Ask Alison: When Cats Stand in the Way of Love

Good advice from someone who is terrible at dating
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I've been seeing this guy for over a month now. We live over an hour away, but we get together every week. He was always the perfect gentleman, nice and affectionate. Suddenly something changed, though. Now he seems distant. We haven't talked about being a couple yet but we agreed on being exclusive sexually as soon as it happened. To my surprise, during a recent conversation with my girlfriend he said that we are just friends. I questioned him about it and he explained he wants to take it slow. That is ok with me, but it was a big turn off -- I would assume we are at least dating. I made it clear from the beginning that I'm not interested in a friends-with-benefits arrangement. Do you think I'm overreacting or is he trying to take advantage of me?

I don't really understand the phrase "take advantage," at least not this situation. Unless he's trying to extort money from you, or use you to make business contacts, or one of the other plot lines from Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. You are an adult who entered into an agreement with another adult, where the two of you exchange time for an emotional and sexual connection. Now it sounds like he would like to change the terms of said agreement.

Don't be small. Don't apologize for being a human.

More than wanting to be friends with benefits, it sounds like this guy might just be done. There could be a million reasons as to why he's distant: busy at work, family problems, just started that part of the hero's journey where he has to go underground, etc. Personally, when I'm dating someone that I'm excited about, I don't go to our mutual friends and imply that our relationship is platonic.

If you guys were able to have a talk about being sexually exclusive, you should be able to talk about this growing distance. It sucks that some people are so terrified of having a conversation that they'll let things drag out for months, causing hurt feelings and confusion. It's funny the damage you can cause by trying to avoid conflict. You should never have to say (or type) the phrase, "I would assume we are at least dating." That means you're not. Or you won't be for much longer.

One last thing, because, I'm sorry, it sounds this non-relationship is over and I encourage you to end it instead of lingering. In your question you asked if you were overreacting. I feel like I hear that a lot from women in their twenties. Like, "Am I being crazy because this guy is making me sad?" Don't be small. Don't apologize for being a human. No, feeling hurt and neglected is not overreacting when someone is hurting or neglecting you. Please lord, if nothing else, don't apologize for the way you feel. Really, even if it's nuts. If you can communicate what you are feeling and the steps that got you to that point to a person, your life is going to be so much easier. It's taken me 27 years to realize that. I hope it doesn't take you as long.

My girlfriend and I have been dating for over a year and we're very happy except for one thing ... her cat. I'm very allergic, to the point where I can't be in her apartment for more than five minutes without my face turning into a runny mess. Zyrtec helps a little, but not enough to where I'm not comfortable. We spend most of our time at my place, which is basically a post-college frat house and not ideal for either of us. I love my girlfriend but it's hard for me to imagine a future with her AND this thing that makes miserable. Would it be terrible if I asked her to find the cat a new home?

I have a roommate who I absolutely adore. We have similar sensibilities, keep similar hours, and are equal amounts of messy. I would live with her forever except for one thing: she has a cat. I'm not allergic but hoo boy do I hate this thing. He's just a shitty cat. He hisses at me at least once a day, he won't let me pet him but he'll sit in the room and just stare at me, and his fur is on e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. It's a little bit like living with the ghost of a mean teenage girl, and I hate every minute of it. I like to imagine my life without Bill Murray (that's the cat's name, which is such a waste of a great name on a terrible animal). It would just make every single thing .04 percent better. He wouldn't be here to put his butt on everything, or sneak into my room, or knock shit off counters: paradise. I would be in paradise.

That being said, I know it will never happen, because my roommate loves her stupid cat so much. Sooooooo much. Girls love cats man, I don't know why, it seems like a bum deal.

So no, you can't ask your girlfriend to get rid of her cat. For one, pet ownership is a responsibility that should not be taken lightly. You're only a year in, are you willing to make an equally serious commitment? Maybe not marriage, but are you two even talking about moving in together? Second, she loves it. A fact I'm deducing from the fact that she is a girl and it is a cat. Don't make her choose, because you may not like the answer. The cat is a guaranteed 10 to 15 year commitment, sometimes even longer because cats are horrible and feed on sadness. If you ask her to get rid of it and she does, there could be resentment that poisons the relationship.

It's a little bit like living with the ghost of a mean teenage girl and I hate every minute of it.

I think your best course of action is for you to try and find a new place. If that's not an option for you right now financially, start saving for it; make it a priority. That gives you another year or two to figure out the cat thing. You're right that it's hard to see a sharing a life with someone whose lifestyle you're allergic to. And yes, owning a cat is a lifestyle. I refuse to let this cat be the demise of an otherwise healthy relationship, because it will only make its species stronger, so let's brainstorm a few more ideas.

You said that you have tried Zyrtec, which is an antihistamine, with limited success. Have you tried getting prescription steroid? Your doctor might have some other ideas as well. I know there is an allergy shot you can get, which is terrible, but might be worth a try. Your girlfriend should also try to keep the cat hair and dander to minimum, which I know can be a struggle because as stated above, cats are horrible animals that leave their disgusting fur on everything just for the sheer joy of ruining your life little by little. It might take a little extra work, but I think you two can keep the cat from winning.

I have this friend who is always very flirty with me. He isn't seeing anyone, and neither am I. We have stayed up all night talking several times and I feel like there is real chemistry there but whenever I talk about taking it to another level, he sort of mutters something about ruining the friendship and disappears for a week or two. Then he comes back and in no time, we're right back in same close, almost romantic friendship. What should I do? I know that he likes me and I like him, so why isn't it happening?

Sound like it's not happening because he doesn't want it to. He's comfortable with the semi-relationship he's found, where he can be close to someone emotionally without having to be overly involved. And you know what? That should be fine. On paper, it's the first half of a rom-com where two best buds are just going about their lives, being buddies and then WHAM one day, they love each other, starring Ashton Kutcher and a blonde girl.

But it never happens that way. Or at least, I don't know anyone that has had that happen. Usually there are two people that get close, one develops feelings that the other doesn't have and then things get really weird. You and this dude are now just doing this on repeat because he doesn't want to lose you as a friend and you're still holding out hope for something more. His response to your advances is probably not going to change unless drugs or alcohol are involved and if you want this situation to get any more uncomfortable. Regretful sex with a close friend? It's the worst, trust me on this.

Don't be a Noel Crane. Don't lust over this guy for years and get all weird when he chooses Ben. Remember in season four when Felicity travels back in time and she picks Noel and it's super weird? There is a reason you two aren't together romantically and if it was going to happen, it would have happened by now.

felicity.jpgTouchstone

You have two options: you can accept your role as the plucky best friend, where you try to hide your feelings and sabotage his relationships, or you distance yourself from him for a while, maybe permanently. That's it. Choose one. It's hard to lose a friend, hard to end a relationship. But it's much harder to be hurt over and over by the person you are closest to. It can stunt you emotionally and may keep you from having a real and mutually romantic relationship. I'm not saying that you should cut this person out of your life -- you two obviously care about each other and have a connection -- but you can't follow him around like a puppy, either. If you give yourself some time apart and can come back as just friends (and really be fine with that, not just pretending you're fine with it), then go for it.

Also, I want it on the record that Noel is the only good person on Felicity. So maybe DO be a Noel, minus the unrequited love thing.


If you have questions about relationship etiquette, please send them to Ask Alison [at] The Atlantic (.com).

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Alison Agosti is a writer living in Los Angeles.


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