Carolyn Hax Live (Friday, May 11)

May 11, 2012

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 Friday, May 11 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 any of Carolyn's answers or readers' questions from the past year stuck in your head? Submit them for next week's Best of Hax 2011 chat that will take place while Carolyn is on vacation.

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

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Hiya, thanks for stopping by. I'll get going in a second--I forgot to post the link to my FB page (http://www.facebook.com/carolynhax). Be right back.

Carolyn, in your column today, and in past columns, you have stated that mother's of sons harbor a deep fear of being shut out of their sons life once he marries. Can you please explain to me why that is? I see that fear in my own MIL and it makes absolutely no sense to me. I'm really not trying to be obtuse here. If you do not have a good relationship with your adult child, I think that is between you and your child. It doesn't have anything to do with whether he is married or not. I understand there are extreme cases where wife may be crazy and isolate her husband, but I like to think that is rare-it certainly doesn't apply to me. Why am I suddnely resopnsible for my husband's relationship with his parents, just because we are married?

You're not. The issue is not the son's relationship with his mother so much as the son's wife's relationship with a mother not her own. I'd be curious to see the science on this, but anecdotally what I see is that grown woman can get territorial about their home turf, and while they see their own mothers as familiar, the husband's mother is "other" and the defenses go up.

Now, this is a -massive- generalization, and of course there are huge bands of exceptions--for example, the grown daughters who can't abide their mothers but are fine with their MsIL (or can't bear either one, or welcome both), the women who don't get territorial around other women, etc.

But, if you're going to do an informal poll of women re the people they're willing to have, say, in the delivery room with them, see how many times the mother is named but the MIL not. It's normal, right, to want your mom vs. someone you probably haven't known all that long? But if you repeat those understandable decisions based on understandable comfort-level concerns, what you end up getting is a MIL who feels squeezed out on favor of her DIL's mom. It's a theme I read about too regularly.

 

Today's column made me laugh so hard. We went through the exact same thing with our daughter, only we named her after my grandmother and her sister. My grandmother is difficult and controlling and difficult to please. (But she's my grandma and I still love her.) My great-aunt is generous and loving and everyone who meets her adore her. Our daughter has my great-aunt's name for a first name and my grandmother's for a middle. When I was pregnant, Grandma asked why we picked that order. I said, "Because we love Great-Aunt more." (We don't, but I didn't want to indulge this crap; we ordered the names that way because they sounded better that way.) She was so taken aback that she never mentioned it again. The epilogue is that our daughter is sweet and beautiful and the strongest-willed and most forceful person I have ever met in my life, just like her great-grandma. And Grandma is so proud of all the ways her little great-granddaughter is like her that her name is the last thing on her mind. Right now the MIL is fixated on the name because that's all there is; once there's an actual baby around, I bet that issue recedes in importance.

We can hope, thanks.

Dear Carolyn, Is it within the range of normal to feel pretty constant low-grade irritation/anger with a spouse of more than a decade? I definitely love him and he's a good dad to our three kids (2 elementary aged and 1 toddler), but I often find myself annoyed or angry with him. Maybe this is as good as your average marriage gets at this stage of life? Thanks for your insights. Wondering

Never ignore anger. It rarely goes away on its own* and instead usually metastasizes. 

That said, you're right to look at your stage of life--small kids can grind down your patience with anyone--and also to your own general well-being. Are you depressed, exhausted, overextended? Any of these can quickly emerge as irritation with the people nearest at hand, and since a lot of parents feel uncomfortable getting irritated with their kids, they funnel their bad feelings into the nearest adult.

The most important thing you can do right now is to pinpoint the source of your irritation, and the best way to do that is to work what might be a small miracle: Clear out a little time for yourself so you can think straight. Get that time by admitting to your husband that you've been feeling irritable a lot lately and you suspect you're overextended, and you want to deal with it now before you become a galloping [meanie]. 

If/when you get this time, use it to get out in the world unencumbered, to see a friend or even just to take a walk around your neighborhood. Get your circulation going in ways that you've let slide for a while. If you have a friend you can trust, then start talking about what's gnawing at you. If you don't want to risk sharing so much with someone who knows your whole family, consider counseling, just to give you an hour to think straight and speak freely.

What comes next depends on what you identify as the root problem, but I suspect just getting a little distance from your routine will reduce your stress appreciably.

 

Hi Carolyn, My hubby fell in love and pursued a 2 years long-distance affair with a high school acquaintance he met a reunion. He says it ended 2 years ago. Once she realized he'd never leave me and the kids for her, she abruptly went off and married someone else. During the past year, we've been trying to reconnect as a couple. Meanwhile, he and she have kept up "friendly" contact through the high school forum. Recently he sent her first a romantic poem, then a short "how are you" email where he calls her "my love". It's clear he's not over her. I've confronted him and he admits as much. He says he loves me but there's a part of him that will always resonate with her. For her part, although once in a while she'll contact him privately for some favors, she doesn't seem to pine for him in the same way. I'm distraught, wondering whether I'll have to put up with this for the rest of my married life. What's your take?

You can't know whether he'll carry this torch for the rest of his life, of course--but you do know that he has shown no interest in snuffing it. Unfortunately, that puts you in the awful position of deciding between splitting up your family, or staying with someone whose heart and mind are at least partially somewhere else.

While this will sound the opposite of encouraging, I actually think you have a useful course of action available to you: Surrender. Time and again, I've both witnessed and experienced the liberating effects of giving up on the outcome you want so badly. You want, of course, for your husband to let go of this old love and dedicate himself to you, but in waiting for that, you're essentially signing up for a perpetual hope-and-letdown loop. Out of kindness to yourself, I suggest you say to yourself--out loud, even, if it helps--that "This is how it is--he will not stop thinking about her." And then, based on that, decide where your most satisfying life awaits you. Is it with your current home and kids and your as-is, compromised-but-still-there husband? Or is it at the end of a more drastic path?

There's nothing to say he won't drop this pointless other love and re-embrace you--time has a way of making all kinds of unexpected changes--but for your own peace of mind, treat that as a possible bonus you receive as you travel a realistic path, not as a goal in itself. 

In delivery room? You pick that as an example? I am sorry, when I am not fully clothed, I get to limit who is present, and MIL is not the same as mom.

Try to put your dukes up higher there ... I said it was "normal" and "understandable" to want one's own mother vs. one's MIL.

It is also, however, for many daughters-in-law, the beginning of a precedent  vs a not-fully-clothed exception.

 

My husband is not in the least upset that his early 70s/late 60s parents have divorced after 51 years of marriage. Many of our friends are taken back that he's so OK with it. He knows how bad this marriage was and the divorce should had taken place decades ago. Some of these people are trying to get him to open up and share his feelings ... he's fine with it. How can we get these idiots to MYOB?

They will, eventually, when the novelty wears off. In the meantime, you and he can say something to the effect of, "Thanks, if we need anything, we'll let you know." If anyone presses, repeating it verbatim with a smile is all you need.

My wife insists that we have to split our housework 50-50 and she thinks it's sexist of me to resist that. I feel like since I do way more than 50% of a lot of other things in our marriage -- I work longer hours, make more money, spend less money, spend way more time with her family than she spends with mine, etc -- it's unfair for housework to be the one thing that gets split 50-50. Do you think housework has to be split 50-50? Do you think things like earning money and doing work outside the home should be split 50-50?

Contributions to the marriage and household should be split as close to 50-50 as is realistic without bean-counting. So, suggest to your wife that you both sit down and make a list of what it takes to keep your marriage and household running--everything from earning money, buying and cooking food, cleaning house, maintaining property, maintaining connections with family and friends, paying bills, planning trips, keeping a calendar, etc. Then see how things have been divvied up to this point, and whether it's fair or in need of a fresh look. 

I also suggest you talk first about the fact that you both seem to be approaching this as adversaries, vs. teammates. When the center of gravity in a relationship shifts from giving to each other to protecting yourselves, the survival of the relationship then depends on shifting it back to giving. And to get there, each of you needs to get back to trusting the other to do what's right for both of you, vs. satisfying self-interest. 

Hi Carolyn! Do you think two people could have a successful relationship even if they had differing educational backgrounds? Do you think that not pursuing a college degree could be a red-flag when it comes to gauging a potential life partner? Nowadays, a bachelor's degree is a minimum requirement to get a good job, so does it say anything about a person if they don't pursue this route? I have an advanced degree and considering dating someone who's highest level of education is high school. Thanks!

An education matters, obviously, but what matters more is what people do with the education (and skills, and opportunities) they have. It's not fair to lump someone who chooses not to go to college because school was always a poor fit for his/her nature and abilities, and because these strengths are already being put to productive use in some other way, with someone who doesn't have the self-discipline, work ethic or foresight to push through to a bachelor's. 

There are also a lot of half-assed bachelor's degrees being awarded out there.

My husband and I are pretty passionate people. We love eachother fiercly but when we fight, its pretty fierce as well. When I get heated I often resort to name calling and foul language. My husband is usually able to keep himself in control even when upset. I know this is a problem on my end, but it sucks that after each argument, I end up being the bad guy cause I said nasty things. He could totally be in the wrong, but he thinks that since is cool and in control that he is not at fault. He says it is disrespectful to say such things to him (and I do agree that it is) but he doesn't understand that you can be disrespectful through your actions and non-actions. Advice?

" I know this is a problem on my end"--what steps have you taken to deal with it?

My son is serious and we like the young woman very, very much. We think they are good together and good for each other. Potential problem - son and future DIL live closer geographically to her parents (2 hours) than us (5 hours). We have three other children, she has one brother who is "difficult". Last holiday season they spent TG and Xmas with her parents b/c it was easier geographically, but also b/c she didn't want her parents to be alone on holidays. How do I approach the idea that her parents should "get " them for holidays b/c her brother is not nice and his brothers are?

Tell him you miss him, and say you understand the family situation on the GF's end but that you'd like to see him, too--and that you're willing to make it easy for him, even if it means moving a celebration to a more convenient day. (Are you willing to do that? It's becoming more and more common as families scatter all over the place.)

Hi Carolyn! When dating online, do you suggest emailing back in forth for a long period of time to get to know the person or meeting early on to see if there is any chemistry? Do you think one approach is more successful than the other? Thank you!

Meet early. (Taking reasonable safety precautions, as always.)

A year ago tomorrow my husband asked for a separation out of the (to me) blue. At first it was crisis mode -- I've set aside my career (one not easy to jump back into and which absolutely has no options where we live), we have two elementary aged kids, etc -- then it all fizzled. He was between jobs and decided he didn't want to take separate summer vacations, so we spent a lot of time together as a family *not talking* about "it". It seems he just wants to forget about it, saying he was just in a weird place then, and he sees how much he has to lose. However, I feel in limbo: What if I get blindsided again? I've put up a wall emotionally. I've told him how I feel and he always says "we should talk about that", but it never happens. I would never stand for one of my friends to feel this way -- I would encourage her that she is strong and capable and deserves more. Not only do I feel like a patsy for just sitting by and allowing whiplash, I don't know what I want nor do I have the self-confidence to think I deserve it. I think the "anniversary" of the event has taken me by surprise...I didn't even think I would remember it, but apparently my subconscious has a better memory than I. Meanwhile, I don't even know what my question is...!

Can you afford counseling? Marriage and individual, I recommend, but if you can only do one, then try going just as a couple and see if it gets the two of you talking to each other. Long overdue.

My daughter is getting married in the fall and we expect about 100 people to attend. My oldest and dearest friend and her husband will be attending. He has had diabetes for about five years and injects insulin a couple of times a day to keep it under control. It is common practice for him to inject the insulin at the table when we dine out, which something I've never been comfortable with because he's not subtle about it. Instead, he makes a big show of holding up the syringe, flicking it to remove air bubbles, and then pulls up his shirt and injects himself. My friend (his wife) is adamant that since this is a medical issue he shouldn't have to refrain from dinner table injections. I have chosen to accept this during casual dinners, when it's just us, but I do not want it happening at the wedding, and I'm fairly confident it will. Is there any way I can approach my friend without damaging our relationship?

No. Just accept it as one of the many things you can't control about people. It will not collapse the tent. 

My boyfriend has a good female friend who he talks to quite a bit. In fact, they have fairly frequent Skype video chats, which I don't feel very comfortable with. Am I wrong, or does it make more sense for platonic opposite-sex friends to simply talk on the phone? Why do they need to see each other to have a conversation? (Part of my paranoia comes from the fact that when I Skype with my boyfriend, there is usually a non-platonic dimension to it.)

They're either attracted to each other or not, and Skype has nothing to do with it. Is this friendship out in the open--i.e., in plain view to you? 

why not expand the reach of 'family' to include her parents as well? (so invite son, FDIL to holidays, AND her parents?!) Sure, it makes for a major shift in thinking about the holidays, but could make things very special if/when kids come along. Just a thought...

Though they'd be pointedly not inviting the brother, in that calculation. I like the idea of going inclusive, but it has wrinkles too.

I know this is weird to say, but I think it's wonderful that people in their late 60's/early 70's still feel their lives are worth living enough to get a divorce. I think my parents (43rd anniversary this month) would be happier if they divorced. I've always thought this but I know my mom is just sticking around because my dad has health problems and she can't imagine leaving him.

I totally get it, but could be b/c I'm weird. Thanks.

"... treat that as a possible bonus you receive..." Funny thing, life. An actual turn-around on his part later may well end up feeling more like a burden than a bonus.

True. 

Philosphical nutterati today.

My parents frequently ignore/ dismiss my parenting choices. I've discussed it with them many times, with no changes. The "last straw" involved them not calling when my child got sick while overnighting with them. I'm so furious that I'd prefer to send a letter outlining the boundaries, and the consequences for crossing them. I'm afraid another in-person conversation will be unproductive, and that I will say sometime they won't forgive. Am I wimping out or being responsible? Thanks.

Depends on how important these boundaries are to enforce. If you're writing to say you can't abide their refusal to use car seats or observe health-based dietary restrictions, then you're being responsible--and in fact I suggest you just say no to their next invitation to have your child overnight. If they can't provide responsible care, then they lose the privilege. 

If instead you're clamping down on things that would be better written off as grandparental privilege--junk food for breakfast or staying up past normal bedtime--then you need to think carefully about the merits of involved grandparents vs. the merits of to-the-letter adherence to standards.

I realize this isn't always an easy call, since the blown bedtime can lead to a ruined next day for you, for example, but if anything that makes it even more important to think carefully about which battles to pick.

It also sounds, fwiw, as if you're past the point of talking, since you refer to "another in-person conversation." They're going to do what they're going to do--so, what response makes sense for you now? Withhold time with your child? Tighten the supervision of visits? Choose the venue carefully to preempt the typical conflicts? Etc.

Hi, Carolyn, I have and odd problem. I am a full-time working mom of a first-grader. Unfortunately, I am one of the very few (three, to be precise) full-time working moms in my child's class. The majority of stay-at-home and part-time working moms have been very generously involved in the classroom activities at our children's elementary school, and I am grateful to them for all the work they are putting in. I have tried to be as active a participant as I can, buying snacks for the class, contributing to fund-raising sales, and donating classroom supplies. The one thing I cannot donate, however, is weekday/school day time (like for class field trips).  Last year, when my child was in kindergarten, this did not seem to be a problem. This year, however, I have been catching flak from several other moms for not being involved in classroom projects. I have tried to respond to these chastisings by saying that I appreciate how much other parents do for the class, but I simply cannot afford to take unpaid days off more than a couple of times a year, and that I'll be happy to help in other ways. It didn't help. Just today, one of the most active moms again rebuked me for not signing up to chaperone an upcoming field trip. Any suggestions on how I can put a stop to what is beginning to feel like attacks on my parenting?

I believe this mother needs to hear: "I do what my circumstances allow. Please respect that. Thank you." And nothing further.

Hi Carolyn. Dated my first/only boyfriend for four years until I ended it about six months back. The relationship and breakup helped me get a better idea of what is important to me in a relationship, in a partner, etc. But I'm curious your perspective on something: Where's the line between being more open minded about who you date (and not pigeonholing yourself with a "type") and just plain lowering your standards? I'm trying to do the first without crossing into the second, particularly as I'm young and feel no *rush* to settle down. Thanks.

If you want to go on a date with someone, go. If you'd be going on the date only because you think you should, then don't go.

How's that?

I'm curious, though, what you're doing that has you feeling you're "just plain lowering your standards." That might change my answer.

CH, I think you're right that there's no way to get this guy to change his behavior for the wedding and that it won't ruin the reception - but I do think the adamant explanation that it's a medical issue has absolutely nothing to do with the case. We excuse ourselves for all kinds of medical reasons the moment they're less subtle than taking a pill. I mean. A prostate exam is a medical issue as well, but one doesn't conduct it at the dinner table.

Brings a whole new meaning to the term"open kitchen."

Yes, the wife's adamant defense is silly, but all the more reason to abandon hope they'll be reasonable on the issue. Thanks.

The flip side is, if you want free babysitting, you don't get to control everything.

That, yes.

The next time says, "we should talk about that", say, "yes, we should; is now a good time or should we set a time for doing that when we are not <<insert whatever you two are doing right this moment that makes it a bad time to talk>>?" Even if he truly was in a weird place last year, his actions have consequences, and one of those is the need for him to deal the the emotional fallout of those actions. Vague agreements that something needs to be talked about do not count as "dealing with", at least not in a useful way. Give him a chance to step up and actually deal with it. His response to your request for an actual conversation will provide you with a lot of clarity, whatever his answer.

Good follow-up, thanks. An avoider will likely still avoid, but a declined "chance to step up and actually deal with it" is one more bit of information to bring to any decisions.

My girlfriend says she's uncomfortable with compliments, saying she doesn't want to be a "trophy". I do think she's fantastic, and it feels unnatural not to tell her, but at the same time she doesn't like it, and I don't want her to get "weirded" out. She especially doesn't like any comments in public.. I say any because I said one thing (confirming her friend's positive comment about her) and it caused a major rift that I found out twelve hours later. What to do?

Tape my fingers so they don't type RUN RUN RUN RUN RUN RUN

Oops.

Does she ever compliment you? Does that make you her "trophy"?

I don't know what they are, but the kindness-phobia + the 12 hour lapse between causing a rift and finding out about it = issues. One of them is definitely affecting her ability to communicate, because she appears to be protecting an open wound with her deep skepticism of compliments but she's not telling you anything about it, and she also wasn't able to tell you right away that she was upset about something you said. 

I'm not sure what you do from here, in part because you "do think she's fantastic," so some things are working well--and also because, my opening outburst aside, I don't think issues, even major  issues, even major issues involving communication, are an automatic deal-breaker. 

I do believe, though, that you might get some more information if you point out the flip side, that she (or others) can compliment you and you see it just as one of many possile signs that someone likes you. 

As her boyfriend, you also are entitled to ask what she thinks is behind this--yes--unusual aversion to kind words. She might not trust you enough yet to tell you her truth now, but the important thing is that she trusts you enough someday. When "someday" comes depends on how patient you are, how healthy she is otherwise and how well you get along, but I do advise against making anything permanent without getting to that point of trust. 

 

Hi Carolyn, I hear over and over that you should marry someone you can't live without. That has always seemed so dramatic to me. I have met a man that I'm so excited about and would be ecstatic if he asked me to marry him. But I could live without him. I mean, I did for 27 years and was fine. Am I just reading into this too much? Thanks!

When I was about to give birth, my midwife told me it was time to come to the hospital when my contractions were so painful that I couldn't talk through them. Found out with the first babies that I could talk through all but the last few contractions, and almost got to the maternity floor too late.

Translation: We all have highly personalized comfort levels and pain tolerances, and no one phrase is going to capture the right state of mind for everyone. I'm with you on the can't-live-without standard--I don't like that phrasing, either. I prefer the more temperate, "Marry someone you don't want to live without," or even the romantic realist's "Marry someone you can't envision life without." The closest I've come to a universal standard came from ... agh I can't remember who said it!  ... but it was, paraphrased, you're with the right person when each of you can't believe your luck in finding the other.

 

 

 

I'd pointedly ask if they get on the case of the full-time working dads for not chaperoning/helping out with in-class projects. I'll bet you anything they don't.

Oh, right right--thanks. That is, if she knows they don't. I see a lot of dads pitching in at school, fwiw, and her child's school might be the same way. 

Does your girlfriend love herself? I ask because I used to be like her -- I hated compliments of any sort. They made me feel self aware, awkward, and often times I'd end up doing something, involuntarily, to counter the comment. Picture, "You look so pretty right now." Then I'd pick my nose. It took a few years and a concerted effort to "love myself" that I was finally comfortable with compliments. To the old me, compliments were weird because I thought people were lying to me. I couldn't see how awesome/pretty/smart/strong I was, and so therefore I immediately distrusted anyone who did. You can imagine how that affected all of my relationships (platonic and romantic). Please look closely at your relationship with your girlfriend, and if any of this rings familiar, the best gift you can give her is the space/direction/time/you know her better than a stranger so she can work on herself. I hate to say this to you, since you sound pretty great, but if she is anything like me, a continued relationship with someone who doesn't even know how to love the person she's been her whole life, won't be able to fully give to a new person, no matter how much he/she loves her.

So well and credibly said, thanks.

Hi, Carolyn! A good friend of mine is married to a man that only she likes. But she likes him a lot and they are both kind to me, so I (duh) don't say anything against him or their marriage. It is hard, though, to watch her work 50 hours a week, do the lion's share of the household tasks (often for things only he wants), and deal with decisions he makes without her. But that's the way their marriage is, and I MYOB and help her out with some of the tasks. But now their young son is emulating the behaviors of his dad. His mom ignores him when he orders her around, but always caves when he says he's too tired, or too achy, or too sad to help around the house or go to scheduled events. They have him overseen by a psychologist for other issues. I am planning the MYOB route too, but wanted to check with you to make sure I wasn't letting my friend down by not speaking up here.

If your friend appears genuinely happy, then MYOB. If your friend appears to be run-down, stressed or faking it, then talk to her--about her. You're not going to solve any problems in her marriage/childrearing, nor is it your place to; all you can do is help her be well and strong in ways she invites you to help. Once better and strengthened, then she can deal with whatever needs her attention with her spouse and child.

Need help dealing with my Mom. My dear 16 yr old niece has recently had a mental health crisis and had to be hospitalized. Her grandmother is driving my sister and I crazy wanting to know why this happened, she did not see if coming, she does not understand etc. There were things that might have brought on this crisis but my niece does not want her grandmother to know those reasons. We have tried to explain there were multiple reasons (such as bullying, low self esteem) but not stating the ones my niece does not want her to know. We have tried the tact there are questions that cannot be answered. She still persists in asking why. She says she cannot process and move on from the situation until she understands why. There have been strains between my mom and sister before this situation. My mom thinks my sister does not tell her enough information about what is going on in their lives. Any suggestions to help keep the family peace besides telling her to butt out? I am in the middle of this mostly because my sister has been living with me while my niece was in the hospital because there were no facilities in their home town.

I think you need to take a hard line, but also account for your mom's feelings. E.g.: "I realize how difficult it is to have such a serious thing happen to someone you love, and to feel like you don't know what's happening and like there's nothing you can do. But there is something you can do here, Mom, and that is to stop pressing for information. Just stop. Some things are still unknown and the rest is private. The more you push, the harder you make it for everyone, you included, but mostly for Niece."

It might also help for your mom to have someone to talk to. Give her the number for the NAMI help  line, 800-950-NAMI (or go to nami.org for listings of programs like Family to Family that can also help).

Dear Carolyn, My fiance and I are vegetarians, and would like to have a vegetarian wedding. We don't want to spend money purchasing meat or fish, and we feel that a celebration of our union and the home we are making together should not have meat or fish in it. My parents vehemently disagree, complaining that it's rude to impose our dietary restriction on our guests, that many older guests do not like the mainstays of vegetarian cuisine (cheese and legumes), and that my father's dietary need for non-acidic foods (tomatoes and eggplant are out) requires some meat or fish at the event. Our response is that our guests will not suffer if forced to dine on quiche and risotto for an evening, and the caterer can make sure that a majority of dishes have a low acid content. This is not satisfactory. They are contributing some money to the wedding, but we expect to pay for most of it, if that matters. What should we do?

Start working with a caterer on a vegetarian meal, and (within reason) allow your parents to weigh in on the menu. Tell them this is a compromise, that you will work with them to make sure the guests are fed amply without violating your principles. 

As for the "It's rude to impose your restrictions on guests" issue, I believe the range of food permissible within a veg diet is broad enough to satisfy all, allowing me to duck the question of whether the guests' comfort trumps the hosts' principles. (I do believe it's a case-by-case call, depending on the principles and (dis)comfort involved. I also believe that when people are being unreasonable, say, by declaring they can't endure even one meal without meat, then the balance tips toward the other side.)

 

Re: their attraction to each other--my boyfriend has never said as much to me, but I would imagine he's attracted to her on at least a visual level (she's very pretty and they spend a lot of time together). The rest of their friendship, the non-Skype part, takes place via Gchat during the workday, and sometimes at local bars. Sometimes I am present, sometimes not. I don't believe that he's cheating, i.e. doing anything WORSE than skyping with her, but I'm concerned with whether or not I should be worried about the skyping itself (is it disrespectful to me? is it normal for him to be sharing a visual/physical connection with her? etc).

If they had a chance to be together, and chose not to be, then drop it. 

I also think that fretting about the Skype is more likely to wreck your relationship than the Skyping itself. 

Other than your Facebook post, how can one find their way to your chat? Since the website redesign the search function no longer works (I used to search "Carolyn Hax" to get to your columns and "Live Chat" to get to, well, the live chats). Is there a link I can bookmark or something?

Hello, dearest chatter! You can always find our chats on the chat schedule: live.washingtonpost.com.  A list of the day's chats is also on the right side of the Post's homepage under "Live Discussions."

I hope that helps!

If I want to raise a kid vegetarian until they are old enough to make a choice whether they want to eat meat or not, and I send them along to grandparents with food, is it unreasonable that I don't want the grandparents sneaking them meat? I think that it's totally fair to expect them to respect that.

Yes, I agree with that. Of course parents are best served by accepting the frailties of others and not picking every battle, etc. But: Unless they cause actual harm, the parents' decisions trump any opinions, orthodoxies or superstitions the subordinate caregivers have. Ignoring that simple math deprives a lot of kids of involved grandparents. Sad.

This happens to me all the time. Spouse does something bad 10 times in a row. I finally raise my voice. Then I apologize for raising my voice. Life sucks.

Awfully defeatist. What are you prepared to do about your unhappy marriage?

Even if it's just to leave it as-is and invest your energy into some fulfilling cause or project, that's a pair of options available to you toward a life that doesn't suck. 

You can bookmark this for all the columns and the chats: http://www.washingtonpost.com/carolyn-hax/2010/07/06/ABRBs7D_linkset.html

Another solution, thanks.

I have a friend that I've supported through a series of abusive relationships. She married her most recent abuser, and he is now her husband. In your previous columns/chats I think you've advised the friends of people in abusive relationships that they don't have to listen to the drama, but they should continue to support the friend and to give them a safe place to go so if they decide to leave. Does this advice change if the husband (and previous boyfriends) also are abusive to ME? These men have used verbal abuse and stalking tactics on me, and it has upset and frightened me. As much as I want to help my friend, this is damaging to me and it has an impact on my husband and my children. I don't want to abandon her, but I also don't want to go down with her sinking ship.

1-800-799-SAFE--don't mess around. Read "The Gift of Fear," too, to learn how to spot problems before they become dangerous.

Hi and thank you for taking my question. I am at the end of my rope! My neighbor and her children drive me up the wall. The children are around ages 6 and 8. and while I know these are difficult ages these kids are awful. They leave their bikes in the middle of the stairs (so anyone going up or down must wrestle it doen the stairs to get by) and frequently try to beat down their own front door, the other day they were using a broom they had picked up from another neighbors stoop, other times they just run full speed between their door and mine crashing into both with no regard for the fact that I live there. their mother often comes home at all hours of the night drunk, shouting, and sometimes even dragging the kids behind her at 2 or 3 am. I one time (politely) asked her to be quiet since it was midnight and she had just woken me and my husband and our infant. The next night she came home drunk and shouting again and then laughed and shouted "SORRY (our sons name)!!!" Her friends have pounded on our door demanding that "so and so in there owes me my d@mn money" and cops have been called more than once. What can I do short of moving?! I know other neighbors have spoken to them and so has the home owners association has as well.

Those poor kids. It sounds like time for a call to Child Protective Services, but if you're not ready to take that step, please call Childhelp, 1-800-4-A-CHILD.

It's not these kids' fault--they're neglected. Please dispose yourself as kindly as you can toward them as you work out the problem with the mother.

 

Going out on a burst of hotlines. Thanks, everyone, for being here today, and I hope to type to you again next Friday. Have a great weekend. 

Don't forget, subscribe on Facebook to get links to all my new stuff plus whatever interesting stuff I turn up while time-wasting online: http://www.facebook.com/carolynhax. I posted a real heart-breaker last night, still haunting me. 

 

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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.

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