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,
     I’m a twenty-nine-year-old man who’s been with the same guy for three years. We’ve lived together for about half that time, and everything is great except for one thing. When he gets really stressed or freaked out, he cheats on me. This has happened maybe five or six times over the course of our relationship, or so he says (I’ve found out about it a couple of times when he’s been careless). I believe that he doesn’t want to be doing this. He’s incredibly remorseful, and we’ve seen a therapist about it in the past. The therapist says that it’s similar to alcoholism and he can’t control it. It’s making me crazy and depressed. I feel like it’s unfair to leave him over something he has no control over, especially when he’s a great guy in every other respect. I know that your first reaction is going to be, "Dump him, he’s a jerk." But I’m not sure that’s really the case. Nevertheless, I’d like your advice. Irresistible Belief



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Dear Irresistible Belief,
     He can’t control it. Fine. But does that mean you have to live with it? No. Would you be asking me these questions if he were putting vodka in his morning coffee or had a mouthful of meth teeth? I think the nature of the addiction (internal as opposed to external) and the way it plays out (the two of you versus a drunk who lashes out at co-workers and friends) makes it harder for you to see it in all its unvarnished glory.
     Addicts aren’t bad people. A lot of them are very nice. But they’re no fun in a relationship. They lie, they disappoint, they break promises. They do the same stupid shit again and again. No one ever wakes up and says, "Hey, I think I’ll fuck up my life," so it’s natural to empathize with the addict’s plight. But in no way should you feel like you’re being "unfair" if you decide to leave your boyfriend. You have to do what’s best for you and your life. That may involve removing him from the equation.
     If you don’t want to do that, the least you can do is make him act like the addict he claims to be. We’re talking consistent attendance at individual and couples therapy, twelve-step meetings, dopey self-help books with soaring birds and pastel sunsets on the cover. How aggressively he follows treatment will tell you whether the problem is real, and how committed he is to fighting. He can’t blow off going to the shrink, then shriek "But I’m an addict!" when you catch him with Tom, Dick or Harry (perhaps all three). Make sure you’re using protection and get tested regularly for STDs. Feelings aren’t the only thing at stake here.



Dear Miss Information,       
     I am divorcing my wife after seven years of marriage. She was screwing another guy while I was in the hospital. She’s telling me to go on dates. Should I? It’s only been a month since we filed, but I am lonely and need some action! I am interested in dating an old flame from college, but I also have my son caught up in this crap. I’m just confused and would love your thoughts. Hippocampus


Dear Hippocampus,
     You don’t ask an anorexic for a pecan-pie recipe, and you don’t go to your ex-wife for dating advice. It’s called "conflict of interest," and if you don’t know what that means, I’m sure her legal representative would be happy to tell you. Even if her offer’s sincere, everything’s too new right now to make a rational decision. You guys could get back together, the fighting could escalate, one (or both) of you could pull some bullshit custody stunt.
     Wait until the divorce is finalized, six months go by, your ex-wife gets engaged to this hospital jackoff, or whichever comes first. In the interim, hit the gym, sharpen the wardrobe and do whatever the hell it is you like to do in large amounts. It doesn’t seem like it now, but it’ll be all too soon before you’re in another relationship, wondering where all that "me time" went.
     This old flame from college could go two ways: She could be a safe, reliable booty call. She could also draw you right back into a relationship. Only you know which way the worm will turn. It’s all about risk assessment. Here are your priorities: son first, you second, everything else (including your ex-wife) a distant third.

Dear Miss Info,
    During my year or so of internet dating, I have corresponded with several men who never use my name in their emails to me. Granted, email is informal, but it says something bad when someone fails to personally address a personal communication.  I know I have a common name, but it’s right there in my email address!  And invariably, if I meet these guys, they turn out to be inattentive or uninterested. I hate to characterize everyone this way. I’ve just connected with a match who seems really sweet — aside from not using my name. What would be a clever, clear and kind way to address this with him? Or should I wait and ask once we meet? —
The Sweetest Sound

Dear Sweetest Sound,
     I went to a housewarming party the other day. It took more than an hour of wine slurping and cheese-plate plundering before I realized I was the only one in a room of twenty still wearing her shoes. Everyone else had checked theirs at the door. Here I was, stomping around in my size elevens and thinking I’m Miss Etiquette because I bothered to bring my hostess a gift, a votive that cost as much as a small chandelier. In a matter of seconds, I lost the boots and rejoined the party.
     If you pay attention, Sweetest Sound, you’ll see that I’m making two points here: first, it’s possible for even the most polite of people to be rude upon occasion. Second, when it comes to matters of small consequence, it’s usually best to just let it go, lest you disrupt the party. My hostess knew her floors weren’t going to be harmed irrevocably because of a little tracked-in dog piss, and you know that an improper email salutation isn’t a deal-breaker. Given a choice between a nice guy who gives bad email and an asshole who fills your inbox with "Dearest Cindy"s, I’m sure I know which one you’d pick.
     The best way to show him what you want is to do like my friend and her party guests did — by setting an example, a kinder, gentler variation on the age-old tactic of shaming. Make sure all your emails have proper intros, bodies and closures. Be consistent, and keep getting more formal if you have to. He’ll catch on.
     If he doesn’t, tell him you get a lot of spam and only messages that bear your name make it through the filter. You could also say you had a near-miss with a flirty reply-to and putting your name front and center would help ensure you proposition him and not Muriel from Accounting. Finally, you could just ask him: "I’d love it if you’d use my name more often when we’re conversing via email." Simple. Easy. Done.
     Whatever your choice of phrase, I’d wait until after you meet him. No use busting your ass on the detail work if the raw material isn’t there. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to install a mirrored ceiling on my Humvee. . .
 

 


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