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Q: My boyfriend and I have been happily coupled for nearly a year now, but have been anticipating a bittersweet parting this fall when I leave for a job on the coast. We do not plan to stay coupled, but intended to enjoy this last summer together.

Unexpectedly, an "old friend" of his is now in town. Or shall I say an unrequited love he was obsessed with before we got together. They have taken up a friendship, and she has admitted her attraction to him.

We have spoken openly about this. He assures me that "although it will be difficult," he wants to remain with me. I'm trying everything - being supportive, not interrogating him after they hang out, trying to keep our relationship strong and fun - and have encouraged us all to hang out, which he seems open to. But a large part of me feels doomed. She and I are both leaving at the same time. He has to decide if he's going to take this opportunity to be with her. I can see the wheels turning in his head every time we talk about it.

I'm starting to feel somewhat helpless. I don't know how to handle this gracefully, or what limits to set besides the obvious ("don't cheat"). I am starting to feel a nagging sense of humiliation and want to feel like I have more control in this situation.

A: The anticipation of a blissful last summer followed by a "bittersweet parting" was built on the assumption that it's a pleasure for each of you to be with the other.

When holding up his end of the deal became "difficult," you were handed a different set of facts - and you won't feel a sense of autonomy until your plans agree with your facts.

So: New plan. Ask yourself, what can you reasonably anticipate? No doubt you're hoping it will dawn on him that you're the one worth his obsession, your love will play out passionately in the long light of August, The End.

But your helplessness and humiliation say the facts aren't leaning that way - despite all those extremely mature things you're trying - and that leaves you with two other choices: (1) Wrap one set of white knuckles around your integrity, the other around your dignity, and stand fast while he drifts; or (2) have your bittersweet parting now. Free him to do what you both know he's dying to do.

Not only does it give you the sense of control you now crave, it makes you the class act of the three. It also, conveniently, will tell you how he feels, what he's worth, how strong you are, and what constitutes bitter and sweet.

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