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His passage to India includes some baggage

By Carolyn Hax
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 11, 2011;

Hi, Carolyn:

I'm taking a six-month trip to India to study and to work. Yes, this is completely my choice and I will miss my life here in the States. However, I believe e-mail and Skype will make it easy for me to stay in touch.

My girlfriend says I am choosing my own freedom over our relationship and that it is unreasonable to expect our relationship to stay the same way while I'm gone.

She doesn't seem unhappy about it, but she did say that if I leave, we will have to break up because she doesn't want to be in a relationship with her inbox. I think that is drastic and closed-minded. What do you think?

D.C.

I think you made your choice and she made hers, and it doesn't appear as if either of you worked terribly hard to integrate the other's feelings into the process.

If she developed her case-closed response simply as a reaction to yours, then it may be that she feels more strongly for you than she's letting on. But, then, it also means she isn't mature enough to admit her feelings or act on them, which doesn't bode well for your Skype-will-keep-us-together plan.

While her accusation that you're choosing "freedom" sounds knee-jerk, she has a point about expecting things to stay the same. If that's what you hope, then why bother with the trip? Isn't broadening your knowledge, experience and outlook the whole point? And won't that transfer to all your relationships?

I hope both of you see you're both closing your minds to possibilities, good and bad. And I hope you tell each other how you really feel, what you really think is reasonable to hope/expect, and why you do or don't want to break up before you go. You might not agree - it just takes one to break up - but, if you're brave and honest, you give each other a chance to understand.

Dear Carolyn:

I have a very good friend who is in a serious relationship, with talk of marriage when he can afford the right ring. I should be happy for him.

Unfortunately, I have all but lost this friendship due to my inability to be friends with the girlfriend. I have tried and tried, but honestly? I just don't like her or how she treats my friend. I know she dislikes me since she told me directly.

I hate to lose this friendship. I am always respectful of her, and keep my mouth shut when she is rude. At this point, my ability and desire to play nice is wearing thin, especially with someone who is not willing to be civil. Is there any way I can fix this?

Washington

You can tell your friend what you told us here - taking great care to assure him that you're not trying to break them up. You're just making a pragmatic appeal for two reasons: The girlfriend is on the record with her dislike, and you have no ulterior motives (right?).

Saving the friendship is a long shot. But the thing that makes friends like you - tight with one half of a couple but not another - so problematic is stealth: suppression of feelings, furtiveness of contact, concealment of motives. For that reason, openness is your best chance.

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

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