Dear Dr. NerdLove
I’ve been involved with a guy for a little over 5 years. We actually met online. I still remember the night I clicked on his profile. Based on looks, he wasn’t the kind of guy I would typically date, but from his profile and the small chats we exchanged online, he seemed pretty cool. The only problem was that we lived in different states.
Although Philadelphia and New York aren’t so far from each other, at the time it seemed like a world away. Nevertheless, we both agreed to meet each other after a few weeks. Long story short, we hit it off pretty well. And quickly became very close.
In the first few years of dating, we honestly didn’t get to see each other more than 1-2 times a month. But despite that we called, texted, and video chatted every day. In my mind, the relationship was real.
There was never any indication that he had anyone else in the picture. He seemed very transparent about his life.
Fast Forward towards the end of 2018. I decided to create an Instagram account to promote a small startup business. His profile popped up as a suggested follow. I decided to scroll through his page (I chose not to follow simply because I didn’t want to seem like a stalker). Most of the pictures on there were pictures/videos that I had either taken of him while we were out together, of activities we both did together, or things that he’s already shared with me through regular chats and messaging. However, I have to say that I was taken aback by the fact that he had no pictures of us anywhere on his profile. They were all pictures of him, or his nieces and nephews.
Anyway, I had seen a few post of his latest “nephew” who was born earlier that year, around the same time I began to notice a shift in our relationship. When I clicked on the picture, not only did he identify the child as his own but the child had his same f**king name.
I will never forget how heartbroken and crushed I felt when I discovered this.
What was even worse was that I found out that besides me there were two other women in his life. The mother of his child, and another woman who he had been dating for as long as me.
I tried to break things off with him, but it seemed like the more I pulled away the more he drew me back in. And within time we ended up becoming closer than ever. Our 1-2x a month visits literally turned into at least 3-4x a week (with both of us taking turns to make the back and forth travel). He made every effort to show me that he was done with the other women, and even had me speak to the mother of his child directly.
Everything seemed okay until a few months ago when I found out I was pregnant. He was adamant that I needed to get an abortion and that he didn’t want a child (even though he already had one). Initially, I was considering an abortion myself simply because I didn’t think I was ready for a child. But when I thought about it more, I didn’t feel comfortable with the process. I told him that it wasn’t something I wanted to go through with. Instead of trying to understand my perspective, he literally went into a rage and told me that if I didn’t have the abortion he would want nothing to do with me. I thought this was all just talk, that he was just scared, and would eventually come into his senses later on. But he meant every word.
I don’t know what to do. There are moments when he’s randomly super sweet to me, and acts life everything is okay. Then there are back to back days where he sends me long rants of how I ruined his life by not having an abortion. I’m completely baffled by this monster that I used to call my boyfriend. A part of me thinks that the reason he is so mad is because he’s still leading a double life.
What should I do?? I’m honestly scared of this man. But at the same I still do love him.
Btw, the baby is due in October.
Pregnant and Lost
There’re certain letters I really hate getting. Not because there’s something wrong with the letter or the letter writer, but because ultimately the only answer is “get into the TARDIS and convince your past self to not make this mistake”.
This is one of those times. This guy is, to use the technical term, a cheating piece of shit. A turbodouche of the first order. An absolute waste of a perfectly good quickie. In short: someone you should never have gotten together with in the first place, nevermind being fluid-bonded with. Now that’s not entirely on you: he was actively lying to you — and his wife, and his other girlfriend — and he was using distance and your lack of a social media presence to keep you in the dark. That’s all on him, and there’s only so much you can blame yourself for wanting to trust someone who seemed to be on the up and up.
The mistake on your end was staying with him after you found out he was cheating. Now I’m firmly of the opinion that cheating isn’t the worst thing that can happen in a relationship, nor is infidelity an automatic relationship extinction event; I feel there’re shades of gray and not all infidelities are equal.
This shit? This shit right here? This is like the Platonic Ideal of a Cheating Piece of Shit. This wasn’t “had too much to drink and failed my Wisdom save”, this wasn’t a moment of weakness or some other “there but for the grace of God go I” moment. This is someone who’s actively and maliciously lying to three people and trying to drag you into being his accomplice in his lies. And even if he had some sort of open or poly arrangement with them… he seems to have neglected mentioning it to you. For five years.
All that is an excellent reason to dump this dude so hard his grandparents get divorced retroactively. And he knew it, because he put on the charm offensive and love-bombed you to keep you from leaving him, trying to make you believe that he may have done some scummy things but he’s on the road to redemption and everything can be better than it was before.
And then you got pregnant and oh look, the mask didn’t slip so much as fall the fuck off. It’s one thing for two people to disagree on abortion; the person who’s pregnant has the final choice, but people can and often do have complicated feelings on the matter. Flying into a rage and demanding that someone get an abortion or else… well, that’s yet another reason to tell said raging nutsack to fuck all the way off and then fuck off some more.
Was all this about the fact that he’s still living a double life? Well it’s certainly not out of the equation. Can’t say without evidence, but it certainly wouldn’t be out of character for him. But I think that it’s far more likely that what he wants is control. He wants you doing what he wants, when he wants and anything that inconveniences him or goes against his plans or interests is a crime to great to be born. And when someone refuses to give him exactly what he wants, he Hulks out at them.
The combination of rants and sweet moments are to keep you off balance and bait you into doing what he wants because you want him to be sweet again and avoid his rage. This is what’s known as “intermittent reinforcement”; he’s trying to get you in a place where you keep trying to get the sweet and good parts of him back and live in fear of the punishments and rage. It may not be a conscious and calculated plan on his part, but I can guarantee that if you talk to the other women in his life, he does this shit all the time.
What should you do? Well, to be perfectly honest, I think the first thing you should do is get a lawyer. You and your lawyer can make arrangements about issues like custody and child support in ways that involve minimal contact from him; he may not want the child, but I wouldn’t put it past him to try to use it as a weapon to make your life miserable. I would also suggest that you set things up so that all contact with you goes through your lawyer; the less access he has to you, the less he can pull his “baby come back” routine. I would also strongly recommend blocking him on pretty much every form of social media you have and locking things down so he has no access to you or your life.
While I get that you still love him, the truth is that this dude is ten pounds of shit in a five pound sack and you’re well rid of him. The sooner you can minimize the access he has to you — assuming you can’t cut him out entirely — the better off you will be.
And in the future… don’t be afraid to check out people’s social media. In this day and age, it’s more or less taken for granted that people we meet or date are going to Google us or add us on Facebook or Instagram. That’s not stalking, especially when it’s a public-facing profile, that’s just basic getting-to-know-someone material. And occasionally, you may find someone’s been leading a double (or triple) life.
I’m sorry you had to go through all of this. You were used and lied to and you didn’t deserve any of it. You need to take care of yourself and prioritize your safety and well-being and that of your child.
First off, let me say that you are doing God’s work. Giving people heartfelt advice when they’re feeling low or discouraged or at the end of their rope or even simply just confused and don’t know what to do is a noble job, indeed, and I would like to thank you on behalf of me and all your other readers.
Now, for the matter at hand.
I’m not really sure how to lead in to this, so I’m just gonna dive right in. My sister, J, and I have somewhat of a contentious relationship. For whatever reason, she’s just always been very antagonistic towards me — since we were kids — and it’s been that way for as long as I can remember, honestly. She’s just never really respected me, anything I say or anything of mine. Also, I can never say anything to her without her going from 1 to 1,000 in 2.5 seconds. She’s never treated me the way I deserve to be treated. She moved away for college a little less than two years ago. Whenever she comes home for the weekend or break or what have you, I dread it. It’s almost like “Okay, here we go. I guess I’m just gonna have to deal with the disrespect and dirty looks and her talking down to me all weekend.” Besides all of this, she’s just not the kind of person I would normally associate myself with. She’s irresponsible, she’s rude, she has a bad attitude, she’s fake, she’s disrespectful… you get the picture. She’s just not a good person, in my honest opinion. If she were not my sister, I wouldn’t have anything to do with her. I’ve tried for years to have a relationship with her, but for whatever reason she won’t have it. It’s become clear to me that we’re never gonna see eye to eye on anything. I’m done trying with her and my goal now is to just be civil with her until the day I move out. If she wants to apologize to me someday and start building a relationship, that’s great. But I’m done trying.
My question to you is am I under any type of familial obligation to invite her to big events like my future wedding or to make her the aunt of my future children? I know not having her be a part of my life outside my parents’ house is gonna break their hearts, but I’m not gonna deal with this for the rest of my life.
Also, I’d like to add that she’s being SUPER irresponsible about this pandemic and my parents are allowing it. She’s still hanging out with friends. She’s home one day, gone the next and my parents, for whatever reason, refuse to put their foot down and keep her home. I’m not sure what makes her think this is okay, but she’s also bringing her boyfriend, whom none of us had met before the pandemic, home to stay here for 2-3 days at a time. I want to say something, because it’s not just her health she’s jeopardizing, but I’m not her father. Still, it’s pissing me off how cavalier she’s being about this. I’d love an unbiased opinion on all of this.
Thanks in advance
One of the hardest lessons to learn is that family isn’t magic. Just because someone shares a portion of your DNA doesn’t mean that they’re someone you need to have in your life. Being part of the same bloodline doesn’t obligate you to put up with them treating you like shit, nor does it mean that you have to bend over backwards to make things work. Far too many people have been pressured into staying in contact with people who hurt them, abused them or worse, because “family”.
You’re allowed to decide who is and isn’t a part of your life. It is absolutely your right to not just have boundaries, but to set them where you want. If that means that not having your sister in your life, that is completely your call. Other people can have their opinions on the matter. They’re welcome to think that you’re making a mistake or that you’re being unreasonable. That’s their prerogative. But it’s still your life and your life isn’t a democracy. If your sister is a toxic presence in it, you are free to exclude her from it. She may be your future child’s aunt by blood, but that doesn’t mean that you have to let her have any place in their life.
Now the thing to keep in mind is that boundaries also come with consequences — consequences that you have to be willing to accept. Completely excising her from your life will, at this stage, likely make it harder to see your parents. If you’re going to refuse to be around her, that’s going to mean, for example, that you may not be seeing your parents during the holidays. Similarly, refusing to have her at your future wedding is likely going to cause no small amount of drama with your family. You have to decide if that’s a price you’re willing to pay, or if you’re willing to make allowances for family events. If you do decide to allow for her having limited presence in your life, then I recommend you be polite and civil and keep contact to a minimum. That may mean being willing to put up with a certain amount of shit from her in the name of not making things worse for your parents.
Now all that being said: I think there’s some value in gritting your teeth white-knuckling your way through things while you’re with your family. Your sister may not be the greatest person in the world, but it doesn’t sound like she’s an actively malignant presence in your life. She’s irritating and rude, but not necessarily toxic or abusive. It doesn’t sound like there’s an absolute need to excise her from your life entirely or go out of your way to avoid contact with her. At some point, you may decide it’s worth having a full on “OK WHAT THE FUCK IS THE PROBLEM?” conversation… but that’s for the future.
Unfortunately, while she may just be an asshole and the two of you don’t like each other, the way she’s acting now is a potential danger. That means that you need to have a long, awkward and potentially painful conversation with your parents about how your sister is handling the lockdown and quarantine. While everyone has levels of risk that they’re willing to accept, we’re in a place and time where those risks don’t begin and end with us. The choices we make, especially regarding safety and COVID-19 exposure affect the people we live with and the people we come in contact with. This is why people actively disapprove of the anti-lockdown protesters; they’re not just risking their own lives but the lives of literally everyone around them. Your sister’s behavior is a risk to you and your parents’ health and safety and that is something all of you need to talk about and lay down the law.
If it helps: you’re not alone. I know of many people who are having similar conflicts with family members regarding quarantine and safety; family and household members who seem to be treating the pandemic like a minor annoyance, something that should be over already because they’re tired of being inconvenienced. It’s causing no end of stress and misery, and I know people who are having to face the prospect of kicking people out of their household in pure self-defense. If your sister won’t listen to you, then you’re going to need to have a Come To Jesus conversation with your parents about it, because this risks your life and theirs too.
It’s a shitty situation to be in and I’m sorry you’re dealing with this. But this problem isn’t one that you can white-knuckle your way through. Someone’s going to have to be the first to address the elephant in the room and, frankly, it looks like it’s going to have to be you.
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