Me first!

Joey GarciaI’m 50 years old and have been in a relationship for five years with a man who is 10 years younger. He has three teenage daughters that he allows to manipulate him. I feel more like his child than his partner, and he treats his daughters more like wives than like his children. Am I correct in feeling that this is inappropriate and that I should be treated as his priority? Is it appropriate for him to be involved in situations in which he socializes, at work or in his private life, without ever including me?

It’s significant that you didn’t include any specific situations that illustrate your beau treating you like a child and his daughters like wives. Instead, you’re, well, manipulative. The first question is designed so that anyone who answers it must agree with you or sound idiotic. By asking a loaded question, you reveal your desperation for ammunition to continue the why-don’t-you-love-me-better war. It’s a battle that you probably have waged your entire life in relationships and jobs because you want more attention than you receive from yourself or others. As a result, you’re jealous of the attention your beau bestows on his girls. Perhaps some of his attention is misguided or excessive, but the reality is that divorced parents must put their children first, especially children from previous marriages. If you and your beau were married, engaged to be married or dating seriously, and neither of you had children, it would be appropriate to expect that you would be his priority and he would be yours. If you were married and had children together, you would remain priorities for each other and the children would be priorities for each of you. But, in your case, both of you must put the kids first. If you’re throwing tantrums about this, you are behaving immaturely.

Many teenagers are manipulative, without realizing it. Their understanding of ethics and values, and the little connections in their brains that manage such things, are not fully developed. They need emotionally healthy adults to guide them. Your other concern, about being socially excluded by your beau, is curious. If you don’t enjoy his daughters, and he doesn’t include you in his social life, why are you together? The obvious answer is sex. But that would be shallow, wouldn’t it? It also would reveal that this relationship is based in infatuation, not love (which would explain why it is so frustrating).

I am increasingly angry at the miserable service in restaurants and abhor rewarding it. I also am annoyed by the idea that I should tip salon staff because, unlike restaurant staffers, they are well paid. What is the right thing to do?

Educate. When I receive excellent service at a restaurant, I ask for the name of the server and report their professionalism to the manager. I take great care to be as specific as possible about what I liked and how it contrasts with my other experiences. Regarding tipping: A stylist once told me that she charges what she needs to make, so tipping is unnecessary. In other words, she is a professional, like a psychotherapist or a doctor. If you tip your doctor, then you ought to tip your stylist, too. Otherwise, the tip is a bribe for good and preferential service, which is a way of saying that the salon staff can’t be trusted to be professional. If that’s the case, why are their hands in your hair?

Meditation of the week
“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage,” wrote Anais Nin. So do romantic relationships. If you want yours to expand, be courageous about revealing your damaged ego in a way that leaves you emotionally vulnerable, not an emotional victim.

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