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I own my house but have roommates to help pay the bills. I haven’t had any problems with this arrangement and most of my roommates are old friends. Right now “Billy” has been letting his little sister, “Katy,” stay in our living room after she lost her job and apartment. Katy’s a good kid, and I don’t mind her sleeping on the sofa for a month or so until she gets back on her feet. Recently I learned that Katy is pregnant and plans on keeping the child. Since finding out, I haven’t really said anything to Katy and Billy because I don’t know how to tell them that I don’t want to have a newborn in the house. This is a line I am not willing to cross.
Katy is not on the lease and Billy only rents month to month. I know I can legally give them notice, but I don’t want to do that if I don’t have to. How do I toe the line of being helpful while also saying, Please get out of my home?
Right now, if you keep on with your strategy of not saying anything, you’re eventually going to put yourself in a situation where you have no other option besides serving Katy, and possibly Billy, with an eviction notice. The more advance warning and clarity you can offer Katy, the better off she’ll be in the long run. In general, it’s better for everyone involved to be clear about deadlines before inviting them to sleep on your couch “until they get back on their feet,” mostly because “until someone gets back on their feet” can take anywhere from a few weeks to, you know, forever. You don’t have to bring her pregnancy into it, because you haven’t formalized your living arrangement and it sounds like it was already understood that her staying with you was temporary from the start. Figure out how much time you’re willing to let Katy continue to spend on your couch (30 days, 45, 60, whatever) and let her know that’s her move-out date, and let her make her own arrangements. But you do have to say something now, because the longer you wait, the more Katy and Billy are likely to make unfounded assumptions about the length of her stay.
How do you nicely turn someone down? I recently met a co-worker’s friend at a party who is apparently interested in me. She gave her number to my co-worker to pass on to me. People rarely hit on me, so I’m not used to turning down advances, but I’m not interested. Normally I think I could sort this out, but I have to worry about my co-worker asking constantly if I’ve contacted her yet and telling me how we’d be good together because we like the same stuff. I don’t want to disrupt our professional relationship.
—Just Not Interested
You definitely don’t have to contact your co-worker’s friend. You never asked for her number and didn’t offer her yours. All you have to say to your co-worker is, “Thanks for the offer, but I’m not interested in Iphigenia, so I’m not going to call her.” Lots of people like the same things, but that doesn’t mean there’s a mutual romantic connection. Hopefully your co-worker is just a little overzealous, if well-meaning. (Although it’s hard to imagine why they’d want their friend to go out with someone who had to be talked into the idea rather than someone who was genuinely excited, without prompting, to ask her out.) If they continue to press, just say, “I didn’t feel a romantic connection, and I’d appreciate it if you dropped the subject.” You’re not the one who’s disrupting your professional relationship, so you should feel no qualms about being polite but firm.
I have been dating “Sam” for three years. We both were theater kids and the odd one out in our rather conservative families. Now Sam has come out as trans and I feel overwhelmed. I want to be supportive. I want to be a good girlfriend. But I feel like I am drowning. Sam has transitioned and our love life is nonexistent.
I can’t take comfort in our social circle because they are behind Sam all the way. I tried once and got rejected brutally. There is no way I can confide in my family. If I break up now, I am afraid I am going to lose Sam and every one of my friends, because they will peg me as a bigot. On every level we click, but not sexually anymore. What do I do?
—Not a Lesbian
Ending a romantic relationship over incompatible sexual orientation does not make you a bad person, nor transphobic, nor unsupportive. You can love Sam, affirm their transition, and break up with them. Being there for Sam does not mean staying in a romantic relationship indefinitely. I’m so sorry that your friends have made you feel as if you have done something wrong by being honest about your own sexuality. If you’re in need of confidential support, try a local PFLAG meeting or contacting the Straight Spouses Network. (You don’t have to be married or planning on staying together in order to talk to someone or find an online support group.) It is possible for you to end your romantic relationship with Sam kindly and respectfully, while leaving the door open for a continued friendship. Whether Sam takes you up on that right away, or the two of you decide you need to take a little space after your breakup, please know that you are not doing anything wrong. Neither of you are!
I am in my mid-40s and have a good job. I’m dating “Emily,” a single mother with one grown son and two teenagers. My wife died unexpectedly soon after we got married and I found myself responsible for her 13-year-old daughter, “Taylor.” Her biological father was dead and no one else was able to take her in. I adopted Taylor and raised her the best I could until she went off to college. She is a smart, funny, wonderful girl. I am very proud of her and want the best for her, but I don’t have the instinctive love of a parent. I took care of Taylor because it was my duty and there was no else to step up. Taylor calls me dad and I see her for holidays. I don’t ever want to be in the position of having to parent again. Taylor was a good kid and easy to raise, but I still resented being a father more often than not. I have never breathed a word of this to anyone.
I see Emily right now on the weekends and sometimes after work. We get along on every level, and I might even love her, but I do not want to be a stepdad again. Marriage is off the table for me. How do I tell Emily this? I know her kids are going to grow up and leave in the next few years, but her kids are not Taylor and consistently get into minor trouble or need Emily to bail them out. I couldn’t deal with them well.
—Not a Dad Again
It sounds like you know your own desires and limitations pretty well. It’s incumbent upon you, therefore, to communicate them clearly and effectively to your girlfriend so that she can make her own decisions. If you know you don’t want to get married, and that you’re not prepared to act as a stepparent in any way, then you should tell her so. Maybe Emily is perfectly happy with your current arrangement and will agree to keep seeing you on the weekends while keeping her family life separate. Maybe she’s looking for something more serious, and you two will break up. Either outcome is vastly preferable to keeping this to yourself and eventually getting roped into getting more involved in the lives of children you have no interest in getting to know better.
I had an affair with a lovely woman for more than four years. This was the greatest experience of my life. She is incredibly smart, affable, beautiful, and mature. We started off as friends—best friends. Our personalities matched almost perfectly; we had similar tastes and connected at a level that neither of us had experienced with someone else. Yet last year, I messed up and gradually drove her away from me. I take full responsibility for that. Because of the age difference between us, I wanted her to feel free to go and explore. I did not want to constrain her options as she was blossoming. The geographical distance did not help either.
Here’s my problem: I want my best friend back. As avid introverts, it is already incredibly difficult to find a friend, let alone a best friend. I am rueing the chain of events that led to this every single day without exception. It’s been over a year. I respect her decision to not go back to what it was between us, but can’t we be best friends again? She has declined to talk to me multiple times in the past year, and I don’t have the courage to ask again. I cannot seem to find closure on this. I want to laugh over Trump’s impulsiveness, discuss populism, and explore ’80s music again.
—Return to Me
No, you cannot be best friends with someone who doesn’t want to talk to you. Not even if you really, really miss them, not even if you’re both introverts, not even if you both dislike Trump, not even if you’re very sorry you hurt them, not even if you both like music from the 1980s. The most important criteria for whether two people are best friends is this: Do both parties want to be best friends? If the answer isn’t unanimous, then the answer is no. It’s not a question of “courage” when it comes to repeatedly contacting this woman to try to get her to change her mind. It’s a question of respect. She’s made it extremely clear that she does not want to be friends again, and if you really want to take “full responsibility” for having driven her away, then you need to accept that she’s gone away and deal with your feelings of regret and loss on your own, and let them inspire you to treat other friends differently in the future.
My husband and I are friends with a couple who never reciprocate lunch and dinner invites. We see them every week when they come over for “family lunch.” We cook and they bring a purchased dessert, which is all fine, but they never help with the cleaning up. Sometimes the woman will come talk to me while I’m washing dishes, but it never occurs to her to get a tea towel and help dry. These people are like family; they’re not just friends we see occasionally.
They were just at our house for Christmas, and we provided a full holiday meal. We spent a lot of time making the table beautiful, cooking and serving multiple dishes, providing alcohol, and clearing the table. They brought a store-bought meringue and berries for dessert, then kept enjoying the food and conversation while we spent half an hour cleaning pots and pans. Never once did they get up and offer to help. They just sat there like it was a restaurant. Even after we had finished clearing up, they continued on to the living space, lingering for another 45 minutes, oblivious to our exhaustion and need to get some rest. This was Christmas Day, after all.
I was so angry after they left. My husband said, “Never again!” I wouldn’t mind if they reciprocated with a meal at their house, but they never do. She says he doesn’t like to have people around because their house is small. But to me that is a cop-out. And it’s not like we can say, “Hey, isn’t it your turn to have us for dinner?” Do I just suck it up and accept them for who they are? Or am I justified in being angry at their selfishness and laziness, and I should raise it with them? Unfortunately I know she would be offended.
—Never Heard of a Tea Towel
I’d be frustrated too if I had friends who never once thought to offer to help clean up after a meal I’d prepared, but I’m astonished that not once have either you or your husband said, Hey, can you give me a hand with these dishes? to friends you see every week and consider a part of your family. You don’t have to stand upon ceremony with friends you’ve been close with for years. If they don’t offer to help tidy up the kitchen after you’ve fed them, ask for their help: “Here, dry these plates while I soak the pans.” “Would you help bring some of the glasses into the kitchen?” “We’re not feeling up to hosting next weekend. Would you like to host, or would you rather meet at a restaurant?” “Guys, thank you so much for coming over. We’re absolutely wiped out, so we’re going to turn in. Can I help you grab your coats?” Nothing prevented you from saying those things, and had you said them you might have spared yourself years of pent-up resentment. But there’s also nothing to stop you from saying them now, so do yourself a favor and get started.
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