Advice From the Trenches

Advice from the Trenches: Whose Happiness Matters More?

Dear C and Dr. B;

The first time I saw Brian was at the Starbucks downtown, and I remember thinking that he had the most beautiful face I’d ever seen – soulful eyes, chiseled cheekbones, a perfect mouth. He seemed unapproachable and totally out of my league. He was also the saddest looking guy I’d ever seen. I was totally surprised when he sat at my table one day when the place was full. He was very hesitant, like he thought he was bothering me. My heart was pounding, but I managed to say, “Sure, that’s fine.” When he said he’d seen me here before, I couldn’t believe he actually noticed me. I’m, like, a “five,” and he is a full on “ten.” But that didn’t seem to matter to him. We started sitting together on a regular basis, and talking. After a while, Brian told me the story that was behind his sad, beautiful face – he’d had a twin sister who’d died when he was 8 years old, from leukemia. He watched her fade away, and carries a deep fear the same fate would be his one day. When he told me, I felt like I wanted nothing more than to hold him, and make it all go away. I fell madly in love.

He tells me he only seems to feel happy when he’s with me, because I’m the only one who really understands. I am so flattered that he seems oblivious to other women, just about all of whom stare at him, everywhere we go. I can’t believe I’m the one who makes him happy. All I want to do is make him happy for the rest of my life. He’s asked me to move in with him. I didn’t want to tell him that I’ll probably have to drop out of community college and get a job if I leave home right now; I don’t want to disappoint him, and I also don’t want to lose the best thing that ever happened to me.




I’m not sure you really understand your situation. You are playing the role of his therapist, or his mother, neither of which makes for a healthy adult relationship. The mothering kind of love is great for a parent to have toward a child, or for a health care provider toward a patient. The difference is, these relationships come with healthy boundaries. You don’t sleep with your children, or your patients! Additionally, mothering love is inappropriate with someone who is supposed to be your equal. If the two of you ever had kids, it would become a huge confusing mess. This type of guy requires total devotion, he would compete for your love for your kids. If you do choose to be with him, I strongly advise that you DO NOT HAVE KIDS.  When I read your description of Brian, he sounded more like a vampire than a good relationship prospect.

No one can make another person happy. People either have the skills to be happy themselves or they do not. Your attention is quite a distraction for Brian now, but I doubt it will last. If you want this kind of relationship, get a puppy. A puppy won’t suck the joy out of you.

Dr. B

C says: Actually, Layla, Brian sounds perfect. That is, if you are planning on living in a Victoria Holt romance novel. If you are living in the real world with the rest of us though, there’s a few other questions you should be asking. Never mind, I’ll ask. Can Brian support himself? Can he support both of you? It seems not, because money has suddenly become a concern. Someone has to pay the bills. Consider this: If you’re dropping out of school to get a job now, you could be stuck at minimum wage pay for the next 10 years.

Let’s give Brian the benefit of the doubt. Let’s say that he gives you a reason to live that you didn’t have before. Let’s say you are the only one who can make him happy, and that makes you happy. OK, fine. I won’t judge you. But let’s be real – even if you want nothing more than to stare at Brain for the next 50 years, you’ll both be happier if you have enough money to live a good life. My advice – stay in school, and tell Brian the reason why. Give him a chance to be a real partner. This might be the start of a genuine relationship – or the end of a fragile fantasy. I do wish you the best.