On Adding or Keeping Distances

by A Lady

1. After relocating, I formed a pretty clingy friendship with a woman, June. In a typical day she will call me at least twice and text several times. We get along extremely well. She is funny and bright, if a little co-dependent.

Over the past month, I’ve been having an affair with her ex-boyfriend, Greg. It started as a friendship, and quickly escalated into something extremely intense. It is both the best sex I’ve ever had (seriously, like four-hour sessions minimum) and the first time I think I’ve ever had serious romantic feelings for anyone in my adult life. I’m 27, I’ve never been in love, and I’m terrified of ending it with this man. I recently told him how I felt, and he wouldn’t give me an answer of how he felt. We had agreed in the beginning to not form feelings for each other, because of June. Which brings me to the real issue:

June, almost 30 years old, is 1,000%-crazypants-still-in-love with him. She calls him over and over until he answers, texts him constantly, drops by his apartment uninvited. From what I know (from both of them) he has told her multiple times that she should date other people, but he still visits her and helps her when she asks. Her immaturity in that relationship has made me view my relationship with her differently. She recently gave me over a week of the silent treatment because of a simple misunderstanding. I’ve pulled back from our friendship, but her constant calling makes it difficult.

Here’s my question — am I crazy for getting involved in any of this? Am I kidding myself into thinking there is any future with a man who won’t cut off from his ex? Am I horrible for putting my happiness over my friend’s feelings?

Oh, girl. I am afraid you have gotten yourself into a mess, for heart/vagina reasons. You are kidding yourself into thinking there is any future with this man. You’ve been screwing him for a month, and I get that the sex is incredible, but this is not even a relationship yet. You have strong feelings for him, which he does not reciprocate — if he did, he would have said it. June is not the real issue here. She is AN issue, definitely, and she’s another relationship you should probably end, but she’s not your issue with the guy. Your issue with the guy is that he’s not looking for a relationship with you. Maybe he’s just currently gun-shy after being involved with crazypants June, maybe you could reconnect in six months or a year and have it work, but I doubt it. If he were interested in dating you, he would have been open to “feelings,” and either one of you would have told June what you’re doing.

Honestly, even if you “put [your] happiness over [your] friend’s feelings,” I will bet you $5 that it won’t last six months with that dude. He doesn’t know how to end a relationship, if he’s still hanging out with June when he claims he doesn’t want to, and he doesn’t know how to start one, either, if this situation is any indication.

And June! She is a hot mess.

But lady, on the real: you need to meet more people. You moved to a new place and got involved in two intense, but unhealthy, relationships. Figure out a way to open up your social circle and get a little distance here. I’m sure it feels like enough to have one friend in constant contact and marathon sex sessions with some dude, but that is not enough of a social life, and I think if you spent more time talking to people who are neither June nor this guy, it would be easier for you to see what’s wrong with this picture.

2. I got married less than a year ago. My (now husband) was fairly open with me about stuff that usually I would be horribly deterred by at the beginning of a relationship; such as stories of his sexual conquests, some crazy sex stuff he’d done, and the fact that when he was first banging me, he was also banging a married chick who was a swinger.

Now, lady, I have some horrible self esteem issues, so as the relationship progressed, and he was only banging me, I got incredibly self conscious about his borderline pornographic history versus my very missionary history. Over the span of a couple of years, I’ve kinda recovered.

Then, all of a sudden, despite my telling him I didn’t want to go, he decided to take a job in another city. I should mention he had a job here. And another job offer here. He didn’t NEED the new job. I have obligations that will keep me in our current city for at least five months. He now thinks we can handle five months of long-distance, and all the feelings of inadequacy have bubbled back up. All I can think about this time apart is that he going to cheat on me. Also, can we talk about the fact that he took a job in another city despite me telling him I didn’t want to go!?!?

Really this is two-fold. Number one: can a newlywed relationship recover from someone being so selfish, what with the ignoring-my-feelings-and-taking-the-job-anyway thing? And number two: how can I handle the time apart when every night I’m going to be obsessing about what he is doing and who he is with? How do we survive this?!

Oh dear. The only way you and your relationship will survive this is by talking. You have got to talk to your husband about how you’re feeling, and maybe talk to a therapist as well. I don’t think it’s a great sign that he took this job, after you expressed concerns about his moving away, but don’t think it’s necessarily the worst, either. If the job is amazing in some way, or the city is a place you have both talked about wanting to live … I don’t know, but there could be factors. If he’s been monogamous with you for years, he could very well be perfectly happy with that and not interested in sleeping around, regardless of geography. But you will only know that if you talk to him about it — explicitly — and listen closely to his answers. Talk to him about your fears and again, listen to how he responds.

This is where I think a professional might come in handy — a therapist (or similar) should be able to help you sort through what he’s saying, what you’re hearing, and how you feel about it. If you don’t trust him, obviously that’s not a good sign, but there’s a world of difference between not trusting him because he’s untrustworthy and not trusting him because you’re insecure.

And then, when you’re apart, talk more. Talk on the phone or Skype, or whatever, but not just texts. See each other as often as you can. Do not sit at home making yourself crazy — get out of the house. Hang out with friends, serve at a soup kitchen, join a bell choir, whatever it takes. People make long-distance work, especially when it’s time-limited like this is, when they’re both committed to it.

I don’t know if your relationship will make it, but I know it only has a chance if you work on it together, and also on yourself. If it doesn’t work out, you should be able to feel like you gave it your best shot.

Good luck, lady.

3. I would like some advice about communicating with my mother. The backstory: I am in my early 30s and live on the other side of the country from my family. I speak to my mom once a week and see her a few times a year. I know she would like our relationship to be closer.

The issue for me is this: I love my mother very much. She is a remarkable person in many ways, but there are various things that I find incredibly trying. She has a terrible temper — if she experiences even a slight frustration, she blows up in utter rage at whoever she thinks is to blame for it, including me or (more often) my dad. She sees this response as entirely justified. She also, often, seems to see herself as the victim in life, or as the sole competent person in her work, family, hobbies, etc., and her stories frequently are built on this theme.

These things have caused me to distance myself from her, and I struggle with a lot of guilt for doing so. I have gotten to a point where I feel like I owe it to her to bring this up with her — her anger issue more so than the martyrdom issue — but don’t know how to put it so that she won’t feel very hurt and so that she won’t immediately switch into defensive-mode; she does not handle well anything that she even perceives as criticism. (In the past, relating to a conflict she has with her sister, I gently suggested counseling and she flatly shut me down.) Do you have some advice on how to tell her that her rage blow-ups are what has caused me to put distance between us?

What do you hope to gain by bringing it up? If she’s not even aware that this is a problem, it seems unlikely that the conversation will go well, or lead to any change. I mean, I guess it’s worth a shot, if it’s really making you feel bad, but don’t expect her to be able to hear it, or be willing to work on it. She’s an adult, and presumably has been this way for many years. She may not be interested in changing. The way you describe her doesn’t seem like a very happy life to me, but of course there are millions of people like her all over the place.

But if you absolutely must, it may be worthwhile to talk to your father about it ahead of time, and maybe you could present a (kind, loving) united front. I would have this conversation in person. There’s probably no way to put it that won’t make her get defensive, and possibly blow up, but you can try to work through that, if it’s really worth it to you.

I realize kids today are on the phone with their mothers constantly, but really, a phone call once a week and occasional visits seems like a perfectly appropriate level of closeness to me. It is totally fine to decide you don’t want a closer relationship with your mother. You are an adult, and need your life to work for you, not her.

4. Two of my close friends have become more than friends, which would be all rainbows and unicorns … if she wasn’t married.

The three of us used to always hang out together, and I would often hang out with one or the other. It’s been almost a year since the affair began and I just can’t handle it. Nowadays I sometimes hang out with her but never him. We all work together and they hang out allll the time — at work, getting lunch, beers after work, etc. I’ve become so cranky about the whole thing that even if it’s a big group of us hanging out, I don’t have fun because I’m thinking about her poor husband at home, and how crappy the whole situation is. Okay, and maybe I’ve been in the husband’s shoes before and can’t help thinking about that, too.

I’ve had numerous heart-to-hearts with both of them, and they both know they need to keep it in their pants until things get worked out one way or another, but of course nothing ever changes. I’ve been trying to take the approach that we’re all adults and they can do whatever they want and it shouldn’t impact our respective friendships. But that hasn’t been working. I go to work, see them, and get all judge-y and hate-y in my brain and generally feel like I don’t want these two once-close friends in my life. But that sort of makes me sad! So, A Lady, what’s this girl to do?

This edition of Ask a Lady is apparently being brought to you by Yo, Should I Dump This Asshole? Everybody is the worst! No, not really, and I realize you people would not be Asking a Lady if everything were great.

It is fine to not want these people in your life! At least right now, while they are doing this crappy, crappy thing, and maybe forever, now that you know they are willing to do it. Yes, you are all adults, and sure, they can do what they want, but that does not mean you shouldn’t have feelings and opinions about it! It is totally legit to back away from both of them. Which is sad, if they were your only two work buddies, but sometimes that’s just the way it goes. Stop having heart-to-hearts with them. They are going to do what they are going to do, regardless of what you think. So work with them as necessary, but don’t hang out with either of them. It is sad to lose friends, even temporarily, but you can get through it.

Previously: On Second Chances

A Lady is one of several rotating ladies who know everything. Do you have any questions for A Lady? (300-word max, please.)

Photo by Kirk Peart Professional Imaging, via Shutterstock