Ask Alison: Tell Him He's Getting Fat?

Good advice from someone who is terrible at dating


I have been dating my boyfriend for almost a year, and I've been obsessed with his ex-girlfriend the entire time. I sort of pieced it together from old Facebook photos and from things my boyfriend has mentioned in passing. I'm not worried that he's still in love with her or anything, we're in a good place but I'm just sort of fascinated by her life and the fact that we dated the same guy. Is internet stalking healthy?

What? No, come on. You can't ask me that like you don't already know the answer. Of course obsessively checking up on the life of a stranger isn't healthy, you know that. Everybody knows that. But we all still do it, even that friend who will shake their head and say, "I never look." They probably do it the most. Exes, weird coworkers, your one "bad" cousin: All of these people are putting their lives on the Internet for you to discreetly look at and judge.

Women in particular seem to have this way of saying that we're "stalking" someone who has a public profile on a website used by millions of people. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the like are all free rein for anyone that has an interest in looking at it. I have to remind myself of that every time my dad calls me to ask me about one of my tweets.

So stop saying you're stalking her unless you're going through her garbage. (Don't go through her garbage.) You're viewing something that was put on display. Find a new thing to obsess over. I chose snakes that squeeze their owners to death.

I want you to know that while what you're doing is weird, we're all just people and most of what we do is weird. It's been a long time since I've been in a relationship, but I know that I used to check and see if our music tastes matched up, for some reason it was easier for me if I didn't respect her choices. I liked to see if I could figure out what the similarities were, like if we had the same color hair, or body type or liked the same cute puppy videos. I know that if I tried to look for a pattern in my exes, the only connection would be an affinity for hooded sweatshirts. The Internet is still a dangerous tool that we haven't quite figured out. Like, maybe in 50 years we'll know that looking at wedding photos of the boy you kissed in first grade causes cancer but until then, we're in a technological gray area.

So again, what you're doing does not sound healthy. Not for you, and not for your relationship (especially if he finds out that you're doing it). Scale it down to about 15 percent of whatever you're doing right now; so maybe like every six months you can do a quick creep-around if you feel like you need to. Also know that if you and your boyfriend are "Internet official" she has probably looked you over and made a snap judgment about your life, too. Wait, not probably. Definitely. She has definitely looked.

I made an online dating profile a few months ago, and I really don't like it. I'm bad at meeting new people, and I'm tired of making the same jokes and telling the same stories. I work a lot and feel like I kind of have to do online dating if I'm going to date at all. Is it just the new reality that we have to deal with?

I think that the idea of Internet dating makes perfect sense, on paper. Put in the stuff that you like, the stuff that you don't like, and how many babies you eventually want to have, and then you get a list of potential suitors. I don't understand why there is any hesitation or why it doesn't seem to work for a lot of people, including you and me.

I totally understand the anxiety that comes with any first date. We all do. It's the worst. With online dating you have this facade of familiarity; you've seen their pictures from their trip to Prague last year and you know what college they went to and what they do for a living, but there's no way to know if they're going to be wearing too much cologne, or if they will keep interrupting you to talk about a funny thing their mother did last week.

I have been on two Internet dates in my life. Both of which I arrived early and then had to psych myself up for inside of my idling car. The first guy maybe weighed ninety pounds soaking wet and only talked about how comfortable his bed was. The second one I met in a coffee shop in Beverly Hills, where he ordered a fancy apple juice. That's the only thing I remember about him; not his name or his face or what he talked about, just that he ordered apple juice, and that I had to sit there and watch him drink it. I deactivated my account as soon as I got home and have not gone back to it.

Sitting with both of those guys, I couldn't help but think about how we generally wanted the same things and that an algorithm had found us compatible. But the Internet just can't make up for that spark when you meet someone who can match your wit or the raw feeling of being physically attracted to someone. Sure, I could've continued on, gotten better at knowing a good dating profile from a bad one and maybe met someone that I liked. Lots of people do. We would've made up a jokey story about how we met so we wouldn't have to tell our friends that we met online and we'd give each other a knowing look every time we had to tell it at a party. But I just can't rally myself for all the apple juice it would take me to get there. It doesn't sound like you want to do that, either.

You have two options: soldier on, be more selective as to who you meet up with, maybe try another site; or you can take a break. You refer to dating as something you "have to" do, but here's the crazy thing: you don't. I know it's a cliche, but you always meet someone when you're not looking. Mix up your schedule, try new bars and restaurants, take a class, ask your friends if they have any single friends, go to a weird guy's party. I've said it before and I'll say it again: join a kickball team. Something about kickball makes everybody want to have sex with everybody else, I don't know what it is.

I love my boyfriend very much and I think he's The One, if there is such a thing. But over the last year he has put on nearly forty pounds. I love him, I do. But I'm worried about his health and I also am less physically attracted to him now. What is the polite way to talk to him about this? He will say, "I'm getting fat," and I always try to comfort him but maybe I shouldn't be doing that?

I don't think there is any more polite way than how you phrased your question. You love your boyfriend and you're worried about him, end of story. Don't feel guilty for having an opinion on forty pounds, that is a lot. That's go-to-the-doctor-and-make-sure-everything-is-okay-a-lot. You don't sound vain or mean and you're not complaining about muscle tone. Honestly, I know I'm not going on a ton of information about you, but I feel like you're pretty good at being a girlfriend.

This talk might go over a lot more easily if you suggest tackling it as a couple: go on a diet together, come up with exercise plan that is slightly less obnoxious than a tandem bicycle, etc. If that doesn't work, just watch theĀ "King Size Homer" episode of The Simpsons together, and glare at him the entire time.

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