Category Archives: Love & Relationships

Uninspired

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I spent three years in a bad relationship in which my now-ex cheated
and lied so often that even when we were making up I think both of us
felt like actors in a bad play. I finally realized I am worth more. After a
year of counseling and not dating, I decided I was ready The first guy I
met, whom I told I did not want to date exclusively, texts me several
times a day, and generally acts adoring but never takes me out on a
real date, just invites me to his place “for a movie” which translates to
making out. The second guy I met is his opposite, very shy and almost
too afraid to make a move. He’s nerdy and sweet but we don’t seem to
have enough in common. Despite this, he invited me home to meet his
mother, which felt much too fast. I’m feeling very:

Uninspired

 
Dear Uninspired:

If you have two guys pursuing you my bet is that others will too. It’s
hard to turn down birds in the hand, but the bushes are full of men
who aren’t right for you, and you’ve failed to convince me that either
of these guys is even close to being “the one.” That said, number two
at least seems to treat you like a person of value. The first guy sounds
like a jerk, and I think you should clear his slot for the as yet unknown
number three.

 
Sit yourself down and inventory what you want in a good date and a
good mate. They may not be the same things, but be honest with
yourself and get clear on what the differences are. Then make a list of
non-negotiables, things you won’t put up with, no matter what. I’d like
to assume that means no abuse (physical or verbal), rejecting
someone who expects you to pick up the tab all the time, and avoiding
other horrors you’ve already suffered through. No matter what, don’t
compromise on those. Look for someone who has your list of wants,
and know that you might need to test out numbers three through
three hundred before finding who you truly love and deserve.

Nanette

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

Do you have advice for how to graciously fend off a persistent suitor?
He is everything I am supposed to want in a date, but I find myself
putting “shields up” whenever I am around him. There’s nothing
specific I can put my finger on that should make me feel this way, but
it is consistent. The more I say no, the more he tries to woo me with
invitations or appearing in places that I am. It is not stalking yet, but it
feels like it. Short of being abruptly unkind, or threatening him with a
court order, is there a No, No, No that will work?

Nanette

 
Dear Nanette:

Yes, Yes, Yes. But here’s the rub: If you seriously want to get through
to Mr. Clueless, you are going to have to be firmer than you have
been, and risk his ire. If you are willing to be less polite you can
accomplish this. Decide that first.

 
When you are ready to go, plan a multi-pronged approach. Send him a
note that says, I am flattered by your attention and have seriously
considered whether I want a social relationship with you. The answer
is No, I do not. Please stop asking me out and trying to be in places
that I am. My answer will not change. Thank you for respecting my
choice. Then share the note not only with your own friends, but ask
them to convey the message to his friends that he is making a fool of
himself and that there are lots of other fish in the sea, as my mother
used to say.

 

Ask your friends to serve as allies in situations where he
tries to come near you. They should stick to you like glue, or be in
close enough range that if he does approach you directly (which most
people would stop doing after your note), that they can insert
themselves into the situation. If he does ask you out again, and they
are present, you should just say No, and they should say, in a slightly
louder than polite voice, What part of No don’t you understand? It
shouldn’t take more than once or twice to deter him. But if it does not,
talk to an attorney about what your rights are to request a restraining
order.

Flying Solo

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I am newly retired and newly single at pretty much the same time. My husband
and I parted amicably, as such things go, because we realized we had very
different ideas about what we wanted to do with our newfound freedom. We
could have stayed together but honestly, after many sessions in counseling and
with one another, we realized that we were more excited about the idea of facing
life alone than together, with the proviso that if either of us really needed help, as
in facing a serious medical crisis, we would ask the other what would be
possible. So if we don’t find the new connections we hope to, there is some faint
hope of getting back together, though probably not legally, once we’ve paid for
the legalities of separation. My friends think I am nuts, especially the ones who
have been single for so long, and I think would love to find a nice guy like my
hubby. Once they know him intimately that might not be true, but for now they’re
talking about having my head examined. How can I explain that after forty years
of togetherness, I am ready to be responsible only for myself?

Flying Solo

 
Dear Flying Solo:

There’s an interesting knowledge gap in your question. You know far
more about your husband and your marriage than your friends,
regardless of what you’ve said over the decades, and the single ones
know much more about being single than you do. That’s a
conversation worth having, though perhaps not so quickly with a
“friend” who wants to supplant you in the marriage bed.

 
Being a senior single has its own perils and pleasures. Yes you are not
responsible for another person 24/7, which might be especially
onerous as medical complications increase. But like the great 30 Rock
scene where Alec Baldwin tells Tina Fey she might die choking in her
own home without anyone there to save her, the downsides of alone
are tangible and not always comic. If you are genuinely good buddies
you could suspend the “cleave only unto one another” part of the vows
and take some exploratory down time. But if you are both set on
freedom, then do all the legal niceties and do your best to keep it
amicable. I’ve seen it work, and seen it fail, but good intentions
matter. Tell your friends what you told me: It’s time. I’m happy. So is
he. Wish us well. And then go forth and do whatever it is you’ve been
longing to.

Had It

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

My husband just had his third surgery to repair a hip operation gone
badly. This has been a year of intense trauma for the whole family,
and he is going somewhat nuts and getting very depressed with
enforced inactivity. He feels old and useless and is grumpy most of the
time. The doctors have said he needs to walk five minutes but no more
every waking hour. He is not to lift or carry heavy things, climb on
ladders, ride his bike, and on and on and on. I have to go back to work
but am terrified to leave him alone. Last time when he was not fully
recovered he actually climbed a ladder to get something off a high
shelf. When I went ballistic, he said “I forgot.” Forgot!!! His hip has
destroyed our life. Who can forget? How can I enforce caution?

Had It

 
Dear Had It:

Short of an armed guard, you will be unable to control his activities
when you are not around. You can threaten him with installing motion
sensor cameras and a baby monitor. You can lock up the ladders and
paper the place with dire warnings. You can spend each night having
him review what he did each day other than his walking. But honestly
not much can compel a person to take better care of themselves than
self-interest.

 
It’s always hard to think long run when you think you are more fit than
your body really is. But a positive approach would be to plan fun
outing for “after you are recovered,” a phrase that should resound
through your house like “Next year in Jerusalem” does at the end of a
Seder. Every day. Morning and night, promise him a better future.

Not A Wallflower

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

Three weeks ago I had a great first date. We talked and laughed and traded
stories. I think this is a guy I could seriously like. But we have made two attempts
to connect since then, and both have ended up with me sitting home wondering
what happened. We are both free-lance consulting, and quickly bonded on the
difficulty of scheduling when we have very little control of our deadlines. Both
times the plans foundered on his end, with less than a few hours notice the first
time, and multiple texts back and forth the second time. In the words of an
economist friend, “The transaction costs seem very high.” I’d like to like him and
don’t want to scare him off, but I feel like a conversation about how we interact is
in order. Is it too early to say, “Here’s what seems reasonable to me if we are
going to get together.”…? Both times I could have done other things and lost the
chance when he bailed on me.

Not A Wallflower

 
Dear Not A Wallflower:

Not at all. It’s not only not too early but very timely. Both of you are
used to selling your time for money, so the value of a missed
opportunity (whether it would have been another date or just
unencumbered time) should be very obvious to him as well as you. It’s
quite reasonable, the next time you actually connect (in person best),
to start a conversation that goes roughly like this: I’m happy to be
flexible when we connect, as long as it is mutual and reciprocal. I
respect deadlines, but not whims. If we have actual tickets or specific
plans, I need enough notice to find an alternative date. But if we’re
just meeting for coffee or a meal, I am usually accommodating. If it’s
habitual it will not help this friendship. But if it’s urgent, I get it.
BTW, I wouldn’t lead with that, lest it taint the date. But I would be
clear when you say it. With a smile.

Not Miser

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

How do you suggest dealing with a significant inequity in
income in a dating situation? We are both middle-aged and
started out life with a similar middle-class trajectory: stable
home, college, even both taught (me math, her English)
though not on tenure track. Then I went into business and
made a good living after risking a significant part of my then
life savings in a tech firm that did well. I’m not a millionaire
but I have a nice home and can regularly eat in restaurants,
go to theatre, etc. But my love life was not successful and I
divorced twice, both non-acrimonious and each ex happily
remarried.

 

Now I have met a woman I think I could very
much enjoy. But she is poor as a proverbial church mouse.
She says she lost everything in the recession, but there are
big holes in the story she told me. I haven’t pressed. I don’t
mind treating her when we go out (my generational
training). But I am reluctant to set up a pattern of paying for
everything to keep her life afloat, though it is clear that she
would be less stressed with an infusion of cash. I don’t think
I am ready for marriage, but I she’s the most fascinating
person I have met in a decade. Is there a middle path I can
walk for a while?

Not Miser

 
Dear Not Miser:

You don’t say how long you have been dating, but short of
an actual proposal, engagement, and wedding, I’m cautious
about suggesting you undertake large financial
entanglements. Many people suffered in the recession and
lost a lot. Teachers were probably already more vulnerable
on the financial food chain. But you cannot rescue them all.
Financial inequity in a relationship almost always becomes a
source of stress between couples, dating and even married.
Some work it out with various cost-sharing plans. Others
ignore it. But biting your tongue now is not a good recipe for
a long term balance.

 
I would do two things. First have a serious conversation with
her about money. Say you’re concerned by her past but
want to hear her history and really understand. Then say
when you go out on a date you are happy to pick up the tab.
That means meals, tickets, and various treats. But that you
are drawing the line on actually lending money. If that’s a
deal breaker, she will search for a more generous date and
you will lose her. Only you will know if that is a bigger loss
than money.

Time Off

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I was supposed to have a fabulous weekend away with my cousins.
We’d bought tickets to a great show and had reservations at a great
restaurant. Then Cousin A came down with the flu, as in H1N1 go to
the hospital flu. So the trip is off. It feels silly to rent a hotel room in
my own town, but I really did want a weekend without my hubby. I
have a writing studio it has taken me a year to set up, and it has a bed
too, I can’t be there 24/7. He is Mr. Clueless about personal space and
boundaries. I love him but I want:

Time Off

Dear Time Off:

One option is to send him away for the weekend and have the house
to yourself. But assuming that’s not a viable alternative, try explaining
that you are not home unless you say you are. Work out anything to
do with scheduling or joint meal planning (if any) or any contingency
details you can identify: Who’s walking the dog or feeding the pets?
When are you completely inaccessible and what signal will you give to
show you are conversational. When I worked with a herd of people all
day and had an ex who worked at home, hungry for conversation the
moment I walked in the door, the rule was “I’m not home until I say I
am.” You could have a pre-arranged signal like a cap you put on, to
signal contact is ok, or stick with the “Don’t talk to me unless I speak
first” rule.

 
I’m sure you don’t want to feel like a prisoner in your studio, but think
about stocking it with a teapot and snacks, your phone charger, a
great read for when you are feeling less productive. Plan to be there as
much of the time as you can, with a break for a lovely dinner with him
either Saturday or Sunday night. Short of a family emergency, he
should respect your privacy, and avoid knocking on your door just to
say hi. That holds true if you leave the house. No “Where are you
going?” or “When will you be home?” He should act like you are with
your cousins, which you should also do when she is recovered.

On Her Own

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

My husband has long wanted to go on an archeological dig, something I have no
interest at all in doing. Insert many rants about heat, bugs, and many other forms
of discomfort. Now that he’s retired, we agreed to a nine-month period of self-
discovery. We are very close and the marriage is not in jeopardy, at least not that
I can tell or he professes. We have set up a schedule of times to talk, whenever
he has wifi access. The last time we did, he said the whole experience was
nothing like he was anticipating, and he might just want to jump ship as soon as
they can find a replacement. Honestly I am enjoying my freedom, though
perhaps because I know it is temporary. I’d like to salvage at least a three-month
window of independence. Is that unfair to ask?

On Her Own

 
Dear On Her Own:

I’m assuming there was a long period of discussion and perhaps even
negotiation before he went off on his adventure. And, though you don’t
specify what you’re doing with your own time, you seem to be
enjoying it more than you might have anticipated. So no, I don’t think
it’s wrong to re-negotiate the duration or terms.
Tell him that since he made a commitment to the dig, that he should
honor it for at least a month or two. Things may improve and he may
start to enjoy himself more once he is acclimated. Then say you
would like at least a three-month window of self-discovery for yourself.
It can be while he is still gone or after he returns. But that is your
commitment to yourself that you expect him to honor, as you have
respected his original decision. When next you speak, start talking
about timelines, and be sure to say you’d prefer to know in advance
when he is coming home so you can be ready to be his supportive wife
again. In the meantime, tell him you like flying solo knowing he will
return. Congrats to you both. Not enough couples leave room for both
halves to be a single whole.

Just Friends

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

Several years ago I met someone on line that I was attracted to but he was not
attracted to me. Over time we became friends. Even though he lives an hour or
so away, we would get together occasionally for supper or a movie. I got to know
a lot more about him as a friend, and learned enough to know if would not have
been a good relationship for me. He needs a level of emotional caretaking that I
cannot provide, and has some deep-seated issues that, while he is working on
them in counseling, would become flash points in an intimate relationship. This
weekend, while we went out on a rare Saturday evening, he was the perfect
gentleman: opening car doors, insisting on paying for everything, and then sake
in an offhandedly joking way, “I haven’t been on a date in so long!” I playfully
replied “Oh Baby” and we hugged goodbye as we do. Now I’m wondering if I
should say something to forestall some change in his mind about who we are
together, or just wait it out. What say you?

Just Friends

 
Dear Just Friends:

I think you wait it out. He could have just been feeling lonely and/or
playful or thought you were lonely. Sometimes it’s nice to take
someone out and be a gracious host(ess). Perhaps he came into a
windfall and wanted to make you feel special. Unless he follows up
with specific romantic intentions, e.g. moving in for a kiss, or starts a
conversation about the mistake he made a few years ago by not
getting involved with you in a real relationship, simply steer clear of
that territory.

 
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have an answer on tap. If anything
happens that is overt, look him squarely in the eye and say, I love you
as a friend, but I don’t want to change how we relate in a big way. I
was sorry back then, but now I think we are in a good place, and the
right place, with one another. I hope the friendship continues as it is.

Have To Change!!!!

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I feel like my whole life needs a retrofit. My marriage of 25 years has been up
and down for two decades. We love one another but it has always been volatile,
and I don’t mean in the good ways of make up sex. I’m very clear that I wouldn’t
pick him again, but we have a house, kids, dogs, debt, and many more ties that
bind. I’m also in a job I have wanted out of for years, and frankly I’d rather live in
another state, but my husband refuses to relocate. Fortunately our children are
grown, but each of them has approached me so say they can tell I am not the
happy person they used to know. My friends say much much more. My counselor
won’t tell me what to do, and asks me fifty questions a week, none of which I
seem able to answer with anything other than tears and saying “I feel stuck” over
and over. I have a degree and ironically I solve other people’s problems for a
living. Where do I start?

Have To Change!!!!

 
Dear Have to Change:

Here’s some simple advice: don’t change more than one thing at a time. While
I’m sure it’s tempting to move far away now, that seems like a rash over-
response. Jobs are easier to come by than marriages, especially if you may start
over somewhere else. So I think you need to start with marriage counseling.
Somewhere along the way you may decide you want to change your personal
counselor as well, but in the short run, sticking with someone who asks good
questions, even if you haven’t felt ready to answer them, will give you a sense of
stability. Ask your counselor for names of someone you can see with your
husband, assuming he is willing. If he is not, your problems are even bigger than
you describe.

 
Unless your job is severely physically or emotionally debilitating, that would be
last on my list to change. Looking for and starting any new job is stressful, and if
you may relocate anyhow, it seems like a waste of energy. Work on your
relationship, but within a specified period of time to either make it better or agree
to a trial separation, one that would enable you to have a grub stake to start over
either where you live or in a new place. But know that once you leave your home,
the chances you will stay together decline precipitously. So marriage first, then
choose between job and trying out a new place to live. But stay in counseling no
matter what. You will need the support.

New Again

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

Don’t laugh at me. I am 67 and haven’t been on a date in years. I have been
happily single for a decade, and the few relationships I have been on emerged
very naturally from friendships and then ebbed back into same, after a lovely and
satisfying interlude. But now I said yes to an actual coffee date. It’s not just “out
of practice,” because I don’t think I ever was in practice. What does one talk
about? What should one not talk about? Are there unspoken rules of etiquette
that other people know but I somehow missed? Should I “just be myself” or is it
more important to create a good impression and let all my flaws come out later,
more naturally? Other than saying “No thanks, I changed my mind.” Do you have
any good advice?

New Again

 
Dear New Again:

This may sound silly or too simple, but here goes. Don’t think of this
as a date. Yes you want to get to know the other person, and the
other person wants to know you. You’re both in the “business” of
buying and selling. So that’s four personalities/observers sitting at the
table, all of them busy taking notes and listening for red flags like, All
my exes sponged off me. Or I don’t understand how anyone would be
married to someone who______.

 
It’s fine to display preferences and personality. Try to keep your
stories short and both informative and interesting. Don’t hog the
airtime and genuinely listen to what you are being told. See where
your interests converge or diverge. Don;t worry about remembering all
the names and dates but listen for big arcs of story, like cities lived in,
professions, marriages, home ownership, and children. You can always
go back and ask for details if you get to date number two. Most
importantly, believe what you are told. If a date expresses a history of
infidelity or bankruptcy, take note. Ditto for good works or personality
traits you seek.

 
Allocate two hours for this exercise, but ask a friend to call or text you
about an hour in, with an ostensible emergency. Then if you need to
flee, you can have an excuse. But use this only if it’s really really bad.
You’ll know if you want to get together again.

Thin Line

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

Recently a friend in another city fixed me up with someone who lives
near me. The friend knew both of us who lived here and, after
checking appropriately, gave each of us the other’s contact info
suggesting that we meet for coffee. We did and hit it off, and are now
starting cautiously to date. Both of us have been getting emails from
her saying “How’s it going?” etc. I know she wants me to confide
in her but of all the people on the planet she’s the last one I would talk
to about a dating situation gone bad (or perhaps even good) because
she already has a close relationship with my maybe about to be honey.
How can I deter her politely but firmly, because I am appreciative and
do value the friendship.

Thin Line

 
Dear Thin Line:

Grown ups don’t act like 7th graders. If there really is an incipient
relationship, that’s wonderful. You should certainly say Thank you and
let her know how much you appreciate the connection. But you are
under no obligation to make this friend your confidant, and especially
to assume that anything you say to her would be kept confidential.
It’s fine for her to ask how it’s going. And it’s fine for you to say that
you’re enjoying the connection, look forward to more dates, and hope
it deepens into a relationship. But that doesn’t make her a messenger
to relay that. And you should be explicit saying that you want to be
able to talk to her without anything being repeated. Even having said
that I would urge caution. If you need someone to talk to about
intimate or personal things, perhaps better someone who doesn’t have
skin in the game and who hasn’t tried to push her way into the
conversation.

Sweet Tooth

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I’m single. In fact I’m a single lesbian, though many of my friends are
straight women and, over the course of time, their husbands have
become friends. We gals get together every few months for brunch or
happy hour. The guys don’t tend to socialize on their own, but we all
get along at birthday parties and holidays. One couple invited me to a
late summer BBQ and said, It’s going to be all couples so feel free to
invite someone. In the past I have sometimes brought along women I
am dating, if only to get a thumbs up or down from my buddies. But
now I’m flying solo and liking it. That’s what I said in my rsvp, which
netted me an Oh. Should I invite someone, go solo anyhow, or
demur? For what it’s worth the hostess’ hubby makes the world’s best
peach pie. It’s worth breaking all diet rules to have some.

Sweet Tooth

 
Dear Sweet Tooth:

I have a bias against people who discriminate against single folks. The
world is made up of lots of singles who are looking as well as lots of
singles who are happy being single. I’m assuming you have no
predatory intent on the hostess or her husband, other than perhaps on
his peach pie. Ditto for any of the other attendees.

 
Unless you have a current prospect, I would go on your own and have
a great time. Talk to anyone and everyone and enjoy the food, drink,
and festivities. If people ask about your love life, say you are happily
between relationships and don’t want to dabble unless it’s true love.
You can follow it up with, If you want to hear my list of what I’m
looking for in a potential date, just ask. Most people will, if only to be
polite. And you can add, I’ll gift you with a [hubby]’s peach pie if you
find me the right gal! You never know who knows whom. And you’ve
sweetened the pot for their sweet tooth as well.

Almost Dry

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

This is a dating saga. I met someone on Match a year plus ago. We did
a lot of emailing as he was relocating, no joke, from Alaska to Florida.
He warned me that he would drop off the map for a while as he drove
through the lower 48, but I did not expect that to take a full year. The
emails stopped cold and he never called me, even though I had
provided phone numbers as well as my email. We bumped into one
another at an arts festival where coincidentally we both knew and
collected the same artist and started talking at her booth. That led to a
few dates and I could be interested….except…..he drinks a lot. And I
don’t mean just more than me, because I am a lightweight. But he
drinks more than anyone I have ever seen, and that includes my
alcoholic uncle. The booze doesn’t seem to affect his ability to hold a
conversation but I find it worrisome. Is there a way to discuss this
without immediately ending the possible romance?

Almost Dry

 

Dear Almost Dry:

You can have the conversation over tea or over drinks. But from what
you are describing, do not expect your potential beau to be
enthusiastic or even accepting about your concerns.
I’d begin by asking what role alcohol has played in his life and his
family history. You can preface it with your observations about the
difference in your respective intake. Don’t worry about alarming him
because simply insisting on the topic will raise his defenses. Be clear
on what matters to you. First and foremost, that he not drive after he
has been drinking. That mean with you as a passenger or on his own.
If he doesn’t understand that issue, then don’t bother with the rest of
the conversation. If he does, go ahead and speak your piece, and then
see if there is common ground to work with. But unless you have
already fallen so deeply in love that you’re going to see this through
no matter what, my money is on a short-term romance at best. Better
that than dying for love.

Single and Only Sort-of Looking

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I just got asked to join a “meet up” group for single adults over 60.
One of my friends, actually an ex, is hoping to have new alternatives
for dinner and movie excursions etc. The idea is to post “I want to do
X, Y or X at a certain day/time. Does anyone else want to come?” I
very much prefer one-on-one to group activities and also value my
time and whom I spend it with. I mostly want to have friends but
would consider dating if there’s a click. Ironically the same person
caught both our eyes. What’s the etiquette here?

Single and Only Sort-of Looking

 

Dear Single/Looking:

As tempting (and childish) as it is to “call dibs” on the prospective
datee, that’s not how adults, especially those who’ve been around the
block for decades, conduct themselves. Agree upfront that you will be
honest with one another, and that you’ll stay friends regardless of the
outcome.

 
Like Solomon and the two mothers who covet the same baby, you’re
each going to have plead your case, not in so many words but by
being a charming date.. If the friendship is worth its salt it won’t
matter if the object of your affections chooses either or neither. Flip a
coin to see who invites her to dinner first. Be very clear on this quasi-
date that while you’re looking for friends, you definitely would like to
know this person better because if you “met the right person…..” Be
clear about your relationship history and see if that level and topic of
disclosure is reciprocated. It is critical that you speak only well of your
friend to the date. Don’t be sly or coy. End by offering your contact
info and say (assuming it’s true) that you’d like to connect again for
fun and food. Then the other friend does the same, leaving it up to the
date to decide which, if either of you, gets the next chance to connect.