Make us your home page
Instagram

Hax: Fix yourself by getting away from the controller

Fix yourself by getting away from the controller

Q: For the past two years, I have been seeing a man I care about very much. We've had a tumultuous, on/off relationship due to some mistakes I made early on that he couldn't or wouldn't forgive.

Now he says he is ready to give the relationship another shot, with this caveat: I cannot EVER spend time with my best friend. He has met her only once, but never liked her due to a bad first impression and because I told him she participated in some illegal activities.

While I don't agree with some of her choices, she has been a wonderful friend for my entire life and has cleaned up her act for the most part. I feel he is asking too much, and has no right to demand this of me.

Is this an "okay" thing to ask of your partner? Or should I consider this a red flag of a controlling person?

Trouble in Tennessee

A: These are your words, so say them: "You have no right to demand this of me." Controlling people exploit those who hesitate to stand up to them. (Homework assignment: The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker.)

Maybe this "best friend" is your drug dealer, to use one extreme example, and he's right to set such a strict precondition — or, on the other extreme, your friend just did basic, stupid, youthful stuff. Either way, it serves both you and your boyfriend better for you to be clear about where you stand.

He has a right to dump you for refusing him, of course.

But I suspect he won't. Those two "on/off" years, his reluctance to "forgive" your "mistakes" and this best-friend ban suggest he's getting exactly what he wants here: a sense of control by giving and withholding affection to reward or punish you as he sees fit.

Since the drug-dealer scenario sounds like a stretch, I think you have to break up with him, decisively. It's not that you're above improvement — who is? — or that your friend's mistakes weren't serious. It's that he thinks it's his place to fix you. How is that not controlling?

Apologies work better when you leave out the 'but'

Q: What is the right way to apologize to a significant other? I favor apologies that offer an explanation and leave room for discussion: "I'm sorry I got mad at you for not taking the trash out, but I don't like having to remind you each time." He says he wants apologies to come with no strings attached. What's the best way?

I'm Sorry, but ...

A: The only "right" way to apologize to anyone is sincerely.

"Sorry, but ..." exposes insincerity. Sig-O has you there.

You have a point, too, though, if he's using your poor behavior to get away with his.

Apologizing sans asterisk for anything you genuinely regret will cure both of these responsibility dodges — "I'm sorry I lost my temper," period, close-quote. So will swearing off appeasement apologies and admitting when you're not sorry: "Actually, I'm not sorry I got angry, because I'm outraged at being the default housekeeper."

Always separate any unfinished business from your apology — even if you make it the next thing you say: "I'm sorry I wigged out. Obviously this trash thing is pushing my buttons. I'd like your help in coming up with a solution."

Hax: Fix yourself by getting away from the controller 01/22/13 [Last modified: Monday, January 21, 2013 2:13pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Washington Post Writers Group.
    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Tampa is 15th-most popular city to move to with U-Haul

    Markets

    TAMPA —Tampa is undoubtedly a destination point, at least according to U-Haul.

    Tampa is the No. 15 destination for people moving with U-Haul trucks. | Times file photo
  2. Florida's economy growing faster than other big states and far better than U.S. overall

    Business

    When it comes to economic growth, Florida's running alongside the leading states and well ahead of the United States as a whole.

  3. Westshore Marina District project takes shape with another acquisition

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — One of Tampa Bay's prime waterfront areas took another major step toward redevelopment Friday as WCI Communities bought 2.35 acres in Westshore Marina District.

    WCI Communities, Lennar's high-end subsidiary,has paid $2.5 million for 2.35 acres in the Westshore Marina District for 35 townhomes. WCI is under contract  to buy an additional 9.5 acres.
[BTI Partners]
  4. Posh Guy Harvey RV park to open in Tampa Bay with $250,000 cottages

    Business

    HOLIDAY — Love those Guy Harvey T-shirts with the soaring marlins? In the not too distant future, you might be able to kick back in your own Guy Harvey cottage in the first-ever Guy Harvey RV park.

    Renderings of the clubhouse and an RV cottage site of the planned Guy Harvey Outpost Club & Resort Tarpon Springs.
[Guy Harvey Outpost Collection]
  5. Port Tampa Bay secures $9 million grant to deepen Big Bend Channel

    Business

    Port Tampa Bay has secured a $9 million grant from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the widening and deepening of the Big Bend Channel in southern Hillsborough County.