Group Therapy is a relationship advice column that asks readers to contribute their wisdom. Each week, we offer up a problem for you to weigh in on, then publish the most lively responses, with a final word on the matter delivered by our columnist, Lynn Coady.
I have been seeing this man for about 5-6 years now. He is wonderful in all aspects - very caring, affectionate and considerate, not just towards me but to everyone who he feels needs his help.
We recently had a fallout over spending habits. I am a habitual saver; my future worries me and I would like to have a nest egg for my old age. He advised me to buy some furniture which he thinks I need, so I told him that I needed to save first before I bought it. He felt that I was being a skinflint and since then has been far and distant from me. Incidentally, we do not live together.
I try to tell him that I do spend, but only on things that I really want, and home decor is not one of them. But this very recent incident has caused a large rift that I am afraid will never heal. I don't really want to lose him because of his other qualities. Your advice?
IT'S A POWER PLAY, END IT
This is not a question about money. It is a question about power. Nothing else. He wants it over you. No, he needs it, hence his reaction. He expects you to do the things he says because he believes he knows better than you. This will only get worse as time goes by, so take the cue and leave, and be thankful you found out now before it's too late. Simple as that.
- Donald MacNeil, Toronto
MEET ON NEUTRAL GROUND
This is not about furniture or personal lifestyle at your residence. He is backing away (or out) of the relationship for other reasons and you deserve to know why after five years of more than a casual friendship. If he is at all as you described him he will have the courtesy to be frank and truthful.
Arrange a get-together on neutral territory and ask why he's behaving in this manner. Probe if the answers are lame and not forthright.
Make a decision at that meeting to accept or reject his logic. Tell him what you think. Then get on with it or get away from it. Ten minutes of tears is far better than 10 more years of this.
- Keith Wilkinson, Milton, Ont.
SAVE YOURSELF, GET OUT
The world is divided into savers and spenders. Neither are inherently right or wrong, but trying to share your life with one of the other kind is courting trouble - you'll be ticking one another off all the time.
Spending habits are one of the big sources of trouble within couples.
Be glad that you found out now. Pull on your walking boots, as your erstwhile partner seems to have done already. There are lots of good folks among your fellow savers out there.
- Michael Moore, Toronto
THE FINAL WORD
I don't mean to be glib, but either you've left something out in your description of what's caused this "rift," or else you and your boyfriend inhabit some kind of Seinfeld universe, where couples break up over one another's refusal to have a taste of pie, or insistence on wearing the same outfit every day. It doesn't add up: He's wonderful, caring, affectionate - yet he withdraws because you won't buy new furniture? Is your furniture disgusting? Do you have nowhere for the poor guy to sit? Do you still sleep in the same bunk-bed you shared with your sister as a child? If the answer to all these questions is no, then the man is being unreasonable.
So what's really going on here? Don from T.O. assumes too much from too little information. This may well be a "power-play" on your bf's part, but what stymies me is why Mr. Hitherto Wonderful/Caring/Affectionate would go Mr. Hyde over a couch and end tables. Don't control freaks usually reveal themselves by degrees, starting small, like with keeping the TV remote in their pants pocket?
Neither does Mike get it right with his Spenders vs. Savers theorem. As an inveterate Spender I can tell you I would play violin under some studly Saver's window with a rose between my teeth for 100 nights straight if I thought it would convince him to move in with me. I can't think of a more complementary pairing: I'd teach him that quality footwear is an investment, not a luxury, and he'd stop me from downloading every iPhone application known to man.
I fear only Keith in Milton knows which way the wind is blowing. Which is to say, like me, he has no idea. Keith and I simply intuit what the problem isn't: It isn't about furniture (assuming, again, you're not dating Jerry Seinfeld), and it isn't about skinflints vs. spendthrifts. So take our friend in Milton's advice, sit your boyfriend down (but not on your couch - he might take that as a provocation) and do your best to find out what the real problem is.
Lynn Coady is the award-winning author of the novels Strange Heaven and Mean Boy, with another one currently in the oven.
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