My girlfriend and I have been dating for six months. (We’re in college.) It’s super awesome! Just one problem: Her ex-boyfriend still texts all the time. Things like: “We’re going to end up together” and “I still love you.” She tells me not to worry; she’s committed to me. But it bothers me that she keeps responding to him and hasn’t told him about us. When I brought it up, she accused me of not trusting her. At the same time, she’s forced me to cut off all contact with my female friends. She says, “Women friends are almost like cheating.” I feel like this is an absurd double standard, but I don’t know what to do. Help!
Boy, we have really different definitions of “super awesome.” Your girlfriend sounds like a bully to me: demanding a code of behavior from you that she actively flouts. This may be an early relationship for you. So, it’s important to learn to spot serious red flags, and there are flaming crimson ones here.
Unless you agreed to date casually, her texting with her ex about their future together is disrespectful to you. And the fact that she’s doing so without telling her ex about you is cruel to him. Perhaps she has feelings for him still or likes the attention. Or maybe she isn’t so sure about you.
This baggage with the ex is problematic, but not terribly unusual. Complex exes abound. But her demand that you stop seeing your women friends — which you seem to have agreed to — makes me very wary of this relationship. (A life without female friends is not worth living!)
Pull back here until you find more equal footing with your girlfriend. Try again to discuss her contact with her ex. (I suggest a moratorium for a spell.) And resume your friendships with women immediately. If she isn’t willing to work with you, save yourself a load of trouble and call it quits now.
His Other Wife Is Work
My husband will retire soon from a job that has been deeply fulfilling to him for decades. It was always his top priority, and I’m happy his career fulfilled him. But his dedication to work meant that there was little left over for our family. As one of our counselors put it: “He had two buckets — one for work and one for everything else.” We in the second bucket got short shrift. He can acknowledge this now. But he’s started asking what kind of retirement party I’m planning for him. My goal is to make peace with what his career cost me and our children, not celebrate it. Can I pass on the party?
I’m sorry that you couldn’t get through to your husband earlier in his career. Based on your counseling comment, though, it sounds as if you really tried. Not that it will be much consolation, but many people struggle to find self-worth apart from career and external validation. Still, you stayed in the marriage.
So, how about compromising on his milestone? Unless your husband is pretty thick, he won’t be shocked to learn that you have mixed feelings about celebrating his career. Speak to him honestly about what you are willing to toast: his transition from workaholic to more attentive husband and father. (Be ready to discuss what this might look like.) If he agrees, party on!
Don’t Look Back
We live in an attached home in a small town on the Hudson River. From the top floor, we have a commanding view of the river. From the back, we see (among other things) our neighbor’s yard, where days of dog droppings are left to accumulate. It is unsightly and unsanitary. We are unsure how to approach our neighbor. We don’t really know her, and there is no common law right to courtesy. What should we do?
Buy drapes. Complaining to people we don’t know about things that aren’t our business is an almost guaranteed lose-lose situation. Your neighbor is entitled to leave the poop on her lawn. And it’s hard to see how this is unsanitary for you. When thoughts of animal droppings consume you, redirect your attention to the magnificent river — or maybe being friendlier to the people next door.
I got an invitation to the high school graduation of a friend’s child. It’s a long plane ride away, and I am definitely not attending. I have no relationship with the child and only a Facebook relationship with the mother, a classmate from 40 years ago. I feel like I was invited so I would give a gift. Do I have to?
Parents are proud of their kids’ achievements. (So, sue them!) If you think so little of your friend that she would grub for $20 to $50, then you already have your answer. (Hard pass!) But I receive these invitations as quasi announcements. If I know the graduate, I send a card and maybe a present. If not, I congratulate the parents, and gifts never cross my mind. Can you live with this approach, fine people?
For help with your awkward situation, send a question to SocialQ@nytimes.com, to Philip Galanes on Facebook or @SocialQPhilip on Twitter.