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Keeping up appearances isn't doing anything for relationship

Keeping up appearances isn't doing anything for relationship

Q: So a few months ago, during the summer, my boyfriend of three-plus years and I were going through some rocky times. He thought about moving out of the apartment we share, and told his good friend, "Jess." Well, Jess apparently talked about our potential breakup to "Mike," who used to be good friends with my boyfriend.

So oh boy wasn't it awkward when I went to a dinner party with all of them in July only to learn that Mike had proposed to his girlfriend of less than a year. But I got through it.

Since then, my boyfriend and I have worked on things and are doing much better. We have booked our plane tickets to see each other's families for Thanksgiving and Christmas … things are really looking up.

Well, the "Save the Date" card just came for Mike's wedding, and it was only addressed to my boyfriend, not to both of us.

Am I being petty for being upset? We have lived together for a year and a half! Maybe I'm reading too much into this but I would really like to confront him about it. So far I have just made comments, like, "Well, I hope YOU will have fun at their wedding. …"

Annoyed in D.C.

A: Hey, that's the signature I was going to use.

The three problems you cite (Jess' bean-spilling, Mike's announcement, the postcard exclusion) and the triumph (family visits) are suspiciously centered on appearances. Each is primarily about how others regard your relationship.

Meanwhile, your postcard reaction wasn't just to say to your boyfriend, "I hope that's a mistake" or "Does Mike think we broke up?" Instead, you're pretending (badly) to blow it off while hoping your boyfriend realizes you're angry and hurt.

There is so little authenticity to the way you're conducting yourself that your getting along with your boyfriend isn't encouraging news.

Your relationship is for you and your boyfriend and no one else. You are either happy with each other, or you need to break up. Whether others approve, disapprove, delight in your successes, delight in your failures, or just don't care, matters only in the very narrow context of the time you spend with these other people.

For example, you want Mom to like your boyfriend because that makes including her easier — it's not, I repeat, not about getting Mom's approval, or proving something to her, or any other of those false rewards that seduce people into believing they have to appear successful.

Also: Your relationship is nothing more than what you share with your boyfriend.

If each of you carefully presents only certain sides of yourself, then your relationship is superficial, and in peril; eventually, your will to perform will crack.

If you're honest but one or both of you either uses the truth to punish, or punishes the other whenever the truth is unpleasant, then you need to regard that punishment not as exceptional, but as part of the core of your relationship.

If instead you're honest with each other, and still like and support each other, then it's a good relationship.

Achieving that — or admitting you can't achieve that with him — is your only concern here. Really. No matter what anyone says.

Keeping up appearances isn't doing anything for relationship 11/02/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 2, 2010 4:30am]
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