Q: I have a boyfriend, and I love him to death. He's not OK with me drinking, but I do drink with a few friends of mine and he doesn't know. The thing is I can't tell him because he'd be pretty upset about it, but at the same time, I don't want to stop drinking. What am I supposed to do?
A: Look, this guy is not your father, pastor, teacher, camp counselor, or sobriety coach. He is your boyfriend. As such, he only gets to decide what he puts in his body. Not yours. You say, "I can't tell him." But you can. You don't have to sneak around behind his back.
Your boyfriend may have reasons for his worries about alcohol. You should ask him why this bothers him so much and try to understand where this is coming from. (An alcoholic relative or ex? Religion? A history of addiction?) In turn, he needs to understand why you have the perfectly normal desire to drink responsibly with your friends. (If you have trouble with substance abuse, that's a whole other beer-can of worms.)
Right now, because you're afraid that he'll get upset, you're lying and hiding. That must make you feel awful—and I promise it's not easier than facing this issue head on. Lying is exhausting. And wouldn't he be more upset about the lying than the drinking?
In relationships, as in politics, the cover-up is usually worse than the crime. Tell him why you think it's perfectly fine to drink. Don't let him impose rules that don't work for you. Try to find a way to be yourself. Be honest.
Q: My boyfriend and I have been together for three years. We have a wonderful relationship as far as communication, trust, and intimacy go, but he's a workaholic. It's one of my favorite and least favorite things about him. Between school and two jobs—plus he pretty much takes care of his parents—we only see each other about once a week. By the time we do get to see each other, we're both too exhausted to even leave the house. It's literally the only thing we fight about. I just feel like we are in some sort of rut, and I don't know how to move past it. Any suggestions?
A: It's no wonder you're "exhausted." According to a recent Gallup poll, Americans are working harder and longer hours than ever. The average workweek is 46.7 hours and 18 percent of us now work more than 60 hours weekly. If you add the time spent sleeping, running errands, and watching Scandal, that doesn't leave a lot of time for "quality time." That puts pressure on every relationship.
You say your boyfriend's hardworking drive is "one of my favorite and least favorite things about him." And I get that mixed feeling. But I'm not sure that "workaholism" is a useful way to describe him. I'm wary of slapping general judgmental terms onto people—because everyone is complicated in his or her own way, and such terms tend to alienate people. The tepid economy and widening income gap are forcing regular folks to work harder just to stay in the same place. And "workaholism" doesn't describe how he helps his parents, does it? It sounds like your boyfriend is shouldering considerable responsibilities and having trouble juggling it all: school, two jobs, aging parents, and his relationship with you.
It sounds like you adore this guy. So I'd encourage you to drop the word "workaholic" and figure out a less critical and more precise way to talk about this problem. Ask yourself: What exactly do you want to see change? It sounds like you feel that his priorities need a tune-up. And maybe yours do too—since you say that, at the end of the week, "we're both too exhausted to even leave the house."
Finding a way to prioritize each other is hard when the boss and teacher are hassling you. Employers and professors can impose deadlines that can't be missed—but we can't impose such ultimatums in relationships. We can, however, go through each week aware that we need to strike a balance. And we can do little practical things, whether it's finding other ways to communicate during the workweek or blocking off regular time for each other.
If you want to see him more than once a week—and you keep getting lost in the shuffle—maybe you can set up a few regular, simple plans. A nightly dinner might not work, but having a regular date night on Friday to look forward to might make the week go faster. I know it's not spontaneous, but sometimes it helps to just put quality time (a regular Wednesday breakfast, a Tuesday dinner?) on the calendar along with all the appointments and work shifts, so you can count on it—instead of seeing each other only "about once a week" and then watching those "maybe see you later" plans get trumped by obligations. The difference between "probably" and "definitely" seeing your partner on any given date is real because it firms up an expectation and builds trust. Gestures matter.
It's great that you're thinking this through. When you're busy and feeling all kinds of outside pressure, it's easy to develop bad habits. You seem to know this—and hopefully you'll create some healthier habits instead.
Q: I don't know if I'm in love with my fiancé anymore. We broke up a few times before being engaged and once after our engagement, but I always go back to him because I feel alone. But once we're back together, my unhappiness creeps back in over the same issues. I don't feel like us trying to work on our relationship is worth it anymore, but I just don't know how to end it for good because he always says he's happy and is such a good guy. But I don't think he's the right guy for me. Please help!!
A: I wish I could tell you that there's a way to break up with your boyfriend that leaves him blissed out, like he's just received a blow job from Aphrodite herself. But there's not. Getting dumped hurts.
Instead of worrying about the exact right way to dump someone, you just have to treat it like any other awful task (bills, homework, a visit to the dentist) and get it over with. Procrastination only makes it worse, wastes your time, and drains your mental energy. On some level, I'm sure you know that it's far easier to just end it quickly and get on with your life.
The best you can do is to break up with him soon. Don't prolong the uncomfortable situation. Tell him exactly what you wrote me: "You're a good guy, but you're not the right guy for me." Tell him: "I really like you, but I just don't love you." You don't have to say any more than that. If he asks for details, don't let him start a fight. You can just say that it's a gut feeling. It's OK to have no reason other than your conviction that he's not the one for you.
Then, please, don't try to be friends immediately afterward. Give him at least a month, and probably more, to get over you. Otherwise, you're just asking for trouble.