What Not To Do in Relationships

lonely woman thinking on a couch

Dear Evan,

I have been married for four years (I married at 21) and I have been unhappy for quite some time. I had an affair early in our marriage due to my husband being emotionally unavailable and I felt I needed to fill the void he had left. Recently, we have been having more problems than usual as I find myself searching for my own identity; after a few years I feel as though I lost who I was as an individual, instead of as a part of a couple.

When we started to spend time with a new social group, my husband and I were having a great time. A few months ago, one of the more popular men in this group and I became very close friends. After spending a lot of time together (both in private and in public) I began to realize that my feelings were beginning to go down another path and upon telling him this, he very pointedly said that he would not have an affair with me, because he respects my marriage and my husband. So I thought, okay, not a big deal.

Kids who get married before the age of 25 have a 75% divorce rate.

He was recently selected for a new job (his “dream job”), about 1000 miles away from where I live. When he found out he was leaving in a few weeks, we began to spend more and more time together and I found myself in love with him. I separated from my husband with intentions of divorce a week before he left. When he told me he loved me and wanted to be with me, and that we would find a way to make it work, we ended up spending a night together. He was very sweet and said amazing things to me that no one ever had. But…

Within three days, he started to disappear. Now he’s at his new job and explains that the job he took requires the first two years to be spent training in various locations around the US (he apparently didn’t know this when he applied). He’s become very distant, doesn’t answer (or return) my calls, and now I’m incredibly confused.

Was I just a hookup because he was leaving? Would a guy exploit a friendship like that?


I debated as to whether to run this letter, since I really didn’t have much advice for you, but then I figured that it was such a good snapshot of what not to do in relationships, I’d be remiss if I didn’t share it with the world.

What not to do in relationships:

1. Get married at 21. I’m not sure why you got married at 21. I suspect it had to do with chemistry, sex, being in love, and that sneaking suspicion that you were an adult and were ready for the next step with your boyfriend. Either way, kids who get married before the age of 25 have a 75% divorce rate. Caveat emptor.

2. Marry an emotionally unavailable man. It’s not like your husband became an entirely different person after you married him. You deliberately chose to hitch your train to an insensitive man in your early 20’s before you’d had experience with lots of other adults.

3. Have an affair early in your marriage to fill the void of your emotionally unavailable man. I feel for you, but the answer is marriage counseling or divorce, not cheating.

4. Justify the affair as if this is healthy standard practice. On the bright side, your matter of fact tone indicates that you don’t feel the least guilty about this first transgression. Which means that you have, at best, a loose sense of ethics and morality, and would be drawn to similar men.

5. Become close friends with a popular guy from your social group. First of all, popularity exists after high school? Second of all, it’s basic Marriage 101 stuff: Thou Shalt Not Develop Close Friends of the Opposite Sex Lest The Temptation Be Too Great. If you’re an emotionally deprived wife, searching for connection, you’re pretty much begging for an affair when you do this.

6. Confess to your popular close friend that you’re falling for him. You could have pulled away and said nothing, but you chose to bring this to the surface. Why? Because you wanted to have another affair. Can you see how you’re coming across, Annie?

Thou Shalt Not Develop Close Friends of the Opposite Sex Lest The Temptation Be Too Great.

7. Fall in love with another man in the weeks before he moves. Another opportunity for you to pull away cleanly without your husband knowing, but you dove in, headfirst, and convinced yourself you “loved” this guy.

8. Get separated from your husband to be with a man who is going 1000 miles away. As much as I’m beating up on you, it’s in the realm of possibility that you can fall in love with another man while you’re with your husband. But to consciously fall in love with a man who has one foot, two arms and five packed bags out the door? Kind of poor short-term thinking, no?

9. Become surprised that the man who said he was disappearing has actually disappeared. The fact that he was sweet to you, slept with you, and said nice things before he left is sort of predictable. It’s hard to sleep with someone when you’re mean to her, and it would be surprising if his final words to you were that he never planned on seeing you again. He was in the moment. You were in the clouds.

10. Ask a question like this: Was I just a hookup because he was leaving? Would a guy exploit a friendship like that? Huh? You make every mistake in the book, cheat on your husband repeatedly, seduce a guy with an out-of-town job who said he respected your marriage, and then complain that the guy “exploited” your friendship?

You’ve gotta be fucking kidding me, Annie.

Look in the mirror. Get into therapy. And start taking responsibility for your behaviors.

I feel bad that you’ve made so many mistakes, but you’re not going to remedy them by continuing on this childish, selfish and immoral path.

Join our conversation (68 Comments).
Click Here To Leave Your Comment Below.


  1. 1

    Unfortunately, detached narcissistic world views are not uncommon. It’s gonna be a long hard road for “Annie” to fix herself. It is hoped no one in the story had children.

    1. 1.1

      Amen. I’ll get in trouble if I say any more.

  2. 2

    Totally agree with Evan. Good words, my friend!

  3. 3

    You are on point…Cold hard truth, tough love it’s called. I wish I could afford your one on one but I look to joining your group session in the coming year!

  4. 4
    Nancy Greco

    That was the best post ever!! Great one Evan! Live and learn…and if you don’t, you deserve it!

  5. 5

    When I read how messed up this OP is, it makes you wonder the validity of her claim that her husband was emotionally unavailable.

  6. 6

    OY! This girl needs to find herself first and stop looking to a guy to fill a void that is obviously within her. No man will ever “make” you happy. You are way to young to be worried about marriage. Go date, find what makes YOU happy on your own. Reading your letter shows your immaturity and inability to be in a committed relationships.

  7. 7

    I had a hard time believing this letter was even real. She writes an letter where she is OBVIOUSLY wrong on so many levels (really, I have never heard anyone complaining that an affair partner they had whilst married “disappeared”.)

    If this letter writer is for real, she sounds like some spoiled little hottie. Like the drop dead gorgeous little princesses from high school, who had all the guys in the world falling at their feet based on their looks alone, and then they marry whatever guy they happen to be with shortly after graduation and proceed to be a crap excuse for a wife. (I think anyone who cheats is a crap excuse for a partner no matter what the reason)

    I am not even so sure that her hubby was the UA one. I suspect that she was UA from the git go, and he withdrew because he was tired of giving his love and getting none in return. Why am I being so harsh ? The whole tone of her letter. Her whole “big deal, I had an affair” attitude. Her whole indignant response that her back door man, that she pursued, slipped out the back door. Her whole ME, ME, ME, attitude. Marriage isn’t “All about ME”, it’s all about WE.

    Call me a heartless bitch, but I have ZERO sympathy for the Orig LW.

    1. 7.1


      You are not “heartless.” On the contrary, your analysis, like Evan’s, was spot on!!!

    2. 7.2

      Well I wouldn’t assume she is hot. I know plenty of very average people who act like that.

    3. 7.3

      #7 SparklingEmerald

      Oh believe me, this really happen. I’m a good friend of the guy that was abandon in this horrible, unforgiving, situation. Yes, that’s right, abandon, left blindsided. This woman has no compassion or remorse, that’s for sure!   Can you believe it was a neighbor that she was messing with, his actual neighbor, and her boyfriend (not husband, of 10 years) was really good friends with this neighbor! But lets just get something straight here, he decided not to be intimate with his gf because he had a feeling she was cheating on him. She had multiple Affairs and mostly with some of his friends), just couldn’t prove it. She also had a big time full-blown affair with a married man that was another friend of his, which in fact from what I heard she was pregnant (thats right pregnant), when she abandoned him and I don’t think she knew who the father was.

      {Like the drop dead gorgeous little princesses from high school, who had all the guys in the world falling at their feet}

      Not at all, anything that you described.   She was just careless, selfish and of course – heartless!

      {I suspect that she was UA from the git go, and he withdrew because he was tired of giving his love and getting none in return}

      B I N G O….

      I think it was, one of the biggest betrayals from a girlfriend, and a good friend, that in fact… ruined this gentleman’s career in front of his hometown a family, friends and peers.


  8. 8

    Wow! Go easy on this girl. She married young! She’s still young! She’s inexperienced at love and dating at best. My two cents are to cut her losses by going ahead and getting the divorce and then chalk up following in love with someone new as an important life lesson. Take time to get to know yourself and what you want. You’ll gain some wisdom with time and experience. Good luck!

    1. 8.1

      Yes, she is young but youth does not excuse her behaviours or a lack of responsbility for them, particularly when they affect other people. At least her husband (being emotionally unavailable is not good enough reason to be cheated on) is a grown man and can or should take care of himself. But thank heavens it does not appear she has a kid or the kid would be the innocent third party irreparably hurt by her “youth” and “inexperience”

      1. 8.1.1

        @ 8.1 Androgynous

        Young, stupid, naive and took him for granted. 10 years difference in age, but they did everything together (as a couple), in front of everybody in their community, this was a big couple, that was involved in a big Social Circle of Friends!   I’m just tired of this girl, writing stories about him, when she’s done a lot more that she hasn’t even admitted. They were together for 10 years, there’s no excuse, period!   Doing all this, behind his back, knowing that some of his friends knew this, and didn’t even say nothing – to him? I hope nobody sides with this woman! Oh, there’s more to the story! Emotionally unavailable?   What?   Nope!   He never had insecurity problems, until their last year together, then he became a mess, but he was more depressed because he couldn’t believe how much he trusted her. He knew what was going on, he wasn’t stupid, he just couldn’t prove it. She looked and acted like an innocent little girl!   But karma caught up with her!




    2. 8.2

      Let’s be real here, inexperience is not her main problem. SELFISHNESS is. That’s not inexperience and youth, that’s just a bad person making selfish decisions. Let’s call it what it is instead of dismissing it as ‘youth’.

  9. 9

    It kinda sounds to me Annie that you may have realized it was a mistake to marry your husband not long after the ceremony. That happens sometimes. But you also seem to be the type of person who can’t let a relationship go unless you have another to move right into. Essentially you’ve been trying to cheat your way out of your marriage instead of admitting it was a mistake. Cowardly among other things.

    Your question and concern though is this: “Was I just a hookup because he was leaving? Would a guy exploit a friendship like that?”

    My guess is when you made it clear you would sleep with him the first time and he declined your offer, it wasn’t because he considered you a friend and respected your marriage – it was because he didn’t want to offer you a relationship. That and perhaps he didn’t want to have to look your husband in the eye afterwards given you shared a social circle.

    Then he takes a job a thousand miles away. He won’t be in that circle anymore What the hell. Sleazy? Yeah. But he’s probably rationalized it just as you have cheating on your husband. I see this as karma-in-action. You behaved without integrity and you got lack of integrity right back. Maybe one day when you are a little older, a little wiser, you may come to see this guy actually did you a favor. He showed you who you don’t want to be.

    1. 9.1

      Very well said Selena.
      I think the minute Annie told her close friend that she was prepared to cheat with him, was the moment he decided she was not someone he wanted a relationship with. The friend probably didn’t feel any obligation to do things right by Annie. Hopefully Annie will realise that you will be treated the same way you treat other people.

      1. 9.1.1

        Annie wrote:” I separated from my husband with intentions of divorce a week before he left. When he told me he loved me and wanted to be with me, and that we would find a way to make it work, we ended up spending a night together. ”

        To me this sounds like the friend led Annie to believe they did/would have a future together. His subsequent actions however indicate he just wanted to *do* Annie before he left town. I can see why she would be confused.

        But maybe all the future talk was being caught up in the moment? That when it sunk in she HAD actually left her husband and he WAS moving 1000 miles away he gained clarity that a relationship with her wasn’t something he wanted?

    2. 9.2

      This is one of the most spot-on comments I’ve seen so far! Thank you for your opinion, it was great.

    3. 9.3

      @ #9 Selena

      {mistake to marry your husband not long after the ceremony}

      Why would you say something like this when it was never stated in the story?   Really, from that story she sent, you would get this kind of a theory?

      {after a few years I feel as though I lost who I was as an individual, instead of as a part of a couple}

      This is what she stated, the key word is – a few years…. a few years.   Nothing stating after the ceremony.   hmm, now you got me thinking, why you would say this?   but going back to the topic, NOT right after the ceremony (did she fall out of love), in which there wasn’t a ceremony there just boyfriend / girlfriend.

      For your information, they were already living together (as a couple), for over 7 years. I love how people are so judgemental. The mistake was his, hooking up with a gold digger, he was just too blind to see it, at that time of his life… and yes you’re right she did the most cowardly thing, she abandoned him, left him with all the responsibilities, just left him stranded, like a lost puppy!   I wish I would have ran into the story earlier!


  10. 10

    Oh geez. What a train wreck. And I mean everyone in this story, not just Annie.

    Annie: “When he found out he was leaving in a few weeks, we began to spend more and more time together and I found myself in love with him.”

    No. You found yourself having a crush on him. These things do happen to married people. Don’t act on one and ignore it till it goes away. Worked for me.

    EMK: ” the answer is marriage counseling or divorce, not cheating.”


  11. 11

    I will readily admit to doing both 1 & 2….but that is where it stopped. I was young, silly & thought he loved me. He came from an abusive family, and was too busy protecting himself to ever let anyone else in.
    We stayed married for 17 years, he is the one that had the affair, and I left him.
    Annie, you need to look long and hard at yourself and your values. Running from man to man isn’t good, more so seeing as you are married.
    Divorce your Husband and work on yourself, otherwise you will be a very lonely woman

  12. 12

    It’s a fair post. So glad you called the morality card!

  13. 13

    The self-absorption of this letter really smacks you between the eyes. She doesn’t mention her husband at all except to say that he was emotionally unavailable… apparently failing to recognise her own glaring emotional unavailability! This is pretty normal for someone in their early twenties who hasn’t figured out who they are, and what they want to do, yet.

    She has a long way to go, and this disappearing guy is not her problem.

    I don’t know that we need to be so hard on her, even though her selfishness is blatantly apparent. She needs to get out of this marriage, move on from this affair, date other guys, find herself and learn about the world and relationships, and just basically BE a twenty-something. She needs some self-awareness and a reality check, and it may take a while.

  14. 14

    I love you Evan!!! Point blank and to the point truth…people don’t change over night, it was always right in front of your eyes you just failed to see it’s true form. Sad but true, when you’re in love with being in love, you fail to see people for their trueself, you only see what your heart wants/lets you see. Love is blind, love is not always patient nor is it always kind.

  15. 15

    Wow, I have read so many of your posts, but this one is probably the most powerful. Thank you for standing up for the values I also believe in. This LW needs that tough love of yours, whether she realizes it or not. I hope she comes to her senses and it able to thank you some day!

  16. 16

    Oy. Why would anyone on this earth think it a good idea to marry at 21?

    Other posters already adequately expressed the disgust I feel towards this letter writer. My only addition? I strongly advise you to divorce; get therapy; not date whatsoever for at least 2 years while you work on yourself *gasp* without trying to lose yourself in a “romantic” relationship; not marry again ’til you’re at least 32 years-old.

    I don’t know if your husband is a good guy or not but this is a reminder to me that for every woman who’s been jerked around by some nasty guy and feels entitled to bitterness because of it, there’s a man who’s been deeply hurt by a selfish female and might have some sound reasons for being cautious. No sex has the corner on selfishness, thoughtlessness or lack of morals.

  17. 17

    While I agree with everything everyone’s saying about the LW being self-centered, making a lot of bad moral and intellectual choices, and needing to work on herself a lot, the ferocity with which some of you are throwing stones is… interesting. Nothing excuses cheating, but I can’t help but wonder what people would be saying if the LW had started with a sob story instead (“I married at 21 to escape my abusive parents” or the like).

    1. 17.1

      I re-read her letter and then thought about what my response might be if she hadn’t written about the infidelity. Spending alot of time with someone before you move, telling them you love them and will find a way to be together sounds like a lot of effort to put in just to get laid before you leave town. Especially since she made no secret of her feelings a few months before. We may be bothered by her offer to have an affair with him, but he might not have been.

      I still think it’s possible he didn’t intend to have a relationship with her. I also think it’s possible he did care for her, but realized he didn’t care enough when it came time for him to go. He’s the only one who knows the answer. All she can do is move on.

    2. 17.2

      I agree. To be perfectly honest, she sounds a lot like me when I was 21.

      She’s made a lot of mistakes, but, ya know… she was 21. That’s kind of what people in their early twenties do. They do stupid things, they make mistakes. I wouldn’t do any of that shit now, but when I was in my early twenties, I was in real danger of doing all the things she has done.

      I just hope she learns from the situation, apologises to those she’s hurt, works on herself and moves forward.

      1. 17.2.1

        Yep, young people are stupid. This is why you don’t get married at 21.

      2. 17.2.2

        I know people who have married young and weren’t immature. I know people who are quite old and still haven’t matured. It really depends on the person.

  18. 18

    I just want to applaud your reply!! 🙂

  19. 19

    Oof, is there a problen in your past or present that makes you pursue these men as the answer?You’re choosing men who make things worse.
    I know a few women who married young and are still married over twenty years later, but their husbands are very loving. And no one cheated.
    On the plus side you’re still young enough to turn your life around.
    Your disappearing lover is irrelevant unless you got pregnant.

  20. 20

    I think I actually wouldn’t call what Annie did cheating. What I get from her letter is that she separated from her husband because she wanted to divorce him. In my point of view this means that the relationship was over (even if not legally) ergo she didn’t cheat. And while her actions show that she is immature, naive etc., I do not understand the outrage.

    1. 20.1
      faded jade

      I must be reading it differently than you. It sounds to me like she is describing her first affair as being early in the marriage, and this current affair, with the “friend” who disappeared another different affair. And it sounds like she she separated from this man so she pursue a relationship with this guy.

      1. 20.1.1

        Yes, apparently, we read this differently. Interesting, isn’t it. I see this as one incident and I admittedly do not care why she separated from her husband, I only care that she separated before she had sex with her “friend”, so I do not Interpret her actions as “cheating”. Mind you, I am not saying that her decisions were wise and should be considered a role-model. Far from it. But I see them more like the actions of a child who does not know how to be in a relationship or how and when to end it – which is not surprising as this is most probably her first serious relationship. I also think that it always takes two people to make a relationship work and two people to ruin it. And Annie and her husband seem to have treated their marriage like a plant … that will flourish if you push it into a dark corner and never ever water or otherwise take care of it.

        Ah, well, and I have to admit that I totally skipped over this semi-sentence with her affair early in her marriage. Sorry. I only concentrated on her current situation. … But no, I still feel no outrage.

        1. Locutus

          You gotta be kidding me right? Too hard on the girl???? She sounds like a totally self centered jerk who cares nothing about anyone else. These types of people in my opinion are capable of anything. I wouldn’t want someone like this as a friend, let alone a girlfriend. Cut her some slack??? She married at 21 and this is 4 years later, so that means she is 25. She STILL feels the SAME way as she is asking this question today. This is not an issue of age. If she can’t identify her mistakes by 25 that says exactly what type of person she is. She is so self absorbed it’s incredible. She’s careless, heartless, and basically doesn’t give a shit about anyone else, but herself. You defend her, but I bet if she were your friend she’d probably walk all over you too and think nothing of it. That is why I can not even be friends with people of this type. I know both women and men who are like this and they make me sick and I don’t want to have anything to do with them- not even as a friend. If someone owns up to their mistakes and realizes how awful they have been then I am always willing to forgive and help them out, but when someone shows no remorse then I think they can stay far away from me. Fate always seems to have a way of getting back to you. She’ll probably meet a guy she’s crazy about and he’ll probably end up cheating on her. People who treat others with no respect get zero respect from me.

        2. Joe

          Just because she didn’t bang the guy until after she separated from her husband doesn’t mean she didn’t cheat with him. It was emotional cheating long before they played hide the salami.

        3. Julia

          @Joe completely agree. Emotional cheating is still cheating. Though the point is moot because they are divorcing, the marriage is already over. Maybe with some age this woman will gain more perspective.

        4. JustWondering

          Hi Joe,
          I see. I did not consider this.

        5. ScottH

          It takes two people to ruin a relationship?!?   Really?   
          What is my spouse just decides that marriage isn’t for her and gets up and walks away?   Is that my fault?   What if my spouse turns into a drug abuser and refuses treatment?   Is that my fault?   What if my spouse turns into an unrepentant serial adulterer?   Is that my fault?   What if my spouse isn’t willing to deal with the issues that are the result of being married and thinks it’s just too hard to deal with?   Is that my fault?   
          Come on!!!   It takes two to make it work, PERIOD and if one isn’t willing to make it work, then that is not the fault of the other.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *