Auto Load Responses: 
Font Size: 

October 12, 2012

12:03
P.M.

Carolyn Hax Live: Advice columnist tackles your problems (Friday, October 12)

Total Responses: 27

About the hosts

About the host

Host: Carolyn Hax

Carolyn Hax

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

Carolyn's Columns
Past Chats
Way Past Chats
The Hax-Philes

About the topic

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

Carolyn was online Friday, October 12, at Noon ET, taking your questions and comments about her current advice column and any other questions you might have about the strange train we call life. Her answers may appear online or in an upcoming column.

E-mail Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com.

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

Carolyn's Recent Columns

Past Carolyn Hax Discussions

Way Past Carolyn Hax Live Discussions

Follow @PostLive on Twitter
Q.

Carolyn Hax :

Hi everybody. I'm here, I was just having sign-in troubles again. Looks like all is well now, though, so I'll get started in a moment.

Q.

Last week's question re introverted child w/ extrovert parent

As an introvert, I have found "Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking" by Susan Cain enormously helpful in understanding myself. There is also a section at the end specifically for extrovert parents with introvert kids. Could be helpful to the poster.
A.
Carolyn Hax :

Thanks--if anyone missed last week, it's here, and the question is 2d to last (link).

I'm posting this because I've gotten the same recommendation from others. It's on my reading list, but haven't gotten there yet.

 

– October 12, 2012 12:08 PM
Q.

Way Past Chats

Hi Producer! I was wondering if you knew anything about the way past chats and if they were going to reappear? Thanks!
A.
Haley Crum :

(Producer)

Hi Chatter! We've been talking about the way past chats, and we hope to bring them back soon. The problem is (basically) that they are stored on an old system, so we have to find a way to get them on our current system. I promise that once they are back up, I'll let the 'nuts know.

– October 12, 2012 12:11 PM
Q.

Today's second question

Carolyn, in case this was my husband writing in re anger and changed behavior: another angle is whether the person who is supposed to be changing their behavior *knows* what is wanted of them, and whether the request is reasonable. My husband is angry at me for not treating him with respect. But as I really work on this, I am starting to realize he has a very skewed version of respect. Example: we were in a restaurant (Friendly's in CT!). He stepped out of the booth to speak to one of our boys. As he was speaking, a waitress tried to pass behind him and said "excuse me." Husband didn't hear her, so I told him, someone is trying to get past you. He then yelled at me for disrespecting him by interrupting him when he's dealing with a kiddo and used this as an example of how I'm not changing my ways in showing him respect. It had never crossed my mind that telling him he was blocking the aisle for a waitress with a big tray was not respectful. And I'm not sure this was a matter of respect -- if it was to him, his view may be skewed. Yet this is now being used as an example of how I'm not changing my ways and justifying his anger against me.
A.
Carolyn Hax :

Would you please talk to a professional therapist? Alone? His yelling at you, in public, for the sole crime of being your idea of helpful instead of his, is verbal abuse.

It is not your responsibility to be exactly the person he wants you to be. Your responsibility is to be yourself, honestly, and his is to be himself, at which point both of you have the right to decide whether these are people you want to spend your life with. That's it. You don't have the right to insist upon changes. You have the right to ask for them, and the right to decide whether to stay or go once you see whether and how your request for change has been answered. Boundaries 101.

Obviously you have made the decision to spend your lives together and have built a family on that decision, but that doesn't mean you signed up to be anyone's personality renovation project. Make the call, get the counseling, please. If you don't know where to find it, call here to ask for a local referral: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).*

Please don't be put off by its being a domestic violence hotline. The counseling on abuse is what you want, and this is a reputable place to look for it.

 

– October 12, 2012 12:19 PM
Q.

Dating Disaster

Hi Carolyn, I've recently started dating someone who is much less communicative than I am. I think we both like each other and it's the beginning stages of the relationship, but is this a red flag? I tend to be an over-communicator, so I'm not sure if my way is really the correct way to do things, so I'm hesitant in ending something over a difference like this. Thanks!
A.
Carolyn Hax :

Oh my. You're using your own self-doubt to rationalize away a concern about someone you're dating. You know the cliche that you can't love another until you love yourself? Taken literally, it's a stretch, but the core of truth to it is that you won't be able to be a full partner to anyone until you've made peace with who you are. Your question is an excellent illustration of why: You sound uncomfortable with your own emotional style, and so you're willing to believe there's something "wrong" with it, and so you're willing to second-guess your own judgment on this matter as unreliable.

The thing is, there's no "right" way to communicate except to be honest and true to yourself. If you feel happier and more fulfilled around people who have an emotional style similar to yours, then don't apologize for that--heed it, and know you have every right to break up with anyone who doesn't feel like a good fit.If you're naturally outgoing, then don't apologize for that, either.

Maybe you aren't entirely happy with the way people respond to you, and think maybe you do cross the line sometimes, and that's okay, too--but don't try to fix it through the person you date. Fix it internally to your own satisfaction, and to comply with your own standards--not to impress or attract others.

If you're still not sure whether this guy is or isn't a good fit, then by all means get to know him better. But don't do it because you think you have some obligation to be more circumspect, or more open-minded about people who are.

 

– October 12, 2012 12:33 PM
Q.

for Producer

The screen is really shaky during the chat (been this way for a few weeks). Is it only me?
A.
Haley Crum :

(Producer)

I haven't heard this complaint before, but if anyone is experiencing this, then please let me know. Thanks!

– October 12, 2012 12:46 PM
Q.

Anywheresville

Dear Carolyn, I'll try to make this as simple as possible. My boyfriend of 6 months just learned that he might be the father of a 2-year-old girl. I was with him the day he found out about her existence, and his surprise was genuine. I see this getting very messy for a variety reasons. Reason 1: the "might" part (the mother has at least one other contender in mind). Reason 2: he doesn't think he wants children and has mixed feelings about whether to meet this little girl. Reason 3: the mom is borderline insane, irresponsible, and punitive, and has already given us a hard time about having the child paternity tested (which we absolutely insist must happen before my boyfriend accepts any sort of responsibility). Toward the beginning of this drama, I almost thought it was a sign I should just disengage, because we hadn't been together long enough for me to take on his baggage. I've grown more attached now, and I think I'm just asking you for the most helpful way I can support him, and what I can expect if in fact this is his little girl. Thanks in advance for your thoughts!

A.
Carolyn Hax :

The most helpful way to support him, on the surface, is to follow his lead, be a good listener, and look for things you can take off his hands if and when the storm hits.

But I hope you'll recognize that the best way to proceed is not by being supportive of him, per se, but by being strong for any and all who need you to be. There's a child at the heart of this, of course, so the girl needs the adults to be strong. Your boyfriend does, too, because he's no doubt dealing with a lot of noise in his head, which means he might not always be able to hear the voice of the right thing to do. You, of course, need you to be strong, because your attraction to your boyfriend and the drama of the child both will have strong gravitational pulls, making it hard for you to resist them in the event that walking away turns out to be the sensible course.

Finally, the mom actually needs you to be strong. She's "borderline insane, irresponsible, and punitive"? Maybe her behavior has made all of these charges seem fair, but still, dehumanizing her like that will only make the situation tougher on all of you, and drive decisions that might not serve any interest besides vengeance or evasio of responsibility.

Should your boyfriend prove to be the biological father, and the mother prove to be as unstable as you suggest, it's not unthinkable that your boyfriend could be in a courthouse someday making his case to gain custody. Start with that vision in your mind and work your way back to see where the path of strength really lies.

(more)

– October 12, 2012 12:47 PM
Q.

Carolyn Hax :

Obviously, it all starts with the paternity test. Your boyfriend had every right to ask for it, and none of this answer matters unless the test indicates he's the father.

If he is the father, though, then he doesn't get to say that he doesn't want to have kids. Not any more. (And, side note, anyone who says this and means it needs to take responsibility in the form of abstinence or permanent birth control. Depending on partners to take care of it for them doesn't fly.)

Instead, he has to accept that he is a father, and therefore is obligated to be the father he believes he would want if he were this child. No rationalizing, no BS-ing, no, "I wouldn't want a wreck like me as a parent."

You can't make him accept anything, sure, but you can be the voice that is always kind and never wavers on the issue: "You have a child now. You don't get to say, 'I don't think I want children." And: "When you consider whether to 'meet this little girl,' you have to ask yourself what you would want if you were the child." And: "If the mother is as unstable as you say, then doesn't that mean the little girl needs you even more urgently?"

If he doesn't want to hear this and accuses you of not being "supportive," then you have two responses: if his idea of support is to be a yes-person, then, he's right, you're not being supportive. And the second response, if he doesn't come around? Goodbye. This is a  character test for all of you. Take it seriously, and don't be the one who fails.

Q.

Gift of Fear

Thought the peanut gallery would like to know that Amazon is offering the Kindle version of Gavin de Becker's "The Gift of Fear" for only $1.99 through the end of October.
A.
Carolyn Hax :

Cool, thanks.

– October 12, 2012 12:59 PM
Q.

Shaky screen

Yep, I get it too sometimes these last few weeks. It's sometimes fixable by changing font size. I have a (slightly oldish) Mac and it happens on both Chrome and Safari.
A.
Haley Crum :

(Producer)

Thanks for writing in with this.  Several other chatters submitted similar responses, so I'll contact the team that works on our chat platform and report the issue. Thank you!

– October 12, 2012 12:59 PM
Q.

Sister with twins OP

I told my sister she should stick with crazy/horrified and put this idea to bed. I also told her that it sounded like she should tell her husband anyway, since this has been on her mind so much. She did, and he said "between your problem solving nature and your generous spirit, I see exactly why that got stuck in your head." She feels relieved her husband understood and validated what she was feeling, and all is well.
A.
Carolyn Hax :

What a great follow-up, thank you. And what a great example of a supportive answer. (Speaking of.)

– October 12, 2012 1:00 PM
Q.

for TODAYS SECOND QUESTION

Later, when he's calmer, she could ask her husband how he would like her to handle it the next time he is standing in an aisle blocking the waitress with a tray. His answer might tell her everything she needs to know. My guess is that he isn't feeling respected at work but can't tell off his boss for fear of losing his job, so he takes it out on his wife. He might also blame is wife and children for feeling stuck in a job he hates. I've seen it before.
A.
Carolyn Hax :

The second part is a PSA on emotional maturity, and the importance of both having it and marrying it. Unfortunately, it takes some to recognize when you don't have it, so the self-diagnostic system is all but useless on that count--but its presence and absence is easier to spot in others, which means anyone who sees this red flag before marrying/procreating/moving in/settling down/jointly investing needs to brake, hard, even if it costs you some lost deposits or tough explanations.

The first part is just an excellent idea--thanks for serving it up.

– October 12, 2012 1:06 PM
Q.

Limbo

Long story short, my boyfriend of over a year broke up with me three weeks ago. For a few reasons, our "future" is up in the air while he figures his issues out. This is where I'm having my own issues, aside from being pretty devastated by the breakup itself. While I would be so happy to be back together right now, I'm trying to deal with things as if we are broken up for good. The only way I know how to deal with that is to completely cut someone out of my life, though. He seems to want to talk every few days, but this just confuses me. Since the ball is in his court, so to speak, I obsess about every message: Does he miss me or just "miss me"? Does he want me in his life again? Is he just texting me because he feels lonely? This results in me getting frustrated and acting like a jerk, being short with him, or just not responding to messages--which is the opposite of what I want to do, I want to talk to him. I don't know how to simultaneously "move on" while leaving the door open for reconciliation in the future, in my mind they are two completely opposite things. I want to be patient and see what happens, one way or the other, but I can't get out of my own head. It's driving me mad. How do I deal with this? (I should probably also get back into therapy, but I am having a really hard time making that leap, it makes me feel very weak to start therapy again after "just" a breakup, shouldn't I be able to handle this?)
A.
Carolyn Hax :

1. It's perfectly fine, ever reasonable, to say to a recent ex that you need a certain period of no contact so you can adjust to the new order of things. A month, two months, whatever seems about right for you now. You can always revisit once your head clears.

2. I get that you want to feel as if you can do this without help--and if you need any proof that this is an ingrained and positive human trait, just try to help a toddler with something he just learned to do.

However, there's no "should" here--there's only what you do and don't need, or what would and wouldn't benefit you. And, there's no shame in having a refresher appointment, just as you would have if you had finished treatment for a physical illness. If you had cancer, you'd have your caregiver assess your self-care routine periodically and check to be sure you're still in remission. I don't see why an emotional ailment would be any different.

– October 12, 2012 1:19 PM
Q.

RE: Sister with twins

Link to the original question please? Follow up sounds awesome, thanks! :)
A.
Haley Crum :

(Producer)

Here you go: Link

– October 12, 2012 1:24 PM
Q.

Fancy Friend

Dear Carolyn, My husband and I are friends with a couple. They've recently fell on some hard economic times. The wife hasn't worked in years- since she had her first child 10 years ago- but due to the fact that her kids are all in school and money is tight her husband wants her to go back to work. She is refusing. This is none of my business of course, however she is now bad mouthing him to me and my husband (and I imagine whomever else who will listen) and she is also asking me to buy stuff from her like handbags and clothes that I don't need or want. It's making everything awkward. I've told her as much and told her that I value our friendship as a couple and maybe its best that we don't know these private issues. She called me a traitor! I don't really care about maintaining my friendship with her but my husband and I worry about her husband. Can we maintain a friendship with him if we want to distance ourselves from her?
A.
Carolyn Hax :

You can certainly try, but this marriage appears to be headed for a crash, I don't expect that anyone on the outside will be able to stop it.

For what it's worth--and, again, not that it'll really help--one way to deal with such badmouthing is to say, "I hear that you're upset, but I'll admit I don't understand why you object to strongly to going back to work." I suggest it only because I think we've all been in this position, and saying nothing feels like tacit approval of the bashing; this way you demostrate that you're open to her side if she cares to share it. No, it's not your business, technically, but she's making it your business by mouthing off about her marriage to you.

Another less combative way to avoid abetting the badmouther is to say, "I care about both of you, and I'd appreciate your not saying that around me."

– October 12, 2012 1:31 PM
Q.

F-Bombs vis a vis Respect

Regarding a spouse not having a right to dictate your behavior: my husband has told me to not use the F-bomb in his presence. I've curtailed my use of it, but the discussion today has me wondering whether this is controlling behavior on his part?
A.
Carolyn Hax :

Asked = okay. Told = not okay.

People who share space are going to have to make small adjustments for each other all the time; it's part of the deal, and actually crying abuse or control on all such requests is its own form of abuse and control (having fun yet?). And, people who genuinely like each other and take their commitment to each other seriously will try to accommodate each other on matters too small to dent their senses of self.

I'd give examples, but there's no such thing as an adjustment that's universally "easy" to make.

 

– October 12, 2012 1:38 PM
Q.

Re: Anywheresville

The one part that concerned me about the question were the references to "we" and "us," as in "we absolutely insisted on a paternity test," for which the mother gave "us" a hard time. Especially for a relationship that is only six months old, I wonder why that was a "we" issue, and not just up to the putative father to handle/decide. I don't know why it bothers me, but it does, a bit -
A.
Carolyn Hax :

I think it's a valid thing to flag, thanks.

– October 12, 2012 1:40 PM
Q.

Boyfriend who is potential father

As someone who used to work in the juvenile court system, I would suggest putting off meeting the child until after the paternity tests. The testing itself shouldn't take that long, so the delay shouldn't be significant (unless the mother continues to be uncooperative). I'm thinking of the child, who is still quite young, but if her mother is as unstable as the OP suggests, what she does not need is to be introduced to another adult who will then disappear from her life if the test results come back negative. Also, be prepared for the reality of child support-- it can be a financial shock to someone who isn't expecting it. It might not be too soon to consult an attorney to make sure everything plays out productively.
A.
Carolyn Hax :

I see your "suggest," and raise it to a "warn strongly against." Paternity test before all. Thanks.

– October 12, 2012 1:41 PM
Q.

For the woman selling her handbags, etc. to friends

Has she ever heard of a thrift store, second hand shop, or garage sale?
A.
Carolyn Hax :

The "traitor" bit suggests clear thinking is currently beyond her reach.

– October 12, 2012 1:43 PM
Q.

Fancy Friend -- been there

FWIW, my sister acted this way when she and her husband fell on a similar situation. It turned out her behavior stemmed from two issues: 1) Her anger at being asked to go back to work was really a cover for the shame and fear she felt that no one would hire her and that she didn't know how to re-enter the workforce. 2) She felt that her husband's work request somehow devalued the years she'd spent with the kids. She believed that her being at home served the family better, and it was hurtful for her to think that he didn't appreciate her contributions. (Of course, he did -- it's just that he also saw a mortgage payment that could no longer be made on one salary). Just throwing these thoughts out there. Someone might want to probe a little deeper into the Fancy Friend's motivations.
A.
Carolyn Hax :

Good points, thanks.

– October 12, 2012 1:44 PM
Q.

Carolyn Hax :

Hello again ... the answer I tried to post a few minutes ago is stuck and crashed my browser. I'm in a new one now and trying to get that answer to post, so please bear with me for a moment. Thanks and apologies.   

Q.

"for the kids"?

I've recently discovered that my husband of 6 years is having an affair. He doesn't know that I know. This comes while we are supposedly trying to work out several issues (the main ones being alcohol use/abuse and a new-found interest in all-night socializing, both on his part) with the help of a counselor. At this point, I am done. I've confided in a few people, both of whom have made remarks about trying to stay together and make it work for the sake of our two young kids--not so much as "You have to..." but more like a wistful, "Isn't there any way you could..." combined with reminders of how much kids suffer in a divorce. Knowing his past behavior and tendency to not make hard changes, I honestly can't imagine any scenario in which we could "make it work." But am I setting my kids up for a horrible life?
A.
Carolyn Hax :

Yes, kids suffer in a divorce.

They also suffer when they share a home with an alcoholic or problem drinker who has not done the hard work to get well.

And they suffer when their parents don't get along and/or respect each other, yet remain yoked to each other out of an underexamined sense of duty.

And they suffer when their parents make choices for the family based on appearances and/or public opinion instead of developing, then trusting, their own internal compasses.

Take care of yourself, take care of  your children, and be fierce in your dedication to what is right, fair and realistic. That is the foundation of a rewarding life, no matter what shape it takes.

A good lawyer and family therapist will help, too, before you take even the first steps toward separation, since a parent who abuses alcohol is a major custody concern. 

– October 12, 2012 2:13 PM
Q.

Negotiating with Therapists

I've been seeing a therapist since the spring through a counseling group that takes my insurance. She recently informed me that she will be leaving this group and going exclusively to her private practice (where she doesn't take insurance). She welcomed me to her group, and said that she is doing what she can to accommodate her current insurance patients. The kicker is that she wants me to come up with a number that I think is "reasonable" knowing that she charges about $175/session in her private practice and I currently pay $25 copay when I see her. She also knows that I am in grad school, something she encouraged me to do, and that my job doesn't pay particularly well. I understand her business justification for her decision, but I'm perturbed by this negotiation process. It seems uncomfortable for me to walk into her office and tell her just how much I think her services are worth, or have to defend my financial situation. I felt like I couldn't even tell her I was going into a review cycle at work because she knew I'd be getting raise. Is this normal practice? Am I overreacting to this?
A.
Carolyn Hax :

Sounds to me as if she's trying to make this possible for you, vs. pry into your bank records or extract a perceived dollar value for her services.

If you like working with her, then come up with a number you'd feel comfortable paying, and write her a note to that effect. Say you realize her services are worth the full price, of course; you just can't swing it. If she can't accept that price, then ask her to recommend a colleague (in the group or outside it) who she thinks would be a good fit. You can also opt out of the pricing altogether by saying, "My copay is all I can manage at this point, and I don't feel comfortable asking you to accept so little, so instead I'm wondering if you can refer me to someone on my plan."

If you can pay more and she accepts your suggested number, then, great--but I think it's incumbent on you to offer more if and when your financial condition improves.

Remember, too, that she's your therapist, and so your discomfort is something you can express to her out loud. FWIW, she's probably much more comfortable with the business side of this than you are. 

(FWIW2: You probably already checked this, but in case you haven't yet, you might still have some coverage through your plan, if there's any accommodation for out-of-plan/network providers.)

– October 12, 2012 2:15 PM
Q.

HOW TO TALK SO KIDS WILL LISTEN...

Hi Carolyn, Longtime reader here. I just wanted to thank you for suggesting the book, HOW TO TALK SO KIDS WILL LISTEN AND LISTEN SO KIDS WILL TALK. My six-year-old is in a tantrum mode, and gets upset/angry a lot. I am already using some of the techniques and they are working. But the scariest part is...I think I need to completely change how I speak to my husband, too! Have you heard of these strategies applied to marriages, etc.? Thanks for taking my question.
A.
Carolyn Hax :

Gack! Yes! I haven't "heard of these strategies applied to marriages," but what I have noticed are situations-day in and day out--where the using the principles of the book would change the whole dynamic from one of conflict to simple respect. To be fair--and thorough--this is true of all of the good child-rearing books, and it's no mystery why: Each of them focuses on the inherent worth and dignity of the individual.

"How to Talk ..." doesn't teach you to speak Kid as if it's some foreigh language, it simply reminds the reader that a child has opinions and feelings and ideas that are no less worthy of adult respect just because they come from a child. "Love and Logic" works on the same general principle, as do the more eye-opening chapters of "Nurture Shock": All of them argue persuasively that instead of getting caught up in conveying the message you want your kids to receive, you'll get a much better outcome if you shut up a moment and see what message your child has come up with on his or her own--both for you and for the situation you're so caught up in trying to solve. And when your child isn't there yet, you give them a chance to figure it out before jumping in with all the answers.

It doesn't take a whole lot of imagination to see how this can improve friendships, marriages, workplaces, even interactions with strangers, especially for people who spend most of their time in an authoritarian gear. It's an interesting exercise, I think, to spend some time in a public place, paying attention to the ways other people interact. It's stunning how many times people invalidate each other, just with a phrase or even an expression. I hear it in myself all the time, though I hope less so now that I'm aware of it.

 

– October 12, 2012 2:30 PM
Q.

No more baby blues

Hi Carolyn, I love your columns and chats am trying to follow your advice that you have given time and again. I would like to try for another baby, my husband doesn't. We have two beautiful children and a happy family, but I always wanted more. We started later than planned, and we're both much older now (late 30s) so he's concerned about health risks (mostly for the would-be child), being that much older when the child graduates high school, etc. and to a lesser extent, the additional stress, strain on finances, etc. If I really, really pushed, I know he'd give in (he has said as much), and I know that's not right. We both need to be fully on board and excited at the prospect. So how do I let go of this nagging feeling inside? I share his concerns, though I'm more prone to say, "Let the chips fall where they may," that we can deal with the stress, the money, even a child with a health problem. I'm not really satisfied at work and have little else in my life that fulfills me personally - it's my role as a mommy that seems to define me now, and I love it. So maybe that's why I can't shake this feeling that another child would make me more complete. How can I stop tearing up at diaper commercials or the sight of a beautiful newborn in the grocery store? How long is it okay the mourn for the other children we'll never have?
A.
Carolyn Hax :

"I'm not really satisfied at work and have little else in my life that fulfills me personally - it's my role as a mommy that seems to define me now, and I love it."

I'm not saying you should or shouldn't have another child--that's for you, your husband, your banker and your doctor to wrestle with--but either way, your life needs your attention. 

There's nothing wrong with feeling as if parenthood is your calling, but you're verging on peril when it becomes the way you define yourself. Your kids will grow up and move on, even a third child if you have one, and then what? Even as your kids get older, you'll need to revise your mom role to occupy an increasingly smaller place in their lives, for their sakes.

Maybe you're doing that now with your two kids, and that's why you want another baby--because your sense of purpose isn't as clear and immediate as it was?

I urge you to consider other ways to find fulfillment--and here's some incentive to do it, in case you're not feeling any right now: It'll set a great example for your kids. Everyone at some point in life feels a bit ... unmoored, unsure of the point of it all, alarmed that laundry and dishes and work are all there is. Having a child depend on you so fully does have a way of becoming a purpose, since there's always another need to be met, but it's just a Band-aid. It would help your kids immensely, in ways they might not recognize, to see you redefine yourself in a way that's enduring, useful and an honest expression of who you are. Wouldn't hurt for you, too. I know it's daunting, but so is caring for helpless little humans, and you seem to have gotten that down.

 

– October 12, 2012 2:47 PM
Q.

Evolving a Lifelong Friendship to a New Level

I suddenly realized yesterday -- while talking with my friend of some 40 years on the phone about (what else?) her relationship with her boyfriend -- that I was guilty of the same exact thing that I was attributing to the boyfriend: telling her what to do. The feedback I have always given her (some form of "Do what makes you happy; do what's right for you; do what you know in your heart is the healthy thing to thrive") is actually immaterial. I think I have been unwittingly navigated into treating her just as badly as he does. Rather than participate in yet another analysis of her and her boyfriend, can I shift the friendship to "Let's plan fun things to do together, then do them" ? Do I declare my new intention? FWIW, they have the exact same problems they've had for the past five years, and don't seem any closer to solving them, so my input isn't helping anyway.

A.
Carolyn Hax :

What do -you- think you should do?

Heh heh.

I think it would be great if you told your friend of your epiphany--though you might want to avoid the whole "I have been unwittingly navigated into treating her just as badly as he does," since that looks a lot like blame. Something along the lines of, "You know what? I've been guilty of the same exact thing that I was attributing to your boyfriend: telling you what to do. I'm going to stop." See what she does with this. 

Thereafter, yes, shifting the friendship to "Let's plan fun things to do together, then do them" sounds like a fine thing to do, though your friend might be caught wrong-footed, at least for a while.  

 

– October 12, 2012 2:53 PM
Q.

RE: For the kids

I have a friend whose parents stayed together "for the kids" until he graduated from high school. He was absolutely horrified, hurt (you can add a bunch of other upset emotions and most would apply) that they had done that. It took him awhile to recover personally as well as to resume the close relationship he had with his parents before finding this out. Just thought I'd share an example of how this can be a bad strategy.
A.
Carolyn Hax :

Thanks. I did a big take-out on this a few years ago,* but it has been a while so I'll post a couple of other comments that have come in. 

– October 12, 2012 3:00 PM
Q.

I'm a divorced kid

I cannot tell you how happy I am that my parents divorced. Each parent was able to find a spouse that suited them MUCH better, and I'm grateful that I was able to see the example of two healthy relationships, instead of one totally dysfunctional one. My sister and I are both grown adults now, both in happy relationships. I realize that I'm a case-study of one, but I wanted you to have proof that divorce doesn't have to ruin children's lives.
A.
Carolyn Hax :

Thanks. One more coming ...

– October 12, 2012 3:01 PM
Q.

"For the Kids"

Ohmygoshno. As a child of an absolutely terrible marriage that clung on for years "for the sake of the kids" PLEASE do not stay together for any reason other than you want to make this relationship work. And if you do, PLEASE consider if that is a healthy environment for the kiddos to grow up in. It took me a long time to forgive my mom for keeping me in that [icky] environment & I am still, slowly but surely, woking on my own issues I developed as a result.
A.
Carolyn Hax :

Another great, and sad, argument for respecting your kids' feelings instead of assuming you know best.

 

*and if anyone knows the date of the chat where I posted people's stories of their childhoods, as told through the lens of "staying together for the kids," I'd be most grateful. I searched a good long time for it once, and there just weren't any keywords that were uncommon enough to turn up that transcript. 

– October 12, 2012 3:03 PM
Q.

re: For the Kids

just an odd side note. I know it's human nature to make yourself seem like the good guy and the other guy the bad guy, but do you find it easier to give advice to someone who points out their own flaws instead of just points out the flaws in others? Sure the husband is cheating and drinks too much, and maybe she's perfect, but I'd find it more human if she pointed out the issues that might be about her behaviors and gave any inkling into how she ended up married to, and procreating with, such a terrible person. it's not like she went to bed with a saint last night and woke up with a sinner this morning. Anyway, it's Friday and I am going to go have a drink with my wife and hug her for putting up with me.
A.
Carolyn Hax :

Sounds like a lovely idea. 

Maybe it's just a small thing compared with your larger point, but I see the drinking-and-womanizing husband not as "such a terrible person," but instead as an unwell one, emotionally if nothing else. And, people do tend to miss the implications of that when they're choosing mates, since the stakes are often so much lower at the beginning, putting so much less stress on the unwell person, and therefore making the poor health so much less visible--and consequential--than it will be just a few years down the road.

Did the OP make a contribution, by marrying and procreating with him? Yes, absolutely, in just being naive and immature if nothing else. 

But I'm not sure how that mistake is relevant to the decision she's facing--or, specifically, what "Obviously I have my own issues for choosing such a bad father for my kids" would have added to the equation of her question, except to make her (I agree) much more sympathetic.

As for advising someone who admits his or her own faults, it's almost harder, since they take away the most productive first step I can possibly advise: "Look in the mirror." It definitely increases the chance that people will take the advice, though, or at least think it through before rejecting it, which is an equally promising outcome. 

– October 12, 2012 3:14 PM
Q.

Carolyn Hax :

Yikes, 3:18. Bye, thanks, hope to see you here next week, and have a great weekend. 

Q.

 

A.
Host: