Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Question: I am in a very serious relationship with a wonderful woman whom I loved and lost to another man more than 30 years ago. He died two years ago. I found her on Facebook, and eventually we began visiting each other's cities. She says she is in love with me and as deeply committed as if we were married.
She has a male friend she has known for 23 years who was both her husband's and her best friend, and he has been visiting her every few months and sleeping over at her house. Before we reunited, he asked her for sex. She refused but still considers him a friend.
I think it is totally inappropriate for him to sleep under her roof now that she and I are totally committed.
I have said I won't interfere with her friendship if she will give up the sleepovers, but she has refused. She gave me her word this would never happen, but she has broken it. I am not sleeping because of this. What can I do? I think all successful relationships are based on compromise, not on the principle that "I get to do whatever I want."
Answer: You aren't spring chickens here. Isn't there a time to quit being the jealous teenager? To accept that if she wants to sleep with this man, she will, even in the hotel you insist upon?
You either hop on board the human-frailty express, or you recognize you don't have the stomach for it and stay home. I think all successful relationships are based on that.
Comment: Where's your respect for her and her ability to handle him, herself, this situation?
Reply: Excellent question.
Amplification: I neglected to emphasize my main problem: that she has broken her promise. This is a woman I considered the most reliable person I have ever met. What she has said she will do, she has always done before this. It is the main thing that for more than 33 years has placed her head-and-shoulders above not only every woman, but also over every other human being I have known, in this regard.
How can I believe anything she tells me now?
Answer: Oh, for flop's sake, break up with her then. She is not a pedestal ornament, she's a human being.
You can resent her choosing to risk your relationship over this friend, but she could resent your putting her in that position in the first place.
When people promise things they fundamentally don't want to do, their resolve to follow through often crumbles. Is it better not to promise in the first place, or admit changes of heart? Yes, of course. Often, just going ahead and breaking a promise is a sign of untrustworthiness.
But her history of integrity suggests a little forgiveness is in order. Can you accept all of her, all the gray, as-is? Or do you need her to remain "head-and-shoulders above"?
And what's with the "not only every woman, but every . . . human being" distinction? Like it's a special specialness that ranks her among high-integrity men?
If you can't love, respect, and value a woman who goofed, break up for both of your sakes.
Chat with Carolyn Hax online at noon Fridays at www.washingtonpost.com.