Should I be concerned if my child cries too much?

Mqasana asks:

I have a 11-year-old boy who is very troublesome. I love my first born child but he’s very disrespectful, doesn’t like to take bath to stay clean, cries at you when you talk to him, and his school is also trouble, he comes home late every day.
Where can I find a school that can help me and my child?

Hi Mqasana –

I can’t tell enough from your letter, but it sounds possible that your son has an actual emotional disorder.  The disrespect and hating baths are nothing out of the ordinary (both are true of me!), but his crying worries me more. 

I’m thinking less that he needs a new school than that you should ask if his current school if they have a counselor, and if not, if they can recommend one.  You might also consider taking him to a doctor to see if there’s anything physically wrong with him.

All kids go through rough phases, and eleven is a common age for boys to be problems.  But please find out if anything else is going on.  If so, there might be some treatment that can help him.  And if not… I don’t think it’s a new school that you want, but rather maybe a family therapist to help him grow through this phase.

Thanks and good luck!

Shirelle

6 Your Special Resolution! … a way to better enter 2022

            Where you live, do people make New Year’s Resolutions? 

I like them.  I think they’re a pretty healthy addition to all the other year-end rituals of parties and gifts and food we have here. 

It’s a pretty simple concept – each person looks at their lives at that moment and says “Okay, what changes do I resolve so that I’m a better person in this next year?”

            Most of them tend to be just what you’d guess, “I’ll lose weight,” “I’ll get stronger,” “I’ll eat less sugar,” “I’ll read more books.”  And as you can also guess, these tend to fall apart as the year goes on (though they do wonders for the financial accounts of gyms in January!).

            Then some get more interesting.  “I’m going to break up with my hyper-critical boyfriend,” “I’ll get my drivers license,” “I’ll get a new job.”  What I like about these is that they’re one-off ideas.  Keeping weight off for a year is possible but requires huge commitment, while quitting a relationship or taking a driving test can be done all at once.

            But I’ve been thinking about a different difference between resolutions.  Is the person focused on the past or the future?

            We dogs live in the present about 99% of the time.  From the most obedient German Shepherd to the most disobedient Poodle Mix (yes I’m looking at you, Ginger!).  While most humans live in some sort of split between the past, present, and future.  If I smell a piece of yummy cheese, I focus on it, with no thoughts of anything else.  But I see all the time – someone sees a pretty girl and their brain just races, “Wow she’s beautiful.  She reminds me of that girl I had that crush on when I was twelve.  I wonder what she’d be like to marry.”  They’ve gone from present to past to future in seconds!

            And I find that most resolutions focus on the past.  “I’ll drink less than I have lately,” “I’ll spend more time studying and less time on TicToc,” “I’ll be kinder to my mother.” 

            Now I’m all for self-improvement, and think that those past-focused resolutions are just fine.  And I hope every one of you who makes them can keep at least most of them in 2022!

            But I want to urge each of you to also make at least one New Year’s Resolution that has nothing to do with improving the past, and just points to the future.  “I’m going to travel to Italy!”  “I’m going to give a tenth of my money to the needy!”  “I’m going to go on twenty dates, and I don’t care with whom!”

            Do you see the difference?  The past-centered ones are about regret, a feeling of being “not good enough.”  But the future ones are about Hope.  About what you Want.  About what would make you Feel Good.

            We have been through ENOUGH these past two years!  And I see all these people out there who’ve been disappointed or crushed so much by this pandemic that they’ve stopped planning for hope.  But that’s the only fun part about having your future-oriented brains!  (If you don’t put some hopes into that future part, it’ll just fill up with fears and worries, won’t it?!).

            So while we all hope that the virus will truly abate in a few months, see if you can start training your brain to hope bigger, too.  But not just for something wonderful to happen to you (“I hope I win the lottery,” “I hope someone wonderful asks me out,” “I hope my son gives me a grandchild!”), but something for you to DO. 

            I can’t guarantee you’ll make it to Italy any more than I can that you’ll lose those inches around your waist.  But I do know that focusing on hope is the best way to help it happen.

            And that makes it so much easier for me to believe in my big hope right now – that every one of you has a joyous, healthy, successful, loving, and HAPPY New Year!

            Cheers!

            Shirelle

1 Does a good relationship require hard work?

Jhalli asks: Today I read this post, “Happy couple aren’t just the one posting kissing photos. They’re the ones having uncomfortable conversations, helping each other overcome trauma, and ugly-crying to save their relationship. Happy couples prioritize growth and are a source of inspiration for each other.” My question is what do these lines mean, and how can a couple prioritize growth and be a source of inspiration for each other?  What should a couple do to gain it?

Hi Jhalli –

The funny thing about your question, Jhalli, is that you already do what that post is suggesting!  It says that life is complex, and people are especially complex, and so, while the happy romantic times in a couple’s life are wonderful, what makes a truly, deeply happy couple is all that more difficult stuff.  Like caring, communication, openness, vulnerability…  in other words Work!  Exactly what you do for yourself now, as I know because of the deep, insightful questions that you send me.

Imagine having a partner in life who wasn’t just sweet and cute and fun, but also listened when you said difficult things, and tried to help make it all better.  And who told you when things were really tough for them.  And when you two disagree, didn’t get mean or physically cruel, but strived to find a way that you two could both be happy and fulfilled.

That’s what “Prioritizing Growth” means.  Putting growth ahead of convenience.  Doing the hard work to make your partnership stronger and better, always.

This isn’t quite as intense a story as would happen in a human couple, but your question makes me think of an incident between Handsome and me.  He’d been working on a huge project for three weeks, and would only come home to sleep a few hours a night.  I was lonely and miserable through these long days.  But finally, he got a day off to stay at home.  I was thrilled.  But what did he do with that time?  Oh, he got to the three weeks of letters and bills and stuff he had been putting off.  And kept ignoring me!  Well I wasn’t going to take that!

He had this white couch, you see, and I wasn’t allowed to ever get onto it.  Well, he was sitting there on the floor surrounded by piles of papers, and I stared at him till I caught his eye, and then slowly walked up and climbed right onto it!  Saying to him in no uncertain terms, “Are you still going to ignore me now?!” 

And he reacted just as I hoped – he yelled out and demanded I get off the couch, stared “angrily” at me for a second, and then said, “Yeah you’re right,” and took me outside to play fetch.  It was a beautiful moment for both of us.

I needed the bravery to make that statement, and he needed the openness to receive it.  Both were because we prioritized growth in our relationship.

And to the other part of your question, I think that’s automatic.  If you help each other, and the relationship, grow, you’ll immediately inspire each other in other ways, constantly. 

But as I started out by saying, this is the way you live already, for yourself.  So what I’m pushing for is that you find someone equally curious and adventurous.  And create a relationship worthy of you both.

I could wish you nothing greater!

Shirelle

What to do when they say we shouldn’t meet because they have too much work.

Tuktuk asks:

I started playing basketball in my college.  I saw a senior at a game. He is 3 years ahead of me. I started liking him. Sent him a request on Instagram. Both our teams went for finals but we lost. That day I started talking to him. Talked to him for the entire night before I slept while messaging him. Then he messaged me during my classes and we talked from 9.30 am to 5.30 pm. In the conversation I asked him out. He said yes and we went for a date that very day at 7pm. We went to a pond area, because I wanted it to be just us. During that conversation he also asked me whether I want something serious or casual. So I said let’s go with the flow because he’ll be gone from here after 6 months and we both wanted to enjoy. We went out and we sat over there and talked for a while and then made out. After that he dropped me and that night we talked about it. We talked every day after that, some days less than usual because of his shifts at the hospital. He doesn’t let me smoke, every time he says no. After 3-4 days my practical exams started and my first didn’t go well. So I called him up and asked him to meet. He agreed but he said either we make out or smoke. So we made out. After that I was coming down the stairs and slipped and fractured my leg. We still talk but our conversations are sort because of his busy schedule. I don’t know why but I always wanna talk to him. Yesterday, he told me everything will stop for the next 5 months because he has an important paper. I do understand how important that exam is but I felt sad, because I wouldn’t be able to talk to him. He said we can meet sometime but I was sad. I don’t know what’s going on and why is he affecting me so much.

Hi Tuktuk –

            I think I have two immediate answers to your final question.  He’s affecting you so much because he’s really likable and he’s really great!  That, of course, doesn’t answer the big question of what you should do, but it’s a start.

            Let me begin with my own special issue:  I hate smoking.  I’ve had cancer myself, which almost killed me, and I love nothing more than running around, chasing people and dogs and other animals, as fast as I can.  Smoking gets in the way of all that.  It tremendously increases your chances of getting cancer, and even if you don’t get that, it reduces your lung power a lot.

            I’m not saying this to preach at you, but just to say… I like his idea, of less smoking and more kissing! 

            Beyond that, he’s someone you were attracted to at first sight, who has stayed in touch and shown interest in you through lots of long conversations… he just sounds great.

            Now, however, he’s suddenly saying your entire relationship needs to be put on hold because of a big paper he has to do.  And not for two weeks, but for five months!

            Well, my dear friend, it sounds to me like he’s gotten suddenly scared.  Nothing else seems to be wrong, but that can be scary too – if nothing’s wrong in a relationship than it could lead to anywhere, even forever! 

            It’s great that he’s a hard worker, a diligent student.  But no one works on their paper 16 hours a day for five months.  He will need a life.

            So my advice is to tell him you miss him already, that you want to be there for him, and you hope he’ll reach out to you when he needs a break from his studies.  But – and this part is super-important – that you also want to give him just the space he needs to do his work.

            If he sees you as a hindrance to his schoolwork, then that will just feed the part of him that’s scared of where things are going, proving that you’re not the right one for him, not supportive enough, all that. 

            But if he sees you as someone who actually helps his life while he devotes himself to his studies… then wow, you’re just the best thing possible!

            I speak from experience on this one.  Handsome has had numerous girlfriends who got jealous of projects he was working on, and he had to let them go.  But I – who was every bit as jealous – stayed around, being there for him when he could see me, and expressing tons of gratitude for his attention.  I don’t mean you have to let him take you for granted – just prove you’re mature and understanding.

            And if you do, my guess is you’ll see him WAY sooner than five months from now!

            All my best,

            Shirelle

Can you open up too much about your insecurities?

Jhalli asks:

Today I shared some talks with my boyfriend about how I feel about myself, my inferiority complex nature. Literally I shared everything which was on my mind. But now I feel restless.. how it’s going to affect my relationship with him? I know he will understand me. But why do I feel anxious? What should I do?

Hi Jhalli –

            You’re asking a terribly important question.  It’s great for humans to communicate, and most relationship problems stem from a lack of communication.  But sometimes it’s possible for someone to share too much, too often.  It’s like when we dogs, who, yes, crave food all the time, only interact with our humans by telling them we want food.  That gets a bit boring.  Or if our humans only want to train us in tricks.

            The trick (heh heh) for you to do is to talk about your feelings of inferiority only as much as you absolutely need to.  And to let your boyfriend feel heroic by making you feel better.  And then, to find other things to talk about. 

            Maybe, before you meet up with him next, you could try making a list of ten things to talk about that have nothing to do with your feelings of inferiority.  Just off the top of my head – the upcoming climate change talks, the situation in Afghanistan, the new James Bond movie, the new Covid medications that might be coming out soon, something he doesn’t know about your family background, some music that’s always meant a lot to you but you’ve never shared with him, a project you’d like to start to improve your home… that’s seven…

            And then, when you’re together, talk about a few of those.  Just, again, to make sure that you don’t spend too much time on what’s frankly a negative subject.

            After all, the parts of you that feel inferior love to talk about themselves.  And when he hears them, he’s hearing that you’re inferior!  So his interest in you might just decrease a bit each time.

            But if they’re counteracted by you talking about what you find interesting, then you become… interesting! 

            But please don’t take my warnings as suggesting you don’t open up to him about your self-doubts at all.  Doing so gives you a chance to express your pain and get reassured, and gives him a chance to feel good for making you feel better.

            And all that is just as great as when I walk up to Handsome and he scratches my ears.  Heaven!

            All my best,

            Shirelle

Is it wrong to doubt a relationship that’s going well?

PERFECTION asks: My girlfriend and I have been, to each other, quite good, and great now, but I just have that one question. Should I be afraid? About that somethings gonna happen, like her liking someone else? Is that normal? Am I being anxious? I don’t wanna lose her.  I think that’s the whole point.  But should I be thinking like that when everything is fine between us? And can you give me a tip on how to ignore or just forget about her past?  How can I do that?

Hi PERFECTION –

The main thing we dogs suffer doubt about is whether our people will come back to us when they’ve left for the day, or on a vacation.  I wish I could say we eventually stop worrying about it completely, but we simply don’t.  We can’t.  But that’s not quite the same as what you’re talking about.  So in your case, I’m going to give you two suggestions from Handsome, my human.

First of all, he recommends that you listen to a very cute old recording, Clyde McPhatter’s “A Lover’s Question.”  In fact, he recommends that you listen to it at least five times, and get it stuck in your head (not hard, it’s very catchy!).  Because what is says is simply… yes.  You’re in this state, and you always will be.  There’s no way, no matter how wonderful she is, for you to stop wondering “what if…”  Any more than we pooches can keep ourselves from wondering “What if our person forgets us, or just never makes it home again, or decides they don’t like us anymore?!”

And secondly, he wants me to relay a story to you.  Some years back, a lovely woman was in our home, and it seemed they might start to date.  And casually, she pulled an old book of his off a shelf and opened it.  And out of it fell some awful photos.  Things I can’t write about here – too disgusting.  He had never seen them before, and had no idea how they got there (He later did find out; it was from a truly evil person who’d stayed in Handsome’s family’s home years before).  But how could he convince this woman that he didn’t know what they were?  No possible way!

They talked for hours.  About their values, about their histories, all sorts of things.  All through the night.  (And you can bet, that meant this pup didn’t get ONE WINK OF SLEEP!).  Eventually it was time for her to go home.  He thanked her for being willing to talk for so long.  But then he added, “You know, I’m sitting here thinking…  It would make total sense for you to decide you don’t trust me, that you never want to see me again, that you don’t even want to speak to me again.  I couldn’t blame you if you chose that.  But it’s also possible we could go out again, hit it off, get married, have kids, have grandkids, and live long happy lives.  And when I die first, as would most likely happen, you will look down at me in that coffin, and say, ‘You know, I still don’t know if those pictures were yours or not!’”

PERFECTION, the only way you’ll ever know for sure that your beloved girlfriend is a cheat is if she is.  The only way you’ll ever know if she will stay with you is if she leaves.  Until those things happen, you are stuck with having to wonder, having to doubt. 

That’s life, my friend.  That’s love.

So for now, appreciate her, shower her with affection, and enjoy her. 

And if you have a dog, please, don’t stay away from home too long.  They need you to come back!

All my best,

Shirelle

2 Even Though – a guide to gratitude in 2021

            In the United States, where I live, we have a lovely holiday.  Lovely for two reasons.  One is that its only major ritual is cooking and eating a huge meal – huge enough that we pet-pups are pretty much guaranteed leftovers!

            But the other loveliness is the meaning of it.  It’s a day all about gratitude. 

            The legend (and the more historical discoveries that come out, the more it seems to be… yeah… a legend!) is that when a group of religious refugees came here from England in the 1600s, the local people helped teach them how to survive in this harsh new environment.  And to show their appreciation, the English pilgrims set up a great feast, sharing all they’d grown and caught with those who taught them how to do so.

            Now I’m not going to go into the details of what of that is true, or the horrors of what the Europeans later did to those local residents.  But I do love that it eventually resulted in a day of gratitude.  A holiday for everyone.

            Some time back, when The Pawprint was new, I put out a list every year at this time, of what I was grateful for that year.  It might be something exciting and hopeful in international relations, or some music that Handsome played a lot and I liked the sound of, or maybe just something tasty I’d had the day before.  Whatever came to my mind.

            But as optimistic and cheerful a pup as I am, creating such a list would be hard this year!  Everything I can think of to be thankful for has a darker underside, a “Yeah But.”  Happy about a beautiful day?  Yeah, but climate change is taking those away.  Happy about a dear friend?  Yeah, but what about the ones you’ve lost to this awful pandemic?

            But I refuse to sit in resentment and misery!  That’s just not what dogs are about!

            So instead, this year I’m going to offer an “Even Though” list of Thanksgiving.  Not denying what’s wrong, but focusing on what I’m thankful for. 

            You see, I find that, when we do that, it makes us see yet more to be thankful for, and helps us create a world more worthy of that gratitude.

            And that creates hope.  The most powerful force I know, next to love.

            Here Goes:

            EVEN THOUGH the Glasgow Climate Change Conference didn’t come up with nearly enough solutions to our problems, more was agreed upon than ever before, and directions were set for future improvements.

EVEN THOUGH variants and fear have kept the stupid Coronavirus raging for another year, medical discoveries, international assistance, and growing awareness and knowledge keep us moving toward a new day of embracing and enjoying each other fearlessly again.

EVEN THOUGH the political system in my country is rife with forces keeping improvements at bay, the horrific top-down corruption and murderous neglect of the past four years has ended, and good people are able to at least try to make things better.

            EVEN THOUGH Handsome’s work keeps him away too much, he still gives me treats every time he leaves, which eases my heartache.

            EVEN THOUGH the stupid virus has still reduced attendance at plays, movies, concerts, and sports events, they’re all coming back, spitting in the face of the disease that tried to destroy them.

            EVEN THOUGH, on that note, most people aren’t able to see it on the big screen, In the Heights is a really fun movie that makes pretty much everyone who sees it happy and want to dance.

            EVEN THOUGH it’s still hard for young people to meet up freely, love continues to bloom and offer hope to all.

            EVEN THOUGH it’s still hard for anyone to meet up freely, technology has allowed for virtual face-to-face meetings that have kept humans at least somewhat connected (though we dogs miss smelling everyone SO MUCH).

            EVEN THOUGH international trade is blocked up in so many ways, most of us can still find something to eat, or ways to help feed those who can’t.

            EVEN THOUGH everyone is living in fear, and many get sick or even die every day from this awfulness, people still find joy and reasons to love life every second.

            And toughest of all to say, EVEN THOUGH we have lost beings we love and will always feel the pain of that loss, that pain comes because of the beautiful memories and the profound ways those now-angels have affected and changed us forever. 

            And maybe that last one is the greatest gratitude of all.

            Happy Thanksgiving, wherever you are.  And may next year bring countless reasons for gratitude that don’t require “Even Though”s!

            Like my gratitude for you!

            Love and Thanks as always,

            Shirelle

What to do when the job you’ve succeeded at starts to drain you

Stunner_boss123 asks:

I have been in a service delivery corporate sector for seven years. The core of our Job is HR-related and our priority is customer satisfaction.  I used to be a highly motivated and champion of my team. And even this year, i am again the leading resource and got an “excellent performer” appraisal rating.  But since last year, with passage of every month, I am starting to realize that this corporate life is sucking my blood, and my mental and social life is at stake. I am not the one who I was four years ago. Anger and hypertension started appearing in me. Workload keeps increasing and my determination to prove perfection is now haunting my personal life. But due to the self-image I carry around and the sort of responsibility I own, I cannot back down (I am a loyal person and I own my work; I never choose the easy or shortcut way). I tried to cut my workload but management’s trust in me and their culture is not allowing me to. To elaborate the statement further, I am working in an unhealthy organizational culture where competition is everything. From Top to bottom, everyone is encouraged to compete among each other.  In this culture, I succeeded for 4 straight years by beating the big bulls and taking every spotlight from them. I proved myself and management counts on me. Now if I back down, those big bulls will laugh at me and my liaisons. Those who trusted on me and rated me high, their decision is at stake. But as I stated earlier,  the champion in me is tired and fading away.  I am losing friends because I cannot give them time. I am unsettled with my girlfriend because she always complains that I am diverted. I am struggling financially because the company does not have good perks. Even on off-days, my clients want my involvement because of the nature of my work. I am tired, sleepy and always in a hurry.  Now, in my 31st year of my life, these are the things I feel in myself. Several times I’ve thought about changing my employer, but I live in a middle class struggling economy where unemployment is at a boom.  Everywhere the employers are exploiting people. After several analyses, I dropped the idea of shifting because I do have respect here. People take me as an example here. I started from scratch and fought my battles alone, and right now I am a wolf who hunts alone with a solution to every problem.  Do I work myself too hard? Do I think too much? Do I not respect myself enough? Should I learn to say No?  Where am I wrong?  Initially I made a mistake of taking too much on to please the higher management and prove myself, but now that burden and that image is pulling me down. Financially I am doing ok (not so bad not so good).  What should I do ? 

Hi Stunner_boss123 –

So let me start with what might sound like an odd comment – Congratulations!  You are a great success in your company.  It’s rare that someone can, as you said, “take on the bulls” and win, and you have.  And you’ve done so in a really tough field, satisfying customers at a time when pretty much the whole world is dissatisfied!

But things are changing.  You’re becoming unhappy in this job, and it’s even taking a toll on your relationships.  So what do you do now?

I think there’s an answer, but it’s a vague one:  You Need To Do Something Different. I just have no idea what that is!

It makes me think of two big stories in the news recently.  In the Olympics, you may have followed Simone Biles, who many say is the greatest gymnast of all time.  The world was excited to see what she’d do, and she… made a small mistake.  One move, just a bit wrong.  And she realized this meant she needed to step back, and not compete for a while.  Suddenly everyone everywhere seemed to have an opinion – she’s a quitter, she’s a heroine, she’s a mess….  I think the truth is that she’s very smart, and saw that she needed to do something different from what she had been doing, or she might have hurt herself horribly. 

Then we get to what I just wrote about, if you saw my latest newsletter, the U.S. army pulling out of Afghanistan.  A way bigger deal than a gymnast choosing to step aside for a week!  But in some ways the same story.  What the army had been doing there wasn’t working to achieve their goals, and it was becoming clear the way they were doing things would never work.  So they stepped aside.  Did they do a perfect job of leaving?  I’ll let military historians judge that.  But regardless, for better or worse in many ways, the leaders made a decision and moved on.

Now you’ve intelligently looked around at other local companies, and seen that things might well stay the same if you went to work for one of them.  Again, good job!  But you’re right – this is sapping your energy and your enjoyment of life, so something needs to change.

Off the top of my floppy-eared head, a few thoughts that come to my mind are:  Drop your friends and girlfriend (I don’t like that idea but it would take a lot of your stress out); leave this entire career and go back to school to learn another one you like better (my human friend Handsome did that when he was older than you, and considers it one of the best decisions of his life, almost as good as buying me!); become a teacher at a business school, or a motivational speaker, using all the great wisdom you developed in your years of success; or maybe best of all, become a consultant to companies on how to build efficiency by treating their employees with more respect, in a way that fosters friendly mutually-supportive competition within the organization instead of all the negativity that’s bringing you down; or, maybe if it will work, do just what you were suggesting at the end of your letter, and start telling your bosses that you won’t do quite as much as you have been.

This isn’t a minor issue, Stunner_boss123.  Business people have heart attacks in their 30s, they become alcoholics from work stress, and as you’re finding, they can lose their friends, their romances, and even their families.  The same intelligence that’s made you such a champion there is also making you realize how bad this is for you.

I wish you didn’t have to make this decision at such a young age.  But I don’t mind that you have to make it sometime.  Life is such a gift, and you are likely looking at the beginning of a huge adventure.  Will that involve marriage?  Children?  A whole new career?  Moving out of your town?  I don’t know.

All I know is that you’re right, and in order to keep your life-energy flowing, you need to change something about the way you’re living right now.

If I can help in any way – even just to “bounce ideas off” – I’d be honored.  But for now, just know that I’m fully on your side in agreement.  It’s time to become champion again, but in a new way!

Wishing you strength and passion!

Shirelle

What to do when you realize you’ve let things go too far in a new relationship

jhalli asks:

One day I was scrolling my Ok-Cupid Id and found a guy.  He’s overseas for his Masters study. We talk with each other and shared our number. We did a voice call and shared many things like my past relationships, his past relationships and flings, and what he and I want from us.  He said he wanted a serious relationship and I wanted that too. He explained me that he will come to India in December, and after his masters, he will look for a job back there. As we live so far from each other, not able to meet face to face frequently, he explained me that he will ask for photos and videos.  In this week, we barely talked about being together in relationship, as he was always busy with final project submission on coming Friday. He promised me that he would be totally free after submission and talked to me after this Friday. We did a video call three times. In these video call, he saw me with only a towel and I saw him all naked. I teased him with a lot of my intimate photos and videos (bare back, and bare shoulders, etc).  But yesterday, I blocked him from everywhere I don’t know why. 
My friends are saying he is not a good person and he will wrongly use my photos/videos. That I should find someone real not virtual. I don’t know what I should do? Should I trust him and give him or us a chance to move further in this?

Hi Jhalli –

I have to say, for the first ¾ of your letter, I was absolutely charmed.  What a beautiful story, how wonderful that two such lovely people met and connected this way.  And then, of course, when it got to the video calls, suddenly I got concerned.

Let me start by saying I have no idea whether this guy is good or bad, and nothing he’s done tells me one way or the other.  So I’m not going to push you toward or away from him.

But I do think what’s really important here is your own sense of your own boundaries. I don’t think you’ve done anything too awful (can he really get much use out of displaying a photo of your bare back?), but  you clearly did things you don’t feel comfortable with.  And that’s all that matters to me.

I’m sure that he was shocked when you blocked him, no matter what his intentions were.  And so my inclination is that you ought to reconnect with him, just so you both can discuss what happened.

But here’s my big argument – if and when you do reconnect with him, I think you need to explain that what made you run away and block him was that you guys went too far for you.  WAY too far.  And whatever happens between you, this can’t happen again.

Then you can see how he responds.  If he agrees, and says he’s sorry if you felt pressured, and all he wants is to create a beautiful relationship with you, and he feels stupid for letting things go so far…  I’m really inclined to suggest that you give him another chance.

And if he instead laughs at your feelings, and calls you prudish, and says you’re stupid to worry about such things… then maybe your friends have a good point and he’s someone to let go.

But for now, you don’t know.  All you know is that you and he both got swept up in your love for each other and your mutual attraction, and let things go way further than you feel is appropriate (and let’s be honest, I love being chased by boy dogs in the dog park, and I’ll bet it was really exciting and fun to pose for those pictures and see how excited he got looking at your beauty!).

So I’d say to see what happens.  But more simply, I’m saying to be kind, but especially be kind to yourself.  Which means to be strong.

You’re worth it.

Best of Luck!

Shirelle

What to do when your boyfriend wants you to loan money to his family

K-Xengah asks: Hi Shirelle,

Once upon a time my relationship was great. I had an understanding partner who respected me and was always there for me. But things just slowly started changing ever since he started having intense family drama. He’s in the relationship but not there. He always wants me to be there for him but can’t be there for me. It feels like he is there for everyone else but me. And what stresses me out is that he never understands when I can’t help him out with something. Sometimes it just feels like I always have to be ready to always be more there for him than I am there for myself.  For instance today he was supposed to send money to one of his relatives but was short of a certain amount, and because of that his family kept putting him under pressure to send the money. So he asked me for a small top up, which I didn’t have. And he wanted me to credit from someone, and I made it clear to him that it wasn’t a guarantee I would find the amount because I already owe people money because of him. And I expected him to understand. He told me to call him at a certain time to tell him if I got the money but I didn’t do that cause I was still trying to find the money, and failed at it. Not knowing he had gone to get money from some drug dealer which “I was supposed to help him pay back” without me knowing or asking me. And now he gets upset with me because I don’t have the money when he didn’t even inform me of his decision in the first place.  I’m just really tired of this stagnancy and these issues. They are emotionally draining. Please advise.

Hi K-Xengah –

I have to say, my feelings about this guy changed throughout reading your letter.  At first my sense was that this was a great guy who cared about his family and you often felt “second place” in his consideration; that happens a lot, and there are very good ways to deal with it.  Then it got to being about money, and that made me a bit concerned; “he wants her to loan his family money?  I’m not so sure about this…”  Then it got to you saying you were already in debt because of money you’d given him, and then this whole thing with him getting money from a drug dealer and saying you’ll pay them back?

My opinion of him has turned completely.

My friend, the issue here isn’t about his family or how he deals with them.  It’s about how he treats you.   No matter how much pressure his family puts on him, it’s unfair of him to ask you to come up with the money.  And any guy who’d take a loan from a criminal and give them your name to pay it back is my idea of complete bad news.  All the way.

I realize that in the past he was great, but for whatever reasons there might be, now he’s not.  My advice – harsher than I usually give – is for you to let him know that your relationship is off for now, and that you don’t even want to hear from him until he’s paid the drug dealer off.  Then you two can talk about creating a better relationship – which likely does mean he’s going to need to tell certain family members that they need to find other sources of cash than him. 

But that’s a longer-term issue for him.  Right now I want you safe.  And as great a guy as he might be in other ways, or have been in the past, he’s breaking the one biggest rule any boyfriend has, which is to protect his partner from harm.  He’s putting you into harm instead.  And that just has to end.

Okay, enough of a barking rant on my side.  You said that you’re tired of the stagnation, while I’m responding to fear of you being in danger.  Both are true, and you deserve better, and my guess is that your boyfriend knows that.

Help him be better.  It’ll be good for both of you.

All my best,

Shirelle