Advice – All of my friends are getting engaged.

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/u/luxorcairo on /r/relationships writes…

I [22F] am a successful young woman who is going to grad school at a uni that is in the top 50 in the world. I don’t really have a lot of friends, but I keep in touch with old friends on Facebook. I have noticed in the past 1.5 years a lot of them have gotten engaged, married, pregnant, etc. One of my friends who is also living abroad in the same country as I am, got engaged yesterday. I am happy for her, but very very jealous.

Seeing all of this, a voice in my head asks me why don’t I have those things? Am I even worthy enough for it? I’ve lost 35 lbs so I could get a boyfriend, but no bites. I am dating someone I truly adore but I doubt we will make it past next fall, and he won’t marry me. I’d probably say yes if he proposed now (we’ve been “dating” for 2.5 months but I’ve known him for 2 years). I am not even sure we will be bf/gf. So, I am trying to lose more weight so that if we fall apart I can get back into dating straight away and find the man of my dreams easier.

I get sick of the “your time will come rhetoric”. It is always by someone who already has a relationship or is married. I know I am only 22. However, I live abroad, and have before. I will do some more minor travelling in my life. I am ready to settle down with a man. No kids yet, but in 5-10 years that would be ok. I am just ready to have a life partner. I have worked hella hard these past 5 years for my education and am ready to share life with someone. Is this too much to ask? In the meantime, how can I stop getting jealous over these engagements? Its becoming envy, where I wish they’d break up so I didn’t have to see it so much on Facebook. Thank you.”

Dear Luxor Cairo,

It is really interesting to read you ask some of these questions – difficult questions to which you’ve already provided really great answers to. All you have to do is read through your post and recognize all the amazing and incredible things you have accomplished in just twenty two years of your life. You’ve been doing some intense self-excavation and mindful identification in just this post alone, that I have no doubt that you also approach your life with intent and purpose that which your friends might be very envious of on their own.

You’d be surprised to hear how many things people do not post on Facebook. Social media allows us to display the best versions of ourselves. Our greatest accomplishments, our most favorable pictures, and our third Which Hogwarts House Do You Actually Belong In Pottermore test result all live in this impossibly perfect bubble of our social media persona. It is neither a truth nor lie, a simple different version of ourselves we all aspire to be. When your friends are posting about their life accomplishment, realize that they’re doing so to celebrate and share their joy with others. So instead of being envious about what you don’t have (yet), why not choose to partake in their own happiness and love their lives as you love your own? What do you have to lose by effusively celebrating their successes as they would yours? Their own happiness does not detract from your own. It is distinctly their own world that they all live in, much like your own world is of your own.

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Since this is a relationship advice column and all, I will also discuss your current dating life here as well.

It is easy to get caught up on that ideal “man of your dreams.” I have personally been in some really … questionable relationships with people who were not great fits for the worlds I was envisioning, people who were not ready to be with me quite yet. I’ve also been in some relationships that quickly outpaced my expectations – hurricane romances that tore all my ships on my shores asunder.

And sometimes, love will find you at the weirdest, most unexpected places. I met one of my partners not three days after my last relationship fell apart. I met another in 4chan of all places.

So this person that you are currently dating isn’t ready to discuss or formulate what kind of commitment he is ready to make with you. Maybe this person is not the best fit for the world you are envisioning, perhaps not ready to be with you quite yet. But instead of projecting where this relationship might be heading by next fall, I encourage you to be bold and enjoy the now. Instead of considering how you’d say yes if he proposed now, you should aim to be more courageous and recognize that good enough is still good enough. You don’t always have to aim for home runs, but you always deserve better.

I am so envious of your bright positivity and enthusiasm for your eccentric future. Your best might be yet to come. I am the most curious to see what kind of incredible and amazing journeys that you’ll take on in the meantime. The you tomorrow will be one step closer to that best version of you.

Good luck!

Please feel free to send me your questions and comments at!

Advice – Intimacy in an arranged marriage. [NFSW]

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/u/Throwaway__56 on /r/deadbedrooms and /r/relationships writes…

“I [22M] got married two weeks ago. It’s technically an arranged marriage, but we’ve been getting to know each other over the past year and a half and I really am happy to have married her [21F] We never had sex because she wanted to wait until marriage. I was fine with it. We are also from a culture where it is common to wait until marriage.

So, our wedding night two weeks ago. I tried to get her in the mood, but she was just too nervous and scared. So we stopped. She was really apologetic and said its her fault, sorry, etc.

The next day, I tried again. We were kissing for ages, but as soon as I tried touching her (through her clothes!) she froze up again. She told me to just keep going, but I don’t want to feel like I’m raping her/ also don’t want to hurt her. So I stopped, and I could tell she was relieved.

I know she feels really guilty, but I don’t know what to do. We talked about it a few days ago, and she said that she really wants to, she just is scared. She said she is definitely attracted to me, and she loves kissing, but I don’t want us to only be kissing for the rest of our lives. What should I do? were any of you afraid of sex? What did you do?”

Dear Throwaway 56,

This is another one of those circumstances that where I wish the other party was also present so that we can talk more about this disconnect at a more therapeutic setting.

There is a lot of missing gaps in what you have outlined. Have you tried to explore other forms of intimacy outside of intercourse (i.e. mutual masturbation, assisted masturbation, etc)? Have you talked in more detail about what could make you both feel more comfortable to exploring intimacy in your relationship? All of these could be one possible way to close that intimacy gap that feels so wide between you two.

It sounds like there is a lot of sexual negativity and hangup surrounding her sexuality. So instead of trying things that have consistently failed, why not try looking at this from another angle?

Maybe we’ve been approaching this from a completely wrong perspective. Have you ever considered having her approach you and initiate first instead? She already knows you are interested. She already knows you are mentally prepared to have sex. If she needs to do that same mental preparation beforehand, it might be better to just take that pressure off and have her come to you at her pace first. That should help establish basic level of comfort in her own terms before she involves you in her sexual headspace.

Conscientiously and intentionally approaching each and every step of your next developments should also help guide you. But it is also important to keep in mind that intercourse is not the end-all-be-all. 25% of gayfolks do not have penis-in-anus intercourse. In the same way, there’s plenty of sexually rewarding levels of intimacy you can explore without genital-to-genital contact. Find joy in exploring each and every one of those steps as well.

Good luck!

Please feel free to send me your questions and comments at!

Advice – I feel bitterness over my ex-wife’s happiness.

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/u/annoymousdad14726 on /r/relationship_advice writes…

“It all started 5 years ago. Our relationship had been going downhill for some time, I’ll leave it at that. We were living together, but our sex life was nonexistent and we barely talked as their always seemed to be some tension building from previous arguments. One day, my wife suddenly told me she was planning on filing for divorce. I was shocked. I knew she was just as miserable as I was, but if anything, my wife was always the one who was going to ‘wait out’ the marriage or hope for a revival in our relationship.

The divorce was finalized rather quickly, we got joint custody of our four kids and everything was handled rather professionally. It wasn’t until a few months later that I learned that my ex had a new man. I happened to know the new guy because he was one of my oldest sons friends. At the time I found out they were dating, my wife was 43 years old and he was 18.

This is where is gets even more weird and disturbing. He graduated high school in 2015 and proposed to her a week later. They got married in September of that same year. Since then, they have had three daughters together. She is now 47 and he is 23. We continue to share joint custody of our 4 kids.

My younger two children talk very highly of the guy and it sucks because I cannot talk bad about him or question their line of thinking or else I could be taken back to court by my ex. My older two kids are more neutral on the whole situation. My older daughter doesn’t seem his as a ‘father figure’ but more as a friend. My oldest son graduated a year after his ‘stepdad’ and moved out immediately. I have been able to have raw conversations with him about everything since he is no longer a minor. He has told me that it disturbs him, but that the new guy truly cares and loves his mother.

It makes me disgusted to know their mother and this guy are brainwashing MY children into thinking he is this saint who came in to fill the role of stepdad/husband to my ex. I’ve thought about going back to court, but my attorney has advised me that we will likely get no where and it will do me more harm than good.

Fair to say life has sucked for me the past few years. I myself have not had an actual girlfriend since the split. I see my ex and the new guy every week I drop my kids off for parental exchange. My ex seems so happy nowadays and part of it makes me miss being married to her and having our family all under one roof.

It sucks being the miserable loner parent while my wife and her new flame are the fun and happy couple. I wish it had never come to this but there’s not much I can do now. I know it sounds terrible but I often hope their relationship fails just so my ex can get a taste of what I’ve felt for the past 5 years while she’s been out having the time of her life.

How do I stop feeling down about myself? Am I supposed to just accept that my wife married a guy that much younger than her and just be ok with it? Do I have a right to be angry?”

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Dear Annoymousdad14726,

There is a lot of pain in this post. It is steeped in bitter resentment towards your ex-wife for the end of your marriage. It is spiked with disdain for their new relationship. And it is brimming with misunderstanding and discontent. I really feel for your deep pain and sense of longing for part of the fatherhood and partnership that you’ve lost in the divorce process. Divorce has so clearly shaped your life and continues to define your motivation and intention going forward.

Let’s get the two most difficult discussions out of the way.

One. It does not matter what kind of relationship your ex-wife has with her new husband. Yeah. It is really weird that your kids’ stepfather is your oldest kid’s friend. The age gap alone would have raised some eyebrows. And the obvious undertones and circumstances surrounding how your ex-wife’s new husband entered her life and your kids’ lives is not very pleasant to look at. However, this relationships is not yours to pass judgment on. Your ex-wife is an adult and she can choose to follow through in any relationships she wants. Even if you personally feel that this is a mistake for your kids, it’s a decision your ex-wife and her new husband made organically and conscientiously. It has been five years since they’ve met and the feedback you’ve gathered from your shared children have all indicated that while they also feel that it’s weird your ex-wife’s new husband is doing a great job. All the evidence is there to support that they make a good team. Five years is a long time to come to accept that their relationship is as legitimate as any can be, regardless of happenstance or age gap.

Also. Your ex-wife and her new husband are not brainwashing your kid. Like your lawyer said, there is no basis here to believe that there is any sort of foul play going on. Your ex-wife’s new husband came into a really difficult situation and have clearly displayed maturity beyond his age that he can be a capable father figure to your kids. Some of your kids are now adults and can make decisions for themselves on whether they want to continue pursuing a relationship with their new stepfather. Please understand that some of these projections that you are placing upon your ex-wife and her new husbands stem from your innate insecurity, jealousy, and bitterness that stem from long before the divorce.

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Others have already suggested therapy, and that is an advice I would echo here as well. There is an immense amount of pain, regret, and resentment that have been festering beneath the surface for the past five years following your divorce. Understand that you were a participant in the dissolution of your marriage and accept that there were plenty of blames and flaws to go around. Instead of choosing to focus on whether or not your kids are being raised correctly in your ex-wife’s care, why not focus a bit more on being the best dad you can be to your own kids? Choose to be happy for your wife’s happiness instead. It is hard enough to find one other person to trust to raise your kids with. Your ex-wife was lucky to find another. There is too much life and our time on this brilliant planet is far too short for us to engage with malicious intent.

When was the last time you sat down with a cup of tea and thought about your own place in this wild, crazy world?

Good luck.

Please feel free to send me your questions and comments at!

Advice – How can I renegotiate relationship hierarchies?

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/u/lefthandsore on /r/polyamory writes…

“Around February, I [29M] started a new relationship with a partner [25F] “Able” who swept me off my feet. She already had an established local partner, and I was in a long distance situation. A month or two later, she asked if we could be primary partners. Because I only saw my LDR once a month or so, I felt like it would be a good move. But, we didn’t talk about what being primaries means to each other. I had never had any hierarchy in my relationships before, so I didn’t think too much of it. Shortly thereafter, my long distance partner and I amicably call it quits, Able and her other partner call it quits; so, Able and I are essentially monogamous.

Fast forward a few months, and I start seeing a new partner [24F] “Baker”. This was her first foray into polyamory. She has since started seeing another partner and is very happy with non-monogamy.

Able sat me down for a talk a few weeks ago because she was concerned that I wasn’t treating her like a primary partner which prompted a discussion (which we should have had months prior) on what it means to be primaries. The gist that I got from her: primary partners are essentially in a committed monogamous relationship with other noncommittal side pieces.

However, as the new relationship between Baker and me has developed, I realize that this hierarchical structure isn’t working. Baker is feeling neglected, Able feels like I’m not prioritizing her enough, and I’m in the middle just trying to avoid hurt feelings for both of them. To me, the solution would be to eliminate the hierarchy (which tends to be how I approach polyamory to begin with). I feel slightly bamboozled by Able because she pitched primaries as just being the ones who are brought home to (less open-minded) family, but then turns around and says she wants a monogamous relationship while we can still bone down on the side.

Is there any way to resolve this without losing one or more partners?”

Dear Left Hand Sore,

I am really sorry to hear you are having such a difficult time with hierarchies. It sounds like you and Able had a pretty major miscommunication on what kind of hierarchical polyamorous relationship you were both participating in. And I can see that you are not aligned with Able in how you personally see your own relationships evolving and growing. I will come back to the question “how can I resolve this without losing one or both partners” at the end.

Polyamorous relationships are all about developing new agreements, adjusting existing agreements, and obsoleting outdated agreements. It sounds like it is the perfect moment to revisit and flesh out that primary partner agreement in much more detail with your partner Able. If you really cannot make hierarchical polyamorous relationship work (or at least in this specific way), then that is something you should communicate immediately with Able so that she too isn’t setting unfair expectations about your relationship with her.

Traditionally, hierarchical relationships generally have a clear and distinct primary relationship that preside over all other secondary relationships. That difference is often reflected in descriptive or prescriptive hierarchies. Prescriptive hierarchies are explicitly defined rules and boundaries that determine the scope and depth of all non-primary relationships. A very good example of a prescriptive hierarchy is the concept of veto. Veto power is a structured rule that allows a primary partner to veto any secondary relationships that they might or might not be a part of. Allowing another person to dictate the status of your relationships can have intense ramifications, and is often a dealbreaker for a lot of polyfolks. In comparison, descriptive hierarchies are implicit guidelines or snapshots of current relationships that might reflect practical, physical, or emotional investment one can make. A good example of a descriptive hierarchy is in marriage. Polygamy is still illegal in all 50 states. So by being married to one partner, it implicitly states that you cannot be married to another partner, at least not in the same legalistic sense. While descriptive hierarchies are naturally developed as you get more or less entangled and enmeshed with a partner, prescriptive hierarchies are internally agreed upon and externally enforced. So please keep that in mind in discussing what your process of shedding hierarchies might look like with Able.

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Now. Let’s talk about how to resolve this issue ahead of you.

I can also sense that there are some resentment that you harbor towards Able over the miscommunication on your agreements. Please understand that the unfortunate part of human experiences is that we have to use words to communicate. And because words can have multiple meanings and intentions aren’t always clear, misunderstandings and miscommunications are just natural consequences of human experience. Based on what you have shared, I do not get the sense that neither you nor Able were inherently or intentionally malicious in your miscommunication surrounding primary partnership. You two just never actually sat down to discuss what it means until it came under heat through the lens of your relationship with Baker. Able did not bamboozle or mislead you. You’ve misled each other to some extent. So learn to give her some benefit of the doubt. Decide whether you want to mindfully and intentionally pursue a better form of communication with Able instead. You can start by discussing how your relationship with Baker has changed a bit of your perspective and subsequently caused a bit of a gap in development and expectation between you and Able. People change all the time. And it sounds like you have. So give a chance to Able to play some catch up. Your job here is to be patient while she makes progress and to hold firm to your own personal boundaries.

Another important thing to keep in mind is that there isn’t anything inherently or ethically wrong with pursuing a hierarchical relationship. Not everyone wants to be a part of a non-hierarchical polyamorous relationship. A lot of people need that primary designation to help with a lot of their inherent insecurity that cannot or will not be resolved through intensive therapy. What distinguishes an ethical hierarchical polyamorous relationship from an unethical one is in how you – as a hinge partner – present those prescriptive and descriptive hierarchies. If you and Able decide to settle on designating each other as primary partners, communicate exactly what that means to Baker so that Baker herself can determine whether a strict hierarchical relationship as it stands continues to work for her. Then determine for yourself what kind of interpersonal boundaries you would need to develop and establish so that the secondary relationship can remain secondary to your relationship with Able.

The last thing I will mention here is that sitting in the middle to sequester hurt feelings from each side of your relationships is part of the price of admission to be a good hinge partner. You’re doing a great job by compartmentalizing some of that pain to its respective relationship. So give yourself some credit.

Good luck.

Please feel free to send me your questions and comments at!

Advice – My wife settled for me.

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/u/StalinsLargeStache on /r/relationship asks…

“I [34M] should start off by saying that I love my wife [31F] to death, we’ve been together 5 years and I would truly do anything for her. However, I’ve always felt like I put much more into the relationship than she does (dates, sex, affection, money, ETC) and whenever I tried to talk with her about she’d say that she was just “comfortable” and that it was acceptable since I’m the “man”. I grew up in a conservative household and this sentiment didn’t exactly stray very far from what I was taught as a boy, so I just dealt with it.

To paint a better picture, my wife never initiates sex, never pays for dates, doesn’t initiate much affection, never compliments me, and doesn’t really buy me gifts. Now I’m no Adonis, I am an average guy who is in relatively good shape with average features, but it still would be nice to feel like an Adonis from time to time–especially from your own wife. As I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting the past couple months I’ve realized how much this actually bothers me.

Well, it eventually culminated in me sitting my wife down and explaining to her that I do not feel attractive/wanted, and I wanted to know why she won’t put in much effort into our relationship. She tried to explain it off with her usual excuse, but it didn’t sit right with me so pushed further and kept persisting. After a while of badgering she broke and finally admitted she settled for me when choosing a partner. She said that the reason she picked me was that I seemed like nice man with a stable job who could’ve been a good husband. She also admitted that she never found me particularly physically attractive, but emotionally we “clicked”. As she was sitting there explaining this to me I felt very hurt and even used, I couldn’t believe my own wife did not find me attractive. When she finished I told her that I had to leave and went to have a few drinks on my own.

I haven’t spoken much to my wife in days, my heart and my head are still in shock I suppose and I am still very angry. The thing is I still love my wife and want her to be happy, she’s a good woman at heart and I hate to see her hurt, but I don’t want to have a relationship where I feel unwanted.”

Dear Stalin’s Large Stache,

I am really sorry to hear that you are in pain. It is really difficult to hear from your partner to what extent you’ve been misled in your five years together. It’s true. You have been misled to think that your relationship with co-equal with mutual respect and love for each other when it was definitely much more one-sided.

You touched on a couple really interesting points in your post that we should sit and talk a bit more about.

One of them is in this traditional/conservative male values that you outlined as a reason to accept your wife’s feelings around not putting in her effort into your relationship. I must ask you. What exactly are those traditional family values from male perspective and why are they relevant to you? We grow up in a world that tells us in so many different ways who we ought to be. We never really get to ask who we really are or want to be until we’ve had decades of other people telling us who we should be. So let’s think about and ask ourselves what it is about those traditional values of being a stable, comfortable, and dependable masculine figure that still holds value in this modern society. Dig deep into what each of those “masculine” values mean to you and for your wife. And instead of yourself settling into those roles, decide what aspects you like and let go of the ones you don’t feel like well-represents yourself.

After this exercise, you might find that you are upsetting the apple cart. And you sort of are. You are learning to reinvent what it means to be a man in a society, a society that cultures men to behave in a certain way. You’re more than what the society tells you to be.

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Now let’s talk about your wife’s comments. Your wife’s comments about settling for you was especially hurtful because it ran contrary to the lies you’ve been repeating for yourself, that this was an equal relationship. And you are upset about the things you have realized in the past five years, with a set expectation on the roles you want to play in your life with your wife for hopefully many more years to come. I imagine you want to be more than just this supportive, dependable man that does 90% of the labor in your marriage and household, yeah? So be more decisive and be more than that.

I do not believe that distancing yourself from your wife is a good idea here. You have already disconnected here. And while your wife too has a lot of mental rewiring to do, it might be really helpful to sit down and recognize that you two have indeed developed a wide gorge between who you are from who your wife thinks you are. Five years is a long time in any relationship. After recognizing that gap, why not decide to commit to repairing your relationship? What good is there in demolishing your marriage when you’ve had five years to build on trust and faith in each other together? Some of those walls will have to come down, and you might have to renovate some parts of the relationship you’ve built together so far. But it is absolutely doable, and it is absolutely a group effort to renovate what is broken.

Consider that it is in your mutual best interest to reconnect and heal. If that means going on more dates where you two can fall in love with these wildly new and different versions of yourself, do so because you two want to reconnect, not because of some twentysomething advice columnist told you to do so.

You’ve done so much in the past five years. Now it is time for your wife to make more strides to connect with you as well. You’ve earned at least that much. You deserve all the love.

Good luck!

Please feel free to send me your questions and comments at!

Advice – How do I befriend other guys?

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/u/bolstrom96 on /r/relationships writes…

“… I [21M] feel like I don’t have any guy friends/bro’s to really connect with. This is something I think every guy needs. I’m not sure if anybody can relate, but I feel extremely under stimulated socially. And lonely. I can’t tell if it’s too late for me to build a strong bond with a few friends. I would kill to have someone that would be my gym buddy, play some lax or basketball, video games, hang out in the city, party, be productive whatever. Someone to talk to.

I had a gf for a few years. She had a lot of female friends and it seemed great how they all connected. After we broke up it made me realize I need a stronger social foundation before I get another gf.

I do technically have two male friends. I enjoy both of their company however the first one is always busy with his gf, bails on me a lot, and honestly isn’t interested in the things I want to do. The other one is great, but lives in another country and isn’t coming back. We also rarely talk.

So I don’t know what to do. I can be a bit introverted. But also talkative. I’ve gone to bars a few times but didn’t have much luck making any friends. I’ve been looking for lacrosse leagues but they are either for men 30+ or are professional. I just feel like I’m striking out.

I would say I’m very likable. I’m nice and quiet. Attractive. Athletic. I love good music and videos games. Traveling. Joe Rogan. Reading. Honestly anything.

I just need someone to bro it out with. It makes me so jealous seeing a group of friends hanging out. I always feel like the odd one out.”

Dear Bolstrom96,

Have you ever gone swimming at a sandy beach? If you ever sit and pay attention to the waves crashing endlessly onto the shore, you’ll realize very quickly that there is pattern and routine to the wildness that is the ocean. It isn’t like the one water molecule determines where the wave comes from. Instead, each molecule is a part of the overall ocean. Waves can be a reaction to that sail boat quarter a mile away cutting the ocean in half.

You are living in one of the most vulnerable times of your life. Early twenties are times when you are finally actualizing all the values that you’ve soaked up in your teenage years. This is the part of your life where you get to put into reality some of ideas of who you thought you have been. And it is also one of those times in life where you can feel the most isolated because of how much you are growing and changing all the time. It sounds like you have some incredibly firm and attractive qualities about you that should feel magnetic to you. And you’re struggling to see why you aren’t finding meaningful connections with other men.

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Like waves in water, you might need to think more about what your own intentions are in engaging in these connections with other men. If you are going to these bars and rec clubs with explicit intention of making new friends, then maybe you might not be approaching these with the healthiest of mindsets. If you ever go shopping for groceries while hungry, you are going to end up with way too many snacks than you might have purchased otherwise. Sometimes, a complete lack of intent and merely making a warm conversation with someone at a bookstore can lead to a nice connection with another human being.

I would also like to call into question, why men specifically? Your social foundation does not necessarily need to be based on other men. Fostering some incredible connection with other gender can also be really beneficial for your soul as well. For me personally, I’ve always had better time relating to women at their respective emotional depth. So I gradually accepted that I was just much more adept at building platonic friendships with other women than men. If you approach each of your potential connection with genuine curiosity and honesty while setting proper boundaries to ensure it remains a platonic connection, making quality connections should be really easy.

Jason Segel and Paul Rudd, I Love You, Man (2009). Dreamworks.

Your question originally reminded me of the 2009 romance/buddy movie I Love You, Man. Paul Rudd plays a man named Peter Klaven who has always been more of a boyfriend-man. In this movie, he strives to make more quality connections with other men and finds it really difficult to forge new friendships as adults.

It might also be meaningful to consider that sometimes we make our most meaningful connections when we least expect to do so. That does not mean that you shouldn’t approach your life’s structure without at least some intent. You’re doing a great job by going to bars and joining a lacrosse league. All of that is helping you get out of your comfort zone. But instead of going to them with an expressed purpose to make new friends, why not relax and approach all of your engagements with the unexpressed purpose of making a connection, however brief? Some of the most interesting conversations I’ve had happened over a beer with people I will never meet again. Choose to celebrate those connections.

Good luck!

Please feel free to send me your questions and comments at!

Advice – Blowup over condom.

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/u/tryingmybest101 on /r/polyamory writes…

“Last night I came home to a homemade dinner from my wife, we’ve both been really busy and she usually gets in much later than I do so it meant a lot to me. I went upstairs to change and noticed that there was a condom wrapper in the garbage. We’re polyamorous so no problem if she has a guest over but usually we talk about it. During dinner I asked if she’d been with someone and she immediately clammed up and said she used it with herself (on a toy). I asked why she was getting defensive as we’re both very open to talking about sex and reminded her that she could tell me if she was with someone else, the important thing was to be honest with each other. She got super pissed and went off about how she is working on some stuff that her psych recommended for her and she shouldn’t have to share that with me if she doesn’t want to. I saw how angry she was and she said it was a sensitive subject so I left it there.

Things were still awkward but we decided to go upstairs and snuggle in bed. I found out that under her bathrobe she’s put on lingerie but she was still being super cold and upset. We sat there in silence for a while and then I asked if there were any other secrets or sensitive areas that she preferred I don’t involve myself in, I even told her that she didn’t have to tell me but that her reaction tonight took me by surprise and I didn’t want to step on any future landmines. She immediately pulled away and went off about me not listening, and not letting things go, that I always have to push and push. We have two very different ways to deal with conflict: I want to talk about everything and spell everything out as much as possible to try and understand each other, she gets overwhelmed and prefers time to herself to process, apologize and then act like nothing happened. We usually navigate a middle path but last night was bad, she left the house for two hours “for air”. We made up, fought again and then made up again. We had sex and went to bed super late. We agreed that we were both going to be more patient and left it there.

But this morning I woke up and can’t let it go. I feel guilty for not being able to shut up and just recognize that it wasn’t something she wanted to talk about and I’m honestly resentful that she turned it into this huge fight when it seems like something that could have been talked about with love and patience. I’m doubting myself and feel judged for being “too intense” and overthinking things and that before she appreciated I was such a communicator and now she seems annoyed by it. I’m also still a little resentful that she acted so defensively about masturbation. It’s fine if there are areas of her life she doesn’t want to share with me but I don’t understand why she got defensive about it from the start instead of laughing calling me a snoop and that she was working stuff out like she has in the past. My confidence is shook in myself, I’ve struggles with depression and anxiety, have been off meds for about a month but feel myself slipping hard. How do I get over this and just move on? How do I let go of the feeling that I messed up a special night and that we’re somehow more distant than before?”

Dear Trying My Best 101,

I can see that you really are trying your best, in your way. I can also see that your wife is trying her best, in her way. But I don’t think that either of you are trying your best in each other’s ways. This fight really wasn’t about condoms, but more about your current disconnect in approach for conflict resolution. There seems to be a major disconnect in your communication styles and trust for each other because so much of your respective goodwill and trust in each other gets lost in translation.

An episode of Multiamory talked a bit about chewer vs. spewer dynamic. And Dedeker goes into more detail about this in her book A Smart Girl’s Guide to Polyamory. In essence, Chewers like to sit on their own feelings, nurse those feelings, and process their own feelings at their own pace by themselves. Spewers on the other hand prefer to actively process and verbalize what they are thinking about with other people. They aim to gain validation, flesh out & process their feelings in real-time, and develop a better sense of self through vocalization. It sounds like you are much more of a spewer, ready to talk about your own feelings and immediately resolve those issues you recognize in real time. And it sounds like your wife is much more of a chewer, willing to sit back to process things in her own and regroup after she has worked through her side of the issue. This is why your wife might feel like you are too intense because she might feel like you need to approach and resolve issues out loud right away. And why you might feel like your wife is unnecessarily distant because you mistake her mental processing as a way to distance herself away from you.

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Here is what I think you, as a spewer, can do better to communicate better with her. Realize and recognize that your wife sometimes needs space to process things as they unfold. She has communicated that she felt pushed because you keep on engaging her to resolve her processing long before she feels comfortable. So respect that boundary by mindfully providing that space for her soul to reside in discomfort for a while. Respect the lines she has drawn in the sand no matter how silly you think it is. You might be mistaking her discomfort at your mindful intent as defensiveness. I know that impulse to fix things will be intense. But she is clearly working through some of her own stuff. And the best you can do is to be patient for her. Most importantly, have some faith in her process as well. She is trying her best. Really.

Here is what I think your wife, as a chewer, can do better to communicate better with you. Instead of leaving the door wide open to regroup, provide each other with a better structure on when she might be ready to discuss what she has been processing. In some of my chewer-spewer dynamics, we set a timeline and say we can regroup in a week to talk about a serious topic. Or we might save those serious topics for our monthly review/reconnect. Another thing she can do better is to not resent you for accidentally stepping on some of her unidentified boundaries. You do not have the skills necessary to sidestep invisible mines only she can see, and she can definitely lend you some credit for doing your best to navigate what you can’t see. I think the same line of advice can be applied to here as well: she needs to have some faith in your process as well. You clearly are trying your best. Really.

You also asked how you can let go of this bad feeling and move forward. I must ask you this. Those special nights are what you make of them. All you can do is make space for those special moments to happen by intentionally engaging and mindfully approaching each of those moments with each other. Even a night in with a movie and tea can be the most special and touching date night if you are both mentally present to reconnect and heal old wounds together. Both of you have made some very fixable mistakes here. So understand that you too are human and are unfortunately prone to mistakes. Choose to learn from this experience and forgive yourself by accepting awkwardness in life and love.

Good luck!

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