Carolyn Hax is away. In her absence, we are offering columns from her archive.
Dear Carolyn: This year I will be spending all of my vacation time (and money) on traveling for or with my boyfriend’s family. I understand that I do this voluntarily, but in a very real sense it is also somewhat compulsory because that’s what couples do, and because his mother says, “You will be joining us for Christmas, right?” So my boyfriend and I talked about taking a brief, private trip for New Year’s after being with his family for a week.
Well, after meeting his mother for dinner last night, he came home and said, “My mother said ‘no’ to our New Year’s trip.” And that was the end of it. Carolyn, his mother lives 15 minutes away, and we see her frequently. We are both adults in our 30s, and are paying our own way. I really do like his family, but I don’t understand why I’m being horrible in saying that it’s not her place to say no.
He claimed that though I have great parents, they raised me badly, and that I feel I have the right to do whatever I want. I think he needs to cut the strings, and take some responsibility for his life.
What do you think?
I think it’s astonishing, and a little scary, how you just threw in at the end that your boyfriend thinks you were raised badly.
Maybe I lack imagination, but I can think of only two things someone would do upon deciding his mate was ill-bred: break up with the damaged goods, or try to fix them.
You do assert your side, that you think he’s the one who needs fixing (a problem unto itself). However, the facts of your question suggest the willingness to adjust/improve/please is running strictly one-way. Your boyfriend plans trips, you go. He cancels, you don’t go. You protest to him, he insults you. He expects you to live by his convictions, and you ask me for permission to live by your own.
That’s telling you something screamingly important about your boyfriend. He’s not just fine with having his mom control his travel plans; he thinks you’re wrong to want to control your own. He doesn’t just have a controlling and presumptuous mother, he has a controlling and presumptuous value system.
Already, you have the shaken confidence in your own beliefs to show for it. Please get help — competent counseling, stat — and learn not just how to get out from under this guy’s thumb, but also how to flick away anyone else’s. Stat.
Dear Carolyn: I confided in my neighbor about a pretty serious health issue I was having. We haven’t been long-term friends from way back or anything. Did I cross the line? Oh, and yeah, he’s married. I have to admit that if he weren’t already taken, I’d think he was a great catch.
That snapping sound you just heard was my answer reversing itself as I got to the end of your question. Blurting out something that’s weighing on you is OK, even sweet, in a flawed-human kind of way. Using your private suffering to curry intimacy is neither OK nor sweet (in the other flawed-human kind of way).
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