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Q. My co-worker is always asking about my boyfriend, what he’s up to, when he’s coming next to have lunch with me, what he thought of the latest episode of a show he likes, and on and on. At first I thought it was a great way of taking interest in me, but she never seems interested in getting to know me much better outside of him. We have lunch every once in a while but we don’t get closer as friends, whereas she always wants to talk about him. It’s not like I feel she’s going to steal him away, but it is getting old and I am almost embarrassed for her. But it’s not an easy thing to bring up.
So, what about not bringing it up — but also not giving any positive reinforcement to her mentions of him? Her: “So, how did Ted like ‘Game of Thrones’?” You: “That episode was something, huh? I really liked it. What did you think of it?” Her: “So, what has Ted been up to?” You: “He hasn’t seen me this week because I’m taking a new yoga class. Did I tell you about it?” Maybe it’s a conversational crutch, where she thinks he’s the safest or most interesting topic, or she just has a lot in common with him. Maybe she has a huge crush on him and can’t hide it. Or maybe it’s a passive-aggressive jab that conveys that she thinks your boyfriend is more interesting than you are. If she doesn’t get the hint, though, you’d be forgiven for putting the brakes on the lunches.
She needs help. Dad’s in the way.
Q. My father strongly believes that mental health issues are overblown and exaggerated, and that people who go on medication or go to therapy for them are fools. He has always been very judgmental about this and other things. I have learned to deal with it over the years, even though it has kept me from being open about my own struggles with depression. But now I think my mother could use some help for her anxiety, but every time I bring up talking to someone about it, she says, “Oh, your father would never go for that,” as if it is his decision. I feel helpless here!
There’s no magic elixir to give her to make her stand up for her own needs. And that pains me, because feeling like she lacks the right to make decisions about her well-being can only tighten the chokehold of her anxiety. But although your hands are somewhat tied, you can keep planting seeds, to see if something sprouts in time. One seed is the ways therapy could help her, and what her anxiety costs her in life. Another is how you can help — researching therapists, contacting them and even running interference with your dad if need be. Of course, the ultimate seed would be to help her see just how concerning it is that decisions about her health are left up to her steamrolling spouse, a guy who’s not exactly well-versed in the medical field. Because that does not bode well for the growing-old-together process, sadly.