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Amy Alkon

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Knight Terrors

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I'm a woman in my early 30s. I was one of the employees who got laid off after my employer lost a big account. I've found a new job, but it's not on my career path and it pays terribly. Still, it's a job and it pays. I live with my boyfriend, and we've always split the expenses, but he's trying to persuade me to keep looking for something better and to let him pay the bills until I find it. He keeps saying he's "happy to do that," but I just can't stomach it. I've always supported myself and taken pride in not being the sort of woman who sponges off a man, and I'm not ready to start now. — Fiercely Independent

If only giving you a hand financially worked like giving medicine to a dog, then your boyfriend could just grind up some money and sneak it into your food.

The guy gets that you're in a relationship, not a tiny little welfare state. He's offering to help you not because he thinks you can't manage by yourself but because he thinks you shouldn't have to. That's what being in a relationship means — two coming together as one, not one going it alone while the other one waits in the parking lot.

Though being "fiercely independent" is great if you're the lone survivor of a shipwreck or your car swerves off a lonely mountain road and you need to eat the passenger seat to survive, if spurning your boyfriend's help is any sort of a pattern, it's probably hurting your relationship. By refusing to show the vulnerability it takes to accept help, you keep the relationship on a "So, what's for dinner?" level emotionally and tell your boyfriend he isn't really needed. In time, this should lead him to the obvious question: "Well then, why am I still here?"

Sometimes, aggressive self-reliance is really fear in a Wonder Woman suit. Our "attachment" style — our way of relating to those close to us — traces back to our mother's (or other primary caregiver's) responsiveness to our needs as infants. If you could count on her to soothe you when you were distressed, you end up "securely attached," meaning you have a strong psychological base and feel comfortable relying on others. If, however, she was unavailable or rejecting, you become "avoidantly attached" and develop a habit of self-protective distancing. ("Can't count on anybody" becomes "Don't need nobody.")

The good news is, even if Mommy was the next best thing to an ice floe, there's no need to resign yourself to the effects of that. Research finds that a loving partner can help you break out of avoidant attachment by continually behaving in supportive ways that challenge your belief that you can't count on anybody.

You, in turn, need to risk revealing your emotions and needs and trusting that your boyfriend will be there for you — perhaps starting with accepting his offer of a financial cushion. Over time, as you see that you actually can rely on him, you should develop a more secure foundation — and come to understand that true strength involves being confident that you can walk tall but sometimes being okay with curling up in a fetal position tall.

You've Got Tail

I hit it off with a woman on an online dating site, and she showed up at the bar for our date with an unruly chihuahua in her handbag. She acted like it was no big deal at all, but she had to hold her purse close to her to keep the dog calm, and the server eventually saw it, so we had to leave. I really liked her initially, but I thought her bringing a pet on a date was really rude. A friend said that the purse dog thing is becoming commonplace and that I shouldn't nix her because of it. — Irked

People usually want the howling and scratching to come after the date. Unless you're meeting at a dog park, it's no more okay to show up with your dog on the first date than it is to bring your cow, your lobster, or some 3-year-old you happened to find wandering around the mall. This woman was sending you a message about the things she has little interest in: your feelings, whether the bar gets fined by the health department, and the point of a date — for two people to focus on each other rather than on distracting the server from a growling purse. So, yes, you absolutely should nix her — before she realizes that someone's going to have to curl up on the floor beside the bed. (If you're a good boy about it, she'll throw you your favorite squeaky toy a few times before it's lights out.)

Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave., #280, Santa Monica, CA 90405, or email AdviceAmy@aol.com (www.advicegoddess.com). Her latest book is "Good Manners For Nice People Who Sometimes Say F*ck."

COPYRIGHT 2014 AMY ALKON

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It's Amy Alkon's Advice Goddess Radio! "Nerd your way to a better life," with the best brains in science solving your love, dating, sex, and relationship problems. Listen live every Sunday — http://www.blogtalkradio.com/amyalkon — 7-8 p.m. PT, 10-11 p.m. ET, or download the podcast at the link. The call-in number during the show is 347-326-9761. This week, Amy Alkon and Dr. Jennifer Verdolin on whether opposites really attract and whether they can be good together.

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/amyalkon/2014/10/13/amy-alkon-dr-verdolin-do-opposites-really-attract—are-they-good-together



Comments

9 Comments | Post Comment
LW1 - How about a compromise? You let your boyfriend help you out a little, maybe by paying more of the bills than would normally be his share, but not completely. That way, he still feels needed and you still feel like you're not totally dependent on him.
LW2 - I think it's ok to write someone off for any reason after a first date. It's not like you made any sort of commitment to her. You left the date not wanting a second one, and I don't think that even needs a "justifiable" reason (who do we justify these things to, anyway?).
Comment: #1
Posted by: Cheryl
Tue Oct 28, 2014 10:29 AM
LW1: Why can't you look for a new job while working this crappy one? Doesn't that make more sense? Because it sounds like you've given up. Maybe you should consider therapy and anti-depressants?

LW2: Having a dog in a purse should be a deal breaker because only real douche bags do that crap.

Comment: #2
Posted by: Diana
Tue Oct 28, 2014 1:30 PM
LW1: Why can't you look for a new job while working this crappy one? Doesn't that make more sense? Because it sounds like you've given up. Maybe you should consider therapy and anti-depressants?

LW2: Having a dog in a purse should be a deal breaker because only real douche bags do that crap.
Comment: #3
Posted by: Diana
Tue Oct 28, 2014 1:31 PM
LW1: Amy's advice is spot-on. I'll add this: If you invest your time now in finding a more lucrative job, you'll be better equipped to support your boyfriend when he loses *his* job. Stuff happens.
Comment: #4
Posted by: Khlovia
Tue Oct 28, 2014 3:34 PM
LW1--Your boyfriend understands what it means to be partners, while your pride is preventing you from doing likewise. In my relationship, we split the bills according to our income. When my partner was laid off, and then later decided to return to school, I took over all of the bills. That's what partners do; they support each other in good time and in bad times. Therefore, if you want to pay something just so you can feel better about supporting yourself and being a contributing member of the household then offer your boyfriend, as a compromise, a fair amount towards the bills based on what you earn compared to him. For example if you're making $40K per year and he's making $90K then he's making 56% more than you and therefore he should pay 56% more than half the bills while you pay 44% of half the bills. It's a practical solution that works.

LW2--I have to question the intelligence and moral character of someone who thinks it's a good idea to bring a poor frightened animal to a noisy bar! Your instincts are right on. Forget about this retard yesterday!
Comment: #5
Posted by: Chris
Tue Oct 28, 2014 4:20 PM
LW1 - you are right, and as usual, Amy's advice is useless. You should keep the crappy job and keep looking for a better one at the same time. It is far easier to get a job when you already have a job; employers get suspicious of the long term unemployed. It has nothing to do with trust or the quality of your relationship. It has to do with taking care of yourself and planning for the long term. People may like to feel needed by their partners, but they don't like to feel like a walking wallet. Besides, what would you do if your boyfriend got laid off, too? One crappy job is better than no job at all.
LW2 - you're not committed to this woman. Dropping her after a first date for any reason whatsoever or no reason is fine. As for her behavior - I wouldn't be attracted to someone who would treat a dog so terribly. Animals aren't fashion accessories; they are living beings that deserve to be in a comfortable and non scary space.
Comment: #6
Posted by: kai archie
Tue Oct 28, 2014 11:16 PM
LW1 -- I'm failing to see how staying in the current job entirely negates the ability to continue looking for a new job -- unless the hours are so demanding and the work so grueling that all you are capable of doing is waking up, going to work, coming home, going to sleep, repeat cycle every single day of the week. I think it's terrific that your BF is willing to support you while you look for something else, and presumably the reason he is offering this option to you is because:

1) You've made it clear that you have totally given up looking for something else and will not start looking again unless/until you are no longer in this job.

2) You are so patently miserable in this job that he believes you are better off unemployed and gainfully looking than gainfully employed but quasi-suicidal.

If you really are incapable of looking for a new job while in this one, perhaps consider finding a part-time job (it may even be that your current employer would let you go part-time?). This would give you the time and energy to look for another job while still bringing in a salary to contribute to bills (and please Chris' advice about basing amount of bills paid on amount of salary coming in).

Finally, while I agree with Amy that there's a time and a place to be fiercely independent, please ignore the part where she blames all of that on your mother. You are just as likely to learn the "fiercely independent" bit from having been burned in some OTHER relationship, or you were raised by parents who put a profound emphasis on being self-sufficient. The attachment theory is still just that: a theory. There are plenty of things that can be linked back to deep-seated mommy and/or daddy issues, but there are just as many that have nothing to do with that.
Comment: #7
Posted by: Lisa
Wed Oct 29, 2014 8:30 AM
LW2 -- "A friend said that the purse dog thing is becoming commonplace..." Just because something is becoming commonplace doesn't make it a good idea or right. I'm pretty sure drunk driving is a bad idea for all that its pretty commonplace. And besides, the "purse dog thing" is so 2003.
Comment: #8
Posted by: Lisa
Wed Oct 29, 2014 8:37 AM
LW1 - Amy's response is incisive and thought-provoking. I would recommend accepting your boyfriend's help but putting a time limit on it: i.e., quit your job and take six months to look for another one. If you don't find a good one at that point, you can take another miserable low-paying one. Jobs of that sort are not that hard to find...just to go any fast-food joint and apply.

LW2 - Again, Amy's answer is spot-on. The woman who brought her dog in a purse is (1) stupid, and (2) a drama queen. (She even brings her own portable drama.) And I can almost guarantee she'll insist the dog sleep with you if you sleep over, or send you to the couch if you're not into that kind of scene. Anyone who can't bear to be away from her little poochums for two seconds is very bad news, and is sending up red flags in all directions to announce it to the world.
Comment: #9
Posted by: sarah morrow
Wed Oct 29, 2014 4:19 PM
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