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SOMETIMES, BREAKING UP ISN'T HARD TO DO

Dear Carolyn: My boyfriend and I have been together for nine months now, and love each other very much. A few weeks ago, though, a good friend of his claimed to have seen me fooling around with another guy. While this friend has seen me only in photos, they were "pretty sure" it was me. While I told my BF that I'm not cheating on him (which I'm not) and that I would never cheat, the thought is always at the back of his mind. Actually he thinks about it a lot, even brings it up lots.

I really don't know what to do, Carolyn. It tears me apart every time he questions me, and I can only say, "I'm not cheating on you." He always comes back with, "How do I know you're not lying to me?" This was never an issue before, but I'm scared it will eventually break us up.

-- Faithful in Canada
A. Faithful, meet Eventually.

You break up. Now. Use your own words, of course, but all of the following should appear somewhere in the explanation you give for ditching him: "You," "can't," "trust," "me," "so," "you," "don't," "deserve" and "me."

Look at the whole sorry episode this way: He did you SUCH a favor by reacting this way to the friend's accusation. You were given proof at the nine-month mark -- meaning, quite early -- that your boyfriend is way too immature to handle the leap of faith that is trust. He doesn't know you're not lying to him, because no one ever "knows" that about anybody. This is a guy who needs to grow up, a lot. What he doesn't need to do is grow up on your time, at your expense. You don't need it, either. I don't care how "scared" you are. Have a little more faith in yourself.

Breaking up, redux

Carolyn: My on-again, off-again boyfriend of six months just broke up with me. Truth be told, we were always better as friends than we were romantically. Yet he says we can't be friends -- despite the fact that he still sees other exes. His "logic"? They see each other every few months and quickly run out of conversation. We, on the other hand, actually relate to each other, therefore we can't be friends. (Call me crazy, but I prefer the friends I can hold a conversation with for more than a few hours per year.) Is this some other version of "it's not you, it's me"?

-- No Witty Moniker
A. Or another version of "you dodged a bullet." When a guy says you can't be his friend because he likes you, you assume the presence of issues. Big issues. Issues you don't need.

So. Did that help? It seemed like what you wanted to hear, a pro-you post-breakup analysis, a reassuring rationale to cushion the impact a bit. It's the stuff you look for from she-friends: It wasn't meant to be! You were too good for him!! He wore tasseled shoes!!! The staler the better, sometimes, like roses on Valentine's Day. The universal language for people showing they care.

Never does help, of course, especially when your ailment isn't so much wah-I-feel-ugly heartbreak as it is what-the-hell-was-that confusion. He disappeared without giving you any say -- can't go out with him, can't be friends with him, can't even talk on the phone. It's kind of like having Mommy enforce your bedtime ... and you're 25 years old. Hello, I thought this was my life, who just rewrote all the rules?

So getting control back really would help -- but since you can't change the outcome, your only recourse is to understand it. How's this: He knows you aren't right for each other, but he can't quite resist you, either. Then not being friends would make sense. Yes?

Longing for her

Dear Carolyn:

Do you believe in long-distance relationships? I really love my girlfriend and she really loves me, but I'm afraid I'm going to lose her. What advice or tips can you give us in order for a relationship to last?

-- S.P.
A. Expend as little psychic energy as possible on the question of keeping her or losing her, and as much as possible on enjoying her on whatever terms you've been dealt. Long-distance relationships (and short- and mid- and no-distance) hate it when you hover over their shoulders, distracting them from their work. You'll know you've reached the hovering point when all the two of you ever talk about any more is the two of you.

Chill out!

Carolyn: After some flirting (um, I think), I suggested dinner with a friend and she was enthusiastic, though we haven't set a date. And I'm trying to play it cool, but it makes me all nervous, like, when I see her, which isn't good! Any wise words to help me chill out?

-- Downtown
A. Yeah: Chill out. If she likes you, your nerves will be the disarming kind of charming that you couldn't pull off if you tried. If she doesn't, they'll be irrelevant. Now set the date.

What about me?

Dear Carolyn: OK, so there is this guy, we get along fantastically when we see each other, there is obvious sexual chemistry between the two of us (just trust me on that one) but he dates everyone else but me. Just last night I went over to his place and we had the most amazing time, but still -- he won't date me. What gives?

-- Anywhere, USA
A. I have no idea. Have you asked him?

Write to "Tell Me About It," c/o Washington Post, Style Plus, 1150 15th St., NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 or e-mail: tellme@washpost.com.

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