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May 26 2013

Need dating advice: life in single’s ville

There’s a nice woman I casually dated a few times last year, we’ll call her Jill. The relationship didn’t go anywhere, not much spark, but she’s a very sweet intelligent and fun person and we’ve stayed friends. But another reason it didn’t go anywhere is she’s been hung up bad on another man for a couple of years, let’s call him Jack. This particular Jack is married, and he kept stringing Jill along telling her he couldn’t stand his wife and was going to get a divorce. Then he moved from Austin to Houston for work reasons, wife in tow. Jack finally did get a divorce, but he didn’t follow through on any plans with Jill, much to her heartbreak.

Jack’s is now dating another woman, but he still comes to Austin every few months and, when he does, sometimes he calls Jill. Often from a sixth street bar late at night. They crash together, Jill rekindles her hope this time, this night, all will be different and Jack will fall madly in love with her. Of course that never happens.

Some of Jill’s coworkers had a Memorial Day Weekend pool party and cookout this evening, she asked me if I would go with her as a friend so that she wouldn’t have to go alone. I was happy to do it. She texted me when to pick her up, where the party would be, etc., around noon this morning. I want to help her feel good so I dressed up nice and metro, new haircut, new pants because I’m now down to a svelte 30 inch waist! I text Jill I’m on my way right before 6 PM, arrive at her house, ring the doorbell and …. nothing. I called her cell but it rang twice and then went to voice mail.

I was worried I might have gotten my signals crossed, so after waiting fifteen minutes loitering at the doorstep like a thief casing a house, I went to the private home where the party was and told them I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to meet her there or not. They were totally cool, invited me in, I waited for a bit. But no Jill. I texted her several times and tried to call letting her know where I was, no responses. Eventually it felt awkward enough that I politely thanked them and left.

Finally, just before 9 PM, two and half hours after I was supposed to pick her up. I get a brief text saying Jack flew in unexpectedly and “he doesn’t feel like going to the party so we’re just gonna stay in.” That’s it. Now you guys and galls tell me, I understand Jill and I are friends, I understand matters of the heart take precedence, and she honestly and earnestly told me about the weird hold this guy has over her from the moment we first we went out.

But does that justify leaving me hanging like that? It was her idea to call me and ask me to go with her, not mine. Had she told me right up until this evening that her plans had changed, or even standing at the door when I went to pick her up, I would have been completely sympathetic. But she didn’t. I didn’t even rate a ten second text or phone call telling me not to show up. That’s dating life folks, doesn’t matter if you’re middle aged or in Middle School. People will use you, disregard you, keep you as a back up without telling you, and even often profess how special you are and what  a unique connection they have with you while they’re doing all that.

And lest anyone thing I’m singling out flaky women. When I go out with a new girl there are a lot of things I have to worry about, they might be scammers, suffering from borderline personality or extreme depression, almost all of them have psycho ex boyfriends stalking them, there may be a serious substance abuse issue, they might even be professional hustlers. But one of the things I don’t give a second though to is ending up tied in the basement being sodomized and strangled by a psycho serial killer. So don’t get the idea I think women are the sole problem here…

Nevertheless, this left me feeling pretty unimportant, worthless, like I wasn’t even a good enough friend to rate simple basic decency

39 comments

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  1. 1
    smhll

    Disclaimer: I haven’t dated in quite a while (married), and haven’t read an etiquette book in decades either.

    However, standing someone up is rude. Jill’s behavior to you is wrong. A person needs to have had a quite distracting emergency before I would be inclined to forgive them for doing a “no show” without even texting me. In a more ordinary emergency, calling to cancel is reasonable behavior. Deciding to do something else and not informing the person you had plans with is a bad move. Not noticing or caring that you’ve wasted another person’s time and potentially hurt their feelings is not good.

    Both Jack and Jill sound quite self-absorbed. I’m tempted to write “I hope they’ll be very happy together”, but I don’t think they will be.

    Jill isn’t thinking very clearly if she’s willing to accept Jack’s cavalier level of interest in her and poor treatment, and then clone that behavior and use it on you.

  2. 2
    Daniel Schealler

    Sitting comfy in my armchair here with a complete lack of formal training. Grain of salt.

    Nevertheless, this left me feeling pretty unimportant, worthless, like I wasn’t even a good enough friend to rate simple basic decency.

    That seems to be a fairly normal emotional reaction, in the circumstances. Sucks, but reasonable to feel that way.

    Sounds to me like Jill, wonderful though she may be otherwise, is self-absorbed – in the sense that she’s closed off to perspectives other than her own.

    Everyone is a bit self-absorbed. Empathy is hard. But some suffer from the affliction more than others.

    My guess is that’s also why she can’t see that Jack is (by your description) transparently using her. She’s likely so wrapped up in her own happily-ever-after perspective/narrative that she’s closed herself off to an accurate view of what’s probably going on inside Jack’s head.

    Similarly, she probably just wasn’t aware of how standing you up like that would make you feel. I expect she probably didn’t even really consider it. Kind of like how you don’t notice your own blind spots.

    From her own perspective I have no doubt that everything that took place was completely reasonable.

    Jill’s not using you as badly as Jack’s using her, but she’s still using you. She’s failing to imagine you complexly and not showing consideration for the ways in which your perspective differs from her own.

    Wonderful though they may be in other regards, self-absorbed people rarely make for good friends in the medium to long term. IMHO.

    If it was me, I’d consider that grounds for a provisional downgrade from friend to acquaintance until further action led me to believe it was worth further emotional investment. An apology, or the other person making an unprompted effort to reconnect socially. In the absence of that – well, everyone falls within a bell curve.

    But then again, that’s always easy to say from the outside, isn’t it?

    Anyway Stephen: Sorry to hear you got snubbed. That always sucks.

  3. 3
    Nice Ogress

    Yeah, this ‘friendship’ fails the smell test in a big way.

    About the only way ‘Jack showed up’ would be a reasonable excuse is if he showed up with his arm sawn off and had to be driven to the hospital. Even then, it stinks. She could’ve called and told you the date was off. She could’ve gone anyway. She could’ve done a lot of things, but even if you assume the kindest possible explanation for what she actually *did* do, succumbing to social paralysis is a big red flag.

    The long and the short of it is that friends don’t treat each other as disposable objects. Both of these individuals – both Jack and Jill – fail this basic test. No one needs such people in their life.

    I know there is a strong temptation to try and ‘save’ people who are vulnerable and damaged and constantly teetering on the edge of disaster – Gods, don’t ask me how I know that because I can show you the scars – but ultimately such persons have to save themselves. Nothing else sticks.

    Get yourself to minimum safe distance, because a relationship that toxic is going to have spectacular fallout.

  4. 4
    amandamarcotte

    I’m a bit confused. You weren’t on a date—it was *her* dating life that was confusing here, right? I mean, rude is rude, but it seems more a problem with a rude friend than a dating problem per se.

  5. 5
    No One

    You deserve better friends, and she does not deserve your friendship. No shame on your part buddy. I’d politely decline any further interaction with her.

  6. 6
    hjhornbeck

    Have you talked to her about this? I agree that this woman isn’t being a good friend, but she might not be aware of that. Tell her how you feel, that you’ll be less forgiving of this in future, and let her know you’ll tone down the friendship if she keeps this up. It might help, but even if it doesn’t you’ll feel better when you let the connection die down.

  7. 7
    maudell

    Stephen – it’s the second time I read a post from you wondering if a woman’s disrespectful behaviour was normal* (or that’s how I would qualify it, personally).
    I’ve been in similar situations to what you are describing, but in Jill’s shoes. And what she did is wrong, and she should know it was wrong. I’ve had a few cordial, “no spark” relationships with great guys before. I am not proud of it, but I think that I sometimes lacked respect and empathy for them, and their acceptance of my behaviour became a rationalization in my head that they were “ok” with that.
    You deserve respect. She deserves to know that it’s not ok. I think it’s a thin line to thread, ideally making it clear that you are not upset because you are desperately in love with her, but that’s just not how people -especially friends- should treat each other.
    You sound to me that you are very attuned to other people’s pain – maybe to the extent that you forget your own needs sometimes. Empathy is a quality. But from the way you write, sometimes I wonder if certain people take advantage of it. (I am not jumping to conclusions since I don’t have details and I don’t know you personally, just telling you my perception from your posts… I may be completely wrong.)

    *(the other example I am referring to is the woman you went on a date with, who told you she was not interested, and who got mad at you for dating another woman afterwards)

  8. 8
    noastronomer

    “…we’ve stayed friends”

    Your definition of the word friend appears to be at odds with mine. Also … +1 to what almost everyone else said, except hjhornbeck. Someone who is actually a friend shouldn’t need to be told this.

    Mike

  9. 9
    cassmorrison

    It was drummed into me in junior high that you don’t jerk around your friends even when in the throes of lust. Too bad Jill didn’t get the same message. As hard as it is to leave a friendship – and I’ve been on both sides of blunt endings – I agree with No One – time to decline further interaction with her. It can be really blurry when you’ve had a romantic relationship because the she could think it’s jealously over breaking a date but really it’s about treating friends with respect and she’s not doing that.

  10. 10
    ildi

    Some of Jill’s coworkers had a Memorial Day Weekend pool party and cookout this evening, she asked me if I would go with her as a friend so that she wouldn’t have to go alone.

    Bob’s your uncle!

  11. 11
    grumpyoldfart

    You only hope you have stayed friends. She thinks you’re an idiot.

  12. 12
    Badland

    I’m sorry Stephen. You are to Jill as Jill is to Jack. Humans are cruel

  13. 13
    Stacy

    Stephen, she is not being a good friend to you. You deserve better.

  14. 14
    Kilian Hekhuis

    Jill is mentally (and perhaps physically, if you count hormones) addicted to Jack. Although you may be able to excuse or forgive an addict for bad behaviour resulting from the addiction, it’s common knowledge you better stay clear of them.

  15. 15
    DaveL

    I’m with grumpyoldfart and Badland. You’re not her friend, you’re her backup.

  16. 16
    sathyalacey

    I’m reminded of a great How I Met Your Mother ep about how everyone’s on someone else’s “hook”.

    This guy is using her as a backup – she’s on his hook, will drop everything (including you) to go get used by her.

    She’s dealing with this shitty situation by trying to do the same to you.

    Don’t let her.

    And please don’t pay it forward.

  17. 17
    TGAP Dad

    Huge disclaimer: I am not a mental health professional.
    Jill clearly has issues. She is drawn to men who want to use her while remaining unavailable. This is undoubtedly exciting to her, and what she is inexplicably drawn to. The nice guy, who is available, dresses and grooms himself for the occasion just doesn’t do it for her. That is probably why you two never really hit it off.

    Jack is a user and cheater. Jill is the out of town girl he wants to keep available for his booty calls. So he feeds her enough BS to keep her on the hook. Since Jack is a cheater, if by chance he and Jill get together, then he will proceed to cheat on her. Because he’s a cheater. She can’t resist him.

    I would say that Jill needs therapy, and more than a few sessions. But note again the disclaimer above.

  18. 18
    Kilian Hekhuis

    “Jill clearly has issues. She is drawn to men who want to use her while remaining unavailable. This is undoubtedly exciting to her, and what she is inexplicably drawn to.”

    From the available evidence, I disagree. She is “drawn to” exactly one man, Jack. There’s no evidence she’s drawn to bad guys in general. I agree she needs therapy, badly.

  19. 19
    Kevin

    Yeah, I don’t think this has anything to do with “dating”. It has to do with being rude.

    This “Jill” person is rude. Wouldn’t matter if it was a “real” date, a “help me out” date, a business lunch, or any other social interaction.

    If you’re not going to show, let the other person know. You don’t have to go into the gory details — even euphemisms like “stay in” are a little creepy, IMHO. Just a little text “can’t make it — sorry” would have sufficed.

    It also has very little (if anything) to do with gender. Rudeness is a pan-gender ethical problem.

  20. 20
    Onamission5

    I’m with Kevin, the nature of the relationships in question is really beside the point. The details of the relationships are also beside the point, point being, standing people up for any reason outside of an emergency is very inconsiderate and you deserve to be treated better than that.

  21. 21
    lanir

    One of the things I’ve learned to look at when being in and around relationships with similarities to what you, Jack and Jill seem to have is this idea of when Jill (or her stand-in) starts to let a bad relationship poison other relationships. It feels a bit like moving the goal post to let Jack score. If you start redefining whatever Jack does as right and/or reasonable so you don’t have to admit he’s being a jerk, it doesn’t matter if Jill acts the same.

    Obviously that’s not true. It does matter. But people are adept at selling themselves fantasies. and when they decide they want to actually believe them, it gets a lot less safe to be around them or care about them. In my opinion probably the best thing you could do for her if you still care about her is to make sure you aren’t supporting this kind of behavior. And the best thing you can do for yourself is not volunteer to put up with more of it.

    Just to be clear, I’m not saying she’s a bad person or that she won’t change later. She may well do exactly that. But it’s a lot less likely that she’ll randomly wake up and notice what she’s doing to you without some external encouragement.

  22. 22
    david

    Hopefully you met somebody nice at the party. Move on.

  23. 23
    Randomfactor

    Dating advice: date someone else.

    (Of course, that’s advice I myself can’t take…)

  24. 24
    Ibis3, Let's burn some bridges

    Jill is either a narcissist without any regard for others or she’s so infatuated with Jack that she’ll sacrifice anything to get whatever scraps of him he deigns to give her. Either way, she’s not worth your time, even as a friend, because you’ll always end up being used. You deserve better.

  25. 25
    Olav

    In your place I would be rather angry with Jill, and not keep it a secret to her either.

    Also, don’t forget to examine your own motives. Why are you still friends with Jill? Are you still hoping that it may become more than just friendship one day? Or do you believe somehow you have an obligation to her? a. Forget it and b. No, you haven’t.

    Yes, I would suck at being a relationship counsellor. Then again I believe relationship counselling is mostly bullshit. So there.

  26. 26
    Karen Locke

    What Jill did was just plain rude. No excuses. If she changed her mind about going to the party, she should have called you or texted you… and it still would have been rude, just less rude. She made the date, she shouldn’t have changed it short of a real emergency.

    You need better friends.

  27. 27
    mikmik

    I can’t add anything much, just that anyone that allows themselves to be treated like that will also treat her people like that. By that, I mean a chew toy.
    It’s kind of shocking to see how all encompassing an obsession is, for sure. She is addicted, I think, and nothing else matters when she is ‘using.’
    That’s the thing, though. It’s just when he is in the picture. I would doubt she thinks of you badly, or disrespectfully, at all. Just when he extends a tentacle.
    Still sucks, though.
    I hope I added some understanding.
    I am not a mental health professional, either, but I am a client! ;)

  28. 28
    Carlos Cabanita

    The second man of a second girl. Not good. Run!

  29. 29
    Ysanne

    She is addicted, I think, and nothing else matters when she is ‘using.’

    Having slightly obsessive tendencies myself on occasion, I agree.
    This Jill is not a person to rely on for any kind of commitment to anyone other than Jack. Even if she honestly tried, she’d end up hurting you when there’s a choice to make where Jack is one of the options.
    But apart from that, she’s obviously also quite inconsiderate: Telling you right away that she changed plans is the bare minimum of decency to be expected, and she failed to show even that.
    So my advice is to keep away from her romantically, and not consider her too much of an actual friend either. And sorry for the crappy evening.

  30. 30
    cotton

    In addition to what everyone else said, she didn’t even apologize or give an excuse as to why her turnaround was so bad. The two of you had plans. Dumping you is rude. Not telling you is outrageous. Not apologizing or either, simply informing you after the fact, is incomprehensible.

    As Ferris Bueller said: You can’t respect someone if they lick your boots. You need to either cut her out, or read her the friendship riot act now…or ameliorate yourself to this becoming consistent.

  31. 31
    maddog1129

    It’s not you; it’s her. That was inexcusable and unacceptable. She owes you an apology, big-time.

  32. 32
    baquist

    She completely failed the ‘bare minimum of decency’ test. If this had been a first or second encounter with her, without knowing her history, would you make the effort to continue to get to know her? Well, you do know her issues, and she treats you like this. I don’t see what you are getting out of it now, and are only going to continue to get hurt. I don’t see why you should even try to make her see what she did to you was wrong; why should that burden be on you? You have had enough anxiety/stress/pain in the past 6 months without keeping people like her around to wear you down. As hard as it might seem to at first, please cut her loose, and don’t continue to sell yourself short catering to this type of inconsiderate nonsense.

  33. 33
    jenny6833a

    Poo-poo occurs. Move on.

  34. 34
    mildlymagnificent

    Just think what you would say to her if you were a cousin or a brother or a housemate she’d asked on the “don’t want to go alone” basis. It would still be unconscionably rude of her not to let that person know she’d changed her plans so you were now free to do other things. How many thumb movements would it have taken to text you that message?

    Rude, thoughtless and inconsiderate are not good points in a prospective date. You should move on. How you go about telling her this is up to you, but it would be polite to tell her in advance that you won’t be offering or accepting any such invitations.

  35. 35
    johnradke

    She’s in the wrong, not you. And your hurt feelings are entirely valid. She disrespected you, and you don’t deserve that.

    That said, ignore all the headshrinking going on in this thread. People are shoveling a narcissistic psyche into her cranium based solely on your limited description of one incident. The truth is that even the best of us have said or done some dumb things that ended up hurting people’s feelings. Next time she gets in touch with you, let her know that she pissed you off. Friends call each other on their shit. I’ve done it, I’ve had it done to me, and those friendships have lasted a long time. When you respect someone and they hurt your feelings, you tell them about it. Remember to use “I feel” statements and all that.

    Now, maybe this is a larger pattern of disrespectful behavior on her part, but we can’t determine that for you. If so, ignore the above and just start distancing yourself. You don’t owe her anything.

  36. 36
    mikmik

    Good, johnradke. I was gonna say that Stephen ask himself what kind of friend he wants to be instead of what he wants her to be. She is hurting, (I think) and – what johnradke said.

  37. 37
    robb

    Stephen, if you sent your post in to Dan Savage, he’d say:

    DTMFA

  38. 38
    =8)-DX

    The most common thing that would excuse this kind of rude behaviour is sex. Especially after a long dry spell, people can completely lose any sense of time or other commitments when rolling about in the sheets (on the kitchen floor, standing up in the hallway).

    And the only reason I say this is in anyway a valid excuse is because .. well I just feel happy for anyone lucking enough to enjoy some sexy times, it’s when we get to behave like children a bit, drop all that responsibility, act playfully. Jill most likely either planned on actually making the date even after meeting Jack then things got out of hand and she lost track of time. I’ve known a couple like Jack and Jill who used to date, almost lived together, have broken up dozens of times and for a long time now only meet for a little company, a little sex, every few months or so. I’m not exactly sure that Jill is being “misused” here, she’s an adult, presumably she enjoys the sex and Jack’s company. Advise her to quit being his booty call, but essentially its up to her who she has sex with.

    I’d personally just not take this too seriously, refer to it ironically a few times maybe, refuse to pick her up at her house if she asks next time, hang out with other people. And mainly: you’ve learned she can be unreliable so just assume that’s how she’s going to be in the future.

  39. 39
    Daniel Schealler

    johnradke #35 wrote

    That said, ignore all the headshrinking going on in this thread.

    As a headshrinker myself – and having had some time to think about it – John has three very good points:

    All of us here are missing A LOT of context.

    People make mistakes, especially when matters of the heart are involved.

    And communication is almost always a good thing. In fact, our John has me remembering the words of another John.

    I have exactly one piece of relationship advice: Use. Your. Words.

    - John Green

    @johnradke

    Having read your comment a while back and thought about it for a few days, you’ve successfully changed my mind and led me to regret my earlier position as mistaken.

    Not sure if it matters to you or not. I just think it’s nice to know that it does sometimes happen. ^_^

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