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Baggage Check: Smoke out your motivation

By Andrea Bonior
Andrea Bonior
Andrea Bonior (that's BONN-yer!) is a licensed clinical psychologist, professor, and writer. She completed her M.A. and Ph.D. in clinical psychology focusing on individual and group psychotherapy for young adults and specializing in the treatment of anxiety disorders and depression.

Q: Do you think it’s fair to have cigarette smoking as a deal-breaker in a relationship? I have given my boyfriend ultimatum after ultimatum, and he just won’t quit. He was supposedly quitting when we first started dating, and I made it totally clear to him that I would not date a smoker. Six months in, and no progress.

Honestly, I’d say breaking up is more fair than giving him ultimatums ad nauseam. Do you want to stay with him, if the “him” is who he’ll always be? That’s your bottom line. Some people err on the side of accepting too many caveats – their love temporarily supersedes the warning signs that will eventually grow into bombs and drive them apart. Others are quick to dismiss people almost as a Seinfeld-ian game, because they’re really more interested in the sport of dating or the theoretical checklist than they are in the sometimes-messy – but often amazing – possibility of connecting with someone who’s not their perfect “type.”

If you’re not at either extreme, there’s a much better chance you’ll make the healthiest choice, even as he continues to reach for the Marlboros.

Q: Every summer since we had children, I have gone back to the country where I’m from for a month with my kids to spend time with my family. My husband, who was born here, has not gone, in large part because of work. This summer, he’s talking about how I should lessen my trip to two weeks because the kids “should be here.” I feel like he’s trying to take away this part of my heritage, and he has no good reason why the kids should not go.

No good reason? Is it not valid that a dad doesn’t want to be apart from his kids for a month? Let’s say hypothetically that’s not even it. It still makes sense that as your kids get older, the vacation schedule might need to morph into something new.

But one spouse dictating what “should” be the case is not helpful, and I wonder if your husband realizes that his words carry the additional emotional weight of making you feel that your culture is being devalued. In a private conversation, try to convey to him the psychological value of the trips. In return, you can try to find ways to build that up outside of these summer stays and acknowledge that a month away might very well be too much.

Andrea Bonior is a clinical psychologist and the author of “The Friendship Fix.” www.drandreabonior.com.
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