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September 27, 1999   CONTINUED e-mail e-mail to a friend in need


Dear Breakup Girl,

I thought after so many losers, I'd finally found "The One." We seemed so compatible in so many important ways. My guy is honest and has a good heart. But over the past couple of months, he has consistently shown signs of being a Neanderthal. Out of the blue, he turns from a sweet-hearted, sensitive man who truly wants to give and receive love into a crude, unfeeling, selfish, prideful ass. This past weekend, while I was suffering with food poisoning and needed his help, he just sat there watching his cartoons. Instead of getting help from him, I ended up getting us both breakfast! He also decided to break plans for a day we had made well in advance by saying, "I'm not going and that's that." Later, when I was trying to talk to him quietly on the street, he just left me standing there, sick with hands full of bags. It was like being in the Twilight Zone. He's two people, and I don't know what (if anything) I can do to determine which one comes out next. When I bring this behavior to his attention and show how much it hurts my feelings, he acts as if he has no idea what I'm talking about.

I'm very afraid that he is showing major signs of incompatibility, since I've had this kind of callous-man behavior happen before and refused to deal with it. But, in his case, it truly seems that he has no idea he is being selfish and doesn't see it until I totally refuse to talk to him. I know that in the past, if I kept coming back, guys would just continue being asses. I had to completely break it off before they would respect me. So, is that my only option? Every time a guy does something that is wrong (at least wrong for me), must I just call it quits? On the other hand, I've done a lot of giving and sacrificing over the years with men (even taken physical abuse), so I know I must draw appropriate boundaries of acceptable treatment. But where's the line? When do I know this is just something I have to learn to deal with and when it's time to get out? I'm constantly trying to analyze this stuff and my head hurts.

-- Dr. Why

Dear Dr. Why,

Where's the line?


Blips and drops of hasty reflexy meanness and all sorts of other Human Flaws are, well, exactly that. Differences, even major ones -- of opinion, background, politics, approach to child-rearing, "best" way to the airport -- are an indication that you are, well, not clones. Giving and Sacrificing are, yes, What You Do in relationships ... that is, when there's some sort of grand quid pro quo balance -- as opposed to tit-for-tat tally, or total lopside -- to things.

With that in mind, let me show you where the line is. As in: allow me to articulate a Major Breakup Girl Bottom Line.

Here is the question -- THE question -- you -- ALL of you -- need to ask:


And does s/he act accordingly?

If the answer is yes, then all of the above -- though not without normal human messiness-of-love complication -- falls into place. If no, then one is not ignored while feverish nor abandoned on a street corner. In more than one later-abjectly-apologized-for high-drama moment, anyway. Maybe I'm being harsh, but you are "incompatible" with all people like that, because they are fairly incompatible with humans.

When you question behavior like this, Dr., you are not being nitpicky. That kind of thing is not "wrong for you;" it's ... wrong. As far as lines go, you might want to make a beeline to a pro who can help you re-toggle your post-"physical abuse" expectations. Breaking things off "so that they'll respect you" is not your "only option." Dating folks who do in the first place is.

Breakup Girl



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