Dear Amy: I live with my girlfriend and her daughter. I consider myself happy and do love her, but I have remained friends with my ex-girlfriend. We split about four years ago. I care about her and think of her often, although I don’t intend to get back together. We consider each other good friends. There is nothing romantic or sexual.

Here’s my problem: My ex doesn’t know I have a girlfriend. I haven’t told her out of fear that she won’t approve.

Also — my girlfriend doesn’t know that I keep in touch with my ex (I haven’t told her for obvious reasons), and I fear she would make me choose, and I would either lose any contact with the ex, or lose her. This is why I haven’t shared this relationship with her.

I know I can’t have it all, and I don’t want to hurt anyone. Yes, I feel terribly guilty for all this.

I guess you could call me confused and a coward. Any advice?

Confused Coward

The only thing you’re really doing wrong here is lying, but the lying is huge and revelatory. It shows that you are more comfortable leading a bifurcated life than one that is whole, integrated and honest.

Guilt is your conscience’s way of telling you to stop. You also might not be ready for this committed relationship. If your live-in relationship were the right one for you, you wouldn’t lie to your partner and her child, keeping this other relationship in your back pocket. If your friendship with your ex was healthy, you wouldn’t be afraid of her judgment concerning other relationships in your life.

But you aren’t only lying to the women in your life; you are also lying to yourself.

If you were committed to having a healthy, exclusive relationship with your live-in family, you would cease contact with your ex. It is possible for people to have genuine friendships with exes, but only if the friendship is in the open and shared with the person who is supposed to be your primary partner.

Dear Amy: I’m an average guy, fitness-wise. My girlfriend, always naturally sporty, has been at the gym for a year. Our fitness paths collided when I was enjoying a coffee with her and her training partner at home.

On prompting by her trainer, my girlfriend flexed and her biceps popped up so high my eyes bulged. Her partner then prodded me to flex. I didn’t want to, as I knew my muscle wasn’t as developed. The partner felt both our flexed arms and declared mine softer. She then pushed us to arm wrestle.

I am 3 inches taller than she and I am a man, so I thought I should win. Anyway, after two times on the right and once on the left, I ended up with the back of my hand securely pinned down to the table — to their extreme delight. I feel extremely embarrassed.

This has changed the dynamics in our relationship. She will now teasingly flex when she wants something. And she enjoys challenging me in public. I have now been defeated in arm wrestling in front of her parents and a group of her girlfriends. It’s hard to adjust.

Outmuscled

If the tables were truly turned and you (the male) challenged, beat and then repeatedly taunted your female partner through implied threats, I would advise her to leave the relationship.

In addition to being taunted by someone who is physically stronger than you are, your girlfriend is demanding that you submit to public challenges. I assume that if you refuse her public challenges, you will be almost as humiliated as if you lose to her.

You should ask her what she is getting from flexing, taunting, challenging and beating you. If she says she thinks this is funny, tell her honestly that it is embarrassing and humiliating. Tell her that you would never do this to her, and then ask her to stop.

Dear Amy: I was disturbed by your response to “Not Your Chum in Chico,” who was irritated by service workers making small talk. I would hate to see you promoting a class system, where servants keep their mouths shut.

Appalled

I love exchanging pleasantries. I don’t see people as “servants,” but as individuals who are doing their jobs and just trying to get through their days, much as I am. But, like “Not Your Chum,” I don’t like questions or observations that seem intrusive or personal.

© 2016 by Amy Dickinson distributed by Tribune Content Agency