Dear Carolyn: My fiance and I have been together for nearly five years. One of our biggest bones of contention has been his relationship with his friends. I feel like he puts them above me. He says he views them more as family then friends and treats them as such. We live two houses away from one of his closest friends. My fiance often goes over to his friend's house just to hang out.
The issue normally arises when he tells me he will be home at a certain time. I will plan on that by making dinner or other plans. Almost always, the time he told me will come and go, and he will not be home. It varies from minutes to hours, but my issue is that he doesn't value me enough to come home when he says he will. I mean, it's not like he's stuck in traffic or anything -- it takes just a minute to walk home.
He is on time for everything else, and I feel like he takes me for granted by not making it home when he says he will be home.
He says I'm being controlling. I've tried to explain that it isn't the amount of time that bothers me as much as the fact that he doesn't respect or appreciate me enough to be somewhere when he says he will be. Am I being ridiculous? If I'm not, how do I effectively explain how I feel to him?
A: You mean, is there one very special way to bang your head against a wall that will get the result you want?
While I'm no fan of answering charges with countercharges ("You don't value me!" "You're controlling!" Ouch, my forehead!), your fiance has grazed the truth here. You and he are engaged in a classic, passive-aggressive power struggle, as you sit home waiting for him to come home and prove his love, and he sits at his friend's house quietly declining to live by your rules.
So I advise a complete dismantling of this struggle, in four parts.
(1) Ask him when he's coming home only when you have some need to know -- you're cooking dinner, making plans, whatever. If you're just doing your own thing, then you just let him do his.
(2) When he gives you a time, you regard it as an estimate unless you've made it clear your plans are time-sensitive.
(3) When it's meal-/show-/whatever-time, do not set your jaw and watch the clock, waiting for him to disappoint you. Just call your fiance or drop by the friend's house to say that. Transparency. It's what's for dinner.
(4) Do your own thing, one, two, a few nights a week. Instead of fighting your fiance's gravitational pull to his friends, accept it and start finding out whether you are capable of being happy with someone who essentially has more than one home.
If, despite your best efforts to operate as independently of your fiance as he does of you, you learn it's your priority to have a partner who wants to be home with you, then this isn't the guy for you.