July 5, 2017

Question: My boyfriend and I have known each other for about 8 months. When we first met and decided to travel together, he was exactly what I was looking for. But, as time has gone on, and as we have been in a variety of different situations together, I have come to see him as clingy, whiny, and not entirely reliable. He used to do his best to work on issues I’d bring up, but now, after telling him a problem I have, he says his piece on the matter and considers the issue resolved. At this point, I don’t want to be with him any more. I’ve grown a lot since we’ve been together, and I haven’t seen any growth in him.

I was his first serious girlfriend and his first sexual partner. He says the only good thing going for him in his life right now is “us.” It was great while it lasted, but I feel as if I need a partner on equal emotional footing – not the co-dependent victim he’s become. I’m not upset about breaking up with him, but I’m absolutely torn up that it’s going to hurt him. I asked a friend for advice, and she said, “It’s going to suck. Just do it.” You may tell me the same thing, but I figure it never hurts to ask. Thanks for your time.


Dr. ZZ: Your friend is right. It’s a sucky situation, and you need to sit down with your boyfriend and talk to him. Tell him you care about him a lot, but the relationship is not working for you, and you need to end it. Say you know this is not good news, but you also know it’s what you must do.

He’ll probably say a lot of things, some of which may be mean or pitiful, and all your instincts to jump in and make it better will be on full alert. Resist them. Guilt and pity are not a reason to stay involved with someone. It’s not your fault that his life is hard right now, and you don’t have the power to somehow save him from all his difficulties. So prepare for the awkward flailing and know that you’ve just got to listen and ride it out.

Keep it short, and don’t get bogged down in explanations or in trying to sell him on this being the right decision for him, or for both of you. You actually help the two of you by making it completely about your own needs. Your need to be broken up overrides all others and can’t be argued. It lets you acknowledge his sadness and grief without being patronizing.


Question: I work for a non-profit organization here on Bali, and in a couple of weeks, I have to take a box of our literature, a banner, some free pens and sign-up sheets to an event that’s being held on the other side of the island. Although our usual procedure is to have at least two staff members man the booth at an event like this, this time I’m the only one able to go. So I put an ad in the paper asking for volunteers to accompany me.

So far, the only person to volunteer is a lovely retired woman I happen to know. She’s very enthusiastic and also slightly disabled. She can’t stand for long periods of time, can’t   help carry things, and isn’t really that good at conversing with people, or indeed getting people to sign up for things – especially at an event like this where people passing by may never have heard of us before. In short, she’s not the ideal person for the job, but I don’t want to hurt her feelings, and I don’t want to turn her away from volunteering for us.

How can I convey the message politely and without offense that while she’s lovely to think of volunteering, and while I don’t doubt she would do all she’s physically capable of to help out, I’d rather someone else – unless there’s no one else, in which case she’s it?


Dr. ZZ: When hiring or interviewing volunteers, you don’t have to use everyone who applies, nor do you have to accept all who apply as being appropriate, necessary or helpful. Sometimes, however, you can “repurpose” a prospective candidate. In this case, although you need someone more social and more agile to co-man the booth at the upcoming event, perhaps you can figure out another way in which this person can assist. Is she willing to drive, for example, to make you lunch, to shop for necessities, or to show up and look lovely behind the scenes? If so, she will gain in experience from your engagement, and you will hold on to her and start to potentially groom her for a more appropriate job next time.

The idea is to commit to her in a “this is how I would like to be treated” approach. Write up a schedule, a list of tasks, and your main goals for the event; then meet with her, and go over the list. Be up front about the amount of lifting, hauling, standing, and socializing with the public is involved, and do it in a chatty, curious fashion rather than from a position of telling her what she can and can’t do. Aim for an ambiance of two professionals who have a job to do rather than one of discussing her disability and ways in which to accommodate it. Treat her like a partner, divide the work accordingly, ask her what she needs, and what her limits are. Then, go and make the best of it.

Dr. ZZ has a Ph.D. in Counseling and a doctorate in Natural Healing. Drawing on a background of   over thirty years as a professional therapist, she offers self-help in the areas health, relationship and  personal  growth. All queries are answered by email and, if they appear in print, are subject to editing. Please email your questions :<ba.saywhat@yahoo.co.id> All identifying information is kept strictly confidential.


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