Q: Dear Meredith,
About 13 years ago I met this young lady (Alex) in a chat room. At the time, she was only about 18 years old. I'm 12 years older than her and as you may have surmised, I'm now 44 and she's 32. Throughout the years we have maintained a sort of friend/platonic relationship. On a couple of occasions at the beginning of our "cyber relationship" she was quite curious to meet me in person, but I remember declining it because I thought I was too old for her. Soon after I "cyber met" her, I got married. My marriage lasted about 11 years as I got divorced about 1 year ago (nothing to do with Alex). During the ending stages of my divorce, I confided in her about some things and she was supportive, which was very helpful to me. As fate would have it, she is now going through the end of her 5 year serious relationship. She and I have talked a lot about us one day having a relationship despite the fact that we have never met in person. We have, however, exchanged many pictures throughout the years as well as many emails, text messages, and phone calls.
If I really wanted to have a relationship with her, I wonder if it's better for me to try to stay out of her current breakup process or should I be supportive like she was with me when I was going down that path?
I also wonder if she's opened to talking about ''us" because she's going through her problems or does she really like me?
Looking forward to your advice.
– Should I be her confidant?, Cyberspace
A: There are so many issues here, SIBHC. I'm still upset about the fact that she was 18 when you met. I could say so much about this -- and about chat room relationships, in general -- but I'll focus on your question. And my answer to that is: No, you shouldn't be the voice of reason about her break-up. If you're trying to line yourself up as her next suitor, your intentions aren't honorable. She needs to find real friends for honest discussion.
Please encourage this woman to seek advice from her real-life peers. You say that she's still going through this break-up, which means that she's not quite broken up just yet. That means she has a significant other. She's off limits. Tell her to talk to her off-line friends, and please, focus on your off-line life, as well.
I understand that people meet in chat rooms. I understand that age gaps close. I understand that you guys have known each other for like 15 years and that the relationship feels significant, and maybe it is.
But at the moment, she's a woman with a partner who needs to talk to a platonic friend. That's not you. You're a pen pal with expectations. That's not OK.
Readers? Can the letter writer be her sounding board? Should the LW be thinking about dating her? How well can they possibly know each other? What should the LW do? Discuss.
Q: Hi Meredith,
I'm hoping you can help me with an online dating relationship question. I started talking to this guy -- "Mark" -- about a month ago. A week after we began talking, Mark took me on a date and it was the best first date I've ever been on. He was so polite, funny, cute, such a gentlemen, and didn't even try to kiss me. I have never been so attracted to someone.
We both work crazy schedules so we planned to finally meet up again a week later. We were going to go out for dinner and a movie, but weather was putting a damper on those plans and he asked if I wanted to go to his place to watch a movie and order in. I agreed.
It was the most comfortable and amazing second date. We ended up kissing -- a lot. He walked me to me car, holding my hand, and I was on Cloud Nine. From the beginning, he was extremely open about his last relationship (2.5 years long that ended 6 months prior) and the way he felt about me. He told me that he wasn't dating anyone else from the website.
To make a long story short, he cancelled on me THREE times before I finally had to send him a long email stating that I clearly wasn't worth his time and that he didn't seem ready to date. I also expressed how much fun I had with him and that I thought he was a great guy. The next day he texts me something completely random (and he HAD to have seen my email at this point) and I responded. I haven't heard from him since.
I know it was only two dates and that maybe I should've been more forgiving of his hectic schedule, but it seemed to me like he could've made more of an effort. Do I just forget about him or try contacting him again -- either now or in the future? The email kind of left the ball in his court, but I'm having a hard time forgetting this because he was such a great guy. What do you think?
– Confused in Cambridge
A: He wasn't a great guy, CIC. He cancelled three times. Three. You wrote him an honest letter about your issues and he responded with a text. That's not so great.
I understand why you're disappointed (the kissing sounds nice), but please don't second guess yourself. You gave this guy the benefit of the doubt and he blew it.
My friend Danielle always says that "busy is bunk." There are exceptions to that rule, of course (sometimes people are really, really busy), but no one is that busy. He should have made more of an effort, for sure.
Let's not call anyone "great" until they've shown up at least three times in a row. You deserve that. You're not overreacting.
Readers? Is there ever an excuse for three cancellations? Should she contact him? Was the email too much? Help.
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.
Q: Hi Meredith,
I recently joined a fitness website for support and encouragement with my exercise regime and diet. The site is similar to Facebook; you set up a profile with pictures, you state your fitness goals, and you add people to your friend list.
I'm a single gal and recently ended my engagement with a man who was deceitful. One of the fitness people on the site sent me a message commenting on how young I looked and we started chatting back and forth. It seemed harmless enough -- he was really sweet and fun to chat with. We then exchanged personal emails and cell numbers and began communicating via text and emails.
He's in the military and lives far away, but he mentioned that he was going to be in the area this summer and really wanted to meet me. I was excited, and after numerous phone calls, emails, and texts, I felt fairly safe. Well, come to find out, he's married.
My gut was telling me there was something wrong. For instance, he never called me when he was home (he insisted that he didn't have cell phone service and didn't believe in a land line). I did a little investigative work via the internet and discovered his wife's name, their address, etc.
I immediately sent him a text telling him that I knew he was married, that I felt sorry for his wife, and I made sure to mention her by name to put the fear of God in him. I told him not to contact me again.
Here's the dilemma: Do I contact his wife and tell her? Also, I noticed that he is still on the fitness site probably trolling for innocent women. Do I contact the fitness site customer service and report him? Or do I leave well enough alone and move on?
– Do I out the cheater?, Boston
A: Contact customer service and then move on, DIOTC. You don't know anything about this guy's marriage. You never saw him in person.
Sometimes I recommend outing cheaters to spouses, but in this case there are just too many questions. Protect yourself by walking away from this mess.
I'm so sorry that you had to follow up your broken engagement with this romantic experience. Not everyone is so deceitful. Please remember that this guy was always going to be a placeholder. He lives too far away.
If you're ready to date guys in your zip code, tell your friends. See if you can get to know someone who has been vetted by the people you trust.
Readers? Should she reach out to the wife? Should she contact the site administrator? Is this just part of life when you're on social networking websites? Do you think he really intended to see her?
I can't chat today because I'll be out of the office planning a Love Letters event, which you will hear about very soon. I promise I'll make it up to you.
Q: I just wanted to pick your brain about a situation I had last year. I am a man in my late 20s, and I met a girl (same age) last year who I dated for about 4 months. It obviously wasn't that serious, but for some reason the lost potential still bothers me.
We met on an online dating site and things started off really well. However, after a few dates, I started getting vibes that she was already ready to be in a relationship with me, which freaked me out a little bit. I'm pretty selective about who I date, and although I liked her, I didn't want to rush things and I didn't want to give her the wrong impression so I pulled back a bit. But then as I got to know her, I realized that this is just her personality -- she's an extreme extrovert who gets excited and wears her heart on her sleeve while I am more reserved and don't always show a lot of emotion. Regardless, we continued dating, and I began to see that she really was an awesome person. I started developing feelings for her and I was beginning to think that there could actually be some long-term potential.
I don't fall for too many girls like that, and it had been years since I had felt that way about anyone. But there was one thing that was a little frustrating/weird to me -- she was never available to hang out on weekends. She grew up in another state and went to college in a different state, so a lot of her friends live elsewhere, and she would make plans for weekend visits weeks/months in advance. I would ask her early or mid-week what her plans were for the weekend, and it was always the same answer -- she already had plans. After getting this response a number of times and then having her tell me her weekends were basically booked solid for 3 months, I lost a lot of motivation. I wanted to start making more of an effort, but I felt limited in what I could do, as the only time I could see her was on Sunday nights and one or two other nights during the week, and it got to the point where all we did was sit on the couch, order take-out, watch TV, and go to bed. As I looked back on it after things ended, I realized we had never gone out together on a Saturday night, and she never had the chance to meet any of my friends, which I think is an important part of getting to know someone.
I was pretty baffled when she broke things off, saying that things weren't progressing and that she had lost the feelings she once had because of my seeming lack of interest/effort, and that the push-back she felt from me in the beginning is what made her start to shut down. To be fair, I was not great about calling/texting just to chat between the times we hung out … but part of the reason was that I wasn't ready to do that when all I could get from her was weeknights. I don't need too much in a relationship and I actually like it when a girl has her own friends and a life, but at some point, social lives usually start integrating at least a little bit.
The reason it still bothers me is because we got along well, seemed to have similar values, and we both really liked each other ... just at different times -- her at the beginning and me at the end. I did ultimately let her know how I felt and I (regrettably) pleaded with her to give it another chance to try and make it work, but she was just done. What really killed me was that as she was breaking things off, she told me that on paper I am exactly what she wants, but she didn't think she could get back the feelings she once had. I've been out with a number of girls since all this, had a couple 1-month stints, and have felt some decent connections, but nothing like what I felt with this girl last year, so I'm left with a lot of regrets about the whole thing because I think we could have made things work if we had just communicated better and discussed things sooner.
So here are my questions: Was it normal for me to pull back like that in the beginning when I felt like she was coming on so strong, or should I have embraced it? How often should a guy be calling/texting with a girl during the first few weeks/months when he sees (and sleeps with) her twice a week? Was I wrong in thinking her expectations for relationship progression were unrealistic when we never saw each other on weekends?
– Can't Believe I Am Writing to a Dating Column, Boston
A: I'm not convinced that this is your fault, CBIWTADC, at least not the stuff that happened at the start of the relationship. We're all a bit weird when we're trying to figure out whether we like someone. You pulled back -- but then you stuck it out and rallied. You wanted more and more of her time and you made that clear. In the end, she broke it off and you pleaded with her to stay.
Of course, it would have been great if you had said, maybe during month two, "I'm starting to feel slighted that you can't see me on weekends -- and I’m desperate to see you on a Saturday night and wake up with you on a Sunday." But she could have asked you to come with her on a weekend trip. And she absolutely could have cancelled plans with friends to spend some time figuring you out. She didn't make you a priority.
And as for the texts, don't even think about them. You wanted to see her in person. That's all that counts. Texts don't make or break a relationship.
I need you to know that you're not as smitten with this woman as you think you are. You liked her a lot, but the relationship had serious flaws, and you were never really satisfied with the way she handled herself. You need someone who makes you feel comfortable, someone who encourages you to be honest. This woman inspired you to feel helpless and passive-aggressive. You've learned a lesson about communication for sure, but I believe that this relationship would have ended no matter what. So let her go and give some of these other women more than just a month of your time.
Readers? Am I right to say that this would have ended no matter what? Or is he just so silent about things that she thought he wasn't interested? Should she have cancelled her weekend plans? Did he fail by distancing himself in the beginning? Is this about everybody wanting what they can’t have? Discuss.
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.
Please reserve Dec. 15 for a Love Letters/Brookline Booksmith event involving Missed Connections. Details to come.
Q: Dear Meredith,
Does my girlfriend still like her ex?
My girlfriend and I have been together for 18 months. Not only is this is longest relationship of my life (I'm in my mid-20s), but it is also the most fulfilling. We get along incredibly well, have tremendous chemistry, and our sex life is great.
One thing that concerned me early on in our relationship was the connection she maintained with her ex-boyfriend. They were living together for a year and then had a very emotional breakup (he cheated on her and she kicked him out). We started our relationship shortly after, so I'm not sure if she was able to get full closure on that relationship.
After a few months of dating, she was very honest with me about meeting up with her ex occasionally for coffee in order to "catch up." I tried being supportive and never voiced my concerns, but one night I looked at her cell phone and noticed that they were having open conversations about their relationship and where it all went wrong. This obviously made me very upset but I never said anything. I was worried that she would not forgive me for looking at her phone. I told her that I didn't want her meeting with him anymore for coffee and she obliged.
I thought this was the end of it, figured she just needed to lay her cards on the table and get closure, but it was not. Recently she left her email open on my computer and I ran a search for any dialogue between her and her ex. Needless to say, I found a lot of correspondence.
She has never written anything to him along the lines of "I still like you, I still have feelings for you, I think we should get back together, etc." But she does bring up a lot of nostalgic memories like "remember that time…" or "I heard this song and it made me think of you, etc." Also, I noticed that she is always the one reaching out to him or messaging him, not the other way around. It appears they have a conversation at least once a month and there is usually some reference to their previous relationship.
I love this girl with all of my heart and she expresses the same feelings toward me, but I just don't know what to make of this. Am I being a chump? Is it all innocent post-relationship behavior? Will she forgive me for invading her privacy? We are set to move in together in a few months so I need to figure out what to do as soon as possible. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!
– Concerned Boyfriend, Boston
A: You're not a chump, CB. I believe that she's emailing her ex to figure out why he cheated, something she should have done before meeting you. But ... you can't control timing.
I don't always advocate that people disclose their snoops because sometimes, it's just not productive. But in your case, I want you to tell. If you don't tell her, you're going to keep looking at her personal messages whenever you get the chance. And you're going to move in with her with your fingers crossed for good luck -- instead of being confident about why she's chosen to live with you.
Sit her down and tell her that you saw some of her messages to her ex and that you're ashamed for looking. Explain that while you didn't see anything more than nostalgia and two people processing the loss of their relationship, it made you insecure -- and concerned about her. Apologize for crossing a boundary, and then tell her that you're so in love with her that you just want to make sure that she wants this, too. This isn't about not trusting her with the ex; it's about being sure that she's as excited about the move-in as you are.
Maybe she'll freak out and decide not to forgive you (for the record, that would be rather telling), but my hope is that she'll be empathetic. You won't be demanding that she stop the communication, you'll just be asking her whether she's moving in with you for the right reasons.
If you don't have this conversation, you're going to drive yourself crazy, so just get it over with. Remember: Don't accuse, stay positive, and remind her that you're disclosing all of this because you never want to snoop again -- and because you want to make sure that you're both excited about the next step.
Readers? Am I wrong here? Should he keep the snoop a secret? Are these harmless closure emails or is this ex a real threat? What's happening here and what should he do? Help.
This seems like a good Friday letter, yes?
And if you check back in a few, I'm posting a bonus letter today.
Q: Hi Meredith,
I have a quandary. I'm happily engaged to my best friend and we've been together for years. We've had our ups and downs, and we just went through one of those downs, but we're figuring things out. We've both made a commitment and we're not leaving. We've agreed to try an open relationship. It's not about wanting to cheat. It's about realizing that there are some things he can't give me, not because he hasn't tried, or doesn't want to, but just because of his personality and the way he is. It's not his fault but I realized I need something else, too, hence open relationship. Nothing has happened with anyone as this mutual decision is only a week or so old. So what's my problem?
For the last year and a half I've been talking to a guy friend online. His hours are closer to mine (my guy and I have different work hours), he's been a really good source of support, and we've both been there for each other. We have not met face to face, but, you guessed it, I've got feelings for him. I have no idea if he sees me as anything more than a friend. He's far away in another state and we usually communicate by IM. He's single, but he seems to have fallen for a gal who's a friend of a friend that lives across the country. She's nice but they've agreed to take things slow and if someone else comes along in the meantime not to wait for each other. I'm his friend so I'm trying to be supportive but having feelings for him and not being able to say anything is tearing me up inside. This guy deserves to be happy.
My guy knows how I feel about this guy, but he has asked me not to go after him, as he believes this guy is very much like him and feels that if I'm looking for something different I not go for someone similar to him. I see his point, but the feelings are still there.
Do I say something? Do I keep my mouth shut and forget my feelings, be the nice friend and just deal with it by writing emo poetry (I could start an emo band on the volume of stuff I've already written)? Do I just call a time out on my relationship until I figure out? I live with my guy and we've been together for 5 years so it's not so easy to just walk away. I just want a different perspective that isn't in my head or from a single friend. Please help. Thank you.
– Emo Poetry Gal, Boston
A: You're engaged to your good friend, EPG. You are not engaged to someone you want to marry.
End this. Please. There's no need for your fiancé to watch you feel in love with other people. Call this "open relationship" what it is -- the final stage of a long romance.
Once you move on from the whole thing (yes, for logistical reasons that might take a while), start looking to date single people who live nearby. Maybe this online guy secretly loves you, but do you really want to pursue someone you don't see ... who wants to date someone else?
I know that you don't want to be single, but I guarantee you, if you walk away from all of these guys, your emo poems will be better than ever. More importantly, you'll be able to figure out why you keep attaching yourself to people who have given you a way out.
Readers? Can you fix this mess? Help.
When I first read this letter, I assumed it was about me.
Because wouldn't you?
Well, it's not about me, which makes it a real question, so let's help. If you are a blogger, please tell us what you'd want to hear.
(Yes, my ego has recovered.)
Q: Hello Meredith,
I'm a 29 year old guy, single for about a year, gainfully employed and getting a Master's degree part-time. I consider myself a pretty good catch, but obviously I might be a bit biased.
I recently stumbled upon the blog of a Boston girl. Not only is she absolutely stunning, but we seem to have very similar sense of humors and interests. To top it all off, she is super intelligent, which I readily admit is a huge turn on for me.
I have spent the past few days browsing her old postings (which only make her more attractive) and I can't imagine she has any problem finding guys who would fall at her feet. I consider myself a pretty creative person but find myself drawing a total blank as to how not to come across as the "creepy reader." What can I do/say in this situation?
– Admiring the Blogger from Afar, Boston
A: The first thing I want you to do is figure out whether you really want to know what this woman is like in real life. If your crush is on a fantasy version of her that you've created based on what she writes, you're basically in love with a unicorn. Sometimes letting a unicorn remain a unicorn is good for the soul. Know that if you actually get to date this unicorn, she might turn out to be a horse with a horn glued to her head. Does that make sense?
If you want to risk turning a unicorn into a horse, here's my advice:
1. Make yourself Google-able. Don't send an email from a random address without your first and last name. Make it easy for her to look you up so that she can see that you're not a weirdo. You can even message her on Facebook so that she sees your profile (assuming that you're on Facebook).
2. Be specific about why her writing appeals to you. Don't just say, "You’re super smart on your blog." Say, "I love that time you advised a woman to walk away from a guy who impregnated some random one-night stand." (Yeah, yeah, I know we're not talking about me. I'm just giving you an example.)
3. Send one note and leave it at that. Be nice. Succinct. Not too clever. Then let it go. If she writes back, feel free to ask her a question to keep the conversation going, but don't get too aggressive.
4. Know that writing to someone on a blog is no different than hitting on someone at a bar or party. You like what you see. You get good vibes. You don't know whether the person is even single. But ... it's worth a shot. It's no creepier than making a pass in real life.
Please keep me posted. I want to know what happens.
Hey there. No chat today. I'm in New York -- and I'm actually meeting with someone about our next Love Letters event, which will be Dec. 15. Save the date. It will be lovely. Details soon. We will chat again next week.
Q: Hey Meredith,
I'm engaged and getting married soon. We've been together for a few years. Before we met, my fiance went on a couple dates with "Steve." She stopped seeing him because he was very busy with his job and wasn't really looking for a relationship. A couple of months later she met me and we started dating. Things got serious pretty quick. She told me about Steve but said she was done dating that kind of guy. She does tell me that once in a while she will text him but it's just to say hello.
Anyway, she recently saw on Facebook that Steve is getting married. She thought it was funny because he didn't seem like the type to settle down.
The other night she was on the computer looking at wedding stuff. I also suspected she was messaging someone, but I didn't say anything. She said a couple things about Steve, so then I knew that's who she was talking to. I don't mind her briefly talking to other guys but this was going on for a long time and it was kind of upsetting me. I didn't want to start a fight so I didn't say anything. She kept the screen turned slightly away from me.
I don't snoop but obviously her behavior was a little out of the ordinary. So the next morning I logged into her Facebook page and the whole conversation was still there. Basically, they started talking about the wedding and then Steve said he really did want a relationship with her but by the time he realized it, she and I were already serious. She kind of implied that if he had said something she might have left me for him. I'm not sure about that part though. She then told him that if she wasn't in the situation she is in right now, she would "be there in a heartbeat."
There are several things that bother me about this conversation. I really don't like that she purposely hid the conversation from me. That's never a good sign. I don't know how to feel about the "I'd be there in a heartbeat" remark. I understand that everyone gets tempted -- it's human nature. But I would have felt better if she didn't admit she was tempted.
I don't want to bring this up to her because she will get mad at me for snooping. I trust my fiance but this does alarm me. I also am angry that Steve is getting married and he is sneaking around, too (I assume his fiance doesn't know about this).
– Hoping I'm Wrong, Massachusetts
A: I'm sorry, HIW. Getting married is a big deal. No one should have to deal with this kind of thing when they're so close to making a huge commitment.
The good news here is that your fiance's crush is on an imaginary man. She only went on a few dates with this Steve character. She learned that he was getting married through Facebook, so she's obviously not in his inner circle. She's invented Magic Steve, the guy she could have fallen for had she not met you. Magic Steve doesn't really exist, and on some level she knows that. She told him, "If I wasn't in the situation I'm in, I'd be there in a heartbeat." That's very different than, "Just say the word and I'll ditch the guy I'm with."
My advice is to keep the snooping to yourself for now. But when you're having a nice moment with her, admit your insecurities. Try, "I'm so in love with you, but every now and then I freak out about whether you want this – especially when you bring up Steve. I don't want to be the crazy, jealous fiance, but is everything OK? Am I what you want?"
Try not to accuse. If you're nice, you're more likely to get honest answers. My guess is that this thing with Steve is her way of working out all of her premarital what-ifs. It's not ideal, but for some people, testing boundaries is a part of the commitment process.
Wait until a pleasant moment and then see what she has to say -- about you and the marriage, not Steve.
Readers? Is she cheating? Is Steve a real threat? Can you imagine what letter she'd write in (because I can)? Is this simply a Facebook problem (that it's so easy to talk to anyone, whenever)? Should the LW make rules about whether she's allowed to talk to Steve? Should he admit the snooping? Discuss.
Q: My husband and I have been married for a long time. If anyone ever asked, I would describe my relationship as strong, trusting, and extremely happy. We're best friends who can talk about anything with each other. This is the first time in the 20 years that I have known him where I have been at a loss for words.
He has a large group of friends. Many are women. That never bothered me as most of my friends are men and I believe that you can be just friends with a member of the opposite sex. But there is one particular woman who makes me uneasy. And lately that uneasiness has turned into sleepless nights and a feeling of heart sickness that I've never experienced before.
She has known him as long as I have and previous to our relationship expressed interest in him as more than friends. He rejected those advances but they have always been good friends. Good friends who text and write to each other incessantly. Practically every day they are going back and forth on their cell phones almost every hour on the hour. It started some time ago and was getting to be so much that even our friends noticed and mentioned it. I talked to my husband about it and told him that while I knew nothing inappropriate was going on between the two of them, that didn't mean that their constant contact wasn't hurting me. He was very understanding about it and agreed to temper the texts.
Which he did for about a year. But recently it has started up again full force. And this time it isn't as open. He waits until he thinks I'm not in the room and is practically glued to his phone. There have been many times when I've come in and the phone has disappeared again, but not before I see her name.
And this is the part I'm not proud of. I'm not a snoop. I like my privacy so I try and give him his own, but my jealousy and curiosity were getting the better of me. I've looked at the phone without his knowledge once. Most of the texts were just back and forth about every day minutiae, but there were some that really bothered me. Her saying she missed him and his replying back with the same. Affectionate back and forth that was not consistent at least in my opinion with a normal friendship. No concrete plans for meeting or anything that was not above board, but enough to make me uneasy. Banter that I recognized as what we had at the beginning of our relationship. He was being more affectionate and attentive with her than he has been with me in some time.
What do I do? I want to trust him and I want to believe that there isn't anything more going on than just this. I'm not as confident as I once was. Could it be that his hiding it was his idea of continuing what is an innocent friendship but without hurting me further? If this continues, should I be that woman who lays down an ultimatum? Her or me? Or should I trust my husband and swallow my misgivings?
– Tired of Texting, Massachusetts
A: Your letter makes me heartsick, too, TOT. My guess is that this is simply a flirtation, but it's still awful.
I'm worried, but you have a very important thing going for you that many couples don't have: "We're best friends who can talk about anything with one another." Thank goodness for that.
The last time you asked him about this, he was honest and understanding. He didn't get defensive; he simply did what he needed to do to make you comfortable again. That's pretty great. And it means that when you talk to him about this again (and confess to him that you snooped), he'll probably explain what's going on in his head.
I have to wonder whether the texting is simply an addiction. It almost sounds like he's blogging -- but just to her. And let me tell you, when you write something down and someone comments on it, validating your existence by the hour, it feels good (said the blogger). It can become a part of your routine. It can be the thing that keeps you going. I'm not condoning his behavior, but I'm open to the possibility that he's using her as an audience.
It's something for you both to consider when you have the talk, which should be soon. I'd save the ultimatums and start with an honest discussion.
Readers? Could I be right about the blogging? Is this other woman just his audience? Or is he having an emotional affair? What should the letter writer say and do? Help.
Q: Dear Meredith,
I'm a 30ish graduate student living in New York, and dating is strange to me. I am newly single (after a multi-year, long-distance relationship that pretty much died in a fire) and before that relationship, I'd never really dated. I'm the kind of girl who meets someone, falls in love instantly, and decides that we are going to be in a relationship. Said relationships are usually long and intense. But I'm normal, pretty, engaging, funny, and smart, and I have a wide range of interests that I love to share with people.
I decided that instead of sitting around and feeling sorry for myself, I would join an online dating website and try to put myself out there. Things have been ... unsuccessful so far. I've been on a few dates, but no one really made me feel the sense of energy and excitement I'm looking for. (If I'm being really honest, I've never felt anything close to the fireworks I felt when I met my most recent ex-boyfriend. He may be a cheater, but our "meet cute" was awesome.)
My question is actually quite specific: What should I write to guys whose profiles I find interesting? I've messaged a couple of people before, and it just seems like on these online dating sites, it's not the culture for women to contact men. Or I could be completely doing it wrong, because no one has responded to me. Every guy who I've gone out with has been someone who messaged me first, and I just don't seem to be attracting the kinds of people I'm interested in. Am I being too smart in my messages? Too smart in my profile? Should I comment on something in their profile? Tell them I think their profile picture is cute? Is it really true that I have to dumb it down? Frankly, if that's the case, I'd rather go it alone.
– Tongue-Tied for Once, NY
A: 1. Don't dumb it down, TTFO. The right guy will respond to your wit. Staying smart will help you filter out the bad ones.
2. Feel free to contact guys first -- but also feel free to be lazy. Most sites have a "wink" or "poke" function, right? If you keep it to winking, you don't have to come up with something awesome to say if you don't feel like it. (As for a specific script if you do send a note, well, I can't give you one. It all depends on the guy's profile. And your mood.)
3. Know that the odds are against you with these dates. You're supposed to feel blah about most of your potential suitors, just like you would at any bar. That's why you have to go for quantity and keep the dates short.
4. Know that meet cutes aren't so important in relationships. They make for adorable stories, but they don't always make for great relationships. If you like any of these online guys even a little bit on the first date, see them again. Because with online dating, you sometimes skip the meet cute. It's more like a delayed meet cute -- a "we're-on-our-fifth-date-and-suddenly-I-realize-that-you're-amazing cute."
5. Don't let online dating become your only method of looking for a partner. Keep trying in the real world. Otherwise you'll go nuts.
Readers? Can you tell her what to write to these guys? Is she allowed to contact them first? Should she be having meet cute feelings on these dates? Discuss.
Q: Hi Meredith,
I have been single for a little over a year after a two-year relationship. I date a good amount and enjoy my single life a lot. My last relationship didn't end well and I only recently completely got over it. Let's call my ex "George." I don't care about George at all and I feel triumphant that I can now say that and truly mean it. Occasionally, I run into George while out with friends and we always say a brief awkward hello. Recently I decided it was time to defriend him and his friends on Facebook after seeing some photos of him with his ex-girlfriend and other girls. I felt this was the last step in my healing process.
So that brings me to this weekend. I was out with some friends at a bar. And who do you think comes over to say hello ... my ex. We say a forced hello and chat for a couple minutes about family and life. I go over and politely say hello to all his friends. The conversation then takes a turn to why I recently defriended him on Facebook. I explain to him that I thought it was the mature thing to do. I no longer wanted his life popping up on my news feed. I say goodbye and we part ways.
After I got home, I receive a text from George asking whether I got in safely. I respond that yes, I did make the short trip to my apartment safely and that I am sorry that he was so upset that I ended our virtual friendship (note the sarcasm). About 20 minutes later as I am getting ready for bed, I receive a phone call from George. George says that he is on his way over and that we need to talk. Once again I laugh in his face, but tell him he can come over. We had both been drinking all night and this affected my judgment but hey, I am young (26). I knew why he was really coming over. We discuss how neither of us are currently seeing anyone and that this night is a one-time thing and it will never happen again. Anyway, he spends the night. We say our goodbyes the next morning and that was that. I felt so good. It was killing him that I no longer cared about him at all, that I was in control and that part of my life was over for good.
Flash forward to Saturday night. I am sitting at my apartment waiting for my roommate to finish getting ready. I am on Facebook and see George's profile. We still aren't friends but the Facebook gods are suggesting that we know each other. And what pops out at me immediately is that he has a girlfriend!! I text him a rather jolting note about his morals. I would have never had him over if I knew this was the case. I am completely against cheating. He apologizes to me and said it was a mistake and that he was drunk.
Now this is why I am writing in: Do I contact his girlfriend to let her know about Friday night? I know I did nothing wrong but at the same time it is nagging at me and I feel bad for her since she is so oblivious. I was too, because he puts on a good act. My friends have all gone 50/50 on this question. Some are strongly against it. Others suggest I do it because he sure as hell isn't going to come clean and this girl deserves to know. I feel like I should tell her so I feel better and it’s the right thing to do. But is it? Does the girlfriend have a right to know that her boyfriend cheated on her? Should I be the one to tell her?
– The morally confused, Boston
A: This is a tough one -- and there's no right answer. Telling seems intrusive. Not telling seems dishonest.
I want you to do what's best for you -- because you're my concern (when George's new girlfriend writes in, I'll focus on her). And what's best for you is to leave this alone. I want you to walk away and not dwell on George. Wasn't that your original plan?
George didn't have a girlfriend when he was your Facebook friend not long ago. I'm not sure when he committed to her, but it's his business -- and it's his cheat. Yes, you might be doing her a favor by letting her in on your Friday entertainment, but I fear that the disclosure will only put you in the middle of a mess. You're trying to separate yourself from this guy. It's bad enough that you share friends. Do you really want to reach out to his girlfriend?
My advice is to move on. Don't "re-friend" him on Facebook and avoid him when you see him out. Start focusing on your new life.
You're only recently over this. You don't owe anybody anything right now. Please, protect yourself.
Readers? Do you disagree? Sometimes I vote for disclosure, but in this case it seems best for her to run without making it her responsibly. Or am I wrong? Will contacting the new girlfriend make it hard for the LW to stay away from her ex? Discuss.
This letter writer loves putting things in parentheses. (Who doesn't?)
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.)
Q: Hey Meredith,
My sister and I have been debating/bemoaning the etiquette around breaking up on Facebook and were hoping that you could answer a question for us. We are two college-aged ladies experiencing some complications specifically on the subject of tagged pictures. See, her boyfriend and the guy I've been dating for a month are both reluctant to remove their cuddly, kissy, coupley Facebook pictures with ex-girlfriends. Both men rationalize that they are trying to maintain casual friendships with these exes, and do not want to take the hurtful action of removing or untagging the pictures.
My sister and I lean toward thinking that this is a bunch of malarkey. My sister fears that her boyfriend still cherishes feelings for his ex. I don't feel similarly threatened by my guy's ex-lady, but I just feel awkward that his profile contains dozens of public photos of him with her! She's in most of the pictures tagged of him, and about half his profile pics. If we were to get more serious, I don't think I'd be comfortable with those photos staying up.
Female friends have even commented on the pictures to me (like today via text: "wow tell him to slim down on the ex-GF pics jeez! out of control!"). I'm slightly embarrassed by being in this position. I can't relate to my guy's reasoning since I'm not friends with any of my exes, but personally I always take down coupley pictures once a relationship has ended. (I've also noticed that many of my guy friends keep pictures of their ex-girlfriends on their profiles. Is this related to gender?)
Help! What do you think we should tell our guys? Is there a standard of etiquette around this issue?
– Take A Picture Down, It'll Last Longer?
A: If the picture is on his profile, he should take it down, TAPDILL. If it's tagged on someone else's, he’s allowed to de-tag himself. Your feelings should be more important than his ex's. And if he's worried about offending anyone, he should slim down his entire gallery of photos so that he's just keeping the bare minimum.
Really, I've never understood the whole I’m-putting-everything-on-Facebook thing. I know I'm an old lady in my 30s, but it's about respect and privacy, two things that never go out of style.
You're right. He's wrong. And your sister is right, too. You can't start dating new people and expect them to smile at your Facebook profile if it's basically a scrapbook of your dating history.
Tell you guy he should take down the pics -- so he doesn't seem like a jerk. And if he doesn't agree, forward him your friend's text. He’s obviously worried what people think of him. He should know how this looks.
And maybe tell him that he doesn't have to replace those pictures with 100 photos of you. Make some memories in real life. Not everything has to be part of the display.
Readers? College readers? Can you shed light on this? Should people leave these pics up? Is it offensive to take them down? Am I right to think that a Facebook profile shouldn't have a bunch of couple photos? How should the LW (and her sister) handle this one? Discuss.
Here are the winners of the Love Letters Second Anniversary Cotton Contest. And here's today's letter ...
Q: I have been dating my boyfriend for two years. He is very attentive, takes me away on vacation with his family, and is never disrespectful. However, I have a big trust issue that I can't seem to get over.
When we first started dating we got really close really fast. He would text me all day and I just assumed we were exclusive. But I found out that at a party, he hooked up with a girl, who, get this, went shopping with me for my outfit on my first date with him. Go figure! Anyway, I stopped being friends with her. I found out about their hook-up from a friend because we went to a small college and I confronted him. We weren't technically exclusive so I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt and continue with things.
Throughout our relationship I have seen his friends cheat on their girlfriends so many times, and I couldn't help but think they would urge my boyfriend to do the same. However, I always thought he was different.
Then I saw a message between my boyfriend and his friend after he started an internship months ago. In the message, he told his friend that a new girl had started working with him and that she was hot, but too bad because she lives with her boyfriend. Well sir, you have a girlfriend too, and it's me! That was the last I heard about her and I don't think anything happened.
He's a big partier and a huge flirt. It's what I love about him -- and fear about him. A few months ago, a friend randomly called me and told me not to trust my boyfriend because he saw him hook up with this girl I used to think he flirted with. I remembered that night and how the next day he came over to my place and didn't say anything to me, just got right back into bed with me. We almost broke up when I found out, but for some reason I decided to keep with it because he begged me not to end it.
My friends all see how much he loves me, and I know it too. It's hard to talk to anyone about it because they just see one side of things, but inside I'm so exhausted from worrying about this. I recently saw a Facebook picture of him dancing with this girl and I keep thinking of all the times he was away with his friends on vacation, what was he really doing?
If he can call me up the next day after he kissed a girl (in front of people we knew) and pretend like nothing happened, how many other times did he do that?
I just want to be free from all those thoughts of him cheating. It could be my own insecurities at this point, but any advice helps.
– Mary, Boston
A: Strike 1: The text to the friend. I mean, it could have been a joke -- my married/committed friends and I certainly kid around about cute new co-workers (not at the Globe, of course) -- but his text rubbed you the wrong way. It didn't seem playful. It's a mini strike.
Strike 2: The call from the friend who told that you that your boyfriend was spotted with someone else. That's a major strike. Major. He did something terrible in front of people you know. So much for never being disrespectful.
Strike 3: The Facebook picture. I mean, come on. At the very least, have the courtesy to de-tag yourself.
I don't doubt that he loves you, Mary, but he's not ready to be in an exclusive relationship. And that's fine. He's young, right? What isn't fine is that he's lying to you about his intentions. What isn't fine is your exhaustion.
You can stay with him, look the other way, and hope that he grows out of this -- or you can do the tough thing and tell him that there's not enough trust to continue the relationship. He'll probably argue with you because he certainly doesn't want to lose you, but pay attention to your gut. And to Facebook. In this case, it speaks the truth.
You're not being paranoid or unnecessarily insecure. You're getting phone calls from people who have seen your boyfriend with others. You're like … Carmela Soprano. That's not cool.
You're tired. Give yourself a break. Being single is actually far less draining than being in a relationship that has you doubting yourself. You said it best -- you want to be free.
Readers? Read her first paragraph and remember that it's not all bad. How can she walk away from the bad without being miserable about losing the good? If she stays with him, will his party attitude eventually go away? Is this an age issue? Is there any reason to stay? Ever received a phone call from a stranger about your partner's bad behavior? Discuss.
It's the second anniversary of Love Letters tomorrow. I'll post winners of the cotton contest on Monday.
Just wanted to say happy anniversary. And that you still satisfy my needs.
Q: Hi Meredith,
Let me start out by saying that my significant other "Joe" and I are no longer together for multiple reasons. Prior to our breakup we had a debate about internet cheating. Toward the end of our relationship I was having trust issues with Joe so I browsed his computer (which I admitted to him). What I found in his history was a Chatroulette-like site geared toward video sex. I considered this a form of cheating because Joe would have been interacting with someone other than me. When I talked with Joe about it, he said he only did it a couple times and didn't see the harm in it.
I got outside opinions and it brought up an interesting debate. Some considered it cheating while others didn't. Many who thought using the site was cheating also thought looking at pornography was, as well. Personally, I don't see pornography as cheating because there is no interaction.
So I have to ask, with all the forms of technology these days, what is considered cheating (besides the obvious)? Is interactive video intimacy with another person considered cheating?
– Internet Killed the Pornography Star, Boston
A: Is it cheating, IKTPS? I don't know. Some people don't want their spouses to have extramarital friendships. Some people consider Facebook relationships to cross the line. Some people are cool with open marriages. Every couple makes its own rules. You learned that by asking your friends. They couldn't give you a straight answer.
I see interactive, Chatroulette-style sexy stuff as … interactive pornography. If the interactive part makes it a cheat to you, then it's a cheat. It's funny – I have a friend who once caught her ex-boyfriend doing something similar. She was upset, but not because she felt sexually betrayed. She was angry because her boyfriend didn't have anything better to do than to talk to some woman in Italy at 2 a.m. She was upset because he was so bored.
Be honest with yourself and make rules based on what gives you bad feelings in your gut. And don't jump to conclusions. If your next boyfriend is looking at a similar site, check it out with him. See what you think. Does it feel like simple eye candy? Does it feel like a real cheat? Research and set boundaries.
At the end of the day, you had other issues with Joe. If you had been in a supportive, trusting relationship, the video stuff might not have concerned you.
Readers? Where do you draw the line when it comes to cheating? Ever played with a Chatroulette-style site? Was this really about Joe's other issues? Anniversary thoughts? Discuss. And help add to our songs of the day. I'm loving the soundtrack.
Q: I have been with my girlfriend for almost two years and she is wonderful, funny, makes me happy, and I love her very much. We had a blip last winter where she was toying with the idea of being with someone else when things were bad between the two of us (just fighting a lot, not seeing eye-to-eye, and then not communicating about our needs and problems). I found out that she had gone on a date or two with this guy, they had kissed, and that was it. She suggested couples therapy, which we did a few times. She really came around. I would say it helped our relationship.
However, I find myself STILL not fully trusting her. I have resisted the strong temptation to snoop through her e-mail/Facebook when she steps out and leaves her computer on. But the other day I gave in. I checked her Facebook messages when her account was left open and she was in the shower. I saw a message she had written to her ex-boyfriend only a few weeks back when things were amazing and wonderful (or so I thought). She had written that they hadn't talked in a while and she really wanted to see him. He had written back that he would be in town around the holidays with his new girlfriend, that he hoped she was well, and that maybe they could catch up soon. She wrote back "no big deal."
Do I bring this up with her -- and if so, how? Do I actually mention I was snooping? If so, how can I be trusted?
She has several male friends and is always on her phone texting and sending messages through Facebook. I just don't know if I am becoming paranoid and need to chill and trust her, or if I am right to still feel uncomfortable so many months later.
– Paranoid, Boston
A: You're not being paranoid, Paranoid. I mean, you are, but the Facebook message confirmed your fears. I'm not saying that there's anything going on with your girlfriend and her ex, but her desire to see him was news to you. It made you feel bad. That's not good.
You can confront your girlfriend about what you saw, but I don't think she can answer your big questions. Only you know why you don't feel safe in the relationship. Only you know whether you want to be with a woman who seeks attention from other men, including friends and exes. You might prefer a fresh start -- or a girlfriend who's less social and more of an open book. I don't know.
What I do know is that counseling helped. You said you went a few times. Perhaps you weren't finished.
My advice is to go back, whether it's with her or alone. You're not done talking. The more you come clean about these fears and what you need to feel secure in a relationship (with anyone, not just her), the easier it will be to decide if your girlfriend is the right partner.
Stopping therapy too soon is like not finishing a prescription of antibiotics. You just wind up sick again.
Readers? Is there hope here? How can he get over the past? Is the note to the ex cause for concern or was it a simple catch-up? Am I right about him having his own answers? Discuss. (And yes, that was really Rico in the chat yesterday.)
I have a problem that may seem a bit trite to some people, especially those who didn't grow up in the text generation. I met a great guy through a mutual friend about a month ago. Actually, we met a couple of times before that, but he had a girlfriend. He waited a few months after the breakup before he told my friend that he'd like to see me again. My friend threw a party so that we could informally meet again. We instantly hit it off. He got my number and we started texting. We've seen each other twice since and it's been great, although neither time was initiated by him. Once my friend invited me to a party and he told me I should come when I asked. The other time I invited him over. We have fun together, have a lot in common, and seem to be attracted to each other.
He texts me ALL the time. I don't just mean every day – I mean conversations that pretty much continue throughout the entire day. I wake up to his texts in the morning that he's sent before I've woken up while he’s at work. And he texts me before he goes to bed. He has a cute nickname that he calls me. If I haven't responded to his texts within a couple hours, he always sends a follow-up message. And it's not only texting, he calls me on occasion just to chat. He's obviously thinking about me.
The thing I can’t figure out is why he doesn’t make more of an effort to spend actual time with me. I’m waiting for an official date. I know that "He’s Not That Into You" says that if a guy is really into you, then he’ll ask you out. He makes plans for the future, but nothing concrete. "We should do this, we should do that." I've made it clear that I would like to spend time with him, but we have to work around his schedule because he's insanely busy. He said he'd like to see me again, I told him the ball's in his court, but I'm not quite sure what he’s doing with that ball -- it's been three weeks.
Just for some more background, he is working and going to school, lives 30 minutes away, and has the opposite schedule of me. He's up before dawn and done with work in the afternoon – although he has school in the evenings a few times a week. I'm a 9 to 5 and like to go out in the evenings. He's in bed by 9. He also works most weekends during the day. He was in a one-year relationship that has been over for about six months now, and they had a very mutual breakup. We're both 24. He’ll be done with school in six months and then maybe he’ll have more time.
I know that his priority is work/school right now, so basically what I'm asking is if I should give this relationship some time and keep on texting or if I should accept that he's just not that into me.
– Waiting For Some Face Time, Boston
A: This isn't a "He's Just Not That Into You" moment. He's into you, I think. But he's also weird.
He's not uniquely weird, of course. I know a lot of people who are capable of emotional intimacy in texts and e-mails but not in person. I don't get it -- it's possible to establish some intimacy in writing, but it's certainly difficult to make out in an e-mail. Not to get into gender stuff, but for all the talk about guys only wanting one thing, I get plenty of letters about guys who text and e-mail but don't show up in person. So much for stereotypes. Again, no pajama parties if all you do is text.
You asked whether you should give it more time or move on. I'm going to add a third option -- ask him when you can see him again. Be specific about the question. I know I'm a broken record with the whole "just be honest" and "talk about it" thing, but in your case, it applies. Just tell him that his texts are speaking louder than his actions and it's confusing you. You get that he's busy, but that's all the more reason for him to plan some dates with you.
It also couldn't hurt to ask your mutual friend about this. Maybe this is a pattern. Or maybe you'll find out that he is just really busy. You've seen him twice in a month, which isn't that bad. It's the boyfriend-like texts and the lack of concrete plans that are throwing you off.
Readers? Can a chronic texter explain this to me? Why text all night and not get together in person? It's been three weeks. Should she bail now? Discuss.
Q: I've just started reading your column on a daily basis. Never did I think that I would actually be writing in with a question!
I am sitting here, right now, bawlin' like a big 'ole baby, because I just had the misfortune of discovering that my boyfriend of three years, who I'd been fighting with for the past few weeks/months, decided to take down his relationship status (“In a relationship”) from his Facebook page. Now, I knew that this was coming. We had been arguing for quite some time now, over stupid stuff. It was becoming quite obvious to both of us that this relationship was not going to last forever. He is uneducated, irresponsible with money, immature, possessive, domineering, and obnoxious. I know that sounds like a lot of things that should have made me run the day I met him, but when you dig down into his background and upbringing, you can almost justify some of the way he is and acts. At least, I did. Stupid me, fell in love.
I am not looking for advice on how to save this broken partnership. I know it is useless to even try anymore. There is no more respect on either side because of things that were said. What I would like to know is how the heck does someone get over these things quickly and, somewhat, painlessly? I know it's not the right relationship for me. I get that. But why does it still hurt so much and how do you get over it? I feel like a lost little puppy. Any help you can provide would be greatly appreciated.
– Feelin' sorry for myself at 42, Worcester
A: There is no break-up pill, FSFMA42. This stuff is like the common cold -- you just have to wait it out.
There are some ways to help expedite the process. Consider how much emotional energy it took to keep this not-so-great relationship alive. A lot of energy. More than you even know. Now you’re stuck with all of this excess time and energy and you don’t know what to do with it, which is why you feel so overwhelmed. All of that energy is being used to obsess about what went wrong and why. That analysis isn't going to get you anywhere at this point.
My advice is to take that energy and put it somewhere else. Use 20 percent of it to spread the word to family and friends that you're going to start looking for a partner who’s right for you. That 20 percent includes spending more time with those friends. Use another 30 percent for a creative project -- perhaps an apartment renovation? Playing music? Something that involves self-expression. Use another 30 percent for self-improvement. Maybe a class or the gym. Allow yourself 15 percent for feeling bummed out. Because you can't avoid it. Break-ups take some mourning. You're supposed to consider the loss and what you've learned.
You should notice that there's a 5 percent hole on my pie chart. That last 5 percent is the effort it will take to not get back together with this person. I fear the Facebook status was an attention-seeking bluff. Maybe I'm wrong, but just in case, save 5 percent for reminding yourself what you have to look forward to -- an easier life, possibly with someone new.
Readers? Would you rearrange my pie chart? Any thoughts for the letter writer? Is his past relevant? Do you think he's going to come back? And -- if anyone wants to draw me their own break-up pie chart and e-mail it to me, I will post it. I love art projects. Now discuss.
Have a good weekend.
Q: I’ve been an avid reader of you're column ever since I moved to Boston. I never thought I would write in myself, but, that seems to be the way of things. Here is my dilemma:
I am a 30something woman who has been in a relationship for 3 years. We met out in the mid-west. We were both in grad school at the time. We knew from the start of the relationship that I would be moving to Massachusetts at the end of that first year, and he was OK with that. We agreed that we would see how things went. When it was time for me to move, he said he wanted to make it work long distance. I agreed. I was totally, madly in love, and believed he was as well.
That year apart was one of the hardest I've experienced. But we made it work and were able to see each other at least once a month. We maintained the relationship because we both wanted it to grow. We had talked about trying to live in the same city again, since we still both wanted to be together. But he continued to explore jobs in places I wasn't, and to make a long story short, I started to wonder whether he was being faithful and if he was serious about moving ahead with the relationship. One day while he was visiting and had his computer out, as much as I hate to admit this, I looked at his e-mail. What I found completely astounded me. Not only had he been planning dates with a woman who worked at a company where he was hoping to get a job (and later found out that he went on a date with her, and they kissed), but I also found that he had been sending naked pictures of himself to his ex-girlfriend (whom he always denied having contact with), and had also carried on a serious e-mail flirtation with a classmate of his. I was devastated, as he was always saying how he would never cheat on someone, because he had been cheated on. He had good values. Was from a good family. I didn't get it.
He begged me for forgiveness and again said he wanted to make it work. He moved to Boston to show how committed he was to changing, and attempted to find jobs here. We moved in together, and began the long and arduous process of healing and moving forward. I did end up forgiving him, and we had many, long talks about what happened and why. He said he had been miserable at the time because he couldn't find a job, felt worthless, etc., and ended up cheating. He was going to go to counseling, but never did. I had wanted to marry him and he said he wanted to marry me. But, for whatever reason (he said financial) the ring never came. Still, things were going great this year, and I was happy. I thought we both were.
Fast forward to a few weeks ago. He still hasn't been able to find the job he wants out here (but has been able to work from home this past year). I again checked his e-mail while it was open (which I hadn't done all year). I again discovered that he had been sending naked pictures of himself to women, only this time it was to strangers he had found on Craigslist. Again, I was devastated.
So here we are again. He still wants to make it work, but I don't understand why, or if I want to go through this all again. I've been wanting to get married and begin that part of my life for a while now, and while I still love him, I fear that this person is for obvious reasons, just not the right person for me.
Is it possible to move on AGAIN after something like this? Is it likely it will happen again? Should I give him another chance? He started going to counseling this time, because he says he too wants to figure out why he has done these things, and prevent them from happening in the future. He has been ring shopping, and says he wants nothing more than for us to be married. I don't understand the motivation behind cheating, and wanting to maintain our relationship. I fear that I know the answer to my questions, that I will never be enough for him, but just don't know how to start all over again by myself.
– Confused and Afraid To Be Alone, South End
A: I don't know whether he'll send pictures of himself to strangers again (although, if I were a betting man, I might put some money on it), but I do know that rings and a lifetime commitments should not be on the table, CAATBA. I know you want to get married, but you have yet to make this work. It didn't work long distance. It hasn't worked with him living in the same house.
People who are just out of school and can't find jobs are often miserable and insecure. But -- that doesn't mean everything he's done is about his temporary situation. And it certainly doesn't mean all should be forgiven.
You're telling us that you know what you have to do but that you're afraid of being alone. I get that. But I would think that spending more time on a guy who isn't marriage material might be scarier than trusting your gut.
If you need to give him another chance before walking away, fine. But marriage shouldn't even be in the mix until you've had a good relationship for longer than you've had a bad one. At the moment, you're not even close.
Readers? Should she give him another chance? Is this about his unemployment? What’s with the ring talk? Should I run some updates on Monday? Because I think I want to. Now help CAATBA.
Looking forward to seeing some of you at the movies on Thursday.
Q: Dear Meredith,
Like everyone else, I never thought I would write. For one, I am married, so I never thought I had reason to. Until now. I have no idea where to begin. There are so many different chapters to this story.
I had a baby almost a year ago, my second. With my first, I had postpartum and cried a lot because she never wanted to sleep in her crib at night. When I got close to my due date with my second, my excitement turned into anxiety of repeating the few months of what happened before.
Fast forward, I had the baby. While home on maternity leave, I saw the internet as a lifeline -- my connection to the outside world. I also started chatting on Facebook with someone I'll call Brian. Brian had friend-requested me a few months prior to this point and we exchanged a few msgs here and there. Because of his job, Brian kept the same hours I did. So after I had the baby, we chatted often, catching up. Instead of fearing the last feeding, I stayed up until then (2AM) and looked forward to it. I truly believe that he helped keep the postpartum from returning. I thought of Brian as a distraction. When I returned to work, my hours would be back to normal, no more five hour chats (no exaggeration.)
Brian and I had liked each other in school. We were too young to date and so it was one of those young teen crushes. He ended up moving a few hours away and that was the last I saw of him. He called me about 20 years ago when I was in college and told me that he still had feelings for me. I was flattered, but dating someone, so we lost touch again. Throughout this time, I have thought about him off and on, wondering whatever happened to him and what he's doing now. Now, it turns out, he and I are both married, both have kids. And he still lives a couple of hours away.
He is also not a distraction. It's been about eight months and we still chat, text, and call. Lately, I find myself not being able to stop thinking about him, and according to him, the feeling is mutual. He has also recently told me that his feelings for me never went away, and he has thought about me too all along. That doesn't scare me off at all.
Don't get me wrong, I love my husband. This letter isn't to ask you if I married the wrong guy. I know I did not and if given the choice, I would still pick my husband over anyone. I know the grass isn't greener, and I'm not looking to explore that. My friends tell me that adult crushes and flirting is healthy, and maybe they are. Brian is planning a visit to the area to see family and we have tentative plans to get together when he does. My husband knows I have reconnected with him and told him if he wasn't comfortable with us getting together, then I wouldn't. He's OK with it. And no, I would never physically cheat on him.
My question is whether you think I am emotionally cheating on him. Is it okay to be in love with two people? And could this be love, or just still a puppy crush from 20 years that hasn't gone away.
– Mrs. Brightside, Massachusetts
A: MB, I believe that you have no intention of starting anything physical with Brian. And for the record, I do think it's OK for people to have friendships with exes and past crushes, even if they're married, even if the interaction with those exes still causes butterflies. I mean, whatever gets you through a 2 a.m. breast feeding, right?
But (you knew there would be a "but," right?) Brian has a wife. Brian tells you he still has feelings for you. You chat with Brian frequently. I'm all for getting an ego boost from an ex-crush every now and then, but Brian has become a part of your routine. I'm not loving that.
I can't tell you whether you're cheating on your husband. I don't mean to cop out on my answer, but cheating is subjective. Some people think that going out alone with someone who is not your spouse is cheating. Other people think it's cool to sleep with other people as long as there's disclosure. Every couple comes up with its own rules.
I do think you should be concerned about what Brian represents and how he will affect your marriage. You want to be with your husband now, but if you continue to bond with Brian, will you stay committed to your marriage? What if Brian asks for more? What if your husband eventually decides that he’s uncomfortable? Are you prepared for all of the problematic possibilities?
My advice is to limit your interaction with Brian. I know, I know -- you don't want to. But is his attention worth all of the risks? And do you really understand what those risks are? Do some soul searching about where this is supposed to go, because like all relationships, it has to go somewhere.
Readers? Is she cheating? Does it matter that her husband condones the contact with Brian? Is she really in love with two people? Is this a post-baby thing? Discuss.
We're still taking party RSVPs at firstname.lastname@example.org
Q: I know some readers are going to find a Facebook quandary boring, but it is my life after all …
I have been dating a great new guy for almost three months. We're both in our late 20s/early 30s. We are definitely still in the honeymoon stage, but things are great and we are "official." We had the talk and are not seeing other people. The problem is that he will not acknowledge me on Facebook. I don’t need him to put "in a relationship with" me yet, but we recently took a weekend trip and the only pictures he posted were ones I took of just him. We have taken photos at several other fun outings and he has never posted the pictures. I changed my profile picture to one of two of us together, but he won't even include pictures with me in them.
Some back story: he dated his last girlfriend for a couple of years, and it was pretty serious. There was talk of rings and wedding dates and locations. He told me this when we first started dating because he wanted to take things slower this time. They had moved really fast in the beginning and he still felt a little burned. They broke up almost a year ago, but they are still friends on Facebook -- and he is also connected to several of her friends and family members. I have a feeling that he doesn't want her to see pictures of him with another girl, though she knows through mutual friends that he is seeing someone.
How do I approach this? I don't want to demand that he de-friend her or start posting pictures of me all over his page, but it still hurts my feelings to not be acknowledged. I think he is trying to spare her feelings, but what about mine?
– Invisible Girlfriend, Brighton
A: IG, you're not invisible. You're only invisible in the Matrix, the world that exists online. In the real world, he's not seeing other people because you're his main squeeze.
Some people love putting pictures of their significant others all over their Facebook pages. Others are more private about their personal lives when they're online. You've only been dating for three months. I understand that it hurts to be ignored on Facebook, but I don't think this is a big deal just yet. He's not ready to boast about you to his virtual friends. If he's a private person who feels weird about labeling himself online, he might never be. If this still bothers you in a few months, talk to him about his internet philosophy. You might discover that it's not about you. Maybe he just doesn't do the Facebook couple thing.
If this is about his ex, well, I don't blame him. If you date someone for years and discuss marriage, it's not easy to let go. It's also not easy to post a picture of your new girlfriend knowing that your ex's mom or sibling will see it. If that's his reason for being shy online, I get it. Don't you? It might be easier for him to show off his new life in a few more months, when the dust has really settled.
Three months. Focus on the real world. Don't panic. Not everyone likes to scrapbook in public.
Readers? Do you post pics of your significant other online? In your profile photo? Is it weird that he's cutting her out of his Facebook life? Do his Facebook choices reflect how he feels about her in reality? Discuss.
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.
Did everybody see Brownie Husband on "Saturday Night Live"? Tasty.
I'm not sure how to start this letter to you. I have never online dated before. I never really believed in it, nor did I ever know how much I could connect so much with one person. I met, let's call him James, on a local networking site through a friend. Basically we commented on the same update post, he befriended me, and we started chatting. It all sounds very silly I know, and I had never done this before and was of course a little skeptical. I also trust our common friend.
There was an immediate connection. It was funny, and witty, there was flirting and deep thoughts. We talked online, we began to email, be started to call. We sent pictures. We would write the same thing/say the same thing before the other did. I was amazed at how long we could talk .We talked almost every day for five months, for up to four hours. I was blown away by the connection that we had. But I knew that I couldn't make a real assessment unless we actually spent real time together. He was the one who started to mention that we should meet, but I told him that I wasn't comfortable flying across the country to meet someone He understood. (One of his girl friends offered for me to stay with her, but I still declined.)
I was going to the West Coast where my sister lives for the Thanksgiving holiday (it had been five months now), and that’s where he went to college and met out mutual friend. So he offered to meet me in Los Angeles. I was comfortable with this. I was staying with my sister and he was staying with his friend. We met. It was amazing. We continued to talk after that, but it died down. He got a girlfriend, I got hurt. But I understood. We met again during a trip I made to his city. I stayed with a friend. Again it was amazing. Although this time he had a girlfriend. Even though she did not live there, it still hurt me.
I ended communication after that. We both did actually at different times. We always ended up talking again. We have recently (now it’s April) started talking the same way we used to. He is still with the other girl (who does not live there ether) but says he still thinks about me.
There is no denying our connection. We cry, we laugh, and I feel like I know him so well. But I also know that the distance and the fact that he is with someone else ultimately will hurt me.
I have dated other people while we have been talking. But not seriously and have found it hard to find a connection as strong with anyone. I miss him often. He often misses me. We both live out our daily lives but always love talking with each other. We have even fought. It feels like a real relationship at times.
Do I have to let this one go? I can't be the internet "girlfriend" while he has a real one? I feel like I need to move on if there is hope for me meeting someone else. But I must tell you, I have tried. And I always go back to thinking about him.
– 9 Months of Loving Someone Over the Internet, Boston
A: 9MOLSOTI, I don't know if this thing is real. Neither do you. It seems like it could be. Maybe. And for the record, I think that the way you two met is sort of great. Really, you met through a mutual friend. And you got to know each other in an old-fashioned way, despite the fact that it all happened online.
There's only one way to find out if this thing has potential: commit to finding out. If you're obsessively thinking that some guy on the other side of the country is the lid to your pot (notice I didn't say soul mate), you have to sign on to have a relationship with him. You have to visit as much as you can and make plans for one of you to relocate.
Grown-ups often have to choose between love and geography, romance and work, children and career, family and travel. We live with the loss of one thing for the gain of another. You and James are trying to move on with your lives with other people, but you're failing.
Decide whether you want him. If you do, tell him. And if he feels the same way, see if he'll ditch this new woman and make some real plans. If not, well, you can start the process of minimizing him in your life. But, if he's open to this, take the risk.
Readers? Am I being too romantic about this? How can James be dating someone but thinking about the letter writer? Is he just keeping her on the backburner or is he waiting for her to sign on to this for real? Can you make a big leap with someone you've barely seen in person? Discuss.
A long letter ... but I feel like it's all stuff we need to know.
Q: Hi Meredith,
I am in a bit of a bind here. Not because of the relationship, so to speak, but more because of me in said relationship. Some background first:
When I met my girlfriend, I was married. I wasn't happy in my marriage and neither was my wife, but we never did anything about it. We both just assumed it was an extended "funk."
Well, then I met her. It started off as friendly, then it led to flirting, then it led to transgressions. This took a few months.
Immediately after the first transgression, I knew I had to do something about my marriage. Not for this new girl, but more for the fact that the bad marriage had to end, so I took that transgression as a sign that things needed to change.
So I changed them. Over the course of a few painful months, the marriage ended and all the while this new girl waited in the wings for me not wanting to commit herself to a man who was already committed. Once I was officially "de-committed", we began the slow process of dating. What helped was that since we had met she had moved out of state, so having that distance allowed us to take it slowly. Over the course of that time as well, there were things about me that I wanted to change. I wanted to be a better, different person. Not only for me, but for any partner I would have in the future. I didn't want to make the same mistakes I did when I was married. This new girl, she helped me with that quite a bit. Basically, at the age of 31, I was finally growing up.
This took many months, and I can honestly say I am a MUCH better person now than I ever have been. Because of that, I have a confidence and inner peace that I have never felt before. I know how to recognize and correct my mistakes, and even prevent them from happening. Well, at least I thought I did.
Fast forward to the present day. My girlfriend has since moved back to the Boston area and we have been living together for a few months. Although living together after having a long distance relationship has taken some work, we are both incredibly happy. I am head over heels for this girl. My family loves her. My friends love her. She is everything that I want. But, the old me seems to sneak up and smack me in the face occasionally, and one incident has thrown us for a loop.
I had a female co-worker who I was talking to about a week ago ask me some relationship advice. She was starting to see a new guy, wasn't sure what to do or how she felt, etc. That's not the point. The point is that during our conversation we started flirting and some explicit things were said. Mind you, I had no intentions of ever acting upon them, and I immediately felt guilty about it afterward. The conversation was over text message.
I am open and honest in every way with my girlfriend. I leave my computer open as well as my two cell phones (work and personal), all around the house. I have nothing to hide. Unfortunately, she picked up my phone and saw the conversation I had with the co-worker. And now, as you can imagine, all hell has broken loose. She obviously cannot trust me, especially if you consider my past, and she is unsure about the future of our relationship.
I cannot say it enough: I love this girl with every atom of my being.
I cannot justify what was written and why, nor do I want to, but I know it was wrong and should not have happened. I had no ill intentions with this co-worker and in a million years would not do that to my girlfriend, or anyone else for that matter. It was a moment of idiocy during a time when I though I had nothing but clarity. And I cannot blame my girlfriend for feeling the way she does.
My question is, first, how to I win her trust back? And how do I prevent situations like this from happening again? I love my girlfriend to death, and this incident was pure stupidity on my part; I got caught up in a "moment." I realized what I did and stopped. And the girl I was talking to knew that I wasn't serious and also knew that I loved my girlfriend. It was a weird situation, one that I don't want to be in again.
– Fighting My Former Self, Boston
A: As for winning your girlfriend's trust back, you're going to have to ask her what you should do. It may just take time. She's either into forgiveness or she's not.
As for preventing this from happening again … well, just know that it will.
There are some people who are naturally good at exclusivity. They don't need second and third sources of attention. Cheating doesn't occur to them. Then there are the others, the folks who can't help themselves from seeking out glances, texts, and full-on cheats, even when they're in a happy relationship. We've been reading about those people in the news a lot lately.
Most likely, you're somewhere in the middle. You have selfish desires and you're suffering from a bout of entitlement because of a bad marriage. You may think you took it slow after your divorce, but in reality, you jumped from one relationship to the next without giving yourself time to get the insignificant flirtations out of your system. There was no time to play around with attraction, push limits, and make mistakes. And here you are now, in a serious relationship, totally confused about why you talked up a hot co-worker even though you're happy with your status quo.
My answer is that you did it because you spent a long time justifying that you deserved to do whatever makes you happy so that you could get out of your marriage. And now, after all that self-lobbying, you still feel justified to do questionable things, even though you aren't. All that "I deserve to be happy" stuff you told yourself to make it OK leave your wife ... it no longer applies. You trained yourself to act impulsively. Now you have to undo all that. Start telling yourself that you're no longer entitled. You got what you wanted. That's all you get.
It will help to stop thinking of yourself as a "new self" who is being haunted by an "old self." You're just one self. An evolving self. There's no little devil or angel on your shoulder. There's just you, confronted with choices every day. This is about you making the right choices based on what you want for your future. If you want this girlfriend in your life without having to lie to her, then the selfish choice is doing right by her. It's best to think of it that way. It will make saying "no" to attention seem like less of a sacrifice.
Readers? How can he avoid mistakes next time? Will there be a next time? Is his old self really battling his new self? Am I right to suggest that he taught himself to be entitled? Discuss.
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Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith at www.meredithgoldstein.netand on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.