Advice: Facebook-Unfriended in Real Life

 

Dear Bartender and Priestess:

I am a stay-at-home mom, who works from home too, and have generally considered myself friendly and able to maintain good friendships. I have a large group of mutual friends and we occasionally get together for celebrations or girls’ nights. But I have a pretty strong political streak, and I think that and Facebook are impacting my social life.

Because I am home all the time, I tend to hang out on Facebook and of course, everyone in my friends list sees everything I post, and I do post a lot of political things. Anyone I knew who might not have been familiar with my political views knows about them now. I lost some peripheral friends over some things I posted, but that didn’t bother me very much. I mean, you’re not “friends” with everyone you’re friends with on Facebook, right?

Now, it seems like even my close friends are cutting me out of their lives. This morning, a friend wrote a post to another friend, talking about how much fun they all had celebrating her birthday out on the town. I was never even invited. I feel like this is related to my political posting. Sometimes, I try to not post as much but I can’t stop myself from talking about these things. I don’t want my friends to only be the friends who share my political views, but I think that’s what starting to happen. Part of me wants to quit Facebook, but I don’t get to get out much and it gives me some human interaction. Help!

Facebookin’ Mama

Dear Mama,

B: There are two things we don’t discuss in my bar. Or polite company. Or any company, unless you’re determined to upset at least one person in the room. One of those topics is religion. The other is politics. The problem with making statements about things like politics, is that it excites strong feelings in people. You have them yourself, when you say things like, “I can’t help posting about things I care about.”

I have issues with “I can’t help”. I’ll get to that in a minute. 

P: Your question is a tangle with a bunch of threads to pull. Some of them are fairly straightforward. Terri has some great things to say here, so let’s start with some practical suggestions.

B: So, you can’t help posting things because they generate a strong enough passion in you that you need to declare it to the world. Consequently, your friends can’t help reacting with their own passion at what you post. There are a few things I want to make perfectly clear here.

  • No one can tell you that you have to stop posting anything to your Facebook page (unless, of course, you’re posting things that are illegal). Your first amendment rights protect you in that regard. You can declare your political affiliations to your heart’s content.
  • That is where your first amendment rights end. You can say what you want, but you cannot dictate your friends’ reactions to your statements. They are free to agree, or not, or think you’re over-the-top, or choose not to associate with you, based on what you say.
  • BECAUSE (and I think this is what trips people up), WHEN YOU SAY SOMETHING ON FACEBOOK, YOU’RE ACTUALLY SAYING IT. There’s absolutely no reason why a friend should read a post of yours and think, “Huh, this post from Jane showed up in my newsfeed and it’s like the hundred others she posts, and it’s diametrically opposed to everything I believe in and that’s all she ever posts, but I’m sure she doesn’t mean all of it, or that I won’t take the constant barrage on my deeply help belief system personally.” You may be a deep thinking, multi-faceted, lovely young woman with a lot of love and loyalty to offer a friend, but you’re changing the public perception of you to relentless wonk who only ever talks politics. Do you want to be friends with that person? I don’t want to be friends with that person. Sometimes, friends just want to share cat videos.
  • And finally…you CAN help what you post. Because you can choose to not post things. You can put a filter on your posts. You can self-edit. If you’re talking to someone, do you feel compelled to say everything you think, even if you know it would be totally disagreeable? My bet is, you know well enough to use a filter in real life. If you want to maintain friendships, you need to start doing the same thing on Facebook. You can’t say something and then not expect to be held responsible for saying it. In fact, because you’re online and not in person, you can take the time to consider what you’re posting. Sometimes, in conversation, gaffes tumble out of one’s mouth before you can stop yourself. But you can consider, carefully, in your own time, if something you’re considering posting is a good idea, or not.

P: If you’re really involved with politics, make a separate Facebook page or group for your political posts and start growing some like-minded friends and people you can talk with about things that seem to matter to you. The world needs people who are informed and willing to do things to make a difference. If you’re looking to make a difference, a page might be your best choice. If you’re looking to vent, make a group. And when you’re tired of it, you can dissolve it.

Are you building something constructive with your platform? Are you offering people something to hold on to — a place they can begin to come together? There are certain people whom I follow who do good research and provide me with provocative and interesting posts to read that make my life richer. It’s good to be one of those people. Boredom is a great tool for going deeper into things that matter.

Why are you posting? What do you want to get out of this? Are you looking to become more informed and involved with politics? Do you want to start looking at local politics and see how you can help move things along? Because there are lots of things that stay at home moms can do to help campaigns both political and service. Working with other people can give you new and fun friends who are interested in what you’re interested in. And you’ll be doing something worthwhile. Oh, indeed, being a good citizen is very worthwhile! And not every friend needs to be all things to you, as you’ve said… but are you practicing that?

If, however, you’re turning off lots of people, I wonder a bit about the way you’re posting. Are you reflexively posting/reposting? Or are you building a foundation for your views? I’m always curious what people are interested in, but I have to say I have no time for the those “you people are stupid” posts so many seem to favor. I’m so over inflammatory posts. Yawn. Or Hide. Or Unfriend. People do that on FB and they do it in real time, which you’re sadly discovering. If this is you, is this who you want to be? Because you’re saying that people you care about are moving away.

The WHAT ARE YOU THINKING gesture transcends all questions.

The WHAT ARE YOU THINKING gesture transcends all questions.

B: What I’m really concerned with in all of this, though, is that you seem to be starving for adult human interaction. I know how it is. It’s so easy, when you work from home, to fall into dysfunction. It’s no problem to stay in your pajamas and not shower and live inside your computer screen. When I started working from home, the first thing I did was join a gym. I figured at least that would force me to shower, and I would see other people besides my beloved. Who is very nice, but not the only person I ever want to see.

Is there something that’s stopping you from getting out there and joining…something? A book club, a gym, an adult enrichment class? Since you claim to be passionate about politics, why don’t you volunteer one night a week with a local political organization? If you connect with an organization you believe in you can satisfy a passion while having an adult conversation—two birds, the same stone.

P People’s leaving or distancing means you’re doing something that’s putting people off. That’s hard to hear. When it’s one person you can kinda go, wow, what’s wrong with them? But when it’s a bunch of people, it may not be them — especially since it seems they’re getting together and having fun without you. And if it’s not them… (draw icky conclusions here.). My shrink used say, “No one needs to love you when you walk into a room throwing up.” Facebook is such a room. Is this what you’re doing.

It sounds as if you might want to call together one or two of your most trusted friends, and say, “huh. I saw that everyone got together and realized I wasn’t invited.” The temptation will be to be accusatory… but what you’re looking for is information so you can make things different/better for you. So you want to say, my friendships are important to me, and I seem to be pushing people away, I trust you guys to tell me the truth, what can I do differently?

And then be prepared for the owie stuff, but try to keep listening. These are friendships you value, so your friends will have good things to say. It’ll be awkward, they won’t always do it right, so you may have to say, ok, all I can feel is hurt, can you find another way to say that to me so I can hear you?

And then sit with the info for a while and figure out what you want to do about it. You may want to talk to a therapist, or you may just want to stop and think about how to invite people more deeply into your life (instead of pushing them away with inflammatory posts).

B: Now, as a friend, I want you to be aware of this: most people? Don’t want to have to defend their beliefs. They don’t want to have a political debate. And they particularly don’t want to have a debate on Facebook. You’re not going to engineer any political epiphanies (OH MY GOD! Now that you’ve posted that meme I see the world differently!) by laying down post after post of contrived political meme-ery. It’s irritating, and a really easy way to turn people against you. I know you don’t want to live in an echo chamber of people who only ever share your political view. But here’s the thing: most people? Do.

Most of my friends know where I stand in relation to them on the political spectrum. I don’t need to engage them over our differences. I have friends who hold very different opinions than I do, and of those friends I know which select few I can debate. Privately. In my home, and not on Facebook. And yes, it’s satisfying when it happens. It sharpens the teeth, stokes the passion in the belly, forces one to think, possibly alter our own perceptions. But you won’t have that kind of relationship with everyone. You need to honor the relationships you have and let them exist as they are. As a stay-at-home, work-at-home mom, the dysfunction of isolation is never far away. We can forget what it’s like to have to interact with other people. Get back out into the world in some way, and connect with people. We form communities for a reason. When you satisfy a passion in real life, you won’t have to rely on your virtual life so much.

P: Good luck with this. I think you have a real opportunity to make a difference both in your life with your friendships and a deepening sense of yourself as a citizen on FB and in the real world. If in fact you want to. And hooray for you for looking at it. This uncomfortable journey may be a great springboard for a life full of more!

 

This sounds like one heck of a cocktail..! ;)

This sounds like one heck of a cocktail..! ;)

Political Partini 

2 parts pear flavored vodka
1/4 parts Amaretto liqueur
1/4 parts simple syrup
1/2 part lemon juice
Pear slice for garnish

Pour into cocktail shaker, strain into cocktail glass and garnish.

Thanks to Deb Slade for her Phabulous Photos, and thanks to George for modeling.

Thanks to The Lewisburg Hotel for the generous use of their location.

If you want to find out more about The Bartender and The Priestess, go here!

Have a question for The Bartender and The Priestess? Email us at bartender priestess (at) gmail (dot) com. Human non-spambots, remove spaces and add appropriate punctuation. All correspondence will be kept confidential (unless you’re doing something illegal).

Thank you for reading! Now, go tell all your friends about us.

 

Advice: Everyday Struggles of my Mixed-Race Relationship

Dear Bartender and Priestess,

I have been with my boyfriend for two years. We’ve had our ups and downs, but we love each other and are committed to our relationship. We have one major stumbling block, though.

We are a couple of mixed race. He is a white man in his late 30s, who has not had a ton of experience trying to understand a life outside of the one he was born into. I am a black woman in the city, and I feel like my identity is tightly wound around my culture, race, and politics. The fact that we hold such different views that stem from our racial backgrounds has caused a lot of fights between us. As a result, we don’t really talk about…well…me. My background. My experiences. He doesn’t give himself a chance to get to know this part of me and what I am about. And he’ll say things occasionally—generalizations in response to a news event, for example—that I think are problematic and even insulting. It’s ignorance on his part, not racism, mind you. He likes to say that race isn’t an issue because we’re all one race, which is nice but not how it is in reality.

Otherwise, he is a fine man. He’s smart, and thoughtful, and a positive force in my life. But I feel like I am at odds with my politics and my personal background. I understand that he doesn’t want to talk about it, particularly because we fight so much as a result. But I am torn. Can you please help me?

–Rock and a Hard Place

P: Oh, how hard. On the one hand you really have so much to celebrate and on the other hand, you’re not being recognized and supported. No wonder you’re confused and a bit, if not betrayed, at least let down. I wish the solutions were quick and easy, but you know in asking that they’re not. What’s great is that you have a clear idea what’s right and strong about your relationship… that’s going to help!

So what’s first? The dynamic may be the most fixable thing. You know a lot about how you feel, although I think you could know more about what you want and need. But there are ways to get to that. I hope you live in a large city where you can find a therapist who knows these issues. If you can say what you want and need without the drama, he’ll either have to listen, or you’ll have to realize that you are not getting everything you need in relationship and then explore your options.

B: My initial reaction—and I think I would have this reaction regardless of the other problems you’ve presented in this letter—is please please please, stop justifying your partner’s terrible behavior. He’s not a racist, he’s just… I can understand why he doesn’t want to talk about it, because… Remove the justifications. He is ignorant. He won’t talk about your life experiences with you. Period.

These are problems.

P: Now, Terri and I, loud women ourselves, don’t ever expect to be limited to a genteel “Oh, my” when egregious and outrageous events happen in the world. Nor should your anger be limited—or worse, squelched—as truths are finally being exposed regarding race and American society, truths that you live every day, and are callous and painful.

It pushes your face, your heart, your very being into realities you may otherwise be able to look away from. Anger, Rage and Fear seem like fairly straightforward responses…

B: One of the things we tend to forget in the day-to-day of a relationship is that we need to be able to talk. Safely. I don’t mean without threat of physical violence (well, of course I do, but I always mean that. If there’s threat of physical violence get out now, because that’s an entirely different letter) but rather, with the intent to be heard and recognized. You and your partner don’t always have to agree on the topic of conversation and you don’t always have to end up with consensus at the end. But you need to be able to feel safe enough, with your partner, in your home, to make yourself heard, particularly about difficult topics that form and inform you as a person. Unfortunately, difficult talks are often overlooked in favor of general companionship (if you don’t talk about THESE THINGS, you get along just fine) or the sense of security a (generally) stable home life provides. And—we’re being honest here, so I’ll say it—dating suuuuuucks. Sometimes it seems easier to stay with the (mostly) nice person in order to not have to start all over again in the squicky waters of the dating pool.

However.

P: I think you need to make sure you have a good support network. Get some clarity about your needs, and remember, you and he are breaking ground. You deserve for him to understand that you carry an unfair and un-asked-for burden as a result of your color and our institutionalized racism. He needs to hear you, that’s true, but you deserve to process this with someone who understands only too well.

B: It doesn’t sound to me like he is allowing you the latitude to speak safely to him in your own home. This is infuriating for several reasons, not the least of which is it’s invalidating. If he shouts you down over your statement that the black community faces different challenges than the white community, and that there’s a systemic problem, he’s part of the problem. The argument CAN be made that for him, his culture and background is important, too, so you need to make sure you celebrate that. Which is great. But he’s not allowing you to incorporate your life into his. Which is not great at all.

He can’t remove the reality of your life because he doesn’t like it, and putting his hands over his ears to “La la la I can’t hear you” into silence doesn’t change your history and experiences. And “We are all one color”, while groovy-sounding on its face, often strikes me as an irresponsible approach to the social problems that affect our communities of color. There IS  a difference that people see, and react to, and make assumptions over, and kill people because of, and that hasn’t gone away. If only we were a post-racial society, then he could say that all he wants and he’d be right. And on a cosmic level, he is right. But on a practical, when-you-take-social-attitudes-and-demographics-into-consideration level, “we’re all the same” is myopic, dismissive, and not terribly helpful, at best.

P: How’s that old chant go? If you’re not outraged, you’re part of the problem. To be joined to that other old chant: If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.

It’s great that people are increasingly willing to engage in mixed race relationships. It’s a sign that things are changing. Life is different. Love does matter. And/but/however, if your beloved is not going to be part of the outrage and the solution, he’s part of the problem that oppresses and outrages you.

You can’t expect mixed race relationships to thrive without acknowledging the realities of this society/country/world. Just because you’re with him doesn’t mean that you don’t have to work harder at work to prove yourself or that you’ll automatically get a cab when you’re alone in the city. It’s no news to you that, as a black woman, you’re endangered.

B: I don’t want you to think we think he’s a bad person, or that he doesn’t love you. I’m sure he’s (generally) very good to you. But he may only ever think in terms of individuals and not be capable of looking at the big picture. It may be all he’s got. What are you prepared to do, if that’s the case?

P: He needs to start reading. And I think you should be able to ask him to go to a workshop like The People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond’s “Undoing Racism.” He needs to go, not with you, but on his own, as a man who wants to understand and support your life and your struggles, personal and political. As a man who wants to make the world better. He’ll hear things differently there.

And I think you deserve a partner that recognizes both how threatened you are and how wonderfully, ragingly powerful — and who works to change the threat and support your power.

In fact, you get to make demands not just of your partner but also of your friends.  And here’s the deal, if you have kids, your kids are going to be mixed race and that means they’re going to have a rougher road than white kids. He needs to do it for any future kids as well. A quick check of stats makes that only too clear.

B: Try and imagine yourself another two years down the line. Two years of not speaking with your partner about what’s in your heart, or of hearing him make statements that are “worrying and insulting”, and swallowing the rebuttal. And another five years, and another ten. Can this status quo continue? Or will something have to give?

You’re writing a letter in search of advice, so my bet is, something’s gotta give. Not speaking to one’s truth, and swallowing responses, causes people to wither. Ann is right; you deserve to thrive. As do we all. The best relationships give us space to grow and express ourselves, not stifle who we are as we justify our partner’s inflexibility.

P: Dominant society’s not excited about shaking white privilege loose. But love demands more. I’d say I think decency demands more, but at the moment we’re looking at your relationship. Love demands your asking. Love demands his going to work.

You say he’s a wonderful man. That ought to help him let go his fears about recognizing his own racism and start dealing with it. It’s a lot to ask you to understand he’s probably afraid of confronting this, but he probably is. But if your relationship is going to thrive, if you’re going to have a chance to thrive in this relationship, if he’s going to love the powerful, angry woman that you are, he has work to do. And you are well within your bounds to ask for that work.

B: I need to say this, because it’s something that we’ve danced around during the course of this letter but haven’t said out loud yet. One of the most difficult things about love and relationships is, sometimes, love isn’t enough. Sometimes, you may love someone, and she or he may be a wonderful person in all these ways, but for whatever reasons, you can’t make it work. That may happen here. He may not be capable of meeting you where you emotionally live, you may not be capable of always having to live according to his rules. It’s heartbreaking and too bad but ultimately, that’s OK. Someone being worthy of love, and someone being worthy of your love (when taking all of you into account) can be two very different things.

P: He fell in love with you. That means he gets all of you, and doesn’t get to pick and choose which parts of you he wants to know about, or not. This is a time of turmoil and change and, hopefully, progress. I hope he wants to be part of the change. You have great faith in him. I hope he can trust that enough to do the work.

Good luck. And may the upheaval you’re experiencing in your relationship lead to something better, safer, saner, and infinitely more satisfying.

bnp 13 napkin

Home is no place to feel like you have to walk on eggshells or be anything less than yourself.

If you want to learn more about The Bartender and The Priestess, go here!

If you have a question for The Bartender and The Priestess, email us at bartender priestess (at) gmail (dot) com. Human non-spambots, remove spaces and insert proper punctuation.

Thank you for reading. Now go tell all your friends about us!

Advice: My Father Won’t Attend My Wedding

Dear Bartender and Priestess,

I am a successful, generally happy gay man. In a matter of a few weeks, I am going to marry the man of my dreams. My boyfriend and I have been together, lived together, for 10 years. Eventually we’re going to throw a huge party for all our friends and extended families, but we decided we want to keep our wedding day small. Immediate families, extremely close friends.

Unfortunately, my father has declared that he’s not coming to my wedding. He hasn’t given me a good reason as to why. He was initially…not thrilled…with my announcement when I came out, but I thought he had grown to accept me and my (now) fiancé. He didn’t seem all that bothered by our relationship when we were just living together but now, stubborn man that he is, he has made his decision, dug his heels in and isn’t budging. He won’t come to my wedding. That’s that.

Of course it bothers me, even if I tell people that it doesn’t. It’s difficult not to compare this to my brother’s (straight) wedding, at which my father was happily in attendance. How can I convince him to come? And if I can’t, how can I make peace with his behavior?

–Disappointed Future Groom

Dear Future Groom (we are leaving out the “disappointed” part!),

First, let us say, congratulations! We are thrilled that you and your beloved are getting married. May you build a grand and glorious life together!

Now. Your father.

P: I’m so sorry your dad is being … so many possibilities here and who knows what he’s being. And we can’t figure that out. Hopefully we can help you come to terms with what you want without the gloss on it. You don’t need to protect him by “being cool.”

I wish I could say this is the first time I’ve run into this. It’s way too common. And the fact that other people are becoming more accepting doesn’t mean that you hurt any less — in fact it may make it worse.

B: Weddings ought to be a time for joy, but like any life-changing event, they can rustle up a whole host of baggage. Much of said baggage ultimately has nothing to do with the principal actors (in this case, you and your fiancé) and everything to do with the third party throwing their baggage into the mix.

That being said, it sure feels like it’s personal. And, as a side note: PLEASE don’t carry any sort of resentment toward your brother for how your father responded to his straight nuptials. Your brother loves who he loves, too. It’s just that for a man, loving a woman doesn’t break new ground.

For parents, a wedding brings a finality to their role in your life. You are so not the kid at Little League any more, or the boy who used to read on the front porch swing, or the gangly kid who’s all arms and legs, with that unruly cowlick. With a marriage you are, undeniably, an adult, making your own way and choosing your own life, and parents’ roles, while still important, inevitably go on the decline. You say that your father has come to accept your life with your partner, but was that when his social status was still just sort of…a partner? He may have thought that one day you’d switch back to women, or he may have preferred not thinking about it at all. Shifting your relationship and your fiancé’s status from “partner” to “husband” is a brave new world for the old guard. You’re getting married and A) declaring your love for this person while B) asserting your right to be recognized as an adult, and your father may not be ready to take this step. To fully accept who you are. To acknowledge he has no control over you any longer.

P: So let’s think about this. Can you say first to yourself, exactly what you want from your dad? Because unless you’re clear with yourself, you lower your odds of getting what you want! What you’ve said is that you want him to be there because he was for your brother. With one family we set it up so she could take a series of steps that helped her clarify what she wanted. 

  1. She had to admit to herself that she wanted to be able to talk about her wedding.
  2. They didn’t need to come, but she needed to let them know that it really hurt that they weren’t coming.
  3. In the end, she was able to tell them, that they needed to get over whatever it was and that they needed to show up, that she deserved that.

The wonderful thing was they listened and were able later to tell me how glad they were they showed up.

But what really mattered was her taking the slow steps through her own pain about what was going on to get clear what she wanted. Your dad may say no. But you will have said what was important and asked for what you want. So what do you want? Get clear. Write it down.

B: Having your father by your side on your wedding day would be nice. It would be wonderful, even. We grow up wanting our parents’ approval and I don’t know if that ever really changes. Theoretically, your father should want what’s best for you, and as an adult you’ve decided that what’s best for you is embodied in the man you’ve shared your life with for a decade. Theoretically, since you are now an adult and a peer, and someone he loves, your father should want your approval too.

P: If your dad isn’t someone who you can talk to about this, or if you can’t talk about this without his being defensive or your being too vulnerable, consider a letter. You don’t want to accuse, you just want to say what you want. “You’re my dad, this is what I want from you.” You might also want to say, “This is my wedding, and it really hurts that you don’t care enough about me, my partner and our happiness to show up.” Be direct. Don’t leave a lot of room for waffling or attacks. Don’t be accusatory. Say what is true.

B: But bear in mind, there’s only so much you can do with a stubborn old man who’s set in his ways, and—here’s the hard lesson—you can’t change him. I’ve said this before, but the only behavior you are capable of controlling is your own. So let me ask you—what do you want to do? How do you want to feel? It’s your wedding day! Do you want to feel happy? Or do you want to feel resentful? Will your father’s decision to not show up affect whether or not you and your fiancé will marry? Of course not! So take the time to rejoice in your love for each other.

As for the sting I know you feel, the disappointment, the rejection…be bigger than it. I know, it’s easier said than done, but I think the healthiest way to move past that sort of pain is to turn it around. Anger won’t help. Sadness won’t help. Both of those reactions allow your bad feelings to remain internal. Those feeling emanate from the question, what’s wrong with me that he did X? You’re still granting your father some right to dictate how you feel. And there’s nothing wrong with you; you’re simply marrying the man that you love.

Again, I KNOW THIS IS DIFFICULT, but your position of strength in all this is compassion for his passive-aggressive behavior, and forgiveness. Forgiveness takes your negative emotions and makes them external, and so much easier to let go. Have compassion for his inability to move forward with the times. Have compassion for whatever negative emotions he might be feeling. Have compassion for whatever planted those seeds in his soul that brought him to this. Forgive him for causing you pain. Forgive him for not being open to your happiness. Forgive him for shuttering himself into his world, at the expense of the people around him. Your happiness with your future husband is not dependent on your father, so forgive your father for his empty, passive-aggressive petulance. Forgive him for not being the parent you want.

P: And then decide what you want to say to people. If you’ve got a lot of feelings, you’re better finding a friend to process this with or a therapist. You don’t need to tell anyone whether or not your dad is coming. You don’t need to tell them how you feel about it, unless they’re beloved friends. Tell your friends about how excited you are about the wedding, marrying your partner. Tell them what a great cake you’re having. Tell them how fabulous your Priestess is and that your Bartender is hi-larious and oh, so skilled. (Oh, right, we’re not doing your wedding. Sorry.)

Because now that it’s just a handful of weeks away, you want to get clear of this and focus on your wedding. Don’t give your dad your wedding day. Because you’re marrying your beloved of ten years! He deserves your wedding to be about him and your commitment. You deserve your wedding to be about him and your commitment. You deserve your wedding to be about you and him.

B: The fact is, we don’t have the families that we want. We have the families that we have, and our recognition of what constitutes a familial landscape is changing. Norman Rockwell is going to have to modernize his Thanksgiving Day family painting. Families are different now, which is neither a good nor a bad thing. It’s just different. But for a lot of people, change is difficult and unwelcome. Don’t let the rut-dwellers impact your happiness. Now, get out there and marry that guy! And take our best wishes for a wonderful, long, strong, healthy, love-filled life.

The path to l'amour is never easy, dearest.

The path to l’amour is never easy, dearest.

To find out more about The Bartender and The Priestess, go here!

If you have a question, email us at bartender priestess (at) gmail (dot) com. Human non-spambots, remove spaces and add appropriate punctuation. All questions will remain confidential.

Thank you for reading! Now go tell all your friends.

Advice: He Yells, I Cry

Dear Bartender and Priestess: I married a man who was raised completely differently than I was. I grew up in a very quiet home. His was loud. We never raised our voices to one another. When my husband gets worked up about something—it can be anything he feels emotionally engaged in—he uses a very strong voice. My emotions are close to the surface, so if we argue and he starts to get loud, I retreat, which usually results in me crying.

We didn’t have a lot of arguments while we were newlyweds, but in the last couple of years they’ve been on the increase. I’m hopeful that this means he’s more willing to tell me about things that make him unhappy, but then my emotional reactions kick in and I start to cry, which makes him feel like the bad guy. And it’s just how I am, that’s what I would do if anyone spoke strongly to me.

I’m prone to creating distance, so I will leave the room when he starts getting loud and try and re-engage him later, but he says this makes him bottle up his feelings. And he never tries to do anything about the way he speaks to me. I know we have wildly different ways of communicating and we need to get better at it. Am I too sensitive? Is that the main thing I should work on?

–Tired of Crying

B: I’m so torn about this. Part of me thinks, abso-fricking-lutely, you need to grow a thicker skin, if you ever want to be a functional member of the world around you. And part of me says no, you don’t need to work on being less sensitive. I don’t know if I would ever advise anyone that it would be better to numb themselves down. Where these parts of me merge is in the belief that you need to work on being more of an adult, and less manipulative about how you manage an argument.

Because make no mistake about it, crying in response to a raised voice is both immature and manipulative. You want the noise to end. You lack the skills to say how it should end, so you pull a reactionary sucker-punch which you hope will shut your husband up. And if that doesn’t work, you walk away.

P: I’ve been on all sides of this argument, even sometimes, I hope, the rational, reasoning one we all want to head toward.

I also grew up in a household that was very quiet and rarely confrontational. Lovely quiet, seemingly calm status quo. We avoided dealing with our own problems AND we never learned to deal with anyone who does it differently.

I have an awful memory from my first job. A VP was telling me about something someone said I was doing (which I wasn’t!). I started to cry. The VP was about to push me out the door until I stopped him with, “Dammit, I have something to say. You’ll have to wait until I’m done crying.”

So I sat and snuffled and then rebutted. Right after that I found a shrink to work with. OK, maybe not right after. But PRETTY SOON, after only a couple more humiliating crying experiences, I found a shrink — because if my response to a surprising situation in the office is to burst into tears, I’m not going to be very effective. Plus, humiliating, and not very grown up. I had to work on my own tendency to leak… which is a not always effective tool in the workplace. Or anywhere.

B: I grew up in a loud household. We were always shouting over one another, and I have carried that trait forward. If I get passionate about something—anything, a sports score, a run in my stocking, a poorly-written news article—I tend to get loud. George has asked me why I’m yelling at him about things he had no control over. I have actually said, “I’m not yelling AT you. I’m yelling NEAR you.”

The thing is, though, he’s still subject to the force of my emotional tirade, even if it’s not specifically directed at him. It makes him feel bad, and I have to take that into account, because my relationship with George is not all about me. We have figured out how to start addressing it, though it took us a while. He tells me, “You’re yelling,” and I try to dial it back. I tell him, “You’re internalizing,” and he works to let his bad feelings go. We’re not perfect at it yet—not by any means!—but we work towards a mutual understanding of how we express ourselves and the effects we have on each other. I think that’s the thing both you and your husband have to learn. You have so many feels you can’t handle passion. He has a streak of bombast that he won’t temper lest he “bottle it up”. And what you’re both doing is creating impenetrable borders between yourselves and the space where you can let your relationship happen.

P: Why are your feelings hurt every time your partner is outraged by what’s going on? His outburst at a baseball score has nothing to do with you.You can handle this — and not just for the marriage. You can manage this because you want to be as effective as you can. A good shrink or an assertiveness training workshop can help. Walking away is only ONE coping mechanism.

B: Yes, it’s a coping mechanism. But who wants to simply cope? What you should aim for is a management strategy. I would love you to try and open up space between you and your husband, mid-yell, and say, “Bill, you’re yelling. You know I don’t like it. Can you please say what you need to say, right now, in a more moderate tone of voice?” It gives him the opportunity to speak his mind without being able to accuse anyone of asking him to bottle things up, and it gives you the opportunity to see that all passionate voice-raising doesn’t have to end in tears.

If neither of you are willing to put the borders of your own selves aside, then I’m concerned for the fate of your marriage. “This is how I am, la la la, too bad, you have to deal with me” is no way to nurture a healthy lifelong partnership. And ultimately, your goal should be that you’re healthy and stable. You can’t be stable if you’re constantly on eggshells, wondering when the next outburst is going to send you into a tizzy.

You're making me tizzy, my head is spinning.

You’re making me tizzy, my head is spinning.

P: BTW, you won’t get it right immediately. And you won’t always have it in you to stand up for yourself. It’s all part of the learning curve.

B: You know, I used to cry, when I would have arguments with my ex. (Yes, really.) I just wanted the noise to stop. We never got anywhere in resolving our differences, because he would feel bad (or frustrated) for making me cry and I was too scared to confront anything. And our relationship became really unhealthy. By the time I grew up enough to start trying to talk to him our perceptions of each other were so damaged we didn’t have common ground. Or the willingness to be vulnerable. We’d built up these tremendous walls. I honestly believe we would have divorced earlier and moved on with our lives with much less damage, if we’d just figured out how to talk to one another.

P: If your partner is a loud guy… his vocal spew isn’t about you. He’s just loud. And a loud conversation or an argument can be, simply, loud. But he’s probably always been that way. So why did you marry a loud guy? And this is a serious question. Think back. Why did you marry this guy despite and because of his decibel issues?

If you married a loud guy thinking you were going to change him, you devalue an aspect of him. He’s a loud guy. He’s probably always going to have the loud opinion and the over-the top reaction. He could probably use a little lesson in cultural sensitivity. Does he do eyerolling, too? Side note: Why is there not an eye-rolling icon? Silicon Valley, get on this. Priestess needs an eyerolling icon, more than she needs many things.

B: Silicon Valley…she’s right, she does. But I digress.

P: But the important point is, darling, you’re not going to change him, because he’s a loud guy. Now, as for your increased fighting. I’m a lot better about this in the abstract than in reality. My husband and I are not talented at fighting. And let’s be clear. Not everything’s a discussion to be worked out. Some of it’s just fighting.

I yell, wanting to be heard. He yells too. And he’s also particularly sensitive.

Luckily we’re completely committed. But we both say stuuuuuuuuupid things. And we both need to learn to shut up and listen. We both need to walk away. And we, both of us alphas, need to learn that there are some things we just don’t care about. And we’re working on those things.

How are you working on it? Looking for someone to take sides doesn’t help. Ganging up on a loved one does NOT lead you forward in relationship.

B: Fighting ought to have an objective. Theoretically, you’re having an argument because there is dissonance in your relationship and you would like peace. I feel like I say this a lot, but you need to make space for the relationship to happen, and that means you need the space for an argument, too. It has to be about a specific thing outside your own selves (“We need to keep an eye on our finances so please make sure all ATM withdrawals are logged in the check register”), rather than an attack (“Why don’t you ever log your stupid ATM withdrawals? How irresponsible are you?”). A good argument should have mutual resolution in mind, not one-sided victory. It should never devolve into anything other than the original topic of discord (“And another thing: six months ago you said you would…!”). And it should, at the end of it all, give you both a better understand of who each other is and where you stand in regards to one another.

You can’t get there if he’s yelling and you’re crying. Or if he’s yelling and you’re walking away. All you’re doing is blocking each other out, putting up walls. No one ever looked at their partner’s walls and said, ooh, nice walls! I gotta get me some of those! And going back later to talk usually doesn’t work, because you’ve already hurt each other by not being there at a crisis point.

P: Put yourself and your well-being first, because you don’t want to be at the mercy of your sensitive feelings every time a disagreement erupts. At home, in friendships, and at the office, you lose the opportunity to provide your own input. You avoid setting things right. And you stop growth because everyone stops to take care of you. You are so much more powerful than that but it’s time to use your powers for the good. It’s time to start figuring out what you want from this relationship. His broad enthusiasm, and your emotional sensitivity, can be wonderful if you can make it work.

And then, when you have your goals settled a bit, find a workshop (there are a billion out there) that helps you work on communication with each other.

Workshops work because there’s often a blend of doing your own personal work that reminds you both how much you love each other (which leads to fun when you get home or even better in your hotel room in the middle of the workshop), helps you build skills, and reminds you that there are lots of people who are not innately skilled at talking things through.

B: My Priestess is right! You have to put your well-being first. You can’t be in a healthy relationship if you’re not healthy, yourself. Or, at the very least, working towards it. Love and attraction are great to have in any relationship, but the day-to-day mechanics of living together…talking to each other…respecting each other…honoring and tending to your partner’s vulnerabilities…managing all that requires compassionate effort, and can be so difficult when feelings and egos get in the way.

P: My dear, you are not the only couple with communications differences and problems. But you could be one of the couples that makes it work in your favor!

Relationships. Finding their own balance is key.

Relationships. Finding their own balance is key.

To find out more about The Bartender and The Priestess, go here!

Thanks to the Lewisburg Hotel for their generous use of location!

Thanks to Deb Slade for her Phabulous Photos!

Thanks to models George and Marjorie for playing along!

If you have a question for The Bartender and The Priestess, email us at bartender priestess (at) gmail (dot) com; human non-spambots, remove spaces and insert proper punctuation. 

Thanks for reading! Now go tell all your friends.

 

Advice: Surprise! There’s a Camera in my Bedroom

Dear Bartender and Priestess,

I was raised Catholic, and my parents and I go to church semi-regularly. I am 19 years old and in college, and still live with my parents. Recently, I learned something that’s kind of freaking me out and I don’t know what to do.

Our house was broken into several years ago, and after that my parents installed perimeter cameras. I didn’t know they had installed any cameras inside the house. Surprise, surprise. Suffice to say, when I’ve been alone in the house I have occasionally done things to relieve certain urges, and I sometimes walk around nude in my room after a shower.

On the one hand, I want to confront my parents about this, but I don’t want them to have a reason to go into their video archive and watch anything for themselves. I suspect that since they haven’t said anything they haven’t watched anything, but that’s the problem. I don’t know what they know. On the other hand, I feel like I should just let it drop. I mean, they’re my parents, right? It’s not like anything bad has come of this.

I’ve been hearing all about the sins of self-love for my entire life. I don’t totally agree with the way the church talks about it but I still don’t know how I would feel about confronting my parents about it.  What should I do?

–Not As Alone As I Thought

P: Pssst… Set ‘em up, Terri, we need to steady our nerves if we’re going to talk about parents who spy on their kids when they’re grown ups. Yikes.

B: Imma answer this as soon as I’m done beating my head against the bar.

Dear Not Alone,

It seems like paranoia runs in your family. Your parents are paranoid that someone might be manhandling their little girl, and you’re paranoid that your parents might know that all the manhandling in your room is being done by you.

What’s a Catholic girl with burgeoning sexuality to do?

There are a few things happening here. One: you’re going through an enormous growing pang. Two: you’re an adult now and need to set down some new parameters. Three: your parents are, unfortunately, a little bit creepy, and need to stop.

The first thing I want you to do, regarding growing pangs, is to start calling things by their real names. Whether you’re “doing things to relieve certain urges”, or tickling your taco, or flicking the bean, what you’re actually doing is masturbating. Say it at least once before returning to the more adorable-sounding bean-flicking. Masturbate. See? It’s just a word, and an adult one, at that.

I also want to take a moment to redirect your focus. This isn’t a letter about whether or not you should masturbate (because oh, honey, you should get to know yourself in every way possible, and this is simply an avenue of your blossoming sex life) or what your parents might think if they know you do it. It’s a question of adulthood and privacy, and where boundary lines need to be drawn. It’s also…not really…a question of what they have or have not seen, because you’ve done nothing to be ashamed of (walked around naked in your own room? Played the flesh fiddle?) and besides, what’s been done is done, what’s been seen is seen. Do you need to know exactly what they saw and when? Because…why? Your issue ought to be more that they respect the privacy you deserve.

P: Not that I think it’s particularly relevant to your parents’ spying, but since I’m the priestess, let me address the whole masturbation thing from a religious standpoint. There’s only one mention of what we think of as masturbation in the Hebrew Scriptures. You can look it up (Gen. 38.9). When Onan’s elder brother died, O was forced to give the brother’s widow a child so she had a way to claim a livelihood. He did not, and his babyjuice hit the dirt, which then became a sin. It had to do with wasting “seed” which at that point was considered to “belong” to the patriarch, who decided where wombs were impregnated and seed was spent. So it was a flouting of responsibility that had nothing to do with his having a great time on his own.

But worries about masturbation are ways to control people, and in particular women. Although in my youth, there were plenty of “worried” jokes about boys growing hairy palms — which come to think of it, might have added some welcome friction… but I digress.

If you read the literature, the worries are more about your knowing what you want, and anticipating a good sexual relationship with your future partner. Can’t have that.

It also conflates masturbation with obsession rather than natural urges. Sigh. Glad you’re taking care of yourself. Hope your fantasies are lovely and not demeaning. If because of your training they’re not great, you might want to work on redoing your fantasy life. Because as the Bartender says, and she hears as much of this as I do, exploring yourself and your sexuality is a wonderful, important step in your life.

P: If in fact there’s a camera in your bedroom that is active. this is creepy. It’s also weird. Be very sure it’s an active camera before you talk to them. But …

The fact that the first thing you think about when you say your parents are looking at you is masturbation probably means you’re not doing hard drugs, so it’s not as if there were any reason for them to be suspicious, even if it weren’t still furtive and icky.  And yes, I’d be completely weirded out if I thought my parents were watching me walk around naked in my room or watching me “take care of urges.” Because this? Is spying. Or even creepier, voyerism.

B: You don’t specifically state in which room you’ve discovered this unwanted gaze, but since we’re talking about masturbating then I will assume it’s in your bedroom, since a camera in the bathroom is far too disturbing for me to contemplate.

If the camera IS in a public space, like the living room, then all bets are off. Stop wanking off in trafficked areas! And rewrite this letter so we can discuss your secret desire to get caught.

So you have a camera in your bedroom. Ick. One that your parents never told you they installed, double-ick. And it needs to be un-installed, or at the very least, blocked.

You can do one of a few things. You can cover the camera with a T-shirt and wait until your parents say something to you. This is passive, but you can at least feel comfortable knowing you aren’t being filmed in your down time. Or your get-down time. And if your parents do mention something, then you can tell them you don’t appreciate being filmed without your knowledge or consent, and you consider it a violation of the general principles of privacy that a parent ought to bestow upon their child.

You might want to practice saying that part until you get used to it.

You can address the issue straight on, and tell your mother and father that you discovered there is a camera in your bedroom. You can tell them you don’t think it’s right, that it violates your privacy, and that you expect them to remove the camera tout de suite, or you’ll pull it out of the wall yourself.

Can you disconnect it yourself? Because if you can, that’s a possibility. Leave it on the kitchen table with a note: Hey, you must have left this in my room, because I know it’s not mine.

Or you can leave the camera where it is, and walk around resenting them for being intrusive.

Because a camera in your bedroom IS intrusive, and it robs you of your autonomy and your sense of well-being. Have you felt “normal” since you discovered the camera? Or have you felt freaked out and vaguely guilty, even though you’ve done nothing wrong? My guess is “freaked out and vaguely guilty”, because otherwise, you wouldn’t be writing to us. And you need to understand: NOBODY ought to be permitted to make you feel like that. Especially not if it’s you granting the permission. And if you don’t take any course of action and leave the camera as-is, then you’re giving tacit permission for them to continue to make you feel bad. Inaction is an action. Bonus! The negative feelings will stay, too. This is a major test of your status as an adult. The problem with being an adult is, often (and for me as well), figuring out how to act like one.

Now, it’s possible your parents will push back and offer up the “If you’re living in my house then you’re living by my rules”, which once again invalidates your status as an adult. If that happens, then you’re at another crossroad (and believe me, the crossroads never stop appearing in front of you, no matter how slick you think you are at organizing your life). It will be up to you to decide if you want to move on campus, or move out, or continue as you are in their house—camera and all—until you graduate from college. Because of your age they can absolutely withhold your ability to get financial aid (and can do so until you’re 24) so if you intend to stay in college you probably don’t want to alienate them entirely.

I wish I had an easier answer for you, because the question really isn’t about whether or not you—like pretty much every other human being in the world—masturbates, and whether or not your parents know. It’s about whether or not you deserve the privacy a closed door ought to signify. I say, of course you do. The trick is getting your parents to see it that way too.

P: Privacy. Yes. They don’t believe in it. And sadly, what comes up is that whatever your parents have taught you about honesty… they don’t believe. They have chosen lying over honesty so that they can spy on you. And how did you find out? Have you been sneaking around? This is not a family trait you want to take on…

I understand that it’s nice to live at home and inexpensive. And you may be going to school and pursuing dreams. And I want you to have dreams and pursue them.

It is not good for a 19 year old to be under secret surveillance. They’re saying, whatever they think they’re saying, that they think you’re going to run off the rails. We internalize what people think of us. So we start thinking about running off the rails rather than pursuing our dreams.

If you think they’re open, and I have my suspicions, you can talk with them about stopping it. You can say you’re aghast, you feel invaded, that you’ve never given them cause to be suspicious and this is a terrible way to relate to you. Do you have siblings? Because if you do this is information they need and they may want to join you in this intervention.

But siblings aside, I think you’d better be prepared to move out. Which means you need to prepare. Do you have a job? Get one. Doing anything. Until you can afford to move out, you might start paying rent. Get a contract with them that precludes their spying on you. If you think they can be trusted. And so far, they haven’t shown you that they can.

I know it’s easy to have them pay for things. But they’re stealing your independence. Even for love, that’s too big a price to pay.

Bottom line: it's time to start standing up for how you want to be treated.

Bottom line: it’s time to start standing up for how you want to be treated.

If you have a question for The Bartender and The Priestess, email us at bartender priestess (at) gmail (dot) com. Non-spambot humans, remove spaces and insert proper punctuation.

For more information about The Bartender and The Priestess, go here!

Thank you for reading! Now go tell all your friends about us. 

Advice: He Cheated Once. Now What?

Dear Bartender and Priestess,

Some years ago, my husband was unfaithful to me with a co-worker. We decided we still loved each other enough to stay together and put this nastiness behind us, and have managed to rebuild our marriage since then.

But. Of course there’s a but. He used to work with this one woman that he’s still friends with. When they worked together they often exchanged conversation during their down times (mornings before work, or during a coffee break), and from what I understand nothing ever came of it. She has taken another job at a different company, but they maintain their friendship. She’ll send him emails asking how he is, or forward jokes to him.

I can’t help but think that he’s connecting with her through his work email to keep this relationship secret from me. Why not just use our home email account? Am I just paranoid, or insecure, or what? This is driving me crazy. If their friendship is just platonic, why try and keep me from knowing about it? Why not just tell me? My guess is he would say he is keeping this friendship from me so I wouldn’t have to endure the knowledge that he’s friends with her. But why all this going behind my back?

–Fretting and Fearful

 

Dear F&F,

P: I think there are a lot of questions to be looked at here. Marriage. It’s complicated.

I guess the first question I’d want to know is what kind of work did you do to put the “nastiness,” or as we like to call it infidelity behind you? Did you actually do therapy and talk about what happened or did you just pave over it? Because (am I really going to use a paving analogy here?) roads crack if the road bed isn’t solid. (I guess I am.)

If you’ve done the work, and somehow I’m not hearing that in your description, then it should be fairly easy to enter into an ongoing conversation.

B: My initial question is: How long do you plan to conduct a relationship with someone you don’t trust?

The unfortunate thing is when a relationship suffers a betrayal, and the parties agree to stay together, it inherently requires that both parties work to move forward in that relationship. Which means leaving the past in the past and facing the future together. Which is, of course, easier said than done. You don’t mention whether you two went to marriage counseling.

It is entirely understandable that you are gunshy about your husband’s making friends with a woman at work. It’s also understandable that you spend more than a reasonable amount of time thinking…and thinking…and thinking…about his history and how it matches up with his present.

It’s understandable. It’s not acceptable. Note the distinction.

Hmmmm…conducting this through his work email, so you don’t find out about it…

Does that mean you’re snooping his emails? Going through his phone while he’s in the shower, hacking his work email account when he goes out to run errands?

P: I also noticed that you don’t say how you found out about the email relationship he’s having with this former co-worker. You don’t make it sound like it was through a conversation you had with your husband. If you’re snooping, and perhaps not without reason, then you haven’t really put the past behind you. We all need our space in relationship, but when there’s been infidelity, some things, more than others require disclosure so as not to arouse suspicion. He was the one who was unfaithful, he needs to avoid certain behaviors, honoring you, your relationship and your realistic fears.

That said, snooping raises another flag. I would find it difficult to be in a relationship where I was tempted to spend my time keeping tabs on my partner rather than reading or writing the next great American novel… or even playing solitaire on line.

B: Seriously, honey, if that’s the case then you need to settle down. First of all, if you’re compromising his work email, you may place him in a precarious position at his job, since there may be sensitive business information there that is only meant for employee access. And secondly, his cheating on you does not immediately void him of any sort of privacy. He has a right to a personal life that doesn’t include you. Would you like it if he read your diary? Or hacked your email, or scrolled your phone? Of course not, it’s your private stuff, your inner life. You deserve that much, right? Why doesn’t he?

Take our advice, friend!

Take our advice, friend!

P: But snooping is an awful waste of your time. You deserve a relationship where that’s not necessary. And you deserve to be a person who isn’t constantly suspicious. You’ve got some of your own stuff to deal with — which doesn’t in any way negate his responsibilities!

B: There are three elements in every relationship. There is Partner 1. There is Partner 2. And there is the relationship. Both partners come to the relationship with baggage, and history, and quirks, and humor, that have been formed and are independent of the formation of said partnering. Being in a relationship doesn’t eliminate the boundaries between one person and another; you are still separate, distinct creatures. Your husband, independently of you, can be friendly with other people, particularly ones that he’s had to share a third of his waking life with. That share at least a nominative professional interest.

Then you say, “I can’t help but think…”. So, you assume. You are finding him guilty every day of a past offense, and not even giving him the benefit of explaining himself. Is it because you ARE snooping and don’t want to admit that to him? Regardless of why you’re doing this, the thing is, you’re having entire conversations with him INSIDE YOUR HEAD that he’s not even aware of. Partner 1, Partner 2, the relationship. You’re having your relationship without including Partner 2, which is no relationship at all. If you choose to stay in a relationship, then choose it in all its fully-formed, three-pronged messy glory. Tend to it. Have the difficult talk wherein you lay out your fears and concerns and insecurities. If he’s hiding an innocent friendship from you then believe me, he senses this already.

P: We don’t know what kind of relationship he’s having with her. If he’s on a list of people she emails jokes to, then that’s one thing. If it’s a deeper friendship then that’s another.

Responses would be different depending on what they’re doing. People don’t need to be doing the bed mambo to be unfaithful to their vows and relationships.

So, I’m never buying the “but we’re not sleeping together.” Sex? It’s sex and it’s complicated. But emotional infidelity? If he’s sharing with her, he’s holding back from you. And if he’s hiding that he’s sharing with her, he’s holding back from you and she’s… oh, right we don’t care so much about her.

B: The fact is, your husband has a job which involves him going out into the work force, and unless he works at the He-Man Woman Hater’s Club, he’s going to encounter female co-workers. Also, people tend to try and get along with—even befriend!—people they’re in an office with for forty hours + per week. I would worry that he wasn’t making any sort of friendship with female co-workers, because when people work together that’s a normal thing to do.

P: In healthy relationships, you don’t always gauge the people according to whether your spousal unit will like them, but you pay attention, especially when they’re the opposite sex. Generally, it’s good when we say, hey, I know this great woman from work, let’s make a double date and go out with her and her husband, I think we’ll get along.

But if that didn’t get suggested when they were working together… you’re not wrong to ask questions. And the oh, I wouldn’t want to hurt you? Um… too late. You are. Lying to me hurts me. And this is lying. Omission, commission, schmomission… Lying!

Because, if you develop a friendship with someone your partner doesn’t particularly want to hang with, you find something in the relationship with this new friend to share with your partner. Share the jokes or progress on the joint project. All of us, if we’re healthy, have friends with people of the opposite sex. Certainly my husband and I do. But we know what’s going on in one another’s lives. We know who the friends are and why we’re hanging out. I don’t want to go to his music meetings. He doesn’t particularly want to go to my ministerial stuff. Both of us have challenging and interesting relationships with other people outside our marriage… and we’re glad to share that with one another. This doesn’t sound like that. Sure, one of us may forget to mention we had lunch with so-and-so, but that’s really different that hiding that we’re talking to someone by private message every single morning.

B: While all that is true, the only behavior you can ultimately control is your own. How do YOU want to handle this? Do you want to confront him about his friendship and explain—calmly, with reason on your side—why you don’t like it? Or do you want to be tense in your guts and hope to that he just figures it out on his own? No matter what you think he might think, he’s not a mind reader, and neither are you. I can hear you right now…but he..! But he..!  Yes, but he. I know, right? He did it. He cheated. And years later, he is still being tried daily and found guilty of an offense he committed, by your own admission, years ago. Two? Ten? I don’t know. But you haven’t moved on, since you’re living in his betrayal every day.

Sure, I would most certainly have things to say to him about this, too. But I’m talking to you.

P: So, I want to know are you getting counseling? In a healthy relationship, it’s good when we want more than for our partner not to fool around on us. What do you want from this marriage? Is that realistic with this partner. Because his lying and cheating negates he knows how to build an addition on your house. One you can hire out for… the other, not so much. And if he’s NOT lying and cheating, you’re wasting precious time and narrowing what you are getting for one another.

B: I almost think you have the harder job than he does in the recovery of an affair, because you’re the one whose feelings were trampled on. If you want to function more healthily, you’ve got to learn to let your anger and resentment go, and put your trust in someone who has already violated it once. That’s tough, I get it. But right now, the options before you are A) living with stress-inducing, crazy-making insecurity or B) agreeing to find a way to put this past in the past and truly, as partners, move forward together. Or C) splitting up, if neither A nor B are feasible options. You may want to find a marriage counselor to help guide you through this rocky time. But the sake of your health and your heart, find a way to live in the present, and come to understand the husband you have now, not the one who betrayed you then.

P: I’m just big on people’s being happy and healthy. Sneaking peeks at the relationship is like sneaking chocolate. Sneaking and good health and good relationships are not compatible. (I know. That is so not fun to hear.) If he’s going to have these relationships while being in your marriage, are you willing to accept that and develop other interests? Or are you going to set some firm boundaries about what’s ok and what’s not — for you?

That's how it is.

That’s how it is.

 

Thanks to Deb Slade for her Phabulous Photography!

Thanks to the Lewisburg Hotel for location, location, location!

Thanks to glamorous model Marjorie for joining us on our photo shoot!

If you want to know more about The Bartender and The Priestess, go here!

Got a question? Email us at bartender priestess (at) gmail (dot) com. If you are a non-human spambot, remove spaces and insert punctuation. All questions are confidential.

Thank you for reading!

Advice: Eating Disorders, Honesty, and Marriage

Dear Bartender and Priestess,

I have always believed that couples are allowed to keep portions of themselves locked away from their partners. You know, the part where we keep our deep secrets, where we can turn thoughts over as we work to understand how these thoughts and memories and philosophies have helped shape us into the people we become. (I mean, does my husband need to know that when I was a kid I had a secret crush on Walter Matthau? But he was so funny..!) My husband similarly keeps things to himself; I didn’t know about when he nearly got expelled from high school, until we had been together for quite a while. Suffice it to say, we both have our skeletons, and I think they can, for the most part, stay deep in our respective closets.

I do struggle more with some issues than other, however. For more than a decade, I’ve hidden my binge eating from my husband. It kind of didn’t matter. I was handling it, you know? And it wasn’t like it was something I did every day. I reasoned that I would keep it from him because it was my problem, not his, and…OK, I admit it, I’m ashamed of it. And I’ve started to realize just how bad this is for me.

I need to fix this. It’s not going away, and I am not getting better. My kids are getting older, and I don’t want them to normalize any of my behavior. I feel so trite when I think about by binge eating, because it connects to a litany of problems. Oh, great, I’m Therapy Girl. But I need to be free of this, and I have to say…I have no idea what to say to my husband. What’s my opener? Hey, honey, funny story, but I thought you should know I compulsively cram food in my mouth until I’m ready to burst, and then tearfully throw out all the evidence?

Sincerely,

Sick And Tired Of All This

Dear Sick and Tired,

B: Indeed, you are absolutely right. A coupled relationship is made of two separate individuals, both of whom have the right to keep some things…

HOLY POCKETS! Hold the phone! Wait one second…did you just compare having an oddball man-crush (for the record, I crush on Oliver Platt, want to make something of it?) with having an eating disorder?

You do realize, these two things are not legitimate comparatives, right? That’s not a matter of pitting apples vs. oranges, that’s like trying to compare apples vs. nuclear submarines.

What I find interesting, and heartbreaking, is the way you diminish yourself and your issues under a jokey mask. You ha-ha, push away, then denigrate yourself for being some kind of pathetic “Therapy Girl”. Do you think you don’t deserve to spend time on yourself? Does asking for help give you heartburn?

I understand, it can be incredibly difficult to admit that you’re vulnerable. That you have a problem, that you need help. There is a culture in the US that glorifies the idea that you can A) pull yourself up by your bootstraps as you B) stoically suffer in silence. You know what that brings? Worn out boots and endless suffering. And, in your case, a face full of whatever’s in the fridge. I want you to repeat after me: THERE IS NO SHAME IN GETTING HELP WHEN I NEED IT. THERE IS NO SHAME IN GETTING HELP WHEN I NEED IT. Again. THERE IS NO SHAME IN GETTING HELP WHEN I NEED IT.

P: I’m really glad you wrote to us, because it means you’re scared enough to do something about it. Terri’s points are really well taken. There is no shame in getting help, in fact, there are only kudos for thinking you’re worth it.

I think you’re missing the point that this isn’t just a shameful habit, it’s a disease that is harmful to you. Eating disorders aren’t a problem just because you’re controlling your world through food (and of course binge eating is giving up all control), they do your body damage.

You’re owning up to living with this for at least a decade. Now is the time to get help. This isn’t about calling a therapist (this isn’t JUST about calling a therapist.) This is about calling your doctor immediately and getting enrolled in a program.

Many food disorders need to be dealt with in live-in programs. This could be a question of life or death. I think writing to us is a statement that you’re willing to choose life. Because nobody writes to the Bartender and the Priestess thinking we’re going to say, there, there, don’t bother.

I’ve known two people who died of eating disorders and many who have spent years in in-house programs. We don’t want this to be you. We want you to live and be happy and healthy.

We hope you want the same.

B: What Ann says. Binge-eating isn’t just a “thing”. You don’t have a weirdo quirk, like having to put your left shoe on before you put on your right. And it’s not like having an inexplicable crush on a potato-faced celebrity. You have a legitimate disorder and it is serious. Your binge eating could impact your health in the long run, as it has been shown to contribute to various diseases, like type-2 diabetes, high blood pressure, osteoarthritis, and certain cancers, just to name a few.

P: Of course, ultimately, you’re right in that this is your problem. Addictions have family implications, but they’re an individual’s problem and disease. It’s the weird thing about addictions — They are diseases, to be sure; but they’re also a problem. It is up to you to decide you’re worth saving. This is your chance. Take it. Do something with it.

And, this is your partner, your mate, to whom you promised faithfulness. Lying about anything is cheating. Lying about addiction that is potentially harmful to you and to your family system is big time cheating. Marriages need honesty: first, with yourself; then, with each other. Hell, every relationship needs honesty. Who else are you lying to? And is being a liar how you want to think of yourself? No, it’s not. So you need to stop. However painful that is. But when you’re telling the truth, remember, you’ve said you’d handle this for years now. You haven’t — because it is both a problem and a disease.

So now you need to try something different, something that admits the imperfections, (everyone has them, know that, everyone), and starts working on honesty in self and in marriage. Imagine a life where you had no dirty, little secrets. It would be so freeing. It would be so healthy.

B: Why do you think your husband doesn’t need to know this? If he were, say, an alcoholic, do you think it would be his problem and his alone to manage? I would hope you’d say, of course not. I would hope you’d say, I married you, and we are a unit, and I will be there to support you as you struggle to regain control of your life. I would hope you wouldn’t say, “La la, your problem, bud, not mine. See you later!” And if you would say that to your life partner, then I would have to ask, why are you even married? We are supposed to find comfort and support in a relationship, not every-man-for-himself-ism.

P: You have children. Giving life means honoring it. It means honoring your own life and sticking around to raise the ones you brought to life. You need to model good health. You owe them the healthiest you you can possibly give them.

PS, your children probably know more about your disease than you think. You probably spend more vulnerable moments with them than with your husband. You’re used to hiding it from your husband; in even the closest marriages, you have a lot of time apart. The kids are with you and they’re always watching. And learning. Do you want to teach your kids to binge, or do you want to teach them that it’s really, really unhealthy.

And kids have a keen nose for lying. You not only want them to think their health is important, you want them not to lie. Lying’s a lousy way to go through life… you’re recognizing that now. That’s what you came to us wanting to change.

You also want them to know they can trust the people they love — family and friends to know the worst about you and love you still.

B: I’m glad that you’re motivated by not wanting this behavior to seen normal to your children, because they deserve better than to have to grow up under the burden of your issues. I just wish your primary motivation was because you loved yourself too much to keep hurting yourself. You talk about your concerns about your husband (does he really need to know…) and your concerns about your children, but where is your concern for you? When you finally say you know it’s bad for you, you immediately counter that by declaring yourself “trite”. Oh, dearest. How I wish you would make yourself a priority.

Going back to your initial question: yes, it is OK to keep skeletons in the closet. If you cheated on your high school boyfriend, learned life lessons from your un-stellar behavior, and don’t feel like that needs to be listed on your disclosure sheet, that’s fine. I don’t think anyone in a relationship needs to discuss former lovers, their “number”, or what your aspirations at age 12 were for your adult career. I don’t think you necessarily have to talk about your awkward period, what color bike you had, when you had your first beer, or any of that. UNLESS it is still impacting your life. You had your first beer at 15 and haven’t stopped drinking yet? Disclose. You cheated on your high school boyfriend and now he’s stalking you? Disclose. When you were 12 you really wanted to be a marine biologist but your parents would only send you to school for accounting, and you’re still resentful and angry about it? Disclose.

You have a potentially life-threatening eating disorder that you’ve struggled with for a decade?

Disclose.

There’s no way to soften the telling, there’s no jokey mask to hide behind. Send the kids away for an overnight with a babysitter, then sit your husband down and talk to him. Just say it. Write it down if you need to, so you have a script in front of you that you can simply read. Forbid him from speaking until you’re done, if you think you don’t have the wherewithal to get past interruptions. But for mercy’s sake, tell him. And then make yourself a priority, so you can let the healing begin.

P: Right. This is not an insignificant issue that might make him think less of you; this is your life, and your sense of self worth. Even if you think he’s going to bolt if you tell him, hiding this is not an option; not if you’re going to get better. I do think you have a couple options in the way you tell him. Which will feel better to you? Which will help him cope?

Do what the Beautiful Bartender suggests: Make the time and the space, tell him.

See your doctor; be clear with the doc and yourself that this is an emergency. Be ruthlessly honest. Find out what your options are — and then, sit down and do what the Beautiful Bartender suggests.

Bottom line: Care for yourself, as much as you care for your family.

Bottom line: Care for yourself, as much as you care for your family.

To find out more about The Bartender and The Priestess, go here!

If you have a question you’d like us to answer, please email us at bartender priestess (at) gmail (dot) com. Human non-spambots, remove spaces and insert punctuation. 

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