Tag Archives: relationships

Don’t gaslight me, bro

Fair warning to all my douchebags, liars, assholes, sociopaths, and generally manipulative jerks out there: you’re not going to like this.

(Well, to be perfectly honest, it probably won’t faze you much, because what I’m about to say isn’t news to you. It’s your modus operandi. But it may infuriate you to be called out on it, natch, ’cause I’ve figured you out, bro. And I’m not the only one.)

Today, boys and girls, I’d like to talk to you about gaslighting.

If this fancy word sounds unfamiliar to you, never fear. I’ll explain, you’ll understand, and you might even find yourself nodding your head as a past (or present) recipient of it.

Gaslighting, in essence, is when one person makes you feel like a crazy person. The craziest person. When someone is gaslighting you, it’s as if you’re being told what you believe, feel, or know is flat-out wrong.

And what’s more, the tables are then turned on you. You’re the bad guy, you’re the bully, you’re the one making things up. Remarkably, despite what you presumed was unwavering confidence in your own position, you start to wonder, “Hey, maybe it was me.”

Forget what your gut tells you. Forget what facts say. Not only aren’t you right, but the blame has somehow been shifted — to you.

It’s mental abuse, in essence. So hey, from here on out, let’s just call the perpetrator by his or her deserved name: the abuser.

The abuser may attempt to convince you that nothing happened. The abuser may lead you to believe that your very sound, very solid judgments are patently false. The abuser may deny any wrongdoing, and make you feel like what you said or did — which was perfectly rational and warranted, by anyone else’s standards — was the crime in question. And you, the victim, will actually wonder if it was your fault.

“You’re too sensitive.” “You’re overreacting.” “You’re being defensive.” Well, dude, you’re gaslighting.

Now does this sound a little closer to home? I thought it might.

But when you break it down, that’s not the way a person shows he cares about another person. A surprise jockeying of position between two people — where the defender becomes the defensible — doesn’t allay unfounded fears. Gaslighting is solely a way to make the abuser feel better, because you know what? Your gut is probably right on, and the abuser knows it — and you’re making him uncomfortable. It’s slimy tactic for the person in the wrong to regain control of the situation — by making you go completely insane questioning yourself. A self you know well enough to trust when things aren’t quite right.

And yet, it’s so common that there’s a word for it (derived from a 1940s movie of the same name), which should be enough to chap your hide. It’s a prevalent theme in Zero Dark Thirty. It’s a trendy, timely, well-documented cultural phenomenon (sadly). Hell, I’m pretty sure that’s what Katy Perry’s wailing about when she declares she’s wide awake.

You’ll find this sort of strong-armed cowardice present in many types of relationships, for sure, especially when the balance of power is significantly skewed. But it’s probably no more frequent than in romantic ones. Which makes it all the more disgusting. Because when are you more vulnerable or more impressionable than in the heady throes of amorousness?

It happens to men, it happens to women. It doesn’t discriminate based on what you’ve got between your legs. But you hear about it a hell of a lot more when the abuser is a man.

Why is that the case? Ugh. I don’t know. And I also don’t know that I care to speculate that much on the reasons why. Do they really matter? I mean, we can use traditional stereotypes, if it’s easier. Women are more feeling, more intuitive, more trusting, more marginalized. Men are more domineering, more direct, more unforgiving, more insecure. We’ve been dealing with these sorts of issues since time immemorial, and really, stereotypes don’t really serve us at all in making sense of a gross phenomenon. It happens. It happens a lot. That’s good enough.

The fact that doesn’t depend on stereotypes is that when something’s wrong, we women feel it. It’s deep, deep in our bones, straight down to the marrow. It’s a gnawing that won’t let us sleep, eat, or think straight. It’s a panic that keeps rising, no matter what we do to quell it. It’s a burning thought that we can’t shake. It’s intangible, but it’s so real, you can taste it. It’s there. It’s legit. And it ain’t going anywhere until it’s addressed and handled. You see, they don’t call it “a woman’s intuition” because shit’s a fabrication of our imaginations (which would, ahem, be gaslighting).

So now let me speak directly to you, dearest Gaslighters of the World. I know examples paint a clearer picture, and if that’s the case, let me be your artist-in-residence.

When you label a woman’s reaction as “freaking out over nothing” that’s very obviously something to her? Yup, dude, you’re gaslighting. If a girl you’re dating asks why you suddenly stopped contacting her, and you accuse her of pressuring and bullying you? Gaslighting, round two. And when that girl happens to discover that, in the midst of your unscheduled silence, you magically acquired a girlfriend? That’s called, um, she was right.

Are we clear?

You see, gaslighting isn’t cool or kosher or even mildly acceptable at all. Because it doesn’t change the facts: you probably fucked up, and you probably got caught. (Your bad, bro.) Short of fucking up in the first place, maybe you ought to step back, act like a human being (and not an aggressive pack animal), and put yourself in your gaslightee’s shoes for a minute. Exhibit a little respect; common courtesy won’t strip you of your coveted and hard-earned playboy title, I promise. At any rate, your next (inevitable) victim would appreciate the compassion. And neither of you — and especially your victim — will be any worse for wear.

But maybe that makes too much logical sense for you.

 

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Dear Fayza: Should I have children with the HIV-positive man of my dreams?

(Column originally published here.)

He's HIV positive. Now what?Why, hello there. It’s been a little while, hasn’t it? I could blame it on you, but let’s be frank with each other — mama’s got a brand new bag. No, I’m no longer a full-time CultureMapper, in case you actually have a life outside Twitter and Facebook and hadn’t heard the dish.

But pick that chin up off the floor! I may have relocated my physical prowess down the street to the best museum on the planet (I’m not biased, I swear), but my virtual treasure trove of advice is right where you left that bookmark.

Turn that frown upside down, folks. Dear Fayza is here to stay.

And what better to re-ignite our bimonthly ritual than a very serious, very personal matter: Life after a life-threatening diagnosis?

Now that’s what they call “hitting the ground running.”

 

Dear Fayza,

My boyfriend and I were starting to talk about marriage. We went for an HIV test, and he came out positive — and I came out negative.

I love my boyfriend very much and I believe we are soulmatesI don’t think I can stand the idea of him being with someone else, so I have decided to stick with him. 

However, my friends are totally against it. They have laid out the pros and cons for me that have now made me confused and afraid. I truly love my boyfriend and he also feels the same way. I want his babies. 

If I go on with this, will our sex life be exciting? Will we be able to have children together?

- Discordant Diagnosis

 

Dear Discordant,

First of all, congratulations are in order to you for finding someone you love that feels mutually and wants to make that pie-in-the-sky commitment to you. Despite what the most bitter, disdainful hearts have to say about it, the emotion of true love kinda sorta really does make the world go ’round.

But a diagnosis like this can leave you wondering just how long that “lifelong” undertaking may actually be.

I’ve answered a question similar to yours before, but the relationship was merely budding and blooming. I’m assuming, if you’re discussing marriage, you’ve been together for far longer than a few hot dates. In fact, your heart is not only dangling from your sleeve, but it’s more ripe for the picking than a field of freesia in the summertime.

What’s OK for you may not be OK for your friends. And guess what? That’s still perfectly OK.

At this point, you’re in, and you’re in deep (no, uh, pun intended). Abstaining from sex simply isn’t an option, unless you foresee a future for the two of you in neighboring houses of piety, hoping a divine act will deem you the second coming of the Virgin Mary. Stamping out your sex life and putting plans for progeny on hold simply won’t happen.

Like they always say, where there’s a will, there’s a way, right? I happen to think so.

I should explain that I’m no doctor, so I can’t sway your hand in good faith. But you don’t need a doctor to straighten your thoughts. Focusing on the facts — not the fears — is the most important step you can take to determining what sort of future you have as a wife to this man and the mother of his children.

So do your research. Find out what strain of the virus he carries. Find out when and in what situations he’s most likely to transfer the virus to you — and when he isn’t. What if bearing his children isn’t an option? Is he worth a lifetime of careful, orchestrated sex? Are you willing to die for this man — literally? Education is your primary salvation in being true to with yourself, your health, and your expectations.

Your friends are not in this relationship — you are. Dismiss them. I’m sure their concerns are valid to some degree. But I’ve also got faith that you’re also a grown woman with the wherewithal to make your own decisions. You determine the extent of what you can handle with his illness. You define what risks you’re willing to take in the name of love.

What’s OK for you may not be OK for your friends. And guess what? That’s still perfectly OK.

But I will tell you one thing definitively: If you’re staying with him because you can’t stand the idea of someone else calling him her main squeeze, you might want to push pause on your sugar plum visions. Loving a man with a terminal prognosis is no light-hearted, will-our-sex-life-suck matter.

Other than making sure you fully understand what you’re getting yourself into, make sure you understand the depth of your love for this person. There may be no turning back once you enter into his danger zone, and if you’re not honest with yourself now about the way you feel about him, you may be carelessly jeopardizing your own existence and gravely regretting a hasty decision in the future.

No one person in this world is perfect. We’re human. We all have our flaws, our skeletons, our baggage. When we intertwine our lives with a love interest, we involuntarily shoulder those human qualities as burdens and responsibilities of our own.

Sometimes, they’re more than we can fathom, and they’re more than we bargained for. But no one else can decide what’s best for you or me — except you and me.

Cheers,
Fayza

I always wear my heart on my sleeve for my readers. Send an e-mail to advice@culturemap.com, message me on Facebook or Twitter, or leave a question in the comments below. I’m completely honest about my love for you. I’ll never deny you the truth.

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Dear Fayza: Will I be a single lady for the rest of my life because I intimidate insecure men?

(Column originally published here.)

You're the furthest thing from a wallflower. So why do you feel like you'll always be sitting out the dating game?Being single is awesome. But that’s mostly because modern dating is draconian.

Confession: I just hate hate hate dating. It’s the worst game of Keep Away ever invented, except with less cardio. I’d rather be single than play any of the reindeer games it takes to score a dude these days.

But what if you actually want to say sayonara to our singlehood, and you’re having trouble waving goodbye?

You’re friendly and fabulous. You’re successful and self-assured. So what if your well overfloweth with awesome, but no one’s drinking from the fountain?

That’s what this week’s letter writer wants to know.

Dear Fayza,

I have a dating dilemma. Actually, it would be a dilemma if I wereactually dating. That’s the problem.

I am very social. I make friends easily and create great bonds. My job is quite social. I meet new people on a weekly basis. On top of that, I am usually out three or four nights a week taking in my great city and all that it has to offer (not just the bar scene). I am good at striking up great conversations, talking and laughing for hours.

And that’s where it ends.

I have been told a couple of things:

  1. Guys are intimidated by me. I have a great career, own a house, I don’t NEED them. (I feel this is generic, I get where it’s coming from, but if I’ve never met them, they don’t know anything about me.)
  2. I have been told that I discourage guys from approaching me because I am so social and I talk to a lot of people. They can’t tell if I am talking to them because I am nice and don’t want to hurt their feelings — or  because I am actually interested in them.

I’m not saying that I need a man to make me happy. I have a great life. It would just be great to meet someone and enhance the fabulous life I already have.

- Kinda Sick of Single

Dear Kinda Sick,

Phew. Thank goodness you told me that your existence doesn’t necessitate a man. Because, you know, I probably would’ve made that assumption about you. I mean, most confident, single females leading happy, fulfilled lives are only elaborately disguising the fact that a husband is all they really want in life, right?

Here’s a spoon. You’ll need it to slurp the sarcasm dripping from that last sentence.

I once knew a girl in your situation. Let’s call her Fayza. She’d resigned herself to the fact that not only would she never meet anyone to date, but she was largely unmarriageable on the whole. Too independent, too outspoken, too interesting, too friendly — you know, entirely despicable.

But that was two-ish years ago.

Now that I’m perplexingly boyfriended, however, I’m not smugly looking down from my high horse in coupledom and telling you there’s a one-size-fits-all approach to meeting a dateable human being. Because that’s stupid. And patently false.

But my prolonged Smiling Suzy Singleton status taught me a thing or two — or 12.

From those halcyon years as a lone (but not lonely) operating unit, there was also an imperceptible matter I failed to grasp — I was too comfortable.

There’s nothing wrong with the attributes you mentioned that separate you from the plain Mrs. Janes. Just because men need to feel needed — they are the scientifically weaker sex, after all — doesn’t mean you have to change who you are so they won’t feel intimidated.

But your heels are planted squarely in your comfort zone. You’re doing the things that buoy the self-assured woman that you are — doing things you know you like, meeting people in situations where you control the outcomes, experiencing a social life that plays up your confidences.

Simply put, you’re not vulnerable, girl. And that makes you puzzling and daunting and complex — and single.

You need to peel away those familiarities. Get outside the situations you know and the people you love. Put yourself somewhere or in something where you’re challenged and laid bare and wide open — where you’ll be a bit more humanized than you might appear in your element.

Now don’t go jumping off a bridge or anything. I didn’t tell you to do that (no, I did not!), and I’ll fight indemnification for your medical bills.

You know what I’m telling you to do. I want you to be uncomfortable.

Sure, I could completely punt and tell you to try online dating or get your friends to set you up, but that’s not why you put your heart out there and wrote to me.

Guess what? Writing to me was a gutsy, bold, and vulnerable move.

Yes, vulnerable. Now keep going, mama.

Cheers,
Fayza
You might be single, but you’re not alone — you’ve always got me. Send an e-mail to advice@culturemap.com, message me on Facebook orTwitter, or boldly leave a question in the comments below. I’ll make you feel better than any chick flick marathon ever could.

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Dear Fayza: Can I make a relationship work if he’s an utter fool about money?

(Column originally posted here.)

When his financial habits don't add up, does that necessarily equal a relationship's demise?‘Tis the season of your wallet’s folly!

I know there’s nothing like some juicy holiday cheer to completely drain the dinero to the very bottom of your bank account. You’ll think about it in January, right? But for now, PRESENTS!

Fickle finances, however, aren’t season specific. Spastic spending that spans the entire year is often worse — and further reaching — than binge buying in November and December.

But what happens when you mix a budding romance with bad bookkeeping? That’s what this week’s letter writer wants to know.

Dear Fayza,

I recently met this really amazing guy. He’s fun, funny, and we have a lot of similar interests. So far, we’re having the best time together.

There’s only one thing that isn’t cool with me. He owes a lot of money because of some bad investments he made, he doesn’t save any money at all, and he has nothing saved for retirement.

I, on the other hand, am very good with money. I save, I pinch, and I invest. The fact that someone could be so financially irresponsible at our age freaks me out.

It actually really bothers me. Should I consider this a dealbreaker?

- Fiscally Responsible
Dear Fiscally,

My, my — you really are responsible, aren’t you? The first few weeks of an amorous relationship should be carefree! Blissful! Filled with cloudy judgment and an overabundance of irritating exclamation points! But, tsk tsk, you had to go and mix reality into the heady cocktail.

Good for you.

We’re not kids anymore. (Well, I’m assuming you’re not — what kids think about finances past what’ll get them wasted at the bar?) We don’t leap with abandon like we used to — and frankly, we really shouldn’t. We don’t have time to waste screwing around — especially time which we spend in passionate partnerships.

I can’t blame you for looking ahead, and evaluating whether or not these are characteristics that you want in a boyfriend moving forward.

But slow your roll for just a second. It’s a little too soon for this to be an outright dealbreaker already.

Relationships — and the people in them — aren’t static. We change. Often, our greatest personal growth comes from what we learn from another human being that we truly care about, respect and love. It’s the reason I’ve learned how to make an omelette, clean and lube a bike chain and answer the question, “What’s wrong?” with a response other than, “Nothing . . .”

I tell you, mutual admiration will make you do the craziest things — even learn how to man up on your monetary obligations. It’s pretty Pollyanna positive of me, but I speak from personal experience.

However. (Yes, however.) I can’t guarantee it.

The willingness to learn must independently exist within him — because you’re certainly not changing this man if he’s not interested in making the change himself.

You’ll figure that out — with time. I’m not saying this is something you should’ve already gleaned from your fledgling relationship. That’s why I can’t tell you that this is a dealbreaker — yet.

You have to give yourself a chance to get to know him, assess his character, and figure out whether or not he simply doesn’t know how to rectify the errors of his ways — or if he’s truly juvenile when faced with his very adult responsibilities.

If he’s too financially flippant for it to compute with you, you’re savvy enough to know that his habits will have a profound impact on you, should your separate colonies merge to form a more perfect union.

Money is the No. 1 thing couples fight about according to every glossy rag at every checkout counter in every grocery store in every corner of America. Having compatible financial philosophies is one major, majorcomponent in turning mere affinities into lifelong allegiances.

For now? It’s really too soon to write him off just yet. But be patient, be cognizant, and ultimately, be honest with yourself based on what you can or can’t handle moving forward. Do your due diligence, and trust your gut to make the judgment call for you.

We’re too old to be doing anything impulsively — including not giving a decent guy a shot at your heart. But we’re also too old to be dicking around once we’ve tempered our own fantasies with undeniable realities, too.

 

Asking for advice from me is the best financial investment you’ll ever make. Send an e-mail to advice@culturemap.com, message me on Facebook or Twitter, or leave a question in the comments below. It’s the most positive ROI you can get.

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Dear Fayza: Should I break up with my HIV-positive boyfriend before it’s too late?

(Column originally published here.)

You’ve probably heard it more times than you care to admit: Relationships aren’t easy. Between compromise and growing together and making both yourself and each other happy, relationships can be quite painful indeed.

We’re often ready for the emotional sacrifice it takes to make a relationship work. But what if there’s physical pain involved?

What if the relationship you enter into could threaten your life? Is the possibility of bodily harm worth the risk of that relationship?

Well, that’s what this week’s letter writer is asking himself.

 

Dear Fayza,

I’m a gay man, and the guy I’m seeing told me last night he’s HIV-positive. I was tested, and will be tested again in three months. So far, I’m negative.

We’ve been safe, so I’m not worried about that. But it was hard to be told after a few weeks of hanging out, “I am poz.”

We don’t know where we’re going, so this is quite a speed bump. Do I continue on in this relationship, or do I end things before I get in too deep?

- I’m Negative, He’s Not

 

Dear Negative,

Kudos to you for handling such a serious situation like the adult you are. Instead of running away in blind fear and ignorance, you’ve stopped to take a moment to reclaim the knee-jerk, assess the facts, reflect and thenreact.

You’re a bigger person than most for getting this far. But that doesn’t mean you’re obligated to stick it out just because your head is still attached to your shoulders. You’re not a bad person if you decide that these circumstances really aren’t for you.

But since it seems you have yet to choose a path to conquer your emotional crossroads, I can help you weigh your options.

I’m glad you’ve already figured out that you can be sexually involved with this mister without compromising your immune system. While that’s all well and good, have you ever considered abstaining altogether — at least for a little while? You’ve only been dating for a few weeks. Wouldn’t holding off hurt less, at this point, than pressing on?

Look, you don’t have to tell me that sex is one of the finer things in life. But until you get to know each other better — namely, until you’ve decided whether this man is worth the possible risk of contracting HIV — maybe you ought to put the love making on hold indefinitely.

OK, OK, who am I fooling? I’m no George W. Bush, and you’re no purity ring bearer. I had to throw the sexless thing out there, but I didn’t really think you were going to go for it.

Since celibacy’s seemingly off the table, let’s talk about what you can and should do — your research. This is sex ed like your junior high health teacher couldn’t handle. In what activities can you engage with him and still be deemed in the clear? What strain of the virus does he have? What life expectancy is associated with it? What treatments will he have to undergo? What will be the side effects? What are the financial costs associated with living with HIV?

Read, read, and read some more. And after you have all the hard facts, don’t dismiss the gray areas in your gray matter. Your emotions count for something here, too.

Relationships are always an investment — whether short-term or long-term — on which we’ll never see a return, if and when they don’t work out. HIV or not, you’ll never know the outcome of any relationship from the outset. You just put all your eggs in that basket, and hope for the best.

Can you handle the reality that your partner carries a virus that will (eventually) end his life? Can you be emotionally strong when treatment or this disease make him physically weak? What happens if you contract it? Is it acceptable that sex will never, ever be completely spontaneous? Are you ready to cushion the burden of the inevitable (and unfair) societal stigma on HIV-positive men?

If I had the answers, I’d give them to you. But I’m no doctor, I’m no clairvoyant, and I’m no fool — and I can’t make such significant judgment calls for you.

So I’ll say this: Relationships are always an investment — whether short-term or long-term — on which we’ll never see a return, if and when they don’t work out. HIV or not, you’ll never know the outcome of any relationship from the outset. You just put all your eggs in that basket, and hope for the best.

Things could end in two days, two months, two years, or two decades (a la Magic Johnson) — relationships don’t come prepackaged with expiration dates or commitment agreements. Sometimes it simply doesn’t work out, but sometimes the causes are beyond our control. Car accidents happen. Cancer happens. Suicide happens. War happens. We don’t have a crystal ball to know what the future holds. All we can do is move forward with what we do know.

Is it better to have loved and lost than not to have loved at all? Only you can honestly answer that question for yourself. But if we lived each day in fear of what would happen the next, we wouldn’t really do much living at all, would we?

Cheers,
Fayza

Whether it threatens your real life, your social life, or anything in between, I can handle it — I’m multifaceted. Send an e-mail toadvice@culturemap.com, message me on Facebook or Twitter, or leave a question in the comments below. Life is short. Consult with me first.

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Dear Fayza: How do I tell my ex’s latest girlfriend to butt out of our business?

(Column originally published here.)

As the weather (finally!) begins to chill and the holidays draw nearer, we start to focus inward a bit more — on the hearth and the home. And when outsiders mess with our domestic structure — as nontraditional as it may be — we don’t take kindly to the kibitzing.

In this modern world, the idea of the familial unit is ever evolving. But what happens when some relationships simply cannot co-exist?

Let’s check in with this week’s letter writer to find out.

Dear Fayza,

I have been divorced for two years, and separated for three.

My ex-husband has had nine girlfriends in those three years. The latest one is the first one that gets into the middle of our arguments.

I have told her nicely that it is none of her business. Now she still gets in the middle and talks bad about me in front of my son.

What should I do?

- So Stressed Out

Dear So Stressed,

Pardon my inability to focus on the issue at hand for a moment, but ninegirlfriends in three years? Um, that’s a new girlfriend every 122 days. What, does he fall in love with every female cashier, gas station attendant, and waitress he meets? Guess no one could call him conservative with the use of that “girlfriend” moniker, eh?

While I’m impressed with his track record — whereby “impressed” means “skeeved,” by the way — meddlesome Girlfriend No. 9 isn’t at the crux of your woes.

Your ex is.

You may be divorced, but you’re still on the same team — Team Our Son. You can’t regulate how your ex lives his life, but you’re parenting this little boy together — and you have just as much say as your ex does when it comes to what’s best for the boy.

Your former husband, not his bossy broad (who will, rest assured, be history in about four months anyway), is the one to blame here.

The only thing you and his seasonal ale have in common is him. He, as the middleman, dictates the direction of the relationship between the old and new squeeze.

And he’s doing a piss-poor job in his role.

As both his ex-wife and the mother of his child, he should afford you a certain degree of respect. Even if things ended badly, the existence of your son ensures that you’ll be connected for the rest of your lives. He owes it to you to help make that ongoing relationship bearable, at best.

But with a revolving door of women in his — and, by association, your son’s — life, and letting No. 9 talk to and about you as if you’re no better than the other eight she preceded, I’m beginning to question a lot more than his choice of bed buddies.

I’ve got to ask the elephant-in-the-room question here. Is your ex really fit for co-rearing your son?

The attorney in me thinks it might be worth it to revisit his visitation rights and custodial privileges. No, I’m certainly not recommending you threaten to strip him from seeing his son. That would be manipulative of you, and I forbid you from using your child as leverage. You’re above cowardly tactics like that.

But all things considered, would a court of law consider your ex a good father? Would the environment to which he subjects your son be considered a healthy one?

I can’t make those determinations. Neither can you. My dusty JD wants to use the law as a crutch when in doubt.

But even I can admit that crying courtroom shouldn’t be your first resort.

Before you go that far, speak with your ex — candidly, rationally, logically. You may be divorced, but you’re still on the same team — Team Our Son. You can’t regulate how your ex lives his life, but you’re parenting this little boy together — and you have just as much say as your ex does when it comes to what’s best for the boy.

It doesn’t matter who your ex shacks up with. But it does matter what he’s exposing your child to. A litany of temporary stepmothers and unnecessary mommybashing? What kind of behavior is his father’s example going to incite in your son in the future?

Your ex’s actions will have repercussions — ones you’ll both be dealing with. But you can and should handle these issues to arrive at a mutually agreeable decision — for the well-being of your son.

But until you and your ex have come to an understanding, I think it’s best that there’s no more direct dealing between you and No. 9. Ask your ex to leave her at home (or wherever she dwells) when he picks up or drops off your son. Don’t leave messages with her when she answers his cell phone. Don’t discuss her in anything but a positive light with your son.

Minimize your interactions with her as much as you can. Be polite but distant when No. 9 is unavoidable. For now, you deal with him, and him only … and wait a few more weeks until she’s replaced by a perhaps more congenial No. 10.

I’m crossing my fingers for February.

 

Your business is all of my business. But I won’t talk badly about you in front of anyone. Send an e-mail to advice@culturemap.com, message me on Facebook or Twitter, or leave a question in the comments below. Your revolving door of bad advice ends with me.

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Dear Fayza: Should I leave the father of my child if he doesn’t want to marry me?

(Column originally published here.)

Venus de Milo once said, “A good love is delicious; you can’t get enough too soon.” But Patty Smyth argued, “Sometimes love just ain’t enough.”

What happens when a good love isn’t enough to fill you up? That’s what this week’s letter writer wants to know.

Dear Fayza,

My boyfriend and I have been together for about two years. Everything is going perfect. We have a new baby, a new house and a nice life overall.

There’s just one thing. We’re not married or engaged. He has not asked, but if he did, I would say yes.

The problem is, I really want to be married. Even though we have all this, being married does matter to me. He’s never said much about marriage, although I would say that he’s the family man type.

I’m just not sure if we want the same things out of this arrangement. Is my boyfriend ever going to ask me to marry him or should I get out of this relationship?

- Sadie Hawkins

Dear Sadie,

Could you hang on a second? I’d like to pull up a rocking chair and grab my corncob pipe.

You see, we’ve got a classic case of putting the cart before the horse here. Well, it’s either that or the timeless conundrum of why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free? Maybe if I chewed on this piece of straw a little more thoughtfully, I could cluck-cluck-cluck between the two schools of thought more deftly.

Now that my urge to pummel you with useless adages has been satiated, let’s move on so that I can pummel you with useful ones.

Disclaimer: I’m not a traditional girl, by any means. So if you’re expecting a lecture on “doing things out of order,” Joel Osteen’s holding an appointment open for you this Sunday at 8:30 a.m.

Nor am I too modern to question your desire to have your boyfriend make an honest woman out of you. There are plenty of practical reasons (hello, legal rights!) for wanting a more perfect union.

But I would like to spank your flanks for not squaring yourselves before life started happening. At some point, you most likely had lengthy discussions about procreation and purchasing real estate. What happened to the chat about holy matrimony? ‘Till death do us part pretty much completes the ideal of that circle of life trifecta — and perhaps something you might’ve prioritized when making decisions about the other two.

But it’s all shoulda woulda coulda, at this point. While this may be a fine time for asking these questions (not), there’s no sense in crying over spilled milk now.

You’re heavily invested in this relationship, and things seem to be going swimmingly. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?

Wrong. If marriage is important enough to you to consider leaving what is otherwise “perfect,” it absolutely must be addressed.

Right now, it sounds like you’ve got a lot of “new” going on. New addition to the family, new digs, and by many standards, a relatively new relationship (in the grand scheme of things).

You’ve had a lot happen in a generally short period of time. Your boyfriend may be just as mired as you are in adapting. He’s probably struggling to keep his head above water with all the big changes your relationship has gone through since the outset.

He may also have his own ideas about timing and finances — and it might not add up at present.

I’m confident you didn’t reach any of your previous milestones by reading each others’ minds. This one should be no different. If you want to be married, talk with him about it. Communicate this need to him — as you would with the groceries in the refrigerator, diapers for the baby, or whether he or you gets to be on top.

I know that isn’t particularly romantic, but you’re past the cutesy will-he-or-won’t-he stage, whether you realize it or not. It sounds to me as if you need him to shit or get off the pot already. Because if he ain’t ready to shit, you’re about to take your pot elsewhere.

Unlike many pre-engagement relationships, there’s so much to lose here that you really can’t afford to rely on clairvoyance. So start doing some talking — before you start walking.

Cheers,
Fayza

My advice is sage and better than any old adage. Send an e-mail toadvice@culturemap.com, message me on Facebook or Twitter, or leave a question in the comments below. Look before you leap — and ask me first.

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Dear Fayza: Should I tell my friend to stop dating a married man or silently wait for disaster?

(Column originally published here.)

Can you believe it’s already September? Not that it feels that way or anything. It’s still very much summer in my neck of God’s country(for readers of my nationally syndicated column that unfortunately find themselves outside the great state of Texas).

I’m theorizing that this go-go-gadget heat is seeping through your windows, under your doors, and into your bedrooms, too.

Why do I say that? Because I also have cause to wonder whether the outlandish temperatures have dried out your brains — causing you to make some ill-advised choices.

At least that’s what the the letter writer below is positing. Let’s see for ourselves.

 

Dear Fayza,

My friend is dating a married guy. Not in a mistress sort of way, but in a not-quite-divorced, maybe-even-trial-separation kind of way.

I want the best for her, and I’m happy if she’s happy, but I don’t think it’s a good sign about a guy’s commitments if he drops his wife and picks up a new girlfriend before the ink is even dry on the divorce papers.

Do I tell her what I think, or just be supportive and there for her when and if the shit hits the fan?

- Don’t Give Your Lifey to a Man With a Wifey

 

Dear Don’t,

Before we begin, I’d like to award you a shiny gold star for what, I assume, must be a life lived according to convictions, values and end games. You know what you want, you’ve got your destinations plotted in ink on your life map, and your eyes never leave that prize. Congratulations. You are a success!

Now for the good news: We all don’t operate the way you do.

Let’s get real here. You’re not happy if she’s happy. Because if you were, you wouldn’t have written this letter.

So your friend is dating a man that may or may not exactly be divorced — facts of which your friend is fully aware. Her paramour is also not fully committed to his attenuated marriage, either. I’ll admit, it’s a situation that ups the squirm factor for those that prefer black and white when it comes to matrimony — those that see marital bonds as a contractual agreement that must be rescinded by a legal entity to be null and void.

But some people are more at home in gray areas than you might be.

While dating might be a step toward 2.5 kids and a white picket fence for you, for others, it’s the company of another interesting human along the journey that fuels the fire. The experience of simply enjoying someone else in the here and now may be all your friend is looking for out of this relationship. He may be a stop along the way to her — and nothing more.

There’s no script when it comes to amorousness, and it’d be foolish to structure affections by presuming what your friend’s life goals — past, present, or future — might be.

And what if it did develop into something more serious? Then what? Mr. Not-So-Married wouldn’t be the first person in the world to meet the love of his life at the worst possible time.

As long as he’s always on the up and up with her and treats her like the queen she is, you don’t have much to complain about. You’re more than entitled to voice your concerns to her — if she asks, that is. But it’s not your right to assume that you know what she wants for herself more than she does.

It sounds to me like the real issue here is the one you take with her acceptance of these murky waters she’s swimming in. If you trust her and her judgment, it’s not your place to rescue her when there is no emergency.

Cheers,
Fayza

 

Monogamously married, sassy singleton, perfectly polygamous, hoes in different area codes — I can handle whatever relationship woes you throw. Own up and post them in the comments below, or break my heart in a message to me at advice@culturemap.com, or on Facebook or Twitter. There’s only one man for me, but I know you might be in the process of plentiful pit stops. I’ll recognize your emergency and save you.

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Dear Fayza: Should I “unfollow” and “unfriend” my annoying ex on Twitter and Facebook?

(Column originally published here.)

If the past week in the Internet has taught us anything, it’s that social media can really elevate an offline relationship.

But what if romance is involved and that carnal longing has been squelched? What happens to the cyber remains of the relationship?

Let’s give digital dumpings a whirl.

Dear Fayza,

Several months ago, I met a person via Twitter. We started keeping up with each other — first retweets, then @replies and finally moved on to DMs.  She connected with me on LinkedIn and then friended me on Facebook. We made casual contact — liking statuses and photos. We then took the next step to meet up in real life (IRL) for a casual drink, which turned into a dinner date.

After the first date we decided to meet up again, and the second date was a bust. I immediately lost interest. The physical chemistry was lacking. There was mild follow-up to confirm that I was not interested in meeting up again. We have not seen each other since the awkward second date with the awkward physical encounter. 

I now find her tweets very irritating. They were not so irritating before but now they just seem so self-promoting, all about her work and boring. I do not follow many people and so her flood of boring/bullshit tweets are annoying.

What should I do? Just unfollow her? Is that mean?

I hate to hit it and quit it — or hit it and unfollow. The relationship started with social media. Should I end it there too? Is there a way to keep following people so they don’t know you deleted them but mute them somehow. Help!

- My Finger’s Hovering Over Unfollow

 
Dear Finger,

Friend, I think that mass of gray matter atop your neck is already telling you what to do. But I can’t blame you for wanting to hear it from another beating heart.

We’d be foolish if we didn’t admit that dating has become so damn complicated with the introduction of digital elements to the mix.  We are connected in more ways than we’ve ever desired to people we barely know — or are just getting to know. Nowadays, you’re well-versed on your lover’s favorite pastimes and her odd penchant for liking shark photos on Facebook — all before you even plan your first date. How’s that for overly inflating a budding interest?

Or deflating one, as the case may be.

But why does the fact that you’re following her on Twitter or have befriended her on Facebook change the way you dump a dame?

Dating is dating, whether you’ve sexted or courted. No matter whether it started offline or online, what was once endearing and intriguing now makes you want to relocate and change your name. And you don’t have to put up with it.

You never want to see this person again. You have no use for this discarded diva in your life. You tried on the goods, left the tags on, and brought them back for a full refund. So why would you treat this breakup any differently than one that hadn’t started online?

The steadfast principles of dating are tried and true for a reason — across any medium, across any space-time continuum. Apply them.

How do you do that? Unfollow and unfriend her. Look, following or friending someone is a commitment, more or less — one which you’ve clearly decided you’re not interested in undertaking with her. Move forward free and clear of your past errors in judgment.

You aren’t obligated to take part in her life in perpetuity simply because you once found her captivating in 140 characters. Your level of interest has sunk to zero in real life. With the click of a mouse, it can — and should — do the same online. Especially if her commentary only serves to remind you of what you can no longer stand.

Is it mean? Perhaps. Was it mean when Billy didn’t ring Suzy after getting to second base at the drive-in during the prehistoric age of courtship? Probably. Was it mean to pretend Joey didn’t exist when Sally walked into the Peach Pit on the arm of the high school quarterback? I’m guessing so.

But was it necessary? Absolutely. Billy had to sever the ties with Suzy somehow. Joey had to get the hint that Sally wasn’t into him eventually. Ripping off the Band-Aid might not be the most humane response in the short run, but it’s the quickest and it’s the most effective. And it simply has to be done.

The beauty of social media is that the beginning and end are so finite — as opposed to the days when you sat around, hoping and hoping (and hoping) that your paramour would call or post an owl to show that he or she cared (and never did).

Use it to your advantage. Pull the plug — or, rather, push the button — once and for all, and clean your screen of that which you don’t want to have seen.

 

I don’t care if you follow or unfollow me. I won’t date you anyway. But I will give you good advice if you send a message to advice@culturemap.com, or get at me on Facebook or Twitter. Or put your tweets where your mouth is, and leave a question in the comments instead. I can’t promise I won’t dump you, but I will be impressed.

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Dear Fayza: Should I tell a friend her marriage is doomed before she even takes her vows?

(Column originally published here.)

The madness that is March has infected the best of us — even your favorite advice columnist. If I apologized for my somewhat lengthy hiatus from dishing out my trademark sage words, then I’d have to admit to doing something wrong.

Let’s just pretend nothing happened. Avoiding reality is the theme of this week’s question anyway.

 

Dear Fayza,

My husband and I have a friend who is expected to marry in April. Things are not going well between them. They moved in together one or two years ago, and he’s steadily gotten complacent, lazy and is not doing anything to help, even though he arrives home from work two hours before she does each day. 

She cries about it almost daily, and is stressed as heck (and I don’t mean wedding-planning-stressed). However, in public, she puts on the face that everything is perfect.  

We don’t want to burst her bubble, as it is many woman’s dream to be married. But I think she is caught up in getting married, and not thinking of the long-term issues that ignoring this now will bring. 

What we can do as friends? What do you think she should do?

- Biting My Tongue

 

Dear Biting,

I hope you like the taste of that bit in your mouth, because I’m going to recommend keeping it secured in place.

You say your friend complains all the time about her lifelong-mate-to-be, right? And you listen, as any good friend would. And you’re concerned, as anyone who cares about her would be. You want to help. You want to make her life better. You want to solve her problems. You’re a good friend, girl. There’s no disputing that.

But here’s where it gets a bit murky. Has she asked for your advice on how to handle this? Has she ever said, “Should I go through with this marriage?” Has she expressed an interest in actually fixing what you think is broken in her life?

Because if she hasn’t done any of these things, then your role as a superhero ends at the line she’s drawing by not seeking direction from you.

Look, you’re happily wedded, so you understand — relationships are complicated, man. There’s often a lot more to them than meets the casual observer’s eye.

And no one quite understands the intricacies of any particular relationship as acutely as the two parties that are in it. You’re only hearing your friend’s rendition of the events, and I’m sure you know there are three sides to every story — hers, his, and the truth. You’ve got one-third, at best. Yet you’re attempting to assess an entire situation without knowing the half of it.

As difficult as it might be, I must, in good conscience, advise you to stand down. Don’t confuse mere venting with a cry for help. Unless he’s abusing her physically or mentally, you’d do best to keep your unsolicited advice to yourself.

You might be right — your friend may want the fairytale, at all costs. She might be wildly careening toward the fantasy of a storybook wedding faster than she wants to confront the sobering consequences of marrying the wrong man. And you may be experiencing the clairvoyance of a bystander at the scene of a car crash that hasn’t yet happened — but it will.

Rest assured, a woman’s intuition never lies. But sometimes, she consciously chooses to ignore it.

It’s clear that, right now, your friend doesn’t want her bubble burst. Not yet, at least, and not by you. If you take the pin and prick her little world without her asking it of you, she may very well resent you for it. She may decide that moving forward with the very mistake you’re trying to prevent her from making is the best way to show you (and perhaps others) that you’re wrong.

Pushing her toward the problem — and perhaps losing the friendship altogether — is the opposite of your intentions.

We can all agree that her complaints are setting the stage for a colossal mistake of matrimony — from an outsider’s point of view. We can all see that as clear as day.

But until she sees it just as clearly, your advice is worthless currency to her. You’ll either need to commit to supporting her — come hell or high water (since both are pretty much guaranteed) — or get out of the kitchen if you can’t take the heat.

You’re not obligated to do either, and you’ve certainly not been tasked to come up with a solution. Your only duty is to be the kind of friend she’s asking for. If you can handle it.

If you’re looking for me to validate you, well, I can’t promise that. But I can give you solicited advice that may or may not burst your bubble — but it’ll be for the best.

Send your questions in to advice@culturemap.com, post them in the messages on this story, hit me up on Twitter, or message me on Facebook. I care about you. I want to help you. I’m a good friend like that

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