Advice

Miss Information: High Scorer? How to share your stats with a new partner.

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Have a question? Email erin@nerve.com. Letters may be edited for length, content and clarity.

Dear Miss Information,
Two months ago I broke up with my boyfriend of four years, and I’m so confused. The “you go, girl” half of my brain tells me that this should have happened years ago, and that he was never going to meet my needs. But the “see, I told you that you’d end up a lonely, old cat lady” half tells me I have unreasonable standards and should try to get back together with him. To make matters worse, he started dating his new girlfriend two weeks after he moved out. He and I have irregular contact, but every time we speak, it totally messes with my head and heart. We live in a small town, so bumping into him is inevitable. I’m an accomplished, smart, sassy, thirty-two-year-old woman. So why do I feel so rejected and lost? — Kitty Kitty Licking Her Wounds

Dear Kitty Kitty Licking Her Wounds,

I want to change the way you think about yourself, starting with that ridiculous sign-off. Smart, sassy women who are self-aware enough to worry about turning into crazy cat ladies do not use a feline nom de plume. They may have kitten screensavers or a burning lust for cat news, but their grasp on their own humanity holds firm. If you have the word “purr” anywhere in your dating profile, I want you to stop reading this and go delete it. Right now.

You back? Super.

Here’s the thing, Hometown Heartbreaker: people don’t do anything that’s horribly unpleasant unless they really, really need to. You don’t go into foreclosure on a lark. You don’t get bored and sign up for gallbladder surgery. You had a reason for breaking up with him.

There’s an initial rush that comes from making that decision. A surge of don’t-off-yourself chemicals that keeps you from eating dry spaghetti and Ambien for breakfast, and ensures you’re more-or-less behaved when out in public. This is what you refer to as your “you go, girl” half, and capitalizing on that feeling is what’s made people like Beyoncé jillions of iTunes impulse-purchase dollars.

Then the comedown arrives. At two months, you’re right on schedule. The daily calls from concerned friends have dropped down to weekly. Desperate breakup sex starts to seem like less of a possibility, and coworkers no longer ply you with fluorescent-hued happy-hour shots. And then it registers: “Holy shit. This being broken up razzmatazz? NOT FUN.”

No shit, darlin’. Ending a relationship isn’t supposed to feel like anything even approaching good. Whether you’re twenty-two or sixty-two, you’re going to feel “rejected and lost.” It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have done it. Would you tell a cancer patient who’s now in remission they shouldn’t have had chemo, because all that throwing up and hair loss really sucked?

I’m hitting you heavy with the illness metaphor because I want you to realize that you’re in a very important (though painful) stage of the healing process. And as a patient, a ninety-day “no contact” break is the best way you can take care of yourself right now. Starting therapy and staying away from places you’re likely to run into him are two more. I know it’s lame to give up your favorite burger joint and shop for groceries at odd hours, but this isn’t about fairness. It’s about avoiding triggers and keeping the old mood swings level. If it’s any consolation, you’ll probably drive him nuts wondering where you are and who you’re with. As for him and his new girlfriend: if you’ve read all this and are still wondering whether you made the right move, his recent actions answer that question. You’re not being “unreasonable” if you simply expected him not to be a “dickhead” or “inappropriate.”

Dear Miss Information

My new girlfriend and I are in our early fifties. We both recently left long-term relationships and are acting as if we’re in our twenties again. Much to our amusement, we’re the ones making out on the couch, not our teenage kids. We’re having a wonderful time, emotionally and physically. However, we’ve only being going out for a month, and already she wants to know all about my previous lovers. I’ve had about twenty more than her. (Where did I find the time, come to think of it?)

I don’t want to come off as a lothario with no scruples. And I recognize that honesty is an important facet of building trust in a new relationship. I’ve been generally open about my past without getting into specifics. Do you think it’s alright to tell selective truths under these circumstances? How much should I reveal about past experiences? — In Love Again

Dear In Love Again,

The NYPD has the acronym CPR written on the side of their cars, which stands for “Courtesy, Professionalism, and Respect.” A vehicle for the non-existent (but much-dreamed of) International Association of Sex Partners would have “To Inform, Protect, and Intrigue” etched on the side in bright vinyl letters.

In order to remain an officer in good standing (or laying, cause that’s much more likely), you have a duty to:

Inform: Reveal enough information to give your partner a basic sense of your sexual history and how it fits into who you are. Is she dealing with a virgin, a recovering libertine — or a recovering prude?

Protect: Tell your partner about any sexually transmitted diseases, your contraceptive preferences — even if your preference is to go bareback — and if you’re straight, your respective stances on abortion. Involuntary parenthood is just as bad as oozy bumps and sores.

Intrigue: Get them riled, aroused, and horny. When discussing past lovers, your imagery should be fuzzy and soft-focus. If you keep the details and faces non-specific, it allows for multiple possibilities and actors. “My ex Jim and I used to fuck in the glass elevator at the Sheraton” becomes “sex in public places gets me hot.”

I know you see this going somewhere, and fear that letting her see the skid marks on your sex-laundry too early, without enough context, is going to mess everything up. Go with your instincts here. If she can’t understand, that’s her problem. You are bound to the duties outlined above, which do not include compromising your own beliefs to soothe someone who is feeling insecure.

I’ll leave you with one final thought: is it possible she’s asking about your exes because she finds it a panty-dampener? If so, you’d probably be inclined to share more. She could also be fishing for validation. Am I pretty? Am I good in bed? Compliments might cure her need to play investigative reporter. Get at the questions behind the questions, then get back to grinding on the sectional sofa.