Ask Alison: When to Get a Number, Replacing Dogs, and Long-Distance Confrontation

Good advice from someone who is terrible at dating
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If we started talking at a bar, and I just wasn't feeling it, but I got the impression you were, would you prefer that I ask for your number and never call, or just not ask for your number?

I was recently at a house party where a guy with a big stupid mustache came up to me, asked for my phone number and never called. He had to penetrate a wall of friends and interrupt a conversation to get it -- neither of which are easily accomplished. I gave it to him, even though he had a big stupid mustache, and I honestly can't think of anything worse. In my mind I was already planning out my polite text decline as he walked away. Then he never contacted me, and I was furious. Never ask for a number if you don't plan to call.

You are more than allowed to change your mind in the sober light of day and opt not to call, or if she offers it to you without asking, but just taking the number knowing full well that you're never going to use it like you're Vince Vaughn in Swingers is just mean.

Plus, I think most people just use Facebook at this point.

I met a guy on a hiking trip through some friends, and we've been talking for a few weeks. I don't know his middle name, but we've slept together a couple times and generally have fun doing outdoor stuff. Long story short, I'm more into his dog than I am into him. Is there a way I can end it and still potentially see the dog?

Speaking as someone who owns a dog that is far more charming than I am, thank you for giving me a new phobia.

Speaking as someone who owns a dog that is far more charming than I am, thank you for giving me a new phobia. Do you know how many dogs there on the planet? It's a lot. I think statistically speaking, that more things are dogs than not dogs.

Here's a thing that I know will probably get me into a lot of trouble but, dogs are all pretty much the same. Sure some are mean, and some are crazy and inbred, but underneath that, they just want food. It's all food-based. My little dog Harvey, who I love more than anything, is pretty much interchangeable with any other dog. Like, I could stroll into any animal shelter and as for a small terrier with separation anxiety and make a purchase. The same goes for my dog. If I die tomorrow, he would probably go live with my buddy Dave, and he'd be fine. Dave would feed him and walk him and pick up his poops and Harvey's life would continue on as it always had. Much like the dog that you're talking about will NOT care when you stop showing up.

No, you can't keep seeing the dog after you break up with its owner. Get your own dog, weirdo. Wherever you live, I promise there are shelters and private rescue centers that would love to match you up with the right pet. If you're not ready for a 10 to 15 year commitment, you can also foster animals for a few weeks until they find permanent homes. You'd be doing a good deed without making anyone uncomfortable.

As for the guy, please end it with him. So many women in their twenties just refuse to end relationships, I swear. Something about cutting ties is very uncomfortable for us. We love to linger, we love to "check in." Breaking up with this guy but continuing to see him and his dog is just a way to maintain communication, and why? He's just some guy you dated. He's going to keep doing the same dumb things he was going while you were dating and it doesn't sound like you were too into it. Or, you're using the dog as an excuse to stay. Why stay in a casual thing that you're not into? No one likes dogs that much. Not even me, and I've cried at a Iams commercial. I guess it's easier to say "I love his dog!" or "He's so nice!" or "He's got a cool apartment!" than to admit you don't like the idea of being alone or giving up regular sex. But I promise that both of those things are better than being with someone you don't like. Forget him and his dumb dog. There, his dog is dumb. I said it. Find a different dog.

I've been in a long-distance relationship with a guy for three months. He lives in Chicago, I live in Brooklyn. He doesn't know, but I've never really stopped seeing other people, even though I said I had. Anyway I am starting to feel bad about it because he's always like painfully nice. He's supposed to come visit this weekend, and he seems really excited about it, but I'm actually more bummed that it'll mean not going to a party where this other guy will be. It just hit me pretty rapidly that I need to end the relationship. I'm terrible at confrontation, so I told Chicago Man that my grandpa is sick (which he is, sort of) and maybe we should call this weekend off. He said he didn't mind and would be fine just keeping me company at the hospital or whatever. Now it's Thursday and he's coming tomorrow, planning on staying with me. I guess my question is, how terrible is this weekend going to be?

Noooooooo, this will reach you too late! I hope more than anything that you sacked up and didn't make this poor guy fly halfway across the country to get dumped. If you didn't, and he's there with you right now as you read this, please end it now. Don't make him go through a whole weekend where you're cold and distant and he keeps asking, "Is something wrong?" then you pretend to be fine and have terrible, terrible sex. Just end it and make him stay with a friend or something; that's much more humane.

SHARK300200.jpgcj&erson/flickr

Long distance is so hard, man. It's all the usual maintenance and upkeep but with the added stress of financial expense and a lot of angst-y loneliness. And they all end. Because you either get tired of it (like you have) and break up, or you get tired of it and one of you moves and it's no longer long distance. Either way, it is not sustainable; yours in particular. It's funny, because judging by the way you mismanaged this entire situation, you failed to take the one benefit of an LDR, which is a guilt-free phone breakup. You get to do it over the phone without seeming insensitive because hey, far away. No matter how much a couple may care about each other, when it comes to ending it, we all wish we could do it quickly with an "End Call" exit strategy. But now here you are, you little coward, forced to do it face to face!

You do realize that at every stage of a relationship, that you are allowed to state your terms, right? When the conversation about being exclusive comes up and you don't WANT to be exclusive, you're allowed to say that. Then he gets to decide if he's okay with that. Instead of what you did, which is lie and cheat on a boyfriend that it doesn't sound like you ever really wanted. Not cool.

One last thing, you've already made it pretty clear that you don't like confrontation. I'd like to suggest that if it's avoidable, maybe don't tell him about the fact that you cheated on him? I am all for honesty, but not when it's only going to cause further pain. And hey, if you guys have mutual friends or you're dating his dad or something, get it out. But if he's just going to go back to Chicago and disappear forever, just leave it. He's already going to be so mad at you. If he flew out there to see you? Oh my God, he's going to be so mad. So the least you can do is spare him from a rage blackout.

Everything you've done to this man has been terrible. You've strung him along, lied repeatedly and either made him deal with JFK or risk his life in Newark. If you care at all about smoothing this over a little, which you should -- and you should care about the way he remembers you -- the least you can do is pay for the flight.


If you have questions about relationship etiquette, please send them to askalison@theatlantic.com.

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Alison Agosti is a writer living in Los Angeles.


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