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Jealousy Mutations and the 2.5 Days Game

1. At the end of this school term, I will be finishing my masters (yay!), and the long year of long distance relationship my boyfriend and I have soldiered through will be over (YAY!!). I’m moving to where a job opportunity brought him last year, and he is hard at work making sure I have a good life waiting for me there. We are so excited to enter this new chapter of our life together!

There’s one tiny problem, though. His closest friend in the new city is a single woman, and she definitely has romantic feelings for him. I won’t get into how I know, as I don’t think that matters, but I will make sure I clarify: I’m not threatened by her. My boyfriend and I are happily, equally, in it to win it (as no one says, ugh, sorry), and so even if she were to actually make a real move on him (and I don’t believe she has), it wouldn’t matter to our relationship. I feel more sympathy for her than anything, because I think we all know from firsthand experience how much it sucks having feelings for someone unavailable. Nope, not threatened by, and not actually even angry with, this woman. I don’t, however, particularly want to be friends with her.

I’m not going to ask my boyfriend not to be her friend. Considering I absolutely trust him, and how important of a friend she has been to him over the past year, that’s not fair to him. I haven’t told him about my problem with her beyond warning him that for her sake, he should be clear that our relationship is solid, with no end in sight, so just flat-out telling him that I don’t want to be around her seems pretty nuts. As I said, she’s his closest friend, so she is going to be around a lot. Is there away to go about this without girl-on-girl cruelty, and making my boyfriend think I’m jealous and petty? Am I stuck being chums with someone who was hoping that every bump in the road that we had to weather (and who doesn’t have some of those while navigating long distance?) would be the end? And who is maybe still holding out hope for my relationship’s demise? Am I being silly about the whole thing?

It seems a little weird that your boyfriend wants to be best friends with a woman who’s in love with him. Does that bother you? Wouldn’t he be bothered if your best friend were a guy who was in love with you, and you — well, if not led him on, then at least fed him enough scraps that he wasn’t un-imprinting from you? If you [respect] someone, set them free?

Or, wait — you left out a critical piece of the puzzle, which is: does your boyfriend know that she’s in love with him? That would change it. 

So yeah, what’s up with your boyfriend? Is my question for you. But my answer to the other question is: no, you do not have to be friends with this woman, or anyone you don’t want to be friends with. And for the sake of clarity, “be friends” = “spend time with.” Let them hang out all they want, and by being unthreatened and taking the high road, you’ll seem breezy and confident, and … eventually I’m hoping your boyfriend will see that he’s being kind of weird and pathetic. He wants extra attention/flattery, I’m imagining?

What absolutely will happen, however, if you ask him to stop hanging out with her is that she’ll become hotter and more fascinating to him by a factor of 10. Liiike instantly. So I would not do that.

Maybe drop in for drinks with them once a month or so — at a bar, not at your house — and then leave early because you’ve got other plans. Treat her warmly, remember facts about her life, and follow up each time you see her. But otherwise you’re a cloud of serenity floating over their weird little thing, whatever it is. And I’m guessing it’ll pass.

2. What is the 100% best way to ask a woman out?

I have some thoughts on this that maybe sound kind of old-fashioned or extreme (?), but since you asked…

1. If you don’t know her, find a way to engage her in conversation (“Hi, I’m ___. How’s it going?”). At the end of the conversation, ask her if you can have her email address or phone number.

2. Later, call or email her. When people wait two or three days to get in touch, they actually seem less … suave (or whatever it is people think they’re being when they wait to contact someone they like) than if they follow up within 24 hours, because it’s usually obvious when people are playing games or following a set of “rules,” although I guess this part isn’t crucially important. Communicate directly that you would like to take her out on a date. For instance, [day] at [venue/neighborhood/event]. Syntax matters. It’s hot when people say directly what they want (respectfully!). Confidence + directness = hot. Less hot is the “what’s up wanna happy hour it up sometime idk” text, delivered the requisite 2.5 days later, or whatever it is. I see you, Requisite 2.5 Days Game! Anyway. Like I said, maybe I’m going overboard.

But note the language. Say what you mean. Say you want to go on a date with her. Or take her on a date, or whatever. But use the word “date,” if it comes naturally. Why not! It feels better than sliding sideways into things; vagueness only makes it weirder for everyone. As in, instead of “what are you doing this weekend, wanna hang out?” start off by letting her know exactly what this is to you, and she’ll bring her A-game, too — e.g. “I’d like to take you out to dinner on Saturday” means she’s going to wear nice clothes and not wonder whether it’s A Date or a date or A dAtE or a wHatEvER. Couching the invitation in softer language — “there’s this movie I heard about?” “I could do something later?” — confuses everyone. Let’s all BE BOLD. Not aggressive (“I want to eat, drink, and then have sex!!!”) but direct. Why not, you know?

Saying what you want is almost more powerful than getting it, sometimes. “I know what I want and have asked for it” is a better feeling than baaasically evennntually getting what you want, mostly, and then maybe fumbling it, or feeling you happened upon it semi-accidentally. TAKE THE REINS! *clatters off in a horse-drawn wagon*

Oh but also either pick her up on time, or get to the designated place five minutes early, and don’t take out your phone. But I’m just one Lady, others may disagree.

3. Here’s the thing: I feel like my long-term boyfriend of almost three years always wants to be friends with other girls, and it bothers the crap out of me. I don’t have any straight guy friends that aren’t boyfriends of my friends, and he has never cheated on me or given me reason to believe he will, but I tend to lean more on the “jealous” side of the fence. I always have. We’re both really into the internet (a.k.a. we blog) and there are always times when I feel like he’s getting a little too friendly for my taste with other females (commenting and messaging about things) and I tell him how uncomfortable it makes me and he says I need to quit being so insecure, and if it was the other way around he wouldn’t care. Which is true — he wouldn’t care, but I don’t ever think of myself as insecure. The other night we met up with a girl from the internet whom we both had “known” but never had met, and after, she exchanged numbers with ME and he asked me later if he could have her number to hang out with her too, and it really hurt, and I don’t think that’s appropriate because why?! Why are you guys hanging out without me?! Why does he need to have friends that are girls? And how come he tends to make me feel like I’m the crazy one for thinking this way? 

So this is like the opposite of Letter Writer 1!

Questions like this make you sort of wish for the “olden” days, right? Like with the internet we’re all so tied to one another — my cord is plugged into her cord, but then it’s also draped under those other cords, because it has to be, because of work, and then Facebook, etc., and cords are all winding everywhere, always. To sound less vague: we have so many new kinds of relationships because of the internet, many of which are conducted purely online and never in real life, and yet are meaningful, and can be tricky. And it’s all strange and newish, and so new forms of jealousy and frustration have mutated alongside. Or maybe this is what it was like when people had pen pals back in the day?

If not, though, it’s like that island where Darwin observed evolution within just a couple generations of birds, or whatever it was. New jealousies, right here, right now. And jealousy is hard to give advice about, because you pretty much just have to wrestle it to death yourself.

But I also think you could boil your question down to one line: “why does he need to have friends that are girls?” which seems to be coming from a place of insecurity. He’s not doing too much to help with that, admittedly — and it’s weird that he hung out alone with the woman you’d both just met without inviting you — but there must be a middle ground. Maybe set rules with your boyfriend that go both ways: no meeting up with people the other one doesn’t know, no conducting relationships that in your heart you feel are inappropriate, even though they’re “technically” not wrong. That one’s hard, though. Good luck.

4. Five years ago I was with a boy who I loved more than anything, like more than any actual person or thing on the whole planet. It was a really crazed, unhealthy, free-falling kind of relationship. We were both really obsessive and jealous and manic and sad. But also we were sometimes euphoric and insanely happy. He was the only person who ever made me feel not alone in the world. We made things and did adventures and were crazy. But also we hurt each other in sick ways, either sadistically or by being self-destructive in ways that hurt the other person. After a long time, the happiness got less and less frequent and was more fleeting and desperate. And the misery was almost all the time, so we got away from each other.

But he still haunts my waking life and my dreams in a way that’s paralyzing me. It’s been years since we stopped being together, and I haven’t seen him at all in over a year. I’ve had two subsequent relationships with sweet, smart guys. They both ended amicably, in both cases by me, and in both because I just couldn’t make myself honestly feel enough about them. I went to Germany, I went to Egypt, I went to Texas. I’ve had a bunch of different jobs. I can’t really hold still or else the sadness gets huge and unbearable.

I exercise all the time to try to wear myself out. I’ve gone to psychiatrists who’ve given me drugs, but I hate them because they make me feel like I’m in a haze. I’ve tried cutting him out of my life for months at a time. We have close mutual friends, so he’s always on the periphery of my world, but I don’t always talk to him. But this crazed, unending sorrow won’t go away no matter what I do.

Sometimes there are things that make me happy for a second, like doing burnouts on a dirt road or dancing at a party. But they’re just part of the string of endless, unfulfilling distractions that I try to keep going forever so I don’t have to think about him. It’s been so long! I thought that with time it would get better, but time hasn’t diminished its intensity at all. The worst, worst parts are the nightmares. They happen all the time, and they’re the most heart-crushing dreams you could ever imagine. I destroyed two of my best friendships by obsessing about this guy to the point where my friends couldn’t stand hearing about it. So I try not to talk about it at all to anyone anymore, because I don’t want to lose any more of my friends because of it. I guess that’s why I’m writing here for any advice.

Have you read The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh? In it, an advice columnist tells a lovestruck girl that the best thing she can do is to go jump off a building. I understand if that’s your advice. I don’t want to die. I want to be happy and healthy and excited about life. But maybe this love is just endless despair? I don’t even know how to be less maudlin about it. I would almost not mind dying if it meant the sounds about this boy in my head would go quiet and the pictures of him that play constantly behind my eyes would go blank. But in the afterlife I imagine, he’s there waiting and it’s finally sweet and happy, with none of the fear and sadness that made everything go wrong in the first place.

Please, please do not jump off a building! It sounds like the further this guy gets from you, the more meaning you ascribe to him and what you had, making him — and your relationship — into this massive thing that it never quite was. Sort of like putting all the clutter in one closet, or seeing things getting bigger in the rearview mirror.

But really this is beyond anything I can help you with, and I strongly encourage you to look into therapy — you truly do not and should not have to be this miserable.

Previously: On Quickie Weddings and Frustrating Fantasies.

A Lady is one of several rotating ladies. Do you have any questions for A Lady?

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