Dear Carolyn:

Here's the deal: Was with a great guy for a year. Relationship had its bumps, nothing major. That is, until I created something major. Amid browsing for engagement rings (!), trips together and being schmoopy in love, I let some personal issues slide. When I finally decided to confront him head-on in a "We've never talked about this, but . . . " conversation to get it all out, he dumped me. No discussion, just, "I can't do this." Afterward, he told friends he loves me and even told me the same. So five months later, we're "friends." I'm still hopelessly in love and find it increasingly hard to be his friend without screaming I LOVE YOU. How can I broach the subject? I know, I know: Just do it. But I'm scared. Is there an easy way to do this without making an idiot of myself?

Stumped

No, but that's okay, since making an idiot of yourself is the least of your worries. (And it's actually quite liberating; you should try it.) The real risk here is not failure, but that you might succeed. Success means you'd have a boyfriend you're afraid to talk to. Which is exactly what you had before, which is why you "let some personal issues slide," which is why he dumped you when you did speak up, which is why you're afraid to say anything now, which is why you're pining for him and writing to me instead of just talking to him. See a pattern here? Please see a pattern here.

Then fix the mistake -- don't make it all over again. Ask why you're so afraid to show your true self to this guy. Ask why, the one time you really were honest, he dumped you. Ask why he refused to discuss it. Ask why you find all this what-should-I-say-and-when stress so appealing.

If all the asking takes too much time, here's a shortcut: Start saying what you feel when you feel the urge to say it. This will attract people who genuinely like you and repel those who don't. Painless? Hardly. But me, I'd take one stiff rejection over death by a thousand we-need-to-talks.

Dear Carolyn:

My new husband and I threw a surprise wedding, for just our immediate families. A few days before, a friend asked me indirectly if I was getting married. I told her no, because my fiance and I had agreed to tell no one until we told my parents. Now, after the wedding, my friend ended our almost 20-year friendship, accusing me of lying. I explained that I had to "throw her off" to keep my promise to my fiance. I obviously have no need for this. We are 32, not 14. But I'm wondering if I was out of line.

J.

Since double-secret surprises are more 14 than 32, lying to protect them is a bit out of line, yes. A bit. It was a sweet secret, not a sinister one, so lying about it was a goof, not a 20-year-friendship-busting betrayal. To overreact as she did, I suspect she was also reacting to some larger, thornier, as-yet-unnamed offense. Suggest that, before you give up.

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