Q. I am a young professional, and I am having a difficult time balancing my long-term romantic relationship and the close relationship I have with my family.
Both relationships demand a lot of time, and planning a weekend gives me a headache because everyone feels entitled to my time! I try to arrange my weekends so no one feels excluded, but I ultimately feel guilty no matter what I do. How should I handle this without really hurting someone?
A. This issue will revisit you throughout your life, especially if you choose to have children, creating more relationships that you must manage. The primary relationship is the one you have with yourself, and until you value your lifelong friendship with yours truly, you will never be able to balance the ancillary relationships in your life.
So put yourself first. You will have to train yourself to value your own time, and then you’ll have to retrain everyone in your life to respect your choices.
You will need to learn to say a firm and confident “no thank you” to time demands that you can’t (or don’t want to) fulfill. If you are respectful, you won’t be hurting anyone.
Q. I have been in a serious relationship with my girlfriend for over a year now.
My girlfriend revealed that several months ago, she had a conversation with an ex. It was not sexual, but he was a big part of her life for a long time, and she felt the need to have a conversation with him regarding her feelings.
I don’t like that she waited several months to reveal this. I had made it clear that I wish to know about any dealings with him, and she lied to me for months through omission.
Since the time she came clean, I have lost some trust. I looked through her phone several times to see if they have been continuing their conversations. She occasionally looks through my phone too, and I don’t have a problem with that because I have nothing to hide.
I saw there was a text conversation between them recently. It was platonic but she hadn’t mentioned it to me. I now realize she feels my looking through her phone is a violation of privacy (even though she looks at mine). I respect this and won’t do it again.
There is now an underlying resentment on both sides. How can I help resolve this in a healthy way?
A. Honesty, disclosure, and transparency are important, but you need to decide: Is any contact with this ex a deal breaker, even if you know your girlfriend is not reviving a relationship with him? If so, you better make it crystal clear to her.
And if the relationship is over, then how many conversations must they have before they run out of things to say to each other? She needs to disclose her intentions. Tell your girlfriend, “It’s obvious that your contact with him hurts me. I’d like you to keep that in mind.”
You must then do a very challenging thing: Choose to trust.
Q. Your answer to “Divorced Dad” was off base. Dad did not give up his obligations to his children just because he divorced their mom. When “grandma” dies, he should be available to emotionally support his kids. Everyone is “uncomfortable” at a funeral, so it is not a reason to skip the event.
A. I appreciate your perspective — and correction. Thank you.