Q: I work 9 to 5, and my girlfriend of two years is retired and pretty much free all day. I’ve asked that we treat dinner as our special time to reconnect and ignore incoming phone calls. Sadly, instead of embracing this request, she has resisted me with full force. Whenever the phone rings during dinner, she answers and stays on as long as the call takes. We don’t get urgent calls. She counters that if the phone rings, you answer it, and that it could be some problem she can just address and be done with. She deems my request “controlling,” yet I’ve never made a demand or thrown a tantrum. I’ve just explained that I’d appreciate it if we could carve out 30 minutes of together-time. I’ve also asked her to ignore the phone when we're in bed, but her tendency is to answer it — even if we’re having sex. I’ve explained how unwanted this phone thing makes me feel, but she doesn’t seem to get it.
A: What will happen if one of these calls goes to voicemail? Kim Jong Un will unleash an electromagnetic pulse bomb on the U.S., and the power grid will be fried for 40 years — or the neighbor will have to call back to tell your girlfriend the ingenious thing she did to perk up her banana cake?
Two years into your relationship, the point when so many partners are just getting good at taking each other for granted, you’re telling your girlfriend you want to carve out special time to focus on each other — just 30 minutes out of her unbusy, retired woman day. She, in turn, responds like you just demanded she cut off her three favorite fingers and feed them to the pigeons.
It’s possible that she isn’t entirely conscious of why she’s treating you this way. She may fear getting closer and then getting dumped or think you’ll value her more if she makes you feel like less and less. It’s possible she is punishing you for something or is trying to abuse you into leaving. What is clear is who’s the controlling one here — the self-appointed dowager countess of the relationship, making the unilateral decision that the phone will be answered no matter what. As for you, her significant serf, keep quiet and eat your gruel while milady has a nice chat with Rachel from Cardmember Services.
It must get hard to parse whether you’re in a relationship or a call center. Perhaps you, like many people, assume that being in a relationship means having a partner who loves you and cares about your happiness. Your girlfriend does seem to — as long as it doesn’t mean having to call somebody back after dinner. Even if she doesn’t fully understand what’s motivating her behavior, if she does love you, she can behave lovingly while she figures it out and stop answering the phone like she’s one of the town’s two sober volunteer firemen. Telling her how unwanted you feel obviously isn’t enough; you also have to have standards for how you’ll be treated and be willing to walk if they aren’t met — ideally, into the arms of a woman whose screams of passion in bed don’t include “Who’s calling, please?”
Q: I met this very attractive woman who works at my local bank. She has twice called me regarding the bank’s offerings, and I've gotten a vibe that her interest isn't wholly professional. Do I drop by on a pretext and blindside her with “Let's go out sometime”? Is there another way to get her attention?
A: Many men have had success getting the attention of a woman who works in a bank by coming in wearing pantyhose over their head and handing her a note. Unfortunately, this approach also tends to draw the attention of the woman’s co-workers (unimaginative sorts who, at the first sign of creative headgear, are quick to summon the SWAT team). Even if you forgo the pantyhat, asking her out in person is a problem, as nothing turns the workplace into a junior high school cafeteria faster than having your co-workers looking on as somebody hits on you. (Unless your “local bank” is Citibank’s world headquarters, she probably sits at a desk in the middle of the place.) So, do go in on some pretext — so she can attach a face to your name — and then phone her to ask her out. If she turns you down, just act like you’re cool with it and you shouldn’t have a problem showing your face in the bank — tempting as it might be to go in wearing a Richard Nixon mask and try again: “No dye packs or marked money, and can I interest you in dinner and a slow-speed police chase?”— here — 7-8 p.m. PT, 10-11 p.m. ET, or download the podcast at the link. Call-in during the show: 347-326-9761 (NYC area code)