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Annie's Mailbox

Ask Amy column

Q. I am in my mid-20s and recently decided that the next time I am in a relationship, I do not want that relationship to be sexual until I am either engaged or married (in other words, until I have a ring on my finger and we are seriously committed).

I have been in sexual relationships. Friends tell me that my choice is ridiculous because I've “already had sex!’’ and that no man in the 21st century is going to agree to these terms.

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I made this choice because in the past when my romances became sexual, I would find myself feeling vulnerable, used, and insecure afterward, and then my partners would eventually leave anyway. But in these times, am I being ridiculous?

A. To answer your question, virginity does grow back. Figuratively, anyway.

The smartest thing to do when relationships proceed along predictable unpleasant patterns is to see what you can change, and I give you a lot of credit for recognizing this and for choosing to behave differently. But you should also examine your relationship history to see why being sexual with someone throws you off kilter.

If being sexual transforms you from a self-confident woman into someone who feels used, vulnerable, and insecure, partners will want to flee. And if you choose the wrong partners, your vulnerabilities will surface. It's a cycle you are wise to break.

Basically, you need to start behaving like the person you want to attract. Men are not that different from women in that, when the time is right, they also want to have lasting and happy relationships. I don't know if your new chastity requires that you save yourself for marriage. This will be very much up to you and the man who loves you.

Q. I have been in a relationship for several years with a wonderful gal. I love her madly. She has two daughters who are both grown and on their own. We get along well, and they refer to me as their "favorite dad."

Unfortunately, every few weeks, they have meltdowns during which they phone their mom and have marathon screaming sessions that culminate in their criticizing her about how their lives are miserable and how it's her fault. Their complaints go back years, to childhood slights and their parents' long-ago divorce.

My gal is a loving person who tends to the grandchildren and supports her daughters' decisions. Except for these Jekyll and Hyde moments, all is well.

I have suggested that she should discontinue these conversations once the topic goes afoul, but she has too big a heart and continues to try to appease the girls. I want to protect her from this. Should I confront the girls?

A. I agree that you should speak up, but you should point your remarks toward your gal. When she tolerates this verbal abuse, she is perpetuating a dynamic that is toxic for her and also bad for her daughters. This dynamic will not change until she decides she will no longer tolerate being bullied. The mother and daughters should see a family mediator together.

Q. My fiance and I are discussing sending out "save the date" cards for our wedding in June. He wants to somehow word it to request that people let us know as soon as possible whether they can attend the wedding. I don't think we should. Isn't that what the invitation is for?

A. I agree with you.

Send questions via e-mail to askamy@tribune.com or by mail to Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60611.
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