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This Woman's Ex Treats His New Girlfriend Better Than He Ever Treated Her — Is There Something Wrong With Her?

"I really need some advice."

Hello, world. My name's Stephen LaConte, and this is Hey Stephen — a cozy little corner of the internet where BuzzFeed readers like you can DM me for advice.

Today, we've got a two-for-one special — two problems to solve for the price of one click! Let's get right to it.

First, we've got this woman, who recently split from an extremely toxic guy after he refused for a year and a half to make things official. Within weeks of their split, he was dating someone new, and their relationship seems much more committed. Now our DM'er is wondering: why could he commit to this new girl, but not her? Is there something wrong with her? Here's what she wrote to me, via Instagram:

My reply...

The only "wrong" thing you're doing here is wasting another second of your life thinking about this terrible man. Let's look at the facts here: he was sneaking around with other women behind your back, he got someone pregnant and then bailed on the child, he was trying to launch an OnlyFans career without your knowledge, he'd tell you he didn't want a relationship and then say he loved you to keep you from leaving. I hope you know that you deserve so much better than what this guy was giving you. Any time spent wondering why he couldn't commit would be better used thanking your lucky stars that he didn't.

But since the mystery of it all is eating away at you, I'll offer one theory: is it possible that you were unwittingly the "other woman" to another relationship this dude was having? You mention that he was sneaking around with other women in your time together... but it kind of sounds like he was sneaking around with you, too. His secrecy about you, his refusal to post you on social media or introduce you to many people in his life, doesn't point to a flaw on your part. It points to something shady on his. Was he hiding you from a girlfriend (or multiple girlfriends) who couldn't know about you?

Of course, that's just a guess. And ultimately, I don't think the real reason matters much at this point, anyway. What would knowing it give you? You already have all the evidence you need that this dude is a complete clown, someone whose opinion of you should matter less than zero. Don't let your worth be determined by the worthless. Give yourself the respect you actually deserve, and you'll never have to settle for a guy like that again.

As for the new girlfriend, I don't think you should feel anything towards her except compassion and pity. Your ex might be in a new relationship, but he did not get new DNA. He's still the same toxic, sneaky person he's always been — now with a new person to inflict his damage on. I'm sure it hurts to see them looking happy on social media, but remember that that's just the public performance of their relationship. You don't know what's really going on behind the scenes. Actually, you probably do have some idea — and that's why you shouldn't envy her position one bit. Congratulations on freeing yourself from that man, and let's hope the new girl is soon to follow. I'm sure that she, like you, deserves better than him.

Next up, we've got this person, who's struggling with being the only liberal in an office full of conservatives. The owners of the business constantly interrogate our DM'er about their political beliefs and loudly spout off views that veer into conspiracy theories and hate speech. Here's what they wrote to me, via Instagram:

My reply...

No, you're not betraying the people you care about just by having awful bosses. So long as the business itself is not antithetical to your values (I'm assuming you're not working for some right-wing super PAC, or something), and provided you are not condoning your bosses' views when they're expressed in front of you, then you aren't doing anything wrong here. Sure, you could make the argument that by working for this company, you're helping to line the pockets of some truly vile people. But go up the ladder at so many companies, and you'll find some sort of mustache-twirling villain at the top. That's capitalism, baby! You've been through a long stretch of unemployment, you need to keep a roof over your head, and you're supporting a parent. As that cartoon by Matt Bors famously notes, you can want to improve society, but sometimes you still have to participate in it.

But while I'm not that concerned about your job's impact on the world at large, I am concerned about its impact on you. Your day-to-day reality in that office sounds really miserable. And let's be clear: what's happening here isn't just run-of-the-mill political disagreement. Yes, you might have to stomach your Republican bosses' occasional gripes about taxes or the deficit or whatever. But the conspiracy theories they choose to immerse themselves in are not legitimate political opinions, they are delusions, and it's deeply troubling that you're being asked to validate them or potentially risk losing your job. Likewise, the assertion that LGBTQ+ people are somehow dangerous to children is not a political viewpoint, it is hate speech, and the fact that you're being forced to engage with it might rise to the level of harassment. Ask a lawyer in your state.

If you're really determined to stay at this place, I think you need to clearly and explicitly push for two changes, ASAP. The first is an ask: can they use headphones when they want to listen to their radio shows? As the owners of the business, they don't technically have to heed that request, but it's a reasonable one that they'd be assholes to ignore. (Well, bigger assholes than they already are.) The second change is not an ask, it's an instruction: you will not engage in political conversations at work anymore, period. Moving forward, if they try to get into it with you, shut it down immediately with the absolute bare minimum amount of respect you need to not get fired. A simple, matter-of-fact "I'm not discussing that, sorry" is all you need to say. And the "sorry" is optional.

Will your bosses actually respect these new boundaries, and let you do your work in peace? Maybe not — they don't sound like the smartest or kindest people. Ultimately, you may need to get your head around the idea of dusting off your resume and doing that dreaded job hunt again. Yes, it can be a miserable process, but you might find that it's marginally less miserable than enduring these people for 40 hours a week for the rest of your life. Use this job right now to survive, but eventually, you might want to find one where you can actually thrive. Good luck. I'm rooting for you.

That's all the advice I've got for today's DM'ers, folks. You can follow me on Instagram and Twitter @stephenlc. And if you happened to miss my last column, read on!

Last week, we heard from this woman, who feels that she's too unattractive to date. At 40 years old, she's still single, and it's starting to take a toll on her self-esteem. Could the problem be her looks or something else? Here's what she wrote to me, via Instagram:

Woman who lives a "rad life" and does "awesome things" for herself and others and has a good job says she can't get a response on dating apps and she wants a partner but wonders if she's too unattractive to date

My reply...

No, it's not possible for someone to be "too unattractive" to date. That would imply there's some singular definition of "attractive" that all 7.8 billion people on Earth agree on. Sure, we live in a world with some conventional standards of beauty, and it can be way too tempting to compare ourselves with them — but conventional beauty doesn't really correlate to physical attraction, anyway. I bet if you asked everyone reading this to describe their ideal "type," most wouldn't end up describing some Abercrombie dude or Victoria's Secret model. And I don't have to know what you look like to know that many people out there would describe their type as someone just like you.

In your DM, you ask whether your lack of dating success so far is because of your looks or something more. But I think there's a strong possibility that the answer is "neither." Being single is not a failing; it does not inherently mean that you have made mistakes, and there isn't necessarily any "reason" for it — except that you haven't met the right person yet.

Person sitting on a window seat with their head resting on their raised legs

But that doesn't mean you're helpless to change your circumstances here. Even if you aren't doing anything wrong, maybe there's more you could do proactively to put yourself out there. As you write in your DM, the typical advice for people in your shoes is just to focus on yourself and trust that eventually the right person will come your way. Honestly, I hate that advice. Of course it's important to invest in yourself and to be able to find happiness on your own. It sounds as if you've already done those things! But if finding a partner is important to you, I think you should put some time, energy, and focus into that. Not everyone stumbles backward into the love of their life. Sometimes, finding the right partner takes real determination and work. And, as with most things in life, the more you put into it, the more you're likely to get out of it.

So, having said all that, here are five things you can do when you've hit a wall in your dating life and it's making you question your worth. (And none of them are going to be about ~focusing on yourself~ instead.)

1. Enlist your social circle to help you. In your DM, you mention having some quality friends in your life — that's great; put them to work! Make sure the people around you know that you're looking to date and that you're open to being set up if they know someone who might be a good fit. I think most people enjoy playing matchmaker for their friends; they might just need a little prompting to do it. And if you'd feel comfortable, you might also ask those friends for some honest feedback on your dating app profiles. It's hard to be objective about which photos best represent us and how to best describe ourselves in a handful of sentences. Sometimes, having an outsider weigh in really helps! Your friends know you well, and they can help make sure that your profile is really reflecting all the wonderful things about you.

Person lying on a bed and looking at a phone

2. Step outside of your bubble. You say that none of your friendships have romantic potential, so now is the time for you to meet some new people. Look around your community. What's there for people around your age? Is there a dodgeball league, an art class, a book club, a hiking group, a local theater production, or a volunteer opportunity that would introduce you to some new (and hopefully single) folks? There are also so many local meetup groups you can find online, centered on a common hobby or interest. It can be hard, as an adult, to actually meet new people, but it's not impossible! You just have to be a little more intentional about putting yourself into new situations.

3. Take note of the things that make you feel attractive, and carve out time to do them. The goal here is not to improve your outward appearance; it's to improve how you feel about yourself. And so much of attractiveness, by the way, is a feeling. Pay attention to those moments when it's there for you. If there's an article of clothing that makes you feel extra confident, wear it. If there's a fancy skincare product that makes you feel a little more glowing, splurge on it. If there's a tattoo you've always wanted to get or a wild color you've always wanted to dye your hair, book that appointment. If there's a workout that makes you feel ready to kick ass and take names, do it. Again, none of this is about changing your looks — looks, honestly, are not that interesting. Do things for yourself that make you walk through the world with your chin held high. That is attractive.

4. Let go of whatever deadlines you may have set for yourself for finding a relationship. You may feel self-conscious about being single at 40. But remember that everyone's journey is unique, and uniquely challenging. A lot of 40-year-olds are in unhappy marriages because they settled for the wrong person too soon. Heck, many of those 40-year-olds will get divorced and wind up single at 50! Life really isn't as linear as we think, and a lot of the expectations we set for ourselves ultimately do nothing but make us miserable. So instead of pursuing arbitrary benchmarks, pursue happiness — however and whenever it may come to you.

And finally...

5. Try to detach your sense of self-worth from the success or failure of your love life. Dating is often a frustrating, maddening, heartbreaking process. Those challenges are not evidence that you must be unattractive or undeserving of love. You write in your DM that you feel that you're missing out on half of life by not having a partner. But that's not true. Your life right now is whole and complete — you yourself describe it as "rad," full of people you love, a good job, and awesome adventures. For what it's worth, that's actually pretty rare. Hold on to that. Be proud of it. And use it as a reminder that you don't want just any partner; you want the right partner, someone who is worthy of joining you on this successful life you've built for yourself. I think that mindset will make you happier now and set you up for a healthier relationship in the future. Good luck. I'm rooting for you.

Got a problem you want solved in this column? DM me! My inbox is always open. Just read the fine print below first.


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PS: If you've got any advice for today's DM'er, sound off in the comments! I'll be reading...

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