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The one, or one of many?

Q: How do I know whether I'm having an insecurity that I need to deal with on my own, or one I can share with the guy I've been dating for the past four months? I'm completely insecure that he's seeing other people . . . and since we haven't set any boundaries on that, it's possible . . . and I really want to ask. But I'm terrified to ask.

A: Change "insecure" to "curious" and "terrified" to "entitled," and there's no insecurity here. You have a legitimate question.

Besides, if it's terror you want, try not asking. Specifically, if you're sleeping with him, you need to look out for your health.

And, generally: There's no more reliable measure of good emotional health, I believe, than feeling safe to speak up on your own behalf. It says you trust your ability to judge what's important to you; it says you trust the other person with knowledge of your vulnerabilities; it says you trust yourself to either keep your mate's attention in light of your honesty, or cope if you lose it.

The reverse - fear of speaking your mind - says the reverse.

Meanwhile, rare is that bad news that isn't easier to receive the earlier we receive it. So, just ask. Not only can you handle it, but you'll also respect yourself more when you demonstrate that for yourself.

Own up, to yourself

Q: Is going on a "date" considered cheating if nothing happens? Where does one draw the line?

A: Where one is moved to start rationalizing. Good people can make bad decisions, but what they don't do is make excuses afterward. You crossed a line, or else you wouldn't be asking. Admit that to yourself, find out why you did it, then remedy - honestly - the problem to which this "date" was to be your solution.

The blame game

Q: A friend and I "broke up" after some mean words and a heated exchange. We've been friends for a while, and I am sad the friendship is over, but after what and how everything happened I don't want to be his friend anymore, and he knows it. Now he's says he's on antidepressants and it's my fault. Is it?

A: Not unless you made him manipulative, or taught him to blame others for his own problems.

It's possible you hurt him, sure. Maybe you did it on purpose (a hypothetical, not a hunch). Maybe this pain is what triggered his bout of depression.

But even if we accept all three as the truth, he still at least shares the blame. Unless, of course, he: never once uttered or incited mean words, never once let you use them without consequence, never once caused other friction or let friction go unaddressed, or tried to end the friendship sooner but you chained him to his chair.

In other words, you may be a monster - a hypothetical, remember - but that would still make him the guy who chose to put a monster in charge of his feelings. People who don't take responsibility are automatically at least partly to blame.

You, meanwhile, decided how you feel and what you should do about it, and you seem willing to own your decision. Wish him the best and buh-bye.

Tell me about it! E-mail tellme@washpost.com; fax (202) 334-5669; write "Tell Me About It," c/o the Washington Post, Style Plus, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, DC 20071.

Washington Post Writers Group

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