Dear Neil: I have been dating a guy for four months. He has never been married. He’s 43 and I’m 42. He seems to be a taker, and it feels as if he wants a part-time girlfriend. He says he doesn’t want a mother, but sure is OK with me doing all of his domestic duties and a lot of little extras for him. I don’t feel we are a couple, and he isn’t meeting my needs. How do I tell him I want more?
Feeling Alone in Kansas City
Dear Feeling Alone: A healthy relationship requires you to speak up and identify what you want and need. It is your responsibility to make sure your wants and needs are being tended to, because no man is going to just know what it is you expect and want from him.
So the first thing you can do is to find your tongue and speak up about what it is you want from this relationship. Most of us don’t know exactly what to do without guidance or instruction. So offer that guidance to him. Tell him you want a more full-time relationship, and that it feels as if this is more a part-time one. Tell him you feel that you’re doing a lot of little extra things for him, and that you want him to do some of those for you as well, such as (fill in the blank) more wining and dining, home cooking, flowers, affection, endearments, romance or whatever else it is you want from him. If you don’t speak up and at least give him a chance to know you better (and therefore to give you what you desire), it is not his fault that he doesn’t do so—it’s yours—for being too mousey about what you want and expect in a relationship.
Dear Neil: I have been married to a wonderful woman for 14 years, but I am struggling with how to handle our family situation right now. My 20 year-old pregnant step-daughter came home a year ago. She kept the baby and immediately started working full-time. However, she has become more and more of a slob over the last year. Her room is a mess, with unwashed sheets, soiled diapers and food strewn everywhere. This drives my wife crazy and she complains to me about it all the time. The situation is complicated because my wife is being paid by my step-daughter to watch the baby, and my step-daughter cannot get her driver’s license until she is 21, so she is dependent on us for transportation to her job. My wife has a hard time talking to her daughter about these issues because she doesn’t want to be disliked. What do I do?
Annoyed in Longmont, Colorado
Dear Annoyed: If your wife has a hard time setting limits or enforcing boundaries with her daughter, how about if the two of you do it together as a united front? You and your wife need to agree on what you want, and then tell your step-daughter together that she is welcome to stay in your home as long as she honors certain sanitation, cleanliness and tidiness rules. Be flexible with these rules but very firm with what you find intolerable. Otherwise, the two of your will feel increasingly disempowered in your own home, and that risks straining your relationship with each other as well as with your step-daughter.
If your step-daughter can’t or won’t follow these rules, help her find a new place to live, and move her out. You could also put limits on allowing your wife to complain to you so she doesn’t wind up driving you crazy with this as well.