Dear John: She Wants Him All To Herself

Tuesday, September 17, 2013


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What’s your problem? Write to John at [email protected]

Dear John,

I started dating a guy about a year ago that I met through some mutual friends. At the time, he quickly wanted our relationship to be exclusive, which I saw as a real red flag. To tell you the truth, I wasn’t all that interested in him, but he seemed nice enough and I didn’t have anything else going on, so I thought why not. I had every intention of keeping it casual and seeing other guys, though.

A year later, the roles are reversed. I think dating me gave him the confidence to ask other women out, which he took full advantage of. He goes out all the time now with a few different women, he says he’s very happy with the way things are, and he has no desire to commit to any of them, including me. I, on the other hand, have fallen completely in love with him. He’s smart, he’s kind, he’s emotionally secure, and he’s hysterically funny. And I want him all to myself. We started having sex a couple of months after we started dating, and I assume his other relationships are no different from ours. I don’t want to ask him because I know he’d be honest and I don’t really want to hear about it.

He knows I want him to stop seeing other people and he hasn’t said he never will; he just doesn’t want to now. When I ask him when he might, he says he doesn’t know. So I am torn: is it better to share him with other women and take whatever part of him he can give for now, hoping that the future will be different? Or should I just stop seeing him altogether so I don’t have to keep agonizing over this? I truly don’t know what to do - or I think I know, but then the next day I feel the opposite. I really don’t know if I can force myself to be without him altogether. What do you do when both options make you miserable?

Don’t Want To Share

Dear Don’t Want To Share,

I guess you pick the option that makes you less miserable, right? I don’t think it’s a good idea to be in a relationship that’s making you unhappy in the hopes that it will change. Maybe it will; maybe it won’t. What you have to deal with is the way it is now, and the way it is now isn’t what you want. It’s not only making you miserable, it’s also preventing you from pursuing something that could make you happy. Unfortunately, I think you should tell him that the way things are isn’t working for you and the two of you should stop seeing each other. Don’t tell him this in the expectation it will change anything or force his hand. You want to be in an exclusive relationship, and he doesn’t. It’s that simple. You have to put yourself in a position to find something more fulfilling than this is, and that has to start with extricating yourself from a situation that has become painful for you. Breaking up with him will be painful too, I know, but it’s a pain that will lessen with time. Continuing to date him under these conditions offers no such assurance.

Dear John,

Our only son just started college on the West Coast and I am having a hard time of it. I’m sure it will get better with time, but how much contact do you think is reasonable to expect at this point? I’ve been texting him throughout the day because it’s so easy, but my husband says to give him space. Plus, I start to panic when he doesn’t answer right away, especially at night. So texting him tends to bring me as much anxiety as it does happiness. Like I said, I know it will get better in time – I hope it will, anyway – but what’s reasonable here? I miss him so much!

Empty Nest

Dear Empty Nest,

I’m with your husband on this one. College isn’t just about the things you learn in a classroom; it’s also about learning how to be a free and independent adult. You have to give him the space he needs to do this. There are no hard and fast rules, but I think a regularly scheduled weekly video call over Skype or FaceTime will give you the reassurance you need that he’s well while giving him the room he needs to grow. This is a new experience for both of you – exhilarating and exciting for him, and understandably bittersweet for you. You said it yourself, though: it will get better with time. Hang in there.

Dear John,

My husband and I have a small business. Very small, just the two of us. After working hard for two years, we are ready to take the huge step of hiring our first employee. It’s very nervewracking. The reason I’m writing is I have a good friend who has somehow convinced herself that when we were ready to hire someone, she would be the one. I never said we would, but maybe I wasn’t as clear with her as I should have been. I would just laugh and change the subject. But now it has become something that has to be addressed. The fact of the matter is, this woman is a great friend, but I would never want her as an employee, especially when the right or wrong person could make all the difference to the future of our business. In a nutshell, she’s the kind of person that always seems to have problems that are someone else’s fault. She likes to take it easy and she likes to make excuses, both the opposite of what we need. But I already feel guilty at letting her down! Sometimes I think maybe I should give her a shot – she wants this so badly, maybe she would really put her heart in it. That’s a big chance for us to take, though. Assuming you’re going to agree that hiring her is a bad idea, how can I break it to her that won’t ruin our friendship? I really wish I had nipped this in the bud when she first brought it up.

Help Wanted

Dear Help Wanted,

You have absolutely nothing to feel guilty about. I’m sure you and your husband have invested way too much time and energy into getting to this point to risk taking a step back for fear of disappointing your friend. You and your husband should sit her down and explain that you value her friendship very much, but she’s simply not what you need in the person who will suddenly comprise a third of your workforce. Don’t get into a long debate about whether or not she would be a good fit – what’s the point? Just let her know that your minds are made up. Will it ruin your friendship? I hope not, but that’s out of your control. If it does, it will be because she’s expecting something she doesn’t really have any right to expect, and she’s not dealing well with disappointment. Which sounds like further evidence that you’re making the right decision.

A reader’s response to a recent letter: A couple of weeks ago, I answered a letter from a woman whose husband was an avid knitter and who was perpetually disappointed that friends didn’t wear his creations as often as he would like. I suggested that he start making sweaters for homeless shelters or caps for newborns that he could donate to a nursery. Another avid knitter wrote to me with an excellent suggestion: The Ships Project, an organization that sends homemade hats and slippers to servicemen and –women all over the world. (The original letter writer’s husband was a Navy veteran.) You can learn more about The Ships Project here: I love learning about things like this from my readers – thanks!

John is a middle-aged family man from Providence, Rhode Island. If you learn from your mistakes, he’s brilliant. Write to him at [email protected]


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