Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Dear Carolyn: I have been dating a nice guy for a little over a month. He is sweet and affectionate. The one problem is that he seems to have a negative outlook on marriage and kids. Whenever I bring up my friends with kids and families, he laments about how they are probably miserable behind closed doors.
I find this outlook for a guy in his mid-30s possibly a red flag since I do consider marriage important. Is this a deal-breaker, or nothing to worry about since we are early in the relationship?
And you respond to these laments, how? “Wth” comes to mind; seeing families as “miserable behind closed doors” is not exactly cocktail-party chatter. It is seriously dark.
It’s important to feel comfortable asking people, especially people you date, what their worldview is and why, especially when it differs so plainly from yours.
It’s just as important for you to understand and be willing to share your own. You have a high regard for marriage, it seems. Why? Is it reflexive or duly thought out? It’s who you are, after all.
So his dark skepticism could be a deal-breaker, yes. As could your lack of it, as could your reluctance to poke at what he means, as could his apparent preference for communicating via lament instead actual conversation.
The mother of all deal-breakers is if the interest in getting to know each other and choose wisely isn’t mutual. Ask, then see what you receive.
Dear Carolyn: My 80-year-old father has to go to court for beating up my mother (they are divorced). He’s not worried because he doesn’t think he did anything out of line. He has serious mental issues, which he denies. He’s an alcoholic and has been an abusive husband and father. He really can’t live alone anymore and if he doesn’t go to jail – which I’m assuming is unlikely because of his age – something will need to be done.
He wants my help, both with the court issue and helping him decide what to do about his living situation. Every time I’m near him, I lose my temper because he just doesn’t see that he’s ever done anything wrong. What do I owe this man, who is my father, but is also sick and not a very nice person?
Goodness. Please give yourself the loving gift of engaging professional help with this whole process, starting with a really good geriatric social worker. The court itself might be a source for referrals, and if not then contact the local council on aging. Repeat to yourself as needed: “This is over my head.” Because it is for each issue involved – the violence, alcoholism, mental incompetence and legal jeopardy – much less for all of them combined.
You have leverage, by the way: He needs you. That means you stand a better chance now than you ever have of implementing your preferred solution, even if it’s just to protect others from him.
I left your own emotional fallout, from a lifetime of association with your father, for last because I hope you’ll tend to it first. Your healing is paramount; please see that clearly enough to put getting therapy next on your list. Take care.
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