Dear Amy:

I am a 20-year-old girl going into my junior year in college, and I still have no clue what to do when it comes to my life.

During my freshman year I met a boy, "Alex." I spent every day with him.

All summer long Alex courted me. He visited me, and his parental units even paid for me to fly out and visit him on the West Coast.

Soon after I got home from visiting him, he broke up with me by text messages.

I spent the school year in fights with him over the phone, in person or by text messages.

I never got over Alex, but I dated other boys anyway. I'm in a relationship now with a guy named "Barry."

I've been dating Barry since mid-spring. I love him so much, and he knows everything about me, but I still love and care for Alex too.

Last night after I got off the phone with Barry, Alex called. He told me he still loved me and always had. When I dated him, I had trouble showing my affection and giving him my heart. He intimidated me because he was more experienced than I was. He treated me like a princess.

I love both Alex and Barry, and both of them accept me for who I am -- down to every flaw. Both accept my unusual coping mechanisms and love me anyway.

The only difference is that Alex always gave me butterflies and Barry never has.

I don't want to hurt either one of them.

What should I do?


Quick question. If I asked you what your college major is, could you answer me with even a hint of the intricacy and passion that you express about your love life?

I thought not.

When it comes to relationships, what goes around generally comes around. Then, if you're not careful, it goes around all over again. You and Alex established a cycle of passion followed by fighting and breaking up through text messaging (not the most courageous way to break up, by the way). You and Barry have a pattern of Barry loving you and you letting him.

As a survivor of the intense college-dating scene, I can tell you that it will be ever thus. You and Alex will always be hot, hot, hot, and Barry will always love you just a little bit more than you love him.

The three of you could show up at your 15th college reunion, each hooked up with other spouses and trailing toddlers, and you would probably all believe that you still feel the same way about one another.

I'm going to express a clear preference for your getting your personal act together. That's the act that doesn't involve either Alex or Barry. Once you stop defining yourself strictly in terms of whichever guy you love, you will grow into the person you really are. Then you'll probably want to ditch both of these guys, because neither of them presents you with the right balance between butterflies and devotion.

Oh, and read or re-read "Gone with the Wind" this summer. You have yourself a "Rhett/Scarlett/Ashley" love triangle, only without the hoop skirts.

Dear Amy:

I'm 34 years old and in a relationship with a man who is in his early twenties. We have been in this relationship for two years. When we fight, he has to be right about everything, so he is really getting on my last nerve!

When I try to talk to him about this, he thinks I'm trying to start a fight! How do I make him stop doing this?

Fed Up

You can't make your boyfriend stop doing something that you don't like, anymore than he can make you stop doing something he doesn't like. You both need to realize that it is in your best interests to learn how to "fight fair."

Your age difference could account for some of the stresses in your relationship. He might simply be too immature for you. Some basic lessons could help both of you develop some important communication skills. A couples counselor could teach the two of you how to listen actively and then reflect back the other person's point of view.

If you two can't figure out how to respectfully disagree, you should pay attention to your "last nerve" and reconsider this relationship.

Write to Amy Dickinson at or Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

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