His ‘venting’ points to bigger issue
DEAR CAROLYN: I’ve been dating this guy for about five months. I live in the city, he lives in the suburbs. Since I live where there’s more to do, he usually drives into the city to see me.
Since we’ve become more comfortable with each other, he now arrives at my apartment and expresses a great deal of annoyance at the homeless people he passed on his drive, often for asking for money in an aggressive way or wandering about the road unsafely.
His annoyance verges on anger and really bothers me. I understand that harassment or unsafe driving situations can be frustrating, but his anger seems to zero in on the homeless population, and I wouldn’t devote time and energy to being angry at a group of people so obviously less fortunate than me. My boyfriend is very well off and had a comfortable middle-class upbringing. I see it as a reflection of his values that he can’t seem to have any empathy toward this group just because they are causing mild annoyance.
Lately I’ve just been letting him vent, but I can’t shake the discomfort I feel when he complains about this group. How can I approach this without seeming like I am dismissing his feelings?
— Comfortable in the City DEAR COMFORTABLE: If he is irritated by panhandlers but not equally so by some Bimmer riding his tail for being in the passing lane for a nanosecond too long, then you might well have a classist jerk for a boyfriend.
But that’s neither here nor there. What is important:
■ You question his character;
■ But have learned not to do so out loud;
■ Because his annoyance “verges on anger”;
■ And he fights off questioning with “intense arguments.”
Do you see it? The issue could be anything. Let’s say, for argument’s sake, he rages equally at 7-Series drivers, so it’s not about empathy for the downtrodden. You still have a dynamic where you have legitimate concerns — his entitlement and his anger — that you choose not to talk about because he makes you pay too dearly for speaking up.
That is at best a recipe for misery, and at worst dangerous.
DEAR CAROLYN: Today is my older brother’s birthday I did not call and do not plan to. The only time he calls is when he needs something — and even then, he calls our mother to ask the rest of the siblings. He has time only when he gets something from it.
Apparently, I’m not the only sibling who “forgot” his birthday because he complained to Mom that no one has called. So Mom has sent us each a text reminding us to call our brother, along with a guilt trip. — “Forgot” DEAR FORGOT: Your brother and mom, in their succession of choices, drew a tidy diagram of what likely went wrong here. Your brother never got the hang of the “give” part of give-andtake. And your mother never stopped trying to insulate him from the consequences of this disconnection.
So get at the bigger questions: “Mom, why do you think he goes to you instead of just talking to us?” “[Brother], I hear you’re looking for X. Why didn’t you call me directly? Even just to say hi?”