By Carolyn Hax
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 19, 2010; 12:00 AM
My girlfriend, "B," and I have been together five years. Lately, she has started doing something that really bothers me. I am studying for a degree in chemistry. I also work full time, and lately school has been getting tougher.
Last semester, my mother called and said we needed to talk about something important. She then told me B had approached her, saying I was "miserable because school was always easy to me and now that it was starting to challenge me, I didn't know what to do." This couldn't be further from the truth.
My mother said B asked her not to mention what she had said, but my mom told me because, well, I'm her son. I wanted to confront B about this, but I decided not to betray her trust in my mother.
More recently, we decided to travel out of state to visit B's family for Christmas. I have been so busy with school that I hadn't yet mentioned our plans to my parents.
I received another call from my mom. B told her she was hurt because I had not told my parents about our Christmas plans.
This really bothers me. I feel like we should be a team instead of her teaming up with my parents to get her way, but I don't want to confront her and put my mom in a bad position.
I like this - your girlfriend has a problem, which she brings to your mom, which your mom brings to you, which you bring to me, and which I make available to anyone in the world with full access to Internet content - and which, if this narrative fulfills its destiny, will make its way back to your girlfriend.
Since I'm a closet optimist, I'll answer B directly: If you have a problem with someone, then just say it to that person. Not only will it save time, prevent "telephone"-style confusion and preempt the collateral damage of bringing other people into your relationship, but it might even put a small dent in global warming.
As a pragmatist, I'll also answer you in case B doesn't read this column.
First, tell your mom you're going to come clean with B, on the highly underrated "enough is enough" premise. While you're there, talk to Mom about when/if B approaches her again. "This is something you need to bring to my son directly" is all your mom needs to say to B, to cut off B's supply of backdoor affirmation.
To address the demand side, you'll need to tell B that you know she contacted your mom, and then ask her please to bring her worries to you directly - no matter how busy you are.
You can shield your mom somewhat by saying, "My mom said you're worried about us," and decline to elaborate on how much Mom gave up. Say the details are beside the point, because they are; this is about communication between you and B, not about B's side deals with her confidantes.
Don't be afraid of full disclosure, though. You have the exact words to smooth over your mom's decision to share: "Because, well, I'm her son." And, B needs to know that her "don't tell your son" secret-keeping plan is a plan that has to go.
Write to Tell Me About It, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or firstname.lastname@example.org.