Carolyn Hax Live: Advice columnist tackles your problems (Friday, June 15)

Jun 15, 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 15 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.

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Hi everybody. If it all gets to be too much today, I suggest you stop in here until you feel better (link). 

Hi Carolyn, What do you think I should know before jumping into a relationship with someone who has been the victim of multiple cases of spousal/partner abuse? She is seeing a therapist and working on addressing the tendencies that lead her to choose violent partners. I am not violent at all, but I often worry about taking advantage of her without meaning to, now that I realize she is drawn to mistreatment.

Certainly that's something to watch for, but I think the higher percentage risk is that she is starting a relationship with you as a way of escaping the bad feelings that come with "working on addressing the tendencies that lead her to choose violent partners." It's like having ice cream instead of going for a jog--it's immediate gratification that will at best postpone getting healthy, if not actively make it harder. 

For a relationship to be healthy, the two people in it need to feel (more or less) complete on their own, because that allows them both to see each other as an added benefit, vs. something to fill a need.

What causes pathological lying? My boyfriend's mom lies all the time about anything from getting a new job to buying a new car. My boyfriend and his family all know she lies all the time and have expressed this knowledge to her but she continues doing it. It's caused them to have to keep their relationship with her at an arm's length. So I'm curious as to what makes people start and continue to do it? What's in it for them?

This is the stuff of serious study. I think it's safe to say, though, that all the lies are intended to make her look better, right? I.e.,  a liar will lose a job and pretend she still has it, vs. have a job and pretend she lost it--or, drop out of college and pretend he has a Ph.D., vs. have a Ph.D. and pretend he's a dropout. So, that's a simplified version of what's in it for them--a fiction they find preferable to their reality.

What he did was cruel. He should have taken it to a professional first. He effectively told his girlfriend that after two years toggether, he isn't in love with her, and maybe even doesn't love her, but that even if he does, he wouldn't know it. Talking about it may give them some closure, but I doubt the relationship can be saved. She should start planning to end things. This can't end well. What happens when he does feel love for someone else? What if he never does? I was with a man like that years ago. He never said I love you to me, and it became painfully clear that he was emotionally stunted, who knows why, and uninterested in doing anything about it. It will always be unsatifsying for her.

Actually, I think the cruel part was backing off and giving her false assurances that he wasn't talking about her, likely in response to her getting upset. Once he started telling the truth, the kinder course was to follow through, with the understanding that she'd be upset for a while and he'd lose a comfy relationship, but they'd be better in the long run for his honesty. 

We're talking about today's column, by the way (link).

Hi Carolyn, I read today's column about the woman and her "I love you" question. I have been in a relation with a guy (I'm 43 and he's 39) for 5 years now and he has never told me he loves me. About two years ago or so, I asked him if he loved me and his answer was similar to the boyfriends in today's column. "What does love mean?" I almost lost it. I was like, "what do you mean, what does love mean??" I went into the reasons why I loved him and he still couldn't tell me he loved me. I know he has been in love before. He told me that his two past girlfriends he was in love with. I feel like a fool that I have stuck around for 2 more years hoping to finally hear those words. He was badly hurt in his last relationship (he was cheated on) so there are major trust issues that we have had to indure over the past five years. I keep thinking that that is why he can't tell me he loves me. Maybe it is just time for me to move on? Is this normal??

I think it's possible to drive yourself crazy trying to figure out what "should" happen, what's "normal," and possible reasons  you have X vs. Y, when really the only relevant question is, am I happy in this relationship as-is, or am I waiting for something to change?

If it's the former, yay, you can relieve yourself of the burden of Figuring It All Out.

If it's the latter, and if you've stated clearly what you're waiting for, and if you've gone a decent stretch of time without seeing any movement/effort toward the thing you;re waiting for, then it's time to admit to yourself it's never coming. Then you need to ask yourself, can I be happy in this relationship without it? If no, then it's time to go.

Just wanted to chime in on the Disturbing Facebook Messages situation. Thank you for making the point that the poster has to want to get help, and that anyone responding to them should make sure to offer resources, encourage the poster to get help, and then back up a few steps. I have a family member with a mental illness for which they refuse to get help (therapy, medication, support groups, hospitalization, some combination thereof) despite having the time and the financial means to do so. Family Member regularly posts disturbing messages on Facebook and all too often people get drawn in to the point that they contact me and suggest I intercede. After years of trying to get this person to accept help, I have had to detach and realize that they know where to get help when they are ready. I end up having to explain this to strangers frequently. I ask them to express their concerns directly to Family Member and to contact a hotline or similar if they think FM is in immediate danger. It's heartbreaking, but it's where we are at this moment: watching, praying, waiting.

Thanks for weighing in. It's such a difficult line to walk, because:

Sometimes what the person needs is loving intervention by someone with the energy to track down sources of help. Too often, people who are depressed, for example, know they need help but can barely get out of bed, much less research therapists who have a good reputation, the right specialty, accept insurance and have useful appointment times available. 

Sometimes, though, what a person needs is to stop being rewarded with attention for dramatic declarations of distress. Having everyone rush to the rescue in response to a nihilistic status update can be the emotional Band-Aid that allows someone to postpone that call to a professional for real help. 

The consequences of making the wrong choice here, too, have been famously discussed in the national media, since people who actually do nihilistic things genereally leave a trail of warnings. Which is a warning and which is a ploy for attention? It's hard to be sure, even for people who know to look for the difference. Gavin deBecker's "The Gift of Fear," which I so often recommend in abuse situations, actually discusses this at length, and for individual guidance I suggest calling the NAMI helpline, 1-800-950-NAMI (6264).

I'm 33 and have been with my girlfriend, age 27, for about a year. I love her and want to be with her, and I can't conceive of ever feeling otherwise. As far as I can tell, we're compatible in every way; we've never had any significant problems and we make each other happy. The only thing holding me back from suggesting we get engaged right now is that I know conventional wisdom says you should wait longer than this to make a lifetime commitment. What I don't get is, what exactly are we waiting for? Are we waiting to be faced with a big problem so we can overcome it together and see how we function against a challenge? What if that challenge never presents itself? Or is it just that we should wait because we really might find ourselves feeling differently about each other in X weeks, months, or years? At the moment I'm just having trouble convincing myself to postpone something that certainly seems like it would make us both happy. (I'm sincerely asking here -- I want to do this right. I have plenty of divorced friends who thought they were doing it right, too.)

You're waiting to see if you still think she's wonderful (and she you) after all the happy new-attraction chemicals wear off.

At 33, though, as long as you're comfortable in your own skin, it's not unreasonable to think you can see through the buzz well enough to judge your fundamental compatibility.

If you're  not sure, the most important thing to look for is the distance between the way you act when she's not around, both when you're alone and when you're with your closest friends/family, and the way you act when she is around. If there's little to no difference between the two, then don't be afraid to trust your judgment on what you have with your girlfriend.

The only caveat beyond that is that it's always a crapshoot to some extent, no matter how conscientious you are. 

In the early days with my now husband, it bothered me that he didn't tell me he loved me. But I learned to look at his actions, and they speak loudly. I'd prefer a relationship with fewer words if the substance is there, over former boyfriends who got the words out, but the actions didn't match.

There are also those who produce neither the words nor persuasive actions. There's a song for that one: "Wishful Thinking Will Keep Us Together." Captain and Tenille, I think.

I disagree about the idea that pathological liars will lie only to make themselves look better. I learned about my cousin's husband's problems with lying when he started telling coworkers that their little boy died, and the coworkers started calling her to express their sympathy. Their little boy is fine. I think that was the last straw for her. I suppose that could still be lying for gain, for the attention, but I don't know that it really made him look good.

Right--point taken. But if you broaden the scope from "to get praise and admiration" to "to get admiring attention," then it works better. Thanks. 

Carolyn, I have to disagree, as a reformed liar myself. I would lie and make myself look worse! Why?? - I never got any formal therapy or anything, but I would have to say that admitting reality was just hard somehow. It was always easier to say the opposite of the truth. In the end, for me, it was like a bad habit I had to consciously quit, like biting my nails. I don't know if this helps your LW, but the embarrassment of being called out on lying did help me to stop, so maybe they are on the right track by talking about it openly.

Thanks, too, for weighing in. 

Oh good god. You know, of all the times I've ever read this excuse, it's hardly ever been true. Why can't people just be more honest? "I don't feel it." "I wish I cared for you that way, but I don't." What's so difficult about this? And then why STAY in those relationships?

Also, for the sake of argument, let's say it is occasionally true. If you're that emotionally injured still, then what are you doing in another relationship?!

Sure, yes, people will always have their Stuff, and it's normal for each half of a couple to bring vulnerabilities to the mix. But if the needing and nurturing are flowing only one way, or flowing at a high volume, then we're looking at the issue in the 1st (right?) Q and A today: It's not a relationship, it's a patching over of holes.

Husband and I (both in our late 30s) don't have kids, but do have friends w/ kids and lots of nephews of different ages. We were at the baseball game this past weekend. The dad sitting with his son, next to my husband, asked my husband not to eat the roasted peanuts we bought because his son (looked like he was 6 or 7?) had a peanut allergy. We complied with his request, but when I left the seats a few minutes later to get a beer I noticed peanut shells and people eating peanuts all around our seats - in the rows directly behind and in front of us. I don't blame the dad for his request (who knows, he could have been a single or divorced dad and he was complying w/ a mom or doctor's request, etc.), but it physically didn't make sense to me. Why bring your kid to a ballpark if his or her peanut allergy is that severe?

I don't know, maybe you were upwind? Maybe your seats were the only ones the boy might have touched when he was leaving his seat? Stadiums often have peanut-free sections for this reason, but I do sympathize with kids with allergies, and their parents. We are inconvenienced by them, but their lives are altered by us.

My husband and I attended a family bat mitzvah last month. There was a stack of cards for the guest of honor; we left ours (which included a check for the requested charity) in the pile. The check has not been cashed, and we haven't received a thank you note yet. A five-week delay on a thank you note isn't unheard of for a teenager, but it seems unusual for this girl, whose family has always been extraordinarily gracious. Is it okay to email her father (my husband's cousin) to make sure the card was received? I'm worried it got lost somewhere, and don't want them to think we attended and didn't bring a gift. Plus, I'd like to write to make a replacement contribution to the charity if the check was in fact lost. My husband thinks emailing her Dad makes it sound like we're miffed we didn't get a thank you note (which yeah, a little. But my bigger concern is whether they think we are the tacky people who showed up sans gift.).

Why don't you call? "Since our check hasn't been cashed, we're worried it got lost in the shuffle. If it has, we'll gladly write another one." Notice no mention of the absentee thank-you note. 

Carolyn, My fiance has told me that I need to make him the center of my world, just has he has made me the center of his world. All of his daily activities and schedules revolve around me, and he does not like to be apart from me. I have a different view-- that we shouldn't be the center of each others' world, but should enrich each others' world. I don't mind being apart from him, but I also love being with him. Do you think a couple in this situation can find common ground and be happy? I'm feeling smothered and he's feeling neglected. I'm not sure how to proceed here. If it helps, we are both in our 50s and this will be a second marriage for both of us.

Whether I "think a couple in this situation can find common ground" is irrelevant; the only thing that matters is whether you do. 

Also: You don't "need to" take any emotional orders from anyone--and I think you need to say that to him. Plus, you need to stand your ground that you're not going to show love his way, because you can't--that's not you. You-- and he--can show love genuinely only in your own way. If that way isn't satisfying to the other, then this isn't going to work.

Just to make sure I stay on a multi-week red-flag-spotting tear, his neediness and his insistence that you do things his way are also red flags.

If you can make headway with the all-we-can-give-is-our-true-selves  argument, then, great, but if he balks, then I suggest some real time apart to clarify your thinking, or at least a trip to a therapist--solo, at least for now.


Dear Carolyn: My second baby is due in two weeks. This might just be the hormones talking, but I'm suddenly paralyzed with the worry that I will never love him as much as I love my firstborn -- I just can't imagine the same depth of feeling occurring all over again. Does every second- (or third- or fourth-) time mommy go through this? Any reassurance that it'll all be okay?

I won't say every second- or third-time parent goes through this, but I can offer an entire marauding horde of doted-upon youngest children to testify to the fact that parents have a way of finding enough love for subsequent children. Good luck and have fun.

Painful honesty time...my husband "Jack" is a wonderful spouse and a not-so-wonderful father. Granted, he does not have much experience around children before our kids. But I believed that instinct would kick in, experience would grow, and that the same qualities he shows toward me (generosity, attentiveness) would translate to his relationship with our kids, as well. Instead, they stress him out. They get on his nerves. Every time I turn around, he is looking for an excuse to hire a sitter and get away from them. It's heartbreaking and I absolutely do not identify with it as I completely adore them. How do I intercede to improve his fathering skills?

If you live in the DC area, I recommend PEP (link), and if you don't, ask your pediatrician to recommend a local parent-education program.

There are a lot of possible reasons your husband finds the kids so stressful, but a common one for a lot of parents is that they have unrealistic expectations. E.g., they have no idea that X behavior isn't conscious or deviant or a personal affront to them, it's just what Y-year-olds do. A good program could help him figure this stuff out, as well as develop some ways to interact with kids that will bring out their best as well as his, instead of producing a defeating loop of unrealistic expectations-disappointment-frustration.

I get the idea of taking on my husband's coping strategies for getting along with his parents during long stretches of visits but my husband's strategy is to simply ignore them. Literally. His mom will say something and if he doesn't want to discuss it he'll act like he didn't hear her. Given that I wasn't raised by wolves, I can't physically bring myself to do this. But his parents are frustrating when you get them going so I feel like I'm either stuck being dragged into conversations I don't want to have, or being rude.

You can adapt the "ignore" strategy to make it more polite, by having some conversation-enders at the ready at all times:

She: "[Something that frustrates you when she gets going on it.]"

You: "Interesting, I'll keep that in mind" (if she makes a statement), or "Hmm, interesting question, I'll think about it" (if she asks a question), and then, "Hey, should I start the water for the pasta?"

 

When my mother in law visits she likes to cook and clean. This wasn't a problem when I had a newborn, but now I would prefer that she not take over my house when she visits. My husband insists that she is not trying to insult me and that cooking and cleaning is how she enjoys herself. I believe him. Cooking and cleaning are her life so I know she doesn't mean to hurt my feelings. It just irks me because this is my house, not hers. And I worry that if I don't put a stop to this now she will decide that she must do all of the cooking and taking over my house for every holiday, birthday, etc. until the day she dies. I have asked him to speak to her about this prior to her next visit because a) she's his mom and b) I'm not sure that I can say anything to her without the possibility of it becoming a bigger fight. You see, she didn't initially want me with her son because of my skin color. And when she irks me, the old angry feelings bubble up and I am afraid that one day they will spill out. What I want to know is, am I being unreasonable to not want her to cook and clean at my house every single time she visits?

No, of course not, and I think you know that. However, the reasonableness of your desires might not be the most salient issue here. If it's going to take unreasonable measures, for example, to get her to stop her unreasonable housekeeping, then is it reasonable even to try?

Another possible motive behind her cooking and cleaning might be that she's acutely aware, when she's in your house, that she objected to you and you know it. A lot of moms feel uncomfortable on their DILs' turf anyway, and just imagine how snug she feels knowing she insulted you the way she did. One common place for awkward-feeling houseguests to put their nervous energy is into fussing in the kitchen, dusting baseboards, straightening picture frames, "helping" to the point of becoming a nuisance.

I get that it drives you nuts, and you do have every right to say to your mother-in-law, "I appreciate your hard work, and you take great care of us, but tonight I'm making dinner for you. [Husband], why don't you take your mom for a walk with [Kids]?" But I think you'll make more progress (and do more to alleviate tension between you and MIL) if you pick your battles on this with care.

 

Dear Carolyn, A friend confided a major secret in me (it has to do with the homosexuality of another friend, who has decided not to come out of the closet yet). My lips were completely sealed, but somehow a few other people we know have learned the gay friend's secret and it's commonly assumed I am the blabbermouth. I'm in the hot seat and it's not my fault, yet I'm finding it's nearly impossible to convince someone I have not betrayed their trust. Until this blows over, how do I avoid the stigma of being seen as a blabbermouth?

"I know I didn't blab, and that's going to have to suffice. I'm sorry you don't think enough of me to take my word for it." Then drop it. As you know, you can't prove a negative. The only thing that can make your case is your character, and repeating, "I swear I didn't do it, why can't you just believe me?" can't and won't prove character. Only time can do that.

I'm sorry. 

If it helps, the only reason you're in this position is that your friend blabbed to you, so your being blamed is pretty rich.

Dear Carolyn, After multiple years of wavering, my husband and I just finalized our decision NOT to have children (permanent birth control pending next week). Now that we're about to truly close the door, I feel uneasy about this decision. But, we have discussed and analyzed our decision ad infinitum, to the point where I feel sure it's the right one. Do you think anyone ever feels totally sure about this?

Some people feel sure, or at least say they do, but plenty make their decisions one way or the other without the comfort of certainty.

In your case, I suggest trying on for the next few days, in your mind only, the idea of having kids. Go someplace that's known for heavy kid traffic, park yourself there with a magazine and take in the sippy-cups-and-runny-noses show. Go around 3 pm if you want to be assured of whining, overstimulation and parental frazzle. Then see how you feel.

If you're still not sure, tell your husband you're having unexpected doubts and want to postpone next week's appointment till these feelings run their course. It's a lot easier to reverse his exaspiration than it is to reverse "permanent birth control."

Please help - my sister is unbelievably distraught. Her 36-year-old man-child of a husband, with adult ADD, now on his 5th affair, after she spent years trying to help him, support him, and save their marriage, is now the one calling it quits. They have a 7 year old son. (He also has a 14 year old daughter from a previous marriage he has essentially abandoned.) Despite legal and psychological support, she is losing her mind over the decisions she has to make on behalf of her son and herself, receiving nothing but threats from him that she "can't take my son away from me." Meanwhile, whenever he has time with his son, he pawns him off on the mistress, or girlfriends of friends, or coworkers. And someday her son will blame my sister for not being able to hang on to this despicable man. Is there any hope? She may not even be allowed to move where she could have family support. It is a nightmare i can't see a way out of.

Deep breaths, in through your mouth, out through your nose. 

Your sister does need your help, it appears, but you can't help her if you're hysterical too. I'm not saying this to be mean--there's just some apocalyptic thinking in your short description of what's going on, when both your sister and nephew will fare better with some clear, positive yet realistic thinking. 

Here's the first statement that wants challenging: "And someday her son will blame my sister for not being able to hang on to this despicable man. " It can happen, of course, but plenty of kids see right through their "man-child of a [parent]." As long as your sister keeps a firm hand on the rudder and guides his life--and hers--steadily through this, with patience, resistance to the temptation to badmouth him or martyr herself, flexibility and humor, the chances are excellent the boy will be fine.

Another argument to rethink: "It is a nightmare i can't see a way out of." People routinely get through these nightmares; the path of acrimonious divorce is well-worn. Some people emerge relatively unscathed and some are not so lucky, but for the latter there is an established path of support and healing available. Meanwhile, you say he's threatening her and saying she "can't take my son away from me," but then you also say he has a daughter he rarely sees and he's on his fifth affair. That suggests--not guarantees, but suggests--that this active hostility isn't the new reality of the husband, but instead a wave of bluster and emotion that will pass.

Now, if it passes only to give way to a phase of neglecting his son, then your sister has a whole new challenge. But you say she has "legal and psychological support," and those two can go a long way toward guiding her toward a way she and her son both can find peace. Easy, no; possible, yes.

You can be the messenger of "possible," as long as you believe it yourself--and make sure your vision is always reality-based.


Thanks so much for taking my question, I read your column every day! I have been dating my boyfriend for 6 months, he says he's not controlling but he seems to want to have regular planned conversations and if it doesn't happen, he gets mad and doesn't even ask why I wasn't available to talk, he just gets angry that I didn't put him first. I am a single mother with 2 kids full time and he lives with a roommate. So he has a lot more free time than I do. This seems to come up a few times a week. For example, if I fall asleep before texting or talking to him, he thinks its inconsiderate for me not to let him know that I am going to sleep. What are your thoughts?

That three children sound like more than you care to manage. Bye, demanding, inflexible, self-centered boyfriend.

Hi Carolyn - I don't know why I got married. Probably a swirling mix of low self-esteem, anxiety, and the desire to prove my mother wrong about my boyfriend caused me to pressure him to propose. What I'm left with is a husband who doesn't really love me all that much and the sinking feeling that I made a huge terrible mistake. What I don't know is how much effort to put into making this work versus cutting my losses. He isn't a bad person, but we certainly don't make each other particularly happy and this isn't a relationship where I feel treasured. If I didn't feel embarrassed I would get a divorce without thinking about it, but I'm embarrassed about the possible "I told you so's." I keep hoping the minister made a mistake and forgot to turn in the marriage license and we're not really married and I can just walk away...

Are you ready to spend the rest of your life miserable, and drag your husband into your misery with you, just to avoid hearing "I told you so"--i.e., temporarily granting someone the  upper hand, someone who lacks the grace to hope the best for her own child? Someone who takes pleasure in seeing your pain?

I've seen someone stick in a marriage to prove to others s/he was right, and it's not a life I'd wish on anybody. (Well, a couple of people maybe, but only when I let my petty evil twin have her say.) I bet you've seen such a marriage yourself. People who would exult in being right--even though it equates to taking pleasure in your failure--are not worth even a flicker of deference when it comes to running your life. Take charge of your happiness, pity those who are too emotionally stunted to root for you, and don't look back. If this seems too daunting, and if it's an option for you, then I think therapy is in order. Take care.

My SIL cheated on my brother many times, with multiple men, apparently over many years of their marriage. My brother caught her in the act, and she confessed to the other affairs. They are now getting divorced. Here's my problem - my wife still hangs out with my (soon to be ex) SIL. They have lunch or dinner once a month, and chat on the phone regularly. I asked my wife to stop hanging out with our SIL, since she's hurt my brother so badly. I also asked her why she'd want to be friends with someone who could be so reckless and hurtful. My wife doesn't see a problem with it. She said that no one's all bad (I agree) and that she's not getting marital advice from her, just having fun. I know I can't control who my wife hangs out with, so can you give me some advice about how to not feel betrayed by my wife's actions? FWIW, my wife really likes my brother, but she said if her staying in touch with his ex hurts him, that's basically his problem to deal with.

I'm not sure "betrayed" is the right word, since I don't see your wife's ongoing friendship as having any you-element to it--but, "bankrupt" seems to fit. "Damn cold," if you have two blanks to fill in. You've hit the mark with, " I also asked her why she'd want to be friends with someone who could be so reckless and hurtful."

That's certainly the problem I'd have, and the "just having fun" rationale only makes it worse--so you're going to defend your right to remain friends with the woman who treated my brother like crap, and the lofty principle you're defending is ... the right to a coupla yuks?

Sowing discord isn't really my goal with this column, but it sounds as if your wife has a broken compass, or, at best, just not a mind-blowing amount of depth. 

Fair?

Hi Carolyn. How much right does a spouse have to know about what their spouse discusses in therapy? I'm speaking generally, not "give me a blow-by-blow of every conversation."

Too many variables to answer. It starts at zero--these are confidential sessions intended solely for the health of the patient--and tops out at "as much as the spouse feels like sharing." And the reasons for not sharing can range widely, too, since the patient may be withholding because the spouse is abusive, or because the patient isn't being truthful, or etc.

If the shut-out spouse is uncomfortable with the lack of information, meanwhile, there can be a range of reasons for that, too, from an unhealthy need to control information to a healthy suspicion that the therapist/therapy isn't legit. If you want to throw in more details, then I'll try to answer more usefully.

Hi Carolyn, love your chats! I'm going through a divorce and starting to think it would be nice to start dating and everyone encourages me to try online dating, but I'm not sure. I hear lots of stories about people's great experiences, but I also hear lots of stories about the whole thing being a disaster. I'm beginning to think that there might be people who are cut out for online dating and can make it work because of certain personality traits, and maybe those who aren't cut out for it for whatever reason. What do you think? And if it is true, any hints on how to decide which you are?

I'm less inclined to think of it as a math problem so much as a process of elimination. If you're not sure about online dating, then hold off on it, and date only the old-fashioned way. Chances are it will either suit you or change your mind about going online.

Really? A dad would only say something to safeguard his child because his ex-wife or doctor made him? I have two children with peanut allergies and I can tell you that my husband would look out for his son without my ever having to tell him to.

yep, I should have caught that, thanks.

You can also ask for a truce, or to drop the subject. "Let's agree to disagree about this. I hear what you're saying, but I don't agree, okay?" "Oh, we know we don't get along well on that subject. Why don't we talk about something else?" If they're really good people, after a couple of times you'll be able to shorten it down to "agree to disagree? Okay, moving on... what do you want to do about dinner?" and "next topic!"

Like this, too.

I can see this. When my fiance totally bailed on me with no warning, I was shocked (literally into silence once) the sheer amount of people who told me they all saw it coming. The best part? No one wanted to tell me because they thought I'd get mad. You're right that those opinions shouldn't mean anything, but it made the whole experience that much more humiliating. I don't know if people meant well or what. But yeah it would have been nice to be tipped off BEFORE we put nonrefundable deposits down.

Please also consider how you react to bad news. With everyone citing fear you'd get angry, it sounds as if you might have a reputation for messenger-killing.

Hi Carolyn - thanks for answering my question. I don't think I did a very good job asking it, though. I don't think my mother would *enjoy* my suffering, and probably wouldn't say "I told you so" out loud, but I know that I ignored her concerns (and, to be frank, the concerns of my friends) that this relationship wasn't good for me and that he wasn't as crazy about me as a person should be. But I wanted to prove that no, dammit, he totally loved me! And now I'm embarrassed to tell anyone that this isn't working out as I had hoped, not just her, because I feel like I worked so hard to convince everyone that it was going to be great. But a lot to think about, so I am very appreciative.

You're welcome--and I'm glad your mom et al won't be jerks.

That will make it easier for you to take your lumps, which will feel better now, in one big hit, than if you take them in a daily low dose for the rest of your life. For reals.

Fair enough but as someone has been on the receiving end of nonstop indecision, you have to make your mind one way or the other. Doubts are okay. Stretching time out indefinitely isn't. You're just going to have do it. Better you do it now and get it on than prolong this.

Well said, thanks.

And with this I'm bailing out. Thanks everyone, and type to you here next Friday. If I've left threads untied, leave me a note at http://www.facebook.com/carolynhax

Have a great weekend..

Isn't it possible that there's more to the wife hanging out with the soon-to-be-ex SIL? I've seen so many divorces where there is more to it than just "she hurt my sibling, so cut all ties." For example, if there are kids involved, they're going to have to deal with the continuing presence of the ex-SIL anyway. Might as well sacrifice one dinner a month to make sure she feels comfortable enough letting the kids come visit w/ you. Or, if the darling brother wasn't necessarily perfect either and/or there were other issues int he marriage, maybe the LW's wife is trying to remain a bit more balanced while her husband works through his "betrayal" feelings. Has the LW even stopped to consider other perspectives?

Didn't sound this way in this case, but it can't hurt to think. Thanks.

And bye, again.

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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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