In Which We Place Boundaries And Accept Fate

Hard to Say is This Recording’s weekly advice column. It will appear every Wednesday until the Earth perishes in a fiery blaze, or until North West turns 40. Get no-nonsense answers to all of your most pressing questions by writing to justhardtosay@gmail.com or by dropping us a note at our tumblr.

Hi,

I recently met a guy who I will call Toby. Toby grew up in circumstances very different from my own, and has a very complicated relationship with two sets of parents – his adoptive parents, and his birth parents. Without boring you with a family history, both sets of parents come with their own foibles and nuances. Although neither is what I would call a destructive influence on Toby, the resulting time commitment from maintaining these complex relationships takes it toll. For example, one of his dads expects Toby to watch football with him all day Sunday, which seems asinine to me.

I think I am in love with this Toby, but the incredible amount of baggage the situation represents is immense now and only threatens to become moreso as things become serious. Toby has asked for my advice in dealing with this, but not only am I not sure what to say to him, I have little idea with how to deal with this myself or if I should just bail before things get worse. Thoughts?

Eliza H.

Dear Eliza,

Sounds like Toby’s coming down with a classic case of the, “I’m a young adult who needs to learn how to create and enforce boundaries with my parents.” You can suggest this, but making him do it would overstep your boundaries as a romantic partner.

Position it like this: “Honey pot, you seem stressed, and I don’t see you as often as I’d like. Is there a way for you to scale back your commitments? It seems like it might be good for everyone.”

We all have parent issues, but allowing them to encroach on our burgeoning adult lives is madness. If Toby’s addicted to the drama or too scared and won’t even consider it, it’s time for you to exit the cluster.

Hi,

Is it possible to be in love with two people? I’m seriously dating this one guy, but have been falling for a close friend at the same time. When I’m with one, I barely think of the other. When I’m alone, I fantasize about both, at different times. What should I do?!

Clarissa R.

Dear Clarissa,

Yes, it is possible to be in love with two people at the same time, especially if you are Shia LaBeouf. It is a common fallacy that all our needs can be satisfied by one person; I believe this hokum was perpetuated by Jesus or Margaret Thatcher, I forget exactly which one. Since you are not married to either of them, enjoy these precious days.

There is a more limited kind of love we can have for people who we respect and treat us well. There is no word in English for it, but the disgusting substance called ambergris that come from the digestive system of a sperm whale is perilously close. This kind of love comes from inside us, is expressed when we are being loved and cared for and appreciated, but in truth is not “true love” as you probably thought of it after you finished Frozen.

You will know the real kind of love when you find it, and if you never do, perhaps it is something that you cannot actually feel. Then you might be regretful that you didn’t keep playing these two saps longer.

Transitioning a boyfriend into a friend is impossible, but transitioning a too-close platonic friend into a boyfriend is as easy as waking up. Platonic friendships that contain the seeds of an unrealized sexual chemistry that is never fully consummated are one of life’s great pleasures until you are 25. After that it’s just bullshit.

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen. Access This Recording’s mobile site at thisrecording.wordpress.com.

“Love Gone Wrong” – You + Me (mp3)

“Break the Cycle” – You + Me (mp3)

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