Ben Claassen III (for Express)

Q. I am 36 and returned to live with my parents and grandmother after not being able to find work for two years. I since returned to school and am a semester away from my second master’s degree. I look forward to finding work and moving out, but I sense my parents are hoping I’ll stick around and help financially, physically and emotionally. My grandmother is getting weaker, my mother recently had surgery and my father is in his 70s but still has to work. I do all the errands and help pay the bills. I am suffocating in my small room and need my own place. However, I feel guilty for wanting to leave. Son Who Needs Space

There are a lot of beautiful grays in between black and white. Helping your parents and grandmother physically, financially and emotionally does not necessitate sleeping in a too-small room or forsaking an independent life. Presumably, there are other housing options nearby; what would be reasonable in terms of a number of visits and errands per week? Automating some of the bill-paying? Contributing to an extra helper when the time may come?

Start communicating honestly. Avoiding the issue will only make you resentful (not a great look on a caregiver). Spell out clearly that you visualize having your own place but you will still be available for X, Y and Z. Yes, you may feel guilty. But if you can find a way to get some space while continuing meaningful support, you’ll feel much freer — and may even be better company when you’re with them.

He’s a great guy … until he drinks

Q. I live with the love of my life. He is amazing. But there is one thing we always argue about: alcohol. He is not an everyday drinker; he’s a “special occasion” drinker. When he drinks, he’s a completely different person who doesn’t care about anything. It’s very hard to reason with him, to the point where I want to leave him. I am not a drinker and am much younger than him, so he assumes I can’t have fun and enjoy myself. How could we overcome this? Don’t Love His Drinking

Alcohol abuse can be a relationship killer, whether someone is an everyday drinker or not. In fact, people often falsely convince themselves they don’t have a problem because they are able to go a certain period of time without drinking. But it need not be about the frequency of someone’s drinking — it can also be about who they become when they do it.

Clearly, he’s got a problem, and instead of looking at himself, he’s deflecting blame to your not being fun enough. (And since when does being younger mean being less able to enjoy oneself?) He may seem to be the love of your life, but I implore you to consider the long-term implications of being with someone you “always argue” with, especially when it’s because they refuse to take care of themselves or even acknowledge a problem that affects you both.

Send your questions for Baggage Check to Dr. Andrea Bonior at

Read more Baggage Check:

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