In Which The Possibility Remains In The Background

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 or by dropping us a note at our tumblr.


I have noticed that a lot of relationship advice columns contain a list of loving platitudes about their sinificant other, before descending upon one problem that if fixed, would set things on the golden path.

Well, I love my boyfriend Sam very much, but there are more than a few problems in the relationship. I know there is conflict in every relationship, but we seem to fight quite frequently compared to my past boyfriends. When we do, Sam takes a cold, officious tone that he says prevents him from getting overly upset and yelling. Instead of calming me, this drives me a bit off the wall and usually I am the one doing the yelling. Is this normal or a sign we should not be together?


Dear Amara,

First of all, this is not a relationship advice column, any more than Chicago is a tourist destination. You will find tourists there, but also many other unappealing things.

People with strong personalities are going to come in conflict with each other. How this conflict gets worked out is the entire key. When Bradley Cooper and his model girlfriend have a fight, for example, she finds out who won from his assistant, and also by the fact of whether he allows her to stay in his trailer on the set of his next movie. (Pertinent information is also revealed in his tinyletter.)

If one fight is bleeding over into the next, or you are always having the exact same argument, this is cause for concern. The way that Sam expresses himself sounds reasonable, unless he is repressing his real emotions and they come out later, at an inopportune time, like when Better Call Saul is on.


My friend Eleanor has always made somewhat poor choices in men. Finally she found Joseph, who she really liked and I approved wholeheartedly of. Joseph was (is) a little eccentric, and his career as a an artist meant that he would travel a fair amount. He really loved Eleanor, but ultimately she could not handle being apart so often and she ended things.

I still hear from Joseph from time to time since she will not communicate with him. He misses her a lot. In the wake of the break-up, she has taken up with Neil, who works in finance. I have to admit, I think Neil is all wrong for her. I suspect he may be cheating on her, even though he says he is devoted. I guess I am having trouble letting go, since I want Eleanor to be happy. Is there anything I can do or do I just have to accept this situation?

Holly S.

Dear Holly,

Most people would tell you to mind your own business, but I am not most people. I once broke up a couple of forty years because I didn’t like the way they treated people in the service industry.

Being away from the person you love can be very hard, especially if they are not excellent at written and spoken communication. Having someone there, for many people, is the entire purpose of having a relationship; it is the relationship.

But I would be way of assuming everything was well between Eleanor and Joseph just because of the reason she stated to you. Relationships can break up for many reasons never understood by outside parties. Women often use a pretext or stand-in reason for the breakup because it may be a way of allowing themselves to move on that is actually healthy, without dwelling on mistakes she or Joseph may have made.

If you really want them to get back together, it has to come from Joseph. Don’t worry about Neil – if he really is a dog, she will find out soon enough, probably during Purim.

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


“Somebody That I Used To Know” – Seth Avett & Jessica Lea Mayfield (mp3)

“Between the Bars” – Seth Avett & Jessica Lea Mayfield (mp3)

Seth Avett and Jessica Lea Mayfield’s Elliott Smith tribute album will be released on March 17.


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