Dear Carolyn: I’ve been in a relationship with a man for the past year and a half. He’s a wonderful guy and I love him very much. We live together and he puts up with all my faults and foibles.
Yet I’ve become what I despise — a nag. And I don’t know how to stop being so disapproving.
My boyfriend works hard, pays his bills and treats me and my dog with love and respect. He has had a history of alcohol use, culminating in a trip to a hospital after a near-fatal binge and suicidal inclinations. He does suffer from depression and anxiety and his alcohol use was interfering with the efficacy of his antidepressants.
He has since stopped drinking, except for an occasional beer. But now he’s moved onto pot. He uses it several times a day. I hate it. It stinks on him and in our apartment and I highly disapprove of it (it’s illegal here). Plus I think he’s replacing one chemical with another.
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Sometimes I feel like I’m behaving like his Mom. Do you have any advice on how to stop trying to micromanage things?
I’ve Become a Monster
You don’t need “good” reasons to leave (though yours seem stellar to me); you don’t need to stop loving him; you don’t even need to examine your own co-dependency – though I strongly suggest you do.
You also don’t need to defend or rethink your disapproval. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that pot is now legal where you live and that it’s a more effective antidepressant/anti-anxiety than the medication he’s taking. You’re still fully entitled to dislike the smoke and smell in your home, and the frustration of having a partner who spends the bulk of his waking hours high.
In other words, you don’t have to figure out a position on the principles of the thing; you can make decisions based solely on not liking the reality you live with.
Clearly you’re unhappy with your relationship and home life right now, and that unhappiness manifests in your nagging and fussing and suspense as you await the next calamity. Leaving is a reasonable response to systemic, not-just-a-bump-in-the-road unhappiness.
Nagging, by the way, is not. To nag is to accept the status quo while you verbally, annoyingly, kid yourself that you’re changing it.
If you have really good reasons not to leave – even if it’s just that you don’t feel you’ve tried everything yet – then please make some sort of reputable counseling, for you alone, your next move. You don’t have to sort all of this out on your own, nor is it a good idea to when you’re at the point of confusion and frustration you seem to have reached.
Email Carolyn at firstname.lastname@example.org.