How do I deal with liking someone, but knowing a relationship is impossible because of when we met?

Dealing with impractical relationships: I love this guy who broke things off with me because it just wasn't practical. He's a father and hasn't even started his divorce yet. I'm having trouble accepting that even if there's chemistry and I'm sure he wants to also be with me - it's just impossible to have a relationship. I want to ask him how he feels, but I don't think that he'll give me an honest answer. How in the world do I move on?

A tough thing about the world is that sometimes, things don’t work out for annoying reasons. It’s always been a dream of mine to get a pet rodent as a baby and hand raise it, rather than getting a skittish adult from a pet store. But when my friend’s hamster had surprise babies that needed homes, I couldn’t take one in for health reasons. If the hamster had given birth six months earlier or a year later, I might have gotten my fuzz buddy, but the world doesn’t work on my timelines. When I was living in Ireland, I was offered an amazing job working at a theatre company in Dublin - but I was still a student and it would have been logistically impossible to rearrange my life, postpone my graduation, get a work visa, etc. I knew the offer would not be around a year later when I graduated, and it sucked.

So it’s not just relationships where this happens. We’ve all missed out on the gorgeous apartment because our roommate’s lease is a month out, made a great new friend who was moving to a new city a few weeks later, or been unable to control the family planning of hamsters. And we’ve all survived - there are other apartments, new friends, local hamster breeders. And those all do work out. It’s tempting to assume that the thing we missed out on was Perfect, while the thing we ended up with is imperfect. But that’s because it’s easy to idealize the thing we don’t have. That apartment may have had a crappy dishwasher; that job may have had an obnoxious coworker; the future hamster will be just as cuddly. But as long as it stays the Might Have Been, we don’t know any of that. We compare our imperfect present to our Idealized Missed-Out-On.

I think we have done ourselves a huge disservice with all our cultural talk of “soulmates” and “one true love” - and polyam people are not immune. We assume that having chemistry with someone means we must be with them, that we are missing out on something necessary to our happiness, that somehow the universe must bend to the will of our romantic-sexual desires, or something has gone terribly wrong. But, the reality is, sometimes things don’t work out. If we can move on from apartments or jobs or potential pets, we can move on from might-have-beens in relationships too. It’s frustrating and disappointing when we want something but we can’t get it, and it’s okay to be upset, but try not to give it such an outsized significance. You’ll meet someone who’s better situated to be with you, and it’ll work out, I promise.

Some FAQ-answerable questions

Hello! I just need help finding the tag for where it explains what poly is. I know a little bit like enough to explain it but I’d like to have a link to go into more detail for those who want/need it. Please and thank you! (also I’m really sorry you have a lot of tags I can’t find the one I need in particular)

I use tags more for SEO and tumblr promotion and less for content finding. You’d be better served checking my FAQ page about general polyamory resources. You can also google “what is polyamory?” and find lots of resources that will meet your needs!

Sorry to bother you, but I sent an ask to your website nearly a month ago about being a polyam teen and it hasn’t been answered. Is this because you have a long queue or did you just not get my question?

Here’s my FAQ page about that.

I might be poly. I find myself reading and seeking out more poly fics than mono ones? how do i know if i'm, poly? What does being poly mean?

Here’s my FAQ page about this!


some FAQ-answerable questions

I would really like to learn more about polyamory, do you have any go to resources for me?

Yes.

How will I know if I'm poly if I've never been in a polyam relationship? How will I know if that will ultimately make me happy, to have multiple partners, or if I can be happy being mono?

You can’t tell the future. All you can be self-aware, introspective, informed, and willing to act on the best information you have at the time. More here.

can you just dm me?

No.

Hello I sent an ask in a month ago and I haven’t seen you answer the question on here, of course I understand that you probably don’t/maybe cannot answer every single question you get. Is there any topic of question that you don’t answer or cannot give advice on?

Here are the reasons a question may go unanswered.

sorry if this is a topic that comes up often but i have been recently questioning if i am poly or not and i dont really know alot about it but from the research ive done it seems kind of interesting and it seems like something i would want to try. do you have any tips or helpful resources

Yes.

We have been in an open relationship since we got together but now want to add another woman. We’re not sure how to go about this really, not that we’re really “hunting” as far as just talking about it at this point. It’s been an on and off topic for us for over a year and we are ready to commit to it. Any advice on how newbies should begin their search?

Here ya go!

My boyfriend follows sexy instagram models, and I don't like it

My bf (22 m) & I (20 f) have been together for 8 months and we love each other, but he used follow sexy girls on ig private & public pages... I confronted him, and I told him it makes me uncomfortable! I ask him why he does it and he never says the answer only that he stopped following. He did this 3 times until I told him that I wanted space. We talked and we still together but my trust for him is not the same. Did I overreact?

There's a lot going on here. Your question is "did I overreact," and I'd say that's a tricky question to answer on a lot of levels.

Did you overreact to him following sexy girls on instagram? From my perspective, sort of. It's not like he's doing anything besides looking at them. Just about everyone likes looking at sexy people, and that doesn't usually threaten their current relationships. Unless he's comparing them to you, pressuring you to lose weight and contour your butt or whatever sexy instagram ladies are doing these days, it's not super impactful to you.

That said, that's my perspective. You said that it makes you uncomfortable, and you have the right to feel your feelings. You could try to rationalize yourself out of that discomfort, but you're not obligated to, and you might not be able to. You did the right thing by letting your boyfriend know it made you uncomfortable, and clearly outlining what you wanted him to do.

It sounds like he wasn't willing to do what you asked - which is his right! - but he did the wrong thing by promising to stop, then not stopping. If he isn't willing to stop, he should say "I hear that it makes you uncomfortable, but it's not something I'm willing to quit, so we need to talk about whether that's a dealbreaker for this relationship and move forward based on what we figure out."

Instead, it sounds like he kept following them, but told you he didn't. That's dishonesty, and it's going to feel like a betrayal even if it's about a behavior that, itself, isn't super consequential. I don't think it's "overreacting" to be upset when your partner conceals something from you.

But you've chosen to stay with someone who you know is willing to continue doing something you've asked him not to, and is going to lie about it. You say your trust in him is not the same - why are you still dating him? You don't deserve to be dating someone you can't trust; that's a painful place to be in and not a compromise you have to make. 

Ask yourself: 
1.) Am I willing to stay in a relationship with someone who follows sexy instagram models? If not, leave the relationship. If yes, then you need to figure out what your next steps will be to manage these feelings, and address the discomfort. You have to take active steps; don't just passively keep doing something that makes you uncomfortable.

2.) Am I willing to stay in a relationship with someone who lied to me? If not, leave the relationship. If yes, then you need to figure out how to start repairing that trust. Again, you need to actively commit to this choice, not just passively stay in a relationship with this background radiation.

There's also the issue of you wanting him to tell you "why" he follows them, and him being unable to. Maybe he can't articulate why ("I like looking at pretty ladies" might just be the whole story), or maybe he doesn't feel like talking to you about it would be emotionally safe. Think about how you come to the conversation and what you two can do to make it easier and safer to be honest with each other.

My partner isn't affectionate to me when his other partner is around

I’ve been dating this guy casually for a year or so, and he has a partner that he’s been with for almost 10 years. They’re a wonderful couple and we speak openly about our relationships together, but when she’s around he doesn’t flirt with me at all. I know I’m not the main girl, but it sucks being treated differently just in front of her. Do I ask for more attention or should I just look for attention else where? How do I not offend anyone and address this in a formal manner?

Healthy polyamory, and healthy relationships of all types, are about communication! This is totally something that's valid to bring up. Be specific and focus on what's observable. "Hey, whenever we're around Esmeretta, you never call me 'babe'/kiss me/hold my hand/etc. and that's starting to bother me. Is that something specific you two have negotiated, or is this something we can talk about and work on?"

It's possible that he's doing it subconsciously or just assuming that it would be more comfortable for everyone if he acted in this way. A little more intentionality and awareness is never a bad thing! 

Don't just assume that because you've been dating him for less time that you're "not the main girl." Polyamorous relationships don't need to be ranked - you can both be on a 'level' where you have his flirty and affectionate attention. Don't relegate yourself to a place where you don't get to ask for what you want because you think that's how things are set up. 

If he comes right out and tells you that it's intentional - that he, or she, or both of them are uncomfortable with him being flirty while she's around - then you have to decide whether you want to be in an arrangement where, after dating someone for a year, you still don't get the type of attention you want because of another person's preferences. 

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I don't want to be polyamorous, and my partner is guilting me about it

My partner is making me feel bad that I’d like to stay monogamous with them and have our romantic relationship be that one. They talk about having to use daydreaming to cope and read fanfiction as well and will do it with me there when I want to try and do stuff with them like hanging out and relaxing together. It just makes me uncomfortable that they have to do it to cope as they put it and we have discussions but it more and more seems to be a “you have to accept this” situation.

If someone asks you for something, and then won't take "no" for an answer, they weren't really asking in the first place.

It's one thing for a partner to ask for a compromise, like that you be okay with them indulging in polyamorous fantasies and fanfiction. But spacing out, ignoring you, or getting lost in any media while they're hanging out with you isn't cool. Ask them if they could put the phone down or try to be more present to you during your time. If they can't or won't, then that's information you have about what being in a relationship with them is like.

I've said before that I really dislike the phrase "cope with" as it relates to a partner's needs or behaviors. If your partner is treating you like something they have to find ways to "cope with," that's an unfair and unhealthy framing. Performing how miserable they are in the terms of your relationship is manipulative, and no one should be guilt-tripped into polyamory. I'm of the opinion that living in resentment is never good, and if you make a decision, you should make it wholeheartedly, and commit.

One of my partners is terribly allergic to cats, so I can't get a cat. If I did, he wouldn't be able to come over to my house, ever, or even cuddle with me without me showering and changing first. This bums me out, because I like cats - but I've decided that it's worth it to stay with him. So I live with that decision, and don't wallow in the "what-if"s. I don't show him photos of cute kittens and say "see, that's what I could have if it wasn't for your issues." I don't bemoan my cat-less life. If having a cat was that important to me, I could leave the relationship. I decided not to - that was my decision, and I need to own and live in that decision. I can be privately bummed out that the stars didn't align for me to have this relationship AND a kitty, but I made my choice, and it's best to move on and live in the world that exists. 

So, you're within your rights to ask your partner to drop this issue, to stop guilting you and making it seem like your relationship is this terrible psychic burden they must cope with. If they can't or won't, you should probably leave the relationship. It's not fair to either of you to stay in this situation, and you don't deserve to feel like a problem to be dealt with.

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My partner doesn't pay me much attention anymore - should we try polyamory?

My girlfriend doesn't pay me much attention anymore but we're still very much in love. I've always been interested in being polyam but she seems less enthusiastic. I feel like this could be the way to save our relationship but am I just stringing out a painful end?

Opening a relationship does not save it. If you're already having problems, those will most likely be magnified and exacerbated by the opening of the relationship. 

The solution isn't to find someone who can pay you attention and fill in the gaps of your unmet needs - but to talk to your girlfriend about the issues you're having. Be as specific and actionable as possible.

For example, "Please pay more attention to me" is a lot less helpful than something like "Last night, when we hung out, you were on your phone the whole time. I feel like we aren't spending as much quality time together as I'd like lately. Can we plan an evening soon where we give each other our undivided attention?" or "For a while now, it's always me who texts you to make plans and takes all the initiative - can we talk about what's going on? It's starting to bother me and I'd like to know whether you can commit to doing more to show me you care."

Think also about whether something has changed in her life that might be taking her attention away. If she moved farther away, got a new job, has been sick or especially stressed, etc. then you might have to approach things a bit differently. Finding out how to get your needs met without asking her for what she can't give right now may take some creativity and compromise as well as open communication.

Work on the "attention" problem first. Either figure out how to re-right this listing relationship, or identify what your dealbreakers are and commit to ending the relationship if you're not getting what you need. Once this has been addressed (one way or another), then it'll be a much healthier time to start thinking and talking about your own interest in polyamory.

My boyfriend had a passionate connection with his ex, and I feel insecure

My boyfriend has a tattoo of characters he and an old flame played who were romantically involved. They’re still friends. He says he’s over her but I can’t help feeling like I’m loving him from beneath her shadow. Doesn’t help that I realized the painting visible from his bed looks like her last time I visited. He was surprised when I pointed that out but agreed. I’m not sure how to deal with this. I know I have some insecurity issues but I’m not sure how to deal.

Everyone has a past - no one blips into existence the moment we meet them. It's impossible for someone to be faithful to you before you are in their life. Try to identify whether the issue is him, whether he is the one casting "her shadow" over the relationship, or whether it's something inside you being projected out. If he is specifically doing things to make you feel insecure - if he compares you to this old flame, texts her while you're having time together, etc. - then bring those up. He can change his current behavior to be a good boyfriend to you, but he can't change his past choices.  If everything in your current relationship is fine, but you just don't like the tattoo or the thought of her, consider working with a therapist who specializes on issues with insecurity.

If it's not his behavior that the problem - if he isn't doing or saying things to keep you in this state of feeling insecure or compared to her - then it honestly is a majorly positive sign that your boyfriend is able to remain friends with someone he dated. It takes a lot of maturity and perspective to recognize that a relationship isn't working in a sexual-romantic context, but also be able to hold space for how that person can continue to be in your life. Many people have black-or-white thinking; where someone is either their soulmate or a villain, and that kind of thinking has other implications that are not great.

Being able to say "this person gave me a lot of joy, and we had a lot of fun together, but the relationship needs to shift now, because our needs have changed, or we've learned more about ourselves and each other" is a powerful skill. If he had a lot of anger, regret, or shame about the tattoo, that might make you feel more secure, but it would actually be a red flag about his emotional maturity. So if that helps you reframe the situation, think about what a great guy this means he is!

I have insecurity issues particularly because I have a history of being left for other people. The man I’m with now (6mo LDR) had done so prior, married her. He’s divorced now. He doesn’t want to label what we’re doing but he tells me he loves me. He wants me to think about moving in with him from another state with my kid. I want to but I’m scared about his commitment. I can’t for a while yet. How do I talk to him about “us” and labels? I’m taking a risk, but it needs to be a calculated risk?

Hold up. If I’m reading this right, you’re currently dating a person who previously left you for another woman, married her, then divorced her and got back together with you. You’ve been together in this second relationship for six months now, all long distance. He wants you to move to another state to be with him. But he isn’t willing to use language to commit to you. 

I do not think you should make this move. I do not think you should continue to sidestep your own needs because this guy “doesn’t want to label” things. You do not “have insecurity issues,” you are in a fundamentally insecure situation. He is making sure that he provides you no security, then making you feel like your sense of insecurity is coming from your own “issues,” not a clear-eyed observation of the reality of the situation.

You have the right to ask for what you need. If he refuses to give it to you, walk away. Say something like: “The fact that you refuse to “label” what we’re doing isn’t working for me anymore. Am I your girlfriend? Are you my boyfriend? How would you define our relationship? Are we committed to seeing each other exclusively? What do you see as our future together? Are you committed to staying with me unless an issue comes up between us, not just until you don’t feel like it anymore? I need honest, clear answers to these questions before I’m willing to make any more commitments to this relationship.”

That is an appropriate and fair thing to ask. If he acts like you’re being demanding or controlling or pushy or “moving too fast,” then there’s your answer: that he is not able or willing to provide you the security that you need. He doesn’t want to make a commitment to you. He doesn’t want to give an inch, but he wants you to cross the miles for him. Stop doing 100% of the emotional heavy lifting here. Stop sacrificing your security for his freedom. Ask for what you need. If he can’t or won’t provide it, find a more secure relationship.

What is the best way for me to communicate to a partner that it’s not okay for them to interact with social media, etc when we’re being intimate and/or having sex?

In the vast majority of situations, the best way to communicate something to a partner is clearly, honestly, and in as non-accusatory a way as possible. Bring it up when you two are together but not in the middle of an intimate moment - just as a check-in and a request.

“Hey, the last few times we were snuggling in bed, you were on your phone - and that actually really bothers me. Could you please put the phone/computer/social media way while we’re having sexy or intimate time together?”

If they say “sure, I didn’t realize that was an issue, sorry!” then, great! If they do it again, a gentle reminder: “Can we agree no phones right now?”

This is a perfectly reasonable request for you to make - it doesn’t mean your partner has been doing something wrong since they didn’t know this bothers you, but once you let them know, it should be relatively easy to work through. It’s good practice to get into the habit of gently but openly having this kind of conversation in any relationship.

If, when you ask, they refuse, if they downplay it, insist that you shouldn’t be bothered, try to argue, etc. then they aren’t ready or willing to meet this need for you, and you need to decide whether this is a sustainable setup long-term for you.

i’ve been in a relationship for about 8 months now. my partner is occasionally suicidal and is not very good at regulating their emotions and dealing with negativity. they are not clinically diagnosed with anything because their family is averse to the idea of it. For a few months now i’ve been spending a lot (like 60-70%) of my energy coping with my partner’s distress, be it moodiness and irritation directed at me, or being ignored for a hours at a time, or rebutting unending thoughts of self hatred, and dealing with suicide attempts (twice) late into the night. i feel very drained and tired, but feel as if i cannot leave because of their instability. it is a vicious cycle of me constantly reassuring them that i love them to prevent them from overthinking and becoming insecure about the relationship, making it difficult for me to leave because I keep telling them that I’m not going to. truthfully, i say most of my “i love you"s and "i miss you"s to even it out with how much they say it to me. i am at a loss and don’t know what to do. I feel an immense loss of self esteem, emotional regulation, self identity and social interaction with my family and friends i love. the responsibility for their emotional well-being is becoming unbelievably difficult to carry, but i cant bring myself to put it down because of some stupid promises i’ve made.

Let me be the first person to release you from this sense of obligation. You are never, ever required to shoulder the emotional weight for another person’s problems. If a relationship is causing you “an immense loss of self esteem, emotional regulation, self identity and social interaction,” then it is not healthy for you and you need to leave it. It is okay to do what you need, do what’s best for you, even if it will make someone else unhappy. Their mental health is not your responsibility.

Whatever you decide to do, this situation cannot continue. It is not fair to you, and it is not fair to your partner. You are not a mental health professional, and even if you were, it is inappropriate for “mental health support caregiver” and “romantic partner” to be the same person. Suicide attempts are serious, and next time, you need to call 911 instead of trying to handle it on your own. You either need to take serious steps to set new boundaries with this person and help them find healthier sources of help and support. Something needs to change so you can shift your position to “supportive partner” instead of “24/7 crisis counselor.”

That, or you need to leave the relationship. If you want to leave the relationship, you should. You do not deserve to be in a situation where you are draining all of yourself, and you don’t owe anyone your continued presence in an unhealthy relationship, regardless of what you have promised in the past. You may need to enlist friends, adults, or professionals to support you and your partner through the breakup. A breakup will be messy, and painful, and you may feel guilt, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible or that you are not allowed to leave the relationship.

If this person is unable to access mental health services through their family, there are still options for them. You can point them to a crisis hotline or text line. If your partner is in school, speak to a teacher or counselor in a position to help them. You can talk to your own parents and get their help to advocate for your partner as well. You can offer to sit with your partner and help them draft a letter to their parents asking for mental health help, or offer to sit with them and have that conversation in person, or help them strategize about how to get professional help through other avenues. What you cannot - and should not - do is continue to take on all of this yourself. 

Also, since your mental health is being so poorly impacted, you may also benefit from talking to a therapist - talk to your parents, an adult at your school, or someone else who can connect you with services. 

My boyfriend dumped me last week. We had been together for 8 months. He took my virginity. I found out his ex moved back in with him not even a week later. I don’t know how to deal with this, and I don’t know how to let him go. He broke up with me over text and cut me out of his life completely. I can’t seem to do that, I still care. I still care about him. I don’t know how to stop. He keeps posting depressing stuff off his social media, and I feel bad. Why do I care if he doesn’t care about me?

First off, stop looking at his social media. Block him, unfriend him, do what you have to to make that happen.

Being dumped sucks. It hurts. It hurts bad. There’s no way around that. The only way out is through. It’s only been a week, so of course the wound is fresh and unbearable. But time will heal this, I promise.

You don’t need to “know how to stop” caring about him. Feelings are pesky and tricky in that they don’t change form even if you try really hard to change them. You can’t brute-force yourself into feeling better right away. Let yourself grieve. Let yourself be angry. Someone else hurt you. It’s okay to feel whatever you need to feel about that.

Take care of yourself. Find distractions. Do what feels good. See a fun movie. Go out with friends. Eat ice cream. Let yourself cry. Pet a dog. Take long showers. Follow a bunch of new tumblrs. Find ways to make it through the days, and slowly this painful episode will fade farther and farther back into the past.

You can do this! It will be okay, I promise.

my boyfriend always complains i act like im not interested in spending time with him but whenever i ask to spend time with him he acts like i’m asking too much of him and like he has so many things to do he just can’t and if i act sad about him having to leave or do something he gets annoyed and that’s why i don’t ever ‘act interested’ because whenever i do i get called annoying and clingy and told how he cant spend all this time with me. i feel like no matter what i do im going to be wrong.

It doesn’t sound like this is a healthy relationship. Your boyfriend criticizes you for acting “not interested in spending time with him,” but when you do, he says you’re being “annoying and clingy.”

Making someone feel like “no matter what you do, it’s wrong” is emotionally manipulative and cruel. When with a partner, you should feel welcome and accepted and free to relax into your feelings. Being constantly critiqued, policed, and put down for how you act and how you feel is not healthy at all.

You deserve to be with someone who has the emotional maturity to identify their needs and work with you to meet them, rather than demanding some psychic perfection. Leave this relationship.

Do you think the idea of “cutting negative people in your life” idea is as a positive and applicable as it present in most situation? I am in a situation and it’s quite heavy.

“Do no harm, but take no shit.” If someone isn’t healthy for you, you don’t owe them your emotional labor.

Do not become a martyr - do not allow yourself to be drained and drained and drained. But do not become a vampire - do not take and take and take and then flounce off as soon as something is asked of you.

Life is all about balance. All the people I love can be “negative” at times. People are messy, and complicated, and often needy. But I try to surround myself with people who can receive my love in a healthy way. I might feel sad, or tired, or even upset, after tending to them during a rough patch, but it’s in a larger context of a relationship that is meaningful and fulfilling. 

Nearly no one is simply a “negative person” or a “positive person.” And there is a lot of grey area between “set zero boundaries” and “cut someone out of your life entirely.” Sit with yourself and figure out what’s bothering you about this person’s negativity, and identify your needs. Is your need really “to have zero contact with this person,” or is it “to not be their emergency go-to for emotional crises 100% of the time” or is it “to not be criticized for every little thing you do,” etc.? 

If you have noticed a pattern in your life of feeling like you “can’t” set healthy boundaries with people who are draining you, or if you have noticed a pattern where you are far too quick to label someone “negative” and “cut them out” of your life as soon as they reveal imperfection, consider talking to a therapist about this.

My partner has recently developed a new crush on one of his friends that I’ve always been suspicious of them being a little more than friends. He’s recently told me they’ve been fucking around and stuff and it makes me feel very overwhelmed and uncomfortable. He’s told me for so long he didn’t like her and nothing would EVER happen with her and now they’re fucking around and that hurts. I don’t feel comfortable around her anymore and I don’t know what to do. Idk if I can handle this?

I have genuinely no idea what you mean by “fucking around” and I am not clear from your letter whether you and your partner have any kind of open/non-monogamous relationship, so I am afraid I don’t have quite enough context to give great advice.

What I can say, though, is that if your partner is doing things that make you feel uncomfortable, talk to him about it. If he is dismissive of your discomfort, or has any stance besides total willingness to resolve this in a healthy way, then leave the relationship. If you are already done with him about the lying and the hiding, leave the relationship. You deserve to be with someone who isn’t going to minimize your concerns, deny that they’re doing something they’re actually doing, and put you in situations that make you feel uncomfortable and overwhelmed.

What does it mean when someone dumps you constantly and then says ‘let’s be friends’ only to turn around and continue acting like you’re still together? :( I don’t know how to talk to them about it because i know they’re going to get upset or give me some lame excuse of 'i love u i just dont want u to go’ but they’re always the one pushing me away and saying they don’t want to be together and they’re the one who doesn’t want anything real. :(

What does it mean? It means this person is jerking you around for their own benefit. They want to do none of the emotional labor of being in a relationship with you, while getting all the benefits.

If an employer told you they don’t want to have you on the payroll, but really like having you around, would you keep doing work there? I know that it can feel gross to think about romantic or intimate relationships in economic terms, but this person is using you in a similarly exploitative manner.

If you are having sex with this person, stop. If you are doing emotional work for this person, stop. They don’t want to be with you, so don’t be with them. They do not get to have their cake and eat it too. Walk away, and find someone who is willing to actually be with you and not be weirdly cryptic and manipulative about it.  

I have really bad anxiety and depression and whenever my partner is away or not responding I start getting really negative thoughts and thinking they’re with someone else and ignoring me because they think this other person is better than me and it’s really messing with me and my relationship. What can I do to make this go away?

Ooh! I know this one! The answer is therapy. Specifically DBT and/or CBT designed to address anxiety, obsessive thoughts, and intrusive thoughts. This is a well documented phenomenon and we have lots of tools to help address it! Talk to a professional for help, and in the meantime, you can also find self-help workbooks and apps for this. Check my resources here

What is love? I’ve been with this guy for a year and we fight a lot and he always tells me how horrible he thinks I am and I know most of the stuff he says isn’t true or its just an exaggeration of the truth and so it makes me not want to be with him because it really affects my mental health ( i have severe depression) and i’ve told people about him and they always say he’s abusive and i always say i cant leave because i ‘love’ him but what is love? Do I really 'love’ him or am i just afraid.

If you’re with someone who tells me how horrible you are, lies to you, exacerbates your existing mental health issues, and people in your life believe he is abusive: leave him.

Sometimes “love” isn’t enough. Sometimes you can love someone’s ‘potential’ - who they might be if they could let go of the hatred and anger and pain that cause them to act in abusive ways. Sometimes, we get so caught up in the positives - maybe the sex is great, maybe on his good days he’s really really good, maybe he’s very funny - and we become convinced that those positives absolutely must cancel out the negatives. 

Sometimes, we mistake any heightened emotion for love. This is why people like to take dates to horror movies, and why people will report that someone is more attractive to them if they first see that person in a dangerous situation. I am sure that this person makes you feel very strong feelings - but the strength of those feelings doesn’t mean you should stay with him.

Love does not hurt. Love is incompatible with abuse. Love does not make you afraid. Leaving this guy might feel hard, and lonely, and scary, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. You deserve to find love that makes you feel good, that builds you up, that doesn’t make you wonder whether you are in love or “just afraid.” Let go of the messiness here and set yourself free. You can do it. You’re worth it. If you are worried about him using emotional, psychological or physical violence to make it harder for you to end things, enlist the help of friends or a professional. Check out my resources here.

My boyfriend and I got into a really big fight and almost broke up and he’s been really cold towards me since. I send little hearts and he ignores them. I say I love him and he doesn’t say it back. I don’t know what to do. He started doing this a week before we got into our fight and it’s been really bugging me which is partly why we got into such a huge fight and I don’t understand why he’s being this way?

Have you asked him why he’s acting this way?

Maybe he needs some space.

Maybe he does want to break up.

Maybe he just expresses affection differently than you.

Maybe he’s been replaced by an alien pod person.

Maybe he doesn’t like little hearts. 

Maybe he’s feeling overwhelmed by other obligations and doesn’t have the emotional energy to respond to you, even in a positive context.

You gotta ask him! Don’t do it with pressure or accusations; just gently ask him why he seems so avoidant with you and whether there’s anything he needs from you to solve the problem. If he really seems to just not want to be present to you in ways that you need in a relationship, then maybe this isn’t the relationship for you.

Is it irrational to want my partner to message me in the mornings when they wake up? I understand if they have things to do but I’d just like to know they’re thinking of me and for them to let me know if they’re going to be busy or not and they act like I’m asking something really difficult and irrational? It just makes me feel like they always think of me last because they wake up and do things and message me hours later. I rarely even get a good morning from them first.

It’s not irrational of you to want it, but it’s also not irrational of your partner not to do that. Some people don’t like to start their day immediately with texting. It sounds like your partner prefers to wake up, get their day started, then settle into whatever daily conversation you two are going to have. It doesn’t mean that you’re not a priority; or that they think of you “last,” it’s just a difference of preferences and routines. Just because someone’s behavior bothers you doesn’t mean they’re obligated to change it; neither of you is being “irrational,” but neither of you gets the right to put unilateral demands on the other one either.

For many people, taking a few hours to start their day is key to their mental and physical wellbeing, so your partner might feel really threatened by an imposition on their morning routine. For other people, their morning routines aren’t as important to them, or they can reasonably accommodate post-wake-up texts.

Try letting go of the framing here that makes you take this personally. I doubt your partner is going “Ah, I’ve just woken up, and I could text my partner, but they are NOT IMPORTANT TO ME so I’m just going to do something else and make them wait!” Instead, it’s probably more like “Ah, I’ve just woken up! I need some time to get started and settle into my day before I feel up to using my phone or talking to other people. As soon as I’m ready, though, I’d love to connect with my partner about how our days are going to go!”

It feels to you like they’re putting you last, but really, you two just have different morning routines. If this is an absolute dealbreaker for you, then you have the right to seek a partner who likes the same exact type of connections and routines as you. But you might be able to find a compromise with your current partner. Maybe they text you before lunch every day, and that can be early enough for you but late enough for them. Maybe you need to find something else to focus on during your mornings. Maybe they could text you before bed and you could read it in the mornings. This isn’t about who is being “rational,” it’s about finding a way to meet in the middle so that neither of you feel hurt or ignored or unfairly put-upon.