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I keep seeing little flaws in my boyfriend. Does that mean we shouldn't be together?
by Cait Robinson
Have a question? Email firstname.lastname@example.org. Letters may be edited for length, content, and clarity.
Dear Miss Info,
A couple of years ago, I fell hard for a guy I met at a bar. We pseudo-dated for a year, until he met another girl at that same bar and left me.
Five months ago I moved to a different city and have been dating an absolutely wonderful guy. He's sweet, intelligent, and funny, and my friends have told me how much he obviously adores me. I do, however, have some doubts. Here they are, in order from most-to-least perceived superficiality: 1. He's three inches shorter than I am (and I'm not tall). 2. When we met, he hadn't had sex in eight years. 3. He went into quite a bit of debt to get a graduate degree, but nine months after graduation, is still basically unemployed and lives with his parents. 4. He doesn't seem to have many friends.
I'll range from being completely convinced that I'm prepared to spend the rest of my life with him, to being worried about the aforementioned problems, to fantasizing about getting back with guy #1. I can't tell if these doubts are legitimate, or if they are products of my own unhealthy obsession with guy #1. It's been two years. Why can't I move on?
— Brokenhearted, I Think
Dear Brokenhearted, I Think,
Are you ready for some rapid-fire judgments? Put on the nearest bike helmet, 'cause here they come!
1a. If you were totally head-over-heels for your current boyfriend, I suspect you wouldn't be turning these quirks into speed bumps.
1b. The good news: 1a. is hardly a death knell. If you're enjoying things now, let that grow. Don't think in terms of "the rest of your life" — it puts way too much pressure on everything and does not help.
2. Don't bother with Guy #1. He lives in a different city, and the best you guys had was "pseudo-dating" — i.e. neither you nor he would commit while you had the chance. Why would it be any different now?
There! Look at how economical that was.
You talk about your "unhealthy obsession" with Guy #1, which makes sense; he has always been a little out of reach. At a distance of two years, he is extra-unattainable — he has morphed more into "Legend" than "Man." You get to remember the nice things about him and make up all sorts of great fictions ("He's always loved volunteering at no-kill animal shelters on weekends!"), without having to handle the gritty day-to-day of "pseudo-dating." At this point, though, you're not fantasizing about a person, you're fantasizing about an idea. And no matter what great hair that idea has, it's still unattainable. Stick with the tangible, flawed, and complex people who are currently in your life. They're better, and more challenging, company.
At the end of the day, Brokenhearted, Guy #1 and Current BF aren't the only two men in the world. You don't have to force a square peg of a dude into the star-shaped hole that is your ideal partner. You'll find a good fit eventually — if not with your current boyfriend, with someone else. In the meantime, leave the history behind and enjoy the people around you — tics, quirks, height disparity and all.
Dear Miss Information,
Last year, a close friend of mine and I drunkenly confessed to having feelings for each other, and we hooked up. Then, kind of to my surprise, we kept in contact over the summer. We talked for hours over Skype and on the phone about pretty personal subjects, and my feelings for him got even stronger. I assumed when I returned to school after my semester abroad that we'd start dating.
When I got home, I immediately took a trip to our university to see friends, and especially him. We had sex for the first time during my visit, and afterwards he told me that he'd had a one-night stand while I was gone. I wasn't angry, since we'd never been exclusive, but it was out of character for him. I mean, he was a virgin when we first got together.
The weirdness continued after my visit. He didn't contact me for four days, at which point I broke down and called him to find out what was up. He told me he didn't know what he wanted, but that if worst came to worst he hoped we could be friends. I didn't let on, but I was really hurt. I did some serious thinking and it occurred to me that I'd assumed a lot more about "us" than what he'd actually said, and decided to not contact him during break and take the time to see other people.
But then about five days later, he called me, and we started having long, deep conversations again every few days. It sounds like we're going to try and keep seeing each other when we get back to school, but I don't really know how to handle myself — somewhere along the line, the balance between us shifted. I used to feel like he was pursuing me, but now I feel like I'm trying to get more from him than he really wants to give me. How do I shift it back?
Oh, and of course there's one other pretty major problem: remember that girl he had the one-night stand with? Well, she apparently saw it as more than that, and now feels really hurt and used by the whole experience, as evidenced by some pretty transparent passive-aggressive Facebook posts. I've only met her once before, but thanks to a quirk in the housing system, she's going to be my new roommate in a few weeks. How do I deal with that?
— So What Are We, Anyway?
Dear So What Are We, Anyway?
Ah, right: "The One Easy Thing You Can Do to Shift Power Back to Yourself in a Relationship" has sold many a women's magazine. (Right, like that tuna casserole recipe is doing anything for you, Better Homes and Gardens.)
There is no "secret language of guys" (I'm glowering at you, Cosmo) — what he said is what he meant. He doesn't know what he wants right now, which probably translates to something like "I want to keep you close with no obligation." I take it this is not cool with you. The first step in shifting power back to yourself: recognize that you hold 50% stake in this relationship and you're allowed to tell him that you're hurt, or surprised, or disappointed. Maybe the outcome won't change, but at least you'll be honest with yourself and him.
If you discuss it and his stance holds firm, think about what kind of relationship you do want from him. Can you still be friends with him without feeling sexual tension? Is it easier to limit your time together? Cut him off completely? You get to set the parameters for your new relationship, so put your emotional health first. Maintaining this kind of even keel is the best way to escape a break-up, or even a nebulous break-up-like situation, with your dignity intact.
And as for your new roommate, the icing on the Problem Cake: ooof, college. To sidestep the awkwardness, broaden your view. This girl has a life and a personality and hopefully a sweet TV, and none of those things have anything to do with this guy. He might be something you have in common, but he should not be a factor in your relationship. Put forth a concerted effort to get to know the 99% of her that isn't affected by their fling. If he comes up in conversation, he comes up in conversation, but neither of you should define yourselves off of your relationship to this guy. In short: don't go into this with a chip on your shoulder.
Hopefully, your friend will notice a pattern here: "don't sleep with girls who are into you and then send them mixed signals." It's possible something might spark between you two, but it's possible something might not. The important thing is to stand up for yourself and what you want, and not to spend time chasing a "maybe."
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