Adapted from a recent online discussion.
When she cooks, boyfriend disappoints with faint praise
Never a Critic: I love to cook and my family usually loves what I cook. I've cooked for my new boyfriend, and he always says the same thing: "This meal wasn't bad" or "pretty good." Rarely does he fully compliment it.
I know I shouldn't be fishing for compliments (which is exactly what I'm doing), but I'm extra-sensitive because his ex-wife was an amazing cook. Should I cut back on how much I cook for him or should I just pass the comments off as benign?
Carolyn: Think more broadly, please. Is he stingy with warmth, support or kindness in other contexts? And if so, does it bother you then, too, or are you just sensitive on this one topic, where your pride collides with his history?
That's the responsible answer. The one my keyboard typed out when I banged my head on it: Ask him to move the stick slightly to the left, because then he'll have room to stuff his "pretty good" where it belongs.
Never a Critic again: I should have prefaced my question with background: He is completely loving/supporting/warm in every other way imaginable. I'm only sensitive on this one topic, and I think your response helped me process my expectations and his reactions in a different light.
Since he is very honest and forthcoming with his compliments in other areas, I'm guessing his "pretty good" was just as honest. Maybe my cooking isn't as good as I thought it was. I'm okay with that; I'd rather he'd be honest than give me a fake compliment.
Carolyn: Okeydokey. For what it's worth, anyone who goes to the trouble of cooking for me gets a heartfelt thanks, because cooking for someone is the equivalent of a handmade gift. I get that you don't want insincere praise — but if he doesn't have sincere praise to give, why couldn't he instead be effusive in his gratitude?
If you're in the habit of asking his opinion every time you feed him, then I take that back, because you're cornering him. How is he to respond to such an inquiry, after all, when you oversalted the sauce? "It was, er, just the right temperature, and I like that you cooked for me"?
When Peter Pan won't make a decision, get rid of fairy dust
Anonymous: My boyfriend is (surprise!) on the fence about marriage even though he has proposed. (That's a whole other kettle of mixed messages.) Every time we take some time apart, after one or two days he's begging me to come back. But when we're together he still can't seem to get his act together.
I do stay away for days at a time, but he's still begging. It seems like this 40-year-old Peter Pan just doesn't want to make a decision. I'd tell him my patience is wearing thin, but that'll put more pressure on him so I don't know what to do.
Carolyn: Move on. The pain will spike early, and then begin to recede as you notice how free you feel without his indecision dragging down everything you do.
And accept this imaginary plaque for "kettle of mixed messages." Genius.