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:

A couple of nights ago, a guy I had been hanging out with for only a couple of weeks told me he wasn't ready for a serious relationship and he felt that's where we were going, so he couldn't really see me anymore. No big deal, I guess, but it seemed in the beginning he was ready for a serious relationship. And I seem incapable of having anything with a guy that does develop into anything remotely serious -- read, no relationship lasting over a month. I'm 21 by the way. So my question is, how do I go about figuring out what makes guys lose interest in me after such a short period of time?

Somewhere, USA

My question is, why aren't you losing interest in any of them? You're 21, you've had enough month-long relationships to develop a pattern, and yet none of these guys has made you say, "Eh, I could do better"? I can't be sure from here that you're in a big rush to lock someone in, but I can harbor really strong suspicions that you are. That would certainly explain the stream of I'm-not-readys from guys beating a path to the door. Do stuff for yourself for a while, see how that goes over.

Carolyn:

I am getting married in 15 months. My fiancee grew up in a dysfunctional home and pretty much raised herself after she turned 14. At one point she was badly beaten and raped.

My problem is that she has two daughters and I think she is overly strict with them. She doesn't hit them but she does severely restrict their activities and is overly protective. I know she wants to protect them but the girls aren't teenagers yet and already they are starting to rebel. Should I intervene on the girls' behalf and, if I do, should I wait until we're married? And what's the best way to do it?

Van Nuys, Calif.

Wait till you're married? Why why why? If you're worried that she's not going to take kindly to suggestions on how she should raise her own kids, then that says you've got about six potential problems you need to resolve before you lock yourself in:

1. Your not being able to broach difficult subjects. 2. Her not being able to have them raised without getting defensive. 3. Her continuing to allow her past to overwhelm her present judgment. 4. Your treating the kids as hers and not, as they will soon effectively be, both of yours.

Okay, so only four potential problems. I probably missed a couple.

I won't pretend this will be an easy conversation, because they are her kids and she has been through a hellish past, but stuff like this has to come out compassionately and soon, and for everyone's benefit -- your fiancee's most of all.

Best way is to say that you understand and respect where she's coming from, but that the girls don't and they're starting to rebel. Then, be available for open-minded discussion and hope like hell there is some. Just be really careful not to judge her or condescend.

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