DEAR AMY: My high school sweetheart has found me after decades apart. He seems to have become very superficial and wants to shower me in high-end designer gifts. He doesn't understand how his doing this makes me feel uncomfortable. He insists that it is "important to look the part." I feel that looking the part isn't my outlook on life and the high-end designer items are a waste of money that could be used in a more constructive way. I am an attractive woman and dress nicely -- but I do not wear expensive designer clothing. And I certainly don't want to carry a $6,000 purse. He says he doesn't understand me and that his feelings are hurt because of how I have reacted to these gifts. I have asked for compromise, but I have a feeling this will continue to be a sore point. I have always put more emphasis on the emotional part of a relationship; to have the gift situation become a problem between us is incomprehensible to me.
DEAR UNCOMFORTABLE: What you are expressing is a difference in your basic values. Being showered with expensive gifts may seem like a nice problem to have, but if he doesn't adjust to your point of view -- even if he doesn't agree with it -- this reveals a desire on his part to change and control you.
When two people truly connect intimately, they like one another just as they are and accept respective core values. People in new relationships often influence one another -- she encourages him to grow a beard, he encourages her to take up kickboxing -- but what you are describing is extreme.
I hope you and your man can gently find that sweet spot where you accept one another without demanding extreme change.
DEAR AMY: My friend is a hoarder. She completely ruined one house, let another house get in terrible shape, and she is now hoarding the third house. She refuses to admit she's a hoarder or that she has a problem. She lies about the condition of her living space and continues to drag more useless stuff into it. The house she ruined had several feet of trash, clothing, papers, animal waste and garbage in every single room. She abandoned that house when the furnace quit. Water pipes ended up bursting and code enforcement forced their way in and tagged the house as hazardous. She dragged tons of stuff into her current house, which was already getting filthy and hazardous and now is completely out of control. She has pushed most of her friends away and has a horrible relationship with her family because of this. It's like she doesn't understand that most people do not live like that. She will not discuss it with anyone and I worry that some day she's going to be found dead among her things, trash and filth. What can we do to get through to her?
Terrified for my Friend
DEAR TERRIFIED: Hoarding can be extremely serious and is believed to be caused by underlying mental illness. Unfortunately hoarders are very resistant to change or help and even if conditions are cleaned up and improved, many continue to hoard, unless their underlying illness is successfully treated. There are professional services and coaches to help hoarders, but first your friend would have to acknowledge her problem and accept help.
Don't focus on throwing things out, but instead on ways to help make her home safer for her. Tell her you are very worried about her and urge her to get mental health treatment. Please understand that hoarding is not a character flaw but the most obvious symptom of serious illness.
DEAR AMY: I agree with your response to "Concerned," whose girlfriend told lots of "little white lies." Have you considered that this woman might have been raised by an alcoholic or a narcissistic parent? As you no doubt know, a child with that type of parenting will continue the coping behaviors learned as a child into adulthood. Her symptom of telling little lies may belie deeper issues.
DEAR BILL: Several readers pointed out that this is behavior typical of someone with an alcoholic parent.