Dear Harlan,

My friend is in love with this guy who doesn’t treat her right half the time. She ended up breaking up with him because of it. But now she misses him, and she tried to get back together with him. He continuously said no to her. So she told him she had given up on the idea of them ever being together again. A few days later, he decided he wanted to give her another chance, but she has to prove herself worthy by April. Then he will open up the idea of a relationship again. She keeps asking herself if he’s worth it. She’s afraid to give up because she doesn’t want to be alone, but on the other hand, she thinks other people can make her happier. She’s just unsure. Should she keep trying, or give up? Basically, he wants her to change who she is to make him happy.

Concerned Friend

Dear Concerned,

He doesn’t treat her right half the time? Should she change, get married to this guy and stay together with him for 50 years, that’s 25 years of being treated the wrong way. One year, one date, one minute is too long for any woman to be treated the wrong way. She shouldn’t change who she is to date him, because she shouldn’t date him. Forget winning him back by April (what the heck is that all about?) — dating him is a total loss. She needs to figure out why she thinks being treated bad half the time is worth any of her time. Ask her. If she can’t see the problem, urge her to get professional help.

Dear Harlan,

I have been having a crappy semester at school. I got a bid with one of the best fraternities on campus and then blew it during my pledge process, which got me dropped. They said something about being too much of an individual and not being ready for the fraternity. I then had to deal with medical problems during the past week and I hate to see my parents foot the bill, even though they have told me it is OK and that things happen. I am so sick of having setback after setback this semester. I haven’t had fun all semester long. What can I do to remain positive throughout finals and during the holidays in order to get on the right track?


Dear Mark,

Setbacks are gifts wrapped in garbage. They help us take a step back, look at ourselves and others, and get on an even better track for the future. But to get back on track, you can’t fight setbacks. Otherwise, you’ll create more setbacks. See setbacks as part of life. Don’t blame yourself. Don’t blame people for not giving you what you want. Give the world permission to set you back. When it happens, do things that give you pleasure, things you can do independently of others. Read books, volunteer, learn to play an instrument, take on a personal physical challenge (run a marathon, do yoga, meditate). If you can’t find the motivation to do something you love, get help (find a therapist or mental-health expert). Once you start doing things you love, take a look back at the setback. Figure out what went wrong. Figure out what you can do in the future to make it go right. Use setbacks to propel you forward, and never look back.

Write Harlan at [email protected]

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