Dear Mitch Advice Column Vol II

Barbour Shirt

Mitch here!

Trying my hand at Dear Mitch again. (Here’s the first column.) In this week’s installment, we encounter a long-distance couple who is about to “long distance” no more, a wife who’d like her husband to improve his table manners, and an engaged woman looking for some advice about groom/groomsmen attire.

Please drop your Dear Mitch questions here. They can be serious or lighthearted; whatever is good with me! Remember that questions are always anonymous and confidential.


Dear Mitch,

Finally moving to the same city as my boyfriend in a couple months after doing long distance for five very long years. (Jobs in different countries have kept us apart.) Any advice from the male perspective about transitioning to actually dating and living in the same city for the first time in a relationship? I really want to have as a successful and solid a foundation as possible in this next chapter of our relationship. —Tired of the LDR Life

Dear Tired,

Congrats on the big move! Now that I’m more settled down, I look back on the more unsettled segments of my life fondly. But in reality, I was absolutely terrified—and very anxious—most of the time. In my experience, moving to a new city is a much more difficult endeavor than I ever gave it credit for. It takes months to years to get settled into a new living situation, job, and new friend group—so just remember to give yourself credit for what you’re undertaking and to remember that it’s good to acknowledge just how hard a move like this can be!

A similar mindset can help as you approach the newfound proximity to your boyfriend. I think a healthy approach is to consider this a new “short distance” relationship with your former long-distance boyfriend, and to follow many of the same steps you would take in a new relationship. Remember to respect each other’s space and autonomy, to take things slowly (which it seems like you’re doing by not moving in together right away), and to set realistic expectations for this new relationship. Because that’s what it is!

It’s tough to speak to his perspective on the issue without more details on what he’s like. But there is an inherent difference between the two of you in this situation in that he is established where he lives and you aren’t. I think it’s really important that you make an effort to develop friend groups and relationships outside of your relationship with him, that way you’re not totally reliant on him for the social aspect of your life. It might be easier to just slide into his networks, and I’m not saying that you should actively avoid that. I’ve made some of my best friends from Kelly’s networks! But there are a lot of benefits to joining clubs and taking part in activities that will allow you to meet your own people, too.

As your relationship grows, your boyfriend will probably take on more on more roles in your life. Kelly and I started as friends, then we started a romantic relationship, then she became my partner, then roommate, then business partner, then wife, then mother of my kids, etc.—and I think it’s important to talk about that. For example, maybe as a result of your newfound proximity, the friend portion of your relationship will overcrowd the romantic portion of your relationship. It’s easy to fall into routines when you’re not traveling long distances to see each other; when one partner books a trip to see the other, chances are you’re going to think about your time together and plan some fun stuff. Put in the effort to plan fun date nights and weekend adventures, and tell your boyfriend how important it is to you that he does the same! They won’t plan themselves. ;)

Another bit of advice—and this is more so in regard to moving to a new city—is to take up/embrace walking and any hobbies or interest you might have. If you’re not seeing your boyfriend on a particular day/night for whatever reason, what can you do solo to fill your time that’ll make you happy? Get out there! When I first moved to New York, I used to spend hours walking around. Kelly apparently did the same, camera in hand. I also loved going to the movies; weird at first when alone but then I came to really enjoy it! Taking, volunteering and visiting museums are other great options, all with the potential to meet new people, too.

I admire you for putting thought into this, as I think a lot of people would go into this thinking nothing of the issues that might arise. Considering you’ve been together for five years already, though, I’m sure that you’ve set a solid foundation and that the next chapter will be a beautiful one! Enjoy, appreciate and have fun with each other—and you’ll be great.

Dear Mitch,

My husband has some habits that really bother me, like talking with his mouth full, chewing noisily, licking his fingers—he’s just a sloppy eater in general. I have tried to gently point out these things, but he says I’m too sensitive. His lack of table manners embarrasses me and I think it sets a poor example for our kids. He doesn’t think it’s important, but I do. What can I do? —Fed Up in Wisconsin

Dear Fed Up,

As a husband with habits that bother my wife, your question made my ears perk up. All jokes aside, I’m frustrated with your husband’s ad hominem attack when you raised concern about his table manners. He should be more respectful of your sensitivity towards his eating habits and not use your sensitivity as an excuse to continue the behavior.

That said, it’s highly possible that you’re the first person in his life who has ever called him out for this. He could’ve felt insulted and ashamed, and gone into defense/shut-down mode.

As you might expect, I grew up as a total slob. I grew up in a family of all boys and I was—how shall I put this—uh, unrefined when I entered adulthood. It came as quite a shock when Kelly informed me that I had to wash my sheets or wear socks or do the dishes regularly. But after 13 years together—and I mean this sincerely, not just because this is her blog and she’s editing this post for grammar and punctuation—she taught me a lot about manners and cleanliness and just being a presentable person in general.

One way to decrease the likelihood that your husband shuts down or that the conversation turns into a fight is by following these simple steps, which we’ve used a lot for serious talks. They’re as follows:

  • Choose the right time to talk
  • Start positively
  • Stay focused
  • Be willing to listen to your partner

(Inform your husband about the steps! The hope is that he’s willing to follow them as well.)

During step #2 (“start positively”), share a habit that you yourself struggle to break. Bonus points if it’s something that you know bothers him. By sharing this, you’re making yourself vulnerable, too, and highlighting the fact that no one’s perfect. (No need to feel ashamed!) Even better, you can make a pact to work on these things together. A challenge, if you will. (Our generation LOVES challenges, too. 😜) Make it fun. Try to laugh about it. Praise each other—even with just a wink or little squeeze—when you see each other trying.

If all else fails, there are countless manly teachers out there. For example, The Distilled Man has entertaining etiquette videos and these posts from LifeHack, Art of Manliness and (the queen of manners herself) Emily Post are all great resources if you suspect he might need to hear it from a guy.

Simply put, being polite and respectful at the dinner table is manly and cool, and he should eventually be able to recognize that and be excited about making those improvements for himself!

These gents look great!

Dear Mitch,

I am getting married next year. Is it okay to essentially say the groomsmen can “wear a grey suit” and leave the rest to their choice? (There are eight groomsmen.) Should the groom wear the same thing? —50 Shades of Grey

Dear Grey with an “e” which I appreciate,

Congratulations on the wedding! Kelly and I used to be wedding photographers, which I think gives us a unique perspective on the big day. In our experience, the freewheeling and fun couples who “don’t care” tend to be the most stressed on on their big days, despite their intention to not take things too seriously. And that’s because a lot goes into weddings, no matter how large or small the event. There’s a reason event and wedding planning are careers, after all! This is all a roundabout way of saying good on you for getting started early with it, haha.

I digress.

I just asked Kelly your question, and she said that “grey suits and white shirts” would look awesome. Gone are the days of matchy-matchy, apparently. While you can totally have your groomsmen and bridesmaids in the same attire, tons of couples decide to just go with complimenting colors. (We both love the look these groomsmen in grey suits have goin’ on.)

This also alleviates the financial burden for members of the bridal party. Everyone is in a different situation, and the fact that they might not have to drop a couple hundred on a new suit may be music to some of their ears—and also very thoughtful of you and your fiancé.

If the guys don’t own a grey suit and are looking for some direction, though, check out Jos. A Banks, which is where I got my wedding suit for a bargain. I got it during a sale and it ended up costing about the same amount as a rental tux. After a quick free tailoring session, it looked incredible, too! Similarly, my brother got married last year and (most of) us wore super affordable suits from Alain Dupetit.

I think gray is a nice choice. It’s a neutral that looks great with a white dress and any color of bridesmaids dresses. Honestly, I think I’ve worn one to nearly every wedding I’ve attended in the past five years because then Kelly doesn’t have to worry about clashing with me! Happy wife, happy life, no? ;)

One last thing I’ll say is that you should make an effort to include your fiancé in this decision. (Which I’m SURE you are.) This is as much his big day as yours and while he might not be as gung-ho about the planning right now, putting him in charge of his and his groomsmen’s attire could be a great opportunity to invite him in to the planning process. The groom can get lost in all the planning and preparation, and while it might not exactly his thing, remember that he will want to appreciate the fun of the day, too.

So talk to him. And if likes the idea, go for it!

Mitch. OUT!