Loose Lips Sink Relationships

Q: What do you think about chatting w/friends re: relationship issues that you aren't discussing with your partner? Betrayal or situation normal? And let's say you decide to 'vent' to a person of the opposite sex who isn't a friend of your partner. Is this ok or not? -- Loose-Lipped


A: First of all, absolutely no offense intended to any readers in a same-sex couple, but I’m going to assume you’re a gal and you’re talking about your boyfriend, ummmkay? (Otherwise, trying to account for all the gender scenarios would eat up my word count and confuse the hell out of everyone.)

For gals, staying mum among friends about matters of the heart is about as unnatural as it is for guys to put the toilet seat down. But there’s an important boundary in there somewhere. So before you unknowingly cross it by spilling the guts of your relationship to an audience like a bad slasher flick, remember that this issue is all about a pillar of strong unions: trust.

As in, you should be able to trust your partner to come to you — and vice-versa — about something that could potentially become a problem. As in, your partner should be able to trust you enough — and vice-versa — not to air your relationship’s dirty laundry to anyone with a willing ear, as harmless as you think it might be. I’m not saying you need to put a gag order on yourself when it comes to occasional gossip with girlfriends. But you owe it to your partner to try to work through serious issues with him if you’re worried about them enough to bring them up to third parties. And yes, you can ratchet up the potential for trouble when the ventee is a member of the opposite sex, whether he’s friends with your bf or not.

In other words, occasionally dishing about someone’s piddly little quirks (“A parakeet could do a better job loading the dishwasher”) = situation normal. Going outside of the relationship about a major issue (“This whiskey dick thing is really getting old”) = borderline betrayal.

If all that fails to make sense (disclaimer: As I write this, I’m looking at the ocean from a balcony in the Dominican Republic, and I’m a little distracted by the awesomeness here, not to mention the Presidente beer that’s going down faster than a Jersey Shore cast member), then go with a gut check. When the dishing starts to feel icky, then it’s time to tighten those loose lips.

Q: Just got back from my yearly solo vacation. Met an incredible girl there. Went by myself for some surfing, and usually the most exciting thing that happens on my trips is some killer waves and a few beers with the locals. Never expected to find someone so cool. Met her at the bar where she works, she sent a few beers my way for free when her boss was turned the other way, maybe she was just taking pity on the solo traveler. Was just drunk enough to start chatting her up. Guess we fired up a pretty good spark 'coz we hung out every night, I taught her to surf just a little and boom, it was like we were a couple. No drama, no issues, just major fun and then grave disappointment when we had to say goodbye. Not sure where to go from here. Won't have enough money to get back to her town for a while and she doesn't make enough to come see me either. So tell me: Idiotic to continue, or think we even have a chance? -- Making Waves

A: I wouldn’t say idiotic, though perhaps a bit unrealistic. I hate to add another dose of post-vacay downer to your mood, but let’s be honest, bro. Unless you’re both cool with Skype and e-mail as your crutch until next year’s vacation rolls around for you, then the forecast doesn’t look too sunny.

But, hey, you surfers and beach town bartenders tend to be a pretty laid-back bunch. If you can keep it light without too much pressure on either of you, then why not just keep things open-ended and see where it goes? If it peters out, then no worries, and if it keeps building like a monster swell, well, then you’ll be looking forward to your annual vacation even more. At the very least, you’ll have some great memories.

One final note: You get props for the absence of the word “dude” in your letter. But reading sentences with no subject is almost as annoying. Include them in your e-mails to your barista babe, and I promise you’ll only be helping your chances for an endless summer with her.

The Living Dead

Q: About a month ago, I met a guy at an event. He was cute, funny, and smart, and we're about the same age. He asked for my number. I gave it to him and then we embarked on a passionate, two-week romance -- you know, where you talk until 3 a.m. and find excuses to get together or talk almost every day? But, I noticed that he mentioned his deceased wife all the time. It's like his whole life revolves around her -- friends, work, everything. Well, at the end of our sixth date, he says, "I can't do this. I'm really sorry. You're gorgeous, sexy and brilliant, but I'm not really over her." I agreed to be friends and haven't heard from him in two weeks.

Thing is, his wife died 10 years ago, and I think he's using her as a convenient way to avoid risking himself in a new relationship. Do I just walk away and be glad I didn't get more involved, or do I sit him down and tell him what I think he's doing? I don't want to seem pushy, but on the other hand, there was definitely something good between us and it might be worth it to have that talk. -- Respecting the Dead

A: Sorry to hear about it, and I’m even sorrier for you that this guy can’t seem to see what a good, living thing he seems to have right in front of him.

I’m all for leaving everything on the table before marching onward, head high, with your solo self. But I don’t think a live talk is the way to go. There’s always the risk of stirring up more what-ifs, not to mention hormones, from seeing someone in person, making it that much harder to move on. Plus, since this guy is so attached to the memory of his late wife, he’ll probably take any well-intentioned input as a perceived insult. Since he’s so nostalgic, why not write a letter? Just getting your feelings on paper might be cathartic enough; you may not even need to mail it.

Also consider that he could actually be addicted to grief. A UCLA study showed that a significant minority of people have difficulty adapting to the loss of a loved one, perhaps because their brains are wired to activate their reward centers upon a reminder of the loss. Hmm.

At any rate, your next course of action is exactly what you wrote: Walk away and be glad you didn’t get more involved. Yes, respecting, and remembering, the dead is a good thing, but not when it comes only at the cost of the living.

Q: As I approach my mid-thirties I'm used to buying unimaginative wedding registry gifts and disposable baby shower crap. I understand that people get married and have kids, and that’s great. But can someone explain to me why? Why on earth would I want to give up my vacations of European trysts and motorsport destinations for marriage and children? I understand maybe rescuing a cat or a dog from the pound -- they’re housebroken and cute. But a baby? They cry, crap their pants and vomit on themselves. You can’t even hold a conversation with them. Marriage? I’ll take my brief relationships and one-night stands over a post-partum vagina all day long. And don’t tell me to grow up. I’m an educated guy with cultivated tastes in art, wine, cuisine, politics and world events. I just can’t understand why in the hell every single guy I know falls into the trap of marriage and children and then bitches about it privately every chance we get together. Is there something I don’t know? – Happily Unwed

A: A few things, perhaps.

1) I can’t speak for your friends, but there are plenty of people out there who actually like being married. I’m just a few months into it, but so far it’s pretty awesome.

2) Most of those crying, crapping, vomiting babies – you were one – eventually grow into cool little people, then adults, whom you can have conversations, not to mention an incredible life experience, with. I know it can get tiresome for non-parents hearing parents spew all that bile about kids giving you a whole new perspective and how it’s different when they’re your own and how they’re at once your greatest joy and biggest pain in the ass, blah blah blah. But they’re speaking from experience – i.e., something else you don’t know.

3) At least a post-partum vagina is still functional, as opposed to an aging, pre-Viagra penis.

4) Sometimes the people who are the most content are the least vocal.