You Asked Me Your Toughest Relationship Questions, So Here's My Advice To You
Hey BuzzFeed Community fam! My name's Hannah, and I'm here to offer you some guidance on the big questions plaguing your love life! Don't just think of me as a writer who covers various sex and love topics on the site. You can also think of me as your stand-in best friend who is here to listen to you (judgment-free) and offer up some thoughtful advice. It can sometimes be hard to talk about these deeply personal things with friends and family, so I'm here to help be your sounding board!
So, I asked you all, the BuzzFeed Community, to send me any questions you had pertaining to sex, love, dating, relationships, etc. This week, we'll be tackling questions about: a hard breakup, partners in touch with exes, PDA, parents not approving of partners, in-laws from hell, situationships, and relationship anxiety.
1.Question: "Almost exactly a year ago, I broke up with the only man I’ve ever been in love with. In this past year, I’ve tried to move on and have had multiple boyfriends, but I can’t help feeling like they are second best. I find myself not being able to fully commit to the relationships, which leads to breakups. I understand why I was feeling like this for the first few months, but now that it’s been a year, I don’t understand why I can’t move on and get over my ex. I still think about him all the time, and my intense feelings have not gone away. My parents are encouraging me to reach back out to him because they and my little siblings absolutely loved him and have never taken another relationship of mine seriously."
"However, as much as I want to reach back out to him, I’m afraid that too much time has passed to do that. It has been a year, and I’m sure he has healed and moved on, potentially even with someone else. I’m afraid if I reach back out, it’ll hurt us both more. But I also feel like I won’t get closure and be able to enter a happy relationship until I do. What are your thoughts?"
My advice: I think that the closure you seek and the closure you need may be different things. Before you make any decisions about reaching out, you need to think about WHY the relationship didn't work out the first time. Why did you break up? It sounds like you ended things, and I'm curious as to what your reason was. Is it something that could lead to another breakup with this person in the future, or are the circumstances different enough that history would not repeat itself? Either thing can be true; it really just depends on your situation. I ask these questions because I don't know the intricacies of your relationship or your breakup, but you know these things well enough to assess whether or not reaching out will actually bring closure, or just dredge up more heartache.
I know how it feels to lose someone you love — someone who you connected with in a really special way — but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. You really do just wake up one day and think about them a little less.
It's natural to grieve the end of a meaningful relationship, and I know that process can feel endless. Healing doesn't happen in a vacuum. It can be time-consuming, confusing, and tiring. It's not that reaching out is the wrong answer; you just have to consider how reconnecting with them will impact your grief. If you reach out to them and they ignore you or say they're with someone else, will that bring you the closure you need, or will that hurt you even more and put you right back at the beginning of your grieving process? Only you know the answer.
I don't want you to undo or discredit the work you've done in this year. You may still have a lot of intense feelings, but there is some distance between you and this person now. You're a year removed from the relationship. Think about whether or not you're romanticizing them and your relationship with them in your head, or if you really don't think you can live without them. Do you miss how you once felt, or do you truly miss the person? You are clinging to an idea, and the closure you seek may come from within. Ask yourself the tough questions before deciding whether or not to reach out, that way you know exactly what to prepare for either way. You've got this.
2.Question: "I need advice navigating some relationship territories. As a person who was previously VERY single, I’m now in a relationship with someone who I moved to another country for. It sounds romantic, but now that I’m here, I’m starting to realize we didn’t know each other that well, and I don't know what I'm willing to take on. My boyfriend maintains deep, intimate friendships with his exes, and even calls one of them his best friend in the world. They FaceTime regularly, and when it was his birthday a few days ago, she posted a very intimate Instagram story with the words 'I LOVE YOU' sprawled across it. He re-shared it and only mentioned spending his birthday with great ‘friends’ — no mention of me, though I threw him a party."
"I asked him if he and this girl were ‘saving’ each other, and he gave a very shady smile and said they would never work because ‘she’s into tarot cards and retrogrades,’ which sounds like the dumbest excuse he could think of in the moment. There’s also another ex that he’s tried to drag me to dinner with. Again, as a relationship newbie, I’m not sure if I’m being overly sensitive or if this actually is a major red flag."
My advice: Well, friend, I have some conflicting feelings in my gut on this one. Is it possible to be friends with exes? Sure. Certain exes? Noooot a chance. Some people fit into our lives as friends better than lovers, and sometimes, it takes dating them to realize that. OK, you can be friends with those exes. But, the thing that's worrying me here is how he responded when you expressed some concern regarding the nature of their relationship. It's clearly bothering you, and you've tried to talk to him about it, and he didn't give you a satisfactory answer. It's not going to stop bothering you (I know that answer wouldn't have been good enough for me!), so I feel like another, deeper conversation needs to take place.
Does this "I LOVE YOU" IG story ex know about you? Does she know that he's seeing someone? I have guy friends who I would definitely post an obnoxious birthday story for, but if they're in a relationship, I'm not going to act like I'm anything more than their friend. The man should be very clear with that boundary as well. If this worry is still gnawing at you, ask him directly if she knows about you and your relationship. Don't go into it with guns a-blazing because he may get defensive, even if there's nothing to worry about. Just check in and perhaps let him know you felt hurt by his actions around his birthday and felt like he was hiding you.
Hopefully, he will put your mind at ease. If he and this ex are such good friends, you should probably meet her. If he's weird about you meeting his "best friend in the world" who just happens to be his ex, that's suspicious. He should want two people who he cares about deeply to get to know each other. The ex who he wants the two of you to have dinner with feels less strange to me. I personally get on edge when I date someone who is close with their exes, but if they prove themselves to be trustworthy, they communicate openly with me, and they don't attempt to hide the ex from me OR me from the ex, it reduces any potential for drama or confusion.
Maybe he's just a lovely person who maintains positive relationships with exes because he's so great, and he happens to have wonderful taste in the people he dates (like you!!!). Ultimately, if that still doesn't sit right with you, that's okay. If you have a firm boundary that his lifestyle doesn't abide by, and it's going to cause you stress and possibly strain your relationship, you may not be compatible. Definitely talk to him more to get a better sense of things before drawing too many conclusions. Things like this can go either way, and you either trust the person you're with because they've given you no reason not to, or you remove yourself from a situation that isn't healthy for you.
3.Question: "How do I show affection to my boyfriend without being too overbearing? He doesn't really like PDA but enjoys when I show him I care in tiny ways! What should I do, and how do I know if I'm taking it too far?"
My advice: Though I don't know the dynamics of your relationship personally, my instinct is that you're a very receptive partner! You can tell you and your boyfriend may have different love languages, and you want to make sure you're showing him affection in ways that make him feel comfortable and appreciated. That awareness alone tells me you're probably not being overbearing — you're just sensitive to the unique ways you each show and receive love. You mentioned that there are "tiny ways" you show him you care, and he seems to respond well to them. That's great! What are the actions you've previously done that he seems to like? Does he appreciate acts of service, like having his favorite dinner waiting for him after a hard day at work? Does he simply enjoy quality time with you and feel really special when you plan an afternoon of activities for you to do together?
Since he is your partner and you obviously care about each other, it never hurts to have a little check-in. Expressing your love shouldn't have to come with any anxieties! Ask what makes him feel loved and appreciated in your relationship. But, I also want you to make sure you're receiving the love you deserve as well! If your partner isn't as physically affectionate as you are, you should talk about how you can find a balance so that you're both having your needs met. Maybe he doesn't want to make out in public (and thank you for that), but holding your hand is not a chore! I think there's a way to gently address your situation because you're approaching it with love. You want to respect his boundaries while also feeling emotionally fulfilled and connected with him. Ask what makes him feel special, and tell him the things he does that make you feel special, too. You'll hopefully ease some of your anxieties, and you'll both have some clarity on how the other person expresses their love!
4.Question: "My mom wasn’t too thrilled to find out that I was seeing my current boyfriend because I’m still in college. However, I reached out to him a few weeks after ending things and asked if he wanted to give what we had another shot, to which he said yes because he genuinely missed me. We’re going strong now and meet up whenever he is in town (we are doing long-distance). He is one of THE BEST things that’s ever happened to me. I mean it when I say that because here I am trying to find the perfect time and place to tell him 'I love you' for the first time. But, more importantly, I actually want to be married to this man for the rest of eternity. Me, who used to freak out about the idea of marrying anyone, WANTS to be married to him forever. However, even though this all may be true, we’re dating in secret. His family knows about me, but mine don't know about him. How should I (years from now) approach my parents about the fact that I am with him?"
My advice: I feel like I'm missing a lot of context, so my response will have a few questions. First, why was your mom not okay with you dating this man in the first place? You're in college, so I take it you're at least legally an adult and can make these decisions for yourself. It's not that parents should interfere in their adult kids' relationships because that can surely be toxic, but I'm just curious as to why that was an issue to begin with. Do you normally have a strong relationship with your mom? Or, has your mom previously overstepped in your dating life/is this a pattern? Usually, when my mom wasn't keen on one of my boyfriends, it was because she could tell something was off. But, I'm fortunate to have a very good relationship with both of my parents. Just throwing that out there, but let's assume, for the sake of the rest of my response, that he's perfect and lovely and this relationship is "endgame."
I am truly happy to hear that you're so happy! That kind of love and connection can be hard to come by, especially at a young age. The excitement and nervousness of saying "I love you" to someone for the first time is such a special feeling, and how incredible that you're ready to say it to this person! I imagine that being long-distance poses a lot of challenges, and I hope you two can discuss what your plans are for the future so that you can be together in a less taxing way.
So, you're dating in "secret." His family knows, but yours does not. Have you met his family? What do they think of the relationship? How have they responded to getting to know you? Do his friends know? Do YOUR friends know? Or, is your family the only group not in the loop? Those terms change my feelings on the situation a bit as well. Hopefully, everyone else is on board and your family is the last hurdle to cross.
You asked about how to approach your parents "years from now." I'm curious as to why you've selected that timeframe. Are you waiting until you're through school? Depending on how close you are with your family, this feels like a really big secret to hold, especially if everyone else knows and you are serious about the prospect of marriage.
I don't know your family or your partner, so I don't know why they may be against this relationship. But, if you have an otherwise healthy and consistent relationship with your family, I think the truth will have to come out — and sooner rather than later. If you have a more complicated relationship with your family and don't spend much time with them, perhaps it's okay to wait things out. But, I think keeping such a big secret if you are close with them could result in a lot of hurt.
Examine why your family may not be okay with the relationship. Is it really just because of school? Think about why you're hiding it from them. Also, take stock of how your partner's family and friends treat you and your relationship. Hopefully, you are being treated with all the love and kindness you deserve. If this really is the person for you and you continue to be in touch with your family, they will have to know the truth. Whether you ease them into it or tell them point-blank, if you truly intend to marry this person AND you want your family to accept them, it has to start with a conversation. Sending you strength and luck!
5.Question: "I have in-laws from hell. I met my husband in my home country at university. He moved back to his home country in 2022. We were dating, so I went to visit him. He proposed, and I met my future in-laws for the first time. We got married a couple months later so I could apply for a spousal visa as soon as I finished up my studies. I made it clear that my family would not have the financial resources to fly out for our wedding, so we agreed it would only be immediate family. I am an only child, so it was just my parents. We were ambushed after the wedding with a surprise reception including 40+ members of my husband's family, while I only had my parents. I was heartbroken, not only because we had no input on the reception, but also because my family wasn't there."
"My in-laws think they did an amazing thing for me and that I'm ungrateful. I think I have no obligation to be happy with their truly selfish act. They even had wedding cake for us — something I would've loved to help pick out. I have a lot of anger toward my in-laws, but I am working toward it in therapy.
I move over to my husband's country in a few days. His parents want us to go on a family holiday for a weekend. I said no, I don't want to go. My husband wasn't keen either, but we compromised and said we'd pop in for a day, but not the whole weekend. Cue the guilt-tripping — saying their son doesn't love them anymore and they spent so much money planning this weekend. Again, we were not consulted beforehand about this trip. My poor husband took the fall, but if his parents continue guilt-tripping or make snide comments when we do visit, I want to speak up and say I was the reason we didn't come, but I would never keep their son from them. I just didn't feel up to a whole weekend together yet, but maybe in the future when I feel better and have forgiven them (they have not apologized because they don't think they've done anything wrong), I will be ready.
Any advice for how to approach this so I don't tell my in-laws where to stick it, but also so I don't come off like everything they did is fine?"
My advice: I don't know you or your in-laws personally, so I can't speak to the dynamic you all have or how you treat each other on a regular basis. I've covered some content on difficult in-laws, so I know those relationships can be fraught. That being said, is there a world in which they really thought they were doing something kind for you? Though it was perhaps overbearing and a bit controlling, do you think their hearts could've been in the right place? They wanted to celebrate their son and his marriage to you, and they went about it the only way they knew how. I'm not saying it was right to exclude you/call all the shots, but I also don't want to immediately assume malice. It sounds like they were excited to welcome you to the family. Of course, I don't know how they behaved during this reception. Did they exclude you and your parents? Did they make their son the star of the show and act like you weren't even there?
How they behaved while at the reception impacts my answer. Of course, I still feel iffy about them planning the reception without any input from you or your husband. Just confirming, your husband didn't know about the reception either, correct? Does he have a close relationship with his parents? Is it common for his parents to overstep in his daily life?
I'm curious as to how your husband reacted to all of this. Assuming he also didn't know about the reception, how did he respond to the surprise? Was he excited, mad, confused, grateful, etc.? Did he also want his parents to apologize for going behind your backs? Does he know how you feel toward his parents? Are either of you working toward mending that relationship or having an open discussion with them? Whether or not you and your husband are on the same page also heavily impacts the situation. As a couple, you probably need to have a discussion on boundaries.
When it come to guilt-tripping, I find that method of communication to be passive aggressive and uncomfortable. Your in-laws could express their feelings in a more productive way, so I understand why that's frustrating. I do think your husband needs to be the one drawing boundaries with his parents and establishing what you two, as a couple, want and expect from your relationship with them. I don't think anything good will come from you telling them "where to stick it" because it'll put your husband in an awkward place if he hasn't been given the chance to communicate with them on how you're both feeling.
While I think establishing boundaries moving forward is vital, I don't think holding grudges over the past is going to get anyone anywhere. If you were able to have a conversation with your in-laws where you, in a non-accusatory way, expressed how being excluded from the reception planning hurt you and they offered an apology, would you be able to move forward? Have you and your husband point-blank initiated any sort of interaction that could bring peace to this situation, or are unresolved issues just piling up until someone snaps?
I'm sorry that they planned a reception without your input and made you feel left out, but it's in the past now, and everyone must reckon with it. It can't be changed, but it can be learned from.
You want to move forward. How can you all be adults and address the tension? Are people willing to apologize for the sake of moving on? Can boundaries be implemented for the future? You and your husband need to get on the same page and go from there. You are a team, and you are his family now, but these are also his parents. If his relationship with them has always been largely positive and this is the one sore spot, it's not worth potentially destroying bonds. Sometimes, the hardest conversations are the ones most worth having. Best of luck to you and your family!
6.Question: "I’m in a situationship with a girl who says she doesn’t want to seriously date anyone right now, but who shows me PDA when we are out as if we're a couple. We also hold hands, kiss, and do more when it’s just the two of us, but she often deflects when I text her to hang out or when I ask questions about our situation. I just don’t understand why she doesn’t want more when sometimes it seems as though she feels the same way I do. I want to be able to continue hanging out with her and try to follow her lead, but it’s just hard when I’m having such strong feelings toward her and want more with her. I think about her all the time and am, as some would say, 'lovesick.' I know continuing to feel this way and not telling her how I feel is only hurting me, but I just don’t want to lose the connection I have with her or risk not getting to hang out with her. It’s a hard place to be in, and I could use any and all advice you may have! Thanks so much."
My advice: My love, you are tugging on my heartstrings. Listen: You deserve to be with someone who not only "performs" their love for you, but truly and deeply feels it and won't make you question it. I fully understand not wanting to lose the connection because you care about this person, but right now, I would argue that they're not doing enough to earn your affection. I'm not sure they know what they want. And, I'm not sure you will be fully happy without some answers, so it may be worth a "Hail Mary" moment and starting a big conversation.
If this person intentionally avoids your texts asking for clarity on your "situation" but still wants to hang out like everything is peachy, something is off. They're either not being fully honest, they're not emotionally available for you, or they're keeping you around until something else comes along. None of that is okay when you know how you feel and what you want. If they're not gonna give it to you, someone else can and will.
It sounds like this person may not be as mature as you. They are treating your situation as if it were a relationship without actually having to commit to you or give you the affirmation you need to feel secure. We don't put up with these mind games in 2023. Relationships can be complicated, but, straight up, they either want you or they don't. They don't get to have it both ways if you're feeling strung along and unfulfilled with the current level of the relationship.
At some point, when you two are alone together, I think you should initiate a conversation. Express your feelings and ask where they stand. Pay close attention to their reactions, their body language, and how they choose their words. Can they be direct with you? If they can't directly express how they're feeling, I don't want to see you waste your time, your energy, or your love on someone who isn't on the same page as you. If they do actually reciprocate your feelings and just needed an extra push, great! But, it sounds like they're letting you fill a void in their life while not actually having anything of substance to give you in return.
It's time for a big conversation, and from there, it may be time to move on. Someone out there will be able to give you the things you need without you even having to ask. My gut tells me this isn't the person for you, at least not right now. But, you won't know for sure until you lay it all out there. Sending you love and luck.
7.Question: "How do I get over being anxious in my relationship? I have anxious attachment, and it’s slowly destroying my relationship with my partner."
My advice: Let me start this by saying I FULLY understand where you're coming from. I have noticed an anxious attachment style in myself in many of my relationships. First and foremost, it has to be something you work on for yourself, and in many cases, by yourself. If you're like me, you may notice that you experience a lot of self-growth when you're single, and perhaps less anxiety in your life overall. I'm guessing you've been hurt by someone you loved before, and you still have some walls up. You want to be trusting and confident in your relationship, but maybe you're holding on to baggage from something in your past. If you're in an otherwise healthy relationship with your partner and you feel yourself self-destructing, you have to be the one to address it. Assuming your partner is otherwise a supportive, trustworthy person, you will have to work within yourself to try and separate your fears from your reality, and your past from your present.
BUT, ON THE FLIP SIDE, if you're experiencing anxiety in this relationship because of real, concrete things your partner has done to make you question their honesty or reliability, that's an entirely different ballgame. I'm certainly one for creating a lot of fears in my head, even when things are seemingly going well with someone. Creating false narratives in your head and self-sabotaging is an exhausting, tricky business, and of course, it's a habit we should both hope to break. But, that doesn't mean everyone is worthy of our love and our trust.
If something feels off, communicate with them. See how they react. Express your anxieties. You don't want to attack them or be accusatory, but it's worth starting a dialogue. "I feel this way because of X, Y, and Z." How they receive that information will hopefully help you see if A) your anxieties are getting in the way of your relationship and your communication, or if B) there is something missing in the relationship that it takes for you to feel secure. This is a battle I fight too often. Sending love.
If you have any questions pertaining to dating, relationships, love, sex, etc. and you want advice, I'm here to help! You can add your questions/queries to this anonymous form, and I may answer them in a BuzzFeed Community article or video.
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