Etiquette Hell

General Etiquette => Life...in general => Dating => Topic started by: SleepyKitty on August 25, 2012, 06:00:09 PM

Title: Is it rude not to be comforting?
Post by: SleepyKitty on August 25, 2012, 06:00:09 PM
I wanted to run this situation by everyone and see what you thought - this involves my BF, so I put it in the D@ting folder, but it could just as easily have been a friend or family member in this situation, so mods please feel free to move if it would be more appropriate elsewhere.

I spoke to BF earlier in the day and everything seemed fairly normal. He's been stressed about a recent situation lately, but he said he'd call me later today and we'd make plans or get together or something. I didn't hear from him, so at dinnertime I called him. He was upset and kind of freaking out about this situation, but wasn't saying much about it, so I didn't believe he needed to vent or just needed someone to listen to him for awhile, since, well, he wasn't saying anything! (An example - I would ask a question, "Well, did you try X?" ... long silence until he responded "Yeah.") I was also at a loss of what to say to him about it, because frankly I see this situation as one of his own making and really had no helpful advice to offer him. I couldn't think of anything to say that didn't sound like, "Well I told you so!" or "You made your bed, so lie in it."

I wanted to say something comforting, but I didn't know what to say. The truth is, everything will probably not be alright - but of course I didn't want to say that! I ended up saying that I was sorry there was nothing I could do to help and he should call me if he wanted company or dinner or something and then go off the phone. When I'm upset, I usually just want to be left alone, so I made it clear to him he could call me whenever if he wanted to talk and left him alone, thinking do unto others.

He called me a few minutes ago and said that it was rude of me to have "hurried off the phone" and that I should have stayed on the line and talked to him about the situation and comforted him, and that if someone says they are upset about something, it's rude to brush them off and not talk about it with them. At first I was defensive, but then I thought about it some more and I thought maybe he does have a point.

So tell me, EHellions - is it rude not to comfort someone when you know they are stressed or upset? (Assuming, of course, it's someone you care about - not a random stranger telling you their terrible life story.) Or is it rude to comfort someone by saying something that you strongly believe not to be true? (For example, saying everything will be ok when it really won't be.) When I'm not sure how to behave or what to say, I always try to fall back on etiquette, but maybe this is a situation without clear etiquette rules?

Title: Re: Is it rude not to be comforting?
Post by: Surianne on August 25, 2012, 06:27:43 PM
I don't think it's a matter of rudeness or politeness, but of kindness within a relationship -- if you care about someone, it makes sense to try to help him to feel better.  In the future if you don't know what to do, this is a perfect situation for saying something like "What can I do to help?" and listening to him, rather than assuming that what you would like (to be left alone) is also what he would like.
Title: Re: Is it rude not to be comforting?
Post by: Ceallach on August 25, 2012, 06:35:16 PM
You don't need to lie or give false hope, but yes brushing off a persons distress could definitely be see as rude.

I would try asking them outright what you can do to help. Perhaps they need a distraction?  If they're overwhelmed it can be a kindness to say "how about I take you out to a movie so you can relax?" or similar.

My point is just that you're not stuck sitting there in silence feeling annoyed.  If you care about the other person you can think outside the box and try to find a way to help them feel better, even though you can rarely fix the actual situation that's upset them.
Title: Re: Is it rude not to be comforting?
Post by: Iris on August 25, 2012, 06:44:17 PM
To me (disclaimer: I'm a bit of a meanie) it depends on how you said the things you said. "I'm sorry there's nothing I can do to help" Can be said as a dismissive statement or it can be a genuine expression of regret depending on tone. Similarly "Well call me if you need anything". If you said these things as genuine offers of sympathy and help and *paused* to allow him to express any needs he had then I think you're good. He could easily have said "I just really need to talk right now" assuming you gave him the chance to do so.

I'm like you, I usually *don't* want to talk about it if something is upsetting me and personally I would find it rude if someone pressed the issue. So it certainly isn't a blanket etiquette rule that if someone is upset it's rude not to talk about it with them. I think it's nice to give them the *opportunity* to do so (see above) but it's not required by etiquette.

So, in summary - this sounds like a communication/relationship issue. You and your BF seem to have different needs when you are upset. If those needs aren't communicated then how is the other person supposed to fill them? Some time when neither of you are upset I think you need to establish some ground rules for this kind of thing. If you don't want to talk about what is upsetting you you need to let him know and vice versa.
Title: Re: Is it rude not to be comforting?
Post by: Winterlight on August 25, 2012, 06:46:19 PM
I think this was a case of crossed wires, not rudeness- you were trying to do what you thought he'd want, and he actually wanted something different. In future, you now know to ask if he'd like to vent, or brainstorm, or go do something to take his mind off things.

However, I admit that sitting there hanging on the phone while he was being silent would drive me bananas, too!
Title: Re: Is it rude not to be comforting?
Post by: Raintree on August 25, 2012, 10:56:46 PM
I'm with you, OP. He wasn't saying anything, so how were you to know he wanted you to stay on the line and "talk"? I might have interpreted his lack of conversation as, "I just want to be left alone."

I once dated a guy who seemed to expect me to just know, intuitively, what he wanted all the time, and would I ever get reamed out if I got it "wrong." It was exasperating. I don't know if your BF is like that, but I think he needs to at least realize that you can't read his mind and if he wanted to talk, he should have, you know...talked. 
Title: Re: Is it rude not to be comforting?
Post by: Sharnita on August 25, 2012, 11:08:40 PM
It sounds like the stereotypical male/female roles were reversed in this interaction.  Men are frequently accused of trying to solve the problem and/or not listening and paying attention tho the feelings.  I don't know that he needed to hear that this was about whether everything will be OK or finding a solution.  I think you can say thinkgs like "I'm sorry you are feeling so stressed over this"
Title: Re: Is it rude not to be comforting?
Post by: Pippen on August 25, 2012, 11:36:56 PM
Stress does funny things to people and makes them react to small perceived slights in ways you can't anticipate. You are probably his 'safe person' so when he is frustrated or upset you end up copping it.

Even though you know people well you never truly understand things from their POV no matter how sympathetic you are. Also if you have been hearing about this situation a lot you may be well over it by now and not interested in having anything more to do with it. Constant talking about problems and rehashing them often makes the problem seem insurmountable and can be incredibly draining. It hardly ever achieves anything valuable in helping it move forward.

Whatever the issue is I hope you guys get some resolution on it soon so you can put it behind you and get back to the fun, happy times.
Title: Re: Is it rude not to be comforting?
Post by: O'Dell on August 26, 2012, 12:11:57 AM
I don't think it's a matter of rudeness or politeness, but of kindness within a relationship -- if you care about someone, it makes sense to try to help him to feel better.  In the future if you don't know what to do, this is a perfect situation for saying something like "What can I do to help?" and listening to him, rather than assuming that what you would like (to be left alone) is also what he would like.

I agree with this. The "What can I do to help?" is a very good way to handle it. I've been known to throw out suggestions if the other person seems at a loss: Would you like to just sit here quietly? Something to drink? Even if you are on the phone it can be nice to be quiet and know that there is someone on the other end "with" you.

I have a hard time telling people it will be okay if it won't be. A couple of times I've seen people lose it when people have said that and it was obviously not going to end well. One option is "You/we will get through this. It will be hard, but I/others will be there with you and will help you."
Title: Re: Is it rude not to be comforting?
Post by: Pippen on August 26, 2012, 01:27:17 AM
I don't think it's a matter of rudeness or politeness, but of kindness within a relationship -- if you care about someone, it makes sense to try to help him to feel better.  In the future if you don't know what to do, this is a perfect situation for saying something like "What can I do to help?" and listening to him, rather than assuming that what you would like (to be left alone) is also what he would like.

I agree with this. The "What can I do to help?" is a very good way to handle it. I've been known to throw out suggestions if the other person seems at a loss: Would you like to just sit here quietly? Something to drink? Even if you are on the phone it can be nice to be quiet and know that there is someone on the other end "with" you.

I have a hard time telling people it will be okay if it won't be. A couple of times I've seen people lose it when people have said that and it was obviously not going to end well. One option is "You/we will get through this. It will be hard, but I/others will be there with you and will help you."

Excellent advice and a great approach to deal with people facing a tough time. The "Oh everything will be OK" is kind of dismissive and doesn't seem genuine.
Title: Re: Is it rude not to be comforting?
Post by: grannyclampettjr on August 26, 2012, 08:35:34 AM
I don't mean what I am about to say as a slam against men.  I actually think the following is kind of cute. 

Some men when they are upset kind of revert to childhood.  They "lose their words" and just want comfort from Momma.  They don't want to talk and they do want to talk at the same time.  They don't know how to express what they are feeling and why--all they want is for someone they love to be there for them without judgement.   

OP, would you say what you said to a 5 year old who went to you for a kiss on his boo boo, even if it was imaginary?  I bet not.  Your boyfriend went to you for comfort, which is a good thing.  He trusts you and feels safe with you.  Don't ruin that. 

If you are not comfortable being a grown man's Momma at times, well...you will be hard pressed to find a man who doesn't need a Momma figure on some level when they are upset.  If he's reasonably grown up most of the time, then find it in your heart to be comforting, not throw the cold hard truth in his face.  I don't understand the point of that. 

Title: Re: Is it rude not to be comforting?
Post by: Sharnita on August 26, 2012, 08:55:34 AM
I don't think wanting comfort is reserved to men nor is it a childhood kind of thing.  Maybe women are "allowed" to ask for and offer comfort to each other while society tends to expect men to "man up" and not be emotionally vulnerable.
Title: Re: Is it rude not to be comforting?
Post by: SleepyKitty on August 26, 2012, 09:07:33 AM
I don't think it's a matter of rudeness or politeness, but of kindness within a relationship -- if you care about someone, it makes sense to try to help him to feel better.  In the future if you don't know what to do, this is a perfect situation for saying something like "What can I do to help?" and listening to him, rather than assuming that what you would like (to be left alone) is also what he would like.

I agree with this. The "What can I do to help?" is a very good way to handle it. I've been known to throw out suggestions if the other person seems at a loss: Would you like to just sit here quietly? Something to drink? Even if you are on the phone it can be nice to be quiet and know that there is someone on the other end "with" you.

I have a hard time telling people it will be okay if it won't be. A couple of times I've seen people lose it when people have said that and it was obviously not going to end well. One option is "You/we will get through this. It will be hard, but I/others will be there with you and will help you."

Excellent advice and a great approach to deal with people facing a tough time. The "Oh everything will be OK" is kind of dismissive and doesn't seem genuine.

This is really good advice. I knew I came here for a reason. :) I personally hate it when people tell me things will be okay when it's clear that they won't be - just like Pippen said, it seems really dismissive and like you're de-legitimizing the problem. This alternative wording works much better for me.

Just to throw out a few minor details - my tone of voice on the phone was gentle and I was trying to convey a supportive vibe. Pippen was right as well that this is in ongoing problem, and I think he has worked himself into believing that there are no options and there's no point in trying because nothing will work anyways. I deal with stress totally differently, so I was just at a loss of what to say that wouldn't be the cold hard truth!
Title: Re: Is it rude not to be comforting?
Post by: Amava on August 26, 2012, 10:41:09 AM
Some men when they are upset kind of revert to childhood.  They "lose their words" and just want comfort from Momma.  They don't want to talk and they do want to talk at the same time.  They don't know how to express what they are feeling and why--all they want is for someone they love to be there for them without judgement.   

I'm female and I can get like that, too.
Sometimes when I'm upset or stressed about something, I'm just exhausted from thinking and talking about it, and I want comfort without having to rehash it all. Or feeling secure that when I do talk, it's okay if I don't make sense.
Title: Re: Is it rude not to be comforting?
Post by: Ceallach on August 27, 2012, 12:39:30 AM
I think it's important to realise that there are no "rules" for something like this.  Sometimes, I want help solving a problem.  Other times, I want sympathy.   Other times, I want a distraction, some company, some support.   Fortunately I've learnt over the years to be really good at communicating my needs so that DH can work out which I'm after without playing that dreaded game.   ;D

But it also means I realise that he has the same needs.  Part of my role is to help identify what he needs and help to meet that need.  Is it my responsibility?  Well, not really.  He is an independent individual and he *should* be able to communicate his needs.  But as a loving partner I care about his happiness so I will go out of my way to try to meet his needs even when he isn't able to vocalise them.  And unfortunately it's not always as easy as asking, sometimes it means trying 1 tactic, and if it's not working then trying another.   It's hard sometimes.  But sometimes just making that effort helps in itself, by reminding them that somebody cares about their happiness.
Title: Re: Is it rude not to be comforting?
Post by: greencat on August 27, 2012, 04:51:37 AM
I think SleepyKitty's boyfriend is reacting to how he feels and not to what SleepyKitty actually did.

Furthermore, what he wanted to hear was "No, of course you didn't mess up.  This wasn't your fault at all!"
All you wanted to tell him was "take responsibility." 
So, SleepyBoyfriend felt bad about the situation and his handling of it.  SleepyKitty didn't give him the "yes man" response he wanted to feel better about himself.  Ergo, SleepyBF still feels bad.  Except, now, he associates that "I feel bad" with how SleepyKitty reacted, instead of the actual cause, his own behavior. 

You tried to talk to him about it.  He couldn't carry on a conversation.  You also couldn't offer him the verbal reassurance that he hadn't messed up without lying to him.  If he had been physically present, maybe you could have given him a hug.  Is it rude to not lie to him in order to try and make him feel better?  I don't think so.  Etiquette does not normally demand that we lie about anything besides being grateful for strange gifts.

Err, SleepyKitty, you're not in Atlanta dating my ex are you?  >:D
Title: Re: Is it rude not to be comforting?
Post by: bah12 on August 27, 2012, 09:58:39 AM
I don't think you are required to lie to someone to make them feel better about a situation and I agree that the BF was likely projecting.

On the one hand, I don't blame the OP for thinking that her BF wanted to be left alone.  He wasn't responsive on the phone and the OP herself would have wanted to be left alone in the same situation.  But, (and I'm not sure how long they've been together) I would assume that a couple would be more aligned with how the other deals with stress and what they need as they go through tough times.  So, unless BF suddenly changed how he handles stressful situations, I do think the OP could have been more sensitive and offered some comfort.  Saying things like, "I'm sorry, this is a tough thing to go through" or "I'm here to support you and help get you through it" are helpful without being untrue or offering false hope.

If this is the first time she's experienced his stress as a couple, then things like "what can I do for you right now?"  or "do you want to talk or do you need some space?" are good things to show that she wants to be supportive and just needs some specifics of how to do that.
Title: Re: Is it rude not to be comforting?
Post by: CakeBeret on August 27, 2012, 10:10:38 AM
OP, I really sympathize with you. Sometimes my DH makes pretty poor decisions and then wants sympathy when things go south. I know he needs sympathy, and I have to really restrain myself from saying "Well, if you hadn't done Really Stupid Thing that I warned you was a Really Bad Idea, you wouldn't be in this mess". What I do is focus on his feelings rather than what happened. I say things like "That really stinks, I'm sorry you have to deal with that" or "That's rough, honey, I'm sorry". I also ask him what he wants, so I can give him whatever support he needs. "Do you want me to stay here and talk about it, or would you rather me go do XYZ for awhile?"

It does sound like your BF was projecting his unhappiness onto you. I don't blame you for thinking he wanted to be left alone. I do think that learning to sympathize even when you think he's wrong would be a good move. :)
Title: Re: Is it rude not to be comforting?
Post by: Moray on August 27, 2012, 10:14:01 AM
Some men when they are upset kind of revert to childhood.  They "lose their words" and just want comfort from Momma.  They don't want to talk and they do want to talk at the same time.  They don't know how to express what they are feeling and why--all they want is for someone they love to be there for them without judgement.   

I'm female and I can get like that, too.
Sometimes when I'm upset or stressed about something, I'm just exhausted from thinking and talking about it, and I want comfort without having to rehash it all. Or feeling secure that when I do talk, it's okay if I don't make sense.

That's definitely not a male thing, that's a human thing.
Title: Re: Is it rude not to be comforting?
Post by: dawbs on August 27, 2012, 10:18:19 AM
I don't think it's rude/polite so much as it's what each of you can/wants to give in the relationship.

Sometimes "I can see you're hurting/I"m sorry you're hurting" is incredibly valuable. 
Title: Re: Is it rude not to be comforting?
Post by: Moray on August 27, 2012, 10:26:43 AM
I don't think it's rude/polite so much as it's what each of you can/wants to give in the relationship.

Sometimes "I can see you're hurting/I"m sorry you're hurting" is incredibly valuable.

That's a very good point, dawbs. Sometimes acknowledgement is really all that's needed.
Title: Re: Is it rude not to be comforting?
Post by: Take2 on August 27, 2012, 10:51:28 AM
In a relationship, it isn't so much about a standard polite response to pain/suffering like it would be in less close relationships. It's about communicating and getting to know one another well enough to offer the kind of support that feels good when the partner needs it. What that looks like varies wildly from person to person. To sit and argue about whether a certain approach was rude or polite after the fact is sort of a red herring. The real question is what each partner needs/wants and how they can interact to respect BOTH sets of needs/wants.

I can't personally give a "everything will be OK, you didn't do anything wrong" response to a loved one when that isn't true in my estimation. But I can give a "you are a good person in spite of this situation, I know you are strong enough to get through it, and I am here for you" response. Which meets my partners needs of feeling validated as a human being of worth, reassured that I am not about to bail due to the mistake, and having someone in his corner. Without messing with my need to be honest.

Also, through many conversations we have come to agree that I will ask if I can help in a situation where I can't tell what he wants/needs. But after that, if he won't tell me what he wants/needs, he will have to graciously accept my best guess. It sounds like bf is trying to set up an agreement that you will read his mind and meet his needs. Getting that out in the open and discussed might help here.
Title: Re: Is it rude not to be comforting?
Post by: LEMon on August 27, 2012, 08:06:47 PM
My DH and I have gotten in the habit of asking after one of our emotional collisions what we could have said or done differently.  It often helps to know how he wanted me to ask or listen or sympathize or hug, or whatever.

I do suspect the fact it was over the phone caused a part of the problem.  He couldn't see your expression or feel your touch so he felt more distant.

I also suspect he knows you think he created this so he does need to know what you do believe (positive) about him.
Title: Re: Is it rude not to be comforting?
Post by: Softly Spoken on September 01, 2012, 12:13:51 PM
I don't think it's rude/polite so much as it's what each of you can/wants to give in the relationship.

Sometimes "I can see you're hurting/I"m sorry you're hurting" is incredibly valuable.

That's a very good point, dawbs. Sometimes acknowledgement is really all that's needed.

POD POD POD

My therapist helped me understand acknowledgment with a metaphor about my toe... If my toe hurts and I tell someone "My toe hurts," I want them to acknowledge my toe and let me know they care that I am in pain. I don't want to hear a diagnosis of why my toe hurts or what I should do to stop it hurting. I don't want to be told that I will get over it, that it doesn't really hurt, that I should take better care of it, etc. etc. Being told it will get better doesn't do anything for the pain I'm in now. It doesn't matter if they stepped on my toe, I stubbed my toe by accident, I hurt it kicking something, or it's a phantom pain in my head - the point is I am feeling bad, and it would make me feel better to at least hear "I'm sorry your toe hurts." Just having someone notice and care can make the pain less. Then if I'm up to it, we might move onto what can be done to ease the pain or prevent it from hurting in the future.

Of course, it is my responsibility to communicate how my toe feels, and to let someone know what they can do (or not do) to help me with it.

Also, when someone feels bad, I think it is rarely productive to debate or comment on whose "fault" it is. I don't think someone being in a situation of their own making should preclude them from sympathy. Until they have come out the other side of an issue and have the emotional maturity to laugh at themselves/learn from their mistakes, any perceived judgement will only make them defensive. I see absolutely no value in "I told you so"/"You brought this on yourself" - it communicates a distinct lack of empathy, suggesting that someone deserves to be upset and unhappy because they are judged to have made a mistake. This can create a "one up" ranking dynamic that is not very healthy in personal relationships. Nobody likes to be "finger-wagged" when they're already feeling bad about something - who likes to be kicked when they're down? :-\
Title: Re: Is it rude not to be comforting?
Post by: Allyson on September 01, 2012, 06:34:01 PM
Everyone is so different. For me, if I went to a friend with a problem and their response was, "That sounds really tough for you!" I wouldn't like that. I want to be hearing their advice or thoughts on the matter. But, the 'that sounds really tough' response is one that's advocated as something a lot of people *do* want. I am an 'advice giver' and people do approach me specifically to say 'Tell me if I'm being an idiot' or similar. But, I wouldn't be that blunt with anyone who I don't know wants that kind of response. I'm not good at being a 'pure sympathy' kind of person.

As for giving sympathy when someone's problems are of their own making, I think it depends. If someone, say, broke their leg or was fired because of a mistake they made, they *know* what they did. Me saying 'I told you so!' is not helpful in the slightest. But if it's a repeated situation, and the person keeps coming to me with the same problem resulting from the same thing they're doing, I think it's reasonable for me to say something more than 'poor you'!

It's also a matter of time...if a friend calls me crying because she just got dumped, I'm not going to immediately jump into giving advice about what she could've done differently, what she can do now, and so on, I'm going to just let her talk through it. But if it's 4 months later and she's still crying about the same guy, I don't think it's rude to suggest something.
Title: Re: Is it rude not to be comforting?
Post by: Emmy on September 02, 2012, 05:02:23 AM
Everyone is so different. For me, if I went to a friend with a problem and their response was, "That sounds really tough for you!" I wouldn't like that. I want to be hearing their advice or thoughts on the matter. But, the 'that sounds really tough' response is one that's advocated as something a lot of people *do* want. I am an 'advice giver' and people do approach me specifically to say 'Tell me if I'm being an idiot' or similar. But, I wouldn't be that blunt with anyone who I don't know wants that kind of response. I'm not good at being a 'pure sympathy' kind of person.

As for giving sympathy when someone's problems are of their own making, I think it depends. If someone, say, broke their leg or was fired because of a mistake they made, they *know* what they did. Me saying 'I told you so!' is not helpful in the slightest. But if it's a repeated situation, and the person keeps coming to me with the same problem resulting from the same thing they're doing, I think it's reasonable for me to say something more than 'poor you'!

It's also a matter of time...if a friend calls me crying because she just got dumped, I'm not going to immediately jump into giving advice about what she could've done differently, what she can do now, and so on, I'm going to just let her talk through it. But if it's 4 months later and she's still crying about the same guy, I don't think it's rude to suggest something.

I agree with this.  On various threads, people have posted phrases they would like to hear in a tough situation and those they would not wish to hear.  Everybody is different (which is why it is unfair to get offended when somebody automatically can't read your mind).  That being said, I still think the best thing to do (and something that hardly anybody would find offensive) would be to let the person know you care about their pain and you are there for them and they will get through it. 

It would be awkward to sit there while somebody was silent on the phone and like the OP, I'd be wondering if they would rather be off the phone as well.  I disagree that the OP 'rushed' him off the phone if he sat in silence for long periods of time.  The OP's boyfriend emotional state at the time probably overrode his reason and he saw his girlfriend as not giving him sympathy when she couldn't read his very confusing signals about what he wanted.  Maybe the boyfriend wanted something she couldn't give him like for her to say everything would be OK to be assured that the situation wasn't his fault.

I also agree with Allyson that different situations warrant different actions.  For example, a somebody who was fired for a one time mistake vs. somebody who repeatedly cheated the company and was caught.  If it is somebody who wants an ear to rehash the same issue over and over again (especially if they don't try to improve the situation or make the same mistakes again and again), I am going to be less sympathetic.  In the toe example, a person might complain their toe hurts, but they would lose sympathy after they keep kicking the hard object again and again and make no effort to correct the situation.
Title: Re: Is it rude not to be comforting?
Post by: bopper on September 25, 2012, 03:05:23 PM
I would go back to him and say "Remember that time where <whatever> was bothering you and you said that I got you off the phone to fast?  I would like to talk about how you would like me to handle that situation next time.  I did what works for me...help brainstorm possible solutions, but then let you have some space.  I realize now that is not what you need!  Can you give examples of what would have been better?"
Title: Re: Is it rude not to be comforting?
Post by: SleepyKitty on September 25, 2012, 03:54:40 PM
Actually, it's funny you remind me of this, bopper! Things relating to this situation got better, and then later on got worse again. I used a lot of when I heard in this thread when dealing with it the second time around, and things were much smoother. So smooth, that he started kind of relying on me more and more... and more... for someone to vent to, and to get some reassurance and comfort. I mean, almost to the point of all day, every day. Finally my emotional reserves were exhausted, and one night when he was texting me I finally sent: "Listen, I'm sorry I'm not helping tonight, but I'm exhausted and I just don't have the energy to be comforting tonight. I really just need to recharge."

The response? "Oh, don't worry, I know you're not the comforting type. I was trying to reassure you!"  :o ::)

But now we've reached a pretty happy medium. He knows he can come to me (and I know that I can do something helpful) when he needs it, but he also knows where my limit is as far as listening to venting or negativity and things are pretty balanced.