Dear Amy: My girlfriend and I recently moved in together. I am 39; she is 27. We fight way too much, much more than I am comfortable with.
Our fights usually stem from her insecurities. For instance, she got upset the other day because (she claims) I looked at another woman in the elevator. Three days later, we still aren’t talking and she’s sleeping in the other bedroom.
This type of thing happens quite a bit. When I suggest she should go to therapy to work out some of these issues, because I can’t stand this level of conflict, she gets defensive and says “all couples fight.” I love her very much, but I’m at the end of my rope with all this drama. I thought that moving in together would help ease these insecurities; instead they seem to be getting worse. Any suggestions?
Dear Over It: You have correctly identified your girlfriend’s insecurities and jealousy as a relationship breach.
Yes, all couples fight. But when healthy couples fight, they don’t part for three days of silence and sleeping separately. They fight, they talk, they apologize and forgive; and then they come back together. The ability to fight fair can actually strengthen your relationship.
Your girlfriend does not own you. She has no right to monitor your eyeballs and interpret your behavior as being about her. Her way of accusing and then punishing you is abusive.
You should present couples therapy as a nonnegotiable. Yes, she needs therapy, but you should show support of her and of your relationship by being willing to attend with her, and by being very open to the process and by participating enthusiastically.
If you two are going to develop a successful partnership, you’ll have to examine your own behavior, try to see the world through the other’s eyes and determine to resolve your conflicts and love each other through them. If she is willing to admit to her own challenges, learn and grow alongside you, her life – and your relationship – will be transformed.
If she is dug in, blaming her pain on you, addicted to drama and unwilling to engage in a process that will help her come to terms with her own problems – then your relationship doesn’t stand much of a chance.
Dear Amy: My mom and I have a strained relationship. She was (and is) abusive and manipulative. She also has borderline personality disorder, histrionic personality disorder and PTSD from abuse that occurred when she was younger.
I realize what hell she went through as a child and I still keep in contact with her because I don’t want her to feel abandoned.
I now live in another state with my fiancé and his two kids. They call me “mom” and I adore them.
My mom wants me to bring the kids for a visit. She hasn’t seen them in five years, but frankly neither my fiancé nor I want to subject them to her erratic behavior.
She continually asks when she can see them, but I never give her a firm answer. She’s never going to see them again. I want to protect them. How should I have that conversation with her? Or should I continue to let it be “maybe soon?”
Devoted but Hesitant Daughter
Dear Devoted: Your mother is mentally ill. This is very challenging, but her illness is not contagious. You grew up in her household and you know best the nature and extent of her behavior, but I wonder if your insight could help you to make a totally supervised visit with the kids that would be safe (and probably short).
If your judgment tells you that there is absolutely no way you will visit – at least for now – you should tell your mother, “Mom, I don’t know – I’m thinking about it but it doesn’t seem like a good idea right now.” It would be kind of you to keep in touch by sending her photos and sharing nice moments with the children, so she feels somewhat connected.
Dear Amy: You blew it in your answer to “Sober Sally,” who was wondering if she could leave her baby with her mother-in-law, who was drunk. Amy, the woman is a drunk. The child should never be in her care.
Dear Disappointed: I stressed this parent’s need to advocate for her baby, in every situation. Readers responded that this mother-in-law would likely lie about whether she was drinking, and I take your point.
Email Amy at firstname.lastname@example.org.