Question(Q): Okay, I have a classic ‘I don’t know what we are’ situation with a girl. I don’t know if we are friends or maybe dating. It is stressing me out. We keep hanging out and being touchy-feely, but also not. She keeps mentioning other people that she may have crushes on, but we matched on Tinder (we have been friends for a bit). I am so confused and don’t know how to ask without possibly hurting the friendship, and I just want to know because I have feelings for her, but I don’t know where she stands. She also made a post of just me that seemed very coupley, but I don’t know. What should I do?
Dain Miller (D): The dreaded “what are we?” question has got to be one of the most common and haunting problems in the modern dating world. Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be as stressful as we often make it out to be.
First, if you’re not sure if you’re dating… you’re not dating. It doesn’t matter how or what you’re doing in a relationship, until you’ve had a candid conversation about whether or not you’re dating, it is safe to assume you aren’t.
Secondly, it’s important to address the idea of “ruining a friendship” by understanding that this isn’t a traditional friendship per se. If you have romantic feelings about this woman and you would like to pursue them then you need to make the decision: do you want to be friends or romantic partners. Now, of course, these aren’t mutually exclusive options, but if you want to explore a romantic relationship with this person, your friendship will always be filtered through your attraction for them which will add a significant emotional burden on you, on them, and ultimately your friendship.
This means that you need to either make the decision to be friends with this person or to shoot your shot. Have an open and honest discussion about your feelings for them, what type of relationship you’d like to pursue, and your expectations from that relationship. Try to avoid the pitfalls of these kinds of conversations like ultimatums or moving too quickly too fast. Sometimes it’s enough to just say, “I really like you and I’d like to see where that goes.”
Niall Spain(N): A great time for this would have been when you matched on Tinder (“did you swipe me as friends or should we go out for drinks *winky face*”) but the next best time for this is as soon as possible. As Dain said, this isn’t a friendship you’re going to ruin if the alternative is secretly pining for her. In fact, making things clear is the only hope your friend has! Either you can set aside romantic feelings and be friends (if she’s on a different page than you) or you can become romantic/sexual friends (if she feels the same). It’s not fun, or easy, to ask, but you’ll feel a million times better when you do regardless of the outcome (although maybe not at first).
And, because it’s worth repeating if you’re not sure whether you’re in a relationship or not… You aren’t.
Q: My partner and I have been together for a long time. We get along really well, and we have a super great relationship. Lately, though, maybe because we’ve been stuck inside so long because of the pandemic, they seem to care less and less about their personal hygiene. They aren’t showering regularly or brushing their teeth every day anymore, and they’re becoming the stinky kid in the house. I don’t think it’s depression or anything like that, I’m not seeing any signs and we talk often. I think they’re just losing track of time and letting things slide that they didn’t use to. I don’t know what to say to them. I don’t want to act like I’m their parent, or embarrass them and make them feel bad, but it’s kind of becoming a problem – it makes it hard to get next to them. Should I bring this up or leave it alone?
N: Yeah, that’s not a fun situation. No one wants to upset their partner but no one wants to huff their partner’s stink either. You have to bring it up because clearly leaving it alone isn’t fixing anything. I’d say the key thing to keep in mind when broaching the subject is empathy; we all get that pandemic life has made things a little different and some of us handle it better (or in different ways) than others, and we all know that talking about hygiene can be a touchy subject. Be kind, be understanding, and hopefully they’ll see reason. After all, no one wants to be the stinky kid either.
And hey, maybe join them in the shower to take the sting out of the conversation.
D: This is definitely not something you should leave alone. As Niall mentioned, the pandemic affected a lot of people in a lot of different ways. I’m a pretty religious showerer and there were more than a few days during our lockdown that I skipped them out of sheer apathy, so I can understand where the habit could have developed from. Approaching these kinds of subjects is never easy and almost always awkward, but needs to be approached nonetheless. I think the key to handling this delicately is to initiate the conversation out of care and kindness. You said you don’t think it’s depression because there are no signs, but becoming lax in personal hygiene is a sign of depression, sometimes these things creep in slowly and subtly and this could be the first step into the doorway of mental distress, so use it as your way in as well.
Check-in, intentionally, with your partner and address your concerns that you’ve noticed them not showering or brushing their teeth as often and how that behavior has you worried there may be something more at play. There’s a chance they need a gentle push to open up about these things just as much as the chance that they may not realize it’s gotten as bad as it has out of sheer laziness. If you feel confident that depression has sunk its garbage claws into your boyfriend then you can use this opportunity to playfully tell him that if he’s doing alright, he’s got no excuse to be so stinky. And as Niall suggested, offer to help him get acquainted with the shower if he needs a little extra motivation.
Q: I am married and have been for about 8 years. I really love my wife, but we’re at that stage where some of the magic – the spark – is gone. We both get busy, and life happens and there’s just not that same fire or passion we had a few years ago. I know that’s normal, but I still miss it. Anyway, I met someone. There’s this woman that comes into my work a lot. She’s funny and kind and we have a lot in common, and I find myself really looking forward to seeing her and spending more and more time talking to her when I have the chance. I’ve definitely got a pretty big crush on this girl. I’d like to ask her out, but my wife and I have never talked about having anything like an open marriage and I don’t want to cheat on my wife. My wife is pretty open-minded, but I don’t want to upset her or ruin anything at home. I also want to keep spending time with this other woman without feeling so guilty about the feelings I’m starting to have for her. Do you think I should bring this up to my wife, and if so, how?
D: I’ll open with the obvious: don’t ask her out. At least, not until you’ve had a very real conversation with your wife about how you’d like to proceed forward as a couple. Pursuing a romantic relationship with this new woman while in a monogamous marriage is unfair to her and your wife (and to yourself, if we’re being honest). That is, unfortunately, the easy part.
You’re now tasked with talking to your wife about how to proceed. You’re correct when it comes to the notion that as relationships go on the “magic” seems to fade, however, this is often the result of assuming that your relationship now should be the same as it was then, which, after eight years, is a wild thing to expect. I can only imagine you’re not the same person you were eight years ago, your wife probably isn’t either, so why should the parameters and dynamic of your relationship be any different? Relationships should change, ebb and flow, with both partners’ individual, and collective, growth otherwise you’ll quickly find yourself feeling out of place in a relationship you’ve both outgrown. Your first step should be talking to your wife about how you feel regarding your home life.
Be honest and vulnerable about what you think is missing, ways that you, as a couple, could work towards bringing your relationship from eight years ago up to speed. Keep in mind that, unfortunately, non-monogamy isn’t for everyone, and learning more about the intricacies of the concept would be beneficial to you if that’s something you do wish to bring up as there are plenty of misconceptions about it. Reading books like The Ethical Slut will help you grasp what it is you’re looking for and the vocabulary and knowledge to properly explain your intentions, which without that education, could come across as the crude notion that you just want to fuck other people (the most common misconception of ethical non-monogamy).
N: 100% don’t ask her out (without permission or being single). You know it’s wrong, we know it’s wrong, so stop that thought in its tracks. Same thing for just continuing to see her without talking to your wife and trying to fix things: you obviously feel strongly for this person and it’s clear that the danger of progressing your relationship with this person is only going to grow. Talk to your wife. Tell her (kindly) that you feel like things have lost their spark a little. It happens to pretty much everyone, and it could well be that a bit of communication might be the spark that lets you guys reconnect or add a little spice to your life. That spice may well be opening the relationship, but that’s for your wife and you to figure out. If it isn’t a thing she’s willing to do, you need to ask yourself the question: is this newcomer more important to me than my existing relationship? If they are, don’t cheat, end things like a kind person).
Q: I have a job where I travel a lot for work. I’m usually gone anywhere from a few days to a few weeks at a time. My boyfriend and I have been working on this part-time long-distance thing and trying to connect in any way we can when we have the chance. Lately, though, he’s been acting kind of funny. He doesn’t text as often, and he takes a lot longer to respond than he used to. When we’re together he seems distracted. I know long distance is hard and I know he has a life outside of what we have, but something just seems fishy. He used to just leave his phone laying around everywhere and now he’s really protective over it, he posts a lot more selfies, like, really hot selfies, and it seems like with us he’s just kind of going through the motions. Part of me is worried that he’s seeing someone else, but I don’t want to sound like I’m paranoid or jealous, even though I kind of am. What do I say to him? Should I confront him, or should I like I go through his phone to hunt for evidence first?
N: We always say on the podcast that communication is key and this situation is no different! It really sucks feeling insecure and paranoid, but violating someone’s privacy usually isn’t the way forward. If you snoop and discover that nothing’s awry, for example, you might just tank the relationship anyway. Talk to him. Tell him that you feel that he’s being distant, like he’s going through the motions, etc. (Maybe leave the hot selfies and phone stuff aside for now). See what he says. If it is the end of your relationship, better to have that chat now than in the future. If it isn’t, you guys need to get on the same page and start to work through these issues together.
D: Ignore everything Niall just said. The only way forward is a passive-aggressive hot selfie, thirst-trap off! Now, ignore everything I just said and listen to what Niall said. This is something you need to address ASAP because this behavior is the kind of thing that festers and becomes really bad, really fast. You’ll start getting jealous and insecure, which will lead to bitterness and fighting and all of the bad mojo that comes along with that vibe, and your relationship will be doomed based solely on your assumption. Bring up your concerns over the reduced communication, ask him if everything’s okay or if there’s anything he wants to talk about.
Give him an opportunity to share what’s happening on his end of the relationship, perhaps he’s dealing with something on his own that he doesn’t want to bother you with while you’re out of town for work. Either way, you need to gauge his answers and follow your gut, but try not to let the little insecurity whispers make you act too hastily.
At the end of the day, trust is the foundation of any relationship and if you no longer believe you trust your partner, that’s a sign it may be time to move on. Also, don’t look through his phone! As I just said, trust is the foundation and there’s no greater indication that your relationship is built on a murky swamp-like snooping through a phone.
“Niall and Dain are sexperts that focus on fun, sex positive advice in an effort to assist in navigating through any and all modern sex and dating quandaries. Catch more advice on their weekly show, Fuck Buddies, available on all streaming platforms. Visit www.fbuddiespodcast.com to listen!”