In this edition of Dear John, women present John with a variety of guy problems, ranging from a boyfriend who doesn’t accept her gay friends’ displays of affection, to another who has an averse reaction to tears.
I’ve been seeing a new guy for almost six months now. We’re very happy together and I am grateful every day that I met him.
Here’s why I’m writing. My gay friends are very affectionate with each other. They’re always holding hands, kissing each other hello or goodbye, etc. In general, my boyfriend is a very tolerant person, but these little displays of affection do bother him. He’s asked me to find a way to nicely ask them to tone it down, but I don’t have the least idea how to do this, or even if I should. I want all of us to enjoy each other’s company, but when we’re together now, I feel very stressed wondering what he’s thinking. What should I do?
Caught in the Middle
How, exactly, is your boyfriend tolerant? He’s happy to live and let live as long as nobody forces him to look at something he’d rather not see?
He should expect from your friends exactly the same behaviors he would expect if they were a man and a woman. If he wouldn’t be offended by a heterosexual couple kissing or holding hands, then he shouldn’t be offended by a gay couple doing so. Sorry, but anything short of that, and he falls somewhere on the homophobic spectrum.
And while we’re at it, let me express my distaste for this notion of “tolerance.” By definition, we tolerate something that is inherently flawed or problematic. We might tolerate being underpaid at a job we find fulfilling; we might tolerate a job we loathe to earn a substantial income. We could not say we tolerate a lucrative, fulfilling job. It makes no sense. So I cringe when self-satisfied do-gooders expect us to beam with admiration when they proclaim their tolerance. Gay people needn’t thank us for our tolerance. Why are they even subject to our judgment to begin with? What business of mine is another person’s sexuality? Personally, I find this kind of tolerance patronizing and insulting.
You shouldn’t be talking to your gay friends about this. You should be talking to your boyfriend. He’s the one with the problem.
I don’t think I cry more often than most women—in fact, I know I don’t—but it’s become an issue between my boyfriend and me. We’ve been dating for over two years now and we have talked of getting engaged, but this remains an obstacle for us. When I’m upset, I cry, and I feel like when I really need him the most, he withdraws completely, and I mean completely. He becomes as cold and distant as an unfriendly stranger. This makes me even more upset, and more often than not he just ends up going home. I have tried to talk to him about it when things were fine between us and he says he feels like women have been using tears and guilt to manipulate him his whole life, and now they just make him shut down. But crying isn’t exactly voluntary for me—and I’m definitely not trying to manipulate him by doing so. I feel like this is threatening our entire relationship, but it seems so silly to throw it away when everything else seems so good.
Tearing Up Just Thinking About It
Dear Tearing Up,
Uh-oh. Your soon-to-be fiancé has either been manipulated by women his whole life, or he hasn’t but thinks he has. I’m not sure which is worse.
This is a challenging area for a lot of guys because typically, the tears are preceded by some kind of disagreement or argument. Rightly or wrongly, the guy is already feeling annoyed/attacked/defensive/whatever. He’s feeling something un-positive. So then, when the woman starts crying, it’s very, very difficult to suddenly start being supportive/sympathetic/protective. (I’m assuming this is the kind of dynamic we’re talking about. If your boyfriend withdraws because you’re crying in reaction to sad news, by all means, run!)
Back to my initial observation: your boyfriend has problems with women. However he came about them, they are not something to ignore or dismiss. Before you both agree to take your relationship to a deeper level, he would be well advised to explore these issues with a therapist.
My 10-year-old son likes to hang out with a friend of his after school. I recently discovered why: his friend is allowed to play video games that, in my opinion, no 10-year-old should be playing.
I am not opposed to video games, but when our son was younger and he started asking about them, I did a lot of research and was surprised (shocked might be a better word) at some of the material out there. So he is allowed to play games rated as being appropriate for his age, and he has a set number of hours he can play in a week. Now I find that he has been playing games that are explicitly for adults.
I’m thinking of calling his friend’s parents and telling them my son is not allowed to play those games, but that seems like I’m trying to tell them how to raise their son, which I’m not. My husband is encouraging me to forget about it because he never worried about the games our son plays anyway. And to his credit, he has never given us any serious behavior problems. Any suggestions?
Dear Game Over,
You sound like you had a clear and thoughtful strategy for dealing with the inevitable video game issues that parents of young kids face. Too bad that of all the adults in this story, it sounds like you’re the only one who does.
Your son knew the rules for playing video games, right? (And if he claims he believed those rules only applied when he was in his own home, you might as well start researching law schools for him now.) So he should lose the privilege to go to his friend’s house for however many days or weeks you think is appropriate. This will also give you a pretext for calling the kid’s mother or father and explaining that Billy won’t be visiting for a while because he knows full well he is not supposed to play video games rated for older players—nothing in that is telling them how to raise their son; it’s simply clarifying how you’re raising yours.
Once visits resume, explain to your son that since he violated your trust, you will now verify after each play date that none of your rules were broken, and if this problem happens again, he will not be allowed to go to his friend’s house anymore. (As an aside, it would be nice if you could host more often, too. In addition to keeping a closer eye on your son, you could limit the video gaming and encourage them to go outside or play with something that doesn’t plug in.)
One final note: it’s a shame your husband’s approach to dealing with this is to pretend there’s nothing to deal with. Even if he feels your rules are too stringent, he should realize that once established, they must be obeyed.
What’s your problem? Write to John at [email protected]
—Photo (Micah & Erin)/via Flickr