Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Question: A few days ago, I had this nagging feeling that something was up with my boyfriend of two years. I asked him and he said he had been wanting to break up, but was planning to wait till the holidays were over. He had already bought me a gift and everything, was going to travel to my hometown with me, and all that stuff.
I feel really foolish, plus a bit traumatized by the idea that my relationship could be over without my realizing it. Any advice?
Answer: But you did realize it - you had that nagging feeling - so don't beat yourself up for a failure that didn't occur.
I'm really sorry, too, for what did happen. I hope traveling to your hometown is generally a good thing, because a trip home just as you get this news could be just what you need to get your bearings. Unless your family makes you miserable . . . .
If going home was going to be challenging anyway, then I urge you to watch Home for the Holidays and remind yourself that even a trip through the wringer can be restorative. Sometimes surrendering to the awful is more useful than fighting it.
Take good care of yourself, keep your to-do lists short, and ride this out. And give yourself due credit not just for noticing your relationship was in trouble, but also for addressing your suspicions head on.
Reader comment: Take the gift, leave the ex-boyfriend home. Enjoy the holidays with family and love.
Answer: Er. Leave the gift and the ex-boyfriend, unless you think there's someone who'd appreciate the regift (and maybe even the story behind it).
I say that not because there's any obligation to leave the gift, but instead because, who wants it?
Reader comment: What if it's an iPad, though? Or a camera! I would definitely still take it and leave the ex behind.
Answer: Leave the ex, take the cannolis.
Question: Is it wrong to want my spouse to pay a bit more attention to clothes and grooming? S/he is very attractive, but always seems to wear the wrong thing for the occasion and wears almost nothing but sweatpants at home. Perhaps I'm being unfair since this didn't bother me before, but I think now that we're in our late 30s and pretty well-off, it's our responsibility and privilege to clean up a bit and look like tidy professionals, especially since it might further both our careers.
My efforts to talk about this with him/her have always led to nightmarish fights.
Answer: So, if I say you're right to want this, then that will magically render him/her open to your suggestions?
"Nightmarish fights" is your cue to recognize that, even if you're right about every single perceived benefit to your careers, your societal standing, and your feelings for him/her, you're wrong to hang on to this as a goal, much less impose it on Spouse/Spousina.
Sartorially, at least, your spouse is an as-is deal. Love it or leave it.