By Jody Valley
Double your life, double your pressure?
Q: I have a great relationship, most of the time, with my partner of 10 years. His name is “Andy.” Everyone that knows Andy loves him and tells me how lucky I am to have him for my partner. Andy is a wonderful partner, much of the time, but he has one problem that is driving me crazy. Andy doesn’t know how to say “no.” When I first met him, this seemed to be such an endearing quality; it felt good to be with someone that is so loving and kind to everyone. But later, once we moved in together, I realized how much time this took up, and how Andy often doesn’t have time for me or for us.
Then, I find that things he promises to do for others tend to involve me as well. At first, I felt flattered that he wanted to be with me, but as time has gone by, I feel angry when he assumes I want to spend my Friday night driving to Detroit airport to pick up a friend’s family member, or spend my time trying to help someone put up a fence. Now this doesn’t go on once in a while, it goes on all the time. Also, no matter what we have planned, these plans could be changed if he thinks someone needs something that is more important that what we had planned. So far, I have put up with all of this, being glad he is so generous and cares so much, but what he has volunteered us for this time is the last straw.
Here’s what he has promised we will do: We have some friends that are going to Europe to visit family for three months. They were planning to get a house sitter, but Andy volunteered to take care of their house, yard, and three dogs until they get home–as well as take his daughter, who lives with her mother, to school and back, three times a week! This will mean that he (or we) will have to stay in their house to take care of the dogs, keep their house clean, as well as our own, have double yard work, and play taxi driver.
My question to you is how do I tell him I don’t want to take care of someone else’s house, dogs and daughter for three months, without sounding selfish?
Unwilling Assistant Do-Gooder
A: Certainly, being there for family and friends is important in life, but what you are indicating seems excessive. I don’t know of anyone who would think you were selfish for not wanting to spend three months of your life living in someone else’s house, taking care of their dogs, daughter and yard. It doesn’t sound like you and Andy have communicated effectively–if at all–on this matter. So, my advice to you is: start talking. Though you surely must wonder why he needs to say “yes” to everything–even when it upsets his and/or your life–I would suggest you do it in a very non-accusing way; focus on how this affects you and your relationship with him. I would also let him know that you do value his generosity and caring in life, but are asking for moderation.
Comparing the past
Q: Do you think that it is okay for my ex boyfriend, “Sam,” to ask my current boyfriend, “Joel,” out to dinner so that “they can compare notes on me?” (Sam didn’t know Joel before I started dating him.) Joel thinks it’s funny and wants to do it. He says it will be fun to find out what Sam has to say about me, and I shouldn’t be so paranoid about it. I think it is weird and don’t want Joel to have any part of it. What do you think, am I just being paranoid?
A: I think that Joel should respect you in this. It is about you, not him, and you have said you don’t want him to do this. Furthermore, I can’t see what good would come from this, sounds more like someone wanting to be a troublemaker.