Carolyn Hax is on leave. This column originally ran on April 23, 2016.
Dear Carolyn: I have someone wonderful in my life. We’ve been living together for almost three years and she wants to get married in a year. Things are great but from time to time I wonder if she’s just a little on the bossy side. She’s two years older than I am, well-traveled and very focused. Our relationship really benefits from her maturity.
She’s got a really high-pressure job, and fortunately for us her pay reflects that. I am an artist who works from home so I’m insulated from that fast-paced, stress-filled corporate culture. Because of her busy schedule, I take care of most of the household stuff to lighten her load; we’ve both decided that’s the best approach. I hope this doesn’t sound like I am venting because we have a great relationship. This is not me complaining that she holds the remote because things like that are small and not important to me.
My real concern is that whenever I drop subtle hints that she might be acting just a little bit pushy, she doesn’t say a word and just bends her head as if I’ve disappointed her somehow and gives me this look that suggests I am crazy. The topic doesn’t seem to ever get off the ground.
This situation has played out several times, and I usually choose not to push it. I can’t solicit opinions from any married guys in the office because I am the only guy in the office! We all lose touch with friends whenever we’re involved in a serious relationship, and I am certainly guilty of that. My parents absolutely adore her, and often remind me that she’s quite the catch.
I am probably concerned about nothing and these are issues that all busy couples face.
Concerned About Nothing?
Try brushing this off any harder and you might sprain yourself.
What she earns, doing what, how old she is, where she has traveled, and what these say about her behaviors (innate or acquired) make for a nice little red-herring parade.
It’s not even what you want to talk about that matters; it’s that you can talk about it with her. Apparently all you’ve done to this point is hint – subtly at that! – so her cocked head could be saying not that you’re crazy, but instead that you’re speaking a language she doesn’t understand. Or that you have something in your teeth and she’s not sure whether to tell you.
So, clearly state what you mean: “When you X, I feel Y.” Or, “I’m not comfortable with X. I’d like to do/talk about doing Y instead.” Or, “I’d like to slow down a bit on X. I need time to think.” Actual feelings, actual truth, actual words.
When you can speak up – when you feel confident she will hear you out, respect your needs and not punish you for challenging her – then actual wonderful becomes a possibility, too.
One more thing: You toss off that “we all” become isolated from friends. Actually, we don’t – only some do. Often that’s temporary and/or harmless, but when someone loses touch with friends, has no colleagues and lives with someone “pushy,” the red flags start flapping. So, humor me: Do a MOSAIC assessment (www.mosaicmethod.com). And put in a call to your friends.
Email Carolyn at email@example.com.