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updated: 8/22/2011 1:38 PM

Two right things to do when breaking up with straying girlfriend

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Q. I don't know what to do. My girlfriend of one year has been out of state taking a class and has made several friends of her new classmates. Before she left, we would hang out every day for hours on end. Now that she's gone, I hardly talk to her.

I understand that she's busy and has new friends, but I believe one 10-minute phone call every other day was unacceptable. When I do talk to her, she's constantly telling me how she has gone out drinking and partying nearly every day with her classmates (the main reason I don't hear from her). I don't like this behavior and have cautioned her to be careful drinking around new people.

After about three weeks of this behavior I decided I would end the relationship on our next conversation. Well, our next conversation was her calling me in tears and telling me that one of the guys she hung out with took advantage of her while she was passed out drunk the previous night. I'm horrified. I wanted to drive to her immediately, but she begged me not to.

Even though I am sympathetic and torn up about what happened to her, I can't help but to feel angry with her as well. I haven't expressed it to her or even so much as said, "I told you so," but I want to break up with her even more. I haven't because I would feel like a total inconsiderate (insert insult) if I did. I have no clue what to do. I'm there for her but I have no desire to be.

Obligated suffering

A. Actually, you have more of a clue than you think.

You're "sympathetic and torn up" about what happened to her; frustrated that you weren't able to prevent an outcome that you foresaw, and believe she could have foreseen had she been willing to say no to herself; frustrated with her for neglecting you, not curbing her second adolescence (you are adults, right?) and possibly running around on you. All makes sense.

You're also still planning to break up with her, because, sympathetic as you are, you're just as far down the road to estrangement as you were before the tearful call. Right?

And you're biting your tongue and supporting her nonetheless because that is the decent thing to do.

By my count, the only blank you still need to fill in is, "What next?" A big one, granted but one you'll likely figure out the same way you figured out the rest of it, by reading the situation, being patient and trying to do the right thing. Trust yourself here.

In case you need a little backup, staying with her out of pity or fear of being judged is not the right thing. There are really only two Right Things: breaking up when you sense the urgency for your support has passed, or staying because your closeness returns in the aftermath and your respect for each other strengthens.

If you find yourself judging her still for "this behavior," however, then the former is your only legitimate choice. Committing to the relationship while retaining the told-you-so mindset, even if you (rightly) don't voice it, would make you an (insert insult) indeed.

• Email Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com, follow her on Facebook at facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at washingtonpost.com.

$PHOTOCREDIT_ON$ 2011 The Washington Post $PHOTOCREDIT_OFF$

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