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,

How do you overcome extreme guilt? About two years ago I fell in love with my friend’s boyfriend, and he with me. I’d never experienced anything remotely like it before. After a passionate, heartwrenching autumn spent deciding what to do, we broke up with our significant others to be with each other. Of course his ex, my old friend, won’t speak to me
and neither will any of my other friends in our once close-knit group. I’m still in love and glad about it, but I feel like shit. I’ve agonized over my actions and what I did to her ever since, and my self-esteem has gotten so low that it’s affecting my work and other areas of my life. I even dream about her and my old friends, a whole community of people who think of me as a terrible bitch.  How can I get over this guilt and feel like a good person again?So Guilty It Hurts
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Dear So Guilty It Hurts,

First off, don’t give yourself so much power. Even if you wanted to, you are not capable of destroying lives. You are capable of hurting people, yes. But everyone gets hurt. I get hurt. You get hurt. The people who live next door to you get hurt. Joan Rivers gets hurt. We are all responsible for dealing with that hurt and then continuing on with our day-to-day existence. It sucks ass, but we don’t have any other choice. You can feel bad about the hurt you caused — and there are many good arguments for why you should — but you can’t take responsibility for everything that happened from that point forward. You can’t control other people’s actions, only your reactions, and wallowing is detrimental to what should be your end goal: learning something from this ugly mess and applying it toward your life.

It’s been less than a year since you guys officially came out, and now you’re sad that people aren’t accepting you as a couple? It took you months and months to break up with your ex, and now you’re in a hurry. How about giving your friends that same, relaxed timeline? It hurts to be shut out, but aggressively trying to insinuate yourself is only going to enrage the hostile and turn off the remaining undecideds. Keeping a low profile acknowledges the severity of what you did, much more than running around, doling out amends and apologies.

Think of the universe as this big messy pile of energy and feelings — both good and bad. Some use the metaphor of karma, though I prefer to picture a reigning deity who’s a cross between the Trash Heap from Fraggle Rock and the Allstate insurance guy. By adding to the good pile, it’s the same as helping the people you hurt — just a little less pointed. How do you add to the good pile? Lots of ways. Make a commitment to be more honest in your relationships, a change that is subtle and ongoing. Or do something more direct, like volunteering or sharing what you’ve been through with a friend who’s facing a similar temptation.

A lot of people talk about completely and totally forgiving yourself, but I don’t know if that’s so important. I think it’s acceptable to always feel a little bit shitty about something. It shows you remember. Our psyches scar just like our skin. You can live with a little scar, yes? As long as it’s a gradually fading scratch and not a hemorrhaging trauma, you should be all right.


Dear Miss Information,

My ladyfriend, who looks like Tippi Hedren in The Birds, is attracted to ladies of similar quality. I’m a completely hetero male, and neither of us is jealous as long as we’re sharing. We aren’t interested in a second male, but we’d entertain a hetero couple though I’d have minimal interest in the man, and my lady wouldn’t see him as anything except an "accessory." Do you have any suggestions about how we can connect with like-minded people, especially in social situations? We’re not into swing clubs. We don’t find them enticing, and we actually have a certain standing in the community that could be compromised by such venues. Being discreet and tasteful is important. Are there any kind of signals we could use? Should I approach the lady, or should she? Is there a code, like some of my gay friends seem to use? What social situations are most conducive to meeting like-minded parties? Table For Three

Dear Table For Three,

Your answer is, in two words: the internet. Sorry, I know that’s not very couth. But it’s easy and there are no guessing games. And, unlike at swinger clubs, it’s socially acceptable to be both rejection-happy and super-specific. You can ask for 1960s Hitchcock starlets and accessory-only males. It doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get them. But you can browse through replies without having to turn down people in person. Because who wants to do anything in person? I get nervous about going to the door when I’m having food delivered.

If the internet’s off the table, I don’t know of any secret handshakes. Most of the couple hook-ups I’ve seen have come about as the result of alcohol plus salty conversation. Talking about sex seems to lead to sex, as do kamikaze shots and multiple rounds of lagers. I don’t see that happening at the gourmet-cheese shop, though I suppose you could take turns hitting on people individually and see what happens. There’s no rule about girl versus guy; it’s whoever’s better at the verbal schmoozing. A more garden-party-friendly approach might be to bring up an instance of swinging as it relates to current events, be it Big Love (I know they’re Mormons, but let’s not split pubic hairs), the latest horny-animal research or art house-darling Tilda Swinton’s open relationship.

Again, you’re going to have the best go of it on the Internet. You won’t have to worry about swing-curious folks who chicken out once the alcohol wears off, or offending a friend-of-a-friend’s golf partner. It costs nothing to put up an ad. Write a really good one and then keep posting and refining it. And be patient. I know it’s an exciting idea and you’re both anxious, but they call it a "lifestyle" for a reason. It’s not the sort of thing that you can snap your fingers and make happen. But once you it does, it will get a lot easier.

Dear Miss Information,

I dated a caring, intelligent man for over a year and a half, and everything was going really well, except that things weren’t actually going. Our relationship was stagnating, but I put up with it because I loved him and thought he loved me. We recently broke up because he wasn’t "in love" with me anymore. He cried, told me how wonderful I was and couldn’t come up with a single thing that I did to cause his change in feelings. I’m curious: What does "falling out of love" feel like? And what causes it, if not the other person? I may have experienced it, but I thought that’s what settling into a long-term relationship felt like. 21 = Too Young to Know Shit About Love

Dear 21 = Too Young to Know Shit About Love,

Age ain’t nothing but a number, like the late Ms. Aaliyah said. I don’t think anyone knows why people fall out of love. Doesn’t matter whether you’re eighteen or eighty.

It sounds like this guy broke up with you in the kindest way possible, if you’re going to have to end it with somebody. I’ve been dumped all kinds of ways, and knowing that the other person feels miserable definitely makes the experience less gut-wrenching. It shows you they put thought into the decision. It wasn’t like, "Oh shoot, this girlfriend is broken. Guess I’ll get a new one!"

Remember that decisions like this aren’t rooted in logic. They come from a gut place. You can’t quantify guts, unless you’re a stomach doctor or coroner. Either way, the process isn’t going to be pretty. There’s very little benefit from watching.

I understand your confusion about falling out of love versus the standard-but-livable cooling off that happens once you exit the googly-eyes and fro-yo phase. It comes down to a gut feeling that basically says, "Yes, despite everything that’s going on, I still (a) believe in and (b) want to be in this relationship." When you’re in love, that emotion may waver. A lot. But eventually you return to it as your anchor. Falling out of love means you’ve lost that fundamental faith. It’s like when you’re little and you find out there’s no Easter Bunny. In order for a relationship to continue to exist, both people have to believe. Once that belief is lost, it’s hard to get it back. You can take a chocolate egg from a coworker or some jellybeans from your parents, but it’s never going to be the same as when you were five.


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