Carolyn Hax: Advice

Drinking sparksissue with couple

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Hi, Carolyn: My girlfriend and I recently got into an argument about how much is appropriate to drink at a social occasion (I’m OK with drinking more, though she’s certainly not a teetotaler). I’m fine with having different standards, and negotiating situations as a couple, but I get the sense she is judging me – she keeps arguing that my behavior is unhealthy.

Neither of us believes I am an alcoholic, as I seldom drink alone and when I do drink in groups, it is usually in moderation. How do I tell her I’m OK with us negotiating, but not with her telling me my behavior is wrong?

Clashing

The relationship issue here is one of stasis. It’s not OK for two people in a relationship to remain in a position where one maintains an expressed negative view of the other’s behavior while the other continues behaving in the disapproved way. Not only is that a recipe for unhappiness, but it’s also a violation of trust.

Obviously two people will never do everything to the other’s liking, and of course when something is out of balance, then it’s important for someone to bring it up.

But the person being asked to change always has the prerogative to say no, as you did. That means it’s your girlfriend’s turn to either make a change or choose not to – and that means deciding whether she thinks you have a drinking problem. If she does, then she needs to break up with you. If she doesn’t, then she needs to lay off it.

The alcohol issue here, meanwhile, is hard to pin down. One angle worth trying is to start “negotiating” – identifying situations where it makes sense for you to cut back.

Email Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com.

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