Posts Tagged ‘relationships


the half-age plus seven rule

Reader M. A. writes:

A friend of mine who is 40 is dating a girl who is 22. His friends (including myself) are all in our late 30s/early 40s, and while she’s pretty hot and smart, it still icks us out. Are we just a bunch of old fogies being jerks, or is he violating some rule by bringing this girl around?

Dear M.A.:

I’m going to state for the record that yes, you are an old fogey. And you may just be jealous that he can still score hot young chicks and you can’t. (Notice I’m not saying that women in their 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s can’t be smoking hot, please. ‘Cause I know plenty.)

But you’re also right. He is violating a rule. It’s not necessarily a rule he may know about, and there aren’t any laws about it, but it’s a pretty good rule I think many people follow, even unconsciously, as they decide who to date in life, and how not to be a creep.

So if we’re going to impose rules on our loving, then I guess the half-age plus seven rule is as good a rule to live by as any.

If you are incapable of clicking on that Wikipedia link, I’ll tell you the general premise:

It is acceptable to date anyone younger than you as long as they are no less than half your age plus seven years. On the flipside, it is acceptable for you to date anyone older than you as long as your age is at least half theirs plus seven years.

Make sense?


Yay math! Image:

So your friend is 40. According to our rule, his acceptable dating age range would be (40/2 + 7 =) 27 and older for the youngsters, and (40= x/2 + 7 (solve for x)…) 66 and younger for the older age of the spectrum. (Yes, I did have to pull out a sheet of paper and utilize my seventh grade algebra skills, so thanks, Mrs. Cook!)

Your friend is obviously dating someone who is five years too young for him, according to our rule. And if your friend believed in this rule, then you could ridicule him incessantly for breaking it.

According to this rule, your friend is a creep, and you guys have every right to be icked out by his relationship.

But if there’s one thing we all know we can’t control (maybe), it’s who we fall in love with. You can meet someone who’s practically perfect in every way on paper, and find there are no sparks off the page. And you can meet someone who is just clearly wrong for you and fall head over heels without warning. It’s all chemistry (plus good lighting and probably alcohol, in many cases), and there isn’t much anyone can do about it.

It’s possible he’s just dating this girl because she’s, ya’ know, hot. (The story goes that when Lauren Bacall started dating Humphrey Bogart, she was 19. He was 44. She told her mom, “He likes me! He really likes me!” And her mom said, “You’re 19. What’s not to like?”) In which case, it’ll fizzle out when she gets bored of his taste in music (“What, no Ke$ha?”) and he gets tired of her not getting his jokes. Possibly your teasing will help highlight to him the generational disparity in their tastes, and push the break up right along.

Or it’s possible they’re just one of those odd couples who are going to work out, regardless of generational differences or what the world thinks of them. In this case, you can make fun of your friend mercilessly, but that may just drive him closer to his newfound beloved. They may just start seeing themselves as a team — us against the world!

Like I’ve said before, you can’t tell someone who’s in love that you don’t like their beloved without endangering your friendship, so if he’s really sold on her, you’re just going to have to get used to it. Of course, if you think there’s anything to be concerned about (is he acting differently? dressing younger? not hanging out with his friends as much? doing things you don’t think he enjoys just to keep up with her?), let him know, even if it could mess up your friendship.

If this is just some weird crisis thing he’s going through (after a recent break up with a serious gf, perhaps? or a divorce? or the loss of a parent?), the whole relationship isn’t fair to the young lady, either. When a relationship isn’t right, sometimes we need our friends to pull us back to reality. He could use your help in this situation.

Otherwise, you could be a real pal and just watch as their relationship develops, and possibly get to know her. Maybe you’ll find she’s an old soul. And maybe you’ll get over the ick factor. If it’s meant to be, they’ll be together, whether you, the rules, or anything else likes it or not. And if it’s not meant to be, their relationship will end, possibly in a fireworks show, at which point you can thank them for the entertainment, at least.


the right gift for the new her

Reader Z. N. writes:

You talked about what to get your new mother-in-law for the holidays, but what about a new girlfriend? If you’ve only been dating a few weeks or months, what’s the expected gift from new boyfriend?

Dear Z.N.:

Expectations vary from girl to girl and from relationship to relationship. I don’t know your GF, so I can’t tell you if she’d prefer a book to a pair of earrings or bath salts.

a present!

Image: Francesco Marino /

There are other factors that go into what you get a lady for Christmas or Hanukkah beyond how long you’ve been together. For instance, how serious are you two? I know you said she’s your girlfriend, so I’m assuming you two have had the exclusivity talk at least. If you’ve only been “dating”, and aren’t exclusive, a nice card and a flower or special candy or something is probably fine. If you’ve only been hooking up, I don’t even know if I’d advise giving her that much. It depends on how much further you want the relationship to go. Giving someone a gift or card at the holidays means, “I care about you and want to continue getting to know you better.” Giving something to a hook-up could give a signal that you’re interested in more, so be careful with that.

Furthermore, if you guys were friends for a long time before you started dating, you might be more serious with each other than a girl you’ve just met. You probably also know a lot more about her, and buying a present should be that much easier for you.

While I can’t say for certain what your lady friend would like or what’s totally appropriate, I do have a few tips to steer you clear of asshole boyfriend territory:

Get her something. Anything.

I could say that if you’ve only been dating for a few weeks, she probably isn’t expecting anything for the holidays. But that would be a lie. Even if a girl says she doesn’t expect you to get her something for the holidays, and even if you’ve only been dating for a day, GET HER SOMETHING FOR THE HOLIDAYS. I don’t care if it’s a single rose from the gas station down the street or a box of wine, you give her SOMETHING. Same goes for birthdays. Otherwise, you’re that asshole boyfriend who couldn’t be bothered to get creative. Trust me on this one.

Don’t get her something you want.

Apparently guys do this all the time. It’s probably something you won’t have to worry about until later on in the relationship (i.e. when you’re actually living together), but it’s something you should check yourself for anyway. My major advice here: Avoid electronic equipment unless she has specifically asked for it. A pair of nice headphones? Okay, not a bad idea, especially if she’s been complaining that her earbuds are busted. A new Wii controller because you play Wii a lot at her place? Mehhhhh that’s not very personal. Even if you play Wii together, that could be seen as veering more into “I’m a guy and I will use this” territory. The reason we give gifts is to show people that we’re thinking of them, not of ourselves. Keep that in mind.

Don’t spend too much.

If you give her diamond earrings after your first two weeks together, you’re setting the bar pretty high. Diamonds after two weeks? What happens at your first anniversary? A house? If you can find her something nice for under $50, go for it. I’d say $25 is almost steep if you’ve only been together two weeks. There are lots of inexpensive gifts out there. Don’t blow your load early — save a little something for a few months down the road. Expensive gifts are typically gifts that are supposed to last, and should be saved for relationships that have lasted and/or will last.

Show off your knowledge of her.

This is your chance to prove to her that you’ve been listening. Even after two weeks of being with her, you should know at least some of the things she likes (and dislikes). Don’t go out on a limb with something you’re not sure she’ll enjoy. Play it safe. Even if it’s just something small like a bottle of wine or a gift certificate to a place she’s said she likes, you’re sure to win if you show that you know what she likes. It’s probably too early to know her taste in jewelry, too, so unless you’re sure you know her inside and out, I’d advise you to watch out in that arena. Food or a gift certificate are probably your best bets here, too. (And no, I don’t think a gift certificate is a bad idea for a new relationship, as long as you get it for something or somewhere she really likes. Just don’t play this card after you’ve been together longer than two months.)

And my number one advice for you: Don’t stress out about it. Remember that it’s the thought that counts, and a little can go a long way.


relationships and weight maintenance

Reader C. L. writes:

I am the classic girl who has fallen prey to the whole “I’m in a relationship and I’m gaining weight because I’m comfortable” problem. You know, now that my relationship stuff is finally on track, I no longer workout to fill my time. So how do I maintain a healthy routine while working my relationship into the mix? And on a similar note, how can I motivate myself to start working out and losing weight, when the stress of being chubby makes me eat my feelings?

Dear C.L.:

I think there are a few kernels of truth I can glean from your question(s), so I’ll lay them out one by one.

1. Maintaining a separate identity in a relationship is key.

2. Part of maintaining a separate identity in a relationship is having your own friends.

3. Your friends can be extremely helpful in getting you motivated to be healthy.

4. Your real motivation for change has to come from within.

5. Emotional eating is disordered eating and you may need professional help to fix it.

om nom nom nom

This guy is definitely an emotional eater. Image: 7thsens /

Part of gaining weight in a relationship is due to the fact that when you’re comfortable, you let yourself slip. But I think even more important is the fact that we ladies are often far too willing to sacrifice whatever time and energy we have to the relationship. It is imperative to your health and that of your relationship that you maintain your own identity. I don’t care how great the relationship looks — if you’re sacrificing viable pursuits and time with friends to spend time with him, it’s not healthy. Taking an hour a day to go for a run or hit the gym is not going to kill your relationship. And if it does, then it was a cruddy relationship anyway.

As a way to kill two birds with one stone, I think you should make your work out time a time to be with your friends. They’ll make you work harder than you would if you went alone. And you can talk with someone who isn’t your SO while you work out. Most importantly, if you’ve got a set time to meet them, you’ll be less likely to convince yourself it’ll be more fun just to sit on the couch and eat nachos.

Get an accountability partner going for your eating habits, too. If you want to quit eating bad stuff when you by drinking water and eating salad with you. You must have girlfriends who are going through similar issues. They’re your best bet for this.

As an aside — I’ve read multiple articles that stated the biggest detractor from a weight loss program is usually a spouse or significant other. I’m not sure what the explanation was, but apparently our nearest and dearest tend to be the ones who hand us the candy bars when we’re trying to stick to celery. Either enlist your boyfriend in the boot camp (unlikely) or find ways to deal with the almost certain temptation he’s going to bring your way.

Keeping a food diary is an excellent way of making yourself aware of what you’re putting into your stomach. There are apps for your phone, or just a plain old notebook, to make this easy for you. Writing down everything you eat, even without noting how many calories it is, makes you realize just what you’re doing. Self realization is key here.

Which brings me to the emotional eating issue. I have the same problem. Or I used to. “Rewarding myself” with cheese fries and ice cream has, in the past, been a way to deal with being sad. And gaining weight is one thing that can sure make a girl sad. Stupid vicious cycles. The fact that you recognize you are an emotional eater is, as always, a huge part in changing it. Disordered eating is pretty rampant amongst us females, and you need to retrain your brain.

You’ve got to start to see treats like sugar as something that should be rare. Start recognizing the goodness in eating healthy food. Think of food as what it is: fuel. Broccoli is better fuel than cookies. Learn to recognize when you’re actually hungry, and eat then, rather than when you’re sad. This may take counseling. It may take extreme brain reorganization. And I definitely think it will take help from your buddies. Again, I think you’ll find that many (if not most) girls in our time are disordered eaters, and you will be able to track down many sympathetic lady friends who are interested in working out their issues alongside you.

My final advice to you is to chill out. Don’t weigh yourself every day if that number stresses you out. I know a lot of people claim it helps in weight loss to keep track, but I think your head isn’t in the right place for that right now. Remind yourself that you’re gorgeous, regardless of how much you weigh. I like to look at paintings by Renoir to remind myself that skinny isn’t necessarily beautiful. Meditate on self-affirming things. Get your nails done and your hair done so you feel pretty, too. And wear clothes that make you feel fancy, rather than freaking out because you’re not fitting into your favorite jeans right now. You will again soon enough.

I hate to sound like a self help nonsense guru, but surround yourself with love and supportive friends, and you can do anything. Losing weight or maintaining a routine are hard, but ultimately rewarding. When you’re really ready to make the change, you will.


soul mates

Reader W. J. writes:

Sometimes I will meet someone for the first time and feel a very deep connection with them.  It’s not romantic, per se, but it is definitely almost other-worldly, if you know what I mean.  I feel like either I have known them all my life or somewhere before.  I also feel a deep need to get to know them a lot better.  Like soul mates, but not necessarily someone you have to marry and be with forever. I don’t know.  It’s hard to explain.  It’s like a crush, but for a different reason.  I wanted to know what your take on this was.  Do you ever feel it too?

Dear W.J.:

Not to be a total buzz kill, but as a fancy pants atheist (as opposed to a regular atheist or an agnostic), I don’t actually believe in souls. Therefore, I don’t actually believe in soul mates.


Yes but are you SOLE mates? Image: Simon Howden /

But I do believe that human brains are really good at seeing patterns, even when there aren’t patterns, and at interpreting coincidences and chemicals as signs and making meaning out of it. So to that extent, I believe in the idea of soul mates, or at least I believe that human beings can interpret the things they feel for someone else as being “destiny” or “fate”. And who am I to tell them they’re wrong?

I’m no biologist, but there are certain chemicals we all have racing through our bodies. These hormones control our sleep patterns, our hunger patterns, and to some extent, our emotional patterns. Sometimes when you meet someone, you have a chemical reaction to them that could be lust, or love, or just kinship. It could be due to the fact that the person is fun, and in a good mood, and standing in just the right light. Or it could be due to pheromones. You’ll probably never know what it is that makes someone attractive or lovely to you, but it’ll happen, and your brain will interpret it. After a while of laughing and enjoying yourself and building up oxytocin and bonding chemicals in your body from all this enjoyment you’re having, you’re probably going to feel drawn to this person. And if you have enough in common, you’re going to feel like soul mates.

And that is, I think, a very fun feeling. (Atheists have feelings too.) (Men don’t, though, as we all know.)

So yes, I’ve felt the soul mates phenomenon. It’s the people you find yourself talking to until well past your bedtime or the bar has closed, and when you wake up the next morning you can’t even remember what you were talking about anyway. It’s due to a mixture of things — similar outlooks on life, similar upbringings, and aforementioned good lighting and hormones.

But it doesn’t matter what it’s based on. It’s there, and you feel it, and it’s fun, and yeah you should definitely pursue friendship with someone like that.

Also, it’s totally natural to have a crush on someone. The thing about crushes is that they’re completely innocent, and totally honest. You just genuinely like someone, whether it’s sexual or otherwise. You don’t care how they feel back. You’ve got a crush. It’s almost all-consuming, even if it’s just friendly. I think crushes get rarer and rarer as we get older, but they never quite lose their awesome powers.

I have this funny thing I discovered with some of my girlfriends. We all have a single freckle on the bottoms of one of our feet. The coincidence has increased our bond as friends. We all know it doesn’t mean anything. But it makes us feel like we belong together. And sometimes that feeling is all that matters.

Even as an atheist, I know that feelings and rationality are two completely different things and don’t always inform each other. But they should be equally important in your life. Feelings matter.

So yes, I think you should definitely pursue spending time with people who make you feel like you’ve known them for a long time, even if it is just chemicals and coincidence. Who cares? It’s how you feel. If they make you feel good and right and loved and stimulated… well, what else could you ask for?



Reader D. E. asks:

What does “exclusive” mean in terms of a relationship? What I mean is, the guy I’m seeing wants to be “exclusive”. I said OK. Do we need to discuss this further? Are there rules of exclusivity I should be aware of before I really commit to this?

Dear D. E.:

I think this is one of those play-it-by-ear situations. “Exclusivity” means various things to various people. The most basic definition I can come up with is “not sleeping with or dating other people”. You’re going to have to ask your partner to give you details. Does it mean you’re completely monogamous and therefore not using condoms anymore? (Probably.) Does it mean you have to shut down all your online dating sites and not accept dinner invitations from other men who are seeking your attentions? (Probably.) I wish I could tell you a more definitive answer, but you know your man better than I do.

old people

I think these two are exclusive. Image: Arvind Balaraman /

However, “exclusive” does not necessarily mean this fellow is officially your boyfriend. I wouldn’t start inviting him to family holiday functions or expecting long weekends away just yet. “Let’s be exclusive” is a far cry from “let’s get married!”, or even from “be my girlfriend”.

Of course, if he’s the one asking for exclusivity, he probably does want to be your boyfriend. Rarely have I come across a fellow who was willing to ask a girl to be exclusive who was not also willing to ask the girl to be his girlfriend, but you never know. You’re going to have to ask him about it, if you really want to know.

But for the time being, how about you define it for yourself?

In my personal experience, I find that I cave into demands from partners far more easily than I probably should. (Hindsight is always 20/20.) Do you want him to be your boyfriend? Do you want to quit seeing other people? Are you ready for that? Decide on the rules that you need and lay them out for him. Be honest. If you aren’t ready to give up those titillating dates with other men, your new partner in exclusivity needs to know it now rather than in three months when you explode in a cheating rampage of doom.

I think that we ladies get caught up in the romance of being wanted and forget what we actually want sometimes. If you’re not ready for “exclusivity”, don’t pretend you are.

But if you are ready, and know what you want and are prepared to get it, well then… mazel tov!


bad crush

Reader O. F. writes:

My boyfriend works as a manager at a movie theater, and his employees are all a lot younger than he is. One of these younger employees is a 17-year-old high school girl who obviously has a major crush on him. She’s befriended him on Facebook and got his cell phone number somehow and is sending him flirty text messages. Obviously I don’t think she’s competition for me or anything, but it’s annoying to me. What can I do?

Dear O.F.:

he loves me not...

He loves me... He loves me not... Image: graur razvan ionut /

First of all: ewwwww! Your boyfriend let her friend him on Facebook? Is she a “limited profile” viewer at least? That’s disgusting. Maybe it strokes his ego to have a not-quite-legal girl lusting after him, but it’s extremely tacky and inappropriate to even indulge a little bit in the fantasy, I think. Ick.

Technically, as her manager, he should be drawing lines between personal and professional, especially since she’s so young. I can maybe see why she would have his cell phone number for emergencies. Maybe. MAYBE. But if she’s sending him personal text messages and flirting, he needs to tell her to stop.

Unfortunately, you can’t make him tell her to stop. Knowing men as I do, if he’s already let her be friends on Facebook and has no problem with her having his cell phone number, you asking him to put an end to the stupid flirtation is going to elicit a response you’re not going to be happy about. Be prepared for “you’re overreacting” and “what, it’s just stupid fun” and “who cares if she has a crush on me”.

He should care. He should realize how utterly devoid of moral character it is to indulge a young girl’s fantasies, especially if it’s just for his own ego, and even moreso if he’s in a position of professional power over her.

And in other news, how crazy would he go if you were openly allowing flirtation from someone who clearly liked you, regardless of their age? He’s not considering your feelings in this at all. He gets a D- in boyfriendage, in my book.

However, I don’t know the guy personally, and I can’t say much about whether he’s just trying to be nice, or is enjoying the attention, or whatever. Maybe there’s a Facebook culture at his work, or people are particularly friendly, or something, and it would be odd if he wasn’t friends with the girl on Facebook or didn’t have her contacting him via text. If he’s got her on limited profile for Facebook, and he never responds to her flirtation, maybe I could let it slide and tell you to suck up your jealous pride and remember he’s chosen you, anyway.

Nevertheless, it seems ugly to me. You may have to swallow your pride and conquer your jealousy, but I’d say at least tell your partner how you feel. Don’t let it fester if you’re annoyed. Maybe he’ll realize it’s bugging you and change his mind about letting this go on. Listen to what he says, too, and see if you can see things from his perspective. Maybe he can rationalize the relationship to you to make you feel better about it (though I doubt it). If you’re in love, give him the benefit of the doubt.

But just let him know that your advice columnist finds it tacky, unprofessional, and ridiculous, from an outside perspective. And that I think he’s being more selfish than friendly.



Reader T. J. writes:

People will treat you how you deserve to be treated.  Respect is earned.  But how? Does a person have to change the way they behave and who they are if they want to gain the respect of others?  Or should the person just not require the respect of those of who don’t appreciate their way of being and behaviors?  How about in a relationship?  Should a woman change her behaviors in order to gain a man’s compliance?   Should she be more subtle when she is a more direct person?  Should she be super nice and sweet in order to get super nice and sweet in return?  Or should she just be herself and wait for him to step up and be the sweet guy she remembers?  And if being herself fails, then quit?

Dear T.J.:

This is a really loaded question. It’s more like fifteen questions. Let me try to parse it out and see what I have to say on it.


Image: jscreationzs /

I think there are two types of respect: automatic and earned. For the most part, we humans all have at least a modicum of generalized respect for other humans — respect for privacy, respect for personal space, you know, those common courtesies most people extend to other folks just because we’ve all got to get along here. That’s automatic respect. Every person has this natural respect for other people, unless you are a psychopath.

And then there’s the respect you actually have to earn. Respect for your expertise, for instance. To earn this at a workplace, you have to prove that you actually have it. Beyond that, the people you work with have to recognize that you have it. Depending on the person and the politics, you may have to insist on the respect and demand it, rather than just expecting it from someone. In this sense, yes, you may have to change your tack for getting the respect you deserve, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to change your entire personality.

Yes, I also think if people refuse to give you respect, you should do your best not to want it or require it. This can be difficult in a workplace. However, we do have HR departments in place to take care of things when the lack of respect gets out of hand. Don’t put up with it. Demand the respect you deserve. It’s common decency. If someone can’t follow the rules of common decency, they need to be shown how, which isn’t your job.

In a relationship, on the other hand, I think respect should come automatically. Respect is part of affection. You may have to communicate about the minor details of respect, but for the most part, relationship respect is mutual and natural. You respect your partner’s needs and desires, they respect yours. It goes beyond respect, in fact; you not only respect these wants and needs, but you uphold them and try to fulfill them. That’s what makes it a loving relationship.

The truth of the matter is, if you’re not getting the mere respect you need from someone in a relationship, the relationship is over. Respect is the very least a partner can give you. You can’t change your behavior to get that respect back; he has to change his. There’s no HR department in your relationship to force him to act properly. It’s got to be his impetus, and you can’t raise that in anyone but yourself.

Yes, be yourself. Always be yourself, especially in your romantic relationships. But do not wait for him to step up. Tell him what you need, and if he can’t meet it, leave. I can’t emphasize this enough. Do not spend your time trying to bring someone who is unequal to you up to your level. He has to already be there. You are just going to be frustrated and angry.

Compliance is not necessarily respect, by the way. Those are different things. Compliance sounds to me like control, and if you’re in a place where you feel like you need to control the other person, you’ve got some serious issues going on. Furthermore, “sweet and nice” are usually automatic in relationships, too, unless you’re not into that. Has it gotten to the point in your relationship where you’re just angry all the time, and sweet and nice are completely out of the question? That’s a huge glaring neon sign that it’s over in my opinion.

Be brave. You do deserve respect, especially in your romantic relationships. But it should be automatic, not earned. Do not set about to prove to him that you deserve his respect. Demand it, and if he doesn’t give it, respect yourself enough to leave.

post everyone else likes best

topics i’ve written about

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 195 other followers