Ask Dr. Nerdlove by Harris O'Malley

How Do I Tell My Friend They Shouldn’t Get Back With Their Ex?

DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I have a friend who has recently gotten back with her ex (whom none of her friends/family like). They were with one another for 1.5 years and living together. My friend broke up with her three times! They’ve told me that she wasn’t attached to her and never wanted to have sex with her. My friend has repeatedly lied to this girl about things from being obsessed with her ex to smoking. Nothing seems too big or small to lie about.

They were broken up for a year and recently gotten back together right before quarantine. My friend has every intention of moving forward with this girl even though they have the same issues as before (lack of libido). They are now moving really fast with one another and spend almost every night together. It doesn’t seem they have addressed the issues of their past.

I don’t know what to do now that they are back together. It is awkward and it is hard to take their relationship seriously. Any advice on how to handle this would be great!


At a Loss

DEAR AT A LOSS: There’re few things more frustrating than watching your friend continue to make a series of unforced errors, AAL. It’s like watching someone repeatedly touch the stove, only to get burned every time. You’d think they would have learned after the first time, but they keep trying again, as though sheer repetition and stubbornness will change the fundamental reality of the situation. Even after you tell them that no, the stove is still on and they’re going to get burned again, you see them reaching out one more time.

And therein lies the problem. You can give people the benefit of your insight and your advice, but you can’t live someone else’s life for them.

As frustrating as it may be, you can’t control people. You can smack them around with the Chair Leg of Truth if you want, but the odds are they aren’t going to listen. Motivated reasoning is a hell of a drug; if they’re determined to ignore all the times they’ve broken up before and why, they’re going to do so.

And unfortunately, there’s no argument or no amount of logic that’s going to make them come to their senses. Percy Sledge had it right: when someone’s in love — or at least in infatuation or some other near-as-dammit emotional state — they’re not going to listen. In fact, trying to push the issue is a great way to drive a wedge between you and them. As the man said: they’ll turn their back on their best friend who puts her down.

So I get the frustration. You can’t force them to recognize that this is a bad situation and that the two of them are on track to have the 12″ extended dance remix of their last three breakups — just more intense, a heavier bass and with a faster beat. All you can do is tell them exactly what you told me: that this is a bad situation, that they’re having the exact same problems that they had the first three times and that apparently absolutely nothing has changed. You can even tell them that this is going to end as badly as it did before and that you — and their other friends and family — are getting tired and frustrated watching the two of them do the same dance that they do every time.

But there’s a reason why it’s called “advice” and not “binding arbitration”. You can give them a piece of your mind, but at the end of the day, they’re going to have to decide what they’re going to do with it.

Which means that they can — and likely will — choose to ignore you and make the same mistakes yet again.

Now what you CAN do is refuse to be part of the narrative this time around. You can set boundaries and tell them that you don’t want to hear about this relationship or talk about it. You can say “I am willing to hang out with you and spend time with you, but I don’t want to discuss this relationship or have any sort of relationship with your girlfriend”. You can even say “Look, when you break up with them, I will be willing to help you figure out what you need to do so the two of you can move on and you don’t repeat this mess, but I don’t like her and I think this is a bad idea.”

But at the end of the day… your friend’s gonna do what they’re gonna do, and you can’t really stop them.

Lay down some boundaries, tell them exactly where your support stops and stick to it. And then hopefully either your friend and their partner will actually address their issues and fix things this time around… or they’ll break up (again) and hopefully this time things will actually stick.

Good luck.

Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (; or to his email,