Friday, March 22, 2013


Depression, Mothers-in-Law, Friendzones

1. At what point does your wife trump your mother?

My mother-in-law suffers from a host of mental illnesses that she has had for as long as anyone can remember. These problems result in her being defiant, promiscuous, self-endangering, and basically incapable of telling the truth.

I agreed to let her stay with us temporarily until we could find a better situation. My husband made me a few promises that made me think this could be okay.

1) If it got to be too bad, we would kick her out and she would go back to being crazy and destructive outside of our home.

2) I get to decide what "too bad" means and make the call.

3) If she interferes with our marriage, she goes.

Fast forward three months. It is Too Bad. I find the situation unbearable. I am a constant crying mess, and I can't even begin to keep up with the trail of destruction and chaos that this woman leaves. My husband is angry at me for complaining all the time. I feel justified, as this woman has systematically alienated everyone in her life to the point where we are her last hope. No one in her life has been able to deal with her, but I am somehow an alien monster for being frustrated constantly.

I have asked to get her out repeatedly. My husband's new solution is for me to move out. Today, we got in a fight and he told me to pack a bag and go to my mom's house, and that he thought I should move out. I am sitting in an airport crying.

My husband's solution is logical to him. She can't take care of herself, I can. She needs him, I don't. I am miserable living with her, so don't live with her. I am struggling to make him see that life isn't all logic, and that other things matter, too. Like feelings. Like the feelings of one's wife. He says she is worse than she was, I say he only thinks she is worse because he is actually around her now. Either way, the promises he made me were not followed with "You know, unless it is absolutely unbearable. Then, fuck you."

Is there anything that can be done? I am 100% at my wit's end.

Let me drop the insouciant tone we Married Dudes usually use around here, and just say I'm sorry this happened to you. I wish I had anything more than sympathy to offer, but sometimes that's all there is. 

You and your husband have just separated. The vast majority of separations end in divorce. If this was just "Go sleep at your mom's while we both cool out," that would be one thing, but asking you to move out is another. All the stuff about his mother sort of obscures that fact, but something has changed in your life together, and it's gotten to the point where your husband has asked you to go, and you've agreed. What now? (You don't mention children in your letter, so I'm going to assume you don't have any.)

Two people have to decide if this marriage can be saved — him, but also you, so the first thing you need to figure out, if his mother does move back out, is whether this is still the guy you want to be with.

If it's "Yes," then you have a pretty clear path. If you want it to work, you have to make him decide what he wants. Start by saying "Your mother living here has interfered with our marriage. It's time to live up to your promise. Her or me." (I'm generally not a fan of ultimatums, but if ever there was a time for one, this is it.) You have to be willing to go, if you say this, so he knows he can't talk you out of this without changing anything.

And if it's "No, what I've seen tells me more about my husband than about his mother, and I don't like what I see," then you also have a pretty clear path, and one in which his opinion no longer matters, which is to formalize the separation, and get on with your life. This is a horrible outcome, of course, and if it comes to that, the only thing to recommend it is that it will be less horrible than the alternative.

But if, as likely, it's "I feel both ways," then you and he have to decide together. If you genuinely don't know what outcome you want well enough to either issue an ultimatum or to walk, then you have to guard against two things while you hash it out. First of all, never let him (or anyone) use the word "logical" to try to convince you that their emotional reality matters more than yours. That's just bullshit. If he goes down that route, cut him off. If he can't not go down that route, that may be your answer.

And second, I think you have to make a pact with yourself that "I'll change" and "She'll change" and "It's just for a while" are not phrases you'll tolerate. From your description of your mother-in-law (and, frankly, your husband), this sounds like a situation that won't ever work itself out over time. It has to be changed decisively for anything important to change, and he has to do a lot of the changing.

The saddest, most awful moment in a marriage is when "good for me" and "good for us" point in opposite directions. I went through it once, many years ago, and would never wish it on an enemy. But that's where you are. If you decide for yourself that you want to try to re-align those arrows, then you have to make him decide if he wants that too.

But you have to be bloody-minded enough, going in, to recognize that the answer may be No.

2. I have been with the same man for 16, going on 17 years. I have been through almost everything with this man, and I mean everything. Philandering (early on in the relationship), unexpected pregnancy (not carried out), family drama, everything. If you look at my life, it looks like an episode of One Life to Live meets Twin Peaks (at times) meets Good Times. No kidding, we have seen it all.

We got married five years ago and have two babies, ages four and one. I love this man, I care for him. Am I in love with him? Well, it's a bit complicated ... the year I found out I was pregnant with my oldest son, shit went totally left in his life, dragging me with it. His grandmother passed, he and his brother had an extraordinary fistfight, he had a falling out his oldest daughter (oh yeah I'm a stepmother of two, 20 and soon to be 18, girl and boy respectively). Now the year I gave birth, he fell into a severe and deep depression, and I ended up basically flying solo for the better part of my son's first year of life. It was as if he checked out mentally and slept most of the time. He was getting help during this time, and with medication he slowly came around. Those broken relationships sort of healed, but not really. Enough to get by and pretend they worked.

Now fast forward to baby #2, who was a total surprise. I had dealt with the first one alone, and was scared of doing it again by myself a second time. He assured me he would be there, would help, and would be present. So onward and upward, and I give birth to another lad and we're all happy. Except the depression comes back a few months into lad #2, and I'm with both children on a round-the-clock basis (almost) and trying to keep him, the babies, and myself afloat. I'm also working full time and trying to keep all the balls in the air so he gets time to rest and get better. Except it doesn't get better. His moods ebb and flow, go up and down, and it leaves me hanging in the wind, wondering if I should texas two step or cha-cha through the day. See, I'm the hustler in the family, I get shit done, I work, I pay bills, I keep that ball rolling. He's really trying (I don't want to shortchange the man here), but there's only so much he can do and I'm beginning to drown under the weight of it all. My therapist (of COURSE I have one!) is supportive and encourages him to come see her and she thinks he's a wonderful man with a serious depressive problem.

Fast forward again. I threaten divorce, and he gets his shit together. I'm over simplifying because I'm trying to get to the current issue. Every summer my stepkids come up from Florida, where they live, to stay with us. They're fun, and teenagers, so the drama they bring is standard fare. August of last year rolls around and they go home. Everything's fine, yes? NO. Around October my stepson, one of the kindest most amazing individuals I have ever met, by the way, decides that he hates his father and is angry at him and refuses to speak to him. He won't indicate the reasoning behind this. This leaves my husband floundering. Depression #3 hits and he's trying to contact his son, he doesn't want to involve his daughter, and his ex is no help either. I'm just as broadsided by this as my husband was, because this kid went from glowing and happy with us to suddenly refusing to speak to his dad, and for no apparent reason. I don't involve myself because I know the boundaries, this is not my issue, and he has to work it out with his son. It's now March, stepson's prom is today (date of email) and my stepdaughter sends his pictures to my husband just to share it because she's somewhat the intermediary in this situation. It wasn't out of malice, she talks to her dad no problem and thinks her brother is stupid, she just wanted to share the moment that the son would not. Now my husband is all upset, and wants to give up trying to reach his son. The plan was for him to fly down to Florida to spend time with his son and work things out, and I was all for it, I was itching to buy him the airplane ticket because I felt this was important for him to do. Obviously his son is going through something and needs his father, but this git does not see it that way. He sees it as his son not wanting him in his life so he is going to just walk away.

WTF!? I am beyond angry, I think I passed angry 20 minutes after he told me he was giving up on trying to reconcile. I feel this is bullshit, and if this is how he deals with it I almost want nothing to do with the man. I sit here in amazement at the life I have spent on him and I almost, almost regret it. To fully regret it is to regret my kids, and I will not do that. I can't even speak to him, because the level of anger I have simmering in my organs alone would cause me to say something irreparable and my rational mind knows not to do that. I know he is depressed, and part of depression is giving up, but I didn't sign on for this. He did not show signs of depression until AFTER we were married and AFTER I had my first son. The man I married died somewhere inside this shell of an embittered man who feels the world is against him. And after this bullshit of self pity, I may very well become part of that world.

Question, finally, is this, what do I do? How the hell do I talk to a man I barely know anymore? That man I fell in love with is gone, replaced by this creature I don't know, and, as of late, want nothing to do with.

So here it is, ultimatum day at The Hairpin, and you've already made him get his shit together once by threatening divorce. The shrinks call this the "flight to health," where a possibility that someone might have to examine and then change their life is so threatening that they momentarily escape the symptoms that create that threat.

So let me first suggest, gently, that of all the things that could make you angry, a father and his adolescent son having a falling out, even a big one, doesn't seem to me like it's what should be at the top of the list. I suspect that this is an escape valve for a lot of other things, including losing that chance that he would go away for a while, and that he would feel better for having seen his son when he got back.

The deeper issue — the pool of magma underneath your current volcano of anger — is that he's not the guy you married, and maybe more to the point, not even the kind of guy you would have married. Your young kids and his older ones add stress to the situation, of course, but the thing they add stress to is that your husband is depressed. That's the core issue — the things that set you off set you off because there's no reset, no period in which things are good enough to make the annoying stuff just annoying and not cumulatively unbearable.

This will sound old-fashioned, but the question of whether to stay together is different with kids around, so I think you have to try a bit of what you tried when you threatened divorce, but with a long-term goal rather than a short-term one. You can't go one like this forever if he's depressed, so you need him to do whatever work he can to get better, including seeing your therapist.

This may not work — one of the first thing depression saps is the will to get better — but it works better now than it used to. Serious depression is a soul-destroying condition, and it rarely stops at just one soul. If you want to say together, you need him to get better. And if he doesn't want to get better, you may need to re-think being together.

3. So my boyfriend and I have been together for a little over a year and a half, and are very happy together. Not deliriously happy, or infatuated, but the kind of happy where we've been through a lot of stuff and been there for each other at difficult times in both our lives. We have the kind of deep, deep bond that only comes around once in a lifetime. He's respectful, super smart, funny, adorable, and basically everything I could want. We have discussed marriage in a very concrete, real sense, and I'm excited about spending my life with this guy. The problem is, I'm 19 and he's 20. We are both still in school (we are in the same year at the same school), and won't graduate for two more years. We plan on getting engaged at the end of next year, and being married the summer after our senior year. My parents, however, although they absolutely love him, are skeptical that I can know right now that he is really "the one," and that in my girlish puppy love I'm deluding myself into making a hasty decision I'll regret later in life (it's worth noting that my mom was engaged in college, but broke it off and later met my dad in grad school). My friends, too, my lovely intellectual feminist friends, are kind of judging me for being excited at the prospect of "settling down" so quickly.

I fully plan on waiting at least 10 years to have kids, though, and don't think being married will really affect me having a career — my boyfriend and I are both extremely driven and ambitious. It's not really a question of whether I should marry this guy, but as a married person, do you think I should wait until we are a bit more together and have more support, or should we get married when we can? It just seems silly to wait when we know we'll be married eventually. On the other hand, though, if we'll be together forever, what's the rush? (Note: His parents were married very early, so he's totally fine with marrying young and his parents are behind us. Both our sets of parents are in totally awesome marriages). I know what I want, and there are no red flags, considering every angle. We've talked about money, about our future, and everything. We will be financially secure (at least as far as anyone can tell), because his father is a very successful businessman and my boyfriend is following in the family business, and I'm on track to have a good job as well. This is not a "hasty" decision by any means, and there isn't much uncertainty at all as to my future being compromised. That being the case, it kind of rubs me the wrong way when everyone assumes we are entering into this immaturely because we are so young. So, two part question: what are your thoughts on getting married young, and if you support it, do you have any tips to deal with cynics?

If you were Amish, 19 and 20 would be fine, because the community you were part of would have all of the expectations and structures set up to support couples that age. You don't sound like you live in that kind of culture, so, at the very least, you would be heading into this with less support than you might need or want.

So now the question is "In a culture that doesn't expect people to do what you want to do when you want to do it, what are the chances you are making a mistake?" In your case, I'm saying "High enough chance to advise caution."

You talk about your age and the opinion of your friends and so on, but the sentiment that jumped out at me was "We have the kind of deep, deep bond that only comes around once in a lifetime." To which the only sensible reply is, You have no way of knowing that.

I'm sure you have a deep bond, and that it's the kind that only comes around infrequently. This is all kinds of lovely when it happens, as always. But I will also tell you, not just as A Married Dude but A Re-Married Dude, that there is no The One Meant for Me. That's fairy tale stuff. What there can be is The One I Made It Work With. Maybe this is that guy. But that "only once in a lifetime" language makes me skeptical.

So here's the red flag, the angle I think you haven't considered enough: People change. I know you think you know this, but you don't, not yet. I also know this sounds insulting, but there's no non-insulting way for an older person to tell a younger one "There are things you don't understand," but there are things you don't understand, starting with this: It isn't just the relationships built on puppy love that get affected by future events.

In our part of society, the one with the feminist friends and married parents with advanced degrees, there are two major institutional transitions, where one way of life is suddenly replaced with another. The first is the shift from high school to college, and the other is the shift from college to the real world. Both of these cause profound alignments in people's self-image, life choices, and social decisions, but you two have only been through one so far. I know exactly one couple from my college years that went through that transition and are still together today, but I know lots that ended in divorce.

So I say wait. As you say, if you'll be together forever, what's the rush? And if it turns out you won't be together forever, what's the rush? You will know so much more about your lives, singly and as a couple, after you leave college that the new information will make the wait worth it. I hope, as you do, that everything works out and you have a long and happy marriage. But the chances of that not happening are precisely why you should give this more time.

4. I have been best friends with A for around five years now. I've been in love with A for four of them. Around two years into our friendship, I told him my feelings, he did not share them, and after some awkwardness (almost entirely on my side), we were back to chatting on the phone for at least an hour every day, hanging out most weekends, etc.

We are each others' significant others — dates to weddings, work functions, etc. I sometimes pick up his dry cleaning and do other "girlfriend-y" things. But we are decidedly platonic.

Here's the thing: I feel like we would absolutely be a couple (serious verbal, intellectual chemistry) if not for the fact that he doesn't find me attractive. I am a big girl — very big. I don't think I'm unattractive (and this isn't a self-esteem issue), but he's simply not attracted to me. I feel like on some level he's in love with me, as I am with him, even if he can't notice it or label it. You don't spend hours on the phone every week with just anyone, right?

I guess my question is: How do I deal with this? The logical answer is to stop spending so much time with him, set limits, guard my heart, etc., etc. But I can't do that! Secondly, is it possible that, post-confession of love a few years ago, he really thinks I'm over him and he's truly oblivious to my affections? Because if he knows I'm in love with him, and he continues to act like we're a couple without the sexy bits, that's kind of cruel, no? He's taking advantage, right?

Any ideas on how to be less forlorn, generally pathetic?

You've been friendzoned.

First of all, he can be oblivious to your affections. He's a guy — obliviousness is our core competency. That doesn't mean, however, that he isn't feeding on those affections. He's obviously partly in love with you, but it's unlikely that that love is heading into real coupledom, and yes, that's kind of cruel, and yes, he's taking advantage. (I mean, dry-cleaning? Really?)

So what you have is a friendship that sits on a core of attraction, as many friendships between straight men and women do. And sometimes that's just a thing that's true — I have a number of female friends that I think are just great in all the ways I think my male friends are just great, plus one other way. But it's in the background, and nothing ever comes of it (which is as it should be, me being married and all).

But sometimes that underlying romantic interest is the main thing, the thing without which the friendship would be a pale shadow of its current intense self. I'm guessing that's you.

And you know all of this. You don't need my advice, and indeed, to prevent me from giving you any, you shut off the one piece of it — stop spending so much time with him — that you know I'd give, and which I suspect you know you should take.

Instead, what you seem to be asking for is a love potion. You want to know how you can make him love you, despite his apparent preferences. And the answer, as in all other years since time immemorial, is that you can't.

It sounds like you've decided that the current situation is better than not being in the friendzone, while the risk of "Kiss me or get out" is too high. Something will eventually happen — you'll meet someone else, he'll meet someone else — and that will end this phase of the relationship. Until then, you've already decided that you're making the best of a bad situation. However long that lasts, try to enjoy the phone calls without fretting too much. But please, no more with the dry cleaning.

Previously: "I just don't think you'd be a good parent"

A Married Dude is one of several rotating married dudes. Do you have a question for A Married Dude?

Photo via Flickr/boynton

380 Comments / Post A Comment


#3 is my life, except thankfully my family was totally supportive and loved my husband from the get-go. We met at 18 and 20, at the start of my freshman year of college, and got married a year after we graduated. We also waited nearly 10 years before talking seriously about kids, and our finances haven't even been as good as the LW's sound like they will be.

And it's worked! Ups and downs, never very low, some regret on my part about having missed out on dating other people (no regrets for him), and since we've basically grown up together we've matured into the kinds of people we would have wanted to be with anyhow, because we have all the same references and most of the same interests, and (very importantly) because I haven't ever just taken the relationship for granted as-is and keep trying to work on evolving the partnership so it's functional for both of us, and my husband is very good about listening to that kind of stuff and implementing it (for the most part).

So it can work! As long as nothing comes up that totally rocks the boat, if this person feels like someone you'd marry and he feels the same way, go for it in a few years. Just know that the story doesn't end there and you will have to keep growing up, just doing it together instead of on your own or with a series of partners.

oh! valencia

Yes. LW3, I don't think there is anything wrong with your plan. I got married even younger than you (though I had known him longer) and we are coming up on 10 super-happy years together. Just because it's not our culture's current trend right now, that doesn't mean it won't work out, if you believe in your relationship and work on it. You sound like you've thought it out pretty maturely. Get engaged, and as long as there are no red flags, and nothing pops up in the 2 years between now and your wedding, then get married. People do this all the time.

Lily Rowan

@sophia_h I think waiting a year after you graduate is key -- and plenty. (Although of course I know people who got married sooner than that and had it work out.)


@sophia_h Rereading the question, I see the LW is already pretty cool with marrying her guy, but wants to know when to do it. I think if you'll feel unhappy being together for years with no set date to be married, then that's a good enough reason to do it. There's no magical event that will take you over the threshold of "marriage time!" other than being financially stable enough to live on your own, as long as both parties are of the mindset that they *want* to be married. The only reason to delay it is to see if your partner changes or one of you falls for another person, which means there will never be a "right time" to do it as long as those things don't happen. If you're in the same page, both working, and in the same place when you graduate in a few years, then I can't think what else would need to happen to be ready to get married.

[I should also add, we are very much the outliers in our social group other than one set of acquaintances who were on basically the same timeline (they met after us and got married slightly before) and they are also still together ten years later with a kid. So there are two data points for you.]


@sophia_h Well put! I have almost the exact same experience. Been with my husband 9 years (we were close friends from the beginning of college and started dating sophomore year), married for 5, only just starting on the kid thing. No regrets.

The transition out of college was a challenge, because we were long-distance for a while, so I think a Married Guy has a point there, but if you know yourselves and your goals, it's not fated to break you up. I do wonder about the rush to marry before graduating - is this related to moving in together? Is there a reason not to wait until you have graduated? Being married in college could affect the dynamic with skeptical friends, so maybe she should consider that.

On a frivolous note, being the first of my friends to get married was GREAT when it came to wedding planning. There were no opportunities for social comparisons! Expectations for expense and formality were so low! (Do not run out and get married for this reason, LW1.)


@TheBelleWitch Oh wait, reading comprehension fail. She's planning on marrying the summer after senior year. I went to college in the South and knew a LOT of people who did that, plenty of whom are still together.


@sophia_h My husband and I started dating when I was 20 and he was 23 (I was a senior in college, he'd been out of the same school for 2 years). We knew pretty quickly that we wanted to be together long-term, but we dated for 4 years before getting engaged. That 4 years was full of drama - medical crises, grad school, moving around the Northeast, being attracted to other people, etc. - but we grew up so much during that time and then were really ready to get married.

That being said, we could've done all the drama as a married couple too, so if you think you're ready after college, go for it. Although I'd second Lily Rowan's suggestion of waiting a year after you graduate.


@Lily Rowan Yeah, my husband just pointed out we lived with my mother during that year while we were getting settled, and said he thinks living together for at least a bit is important. Not for the "does he snore" stuff but to see how you both manage money, housework, etc. You can learn a lot about someone that way -- we recently moved out of a houseshare situation with friends because we wanted to *keep* those friends -- and while it might not be of the deal breaking variety, it's still important to know going forward.


@sophia_h I agree about waiting a year (and living together in the meantime, if possible). College is a special place where you can fool around at 2 PM on a Thursday and share a twin bed with another fully-grown human being. After college is a place where you both come home tired from work and shoot rock-paper-scissors to see whose turn it is to cook dinner. It's worth living there for a while before you get hitched, just to be sure.


@sophia_h I also did the "young married in feminist academia" thing! Married at 22 a week after graduation and still happy 3 years later. It was great for us! Yet A Married Dude is right! Okay, being married is not like 20-something co-habitating and I want to giv one warning: you will not have friends to call up when shit goes a little south. They won't get it. The answer to this is not to call your mom, either. That gets ugly really fast. My advice is this- be prepared to get into the muck with each other.

I don't mean some literal pit of crap but know that you will face some shit as you age and grow into adulthood. You and your spouse have to be mature enough to look at each other and communicate HONESTLY. Don't do any of the "I don't know" or "I can't tell you" bullshit. Speak honestly and openly and try to grow from your (and your spouses's!) fuck-ups. There will be compromise and sometimes its going to hurt. But if you can be partners and support each other as you grow-up then young marriage can be beautiful/wonderful/fun way to go.


@sophia_h I am so glad that the first comments about LW3 are positive. I married my husband at 20 (he was 25) and there is A LOT of people out there who like to point out all the negatives about getting married early. But we made/make it work. We got married while I was finishing up my undergrad degree and then we moved so I could get my masters, then we moved again so I could complete my clinical rotations. And in the midst of all that we had a child. Was it the way society says we should do it? No, but we do what works for us.

With the years and experiences we've had together, we have changed, but we have changed together. And I think that is the most important thing.

oh! valencia

@WinteronMars Great advice. LW3, Listen to your friend WinteronMars, (s)he's a good dude.

@WinteronMars Yes, seriously. I'm not married, I'm 26, etc etc not qualified to talk about marriage, BUT WHAT YOU SAID? You keep saying that because that is DAMN good advice. In fact, I would say that it's what one's 20s are about. Not just about the marriage thing, but it should be plastered on every surface where 20-somethings who are doing non-20-something things hang out.


@sophia_h So, I knew several married couples in college who got married at 18, 19, 20 and are still married, happily, and have said to me again and again that being married in college was so helpful -- that feeling of this part of their life being kind of settled actually helped them get through college.

It really depends on the person. I know people who married at 30 and had unrealistic expectations and fought all the time and called it quits after six months, and people who married at 19, stayed compatible, and had the maturity and perseverance to work through issues as they arose. So.


@Lily Rowan Yes, wait a year after you graduate! I met my husband in high school and we got married at 22 (October after graduating from college). I'm 29 now and I love him and don't regret it, but if I had to do it over again I'd wait a year to get married. If nothing else, we would have had a better party and wouldn't have had to plan it while we were dealing with job searching/first months of new jobs.


@par_parenthese - I know! My folks got married at 18, and were happily married.

Until they divorced at 45-ish.

I guess part of me is saying, um, (oh god this is horrible) I think the odds of two people who meet as teenagers legitimately staying in love from then until senility. The two people who meet at teenagers - there is no chance in hell you won't both change incredibly over the years. It just seems wildly impossible.

And yet...I know a few couples (friends of parents) who did just that. Met as teens, and now, with their kids in their 30s, are having the best times of their lives in their near retirement years - and these are liberal people, who would be completely willing to divorce if they weren't in love. I drink with some of them now and then, and I tell them, it just doesn't seem possible for two people to work like that.

And their response? No, Leon, you're probably right. It's pretty fucking improbable. And yet, sometimes the changes two people go through line up and match. Sometimes you just change in complimentary ways over the years. Sometimes it just works out.


@cuminafterall I only have 2 more months left in this special place and I do not want to leave it. Weekday afternoon sex is just my favorite kind! I do keep having vivid dreams about queen-sized beds, though.


@par_parenthese My two cents: My parents met at 14, wed at 20, earned graduate degrees, delayed having kids until their 30s, and enjoyed a largely healthy and happy marriage for 38 years, at which point my mom went and ruined everything by dying. BUT I heard my mom say on multiple occasions that if she could change one thing in her life, she would have waited to marry my dad. Being a good husband or wife is a pretty tremendous responsibility, and it can be a heavy burden to bear when you still need to figure out who the hell you are.


LW3: Regardless of which path you take, the biggest challenge of any relationship is how to stay in love. Its easy to be in love at year one and a half- you still have a lot to figure out and learn about each other. Its year 3 that will really test you, and year 7 and year 14 and so on. When you know someone like the back of your hand and the flames of being young and hormonal and new to each other die down a bit, that's the real test of partnership- how not to grow tired of someone when they're around all the time leaving crumbs everywhere just like you knew they would.

ESPECIALLY, when your life is not changing all the time like it does in college and childhood. I and all of my friends, including the ones who married at 22 and the ones who have never had a long term boyfriend, went through some serious life crisis stuff at about age 25. Because what's going to happen to you and your boyfriend is that you will get out of school and then if you are lucky get a job, and then you will have the job for a year or two and then have a crisis. Because work doesn't change every single semester. You don't get new coworkers like new classmates and new bosses like new professors. You'll wonder if you are doing enough with your life, if you picked the right major and career. Half of the people you know will decide to change their life radically at 25 or so. They'll quit a job, move a city, go back to school for something different, etc. The other half tend to really dig into the job hey do have and get to work on that. People's personalities go through a big setting process- proceeded by change. Some of the crazy friends get really stable, some of the really nice people get mean, its a weird time.

Which is not to say, don't get married, but just know that if you get married or if you don't get married your mid twenties will be bonkers. If you are married, it might really be harder if you both go through it at once, or it might be a good rock and a good place to share that. But that's basically why everyone says to wait, because you might turn 24 and 11 months a decide you NEED to do Peace Corps, and he'll refuse to even consider it and you'll break each other's hearts. If you do get married right after graduation, make sure you do one of those 1,000 questions to ask before you get married books or church classes.


@E, @WinteronMars, LW3, yeah, exactly, excellent points.

I got married one week after I graduated from college, to the boy I'd been with since senior year of high school. We had devoted 5 years together! We had endured LDR ups and downs! We had each been hurt and been hurtful! We we sure we had seen it all and were soulmates and we had full buy in from our friends and families on our early marriage. Marrying him was a very happy thing and a big deal in my life.

It went completely to hell after four years of marriage, and we divorced after five. This is not to generalize to predict your outcome, at all-- our relationship curdled because of a confluence of gut-wrenching family circumstances, bad communication habits, and struggles with irreconcilable expectations that hadn't seemed like a big deal when we were younger. We were not good at being together like adults but we had become so habituated to one another that for years we failed to imagine that we could be better off apart.

I grew tremendously over the course of our love and even its protracted end stage was a valuable experience for me, in retrospect. Now, six years later, I don't think of it as a failed marriage or as wasted time, just a thing I did that taught me a lot about how I want to contribute to lives of the people in my life. I am now married to someone who is honest and kind and smart and a perfectly wonderful partner, and I am a better at most aspects of life because of what I learned from my first marriage.

The desire to better your chances at success by picking the right time to wed is thoughtful, reasonable and admirable- but whatever (and whomever) you pick you can't guarantee any specific form for your future.

With my experiences in mind, I'd say just love him, go marry him, live through your choices and the accidents of your life, and see what happens next. I wish you a lot of happiness, however you proceed!

baked bean

@E Eeek I'm already afraid of the mid-twenties crisis. I didn't realize this was an everyone thing, but I just know it'll happen to me. I constantly ask myself when sitting at my 20hrs/week job going crazy how I'm going to handle 40hrs/week sitting on my ass at a computer.

I kind of wonder if having someone (spouse, serious significant other) during your crisis could be good if they weren't going through it at the same time. Maybe they act as the stable one? Idk man.

Also, ditto to not planning a wedding during your last semester of college. There's a girl in my capstone class planning her wedding and I don't have any clue how she finds the time, or how she even wants to deal with that with all of these end-of-college responsibilities that come with our fields, as well as the job search and everything. I know I do NOT need any more work load.


@sophia_h Okay, I have to throw in my two cents as someone who was married young (got involved with my husband when we were 18, living together by 19, married one year out of college). And here we are, at 35, still happily married. I am trying to remember why we felt such urgency (though we both felt like we needed to wait until we were completely financially independent of our parents, because that was our definition of being adult enough to get married. Also, so they couldn't threaten to cut us off if they disapproved). I think we really wanted people to see us as life partners, to not question that of course we would involve each other in our important life decisions (like, people look at you funny when you say you are going to quit your job to move with your boyfriend to a foreign country where you don't speak the language so he can do his dissertation research, but it seems acceptable to do that for your spouse). Also, this wasn't part of the reason, but we definitely didn't truly become members of each other's families until we got married. The helpful letters from his dad to dump me and find a nice Christian girl stopped.

There are pros and cons to marrying young. Pros are that you really do develop your definition of adulthood together (if you are a happy couple), so you are pretty in sync about big things (if you are the kind of couple that talks a lot and likes to hash out ideas together). You don't have to adapt yourself to each other's already formed definition. From parenting philosophy to interior decor, we are in complete agreement. The cons: I think if I had been dating in my 20s, I would have gotten dumped a few times over bad behavior I exhibited, and as a result I would have be inspired to get my shit together and grow the fuck up. But I was loved unconditionally through my 20s, so I think I was in some ways a little slower to evolve.

I totally agree with everything the dude said, because we do change. But that is true at all stages of life (see LW2). More true in our 20s of course. I think the key is to be those people who over-communicate about everything. Talk about everything all the time. Be eager to try to grow with your partner and work out all the little kinks. If you have a rough patch, don't hesitate to go see a marriage counselor. And wait a long time to have kids. Good luck to you!


@baked bean agreeing with the advice to not plan your wedding while still in college. Here's my perspective on that as a friend of the bride: I was the maid of honor when my best friend got married a few weeks after graduation. I was at college 2 hours from our shared home town. She was at college 1 hour from our home town. Aside from myself, there was only one other bridesmaid. It was really stressful and expensive for me to pay for my dress and alterations (about $400-$500 total) when my on-campus part time job ended in April and I was facing a job search after graduation. It was difficult and stressful to try to get my finals done and portfolio finished, while driving all over the state to throw parties and attend events.

She was a retail whore

Oh my god, everything I've typed or started to type in this thread has been like, "Bitter, party of one." Sorry, guys.


@She was a retail whore Oh my God! What about the other people who might have wanted to celebrate their own graduations? Yikes. I was the first person in my (nuclear) family to graduate from college and I'm sure my mom would have been pissed if I had to ditch them to dash off to a wedding.


@sophia_h I'm so glad there so many people have had positive experiences-- and I know a few people who have too! But I want to echo what AMD said. I got engaged right before I graduated college, and the first year out of college, we both changed and evolved so much in terms of very basic things-- when we wanted to have kids, where we would be happy living, etc. By the time we broke the engagement off it seemed so obviously like the wrong relationship, but when I was a senior in college I couldn't imagine not being perfect for each other.


haha, yeah that's what I was thinking.@t


4: Yes, you can do that. You just don't want to. If you're addicted to the highs and the lows and sweet pain of it or whatever, just admit it to yourself and take whatever comes your way.

Just don't keep hanging on because of how much time and energy you've "invested." You don't want to find out your investment was really just a penny stock when he meets someone and proposes to her in under a year and a half.

Ragged But Right

@JessicaLovejoy This married dude is the bees knees. I think one of the possibly negative things this can do for a person (speaking ahem from experience) is that if your friend really is your 'significant other' he's taking up some of the space in your life that could be taken up by a romantic relationship. I don't mean that romantic relationships are better than great friends or anything, but I reckon if you spend so much emotional time on this person and there's lurve on your end of it but not his, then you're probably less likely to meet someone who might fancy you back, you know?

You (I/one) can get used to a dynamic in which you get a certain amount of reward from a dude, and it almost seems enough after a while. But it isn't really. And if you take a little bit of space from him, that space might be filled by someone who really does give you enough. Which I PROMISE YOU, is different, and better, than loving someone who doesn't very much want to bone you.

There's something glorious about loving someone who doesn't want to bone you, but it's way way better when you love someone who does. That's my motto...now.


@Ragged But Right Yes, yes, yes. I think LW4 should get a little space from this guy and go out on some dates. It's a lot more interesting to be with someone who's interested in you than someone who's never going to get there.

taco-salad dot com

@Ragged But Right Yup yup yup! Everything you said!


@JessicaLovejoy Yeah. Time to stop spending so much time with someone who's completely unavailable to you in the one way in which you want and need so much. That's on you now, LW4! And ooohh...have we all been there to one degree or another. And I've watched it go down with many a friend (who, by the way, soon found someone else who was in love with them 100% and wanted to do sexy things with them).

I'm also predicting that the next woman he starts dating seriously will be a complete snoozefest b/c that's the way these things go.


@JessicaLovejoy Yep. I did this exact thing. I'm a very very big girl. He really was my best friend (and still is a very close one) for years. He grocery shopped for me when I threw my back out, was my plus one at terrible events where I needed a date. We spent most of our weekends doing stuff just the two of us or hanging out with mutual friends. The only difference is my best friend/crush is basically asexual.

We did that dance for years - me wanting more, him good with the status quo, punctuated by my random freakouts about it, before I realized that the reason I wasn't meeting anybody was because I was spending three evenings a week hanging out with him. It was hard to dial back. My solution was probably not ideal in retrospect - In 2009 I went to a tech conference and declared myself open for business. I had a fantastic one night stand with a guy 10 years younger than me who lived across the country and I would never see again. Except he kept calling and we now own a house together and will be getting married next year. So there's that.

Obviously, I can't guarantee you a story like mine, but I can guarantee that until you make a clear line in your life about how and where you spend time with this guy, the guy you want isn't going to come near you with a ten foot pole, because that guy thinks you already have a boyfriend.

Ragged But Right

@supernintendochalmers Kind of the same thing really as someone who ONLY wants to bone you. Lots of great things about that, but not qwiiiite enough,in the end.


@sony_b @Ragged But Right you are so wise. so wise.

Dirty Hands

@chevyvan YES about snoozefest!

Dirty Hands

@sony_b Aww your story!


@Dirty Hands Awww. Thanks. :) The other happy ending is that the former best friend and current fiance have become good friends in their own right so I really did win at everything in this case. I travel for weeks at a time for work and found out they were hanging out when I'm out of town. Which was a little weird at first, honestly, but completely awesome. Friend is coming over tonight to eat pizza and watch House of Cards with us.


@JessicaLovejoy Yeah. If I am feeling generous, It's "it's good, but not quite enough." If I am not feeling generous, in cases like this, I think "kiss or get out." It's... ugh. It's easy to let your amazing friend who is a girl be your plus-one-in-life, until you meet a lady who you want to bone. And then there is all the "my best friend and my girlfriend aren't the same person HOW TO DIVIDE THE TIME." LW#4, he will do that, sometime. It will probably happen, unless he just never wants to date anyone ever.

I'd cut back on time together. I'd start using some of that time to look for people to be friends with or date that aren't him. If he asked, I'd say kindly as gently as possible "I really love being friends with you, and you are like my brother/cousin/whatever. But I want to date, and to do that, I need to put some effort in to that. I hope you'll understand/ support me."

I dunno. He can't give you what he doesn't feel. But I would feel really like... the balance of power was out of whack, and there is no way to address it. I'd back off and reset the power balance.


@PistolPackinMama PPM! I haven't seen you and your cheerful/polite quote and body-positive ways in so long!


@sony_b This was AWESOME!!! O my goodness, so much win!!


@Ragged But Right YES on the "taking up space in your life" thing. I had a similar situation way back when with a guy I dated for a little while, then stopped dating but was still hanging out with all the time. I wasn't in love with him, at all, but he filled the space in my life of someone to do stuff with, talk to, hang out with all the time, etc. So much so that it was really upsetting/traumatizing for me when he got a girlfriend that he instantly cemented the relationship with (and is now married to), which was a mindfuck for me given that *I didn't even have feelings of love for him at all*. But my hanging out with him was preventing me from having the energy to meet someone I actually was into, who actually was into me. I mean, it's just easier to hang with someone you already know and like than have to suffer through being alone. Easier in the short run, but way worse in the long run, because you just stay stuck, and ultimately are still alone, while you have to watch him twittering around and being happy/obnoxious with his new Perfect Love (TM). It just sucks a lot either way, but overall I think cutting the cord soonest is the only thing to be done. ESPECIALLY if you have the love-feelings, gah.


@Ragged But Right
I totally agree... You have been in this relationship for so long that you might not realize how much better it can get out there. I've been in those "friend-zoned" relationships until that one drunk night when we changed the relationship and it still didn't work. He broke my heart because he was being honest with me at the beginning, he couldn't fall in love with me even if he liked who I was. And that sucked and hurt, but He was being HONEST and I should have listened and gotten out.
You owe it to yourself to find other activities and you owe it to your friend to give him space to find love as well. It's been long enough that if it was going to happen, it would have happened.


Oh man, LW1--that sounds devastating and Married Dude has great advice.

oh! valencia

@OhMarie Totally. LWs 1 and 2 completely broke my heart.



Yes. LW1. If he tries to play it like his position is supremely logical, remind him that the logic of marriage is that two people have freely decided to make each other their priority in life, over and above anyone else, including parents.

If you have any desire left to save your marriage, I recommend you see a couple's therapist, as your husband needs to hear from a third party that his attitude is in violation of the meaning of marriage.

Ragged But Right

@OhMarie Yeah man, totally. I have suddenly had this niggly other reaction too, which is that it is SO DISTRESSING to have a mad parent. I mean, the worst. And you don't learn how to treat other people so you have to teach yourself, which you can absolutely do. But having that crazy parent in your house can undo a lot of that learning all at once because, trauma.


@Ragged But Right
I think seeing a parent in decline is one of the toughest things a person can go through, it's the complete reverse of what the parent dynamic should be so it sounds like it's pretty rough for the guy. But it's also rough for the LW and now its all escalated.
I think this is less about the mother 'trumping' the wife and more an example that people make messed up decisions under stress.

I hope these guys work out whats best for them. I think it's going to be really hard for them to work on their marriage until the mother in law gets the help she needs.


@Ragged But Right Jesus, you're so right. I worry that's on my horizon - my husband is an insanely great guy, but his mother is...just insane. And I don't mean that colloquially. She has multiple substance abuse problems (she's been in and out of treatment her whole life, to her credit she's currently on an upswing) she's diagnosed with several mood disorders that require her to be on several strong prescription drugs at any one time, and she's a hoarder - her house is filthy and crammed full of stuff.

My husband and I are thinking about starting a family, and more than once he's suggested that his mother could come live with us and watch after the baby while I'm at work. But the truth is, I wouldn't leave her unsupervised for five seconds with our potential child. He then gets hurt and just says "what's the problem? She raised me..." He thinks it's a win-win, b/c she'd have a stable place to stay, and we'd have a "free" nanny. I can't think of anything I'd like less than to have his crazy mother controlling our lives and child from our own home.

LW1 - I totally empathize with the blind spot some men can have for crazy mothers. It might be the "good son" syndrome - he's desperate to prove to his mother that he can take care of her, even to the detriment of the rest of his life. It sounds like you might have gotten out of a really toxic situation, and I hope things get better for you very soon.


@Ragged But Right

Yes, this. And if he was raised by this woman, there's a good chance he has lingering coping mechanisms from childhood like extreme self-sacrifice to mom's whims to ensure some degree of stability, and he really may not be able to see that what he's asking the LW to do is unreasonable and unhealthy. After all, it's been his reality all his life.

Totally doesn't make things any easier for the LW though. Ugh, so awful.


@jule_b_sorry oh my god keep you foot firmly down on that one. sounds like you are 100% right to not trust your MIL with potential baby.


@iceberg Haha, thanks. Luckily, he usually has a pretty healthy perspective about his mother, so I hope it won't be too much of a problem. Push comes to shove, I'll just remind him how miserable he gets pretty much whenever he visits her, b/c she inevitably manages to drag him into some serious, HBO-level drama pretty much every time. (FYI - I don't mean to sound callous- its just a coping mechanism after a decade of dealing with her craziness).


@jule_b_sorry I'm sorry to hear about your mother-in-law--she sounds very much like my mother, who is fortunately no longer living (sounds bleak but my life is easier for it). My mother-in-law is not as bad--at least she's able to see her grandchildren as people and not objects/props/mirrors, which my mother wouldn't have managed. But my husband and I lived with her and his brother's family in his (very traditional) home country for a month when we got married, and she did a lot of stuff that went beyond mother-in-law hazing to holy flaming batsh!t abusive. Apparently, some of it was related to her usual state of high anxiety her misgivings about her favorite son's marriage to a foreigner, and since I got pregnant she's been treating me like gold over skype, but every once in a while my husband speculates out loud about what it would be like to have her live with us and watch our incipient kid instead of daycare and I'm just like D: D: D: NOOOOOO do you not see she is batsh!t and do you not remember that you say you have it easier living 8000 miles away from her or so?? She also has a problem where she is afraid of the evilness of winds (above and beyond cultural norms), and she puts multiple layers of wool sweaters on my nephews in the summer in their semi-desert climate and the poor little dudes think that uncomfortable sweatiness is the default state of being. No way she is getting her mitts on our kid.


@siniichulok What is it with the guys who want to move their crazy mother in for the baby?? It's like a weird blind spot idontgetitatall. Same here- like objectively, he knows his mother is crazy and has said many times that she's why he lives 900 miles away in NYC, but he still thinks it would be a good idea...?

Sorry to hear about the abuse when you lived with there - that sounds awful. I'm glad she's at least being nice over skype :) Sounds like you've established a healthy distance, which is really important and not super easy to do.


@OhMarie I have a mother that is severely bipolar with maybe a touch of borderline personality disorder (docs disagree on diagnoses), and the first thing I wouldn't do is let her live with me, ever. She can screw up her own life but I won't let her screw up mine (again).

LW1, I'm so sorry you're dealing with this. Your husband is acting terribly to you and that is not ok. I agree with A Dude's advice. Hugs.

fondue with cheddar

Before I even read this I just have to say thanks, A Married Dude, for knowing the proper pluralization of "mother-in-law".


What an awful way to find out that your husband is fucking terrible, and he is terrible, LW1. DTMFA was coined exactly for this kind of situation. YOU DESERVE BETTER, GIRL.


@hallelujah I agree with you. The guy kicked you out of your own house! Personally, I would never speak to the guy again. That is just unforgivable.
Sounds like he's got a fucked up relationship with his mother that he's got to work out before he can be with anyone else seriously.


@hallelujah Absolutely. In my mind, when you get married, you are basically telling the world, "Hey, everyone, this is now the person who comes first in my life." And your parents are happy but maybe a little sad, because their little boy or girl has grown up. But they let go, and you let go, and you put your spouse first. The idea that this guy has reneged on that declaration, whether out of malice or some bullsh*t he calls "logic" is just totally reprehensible.

dj pomegranate

@Bittersweet Yeah, playing the "logic" card really pushed it over the edge for me as I was reading it. It sounds to me like case-study emotional abuse: "I'm the one being logical here, and YOU are the one overreacting emotionally to this situation which can only be solved by logic! Also, I know how much is too much for you to handle, even if you SAY you're at your wit's end, I know you're not. So, just stop feeling that way, ok?"

Nope. Nope nope nope nope nope nope. Nope.


@skyslang Agreed. As a well-trained mental health worker, I would comment that this sounds like the sort of very sad and dismaying fall-out that can come of inadequate supports.

First and foremost, LW1: Your mother-in-law needs professional help, and there is no fault to you for not being that help. It sounds as though your husband similarly needs support that he is not getting, perhaps to overcome past traumas of his own, and *which you, as his wife and not as his medical professional or counsellor, are not qualified or obliged to provide*.

I would never even begin to imply that a person can be diagnosed via the internets, but it does sound like the parent-child relationship in this case could have some unhealthy aspects. That's not out of the ordinary when there is a severe mental illness in the family. Your husband's concern about his mother is appreciable but he has to learn on his own that it is not his job alone to save his mother from herself. It is terrible that the effect of this is taken out on you, and it's terrible that our health-care and housing systems have let your family down to such a degree that it is eroding your relationship. Sending you all the love and support the keyboard can convey from here in Canada.


@hallelujah My dad left my mom telling her he was doing it to give my brother a home when my brother was an angsty teen.

It was total bullshit and a way to get out without looking like a bad guy. Fail! (He failed when he married his divorce lawyer.)

lucy snowe

@skyslang Yeah. Why didn't he and his mom move back into mom's house? Selfish bastard.


@dj pomegranate Can't word my thoughts on playing the logic card any better, I just wonder what my reaction would be if someone said that to me. "Fuck your logic. My emotions govern your twisted logic" is probably what I'd come up with hours later while mildly brooding over it.

lucy snowe

@Bittersweet Yeah, I think this is why "forsaking all others" became a line in some of the traditional Christian ceremonies.


@Bittersweet "At which point does your wife trump your mother?" The motherfucking second she becomes your wife she does! I mean, the whole point of marriage is establishing a new dominant family unit, isn't it? I want to find this guy and poke him in the eye with a stick.

@whizz_dumb Mine would be "logic prevails? fantastic, I hope you enjoy discussing logic with my attorney, as we are getting divorced." And then hire the most badass attorney in town and take him for every. fucking. cent. Because kicking your spouse out of your house? FUCK NO.


@hallelujah Yup. That's your family now - your wife. Mothers are important, but they don't come first in a healthy marriage. No no no. Them's the RULES, girl, and he broke them.


@S. Elizabeth Oh for some reason I was thinking that he said some "logical" bullshit before the "pack your bags" bullshit. Yeah, there's no under-reaction to that. Going veritably ape-shit right there would be the logical thing to do.


@dj pomegranate Yeah, and objectively, his "logical" reasoning is not remotely logical. And I'm not even emotionally invested in this situation! If he'd been on his wife's side from the beginning, it would have worked this way: "Hey Mom, we will try this, but if it starts messing up my marriage, you've got to go." [fast-forward] "Hey Mom, it is messing up my marriage. You've got to go." = Logical! "Hey Mom, it is messing up my marriage, so I'm going to throw my wife out of the house." = OPPOSITE OF LOGICAL!
The whole tone changes if you picture the married couple as a unit from the beginning of the story rather than 3 individuals trying to figure out a situation - as it is presented in this letter. This means his approach and logic was flawed from the beginning, which breaks my heart. But don't you dare let him tell you that you're being illogical, LW1! That is some chauvinistic mind game bullshit - you're the logical one here! 100%!


@Bittersweet maybe so, but I can't help but feel like the North American / Protestant nuclear family dynamic causes a lot more problems than it solves. Not exactly conducive to social cohesion.

But then again I did undertake a bunch of undergrad research into retirement homes and elder suicide and other bleak shit that I barely remember now.


Yes, LW4, he's being cruel. I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry. But he knows, in some part of himself, what is going on, and yes he is taking advantage. Not deliberately, but because he not only loves you, but also REALLY loves being loved.

Does he pick up your dry cleaning? No. You pick up his.

I've been on the other side of this. In love with being loved, with no intention whatsoever of ever giving the other person what they want. I had to slap myself around and pull myself up short and back way off. Less texting, less skype, no sleeping in my bed. (Also, he moved away which probably helped.)

He's not doing this for you, and he should. So he loves being loved by you more than he loves you. If you hold that truth in your heart firmly enough, long enough, you will be able to move out of your feelings enough to get some distance and strength. You know what you are worth. More than this.

Super Nintendo Chalmers

@RNL Ugh. A+

I had a friend in grad school who was hung up on a dude like this. They were total besties and emotionally very close. He did eventually get a girlfriend and just continued sort of...outsourcing his emotional closness to his relationship with my friend while doing all the physical stuff with the other lady. It was really upsetting and heartbreaking for my friend to be the emotional girlfriend for this dude she totally loved who, let's be honest, was kind of a juicebox.


@RNL I've been the 'loved' and the 'lover'. Here's my perspective from both sides.

It's scary being with someone that you could love more than as friend or a casual fling. When the other person in the relationship needs you more, you never have to work on your own shit.

It seems less painful in the moment to pursue someone who you know does not want you. Rather than face the wide scary world and have to potentially actually share yourself with someone who has no 'friend' connection.


@Super Nintendo Chalmers Ugh, confessional time.

I was the emotional girlfriend for this guy while he was with someone else, which of COURSE meant that their relationship was doomed. To repeat: allowing someone who is in love with you to be so emotionally close with you when you know you will never be actually available to them is cruel and wrong and you shouldn't do it.

LW4: Being "with" this guy means that you are not available to be with someone who will love you for you and not just your capacity to love and run errands.


@RNL "Dear A Dude, Help! I have this really great friend who I developed feelings for. He's great and we do everything together. We're best friend. Finally, I just told him how I felt, and I gently told me that he didn't share those same feelings. But ever since, he's been a lot more distant and I feel like I've lost my best friend...."

Tough bind, either way.


@Emby "Dear A Dude! I have this great friend who I have feelings for, and he doesn't ask me to pick up his dry cleaning!"

I hear you. For sure. But there are all sorts of times when you have to, for lack of better words, be cruel to be kind. Like break ups. Or pre break-ups. Like, I still text my friend and love him dearly and we send each other birthday cards and go for beers when he's in town, but I STOPPED being his emotional home base and stopped doing things that made me feel good but I knew would make him feel bad in the end (like skyping for hours while I was in bed, and letting him buy me beers and send me emotionally charged web comics).

It may have felt shitty for him for a while, but now he's in a happy relationship that is important to him, I don't have any power over that relationship. He doesn't hate me for leading him on for years. We have a stable, normal friendship. I consider it a hard-fought win.

Super Nintendo Chalmers

@Emby Well, sure, that's an outcome and it sucks. Some relationships can survive one person having romantic feelings for the other and some just can't. Losing a friend is a live possibility. But the thing that sucks worse is being stuck in the phantom zone of unrequited longing.


@Emby I would much rather write a letter where the gist was "Dear Dude, My friend doesn't share my feelings and is behaving appropriately, even though it makes me sad." than "Dear Dude, My friend is using me." Opinions may differ, but that's the reality I'd rather live.


@RNL I see what you're saying. It just seems a shitty option: "Sorry, dude, but you've gotta be the asshole. For her sake."


@Emby Yeah, it is shitty. But actually what I'm saying, in this case, is that SHE needs to KNOW that he's being an asshole by not being an asshole. When she realizes that, she might be able to move away a bit on her own.


@Emby You don't have to be an asshole about it, hopefully if you're actually friends with this person you can have an honest discussion about it. "Hey, I know that you have some feelings for me, and I don't feel the same way, but I value our friendship and maybe it would be best if we took a break for [predetermined time]. After that we can start fresh." It would probably work best if LW4 suggested it.

Unfortunately whenever I have suggested this: the other person never respects my boundaries/our mutually agreed upon cooling off period. LW4 seems pretty on top of things though, I'm sure it would not be the case with her.


@RNL "he's being an asshole by not being an asshole." I think everyone is being super-casual about how easy it must be to essentially end a friendship with your best friend. Look, I know it's ultimately in his friend's best interest, and he should do that because he is her friend, but it seems like we're skimming over the fact that it's a major loss for him, too. And not just losing someone to pick up dry-cleaning, because it sounds a lot deeper than that. I don't disagree with any of the advice, but I'm just saying there are reaosns—legit, good, non-assholeish reasons—why he's invested so much in the friendship, and why it's a bit unfair to expect him to so cavalierly shut it down.


@Emby Saying something your friend doesn't want to hear does not equal being an asshole. And when the choices are to either be honest and hurt them a little bit now, or to be dishonest and hurt them more later, I think the choice is obvious.

Not to mention, it probably isn't the most emotionally healthy thing for this dude, either.


@SarahDances I agree with this, but I'm not sure how it should play out in this instance. LW shared her feelings, and the friend indicated they weren't reciprocated. If she's not raising the issue, I wouldn't call him dishonest for not volunteering that he still doesn't have sexy feelings for her.


@RNL UGH I'm in one of these. He told me "I just want to be friends" but since then has said things like, when noticing my new heels, "I want you to stomp all over me in them." He's also pretty physical with me and stares at my chest a lot, yes there are platonic sleepovers, all that nonsense, but I've been feeling like I have to take him at his words, however confusing his actions are. I regularly consider asking him if he really isn't attracted to me, because seriously, the idea of a yes or a no are equally scary.


@hexamaam Weeeellllll OK, here's where I can switch over to the other side that most people in this thread are one: That's way over the line, because that's active flirting.

If someone tells you they just want to be friends, then to actively make sexually suggestive comments like that, they're unequivocally being douchey.


@hexamaam - I would take him at his word. Speaking as one individual dude...I mean, there are constantly little moments where I'm attracted to women in my life I'm never going to be more than platonically involved with. There are a thousand little moments in life where something - oh god, it can be so many little things - just causes a weird little hint of lust/desire to shoot up my spine.

But...as great as he may be, move on. Because, even if he does like like you, you deserve someone who communicates with you in a way where it is not a mystery.

"Friendzone" (ugh I shudder at the word) or not - please, nobody ever settle for someone if you don't know whether or not they like you. Anybody worth your time is going to make it known.


@hexamaam yeah that is not a good dude, he is not treating you respectfully. inconsistent reward, girl. inconsistent reward. shut it down.


@iceberg Word. I have once, completely backed out for a while, no contact. He ended up dragging me back in with a text-cry for attention (gross, i know) but the space helped a LOT.


@hexamaam I have been in that place: A person who can't respect your need for space doesn't deserve your attention.

In practice, it took me a year to stop responding.


@hexamaam i had an ex like that. yeah you just have to shut it totally down for a long-ass time, so you can get some perspective. We'll be your friends! I promise not to stare at your boobs.


@iceberg hahaha. In his defense, I do have a great rack.

It really does seem sometimes like friendships are so much harder to shut down than romances, yaknow? It's kind of amazing. But isn't that the part of a romance that lingers, the sense of intimacy, something you can create with friends? It seems like somehow there's this sense that the stakes in a friendship are lower because it isn't LOVE but that's what makes it harder, LOVE demands more, friendship is somehow ultimately forgiving, you don't see how deep it penetrates until you try to pull it out.


@RNL OOF to this whole thing. My grandma had a saying that I didn't really understand as a kid, but TOTALLY makes sense now: You can't love anybody enough for the both of you.

LW4, you cannot love this dude enough to make up for the fact he does not love you. Full stop.


@Super Nintendo Chalmers just logged in to say your screen name is my literal name and it is wigging me out.
That is all.


@Emby Fair comment! But it's not all-or-nothing. It's about changing a friendship. It's about taking a bit of distance now so you can have healthy closeness later. It's about not letting a person do so many nice things for you, because you know those things come from feelings that can't be reciprocated.

He doesn't have to shut down a friendship. He has to back off in certain respects so that her fantasies and feelings are easier to have perspective on. Look at this:

"Around two years into our friendship, I told him my feelings, he did not share them, and after some awkwardness (almost entirely on my side), we were back to chatting on the phone for at least an hour every day, hanging out most weekends, etc.

We are each others' significant others — dates to weddings, work functions, etc. I sometimes pick up his dry cleaning and do other "girlfriend-y" things. But we are decidedly platonic."

He should go alone to weddings and his work functions! He should not let or ask her to pick up his dry cleaning! He is a fucking grown up and should do ALL those things on his own if he doesn't want to be in a relationship with her.

He can be her friend. He can get emotional support and love from her, and they can share interests and parts of their life. It doesn't, to me, sound like that's what's going on. It sounds like he is taking advantage of the emotional safety and comfort he finds in being adored. Human? Yes. Ok? No.


@RNL I will also say that it can be really easy to convince yourself, as the lovee, that everything is just friendship and roses and you're not doing everything wrong. But I, at least, knew that it wasn't really alright, and finally I just was like "I'm an adult, and I love my friend, and I think I'm hurting him, and I have to fix this."

(Also, he send me this comic before I figured it out so I might not be so enlightened as all that: http://xkcd.com/513/)


@Super Nintendo Chalmers "Outsourcing" is exactly the right word. I did this for an unfortunately long time once. I had my boyfriend for the physical stuff and my best friend for all the emotional stuff. And they had been friends before, but obviously fell out because I was in the middle being a selfish bitch. :)

At the time I didn't see the love triangle for what it was, so I guess that's proof that women can be oblivious too.


@RNL Um yeah, my ex had a bunch of emotional girlfriends. It was Not Cool. One of them did eventually become his regular gf the instant we broke up (like, moved right in with her and everything! I kind of feel bad for her though, she is at least 75% his servant :s)

Dirty Hands

@blueblazes "I was in the middle being a selfish bitch. :)" Cute well-placed smiley there.

Pseudo Pseudonym

@hexamaam If a pair of people are acting out that last clause, it's time to turn on the lights and reevaluate what they want from each other. Whether you're avoiding unhealthy friendships or awkward conversations at planned parenthood, pulling out before it's too late is always tricky.


@Emby It's going to be amazingly easy to shut that friendship RIGHT DOWN when #4 gets sick of it and can't see a gentle way out and bails completely to protect her heart/dignity/whatever. If LW#4 is at all like me at, say, age 25, that is what would happen. I'd finally twig that I was putting in an awful lot for inadequate return. Or something would happen where I felt I didn't have the right or position to have a particular expectation of support. And then I'd be All Done.

Or when he has a girlfriend who, understandably, asks him to make her the emotional and sexytimes priority in their lives. If he's not doing a great job of thinking through and establishing boundaries now, he won't be very good at it when their friendship is even more complicated. Then she'll have a friend who is telling her with actions that now that the conditions of his life have changed, the friendship has to change.

I guess the thing is... you have to think honestly about your behavior. How will you want to move on to a different phase of your life when this friendship has to play a different role? He's not going to ask her if he should move for a job or grad school or whatever. He's not going to negotiate primarily with her if there is another woman in the mix.

This dynamic does not have an... honorable? or something?... way out of that.

So, yeah. Change your friendship now, or it might be really easy to choose ending it later.


There is already a comment that contradicts mine upthread, but I agree with Married Dude for LW3. Why get married right now? Just be a couple, young and in love, for a long time. There was a bizarre (to me) spate of engagements at my college, also around junior year, and I couldn't figure it out for a long time. Then I sort of decided it was because my college in particular had a very, very weird dating/romance culture where couples were either totally unserious or basically married, and these engaged people had decided to make it REALLY OFFICIAL that they were TOGETHER. Spoiler: No one is getting married now.
Just be a loving couple. You are really, really young and will be really, really young for a long long time. What's the harm in just being a serious, committed boyfriend and girlfriend for a while?


@martinipie Or just wait until after college to get married when you can legally drink some champagne at your reception?

The thing about relationships like that, when you're young especially, is that you can't imagine yourself being that happy with anyone else ever (and conversely, when you are single you often can't imagine being happy with anyone enough to want to marry them). Doesn't mean it's true, though.

Super Nintendo Chalmers

@martinipie Oh man, this happened in my college as well. We also had the same sort of "dating" dynamic. Although, from where I sat, it seemed like the long-term couples would either break up or get engaged senior year.

I always figured part of it was tied up in anxiety about leaving school.

oh! valencia

@martinipie She's not talking about getting married right now, though. She's talking about getting married in two years. Which is a lot of prep time, IMO.


@Super Nintendo Chalmers I bugged out on my boyfriend about getting engaged at the beginning of our last semester of college. It was totally anxiety about leaving school.


@oh! valencia I guess, then, why get engaged now if you are not immediately going to be planning the wedding? The people I knew were like "Yeah we will be engaged for three years and then get married," but...why? Maybe I am just being reductive and only going off my anecdotal experience with young engaged folk, but in my mind engagement should be the spur to planning the wedding, and these people were using it to simply say "we want to get married, someday, not soon, but someday."


@oh! valencia Ah okay, waiting a couple years makes a lot more sense. And to be fair I know three couples who got together in college who are still happily married (and I met my husband the summer before my senior year of college).


@martinipie I have several friends who got engaged to say, as you said "we want to get married someday." And I always wondered, why not just say that instead of getting engaged?

oh! valencia

@martinipie I agree with that, and generally think that super-long engagements are kind of silly, but that's because I think that marriage is awesome and if you know for sure you want to do it, you should just do it.


@Amphora I think "old enough to drink champagne" is a good rule of thumb for weddings, really, but I'm a big ol' lush.

(And also I'm old and plan to be a fabulous spinster, so.)

Lily Rowan

@SarahP See, I always think the opposite! If you both agree you definitely want to get married (whenever), why not be engaged?


@SarahP My fiance and I called it an "understanding." (He's the same person I bugged out to, just 4 years older.)


@SarahP That's funny -- what strikes me as weird is the opposite of that, where a couple says something like, "We're going to get engaged next year." What? You've agreed that you plan to marry each other; you've got a timeline planned for that; you... kind of ARE engaged. I don't really see the difference between "calling yourself engaged" and "publicly announcing that you plan to get married."

Anyway: my husband and I had a long engagement under very similar circumstances to what the LW is planning, where we got engaged in college and planned to get married after we'd both graduated. For us, I guess, the benefit of being "engaged" rather than just "we've talked about it and we think we're probably going to get married" was the difference it made to our families -- like, "Elsajeni is engaged" was significantly different, from my grandmother's point of view, from "Elsajeni has a serious boyfriend." And there can be practical reasons to put off getting married while you're in school, too -- like an insurance or financial aid situation that depends on your official status being "dependent of my parents" rather than "independent married adult," or something like that. In general I guess my opinion is: get engaged when you want to, get married when you want to and when it makes sense for your life, don't worry too much about what other people think about it.


@Elsajeni "We're going to get engaged next year" has always struck me has so bizarre for the same reasons. My freshman roommate (she was a junior) knew the DAY her boyfriend was going to propose 18 months hence and I just thought it was the weirdest thing. Like, he has the ring, you know the day, in what universe are you NOT engaged already? :D

@martinipie A lot of times it's logistics -- if my ladyfriend proposed today, it would not spur a wedding planning frenzy because I'm graduating from law school, taking the bar exam (in California, which is a bitch and a half), and starting work at a law firm across the country from where I currently live. Like, starting in 6 weeks. Yeah, give me a year to settle into that ridiculous situation before I have to think about "hmmmm will I lose 15 pounds before I wear this big white dress all afternoon?" and making guest lists.

But why get engaged? Because that would be a public expression of our dedication to get married, and there would be a huge sense of permanence that comes with it.


@Lily Rowan I guess for me the engagement is the time when one takes the real, tangible steps towards the wedding itself. Otherwise I don't really see why one can't just be happy being boyfriends/girlfriends/partners/etc. But maybe if the couple needed/wanted recognition from people outside themselves? I am not judging, I just don't understand the reasons.


LW3, why do you guys want to get married rightnow? You're both still students, and this means (I assume) that you're going to struggle to afford the awesome, celebratory party that a wedding between two confidently loving people deserves to be. Wait until you've made some steps towards those careers you want, when you can afford a fun wedding and a rockin' honeymoon afterwards. There's no prize for being married earliest/longest; why rush?


@SarahP Annnnnd if you were relying on your parents to pay for your wedding, I have to say that personally I think it is deeply unfair to want your parents to pay for something you know they're not comfortable about (at the moment).

oh! valencia

@SarahP That's a good point, though the LW didn't say whether this was the case: Don't expect your parents to pay for a wedding they don't support.


@SarahP Yes. There is no prize for being married the longest. Having the party of a wedding shouldn't be the guiding force in the decision to wed, but as additional food for thought for the LW - your wedding will just be a snapshot of who you are as your graduate college. Even if your relationship endures your friendships will definitely change. Why not wait a couple of years to marry and celebrate with the people who bothered to keep in contact with you once you no longer lived across the hall from each other?


@SarahP They don't plan on being married rightnow. They plan on getting married in a couple of years. So there's that.


@SarahP Exactly. And while I think it's nice that she has confidence about "setting [herself] up for a good career," I think she may be surprised at how difficult getting a good job in your chosen career and be after you graduate. Moreover, who in the world knows what the economy will be like then?


@par_parenthese But the want is rightnow. That's the thing I'm asking about; what is the rush, the drive?

taco-salad dot com

@highjump Obviously the friends part isn't the biggest part of being married, but I think this is a great point that ties into "if you're so sure, what's the rush?" I can't even tell you how many close friendships have evolved/dissolved since I was 19 (29 now), not to mention romantic relationships! I barely talk to most of the people I was so sure at that age would someday be my bridesmaids.

My parents were high school sweethearts, and got married at 22. They're about to celebrate their 39th anniversary. So sure, it can be done. But on the other hand, I look back at who I was at 19, 20, even 25, and I'm SO glad I'm not eternally bound to any of the people I was in love with then. Hell, I'm even glad I'm not the same person I was then either! I feel like there really aren't any cons to waiting... best case, it will only strengthen their relationship as they grow into adults together, and it will hopefully turn others' doubts into support. I guess it all circles back to what AMD said about things you just don't/can't know at 19.


@faceifer Also, am I the only person who thinks that the idea that your brain doesn't finish developing (like, acutal physical adult brain) until you're 25 is pretty important? I don't think I had a fully formed idea of who I was until after that point. I did marry the man that I met before that, but I don't think I was ready to make that decision until later.

Judith Slutler

#3, I was in your situation for a while there, just about 10 years ago (GOOD LORD,10 years!?!?!? i am old) Anyway, it didn't work out. We moved in together and did a gap year between high school and college together when we were 18 and 19. We were talking marriage and figured we'd do it when we were 22 or so. Then, he started a tecnical apprenticeship, I started college, and our relationship completely fell apart. so thank goodness we did wait to get married! We ended up breaking up, and I thought I would be single forever because I figured I would never find anyone as great as him.

BUT, I am so glad that I spent time with him and moved in with him and etc. It helped me grow up so much. I value all the time I spent with that guy even though we turned out to be completely different adults*. It was all incredibly important. It taught me that I had the capacity to love and to follow through on plans and to share my life with another person. Afterwards I really grasped the fact that a relationship coming to an end isn't a failure. Even if you two don't end up being together till death do you part, keep it in the back of your mind that it will be good for you to have each other. Don't worry about him being The One (untrue) or getting hitched too soon - but there is no doubt that what you're feeling is absolutely real and will be life-changing for you. You are lucky to have each other right now! That's awesome!

*Just as a small example, I remember talking to him after his next ex after me moved out of the apartment and he was like "I am going to have to spend 1000€ to replace all the furniture and dishes she took with her!" Whereas I only buy used, and often just get stuff for free off of freecycle, and if you gave me 1000€ for dishes and furniture I would not even know HOW to start spending that much. I could not imagine us even being roommates today, lol. All the "talks about money" in the world aren't going to resolve that kind of difference in basic mentality - and the difference only emerged once we were older.


@Emmanuelle Cunt YES. I was engaged junior year of college, and we knew we would be together forever (we were high school sweethearts, so together for a few years by the time we got engaged). But, we grew apart senior year. Now, I check his facebook, and I feel like I barely know this guy and am sort of relieved we didn't end up together. When we broke up, I felt so sad b/c I thought I'd lost the love of my life. But a few years later, I found the real love of my life and married him. Now, I can't imagine being with anyone else...and almost especially with the one who got away. Long story short, don't rush things! you never know how much you may grow in the next few years. Hopefully, you'll grow together...but if you grow apart, it isn't the end of the world and could mean that even better things will head your way.


I agree with the married dude that LW2 is using her husband's estrangement from his son as an escape valve. She said she wouldn't get involved--but she's getting involved. He's not saying (at least I think, from her letter) he'll never speak to his son again, but he is saying he's not going to keep pushing to make something happen that the son doesn't want. LW2, do you think this situation upsets you so much because of how you see him parenting your children in the future? If so, I'd focus on that rather than on an issue you say you're trying to keep out of.

Um, WTF Interrobang

@SarahP That's what I was thinking. His perceived "rejection" of his son on top of the fact that she feels like she is the only one raising their own children has to be rage inducing.


@SarahP Seriously, there is so much more in her letter that is alarming. The fact that his depression comes around just when she needs him most, so he can check out? That's really fucked up. The guy sounds like he has a lot of problems--and they're getting worse. It's such a tough situation, you know? I want to say: get out and save yourself and your kids. But...he needs help! She loves him! Jesus Christ, I feel for her.


@SarahP I can't tell from the letter if it's the situation that he is giving up on his current planned trip or if it's that he's giving up "forever" on attempting a reconciliation. If it's the former I definitely see this as an escape valve/straw that's breaking the camel's back moment. If it's the latter then I know MY reaction would be exactly the same because that's a huge red flag for me. You don't give up on relationships with your kids. And I would not want to be married or have kids with anyone who felt like that was an option. Honestly even he's just doing the former after all the hell that the LW describes I can see this just being the straw that breaks the camel's back. Personally, I'm not sure I'd be able to love someone anymore who had put me through all that he's put her through. Whatever triggers it, if she's that angry and he's that much not the man that she thought, I think walking out is a reasonable option at this point.


@pterodactgirl I agree that she's been through A LOT and he's not completely innocent of that (is he not seeing a therapist? or just not seeing her therapist?). But when it comes to the reationship with the son, he's been trying to reach out to him for 5 months and has been continually rejected. The son (and the ex-wife) has made it clear that these attempts are not welcome. I don't actually think giving up after being rejected is wrong--I think he's respecting the wishes of his son and ex-wife. It sucks. But from what we've read in the letter, he's not saying "I have disowned my son," he's saying that after 5 months of trying to reconcile and being rejected, he is not going to try any more.

I don't think LW3 has nothing to complain about here, but this issue seems pretty non-blameworthy compared to the other stuff. Which is why I agree that she's using it as an "escape valve."


@SarahP I agree. If the son doesn't want his father in his life then not contacting him for a while isn't giving up, it's just giving space. There was a question similar to this one on the Savage Lovecast last week, I think. He can definitely keep communication open with his daughter and ex-wife and make it clear that when the son is ready to talk, he'll be there.

I think the bigger issue is the depressive episodes and not finding a solution to them. Something has to be at play that they both coincided with the birth of their children. I'm glad the LW is in therapy, hopefully her husband can join her there, too.


@SarahP You definitely make some good points, and I think we'd need more details about the LW's life to fully know how culpable her husband is for the current state of affairs. There is something to be said for deciding to take a step back because that's what your son wants. If that's the reasoned and considered decision he makes that's definitely valid. But, there's also the argument that he saw some prom pictures and felt overwhelmed by sadness and the difficulty of the situation and decided to check out because that seems easier than what he believed was well-thought-out plan 24 hours ago. Only the LW can say which of these she thinks is happening. @skyslang is right that it sounds like her husband checks out whenever she needs him most, and that's a worrying trend especially if it's going to continue with his children. I don't know what the right thing for him to do about his son is, but do think the LW needs to take some step regarding her husband because she sounds like she's drowning. Maybe that thing is therapy, maybe it's a separation. Only she can really say. I wish her the best though, and my heart goes out to her.


@pterodactgirl Good point about the difference between stepping back from and checking out of the situation.


@SarahP I took the letter/anger as maybe more about the fact that she has worked so hard on the marriage and stood by her husband when he (in a way) abandoned her, and her husband giving up on his son shows that that dedication is not something he is capable of reciprocating.

The thought process of "It has been five months; I'm going to take some space," is reasonable, but it doesn't really sound like it's what's going on (to me). He had plans to fly out, and then seeing prom photos made him give up? The photos as the trigger of this makes it seem petulant.

Being the daughter of someone with a mood disorder who had a falling out with her parent when she was just a year older than this kid might clarify or might warp my perspective on this, but for what it's worth: my guess is this is not teenage drama. He didn't just "decide" he hates his dad. If I had to bet, I would bet his dad did something that was traumatizing.

(Okay maybe I am super projecting. I'll put it this way: if you not only fail to protect your child from harm, but inflict the abuse yourself, you have no right to feel victimized by self-protective measures taken by your child. It is on the father to make it right.)

Ragged But Right

@lizaboots That is my instinct too, but who knows about these things. But yeah.

honey cowl

Best dude ever.

Hot Doom

@honey cowl Yes! It good, even-keeled, thoughtful advice from this dude.

I'm Not Rufus

@honey cowl Seriously, this advice is completely spot-on for every question.


There were multiple points in this Ask A Married Dude in which I wanted to copy/paste his words of advice and plaster them on walls, but most notably this one:

"People change. I know you think you know this, but you don't, not yet. I also know this sounds insulting, but there's no non-insulting way for an older person to tell a younger one "There are things you don't understand," but there are things you don't understand, starting with this: It isn't just the relationships built on puppy love that get affected by future events."

I can say from experience that I was that young twenty-something that thought she knew it all, thought she was so mature, thought she had her whole life figured out -- and now when I look back from my nearly-30 place there are things about my young, fresh-faced undergrad self that I do not even recognize. People change, and the most important thing about that is that people includes you. Your 20s are pretty much the time in which you figure out who you really are as an adult human being and in my own experience it took almost the whole of my 20s to really learn some stuff about myself and have the capacity to accept it.

Miss Maszkerádi

@Scandyhoovian I am so aware of this that I'm paralyzed by indecision - I have some big life choices facing me soon and whatever I think, my next thought is "BUT I'M IN MY EARLY TWENTIES I can't possibly know what I really want!"

Does anyone else do this, or is it just me?!??

Judith Slutler

@Countess Maritza Hahaha... don't worry. That is how all of us late-20s bitches made our decisions and we all turned out fine. So, just do some shit, whatevs


@Countess Maritza I know how you are feeling! I did it all the time in my early 20s. Now I'm in my 40s. The thing is...you can always change courses if you don't like the one you're on. No decision you make now (or when you're 30 or 40) is permanent...except for having a baby and acquiring a lot of debt. Definitely don't have a baby unless you know you want to be a mom! Think very long and hard about graduate school, or buying a house. Otherwise, try this career, or move to that city, date that guy. Enjoy figuring out what works for you!

Miss Maszkerádi

@Emmanuelle Cunt Overthinking is my specialization.


@Scandyhoovian Now I feel like the weirdo young-marriage advocate, which I am not actually in real life on a general basis, but I will say that I did exactly the same soul-searching and self-finding in my 20s, mostly through therapy and discussion with close friends, and I changed but my husband also changed along with me because we talked about this stuff together all the time. It is totally possible for two people who marry young to go through this transformation and find they've grown apart from each other -- but it's also totally possible for them to grow in the same direction, especially if that's what they're trying to do. You do have to be more careful that you're not just coming up with reasons to stay with your partner and thus cutting off the new parts of yourself that might not fit, but a good relationship can even deal with radical changes if both people are working at it.


@Emmanuelle Cunt "So, just do some shit, whatevs" as someone running around in a furry of indecisiveness about her future, this is literally the best advice ever.

dj pomegranate

@skyslang Agreeeee and also want to add that for me, when I was young 20s, I felt like I had to decide on MY LIFE PLAN, ASAP. All decisions were big decisions! Now as a 30 y.o. looking back, I realize that I had soooooo much time to make those decisions, and most of those decisions were average-sized decisions that weren't permanent AT ALL, although they did of course change me and give me insights and experiences that affected who I am today. SO many of my 30 y.o. friends are JUST NOW going back to school or getting married or teaching for a year in Vietnam or whatever. You have time to change your course. Don't stress it! (With the exception of babies and large debts. Those are big ones.)


@Countess Maritza Oh man, right there with you on the overthinking. I think the crap out of everything (relationship issues, career decisions, political stances, what color to paint my bedroom), but eventually I look at what seems like the best option at the time, take a deep breath, and jump in. My husband (not an overthinker) may need to push me to jump every now and then.

Emma Peel

@dj pomegranate "most of those decisions were average-sized decisions that weren't permanent AT ALL."

I am a little bit out of the first wave of this (finally!) at almost-26 and yeah -- I can't think of a major decision I've made post-college so far that couldn't have been reversed. A lot of them actually were. I've moved for a significant other who I later broke up with, and don't regret the move, and taken a job that I left after less than a year, with no ill effect. Other friends have changed career paths, gone back to school, dropped out of grad school, etc. "Average-sized decisions" describes it well; they're worth taking seriously, but few decisions (other than having a kid) are irreversible.

honey cowl

@Scandyhoovian How early is early 20s? Just wondering as a 24-year-old....

lucy snowe

@skyslang Ah, see, I decided to hold off on decisions and just kept going to school. Expensive choice, that.

Briony Fields

@Scandyhoovian *slow clap*

Seriously, 20 something me had it ALLLLL figured out, but that fell apart eventually and thank god it did, because then I had the chance to figure out who I REALLY am, and that did not turn out to be the fetus who was play-acting at being an adult. And I was so terribly confident that I already knew exactly what I needed to know and what I wanted. Yikes!


@all When I look back on myself five years ago, I realize how much of a doofus I was about a lot of things. And five years ago, I thought my ten years ago self was a doofus about just about everything. So I fully expect this to be an ongoing process throughout the rest of my life, and if I ever look back on my past self and think I wasn't in *some way* a doofus about *some things,* that is the day I will truly be worried because it will mean I have stopped growing as a person.

RK Fire

@Countess Maritza I felt the same way in my early 20s, and it's what has made being in my late-twenties so great. "Muahahaha.. I can do what I want and now people have to take me seriously." I no longer have an excuse to say "I'm too young to do/say X."

I'm cosigning on everything everyone else has said as well.


@sophia_h "It is totally possible for two people who marry young to go through this transformation and find they've grown apart from each other -- but it's also totally possible for them to grow in the same direction, especially if that's what they're trying to do."


@SarahDances LOL, absolutely. I've just resigned myself to a life of looking back on my life with a mixture of satisfaction and facepalming.


@Countess Maritza yuuuuup. From the start of college to the end of college pretty much everything about me changed, and I was left finishing a major I really had no use for any longer and trying to play catch-up socially. I am so afraid of that happening again that I am having a really hard time figuring out a "next step"--because what if I choose WRONG and all the time/money/effort I put in ends up being a waste??? Ugh.

ETA: Obviously I need "so just do some shit, whatevs" in my life. Many thanks EC!


@Countess Maritza ARE YOU ME? Seriously, I have made lots of great choices and I am really happy with them. But when things go well, I'm perplexed. Things should be shitty! I'm 24! It should be MESSY! It's not. It's happy and awesome and that's worse than a year ago when shit was messy.

Hot Doom

@Scandyhoovian Yes, so much change happens, and speaking from my own experience, it is not enough to *think* you are on a fast-track to a job. I don't know what the LW is doing with herself professionally, but I thought I would be on track to a job in my field of study, and even after advanced degrees and intern experience, I still haven't gotten settled into a job. This may not be at all like what the LW will experience, but things really and truly do feel different in college, in grad school and even a year out in that transitional phase to the real world. During my job search, in a field where I (mistakenly)thought I would be a shoo-in, my husband has had to be very supportive emotionally and financially for me, and regardless of what this couple thinks and hopes will happen, they need to be prepared to deal with flux, potential unemployment, and frustration. I don't mean to nay-say, but I'm just echoing what others have said about how much things change in just one or two years' time, and that there is no rush to get engaged now, guys. NO RUSH!

Patrices Pieces

@sophia_h I totally agree! My husband and i got married when I was 20 and he was 21 (shotgun.) That was 16 years ago. We think it totally works because we became adults together.


@skyslang "No decision you make now...is permanent." 100% true - you always get to change your mind [with the kids & debt caveat, of course]. At 34, my life is totally different than what I imagined at 22, and I wish I could have realized that I didn't have to figure out my whole life right.that.second and saved myself some angst. But I also realize that 22-year-old me would would not have listened to anyone who tried to tell me that. But that's the beautfy of your 20s - you get to make all these decisions and find out who you are and make your own mistakes and then look back at shake your head fondly at your younger self.


@Scandyhoovian My thoughts exactly. The cut and paste passage for me was this:

"I'm sure you have a deep bond, and that it's the kind that only comes around infrequently. This is all kinds of lovely when it happens, as always. But I will also tell you, not just as A Married Dude but A Re-Married Dude, that there is no The One Meant for Me. That's fairy tale stuff. What there can be is The One I Made It Work With."

THIS THIS THIS. I speak as a very happily married 30yr old who got married at 28 to a man I'd got together with at age 16 - we were together a little while back then, and then we both went off to university (separately), split up, did our thing, had other partners, moved around... just had some life. Then a few years ago we got back together (and I think we always knew that we would do, subconsciously) and moved in together and got married, and I am 100% sure that if we hadn't had that time apart, we wouldn't be together today. Good luck and all the best, whatever choice you make!


oh #4, I was you. and one day the boy decided he was "in love" with me and we became a couple and moved in together. then 2 kinda painful years later, he dumped me out of the blue and I discovered that he had been cheating on me (with a girl he apparently DID find attractive) and it completely destroyed my heart. the problem was that he knew he loved me as a friend, but wasn't IN LOVE with me and fooled himself into thinking we could be together. I was never pretty enough for him and in the end, I ended up with a broken heart. but now I'm married to a badass babe who thinks I'm the cat's meow and I could not be happier, but it took a long time to recover from what I went through with that old love. girl, take care of yourself and spend all your wonderful energy on someone who does love you.


@mynamebackwards :( I'm sorry that happened to you, it sounds real, real sucky. Glad you ended up finding someone who cherishes you!

I related a lot to LW4, too. I never admitted my feelings to my dude-friend because I was positive they wouldn't be reciprocated. He is, to this day, a serial monogamist and was always with a certain type of girl. I didn't fit that type and knew that if he was attracted to me, he would have made a move. I ended up finding the right guy and we're happily married now. But I grew way apart from dude-friend and looking back now, I get a bit angry about how he treated me for all those years. We had a great friendship, but he'd go way over the line with the affection, etc. and I'm sure he knew what he was doing. If LW4 is anything like me, she won't break off this friendship or anything, but I'm confident that eventually someone will come along that will make her realize, "Oh! THIS is what love is supposed to feel like!"


@FlufferNutter I sometimes think that all the heartache was worth it because if we hadn't gotten together and then broken up, I would have spent forever loving him and letting him sleep in my bed and being all sad-unrequited-puppy-dog-love. instead, I got to discover he was a bastard, completely kick him out of my life, then rise like a slutty phoenix from the ashes of that shitty relationship and have a blast dating a bunch of dudes who DID think I was hot. :)


@mynamebackwards "rise like a slutty phoenix from the ashes of that shitty relationship" <3<3<3


@mynamebackwards I could get down with that...

Miss Maszkerádi

To the very young couple - ("very young", says 23 year old me...) I'd add one thing to the Married Dude's comment about different cultural structures and point out that in the liberal, middle-class, overeducated-feminist-friends culture that most of us are in, the bonus to your situation is that you can basically be everything-but-married for however long you want. We don't have prohibitions against premarital sex, cohabitation, pooling of funds, adopting a puppy, etc. In this culture, there is a lot of truth to the line that marriage is just a piece of paper. It is, however, a legally binding piece of paper, and - jeez, you guys are undergrads, I just don't......(apologies, that was a bit of first-year-master's ego bloat.)
I really don't want to be one of those annoying people who says "You're too younnnng to know what you wannnnnnnt, you're just babiesssss," because a) that's obnoxious as fuck and b) I personally know couples who married quite young and are still happily going strong. It totally can work. But, it is rare. And to indulge my gray hair that I found the other day (OH GOD), when I look back at myself at 19, even just four years later, I barely recognize myself. So if I was in your shoes - enjoy this relationship, take it to as much "basically-married" territory as you want, but just be cautious about signing the actual piece of paper.
Also, your wedding will be more fun if your friends and family are all supportive - for me, that would actually be a valid reason to hold off on the officialness for a few years....


@Countess Maritza That's what I kept thinking: Assuming neither LW3 nor her intended comes from a family or culture where pre-marital sex, cohabitation or puppies are discouraged (which she doesn't mention), why does she want the next big step in their relationship to be getting married? She says "it just seems silly to wait when we know we'll be married eventually," but there's a whole lot of relationship-having that can happen before you do get married, eventually. (Not to say having sex then living together then adopting a puppy then getting married is necessarily the correct order for everyone.)

To me, the one big difference between being married and being in a seriously committed cohabiting relationship (with or without a puppy) is that being married makes it a lot harder to leave. Which can be a good, important thing... like if you have kids, or if you've had a long and good relationship and want to guard against it being derailed by some small thing down the road. But if you're in your 20s, still figuring out you life, I don't see the advantage of putting that extra lock on your relationship. If everything goes south 4 years into your relationship, when you're 23 or whatever, don't you want to be able to cut your losses and get out? Is it really worth it to stick with something that is hard or not working when you're that young and have so much time to find... something else?

Not saying that will happen, everything could work out wonderfully, just saying that committing so hard at this stage doesn't seem necessary to me, personally.

Miss Maszkerádi

@DianaPrince Well, I suspect that the suggestion that in a few years they won't be in love anymore is one of the more existentially terrifying things she could be asked to consider right now, so that's probably a big part of it.


@Countess Maritza This is a good point. Unless there is an explicit reason to get married (e.g., you're dying of cancer, he's shipping off to Afghanistan, you're knocked up), why not wait 3 or 4 years and just live togther before making a lifetime committment? I'm not saying don't live your life - because if there's one thing I regret about my 20s is that I felt like my life couldn't *really* start until X,Y,& Z happened. But if you're thinking your life doesn't *really* start until you're married, that's a problem.


I feel like on some level he's in love with me, as I am with him, even if he can't notice it or label it. You don't spend hours on the phone every week with just anyone, right?

Not with just anyone, only with your best friend, which he clearly considers himself to be. He is not in love with you. This Dude is fucking with your head by feeding the answer you want ("He's obviously partly in love with you"). There is no reason to believe that and every reason not to. And I don't agree that he is being in any way cruel; it is fair for you to limit contact or closeness if you need to, and not fair for him to complain about it, but it is not for him to singlehandledly cut down the friendship out of paternalistic concern that you can't handle it. That would actually make him a prick. If you laid it out and he said no, he's not stringing you along and he's not at fault.

That said, do not do his errands for him...unless...unless you think that you can engineer that devotion into some seething resentment that will help you to choke to death your love for him. That is my best advice, actually.


@queenofbithynia Thanks for saying this. I was toying around with something like it, myself. I don't believe this guy is being cruel at all; I think he is acting like a best friend. Early on, LW4 expressed her feelings, her dudefriend graciously (it seems) said they couldn't be more than friends, and then their friendship has persisted for many more years. I would guess in his mind, it's a closed issue. And it's not his responsibility to keep reminding her that his feelings are strictly platonic; as you said, if anything that's paternalistic and dickish. LW4 needs to recognize her own emotional attachment and untangle it.


@queenofbithynia I rather thouhgt the same thing. He's sort of taking advantage of how much she's willing to do for him--but she's offering to do all this for him, so it goes both ways. I had a male best friend and when we lived in separate cities, we would spend hours a week talking on the phone. No assumptions on either side.


@Emby Yeah, and I also think it's basic human respect to pretend not to notice when someone is yearning for you, assuming that they are trying to suppress it and also assuming that you already rejected them. That's not obliviousness or cruelty, it's courtesy. There is this idea that when someone is in love with you, you are obligated to behave like a pompous dickbag who knows what's best for them, so that they can get mad at you and proceed to hating you for doing that, & I don't think that's a fair obligation to put on anyone. He shouldn't have to lose his best friend just to help her deal with her crush -- especially when she's unwilling to make that sacrifice herself, she said so, and she's the only one who'd have anything to gain from it.

I suppose I feel strongly because usually this "friendzoning" business comes from the other direction, telling women that their friendships must always take second place to men's lustful feelings, which are more important. or "usually" in advice columns, maybe not in life. but it's a completely sex-neutral moral issue really. The pain of managing unrequited love does not beat the pain of losing an intimate friendship, rock-paper-scissors style.

Judith Slutler

@queenofbithynia It really is just one of those things that we could go round and round on all day. I guess that it's my feeling that these kinds of issues don't have to be friendship-ruining, but they often are, and that really both people have to somehow adjust the status quo if they want to keep being friends. Like, it requires some intentionality on both parts. I think that can work out fine, but sometimes it just doesn't and the friendship has to end.


@queenofbithynia Engineering devotion into seething resentment IS how I chocked my most recent (very ill advised) love to death! Dry cleaning doesn't even begin to cover it. Laundry, grocery shopping, carrying her bags, calling her credit card company, and even more I am too embarrassed to put on the semi-anonymous internet. We are still friends so it creeps in sometimes but it was overall very effective!


@queenofbithynia I totally agree. I think he is sort of "taking advantage of her" but probably is not even aware of it, and it's not on purpose or malicious. We take advantage of people all the time, and it can be totally healthy and not at all mean.
And taking advantage goes both ways: Is the LW only acting like his best friend because she thinks there's makeouts for her in the future?
We all loathe the dudes who go on and on about being stuck in the friendzone, and complain that no matter how "nice" they are the girls still date handsome assholes instead...
I think LW3 should take a long hard look at herself to make sure she's not doing the exact same thing.


@gobblegirl This... I think... If I were the dude, I would readjust the relationship because it would be good for me to do that. I would feel a weird imbalance that I don't like with my friends. Unless I was willing to pick up her dry cleaning, as well.

But I am not that dude, and maybe dude likes things the way they are.

It's LW who wrote in. So, I would just say choke off the love with seething resentment (extreme option) or manage the boundaries now in a less intense way (less extreme option). Or accept you will have a friendship that for you is going to involve this feeling of desire that will never be fulfilled.

What do I do, asks LW? Well, adjust so you create conditions to feel differently. Or, accept this is how things will be, because they aren't going to change. And if he does ask, you can tell him the truth. "I want to make new friendships with people who might want to bone me some day, and I hope you'll support me in that, because it's time."

Then dude can write in and ask "my BFF who I don't want to bone has started dating and I miss her. What do I do?" and then we can all write in and say "go make some new friends, or accept that this is how it will be, because that is the consequence of not wanting to bone the BFF who wants to bone someone and is looking for that opportunity in more likely places."


@PistolPackinMama Although, I will say, I dunno about the patronizing thing. It's an odd situation, because one thing my friends and I do is gently (or not so gently, I guess) call each other on our fantasy-reality disconnects. "That guy is not going to fall in love with you. Take a break."

If your BFF is that guy... ugh. Do you act in the role of non-reciprocating love interest and do the Masque of Courtesy Dance and carry on as if there is no subtext for your BFF? Or do you play the role of gentle-reality BFF and do the Observation of BFF Reality Commentary and say "that guy -me- will not fall in love with you... that will not change. Are you OK with things being this way for now? For a year? Forever? Really OK?"

Valley Girl

@queenofbithynia I'm just showing up late to thank you for this thread and for introducing the to me the concept of "engineer(ing) that devotion into some seething resentment that will help you to choke to death your love for him", because that is a very handy thing to know about.


Also, LW4 -- He's definitely using you, and he's definitely being cruel. I had this guy friend who I was absolutely head over heels, and he was my best friend for years and years. We talked constantly, we were always each others' +1s, but he never reciprocated, and when I finally confessed, it got awkward. After a while the awkwardness went away and the dynamic came back, but only until he found a girlfriend. Then it all fell apart, because when someone is giving you everything a significant other would give you aside from the sexytimes and official-ness of a relationship, and they get a relationship? You don't get those things anymore. The actual significant other does. In my case, it meant I got dropped and hard, because he didn't need me anymore for that attention fix he wanted, and because I didn't realize that's what he was using me for, I got upset and asked where my friend was, why we didn't hang out anymore. And I got dropped on my ass.

Something is going to change there to make the dynamic you guys have stop being the dynamic you have now, and you need to be ready for it. I know you said you "can't", but you can. You really can. And if you are the one that sets boundaries, that puts your foot down, then you will be in control of how it goes even if it hurts. But if you let him be the one to steer that ship, it's going to hurt so much worse, because either he will continue to use you for your affections but never give you want you want, or he will drop you as soon as someone comes along that he is attracted to.


@Scandyhoovian Serious question: Why do you think he's using her for her affections, rather than, I don't know, just enjoying being friends with her?


@Emby Because you know when someone's in love with you, and it's Not Nice to continue to let them love you and perform loving acts for you if you are not in love with them. A real friend would enforce the boundaries that the other person can't. Talking to someone who is in love with you (and has told you so!) for an hour a day is not enforcing appropriate boundaries and is definitely taking advantage of them. I don't buy that he actually thinks she's over it one bit.


@Emby The way the LW described their friendship in her letter, the calling every day, the spending their full weekends together, the "everything but the sexy bits" description -- it kind of does sound like he's using her as an emotional girlfriend. I will admit, though, that my own experience with such a thing likely clouds my judgment on this.

Also, what @pterodactgirl said.


@pterodactgirl What does the enforcing of those boundaries look like, though? "No, I don't think I can go to that event with you. Because, you know... Wouldn't be a good idea." To me, that sounds way more assholeish.

I don't know, maybe I'm in the wrong here—from sheer comment volume, it would appear that way—but I think it's entirely possible he thinks the relationship has evolved into a great friendship and they're equally getting platonic satisfaction from it. I don't see it as his responsibility to constantly remind her that he sees her as nothing but a friend.

Super Nintendo Chalmers

@pterodactgirl I'd second this. I really don't like the narrative that men are just hapless idiots, especially as it relates to interpersonal relationships. And it may be that he feels awkward about bringing it up! Hell, when I've been in a similar sitiation where it was clear that a guy friend had some Feelings he was not talking about, I mostly just tried to make myself a little less available and kind of hoped it would go away (oh, college). But, obviously, the situation is untenable.


@Emby I really think though that if person A confesses love for person B and person B says, "I don't feel the same way," at that point person B is very aware that the way they currently maintain that relationship has led person A to believe moving forward romantically is a viable option. So to hear that and not do anything to change at all the way the relationship is working sends a bit of a mixed signal.

I fully understand that a lot of people want to take that confession of love and put it away and forget it ever happened and "go back to the way things were," but the truth of the matter is that once it's out there, going back becomes incredibly hard to do.


@Emby Because he wouldn't ask his other friends to pick up his dry-cleaning? (Honestly wtf is up with that? It's tantamount to laundry doing and I don't even do that for the men I am dating.)


@Emby Not knowing the particular dynamics of their relationship makes it tricky. It's possible that she's been so game in being his friend that he has no idea that she's secretly nursing feelings for him. It's equally possible he kind of/sort of knows and is selfishly enjoying the extra little buzz that can give to a relationship.

If he does kind of know, then, yeah, it'd be patronizing to establish her boundaries for her. But I think there are subtle things he could do to help.

Example: I once had a platonic male friend who I learned was harboring feelings for me. After I found this out, I thought about our relationship a bit and realized that I was doing some things that were muddying the waters. Like, I'd noticed that he never seemed interested in talking about my husband. I'd kind of self-censored because I thought friend was bored/annoyed about the smug married talk. But once I learned that he had feelings, I knew I needed to stop with the self-censoring because I was giving the impression that my husband wasn't the huge, happy part of my life that he really is. TL;DR, I think the friend might be doing something kind of like that.


@Emby I think this enforcement thing is a good point. Giving this guy the benefit of the doubt, he cares for LW on some level. Is he supposed to say "I don't think you can handle this level of interaction with me" ? That's a pretty jerky move.

But this situation can't last forever and LW is almost surely going to be the one hurt. Whether he enforces some boundaries or she makes herself break off contact or he gets a girlfriend or whatever. I've been in LW's position and it just sucks. Sorry LW! Almost unavoidable suckitude coming your way, stock up on your favorite booze now.


@cminor To me, that doesn't sound that different to me than a buddy who asks me to feed his cat and water his plants while he's on vacation. Maybe the dry-cleaners' schedule works better with her work schedule than his so it's just more convenient; who knows. But I'd absolutely ask one of my friends, male or female, to pick up my dry cleaning if for some reason I couldn't, and I'd do the same for them. It doesn't sound like it's a constant thing.


@Emby Well, it's hard, because you've come to rely on the friendship too. However, I fully believe that in a normal healthy relationship (one where the two of you are in other relationships to boot) you won't feel the same towards that person after their confession. If you really care about them you'll feel guilty and a responsibility to not lead them on further, and you will naturally put some distance between you. If you're using that person as an emotional bf/gf that will be hard for you, but if you don't want an actual relationship it's the right thing to do. Don't be a jerk and constantly remind them about it, or say you can't do things because of their feelings. Just talk less and about less personal things. Go out in groups instead of on things that are dates in all but name. Definitely stop talking on the phone every day. The only people I've ever talked to on the phone every day were parents or lovers, even if I was in denial about one of them being a lover for some portion of that time. Above all, realize that you have become that person's emotional bf/gf and that that isn't healthy for them--they may be your emotional bf/gf too, in which case that's a bad look for you if you don't want to date them. Give it some space. And even after you've done that and they seem fine and to have moved on, don't go back to treating them like your emotional SO. That's where the LW's "friend" is failing. He seems to have let the awkwardness blow over and then gone right back to treating her in the ways he KNOWS gave her an expectation they had a chance at a relationship. It's not all on him, sure, because even while he was/should have been following the steps I laid out above, (Because I know all!) she should have been distancing herself too and keeping a watch on her heart too. She shouldn't let herself be used, sure, but not letting yourself be used by someone you love is much more difficult than not using someone you (supposedly) care about.

So that was really long, and maybe I'm wrong, but I think that's how a relationship should look when one of the participants is in love and the other isn't and they're both trying to fix that situation. It's really shitty, and sometimes the relationship can't survive it, but it's still the right thing to do, and less shitty than letting someone love you and be your emotional support when you know you'll never give them what they really want.


@cminor Yeah...but I wondered about how those conversations go. If he's just calling up and asking, he's an entitled jerk.

BUT if she's volunteering ('happy to do it any time! I live right by there' etc.) or maybe even welcoming the chance to do "girlfriendy' things, then I'm not so sure. Not saying the LW is like this, but I've had some acquaintances who did all sorts of errands for unavailable men because they liked playing the wife/girlfriend role.


@Emby @Datalass Asking a close friend to do a favor here and there is no big deal, it's the foundation of friendship. And maybe I'm reading LW4's description totally wrong but this: "I sometimes pick up his dry cleaning and do other "girlfriend-y" things." to me implies routine.

I would feel different if it was apparent that they both did these kinds of things for each other. We can't make that judgement though, it's not part of the letter.


@highjump I have been thinking about this, and I think there is a role collision going on.

I said above, my BFF, among other things, is really good at gentle challenges to my fantasy-reality collisions. In a situation like the one LW describes, BFF would have said by now "honey, you are my friend. I care about you. You know that guy is never going to love you, right? I know you really well and I am not telling you what to do.* But I also know... you aren't being your usual sharp self on this. Are you okay with this friendship being like this forever? Will you be okay with a change if he has a girlfriend in the near future? I am just asking, I don't need you to give me an answer. You don't even need to answer for yourself, but I wanted to put that out there."

On the other hand, if it were the person of my interest that was responding "I don't think you could handle X" would make me really mad, because it IS patronizing. I would want him to go about his business and leave me to make up my own mind about what I can handle.**

Does dude-friend act as a BFF? Or does he act as the spurning would-be lovah?

LW is writing in, so clearly things AREN'T all OK. But she can't ask her BFF, because... he's the reason, too? Maybe she should ask him flat out what his deal is. There is no way of knowing what he thinks without asking.

"Dude-friend. I understand you will never fall in love with me. Given that, how do you feel about the time we spend together/ the way we spend it together/ what might happen if you meet someone, what might happen if I meet someone? It's just... I think this might be weird? Or is it fine and I need to quit over-thinking things?"

And let him answer. If they are that close, he should be able to articulate a response. Maybe that's all this scenario needs. Friends talk, right? They help us be our better selves and solve problems we can't solve on our own.

*People who are friends with me know I am stubborn. They are circumspect about this sort of thing.

** Personally, if I was dude-friend, I would adjust the circumstances, but I am not dude-friend, so you know. Whatever. Differences, they happen.


This dude is great, and this set of questions in particular has really driven home to me how utterly terrible I would be as an advice columnist. Faced with advising these LWs, I couldn't do much more than blink in sympathetic horror and ask if they wanted to come round to my house for a few beers or something. So, props, Dude.

Tuna Surprise

I'm with you. Maybe I'm just tired, but I want to organize a hug circle for these LWs. A giant outpouring of love to them all.


@Decca Yes - this Married Dude is very compassionate and sensible. I would be no use at all in these situations.

oh! valencia

Another thing for LW3: it's true that you don't have to decide this right now. You can be not-married for as long as you like, and it's true that weddings are always happier when all the parents and friends are in full support of the marriage. But if you are totally happy and secure with the relationship, and being married to this man is what will make you happiest, then you need to just NOT WORRY about what everyone else is thinking. It's your life, and you can't please everyone.

oh! valencia

Also, I guess, if you are writing to an advice column to ask whether or not you should get married, then maybe you aren't super-secure with the idea and then you probably shouldn't.
I don't think I ever asked anyone whether they thought my plan to get married was good or not, because I was so sure it was the right thing for me. I am not what you'd call an over-thinker, though. (quietly impulsive, hello.)

oh! valencia

@oh! valencia And now I look back at how I'm contradicting myself all over this thread and excuse it by saying, I'm a Libra, I always see both sides. I would be a terrible advice columnist as well.


LW3: I'm going to propose a thought experiment that may or may not be helpful. Ask yourself, "Why do I want to get married?"

Not "to this person," or "at this time." Just, "Why marriage?"

When you start coming up with reasons why, discard the "practical" ones that don't currently impact your life. (Kids, taxes.) Focus on the emotional ones and the practical ones that do currently impact your life. (To legalize your commitment, to have your relationship recognized by your community, to deepen your bond with your partner, for the symbolism of making your internal feelings public, to make your relationship more permanent, to prove to yourself that you can be selfless, to have a super fun party, to feel like a grown-up.*)

Then ask, "Why this person? Why now?"

Like I said, this may be of no use to you. But it was really helpful for me in sorting out what I wanted from marriage and why I wanted it, and why I wanted to marry my husband NOW, and not in three years. ("Now" for me meant mid/late 20s after a boringly average length of dating.) It was also useful in conversations with my husband about what we expected emotionally from marriage. That's a good conversation to have whether you get married at 22 or 28 or 52 or 90.

*Some of your reasons may not be very flattering to your sense of self, but be honest.

honey cowl

@TheclaAndTheSeals Yes.


@TheclaAndTheSeals Oh, and in case it wasn't obvious: I'm completely agnostic as to whether or not you should marry this person now. (Or in two years.) I've seen similar situations end both in unending bliss and complete disaster, and it's hard to predict which couples will go which way. Honestly, I think it's a small (big?) miracle that anybody successfully spends a lifetime with another person.

I feel very strongly about thinking about why you want to get married at all, though. We talk a lot about finding The Right Guy, and is this The Right Guy?, and not enough, Is this an institution I want to form my life around? What do I hope to gain from this?

(I'm very happily married, for the record.)


@TheclaAndTheSeals Man. My answer to "Why do you want to get married?" is "Because I want someone to love me even when I'm not Sparkly Champagne Bubbles and never, ever, EVER leave me".

As a child of divorce, you'd think I'd have gotten over THAT idea by now.

Thanks for your comment; it made me reflect!


But I will also tell you, not just as A Married Dude but A Re-Married Dude, that there is no The One Meant for Me. That's fairy tale stuff. What there can be is The One I Made It Work With. Maybe this is that guy. But that "only once in a lifetime" language makes me skeptical.

Word. I wish more people knew this. It would save a lot of heartbreak.


Before reading any further, I need to look up definition of insouciant.


Oh, LW1. A Dude's advice is good, but I think the "her or me" ultimatum is unnecessary, as your husband has clearly already chosen his mother.

I don't want to end my comment there, but agh, there's not much else I can say about that situation? I'm very sorry you're going through this, & it sucks (more than sucks, obviously) that even with the outline of supposedly agreed-upon dealbreakers you two drew up, this arrangement has failed miserably because of your husband's refusal to abide by them.


@fabel If he's grown up in a family where no one sets or maintains boundaries and there's endless drama (which sounds likely), he may not see asking her to move out as such a final thing. I think laying it out clearly with an ultimatum could still be useful.

But yeah, my money would be on him choosing his mother.

Harriet Welch

I am LW1 and just wanted to tell you that you are smart and touched on something that I didn't even get. The me going was a "Do this thing and calm down and then we will be 2gether4ever". That didn't really come across and seemed much more final to me. He was like "My dad and stepmom did stuff like this all the time". That's his benchmark for a healthy relationship. It wasn't as final to him because of this background.
Well done you.

Super Nintendo Chalmers

@RNL Yeah, I mean, I guess the extent to which it's purposeful "using" on the dude's part really depends on the person. Some people do have a platonic attachment style that FEELS like it shades more into the romantic side of things because they're just...really intense/touchy-feely/whatever. Only the LW can really address that in the case of this particular dude: how is he with his other friends? Is he only super, duper close with you?

But, all that is sort of window dressing on the actual problem, which is that, regardless of intent, it hurts you. It's filled you with questions and longing and, I don't know, the urge to run errands, and it is going to have to stop. That may mean totally disengaging for a period of time. It definitely means making yourself do things that AREN'T thinking about this dude. Take a class, volunteer on weekends, date other dudes and keep it really really casual.

Judith Slutler

@Super Nintendo Chalmers "regardless of intent, it hurts you" - exactly! It actually doesn't matter what the guy knows or doesn't know, or what he means to do or doesn't mean to do. The only thing that matters is what's healthy for her.


"We have the kind of deep, deep bond that only comes around once in a lifetime. [...]I'm 19 and he's 20."


Lily Rowan

@allofthewine The thing with that is that of course it's true for the LW! It has only come around once in her lifetime.


@allofthewine Sometimes I think that ladies should not be allowed to watch or read anything romantic until they are at least 25. How many of my friends would have been saved from overly serious teenage relationships if they had never seen Colin Firth swimming in that pond?


@blueblazes Conversely though, how many of your friends would have discovered the joys of masturbation if they'd never seen him in that wet, clingy linen?


@wee_ramekin I am thinking of one particular friend who thinks masturbation is gross and any touching before marriage is immoral. Mr. Darcy and his ilk have given her the impression that there are dashing young swains out there who will fall in love and marry her right away after encountering her at a few public ballrooms, as it were.

And now I am thinking of wicked puns involving Bingley's opulent balls (at his sister's request!) and the "quaint" balls one encounters in the country. So thanks for that.

Angry Panda

@blueblazes Seeing Colin Firth swimming in that pond is what saved me from overly serious teenage relationships. No one could ever measure up, you know? :-)


@blueblazes And going up and down the dance... I am trying to make "to be seen at plays and assemblies" dirty, too, but I can't quite pull it together...

Pocket Witch

I like this married dude. Especially the answer to #3, which I think manages to be gentle about saying "there are things you don't know yet" without being condescending. (Hi there, other advice-givers in my life! Stop telling me that I'll want kids someday.)

Of course, I'm biased. I'm 19 and freaked out that people my age are even thinking about marriage. I just really, really want some time to be a person with a life that's entirely my own.


@Pocket Witch That time in my life (the time to be a person with my own life that only I controlled) was the best thing I ever did for myself. Some people don't need it (my parents got engaged their sophomore year of college and married immediately after graduation and hit their 30 year wedding anniversary this summer), but I really did. And I mean, I REALLY REALLY did. I couldn't be happier with the year and a half that I swore off relationships (dating and sleeping around, fine. Feelings, not so much). I focused on living a life that I would be thrilled with if I never met somebody to spend it with.

TL;DR - do it. Go for it. Be that person for a year or two or ten. You won't regret it.


@Pocket Witch So I have a friend of a friend who was the youngest child in her family, and fit the stereotype of the spoiled baby. Her parents never made her doing anything when she was a kid (no chores, no summer jobs), her college was paid for, and she got married at 20 to a guy that she liked because he was blonde and well-muscled and his parents were rich. (Seriously, those were her criteria at the time.) Both she and her husband were still getting allowances from the parents to cover their living expenses.

So, fast forward to last year at 24. Mommy and Daddy finally cut off her allowance, leading to serious marital fights about money because neither of them had ever had to budget/make rent before, leading to divorce. Then, rather than getting a job and an apartment of her own and learning to live as an independent adult, she moved in with someone else before the divorce was even final and is basically a kept woman at this point.

To me it is just hard to fathom reaching 25 years old and literally never, once, having written a rent check. I am always floored by the life lessons she is still learning—cars need their oil changed, sometimes you have to call customer service, everyone pays taxes, sometimes you don't have enough money for All The Things...

I just think that being out of school and on your own for some amount of time is such an opportunity for personal growth, IT IS NOT TO BE MISSED.


@blueblazes My mother died this week. You have just described my father at the age of 62. THIS IS FUN.


@shadowkitty My condolences to your family. (I've also lost a parent, but I can only begin to imagine what you're going through.)


"...never let him (or anyone) use the word "logical" to try to convince you that their emotional reality matters more than yours."

I wish someone had told me this a very, very long time ago.


@minijen I didn't even catch that in the first reading of it--so great!


@minijen Right?! I am struggling with this right now (warring emotional realities) and hearing someone else say this really, really helps.

Dirty Hands

@minijen YEP, was about to paste this in order to glorify it better. SO TRUE. Also, people are responsible for their own happiness, and they don't have the right to drain yours and demand contentment at your expense. Didn't phrase that quite right...

Quinn A@twitter

Oh, LW1. I have nothing helpful to add to A Married Dude's advice, but I just want to hug you. I was making the most horrified face all through your letter.

LW3, as a person who is getting married with less support than she would like to have (not because my fiancee and I aren't fantastic together, but because neither set of parents are thrilled about the same-sex marriage thing): your wedding will be so much more fun to plan and execute if you have the support of your friends and parents. I think you can absolutely know that you've found the right person at your age, and I understand wanting to be married instead of just living together, but if you can avoid dealing with unsupportive loved ones by waiting a few more years, why not wait? Spend your time saving for a fabulous party and an amazing honeymoon, and then do the official stuff.


@Quinn A@twitter :( The Pintariat supports your marriage! It sucks that your parents are not behind you 100% but maybe they will get there on the day? when they see their baby girls as two beautiful brides.

Quinn A@twitter

@iceberg I hope so! My dad did seem genuinely touched when I asked if he'd like to walk me down the aisle, so I think he'll get there, at least.

Oh, squiggles

Congratulations on your upcoming wedding!

*seconding iceberg

Quinn A@twitter

@Absurd Bird Thank you!


@Quinn A@twitter yeah lady! i would be excited to creep on your wedding photos on my facebook anytime. (to be clear, that is what I do for all married fb friends. not suggesting you should actually link to them!).

Quinn A@twitter

@theotherginger That is probably the funniest reaction I have gotten to my impending nuptials. :D


Letter 4 reminded me of the time I coached a dude friend of mine through gently letting down his FWB (we'll call her Girl B) who wanted to be his GF. He had been in love with Girl A for many years, in an on-and-off relationship, and it was off when he moved to our city and struck up an FWB sitch with Girl B. Well, Girl B caught feelings, they hung out a lot because they were friends, and he slowly slid into this sort of defacto BF role for her, even more complicated by the fact that they were also having all the sex. UNTIL Girl A announces that she is coming to our city for a visit and can she stay with Dude. Well, Dude realizes that of course he is still in love with Girl A, and even if he can't make it work he can't keep stringing along Girl B. So we went out for a drink and I explained that no, you do not gush about how much you are still in love with Girl A, you simply explain to Girl B that you are sorry but you just don't have "those feelings" for her and that the current situation is holding her back from finding a Dude who will. Jesus Christ.

TL;DR - LW4, cut that shit out. No contact for a Looooong time, and find a dude who actually is attracted to you as well as loving you.


lw1: i agree with all of married dude's advice


she is his mother, and she has been fucking with his head as long as he's been alive. she knows EXACTLY what to say to him to make him do exactly what she wants, and who knows what kind of rubbish she's been telling him about you. so yes, again to all of MD's advice, but dealing with mentally ill parents is THE WORST and you musn't blame yourself for any of this.

your mil will not get better, and he needs to get to there himself. putting yourself bewteen them is a Bad Idea.


@LeafySeaDragon YES


@LeafySeaDragon This is exactly it. Crazy mothers know exactly what they need to do to manipulate their sons. If he doesn't already have the strength to stand up to her and tell her that you come first, then it's likely not going to happen (and I'm so sorry, b/c that's awful and I know it).

Ugh. Anyone want to start a "crazy mother-in-law" (like as in, actually mental, not "she always insists on washing the dishes after meals and I think she's trying to make me feel inadequate!" crazy) support group? It's a tough row to hoe, I tell you.


@jule_b_sorry Um, YES PLEASE.


@jule_b_sorry I would like to pre-emptively sign up Any Future Boyfriend for this group. My mom is a wackadoo. I watched Jane Fonda in "Monster In Law" with something akin to second-hand horror.

Emma Peel

LW3: You do have a deep, deep bond that only comes around once in a lifetime. Your first (serious) love isn't something you can replicate. The bond I had with my college and immediately post-college boyfriend is one I don't expect to ever have again, because I will never be able to be with someone quite the way I was when we were 21 and he was my best friend and my partner in crime. It didn't mean we were right for each other, and eventually we went our separate ways. I know I will have an entirely different and equally once-in-a-lifetime bond with, say, the man I eventually marry and raise children with.

I would leave the wedding until after graduation -- I think a year after graduation is probably right, but at least the summer after -- but I don't think you're doomed. You're going to change a lot between 19 and 22. You're going to change a lot between 22 and 30. And you're certainly going to change a lot between 30 and 55, but people seem not to talk about that one as much when you get married at an age considered more socially acceptable for college-educated folks...

@Emma Peel I wish people talked more about the 30-55 changes.

honey cowl

@Emma Peel Amen! I love this. I am not married, but I think part of marriage is changing with your partner and loving who they become.


@S. Elizabeth Yes! Let's talk about them here, now. Everybody tell me what I have to look forward to. I'm sick of hearing about my formative 20s.

Nicole Cliffe

I am loving my thirties. I was a hot mess until at least my mid-twenties.


@Nicole Cliffe Ditto! Thirty was one of my best years yet, and 31 is going pretty damn well, too. But some aspects of "who I am" have shifted quite a bit since I was 25. My priorities and goals have changed in some subtle but important ways - and while I was in my 20s, I didn't really think those would change at all as I entered my thirties. And I say that as somebody who is neither married nor a mother at this point - so those changing priorities are not related to a husband or a kid who have entered the equation (surely those would make the difference a bit less subtle).
But I'm also a hell of a lot cooler than I expected myself to be at 31, which is a neat bonus. Even when you're 28, 31 sounds *OLD*, and then when you're actually 31, you find yourself thinking, "Hey, this is actually pretty awesome!" And I now understand that changes will continue as I move through life. You're always a work-in-progress, which you can either take as being depressing or liberating news.


@Nicole Cliffe Did you KNOW you were a hot mess, or did you figure it out in retrospect? I am not sure if I, at almost-27, am (or up-until-recently-was) a hot mess.

Nicole Cliffe

I definitely know it now, and I think I 30% knew it then.

@HeyThatsMyBike I was totally a hot mess until about a year ago. Hot Mess, right here.

oh! valencia

@S. Elizabeth Word. It's not like once you turn 30 you just stop growing and "who-you-are" is set in stone. Crazy transitional times happen all throughout life, and your age doesn't definitively determine how you are going to react to them.

baked bean

@oh! valencia When I was younger I thought that someday I'd hit a point where I could look back two years and not think I was an idiot. Haven't gotten there, and I don't think it'll ever happen.

I've been with my boyfriend 2.5 yrs now, and it's weird to think how different we both were when we met. But I like him better now and I like me better now. I suppose as long as that keeps up that'd be good. But either of us could change in a way the other doesn't like.

I also have a best friend I met in preschool, and I like her a lot still even though she's changed a whole bunch in the past couple of years, let alone in the past 18. I've had other friends that changed, or I changed, and we drifted apart because of it. I think as long as we're still influencing each other's changes and they're good changes and not destructive ones, that's important, and probably why we're still together.

Litebrite Idea

@oh! valencia Yes, from having watched so many radical life changes people made 30ish +. Such as hippie chick becomes corporate CEO. Or corporate guy becomes hipster social activist. Or the wild people who sober up and become sage elders and have completely different relationships with their youngest child than the crazy one with their oldest.

My own late 30s crazy transitional time seemed to push me into a few situations that seemed oh so like my late teens crazy transitonal time (when yeah I knew I was a mess, but not so sure I was a hot one lol!) to a strange degree...But wow, happy for the life experience that helped me identify crappy stuff, step outside of it and see what was going on and set boundaries and make changes so much more quickly.


@oh! valencia Word... my mater at 40 and my mater at 50 are two very, very different women. And my mater at 70, near retirement. She is a badass mom. But she's been different badass moms all along the way.


oh a couple I know that got married when she was super young (18 I think) and he not much older, got divorced within 5 years. he lives in the woods or something with a wife & a baby, and she's a traveling rock singer. yeah they drifted SUPRER hard away from each other. the early twenties are your formative years and it is VERY likely you will not be the same at the end.


@iceberg I totally agree. But it's hard to have that perspective on your life when you actually are 18/19. I don't even recognize (or want to recognize) who I was at that age and I'm not so far away from those years.

If you're so certain about each other, what's the harm in waiting, especially when there are actual harms in not waiting?


@iceberg My boyfriend from years 18-22 was a shy nerd who wanted kids and worked in the animal research lab at the university. We are both now 28, and he is a militant vegan, PETA activist and outspoken member of the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement. I'm so glad we didn't get married.


@MilesofMountains Haha, my boyfriend from years 15-20 was a Buddhist who loved poetry and Kurt Vonnegut. We would go on hikes together and talk about politics. We were both very liberal, and discovered a lot of great political theory & literature together - it was very formative for me. After we broke up, he joined the army, went to Afghanistan, and came back a George Bush-lovin' anti-Islamist cynical jackass who thinks "non-PC" statements are the epitome of humor. How he turned into that from the sensitive Buddhist I knew is anyone's guess...but I'm pretty glad we didn't get married.

Let's all talk about boyfriends that changed!

dj pomegranate

@jule_b_sorry I HAVE ONE! I met my First Love on a summer trip abroad when we I was 17 and he was 16. We both came from conservative Christian backgrounds, we liked the same music (cliche but it's truuuue), we had similar ideas about everything "important" (religion, gender roles, hobbies, where we'd like to travel...) I went to college, pined for him for like two years (although it felt like TEN MILLION YEARS) because obviously we were meant to be together forevvvvverrrrr. He met someone else, broke it off gently but firmly, and we went our separate ways.

A few years ago I found him on Facebook. He now lives on an off-the-grid ranch in the middle of Montana, subscribes to Tea Party politics, and has a child with a Biblical name. I live in NYC, have happily and thoroughly turned into a liberal feminist, and am not so sure about whether the "Christian" label still applies to me.

Pretty glad that didn't work out.

(ETA: To be fair, I realize I'm the one who changed the most in this story...)


@dj pomegranate Phew - sounds like you dodged a bullet!

dj pomegranate

@jule_b_sorry I like to think both of us did! (We are both happily married to very good people. Thankfully, not each other.)


@dj pomegranate My college and immediately post college boyfriend is a wonderful guy, but he went from somebody ambitious with major goals and drive to somebody who only wanted to have fun, where I went from somebody that was content to coast to someone who was busting my butt at work to be the best and to really try to get promoted. I got frustrated feeling like I was dragging him along and he resented me trying to make him into (what I felt was) a more productive person. We're great friends now and talk every day, but I think we're both very, very grateful we didn't end up together.


@iceberg Love the Boyfriends That Changed thread!

Mid 20s, both of us. Thought he was The One, we dated 6 months, were talking marriage. One day, he said he Needed Space. Oh, I was so sad. So very sad. Because Space meant Forever Breakup.

Fast forward about a decade: I went back to grad school, have an amazing, kick-booty new career that I adore in DC. Travel lots; just really love my life and who I am.

A few years ago, I found out that my Ex had, after our breakup, within the span of 2 years:

- grown weed in his parents' basement to sell it
- found Jesus; renounced the drugz and the booze and the everything
- found a girl in the same place he found Jesus
- got married to said girl in a very Jesus-y wedding (no alcohol or music)
- had babies with Jesus girl

Until I found out, I'd always had a Pang, like, oh, what could have been...? But when I got this info, I felt like (and this is a super cliche but oh so true!) I'd dodged a bullet. At the time I was dating him, I was super floundering around. Post-college, lackluster jobs, had applied to some grad programs, gotten rejected... no wonder talking marriage to this dude felt right - I really had little else going for me. And had I stuck with him, I'd either be divorced with a couple of kids, or stuck in a miserable marriage somewhere in the Chicago burbs, which is where he lives. /shudder/

Today, I'm still single, but dating casually (DC is a terrrrrrrrible dating town). But Oh Em Gee, I'd never, ever ever trade my life right now for being with him. Whew!


@MilesofMountains Voluntary Human Extinction Movement? I am not going to google that, because I just don't need to know, right? But is that a thing? Do they have a charismatic leader?


@iceberg My boyfriend in university was a card-carrying member of the Conservative Party of Canada when we got together, and after 4 years was an outspoken feminist-socialist-liberal fella who loved Cuba.

We broke up, but I really feel like I did the world a service. He's a high school teacher now, and I bet he's instilling those kids with good values and critical thinking skills. Not, you know, cleaning up after his goddamn self skills, but that's not my problem anymore thank the universe!


@iceberg I married my college sweetheart (engaged at 21, married at 22) and by 25 we were divorced. He slept with my co-worker (who I thought was one of my closest friends), but it wasn't great before I found that out either, it was just the last straw.

He was the big man on campus, super popular, always the center of attention, etc. He's still trying to be that person but he's in his early 30s and all his friends are married with kids and it's kind of sad.

Also, the woman he cheated on me with stole his dog. I feel bad for the dog, but karma.


Oh LW4, I have all the empathy in the world for you. He is never going to love you the way you deserve, honey. He gets everything he wants from you--emotional support, adoration, errands. What do you get? There are other friends for you and there's a man out there who is going to love you for the wonderful person you are, and who will see you for the beautiful woman you are. Let go so you can reach for something better.


L1 and L2:
The people in your life are sick. Mental illness is just as involuntary, and just as damaging, as physical illness. And sick people need love and help and support. That goes without saying.
But you need those things too. Becoming a martyr to someone else's illness won't save them, but it could ruin you. Never forget that you have a responsibility to yourself (and LW2, to your children). If you have decided that you have had enough, then it is okay. Don't let anyone make you feel bad for choosing to take care of yourself.
FWIW, I have suffered from serious clinical depression (as have other close family members).


@gobblegirl Cannot give this enough thumbs up. This dude is pretty good, but THIS right here is the response both of those letter writers need to read. I hope they see this!


@skyslang I just think that our culture fetishizes the "supportive family" (usually female). If you "stand by your man" while he has cancer you're a saintly Florence Nightingale, but if it's difficult for you it doesn't make you the villain.
What if your husband had lung cancer. You support him, work with him through chemo...but he won't stop smoking. Yes it's an addiction, but no one should blame you if you decide to cut out because you don't want to go through it again. Mental illness is the same.


I might be the only one, but I can sort of relate to LW1's husband (though he seems to be acting like an asshole) - if someone asked me to choose between them and a parent (even if it made my life a disaster), I would probably choose my mum or dad. That said, I've never been in love enough to even consider marriage.


@gobblegirl you're not the only one! but a huge step (for me) in breaking free of the sick-parent-trap was realizing that a crippling NEED for my mother to love me was not the normal love between a parent and child.


@LeafySeaDragon But I have a very healthy relationship with my parents. It's simply that I love them very much. They're wonderful people who have taken care of me, and if they needed taking care of I would do it in a second.
This obviously sets my (hypothetical) situation apart from LW1's husband, because that whole situation sounds really unpleasant for everyone involved, and he's obviously not insisting she live with him because he thinks she's so fun to have around.
But let's just give him some credit for trying to be a good son, even if he's being a terrible husband.


@gobblegirl My therapist told me a story about a couple he saw in counseling - they came to him because she had a lot of family issues and he was having trouble adjusting to them. My therapist turned to her and asked, "Who is the most important person in your family?" She immediately said "My mom." He asked again. She looked confused, and repeated her answer. He looked pointedly at her husband, looked at her, and said, "No...who is the most important person in YOUR family?"

Eventually, she blushed and finally realized what he was saying.

It may sound crazy, but in healthy couples, you REALLY have to put each other first. You can love your parents, and if a family member needs help, a loving spouse should understand and accommodate and provide support. But when you're married, the most important person in your family is the other spouse. otherwise, it's just not going to work (at least, that's what my therapist says, and I think it makes sense).


@gobblegirl Also, if you have a healthy relationship with your parents, you may not understand how different the dynamic is with a mentally unwell parent. As LeafySeaDragon said, it changes from a healthy reciprocal parent-child relationship to unhealthy needs that can spiral into toxic territory very quickly. If the son hasn't built up the emotional reserves to distance himself emotionally from his mother's illness, there's not much the wife can do other than a) leave or b) get sucked into the crazy and likely be miserable as the least important person in her own house.


@jule_b_sorry I get that, obviously.


@gobblegirl Ok ok, sorry! Didn't mean to beat a dead horse - also not sure what comment you're replying to. :(

If I came off as patronizing though, I apologize - I have a lot of FEELINGS on the subject so I sort of go on about it.


@jule_b_sorry Hey gurl. I don't think you came off as patronizing at all. I appreciated the comments you made.

space opera

Hmm, as someone who is about to marry her high school sweetheart, I'm sympathetic to LW#3-- there is something awesome about basically growing up with the person that you will spend the rest of your life with, and it is HUGELY helpful to have a supportive partner when navigating those first weird post-college years. That said, I'm 24 and will be 25 when I get married. I feel like waiting just one year would make a big difference for a lot of reasons, including the aforementioned lack of support. I can't imagine trying to plan a wedding (even a small one) my senior year of college. And without knowing what jobs you will both have, or if you'll even be able to stay in the same city? Aahh.
Also, this may just be me, but I've really liked spacing out my significant early-20s life events to give me time to appreciate each of them-- graduating high school, making a big cross-country move, moving in with my boyfriend, getting engaged, and eventually getting married. Don't cram it all into one year! It's exciting. You have the rest of your life to be married old people.


@space opera yeah Mr Iceberg and I were 21 when we met and 25 when we got married (and lived together for most of the engagement period).


@space opera My partner and I have been together since he was 18 (barely) and I was 19, and it is really nice entering adulthood together. I still find the thought of marriage scary, though (we are about to move in together; that's enough of a big step for now).

space opera

@space opera duh and by graduating "high school," i meant "college."

space opera

@Verity I am so excited for you! Moving in together made both of our day-to-day quality of life significantly better. It's been six months and I'm finally moving forward from the "look we are playing house! let's pretend to be grownups and pick out a side table!" to feeling completely comfortable and normal. Both are pretty cool.
Planning a wedding, it turns out, is less fun. If it was just pinning pictures of celebrity/television weddings then I'd be rocking it, but turns out you have to spend actual money and listen to people give you well-meaning advice that is in direct contradiction to whatever the last person said. Nothing wrong with waiting on that for a while.


@space opera Thanks! I'm looking forward to it. We lived in the same house for two years at university (and very near each other in our first year), so it's not going to be completely new, but actually having our own flat with just us is going to be strange. Nice, though.

Wedding planning sounds exhausting; you have my sympathies. But congratulations on the "getting married" part!


I am not LW4 but a few months ago I was where LW4 is now (except we did sleep together, so a little messier) and I did manage to fall out of love with her, but we're still friends and we see and talk to each other a lot. Some of my other friends have said I should cut her off completely, at least for a couple of months.There are factors that would make that difficult (work for the same organization, many shared friends) but the bottom line is I really don't want to. It looks like a lot of people on this thread have been in a LW4 situation. Did anyone get through it without cutting that person off completely?


@highjump I haven't but my advice would be, no assumed dates (like, no automaticlaly hanging out friday nights or weekends or whatever and maybe no one-on-one for at least a while. Group situations probably ok? Just don't be in couple-type situations or act like a couple, because you aren't.


@highjump You kind of have to treat it like a habit you're trying to break.

Decide on limits that won't disrupt your work/social lives too badly, pay attention to what you're doing, and stick to them. Like, if you're always texting them, limit yourself to one text per day. If they're your go-to for work stuff, make a point of seeing if you can sub in another coworker. If you're always doing stuff for each other, make a point of going to other people and bowing out of stuff they ask you to do.

Actually recording what you're going to do and where you're at with that would probably help. You want to dial it back to normal friendship-levels from the near-dating levels it's at, but something like that is kind of like a gas, expanding to fill available space. It's easy to lose track of how deep you are when you're in it, which is why people recommend a clean break for a while. If you don't go that route, you have to be more aggressive about policing your own behavior to get where you want to go.

Briony Fields

My jaw dropped while reading LW1's letter.
LW1, I am so, so sorry you had to go through this. Everything about that situation is TERRIBLE. The image of someone crying in the airport after having been kicked out of her home is the saddest.

Your husband is either a) not a good dude, or b) deep under his mother's spell. Either way, it's not healthy for you and you can't fix or stop it. AMD's advice was spot on. I hope you find some good and safe space to be and clear your head for a while.


@Briony Fields Yeah, that was actually one of the saddest letters I've ever seen in an advice column. LW1, I'm not a hugger but I would have hugged you at the airport! I hope you're feeling the love from 'Pinners right now.

I don't know whether your husband is an asshole, or is so deeply traumatized from growing up with his mother's illness that he can't tell which way is up anymore. (Could be both.) Either way, his mom will not get better, and if this is the way he treats you when the chips are down...I'm sorry to sound so heartless, but it's probably better that you found out now.

The whole point of being in a relationship with someone (well, not the whole point, but a big part of it) is knowing that your partner has your back, and your husband doesn't have yours. I'm really sorry for everything you've been through, but it doesn't sound like your marriage is salvageable. This is such a tough situation. I wish you luck.


My heart breaks for the letter writers. But I have to say, advice-wise, this killed it. This married dude is incredible. I'm jealous of his real life friends.

dj pomegranate

@bodinea I know, I'm imagining this Dude holding court at his local pub. "Oh! Married Dude is here! I've been meaning to ask him about this situation with my girlfriend..."


I know there are several young-marriage advocates around here, and that's fine. I'm truly, genuinely glad it worked out for them.

But people gave me the same advice as A Married Dude when I was 20, and I wish I had listened. Seven years later, I'm still married to my husband. I still love him (I'm pretty sure?). But it has been hard. Really, really hard. Maybe not worth it, hard.

We've both changed so much, him especially. There are very many things on both ends that if they had come out while we were dating, they would been deal breakers. And it's not that we didn't have the important conversations. We did, several times. We honestly thought that we were going into it with our eyes wide open. But like AMD said, there are things that most (perhaps not all, I'll concede that) people can't know or understand at that age or place in life.

If she thinks they'll be okay because they've planned it out, they've found "the one" and why not?, my advice is to wait. Wait until they've gone through both transitions AMD mentioned.

If they understand that things WILL change more than they can possibly anticipate, that things will be hard no matter the planning, that there will be times that one or both of them want to get out (Runaway Bride reference!), then I wish them good luck and a happy marriage.

oh! valencia

@ariandula Shoot! I'm sorry it has been so hard for you. I hope you and your husband can continue to work on your relationship and find some love and happiness in it.


@oh! valencia Thank you!

We're in therapy, and I think it's helping. AMD really resonated with me when he said to LW1: "The saddest, most awful moment in a marriage is when "good for me" and "good for us" point in opposite directions."

I'm hoping that we can turn those arrows enough to point in the same general direction.


@ariandula I couldn't comment on this (young engaged couple) when I first read it so here are my thoughts now.

Do not for the love of god get married so soon. Please please wait 2 years after you graduate.

(Everyone else is being very nice so I'm trying really hard not to yell this!)

Also where are all the people with disastrous first marriages? I work in an office with 6 other people. 1 is married to the father of her kids. 3 are on second marriages. 1 is a single mother. I have other friends who are on second marriages at the age of 30.

I also entertained the idea of marrying the boyfriend I had at age 18-21. By 19 I felt trapped. I let the relationship go on too long. No way should we have got married. I would have described that as an amazing connection at the time though and it was extremely hard to let go of the relationship.

You can actually break up with someone who you think is the love of your life, think you will never meet another person you can love and then months or years later love and feel a deep deep bond with someone else. You can even repeat this process.

You do NOT know what people are like until something very, very difficult happens to them or to you. One thing for you both to consider if you do (please do it) couples counselling is how you deal with low and high levels of stress. Also how you and they deal under high levels of stress when your major coping mechanisms or favourite distractions/activities are denied to them.

Stressful events that changed me at different ages:

Childhood friend passed away suddenly
New friend passed away from illness
Living overseas in crap conditions

I mean REALLY changed me, as in, I developed fears and lost other fears and parts of my personality changed. Different tastes in hobbies even, that were related to new priorities in life.

Please, please, give yourselves a chance to experience at least the difficulty of adjusting to working life without the added thought/pressure that you must be engaged.

Lily Rowan

I feel like not enough people have commented about LW1 and LW2, due to more people being able to relate to the others better. So:

You guys! Holy crap, both of those situations sound terrible, and the Married Dude is a good dude, and I hope you and your husbands can take care of yourselves and work it out, each and both of you.


Letter writer 4 perfectly describes my situation with my best friend in college. Young, impressionable freshman me meets impossibly cute RA at the dorm my first week of school and spends an intense, wonderful week doing basically nothing but hanging out with him, at the end of which I reveal my feelings and he says he doesn't feel the same way, but would like to stay friends. I agree, and we spend the next three years being best friends, going on trips together, sleeping in the same bed (!) - but with absolutely no hint of sex, being constantly mistaken for a couple while a succession of girlfriends come and go. Finally, it all comes to a head during a trip to DisneyWorld, of all places, where he has invited me to come along with him and his girlfriend. I have a nervous breakdown, realize I cannot emotionally do this anymore, and fly out in the middle of the night without telling him. Looking back, I realize that was a pretty shitty and immature thing to do, and I wish I had just him, but I was 21 and hurt and confused and I kind of had to just make the break. And until I lost my dad it was easily the worst emotional trauma I'd ever gone through, and to this day my friend is still the only person I've fallen in love with, and the closest thing I've had to an actual boyfriend. I don't doubt that I would still be in this weird quasi-relationship friendship with him fifteen years on if I hadn't left that night. Sometimes I kind of regret that loss.


@Dachelle@twitter Oh boy do I wish I could have a drink with you to discuss Important Shared Interests. You're not in DC, are you?


So I have a question somewhat based on LW1 for the general commentariat -- and it goes with what LW1 asked at the front of the letter.

At what point DOES your spouse trump your mother?

I've always kind of seen it as, your parents are super important in that they raised you and helped make you the person you are but that once you get married, your spouse becomes your #1, and your parents kind of move back a little in priority. I know it gets hard when love and emotions and family dynamics come into play and if you're lucky enough to have a great family dynamic it may never come down to you having to make a call based on the "me or them" dynamic presented in LW1's letter. But I kind of see it as once you are an adult and you can move on to build your own relationship and start your own family, the one that raised you has to come second after the one that you are building for yourself, so if the two come to clash, it's the one you're working on that trumps the one you grew up from.

oh! valencia

@Scandyhoovian Yep. That is how I see it too.


@Scandyhoovian in the widest sense of things i'd say 99% of the time spouse trumps parent.


@Scandyhoovian Terminal illness and no caregiver is the only time I can see parent trumping spouse.


@Scandyhoovian No marriage would work ever if people put their parents before their spouses. Can you imagine the sheer logistics of six people's needs having to be met within one marriage? And that's assuming you don't have step-parents, etc.
Spouse and kids come first. After you get married, that's your family. Your parents are adults. Of course I believe people who've maintained good relationships with their parents should help care for them in old age, etc. But no one should have to destroy their life or the life of their spouse to cover for their parents' mistakes.


@Mingus_Thurber Yes. End of life issues is the loophole I was also going to mention. Otherwise spouse over parent.


@annev6 the problem arises, though, when parents are no longer capable of taking care of themselves. This is a problem that I know I'll soon be facing. Suddenly, you're the parent, really. Of course, I'd never allow a parent to ruin a marriage. I'm the one who's left behind when the parent dies, after all. The job of a parent is not to ruin their child's life before they pass on to the great beyond. But if my spouse MADE me choose before I found a solution to my parent(s) situation, I'd have to separate from the spouse, at least for a while, and I think that would be fair enough.


@carolita Well, of course, if your spouse is forcing you to choose between a dying parent you love or them, simply because they don't want to deal with it, you married the wrong person. No one is saying differently.
If, as in the LW's situation, you have a mentally unbalanced or abusive parent who refuses to seek help and instead expects you to deal with it just because you're their kid, or if you have a parent who neglected/abused you until they decided they needed you to foot their medical bills/they didn't want to die alone, I think the obligation there is entirely optional. And if I were put in that situation, I would pick maintaining my own life over sacrificing it to enable someone who is mentally ill/abusive to me.

Children aren't insurance policies.


@annev6 I was only pointing out that when a parent, who is perhaps abusive due to mental illness (like my mom, who I've been able to turn my back on for a while, becomes helpless (not suddenly self-righteously demanding that you take care of them), and refuses to seek help, it's not an easy situation to be in. Even if you don't take your parent into your home, that parent is going to change your life, possibly poison it if you let them back in. So, what do you do? Do you turn your back on them, live your life, and let social services eventually find her? Or do you get involved, possibly to the detriment of your relationship. I know all my relationships have suffered when I've been in contact with my mother. It's not just about being forced to choose. It comes down to how to deal with a mentally ill person, and that's a whole bag of worms that almost no one knows how they'd face, until it happens to them. Yeah, I used to say, "My mother didn't give me life so that I'd allow her to ruin it one day." That steeled me for changing my number and staying away for nearly a decade. But the situation is changing into one where her children are the responsible ones and she isn't.


This might sound naive but I dont think that any one should trump anyone. Like if you had a bunch of kids you wouldnt say kid#4 trumps kid#1 as it's newer so why would that apply to other areas of your life when you add another person to the list of people you love?

It's difficult but you have to judge most situations as they come. For example the LW's case it's really hard as the m-i-l is in need but is also destructive. The husband needs to look after both the wife and his mother though it might be hard to get the balance right straight away.

I guess it depends on what you think of marriage. For example I always think of marriage as your family growing to include your new spouse and inlaws but other people consider it as you splitting off in to your own unit so I guess it depends on what works for you?



Sorry for the capslockiness, but I was in your exact situation at the beginning of my marriage. We managed to work it out--MIL went elsewhere, and I stayed--but it was just the start of a series of disasters.

Your husband was raised by this woman, and she installed the buttons, as my pal Meg says. You will never, ever, get clear of her nuttiness and its effects on him. Even after she dies, he'll be dealing with how crazy she was and how much of her craziness bled into his psyche.

Leave. Now. Start a new life away from a guy who learned nutjobbiness and manipulation and alienation from a pro, and be thankful you got out as soon as you did.

Your husband is an adult, as is your MIL. Adults should be able to prioritize. Your husband's solution, "you move out," is not prioritizing; it's just delaying pain. Go. Gogogogo GO.


@Mingus_Thurber "She installed the buttons" - love that line.
And yeah, if my live-in lover ever told me I had to leave my own home indefinitely I would consider that the beginning of the end. That's your home, too! That's where you LIVE! F that mess! F it!


@Mingus_Thurber I totally agree. LW1 should get out ASAP. It sounds like their issues are only about the mother-in-law insofar as the husband is allowing her to call the shots in his life. Her mental illnesses, in and of themselves, are not the problem in this relationship. His immaturity, his self-centeredness, and his disinterest in improving his relationship with his wife are what's causing the problem. Undoubtedly, MIL had a hand in creating all of these problems, but the MIL is not the problem. The husband's behavior and attitude are the problems, and unless there is some kind of dramatic change on his part, the marriage will never get better.


@Mingus_Thurber I nominate that we recommission Guantanamo as a reservation for all people who have experienced any sort of formative trauma, so that they may never subject innocent people to their damage


@Danzig! How about as a deep therapy camp or something? Because if we play by these rules, I am not here b/c of... several prior generations worth of trauma. I like being here.


@Danzig! yeah, that's a great idea. Imprisoning all survivors of trauma in Guantanamo Bay. Who do you want to send there first, the surivors of child sex abuse, or the domestic violence survivors?

Valley Girl

@rougemarie I am positive @Danzig! was using sarcasm to speak up for those very trauma survivors, but that's because I'm familiar with their commenter history. Without context I can see how maybe you'd miss the hyperbole :)


@Valley Girl Ya! I should use more "scare quotes" ( ._.)


@Countess Maritza ARE YOU ME? Seriously, I have made lots of great choices and I am really happy with them. But when things go well, I'm perplexed. Things should be shitty! I'm 24! It should be MESSY! It's not. It's happy and awesome and that's scarier than a year ago when shit was messy. I feel so weird when my life isn't in disarray.

Miss Maszkerádi

@Janestreet Heee! I often have these moments when I wonder just how boring, exactly, I'm going to be by the time I'm 30, because I'm 23 now and already completely uninterested in nightclubs (loud), any drug stronger than booze or weed (scary), one-night stands (emotionally bruising), partying allll niiiiiight (I have rehearsal in the morning, guys!) or listening to my friends and acquaintances wail for hours about their screwed up relationship situations that they themselves know exactly how to fix but have convinced themselves that they caaaaaan't (for fucks's sake, way too many people I know, grow up and grow a backbone.) Not to say that I'm completely on top of things or as independent (financially or otherwise) as I really wish I was by this point, but man, am I doing my 20s completely wrong? This is my one decade of getting a free pass on being a complete dissolute rake, why....why do I not want to? :-((((((( ;-)

@Countess Maritza Oh honey, it gets better! When I was 21, I graduated from college and taught high school and ... yeah. I was not partying. I was living in the middle of nowhere working at a prep school and a wild night was one glass of wine with a burger at the little bistro in town and going home by 9:30. I had my fair share of "I live in a CITY!" during my first and second years of law school, and now I'm back to my "netflix, wine, cuddling" saturday night routine.

But here's the thing: You will remain "boring" and your friends will also get a little bit boring, and you'll ALLLLLL be boring together, and you will make some other friends who are more your speed. OR alternately, everything could change, and you will have an Exciting Crazy Life as a late-20-something and find a bunch of people who will do that with you.

You're fine. It's all okay!

Miss Maszkerádi

@S. Elizabeth I feel like as soon as I am gainfully employed enough, I might go a little hedonistic. But it's going to be thirtysomething hedonism: forget shitty beer and noisy nightclubs and annoying man-children, hello wine tastings and boat trips down the Danube and genuinely smashing evening gowns + events to wear them to. :D

baked bean

@Janestreet @Countess Maritza Hey, you're not alone. I am like you. I used to beat myself up early in college because I wasn't having the "time of my life." I thought everything was downhill from here. And then I woke the fuck up and realized those people weren't my people, and that I'll never make myself like loud or crowded places or do anything scary ever. That that stuff isn't going to magically be fun for me.
Once I stopped worrying about that, I found my people that like to do the same "boring" things I do like eat good food and drink some nicer beer and sit around and enjoy each other's company and never have drama. I also feel much less pressure, now that I don't think I need to be at a party every weekend. I can actually enjoy watching a movie and crocheting a hat alone on a Saturday night instead of feeling like there was something wrong with me.
@S. Elizabeth, I can't wait until everyone gets boring later and wants to come to my house for dinner.


@Countess Maritza I'm 26 and I'm still not even close to kissing a girl! I ran a radio show and did interesting stuff for awhile but I am not interesting. Pass the courvoisier dudes (that's the expression, right?)


@Countess Maritza I am 24, and I think one of the most interesting things about the past couple of years has been learning it's okay to be boring. I was pretty boring in high school and always wanted more hedonistic, pretty hedonistic in college and got sick of it towards the end, and now I've got a stable job and relationship and a few good friendships and don't go out much, other than my friends' couches. Plus, an apartment in a part of town that's definitely not happenin', but is great for being affordable and giving me space to park my car. At first, when the college dust started to settle, I was made extremely nervous about this, and I felt like I was missing out on my youth by already acting like an old lady. I'm still calming down about it, and accepting that life changes constantly and as a person, I really like the stability, and might as well enjoy it for now.

My roommate's girlfriend is 25, and her social life hasn't really decreased since college, it's only become more expensive. Since dating my roommate, she's started staying in with him on weekends sometimes and what not. Recently she was telling me how it's so crazy to be doing that for her, because she's happy but feels a need to be out and about in the city "living her life". I was in my pajamas on a Saturday, reading on the couch, listening and being like "hahaha, oh honey child"

baked bean

@itiresias Yeah I like to ask my boyfriend all the time how he likes dating a senior citizen in a 22-year-old's body.
I think there are way more people like us than we think, they're just all at home in their pajamas too. And I think there are a lot of people forcing themselves to live a life like your roommate's girlfriend even if they don't enjoy it because that's what they're "supposed" to do.


@baked bean true that.


For me, LW2 problem feeds into the "people change" caution offered to LW3. LW3 sounds a lot more mature than I was at that age but I will say that the idea of an "un breakable bond that only comes around once in a lifetime" sounds eerily familiar to what I thought when I was that age. I went through a bad break up at 19 and a letter I would have written then would have included the phrase "the kind of deep heartbreak that only comes around once in a lifetime." I was so devastated that the very IDEA of ever moving on made me physically sick, to the point of actually vomiting. Now, I can't imagine even what we would talk about and I have since had my heartbroken in different ways, none as dramatic, but much more serious.

My point isn't that LW3 should or should not get married - do what's right for you! - but that you have no idea what may be in store. Look at letter 2 - seventeen years, two children and suddenly the person who has been there all along seems to be a stranger, and you're devastated at losing someone who still physically exists but mentally seems unreachable. So just.... Give it time. Things are going to change so much and I think going forward with that knowledge without the idea that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity but rather a choice you make because it feels right and you're prepared to work at it, will ultimately make the marriage (when you do marry) much stronger.


LW#1 - I rushed down here right away to say that I'm so sorry, and I feel your pain. My MIL also has severe and untreated lifelong mental illness, and it has definitely been a point of friction my relationship with my partner. Thankfully my guy was never open to her moving in with us, although I have struggled with his enduring tolerance of her abusive and destructive behavior. Since she's not going anywhere soon, we decided to go to a relationship therapist to work through how we have dealt/will deal with her, and it's been SO helpful. It's enabled my guy to better understand how his mom's behavior has affected him throughout his life and how to manage his myriad and ambivalent feelings about her, and it's helped me to better communicate my boundaries and disapproval. Our therapist has been wonderful in stressing that we need to deal with her with a united front, always keeping in mind what's best for us as a couple above all else. We still have awful moments of tension and conflict over her, but they're becoming fewer and farther between. If you decide that you want to reunite with your husband, you will have a difficult road to travel - please enlist the help of professional. Best of luck to you, and to hell with all the shitty moms and MILs of the world.


Girl, I don't even have time to do MY OWN dry cleaning. Check yourself.


I have conflicting feelings about LW 3. I come from a culture wherein getting married in the late teens and early twenties is totally normal and expected and supported by the community at large, and where it often works out in the long term (although I understand that this is increasingly changing as the culture falls more in line with regular American society, which makes me suspect that some of those long-term marriages were maybe not as happy as it was claimed they were).

I guess to me, the reasons why you want to get married make all the difference, and you don't really explain what those reasons are, other than your "deep bond." If you have complementary life goals and the mutual respect and communication skills to navigate the situation as those life goals change and evolve, then getting married in the semi-near future could potentially work out. If you like the idea of being married, if you think that having a wedding sounds fun, if you're interested in playing house, do not do it. Those are not reasons to get married.

If you do decide to get married, I strongly advise seeing a couples councilor before you make anything official. Talk everything out, from finances to kids to household tasks. Make sure you have answers for everything, and while those answers may be subject to change as your lives change, it's important to ensure that the basic trajectories of your lives are moving in the same direction.

It's important to remember that getting married is not like it is in the movies. It's not a blur of happily ever after. It's a grind, and it takes a ton of work.

Getting married to my partner is the best decision I have made up to this point, but sustaining a healthy marriage is not a walk in the park. He and I both have to constantly work to ensure that our relationship stays strong and healthy as we move forward in our lives. Make sure you know what you're getting into before you decide to get married. I'm not trying to scare you, but it's a serious decision to make.

dracula's ghost

young people are funny (to old people)

Miss Maszkerádi

@dracula's ghost We know, and sometimes it makes us kind of sad. :-/


Re: LW3:
Not going to comment on marriage at all, as I wouldn't know about it - but I do agree that people can change SIGNIFICANTLY after college. And later in life, of course, depending on life events - but I think adjusting to the "real world" is harder work than I was led to believe growing up, and it really tests most people. We thought we knew it all, watching every high school relationship dissolve in college - and it seemed obvious why they did. But I didn't expect almost everyone I know to change so drastically in the last two years (and, in the case of the two dudes closest to me - not for the better).


@pennylaner from my vantage point, it seems that life's stressors prompt a change about every five years, and some of those turn out to be major ones.

paper bag princess

LW3: If you are the first of your friends to get married, everybody will get way too drunk at your wedding. Also, nobody will be able to afford any nice presents. Just wanted to lay that out there.

Also I echo a lot of the others in encouraging you to wait until a year after graduation to get married; not necessarily because I think it wouldn't work, but it's just that ending college and entering the "real world" is super stressful, and navigating a new marriage at the same time just sounds like a lot to deal with at once. Settling into a daily life in the "real world" and then getting married after the initial shocks and changes just sounds easier. Good luck with whatever you decide, though!


@Weevil Not way too drunk if no one is 21 yet, right?


@adorable-eggplant HAAAAAHAHAAAHAAAHAHA um nope

Miss Maszkerádi

Another odd thought that popped into my head regarding this bit from LW3's answer:

But I will also tell you, not just as A Married Dude but A Re-Married Dude, that there is no The One Meant for Me. That's fairy tale stuff. What there can be is The One I Made It Work With. Maybe this is that guy. But that "only once in a lifetime" language makes me skeptical.

I get it, it's true, it's wise. But sometimes I wonder if it isn't possible to hear TOO much about how relationships are about "good enough" or "making it work," too much about how "marriage is a full time job" and "relationships are hard work."
Ugh, again, maybe this is just me being overthinky and hyperbolic, but I feel like I've heard such an overwhelming majority of that (and the "True love is just a fairy tale" school of thought) that I'm immensely cynical about love, have no idea why anyone would get married (my mom usually explained marriage to child-me as "two people who get along and live together and share chores." Romantic!), and honestly, found myself both getting into and staying-in-for-too-long some simply unhappy, unfulfilling and dysfunctional relationships because I had the idea that if I was excited about a guy it meant I was being unrealistic and naive, and staying in the bad relationship because after all, relationships are hard work and maybe I just wasn't working hard enough.

Sorry, this has been another typical Countess threadjack, just wondering if anyone else has thought this way too?

ETA: Holy Christ on roller skates, I sound like Hannah Horvath. Going to make another pot of brain-numbingly strong coffee now.

Miss Maszkerádi

@Countess Maritza blargh on the HTML fail, the quote was supposed to be italicized. Beginning with "But I will also tell you..." ending on "..makes me skeptical."

@Countess Maritza I get what you're saying, and sometimes I wonder about it, too. Sometimes I feel like I shouldn't be excited or passionate or whatever, because somehow after the "just dating/flirting/fucking" phase, it's somehow supposed to be this weirdly super-functional-above-all-else relationship that's egalitarian in its division of labor and super logical and ... ugh.

Miss Maszkerádi

@S. Elizabeth
Eight-year-old me: "Mom, how come you decided to marry Dad?"
Mom: "Well, because we love each other!"
Me: "What does that really mean?"
Mom: "...well, whichever one of us does the cooking, the other one does the dishes..."


@Countess Maritza

Mom, to fourteen-year-old me: "Don't marry for love, marry for money."

To be fair, she was one year out of a brutal divorce. But still. I used to be like "love wut?" and am still like "love forever wut?".

Miss Maszkerádi

@RNL I think my mom wanted to avoid accidentally warping me or embarrassing me or getting too much up in my private business on the subject of love, sex, marriage and everything related, so she basically just.....avoided the subject entirely. Still kind of does. It's......backfired, a little. "Me? Interested in boys? I don't think I'm old enough for that sort of thing yet, ummm...."


@Countess Maritza that " marriage is hard work" concept kept me in a relationship long past it's best-before date. We were engaged 3 years and looking back, I knew within a month that something was off. That concept is pure poison. Never settle.


@Countess Maritza I like to use the word "effort" to describe maintaining a relationship. "Work" sounds too extreme to me. When you're in a healthy relationship with the right person, it feels easy. Sure, there are rough patches, but it's not like you wake up every day with homework. If just being in a relationship with someone feels like work all the time, something's wrong.

baked bean

@Countess Maritza I think the point he was trying to make was that if this one doesn't work, there's plenty of more people that could be "the one," so don't hold on so hard to this one like it's the only one ever.


@Countess Maritza On the one hand it does seem like, objectively, it makes sense to emphasize the fact that relationships end, and loves fail, because they all do, if for no other reason than the fact of mortality (cheery thoughts). It's sort of a sad thing to think about but typically with helpless romantics,* you see a tendency to equate intimate relationships with personal fulfillment to such a degree that the end of a relationship can be spiritually destructive to an extreme degree.

I guess there's this sort of, uh, Keynesian reasoning in that you temper the highs of love by taking a fatalistic view of it, but by the same token you temper the lows of breakups and minimize that "my life is over and I have nothing left" feeling. You get a sense of yourself outside of your relationship so you can function and grow if it ceases to exist. That's the idea, I guess.

* A fraternity of which I am a member


@Countess Maritza Maybe this is too Pollyanna-ish, but my philosophy of love and marriage is that being with someone means you have someone just for you who's always in your corner, and that marriage is when you love someone so much that you want to be related to them. I also definitely think you can have this and not tie intimate relationships to personal fulfillment. I view my personal fulfillment (like, how I feel about my forward motion in the world) as totally separate from any relationship but I still really want to get married and have a family and would probably consider my life incomplete without that. I don't think there's anything wrong or too un-self-reliant-y about that. I also totally believe in "the one." That one is so easy to turn around - if you think someone is "the one" and then it doesn't work out, he wasn't actually "the one!" It's so obvious. :)


Um so LW2, you talk a lot about what YOU'RE doing to deal with hubby's depression, but what is HE doing? Is he seeing a psychiatrist? Is he on meds? Because from what I read it just seems like he's just...waiting for the depressive episodes to end. And like, that's not really how you get better, and if he IS seeing someone, I think he needs to see someone else, because what he's doing right now is not working.
I feel for you, it's really rough, ESPECIALLY if they're not really doing all they could be to get better and you're left doing everything. I am totally familiar with the resentment that causes, and ultimately it killed my relationship with my ex. I wish I could say that it gets better, but it doesn't really unless he wants to. (Mine didn't, and seemed to think that a change of location was what needed to change to make him happier, when really it was just him, and eventually I just didn't want to go with him anymore).


Hey, um, sort of tangential to #4... out of curiosity, how soon do you know it's time to give up hope? Is there a certain point at which "patiently waiting for a maybe to turn into a definite answer" becomes "pathetically waiting for a yes that isn't ever going to come"?


@Snowy If you made a play and got a "maybe," if it hasn't turned into a "yes" within a couple of weeks, you should probably act like it's not going to and try to move on. Start putting your energy into looking for better prospects. If they come around to yes in the meantime, great! If not, you're way less likely to feel resentful or like you've lost something because of them.


@Snowy I think the key here is the "patiently waiting" part - waiting is never gonna get you anywhere. You'll never get a YES... I think you need to ask yourself if you're avoiding pushing the question because not getting a yes is better than getting a definite no.


I love this MD. Not afraid of the deep waters.


I got serious whiplash from that second letter


Poor LW #1. Separating from that guy is likely the best thing that can happen to her. Some time decompressing at her mom's and pulling her life back together is the way to go.
BUT, since it seems the son has inherited his mom's mental iffy-ness, he's probably going to get tired dealing with the mess all on his own. He'll call her up and beg her to come back, with more promises. I hope she hangs up on him and has an attorney deliver the divorce papers ASAP.


Don't you love it when kids, as in LW3, say "we've been through a lot of stuff and been there for each other at difficult times in both our lives." At 19 and 20 years old? Compare to LW2, who really has been through "a lot of stuff."

oh! valencia

@carolita Yes. LW3 should read letters 1 and 2 and decide if she's up for ALL THAT. Because it's possible.


Living with inlaws are tough. Living with self destructive inlaws are insane.


Is this comment thread still being read? Because I would like to say that I was LW4 for six years, our relationship was word-for-word the same, and it COMPLETELY SUCKS. Respect your own desire more than that. GET OUT.

I'm your Ghost of Love Life Future, LW4, and guess what? Your future love life is really hard and terrible, because you're stuck in a situation where you're trying to get over your ex, but you can't tell anyone that, because your ex-boyfriend was NEVER YOUR BOYFRIEND. Or even your real friend. Because a good friend wouldn't encourage you to do this to yourself.

And just in case you're harboring any of the following thoughts: it's not secretly-sorta-romantic. It's not, you know, kind of like a movie, but a not a mainstream romantic movie, more like an indie type movie, like kind of twisted but also cute in a weird way, you know? NO. IT IS NOT. It's nothing. It's a non-relationship. Start working on your self-respect (you're wrong that this isn't a self-esteem thing; if your self-esteem were better you wouldn't think you belonged with someone who can't be bothered to "notice" or "label" how he feels about you), and STOP investing your energy into this guy.

I know other people have already said a lot of this stuff to LW4, but it's really hard to resist the impulse to try and yell at your past self.

Mr. Kitty

LW4: I went through something similar with my best guy friend, except that he was attracted to me and the mixed signals drove my analytical mind insane. It didn't help that outsiders thought we were together, or told me that he was just so obviously in love with me. The way he looked at me, they said! But alas, he was always in a relationship with someone other than me. Even though we had that one really intense make out session 5 years ago (that ended with him bolting out the door, apologizing), I accepted that were Just Friends. I found happiness with someone else and dated him for 3 years and he dated a nice gal for 4.

Well, both of our relationships unceremoniously ended last year around the summer time. He was angry about his dumping, I was going through the aftermath of domestic violence. We slept together, drunkenly in a pool, and helped each other get through a hard time. He was about to leave the country for a year, but I thought about what Might Could Be when he got back and if things had finally progressed between us. So I did the scariest, smartest, best thing I could possibly do and I just flat out asked him if he could ever eventually see us being in a relationship.

And he froze. He told me that he was so bitter about relationships, he couldn't imagine being in a relationship with ANYone. And so I got my answer. Finally, after 11 years of pining, I moved on. If my best friend wanted to be with me, he would be with me. It was a light-bulb moment (I had a lot of those that summer!) and suddenly everything was clear. He cannot even tell me that he might want to possibly date me A YEAR FROM NOW. Moving on is the best feeling in the entire world. That clarity.

Less than a month later, I met my boyfriend who, by the way, cannot fathom the idea that best guy friend did not want to be with me. Today, we went shopping for engagement rings. I'm dating a guy who wants to be with me so much that he wants to buy me an engagement ring.

The moral of this story is that you need to move on, and moving on takes closure. So either read between the lines and realize that if he wanted to be with you, he'd be with you, or simply ask him again. Tell him your feelings. If he doesn't emphatically say that he wants to be with you, that means he doesn't want to be with you. If it comes down to attraction, he never will. So please, talk to him and find that closure and open yourself up to relationships with men who are so excited to have you in their life. It's worth it, I promise.

Harriet Welch

LW1 here. Thanks for all of the internet hugs, love and support.
A Married Dude, your advice was very good.

As of now, I am booking my flight back home. By the time I was gone 12 hours my husband had to involuntarily commit my mother-in-law. He apologized for being hard on me and for putting me in an impossible situation and expecting me to deal with it.
We had another fight while I was gone and it ended with me explaining that I no longer felt safe living in a house with her and that he needed to figure out his priorities.
His mother called DCF (as she routinely threatened to do) and their investigation and some other things helped my husband realize that we just can't care for her any more.
He grew up in an environment where making decisions based on feelings=his mom. So he does the opposite. He has admitted that this was incorrect and apologized profusely. We have worked out a plan for if he mom is released (she is still currently being treated in an inpatient facility). She will go to a hotel until we can find her an apartment. My husband will go there on the way to and from work and have dinner with her once a week. Until something changes I won't have contact with her anymore (to protect me from further abuse allegations). So after about a week of love notes, sweet calls, the "threat" of cross country travel a la boom box in the yard, and the drawing up of new family priorities that place caring for ourselves and our marriage above all else, I am going home.
I know a lot of people were on the "Girl leave that man" train, and I certainly appreciate that. However, I'm making the opposite decision based on the knowledge of our marriage outside this incident. I'm not being all standing by my man. I'm agreeing to stand by the person who is agreeing to stand by me. We've both decided to do things that will make our marriage work better.
I'm going to do that thing and tell everyone that my husband really is a great guy. This isolated incident shows that he is a great son, but still learning to be a great husband. We've only been married a year. I'll give him some more time on the learning curve since he's showing so much willingness and progress.
I always wonder what ever happens with the Ask A _______ letter writer's. I thought other people might too.


@Harriet Welch I'm really glad to hear it ended up not being as dire as it seemed. For what it's worth, I think trying to work it out is the right choice (you know, given that I'm a stranger on the internet going from a letter and some comments, and have no idea). I know "go to therapy" is the cliche advice, but maybe it might be useful for him to see a therapist once and a while? This is probably not the only circumstance where his upbringing will make his reactions vary widely from yours, or times when his mother is tries to mess with his head. It might be useful for him to have someone to help reprogram those reactions, or at least someone to tell him "oh, hey, maaayyybe not the best idea" if he plans to do something like ask his wife to move out. One of my parents is the child of an alcoholic, and they have said repeatedly that being part of a support group for adult children of alcoholics helped them understand ways in which their approach to relationships was warped by their parents'.

Harriet Welch

Yeah, that is something that has been discussed and that we are looking into. We briefly saw a therapist when we were first married and are figuring out if she will fit the bill because we'll probably need to do a combo of individual and couple's therapy.
It's cliche advice because it is generally sound.


You may comment on the payment options of the blog. You could email it's powerhouse. Your blog dissection could escalate your supporters. boots for women

Elena Homson@facebook


I want to testify on how my ex husband come back come to me with the help
of dr ovia.my name is elena homson,i am from Russia.My husband and I been
through so many trials with family deaths and his illness, that changed
both of us. I became an unhappy and unappreciative wife. My husband left.
My relationship with the Lord was suffering. Him leaving was the worst
thing that ever happened to me. It woke me up. I started working with Dr
ovia as a stander. But little did I realize that Dr ovia was going to
reveal all the things in me that needed to change. helped me see the kind
of wife I'm supposed to be. and i started seeking the hand of Dr ovia to
change my heart and my husband's. I had to accept that I could not change
my husband, only Dr ovia can do that. I went to my husband and asked for
his forgiveness for all my shortcomings as a wife. I asked him to give me
another chance. He is now home with me and we are happy again with ours
reunion.thank you father for job well done in my life you can also reach
him via email address:oviatemplespellcaster@gmail.com, you can as well
contact him on his mobile line on +2349032500038

Drmuk Spell@facebook

I contacted Dr.muku of olokunspellcaster@gmail.com, because someone that I loved the most suddenly left me. I have always been the one that has been hurt. I knew that when I first met him, he was the one I have always been looking for. For some reason he's been holding on to the pain from a past relationship. Dr. muku of olokunspellcaster@gmail.com so far has been in contact with me every day and has decided that he will take my case. He told me that me and the guy was very well matched and she will help clear his mind from all the negativity. Thank you Dr. muku of olokunspellcaster@gmail.com Thank you for choosing my case. Thank you for giving me hope again. I'm looking forward for the spell to be cast and to be happy again. I have full faith in you and what you can do. Thank you.


Nice information, valuable and excellent design, as share good stuff with good ideas and concepts. www.bulksmsbase.com

Elena Homson@facebook

When my spouse left me, I deepened my relationship with Dr fadeyi and was doing all the preparation he ask me to do for the marriage restoration. I then realized that I was the prodigal, as I had left my first husband and had married another. I was given the opportunity by Dr fadeyi to be obedient. He took the obstacles out of the way. On last Sunday my loving husband proposed to me and on October 15, I was remarried to my true covenant spouse. Thank you so much Dr fadeyi for all you do to help restore all of us prodigals to the happiness this is email address:

Lawrence Jude@facebook

My life is back!!! After 8 years of marriage, my husband left me and left me with our three kids. I felt like my life was about to end, and was falling apart. I contacted Dr. fadeyi LOVE SPELL and after I explained my problem, In just 3 days my husband came back to us and show me and my kids much love and apologize for all the pain he have bring to the family. We solved our issues, and we are even happier more than ever before Dr. fadeyi you are the best spell caster. I really appreciate the love spell you cast for me to get the man back to my life i will keep sharing more testimonies to people about your good work. Thank you once again Dr. fadeyi. You can also contact Dr. fadeyi via email address: doctorfadeyitempleofspell@gmail.com in case you are in any problem you can contact this man for help he is always there in his temple to help you solve your problem Contact Email is: doctorfadeyitempleofspell@gmail.com CONTACT HIM TODAY VIA THIS EMAIL ADDRESS: doctorfadeyitempleofspell@gmail.com AS HIS POWERS ARE SO STRONG AND VERY EFFECTIVE AND HAS NO BAD EFFECT INSTEAD IT HAVE A VERY GOOD RESULT AFTER CASTING THE SPELL.

Dr. Fadeyi NUMBER: +2348109468820
Contact Dr. FADEYI Via email: doctorfadeyitempleofspell@gmail.com

Post a Comment

You must be logged-in to post a comment.

Login To Your Account