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Ask Amy: Boyfriend's public displays make him nervous

  • Article by: AMY DICKINSON
  • March 7, 2014 - 1:28 PM

Dear Amy: I’m gay. My boyfriend likes to hold my hand on the walk to the grocery store; he likes to hold my hand in the grocery store, and he likes to kiss me in front of people.

I am very physically affectionate and romantic when we are alone. I’ve told him that I just don’t like being public about my affections. It makes me anxious. And, yes, sometimes I’d just rather avoid having someone say something or give us a look.

I’ve been very open with him about my anxieties, but he acts like it’s something I have to get over.

It feels like a burden for me rather than the joy it is for him. I’ll often just hold his hand because I feel guilty about letting him down.

Am I a coward? Is this something I have to get over?

Amy says: If you are self-conscious about publicly disclosing your sexuality for fear of “getting looks” from other people, then yes, that is something you should get over (and I assume you will).

However, it is not your boyfriend’s job to “out” you. He should let you take this process at your own pace.

Additionally, you sound like someone who is just not into public displays of affection. Being pushed in this way when you are uncomfortable is embarrassing, as well as a turnoff. You should respect and enjoy his exuberance, but he needs to dial it back and respect your reserve. So yes, if it makes him happy to hold your hand, then you should try to relax and enjoy this closeness. But if he can’t refrain from kissing you in public, knowing how uncomfortable it makes you, then you might not be compatible, long term.

There’s nothing worse in a relationship than feeling smothered. If he backed off, it would give you the chance to perhaps initiate some closeness without being pushed.

Lies are a red flag

Dear Amy: My boyfriend and I have been together for more than a year. Now I am questioning when enough is enough. How do you know when you have given someone enough chances to change? When do you give up?

The last few months have been pretty great, but then I found out he lied to me about completing a class for his bachelor’s degree. (We are both 24.)

He claimed that he didn’t want to tell me because he was worried I would break up with him (his go-to excuse), even though I have never given him a reason to believe I wouldn’t work it through with him.

When I tried to explain how the lies made me feel and my concerns over him not finishing his degree, he became defensive and started hitting below the belt emotionally (yet another tactic that I have made clear several times that I am not OK with).

I know that old habits are hard to break and change takes time, but when do you say enough is enough? How do you know if someone is really going to change? When is all of the wonderful stuff outweighed by the emotional turmoil of arguments?

Amy says: The red flag I see flying over this relationship is your boyfriend’s expressed fear that you will break up with him if you learn the truth about his mistakes and subterfuge. He is attempting to make you culpable for his actions. This is emotionally manipulative, as well as cowardly.

People do need time to change. Sometimes, they also need the space to change.

I think you two should take a break. Your boyfriend needs to figure out how to temper his actions, and how to own his mistakes like an adult.

Too much, too soon

Dear Amy: Thank you for your sound advice to the long-haul trucker who was embroiled in a romantic drama with another trucker. Nobody should ask someone else to turn their own life upside down and quit their job after one night. I agree with you that this behavior has “Fatal Attraction” written all over it!

Amy says: “Fatal Attraction” has that effect on people. Thank you.

Send questions via e-mail to Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribune.com.

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