Dear Professor,

My girlfriend of six months just told me we should take a “long break.” I’m totally stunned. I thought we had a great relationship, but she told me that she hasn’t been happy for almost the entirety of our relationship. We shared so many interests (dancing, travel, art, books). I thought she was the one and did my best to let her know that every day. Two weeks ago, I was supposed to meet her parents and now I’m single. I don’t know what to do or how to feel. How can I prevent this in the future?

Blindsided, Lovesick at Hiatus

500-days-of-summerPrescribed Course of Treatment:

Intro to Empathy


Mandatory material:

(500) Days of Summer (film)

  • Why is the movie’s chronology out of order?
  • Why is the character of Summer (Deschanel) so curiously unexplored?

Supplementary material:

How to be Good by Nick Hornby (novel)

  • Why is the protagonist, Katie, having an extra-marital affair?

I can’t make you love me” by Bonnie Raitt (song)

  • Consider singing this at your next karaoke event.

Professor Notes:

Dear BLAH,

Ah, we’ve all been there. There’s nothing like the first surprise breakup. You see the moon in their eyes, God in their skin. There’s dancing and song. And then suddenly, bam! a shit-tsunami.

You say that everything was perfect, BLAH, but how perfect was it really? Were there weeds among the lilies that you ignored? What did she think about your relationship? Your (ex) girlfriend’s thoughts and feelings are absent from your letter.

In 500 Days of Summer, we see a seemingly perfect relationship from the POV of the (wonderful, adorable) Joseph Gordon-Levitt, then the predictable fallout. JGL is blissfully happy, but what about her? What’s missing, and what critics honed in on, is the missing POV of Summer, played by (wonderful, adorable) Zooey Deschanel. That’s both the problem and the point: A relationship solely from one person’s side isn’t much of a relationship.

Go back to the tape, starting with a concrete example: meeting her parents. Were there any postponements along the way? Did she seem hesitant? I suspect that she tried to let you know and you did not hear her or viewed her concerns as problems to be solved. Try to sort out your role in this, BLAH, perhaps while listening to Ms. Raitt. I bet that the answers will become self-evident.

Dear Professor,

I’m an attractive, 28 year-old bi woman, mostly dating online, with Tindr and OkCupid. Recently, I’ve noticed a pattern in the people I’ve been communicating with. Everything will be going fine as it progresses from initial emails to texting. The rapport always seems to be great. But then when I ask to meet, they frequently disappear. What gives! I’m losing motivation.

Bummed, Under-Motivation

Prescribed Course of Treatment:

Flakiness 101


Mandatory material:

Me You and Everyone We KnowMe and You and Everyone We Know (film)

  • What is the significance of ‘))<>(( Forever’?
  • Why is the payoff of that scene so unsatisfying?

Supplementary material:

Happiness (film)

  • What is notable about Allen (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and Helen’s (Lara Flynn Boyle) meeting?

You’re the Worst, S2Ep5 (TV series)

  • Why does ‘new phone, who dis?’ stop Lindsey (Kether Donohue) so well?

Professor Notes:

Dear BUM,

While dating isn’t better or worse than it used to be, it sure is different. Not long ago, before computers and cell phones became ubiquitous, dating was still a largely physical arena. People shook hands, exchanged numbers, met later. It was harder to ghost.

But people still ghosted, probably in similar proportions as today. Nothing worse than coming back from being stood up to a message on your answering machine with a lame excuse. People hate conflict and they find new ways to avoid everyday realities.

“Me and You and Everyone We Know” is a film about human connections. One of the (many) storylines revolve around missing components. A teenage boy has been chatting online with a much older woman, though neither know it. All is about to end, when the younger brother hops on and says just the right/wrong things, like ))<>(( Forever. The results of the subsequent meeting are…well, would it not have been better for the boy to never show up at all?

Think about the (un)reality of online interaction. We all might have the best of intentions (the folks in Me and You… did not seem to have ulterior motives) but when the rubber hits the road, a thousand reasons might emerge to ditch out. Online dating (and any kind of interaction that puts distance between introductions and romance) enables these behaviors because of the layer of removal. Who knows why your people disappeared: maybe they met someone better, maybe they’ve sworn off dating, maybe they were never interested, maybe it’s the chase that thrills them. With so many possible motivations, determining the why is problematic. But assume silence is a no.

Consider adding a disclaimer to your online dating profile(s) that reads along the lines of, “I actually want to meet and am uninterested in long-term texting that leads nowhere.” You’re going to scare people off, but it will be the kind of people you want to scare off. Also, once you determine interest, go ahead and ask to meet up right away. Why waste time? If they’re going to ditch out, let them do it immediately.


The Professor is Michael B. Tager. He is a professional writer, college professor and mental health researcher. His MFA in Creative Writing and Bachelor’s in Psychology qualify him to go “hmmm,” but his humanity and knowledge of pop culture enables his syllabuses and advice-giving. He is happy to provide a syllabus for your own research needs. Send inquires to and be sure to include the subject: DEAR PROFESSOR.