To the esteemed Dr. NerdLove:
Should I get rid of a treasured memento of a past romantic (and currently platonic) relationship before pursuing a new one?
I’ve only been in one serious relationship. It started as an online, long-distance relationship shortly after high school. After a couple years, she moved in with me. While we had our ups and downs, of course, I think it was mostly a pretty solid and healthy relationship overall. Of course, we were young; we were therefore experiencing a whirlwind of change both within ourselves, and outside of ourselves.
To summarize, we’ll fast-forward a decade or so: ultimately, she leaves me and moves back home. I was not fulfilling her needs, which hurt a lot because I felt like she was fulfilling mine well; I did not want her to leave. We tried some couples therapy, but I think it was “too little, too late.” While I did not want her to leave, I respected her decision and assisted her in getting back home safely. So while the breakup was certainly not mutual, I still feel like it was relatively amicable; we wanted to stay friends.
So we agreed to go silent for a few months. We started talking again at the new year (she left in September of 2014); however, it quickly became apparent that I was not ready for friendship yet, although she had moved on. So we agreed to go silent again. In late 2018, I entered therapy. After some time, my therapist suggested I contact her again; I did so in early 2019, and we have been doing well as friends since then.
While we were still together romantically, she gave me an item that she hand-crafted from scratch. I still have this item, and it reminds me of the good times that we shared. While I am not generally a sentimental person, this particular item has strong sentimental value for me.
However, I have recently considered that I might start dating – for the first time, at age thirty-five. That’s likely to come with a whole host of complications on its own, and I’m definitely nervous about it.
But this brings me back to my question: should I get rid of the item that my ex crafted for me? Or, perhaps more accurately: would it be a disservice to a new relationship for me to continue holding on to it? Is it an indication that I’m not fully “over” my ex?
Were the situation reversed, I think I would feel uneasy about it. But I’m also still quite insecure (working on that before I wade into the dating pool), so I’m not sure how a “healthy” person would feel about it.
What are your thoughts?
Old, Alone, and Still Confused
I was with my soon to be ex-wife for 8 years (married for 2), until she left me last Christmas!
It was one of those slightly annoying ‘no-fault’ separations, we’d been struggling on and off and one day she just didn’t want to keep trying anymore! But after the initial shock I’ve been dealing pretty well.
I’ve been honest with myself, done a bit of reflecting and I can see where we both made mistakes, and that there were some pretty bad personality and interest mismatches that we both were trying to patch over unsuccessfully with work, furniture, houses, cars etc.
I’ve spent the time since she left working on myself and deciding what I want from life, reconnecting with friends, picking old hobbies up again and I’m surprised by how positive it’s been for me. But one thing that’s bothering me a bit is that most dating advice for divorced people seems to be aimed at guys who are 40+ with kids!
While I’m not rushing out to find the next girl just yet, I’m 29 and in reasonable shape, so still (just about) young enough to go clubbing and not be shunned by the crowd in the local Uni town!
However, I also am slightly worried that most younger women I meet are going to be seriously put off by the fact that I’m separated at 29.
I guess I’m wondering if you have any specific advice for younger guys who are divorced/separated and returning to dating after years off? I’m fairly social but my ‘dating skills’ are rusty and the idea of telling someone new I’m separated makes me pretty anxious, but I’m also aware that not telling them and then it coming out months later would be way worse. I don’t know if it’s just me, but it feels kind of like saying I got an ‘F’ in relationships!
Any advice would be appreciated, I love the podcast and YT channel, I wish I’d had it ten years ago!
I just started reading your column and I need advice on the following problem: I have an unrequited best friendship with someone (you could call her A). Like, I want to be best friends and she wants to be good friends or friends. And I don’t know how labels work. I just want to hang out with her all the time. And I just worry that I’m not good enough (like, everything I like about myself, such as being friendly and funny, such as enjoying sci-fi books, she has tenfold) and I worry that I will drive her away (maybe us hanging out so much puts strain on the friendship, maybe me finding excuses to hang out with her has started becoming transparent) and I worry about my ulterior motives that, maybe if I hang out with her enough, we will magically move from being good friends to best friends.
I really can’t help it that I’m so happy hanging out with her and she is for all intents and purposes my best friend. We see each other in groups and one-on-one almost every day each week. I look forward to hanging out with her all day on the rare days that we don’t see each other, then I’m waiting to hang out with her the next day. Like, I have a good number of friends. She just far outshines them all.
As background, we have the same lifestyle (a few years out of college, work part-time) and hobbies (hiking, books). We have the same taste in everything. We now hang out almost six days each week. The timeline of our friendship is as follow:
11 months ago: we started seeing each one-on-one as friends. We hung out one to four times each week to do our mutual hobbies.
2 months ago: we become, in my view, best friends. We really started discussing our personal lives and we realize just how many shared interests and commonalities we really have together.
1 month ago: she becomes incredibly busy with a personal project and is worried that I think we’re dating. She tells me that we need to stop seeing each other one-one-one. I tell her that I have no desire to date her and that I only want to be friends. I incorrectly figure we’re breaking up as friends (and I text her a few days later that ‘she’s one of my best friends and that I wish we could see each other again’).
1 week ago: she asks for my help with that personal project. I, of course, say yes (while it’s work for her, it’s fun for me and I also want to see more of her).
So, as we’re working on the project, about a week ago, she clarifies that she thinks we’re good friends. She explains that she’s had some bad, male “friends” who wanted to date her (which is additionally not good because she’s gay). She said she likes me as a friend. And I really like that. I just can’t think of her as a friend, because, while I have plenty of friends, she is my only best friend. Like, I see her four times more often than anyone else. And, unlike all my other friends, she and I have the same taste in basically everything. I know I shouldn’t compare other people. She’s just my favorite person to hang out with and, if I had a choice, I would hang out with her every day.
And I just wonder what your advice is as follow:
1) Do I just keep going along with this friendship like I don’t have all these feelings (besides that earlier text, I have never said anything about us being “best friends,” even though that’s basically how I feel)?
2) How do I stop worrying about our future as friends (like, I personally already have plans for us eating brunch twenty years from now; well, we do also have a few plans set for six months from now; I really see potential for us as friends and I just can’t help thinking constantly about ways to be a better friend to her)?
3) How do I avoid becoming too much for her (like, I have stopped texting her as much given she’s now a lot more busy; and I’m trying to keep myself collected. I’m just always available for plans with her in a way that I wouldn’t be for other friends and I think she’s starting to notice that)?
Hey there Dr. NerdLove,
I’ve come across your site and like your stuff. I read your article “What Do You Do When You’re Too Ugly to Date?” – The way I look and how people treat me has been plaguing me all of my life. Even at work I have people who comment on my looks and disrespect me, upper level managers as well. Saying things like, “It looks like I’ve had a sex change.”
I’m 29 now and didn’t lose my virginity until 25… only due to online and drastically lowering my standards. But I’m not that picky when it comes to looks and would love to have a meaningful relationship… the issue is, I really am ugly and have little success with women. Even with online, it is incredibly difficult to get a girl just to meetup for coffee/drinks. I have tried online a lot over the past 5 years, all different sites, strategies, etc. Usually they just flake or ghost me. There isn’t much I can do with my looks besides losing 10-15lbs and putting on some muscle. I have dark bags/deep wrinkles under my eyes and my hair is slowly falling out. I’m on a hair loss regimen but this hasn’t helped much.
I honestly hate the way I look and the way people treat me. Over the years I’ve become more socially awkward from the way I’ve been treated and feel like I just don’t belong. I’ve been seeing a psychologist but I just feel like this is an issue I’ll never be able to overcome. I’m embarrassed of how I look… I can show you pictures, I’m not overblowing it. I’m maybe a 3/10 if I’m lucky.
All I’ve really wanted/needed to be content in life is a few friends and to be able to date occasionally/find a meaningful relationship. But I’m just starting to feel like I’ll never be able to have things in life I want the most. This honestly makes me feel like it just isn’t worth the effort and causes me to have suicidal ideations (no current/future plans). I’m just not really sure what to do anymore. I feel like an outcast, that my life just doesn’t matter, and that I have pretty limited options.
Man In The Mirror