Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Boyfriend May Be Gaslighting Reader

DEAR HARRIETTE: How can you tell if someone is telling the truth?

I am in a relationship where I believe my boyfriend is continually lying to me about everything, including dumb stuff. He denies that he is lying every time I question him. As I consider whether he is telling me the truth, I wonder if I am losing my mind. For instance, he'll say he’s going to meet me, but he doesn’t show up and doesn’t call; I can’t believe that there is always a family crisis. After a while, I feel like he’s blowing me off. That’s when he goes in hard, telling me that I don’t trust him and I should be more thoughtful because he is going through a lot. I can’t see what he’s going through, though. It seems like smoke and mirrors. Every now and then, he will trot out somebody who corroborates his story, which makes me question my instincts.

I’m not sure what to do. I can’t prove my suspicions, but I don’t feel like I can trust him now, which is a major problem. -- Regaining Trust

DEAR REGAINING TRUST: Ask yourself what type of relationship you want and deserve. Does it feature doubt, mistrust, disappearances and random proof of corroboration? Seriously, think about what you have been accepting. Is this what you want for your life? If not, stop accepting it. Whether or not he is telling the truth, if you feel uncomfortable, shaken and lied to, that counts for something.

You need to decide what quality of life you want to experience. Then evaluate whether your boyfriend is living up to your baseline for that life. If not, you don’t need to have proof of anything other than what you already know -- he does not live up to your standards. Then you have to muster the courage to walk away.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I live in an apartment building with fairly thin walls. My next-door neighbor is a single mom with two young children. I have noticed recently that she seems to leave them home when she goes to the store or wherever. I have heard them crying sometimes, and it bothers me. I don’t want my neighbor to get in trouble, but I am worried about her children. I would be willing to watch them on occasion, but I don’t want to overstep my bounds or get in too deep. I think it’s kinder to try to support her than to report her, though. Do you think I should offer to baby-sit sometimes and see how it goes? -- Being the Village

DEAR BEING THE VILLAGE: I like your supportive attitude and clarity about what you are able and willing to do. Speak to your neighbor, tell her that you are concerned about her children and offer to help in the specific ways that you can. Ask her if it will help for you to watch her children when she has to go to the store for an hour. Let her know the exact times you are availabile. If she’s willing, try it out. Watch her kids and see if she comes home in a timely manner.

If your neighbor is appreciative and mindful of time, keep it up. If she is irresponsible with time, let her know that she needs to get other support for her children so that she doesn’t leave them at home alone. Otherwise, you will have to report her to the authorities.

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to askharriette@harriettecole.com or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)