DEAR AMY: I’m in a one-sided relationship. I’m referring to me doing all the telephone calling (I live out of town) in order to connect with my sister and my cousin, who live in our hometown. I never receive a phone call in return. It seems to me that in a good relationship I should do half the calling — just to say hello and see how they are doing — and they should do the same in return. They are no busier than I am. In fact, one is retired. But they never call me. It’s been nine months now since I’ve talked to my sister, and she keeps asking my mother why I don’t call. It’s the same with my cousin. I have told them time and time again that I think good friends should call each other, so I’m assuming they don’t want to call and are just being polite when I contact them. Amy, am I being too sensitive? Should I swallow my pride (under the belief that life is short), or just move on, knowing these two just don’t care to converse with me?
DEAR ONE-WAY: I believe that this dynamic is quite common. I also believe it is rare, in a family group, for each individual to get the exact amount of attention they would like to receive. Birth order and family dynamics going back to childhood can contribute to this, as well as something as elemental as the fact that you live out of town.
Here’s what you need to tell yourself, repeat and then internalize: People do what they want to do. If your sister wanted to speak with you, she wouldn’t ask your mother about it — she would give you a call. You’ve established a pattern of initiating. She might be perfectly happy to catch up with you when you place the call, but not calling you — and then blaming you for the lack of communication — is how she holds onto whatever little slice of power she needs to possess.
It would be best for you if you didn’t take this personally; this is your sister’s failing — not yours. Let her know that your own wish and preference is to be closer. If you want to talk to her — for any reason — then call her (those are the “life’s too short” calls). Once you accept this relationship, as is, and do exactly what you want to do in the future, you will feel liberated from your insecurity.
DEAR AMY: I am a 42-year-old man. I want to fall in love and settle down, but seem unable to. I’ve had sexual and emotional relationships with women I’ve been fond of. My longest relationship lasted for a year. As relationships begin, I’m enthusiastic, but I become bored after three or four months, and I split up with them. After I leave, I feel love, but it is too late, and is it real? Some women have dumped me when they’ve realized my interest waning. I’ve seen friends get married and wish I could be like them, but can’t imagine feeling strongly enough. I come from a loving family (my parents have been married for more than 50 years) and life has been good. I have mild OCD, but many people with this disorder still get married. I don’t believe it’s because I haven’t met the right person. I’ve dated many women and some would have made great long-term partners. Is it possible that I don’t want a committed long-term relationship and deep down, prefer to be on my own?
DEAR UNATTACHED: Your history of getting bored and leaving relationships may be related to your OCD. I’m guessing here, but the pattern you describe is of you compulsively leaving relationships — even when you know the relationship is good and when your partner is suitable for a long-term relationship.
OCD isn’t only about compulsive behaviors or cleanliness rituals. It is an anxiety disorder marked by obsessions and compulsive thinking. Your thinking causes you to leave, and afterward (according to you), you often have regrets and feelings of love toward the person you’ve left.
Discuss your entire relationship history, and your OCD, with a professional counselor.
DEAR AMY: “Heartbroken and Sad” reported that some fishing equipment had walked away from their lake house after their nephew and his children visited. I agreed with your take on this (most likely it was a mistake), but to prevent this sort of thing happening in the future, they should mark or label all of their equipment.
DEAR GONE: Definitely.