Nice One

Dear Dategirl,

I met the prototypical "nice guy" just before I left the country for a year. He's respected in his field and revered by his students. We got close quickly, and spent my year away Skyping constantly and making plans for our future. When I returned to the States, we moved in together to begin a new adventure in a new city.

The move did not go well. When we encountered mechanical troubles on the road, he blamed me for everything! Apparently I'm supposed to know what a timing belt is and that it needed to be changed. This was just a sampling of what was to come. When I ask him for help around our apartment, he gets defensive and argumentative, and lately I've discovered he's also a liar. He'll swear up and down that we had a conversation we've never had, and tells conflicting stories constantly.

We've broken up, but are still living together (i.e., separate sleeping quarters, no sex) until our lease is up in three months. Because every talk degenerates into an argument, I've requested we communicate strictly via e-mail. This is to avoid fighting, but also so that I have a written record about what we've talked about, because lately I've been doubting my memory. He keeps telling me I'm emotionally unstable. Maybe he's right, or maybe he's just a huge asshole and I've been ignoring it. How can I cope until our lease is up?

—Cohabiting Unhappily

Can we just talk about the "nice guy" for a minute? I'm not talking about genuinely sweet dudes, I'm talking about men who are completely invested in being seen as the nice guy by everyone around them, but then treat their partners like shit. My friend just got divorced from one of these types, and, wow, the peek under his faux veneer of kindness has been enlightening. He cries and tells all his friends how much he misses her as he cheats my friend out of property they've acquired together. He tells nearly anyone who'll listen that he'll never get over her, yet had a new girlfriend before he even kicked my friend out of the home they shared. He, much like your ex, is a giant gaping asshole who masks his festering pucker in a facade of feigned sensitivity.

Wouldn't you rather know you're getting a prick from the jump? I would.

What your ex-boyfriend is doing with the whole I-never-said-that scenario is called "gaslighting," after the 1944 Ingrid Bergman movie, Gaslight. He wants to keep you off-kilter by making you believe you're nuts. Narcissists and other jerks employ this technique often. Ignore him and get out. Seriously consider subletting your room, preferably to someone large and smelly (yet also trustworthy enough that you don't lose your security deposit). And next time you get involved with someone, make sure you've experienced at least a year in the same city before committing to cohabitation. It's easy to come off as a great guy (or girl) from thousands of miles away. It's a lot harder when you're in the same room.

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