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Tell Me About It ® By Carolyn Hax

By Carolyn Hax
Sunday, June 5, 2005

Dear Carolyn:

I was dating the most amazing girl in the world, cheated on her in the beginning. I was sorry, she took me back. Then, I started spending time with a girl who had feelings for me, for the mere reason that it boosted my ego. Nothing happened but it wasn't the most appropriate relationship. Finally, I was caught in very inappropriate online conversations. This amazing girl kept forgiving me, till the last time. Is it true, once a cheater, always a cheater? I don't want to lose this girl and I also want to be a better person. How do I change to be good, for good?

Colorado

You're always a cheater if you always cheat. You do have some input, you know.

That said, resisting and resisting and resisting your urges might work, but it's hardly a solution. I hope it wouldn't be your girlfriend's first choice, either; having a partner who forsakes other women only because he padlocks his pants isn't the stuff of girls' dreams.

Assuming monogamy is what you actually want -- life choices aren't one-size-fits-all -- true fidelity has two sources. The second is your love for her. If that's shaky, you'll always wonder what else you can get.

The first is love for yourself. If that's shaky, you'll never get enough. Enough attention, enough flattery, enough sex, enough people's opinions of you, enough attempts to make everything better in one stroke.

Being good, for good, isn't really about changing. In fact, trying to change and failing can actually add to the bad.

Instead, take a hard look at yourself, and accept what's there, good and bad. Then, figure out some way to do what you're good at naturally, but that doesn't force you into constant battle with your weaknesses.

I'm not (just) talking about relationships; choosing the best-fitting hobbies, courses, career paths, churches, charities, hometowns, exercise routines, even clothing, can all help you build reserves of self-confidence, which will then help you seek out people for the right reasons (companionship) as opposed to the wrong ones (crutches, ego-feeding).

Combined, those right things and right people may not render you the Gene Kelly of the Starbucks age, but they can make you happy enough to reduce your vulnerability to flirting, flattery and online chattery -- at least to a level that's not so grueling to resist.

It's a process that could take years. Until then, stop promising commitments that you're not strong enough to deliver. Better to lose her to the truth than abuse her by cheating again.

Dear Carolyn:

What are the general rules for dealing with friends who constantly show up late to planned meetings? How long should someone wait before giving up?

I recently was left waiting for a friend, and after 30 minutes, I went for dinner by myself because I needed to eat before a certain time. When she showed up an hour later she didn't seem to understand why I was giving her the cold shoulder, and she went home, without apologizing for being late.

J.C.

I thought cell phones took care of all this.

A half-hour seems fair, and getting on with dinner made sense.

But a cold shoulder? Why escalate the hard feelings? Next time: "Being late once is fine, but this has become disrespectful.''

Write to Tell Me About It, Sunday Source, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 or tellme@washpost.com and join Carolyn's live discussion at noon Fridays athttp://www.washingtonpost.com/liveonline.

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