September 12, 2019
Below are some of the exchanges from the relationships advice column, Baggage Check, published weekly in The Washington Post’s Express.
Q. I am dating someone new who works in an office near mine, and he thinks we should see each other during the day, for lunch or coffee or a walk. We’ve done this a couple of times but I prefer to work straight through the day, leave at a decent hour and not have work hanging over my head at home. But I do like him and want to spend time with him and am fighting myself, because it is tempting to see him, and I don’t want him to think I’m not excited to.
A. First, let me convince you that approaching this right (or at least my version of “right”) – even if it’s awkward or anxiety-provoking – is absolutely crucial. You like him and are excited to spend time with him, but you have certain needs that don’t completely mesh with his. This is the Super Bowl of boundary-setting, with great opportunities to assert yourself, rise above black-and-white thinking, and open yourself up to honest and respectful communication in order to get your needs met. Done right, it will help you get even closer.
Ditch the false dichotomy that either you should want to sacrifice your work for someone on a daily basis or you’re not into them. You can even tell him how you were hesitant to turn these daytime dates down – not just because you don’t want to disappoint him but also because you really do like spending time with him. Emphasize the bottom line: Your work style just can’t accommodate it – but you have X, Y and Z suggestions about what to do next on a weekend or evening.
Q. My mother-in-law overheard me mocking her at a recent family wedding. She was being a control freak and I was releasing some tension. She glared at me and stormed off. I tried to apologize that night but she brushed me off, and it’s been silent since. We usually see each other every couple of months but don’t really tend to communicate in between, though this feels a little silent-treatment-ish, which she’s done before. She’s the type that might just let this go by and then pretend everything is normal a month or two later, and I find myself wondering if I should just take that approach.
A. Ah, the old “I’ll storm off and silent-treatment you for weeks, but then pretend like nothing happened, even though I’m fooling no one and am in reality just trying to gain power in the situation” type. (Love these people!)
So, she didn’t get a full apology from you, even if it was due to her own storming off – but that’s still justification for trying to apologize fully one last time. It will be awkward (today’s theme!), but it will also fight the perpetuation of this dynamic of not talking about difficult things. Be the example of respectful, honest communication – and trust that if she storms off anew, at least you’ve chosen to be the adult.
Bonior, a Washington, D.C.-area clinical psychologist, writes a weekly relationships advice column in The Washington Post’s Express daily tabloid and is author of “The Friendship Fix.”