But We’re So Young

Posted June 22, 2018 1:55 p.m. EDT

Q: My girlfriend and I are both 23. We started dating in high school and have been together, through college, for seven years. We never dated anyone else. Lately, she (but usually her parents) hints about taking things to “the next level.” I love her, but I’m not ready to live together or get married. And to be totally honest, what I’d really like is more experience with life and dating other women before committing to anyone. But I don’t see how I can do that without hurting her and wrecking our relationship. Do you? — Anonymous

A: It’s such a drag when good relationships hit the brick wall of bad timing. You and your girlfriend were just kids when you met, and you’re still very young. It’s a credit to you both that you worked through all the issues from junior prom to young adulthood. That’s commitment! I find myself wishing that you’d taken a break during college, or met five years later, because I hate to give you the advice I’m about to give: You have to be honest with your girlfriend about your misgivings.

My reticence comes with a gut feeling that honesty may spell the end of your relationship. Your desire for more life experience is totally reasonable. It’s a part of growing up! And feeling trapped at 23 is not a good look. True freedom to explore probably rules out a separation of agreed duration or opening your relationship to other partners. Free means free — which may have sad consequences here.

But the only way to figure this out is to discuss it: “Honey, I love you, but I think we need time to be adults on our own — and possibly see other people.” She may be extremely hurt or angry. Be patient. Remember: You’ve been grappling with this question; perhaps she hasn’t. You may come to an understanding or decide to call it quits (for now). But don’t prolong your discomfort. Handle this as directly and lovingly as you’ve cared for each other over the past seven years.

Actually, He Can See Just Fine

Q: I have lunch with a group of ladies once a month. The last time, I said jokingly: “My husband doesn’t think I look a day over 55.” (I’m 88.) To which one of the women replied: “Your husband must be blind!” I was so taken aback that I will never return to the group. What do you make of this? — Anonymous

A: I think you and your pal were reaching for the same joke: that 88 might somehow look like 55 — only yours was sly, and hers was blunt. Still, I get your umbrage. It’s one thing to be self-deprecating and another to feel deprecated. But why rob yourself of the pleasure of these lunch parties over one bum joke? Life is long, as you know. So, shrug this off or take your revenge in good time (over a nice Cobb salad).

No Children? Then No Adults

Q: My husband’s niece asked him to officiate at her marriage a year ago. It’s being held at a popular tourist destination. We told her we’d be delighted to fly out and that we were renting a house with our adult children and grandchildren (ages 10, 12 and 14). The kids even told our niece they were coaching their grandfather on what to say at the wedding. When the invitations came, no children were invited! The bride said they couldn’t accommodate them. So, we canceled the rental house at a loss of $1,600. The children’s father will stay home with them; his wife will go to the wedding, as will my husband (reluctantly). But I refuse to go. We should have been told about the children much sooner. Thoughts? — Anonymous

A: The din of your foot stomping and harrumphing has caused you to miscalculate: You are throwing away a lovely family vacation at a “popular tourist destination” — I see an ocean or the Grand Canyon — in a fit of pique over your grandkids’ exclusion from a rubber chicken dinner they probably wouldn’t enjoy anyway. (Their father could splash in the pool with them at the rental house during the wedding.)

This was just a misunderstanding. Brides have more on their minds than other people’s grandchildren. And making an exception for yours would probably rub other guests with children the wrong way. So, now you’re losing out on $1,600 and, more important, the fun and memories of a vacation with your young grandchildren. If there’s time to retrench, do it!

For the Birds

Q: I’ve lost 66 pounds on a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet that requires me to eat several small meals during the day. Often, I go to McDonald’s and order a burger. I don’t eat the buns, but hate to throw them away. So I toss them onto grassy areas along the road for birds to feast on. My friend objects. You? — Eric

A: Congratulations on your weight loss! But bun tossing is littering, and more likely to attract rodents than feed birds. Try ordering your burgers without buns. If McDonald’s won’t accommodate you, I bet one of its competitors will.