Archive for the 'marriage' Category


getting married in a hurry

Reader E. E. writes:

I have two friends who are eloping and it really bothers me. I just don’t think they’ve thought it through. She’s not pregnant (that I know of) and I just don’t think it’s wise to rush into a marriage, especially given the current divorce rate. How do I get them to think about it?

Dear E.E.:

By the time two people have announced they’re getting married, it’s far too late in the game to tell them they need to “think it over”. In fact, the more you tell them you don’t approve, the more likely they are to go through with it and just not invite you to the ceremony or the after party.

Telling someone you don’t think they should get married is just like telling a friend you don’t like their significant other — it’s going to drive a wedge between you. People who have decided to get married are every bit as headstrong as people who are dating, if not more so. If you are that certain that this elopement is going to completely ruin their lives and you’re willing to sacrifice your friendship over it, then by all means, tell them.

One ring to rule them all

Image: vichie81 /

If you were a parent or direct relation to the engaged parties, your say might have a little more weight. You could withhold inheritance money or something. And in fact, if it’s really that serious to you, saying you can’t be friends with them if they’re making this decision might sway them, although I doubt it.

I can understand your concern, of course. According to every statistic out there, our generation takes marriage about as seriously as we take reality TV (by which I mean, not at all). Britney Spears can do it in Vegas and get it annulled six hours later; gay people aren’t allowed to do it; half our friends and family members have gone through divorce, and it’s never easy or pretty, even if it’s mutual.

But don’t believe for a minute that eloping means they’re not taking marriage seriously or that they haven’t thought it through.

First of all, the fact that they’re not having a giant, stressful wedding could be a life saver for their relationship. We put a lot of pressure on people to make their wedding days the best days of their lives, and sometimes that’s a death knell.

Second, the length of an engagement is not a good gauge for a couple’s commitment level. We all know stories about people who met and got married within a week and are still together 50 years later. It’s not how long you’ve known each other that makes a marriage last; it’s how willing you are to work on staying together.

Third,  they’re adults, and you have to let them make their own decisions, whether it’s going to be a complete mistake or the best idea they’ve ever had.

Finally, try to take a step back and see if you feel like they shouldn’t married because you wouldn’t be ready in this situation, or because you really think they’re not ready. Your feelings on marriage are your own for your own reasons, and they’re perfectly valid, but remember: you’re not the one getting married. I think you will have a much better time with this if you ask your friends their reasons for getting married rather than telling them you think they’re too hasty, which comes across as judgmental. Talking with them about their reasons for such a quick wedding might actually put your mind at ease; just don’t plan on your input changing their minds at all.

My best advice: be happy for them. Whether they’re going to last together or not, they’re going to need your support and love, and that’s all there is to it.


ex’s wedding

Reader G. M. writes:

Last fall I got dumped by a guy who said he “wasn’t ready for commitment”. He got a new GF a few weeks after we broke up (he was probably dating her while he was with me, in fact). And I found out via Facebook today that they’re engaged now. Apparently the wedding’s next month. And I am going crazy. What should I do?

Dear G.M.:

First of all, get on Facebook this instant, head over to your ex’s page, and block him. Then, go over to his new GF’s page, and block her, too. Are any of your friends part of the wedding or talking about it? Block their status updates from your wall. Cut the entire scene out of your line of view. Most importantly: quit stalking your ex on Facebook. Do it now. Got it?

Next, you need to put this wedding in perspective.

Let’s start by having a hate fest on the ex. I don’t know you, and I don’t know the guy, but if he’s capable of telling you he wasn’t ready for commitment and then getting all up in a committed relationship pretty much right after he said that, then he’s a liar anyway and you don’t want him. There must be other things about him that are awful. Everyone has a bad side, and you just weren’t aware of his when you were dating. He’s a creep. He’s a jerk. He treated you poorly. He doesn’t deserve you.


Maybe there's a train a-comin'! Image: Rosen Georgiev /

Now let’s talk about reality a little bit. Maybe he broke up with you because he actually didn’t like you. Maybe he broke up with you because he honestly thought he couldn’t get committed. Maybe the new girl refuses to let him jerk her around like that. Or maybe she’s pregnant. Maybe she’s blackmailing him. Maybe their marriage will last three weeks.

But it doesn’t matter. He’s your ex. He’s outta’ the picture. You need to have enough self-respect to move on.

I know, it’s hard. You want to think about how great things would be between the two of you, and how he totally missed out on how great you are, or how he totally spurned you.

These are not healthy or productive lines of thinking. You feel bad. Okay, understandably. Feel bad. Own it. Admit it. Now quit feeding it.

The best thing you can do for yourself in this situation is distract yourself, rather than force yourself to rehash it over and over again. Bad feelings exist, yes, and they’re terrible, but they go away after time has passed. All you have to do is spend that time somehow (other than brooding over the bad feelings), and one morning you’ll wake up and realize you don’t remember this guy’s name.

So let’s set this rule: For the next week, you are allowed to think about this crappy boy once a day for five minutes. In those five minutes you must list at least three things about him that are pretty unbearable. Then you must leave wherever it is that you are and go for a walk. Or get some ice cream. Or call a friend who has serious troubles of her own (preferably someone who is facing a life-threatening illness, or has a family member who is, so you can talk about something important rather than wallowing in a lame ass ex). You should set a time for this to happen. At 12:55pm every day for the next week, you focus on how crappy he was. The rest of the day, if your brain turns to him, you must force yourself to change the subject.

After a week of this, you cut back to three minutes a day. After a week of that, you cut back to three minutes every other day. After a week of that, it’s one minute once a week.

With the rest of your time, you are to find a new hobby that does not involve stalking anyone on Facebook. I recommend collecting something, or becoming an expert in something, like gardening or sewing or French cooking. I also want you to enlist your friends on getting you out of your head. Go out. Have fun. Force yourself to do this. Hang out with people who are committed to you in non-romantic ways (these relationships tend to be more lasting and important in our lives, too, if you haven’t noticed). Focus on these things.

I hope you don’t know the date of the wedding, or where it’s going to happen. If you do, I hope you’ll be somewhere else doing something so fun you don’t even remember it’s going to happen. You should make plans now for that to be the case. I did write a blog about getting over it; that may be the best advice you could have right now.

But now that you’ve read this, why haven’t you blocked the two of them on Facebook already?


the modern mom dilemma

Reader J.S. writes:

I’m a highly educated woman who has a great career ahead of her, but I’m also pregnant with my first child. My office will give me three months of maternity leave, and then I could return to full-time work (but they have told me they can’t allow me to do a part-time gig). My husband makes a good amount of money, and I could stay home with the baby without a job if I wanted to. But I’m afraid of the repercussions of taking myself out of the workforce — I’ve heard getting back in is impossible. Still, the idea of staying home is really tempting. What do you think?

Dear J.S.:

Don't do this at work.

Probably not a good idea to bare your pregnant belly at work. Image: Louisa Stokes /

You’ve pretty much asked the quintessential question of the “post-feminist age”: if a woman has the means to stay home and raise her children, should she?

I think the bigger question is: how can a woman decide whether staying at home with her children or having an exciting career will be more fulfilling?

I’ve gotta’ throw a few elbows and point out how unfair it is that this is not a question for your husband. (Which is why I don’t believe we live in a “post-feminist age”.) In our current universe, he doesn’t have to wonder whether having children will interfere with his career. (In fact, having kids can actually make him look better to his employers.) It’s unfair.

I’m not going to hop on the biological debate train and say that it’s also unfair that he doesn’t have to gain 40 lbs and go through morning sickness, or that it’s unfair to him that he doesn’t get that automatic bonding with the child that you do since you carry the child in your womb. Biology is not something we have a choice in; our careers are.

Whether it’s biological for a woman to stay home and take care of the children or not (I mean, c’mon, we’ve only been working out of the home for the past 200 years or so), it’s a tough call. Yes, you are lucky that you have the resources that you can make this choice. Many moms can’t. But I don’t envy you the task of choosing.

I’m going to lay out a series of things for you to think about and let you make the choice, because there’s no way I can absolutely advise you one way or the other.

Getting back into a career is hard after you’ve taken a dozen years off.

You’re right — common wisdom says it is hard to get back on the career track once you’ve pulled yourself out of it. However, some people disagree that this is the case for various reasons. You may not be as tied to mommyhood once you make the choice to stay home as common wisdom says. I’d also like to point out that nobody knows what the world or economy will look like in 10 years or whenever you’re ready to get back into the workplace. You need to make your decision based on how you feel now, not based on what you think some employer is going to want to do with you in a decade’s time.

Maybe another employer would give you more flex time.

Not all employers are incapable of giving their employees part-time gigs. You could find another job, or, since you’re so educated, look into consultancy. You might not have to choose entirely between career and family. In fact, you and your husband might be able to find that ideal employer (that exists only in, like, Sweden) that allows families to split time between each other so that you could both choose who gets to stay home and play with baby and who gets to go in and work. This leads me to…

Your husband probably has more of an option in this than you or he think he does.

I’m guessing he has a right to some paternity leave, too. The family flex time option may be a pipe dream in most of America for a while. But maybe he could work part-time and take care of the kids for a few years himself. Maybe you could both work part-time. There are all kinds of interesting, flexible options in the modern workplace for parents. While it’s unfair that you have to choose between career and baby, it’s also unfair that your husband traditionally doesn’t even have the option presented to him. Why not give him a chance to stay home with the kids sometimes, too? Depending on what you’re willing to do, neither of you has to choose the traditional route that we sometimes feel cornered into, unless that traditional route is what you’re after.

How you feel when the baby happens may dictate what you do.

You haven’t had the kid yet. You don’t really know how you’re going to react to staying at home all day doing kid things. A career is not always just about getting yourself ahead — it’s also about having an outlet to have adult conversations and get out of the house. You may be one of those women who is totally capable of enjoying spit up, Disney lullabies, and not being allowed to cuss all day. Or you could be one of those ladies who needs a place to talk about nuclear weapons or politics or adult stuff. You may find that you fall absolutely in love with your baby’s face when he/she is born and never want to be away from it. Or you may find that you need a break from the screaming and your job is a great place for that. I can’t say.

What most progresses women’s needs around the world?

This may sound like a ridiculous question, but it’s something I think about personally. And what I’m going to tell you is that, in this case, this question should not factor into your decision. Whatever is best for you is best for the women of the world. That’s right: I’m giving you a feminist freebie. Nobody can dictate to any woman what is right or wrong in this case, so don’t worry about the weight of the world of women resting on your shoulders. Choosing to stay home and raise your children will not repeal women’s suffrage, and going back to work after having your child will not force other women into job slavery.

Talk to your friends, find a support blog, and figure out how you feel.

I’m sure you’ve got other women your age who are going through the same quandary. And there are plenty of mommy blogs on the interwebz for you to sift through. Find arguments that resonate with you and see which side of the debate they put you on.

If all else fails, get a pair of dice or draw straws out of a hat. Or have someone else decide for you. Sometimes when we have the decision laid out for us in an absolute manner, we can better see what option we really want.

Good luck. And congrats on the baby.


moving in

Reader D. M. writes:

I’ve been with my boyfriend for six months. His lease is coming up due in a few weeks and he has told me that if we get a lease together somewhere he won’t renew the lease and will instead live with me somewhere else. I live with my parents right now and would love to move out. Living with my BF would be easier than living alone (I can’t afford that) and way better than having roommates. But is it too soon for me to move in with him?

Dear D.M.:

Moving in with your BF/GF is a pretty common occurrence for our generation. In fact, according to the Wall Street Journal, fewer of those of us who are 25-34 are married than have never been married. “They” think it’s because of the economy, and we’re putting off marriage until we’re more stable. Whatever the reason, living with your SigO is apparently almost the norm these days.

That said… just because it’s perhaps a sound financial decision and “everybody else is doing it”,  I’m not saying you and your boyfriend should just jump in here. There’s a lot to consider about living with each other, especially if it’s the first time you’ve lived with a boyfriend.

The difference between having a roommate and living with a significant other has to do with how much you mix your stuff. Living with a BF means you (typically) sleep in the same bed, split the food bills, and mix your CD collections together. Whereas with a roommate you keep your own stuff in your own space (most of the time), living with a lover is a much more intimate relationship.

sharing a home

Image: Filomena Scalise /

And there’s also the consideration of what happens when/if you split up Breaking up with someone you live with is much more like a divorce than breaking up with someone who has his or her own space. Also, you don’t have the legal protections marriage provides if you just live with someone (although if you live together long enough, there’s common law to consider), so you’ll have to do your own mediating when it comes to splitting the stuff you owned mutually.

Also, I think when you live with someone you’re in a sexual relationship with, a lot of rules are thought to be implicit, whereas with a roommate, you’ll actually have conversations to set up rules and regulations. A lot of times in relationships, we take it for granted that the other person knows us well enough to understand what we need or want. This is rarely the truth. In this sense, living with your significant other can be a lot harder than living with a roommate.

I’m not sure if how long you’ve been together is an accurate gauge of whether or not it’s a good idea for you two to live together. We all know stories about people who have fallen in love in a flash and stuck with it, and people who have been together for decades still break up. It depends on your relationship.

There, then, is what you have to weigh. Regardless of how long you’ve been together, moving in with him will most likely prolong your relationship, because even if things go sour, it’s really difficult to break up with someone you live with. I have watched plenty of ladies stay in relationships with boys they weren’t necessarily in love with anymore just because it would be too inconvenient to move out.

In my eyes, if you have this kind of uncertainty about the move, you’re probably not ready to move in with him. Honestly, if you have to ask an advice columnist if it’s “too soon”… It’s probably too soon.

Why not find a roommate on Craigslist and try that for a while before you move in with your boyfriend?

And one final word: I don’t think moving in with a BF/GF is ever a good idea if you don’t feel capable of standing on your own two feet financially. You don’t ever want to be in a situation where you are relying on a significant other for your food, housing, or any other mainstays. It just makes the relationship that much more complicated. Trust me on this one.


xmas gifts for your mother-in-law

Reader N. K. asks:

Christmastime is coming, and I am in full gift-hunting mode. What do you get for the new mother-in-law you’ve only met a few times? She likes quilting and hunting — that’s all I’ve got. I am completely out of ideas here.

Dear N. K.:

Congrats on having a new mother-in-law, I think! That’s pretty exciting.

But other than that, I think the stress that comes with trying to find relatives gifts is pretty common over holidays. In our modern era, you spend even less time with in-laws and even first cousins than generations past, so it’s no wonder we hit Thanksgiving with no clue what to get people.

However, I am of the mind that a gift should reflect the giver as well as the recipient. So before you go trotting off to buy your new mom-in-law something you know nothing about, consider things that would make her think of you, too. Furthermore, you two have one more thing in common: your spouse is her off-spring. You might consider him (her? are you in Hawaii?) when you get the present, and I would definitely recommend getting his/her opinion or going in on a gift for her together.

I’m going to take you on a tour of what you could get and what each item would say about you and your relationship to mom-in-law.

In order of difficulty, from least to greatest:

A gift card to or Target or anywhere generic.

What it says: I don’t know you, I admit this, here’s some cash.

Why do it: Honestly, you don’t know her. And you won’t be getting her something she hates.

Why not do it: It could come across as lazy and careless.

Gift card or certificate to nearby quilting or gun store.

What it says: I kind of know you, like, enough to know that you like quilting and/or hunting, but not well enough to get you something too specific.

Why do it: Because I have never seen a gift certificate to a gun store before.

Why not do it: Once again, it could give off the “I really don’t care” vibe.

Empty boxes

I would not recommend giving empty boxes, even if they are pretty. Image: Francesco Marino /

A subscription to a hunting or quilting magazine.

What it says: I know your hobbies, and I’ve done a bit of research into what folks who do your hobbies probably read.

Why do it: Keep that magazine industry alive! Starving writers need their $20-per-article pay checks!

Why not do it: She may already have a subscription to every single hunting/quilting magazine that exists. Or she may hate reading.

Scented candle, bubble bath, bath set

What it says: I know you’re a girl, too, and while I don’t know that much about you, I know this is stuff that I, at least, would like to have. Also, I care greatly that you schedule some relaxation time.

Why do it: Everyone could use a scented candle or other bath accoutrement from time to time.

Why not do it: It can be generic. Also, what if she hates smelly stuff?

Quilting instrument you know every quilter needs

What it says: I know you love quilting!

Why do it: Every quilter needs this!

Why not do it: What if she already has it?

A gun.

What it says: I’m crazy.

Why do it: Shock value, only. Or to send a message to your mom-in-law that you MEAN BUSINESS.

Why not do it: I don’t think you can technically buy guns for other people, really.


a bit of romance

Reader J. S. writes:

This last weekend I celebrated my anniversary with my husband. He got me Pyrex. I was not pleased and I think he could tell. I don’t want to sound ungrateful, but is it too much for ask for a bit of romance on our anniversary?

Dear J.S.:

You poor, poor dear. Your husband is obviously a complete moron. What was he thinking?

Okay, I’m joking (mostly). He’s not a moron. He’s a dude. Unfortunately, sometimes this is just how their brains work. Let’s look at this another way:


That’s a prize unto itself, sugar pie.

all she really wants...

Sometimes you've got to spell it out for them. Image: luigi diamanti /

But this blog is not supposed to be male-bashing all the time, and I know what you really want me to do is give him tips on how anniversary presents are supposed to go… but I want to be fair to some extent, and at least talk about the matter of “expectations” and romance when it comes to the sexes.

If you had received this Pyrex as something he picked up at Wal-Mart on a normal Tuesday night because he was buying socks and he saw it and thought how much you’d been complaining about trying to bake in your old ceramics or something, this would be a sweet gesture. In fact, it would be an ideal gesture. It would be him showing you that he thought of you. In that instance, Pyrex is totally romantic. Romantic and practical – the perfect mix!

I know that on your anniversary, you want something that is impractical. Whimsical. Magical. Useless but beautiful. You want flowers that are going to die in a week. You want a piece of lingerie that you’ll only get to wear on super special occasions. Or earrings that are totally not reasonable for anything other than a trip to a Charity Gala in New York or fashion week in Paris. I’m a girl, too; I have these cravings, and I’m not even married. It’s romance. We want it. Especially when there’s a reason to be romantic.

In fact, I want them on non-romantic occasions, too. I want a guy to be so hung up on thinking of me that he just sees a dozen roses at the supermarket where he’s buying hamburgers and he can’t help but get them for me because they’re pretty, and I’m pretty. He’d get the Pyrex from Wal-Mart, too, but the roses would be more often. And the earrings. And the lingerie. Just anything pretty he saw that made him think of me. Which would be everything.

But more than likely, the one guy who would be willing to do that for me would also be a complete creep. Would you really want to date that guy? Let alone be married to him?

Or actually, he’d be a woman. And again I ask, do you want to date women? It’s a totally viable way to go, but you’ve got to be honest with yourself about it. I think if you’re married to a man, you’re probably not going to be dating the ladies anytime soon.

On a similar note, I’m almost thinking he could do no right in this situation, which is kind of terrifying. If he’d gotten you cheap daisies instead of nice roses, what then? Or what if he’d bought you the lingerie from Wal-Mart?! Noooo! Just how high are your romantic expectations in this case? Does he have to fly you to Rome for a week for it to be romantic?

I’m going to explain the situation this way: most guys think about love and romance differently than most girls. Apparently, guys see things as set in stone. If they’ve said “I Love You!” once, that’s it, you don’t need any re-affirmations, it’s all settled, and they can go back to watching football.

Girls, of course, don’t think that way.

I once heard someone put it thusly: A man gets married thinking the woman won’t change; a woman gets married hoping the man will change.

So while I understand your desires (again, I’m a girl, too), first off, you’re lucky as it is (in my opinion), and secondly, it’s probably not going to change. Is this going to ruin your relationship? Are you going to divorce him because he got you something practical for your anniversary? Nah, probably not. My best advice is tell him what you need (romance) directly (“Honey, I need you to buy me flowers on our anniversary, and in fact, whenever you see flowers, you should probably get them for me”). If he can’t figure it out from there, I’ll allow you to give him the moron tag.

Remember that he did a good job with the Pyrex, somehow. (Unless you never cook, in which case, you can also give him the moron tag.) The old adage is true: it’s the thought that counts. He thought of you. He thought of your anniversary. Ok, so he’s not batting 1000, but he’s also not a woman, and if he were, you probably wouldn’t be dating him.

So I am copping out and saying “be thankful for what you have”. If he’s a loving husband and you have a fine life together, fudging it on the romance once in a while ain’t so bad. If you’re not getting what you want, it’s your responsibility to tell him.

Of course, for all you guys out there, remember: buy a girl flowers (or whatever it is she likes, and you should know that) and she’ll eat out of your stupid moron hand. We want to know that you’re thinking about us. Even the stupidest seeming random gift can make us totally giddy in the middle of the week for no special occasion whatsoever. Spoil us once in a while. It ain’t hard. If you’re in a committed relationship (or you ever want to be) and you’ve never gotten her flowers (you can even pick one from the sidewalk), you are probably a moron. Just sayin’.


the great work spouse break up

Reader W. S. writes:

I know you’re not supposed to be romantically entangled with your “work spouse”, because they’re just a platonic friend you spend your time at work with. But I developed a pretty heavy crush on my work spouse and was even considering trying to pursue things with her. Sadly, there’s a rumor now that she’s dating someone else in the office, and I can’t handle it. I think I need to break the work spouse aspect off. How should I go about this?

Dear W.S.:

This is exactly why I maintain the “you can’t shit where you eat” logic and refuse to date or even get romantically interested in coworkers. It just hurts too damned much when things go awry. I feel for ya’, pardner. I’m real sorry you’re having to deal with this.

First off, I suppose I should explain to the readership at large a bit more about the work spouse dynamic.

From our friends at Wikipedia:

work spouse is a co-worker (usually of the opposite sex) with whom one shares a special relationship, having bonds similar to those of a marriage; such as, confidences, loyalties, shared experiences, and a degree of honesty or openness. The work spouse is a potentially key relationship when one’s actual spouse or boy/girlfriend is not able to be there. As people work more and more and spend less and less time at home, these hybrid relationships have begun to spawn more and more. This relationship can be threatened rather than enhanced if it ever becomes sexual.

work spouses

The couple that works together... works together... Image: br3akthru /

Basically, it’s the person you spend your lunch hours with, or the one that knows exactly why you’re out of the office today, or the one who takes the 4pm walk with you. Not everyone has a work spouse, and they’re not always of the opposite sex, and most importantly, the relationship is not romantic in nature.

So there’s the first problem. Basically, it sounds like you got put on the friend ladder. Which is exactly where work spouses go, anyway, but as I’ve said before, it’s really hard to get off the friend ladder and get onto the boyfriend ladder. So you were kind of doomed from the beginning.

Of course, you probably already know all this, and there’s no use crying over spilled milk, etc.

Breaking up the work spouse relationship is actually a lot harder than breaking up a romantic relationship, because you haven’t explicitly defined the relationship. It’s kind of like breaking up with a friend — usually, we just let it fade away, passively and with all due cowardice. I don’t advocate this way of handling things most of the time, but in the case of a working relationship, I think you have to handle things a little bit more cautiously than you would in a normal personal setting.

The first thing I’d do in your case is substantiate the rumor. Is it true that she’s dating someone else? Basically, you should find this out because I think you should quit torturing yourself. Whether it’s true or not, the work spouse relationship was ruined the minute you decided you liked her as more than friends. (Even if she had become your GF, the work spouse thing would have been over.) If it’s not true and she’s dating someone, say, outside the office, your feelings for her have already compromised the relationship in general. So you might as well know whether or not it’s really true.

I wouldn’t recommend asking her if the dating rumor is true. Ask someone else in the office to substantiate it. You probably don’t want her to know that you had a thing for her — that would be more awkward than is necessary, particularly in a work environment. Asking her if she’s dating someone else could tip your hand a bit too much. Unless, of course, you have the sort of relationship and feel comfortable sending her a simple inter-office IM, along the lines of, “So I heard you’re dating [fellow coworker]. Yeah?” Simple, friendly, non-accusatory.

Next up, gently, passively start to back out of your normal work spouse commitments, such as those regular lunches, tea time, coffee breaks, etc. Tell her you’re busy. Quit IMing her or emailing her as often. Just ease up on the regular conversation. She’ll either get the hint and back off herself, or she’ll call you out on it, in which case you can tell her you don’t feel comfortable with the relationship anymore and you need space. You do not have to tell her you’re head over heels and your heart is broken, etc. etc. Remember, you still work with her.

Finally, find someone new to focus your attention on. I don’t mean at work, although a new work spouse could be helpful. (Maybe one in the category of people to whom you are not attracted, so you don’t risk doing this a second time, eh?) What you should do is find someone new to have a crush on. Throw yourself into dating someone new (OUTSIDE THE OFFICE). And if you can’t find someone to date, at least fill your time thinking about something else. Get a new hobby, join a new sports team, hang out with your non-work friends who make you happy. Just get over it.

In time you will probably be at the point where you can be at least work friends again. However, it is really, really unlikely you’ll ever be at the point where you can be work spouses again.

Of course, there’s an alternative route to this whole story, and it is not one for sissies.

If you want to be really awesomely courageous and get mad points from me, you could just straight up tell her how you feel, regardless of what her answer is going to be or who else she’s dating. That will definitely break the spell, and possibly make things really, terribly awkward at work for a while. But sometimes you’re better off clearing the air than prancing around the bad smell.

And you never know. She might like you back. She could have just been avoiding the issue because she was afraid of ruining your work spouse relationship. Imagine how happy she’ll be in this case to know you’ve already ruined it!


ex etiquette part the third

Reader F. J. asks:

My ex-husband’s friends still contact me. For instance, one of them just friended me on Facebook. How should I handle this?

Dear F.J.:

As always, how you respond depends on a number of factors, which I will enumerate below:

  1. How long ago did y’all split up?
  2. How close were you to his friends?
  3. Are you still talking to him?
  4. How badly do you feel about the break-up?

Basically, if you split up a long time ago, and/or you liked his friends, there’s no reason not to be pals again. Especially if you’re not still aching from the break-up. Or if you were close friends with some of his friends before you split up, it’s not a big deal, either.

social network

It's a great big stupid world. Image: jscreationzs /

However, if it hasn’t really been that long, and/or you’re still talking to your ex, it may not be a bad idea to hold off on the friend drama altogether. I hate to say this, but maybe you need to consider your ex’s feelings. (Oh, I know, boys don’t have feelings, but let’s pretend!) If he’s going to be hurt that his friends are talking with you, or if there is any way it could be construed as “choosing sides”, maybe you should back off and tell the friend you can’t handle the Facebook stuff right now. Sometimes people feel like they have to choose sides, especially in a divorce, even if things were amicable. If this person is requesting your friendship on Facebook, they probably don’t feel this way, but there are all sorts of dominoes you could be setting off with your ex and his other friends, too. Tread carefully.

Also, if you’re going to be posting mean things about your ex on Facebook that could make these mutual friends uncomfortable, I’d say avoid having them as friends, or keep the privacy settings such that you won’t regret your angst later. Try to be the bigger person. Don’t you already have friends of your own?

If you’re already friends with your ex’s friends on Facebook, staying that way is completely up to your discretion. Something that’s great about Facebook is that you can keep in light contact with people you enjoy without having to put much effort or thought into it. And as long as your ex isn’t going through his friends list every day to see who hasn’t defriended you yet, you’re in the clear.

Again, do not use Facebook as a way to get back at your ex, hoping he sees every post you make on his friends’ pages. If that’s how you’re going to react, defriend them right now so you’re not tempted to do so.

It’s much easier if, say, your ex isn’t on Facebook at all. In that case, friend away!

Responding to real-life friend requests (do they still make IRL friendships?) is a case-by-case basis issue. If they want to hang out with you, and it’s not going to cause you to throw up your lunch because it reminds you of him, go ahead. Enjoyable company is always nice. I’d avoid romantic entanglements with the ex’s friends at all costs unless the divorce was a very long time ago. That’s just tacky.

And of course, how you feel is paramount here, because it’s the only thing you know for sure. If aforementioned throwing-up-of-lunch is ever an issue, the friend thing has already been decided for you: NO.


more ex-etiquette

Reader C. D. asks:

Is it appropriate to ask your friends not to tell you when they see your ex? It seems like there is such an inclination to say, “Hey! I saw (insert asshole’s name) at the bar on Saturday.” The truth is, I don’t want to know because then I start wondering, “Who was he with? Why was he out? Was he with a girl?” Or should I just accept that my friends will see my ex and will continue to tell me they saw him because we are in the same social circles?

Dear C.D.:

I think it is perfectly appropriate for you to ask your friends not to tell you when they see your ex.

However, they will probably forget that you’ve asked them and tell you anyway.

Part of being human is that we want to share stories that excite or titillate us. Seeing your ex is a piece of drama that may just be too irresistible to let go, especially if the person doing the seeing thinks your ex is an asshole, too.

I’ve heard it many times myself: “Oh ugh I just saw your horrendous asshole of an ex at some bar with his horrible new girlfriend!”

I don’t want to know he’s alive and well and has a new girlfriend, regardless of how ugly she is. If you see him in a terrible accident or being mauled by dogs, by all means, let me know. Otherwise, keep his happy goings-on to yourself, kthx.

Of course, I just smile and nod. “Yes, she must be horrible to date him, huh.” And we all laugh.

Even though it hurts to know he’s still living and breathing and capable of doing fun things, remember that your friends are just telling you because they care. When they see him out, they think of you, whether you like it or not. They want to tell you because it’s on the list of things they know you care about. Friends who really care about us are like living Google news feeds. They make lists of things they know we care about and then give us the news feed, whether it’s going to hurt our feelings or not.

I’ve had a similar problem with an ex and not wanting to hear or see anything about him, which is particularly difficult if you have some of the same Facebook friends. Nothing quite like going to post that you like someone’s status and seeing that your asshole ex already has. I don’t want to have my name on the same page as his. Why don’t my friends recognize this? How are they still friends with someone who was so clearly awful?

Image: Salvatore Vuono /

I know this is what you'd really like to do. Image: Salvatore Vuono /

But you can’t ask people to defriend others on Facebook, regardless of how much of an asshole said ex was to you and your family (and continues to be, for the record).  Just like you can’t ask your friends not to go to bars where your ex may show up.

So what I did was I blocked him. When you block someone on Facebook, you don’t see anything they post on other peoples’ pages, or anywhere on Facebook. Sometimes this can be quite funny, as when someone responds to something he’s written on one of their posts, and the response now looks like it was made to thin air. Thus I have made lemonade out of lemons. I have turned what was once a stomach-turning event of rehashing all the horrible things he’s done and continues to do into a funny scene, like watching a drunk bum talk to himself.

Of course, there is no “block” button in real life. And while you can tell your friends that it hurts your feelings to hear anything about him, you are going to have to steel yourself against the inevitable: they are going to see him and want to tell you about it. In fact, you may have to deal with actually seeing him yourself one day.

So let’s find you some lemonade punch to make. Maybe even a champagne punch with lemon zest.

Here’s how:

Be so fabulously happy in your own life that it doesn’t matter if he’s out with someone else. This takes time and practice and a straight face. Sometimes you have to act the part before you actually believe it. It will take time to stop caring about him. And you may never fully stop. But at some point there are going to be things that are more important. And that is what matters.

Start laughing if your friends tell you they’ve seen him out. Pretend they are drunk bums talking to themselves. Tell them you didn’t really want to know, but thanks for thinking of you. And laugh. If you can’t laugh about him or at him, laugh at how silly the situation is. Better yet, find something really funny that always makes you laugh, and laugh at that. Mine is a Strongbad Email from about writing a children’s book. If I need to break myself out of a mood, I simply say to myself: “No two people are not on fire.” Instant giggles.

And in time, the sting that he’s still out and about with all his limbs in tact hurts less because I’ve got my own life to live. And you do, too.

Of course, you could just dump all your friends and move to an exotic locale where no one knows you.

But that’s a bit over the top, don’t you think?



Reader K. Z. writes:

I just found out that my wife had has her own apartment for two months. She has even taken half the pots and pans and tried to hide it by saying they were “put away”. I just found out about this apartment and now she wants to get rid of it. She wants me to help her pay three months rent in advance so she can get out of the lease. Should I kick the bitch to the curb (or her apartment), let her stay at the house as long as she wants, or what? And what about paying for her to get out of the lease?

Dear K.Z.:

weighing the options

Image: jscreationzs /

Wow, she’s been hiding her own apartment from you?

That’s my initial reaction.

Here’s the deal:

I can understand the need for “my own space”. This is why I think two bedroom apartments are a great idea even for couples who love each other. Sometimes ya’ just gotta’ have your own space, even after you’re married. Carrie Bradshaw kept her apartment in “Sex and the City”, and obviously she’s the ruler against which all women should be measured, so…

(I’m kidding.)

However, the fact that she got this apartment after you were married and without telling you about it kinda’ cues me in that you two have problems.

Basically, what I think is that when a couple starts having huge secrets from each other, it’s over. Sure, you’ve got your little secrets in the back of your brain (that time you made Jimmy eat a worm on the playground in second grade, the pencils you stole from your first job when you were 19; you know, little secrets) that you may never have shared. But once secrets start being current rather than past, and once they reach a certain level of magnitude, the relationship has taken a turn it will probably not recover from.

“Kicking the bitch to the curb” might be a bit strong of a verb, but I would definitely look into a good counselor, and possibly a good divorce lawyer. The fact is, your wife got caught in her lie (about the pots and pans), and instead of owning up to her reasons for doing what she did, she renounced the whole arrangement. Obviously if she signed a lease long enough that she’d have to buy out of it, she wasn’t planning on relinquishing it anytime soon. And if she wants to give it up since you found out about it, either the thrill is gone from keeping the secret or she was using it for nefarious purposes.

And you’re probably not going to trust her ever again.

As far as what to do… it all depends on certain factors.

Are you willing to work on the marriage and at not keeping secrets from each other? It’s going to be a long, soul-searching journey, and for her part, the fact that she got an apartment might be a hint that  she has already given up on things. (I’m not sure what her reasons for having a second apartment are, and I’m not sure if you two already have some history of not communicating.)

Do you have the money to buy her out of the lease? If she’s been paying rent on it with her own money (which she has, or you would have noticed the drain on the mutual bank account pretty quickly), I think the financial responsibility lies entirely with her. Perhaps it will be less expensive just to let her keep it, even if it’s not going to be her primary residence. In fact, if you’re going to work on your marriage, she might be willing to let you use it once in a while, which could be nice if you have a big work project, or just need a night alone with the TV, or if the apartment complex has a really sweet pool.

You’re obviously rather upset, and it might be good for her to have her own place for a while as you work through things. I’d say keep the apartment for the time being. If you’re still together when the lease runs out and you want her back home, by all means, drop the apartment then and start over.

But for now, it sounds like she needs a haven anyway.

And it sounds like she’s got a lot of ‘splaining to do.

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