Dear John: But I Liked Her First!
Tuesday, February 07, 2012
A couple weekends ago, I invited a female friend of mine over. We were hanging out for a while and were on the way to a party, when out of the blue she told me that she wasn't into sleeping with anyone that night, that she just wasn't feeling very well and didn't want to. Naturally, I was entirely fine with it, and I completely respected her decision. I was actually a little bit surprised, because although I had told my friends I was interested in her, I made no indication to her. I also never move that quickly between friends and sex. We went to the party, and ended up getting split up. I returned to my room a couple hours later and found her having sex with my roommate. I completely exploded. I made sure to wait until she left, and I absolutely let him have it. I didn't hit him, although I told him I wanted to, but I yelled at him about his complete betrayal of me, of his contempt for my emotions, of his inability to think past sex, and basically that he broke every rule in the book. He ended up breaking down and apologizing to me, so I told him it was okay now, and that I really just wanted an apology, and for him to think next time. We're back to being good friends, and I was initially very proud of myself, because I had always been the weak kid, and I never had stood up for myself when I was hurt, but finally, when someone treaded all over me, I was able to stand up for myself, and let him know that what he did was not okay. However, I still have this nagging feeling that I was somehow unjustified in my anger. Should I have just let it be casual sex, as he claimed it was, or should I have told him very clearly that's not how life works, and that to me it wasn't just casual sex, it was a betrayal of my trust?
Dear Righteous Fury,
That nagging feeling is right. Your anger was unjustified. All you told your roommate was that you were attracted to this woman. That kind of admission gives you no claim here at all. You say yourself she wasn’t even aware of your interest!
Look, your feelings were hurt. I totally get that. But just because your feelings were hurt, that doesn’t mean you were wronged. People don’t necessarily have to do something wrong for other people’s feelings to end up hurt. However it happened, when it started to become sexual, what was your roommate supposed to think, “Uh-oh, better not do this – Billy likes her!” Why should he do that, exactly? He doesn’t owe you that. I understand that he’s your good friend and he knows you like this girl, so he also knows that you’re going to be hurt when you find out they slept together. But is the prospect of your being hurt supposed to prevent him from exploring a relationship he might want? I think you’re expecting a lot – too much in fact.
I do think it’s a positive step for you that you’re no longer ignoring your feelings. The next step should be to express how you really feel. You weren’t mad; you were hurt. So instead of blowing up at your friend and brow-beating an apology out of him, you should have said something like, “You know I kind of have a crush on Betty, so when I came back here to find you guys in bed together, man, that really, really hurt. And you knew it would hurt. Why would you do that? Just because you could?” See the difference between that and erupting? It not only lets him know how you felt, it gives you a chance to see things from his point of view. You know that apology he gave you? Give it back.
In general I am a very good husband. However, I have seemed to stumble on Valentine's Day the last two years. Let me take you back to my first mistake. Two years ago, Valentine's Day fell on a Sunday. My wife asked that I make a reservation for a fun brunch place. I didn't think a lot of couples would do brunch (I know that was stupid) so when I called on Saturday I couldn't find any brunch places within a 20-mile radius that had a reservation. My wife was NOT PLEASED. This past year I was in graduate school and I had a BIG paper due the day after Valentine's Day (I know, my professor was clearly single and getting back at all happy couples) so I dropped the ball again, because I was so busy working. I remember last year thinking that next Valentine's Day I will not mess it up and I am going to make her so happy. SURPRISE! I let the day sneak up on me and I have not planned anything. Any last minute suggests so I stay out of the dog house?
Forgetful But Not Thoughtless
Dear Forgetful But Not Thoughtless,
I think you’re overcompensating due to the trauma of the last two Valentine’s Days. When this column runs, you’ll still have a week to get ready. That’s more than enough time. Obviously, it’s hard for me to make a specific suggestion without knowing anything about your wife, what she likes, how much money you can spend, etc. But if I were you, I would make plans to go away together for the weekend – Valentine’s Day falls on a Tuesday, so you could make arrangements for the following weekend or any upcoming weekend that fits your schedule. If you live here in New England, you’re close to anything you like to do. You can head north to ski or snowshoe; you can go to New York for a play or museum trip; you can even visit Montreal or Quebec City if you want to venture someplace a little more exotic. What to do when you get there should be pretty easy to figure out once you decide on a destination. Mostly, though, this is all about getting out of your familiar environment with all its distractions and mundane predictability and being alone together. Sometimes, when you’re in a new place, you see the person you’re with in a new light, too.
I am in a classic power struggle with my parents. I will be entering college in the fall. I want very much to pursue a performing arts degree – this is something I’ve wanted to do for as long as I can remember. My parents have known this was my dream, but they never really said anything about it beyond, “See how you feel when the time comes.” Certainly they were never discouraging. Well now the time has come and I’m seeing how THEY feel. We’ve gone back and forth and the “discussion” has escalated with every conversation, but the long and short of it is they are insisting if they are going to pay for my education, I have to pick a more “practical” major. According to them, it’s fine to dance as a hobby, but they have no intention of spending all that money on a hobby. I think the unemployment rate among recent graduates is really scaring them. I know they mean well, but what do I do? If I have to major in business or something like that, I don’t even want to go to college. What would be the point? Yesterday, they finally phrased it in the terms of an ultimatum. I’m even thinking of doing it anyway without telling them – I’m going to school on the opposite coast, so I think I could pull it off. Maybe not indefinitely, but if I start down this road I think maybe they’d be a little more flexible?? I’m so distraught. Any advice you can give me would be much appreciated.
Passion Vs. Practical
Dear Passion Vs. Practical,
It’s unfortunate your parents are so dismissive of your desires, but at the same time, college has become so absurdly expensive that I can’t say their wish to see some return on their investment is completely outlandish. But you’re right: forcing you to study something you’re thoroughly uninterested in seems like the biggest waste of their money of all.
No, you shouldn’t lie about what you’re up to. Whether or not you could go away with it is irrelevant; it’s simply wrong. Stealing from your parents is no way to finance your dreams. So I guess the first thing I would ask is, is there room for compromise here? For example, could you avoid deciding on a major for your first year, take some “practical” courses and some in dance, and see how it goes? Maybe a dance instructor, having witnessed your talent, will be willing to convince your parents not to withhold your gift from the world. Or maybe you’ll find that the business courses you think you’ll loathe are kind of interesting after all. You might even discover a discipline that satisfies you and them – entertainment law or something. So the first thing I would see is if they are open to just trying an arrangement like this to see how it goes.
If they’re stubborn, though, and flatly refuse to pay for your education until you declare a major that meets their approval, then I think you should rethink your plans, accept that your parents will not help you financially, and find an alternate way to study what you love. To see what your options are, I’d start by talking to the guidance counselor at your school or discussing this with one of your instructors.
It won’t be easy. But making your dreams come true usually isn’t.
John is a middle-aged family man from Providence, Rhode Island. If you learn from your mistakes, he’s brilliant. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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