Don’t Over-Generalize Relationship Problems

Dear Neil:  My girlfriend is a wonderful woman in every way but one.  But this one thing makes me question whether we could ever be compatible with each other long-term.  She lets everything go till the last minute.  You name it—bills, showing up for an appointment on time, washing dishes, doing the laundry, cleaning her apartment—she just puts off doing things until she can’t wait anymore.  Then she frantically rushes around to complete the tasks.

I am a very punctual and reliable person, and this issue drives me nuts.  I’m on the verge of ending our relationship over this problem.  Any suggestions?

Going Crazy In Canada

Dear Going Crazy:  I am tempted to talk about why people procrastinate, but there is something more important in your letter that needs to be addressed:  Don’t make an issue larger than it is.  If this woman is wonderful in most other important respects, quit attaching so much significance to her shortcomings.  Assume you can be compatible with her even if she has traits that bother you.  That’s a large part of what committed relationships challenge us to do.

You are over-generalizing the importance and the significance of your girlfriend’s behaviors, and you’re making them larger than they need to be.  When we  over-generalize relationship problems, we tend to take an issue (“She pays bills at the last moment”) and we attach meaning and importance to the issue that may not be accurate or fair.  (“She is lazy and unreliable, and she won’t care about our good credit rating.  I have chosen someone who I won’t be able to trust or rely on.”)

You’re making this issue bigger than it is.  Get proactive with your girlfriend and see if the two of you together can’t reach an agreement on the most important fears you have regarding this issue.  Wonderful women shouldn’t be rejected for small reasons.

Dear Neil:  I’m a single mom with four kids at home, two in high school and two in  middle school.  My boyfriend of six years and I have always been discreet—he hasn’t stayed over when the kids were at home.  Now, however, we have finally decided to tell the kids that he will be staying overnight sometimes.  Can you recommend the best way to address this with my kids?

Unsure In Boulder

Dear Unsure:  If you can, tell your kids that the two of you love each other, that you’ve decided that you want to spend more time with each other, and that you wish for him to play a larger role in your life.  Then say you’ve invited him to occasionally sleep over.  When he does come over, make every effort to include the kids in enjoyable activities all of you can take part in together.

This is how you will begin to integrate your boyfriend into your family, and it allows everyone to participate in that integration.

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