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,

A good, platonic friend stayed at my place recently, and to our surpise we discovered we had feelings for each other. It sucked, but I decided to disengage and let things cool off, so that I could focus on my long-term (and recently rocky) relationship. While my friend is disappointed, he’s a great guy and supports my decision. This was two weeks ago, and we’ve been largely out of contact since.

I know I’m doing the right thing, but here’s the issue: I introduced him to a single-and-searching girlfriend, and she’s very interested. My friend responded casually to her, but he doesn’t want to date her, or anyone, at the moment. But it doesn’t matter: I feel like he and I just broke up, and hearing her talk about him is painful. I know I’m being completely irrational I have absolutely no claim on him. So how do I deal? I’m actually avoiding this girl because I don’t want to discuss him. Too Raw to be Rational

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Dear Too Raw to Be Rational.

Tell your friend the truth, Too Raw to Be Rational — a low-fat, artificially-flavored version of the truth. It sounds like you’re having problems with your boyfriend — since you bumped right up against the sequined ass-end of cheating — so tell her that the road is rough right now, and while you realize it’s neurotic, you find discussions about dating and the like really upsetting. Ask her if she could do you a huge, huge favor and refrain for a while? Then throw in something about a happy, window-shopping couple you glared at, or a romantic comedy you turned off in disgust. Supporting details like this help depersonalize the request while upping the realism.

Just be careful not to go too emo. If she’s the caretaker type, you’ll find yourself in a bigger hole — dodging solicitous inquiries and bundt cakes. A cheery “I know we’ll get over it!” or “I’m just glad I can rely on my mother/gay bestie/shrink!” should help rein her in. Follow with a swift change of subject and repeat as needed.

I don’t want you to tell her the whole truth because it’s not necessary. This guy doesn’t like your friend, from the sound of it. Why put the drama of forbidden love in her head, when he has no interest? When he blows her off, you want it to be because he blew her off. If he does so after you make a lovelorn confession, she’ll always wonder if he was feeding her a line of bullshit and you were the real reason. Plus, it sounds like you got away with it and learned your lesson. Why would you want one more person out there to know how close you came to fucking up? Even one is too many.

Try the above, and if it doesn’t work, try changing the way you hang out with her. Spend time in groups and non-intimate settings: movies, concerts, exercise classes, etc. That way you can maintain the friendship without feeling like you’re blowing her off. In another few months he’ll have blown her off, your feelings will have cooled, and you can pick back up with minimal casualties.



Dear Miss Information,

My boyfriend pet-sat for me while I was on vacation. When I got back home, I did a "browsing history" search on my computer and found that he’d delved pretty deep into my file tree to dig up some old porn I had. He also checked all the bookmarks on my browser, which include my password-protected blog and banking account. Luckily, I cleared all the passwords before I left, so he wasn’t able to access them.

On one hand, I’m totally pissed. He had no reason to be on my desktop; he has his own laptop and access to the internet. I’m wondering what other non-digital things he was looking at — physical diaries, notes, self-help books, etc. — the thought of which makes me feel very violated. I’m a complete freak about my privacy. On the other hand, the porn he was looking at was specifically related to a few of my fantasies. He also was looking at a marital-aid website for toys that seem like they’d be perfectly in line with my tastes, although it doesn’t look like he purchased anything. I wonder if he was just trying to understand me better sexually, which I appreciate. . . to a point.

I know I have to confront him, but I’m not ready to detonate the whole relationship over this. How would you handle it? — Now He Knows Everything

Dear Now He Knows Everything,

What is snooping? Snooping is monitoring someone without their knowledge, in a situation where privacy is a reasonable expectation. Going by this definition, you’re just as guilty as he is. The only difference is where the actual snooping took place. Oh, but I was only snooping to see if HE was snooping. That’s like telling the judge you’re not guilty because the store window was already broken and other people were already stealing TVs. The first TV-swiper is just as culpable as the second TV-swiper. You both belong in prison, fashioning shanks and watching Maury on a seven-inch, black-and-white Toshiba.

When you got home and checked your computer history, you weren’t doing it just for your own protection. You were on a hunt for information: How trustworthy is this guy? Can he respect my boundaries and give Pickles his Yellowfin Tuna Primavera Fancy Feast? Is he feeling good about the relationship, or is he the neurotic type who will always assume I’m cheating?

The problem with using these tactics to get information is that it only leads to more questions The worst kind of questions, because you can’t ask them without revealing your recent transgressions.

The way I see it, there are two routes you can take:

1. Admit that you snooped to see if he snooped, and apologize for not being more trusting. Tell him that now’s the time to ask if there’s anything he saw that he’d like to talk about. Going forward, you promise to not check up on him if he promises not to check up on you. Commit to a clean state, no grudges, and more open communication.

2. Don’t say shit. Call it a wash and don’t have him house-sit again. This only works if neither of you is exhibiting any negative behavior — sullen moods, heavy sighs, oblique put-downs and so on. If you are, you’re going to have to default to choice number one.

Either way, change all your passwords. It may be an inconvenience, but it’s a small one if you’re as uptight about privacy as you say.

Dear Miss information,
I’m in a great relationship with a woman I met four months ago. We didn’t want to do the long-distance thing, so I quit my job and we moved into a new place together. We’ve lived together less than a month and already there are issues. She’s city and I’m country, but despite being very different people, we love each other deeply. She’s been separated from her husband for half a year, and is going through a divorce after fifteen years of marriage. We both have kids, five total, from our previous relationships. Recently, she told me she has doubts about us. We discussed it and came to the conclusion that, while I’ve had a long time to deal with life after my relationship ended, she hasn’t. Her divorce will be final a month. I gave up everything to be with her. Now I’ve moved out of the house to give her space. We haven’t broken up, but she calls it a break. I have faith in this woman and love her dearly. Where do you think I stand? — Yes But No

Dear Yes But No,

Where do you stand? On shaky ground. But that’s okay. There are worse places to be. She could be coming to this conclusion a year or two from now, when you’re planning a wedding or picking out baby names. While I’m not giving you any gold stars for moving in together so quickly, I will give you a scratch-‘n’-sniff sticker and a congratulatory pat on the ass for communicating. You may be an impulsive couple of kids, but at least you’re both aware of your feelings.

Moving out was smart. She’s going through some heavy shit and, like you said, she needs her space. Now you have the opportunity to do what you should have been doing from the get go: enjoy each other’s company. Go to the movies. Make fun of people at wine bars. Forget about storm windows and cable bills and trips to the wholesale club. Just focus on dating. I dunno, Miss Info. Life is not a montage of adorable moments. Isn’t it better we deal with these things now? Um, no. Hell no. Right now it’s all about getting to like each other enough so that, when troubles do come along, you’ll have a bunch of happy and romantic memories to fall back on. You’re building up a base.

It’s hard to move in reverse and feel like you’re at the mercy of someone else’s ever-changing feelings. You uprooted yourself to be with her, and now you’re in a state of suspended animation. You want to know if all this tumult will eventually pay off. But listen to me and listen to me good: you’ve got to change that mindset.

Your life will keep going, one day after another, whether she stays with you, gets a sex change, or runs off and joins the Russian ballet. You have control. You can make choices now that will improve your quality of life, and turn your pain down to a low roar. Examples include: throwing your energy into your new job (or finding one), seeking out dormant friends from the past, or pursuing a frivolous interest — brewing beer or training for a half marathon.

Decide what you’re willing to put up with and what’s a relationship-dealbreaker. Can she date? Can you see other people? When your bachelor-pad lease runs out, will that be the cut-off date? Knowing — and communicating — your limits will empower you. Although it’s never advisable to make life changes with another person in mind, a nice side effect is that there’s nothing more irresistible than a person who’s coming into his own and getting their shit together. If she doesn’t take notice, I guarantee you another mama will.



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