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'JUST FRIENDS' MAY BE JUST TORTURE FOR SOME

Q: Do you believe men and women can legitimately be platonic friends even if romantic love exists between them? That is, sublimating the sexual feelings because they aren't appropriate, in favor of friendship? Most women I have asked believe it is possible, most men have doubts.

A: The question isn't whether, it's why. Certainly forbearance is possible. If it weren't, then every workplace, neighborhood and PTA meeting would spiral into a game of adulterous Twister. Certainly, too, there are plenty of healthy friendships where one party has unrequited love for the other. Since there's always someone to attest to something, I'm sure there are people in the friendships you describe who will attest to their worth.

I don't know where I'd fall in your tally, but friendship founded on mutual sexual frustration sounds like pure torture - brightened up by the constant threat that you'll succumb to temptation and implode everything that motivated your fidelity in the first place. Just because something can be done doesn't mean it should.

Family matters

Q: My boyfriend just proposed and I accepted. However, I have met only one member of his family, and that person was extended family. He says he doesn't associate with his family much because of their bad lifestyles and choices. However, I'm concerned there is something he's hiding. And, since I'm a person who is more in touch with my own family, I've always hoped to marry a man who is also connected with his family.

Should I just be happy that I won't have any in-law issues or should I get to the bottom of this and encourage him to reconnect with his family before saying "I do"?

A: "At least I won't have any in-law issues" sounds like the punch line of a joke about a fiance who's in prison for killing his family.

The reason he dissociated himself from his family doesn't just matter, it's everything. If his only explanation is their "bad choices," and if your only response to being thrown this informational bread crust is to think, "Hmm, I wonder if there's more to it. . . " then I'm going to short out my keyboard from weeping.

People who have made an informed decision to marry each other exchange this kind of information so freely and at such length, you can know each other's family members without having met even one. Their hometowns, jobs, schools, habits, senses of humor, dynamics, frailties, downfalls - through the course of all your conversations, you've gotten no feel for these?

If so, he's not hiding "something." He's hiding himself.

And you don't trust him, this person you just agreed to marry.

The answer, however, isn't to force a family gathering, and it certainly isn't to press for connections he doesn't want. His getting away may well have been an act of self-preservation.

So please, for the love of marriages that outlast the personalized cocktail napkins, ask him about his family. Find out who this person is, who shaped him, why he broke away, why he has shared so little about it, whether he's even willing to open himself to you, and whether the context - in other words, the side of him you do know - backs him up as credible, before you even think of saying "I do."

Write "Tell Me About It," c/o Washington Post, Style Plus, 1150 15th St., NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 or e-mail tellme@washpost.com.

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