The girlfriend checklist

Joey Garcia

I rolled out of bed after great sex with this girl I like and asked what she was doing later. She said she was having lunch with her ex-boyfriend. She had told me before that their relationship was mostly work-related, plus hookups. I got this sick feeling in my stomach. I asked her if she planned to hookup with him. She said, “I don’t know, maybe, if he wants to.” I lost it. I thought we were headed somewhere good. I thought of her as my girlfriend. I even called her that to my friends. She didn’t understand why I was so upset because we’re not exclusive. I never actually told her I thought of her as my girlfriend. We’re still talking, but it’s completely weird now. Is there a way to save this thing?

Salvage your relationship by facing facts. You didn’t trust this woman with your feelings. The nausea in your belly reveals what your mind denied: Something is seriously wrong between you.

Luckily, you have good friends to confide in. But why categorize a relationship as committed when talking to friends, but fail to ask this woman to be exclusive? Either you bragged because you wanted to be cool, or you were testing the idea of having a girlfriend. Of course, those issues are symptoms.

The real problem is that your relationship with this woman doesn’t meet basic commitment standards. Here’s a checklist of what’s missing: honesty, trust, shared values and the level of communication skill necessary to resolve disagreements. The good news is that you both can mature in these qualities, if you care enough about each other. It’s time to talk to her about your feelings and hopes for the future. Put your heart on the line. Yes, you might get kicked to the curb. If you do, so what? That’s not a big deal. It only means she isn’t the one for you.

My parents are always pressuring me to spend time with my cousin because they think she will be a good influence on me. We attend the same high school but are in different friend groups. She is popular and gets really good grades, but she also does drugs and hooks up with random guys at school. When I do hang out with her, she makes fun of me and my friends for not doing the stuff she does. I don’t know how to get my parents to leave me alone about hanging out with her without telling them what she is really like.

The pressure to appear successful according to socially approved status symbols (high GPA, sleek car, a high-end ZIP code, the right outfit, an acceptance letter from your dream school) drives some people to live split lives. One part of their existence is glossy and accomplished, but everything else dances between compulsion and addiction. Parents who criticize, cajole and threaten their teens to submit to social ideals are often blinded to the harm they inspire. That parental denial remains thick, at least until a teen’s secret life surfaces.

What is your responsibility in this situation? Remember that we are all accountable to, and for, one another. If your cousin’s behavior places her, or others around her, at risk, you must intervene. And, it does seem from your email that you think she is making poor choices. Yes, she will be angry if she finds out that you clued adults in about her underground life. But her anger is temporary. It’s a small price to pay to ensure her safety. If you can’t muster up the courage to talk to your parents or hers, confide in another adult relative that you trust. He or she can talk to your cousin without mentioning you.

Meditation of the week
“Don't waste your time with explanations: people only hear what they want to hear,” said author Paulo Coelho. Are your ears tuned to reality or denial?

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