Carolyn Hax Live (Friday, June 8)

Jun 08, 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, June 8 at 1:30 p.m. 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.

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Hi everybody, and thanks for coming to my Friday noon show that is occasionally on Fridays at noon.

I think my husband is on the verge or in the middle of having at least two emotional affairs via online chatting. We share a computer, and before I realized the Facebook account I saw wasn't mine, I saw "wife" (i.e., me) and "sex" referring to our sex life. I otherwise wouldn't have kept reading, but how do you not when you see those words? In the other chat I saw, he confided in another woman feelings about my family that he not only did not share with me but said he needed to keep them from me. Then, he shared something with her that's meant to be a secret between the two of us. I don't know either of these women and have never heard their names in conversation. (We've been married five years.) He's otherwise been a nice guy though sometimes quiet bordering on distant. It's shocking to me that he's been so forthcoming with these women online. Part of me feels like he doesn't know he's doing anything wrong, but in the past, he's cornered me about normal interactions with men I've worked with that I would bring up as part the rundown of my day. I would love for the wrongness of these conversations to hit him and have him come to me on his own and say, "Hey, I did this and I'm sorry" but it sounds like wishful thinking. Am I going to have to confront him even though I "invaded" his space by seeing his chat history to get resolution? I don't even know what to say. Even in quietly deciding how to proceed, I'm incredibly sad -- which he notices -- and I just have no clue what to do next. - Shaken, Stirred and Sad

Oh my. You know how, in the column today (right? today? I lose track), the guy says, "My experience over the years is that the one accusing the innocent party is usually the one fooling around"? Well, I'm not sure it appplied in that column, but it sure seems to fit here. 

Your "quiet bordering on distant" husband seems to have major intimacy problems, leading him to hide stuff from you but feel comfortable pouring his heart out to strangers (from that nice safe distance online)--and to assume you must be leading the same kind of double life he his.

So, yes, you are going to have to confront him, but that's probably not going to be enough (or effective at all), since that's probably the exact emotional situation he dreads most, assuming I'm drawing the right conclusions from your description of him. In fact, I don't see this going anywhere except to a therapist's office, because that's what I think it will take for you two to learn how to talk to each other.  It will probably take some doing for him to agree to go, so be prepared to go on your own, at least at first.

Didn't stop to proof that, so if there are any particularly rich typos, you're welcome.

Long time fan, finally have the guts to ask a question: Absent any defined moment (betrayal, crime, fight) what are some reasons to justifiably end a friendship? A friend I have known since HS (so 10 yrs) and I have had our relationship deteriorate over the last year. This came to a head at my wedding (she was a bridesmaid) after months of realizing that everything in our friendship was a demand on her part. I have been at odds with her since she had scolded me over my depression, asserting that it is my own fault and I was wrong for not just being able to snap out of it and be normal and demanded that I agree with her (to which I take huge offense). I realize I can not be friends with someone like her and since the wedding (which was my 'a-ha' moment when she marched up to me, demanded I leave and started shoving guests out the door) I have not reached out to her past an occational post to facebook wall with an article I thought shed enjoy in order to remain cordial. My innocent gestures have gone unnoticed until this week when I have been inundated with voicemails and messages on all feasible mediums demanding I acknowledge her news of having a new boyfriend and be there to be happy for her. Im trying to limit the anecdotal stories of her but cant help but notice a theme of being demanding on her part. Its actually been refreshing not talking to her for the past (almost) year, but I cant help but shake the feeling that I am being petty? Is this a reason to end a friendship? If so, how do I respond to her flurry of demands?

I count about eight reasons to end this friendship, but you need only one: You can't stand her.

You can respond to her flurry of demands by taking one of the emails, hitting "reply" and typing, "Yes, I got your news, congratulations."  

If, and only if, she confronts you directly on your distance of late, you can explain to her that her response to your depression spelled the end of this friendship, though you'll always wish her well and hope things can remain cordial between you.

 

 

My husband and I are fighting about food, constantly. I grew up with fresh food, a lot of it grown in the background. He grew up with chips & a candy bar as an integral part of every meal. It wasn't as big of a deal when we first got together, but since then, I've changed a lot (vegetarian, but I'll still cook some meat for him) and he feels like he's the one making all of the compromises (true, but since they're for health reasons I feel like he should do it and stick around another 50-70 years). Oh, and our young kids are now VERY aware of what's on Daddy's plate vs. theirs. I know I'm being a pain, too, but I'm sick and tired of husband complaining about what I'm cooking all of the time, and the kids screaming for what's on Daddy's plate. I'm also miserably pregnant, which means I'm much less sympathetic and don't have the energy to make two dinners every night (the only meal he eats with us). Any suggestions for dealing. (FWIW, both of us are at healthy weights, but we also have a lot of diseases in our families that would be helped by healthy diets.)

Will he make a deal with you? You'll back off entirely on the crap he eats, as long as he doesn't eat it in front of the kids.

I prefer solutions that address the roots and not the surface of a problem, obviously, but since you're dealing with someone who doesn't buy into (!) healthy food for children (!), you have to factor in someone who is too far gone to listen to any kind of reason. So, surface will have to do--and it at least preserves the most important things you have at stake, your kids' relationship with food.

 

I discovered quite by accident that my friend's husband has a Facebook account under another name. Should I mention this to her or keep my mouth shut?

Would you want to know? To the best of your knowledge, would your friend? In this dark stairwell, those are your railing.

I did the unthinkable, I read text messages on my boyfriend's phone--I know it was wrong, but I did it and now I'm living with the consequences. He had inappropriate text exchanges with another woman. I confronted him, he explained that for this and that reason, she is off-limits--(different religion, lives at home with strict parents etc..). So I find myself asking, if she's off-limits, what are the inappropriate "let's hang out", and "hey babe" and other texts for? Unless I go to drastic measures, it's impossible for me to know if they are actually hanging out or fooling around or doing nothing. Am I missing the forest for the trees?

Sounds like it, since he's saying that if she were within limits, he'd be with her and not you. And while I fully endorse the idea that being The One Person On Earth Who Is Meant To Be With Someone Else is horse puckey, I do think that at mate-choosing time, it's advisable to be better than second place among people he currently texts on a regular basis.  

Plus, you "did the unthinkable" because you knew you didn't have his attention. Proof wasn't necessary, since that info alone was sufficient to guide you --but now that you do have the ill-gotten proof, it makes no sense at all to ignore what it's confirming.

What do you do when you find out your spouse is a pathological liar? In the past few years, I have slowly discovered layer after layer of lies told to me and others by my spouse. From driving our financial health off a cliff, to spending hours online sharing way-too personal information with members of the opposite sex that have only a grain of truth, the web is getting thicker by the day. The final straw is that the lies are now being told to members of our common circle of friends, and I'm noticing a growing distance with them now, as they have bought the lies hook, line and sinker. Other than slapping a post-it on my spouse's back reading "Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire", what do I do?

Find the friends who will still speak to you and ask if they have the names of good therapists and attorneys. Attorney first. I'm sorry. There's no magic to be performed here. 

I really appreciate what you said about relationships ending because two people were just wrong, but I wanted to know how you apply this truth. What about if the person was truly abusive, manipulative, horrible, mean, etc.? Would that apply then too? My ex has taken your approach to explain our abrupt breakup to friends. Our relationship didn't end because we were incompatible. It ended because he was dishonest, dodgy, manipulative, selfish, and non communicative. It also ended because he took money from me under extreme false pretenses. In other words, he did a lot of objectively mean things -- things he doesn't deny when confronted. He just isn't forthcoming about his awful behavior. I felt compelled to write to you about this because I worry the most egregious offenders in relationships will use your explanation as a way to shy away from responsibility. What's your take?

The most egregious offenders will pin the blame elsewhere whether they have a fig leaf of my crafting or not.

Don't get me wrong, it burns when I see my words used against the people they were intended to help, and I always kick myself for leaving a loophole. But that's an emotional response. The logical voice, the one that reminds me that if they have nothing to work with but a bag of wet sand, manipulative people will find a way to convince a bunch of people that everything was great until you conspired with the sand.

In your case, your ex was dishonest, dodgy, manipulative, selfish, and non communicative, and that's certainly a persuasive argument that he was not the guy for you. That's all you need. And while it no doubt rankles to see him making all these PR coups, bad character will out. People will see his true nature eventually. 

Or, of course, he will grow up and stop pulling this crap in relationship, in which case the bull he's pushing now will turn out to be retroactively true: that you and he weren't good for each other, and now you're both free to find happiness somewhere else with someone else. 

I just got a Facebook friend request from a former roommate who told outrageous lies and stole more than $1,000 worth of cash and property from me during her year-long reign of terror (and who knows that I know she lied and stole... we did not part on good terms). I deleted it without comment, but now I'm wondering if that was the coward's way out. I'd love to hear how the more devious 'nuts out there would have responded.

Devious Nuts, another promising band name. I'll see if anyone bites, and in the meantime, here's what I would have done, possibly: sent a FB message to see if she was getting in touch about the $ she stole from me. Or I would have deleted the friend request. Depends on how far out there the truth was of her thefts.  

I live in a condo building and also work from home. I have neighbors who like to knock on my door for reasons ranging from wanting to chitchat, to asking me if I can grab their mail while they're out of town, to wanting to know if I could help them carry in a heavy item they just bought at the store. I'm usually busy working when I'm at home and don't want to be bothered. Is there a nice way to make this clear to my neighbors? Is it acceptable simply not to answer the door if I hear a knock and I'm in the middle of something?

Yep.

 

Hi Carolyn, Recently my sister in law (husband's sister) invited me to a party she was having. I accepted the invitation and everything was well. The day of the party (last Friday) I collapsed at work and was taken to hospital. Husband and I called to let her know and everything was fine. Now she has found out that I was discharged from hospital that night, and yet we went home without going to her party and she is really REALLY mad. I was given doctor's orders to go home and rest, so I think I have a fairly valid excuse for not attending this party, considering I missed several days of work this week due to my illness. This is the first time I've missed one of her events. Was I wrong to not put in an appearance?

Your sister-in-law either has a few loose wires, or she has entitlement where her compassion should be. Either way, you're under no obligation to do anything  to assuage her anger. Except raise your eyebrows in genuine shock. Or to deadpan that you'll be sure to get a note from the ER next time. 

 

As a person who also works from home, I say it is acceptable to not answer the door when you are in the middle of something. BUT.....it is also a joy and honor to be neighborly, and I look forward to the daily interactions I have with my neighbors throughout the day. Beats hanging out with snarky colleagues in the office.

Of course--to each his own.

Let me get this straight - Wife didn't have an issue with hubby's eating habits before they were married, he's at a "healthy weight", she's (now) a vegetarian (although she cooks him "some" meat), and he's the one who's "so far gone"? I applaud you for "allowing" hubby to eat what he wants so long at it is not in front of the kids, but wife seems to have pulled a "bait and switch" on hubby - food-wise at least. I would have thought that you would have told him to cook his own meals - and let her cook for herself and the kids.

If it were just a matter of meat-eating, then that would likely have been my suggestion. But chips and candy bars? As for the bait-and-switch, I can see your argument, but the arrival of kids trumps it. A lot of people will grant an adult the right to [bad habit here], and even marry that adult with the knowledge that [bad habit here] is part of the package deal. But when kids come, [bad habit here] becomes something that sets a terrible, potentially harmful example for the kids--so adult has to take [bad habit here] outside. If we were talking about smoking, then I don't think there'd be much talk of a bait-and-switch.

The one point on which I could have challenged LW is on the "I feel like he should do it and stick around another 50-70 years." That's over the line; she doesn't have to cook him his candy bars but she also doesn't get to rule on his nutritional choices. If he wants to stay on a path toward clutching his chest and keeling over at at 50, then, yes, that choice has the potential to hurt her and the kids, but he's still an adult and that's still ultimately his choice. 

Obviously, it's too bad they didn't come to some sort of agreement on this before bringing the impressionable spectators into the scene.

Leave a whiteboard on your door - saying you're available/unavailable. Also, this way if neighbor wants to talk to you about something s/he can e-mail etc

So '80s dorm room. I like it. Though if I did it myself, I would forget the white board was there and I'd be in "don't knock" status for months at a time. Not that there's anything wrong with that. 

Wow, you really came out against the husband who prefers some meat with dinner. The poster said that her husband grew up on candy bars, not that he currently wants to eat them with every meal. She is trying to force her choices down his throat (literally) by claiming that because her choices are healthy, he shouldn't complain. A piece of chicken with some veggies can also be a pretty healthy meal. I'm surprised that you did not call her out for being a domineering, sanctimonious bully.

Again, I'd agree with you under the circumstances you're describing, but when the kids are clamoring for what's on Daddy's plate, it's safe to conclude he's not having roast chicken and steamed veggies. 

Hi Carolyn: Love your chats and thank you for all of your great answers to not-so-easy questions all these years!!! My mom passed on 12 years ago this month. She was a great lady. My dad gave her some beautiful (but HUGE) pieces of jewelry that I inherited that are simply not my style; dad was an over the top guy, mom was pretty modest. I had my favorite pieces remodeled or reset but remain with 2 very gaudy diamond rings and a tennis bracelet. My mom, like me, was a practical lady. Would it be heartless to sell the pieces and buy something new (or better yet) something we need for our home? A new boiler, in our New England winter clime, would be awesome. I don't have any daughters and my sister and nieces inherited their own pieces. I feel as if I don't need to remember her for her crown jewels, but for her gifts and lessons to me of honesty, common sense and kindness.

Seems open-and-shut, sell the pieces. So now I'm wondering, what's holding you back--is there something or someone you didn't mention tugging at you to keep them?

Here's something that bothers me no end. I accept (reluctantly) that some people are just No Good. We've read about a few today. How do they see themselves? Do they know they are bad or that what they are doing is bad? Do they have an inner narrative that makes them/it good somehow? I'm not just being philosophical here, it's a problem I have in general that I have a very hard time believing the worst of somebody. I make excuses for them. I had to deal with someone at work who was writing crude messages on white boards and changing people's computer file names to things like "douchebag" and "whore". I was too lenient with her. I rationalized it by thinking maybe she thought it was funny. If I could have believed that she was a truly twisted person (which later turned out to be true), I would have taken harsher measures and might have been able to stop her from going to medical school. I actually shudder at the thought of her being a doctor one day.

I think some have the inner narrative, yes, that helps them justify actions even they would objectively  say were bad. Others don't really need that justification because they learned anything-goes behavior throughout childhood and haven't had a "Wow, I suck" moment. Others know they're behaving shamefully, are torn up about it, but can't let go of bad habits.

You also can't rule out the psychopaths. They're estimated to constitute, what, 1 percent of the population? So you're going to run across them, and likely not in a dark alley with a knife. A psychopath can seem normal, even charming, through imitation of normal behavior, but underneath the image is someone who feels neither empathy nor remorse--and there's nothing that says they can't have office jobs, medical degrees,  families, pool club memberships. Mary Ellen O'Toole's "Dangerous Instincts" has a lot to say on this. She was an FBI profiler for years. Worth a read. 

Anyway, I can see why it's hard to believe the worst of others, so maybe you can reduce your exposure to harmful people by training yourself out of believing anything about them until you have enough evidence to support a belief. 

 

I've fallen hard for a guy at work. He's nice, funny, interesting, etc. etc. I think he might be interested in me. The rub of course is that he is married and has kids. Even though he seems unhappy with his wife, I don't think I could do anything that would influence him to leave her. But it kinda breaks my heart because we work together, see each other everyday and have a good friendship. Is there anyway to somewhat bow out gracefully from this? I fear if I tell him that I have feelings but would never act on them, it will create a very awkward situation and I have tried to pull away but he always (jokingly) asks if we're not friends anymore. What to do?

He "seems unhappy with his wife," sure, but chances are they fell in love when he was as interested in her as he now appears to be in you. Don't compartmentalize her away; it's too easy and too detached from a far more complicated truth about people in long relationships.

You are new and exciting for each other, and just about everyone loves the feel of something new and exciting. That's another don't: Don't put what you have on a pedestal, don't treat it as anything different from or more special than two people who have some chemistry. For some reason, I can't shake the image of a cold drink for two thirsty people; that's what a sparky connection can feel like after a boring spell, and, yes, it's tempting.

All of which is to say, stop where you are, and answer his flirtatious "We're not friends anymore?"  queries with, "Sure we are," while doing nothing to close the distance.

Hi Carolyn - Recently, I've realized I'm attracted to men that are work-centric, ambitious, and leaders in social settings but I'm always last on their list. Where do I start to end this dating cycle I'm in? Is this just a DC thing?

Maybe, but seeing it that way isn't going to help you with your thing, whatever it is.

So what do you like about these men--is power hot? Inaccessibility? The attention/status they get you by association? The access to exciting events and people?

To stop chasing after it, you'll need to figure out what's in it for you. If the answer were truly "nothing," then you wouldn't keep chasing it, right? But once you're able to say that, say, "I want these men because getting their attention gives me a sense of accomplishment," then you'll be able to address that craving by some other means than dating Don Draper.

 

OP Here. Yes: my initial reticence was sentimental value of the pieces, but I feel as if I no longer need to hold on to them. Second, quite frankly, I love my sister, but she can be self-righteous and judgmental (she is 9 years older than me and fancied herself my "surrogate" mom growing up as our mom worked in NYC full-time). Therefore, I think the other part of my issue stemmed from the fact was that in the past, I didn't want to get an earful from her along the lines of, "but that's ALL you had left of her!!" sermon. Present day, I would not offer the information (selling), but if asked, I'd be forthright. I feel like enough time has elapsed (for me) that if she comes at me, I won't cry or be bullied (yes, she can be a verbal bully) due to being emotional about my mom.

So there it is, then. 

Since she seems to use her age/role against you, why not flip it around to support your choices?: "I can see how you'd think that about [bauble in question]. But, you and Mom taught me so much about being true to who I am that I can say with great pleasure that this is not all I have of Mom. My confidence in my choices is a part of Mom I'll always have."

Judge this, Sis.

 

Hi Carolyn. My mom passed away about a year ago. My Dad recently started dating. I was beginning to wrap my mind around him dating when recent conversations make me think he is serious with someone and they are already planning a future together. While I want him to be happy, this strikes me as a bad and rushed decision. Is it overstepping to mention that this seems very fast and perhaps he should wait for awhile before making major life decisions? How do I do it?

You don't. If you see any signs that he is unhappy, then you owe it to him to point that out, but if he is not giving off any warning signs besides living at a speed you think is too fast, then it's not your place to tell a grown man how to live his life. 

He has spent a year, possibly longer if your mother died of an illness, steeped in sadness, much of which he had to navigate alone--presumably after a long time of operating as half of a duo. There's nothing unusual or wrong with his wanting to find some joy at this stage of his life, and it makes sense that he'd seek it from the same source (a woman's love) that lifted his spirits before. If his new "someone" seems kind and genuine, your blessing would be a nice gift to you and your father both. 

Another way to think about "bad" people is that they're simply unable or unwilling to own their dark side. Every person on earth has a dark side--you have one, I have one, Mother Theresa had one. Each of us also has a light side. Only by knowing/making peace with the dark side of the self (the shadow self for anyone who has ever been in therapy) can we have the most control over it. And even then, the best of us struggle.* You don't have to make excuses for people who do terrible things. But by allowing yourself to know your own dark side, you gain wisdom, which is the best protection from the dark sides of others. *Not even getting into how difficult/potentially impossible that process is in the case of personality disorders and mental illness.

So true, thanks. The point of seeing oneself as a jerk isn't the kind of thing you put on your calendar to celebrate each year, but it's more useful than pretty much any of the milestones we do celebrate with a cake.

My brother did not show up for either of our parent's illnesses until he found out they were dying and then he showed up and acted the bereaved son. He all but ignored my parents and myself for over 10 years until our dad died and then our mom died. Now he wants to be friend on facebook. I have ignored his requests but now he has friended all or our relatives and is constantly asking questions about me. I have been sick and almost died last year. I do not want him around me and I do not want him in my business how do I go about dealing with this?

It isn't possible he was actually bereaved? Or that he grew up in those 10 years and is genuine in his desire to reconnect?

Certainly I've seen plenty of situations where cutting ties was the only rational choice, but you don't really offer any facts that support expunging him--or reconnecting with him, for that matter. There's just a 10-year absence, so vague.

So, my first suggestion in dealing with this is to ask yourself whether you're actually protecting yourself from someone who means you harm, or whether you're just looking for justification to hold a towering grudge.

 

Hi Carolyn, My boyfriend of 1 year was offered a job on the opposite coast. After much discussion, he decided to take it, and although we love each other we will not be trying a long distance relationship. (I think it only works when you have a plan to end the distance part, and we don't.) However, the job fell through, and things are strangely...awkward. Maybe because we know he'd leave for a new job if given the chance, and wouldn't try to make it work? I'm not sure what to do in this situation; I still care for him a great deal.

I don't think there's any one right thing to do here. You can break up to see how that feels, you can stay together to see how that feels, and either way you can decide you've changed your mind at any point and say you'd like to undo your original decision.

Since you still "care for him a great deal," it probably makes more sense for you to give staying together a try, with Plan B--breaking up--handy in case the awkwardness doesn't resolve itself.

For what it's worth, a year is still pretty early to be making the "Yes, I will give up a great job for you," or, "Yes, I will invite you to move with me" decisions. Therefore, staying together at this point doesn't need to be a resignation to stick with the guy who ditched you.  Instead, it can be an acceptance of the second chance you've been given to find out if this is for real. That's something you can even say out loud to him without professing too much.

Dear Resident: It has come to our attention that you have installed a non-approved item on the exterior of your dwelling space. In accordance with Section 1.14 of the Condo By-Laws all exterior dwelling space shall remain free of encumbrances unless prior written approval has been granted for an exception under Section 2.24(a) of the By-Laws Addendum. You shall have three (3) business days to remedy the violation, or the encumbrance shall be removed by Condo Staff and a bill assessed to your unit for the time and labor costs. Have a Good Day, Condo Board Association.

Snork. How about putting it on a string, held in place by the door itself? 

I have had my ups and downs the past few years, but one of the downest downs was when I refused to open the door for the Christmas carolers at my door. I was in a hugely rotten mood about something and did not want to be friendly to anyone. Of course, the lights in the house were on, etc. and I was clearly at home. Not a great memory!

But what good empathy food. To recall such a low so vividly is to be this much closer to recognizing, and forgiving, such a low in others. 

 

I know this isn't what you want to hear--because it wasn't what I wanted to hear when I was in your place--but run. Now. Change your bank account, get new credit card account numbers without him on them, get yourself taken off any account that is his. Call a lawyer and find out what else you ought to do to protect yourself. But you HAVE to end this--and not because of the financial mess you're going to have. The worst part of living with a pathological liar is that he makes you doubt what YOU KNOW to be true. I was married for 10 years (together for 12), and it took me years to get to a point where I didn't feel crazy because of all the gaslighting he did. My BS-meter is still pretty screwed up, but the longer you stay, the harder it will be to recover. Just remember: You are not at fault here, about any of this. These are choices he made--and what you have to do are the natural consequences of his choices. And please find a good therapist. You're going to need non-judgmental support.

Seconding the urgency, thanks.

Wow, the poster who argues with her husband about food could have been me. Our disagreements also came to a head around the time our kids were old enough to sit at the dinner table. We finally resolved it with these ground rules: Mom cooks one menu for everyone, no special orders. Anyone may refuse food, but no complaints allowed. If you don't like it, don't eat it, and you can wait till the next meal. Dad has options: he can eat what he wants, in private if he buys it for himself; or he can offer to cook a square meal of his choosing, any time. No nagging or complaints from me. Everyone is expected to sit and have family time at the dinner table, even if they don't eat a bite. Its been a hard lesson: we don't control each other's choices. He now has high cholesterol and is pre-diabetic, but that too is his choice. Meanwhile, our kids are now teens, have healthy food habits, and my husband and I are still happily married after 18 years. I think the key resentment builder in me was feeling like I was expected to cook to please everyone, and it was running me ragged. I finally realized that if husband wasn't happy, he was perfectly capable of cooking his own meals to suit himself. He didn't want to, of course, but it was a fair deal I was offering, and eventually he came around. Once the unspoken "it's the wife's JOB to cook" got exposed and out of the way, it got easier.

Another good view from the front row, thanks.

Do pathologically-lying spouses change post-marriage, or are single people so blinded to "love" that they're in denial if the future spouse is a pathological liar during courtship?

Awfully tough on the victims, no? Someone who is very good at lying can be difficult to spot, especially before the relationship gets to the point of joint accounts, shared housing, kids ... i.e., the point where there's a paper trail to which both halves of the couple have access. Often by then a good deal of damage has been done. 

Carolyn, thank you for answering my question in Sunday's column. I am LW1, and I was so inspired to see the support from the other Hax-Philes, and how people got through their experiences. Some people wanted to know the specifics of the conditional love...their main issues with me are that I'm mid-30's and not married with kids/big house, that I do not have an ideal white collar job (my sibling is a doctor married to a lawyer), and that I still like to go to concerts, travel, hang out with friends, and 'not act my age.' We will be eating dinner and they say things like, "You're going to end up old and alone if you keep going down this path." Then I freeze up, because I feel like I can't even tell them that I would love to be married, but I just haven't met the right person yet without it turning into their triumph instead of support. I have had countless talks with them to accept me as I am, because I have turned out pretty good. These talks always turn into their opinions of why I am wrong and they are right, and we are basically arguing over life perspectives. My sibling is awesome because he accepts me for who I am and we are always there for each other. Your response and the other responses were so thoughtful I cried a little. They were also very spot on. It's so nice to know I am not alone and I kind of wish we could all hang out in person! Thank you, Carolyn, and thank you for giving us this forum to air out our grievances and give our support to one another.

Happy to help, and thanks for checking back in. 

One more thing, if I may (as if you can stop me):

" I have had countless talks with them to accept me as I am": These are all colossal wastes of breath. As you've seen firsthand. The only, only thing you can do to make your case to your parents is to accept yourself as you are. Openly, flagrantly, defiantly, lovingly. The scene you describe, where ...

They: "You're going to end up old and alone if you keep going down this path,"

And you: freeze up ...

does not say "self-acceptance." Something like this does:

They:  "You're going to end up old and alone if you keep going down this path."

You:  "That doesn't sound so bad, actually--I love my life." And then discuss it no further.  Not a word. If you have to, channel the Mona Lisa the best you can, and say, "I'm headed for the kitchen--can I get anyone anything?" Or whatever stone wall is situationally appropriate.

Put it in your own words, of course, and even prepare it  beforehand (makes it easier in situations where you tend to freeze). However you do it, though, what matters is that you DO it. Stand up for your life.

If I suspect that a child in my neighborhood is being neglected do you think I should call social services? My hesitation is that if it is not true, then more harm than good will come from it. And I do live in a neighborhood where people are not in the best of circumstances. Not as important, I believe they will know the call came from me and it could make my life more difficult. Thank you.

Call Childhelp, 1-800-4-a-child. It's a good start when you're not sure whether a child needs help or you need a reality check. 

It's a nonprofit, so an independent source of guidance. 

I am dating someone whom I love but has a very short fuse, gets frustrated easily, and blames me when he cannot resolve a problem. I have asked him, while with our counselor, to get anger management or therapy on his own. He keeps avoiding going, even though he does acknowledge this issue freely and willingly. I don't know how much more I can take, walking on eggshells. The reason I don't cut and run isn't just love, but because I know his anger is pain that is unresolved (emotionally and physically abused as a child and a recent, sudden death of a parent) and I know what peace would lie on the other side of therapy for him and I really want that for him and us. How to convince him that therapy would be the saving grace for our relationship?

You can't. 

You're not rescuing an injured bird here, you're an adult (right?) who has every right and reason to expect a fellow adult to take the steps he feels he needs to be healthy. 

With that in mind, let's read his actions and list the steps he feels he needs to take to be healthy:

1. Maintain the status quo.

Where do you think that's headed? If you want to go there with him, then stay. If you don't want to go there with him,  then break up with him, and tell him why. It's terrible that he has traveled the road he has, but you can't undo the terrible for him.

 

You need to quit worrying about whether someone is a "good person" or a "bad person." You deal with them, especially at work, according to how they behave. Probably she thought her actions were funny but so what? She behaved in an extremely disrespectful and unprofessional way and should have been reprimanded for it at the very least. Even someone who isn't "a truly twisted person" can need to have it spelled out that We Don't Behave This Way.

Missed this earlier--a good one, thanks.

Okay, that's it for today. Thanks everyone for stopping by at (I hope) the last of the weird times for a while. 

Before I go ... Nick Galifianakis, Richard Thompson and other DC-area cartoonists will be at a book-signing and reception this Sunday in Arlington, Va., at One More Page. The book is "Team Cul de Sac" and benefits Parkinson's research. 

Also, as always, you can subscribe to a daily column-and-other-stuff feed on Facebook, http://www.facebook.com/carolynhax, and on Twitter, @carolynhax and @ngalifianakis

Hope to see you here next Friday.

 

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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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