February 15, 2013
Following up on December 7, 1998…
Dear Breakup Girl,
Ok…so here is my update from last month…I’m still dating Gravy or as he calls it “we are seeing each other.” It is now going past 4 months of dating…I’m over my ex (ya know, the one who left me 3 months before our wedding date). But here is the real clicker.
I really like Gravy….I know I didn’t want something serious at first. I mean HELLOO, I just went through a rilly crappy ordeal 6 months ago. But now I’ve moved on & here I am with Gravy who lives an hour & a half aways…calls me just about every night & sees me every weekend! Sex is great may I add & then the discussion of what are we comes up!
He doesn’t want anything serious — well hello again! We are only spending every weekend together (not just in bed either). I go to all the family functions as if I was a part of his family. But he says he doesn’t want anything serious as he doesn’t want to have to answer to anyone. When the question of are you sleeping with anyone else came up he states no not at all but he would tell me if he was! HELP! I don’t want to be a teenie bopper at 27 telling a guy its me or hit the highway but heck…I do respect myself & yet I know he rilly rilly likes me or he wouldn’t want to spend all this time & money on me! So what can I do…any advice…I mean heck…I’m not looking for marriage yet…but it would be nice for a little commitment or am I expecting way too much way to soon?
If it makes Gravy feel better to issue “nothing serious” disclaimers while acting all boyfriendy — like Tile Guy, above — then fine. But after four months of weekends and family functions, you are totally entitled to request that he not see, much less sleep with, anyone else. He is entitled to accept or decline your request. And if he declines, you won’t be on the next Gravy Train, will you?
February 12, 2013
Neurotically freaking on December 7, 1998…
Dear Breakup Girl,
Oy! Where to start? Where to start?
I know! I was living with my boyfriend for three and a half years and then he dumped me! HE dumped ME! The nerve.
Things hadn’t been perfect with us for a while. There had been a lot of arguments. He was majorly clinically depressed and wouldn’t deal with it. Everytime I went out with my friends, I knew when I came home he’d pick a fight.
But he LOVED me. And I loved him. When we got together, we had both had crushes on each other for months and hadn’t known it. So when we finally figured it out, there was so much pent up emotion that we moved in with each other within three months.
Granted. Not the healthiest action. We were probably just majorly infatuated. But then we made it work for three years, and I always thought that was validation of our earlier adolescent actions (we’re both mid-twenties.)
But my problem isn’t with the ex. Well, it is, but it isn’t. My problem is with cutie-boy.
Cutie-boy is the older (early 30’s) boy who works in the office suite next door from me. We kept running into each other in the halls. He kept asking me to coffee and I kept forgetting to tell him I had a boyfriend. When I finally told him, cutieboy claimed that coffee wasn’t exactly a betrothal.
So I went and we had a good time, and to cut out a lot of extraneous info, we ended up sneaking into emergency exit stairways at work and making out. Harmless fun. I knew it was wrong, but told myself I was just getting a little attention that my (soon-to-dump-me) boyfriend wasn’t giving.
February 7, 2013
Impatient on December 7, 1998…
Dear Breakup Girl,
My girlfriend of one year recently broke up with me, then decided it was a mistake and wrote me an e-mail saying she thought she still loved me, but couldn’t deal with the distance (she graduated last year and moved two hours away, hence the breakup, which was entirely one-sided). I told her I couldn’t really deal with e-mails saying she thought she still loved me and asked her to take some time to figure out if she did or didn’t and to get back to me.
The problem is, now I’m starting to get a little upset that it is taking her so long to decide if she still cares for me. Should I rush her, or just sit and be frustrated?
She’s totally allowed to be confused, but she’s totally not allowed to send you confusing emails. If there’s something specific that you two need to work through together, then fine, you should talk; but writing, “hi, might still love u, but not sure, bye! : ) <SEND>” doesn’t count. You need to <REPLY> with, “ok, let me know by [specific deadline].”
February 6, 2013
Course corrections on December 7, 1998…
Dear Breakup Girl,
Here’s my story… I was supposed to have been married to my long time girlfriend, companion, lover and best friend of many years this past fall. I screwed up incredibly in early 1998 by telling her I wasn’t sure of our plans. I moved out of our apartment and away for a few months. We kept in touch during this time and I have been extremely regretful of my decision and I am asking her to let me back into her life.
I proposed to her a month ago but she said she needs time to sort things out. She is the love of my life. I want to move forward and make things right. I think she does as well but the pain and lack of trust in me is still there. I want to hold on to this dream of us being together forever.
What should I do?
– Bumming in the Bay
Ask her (a) what she needs you to do in order to help restore trust, and (b) exactly how much “time” she needs. Then do (a), and hold her to (b).
February 1, 2013
Upgrading on December 7, 1998…
Dear Breakup Girl,
I’ve been dating the same guy for a little over three years. I really want to get married, or at least engaged, soon. My boyfriend on the other hand wants me to be his “permanent girlfriend” and has no intention of putting a ring on my finger any time soon. He tells me he loves me and that I’m the best thing that has ever happened to him and that I’m the best girlfriend he’s ever had.
I haven’t broken up with him yet because I keep waking up each morning thinking “maybe today is the day he’ll change his mind.” What do I do? Dump him and wait for him to come to his senses, dump him and forget about him or keep waiting? Thanks for any advice, I’m miserable but terribly in love.
Do you want to get married, like, in life, or do you want to get married to him?
If it’s the former, this “PG” relationship won’t fit the bill — and waiting isn’t working, is it? See “Walk,” above.
If it’s the latter, consider this: what’s it worth to you to be with him, period, no matter what your status? Can you live and love in this relationshipright here, right now, complete and whole as is, without holding your breath for something to happen? If he’s as mad about you as he says, then he could be like Tile Guy, above. As Dalma Heyn writes in the same article, “Unless the [person] you’re waiting out is behaving badly, not just skittishly, remind yourself that you can wait as long as [s/he] can. And that trusting the process, and [him/her], and yourself, will let you enjoy these unencumbered months (or, yes, years) of courtship. You’ll have plenty of time to be married.”
January 29, 2013
Looking for more on December 7, 1998…
Dear Breakup Girl,
I have been dating the same man for 1 and 1/2 years now and he is totally content with the way the relationship is right now. I am ready for some sort of commitment and he likes his time alone. He says he loves me, but I am not getting the attention I need from him. We see each other only when he’s not busy. I am very frustrated with this relationship. I am 37 and he is 47.
What sort of commitment? Like, engagement? Exclusivity? The reasonable expectation that you mean more to him than plan B? All of the above are fine, but you need to be more specific with him than you’ve been with me. Not that he’s, like, a Dumb Man who needs things spelled out for him. But how can you define your relationship without defining your terms? To wit: what kind of attention do you need? How often would you like to see him? How much time alone does he want (this is something you should both have, by the way)? There are no right answers to these questions. Which is exactly the point: concepts like “content,” “commitment,” “attention” “time” are often in the eye, heart, watch, etc. of the beholder. So: do spell it out. And if he’s not content to try and meet you halfway, well yeah, that spells O-U-T.
January 28, 2013
Decision time on December 7, 1998…
Dear Breakup Girl,
I’m struggling with the decision of whether I should break up with my girlfriend. I’m 32, she’s 28 and we’ve been dating for a little over a year. I guess it’s to the point of do we take the next step, marriage, or do we go our separate ways? I had thought that we were progressing towards marriage. However, for the last several weeks, she has seemed increasingly unhappy. Neither of us seem to have much interest in sex anymore. And, I know that both of feel the other is taking us for granted. Don’t get me wrong, I think she is a great person. And, the last thing that I want to do is cause her pain. But at the same time I don’t want to waste her tine and mine on a love that’s grown cold. I guess the nutshell questions are: Is there hope to respark what we once had? And, if so, how?
Time to pop the question. No, silly, not that question. This one: “Hey, muffin, is there something bothering you?” What worries me is not that you two are unhappy; it’s that you, Sparky, have no clue as to why. Either you two have to hone that thing we call Communication Skills, or you have to admit that your heart isn’t in this in the first place. And I have to admit that I’m leaning toward the latter. Why? Well, to be fair, perhaps passionate poetry just isn’t your thing. But “Don’t get me wrong, I think she is a great person,” is what you say before you say, “However, I am a stronger candidate for the school board.” Not before you say “I do.”
January 24, 2013
We’ll know six weeks from December 7, 1998…
Dear Breakup Girl,
I have been dating this guy for 6 months. Two months ago he got a really good job offer in another state and moved there. We decided that there is enough between us to keep the relationship going. I have visited him twice there and he has come here once. Beginning in January, we plan to see one another twice a month. But before that happens, we will have a separation of 6 weeks where we can only speak on the phone, email, or Instant Messenger. He is an outgoing person and feels he will go out with other people and the more time he spends around them, he will want to get to know them better, which can lead to dangerous situations. I have given him until the end of the six weeks to decide if he loves me enough to commit to me and move back here where we can build a life together. He says he loves me with all his heart, but not seeing me daily or almost daily is hard. I love him truly and am hurting so badly now and am just wondering if I am putting myself through unnecessary pain. What do you think?
I hate to say this, but your IMee is already developing an exit strategy. He is entitled to move in order to take a really good offer. And he is entitled not to move back to be with you. Aaaand you are both more than welcome to attempt the long distance thing. But if he doesn’t know if he can go he can go even six weeks without stumbling into a “dangerous situation,” then no, sweetie, there is not enough between you. Which means, actually, that what you are putting yourself through isnecessary pain. Because: better a deadline then a drag-out. Despite how hard you’re hurting, you made a good call. Healing will not be instant, no, but yes, you sent the right message.
January 23, 2013
Getting impatient on December 7, 1998…
Dear Breakup Girl,
Is there any cool way or time to find out if my boyfriend is ever going to propose? I’ve held off for a REALLY long time because I did not want to rush things or do that stereotypical ultimatum thing. But…in January, we will have been together 4 years. I’m 25; he’s 26. I know that’s part of the problem — I’m at “that age,” we attend weddings constantly, and not a week goes by where someone doesn’t ask me when we’re getting married. Apparently, people don’t do that to men. Or it doesn’t bother him. It’s starting to bother me a lot, especially since I have no answer for myself.
This is not a letter I ever expected to write. ( I bet you wish you had a dollar for every time you read that line.) I have always been, and still am, very career oriented, not man-dependent. I was “most likely to succeed” and everyone expected me to do what I said — escape from the midwest and conquer the world.
We met in my last semester of college. Since he is on the (cough) 10-year bachelor’s degree plan, we compromised by moving back to the nearest major city after I graduated so he could finish his degree in-state. That city is my hometown, where I swore I’d never go back, where I’m sitting now.
January 22, 2013
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In the game of ultimate frisbee, people who stay to the middle of the field and lead the charge instead of breaking long for the throw are Handlers. As they do so, handlers might yell “Cut or clear!” — which basically means “get open for a pass, or get out of the way!” In ultimate, this admonition is generally considered obvious and annoying. In life, however, we are often entitled to yell, “get open to commitment, or clear your things out of my drawer!”
But when? What’s the middle ground between blind faith and brute force? How can you tell the difference between Not Ready Yet and Will Never Be? Will the act of pushing drive someone away?
Tough calls, all. And they’re pretty much case by case. But I will tell you this … though you’re not going to want to hear it. An ultimatum — if you choose to use one — is not about getting someone to do something. It is not bouncing the ball into the other person’s court — that is, out of your hands. It is not a tactic, not a strategy, not a plan. It is not setting a pick. An ultimatum is a statement of your purpose. It is, ultimately, your responsibility. Because, ultimately, your partner is going to do whatever s/he is going to do. YOU are the one who has to come through.
Remember what I told Cameo (who couldn’t get her boyfriend of 8 years to “commit” — nor her biological clock of 28 years to stop ticking)?
I told her to walk.
I told her, that is, to walk this way: “I don’t mean that you should say, ‘I’m walking out if you don’t commit! Look at me! Here I go! Yoo-hoo! I’m walking! I am so walking … sort of near that door! Waaaaalking! Watch me go…!’ I also don’t mean walk out the door, and then walk by his house ten minutes later to see if he’s committed ‘yet.’ I mean: walk.
What, does Breakup Girl believe that a relationship don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that ring? No. Does she want to promote the stereotype that a girl’s best friend is all a woman wants, needs, and hopes for? No. [First of all, I'd give the same advice to a guy. Second of all: ] I’m just going with what you’re telling me: that marriage and babies are what you want, and that they may not, alas, be available in your current (eight-year!) relationship. You can’t ‘get him to commit;’ go get what you want with someone who wants the same thing. And the thing is — I hesitate to say this, because I am in NO way advocating game-playing — but, well, when you walk, this guy just might realize that he is that someone.” In which case, I should add, you may walk – carefully — back.
This is just one example. I am not advocating some sort of mass walkout. I am just saying that — again — if commitment is what you want, you’ve got to demonstrate it, too…whereever it may leave you.
But in determining whether an ultimatum is necessary in the first place, you’ve got to break deep for a view of the whole field. In this month’s issue of New Woman, Dalma Heyn writes about her friend Jen, whose boyfriend kept talking about how scary closeness was. “Yet there he was at [Jen's] place, doing the dishes, fixing the washing machine, loving [her] in the most obvious way. Instead of pointing out the discrepancy, Jen let him talk. [She'd] say, ‘Mmm, closeness is scary.’ … [She] didn’t jump on him or insist that he commit. [She knew] he just had these residual fears to work through. While tiling the kitchen floor, he announced casually that these tiles were so durable they’d last as long as their marriage did.” They were engaged before the grout dried. Huh.
See, in a sense, waiting can be as active as walking. If you actually think s/he will come around eventually, back off. If you really aren’t sure, get on his/her back. As long as you’re sure that you are prepared to make the ultimate commitment.
This column was originally published December 7, 1998.