Dear Carolyn:

My boyfriend, "Steve," and I dated for a year. Toward the end, Steve said that while he was attracted to me, he also had a strong attraction to a certain type of man that I do not represent, and he proposed opening the relationship to sexual encounters with other men. This really surprised me given that, when we first met, we each stated a desire for a one-on-one relationship. This difference seemed insurmountable, so we broke up.

I just wanted to get your thoughts on open relationships. The idea is not very appealing to me, but apparently they are not uncommon.

-- T.

So if everybody else jumped off a bridge, you'd have a threesome?

To avoid a total collapse into hurt feelings, both partners need to think swinging is a really great idea -- and even then I don't think it's a really great idea from a health standpoint, public or emotional. Still. It's your bed, not mine.

And it's a surface issue here. Far deeper is Steve's reversal on being exclusive. Did he violate his principles? Maybe. Or misrepresent them to you as a way of seducing you? Another good maybe. Or did he really believe he believed in exclusivity when he first met you, only to have circumstances tap him on the shoulder and remind him that he's a multiple-guy kind of guy? A very promising maybe.

Three maybes, three reminders: Love-related promises, be they heartfelt or hormone-crazed, are never to be mistaken for guarantees. Minds change. Feelings change. Circumstances change. Early impressions mislead. You did your best.

Since only Steve knows his mind, you might as well assume he did his best, too, and end your self-flagellation.

Another flog-stopper -- Steve requested something that went against your principles. You said no. Yay you.

Dear Carolyn:

My best friend just started being home-schooled, and she is really bored at home, so she calls me all the time. And I mean, like, every day. Sometimes three times a day. I have things I need to do, or maybe I just want some time to myself to listen to music or something, but I don't ever get that anymore. I love her like a sister, but I am getting so tired of her calling all the time. How can I explain this without hurting her feelings?

-- Tired Imagine how tired she is of herself.

Err on the side of sympathy, and assume your friend is more out of her mind with boredom than you are out of your mind with her.

Next time she calls (I know, I'll be quick): "You're my best friend. I love you. You need a life." See if she comes to your conclusion herself.

And if she doesn't, you can suggest without cruelty that she lobby her parents for social outlets; clearly the home detention's not working.

Nor is her approach to it. Even if she is a victim here, victims can still be resourceful. She can read, draw, compose, do yoga, knit, keep a diary, knit a diary -- and this list can go on all day. Suggest away.

Last thing. Even best-friendship doesn't obligate you to take every last one of her calls. Say you're busy with X but will call her tomorrow. Just make sure you do as you say.

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