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I live in a big city. I usually shop at the same supermarket where the employees and customers are all friendly and familiar with one another. One employee, a greeter, is especially friendly, and we’ve exchanged greetings a few times a week for years. Just before Thanksgiving, he stopped me to ask about my plans. I told him I was hosting in my apartment, and I asked him about his. He said he had an invitation from his brother but hadn’t decided yet—then asked if I would include him in my Thanksgiving dinner plans. I was totally taken aback and tried to sound vague. He gave me his name and told me to find him later and give him the details.
I was pretty surprised. I never meant to invite him! I avoided the store for the rest of that week. He’s from another country originally, so maybe he’s used to exchanging casual dinner invitations. My sister told me not to worry, that he wasn’t seriously expecting an invitation, but just the other day, I ran into him and he said he had waited for me to come back, and at the last minute had gone somewhere else. He said “hopefully” we could share a meal “another time.” I do not want to continue to get to know this guy! I just want to buy my groceries in peace. What do I do?
—Curb His Enthusiasm
You don’t have to do much more than say “Hi” and “Goodbye” when you run into him on your way in or out of the store. If you live in a big city, I’m sure you’re well-versed in the art of acting a little bit busier than you actually are in order to streamline a conversation you’re not looking to prolong. If he brings up getting dinner sometime, you can say something like, “Sorry, that won’t work for me, but have a great night,” (Or “Sorry, it’s a family-only celebration”) then walk away. For now, at least, his behavior falls under the umbrella of definitely unusual but probably well-intended. Only if he escalates, like if he starts to follow you out of the store or accuses you of going back on your word to invite him over, do I think you should consider speaking to store management.
Today I discovered an email in my husband’s inbox setting up a “session” with a female bodybuilder. His email automatically opens on that computer—I wasn’t looking for trouble. He swore up and down that this was a one-time lapse in judgment. I asked to see his phone, and he hesitated. I found hundreds of similar chats on his phone with both male and female escorts. There was no sign he’d taken any of them up on their offers, but I contacted some of them.
One told me she went out with him but broke it off when she realized he was married. Another had sent him nudes. Both women told me he’d said he only married me for immigration documents.
He was always a wonderful husband and a great stepfather to my kids. I had no idea. I’ve kicked him out of the house and plan to end our marriage. I don’t know how to proceed. I feel so broken. This is not my first relationship that ended in my partner’s infidelity. But this time I was completely shocked. I just don’t know what to do in order to get myself back together.
You’re proceeding beautifully. I wish that meant the pain and the shock of this betrayal would wear off faster, but I think you’re just going to have to let yourself feel devastated and hurt and blindsided for a while. One thing you don’t mention in your letter is whether you’ve allowed yourself to talk about this with anyone. If you’re carrying all this by yourself right now, I don’t wonder that you feel totally alone and brokenhearted. This isn’t just the end of a marriage, but a realization that everything you thought you knew about him and your relationship was only part of the story. That doesn’t mean you have to scrub your brain of every good memory together, but it’s enormously destabilizing to see everything in a new and painful light. I don’t have much more advice for you than to give yourself time, talk about this as much as you can with your friends and family and a therapist, make sure you’re looking after yourself and getting help looking after your kids, and don’t be in a rush to get over this quickly.
My boyfriend is very easygoing. I am notoriously driven and clear about what I want. All my friends and family say that it’s a match made in heaven. But I feel as if I am constantly running roughshod over him. He won’t stand up for himself or what he wants. Anytime we disagree—what color to paint a room, what to get for dinner, where to go on holiday—he immediately surrenders so I get what I want.
It’s not that I want us both to dig our heels in, but sometimes you need to talk things out. That’s how you find a compromise. I guess I could just not suggest anything, but that only works if all that is at stake is a bad meal. When it’s about what flat we rent, what town we live in, or whether we have kids, I want to have a chance to debate it. Do you think there’s any way to find a compromise and get him to at least discuss what he wants? Otherwise, I think we’ll have to break up. It seems ridiculous, I’m very happy most of the time.
I have also been in a version of this relationship. It didn’t last long. That’s not to say there’s no way things can change between the two of you, but I think you’re right to consider this a potential deal-breaker, especially if you plan on having kids together. No matter how easygoing your boyfriend may naturally be, I’m sure he has at least some opinions that he’s stifling on your behalf. Whether that’s because you tend to steamroll him, or because he’s super avoidant, or a little bit of both I couldn’t say, but this strikes me as the kind of problem couples therapy is made for. You both care for each other but don’t know how to get past a really persistent and ingrained disparity in communicating and compromising. Seeing a professional who would make it her job to give you both equal airtime, and press you both to consider where you can change, will go a lot further than if you keep trying to persuade your boyfriend to change.
But that’s only if he’s willing to go with you, actively participate, and honestly discuss why he thinks he defers to your preference 100 percent of the time. It likely would be a waste of energy to try to force him if he doesn’t see it as a problem. At that point I think you’d be better off acknowledging that you two just have incompatible ideas of what a relationship of equals looks like.
More Advice From Care and Feeding
My 12-year-old son is in Boy Scouts and his troop has a thing with nicknames. After you’ve been there a while, one will emerge and stick. Like glue. At camp earlier in the summer, a leader decided my child looks like a character from a popular horror TV show and has started calling him by that name. No one in my house watches this show. I’m a HUGE wimp. Zombies are a no-go for me. Twelve-year-old watched 15 minutes of the first episode on a weekend afternoon to figure out what they were talking about and (rightly) decided the show was too much for him.
Is it OK for an adult to put a nickname on a kid that they know NOTHING about? Other than zombie fighting, he has zero context for what kind of character he is being compared to—brave? Kind? Cruel? He doesn’t know if he is being made fun of or if this is a cool comparison. And neither do my husband and I, given my status as a grade-A weenie. My son is a very go with the flow, make no waves, please everyone kind of kid. He will not ask them to stop and says he has no issue. But I still don’t know what to do.
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