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.

My boyfriend got back with his ex, who I think is very bad for him

My boyfriend is poly, he has gotten a new boyfriend recently and he’s dated this boy in the past, he’s broken my boy so many times and apparently he’s gone to relationship counseling to fix himself. My boyfriend insists he has changed after three months of the counseling, they got back together a few days ago. He asked me if I was comfortable with him dating two other people I said this was fine but I didn’t ask who they were and finding out he’s with this guy again upsets me.

There first issue here is that your boyfriend seems to be lying by omission, saying “are you okay with me dating someone?” knowing that your answer will be “yes” in the general case, and neglecting to mention that it was this specific person. You need to make sure there’s an open line of communication between the two of you about your relationship, new partners, and concerns either of you have. If this is a pattern, you need to figure out whether he’s being evasive because he feels unsafe being honest with you, or just to avoid an unpleasant conversation, or what.

You can’t change your boyfriend’s mind about dating this person - but you can control how you respond to it. You can decide that this person is just not someone you want to be polyamorously connected to, and choose to leave the relationship if it means having him as a metamour. You could decide that you’re not willing to discuss this person with your boyfriend, and that includes advice, comfort, venting, anything. You could decide that you don’t want to be around this person. But all of those are your choices, based on the information you have: that your boyfriend is going to date this person, despite your objections.

Consider also checking your language: you say he has “broken” “your” boy, and that might signal some extremity in your perspective. Your boyfriend has not been “broken” - it’s pretty difficult to actually “break” a person - he may have been hurt, disappointed, angry, frustrated, sad, etc. Using clear, specific terms for feelings helps us address them better. And he is not “your boy” - he is his own person, and his relationships with other people are mostly his business. I don’t doubt you that this person is emotionally dangerous, but don’t make it worse with language that frames your reaction in extreme terms that make things harder, not easier, to address and resolve.

Instead of talking about what this person has “done to your boyfriend,” focus on the impact it’s having on your - “seeing my boyfriend so hurt makes me miserable, and I don’t want to be in this situation, having this person as a metamour is not right for me.” That’s a much better framing, because it focuses on what you can control in your responses.

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.

I was dumped by a polygroup a few months ago, and it still hurts

My polygroup dumped me - like they're all dating and I'm just out of the picture. It was at least a couple months ago and I don't even see them in person like at all anymore but I'm still hurting. I want to be over it, but for some reason I find myself still getting sad and angry when I see reminders of them.

Friend, this is entirely normal! Getting dumped by one person is miserable enough - getting dumped by an entire group is going to hurt like nobody's business. You have my deepest sympathies.

This is not really a problem with a solution besides "wait it out." You're already doing the right things by not seeing them in person and trying not to wallow in the sadness, but a few months is NOT much time to get over such a painful breakup!

Be patient and gentle with yourself. Give yourself grace and tenderness when you're sad and angry. Nothing is wrong with you for feeling this way. It's not that you're sad and angry "for some reason" - you're sad and angry because a really sad, maddening thing happened to you! It's okay, and you're okay.

Find distractions - whether it's rearranging your hamster's cage or getting back into playing The Sims or hitting a local concert or foraging for mushrooms. Reach out to friends who are not connected to that group of people. Indulge in some comforts. Consider talking to a therapist or an informal support/venting chat or forum. And know that you will get through this. 

My metamour is moving in, and there's tension because my partner really want us to date

My partner's girlfriend is moving in with us and I'm a bit nervous because while she and I are good friends, we are not romantically interested in each other. That's okay with us but my partner really wants for us to be romantically involved and can't seem to let it go. Is this going to end in disaster?

The co-habitation isn't the problem, it's your partner being pushy about this. They need to drop the issue, and yesterday. Sit them down and explain that you're very nervous about her moving in, not because there's any issue with the dynamic between you two, but because of your partner not being willing to let this go. Tell them that they can't wheedle, cajole, argue, convince, or otherwise mind-trick two people into dating if they don't want to date each other, and trying to do so will only cause problems. If they can't accept this or refuse to stop, you need to decide whether this is a situation - the relationship and/or the living arrangement - that you feel comfortable staying in. 

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.

I was with my ex for almost three years, he was my everything. He was my only friend. We would always fight over who I talked to( as in guys). He was also very controlling. I honestly wanted us to last. But the accusations weren’t worth it anymore. So I gave up. I dumped him and blocked him. He’s met someone else and I can’t seem to stop checking his social media to see what he’s been up to. Do you think I really loved him or that it just hurts that he’s moved on?

That sounds like an unhealthy relationship, and you did the right thing by leaving it. But few things in life are 100% black-and-white. Having feelings of sadness and pain after a breakup is NOT evidence that a breakup was the wrong choice. 

Stop checking his social media - block him even harder if that’s possible, enlist a friend to help you break this habit, take a social media fast - and give yourself the time it will take to heal from this. It’s okay to have complicated feelings, it’s okay to need time to feel better. Focus on what makes you happy right now.

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.

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.

I’m trying to figure out if polyamory is for me or not. I’ve been in a poly relationship in the past and it was fine but I’m having a lot of difficulties in my current one. I’m not allowed to have other partners, which to an extent is fine. My partner constantly goes on about his other partners and boasts about getting laid and its gotten to a point I just don’t want him with anyone else. I don’t know if this means I can’t be poly at all or if it’s just that this relationship isn’t working.

Your partner doesn’t allow you to have other partners, but he goes out and has other partners, which he then comes back and brags to you about? This doesn’t sound like a healthy arrangement.

Have you tried talking to him about this? Telling him how you feel when he goes on and on about his other partners? Asking him why he feels it’s okay for him to have other partners while you can’t? If not, try opening up that conversation - perhaps he’ll have answers for you that help you two make sense of things and come to a better compromise.

But if he’s not willing to discuss this, if he’s not willing to re-assess your arrangement, or if you’re just unhappy with the dynamic between you two, it might be that this relationship isn’t working for you. I don’t think that means no poly relationship would work for you - something more egalitarian, without the weird restriction on you and the obnoxious rubbing of other partners in your face, might end up being healthy and happy for you! It sounds like this specific relationship has some issues that stem from your partner, not necessarily the polyamory.

I’ve met this guy recently and me and him have became really good friends. I’ve started to like him but I don’t think he likes me because I’m 17 and he’s 25. So he looks at as a friend. Any advice on how how I can maybe change his opinion of me and to not think of the age gap?

Nope, I don’t have that advice, because it doesn’t exist. There is nothing anyone can do to change another person’s thoughts or feelings. You can never argue, cajole, prove or convince someone into having feelings for you, or really anything else. This goes for crushes, coworkers, parents, bosses, siblings, exes, elected officials, clergy, teachers…you see where I’m going.

It’s a tough truth to swallow, but if your problem boils down to “I want someone else to think, feel, or act a different way,” there is no real solution. The only thing we can ultimately control is ourselves. Shifting our perspective to “What can I do to keep myself healthy and safe while this other person makes this choice, has these feelings, or behaves this way" is our best bet for happiness.

Also, that is a pretty serious age gap. A 17 year old is in a different place in life than a 25 year old. You two have different emotional landscapes, different lifestyles, different worlds. It’s okay for him not to want to date you - it would be okay for someone your own age to not want to date you, but since this person is so much older than you, it’s also healthy and responsible on his part.

It sucks when you want something, or someone, that you can’t have. I’ve crushed on and pined after my share of people who simply were not appropriate for me to date, and I know that it’s painful and frustrating. But the solution is not to try and change his mind - it’s to respect his lack of interest. This isn’t the last time you’ll wish you could change someone’s opinion of you, so figure out what you can do for yourself to make it through this.

What should I do? My partner forced me to give up the one hobby I really enjoyed and is still accusing me of participating in said hobby and I’m not. I’ve had to defend myself and provide evidence that I’m being truthful on multiple occasions and I just feel that’s not fair at all? I’ve done nothing to deserve this and I’ve never lied about it. Why are they being like this? What can I do?

What you can do is leave this relationship. It is NEVER okay to “force” a partner to do anything, from sex to taking out the trash. It is NEVER okay to continuously accuse a partner of lying and hold them hostage to your own issues with honesty and trust. And it is NEVER okay to simply demand that your partner give up something that makes them happy. Isolating someone from things they enjoy is a major red flag for abuse.

Why are they being like this? I don’t know why. Often possessive, manipulative, and abusive behavior stems from an unmet need or a confused assumption about their own worth and value. But that’s for them to work on healing, possibly with the help of a professional. You are not obligated or even able to identify the reason behind someone else’s bad behavior or choice to hurt you. This is not your fault, nor is it your problem. 

There is no magic set of words or behaviors you can employ to “convince” this person to believe you. They are committed to this mindset and behavior, and it is hurting you. You need to get out of this relationship and find people who will support you in your hobbies and treat you with love and respect.

I feel like my partner often refuses to take responsibility for their own actions and place the blame on me for a lot of things and it’s really starting to cause me a lot of mental health issues. I feel like I’m constantly having to apologize and often for things that I did not do or that they turned into something it wasn’t. They never apologize when they hurt or upset me and I end up apologizing for my own emotions and pain. I feel like I can’t voice my thoughts and I often regret when I do.

Those are some textbook red flags of emotional abuse. Even if it’s not to the level of “abuse,” that is manipulative and deeply unfair. This is not a relationship that is healthy for you. You don’t deserve to be treated like that. Leave this relationship! And please consider seeing a therapist to help you heal after this.

My boyfriend and I got into an argument earlier in the week because if I saw him liking girls pictures (supermodels asses) So I spoke to him and told him I didn’t like it, and that it was disrespectful to the relationship and just made me feel quite insecure.. He apologized and we talked about it, explaining how it can be avoided, and worked through things. So later on, days passed and I decided to look. So when I looked on his account (tumblr) he had dms sent to girls, saying that they were beautiful and/or they had a pretty smile. So I got upset and started yelling at him and crying because I felt like this was a type of cheating.. and so we talked about it, he told me why he did it or at the time he did it. And he says that it’s his dark mindset he’s in right now - he feels like he’s losing himself and he can’t control his life ATM. So I took that all into consideration and I didn’t forgive him, but I said maybe we could work through it. But I feel like I’m naive for letting him back so quick - I mean I didn’t let him back, but the way my friends are saying it sounds like I’m this love sick puppy or something. Like I do know it’s wrong, and I wouldn’t put myself through this, but I don’t feel like I made the wrong decision, if that makes sense - but at the same time I don’t want him to think I’ll let it slide…I don’t know what to do :( Any advice?

It’s up to you, and only you, to decide what’s best for you - if you want to stay with this guy, you have the personal agency to make that choice. That said, it sounds like this relationship is in a pretty rough place. If you’re interested in salvaging it, I think you need to get really specific and goal oriented, identifying the problems and ways to address them, rather than just rolling with this mess of emotions and unmet needs. Here’s my analysis - you’re free to interpret it any way you’d like:

Problem One: Your partner is doing things online that you feel qualify as cheating

You two need to seriously talk about this and figure out where you can align your values on this. Is it just that he’s looking at supermodels’ photos? Or is it that he’s interacting with them by liking and messaging them? How does he see it - does he see it as just consuming content, or does he feel kind of cheater-y about it? Going forward, what do you two agree is the best way for him to enjoy this type of content?

Problem Two: You have a low enough level of trust in your partner that you’re looking at his online accounts

If this is a thing you two do in your relationship, if this is the level of openness you two have agreed to, then that’s fine. If not, then you need to identify where the trust breakdown happened and immediately take steps to address it. This might mean you need to apologize for violating his privacy, even though what you found when you did means he’s also in a position to apologize for something as well.

Problem Three: Your partner seems to have made a commitment to you to stop doing something, and then kept on doing it secretly

I think it’s important to separate the thing he was doing and the fact that he was lying and hiding it from you. If he felt that your request for him to stop was unreasonable, it wasn’t okay for him to pretend to agree with you and say that he would stop, and then just do it behind your back. That speaks to him not taking you and your feelings seriously and thinking that he is so right that he can just ignore what you’re saying while pretending to humor you. This is an issue of respect more than trust, and you need to address this.

Problem Four: Your partner is refusing to take responsibility for his behavior, making himself the victim of a “dark mindset” and claiming that he “can’t control” his choices

This, to me, is a glaring red flag sort of hidden in a story that, on the surface, is about him liking and messaging supermodels, but really, is about your partner being accountable for his choices and the way they affect you. If you confront your partner about something they did that hurt you, and they insist that they couldn’t help it - that’s a major problem. Either he’s being manipulative and refusing to take responsibility; or he’s really in such a dark place that he has lost control of his life. Both are deep, serious problems that need to be addressed immediately.

You two need to work together to make a plan for how he can get out of this position where he feels he isn’t in control and is making choices he doesn’t want to. What has brought about this dark mindset? Perhaps he needs to see a doctor or a therapist. Perhaps he needs to take decisive action to relieve a source of major, destructive stress: a job or career change, a medical issue addressed, a financial or court-related problem solved with the help of a professional, a living situation adjustment, etc.

If he isn’t interested in working with you to identify and resolve the source of this dark mindset, that’s a problem. He can’t continue to insist that when he does things that hurt you, he’s also a victim, he also doesn’t want to do them, you two are trapped together in this cycle of bad choices and apologies, and not work toward a solution. That’s emotionally toxic and manipulative. If this is a pattern with this person, get out.

Problem Five: You haven’t forgiven your partner, but want to stay together - there’s a balancing act of “what you did isn’t okay, and I need you to understand that, but I’m not clear on how I’m communicating that besides just staying mad.”

There is a lot of space in between “this is a dealbreaker and I am leaving you over this” and “this is no big deal, whatever” - but you need to be intentional about being in that in-between space. The goal should be some kind of resolution. Simply staying mad indefinitely will lead to simmering resentment, passive-aggression, and acting out of a desire to “punish” your partner for his transgressions.

Find a way to be clear and communicative about your anger - “this wasn’t okay, and I’m still hurt, but since we’re not going to break up over this, let’s figure out how to work through it.” Maybe you just need some time, maybe you need a sincere apology with a strategy for avoiding the same problem again, maybe you need him to help you feel heard and understood about what bothered you. Figure out what you need and then ask for it.

Problem Five Point Five: Your friends don’t seem to like this guy

I said at the top that you, and only you, get to make your decisions. And that’s true. And there are cases when someone’s partner is lovely and their friends don’t like them for bogus reasons. However. A lot of times, your friends have a more well-rounded view than you and can see patterns you’re ignoring. If your friends think you’re giving your partner too many chances or making too many excuses for them or letting them get away with things that impact you negatively, they might be right. Consider talking to someone you trust about this relationship situation - not just the supermodel pics, but how good this guy is for you overall - and taking what they say into consideration.

I have been dating this guy since august and I’m so in love with him. But the problem is we are going off to college, and I can either stay at a good college and figure out how to make it work with him, or I can go to NYU (which I’m not sure I even like I just know it will let me have a great career) and leave him behind completely. But he makes me so happy and happiness is the greatest thing in life and all a good career can get me is money, and money isn’t worth throwing away happiness. Idk?

I think you’ve set up a false dichotomy between “money” and “happiness,” and you may be setting up an over-simplified prediction about what each choice will lead to. Your college doesn’t guarantee anything about your career, and your career doesn’t guarantee anything about your financial security - it’s not as simple as the formula you’ve laid out where “stay with boyfriend = relationship = happiness” vs. “go to NYU = career = money.”

Don’t limit your college choices based on a boy. Consider all the factors. You need to figure out whether going to NYU is something you really want, independent of the situation with the person you’re dating or your projections for your post-college future. Think about the experience at college that you’ll have if you stay close to home vs. go to NYU. Are there professors there you’re really excited to work with? Is there a program you would gain a lot from? Does the social and cultural climate there seem like a good fit for you? Would you end up with significantly more debt?

Many, many people don’t remain with their high school sweethearts and still find happiness. Also, you can “figure out how to make it work with him” even from NYU. I went to college far, far away from my high school love; and we ended up breaking up, but we got back together and now we live together. A lot of people leave their high school partners and meet new people in college, and that’s okay too. You might go off to NYU, realize you’re not happy there and part of the reason is that you’d prefer to be closer to your partner, and transfer back closer to him - but at least you checked it out and you made an informed decision. You might end up deciding to go to a school closer to home because it turns out to be the best choice for you academically and socially and financially, but break up with this guy early on for unrelated reasons. Who knows! Not me! Not you! Your future is yours to make - be sure you’re considering all aspects of your life, not just your romantic partnership.

I am hopelessly in love with my boyfriend. I feel like the luckiest girl alive and he makes me so incredibly happy. But….I’m always the one to kiss him first or to hold his hand. I suppose I feel like he doesn’t want me as much. He’s generally a confident person and very confident when we get to kissing. But he never initiates. Is there something I could do?

Yes, there is something you could do: talk to him! Say “hey, I know it might seem like a small thing to you, but I’m always the one who initiates contact. I don’t know if you’ve noticed this, or if there’s a reason for it, but it would make me happy if you went in for a kiss or took my hand sometimes.”

Maybe he really just hasn’t noticed the discrepancy; maybe he just figures you’ll hold his hand when you want to; maybe he has been socialized to always let his partner initiate contact; maybe he has a lower drive for physical intimacy than you do; it could be anything! Bring it up in a gentle, casual way, and see what he says.

If it helps, you two could take a “Love Languages” quiz together. Maybe physical contact just isn’t a primary way he communicates affection - and maybe there’s something he does for you that you don’t realize you’re not reciprocating evenly. Finding a way to talk about that, recognize that it doesn’t mean you love less, just differently, and learning how to communicate in each other’s love languages can really help.