Q: I walked into my apartment and, to my horror, thought my boyfriend had been electrocuted. He was sprawled on the kitchen floor by an open electrical outlet with wires sticking out. There was a screwdriver near him, and the skin on his arm and hand was discolored. I ran over and started crying and shaking him. He started laughing and yelled, “April fools!” It hadn’t occurred to me that it was April Fools’ Day, because I truly thought he was dead. He says he thought I’d freak for a moment and then bust out laughing. I’m finding myself unable to forgive him, despite the fact that he says he is sorry and meant it to be a joke.
— No Laughing Matter
A: You, like a lot of women, probably love surprises — just not the sort that leave you kneeling over your boyfriend’s lifeless body, wondering whether to call EMS or the coroner. (What, was there no Saran wrap he could put across the toilet bowl?)
The power of laughter can get a little oversold. (If it truly were “the best medicine,” hospitals would skip the morphine drip and hang a chimp in overalls from that metal pole by the patient’s bed.) Laughter does seem to be pretty good medicine for relationships — assuming a guy’s attempt to make a woman laugh doesn’t make her hold a grudge. Researchers have found that the ability to be funny is correlated with high intelligence — a plus in a partner — and with what cognitive psychologist Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman deems “the Woody Allen effect,” the possibility for even geeky-looking guys to get and hang on to girlfriends. (Woody Allen didn’t attract the ladies because, in pitch darkness, he looks just like Clive Owen.)
As for why your boyfriend pulled this stunt, the phrase “Seemed like a good idea at the time” comes to mind. A guy can get so caught up in making authentically gruesome char marks on his arm that he never considers how hilarious you’re likely to find it when the man you love appears to be lying dead on your kitchen floor. As for your inability to forgive him, it probably feels “safer” to cling to your grudge because it puts distance between you and the potential for future hurt. Unfortunately, it also distances you from the good stuff — love, affection, connection, and the continuation of your relationship.
To decide whether to break up with your grudge or your boyfriend, ask yourself a few questions: Does he now understand why you were so upset? Is this number 3,024 in a long line of painful idiocies or just a one-time painfully stupid thing? And outside of when he’s pretending to have died horribly, does he show you he cares about your feelings and well-being? Unless you have reason to believe Faked Death: The Sequel or other major insensitivities will pop up in your future, it’s probably time to give that grudge you’ve been holding a pat on the butt and a bag lunch and send it on its way.
Q: I’ve been with two men for nearly 10 years. (Yes, they know about each other.) My BFF has been my boyfriend on and off, but he broke my trust long ago, and the sex isn’t good. The other man’s an amazing lover, but we just have a weekly fling because he’s in a relationship. Friends say to drop both and start fresh, but that’s not so easy! Seeing the fling guy endears me more to the BFF, and seeing the BFF makes me long for the fling guy.
A: When they say that to find a prince you have to kiss a lot of toads, this isn’t supposed to mean kissing the same two toads a lot — week after week, for 10 years. Now, Flotsam and Jetsam here aren’t without their merits, such as how being with one endears you to the other — much in the way stomach flu must make you long for strep throat. And if, as a little girl, you lay awake imagining yourself being shuffled between an untrustworthy bad lover and a man with a girlfriend, well then, congrats — you’re living your dream. Otherwise, perhaps you’ve forgotten something: You have freedom of choice and lots of men out there to choose from. Of course, for freedom of choice to work, you actually have to choose — have standards and not drop them and your panties every time a bad deal texts you that it wants to come over. No, it won’t be “easy.” It’s just what you have to do if you want more — like a guy who can’t wait to see you, and not because his girlfriend’s yoga class is only 45 minutes or he’s hot to make up for violating your trust with some unsatisfying sex.— here — 7-8 p.m. PT, 10-11 p.m. ET, or download the podcast at the link. Call-in during the show: 347-326-9761 (NYC area code)