Advice

Miss Information

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Dear Miss Information,
My boyfriend and I have been dating over a year. This is going to make me sound like such a bitch, but I hate it when he says, “I love you,” before we get off the phone. I feel like it cheapens the whole thing. I’ve told him, but maybe he’s ignoring me or doesn’t remember. I almost always say it back, but it makes me cringe. How can I tell him to knock it off? Can you really tell someone not to say the three magic words? I know other people would kill to be in my situation. I should be a better communicator, right? This is so sensitive though. Help! F the L Word


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Dear F the L Word,
Oh man. I had the same problem, slightly different situation. One of my exes, a master of filthy talk, started incorporating the phrase “good girl” into his repertoire of sayings. At first it was sexy. All dirty Lolita and shit. I don’t know if it was his delivery that changed or just a case of worn-out novelty, but eventually I started to feel like a dog being rewarded for catching a Frisbee. Good girl! Good girl! Dude, am I sucking your dick or a participant in a canine agility contest?
Speaking of animals, this reminds me of the Shamu article that appeared in the Times‘s “Modern Love” section a little over a year ago,. The gist of it was that you reinforce behavior in your partner that you like, and ignore behavior that you don’t. This worked well with the Dog Trainer. I wouldn’t drop his dick, grab the remote, and flip on my programs, but I wouldn’t be all enthusiastic and moaning up a storm, either. Subtle differences in reaction, applied consistently, added up over time. The “good girls” ended without the need for an awkward conversation.
Try that on your boyfriend. The next time he says "I love you," respond with something neutral — “thanks” or “uh huh” or “good-bye”. Keep the tone as warm as possible, you don’t want to make him think you’re mad at him or start a fight. If he has any inkling of a clue of a clue, he’ll catch on. After all, you’ve already told him once or twice before.
If that doesn’t work, you may have to just come out and say something: “I like that you tell me you love me, because I love you too. But do you think you could save it for when we’re not talking over the phone?” Suggest a few times/places where it’s appropriate to say it and know that it might be a hard habit for him to break. After coming out of a three-year-always-saying-I-love-you-before-getting-off-the-phone-type relationship, I found myself saying it to everyone — friends, freelance clients, the guy at the phone company. Slip-ups will be plentiful. You may even catch yourself in a few from time to time.

 

Dear Miss Information,
I’ve been with my husband for seven years. Through that time he’s cheated on me — at least three instances that I know of, possibly more. Last time I told him I’d leave him if he did it again, and I suspect he’s up to his old tricks. Incriminating numbers on his cellphone, late nights at work, random clothing changes. You know what I’m saying. I don’t have to spell it out.
My high-school boyfriend is back in the picture. We’ve been talking online — a lot — making up for losing touch after I got married. (Husband doesn’t know and I don’t really care). He’s a great man and wants me to move in with him. He has a good job and money. The downside is he lives in another state (I live in New York City). The upside is I really could see us together. He understands me and would never hurt me.
Should I leave my husband for this guy? Or stay with the cheater and hope things improve? For the record, my husband really seems like he’s serious this time and the children will miss their father. — Messy



Dear Messy,
Unhappy wife leaves Big City and unfaithful husband, rediscovers romance with childhood sweetheart in quaint Southern town. Sounds great. For a Harlequin novel. Real life? Not so much. You’d be jumping from one relationship right into another. Uprooting the younguns to move in with someone you haven’t seen since you had homeroom. If you think chatting over instant messenger prepares you for the realities of living with someone, Messy, you’re mistaken.
There are also custody issues to be settled. It may or may not be legal to take your offspring across state lines. You’ll have to ask Star Jones about that one. And let’s not forget your husband. Even cheating douchebags deserve to see their children. Moving them away, before the divorce is final, strains an already strained relationship. His wife is leaving him, taking the kids, and moving in with another guy. Mistresses or no, that’s going to ring some jealousy bells — loud and clangy.
Should you decide to break up with your husband (and I’m not saying you should), slow down. Do not move in with High School Boyfriend. Get your own place or stay with a friend or relative. Reconnect with your kids. Sort your shit out. What’s with this moving halfway across the country, anyway? Make his ass come to you. You’re the one with legal issues and two little ones in tow. Plus, you live in the center of the universe. When you pay eight dollars for a box of cereal, people come to you, sweetie. Unless there’s a fantastic job opportunity waiting or your soon-to-be ex is being really fabulous and stalking you, you have little reason to pack up.


Dear Miss Information,
I have this friend who I might like to date, but she’s unbearably shy. That’s part of the reason I was attracted to her in the first place, because I’m shy too. The trouble is she won’t call, she won’t ever make the first move, and she can’t even say she’s attracted to me unless she’s very drunk. We made out during one of the drunken episodes, and I just wish she would make some sort of effort to indicate that she’s into me. I’m sure she likes me from the things she’s let slip while drunk, but it’s just so unexciting to never hear it the next day. How can I draw her out of her shell? I’m sure we’d both be happier that way. — Shy Times Two


Well, I know you’ll be happier. She’ll be doing all the work and taking all the risk by asking you out. I’m going to age myself about twenty years in two sentences, but, as my mom used to say:
What’s the matter with you? You got a broken leg? YOU ask her out.
(And pick up your room. No, I am not giving you $20 for Hot Topic. Who are the “Dead Kennedys”? I don’t like you wearing t-shirts that say dead in the name. Fine, I’ll buy it. But you’re not wearing that for your senior picture. . . )
Scenario #1: She likes you, you’re just going to have to be really aggressive. Ask her on a date with an exit door. By that I mean a concert that a friend “just happened” to bail on and leave you an extra ticket, or a restaurant you “have” to try out because you’re writing a review for your journalism class. That way it’s date-like, but not too overwhelming or obvious. During the date, test the waters with a few chivalrous gestures. Pay for a round of drinks, hang up her coat at the restaurant, etc. I know some women balk at that shit, but there’s a way to do it without being a douchebag about it. Sometimes you have to exaggerate your behavior a little to make a point — that point being that you like her. You could spend five dates sipping coffee across from each other with nothing happening. The moment you fetch quarters for the pinball machine — well that’s when the nookie fairy comes out of hiding.
Scenario #2: There’s no Magic. You’re insinuating yourself. Like a watered-down version of David Copperfield. She only kind of likes you, and only when she’s kind of blindingly drunk. The shy bit is your ego trying to protect yourself. If she liked you she would have asked you out already. If this is the case, you can still try out the strategies up above, knowing that you’re probably in for a rejection, or you can get together and imbibe a little more truth serum (i.e. pink-apple-margarita-Jolly-Rancher shooters) and ask her some funny, frank questions about her intentions: “Are you ever going to make out with me when you can see straight?” “What does your mouth taste like without tequila shots?” “Why do we have this special drunk language?” The tone will be joking, but I predict you’ll be able to get a little more info from her answers.
Finally, get it over with. Mysterious types like this can keep you going for months. They neglect you like a plant, then give you just enough sustenance to bring you back to life. I’d rather take my chances with the weed-whacker of rejection than spend the rest of my days as a languishing fern. Make like a tree and ask her out.

 


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©2007 Erin Bradley and Nerve.com