Dear Carolyn:

My valued friendship of almost a decade has gradually been going toxic for the last two years. If I could trace a cause, I would say it began with her unforeseen dumping by a somewhat serious boyfriend. Since then, she loudly proclaims her hatred of men to any and all who will listen, especially the hapless few who are brave enough to approach her. Her negativity has spilled over into all fronts -- disparaging acquaintances' children (to these parents' faces!), calling my long-term boyfriend a "jerk" and saying she has "no respect" for me if I don't leave him over a minor disagreement, and generally encouraging everyone to be miserable. I miss the way things were. I have tried cheering her up, listening to her, fixing her up, taking her on trips, giving her gifts, arranging activities we both enjoy, but to no avail. I know if I confronted her she would get completely critical and defensive and withdraw into her opinion that the world sucks and she is a victim of this suckage. I barely talk to her lately, citing busyness. Suggestions?

Turning Toxic

Just that you don't "know" what she'd do if you told her the truth, because it's the one thing you haven't done.

But when you tell her that truth, be careful to keep your speculation out of it. Your telling her why she is a certain way is presumptuous no matter how you phrase it. And while you can expect that she'll get defensive, you don't want to guarantee it.

So. Tell her you feel discouraged/drained/infuriated/saddened/worried/(your feelings here) by her constant negativity of late. Tell her you miss the way things were. Tell her you're there for her, but not as her personal dartboard.

She might tell you to take your truth and stick it somewhere unpleasant. But, frankly, even that sounds more appealing than what you're giving her these days: "Sorry, too busy, can't talk."

Dear Carolyn:

I have been dating a guy for four months. He's everything I thought I was looking for, but now I'm hot and cold -- often love spending time with him, often feel indifferent and like I want more time apart. If that describes even the best relationships, then I think I could adjust my expectations and be happy with him long-term. But I find myself wondering if there is more.


So many expectations, so little text.

Demanding too much of a relationship is a great way to ruin one, so, yes, you might need to adjust your expectations.

But you're doing it a little late in the process if you were "looking for" anything more specific than: "Good man, makes me happy."

A happy relationship is a feeling, a form of trust -- and you find it when you meet the right person, not the right list of traits.

So if you're wondering why this great list of traits isn't doing it for you, then shred the list and see if the person makes sense.

If he already makes sense but you're fearful of wanting alone time, then build in your (perfectly healthy) alone time and see how you feel after that.

If, either way, you give it time and the end result includes indifference? Then, yes, yes, there is more.

Write to Tell Me About It, Sunday Source, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 or and join Carolyn's live discussion at noon Fridays at