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Carolyn Hax: He's not that into her; how clear should he make that?

By Carolyn Hax
Saturday, July 24, 2010; C02

Adapted from a recent online discussion:

Dear Carolyn:

I am having fun with my girlfriend but am well aware she's not marriage material for me. She says she is fine with dating casually for now. I know girls sometimes say this and don't mean it, so what's my responsibility here? To keep reminding her that it's not headed anywhere? That seems like such a buzzkill.

Anonymous

Why is she good enough to date but not good enough to marry?

Carolyn:

She's just . . . fine. I like seeing her about twice a week, but have no desire to spend more time around her than I do already. The only real thing we have in common is that we live in the same city and like the same places. I have fun with her when we get together. I don't really think about her when she's not around, and, if I had to choose between her and the freedom to date whoever I want, I'd choose freedom.

Anonymous again

Thanks, that makes sense.

It's easy to argue that as long as you were upfront with her about your intentions, it's okay to leave it at that, and let a grown woman make her own choices.

Unfortunately, that argument is based on the premise that we are in control of our feelings and always able to act in our own best interests.

What often happens is that one half of the noncommitted couple starts to fall, noticeably and hard, for the other half, who remains coolly detached. You don't say anything about it either way -- so if she isn't acting twitterpated, then you're worried prematurely.

But if she is visibly falling for you, and she either has tried to pull away but can't -- or, worse, if she's saying all the right noncommittal things but is clearly pining -- then it's cruel to keep taking actions that lead her on.

There does seem to be one more possibility -- that you're uneasy solely because "girls" sometimes say they're fine with dating casually when they "don't mean it." If that's what this is about, then please don't assume things about her based solely on her sex. Talk about a buzzkill.

Dear Carolyn:

I'm a college junior. My mom calls me several times a day. I would feel guilty not picking up because she's a wonderful person, she raised me, and is helping me pay for college. She says talking to me several times a day is one of her greatest pleasures. Who am I to deny that? I don't have that desire.

Still, I think this is probably abnormal . . . most people go at least a week without talking to their parents. I'm not sure how to become more independent. Any suggestions?

College

How often would you like to talk to your mom? Forget "normal" -- go with what gives you pleasure, be it the pleasure of talking to your mom, or the pleasure of making her happy. Take that number of calls, let voice mail get the rest, and, if needed, assure Mom (without caving) that you're happy to talk but it's not always the right time. Independence and generosity do mix.

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