Home Dating Issues Carolyn Hax: She’s a champ at adulting. Can she love a late...

Carolyn Hax: She’s a champ at adulting. Can she love a late bloomer?



Dear Carolyn: Recently I met this great girl, “Lisa,” who is 29 (I’m 26) and lives two hours away from me. I work full-time, I’m finishing up college, and I still live with my parents. Lisa has a really great job and even bought a small house two years ago. She really has her life together.

I’m years away from being where she is. She doesn’t know I live with my parents, though I am going to tell her.

Would a woman like her consider that to be a problem? If we enter a committed relationship, would she expect me to move in with her and contribute to the bills? I won’t be ready until I complete school. Right now, I have no savings since that all went into college. At what point should I break all of that to her?

— Not on the Same Level

Not on the Same Level: Well, you’re also years away from being Lisa’s age, so don’t be too tough on yourself.

And neither of us will know what Lisa expects till you get there. Lisa might not even know.

So tell her soon — vs. “break all of that to her” — at your first natural opportunity. Meaning, just talk about your normal life as the normal part of the getting-to-know-you process. “Breaking” is for bad news.

Besides the lack of savings (which you’re on track to fix), your news isn’t bad; it’s just good news at an earlier developmental stage than you’d like it to be. Fine. That happens. Getting a degree as a (slightly) older student is a sign of maturity. Working full-time while you do that requires focus and discipline. Living with your parents until you finish your degree is financially responsible.

Share it all as a matter of fact. Managing under less-than-ideal circumstances in service of a larger goal is a skill a lot of us could use in greater abundance.

Will Lisa be impressed? Maybe not. And if not, then that won’t be a reflection on her character; it’ll just mean she has something else in mind for herself right now.

More important, it won’t be a reflection on you, either — not on your character, not on your worth.

Just don’t hold back the details of your circumstances any longer. Withholding information about yourself because you want to avoid looking bad would be a knock against your maturity and character, if you did that. So don’t. Good luck.

Dear Carolyn: I’ve worked as a paralegal for my spouse for several years. I have basically been in that field since high school graduation, but not always with him.

I recently turned 70 and gave him notice I was retiring on my birthday. I was waiting for him to retire first, but he said he wasn’t ready. Well I am/was.

Since that day a couple of months ago, he cannot hold on to a paralegal in his office. He keeps begging me to help him. I do not want to do this anymore and have told him so. Needless to say, my decision has made our married life no longer tenable and less than ideal. Is there any way out from under this?

Exhausted: Wait — there’s no “needless to say” here. There is no inevitability to being too petulant and entitled to accept a spouse’s decision to wrap up a long career. It is not a given that your autonomy not be respected.

Your spouse is choosing that outcome.

Implied also is that he chooses to make life unpleasant for your replacements, since “can’t keep” means at least two paralegal quittings, yes? In “a couple of months.”

Your way “out from under this” is to understand his role and yours. Understand that you’ve done nothing wrong. Understand that he has choices.

Understand that you have choices, too — and can choose not to take on his staffing as your problem.

And to say: “I have retired, and listened to your objections, and decided to stick to my original decision. Please respect that.” If he still refuses to drop it, then say you won’t discuss it further, and mean it.

If that feels strange and extreme for a marriage, then please ask yourself why his badgering entitlement doesn’t feel strange and extreme for a marriage — more so. If both spouses tend to the other’s needs, it’s a life partnership. If only one does, it’s exploitation.

Drawing your line this clearly will draw from your spouse, almost certainly given the precedent, “less than ideal” resistance. But you already have that! Without the benefit of the clear line.

So at least have it on your terms without guilt while enjoying, to the best of your ability, possibly with a rich schedule of activities outside the house, and the backup of an attorney and financial adviser, the retirement you’ve duly earned.

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