Q: Six months ago, after my boyfriend and I had been together a year, we started living together. We’re in our late 20s. Shortly after I moved in, he asked if another couple, his friends, could move in with us so they’d save some money. I said yes — on the understanding that they’d be out by early 2010. My boyfriend soon started hanging with them constantly and ignoring our relationship. I pointed out that we needed our alone-time together. He made excuses, but showed that he had no intention of making time for us. I hid my unhappiness, but finally had to sit him down and tell him what needed to change. Several days later, he said he wanted to take a break, and I should move out — although the problem couple can afford to leave but are using him for cheap rent. He offered to help me move, and into a safe place. I told him I think our situation is fixable with a little effort and understanding.
A: When you’ve just moved in with your boyfriend, you should be doing unspeakable things all over the couch, not trying to get on the waiting list for a comfortable seat for Bananagrams.
Never mind that your boyfriend’s slacker friends needed a cheap crash pad. Moving in with your girlfriend and immediately moving in your friends is like booking the honeymoon suite and asking, "Oh, yeah, can we get a cot for my mom?" Of course, this ended up working out perfectly for him and his friends. They’re using him for cheap rent; he’s using them for a cheap breakup. It’s the passive-aggressive breakup, where you don’t bother telling somebody their girlfriend or boyfriend services are no longer wanted; you just make them so miserable they stop dreaming of you and start dreaming of U-Haul.
Your boyfriend may have "yeah, okay, cool"-ed you on moving in together, but panicked when two toilet brushes became as one. Maybe one small step for man started looking like one giant step toward married-kind: your being the last woman he’ll ever have sex with and trading in his sport package wheels for a minivan. Maybe he’s "just not that into you," or maybe all he’s good for is picking you up at 7 a few nights a week. Okay, fine, this is stuff a couple have to work through — or discover they can’t. But, thanks to what may have started as a misguided act of charity, he’s always had an out: "Why try to resolve the conflict when I can take advantage of these conveniently located human shields?" Oh, has he offered to help you move? How sweet. You’ll be out of his life in half the time! And do go. It’s possible he’ll miss you and want you back. But, do you really want him? He’s been hostile, unloving and unkind. His "taking a break" is probably another easy way out: "Here, have some false hope!" (Anything to keep from mopping your tears off the linoleum.) Your big concern should be how you treated you. Like many 20-something women, you were probably too accommodating, from letting these people move in to hiding your unhappiness. The answer isn’t being difficult, but standing firm on what does and doesn’t work for you: Yes, to entering into a more committed relationship, no to managing a very small Holiday Inn. Maybe, to living in a house that’s haunted, but with more traditional "free spirits" — the kind that fly around in bedsheets saying "Wooo!" and when they do make stuff disappear, it isn’t always all your beer.
Desperately reeking Susan
Q: A friend wants to break up with a woman he’s started seeing because he can’t stand her smell (her natural scent; it’s not a hygiene issue). Friends say he’s being too nitpicky, and this is not a reason to break up. P.S. He isn’t someone who normally goes around being put off by people’s smell.
A: It’s hard enough to apply latex before sex without breaking the mood. Try telling your girlfriend that you just have to hose her down with Febreze. This friend of yours could love this woman’s heart, mind, and spirit, but that isn’t going to cut it if, for him, "a rose by any other name" is pretty much "goat vomit." His friends shouldn’t blame him. Chances are, his genes make him do it. Research by biologist Claus Wedekind and others suggests we evolved to prefer the smell of a partner whose immune system is quite different from ours, probably so we’ll produce children with a broader set of defenses from parasites and diseases. Your friend needs to end it before this woman gets attached and, especially, before he loses it and blurts out, "What the hell’s that perfume you’re always wearing, Eau Did Your Septic Tank Back Up Again"?
© 2009 Amy Alkon, all rights reserved.
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