Two months ago, I moved out of the apartment I shared with my boyfriend of four years. He\’s 24; I\’m 22. We were inseparable, so close … until his high school buddies moved to town. He became cold and distant, and told me he wanted to be on his own for a while, but didn\’t know if he wanted to break up. I left town to give him space to figure things out. We barely spoke, and when I returned, I bumped into him and his new girlfriend! He said, \”It just sorta happened.\” I\’m sure — right after I left. I need to know why he lied instead of just admitting there was somebody else. I miss him desperately and feel lost without him, but I harbor so much bitterness and resentment, I don\’t know if I can ever forgive him.

— Seeking Closure

It\’s a stage-of-life thing. Guys in their late 40s quit their big jobs \”to spend more time with the family.\” Guys in their early 20s quit their big relationships to spend more time with women named Mocha and Destiny, and who swing around a greased pole.

No, this guy didn\’t inform you of his intentions with the emotional maturity and verbal finesse of a thrice-divorced couples’ therapy junkie: \”I\’m hearing that you\’re not hearing that I\’m more into \’Girls Gone Wild\’ than ‘Girls Gone Wifelike.’ ” Men — particularly men in their early 20s — tend not to deal well with emotional conflict, especially any that seems guaranteed to lead to uncontrollable weeping. Maybe that\’s why, instead of telling you it was over, he only sort of told you — becoming cold and distant, and suggesting that he merely wanted a little vacation from the relationship, not a permanent escape from Alcatraz. And maybe you didn\’t want to know any more than he wanted to tell you, so you ignored the fact that he wasn\’t exactly jumping on the couch Tom Cruise-style and shouting, \”Four more years! Four more years!\”

All that matters now is that it\’s over. You don\’t need to know why he lied to you. You don\’t even know if he lied to you. Chances are, he simply took a look at his friends and realized what he\’d become: A 24-year-old guy living the life of a paunchy suburban house-husband — minus only the mortgage, the bleeding ulcer and the hearse in the form of a big red minivan. Now it\’s your turn to look at where you\’re at: no, not feeling lost without him, but feeling lost without you. Be honest; isn\’t fear of having to go it alone where much of this rage is coming from? Maybe now you\’ll be forced to do what you should have been doing these past four years — becoming somebody instead of becoming somebody\’s girlfriend.

Your 20s, especially your early 20s, are the time to make a mess of your life — date the wrong guys, take the wrong jobs, and join and quit the Peace Corps: \”Turns out I\’m more attached to indoor plumbing than I thought!\” Mistakes are cheaper now — provided they don\’t require bail. And sometimes going the wrong way is the only way to find the right way. Besides, if you don\’t do dumb things in your 20s, when will you do them? As your kids are going into college? \” ’Bye, kids, I\’m off to hitchhike across Africa to find myself.\” \”But, Mom … who\’s gonna drive me up to move me into my dorm?\” \”I don\’t know, dear, but are you using that backpack?\”

Conned heat

I wrote you several weeks ago when the woman I was seeing was distancing herself and acting increasingly \”polite.\” I agree, it\’s useless to chase her now, but there\’s a complicating factor: we\’re neighbors. What do I do when she asks me to pay her rent (as I have for the past five months) or pick up a few things at the store? Money isn\’t an issue, and I want to keep communication open between us.

— No Fences

I\’m all for a good neighbor policy: calling the cops when you see a peeper in somebody\’s bushes, and popping over with a pie for the laid-up old lady next door. But the \”complicating factor\” here isn\’t that you two are neighbors, it\’s that you\’re a complete chump. You pretend you learned your lesson: \”I agree, it\’s useless to chase her now\” … except with a wad of cash in one hand and a bag of groceries in the other. Notice her distancing herself any less? I mean, except on the first of the month, when she lets you get just close enough to slip an envelope under her door. What do you say the next time she asks you to pay her rent? The same thing you\’d say if you were asked by the bald porno freak at the end of the cul-de-sac.