Q: What is an appropriate amount of togetherness time for a couple? My 9-year-old son spends half the week with me, plus every other weekend. My girlfriend of a year wasn’t happy with only the other half of my time, so she started joining me and my son. She and I are now together 5 1/2 days a week, 3 1/2 of which are also with my son. I’m never alone; I have no time to go grocery shopping, etc.; and no one’s happy. My son prefers being alone with me; she enjoys him but feels she’s sacrificing our time together. On Saturday, I had an important business meeting at 10 a.m. and a 2 p.m. coffee with a visiting guy friend. I had paperwork to do in between, meaning I’d be away from her from 9 to 5. She was really upset, acting almost betrayed, and wanted me to reschedule everything for my Saturday with my son. I said no. She then said she’d come for coffee before my meeting, lunch afterward, and join me and my friend. I’m normally nonconfrontational, but I again said no. She complained all weekend. Now I’m afraid to even schedule a haircut on Saturday, the only time I can go.
A: Your girlfriend makes intestinal parasites seem like bong-hitting slackers.
It sounds so nice when a woman tells you she always wants to be by your side — until you realize that she means like your ear or your right arm. At a carnival, it must be a tough fit in the Porta-Potty. Contrary to what you’ve been led to believe, your needing a haircut or wanting to spend time with your son or a guy friend without female supervision isn’t a sign that you’re a failure as a man and a boyfriend. And beyond needing to be off-leash long enough to hit the grocery store, a man needs time to sit on the pot like “The Thinker” or grunt and drool a little in front of the TV.
Don’t mistake this woman for someone who loves you just because she’s in a relationship with you, and love is usually considered the point of that sort of thing. A woman who loved you would want you to be happy and comfortable and would respect that you’re trying to be a good dad, even if it meant seeing you less. If that didn’t work for her, the loving approach would be ending it with you, not guilting you into saying, “Sorry, son…you’ll have to throw the ball across the yard and go get it yourself. Daddy’s girlfriend hasn’t seen him in almost 45 minutes.”
Did you, by some chance, forget your testicles on a picnic table in the summer of 2011? There’s something very wrong with your girlfriend (probably that she never fixed the Big Empty within). She might’ve been compelled to get cracking on the repair job had you stood up to her from the start. But, by wimping out, you enabled her, basically giving her the go-ahead to colonize every moment of your time and giving her a year to get used to it.
At this point, doing what you obviously need to — getting time to yourself and quality time alone with your son — should go over like ripping a Band-Aid off a burn victim. But, if you want things to change, you have no other choice than to lay down limits and stay firm on them. It’s possible you’ll lose her, but that surely beats slapping a police officer and tripping a jail guard just to get a few days of alone time in a cramped, windowless cell.
Q: Why would my hubby keep pictures of his ex-fiancee? I found the photos in a box he told me to go into to get a document we needed. He doesn’t know, and I don’t want to bring it up. —Disturbed
A: He married you, and probably not just because you were both in Vegas and he had a Groupon for the Elvis wedding chapel. Also, these photos of his ex were in a box, not framed in hazy hearts and bouncing around as his screensaver. They’re part of his personal history — which isn’t to say he’s looking to have history repeat itself. Chances are, he has photos of every other ex-girlfriend plus some shots of himself with disastrously groovy hair. Assuming you married him in part because you find him trustworthy, trust that he’d tell you if he had the retroactive hots for his ex. Try to divert your focus to a less emotionally fraught mystery, like why he has three sets of toenail clippers. You never know when a man has a secret third foot stashed away in a safe house somewhere.
Advice Goddess Radio: Dr. Harriet Lerner’s simple rules for minimizing conflict to make for happier relationships.
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