Dear Carolyn:

I broke up with my boyfriend last summer. We had lots of problems, many of which stemmed from his bad habits and choices (smoking, drinking, being lazy). I had my own problems, too. Anyway, I was miserable, we broke up, then finally started becoming friends again. He and a friend of mine really hit it off, and I encouraged it -- until they became a couple. Now I'm jealous because he finally got rid of all his bad habits and started letting all the qualities I fell in love with shine through . . . for her. And they've only been dating a few weeks. He was apparently in love with me (bought a ring right before we broke up) but couldn't try to work on things for me. I never stopped loving him, and those things are what kept me from trying again with him. Any ideas on how to rid myself of this petty jealousy?

Acting Like a 2-Year-Old and Knows It

Excellent self-flagellation. Couldn't have flogged you better myself.

Especially since I wouldn't have flogged you at all.

You haven't done anything wrong. You broke up with a self-destructive guy, and that was a good thing -- for both of you, apparently, and that's where it gets unfortunate. You see his cleanup as a love offering that he was willing to make for the new girlfriend, but not you. And that's possible.

Also possible: He's merely performing for a new girlfriend.

Or, he did love you, and it took losing you to make him realize, d'oh, that drinking, smoking and inching around like a slug might not be in his best interests. And your friend was just there to reap the rewards.

Either way, you, rightly, feel cheated. The way to get past that is to treat it as a legitimate, hard-earned set of hurt feelings, and give it time to pass. I lean toward my interpretations out of respect for the fact that people rarely change, and when they do, tend to do it for themselves. Unromantic, yes -- and cheerfully so. The notion that lovers can change each other, or for each other, or even should, best dwells under six feet of dirt.

Dear Carolyn:

How to tell a bride she needs to pay for getting my hair done for the wedding (otherwise I can't really afford to spend the $50)? I'm a penniless college student, and the bride is my ex-roommate and sorta close friend (though arguably not that close -- she tends to have a temper, not just with regard to planning her wedding). I've already spent hundreds on her, trying to fulfill her every wish, and this is the last straw. How do I approach this tactfully without making her think I'm a crappy friend for not obeying her every command?

Broke Maid of Honor

"I'm sorry, I can't afford to get my hair done." Let her think you're a crappy friend.

The alternative is letting her think it's acceptable to drain other people's last few pennies for her own nuptial piffle.

Worse, by indulging her up to this point, you've tacitly assured her that if she wants to make unreasonable demands, the threat of temper fits is the best way to see they get met. Send her a new message, please.

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