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Carolyn Hax: Be direct and take action

Fri., April 3, 2009

Hi, Carolyn: So, I am supposed to get on a flight across the country to visit the boyfriend tonight, but I am sick as a dog. Moreover, as part of a teasing conversation last night, I joked that I was getting impatient with no marriage proposal (over seven years). He called me at work this morning to tell me how “not cool” that joke was (the only response I gave was “OK”).

He does this all the time – he never calls me on something when it happens, but ruminates over it and then decides days/weeks/months later that he was bothered by it, it is a huge deal, and I need to apologize/make it right. I want to crawl back into my cozy bed and sleep through the weekend rather than get on a plane to see him. Can I? I am just so … tired. Overall, we have a healthy, positive relationship, and I do love him very much. But this key thing – twisting things I say (especially about his family) into something bad has just worn me down. – Miserable, D.C.

His version, as I imagine it: “She does this all the time – she never says something bothers her, she just makes ‘jokes.’ I didn’t catch last night’s ‘joke’ at first, but it started gnawing at me, so I said something. Then she got angry at me for calling her on it.

“She was supposed to visit me tonight, but now claims she’s ‘sick.’ If she’s too angry to come, why can’t she just say so?” – Fed Up, Calif.

Long-distance relationships wear people down. Avoiding unfinished business (waiting a scant decade for a proposal?) wears people down. Clashing (non-)communication styles wear people down. Wanting someone to change wears people down.

You’ve long since finished or canceled your trip, but presumably you still have all this stuff wearing you down. Please consider that the unthinkably difficult – saying what you mean, and acting on it – would actually be easier.

Annoyed by his delayed reactions? Say it, hear him out, take purposeful action (accept his ruminant style, or break up with him).

Too comfy blaming him when you take shots at him or his family? Say it, hear him out, take purposeful action (stop making “jokes”).

Upset about the nonproposal? Say it, hear him out, take purposeful action (leave, keep waiting, you propose).

Too tired to travel? Say it, hear him out, take purposeful action (crawling into bed counts).

Bonus consequence: I suspect that when you start being more direct, your boyfriend won’t need days/weeks/months to piece together your true intent.

E-mail Carolyn at, or chat with her online at 9 a.m. Pacific time each Friday at

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