In Which We Plan To Leave For Longer Than You Can Imagine

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


My friend, who will call Eli, was recently dumped by his girlfriend of two years. He has taken this very hard and he spends most of his time moping. I’m not too worried about him; I think these things just take time. But he is looking to make a major change and he met with a military recruiter. (He’s 24.) I am worried that he is going to make a drastic decision in the shadow of his grief that could negatively affect his life in the future. I don’t want him to do something he’ll regret. Should I intervene? I’ve thought about contacting the recruiter to let him know the situation with Eli but I feel like that is a heavy step.

Jamie S.

Dear Jamie,

In peacetime, the military is a great choice for a man who will never be loved by a woman. In wartime, it has a lot more complications and cautionary tales. Given that Hillary Clinton is likely to be our next president, I don’t think your friend has too much to worry about.

A lot of people make decisions because of things that happen in their lives. How could this be otherwise? It’s not like he’s joining a cult and planning to ascend to the great hereafter in a caftan and short-shorts. He’s serving our country. If women didn’t become dissatisfied with their boyfriends, and vice versa, we would not have a national defense. We would just have a rising birthrate in New Berlin, the capitol of the German protectorate.


We have all heard the maxim, “Once a cheater, always a cheater.” I have been dating my boyfriend David for over a year. Early on in our relationship, when we were not exclusive, he explained that he had also been seeing another girl, who we will call Serena. He told me that he was going to break it off with her and that was that.

Recently he told me he had plans to meet up with Serena again, and reassured me that it was only in a friendly context. Initially I had no problem with this, but my curiosity led me into a google rabbit hole and I viewed Serena’s online presence in its entirety. She is a very, very attractive presence, in a lot of ways that I am not. For example, she has long blonde hair and a tiny waist.

When I brought this up to David, he again told me there was nothing to it and said all the right things. He offered to cancel, but I said it was OK. Now I am kind of worried though. Objectively I don’t believe he ever cheated on me, but I can’t help having that feeling in the back of my mind. What should I do?

Denise F.

just plain afraid to fail

Dear Denise,

If your relationship was strong and committed, the reappearance of Serena should not have a negative impact on what you share with your beau. If it was strong and committed, she would just be a faceless woman that was once a part of his past and now is not.

Speaking to the situation at hand though, you have two options: You can demand to be there when he meets up with her. You can make your presence known. You can publicly establish the boundaries to her. But all that does is shine a negative light on you. It makes you seem paranoid. If I was Serena, I would think that there’s something wrong within the relationship. And there’s no point in giving this other woman the upper hand by showing your cards of insecurity.

Instead, the best option is to ask David the nature of his past relationship. Was Serena just a woman he was dating casually at the same time he began to date you? What defines casually? And how long were they together? You can ask these questions in a to-the-point manner. It might seem confrontational (because it is), but it is better than worrying yourself over something that you ultimately can’t control. Be honest with how this makes you feel to him. Get it all out in the open, ask for honesty in his response, and trust that the strength of your relationship will provide a sufficient enough answer.

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen.

“Venn Diagram” – Lisa Hannigan (mp3)




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