A Coming Out Story; Can We Use Skype for that too?
Dear Dr. Hurd,
I’m 19 and in college. My younger brother wrote to you last summer about my doubts about coming out to my parents. We did as you suggested and, with his support, it went relatively well. As you predicted, they said they loved me and wanted me to be happy. But now they have taken a great interest in that happiness—to the point of wanting to know details about my personal life. They want to meet my “boyfriends,” constantly remind me to “be safe,” and ask all kinds of questions. I appreciate their concern, but my private life should be, well…private. Help me curb their enthusiasm without hurting their feelings.
Dr. Hurd replies,
One approach is to answer only the questions you want to answer. Don’t go any further than that. Don’t volunteer details other than that you’re happy, things are going well, etc. They might get the message and back down.
If this doesn’t work, then say something gentle before you get sharp or defensive. It’s the sharpness that will hurt them, not your desire for privacy. Use your own words and style, but say something like, “I know you’re concerned, mom [or dad], but I’ll be fine.” You might even add, “You raised me well, and I’m being smart and careful.” They’ll appreciate that, especially if it’s true.
In a way, they’re testing the limits. This is new to them and they don’t know how far to go. If you answer questions you consider over the line of privacy, then you’ve conveyed that that line is somewhere different from where it really is. Not smart! Try to be an adult here. In order to be an adult, you must think like one. When you act resentful toward them, you’re acting like a dependent who needs to be obstinate. If you relate to them as an adult, there’s nothing to rebel against. They’re just fellow human beings who love you and are concerned for you.
Does this mean they can ask or do anything they want? Of course not. But there’s nothing to rebel against, either. If you adjust your mindset, you’ll find their enthusiasm—or their anxiety—less difficult to take. Try not to think of them as intrusive so much as anxious. The best way to address that is to simply let yourself be happy. After all, that’s what they said they wanted.
Dear Dr. Hurd,
My partner of four years and I are married and bought a house together. He was recently offered a promotion at his company in exchange for a substantial raise in pay. The bad news is that he has to work from Atlanta. He comes back here every other weekend. The increase in our income will allow us to live very comfortably, but I am terribly lonely and have found myself taking solace in more than an occasional drink. I have a job of my own and simply cannot join him. It is very hard to ignore the major increase in our income, but I am frustrated and tired of having Skype dinners with him.
Dr. Hurd replies,
Was this a joint decision? It sounds like you feel it was imposed on you. Did you and he weigh the pros and cons together? Or did he more or less inform you of his decision to move? If you actually participated in this major decision, then remind yourself of what led you to conclude it was a good idea. Was your reasoning wrong? Did you overlook something important? Did you make a decision based solely on the money and not the other variables, including psychological or emotional ones?
Long-distance relationships are not for everyone. Frankly, I don’t know if they’re for anyone, unless (1) there’s a limited/ clearly defined time-period involved, or (2) the partners already prefer to be apart much of the time. Those are the only contexts in which I’ve ever known of long-distance relationships working.
Think about it. What is a relationship? The criteria vary from person to person, of course, but in some sense, a relationship is someone to come home to; someone to sleep next to and be comfortable and intimate with in the full sense of the term. The moment your partner left for Atlanta, you lost that. You can still feel like you matter, you can still have sex with him occasionally, and you can even (thanks to the wonders of modern technology) dine with him via Skype. But you’re missing the complete package.
Your experience shows just how important the complete package is to you. It’s best to talk with your partner about your dissatisfaction with the status quo. It might take more than one conversation, but at least get it started. Is there the possibility of a time limit to this arrangement? Can you both reach a joint decision on this? Explore the pros and cons together. It’s natural to grieve what you’ve lost. Instead of drinking it away, approach him reasonably and develop a defined plan of action.
Michael J. Hurd, Ph.D., LCSW is a psychotherapist and author. His office may be reached at 302-227-2829. Email questions or comments to Dr. Hurd