Hey y’all! Hope you’re about to have a spectacular Christmas. Or, I hope you had a swell Hanukkah.
Anyway I realized that I should check my email more often, because an intrepid young reader sent me a message with a really good question in it! Names have been changed to protect everyone involved.
I read two of your posts, Survivng the Friendzone and Nice Guy Syndrom, and was wondering if you had any advice for going from Dating to just being friends. You see, I was dating this girl for almost a year, a big milestone in my eyes, and a few days ago she broke up with me, 11 days before that 1 year anniversary. She brought up some very valid points, and after a day to mull things over I was okay with it. Thing is though, im still having a few problems it seems. The problems made themselves apperant when we went to the mall to hang, as friends, and I notices a love mark on her neck. Nothing too big, just a single one, nothing near what I’d given her on multiple occasions, yet it still brought up a good bit of jealousy mixed with depression. When we talked about it, she said its what I should expect now that we were ‘just friends’. Not in a mean way though, and it was a very valid and logical point. Yet…even after that I was still jealous of this unnamed man I didnt know. Any advice on how to deal with this would be much appreciated, even if it is just that I need to get over it and accept that she’s not mine anymore.
Treble Hoof (Jeffrey ********)”
A: First I’d like to say sorry about the breakup, but well done on handling it like a mature adult. Validating reasoning for your former ladyfriend ending your relationship is actually a pretty big step. Don’t forget, though, that it doesn’t count as validation unless you can actually for serious feel and mean what you’re thinking or saying about it. And really, this part will take some time. After you’ve for-sure come to terms with what she said, you can use those reasons to try to be a better boyfriend to the next lady who comes along.
Now, to the meat of your issue: she very obviously still means a lot to you, but she’s also apparently doing some sexytime-related things with another human being, and this can be really weird. It can feel a
little lot like she’s already found your replacement. This isn’t always the case, though, because women are actually also prone to rebound flings with people, too. I’m gonna guess that she is also hurting and that’s the way she’s dealing with it. Granted, there are other possibilities that are a lot more hurtful to think about, like “What if she was cheating on me with this dude?”
Well, the good news is the cheating part is no longer your problem and you don’t need to address it with her, because your relationship is over. The sucky part is that this could impact your friendship. If you want to remain actually friends with her, and not nice guy “maybe we can get back together” friends, then you have to actively decide to let that possibility of her having cheated on you go. I would caution against asking her outright about it, because if we’re all wrong and she wasn’t cheating, that’s going to make things awful and your friendship will definitely be weird.
The only way to deal with jealousy is to admit that you’re jealous, and that it bums you out. There’s not some magic method to getting rid of it, but if this is something that seems very difficult for you, I would encourage you find a therapist or trained professional (or trusted parent/guardian) to chat with about how you’re feeling. Since you mentioned some depression, perhaps the professional would be a better idea. What is super important with the jealousy and sadness is that you don’t try to squish them down. Give yourself room, preferably by not seeing her if you can, and let yourself feel sad about the end of your relationship and the possibility that she will be with other people.
One thing that might work well is asking her to give you a bit of time to do this. It’s a pretty rough thing to do, but if you make it clear that you do want to be her friend but need time to take her out of the “girlfriend” part of your brain, I have a feeling she will be understanding. And if she isn’t, maybe you should reconsider being friends with her in the first place.
I hope this was at least marginally helpful! And hey everybody, I can always be reached for more personalized advice at firstname.lastname@example.org
I hope you all had a fun, happy holiday week or so with your families! I know I did.
I know that for some of you, “family” doesn’t necessarily mean your biological family. It might mean an adopted group of humans you get along with better than the people who birthed and helped raise you. But at any rate, I hope whatever you did and whoever you did it with made for some great times and memories. Did you score any great loot? I got a pile of gift cards and my mom made my girlfriend hand-knitted wool slippers
That being said, let’s get down to business.
Not too long ago, my pal Aaron had a conversation with me about his ladyfriend. Unfortunately it was not such a good conversation. I mean the subject wasn’t good, it was kind of depressing. It was about when a good time is to drop The L Word. (insert pic of TLW cast with “no, not this L word”)
His girlfriend said she loved him. This is great, right? Well, I think it’s great, but I’m kind of a sap and I love mushy stuff (If you ever tell anyone, I’ll deny it). The tricky problematic part comes when the second person is either not ready to say the L word, doesn’t feel like they are in love, or offers some other response that isn’t “OMG I LOVE YOU TOO”. So what’s a dude to do?
If you’ve never been in this kind of situation, here are some sample responses from two of my favorite humans – my girlfriend, and the person who usually makes my delicious iced mochas, Kelly!
Girlfriend says: “I probably wouldn’t but maybe if that helped me realize that I was, in fact, in love with them too, then I would say it back. Imean, didn’t that kind of happen with us? I’m always the first to fall in love anyway, so…”
Kelly: “Eventually it’s gonna get awkward for her and she’s gonna keep saying it and being like “What the hell!” I don’t know, he needs to figure out what he does feel and if he doesn’t feel that way maybe he’s just wasting her time. How long have they been together? How old is the dude?”
First things first, don’t panic. It’s okay to not be ready to say you love someone. It’s also totally okay to not be in love with someone! That’s the great part about human emotions – we can’t really force them, we just have to learn how to deal with them in their own special way. I strongly advise against saying it unless you’re ready (and ESPECIALLY don’t say it if you don’t love that person) Seriously, that should go without saying but it unfortunately DOESN’T go without saying. Some people are just stupid about repeating things they hear back to someone, especially when it’s considered a horrible awful thing to NOT say it.
Second, give her some SPACE. Saying something big like “I love you” is a big deal and people need time to react, even when they’re the ones saying it. This is especially a million percent true if the person who said it doesn’t get the response they hoped for right away. So what is an appropriate course of action for this situation?
My girlfriend probably said it better than anyone else could (except maybe for me): “ideally someone would sit you down and be like, ‘Hey I’m in love with you how do you feel about that?’ and then you’d have the opportunity to voice concerns on the matter and maybe talk about how you do love that person or maybe you’re really really slow to fall in love with somebody because of XYZ but when somebody’s just like ‘I love you’ it’s kind of hard to build a discussion out of that or be rational about that.”
I know that love and emotions don’t qualify as rational, but right now let’s realize that you can speak rationally about irrational things. That’s a little deep so I’ll leave that alone, but really, it is A-OKAY to wait and cool down before talking about something big like being in love.
Here’s some really important advice for EVERYONE to follow: if your dudefriend (or ladyfriend, I obvs can’t judge/discriminate) doesn’t say “I love you” back to you right after you say it for the first time ever, DO NOT PANIC! This is a big deal for them, too – it’s not easy to hear someone confess love, because I honestly don’t think anyone truly considers the fact that someone other than a parental unit loves them in a big way. If you don’t get a response right away, remember to chill out about it. Being upset won’t make them say it out of anything but guilt, and that is SO unhealthy I can’t even come up with a good comparison.
Also, remember that they might just plain old not feel that way. Once again I turn to my trusty pal Kelly to bring this one home:
“I also think I’d be comfortable enough to say it, or maybe comfortable enough to tell them I’m not ready to say it”. (And then she sang Haddaway’s “What is Love?” and the conversation stopped being productive)
To summarize, don’t freak out if someone you’re dating says they love you. (Wait. Freak out if it hasn’t been a longer term thing. If you’ve been together a week, don’t be declaring undying love. There’s NO way that’s a real thing.) Don’t smother those people bugging them about why they think they love you or whatever, unless you are really trying to change their minds. And try to keep it comfortable and intelligent, don’t insult anyone and don’t break anyone’s heart. Most DEFINITELY do not mess with someone in a vulnerable love-declaring state. It’s rude and I guarantee you’ll lose all your friends forever.
Okay boys, I told you this was coming. And you know what, I think you’re ready for it.
Today we’re gonna talk a bit about the cold shoulder. This is a common phenomenon among members of my gender(sorry!), so I’m gonna walk you through what it is, why it happens, and what to do to make it stop.
So the cold shoulder. What the hell is it? Urban Dictionary has some, um… interesting definitions for it, but I define it as a general withholding of love and/or affection. To go into a little more detail, if someone close to you stops communicating with you seemingly out of the blue, or for instance if they act mad all the time but just around you, they’re probably giving you the cold shoulder. Also, there’s glaring. Lots of glaring. Glaring is key. If someone glares at you but doesn’t talk or say why they’re mad, this is a huge symptom of the cold shoulder. And so is any of this.
But why, you’re asking, does this happen? What went off in her brain to make her this way?
Okay first of all, it might not even be her. It might actually be you, in which case, put on your big-boy pants and get ready for what I’m about to tell you. This all stems from a communication problem, in the most basic sense. Maybe you said something she didn’t take as a joke, maybe you didn’t say something. Maybe you forgot her birthday/your anniversary/to let the dog out/whatever. It doesn’t matter what it was, it matters how you handle it.
This brings me to my next point… How do you handle someone who’s giving you the cold shoulder?
The best advice I can give you guys is to not do ANY excuse-making, especially not before you find out what is wrong. This could be a mix-up, a simple misunderstanding of terms. This could also just be a really, really simple mistake on your part. The key to all of this is finding out what it is, and even if you don’t think it’s a big deal, that doesn’t matter. Do you value your relationship with whoever is angry at you? If you had been enjoying certain privileges and now are not, would you swallow your pride and apologize like an adult to get them back? (Pro tip: If you’re answering “no” to either of these questions, stop reading and piss off. This blog is clearly not for you.)
For those of you still with me, remember it’s always always ALWAYS easier to apologize for a small issue as soon as you come across it. Always. This is how we keep things from being blown out of proportion.
I asked around to some of my friends, to figure out what they do when someone’s giving them the icy glare of anger. The vast majority of them asked me what I did to sabotage my relationship now, but after assurance that this was for research and a few laughs, I got some pretty awesome answers (I have great friends, basically). The overwhelming response was “ask what you did to deserve this and go from there”. Like, literally all but one person said this – we’ll get to that in a minute. Dear Katie and Flannery had the wisdom to recommend doing something extra-sweet or super-nice in addition to a sincere apology. Rachael and Josh said a heartfelt “I am SO sorry for ______” will save a lot of headaches from popping up and reduce the drama in your love life.
What intrigued me was the response I got from my buddy Kim. She didn’t recommend asking what was wrong – her exact words were “confront them”, which personally sends up red flags, but everyone has their own way of dealing with things. The rest of her reply seemed a little counter-intuitive to that whole “maintaning a relationship” thing at first. She said, “If they won’t give you an answer, then do the same thing they are. At least that’s what I’d do. Or ask someone else who knows them well if they know what’s wrong.”
This was a really good reminder that you might not always get the answer you need from that person. They might not be ready to talk about it, in which case I say stick it out, they might be looking for an excuse to break up with you, in which case I say let them break up with you like a grown-up. They might even just be waiting for you to figure it out on your own because they think you’re smart enough. This last case? Definitely ask the friends if you’re stumped. Seriously.
So let’s recap a bit in the “what do you do” department, because this is a lot of stuff to remember.
1. ask what’s wrong – be really REALLY nice and don’t make assumptions
2. take some time to cook up a spectacular apology
3. apologize. Be honest, tell her how you feel about this, listen to what she says.
Now for some really, REALLY crucial stuff, okay? Don’t EVER start in on her with the “well you did THIS and THAT that one time” routine, even if she does it first. Sometimes she will just need to vent about past transgressions and such. Sometimes she’ll try to bait you into doing it – remember these words, gents. Always remember, too, that relationships are built and not made, and it’s one step at a time. This is also how a lot of relationship troubles can be solved – one thing at a time. Focus on the issue at hand, and keep your eye on getting through it. I think you’ll find you’re a lot happier overall.
But wait, you might be saying, I forgot a step, didn‘t I? Isn’t there some magical way to avoid the cold shoulder altogether? No. No there is not. Believe me if there was a way, wouldn’t I have told you by now? Everyone gives the shoulder, and it’s something we all have to get used to – sometimes, life is just a bitch.
So, hypothetical situation. Let’s say you’re still friends with an ex-girlfriend on Facebook. Because, of course, everyone is friends with everyone on Facebook, and something as petty as being dumped is no reason to un-friend someone, right?
This hypothetical ex just gained a new job. Let’s say she becomes manager of a bank branch. But, here’s the issue – she keeps openly posting on Facebook about how much she needs to get laid, or how badly she wants to smoke a lot of weed. And she doesn’t use creative euphemisms!!!
What’s a guy to do? Do you politely say something like, “Maybe you should be a bit more judicious about what you post on here – your boss may end up seeing this”? Or, do you just leave it alone, because, well, they’re your EX after all and she probably stomped on your heart while wearing 4-inch heels?
Well, the Advisors have a variety of responses to this one, so let’s get into those.
Flannery said it’s not your problem; even if the relationship ended on good terms, the ex is an adult, and their judgment and their issues are their own problems. Katie actually said something similar, but took it a step further. She said, “Remember, an ex is an ex for a reason!”
I thought these were pretty interesting, not because of the vague “everyone for themselves” tones I got out of the conversation, but because it showed me that I even have a line that I don’t cross with my exes. I discovered that I don’t give unsolicited advice to my exes, so why would I tell other people they should do the same?
Then there’s the majority of my friends I spoke with, who said, “Nah, the right thing to do is to kindly point out the potential for a problem.” That, unfortunately, also appeals to me. I’m kind of big on looking out for others (my momma raised me that way!), so with an issue like this, I definitely consider giving this advice. With my friends, most will tell you that I give advice like it’s going out of style. As I stated before, I just learned that I draw the line at exes.
However, that’s not really the point. The point is the answer to the question, “What should you do?” I lied at the beginning of this post – this is not a hypothetical situation. A coworker of mine (who reads this blog, SHOUT-OUT TO HIM HERE!) asked me what he should do. What did I say?
DRUM ROLL PLEASE!!!!!
I said, “As long as you’re nice about it, and you make it clear there are no insidious or ulterior motives for saying it, there’s really no problem with giving a little advice on decorum.” Because really, when you break it all down, it’s a good thing to do. This could literally be a job-ending, potentially career-destroying thing. As we have all heard, you CAN get fired for things that appear on your Facebook page. So, why not try and help someone avoid that?
To summarize: while you may have bad feelings from a breakup, that does not mean you should hold your ill will over someone if it can possibly ruin their life. Don’t be a douchebag. Tell someone (NICELY) if you think they’re being inappropriate. If something ends up happening and you didn’t say anything, you’ll end up feeling like a dick. Save them, and save yourself.