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May 5, 2011

12
P.M.

Carolyn Hax Live:

Total Responses: 33

About the hosts

About the host

Host: Carolyn Hax

Carolyn Hax

Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997 as a weekly feature for The Washington Post, accompanied by the work of "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis. The column has since gone daily and into syndication, where it appears in over 200 newspapers. Carolyn joined The Post in 1992 as a copy editor in Style, and became a news editor before turning to writing full-time. She is the author of "Tell Me About It" (Miramax, 2001), and the host of a live online discussion on Fridays at noon on washingtonpost.com. She lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband and their three boys.

Carolyn's Columns
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The Hax-Philes

About the topic

In her daily column in The Washington Post Style section, Carolyn Hax offers readers advice based on the experiences of someone who's been there. Hax is an ex-repatriated New Englander with a liberal arts degree and a lot of opinions and that's about it, really, when you get right down to it. Oh, and the shoes. A lot of shoes.

Carolyn was online THURSDAY, May 5 at noon ET, taking your questions and comments about her current advice column and any other questions you might have about the strange train we call life. Her answers may appear online or in an upcoming column.

E-mail Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com.

Got more to say? Check out Carolyn's discussion group, Hax-Philes. Comments submitted to the chat may be used in the discussion group.

Carolyn's Recent Columns

Past Carolyn Hax Discussions

Way Past Carolyn Hax Live Discussions
Q.

Carolyn Hax :

Hi everybody. Feeling seduced and abandoned by my Caps today, but otherwise I'm in a fine mood. How bout you?

Q.

Best Friend

You might not remember, but I was the divorced guy who fell in love with his best friend after meeting her in a divorce support group. I asked how long was reasonable to wait for her to "come around" from being still hung up on the break-up of her marriage. In a chat a few weeks ago, you told me I was kidding myself and I need to come to a decision: put a halt to the friendship because I couldn't help wanting more, or enjoy her company for its own sake and let what happens, happen. At first I thought the latter was a nonstarter and I'd have to get out of the friendship. But as time went on, it became apparent the former was the untenable option. She's such a big part of my life now, I don't see how I can just walk away from the friendship, even temporarily. What happens at this point, happens. It might suck and I'll end up right where I was when we first met, but okay, so be it. That's a risk I'll take for keeping her in my life right now.
A.
Carolyn Hax :

Glad you've made peace with it. It's amazing how much easier things get when you're the one who decides that it's okay if something sucks. It's almost as if the combination of dreading an outcome and actively trying to prevent it--when it's not something that's yours to control--produces a result that's almost as bad as the thing you're trying to prevent. Thanks for writing back.

– May 05, 2011 12:06 PM
Q.

Taking a break vs breaking up

Dear Carolyn, I've been living with my boyfriend for 8 months. Most of the time things have been good, but stresses outside of the relationship have really bombarded us in the past year. These include: finishing grad school, job searching, health issues and family stress. My boyfriend and I both deal with stress very differently: me by finding outside activities to let off steam, and him by getting overwhelmed. I've decided that I need some time alone to figure out my life (I'm looking for a new job and he has not been supportive on this front) and so I am making plans to move out of his house. I haven't talked to him about this recent decision, since I do want to articulate that yes, I still want to see him, but I need to also live alone during this difficult period. Am I being unfair to him? Should I nix the idea of moving out? I've been unhappy living with him for several months now, but I honestly don't know that I've tried literally everything to be happy with him, although our different approaches to stress really concern me. I'm not afraid to be single, and sometimes, really, I just wish I didn't have the added pressure of a relationship. Please help!
A.
Carolyn Hax :

Why do you want to keep seeing him, vs. break up? This is a real, not rhetorical, question.

– May 05, 2011 12:07 PM
Q.

Dealing with depression

Sunday is not only mother's day but my child's first birthday. I'm also in the middle of a divorce (that started while I was pregnant), both of my parents are dead, and the love of my life is spending the day with his own mother and child (for various reasons we cannot spend the day together). Any tips for just getting through the day? Although, frankly, I expect the day itself will be just fine--it's the anxiety of anticipation that is killing me right now.
A.
Carolyn Hax :

What's to anticipate? If you were close to your mom, then I can see feeling some symbolic weight on Sunday. And if you're worried about being the only one celebrating your baby's first birthday, then it's a fine time to call in a friend or two to lend their voices to a "party" (since first birthdays are more about the parents than the kids, the kids being oblivious and all).

Maybe I'm being dense, but otherwise all I see is a divorce, which is bad but has no "peg" to Mother's Day--i.e., it'll be as bad a thing Sunday as it is today--and a child and a new relationship, which are both good things. 

– May 05, 2011 12:14 PM
Q.

Confiding in friends

Hi, Carolyn - I'm having some issues with my husband, and I know I would benefit from talking it out with at least one of my girlfriends. But we're at a point in our lives where my friends are his friends as well (though my friends for much longer). How do I balance my need to confide in my friends versus unfairly sharing too much with someone that is also his friend? Overall, I'm coming to the realization that I should go to counseling to get some help on communication so that I can just talk to my husband and not have to strike this balance. But, really, I feel like I should be able to talk to my friends freely first. Some of my concern likely comes from a fear that my friends won't view us a 'perfect couple' anymore.
A.
Carolyn Hax :

There are no "perfect couples," there are only couples with varying degrees of flaws, and the flawed people who observe them. Surely you have one friend in your orbit who is grounded enough not to blink (or blab)  when you say you're struggling with somethign in your marriage? If you do, then that's the one you confide in, because not only will the advice be better from someone who isn't caught up in appearances and who won't make your problems about her, but also this person will be able to recognize that one issue here and there is irrelevant to her friendship with your husband. (Unless it's a big issue, in which case it's all the more important that you have at least one friend at your side, and it's well worth any potential awkwardness to tell this grounded friend the truth.) Either way, limiting it to one carefully chosen friend is the way you avoid being unfair to your husband.

If instead you don't envision any of your friends handling your situation smoothly, then please get on the counseling thing. Stalling because it feels weird or as if you've failed somehow is common, but all that does is postpone the time when you feel better. (and, not for nuffin, if you have issues with your spouse and don't feel any of your friends can act like adults on your behalf, then you might have a lot more to talk about with a therapist than just the one issue in your marriage.)

– May 05, 2011 12:26 PM
Q.

ADD and Loving It

Anyone dealing with ADD/ADHD-- especially adult ADD--should watch this documentary. It has aired a couple of times on PBS and stars comedian Patrick McKenna and is directed by Rick Green, best known in the US for their roles on the Canadian sitcom The Red Green Show. Both have ADD and this is a fascinating, thoughtful look, including extended interviews with McKenna and his wife on how ADD has affected his role as a father and a husband. Obligatory Amazon link.

A.
Carolyn Hax :

This is the first I;m hearing about it, but here it is, thanks. Another reader also reminded me of CHADD, with which I am familiar (http://www.chadd.org/and another recommended ... durn it, I closed that e-mail window when I started the chat. I'll get it at the end, and also post all of these on the Resource tab on my page, carolynhax.washpost.com

 

 

– May 05, 2011 12:30 PM
Q.

Women Growing Older

One of the things I find difficult is trying to be an intelligent, educated, therapized, mentally and emotionally healthy, content with singlehood, etc. woman in her thirties is... I feel like I'm not supposed to be afraid of having an "expiration date" when men are no longer interested in me, when I'm considered "undate-able". But I really, really do have that fear, I just don't like to admit to it. I know more than one woman who was abruptly shocked by becoming completely invisible to men at forty, or at fifty. I wish it weren't real, but ignoring it solves nothing. I'm not sure how afraid I am of being alone; it's more like I feel incredibly angry that this happens to women at all. I'm already sort of mentally preparing myself for it to happen. The worst is that, as I've struggled with a weight problem for most of my life, I've known what it's like to phase from visible to invisible and then back again as my weight fluctuates within and without some strange permissible attractiveness range. I know what it feels like when the curtain drops, and I'm dreading the day it drops forever. I could use some dissenting voices and/or encouragement.
A.
Carolyn Hax :

First of all, until you clear, oh, 85, you'll be young to somebody. 

Second, phasing out of desirability isn't a fact of life just for women or just in dating. As has always been true but the recent recession underscored, being a mid- to later-career worker also has its perils. Being in the job market in your 40s and 50s puts you in the same pool, often, with people who also have experience (albeit not as much) but can be had for a lower salary. There are laws against age discrimination and not against hot-chick discrimination, but this hardly means that a 50-year-old guy doesn't face a really scary truth if he gets laid off.

This answer is starting to sound like, "You think that's depressing? No no, THIS is depressing"--which I realize is an unhelpful way to help. But what I'm really trying to do is disrupt your tight focus on the "nobody will date me when I hit 40 because I'm a woman" problem. As we age, our bodies and circumstances change. There's no way around that. But while there are some general truths, that doesn't guarantee that you, specifically, will have that same struggle. You may be happily paired by then, or happily not interested in pairing off, or your genes or personality or self-maintenance routine might position you to be a serious catch. Who knows.

What you -do- know (and this is why I brought up the job market) is that you will be just like all people, who have no choice but to accept that growing older gives you no more say in what the universe has planned for you than you had when you were younger. So, no point getting caught up in trying to guess what's in store for you--just do what you think is best and see where it all goes.

– May 05, 2011 12:46 PM
Q.

Re: Confiding in Friends, the Perfect Couple

Trying to be the Perfect Couple is exhausting- please don't worry about it. Putting pressure on anything involving human beings to be perfect is a fast ticket to Stress-ville (take it from someone who personally thought that a bad week meant my relationship- still going strong, btw- was dooooomed). If you have a friend that you trust not to blab, go for it- them knowing both you AND your husband might give them some extra insight, and they might even be relieved/more comfortable and at ease to know that you guys aren't "perfect." I remember when I saw my aunt and uncle, who had a wonderful marriage, argue, and I was shocked- SHOCKED. ...And then they were shortly back to their happy selves. Made me reevaluate the whole idea of perfect.
A.
Carolyn Hax :

Works for me, thanks.

– May 05, 2011 12:49 PM
Q.

Marriage going to pieces

Hi Carolyn, My husband and I are on the verge of divorce. A few months ago I let a down-on-her-luck friend and her one year old daughter come stay with us in our spare bedroom. They are still here. My friend found a job and daycare for her kid but with no car, no credit history, insufficient income, it's really hard for her to become independent. My husband wants her out now and I understand but I can't kick my friend out like that. I'm so mad at him for wanting to treat her like she's some unknown (addressing her as "some person and her kid"). Before she moved in, my husband and I had a great life. I felt very lucky because I feel like I narrowly escaped my friend's fate and I wanted to share in my good fortune. I feel stressed and anxious all the time and I just don't know what to do.
A.
Carolyn Hax :

First of all, you need to look at all this through your husband's eyes, since what you've given here is through just your eyes and (somewhat) your friend's. Did you talk about this with him before you offered the room to your friend? Did he voice reluctance/objections then? Did he agree but only if there were a distinct end point? Did you minimize it when you posed the idea to him: "Oh, just a little while, till she gets on her feet"?

While your impulse is very generous, I have no trouble sympathizing with your husband in wanting the friend and baby out of the house after three months of having his peace and privacy compromised by someone to whom he has no particular tie. He (and you) have already gone above and beyond, and while you rightly have a hard time imagining what happens when you "kick my friend out," that's not the only way you need to frame this. You also owe it to your -life partner- to ask, "To what extent am I making the problems of a fellow adult into my problems?" There's a fine line between rescuing someone in a real emergency to aquiring co-dependents. You owe it to your friend, your husband, your marriage and yourself to spend the next week or so taking many concrete steps toward getting your friend out to a place of her own. By that I mean researching housing, relief for low-income families, etc. 

– May 05, 2011 12:59 PM
Q.

Re: Women Growing Older

Hi, Not sure if I agree with your reply. It would have been better to say-- tough, lady. I'm going through this now since I turned 40 a month ago. I don't want kids but I want a life partner who wants to get married. I suspect many women over 40 give up because they've been dating so long (like me) and yes, pickins are getting slim. Men under 30 are more attractive and single but they're not ready to commit. Men over 40 are usually divorced with a few kids. Even if a single woman 40 and over has a positive attitude, the reality isn't great.
A.
Carolyn Hax :

Isn't that mostly what I said, though? Just in a very different way. (And, side topic, what's wrong with "divorced with a few kids"?)

– May 05, 2011 1:02 PM
Q.

re: Expiration Date

Oh, please. The only expiration date on dating is your own physical expiration date, as when you stop breathing. When you are in your forties and dating, you are encountering a completely different dating pool than when you were in your twenties or thirties. The whole focus on physical appearance will drive away dates - unless you are comfortable in your own skin, however wrinkly or overweight or lumpy it is, you will telegraph desperation. Watch, "What Not to Wear" , read, "If I'm So Wonderful, How Come I'm Still Single?" , and consider that you are not therapized enough if you still feel as you do.
A.
Carolyn Hax :

... and here's another way to look at it. Thanks.

– May 05, 2011 1:03 PM
Q.

re: growing older

Interesting this question came up. I asked last week about what to do with early 40s friends who are wallowing in feeling old. You said to claim the age I am and defend it like a maligned friend. I loved that! So, I'm going to. Also, to the poster here -- I really loved my 30s, except for the lack of finding a lifelong partner. But now, early in my 40s, I'm in better shape than I've been in years (also a struggle for me), fulfilled a lifelong dream and embarked on a pretty dramatic new life. I think I'm a damn good catch. Whether or not anyone worthy casts his line is another story, of course, but I"m learning to be okay with that too.
A.
Carolyn Hax :

Possibly our first thread-tying to span two weeks. Thanky.

– May 05, 2011 1:04 PM
Q.

Is it okay...

To meet up with an ex girlfriend for lunch or coffee? I was friends with my exgirlfriend before we tried to date. The exgirlfriend was more into the dating thing then I was. But she is my friend and I like her but it would never cross any boundaries. My wife knows I'm friends with my exgirlfriend but she doesn't like it. I do I convince my wife there's nothing more?
A.
Carolyn Hax :

Include your wife in the friendship, from the beginning. If you can't pull that off, then going for coffee is a non-starter, for reasons beyind your wife's discomfort.

– May 05, 2011 1:07 PM
Q.

Re: Taking a break vs breaking up

It sounds like she wants to exit the relationship in stages. Sometimes that's what you have to do because you're not emotionally ready to call it quits. However, if she *knows* it's over and just doesn't have the guts to make the break, she needs to summon up the courage.
A.
Carolyn Hax :

That's what it sounded like to me, which is why I asked. Finding out you can't handle the way your mate handles stress is as sound a dealbreaker as I've run across. Because it's not like he's going to change the way he handles stress overnight (or at all, if he's not receptive to change), and it's not like this will be the only stressful period this couple ever goes through. And, one of the main reasons for pairing off in life is to help manage stress. (Agree? Disagree? Discuss.)

– May 05, 2011 1:10 PM
Q.

Bad daughter

I really have no desire to see my mom on Sunday. Something has switched in me lately about how I feel about her. We have had a difficult relationship--because of a divorce and various family dysfunctions -- I lived with my grandmother as a child, but somehow in the past I have always tried to stay connected to her, and I know she loves me in her own way, which as an adult I have discovered has limitations that do not apply only to me. Now I am married and have children of my own, and my desire is to spend mother's day with my husband and kids -- perhaps a picnic and trip to the playground -- neither of which my own mother would enjoy. I know I need to go visit her, but find no joy in it anymore. And I feel guilty about it because she is infirm and I know she is lonely, but she has her husband, and her kids from her marriage to him, and in a way, I feel that the burden to make her feel loved should be on them, not me. Am I a horrible person for feeling this way? And what do I do with these feelings?
A.
Carolyn Hax :

No, you're not a horrible person. First of all, it's not your thoughts and feelings but what you do with them that defines you. And, a truly horrible person would just flip off lonely infirm Mama and not look back (except maybe to lay all the blame on her).

In the near term, plan your picnic and trip to the playground. That's where your main responsibility is, with the family you created, and so that's where you put the bulk of your attention.

If you can fit in a visit to mom before or after your family day, and if it will bug you not to check in on a lonely person, past baggage notwithstanding, then pop in to see her. If doing that would strain your other plans, then go see her Saturday.

I offer this as "in the near term" because you're clearly turning this over in your mind still, and you're not going to find peace through magical planning. But by planning a weekend that's more on the terms you want and less a copy of what  you've done in the past--but still not a drastic blowoff--you'll be trying on a new way of dealing with your mom, which might bring progress in the way you think about your mom. Say, not so much as a joyless obligation but instead as something you do for her--for your reasons. 

 

– May 05, 2011 1:21 PM
Q.

Repeats

Question: is it really annoying to you and your team for people to submit the same questions over more than one week, in the hopes they'll get an answer? Or do you like having the chance to take a crack at something you didn't have time for before? (Or are there so many questions that you don't even notice?)
A.
Carolyn Hax :

I try to read all the outtakes after a chat, but there are hundreds of them, so on a busy week I might not get through all of them. That means re-submitting a question next week that I didn' t get to this week isn't a bad idea, though there's still a good chance I won't see it during the chat. 

Since we're on the subject: It is unhelpful to submit the same question several times to one chat. I won't see the repeats till later, so it won't get my attention, but the producers will, and it makes their job harder. If you get an error message, do try again, but not over and over. Thanks.

– May 05, 2011 1:26 PM
Q.

re Women Growing Older

Even if you're in a marriage or long-term relationship, isn't it possible to "become invisible" to your partner or husband as you age? I know it sounds awful, but if we're just talking about youthful sexual attractiveness, then theoretically one loses it regardless of relationship status--right? Yet people still get married and stay married, without cheating. The reason is that you stay "visible" based on what you offer. I think this insecurity about the future--and I have it too (as a woman approaching 30) is really about a fear of not mattering to anyone. Of being interchangeable with someone else. If you're not a cute girl anymore, but you're also nobody's cherished wife, then what are you? I try to have many answers to that question for myself--ones that will strengthen, rather than weaken, as I age.
A.
Carolyn Hax :

Some things to think about, thanks--though I slap my forehead at the whole concept of there being cuteness, cherished paired-offedness, with everything else as a yawning void. The "everythign else" is nothing less than who you are inside and what you do for the world, which are both largely within your control. Being cute and/or happily paired off are just two possible augmentations of that "everything else."

And maybe I'm just an old fart, but I can't think of any group of humans more "interchangeable"--when taken solely on surface value-- than cute girls. Just ask Hollywood. 

– May 05, 2011 1:36 PM
Q.

Rescinding an Evite

I sent an Evite to all of the parents of the kids in my daughters' preschool class (16 kids), about three weeks ago. The party is this Saturday. 7 people have RSVPd, and the other 9 have viewed the invitiation but not responded. I did send out a polite reminder earlier this week. I need to give the party facility a headcount, and also provide treat bags and food for everyone. The difference between 7 kids and 16 is significant. I suspect that people are waiting to see if they have anything better come up for this weekend, and if not, they'll come to the party. Is it o.k. if I delete the people who haven't RSVPd from the invitation? Then they can't access it for the info about the party address/time and can't just show up. FWIW, my daughter is young enough that she's not going to note who was there and who wasn't, as long as some kids show up.
A.
Carolyn Hax :

Let's stipulate that all the non-responders are self-absorbed, thoughtless jerks who are hoping for a better plan for this weekend. 

What do you have to lose by shrugging it off, guessing at a number (uhhhh ... 10 kids) and rolling with it? 

Reasons for this are:

1. Not getting/acting [ticked] always feels better than getting/acting [ticked.]

2. Families of preschoolers are, at all times, notoriously close to going off the rails when it comes to planning things that aren't happening in the next hour. So, while some non-responders may well be hoping for a better deal, it's quite likely that most of them fully intended to respond but needed to check their calendars at home and forgot again by the time they got home. 

3. I;'m not sure this is a reason or just a personal soapbox moment, but any excuse not to give out treat bags is a good excuse. Parting gift? Sure. Bag of little things? Two minutes of joy for kids, ever growing pile of stuff  to deal with for adults. 

 

– May 05, 2011 1:45 PM
Q.

How to say thank you?

Hi Carolyn. I don't know how to thank a couple of complete strangers for their help. I'm epileptic, and felt a big seizure coming on as I was walking the other day. I spotted a woman on her porch and ran up to her in a panic, explaining what was happening and asked if I could lay on her lawn until it passed. She was incredibly soothing and calm, and called for her husband to come outside. The two of them held me while I seized to prevent me from hurting myself (if I'm alone and this happens, I always hit my head on something). When it was over, I was pretty dazed. They sat with me, offered me water and a ride, but since I was within walking distance from home I just thanked them woozily and went on my way. I remember their house, but I don't know their names. I'd like to thank them again, lucidly, and let them know that things could have ended up so much worse had they not been so willing to help. I am in awe that two strangers could be so compassionate and calm during a situation that surely must have been as scary for them as it was for me. So, do I go knock on their door? Send a card addressed to "resident"? I wouldn't feel right not expressing my gratitude. Thanks!
A.
Carolyn Hax :

Card, and you can address it to "nice people who helped me" or whatever else seems appropriate, because you can put it in their mailbox/slot yourself .

And, thank you. It's not what you intended, but asking this question gave us all a chance to like these people.

– May 05, 2011 1:49 PM
Q.

Kids?

My boyfriend of 2 years and I, both mid to late 30s, have been discussing trying to have kids. I've always wanted kids. He's always figured he could be happy with or without kids. But he also assumed he would probably end up with someone who wanted kids and have kids. A few of his coworkers have kids under 2 and are having a hard time of it. As related to me, one said that he understands why people walk out on their families sometimes. Another said that dating was okay, living together was okay, marriage was okay, but that having kids sucks. Now, my boyfriend keeps asking me if I'm sure I want kids. (I am.) We've discussed this and he says he's still willing to have a child, but with more hesitations that I have. My question: Can I take this at face value, or should I be inferring that he really doesn't want kids?
A.
Carolyn Hax :

Unless he has a habit of saying things just to make you happy even though he doesn't mean them, I think you owe it to him to take him at his word. It's actually strangely disrespectful to decide he means something entirely different from what he said (again, unless there's precedent--in which case, not the guy to be with more than casually ...?).

Now, if you're wary of taking on this huge responsibility with someone who is, at face value, hesitant, then that's something else--something that's entirely your place to decide.

However, for what it's worth, few people go in to childrearing with zero doubts, fears or second-guessing--and for good reason, because the early years really can suck. You're tired, you're never off-duty completely, your house is loud and messy and sometimes it smells. (And everyone has opinions on what you're doing wrong, and playing with babies is boring, and caring for them is numbingly repetitive, blah blah.) But people do it anyway not just because they're blackmailed into it or forget to use birth control; some people actually enjoy the baby chaos, and some are just fine with it knowing there's a long-term benefit to it all.

As in, kids! Kids who learn to take themselves to the bathroom and who tell you bad jokes and hug you like no one else will. 

If this guy is the guy you want to go through all this with, then take him at his word and OPENLY talk beforehand about the possibility that things will get bad before they get great, and that the bad and the great and everything in between will come as somewhat of a surprise that you can't plan for entirely, because it's the kids themselves, not you, who have the most say in what your experience is like.

Good luck!

– May 05, 2011 2:01 PM
Q.

Fool me once, shame on you

Hi Carolyn, love the chats. I'll try to make this concise but it's kind of involved. Last summer, boyfriend and I broke up 95%. We were going to wait a week or so to make the decision final, but it was more or less done. He finalized breakup after the waiting period. Fast forward until now. We started spending some time together again, and it was looking like we were going to get back together. I asked a question on a weird hunch about what went on during that "waiting period." He admitted that he hooked up with, but didn't sleep with, someone else. He said that if we were going to move forward he didn't want that lie between us. (I had asked him the same question the night we broke up, and he denied it.) He said there was no excuse and apologized, but also said that he thinks he did it because our relationship wasn't good and he subconsciously wanted to do something that would prevent us from staying together after the waiting period. Where does that leave me? Part of me thinks, "he's human, he made a mistake." I've lied before, and even cheated, and learned from it and it doesn't make me a horrible person. The other part of me wonders if I can ever trust him again. Would I be an idiot to trust this guy again? I don't want to be fooled twice. Thanks in advance.
A.
Carolyn Hax :

Oh no, I was chatting and suddenly I woke up in a "Friends" rerun.

The breakup was more or less done, and so he went out and did something he not only told you about, but also (apparently) never did while you were together. I obviously don't know boo about him, but just from what you gave me here, he seems like a pretty trustworthy person. Denying it back on your Breakup Effective Date wasn't honest, of course, but arguably the truth then would have hurt you a lot and helped you not at all.   

If there's anything to take away from the whole episode, maybe it's that breakups are effective when they happen, and not at a specified time later.

 

– May 05, 2011 2:10 PM
Q.

do i just avert my eyes?

Any advice on a gentle, non-snarky way to tell the freshly graduated ivy league lawyer new on our staff that her low-slung trousers have exposed all of the butt crack I'd like to see this year? She does not report to me.
A.
Carolyn Hax :

Notify the person she does report to? Workplace butt-cracks aren't my bailiwick, but I'll put it out there in the hopes that it will help low-slung trouser-wearers connect the cool breezy sensation on their backsides with over-exposure of parts.

– May 05, 2011 2:13 PM
Q.

Roommate troubles

I have a roommate who is generally fine. My only major point of contention is that she's broke. With her salary, she is barely making rent and has no money to do anything else (so she is in the apartment every night/all weekend lonely and depressed). This means I can't have people over without her joining us (she's so desperate for company that she doesn't get the hint its rude to join in). Now she's about to take a pay cut for a new job. I don't want to be in her business, but is there some way to politely tell her that a pay cut is going to drive me insane enough to move out?
A.
Carolyn Hax :

Is she so awful that there's nothing to be gained from her company? I mean, I could argue that it's rude for you to have people over without including her, if you're using the common space--but it seems more promising to go at this from a be-nice-to-a-lonely-person angle than a don't-be-a-doink angle.

And if you do so dislike her company that you don't want her around when you're with your friends in the common spaces of your shared apartment, then maybe you should give notice and find a new place to live.

 

– May 05, 2011 2:18 PM
Q.

RE: Marriage going to pieces

Carolyn, In answer to your questions: We did quickly discuss letting her stay with us the night before she and her mom were evicted from the house her mom was renting. He did seem reluctant but agreed if it was only for a month (which has obviously passed). I probably did down-play it 'cause even I didn't think that she'd still be here now. I feel like I never have any time to myself. I get up in the morning and take her daughter to daycare and drive her to work. I have to take her to the grocery store and I did a lot of driving around when she was job-searching. Today, I've spent the majority of my morning in tears arguing with my husband and after that researching hud-housing (most of which, the waiting lists are closed). I'm at my wit's end as to how to resolve the issue.
A.
Carolyn Hax :

Thanks for writing back.

It sounds as if you need to apologize to your husband, asap, for getting him into this mess, if you haven't already (or recently). You talked about him in the question as if he were being heartless, when it's clear you're struggling mightily yourself with their presence in your home--and it's your friend, staying because of your initiative. For your husband, the purpose and the reward are one step removed, but the discomfort/inconvenience is direct. Turning your anger at the situation on him is unfair.

Where is this friend's mom now? That's where your friend and her daughter should be. You agreed to step in for a month, and so you need to say to your friend, the one month has become three, time's up, and you'll do all you can to get her safely situated.

– May 05, 2011 2:27 PM
Q.

Cold Feet

This week my fiance told me he's having some cold feet about our upcoming wedding (later this month) and isn't sure we should be getting married. I understand this is not uncommon, at least according to our wedding planner, but how do I know if he is just freaking out (marriage is a big deal!) or if I should be actually figuring out how to cancel a wedding? What questions do I ask? I want to take him and his concerns seriously, and I obviously don't want to get married just because the wedding train left the station, but I also don't want to give too much weight to something that doesn't mean all that much. Everyone only talks about the happy fluffy side of a wedding and I feel really alone, like I can't talk about this to anyone in real life. FWIW, my only regret heading into the final month is that we didn't elope (although I think that regret will end after the wedding actually happens). I can't wait to be his wife...and of the two of us, I thought I would be the one with doubts.

A.
Carolyn Hax :

There's a lot here, but I'll try to cover it all.

The best way to talk to him about his cold feet is to gently hold the door open for him. E.g.: "If I were to tell you it was okay to call off the wedding, we'll deal with it--then would you do it?" The last thing you want is to be married to someone who showed up only because he couldn't get his mind around the idea of actually saying, "I don't want to get married." Do -yourself- the favor of saying the words for him. Whether he's horrified by the idea or relieved, you'll have your next steps laid out for you. (If he's relieved and wants out, tell him you want to sit on the news for a couple of days so you can both get used to it before you tell anybody. That will help you see whether he's being rash/impulsive or sincere.)

This might seem like the wrong answer to those who have come across just-cold-feet doubts, but "I;m not sure we should be getting married" sounds a lot more serious to me than freaking out over floral arrangements. 

Second, we're back to the idea that other people are receptive only to "happy fluffy" talk from half of a couple. There must be someone you trust somewhere, even if it's not your closest friend. All you need is someone who knows you and ideally knows your fiance, who can listen without flinching, ask a few leading questions and thereby help you find the answer that's just waiting to be found. It's okay not to be perfect (especially since this is It's Okay Not to Be Perfect Day).

As for eloping--what would have made that better, besides having him "locked in" by now? If it's just that, then you dodged a bullet by not eloping, obviously--but if it's something else, that might be really useful in figuring out what has spooked your fiance. Have you been uptight? Have the families been meddling? Are you and he at odds over money or taste or temperament or ...? Whatever sources of conflict have been exposed by the wedding process, that's a good place to start tracing his doubts.

 

– May 05, 2011 2:42 PM
Q.

re: Roommate Troubles-- original poster

I wanted to clarify, I spend several evenings chatting with her and invite her to join us most of the time I have people over simply because she is lonely. My friends are nice to her and include her. However, her never leaving means that I can never have my boyfriend over unless the three of us hang out (she joins us for dinner then will sit on the couch and watch TV with us all night) and any gossip that my friends say (ie pregnancy scare) will be repeated the next time friends come over. Do you think there is an alternative besides moving out or avoiding my apartment if I don't want to include her?
A.
Carolyn Hax :

These are much tougher situations--thanks for clarifying. I think it's fine for you to say to her, sometime when just you and  your roommate are home, that you'd like to have dinner with your BF solo when he comes over. You can't do anything about the TV unless you get your own TV/watch online in your room. 

As for her repeating gossip, that's probably best addressed with your friends by warning them that your roommate is chatty.

Otherwise, yes, a roommate who's home all the time means you either get used to her being there (and setting limits on a few things you really care about) or finding a new place to live.

– May 05, 2011 2:50 PM
Q.

Mom and granddaughter

I have 2-year-old daughter (almost 3). My mother lives several states away but we Skype fairly regularly (she rarely visits in person). My mom has always been very focused on looks (I grew up feeling unattractive) and now she has turnd her attention to my daughter, saying things during our Skyping discussions like, "She's too fat. She needs to exercise every day. And she needs plastic surgery on her nose." My daughter is an adorable and perfectly normal girl. I'm afraid she might start understanding these things soon and I want to protect her. I've tried telling my mother that it's not acceptable, and I cut short the call when she starts in, but what else can I do?
A.
Carolyn Hax :

Yes, protect her. Stop the video part of the chat and go back to the phone. Your mother can't be trusted to handle appearances in a healthy way, so pull the plug on her access to the topic. If she asks why, then spell it out for her. Don't shield her from the consequences of her words: "Ma, you said she was too fat and needs a nose job. Are you kidding? No more Skype."

– May 05, 2011 2:55 PM
Q.

Out of the blue?

I had a very big health scare a few years ago. Surgery, lots of tests, more surgery. I am better now and the doctors are 99% sure all will be okay. While I was recovering I found some messages between my spouse and another person. They weren't sexual messages but they were darn close. I sort of confronted this issue by complaining that this person seemed more than a friend. We had our arguments without me ever revealing I had more information. I was afraid of facing cancer alone and couldn't face a divorce at the same time. I showed my sister those messages and a person in my support group who became a good friend. Their first responses were that it looked like an affair to them too. Fast forward a few years and I am completely out of love with my spouse. Our relationship is nothing like it was before. We are okay parents but there's no joy in our house. I want out but don't have the energy to fight about a years old affair, but if I ask for a divorce it definitely come up. Should I hang in here? Can I simply ask for a divorce out of the blue and done with it?
A.
Carolyn Hax :

There's an excellent chance your feelings of love are gone because you cut yourself off from your husband, as a defense against getting hurt by his infidelity.  I'm not blaming you--he apparently crossed a line and you responded by protecting yourself--but if the death of your feelings is/was a defense mechanism, then there might be something for you and he to work on in counseling. (By comparison--if you just found you didn't like him very much after all, then there wouldn't be much that counseling could do.)

So. Since you have some good reasons to stay in the marriage (you're good co-parents; your relationship "before" was apparently one you valued; there was a serious external source of stress between "before" and "after," meaning any turning point wasn't just about breathy e-mails), I urge you to get into good counseling with your husband and get some of these truths out in the open, including that you saw those emails years ago and that you feel no joy in the house now. Dig, dig. There might still be feelings in there--and you don't -have- to " fight about a years old affair." Fighting takes two people. You can choose to be calm. 

– May 05, 2011 3:03 PM
Q.

Never been in a relationship

Hi Carolyn, I'm 26 I've been seeing a 27 year old guy for the last two months. I adore him and am excited to see where we go. He feels the same way about us, and has said as much in action and in word. My friends, however, keep asking me if I'm okay with the fact that he has never been in a relationship before. My thinking was he's been in plenty of other relationships (family, friendships) that while not the same kind, do allow people to develop "relationship skills" like communication, reaching compromises, setting boundaries, etc. He communicates well; he's super respectful; he's on a life path I am happy to support him on; and we enjoy every minute together. Am I being willfully naive? Is this a problem I haven't thought through?

A.
Carolyn Hax :

Maybe I'm being willfully naive, too, but I have a problem with people who have a problem with someone who is new to relationships at 27 (or whatever age). If they have specific concerns, based on specific behavior of his, then they should voice those to you, of course. But judging someone just because it's a first? That's unfair. Not everyone gets from Point A to Point B the same way.

BTW, that's the way to deal with their comments: "If you're seeing something specific that seems off, please let me know--but if this is just about his being new to relationships, then I'm not concerned, thanks." 

– May 05, 2011 3:12 PM
Q.

Break-taker

Keep living with the guy, and do your best to face the problem head-on. This will a) tell you for sure that it's not fixable, and b) give you the assurance that breaking up is the right thing to do. Or neither of these things, he could change, which would be great. But if he doesn't, you can't just try to excise this one thing from his character and keep the rest of him, which is what it sounds like you're trying to do.
A.
Carolyn Hax :

There's a lot of distance between this and the question it's about, but I like it and I didn't see it till now. Worth a trip back into the transcript to remind me. Thanks.

– May 05, 2011 3:15 PM
Q.

I'm afraid she might start understanding these things soon and I want to protect her.

A kid who is 2 almost 3 years old can understand a LOT of stuff. More than we often give them credit for. I'd worry about the phone calls even without the video.
A.
Carolyn Hax :

Supervision necessary for sure, especially in person. Thanks.

– May 05, 2011 3:21 PM
Q.

Re: Cold Feet

Not sure if I'm getting this in under the wire, but the "Cold Feet" bride reminded me. I want to recommend a book called "The Conscious Bride" for chatters... it was recommended to me before I got married and very helpful. It addresses the fact that lots of your contemporaries want to talk about fluffy things before marriage, but there's a serious side. Being engaged/getting married brings up a lot of feelings - grief/loss over your single life, relationships around you changing (because they do), etc. It also encourages those close to the bride/groom to ask "How do you feel", rather than "How's the planning going".
A.
Carolyn Hax :

Another one that's new to me, but here tis. Will check it out.

– May 05, 2011 3:22 PM
Q.

"She's too fat. She needs to exercise every day. And she needs plastic surgery on her nose."

She says this about A TWO-YEAR-OLD? Something's waaaay off with her.
A.
Carolyn Hax :

Another one ...

– May 05, 2011 3:22 PM
Q.

Skype grandma

Good GOD. Breathtakingly awful things to say about anyone; much less a toddler.
A.
Carolyn Hax :

And another--in case, Mom of toddler, your determination starts to flag when you're setting boundaries with Grandma. 

– May 05, 2011 3:23 PM
Q.

Carolyn Hax :

Oh my look at the time. That's it--thanks for coming on a Thursday, see you next time at the usual Friday time, and have a great weekend. And, as always, keep in mind all the spinoff sites and sources: @carolynhax and @ngalifianakis on Twitter, www.facebook.com/carolynhax and www.facebook.com/nickandzuzu, and carolynhax.washpost.com, the last of which is a work in progress. Nick is sending out a cartoon of the day on his, with commentary ...

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