Dear Carolyn • My girlfriend of five years recently gave me the dreaded "I want to see other people" line. Talking to my friends, most agree that it means "I'm already seeing someone else, or have one in mind." I never fooled around on her but was accused of it several times. My experience over the years is that the one accusing the innocent party is usually the one fooling around; you know, the best defense is a good offense. I was never anything but supportive of her and her endeavors, always encouraging her and never in any way held her back. She has low self-esteem and says her ex-husband was abusive mentally, not physically. She always compares herself to other women and sees herself coming up short, and I always had to boost her ego. So what do your readers think about this whole thing? Is "seeing other people" code for "I already am"? And is the accuser always the one doing wrong?
Dear Michigan • Even if it were some kind of code, it wouldn't guarantee that she was adhering to it. I also don't see why it matters, except as a health issue and a where-to-file-this-experience issue. Even taking her words at face value, you're looking at a relationship that's pretty much over whether she's seeing others or not, whether she's been doing that all along or not, whether there's some other accuser-perpetrator subtext or not. Formulating theories like yours, and inviting your friends to rally behind them with you, actually fits your "best defense is a good offense" diagnosis quite well. You're seeing the end of a five-year love, you're hurting and you're lashing out. Don't. Here's the narrative I suggest to replace it: You're just two people who tried to make your unique combination of strengths, weaknesses, insecurities, histories and hopes fit together and in the end, they didn't. Releasing blame doesn't seem at first to be as satisfying as pointing fingers, but ultimately it's moreso. Anger gives the impression that something could have been/should be fixed, which is inherently open-ended and unsatisfying, where "It wasn't meant to be" is inherently accepting. And final.
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