Ben Claassen III (For Express)

Q. My boyfriend of seven years and I have broken up three times over his lack of motivation to get married. I always go back to him because I want to spend my life with him and he is my best friend and a wonderful person. But he doesn’t get that the “piece of paper” is important to me. I know he has anxiety about the symbolism of commitment but if I give in on this, I’m setting up our relationship for me to always give in. —At a Crossroads

I’m betting that after seven years you have a good idea whether “giving in” on this would lead to a screwed-up power dynamic. Is this a lone, unique issue? Or part of a larger pattern of stalemates?

He might not get your reasons, but do you get his? Only some serious individual soul-searching and joint communication will figure out once and for all whether your relationship, in and of itself, is more important than the question of marriage or no marriage. Whether it’s a pros/cons battle, a compromise, a deadline or anything besides flipping a coin, there is no one right answer — but together you can find the solution that works as well as possible for both of you.

I’m my drunk sister’s keeper

Q. My sister recently moved to the area, so we go out a lot. But she drinks a lot more than me, and I end up having to watch her to make sure she doesn’t do inappropriate things, fall down stairs, etc. Usually she ends up crashing at my place because she is in no shape to take care of herself. I don’t think she has a serious alcohol problem, just immaturity, but how do I stop being her babysitter? Tired of This

Well, my mental jury is still out on the “serious alcohol problem” question — especially given she does this every single time she goes out, despite its causing disruptions. Of course, I wonder how much you have actually conveyed to her that it’s causing these disruptions? I vote for a more all-encompassing discussion that addresses the fact that this is not a healthy pattern, but what can I say — as a therapist, that’s how I roll. If you insist on focusing only on the annoyance-as-it-relates-to-you part, then just start there. “I don’t have as much fun when we go out these days, because I end up needing to take care of you a lot. It makes me not want to go out as much. Can we change this pattern?”

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