Question: My girlfriend has borrowed my car several times over the last month (she's moving) and has not once refilled the gas tank. This should be a softball ("Hey, please refill the gas tank next time you use the car"), but in context a tough one for me because most of the problems we've had in our relationship have been due to my instinct toward bean-counting. She stopped keeping track of who paid for what years ago, and has expressed offense when I ask to be paid back for things.

What's a graceful way to skirt this, or should I just let the gas go?

Answer: "She stopped keeping track"? That can mean she gives generously and without regard for balance … or takes copiously without regard for balance. If it's the former, then forget the gas tank (please) — and give some careful thought to why you're still bean-counting despite her generosity with you.

If instead she has been blithe about taking your money while offering up very little of her own — and she attacks you any time you so much as sigh in frustration over it — then you need to accept that your girlfriend is a taker. And a manipulative one, since her "expressed offense" has you questioning — and censoring — yourself when your doubts about her behavior flare up.

If this is the scenario that rings a bell, then get out, and eat the gas money as a small price to pay for enlightenment.

Either way — when you're at a point where you feel you can't be honest with your girlfriend, then it's not, it's never, just about the current bone of contention.

E-mail Carolyn Hax at tellme@washpost.com, or chat with her online at noon Fridays at www.washingtonpost.com.