Carolyn Hax

Carolyn Hax: Helpful hints backfired this time

 

I have been living with my boyfriend for 10 years. He moved here from out east and has an adult son there. He has been divorced for 16 years.

I have put up with his ex-wife’s texting and calling every time the boy upset her. I tolerated it because the boy was young and I understood it was painful to be separated from him.

The boy is now 23 and she seems to be texting and calling more and more. It’s not always about their son, but instead about how lonely she is, how she hates her job or how she has no money.

We have had several very heated arguments about it. He dismisses my feelings as childish and jealous and always vehemently defends her: She is my son’s mother, it’s the only way I can find out about my son, she doesn’t have any friends, and so forth. She divorced him!

I feel she has no right to continually interfere in his life here with things that are not always about an adult son. I think it’s very selfish of her. She even calls him when she can’t get a hold of the boy. What should he do thousands of miles away?

He does have a relationship with his son, they talk and text, so she really doesn’t need to be involved.

He said he will not stop texting with her. Some of their conversations are very personal and some of the things he says to her are hurtful to me. He says he only says things to make her feel better. Is it right that she feels better at my expense?

I feel there is more going on with his feelings for her, which he denies. I am tired of this coming between us. It is the only time we ever argue. Am I being childish and unreasonable?

you

Dear Carolyn: I recently became fed up with a family member’s habit of making rude comments about others, generally about appearance. I decided to confront her about it via email. I was very careful to stay only on that subject and not attack her (a la, “I don’t like your hair either!”). It basically said, “You were rude. This is a pattern. Maybe you should think about trying to change this.”

Her response was to become defensive and go on the attack, via email. I wrote back that she was right about some things, but this was about her and the hurtful things she says to people. I haven’t heard anything since and I’m not sure how to proceed. This is a family member who I also consider a close friend.

Anonymous

Call her, apologize for hiding behind email, and learn from this.

Your message and motives might have been straight from the angels, but when you chose to scold her at electronic-arm’s length, you ceded the high ground in one stroke.

And, you did attack her. How would you like to open that same email from a “close friend”?

The best way to speak up was in person and right when you witnessed any rudeness. “Hey, why so rough on Auntie Em?” Next best (for next time): in person, and what’s-up? curious vs. stop-that! accusatory.

Whether to accept any peace overtures is up to her, but you need to make them, now. “I thought I was helping, but obviously wasn’t. I hope you’ll forgive me.”

Email Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com, follow her on Facebook at facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at washingtonpost.com.

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