Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Dear Carolyn: I'm finding myself in one of those surreal stories where I invested years (six of them) in a relationship with someone who insisted he did not believe in marriage and finally ended things with me so he didn't deprive me of what I wanted, only to wind up engaged to someone else about 10 seconds later. I found out through the grapevine — small town — and he contacted me shortly after that, knowing I would have heard, to ask if I wanted to meet up and talk over the circumstances behind his engagement.
Do I? Yes, I am burning with curiosity about how someone who found something negative to say about every marriage on Earth is now willingly entering one of his own. But I am also afraid of how it will feel to hear itemized every reason I don't measure up to Future Mrs. Ex.
Do I take him up on this offer, or let it lie?
Carolyn says: Let it lie. What he did is terribly painful. It also was very likely unintentional. Unwitting, too.
People who don't want to do something find ways not to. When they think they should want to do it, or even wish they wanted to, they often start to rationalize. So, a person in a relationship with someone he doesn't want to marry often will rationalize a bunch of reasons that Marriage: The Institution! is wrong for him.
It sounds kinder, too, to say to someone you love. "Marriage isn't for me" — soft — vs. "You aren't for me," ouch. (Yes, we can love people we don't want to marry.)
Then, whaddaya know, he meets someone he does want to marry. And only then sees all the prior reasons as merely conjured up to explain what he couldn't otherwise explain, because he never really understood it himself.
This is actually pretty common. Plus, it's way better than pushing doubts aside and marrying anyway — since that eventually unravels anyway, only later and more painfully.
I know this is not going to be persuasive in the least right now, but maybe it'll feel right to you down the road: It's not even about you, really, or whether you "measure up." It's not about worthiness at all. It's about fit. And you two, for whatever reason, didn't fit.
You don't need lunch to say this goodbye.
Dear Carolyn: I was cooking and my phone was upstairs charging, and I missed several calls from my boyfriend. His car was towed. I didn't notice the calls, and he got a friend to help.
He now says I'm not there for him, cannot be depended on, and that it's a relationship red flag. I'm always present and usually answer his calls immediately — I'm not sure how to respond, and surprised he's turning this one event into a symptom and symbol of our whole relationship. What to do?
Carolyn says: "If innocently missing a call means I'm not dependable, then you're right. My ability to 'be there' for anyone will always be imperfect and subject to random obstacles. I'll miss you but you want something I can't give, so breaking up is for the best."
He's being punitive and irrational. So, green flag: Hit the gas and go.
E-mail Carolyn Hax at firstname.lastname@example.org, or chat with her at 11 a.m. Friday at washingtonpost.com.