Dear Ellie: I’m a plumber’s apprentice, enjoying my chosen trade, and hoping to advance in it. We plumbers are badly needed when there’s a house or factory with faulty plumbing that could cause serious water damage to a family home, or large business employing many people.
They could be temporarily laid off, or have to leave their home and usual comforts because of a plumbing accident.
You might be surprised that my training period has also raised a relationship issue that is worrying me.
A senior plumber has been assigned to train me in my apprentice course, but I’m having a problem with what he thinks is part of his job.
The problem is that my “teacher” treats me more like his son, than as a serious-minded apprentice eager to advance in my chosen trade.
He’s a very nice man, always interested in giving me advice as “a dad” (I have my own father who lives in another city).
But my this takes time away from the work at hand. Instead of focusing only on plumbing, he’s telling me stories about raising young kids, how to keep a marriage happy, always being thoughtful of your partner, etc., etc.
How do I tell him without making him angry, that I want more focus on the things I need to know about plumbing, than on how to raise kids when I’m not even close to getting serious about marriage?
Getting Wrong Information
Actually, you’re getting “broad-ranging information” about the “other” realities of managing the personal responsibilities of a life, besides advancing your work skills.
This “fatherly” man is doing two jobs — one work-related for which he’s considered qualified by his own bosses.
And the other job, offered freely, is his personal experience and guidance helping a younger man grow into thoughtful maturity.
I believe that you’re lucky to have this mentor. Look at it that way, and you may appreciate him much more. I’d even bet there’ll be times ahead when future situations in your personal life will call up useful knowledge that he shared with you.
FEEDBACK Regarding the man badly-treated by his wife (April 8):
Reader – “I’m a devoted reader, but I wonder if your answer would have been different if the gender roles were reversed in this scenario.
“This man is clearly being emotionally abused by his wife. All types of abuse are inexcusable, regardless of his physical appearance or past mistakes.
“What advice would you give to a woman in a relationship with a man who degrades her and describes how he’d want her to die?”
Ellie — Thanks for your readership and interest in this situation. My answer would not be gender-based, because I respond to direct information/clues from the letter-writer… e.g. “I lost about a million dollars… we had a fight about losing the money… she described how she wanted me to die.”
So ugly, but major financial loss by a partner can arouse such anger.
He says, “I get no love/romance/sex/affection.” Yet he hasn’t left her, and says he stays alive for his parents’ sake.
I felt that if I wrote directly that he should leave her, it could move him to self-harm. So, I wrote the truth more gently — “Your wife’s response is ugly, encouraging their children’s mockery is unacceptable…. her nasty treatment is worse than the loss of money.”
I recommended his getting therapy. There is nothing anti-male in my considered answer to help this man see what he needs to acknowledge for himself.
Reader’s Commentary regarding more thoughts on Mean Girls (April 1 and 21):
“My ex-sister-in-law always felt she was better than me. She was a “manager” where I was “senior.”
“What she failed to realize was that I actually had more responsibilities than her. Plus, given my profession and personal interest, I had significantly more knowledge and experience regarding legal matters.
“But she was the major instigator in the demise of my marriage to her sister.
“Once, they purposefully engaged in a profanity-laced phone tirade toward me, intended to intimidate me.
“Ex-SIL’s mistake was using her company-issued cell phone.
“Every company has “code of use” requirements. Knowing her company email address, I located her senior managers.
“I learned some months later that she was “no longer working” there, at the same time I started my “dream job.”
Ellie — Revenge can backfire. Your “gotcha” gave you satisfaction, but distancing/ignoring bad actors keeps your own hands clean.
Ellie’s tip of the day
Learning is a life process, for work and especially for close relationships.
Send relationship questions to email@example.com.