Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.
Sept. 29 2005 6:21 AM

Walking the Dog

When a past relationship interferes with a new one.

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Dear Prudence,
After years of reading your fabulous column, it's my turn to ask for advice. I've been dating a man, now living with him, for just over two years. We met five months after each of us ended a long relationship (he was briefly engaged). After a few months, I realized I wanted a relationship but noticed that his ex was still in the picture as "just a friend." He had stuff in her garage and they'd watch each other's dogs (they each took one after the breakup). After a year of continued frustration, I finally got it across that he should break it off because she was too attached. My guy decided to end it in order to focus on us. She was upset, and begged him to talk in six months. I was annoyed that he agreed but let it go. Exactly six months later, she sends him an e-mail saying she's engaged. Another six months go by and she contacts him, now married to a divorcé with two children. She asks to meet for a drink. I thought we were in the clear because she got married. But no—this time it feels worse. He didn't tell me she contacted him, but I saw e-mails where he was making plans with her to meet and "walk the dogs." Though I'm not worried he'll get physical with her, I am uneasy. We've talked about it many times, but despite his promises and announcements that he loves only me, I get the feeling he says things to appease me but then does whatever he pleases. Should I end the relationship or am I being too insecure?

—Haunted by a Relationship Past

Dear Haunt,
The fact that the recent exchange was kept from you, knowing of your objections, suggests that your honey knew he was doing something he would like you to have no knowledge of. Maybe your live-in is conflicted about the old girlfriend, maybe not, but given your feelings about the situation, his attachment is cause for concern. As for the ex, the fact that she is now married and still wants to walk the dogs suggests she nevertheless has hopes, if only for a playmate. If she really wanted to be "just friends," the four of you would get together. Your fella surely knows that the connection to his ex is not doing you any good. If he cares about the relationship, he will knock it off with Fido's "mom." Rather than tell him it's over, invite him to take a time-out in order to clarify his feelings relative to the ex. Prudie thinks forcing the issue will bring clarity—one way or the other.

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—Prudie, ultimately

Dear Pru,
I am not sure what to call myself anymore. I am in my second marriage and we are in the middle of a divorce. Do I go back to my maiden name, which I had for 23 years? Do I use my first husband's last name so it will match my children's last name? I used my first husband's last name for 10 years. The kids are older, ages 14, 17, and 19. Do I keep my second husband's last name? I have had that name for six years. I know this sounds silly. It seems as if I should have bigger worries for someone who is getting divorced for the second time, like "Why can't I pick a good mate?" I wish I could just use a first name like Cher or Madonna.

—Nameless

Dear Name,
You will hear no name-calling (no pun intended) from Prudie about exiting your second marriage, ahem, so let us tackle the question of which name to use. You actually have quite a bit of latitude. Some women revert to their maiden name because they loathe the ex-husband whose name they took. Some women stick with the most recent name. Others, given the choice, use the same name the children have. So ... pick the name you are most comfortable with. (And even Cher and Madonna have last names in real life.)

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—Prudie, selectively

Dear Prudie,
Here's the lowdown. I met a guy, a great one at that, and we totally hit it off. We were camping with mutual friends and were up until four in the morning talking, laughing, and having a fantastic time. We went out after that, and didn't have sex until the third date, which I thought was very admirable on the guy's part. Well, we talked every day for a few weeks, he'd send me text messages saying he missed me and how much he couldn't wait to see me (we live about an hour from each other). Then, all of a sudden, he stopped calling, stopped sending messages as often, and stopped answering when I called. He may be transferring out of state for his job and I knew this, and his reason for not calling me, he said, was that he really likes me but doesn't want to hurt me. Well, the other day, his reason changed. This time, he just flat-out said, "I don't want a relationship because I've been hurt before." Well, hello! His last relationship was over seven months ago, so why does he feel it necessary to blow me off when he supposedly likes me so much? I'm really hurt and I can't stop thinking about him. Please help me decipher the male brain!

—Distraught

Dear Dis,
Let us just say the male brain is historically resistant to decoding ... at least by women. In your particular case, it sounds like this chap got carried away with the, uh, third date, started to firm up a relationship, and then thought better of it. Prudie knows this always comes as a shock, but there you are. Your best bet is to try to will yourself to stop thinking about him, because wishing he hadn't backed off will not make it so. One cannot make other people behave as we'd like them to. In the future, perhaps put the chemistry on hold and take things a little slower.

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—Prudie, regretfully

Dear Prudence,
I'm currently involved with a young, highly intelligent, ambitious, and smoking-hot Aussie, and I've never been so happy. We met over the Internet while we were both content writers for a Web site, became friends, fell in love, and never looked back. We're living proof that long-long-distance relationships can work. Unfortunately, the majority of people I come in contact with aren't comfortable with the idea of online relationships of any kind. So, when the question about how we met comes up, I always answer truthfully, having no reason to hide it. Then I get uncomfortable stares, probing questions about Internet predators, and even rude implications about relationship stability. I would like to have a semifriendly, quick response to let people know I'm not interested in their advice or opinions about online relationships. I'd like them to just be happy for me and shut up! What do you recommend I tell them?

—Annoyed Woman in Love

Dear Ann,
Prudie is not sure why you're meeting so many people who make you feel the need to defend yourself ... and the Internet. As for predators, are you 12? Because you seem to come in contact with those who have negative views of the Internet, perhaps you should go to another version of the truth: You met through work. And all good wishes for your future. What could be better than a smoking-hot Aussie?

—Prudie, acceptingly