Thursday, October 30, 2014

How Do I Be Sensitive to My Boyfriend Who Earns Half What I Do?

Dear Jocelyn,
I am writing to you about problems communicating about money in my relationship. I earn more than double my boyfriend’s income, and I own the house that we share. I ask very little from him in rent (the same amount his father charged when he was living at home), and I have been very generous with him (I paid off his debts and have never asked nor expected him to pay me back). Yet he completely shuts down when I discuss money.

For example, if he is short on rent and only gives me a fraction of what we agreed upon and I ask if he will be able to pay the rest, he will get very upset and say he is “doing the best he can.” I have tried to explain that if the current amount is too much, that we need to set the rent at an amount he can afford so that I can adjust my monthly budget accordingly rather than coming up short. But he always makes me feel bad for even raising the issue.

He wants to get married, but how do I fix this communication issue before we take that plunge?
Walking On Eggshells

Dear Eggshells,
It sounds like while you are generous and easy-going with your money, this might be a bit of a sensitive topic for him. In fact, your generosity might make him feel even worse about his situation, since he could feel like a "kept" man. This is not your fault that he feels bad - he needs to either accept your money graciously, or refuse it politely.

You earn twice as much as he does - I don't know if this means that he earns a poor salary and you earn a decent one, or he earns a decent one and you earn an amazing salary. Before you continue in your relationship, you need to discuss a few things with your boyfriend, such as - what are the roles of men and women? Are men to be breadwinners? Do you want to work after having kids? If you are to rely on his salary at any point, it is important that he earns a livable income. That doesn't mean it has to be huge, but enough that you can afford the basics.

It is a problem that y'all can't discuss this issue without him getting hurt or offended. I recommend premarital counseling before engagement to discuss this and other common issues so you both can decide if you should move forward in getting engaged.

I also recommend reconsidering living together. As a Christian, I don't believe it is a good idea (although it is the premarital sex that is the actual moral problem), however, I don't know your religious beliefs and whether that is a concern. But, whatever your beliefs are, it might be a good idea for him to be independent and paying his own way to increase his confidence and make sure he has the ability to provide - at least for himself. If you two decide to marry, money will probably be in a joint account (another thing for y'all to discuss!), and "rent" will be a moot issue.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Should I Stay With a Commitment-phobe?

Dear Jocelyn,
My boyfriend (27) and I (30) have been together 18 months. He has been slow to commit all along and blames it on a past breakup. It took him 10 months to call me his girlfriend, and then he also panicked and broke up with me when I wanted him to meet my children. After a week, we got back together and he met them. He is amazing with them—volunteering for their activities, planning their birthday parties, etc. However, he still has not said "I love you" even though I've been saying it to him for about 4 months. I finally asked him and he said he cannot say "I love you" because he feels it's "pointless" and that I should look at his actions rather than words. He spends every weekend with me and the kids, but when I've asked him to spend more time together, he says no...then the nights he's not here he texts me constantly saying he misses me. When he talks casually he uses "we" statements about the future, like "our" future house, making me beneficiary of his work benefits, etc., but when asked directly he says we won't live together, he doesn't believe in marriage, etc. While he has met my parents, he has not told his mother that he's dating me and he knows this bothers me a lot. I am so confused because he sends so many mixed signals. He's not seeing anyone else and I know he's very happy with me, as he tells me this all the time, and we just click and get along like we've been together for years. My friends and family love him, his friends love me. I guess I'm asking—do I wait for him to commit (which I am willing to do if it was even a possibility) or am I deluding myself here? I can't get a straight answer from friends because maybe they don't want to hurt me, and talking to him about the future is impossible without eliciting a panic-response.
-Wants a Future

Dear Wants,
That must have been a doozy of a break up! You are right that he is sending mixed verbal signals in that he talks about you guys having a future together (e.g., sharing a house), but you should listen to what he is telling you right now. He says he does not want to marry or live together, won't say he loves you, and didn't even want to meet your kids.

What he is doing is not fair to you, but it is definitely unfair to your children. They are bonding with him, developing a friendship, and perhaps even starting to look at him as a father figure—and he could walk out of your lives at any point. He has known them for months, but imagine their heartache if you two continue to date for five years before one of you decides to end this.

He has already proven to you that he is scared of anything smacking of commitment. You know what you want—a mature relationship leading to marriage. The best thing you can do at this point is to set some boundaries with him and make your expectations clear. Tell him that you love him, but it is clear you both want different things. You need to go your separate ways, and IF he works on his issues and decides he is ready to marry (and proves it by buying a ring), then you would be thrilled to marry him. Otherwise, you can't stay with someone who you don't have a future with.

This isn't manipulation or coercion, it is you deciding what is best for your and your children, and pursuing that. If your boyfriend loves you, he will find a way to work through these fears to be with you.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

How Do I Handle Possibly Losing a Friend To Someone Else?

Dear Jocelyn,
I have a really good friend (neighbor) that I support with all her life drama daily. We recently met a girl at our gym and had planned to go out as a group. It never worked out, but now the new girl texts with my friend daily and they go out and don't include me. I mentioned to my friend (as it bothered me) that I thought this was strange, and she finally sees what I am talking about. The new girl will make plans with my friend right in front of me and not ask me. We are nice to each other, but I feel she doesn't want to socialize with me. I really don't want to be part of this friendship with the new girl and have told my friend. She keeps telling me about their plans together and it gets me more and more angry. My friend now asks me to go with them, but I feel like it's an afterthought. This weekend, my friend is having the new girl to her house for dinner and asked me after the fact; I said "no thanks," then she proceeded to say she wanted to make it a girls' night and invite some of her other friends. I have never met some of these friends nor had dinner at her house before. I'm really trying to not be a baby but my feelings are hurt. I have known my friend (neighbor) for 7 years and she recently got divorced so I have been a support for her 24/7 and have talked her off the ledge many times. What should I do? Stop talking about the new girl with my friend and change the subject? I feel like a better offer comes up and my friend goes with it. I hate to keep mentioning this to my friend because this really isn't my personality and I don't ever have problems with friendships. Any advice you can offer to keep me sane would be great.
-Third Wheel

Dear Wheel,
This seems like the sort of awkward situation that requires a dispassionate review of the facts. You are friends with your neighbor (let's call her "Mary"). Both of you recently met another woman (let's call her "Susie"). You and Susie are not very interested in a friendship, but Susie and Mary have hit it off. Now they are making plans and seeing each other without you.

Is it wrong for Mary to have friends other than you? I'm sure you don't think so. Is it wrong for someone to want to hang out with Mary and not you? I'm sure you don't think that either. After all, you don't even sound all that fond of Susie. But even though those two things are true, it can still hurt to see your close friend becoming bosom buddies with someone else. You might know intellectually that it is fine for Susie to want to be friends with Mary and not you, but you may still feel slighted to see it play out right in front of you.

It sounds like this hurt you are feeling might be affecting how you react to situations with Mary. If you didn't have any hurt feelings about her friendship with Susie, would you have accepted her invitation for a girls' night?

You might try giving yourself a pep talk that sounds like this, "I have a perfectly good friendship with Mary. We have been friends for seven years and she appreciates me. Right now, she is developing a new friendship with someone I don't want to be friends with. That's alright. She is excited about it. We can still be good friends." Try being enthusiastic about their friendship. Support it; smile when Mary mentions Susie. If Mary senses she has to choose between you two as friends, it is going to strain your friendship. Instead, continue being a good friend to her and choose to take the supportive and friendly route. Eventually, the jealous feelings will fade and you'll find yourself actually being supportive about them.

Why Won't My Boyfriend Let Me Meet His Family?

Dear Jocelyn,
I am 49 years old. I have been seeing a 49 yr old man (who I attended high school with) for over 6 months, yet seems like more because of how close we have become. We have a great relationship. Compliment each other. He helps my bad traits as I his. We even went away together. After his dad died he moved in with his mother as so she didn't lose the house. He basically supports her and his nephew. He refers to them as his family. He also takes them and his aunts etc. to all the family functions (i.e. niece's graduation, BBQs etc.)

He refuses to tell them about me. Says its my personal business and its none of theirs. His brother in law was asking him about the 'trip' he took. He said yes he went away. Then when he asked if with a woman he wouldn't answer. told him none of his concern. On his birthday I left a balloon on his car. His mother asked if he knew who left it. He replied yes, but wouldn't tell her who.

I know he is a very private person. Doesn't tell anyone anything. But he does tell me details of things, even things about family. I know its not that he ashamed of me because I have met and hung out with friends and people he even works with. But he still won't tell his family about me. I even asked the other night if someone in his family got married would he bring me as his 'plus one'. He said probably not. Since his dad died his mom has always been his plus one and sometimes one of his aunts also. I just feel hurt that after this time, and how I know he feels about me by opening up to me- he still won't involve me in his family things. He says it has nothing to do with me. Its just his family is one area of his life doesn't concern anyone else. My friend said he probably  wont do anything until his mom passes away. I told him that and he said once she passes he wont have any family, and that he won't deal with anyone except maybe his nephew. What is etiquette for involving girlfriend with family? It really bothers and hurts me- which he knows- but he still won't do anything. And as result I wont be able to see him for this next whole weekend because of family events.
-Secret Girlfriend

Dear Secret,
I agree with you that this is probably not because he is ashamed of you. This is probably not personal at all. However, it is still disturbing. Your boyfriend has developed an extremely compartmentalized life. Most people have overlapping circles in their life - someone's family might know a few of that person's friends, friends might know of a few colleagues, etc. In your boyfriend's life, his family is segregated from everyone else he knows. This might not be a big deal, except for the fact that he lives with family members, and are involved with them daily. The fact that he refuses to share any details of his life with his family is strange, at the very least.

This sort of behavior is sometimes seen when the person grew up in a dysfunctional or abusive household, and is a way of protecting that person. However, if this is true (and if your boyfriend has not resolved his issues with them), then he should not be so intricately involved with his family. 

It is your decision as to how to handle this. Can you accept your boyfriend's decision to essentially hide you from his family? If you decide that you want to stay with him and live with this, then you need to truly accept it. Don't try and change this behavior, or you will simply drive both of you nuts. If you can't accept it, then tell your boyfriend clearly that you find this behavior disturbing, and you can't be with a man who segregates his life like this.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Can I Be a Cousin's Ex's Bridesmaid?

Dear Jocelyn,
I was asked to be a bridesmaid at my cousin's ex-girlfriend's wedding. She remained good friends with me, my sister and mom. I accepted. Now my cousin is upset. Was is proper to say yes?
-Still Friends

Dear Friends,
In a word, yes. Your cousin probably feels like it is disloyal for you to remain friends with his ex-girlfriend, but it is not reasonable for him to expect that everyone will cut ties just because he did. Your cousin is hurting a bit right now, so next time you talk to him gently, but assertively, tell him that you understand things ended badly between him and his ex, but you are still friends with her. You don't have to talk about the wedding or being a bridesmaid with him, but you do not need to hide it either.

Monday, June 30, 2014

I Don't Want to Tend Bar at a Friend's Wedding!

Dear Jocelyn,
My boyfriend and I have been together for a year, and a few months ago, we went on a double date with an engaged couple, whom he is very good friends with. Other than that double date, we went on a weekend float trip together. All of us had a really good time. I enjoyed both of them very much. They are set to get married in three months. I knew that because they were on a tight budget, that I probably wouldn't be my boyfriend's "plus one", which is totally fine, however, I received a Facebook message (two other girls I know, but am not friends with) asking if I could bartend at their reception! I feel like this is very tacky, but I want his friends to like me and I'm afraid that by not participating, it will make look like the bad guy. Their special day is on a Friday night (I'm in the restaurant industry) so I would have to lose out on money just to act as their hired help. Am I being selfish?
-Not The Help

Dear Help,
There is a very good rule of etiquette stating that if a person is not invited to a wedding, it is bad manners to invite them to a bridal shower/bachelor party/etc. It seems as if your circumstance can fall under the umbrella of this rule. It is kind of you to not be slighted by not being invited, but it seems rather rude of the couple to not invite you, but rather ask you to tend bar at the reception. Either this is a lame attempt at including you in their wedding, or perhaps they do not wish to put the effort into researching good bartenders and thought you would be willing to do it.

It is unclear from your letter whether they are going to pay you for this (you stated you would be losing money - whether from lack of wages, or because they simply wouldn't pay as much, I'm not sure). If they did not offer to pay you at least the going rate, then their request is extremely presumptuous. If they did, they might simply be suffering a lack of awareness of social etiquette.

Either way, the best thing to do is simply decline the offer and wish them a happy ceremony. You might consider sending them references to other bartenders in the area. And to answer your original question, you are not being selfish. Be confident in your right to refuse this tacky request.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Are Pictures At a Wedding a Free For All?

Dear Jocelyn,
At my sister's wedding, immediately following the ceremony everyone was taking pictures with the new couple. Until the groom's family asked the bride to step away so they could take family pictures, without her in them. I grew up thinking that all (after ceremony, pre-reception) pictures were supposed to be with the bride and groom together. Then each side of their families gets to have a picture with the happy couple. I thought it was terribly rude asking her to step away, but when I talked to my BF he said he saw nothing wrong with it. Am I crazy or is that just completely inappropriate? After all, its a wedding not their family reunion.

Dear Concerned,
This is something that is really up to the bride and groom. They might think that this is simply an efficient way to get pictures - after all, the whole family is together, and the professional photographer is already there (and presumably being paid a lump sum for the event). However, if the bride or groom did not wish for their photographer to be used for any purposes other than snapping wedding shots, then it is an inappropriate use of him. As long as your sister seemed to be fine with it, then there was nothing wrong with what the groom's family did. 

Can I Ask?

Dear Jocelyn,
Is it polite to ask host why someone considered important has not been invited to a party / gathering?

Dear Curious,
It is not rude, per se, to ask about who has been invited. However, it can produce an awkward situation. If the host had a falling out with the person, then asking about why they haven't been invited can put the host in the sticky situation of coming up with an excuse without revealing private details. It is best to assume the host knows what they are doing, and simply do not ask about it.

How Do I Avoid Inviting Someone?

I am getting married, and I have a cousin who is engaged to a person who has a very bad legal record that we really do not want to subject our guest to. How do we go about inviting said cousin but not the significant other with a record?
- Cousin

Dear Cousin,
I'm afraid that there is not an easy way to do this. Since your cousin is engaged, an invitation to the person he or she is engaged to will be expected. The best way to go about this is talk plainly to your cousin and explain that you do not want the fiance at the wedding. However, since you are writing to me I am assuming this is an option you wish to avoid. In that case, you can either send the invitation addressed to only your cousin (who might assume he or she can invite the betrothed), or simply not invite your cousin. There is not really a way to do this without having hurt feelings, unfortunately. I hope everything turns out well.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Do I Go To My Step-Daughter's Wedding?

Dear Jocelyn,
I met my ex-wife in 1993 and we moved with her two youngest children of seven from the east coast to the west coast in 1994. They were a 6yo boy and an 8yo girl. Over the next year or so all but one of the other five kids moved west. In 1995 the ex and I had a girl of our own. In 1996 my ex was divorced from her first husband. The 8yo girl moved out on her own when she was 18. In 2000 the ex and I got married. In 2009 we separated. The divorce was final in 2011. Last summer my daughter graduated from high school, turned 18, and moved out of her mother's house. The intent was not to move in with dad, so I moved back to the east coast. I am currently engaged to someone I dated some thirty-odd years ago who found me on Facebook after my separation.

Today: the stepdaughter that my ex and I raised is getting married. Her father (who didn't raise her) is giving her away. While this ruffled my feathers a bit, my fiancée and I had still planned on flying to the west coast for the wedding, then visiting friends for a week, and then my daughter was going to fly back with us for a couple weeks. I was just informed by my daughter that my stepdaughter doesn't want me to bring my 
fiancée in deference to their mother. At this point I'm not sure what to do, what to say, or how I should feel...I'm thinking of scrapping the whole trip west and just flying my daughter out for a couple weeks. Your thoughts are greatly appreciated.

Dear Stepfather,
It sounds like the best thing might be to discuss this with your stepdaughter. Explain you are hurt that she doesn't want your 
fiancée to come to the wedding, and that your fiancée will be a part of the family shortly. You need to decide whether or not you will attend your stepdaughter's wedding alone. Consider what will be best in the long term - will you regret not attending her wedding? Will you regret going and leaving your fiancée out? Make sure whatever decision you make is not based on the hurt you feel at the moment, but on what is best for the family dynamics. Discuss this with your fiancée to make sure she is part of the decision-making process.  She might feel strongly about attending, or wish to bow out to keep the peace.

I wish you ease and wisdom in making this decision!