Maggie's Field Notes

The West Seattle Herald is pleased to announce a new advice column entitled ‘Maggie's Field Notes.’ The Herald is looking to you guys to help make this work. We want to hear from you. Is your mind churning over a work-related decision? Are you wondering how to deal with a personal situation at home or starting up a new relationship? Ask Maggie completely anonymously for any advice, at We look forward to it!

Dear Maggie:

Throughout the years, I've taken on the role of mediator between my parents and siblings. Everyone comes to me with gripes and complaints, and they’re always asking for my opinion on their situations. I am the middle child and have been playing the "listener" of my family forever. After I give them my opinion on what's happening, they use what I say against me as a base in their arguments with the other family members. How do I get out of this terrible family role?

-Mother's Mediator, West Seattle

Dear Mother's Mediator:

First of all, no one becomes "listener" of the family without providing consistently valuable attention and insight. Investigate what initially drove you to provide in this way for your family members. Did you at one time find the role rewarding? The position of "listener" was bestowed upon you because you have excelled within it over the years. You have become a window your loved ones can either gaze out of or blow smoke through. There is deep honor in being capable of providing an engaged ear. What is not fair and needs to change is the behavior of your family members post-venting.

Evaluate whether or not you want to continue providing an outlet for your loved ones. If you do [and it is a very valuable service], next time they wobble toward you with a suitcase of trouble behind them, put your hands in front of you and lay down some ground rules. Tell them clearly and in person that you will continue to provide an ear and insight only if they reflect upon the advice and make their own decision afterward. They are not allowed to put liability on your input. Their decisions after reflection are theirs and theirs alone. If they’re not capable of understanding that and continue to draw upon your words while justifying what they have decided to do, then it's time for you to turn your ear the other way.

'The first duty of love is to listen.' -Paul Tillich

That goes both ways.


Dear Maggie:

My boyfriend and I are moving in together. I’ve never lived with anyone in this way and am really nervous. Do you have any tips?

-Shaky Knees, Burien

Dear Shaky Knees:

Don't be nervous. Be smart about it. Make sure you trust he has your best interest at heart and ensure you are both independently financially stable. If possible, go on a month-to-month lease. You are taking a major step forward. Be calmed by the knowledge that no matter what happens, the step will bring you closer together. In the end, you're either going to work out as a couple or you're not. Moving in together expedites the process of syncopation or separation.

You learn all the small details about each other. You brush your teeth together, watch the morning sun ooze over the blankets like butter, dance in the kitchen to The Temptations while cooking, come home from work and rest together. There is strife, as with all living situations. Before you move in with someone you know only their outline. Living together fills in those empty spaces. You see freckles appear on their shoulders out of thin air. You learn things that you don't like about each other. That's part of it. That's part of love. Love is not complete without this. Don't be scared about turning into a human in front of him. Either he’ll love you even more for the blemishes he finds or he wasn't the right one for you anyway. You'll be surprised by how many of your blemishes don't matter to him at all.

Go into this with flat feet and do not tiptoe around him. Not tiptoeing is the hardest part. Moving in together is an adventure. Everyone's story is different, but in the end it's always worth it. You'll either discover a deep and real love waiting inside you like a plump fruit, or you'll learn about yourself and him, separate and cast off to find the orchard. Living together is work, but it's worth it. Practice patience, empathy and compassion toward each other [especially when it's hardest], and you'll do great.

'We need, in love, to practice only this: letting each other go. For holding on comes easily; we do not need to learn it.’ -Rainer Maria Rilke


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