Original "Tell Me About It" columns will appear in Sunday Source while Carolyn is on maternity leave. The following are excerpts from spring 2003 live discussions on washingtonpost.com.

Carolyn:

I have been dating a man for 21/2years. I want to get married and he for some reason can't. I try to end our relationship and he cries and says he wants to work on it. What types of things can we do to overcome his commitment phobia?

-- Arlington

Let him cry.

It's not commitment phobia, it's manipulation, and you're falling for it hard. It's not "can't," it's "won't."

For fortitude, try these exercises: Why do you want to marry him; are you into the guy as much as you're into the idea of marriage; what does your relationship lack now that marriage would provide; is that wishful thinking? Knowing yourself is the best way to find what you want.

Carolyn:

I have a general question. How does one get over a separation and divorce? Especially if you feel the other person didn't hold up his/her end of the bargain? Do you just eventually accept it after the pain starts dulling and then take the time to nurture yourself and figure out what stuff you have done, and then move on?

-- Washington

You say "This happened and it sucks but it's over now," and you get on to the next thing. Bonus points if you turn the "next thing" into something rewarding and recognize it was only possible because of the separation and divorce.

The pain will be there but focusing on it, beyond an initial self-examination spell, will only prolong it, methinks.

Carolyn:

Is your boyfriend supposed to be your best friend? I'm hoping that my spouse is my best friend, but that seems a little much to ask of a boyfriend, especially one in graduate school.

-- Arlington

Since boyfriends are the way you learn what you want in a spouse, you need to answer this question.

Me, I can't imagine sharing a home and eternity with one person when I prefer the friendship of another.

Carolyn:

I'm a little overwhelmed. In the past month, six of my single friends have gotten engaged, two other friends have had babies, and another has gotten pregnant. I think maybe it's because all of this has happened in such a short time, but I'm feeling like my current employed-but-with-no- marriage-or-pregnancy- prospects lifestyle doesn't measure up. I'm feeling inadequate and like I'm not "advancing" in my life. I'm 26, so I think I've got some time to do these things myself. I'm just going through "that phase," right?

-- Alexandria

Or they're going through the phase and rushing to settle because they think they're supposed to. Just do what works. The regret you're most likely to have 10 years from now is that you wasted valuable youthful time comparing yourself with other people. I'd bet my house that, if you had a real chance to swap lives, you'd keep your own.

Carolyn:

What can I do with the mountain of horrid bridesmaid dresses that I own?

-- Silver Spring

The Glass Slipper Project (www.glassslipperproject.org). Donated bridesmaid dresses can have a second life as prom dresses for kids who can't afford new ones. (If I cite "Pretty in Pink," will you all flee in disgust?)

Write to Tell Me About It, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or tellme@washpost.com.