Dear Carolyn:

Three years ago, I broke up with my then-fiance. We had dated long-distance the entirety of my college career. He's six years older, and his life had not changed a bit (same dead-end job, same crappy apartment, same pot-smoking) while I was in college. When I moved back home after graduation to be with him, I realized that I had changed and he hadn't, and that this wasn't the life I wanted or the man I wanted to marry. I gave back the ring, broke his heart, and understandably he felt betrayed. I moved away and have not spoken to him or seen him since.

Fast forward to today: I'm newly married to a wonderful man, I have a successful career, life is good. I've heard that my ex is working the same job and hasn't had a long-term relationship since our breakup. I'm also fairly certain he has heard that I'm married. I know one day my husband and I will run into my ex, since we return to my hometown at least once a year. How do I handle the situation gracefully? I don't wish my ex ill, but also have no interest in feigning friendliness that I do not feel.

Impending Awkwardness

"Hi. This is [husband]. I hope life has been treating you well." It's something you can say sincerely, I hope, even if you don't feel friendly.

Something else you can do: Level your head, so you can look him in the eye without looking down your nose. You may have outgrown him and chosen connubial bliss over his cannabial rut, and therefore earned your pride and relief. But don't vilify a guy you once found attractive, just to ease the burden of breaking his heart.

There's also no guarantee either of you is long for either station in life. He could very well clean up and soar as your marriage and hot career tank -- and it's always better to find humility before it goes out looking for you.

Dear Carolyn:

I'm a few months into a great relationship and we're both still working out the kinks. We have a ton in common personality-wise, but differ widely on issues of lifestyle preference: She hates anything mildly offensive, I just went to see "The Aristocrats" and loved it. She is pretty religious and quietly demands that I rise to her level. I work in entertainment and she refuses to have a TV or stereo. The list can go on. I say all this to ask, at what point do smaller clashes of lifestyle add up to a bigger problem of compatibility?

Capitol Hill

Opposites do just fine -- theoretically and anecdotally -- when the love and respect are for any differences, not in spite of them, and when you're both confident in your own lifestyle choices.

The problems start when one of you wishes the other were different; wishes you yourself could be different; believes the relationship will get better if you work at it; even considers that it's your place to change, upgrade, educate, enlighten, break in, quietly demand things of, loudly demand things of, or disapprove of, the other person; thinks there's something wrong or lonely about doing cultural things separately; or feels a rush of relief upon meeting someone who watches TV.

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