Annie's Mailbox for Jan. 25, 2011: Upset boyfriend involved mother in relationship

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Dear Annie: I come from an extremely dysfunctional family. I am 50 years old and have been estranged from my family since I was 31. I do not miss them and have no desire for contact.

I've had only a few long-term relationships in my life. I am currently cohabiting with a 52-year-old man who had never been in a relationship before me. For the first two years, he was wonderful, but when I pressed for marriage, he backed away. He knew I was interested in a private ceremony because of my family estrangement, and he agreed with me. But when he finally proposed, he objected to the small ceremony and put off the wedding.

I know he really does not want to marry me, although I suspect he would have gone through with it to please me if I had been more flexible. But I did not want to give in and threatened to leave. We did not speak for a week, and then he called his mother and told her everything, including my wish for a private ceremony. He also told her many things I had said when we were arguing, including that I wish I had never met him.

I asked him to come with me for counseling, but he refused, saying he doesn't want anyone knowing his business. Yet he thinks it's OK to share "his business" with his highly biased mother. Because of all the things he told her, I cannot be in the same room with her. He sealed our fate when he brought her into our relationship.

We sleep in separate bedrooms and have no physical contact. I know it's over. Do you think I am wrong to feel violated because he confided in his mother? And every time I remind him that he agreed to a private ceremony, he clams up and won't respond, which I think is extremely hostile.

— Canada

Dear Canada: Your boyfriend has made some mistakes, but nothing that cannot be forgiven. A middle-aged man who has never had a prior relationship is probably close to Mom and would naturally turn to her for advice and solace. Your rigid reaction prevented you from understanding his point of view. But your suggestion to get counseling is excellent, and we hope you will do so even if he refuses.

Dear Annie: There has been some debate about whether bar patrons should tip a bartender if he happens to be the owner of the bar. We all are generous tippers, but many times the owner will be the bartender on duty. What is the proper protocol then?

— Niagara Falls, N.Y.

Dear Niagara: While you are not obligated to tip the owner of an establishment, it has now become a fairly common and accepted practice. If you are a frequent patron of this bar, tipping would be the less awkward option.

Dear Annie: This is in response to "Frustrated Mom," whose daughter was being bullied. I am a teacher in Massachusetts, where we have very strict laws regarding bullying.

Those school administrators are abdicating their responsibilities and are wrong to assume there will be an increase in the bullying if they admonish the guilty parties. That mother needs to push harder. Why haven't the parents of the girls been called into a meeting? The administration needs to come down hard on these girls.

By the way, if her daughter is receiving bullying text messages or other communications, they are harassing her, which can be a criminal offense. Mom should help her daughter keep a log, print communications and build a case. If necessary, involve the police. Her daughter may never win back these girls' respect or affection, but she doesn't have to put up with their bullying. I know from experience that the vocal pushy parents get what they want from schools. Don't back down.

— Massachusetts Teacher

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