In Which We Consider This All New Territory

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


I recently moved into an apartment with my boyfriend Edward. Neither of us have ever lived with a significant other before, and it has been challenging. I try to keep the lines of communication open, and solve problems in a respectful way.

I realized that Edward had obsessive compulsive disorder in the year we dated before moving in together, but I don’t think I fully realized the extent of this illness. When he is a passenger in a car, he holds his hands up in the air to ensure he is not touching any part of the car. I think of myself as being a very clean person, and it is hard to feel like I am not living up to an unimaginable standard. Edward tries to make me feel better about it, but it is hard not to be drawn into his delusion. 

Do you have any ideas on how to deal with this or am I just in a minefield?

Rana G.


The reason it is a good idea to live together with someone is to see how it goes. We can infer from some of the struggles you are having that it is not going well, at all. While it is all very well and good to be accepting of someone’s illness, this does not change the challenge on offer. It can not just be you who is dealing with Edward’s extreme behavior – he also has to be addressing it in a clinical setting, or this will never become a tolerable situation. 

You also could consider strengthening the relationship outside of the concept of cohabitation. There is no shame in admitting you made a choice you wish to undo.


My girlfriend May recently purchased a pet on the spur of the moment. It is a cocker spaniel puppy she has named Large. I had dogs when I was a kid and I know how to care for them, and how much responsibility they require. Large is May’s first pet of any kind and she is kind of clueless about how to train him or take care of him.

I did not want a dog because of the responsibility, and although he is a very cute puppy, I worry that she will grow frustrated by him, as she already has, because she cannot get him to obey her in any way. She has already begun asking me to do things for him and spend time with him. I don’t mind an hour or two a week of this, but as I said, this is not my dog.

What should I do?

David S.

Dear David,

When your girlfriend gets a dog, you now have a dog. Congratulations.

If you train Large correctly, he will become obedient, but he will never truly achieve the level of obedience that you yourself will perfect in the weeks to come.

It is better to embrace your fate than stray from it. Large is now the most important thing in your life, perhaps even more important than yourself. Since you say you know how to make him a good dog, make him a good dog.

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen.


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