Dear Carolyn: How do you tell someone you love that you think they might have a psychiatric issue that needs to be addressed, i.e., crippling anxiety?
My boyfriend keeps saying he doesn’t want to get married until he’s ready to have kids because he’s stressed out all the time. However, he won’t do anything to alleviate the stress except to suggest moving across the country, where he’s never lived, because the nice weather will make all of his problems go away.
– Wants to Move Forward
A: It will be a big deal later – possibly starting tomorrow – but his anxiety is not the problem here.
The problem is that you have a “move forward” agenda with your boyfriend and you haven’t yet learned to speak the truth to him.
“Your mother has an anxiety disorder. You’re telling me you’re too stressed out for marriage and kids, then doing some dance about weather. Isn’t it time to connect the dots and get screened for anxiety yourself?”
If expressing honest concern is enough to derail your relationship, then, wow, wouldn’t that be a good thing to know before you relocate or reproduce?
“Psychiatric issue” (wrongly) has a bogeyman aura about it, but in fact a long and typical life is, for everyone, a series of challenges both from within and without. To keep them from dominating the course of your life, you have to be able to square yourself and deal with them – and that’s true whether they’re your challenges or your partner’s, clinical or within a normal range, easy to talk about or approachable only after deep breathing, solvable or the end of the relationship.
As-is, you don’t like your life with your boyfriend. The part of your brain that’s willing to admit this has to be the one doing the talking. You love him, so you’re going to worry that using this voice will be mean, but it’s not. Suppressing it is.
Dear Carolyn: What should I say when a friend says, “I wish I could move out of my neighborhood because there are so many members of a certain race?”
A: “See ya.” Certainly people are free to dislike the way a neighborhood is changing, and political correctness doesn’t get to decide whether you like, for example, a vibrant, late-night street scene, or weekdays so quiet that the only signs of life are contractors.
But to associate these shades of culture with shades of skin color is so boneheaded at best, racist at worst, and tone-deaf either way, that I think you have a duty to say, “Did you really just say what I think you just said?” or, of course, the terse and versatile, “Wow.”