Dear Carolyn:

I love my girlfriend (although she says I never say it enough). I have always been faithful, but every once in a while I will get a call from exes with whom I have remained friends. Most of the time, I don't even pick up the phone. Afterward, my girlfriend lets me have it for allowing them to call. She says they are not respecting her by calling. I have introduced her to a few of these girls. We argue for hours on this.

She has even made comments about my parents calling and bothering us (they would call once a week, but now don't because they know she doesn't like it). She doesn't like my friends to send e-mails, either. I have told her these people mean nothing to me but friendships and she is who I want to be with.

Really Isolated in Arkansas

So which is it -- the bottomless arguing, the jealousy, the lambasting for innocent behavior, or the alienation of everyone else you care about that makes her the girl of your dreams?

You aren't a doting boyfriend, you're an abuse victim. You can both dress it up as love, devotion, respect or some other romantic gesture so that you'll feel obliged to comply, but what she's demanding of you is servitude to her emotional problems.

Your *parents* can't call.

I don't doubt she can justify each stand she has taken. Maybe your parents aren't nice to her. Maybe an ex or two flirts. Maybe you spend less time with her than on e-mail. In any of these cases, a plea for respect would make sense.

But when everyone who touches your life offends your girlfriend, and when every offense brings a demand that you sever an emotional tie, and when so many ties have been severed that the only one you have left is with her, it's no longer a bunch of trees -- it's a forest. Walk away. Call 800-799-SAFE if you have trouble making it out.

Dear Carolyn:

I am not interested in casual dating and would like to find one great man to date. But I keep meeting people who are interested only in dating multiple people. Is there any way to tell if a man wants a committed relationship without outright asking, which seems desperate? I would just rather not waste my time dating someone who isn't open to the idea of committing.

Washington

I was going to say the best way to tell was to casually date multiple people, but now it'll just sound facetious. And I wouldn't want that.

Fortunately, there's no limit to the ways this same point can be made (as I seem to be bent on proving).

The way to find "one great man to date" is to get to know a bunch of men well enough to see who among them is great. That requires getting to know a bunch of men. Since there's no one right approach, pick your venue: work, church, bar, volunteer gig, friends' parties, alumni association, team, commitmentphobe-phobia support group, multiple casual dates.

And if you regard each person you meet, male or female, as one stage in a long education, I think you'll stop using terms like "desperate" and "waste of time."

Write to Tell Me About It, Sunday Source, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 or tellme@washpost.com and join Carolyn's live discussion at noon Fridays at www.washingtonpost.com/liveonline.