Dear Ms. Hax:

I am in my mid-twenties, my girlfriend a few years younger. We have been dating almost eight months now. I have not had any serious doubts about our relationship, and we have talked of a future together.

Recently, I have begun to have some stress-related problems, from what I think is a reaction to our consideration of moving in together. Personally, I think that having doubts about this is perfectly normal. When I informed my girlfriend, however, she said she didn't want to get hurt, and wanted to get out now if I was going to break up with her down the road. My girlfriend is smart and beautiful and I really enjoy being with her, but I feel like her statement was akin to her saying that I'm not worth her effort.

Doubts

Your girlfriend is smart and beautiful and chicken[expletive].

If the idea of cohabitation gives you intestinal gas, great. Shacking up is rarely a good idea to begin with, and eight months is pretty early (in the grand scheme of relationship things) to try it. But even if you were five years into couplehood, doubts are doubts and must be obeyed. Considering how many people try to wish their questions away, you get a round of applause for confronting them. Clapclapclap.

And a standing-O for your sweetie, for her faultless reasoning, her courage, her zest for life! WOOWOOWOO.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go set my car on fire because it might break down on me someday.

Attention all cowards: Love is risk. The minute you dare to care about something, you accept the real possibility you'll lose it. So instead of running away, Sweetie might as well get used to the idea that one day, one of you is going to move, die or just change your mind.

Meanwhile, if she's always this skittish about seizing what she wants, she's hardly up to the challenge of sharing her life with someone. Immaturity on either of your parts is enough to make cohabiting a bad idea -- even if your relationship overall remains a good one. Maybe your instincts told you this in their own special way: by shooting hair off your scalp in clumps.

See if she'll postpone her retreat long enough for you to see the value of your doubts. The truth is, choosing to face them is an essential step toward faith -- and what's a relationship if not a massive act of faith?

Howdy Carolyn:

In grad school, I had made a fantastic friend my first few days. We were best buddies, housemates, yada yada yada, until she dumped me and moved out after 2 1/2 years. She never explained, though I asked repeatedly. She kept all our other friends, which made it very uncomfortable at times for me, and would act, in public, as if nothing had changed. Eventually, I stopped trying to resuscitate our friendship.

Years go by with no change, I finish school and move. Recently, a mutual friend e-mails that this first friend feels bad and wants to contact me. I would rather she not. I was very hurt by her dumping me; I spiraled into depression for a time. I'm very happy and well now; however, my damned Judeo-Christian morals make me feel guilty for not alleviating her guilt. Yowzers.

Switzerland

Funny thing about those pesky morals, though. When you heed them selflessly, like you're supposed to, there's always a little something in it for you.

Or, in your case, a big something: Why. Come on! Aren't you dying to know?

You say you'd rather let this woman twist in the breeze, and I suppose I can see why that's tempting. But I can also see you flapping out there on the clothesline with her, no less angry and hurt than on the day she moved out. Otherwise, you wouldn't care if she e-mailed or not. Otherwise, you wouldn't want her to suffer (and you wouldn't feel so guilty for wanting that). A taste for revenge is the sure mark of pain.

An abiding fear of being hung out to dry twice is another one -- but, again, that's no reason not to try forgiving the callous beast. Say the worst happens, and she makes contact only to insult you anew. You still get your parting gift: the absolute knowledge that this "friend" isn't worth your pain.

Hi Carolyn:

Over the years various boyfriends have given me lingerie, or I have bought some during a relationship. I feel a bit uncomfortable wearing the same stuff with someone new, but it's not cheap! What's the etiquette on sexy lingerie?

San Francisco

Don't wear it outside your clothes. I think that's the etiquette.

Look. All gifts, undies or otherwise, are yours to use as you please. That's what makes them gifts. But it sounds like your gut says no to wearing your history to bed, and, frankly, money isn't the most becoming reason to overrule 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 noon today or at 8 p.m. Monday at http://washingtonpost.com/liveonline