DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I’ve been dating this girl for 2 1/2 years now. We live in two different cities separated by a two hour drive. We keep talking about moving in together, but one thing or another seems to get in the way. We both traveled a lot, i mean a lot, for our jobs, etc. But up until recently it seemed we were both dedicated to the relationship. Now, what I feel are weird behaviors are starting to happen.
It’s been a few weeks sense we seen each over but we kept in daily communication as per norm. It was a nice warm day out, the first time this year, and she mentioned to me that she was going to head over to a local park by her place to get some sun and read. Later on in that day she tells me she meet some guy (who is married) with a kid and they had a nice conversation. I guess the kid kept kicking a ball toward her so the guy had to go get the kid. She left it at that, mentioned that she enjoyed the talk. (I felt weird about this encounter).
Well, fast forward three days later and we are talking on the phone just before bed. We said our good nights and hung up. A few minutes later I forgot to tell her something so I called back, we ended up getting into a difficult conversation (see below) and after I ask what her plans were for tomorrow. She said get a hair cut, she then starts talking about that guy and tells me that they are going to meet up. I asked if his wife was going to be with them. Nope. Just them. It turns out this guy asked her out for coffee that day at the park and she give him her phone number and accepted. She tells me she doesn’t see anything wrong with this. Am I crazy? Is this normal behavior of someone in a relationship? I wouldn’t do this, unless I was seeking something new. It feels like a slap in the face to our relationship.
Long Distance Romeo
DEAR LONG DISTANCE ROMEO: I’m not going to lie to you LDR, this is a tricky one. There’re a lot of ways this could be interpreted. A lot of this is going to depend on how you answer two questions.
First: do you trust your girlfriend?
Second: Are you capable of having a discussion with your girlfriend about how you feel without a) being accusatory and b) telling her who she can and can’t be friends with?
Let’s start with the obvious: you’re worried that your relationship is in danger because… well, because she’s going to go hang out with a dude. By herself. In a public place. That’s a hell of a leap to make with the evidence you’ve been given thus far.
Can I be honest here? On the one hand, yes I can completely understand how this could seem sketchy.
On the other hand, part of the reason why you’re leaping to the conclusion that something’s about to go down is because you don’t seem to believe that women and men can have a platonic friendship without one or the other having an ulterior motive of getting into somebody’s pants. But maybe I’m wrong. You tell me.
Let me ask you a serious question. You say you wouldn’t do this – presumably you mean give a girl your number or meet up with her for coffee – unless you were planning on jumping ship or banging out with some new strange. Does this mean that you – as a matter of principle – have not hung out socially with other women for the last two and a half years? I’m not trying to call you out on being a hypocrite, I just want to know where your head’s at on this. If you’ve been able to hang out with women who aren’t your girlfriend – without their significant others in tow — then it should stand to reason that your girlfriend would be able to hang out with a dude without it being a threat to your relationship.
Now, neither of us have no way of knowing what’s going on in the married dude’s head. He could very well be trying to pick up your girlfriend. He could also just be interested in being friends with someone he happened to meet and have a cool conversation with. But there’s no profit in trying to read this guy’s mind, especially when everything you know about him is coming through the filter of a third party. It doesn’t matter if he does have nefarious plans… you have to trust in your relationship and in your girlfriend. Presumably she’s smart enough to know when someone’s trying to weasel in on her and isn’t going to fall for his bulls
t and/or isn’t going to cheat on you regardless.
So let’s look at a known quantity: your girlfriend. What’s her interest in meeting up with this guy? Is she getting ready to slam her fist on the relationship self-destruct button or is there something else going on here?
Well, let’s look at things logically here. From what you’ve told me, she’s been straight forward with you about all of this. She told you she met a dude and had a fun conversation with him. When you asked what her plans were for the day, she told you that she was going to meet him for coffee. She didn’t try to hide it from you. She wasn’t playing the pronoun game and trying to obscure that she was going to hang out with a dude. You didn’t have to pry this out of her like you were trying to find the location of the secret microfilm.
These are not the behaviors of a woman who’s trying to sneak around your back.
But hey: maybe she’s trying to send you a message. Maybe she’s sending up a warning, saying “I’m not ready to leave you yet, but if we don’t sort things out, I might be.”
Is this likely? Hell if I know. I’ve seen people do it before, but it sure isn’t common behavior. You’re the only one who is in a position to know whether this is a reasonable interpretation of events.
The other possibility is that maybe she’s just lonely and wants a friend.
Real talk: long distance relationships – even ones that aren’t that long distance in the scheme of things – are very goddamn difficult. Even with Skype, phone calls, Facebook, Snapchat, FaceTime, e-mail, instant messaging and texts, it’s hard to have your emotional (nevermind physical) needs met; hanging out over the Internet is just not the same as being in the physical proximity with someone. It could very well be that she’s feeling a lack in her life because of the long distance and she’s appreciating the attention that this guy is giving her and is using him to get her emotional needs met while still staying true to you.
So how do you determine this? Well… you start by using your words. The key to any relationship is communication, communication, communication. This goes double for when you’re long-distance. If you’re feeling like there’re problems or that something untoward may be going on, then you need to talk to your girlfriend about how you feel. The key here is that you need to be very careful not to sound like you’re accusing her of cheating on you or making it all her fault for failing to manage your emotions for you or for demanding a veto in who she can or can’t be friends with. “Honey, I have to admit – I feel uncomfortable about your hanging around this guy because I’m worried that it means something’s wrong,” not “I don’t want you hanging with this guy”, “You’re making me uncomfortable” or “You’re cheating on me, aren’t you?” The last thing you want is to put her on the defensive; there’s no profitable discussion to be had when she feels as though she needs to defend her actions… especially if she hasn’t done anything wrong. That’s a very good way of turning a minor problem into a major one.
Talk with your girlfriend. Explain how you feel and why and see what she has to say. It could very well be that she didn’t get how this was going to make you feel and will be better able to reassure you that everything’s on the up-and-up. Or it could be that this is a symptom of an issue in your relationship… and if so, now you know that the problem is there at all and you’re in a better position to do something about it.
TL;DR version: if you want to know what’s going on, you need to talk to her. Explain how you feel. Get her side of things. Err on the side of more communication and proceed from there.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, email@example.com)