#onlinedating | When everybody says you’re so lucky to be with him, and more advice from Dear Prudie. | #bumble | #tinder | #pof


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Danny is online weekly to chat live with readers. Here’s an edited transcript of this week’s chat.

Q. Dump the doormat: How do you break up with someone who is the best boyfriend you’ve ever had, has a great job, loves your unlovable family, is patient with your flaws, and is willing to overlook your occasional, drunken infidelity? My boyfriend, “Tom,” is a great catch. Everyone agrees on that. I—an Olympic-level screw-up with addiction issues and personality flaws out the butt—am definitely punching above my weight with him. He’s even good-looking! Thing is, I don’t think he’s lucky. I guess I don’t even think I am. On paper, definitely—you can see that. In practice, the fact that he’s so willing to accept, accommodate, and forgive my terrible ways is not necessarily useful in my quest to become more of a functioning person. I am sure it would be to someone healthier. Why stop binge drinking when he will pick me up, clean me off, and say whatever mess I got into can be forgotten? Why work on how to stick to a job instead of quitting when he’s happy to support me on my newest job search? I know I sound like the most ungrateful person in the world. It’s just exhausting enough being the screw-up without being the lucky screw-up, if that makes any sense. Besides, I can break up with anyone I want. Just how do I have that conversation with him, or anyone? My friends will say “Why? He was awesome!” And he really is.

A: For whatever it’s worth, I don’t think you sound ungrateful or unreasonable. I think plenty of people would chafe at the prospect of being in a relationship where they know their partner will never object, disagree, or push back against anything, and where their friends chirp in a constant chorus of “You’re so lucky to be with him!” You know you’re allowed to break up with him, but you don’t have to do so by insisting that he’s a saint and you’re a pile of garbage. You can just say that things aren’t working for you, that you’re not happy in this relationship, and that you’d rather be alone so you can focus on yourself. That explanation goes for both Tom and for your friends who ask “Why?” when you tell them you and Tom have broken up. “But his face was so symmetrical! He had a great job! He never yelled!” is no match for “Yes, he has a lot of great qualities. But that relationship made me feel trapped, inadequate, and miserable.”

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Q. Our wedding: My fiancée and I are still going to get married on the day we picked this fall, even if that means canceling or downsizing our wedding due to the pandemic and having a smaller ceremony instead. We’re open to the possibility that we might have to take this route for the safety of our guests, but we want to wait until this summer to make a final decision. With all the time, effort, and money that was spent planning everything, we’d hate to cancel prematurely if circumstances happen to change.

In the meantime, we’re encountering frequent questions from family, friends, and co-workers about how/if we’ll proceed with the wedding. Some people have seemed genuinely concerned, while others have suggested it’s a matter of time until we’ll have to cancel. The constant and invasive questions we’ve received since our engagement have bothered me all along, but these comments are especially unwelcome. I want to look forward to our wedding day as long as possible and don’t appreciate the pessimism when we don’t know definitively how long the pandemic will last. Am I overreacting? What is a polite way to respond to these questions?

A: It’s not an overreaction to say, “Even if it’s just the two of us scheduling a video conference with a local notary, we’re going to get married on Sept. 10.” But I do think waiting until the summer to let your guests know about a fall wedding puts an undue burden on them. They’re not being pessimistic in order to ruin your joy—they’re genuinely stressed out at the possibility of having to book tickets they’ll likely have to cancel, or having to calculate the costs of offending you if they don’t book the tickets in the first place. I understand the frustration of having to make those calculations yourself, but I think the best thing you can do is to consult a doctor, see if your local government has set out any recommendations about medium-term event planning, and contact your venue and ask what it’s suggested to other people getting married in your month. As the host of this event, the final responsibility does fall on you and your partner; it’s not unreasonable for your guests to turn to you for guidance. And I think you should prepare yourself for a seriously curtailed guest list.

Q. Gross and loud! I live with a friend from college and her sister. A month ago, as everything with COVID-19 started, my friend’s boyfriend moved in. I was OK with that because it meant that there would be less risk of us being infected due to travel back-and-forth between apartments. However, he is gross! He loudly burps and farts, smokes, and dry-heaves! Additionally, he has been furloughed—not his fault, I know—but that means that he spends his days playing loud first-person shooter games, drinking, and smoking. Our apartment is not large enough that he can do these things without disturbing those of us who are trying to work. I chatted with my friend and she wants to “be supportive” of her boyfriend during a tough time. Is it unreasonable of me to want a living space free of grossness and loudness? How do I have this conversation?

A: “Being supportive” of someone who has recently been furloughed does not, in my opinion, extend to grinning patiently when someone burps in your face. You are entitled to tell him to smoke outside, cover his mouth, and turn down the volume or use headphones without asking his girlfriend’s permission first. Have that conversation frankly, matter-of-factly, and without apology or embarrassment.

Q. “Mom” or not “Mom”: I’m a gay man; I’ve been with my partner for a number of years now. He finally came out to his mother, who is a lovely person and couldn’t have been more welcoming and accepting. Of course she knew the whole situation all along! I’ve spent enough time with her to know that I do genuinely love her. I’m so glad we can have a more honest relationship.

My problem: During our first conversation after X came out, she hugged me and we talked and she said, “Well, I guess now you should call me ‘Mom’!” Which was the loveliest thing she could have said—but my own mother is now deceased, and in the moment it just doesn’t feel right. “Mom” is my mother, and as much as I love Mrs. X, it’s not the same. At the time I stammered, and I remembered that she and my mother have the same first name, so I said, “You know my own mom’s name was ‘Y’ and it means a lot to keep calling you that.” She seemed disappointed, so now I wonder if I should just suck it up and call her “Mom” and hope I will get used to it. What do you think?

A: That’s both a really sweet offer for her to make, and a little fraught and overly familiar! I think it’s OK to let your partner’s mother seem “disappointed” when you call her by her name. If you were interested in coming up with a sort-of-compromise nickname along the lines of “Mama X” or something, you can broach the subject with your partner before bringing it up to her. But if you aren’t interested, don’t feel like you have to fake enthusiasm for the idea. It’s OK for her to be mildly disappointed! Lots of people don’t call their partner’s parents “Mom” or “Dad,” even if they’re extremely close; there’s nothing weird about not wanting to call someone who isn’t your mom “Mom.” You don’t say she’s brought it up again, or that your partner really wants you to call her “Mom,” so I wonder if part of the internal pressure you’re feeling comes from the belief that you owe her some additional encouragement for taking your partner’s coming out so well. Please let yourself off the hook! You’ve been warm and kind toward her, and she’s been warm and accepting in her turn. You’re not giving her the cold shoulder by calling her “Mrs. X.”

Q. Picky dating: Since the crisis started, my friends and I have all started doing “virtual dating.” I’ve been chatting with a guy for a few weeks and I found out he has a child. I haven’t responded to him since I found this out. I’ve realized I don’t want to virtually date men with kids. My friends think I’m crazy for not wanting to pursue this guy—we fit in every other criteria. I think if we had met in a different way and if I saw more of his life with his kids, I might have been willing to date this guy, but it’s just far too easy to miss things in online dating. He says he has partial custody and is very involved in his child’s life. I honestly admire single fathers like that; I just don’t want to date them. I know it sounds selfish, but I want to have a relationship where my significant other doesn’t have a major focus that could get in the way of our relationship. At this point in my life, I just want something that is fairly easy. Am I being too picky? Am I throwing this relationship away too quickly? I don’t want to get attached and have to make the hard decision that I can’t handle a relationship with a single father.

A: This is the second question today from a letter writer who worries they’re “crazy” or unreasonable for not wanting to date a guy their friends think is great. Your friends should date this guy if they think he’s so great! But you’ve realized something you didn’t know before (since it sounds like this is the first time you’ve dated a parent), and you’re perfectly entitled to not want to get involved with guys who have children. Better to get that figured out early than to get seriously involved with someone who’s deeply involved in their kid’s life and then end things after you’re both invested and committed.

Q. Thank-you notes: I have a question of minor importance: For years my wife and I have sent birthday and holiday gifts to our several out-of-town nieces and nephews, all of whom are in their late teens to late 20s. We rarely, or never, get thank-you notes or calls or any notice whatsoever. The gifts are usually in the $100 range and sometimes are just a check for that amount. We have tried calling to “make sure” the gift has arrived, and we’ve gently hinted to our siblings (their parents) that we’d like a call. First, are we being unreasonable to expect acknowledgement of our gifts? I say no more gifts. My wife says we need to suck it up. We’ve decided to let you decide.

A: I’m of the opinion that birthday presents for nieces and nephews, especially ones you don’t see or hear from often, ought to be discontinued after the age of 18. You don’t have to stop getting people presents just because they’ve turned 18 if it really brings you joy, of course, but there’s no reason to keep mailing cash to a 29-year-old who ignores you. That doesn’t mean you should stamp your feet or make a passive-aggressive announcement that you’re withholding future presents on account of their bad behavior, of course. I’d probably encourage you to taper off even if they were writing regular thank-you notes (encouraging, not forcing, being the operative principle)! Just because you’re someone’s uncle doesn’t mean you’re obligated to mail them a check once a year for the rest of your life.

Q. Too happy alone? I am self-quarantining alone, and during this time, I have realized that all my recent fuck buddies are jerks and my friends aren’t that great at “long-distance friendship keeping,” so I cut them off. Now I’ve also realized that the only person I really talk to is my mom who lives abroad. I feel strangely content, but I have no friends, objectively speaking, at the moment. Is it bad that I feel OK with this?

A: I don’t want to problematize “feeling content.” If you feel great, that’s great—take what you can get these days. But I’d put some of these choices in pretty distinct categories. It’s one thing to realize “The last few guys I was casually seeing aren’t really interested in me as a person and I don’t want to pretend we have some deep connection.” It’s quite another to say that your friends “aren’t great” at keeping up long-distance communication and cutting them all off unilaterally. What does “not great” mean in this context? Did you ever say anything about this to any of them, ever ask if they have time to catch up over the phone, or mention that you miss them, feel lonely, and would appreciate hearing from them more often? Or did you simply delete their numbers without ever giving any of them a chance to try again? How much effort were you putting into maintaining these friendships? Is there a chance to say, “We both let this friendship fall by the wayside for a bit, let’s try again”?

You are, of course, allowed to stop talking to your friends. And if it makes you happy to speak to no one but your mother, you can do that too. But I wonder if you will still feel happy to speak only to your mother six months from now or two years from now. If you have an opportunity, even if it’s only with one or two of your former friends, to speak honestly and nonaccusatorily about wanting to stay in closer contact, then I’d encourage you to take it wherever you can.

Q. Re: Dump the doormat: Um, can you PLEASE get yourself into therapy? Yes, you are allowed to break up with Tom. But Danny missed saying you need to get your life on track. Binge drinking? Quitting jobs? You have some baggage to unpack.

A: I think the letter writer is aware they have issues; they mentioned their own drinking as problematic and seem to have a pretty clear sense of what they’re struggling with. I hope they’re able to find useful, practical, long-term forms of support in dealing with these problems—therapy included!—after breaking up with Tom. But “you have issues” isn’t a point that needs belaboring here.

Q. Re: Our wedding: I have a friend who is getting married this August and I’ve been considering asking him what his plans are. The hard thing is knowing what to RSVP. Of course I love my friend and want to go, but even if restrictions are loosened up by then, I’m not sure how safe I’m going to feel when the time comes. I’d hate to RSVP “Yes” only to still be wary of crowds by then and bail. This is just to give a glimpse into what your guests may be feeling; it’s definitely not to stifle you. No one knows what’s going on and how to plan for a group event that’s going to happen months from now.

A: I think that’s a really helpful reframing. I can certainly understand the letter writer’s stress and frustration as they hold out hope that some sort of scaled-down but still celebratory-seeming ceremony is possible by the fall. They’re in a difficult position! But the guests are not asking to be difficult. They’re looking to their hosts for guidance because in this situation, the hosts are in a position of responsibility, however short-term and provisional the responsibility of “party host” may be.

I won’t tell the letter writers that they should definitely cancel tomorrow; I hope they can seek out expert guidance from more than one source before making a decision. But I do think they should have something definitive for guests at least three months out so they’re not placing unnecessary pressure or uncertainty on people in an already-uncertain time.

Danny M. Lavery: Thanks for the help, everyone! Good luck making it through to next week—I’ll see you then.

If you missed Part 1 of this week’s chat, click here to read it.

Discuss this column on our Facebook page!

From How to Do It

Q. I get super turned on by something that mortifies most men: My problem is that I miss my two-pump chump, so to speak. Some guys can really go a long time, and seem proud of their “stamina,” but my vagina gets pretty tired after a few minutes! And I’m not sure if this is a thing, but I think it’s almost a fetish for me now to have a man come quickly; I find myself seeking out premature ejaculation porn sometimes. This sounds ridiculous, I know, but what can I do here? Put on Tinder “must come embarrassingly fast during sex”? And how do people deal with guys who want to bang for 20 minutes straight? I’ve had about a half-dozen partners now and just can’t think of how to approach this. Read more and see what Stoya and Rich Juzwiak had to say.

Danny M. Lavery’s new book, Something That May Shock and Discredit You, is out now.

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