Dear Harlan,

I’m a perfectionist. It’s been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. Sometimes it serves me well. But more often than not it just makes me nervous and unhappy. How can I know where to draw the line and give my perfectionist ways a break?


Dear Perfectionist,

Become an imperfectionist. I’m one. I’ve been one for years. Imperfectionists are the most perfect people in the world because no one is always perfect. Being an imperfectionist doesn’t mean making excuses for a lack of perfection or not making one’s best effort. It means embracing the unavoidable truth that perfection is illusive and unsustainable all the time. It means striving and working to be my personal best, but being forgiving of myself when I come up short. Instead of beating myself up, I can examine my imperfect outcomes and work to be even better in the future. Being an imperfectionist means being more forgiving of myself and the world around me. It helps me live in a perfectly imperfect world where doing wrong is perfectly all right.

Dear Harlan,

My boyfriend of a few months has been in a rough patch. I think he might be depressed. What does it mean when he tells me, “I want to think about things”? Does it mean that he wants to think about things and break up? Does it mean he’s stressed out about issues outside the relationship? If it’s not about us, shouldn’t he want to stay together? I’m having a hard time knowing what to do. Thanks.


Dear Thinking,

I think it’s his ex. Yep, I do. Gut reaction. Regardless, he’s too uncomfortable to share what he’s thinking. Therefore, do one thing — respect his space. Give him time to think. Putting pressure on him to share his feelings with you will just distract him from finding answers. It might even get him to resent you. Let him know that you’re always there for him. Tell him you respect his need for space and want to give it to him. Find out if he wants to date you while he’s doing his thinking or if he needs to take a break. Then give him the space to think.

Dear Harlan,

I am seeing a girl who is in the Army. We met two weeks before she left, and I haven’t seen her since November. We write and text when we are able to, and I want a committed relationship, but she refuses to talk about it. She gets angry with me when I have hooked up with other girls while she has been gone, but yet still refuses to be totally committed while she is gone. She comes back in about two weeks. Do I give her a chance or move on? Help!

On Leave

Dear On Leave,

So why do you want to date her? She doesn’t tell you how she feels. She gets angry when you tell her how you feel. And she is out of town and hard to hold most of the year. Assuming you get back together, what’s going to be different the next time you’re apart? Once she gets back in town, figure out what kind of relationship works for you. She might need to date you more than two weeks to trust you while out of town. But from everything you’ve shared, she sounds like a better pen pal.

Harlan is author of “Getting Naked: Five Steps to Finding the Love of Your Life (While Fully Clothed and Totally Sober)”. Write Harlan at [email protected] or visit online: All letters submitted become property of the author. Send paper to Help Me, Harlan!, 3501 N. Southport Ave., Suite 226, Chicago, IL 60657.

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