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Parallax - Advice

April 2, 2001

A Little Magic

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Wanted: magic wands for everyone who asked for advice this week because each believes they will be able to change another person! An engaging Englishman wonders if marriage will tame a cheater; a young woman tries to turn a best friend into a boyfriend; and a thirty-something pushes for a 'newly divorced' to become a newlywed. The message from our gurus of guidance? 'You can't change them: they must change themselves.' This week they gently explain the concept...over and over and over.

Wedding bells?
Or warning alarms?
 Date: 04/02/01

Best friends forever?
Lovers, never!
 Date: 04/02/01

She wants marriage.
He wants time.
 Date: 04/02/01

More from last week...

Wedding bells?

Dear Conversely,

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Eight months ago I met a beautiful American girl while on holiday in France. We were an instant hit. She is the stereotypical tall, long-legged, longhaired, model-like girl who won all the boys' hearts at school. She's also a clever law student with plenty of confidence and self-esteem. She picked me up and whisked me over to America (I'm English) and we're now living together. She told all her friends and family about me and said she wanted to marry me. We are planning the wedding and are very excited about it - we both love each other very much. In the past she cheated regularly on her many boyfriends. She said she dated one guy for twelve years and cheated on-and-off for ten of those - he never found out! In fact, she's proud that none of her boyfriends found out! Lately we've started to argue almost every other day and she verbally takes me apart. She sees herself as always being right and I feel insecure. I think she might get bored and cheat. Is the arguing going to stop? Will we work? Will she be faithful? Will the excitement fade? Should I cut my losses now?

Her view:

Dear Mr. England,

Cutting losses is often a smart move, though tough to execute. You don't really trust her and you're fighting all the time. I'd be very open with her. After all, this involves the rest of your life. Ask her if she thinks you have a shot. She might be so frustrated with the thought of getting married that she's taking it out on you by fighting. Perhaps she secretly hopes you'll leave so she can go back to her numerous boyfriends. If so, there's no need to drag out the process.

Ask her what she wants. Tell her you don't want to be in a squabbling or cheating marriage. If that's what she wants, it's not a fit. If you can't sort out your problems in a couple of weeks you should call off the marriage, or at least postpone it until you can improve the relationship.

By the way, her pride in cheating - and not getting caught - is really embarrassing. If this is her big claim to fame, I don't need to tell you that she may want to add to that list of accomplishments. I would imagine that such tendencies are more prevalent after ten years (as opposed to the first time, when everything is still somewhat exciting). Are you sure you want to marry this girl, even under good circumstances?

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His view:

Dear Mr. England,

After you spend a long time with someone in a monogamous relationship (whether you marry or not) the excitement will fade, you will get bored of each other and yes, someone will cheat.

Your dilemma is whether you have the stamina to survive a long-term relationship where the odds are already stacked against you. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results, and she may be forever faithful. But if you are already worrying about it, how long before you crack and begin suspecting her every mood? How long before you start spying on her and accusing her of flirting with every other man she meets?

The arguing is not a good sign either. Have you considered that her cheating kicks off when the arguments increase? Maybe she thinks that the symbolism of marriage - the public vows and the commitment before God - will help her change her ways and become faithful. The question is…are you counting on that too?

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