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Ask Lisi: Girlfriend's compassion is devoted to her sick ex

The girlfriend feels an obligation to help her ex however she can.
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Advice columnist Lisi Tesher.

Dear Lisi: My girlfriend’s ex is casting a huge shadow on our relationship, and I don’t know how to proceed. They were together eight years, had a child together, but never married. The boy is now 12 and has a decent relationship with his dad.

Unfortunately, her ex is unwell. His parents have both passed and he is an only child, so there isn’t any family to help him. My girlfriend feels an obligation to help however she can.

I love her sense of loyalty, compassion and giving nature. She is so warm and loving, and I know she cares about her ex. He’s also the father of her child. But between her full-time job, her part-time hobby, her full-time parenting (the boy is 100 per cent in her custody), her son’s full-on hockey schedule, and her time spent with her ex, there’s little if no time for me.

I have a good relationship with her son and am happy to help with hockey when I’m available. But it all just seems unsustainable. How can I get her to see that making time for us should be a priority?

Three’s a family; four’s a crowd

Your sign-off can be construed in several ways, and one not in your favour. They are the family, and you are still the outsider now. You didn’t mention how long you two have been together, and that matters. If it’s a new relationship, you two have the chance to mould your schedules in a way that makes time for everyone and everything. If you’ve been together already a few years, and this is how you’re feeling, you’ll probably need help readjusting.

Either way, start by talking to your girlfriend. Ask her how she feels your relationship is going and what she sees for your future. Tell her how you feel and be honest. Tell her that at the moment, her schedule seems to not have time for you and that you’d like to help her find some time.

All you can do is try. Her loyalty to her ex is commendable, but depending on how sick he is, she might have less and less time. She sounds as if she needs some love and support, and some help. When you’re hands-on it’s hard to let go, even though it can be crucial to your own well-being. Help her see that. Show her you care.

Dear Lisi: I have a co-worker who adds nothing to our team. She’s pleasant, always brings treats to the office, tells us funny stories, but has very limited productivity, which then falls on me to do. I feel like a school kid wanting to tell the teacher that my project partner didn’t do anything and shouldn’t get the same grade as me. It seemed so important back then …. But it feels the same way now.

We’re all on salary, so it’s not as though I’m losing money to her. And I’m putting in the time necessary, without going over time, which would upset me, as I have kids at home. I just feel as though I’m putting in so much effort and she just swishes around the office laughing and doing nothing.

Is it wrong of me to “tell” on her? What good will that do for any of us?

Office Antics

Why don’t you start by talking to her? If you are working on a particular project, sit down with her and ask her what aspects she would like to work on, if she needs help, and how she thinks you two could best share the load. Give her the chance to ask for help, because maybe she’s just afraid, or feels inept, or is in over her head. Give her a chance to learn from you before throwing her under the bus.

FEEDBACK Regarding the woman whose brother hates his wife’s dogs…. But loves the family dogs (Jan. 4):

Reader – “I love reading your column — especially when the reported issue involves relationships with dogs.

“From this letter, I think the dogs’ size may be a factor regarding the writer’s brother. Generally, small dogs rarely receive intentional education (i.e. training) because their physical sizes limit how much damage they can confer on a human being.

“I know you are a dog person — ever meet small, barky dogs? The sound is annoying, plus the dogs tend to persist with that behaviour. Yikes! I have owned Chihuahuas for the past 16 years, and as a professional trainer I have deliberately built value into being quiet with them, but from my work I have observed that many owners don’t. They just tolerate the noise until someone else complains (e.g. if they live in a high-rise).”

Ellie Tesher and Lisi Tesher are advice columnists for the Star and based in Toronto. Send your relationship questions via email: ellie@thestar.ca or lisi@thestar.ca