DEAR AMY: My boyfriend is going through a divorce. He and his ex-wife were together 27 years. They have been living apart for 11 months. Every time he talks about something or somewhere he has been, he uses the word “we,” referring to him and her. Amy, this happens a lot! We (he and I) have only been dating for a few months, but he still continues with the “we” when referring to his past. We (he and I) have become quite serious, so it does bother me. I have mentioned this three times and I’ve tried to explain why he shouldn’t do this without sounding jealous (I am not). I realize they were together a long time and I am trying to be very understanding. So what do I do to get through to him to stop the “we,” unless it is about the two of us? How can I get him to say “I” instead of “we?”
From “We” to “I”
DEAR “WE”: Surely your boyfriend wonders why the heck you don’t seem to understand basic concepts concerning time, truth and language. When he went to the Grand Canyon with his ex-wife 20 years ago, this was something “we” did, not something “I” did. To reduce a “we” to an “I” implies that he lived his entire life alone, and that his ex-wife was waiting in the car while he toured the Grand Canyon.
You are asking him to deflect and deny the truth about his life. He can’t do that, because he was living his life with a former spouse, and the experiences they had were real.
Eventually, the experiences you two have together will become “we” memories. I hope he won’t be sharing these memories with a future girlfriend.
DEAR AMY: My girlfriend and I have been together for almost two years. A major issue is her house. I have terrible allergies and asthma; she has two cats and two large dogs that shed. I often feel miserable when I am there. I also feel horrible for telling her how sick I feel. I had not used my inhaler or taken allergy medication in years, but have to use it now when I stay at her place. She has done some things to accommodate my irritations, but aside from the allergies, her house is a mess. I feel like a jerk for saying that but I never feel clean when I’m there. Hair is in the bowls in the cupboards, the refrigerator and freezer, the couch has dog drool stains, the carpet is stained and cat puke has dried and crusted on the stairs. I try to keep my work clothes clean by storing them in a plastic bag, but one day I found cat barf all down the pant leg. She wants me to move in, but I am grossed out by her house. When she is not there I spend most of my time cleaning, but when she is home it reverts to how it was. We’ve tried discussing this issue but she gets offended and embarrassed. I don’t know how to say I would move in if the house were cleaner, because I would.
DEAR ALLERGIC: Your health is on the line, and so you should be completely frank: “I would love to live with you but I can’t live in your house, especially when you don’t clean up after the animals. Every time I get on top of it, the house reverts right back to where it was after I’m gone. I don’t want to clean up after you and the pets in order to live together; it is aggravating my asthma and making me sick. Plus — I just don’t want to live this way.”
You know, of course, that the pets are not the (only) problem. Many people manage to have pets and live in a clean(er) environment.
If she wants you to move in, she should be willing to make some changes. Hiring regular professional cleaning help would be a start, but only a start.
DEAR AMY: Thank you for encouraging “Overprotective Mama Bear” to be very cautious regarding the new “step-grandpa” in her kids’ lives. As the adoptive parent of a child who was sexually abused by a new step-grandparent, I second your advice that parents must be careful regarding any adults who enter their family.
DEAR BEEN THERE: There was a history of sexual abuse in this family, further meriting this caution.