Carolyn Hax is away. The following first appeared Feb. 4, 2009.
I am concerned that she will never leave this other man because she has told me she does not want to hurt him. She has told him about us, but he doesn’t want to give up on them. She is having a hard time breaking his heart. Do I stay around and wait for her or tell her she needs to make a decision?
S.: It’s all so exciting when you’re professing new love, stealing moments to talk, trying on various futures in the agreeable confines of your mind.
But a lifetime with someone as gutless as the girl you describe? Hell.
She does get bonus points for telling her fiance about you. That couldn’t have been easy.
However, it’s conceivable she told because he busted her, or you cornered her, or she hoped he’d dump her for it, thereby making the tough choice for her. Any of those would negate her bonus.
Regardless, the net result is her creating round-the-clock drama where there’s a simple and viable alternative: Take the heat. Withdraw from both men so she can think straight. Risk losing both men just because the right thing beats the safe one.
Instead, she’s making “I’m-too-nice-to-hurt-anyone!!!” excuses while she — conveniently and not coincidentally — keeps all her options open. Her top priority is to protect her own interests.
Why are you abetting this, settling for this, waiting in line for more? Unless you want to live a life built around her weakness, tell her to call you when she grows up.
Dear Carolyn: My dad just died. I’m devastated. I have a boyfriend whom I love a lot, but he says I seem a little distant. I’m doing my best and have told him so. He’s been really great through everything; however, I am afraid my best won’t be enough.
Grieving: Your father just died; there is no “best.”
Instead, please reorient your thinking. This isn’t about whether your best is enough; it’s about whether your worst is too much.
If your boyfriend’s heart isn’t with you all the way to your lowest points and back, then he isn’t someone you can count on. And there’s nothing like grief to remind you how much we invest in the people we love, and therefore how important it is that we don’t invest in the ones we can’t count on.
Consider, too, that you’ve made too much of his remark. Could he have been merely stating the obvious? Of course you’re a little distant. The world outside your loss is a blur.
The alternative is that he was really expecting you to pay the same amount of attention to him as always, now of all times.
And both, for different reasons, suggest it’s okay to stop fretting about him, and instead to turn your attention inward for a while, where it belongs. It’s okay to fall short of your best. A keeper will stay.
More from Carolyn Hax
Answer this week’s reader question:
How do we connect with Mom’s husband after her death?
From the archive:
The affair is over, but he won’t let go, and maybe she doesn’t want him to
How much do you tell the kids about their narcissistic grandpa?
Boyfriend is ashamed of girlfriend’s weight. Is it time to breakup?
Stays at her daughter’s cluttered home crowd her comfort level
Atheist daughter-in-law seeks a blessing to request ‘No prayers’
Sign up for Carolyn’s email newsletter to get her column delivered to your inbox each morning.
Carolyn has a Q&A with readers on Fridays. Read the most recent live chat here. The next chat is June 16 at 12 p.m.
Resources for getting help. Frequently asked questions about the column. Chat glossary