This relationship needs a renovation

We'll be back Tuesday (after Monday holiday). In the meantime, I'm looking for complicated (and uncomplicated) questions. Tell us what's up.

I've had a boyfriend of a few years and I've known him for 16 years (more than half my life). I love him but he doesn't support my interests. My biggest passion is home renovation.

Two years ago, I moved into an old apartment because I just loved the details. Things needed to be fixed but I had plans for it, and my landlord didn't complain at all. But every time I started working on improvements, my boyfriend started criticizing, complaining ... giving unwanted advice. I've been interested in this stuff my entire life – I don't need his advice. He'll even advise me to do things in ways I already told him didn't work. It's like he isn’t listening to what I'm saying.

It just feels like no matter how hard I try, no matter how much time I spend on this work and how proud I am about the result, it doesn't matter to him. He's got nothing nice to say, and it’s not just that – apparently some of my cooking isn't like his mom's or how he believes it should be. I never do home improvement projects when he's around anymore because he just stands there critiquing. I'm trying my heart out but it feels like it's never enough. Honestly, I'm not the only person he criticizes — it's his friends, too.

At times I really wonder if I chose the right guy, or if I could find someone who would love me for being unafraid of trying new things and bringing ideas to life instead of killing all the fun and excitement. I ask myself if I could have more fun with someone who maybe would participate, or at least support me in some way, instead of someone who just stands there and criticizes all of my hard work.

I make him dinner, his coffee, pick up the candy he likes, support his hobbies, his work, I help him translate computer programs when he asks.

I don't know what I should think about my boyfriend's behavior – or how to deal with it.

– under construction


Relationships are probably a little like houses and apartments. Sometimes they require a lot of renovation and maintenance. But it's all about the bones of the place, right? If the bones are there, the labor is worth it because it's all part of a greater investment. It makes sense to tear down a wall and put it back up if it's going to make a great structure even stronger.

But enough metaphor.

Your relationship seems to be about shared history. You've known this man for a very long time, so when you got together, it probably felt pretty serious. But that doesn't mean it is – or that it has to be. You want a partner who supports your passions, or at least gets out of the way while you're enjoying them. You also want someone who can recognize the strength in others.

Meanwhile, your boyfriend is telling everyone they're doing it wrong.

You like to fix things, so I'm sure you see your boyfriend's wonderful "details" and wonder how you can draw them out. That is lovely. But again (back to metaphor), it's about the bones, and I don't see any necessary ones here. You're already imagining what another partner could bring to your life. You're hiding your work from your boyfriend so you don't have to hear his response to it.

You might not find a partner the second you break up with this one, but imagine all of the wonderful things you could do if you were single.

– Meredith

Readers? Worth the work?