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Carolyn Hax: Accuser lacks relationship skills, too

Carolyn Hax Washington Post

Carolyn Hax is away. The following is adapted from summer 2006 live discussions on www.washingtonpost.com.

Carolyn: Why am I having such a hard time breaking up with someone I’m not very happy with? My friends all say he’s a really nice, funny, stable guy. But he has really poor relationship skills, such as putting me last, flirting with other girls, not being there for me emotionally. Also, I’ve met someone else who seems to be really cool, my type, and attentive. I just can’t seem to break up with my current guy. – Help?

How are your relationship skills? Just from one short letter, it sounds like you’re looking to others to help you form your opinions, looking for emotional satisfaction from a person who withholds it from you, seeing one guy as grounds to leave another, and hesitating to act in your own best interests.

I don’t mean to be cruel. It’s just that I suspect, given your brief but very familiar account, that this or any other new guy isn’t going to resolve any of your frustrations (except maybe temporarily), and in fact will probably intensify them. I wouldn’t be surprised if the old guy had also been attentive, too, at first.

So, I’d suggest learning to stand confidently on your own before you get involved in another relationship – an amorphous and highly personal process that has a clear, uniform start: Ending the unhappy relationship. Tonight.

Carolyn: What happens if you’re not jealous enough? I’m not overly secure, I have just never had a jealous streak. With my 20/20 hindsight I can look back on a few relationships, both romantic and platonic, where a healthy bit of skepticism or jealousy would have warned me of a bad situation. But I never interpret things that way. So when my boyfriend disinvites me to happy hour claiming it is only work people, I don’t think a thing about it until he breaks up with me a week later for a girl he works with; turns out he disinvited me because he wanted to be alone with her. That sort of thing. Is the opposite of being insecure and jealous being terminally oblivious? – San Diego

I’ve got a question that I hope suffices as an answer: If you are terminally oblivious, is that so bad? Would it have helped you to suspect the bad situation a week before all was revealed?

I suppose you wouldn’t be asking if you were happy with the outcomes of these bad situations, but my beef with more-than-occasional jealousy (at least, one of them) is that it often gets you worked up about situations that you ultimately can’t prevent. Which I guess brings up a similar question/answer: Had you known the happy-hour excuse was a whopper, would you have been able to keep your boyfriend? Would you have wanted to?

I understand that getting blindsided adds an element of humiliation to your pain; it makes you feel like the last to know. But substitute “trusting” for “terminally oblivious,” and it suggests you see the good in people, which doesn’t strike me as such a bad thing.

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