Punchy AdviceArchives

September 4, 1995

Lucy asks Alphonzo:
My mother's boyfriend is such a jerk! He criticizes me and when I talk to my mom about it she always takes his side even though I'm right! He is so obnoxious! I've put up with his temper and attitude for five years and I'm sick of it! And don't tell me to talk to him about it because he won't listen. What should I do?
Alphonzo Alphonzo answers:
Hold on there! Just because he criticizes you doesn't mean he's wrong. Maybe you're wrong. And if your mom takes his side, maybe it's because she sees his point. I don't know. For all I know, you leave your chewing gum on the arm rests, and I don't blame him one bit for criticizing you!
Kelsey Kelsey offers:
Well, let's just say this guy is criticizing you unfairly. He sounds very immature. Too bad. But you can use that to your advantage.

Try to figure out what his issues are. Like for example, is he into control and freaks out when he doesn't get his way? Or does he have a problem with judging certain kinds of people, and he puts you in that category? Whatever his emotional needs are, you may be able to assuage them without compromising your own needs.

Say he insists that you be home from a date by midnight, and you think that's totally unreasonable. Instead of fighting about it, figure out what he really wants. Is he afraid you'll get in trouble sexually? Or is he afraid that you'll get hurt? Or does he think it's just part of his job as a father figure to set rules? The fact is that no matter how unreasonable he may act, he has a core issue that's not so unreasonable, at least not for him.

Lots of times, people only need respect. They don't feel like they're being respected, so they insist on setting rules. And of course, you break the rules, so they feel more disrespected, and things get worse. In that case, you might try saying, "I know you're looking out for me and you're concerned. I want to respect you and follow your rules. But can we talk about what the rules should be?" Just give him the respect he wants and you can pretty much write your own ticket.

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