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It's Arraigning Men

I’m sorry to bother you, but I'm having major problems with my fiancé. He interrogates me about my every move, even though I've never been unfaithful, lied to him, or even kept a secret from him. One Saturday, I was bumming around the house in a comfy dress. When he came home, he freaked, wondering who I'd dressed up for. Recently, a coworker called him at home while I was there and he was at work. My fiancé immediately suspected the guy was after me. (He's never even met me!) One day, when my fiancé came to pick me up at work, I was helping two male customers. On their way out, they were laughing, and he claimed they gave him "a look." He was furious, and demanded I tell him what they were laughing about. I said I had no clue, but he didn't believe me. I find his constant questioning of me insulting and very upsetting. He defends it, saying he has "a right to know" -- and I agree, but I also think he needs to employ some common sense. How can I convince him he has nothing to worry about?

--Under Surveillance

You could be making polite conversation with a guy with a face like a broken scone and the body of an ottoman, and your fiancé would see Brad Pitt making the moves on you: “Brad” wants you, you want him; it’s only a matter of time before Jennifer’s stuff is piled on the curb in Malibu, and Brad’s got you chained up in his designer dungeon. Yeah, this is going to happen -- and your grandma’s going to rob the corner liquor store, buy crack with the money, and sell it to schoolchildren.

Don’t be too flattered by all the attention. It has little to do with how he feels about you, and a whole lot to do with how he feels about himself -- which is probably something along the lines of “like gum under the universe’s shoe,” “a doorstop among men,” or “not quite rubber vomit, but perhaps the next best thing.” Unfortunately, using you as fill dirt for his vast inner void is about as effective as using a handful of wadded-up Kleenex to plug a leak in the Hoover Dam.

Despite his clever employment of the “L” in “Love” to block out the “L” in “Loser,” what he’s expressing isn’t love but crushing need. A guy who loves you would be consumed with making you happy, not making you take the witness stand whenever a couple strangers laugh inexplicably. A guy who’s emotionally stable doesn’t live in baseless fear that his bride-to-be is home talking dirty to telemarketers. He gets that you either appeal to the person you’re with, and they stick around, or you don’t, and they won’t, and life will eventually go on. Your guy, on the other hand, could read an international infidelity conspiracy in the faux wood-grain at Denny’s: “Look! Right there…that knot is clearly the ‘o’ in ‘motel,’ you tramp!” With fun like this, who needs oral surgery?

Look at your life now, and picture where you might be a few years down the road if you stay with him. (Just a guess, but…locked in the basement?…a dead body in the trunk of his car?) As much as you must be looking forward to a marriage patterned on the concept of house arrest (surely, you don’t think he’ll get less paranoid over time), you need to consider your three most prudent options at present: 1. Get out immediately. 2. Get out slightly faster than that. 3. Run as fast as your little legs can carry you.

You didn’t end up with a guy like this by accident. It’s part and parcel of whatever made you start your letter with “I’m sorry to bother you.” Hello? I’m an advice columnist, not a carburetor repairman. If you ask your car mechanic for complimentary love advice, maybe an apology for the imposition is in order. Clearly, you’re a big part of the problem here: “Oh, is my shadow in your way? I’m sorry, have I been breathing too much air? I’ll breathe less.”

Get your own self-esteem in order, then come up with standards for what you want in a man (mental health would be a plus), and the resolve to stand up for them. Eventually, you should come to realize that love isn’t a hall pass for somebody to wander through your every thought, or a license to shove a periscope up your life. Stop calling this guy your fiancé and start referring to him as a mistake you almost made -- before you came to your senses and recognized your dire (perhaps even life-preserving) need to run to the locksmith instead of the jeweler.


Copyright ©2004, Amy Alkon, from her syndicated column, "The Advice Goddess," which appears in over 100 papers across the U.S. and Canada. All rights reserved.