Dear Dr. Wallace:
Lately my boyfriend has been pressuring me to do things that I don’t approve of and that I don’t feel comfortable doing. I have not succumbed to his pressure yet, but my resistance always results in arguments between us.
I know that my boyfriend is a good guy who loves me deeply, and so I am very afraid to lose him. If my assertiveness is pushing him away and making him angry, should I try to work towards becoming more compliant?
— Under Pressure, via email
Dear Under Pressure: While I obviously don’t know all the specific details of your relationship, your question scares me. You say that your boyfriend is a good guy who loves you, but that may not actually be the case if he is pressuring you into doing things that you don’t feel comfortable doing.
If he truly loved you and had any sense of decency, he would respect your decisions and not bring the issue into question again. Instead, it sounds as though he is trying to manipulate you into doing what you have already stated you do not want to do, and when he does not get his way, he becomes angry in response. Simply put, everything you have described thus far is characteristic of a toxic relationship.
My answer to your question is to absolutely continue to assert yourself and to avoid compliance at all costs. By the same token, I also advise that you get out of this relationship as fast as you can. It might be tempting to stay with a guy who says that he loves you and has good intentions, but you must pay attention to the fact that his actions are telling you otherwise. You are young, full of potential, and deserving of a relationship in which your limitations and boundaries are respected, so please respect yourself, realize your value and do not waste another second entertaining anything less.
Dear Dr. Wallace: My younger sister never, and I mean never, ever stops talking. She talks on the phone, she talks out loud when she’s online, and whenever I’m out in person with her in public, she will literally talk to anyone at any time! She engages strangers in conversations at our local mall all the time, and I find this so very annoying.
I am kind of quiet and I like to keep my thoughts to myself, so I recoil and shrink back whenever my sister goes off on the first person who will respond to her. I’m terrified that these strangers will start talking to me too, so I pretend to go through my shopping bags or my purse as if I’m looking for something as this tends to keep me safely out of the discussion.
My mom likes that my sister is so outgoing and in fact, she even wants me to open up and talk more to random people, but I say, “Mom, there’s no way I’m doing that!”
Is there something wrong with me, or am I the normal one and it’s my sister who’s the freak?
— The Quiet Sister, via email
Dear The Quiet Sister: Your sister is no freak; she’s simply outgoing and is comfortable as a person who may be seen as a social butterfly. However, to be naturally disposed to be quiet and a bit timid when it comes to addressing strangers is also absolutely normal.
Each of you sisters has different social styles and propensities, and there’s nothing at all wrong with that. I trust that over time you’ll gradually be more comfortable talking to people you’ve just met, but there’s no immediate rush to do so.