She wants to settle down, I want to saddle up. What now?

by DGO Web Administrator

I’ve been dating my girlfriend for about a year, and she’s everything I could have ever asked for – brilliant, kind, sexy, fun, my best friend, and just an incredible human being.What’s the problem? I still want to get to flirt and date and have sex with a bunch of people.I’ve been really attracted to other women lately, probably in part because I know my girlfriend is ready to move toward marriage and I’m realizing I may never get to have sex with anyone else again.I don’t want to hurt her, and I do like the idea of being married to her someday. How do I decide whether to break up with her over this? We’re both late 20s; she’s pretty straitlaced and doesn’t know how much I struggle with this.Settling Down

No, the problem is that you aren’t ready for an exclusive relationship with anyone and you’re lying by omission to your girlfriend.

And that your truth-telling won’t be what hurts her, because you’re hurting her already, now, by harboring doubts she knows nothing about.

Tell her exactly “how much I struggle with this.” Now, like, today. You don’t get to hold her under false pretenses of monogamous intent just because you think you’re going to want her later when you feel good and darn ready.

The only act of love here is honesty. Anything short of it is just a way for you to achieve your selfish, have-and-eat-cakish ends.

I’ve had a very good friend for several years who recently got a well-paying job. He describes himself as having more money than he knows what to do with, and he loves to travel.In the past year, said friend and I have traveled cross-continent and have an overseas trip coming up, all on his dime. He says he’s just happy to have a travel companion, and we have a lot of fun on our trips, since we have very compatible travel styles. I’m obviously very grateful and do what I can to “repay” his kindness with thoughtful gifts and by using my organizational skills to make our trips as stress-free as possible. However, some people really don’t get this arrangement. My family keeps encouraging me to marry him, and other people have made comments questioning whether I’m “sure” he doesn’t expect anything romantic or sexual in exchange.How do I respond to raised eyebrows, comments, questions or statements that imply or outright state that I owe my friend sex or a relationship in exchange for his generosity? Just Friends

The only people who need to “get” this arrangement are you and your friend.

So, answer nosy people’s questions accordingly: “Thanks for your concern.” Even from your family. The effect of repeating this, verbatim, can be powerful.

If you’d prefer to mix it up: “I’ve got this”; “Interesting, thanks”; “I’ll keep that in mind”; “You do realize, I hope, that my standing here and nodding means only that I’m humoring you.”

Bon voyage.

My boyfriend and I have been dating for over a year. We dated senior year at different high schools, and now we go to colleges an hour and a half apart. We never really had problems in our relationship, but I have trust issues from past relationships.I just found out he has been going to the bars now and then and hanging out with a high school friend I absolutely hate. His high school friends were always players and cheated on their girlfriends. He was with these friends at the bars.I trusted him before but because of these lies I don’t. He’s tried so hard to fix things but I can’t get over any of this and feel like our relationship will never be the same. Should I break up with him? Trust IssuesYes, but not because baby did a bad, bad thing.

Break up because you’re not ready for this. You’re not strong enough – yet – to pull off the high-wire trust act of accepting a lover’s autonomy without internalizing every possible negative outcome as your emotional undoing.

Does it hurt to be cheated on? Lied to, even by omission? Yes, it’s devastating.

But it doesn’t ruin people, it ruins relationships. (And not always that, but that’s for another time.) If your boyfriend’s occasional carousing is indeed the beginning of some nefarious end, and if the high school friend is indeed his catalyst, then he’s merely on an uglier-than-necessary path to the outcome you’ve already openly weighed: a breakup.

After which you will be sad and angry – but only for a while, as long as you let yourself recover and love and trust again, perhaps someone with more integrity.

This last sentence should get an asterisk, yes; you carried trust issues from past relationships into this one. But that simply means you have another good reason to release your boyfriend to his youth while you do some emotional maintenance work.

Seriously. If a ban on certain bars and buddies is the only chance your love has, then your love doesn’t have a chance. To commit is to choose each other over an unremitting supply of tempting alternatives.

Accordingly, it’s best saved for when people are both emotionally ready to accept the risk – of loss, of error, of disappointment, of humiliation, of betrayal – and fortunate enough to meet someone compatible who makes that risk worth taking. Commitments last when a couple’s respect and affection for each other negate most of those temptations, and when their maturity and impulse control are sufficient to withstand the rest.

It’s OK that you’re not there yet, especially so young. Trusting others takes an abundance of trust in your own resilience. But you need to direct your energy toward admitting that to yourself – not on shortening your boyfriend’s leash or badmouthing his friends.

We all have “stuff” in the form of painful memories or experiences that we carry with us. But you admit here that you can’t see past your old stuff well enough to manage the new – so it’s time to declutter.

Suggested framework: You can’t control what other people do, say, lie about, drink, or with whom. You just can’t. So, what change will it take – IN YOU – to be mindful of, yet not owned by, such risk?

Carolyn Hax is a syndicated advice columnist for The Washington Post. She started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. Email her at [email protected].


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