DEAR MISS LONELYHEARTS: I've been seeing someone casually for a little while. Although things are "fine," I'm still holding back from committing myself. Worse yet, I'm always looking for something to go wrong. I think it's because I'm so used to being disappointed, I figure it's inevitable. Part of me is ready to end it now before disappointment sets in, part of me wants to end it so I can stop feeling guilty for being indecisive, and of course another part of me wants to ride it out (but my heart's not in it). I can't help thinking if the shoe were on the other foot, I'd be devastated. What do I do? Sometimes I think I'd be happier relationship-jumping than committing to any one individual. Although I think I want long term, I don't know if I really believe in true love, or at least not one that lasts forever. -- Sighing, Selkirk
Dear Sighing: Ride this one out, or you'll never know if it might have worked. When you feel shaky and want to run away for no reason, don't do it. Say to yourself, "Oh there I go again, getting the relationship willies in Stage 2. I'll just ignore it." And what do you mean by things are "fine"? Does that mean sort of good, but not swept off your feet? How many weeks or months are you into this? The swept-away feeling disappears after a few months when you are reasonably secure you have gotten somebody into your life and you don't have to dance as fast as before -- and neither do they. For many people, this is a relief. If they make one little dating mistake, the new person is not going to run away. But maybe you're addicted to the front end of a relationship and are bored by everything that comes after. Do you know the excitement of feeling deeper things, as the person becomes more emotionally intimate with you, trusts you, tells you secrets, admits vulnerabilities? Or does that just snuff out the romance for you? If you want a constant Prince Charming experience, then you'd better not find out too much about a man. Just let him gallop through once a month on his white horse and don't ask too many questions. Don't tell him too much about yourself either. Human foibles don't belong in high romance on his side, either. But if you want a real romance -- a darling deep friend in your life who's very sexy -- then trading intimacies might be exciting for you in the second stage of romance.
Dear Miss Lonelyhearts: Is it wrong to put someone through a series of tests at the beginning of a relationship? I know everyone does it to some degree, but I swear I'm getting evil in concocting ways for them to fail. But I figure I'd be OK with it so what's the big deal? -- Testy, Whyteridge
Dear Testy: One definition of a cynic is a broken-hearted idealist. You sound broken-hearted. "Where is that fault line? Just show me where it is so I can avoid the earthquake that swallows me up," you seem to be saying. "In what ways is this new man going to fail me? Let's throw out a bunch of sneaky tests so I'll be prepared." Imagine how you would feel if he was making you jump hurdles and prove to him you wouldn't hurt him like the women who went before you. Doesn't the whole idea just make you tired? "Tell me all about yourself" is a lot better approach than "Jump these barrels!" Warning: You may get turfed by the next guy because he's onto you and your negative attitudes and the battery of hidden tests called Let's See How He Fails.