SENSE & SENSITIVITY
Regret turns to rebirth for troubled teen

DEAR HARRIETTE: I am currently a 19-year-old student. Depression was a problem for about six years. During that time, I had help from family and my boyfriend, but at that point I really didn’t appreciate or trust them as I should have. I’ve already wasted some of their time, as well as mine, in the process. I can finally acknowledge that. I have my regrets, but there’s nothing I can do to turn back the clock. In the process, I’ve lost the trust of those close to me. Three of my relatives are reluctant to speak to me anymore and have stated, in their frustration, that I’m not worth the effort.

Recently, my boyfriend of four years broke up with me, owing to my procrastination and empty promises. Both sides refuse to give me any more chances, and I can understand their reasoning. I’ve given myself a fresh start by attending school and church and restarting the process of counseling again to help myself move forward. However, I’d still like to somehow repair these torn ends, as it really hurts thinking about it. I never truly intended to waste their time or hurt them. Is there anything I can do to mend the hurt and rekindle their trust? — Esther, Brooklyn, N.Y.

Dear Esther: Your actions over time will be key to opening the door to healthy relationships with the people you love. Trust that you can become the person you want to be. Focus on your studies and on your mental health. Stay in close touch with your physician and with a mental-health counselor. Grow strong in your own skin. Begin to recognize specific things that help you to be happy from the inside out.

Reach out to your family to apologize for hurting them and ask for their forgiveness. Don’t expect too much, though. It will take time. Trust that you and they have enough to fill the space of time.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I think I caught a sexually transmitted disease from my new boyfriend. I am so embarrassed I don’t know what to do. I had some itching, you know, and that never happened before. I like this guy, and he’s from a prominent family. Plus, my family thinks he’s “the one” for me, finally. I have to attend to this problem, but I don’t want my whole life to cave in. — Sylvia, Philadelphia, Pa.

Dear Sylvia: First, go to the doctor. If there’s even a chance you have an STD, you need to get it treated, pronto. No one has to know about your medical condition, so you can keep that confidential.

If you believe that your boyfriend exposed you to a venereal disease, face that. Don’t get caught up in this man’s background. Who is he to you? Why do you remain interested in him? If it’s because of his pedigree, is that enough to build a life with him? Answer this honestly for yourself.

I am not saying that you automatically write off the man if or because he infected you with an STD. That’s something you need to address directly with him. People live with diseases of all kinds all the time. How you deal with it is the issue. Talk to him about what’s happening. His response will tell you whether it’s worth continuing in this relationship.

Boyfriend’s a player who runs hot and cold

DEAR HARRIETTE: I went to a house party with my girlfriends last weekend and ran into a guy I’ve been dating. Though he chatted me up a bit, I could tell that he wasn’t interested in having a conversation, and he definitely did not introduce me to any of his friends. I felt awkward and uncomfortable for a while, but then decided to hang with my friends. I may not have made anything of it, except that the next day he called to ask me out to a concert the following weekend. Why would he play me, but then ask me out? — Venus, Cincinnati, Ohio

DEAR VENUS: What else did you observe about this guy at the party? Who was with him? Did you see another woman in the wings? Was he intoxicated? His behavior suggests that he had something to hide — namely you. Or maybe the other woman! The man was distracted. Quite naturally, you should feel uncomfortable about that.

I think you should ask him why he behaved the way he did. Without sounding particularly emotional, be frank with him. Say how disappointed you were that he acted as if he barely knew you the day before and now wants to go out again. Ask him why he thinks that’s a good idea. Put it back on him to explain. Chances are he’ll brush it off. Then you will have to decide your next moves. If you like this man enough to forgive this behavior, go out with him. If he pulls a slick one again, though, see it for what it is — and walk away.

Easy acceptance, not so easy gift to celebrate

DEAR HARRIETTE: What’s a great guy gift? My new boyfriend just got into graduate school, and I’d like to get him a congratulatory token, but don’t want to get too personal or mushy. It’s still a new relationship. Thanks! — Stef, Las Vegas, Nev.

DEAR STEF: What is your boyfriend studying? Maybe there’s a gadget that could support his work, such as a digital voice recorder. That is a helpful tool for interviews as well as recording lectures. Most of them are affordable, around $100 (some cost less), and easy to operate. A classic graduation gift is a fine pen — either a fountain pen or a roller ball. Many companies make them — from Cross to Mont Blanc, for example — and the prices range from less than $100 to many hundreds. 

You can also get differently creative. Host a small cocktail or dinner party for him at your home or at a restaurant. If it’s at home, you can keep the costs down. He will probably greatly appreciate your acknowledgment of this turning point in his life — and he could remember it even longer than a tangible gift. If you choose to do that, be mindful of the guest list. Select people you know are important in his life. Include his family if you can. And keep it small, so it remains manageable.

Best friends face off over a man


DEAR HARRIETTE: I am not a jealous or boy-crazy girl, and I always put my friends before romantic relationships because I know friendship stands the test of time. Recently, however, a friend asked whether she could date a guy whom I used to date. There are only two or three guys from my past whom I still have a soft spot for, and he happens to be one of them. When I told her I would prefer she did not date him, she sounded a bit upset and is still in frequent communication with him and being rather sneaky. I know not all girls have my kind of standards, but she isn’t just any girl, she’s my friend and I would have expected more from her. Am I wrong for asking her not to date one of the few guys I still have lingering feelings for? And if she is going to continue to speak with him consistently, why did she ask me in the first place? — Dia, Brooklyn, N.Y.


DEAR DIA: This is one of those tricky situations in which nobody really wins. It is extremely common for friends to expect their friends to remain hands-off as far as dating any man (or woman) who may have been a significant part of their life. For many friendships, it’s understood that the ones people have truly loved are to remain out of bounds.
In some ways, this is inherently unfair. If you are no longer dating someone, nor planning to get together with that person in the future, why can’t you let him or her go emotionally so he or she can be with someone else? The challenge is the nature of the human heart. Many people cannot fully let go of their feelings for people from past relationships. And so, it can become excruciatingly difficult for them to “share” past loves with friends.

Can long-distance love survive law school?

DEAR HARRIETTE: I’ve been in a long-distance relationship with my boyfriend for the past two years. We decided to stay together even though I was going off to law school. Well, I’ve made a lot of new friends here, and I’ve found myself interested in getting to know one of my classmates better. Both guys are amazing, but I don’t want to give up an almost-five-year relationship for what may just be a passing fancy. What do you think? — Shelby, Alexandria, Va.


DEAR SHELBY: Too bad the two of you didn’t talk about the “what ifs” of long-distance love. It’s common that one or both of you would meet someone of interest during your time apart. What do you do with that? Decide how much you value your relationship. If you consider it primary in your life, talk to your boyfriend about the situation. Ask him about what he would do in a similar situation and openly discuss how to handle potential love interests along the way. This may be a tough conversation, but it’s a real part of long-distance romance. If you two can work through this together, you stand a better chance of staying together or, at least, remaining close friends.