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Should they pretend they’re not living together?

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: My boyfriend and I have been together for three years, we’re 27, and we’re moving in together in December. My parents like him, but they are very conservative and will not like this. They live a few states away, so he thinks that it will make things easier if we pretend that he doesn’t live with me. Pretending we’re not living together is making my life about their rules, not mine. How do I get him to see this?

A: Your position is admirable, and of course this decision is yours to make. But your boyfriend’s opinion matters in your relationship. So you need to figure out a way to address his concerns – like lightening the burden for him by not making him a front-line soldier in this battle with your parents.

Will your parents be passive objectors, or will they be in your face about it? Will it lead to one blowout or several? Work together on a post-announcement game plan that will meet your standards of genuineness but strive for the peace that’s important to him. This could be an important step in building your life together autonomously, authentically and as a united front.

Q: Our neighbors are very loud, always have trash on their deck, don’t keep their front lawn clean, etc. We’ve filed complaints about them and they know it. Usually they get better for a while, but then things go back to how they were. The woman in the house insists on trying to be nice to me, sometimes baking us stuff. I don’t want to have a relationship because, to me, if you like us so much, clean up your trash. How can I cut things off without making things worse?

A: I can understand how incongruous it feels to be offered brownies by someone whose other actions are actively lowering your property value. But I wonder what you see as your alternatives. What’s your idea of cutting her off – not saying “Hi” back when she greets you? There’s so much incivility in this world, I would want a better reason to add to it. Banish the all-or-none thinking. If you don’t want her treats, then politely decline. And respectfully extract yourself from lengthy conversations. But don’t look for ways to get under her skin, or your problems could grow bigger than trash on her deck.

Andrea Bonior is a psychologist and author of “The Friendship Fix.”

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