Tell Me About It: This couple's troubles are much more than suds-deep

Question: I have been with my girlfriend for 21/2 years. We moved in together 11 months ago with the understanding that if we felt the same after a year, we would plan marriage.

I am a home brewer of beer. Besides enjoying the stuff I make, my dad (who died three years ago) and I did it together, and it brings back happy memories. My girlfriend complains every time I make a batch (every two months): She says the kitchen is always dirty afterward no matter how hard I try to clean up, and the smell of the hops bothers her and lingers for days.

Last Saturday, an officemate was supposed to come to make a batch with me. My girlfriend was visiting her mother; I make beer when she is out because of the smell. Shortly after she left, my officemate called to postpone. Instead, I decided to clean the kitchen thoroughly, behind appliances, baseboards, etc. Afterward, I took a nap.

When girlfriend woke me, and before I could tell her what I did, she said the smell was worse than ever, and although the kitchen was clean, it was still worse than when she left.

After I told her I didn't make beer, she loudly told me I set her up and then told me to "forget about it."

Since last week, she refuses to discuss the incident. I told her that her behavior - making believe beer was a problem for her and not being willing to discuss it - is causing me to have doubts about marriage. My girlfriend says I am looking for an excuse not to make the commitment. I mentioned counseling and she ignores me.

I do very much love her. I know she can be somewhat controlling. My heart is telling me one thing, and my gut is telling me the opposite. I don't have anyone neutral to talk to. My brother is my best friend, and he is not an admirer of my girlfriend. My mother really likes her and thinks she is her best shot at being a grandmother.

The thought of her not being in my life depresses me, but this has given me huge doubts about a healthy marriage. Am I making too much of it?

Answer: She lied to you to try to make you feel bad about, and quit doing, something she knows is enjoyable and meaningful for you, and when she got caught in her lie, she blamed you.

Until your girlfriend is able to (1) tell the truth, and (2) admit fault, and (3) renounce trying to change you, these remain your only options for resolving the beer incident: You either ignore it and get no redress for her lies and manipulation, or you become the guy who found excuses not to commit.


E-mail Carolyn Hax at tellme@washpost.com, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.