Baggage Check Live: "The drink tab is growing"

May 01, 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.

Want to read more? Read Baggage Check columns.

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Welcome! I'm so happy to have you here. 

Have you read this week's column yet? It has a mom/wife who is go-go-go-go all the time, and she is apparently driving her family up the wall. And in Letter 2, we see a marriage that may or may not be over-- but perhaps really should be. I think it has us all a little concerned. LW2, might you be out there?

What else is going on for you all on this first day of May?

Dating- The arc of my life has been different. Not at all what I imagined. I find myself in my early fifties dating. Really dating for the first time it seems. Men rarely asked me out as a young woman and then I became life threateningly ill in my thirties. I'm feeling better than I was but I'm not 100% yet. (goal is always 100) A life alone is never what I wanted and I am lonely. My previous jobs had me interacting with people and I managed to find that even though I was unable to work. (Hint grocery shop like a European) I am definitely a 'people' person. Dating-"What do you do?" "oh, you don't work" "Oh, you have a XX disease" (that I'm not dying from, no one needs to physically care for me) Minds shut and hearts don't get opened. I'm a genuinely kind woman. This illness has taught me so much and I am grateful for what it has shown me if that makes sense. How do I date? I have no money, no savings and I may never work full time again once I am able to rejoin the workforce. In a society where these things count so much. Where the demographic is genuinely concerned because they have alimony or child support still... I feel so inadequate. It's so frustrating. And the kicker is that I've walked through the fires of hell to be here. Including teaching myself to walk and talk again. Nothing should frighten me. But being alone for the rest of my life does.

 

My heart goes out to you. And I know that platitudes like "Just keep trying; the perfect person is out there" and "It'll happen when you least expect it" are not fair and feel anything but true.

But the keep trying part, at least-- there is something to that. You have so much to offer someone, so you might think about the types of contexts in which you are meeting people. If there's an element of checking all the right boxes-- like what happens in certain online dating sites where the profiles tend to be formulaic-- then yes, you might sometimes feel like you are falling short if you don't have X job, or are coming to the table with Y health history.

You are a people person. Keep being one. Talk to people everywhere. Follow your interests-- and finding ways to indulge in them without spending much money. Keep friendships in strong condition, and enjoy them for their own sake, but also for the potential of others they can bring into your life. Keep your eyes-- and heart-- open.

And use the Internet as much as you can in the ways that feel REAL to you. (Out: meat market dating sites; In: local listservs that lead to in-person interaction. Message boards for people who share some of what you've gone through. Meetups for hobbies or interests or volunteer work.)

There's no easy answer here except to keep being open to life. It is very hard to be alone when you are fully open to experiences and connections-- even if you are single.

Good luck.

This question from the last chat prompted me to write because I'm the opposite of this person. I never bought into the people-pleasing mindset that a lot of women seem to (probably because my mother drummed it into my head so often that I should be "just as sweet as pie" that I rebelled). Lets just stipulate that Severus Snape is my soul-mate. I try to be kind to people, but don't do the overwhelmingly nurturing thing. That makes it hard to form friendships with other women because they don't perceive me to be "nice" enough. Plus I can't help getting irritated when the solution to someone's problem is to just say, "no, I can't do that." Conditioning women to be self-effacing is a bad idea on a lot of levels.

Exhibit A of how the pendulum can swing so opposite to what is instilled in us as children.

In your case, it seems to be serving you well, except for the friendship part. Of course, there are all kinds of gradations of "niceness." I'd like to think that being kind is not mutually exclusive with being assertive. There can be a fine line between not being a people-pleaser, versus actively irritating people, right?

I am going to assume you are doing just fine, though. And I agree that self-effacement can be a toxic force over time!

I'm the pregnant woman who wrote in, concerned that my husband would be a passive dad like our friend (who only does things for his child when specifically asked to do so, then sits right back down and zones out). I asked my husband what he'd thought as it was going on. My husband said he'd noticed how Friend was being really passive, but he thought it was due to Wife being territorial and muscling Friend out. I pointed out that when it's your kid, you have standing to say, "No, I'm going to be an equal participant," and that it's not a valid excuse. Friend's passivity was much more likely to be for his own convenience than the fault of Wife. Basically, if Friend wanted to be an active father, he would be, and Wife's personal maelstrom was likely a habit born of desperation. Husband chewed on that for a moment, and I explained that I often feel he hangs back and waits for instructions instead of pitching in. Husband says he asks how he can help, but I'm usually too busy to tell him what to do. Which, as I pointed out, is the problem. I need him to be a proactive adult in his own home, see the tasks that need to be done, and not see me as his manager. That's not something that magically comes to women, it's a learned skill. Anyway, I doubt I'll see changes overnight. But I feel like I made some progress in getting him to see how so many moms wind up resentful and overwhelmed. He's also really stepped up in taking care of me (I'm having a bit of a rough pregnancy).

Thanks so much for writing in. I'm so glad you started this conversation-- and I really think it can be a continual dialogue that adjusts as you go. Keep us posted!

(By the way, I'm struck by the "How Can I Help?" bugaboo again-- like the cartoon I shared last week-- and that really needs to be addressed as well. Short answer: "Don't make me be the project manager who has to oversee everything in order to delegate to you in the first place!")

Has the drill sergeant had a medical checkup lately? This kind of hectic scheduling sounds hyperthyroid or manic to me.

It's an interesting possibility, though it seems she's always been that way. Thanks.

Is she high energy, or anxious, and/or controlling? By the time kids are teenagers they have their own hobbies and friends. Nothing wrong with expecting some family time (weekly dinners or game nights or whatever), but overbooking their whole weekend suggests she isn’t respecting their autonomy. Heck, most school aged kids (5-6+) want to spend time doing their own thing. Which makes me wonder how long she has micromanaged kids (and spouse?) rather than allowing them age appropriate independence and autonomy. If she’s got anxiety and is using scheduling as a way to give her the illusion of control that may be a bigger issue than “she prefers to be on the go and needs 6 hours of sleep while my kids like to sunbathe and need 10 hours of sleep”

Great question! It is hard to imagine that there isn't a serious potential for micro-managing here, if she becomes "high-energy" about monitoring other aspects of their lives as well.

Psst! Over here! I'll be your friend! You know how when people say "No no, it's fine!" and they are actually seething inside? Yeah, I don't do that.

See? There are others like you out there, OP!!!!

Can I buy you two a drink? :-)

You don't have to tell every difficult thing to every first date. It's ok to share yourself a little at a time and let people get to know you first (you sound great to me!). Everyone has "baggage" and it's not dishonest to share yours with only the people who deserve it to be shared with them.

Yes. Moderation in how and when you let things unfold in terms of your history-- it's totally okay, and even advisable. That's not to say that you should be ashamed of anything that got you where you are, OP. But in that same vein, don't view it as a cat to be let out of a bag.

Thanks.

This sounds to me like you're forcing your opinion on people. You might want to check on that.

Right. I'm unclear if the OP just gets secretly irritated and simmers, or if they parrot this right back at the person continually!

The great Miss Manners recommends The Weak Smile and The Hollow Laugh to accompany the "no no it's fine" to convey how you're actually seething.

I've known some masters of The Hollow Laugh, and those sounds haunt me to this day! Message was received loud and clear!

We have a highly energetic first grader who chews on his shirt collars and long sleeves all day long. Our older child did this as did I but we largely grew out of it by this age. His school allows him to chew gum which helps a little bit but he isn't chewing it constantly all day long. We've tried chewable pencil toppers and necklaces but the teacher had to ban those because our kid would taunt other kids with his spit covered chewing devices. Having done this sort of thing myself, I know it's not something he's actively aware he's doing. Every shirt and jacket this kid owns has been ruined and he's getting to the point that I worry about teasing. Do you have any advice on how we might help snuff out this behavior or resources we can look into?

Okay, you're seeing the chewing as the problem here, whereas I'm also seeing the taunting.

I think a chewable necklace could do so much for your kid in terms of giving him the sensory stimulation/release that he needs. When you think about it, there are not that many alternative ways to satisfy this sensation-seeking besides actually giving him something to chew on (literally, not metaphorically!) So, if you don't want it to be his clothes, then the necklaces or another such toy would be the magic bullet. So why is he sabotaging himself by getting in trouble with it? Were other kids ostracizing him or making fun of him? Is he oppositional in other ways? Is he socially anxious? Is impulse control a problem?

I think there are a couple of important avenues here. One is really getting to listen to him about what's going on. Sometimes these things are indeed just about sensory processing, whereas other times they are about significant anxiety issues, or even motor tics. Work with him to identify his triggers and what makes him feel worse. Work on substituting the chewing with whatever else may be acceptable (but again, that's easier said than done.) Work on cultivating good relationships with his peers. I get it that it might just be a classroom management thing and that maybe his "taunting" was all in fun with friends and a teacher just couldn't deal with it-- understandable. But he also needs to see that he is making it harder on himself when he does something like that, by taking away one of the potential tools he has to feel better.

Speaking of tools for kids who need a lot of high sensory input-- what about things to keep his hands occupied as well, or to address general fidgitiness? Stools/chairs that allow for some fidgeting? Koosh balls? I know fidget spinners have worn out their welcome, but I would be looking at other ways in which he is sensation-seeking and trying to address those as well-- to get the overall needs met. This habit is not abnormal-- I've dealt with my share of wet, frayed sweatshirt cuffs myself, and goodness knows some kids at this age are still sucking thumbs and fingers-- but you want to see it moving in the right direction.

Bottom line-- view this collaboratively with him as something to work on, listening to what his potential ideas are as well, and setting small goals as he overcomes it. I know he's only in first grade, but he's almost in second-- and the demands of self-regulation that we see in school for that age are pretty stark. You want him feeling as autonomous as possible when it comes to being able to tackle this.

Good luck. Chatters?

 

I wrote in 2 weeks ago about wanting to book a trip but worried about what my family/friends would say. After you gave me a serious wake up call, I gave myself permission to do what I wanted to do. We booked our trip and I feel great about it! (Also, comment about trip insurance was gold.) I was totally ready to set reasonable boundaries, and turns out no one cares. But I feel way better (and better prepared for the next time a need for boundaries comes up), so thanks for your advice!

Score!

This makes me so happy. Thank you so much for the update.

High-fives all around, to the chatters and to you.

And bon voyage!

One thing my husband and I did (he’s the stay at home overworked parent) Is make a list of all of the total chores we expect to be done in the house even tiny little ones and then divide them up based on who doesn’t mind doing them or who is most suited or has the time for the job. We reevaluate this list a couple of times a year. This way we already know whose job it is to do things and we are comanaging rather than expecting one person to delegate to the other

I really l like this approach. I think people don't realize how much the idea of having to make the list in the first place-- when it falls on just one person-- is a mental chore in and of itself. So it's great that you and your husband have found a way to be a team about it, and even better that you continually revisit it and reevaluate.

I do seem to notice that when there is a stay-at-home father, these things seem to be more directly talked about, and a balance achieved a little more quickly and smoothly. Is it that there's no implicit gender assumptions to guide people into inertia or blind spots? Is it that SAHDs are more assertive than mothers would be in putting everything on the table? Is it my own confirmation bias because I think I've seen this trend?

Anyone else?

Loved OPs follow-up - such a constructive conversation! Talking about cartoons - I love this one: https://english.emmaclit.com/2017/05/20/you-shouldve-asked/

Loved it too!

And thanks for the cartoon-- though I am panicking here because that was the one that I intended to have shared last week. Zainab, did I accidentally share some random pic of, say, a screen shot of "Windy City Heat" instead?

This is the one you shared last week! https://www.workingmother.com/this-comic-perfectly-explains-mental-load-working-mothers-bear#page-24

There are excellent integrated treatments for children with OCD; a cousin had her daughter seen by a psychiatrist who oversaw medical issues, a yoga-type therapist who helped the child self-soothe and control her actions, and a counselor for talk therapy. It was an excellent team and she's grown into a self-confident adult.

Yes. It's true that these kinds of compulsive behaviors are often seen in OCD, and your suggestion is a great one to consider it.

I didn't necessarily hear any other signs of it in this case, though, and it seems to be potentially a habit like chewing nails that runs in the family. But worth a consideration. Thanks!

I have three amazing kids (20, 16, 13), they are smart, popular, hard working and beautiful on the inside and out. The youngest however, never feels she is good enough. My husband and I have been very careful not to make comparisons between them (we both grew up with parents that did that and it stung) and always ensure to praise their individual strengths. We strive to treat them each fairly as opposed to the "same", but I worry about my youngest who is so hard on herself. How can I make her see she is an amazing person in her own right, and not a shadow of her siblings ?

I wonder if this is less about siblings and more about her individual temperament's match to the type of praise you are giving.

You may very well be familiar already with Carol Dweck's research about growth mindsets versus fixed mindsets-- in fact it's now reached such a saturation point that Dweck herself has complained about how often it is misinterpreted in the school system-- but it might be worth revisiting. The Cliff Notes version-- kids who are praised for their traits ("You are so smart! You are so talented!") tend to develop a "fixed" mindset that makes them scared that they won't live up to those expectations, and they'll be "found out" not to be so smart after all. Whereas kids that are praised more for their effort ("Look how hard you worked on that! Wow, you overcame that problem well and kept trying until you figured it out!") tend to have a "growth" mindset that makes them believe that effort will pay off and that they have the tools to be able to do well. There's no "not good enough" about it.

I wonder if setting herself up to think she is so "amazing" and praising her "strengths" translates into upping her fear of failure, which very easily turns into worry that you are not good enough. Might it be that she has a very fixed mindset that she has to live up to?

I could be oversimplifying your situation, for sure. It's also possible that she suffers from some social anxiety that is making everything worse. And of course, I must ask about social media. Many of today's 13 year-old girls carry hundreds of points of comparison (and airbrushed at that!) around with them in their pockets all day via smartphone and Instagram and whatever-social-media-site-I'm-too-decripit-to-know-about. That and her social circle deserve a serious look as well.

I have a different hot take: OP is annoyed and frustrated when friend A has a "problem" that could be simply solved by friend A saying "no, I can't do that". For example, Friend A is invited to an event/house party and doesn't like the host/doesn't want to go. So Friend A laments at length about having to go when the solution is *very simply* to say "so sorry! I can't make it!" (this hot take brought to you by someone who agrees 100000000% with OP)

Another potential friend for the OP!

The drink tab is growing.

Yup, I can definitely see this side as well.

My husband in the aforementioned SAHD. He’s not assertive; I lead on this because we have a rather gender reversed 1950s marriage and I don’t want him to be overwhelmed at put upon. Maybe it’s because working wives listen and act when their husbands want to share the load ;)

Another possibility! Thanks!

I am chuckling hre about the "gender-reversed 1950s" marriage. As long as at least ONE of you gets the fun, rosette-adorned apron!!

This type of statement sets off screaming alarm bells for me. When someone paints all women with such a broad brush, I can't help but think the "other women" are not the problem. There are plenty of women who are direct/assertive/like the LW. It might be more difficult for such people to make friends, but it's not because women like that don't exist.

Yup, it is becoming abundantly clear that plenty of women have the same perspective as OP.

You could definitely be on to something with the broad brush issue. I did get a little twinge in my Spidey Sense about the "kindness versus assertiveness" false dichotomy... I wonder if there's some black-and-white thinking here, or to a jumping of conclusions, in the OP.

Just a suggestion, but in addition to (or instead of) online dating, how about doing group activities, such as through the site Meetup? Online dating is often very tedious regardless of age. Group activities are a good way to meet people with common interests, and even if she doesn’t find a romantic match, she’ll at least likely make some good friends.

Group activities are always great avenues to start with. In my recollection, OP was trying that, but it does take time.

Thanks.

Nail biting is hereditary?

Certain high needs for oral or other sensory stimulation can be, yup. You can sometimes see the same motor tics as well.

I wonder if the ages of the children are having an effect on the mom who wants weekends to be overstuffed and full of togetherness. Maybe she's realizing her teens will be out of the house soon, so she's cramming in as much as she possibly can. (Which is, of course, backfiring.)

Yes. Backfiring indeed!

It's a great point; if that's the case, I wonder if she can find a way to see it and adjust accordingly, for everyone's good.

One of our sons is like this. He can’t sit for more than a few minutes and tries to get everyone else up and busy. Our daughter-in-law puts up with a lot and is more understanding when our grandchildren need a break from being active every minute. When his father and I are with them, sometimes we tell him we’re not up to the long walk, seeing a large museum, etc. because of either my bad back or my husband’s bad knees. Son then becomes mad. We say yes to most activities, just not all. How should we be responding?

Well, if he's becoming mad, he needs to find a way to deal with that without coming down so harshly on you. I think it's less a question of response and more a question of a larger conversation outside of that hot-button moment.

Perhaps it can be framed as laying out expectations in advance of a trip, and using "I" statements to establish to him that you feel frustrated and/or hurt when he expects you to be able to conform to his schedule/level of activity/etc. I mean, my goodness, you are allowed to respect your backs and knees!

And can the daughter-in-law be an ally? Or is her "putting up with a lot" meaning that she is also condoning his behavior and making it harder for everyone (besides necessarily their children?)

Just like I though Compost was the gardening chat. Is the Post trying to confuse me?

hahah! Welcome anyway.

For thirteen years in print and four months in chat form, "Baggage Check" has referred to being able to unpack EMOTIONAL baggage. Sorry to defy expectations.

I am more than happy to chat about how many pairs of little sharp cuticle scissors have been taken away from me by airline security over the years, however.

For me, too. Because every woman I've ever heard utter the sentence "women don't like me" was the kind of woman who focused on men to the exclusion of women.

Yup, I could probably write a (perhaps mind-numbingly boring) dissertation on the times I've heard this and it's really indicated-- shocker-- a problem with the person saying it rather than a problem with, say, an entire 50-ish percent swath of the world's population.

Yup - this was my take too. 'I have to make homemade cupcakes for the PTA', 'I have to go to that party' 'I have to...'. No, you don't have to. You can step back and stop over-cmmitng yourself by saying 'Sorry, I can't help with that'.

Yup, absolutely.

"Have to" is in the eye of the beholder, no?

And some people aren't having to have to. (In other words, they're not having it. Hmm. I'll see myself out.)

Stop believing you don't have a lot to offer - you do! Look at what you've been through, and look at the strength and kindness and I'm sure other thing you take away. I know you know this - but I wonder if you truly believe it in your heart! A story: my husband is 14 years sober. When I met him nine years ago he had no money and lived like a grungy grad student - in his mid-thirties! I saw in him how he'd been though the fire and come out as forged steel. Yes, our culture often puts value on these things - believe me, I'm in DC and care for my mum, am trying to get yoga teaching off the ground and take care our home fires. Almost all my husband's family and siblings are attorneys to boot! You have great value, seek it in your heart. The depths of character are important and will be appreciated within the right circle.

There are so many things I love about this, and it just oozes kindness and love.

Thank you!

There's a Brit daily radio show on Radio 4 - Women's Hour. Its been going for decades and morphed from homemaker to feminist. Twenty years ago I came home for lunch to find my then boyfriend in a pinny, stirring a pot - he turned around and said 'I've just been listening to the most interesting item on Women's Hour'. And he did it so unselfconsciously - bless his heart!

hahah!

I love this.

Why can't men have aprons? And do they HAVE to say things like "King of the Grill?" Do no men bake?

Don't freak out that it is some serious mental issue like OCD, it could just be an under developed oral motor function. This is something most kids grow out of. Unless you have huge anxieties and OCD type issues that you believe have been passed on to your child, it will go away with OT therapy and time.

Totally.

I think we do run the risk of over-pathologizing in here sometimes (I'm fully to blame, of course. My dissertation made me do it.)

The truth is, if you think about how many kids start out as thumb-suckers or pacifier-suckers, it's not alarming at all to imagine that some are still continuing this oral self-soothing behavior in the early elementary years.

I'm married to someone who doesn't come with an off switch, whereas I need plenty of downtime and space. I spent a lot of time trailing after him as he barreled through each weekend at top speed, filling every hour and exhausting me completely. I tried asking him to slow down (unsurprisingly, he walks like his booty is on fire), scheduling chill time, trying to compromise. Then I realized I don't have to be someone I'm not. And neither does he. We don't have to do everything together. Now I just say, "You have a lovely time rappelling at Mt. Kilimanjaro, I'm going to sit on the porch and read this book." And we're both happier for it.

This is great.Well-done! Here's to increased sanity for both of you.

I imagine it's the addition of kids that can make it a bit more tricky.

I remember my tomboy sister sewing an apron in home ec class for my father, who was an excellent cook. The apron was yellow gingham. He loved it.

And now we all love your father! And your sister for that matter.

Thanks!

Along with the chewable necklace, please take your child to an OT who specializes in oral motor issues. Your child might need a few OT sessions to get this under control and then will "grow" out of it. The OT can really help you by formulating a plan after observation of your child and they can really help you understand the whys and wherefores of this behavior, which might be very different from why you chewed. Good luck. Mine finally grew out of it by the age of 10. It was rough, but we got through it. Also, we had food issues because of this issue to and those are much better now.

Some definitive votes for an occupational therapist. This is helpful for sure. Are you out there, OP?

Thanks. I am so glad your child's issues improved over time.

Is he gifted and bored? Anxious because the teacher reprimands? One of mine got better on this when she switched into gifted and from a disapproving unsympathetic instructor to one who just ignores the chewing and focuses on keeping her adequately stimulated. (The initial teacher seriously gave her below average subjective marks in academics when she scores 98%+ on objective tests — sometimes its student/class/teacher mismatch)

Another possibility to consider! Much appreciated.

I've seen a couple of articles confirming this, although they usually focus on gay couples, who come to their union with no assumptions about who's automatically responsible for what.

Very interesting! I am definitely going to look into this further. Thanks.

Thank you so much for taking my question a couple of weeks ago regarding my vacation anxiety with the potential bad weather. I definitely put way too much emphasis on the schedules and planning for this vacation and it was helpful for you to suggest I re-focus on spending time with my family. My mantra became 'A rainy day on vacation is better than a sunny day at the office'. While I'm happy to report we had fantastic weather, reframing my expectations set a good attitude for the vacation. Thanks!

The universe apparently rewarded your change of mindset!

So glad you wrote in, and even more glad it worked out.

Not all woman are like that, but most of them are (just my 50 years of personal experience), so it makes finding compatible female friends a little bit more difficult. It's just numbers.

But I guess the question here becomes-- is it that hard to be friends with someone who sometimes doesn't say no to stuff? I have lots of friends with personalities different than mine, and sometimes that makes for an asset, not a detriment!

I do hear your point, though.

I collect frilly, vintagey aprons, and have no other kind. I've always been a little surprised about how many men will happily put one on, pose for a photo, and then leave it on as they pitch in around the kitchen. Maybe having a "uniform" of sorts makes vegetable chopping more exciting for them?

I LOVE THIS! I will have to test this hypothesis.

And I love vintage-y aprons as well. A dear friend of mine got me one for a recent milestone birthday (ahem!) and I treasure it.

That's why I said the kid should be evaluated by a professional. And please don't use terms like "freak out that it is some serious mental issue" is if we're saying the kid is schizophrenic. We're all here trying to help the kid and his parents.

We're all here trying to help, for sure.

If someone used that wording, I missed it. Thanks.

"Q: This type of statement sets off screaming alarm bells for me. - For me, too. Because every woman I've ever heard utter the sentence "women don't like me" was the kind of woman who focused on men to the exclusion of women."  OP here. Nope. Not one bit.

Yup, that was a blanket statement in and of itself.

I'm sorry if it translated into an accusation.

I wish this advice and therapy had been around 50 years ago when one of my sisters was constantly nagged about sucking her thumb...so she kept on sucking it into teenagerhood. Thank you for posting this.

You are welcome. Too bad it's a smidge too late for your sister, but presumably she eventually got over it past the teenage years anyway!

I probably didn't include enough detail, when I'm praising strengths I do try to highlight efforts vs results . "You worked really hard on that project and must be happy with it", "You've spent a long time cleaning your room, I'm glad you stuck with it" sort of thing. You make a very good point about the different mindsets, and I will certainly research that some more. She tries so hard to emulate her sister who (at 7 years older) is at a very different stage of her life. I try to explain that but she she doesn't seem to get it. For what it's worth, her sister dotes on her and encourages her to be her own person. Thank you for taking my question!!

You are welcome!

Yes, there may be some subtle forces there that you're not necessarily aware of, even if overall you are doing praise the "right" way. Maybe observing it a little more could help identify some potential problem areas. Good luck!

You really need to widen your circle of acquaintance if the only women you know are stereotypes.

Posting with a subtle nod!

Right.

Hey, to OP's credit, I don't think there necessarily has to be anything about men here in the equation in the least, no matter what's going on.

I'll choose to take OP at her word for now!

I don't think we have enough info to tell what's going on here. I suspect it's more nuanced than it seems. I have been on both sides of a situation like this where I wonder why someone doesn't take my excellent advice, and also feeling unheard by my friend who is not acknowledging my situation, needs and feelings. I'm thinking specifically of how I had a therapist who blithely advised me to quit my job (the source of many of my woes) and was almost mad at me when I said that wasn't an option. I mean, theoretically it was, but her solution to then get a fast food job was not going to pay my bills (her solution to THAT: sell my house and move to a lower cost of living area). We parted ways mutually.

Wow-- that sounds like quite a "therapeutic" experience. I am sorry.

For sure, there are gradations in all of this potential behavior-- and we can't be sure of the OP's interactions unless we observed them ourselves! (And even then, we have our own lenses of bias!)

My darling husband has spent all weekend on the "Design Home" app. He's sort of hurt that I don't want to assist in designing virtual rooms. He's also extremely hurt that his rooms are not getting all 5 stars.

hahah!

I wouldn't say that is frilly; I'd say that is DESPERATELY NEEDED IN MY OWN HOME. Can he take a look and give me some ideas?

Maybe you're overwhelming with praise? Isn't "Nice job"! sufficient? The kid might feel like you're the one making a big deal.

Another avenue to consider!

I am like you - was brought up in an atmosphere where people said what they meant, and not always as kindly as it could be!! I have no problem asserting myself or saying no. But as Andrea said, there are ways of communicating with language and tone that are helpful. And they can change with our audience - as we adjust the way we talk to our boss from the way we talk to our spouse. There are ways to sit down with someone and kindly, but clearly say that you don't agree or that you are sorry they are in a pickle but their quarter of an hour kvetching is up for the day. This is something very valuable I learned in my yoga teacher training - from both ends! Quite frankly yoga teacher training breaks you down and builds you up. You learn how to be real about stuff - in a kind way that holds space for the person you're talking to and for yourself as that person who is also flawed and human - but is also honest because that is integral to a thriving relationship with others and yourself.

My, yoga gets a lot of love in this chat. :-)

Very much agree that it is all a spectrum. There are was to establish boundaries and taking care of oneself without being unduly harmful to others.

Thanks.

I am the one who wrote freak out. I was typing very fast and not thinking about the actual language. What I was trying to say was build up to it. Meaning look at it from the standpoint of maybe it's something minor like "A" instead of going directly to "X". There was a TV show in the past ten years that had a child who was acting out and being very surly. The parents were so worried (they were divorced) that the child had all these manifestations of serious problems so they took him to a therapist immediately The therapist said he's a nice, normal kid. Long story short was that the real problem was he was constipated and it made him irritable. Sometimes its a small issue not a large issue. I will never make the mistake of writing so fast again.

Hey, and I read so fast I didn't even catch it. No worries. I totally understood where you were coming from, and you were making the larger point-- fast or not-- that we DON'T need to catastrophize, which was an important one.

Very interesting about the constipation story!

I find it really helpful to look at this as not so much 'I have to' - we all have agency - but more as 'why am I making this choice'. Perhaps I've felt pressured and haven't weighed my options? Perhaps when I've made a considered decision I feel better about it, even if it's not something I'm looking forward to. Eyeroll: I have to go to that party becomes, I am showing the flag and supporting my husband by going to his work function.

I really like this approach. Thanks!

I said most. Not all. So your use of "only" here is inappropriate. And yes, it can be difficult being friends with someone who can't say no in an effort to please everyone around them. I prefer the people closest to me to be more honest and genuine so I don't have to wonder what they are really thinking. That's tiring.

I get it. You wonder-- if they are not being honest with others-- whether they are not being assertive with you. That is understandable.

But I must say, I do enjoy some really solid friendships with people who I feel I can be really real with-- and vice versa-- even if we're talking about our struggles being real with others, you know? That's what differentiates tight, intimate friendships from the public at large.

But I hear you!

This totally flew-- so many voices! I love it. Thanks so much for having been here; if I didn't tackle your question, I still hope to next week.

In the meantime, here's to May! I'll see you back here next week, and in the column comments and on Facebook in the meantime.

Take good care!

In This Chat
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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