In Which There Might Be A Simpler Explanation

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


My husband Grant and I have done a lot to help his brother, who I will call Martin. Grant deeply loves his brother, and is very forgiving of his flaws. In the past few years, he has given him money, a place to stay, enrolled him in a drug program and organized an intervention. Martin pretends to want to change his ways, but I have never felt him to be really sincere in those statements.

At some point tough love has to enter the picture. I worry for Grant regarding how much his brother’s situation weighs on him and I believe it affects him negatively at work and home. I don’t want to say this outright, but I think he would be a lot better off if this problem did not exist.

I would hate to be the cause of a falling out between the two of them, so I have come to you. Is there any way to accomplish my goal without being seen as the bad guy?

Tina G.


Dear Tina,

Usually momentum propels any destructive relationship to become more destructive over time. It’s kind of how my allergy to pollen is currently a hot nightmare, whereas when I was a kid it was no big deal. In all likelihood, your husband will eventually discover the truth about his brother, or Martin will die of an overdose.

Since the latter outcome does not seem entirely a worse case scenario from your perspective, a darker advice column would sanguinely have you introduce Martin to the theoretical work of Zoe Lund. Then again, there is no guarantee you could beat a manslaughter rap after that, and crime doesn’t pay.

It is best practice to preserve all the lives you can. Martin does not want to reform himself, and until he does, Grant will be no use to him. This important moral distinction has been reflected in a number of cinematic endeavors. As I recall, Requiem for a Dream did not end well onscreen or in real life. Permanent Midnight was also decent in this regard.


Lately my boyfriend Roy spends a lot of time in front of the television. He did not used to be this sedentary. I worry that this behavior is bad for his health. He says that when he comes from work, he does have the energy to go out. We used to be more social, and we also used to do various cultural things just the two of us. Now it seems like all he is interested in is marathoning some new TV show.

Is there any way to change these habits?

Angela R.


Dear Angela,

Your boyfriend Roy was probably waiting to spring this on you for awhile. His subconscious (or perhaps even conscious plan) was to wait until you believed you were on the verge of the life you wanted for yourself, and then force you into accepting a substantially worse existence through episode after episode of Person of Interest.

By all rights Roy should be in jail for what he has done, and in fact, he is in jail. This prison is of his own making, and involves a substantial amount of Sarah Shahi.

Some people never get addicted to behaviors of any kind, and others fiercely hold to their routines. You may want to consider the possibility that there is something wrong health-wise with Roy, and this is his way of managing his condition. There is still an outside possibility Roy is not a lazy bum.

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen.


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