Q: My girlfriend snooped through my belongings and e-mail and even searched web forums for my comments. I feel terribly violated. I’m 29, she’s 37, and we’ve been together for two years. I’ve never given her any reason to distrust me, but because we’ve only been having sex once a month as of recently, she assumes I’m cheating. Well, both of my parents died six months ago (both were terminally ill), and I couldn’t care less about sex. Before they died, I took a six-month leave of absence and moved across the country to care for them, and my girlfriend quit her job and came with me. Since we returned, she’s been unable to find a job or rebuild her social life. I get that she’s unhappy, but she keeps bringing up her suspicion, and I keep explaining that I’m not cheating; I’m in deep mourning. I just don’t know how I can ever trust her again, let alone respect her.
A: There are telltale signs a partner is cheating: a sudden obsessive attention to appearance, newfound enthusiasm for working late, and dancing little jigs around the house when they think nobody’s looking. Then there’s all that stuff your girlfriend has on you — the lethargy, the lack of motivation to wash, and the fact that you’ve inexplicably come up with a new favorite sexual position: curling up in a ball and weeping uncontrollably.
How terrible for your girlfriend that these inconvenient tragedies have removed the spotlight she expects to have on her and her needs 24/7. Apparently, in her eyes, it’s "Yeah, so both your parents died, and after you nursed them through their suffering for six months. I mean, it’s nothing really horrible, like if your favorite TV show were canceled or Ben & Jerry’s stopped making Chunky Monkey."
She’d be there for you, really she would, if only she wasn’t so busy scanning your browser history to see where you’ve been. Her lack of empathy suggests she never got her act together enough as an individual to be able to be a partner. Sure, she came along with you — but was it because she loves you, or because she feels like nobody without you? Chances are, she’s a 37-year-old woman with a teen-girl orientation toward relationships: "I’m pretty, so guys should like me." (Why go through all that sweaty, ugly business of becoming somebody when you can just become somebody’s girlfriend?) It’s easy to come off as loving when life is all hot sex and free beer and bar snacks. Actual loving is something you do. It’s putting your own needs on pause and spending six months scooping the grieving boyfriend off the kitchen floor. Yeah, we all have insecurities and are capable of reading volumes into something that means nothing. You resolve this sort of thing by asking your partner what the deal is. And then, if he has no history of cheating and both of his parents just died, you probably manage to believe him.
Ironically, your girlfriend went all Nancy Drew on you, but you ended up making the dis turbing discovery — that you’re with a woman who doesn’t get you, doesn’t appreciate you, and probably never loved you like you thought she did. You’re a good guy, the kind women all tell their friends they’re looking for. It shouldn’t be hard to find a girlfriend who’d express genuine concern for your well-being at a time like this — beyond "Hey, how much longer is my booty machine gonna be broken?"
Q: What's with women lately? I try to make friendly conversation at the bar and they instantly go crabby and negative -- spewing unimaginative canned lines like "The only guys I meet around here are cops or government workers." (Meanwhile, we're sitting in a giant sports bar between a government building and a police station).
--Tired Of It
A: Women have different motives for going to bars. Some go to drown their sorrows and some go to find a nice guy to drown in the toilet in the ladies room. But, a woman who snarls "The only guys I meet..." is probably trying to tell you something: "In case you don't like me, I don't like you first." Or, it's an excuse for why she's single. Or, she's playing hard-to-get (and coming off hard-to-want). If you like a clever woman, that's what you should have. Still, you might give a woman a free pass to say a couple stupid, unfunny, off-putting things, as nervous people often do. Talk to her a little, and find out whether she's just flustered, or stupid, unfunny, and off-putting. Try not to take bad attitude personally or respond with a low blow: "Oh, sorry -- is that a chip on your shoulder, or did I doze off while the bar was hit by an asteroid?"
© 2009 Amy Alkon, all rights reserved.