Three quickies today:
I don’t think “emotional abuse” means what you think it means (unless you’re threatening your boyfriend, calling him names, screaming at him, demeaning or humiliating him, etc.). That said, you are acting like a control freak, and you need to back off. Just because YOU have a very strong conviction against drinking doesn’t mean your boyfriend does or should, and if it’s so important to you to have a boyfriend who shares that value, the thing to do is find one who does, not try to force the one you have to your will.
As for your boyfriend being 2000 miles away and your worrying about his safety, are you telling me you’d be less worried about him if he lived 1000 miles away? Or 500 miles away? How does distance equate to safety? I suspect what this is really about is trust and that you feel it’s easier for someone to “get away” with something if there’s a great distance between him and the person whose trust he may be betraying. Do you trust your boyfriend? If so, let him be. If you don’t trust him, MOA. And if you need your boyfriend to share a value he may not intrinsically share, and it’s a deal-breaker for you if he doesn’t, you need to let him go and find someone who is a better match for you. (Or not–it’s ok to be single! I mean, you’re 17. Enjoy your freedom and stop fretting that someone 2000 miles might be drinking with his friends.)
I understand that I’m in their home, using their resources to get through school (my previous job in a research field didn’t pay nearly enough to let me be independent), so I have to respect their authority to a certain degree … but I’m almost 30 and I’m afraid that, if I don’t say anything now, my life and my 20s will go right by and I’ll miss out. What do I do? How can I tell them, without being disrespectful or hurting my mother’s feelings, that I’m an adult and I’d like to live my own life? — Home-bound in Houston
Why do you think you only have to respect your parents’ authority “to a certain degree”? The degree to which they are financially supporting you is 100%, so the degree to which you are accountable to them is 100%. Don’t like it? Move out, get a part-time job, and take out loans like plenty of other people your age who value their independence do. And here’s a tip for the future: Any time your parents offer to financially help you, whether it be paying for your education, giving you a free place to live, buying you a car, or paying for your wedding, there will be strings attached. You will not have 100% independence and autonomy, so if that’s a problem for you, don’t accept their help. You have to decide what is a greater value to you — financial help or calling the shots. Your parents have made it clear you don’t get both.
I’m sure your niece did have a particular reason for keeping her marriage under wraps, but now that she’s made the good news public, I think congratulating her is entirely appropriate. You can do so with a nice card, and if you feel inclined, an enclosed gift card to a nice restaurant in her area or a gift card to a store like Target or West Elm or Crate and Barrel where she might select something for the home she shares with her new husband. I’d probably not bring a wrapped gift to your brother’s home since the occasion for gathering is to celebrate his birthday and not your niece’s wedding, and you wouldn’t want your brother to feel upstaged or for anyone else to see a wrapped gift and feel bad about not also bringing something for your niece. But a card (and enclosed gift card) is innocuous enough not to attract much attention while still expressing well-wishes to the couple you wish to congratulate.
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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.