Hi Tim
Advice column by Tim White, PhD, LPC, NCC.


Unhappy 4/20

Marijuana

Tim White, PhD, LPC, NCC offers advice on family planning and parenting, LGBT issues, disability issues, education and work issues, relationships, ethics and “unusual” social issues. Send questions to Tim for future columns through his website.

Hi Tim,

I’m a man, 30, in the financial field with a great career, wife and two children. Life is good. I have a very minor dilemma, and I was hoping you could give me a fresh perspective. My little sister, a hipster, recently gave me an unusual 30th birthday gift; a bag of marijuana. Judging from her description, it is “primo” and I should expect to be high as a kite for hours at a time. In fact, she shared with me that I’m too uptight and need to loosen up. Instead of simply gifting me a membership to yoga or a massage or something, she chose to place in my possession a substance that’s still quite illegal in our state, even for medicinal purposes. That’s enough reason for me, but I can also cite personal experience to support my choice. During a phase of poor choices as a teen, I tried smoking pot in high school a couple of times, thoroughly hated it, and came to my senses. Now, presented with this gift, I’ve come to reflect on the reasons for my displeasure in receiving it. The legal/ethical part is easy; Pot isn’t legal here, and is strictly forbidden by my employer. Morally, how could I possibly lie around and get high, and then expect my children to make good choices about their own lives? So what to do with this gift? Try it again just to be polite? Give it to someone else so they can make bad choices? Throw it away? Give it back and make my case? Please advise and thanks.

- Nonsmoker

Hi Nonsmoker,

We may never know how your sister possibly latched onto the kooky idea that you are somehow uptight; life is full of little mysteries. But I will admit I saved your letter from last week just because the column falls on the week of 4/20, if you can admit that maybe you are a wee tiny bit uptight? I agree that being illegal is enough reason to not use weed. If it is legal in the area, spark up and enjoy but if not then suck it up and abstain and write your congressional representatives or move. Getting baked is not worth getting burned.

However, you do not like it and you never did! I can honestly say I have tried sushi about a dozen times, each time convincing myself that I did not try hard enough and I need to put more effort into liking sushi. It tasted awful every time. But you know what? I should have stopped at around attempt one or two. Whatever I was trying to prove was not worth the abuse my taste buds suffered. If you say you don’t like cannabis that is good enough for me.

You did not mention a medical condition. Whether they drug test or not at your place of employment, policy is policy and so are your local laws so there is one ding on the dank. You say you’re repelled by reefer? I believe you. Strike two for THC. Will it cause your kids to make bad choices? Maybe not, but breaking the law, at least in front of them, meets criteria for setting a bad example; point taken. One should go on vacation to Denver or wherever in order to legally smoke. So, strike three means the ganja is a goner and is not worth obsessing over.

According to your own ethical code, you should never have accepted the gift at all because you now are in possession of an illegal drug. I have rightfully been called out for being insensitive about addressing unwanted gifts, so my default is now to say a clear and resonating, “No, thank you,” when someone gives you a gift you do not want. Plus, pot is not exactly a good fit for re-gifting. Returning it to your sister puts it back in her possession, she assumes the risk and you can reiterate that you would rather get a massage or attend a yoga class together than for her to become your dealer.

Foolish Old Wrinkle

Hi Tim,

I am a woman, 68, widowed over 20 years ago and too soon, and I responded by putting all my energy into my work, advancing my career. I did very well, thanks in large part to my two sons, and finally retired last year. I was determined to finally relax and start enjoying my life, doing something for myself. Instead, I was swept off my feet by a charming man in his 50’s who romanced me, convinced me to travel with him and spend a great part of my savings, then moved on to another woman and left me heartbroken. I do not have the heart to tell my kids that the relationship is over, he even charmed them too. They will be so angry and want to defend me, but I just want the whole experience to end. I wake up every day and try to piece my life back together, but just end up crying and unable to get out of bed for hours, cursing myself for being so stupid. I have never been so stupid in my life; there is no excuse and I have only myself to blame, but when I think of how I was so easily duped I get so angry at myself. I am too ashamed to show my face anywhere and tell people what happened. I am avoiding everyone. How does someone ever get out of a hole like this and live again?

- Foolish Old, Old Wrinkle

Hi Foolish,

If not for the occasional folly we may forget how much of life there is to be enjoyed.  You loved and lost, and despite the emotional and financial damage that is undeniable, you remain a person who is willing to open her heart to another person. That is what we should all aspire to be, not defensive, shut away from the world and bitter.

No one is stupid because they have the capacity to love. If you are a human being who is willing and able to honestly share your heart with another, you will always represent the best of us. If you are a human being who is insincere and pretends to share your heart in order to deceive or use another for selfish reasons, then you are among the worst.

It is easy to call ourselves foolish when someone we love does not treat us well, but you have well passed this mark. You are picking on yourself for your appearance, age, feelings, and probably more you did not mention because you stay so angry and, alternately, depressed. You need help to get through this terrible period of disappointment. Counseling is a great start, but a support group may be helpful too. Go places with those people you are avoiding, no matter how you feel. Going out to dinner or coffee gets you out of the house and into the world again, where you belong. If people ask you uncomfortable questions, change the subject. Let them figure it out on their own; you do not owe explanations. Encourage them to talk about themselves at length, and you can nod or stare ahead silently but you will be trying and you will feel better in time. Remember, a broken heart means you have one. Let good friends and family fill it up again instead of beating yourself up over one bad person.

Pinched Prose

Hi Tim,

I’m a girl, 20, in college and I was with the guy I fell in love with for 2 years. He wrote me poetry, wrote songs on his guitar for me and we fell mutually in love; it was magic. Then, he turned into an evil prick and became a selfish man-baby and my image of him was shattered. We have not spoken in a few months, it is truly over and he moved on with someone else. I remind myself every few days after a shorter cry. So, my roommate’s girlfriend who is the editor of a literary zine was over one night, wine flowed freely, and I decided to share the asshole’s poetry, expecting that we would all make fun of him and hate him together and have a great time. Instead, we all realized he is really talented. This editor wants to print his poetry. I agree with you about plagiarism, I would never take credit. She says she can print it anonymously. But is that ethical? Shouldn’t I be able to take something away from this relationship, and wouldn’t putting his love for me in print sort of move it from the personal to the public and allow me to close the book on him?

- Pinched Prose

Hi Pinched Prose,

Using the tender tale of a lost love, full of passion, you have crafted a compelling ode… to B.S. I do not even think you believe it. If you connect yourself in any way to this man’s intellectual property, sure it is plagiarism but worse, on a more intimate level you are reconnecting with him. Your feelings about this fellow, positive or negative, are strong enough that you are still moved to tears. Maybe you have anger that needs to be worked out, perhaps even in counseling, but my best guess is that you were healing and not looking as much as this opportunity sort of fell in your lap and you are possibly interested in maybe not turning it down. Do yourself a favor and pass on the publication, save the writings if they give you comfort and help you remember good times, but do not make new connections with someone you describe as an “evil prick,” even if it is only a paper-thin link.


Editor’s Note: The opinions offered in this blog are the author’s alone. Tim White, and any experts he may consult and/or quote in responses to letters, will never provide medical or psychological advice, diagnoses, treatment, or counseling of any kind. General advice, opinions and suggestions may be offered with no obligation on the part of readers to accept or act upon the content published within this column. Anyone in immediate crisis and/or mental/physical distress should call 911 or related resources of assistance.

Photo by Fotolia/Opra

Smoking Gun

Revolver

Tim White, PhD, LPC, NCC offers advice on family planning and parenting, LGBT issues, disability issues, education and work issues, relationships, ethics and “unusual” social issues. Send questions to Tim for future columns through his website.

Hi Tim,

I’m a single woman, 27, falling madly in love with a cute, sweet guy. He’s a little on the “bad boy” side, quite different than what I’m used to, with a sleeve of tattoos and some very noticeable piercings. We’ve been dating for 10 months and we are so sexually compatible. He does have quirks, harmless like most of us have, and one is to bring a .45 automatic pistol to bed with us. Of course it’s not loaded, but he likes to do some role play with it, have me hold it to his head or vice versa and things like that. That’s all harmless fun that I don’t mind.  What bothers me is that he’s not supposed to have a gun at all. He’s on probation for his second conviction for aggravated assault and ended an 18 month sentence last year. Even though the gun is registered and belongs to his friend, just being around him with it makes me uncomfortable and not very excited. I just worry about him being caught with it. Now he’s interpreting this as rejection and not calling me for the last two weeks. Am I being too uptight?

- Gun Shy

Hi Gun Shy,

I am all for second chances. People can grow, and often with growth comes change, and outlooks improve and behavior becomes more manageable and acceptable, needs are satisfied in a healthy way, relationships flourish and the future becomes ever brighter. That said, your felon with the violent history is actually on his third chance, at least by the count of which we are aware, and he meets that challenge by possessing firearms illegally and getting off to holding them to his lover’s head while they have sex. You did not mention any children, thankfully, so maybe I can sleep tonight knowing that this affair is taking place only around two consenting adults.

I try my best never to kink shame, but this one is a deal-breaker. Folks on either side of that perennial political favorite, the gun control issue, can even agree on one thing. Guns are not toys, for sex or any other purpose, and I have to advise against bringing them to any kind of play date. A quick online search will yield for you plenty of fake props and endless other accessories to liven up whatever role play you get up to, so please just leave the real stuff locked up for basic safety. In this case, that would be back in the home of the owner and away from an ex-convict with a history of assault. But do not even waste the effort at this point. He is impulsively cutting off contact and he shows extremely poor judgment by flirting with probation violation, and his penchant for pistols does little to reassure me that, underneath all the felony assaults, he has a heart of gold. If you were ever less than 100% safe, please get tested. Literally or figuratively, you have dodged a bullet so never look back. If a “bad boy” is what you seek, you can find one that is edgy without going over the edge.

Mama Mensch

Hi Tim,

I’m a married woman in my 20’s with a 4 year old son. I recently accepted a good job that’ll really help us get back on our feet financially, but childcare is too expensive. The closest relatives we have are my in-laws who live nearby and my mother-in-law is retired. She’s offered to provide day care at no charge but I was reluctant because when she offered, she added, “I spank without apologies… my house, my rules.” She says similar things whenever the topic of her watching my son comes up. My son is very well behaved. She gets along well with him and is nice enough as a person, just a bit gruff and sometimes pushy. My husband and I never spank, and she knows this already. She’s been watching him for two weeks now without incident but I feel like we should have a talk about it. I’m getting the feeling that she will spank him eventually and then I will react strongly and we will find ourselves without childcare again. How do I keep my child safe without having to quit my great job and income?

- Mama Mensch

Hi Mama Mensch,

My child, my rules” trumps everything else. Feel free to examine and question your parenting techniques, get feedback and revise as needed, but do not let any person other than your co-parent overrule you.

Have that talk with Grandma as soon as possible. If your son’s behavior somehow becomes naughty one day, your mother-in-law is free to quit at any time. However, she cannot undermine your authority and introduce spanking simply because it is more familiar to her. If there were only one correct, effective way of doing things, especially parenting, then it would be core curriculum and everyone would be an expert. Instead, nearly everyone who is a parent thinks they are an expert, whether they studied every manual, copied their own parents or merely winged it. Keep an open mind but take your own path. She must hear this and agree to it, and she sounds reasonable enough. If for some reason she refuses to spare the rod, or cannot resist her impulses, take some of those new earnings and invest in day care or a nanny so you can go to work worry-free.

Innocent Bi-Stander

Hi Tim,

I recently came home from college for Easter and my brother did as well. I’m 23 and he’s 28. He brought a date, and I happen to know her. Well, sort of. I’m not a lesbian, but I hung out a lot at a women’s bar a couple of years ago with a lesbian couple I know. The place was so much fun, and of course we danced with each other and got crazy all over each other. So the girl in question got visibly intimate on a couple of occasions with girls in the bar, then started dating a female friend of my friend, so we were barely introduced but saw each other in passing a lot. My brother’s getting serious about her and he falls in love a bit too easily anyway. I feel like I should just give him a polite heads-up that his girlfriend likes to swing both ways. Wouldn’t that be harmless and the considerate thing to do?

- Innocent Bi-Stander

Hi Bi-Stander,

Okay I got it. You’re not a lesbian; duly noted. But you hung out in lesbian bars, ogling at girl on girl make-out sessions and bumping and grinding with salacious sensuality amid a swarm of Sapphic sisters. To another innocently heterosexual patron of that establishment, you probably looked like a lesbian. See what I did there? It is all about perception. Even if this woman might have dated another woman, that does not mean you know anything about how she identifies sexually, so mind your own business and drop the lurid suspicion.

It is a separate matter that your brother may have a history of capricious coupling, and that is a valid point for you to consider discussing with him. Rather than doubting his lady love personally, you are making your inquiry about his behavior. “Jasper, take things slow and if she is the one, she will stick around. Enjoy getting to know each other over time because when you are passionate about someone you can be really intense. Give her time to make up her own mind, too.” Forget what you know or think you know and take the time to find out why your brother is so smitten with her. You might even like her. I mean, just like her; not like like her.


Editor’s Note: The opinions offered in this blog are the author’s alone. Tim White, and any experts he may consult and/or quote in responses to letters, will never provide medical or psychological advice, diagnoses, treatment, or counseling of any kind. General advice, opinions and suggestions may be offered with no obligation on the part of readers to accept or act upon the content published within this column. Anyone in immediate crisis and/or mental/physical distress should call 911 or related resources of assistance.

Photo by Fotolia/summerphoto

Lockup Taken Lightly

Hands in jail

Tim White, PhD, LPC, NCC offers advice on family planning and parenting, LGBT issues, disability issues, education and work issues, relationships, ethics and “unusual” social issues. Send questions to Tim for future columns through his website.

Hi Tim,

I’m a woman, 32, and due to a non-violent offense that was the result of youthful stupidity, I spent two years incarcerated from age 25 to 27. I did my time, turned my life around and got a degree, now I have a good job and a fiancée I’ve lived with for the past year. He’s great, no complaints except for maybe a lack of sensitivity. He, like so many other people I know, is hooked on Orange is the New Black, with full-on updates and shared quotes every time we have company. Despite his efforts to recruit me, I have not watched it. I’m sure it is a quality show and all that. But having been in a real prison will kill the enthusiasm for this show really fast. My experience was not witty and thought-provoking; it was traumatic and at times violent. Mostly, it was depressing, day in and day out with no relief. I don’t want to be reminded of it, no matter how awesome the writing happens to be, and I feel like I’ll have to issue the dreaded ultimatum over his fangirling on this show! Or maybe you can give me an alternative?

- Not Laughing About Lock-up

Hi Not Laughing,

I am glad you elaborated on man with a lack of sensitivity; that could have described most of them. I worked in a prison, and it was somewhat like the experience you describe; hilarity did not ensue. I know that Orange is the New Black offers many deep reflections on human behavior which have nothing to do with the culture of incarceration, and they deserve all their accolades, but consider the context. One who suffers from coulrophobia would never be expected to listen to a lengthy recap of Real Clowns of Barnum and Bailey, which hopefully will still only be a harmless joke by the time this reply is posted. Likewise, a victim of a sexual assault would never be expected to listen to lengthy confab on this week’s Law and Order: SVU episode.

Tell your guy directly to take the viewing, and his reviews, to a friend’s house or otherwise indulge in your absence with no exceptions. Let him know that unless he is willing to go deep undercover and prove you wrong, prison is an unpleasant place that belongs in your past. Marriage, as you may or may not know, usually provides one with the occasional “back off, no arguments” pass. You might as well test drive it now to make sure yours works. Your mandate is quite reasonable, so take back your peace of mind.

Walking Distaxter

Hi Tim,

I’m a guy, 30’s, married with a career in finance. I’m not an accountant, but my wife’s parents had tax questions three years ago, and in order to gain favor with them I did their taxes. Due to deductions they were not familiar with, their refund was substantial and they took a great vacation, then we did the same thing the two following years. Of course, they adore me now and we have gotten so close. Did I mention I am NOT an accountant? So, I am doing their taxes again this year and discovered something really horrible. They actually never qualified for those deductions, so those should never have been claimed for the past three years! I have been stalling on their taxes because I don’t want to have to confess that I made a mistake, but how do I tell them without them hating my guts forever? Things were already cool between us before I started doing their returns, now I’m afraid they will disown me. But I will not knowingly commit tax violations. Can I just let sleeping dogs lie and say I’m not able to do their taxes anymore for some bogus reason? Help!

- Walking Distaxter

Hi Distaxter,

Have you dealt with the Internal Revenue Service? I would not label those violations a “sleeping dog,” it is more like a lightly napping, fearless, rage-addicted honey badger with big, sharp teeth and claws that can shred lives to pieces. Please do not compound your error any further by simply tucking in the aforementioned beast and following your gaze in the opposite direction, whistling through your getaway and not imagining your in-laws tripping over it later. The IRS is able to retroactively audit as far back as three to six years, easily uncovering your faux pas. I think you might understand this already. This is one of those family incidents that you probably will not laugh about in the future, but will be exponentially worse if you do not come clean. Your conscience will feel better, and if your value to your in-laws amounts to nothing more than an annual check, then maybe getting some distance back would not be so catastrophic. If they truly cared about you, they will weather the amended returns and eventually acknowledge that one of the reasons you are perfect for their daughter is that you know when to do the right thing.

Hoser

Hi Tim,

I’m a college guy, 23, living with my girlfriend who is also a student. I’m very happy with her and have no desire to look for anyone or anything else. I mention this because I made a discovery a few weeks ago. My girlfriend has fancy panty hose for job interviews, church or whatever, but never ever wears them anywhere else so they sit in the bottom of her panty drawer. She was out of town, I was putting laundry away and got curious, tried on a pair and I have very hairy legs so they just tingled for a long time while I finished the housework. I got very aroused from this constant tingling, took care of that but also got a great idea. I work too, so I was dog tired one day, wore them to class and the tingling kept me awake for the whole class with only one coffee! Okay, it kept me aroused too so now when I get home I change, hide the hose and we have some great adventures for hours. I don’t even wear underwear anymore. Between the epic sex and actually staying awake and mostly alert in class, I would say panty hose have increased my quality of life about 40%. I do not want to wear makeup or women’s clothes, etc. Am I a cross-dresser? I don’t even know what to confess to her but it would be nice if I didn’t have to be in closet anymore. Please advise.

- Hoser

Hi Hoser,

I definitely do not think you are a cross-dresser, although if you change your mind and decide to accessorize then please embrace cross-dressing without shame. I am not even sure your particular taste for tights is unusual at all, since manly men have worn them throughout history up to the present, and even comprise their own market. They are not just for ballet dancers. It may not even be kinky, but I am going to call it a kink anyway because, well, it sounds useful and fun and I want to convey that spirit.

Pantyhose seem to be multipurpose for you, too. You can stay awake in class with less caffeine! I will admit the idea sounds pretty sexy, so your disclosure may be inspiring male readers out there to do some experimentation of their own. Good for you and thanks. If your sex life is half as interesting as we are all imagining it to be right now, I would be shocked if your girlfriend even cares about how you were inspired, and may even want you to keep them on for the show. Go ahead and spill the stockings to your sweetie, walk her through the history of he-hose if need be and then go shopping for some together. I know I am not the only one out here in cyberspace who is now wondering if they still come in an egg.


Editor’s Note: The opinions offered in this blog are the author’s alone. Tim White, and any experts he may consult and/or quote in responses to letters, will never provide medical or psychological advice, diagnoses, treatment, or counseling of any kind. General advice, opinions and suggestions may be offered with no obligation on the part of readers to accept or act upon the content published within this column. Anyone in immediate crisis and/or mental/physical distress should call 911 or related resources of assistance.

Photo by Fotolia/mudretsov

The Tell Tale Toddler

Infidelity

Tim White, PhD, LPC, NCC offers advice on family planning and parenting, LGBT issues, disability issues, education and work issues, relationships, ethics and “unusual” social issues. Send questions to Tim for future columns through his website.

The Tell Tale Toddler

Hi Tim,

I’m a college girl, 22, very blunt so here goes. I’ve been having an affair for 9 months with another woman, a former professor of mine. It’s so hot and passionate sometimes we literally cannot take our hands off each other. The problem; she’s married to a guy and they have a 2 year-old. I have no problem with the way things are going. I wasn’t looking for strings and she has no desire to get a divorce, although her husband cannot know about us. The problem is her daughter. We hook up around lunchtime, but sometimes her daughter’s school is closed and she’ll be napping while we… don’t nap together. We’re very careful and keep the door closed but recently the little girl found us getting dressed, then a second time she walked in while we were half-dressed and kissing. Mom told her we’re girlfriends, no big deal, but this kid saw me a third time, just in the hallway leaving and told me, “I’m telling Daddy about you.” I smiled and said okay, but now I’m uncomfortable going to her house. I really don’t know if I’m worried the little girl will talk, or feeling guilty about the whole thing in general. What are your thoughts?

- Tell Tale Toddler?

Hi Tell Tale,

The problem is not and will never be a two-year-old. Projection is for movies, it will never help anyone to superimpose their own dissonance onto an innocent child. Besides, she is two! Maybe she wants to tell Daddy about Mommy’s new friend. Regardless of her motives, the mouths of babes can inspire profound reflections. I am not shaming you in any way for an affair, rather reminding you that there is a fellow in the picture who “cannot know.” That makes your affair a secret and those will always be troublesome. If that kind of tension is what revs your motors between the sheets, I only ask that you prepare yourself for potential disclosure, willing or otherwise, to the husband. You both have your dials set to casual, but feelings often change over time. This thing may run its course, after which you part amicably, but what if it does not? The way you deal with infidelity, and the way you observe her doing the same, will tell you a lot about each other as potential partners.  In short, secrets and deception are rarely healthy, and occasionally talking over a cup of tea at the kitchen table may not be as much fun as romping all over each other, but it is a good fit for school closure days and helping lovers communicate about what they truly want.

Offended

Hi Tim,

I’m a Jewish gay man, 24, in a relationship with a coworker for the last 4 months. He is cute, funny, and smart, the whole package but tends to make remarks, jokes, etc. that border on anti-Semitic. He treats me personally with respect, but makes ugly remarks about my faith and Israel and its current leadership. He used to make them anytime, but when I asked him to please lighten up a little he simply stopped saying them when we are alone. At any time there’s down time at work or we’re out with friends, current events come up and he polarizes the issue. I have never lived in Israel, although my relatives have, but this is a White guy from a Protestant background, and he gets his distorted information from a certain brand of media, sharply opposed to Israel. I happen to agree with him on some points, I just don’t believe it’s okay to disparage a whole race because you disagree with a country’s existence or its current leadership. I know he’s aware of himself, because he’s careful to never bring up or comment on the subject when we’re with my parents. So, why is he with a Jew if he thinks so little of us?

- Offended

Hi Offended,

Oh my God, you are in a relationship with a coworker? Just kidding, it sounds like compatibility is high except on the current events page. This conflict is why some families/couples have the sacred rule that is followed 100% in their presences; No politics or religion. The topics are off-limits, and no amount of baiting can lure them from their fence. Are they insensitive, self-absorbed people who turn a blind eye to the suffering of others? Or, are they heroic champions of self-control, who understand the futility of engaging in ceaseless debates over opinions, well informed or not, to which all of us passionately feel entitled. You decide for yourself. I can offer that when someone cannot grasp the concept of agree to disagree, then I would rather talk about the weather or what we ate that that day.

In a relationship this is not as effective and communication is the key to avoiding conflict. Sit down and unpack the new rule: “Love is impossible without respect, so Trevor, from now on the topic of Israel/Palestinian conflict is off-limits in my presence. Your flip and unfunny remarks about death and war offend and hurt me, and if that is not enough to make you stop or at least limit this dialogue to the time we spend apart, which I would willingly do for you, then maybe the love I thought we had is only one way and we need to reconsider being together.”

House Bro

Hi Tim,

I’m a stay-at-home father, 30’s with a 3 and 1 year-old. My wife is a successful attorney and businesswoman with a very rewarding and lucrative career, so we are very fortunate. I have learned to let the emasculating jokes and comments roll right off without flinching, whether it’s at the supermarket or kid’s gym or park, so that’s behind me. I’ve also learned to manage how my wife is never, ever fully present with me and the kids, even during the 3 hours she actually sees us in the evening. I still bathe and read to the kids and tuck them in because she’s too tired. She also travels a lot, and sometimes she’s gone for a week straight. What I can’t manage is that I want to work! I used to be a great HVAC repairman and I know it’s not glamorous like her career, but it gave me a purpose. I love my kids more than anything in the world, but I need to work with my hands; that is just the way I am wired. I am feeling useless and all I want is to do a little hard work. I brought it up to my wife and was shot down cold. She seems to think I’m ungrateful for all her hard work. How can I go back to work without her resenting me?

- House Bro

Hi House Bro,

I am going to assume that hiring a nanny is not a problem for you financially, so going back to work would be as simple as, well, hiring one and going back to work. That must be a comfort. So, you only need to communicate your need for productivity and occupational fulfillment to a woman whose career has taken over most of her life, and according to you, lives to work. She at least should be willing to hear you out.

We toss around the term work/life balance for a reason. The yin/yang of our personal and vocational lives helps us to maintain a sense of control. Of all things to feel guilty about, a desire for hard work should not be included. There is plenty of work in your field, in all seasons and with the added benefit of flexibility. Anyone with a furnace out during a New England winter or an air conditioner gone kaput during a Texas summer will not care what time you show up.

Going back to work, at least part-time may be easy enough for you. However, there are other issues to consider. Your beloved spouse sounds over-worked and under-involved with the family, and your communication with each other may need a tune-up as well. Counseling cannot hurt, and it may help jump-start the process of restoring that work/life balance for both of you.


Editor’s Note: The opinions offered in this blog are the author’s alone. Tim White, and any experts he may consult and/or quote in responses to letters, will never provide medical or psychological advice, diagnoses, treatment, or counseling of any kind. General advice, opinions and suggestions may be offered with no obligation on the part of readers to accept or act upon the content published within this column. Anyone in immediate crisis and/or mental/physical distress should call 911 or related resources of assistance.

Photo by Fotolia/highwaystarz

Loving From a Distance

Family fight

Tim White, PhD, LPC, NCC offers advice on family planning and parenting, LGBT issues, disability issues, education and work issues, relationships, ethics and "unusual" social issues. Send questions to Tim for future columns through his website.

Sometimes, you have to love people from a distance and give them the space and time to get their minds right before you let them back into your life. - Robert Tew

Hi Tim,

I’m a middle-aged woman with an elderly mother and two older siblings. My brother is never around unless he needs something, and my sister lives much closer to Mom than I do. Mother’s Day is approaching and my brother will never show up or call, but I’ll be there and so will my sister, who never fails to turn every holiday into drama by berating Mom about all her past failings. Mom wasn’t perfect, but nor were we abused or neglected. Mom always cared for us and kept us safe, even when our father disappeared after I was born. Still, my sister constantly reminds her that she’s a disappointment and bad mother, sometimes directly but always passive-aggressively. When I defend my mother, my sister turns on me. I dislike my sister and I’ve come to terms with the fact that she’s just an unpleasant person I don’t want in my life. I don’t feel much differently about my brother. But I like Mom and want to make her happy; what can I do?

- Peacemaker

Hi Peacemaker,

Peacemaker may be an apt nickname but it is a thankless vocation. Some people might be so bitter and unpleasant that they are unable to get past their own feelings, and lashing out may be a lifestyle for them. They may be struggling with circumstances or an illness that affects their behavior. They may never appear to be happy and even offended by, and hell-bent on preventing anyone else’s happiness.  

Some difficult family members may seem unlovable. Anger and striking back will not bring them around. However, you can choose to love someone from a distance, so your heart does not fill with hate and become like theirs. You are proving nothing by forcing contact. Tell them you love them; encourage them to get help and back away, possibly for good. You are not obligated to spend time with any family member, and you should not if meetings are toxic, but loving them is a lot easier than hating them.

This goes for you mother as well, if she feels the same way.  You two may decide to enjoy your holidays together on alternate dates. Whether it is realistic to visit or phone or even write occasionally with a difficult relative is up to your discretion. I do hope that you all find peace.

Naïve

Hi Tim,

I’m a 16 year old girl, a few months from turning 17, and I’ve had an ongoing flirtation with an English teacher in his 40s at my high school. He took an interest in my writing, compliments me all the time, spent hours with me after class developing some ideas, we went for coffee a few times after school and he’s invited me to his place so he can cook me dinner and talk about my college plans. He mentioned candles and wine, so I was pretty sure this was going to be a date. I cancelled the night before because I got nervous (I am still a virgin but he says it doesn’t matter to him), and he asked me for a rain check because he wants me to decide when the time is right. We are always careful to never tell anyone about us, so I have no friend or loved one I can confide in but I can write to you. What do you think?

- Naïve

Hi Naïve,

Whoa, Nelly! We went from creative writing tips to serving alcohol to minors to losing virginity! That is fast, even for a youngster. Correction; you are a young woman, and likely a smart one too.  I am not so sure your nickname fits at all. I believe your heart has already been prodding you about what I want to scream out into cyberspace at you. DANGER! I refer to a danger which has nothing to do with your naiveté or virginity, or the age difference, etc. For your consideration; a middle-aged man who is trusted to educate teenagers, but also shops for potential dates among the student body. He exhibits some classic grooming behaviors of a predator: excessive compliments, escalating contact, plying with substances and sexualizing conversations. If you have to keep a relationship a secret, something somewhere is wrong.

If you had told me this in person, I would have reported him. You should report him, either by officially reporting the abuse, to your school counselor or at least tell an adult you trust immediately. Yes, I am fully aware that you are on the verge of adulthood but your maturity has nothing to do with his manipulative behavior. You are probably a great writer and have a great future ahead of you, but this goon is a dead end and his character needs to be written out.

Disagreeable

Hi Tim,

I am a mid-20s girl and sports fan dating a guy for a few weeks who is also a football freak. Long story short, big game and the ref makes a crap call, we disagree as did most of the country, but he won’t let it go and makes a lot of comments and jokes about how I was wrong. I wouldn’t have cared, but we saw a movie recently and he did the same thing; disagreed about some point, then hung on to it for weeks. When I started to really notice it, I had to admit there were other times. He’s not content with just believing he is right. He has to hear me admit I was wrong or he storms out for the night, or just drops me in front of my apartment with no goodbye, then we don’t talk for a few days and when he calls, he never acknowledges anything even happened. Am I making a mountain out of a mole hill or is he a giant ass?

-Disagreeable

Hi Disagreeable,

This is me telling you what you probably already know and what prompted you to write me. I am going all in with “giant ass,” and it feels like a sure thing. Adults can agree to disagree and when they cannot, it often indicates that someone is coming up short in the emotional maturity department. If you believe this dolt is even worth the trouble, try to explain it to him once and never again. “Paul, you have a habit of undermining my opinion when you set out on a crusade to prove me wrong. I really like you and I am willing to let you have your opinions, even when they differ from mine, but I prefer dating someone who does not think they know everything and tries to prove it.” Either he lets the small, petty things go or he will be the small, petty thing that is let go.


Editor’s Note: The opinions offered in this blog are the author's alone. Tim White, and any experts he may consult and/or quote in responses to letters, will never provide medical or psychological advice, diagnoses, treatment, or counseling of any kind. General advice, opinions, and suggestions may be offered with no obligation on the part of readers to accept or act upon the content published within this column. Anyone in immediate crisis and/or mental/physical distress should call 911 or related resources of assistance.

Photo by Fotolia/JackF

They Put the Grrr in Ingrate

Minimalist living room

Tim White, PhD, LPC, NCC offers advice on family planning and parenting, LGBT issues, disability issues, education and work issues, relationships, ethics and “unusual” social issues. Send questions to Tim for future columns through his website.

Uncluttered

Hi Tim,

I’m a 20s woman married for 4 years with a 2 year old son. My sister-in-law, “Annie,” is a few years older with a family of her own. I have always gotten along with her, and she is harmless but she has an annoying habit of giving silly knick-knacks as gifts: a wooden box, picture frames, vases, sconces and such. She puts a lot of thought into them and tries to make them personal, but all these things do is clutter up my home, and my husband and I are sworn minimalists. We have very few furnishings, prefer to sit on floor cushions, nothing hanging on the walls, and our yard is only a large matte of perfectly green grass with no plants. We meditate and don’t like clutter. We give massages, gift cards and similar gifts out of respect for others’ space. I have dropped enough hints in the past to border on the obvious, but they don’t seem to be working. I don’t want my son to think her kind of foolishness is okay. How do I tell this tacky but well-meaning soul that her gifts are no longer welcome?

- Uncluttered

Hi Uncluttered,

Bless you for recognizing that Annie the miserable wretch might have a soul. But clearly, the only way to deal with this insufferable cow is to ramp up your defense. When she presents her next offensive offering, fling it at her face and tell her to dole out her useless crap somewhere else. Just to drive the point home, have that box handy- you know the one, that is stuffed with all her previous gifts- and pelt her with them as she retreats, screaming, to the safety of her vehicle. She is not likely to sully your cold, sterile residence with any more of her evil bric-a-brac.

Or, you could do what us adults do and accept a gift graciously, thank her and if it burdens you, then put it on display in a special, neglected corner of your home such as a guest room. There, it will not be missed when it is replaced with the next harmless trifle that provides tangible evidence that a thoughtful person wanted to show their appreciation of your presence in their life. Perhaps that will be an even more valuable lesson for your son.

Unaccounted For

Hi Tim,

I am a single woman, 50s, and a CPA with 30 years of experience. I own my own business and I’ve done taxes for a few family members and friends at no charge. They inundate me with emails, phone calls and text requests and ask for ridiculous deductions and complain when their refund is not as much as expected, and I’m sick and tired of the lot of them. Only one ever thanks me, and sends me a gift every year. The others, incidentally the ones who complain the most, never acknowledge my effort. How do I say no to these ungrateful people, or get them to dial back the complaints?

- Unaccounted For

Hi Unaccounted For,

You have the emails and addresses of these parasitic penny pinchers. Send out a friendly group post explaining that your services now have a standard price tag and will be treated like any other clients’ submissions. Also note that only business communications to your professional email or phone will be accepted; all others will be declined. They have about six weeks to pay your fee or started learning how to fund for themselves.

Third Wheel

Hi Tim,

I’m a woman, 23, in college. I lost my mother several years ago and my father just remarried to a horrible woman. I’ve told Dad that she’s wrong for him, that he rebounded with literally his first date, but he laughs it off as typical stepdaughter jealousy. She’s been rude to me before, but at the wedding I tried to bury the axe. I approached her, welcomed her to the family, and apologized if I’d been short with her in the past because this is such an adjustment for me. She leaned in and whispered, “We may be family now, but I will control the finances so you need to find your own tuition money for next year. Prepare to be cut off.” Dad only pays part of my expenses, I work part time and honestly I could work a few more hours and pay for everything. But the principle is important here. I kept quiet for a few weeks but eventually told Dad. Now, they’re at each other’s throats and he has not spoken to me at all for over a week. Did I do the right thing? Can I make this right somehow?

-Third Wheel

Hi Third Wheel,

I would disengage from this wagon before it jumps off the trail! You reacted to cruel threats from a woman at her own wedding, and your report is justified. Her new husband has been your father much longer, and she can expect no level of confidence when she behaves so poorly. Tuition or not, she has problems, and none of them belong to you. Reach out with a quick message to your father to check in, but since only a week has passed he may still be smarting from being jolted back to reality, or there may be other conflicts of which you are not even aware, and would not want or need to know about anyway.

Your relationship with your father can weather this storm. Give him some time to come around and approach the topic himself, and steer clear of the wicked stepmother in the meantime.


Editor’s Note: The opinions offered in this blog are the author’s alone. Tim White, and any experts he may consult and/or quote in responses to letters, will never provide medical or psychological advice, diagnoses, treatment, or counseling of any kind. General advice, opinions and suggestions may be offered with no obligation on the part of readers to accept or act upon the content published within this column. Anyone in immediate crisis and/or mental/physical distress should call 911 or related resources of assistance.

Photo by Fotolia/castelberry

Oops Upside the House!

Fallen tree

Tim White, PhD, LPC, NCC offers advice on family planning and parenting, LGBT issues, disability issues, education and work issues, relationships, ethics and “unusual” social issues. Send questions to Tim for future columns through his website.

Tree Killer

Hi Tim,

I’m a man, 26, living with my girlfriend in a house and our driveway is beside the neighbor’s driveway with a row of 30 feet-or-so pine trees in between them. I work at night and I’d only slept about 30 minutes before work one night, so I ran out to the car and wasn’t paying attention. I plowed right into one of the trees and even though it made the most awful crashing sound, my car wasn’t badly damaged and a mark was barely noticeable on the tree. I noticed the neighbors were gone, forgot about it, and then a few days later we had a terrible storm. Our yards and driveways were flooded and sitting in water for about three days. The morning after the storm, the tree I hit was lying on the neighbor’s garage! Most of the roots came out with it and there was severe roof damage. The tree is on their lot but I hit it only days before! I want to say something but could my accident have caused this one?

- Tree Killer

Hi (Alleged) Tree Killer,

It sounds like you may only be a person of interest at this time, so go easier on the guilt for now. This one is well outside my domain of expertise. Consulting arborists are experts who deal with difficult tree issues: neighbor and property issues, tree preservation, litigation, and such. I contacted the wise and wonderful Barb Neal, Master Gardener Program Manager and Community Educator at Cornell University Cooperative Extension, President of the American Society of Consulting Arborists, and also a consulting arborist for eight years. She addresses your question below:

Dear Tree Killer—I do not think you deserve that moniker. I believe that your tree failed due to a saturated soil rather than from the impact. When a soil is saturated, especially after a number of days, the holding strength of the soil lessens, and can lead to tree failure, especially when there is a lot of wind. You said that the “roots came out” with the tree—consulting arborists would call that a root plate failure. While hitting the tree with your car did no favors to the tree, it did not, in my opinion, cause the failure.

This makes enough sense to me that you can stop blaming yourself for what the insurance people call an act of God. Some things are out of your control, and you should let this one go. Plenty more things are going to happen that are your fault. Get some sleep, and drive carefully!

Default Dad

Hi Tim,

I’m a single man, mid-thirties with a successful career in law. I’m an only child but I had one cousin, “Rita,” we were not close, who was a single mother to 5 year old twins. She recently died from untreated cancer and her kids are without a permanent home. I agreed to take care of them when their mother was sick, so they’ve stayed with me for several months and I hired a wonderful nanny. During that time, I assumed we could track down a biological father who would take over. We found him alright, after Rita passed away but a paternity test revealed that in fact, he was not the father! Now what do we do? There is no evidence of the real father anywhere, and no other relatives can take the children. These are good kids and I love them, but my career is too demanding to be playing house with children, which were never in my life plan!

-Default Dad

Hi Default Dad,

Yeah, funny thing about those neat life plans; they tend to get away from you. You are not playing house, you are the caregiver for two human being’s lives. I can assure you it is not a silly game they picked up out of boredom one afternoon; this is their life and it continues to get worse. You are apparently the only constant they have left. That said, even if two orphaned waifs who are depending on you to piece together a new life for them in a loving home and keep employing that nanny in order to give them a decent start in life cannot soften your icy heart, then it is reassuring that you know your limits. You are likely already connected with your local social services agency. They can help you relinquish guardianship and/or seek counseling, together and separately, in order to evaluate what your lives-changing decision will mean for all of you before pursuing alternative placement. If not, seek counseling on your own and whatever you decide please put these innocent children first.

Is This Love?

Hi Tim,

I am a girl, 18 in my first year of college. I met a guy my age on social media and we started chatting and eventually had phone conversations, and seemed to hit it off. We did live a long distance apart, but when I started college I moved to a new town just under two hours from him. We had a couple of dates and only held hands and kissed. He tried to invite himself back to my apartment where I live alone, but I diverted him and chalked it up to him being the average overly-eager guy. I still liked him but in January he planned a weekend away for us, already rented a room at a lodge with one bed, and I was slightly put off by his presumptions. I turned down the invitation/order over text, and he sent me back a string of profanities, calling me a tease among other derogatory names. I just texted him back once and said “Do not contact me again.” He has called and left a few messages, not as angry or hurtful, but not polite either, eventually requesting I call him. He never threatened me actually. I really felt like we were beginning to have a connection and then he did a 180; was I being unreasonable? I would have kept seeing him if it weren’t for the rants. I don’t know, maybe I overreacted? Help me stop thinking this to death, please!

-Is This Love?

Hi Is This Love,

No. That is the short version of my reply. Regardless of what trashy sensationalism makes it into print or onto movie screens, or whether or not various cretins are to blame for it, some folks just have a warped worldview as recent events so vividly illustrate. It does not matter what charming game this scoundrel led with because he revealed his true nature disrespectfully when he was unable to manipulate you with unannounced trips and escalating pressure to sleep together. If one of his top qualities is, “He never actually threatens me,” then game over. You dodged a wretched snake, so give yourself a pat on the back and give him no response whatsoever, but do save a record of your correspondence just to be safe. You can, and you will, do better.


Editor’s Note: The opinions offered in this blog are the author’s alone. Tim White, and any experts he may consult and/or quote in responses to letters, will never provide medical or psychological advice, diagnoses, treatment, or counseling of any kind. General advice, opinions and suggestions may be offered with no obligation on the part of readers to accept or act upon the content published within this column. Anyone in immediate crisis and/or mental/physical distress should call 911 or related resources of assistance.

Photo by Fotolia/hroephoto







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