On the afternoon of December 28, 2013, Dan Harmon tweeted “Meeting with the Goddess,” accompanied by an Instagram photo in which the Community creator’s face is partially obscured by a woman displaying her engagement ring. That woman is fellow podcaster and comedian Erin McGathy, and the ring on her finger marked a milestone in a relationship that has played out in front of thousands of viewers, followers, and listeners, documented on multiple social networks and many episodes of the Harmontown and This Feels Terrible podcasts. Suffice it to say, Harmon and McGathy’s bond is so deeply felt that it can’t help but spill into the couple’s many creative endeavors, an openness that makes their romance something fans can root for and aspire to. All this—not to mention the “love, sex and all matters of heartbreak” theme of This Feels Terrible—made McGathy and Harmon a natural fit for The A.V. Club’s annual Valentine’s Day Q&A. Here are their answers to questions submitted via email by readers of The A.V. Club.
Dear Dan and Erin,
For the first 10 years of our marriage, our relationship was drug-free. Then, a couple of years ago, my wife rediscovered marijuana. She has smoked pot every day for the past 18 months, and I’m not very happy about that. I will say that she’s very responsible about it. She only does it at night, after our daughter is in bed and we’re done with work and chores for the evening. But still, every day! I think it’s a way for her to relieve stress and lower her anxieties, but it also feels like it has become a crutch. Instead of dealing with her anxieties, she hides them in the haze. Plus, we’re not in a state where pot (medical or otherwise) is considered legal. But I’m not a teetotaler; I have joined her five or six times in the past two years.
So, how do I talk to my wife about reducing her intake? I’m not saying she needs to cut it out completely, but I feel that smoking every day is overkill. She can be very defensive and close-minded when her mind is set on something. Or, is her smoking under control, and I shouldn’t be worrying about it?
Dazed And Confused
The irony, to us Californians, is how much more acceptable it’d be for her to turn to pills, booze, or The Bachelor, things that are actually addictive and harmful. But this isn’t about substances. You’ve noticed a change in your spouse and you want to know what it means and how you should deal with it. Ten years of that protective, dutiful vigilance on your part might be why she’s getting high. Pot helps people shrug off the serious stuff. Treating it like an afterschool special will only separate you more. This Valentine’s, roll out a red carpet for your female Doug Benson. Order food, put on some Radiohead, and laugh with her about what a dick the landlord is. Watch a nature show about crazy-looking fish, have a meandering conversation with no agenda about the times you pooped your pants. If there’s a deeper issue at play, once she feels safe, she’s going to tell you everything. She’s high.
Dear Dan and Erin,
My fiancée and I are planning a wedding for mid-November 2014. Her mother’s family does not get along with each other, so her mom has asked us not to invite them so she doesn’t have to deal with the drama on her daughter’s wedding day. If she doesn’t invite them, my fiancée feels that they will resent her for it, and if she does, her mom will be annoyed that her wishes were disobeyed. Help?
Reggie Ledoux of Maplewood, New Jersey
We both agree that you are an awesome groom for not making this about you. Your bride has a special relationship with her mother, who seems to have a special relationship with “drama,” since she thinks she can avoid it by hijacking her daughter’s wedding. We disagreed on what direct advice to give you. Erin says: Break the bad news to the mom that drama is part of weddings, and placate her ego with a drama-fighting task, like helping with the seating chart. Dan says: Take your future mother-in-law aside and tell her, through a cold, disconnected stare, that the reason nobody ever respects her wishes is because she pulls shit like this. Tell her that from now on, every time she does or says anything that stresses the woman you love, you’re going to find a way to make her suffer, and if she tells her daughter you said that, you’ll deny it, and everyone will believe you over her because you’re not a domineering, toxic old piece of shit. Then pat her on her head, say, “How’s that for drama” and walk away. Remember, Reggie, you can’t make bad people good, but you can condition them to fear your attention. Also, congratulations! We’re getting married in November, too!
Dear Dan and Erin,
The gist of my issue is that I have an intense crush on a girl in my class and I don’t know what to do about it. Hear me out, though, because it does get a little more interesting. I’m 30 years old and have been married for five-and-a-half years. I first met this girl a little over a year ago, and I instantly began crushing on her. She is incredibly intelligent, funny, goofy, gorgeous, and basically all of the things I find attractive in a woman. We ran into each other by chance, and then found out we had a class together later (I recently have been going back to school to get my degree). We became friends, but nothing more than that, and my crush has expressed absolutely zero interest in me.
My wife and I have been together a long time (nearly 13 years), and I’m no stranger to temptation, but this feels different. I have never cheated, and I don’t even think that this will ever lead to anything, but at the moment, if my feelings were reciprocated, I would. Even though I haven’t done anything I have these two conflicting feelings: I feel terrible that I am even having these feelings when my wife continues to be one of the best things that has ever happened to me, and I feel awful that this girl doesn’t feel the same way about me. My question is two-fold: How do I stop feeling this way about this girl and finally get her out of my head? And what should I do if this happens again and the person is interested?
Happily Married And Super Confused
P.S. Although we talk openly about pretty much everything, talking to my wife is not really an option, as even the thought of this would give her more pain than I could bear.
By our math, it seems you got married in your early 20s to someone you met when you were a child. And we think you’re in a small town, because you’re astonished and enchanted to meet a gorgeous, goofy girl. In Los Angeles, they’re like pigeons. We don’t slow down when they’re crossing the street. Listen, we’re not going to tell you to get a divorce, because it seems like that’s what you want to be told, and because it would involve an honest conversation with a non-goofy woman, and who wants that. What you need to do first is have an honest conversation with yourself, or at least with the headshot of Jeremy Piven you keep on your dresser mirror. Big questions to answer before you ever leave the house again: Who are you, what do you want, and what are you going to do about it? Ground rules: Don’t stay married just because nobody else wants to fuck you. Don’t use “caring about someone” as a reason to lie to them. Don’t expect people you’ve seen naked for 13 years to be as exciting as goofy, gorgeous, fully clothed friends, and don’t mistake excitement for love. Happy Valentine’s Day, and please give our prayers and sympathies to Mrs. Super Confused.
Dear Dan and Erin,
I’m moving in with a girl for the first and hopefully only time next month. We’ve been dating 20 months and things have been going really well, so I’m hoping to manage the transition well. What is your best general advice for cohabitation? Also, how do we settle disagreements about decorating? I think she wants to paint our new place, but I think it looks great the way it is and is an unnecessary hassle and cost. I had like 10 movie posters up at the place I am leaving. How many can I plausibly negotiate to hang in the new place?
Greg from North Hollywood, California
I’ll make a sweeping gender-generalization (this is Erin, Dan doesn’t “see” gender) and say that nesting is more important to women, so pick your battles. Explain to her that your movie posters are important to you while asking her opinion on their arrangement or let her get them framed… that kind of thing. If she says you aren’t “allowed” to hang any of your Madea posters; tell her that she’s smart, pretty, and smart. Cook her a delicious meal and ask again.
Okay, now this is Dan. Erin is right. Women are right about what goes on the wall. They have better taste than us. Let them have it, we own everything.
Dear Dan and Erin,
Being in my early 20s with another year of college on the way and plans to move out of state afterwards, it seems like I’m in a liminal stage. I don’t really want to just go for random hook-ups, but I feel if I go for a more serious relationship I’ll be setting myself up for some sort of heartbreak. I know a relationship is something one takes a chance on (usually), but I’m not sure if it’s worth it. I’m perfectly happy being single and I’ve got a lot of personal goals I’ve been tackling and I’ve been enjoying my time with friends, but it seems that I should be dating in college due to society’s expectations and it being “a good experience.” Should I make more of an effort to put myself out there or just go with the flow and see if anything comes to me along the way?
You guys are awesome and I love you.
Go with the flow, weirdo! Next question.
Dear Dan and Erin,
I have been married for 33 years and I have run out of Valentine’s Day presents ideas. Any good suggestions for a gift for a 55-year-old man who snores, doesn’t get enough exercise, and repeats the same jokes endlessly?
Happily Married After All These Years
YOU SOUND ADORABLE. WE WANT TO KISS YOU ON THE FACE, SHAKE YOUR HAND, AND HIGH-FIVE YOUR WIFE. Book an unexpected weekend getaway for you and your lovely wife at an unfamiliar place where you can make new memories… That, or buy her gold-studded earplugs.
Dear Dan and Erin,
First of all congrats on your engagement!!
Valentine’s Day is coming up soon, and I’m dating someone, but we haven’t been dating for very long. We’ve been on four great dates so far, and realistically we’d be able to fit in about two more before Valentine’s Day.
So the question is, how should I handle Valentine’s Day? It feels too early still to do any big romantic gestures, but I like her, and she’s made it clear she likes me as well, so not doing anything for valentines day wouldn’t be the right thing either. What would be a good middle ground where I can do something nice for her, but still something realistic?
Thanks for your help, and keep up the good work you two!!
Erin says: Give her a pizza topped with pepperonis in the shape of a duck and here’s why:
Valentine’s Day is weird for everyone, especially if the status of your relationship is unclear. But remember that duck joke from your second date? When you guys saw that duck and it was funny? If it wasn’t a duck, it was something else, there was a moment you shared that left you both laughing. On the day of Valentine’s, buy pepperonis (or mushrooms) from your local grocery store, and order a cheese pizza. When the pizza arrives, pre-heat your oven to 150 degrees, shape the pepperonis into your inside joke of choice, put the pizza in the oven for 10 minutes, and bring it with you to your date (best if it’s not at a restaurant). This also works with cookies, cakes, puddings etc. She’ll feel special because you did something thoughtful while not forcing anything too romantic too soon. Approach with a sense of humor, a clean shirt, and a winning attitude, and you’ll be fine.
Dear Dan and Erin,
I just recently got into a relationship (my first in several years) with a really great guy that I have a lot in common with. One area where we differ, though, is in the body-hair department. He doesn’t have a lot, whereas I have a fair bit of it. Normally I prefer it when my partners have some hair on their chests, but I’m willing to overlook that in this case because I like so many other things about this guy. He, on the other hand, has been making noises about getting mine trimmed and wanting me to shave my beard. He’s even used the dreaded word “manscaping” more than once. I accept his body the way it is. How can I convince him to reciprocate?
Happy To Be Hirsute
Dan says: I boxed Erin out of this because, as a straight woman, her thoughts about body hair were all implanted in her brain by Male Society. This is because men are assholes, including gay men, which is why you two get to skip the “who’s right” thing and get straight to “which asshole wins.” I’m with you, because, well, look at me. We’re hairy, we’re here, he should get used to it. But you wrote because you love this asshole, and doing something for someone else doesn’t have to be submission. It’s that time of year when we can throw our needy partners a bone without it promising any actual change in the long run. You could spend ten minutes clearing one small swath for one night of irony, just as a demonstration of, you know, your control over him. It’ll grow back by February 20th. If he starts asking you to do it for Saint Patrick’s Day, tell him you’ll think about it and ask what he’s done for you lately. GOD I WISH I WAS GAY.
Dear Dan and Erin,
I’m sure you guys have gotten a lot of questions dealing with building and strengthening relationships, but sometimes there’s that major crush we have where the feeling isn’t necessarily mutual, and the only healthy thing to do is to get over it. Unfortunately, that can sometimes be easier said than done. So what are some tips you guys have for getting over The One Who Didn’t Love You Back?
The One Getting Over It
There are 8 billion members of this club called Lonely People. And it was 4 billion just a few years ago, that’s how lonely we are. We all want to be with anyone but ourselves, we all want to hear from someone else that we’re fine, but it’s when we’re alone that we finally get to hear we’re fine from the true expert. The one we’re the most scared won’t have that opinion. The pain of loneliness comes and goes, but gradually goes. Singleness is an opportunity, not to get laid, but to be, well, yourself. Everything you do gets to be what you, and only you, want to do, which is a superpower couples don’t have. Abuse it. Become random. Shuffle your identity. Pick topics and activities you know nothing about and dive into them. This person you adore will fade from your blood like nicotine or carbs, and a cooler version of you will emerge. Then this person, or some other person, is going to jump on you and all your friends will secretly hate them, you know why? Because you’re cool by yourself. Happy Valentine’s Day.
Dear Dan and Erin,
Do you have any tips for introducing discussion topics in your relationship in a non-confrontational way? My husband is my best friend and we talk about almost everything, but it’s that trigger stuff that I don’t know quite how to bring up without hurting his feelings or making him uncomfortable that seems to be the source of whatever few disagreements or nasty interactions we do have. To set the scene, I kind of have Dan’s personality in lady form, so my husband’s basically a saint for even putting up with me, and he’s quiet and lets me have my way a little more than he should (I try my best not to abuse that too much). But I think both of us have that natural defensiveness and immediate touchiness when it comes to a few specific topics (we each have our own triggers), and I haven’t quite cracked the code to find a way to say something as little as, “Hey, can you not do that right now?” or as big as, “We haven’t talked about this in a while and I don’t know what’s going on” without starting the whole thing off on the wrong foot or him shutting down before we even get started. To add to the immediate defensiveness, he’s also quite averse to conflict (a quality I wish I had a little more of, to be honest—but my combativeness doesn’t mesh with him because he usually just shuts down).
To wrap up, I love both of you dearly—both of your respective podcasts fill holes in my heart and my brain and I so value your commitment to soul-baring honesty, it’s therapy and so much more to me. Congratulations on your betrothal and thanks for your input!
Erin: I’d like Dan to answer your question, because I sympathize but I honestly don’t have the answer.
Dan: I don’t have the question. What’s her problem?
Erin: She wants to know how to approach her husband and have a conversation without making him think he’s being adjusted.
Dan: Well, her example of a conversation was “Hey, can you not do that right now,” that’s what Cesar Millan says to dogs.
Erin: Her other example was “we haven’t talked about this in a while.”
Dan: Yeah, they haven’t talked about what she doesn’t want him to do.
Erin: This is what she’s talking about, she wants to share her feelings without “triggering” a fight.
Dan: Everyone should be “triggered” by being told what to do.
Erin: She’s not TELLING HIM WHAT TO DO, SHE’S TELLING HIM HOW SHE FEELS.
Dan: BUT SHE FEELS LIKE SHE WANTS HIM TO DO SOMETHING.
Erin: WHY HAVEN’T WE HAD SEX IN A MONTH.
Dan: THIS IS OVER, I’M GOING TO WORK.
Dan and Erin broke up shortly after answering this question. They are scheduled to get back together some time before their wedding in November. Save the date!