Dear Kate and Allen,
I am having a massive problem with my boyfriend right now. I hope you can help me.
For context, he and I have been dating since middle school. We grew up in the same small town, went to the same schools — your typical high school sweetheart situation. I always thought we had the type of “Notebook”-style love that would last forever. I followed him to college, then to grad school, where I took a pretty miserable job just to be with him and help pay the bills. Our parents always talked about us as an inevitability. It wasn’t “if you two get married and have kids,” it was “when you two get married and have kids.”
Well, more than 10 years of contentment came to a screeching halt last week when I learned that he’s been on dating apps for the last three months, flirting with other women. I don’t think he slept with anyone else — he swore he didn’t when I found out about it, and we spend a lot of time together, so it would be hard for him to sneak around like that. But I did learn that he’s been sending those women gift cards that he’s been paying for out of our joint checking account. Like, a $20 Sephora gift card here, a $25 Starbucks gift card there. But it adds up.
I am devastated. It feels like a total betrayal after how long we’ve been together, and I don’t understand why he would do something so totally stupid. But my mom, who’s always loved us together, is preaching forgiveness. She’s telling me it’s a phase, a “sowing his wild oats” situation, especially since his grad school is in a much bigger city and he’s been going out more with his friends. She says it’s not really cheating because he never did anything physical.
My boyfriend is remorseful, but also says we should take a break to figure things out. The thing is, we’re not taking a break. We still live together. We still hang out all the time. We still text to coordinate about rent, groceries, errands. Basically nothing has changed, except I know about the dating apps and he tells people “we’re on a break.” I don’t know what to do. Do I forgive him and hope he’ll come to his senses with some time? Or is my one and only relationship totally doomed?
I Hate Gift Cards Now
Kate: Woof. Though if I were you, I’d want a gift card for Amtrak so I could get the hell out of that situation.
Mentally, I have split your quandary into two separate problems. One of them is your mother, who seems to be your main confidante in this situation. And respectfully, of course, I really don’t care what your mother thinks about your boyfriend. She doesn’t have to come home and look at a man who bought some rando a $20 Sephora gift card.
I also disagree with her premise that your boyfriend wasn’t really cheating because he didn’t sleep with anyone else (that you know of, at least). There are different forms of cheating, and your boyfriend was at least engaging in the emotional kind. Sure, maybe he wasn’t sleeping or even meeting with these women, but he was investing time and attention and money that could have gone to his relationship with you (Plus, it was your money, too! You were essentially underwriting his emotional infidelity! Maintain your sense of outrage!) If you’re asking whether the relationship is over — well, the writing’s on the apps, sis. How can you trust him again? How can you undo what’s been done? As Allen wrote in a previous column, trust is the foundation of a relationship, and if you don’t have that, it’s probably not worth sticking around.
Part of the problem, of course, is your boyfriend himself. I’m not so fatalistic that I’d argue that trust can never be rebuilt in a relationship, as long as both sides are willing. But he’s not willing, is he? He’s sorry you found out, but it doesn’t seem like he’s taking any steps to rebuild the relationship. This whole “break” thing is selfish and cowardly on his end. He wants to maintain all the convenience of dating you without any of the commitment. Even if he did wake up one day and think, “My God! I can’t live without Gift Cards,” why would you want him back? He’s a total bag of manure, and he’s not even a particularly smart bag of manure. He’s free to decide that he wants to pursue other relationships, but you’re also free to move out, delete his number, and tell him to find a roommate.
That brings me to the last portion of my advice, which pertains only to you. It seems like you’ve given up a lot to be with this guy, and I’m not judging you for prioritizing a relationship. But in the end, if you’re always making concessions for another person, you’re not building anything for yourself. In the future, I’d encourage you to think about what you want — not your partner, not your family, not anyone else — so that when the next man comes knocking, he has to work to fit into your life, too.
Allen: A few things:
The “’Notebook’-style love” only exists in the “Notebook”-style books and movies. You should probably get some more realistic expectations for your relationship next time.
God, men suck. Can’t we just do a little bit better guys? Like a tiny bit? If for no other reason than I stop getting these kinds of questions where I inevitably have to tell someone their relationship is a catastrophe and they need to move on.
If you’re going to share a checking account with someone, at least pay attention to it.
Your relationship is a catastrophe and you need to move on. It should feel like a total betrayal, because it is.
Your mother doesn’t have to live with him. Tell her to take forgiveness and shove it. You don’t get to “sow wild oats” when you’re dating someone.
Your boyfriend is not remorseful. He’s only remorseful he got caught. You should leave him cold turkey and go live your best life. Make him regret it.
Just mailed you an Amazon gift card
Dear Kate and Allen,
This is such a stupid question, I can’t even believe I’m writing in about it. But it’s devolved into a significant argument between me and my partner.
Here’s the situation: I was sitting on the sidewalk patio of a coffee shop the other day, drinking my cappuccino, when a cat jumped into my lap. Okay, fine, no problem. I like cats. It was a pretty scrawny thing with no collar and bedraggled fur. I start petting it, and I notice a huge, gross, oozing abscess on the back of its neck. That kind of put a damper on the relative cuteness of our interaction.
Trying to be a good Samaritan, I call Animal Control, thinking the cat is a stray. I mean, it seems like it’s in pretty bad shape. Then, as I’m sitting there with the cat in my lap, trying not to touch it, waiting for Animal Control to get there, the owner of the coffee shop comes out. She addresses the cat by name and mentions the abscess, telling me it’s a wound that the cat gets pretty regularly, maybe she’ll have to bring the cat inside to heal, yada yada yada. As soon as she leaves, I call Animal Control again and tell them that I was mistaken and the cat actually has an owner. Do I agree with the decision to let an outdoor cat languish on the patio with an oozing abscess? No, but it’s obviously her cat.
I brought up the story with my partner later that night, mostly as a strange/amusing anecdote to share from my day. But my partner proceeded to get very upset with me. She said that the owner of the cat was clearly negligent and I should have let Animal Control come and take the cat away. Even if the cat got stuck in a shelter, my partner said, at least it would be getting adequate veterinary care. I said that I couldn’t just call in a local government agency to steal a woman’s cat.
We’ve been arguing back and forth about this for the last several days, and I’m ready for it to end. Who is right? Should I have gotten the cat impounded, or was I right to leave it with its owner?
Allen: I can’t believe you wrote in about this either.
If this type of argument happens frequently, you can make these end by ending the relationship because that sounds like an absolute nightmare.
If this is the only argument you guys have had in 2019, well, good for you guys, I guess.
Regarding the cat, pets get little wounds that can ooze or puss all the time. My dog used to lick his legs so much it would cut the skin, and they’d scab over. One time it led to a yeast infection. I wouldn’t call myself a neglectful owner. I just have a dumb dog as a pet. (Gunnar, if you’re reading this, you’re a very smart and good boy.) The neck is an odd location, but if it happens with frequency, perhaps there’s a reason why, which the owner knows about, and is also none of your business.
I’m not a big fan of government intervention in almost any case. So I’m probably going to side with you on this one. Should the owner take better care of their cat? Maybe. Maybe the cat is a free spirit that wants to be one with the world and roam around. That’s OK too. It’s not your cat, it’s not your problem.
Next time your partner is in that situation, she can call animal control and get the cat impounded. But until then, you did what you thought was best. That should be the end of the argument.
If it’s not, do what I do when my girlfriend wants to have a go at me but I’m not interested in arguing: Buy her wine and donuts and tell her she’s right.
Kate: To me, this is a bit of a gray area because it’s hard for me to tell how neglected the cat actually was. If it was frisky enough to jump into your lap, maybe its wound/overall appearance was misleading. And I’ve met other people with pretty blasé attitudes toward outdoor cat ownership.
That being said, I’m answering this question based off my gut reaction as a cat mom. And my gut reaction is that I would never let my baby wander around with a big boo-boo on the back of his neck (I don’t even let him outside, honestly). I checked the Annotated Code of Maryland, and it is considered neglect or even abuse to “fail to provide” an animal with “necessary veterinary care.” So, reluctantly (because I can see your side of things), I’m going to side with your partner and say that maybe Animal Control should have taken the cat. From what you described, its real owner seemed pretty lackadaisical about its care. If she was really concerned, she could always pick up the cat from the shelter. Maybe that would have prompted an awkward but necessary conversation about why she was letting her cat walk around with a gross ol’ abscess on the back of its neck.