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Originally published Saturday, February 22, 2014 at 6:15 AM

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Shelf-life relationship: time wasted or well spent?


Syndicated columnist

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What a drag! Glad that ain't me!! MORE

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Dear Carolyn

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

DEAR CAROLYN: I have been perpetually single my entire adult life, until last weekend when the man I have been dating for the past several months and I decided to see each other exclusively.

However, during our talk, he did state that he thinks our relationship has a shelf life and that we probably won’t last long-term. I have been extremely happy since we talked and really feel like this is the right situation for me right now. He is great and is the only person I want to date at this moment. I also feel like the relationship is low-pressure; we can have our own lives, and I can stay “me” and keep some aspects of my single lifestyle.

My friends think I am selling myself short and should look for someone who sees a future with me. Part of me thinks they are right; the other part of me wants to spend the next few months with someone who makes me happy rather than going on lots of mediocre dates. Having said that, I am 30 and I would like to get married someday. Is this relationship a waste of time?

— If It Makes You Happy ...

DEAR IF IT MAKES YOU HAPPY ...: That all depends on your temperament. Are you just telling yourself you can handle it, when your history says the end will trigger years of wishful what-ifs and self-flagellation? Are you privately hoping he will change his mind? Or can you genuinely enjoy his companionship while it lasts and then walk away — and do you have the history to prove that?

The answer has to be about you, because what are happy circumstances to Person A can send Person B spiraling. Maybe these few months of happy will give you a useful window into your own needs in future relationships, and maybe they’ll become a painful obstacle to finding what you want. Pay attention to what your experience tells you, since it probably points to the most likely outcome.

If you don’t have enough relationship history to read through for clues, then broaden the scope and look back for any signs of kidding yourself and/or knowing yourself pretty well. Consider how well your friends know you, too; if they’ve held your hand through meltdowns resulting from high hopes and noncommittal men, then for the love of premium ice cream, listen to them now.

For what it’s worth — they’re right and you know it. The issue is not whether you can do better, though, since you clearly can, but whether this detour is one you’ll regret or be grateful you took.

Re: Happy:

“He did state that he thinks our relationship has a shelf life and that we probably won’t last long-term.” Perhaps Happy should consult George Clooney’s exes.

— Anonymous

Maybe Happy is George Clooney’s next ex.

DEAR ANONYMOUS: And while we’re here, wherever that is: His being honest is better than feigning long-term interest, for sure — but hiding behind a get-out-of-commitment-free card is not to be confused with actually behaving well.

Email Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com and follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax. Find her columns daily at www.seattletimes.com/living



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