Boyfriend admits to flirting at a club
Editor’s note: Carolyn Hax is away. The following first appeared May 2009.
Dear Carolyn: Iamina long-distance relationship with a wonderful young man. We lived in the same city for more than a year before I started graduate school in another state.
During a recent visit, he informed me that he had gone to a club with friends and met a young woman and asked for her number. He told me he got rid of the number the next day. He has apologized and describes it as a mistake.
While I understand “nothing happened,” I still feel his ability to put himself in this situation is a warning sign. Do you think I am overreacting, or are my feelings valid? — Anonymous
Dear Anonymous: If you take it as a warning that the distance is starting to wear him down, then I think that would reward his candor — and, more important, steer you to a more productive line of thinking.
Maintaining intimacy long-distance does wear people down, even people who have made life commitments to each other and who have been separated temporarily out of necessity. Military deployment, for example.
You spent about a year dating, and, judging from the standard academic calendar, you’re finishing your third quarter in absentia. You left of your own volition. Your return — also just a guess — probably hinges on the kind of opportunities available to someone with your degree.
While there’s nothing wrong with any of these choices, they become a problem if you weigh them down with unrealistic expectations. You’ve asked this “wonderful young man” to give up happy companionship in exchange for e-hugs, pining and guilt. No doubt he agreed to it; no doubt his feelings for you were immediate and your absence was abstract.
Given the short time you spent together, it’s likely the reverse is now true — your absence is immediate and his feelings for you are abstract.
I’m spelling this out to point out that his drifting attention is perfectly normal. It’s his admitting it that stands out, and gives you an unusual opportunity to talk to him openly. Please use it: Find out what he’s feeling, and what each of you is prepared to do about it. There may be only two outcomes — stay together, break up — but there are many different ways to get there.
Dear Carolyn: My daughter was recently invited to a birthday party but was told not to bring a present. Do I have her bring one or not? — J.
Dear J.: I know it’s tempting to send her in with a gift — no one wants to be the one kid who walks in empty-handed — but please, respect the host’s request. It’s not the host who makes the emptyhanded kids feel bad, it’s the guests who ignore the directive.