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May 23, 2017

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Friday, May 19, 2017

I choose to live with dogs rather than people. Is there something wrong with my hermit ways?

By Andrea Bonoir
The Washington Post

I have three dogs and often prefer their company over that of the humans in my life. I am in my 50s and content. I do not have many friends, and my one remaining family member lives across the country. She has grown children whom I do not really have a relationship with. I suppose I could be classified as a “hermit,” and some co-workers have said as much. Are there a lot of us out there? I can’t imagine that it is really that uncommon, and yet sometimes I do question if I should be doing things differently.

If you’re questioning things because of how they look from the outside, then give yourself permission to dismiss those deliberations altogether. But if you’re questioning things because you sometimes feel like you want more, then that’s worth some soul-searching. You say you are content, which — taken at face value — suggests all is well. But do you want to stretch yourself? Might there come a time down the road when you need a human support network? Will there be a period decades from now where you wish you had cultivated more friendships? Might you be sabotaging yourself in certain ways, and pinned down by inertia? The terminology your co-workers use or whether your living style is common really doesn’t matter. What does matter is whether you are getting what you want out of life — and only you, with additional exploration, can have the answer to that.

I struggle with anxiety and obsessive thoughts, and my boyfriend has gotten less patient with it over time. I have fears of contamination and he used to be considerate about them. Now, he treats it as a quirk, something to tease me about. I heard him describing it to a friend as my “thing” about germs. He knows that I have OCD tendencies and have been on medication in the past for it. This is creating distance between us and making me resentful. There are things that I accept about him and would not dream of making fun of him about.

I can understand this is a sensitive issue and that his stance feels invalidating, and that is why you need to step up communication about it. Perhaps he doesn’t realise how he’s coming across, or he even thinks he’s being supportive by conceptualising it as a quirk rather than a diagnosis. So give him a clearer road map to what you want, the sooner the better.

Of course, there is the possibility he’s being downright insensitive or has indeed grown less considerate over time. Or that you haven’t considered the ways that he struggles with accommodating your challenges on a day-to-day basis, and he’s feeling burnt out about it. A good conversation, with lots of “I” statements (my BFFs!) and true listening that cites specific examples but lays off the accusations, will help you both move forward.

@drandreabonior

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