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Posted on Sun, Apr 1, 2012 : 5 a.m.

Girlfriend's paranoid reactions are exhausting

By Carolyn Hax

Dear Carolyn:

My girlfriend seems to be paranoid (not in the clinical sense). Every action that a friend or family member takes, she looks for how it could be taken as an attack or negative thing toward her. It's getting exhausting trying to defend other people's actions when I don't really think they are meant in such a negative way.

-- Paranoia

Radical idea: Break up with her.

Just from the snippet you provide here, it appears she is attacking the character of innocent friends and family, making everything about her, making everything negative, and wearing you out. So?

Even if breaking up is extreme, please ask yourself why you're still defending people on a tree-by-tree basis instead of talking to her about the forest. From your perspective, she is looking for the worst in people -- and that's the kind of insight healthy people want most from their loved ones, even when it's painful to hear.

If she disagrees that these friends and family members are innocent, then feel free to wonder why she hasn't left you, given that you continually (from her perspective) side with people who (from her perspective) wish her ill.

And if she sees no value in a hard truth, no matter how accurate or constructive, then please see "Radical idea" above.

In other words: She's a girlfriend, not a wife or partner. Why so timid about acting on a problem that isn't going away?

--0-- --0-- --0--

Dear Carolyn:

(Re: March 14, 2012 column:) Boys will be boys. Previous sexual escapades, none of her business. He is only going to lie, if he is smart.

-- B.

After I rolled my eyes, you were off to be filed. (For the newcomers: The column in question discussed a divorced woman concerned with her also-divorced fiance's sexploits before meeting her.)

But then I thought, no. Eye-rolling is as bad as "Boys will be boys" -- and suggestions as lazy, immoral and counterproductive as yours need daylight.

I wonder how many people who share your thinking also puzzle at or condemn a divorce rate north of 40 percent.

If you want this couple to notch second divorces, then your prescription is dead on. Same if you want to perpetuate tired and corrosive stereotypes.

2012 is a fine year; I recommend living in it. There are plenty of men who don't celebrate their divorces at the sexual-freedom buffet. And plenty of women who do.

This man did, and I will defend to my dying breath his right to, as long he wasn't deceitful. I will likewise defend her right to define and live by her own sexual code.

Neither of them, however, has any right to lie about, downplay or otherwise spin their beliefs to someone s/he intends to marry. Besides being wrong, it's stupid. Presumably you're saying he'd be "smart" to lie because the truth will lead to judging and arguments, and possibly derail the engagement (fear the shrill, punitive female!!! Ugh). But if she's judgmental, he should know that about her, and if their differences are enough to derail anything, then out with them, soon, now, yesterday.

Let's say she doesn't break up with him over the truth, but instead sticks around keeping score, or even just privately worrying that he'll cheat on her someday. In that case, he also needs to know soon so he can get the heck out before committing himself, his kids and her kids to this simmering mess.

If they're both honest about their beliefs and general histories, and both decide they respect what they're hearing, then they'll be a better couple than they were already on course to be.

Boys and girls will do what they want, but only grown-ups should wed.

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Hi, Carolyn:

I think I might be making the classic mistake of doubting my marriage because of how it compares with others’. My friend sometimes refers to her husband as her "best friend," and talks about how they tell each other everything.

I think this is a nice ideal, but that's not how my marriage works. I love my husband, he's a great partner and I love sharing my life with him, but I rely on mom/sister/friends for a lot of stuff as well. Is it bad that he's not my best friend?

-- "You're great, but ... "

Her marriage is an apple, yours is an orange, both have their merits. Comparing lives in general leaves us open to poorly sourced doubts and frustrations. Even if you could know everything about their marriage -- you can't -- you still couldn't say how you'd feel if you were in that marriage yourself. Which wouldn't resemble her marriage anyway because she wouldn't be in it, you would.


Peering over your shoulder at others is helpful for seeing whether you're blind or numb to something unhealthy. Otherwise, why do this to your husband, marriage and self?

Email Carolyn at tellme(at), follow her on Facebook at or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at

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