NOTE: This archive only contains Carolyn Hax columns through March 2011. Her more recent columns are located here.

CAROLYN HAX

Tell Me About It
(Nick Galifianakis for The Washington Post)

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By Carolyn Hax
Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Dear Carolyn:

My parents hate my boyfriend because they think I am pushing everything or everyone else away so I can be with him. They also think he is the No. 1 thing in my life and that my life revolves around him. I love him so much, I just don't know how to tell my parents, whom I care about so much, that it is not what they figure -- that they just shield me too much, and never like what I do for myself.

K.S.

So -- you're saying yes, your life is revolving around your boyfriend, and yes, you are pushing your parents away? But, no, you're not doing it to be with him so much as to get away from them?

And you want them not to worry.

Here's the path to the problem. It's normal and can be healthy, albeit painful, to push your parents away in an effort to distinguish yourself from them. (Though if they've been good to you, please don't forget to embrace them again when you've finished resetting the terms.) It's normal, if not entirely healthy, to immerse yourself in a romance when you're pretty young and it's all pretty new. You just have to keep "natural" from falling off the cliff into "feral" and not neglect every reliable source of long-term satisfaction, like family, education, friends, talents and hobbies -- the components of selfhood, really -- just to play Cathy and Heathcliff.

And now, finally, the problem: combining the two. Using guy-immersion to push away parents means you're essentially swapping one role for another. Keep that up with a succession of boyfriends, and you can get deep into your life without any idea who the real person is who's playing these various roles.

I hope I'm wrong. I hope you're not moving in this direction. But please at least humor me and ask yourself what, exactly, "I do for myself." List the top five. Go crazy, write down all the ones you've incorporated into your life in the past two weeks. Now read it with this in mind: People will come and go from that list, but there will always be you.

Carolyn:

I am head over heels for this guy I work with. Lately we've been spending time outside the office as friends (going Dutch to movies, drinks, dinner) and I love it. I am new to the city and don't know many people. But I want it to go further. How should I let him know my intentions? Or should I just hold back and hope he takes the initiative?

M.

If this is multiple choice, I'm taking C: Hold back and hope you still like him after you've gotten to know him better.

You're new to the city, so you're new to your job, so you're new to him. That means you can't yet rule out the possibility that you'll find him loathsome the moment the initial attraction burns off.

Which means you can't rule out that he'll become the mistake you made while you were the lonely new kid in town -- the mistake you have to revisit every single day for the rest of your days in this job. Taking things slowly is reversible, but taking them public is not.

Write to Tell Me About It, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, ortellme@washpost.com.


© 2007 The Washington Post Company

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