In Which We Decide To Live Within These Walls

Hard to Say is This Recording’s weekly advice column. It will appear every Wednesday until the Earth perishes in a fiery blaze, or until North West turns 40. Get no-nonsense answers to all of your most pressing questions by writing to justhardtosay@gmail.com or by dropping us a note at our tumblr.

Hi,

Two months ago I started dating a man named Shawn. We met through mutual friends and immediately clicked. Shawn runs his own business, a restaurant, but he is pretty good about making time for me. It’s a new relationship, but we have agreed not to see other people and give things a chance.

Shawn has asked me extensively about my dating past, and I have been truthful to him; granted there is not very much to tell. He is five years older than me, and when I ask him about previous girlfriends, he gets a bit uncomfortable. He did tell me about his most recent ex, a woman named Sheila. Naturally, I googled the fuck out of Sheila – she is an actress who has appeared in various television shows and resembles me to a certain extent. When I asked Shawn what happened, he just says it didn’t work out.

I want to be able to just let things go, but Sheila (not her real name) seems really amazing and it concerns me that I don’t know exactly what Shawn is thinking concerning her. How do I get over this?

Julia F.

Dear Julia,

(Un)Fortunately for you, this is one of those few, rare times where a situation gives you exactly two options.  You can either

a) trust that Shawn will open up in the future, since this is still an early time in the relationship, or

b) have a few whiskey sours at happy hour and demand an answer as to why he and Sheila broke up right before going to bed on a Tuesday. Hint: only one of these involves maintaining your dignity.

Exes are a touchy subject. To quote my friend, it’s a sens-y time. Some people, like you and me, want to be as open from the beginning of the relationship as possible. To us, being completely up front is a way of saying “I’m trusting you and us.” This makes it hard when others are not as eager, or willing, to share.  What we assume is a negative reflection on ourselves is really just a different way of processing a relationship. People like Shawn view complete, detailed honesty as earned, rather than deserved from the beginning. That’s not to say he’s texting Sheila on the sly, but maybe he’s just not ready to dig in to all of the reasons they broke up and all the feels it accompanied. It sounds like Shawn is just the Ron to your Hermione in terms of emotional expressiveness. Then again, Ron was a soulless ginger, but nobody’s perfect – not even this she-devil Sheila. She’s clearly the worst.

As a side note, if months pass and he’s still not fessing up – have a mature conversation as to why it is important to you that he shares more of his past. If he’s reasonable, he should be open to discussing it at least somewhat further detail. If he’s still being super sketchy, then maybe take route b and prepare for the hangover to follow.

Hi,

For the past few months, I have been dating a girl named Toni. Things seemed to be going well, but Toni’s ex, who I will call Daniel, cheated on her behind her back. Because of this, she has some trust issues and sometimes asks me who I am texting or calling in a very accusing way.

To be clear, I have no intention of going behind Toni’s back to do anything. I understand she has a difficult time trusting considering the circumstances, but the problem is this: seeing this needy and destructive side of her is making it difficulty for me to embrace her love wholeheartedly, since I know she is not all the way there with me. How can I keep this from souring our relationship?

Aaron T.

Dear Aaron,

A lot of people lack empathy, and can’t understand how their behavior affects others until they are on the receiving end of that same behavior. You don’t need to check Toni’s phone or ask who she is talking to – but maybe showing that you can be a little jealous, too will soften Toni’s attitude about the relationship.

Reassuring her that nothing is actually going on is probably what her ex-boyfriend did, time and time again. It’s what all liars do. Show her you are trustworthy, don’t tell her. Be offended by the implication without being angry, and try to change the subject.

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen. Access This Recording’s mobile site at thisrecording.wordpress.com.

 

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