Q. My 16-year-old daughter’s boyfriend is very rude to us, makes no effort to make conversation when he is around and is generally a grumpy person. This is her first boyfriend and I worry that she is selling herself short. My husband thinks we should stand back and let her get tired of him on her own, that we will drive her closer to him if we express disapproval. But I say we should not pretend to condone this type of person as being a good fit for our daughter. —Worried in VA
There’s a middle ground between embracing him as a good fit and waging a full-court press to break them up. In fact, in that gray area is the beauty of real, open communication about her feelings. Don’t paint him with as broad a brush — maybe he is socially anxious or awkward. Or maybe he is a scary, controlling person who will lead to nothing but heartache. Either way, make this about her.
Ask her what she thinks of his quietness around her parents, how she feels she’s being treated, what she believes she deserves, what draws her to him, and how she would know he is a good fit. The way not to drive her further into his arms is to make it safe for her to talk to you about all of it — so focus most on the listening.
Beware of the quiet loaner
Q. I found out that for years my husband had been secretly loaning our money to his brother, who is known for his reckless decisions and will likely never repay it. My husband knows I’m upset, but he constantly says “at least” he didn’t do something worse, that lots of people betray spouses in worse ways, that we have enough money that this shouldn’t be a big deal. Why can’t he understand that I consider it a serious breach of trust? How do I get him to stop the “Yes, but” that he keeps throwing at me? —Can’t Get Over This
Your husband should know that the “at least” argument is not particularly helpful — after all, there is always an atrocity that is far more deserving of ire, sadness or fear than whatever particular upset we are experiencing in any given moment. It invalidates your emotions, making you more frustrated and less able to feel understood and move on. He also needs to see that it’s the going behind your back that’s the meat of the problem here.
So, let me pull the advice columnist’s alley-oop: Show him this. Tell him you want to move forward but that you need him to get how hurt you are. That it’s about honesty, partnership and respect, not dollar signs.
Send your questions for Baggage Check to Dr. Andrea Bonior at email@example.com.
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