Dear Carolyn: My new boyfriend has a large group of friends who change partners within the group on a regular basis. When he showed up with outsider me three months ago, a woman promptly told him, knowing I could hear, that she had been waiting her turn and intended to have him. She did it again at the next party, and last week she called him at 1 a.m. when we were at my house drinking martinis. Took him a bit to get around to telling her he was with me, but he did. She hung up.
She has a lake house and he loves to fish. She wants him to go fishing with her, but she and I both know this has nothing to do with fish. He thinks I’m being ridiculous, says he won’t be with anyone else while he’s with me, but then let it slip he was thinking of going and not telling me.
How should I handle this? We are not children. I’ve never been the easy-breezy type, and my heart is at risk here.
— Never Been Fishing
Never Been Fishing: Too bad you don’t fish, for real, because at least then you’d have that in common.
Otherwise, to misuse a phrase, your heart isn't in the right place.
His playing footsie with someone who’s rude to you — dismissing you till he “let it slip” — is dishonest and dealbreaking.
But if not that, try this: He runs with a sexually restless crowd. This seems like an odd choice for someone worried about getting hurt.
Both of your attitudes toward dating are actually valid; they're just at odds. Even his promise that he “won't be with anyone else while he's with me” could be referring to the x weeks/months/years he is generally with someone before he makes the next switch. You fix on “monogamy” at your peril if you tune out the “serial” before it.
If you'd given any indication he was rethinking his way of life, or you were rethinking yours — each for your own reasons, not to appease the other — then this would be a very different answer.
Even if you were just willing to consider the idea that a mate-for-now boyfriend could be a liberating change from always weighing mate-for-life potential — and you clearly weren't lying to yourself — then I'd be saying amen and good luck.
But the facts as presented show a glass figurine jumping into a rock tumbler and asking how not to get shattered. The only advice for that is to get out or welcome the crush.
Dear Carolyn: My partner of several years and I just split up, which is as hard as breakups always are. In addition to the immediate pain, though, there’s this feeling this was my one chance. I’d been alone for decades before meeting this guy, and had honestly believed there would never be another relationship in my life. Then suddenly I was with someone, and it felt like a door opened and sunlight was filling my life, partly because of him, but partly because I simply wasn’t alone anymore.
Now it feels like that door has shut again, and although I'll be fine on my own because I always have been, I'll never again feel that exquisite comfort of being part of something more.
How do I move on from this dark place where I’m mourning not just this person, but also feeling desperately, hopelessly, permanently alone?
— Feeling Alone
Feeling Alone: I’m sorry. Breakups are awful, yes, for breaker and break-ee.
I don't suggest trying to reason away the feelings you have right now, though. You're blue and scared and if you throw arguments at your blues that aren't persuasive, then you'll only be bluer and more scared.
But the pause is only temporary, just to let the biggest of the feelings recede — because you do have a really good argument against your fear and sadness that I hope you'll use when you're ready:
The years you were single promise that a relationship is possible even after decades without one. So there's nothing to say it won't happen again.
There’s nothing to say it will happen, either, obviously — but “Let’s see what life has in store” is a lot more fun than “That’s it, I’m doomed,” even though they both share the same factual roots.
You can upgrade your reframing, too (museum-quality mat?), and embrace that a relationship will happen when it happens, without regard for what came before.
Your attitude toward being single is apt — that you did this once, so you can do it again — but it also applies to being paired. Your call.
You can even go one further, and just do away with the either-or, “winner”-take-all worldview of living with a romantic partner or with no one. There are more communal ways to live, available through work, specialized housing, arrangements among friends, or just careful neighborhood shopping. Finding one that suits you could allow you to remain open to whatever comes, but lower all the emotional stakes.
More from Carolyn Hax
From the archive:
Delete a friend’s confession about having an affair
A husband’s put off by his wife’s procrastination
A widower’s request to his child is a lot to unpack
Saying ‘I do’ for all the wrong reasons
Mother-in-law wants you to apologize for something your husband did. Heck no!
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