This involves Chris, the son of a friend of ours, who just turned 32, and another young woman we also know. Chris grew up in our town. We've known him since he was in middle school -- so perhaps we're biased in his favor a bit. He met Janice in college, and they soon started going out together. We got to know her then. We met her family a couple of times -- they live about an hour from us, in New Jersey.
So Chris and Janice became a "couple" when Chris was a junior, and Janice a sophomore in college. They seemed to go everywhere together, do everything together. They were just one of those couples, when you saw one, you always saw the other. For three years. Until Janice graduated.
I don't know exactly why they broke it off. But I do know that Janice had dreams of becoming an actress, or a model, or something like that. She moved to San Francisco, then to Los Angeles, and then she came back to New York a little over a year ago.
Janice did get a few minor acting jobs, but for whatever reason, she decided to move back East and is now working for an ad agency in Manhattan. She does some kind of creative work -- I'm not sure what -- and she seems happy and perfectly at ease with her decision to give up her old dreams of the glamorous life. We thought, perhaps she was ready to settle down and, you know, get a real job, a real relationship, a real life.
We know all this because after she returned to New York -- after seven or eight years -- she and Chris started going out together again. Chris works for a marketing firm in New York (he's in finance, not on the creative side of things). And pretty soon after they got back together, they started getting serious. They moved into an apartment together last fall, and over Christmas they announced they were getting engaged.
Everybody was happy for them. I guess from our point of view, the two kids just seemed to go together.
But as often happens in life, there was trouble in paradise. Earlier this spring they suddenly broke it off again. We don't know exactly why -- but apparently it was nothing serious, in the sense that it's not like Chris had an affair or got arrested; it's not like Janice met another guy or decided to move back to California. Apparently they just had a few heated arguments, and decided perhaps they were moving too fast, jumping into things, that perhaps they should hit the pause button and make sure this is what they really wanted to do. But it was Janice who made that decision, who said they should take the break.
Janice kept the apartment they had in the city. Chris moved back in with his parents. And now here comes the ethical part.
Chris met a local teacher. They had a fling. It was a brief affair and was soon over. But it definitely happened. And everyone knew about it.
But Chris is really still in love with Janice. He wants to go back to her. We actually think Janice is still in love with him. But she wants nothing to do with him, because in her mind he cheated on her.
Now I know this sounds a bit soap-opera-ish. But that's where the situation now stands. We had dinner with our friends, Chris's parents, last weekend, and so we got the full report. They think -- they admit -- that their son made a mistake. But they also think that Janice is being unfair. After all, she's the one who broke off their engagement -- even though, in some sense, the breakup was mutual. And even though they were just taking a break in their relationship, just slowing down to see if it was right for the both of them, not necessarily ending things permanently, they were in effect both single at the time, free to do what they wanted. How could Chris really be breaking their trust when they weren't actually together at the time?
Anyway, when all this is happening to someone else, it kind of makes you roll your eyes. How could he be so stupid? How could she be such a drama queen?
But when it's happening to you, it becomes much more serious. We haven't even talked directly to Chris about this -- much less Janice -- but we can see the concern expressed his parents. Anyway, B and I were talking about this the other night. I was definitely on Chris's side. I thought B would be on Janice's side -- but she surprised me. B isn't quite ready to give Chris a pass; but she does have sympathy for Chris and thinks that Janice is being a little too holier-than-thou.
Well, some of you have daughters. Do you have more sympathy for Janice? (I have a daughter too -- if this kind of thing happened to her, I know I would be on her side, but that's because she's my daughter, not necessarily because I'd think she was right). Not that we're going to offer anyone's opinions to Chris or his parents -- we're not that stupid! -- but we are curious.