My boyfriend’s par­ents want to run our life

The Hamilton Spectator - - GO - el­liead­ DEAR EL­LIE

Q. I’m in love with my bril­liant, driven, and ex­tremely car­ing boyfriend. We’re early 30s.

I’m ca­reer-fo­cused, am­bi­tious. We share dreams of trav­el­ling the world and start­ing our own busi­ness.

My sched­ule’s packed be­tween an of­fice job and my side-busi­ness. His sched­ule’s sim­i­lar.

How­ever, his fam­ily’s wor­ry­ing me. They rely heav­ily on him for tasks (“can you check my email?”) and er­rands (“drive me to the gro­cery store”).

He spends much of his free time at their house. They’re mid­dle-aged but far from el­derly.

His mother calls him al­most daily — of­ten to un­load her stress, which is then passed on to him. He long ago de­vel­oped chronic anx­i­ety.

Lately, she’s been the­atri­cal and emo­tional when I visit with them.

She’ll cry, say­ing how hard her life has been, and that she re­lies so heav­ily on her son.

Re­cently, she told me she knew there’d be a time when he’d have to leave but she can’t bear the thought.

I’m em­pa­thetic when lis­ten­ing and al­ways po­lite.

That evening, the par­ents pro­posed that we should move in with them for at least part of the week to make things eas­ier (for them.)

I re­fused. I can’t live in that stress­ful en­vi­ron­ment and spend my free time as­sist­ing her with house chores while my ca­reer suf­fers.

My boyfriend strug­gles with telling them “no.” But I feel the mother’s try­ing to drive a wedge be­tween us.

I re­mind him that if he wants to travel and run his own busi­ness, it’ll be im­pos­si­ble if his par­ents can­not be a lit­tle more proac­tive.

He agrees. But he won’t raise it with her be­cause he doesn’t want to hurt her feel­ings. How do I be­gin deal­ing with this?

A. You both must deal with this now. Plan a re­al­is­tic time­line for you both as a cou­ple — when you’ll move to­gether and where. You have a right to a fu­ture on your own.

Con­sider what help his par­ents ab­so­lutely do need — e.g. reg­u­lar clean­ing help, ac­cess to gro­cery-shop­ping, pe­ri­odic gar­den and house re­pair work, etc.

De­cide to­gether whether a once-weekly visit to look af­ter some of the needs, plus a so­cial visit to­gether for lunch or din­ner, is work­able.

And/or whether pay­ing for some help (e.g. a cleaner, gro­cery de­liv­er­ies) will be nec­es­sary.

To­gether, tell his par­ents your plan and lis­ten to their re­ac­tion (past any drama), for what may ac­tu­ally be es­sen­tial to add or ad­just.

It won’t be an easy change, es­pe­cially for his mother.

Also, with his own anx­i­ety, your boyfriend may find this move very dif­fi­cult. If so, you’d be wise to get coun­selling to­gether.

Ev­ery­thing I do is ‘wrong’

Q. My wife is overly con­trary. She’ll later re­al­ize it and apol­o­gize, but no mat­ter what I sug­gest, she first says No.

The idea/thought is al­ways ini­tially “wrong” un­til she re­thinks it and re­al­izes it’s OK.

She’s the youngest child and grew up al­most like an only child. It seems like she never had to com­pro­mise.

Ex­am­ple: I bought a bar­be­cue. I’m the only one who cooks on one and ini­ti­ates us­ing it.

It’s ba­si­cally a pur­chase for me to cook for the fam­ily.

But she didn’t like the num­ber of burn­ers on the one I chose!

How can I get her to stop be­ing so neg­a­tive?

A. You can’t “stop” another’s per­son­al­ity quirk.

But you can 1) ac­cept that it’s likely to oc­cur; 2) re­mem­ber that it can change with a re­think, and; 3) dis­cuss it as just a quirky re­flex and have a funny buz­zword to alert her, e.g. “oh-oh.” Try it.

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