Carolyn Hax is away. The following first appeared Jan. 2, Jan. 5 and Feb. 27, 2005.
DEAR CAROLYN: I’m friends with someone I’ve known my whole life; our parents have been friends for years. Just recently, we’ve become a lot closer.
I know a deep secret about this person’s father, and what he did on a vacation that almost ended the marriage. My friend has no idea about it, but I know, and I’m not even supposed to. My parents told me not to tell anyone, but I feel bad holding it back from this person because we are close.
Should I keep this to myself or be honest, break my parents’ trust and tell?
Torn Between a Friend and Family
DEAR TORN: You want to unburden yourself, I can sympathize. But you won’t accomplish that by burdening your friend. Instead, remind yourself that you weren’t there on that vacation, so you don’t really know what you think you know — and you also aren’t part of that marriage, so you can’t be sure it hasn’t emerged stronger from the vacation misdeeds and the fallout thereafter.
In other words, lighten your load by blowing holes in the secret itself. And if your friend busts you for knowing: Offer a tactfully truthful, “I never got the whole story.”
DEAR CAROLYN: I have finally met a guy I really like. We have been seeing each other on and off for a couple of months. Should I ask where this relationship is going or just see where it takes us? I have been raised to believe the guy should bring up stuff like that. I’m worried that if I say I would like to be exclusive I might scare him off.
DEAR C.: I was raised that way, too, but then reconditioned to believe that if honesty kills your relationship, then it was already dying of natural causes.
“Where is this going?” still lays it on him. Asking to be exclusive is honest, and also such a compliment that it would be a shame to withhold it out of fear that he might not agree.
DEAR CAROLYN: I love my boyfriend with all my heart; he’s smart, funny and takes great care of me. Like any couple we have our pet peeves, but his not listening to me strains our relationship more than anything.
For example, this morning I told him he needed to feed the dog because I had to leave early. On my way out, I again told him he would need to feed the dog, and he replied that he understood. Four hours later, he asked me if I fed the dog this morning.
It would be one thing if it were every once in a while, but, Carolyn, it’s every day. He acknowledges he has problems remembering things, but I feel like he’s making it my problem, not his.
My mother used to leave little to-do lists around the house, and I really resented it — like it was her indirectly saying I’m too stupid to remember things. I don’t want my boyfriend resenting me for the same thing. I already feel like the nagging girlfriend and I hate it.
Am I asking too much personal responsibility from my perfectly capable adult boyfriend?
DEAR HUH: Are you editorializing much in your choice of adjectives?
No, of course it is not too much to ask of a perfectly capable adult that he be personally responsible for the dog. It is, however, too much to ask that his responsible behavior look exactly like your responsible behavior.
Just as it was a bit obstinate of your mom to stick to her way (written instructions) when another way (verbal) suited you better, it’s a bit obstinate of you to stick to your way (verbal instructions) when another way (written) might suit your boyfriend better.
This is also bigger than the dog and written vs. verbal instructions. You’re living with your boyfriend, not a copy of yourself. Any time you can base your expectations of him on who he really is — and when who he really is doesn’t drive you out of your mind — you’ll advance the cause of your relationship immeasurably. Though the dog will be grateful as well.
DEAR CAROLYN: I entered myself and my mother into a drawing. I mentioned this to my mother beforehand and said, “If you win, you need to split it with me,” jokingly since I didn’t expect either one of us to win. Well, she did and … it’s a decent chunk of change.
Now that she’s won, she wants to split the money three ways — between her, me and my brother (we’re both adult children if that matters). Am I wrong to want half?
DEAR GREEDY: Yes.
Email Carolyn at [email protected], follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.