Get Real

A relationship that has about as much life as a dead rattlesnake skin, and when to tell a friend she’s being a major beeee-yatch.

Q: I’ve been living with my boyfriend now for 10 years (I honestly don’t know where the time has gone). We don’t seem to be on the marriage track, but we do own a house together, so it’s semi-permanent. Lately, I’ve rediscovered the nightlife, which my boyfriend could not hate more.

I’ve been going out with my girlfriends and having a blast. But I’m a lightweight: More than a drink and a half, and I can’t drive home. So on weekend nights when I go out, I sleep on the couch of a girlfriend and go home in the mornings.

It’s happened about four times, and each time, my boyfriend has been overly concerned with my lack of courtesy for not calling or texting to tell him I’m not coming home that night. But he never even asks where I go or who I go out with. I could be doing body shots at biker bars, and he couldn’t seem less interested. He’s more interested in his getting a full night’s sleep as long as I tell him I’ll be back in the morning, than asking me where I’m going. Doesn’t that seem odd? I kind of want him to ask what I’m up to, but I’m not going to force him to ask questions. Aside from coming home with a tattoo or a black eye, what should I do?—Guilty Partier

A: What seems the oddest about this whole thing isn’t your boyfriend’s disinterest in your plans. It’s that, for an entire decade, you’ve been coasting along in a relationship that has about as much life as a shed rattlesnake skin. Perhaps at the beginning, it was more passionate than perfunctory, but at this point, you two sound more like roommates than anything else.

But, hey, if that works for you both, fantastic. I’ll give your boyfriend the benefit of the doubt that, although he seems unable to care less about your whereabouts, at least he’s concerned for your safety. So when that drink-and-a-half starts to kick in, and it’s obvious you’ll be crashing on a friend’s couch, just take two seconds to text him already. And at least promise you’ll consider this: that your “having a blast” comes not from your rediscovery of the nightlife, but a few hours with friends away from the gloom of this so-called relationship.
Q: One of my best friends is a funny, smart female who is a pleasure to hang out with. I’ve known her since college, and she’s never had problems meeting and dating guys, some of whom have been really amazing. The problem is that once she’s in a relationship, she seems to get more confrontational and puts her boyfriend on the defensive so much that the relationships always end faster than they should.

Now it’s happened again, and I feel bad that she is suffering. She needs a shoulder to cry on and asks for advice from her friends—but it doesn’t seem that she notices the pattern of what she’s doing, and I don’t want to be the person to hurt her or to point it out to her. Should I just keep my mouth shut as planned, or is there a diplomatic way to help a friend with relationship troubles?—Big Mouth
A: It’s time to grow a pair and speak up. First of all, she’s given you the green light to do so by asking her friends—i.e., YOU—for advice. So give it—tactfully, of course. This is exactly the stuff that good friendships are made of: honesty, a genuine interest in her well-being, a desire to protect her (and your shared bond).
I can tell from your letter that you wouldn’t blurt out something like, “Once you’re hooked up, honey, you turn into the biggest bitch on the planet,” so at least you have that going for you. Still, this is tricky territory. You’re not pointing out the glob of spinach stuck in her teeth; you’re pointing out what amounts to a character flaw (that once she’s hooked up, she turns into the biggest bitch on the planet). So tread lightly. Start with some of the same stuff you did in your letter: that she’s smart, funny and a pleasure to be around. But (isn’t there always one?) … you’ve noticed some of those wonderful qualities get overshadowed when she’s in a relationship. When she asks you to clarify (and, oh yes, she will), throw in a few concrete examples of her behavior. Look at it as a conversation, not a confrontation, and reassure her that this is as tough for you to say as it is for her to hear, but that you really do want to see her happy. 

Of course, if the prospect still turns your stomach, there’s another easy solution: Tell her about this fantastic advice column called “Ask a Bachelor” that you’ve stumbled upon, and why not send me a letter?

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