Don’t miss the next live chat: Dr. Andrea Bonior, a licensed clinical psychologist who has been helping readers with Baggage Check since 2005, hosts a weekly live chat at washingtonpost.com on Tuesdays at 1 p.m. She discusses her recent columns and answers any questions you may have about relationships, work, family, mental health and more. Join or read Dr. Andrea’s latest live chat here.
Q. My sister is my best friend and I love her a lot. But she spreads my personal information around. I know she doesn’t do it out of malice and she always apologizes, but she can’t seem to resist. I think it’s part of her way of connecting with people. No matter how long I talk to her about this, it keeps happening. I feel stuck because I love having her in my life in a close way but I don’t want to invite random others in too.
So you’ve talked to her about this a lot, which is great. But I’m guessing that each conversation results in her feeling like you forgive her, and that ultimately it’s not that big of a deal. Now, I’m not saying she doesn’t care about your preferences, but I’m thinking that she probably doesn’t really understand the effect this has on you — which will keep her from being motivated to make a change. So, lay it out: When she does this, it weakens your relationship. Full stop. Even if you forgive her each time, it creates a bit of a mental barrier for you to confide next time (which is totally reasonable). And that, in turn, will erode your emotional intimacy, until there’s nothing to distinguish her relationship with you from that with her audience.
She’s decided she’s the decider
Q. I feel like my wife always makes decisions for us both, and then gets annoyed when I want to adjust the decision. She acts like I am trying to do things my way and win, when in reality she was the one who chose to do things her way in the first place. When I try to talk to her about this, she says that I always leave decisions for the last minute and so she feels the need to make them. I don’t feel this is the case; I think it is an excuse. It has gotten to the point where any given day we are having conflicts about this and it is starting to take its toll.
I’m having a dissertation flashback here, as I’m feeling the need to operationalize a variable. What exactly does each of you consider “the last minute,” and how unacceptable is it? Might there be some relatively easy compromise here, like her presenting a matter that requires a decision and you two agreeing upon a deadline for it to be hashed out, with a clear-cut means of collaborating to get there? (OK, maybe not so easy.) Perhaps she is exhausted, with many decisions falling on her by default, and you not realizing how much mental project-managing she does without your initiating any effort to help. Or maybe it’s the opposite: She is indeed making excuses for her need to control things, and this is a pattern of steamrolling you to get her way. (Does the her-way-wins mentality extend to other parts of your interactions? To what extent does she generally take your feelings into account?) Likely it’s somewhere in between: She’s got a planner’s personality and is generally uncomfortable with your time frame on things. So propose that compromise, and see what it brings.