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When Relationship Advice Goes Wrong - Who's He Been Listening To?

Updated on August 28, 2010

Dear Veronica,

I am looking for your help on this one since you give great advice plus the subject of my problem is relationship advice. I am hoping you can help me out here. The thing is I don't just want you to tell me the answer. I am hoping you could teach me what the hell happened. I don't understand what went wrong and I am not even sure why what I'm doing is any different than what he did. But I'm sure that it IS different. I am so confused.

My boyfriend and I have been together for 5 years. I really do love him and I really do believe he loves me. We have had our ups and downs. I think we just hit this bad patch last year that we were having a hard time pulling out of. We were really getting on each other's nerves. Nothing specific happened I think it was just when you are together for a long time you have some bad patches sometimes that's all. We would argue over stupid things. We stopped sleeping together. We were fighting about money and about the future. It was like anytime we were in the same room we both went into a bad mood and would wind up fighting. I looked around for relationship advice and I talked to a lot of people. Which is why I don't really understand why I'm so upset about this. He was looking for advice too. He talked to his friends too. I'm upset that his friends know our personal business. That isn't fair because my friends do too.

One of the things that we were fighting about the future is marriage and kids. My friends are all married and most have kids. They would like to see the same for me but they are good about just being supportive. I don't want to get married until my career is more stable and I don't know that I ever want kids. My boyfriend would like to get married sooner than I would but even he agrees that we are a few years away from that at least career wise. He wants children but it isn't a deal breaker for him. He was a foster child and he is very close to his last foster family. He says if we didn't have our own kids he'd like to take in a foster child. I'm actually willing to consider that especially with older children. In any case it comes down to that we know we aren't ready yet to do these things but he is thinking a couple of years down the road. I am thinking it's much farther. We realize we want slightly different things but we also think we will be able to compromise and both be happy.

My friends like him and they like that he wants to marry me and have kids in some fashion one day. His friends don't like me very much. They are all married with kids and they are all miserable. They know he wants to marry me and have kids or something some day, and they would rather see him single.

I don't want to say he can't talk to his friends. But I really wish he wouldn't. Isn't that terrible.

Anyway he started doing all this stuff like not coming home, giving me the silent treatment, not telling me where he was going. It went from bad to worse with him. I didn't know what was going on but it was so out of character for him that I started to see him differently and didn't like what I saw. As it turned out it was an online dating advice website for men. He didn't write to the site but the guy on this site gave advice in a few places that were about situations like ours. My boyfriend took the advice. It was all about making himself not available to me emotionally. It said things like women aren't attracted once they have a man. It said if he wanted to keep me attracted to him he had to treat me like I didn't matter. All communication between us was totally cut off during this time. He wasn't being honest with me. I didn't know where he was half the time. I didn't know what was going on. So I told him to get out. I was devestated but I was like this jerk isn't who I fell for and I wanted nothing to do with him.

He started to pack but was very upset. I even told him I don't love him anymore which is not the whole truth. I did not love that person that was treating me like I didn't matter. I loved the person I met that I had been with 5 years. He told me he didn't want to leave and he showed me the site where he had gotten this advice. Everything he was doing was right there in black and white. Not telling me where he'd go, the silent treatment, saying once a woman has you she isn't attracted so you have to put her down and make her think she doesn't have you and can never have you so she will stay interested. It was horrible!

Veronica what am I doing. What should I do? He never moved out, he's still here and we are barely speaking but we aren't fighting, we're just sad. Everything is at a standstill. I have all these conflicting feelings. I act like things are okay for me to do but not for him to do? Plus I'm still so hurt and disgusted by that horrible advice he took. Is there something wrong with him for taking that advice? I mean really, what's going on here? I do love him and I do want to work this out but not if it's going to feel like it does right now. Thanks for your help.


Dear Kim337,

There is a lot going on here. You're obviously aware of that, you even said you don't want a quick-fix, you want to understand. You said you were upset that he talked to friends, but qualified that by saying that you're not being fair since you talk to yours. Then you shared that he took bad advice from an online men's site and it ruined things for a good while. You're upset he took the advice, but here you are seeking advice. You want to understand what happened, what the differences are, and what to do about it.

You do realize that no matter how bad the advice was that he wound up taking, that he was out there looking for advice on how to keep you, right? That's pretty great. Just like you're here now wanting to understand what happened. The two of you are both fighting for this relationship. I just want to acknowledge that fun fact first. This is a very good sign.

The thing about the advice your boyfriend received is that it has a ring of truth that then becomes buried in a ton of shit. I wrote a Hub called Maintaining Your Mystery, Keep Him Guessing. In that article I go over the concept of not being too obvious or too available. I explain how guys like games, they enjoy a little chase. And they really love an interesting and independent woman. It's a fun article about drawing him out and holding his attention. It's about being a whole person with interests and intrigue, bringing more to the table than just being gaga over him, and why these empowered beautiful qualities are so much fun in a healthy communicative relationship.

It's an article that hopefully helps to show a woman how to keep some interest by not getting lost in the guy. Guys want their gals to be interesting, and playful. I stress in the article that lying, causing him to worry, or being deceitful are not ways of maintaining your natural mystery. 

So basically, the writer of your boyfriend's advice article took the basic idea that men like a chase and surprise, incorrectly projected that onto what women want, and then turned it into a lying game of childish bullshit sealed off with no communication.

That advice writer was giving advice on how to win a game. Obviously it failed miserably, because you weren't playing one.

You are writing to me and to whomever else you've consulted for help on how to mend the relationship, not on how to win a game you aren't playing. Now, if your boyfriend had consulted a better counselor for advice, you may not find yourself feeling resentful that he sought help.

So you can separate that difference out right there. You aren't upset that he sought relationship advice. If anything you should be very happy he sought advice on how to keep you as his girlfriend, he wouldn't have done that had you not mattered. What upset you was that he found and took bad advice. Insulting advice. Stupid advice. You're thinking, how could he know me so little as to think that asinine game playing would "work" on you?

The bottom line with that is, men are just not that bright when it comes to relationships. They are brilliant at so many things, but I have come to believe that they really don't understand how women work, how we think, how we feel, and what makes us interested in maintaining relationships with them. I'm sorry your boyfriend took bad advice. Please don't take it personally, and don't take it to mean he's a jerk. Really, he just doesn't know what to do. It's not reflective of his heart, it's just the way it is. At least he was trying. I give him an "A" for his effort.

Now consider the friends. You said you talk to your friends about the personal private issues in between you and your boyfriend, but when he does the same with his friends, you're upset. Again it's comparing apples with oranges. Your friends have the best interest of you and your relationship in mind. You said, they would like to see you married with kids and they know he's good for you and that he wants that too. But, and this is important, you said your friends understand that you are not at that place in life right now and are supportive. These few sentences show that you have some damn good friends. They care about you, support you, and hope that they can help when you come to them with problems.

His friends on the other hand, don't have his best interests in mind. They don't really care about what he wants if they aren't even aware that he's the one that wants to get married sooner and that he's the one that wants to have kids or to take in foster children. They aren't respecting him, listening to what he wants, or supporting him in his problems. If they are all miserable in their lives and with their life choices, that puts them in a bad spot to offer support or objective insight into anyone else's happiness. 

So again, you have to separate these things apart: his seeking to talk to friends, with the friends themselves. And even if this is exaggerated in the way you've presented it, it still makes the same point. If his friends don't like you than of course you're going to be upset when your boyfriend goes to them with problems regarding you. That is logical. And of course it feels differently from when you go to your friends, as your friends like your boyfriend. When you talk to your friends about the relationship, they want to help. When he talks to his friends, they want to break you up. 

Now that we have made sense of what seemed to conflict, let's tackle the actual problems. And as far as I see, you have three. His friends, his relationship advice, and the situation you were in to begin with.

Your boyfriend was looking for advice to mend the relationship. He didn't want to figure out how to get out, he didn't want to end things, he wouldn't even move out when you told him to. Listen to this very clearly: He was trying. He was trying to do the right thing.

Obviously, what his friends say doesn't matter to him. If they don't like you, if they encourage him to leave you, if they preach single life is what he should want, he isn't listening to it. He isn't going that route. He's trying to fix his relationship. So really, don't let the friends upset you. Maybe he talks just to hear himself. Maybe your boyfriend doesn't have anyone else to turn to, so he goes to these friends because he can. Maybe it's a way for him to verbalize the things he's feeling and thinking, and whatever input they have doesn't actually matter. And maybe, he find his conviction in his arguments. Sometimes we don't even realize how strongly we feel about something until we're tasked with defending it. Maybe he bounces things off of them because when they disagree, he has the opportunity to defend how he feels and that makes him feel more grounded and more full of conviction. 

The part of your problem regarding that piss-poor advice he took, again, I'm telling you, not a problem. He was out there trying. He didn't know what he was doing. He tried something stupid and it failed. The truth is he was trying. We've all done something stupid at some point in our lives. We've all experienced having the best of intentions but just falling flat on our faces with some bonehead move we'd really like to take back. So just let this go and move on. 

And now we're at the final part of your problem. After 5 years you hit a bad patch. And exactly as you stated, that is completely normal.

Even the best of friends, the closest of sisters, the smartest of business associates, and the tightest of marriages, all experience over exposure. It's hard for any two people to be together all the time. It's completely normal. And it doesn't mean the end. 

When you described it, it sounded as if you were really getting on each others nerves, fighting, launching into bad moods whenever you were in a room together. Yet, just taking a break didn't seem to occur to you. 

You need to have time to yourself. You need to have down time. You need to have time with friends and family, but you also really need to have time where you can be silent, alone with your thoughts. Moody. Difficult. Wearing your sweats and eating ice cream out of the container while watching Three's Company on TVLand for no reason.

Much in your email sounded independent. That is fabulous. But the living together thing makes that hard. It's hard to find that time alone when you cohabitate. It's why families can sometimes fight for no reason. Or roommates. Or friends. It really sounds to me like you just need to be able to take a break once in a while. That's all. 

I would like to point out that I spend a great deal of time in many of my hubs stressing the importance of clear honest communication. I'm not stressing that with you because I have gotten the impression from your email that you already know this, and practice this. It sounds like with the exception of his brief encounter with the He-Man Woman Hater's Club advice debacle, that both of you have been able to express yourselves and your wants, and you've been able to hear each other and compromise. The way you shared how you've talked about the future is very revealing. It shows that you have listened to him and his wants, you've expressed yours, and that together you can both see that there can be good compromise that will please both of you. That's stellar and it's exemplary. Because of what I can see there, I'm not stressing the communication thing because you're already doing it very well. 

Continue with that healthy communication. Talk about how there's nothing wrong with wanting to have some personal space. It's a basic human need and it does not mean there is a problem in the relationship. 

Is there a way you can take a break from each other right now? If either of you has some vacation time from work, consider going to visit a relative or something. Just taking a break and winding down separately from each other. Maybe one of you could just go spend a few days at a family member's house, or with a friend. Just a little cooling off letting go time. 

You may be surprised at how much nicer things look after you have a chance to clear your mind and rest. 

Then resume normal functions. Agree that you both need to spend a little more "me" time. It will reduce those times of "for no reason everytime we're in the same room we just fight." You need to give each other space and time to breathe and be. You can't let yourselves get into that mode of dread. When you don't look forward to seeing each other, you automatically will go into that sour mood and nothing will work. When you give yourselves a chance to miss each other, and look forward to being together, that mood will completely change. 

For different people and different couples this can be done in a multitude of ways. Some people just have different places in the house where they each kind of go off and chill. Some people can sit right on the same couch together but be having a "me" moment, reading or playing on their laptop. Other people may have a night a week they go out alone, or stay home alone. Or maybe they like to take solo vacations, or go visit their mother, or something. Whatever it is that will work for you, you'll have to discover on your own. As long as you can continue to communicate as well as you have, just keep expressing to each other when you think you need some me-time, and go make that happen. Make it so you can't wait to see each other again. With how hard you both searched for help on how to fix your relationship, it is my bet that you will be able to get to that place again where you look forward to seeing each other. Best to you both. 

Whales Mate for Life.


Submit a Comment

  • Veronica profile imageAUTHOR


    8 years ago from NY


    I loved Magnolia! I know what you mean, that advice certainly didn't sound empowering to both partners or healing in any way. I don't know, maybe it was misinterpreted? Sometimes even bad advice has some decent points in it, or it demonstrates to the reader that another road needs to be taken. I do hope Kim337 is doing well. Thanks for commenting!

  • profile image


    8 years ago

    This made me thing of that Tom Cruise character in the movie Magnolia where he's got those workshops for men on how to conquer women and all the advice is complete bullshit. The advice where this guy got this advice from, I mean. There's an Ask Men forum that has insane game playing stuff like that on it. Any boy that takes that advice is clearly not a man, and will never land a real woman. I'm sure it messes with the heads of confused insecure girls, but any real woman would do like this woman and be like - that's it, get out.

    Kim337 is very wise to step back from the situation and want to learn what really went on and what to do to handle it now. I wonder if they were able to work through everything. I wish her good luck.


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