How can I date my ex’s friend without hurting his feelings?

My boyfriend and I recently broke up. It was on good terms, and we’re still very close friends, but he took it harder than I did. His friend has expressed interest in dating me, and I’m really interested in dating him. We have a lot in common, we’re part of the same social circle, and we work in the same field. I don’t want to hurt my ex-boyfriend, which I know this would do, but I don’t want to hinder my own potential happiness for the sake of others. What should I do?

It’s not you; it’s me.
06-13-40-41-57 / 15

Hello Diner. Because we’ve seen that humans generally work on an extremely fast time scale, you probably have already started dating this other friend. Not much is stronger than mutual desire–maybe the stuff that keeps atoms together. No worries. We would have suggested the same anyway.

If you haven’t, go for it.

We Fortune Cookies have a deep understanding that tomorrow can be your last day.

But we’ve also noticed that once people find themselves in a relationship, it becomes a lot harder to think outside of it. We have had a lot of couples propose at our restaurants over the last century. Fancy restaurants like ours are good for things like that.

A plate of warm noodles is also great comfort food, so we have a lot of patrons who’ve recently been dumped, too. Somehow, our hosts invariably seat them next to each other. Every. Single. Weekend.

Having no soft, huggable edges, we Fortune Cookies can do little more than listen. And we don’t want to be a buzzkill and have our batchmate over at the other table ask the couple to tone it down.

So depending on what “hinder” means to you, remember that your ex sees a lot more than you realize. If being happy means full-on public displays of affection, don’t let anyone–even wise, sentient Cookies–stop you.

But if you do that only to show off, then remember there are a lot more newly single people around you than your ex. They deserve some relief from being reminded things used to be a lot happier.

Besides, it’s much more intimate if you keep it between the two of you. Either way, good luck with this new relationship, Diner. Our restaurant can reserve a table for the day he decides to propose–just don’t invite your ex.

How do I gently talk to my partner about my higher libido?

Dear Fortune Cookie, I am embarking on a lifetime relationship with a wonderful partner. They are almost everything I could ask for, save for a minor taste difference in entertainment and a somewhat mismatched libido. What’s the gentle route to discuss the fact I’m far more easily aroused and to seek out solutions together?

Don’t decoy, avoid, or make void the topic. – Salt-N-Pepa
22-27-34-35-59 / 13

Hello Diner. Before we talk about your partner, let me ask what you’re willing to tolerate. I see that you understand people have their own tastes and traits, and however in love people are, they are bound to have some differences they have to reconcile if they plan to spend a lifetime together–just the little quirk of probability, which we plan to talk more about in a future Fortune.

If the question was posed to you but in reverse–if your partner came to you about reducing the amount of sex–what would you give up and what would be your suggestions for solutions? Keep in mind, this would be a permanent change. Unless you find a new partner, you wouldn’t be able to go back on that agreement. Well you can–it just wouldn’t be very considerate nor respectful, and the disagreement would just return.

If you really can’t see yourself living a lifetime’s worth of frustration, and you hope to coax your partner into adapting your appetite, you really should reconsider that lifetime you were planning to spend with them.

It’s not so much people that can’t adapt just to please their partner–they can, and they have. There are probably a few times you’ve done that yourself, and it’s very likely you didn’t feel great about it. And that’s my point: imagine a lifetime’s worth of that feeling. Doing something just to please someone else would cultivate a lot of frustration and resentment–even if that person is in love. Even if the object of their love is, in fact, wonderful you.

Are we saying that unless you’re happy with every life choice you make in your relationship, you shouldn’t be together? Of course not. Like the venerated sages said: it’s a bit more complicated. Two things save you from having to live this impossible life of perfection–being honest with each other and mutual compromise. If you two truly understand and respect your boundaries and keep the “gives” and “takes” in balance, you’ll have the greatest chance at a lifetime of happiness.

* * *

Now that we have that unexpectedly deep, introspective journey out of the way, we can talk about how to discuss things with your partner. Let’s say you’ve already determined you’re willing to compromise and that this issue isn’t worth breaking up over in the long run.

You’ve decided that it’s definitely not about them, and you’re ready to move onto the next step of talking to them.

As with any mismatch a couple can have, you’d have to consider your partner’s perspective and work with their sensitivities and communication style. By asking for a “gentle route,” it sounds like you believe frank talk would hurt your partner. As their partner, you would have the history to understand what exactly they are sensitive about.

If you don’t, step one would be of course to figure THAT out.

But really–considering you’re thinking about starting a whole life with this person, you should have that level of understanding before you two talk in lifelong terms, right Diner?

You can assure your partner that the issues has nothing to do with the things they are insecure about. Not feeling like they’re wrong or that the relationship may end will help keep them from being upset or defensive.

Because I don’t know your situation fully, I can’t guarantee the conversation will go smoothly, but by following this Fortune and simply being empathetic, you would have given it your best shot. Remember: it won’t–nor has to be–perfect. Good luck, Diner.

How do I get over my trust issues enough to start a relationship with a man who actually seems to care about me?

I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you. — an inconceivable Sicilian
01-03-04-13-21 / 02

Hello Diner. Calling them “trust issues” tells me that at a rational level, you understand you have nothing to fear, but your fear feels very real anyway.

Past experiences left a bad aftertaste that flavors future encounters. Can you find palate cleansers of the dating world to make relationships tasty again? Technically, yes. Trying something and seeing that things turn out fine will help you get over this feeling. [1]

So find some loyal and boring table water biscuits to date casually. Soon you’ll regain your appetite for dating seriously and discover that people—in general—do care about their romantic interests. We can’t say this for sure, but in all the years we Fortune Cookies have been served to tables for two, we see that it’s mostly true.

But dating is a little more complicated than picking at a plate of bland wafers. You want that deep connection right now with someone you’re crazy about. I get it. And trusting things to remain casual with these guys needs as much trust as risking a deep passionate relationship in the first place. My point is you don’t have to go through a spartan diet of guys you’re not interested in to ready yourself for the real thing. Just approach those you want to date slowly.

Your question made it seem like you either completely shut someone out or go full on. Remember there are things in between—relationships that give you some fun and intimacy, but don’t demand that you be completely vulnerable. You don’t have to set up tests of trust, just chew slowly. Take time to get to know him before you fall for him. Look at how they treat friends and people who serve them. Other Diners have had problems with very charismatic but self-interested partners. If you did too, it’s no wonder dating has taught you to be suspicious.

Just have fun, Diner. Flirt, date casually, and let him know you want to take things slowly to warm up to him. Your order sounded very somber and full of surrender. “Getting over trust issues” and settling for “a man who actually seems to care” (while leaving out any other positives about this person) seemed like a lot of work and no fun.

As you’re getting over losing trust in someone you were close to, don’t look at future relationships as monumental things that can crush you. It’ll just cause you to wince through them or run from them. People forget that they can decide how much things are allowed to affect them.

Now that I’ve reminded you, how much will you let this new relationship affect you?

Good luck with it, Diner—and don’t forget to have fun.


[1] Kahneman, D. (2011). Thinking, fast and slow. Macmillan. 103

How do I tell my boyfriend that I’m not really attracted to him anymore?

I’ve been with this guy for almost 4 years. I love him. I could see myself with him for a long time to come. I enjoy sex with him. Or, I used to. Lately I haven’t really been very attracted to him. He’s somewhat of a bigger guy, and he doesn’t usually pay much attention to his appearance. I’ve recently started jogging to try and get back into shape, and I’ve asked him to come with me, but he finds excuses not to.

Sticks and stones may break his bones*, but words will not make him skinny.

01-05-06-13-31 / 11

Hello Diner. We discuss how to navigate difficult conversations about turn-offs in this Fortune. But unlike bad breath, weight is challenging because the progress is relatively unnoticeable compared to the effort and lifestyle change you put in. It’s like learning a difficult instrument–long hours of intense concentration and tiring repetition, but the results sound bad long before they sound good. There isn’t that instant validation that you’re doing well. It’s almost an act of faith to torture your body for an unseen outcome.

That dedication has to come from your boyfriend himself. From his point of view, if he sees that you’re the one making him jog to satisfy YOUR tastes, or he’s doing you a favor because YOU are picky, or he’s being judged against YOUR standards; it will just build resentment.

So how do you effect change without all this resentment?

First you must stop expecting change. However irreplaceable you are, however much he loves you, this has to be a personal choice, or the change won’t last without significant effort. Also, if you quietly expect a change but don’t see it, that will make you resentful. Understand that you only have control over your decisions and attitude.

Then you make the decision to change–for your own benefit. Go jog if that helps you achieve a goal you personally set. The more passionate and fun it is for you, the better it will be.

Once you work on this personal goal, and if you have a healthy, communicative relationship with you partner, you will naturally just engage him on your progress. If you don’t have this kind of relationship, this might be a topic that you can start sharing with him. Either way, he will see your passion for it and hear about all the progress, milestones, and activities you experience to meet that goal. This sharing and genuine passion are important for the next step.

When he sees your progress and excitement, there is a chance he will naturally catch that desire. Scientists call it goal contagion. [1] Your goals are quite literally contagious.

Understand that this isn’t a way to direct change. I can’t emphasize that enough. You can’t use goal contagion to plant the habits he needs to stay attractive. There are services for that sort of thing, but it’s beyond Fortune Cookie magic.

To answer your question directly, Diner, you can tell your partner that he isn’t attractive any way you want, but it won’t change his habits–which I think was the point of your question. Sorry.

What you can do is decide to improve your own health without expecting anything from him and being OK with that. If he doesn’t have any underlying mental illness that affects his motivation (which he should address, regardless), he might catch some of that excitement and make your goal his. It’s out of your hands, Diner, so truly: good luck.


[1] Aarts, H., Gollwitzer, P. M., & Hassin, R. R. (2004). Goal contagion: perceiving is for pursuing. Journal of personality and social psychology, 87(1), 23.

* The Advice Fortune Cookie does not advocate the breaking of any bones; however much anyone may deserve it.


Should I dump him?

My boyfriend and I disagree on something major, and it’s making me think that I should break up with him. But when we’re together, things are really great aside from arguments about this one thing, and I don’t want to end things. What should I do?

I would do anything for love, but I won’t do that. – Meatloaf

04-05-12-13-22 / 03

Hello Diner. I can understand what’s holding you back. I don’t know enough about your situation, but if there’s just one thing on which you’re disagreeing, chances are you like this person very much. Breaking up is something absolute, and it deprives you of all the good things about that person. You can’t just break up with the bad parts of him. If you could, everyone would have perfect relationships, and marriage counselors and Advice Fortune Cookies alike would have to find new lines of work. On the other hand, there would also be lots of random chunks of terrible people hopping around–a commitment-phobic leg over here, a narcissistic shoulder over there. No one wants that.

So how do you decide at what point you dump him?

That all depends on how central that One Thing is to you. If it bothers you enough to ask a magical Cookie, then chances are this issue is very close to your core values. But perhaps this person is so great, you still want to hold out hope that he’ll change–or else if he is that great, he’ll know to change. Then what?

Then ask yourself what life changing forces are in your relationship to drive that change. In Newtonian physics, an object in motion will keep moving in the same direction and speed until a force acts on it. A comet barreling toward Earth doesn’t change course because it feels sorry for nice, well-meaning people. Something needs to turn a “should” into a “must.”

It’s important to say that I’m not talking about punishments like the Silent Treatment or withholding affection. If either of you use these punishments, it just means you have a bad communication problem on top of that original issue you wrote to the Bakery about.

“Life changing forces” are things that will alter your core belief. Think of what will make you change your mind on this subject wholeheartedly. That’s how strong those forces have to be for him to think differently, Diner. Clearly neither of you has experienced whatever you two need to be swayed. If things stay the same, expect…well…the same.

Life isn’t going to be all good, but it certainly shouldn’t have repeats of the same problem. That point more than anything should tell you when it’s time to go. Understand you can only change half of the things in a relationship–your half. If you’ve moved heaven and earth, but the comet is still coming your way, RUN. Good luck, Diner, good luck.

Should I ask him out, or wait for a while and see what happens?

There is this guy that I’m in band with that I like and I’m pretty nervous that he doesn’t like me back. He told me that he liked this one girl that has a boyfriend, but he isn’t interested in her anymore. The other night he walked me home and held my hand the entire time and gave me a really long hug. When he pulled away his face was really close to mine. I never wanted to kiss someone more than I wanted to kiss him at that moment.

Music play / Do what the music say.

06-13-23-28-43 / 06

Hello Diner. If nothing else, you, your love interest, and the gentleman who sent in this Order show that letting the fear of failure stop you gets you a lot of frustration and very little chance of kissing. Much less, at least, than speaking up—or actually going ahead and planting a kiss.

There is a comforting certainty to chance. People forget that. They assume chance inevitably summons disappointment—like sunset: twilight, or humidity: frizzy hair. But that simply cannot be true. If you set things in motion, if you move your piece, if you pick a card any card, if you observe the quantum wave function, Fortune—despite her undeserved reputation for being flaky—promises you two things: 1) a response and 2) the assurance that the response can be a good one. Not may. Can. She delivers those guarantees unfailingly. She has been every femtosecond for 14 billion years now. Nothing in this universe or outside of it has delivered so perfectly consistent. You just have to do your part and play.

Diner, you live in a culture of isolation—where something as human and visceral as touch is guarded and controlled with courtesy and etiquette. Holding hands is so intimate that the gesture generally implies a silent acknowledgement that the two people want more than friendship. Think about a scenario where you would hold hands with someone you’re not interested in. First off, you wouldn’t. Secondly, even if you did for whatever reason, you’d feel obligated to explain to the person: just friends—and even then, you would still be concerned that you may be sending your friend mixed messages. Holding hands is just that intimate in your culture.

Since there was no caveat from your love interest, chances are he wants a little more than friendship. If you look at all the possible outcomes of your asking him out, at worst he’ll feel flattered and turn you down. Best case scenario, you two have a lasting relationship. Somewhere in the middle of that spectrum, you two date, but find out that you’re not suited for each other. Hopefully the two of you won’t take it personally because that’s just how dating goes. If you’re fine with each of those outcomes, then there really is no downside to asking him out—with the upsides being kissing, romance, and sex. Definitely not bad at all.

Virgil wrote in his epic The Aeneid, “audentis Fortuna iuvat,” Lady Fortune favors the bold. [1] That phrase has been on family crests, war banners, emblems, and skin for generations because of its simple truth. If you are brave enough to seek the future you want, Fortune necessarily has to deliver outcomes where things go right. Even without the gift of foresight, Diner, this humble Fortune Cookie sees more good outcomes than bad for your situation. In this case, the odds do seem to be in your favor. Just play. Good luck, Diner.


[1] Virgil (c. 29 - 19, BCE). P. VERGILI MARONIS AENEIDOS LIBER DECIMVS. Retrieved September 26, 2014 from

Why do I want to be with people I can’t have?

Dearest Fortune Cookie, When it comes to dating it seems like I want what I can’t have, and what I can’t have always wants me back… Why do I want to be with people who are already otherwise involved; and furthermore, why do they want to be involved with me?

Asking for the impossible should cause the least disappointment, not the most. And yet it does.

04-12-13-24-45 / 17

Hello Diner. I completely understand. All you want is to have a simple romance with someone available and compatible, but your desires say otherwise. You just want that person. Yes, the one on the left. The one already in the relationship.

What you experienced might have happened at this very restaurant tonight. As you sit down and open a menu, steam from another table catches your eye. It billows from a bowl full of deep green, bright red, and rich brown. It’s the reason this other table came here tonight. The steam carries a symphony of aromatic notes to your defenseless nose. These Diners dig in with big, shiny metal spoons and scoop heaps onto their plates.

You have no idea what it is or whether it has a translatable name (it doesn’t), but your nose, eyes, mouth, and stomach all instantly agree: I want what they’re having.

Before you realize it, your senses conscripted your arm into their manic coup, and it waves the waiter over like a spastic marionette. Now your mouth betrays you. “I want what they’re having,” you say.

The waiter first gives you a quizzical look and smiles at your adventurousness–you brave soul.

With a menu full of options, why that dish? Research shows that the same thing happens with attraction. [1] Your mind efficiently deduces that someone’s partner is probably good mate-material. The theory at work is called “mate copying.” Your brain literally decides, “I’ll have what that person is having.”

The harder question is “why do they want to be involved in me?” There are so many possible reasons. There is research that shows people content in their relationship are less likely to look for (and even notice) something outside of their relationship [2], but really: why wouldn’t someone be attracted to a person who is single and well…attractive?

But, why does it matter? Maybe you just wanted to shout that frustration into the void. But unlike the void, Fortune Cookies answer back, and we are–if nothing else–pragmatic.

Understand that I’m not trying to get out of fulfilling your Order, Diner. You asked a question; you’re right to expect an answer. But in the end, those answers should all be necessary ingredients for happiness. If that person is unable, or worse, unwilling to realize this passion for you, would knowing their motivations make you happier? I sincerely doubt it.

Happiness may look a lot like the person attached to your rival, but in the end happiness is a collection of ideas, experiences, and lifestyle; not a specific person. Look for someone else who is all that and available. They do exist; they just need a little more patience to find–for now. Good luck, Diner.


[1] Place, S. S., Todd, P. M., Penke, L., Asendorph, J. B. (2010). Humans show mate copying after observing real mate choices. Evolution and Human Behavior, 31, 320 - 325.

[2] Miller, R. S., Simpson, J. A. (1990, August). Relationship satisfaction and attentiveness to alternatives. Paper presented at the Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association, Boston, MA. Retrieved from

How do I love completely enough that I’m happy, while not pushing the other person away or getting too invested too soon?

I love without reserve. I love without regard to how it might hurt me in the end. Recently I fell for someone I knew it could never work with, let’s call him my personal Edward Cullen. Perfect. Everybody wants him. However, I’m not Bella. In fact looking at it the other way around he’s Bella and I’m Jacob. I’m going to be in people’s lives who he’s close too. So, I need to know how to let myself feel like I’m loving someone properly and completely without risking becoming a depressed pile of crap over every single person I let myself get close to.

Love, quite simply, is not happiness.

13-23-31-39-53 / 04

Hello Diner. The great thing about compatibility is that it’s self-regulating. If that person desires you as much as you do them, then you simply won’t push the other person away. Of course, two sentences cannot summarize the complexities of love and human nature. Humans are still humans. Everyone has personal boundaries everyone else should respect.

So then, Diner, ask yourself what do you mean by “love”? Without devolving into a discussion on the meaning of life (which we already discussed in this Fortune), my point is: respect for the other person is a large part of love. Among those things that require consideration and respect are their boundaries. That is something neither Edward, Bella, or Jacob had for each other—however many times the word “love” appears in the books. For your sake, I hope you aren’t following their relationship as a guide for yours.

However counterintuitive it seems, a couple should encourage each other to establish and respect boundaries. If you pay attention to those limits and encourage your partner to communicate them more directly, you will have a much easier time keeping yourself from pushing them away. But also understand that if the compatibility isn’t there, it would be best for the relationship to end.

Remember that relationships’ ending is merely a result of one person deciding that the incompatibilities between the couple do not allow that person to meet their long-term goals. Feelings change as you learn more about each other. Making this decision is painful because the culture conditions people to not hurt others and to not be selfish—both of which are necessary to break up with someone. As far as the soon-to-be heartbroken person is concerned, they had all the happiness and affection they need. Changing anything would derail all of that, and it’s painful for the both of you.

The simple fact is that when love ends, it will hurt. To prevent that will be like disentangling light and dark or up and down. Anyone who will not feel hurt at the end did not feel love in the beginning. That is true for the heartbreaker and heartbroken. A force as cosmic as love is hard to stop.

Perspective and resilience will help the pain. Understand that feelings change, but the pursuit of happiness does not. Understand that the goal was there before the person arrived, and it will continue after they leave, whether through a breakup or death. Understand that if either person does not feel present in the relationship, by definition neither will be happy as a couple. Let the relationship end for the sake of your own happiness. Let that be the way of things. Good luck in love, Diner.

I’m not sure how I feel about his idea. Help?

My partner wants to become a sperm-donor. I understand why he wants to do this, but we don’t have children of our own yet. I’m not sure about how I feel regarding this. Help?

Elementary, my dear Diner.

06-13-35-39-49 / 01

Hello Diner. In your Order, you tell us that you’re not sure how you feel about your partner’s plans. This at least tells me there’s something about his idea you don’t like. If you articulate what that something is, it will not only inform how you feel, but it will give you concrete points you’ll certainly want to resolve with your partner. We highly recommend doing that second part.

If you don’t know what that something is and need help from me, I’ll need more information on what you’re thinking. But short of talking to your food in the middle of a crowded restaurant, Diner, you can’t give me more. Don’t worry–I won’t leave you hanging. I can try some deduction with what you did provide us.

You left a very interesting clue in your Order. Of all the details about yourself, your partner, and the situation, the only information you gave–aside from the fact that your partner wants to donate sperm in the first place–is that you two don’t have children yet.

This is especially interesting because of all the effects donating sperm has, it has literally no impact on whether you and your partner can have children in the future–a fact I’m sure you know. This may mean you don’t like the idea of strange children having the same ingredients as your future children. Alternatively, you may not be comfortable with the idea that your children may not be the first batch.

Both of these reasons may seem “selfish” to you–which may be why you’re having mixed feelings. Again, we Fortune Cookies, as a rule, do not judge our Diners, and I suggest you don’t judge yourself either. These are your reasons. If you keep them to yourself they won’t be resolved.

If my exercise in deduction completely missed your reasons, let that mistake remind you that if a magical Cookie can’t read your mind, your human partner won’t be able to as well. Collect your thoughts and parse your reasons–all of them, no matter how petty they seem. Then together you and your partner can decide what will be best for your family now–and the larger one in the future. If you need a tiebreaker, seek out someone you both trust and respect–but understand that you two will ultimately make the decisions.

Trying to live with doubts about your partner’s decisions is something we will never recommend. Not only do I care only for your happiness, Diner, it can easily turn to resentment in the future. That does your relationship no good, and you will definitely need that cohesion to reinforce behavior or levy punishments in a consistent way with your future children.

Fortune Cookies, as you may imagine, do not have children of our own. We are simply products of our Baker’s ingredients. In addition to sugar and flour, our Baker mixes within us his desire to help you, our Diners. That’s why we’re here. You have your own reasons for adding to your family. And even though your children’s goodness will have little to do with their ingredients, I hope yours will nonetheless carry your goodness with them. Good luck to your family, Diner.

How do I cope with my abandonment issues?

My father left me when I was a very young child. After recently reconnecting with that family I have discovered that my existence was treated as a ‘dirty little secret’. My sister was shushed on several occasions when the mere mention of her father’s other child was brought up. There was only one photograph of me hidden in our dad’s belongings. Feeling unwanted has affected every relationship I’ve had, like my partner is doing me a favour by being there.

The SI unit for friendship is pizza.

01-09-13-32-38 / 27

Hello Diner. Doing a favor is minor and superficial. Doing a favor is spending a weekend moving for you and then expecting pizza in return. People are in your life because the experience itself is just as meaningful for them as it is for you. They are neither there to be entertained nor to fulfil charity.

Of course there will be those who steal your time for selfish reasons. You can tell who they are by the energy they expend focusing on themselves. We discussed them in this Fortune. Regardless of how much you fear losing people, those people should have a very small, if any, part in your life. Keep looking for those who love you. Keep risking more trust. You overcome fear by stepping through it.

I can’t assure you that no one will ever leave you–that you won’t feel that pain ever again. But all relationships–like the living things they are–grow, age, and die. For you, a life is two handfuls of decades. For us Fortune Cookies, our first meal is our last. Both are lifetimes.

Success in relationships is not its longevity. Rather, success is choosing your fulfillment. Some marriages last whole decades without any enrichment to either person’s life. Is that successful? Success is deciding to be present in the moment, and letting that moment change you positively. Once that moment passes, it’s yours forever simply because time (as you see it) only goes forward.

Deciding to have you and then treating you like a dirty secret are two decisions that your father can never take back. Even if he found compassion now, you’ve lived with that indelible history, but that history doesn’t have to define you. Those are his failures, not yours.

Understand that your father made two decisions about you among the millions of decisions you’ve made in a lifetime. Those millions beyond your father’s two show who you are: your values and prejudices, your interests and sense of humor, your taste and passions, your empathy and hatreds, your curiosity, and your sense of responsibility. People fall in love with those things. People spend time with you to make social music with each of those notes.

If everyone met you only out of pity, those encounters wouldn’t have been filled with conversations, laughter, and compassion. True companions care about you as much as you would them. They love the very sight of you–in whatever condition you are. To say they’re doing you a favor ignores the whole range of emotions that you feel for them.

Feelings in relationships go both ways. The human connection happens because people are capable of compassion, trust, and love for each other. Keep looking, and share that connection. Be present, and don’t lament lost futures. Be changed, and don’t regret the past. Good luck on your search, Diner.

How do I stop being used?

I was used by a guy who I was deeply in love with. I came to his house and the last time this happened, he told me to piss off when we were lying in bed. So I’m wondering, what happened for me to end up in a situation like this? Obviously he’s a horrible person if he doesn’t care about my feelings at all or even wants to hurt me but I probably also had character traits that made this possible. So, how did this happen and what do I have to change so it never will again?

Don’t worry. You got this.

02-10-13-35-42 / 28

Hello Diner. Your normal, natural ability to trust and love made you susceptible to this betrayal. But trust and love are the very ingredients of your humanity. However much human emotions puzzle us, Diner, we Fortune Cookies will never advise you to give up the traits that make your spirit beautiful.

We must therefore find another way to help you. Let’s take a look at your ex-boyfriend.

The abruptness of the break-up—going from pure romance to total disregard—tells me that the relationship was relatively new. Yet in that short amount of time, he made you feel very deeply in love. That is a sign of a master manipulator at work. Without the trappings of empathy for you, he—very convincingly—told you whatever he believed you wanted to hear to get attention, care, and sex from you.

We described in this Fortune that the “dark triad” of personality traits—manipulativeness, cockiness, and emotional detachment—are proven to be very attractive. These traits also literally describe your ex.

Understand, Diner, that I’m not calling you gullible. This trinity of predatory traits are perfect for a hunter and leader. At one point in prehistory, it helped your tribe survive in scarce times. Your attractions may simply be instinctively responding to an ancient need.

Does this mean you’ll be fighting your very instincts to avoid another horrible boyfriend? Not at all.

Think back again at that image of a tribe having barely enough to survive. Realize that you’re no longer physically in this harsh position, but you may be emotionally starving. However you grew up as a person, you crave the affections and forcefulness someone with these traits can easily provide—at very much your expense. So how to solve this?

Be emotionally self-reliant.

When you learned to feed yourself as a young adult, your hunger no longer depended on someone bigger and more capable than you. Likewise, emotional “food” does not have to be made and packaged by Boyfriend, Inc. Challenge yourself to be single. It may be months or a year—whatever you feel comfortable with.

In that time, you are trying to learn two things: that you can get affection, validation, and attention in completely different ways than having a partner; and that you didn’t need as much as you thought to feel fulfilled.

Once you’ve learned that, your tolerance for manipulation will be much lower. You would have the confidence to be on your own instead of constantly checking your messages for meager pellets of attention. Instead of being overwhelmed by his apparent kindness toward you, you can step back and look at how he treats others to see if his kindness is truly genuine.

The more you can take care of yourself emotionally, the less you’ll need it from someone like your ex. Learn to fend for yourself. Good luck, Diner.

Should I ask her out?

Oh mystical fortune cookie, I need help. I am falling in love with a beautiful young lady who I want nothing more than to have be my girlfriend. But I’m afraid—afraid that if I tell her that I really like her she’ll say no, and hate me, and never want anything to ever do with me again. I’m also afraid that she’ll never know, and I’ll be stuck in this awkward “admire from afar” place for forever and a day. What do I do? Do I tell her and risk rejection? Or do I stay silent and lonely forever? help

Go ask her.

09-13-40-52-54 / 34

Hello Diner. The answer to your Order depends on which lady you’re referring to. I see two: the one you describe and the woman everyone sees. More on that second person later.

You write of a beautiful, but rather ruthless person. In this universe of black text, either she dates you or she hates you—forever. If she isn’t your girlfriend, you suffer either unrealizable hope or exile from romantic love—forever.

I see your dilemma, Diner, and I’m glad you’re leaving such a dire life-changing decision to me, your dessert. I’ll do my best.

If she really is this ruthless beauty, run away quickly. Anyone who can be driven to such abject hate just being asked on a date will be a scary, unhealthy partner. Allow me to explain:

Picture a dinner party.

“Do you want the mashed potatoes or the broiled ones?” your host asks, holding up two pans.

“Mashed please, but HOW DARE YOU OFFER ME BROILED POTATOES! I HATE YOU! DON’T EVER SPEAK TO ME AGAIN!” your girlfriend shouts.

She flips the oven-hot pan. The broiled potato spears brand third degree burns onto your host. The permanent scars now serve as a reminder for that evening’s transgression.

You see why I’m worried?

The only reasonable justification for her being upset with you for asking her out is if she has already told you she doesn’t want to date you. Instead, the woman everyone else knows would have a more sane and logical response: yes, I’d love to or thank you, no. She would still be the person you know, and would still want to be your friend. I highly recommend asking that person out.

Rejection is a risk, but it’s one with very minor consequence. By not asking, your fear is making the decision for the both of you: you’re choosing to reject her until she asks you.

Whatever you decide, your anxiety is distorting both of you into completely different people. The woman that everyone knows is not a ruthless person that will shun you forever. She may, very possibly, like you back.

If she doesn’t, your mind will get used to the idea and move on. We talk about that process in this Fortune. You are not an unlovable person who will never find a partner. If this woman sees an incompatibility between you two, it will only free you to find someone more suited for you. Look past her beauty. Trust her judgment. It’s only appropriate if you’re already trusting her with your heart.

If anything, it’s your anxiety that needs scrutiny. Look at how it’s affecting the way you see everyone. Your anxiety makes your friends seem like cruel monsters, and it’s telling you that no one will love you. Yet you trust it unquestioningly. Your anxiety is the true ruthless, unloveable monster that you need to confront and remove from your life forever. I hope your friend will stand with you to face that challenge. Good luck asking her out, Diner.

Why can’t I make new friends?

I talk with college friends, but they live in other states. I’ve moved around in the last few years and now that I’m settled, I can’t connect with anyone new. I make sure to participate in group activities (gym, etc) where I can interact with people of similar hobbies. I have a significant other, which is fantastic, but I need a local friend. My coworkers are kind but do not include me in socializing. I’m sad I haven’t made new friends but don’t know how to fix it.

Sailors look to the North Star because it is exactly where they would find it.

06-13-45-56-58 / 03

Hello Diner. The closest things we Fortune Cookies have to what humans consider friends are you Diners. But seeing as you crush and eat us after our first meeting, Fortune Cookies have a unique and short-lived view of what friendship is. I say this with no malice. You are our purpose, and our life’s work is to help you. You, Diner, are truly my friend. Making friends is easy for Fortune Cookies; we come with your bill. You found us. But with your existence spanning decades and cities, your friendships become orbits through so many dimensions that we marvel at the complexity of your long, unmasticated lives.

So how do you make friends, you ask?

Just show up.

Since the 1960s, social scientists have been studying the mere-exposure effect. In his study, Dr. Zajonc cited this very interesting story about how an Oregon State student showed up every day to class covered in a black bag as a political statement. The act serendipitously became a famous psychological case study. At first the other 20 students were hostile toward this student. But just by showing up, the Black Bag received warmer and warmer reception from the class. By the time the press started coming to class as the Black Bag’s story became more widespread, the class even protected him from excessive harassment. Zajonc’s study scientifically validated this effect.

You’ve mentioned you participated in a few group hobbies, but you’re still having difficulty finding a local friend. Please understand that I’m not saying you’re harder to befriend than a guy in a black bag. Remember the students in the Black Bag’s class were hostile toward him in the beginning. He had personal reasons for keeping it up, but imagine how hard it would be for anyone to face that hostility, let alone someone who is shy and self-conscious? What we can learn from the Black Bag is that if you’re present and true to your values, your equals will find you.

What you need to remember is that friendship is a relationship just like romances are relationships. We mention in this Fortune that finding people who click with you is largely a matter of working on self-doubt and simply having enough people to choose from. Read that Fortune. The same advice applies here. Keep looking and keep showing up. Your situation will get better. After all, you found me, and that’s not a bad start at all. Good luck, Diner.


Zajonc, R. (1968). Attitudinal effects of mere exposure. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 9 (2, Pt.2), pp. 1-27 DOI: 10.1037/h0025848

Vleugels, A. (2012). Ten unusual experiments in the name of science – The black bag experiment. Retrieved August 8, 2014 from

How do I have a conversation about my spouse’s breath?

Help me, Fortune Cookie! I love my husband very much. But there’s an issue. His grooming standards are not all that great. In particular, his breath is atrocious. I find myself not wanting to kiss him because the odor (some fetid combination of rancid milk and manure) turns my stomach. How do I address this without making him feel upset and insulted? Thank you!

Deliver bad news with alcohol. Listerine is 27% alcohol.

07-13-18-25-37 / 24

Hello Diner. I’m glad this came in as an Order because it’s universal and difficult. Every part of the Fortune Cookie is fragrant and palatable, but humans nourish ten times more bacteria than the total number of cells in their body. Some are bound to make unpleasant odors at mood-killing times. The phrase “to be human” implies not only imperfection but unpleasant natural processes. Despite knowing this, people still feel ashamed when they’re called out for behaving–and smelling–as expected.

So at least I understand your position. This Fortune is not one about odors or brutal honesty, but one about diplomacy. Others can easily say: “just use your words to tell them the truth. A good partner would accept it.” But if it were that easy, this wouldn’t even be a question for you.

That said, you and your husband should move toward having such a relationship dynamic. But that process in itself is difficult and may need a whole other Fortune to discuss later. To that end, I’ll answer the question at hand:

1. Understand your husband’s specific concerns. You may have arrived at this question by looking at the situation with your own set of sensitivities. You may not want to be told your breath stinks for your own reasons. Are you sure your husband has those same reasons?

2. Understand your needs. No less important are your needs. Take time to organize your thoughts. Why is this important to you? What would you like to see change? Saying something is a problem without offering solutions not only is unhelpful to the person (who was going along fine until this discussion), but it may also seem like an attack.

3. Be respectful but direct. Understand that a marriage is an equal partnership where you two respect each other. Acknowledge (and remember) that you’re dealing with another human being with emotions and pride. Think of an intimate embrace. It’s only effective if you’re not wishy-washy about it, but at the same time, you’re not crushing the other person.

4. Practice good couples’ communication. The Internet is full of tips for this. A good practice is to use “I” statements: “I feel ___ when you do ___.”

5. Watch those colorful adjectives. Your description of his breath was very vivid, but choosing words with negative connotations like the ones you used would just make your partner feel more shameful. This isn’t a pleasant experience for either of you.

6. Don’t tack it onto another argument. Be careful about a discussion about this one topic becoming an airing of all your grievances. A string of disagreements would just seem like attacks. Better yet, talk about it when you two are in good moods.

7. Be on the same side. You aren’t his judge and jury. It isn’t a “you are wrong, now change” situation. The two of you own the problem. Make the lifestyle change something you can both do and keep doing.

The important thing is that sparing his emotions is not the way to go. If you remember you’re on the same team and fix the problem together, the discussion will go much more successfully than if you frame it like he’s in the wrong. Good luck, Diner.

How do I cope with a selfish loved one?

My sister has nothing to do with me. The only calls or texts I receive are from when she wants something. I have tried everything, from texting, to calling, Tango, Voxer, and even Facebook. Still, she does not really talk to me or anything. She’ll post up occasional statuses, but she never has anything to say to me. I find out everything about her, including her marriage, on Facebook, because that’s they only way she tells anyone. How do I move on from this? It’s been hurting for so long.

Give no power, and no one will have power over you.

03-04-13-32-43 / 05

Hello Diner. We Fortune Cookies don’t have what you’d call siblings; we have batchmates with whom we can share thoughts. Being made out of the same dough, you can even say we’re all one in the same Cookie. People have this strange belief that they too have this natural bond with their siblings. That simply can’t be true. You are independent beings whose communication has to be cultivated like any relationship.

Like any relationship, there are beginnings, middles, and ends. Sibling relationships don’t necessarily last a lifetime. What’s worse, those siblings didn’t choose to be together to begin with. People take time to decide how well they like someone before starting a friendship–and even those end. Remove that decision making, and the only things some siblings may have in common is where they grew up and a bit of genetics. Ultimately relationships are people who choose to stay connected.

I say all this, Diner, because you take how your sister treats you very personally. You mention that you have hurt for years. That’s a long time to carry hurt from someone who–if you get down to it–is just selfish. The more personal it is, the deeper it hurts. Despite your genetics; despite your childhood, your relationship now just isn’t working.

Change your perspective.

Understand that she is free to choose how she treats you–no matter who you are. You may be a good person who may not deserve it. However, you can decide how much that affects you.

I challenge you to ignore for a second what culture says about how much a sibling or even a close friend is “supposed” to mean to you. Now ask yourself how hurt you would be if a casual acquaintance treated you the same way. I’m guessing you’d just be a little annoyed. Why would it be any different?

The difference is you give them that power, and you can take it away just as easily. Think about how much power you have over your sibling. It’s probably not as much as she has over you. Why not? Simply having a connection with you should not entitle them to so much power.

Now maintain boundaries.

You may also feel hurt because she seems to take while you give. You mentioned she only contacts you when she needs something. Being a dutiful sibling, you probably give her what she wants. This is a very unbalanced relationship that will only cause more hurt. Go back to that earlier exercise. Would you drop everything to give whatever this person wanted? You can say no. Understand that a large part of being mistreated in many cases is allowing the person to mistreat you. Don’t let them.

I hope this Fortune gives you a new way of looking at your relationship. I know change will seem difficult because your dynamic with your sister is pretty set. But change–even when so much history is involved–is never impossible. Good luck, Diner.

What is keeping me single?

I’m unhappy being single but I can’t seem to hold real life friendships let alone establish one strong enough to become something more. I’ve tried online dating. To be honest, the real denominator here is myself, but aren’t you supposed to be happy with who you are before someone can be happy with you too? I don’t want to change myself to please people, but I also don’t want to be lonely. I’m not even sure I /could/ change myself. What do you think, Fortune Cookie?

Find your equal.

13-26-39-45-49 / 34

Hello Diner. I think you’re wondering what it is about you that is keeping you single and therefore lonely and therefore unhappy. You’re also asking how remove that obstacle–whatever that “something” is.

What is that something? You asked if you’re supposed to be happy with who you are before someone can be happy with you. That statement simply isn’t true.* Being human, there will always be some personal trait you don’t like. Your mate will have their own list–assuming they are also human. We Fortune Cookies are baked with a set process, but some of us still fail quality control. Perfection is a list infinitely long. These weakness seem negative, but without them you will never grow.

Personal growth is not just a weird quirk of being human; it is the human journey. Parents and teachers find that watching children learn is one of the greatest joys. Seeing your partner struggle, succeed, and grow is just as rewarding. Because personal dissatisfaction sparks that growth, you literally can’t be happy with yourself for the relationship to be fulfilling.

So what is that something? I see three possible culprits:

1. Self-fulfilling prophecy. We discuss in this Fortune that those who are insecure may be sabotaging their relationships. Since breaking that cycle involves altering perspective and not personality, it would be something you can change.

2. Relationship incompatibility. Studies show that similar personalities tend to be attracted to each other. [1] People sometimes wonder why the ones they desire don’t like them back even if the match seems perfect. The key words here are “tend to” and “seem.” Attraction is more than trends and a written list of ideals. Fulfilling either may not make a connection happen, however frustrating that is.

3. Not enough choices. Even if you reduce attraction to trends and lists, the probability of finding someone is mathematically small. In a dating pool of romantically available singles living in the same area, you still have to be lucky enough to find someone with similar personalities, matching gender preferences, and at an appropriate age. Add uncompromisable realities such as faith, desire for children, and physical preferences. Find a die with that many sides to imagine the luck you need to make a connection. There are a lot of factors beyond your control. Break ups still happen to beautiful, rich, and charismatic people. Just keep looking for friendly folks to join your game.

How do I remove these obstacles? As you can see, these three possible “somethings” can’t disappear on their own. More importantly, changing your personality to be more agreeable and pleasant (whatever that means) won’t help either. Diner, I don’t know much about you, but you seem at least introspective and true to yourself. Start there. Find someone with just as much perspective and integrity. Find your equal. Good luck, Diner. Truly, good luck.




[1] Dijkstra, P., Barelds, D. P. H. (October 2008). Do people know what they want: A similar or complementary partner? Evolutionary Psychology. 2008, Vol. 6 Issue 4, p595


* Baker’s note: Customer service received feedback from a regular patron on different interpretations of what ‘happy with oneself’ means. The Cookie used it to mean “satisfaction” in general. This customer pointed out that you can be happy with your overall self, while understanding you’re not perfect. Either way, it highlights how elusive the meaning of “happy” is, and you shouldn’t worry about being in a specific mental state to find love. Your journey is your own, and there will always be ebbs and flows. For all you know, this potential mate could inspire you to see happiness from a completely new perspective.


How do you break up with someone as painlessly as possible?

I’ve been dating the same guy for a few years, but I feel suffocated. I just feel so trapped in my relationship. It used to be good, but a tragedy happened, and he became depressed. He’s given up responsibilities and just isn’t happy anymore. I don’t like the person he has become, but I understand why he’s changed. I want to help. I want to be there for him. But other than his job, I feel I’m the only thing in his life, and that’s a lot of pressure. He’s given up friends and hobbies. If I leave him, I’m afraid his life will fall apart, and I really love him, so I don’t want that to happen. At the same time, I don’t want to be with him because it isn’t really a relationship anymore. I know I need to break up with him. I’m young; I want experiences of my own without him, but he just wants to marry me. I want out and need out, but I don’t know how without hurting him deeply. Can I get tips/advice on how to break somebody’s heart with the least amount of pain?

Be quick and brief.

04-13-50-52-56 / 19

Hello Diner. I’m so deeply sorry. We mentioned in this Fortune that the best thing is to end a one-sided romance promptly. Your situation is more involved; however, the advice still works. Even when you don’t choose to act this way, staying somewhere you’re unhappy will make you more stressed and likely to lash out. If he isn’t working on his depression, he is never going to improve. By staying, you lose ever more opportunities to grow independently.

Fortunately, you have decided to leave. I see that you’re afraid he may hurt himself. Don’t ever feel like you need to handle this yourself. Emergency services or suicide hotlines have specialized training. Take all threats seriously. Get help if you notice these signs:

  • Taking steps or researching ways to commit suicide
  • Talking about suicide or being a burden
  • Acting in an extreme and volatile way
  • Giving away belongings
  • Asking for forgiveness or closure unexpectedly

But don’t let this discourage you. Most importantly, remember that whatever happens, everyone needs to be responsible for their own actions. As you are taking responsibility for your growth as a person, your partner is and will be responsible for anything he does. Breaking up is still the best thing to do. Here is some guidance:

1. Prepare for the break up. Emotionally prepare for sure, but also work out logistics. Make the exchange simple. Determine how to arrive and leave easily. Gather his things and plan out how to get yours.

2. Meet somewhere he feels comfortable. Many lifestyle sites suggest public places to contain outbursts or prevent danger. However, anywhere where your partner is not comfortable being vulnerable will be torture. But above all be safe.

3. Keep the conversation short. Remember that this is not a negotiation. Dragging through a series of debates and ultimatums will not help the break up. Using more words now would complicate it.

4. Save explanations for later–much later. You are not looking for permission or agreement. You don’t need either for the relationship to end! If you feel that your growth as a person is stifled, then breaking up is the right thing. If you need a reason, have a short one prepared: I don’t think continuing this relationship is the best for me, so I decided it was the right time to end it. There is no need to explain your decision making.

4. Allow his network to take care of him without you. If you still act as his caretaker, you haven’t broken up. Be done. Move on.

Having a partner in this situation is troubling. You mentioned a lot of obligation and guilt, but being unhappy then becomes a tragic life for you. Your decision is still right. That said, the risk of suicide is real, but don’t act on your own. Good luck Diner. With grace, the break up will go as well as possible.

How can I keep my insecurity from ruining a relationship?

Prophecy often comes from fear, not fate.

05-06-11-13-16 / 17

Hello Diner. A study published in 2011 answers this question. To clarify: the researchers reasoned that those who are insecure and crave approval from others will fall into a self-fulfilling prophecy of rejection. This insecurity fueled anti-social behavior that made them come off cold, negative, and withdrawn. This fulfilled their worries of being rejected–which leads to your question, Diner.

The scientists found that self-affirming activities broke this negative cycle. Over the period of study, the volunteers (who didn’t know what was being measured) listed eleven attributes from most favorable to least. The experimental group wrote about why their best attribute was favorable. The control group wrote about how their ninth attribute was favorable to someone else–something neutral the participants didn’t feel strongly about. The team asked how the participants felt about themselves and their relationships. A nurse (who also didn’t know what was being measured) recorded changes in physical mood and attitude over the course of the study.

At the study’s end, those who wrote about their best attribute actually felt and achieved greater security in their relationships! This isn’t just some Fortune Cookie suggesting something that might work. These are true results. It worked! If you want to try this, here are some suggestions for activities. Feel free to come up with your own:

1. Write about why you like your best attribute. Why not do what the researchers did?

2. Visit your Facebook Timeline. Unless we overshare, we post about positive events–positives we tend to forget when we’re down.

3. Spend time with your hobbies. Be that drawing, writing, gardening, cooking, or working on your car, working on and accomplishing something you are good at is very self-affirming.

4. Express your core values. They are your values because you believe that is what a good person should live by.

5. Reflect on positive aspects of yourself. It doesn’t have to be anything that is record setting. Just think about what you appreciate in yourself.

6. Ask your friends what they like about you. If you have a supportive group of friends, in your life or over the internet, ask them what they think of you. Sometimes everyone needs help reminding themselves of their good qualities.

If you’ve explored these options and still have trouble finding good in yourself, consider getting evaluated for depression. I say this without stigma; it’s a real disease. Having someone special in your life makes you feel extremely lucky. To find someone who meshes well with your personality is even mathematically unlikely–a discussion we’ll save for another Fortune. Trust that you deserve this person and, more importantly, this person has all the reasons you listed to like you. Protecting yourself from hurt for so long, it may be difficult to trust someone’s genuine love for you. But now you know how to stop that thinking and enjoy what may be a very long relationship with this person. My best wishes to your future together, Diner.




Pychyl, T. A. (2009, March). Self-affirmation: A Strategy to Reduce Self-control Failure. Psychology Today. Retrieved from

Stinson, D. A., Logel, C., Shepherd, S., & Zanna, M. P. (2011). Rewriting the self-fulfilling prophecy of social rejection: Self-affirmation improves relational security and social behavior up to 2 months later. Psychological Science, 22(9), 1145-1149. doi: 10.1177/0956797611417725

How can I stay in a long term relationship without becoming bored?

Look within or be without.

08-15-18-33-57 / 13

Hello Diner. This feeling of becoming bored is natural to everyone. Scientists call this process hedonic adaptation. Prof. Sonja Lyubomirsky wrote on its details and how to mindfully control its effect. This Fortune will apply her concepts to your situation.

Hedonic adaptation is your mind’s way to adapt to positive or negative events. While it is the process that gives you that bored feeling, it allows you to heal from traumatic events like break ups or losses and get on with life. Without it, you will experience all the emotions from each event in your life at full intensity, but having it also brings that wonderful relationship honeymoon period to an end. Your personal experience probably shows that you get over new positive things a lot more quickly than something tragic.

Thankfully you can control its pace:

Appreciate the good. Pay attention to the good things that came about because of your partner–not just the nice things he or she has done, but how your life has improved.

Celebrate successes. Couples almost automatically vent at each other at the end of the day and (hopefully) empathize. Remember to share and celebrate good things.

Do fulfilling activities. Activities that are fulfilling and challenging (like learning new skills, going on adventures, building stronger connections with friends) can give you an ever-changing variety of new experiences.

Surprise yourself. Use your not having done something as a reason to do it, not as an excuse. Say yes. Give naysayers a chance to respect you for trying something they are too afraid to.

Balance routine with variety. Dr. Lyubomirsky’s studies showed doing a variety of things for your partner will yield a lot more happiness than doing the same nice thing over and over. It doesn’t have to heart-pounding, expensive, or something no other person has done, ever.

Let it affect your life. Let this partner change you for the better. Positivity brings about more positivity (likewise with negativity). Volunteering, being supportive, and showing appreciation are welcomed changes to your personality. Don’t let friends shame you.

Manage your expectations. When you start adapting to the positive experience, your sense of “normal” reaches a plateau. This causes an ever-climbing need for more excitement. Understanding this tendency will help you maintain a fulfilling relationship.

Throughout this Fortune, I stress “do” over “accumulate.” Even though you can use these suggestions to stave off getting used to new things, things not only stay the same, but wear and tear over time. Experiences are new every single time. Take care of your own personal boredom, and the excitement will naturally influence your personal relationship.




Folkman, Susan (Ed), (2011). The Oxford handbook of stress, health, and coping. Oxford library of psychology, (pp. 200-224). New York, NY, US: Oxford University Press, xvi, 469 pp