Ask Amy Amy Dickinson, Ask Amy

Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.

DEAR AMY: I am a 22-year-old college student. I recently broke up with my boyfriend. We still share an apartment, but we have our own rooms. I decided to end things because I felt I was not being treated as well as I deserved. Plus, we fought almost every day. The fighting and frustration raised my anxiety to extremely high levels. I almost went to the hospital twice because of anxiety attacks. My ex still thinks we can work things out. I am on the fence about whether or not I should give him a chance. This is the first relationship of mine that did not end because of cheating, plus, he is one of the most nonjudgmental boyfriends I’ve ever had. However, he is irresponsible with bills, often guilt-trips me into getting what he wants and seems to need to be in control. He is open to communication, but more often than not, it seems to make things worse. I know I wasn’t perfect in our relationship. I wasn’t always patient when I should have been, or as sensitive as he may have needed me to be. I do think that he has good qualities, but I fear he simply wants to win me back and things will return to normal once he gets comfortable again. I also can’t risk my health, especially when I am already stressed out from school and work. Is this relationship doomed, or should we try to work things out?

Torn About Tom

DEAR TORN: If, at the ripe old age of 22, all of your previous relationships have ended with cheating, the mere absence of cheating may make this romance seem better than the others.

But — fighting every day, or having anxiety attacks brought on by your inability to cope with your boyfriend, means that this relationship is also cheating you of a healthy and positive experience.

You are wise to try to take some ownership for the issues that have surfaced, and now your answer should be that you need to take time to figure out who you are, not in relation to whatever guy you’re involved with, but as a person in your own right.

You and your guy should both commit to a process of growth and change. Let him become the responsible, respectful person he wants to be, but tell him not to do this for you, but for himself.

Promising to change for another person is a shallow proposition, almost guaranteed to fail, long term.

I can’t characterize your relationship as “doomed,” but I do know that you shouldn’t be in it unless you know it is good for you.

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DEAR AMY: I recently planned a small dinner at a restaurant to celebrate my birthday. One of the friends I invited is married to a man that my husband and I don’t care for — as recently as yesterday I had to block him from my social media page due to his rants. In all the years I’ve been friends with his wife, he has never come with her to a social function, so when I invited her to my birthday celebration it didn’t occur to me that she would ask if he could also attend, but she did. I know by excluding him I will be excluding her, and I do not want to do that. I think my only option is to cancel the whole thing. Do you see another option?

Tied in Social Knots

DEAR TIED: You cannot politely host a social occasion and exclude one spouse (if other spouses are included). Situations such as this are why challenging spouses are sometimes thought of as “baggage.”

Another option to canceling would be to carry on and politely welcome all of your guests. If you have never seen this man at a social event, his behavior at this one might surprise you. Be aware that if he has a habit of not attending events with his wife — he might choose at the last minute not to come.

DEAR AMY: I felt very sorry for “Deeply Disappointed,” the man who saw how his wife enabled her troubled 23-year-old son. Unfortunately, I know from experience that a stepparent is very limited when it comes to the birth parents’ choices. I dealt with this in my own life. My wife wore rose-colored glasses when it came to her children, and it was a lonely parenting experience for me.

Stepfather

DEAR STEPFATHER: Being a stepparent is the toughest parenting role there is.