Q: Where does the love go? I have been dating the same girl for 4 years and we had spoken about getting married, but now she is about to graduate from college and I still have two years left. She is really smart and finished high school and college early, so she is now working for a large software company as an intern and she seems to be drifting away from me. She only talks about her work and all the guys she works with, and she talks about her boss like he is the most amazing person on earth and I think there may be something going on between them, or am I being paranoid? I feel like she has stepped into another phase of her life and left me behind. I am thinking I should propose to her and make it official, but I don’t want to seem like it’s an act of desperation. What should I do? – Sad Dawg
Q: I have been married to “Mr. Baseball” for just over 10 years and I feel like it is time for me to make an important decision. He was a standout baseball player (and also a few years in the pros) and big man on campus (president of student body, popular, etc.). I met him several years later, we dated, fell in love, and married. Things were great. I was working and he was coaching. He traveled frequently, which was understandable. But then he started staying out more and more “with the guys” and then he would not come home until the next day. We had children and he eventually settled down and has been a good father. We have never discussed anything about the past — that is not his thing. Our life together is not bad, even though I am no longer in love with him and he probably feels the same about me. But sometimes (and it seems to be more often lately) I feel so angry about how he treated me and I feel a bitterness toward him. I try to convince myself that he has changed and is a good parent, but I am so confused about what to do. Our friends have no idea about any of this, and I’ve kept it a secret for many years. – Angry
A: I’m still in a fog from too much turkey and college football, so pardon the weird analogy I’m about to make. When you’re at the helm of a motor boat and you’re facing a nasty wave, you’re supposed to hit it at kind of an angle. That way, it’s not quite as jarring to the boat and its passengers, but you’re still taking on the wave and moving forward.
I think that’s how you need to approach this situation. There are years of pent-up hurt and anger here – one big swell of emotion that could drown everything in its path, including your husband, who probably has no idea how you feel. So take it at an angle instead of directly head-on. By that I mean continue the process you’ve started here and keep unloading — but not yet to your husband. Grab a journal or a legal pad and get your thoughts on paper, the same way you wrote to me. Find a trustworthy friend and a bottle of vino (or three), and just ask her to listen. Of course, therapy is a good option, too, though one you might want to pursue on your own, at least initially.
Hopefully, as you go through these channels, you’ll start to unravel the whys in all of this: why you put up with his behavior, why you didn’t say anything to him or anyone else, and why you’re so angry about it now. I think trying to answer those first will help you arrive at your next step: what you want to happen.
Finally, at some point you will need to tell your husband how you feel, and hopefully, angling into the swell will have you much better prepared to weather whatever comes next. Talking about the past may not be “his thing,” but if staying with you is, there’s no other way to get through this.
Q: I think my friend’s husband might be cheating on her and I’m not sure what I can do to help her. She’s been struggling over this for the past few months and it’s eating away at her. My friend is adamant that the “other woman” is someone who works in his department. She’s even scrolled through his texts and e-mails and found some incriminating evidence, but he found a way to deny it.
I’m sure I’m the only one she’s talking to about this, and she’s asking my advice all the time. On the one hand, I think her husband is pond scum for putting her through this. On the other hand, she DOES have a tendency to overreact and be controlling and possessive. Not that that is any reason or excuse for someone to cheat. Sometimes I want to tell her that she should give him another chance and they should try to work it out. (They have two small children and they are otherwise terrific parents.) Other times it seems like they haven’t a chance because of his behavior and the broken trust. Please, what can I do to help her? – Torn Friend
A: Just keep being the superstar friend that you have with your presence and concern – and try to keep mum about what you think she should do and excessive badmouthing of his pond scum ways. Should she decide to stay with him – which she probably will – you’ll end up looking like the bad guy. At least she’s talking to someone, lest she be writing a letter like the one above to an advice columnist 10 years from now.
Q: It’s not even Thanksgiving yet, and I’m ALREADY dreading Christmas. That’s because my longtime boyfriend and I broke things off about three months ago. Our time was up, I guess, and I miss him horribly. But what I’m immediately freaking over is my family, specifically, their upcoming pity party. My family (especially my dad) had a great relationship with my ex, and already they’ve started whining about being disappointed that we’re no longer together and how much they’ll miss him being around for Christmas. Ugh. This is making a bad situation even worse. Is there any relief possible? My mom hosts a large family gathering on Christmas Day, and I can’t stand the thought of the nonstop inquisition about being single forever, etc., etc. PLEASE HELP. – Bah Humbugger
A: Ahh, the holidays. What would they be without obnoxious relatives in reindeer sweaters, tormenting you nonstop about your single status? Which is painful enough on its own, but downright excruciating when you add heartbreak to the mix. By the time you read this, Thanksgiving will be over, but it sounds like you have yet to face the biggest turkeys on the holiday scene. Here’s how to do it in one piece.
First, ward off the inquisition avalanche with a few zingers laced with shock, sarcasm and deflection. For example, when decrepit Granny Eunice tsk-tsks: “Too bad about you and that boy. Will you ever get married?” you reply: “Maybe, but not before I use up the economy-size box of condoms I just bought.” Or: “Of course not. Then what would you have to talk about?” Second, never underestimate the silencing power of implying just a touch of insanity. When slimy Uncle Larry oozes, “Well, missy, looks like another one bites the dust, eh?” you calmly reply, “Guess so. I think my Lorena Bobbitt impersonation hit a little too close to home for him, if you know what I mean,” while smiling wickedly, wielding a massive carving knife and hacking off a large chunk of salami.
Finally, try to remember your relatives’ badgering doesn’t mean they’re Grinchs (Grinches?) trying to steal your sanity. If you can frame it as off-the-mark but well-intentioned expressions of their love and concern, you’ll have a much easier time not wanting to shove a holly wreath up their ass every time they start in. Plus, keep in mind that if they’re married, lack of sex is probably clouding their judgment on meddling into someone’s personal life. And if all else fails, start drinking. It’s hard to answer questions when you’re passed out, isn’t it?
Q: So I got back together with an ex girlfriend from earlier this year, after a while apart. When we got back together, we both acknowledged our mistakes from the past and agreed to work on the things we both had problems with. So we date for a few months and suddenly I’m feeling deja’ vu in our relationship. Specifically, she has lost all sex drive (though she admits this is a problem she has had in every relationship stemming from some previous personal experiences we don’t need to discuss here) and now comes the biggest blow, she says she wants space.
Granted, the last time we dated we did spend too much time together, and though seeing each other almost every night might seem like too much for some people, I figure if we were both willing then why keep a time clock on it. So basically, I’m now dating a girl who wants her “space,” and doesn’t have sex with me. Am I insane to continue trying to make this relationship work? Please help! – Confused Guy
A: The short answer is pretty much yes, though insane might be too strong a word. How about overly hopeful? Willing to take a risk? Or could it be that too much space, too much history (both your shared and her personal) and too little sex have just addled your brain?
Good on you both for figuring out the problems you need to work on; reconciliations don’t happen without that step. Unfortunately, that’s where it ends — she’s making it very clear that she’s not interested in putting in any more effort. Sounds like the time apart just helped her clarify what she really wants – permanent space.
Déjà vu is a perfect plotline for chick flicks and Hallmark movies in which star-crossed lovers miraculously connect through the space-time continuum. But this isn’t déjà vu you’re experiencing. It’s your gut, reminding you why you broke up in the first place: This girl doesn’t dig you. Listen to it and get out now.
Finally, here’s where I think I can provide the most help: by offering a gentle reminder to take your foot off the gas in the early incubation stage of a relationship. Flood the engine with too much fuel, and it won’t start; same goes with romance. So best to leave the smothering to the cooks at Waffle House.