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Doggy dinner time is a bone of contention
First Published Aug 21 2014 01:01 am • Last Updated Aug 21 2014 01:01 am

Dear Carolyn • I read your piece about the girlfriend who forbids her boyfriend to talk to other girls. I agree this seems like abusive, controlling behavior.

However, I wonder where the line is between being controlling, and being a victim. For instance, what if the boyfriend was a big flirt, or a serial cheater, and was, in fact, having sex with several women. Suppose she asked him to stop hanging out with other women and he refused, telling her she couldn’t control who his friends were. Then she would have to say, "If you don’t stop seeing other women, I will break up with you." In this context, this is proactive, not controlling, right?

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I have tolerated a lot of bad behavior over the years because I have been told what I see isn’t real ("I didn’t put that there, it must have been someone else") and that if I don’t do something his way, I am not being considerate of his feelings (e.g., if I don’t feed the dog promptly at 7).

If, in fact, what I see is NOT real, or if I blithely ignore the dog’s whining and don’t feed him until 8 while I watch "Mad Men" reruns, then I am wrong. But if what I see IS real, and feeding the dog 15 minutes late is no big deal, then I’m right. How do you know?

Dear Anonymous • So if you are "wrong" here, then you’re supposed to stay on his terms, your happiness notwithstanding? Why? If you don’t like how your boyfriend treats you, in your gut — by your standards and no one else’s — then break up. Leaving is suspiciously absent from the choices you present.

To use your example, you can insist your boyfriend flirts and he can insist he doesn’t, but who’s right is irrelevant. You decide whether you want to date him, as-is, and all that entails, then accordingly either break up or accept him as-is.

What you don’t do is try to change each other. If he’s a serial cheater, you don’t ban other women, you leave. A commitment held together only by threats and restrictions isn’t one at all.

So it’s not about who’s right in the great dog-feeding war. It’s: Do you want to stay with someone who harps on dog-feeding times?

Carolyn Hax’s column runs Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.


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