Andrea Bonior

Andrea Bonior
Special to The Washington Post

Q: Is it ever a good idea to take a break from your family? I know that some people are permanently estranged from their family, and I know I do not want that. But I feel like there is a lot of dysfunction in my family and it would help me to get to know myself outside of them for a while. I am in my early 30s, single and I feel like I have been part of their drama for so long that I have never had a chance to carve out my own path.

A: I can understand your desire to do this, but you must be realistic that although you can choose to do this on your terms, their terms may not match yours — and you may pay a price for it. You will need to define exactly what a “break” looks like and what you are hoping to get out of it, and then figure out how that meshes with their expectations of a family relationship. Such a break will likely run the risk of damaging the relationship unless it is clearly communicated, respectful and empathetic. But you have a range of possibilities here. There is a big difference between disappearing off the planet and ignoring special gatherings or holidays, for instance, versus saying that you need some space for a while but will call once a month. To make the most of the time — and the navigation in and out of it — you might consider some professional support as well.

Q. If you keep having the same fight over and over again with your boyfriend, what does it mean? Should you just give in? Or is that when you decide that you are not a good match? It is now less about the actual issue (he doesn’t tell me when he will be working late, and I am left with no one to eat dinner with, wishing I had made other plans) than about the fact that it is a constant fight. It is the only thing we fight about, but I can’t see us not fighting about it, either.

A: I see this as not really about the working-late-without-notice issue, too, but I don’t see it as just about the fighting. I have a deeper concern: Is he capable of being as considerate as you need and want him to be? You say it is the only thing you fight about, and that is something (though I must ask: Are you sure?). But what we are talking about here is really about him choosing to leave you in the lurch, knowing that it blocks you from using your time in a way that you want, knowing that you have prioritized him and he is not prioritizing you. It is one thing for him to consistently work late, and even for him to consistently work late and forget to tell you. But it is quite another for him to know that it bothers you and inconveniences you, and for him to still do it anyway. So, what do you make of that?

Dr. Andrea Bonior is a licensed clinical psychologist.


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