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posted: 9/6/2012 2:31 PM

Boyfriend is making her feel like a fifth wheel

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Q. I am not sure if my issue stems from my own insecurity or if this is an actual problem that needs to be addressed.

My boyfriend of almost two years is an amazing guy. The only problem is, he is two different people when we are alone together and when there are others around.

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In the company of others, he is always trying to be the center of attention. He will leave for long periods of time and I have no idea where he is.

The last party we went to, a girl started telling me how cute he was and how he had flirted with her the whole night. After I said he was my boyfriend, she was shocked; there seemed to be no displays of affection between us and he was busy doing his own thing.

Also, when we hang out with others, I feel like a fifth wheel. He doesn't make any effort to include me in the conversation. I've told him about this many times and there haven't been any changes. What should I do?

Anonymous

A. Decide if this is the way you want to live your life and adjust your relationship status accordingly.

You probably want to hear something more definitive, maybe "Yes, this is clearly your insecurity, so just carry on as if nothing is wrong," or "Wow, he's clearly in have-cake-and-eat-it-too heaven, since he enjoys the security of your love while shopping around for more and better attention whenever he leaves the house."

But I'm not in a position to decide whether he's taking advantage or being innocently gregarious, nor would my opinion be relevant if I were. You are unhappy with the status quo, so you need to respect your feelings and change that status quo in ways that don't include asking and waiting for him to change for you, or rationalizing your discomfort away.

Q. A friend who lost his wife a few years ago has made it known that he'd like to start dating. Another friend has asked me to give him her number.

For the first time, I came face-to-face with the fact that I'm just not that into her as a friend anymore; I actually get fatigued in her company.

While I don't mind fixing them up, and putting aside for the moment whether or not they end up clicking, what does it say about me that I'm balking at recommending my friend to a guy looking to meet a nice woman?

Balking

A. It means you recognize that you'll feel somewhat responsible if these two (1) become a couple and then (2) unravel in spectacular fashion (or dully, I suppose, in a drawn-out haze of doubts and complaints) due to the aspects of her personality that wear you out.

It's good that you recognize your influence here. Setting up friends isn't hazardous enough for a warning label, but it does invite questions such as "What must you think of me if you set me up with her?" or "Why didn't you warn me about him?"

So, account for that influence: Pass along the number and say it comes without guarantee, warranty, or even much affection for the idea of setting people up. Two adults can take it from there.

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

2012 The Washington Post

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