DEAR CAROLYN: I’ve been dating my girlfriend for about a year, and she’s everything I could have ever asked for — brilliant, kind, sexy, fun, my best friend, and just an incredible human being.
What’s the problem? I still want to get to flirt and date and have sex with a bunch of people.
I’ve been really attracted to other women lately, probably in part because I know my girlfriend is ready to move toward marriage and I’m realizing I may never get to have sex with anyone else again.
I don’t want to hurt her, and I do like the idea of being married to her someday. How do I decide whether to break up with her over this? We’re both late 20s; she’s pretty straitlaced and doesn’t know how much I struggle with this.
DEAR SETTLING DOWN: No, the problem is that you aren’t ready for an exclusive relationship with anyone and you’re lying by omission to your girlfriend.
And that your truth-telling won’t be what hurts her, because you’re hurting her already, now, by harboring doubts she knows nothing about.
Tell her exactly “how much I struggle with this.” Now, like, today. You don’t get to hold her under false pretenses of monogamous intent just because you think you’re going to want her later when you feel good and darn ready.
The only act of love here is honesty. Anything short of it is just a way for you to achieve your selfish, have-and-eat-cakish ends.
DEAR CAROLYN: I’ve had a very good friend for several years who recently got a well-paying job. He describes himself as having more money than he knows what to do with, and he loves to travel.
In the past year, said friend and I have traveled cross-continent and have an overseas trip coming up, all on his dime. He says he’s just happy to have a travel companion, and we have a lot of fun on our trips, since we have very compatible travel styles. I’m obviously very grateful and do what I can to “repay” his kindness with thoughtful gifts and by using my organizational skills to make our trips as stress-free as possible. However, some people really don’t get this arrangement. My family keeps encouraging me to marry him, and other people have made comments questioning whether I’m “sure” he doesn’t expect anything romantic or sexual in exchange.
How do I respond to raised eyebrows, comments, questions or statements that imply or outright state that I owe my friend sex or a relationship in exchange for his generosity?
DEAR JUST FRIENDS: The only people who need to “get” this arrangement are you and your friend.
So, answer nosy people’s questions accordingly: “Thanks for your concern.” Even from your family. The effect of repeating this, verbatim, can be powerful.
If you’d prefer to mix it up: “I’ve got this”; “Interesting, thanks”; “I’ll keep that in mind”; “You do realize, I hope, that my standing here and nodding means only that I’m humoring you.”
Email Carolyn at email@example.com or chat with her online at 10 a.m. each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.