Dear Wendy: “Should I MOA?”

I have been with my boyfriend for a year and a half, the last three months of which have been long distance as I had to move for grad school. We only live three hours apart, so we still get to see each other a couple times a month. For most of the last three months, we have been fine — I felt happy, secure, and more fulfilled in a relationship then I ever had been before. However, for the last two or three weeks I just plain feel like I don’t have a boyfriend. Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to spend time together recently. Our conversations have not been particularly interesting and I feel like he isn’t putting in a lot of effort. He hardly ever compliments me or returns it when I compliment him, his idea of sympathy is saying “that’s too bad,” and he’s even reticent to return my dirty texts. I feel bad, because he’s not particularly verbally expressive and I feel like I’m being too needy, but I don’t feel content, fulfilled, or even particularly happy right now. I’ve stopped trying because I’m tired of nagging him to be more affectionate and to take initiative. I feel like it would be better if we were actually in the same area code, but moving is not financially possible for him, and there are no graduate programs close to him that I could transfer to. Is there anything I can do or should I just MOA? — Up against a wall

Whoa, what? You’ve been with your boyfriend a year and a half, and despite the distance, you’ve felt more happy, secure and fulfilled in the last three months since you’ve moved than ever before, and yet, you think maybe you should MOA simply because the last two or three weeks have been less than ideal?! Am I missing something? Have you left out some important details? Because from the info you’ve shared, you sound a little coo-coo. Could it be that maybe your boyfriend is stressed? Maybe he doesn’t love the holiday season and he’s feeling a little overwhelmed? Maybe he’s got SAD and it’s starting to get to him? Maybe, despite you feeling more happy, secure and fulfilled than ever, your boyfriend isn’t loving the distance and feels disconnected from you — maybe even a little depressed. Or maybe he’s met someone else or he’s losing interest in you or the relationship. I don’t know! I have no idea. But what I am sure of is that it’d be really stupid to throw away a year-and-a-half-long relationship without, you know, communicating with your boyfriend and asking him what’s happened in the last two weeks to cause this sudden rift in your relationship.

And if this rift goes back further than three weeks — if you’re only now coming out of some fog in which you pretended everything was hunky-dory even though it wasn’t, that’s a different issue altogether. If your conversations have always been a bit on the boring side and your boyfriend has always been indifferent and stingy with his compliments and you’re only realizing it now because your relationship is long-distance and you’re relying on verbal communication more than you used to, then, yeah, maybe you should MOA. But if these symptoms are genuinely new, you’d be a fool to walk away without first trying to figure out what’s going on and whether there’s anything you can do to make the situation better.

I have been in a relationship with my boyfriend for almost a year now and it’s been great — we are both really happy and in love. Here’s the thing: he has a close relationship with his female best friend, who was madly in love with him for a very long time (and still might be, but that is just my opinion), and who had to consult a therapist to get over the fact that he didn’t want her. Since my boyfriend has made it clear that he’d never had any sort of feelings for her or was ever attracted to her, I have never minded their relationship at all and she and I got along really well and became friends.

During our relationship, I asked my boyfriend a couple of times if anything had ever happened between them and he assured me that nothing had, not even flirtation or a kiss. This week I found out that that was a lie when a mutual friend, who thought I already knew about it, told me they had slept together about a year before I started dating him. I confronted my boyfriend about it: I asked him if there were any secrets in our relationships, or important things that he had lied to me about. He said no. I then asked him to name every single woman he’d had sex with. He did not name her. I told him that I knew about it and he confessed that it was true. He said he didn’t want to tell me because it was a mistake from his past that he regretted, but mostly because he was afraid that I would not have wanted to hang out with her, which I think makes no sense because I am friends with a few girls he hooked up or made out with in the past. I feel so betrayed and hurt, not so much by the fact that it happened, but by the fact that he (and she, for that matter) lied to me about it. Since I got along with her, the three of us would often go out to dinner and hang out: now I look back on these days and feel like I was the idiot who had no idea, while all our friends knew about it. So I broke things off for now, but I am absolutely at a loss for what to do. I’m positive that nothing happened while we were together, but I feel so betrayed, and I have lost my trust in my boyfriend. When I asked him what he would do if I asked him to stop talking to her, he said that he would do it. I miss him so much and just want us to be together but I don’t know if I can forgive him, or if I’ll ever want to sleep with him again considering I cannot stop picturing them doing it! So tell me, Wendy: am I overreacting? If I take him back, would it be wrong for me to ask him to stop seeing her? Or should I just MOA? — The Clueless One

I think some people are missing the point of MOA. It’s not a blanket justification to ditch a relationship you don’t feel like working at … unless, of course, you’re truly over the relationship, the other person is unquestionably over it (or was never into it to begin with), you’re being used, you want different things, or you’ve been undeniably wronged in a way you can’t move past. Clearly, you aren’t over the relationship and neither is your boyfriend. It doesn’t seem like you’re being used or that you want different things (from the sounds of it, you both want each other). But whether you’ve been undeniably wronged is certainly debatable, and only you can determine if you’re able and willing to move past it enough to have a happy relationship.

Personally, I don’t see how you were all that wronged. Yeah, your boyfriend lied to you, but he lied because it was a total non-issue to him — probably something he never thinks about and has no bearing on his life — and he knew you’d freak the hell out if you knew the truth. His suspicion was confirmed when you did finally learn the truth and you went ballistic and dumped him. And be honest with yourself here — you didn’t dump him for lying; you dumped him because he’s super close with another woman he’s had sex with and that thought makes you sick. Which is fine. It’s probably pretty normal to feel that way. But it’s also pretty lousy to hold something like that against your boyfriend when it happened a year before you even started dating. And it’s pretty lousy to expect your boyfriend to tell you the name of every woman he’s ever had sex with. How is that any of your business?

If you had a problem with your boyfriend’s friend, you should have said something a long time ago. If you worried that she was still in love with him or you suspected there were stronger feelings between them than just friendship, you should have voiced your concern ages ago. And if the fact that they slept together a year before you were even in the picture changes things that much, maybe your relationship wasn’t that strong to begin with. Obviously, if your boyfriend wanted his best friend, he’d be with her. But he’s not. He’s with you …or he was until you flipped out on him. My point is, he loves you. He might love his friend, too, but not in the same way. The romantic love is saved for you and you alone and it’s so strong that he’s willing to walk away from someone who clearly means something to him — so much so that he hoped you could accept her and have a friendship with her too — if that’s the only way he can keep you. It’s not even a contest for him. He’ll choose you over her any day. All you have to do is say the word. That’s love. Don’t let your petty insecurity get the best of you here. Don’t walk away from something simply because it isn’t wrapped up nice and neat in a pretty little bow. Real relationships rarely are.

Decide what you need from your boyfriend to be happy. If it’s an agreement from him that he never talks to his friend again — even though whatever happened between them was a long time ago and probably didn’t mean anything to him anyway — let him know. If it’s that the three of you quit hanging out together — at least until you can work through some of your issues — tell him that. And if you truly can’t get past this enough to have a happy relationship, then I guess you should MOA and let your boyfriend find someone who isn’t so petty. But I hope for both of your sakes, you can summon a little more maturity than that and accept that significant others often come with pasts that have nothing to do with the present or their feelings for us.

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