Dear Carolyn:

My sister is getting married next summer. I recently asked my boyfriend of 14 months if he would go as my date. Gave me tons of reasons he didn't want to -- too awkward, he doesn't know my sister, it's a family event, etc. I'm very upset that he won't go. Is one or both of us overreacting to this?

Washington

Actually, all three. You are, and he is, and you are.

Back to front: You are inflating the importance of his presence at the wedding; he is treating your invitation as if it were dusted with anthrax; you are inviting someone to a function that is, hello, eight to 10 months away. Some deep breaths should work for you both.

If it makes you feel better, you're also under-reacting -- to the fact that his response consists of a substance that normally travels by shovel. Those aren't "reasons"; they're excuses. Gimpy ones, too, but then most excuses are.

Whatever the truth is that his tonnage is covering up -- whatever he is trying to tell you but doesn't have the guts to say -- it's something a couple as established as you are should be able to talk about. Ask him, kindly, to say it.

When he does, prepare yourself for it to be the same thing you've sensed for a while, the same thing that made you feel you needed to secure his commitment three seasons in advance when his presence should be a given.

We always know so much more than we know.

Dear Carolyn:

I am stuck in an on-and-off romance that has left my heart broken on numerous occasions. The perpetrator of my heartache is a wonderful man who treats me like a queen. That is, until he gets too close, at which point he always decides that he is not in love with me and could never marry me. I know I should move on, but it is not that simple.

The problem is twofold. Firstly, I have been madly in love with this man for more than four years. Secondly, he never really vanishes. When we are not lovers, he remains in my life as my best friend. The loving acts he has bestowed upon me coupled with the common intellectual and spiritual ground that we have discovered since meeting have only made me love him more. I would like to break the cycle, but although I know that I cannot force him to commit, my heart will not let me look elsewhere.

Hopelessly Devoted

No, the problem is onefold: You think it's okay to be treated like dirt. Actually, you thrive on the drama.

He is abusing you. He is using the certainty that you won't leave him, and he is toying with you. Think cat (him). Think mouse innards (you).

Think about living a life that isn't in the passive voice. The romance "left your heart broken"; he "made me love him"; your heart "will not let me."

Being controlled isn't romantic. Where are you in all this? Other than feeding the cycle.

Wherever you are, you need to find her, because she needs to break up with a jerk. Quickly. Maybe look for her in counseling, preferably with a therapist who specializes in treating emotional abuse. 1-800-799-SAFE.

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