Dear Annie: I’m in love with a wonderful man who has a couple of habits I can’t seem to get past no matter how often I tell myself they aren’t important.
My partner is 47, smokes heavily, does not exercise and spends a good part of each day playing online poker. I am by no means a health fanatic or a model of productivity, but I do my best to stay in shape and live a relatively healthy, active life. His habits don’t hurt me personally, but I can’t help finding them distasteful and a turn-off. And that’s the last thing I want to feel about someone I’m in love with.
I also believe in letting people be who they are. So am I even within my rights asking him to change these habits “or else”? Or am I being too demanding, considering his otherwise excellent qualities? I’m afraid that the way I feel about these quirks will eventually overshadow the beautiful, positive feelings I have for him. That is depressing to contemplate. — Hoping for Change
Dear Hoping: These “quirks” do affect you if you live together or share finances. Secondhand smoke can be deadly for you, and someone who plays online poker might have a gambling problem. You cannot force a person to stop smoking, but you can refuse to live in that environment. You also cannot demand that he stop gambling, but if he is addicted and unwilling to quit, you will have an ongoing issue about money. He may have wonderful qualities that you appreciate, but we don’t see him as a long-term partner unless he is willing to work on these things.
Dear Annie: I’m 12 years old and started middle school in the fall. I’ve begun hanging out with a group of four other girls. I never really talked to them until this year. These girls have been together since kindergarten, and it seems that one of them doesn’t fully accept me. She has put up a wall between the other girls and me, and I doubt she’ll be ready to take it down for a long time.
I’d like to be fully accepted and want to tell them that, but I don’t want to be pushy and unkind. What do I do? — On the Wrong Side of the Wall
Dear Wrong Side: You seem to have a solid grasp of the situation, but we don’t recommend you pit yourself against the other girl. She has “seniority,” and her friends will back her position if forced to take sides. Instead, get to know her better. Find something you admire about her, and tell her. She needs to see you as an ally and not as a threat to her position within the group. It will take a little while, but in the process, you could be making a friend for life.
Dear Annie: Years ago, I could have written the letter from “Tired Daughter,” whose mother is an alcoholic. Setting boundaries is good advice.
My parents divorced to protect my younger brothers from my mother’s drinking and bipolar behavior. When I had kids, I would never leave them with my mother or force them to visit. They saw her occasionally, and I found that she was content simply to hear about their accomplishments and receive occasional pictures to show off.
Sometimes Mom would call me, drunk and swearing. If she would not stop, I would hang up. After a few times of that, she no longer called when she was inebriated. I continued to visit her weekly and had a fairly good relationship within the necessary restrictions. When she died, I had no regrets.
Tell “Tired” not to listen to Mom’s negative stuff. She can change the subject or try to reason with her. If it’s a bad day and that doesn’t work, leave. I hope this helps. You can’t control her, but boundaries help. — Been There
Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 Third St., Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.