Advice

Miss Information

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T-shirts! Get yer t-shirts! Miss Information has teamed up with the gang at Neighborhoodies on a line of t-shirts called "Think Ups", all designed by Miss Info herself. A new shirt will be launched daily, featuring Dr. Ruth, the UTZ girl and more. Check it out. As always, you can email your questions to erin@nerve.com. Letters may be edited for length, content and clarity.


Dear Miss Information,
I love my boyfriend of one year dearly. We just moved in together and I’ve never been happier. One hitch, and it just keeps on bothering me no matter how hard I try to stamp it down, is that a significant piece of his social life involves his ex-girlfriends. I’m not talking quick hookups, I’m talking women he dated for significant amounts of time. I try to be the cool girlfriend, and a lot of me is cool with it, since I know he loves me and both women are very friendly and open. He has other female friends and it doesn’t bother me — so I know it’s about the ex factor.
It would be ridiculous to suggest he stop being friends with them. They hold pretty important places in his life. Even broaching the topic would pin me into the corner as being "jealous," which is a role I’ve never played. I think the real part that burns me is that he never introduced them to me as exes. I had to find out from other sources after months had passed, which made me feel silly and in the dark. When I brought it up, he was genuinely befuddled. He argued that they’re his friends now, so why would he emphasize relationships from the past? He also said that he was sure he told me. Believe me, he didn’t.
I want to move forward, so why can’t I let this go? How do I even begin to talk to him about this? He isn’t some sneaky lowlife, and he would never deliberately hurt me, but if he wasn’t giving me the complete story before, am I silly to think he still might keep things from me? — Guiltily Jealous

Dear Guiltily Jealous,

Whoa, whoa, whoa. Don’t go hogging all the blame there, pumpkin. Yes, you’re being jealous. A little neurotic? Yeah, sure. But let’s go back to what you said earlier — about his not being up-front. That’s what’s really bothering you, and why it’s such a bitch to let go. Not telling your partner about a saliva exchange that turned into a long-term friendship is perfectly understandable. Some would even call it a sound decision. Same with a sloppy one-night stand you can barely remember, or an intense but entirely unrequited crush.

An ex-girlfriend or boyfriend, however, warrants some type of introduction: "Hey darling, there’s a person you’re going to meet at sushi tonight. We dated in grad school. We’re just buds now. I’m not trying to make you feel weird. I just thought you’d wanna know." Now your significant other has the time and information she needs to prepare herself. You wouldn’t throw a regular eel into a cage with an electric eel and not tell Ms. Regular Eel the score. You’d make a little eel sign or eel leaflet or something and tell her what’s up. Not that all electric eels — or by extension, ex-girlfriends — are predatory and harmful. In fact, most are docile. It’s just good for eels — or girlfriends — to know what the other is capable of.

In non-overblown-animal metaphor terms, your boyfriend was wrong. I’m sorry he was so dismissive with you when you asked him about it. I don’t really buy the Ronald Reagan amnesia excuse, "Sorry honey, I can’t recall."

But this should quell some of your fears: I really don’t think this is evidence he’s going to cheat on you or is covering up something deeper. He was just being conflict-avoidant. He knew you’d probably have some uneasy feelings about these particular friendships. Instead of doing the adult thing, i.e., acknowledging that and initiating a discussion, he did what a lot of people do — minimized the situation to the point where he felt comfortable with the less psychologically taxing course of action — i.e., ignoring it.

People like your boyfriend do one of two things when confronted: 1. Apologize and cop to what they did, or 2. Hold their ground and stick to their original excuse, repeating it using different volume levels, word choices and tones. The latter is much more likely. Therefore, getting him to at least agree not to do that again should be the focus. Tell him how much it hurt you. How you felt foolish and left out of the loop. Reiterate that you trust him and care about him a ton. You know you’re prone to jealousy and you’re going to work on it. In the meantime, he needs to work on his disclosure. When he withholds information, it breaks down trust. You want to meet him halfway, but you need a little hand-holding. Sound cool? Cool.

Finally, you need work on that there self-esteem, Guiltily Jealous. Get so busy you don’t have time to ruminate over who your boyfriend is seeing or what he’s doing. I used to fight all the time with an ex over his many female friends. Then I got all earth-mother and enrolled in a pottery class and yoga. Soon I was so busy doing downward dogs and making hideous tea cups that four months had gone by without a single skirmish. As Lord Byron wrote, "The busy have no time for tears." Not that you want to listen to him. Cute guy and great writer. But kind of a slut.


Dear Miss Information,
My girlfriend was born into a world of wealth and privilege. I wasn’t. I find myself completely unable to relate to the way she grew up. The stories she tells of her teenage years are all about how money and complete freedom from accountability can turn people into malevolent and petty narcissists. Needless to say, she isn’t very fond of where she came from or the person she was. She describes her previous relationships as a form of "legitimized prostitution." She got comfort, financial support and material wealth, and they got her on their arm like a shiny new watch.
When we first met, we completely misjudged each other. We ultimately got glimmers of the people we truly were beyond our respective date personas and quickly fell very much in love. After a particularly nasty falling out with her father she cut him and his money out of her life. She’s now struggling to make ends meet like the rest of us. I give her all the things that no one else seems to have ever given her before: love and respect. I can’t, however, give her the type of support she got from her father. I can’t seem to shake the feeling that whatever I do give her will not be enough. It wouldn’t take much for her to go make amends. Nor is there any shortage of men who would gladly be her sugar daddy. I’m afraid that if the real world becomes too much for her she’ll surrender to the dark side. Am I being insecure or are my fears legitimate? Can she really have come so far from the person she was to now feel that love, genuine affection and ramen noodles are better than polite indifference and obscene wealth? — Blue Collar Blues

Dear Blue Collar Blues,

I’m sorry, is this a script treatment? Big ups on the writing style. A nice change from the plz 2 show me threesumz!! guy from a few weeks ago. I think I know my readership. I don’t. You guys are all over.

On this relationship, I’m equally diffuse. I get leery when people base a large part of their identity on reinventing themselves. It says to me that they’re the type to make black-and-white judgments: "I am a good person now. I was a bad person before." They favor wide-scale, dramatic fixes that demonize one set of people — "Old friends bad!" — and elevate another — "New friends good!" — in lieu of little changes to their relationships over an extended period of time. Evolution, not revolution, tends to be longer-lasting.

Then again, I could be full of rutabagas. I think it’s fantastic that she’s woken up and smelled the Brandon Davis sweat and realized the life she was living was unfulfilling. I just question whether it’s a great idea to get involved with someone whose primary means of bonding with you has been severing ties with others. We need those others. They ground us and remind us of the person we were before we met this wonderful person (uh, that’d be you, Blue Collar Blues) and fell in love.

In the real world we have messy, conflicted relationships with the people we love. We do not have knights in tin-foil armor who provide us 100% of our emotional sustenance and support. I think you need to encourage your GF to live in the real world. Rather than worrying about her reconciling with her father, you should be pushing for it. It would show she realizes she’s got a long future ahead of her, values her relationships and is willing to at least try to hash it out.

And yes: at the risk of losing her. Because your odds of losing her anyway are pretty good if you stay with the status quo. One day, maybe far off in the future, she’s going to miss one of her old friends. She’ll feel like you won’t approve because of everything she’s told you, which you probably won’t. You’ll feel jealous and unappreciated. She’ll feel resentful and torn. Or maybe she’ll get tired of having you as one of her sole friends, and you’ll get tired of being her caretaker and rock. It’s this dynamic, not the money or lifestyle issues, that threatens to pull this union apart.


Previous Miss Info

©2008 Erin Bradley and Nerve.com