DEAR CAROLYN: My boyfriend and I have been dating for over a year. We dated senior year at different high schools, and now we go to colleges an hour and a half apart. We never really had problems in our relationship, but I have trust issues from past relationships.
I just found out he has been going to the bars now and then and hanging out with a high school friend I absolutely hate. His high school friends were always players and cheated on their girlfriends. He was with these friends at the bars.
I trusted him before but because of these lies I don't. He's tried so hard to fix things but I can't get over any of this and feel like our relationship will never be the same. Should I break up with him?
-- Trust Issues
DEAR READER: Yes, but not because baby did a bad, bad thing.
Break up because you're not ready for this. You're not strong enough -- yet -- to pull off the high-wire trust act of accepting a lover's autonomy without internalizing every possible negative outcome as your emotional undoing.
Does it hurt to be cheated on? Lied to, even by omission? Yes, it's devastating.
But it doesn't ruin people, it ruins relationships. (And not always that, but that's for another time.) If your boyfriend's occasional carousing is indeed the beginning of some nefarious end, and if the high school friend is indeed his catalyst, then he's merely on an uglier-than-necessary path to the outcome you've already openly weighed: a breakup.
After which you will be sad and angry -- but only for a while, as long as you let yourself recover and love and trust again, perhaps someone with more integrity.
This last sentence should get an asterisk, yes; you carried trust issues from past relationships into this one. But that simply means you have another good reason to release your boyfriend to his youth while you do some emotional maintenance work.
Seriously. If a ban on certain bars and buddies is the only chance your love has, then your love doesn't have a chance. To commit is to choose each other over an unremitting supply of tempting alternatives.
Accordingly, it's best saved for when people are emotionally ready to accept the risk -- of loss, of error, of disappointment, of humiliation, of betrayal -- and fortunate enough to meet someone compatible who makes that risk worth taking. Commitments last when a couple's respect and affection for each other negate most of those temptations, and when their maturity and impulse control are sufficient to withstand the rest.
It's OK that you're not there yet, especially so young. Trusting others takes an abundance of trust in your own resilience. But you need to direct your energy toward admitting that to yourself -- not on shortening your boyfriend's leash or badmouthing his friends.
We all have "stuff" in the form of painful memories or experiences that we carry with us. But you admit here that you can't see past your old stuff well enough to manage the new -- so it's time to declutter.
Suggested framework: You can't control what other people do, say, lie about, drink, or with whom. You just can't. So, what change will it take -- in you -- to be mindful of, yet not owned by, such risk?
Chat online with Carolyn at 11 a.m. each Friday at washingtonpost.com. Write to Tell Me About It in care of The Washington Post, Style Plus, 1150 15th St. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20071; or email
Style on 02/06/2018
Print Headline: Relationship needs to end so both sides can grow up