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Tell Me About It

The control controversy continues

Published April 14, 2007


Q: I dated a guy for 3 1/2 years in college. It ended painfully about two years ago but somehow we have come out of the ordeal very close friends. We hang out with the same group and see each other constantly. When we were together, my friends and family hated him and said he was very controlling. I am now very independent and laugh at him when he tries to act like his opinion still matters to me. The problem is, I hear him making comments to his new girlfriend similar to those he used to control me with. He doesn't "let" her drink and doesn't "let" her wear skimpy clothes, etc. This has brought new light to how he was with me. Now I feel I'm faced with the moral responsibility of saving her. How do I shake her and tell her that if she lets him do this it will just get worse?

A: Unwelcome news bulletin: His opinion still matters to you. How else to explain your impulse to approach the girlfriend, as opposed to speaking directly to your "very close" friend?

I don't intend this as criticism. Someone tried to keep you on a leash, and you were able to get away, and you want to help someone else do the same. The pride you seem to take in this outcome is well earned.

I just think the outcome is still in progress, and so before you challenge him you might want to challenge your own sense of invincibility. If your resistance to him is still shaky, the time to admit that is now, before you say anything - not later, after he's just discovered you bad-mouthed him to his girlfriend.

As for what you say to whom, you need to judge based on what you know about him. If he truly is a friend and you don't have cause to believe, in your gut, that he'd do something extreme, then you address your concerns to him. If he's your friend in same-group only and your gut says to beware, please run your story by the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.

Close means conversation

Q: My boyfriend and I have been dating for five months. His mom came for a visit this weekend from out of town. His parents are fully aware of me as "the girlfriend," however he did not invite me to meet her or include me in any of their weekend plans. Is this a reason to question where the relationship is going or maybe something to break up over?

A: I wouldn't call it a great sign, but I can think of a bunch of reasons he didn't introduce you to his mom - some cause for breaking up e.g., he's ashamed of you, some not (e.g., he's ashamed of her).

But if you want sure cause to question your relationship, look to the fact that neither of you has said anything to the other about this. Why didn't he give his reasons for excluding you, and why haven't you asked for them yet?

You may be "the girlfriend," but you and he aren't close. Not yet. You get there not when he introduces you to his mommy, but when you and he are comfortable enough to introduce each other to what you actually think.

E-mail "Tell Me About It": fax: (202) 334-5669; or write: "Tell Me About It," c/o the Washington Post, Style Plus, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071.

Washington Post Writers Group


[Last modified April 13, 2007, 12:37:17]

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