Dear Gayle,

My boyfriend is a collector. He collects things he doesn’t even have any interest in. He has fishing stuff all over our house, but he never goes fishing. I’m the one who has to dust all this stuff, and stare at it all the time. I’ve asked him to give up collecting any more stuff, or to at least pick one, maybe two things to collect, but it’s like he doesn’t hear me. What should I do?

— From Cluttersville

Dear From,

People collect things for any of many reasons. Simply because your boyfriend never goes fishing does not mean that he has no legitimate interest in the sport. Did his father fish? Were they close? As he was growing up did your boyfriend have his father around? Did his favorite grandfather fish? A special uncle? Neighbor? Without knowing this sort of information, we might never unlock the root of your boyfriend’s interest in items related to fishing, or to anything else that he might collect.

Your boyfriend might also be surrounding himself with items viewed even in this day and age as being stereotypically male. He might have an interest in certain antiques. There are many possibilities, but you are likely to never discover the real reasons if all your boyfriend hears from you is criticisms and complaints. That is not to say that you do not have a valid complaint; you do. What concerns me is your approach which does not appear to be taking your boyfriend’s emotions into account.

One major reason why he may not be communicating with you about this activity could also be that males are simply known to be less chatty as a gender, so he may never have been inclined to talk about his interest deeply enough with you for you to have determined its origin. Asking him is just as likely to get you nowhere. Patience, non-complaining, and showing snippets of interest in his collections could eventually get you more information. If you decide to try this, you might ask some moderately open-ended questions such as, “Do you think that your old lures and sectional bamboo rods would have greater monetary value, or sentimental value to most collectors?”, “You seem to know a lot about fishing gear. How did you first discover that you had an interest in it?” or “Where did you find your first fishing piece, and was it given to you, or did you buy it?”

If you can get your boyfriend to share with you about what he has, you may discover that you could develop an interest in at least some of his collections as well. The key to de-cluttering with his prized finds may be in how they are displayed. Find someone with an eye for showcasing and ask for guidance. You may discover that, if the items are displayed in interesting ways, they can add to your décor instead of swamping it.

Dear Gayle,

I know I shouldn’t do this, but I get on the Internet and look up all the stories about animals that have been abused by people or other animals. Some of the stories have good endings, but some don’t. Either way, I usually feel sad after watching enough of those videos. But I can’t make myself stop. How do I do that?

— Watcher

Dear Watcher,

The stereotype for many years has been the people who drive slowly past the scene of an accident, not to avoid hitting anyone, but to catch a glimpse of someone in physical distress. So many people do this that I am persuaded that there is some primordial reason for it. It is likely that all higher-form animals notice things around them. If anything, mankind is probably the least skilled at this. Still, we will go out of our way to see carnage, even while trying to shame ourselves out of doing so. We can only guess at what function this action may have had for early man.

As for your described activity, it sounds self defeating, with a potential for a compulsive component. In other words, you do not seem to be easily able to stop yourself from making yourself sad. In the information found in your one short letter, I would not be able to determine why you do this, but I do know that what you have said suggests a deep-seated need within you that might well be worth exploring with a counselor. I hope that you will consider sharing about it with one soon.

[Write to Gayle at: LV MY TAKE ON IT, 435 Broad Street, PO Box 158, New Bethlehem, PA 16242, or send email to mytakeonit@gmx.com. Anonymity will be maintained in keeping with all current HIPAA standards. Not all letters can be answered, but those that might have broader interest among our readers are more likely to be chosen. If you believe that you have something useful to add to a published response, please send it in; it will be considered.]

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