Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Hi, Carolyn: I followed your advice from last week and waited to see what my new boyfriend would do for my birthday. He’s a total gem. He asked if I would like to go out to eat, and we went to a restaurant that I love and he’s not that into. He insisted on paying. (We almost always split the bill.)
I thought it was interesting to see how even a simple subject has room for lots of interpretations and assumptions. I wrote in mostly because my wait-and-see attitude might be setting my boyfriend up to disappoint me; wanting something and never voicing it is something my family has a history of doing. Also, my idea of a great birthday is usually a few hours reading a new book with some takeout. I don’t generally tell people when my birthday is and I don’t expect them to notice it.
I hope that wasn’t too defensive. You didn’t make assumptions, but I felt that some readers did. I suddenly suspect I’ve made incorrect assumptions about other people’s posts.
You’re welcome, I’m glad to hear it worked out. And, yes, you do sound defensive, but having your psyche picked over by an online mob is harder than people realize, so don’t feel bad about feeling bad.
Just a thought about your family history of unexpressed wishes:
When you know people well, it’s your job to anticipate them. That includes speaking up when you really want something, especially something they don’t naturally give.
When you don’t know someone well, I think it’s important to give them room to act vs. instructions.
This is not to be confused with waiting to see what people do and then getting upset with them for failing to read your mind. I’m talking about waiting and seeing and not getting upset when it doesn’t go your way, because you recognize that seeing what the person does without any prompting is, in general, more important than any specific thing you might have wanted.
As in, it’s better to see how this new person handles your birthday that first time than it is to have this one birthday exactly the way you want it.
So, yes, I agree with asking for what you want, but only after you’re established — and assuming you’re happy enough with the person as-is not to have to ask-ask-ask for everything.
Dear Carolyn: My best friend (male) has many good qualities – smart, funny, great listener – and others I don’t find appealing (cheats on partner, objectifies women, doesn’t take criticism well). How do I take what I like and leave the rest? I have told Friend about the non-appealing qualities and his response was, he’s too old to change. Sigh.
Sigh? That’s it?
If his failings touch on your core values, then you either call road apple on his excuses or you skip the formalities and leave the friendship.
If instead his failings are minor to you, then, great, ignore them and dwell on the good.
But ignoring core-value objections is a great way to flush valuable life minutes down the toilet of someone inherently corrupt.
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