Dear Tell All: I know I'm pretty much alone on this issue, but for whatever reason it just gives me the sickest, most unbearable sinking feeling when my (under 21) girlfriend hits the bars with her coworkers. I'm a very liberal person, but the idea of her being near all those drunk guys (who buy her drinks) and getting drunk herself just makes me want to get hit by a car, even though I trust her and she is very cautious. In turn, I feel like a "controlling" boyfriend, and for her, drinking becomes a necessary act of defiance. Can we make this issue any less painful?
Sick from Sobriety
Dear Sick: There's an old saying that might be appropriate here: "If you love someone, set them free. If they come back they're yours; if they get drunk at the rodeo and run off with the alcoholic clown, they never were."
I may not have gotten that quite right, but you get the idea.
Your girlfriend is probably just going through a rebellious phase, which is completely normal for someone her age. But between the underage drinking, older men, and potential for drunk driving, there's a lot to be nervous about. Unfortunately, setting firm boundaries doesn't work, as you've discovered. The more possessive and controlling you become, the more claustrophobic your girlfriend is going to feel, which is only going to drive her away.
There's a difference, though, between forbidding your girlfriend from doing something and sincerely expressing your concern for her safety. So if you're genuinely worried about her behavior, then you should talk about it, but try to be specific. Tell her exactly what's bothering you. Then focus on things she can do to be smarter and safer, instead of simply telling her she can't go out with her friends.
Dear Tell All: Are you a man or a woman? It's a little confusing, because one week you're writing with authority about balding or vasectomies, then the next week you're writing about fashion shows, My girlfriends and I have a little bet going.
Dear Sexually Curious: That's a question I've been struggling with for most of my adult life. It's so hard to pick just one! When you find out, could you please let my parents know? They keep asking me the same thing.
Do you have a question about life or love in Madison? email email@example.com.