[Editor’s note: Jyl was thrown by last week’s early July 4 deadline, so Proud Mary stepped in to answer your questions.]
I feel so guilty. In February, I made friends with a guy at work, and things got, shall we say, a little more complicated than I meant to happen. At a work-based training weekend, we got together, and I have to say, it was pretty great. Did I mention that he’s married? Well, when we got back to work, I really tried to stay away from him but just couldn’t. I started feeling bad when I realized people were talking about us, and in April I made the break and told him we had to stop. He was okay with it, but I could tell it bothered him a lot.
Now I’m dating another guy— sadly, also a work colleague— and last night the first guy showed up at my door and showed me his bare left hand: no wedding ring. Yep, they’ve gotten a divorce, and he’s moved to a new place, and he wants us to “pick up where we left off.”
So, Mary, what can I do? I really don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings, but I’m just not sure that I’m into the first guy anymore. Am I obligated? He’s actually not so bad—I’m so confused.
Are you obligated, Workaholic? Hon, unless you gave birth to this fool, you’re not obligated to do anything with him ever again. Where does this feeling of obligation stem from? You say you feel guilty for getting involved with a married man—is this guilt making you feel unduly tied to him or the situation in some way? If so, try to forgive yourself for getting caught up in the moment at your work training weekend. From where I’m sitting, it looks like you listened to your conscience and stopped the involvement before you got too entangled. Good for you! You did the right thing: you exercised your agency, and you moved on. Give yourself credit for listening to your gut—she’s usually right. How come you’re ignoring what your gut is plainly telling you now?
Now that you’ve moved on, why would you even consider giving this guy another chance? What, exactly, is in it for you? Let’s look at your language here. He’s “actually not so bad”. You’re “just not sure” you’re even into him anymore. And you “really don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings.” Listen to yourself: you are throwing out some extremely tepid verbiage to describe your feelings for this guy. Maybe if you insisted you had a white-hot connection that had to be explored at any cost, it might be worth dusting off this questionable-at-best relationship and seeing how it works in the light of day. But even if the relationship succeeded, wouldn’t you always be plagued by the knowledge that this man is a cheater? That for him, it was easier to thoughtlessly stray with a co-worker at a training weekend rather than address whatever was lacking in his marriage first? Why would you even consider taking on that kind of headache and heartache for someone you’re “not that sure” you’re into?
Workaholic, I think you know you deserve more than this dude. Let this be a blip in your dating life, and a lesson: You are not obligated to anyone but yourself. I want you to stop worrying about hurting other people’s feelings—especially men who have demonstrated little regard for the feelings of others—and start basing your dating decisions on your own needs and desires. Before you ask if you are obligated to anyone else, first ask yourself how a person or situation makes you feel. Do you feel excited, energized, curious, enthused, safe, your best self? Are your needs being met? If so, proceed and enjoy! But if you feel ambivalent or uncomfortable about a person or dating situation? Shut that shit down and never look back.
I am new to town and am not into the music scene and don’t go to church, so I don’t know where to meet someone to date. I am a college graduate and have a good job, but not one which leads to social mixing. Thoughts?
Dateless in Athens
Dateless: Please read the letter from Workaholic printed above, and thank your lucky stars your job doesn’t lead to “social mixing.”
Now, as someone new to town who isn’t into the music scene or churchgoing, it’s true you’re cutting out two sizable potential dating pools. After all, Athens is a music-loving town situated within the Bible Belt. You’re going to have to get creative. But I think that’s actually going to work out in your favor. If you keep your eyes and your heart open, there are all sorts of interesting people living their lives here outside the parameters of church or bars and concerts (and honestly, I give a big fat yawn to meeting people in bars or at concerts; it’s way overrated).
It’s hard to know what to tell you, though, when you’ve told me so little about you. What are you looking for? What makes you tick? You say you’re a college graduate with a good job—two rather anodyne descriptors that tell me nothing except roughly your socioeconomic class. Not sexy. I’m sure there’s more to you than that. Have you developed much of a friend network in town yet? It usually bodes better to meet a date through pals than to take home some rando at a bar. As a rule, the more eased into a social life/personal groove you are, the more you’ll naturally attract dating opportunities. It’s just a universal fact that someone fulfilled by their own interests and pursuits will attract others. Conversely, people can smell desperation and boredom, and you don’t want to be wearing that scent. I sincerely hope that you have at least one or two interests outside of your job, Dateless, and I urge you to zero in on those and explore them to the fullest here. Art, food, cinema, literature—Athens has many more cultural offerings aside from “music” and “church.” Just do You, and your dating stock will rise, I promise.
My other requirement for you, Dateless, is that you force yourself to practice flirting more. Flirting is like blowing a kiss at the universe without expecting anything back. It’s not about closing the deal, it’s about enjoying the moment. Strike up more conversations with your fellow humans—IRL and yes, online too—and see what happens. As fresh meat in this town, you’re actually operating from a power position: you’re new and full of possibility! Start acting like it.
Got a question for Jyl? Ask her.
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