Advice

Miss Information

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Have a question? Email erin@nerve.com. Letters may be edited for length, content and clarity.

Dear Miss Information,

Sunday morning, I joke about adopting kids with my boyfriend of six months. By Tuesday night, I go over to his place for a date and he tells me we shouldn’t see each other anymore! Seems he spent all Monday night with a bottle of wine and his imagination, and he can’t see himself as an adoptive dad. I told him although I may joke around, realistically, I have no plans to adopt kids anytime soon. I asked him to reconsider and got a phone call today that he’s "not 100% sure he wants to be together, but not 100% sure he wants to break up." His only concern was the adopted kids, but now he says something doesn’t feel right. I love this guy and want to keep our relationship going. Any ideas on how to bring him back from the bad place he’s created in his head? Imaginary Mama Drama


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Dear Imaginary Mama Drama,
This isn’t about kids. It’s about straws and camels and tipping points. The Angelina joke and the alcohol are what brought it to the forefront, but he’s been feeling conflicted about you for quite a while. Little things are symptomatic of bigger things, and those bigger things aren’t always a two-way experience. Like falling out of love. It’s a sickening, growing weight at the bottom of your gut — not something you flaunt in front of your partner.
Which explains why all this feels so illogical and sudden. We’re raised to be self-aware and do everything we can to make up for our mistakes and shortcomings. But sometimes we do it when it’s not necessary. You don’t have anything to apologize for in this instance, other than being yourself.
And don’t think you’re the only one suffering from the if-onlys. I’ve been beating myself up all month. Long story short, I basically got misty in front of a guy I was seeing. Note that I said misty. Not weeping hysterically. Not snot pouring out of my nose. Grandma’s mascara held its ground. It didn’t last long, maybe ten minutes. I left his apartment without threatening suicide and even cracked a few jokes. Over the next two weeks he dumped me by default: noncommittal texts, going from mostly available to forever too busy to see me. Which of course made me regret what I did: Why did I show emotion? Why did I have feelings? Why couldn’t I have kept my stupid chapped lips shut?
Then I realized. This was about his recent divorce and cuckoo-bird ex-wife and him not being ready to have a girlfriend, something he warned me about at the start.
Give him some space. Don’t try to talk him into being with you. If it’s genuine and a minor blip, he’ll come back around. If he doesn’t, know that I’m there with you, sister. It sucks. But one day you’ll find the right guy. He’ll be totally comfortable talking about adopting twenty shorties with you, whether they’re imaginary or not.

 

Dear Miss Information:

I’ve been in a relationship with a twenty-three-year-old guy (I’m twenty) for ten months now. Everything was awesome at first (as it usually is), but things have just gone down the drain. He’s the youngest child in a very rich family, and oh boy, does he act like it. I’m the oldest in a middle-class family and I have a three-year-old son. Am I wrong for wanting my boyfriend to somewhat resemble an adult? I’m tired of having spitballs thrown at me, and having him "bulldoze" me, which is when he log rolls over my entire body. Or is anyone around that age going to act like that? Mother of Two?

Dear Mother of Two,
Oh my God! Someone else does that too? My sister and I used to play that game. We called it "Mighty Gobots Steamroller." If the Transformers were the Beatles, the Gobots were the Monkees of the sentient-robot-toy world. I almost want to congratulate you for finding such a cool guy, instead of telling you to dump him. Then I think about an ex of mine. His shtick was to make this wacky "gotta love me!" face. CONSTANTLY. All my friends thought it was hysterical, but it got pretty fucking irritating after a while. What’s funny for the first three months quickly loses its charm.
Are you fed up with your boyfriend, or are you fed up with his behavior? Are there a couple specific things that you could ask him to stop doing, or is this indicative of a deeper problem? Sometimes when we’re not into someone we minimize it and confine it to little nits and nats. "If only you wouldn’t laugh like that." "If only you would shut the door a little more quietly." Then it becomes a game where our partner eliminates that behavior and we find something new to complain about.
It’s about finding that sweet spot where your boyfriend feels like he can be himself and he’s not being mothered, and you feel like he’s respecting your feelings and not going out of his way to drive you nuts.
You have to be clear and consistent when dealing with his behavior. Shouldn’t be too hard, right? You’re a mother. Are you laughing when he’s winging spitballs at you? I can’t tell you how many couples I watch on the street and out in restaurants that straddle the line between serious and play-fighting. Half the time I don’t know whether to get jealous or call the cops. There shouldn’t be that kind of ambiguity. When he’s doing something immature, first calm yourself, then ask him to stop. If he doesn’t, remove yourself from the situation. If you can’t leave, then ignore him, stare into space, divert your attention, do whatever you need to do to shut down. It takes a tremendous amount of effort and self-control, but starving him of attention should work wonders.


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©2008 Erin Bradley and Nerve.com