Dear Carolyn:

I had an unusual experience last night. My boyfriend of eight months invited me over to his parents' house for dinner. The menu consisted of sloppy joes, with turkey joes to be provided for me. I haven't eaten beef in 16 years, for various reasons, and everyone who knows me knows this. Well, not one to refuse to eat food a host has graciously provided (I always communicate my restriction in advance, and these particular people were aware of it), I muddled through what I thought was a beefy-tasting turkey joe. Once I was finished, my boyfriend revealed that he added beef to the turkey to see if I could "tell the difference." I've never been in this situation, because I've never had anyone trick me like this. Is this relationship-ending stuff, or just a minor violation? It's really bothering me.

Sick to My Stomach

It should -- the literal version of trusting your gut.

Granted, many don't know that eating beef can make a non-beef-eater feel sick. But even that wouldn't clear him, at all, of the outrageous disrespect he showed for your dietary choices. Religious reasons, humane reasons, health reasons, taste reasons, capricious reasons, whatever. They're YOUR reasons, to be honored as such.

Whether this is a minor violation or a relationship-ending beef (you try resisting that) is up to him. If he is able to listen to you, understand why his trick was outrageously disrespectful and feel remorseful, then probably you can get past it. But if he defends what he did or, worse, digs at you for overreacting, then it's a promise of more disrespect, and Turkey Joe's gotta go.

Dear Carolyn:

My live-in boyfriend's mother came to stay with us for a "short," one-month period while she looked for work and a new living situation. Well, three months later, his mother is still in our cramped two-bedroom condo with no job prospects in sight -- let alone a new place to live. She spends her days surfing the Net, talking on the phone and making negative comments about my relationship with her son.

It's obvious my boyfriend's mother is depressed, among other problems. I've asked, discussed, nagged and cajoled him to speak with her. Nothing has happened. The cramped conditions, lack of privacy and my boyfriend's inability to confront his family issues is taking a toll on our six-year relationship (that I expect will result in marriage). What can I do to make my boyfriend realize I can't live with his mother indefinitely!


Your boyfriend doesn't realize this because you are, in fact, living with his mother indefinitely.

So the answer is to demonstrate -- not say -- that you won't live with her indefinitely. Sit down with him to establish a seven-day, 15-day, whatever-day plan to get her on her feet and out of your house. Demonstrate -- don't say -- that this is not negotiable, by making a Plan B to get out of the house if she doesn't.

It's not that he won't confront his mother. It's that he'd rather let things drag on than make an unpopular decision -- since any decision he makes will upset one of you. And with someone who's not strong enough to make an unpopular decision, you can't really expect much of a happy result.

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