Frankly Speaking – 3/24/14

My boyfriend and I have been together for about 6 years, off and on. We have 4 kids (we each have one and two together). He is the financial provider of our house and I am a house mom; he wants me to get out and find a job to help, which I understand and am working on. He feels as though I do not support him in his attempts to own his own business and has told me he feels as though he is all alone. I’m also fairly certain that he has been cheating on me. Is our relationship too messy to be fixed?

There certainly do seem to be a lot of working parts to this but my answer, in short, to your question is “No, it is not too late.”

I don’t believe that it is ever too late to repair a relationship. Some individuals/couples identify past difficulties (cheating, frequent arguing, etc.) as “too much to overcome.” They may be right, only in that it might be too much for them to overcome. For every relationship that ends for a given reason, there is another couple out there somewhere that was able to work through the same issue(s).

There are a couple of keys to making it work, however. First, both of you need to be committed to wanting to make it work. What may be even more important, however, is being able to agree on the values that you each hold. This does include things such as who will work and who will stay home, views on parenting, financial decisions, etc. Even if two people love each other, differences in values will make it very difficult to work toward a common goal.

In your situation, it sounds like there are a number of things that need to be talked through with your boyfriend, not the least of which is your suspicion of his infidelity. Only by getting everything out in the open is there any chance that you can then work to decide what you want, and how to get there.

Without taking these steps, you may only continue to live parallel lives under the same roof, but never grow your intimacy and neither of you will be fully satisfied. If you find that it is too difficult to have these conversations on your own, you may enlist the help of a therapist to help facilitate those discussions. That person’s job is not to decide who is right, who is wrong, and what needs to change; he or she will merely help you and your boyfriend have those conversations together.

If this relationship is truly something that you want, don’t stop fighting for it. You can’t be the only one fighting, though.

 

My eighteen year old son has quite the case of narcissism. Everything is “all about him.” He interrupts conversations and changes the subject to get the focus back on him. I don’t know how to tell him in a way that will not hurt his feelings, but to make him see that people he encounters are annoyed by this character flaw. Thanks in advance for any help.

Actually, I think you may have answered your own question.

The concern you expressed is giving your son feedback “in a way that will not hurt his feelings.” My guess is this is not the first and only time you (or others) have tried to spare his feelings. Do that for too long, and you are left with someone who doesn’t understand others’ perspectives because he likely never hears them!

Although Narcissistic Personality Disorder is an official diagnosis from the DSM-5 (the guide used by all mental health professionals), let’s assume for a moment that he does not meet these criteria; it would be unprofessional of me to diagnosis someone that I have not interviewed and evaluated personally, anyway.

What may be happening instead is an exaggeration of a typical teenager who is self-centered and perhaps entitled. As we grow up and mature, we naturally begin to understand ourselves better, although some people develop this skill to a higher level than others. What does not occur as naturally, and instead must be TAUGHT, is how to understand other peoples’ perspectives.

You’re right, in that you can’t be mean and demeaning to him regarding this blind spot that he has. Of course he will interpret that as a shot to his ego and he will become defensive. But that doesn’t mean you have to sugar coat things, either.

Instead of telling him anything, try asking (very general) questions instead. For instance, you could ask “How do you think someone would feel if they weren’t being listened to in a conversation?” If he doesn’t know the answer, tell him. Then see if he can apply it to himself. “Remember when you were talking with X? It seemed like he was never able to finish the point he was making. How do you think he felt?”

If he’s able to at least repeat the answer that you spoon-fed him to the previous question just before that, we’re on the right track. If he becomes defensive and can only hear the insult of what he did wrong, there may be a more deeply ingrained issue, although this is likely his first attempts at trying to figure some of these things out.

Be patient and try this type of question and information sharing a couple of different times. If any headway seems to be made, keep at it. If not, you may begin to think about pursuing professional assistance from someone in your area who can get to know you and your family dynamics in much greater depth.

“Frankly Speaking” is a weekly segment on this blog that provides an opportunity for my readers to ask questions aimed at better understanding themselves, others, or their relationship with others. Each week I will select one or more of those questions to answer here. As you can see, the askers of those questions remain anonymous.

To submit a potential question for future installments, the only thing that I ask is that you first become a fan of my Facebook page. “Like” my page, and then send me a private message with your question(s). Until next week!

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