Welcome to Tough Love. Every other week, we’re answering your questions about dating, breakups, and everything in between. Our advice giver is Blair Braverman, dogsled racer and author of Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube. Have a question of your own? Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Any advice for how to quell anxiety about one of my boyfriend’s main climbing partners being another woman? They recently went on a weeklong trip together, and when I asked if anything had happened between them, he said no, but I can’t help but feel threatened by them spending so much time together. Am I the one with the problem here?
You do have a problem. You have a boyfriend who’s taken things too far. And I don’t necessarily mean in his friendship with his climbing partner; I mean in the choices he’s made surrounding that friendship, and the fact that he’s left the burden on you to confront him with the obvious.
A few years ago, I dated a man who was jealous. If I talked to my longtime guy friends on the phone, he’d bristle; if I ran into a male colleague at lunch, he’d demand a full recap. He never quite seemed to trust me. And a funny thing happened: I got jealous too. Jealous, in particular, of his ex-girlfriend, with whom I had no connection and who I had no conscious reason to suspect.
Okay, I thought, apparently I’m a jealous person, and it’s good to know that, and I should work on it.
Anyway, it turned out that my guy had been in secret near-daily contact with his ex for the entirety of our two-year relationship, to the point of meeting up for lunch and lying to me about where he’d gone.
“Did you kiss her?” I asked, when I found out.
He was insulted. Of course he didn’t kiss her. How could I accuse him of such a thing?
But I didn’t care, at that point, if he’d kissed her; that was just details. I cared that he’d been lying to me. I cared that from then on, believing him would be a conscious decision that I’d have to find the strength to make every day.
Later, when I fell in love with Q, I waited for my jealousy to come back. He visited a female friend—a beautiful, brilliant artist—and I probed my feelings carefully. I imagined them at some café, laughing together over a joke I’d never hear. Talking late into the night until someone fell asleep on the couch, the last log in the fireplace still glowing orange. I should be sweating, shouldn’t I? But all I felt was happy for him. I’ve since had the honor of getting to know that friend, and although she is indeed beautiful and brilliant, it’s clear that any romantic tension between her and Q is, well, nonexistent.
The point is, you know more than you know you know. And if something feels wrong, it probably is, especially if you’re not otherwise prone to drama.
Regardless of whether your boyfriend hooked up with his climbing partner, or hoped to hook up with his climbing partner, or is, like, totally repulsed at the thought of hooking up with his climbing partner, he should have sat down and talked to you about possible worries long before he packed his bags, let alone agreed to the trip. A weeklong jaunt with an opposite-sex friend is more than enough to warrant a thoughtful conversation ahead of time. Pretending otherwise is faux naivete.
Are your boyfriend and his climbing partner actually crushing on each other or just oblivious? Your biggest clue is to determine how welcome you are in their friendship. If they can’t wait to bring you with them next weekend to check out the cool routes they discovered, then you’re probably in the clear. But if you suggest inviting her to dinner and your boyfriend hesitates, then you should renew your Netflix, alert your best friends, and start planning the forget-him girls’ trip of your dreams.
My girlfriend bought me a gift certificate for a kayak rental. Nothing sounds more miserable to me than being sprayed by water. I’m afraid my displeasure will be obvious and I’ll ruin a fun date. Should I suggest something different or grin and bear it?
Now for the big question: Have you been kayaking before? If you’ve gone more than three times, tried wearing a drysuit, and still hate it, then you have the leverage to gently suggest an alternate date. If you haven’t, give your girlfriend some credit for knowing what she’s getting you into. Wait for a hot day, put on some sunscreen, and stop being a baby so you can embrace some actual fun.