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Dear Carolyn: Two years ago, a male friend and I moved in together as roommates. Friendship turned romantic and we fell in love.

Recently, things started getting rough. His job made him miserable. That and financial stress led to arguments, which led to his going out and staying out late, which irritated me, which made him want to avoid me and stay out late . . . see the cycle?

It all culminated in a big argument in which he announced that he wanted to move out -- "stand on my own two feet," etc. BUT he still wants to be with me.

I'm so upset that I told him if he's moving out, then we need time apart to decide if we truly want to be together. I see moving out as a huge step backward and he thinks it could move us forward. Thoughts?

-- Very Blue
A: Since your chief forms of communication right now are arguing, keeping score, punishing each other and running away, I'm going to vote "step forward" on the whole moving-out thing. Staying together isn't a triumph when you've marked off your corners with tape.

Likewise, getting your own apartments doesn't mean your romance has failed. It just means that both of you need to -- yeah, you too -- cease fire, cool off, grow up. To find a way to be stressed without blaming, to handle blame without fighting, to fight without acting out, to be irritated without being irritating. To grant each other breathing room without treating it as the beginning of some horrible end. (Read that one twice for emphasis.)

Let him go. Wait out the first few days of misery until your thoughts start to run clear.

Then try to make sense of them, and express them -- without putting up your dukes.

Liking each other should be easy, but expressing difficult feelings without being completely overrun by them doesn't always work on the first try. Or second, or third. So practice, practice, practice. Open up in all your relationships, not just with him; you want to get fluent in speaking for yourself. (BEG ITAL)Then(END ITAL) weigh your future, without the burden of commingled stuff.

Overwhelmed by it all
Dear Carolyn: I'm in a fix. My best friend has decided at the last minute to get married two weeks before my wedding, and it requires travel. I am going to be asked to be a bridesmaid and I don't think I can do it, between grad school, work and my own wedding. She's going to get mad. Help!

-- Please Please Answer!
A: How? By making her a reasonable bride? By altering the physical properties of time? (The latter sounds easier.)

You're in a spot, and I sympathize. But it's not a crisis, it's a scheduling conflict.

Treat it as such, and try first to fit in everything -- best friend, you owe that. And if it's too much, then explain, "I'm sorry, it's too much." People don't skip their best friend's wedding because they want to.

Give her a chance to get that. Give her a chance to be gracious.

And if she passes on that chance, then let her get mad. You can be selfless only to the limit of your sanity; if she can't grasp this yet, I doubt this will be her last wedding. You can always catch the next one.

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