Readers respond to Dan's advice for Shitty Boyfriend In The Midwest, who was considering leaving his layabout girlfriend who moved cross-country for him:
Wow, your response to Shitty Boyfriend In The Midwest was spectacularly lacking in empathy. It doesn't seem like it occurred to you that his girlfriend is probably depressed. She sounds isolated and is in a new environment—her behavior and personality have changed, so she's obviously having trouble adjusting either to the area or to the living situation. Rather than kicking her to the curb after she's followed him to the Midwest, maybe sitting down and having a frank talk about his concerns and the fact that she might be depressed is in order. If she resists and refuses to deal with it, then fine, go ahead and cut the cord, for her own good as much as his.
I think you missed the mark on SBITM's question about whether or not to dump his girlfriend. I know "to dump or not to dump" was the basic thrust of his question, but don't you think he should at least try to talk to her first about his frustration with her current habits?
Maybe, after moving to the Midwest to be with a boyfriend who is still in school, she's feeling depressed and isolated, and after coming home from a (probably soul-sucking) 9-to-5 job that serves only to pay her bills, the only thing she feels like doing is getting high and zoning out with the TV on. What are her alternatives? He wants to "study"—that is not an activity couples can participate in together, and when he studies, it may isolate her even more. He wants to "go out"—where? What if it's with his friends or colleagues she doesn't know or doesn't feel comfortable around? Isolation again. Talking and going out with the boyfriend is something she should do, but the boyfriend should make a more concerted effort to engage her in these activities before he totally writes her off and dumps her.
While your point about dumpings being a necessary and educational part of being in one's 20s is valid, I think you should have urged him to at least make an effort to talk to her about her habits and how they are affecting his feelings for her before he gives her the old heave-ho. Given the chance, she may decide she wants to change her ways, rather than be dumped by a self-righteous douchebag for whom she moved across the country.
I'll be interested to see if any other readers feel the same way.
I don't think you're being fair to SBITM's girlfriend. I'm guessing that SBITM is in grad school, from his letter. As a former grad student, I can confidently state that grad students are a self-absorbed group, especially the men. She is treating him like crap, yes, but she's 21, got her first full-time job after college, moved from someplace possibly metropolitan to what seems likely to be a Midwestern college town, and her boyfriend probably wants to talk about… what? School, I'm guessing? He wants to go out… where? To grad-student hangouts? There's not a lot to do in the Midwest if you don't live in Chicago.
Yeah, I'm making a lot of suppositions. But I wonder if he doesn't expect her to get home from a 9-to-5 job (who's paying their bills?) and then listen to him talk about his studies. (Am I projecting much? Yes, just a little.) She's not dealing with it well, but she's 21. Why all the sympathy on his side?
Yes, it sounds like the relationship is doomed, but I doubt it's just because she's a bitch. Grad school breaks up a lot of relationships, and it's not just because the nonacademic partner is behaving badly. It often also happens because the grad-student partner changes, too, and suddenly decides that he or she is a Thinker with a capital T.
Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Grad Students
Love your column, but I think your advice to Shitty Boyfriend was pretty harsh. Having been part of a couple where one of us was in school and the other was working, I know that it's tough, because you're both at different places in your lives. He hasn't lived in the "real world" yet, and doesn't know what it's like to be out of the safe cocoon of school. Maybe her job is stressful and takes a lot out of her, and she's just overwhelmed. Maybe she's only been living there a few months, and is still trying to learn her job, meet new people, and get into the swing of her new life. I mean, give her a break!
Now, I'm not advocating her behavior. Regardless of how stressed you are at work, you should be pulling your weight at home, unless the two of them agreed to this arrangement. What he should be doing is talking to her about it, not just kicking her out without ever mentioning the problem. It's possible that she's so tired that she doesn't even realize what she's doing. If he wants to stay in a relationship with this girl, then the first thing he should do is discuss the problem.
There's something I learned about recently that I want to share with all the dudes out there who are in a situation like SBITM: talking about your feelings.
It sounds funny, but I was raised a dude, and dudes are not generally given the skills that chicks are when it comes to talking about their feelings. A lot of dudes will scoff, as did I for many years, but the truth of the matter is, SBITM has feelings that he needs to talk about. I don't mean attend an empowerment rally; I mean something as simple as "I feel used" or "I feel frustrated" or "disappointed" or "angry." It can do wonders for a situation like SBITM's.
First of all, it gets it OUT, so it doesn't sit inside you and fester and turn into some assholish thing like hitting her or sleeping around or staying with her for 10 years and having kids with her but hating her the whole time and then dumping her and the kids for the first piece of ass you can find when you finally grow a pair. Dudes would be amazed how much better life is when you're not walking around holding onto this stuff.
Second, it puts the problems out in the open. Women aren't mind-readers. This woman might be a stoned, drunk bitch, but in her mind, she has her own reasons for doing what she's doing. If she's stoned and drunk all day, she's probably not trying to spend too much time actually dealing with life as it is here on planet Earth. When you're wallowing, you don't usually keep track of who cleaned the bathroom last, you know? So say OUT LOUD, "Honey, you're being an asshole" or "I'm getting tired of doing all the cleaning." If you don't—no matter how much of an asshole she is—you are sort of an asshole too, only the kind that expects other people to read his mind.
Just wanted to tell you that I really appreciated the advice that you gave to SBITM in this week's column. As someone who has been in a similar situation, I can say that you really need someone to tell you that breaking up with the drunk is the best course of action. If you don't, you'll spend months, if not years of your life, attached to a person who doesn't respect you. On top of that, this person will most likely alienate most of your friends, and you'll spend the next year of your life rebuilding bridges that this person burned for you. Again, Dan, just wanted to commend you on a spot-on piece of advice this week.
Proud To Be An Ex
Longtime reader, first-time commenter.
While your point about the merits of dumping someone is true, I'm not sure the situation described by SBITM is dump-worthy. Back in college, all I wanted to do when I got home after a day of classes and reading in the library was to cook lots of yummy food and spend quality time talking to people about Ideas. Now that I work an 8-to-5 job, I get home, and all I want to do is eat some shitty microwave dinner and crash. The problem described in SBITM's dilemma might be simply a "grad school" vs. "working life" situation, especially considering that it's his girlfriend's first year working, and in a new city, to boot. So maybe it's not time to DTMFA yet.
I wanted to say thank you for your carefully selected words to SBITM about dumping his girlfriend and the repercussions. As a girl who has had her heart irreparably broken, I am still thankful that the relationship ended (although I didn't feel that way at the time). It IS best to end things before any more time is wasted on a bad relationship. And also thank you for recognizing that a small few of us are never able to mend a broken heart.