Hi Carolyn:

I'm 18 and a freshman in college, and I've been with my boyfriend J. (he's 19) for 11 months. Before that, J. was with a girl for about two years.

When I was home visiting J., we went to a store and saw her working there. We didn't look at her or talk about her.

After we left, a friend of ours, S., overheard J.'s ex (N.S., for No Soul) predictably talking smack to a co-worker (I'm ugly, J. just stopped talking to her after they broke up for no reason, J.'s a jerk). These comments don't bother me in the least.

But N.S. then brought up J.'s mother, who died two weeks ago after having cancer for four years, and actually said she was glad she died. I went into a rage when I was told this. I did nothing, but I want to at least go to her house and ask what happened to her soul. Should I keep myself from saying anything?

--C.D.

I know the feeling. I'm trying to keep myself from saying how blind you are.

Whups.

Here's the story inside your story: J. dates N.S. for two (2) years. J. dumps N.S. J., apparently, stops speaking to . . . N.S.? N.S. who?

Cut to a chance meeting one year later. J. can't even look at the girl with whom he spent more than 10 percent of his life, much less say hello.

I'm with N.S. here. J. is a jerk.

Still, he's a jerk who just lost his mommy, and if N.S. had any decency herself, she would have approached him with her sympathy. Quality people don't snub, not their exes, not anybody.

I won't get into what she did actually say; I wasn't there and, frankly, I don't trust my sources. She may well have gloated, which is reprehensible, if true. But it's also possible she expressed relief that J.'s mom was no longer suffering, and her comment was misinterpreted. This story doesn't just have room for doubt--it has room for a 747. I'm staying out of it.

That, by the way, was a hint.

Even if you overheard the awful thing yourself, even if you caught her on tape, you'd be in no position to lecture. Her hatefulness is none of your business unless she shares it with you; she didn't, and it isn't. And you've got issues of your own here. The things you do know--that you never once considered N.S.'s feelings, and that you're raging without all the facts--suggest J. and his ex aren't the only ones being childish. You're a freshman; that's not unheard of. But the youth excuse is going to get old fast.

Carolyn:

I'm renting an apartment with my girlfriend. She is unhappy that so much of her money is going to pay off credit card debts accumulated during--and since--college. She would like to consolidate, but obviously we don't have any home equity. Do you know of any resources we can turn to?

--Virginia

Unfortunately, scientists haven't yet managed to extract the "pay later" from "buy now." Have her call the National Foundation for Consumer Credit at 1-800-388-2227. It's a network of nonprofit agencies--many of which go by the name Consumer Credit Counseling Service--that provide financial counseling, either free or for a small fee, and a repayment service if she's in a real skid. And I hope she's off the plastic.

Dear Carolyn:

I have a fiance with only one significant fault, but it's huge. He can't deal with conflict. Regardless of whether I sit down calmly and say "I need to talk to you about something" or pop off in the heat of the moment, he gets very angry, denies he's done anything that needs to be discussed, and starts distorting my words and arguing against those things. For example, if I say, "You didn't get the groceries when you promised," he might say, "I like the Safeway. Why shouldn't I go to the Safeway?" This drives me nuts.

I am learning not to spout out my anger, and try to talk about things tactfully. But six months after this problem became evident, he's still the same.

Apart from this, things seem wonderful. But how can things remain wonderful when we need to be talking things out? There are all kinds of smallish issues I want to discuss with him, but when we disagree it's so big and traumatic that I just don't have the energy to get into it again for a while.

--Perplexed

It's rare indeed when the word "huge" appears in an understatement. If you two can't learn to resolve conflict, your marriage will be nothing but.

Wedding's off till you fix this. I'd have said permanently and quickly--but there's something about him you wanted to marry, and that something might be worth saving. Get yourselves into counseling. If he balks, insist. If he refuses, bail. If he can't confront his reluctance to confront things, what does that tell you?

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 at washingtonpost. com/liveonline