Dear Carolyn:

Recently I asked my boyfriend to give up an important trip with his friends and family. He agreed with reluctance because he knew it meant a lot to me. But the day of the trip he called and said he had changed his mind and was going anyway. I got angry and posed an ultimatum that if he went, we were over. He got very emotional, apologized and said if that is what it came down to, then he was still going.

I realize now it was unfair of me to ask him to give up this trip, but I can't get it out of my mind that he broke his promise to me. I'm uneasy with the fact that he didn't try to talk to me about it instead of telling me, at the last minute, that he was going even if it hurt our relationship. I'm feeling guilty for being so demanding, but I don't want to ignore this if it is a signal that he doesn't care about my feelings.

T.

Me-me-me-oh my. After I read what you did, I didn't care about your feelings. I'm pretty sure he does, though, and that's why he made a promise he never should have made and then agonized till the last minute before breaking it. Clearly he wanted to please you -- but, just as clearly, every cell in him rebelled.

Bravo. You should be throwing a little internal party to honor his backbone. I agree a broken promise can be hard to swallow, so let's call it a test instead. He didn't ace it -- he should have stood up to you immediately -- but hey, at least he passed. He knows where you leave off and where he begins, and when to enforce that line. You want that kind of independence, because it means everything he does for you is his choice -- not a reluctant (and highly unromantic) gun-to-his-head concession.

You say you feel guilty about being so demanding. Bravo again -- it means you've grasped some of this yourself. Now finish the process, and accept that boyfriends have feelings, too.

Hi Carolyn:

I'm 22 and I've been seriously dating a girl for about 2 1/2 years now. Lately we've had more arguments than normal. She admitted after our last fight that she is "confused" about (read: interested in) a guy at her office. I know she wants me to fight for her and win back her affection, but when I think about the way she must think about this man, it rips me apart. Is it unfair of her to put me in this position?

D.

"Unfair" is stealing your parking space. Meeting as teenagers, sharing some time and then itching for something new is called "normal." And painful, sure, but also healthy, and really really common.

You say she wants you to fight, but be honest. Isn't that your inner Sir Lancelot talking? Besides, there's nothing to "win" here. If you have to beg her to stay, it's already over. Just get on your horse and ride away.

Hello, Carolyn!

I'm getting married soon, and my fiance and I are inviting all of our friends, even former significant others. One of his exes and I do not get along, but I'd rather she be invited, because it will make my fiance happy and hey, how much time will I have to spend in deep conversation with her at my wedding?

So, how do I let MY friends and family know I really am okay with his friend coming to the wedding? Some are all in a lather. I figure it's none of their business, but "It's none of your business" is a notoriously bad thing to say to loved ones. Help?

D.C.

Try, "It doesn't bother me, so there's no reason it should bother you." An excellent weapon, the truth. Here's another one: "Am I the only adult in this room?"

Or does that fall under "notoriously bad things to say to loved ones"?

Dear Carolyn:

Okay, what do you make of this?

You meet someone. There are sparks. You make a date. You get an e-mail saying, "I'm really looking forward to this, I hope you are too." Then you notice it also says, "If you don't want to go out that's okay."

So you go out and the date is fine but a little awkward and at the end, he asks, "Are you attracted to me? Tell me the truth!" The next morning you have another e-mail saying, "Sorry for being weird, but are you attracted to me? I wasn't sure! Are you?"

My impulse is to run screaming in the opposite direction. A friend says I should give it one more chance. What do you think?

Virginia

Redrum! Redrum! Sprint in the opposite direction, screaming optional.

Friendly reminder: People like this are the reason our instincts come factory-installed. Stop working so hard to override them.

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