1. Kids & Family

Trouble is brewing between control freak, beermaker

Published Jan. 28, 2012

Trouble is brewing for this couple, and it's not just the beer

Q: I have been with my girlfriend for 2 1/2 years. We moved in together 11 months ago with the understanding that if we still felt the same way after a year, we would plan marriage.

I am a home brewer of beer. Besides enjoying the stuff I make, my dad (who died three years ago) and I did it together, and it brings back very happy memories. My girlfriend has complained every time I make a batch (every two months): She says the kitchen is always dirty afterward no matter how hard I try to clean up, and the smell of the hops bothers her and lingers in the air for days.

Last Saturday, an officemate was supposed to come over to make a batch with me. My girlfriend was visiting with her mother for the day; I make beer when she is out of the house because of the smell. Shortly after my girlfriend left, my officemate called to postpone. Instead, I decided to clean the kitchen thoroughly, behind appliances, baseboards, etc. Afterward, I took a nap.

When my girlfriend woke me, and before I could tell her what I did that day, she said the smell was worse than ever, and although the kitchen was clean, it was still worse than when she left. After I told her I didn't make beer, she loudly told me that I set her up and then told me to "forget about it."

Since last week, she refuses to discuss the incident. I told her that her behavior is causing me to have doubts about marriage. My girlfriend says I am looking for an excuse not to make the commitment. I mentioned counseling and she ignores me.

I do very much love her. I know she can be somewhat controlling. My heart is telling me one thing, and my gut is telling me the opposite.

The thought of her not being in my life depresses me, but this has given me huge doubts about a healthy marriage. Am I making too much of it?


A: She lied to you to try to make you feel bad about — and quit doing — something she knows is enjoyable and meaningful for you, and when she got caught in her lie, she blamed you. What part of that string of nasty italics says, "Ignore me"?

I believe controlling people make exhausting mates. I don't think there are exceptions (except those who admit it and work terrifically hard to mend their ways).

Over the course of a lifetime, everyone is going to be wrong — regularly about little stuff and occasionally on the big stuff. On the little stuff, imagine a future where every wrong turn and missed movie is either your fault or must be tiptoed around. On the big stuff, imagine having little say in the shape your lives take as a couple, and then being blamed when you prove to be ill-suited to this life that was chosen for you.

Imagine a life where you push your preferences aside in favor of hers — it's just easier to avoid a fight — and it's still not enough for her to be happy, because complete control over another person is impossible, so there will always be something about you that she wishes would change.

Until your girlfriend is able to (1) tell the truth, and (2) admit fault, and (3) renounce trying to change you, these remain your only options for resolving the beer incident: You either ignore it and get no redress for her lies and manipulation, or you become the guy who found excuses not to commit.

You love her, you say. But if she loved you, then wouldn't she offer you avenues that don't make you the jerk?