Anne Chilton offers advice on two problematic situations
SHE MET A SMOKER
My mum has been on her own for the past 15 years, since my dad left her for another woman. She took it really badly at the time but turned herself around and has developed a good life for herself.
She has always been one to try new things and recently joined a group that re-enacts old battles. The family think she’s a bit wacky but she’s enjoying herself and it gets her out and about. She has made lots of new friends, which has been great.
Now she has met a new man and the family are all really pleased for her. He is a great chap, except he smokes, and this is causing a problem. I don’t want to ban them from the house but I don’t want him smoking near my children. I haven’t seen him smoking but I can smell it on him and am terrified he will just light up. What should I do? Mum is so happy and I don’t want to upset things for her.
This is a dilemma. You are pleased your mum is so happy, yet that has brought a difficulty with it. The problem with things like smoking is that both sides, for and against, are usually well-versed in the arguments.
As your mum is seeing this chap and it seems serious, presumably she is accommodating his habit. Do you know how she is managing this? Does he only smoke outside? You can’t expect him not to smoke at all; however, you can ensure he doesn’t smoke around your children. And, as you haven’t actually seen him smoking, it sounds like he is being sensitive to the situation.
Maybe you could talk to your mum about it. You could say that you don’t want the children to think smoking is OK and that, while you understand his need to smoke, you wouldn’t want the children to witness it.
We all do things others may disapprove of – smoking, drinking, dangerous sports, to name a few – and while we don’t have to agree with what others do, neither can we insist they don’t do it. All we can do is limit how it impacts on our lives. Talk to your mum and see what boundaries and agreements can be put in place to limit the influence on your children while enjoying your mum’s happiness.
HE’S SO UNTIDY
My boyfriend and I have just moved in together, and I now realise the old saying about not really knowing someone until you live with them is very true.
He is generally perfect in every way: good-looking, steady job, kind and considerate. But he is so untidy. I think whenever I went to his place in the past he must have cleaned up because I had no idea how bad it really is.
He is fine with clothes and personal things; it’s the caps on bottles that never get put back on, especially the ketchup, which just ends up all gunked up around the top. The milk is left out of the fridge to go off; the food wrappings are not put in the bin ... the list is endless. I don’t want to nag but I find myself spending all my time clearing up after him. What can I do?
Our behaviour in relationships when we are just dating is sometimes quite different to when we live together. I wonder if you and your boyfriend ever talked about how you would run a home together; who would do the tidying and the cleaning, and whose responsibility you assume it is.
Usually we don’t have those conversations; we just make assumptions about what we expect our partner to do. These are often based on what we saw our parents or care-givers do around the house. For instance, if his mother did everything for him and allowed him to leave a mess, knowing she would sort it out, he may well expect the same service from you.
You say that before you moved in together he managed to keep his flat clean and tidy, so I wonder what has changed now. Is it that he thinks the tidying is now your domain?
You probably need to have a discussion with him, detailing all the things that need to be done around the house, and explore with him and for yourself your shared expectations. Then you can decide and agree who will do what in your relationship. Just because his mum did it for him doesn’t mean this is how it has to be for always. Old habits may well die hard; however, they can change into new habits.
Anne Chilton is joint head of professional practice at Relationships Scotland (www.relationships-scotland.org.uk)
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