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Originally published Tuesday, July 15, 2014 at 6:15 AM

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Choosing between 2 girlfriends

Advice columnist Carolyn Hax says the real decision is whether to settle for less than you deserve.


Syndicated columnist

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Dear Carolyn

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

DEAR CAROLYN: I’m dating two different women. One lives near me in Virginia and one is on the other coast. They both know about the other but neither likes it. Virginia girl wants an exclusive relationship. West Coast girl doesn’t seem to care.

I know deep down that Virginia girl is better for me. She’s almost perfect intellectually, spiritually, interest-wise, except I have very little physical attraction to her. On the other hand, the chemistry with West Coast girl is off the charts.

As long as they both know about each other, is it OK to go on like this for a while? I hate that society puts such pressure on us to be in monogamous relationships. And not that it matters, but I’m not a twenty-something guy. I’m an older woman. Does that change the dynamic?

— Compatible?

DEAR COMPATIBLE?: No, because the dynamic is you’re with two wrong people instead of two potentially right ones.

This is still not about choosing, though; it’s about how long you’re willing to find happiness in two people (who provide it grudgingly, it seems) because neither one really fits.

You’ve been honest, so I can argue that you don’t need to choose for their sakes; they can act in their own interests. If you’d prefer monogamy, then that’s an argument for ending this arrangement for your own sake.

Note, I didn’t say “an argument for choosing”: Virginia girl is not “better for me,” she’s a dead-end street because you obviously value chemistry. West Coast girl is not “better,” either, unless you value her companionship as much as you do her passion. Thinking in either-or terms is so needlessly limiting. There are more than two women on Earth.

Re: Compatibility:

I have a related question. I’m in my late 30s, single and still looking for a partner. I’ve noticed a pattern: The people I feel most alive around and most enjoy are often not available. A few recent examples: one was moving to a new country; one was of the wrong sexual orientation for me; one was way too young; and one was not wanting a serious relationship.

On the other hand are the people I meet who are constant and reliable, which I value, but feel less alive around. Is it unrealistic for me to think I can find a partner someday who is constant and available, but whom I also feel really alive around? Am I missing something here?

— Anonymous

DEAR ANONYMOUS: You haven’t said anything about personalities, just available and un-. If that indeed is the only difference, then I’d guess you only fully let your guard down around people you already know you can’t have. As in, there’s no risk of getting rejected for who you are when they’ve already said no based on who they are.

So, finding a partner is possible, but you’ll have to outsmart yourself. Maybe awareness of this problem is all you need to pre-empt it, but if not, be ready with Plan B. Don’t judge these “constant, reliable” people until you’ve had time to get as comfortable around them as you are with the ones you know you can’t have.

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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