Miss Information

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Dear Miss Information,

I've been dating my current boyfriend for almost four years, and we've lived together for one. At the beginning of our third year together, I got into a very good graduate program and he decided to go on a poorly planned "adventure" that ended with him alone in a mountain town with few friends and a lot of credit card debt. He was always kind of a "free spirit," which was sometimes fun and sometimes code for "impulsive and short-sighted."

I met him when I was twenty-two, and around my twenty-fifth birthday I started reflecting on the fact that I had lived in three cities and six apartments in seven years. I decided that I wanted to stop moving and make a home in the city where I was studying. We fought about how he wanted excitement and I wanted stability, but eventually he decided that maybe what I wanted wasn't so bad and moved in with me. And now he's different — he's got a job, he's committed to staying in my city with me, and he's seemingly fine with being more or less normal forever. 

After a year of living with the new and improved him, I don't think he's the right guy for me. I'm not really sure why — I think about whether if I met him now he'd get to a second date, and I honestly don't think he would. We don't hang out together with other people, and I always wanted my coupled social life to resemble the beginning of Friends With Kids. And every time I go to a wedding, I think that if we got married, my parents wouldn't be able to come up with an honest or meaningful toast. All of my past relationships have exploded into flames, so part of me isn't confident that I should be breaking up with someone who hasn't seriously wronged me and who I can generally laugh with and feel comfortable around. He talks about how happy he is with me all the time, and I'm confident that if we broke up he would quit his job, leave town, and end up broke and miserable somewhere. 

He's done everything I've asked him to do and it's not enough, and God, I feel like such an asshole. Can I still be a good person after breaking his heart and ruining his life?

— Heartbreaker

Dear Heartbreaker,

Let's say your boyfriend did change for you and you only. Let's say he puts on his suit and tie every morning while looking at you over his shoulder, thinking, "If it weren't for her, I'd be constructing bamboo bicycles right now." Or that he punches in at his adult job thinking, "I wonder where Jade and Montana are WWOOFing?" Or that he stands in the lunch line at Cosi thinking, "If I could still feel, I would be awash in self-loathing." If he had totally made himself over for your benefit (which I strongly doubt), breaking up would be setting him free.

Of course, reality is probably a bit murkier. He probably didn't make all this change just for you. He probably settled down because it felt right for him — or at least not overtly wrong — and had the added bonus of improving your relationship. You have to trust that he's an independent enough person to define himself without outside input. In the wake of a breakup, he'll get to keep the traits that work for him, and dump the traits that don't. Breaking up with him won't necessarily throw him into a spiral of questioning reality that ends with him sleeping in a homemade tent and wearing a tin-foil hat. Unless, of course, he's into that.

None of this is to say that he will greet a breakup as a fun learning opportunity, though. Breakups are terrible, and they hurt, and I'm pretty sure nobody in the history of the world has ever been dumped and thought, "Oh good, a chance to find myself!" However, "sparing someone the pain" of a breakup is not a reason to stay together. Being committed to someone who doesn't love you is ultimately a lot more painful.

Dear Miss Information,

My ex and I dated for two years and we broke up recently, because of miscommunication that built up after a while. I've been staying out of contact, but I still like him a lot and want to get back together.

He broke up with me, and yet he's the sad and lonely one on Facebook. He keeps putting up love songs and whiny statuses, and it gets me really mad, because he broke up with me. I'm doing well — trying to move on, going out with friends, and keeping myself busy. But when he puts up things like that, he makes me think that there's hope. I want to contact him, but I keep holding myself back. I'd still like to be with him as long as we can make changes, but the other half of me is thinking, "It's your loss. Suck it up!"

I don't understand what he's doing. I probably shouldn't initiate anything like meeting up for coffee or anything, right? I keep thinking he misses me, and maybe he wants to get back together — it's wearing on me.


Dear Half-Hearted,

Rule of thumb: don't date anyone who overshares on Facebook. Done!

Glib non-answers aside, details like "use of social media" are absolutely markers of maturity. What Facebook allows more than anything is maximum superficial attention with minimal effort — all it takes is a copy-paste of Dashboard Confessional lyrics to get a slew of, "Oh, honey, are you okay?" Facebook oversharers take many forms. Other worst-offenders include "comment-on-my-sexy-picture-girl" ("Oh this? This is just what I wear when I work out in front of Photobooth!") and "The Eeyore" ("Nothing's ever going to get better because wah wah wahhh"). What these types have in common is a drive for attention without any desire to stoop to actual human connection. Ah, social life in the internet age! We're all screwed.

As it pertains to your ex, treat these updates very skeptically. He may well be mourning the relationship, but as long as his attention is directed toward his 846 friends and not toward you, it's not worth engaging in. It wouldn't be so hard for him to call you and repair your relationship if that were what he wanted. There's a difference between missing a relationship and performing soliloquies about how much you miss a relationship. The former requires introspection and care; the latter scores you comments like, "Don't be sad! I'll buy you fourteen beers after work!"

If he wanted the relationship back, he'd let you know. Unfriend him and move on.