Yesterday, my boyfriend came home early from work with an all-too-familiar look on his face. He had lost his job. Again. Abby, he hasn’t been able to hold down a job for more than a year in the five years we’ve been together. He is intelligent and charming, but I’m now convinced that he is also incredibly lazy. We argued for about half an hour about it with no resolution. I admit, I simply wasn’t willing to listen to his reasons anymore. I consider them nothing but excuses now. I got in my car and drove to a motel so I could be away from him and gather my thoughts.
As I’m writing this, I am trying to decide whether to leave him, or give him another chance with severe conditions imposed. But I don’t want to come across as a mother to him, although it seems he could use one. Can you guide me in some direction?
Giving Up in Galveston
Dear Giving Up:
When I was a puppy, mom and I lived in Washington State close to the famous Green River. It is actually a very nice river, and I loved swimming in it. One of my favorite things in the world was when mom would throw one of my tennis balls far, far up the river. I would calculate how fast the current was and where I should jump in so that I could cut up against the current and meet my ball on the way down. Mom said that I was clever for figuring out all these things and that pattern recognition was a sign of intelligence. I learned that no matter how many times my mom threw the ball into the river, the speed of the current was not going to change. One year, we came to our favorite swimming spot early in the spring, just after a big storm. There was a giant tree that had fallen into the water! The river went around it, but the current had changed. It took me a couple of times to catch my ball, but I figured out the new pattern.
I do not know much about those longer words mom used, but I do see a pattern here. After five years, your boyfriend’s pattern has not changed. I do not recommend dropping a giant tree on him, but I can say that changing a river’s current or a person’s habits requires really big things. These things are not things that you can do for them.
I was not sure of the difference between giving up and giving in, and so I asked mom. She told me that they mean the same thing, which is even more confusing because up and in are not the same directions. Mom added that giving is not always a good thing, even though everyone says it is. She added that in one of her most famous speeches, she said, “A chance is not something that can be given or granted, a chance is something that you must TAKE.”
Both mom and I read your letter, and we are concerned that you are constantly giving your boyfriend chances, and he is wasting them rather than taking them. You are not taking any chances for yourself, and it might be time. Being alone is scary, but it is better to depend on yourself than to continue to depend on someone else who cannot even depend on themselves.