What to do when you find you wanted more commitment than you’d thought

Tuktuk asks:

I met a guy in college, a senior. We talked on insta and snapchat for some time and then we met. I didn’t set any boundaries and it was go with the flow concept. We met and we got intimate. Our relationship was more of a physical one than an emotional one. We used to meet and used to make out. Then I broke my leg and went home. When I was home, we started talking and slowly connecting on emotional level. After I came back, we were still more physically involved. Since he is in his final year he didn’t have time to meet and we used to meet only to get physical. In December, I went back home and we decided we’d spend some more time when I came back. But after few days when I asked him about the plan, he started ignoring me. On my asking what was the matter he told me that he doesn’t have time and he needs to focus on his studies. I understood and gave him his space. And he didn’t contact me after that. Then recently, I came to know from a junior of mine that while he was talking to me and was with me, he was talking to another girl as well. Till this point I was kinda over him and talking to another guy, but then all of this started coming in my mind again and again. It’s been like 3 to 4 days since I came to know. I know that we weren’t committed but still I felt used. I felt that I wasn’t enough. I am so disturbed and disappointed. I feel numb. I can’t focus on anything. Please help me deal with this.

Hi Tuktuk –

I’m not going to disagree with anything you say here, about the guy, about you, about your relationship, or about what you did right or wrong. 

To my mind, you had a perfect experience with him.  Nothing bad happened, no one got a disease or an unwanted pregnancy, no one’s chasing anyone in a jealous fury, it’s all just fine.  To quote that old song, “I used her, she used me, but neither one cared – we were gettin’ our share.” 

However, you do care!  The only thing wrong is that, by pursuing exactly the relationship you knew you were gladly in, you’ve ended up feeling bad, “not enough,” “disturbed and disappointed,” “numb,” and “used!”  Not exactly our romantic ideal!

It reminds me of when someone goes to their first university party, and is thrilled to at last be able to do all the things they can’t do in their parents’ home, and smokes cigarettes and a cigar and drinks six beers and a few vodkas.  And the next morning, wakes up feeling like a truck ran them over and spilled all its exhaust into their mouth – and wonders what they did wrong.  NOTHING!  They got exactly the consequences they ought to, from the actions they embraced, and all rightly so!

Tuktuk you’ve just had a true learning experience.  Some people hate commitment, and would find your situation just perfect.  You had lots of fun with the guy, and now you’re both free – all’s fine.  But I think we’re learning that that’s not you.  You didn’t want full commitment, but you felt more attached to that guy than you’d expected.  My guess is that you’ll find that this is true of you from now on, too.  You care, you get attached, and you’re going to have to take responsibility for yourself in that. 

I don’t mean that you’ve been irresponsible.  But just that you’re learning what you like and what you don’t, and even a good honest guy like this one can’t make you happy unless you clarify what you need in relationships. 

So while you’re feeling all these awful feelings, I’m going to say to you, “Congratulations!”  Because you had a fun exciting experience, and learned some really important things about yourself. 

I couldn’t wish anything better for you!

So feel those bad feelings, but be ready to move forward out of them.  Now that you know what you don’t like, you’ll be able to take better care of yourself next time.

Just like the person who goes to their next university party and says “Oh yes, I’ll have one beer, thank you!”

All my best,

Shirelle

Because I Could … the danger of Entitlement

            A president, having lost an election, spreads lies about having actually won it, to the degree that hundreds of his supporters storm their own government in a failed attempt to take it over and undo the election – after which he denies any blame for it while many of them get arrested.

            A dictator bombards a neighboring country, arguing that they’re an urgent danger for having left his country and asking to join an opposing coalition – something they did a quarter-century ago.

            A popular successful actor, on the most honoring night of his life, hears a comedian make a dumb joke about his wife, storms onto the stage, strikes him, and yells obscenities at him before an international audience.

            What do these huge news stories have in common?

            I’ll answer in one word: Entitlement.  That’s the attitude one has when they think the rules that apply to others don’t apply to them, and, worse, that they deserve these special rights.

            You’ve likely known people like this, especially when you were growing up.  Some snotty kid in your school who thought they were “all that” and treated others with disdain or even cruelty.  (Maybe you were one of these yourself!)  But that’s childhood, when everyone’s supposed to go through bad phases and learn from them.  The problem is when we see these qualities in adults!

            But meanwhile, while it’s easy to despise spoiled brats, at any age, doesn’t our society also honor them?  That president and that dictator gained their powers by thrilling people with their senses of entitlement, creating a viewpoint of “If he can do it, and I’m on his side, I’ll be entitled too!  I won’t have to play by the boring rules I’ve had to before.  And even my country won’t have to!”

Now this brings up a question, though.  When a leader takes charge and directs their people through a difficult situation, making horribly risky decisions, is that also entitlement?

What about when someone sacrifices their own life for a cause, when none of their friends or family would have allowed them to do such a thing?

Or what about when a person walks up to a poor person on the street and insists on giving them their lunch?  Is that entitlement?

I will certainly argue that it’s not.  Rather, they show a viewpoint that they have the right to make choices for themselves, but each of these involves a thoughtfulness, a consideration of the greater good, that renders their action the opposite.

So let’s look at those examples I started with.  Imagine that president had said “I lost, but I think I can do a better job if they give me another chance.  I’ll run again, and spend the next four years giving people reasons to vote for me.”  Or if that dictator had said “I need to find ways to help that country, to encourage them to ally with us.”  Or if that actor had waited until later and publicly stated, “I thought that joke was stupid and even cruel.”

In each of those cases, the person would have still pursued their goal, but in a way that would have honored the rights and even lives of those around them.

            Now here’s another question: Is my writing this to you a sign of a sense entitlement?  I’m certainly believing my thoughts are worth your attention. 

But no, it’s not.  Because you have the right to click off this page, or shut down your computer, and walk away and grab a nice pastry any time you like.  If I barged into your home, jumped onto your bed, bared my fangs, growled while drooling onto your throat, and, keeping you terrified, demanded you listen to what I had to say about the Oscars Slap, then… yeah THAT would be Entitlement!

            So does that mean that nothing can undo the actions that these entitled men have done, or even some of the rotten things some people did as kids?  Maybe not.  But is there a way to undo entitlement itself?  To move on from it?

            I think so, and can think of one excellent example.  A couple of decades ago, another U.S. President was caught having had, and lied about, an extramarital affair.  He denied it for a long time, and confessed to it only when undeniable evidence proved him guilty.  Years later, he wrote an autobiography, and in it said some amazing words.  He said that he’d had the affair “for the worst reason in the world.  I did it because I could.”

            It was no big deal for him to confess to the cheating yet again.  But instead, he confessed to entitlement.  Something so rare as to be truly beautiful.

            Have you been guilty of acting entitled?  Do you have it in you to admit it? 

            If so, you will have redeemed yourself.  And you can move on into a world of bravery, humility, and strength.

            But if not, you’ll be stuck in it.  And even those who think you were right to… oh, to contest some election results, or attempt a takeover of your neighboring country, or stand up for your wife to a comedian…  even they will see you as less than they did before.  

            Because you have proved your truth.  And the truth isn’t just bad; it’s entitled, which might be the most disgusting quality a person can have.

            Look, if I climb onto a couch I’m not supposed to, I know I’m breaking the rules.  But nothing I or any other dog does comes from that entitled place (our brains just don’t work that way). 

So I’m not asking you to be better than us. 

Just… don’t be worse.

            All my love,

            Shirelle

PS: And just to repeat my last newsletter’s complete text:  ALL. DOGS. HATE. WAR.

What to do when your ex keeps treating you badly for making a mistake

Lilly asks:

The man I made a mistake with months ago continues to treat me badly.  I am feeling too much disturbed feeling alone, the smile on my face has gone too far. He has not even seen my messages in 2 days (or he’s seen but is not reacting to any – maybe he is not paying attention).  I don’t understand why his behaviour would change so much?  Suddenly he’s ignoring me and doesn’t want to meet me or talk to me. Where should I go? He’s the only one I want to talk with, and he’s behaving like this. Maybe now he doesn’t want me in his life anymore. I want him and need him, I can’t give him up. Nothing feels right. I don’t know what to say to him. Help me!

Hi Lilly –

I am so sorry.  I am SO SO SO sorry!  What you’re going through is pure hell, no question.  You’ve made it clear before that you made a mistake, and frankly not that big a one, and told him you see it.  But he’s refusing any contact with you at all.

Sometimes I’ve done some things that made Handsome, my human, really upset, and he’s made me go into the back yard, and left me alone back there.  And since we dogs have no sense of time, I’ve felt just what you’re feeling – that he’s gone forever, that I’m trapped and helpless, that he hates me and always will. 

But I’ve always been wrong.  After some time (and frankly, it’s not all that long), he has always come out and called me to him and cuddled me and kissed me and said he hopes I learned what I needed to because he hated doing that to me and never wants to have to again. 

Okay, it’s like five minutes!  But still, I felt just as bad as you’re feeling now!  Yes our brains are that small!

The difference, of course, is that in your case this has gone on for weeks.  And this guy seems to be insisting that it will be this way forever.  So you’re devastated, as anyone would be.

But I want to suggest you step back.  Way way waaaaay back.  And look at this the way I do.

You made a mistake – you gave him space when he wanted you there (without telling you) – and he’s acting like you poisoned his aunt.  He’s not giving you any chance to talk, and basically is doing what a lot of people call “ghosting” – cutting you off completely.

So I have one question for you:  Is this really the guy you want?

Yes, he has all the qualities you’ve loved in him.  But if he treats you this badly today, what’s he going to do the next time you make a mistake?  Or what he calls a mistake?

A while back, Handsome was dating a lovely woman, who broke up with him because he gave her directions to a place to meet him but forgot to write the actual address on the page.  Yes, I’m saying he gave just the right instructions, but left a NUMERAL off.  Now did she have reason to get annoyed about that?  Sure.  But break up? Come on!

So when she did, he argued for a bit, but then let her go.  Because she was making ridiculous rules.  And he didn’t want to be in a relationship where that kind of power games were going on.

Let’s say this guy let you back in.  Will he do the same thing again?  Will he maybe not speak to you for a month?  Six months?  Is that the way you deserve to be treated?

And another question – has he been perfect?  Has he never made a mistake?  (Maybe he even forgot to write down an address of a place in the list of directions!!)

Lilly, you deserve to be loved and cared for.  Sure, the person you’re with has the right to get hurt and angry, and let you know about it.  But then, you deserve to feel safe in the relationship.  This guy’s actions are abandoning, insulting, and hurtful.

If Handsome had left me in the back yard overnight, that would have been awful (and wouldn’t have done a thing to teach me any lesson, as dogs’ short-term memories aren’t that good).  But if he’d left me there longer – if he’d cut me off, no food or water or attention, I’d have found a way to dig out of there.  I’d have left him and found some other way to live.  I’d have had to!  (In fact, this is just what my friend Aria had to go through, a few times; check out her book https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/57588647-a-dog-of-many-names?from_search=true&from_srp=true&qid=HdaB5AQBkK&rank=1 )!

And I hate to say it, but that’s my suggestion to you.  Get out of the yard this guy has stuck you in.  Go out with friends, watch some favorite movies, eat the yummiest food you can – but get out.  Move on.  There are MUCH better guys out there.  Guys with good qualities as good as his, but without this cruelty and carelessness.

And of course, there are always dogs too – we’re even better!

But first, take care of yourself and move forward from this.  I know it hurts like blazes, but he’s actually giving you a gift – he’s showing you just how bad it is to be in a relationship with him.

If later he comes back and apologizes, and makes you believe that he won’t do it again, then I’ll be all for getting back with him.

But for now, it’s time to move on.  He doesn’t deserve you, and you deserve better.

With all my love,

Shirelle

Why can’t the people who care about us understand what we’re feeling?

Soumyaguna asks:

I want to know why do people tend to show their emotions to us and when we try to say what we have to, we are not understood.

Why do people not care about what the other person might be going through, especially when you are not just anyone….you are someone special.

To be clear, I’m tired of explaining myself every time….I’m tired of making others understand what exactly I feel and how.

But deep inside I’m very sad realizing that I actually don’t have even one person in my life who understands me or with whom I can share things, not even my closest ones.

I ‘m tired of this all happening to me all the time….I’m done with this and cannot take anymore, cause it is causing so much harm to my mental peace where I don’t know how to move forward.

Things have just burdened me a lot, with piles of stress and a lot of complaints with close ones as they are the ones whom I care about and always will. But the ignorant attitude just isn’t going down well with me.

Hi Soumyaguna –

         I know you asked about a lot of things, but fundamentally it seems to me that you’re asking about the problem that people aren’t sensitively picking up on what you’re feeling, or even expressing, and seem to need you to spell everything out for them (if they even care then!).

         Of course I don’t know the people in your life, but I will point out something I’ve noticed about humans, which is that you guys have gigantic brains, and they tend to be filled with gigantic amounts of stuff!

         We dogs are relatively simple.  We feel every bit as deeply as humans do, but our thoughts tend to center on a smaller number of items: our safety, food, play, territory, and giving and receiving love.  That’s largely it.  Even the super-smart dogs you see doing amazing tricks in shows have been trained through love and food.

         Meanwhile, you guys have SO MUCH STUFF on your minds.  The same day your heart is broken by someone dumping you, you might have a big exam in a science class, you’re trying to remember all the lyrics to that new song you like, you’re trying to master how to drive your parents’ car, you’re struggling with conflicting feelings about your dad, you’re wondering if you wore the right outfit, and you’re responsible to remember all the different plays on your basketball team.  That’s SO MUCH!

         And my point is that that goes two ways.  When a dog is upset, we’re clear about it.  Maybe we yelp in pain, maybe we whine and lay our head in your lap, maybe we growl and snarl… whatever it is, it’s clear.  But you guys have so many subtler expressions – sarcasm and silence and distance and begging for attention (okay yeah we do that last one too). 

         But when it comes to understanding what another person is feeling, that gets many times more complex.  A person has to focus on someone else (and not that science exam or their jeans), and then read their feelings correctly, and then respond in a way that lets that person know their feelings have been seen in just the right way…

         It’s hard, Soumyaguna.  It’s hard for everyone.  All the time.

         But I’m going to make one big argument about your concern that no one understands.  With all the complexities of the human mind, the amazing astounding unbelievable fact is that people everywhere are mostly just the same.  There’s a reason certain movies or songs or shows are universally popular – it’s because everyone can relate to those feelings. 

         Now you might have people in your life who don’t understand WHY you feel the way you do.  But I promise, there’s no feeling you’ve had that everyone you know hasn’t also had.  Sadness, heartbreak, ecstasy, hilarity, loneliness, alienation… everyone’s been there. 

         So your job – and I know it’s hard – is to find a way to connect to other people’s feelings, even if your reasons are your own.

         Here’s an example.  A guy falls head over heels in love with a woman who doesn’t love him back.  In fact, they don’t share many interests, and she doesn’t treat him well.  She breaks up with him, and he’s devastated.  He goes to see a friend.  The friend gets annoyed with him for acting so glum.  Now we’re looking at just one of those “no one understands” situations, right?

         So our guy explains he’s just been dumped.  The friend says “Good, she was useless!”

         He explains that he loved her.  “Well that’s just stupid.  She treated you horribly!”

         He explains that that’s true, but he still loved every second with her.  “But that’s silly.  You weren’t doing any of the things you like to do!”

         He explains that that’s true too, but that his love for her was bigger than all that, and her leaving makes him feel hopeless and unlovable.

         OH OKAY!  That friend has felt THAT!  And that’s when that friend, if they’re a good friend, says “Oh man I’ve been there!” and tells them THEIR awful story about when they felt that way.  Maybe they have a couple of beers.  Maybe they talk till they start laughing about their awful relationships.  Whatever it is, a line has been crossed.  And our fellow doesn’t feel alone anymore.

         Sure he still misses her, and his heart still hurts, but connecting with that friend helped him move forward.

         But as you see, the friend didn’t get it at first.  It took some work to get there.

         Now Soumyaguna, you may be right about some of the people in your life, that they’re not interested enough in your feelings to care.  If so, those don’t seem to be the best people for you to put your trust and emotions onto.  Better to find someone who’s better at it.

         And you know where I’m going to go with this – there’s NO ONE better for this than a dog!  We may not understand your reasons or your stories, but we connect to every emotion you have, and WE CARE.  We care as much as we do about ourselves! 

         And unlike your human friends, we’re very happy to lick all the tears off your face!

         So please don’t give up on everyone, and give people the chance and the information they need to connect with you.  But if they can’t… just remember, we’re out here, always eager to give you just what you need.

         All my best,

         Shirelle

What’s the best way to deal with false rumors at school?

Arty asks:

A few weeks ago at lunch one of my friends at school told me that someone who I thought was my friend made a story about me on FaceTime (Maybe she was jealous but she also might have just been bored or feeling mean. I’m not sure.). It was about me having sex with someone else who is now out of our school, and us having a child and giving the child away. When I heard the story I went to someone who’s always supervising us during lunch. She’s someone I guess I trust, and we’ve known each other for however long I’ve been at this school, and my friends and I love her and always talk to her. So I told her everything. And this lady I trust called the girl who made the story about me and told her she was very disappointed in her because the same thing had happened to her last year. Then lunch ended and my teacher called everyone who was involved. She talked to us and the lady I trust also talked to us. I was silent the whole time and was on the verge of tears (I had wanted the lunch supervisor to talk about it to the person who made the story, but not to bring my teacher into it and get people in trouble and stuff like that cause I feel people would call me a tattle tale.), but tried not to show it. When they were done talking, I asked if I could use the restroom. I felt vindicated but also horribly embarrassed.  When I reached the restroom, I started crying. Then one of my used-to-be best friends but now sorta-friends walked in, gave me a hug, and we both cried a little bit. Then we went back to class. I’m sorta over this, and no one talks about it anymore, but whenever I think about it I feel like I still wanna cry. I don’t know what to do anymore and who to trust or who I can trust. My parents don’t know about this and after a few days no one at school talked about it anymore – which always happens whenever something major occurs. Now I feel like I’m wearing a mask and everyone thinks I’m ok. It’s just so hard not to have anyone to talk to (Sometimes when I say stuff, my schoolmates sorta just laugh at me. I feel like I just can’t get personal with them. And I don’t want to dump my problems on them because I’m sure that they have problems of their own.). And right now I myself feel like I’m being dramatic and selfish.


Then… a whole different story happened! Almost all of my classmates were added to a new group chat a few days ago (including me). And they started talking about a kid in my class. I’m going to name him r. Ok. So they were just talking about r liking every girl in the classroom and wanting to date me! And then they sent a picture of r with like a huge grin on his face and below it wrote r when he sees (I’m going to put j for my name) j. And I’m just like ‘ooook then’… I didn’t really have anything to say so I kept quiet. But with my friends (in a different group chat) were talking about it and stuff. Then r texted in the group chat ‘I like j’ and I was just completely shocked but told myself it was probably a dare or he’s just seeking attention and stuff like that. Then one of my other friends who was not in the group chat with my friends but was in the group chat with the entire class texted me and asked me if I saw the text r wrote. I told her yes. Then she asked if I liked him back. I knew that she was going to ask me and when I answered she would send it to her bestie and her bestie would send it to the whole class. So I just ignored her text. That was during the weekend. So come the school week, everyone is asking me ‘do u like r?’ ‘Are you and r dating’ ‘do you know’ and all that jazz. And one brat  told me ‘go kiss r’. My answer for all of those questions except the last one were ‘I’m not going to answer that question’ ‘no’ and ‘yes’ respectively (is that the right word?). Now, my question for u is what do I do? Do I text this boy and ask him why he did that? If it was a dare? Does he actually like me? (But I’m worried that if I do, he’ll take a picture and send it to everyone) or do I talk to him in real life. Or do I just ignore it and wait for it to be forgotten?  I will appreciate any piece of advise you have to offer. Thank you! 

Hi Arty –

Before anything else, I have one big statement for you:  you are NOT being “dramatic and selfish.”  You went through something terrifying with that crazy FaceTime incident, and are still trying to make sense of it, as anyone would. 

But I’m going to give you a suggestion on how to deal with all this that might sound really odd:  Take a deep breath, and do nothing!

Here’s my thought.  First of all, it seems quite clear that everyone quickly forgot about that idiotic story about you and the child.  It sounds to me like your class looooooves drama, and so is always looking for something new to talk about, so that crazy tale was forgotten as soon as some other nutty one came around!

Secondly, with the story about r, all he’s done was to write that note that said he liked you.  Well “like” is a very vague word.  I like you and I’ve never met you!  But he might mean that he thinks you’re cute (which anyone could say, whether or not they were actually interested in getting involved with you).  Or he might mean he has a huge crush on you.   Or, as you suggest, he might have just said it on a dare.

Regardless, he hasn’t done anything more about it.  And while a bunch of people are asking you how you feel about him (and I don’t know – do you actually feel anything toward him, good or bad?), they’ve probably moved on to other, equally earth-shaking questions, in the seven days since you wrote me.  But unless he’s done anything (like talk with you, or even try to get your attention), you have no responsibility in this at all!

You see, you care a lot about what your peers say and think about you, of course.  But what you’re not focusing on, or at least not telling me, is what you want.  In all the nutty stuff you wrote me about, I don’t hear anything about your excitement or hurt or wishes.  And I’m guessing that’s because they aren’t as important to you right now as what the group thinks and feels about you!

So focus on that.  Would you like r to approach you?  Let him know.  Would you prefer he not?  Then keep things as they are.

I know it seems the opposite is true, but YOU HAVE ALL THE POWER HERE!  Someone saying they like you is a nice compliment but nothing more.  People talk all the time about liking pop stars and actresses, who don’t need to respond at all.  Neither do you!  

You’re just fine, my friend.  And what’s cool is that, for the second time in a very short while, everyone at school got focused on you.  Think how it would feel to be one of those kids no one ever thinks about!  You’re one of the lucky ones!

So stay cool, and take that deep breath — and don’t do anything till you have a feeling that makes you do something.  You have the power, and you have the right!

All my best,

Shirellle

How do we move past our flaws to self-acceptance?

Soumyaguna asks:

We all should be brave enough to accept our flaws, at least with ourselves we can be true. We always tend to have a fear of people judging us, which gradually becomes an unconscious state and being in that longer we forget what we actually are ! We shouldn’t care about what other people think or would say to us, because the truth is they are not going to be a part of your life, your sufferings, your pain, your struggle or any of these. 

Honestly, I have been very grateful about where I have reached today but I’m not satisfied. I deal with a lot of stress, anxiety and unhappiness with my work due to some situations with which I’m not comfortable dealing with but I am. 

I am just fed up dealing with situations, people, their mood, their anger, and not caring about the other person when going through the same.

Today, I’m writing this to share my space with you or someone who listens to me every time I want to say but find no one around. .

I guess we all need that one person who can just hear us out !

Hi Soumyaguna –

I fully understand where you’re coming from.  I find that this stupid virus has wreaked havoc on humanity, and whatever anyone’s flaws were before it just seem more so now:  the intolerant are more intolerant, the cruel are crueler, the angry are angrier.  (And as Handsome will gladly tell you, the bad drivers are way worse too!)

I’m here to talk about whatever you like.  But I will caution you about one thing you said.  Sure it’s great to be brave enough to accept your flaws, but if at times you catch yourself not doing so, please don’t beat up on yourself about it.  This is a tough time for everyone.  And you have enough people judging and criticizing you without you adding in. 

I know it sounds like I’m saying just what you were, but I’m taking it to another level here.  Not only is it important to accept your own flaws, but also be sure to accept your occasional failing at doing so! 

I don’t know exactly what lies on the other side of this strange time, but I’m optimistic that it’ll be very very good – as long as you humans let it be!

Thank you!

Shirelle

What to do when your new spouse rebels against you

Stunner_boss123 asks:

I’ve been married for a month now.  My wife is a wonderful person & a very generous human being (at least face to face). However unfortunately, we have had too little time together after marriage (it was an arranged marriage & we did not meet before). I wanted to spend some time with her, but due to her exams and classes, she left for the hostel on the 5th day of our wedding. During the 5 days we spent together, she was very formal and reserved (which happens). I did not mind and took things along. I gave my everything to make the transition phase a comfort for her, via calls, messages, travelling for 84KMs and meeting her up occasionally in her university and things like that.  Things got a bit smoother and I was happy. But suddenly one day when she was with me, she left her phone open and went to the restroom. I checked her phone (casually) and I was surprised with so many things I saw: 

  1. She was a regular smoker. 
  2. Almost 10+ Guys continuously messaging her & she is in chat with all of them (maybe friends or I don’t know). The chat was very informal and frank as it was being done for years. 
  3. Her language with her friends (Girls + Guys) was so abusive and dirty that it shocked me.

Well I did not overreact, and just told her in a calm way that this shall not continue as all this has hurt me and is taken bad in our society. You are a wife now and we both represent our respect. What’s done is done and I have no concern about the past, but from now on I request you to cut off the smoking and bad company, as they are good for neither you nor our relationship. Further, I also clarified that I have no further requirements from you for whole life; I will manage everything. But what’s bad is bad and it’s my right to keep you away from bad. She promised me to stop smoking, quit the bad friends, and not be involved in any bad company in future. 

Things got smooth again for a week, but suddenly one day, intentionally on our phone call, she again mentioned that one of her old friends (male) connected with her and invited her to a dinner party. I asked “Only you?”  She said “Yes – only me and I wanna go.” I said, “OK, but let’s conclude the dinner timely and I will pick you up.”  She said, “No need, he will give pick and drop.”  My mood changed again. Then the dinner happened and I felt bad about it  (I did not react but felt hurt as it started around 7pm and ended at 1am). 

Three days later, I took her to dinner in a restaurant. It was going smooth. But suddenly I realized that she was staring at the guy sitting across our table, and the same guy was looking at her too. This happened for 5 to 6 minutes. I stayed positive but my wife suddenly said “Look how cute this boy is!” Dinner ruined, and we left the place in bad mood. 

While on our way back to home, I expressed, “You disrespected my presence there and I felt insulted. It hurt my self-respect that I was in front of you and you were flirting with someone else and throwing me that sentence.”

She started crying. Later she said that she is like this and I have to compromise, and blah blah blah. The tone made it sound like I hurt her instead, like everything is my mistake and I am disturbing the balance of her life. 

I Said “OK, enjoy and continue. If you feel like problem is at my end, I will be careful next time.”

Shirelle, with all this, I am not settled, and my mind is not relaxed in her presence or absence as well. When we are together, she is always on Insta and Snapchat. She is not willing to go back on one single thing which is bad for her and is not putting a single effort to even address me or give me quality time for a night. She is hurting my self-respect continuously and I am feeling down since the 5th day of our marriage. While she has no change in her life. Yes I accepted her for who she is, but smoking is bad in our Asian culture, sitting with boys alone is taken as bad in our culture, not giving me proper time makes me more insecure, and my unaddressed emotional needs are becoming heavy now. Please advise me here. 

Hi Stunner_boss123 –

There are many issues in your letter, too many for me to get to specifically.  About cultural differences, about arranged marriages, about smoking (I am not a fan of it!), about what constitutes loyalty and fidelity, all sorts of stuff.

What I want to talk about instead is marriage.  Marriage in general.

Whether a couple has dated for years before, or meets on their wedding day, marriage is a huge step.  It’s a promise to change oneself and devote yourself to this other person forever.  That’s terrifying!

When Handsome brought me home from the pound, I experienced something like that.  But we dogs are programmed to pack loyalty; while I had to learn some rules (and I was a BRAT as a puppy!), I still adjusted fairly quickly, and Handsome did to me too.

But for you guys, with your larger brains and longer lifespan, it’s much harder.  I don’t know your and your wife’s ages, but I’m assuming you’ve been alive for around twenty years at least, without giving a single thought to this other individual.  Now suddenly everything’s supposed to be about that person. 

Well no matter how willing and eager you two are for marriage and family, parts of your brains are going to rebel against this.  It happens to everyone.  And what I see in your letter is that she’s rebelling by behaving independently, and you’re rebelling by demanding control over her.  And it’s pretty easy to see that the more one of you continues doing what you’re doing, the other one will just do what they’re doing more strongly!  You make her stay home, she starts smoking in your bedroom, and so on!

The fact is that, in the law and in the eyes of whatever deity or deities you believe in, you’re married.  But between you and her and me, you aren’t yet.  Marriage takes work, and your work is just barely beginning.

The main job for you two is to start to talk.  A lot.  About what you want, about what matters to you, about what you believe and fear and hate and… all that.

It sounds to me like she is a good woman.  She didn’t spend the night with that male friend, and she didn’t give the guy at the restaurant her phone number, right?!  She’s just, to use a canine metaphor I relate to a lot, straining at the leash.

And you’re a good guy.  You’re trying not to overreact.  But how can you when she keeps pushing your boundaries?

Again, this isn’t a sign that you two are wrong for each other or that you’re failing at marriage.  It’s a sign that YOU ARE JUST STARTING.

After he brought me home, Handsome had to learn what I wanted and feared and hated and loved.  And I had to learn all the same things about him.  You married this woman without even knowing she smoked, or that she had male friends, or that she uses bad language with her best girlfriends.  It’s time, before you try to make or enforce rules, to find out what else you don’t know.  And what are your faults?  What might she want to change in you? 

And then once those are all out in the open, what are you each willing to live with, and what not?  If she goes out with her girlfriends every few weeks and they talk dirty amongst themselves and have a cigarette or two, but with you she’s ladylike and healthy, is that okay? 

Do you know each other’s political beliefs?  You are part of the same religious community, but do you know what each other believes and doesn’t?  Do you know how each of you feels about children?!  Have you gotten to know each other’s families enough to know which members each of you, perhaps, finds it harder to love or be around?!

The greatest adventure of my life has been my relationship with Handsome.  The greatest adventure of your life is going to be this marriage.  Don’t worry too much yet about rules.  Find out who she is first.  And let her know who you are.

And if things work as I hope they do, what you two will really discover is love.  And then, truly, your whole worlds will change.

Wishing you all the very very best,

Shirelle

2 The King’s Nightmare … finding power in what you don’t want

            Over the past couple of months, it’s been a bit different living with Handsome.  He got all excited about this pair of books, and hardly talked about anything else.  Not only that, but they led him to constantly play music by this one guy, and while it’s all good, and often great, I developed a craving for Bach, Beethoven, Billie Eilish – anything but…  Okay, it’s not true – this has really been fun!

            I mean, you have heard of Elvis Presley, right?!

            The basics of Presley’s life story ought to be familiar to you – born into poverty in the Southern U.S., a shy, awkward boy, he paid a local studio so he could record a song for his mother, and later went back there with a guitarist and bass player to jam, recording music that changed history: his talent, sexy charm, and mixture of multiple styles he loved creating something unique and original, exploding him into the most popular performer of this new thing called Rock and Roll.  Breaking the world’s teenage hearts when he signed up to join the Army for two years, he returned an even bigger star, though becoming more bland and ‘safe,’ till his music and movies got so boring it seemed he was through.  Then, shocking the world, he “came back” and became the top live act in Las Vegas, till that destructive lifestyle pushed him into depression and drugs, killing him at 42.

            A glorious and tragic story, one we’ve seen variations on too many times – Judy Garland, Carmen Miranda, Michael Jackson… always leaving the same sad question: What Could Have Saved Them?

            So these giant biographies that Handsome dived into, Last Train to Memphis (about the exciting early years) and Careless Love (about the more complex later ones), both by Peter Guralnick, told him pretty much everything anyone could want to know about the man often referred to now as The King.  The obsessive work it took to create his singing style, the conflict between his deep religious faith and the irresistible fun that stardom offered, the girls girls girls, the drugs (which started, not in Hollywood or Vegas, but in the army, where soldiers were given all the amphetamines they wanted, to keep them alert and active), and the miserable loneliness he battled always – but did they answer that big question?  Not really.

            However, I wonder if a key was hinted at, one I want to share with you because I think it’s important, not just to this grandiose life, but maybe for you as well.

            Shortly before he died, Elvis told a friend about a nightmare he had suffered over and over, since he’d first hit it big:  “All his money was gone, the fans had abandoned him… he was alone.”

            Think about that.  For twenty years, close to every night, this most popular and successful of performers would dream of his life being the opposite.  His greatest fear.

            But dreams are funny things.  When I dream of fighting off mountain lions, is that a bad or good dream?  It’s scary, but also way more exciting than anything I experience shut in Handsome’s yard.  And maybe that dream is telling me that I’d be living my truest and happiest life in the wild – or that I could even save lots of lives by reducing the fierce mountain lion population!

            And here’s what I’m wondering – if Elvis had lost all his popularity and riches, if he’d been alone with his thoughts and memories, if no one wanted to hear him sing or see his show…  might he have lived? 

            Sure, he’d have been miserable.  He’d feel like a failure.  He’d be lonelier than ever.  But he’d know that anyone who came around was a true friend, and not after him for his fame or money.  He’d be able to live a healthier lifestyle than one gets touring or performing.  And maybe he’d even be unable to afford those drugs! 

            And then, over time, maybe he’d have pulled himself together.  Become clean and sober, been more of a father to his daughter, maybe even gotten a hound dog like he’d sung about!  And then, of course, anything would have been possible.

            The reason I’m bringing all this up isn’t to depress you about a death some 45 years ago.  But to point out that so often, what people are most afraid of losing is just what they need to experience, to move forward into a new stage of life.  I get so many beautiful heartbreaking letters from you guys, so afraid about losing a boyfriend or girlfriend who doesn’t want you anymore.  And every time, once I see you let go of them – you’re happier.  You realize that that person was keeping you down, keeping you feeling bad about yourself, keeping you from moving into where your life could go. 

A few years back, I watched Handsome hold on with terror to a career that wasn’t helping him; once he moved on to another life, he was so much cheerier (and I can’t tell you how much better company he was; Whew!). 

And for me, when I first moved in with Handsome, I was always trying to get away.  I liked him, but was annoyed by being locked up, so I’d try to dig under the fence, or climb over it.  Till I realized that this was exactly where I wanted to be most, to the point that if he accidentally leaves the gate unlocked, I don’t walk out.  I’d rather wait for him to come home and take me on a walk.

I’m not suggesting you shouldn’t have dreams or ambitions.  Sure, pursue that romantic ideal, and if it works out, I’ll be your biggest cheerleader.  After all, heaven knows the world is a better, happier place because Elvis worked so hard to be a success. 

But when things go wrong, I also urge you to take the chance that perhaps the Universe is telling you something.  That the fear that’s propelled you this far has done its job, and it’s time to let it go.  That you can be happier and more productive if you give up on that girl, or quit that job, or… leave Vegas, move back home to Memphis, and spend your days in the meditation garden you built at Graceland while letting some other singers enjoy the successes you once knew.

It’s funny how you humans constantly think that if you fail at something, no matter how well you’ve done with it before, that makes your life and you worthless.  But you’d never say that to one of us pups when we don’t catch a squirrel or get a trick right.  Maybe because we don’t see them that way; we’re really good at letting those failures go, and trying to learn from them so we can do better later on. 

I urge you to do the same.  Maybe it’ll make a few months better for you, or maybe it’ll give you decades more of life.

Either way, you’re all kings and queens to me.  And your lives, whether you’re succeeding or falling short of your goals, are my happiest dream.

What to do with someone just out of a relationship who doesn’t know what they want

Prince2411 asks:

There’s a girl I was with for 7years, we recently broke up due to some reasons, but she came back, and we’ve been talking for a couple months, we say I love you’s, good nights and all that. In the meantime , she still thinks of giving that guy she was dating after me a chance, even though she knows it won’t work. And they broke up 2 months ago as well, because even she knows it wouldn’t have worked.  But she’s still talking to him, like she feels obligated. In this duration, so many guys have hit on her, one of whom was a good friend of hers. She was affected by that but it doesn’t seem to make a huge impact, though she went to meet him and some other school friends of hers. But when it comes to meeting me, there are always replies like “I’ll try” and all that. Why does she say this? I know she loves me. But she is really misguided and immature right now. What should I do?

Hi Prince2411 –

            I can answer your overall question in one sentence:  She. Is. Confused!

            This girl dated you for seven years, you guys broke up, she got involved with someone else, they broke up, and for the past two months she’s been dealing with him reaching out to her, talking sweetly with you, and even getting hit on by lots of other guys. 

            She’s not ready to get involved with you yet.  And if she knows what’s good for her, she’s not ready to get involved with ANYONE yet, and maybe not for a while.

            I’m glad she hasn’t agreed to her ex or any of these other guys.  If it were possible, I’d send her to a beautiful island where she could relax by herself for a month or two and live off berries and mangos, and just breathe.  She needs to grow, to figure out who she is now that she’s out of that relationship, and to reconnect with what she wants.

            And at the moment, she’s not able to do any of those things!

            So here’s my advice.  Continue to be the best friend you can be.  Don’t insist on meeting up; let her know you’ll be glad to when she’s ready, but honor her need for space.  Then in a few weeks, maybe a month, if she hasn’t brought it up yet, you can suggest meeting in some very innocent way, like having lunch.

            But don’t be just another of those guys asking her to be theirs.  Until she can choose for herself, they’ll just get a pretty companion for the moment, and not the wonderful woman you know.

            Best of Luck!

            Shirelle

2 Acts of Contrition – the importance of apology

In a popular movie of 1970, a famous actress tells her boyfriend Ryan O’Neal, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”  A couple of years later, he was in another hit movie, where another famed actress tells him the same line, and he responds “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.”

I agree more with the second one.

People say they’re sorry all the time, and even though they may not truly mean it at a deep level, it’s usually appreciated.  You interrupt a conversation with, “Sorry to bother you, but…” and it’s accepted.  Or you bump into someone accidentally, and say “Oh, sorry!”  Now do you truly, in these situations, feel deep sorrow about your action?  Of course not.  It’s not that big a deal.  It’s just nice to say.

But with bigger deals, it’s often far more important – and more difficult – to express sorrow and remorse.  To feel and relay it to a degree that changes how others look at you.

This issue got on my mind recently, due to some international political scandals I heard about. On May 20, 2020, a world leader attended a party while making rules that people should stay in and not go to parties.  In November of that year, another leader did just the same thing.  And both then lied when they were caught!  And both got in trouble for their hypocrisy.  But today, one of them is hugely popular, while the other might well be dumped by his own party.  What’s the difference? 

I’d argue it’s all about apology.

In May of 2020, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Boris Johnson, attended a party at his home, while pushing the people of his nation to, in caution against the Coronavirus, not even attend funerals, much less parties just for fun.  When asked about the party, he said he hadn’t even known about it.  Then he was forced to admit he’d actually been there.

Then six months later, the governor of California, Gavin Newsom, attended a dinner at a fancy restaurant, while he was pushing the people of his state to stay home and not go to restaurants.  When asked about it, he admitted going, but said that everyone had safely stayed outdoors.  Then when press photos of him showed that he was sitting under an indoor chandelier, he had to admit he’d been inside.

Two lying politicians, hypocritical about the rules they expected others to follow.  So what’s the difference?

Mr. Newsom began apologizing at once.  And then, for the next year, he constantly kept doing so, saying what he’d done was stupid, and made a strong point of not making a mistake like that again.

Meanwhile, Mr. Johnson continued to avoid talking about that party, and has been caught at others, including a celebratory one the night before his nation’s Prince’s funeral!  Finally this week he apologized for the 2020 party to Parliament, and for the recent one to their Queen. 

Both politicians have faced public fury, and attempts from their opposition parties to replace them in office.  In Mr. Newsom’s case, it even led to a special election.  But by that time, he’d apologized enough, and shown his better qualities in contrast to his opponent’s ideas, and won a greater percentage of the vote than in the election that had originally given him the job.

While, in Mr. Johnson’s case, many members of his own party are calling for him to resign immediately.

Again, I’m not trying to say either one is a total hero or total villain here.  Both showed stupidity and arrogance in the first place.  But one eventually handled it right, and the other didn’t.  And as Mr. Newsom approaches his originally-scheduled battle for re-election, no member of his opposition party has even yet publicly announced they want to run!

What’s the difference between the two?  Mr. Newsom might just be saying and doing the things he ought to, but he appears to be legitimately sorry he went to that party, and to see how hurtful it was to the people of his state.  While Mr. Johnson appears to only be admitting his fault to get out of trouble, nearly two years later, in a way that no one believes.

Now I’ll give another couple of examples of what I’m talking about, a bit closer to home: These are about me!

For the first few years I lived with Handsome, I tore up, chewed, or broke more things in his home than I can count – from windows to album covers to plumbing to furniture.  And, young and headstrong, I could see that he was upset about them but didn’t really care all that much.  Sure I wanted him to be happy with me, but that was about it.

But as I got older, I wanted to be more careful.  To stop disappointing him.  To be more of a partner.

But things happen. And sure enough, one day I was near a window when a neighbor I loved to bark at walked by.  I jumped up to let him know I saw him and wasn’t going to take that lying down – and knocked over a large potted plant, that shattered onto the floor, spilling dirt everywhere. 

Handsome heard the noise and ran into the room, and stopped when he saw it, “oh NO!” he yelled at the mess.

Now, again, I’d done things far worse, but not at this stage in my life.  I felt just awful!  I bowed my head into the floor, my eyes squeezed shut, full of remorse and pain. 

And what did Handsome do?  Oh you can guess.  His heart just melted.  He came and hugged me and murmured, “Oh sweetie, it was only a plant.  I can clean it up.  It’s fine.” 

And it was.

A year or two later, a friend of his, one of my favorites, was at our place.  I’d brought her a stuffed toy, and she was playing tug-of-war with me with it, both having a great time.  But then I took a deeper bite to get more of it into my mouth, and accidentally bit her hand.  “OWW!” she yelled, and pulled her hand back. 

All over again, my heart just broke.  I loved this lady (still do).  The last thing I’d ever want would be to hurt her, or to make her not want to play with me.  So again, my head bowed, my chest hitting the floor, my eyes wanting to shut this truth out completely.

And again, she saw it and knew it was true.  She petted me and said “It’s okay, you knucklehead.  You just have to be more careful.”  And gave me a hug.

Boy did I lick her face clean that day!

The point I’m making in all this is about sincerity.  To say you’re sorry is a nice gesture, but to truly feel sorrow over something you’ve done to someone – that means the world.

In an old movie Handsome loves, a character says that apologizing is a sign of weakness.  Well, maybe that’s true.  Maybe a true apology is telling someone “I’m weakening myself to you, because I feel so bad about what I did.”

I certainly showed weakness about that plant and that toy.  And I’m not ashamed of it – I’m proud!

You see, Handsome and his friend both gained respect for me when I did that.  And Mr. Newsom gained respect from the people of his state when he came clean about that stupid party.  Maybe Mr. Johnson can gain some respect from this too – althought it might be too late for that.

So my doggy advice, if you find yourself in a situation where you should apologize?

  1. Apologize as soon as you can.  Right away is best.
  2. Don’t say anything you don’t mean.  Just tell your heart’s truth.
  3. Don’t make excuses.  (Mr. Johnson, in his speech to Parliament, said he’d only been at that party for “25 minutes.”  So?  Who cares whether he broke his own rule for five minutes or five hours?  It just made him sound insincere.)
  4. Don’t ask for forgiveness, at least not yet.  That’s immediately asking the person you hurt to do something for you!  If they don’t forgive you, you can ask later, but don’t make that part of the apology.
  5. And for crying out loud, don’t just go back and do the same thing again!

If you can master these, your apology has a great chance of being accepted.  And with that, your life will be able to move on from whatever it was you did.

Because in truth, love often IS saying you’re sorry.  And meaning it!