Hello Harlan,

My son is a freshman at the University of Michigan living on campus in a dorm. His girlfriend (who is his first long-term girlfriend) is attending Michigan State University. Every weekend so far he has either gone to her campus or come home to see her except one. I am at my wit’s end. I appreciate that he is telling me when he is going to see her, and so far he has had to find other rides to get there, as we have not loaned him the car, but my husband and I think he should be staying on campus on the weekends. He goes to UM, not MSU, and needs to stay at UM. He knows how we feel, and it has caused many arguments. I do not know how to handle this with him. If we forbid him to go, we feel he will go behind our backs. We know we can’t realistically forbid him to do anything anymore. What do we do?

Concerned Parents

Hello Concerned Parents,

Nope. Can’t forbid him. He’ll resent you. And for good reason. He loves her. Don’t fight it. What I see are two 18-year-olds in the midst of the most dramatic transitions of their lives. Your son might need his girlfriend right now. So, instead of fighting his desire for stability (and her), accept it. If you can be more understanding, he’ll be much more likely to do more listening. Instead of telling him what he shouldn’t do, express why you’re very concerned about what he’s been doing. Don’t make it about the girlfriend — make it about balance. Tell him you’re concerned that he’s going to miss out on finding new friends and connections. Encourage him to love his girlfriend, but to get involved on campus during the week. Then encourage him to do things that will help him find connections on campus. If he joins a fraternity, works a part-time job or takes on a leadership role in a club or organization, he will be forced to find connections on campus. Make a deal that you’ll support his choices if he works to find connections on campus during the week. Even offer to fly him to see her over break. I know this isn’t the education you planned (and it’s an expensive lesson), but try to shift your expectations. What he’s learning outside the classroom can be as valuable as getting a degree. Give him a year to get comfortable with the uncomfortable — it’s too soon to panic.

Dear Harlan,

I keep going back to this guy who has cheated on me multiple times, but I really like him. How do I tell him to get away without hurting myself or hurting him?

Cheated

Dear Cheated,

Who cares about hurting him? He never cared about hurting you again and again. He treated you like dirt. He’s a bad dude. Do yourself a favor and take care of you. That means forgetting him. Surround yourself with people who love and respect you. Find a therapist or counselor. Until you break free of this lying cheater, nothing will get better. WARNING: When you cut ties with this guy, he’ll probably come running. He’s a master manipulator. That’s why you need a circle of strong friends who can protect you. Take care of you. He can take care of himself — he seems to have that part down.

Write Harlan at [email protected] or visit online: www.helpmeharlan.com. Send paper to Help Me, Harlan!, 3501 N. Southport Ave., Suite 226, Chicago, IL 60657.

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