) or you wake up down the line with a lot of regret.

My question is: Am I imposing my own fears/worries on the situation? Should I just go with the flow and see how things turn out? Or should I tell her about my concerns in a more forceful way, knowing that it might do nothing more than distance her from me?

– What Would Meredith Do?, Somerville

A: What would I do, WWMD? Well, I'd want to tell Kate not to move. I'd want to tell her that she's taking a huge risk and ruining her future. But I wouldn't say those things. I'd ask her if she has any concerns about the move so that she could talk about them on her own terms. Then I'd tell her that I'm here for her, no matter what. It wouldn't be easy, but I've learned that that's what friends are for. They're supporters, not advisers (says the advice columnist).

You don't know what's best for Kate. The two of you designed life plans for yourselves when you were young. Not surprisingly, one of you is veering off track. Maybe Kate doesn't want grad school as much as she used to. Maybe she wants it, but not as much as she wants to be with this specific partner. Really, moving and settling down with a guy she adores might turn out to be an awesome decision. Who knows?

You're allowed to be concerned, but your level of stress about this does suggest that you're projecting. You're probably afraid to lose her, which is understandable. You're also probably afraid that Kate's decision says something about your own place in life. I'm not saying you're secretly jealous of Kate, but I do think it can be difficult to watch a close friend jump on a path that opposes your own. In your 20s, other people's decisions mean too much.

This is how life goes. At some point, somebody puts off work to have a kid, gets divorced and goes back to school, or winds up on a reality show. Somebody was bound to make a spontaneous decision. Just keep asking nonjudgmental questions and tell her to be safe. That's all you can/should do. And remember this: You're on your own right track. Kate being right doesn't mean you're wrong.

Readers? Would you tell Kate what you think? Is the LW's angst more about her own place in life? What would be the point in telling Kate? Thoughts? Discuss.

– Meredith

Who wants a single dad?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein March 15, 2011 09:00 AM

Q: Hi Meredith,

I got divorced about a year ago and was released from a very unhealthy relationship. I have reached a point where I have a workable relationship with my ex, despite harboring some lingering resentment for her indiscretions and lack of respect of me. I'm getting over it -- but give a guy some time.

I am getting to the point where it is time to start looking outside myself for someone to share my life with. Herein lies the trouble. I am in my mid 30s and have three absolutely wonderful (young) kids. They spend half their time living at our home and half the time at home with their mom. They are doing well with it. I am proud to be a dad and I think I am a good guy. The challenge is that it doesn't seem that the women I'd like to date have interest in dating a successful, funny, single dad. On paper, I think I am the type of guy they are looking for -- until you get to the dad thing. What gives?

– Confounded Single Dad, North of Boston

A: What gives, CSD? You have three kids. That's what you are on paper -- a dude with three kids.

Not everybody wants to walk into that situation. And that's OK. Your dating pool is more limited than it was when you were a freewheeling guy, but in some ways, that will make the whole process easier. The dates will be few and far between, but when you do date someone, they'll have real potential.

My advice is to tell friends that you're ready to date so that they know to keep you in mind when they meet single women. Try to make new friends, maybe when you're doing activities with your kids. Expand your circle as much as possible. Then follow your own advice and "give a guy some time." It may take a while to find women who are open to someone with three kids, but again, that's OK. There's no rush. It has only been a year.

Readers? Is it going to be difficult for him to find someone who's open to three kids? How should he go about meeting a partner? Is he great on paper? Is he seeking out the wrong women? Discuss.

– Meredith

I'm apathetic about marriage

Posted by Meredith Goldstein March 14, 2011 07:30 AM

Q: Dear Meredith,

I am in a relationship with a great guy, "Rob." We dated for two years, broke up for a while, worked things out, and have been together now for four years. The relationship is so much better than before. We've lived together now for three years, can't imagine being with anyone else, neither wants kids, are on the same page with how to handle finances in the long term, and have even jokingly talked about what to do after retirement. I'm in my late 20s, he's in his early 30s. Our parents have met and get along. It all sounds perfect, right?

It's almost like we're married. But we're not. And it seems that everyone in the world is waiting for it to happen. Except, I don't care about getting married. I'm not fundamentally opposed to marriage, it's just that I don't care. It doesn't mean anything to me. Not to say I don't appreciate it when other people do it, but I just don't see how it would change what Rob and I have. I could roll my eyes and brush off the idea when it was my mom asking about The Big Question, but my friends are hinting at it as well. They think I'll come around eventually. Do they all know something that I don't?

Rob and I have talked about this and his stance is, "I'll marry you if you really want." Mine is, "We're already so committed to each other, so it's not a life changing event." If he asked me to marry him, my response would be "Sure, why not?" Somehow this feels wrong. Shouldn't I be jumping up and down screaming "YES!!!" to that question? Instead, I feel so apathetic. I feel like getting married would just be a play put on to satisfy others.

My question is, what's the big deal? Is there something I'm not understanding? Is the whole world in on a secret and I didn't get the memo?

– Apathetic About Marriage, Boston

A: You're not a wedding/marriage person, AAM. That's OK. In fact, it's more than OK. Despite what you see in movies and on television, your apathy doesn't mean that your relationship isn't what it should be -- or that you missed a memo. You might start jumping up and down and screaming "YES!!!" when Rob tells you he wants to go on a cool vacation ... or buys a great television ... or learns how to make cheesecake from scratch.

You just need to figure out what to say to friends who take the whole "first comes love, then comes marriage" thing seriously. I'd come up with a one-line explanation. Something like, "It's just not a priority; we're too busy making our retirement plans." That won't silence the masses, but it will give you some temporary relief.

It's annoying, but your friends mean well. A lot of people do want to get married and have kids. Those people -- your friends -- want you to share their excitement about a big decision. They also want to make sure that you're getting what you want. And you are, right? Be happy about that and ignore everything else. Don't let other people's expectations give you doubts.

Readers? How should she deal with the questions? Anyone have a good one-liner for her to give to her friends? Should she be more excited about the idea of matrimony? Should she be more excited, in general? Will this problem go away when she and Rob are in their 30s/40s? Should she just get married? Discuss.

– Meredith

Can I date his ex?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein March 2, 2011 08:30 AM

Chat day.

Q: Hi Meredith,

I'm a divorced 30-something father (separated about 3 years ago) who has been trying to adapt to life after a nasty divorce. Now that the dust has settled, I can safely say that things between myself and my ex-wife "Jen" are amicable, although it is clear that we will never be friends again.

About a year ago, a close friend "Steve" (who is also divorced and now with someone else), without even the nerve to inform me, decided to end our friendship and has since barely uttered a word to me to the point that others are noticing his blatant avoidance. My understanding (based on observation) is that Steve became friends with someone who took my ex-wife's side in my divorce.

Over the summer, I ran into Steve's ex-wife "Mary" (whom I had not talked to since before Mary and her Steve separated) at a sporting event. We talked, caught up on old times, and swapped phone numbers -- with the intent of getting our children together. About a month later, Mary called me to arrange time for our children to see each other. At the play date, which had to wait a few weeks because of parenting schedules, everyone had a great time and my friendship with Mary resumed.

Fast forward about 2 months: Mary tells me that she had been thinking about me in a different light and wants to go out on a date with me (neither of us are seeing anyone now). She also told me that her pre-teen daughter has noticed Mary's reaction whenever my name has been brought up -- and offered an approval to us dating. Quite honestly, I am intrigued at the idea as well ... but is it OK to date the ex-wife of a former friend?

My gut feeling: It is none of Steve's business who his ex-wife dates; Steve chose to end our friendship (for whatever reason) and Mary and I are both free to date. So, what harm is there to see if there is more than a spark?

– Cautiously Interested In The Next Step, Boston

A: Your gut is right, CIITNS. To me, this is a no-brainer. The fact that Steve bailed on you is a major bonus. You can go into this without having to worry about his blessing.

But know this: If Steve and your ex-wife's friends think that you're the enemy now, it's only going to get worse. Assuming they find out about you and Mary (and they will), they'll probably talk trash. You'll probably wind up having to see Steve, especially if it works out with Mary. It'll be awkward. And maybe awful. But ... love after divorce is always a bit messy. You just have to own your feelings.

My only advice is to make sure that Mary understands your history with Steve -- the fact that he bailed without reason long ago. She probably knows that, but just in case she doesn't, be clear about the timeline. Mary should know that the bad feelings with Steve have nothing to do with her.

You have my permission to be not-so-cautious.

Readers? Should the LW stay away from Mary to respect Steve? Should he tell Steve? Should he talk to his ex-wife about it? Should Mary be concerned? What are the rules here? Discuss.

– Meredith

He lied about being divorced

Posted by Meredith Goldstein February 17, 2011 08:03 AM

This letter writer loves putting things in parentheses. (Who doesn't?)

Q:Dear Meredith,

I am a 40something divorced mom of a grown child. I have been divorced for more than a decade. I have had several (3) long term relationships in that time, but all have failed to progress past the two-year mark for a few different reasons (ultimately, they were just not the right men for me).

I recently began online dating (again). I have tried it quite a few times over the years (all of the different sites). I recently met a man on a site and went out with him despite some misgivings about him being divorced a relatively short time. (About a year, according to his e-mail.)

We went out and had a fabulous time. We went out on a second date within a few days and had another great time. After this second date, he writes me an e-mail stating that he needed to come clean -- that he was not really divorced, he was only separated. He then told me that everything had been decided about the divorce agreement and he was staying with a friend and coming back to the family home to take the kids every other weekend. I was not comfortable with this, but I really liked the guy. So, I continued seeing him a few more times. After lots of chatting online and on the phone, (again, feeling like I was very connected to this guy) I started getting the feeling that he was not staying with a friend but still living in his marital home. I confronted him on this and he did admit that this was the case, but the marriage was over and it was just out of convenience that this was happening. I told him that I felt like I had been purposely misled by him and that I could not date someone who was still living with his wife, even if it was just because of the children (3 under age 10) or finances or under any other circumstances.

This guy got rather upset at me about this and could not understand how things were going along so well and then BAM, I changed my feelings for him. I tried to explain that it has been my practice for a long time not to date separated men. It has only been about 3 weeks since I met him and I feel that I was duped. Even though I felt we clicked, I do not think it's right to date someone that still lives in the marital home no matter what the circumstances are. I feel that the divorce process is agonizing and that he is doing a disservice to himself and his children by not focusing on the situation at hand and trying to begin a new romance with me. He has announced that he is moving out of the home in a few weeks in hopes that I will change my mind. (I feel his moving out has a lot to do with me and not really his own desire to move on, despite what he tells me.)

He just cannot understand why it's a good idea to wait to begin this relationship with me because he feels in his mind that he is 100 percent ready to move on because "his marriage was over for a long time before they decided to split." I think, at the very least, that it's going to take him 6 months to year to really get his life in order, move out, set a routine with his children and start getting his divorced finalized. (Another thing he is told me is that they will not be filing for divorce for at least a year, for financial reasons ---Something else I am not at all comfortable with) He thinks I should start back up with him after he moves out of the marital home. Am I being unreasonable to think that someone cannot move on in such a short time?

Should I just go with the flow and continue to see him because we clicked so well? I am going with my gut feeling, which I think is a good thing, but I just want a reality check from you and your readers. I also would like to say to this guy, "See, I am not being overcautious, the entire readership of Love Letters agrees with me!"

– No More Guys On the Rebound

A: It's possible he's rushing this whole thing and that his priorities are all messed up, NMGOTR. It's also possible that his marriage has been over for quite some time, that he was dating online to test the waters, and that he wound up meeting someone great long before he thought he would. All of that is probably true. He really likes you, but he has no idea what he's in for over the next year.

I'm sure there’s a person out there who wouldn't mind dating someone during the slow, uncomfortable, weirdness that comes with divorce, but that person isn't you. And at three weeks, there isn't much to lose besides the promise that comes with a few good dinners.

If he hadn't lied, you might be able to forgive. If he was already living alone, you might be able to reconsider. If he had plans to finalize his divorce within a month, you might be able to put up with dating someone who's only separated. But you're dealing with all of those things, and together, they're one big fat, deal-breaker.

Again, I think he really is smitten with you for the right reasons, so feel good about that. Please allow yourself to be flattered and let the experience remind you that there are people out there who can make you feel great. And commend yourself for knowing what's what. You're thinking of what's best for him and his kids. That's pretty selfless and cool. (Really.)

Readers? Is there anything here to salvage? It's difficult for her to meet people, so is it worth waiting it out? Is it admirable that he's moving out of his house for her or is that the wrong way to think of his decision? Are his lies forgivable? (Discuss.)

– Meredith

Why can't guys be like grandpa?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein February 10, 2011 08:34 AM

Q: I can't believe it has come to this (no offense Meredith, you're great) but at this point I need advice from someone who doesn't know me personally!

I'm a Boston girl, born and raised. I love the Red Sox, think the North End is the best Little Italy in the country, love Legal Sea Foods, and would never date any guy in a Yankees hat! Okay, okay, you get the idea. But recently, I've been wondering if I might have to leave Boston to find the right guy.

I'm 26 years old, single, never married, have a good job, and a great family! We're a big Italian family, and I have 7 brothers and sisters who are really supportive and loving. Basically, I love my life here. But, sometimes I feel like every bar I go to, every club, every boat show, every Sox game, I run into an ex or meet the same people all the time!

I've dated every type of guy you can imagine. Thin, chubby, athletic, tall, short, older than me, younger than me, smart, dumb, fun, boring ... you name it, I've dated him.

I've dated an abusive guy who I tried to change, a great guy who my family loved but who ended up boring me to death, a professional athlete who cheated on me and didn't seem interested in me all the time, and my perfect match but he couldn't hold down a job and I nearly went broke trying to make a relationship work with him. If there was a way to combine all these guys and make them better where they were lacking then everything would be great, but as every woman knows, we can't do that ... unfortunately!!!!!

The worst part is, I always compare them all. Every time a new guy disappointments me I think of the great guy who bored me death but loved me authentically. Every time a new guy starts to drain my patience and my wallet, I wonder about the professional athlete and how easy my life would have been with him financially. I end up sabotaging myself going into every relationship.

So here is my question, what are us women to do when every guy we meet ends up disappointing us in some major way? I'm sorry, but a guy has to have a stable job and his own life in order. He also has to stay in some sort of shape and care about himself. He has to be confident without being so in love with himself that he has no time for me. Is that really too much to ask? Decent looking, stable financially, and respects me enough to not put his hands on me. Is that really too much?

I'm losing faith that the types of guys like my grandfather, who worked hard his whole life, supported his family, and always respected my grandmother, just don't exist anymore. Why does it seem like today's guys are not only incapable of being a man, but the one's that are capable of doing it are either lost in their work and boring, or always jumping from girl to girl and living in clubs three nights a week?

I like to have fun, I like to have a drink or two when I go out, but I also can be a great girlfriend and want a good relationship. Are there any well balanced guys out there who are just ... normal? If they are, where are they Meredith???? Am I really asking for too much??

– Giving Up Hope, Revere

A: There are a lot of people in and around Boston, GUH. Many of those people are guys in their 20s. And here's an interesting fact: The gap between single women and men is significantly smaller here than it is in New York, at least according to 2006 stats. If you're running into the same people all of the time, you're going to too many of the same places. Grab a single friend and come up with a plan to introduce yourself to a new location or activity every week. Don't put too much pressure on yourself to meet someone every time you go out, but do pressure yourself to change your scenery.

Also, consider the possibility that your grandpa wasn't so great. I mean, he was fantastic, I'm sure. But we grandkids tend to assume that the marriages we grew up admiring were just as good before we were alive to see them. My grandparents had a fantastic marriage. Like, epic. When my grandma Lorraine died (surrounded by her grandchildren and buckets of Chinese food -- that's how we Goldsteins go), my grandfather wept in her lap and I thought, "This can never be matched." But then I remembered the very wise Lorraine telling me years ago that my grandpa was sort of an idiot when he was younger, and that when they got married at 20 and 25, they didn't know what they were in for. We're all unpolished when we're young. We evolve together.

You're probably not going to find an ideal suitor at your age, but that's OK. The point is to find someone who makes you laugh and is supportive. You might have to put up with a dude who doesn't have a job. Or a guy who needs to be told that he shouldn't try to make out with you before you're ready. Or a guy who spends too much time at work because he's just starting up his career. And maybe in 30 years, you'll still be with that guy and he'll look a bit more like your grandpa. Not your actual grandpa, because that would be creepy, but you know what I mean.

Readers? Are her expectations too high? What do you think about my grandpa principle? How is she running into the same people over and over? Who wants to move to Long Beach after looking at that map? Who wants to guess which professional athlete she dated? (I don't know, but I'm curious, too.) Get to it.

– Meredith

Our troubles with alcohol

Posted by Meredith Goldstein February 9, 2011 07:33 AM

I have compiled a massive rundown of Love Letters history for Saturday's paper – as in, the age range of letter writers, geography, topics of problems, number of times "grilled cheese" references were used (or food euphemisms, in general), and which commenter got the most number of recommends during our second year.

I'll try to have post it online on Friday. It's cool.

Also, we chat today at 1.

Q: Meredith and Gang,

I will start with some back story:

I grew up with alcoholics all around me, my mother and grandfather being the most notable. My mother sobered up when I was a teenager and hasn't looked at it since.

I am 28 and engaged to a wonderful man. He is smart, funny, treats me well, and is very good with my 4 year old son. We love each other very much.

He drinks. Less now than before we met and got serious. We have been together 2 years, lived together for 1 and set to get married in April 2012. We have had both serious, sit-down conversations and big blow out fights over his drinking. He knows it borders on a problem. He drinks every night. If my son is there, he doesn't drink until after he goes to sleep and he will not drink if he's there alone with him. But it's still every night otherwise. Every once in a while he likes to spend his weekday off playing video games and drinking beer. He is home alone when he does this. Most of his friends are the go out and drink type. They rarely do anything else when they hang out. I admit that I like to have a drink every now and then but definitely not every day and not in too much excess.

My previous relationship (not my son's father) was with a severe alcoholic. I am talking first thing in the morning until he passed out at night, with little to no recollection of what went on in between (this man was NEVER around my child). So here's my problem: I know I have had bad experiences with alcohol and alcoholics. I am unable to tell if my fiancé’s drinking is "normal" or if it's a problem. I compare every little thing to this last relationship and can't tell if I am over-reacting. He has altered his drinking habits since he knows it’s a big deal to me. I tend to get snippy and defensive if I know he is drunk, but since this doesn’t happen EVERY time he is drunk I end up sending mixed signals to him. I also feel guilty when we go out together. I told him if he committed to stop drinking altogether I would never touch the stuff again. He is not interested in AA.

There is so much good here. He is respectful, loving, a good father-figure, and he literally makes my heart melt and knees weak when we are together. But I live in fear of putting my son in the same situation I grew up in. So where do I go from here?

– Drunk with Love and Resentment, CT

A: My advice, which might seem lame, is to take the fiancé to therapy. I say that because you can't decide what kind of drinking feels "normal" because of your family and your ex. I certainly can't tell you what's normal. We all have different boundaries when it comes to alcohol. We just have to figure out what they are.

You need to sit down with him -- and a counselor -- and talk about when you're OK with the drinking and when it feels scary. Then allow your fiancé to give his impressions of his own substance use. There's no need to shame him right now; from what you've told us, you can be confident that you're both on the same page when it comes to prioritizing safety. What's unclear is whether his drinking is a habit or an addiction. What's also unclear is whether you're allowed to enjoy some social drinking with him without feeling like a hypocrite. It's time to throw your hands up, admit to your fiance that you're thoroughly confused, and go work it out as a team in a safe place. Because again, boundaries can only be respected if you know what they are. It's best if you figure out your rules together -- and before the wedding.

Readers? Do they need a third party to help? Is she projecting her own family's past onto her fiance? Care to share any stories about partners, alcohol, and boundaries? Discuss.

– Meredith

His former friend with benefits

Posted by Meredith Goldstein February 7, 2011 08:50 AM

Q: Dear Love Letters,

I need help!

My husband and I were married, then divorced, and have been re-married for six years. During our time apart, he lost his license. He then began hanging out with one of his sister's female friends, who became his chauffeur. Well, one thing led to another and they became friends with benefits. They decided not to pursue a relationship. The problem is, years later, this girl attends every family event hosted by my sister-in-law. She is referred to as "Auntie." I am not jealous -- actually, this girl is unattractive and very loud. The problem is, we are invited to her surprise birthday party. I definitely will not be attending -- it is bad enough that I have to spend time with her at family functions. She is not related to me nor is she my friend. My question is, am I wrong for asking my husband to not attend?

– Don't Want Her Around, Boston

A: This one's tricky, DWHA, because your husband's relationship with Auntie is really about his relationship with his own sister. He's not inviting Auntie to your house for family meals. He's not proud that he knows Auntie. He's seeing Auntie when he sees his sis -- and Auntie seems to be a big part of his sis's life.

My advice is to sit down with your husband and pose this question: "What's the best way for us to deal with Auntie without alienating your sister/family or making me feel awful?" Maybe the answer is to attend parties like this one but to leave within 45 minutes. Maybe the answer is for both of you to skip these events and tell his sister why. Maybe the answer is for your husband to go to these parties for a bit and then meet you after for a great dinner.

Just know that there's no perfect answer. It would be great if his sister approached you and said, "Feel free to skip these parties. I don't want anyone to be uncomfortable." But she's not going to do that. She loves Auntie. And your husband wants to be present for his sibling.

You just have to get through these events with temporary solutions. That's the best you can do. There's one annoying person at every party. There's always someone from the past who shows up to haunt relationships. Don't make it a fight. Take a deep breath and deal with it together, one party at a time.

Readers? Am I wrong? Should he have to skip the party? Does the LW have the right to be upset about Auntie? Are we concerned about the husband's loss of license and the fact that he was using Auntie for rides? Thoughts? Discuss.

– Meredith

He ditched me on New Year's

Posted by Meredith Goldstein January 14, 2011 06:45 AM

You have through the weekend to send me a photo of yourself in cotton to celebrate the second anniversary of Love Letters. Send here. I want hot elastic pants photos.

Q:Dear Meredith,

I am a single mom in the process of a divorce. It was a terrible marriage (more than 10 years) with a lot of lying, cheating, and manipulation on my ex's part. I stayed for years for the kids but eventually made the right decision to leave. When the separation happened I spent the time with my children, family, and close girlfriends just hanging out and having a good time. Months later, I decided to try a little online dating. I dated a few guys once or twice until I met "Michael." There was just something about him that intrigued me and we instantly had a great connection. Michael is a little older, divorced, and does not have any children.

We started seeing each other about 1-3 times a week on a regular basis. We had two little setbacks where he sort of retreated and stopped contact for a few days. When he did this it was painful because he just sort of goes into a man cave to process and leaves me to wonder what happened. We spent a good deal of time together around Christmas (he met my children for the first time) and he was very generous and thoughtful about the gifts he gave me. Things seemed fine throughout the week but he never made a plan for New Year’s Eve. He was extremely busy at work (he owns his own business) that week. When I finally suggested getting together he told me that he was tired from the holidays and was basically out of commission until after the holiday.

He resurfaced after New Year's, but I'm trying to determine if he is just not that interested in me or if his lifestyle of a bachelor who can come and go as he pleases has more to do with it. He can be somewhat self-absorbed. I think that if he was really into me he would have wanted to spend some time together on NYE or would have at least contacted me. Any other weekend to retreat seems okay and I understand needing privacy and alone time. It just seems like it was very insensitive to do this on NYE. I plan on discussing it with him, but I am wondering if I should just end it with him. He is a great guy in every aspect and I truly adore him except for this one really bad habit. I'm afraid of falling in love with him and ending up hurt every time he retreats with no warning. I believe this is more about him than me, but every time he does it, it hurts. And to do it on a special holiday hurt even more. We have been together for about 4 months so it is really early in the relationship, but it is a pretty established relationship as well. If things progress I am not sure I can tolerate this behavior for me or my children. I'm not so brushed up on bachelors and how they think and operate. Do I end things or is this salvageable?

– Disappointed On New Year's Eve, Boston

A: Some people are weird about the holidays, DONYE. Some people are weird about alone time. And they're allowed to be -- even when they're in a relationship -- as long as they respect their partners. They're supposed to explain themselves and keep their significant others in the loop. Your guy is retreating whenever he wants, without considering your feelings. You said it best -- you don't want to tolerate that kind of behavior. So don't.

The talk is necessary. My guess is that you've been somewhat honest -- but maybe too polite about the subject. At four months, you're allowed to say, "I don't tolerate this, so clue me in. You're in or you're out. Your disappearances make me feel awful."

My hope is that he rallies and realizes that there's a difference between taking space and disappearing. Because being a bachelor doesn't entitle a person to be a jerk. He has a routine, but so do you. You're respecting his. You just want to understand it.

Talk to him and then go with your gut.

Readers? Any chance this guy is the right guy for the letter writer? Is this just a bachelor thing that can be overcome? Is she asking for too much after four months? What does it mean that he wanted alone time on New Year's? Discuss.

– Meredith

I want kids

Posted by Meredith Goldstein January 13, 2011 08:33 AM

And she doesn't.

Q: Dear Meredith,

I'm involved in a serious and stable relationship with a remarkable woman whom I fell head over heels in love with, and she with me. Our relationship has only gotten stronger with time. I can honestly say I'm the happiest I've ever been, and she tells me she is, too. We're living together, and we've talked about getting engaged, settling down, and everything seems great. But I wouldn't be writing you if everything was perfect, right?

Being open and honest with each other has never been a problem for us, so when the subject of having kids some day down the road came up (almost jokingly at first), I gave my honest opinion on the matter. I've always loved kids and I've always known that I wanted to have at least one kid. I told her that I thought we'd make fantastic parents. I also stressed that I was in no rush, as we both have some things we want to accomplish before that time. But when the time was right X-number of years down the road, I would be very open to the idea. When I asked for her opinion, I got a very different answer. Her response was that she never EVER wanted to have children. When I asked her why, she got very defensive. She says that she just doesn't "like" kids and that she has so much in her life she wants to accomplish she can't possibly see how kids can factor in to any of it.

Over the period of a few months, I've gently broached the subject a few more times, hoping her opinion would soften a bit. In fact, it's just the opposite. She's turned even colder to the idea. She says she respects my desire to have kids someday. She says that she loves me and wishes she could feel the same way, but she just doesn't and will never want to have children.

I'm at a loss of what to do. I'm happy in every other aspect of our relationship but this, and it's become a big roadblock for me. Do I stay the course and hope that someday she will change her mind? What if she doesn't? If I have to choose one or the other, I will be heartbroken either way. If I stay with her, and she remains true to her word, it could mean giving up on a dream that I've had for my entire life. If I leave her, I will be leaving the greatest relationship of my life, and a dear friend and counterpart. All over the concept of a "theoretical baby" that I might have someday.

I guess I have to decide whether the desire for this "theoretical baby" is more important than the factual great relationship I already have. I'm doing my best to respect her feelings, but the eternal optimist in me wants to believe that as our relationship grows, she'll change her mind. I hope so because I don't want to lose her, or my dream of having a family.

– Unsure What to Do, Boston

A: "Do I stay the course and hope that someday she will change her mind?"

No, UWTD. She has been incredibly clear. She's not going to change her mind. If you stick around, you have to be comfortable with the idea of no kids -- ever.

Your letter suggests that this theoretical baby isn't so theoretical. You want one. That's why you keep bringing it up.

You're allowed to be an optimist, but you also have to be a realist. If you want a family, there are people out there who can give it to you. Women who share your goals. Women who want a baby with a nice partner. Your girlfriend sounds wonderful, but when family is on the line, wonderful just isn't enough.

My advice is to tell her that you’re not sure that you can live without a baby. You've been having theoretical discussions about the issue, but it's time to have a real one. After some honest talk about plans for the next five years, the answer should be clear.

Shared goals are just as important as timing and all of the other things that go into finding love. You can't go into this crossing your fingers and hoping for a change down the road. (Sorry.)

Readers? Will she change her mind? Should the letter writer ask her to? Is there anyway to get around the children issue? Discuss.

– Meredith

I can't stand his mother

Posted by Meredith Goldstein December 28, 2010 01:00 AM

Q: Meredith,

I am hoping you can give me some advice about how to deal with a situation involving my fiancés mother. I love my fiancé, Simon. He is the greatest, most generous guy in the world. The problem is that his generous nature has allowed him to rebuild his relationship with his deadbeat mother, a woman who left her children when they were young. Everything I don't like about this woman I learned from stories my fiancé told me. But now that his mom is old, Simon is starting to feel bad for her. We all live in the same area now and his mother is often over our house. I feel like she is trying to weasel her way into living with us because she is running out of money. Every time I see her car in our driveway or know that she's coming over I get overwhelmed with anger. I know she's here to make herself comfortable and "borrow" money from Simon.

The problem is I don't know how to talk about this with Simon. We are recently engaged and the wedding is over a year away, but the idea of his mother living with us makes me want to flee. It is Simon's house so I really don't feel like I can say that his mother cannot live there. But I know that the attitude I adopt when his mother is around will ultimately ruin my relationship with Simon if that woman is with us 24/7.

My question is how do I bring this up with Simon? I don't think he would mind his mother moving in. He would probably enjoy it. But I would hate it. I don't want to say "if your mother moves in I will move out," but to be honest, I will actually do that. I don't want to hurt Simon's feelings by telling him how much I cannot stand his mother, but I don’t see any other way of preventing the inevitable. Please help.

– Can't Stand My Fiancés Mother, Sudbury

A: It might be Simon's house, CSMFM, but it's also the home he shares with you, his soon-to-be wife. Now is the time to be honest about your boundaries. Now is the time to say, "I can't live with your mom -- ever."

Of course, that honesty will have to come with a compromise. Simon might agree to keep mom out of the house, but you might have to promise to show more respect when she's on your couch. You might have to support a plan to help pay for housing for Simon's mother, assuming that she's not going to be living with you.

Be honest and polite. Tell Simon that you're struggling to make this work. Threats aren't necessary. Disagreements don't have to involve ultimatums.

Just start the negotiations as soon as possible. It's not about who owns the home, it's about making a marriage work.

Readers? What should she say to Simon about his mom? Will this break the marriage? Is there a good way to be honest about the issue without becoming confrontational? Discuss.

– Meredith

She hasn't told her family about me

Posted by Meredith Goldstein December 8, 2010 07:00 AM

I'll notify "Casablanca" contest winners by 5ish. If you want to make sure you get a ticket, buy them here. And again, everyone is welcome to attend the pre-party at Orleans in Davis Square between 6:30/7 and 8:30 p.m. There will be potato pancakes and cupcakes.

Chat at 1.

Q: I am dating a woman who is nine years younger then me (I'm in my 30s, she's in her 20s). We have been seeing each other for just over a year now. She isn't from the area but has been here for her master’s degree.

She's smart, beautiful, silly, generally mature for her age (as she is balancing a full course load and a full-time job), and says she loves me. But there are problems.

She's worried about things that won't happen, mostly me leaving her for another woman. She gets jealous of my female friends, married and unmarried, who all live thousands of miles away. We have talked about it and she even tells me that she knows it should be a non-issue. She knows that I wouldn't cheat on her.

Neither of us has lived with another person, but after she finishes her master's, she's going to have to find a place to live (she's in a campus apartment right now). I feel that the logical next step is that we find a place together. I've brought this up on occasion and the discussions are usually very quick with no definite decisions.

Another road block is that she has not even mentioned me to her family. One of the things that she is worried about is my education. Her family all has bachelor's degrees and above. Meanwhile, I don't have a degree, but at the same time have a good job that I excel at, and have plenty of opportunities for advancement.

She has given me logical reasons for why she is delaying telling her family about me. The most important one is that she'd like to get a better job so that she can support herself instead of relying on her parents.

Right now, as it stands, I think that her family believes that she is eventually just going to move back home with them, and I fear that, too. Neither of us feels we are capable of long distance relationships, and in this economy I don't want to chance having to find another job elsewhere.

This thing about her not telling her parents about me is starting to bother me. Are her logical reasons acceptable? What should I do?

– Issues Galore, Boston

A: IG, you say that she's mature because she's going to grad school and working at the same time. Her multitasking is proof that she's ambitious and responsible, for sure, but does it really mean that she's ready for a mature relationship?

You want a plan. You want to cohabitate. You want her family to know that you're her main squeeze. Meanwhile, she isn't sure about your education or her own ability to live independently. She's sort of … unfinished.

I'm not into ultimatums, but you're allowed to give her a list of demands. If she's in, it starts now -- family introductions, apartment hunting, and treating the present as if it's a part of the future. If she can't do that, I'd really consider looking for someone who's excited about being with you right now, someone who not only accepts your place in life but shows you off. That's the beauty of being in your 30s. You're allowed to feel comfortable in your own skin and to find someone who feels the same way.

Readers? Are there too many road blocks to fix? Are her excuses legitimate in any way? Is it too soon for them to consider cohabitation? Is she mature enough for this relationship? Discuss.

– Meredith

He won't compromise

Posted by Meredith Goldstein November 29, 2010 06:44 AM

Good morning.

The "Romance Rumble" starts today. You vote on romantic movies and we'll screen the winner Dec. 10 at the Somerville Theatre. There will be a pre-party that night in Davis Square (location to be announced soon). Make sure you vote and buy a ticket. And then deal with today's letter.

Q: I'm a 35-year old woman who has led her life backwards: married at 21, divorced by 23, and dating ever since. Generally I'm a happy gal. I've got a great career, close friends and family, tons of hobbies, and live a pretty full, independent life. Admittedly, I've got some abandonment issues (as you may see), but they don't stop me. I look forward to finding love and someday marrying and having a family.

I've been dating a divorced dad of a young child off and on for the past two years. We are two hours apart but have made it work with mutual effort. We've both made mistakes and have had our share of break-ups and make-ups. We've chosen to work on it and stay together.

Lately I've had a growing sense of unease about how much is too much to "bend" in a relationship. For example, when I expressed my desire to take the next step in our relationship, he asked me to move in. Since his child is the priority, I told him I would move there to begin our life -- with an engagement. This move would necessitate me quitting my job, selling my home, and moving far away from my current circle of friends and family. This doesn't daunt me -- I'd do so happily; but, he states that to him, engagement means marriage and he is not ready for that.

Since there is young child involved, moving in without an engagement is not an example I choose to set. Since then I've thought about what I want for my life and told him my plan: if in the spring he is still unsure, I will need to leave him. While I understand his need to be "sure," I need to move out of this holding pattern.

Ever since we started discussing commitment, my respect for the relationship is deteriorating and all the petty things are surfacing. For example: differences in lifestyle and standards of living. He lives in a rural area and holds frugality in high regard. His historic house is a ramshackle. When I bring up my interest in fixing it up to basic living standards to create a "home" (contributing equally, both financially and in "sweat equity") he questions why I need to change him and tells me that I insult him. All I can think is: here I am prepared to change my entire life for him and "us," yet he is incapable of meeting me halfway on some pretty basic things. So you see, I'm noticing a pattern of it being on his terms, all the time.

My questions for you are: How far is too far to bend and compromise? Am I sabotaging a perfectly good relationship because of impatience, or am I communicating healthy boundaries?

– The Bends, Boston

A: Ah, TB, I'm with you. You're being asked to bend until you break.

I might argue that flexibility isn't the only issue. The real problem seems to be whatever caused those break-ups and make-ups. You say that you've been off and on for two years. Why were you off so many times?

If this were a more solid relationship, you wouldn't be questioning what love you'd get in return for the move. If this were a more respectful relationship, your guy would be open to letting you change his house so that you're more comfortable there.

I have to wonder how this would work if you lived down the street from each other. Sometimes distance rips us apart. But sometimes it allows us to avoid talking about what's not working.

My advice is to ask your boyfriend to explain his vision for your shared future. Then you share yours -- home improvements included. Does your plan appeal to him at all? Does his plan appeal to you? And -- if he isn't ready for marriage, what would this move mean to him? Is it a test run for something? A real discussion about the what-ifs seems more productive than a spring deadline. Do some more talking and it'll either get better or blow up. That's how it goes.

At the moment, he's offering no ... "sweat equity." That's something all relationships need.

Readers? Is this relationship doomed? Should they be moving in after two rocky years? What does it mean that he doesn't want to get engaged? Does his child factor into this? Discuss.

– Meredith

She's dating a professional pick-up artist

Posted by Meredith Goldstein November 2, 2010 08:30 AM

"Love and Redemption" contest winners will be notified by the end of the day.

And excuse my long answer on this one. When I get going on this topic I can't stop.

Q: M, my sis-in-law began dating a suave, polite, cosmopolitan Englishman recently, and has become quite smitten. My wife received a Facebook note from one of E-man's ex's. She is clearly a vindictive, scorned ex, but she volunteered some alarming and verifiable allegations.

Turns out, this guy is a professional pick-up artist coach -- a Hall of Famer, in fact, according to the website. My wife and I have scoured this site and found blogs by this guy that are absolutely misogynistic -- appalling stuff. Would-be pick-up artists pay thousands to be coached by this guy and others in the science of manipulating women into bed, mostly, and otherwise having their way.

My sis-in-law is "in love" and seems to be willfully dismissing all rational thinking, convincing herself that none of this guy's behavior applies in their relationship. We are extremely frustrated and scared that she is heading for a train wreck with this guy. Any thoughts on how to get her to see the obvious?

– Concerned, Boston

A: Last year, a pick-up artist program called Love Systems allowed me to shadow one of its weekend seminars in Boston and write a column about it. Go ahead and a read that. The experience was as upsetting and weird as I thought it would be.

I got the impression that some of the guys in the program were looking to score with as many women as possible. And by score, I don't even mean sex. Some of them just wanted to prove that they could get phone numbers.

But I also met some students who were simply insecure and totally clueless about how to approach straight women. They told me they wanted to use the Love Systems class to find a long-term partner. They wanted to learn how to show off their best attributes. They believed that spending thousands of dollars on this program was the answer.

So the question is, what kind of guy is your sis-in-law's boyfriend? Did he get involved with the pick-up stuff because he was a shy person looking for a boost? What was his motivation? Was it sex? Power? The misogynist blog posts make me glass-half-empty about his potential, but you never know. Maybe there's a nice geek under that sexy, pick-up exterior. Maybe that geek feels ridiculous about his past.

My advice is to ask him. Tell him that you Googled him and discovered his pick-up history. Ask him what the pick-up experience meant to him. Look interested and friendly when you ask, and allow him to run his mouth -- in front of the sis-in-law.

And remember that in the end, this is up to the sis. If she wants to date a pick-up master, fine. You're just supposed to be there for her if/when it doesn't work out. And if it does work out, you're going to have to learn to be nice. It won't be easy. Someone should offer a seminar for that.

Readers? Should the letter writer ask the sister-in-law's boyfriend about his pick-up past? Anyone want to defend the pick-up routine? Can a former pick-up guy have a respectful relationship? Discuss.

– Meredith

We have a newborn and marital problems

Posted by Meredith Goldstein November 1, 2010 09:10 AM

Q: I've been a huge LL fan from the beginning. I'm sad to join the ranks of those needing your sage advice, Meredith, but here goes.

My husband and I are going through a rough patch. Really rough. We've been together for over a decade. He told me (while I was seven months pregnant with our second child!) that he didn't love me anymore. I was floored. My husband has a history of freak-outs before major life changes (getting married, having our first child, etc.), so I asked him to wait on it, and to at least pretend to love me (yes, I did debase myself this much) until the baby was born, for the sake of the baby.

I sensed this freak-out was different. Normally he just withdraws into his little "man cave" and is really quiet and freaked -- but he never says he doesn't love me. He slept on the couch by his choice. I waited it out.

Baby is here and things are not better. He hates all the extra work the new baby entails and makes little comments all the time about how unhappy he is with his life. Ouch, ouch, ouch. We start couples therapy next week. But life has been excruciating -- the desire for separation is not mutual. Two weeks ago, he finally admitted (during a tearful breakdown, after I told him I was taking the kids to live with my mother) that he is profoundly depressed and can't imagine ever being happy again -- and even said that this wasn't about me, that it was about him. I've never seen him so vulnerable. I promised to help him be happy again. I want to keep that promise and hope to heal my trampled heart. He has slipped back into being pretty nasty to me, but we start therapy soon so I have hope.

My question for you, then, since we are starting therapy soon ...

Should I stop saying "I love you"?

He never says it back and it's like a dagger to my heart every time. Part of me thinks no -- if the depression did this to him, maybe consistently showing my love will help. However, the other part of me can't take the (almost) daily rejection and wonders if I'm just smothering him. I've always said "I love you" with a kiss as he left for work. Now, even if I lean in for the kiss, he turns his head so I kiss his cheek -- and it takes everything in me to keep a straight face and not cry in front of the kids.

What do you think I should do?

– Heartbroken New Mom, Boston

A: There's a lot going on here, HNM, so I'm going to focus on your specific question: Should I stop saying "I love you"?

My advice is to stop saying it if you're trying to provoke a specific response. Stop pretending. Stop trying to get him to fake it. All you're doing is stressing everybody out. Showering him with love means that you have to deal with constant rejection, and that he has to choose between disappointing you and giving you an answer he's not sure about. Don't push the disingenuous sweet talk.

I don't know what's going to happen, but I do know that you need to start using your energy to support yourself. "I promised to help him be happy again." You said it yourself -- this isn't about you. He's in charge of his own happiness.

Instead of telling your husband that you'll work to make him happy, ask him practical questions. Does he have any plan for coping as a family while this is all being figured out? As him how he wants to get through the next few days/weeks/months. Ask him if he can refrain from being a jerk during this process -- it's not good for anyone.

I was at a wedding over the weekend (my third this month), and the couple had that famous quote in their program about falling in love with the same person more than once. I think it goes, "A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person." The quote implies that at some point, you'll fall out of love, maybe more than once. You have to want to fall back in, and I hope he does. But if he doesn't, you're going to be OK. Every time you have the urge to say an insecure "I love you" to your husband, say it in the mirror.

And good luck.

Readers? She's got a lot going on here, but should she be professing her love? Can they figure this out? How can they be honest without hurting each other? Help.

– Meredith

My mom hates him

Posted by Meredith Goldstein October 26, 2010 08:21 AM

Q: Dear Meredith,

Here are the facts: I am in love with my ex-boyfriend and he is in love with me. We are both divorced from marriages that lacked affection, communication, etc. -- things we both need in a relationship. We have been in each other's lives for the better part of 17 years.

Ten years ago, I made a big move to be with him, and he decided 10 days later to disappear. It was agony and instant devastation for me. Although we were in our early 20s, I truly had no doubts about being with this man (obviously he had doubts about me). In hindsight, I may have dramatized the break-up because I was incredibly hurt. I even moved out of the country to try and find a retreat to heal, and five years later I was still seeking answers. I finally worked up the courage to contact him and ask him outright. He said he had tried to contact me and even knew my previous addresses. I had been blaming myself for years when in reality, it was his issues.

The thing is, we rushed in, and because I was so devastated, everyone around me now hates him for leaving me somewhat stranded the way he did. My mother thinks he was a complete coward. He and I keep in touch regularly and we truly believe that maybe now that we are older and surer of ourselves and each other -- that we could have 'our time' and be truly happy. I would like to at least try because I have no desire to move on until I've given it one more chance.

Recently, I have tried to work his name into the conversations with my mother and she told me that if I ever try to contact him again, she would walk out of my life because it would put her in her grave. (Talk about drama!) This is a man who really screwed up, but it’s not unforgivable in my mind -- because I have never stopped being in love with him. Don't get me wrong, he will have to move mountains to prove himself.

I just don't know how we can try this when my mother is placing such a huge ultimatum on me. He and I are willing to fight this fight together but hurting her (and I truly believe it would affect her health) is scary. How can we help her be more comfortable to let us try this again? I was thinking that seeing a therapist, maybe all together might give her a chance to really get to know him better, as well as get some concerns on the table for discussion. Plus it would show a real effort on our parts that I hope she can recognize we are doing for ourselves but also because we care so much about her. We want her in our lives and being apart makes us so unhappy..

– A Mum-timatum, Boston

A: AM, I'd hate for you to start this relationship in a therapist's office with your mom. Talk about a not-so-sexy way to reunite with your ex.

This is between you and your mom, not your ex and your mom. People ditch one another all the time in their 20s. Assuming you're telling us everything (and this guy isn't some sort of criminal), your mother's fears are about your reaction to the break-up. It's up to you to assure her that this time around, you're not going to move out of the country if you get hurt.

All you can do is say to Mom, "Listen, this guy and I dated when we were both young and dumb. And I realize he was a total idiot. But I'd like to give him one more chance -- because frankly, I was a bit too invested back then, and I'd like to see what we’re capable of now that he's less cowardly and I'm more independent and self-confident." And you are, right?

Then you tell her what you told us: "Don't get me wrong, he will have to move mountains to prove himself."

Also consider that parents and friends are a good barometer of happiness. If you move forward with this relationship, watch your mom. If she sees you happy, she'll be happy. If she sees you agitated or fearful, she will be, too. So pay attention. If she begins to relax, you'll know you’re in good shape, and if not, well, consider why. Meanwhile, tell the ex that if he wants to win mom's love, he has to keep showing up. That's all it takes --showing up over time with a smile on his face.

Readers? Is her mom right to put such pressure on her not to date this guy? Should the letter writer be giving her ex a second chance? Ever left the country after a break-up? Discuss.

– Meredith

Getting ditched for love

Posted by Meredith Goldstein October 22, 2010 08:45 AM

I'm filing this one under "Family." It's barely a love letter, but I've received a lot of similar letters, so I'm going with it.

Q: Meredith,

I don't know for certain whether this letter qualifies for your blog, but it's advice worth seeking as I'm sure many of your readers can identify. We all have friends who find love and disappear into it. Whether it is a temporary infatuation or a long term commitment it's never entirely clear. Inevitably, however, these friends find whatever it is and are gone.

My friend and I have known each other for almost 20 years. We grew up together, went to school together, were in each other's weddings -- the closest thing to siblings, you might say. During our younger years this friend always seemed to jump from "love-of-my-life" to "love-of-my-life" ignoring everything else, but because each stint was relatively brief and teen-typical, I dismissed it as annoying yet understandable. As we aged, the cycle stayed the same: friend meets person, friend falls in love with person shortly thereafter, friend stops hanging out, friend stops returning calls, friend gets dumped by the love; rinse and repeat.

Friend finally found lucky "love-of-my-life" #13 and got married. You might assume that because of this, the cycle might end and our friendship might return to normal, but phone calls continued to go unanswered, e-mails not replied to, texts ignored. It's not as though we never spoke, but increasingly those conversations seemed forced. Being married myself (to a person friend introduced me to), at first I chalked it up to honeymoon bliss. But fast forward to the present day and major lifetime milestones are being missed -- the latest of which most would agree is unforgivable. It was one thing (and understandable) when I felt as though our friendship was on the back burner when friend met someone new, but it's another thing when life altering events occur and friend is no where to be seen.

Over the years we've had many conversations about expectations (notably whether mine are too much of a life-long friend), I've given it space and time, and I've been as understanding as one can be, but nothing ever changes. It would be easy to blame #13 -- as I used to do -- for not pushing friend more to maintain any friendships, but regardless of that, the advice I seek is how do I move on? How do you stop wishing it was like it used to be?

– Expecting Too Much?, Massachusetts

A: I'm glad you're not blaming #13. We get a lot of "Why is that man/woman taking my friend away?" letters. For whatever reason, people never seem to want to believe that their absentee friends are in charge of their own social calendars.

In your case, ETM, you are expecting too much. Your friendship is what it used to be. This person hasn't changed. Your friend has always ditched you when love is around.

You have two options -- drop your friend like a hot spud or manage your expectations and enjoy whatever he/she offers whenever he/she chooses to show up. My guess is that after the latest no-show, you'll want to go with option A -- and I get that -- but consider B. It'll make those wedding photos easier to stomach. It's about taking what you can get without asking for more. It should be possible.

There are always flaky family members who come in and out of our lives based on need, proximity, and impulse. This friend is no different. Friend offers good times every now and then -- and Friend got you a spouse. That's something.

Your letter should serve as a lesson to everyone out there who ditches their friends for significant others (note to them: you won't always be forgiven), and to those who make excuses for bad friends with the assumption that they'll change. We should do unto others as … well, you know. And if you're not being done by others the way you want to be done, don't do unto them so much.

That sounded more inappropriate and convoluted than I wanted it to.

Readers? Have friends who ditch you for love interests? Are they still in your life? Should people expect less once a friend couples off? Discuss.

– Meredith

We have class differences

Posted by Meredith Goldstein October 15, 2010 08:13 AM

Blane? That's not a name. It's a major appliance.

I'm sure you can guess the song of the day.

Q: Hi Meredith,

You know how, if life was a John Hughes movie, everybody wants to be Samantha Baker leaning over her birthday cake to kiss Jake Ryan? Well, somehow I'm a female version of Blane in Pretty in Pink.

Let me back up. For a little more than a year, I have been dating "Andie." Although he doesn’t work at a record store or hang out with Duckie, he grew up several socioeconomic classes below the way I grew up. The opportunities that I took for granted -- regular family vacations; a stay-at-home mom available for every soccer game, carpool or band concert; full tuition at a private college -- were things he could only dream of. He comes from a very kind, loving family, but they just didn't have the resources my family had.

We have hit a point in our relationship in which he doesn’t want to proceed unless he knows its "going somewhere," by which he means that while he doesn't need to get married tomorrow, but he wants to know that I'll marry him someday. (That we're at this point already seems very early to me, but regardless, he brought it up.)

I don't care at all about his family's wealth, or lack thereof. But, what is an issue for me is the way our different backgrounds manifest themselves in our dreams for our hypothetical children. Both of us want to provide our children with, at the bare minimum, the opportunities we had. But Andie could be comfortably middle-class and still provide better for his children than his parents did, whereas that would be a step down for me. He works at a non-profit and has no interest in attaining the kind of corporate, high-profile, high-pressure job that funded the lifestyle I grew up in.

Let me assure you, I am not a gold digger or a trophy wife-in-training. I have every expectation that my own salary will contribute hugely to my family's resources, and I'm in the middle of applications to graduate school to ensure this happens. But I do want the option to stay at home for a few years while my babies are babies, and this isn't a possibility if I'm the primary breadwinner.

The flip side is that he loves me, very much. He is kind and smart and curious and, occasionally, very funny. I know how this story would end in the movies ("…happily ever after."), but in real life, how do I choose between a great guy who loves me and the life I've spent 25 years envisioning for myself?

– Blane McDonnagh, New York, New York

A: This is tough for me because I never understood why Andie stayed with Blane. I always thought she should have dropped him for Duckie. I mean, the guy rode his bike past her house, bonded with her down-and-out father, and wooed her by lip-synching "Try a Little Tenderness." Meanwhile, Blane makes Andie go to that awful party with Steff and then ditches her on prom. How do you forgive that?

Now I'm getting upset. Sorry.

BM, if you suspect that you'll resent having a partner who doesn't prioritize a certain standard of living, you're probably right. He's not going to change his values and you're not going to change yours. Unless you can say, "I want to be with him no matter what because I'm sold on this guy and we can compromise," you shouldn't force it.

And for the record, your priorities don't make you shallow or a gold digger. You're just self-aware about what you need to be happy.

But know this: not every guy who shares your vision of the future will be as kind as your Andie. You might find that some of those other guys are Steffs -- that they have great jobs but wear horrible white blazers and have bad attitudes. You just have to decide whether you're willing to risk losing the good with the bad.

In real life, by the way, there's no way Andie and Blane would have wound up together. They would have broken up when Blane went to college. I'm sure of it.

I'm glad you’re acknowledging your real-life priorities. Only you know how big of a deal this is to you. But know that if you stay with Andie, he's going to be Andie forever. Don't assume you can turn him into an Andie with a Steff salary. It just won't happen.

Readers? Any hope for this couple? Class issues aside, does she sound psyched enough about Andie to marry him? Oh -- and if you're extra bored today, this is a fantastic story about Jake Ryan written by my favorite Washington Post staffer. Very interesting. Now try a little tenderness.

– Meredith

I want to move

Posted by Meredith Goldstein October 8, 2010 08:25 AM

Q: I am 22 and have been dating my 24-year-old boyfriend for over three years. His mom died earlier this year, and obviously, that has taken a huge toll on him. He lived with his mom while going to college, so losing her has changed every aspect of his life. He now owns a home and lives alone. I'm a more-than-full-time student and live with my parents.

We are very much in love and I see myself marrying him. I know I'm still young, but I have a good idea of what I want my future to look like. I know he feels the same way, but we are waiting at least a few years until we are both done with school to do anything permanent.

Here's the catch: I'm almost done with my master's degree and ready for a job. I know that in the future I want to live in Massachusetts and raise my family here (I'm from the area), but right now I am dying to get out, just for a few years. I would love to move to California, North Carolina, or Washington D.C. -- anywhere new and exciting, just to get a flavor of what's out there.

But my boyfriend is totally not feeling the moving thing right now. He owns his house now and knows it would be complicated to sell it. He is still in a really rough period after losing his mom. I know that I will have a really hard time moving without him and being alone in a new place, but I also know that if I don't do this when I'm young, it will be harder to do it later.

What do I do? Should I keep prodding him to apply to colleges in a new place so that we can move together, even though I know he isn't really into the idea? I really want to go somewhere, but I'm afraid that I'd hate being alone and that I wouldn't be able to handle it. How do I deal with this? We have a pretty perfect relationship and the last thing I want to do is ruin it (because I see the rest of my life with him), but I need to move away and do something totally new and different. I just don't know how to do this without wrecking my perfect and loving relationship and without making myself miserable.

– Anxious But In Love, Western Mass

A: You're telling us that you're basically as good as married, ABIL. That means you're planning as a twosome. And right now, half of your twosome needs to stay put in Massachusetts for some very practical reasons. That's your answer.

People in serious, adult relationships have to sacrifice and compromise all of the time. They don't get to have the pet they've always wanted because their partner is allergic. They change their sleep schedule to make it easier for their spouse to get ready for work in the morning. They put off plans to go exploring because the love of their life has just lost of a parent.

Staying in Massachusetts doesn't mean you'll never get to see glorious Raleigh or the traffic in Los Angeles. Maybe in a year or two he'll consider renting his house to go traveling with you (assuming he's on the same page about where you stand). Again, compromise.

If you're as confident as you say you are about your boyfriend being your husband-to-be, you have to stick around. He's in no shape to move and could probably use his wife-to-be by his side. But if you're not quite sold on being someone's life partner just yet, go explore as someone who's unattached. Just don’t try to have it both ways. It won't work.

Readers? Am I right? Should she stay? Or should she take this time to travel while he's sorting out his life here? Is she ready for spouse-like behavior? Does she have to be to maintain the relationship? Discuss.

– Meredith

His family offended me

Posted by Meredith Goldstein September 30, 2010 08:00 AM

Q: Dear Meredith,

My boyfriend of four years and I recently traveled to the Midwest to visit his older brother and sister. They are twins, moved far away years ago, and my boyfriend hadn't seen them in forever.

So we get there and within 20 minutes, I hear his older brother use the "N-word" in a joking manner. My boyfriend is white and I am African-American. I honestly didn't know what to do. I've dealt with the word being used in the past and always found it easiest to confront the person and basically lay down the law by saying, "Just strike it from your vocabulary."

I know it's best to have an open dialogue about it but I froze. I felt like if I said something then we would have been starting the trip off on the wrong foot, and my boyfriend was so happy about seeing his siblings after so long. When his brother said it I saw my boyfriend give him a look of death but nothing was said. I pretended it never happened for the rest of the trip, but I'm really bothered that I didn't say something.

Did I cop out on this one? Should my boyfriend have said something? I feel like I not only let myself down, but I did his brother a great disservice in not letting him know that what he said was wrong, even in a joking manner.

– Why Didn't I Say Something, Boston

A: You didn't say anything because you were in shock. It's almost impossible to hear a word like that, process it, ponder the intent of said word, consider the fact that you're in your boyfriend's brother's home, and react appropriately -- all at the same time. I'm sure your boyfriend was having the same experience. Your look of shock and his look of death had the same meaning. Your boyfriend is probably second-guessing his reaction, too.

There's no statute of limitations on this, which means you're still allowed to talk to your boyfriend about what happened. The discussion will give him the chance to admit how uncomfortable he was when the word was said. It'll also allow you to talk about how you want to handle this as a team. For all you know, he's been stewing about this since it happened. For all you know, he already spoke to his siblings about this in private. Find out.

The most important thing is that you and the boyfriend acknowledge what happened so that there's honesty, not repressed resentment. You said it best -- open dialogue. I have a feeling that you're already on the same page about this, but it will be nice to hear your boyfriend say so. And there's no statute of limitations with the siblings either, which means you can teach the lesson whenever you're ready.

Readers? Should her boyfriend have done more? How do you correct a significant other’s family member without alienating everyone involved? Anyone ever heard an in-law say something awful? How did you react? Discuss.

– Meredith

I like his brother

Posted by Meredith Goldstein September 17, 2010 08:27 AM

Word of the day: Untoward.

Q: Like all your other writers, I find myself surprised to be writing in, but my weird little issue is really bothering me and some advice would be much appreciated.

Let's start with my current relationship, which is far from perfect, but perfect for me. I've been with my boyfriend for 10 years, and it's been great. I love him and he loves me. The problem is his family. Actually, let me rephrase that: the problem is me and family relationships.

I was never very close to my family. I have a brother who I rarely speak to and when I do, am at a total loss as to what to say. It's amazing we share genes because there is nothing else we have remotely in common. My parents are more like my brother and they have formed a tight little family where they share their passions and interests. Boyfriend's family is fantastic. They're warm, loving people who have opened their arms and hearts to me and make me feel more at home then I ever did with my own family. I do share interests with them and find myself engaged in conversations and activities with them that I never had growing up.

My issue is his brother. He's a great person and he cares about me. He cares about me the way I think brothers are supposed to care for sisters. He goes to bat for me, jokes with me, does all the sibling things that people do in the movies. Often the three of us hang out for long lengths of time. We travel together and goof off. Brother and Boyfriend are very close so Brother is a fixture in our home and our lives. Never having a real sibling relationship, sometimes I feel guilty, like should I be having fun with someone other than Boyfriend? When does it get weird? I have plenty of male friends, but I'm just closer to Brother. He feels like family.(Nothing untoward has ever happened and it wouldn't; it's not like that.)

The problem is me. I just don't know what a healthy relationship is like with non-friends and non-significant others. Am I wrong to enjoy Brother's company? Is it wrong to have a TV-sibling relationship with someone I'm not actually related to?

– Essentially an Orphan, Boston

A: EAO, it's not wrong to have a close relationship with your boyfriend's brother. It's pretty great, actually.

Even if you admitted that you had a tiny crush on Brother, I wouldn't be worried. You met someone you really dig (Boyfriend). It makes sense that the person who's most like your boyfriend would appeal to you. Weird little friend crushes are normal.

My only advice is to make sure that Boyfriend knows that he comes first. Save the real emotional intimacy for him. He's your partner. He's your best friend. He's your first phone call. Always. Brother can be second phone call, but Boyfriend is first.

I love non-traditional TV families. I love non-traditional real-life families. Sometimes I feel like the people at the Globe might as well be Goldsteins. They're certainly as annoying as Goldsteins.

Every family is different. Every romantic relationship is unique. We all make it up as we go along.

Readers? Is this a weird set up? Does she have two boyfriends? Does she have anything to worry about? Thoughts on Brother and Boyfriend? Any boundaries she should set? Talk.

– Meredith

He doesn't want to get married

Posted by Meredith Goldstein September 14, 2010 08:20 AM

Sorry about the tech issues yesterday. They're fixed. If you want to add some comments to yesterday's letter (the comment box wasn't working after about 3 p.m.), feel free, especially if you're looking for some closure.

Not that I believe in closure. No such thing.

Q: I have been in a relationship with "Joe" for almost two years. I have never been so enamored with anyone in my life. We have a fabulous time together and he has a wonderful, caring heart. Everybody loves him because he really is just a great guy.

We are both divorced. I was married for just under four years. I married the wrong person and I was just too young and immature at the time. I married my ex because it was something that I thought I "should" do and because everyone was telling me what a great couple we were -- but I was never truly in love with him. We have an amazing son who is now five, and my ex and I are very amicable. He has since remarried.

Joe was married for over 20 years. He is 18 years older than me, which I have never had any problem with. His divorce was extremely tumultuous and the last years of his marriage were extremely difficult. His kids are older and I get along very well with them. I waited a while for Joe to meet my son because I didn't want my son to be subjected to a revolving door of dates and relationships. After about eight months of dating, I started to let Joe and my son spend some time together because I felt the timing was right and I felt very secure in the relationship. Joe was aware that it was a big step for me.

My issue is that I am looking to get married again. I am in no rush to get married soon. I don't need to get married this year or even next year but I do want to share my life and my son with someone. I know that I don't need to have more children, but I do want that long relationship and someone to grow old with. The problem is Joe is definitely not looking to get married again in the near future and perhaps ever. We've been having this discussion often lately and we talk in circles. I say that I understand that maybe we are just simply at different life stages, and that I get that he's "been there, done that" with a long marriage and is enjoying his freedom. I'll go on to tell him that I'm doubtful that we'll ever be on the same page and that we should go our separate ways. His response is that he loves me, is committed to me, is happier than he's ever been and doesn't want to lose me BUT he is unsure of if or when he'll want marriage again. I genuinely love this man Meredith, but I don't want to keep investing my time and heart in something that has no future.

Furthermore, I don't want my son to grow attached to someone who will leave.

Am I spinning my wheels? Am I wasting my time? Or am I trying to anticipate the future too much and over-thinking the situation? Am I being too anxious and fidgety? Should I just relax and enjoy? Take one day at a time? HELP PLEASE!

– Anxious in Love, Boston

A: You're not being unnecessarily anxious and fidgety, AIL. You want to know if your boyfriend of two years plans to stick around. You say that you don't need to get married again soon -- but maybe you want to. Your wants count.

Have you asked him what he means when he says he doesn't want to get married again? Is he opposed to living with you? Is he opposed to sharing money? Does he expect to bail in a few years? Or is he open to everything but the legal title?

If you knew he had hopes to share his life with you -- just without the wedding and the marriage license -- would that calm your nerves? If so, ask him if he has any interest in committing without the party. That would be a start.

If he doesn't want to get married because he's only comfortable dating, I think you should consider looking for someone who wants more. This guy is almost 20 years older than you. He has raised kids. He knows himself. If he's telling you that he doesn't want to get married because he has "been there, done that," well, that's just not good enough for you. You've been there and done that but you want to do it again.

A fresh start would be very difficult for your son, but it would be worse for him to watch his mom spin her wheels, as you put it.

Find out what your guy means when he says he doesn't want to get married again. Then be honest with yourself about what you want.

(You probably wanted me to tell you that you're overreacting and being silly but you're not. Sorry.)

Readers? Should she just enjoy the status quo? Or am I right? Does his "been there, done that" attitude mean he can't share his life with the letter writer? Discuss.

– Meredith

Should I wait for him to be ready?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein July 28, 2010 07:21 AM

I won't be in chat today. I'm in New York with my sister and her boyfriend. But please join Glenn Yoder, who will be dressing up in my clothes and moderating the chat. He'll be there at 1. Wearing heels.

And don't forget to send your book reviews. You know who you are.

Q: So it has come to this. I cannot waste any more of my oh-so-fleeting free time analyzing the relationship I've found myself in for the past 12 months. I am divorced -- married three years, divorced for three years. Physically/emotionally ignorant, abusive ex-husband. An aberration to my upbringing and to my own 32-yr-development of healthy self esteem and identity. Guess I was trying to help/save him. Played like it always does. For three years I've been back to me. Love myself (not narcissistically), LOVE my 5-yr-old daughter (father is the erratic ex), have the best family, and am grateful for every waking moment. Really.

I met "Counterpart," we'll call him, last summer. He was separated for maybe four months from his wife of three years and lived apart from her for that time. He and I have been seeing each other once or twice a month to date since then. His divorce was legally finalized in March. Here's the cute part: we grew up together and were each other's childhood crushes beginning in kindergarten, ending in first grade, but continuing to have the same experiences in the same places w/ mutual friends up until age 22. We moved to different places, thought it would be good to get married to others in our mid-20s per script. His wife, from his explanation, was not nice i.e., which, always wanted her way, got her way, dragged him around until he lost his cool, witty, smart rebel attitude that I had always observed. Now we find ourselves together. He tells me I am the (insert superlative). He claims to never have had as much fun and ease with anyone but me ever. BUT -- he is afraid. Afraid of failing. Afraid of me suddenly rolling my eyes at him. Afraid of me demanding to choose what I want and selfishly ignoring his needs. Afraid of me hating his friends and not wanting to see his family. Afraid of me superficially wanting a big house. These are all things his ex did. These are all things completely out of my character. I am silently insulted. It is not fair. I am being punished for the experiences of his dissolved marriage.

He hates his life situation he's said, all except for me -- "the one thing he has to look forward to and make him happy." I deem him to be the most considerate, heart-warming, compliment giving, humorous, handsome, thoughtful, genuine, naughty in a good way, music loving, hardworking, makes me feel like the only-woman-alive kind of guy. But yes, we see each other only once a month for the past year. Granted we are busy w/ work, family obligations on both ends, me a single mom ... Excuses? He brought up the exclusivity talk immediately when we started dating. We are sure on that. He initiates contact on the phone every two days. Never makes false promises. Every date is like a first date. Fun, but yeah, 16 first dates. In his word he doesn't want us to be anything so that way we cannot break up or hurt each other. You and I know it is past that point. I can't rush him. Should I back away after a year and give him time? I have a daughter to raise and a good career to distract me. But I crave companionship (as long as it is from someone awesome). He just means so much to me, worth it more than any other guy I've encountered. How do I approach this? Do I wait? Is it ultimatum time? Thank you for reading my Walter Mitty stream of consciousness tirade. I love him. Help me.

– The waiting feel is not so fine, Boston

A: I don't know if his reluctance to commit is about you, his ex, his family obligations, or his "rebel attitude," TWFINSF. But I do know that you're already rolling your eyes at him. You're already frustrated that you're not getting what you need.

If you gave him an ultimatum, what would it be? How often would you want to see him? How involved would you want him to be in your life? Figure out exactly what you want and talk to him about it. He'll either want to meet somewhere in the middle -- or he won't. Call it an ultimatum if you want, but I call it honesty. The first-date phase of your relationship has run its course. As you put it, it's past that point.

I know your story is romantic, but you have to forget what happened when you were five. If he's not ready for more than a string of first dates, you have to consider other options. I'm not so sure he can ask for exclusivity and demand distance at the same time. And I'm not so sure you should wait for someone who's content to see you just 16 to 24 times a year. Right now he's a phone friend with benefits.

Readers? Should she wait? Is this about his fear? Is once or twice a month OK when you have family obligations/kids/etc.? Does he get a pass because his divorce is so new? What's going on here? Talk.

– Meredith

We always vacation with his family

Posted by Meredith Goldstein July 20, 2010 09:23 AM

Q: Meredith,

My guy and I have been together for over three years and there is a bit of an age difference. I am 25 and he is 33. Let's call him Steven. Steven and I met while working at a summer camp. It was instant chemistry. At the end of the summer he moved to one state and I moved to Boston for graduate school. After a year of long distance he picked up his life and moved in with me. We have been living together now for two years.

We both love to travel but we don't have a lot of money. When we get the chance to get away, it's a big deal. We have traveled a few times together and nearly every time we travel we are visiting his friends or his family -- except for twice in two years we went to my hometown for a weekend. I do not get a lot of time off from work, so when I do, I would like to go away, just the two of us.

We are planning a big, nine-day road trip for the end of the month. When we started planning, we decided we would camp and go visit his old roommate for a couple days. I was fine with seeing the old roommate. But suddenly, the trip has turned into a visit to the old roommate and then a drive to see his cousins on the coast for a couple days because we can stay for free and they have a boat. NOW his parents and brother (who has two young children who are obsessed with their Uncle Steven) have decided to join our vacation.

Back story on his mother -- when Steven and I were dating long distance, I became very frustrated because I was always going to visit him. I was a poor grad student and I would spend my weekends on a bus for seven hours to see him. He told his mother about my frustration and she wrote me a six page letter telling me how good Steven is and how I'm lucky to have him and that I should cut him some slack, which I thought was completely crossing the line. I mean Steven was 30 years old at the time. Cut the cord, lady. Steven agreed she crossed the line.

I tried telling Steven that I do not understand why our travel plans have to center around his friends and his family -- I have friends and family, too. He doesn't think that his parents joining us is going to change any of our plans because they would stay at a hotel. The next day was my birthday, so I did not want to get into it again.

So now this issue is just floating out there, and our departure date is rapidly approaching

Steven is very close to his family, and I appreciate that, but he is 33 years old. How can I gently explain to him that it is time to take time for just the two of us to get away? Am I being selfish because I live with him and see him everyday and yet I would like a romantic vacation for two?

– Dating a 33-year-old Momma's Boy, Boston

A: DA33YOMB, you're not going to fix this upcoming trip. All you can do is try to enjoy the free stuff. Maybe his parents will take you to a fancy dinner. Live it up on the boat.

You're not being selfish. You want a change of scenery with your great boyfriend. And of course he loves these trips. Everyone is revolving around Uncle Steven.

That said, I don't think this was intentional. My guess is that Steven was looking to save money. Perhaps he'd rather have the free boat than a one-on-one vacation that you'd both have to pay for. And while I think it's annoying that you were always bussing to see Steven back in the day, he did move for you. We shouldn't forget that.

After this vacation is over, try another talk. Don't focus on what has already happened, just take out a calendar and make plans for the future. Consider the full year -- how many vacations you both have and how much money you're willing to spend on them. Divvy up the days -- a trip to see your family and a trip to see his. Then set aside time for just the two of you and make plans to save for that getaway.

And consider that it might be best for him to see his family alone while you see yours. Space is good.

Readers? Is this really about the letter from the mother? Because I think it might be. She still seems to be stewing. And how can she make him understand that they're vacationing on his terms? Or is this just about money? Is she being selfish? Discuss.

– Meredith

My mom and my ex

Posted by Meredith Goldstein July 14, 2010 09:05 AM

This letter writer told me to come up with a fake name for her ex. I have named him Anderson after Anderson Cooper.

Chat at 1.

Q: Six months ago I broke up with a guy I'd been dating on and off for about eight years, since high school. In many ways it was not a healthy relationship, and as much as I had trouble finally breaking it off with Anderson, my mother, who lives in the Midwest, just can't seem to let go.

Anderson comes from a background very different than my own. None of his family members have a college degree, so when we were preparing to graduate high school, his parents were unsure how to proceed. My mother has always been a very kind-hearted and generous person, especially when she sees someone who can benefit from her help. As a result, Anderson became quickly interconnected with my family who "financially adopted" him during his college years. I'm not sure the total amount of money they gave to help him through six years of school, but I know they co-signed at least one of his student loans.

My mother has grown increasingly attached to Anderson over the years. I understand that he may have to maintain some sort of communication with my parents due to the financial aid, but my mother continues to be in regular contact with him like nothing has changed. And this is not new. When we had a split in college, my mother talked to Anderson over the phone often and assured him he would always be a part of our family no matter what. And Anderson is acting like he wants to maintain their relationship as well. This year on Mother's Day, he called my mother to catch up.

As of this month, I am finally settled into a new apartment and moving forward with my life, friends, and career. I've never felt more healthy, independent, and self-confident. However, lately, when I talk about anything happening in my life to my mother, it seems like she's not listening. She'll change the subject, say she has to let me go, or act hypercritical. I feel like she's not on my side. I hear from the rest of my family that my mother is constantly worried about Anderson's well-being. In the last six months, my mother has never once asked about my own emotional well-being.

I want to have a good relationship with my mother, but am getting increasingly frustrated and discouraged by her negative attitude towards my life choices. I've asked her to please not bring up Anderson, yet she can't seem to accept this break up. Help!

– Tired of sharing my ex-boyfriend with my mother, Somerville

A: TOSMEWMM, your mother loves underdogs. You, my friend, are not an underdog, at least not in her eyes. You're the one who had the supportive family. You're the one with the money. You're the one who ended the eight-year relationship. And now you're the one moving forward with your life. Your whole "healthy, independent, and self-confident" thing isn't winning you any points with your mom.

You could reach out to your ex and ask for some space (he has his own family, after all), but I wouldn't do that. I'd simply show some vulnerability to your mom. No matter how independent and awesome you are, you're still coping with the end of an eight-year relationship. You need some support. You need a parent. She made a choice to make Anderson a part of the family, and for that reason, he won't go away. But she has to learn to balance both relationships.

Have you had a real discussion with your mom about why you initiated this split? It's not necessarily any of her business, but explaining your choices could help. You didn't tell us why the relationship with Anderson wasn't healthy for you. Perhaps you should tell her. You should also tell her what you need from her. Really, she may not know.

Also learn to accept that this is going to be complicated and unpleasant no matter what. By signing loans and "adopting" Anderson, your mother basically married you off. Your split with this ex is going to feel like a divorce. He'll always be around in some way. I'm sorry that wasn't up to you.

When you talk to your mom, go easy on her. It sounds like her heart is in the right place. She just needs a reminder that we're all underdogs, even her brilliant, self-confident daughter.

Readers? Should she address this with her mom or confront the ex? Will Anderson ever go away? Is it her mother's duty to ditch the ex now that her daughter isn't with him anymore? Discuss.

– Meredith

I'm not Jewish

Posted by Meredith Goldstein July 13, 2010 09:03 AM

Q: Hi Meredith and Love Letters,

The back story: I'm in my early-mid 20s. This spring I went on a couple dates with a man a few years my senior (nothing crazy -- only about 5 years). We hit it off well and I thought we had potential. Then, after our first kiss, I get an e-mail from him saying we should just be friends because he isn't "feeling it." OK, that's fine since I'd rather be friends with him than nothing at all. My feelings, while still there, were suppressed while we continued to hang out on a friendly basis. And as expected, we always had a lot of fun but I never tried to push anything further. He's a good friend to have.

I was out with Guy and his friends on a recent holiday weekend. There was drinking but Guy and I didn't get anything beyond buzzed as we had early morning plans together the following day. We left together. As we were saying goodbye at our departure point, he kissed my cheek and then kissed me. I kissed back, and it was leaps and bounds better than our first (and only other) kiss. Of course I was confused at that point. So we talk, and he tells me that he lied in his e-mail. He really likes me, but he wants Jewish kids, and since I'm not Jewish, that's impossible with me. He point blank said that if we dated, it wouldn't go anywhere, so dating is not an option. I appreciate his honesty, but still!

I'd never felt more crushed. He knew going into our first date that I wasn't Jewish. He mentioned he went out with me with no expectations and then found himself with a girl he really liked. And I found myself with a guy I really like. And we get along so wonderfully. We kept our plans the following day and it was as though nothing had happened a few hours earlier. Which was great because I really don't want to lose our friendship.

A few weekends after that second kiss, we ended up drinking a bit, made out the entire walk home (yes, out that late), and then spent the rest of the night/morning together. We were both willing and completely happy participants in the night's activities, but nothing was spoken of it in the morning.

I know that what "we" are needs to be defined at this point. I am just not sure how to go about it. Can I get him to give me a chance? I am still not Jewish, but we both know how much potential our relationship would have. I could live with just being friends; I just want to know that the option has been exhausted (without looking desperate).

– I'm not Jewish, Boston

A: INJ, do you want to raise your kids Jewish? Do you care? Can you picture yourself in a long-term relationship with someone who prioritizes religion? These are the questions you should be asking yourself before you start trying to convince this guy to give you a real chance. He's warning you that in the future, he's going to be someone who lives life a certain way. I fear that you haven't given that enough consideration and that you're more concerned with wanting what he is in the present.

If you're truly open-minded about all of this and you like him enough to consider raising kids with him on his terms, all you can do is tell him that. You don't have to propose or tell him that you're on track to convert, but you can tell him that you're open to all possibilities. He'll either give in to his desires or tell you that he just can't bend the rules. And that's OK.

I know you like him, but if he doesn't want to consider you as a real romantic option, please don't force yourself to be his close friend. Take some time off from him. You seem too willing to be whatever he wants you to be (his hook-up, his platonic friend, a mother to his Jewish children). Please take care of yourself.

Readers? What's going on here? Why does he continue to make out with her if she's not Jewish? Has she considered her own wants for the future? Anyone want to share dating/religion stories? Discuss.

– Meredith

Should I date my ex-husband?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein July 1, 2010 08:47 AM

I think we should all ditch work and meet at some restaurant with a patio.

Q: My ex-husband and I have been divorced since our children were small (they are now in their 20s). I remarried once for a brief and unfortunate time and I've had a few long, failed relationships. He used to date but hasn't in many years. We are both single now and remain very good friends.

He was always involved with the children, and our kids never remember us fighting or saying mean things to each another. Over the years we have changed and things just aren't as big a deal as they were when we were in our 20s. We are both nice people from good families and our families like one another.

My ex has always been welcome in our home. He spent Christmas Eves with us to wake up with the boys on Christmas morning (we slept in separate rooms). He came to every birthday party, and eventually every party we ever had he came as a friend and part of the family.

We remember being married and having many good times together. We now help each other with household things. He has helped me even when my boyfriend was living with me recently. My boyfriend and I used to visit him at his house.

We get along really well and have the same sense of humor and ethics. Not least of all we have our children's welfare in common. Recently I remodeled a room in my house. My ex helped me and we had a great time.

He is now doing his own remodel and asked me to help him with the design. It is my pleasure to help him - not only is it fun for me but I really enjoy his company. I think he enjoys mine. He never acts romantic at all and gives me no indication that he would like the relationship to evolve.

I admit I do think about it. I'd love to ask him to go out with me on a regular date: something fun, like a movie or concert. But I have some self-esteem issues surrounding my failed relationships. I'd be humiliated if he told me no, and I don't want to put our nice relationship at risk. I'd rather take what I have than risk not having his precious friendship. I would hate to think he would hesitate to call me because I put him on the spot. But, what if...?

– I am a lonely painter, I live in a box of paints, Boston

A: IAALPILIABOP, I'd take the emotional risk and ask your ex-husband/father-of-your-grown-children out on a date. And please, make sure he knows that it would be a date date. You guys sound chummy enough that a simple dinner-and-a-movie request might not be a big enough hint.

If he doesn't want to be with you like that -- if he has turned you from wife into platonic best friend -- well, yes, it's going to sting. And it may take you some time before you can jump in and remodel his home. But … aren't "what ifs" more painful? You can feel safe knowing that whatever happens, this man adores you. I'm pretty sure he'll go out of his way to help you cope with the rejection he doesn't feel the same way.

Please do not live in a box of paints. Please do not let this turn into an unrequited love situation where you're remodeling his home so that he can live there with someone else with him never knowing that you were an option.

And please, please, please -- give us an update when you know what's what.

Readers? Should she risk the perfect friendship she has with the father of her children by asking him on a date? Do you think he has feelings for her based on his close ties to her -- even when their kids aren’t involved? How bad would it be if he rejected her? Anyone have a friendship like this with an ex-spouse? Anyone live in a box of paints? Discuss.

– Meredith

I shouldn't be leaning on him

Posted by Meredith Goldstein June 28, 2010 07:38 AM

It's my birthday today.

I'm telling you that not because I am seeking attention (OK, fine, maybe I am a little), but because I was getting all weepy last night about Love Letters and how lucky I feel all of the time, and how awesome you are, even you lurkers. (Lurkers make the world go 'round, folks).

You are the world's best birthday present. You are iced coffee with two sugars. As Janet Jackson would say, love would never do without you. As Janet Jackson would also say, we are a part of a rhythm nation.

An emotional letter for an emotional day …

Q: A few months ago, your column featuring the man who had just found the perfect woman and had cancer really struck a chord with me. I still think about it from time to time.

My mother was diagnosed with a terminal illness. I am in my mid-20s and in the midst of a lot of "game changers." I have two jobs and am in school. I live with my parents.

I also began dating a really wonderful man a few months ago -- I adore him. He isn't necessarily the "perfect guy" (although he is really awesome) and I don't see Elysian visions of marriage. I don't anticipate anything serious and neither does he -- we just want to enjoy each other's company. He is thoughtful, fun, sweet, caring, hilarious, and considerate. Our relationship is still rather casual, but we spend a lot of time together. So, simply put, my love life is pretty nice right now.

Here is the problem -- I am an emotional wreck. I haven't been dealing well with my mother's diagnosis at all. My routines are shot to bits; I have been acting impulsively (not destructively); I am not quite financially stable; I have erratic sleeping habits; I have been acting extremely flaky and distracted in many areas of my life. Not to be dramatic, but my family members and I are also witnessing my mother undergo a steep and painful decline.

Last week and today there were very intense fights with my family (primarily with my father). My guy-pal has known from the start about my mother. He has been really great and understanding about the whole thing. Up until last week, I only touched upon it occasionally. After the first fight with my family, I tried to hold it in when I went out to dinner with the guy but he sensed something was amiss. I then let it all hang out when we got back to his place. The same thing happened this afternoon, when I called him to distract myself from the situation. I just ended up crying and crying. He is so nice and patient. Still, I have a major complex about divulging my feelings to friends and feeling like I am burdening them, thus there is no doubt that I must go into counseling very soon.

Just as I feel wary of unloading my feelings on my friends, I don't think it is fair of me to do the same to him. I've expressed that to him but he tells me that he doesn't mind listening to me. I am thinking that I might have to end our wonderful, just-fine-as-it-is relationship. Not because of him, but because I don't want him to feel obligated to "deal with me" and my emotions. I don't WANT to end it, but I think it's the fairest thing to do -- to say, "I am an emotional wreck due to my familial situation, and this isn't fair for you." I am writing to you for some guidance on this, of course, because the classic head-heart conflict is taking place. I adore him, but I want to preserve his sanity.

– Mess in Rockland

A: This guy doesn't feel obligated to deal with you, MIR. At least it doesn't sound that way to me. And you're not obligated to marry him even if he helps you out during this difficult time.

You can explain that you're concerned about him. You can explain that you're not at your best these days. If he chooses to remain your companion, fine. He knows the risks.

Maybe this is a temporary relationship and yes, maybe one of you will wind up hurt or burdened. It's also possible that you'll wind up really digging each other, even when there's less drama. You said it yourself -- you don't know up from down right now. For all you know, this thing will grow into something big.

I don't like the idea of putting off relationships until life is less messy. Life is always pretty messy. Your life is especially messy right now, but that doesn't mean you're not allowed to enjoy some good stuff. This guy is making life more positive for you at the moment. Don't deprive yourself.

For the record, the tone of your letter suggests that you're handling everything like a champ. Not all erratic, sleep-deprived twenty-somethings stew about their emotional responsibilities and how they might be inconveniencing others. But yes, counseling is a good idea. For you and the fam.

Readers? Should she let go of the guy so that she doesn't lean on him too much? Is it possible that this relationship has more potential than she thinks it does? Is it possible to have a sane romantic relationship during insane family times? Will he feel obligated to stick around because of her family situation? Help, please.

– Meredith

Still waiting for him to move

Posted by Meredith Goldstein June 25, 2010 08:00 AM

I know you like the early letters. Doing my best.

Q: Hi Meredith,

I'm a 48-year-old gay man in his first serious relationship. Yes, I came out late in life. My boyfriend, “Chuck,” is 42 years old and tells me that this is also his first serious gay relationship. We met when we were both living in another state --- and things were going reasonably well for few years when we both lived there.

We are very much opposites in personality. I’m more introverted and he's an extrovert, a true people person. I'm an academic while he's a great bartender. That's only important because my job pays more and provides the health insurance. His pay fluctuates greatly depending on the tourist economy. The plan was that once we got married, he'd go back to school.

We have had some rocky times and some absolutely great times. But we've run into trouble this past year. When things got shaky with my old company in the state where we met, we talked for almost four months about what to do, whether I should restrict my job search to a specific geographic region or expand it. We also talked about what it would take for him to move with me. He had said things like "I want to be with you, where you go I'll go." The best job, which was in a state that would allow us to get married, was up here.

Unfortunately, one of Chuck's parents became seriously ill and he wound up staying down there longer than expected. During this time, he kept telling me that he was moving and would keep setting new dates to move, delaying each date by two weeks or so, even when I would have just been OK if it was a simple "I'm not coming up until things are stable." Eventually, his sick parent passed away. At the funeral, he introduced me to everyone as "just a friend" one minute and then he talked about eloping the next. A whole series of events that weekend led me to pull back a bit and realize that we weren't as ready to get married as I had thought we were. I came back feeling that I was a boyfriend of convenience: there when he needed a boyfriend or extra money or dinners out.

After the funeral, he asked for more time to do some work at his family's house. But it has now been six months and he keeps sliding the date to move up. I had to push him hard to follow through to come up for a visit. When he did finally make it up, we sat down and talked about how much time he would need and even extended it by a month. Now he says that he won't live his life by external arbitrary deadlines and he can't say how much time he'll need. The answer to a question of "will you need two weeks, two months or two years?" was that he doesn't think he'll need two years.

My problem is after a year of being told "I'm moving" and "I'm coming up next weekend," I've lost faith that he'll do what he tells me he'll do. My head is telling me that he has been telling me through actions rather than words that he's not going to move. But my heart keeps saying to find a solution to go on; that we're better together than being separate.

We actually discussed breaking up over the weekend as we just seemed to drive each other crazy. Right now, we’re in a cooling off period. Friends keep saying that I just can't depend on him, and are frustrated with me that I don't get angry and break it off.

At this point in my life, after three years, I wonder if I'm fighting because I don't want to be alone rather than this being the great fit I thought we grew into.

– Still Waiting, Massachusetts

A: I have a question, SW. Does he want you to visit him more often? If he does, there might be something to save. I'm sure the death of a parent makes it incredibly difficult to want to move away from family. I get that. But he should also want to be with you. If he wants you in his life, he should be telling you that he's not ready to but that he wants you around.

Unfortunately, based on what you've told us, he basically wants you to stay up here and wait. That doesn't say togetherness to me. Again, I'm empathetic about his loss, but why doesn't he want to see you more often?

If he wants to cool off, cool off. You can only do so much, and it's hard to start a new life in a new city when you feel like you're on hold. If he says he wants to be with you and that visiting is a priority, fine. But so far, it hasn't been.

It wouldn't be the worst thing if this was your first relationship -- the first of more than one. Yes, being alone is scary, but waiting on a person who makes empty promises is scarier.

Readers? Should he wait? Should the letter writer be empathetic based on the death in his boyfriend's family? What's with all of these broken promises? Discuss.

– Meredith

My family doesn't like my boyfriend

Posted by Meredith Goldstein June 22, 2010 06:00 AM

Alpha dog: not just a Justin Timberlake movie.

Q: My brother has apparently struggled with substance abuse and depression for a number of years, and recently stopped trying to hide the worst of his troubles from us. 2010 has been challenging for everyone in my family, to say the very least. My boyfriend recently "reached out to him" against my wishes (Mere, on FACEBOOK CHAT nonetheless!) -- I knew my brother wouldn't take too well to it -- he's pretty private and he and my boyfriend are not close at all. Also, my boyfriend's a bit of a self-important social worker and I was afraid he'd reach out to make himself feel better, not to actually help my brother. My boyfriend's account was that the chat went well but he admitted that my reasoning behind asking him to not "reach out" by "relating his similar troubles" might have been true. I was a little peeved he'd actually done it, but ultimately felt OK with it.

I went home for a visit a few weeks ago and my brother and I talked about their chat. My brother politely said he didn't appreciate the "reaching out" but had played nice because he knows my boyfriend isn't a bad person. Then he began ranting about my boyfriend's alpha tendencies. Now, this is a part of my boyfriend's personality I don't like either -- it seems to be a situational thing, if you can believe me: setting up a tent site with a group, etc. Regardless, I haven't been able to get past the revelation that my family might actually dislike my boyfriend for the same reasons I think he's less than perfect. For most of my relationship with my boyfriend (3 years), my family has indicated that they liked him. I've shared the fights and the doubts and the drama that comes up occasionally, and early on my Dad suggested I not "close off any doors," but I've never gotten the feeling anyone had strong feelings about the matter. I really can't understand why this matters so much to me because my brother is an insufferable cynic, dates an at-times unpleasant person himself, and disappears from my family months at a time without apology. While I can't really envision letting their opinions influence my life to the extent I'd break up with someone (and not least of all with a caring, well-meaning if not misguided guy), this still hits me in an uncomfortable way. Nobody's perfect. Why should confirmation of that matter so much?

I'd like to move past this. We're going to my family's home for a weekend soon, and I'm really nervous. How do I resolve this?

– Maine Transplant, Maine

A: Like your brother (and you), MT, I'm a bit concerned about your boyfriend's alpha tendencies. It's one thing to get bossy in a group of people who are trying to set up a tent. It's another thing to take it upon yourself to contact your girlfriend's depressed/addict brother without your girlfriend's permission.

He can be a jerk all he wants when it comes to the little things, but when it comes to the important stuff, his desire to care for you as your equal and empathetic partner should be stronger than his desire to be a big shot. Your family loves you and wants to be sure that you come first. You want to be sure, too.

Right now you're not sure what your boyfriend is capable of. That's why you have that weird feeling in your tummy. He admitted that he might have behaved selfishly, but does he regret meddling and putting you in an uncomfortable position. Does he get it?

When you're sure that he gets it, in general, you'll care less about what your family thinks, and they'll probably get better vibes about the whole situation. You're uncomfortable because your family is a mirror. I know, super annoying, right?

Readers? Am I right to say the letter writer is uncomfortable because she fears her family might be right? Can a big-shot alpha ever learn to put others first? Is it possible the brother is expressing strong feelings because he’s also an alpha? Discuss.

Your bossy beta,

– Meredith

Her family is full of hate

Posted by Meredith Goldstein June 14, 2010 08:41 AM

Good morning. Go Celtics.

Q: Hi Meredith, I have a difficult situation regarding my girlfriend.

We met nine months ago, and everything has been great. Our personalities click, we enjoy similar activities, and our friends and (my) family think we're a great match. There is only one problem: her family.

Her parents disowned her a couple years ago because they are members of a church that opposes many groups – gays, lesbians, etc. My girlfriend was raised to hate a lot of people in this world, but by the time she got to college, she began to change her views and now disagrees with most of the church's beliefs (she is no longer a member). Her parents were furious about this and disowned her. So did her brainwashed siblings. Now I know there are two sides to every story, but my girlfriend's friends have told me similar stories about how sick the parents were in terms of their beliefs, and how they brainwashed their kids to hate almost every ethnicity and minority group in the world.

My girlfriend moved hundreds of miles away to Boston two years ago for a fresh start. Even though my girlfriend grew up in an environment of hate, she is now an amazing young woman in her mid-20s who loves instead of hates. If you met her at a party you would instantly want her as a friend and you would never guess the environment she grew up in. We even have friends who are gay!

So what's the problem? Well, despite the religious differences, my girlfriend still somewhat misses her parents. She would like to patch things up with them so they can have a relationship in the future. However the parents don't want anything to do with her unless she rejoins the church and lives by their beliefs. Now I'm not a controlling person, but if I were to marry my girlfriend and have kids, I really don't want her parents to have anything to do with us. I'm half Jewish and they would never approve. I wouldn't want my kids to hear anything about their hatred. The thought of her parents meeting my loving parents makes me cringe.

So what happens if in one, two, or 10 years her parents suddenly decide they miss their daughter and want to start a relationship with her again? In that scenario, I think I would be willing to meet the parents so I can see in person if they're really as bad as everyone says, but if I hear any bigotry from them I would never talk to them again and it would probably be hard to continue a relationship with my girlfriend.

What advice would you give me Meredith?

– Dealing with Bigotry 101, Somerville

A: DWB101, my first piece of advice is to trust your girlfriend. She misses her parents -- she's human, after all -- but at the end of the day, she moved hundreds of miles to escape them and has done everything in her power to live by her own value system. Frankly, I'm not so sure that there's any chance of her parents regaining control of her life or influencing your kids if the two of you happen to procreate.

Based on what you've shared, your girlfriend wants no part of that church, and she wouldn't want to be involved with her parents other than to see them on occasion in safe spaces, to catch up on family, and know that if she called for a quick hello, they would answer. Based on your letter, my guess is that if they demanded anything more from her, she'd accept the loss of family.

You're her family now, or at the very least, you want to be. You can explain your fears and set some boundaries with her. You can tell her that you wouldn't want your kids to be alone with grandparents who hate all the things you love. You can explain your comfort zone. You can also ask her about her comfort zone and find out where she'd set boundaries.

I wouldn't be surprised if her boundaries are similar to yours. That's why she lives miles and miles away. That's why she has embraced your family. My advice is to continue to communicate so that you can navigate this issue together.

My guess is that she's going to wind up reaching out only to be disappointed by her family. Good thing you'll be there to love (as opposed to hate) when she needs help getting through it.

Readers? Is there something I'm missing? Am I underestimating the power of her parents if they reconnect with their daughter? Would you even consider meeting her family if you believed they spread hate? Should he be worried about children even though they've only been dating for nine months? What advice can you give? Talk.

– Meredith

Is there any reason to stay?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein June 10, 2010 09:18 AM

A "Mortified" ticket winner was chosen. I sent the entries to one of the "Mortified" producers and let her pick her favorite. Thanks to everyone who entered.

Reading yesterday's comments I was thinking … remember empathy. I'm not scolding, and tough love is welcomed on Love Letters … just make it tough and helpful love.

I think "Tough and Helpful Love" will be the first single on the first Love Letters album. Second album: "Grilled Cheese: The Remixes."

This one is obvious, but talk her through it. Again, empathy. Remember that it's not so easy when you're the one in the middle of it.

Q: I have been with my current boyfriend for over a year now. We just went through a really nasty break-up and then decided to give it one more try. I fought so hard to try to have us make it work, and now I am just wondering if I am just scared to be alone.

This relationship has been a tumultuous one. I ended a three year relationship to start seeing him, and we also have an 11 year age difference (I am 24, he is 35). He is also still married, but in the middle of getting a divorce. Without getting into too many details, the marriage ended because he doesn't want a family. I do. It's hard to feel like this doesn't automatically doom us. He has made it clear that right now, he does not want kids, and while that may change in the future, he would only want one. This is an area I am not willing to compromise in. I know I want a big family. I know I would never be fulfilled in life if I didn't. He let me know his wishes from the beginning and I jumped in knowing this and accepting that the relationship may end because of it. He did the same knowing what I want as well.

There have been lots of other problems. The first month of our relationship was basically him figuring out if he wanted to be with me or with another girl he started seeing when he and his ex separated. Then it was about remaining friends with her, which I was very against. I never made him choose between us, but he knew how much it bothered me. He finally realized that she wasn't worth it and was wasting his time, and tried to make it work with me. There were a couple other incidents involving his ex that he blamed on his guilt over how things ended, which I understood because there is a lot more to that story. We fight constantly and constantly get caught up in past events that make us not trust each other. We are trying really hard to gain that trust back.

When things are good, they are amazing. We get along perfectly, we have the same sense of humor, and he is the first person who will tell me I am beautiful, and I really believe he means it. We have so much in common -- way more than I have had with anyone else I dated. So I guess my question is -- am I wasting my time? We fight so often that it makes me wonder if this is all worth fighting for anymore, and that we are just too different.

I know how clear cut this sounds, but I love him very, very much. He is a very good person and his intentions are good, he has just had a lot of misfortune in his life. I have not been an angel to him either, and he still wants to try and work things out with me. I just wonder how much time I should put into this and if I am building a future with him that doesn't exist.

– Bummed in Beantown

A: BIB, just because you love a guy doesn't mean you have to stay in a relationship with him.

"He has made it clear that right now, he does not want kids, and while that may change in the future, he would only want one. This is an area I am not willing to compromise in. I know I want a big family."

I mean, there you go. The end. I didn't even have to get to the part about the fighting and the cheating. I was done before I even knew that stuff. You want different things. You're on different paths. Sorry.

Don't feel like you've wasted time with him. It has been a tremendous learning experience, and you get to walk away feeling beautiful.

You're scared to be alone and to let go of someone who cares about you. That's pretty normal. But now is the time to start looking for someone who shares your goals. You sound ready for the next step. You might be more ready than he is, so this break-up might have to come from you.

Readers? Is there any reason for her to stay? Any words of wisdom about letting go? What does her age have to do with her problem? Think he'll change his mind about family if she decides to leave? Discuss.

– Meredith

Living with his parents

Posted by Meredith Goldstein June 3, 2010 08:45 AM

Meeting the parents ... then living with them.

Q: OK, so I'm 37 years old and in my first real relationship ever. We've been together for just over seven months. I had always figured that I would be alone forever -- just a crazy old cat lady. Before this, I had one crazy "hook up" night in college, one guy I dated for like a month, and one other date. But I am crazy about this guy. I've never felt like this before. No one else has ever made me feel wanted and needed like this.

Here's the problem: he is 36 years old and has never moved out of his parents' house. He has also been out of work for just over a year. I also just lost my home. I've moved in with him and his parents. He promised me before I made this move that he would find a job and we would get our own place soon. It's been two months and he has made little to no effort. I don't want to be a nag, but I do make comments now and then. I also e-mail him job listings that I find online that he would be perfect for. He ignores them, and when I ask if he looked at them he just says he didn't reply. He always has some excuse for why the job isn't right. I'm trying to make him understand that at this point he can't wait for the perfect job to come knocking at his door. He needs to be proactive. I just worry that he is too comfortable living at home. He keeps telling me that I worry too much and that things will work out. Don't get me wrong -- I love his parents, they are great. But I have been on my own for almost 20 years. He is pretty much a momma's boy. She has done everything for him his entire life.

I really want us to get our own place. I just don't know what to do. I don't want to keep nagging him to the point that he can't stand it anymore. But I don't know how much longer I can sit around while he doesn't make any effort. I really do love him, and I'm pretty sure he loves me. I know it isn't easy. I was out of work myself for 15 months a few years back. I'm really wondering if moving in "temporarily" was the wrong decision ...

– Don't Want to Ruin It, Medway

A: Can you afford your own place, DWTRI? If so, get one.

Find a cheap place. Have your own space. See if he makes an effort to join you. And by join you, I don't mean shack up with you while you pay rent. See if moving to a new place pushes him in the right direction. See if he takes steps to become your real, grown-up partner. If not, you'll already be set up for a fresh start.

I think this relationship has potential, and I think his laziness might have something to do with the fear of rejection that has crippled many people in this economy. But he was living with his parents long before the downturn. And it seems that when he says that everything "will work out," he means that everything will work out on his terms.

I don't want you to feel as though he's the only guy who will ever care for you. I don't want you to make too many excuses for him because you believe he saved you from becoming a crazy cat lady. That's why I think you need the space. There's no way to get clarity when you're living with his family in his comfort zone.

Again, make your own comfort zone and see if he has any interest in it.

Readers? Am I right to say she should move out? Does her past (or lack thereof) have anything to do with her choices? How can she push him out of his cocoon? Should she? Advise.

– Meredith

A mediocre marriage

Posted by Meredith Goldstein May 26, 2010 09:22 AM

Remember to RSVP for the June 4 Love Letters/ Extra Bases party to We need to know how many free cars to bring.

Just kidding. No one is getting a free car.

And remember to chat at 1.

Q: Hi Mere,

I have been a faithfully devoted reader of yours even though I have moved to NY.

I have been married for five years. I am 27 years old and I have a very young child with my husband "Steve."

Like I said, Steve and I have been married five years, but we've been together for almost a decade. We met online when I was a junior in high school. Anywho, to make a long story even longer, after talking online for two years, we met, connected, and were engaged within a year. I was engaged by the time I was 20 ... and also very overweight. I love Steve, always have, always will. I just feel like things are off between us.

When we were about a month away from our wedding, I found out he had been online, trading pictures with women and commenting on their pictures. He was so apologetic, and to be honest, I was scared that I would never find anyone else because I was so overweight. And I loved him, so, so much. So I went through with the wedding.

He is my best friend, really and truly, and I would tell him all of this if I didn't think it would hurt him. We have been separated once before, a few years ago for a few months. We decided to try to work it out. The next year I had our child. Since then (well, for longer than just then) things have been strained between us. I have lost A LOT of weight (something snapped inside me when I realized that I had another life to worry about) and slowly but surely I lost 112 lbs. So here we are, 2010, 112 lbs lighter, in a whole lot better shape (I actually fit in for society's standards), and more confident. Not completely though.

Since about a year after we started dating, we have had issues with our "frequency" *ahem*. At the beginning, we were all over each other, then it became less frequent, maybe once every other week, then once a month, then once every other month. Now I am lucky if it happens every three or four months. Like I said, I am 27, I have a young child, and I am so scared. He is an EXCELLENT father and he loves me, but I don't feel as though he is IN LOVE with me. I don't even know if I'm in love with him at this point. I gave up my job so that he could take his dream job in NY and now I am a stay at home mom and I spend all day alone with my son (have been going to Mommy and Me classes, but those haven't been working out for us the greatest).

I just want to know what you would do in my situation. Does a passion-filled-relationship exist? Is it possible to have someone that is IN LOVE with me, as well as treat me with respect? I don't think it's fair to have my child grow up with my husband and I having just a friendship. I don't want my child to think a relationship can't be more. Will anyone else want me even though I have a baby? Or should I just accept what I am in and realize that I am lucky to be married to a friend? I asked Steve to go to therapy with me and he said that he "doesn't need it."

Steve wants me to figure out what it is that I want and to talk to him about it when I have decided. I don't know what to do. I hope you can help ...

– Oh, So Confused, NY

A: OSC, you know what bothers me most about your letter? This: "Steve wants me to figure out what it is that I want and to talk to him about it when I have decided."

Um ... does Steve not have an opinion? He quite obviously hasn't rallied and yelled, "I love you. Please don't leave."

I cringe at the thought of telling anyone to get divorced, so I'll say it advice-columnist-style. You are way too young to be in a relationship with a guy who makes you feel like a roommate. Kid or no kid, you deserve to be in a happy household, especially at your age.

I can't promise you that the transition out of your marriage would be easy, and I certainly can't promise that there will be some awesome guy who appears out of nowhere and says, "Wow, I'd like to help you raise your baby." But there might be. And at the very least, there would be hope.

Steve's lack of accountability in this process is what makes me think that he's already banking on a split. He's refusing therapy. He is what he is. He's a good father -- which will come in handy whether you're in the same house or not -- but he's not a good husband, at least not for you. If he has no plans to change, you have to think about what's best for you and this baby. I think it's pretty important to have parents who are full of hope about life. You seem to feel the same way.

Readers? Should she stay? Is there something to be salvaged here? Are people open to dating someone with a very young child? Is here weight loss an issue here? Discuss.

– Meredith

He's a bad drunk

Posted by Meredith Goldstein May 17, 2010 09:30 AM


I had a great time at that play the other night. I have to say -- assuming the script is accurate -- Ann Landers and I would have been good friends. She had great pajamas, loved candy, danced around her apartment while she read letters, and thought of her readers as close friends. I can relate.

Q: I have been in a serious relationship with my boyfriend for about 5 months. He is 33, I am 35. Ninety-five percent of the time, I could not ask for a better boyfriend. He cooks dinner for me every night, tells me he loves me all the time, is very affectionate, helps around the house, has a good job, and is great with my son (from a previous relationship). During these times, I am the happiest, luckiest woman in the world. I know it's "only" been 5 months, but we are together everyday for the most part.

HOWEVER ... when he drinks, he becomes a total different person. He gets mood swings -- one minute he loves me and can't live without me, the next minute he is mad at me (just out of the blue). The first time I saw him like that, a family member just died, so I took it as, oh, he is just under a lot of stress, and didn't say anything that night. I did let him know the next day, and he just said "Next time I get like that, just punch me in the face." I laughed it off.

A month later he was out with his buddies from work. I knew he was going out for a little bit and that he would be home around 9. He started texting me around 7 p.m., same scenario -- loving at first, then mean and cruel. I asked him when he was coming home (as he takes the train), and by then (it was 10 p.m.) he was overly drunk, incoherent, and walking around Boston aimlessly by himself. Of course I was worried, drove to Boston, and drove around two hours looking for him, because he was so drunk, he had no idea where he was. Then the whole car ride back he was calling me names, being mean to me, just hurting my feelings.

The next day, I told him about all the things he said (he didn't remember), and he was very apologetic. Now fast forward another six weeks to last night. He called me to tell me he was going to be an hour late. I waited at the train station, and waited, and waited. After two hours I went home. Then, of course, the same texts came in, he was drunk, wandering around Boston, no clue where he was, first being sweet, then being a jerk. I stood my ground and told him he can find his own place to sleep, as I was not going to drive around Boston looking for him again. Of course he was texting me all night.

As I was writing this, being worried about him as I didn't hear from him since around 3:30am ... (I was tossing and turning the whole night), he just called. He again apologized, saying he handles stress wrong, and that it has nothing to do with me, and that he won't do this again, and he will cut down on his drinking.

I am wondering how many times I should give him a chance. Please note that he does NOT drink everyday, or every weekend, as I think he knows how bad he gets. But when he does drink, I always dread it, as he does not know how to moderate, he goes to full blown drunk.

When he is sober, which is 95 percent of the time, he is amazing! As I said before, he takes care of me, bonds really close with my son and my family, and helps around the house, cooks everyday. I get nightly massages, he’s always loving and affectionate, has a great job, and wants to marry me and have children with me. I just don't know how to deal with his drinking when he drinks, as he becomes a horrible person that I wouldn't wish on anyone.

– At a Crossroad, Dracut

A: AAC, I'm about to state the obvious here, but your boyfriend has a drinking problem. It doesn't matter that he only shows it some of the time. It's still a drinking problem. It's a drinking problem that puts you at risk, hurts your feelings, and has you searching for your partner in the middle of the night like he's a lost dog.

You have two options: drop him -- or make a list of demands that include no more booze and major counseling. I'm not sure the second option is really on the table, of course. You can't force him to admit his problem and seek help. But unless he wants to admit that he has a problem and has the desire to fix it, there's not much you can do besides walk away.

Even if this man is open to confronting his problem, you need to think about whether this mostly good (and slightly scary) relationship is worth sticking around for. It's not that people with drinking problems can't manage their issues and aren't worth dating, it's just that you're new to this partnership. You haven't invested too much just yet. This process won't be easy for him. Do you want to be a part of it?

I'd also note that 95 percent of the first five months of a relationship isn't an accurate snapshot of reality. My guess is that 95 percent of your relationship with him in three years would look pretty different. Aren't we usually on our best behavior during the first five months?

The bad 5 percent is an important 5 percent. You said you wouldn't wish this on anyone. Do you wish it on yourself?

Readers? Should she stick around? What is this about? Can he fix the 5 percent? Is the 95 percent real? Thoughts.

– Meredith

We're taking it too slow

Posted by Meredith Goldstein May 5, 2010 08:27 AM

News of the day: I have an asthma doctor appointment at 1 p.m. today. I tried to explain that my lungs are far less important than my 1 p.m. chat, but my doctor suggested that breathing is necessary when giving rational advice. She has a point.

For that reason, we'll be chatting at 1 p.m. tomorrow. I hope that doesn't mess with anyone's lives. My lungs thank you.

And ... Love Letters party June 4. Please save the date.

Q: Hope you can help me get some clarity in my relationship. I’ve been dating a girl who I will call Lisa for about six months now exclusively.

Lisa is someone I briefly dated about a decade ago. We are both in our 30s now. Both of us have been married before, both of us have fulltime jobs and kids.

She and I connect in many ways and we both feel like a future together is very possible. My question to you and your reader is this:

We live several towns away from each other. We only see each other once every 10 days or so, but we talk daily. Our intimate relationship is almost nonexistent.

At the beginning of most relationships it tends to be hot and heavy. This one has been the opposite.

My mind tells me that this is not normal and could only get worse, but my heart tells me Lisa could be the woman for me.

We've have talked about this problem recently and she says that she has a busy hectic life. She wants to let things develop slowly because she sees us working out. I also have a hectic lifestyle but could always find time.

Am I being impatient? Or does love really takes time to develop the older you get?

– Paul, Andover

A: Six months. Almost nonexistent? I wish I knew what you meant by almost, Paul.

Not all relationships are hot and heavy in the beginning. When people have been hurt, when they're balancing kids and work on their own, the beginning can be slow and cautious.

On the other hand, you're both quite young. I might argue that the perfect anecdote to a busy, stressful, single-parent lifestyle is a nice evening out with an understanding significant other. I'm wondering why she isn't more confident and relaxed after six months.

My big issue is the lack of regular interaction. You only see her every 10 days? That's not very often after six months. If you're both thinking that this could be something more, you're going to have to spend more time together. And if you do, you'll get a better sense of whether the lack of physical intimacy will continue if you become a bigger part of her life.

My guess -- and this is a very blind guess -- is that after a failed marriage, she's emotionally exhausted. She cares for you but wants to keep it safe. She's trying to prolong the beginning of this relationship to avoid the messy stuff that comes after.

Or maybe she has stress about you becoming involved with her kids. If so, she needs to come up with a plan for having a personal life and parenting at the same time.

You must explain that only seeing each other every 10 days after six months isn't getting anybody anywhere. You both deserve to know if this will work, and you're willing to put in the time and energy into finding out. If every 10 days is all she can offer, your head is probably right. This can't grow unless she wants it to.

Readers? Is every 10 days not so uncommon when kids are involved? Am I right to say that discussing the frequency of visits is more productive than discussing the physical intimacy? How slowly is love supposed to grow? Discuss.

– Meredith

He moved on really fast

Posted by Meredith Goldstein April 19, 2010 09:26 AM

Happy marathoning.

Letter from a lurker.

Try not to picture Evan Lysacek as you read. Or do, if that makes it more interesting.

Q: Hi Meredith,

I am a daily reader of your column, and I've even been to a Love Letters event in the past. I am also a major lurker (non-commenter). I think you and your readers have some wonderful advice, and now I have a problem of my own.

To give you some context, I am 28 years old, have a great job and great friends, have dated a lot, and had a handful of serious boyfriends in my day. Back in January, I broke up with my boyfriend of over a year (let's call him Evan). Evan was the most intense relationship of my life. I was almost instantly a part of his family and was invited to holidays and went on vacations with them after only a few months. Evan did have some baggage, however. More than a year before meeting me, he ended a bad relationship with someone he had lived with after dating her for only a few months. Although he had her move out shortly after she moved in, he ended up dating her for another 2 years (she was going through some family stuff and Evan felt like he couldn't leave her until she had some stability in her life, which I actually respected and thought made him a better person).

Anyway, despite how welcoming and open he was with me in some ways, he kept certain things very close to the vest. He liked to reserve nights apart from me so that he could sleep better (he also preferred to be intimate only once or twice a month, which I made clear wasn't enough for me). We lived an hour apart, but he refused to give me a key to his apartment, even if it meant that I repeatedly needed to sit in my car and wait for him in his driveway if he was running late for work. He also mainly preferred that we only spend time with his friends and family, and the times when he would agree to leave his hometown and visit my friends and family became few and far between. Eventually it became clear to me that even though he might love me, he didn't love me enough and I deserved a lot better. Despite all that, I was terrified to be the one to end it, and when he finally initiated the break-up conversation, I was devastated but also somewhat relieved/grateful. We agreed that we loved each other, but that things had probably started out too quickly and that in the end, we didn't have enough in common (both in lifestyle and personality) to stay together. We kept in touch to a small degree through emails; his mother and brother-in-law both also called and emailed to check in on me as the weeks went by. As for me, I started seeing a therapist just to make sure I was being mentally healthy about everything (my therapist thought I was doing great!), and about a month after breaking up I joined an online dating service and even had a "rebound" relationship that lasted about a month and a half. All my friends and family were extremely proud of the way I was handling things and how realistic I seemed to be about dealing with my pain but also trying to move on.

Cut to this weekend when it became clear through a sudden flurry of not-so-subtle Facebook posts that not only was Evan seeing someone new (who looks a lot like me, but that's neither here nor there!), his friends were referring to her as his girlfriend. One of his best female friends, with whom I'd been extremely close throughout the relationship, suddenly removed me from her book club and "de-friended" me on Facebook (and apparently in life). I guess most readers would say that this is to be expected after a relationship ends, but I'm thrown by the suddenness of it. While I was taking it slow and being very sensitive to Evan's feelings in my own dating escapades, keeping them private, etc., he had a new, official girlfriend and he doesn't seem to care at all about my feelings on the subject. It appears from Facebook that that they started dating only a month and a half after we broke up.

I guess there are two things really bothering me about it: 1. He apparently didn't learn a lesson from dating me or his ex, and still becomes very serious very quickly with girls he's dating, which implies that maybe this is his MO. And if that's the case, I keep thinking that never really loved me. And 2. If this was a year from now, I'd say he owed me nothing, but I feel like the fact that he started dating somebody only a month after breaking up with me (and since we've been in touch), he might have given me a heads up that she existed so that I didn't need to find out about her this way. In the meantime, I'm definitely mirroring Sally in "When Harry Met Sally" -- totally fine when she breaks up with her boyfriend until she finds out months later that he's marrying somebody else, and suddenly she's a complete mess and bawling to Harry on the phone.

Anyway that's the long, drawn-out story, but my question to you and your readers is this: Do I have the right to be hurt by Evan's lack of sensitivity to me? Is it possible that he never really loved me at all? Why does it bother me so much that his friend kicked me out of her life? Don't worry, I am not going to do anything rash and call him out on it. I'm writing to you instead. :) Please note that I never harbored any ideas that we were going to get back together; there were obviously a lot of broken things in our relationship. A little piece of my heart might always love him and cherish the memories I had with him, but I look forward to meeting Mr. Right someday, and I know he's not Evan. In the meantime, any suggestions for how to best move on, be strong and get over this type of pothole in the road to recovery from a breakup would be appreciated.

– Trying to Move On, Boston


1. Yes, getting serious too fast is Evan's routine. But that doesn't mean he didn't care for you. It just means his routine got in the way of loving you right. It means that at the end of the day, Evan is still Evan. There's only so much love he can give, at least for now.

2. You asked if you have the right to feel miserable about his Facebook behavior and his quick commitment to this new person. My answer is that you have the right to feel however you feel. The quicker you admit that feeling and experience it, the quicker you can move on.

3. His female friend was trying to do you a favor. She probably thought that by de-friending you in life and on Facebook, she'd be sparing you exposure to Evan's recent choices. She's Evan's person, not yours. She could have been more diplomatic about her disappearance, but she's doing the right thing. It doesn't mean that she doesn't like you.

4. If we're going to invoke "When Harry Met Sally," let's go all the way with it, shall we? Sally doesn't wind up with Joe, her ex who gets married. She winds up with a sillier guy who treats her like a best friend and wants to spend all of his time with her. So there. Joe is just a step along the way. Joe is a learning experience. Evan is your Joe. It's your job to go out there and look for a Harry.

5. You'll get over Evan by removing all evidence of him on Facebook, surrounding yourself with some new faces, hanging out with your good friends, and by repeating this sentence, which you wrote yourself: "A little piece of my heart might always love him and cherish the memories I had with him, but I look forward to meeting Mr. Right someday, and I know he's not Evan."

I'm with your therapist. You're doing great. This part is supposed to be hard.

Readers? Thoughts? Did Evan really love her? Is it weird that his female friend disappeared? Is the letter writer allowed to feel this miserable if she knows better? Discuss.

– Meredith

She's lost that loving feeling

Posted by Meredith Goldstein April 15, 2010 08:24 AM

Tax day.

Q: Love your column. I never thought I would I have to write you but my situation is getting to me. Married seven years with three wonderful kids. I love my wife dearly. I'm more attracted to her now then when we first dated. But here's my problem. Our lack of intimacy and her lack of affection is killing me. She is never in the mood, never initiates. She never tells me she appreciates me. I have told her how I felt and how much this hurts me. I have cried during our discussion yet she thinks there isn't an issue (readers, please go easy on me). She is always turning me down. Nothing hurts more then being rejected by your significant other time after time. Sometimes I just want to give up.

She thinks I don't understand her and I'm unreasonable. I do understand we have three very active kids and both work. I cook and prepare dinner on most nights. I help feed, bathe, read and help our oldest with homework every night. (This is the reason why it irks me when she claims she is too tired for intimacy.) When she has had a rough and stressful day at work, I try my best to keep the kids away from her and let her relax. I'm not looking for praises from others. I just want acknowledgement from my wife and not be taken for granted.

I don't want a divorce, it's not an option. I don't want my kids shuttling back and forth between parents. We both adore our kids. If we were to separate, it pains me how this will affect my kids life. I want to work things out. I love her dearly and want to spend the rest of my life with her. But this emptiness is killing me. I have suggested counseling but she thinks we don't have any issue. She's very adamant against counseling and thinks I'm overreacting. Meredith and readers please help me. Can counseling help my marriage? I'm I asking for too much?

– Sometimes Love Is Not Enough, Cambridge

A: Love is almost always enough, SLINE, especially when love involves considering your partner's needs. You're not asking for too much. You want your wife to be more than a friend. You're attracted to her. That's pretty great.

But something seems to be missing in your letter. When she says you don't understand her, what is she talking about? It makes me wonder whether there's a bigger reason she isn't interested in affection. Like … a chemical thing. Sometimes we lose our drives for reasons that are beyond our control. Sometimes a medical doctor winds up being more of a help than a head doctor.

Here's my thought: e-mail her. Write a letter to your wife. She can wave off a problem in person, but in writing, she'll have to put it into words. It might be a more comfortable way for her to say uncomfortable things.

You can tell her how much this is getting to you. You can tell her that you're concerned that the lack of intimacy will drive you apart. You can explain that intimacy doesn't have to mean sex. If she's exhausted and simply wants to cuddle while watching "House," that would be nice. She may believe that this is an overreaction and that intimacy isn't a key part of your relationship, but you don't agree. Ask her in writing what she wants to do about this. You're certainly open to suggestions, unless her suggestion is to ignore the problem.

And most importantly, ask her what you're missing. Is it just the hectic schedule? Is there more? Is it something physical? She's saying you don't understand her. You want to understand her. You're ready to listen.

Something tells me she won't brush you off in writing. As many of our letter writers will tell you, writing is a good way to get some quick, clear honesty. Make her do that. If she can't, therapy is just about the only option.

Readers? How can the letter writer get his partner to listen? Any thoughts? Discuss.

– Meredith

Am I wasting time?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein April 14, 2010 09:02 AM

What are we supposed to know after 18 months?

Also, chat day. 1 p.m.

Q: Hi Meredith,

I'm confused about what to do, if anything, about my boyfriend. Quick background: I'm 41, divorced for 2 years, and have been dating a man for 18 months. We were friendly before we started dating, and for the first few months all was great. About three months into it, he surprised me one night by telling me that he was still getting over a former girlfriend, seeing a therapist, and in general, dealing with massive heartbreak. I never saw any of this until he told me. I was OK with it because the truth is that I was (am) transitioning out of a 15 year marriage and wasn't looking for a serious romance. Since then, we've gone on vacation several times, met each other's families, he gets along great with my kids, gotten closer, etc. I am head over heels.

Cut to present: he says that he loves me, can't imagine life without me but is still dealing with the fallout from the previous woman. I believe he's also going through a mid-life crisis. He turns 50 next year, never been married, no kids, bored with job, etc.

I'm not exactly issue free either. I'm about to start working full time after eight years at home with my kids. My finances aren't great (divorce stuff). I'm pretty much a full-time parent and I've been involved in exactly 3 serious relationships since I was 18. I don't have much casual dating experience.

My dilemma: Someday, I would like to create a family again with someone special. We've been dating for 18 months and the "future" question has come up a few times. I have no clear answer and neither does he. Other than this "future" question, things are good. That said, knowing that I do want a family someday and considering all that we are dealing with as individuals right now, do I stay or do I go? How long to too long for a relationship like this? Am I being an idiot?

– Not so sure anymore, Newton

A:NSSA, I've got questions.

When you say you want to have a family "someday," when do you mean? In a year? In five? When you say you want a family, what do you mean? A man living in your home with your kids? And finally, based on your 18 months with this guy, is this the man you want in your home?

If you can't answer those questions with any certainty, why not enjoy the status quo? He says he can't imagine life without you but that he's not quite ready for more. If you're being honest in your letter, you also have some issues you'd like to deal with before you're ready for a greater commitment.

In think your big question is: Does he secretly know that at some point he's going to bail? Good question. I, too, am sitting here wondering whether he's using the whole heartbreak thing to ward off commitment. Maybe. But my guess is that his "I'm still in pain" line means really means, "I'm not 100 percent with you ... yet." And that's OK for right now. As long as he's not 100 percent out and just isn't ready to make his exit.

Can you ask him if he's hoping that a future with you is possible ... in the future? If his answer is, "Yes, I'm hoping for that," I think that's OK. The status quo is just great if you're both unsure and you have high hopes for growing closer. The status quo is only not OK if he's biding his time before he disappears. Ask him, and I think your gut will be able to interpret his answer.

Readers? Am I being too romantic again? Is he actually incapable of committing? Do you believe his heartbreak issues? Is this reader only pretending she doesn't know exactly what she wants? Should she stick around? Discuss.

– Meredith

He is still unemployed

Posted by Meredith Goldstein April 2, 2010 07:08 AM

"Becky Shaw" ticket winners should get an email from me by 2 or so. If you don't get tickets this time around, there will be more free things to win. So many things.

This letter makes me think we need a "money" category. Money has come up a few times this week. I'll ask Tito about adding it.

Q: I am 45 years old and have been divorced for six years. Two years ago, I met a nice guy on an online dating service. He had a great job that he loved and also made a great salary. He is kind, funny, smart – an all around good guy .

About two months into our relationship he lost his job. He thought that he would be able to get another job quickly but with the downturn in the economy, things didn't work out that way. He has been unemployed for most of the time I have dated him. When we first met, we traveled, went out to eat, went to clubs to see bands, etc. I did pay for my portion of the vacations but for the most part he paid for our dates.

I know that he is using up his 401K just to live and he has cut his living expenses down to the bare bones. I try to be understanding of this but we never go out anymore and it is really starting to bother me. I will offer to pay for us to go out to eat and to clubs but I am unable to do this all the time because I am raising two teenagers on my own and also work two jobs just to try and make ends meet.

He does have a part time job that is sporadic and is only called when needed. I try to be understanding and we will stay in and watch movies, play cards, etc., and I do try and make the best of it. He does look for work every day and has been on interviews but nothing has panned out for him. I am at a crossroads as to what to do. At this point in my life I want more for me this time around. I know that sounds selfish but I was married for 17 years to a man who was totally neglectful to me and his kids. Has anyone been in this situation before and how long do I give him to find a job????? I am so torn because I do love him but I don't love the situation that we are in.

– Not Loving the Situation, Melrose

A: OK, NLTS, the first thing I'm going to do is validate your frustration. My instinct was to tell you that you should be able to love a partner no matter how much money he makes, but you've been coping with this financial anxiety for the better part of two years. That's a long time to feel as though you have to stay in and play cards. It's certainly a difficult way to fall in love with someone.

You're working two jobs. He's working sporadically. He's probably waiting to find a job that on par with his previous gig, but he has to know that this situation can't last forever. You're not demanding that he make big bucks and spoil you. All you want is a plan. If he goes a few more months without finding the right job, would he be open to taking some random, part-time work?

You love him. You're not asking whether you should bail. You're asking how long you should put up with this, and by "this" you seem to mean his one, part-time job. It's a fair question. Being broke doesn't kill a relationship. Resentment does.

There should be a plan, and you should have a say in it. You don't have to be silent about this to be supportive and loving. You're allowed to ask questions, suggest solutions, and veto options that don't work for you. It has been two years. He has to understand that you're in this together.

Readers? How do you get through unemployment in a relationship? Am I right to assume that she's frustrated that he hasn’t picked up more temporary or part-time work? Is it wrong that she wants the social life that she had when they first started dating? Discuss.

– Meredith

Looking to make a baby

Posted by Meredith Goldstein March 30, 2010 09:00 AM

Happy Passover. Forgot to mention it yesterday.

Q: Hi Meredith,

I'm a 46-year-old man. I split up with my wife three-and-a-half years ago. My wife did not want to have children, which I am glad about for the most part, as it would have made divorce much more difficult. About six months after my marital split, I started going out with a woman who was also going through a divorce. Hers was very difficult and stressful, mine was not. She had two kids who are now 10 and 14. We went out for about two-and-a-half years. I grew to really like her kids and dreamed of becoming a family with the three of them.

As the woman was nearing an actual divorce at the end of two-and-a-half years, she pulled away and seemed to get scared of the reality that she and I could actually be together. I was hurt and now miss her and her kids terribly. That was about four months ago.

I really like the idea of children now that I've had the experience of being around them. I've started to date again and think about this a lot. It seems like this is the last best chance in my life to have a family. The problem is that it is difficult to date women young enough to still have children. The perfect age would seem like 33 to 37, where we could have a couple of years to get tight and form a solid relationship, then have kids in a slightly unhurried way. Most of the women who respond to me or have interest in me on the online dating sites are in their 40s and it is not as realistic for them to have children. And if so, they are going to be in a big hurry.

There aren't a lot of other places that I meet women. Should I hold out for the dream of a slightly younger woman and a family or give it up and come to the realization that I have to settle for a relationship without the possibility of a family? I know there is always adoption or foster parenting, but it is not the same. I personally don't feel too old to have children. I know it seems to bother women if a guy doesn't want to date women their own age but I find myself much less interested about women my own age and in their 40s because they either already have kids and are all damaged or they have given up the idea of kids or are in a big hurry and it seems stressful. Your thoughts?

– Wanting Kids, Metrowest

A: My thoughts, WK? My thoughts are that it's not fair that 46-year-old women can't look for a 35-year-old guys to impregnate, and that by the end of the day, I'm probably going to have an inbox full of notes from women you want your e-mail address. So it goes.

Despite my first paragraph of "it’s not fair" whining, I don't think that you're a bad person for wanting to date younger women who can still have children. You would have had kids years ago had your wife been into the idea. You were open to raising your ex's children but it didn't work out. I'd be red-flagging you if you were opposed to dating women your own age for more superficial reasons, but no flags are necessary here. At 46, you're in the mindset of a 38-year-old woman who just decided she wants kids with a partner she really loves.

(Although, please don't describe these forty-something women as "all damaged." They might say the same of a guy who's 46 and just coming to terms with what he wants when he grows up. Just sayin'.)

My advice is to put this out there online and to be clear about it. It's not creepy to say, "I'm looking for a partner who will love me and make a baby with me." (Maybe don't say "make a baby." That does sound creepy.) Yes, you're going to get contacted by forty-something women who are in a rush, but guess what – you're in a rush, too. My guess is that you'll also hear from a pack of 37-year-olds who are writing me letters about the fact that no one their age wants to start a family from scratch. You should also attempt some real-world meet-ups. Social clubs. Athletic groups. Sometimes people shy away from 46 on paper. In person, age tends to matter less.

I know it's not your first choice, but you should also open your mind to some of the women your age who want to adopt. You wanted to raise your ex's kids as if they were your own. You of all people should know that while raising a child you didn't conceive "isn’t the same," it's still family – and pretty amazing.

Readers? Is it fair that he wants a younger woman for procreation purposes? Should he be more open to adoption? Should a 32-year-old woman be open to dating a 46-year-old? What's going on here? Discuss.

– Meredith

To snitch or not to snitch

Posted by Meredith Goldstein March 26, 2010 10:12 AM

Cue the "Sopranos" theme song and enjoy ...

Q: Hi Meredith,

I am suffering from a broken heart. My ex and I were together for three years, and lived together for two and a half. We are both getting ready to finish up grad school, which means we are both feeling the pressure of ongoing job searches in an unforgiving economy.

Some background about him (and us): When we met at work, while we were both in the process of applying to schools. We became friends during the application process, and though I had been looking at schools outside the state, he asked if I would consider staying in state so we could begin/maintain a romantic relationship. I was flattered, applied in state, was accepted, and we moved in together months later.

He had always been up front about the fact that his family comes first in his life. I always knew that if he and I were to stay together, his family would go wherever we went, and I was OK with that. Actually, I was more than OK with that - I was thrilled (I loved his family, and hoped that they would one day become my own). Fast forward to this past September: the stress of the economy, and pending job search was weighing heavily on my mind, and I was unsure where to focus my efforts: family or career. So, I finally asked him – did he see a future for us, and if so, would he consider moving if I happened to be the first one to get a job? He told me that yes, he did see me in his future, and in fact, he had been planning to propose on our anniversary in January. However, he then backtracked and said he was not really interested in thinking about moving - he just wasn't there yet, and it felt like too much pressure (what with having to move the family and all). Needless to say, I was thrilled about the prospect of getting engaged to the man I loved, and I pushed thoughts of moving from my mind. I'm the type of girl who will choose family over money any day. I made the decision to concentrate my job search in the local area.

For the next month, I felt as though we had recommitted ourselves to each other. Then, in the beginning of November, we came home, kissed as we always did, but then he did something he's never done before: he pulled away. It hit me like a bag of bricks - he had fallen out of love with me. I burst into tears and he confirmed my gut instinct. The prospect of marriage and of moving was too much for him, and he asked me to move out of our apartment. The breakup was sudden, unexpected, and left me devastated.

Since November, I have been living in heartbreak hell (I can't sleep, eat, focus, the usual symptoms). I have continued to hope that he may one day wake up and realize what a mistake he's made, but I lose a little hope with every passing day.

I realize my story is pretty typical, but here's the kicker: I can get "revenge." My question is: do I do it? While we were together, he trusted me completely, so much so that he let me in on some family secrets that were…illegal in nature. I am talking some pretty serious stuff, although they have always made sure to keep him clean. Though I considered turning them in while we were still dating, in the end, I didn't have the heart to because I honestly believed that his family was to become my family, and I didn't want to hurt my family. Well, he has since kicked me out of his family, and they have made a point to cut me off cold. He has maintained that he no longer sees me in his future. What I'd like to know from you and your readers is: have any of you gotten (legal) revenge against your ex, and did you feel better afterwards?

– Broken in Brookline

A: You dated Meadow Soprano. How exciting.

I understand that you're upset, BIB, but please don't seek revenge. I say that because I worry about your safety and because honestly, tattling on his family won't improve your situation in any way. What do you get out of tattling besides a few seconds of pleasure that would probably be followed by hours of panic and sadness?

Your Meadow hurt you. He was unreliable. And that's awful and I'm sorry. But you avoided a bad marriage to someone who is in a sketchy family situation. Thank goodness he bailed.

I'm not telling you to take the high road. I'm just telling you to take the safe and healthy road. And that means waiting it out until you heal. Eventually, this will be just another break-up story. As in, "Remember when I almost married the guy whose family worked in, um, waste management?"

It will always hurt a little, but it gets better. After a while, you'll move from revenge fantasies to indifference. And really, is this how you would want him to remember you? As a snitch?

Readers? Should she tell the authorities? When is revenge OK? Does it ever feel good? Whatever happened to Meadow's boyfriend Finn? He was so skinny. Discuss.

– Meredith

I dote on my men

Posted by Meredith Goldstein March 24, 2010 10:22 PM

In Maryland to see Mom today. Seeing sister in New York tomorrow. Seeing high school boyfriend tonight. Will watch "The Simpsons" and eat Italian ices with him. Italian ices: not a euphemism. Sometimes I party like it's 1994.

Yesterday's chat is worth a read. We talked about everything from OT comments to open marriages.

I like that today's letter starts "Oh Meredith." I can just hear the letter writer letting out a great big sigh.

Q: Oh Meredith,

I am hoping you can help me. I recently ended a disastrous, short relationship with a man I'll call Mitch. Mitch and I have stayed friends, as we are in the same graduate school program. We are much better as friends, but it would be lying to say I didn't still have a slight crush on him. My problem is, being around Mitch so much - hanging out, eating dinner together, going to movies like any regular friends do - I have had kind of a revelation about how I behave around men.

Specifically, I wait on men hand and foot. Looking back at past relationships, I see myself doing all of the cooking and cleaning. I even make a point to pick up after my brother when I visit him. My mother and the women in my family have always been the same way, so for lack of a better term, maybe this is cultural.

The reason this comes up now is that Mitch has pointed out my behavior lately. He doesn't like it; he believes this is a control thing with me (is he right?). He tells me, "you should have more equal relationships." Maybe these instincts I have are bordering on unhealthy. I hate making men feel like children, coming along after them, cleaning up and running errands for them. That's just how I think you should demonstrate caring for someone. How do I fight back these instincts and have a balanced relationship?

– June Cleaver, Seattle

A: JC, I see two issues here. Issue No. 1 is your Cleaver-ness. Issue No. 2 is Mitch.

As far as Issue No. 1 goes, you've got two options. Your first option is to find a guy who wants a woman who will do his laundry and wipe ketchup off of his face. Those guys exist. They're looking for a few good moms.

Of course, the better option is to be conscious of your habit. You learned from the women in your family that babying and cleaning are ways to show love. And they are, for sure. But it feels even better to be appreciated for the skills that make you unique. Your sense of humor. Your intelligence. Your ability to host a good pajama party. I fear that you dote on the men you date – and maybe men in general – because you undervalue everything else you have to offer them. Or because you underestimate their ability to value the right things.

When you find yourself cleaning up after a guy, ask yourself why you're doing it. Is it to be polite? Or to feel as though you're less dispensable? Or are you playing "wife" as your family has defined the role? Whatever the reason, it's a bad habit, and as Mitch says, it can alienate a romantic partner. And there's no easy fix for bad habits. It's like biting your nails. You just have to keep an eye on your own behavior. But asking the "why" should help.

Issue No. 2: Mitch. I want you to be careful about this friendship. You spend a lot of time with Mitch, and he has a lot of power. If your feelings for Mitch continue and grow, please do what June Cleaver would never do. Tell him that you're still into him and that you'd like to try dating again, this time without offering to do his laundry. Rock the boat. Make a mess. You don't even have to clean it up.

Readers? Is it wrong to dote on a partner? Can she break her family's habits? Is Mitch out of line? Is Mitch just a friend? Am I undervaluing cooking and cleaning as ways to show love? What are the gender issues going on here? Share.

– Meredith

ABOUT LOVE LETTERS: Welcome to Love Letters, the place for love advice (giving and getting). Globe relationship columnist Meredith Goldstein and readers are ready to take your letters and tell you what's what. Have a question? Click here to submit or email us at
Blogger Meredith Goldstein

Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith at www.meredithgoldstein.netand on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.

Ask us a question