Dear Neil: I am living with a wonderful man who is 16 years older than me, and I can safely say “he’s the one.” My son recently got his driver’s license and, with my permission, uses my car from time to time. He often does jobs for me in exchange for the use of the car. But my partner cannot cope with my son using the car. Since he pays for all the expenses (I pay for petrol from the housekeeping money he gives me, so he therefore pays for everything), he feels he should have the final say on what happens with my car. This is causing a huge problem between us. How do I handle this?
Wellington, New Zealand
Dear Feeling Misunderstood: This problem is not about your son using your car. It’s about who makes the decisions in your household, who holds the power and who controls whom.
If by paying for your car, your man expects that he has been given the authority to make all decisions regarding that car, then I say he is being overly controlling. Who says he gets to dictate whether your son is allowed to drive your car—regardless of who pays. (He isn’t paying for everything, by the way. The money you spend on petrol is, in fact, your money.)
You cannot cede all authority about issues that matter to you to someone else—without committing assault and battery on your own self-respect—not to mention your son’s respect for you. I am suggesting that it has become too expensive for you to allow the man in your life to pay for so much, because he is not proving himself able to handle his position of power with humility, benevolence and respect. Get a job and pay for your own car expenses—and then allow your son to do whatever you choose.
You cannot just give power and authority over to someone who is coercively attempting to control you. There will be other control issues after this one. Do you wish to face this power struggle now or later?
Dear Neil: My fiancée is a quiet, no confrontation person. He never argues and is able to discuss differences. But he watches a goodly amount of TV wrestling, Jerry Springer and a variety of other shows of this nature. I don’t understand why he enjoys all of this strife. He is retired, 74, and has overcome a scare with cancer. Why let wrestling take over our world? I don’t watch these shows—so we are in separate rooms. Why?
Upset in London, Ontario
Dear Upset: You say your fiancée is able to discuss differences. So address the issue with him, and tell him what you would like different.
TV is essentially entertainment, plain and simple. What you find entertaining clearly differs from what he finds entertaining. Perhaps there can be a negotiation between the two of you that attempts to resolve this issue. Is it possible for the two of you to be entertained together by going out more often to movies, dinners, shows, classes, dance classes, lectures, bridge clubs, interest groups or other such activities you might enjoy together? You could stay home and together watch movies, play board or card games, read together, work on projects or do other activities that you mutually agree upon.
Someone consistently sitting at home watching a lot of TV has lost sight of his goals and has grown bored with his life.