DEAR HARRIETTE: My girlfriend and I have been dating for almost two years. We had a rocky relationship for a while, but recently we worked through it and are in a better place. She has a lot of problems in her home life with her family, and she's younger than me.
My friends and her friends have been urging us to break up, but I think we're doing better. They're also biased, because some of her friends have never liked me, and vice versa with my friends.
Are my friends seeing something I'm not? Should I listen to them? -- Struggling in Love, Saginaw, Mich.
DEAR STRUGGLING IN LOVE: You and your girlfriend should stop listening to your friends for a moment and talk to each other. Review your goals and dreams for your lives. Speak honestly about the challenges you both face. Figure out if you even want to be together considering the issues in your path.
If you both want to remain a couple, tell your friends together and ask for their support. You also may want to get some counseling help to determine how best to work through your struggles.
DEAR HARRIETTE: Many heartbroken single women write to you about being used and dumped, like "Alone in San Francisco."
Do you ask: "You saw him and you as a couple, but did this man commit himself to you by proposing marriage? If not, did you have sex with him anyhow? If so, that's why you're so miserably heartbroken. During sexual intercourse, your body releases a flood of oxytocin that powerfully bonds you to this man. Breaking that bond breaks your heart.
"If you were good friends in a nonsexual relationship and broke up without ever getting married, you could break the relationship with much less heartbreak. Please let that forewarn you regarding future relationships. You can save yourself from a lot of emotional grief and the risk of dreadful physical complications.
"In many common procedures, like cooking a meal, doing things in the right order brings good results. Doing them out of order brings disaster."
Your readers deserve responsible advice from such a wise, insightful columnist. Include more prevention along with your intervention. -- Bound by Faith, Saginaw Mich.
DEAR BOUND BY FAITH: Thank you for your letter. What I often tell people who are brokenhearted in relationships is that there is a very different way to look at a relationship from the start. I recommend that they consider which qualities they find interesting and appealing in a partner. I suggest they go slowly and take the time to get to know each other before considering intimacy. I encourage spending time with each other's friends and family so they can get a sense of whether they are well suited for each other in the long run.
I also know that many younger and older couples are having sex far too early in a relationship, as well as commonly before marriage. Is that my recommendation? Of course not. But I do my best to give them advice on how to manage their lives as well.