My friend “Diane” and her fiance broke up, and she needs your advice. Last week, her ex-fiance called and invited her to his son’s football game. It was a chance for her to say goodbye to his kids. She went to the game, but sat with his ex-wife. Diane waved to her ex, but did not speak to him. On the way home, she received a cell phone call from his 14-year-old niece who said that her uncle (the ex-fiance) promised her Diane’s engagement ring and wanted to know when she could get it. Diane asked the girl if her uncle told her to call. The girl said yes. Diane said, “Tell him I will only discuss this with him.” Then she called me.
Diane moved from out of state to be with him and paid for the move herself. She also paid for the move back to her home state. She thinks he should have paid for her moving expenses because he’s rich. I told her to have the ring appraised and give him half of the money. What do you think?
I think your friend is auditioning for Desperate Housewives. Think about it: She went to her ex-fiance’s son’s football game at the invitation of her ex-fiance, then sat with his ex-wife? “Diane” is so addicted to drama that she stabs herself in the back. If a teenager asked for my engagement ring, I would probably giggle because the request was so absurd. Then I would thank her for calling, say goodbye and hang up. I would not suggest that her uncle call me. Why? It feeds the dysfunction. The relationship is over. Fini! Plus, the ring was a gift to Diane and it belongs to her.
Diane needs to accept that moving here was a choice and so her expenses are tuition in the University of Life. She should not assume that a man’s wealth means he will pay for her expenses. Being an adult means taking good care of oneself. She should have clarified the payment issue before moving. Instead, she carried her resentment right into her relationship where it rotted the romance. Then she moved out of California and expected him to pay for that. He didn’t give her cash, so she is making him pay emotionally. He obviously agrees that two can play that game. Is it a surprise that they broke up when they are both so intent on being right?
My suggestion to you is to screen your calls. When she leaves a message about a new drama, wait a few days before calling back. Then listen, but don’t try to save her. Instead, suggest therapy. That’s the move she really needs to invest in.
After reading “Mother’s little slackers,” [Ask Joey, September 22] I’ll admit that I have not followed through with disciplining my 18-year-old daughter about cleaning her room. She is a slob! No matter how much I beg, plead, yell or threaten, she always does what she wants: nothing! I, too, have threatened to take away the computer (her most prized possession) if things don’t change, but I haven’t yet. I’ll take your advice and issue some tough love so that she can learn “time management, organization, cooperation, teamwork, delegation, good communication, conflict resolution, etc.”
Good for you! One clarification, though: I’m advocating real love, not tough love. Genuine love includes the challenge to be and become our best. It is patient, firm, consistent and, unfortunately, rare. Most parents are permissive or authoritarian. Permissive parenting invites kids to squander their potential while authoritarian parenting builds resentment and fear about achievement (it’s never enough). I’m glad you’re headed for the middle road.