Knight Terrors

I’m a woman in my early 30s. I was one of the employees who got laid off after my employer lost a big account. I’ve found a new job, but it’s not on my career path and it pays terribly. Still, it’s a job and it pays. I live with my boyfriend, and we’ve always split the expenses, but he’s trying to persuade me to keep looking for something better and to let him pay the bills until I find it. He keeps saying he’s “happy to do that,” but I just can’t stomach it. I’ve always supported myself and taken pride in not being the sort of woman who sponges off a man, and I’m not ready to start now.

—Fiercely Independent

If only giving you a hand financially worked like giving medicine to a dog, then your boyfriend could just grind up some money and sneak it into your food.

The guy gets that you’re in a relationship, not a tiny little welfare state. He’s offering to help you not because he thinks you can’t manage by yourself but because he thinks you shouldn’t have to. That’s what being in a relationship means — two coming together as one, not one going it alone while the other one waits in the parking lot.

Though being “fiercely independent” is great if you’re the lone survivor of a shipwreck or your car swerves off a lonely mountain road and you need to eat the passenger seat to survive, if spurning your boyfriend’s help is any sort of a pattern, it’s probably hurting your relationship. By refusing to show the vulnerability it takes to accept help, you keep the relationship on a “So, what’s for dinner?” level emotionally and tell your boyfriend he isn’t really needed. In time, this should lead him to the obvious question: “Well then, why am I still here?”

Sometimes, aggressive self-reliance is really fear in a Wonder Woman suit. Our “attachment” style — our way of relating to those close to us — traces back to our mother’s (or other primary caregiver’s) responsiveness to our needs as infants. If you could count on her to soothe you when you were distressed, you end up “securely attached,” meaning you have a strong psychological base and feel comfortable relying on others. If, however, she was unavailable or rejecting, you become “avoidantly attached” and develop a habit of self-protective distancing. (“Can’t count on anybody” becomes “Don’t need nobody.”)

The good news is, even if Mommy was the next best thing to an ice floe, there’s no need to resign yourself to the effects of that. Research finds that a loving partner can help you break out of avoidant attachment by continually behaving in supportive ways that challenge your belief that you can’t count on anybody. You, in turn, need to risk revealing your emotions and needs and trusting that your boyfriend will be there for you — perhaps starting with accepting his offer of a financial cushion. Over time, as you see that you actually can rely on him, you should develop a more secure foundation — and come to understand that true strength involves being confident that you can walk tall but sometimes being okay with curling up in a fetal position tall.

You’ve Got Tail

I hit it off with a woman on an online dating site, and she showed up at the bar for our date with an unruly chihuahua in her handbag. She acted like it was no big deal at all, but she had to hold her purse close to her to keep the dog calm, and the server eventually saw it, so we had to leave. I really liked her initially, but I thought her bringing a pet on a date was really rude. A friend said that the purse dog thing is becoming commonplace and that I shouldn’t nix her because of it.


People usually want the howling and scratching to come after the date. Unless you’re meeting at a dog park, it’s no more okay to show up with your dog on the first date than it is to bring your cow, your lobster, or some 3-year-old you happened to find wandering around the mall. This woman was sending you a message about the things she has little interest in: your feelings, whether the bar gets fined by the health department, and the point of a date — for two people to focus on each other rather than on distracting the server from a growling purse. So, yes, you absolutely should nix her — before she realizes that someone’s going to have to curl up on the floor beside the bed. (If you’re a good boy about it, she’ll throw you your favorite squeaky toy a few times before it’s lights out.)

Categories: Advice, Advice Goddess