Carolyn:

I've been dating someone awhile and things are going well except for one thing: I'm Jewish, and she isn't. Although my parents like her, the religion question has reared its ugly head a few times.

Though I've tried to engage her in conversation about it, she really doesn't want to talk about it, won't consider converting and has said we could raise the children in both religions.

I disagree and told her so, but, because she refuses to talk about it, we're not really going anywhere on the issue. Any suggestions?

--D.C.

Religious conflict may have an ugly head, but if you want to see hideous, check out the melons on "not talking" and "not budging." Wow.

Tell her your future with her is contingent on your ability to discuss the Big Issues. Religion is just one of several beasts that will eventually knock at your door, and you have to greet them together--otherwise, the beasts break in and trash the house and issue a media release proclaiming a "holy war."

Assuming she agrees to talk, you'll both have to work on listening--and accepting that with religion, there are just so many possible configurations. You either keep your separate faiths, or someone converts, or you break up. You raise kids in either one faith or the other, or neither, or you find a more liberal form of worship. You both have faith--doesn't that matter more to you than its trappings? Or you go childless.

I agree with your disagreement with her both-religions plan--it's a cop-out, and unfair to kids. The sole exception would be if you give them evenhanded exposure to both religions and a pressure-free choice when they're 12. Even then, it should be a last resort, and only for parents of equally intractable religious zeal.

But "intractable religious zeal" hardly describes anyone who'd accept a spouse of a different faith--anyone who loves another more than he loves his religion. The one who's more comfortable with that decision, by the laws of compromise, is the one who caves (and earns credit toward the next rearing beast).

Dear Carolyn:

What do you think is the most important thing someone in the under-30 crowd can do before hitting that 30 mark?

--Washington

Ask my husband, and it involves a small dog, a feather boa and some very loud klezmer music.

That's why you asked me.

Teenagers battle immaturity; thirtysomethings, inertia. That makes your twenties the ideal time to leave your cushy natural habitat and prove, to yourself alone, that you can thrive completely, utterly and totally on your own. You need to know.

Hi Carolyn:

You once told a girl not to nag because nagging would make her lose any influence she might have over her boyfriend. I've realized my nagging has had that very effect. My boyfriend recently became "depressed" and dropped out of school. He has also been unemployed for almost a year, but I didn't mind that so much because at least he was in school. Now, I can't stand to watch him sit home and do nothing. I can't help but nag him every day because I feel he needs to be told he's being lazy. He just tunes me out.

In the past, I have seen him work harder than anyone I know, and wish I could somehow verbally "slap" him into enlightenment.

--L.C.

Behold, the cure for cancer: berating it into remission.

Depression (not to be confused with "quote-unquote depressed") is an illness, and though I'm no doctor, your boyfriend is throwing symptoms like confetti off a cruise ship. The enlightenment he needs is a warm reminder that life doesn't have to be a wretched trudge toward death, and that help is available regardless of what's wrong with him, and that as soon as he's ready to get it you'll do anything you can to support him.

If you're up to it. People are starting to grasp that depression causes real suffering in its victims--but few realize how friends and family suffer, too. You get it, somewhat. Are you ready for more?

Your daily nagfest already has your boyfriend on the defensive, so I can just imagine how he'll relish any mention of psychiatric help. Try instead to get him a full medical checkup. If he's got physiological signs of depression--excessive sleep or insomnia, appetite loss, weight gain or loss, indigestion, headaches, sexual dysfunction--or other mental illness, a perceptive doctor (whom you've also maybe just coincidentally tipped off beforehand) will pick up on them and steer him toward help.

He may seek it; he may not. Either way, if you really intend to see him through this, he'll need all the love and patience you've got. That's my nice way of saying that no one--ever--needs a daily reminder of his failings. I get depressed just thinking about it.

Write to Tell Me About It, Style Plus, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 or tellme@washpost.com, and join Carolyn's live discussion at 8 p.m. tomorrow or at noon Friday on The Post's Web site, www.washingtonpost.com