His ‘vent­ing’ points to big­ger is­sue

Albany Times Union - Sunday - - ALBANY COUNTY - CAROLYN HAX Tell Me about it ▶ tellme­wash­post.com

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?”

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