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Pry Another Day

I met my boyfriend at college. We devoted all our time to each other until senior year, when he began to devote time to his friends. This caused us to fight a lot, and he kissed two other girls. Although I still thought he and I might get married someday, I broke up with him. While we weren’t together, I dated other people. I was completely open and honest about this with him. He claimed he still loved me, and swore he wasn’t seeing anyone. I eventually got him to confess he’d slept with someone when we were broken up! And not just one girl, but several! We spent more time apart so I could get over this shocking news, but we’re now together again. Was I right to give him another chance? Do you think he’ll cheat on me?

--Still Disturbed

Love is many things, but if you’d like to be in it for a while, try not to see it as a permission slip to crawl into your partner’s head and vacuum up everything inside. In demanding full disclosure, especially after you’re out of the picture, you’re right up there in Fantasyland with all the people who are getting married for the third or fourth time. (Excuse me, but at what point do these people have a hard time saying “’til death do us part” with a straight face?)

You’ve heard that song, “To Know Him Is To Love Him”? Great in concept. Unfortunately, in many cases, to “know, know, know” somebody isn’t to “love, love, love” them, but to find them progressively unappealing. Of course, this notion runs contrary to what I call the Informational Superiority Complex: smug couples who claim you don’t have a “real” relationship unless you know “everything” about the person you’re with. They’re wrong. That’s not a “real” relationship, it’s a “too-real” relationship.

People aren’t pretty. They just “clean up good.” They clean up best from a moderate distance -- never letting their partner get close enough to notice that they pick their nose, bite their toenails in bed, and eat spaghetti with cream sauce without utensils. In addition to their vile habits, most people are largely dull. Hence, a person who’s a completely open book is probably someone whose partner’s about to put them down to see what’s on TV.

What you do need to know about your boyfriend is the big stuff: hopes, dreams, fears; is he a good guy, does he want what you want from the relationship, does he genuinely care about you? You can’t get that information by standing on his chest and yanking it out of him with giant tweezers, or by putting your stream of consciousness on a news-ticker and expecting him to follow suit. You look at what he does and who he is over time -- with the naked eye, not the electron microscope.

About this lashing out and kissing other girls business -- no, it wasn’t right, but what does it say about the future? My guess -- that you’ll need a life of your own if you want to be part of his. This brings us to the “shocking news” -- he saw other women, some of whom were naked at the time. Hello? Do we have a problem understanding what “broken up” means? Repeat after me: “Bye-bye! Bye-bye!” Apparently, you see it differently. Too bad you were so much better at gathering news than delivering it -- most notably, news of your creative take on breaking up: “You sit around twiddling Mr. Winky while I date a few people and decide whether to take you back.”

Copyright ©2003, Amy Alkon, from her syndicated column, "The Advice Goddess," which appears in over 100 papers across the U.S. and Canada. All rights reserved.