Dear Neil: I find it nearly impossible to keep from criticizing my boyfriend’s parents, religion and upbringing. His parents, in particular, have done things which have either hurt me, or seem immature and selfish. Having said that, they are kind and friendly with me. My boyfriend is incredibly loyal and admires them, which makes my resentment even stronger. When I see their selfishness, I feel a need to point it out, to show him just how much they are lacking. I’m not going to be able to change their behavior, but I need to be able to get past my resentment before it creates irreparable damage between my boyfriend and myself. Please help.
Critical in Minneapolis
Dear Critical: It sounds like you’re trying to ask your boyfriend to choose who he belongs to the most—you or his parents. By being critical of his parents and their values, it seems as if you’re attempting to say that you’ll be more caring and nurturing toward him—and overall better for him—than his family can be.
And perhaps you’re right. But forcing him into choosing between you and his parents is definitely not loving, nurturing or kind behavior, not to mention that you’re likely to lose this battle, and therefore lose your boyfriend’s respect. He clearly doesn’t want to be forced to choose between them and you, and in truth, he shouldn’t have to make such a choice. He can love, admire, be loyal and feel devoted to both you and his family. Make peace with the fact that, in order to have him, you also have to accept and honor his loyalties to his family as well. Quit making it hard on him for wanting a good relationship with both his girlfriend and his family.
Dear Neil: The woman I am currently dating seldom has time for me. Her schedule is so chock full of activities, obligations and work, she says she can only get together with me on the weekends. But she also wants to spend weekends with her cat. She says she loves me, but she doesn’t have time for me. This makes no sense to me. Does it to you?
Disgruntled in Vail, Colorado
Dear Disgruntled: Some people fill up virtually every waking moment of their week: after work on Monday, they volunteer at the animal shelter. Tuesday is tennis league. Wednesday they have aerobics class. Thursday is reserved for favorite TV shows, and Friday is girl’s (or boy’s) night out. Their lives are totally filled up, taken and obligated. And because they don’t have much time for an intimate relationship, they get most of their needs for love and affection met through their relationships with their animals.
Relationships require time, effort and energy. You have to give up lesser priorities if you want to have an intimate relationship worth anything. In essence, being so busy and obligated walls her off to being in a deeper, more intimate relationship with you. There simply isn’t enough time—and besides, she has too many other priorities. This way she doesn’t give enough of herself to ever risk much, so she never has to feel vulnerable, exposed, needy, dependent or fearful of losing you.
My advice to you is to find someone who will make you her top priority. You’ll never be happy in a relationship unless you feel important, wanted and valued.