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The Carats And The Stick

I’m 25, my boyfriend’s 28. Our three-year relationship has been near-perfect, and he’s given every indication he plans to marry me. I was secretly (albeit prematurely) planning our wedding in my head when I found an e-mail exchange with his high school ex. (He’d used my laptop, and left the message open.) He claimed he was in a “complicated situation” with me, and suggested they had a future. I was floored. He swore he doesn’t feel that way or know why he wrote that, but says it was “like a game,” and he enjoyed the attention. He e-mailed her to apologize, explaining how in love with me he is, and how he’d never forgive himself if he let me go. He forwarded me this e-mail and her response, but I’m still having difficulty trusting him. He’s now trying to apologize with expensive gifts and fancy dinners. How can I convey that I need him to show his love in non-material ways, or maybe with one sparkly gift to weigh down my left hand?


As friends go, diamonds can be lying jerks. Skepticism is actually a girl’s best friend. Unfortunately, our culture celebrates commitment, not doubt. Nobody’s going to throw you a party because you’re wavering about getting married: “You two aren’t entirely sure about each other? Well, how wonderful! Are you registered for that at Tiffany’s?”

According to you, your relationship has been “near perfect” -- except for the part where your boyfriend was e-mailing his high school girlfriend on your laptop, telling her how troubled it was. What’s his next smooth move, murdering somebody, breaking into the police chief’s house, and leaving the body on the living room floor while he makes himself a cup of cocoa and watches CSI reruns? “Hiya, Chief…didn’t expect you home so early!”

If the guy doesn’t need “The Internet For Idiots” he’s probably trying to tell you something; like, it’s one thing for a guy to throw around wildly romantic ideas about forever in the heat of the moment and another to march down to the courthouse to say it in triplicate. Of course, men do marry, but you don’t find them meandering around the hardware store picturing the tux they’ll someday be walking down the aisle in. For a man, pledging that you’re “the one” means swearing off all access to the other six or eight. Or 18 or 88. And then, after foreverizing, what if it gets to the point where “the spark” can’t be reignited, not even with a blowtorch and a bedroom of dry leaves? Sure, he’ll be right over to take that blood test, just as soon as he dashes off a couple e-mails.

As anxious as you are to get “happily ever after” squared away, you don’t want to make marrying you the ultimate apology for hitting on the high school ex. While the guy didn’t express ambivalence in the nicest way, it seems he has some. He should be encouraged to explore it so you can find out how he really feels -- whether he got momentarily freaked by the sign, “Last Girl, Food, Lodging For 100 Years,” or whether the only monogamy he’s actually up for is the serial kind. You might take this less personally if you can look at marriage in consumer terms. With a divorce rate of up to 30 percent for college-educated couples, getting married is like looking to buy a refrigerator with a big sticker on it, “Only a 30 percent chance this sucker will crap out!” Do you rush in shouting, “I do! I do! I do!” or mumble, “Uh, yeah…I think I might need to see a few more refrigerators”?

Posted by aalkon at January 2, 2008 6:56 AM


"He swore he doesn’t feel that way or know why he wrote that, but says it was “like a game,” and he enjoyed the attention."

This is the old "my steady gal doesn't "make" me feel good anymore; maybe if i can get that other woman to want me, i'll feel good about myself... or that one, or that one, or that one over there." same applies to jobs, cars, where to live: "maybe if i moved to a different town i'd be happier; maybe if i had a different job i'd be happier..." as long as the boyfriend is dependent on outer sources of "self" esteem, there'll be no end to the things he seeks out to "make" him feel ok/better. he doesn't realize, apparently, that how he feels is up to him, not things or people outside of him that either do or don't deliver to him, on a platter, a sense of validation.

YOU in the role of wife/SO of whatever sort, will inevitably become THE source he looks to most consistently to fill his void. when YOU don't MAKE him feel however it is he wants to feel, you will be blamed for the failure.

Posted by: trina at January 2, 2008 7:51 AM

She doesn't trust him (with good reason), but wants to marry him anyway? Time to start doing something with her head besides plan weddings! She is way too young to get married anyway.

Posted by: Pirate Jo [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 2, 2008 8:33 AM

Maybe it's too much like textual analysis, but he’s given every indication he plans to marry me looks a bit odd to me. I'd have been more comfortable with we plan to marry. The LW's words kind of suggest she's been looking for clues about her BF's intentions, rather than the two of them talking about it.

Being "in love" is a delicious sweet madness. But it doesn't last, and Amy usually points out what a poor basis it is for a marriage. Anyone with any sense is wary about marrying - the first time, at least. It's a serious, life-altering, amount of commitment. You clearly don't quite trust him yet, and that's fine. But to suggest that you'd ignore your doubts if he ignores his and spends enough on a ring is very risky.

What should you do? Forget marriage for a while. Enjoy your life together. Learn about yourselves and be kind to each other. Share your holidays, accumulate shared experiences you can laugh or cry over together, and build trust. Let this problem sort itself out one way or another.

Posted by: Norman at January 2, 2008 8:55 AM

I can see her grotesque logic: Once she has that sparkly bauble (and the piece of paper from the county registrar) she'll be able to hold the laptop story over his head forever and have legal recourse for his next transgression.

Some people work so hard at unhappiness, you almost want to congratulate them when they find it.

Posted by: martin [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 2, 2008 9:25 AM

A 25-year-old who thought that her life was “perfect” LMAO!!!!!!

Sorry, Amy, I couldn’t resist. It’s just that she is using one of the magical “buzzwords” that give all of us readers a good chuckle every day. Think of the following phrases: “Perfect”; “Intelligent”; “Successful”; “Attractive”; “Sexy”; “Looks 25”. Anyone out there who uses one (or more) of these terms to describe themselves or their situation DESERVES a good kick in the nuts.

At age 25, she just received her first dose of the real world: That people out there lie and cheat. It’s certainly not going to be the last time that it happens to her, so hopefully she will do some growing up, and soon.

Posted by: Rick [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 2, 2008 9:38 AM

"he’d never forgive himself if he let me go"

Oh yes he would.

Posted by: Pirate Jo [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 2, 2008 10:08 AM


leave my asshole alone?
laugh more always once?
laugh more aloud out?
looks most alarming outside?
look, my armpit's odorous?


Posted by: trina at January 2, 2008 10:13 AM

list many acronyms online?
learn more about ontology?
lost meaning, adroit obfuscation?
leisure means always onanizing?


Posted by: martin [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 2, 2008 10:32 AM

My my my. They're BOTH delusional! He thinks he's getting over, and she thinks she wants to marry him!

How can I convey that I need him to show his love in non-material ways, or maybe with one sparkly gift to weigh down my left hand?

You can't, because he's not going to get it.

Sad as it may be, she needs to take this as the lesson it was meant to be, andto move on. Far far away from this clown! o_O

Posted by: Flynne [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 2, 2008 10:38 AM

LW should go for all of the expensive gifts she can get, including the "sparkly one", and then half of all his shit if he does it again. That's what he gets for not having the balls to be honest with her.

Posted by: Morbideus at January 2, 2008 10:57 AM


thanks! i learned that it can either mean "laughing my ass off" or "lick me all over" hmmmm....

in the interest of veering back to topic, i'll say that Broadsided needs to ditch the boy she has written in about and find some OTHER boy to LHAO.

Posted by: trina at January 2, 2008 11:46 AM

He could have just been pissed and done it it out of passive aggressive spite. Shit how freaking stupid could he be to leave this letter on her machine. He's either dumb as a stump or there's more to it.

It could be as simple as that he still has some feelings for the ex. The LW pissed him off, possibly nagging him about marriage. So he went online after a few swigs and bumped into the ex. Anger and booze has more to do with it then actual intent.

Posted by: vlad [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 2, 2008 12:00 PM

If he was carrying on with the ex, there's no way he left that message around accidentally.

The message to the LW was simple - I can have any woman I want, so shape up and stop nagging me, or you're getting replaced.

I don't know if the guy's a dick or not, and it really doesn't matter. If LW is looking for a ring, it is probably in her best interests to look elsewhere. The guy probably just doesn't have the balls to say to her "Look, I'm not ready for marriage and all that - if you need marriage now, you should go find someone else"

Posted by: brian at January 2, 2008 1:02 PM

If I read an email like that from my boyfriend to his ex I would spit in his face and never speak to him again. I might key his car on the way out.

...if he has feelings for his ex that REALLY sucks but he owes it to the gf to be upfront and honest. People can't really control who they like/want and when emotions do things we don't want them to we're really good at lying to ourselves and to others. Sometimes we hope that if we lie to ourselves long enough our fake feelings (i.e: "I love my current gf not my ex gf") will become true.

They won't. Ever.

LW should book it outta there. One of the hardest things she'll find is that he will get over her. Probably quickly once he's fucking his ex again. She should consider herself lucky for having found this. It could have been way worse if she never did, they got married and then she caught him in bed w/ her.

Posted by: Gretchen at January 2, 2008 3:11 PM

P.S: I don't like being lied to or led on. The childish "spit in his face" wouldn't be so much out of jealousy and hurt as pure anger for being lied to and manipulated into believing one thing when the diametric opposite is true. I'd like to say I'd be able to contain and control myself, as I don't usually react in such a way, but I can't imagine what I'd do if faced w/ that situation...but I know I wouldn't be looking for a rock.

Posted by: Gretchen at January 2, 2008 3:14 PM

How can I convey that I need him to show his love in non-material ways, or maybe with one sparkly gift to weigh down my left hand?


How can I get him to show his obediance in the way I really want(even though I never say what that is)

Does she really think emtional blackmail into marrige is a good foundation?

And I agree with vlad unless ths guy is boarderline retarded it was intentional,

And the only thing he'd never forgive himself for is failing to line up her replacment before she leaves

Posted by: lujlp [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 2, 2008 9:37 PM

Ah, variety... the spice of life. A main squeeze, an ex (sort of), a work colleague, a stranger. Some men need all of these women to function properly. Other men are monogamous, one girl at a time. If you are looking for a guy who will make sweet love you to the exclusion of all others then keep looking. That strain of manhood exits out in the wild.

If you are a fan of statistical probabilities then your odds for meeting this type of guy will increase in habitats that attract introverts. Frequent bookstores & libraries, join the amateur radio astronomers club in your area, or switch to the hamm radio operators club if a sense of humor is important to you.

Good luck with your hunt, keep hunting, never settle. Think of time as being equivalent to money & keep in mind that you get what you pay for so make the hunt a priority in your life. Spend alot of money on your hunt & you will have bought a better boyfriend who is a better match for you.

Posted by: William at January 2, 2008 11:07 PM

"...he’s given every indication he plans to marry me."

Sorry, no he hasn't. Men are really quite simple.

If they don't want to get married, they don't get married.

Men who DO want to get married don't need to be cajoled or shamed into a proposal.

Posted by: Snoop-Diggity-DANG-Dawg at January 3, 2008 5:31 AM

That sounds right to me Snoop.

I'm not so sure the guy has been lying to her. Sounds more like she's been reading stuff in that isn't really there, so she's lying to herself. While I understand Amy does edits on the letters I agree with Norman that it doesn't actually sound like they've talked marriage seriously. Maybe a few playful, "Yeah, we'll still be having this kinda fun in our rocking chairs" type comments, but that doesn't actually translate to "Let's get married".

Posted by: moreta [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 3, 2008 6:41 AM

"...he’s given every indication he plans to marry me."

I wish I knew what these "indication[s]" were. If he's been saying, "you're the kind of girl I want to marry someday," he's probably REALLY thinking, "you're the kind of girl I want naked and on all fours right now."

I think Snoop is right...people who want to get married get married. Either they'll "settle" for what they've got, or they dump that person and go on their quest for "the one."

"...it’s one thing for a guy to throw around wildly romantic ideas about forever in the heat of the moment and another to march down to the courthouse to say it in triplicate."

I want to make that into a magnet and put it on my refrigerator. In my meager experience and that of my friends, the ones who "throw around wildly romantic ideas about forever" are the ones you have to be careful of! Guys are supposed to shudder when you page through bridal magazines--if he is telling you what you want to hear a bit too often, that's a red flag. And notice the fact that he's also telling is freakin' EX what SHE wants to hear...he may be one of those people that gets off on that.

Posted by: sofar [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 3, 2008 6:49 AM

If she wants a ring so bad she should just go to the store and freaking buy one.

Posted by: Shinobi [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 3, 2008 7:25 AM

She should run not walk towards the nearest exit but then so should he. Tough to tell which is the bigger control freak. One thing's sure, they're both -- as Judge Judy would put it -- half baked.

"How can I convey that I need him to show his love in non-material ways, or maybe with one sparkly gift to weigh down my left hand?"LOL! What an oxymoron! No, nothing material there.

Posted by: Donna at January 3, 2008 8:23 AM

Why can't people plan a good exit strategy anymore? It's the potential for cheating. True, anyone might cheat, but someone kissing up to the ex is usually a good warning.
Everybody has their "acceptable" and their "deal breaker" issues. I can't see how anyone could be okay with the potential for their "one and only" bringing home little house guests that may set up comfortably inside the warm, humid environment that is the human body. Whether crabs or syphilis, all of it's embarrassing, and some of it is deadly.
Maybe it's just me, but he can't really be worth it.

Posted by: Steph at January 3, 2008 8:56 AM

Something tells me neither one is worth it

Posted by: lujlp at January 3, 2008 10:21 AM

"...he’s given every indication he plans to marry me."

That means he told her he loved her during sex.

Posted by: Winslow Homer's Sister [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 3, 2008 6:46 PM

Either this guy is dumb as hell or intentionally left the message up, which makes him a passive-aggressive little drama queen.

He needs to go to the curb with the rest of the trash.

Posted by: Ayn_Randian at January 4, 2008 3:00 AM

Consider this, perhaps he didnt use her computer

And another thing most if not all email services have a time limit, you wiat too long and it will ask you for a password again

So she would have had to have see it fairly quickly from the time he got up from the computer

Posted by: lujlp [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 4, 2008 10:45 AM

Folks, if you really feel the need to "snoop" around in your significant other's email account, then you've got other more fundamental problems.

No one's penis should be inside your body.

Contact advice goddess for further detals.

Posted by: Snoop-Diggity-DANG-Dawg [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 5, 2008 8:33 PM

I think many of these replies are too quick to suggest bailing out. That may be the best course, but it's hard to be sure from one edited letter. We all make mistakes. (Apart from Chuck, perhaps.) It is possible to learn from them and move on. None of us here has enough information to make any definitive ruling on the LW's life. A recent thread was all about how the LW's friends were out of order to give her advice, so where does that place this blog? Heck, even if we knew these people from birth, it's their call.

Posted by: Norman [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 6, 2008 12:33 PM

Two things: first, about that email...either way he's a liar. Suggesting to the ex on email that he & she have a future, or telling the LW that he & the ex *don't* - he's lying to *some*body. I agree with Amy that this does not make him great commitment material.

Second, although the advice offered is great stuff, the question that the LW asked hasn't actually been answered: the one about "how do I convey to him that I need him to show his love..." Whether his love is worth having is a separate question, but since she thinks it is, I would be inclined to suggest to her that she tell him she needs to rebuild trust with him, and lay out a few clues for him on what that means & looks like to her (leaving out engagement rings - under the circumstances, no. Being affianced should *follow* rebuilding trust.)

Posted by: San Francisco Girl at January 12, 2008 7:55 AM

Whatever the guy's motivation was, he's obviously not ready for marriage. The sooner the LW realizes this and moves on, the better off she will be. They both could benefit from taking a little more time to grow up and know themselves a bit better before they embark on a lifetimne commitment. Age 25 is hardly the last chance at happiness -- on the contrary, the more mature one is, the more likely he/she is to find the right life partner.

Posted by: pussnboots at January 22, 2008 1:55 PM

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