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I Really Like Her, But Her Ex Keeps Lurking

By Dr. Robert Wallace

DR. WALLACE: I'm in college, and I just started dating a girl that I really like. This is my first serious relationship and I really want it to go well, but her ex-boyfriend is making things extremely difficult and uncomfortable. My girlfriend's ex was emotionally abusive toward her when they were in a relationship together, and now he is manipulating her into trying to get back together with him.

I know that my girlfriend does not want to be with him anymore, as she has told me multiple times that she knows their relationship was very unhealthy. Yet she regularly tells me that her ex continues to make contact with her to tell her that he's miserable without her and needs her in order to continue to live normally and not fall into a deep state of depression.

My girlfriend is a caring person, so she's genuinely concerned about her ex's mental health and continues to take his phone calls just to make sure that he is doing all right. She and I both know that this cannot go on much longer without it negatively affecting our relationship, but neither of us knows specifically what to do from here. I understand that she wants to make sure that her ex stays safe and doesn't do anything irrational over his feelings of heartbreak, but I am also extremely aware of the ways in which this guy continues to manipulate her by doing everything in his power to get her attention.

I'm starting to become really upset and jealous whenever I see her texting him or picking up one of his phone calls. Now I'm worried that I won't be able to hide these emotions much longer. My girlfriend knows how I feel about all of this and says that she understands, but she is unwilling to stop responding to her ex's frequent bids for her attention. Is our future together doomed? — My patience is running thin, via email

MY PATIENCE IS RUNNING THIN: Your future together is not necessarily doomed but it is definitely being threatened. It sounds to me that her ex is indeed doing his utmost to manipulate her, and that her good nature and personality make her susceptible to his strategy.

If she truly cares about you, and perhaps even more importantly, herself, she should cut off contact with her ex. And to alleviate her worries and potential guilt over his situation, a surrogate should be located and introduced to him to help him with his issues. A mental health professional, counselor, family friend or even acquaintance can be fully informed about what is going on. This will provide her ex with an outlet and guidance for his current and potentially future issues.

The key is for her to remove herself entirely from communications with him. Couples all over the world break up all the time, and yes, it's an unfortunate part of life for most people. But to allow him to impact her current life when she knows he was not healthy for her is a big mistake on her part. She wants to do right by him following their breakup, and getting him help while simultaneously cutting him off is the best way to do that. The quicker he gets the message that she's not coming back, the better it is for him as well.

Otherwise, if she continues to take his calls and texts, she's setting herself up for a lifetime of dealing with his manipulation, and you'll eventually be motivated to move on from her as well if this persists. Take some time to explain this to her and to sit with her to come up with a game plan to help him via other individuals. Be sure to explain this situation to everyone in both of your individual social circles for your mutual safety and well-being.

WILL I NOW GET LUNG CANCER?

DR. WALLACE: I'm 15-years-old and I smoked one whole cigarette last weekend with four of my friends. One friend took a full pack out of his father's carton of cigarettes, and he gave us all some to smoke. We all smoked one together, and then we each put three more in our pockets to smoke later.

I coughed a lot when I smoked that cigarette, and now, I'm really worried.

Will I get cancer from that cigarette, and are my lungs damaged? I threw away the other three cigarettes. When my friend asked me where they were, I just told him that I smoked them already one night in the park across from our family's backyard. But really, I didn't, and he doesn't know. What should I do now? — Really worried, via email

REALLY WORRIED: It's highly unlikely that one cigarette can give you lung cancer, but at some point, a whole lot of cigarettes indeed potentially can. The best thing you can do now is to tell your friends that you've tried cigarettes and you've decided they are not for you.

Always remember that you alone are in charge of yourself and must take actions to keep your body safe. It was unwise to smoke, but if you never do it again, you'll have learned a very important lesson and you'll be able to sidestep a lifetime of health hazards related to smoking.

And I'd also advise that you don't hang around your friends when they persist in smoking, if they do continue, as secondhand smoke is also very dangerous to your health.

Dr. Robert Wallace welcomes questions from readers. Although he is unable to reply to all of them individually, he will answer as many as possible in this column. Email him at rwallace@thegreatestgift.com. To find out more about Dr. Robert Wallace and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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