Do I Give My Boyfriend A Mulligan For Flirting While Drunk?

Mulligan or not acceptable? I read your blog daily, have sent it to numerous of my friends and even bought your online book. I have read tons of self help books and since reading yours, my dating life has changed drastically. I now feel in control of my own happiness and not the needy, clingy, over analyzer I use to be.

I’ve been dating this guy for a month and “mirroring” him, which has worked out great. Everything has been amazing so far! He takes me on real dates, follows up right away and is always consistent. For the first time in my life I have been able to just relax and let things flow with out putting a timeline on when things should happen according to me.

Anyways, he asked me to come out with him and all of his friends last night because everyone was in town for New Year’s. I was super excited and thought, “wow, he must really like me.” Dumb, right? Got to the bar with a few of my girlfriends and he was beyond drunk. I was my happy self, said hello, grabbed a drink and proceeded to chat with his friends. He hopped around from person to person and was quite close with all of the girls…. I assumed they were all old college friends. However, I was wrong. My girlfriend overheard the girl say she just met him last week at a bar down the road. He then started to chat a girl right near me and rub her back (quite sexually) right in front of me and my friend. I was beyond embarrassed and humiliated when my three girlfriends asked me “what is he doing?”

Why would he invite me there if he wasn’t going to talk to me and have other girls all over him/vice versa? When he realized I was upset, he came over to explain they were “just old friends.” I simply said it wasn’t cool, I didn’t understand why I was there and especially when I brought my friends to meet him. Let’s just say he called me “dramatic” and then another not very nice word through slurring. I asked my girlfriends if we could leave without making a scene. His friends kept telling me “oh, he’s just drunk and trying to show off…he really likes you… we have heard so much about you!” Now he is profusely apologizing, saying he was wasted. I use to have a drinking problem and it reminded me of something I would have done two years ago: wake up regretting what I did and realize I meant nothing by it other then my own personal “daddy” issues.

Desperately wishing the person I liked would understand, forgive me and hand me a mulligan because I didn’t mean it. Do I give a mulligan??? Or is this not acceptable??? There has to be a fine line between the two and right now its super blurry to me. Please help!


Dear Natalie,

This is a GREAT question, and you deserve a lot of credit for one thing: realizing that this reminded you of something you would have done two years ago and didn’t mean it.

…step out of your own shoes, put yourself in your partner’s shoes, and see if you can understand the logic behind his behavior.

Because truly, that is the essence of dating coaching — step out of your own shoes, put yourself in your partner’s shoes, and see if you can understand the logic behind his behavior. The people who are best in relationships are the ones who understand and forgive men for their transgressions. My wife — and her mulligan policy — is just the easiest example that I can use to illustrate this.

(By the way, my wife’s been very cool with all of the fat jokes I’ve been making at her expense in the past few weeks. Why? Because a) she knows I love her more than life itself, b) she has a great sense of humor and c) she’s 8 months pregnant and looks like she ate a volleyball. Why should she be insulted? She also hears every day that I think she’s beautiful and has a GREAT body for a pregnant woman. Moving on…)

As I pointed out in a recent blog post, when it comes to basic things like kindness, self-awareness, and avoiding dispiriting embarrassment, alcohol is usually going to be the culprit. From there, your dilemma becomes as clear as answering these two questions:

  • Is his drinking a problem that is indicative of a larger issue around alcohol, anger management or a loss of control?
  • Was this isolated incident that seems like an aberration from all the rest of his behavior?

I can’t claim to know your new guy’s state of mind. I can tell you, however, that ALL of us have done things while inebriated that we come to regret. And while it’s easy to make the case that booze only lets you do the things you really want to do — and acts as a truth lamp for inhibited people — it also has a tendency to bring out the worst in people.

ALL of us have done things while inebriated that we come to regret.

If you’re emotional, you’ll start crying when you’re drunk.

If you’re depressed, you’ll be more depressed when you’re drunk.

And, finally, if you’re a flirt, you’re insatiable when you’re drunk.

Literally, the last time I had a fistfight — 15 years ago — I got beat up for flirting with a woman too aggressively. Did it matter that I had 8 vodka tonics in the previous hour? Not to the guy who was punching me in the face. But the next day, when I went to work with a sore jaw (and literally NO memory of what happened the night before), and I learned what I did at my friend’s party, I was consumed with regret for weeks. I beat myself up emotionally. I apologized to everyone involved in the event. I quit drinking for 3 months. I tried to do my penance for one embarrassing moment that I couldn’t take back.

So while there’s no defending the guy who drunkenly hit on other women on the very night he invited you to join him for New Years, it is entirely possible that his behavior was out of character and that, given the opportunity to redeem himself, he does just that.

Kudos to you for understanding when to give a guy a mulligan and for having the power to walk away from this situation if he ever pulls that crap again.

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  1. 21
    Karl R

    Selena, (#21)
    Good catch, but it doesn’t address the point. Nothing indicates that he invited her.

    If there are a small number of popular bars in the area, they may have a considerable overlap in patrons.

    As an alternative, for New Years he was getting together with “all of his friends”. I’m willing to bet that a subset of his friends are his regular drinking buddies who were with him at the other bar. Any one of them could have invited her (or more casually mentioned the get-together).

    Is there some benefit to assuming his behavior was worse than the evidence indicates? To me, that sounds like a way to invite trouble into a relationship. Last night I worked late and had to miss my dance class, so my girlfriend went alone. Two of the other  men in class  asked her for her email. Should I assume that  my girlfriend  was acting inappropriately?

  2. 22


    Really I’m in complete agreement with Jamie Beckman’s post #20. It’s not as much as the level of drunkeness, or even the flirting that is troublesome as much as how this guy reacted to her and called her a name. It’s unacceptable and bodes very badly for a future relationship. She only dated the guy for a month, I just don’t see such a situation as mulligan-worthy.

    But this letter is 6 weeks old; I’m more curious to hear from Natalie what she decided to do after this incident. Without the benefit of advice from Evan or any of us commenters.

  3. 23

    Um, Karl, the evidence is actually pretty bad (he was drunk off his arse? he chatted with pretty much every woman in the bar but the OP and her friends? he called her a dramatic what?!)
    I tend to agree completely with Evan’s advice on this one. Give him the benefit of the doubt once, but if he ever does any of these things again, he’s bad news.
    Oh, and, in my experience (outside of the dance community), each time a guy tried giving me a back rub, I found out later he’d meant business 😉

  4. 24

    These threads are almost like a legal workshop.     The facilitator gives us a mostly complete story.   People conjecture and interpolate.   At the end, someties the original poster comes back and lets us know how far our reasoning was off.

  5. 25

    Goldie 25

    Oh, and, in my experience (outside of the dance community), each time a guy tried giving me a back rub, I found out later he’d meant business

    How is that not obvious to anyone with a pulse? 🙂

  6. 26

    Steve #27, someone with a pulse and a wedding ring that gets a back rub from a coworker, might be understandably confused at first 🙂 especially if one tends to assume the best of people and underestimate their insanity 😉

  7. 27

    @Lance #17, yeah nothing sets the stage for positive development in a budding relationship that a pissing match to see who can “out playa” who.

  8. 28

    The back rub comment reminds me of the time when I was engaged and my fiance and I attended my cousin’s wedding. At the reception, he kept lightly stroking/rubbing my back and oh … my … gawd! Did I ever hear about this from my parents; dad, especially. You can just imagine their comments. 😉
    As for Natalie’s situation, if she really likes the guy, I’d say give him a second chance. But despite excusing or explaining or trying to understand his behavior, I doubt he looks the same to her anymore. He also planted a seed of doubt about his future behavior. I think he lacks maturity and used poor judgment; not that we haven’t all made mistakes. I’ve never been drunk or been with a drunk, so I can’t say too much on this one.

  9. 29

    His behavior is evidence of things to come and I’d cut him loose.

  10. 30

    Gem, I tend to agree with you; the best indicator of the future is the past.   Obviously Natalie is a grown girl who can do what she wants.   However, tolerating disprect is a bad precedent to set.   Nobody’s overreacting.   But again, if you feel like giving him a mulligan, give him a mulligan.   Just do so with your eyes wide open.

  11. 31

    @starthrower #29, I’m a big proponent of punishing a relationship/dating indiscretion with a similar act. Why? Because it truly gets the point across and let’s the other person know *exactly* how you felt. That will in turn condition the partner to not do it again. Because guess what…just talking about and taking the high road never works.

  12. 32


    I disagree. An adult should have enough perspective to relaize when their behavior was bad/direspectful/rude without having to have it *done* to them. Maybe not in the moment when alcohol is involved, but soon after when the head’s clear.

    We all screw up sometimes but having it brought to out attentions with a mature conversation should be enough. Having to have it shoved in our faces with someone doing the same thing and then saying, “there! See how it feels?!” to me, is adding more immaturity, and negativity to the situation.

    I understand it works for you, but if I had a boyfriend do that to me when I upset him, instead of just calling me on whatever I did verbally, I’d be gone. The tit-for-tat idea can quicly turn into one-upping and distrust and disrespect will take over faster than wildfire, imo.

    I have enough empathy to be able to understand how someone felt by my actions when they tell me without having to experience it as the victim and I’d want a partner able to do the same.

  13. 33

    WALK AWAY……….   This is when a man is on his best behavior- in the beginning.   He’s immature and this is a taste of things to come.   ACTIONS SPEAK LOUD.   There are better men out there.   THIS ONE IS DEFINITELY A FIXER-UPPER.

  14. 34

    This is a weird one.

    I have a very close friend, who dated a guy that whenever he got drunk, he was actually quite horrible. He would call her a bitch, say she was a nag and be very very mean.

    She tolerated it, and put it down to drunk behaviour. I said to her, you should never tolerate that crap from a guy, he will just get worse. I was wrong.

    Here’s the interesting part. She accepted it, and told him about what he said to her the night before. She didn’t judge, she just said “You called me a bitch last night, and a “ho’ and you were really drunk”.

    Eventually, she clued into the fact that he only got that way drinking spirits. So she asked him, if he wanted to drink could he stick with beer. He began drinking only beer.

    Long story sort, they have been married for 15 years, They even fought a horrendous battle together to win custody of his children(from another relationship) which is a real test of any relationship.

    And everytime I hear her say anything about her husband, he is her stud. That’s her name for him. “I love my stud, look at my man enjoying the pho I bought for him!!.

    I think women can be very afraid of male behaviours and react immediately to what they percieve as a threat to themselves. To this day, I cannot figure out how she knew he’d make a good husband. They are very happy, she loves him, and he loves her.

    I don’t know what I’d put up with, I do know however that I can’t create some kind of litmis test for a relationship. You can’t be scared of everything. In many way’s , you have to trust yourself, and your ability to love a man. You can’t change him, but if you accept him, he will try, it seems he just needs sometimes an incentive to do so.

  15. 35


    This will never work.

    My friend I mentioned above, showed me this.

    We all went away for a weekend(group of friends). Kids were there, so we ended up picking nights we’d go out so some of us could stay back with the children.   My friend and I went out and didn’t leave the bar  till around 3 am. When i suggested a cab she said no, I’ll call my stud. She called him, he said hell no he wasn’t getting out of bed, and we caught a cab.

    The VERY next night, he went out with his friends, and  called, at around 3 am. She agreed to pick him up. I said “girl, he didn’t pick YOU up, why you picking HIM up? The only way you’ll teach him resepct, is to stand up to him.”

    She quickly responded “I don’t play games”. I did not get it.

    She doesn’t play games. She, at that moment, was willing to pick him up. The night before, at that moment, he was not willing to pick her up. She doesn’t  keep score.

    This attitude of course, enables her to say NO to her guy whenever she wishes, and he could say NO to her whenever he wishes. Amazingly, most of the time they say  YES to each other.

    Don’t play games, do what you can to love your partner but dont’ do anything because you want something in return. Do it willingly, or dont’ do it at all.

    I learnt this from her.

  16. 36

    I have to give you props for “going with the flow” at first but ultimately it is unacceptable for anyone to behave like this.   After being married for over 10 years I can truly say that the love of your life would not do something like this. Dating can be stressful enough so the added pressure of having your date hit on others is not needed.

    good luck with your future dating!

  17. 37

    My dating/relationship philosophy is and always has been to not do something if i wouldn’t like my  partner to engage in the same behavior.   Kind of inverse from  Lance’s  stance.    

    I would probably bail on this if I were Natalie.   I  just don’t believe in name calling; drunk or not.             

  18. 38

    @Karl R. #18

    Really, Karl?   You’ve never experienced  “quite sexually” arousing back massages that stayed within the back zone?   I’ve got a big secret for you:   massages are very stimulating *for women.*   While I can’t speak for all women, I can tell you that I will judge a man’s sexual potential by the massages he gives.   Just in case you don’t see the analogy, a massage is a muscular, steady, rhythmic  movement — does that remind *you* of anything besides  dancing?    😉  

    IF I saw my  boyfriend giving another woman a back massage and he wasn’t a massage therapist, we’d be done.  

  19. 39
    Karl R

    Sarahrahrah! asked: (#40)
    “You’ve never experienced  ‘quite sexually’ arousing back massages that stayed within the back zone?”

    You mean with the shirt off, massage oil, candlelight … the sorts of things that almost certainly weren’t happening in a crowded bar?

    Sarahrahrah! said: (#40)
    “I’ve got a big secret for you:   massages are very stimulating *for women.*”

    So a cute guy gives you a muscular, steady, rhythmic massage, and you find it sexually  arousing.

    When a middle-aged, homely, female  professional massage therapist gives you the exact same massage, do you become sexually aroused?

    Unless you answered “Yes,” I would say that it’s not the backrub that’s sexual. It’s your choice of how you perceive the experience.

    Sarahrahrah! said: (#40)
    “IF I saw my  boyfriend giving another woman a back massage and he wasn’t a massage therapist, we’d be done.”

    For obvious reasons, I don’t date anyone who is that jealous and possessive.

    I agree with BeenThereDoneThat’s philosophy (#39). If it would bother me to see my girlfriend give a guy a backrub (or be given a backrub) or otherwise rub a man’s back, then I wouldn’t do it.

  20. 40

    Annie  @ #36 & #37, though I must  admit that I would not have stayed with a man that acted the way  your friend’s  future husband did, I am impressed with her philosophy of neither playing games nor keeping score.

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