If there’s one thing Isabel Gillies knows about, it’s love. As readers know from her bestselling memoir, Happens Every Day, and her follow-up, A Year and Six Seconds, she’s been through it all and lived to tell about it. Her young adult fiction debut, Starry Night, also focuses on the highs and lows of romance, and the many ways that romantic relationships shape our overall lives. Reading it inspired many Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group staffers to start thinking about our own love lives which, like those of the characters in Starry Night, are far from perfect- so we decided to seek advice from an expert. Below, please find guidance from Isabel on some real-life love quandaries.
After a break up, what is the best way to transition to being friends if that is what you both want? Is there a tried and true strategy? –Puzzled in Publicity
Tried and True? Probably not. But the great news is that if friendship is what you really want, you will be friends! In my experience people usually get what they want—even if they want bad things. (Sometimes we do want things that aren’t great for us, even if we are not aware of it.) Being friends with ex’s is GOOD. I am friends with 98% of the guys I dated, and even if we are not best friends (because we don’t live close or just lost touch) we definitely would be friendly and have a good time at lunch or something. Time is a factor. You may need to not hang out for a while to break the romantic habits like holding hands. And time will also help with the classic problem of one person saying they want to be friends but really wanting to be together —that happens. It depends how serious the relationship was and if feelings are hurt too. You can even be friends with people who really hurt you, you just need time. My nutshell advice: Time.
I’m dating a guy who says he doesn’t want to get serious, but the way he acts—texting all the time, making plans with me for a few nights each week, paying when we go out—suggests he *does* want to get serious. How do I find out if I trust what he says or how he acts? –Edgy in Editorial
Someone once told me a great piece of advice and I have lived by it ever since. Men say what they mean. If this guy says he doesn’t want to be serious, he probably doesn’t. He probably doesn’t even think he is leading you on because he has already said what he wants (men can be bozos about that sometimes). I would just be straight with him, “So, you say you don’t want to be serious, but you are making me think you do by being in such close touch—it’s confusing me.” Asking straight forward questions is the way to go, but you have to believe the answers. I cannot tell you how much time I wasted on guys who flat out told me they didn’t want a relationship, but I didn’t believe them and thought the more time they spent with me, they would surely fall in love with me. They never did. My nutshell advice: Ask clearly one more time, then move on.
I met a guy I really like, but he has a girlfriend. He says they are on a break, though, and he’s looking to see if he can be “swept off his feet” by someone else before deciding if he wants to return to her or move along to someone else. This is the first guy I’ve met in a long time who I felt a real connection to, and things were going so great until I find out about his situation with his girlfriend. I kind of feel like I should stop seeing him, but I don’t want to, and he keeps inviting me out to do things. What do you think? –Dubious in Digital Marketing
WHAT??? Get away from that guy!! Step away. “Looking to see if he can be swept off his feet before he decides?” Yuck. My nutshell advice: Run, don’t walk. There are millions of men out there who will know what they want and it will be you.
I was introduced to this guy by someone I work with, and I’ve hung out with him a few times and we’re set to go out again this weekend. But now my friend who fixed us up is acting kind of jealous, like she’s the one who likes him. What should I do? –Skeptical in School/Library Marketing
Ask her. Don’t have “friend yuck” over a guy. Say, “Hey Laura (whatever), I am kind of dating Jason (whatever), but are you into him?” Always, always better to be open and clear about EVERYTHING. If you feel jealously from her, you are probably correct. Intuition is everything in this life. My nutshell advice: Just ask.
I just found out that my boyfriend lied to me about something pretty serious. I thought he was single when we got together, but it turns out he was still dating his now-ex-girlfriend (I found this out from one of his friend’s girlfriends who is friends with his ex). I think we overlapped by a few weeks. My relationship with my boyfriend is really good except for this one thing, that makes me feel like it’s hard to trust him. If he lied about that, might be lying about other stuff, too? –Doubtful in Design
Well, that’s tricky. I almost want to know how old you are before answering. In principle, lying is bad news bears and doesn’t bode well for the future. I don’t believe I have ever been in an overlap situation that lasted very long. Once I started dating someone I was SO INTO, and about a week in he said, “I think you are awesome, but I just met someone who I am NUTS about, like I’m in-love with her and so we have to stop seeing each other, even though it’s also really great.” I was crushed because he was amazing, but I respected that he fell in love with someone else and was so honest with me.
My nutshell advice: Have a big talk, get it all out on the table and ask why he dated you gals at the same time. Maybe he is young and scared and didn’t have the guts to be honest. Maybe—maybe that can be looked over if it was just a mistake. People make mistakes, but check with your gut a ton. If it’s telling you he has a problem with being truthful and open, maybe time to move on.
I’ve been with my boyfriend for five years and we have a home, business, and two dogs together. The only thing missing is actual marriage, which he says he doesn’t believe in a piece of paper when clearly he’s committed. I don’t think I’ll ever give up wanting to be married. Not sure where we go from here. I love him and our life, but I want a marriage. What now? –Aggravated in Ad/Promo
You answered your own question. You want marriage! First of all, marriage is not just a piece of paper. Didn’t we learn from the fight for gay marriage in this country that marriage is a lot more than a piece of paper? It’s a legal agreement that gives you many important rights, like getting to be in the hospital when/if your loved one is sick. No, no, no. It’s poop or get off the pot time. Five years is enough to know. My nutshell advice: Ultimatum (in the most loving and understanding way.) “Dude, I love you, I want to have children and be married to you. If you really don’t want to be married, I respect that, but it’s not what I want, so we are not ultimately living with the same goals, and that’s not good. Let’s decide on this soon, like before Thanksgiving. I love you, but it doesn’t make any sense for us to deeply want two different things.”
My last relationship ended abruptly when my partner told me that he ‘loved me but was not in love with me.’ Shortly thereafter, my suspicions that he’d been cheating were confirmed. I am now in a new relationship with a wonderful guy, but I can’t shake the idea that someday he might follow down that same path of lack of infidelity, and it’s made me act crazy and jealous even when I logically know that there is nothing to worry about. How can I put the past behind me?—Morose in Marketing
Well, a big part of myself is singing, “Let it go!” Honestly, people cheat and lie, they just do, and people get burned all the time, but so what? So you got burned, did it kill you? No, in fact you are now with a great guy. Lots and lots of people don’t cheat and lie and maybe this guy is one of those guys! Are you connected? Because that is maybe the more important part. I think that if you feel connected, really in tune with the other person, you are less likely to feel jealous. And it’s hard to feel connected, it takes work on both parts. I would stop worrying about if he is going to cheat or not and start concentrating on making your relationship vibrant and connected. Are you listening to him and he you? Do you go on adventures together (even small adventures like doing a hard crossword puzzle)? Do you make each other laugh? Do you have a lot of good sex? Do you dance in the kitchen? Are you living a fun and happy life with him, and taking on the challenges together as a team? Ask yourself those questions. Advice: People cheat and lie a lot, but I think they will less if you are in a connected relationship, so put your focus on that.
Want more? You can:
- Learn more about Starry Night.
- Add Starry Night to your to-read list on Goodreads.
- Join in on social media with #StarryNight.
- Check out Isabel’s website, follow her on Twitter, and follow her on Tumblr.