DEAR AMY: My boyfriend has a female friend. Honestly, I have no problem with that, generally. However, all of us are in a sport league together. During our meetings, she whispers in his ear nonstop. She also hand-feeds him bits of her meal, and texts him all day and night. When my boyfriend and I were going through a rough patch, she invited him out to bars and sporting events as her guest. I finally reached my boiling point when we were on vacation as a family and she sent a text message saying: “No calls? No messages? No love?” After speaking to him about my feelings and asking him to please do something, he spoke to her and now she is pissed and blatantly ignores me in public. She is now back to whispering and being touchy-feely again. I am holding it all in, but I feel like a volcano about to explode. Should I give him an ultimatum, making him choose between us?
Lost and Annoyed
DEAR ANNOYED: First, remind your boyfriend that he is not a chipmunk who needs to be “hand-fed.” (Ick, by the way.) But also acknowledge that he doesn’t seem to reciprocate this behavior.
If you don’t like the way she is behaving, then she is the one you should confront. Stand up to her and tell her respectfully that you’d appreciate it if she would stop hand-feeding your chipmunk. If she doesn’t like it and ignores you — great!
After speaking with both parties, you will have to make a choice based on how they behave. Don’t issue an ultimatum — simply make your own choice to stay or leave.
DEAR AMY: A little over a year ago, my father passed away very suddenly. It was devastating. In the weeks following his death, many people spoke of him in the highest possible regard, crafting an almost saint-like image of him. He was a great man in many respects. He was a hard worker, who provided for me and my family, and he also did quite a bit of volunteer work for the community. But, of course, nobody is perfect, and my father was no exception. He had a very sarcastic sense of humor, which came off as bitter, and privately could speak quite derisively of others. He struck me as judgmental and occasionally hostile toward people he didn’t see as being on his side. At times he also spoke negatively of immigrants, Muslims and other marginalized groups. More than a year after his death, my family chooses to remember him as this saint-like figure. It’s almost as if he is now always right and I am by default wrong about any disputes we had during his life. When people bring up some of the negative comments he made, it’s in a humorous context: “Just Dad being Dad.” I’m not perfect, and some of his flaws (namely, the bitter sarcasm and the bottling up of emotions) are flaws that I see in myself and in other family members. We want to remember the best traits of a person when they die, and I don’t want to seem ungrateful, but I think we could all grow as people if we talked about the bad along with the good. If I’m the only one willing to start that conversation, I fear I risk some sort of rebuke, or worse, from my family.
DEAR BLACK SHEEP: Every single family member has a different view of the family system — and of others in it. This is because you had a different childhood than your siblings did. Your temperaments, sensitivities and perspectives are different, and so you react differently to each of your parents.
I like the idea of introducing a little realism into the conversation (“Dad was a good dad, but he wasn’t a saint, either”), as long as you understand that others may always refuse to accept your version of your father.
The best statement about human nature I’ve ever heard was also the simplest, spoken by a friend at her mother’s funeral: “People are complicated.” This truism would be a great place to start your conversation.
DEAR AMY: “Wondering Coach” had a child on the team whose parent wasn’t paying the playing fee. When I was coaching soccer the team raised money to offset the costs associated with travel soccer by fundraisers — car wash, selling candy, etc. Given a little thought and effort it is not hard to raise funds for the whole team so no one feels “different.”
DEAR COACH: Definitely. Thank you.