Convenient Marriages, Crazy Friendships

Q: I have an old girlfriend with whom I am still very close. She’s from France and she’s a hard-working, home-owning, tax-paying member of American society. She’s currently spending thousands trying to get her green card. But with the economy, her work situation may soon take a turn for the worst. If she gets laid off, her green card chances vanish. She is not a migrant worker or illegal alien, so her chances of benefiting from bleeding heart liberal immigration reform are non-existent. We’ve talked about getting hitched so she can stay in the country, then a quickie divorce in two years. But I sense it might be difficult meeting new girls and explaining my marriage of convenience. How much of a downer would that be to talk about on a second date? – Do I Say I Do?


A: Not nearly as much of a downer as those you’ll face if she decides she doesn’t want to get divorced after all, is entitled to half your assets, wants to have children or any number of other potential nightmares. If those don’t scare you enough, then rest assured that being married to a French ex-girlfriend with whom you’re “still very close” will do a fine job keeping you from even getting second dates – let alone laid, I might add.


Q: First I met this woman named “Vicky” through a mutual friend. I ended up [having sex with] Vicky for several months without the friend knowing because it would have ruined their friendship. Then with no argument or anything, Vicky stopped e-mailing, returning text messages and calls. If you’re kicking it, having a good time, there is NO drama and the sex is great, why wouldn’t Vicky just contact me and say, “Look, I’m seeing somebody seriously now so I cannot be in touch with you any longer?” Versus just vanishing?


The second situation is with “Rhonda.” Two summers ago she came to visit me. A week turned into a month because of how much we were enjoying one another. (There was absolutely NO sexual interaction.) Then she met some guy in NYC. Again, she just vanishes without saying a word. I’ve even shot her an e-mail telling her that she’s ruining a perfect friendship and she has yet to reply.


The third situation was with “Melissa.” I met her a year ago and she gave me her business card. After running into her two more times, I finally e-mailed her and we went on a lovely lunch date. I was getting to know her and she seemed like she was getting to know me too as she called and texted daily. No sexual interactions, just a great startup friendship. She was even talking of inviting me over for a romantic dinner. I sent some flowers to her job one day and she was thankful for them. I also left an inexpensive gift certificate for her where she gets her manicures and pedicures. To this day, I don’t know if she’s used it as she’s never returned any e-mails, calls, texts from that point. Same thing — if she’s seeing somebody why not tell me versus disappearing like a thief in the night when it was a perfect friendship?


I don’t know if these women think I’m going to curse them out or call them names, but that’s not my nature. I’m a man of respect. What’s your opinion about why some women just back out of the perfect friendship without saying a word? – Confused


A: Good Lord, I need a drink.


See, folks, this not-so-little gem illustrates one of the myriad challenges of this gig: Deciding how much of the letter writer’s (LW) original content to retain. You want enough to illustrate key detail – and behavioral patterns – but not so much that you drive readers off in frenzied search for razorblades. And I sincerely hope you’re all still with me at this point.


Back to you, Confused … You may very well be a “man of respect,” but you’re also a man of mixed signals and overblown expectations. You keep talking about these “perfect” friendships being ruined, but all I see are: 1) a friends-with-benefits situation that, for whatever reason, wasn’t working for her anymore; 2) a textbook room/board/companionship mooch until something better came along; 3) a blown shot at a (girl)friend thanks to your premature gifts.


I recently wrote about “The Disappearing Act,” that unfortunate trend in dating where somebody disappears like a thief in the night, as you say, with no explanation whatsoever. Yes, it happens, and yes, it always sucks. But when something keeps happening to you, you have to own up to the fact that you’re the common denominator. You’re half of these weird friendship/romance hybrids, emphasizing that there’s “NO sexual interaction” and “NO drama” yet attracting all kinds of it by proffering your body, your home and loaded gifts like flowers. You sound like a nice enough guy, Confused, if a bit overzealous. So it’s time to stop agonizing over why you’ve been wronged by these women, and start figuring out why you seem to keep choosing such flaky types – for friendship, romance or whatever else — in the first place. Oh, and stop putting so much pressure on yourself to create and maintain “perfect” friendships, ok? They don’t really exist, anyway.

Breakups and Beer Goggles

Q: The gist is, I married my first love and he was … my first everything. That was nearly 20 years ago. We were best friends and everything to each other. Now it’s over. And I, literally, cannot afford to move on until the house sells so I’m in limbo hell. Being a 40-year-old-divorcée is such a cliché, but that’ll be me.


Typing this up just made me feel sadder, more regretful and, yes, embarrassed. Some people say talking about their problems makes them feel better, but I haven’t found that. I feel the shame I’ve heard that women experiencing domestic violence feel: like it’s their fault so they don’t want to talk about it. No, there is no domestic violence involved. It’s “just” the aftermath of increasing emotional coldness and distance all the while he constructs his new life.


I could go on and on about what happened, giving reasons for what’s happened (I waiver between blaming him and blaming myself), but I really need some advice on how to get over a breakup while still living in the same house. (I know: bad idea.) – No Blue Skies For Me


A: I’m so sorry. Breakups are bad enough, but when you have to interact with the other person every day, in the same environment where you had sunnier days, they’re absolute torture. And in this piss-poor economy, the sad fact is many broken-up couples are in your position.


So what can you do to ease the agony? First of all, take heart that those overused clichés -- Time heals all wounds; This, too, shall pass; That which doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger – are clichés for a reason, much as they might grate on your nerves to hear right now. But because this is your first love, and your first breakup, I presume, you don’t have any previous experience to draw on. So don’t force yourself to feel better just now; instead, trust that things will get better.


But you don’t have to watch in mourning as he constructs his new life. Focus on yours instead: get out with supportive friends, volunteer (helping a bigger cause or someone in need always helps put things in perspective) and pamper yourself with exercise and good chocolate. And can you stay with friends or family for a while? If sharing the house is your only option, then set up some rules (no bringing home new dates, division of labor and chores) to make the situation as tolerable as possible. Finally, never underestimate the powers of a snappy new haircut and some time away (monasteries often offer cheap lodging).


Now, a few don’ts: Don’t get consumed by the blame game, don’t sleep with him and please don’t feel embarrassed or shameful about any of this. On the contrary, you should be proud of yourself for having the guts to put your heart out there. For a taste of what real embarrassment should look like – and, hopefully, a laugh – read the next letter. And remember that there are much, much worse clichés than 40-year-old divorcées.


Q: I was at the Va-Hi Festival this summer, and my buddies and I had a good 5 hours of drinking. We go to this big house party afterward and I ended up dancing with this girl that was very cool and seemed cute enough. We grinded (and made out?) for a while. I was pretty foggy the next day but I did have her number in my pocket.


I called her and she sounded even cooler than I remembered. So I asked her out for the following week. When I got to her place, I thought the person who answered the door must be her roommate, she was hideous-looking. (I know how bad that sounds.) She lets me in and says, “I will just be a minute!" I realized [crap], this is HER, and I’m thinking, Can I just run to my car and drive away? Can I fake an illness? But I sucked it up and we went to dinner as planned. At the end, I just gave her a polite hug and left. I did call her eventually to say I didn’t think we were a good match, but she didn’t take that for an answer. She’s STILL calling me, texting me, months later. She even found out where I work. So do I tell her the truth? – Embarrassed


A: Yeah, you tell her the truth – that you had a rollicking good time the night you met but that, sorry, is as far as it went for you. That you’re just not interested. And that she should save herself the trouble of calling and texting because you won’t be responding, at all, anymore. Because – and don’t be afraid to trot this word out – you’re a little concerned she’s turning into a stalker. Then, block her phone number and e-mails, and, if necessary, screen your calls at work. The one thing you don’t want is for her to show up crying at your cafeteria one day in front of your co-workers.


And here’s another truth for you: If you’re so smashed that you can’t recall what the gal you were swapping spit with looks like – or that she was so “hideous” you considered ditching her in the daylight – it’s time to give the ol’ liver a rest, pal.






Lost on Love

Q: I have a problem with my love life. I am a straight male. I had many one-night stands with many women. I am 38 years old right now. My question is how long does it take for me to fall in love with the right female woman and actually settle down with my best friend for a lifetime commitment in holy matrimony? – Lost About Love

A: The mystery of love, said Oscar Wilde, is greater than the mystery of life. Indeed, there are plenty of question marks about the whole affair, and one of the most common is if we’ll ever find “the one.” Some people (they seem to concentrate in Hollywood) fall in and out of love (and marriages) at Mach speed; others tie the knot with their high-school sweethearts and stay together for life. Some people never get married, some by choice, some ‘cuz, sadly, it just didn’t work out. All of which is to say it’s impossible to say what will happen for you, when, with whom.

But … It’s an intriguing coincidence that I found your letter in my inbox mere moments after watching a show about high-powered politicians coming out of the closet. Maybe it put my gaydar on overdrive, but my first instinct was that you’re struggling with something much deeper than wondering when the right person will come along. There’s something very forced — and therefore cryptic — in how you emphasize all the supporting facts about your heterosexuality: that you’re straight, right off the bat; that you’ve bedded dozens of women; that you feel pressured about finding the right “female woman” (is there any other kind?) with whom you can build a “lifetime commitment” and share “holy matrimony.”

Your letter also has the rotten whiff of religious brainwashing: namely, that the only love that’s recognized by God is between a man and a woman, and blah blah vomit blah. If that’s the case, and my suspicions are correct, you’ve got a long road ahead of you. But it starts with understanding that true happiness only comes with realizing your true self — you only get one shot at this life, after all. Then again, I dunno — maybe your true self is just a straight-up player who’s perfectly content going bedpost notch-for-notch with George Clooney.

Still, if your interactions with women have solely been of the 24-hour variety and you’re craving something more, it’s time to take a hard look at the “why” — and forget, at least for now, about the “how long does it take to fall in love” question. That’s the symptom, not the problem, here.

Q: I’ve been dating this awesome guy for about six weeks. During that time, we’ve been hanging out a lot, and we have an amazing connection. When we don’t see each other, he e-mails me or texts to say he misses me, and calls me every day. But now I’m worried, because it’s been almost a week since he cancelled our last date and I haven’t heard from him. I know he’s very busy at work, but couldn’t he at least call or text? He’s not replied to my calls or texts. We had such an amazing connection. What. The. Hell? – Hate This

A: Here’s What.The.Hell: You’re a victim of the Disappearing Act. Out of nowhere, the guy seems to simply vanish into the night like the Dickless Horseman, no text, no call, no nuthin’, never to be heard from again except in dating legend and lore.

Don’t get wrapped up in a WTF cycle of speculation and rationalization; instead, reframe the situation. His actions speak volumes about his character, or lack thereof. Beyond common courtesy, this is about respect — a critical component of relationships. Anyone who ducks out when things gets tough — as in, telling you that, for whatever reason, his feelings have changed — isn’t an “awesome guy”; he’s a total turd. And unless you’ve omitted a critical detail from your letter (“All I did was ask him what he wanted to name our kids”), take heart that you’re rid of this chump after just six weeks.

And you know what else, people? I’m tired of hearing this whole “amazing connection” schtick. As in: “He only calls when he wants to come over at 2 a.m., but we just have the most amazing connection.” “She’s a raving lunatic, yes, but dude — we just have the most amazing connection.” “Okay, so he’s been unable to commit for nine years, but I can’t let go of our amazing connection.” That’s a lot of incredible B.S. enabled by a lot of amazing connections. I’m not saying there shouldn’t be chemistry, but too many good people are falling all over themselves talking about their “amazing connection” when it seems to me they’re just trying to justify not being treated right. Can we puh-leeze just get over all these “amazing connections” already and try to see situations as they are? As in: He’s not interested anymore; move on.

Psycho Girlfriends and How to Handle Maid-of-Honor Jealousy

Q: For the past two years, I’ve been dating a girl who’s a little bit psycho when she gets drunk. To be honest, it’s A LOT psycho; she’s even hit me once or twice. But when she’s not in one of her moods, she’s awesome. She’s funny and smart and, I have to admit, super hot, and our sex life is scorching. Her moods don’t happen too often, and mostly when she’s drunk. But it’s like she’s bipolar or something, and I never know when she’s going to go over the edge.

I know ending it would help save my sanity, and all of my friends are telling me to break up with her. I know I should, but I keep thinking she’ll change. She has been going to therapy and things are getting a little bit better, but I wonder if it’s enough. I want to settle down one day, but not with someone like this. Still, the thought of starting over is so scary. — Torn