Baggage Check Live: The Ghost of Bigfoot

Nov 27, 2018

Licensed clinical psychologist Dr. Andrea Bonior was online to take your comments about her advice column, Baggage Check, and any other questions you might have. These comments may appear in an upcoming column running in Express and online.

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Hello, all!

So glad you're here today. How is the week going?

In today's Baggage, we've got a LW feeling hurt by her mother's comments about whether she should stay home with her impending baby. And in L2, we've got someone wondering: how much work is too much work in relationships?

I'm ready and armed with tea and warmed-up typing fingers. Bring it on!

Can you suggest some anger management techniques? I recently got upset with my partner after some probably innocent texting exchanges with a member of the opposite sex. It's something I'd like to work on, not being jealous, not having an outsized reaction--feeling out of control angry.

So, there are degrees here.

If you are the "out of control" angry that is doing destructive things-- emotionally or physically abusive behavior, for instance-- then I would really recommend working on this more systematically with a professional, who can help spread out the goals week-to-week for continued progress and accountability.

But, if you're okay with just this lady typing things at you, here goes. Think of it as a two-pronged attack-- physically and cognitively. You've got to intervene on both. Spend some time observing yourself and what your body does when you are on edge or getting explosive. Tense muscles? Heat in your chest? Clenched jaw? Then work to identify some relaxation exercises that will work specifically on those areas (anything from neck rolls to diaphragmatic breathing to progressive muscle relaxation-- all easily googlable.) The key is to become aware of your body enough that you not only know when you are on the verge of escalating your rage, but can intervene before it goes full tilt. Sometimes visualizations help-- I worked with a client once who identified those feelings as a "fireball" and her job was to slow her breathing enough to let the fire dissipate, rather than launching it as a grenade that would wreck her relationships and her interactions with others.

The cognitive piece is equally important-- track your thoughts and see how and why they are contributing to the physical issue. What stories are you telling yourself in the moment that are contributing to it? In the case of the incident with your partner, it seems likely that you had some distorted thinking there ("They don't love me," "My relationship is ruined," "They are cheating on me.") When you can catch yourself in those thoughts, do a quick reframe: "I don't have evidence for that. I will take a breath and think things through before I make things worse." Focus on acknowledging your own feelings-- which are okay to have-- but also not using them as a weapon that will corrode you or others.

So, hopefully that will get you started. There is also this, that outlines things in a little more detail.

I'd put good money on the idea her Mom is voicing regrets and really saying "if I could have done it differently" - that doesn't mean you should, but..

Yes, this could very well be. Thanks.

If so, I think Mom needs to put a little effort in to finessing that conversation into "Let me let you in to my experiences, for us to understand each other better and build intimacy" rather than "Let me make you feel like I am telling you what to do and looking down on you in the process, taking away any intimacy we have."

This weekend me and my husband were pretty sick and we were in bed all weekend. My mom offered to take my 6 year old to see my brother and SIL. I thought it would be a good chance for my kid to see her cousins and have fun instead of being stuck in the house with us. Apparently, my mom told my brother but not my SIL. No one said anything when my parents and daughter showed up to their house. But then after they came home, I had a strange phone call with my SIL and brother. They felt that my SIL had the right to approve whoever comes to their house and my daughter didn't get pre-approved. I apologized and explained that we were really sick and we didn't think it was a big deal to have my kid tag along. I still feel like crap. Did I do something wrong?

What the what?

I want to make sure I'm understanding this right. Your brother was told that your daughter was coming to his house. Ostensibly, he did not object. He also chose not to share this with his wife.

She apparently did object-- for reasons that are not clear-- but now somehow your brother is blaming you?

Are your brother and sister-in-law actually married, or are they feuding college roommates?

Geez Louise. I say, this is not at all your fault. If your brother was alerted and did not object, then it was not up to your mother to get a notarized permission slip from his spouse.

And that's before we even get into the issue that you were in a bind and it is their niece. And they are parents too. Could they not give you a break? It wasn't even a baby-sitting job, it was a visit with your mother overseeing everything, no? Was it a germ issue? Were they worried about exposure? We can empathize about that, but again-- if brother gave the a-okay then it is on him if his wife objected after the fact.

Do you have outsized reactions when, say, there's a weather change that's giving you a headache? Or when your blood sugar is low? Worth thinking about.

Ooh-- hugely important. Thank you!

Hi, Dr. B. I have a fairly new friend I was thrilled to find. We have a great amount in common and enjoyed our times together. Just recently I learned that she believes a growing conspiracy theory of sorts, which shocked me because she seems so intelligent. When I pointed out the scientific consensus around the facts, she said she respected my "beliefs" and hoped I would respect hers. I don't feel I can trust her judgment anymore -- if she were to give her opinion, as a friend, on something I think or do, how real could it be? Please advise: I'd like to continue a friendship but wonder (and will wonder) how off-base she is.

Yes, it's unfortunate that we see this "backfire" effect often-- so I'm glad you realize that after presenting her with the facts failed to change her mind, it wasn't a battle that should kept being fought.

You can chart the course of this friendship as it goes. Perhaps this conspiracy theory will be a one-off and she is otherwise very capable of sound judgment. Maybe she's got terrible judgment about that sphere but great judgment about interpersonal relations or workplace issues or where to get a good bowl of pho. In other words, you wait and see. If you want to continue this friendship, as you say you do, then you just let it play out. She may redeem herself in your eyes, or she might do another thousand things that make you doubt her and have nothing to do with the conspiracy theory. Don't try to force it.

Hi Dr Bonior, I am definitely on the introverted side of the spectrum while my significant other is on the extroverted side. Our needs have clashed a few times where I wonder if there is a middle ground. For example, she wants to go out and do something 'fun' on New Year's Eve (concert, party, dancing, etc with lots of music and people around). My idea of an ideal NYE is a quiet evening at home. I go to work the next day so staying up to ring in the New Year isn't that much fun for me as I have a long day ahead of me. Also, she loves to invite literally dozens of people to her place for a get together. That idea leaves me shaking in my shoes. So I don't attend them. This upsets her and makes her feel like I don't care enough about her to attend her events. I wonder how other couples have survived their differences? Do they draw straws to choose what they will do for fun? Any help or ideas is appreciated. Thanks!

Before I even give my two (twelve?) cents, I'm going to throw this out to the chatters, as I have no doubt there is some experience with this out there!

Of course the answer is to compromise, but I know that's tricky. To some couples that means that each individual person skips what they want to skip, no questions asked. To other couples, that means constantly trying to meet in the middle-- let's have four close friends over for New Year's, for instance-- and that can also work. For others, it's going separately to events and letting the introvert duck out early. And for still others, it's just doing a big planning session of priorities-- looking ahead at the schedule and saying "Okay, most important to me this month is my work's holiday party, so can you come to that, but then skip XYZ" and the introvert agreeing to go outside of their comfort zone for the highly prioritized things but then getting a free pass on the others.

And of course, some tasting menu of all of the above could also be an option. The most important thing is that communication is clear and respectful, and each partner tries truly to empathize with the other one's needs (and wants.)

But let's hear some real-life examples!

Maybe your mom is advising you to stop working because she knows how much she missed while you were growing up. Specifically that first magic year when a baby changes every day! Rather than think your mom is a hypocrite, why don't you ask her the reasons?

Thanks. I don't think she necessarily thinks her Mom is a hypocrite, though that could be part of what's going on here. I do think it's really easy to imagine there is one "right" way to do things-- and that might be what is so jarring about what's coming from Mom. (Just like I can think of many 'magic' years in child-raising far beyond the diaper stage! Though the magic seems to occur mostly in retrospect!)

To me, this would be a deal-breaker. Does this mean I'm out of line, or that those for whom it's not a deal-breaker are out of line?

Nah, nobody's out of line! Any given friendship is a match between two people who may or may not be able to give each other what they need. You're totally allowed to have your own needs!

(And I will admit an absolutely excruciating curiosity about the conspiracy theory myself.... certain ones may very well be deal-breakers for me as well!)

I wonder why couples who are so incompatible from the outset marry or form partnerships. Do they imagine that they can "convert" the other one?

Perhaps. But also too, I don't think it's uncommon for us to be drawn to people who complement us in some way-- who have traits that we can't/don't have or are just fascinated by. And I do think it can work out if people are mindful about navigating it in loving, supportive ways.

My 21yo daughter called me last night and told me she was in a state of panic about the future. She is a senior at a prestigious university and not on the top end of the student body (her worry, not mine). She had an internship over the summer. Rather than tell me it wasn't working out, she just stopped it. She took on pet jobs to pay her rent/food so I was unaware as she was in a different city. She just stopped her work-study as well. She is not happy with the direction her education is taking her. She is on low-dose anxiety meds, but dr is here and she is 700 miles away. She is seeing someone at school. Her dad, with whom she has had very little relationship since she was 10yo (his choice) fell extremely ill 5 months ago and now calls her daily. I just put a stop to this as she broke down and told me how guilty she feels. If my daughter were here, I'd could help, but she has to get through finals in the next 3 weeks. I got her an anxiety blanket, which she loves, but now wants to stay in bed all day long.

When she told me the extent of what she's been hiding from me, I was not surprised. She's always been my responsible, easy child. I told her not to worry about anything but today and what she was feeling was normal. I'd like her to finish this semester and then she has a 4-week break, but I'm not sure she can do that. She has such a heavy sense of responsibility because she thinks she knows what I've given up for all my children. I insist that is not her worry, but she takes it on. I feel like she doesn't want any responsibility, including the responsibility of loving the people who love her. That worries me. Her dr. here just prescribes meds and is basically not great. I have another therapist whom I'm going to try to get an appt with over the break, but appts are gold. What (if anything) can I do to help from this end? Am I right to encourage her one day at a time or should I say forget it all and come home (I really do not like this option). Where should I be pointing my daughter?

There are a lot of different hats I could put on for this one--- college professor, former college counseling center psychologist, current psychologist of former college students whose issues were too severe for the counseling center or even staying in school, Mom-- and so my opinion is not without some complications here.

But my gut instinct says, take a breath, encourage her to do one day at a time, and do not tell her to forget everything and come home.

You mention that she wants to stay in bed all day (not entirely uncommon even among college students without anxiety) but I am not hearing overt signs of crisis. So, assuming she is not expressing suicidal ideation or descending into drug or alcohol abuse or self-harm, I do think that coping through this can be something that possibly gives her a sense of mastery-- with adequate support. Encourage her to look for some additional self-help techniques for her anxiety-- meditation apps, diaphragmatic breathing, spending some more social time with friends-- and check in with her regularly, but know that also this is not yours to fix. Make sure it is clear your love for her is unconditional-- that if she did "break," that is still okay, though you personally think she can do it-- and that there is a larger path here that she needs to eventually take to explore the dynamics you talked about.

For now, though, I really don't see much benefit from telling her to give up. Take care of yourself too, Mama-- that might be the hardest part of everything. She will navigate this.

Since I was a child, I've learnt from my parents that gifts can't be free, they're used to get something you want from the other person. And that declining gifts would grant passive agressiveness and stonewalling on their part. My older sister had the same experience as me, so when she gave me her keys to her old car I didn't expect (again) to be forced into a reciprocation contract. I thanked her, everyone was smiling at me, her and my parents. She, not even long after, said I could take care of her kid one Sunday, since I wasn't going with her to a family dinner. I'm afraid to turn down a gift of this magnitude, and I don't think I can talk to my sister honestly and tell her I don't want the car or taking care of his kid. Even though I expect rencour from my family and I could use the car, I'm tired of feeling pushed around and not being taken seriously by my own family. What's your advice?

"I'm afraid to turn down a gift of this magnitude."

And here I was thinking you should be afraid to NOT turn it down!

There's a real lack of communication here. And I think there's an argument to be made that if you are willing to accept a car from someone, a few hours of babysitting shouldn't be out of the question. Now before I get jumped on, let me make it clear: this should not be assumed automatically, or imposed upon you as part of some "reciprocation contract". No one should be roped into babysitting against their will, no matter what kind of wheels they're driving around in. But-- do you really think it is acceptable to accept a free CAR and not maybe be expected to help out sometimes in return? I'm just trying to gauge here. I agree that gifts in general shouldn't have strings-- but what amount are you willing to do to help your sister when she needs it? And if the answer is nothing (I'm not saying it is, but I am wondering), then should you really get her car?

I mean.... we're not talking about a plastic Hot Wheelz car, ar we?

Again, I am NOT on board with passive-aggressiveness, roping people into things or having unspoken rules about what gifts mean. That's an ugly power play/guilt trip, and no, it's not right for your sister to do. Communication, again, is sorely lacking here.

But I also have the nagging suspicion that-- just as your family's making some convoluted rules, you're sort of trying to yourself-- want certain things for being a sister, but wanting never to have to be troubled by that pesky being-an-aunt piece). You shouldn't have to babysit if you don't want to. But I also think that if you don't want any strings whatsoever, then you need to decline the car.


I think this also goes to the fact that you don't need to agree with your friends on everything, whether it be politics or that bigfoot really exists. As long as it doesn't hurt anyone (this is a big caveat) I wouldn't think twice about continuing a friendship. I have a great friend who 100 percent believes in ghosts and goes on ghost hunts with groups. I rib her sometimes, but for the most part she just mentions her latest hunt as though she were discussing her book club. Live and let live....

I really like this example.

Ghosts, Bigfoot (and perhaps the Ghost of Bigfoot)-- that we can get on board with.

I'm guessing some conspiracy theories that are more hateful or demonize various human beings could be much harder to swallow, though.

Opposites attract is a fair well known and old concept.....

Very true. What is much less clear is what happens to them once they have to do laundry together long-term!

I'm sure it's because Mom worded her comments in a way that made her sound like a hypocrite, which is why it came as such an unpleasant surprise to the LW. But yes, asking why Mom is giving such "do as I say not as I did" advice is a good way to broach the topic, and then decide how to react depending on Mom's answers.


I feel like there is SOOOO much potential nuance here in terms of the exact wording and tone of the conversation. Sometimes even just the subtle-est shift in voice can make something sound waaaaaay judgmental.


My mom is an incredibly smart lady; has a PhD, reads a lot, etc. But as she gets older she seems to be buying into more of what I would consider conspiracy theories. The science is one direction, the stuff she reads in another. But she's still my mom, and I still love her and trust her opinion on many topics. There's not much to be done except try to steer conversations away from those topics. I think it depends on the specific theories and how attached to them the person is. For my mom, it's mostly stuff around food - and she's free to eat however she wants and she never tries to "convert" me. This would be different if we were talking about deeply held beliefs about Hillary Clinton and a specific pizza place (for example).


Sounds like you've found a way to cope with this, and that these particular conspiracy theories remain within the manageable realm.


To channel Carolyn Hax (if that's allowed here), she always recommends exit strategies for coping with different social levels. Can your partner host a party, but you duck out after an hour? Can she handle all the hosting while you handle all the constant-moving and less social ice refilling? Can you drive separately, so you can smooch at midnight and go home? Can she say "oh Partner preferred a quiet night in, so it's just me tonight" without embarrassment, excuses or resentment?

Channelling's totally okay!

Very helpful specifics-- thanks!

For the person who is feeling like he/she needs to move on every couple years, are you by any chance a military kid, or someone who moved a lot in childhood? The feeling may be ingrained, and it's up to you to decide if you want to move, or if you are just feeling like it is time. I grew up in the same house, but am now a military spouse, and by year 2.5 in any given location, my whole being is screaming at me that it's time to move on to other places. I've warned my spouse that I probably won't be able to settle in retirement, either. While you don't want to perpetually run away, moving in and of itself isn't a bad thing.

Helpful insight-- thank you!

Makes me think of all the kids I grew up with in a community that was very heavily populated by Navy families, and the positives and not-so-positives of what they got used to with the frequent moves. I was on the opposite side of the spectrum-- I was the one kid who remained each year and didn't move!

This is not your problem. SIL is either being ridiculous or has a beef with BIL (you knew xyz was happening, Husband, why did you say ok).

Yes. Thank you-- I am glad it is not just me who had that reaction.

Some (perhaps most, nowadays) mothers HAD/HAVE to work out of economic necessity, including the LW's mom. The LW apparently doesn't have that financial need, but wants to continue working out of a sense of fulfillment, or to keep her career skills from going stale, or some other compelling reason (rather than just for the extra money).


Different strokes-- and different needs-- for different folks!

I've been diagnosed with OCD two years ago, and found a CBT therapist around that time without doing a lot of research. I know I have made progress because I learned a lot over the last couple of years, and I feel like I can handle with my condition and generally a lot better. But because I was ironically obssessed with finding out more about OCD, I realised there a lot of different treatment which are not CBT per se, and that people say changed their life and even cured them. And now i'm wondering, because i'm not sure if my kind of therapy is like theirs, whether I should consider changing therapists or should I tell her I want to see if we can change methods? Because I know there were things that helped, bit there are methods she used that didn't fit the model of the other types or "better" types of OCD therapy.

CBT has become so widely referred to in so many different types of practices that it is almost a catch-all for a whole variety of techniques. So I'm not exactly sure what your provider was doing, but it could very well still have been a very good fit for you. After all, you say you are handling things "a lot better." No two people with OCD are exactly alike, and no two people need exactly the same style of therapy. Plus, most types of therapy for OCD do fall in line with the CBT orientation. I am guessing that perhaps some of these other treatments you've heard of are more heavy on the "B"-- behavioral interventions-- along the lines of exposure and response prevention?

Definitely, talk to your therapist. But also be wary that just because someone is spouting off on the Internet that a certain type of treatment "cured" them, we can't exactly know what was really going on there. The bottom line is that you need a solid treatment that is tailor-made for you. So definitely talk to your therapist about what you feel is missing.

I did not express my opinion to my DILs about working after their children were born. Turns out one DIL went right back to work and has a day care center in the building next to her office. Child is thriving. Other DIL (I have no idea what her original plans were) when she found out she was having multiples decided to stop work when they came because the cost of infant day care times multiples was ridiculous. Children doing well. Oh, and I worked all through my son's growing up and am still working. They are doing well, too. Many roads to Oz, mom needs to apologize and pledge daughter support.

Yes. I love it-- there are so many roads to Oz indeed.

Including the hybrids or all-of-the-aboves-- a group I was privileged to belong to, as no Mommy-Wars definition has ever fit my own particular shenanigans!

My first baby was a preemie and I took off 3 months. Let me tell you at the end I was SO ready to go back to work! I took off 2 months for kid#2 and again was ready to return to the workforce. I think there is no one size fits all answer. Can the mom to be get ~3 months off to see how she likes staying home? That way she doesn't close the door on her job.

Couldn't agree more that there is no one-size-fits-all! Thanks.

For the most part I've tried to avoid the "Don't be so sure of what you want; the baby is not here yet and that could change" line of thinking because-- although it may very well be quite true-- I'm not sure that's what LW is looking for at the moment.

What if your daughter took a "gap year" after this semester ends? She might then return to college more focused and motivated. (Yes, I realize there's a risk she might not return to college at all, or not for a long time, but maybe even that might be best for her at least in the short-term).

I've seen that be helpful for quite a lot of students-- especially if it's well-planned to bring some healing and exploration.


My husband's Mom is 88 and lives 3,000 miles away. We visit her every winter for her birthday. Yet it feels like our visits are disruptive rather than pleasurable. She nitpicks how we do the dishes. If we suggest dining out so she doesn't have to cook, she complains we should eat the food in her fridge (we like trying new places when we travel!) Instead of having her pick us up at the airport, we take Uber, but she complains that if her neighbors see Uber picking us up at 5AM for our return flight home, "They'll think I'm a bad mother for not driving you." Good lord!

I get it -- if I was 88, I might not want house guests...but I'm not even sure she'd be happy if we stayed at a hotel (you guessed it, she would be "hurt" if we didn't). It's like playing whack-a-mole. If we call once a week, it's too much. If we don't call for 3-4 weeks, she calls wondering what's "wrong."

I was raised by a loving, warm fun mother, and not with this kind of dysfunction (my husband has worked around it for decades, so it doesn't bother him as much, and my different approach to life surely contributes to his mother's irritations with me for not working around her oddness). I want to honor my family ties and I love my husband, but dealing with Debbie Downer is wearing me out. Any advice for dealing with difficult personalities that you can't 'unfriend'?

So, can you let some of these complaints just be there? In other words, she's not really telling you NOT to get an Uber, she's just expressing her worries about what her neighbors will think.

I guess what I'm driving at is this: what if you reframed her complaints not as something that needed to be escalated to the equivalent of the Relationship Customer Service Department, but just as expressions of her anxiety or mood or personality?

And there's a part of me that's thinking-- she's 88 and you're there for her birthday! If she wants to eat at home, why can't she?

I'm not trying to be un-empathetic here. I can completely understand that this is tiresome and invalidating and makes you feel unappreciated and frustrated, and like you can't do anything right by her.

But also, in a matter of degrees, I'm thinking-- you see her once a year. You can maybe decide to call her every other week (the sweet spot to avoid complaints, as I see it.) That doesn't seem like a huge commitment in terms of frustration- absorption. Do you think you could bring yourself to just accept it?

Spouse and I are experiencing a highly stressful time with 3 children under 3; my spouse is exhibiting controlling behaviors (scored very high on your “is your spouse controlling” quiz) but I do not believe he is aware that he is doing it. He has a controlling mother so has lived under the control of another person for a significant time but has never made the connection and thus, does not see the behaviors in himself either. The thing is, I do not think he intends to be controlling; he sees this as normal relationship compromises. But, I think he has normalized controlling behavior since this is what he grew up seeing. I have tried to explain how certain actions make me feel as if I have no choice but to comply with his wishes but he does not see how he “punishes” me when I don’t do what he wants. So, does it matter that he doesn’t intend to be controlling? It’s hard to be angry or advocate for changes when he doesn’t see the problem and he genuinely wants to make me happy, he just has no idea the damage to the relationship he is causing… so, do I plan my eventual escape or try to get him to see the dysfunction and change?

Does the intent matter?

Somewhat. But probably not enough.

The far bigger variable is whether that lack of intent to control also corresponds to a desire to understand how he is coming across, and really look at it without defensiveness (not easy, by definition, for someone who is controlling.)  And then-- and this is the absolute Biggie-- be willing to do the work to change.

In other words, yeah, it's good that he's not setting out to be controlling or emotionally toxic. Hooray! But that doesn't really tell us whether he's going to acknowledge that he's become that way-- and do something about it.

Good luck.

I'm a divorced, middle-aged and chubby woman with a young child. I'm on several dating apps, and regularly "swipe" on the men I find attractive. But I rarely match, and have only been out with one man over the past year. I am finding mutual attraction to be very elusive. Although I do receive a message here or there from a potential date, I rarely find the ones who aren't scammers to be attractive, interesting, or interested in more than an NSA relationship. In analyzing the past year, it seems obvious that the ones who I think would be perfect for me do not reciprocate that feeling. Some of their profiles specify they only wish to hear from women under forty who are fit, foxy, and fertile, yet free of any progeny-related encumbrances. Suggestions? I have already expanded my geographic limitations and the age ranges I'm open to, to just shy of any man old enough to be my parent or whom I could be his parent within two hours of where I live. How do other not-beautiful women manage this?

This is definitely a complaint that I hear all too often about the dating apps. So.... are there other dating apps you can try instead? Are you leaning toward ones that are a bit too meat-market-ish?

Or what about going outside of the dating apps? Putting in real, numbers-game effort to be involved in more activities and become part of more communities that will help you meet more like-minded people?

Lots of people are probably wondering if you're being too "picky." Of course there's no way for us to know that (and what does it even mean?) but I wonder if there are those out there who have some ideas about tweaks you could make to have more success.


I think you should also have a think about a. is mom constantly going to be telling me I'm doing motherhood wrong and if so, how am I going to handle that.

Thanks. This could definitely be good practice for future conversations about differences of opinion in child-rearing.

Isn't it interesting that this mother-daughter dynamic is a bit of a Rorschach, though? Several people assuming Mom is super-judgmental, several people assuming daughter is way too sensitive, and everything in between.


You should also direct her to actionable steps she can take now, a few weeks from the end of the semester. What are the withdrawal rules and deadlines. Is withdrawing from a course or two a possibility? Can she coast her way through a C in a class? Has she looked into the criteria for a medical withdrawal, which would not put Fs on her transcript. I'm sure she's feeling a lot of life and academic pressure, but the saying "C's make degrees" is for a reason. What can she do to make it to Christmas break? Grades will never be as important going forward. Anywhere that asks for her diploma won't know that she had a rough semester; anyone asking for her transcript should be looking a holistic application.

Great points!

I may have read the original too quickly, but it was unclear to me if Daughter was even declaring that she wanted to withdraw. But the more specifics she knows, the better informed she can be if she does have to decide one way or another.

For an introvert/extrovert relationship to work, both have to be willing compromise. My husband is the extrovert, but he understands my limits when it comes to socializing. I also realize I can't keep him home all the time. It works out well, he gets me out and doing things, but understands if I need to leave early. When we visit family he plans things for just the two of us to give me a break from all the busyness. I'm glad I married an extrovert.


It's like a beautiful painting-- "Still Life With Compromise." Thanks!

It is worth seeing if he's willing to explore how he's coming across. Unfortunately right in the middle of a highly stressful time is unlikely to make him receptive. I think it's really important to go to couples counseling so you have a neutral party. If this continues, you'll have to think to of the effect his controlling behavior is having on your children. Oh the irony!!


Couples counseling can definitely play a role here. Thanks.

Last year, a group of friends and I went out on NYE to a large party at a bar. My more introverted partner said it just really wasn't for him. At first, he was kind of upset that I would rather go out with friends than spend the time with him. We compromised and had a pre-gathering with the friends before we went out, that boyfriend attended. He had a good time, and then went home while we went out. Worked for us! NYE tends to be an especially fraught holiday for the introvert/extrovert dynamic. I typically don't have many issues with my partner on this, but it sounds like the couple in question does, and they should agree on some common ground to move forward!

Yes! This is a great example of a workable compromise, even on such a fraught holiday, which you hit the nail on the head about.


Consider good old-fashioned meeting men IRL (in real life). That way they can start to get to know you for your complete self, not just an image on a screen.

Yes. No doubt it is much easier said than done, but I have hope that with some effort and a pinch of luck, it can pay off.

Hi, My husband and I have been together 15 years, married 12. I have a son and he has a daughter and a son all early 30’s. This year each one had their first child so it’s been really great. As a widow my son only has me and we have limited extended family - i am also very close to my DIL whose Mom has mental health issues. All these years we have had very few blended family issues - bit now with the grandkids its coming out. I am like an Aunt to my steps but my husband is more DAd to my son just because my steps have many other parents and my son has only us. Everyone is fine but my husband who wants me to spend equal time with all 3 grandkids and as they all live far away its very hard to do that. when step daughter had her baby last week my hubby went to visit and stayed behind - American thanksgiving and it would have cost $4000 for flights and a hotel. On his own he can sleep on the couch as his ex has the bedroom (we also have a great relationship with ex and hubby). My step and hubby are here for a week after Xmas so i will see them then. The kids and i are all fine with things they way they are and my step even appreciated me not coming because it’s a lot of people ina small apt with a newborn. Her step dad is going after my hubby leaves. How can i get my hubby to accept the reality of of our blended family and yes we might be spending more time individually with our respective step grandkids...and thats OK.

Even if there were no "step" factor here, the reality is, different grandkids get different amounts of time with grandparents. Sometimes it's geographical location. Sometimes it's variability within the relationship with the parents. Sometimes it's hobbies or personalities or schedules or just a shared addiction to jigsaw puzzles. There is nothing to be gained from the desperate search for an Even Steven divvying up of time if everyone involved is already pretty happy with the way things are. 

So-- talk to your husband about why it doesn't feel right to him. Is it some sense of defensiveness about step versus "real" (quotes important there) kids? Is it that in reality he's concerned that you or someone else is actually not okay with it? Is he trying to protect you from some perceived hurt? Is he reading too much in to any individual visit, extrapolating deeper meaning into the relationship when in reality it's just about flight costs or apartment sizes? There's something deeper here for him, and the sooner you can figure it out, the sooner you can help release him from whatever pressure is making him feel this way in the first place.

The 10-Second Tension Headache Remedy a Physical Therapist Swears By It worked for me.

I don't have time to look at this closely yet, but hopefully it can be helpful! Thanks!

For the person having trouble making online matches, go back and look at your pictures. Have a close friend, guy friend if available, look at what you are posting too. Sometimes it is all about perception and has nothing to do with what you actually write about yourself.

Yes. Great point. Probably beyond awkward to do, but if OP is willing, getting a profile once-over from a trusted friend who is willing to be honest and objective can be really helpful.

Re being too picky - I'm not discriminating based on height, race, facial hair, glasses, number of chins, child status, or perceived income/socio-economic status. Although I'm over-educated, I come from a blue collar family. But I do prefer non-WASPy men who are literate, employed, single, non-alcoholics, and non-drug users. You would be surprised how many men on the dating apps those last five requirements knock out up front.

Oof!!! Sorry to hear it. But I am glad you are maintaining your sense of humor throughout it-- another quality that could help make a fulfilling match if you can just get exposed to the right people!

To second what one poster said, social platforms like give a huge range of activities to join. They have a huge range of interests from professional, to outdoors, to specific types of coders, to music aficionados. It's a place to meet real people, in person, with (a) a shared interest and (even better!) (b) a shared activity (to stave off any awkwardness). It's a great resource for a low-stakes, low barrier to entry social activity that you can use as it best fits you.

Yes. I do think these are the greatest type of hybrid-- you can pick and choose and select what's right for you online, while actually going out and having in-person interactions with people that will tell you much more than a profile does.

Much appreciated!

I don't have any suggestions but sympathy. I'm right there times 10. I have been divorced for almost 13 years and have had no luck meeting anyone that has turned into something long term. Do I like it? No. My use of the dating apps ebbs. I have found that they seem to work better in bigger cities. But have I entirely given up hope of maybe meeting someone. Nope. I do however, just keep living life and enjoying it.

I am sorry to hear that you can commiserate-- but it sounds like you are going on with your life in quite a lovely way regardless.

Thank you.

I could have been your daughter a couple years ago, except it was my last year of law school--it seemed like everyone was suddenly having an easier time than me, I felt dumb and always depressed and completely unsure about my future, but I had always been an overachieving kid and an easy daughter so I didn't want to complain or alarm my parents (who took out a chunk of change for my education). After consulting with my therapist I quit the one thing that was causing me the most immediate stress (this was my law journal, which I thought would have endless bad consequences for my career and it didn't matter at all) and my mom flew out to me. Honestly, just having her rub my head and cook me dinner while I studied made a world of difference (and my boyfriend who I lived with liked having a mom around too!). I felt embarrassed that I was suddenly not the independent daughter who had lived on the other side of the country for 7 years! If she can fly out there, mom might be a welcome presence. Sometimes you just need good things to look forward to, like mom's cheesy pasta.

Thank you for this! Bravo on making the changes that you needed to make to get through.

Granted, a dorm room probably doesn't lend itself as well to cheesy-pasta-making, but maybe a brief visit from Mom could indeed be helpful.

So glad you came through on the other side.

LW says daughter is a senior, so "gap year" won't work as far as her undergrad studies -- unless she doesn't finish this year. She could take a gap before working or going on to grad school, but needs to figure out what to do with it to make it beneficial.

Good point.

I do think that what you do with the year is key. Of course, healing from mental health issues is a goal in and of itself. But even that probably won't go as well without a little bit of structure and purpose to one's days.


When we visit my husband's family (especially when the visits were to his grandparents' house), we adopted the mantra "Do what you are told and eat what is on your plate." It summed up going along to get along, because it was only a few days. We were the only family members his grandmother trusted to wash the dishes. If we needed to eat (they ate very little), we would run an errand and grab something quietly. It wasn't really a battle worth fighting.

I like it.

Honestly, going along to get along-- within reason-- is sometimes highly underrated.

Not sure if this will make OP feel better or worse, but I (as a 26yoF) had a lot of the same issues with the swipe-style apps, which I'd been using on and off since college. My mother had a great perspective on it though, when you go to a bar or party (or wherever you may be looking) you have to filter out just as many potential matches. You likely wouldn't swipe on most of the men at a given club meeting, let alone them also being interested, THEN actually having a good personality match. And there's nothing wrong with that! But on apps it can feel like so much more work to do the sorting because you're having to deal with each one individually, rather than subconsciously. I've also learned that you tend to get much more serious people when you get away from the "swipe style" apps to ones where you view full profiles. Also paid memberships may be worth it for the same "investment" ideas. I've been dating a great guy since Sept from one of the apps, a dear family friend is engaged to a man she met on one, and my cousins that just welcomed their first baby last night met on one too! Good luck!

Congratulations to you and your fellow success stories!

It's a great reframe that your Mom had-- very true. And a helpful suggestion to move along from the swipe-style apps. Thank you!

"How much work should a relationship take?" For us, it’s coming up on 8 years. There is an imbalance of : I think + feel that I have shown him in many ways how he’s cared for and loved but he never feels that. He feels he it’s 90/10 especially bc he makes more money. It was just the two of us, then added his three sons 10,12,13), my parents moved in temporarily(his idea), Parents out, back to 5, I had an emotional affair, we had a baby months later, he was verbally abuse., I’ve left six times. He seems like he has really opened his eyes but I still keep my distance. I worry he’s actually gotten it together and I’ll miss the love in life we could have if his words match actions.

Well, that's not the most harmful worry as I see it.

You've had an emotional affair, you've got a new baby, and also a spouse who has been verbally abusive, leading you to leave half a dozen times.

I think it's time to get off the roller coaster of holding a decoder ring to his words and actions and wondering about the future.

The future is now, and you and your baby need some stability.

You mention nothing about getting professional support. I really, really hope you'll consider it.

Shoot. Time's up. Always one of my favorite hours of the week-- thanks so much for being here.

I already look forward to seeing you here next week, but in the meantime, I'll see you in the comments and on Facebook and in Detox Your Thoughts.

Be well!

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Dr. Andrea Bonior
Dr. Andrea Bonior is a licensed clinical psychologist and the voice behind Baggage Check since its start in 2005. She serves on the faculty of Georgetown University and is the author of the Publisher's Weekly best-seller "Psychology: Essential Thinkers, Classic Theories, and How They Inform Your World" and "The Friendship Fix.”
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