What I'm about to describe is in relation to this

How can I tell a friend they need to help with what they promised because what they promised can't wait?

My boyfriend and I decided to help out an overwhelmed friend Lily who has already adopted several cats by adopting a male cat, she found outside her house. We agreed to do this because Lily was going to cover the cat's expenses including the neutering. She has been doing that for multiple cats that don't get adopted and are released, so my boyfriend figured she's trustworthy. I had my reservations and from day one I had a feeling she wouldn't deliver on her promise. Several months went by, and Lily did nothing to take care of what she promised.

I talked to my boyfriend about confronting Lily. In the meantime, I found a place that would neuter the cat for free, two weeks or so ago. I tell my boyfriend who initially prevented me from doing that (cat wouldn't get picked up the same day) by suggesting we wait for him to borrow the money to take the cat to a vet near our house so we can pick up him up the same day. However, due to changes in his work schedule, he has to wake up early in the morning and because we are both worried about the cats mating, we separated them. That didn't work. We are awakened every day by the female cat scratching the door and the male crying. I'm stressed out. My boyfriend finally admitted that I should have made an appointment with the non profit.

I call again and make the appointment. Unfortunately, this is going to be ten days from now. So again, without this being my fault, I thought of possible solutions. I asked my boyfriend's mom but she couldn't take the cat.

I couldn't keep Lily off my mind. I finally couldn't resist and told my boyfriend that it is really unfair for me not to be able to sleep because he won't confront Lily.

In my opinion, you need to call Lily and tell her that your schedule at work has changed. You need to be able to sleep. Ask her to take the cat until we find a solution.

I'm upset with my boyfriend's indecision and having to deal with the consequences, but I'm more upset with Lily and, I, whether it's my job or not, would like to confront her.

How can I tell my boyfriend "I told you so" (about the whole thing) without sounding rude and then that I would like to take care of this my way or I don't want to hear about the cats waking him up ever again? (He gets angry easily especially when I mention Lily).

My way

I don't want to call Lily. Ideally, I would like to send her a message asking her to take the male cat until we find a place that will neuter him for free (I don't want to tell her I have found one yet to see what she's going to do).

  • 14
    He already "admitted" that you told him so. What's your objective?
    – Mazura
    Oct 6, 2017 at 16:59
  • 1
    @Mazura Sometimes, it feels good when a loved one values your opinion comforts you about it, and tells you so and also acts on it. Oct 6, 2017 at 17:29
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    What about your boyfriend's mom... can she take the male cat for the ten days? If so, and if she really doesn't mind, it would seem everything is solved, so why try to dredge up other issues. ... Unless his mom can't or doesn't want to do it... Oct 7, 2017 at 3:49
  • 1
    Lets get down to it. What you really want is someone who knows when to say, "Yes, dear.". That only comes in the form of wisdom, which is knowledge plus experience. Give him a leg up on it by having him read that link. If they don't SE, introduce us to them on some other topics first, to show our community's level of objectivity (lest you seem self-righteous; backed by "internet trolls").
    – Mazura
    Oct 7, 2017 at 17:05
  • 1
    @Mazura Yes, dear :) Oct 7, 2017 at 17:14

17 Answers 17


I will get at the actual question below, but first let me start with a frame challenge:

You are mad at the wrong person!

You really want this to be about Lilly, but in reality the problem here is your BF. Forget about Lilly. She does not know you nor care about you, and you can't expect that she will help with this entire mess. Your boyfriend, on the other hand, should better care about how you feel. He has gotten you into this, and so far he has acted pretty selfishly. Focus on that, because that is a fixable issue. Consider Lilly an outside factor that cannot be influenced.

Based on what you wrote, I would speculate that a lot of the issue comes from this being a bigger deal to you than to your boyfriend. You are evidently very stressed out about this, but I feel if your boyfriend would feel even remotely the same level of stress he would have acted already. On a slight tangent, I think a lot of interpersonal issues are caused by such an asymmetry in who needs to fix an issue and who suffers from it. You BF caused the problem and should fix it, but apparently you are the one suffering more from it. In an ideal world this should make it a high priority for your BF to fix, but in practice it often doesn't. Your feelings that this is unfair only make it worse.

What, I think, is in order is a frank discussion between you and your BF that this is a big deal to you, and that you expect him to fix this mess ASAP - and then let him fix it in any way he sees fit as long as it happens right now and actually fixes the issue. Don't get bogged down in the operatives of what to do about this. If he gets Lilly to pay, wonderful. If he pays himself, with money that he finds or borrows, just as well, as long as you get back to normal within the shortest time possible.

If he does not act ASAP you have every right to be assertive (what we guys unfortunately like calling "being a bitch"). Don't back down, and don't take excuses. He caused this, it's ok if it is inconvenient, expensive, or annoying for him to fix.

This brings me to your initial question, how to tell your boyfriend that you were right. You don't. You show him by not letting him off the hook for dealing with the consequences of ignoring your initial advise. This is how we learn - we do stupid things, and then we need to deal with the consequences. Unfortunately this does not give you the satisfaction of telling him you were right, but alas sometimes it is better to gloat internally and let certain things unsaid.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Catija
    Oct 9, 2017 at 23:54

Short answer: you can't. There is no non-smug way to say the words "I told you so".

If your boyfriend is smart, he already knows. If you want to be part of the solution, you need to avoid arguing about it and likely he'll admit the error. And even if you want him to sort out his own mess, being smug about it can have the opposite effect of making the other person dig their heels in, refuse to accept the blunder and continue on the same path.

  • 25
    This question reminds me forcefully of when I quit reading Miss Manners in disgust in the '80's, because seemingly every other question was "How do I politely do something that's incredibly impolite?". There's no social ju-jitsu you can do to make it OK if you heart isn't in the right place from the start.
    – T.E.D.
    Oct 6, 2017 at 14:36

In my opinion, starting a conversation that meant to be "i told you so" is going to cause more harm. It is not resolving the problem and yet will worsen the relationship between you and your boyfriend.

Alternatively, you can talk to him in a nicer tone, with points as such :

  • You are worried about him not getting good sleep.
  • Convince him to let you try "my way" method.
  • You wanted to help, and you want to resolve the problem asap.
  • Tell him your "my way" approach and if is ok if his relationship with Lily turns sour, as it probably would.

If your boyfriend understands and give you the green light, you may proceed with "my way", which i personally would do the same as you.

You can emphasize your message with additional info, but be warned the following info will totally burn bridges.

  • Tell her the disappointment of she not providing any help when your boyfriend cat is sick.
  • Being kind is good, but please do it within your own limit.
  • Her kindness is causing problem to others.

In short, stay calm, focus on the problem rather than doing the "I told you so" to your boyfriend. It gains nothing but harm to your relationship.

  • 2
    Excellent thoughts about staying calm, though this takes a lot of maturity and considering the OP's financial situation, I question whether they're ready to own pets. Pets are a reward when you're mature enough to own them - and this includes financial maturity.
    – FalseHooHa
    Oct 6, 2017 at 13:53
  • And what about her own sleep, she shouldn't mention that too? Oct 7, 2017 at 19:29

It's obvious that this situation has gone on too long (you're having a nervous breakdown because of some cats). Since you're on the verge of exasperation, I think you have the right to give him an ultimatum. It doesn't have to be aggressive; just state firmly the plain facts and your resolution to put an end to this inconvenient situation.

It's been [two? Three?] weeks since we decided to neuter the cats and nothing has really happened since then. You can'really should sleep better and enough to wake up that early in the morning, while I am about to have a breakdown due to the fatigue. We'll do it your way for another [5] days. If there won't be an appointment with the vet by then, I will handle it.

Explicitly telling him "I told you so" might create unnecessary friction between the two of you, thus slowing the process of finding a solution.

Regarding Lily, I suggest to just forget about her and do as if the cat was yours. Your description depicts a person with a big heart but not so conscious of what she can really do, and as all of us know, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Maybe it could be better for you to have a relationship with her that doesn't involve her taking care of material things She's probably a lovely person; just take the best out of her.

  • 2
    IMHO giving an ultimatum to one's partner is never a good idea, except if it's to try fixing a problem that is actually destroying the relationship itself. I would personally react really bad to an ultimatum, whatever it is about.
    – Tim
    Oct 6, 2017 at 12:39
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    @TimF I'm not a fan of ultimata myself, but it appears to me that the OP really needs to find a solution as soon as possible (having a nervous breakdown is a big deal). I think that if it is framed in the right way, with no aggressiveness ("I love you, I don't question our relationship, I value you etc but we have to fix this problem right now"), an ultimatum about neutering a cat can just be, well, an ultimatum about neutering a cat. Oct 6, 2017 at 15:20

Avoid reminding him that you saw this coming. At least while the problem is still there.

Instead focus on solutions to the current problem. Pointing fingers will not help in any way except making you feel good for a minute or two at the expense of your boyfriend.

After the neuter has been performed and he's had a few full nights rest you can remind him if you really want to claim credit and bring up the object lesson about dealing with stuff early instead of letting it develop into a bigger issue.

You can tough out being sleep deprived for a week or two (at least if the job is not safety critical). It's not going to be fun .


As others have said, there is no "polite" way to tell someone "I told you so" nor is it constructive. Instead:

Stop telling people things and start doing

Your boyfriend and Lily have already demonstrated they are unreliable, and you are already feeling like you are doing something that is not "your job". xLeitix suggests being assertive, but assertiveness is not a tone of voice or a matter of wording. Assertiveness is acting confidently. It sounds like you have a plan to resolve the issue that doesn't rely on Lily or your boyfriend. Notify your boyfriend of what you are going to do so it's not a surprise, and then just do it. "Notify" does not mean debate or have a discussion about or suggest. This way you know something will be done. Put the fire out first. Play the blame game later (or, preferably, not at all, though some kind of discussion may well be in order).

In general, you will interact with unreliable people in your life far more than you'd like. You will be happier, more productive, and garner a quite good reputation for yourself if you take charge when others are dropping the ball.


How can I tell my boyfriend "I told you so" (about the whole thing) without sounding rude and then that I would like to take care of this my way or I don't want to hear about the cats waking him up ever again? (He gets angry easily especially when I mention Lily).

By not using the phrase I told you so but by focusing on your received impact of the situation. I'm shooting out a couple of example suggestions, take what you want/feel fits.

From the beginning I was sceptical and now what I feared have come true. I feel ignored and I feel that my worries were not valued.


I need you take responsibility for resolving the situation. I am severely stressed by it, I loose sleep over it and I am disappointed when nothing happens.


I need us to be able to talk about Lily without anger getting in the way.

(the phrase you getting angry has a high probability of triggering defence reactions, so try to avoid).

As for concrete actions to resolve the issue it needs to be your both's solutions, not his or your way. Even if what you are proposing is undeniably the best thing, you need him to agree, accept and take ownership of it as well. If not he will feel overrun.

And if you are starting by bringing a "finished" solution to the table, he will likely start by feeling overrun. So I suggest that you try to come up with something together by using a problem solving matrix: take a piece of paper and divide into three coloumns:

 What is the problem(s)   |  What is the cause(s)  |  What is the solution(s)
                          |                        |
                          |                        |
                          |                        |
                          |                        |
                          |                        |
                          |                        |
                          |                        |

There are several problems/causes/solutions. Explore all of them.

  • 2
    I like this answer a lot! It's about balancing emotions and implementing logic to fix the problem. It had a calming effect on me :) Oct 10, 2017 at 5:35

I feel like the way that the question is asked is a bit contradictory, rubbing people's face in their failures is an inherently not polite thing to do. It's kind of like asking "how can punch someone in the face without seeming too violent". Not saying it should never be done or anything, but it'll never be polite or pleasant.

Anywho, the prudent thing in this situation seems to be to sign up for the free clinic, and if better options open up before that you can always cancel. If someone, like your BF complains about this solution because of how long the cat has to stay there of whatnot, then you tell him something like:

I asked to solve the problem (by working things out with Lilly or some other fashion), that hasn't happened, so now I'm solving it my way

This solves the sleeping (and future kitten) problem, and gives you the opportunity to tell your BF "I told you so" in a way that doesn't come out of nowhere, because you are using that to explain why actions needed to be taken rather then just rolling it out in order to shame him.

I also acts a "subtle" hint that if he wants thing resolved his way he has to actually take some initiative on them


"I told you that ..." is almost guaranteed to induce the other party to defend their position. You might do that and then tear the position down to alter the dynamics of a relationship, but the long range interpersonal costs tend to include avoidance, resentment, etc. A relationship where perforance evaluation doesn't have an impact on the relationship is rare.

As to the caterwauling felines, one or both of them need to be relocated. Moving the female would avoid having a passing Tom picking up where his predecessor left off.

Spaying the female for free in 14 days is nice, assuming you place a lower value on 14 nights of sleep, or a higher cost on any solution other than paying to have the cat neutered. At least there is a fixed $ price you can pay to end the problem, most of life's problems don't include that option.

I don't know if you have any options other than the ones you've outlined, but they all sound less stressful than another sleepless night. Choose one using any random method and try it, if it fails pick another. Don't wait for tomorrow if you're discouraged, a sleepless night won't improve your outlook. This is one of those moments when indecision is the worst decision.

  • 1
    +1 for "This is one of those moments when indecision is the worst decision." Well said
    – Maxim
    Oct 6, 2017 at 19:05

How can I tell my boyfriend “I told you so” without sounding too full of myself?

You make sure you are alone. You take a photograph of your boyfriend. You tell the photograph. Stick out your tongue.

"I told you so" is closure, transferring a justifiable amount of anger to another person. So telling your boyfriend is not going to be a net improvement to your relation. But how good of a relation do you need to a photograph?

It's not the same amount of closure, but it may be better than nothing. As to actually telling your boyfriend in person: he already knows. If you don't want to sound too full of yourself, the easiest way to do so is to move on without bothering to tell him what he already knows. Particularly since that will make him try harder next time, but the same thing that didn't work rather than figuring out something that will actually work when relying on him for its execution.

In the end, you need to figure out solutions that work for you as a pair. "I told you so" is focusing on solutions that work with him as the driving force alone. But for solutions impacting both of you, or even you most strongly, giving him sole responsibility is a recipe for both of you getting annoyed and feeling let alone by the other.

I do hope you have a photograph of him, though.


This does not help with your current relationship situation, but you need to get the female cat spayed as well or it is likely to end up locked in heat, a situation very unpleasant for both the cat and yourself. The male cat, when timely neutered, is not likely to provide relief.

That is something that would most likely have come up eventually even without the presence of a male cat: but the current situation might have given it a fast forward.

The operation is more invasive and expensive than for the male, but it might have come up anyway. The female cat might or might not wind down this time after the male cat gets spayed, but it's not the last you are going to hear of it. Read up on it.


This has now become three issues for you :

(1) You want to win.

(2) You want to defeat "the evil" Lily

(3) You want him to demonstrate that he accepts your right to decide this

Let's looks at these :

(1) You want to win

Between the mismanagement of this by both of you (mostly your BF) you are now in full blown confrontation mode (war mode, if you will). Once people get to this frame of mind only winning will do. And winning at any price (including the relationship) is what sometimes happens.

Like all of these confrontations diplomacy is the key to fixing this without the side effect of lots of collateral damage.

Diplomacy is not instant gratification. It requires patience and compromise. It's accepting the big picture "most of what I want" instead of risking destroying everything.

(2) Defeat "the evil" Lily

Lily is a girl. You are a girl. You see Lily's wishes being put before yours as the problem.

You may not be aware of it, but you're trying to repel all boarders because part of you is furious that your BF has put another girl's wishes before yours.

But Lily isn't the problem.

She is not a threat to your relationship or position. She is simply an obsessive who doesn't care at all about the effect her obsessions have on other people. Probably after this calms down, you and your BF need to avoid Lily for a while - this hassle no one needs.

Your BF, who is probably innocently unaware of this aspect of the thing, doesn't know that the issue is your (instinctive) reaction to Lily's (apparent, but not real) significance.

I suspect he's just trying to do what he thinks is right for everyone (including the cats) without realizing that to you (on an instinctive level) it's now become a "me or Lily" thing.

You need to cut him some slack. Support him, don't attack him. He'll love you for supporting him, but he'll resent it if you attack him (push him). That's the instinctive male reaction.

You need to tell two people that this is the problem : your BF and yourself.

(3) You want him to demonstrate that he accepts your right to decide this

You cannot have this.

And it's not what you really, really want if you thought it through.

Your really, really want (2) and you want him to be know about (2) being important.

But in any good, stable relationship you must both have input and yet you sometimes have to let the other person have their way.

I don't want to call Lily. Ideally, I would like to send her a message asking her to take the male cat until we find a place that will neuter him for free (I don't want to tell her I have found one yet to see what she's going to do).

Actually you want to rip Lily a new one ! It's as clear as day in what you write (and in the previous question).

What you should do is precisely nothing.

Your BF (the poor sod in the middle) has already said he will sort it out.

So support him in doing that and wait for it to happen.

If you guys actually end up together for the duration (the presumed objective of all relationships that last past sex) then thirty years from now you won't believe you once risked your relationship over an argument about cats or Lily !

  • I think you are being heard. It's simply that you feel things should happen quicker than they are. A little patient encouragement should do it. You don't need to assert yourself more than that - it's the warmode in us that wants us to assert ourselves. Anyhow give it some thought. Oct 9, 2017 at 14:10
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    I did get into a war mode, didn't I? Perhaps being sleep deprived has something to do with it (partly :)). I do have a lot of thought to give it, and all the answers and comments. Thanks. Oct 9, 2017 at 14:13
  • @Tycho'sNose Is this "assertive" though? You say your boyfriend "prevented" you going to the non-profit - did he actually stop you, or did he actually suggest a reason why that might not be the best solution? "Assertive" is saying during that discussion why the non-profit is the best solution, which BTW he now sees it was. If Lily is a friend of both of you (do you have her number?) then why does it have to be him who calls her? And ultimately, if neither of you wanted the cat in the first place and Lily won't sort things, can you not both talk about taking it to a shelter?
    – Graham
    Oct 9, 2017 at 18:04
  • The reason you're sleep deprived is because, at the end of every day, you're still wound up about this problem. You really want it gone, done with, fixed now, but that's not (realistically) going to happen. It will take a short while and you need to just hug what-ever his name is and keep chanting the magic mantra "mine. mine. mine". I'm pretty sure that will help your sleep. :-) After all, you've got him and Lily and the cats don't. All the rest is detail. Oct 9, 2017 at 18:39
  • 1
    I doubt Lily being gay (lesbian woman or gay man ?) makes any difference to the basic psychology here. You're in "repel all boarders and listen to me" mode and that's all there is to it. Take a deep breath and play it out as calmly as possible, Remember that any positive progress is good even if it's slow. Your BF may need to be made aware calmly that this is a bigger issue for you than just the cats, and that might help make him more decisive. Oct 10, 2017 at 13:12

You don't need to point out to him right now that he's in over his depth. As you identify, that will most likely make your situation worse.

Right now, you need to be thinking of strategies to fix or improve the situation, not apportion blame. In a constructive environment, you might between you find something that helps. Even with these strategies, you need to present the 'problem' as the situation the two cats are in rather than a result of human interactions.

Once the situation is resolved (and you've finally sold the kittens), then you can think it if makes sense to bring up the issue that Lily has some issues and needs help. At no point do you need to 'claim' a moral victory, simply addressing the root cause will make it clear that you had recognised it earlier on.


At a point in a conversation where any reasonable person would say "I told you so" except they don't say it because they don't want to sound smug, you say "I'm not saying it". Your boyfriend will know what exactly you are not saying.


Don't make this an "I told you so" situation. You can't say "I told you so" without it sounding the way you don't want it to sound.

Instead, this doesn't have to be an "I told you so" situation at all, because that's not what you're looking for at all - your goal isn't to shame your BF and wallow in superiority. Your goal is to get the cat situation taken care of, period.

So explain that that's what's going to happen. Don't even say anything about what happened in the past. If the BF brings it up, don't react with "I told you so", react with "Thank you for offering, but I'll take care of this now".

Grace demands leaving out the "I told you so" part. If someone else brings up what happened in the past, respond by talking about what needs to happen now.


Wow! What secondary gain! Look how many people you've gotten invested in this problem. May I suggest, just as with sex and money, the two most often fought-over subjects in a relationship, you've added a third "red herring" to misdirect the actual problem. Yes, the cats are a problem, but they are most likely masks for bigger issues lurking underneath. And when both of you address those, then nobody will have to (or get to) say "I told you so."


Get out the phone book, and find a kennel or whatever they are called for cats. Your sanity/sleep is worth more than whatever they are charging. Make a few phone calls to comparison shop, pick one and go.

Alternatively, get yourself a hotel room, temporarily. Maybe even sleep at a friends house.

The cost of any of these solutions is nothing compared to $300/hr for mental therapy or losing your job.

Now gets some sleep, and think about more clearly after a good night sleep.

There is no good "I told you so". Think about how you will feel when you make a mistake, and if he throws it in your face. Do you want that, NO! You want someone who will help you fix the problem purely as a good deed. Here is your chance to set a good example.

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