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Entries in hard to say (154)

Wednesday
May032017

In Which We Protect The Long Road From Harm

Hard to Say is This Recording’s weekly advice column. It will appear every Wednesday until the Earth perishes in a fiery blaze, or until North West turns 40. Get no-nonsense answers to all of your most pressing questions by writing to justhardtosay@gmail.com.

Hi,

My daughter has been dating a guy for over six months. He is 24, and unable to hold a steady job of any kind. He never graduated from college, and comes from a troubled family. I have no idea whether he uses drugs or not, but he looks like the kind of person who has at least sampled a few.

My daughter is bright, highly educated and on a great career path in health care. I feel like this guy is a waste of her time and I have told her how I felt. She has informed me that I have misjudged her boyfriend and wants me to get to know the guy. I feel like drawing him any deeper into our family is saying the relationship is acceptable. It's not.

How can I end this thing before it gets more serious?

Kelly K.

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Dear Kelly,

Level of education and outward physical appearance is probably not the best way to judge someone, unless that person is Kid Rock. There are plenty of monsters who look like apple pie, and plenty of wonderful people who look like Rob Kardashian. I don't know any, but basic faith in humanity suggests they probably exist.

With that disclaimer out of the way, people do not come to Hard to Say for vague pronouncements about having faith in humanity. I am not your priest.

Sometimes questionable goals require questionable means. Shit-talking your daughter's boyfriend isn't really going to do anything but push her away. If they eventually break up, perhaps she will forgive you in time and subtly incorporate your judgment into her further pursuit of romantic partners. Or the complete opposite could happen and she could begin hiding her relationships from you.

A simple expression of disapproval can work over time, but the problem is that this is not a very intricate dichotomy and you have lost control. If you keep restating your feelings, you become an awful person, which I presume you do not desire. You want to be a good person who is loved by your daughter, and still accomplish your goals.

You need to broaden the complexity of this situation. If you never get to know your daughter's boyfriend well, it is impossible to truly criticize him in the way this situation eventually requires. Your daughter can just suggest you don't have all the information, and she will be right.

The first thing to do is weave praise into criticism. This approach comes across as more realistic, because the world is not a chorus of black and white.

Next, you'll want to establish your own personal relationship with the boyfriend. All of a sudden, your daughter sees that he now has this relationship with another woman, you. Jealousy cannot help but come into play. When a woman sees a man seeking the approval of two women, she subconsciously wonders how many more he is willing to please.

The boyfriend can make so many more mistakes if you get to know him. If he is really not a great match for your daughter, you will be giving yourself ample ammunition, and him ample chance to hang himself.

Then there is also the outside possibility that you will grow to love your new son-in-law. It can happen. I mean it never has for me, but I'm sure it can, I saw it on Lifetime once.

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen.

Wednesday
Apr262017

In Which We Consummate True Love On The Moon

Hard to Say is This Recording’s weekly advice column. It will appear every Wednesday until the Earth perishes in a fiery blaze, or until North West turns 40. Get no-nonsense answers to all of your most pressing questions by writing to justhardtosay@gmail.com.

Hi,

I have been in a long term relationship with my partner, Basil, for over eighteen months. Basil comes from a very tough upbringing and also he is not an American. He explained early on in the relationship that he often feels like he has trouble expressing himself, and he is usually able to better articulate his emotions through his music. He has done a great job stretching the boundaries of what makes him comfortable in a relationship, and I'm very grateful for his efforts.

As a part of his trauma or independent of it, he struggles to give others praise. (It is not just me who has noticed this.) I am very complimentary of him, but trying to exchange the merest positive words seems a struggle. At the same time, it is obviously genuine when I receive praise from Basil. I am a person who thrives on positive encouragement, which I have articulated to Basil, but he responds that it's just not who he is and that I should feel more confident in his love. Is there any way to improve this aspect of our relationship?

Elaine C.

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Dear Elaine,

A great human being once said, and I later repeated in this advice column, that the problem with flattery is that it comes with an unspoken request to be returned in kind. As you alluded to, it is very difficult to trust people who are so free with their praise. Sure, we like to hear great things about ourselves, and on some level the source does not really concern us.

This is the type of praise to which you have probably become addicted. It is a reassurance that has very little to do with what is actually being said or related. It is more just an aspect of love for you. If you can find other ways that Basil shows you how much he cares about you and the life you share, these mere bon mots will stop being so crucial to your understanding of yourself.

Hi,

Is it stupid to get involved with someone who has a substance abuse problem?

Dan G.

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Dear Dan,

Generally we only answer questions that are about the one aspect of a relationship that requires a band-aid so that the LW can be happy for the rest of his or her life, but I guess in some sense this could be that type of question.

There is always some red flag you will encounter upon getting to know someone new. For example, someone I was seeing once saw me eat an entire bagel that I barely chewed. Jesus was that hard to explain.

Some people never go back to alcohol or drugs, although the problems that led them to these solutions in the first place may still persist. Are you the type of person who enjoys taking care of others? You had probably better be, so if this kind of lifestyle is not in your wheelhouse, then I would not begin such a relationship, no.

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen.

Wednesday
Apr192017

In Which We Postpone A Decision Until Some Later Date

Hard to Say is This Recording’s weekly advice column. It will appear every Wednesday until the Earth perishes in a fiery blaze, or until North West turns 40. Get no-nonsense answers to all of your most pressing questions by writing to justhardtosay@gmail.com.

Hi,

I met someone a few months ago, and we really clicked. I have been seeing a lot of her and I have never had so much fun with someone. The issue is that she says she never wants to have children. It struck me as odd that she would bring this up kinda soon, but maybe it was an issue in a past relationship? I did not feel comfortable pressing her further.

I have not thought extensively about having a family beyond a vague desire to have kids "someday." I have been thinking a lot about this though, and I do feel I would like to reproduce with someone I love. Is there any hope?

Jerry C.

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Dear Jerry,

Imagine what a distorted view of the world an individual has to have to in order to be told something in the strongest, simplest terms and wonder if the exact opposite might be true. I have been asked if I wanted kids before, and the truth is I just said whatever I thought the other person wanted to hear. It does not sound like this is a case of that.

Many women and men who announce this may not be able to have children. It is a sensitive topic and you were most likely right not to press it further. Can women and men be convinced or blackmailed into having children even if they say they don't want them? Sure, but this may not be the sort of life accomplishment you can feasibly brag about to St. Peter.

With that said, maybe let it alone for now and get to know your new partner better before bailing because of this. She may explain her reasoning later on or you might decide no kids is worth it to be with the one you love. Not every relationship has to be for life.

Hi,

I recently moved in with my boyfriend of one year, who I will call Davis. Things are going tolerably well, but as with any change, there are some stumbling blocks. Now that we are living together, Davis frequently asks "What do we have to eat?" or begs me to make him something. I do enjoy preparing dinner from time to time but due to my schedule I can't do it every night, nor would I want to. He occasionally makes a meal for us but it generally tastes like garbage. I really don't feel I should be responsible for the culinary work in the apartment and I'm already resenting it every time he puts me in that position. What is the best way to approach a discussion about this issue?

Mila F.

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Dear Mila,

It sounds like a small thing, but this probably indicates that Davis is going to look to you to be his mother for the duration of this relationship. You need to nip this in the bud, fast. It sounds like it is too late to fake an allergy to kitchen implements. Davis needs serious help with his dietary approach – "What do we have?" is not really a plan for proper caloric intake.

It doesn't seem unreasonable to ask each person to be responsible for one meal one night a week. Inform Davis in no uncertain terms that this will be end of your responsibilities in this area, and act extremely withdrawn for a significant period after this proclamation.

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen.