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December 15, 2011

12:03
P.M.

Carolyn Hax Live (Thursday, Dec. 15)

Total Responses: 41

About the hosts

About the host

Host: Carolyn Hax

Carolyn Hax

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

Carolyn's Columns
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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 Thursday, Dec. 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.

Carolyn's Recent Columns

Past Carolyn Hax Discussions

Way Past Carolyn Hax Live Discussions
Q.

Carolyn Hax :

Hi everybody, and thank you for stopping by on a Thursday. I'll be on next Friday as usual, Dec. 23, for your last-minute advice-shopping, then off the next two Fridays, one for vacation and one for a hockey tournament. Not mine, alas.

For those who have been asking, I haven't given up on making my Facebook page visible to non-FBers, but we're not there yet. There's also Twitter, @carolynhax and @ngalifianakis, in the meantime.

 

Q.

Flowers for a Guy

I had a girlfriend give me a Sunflower for my birthday. I was confused on what to do. I appreciated the sentiment but the flower was huge and the stalk as thick as a broom handle. I had no idea on the next steps and I didn't have a large vase in my supplies. She was irate a few days later when it was still in a pot in the kitchen and not properly displayed.. What was she thinking? What does any woman giving a man flowers?
A.
Carolyn Hax :

Well, wait a minute--flowers for a guy is a fine idea, if the guy likes flowers, which a lot do.

Expecting Guy (or anyone else for that matter) to follow some unwritten rules in enjoying said gift is out of line, and would be with any gift. Once a gift is given, the giver's job is to let go. 

 

– December 15, 2011 12:05 PM
Q.

Celebrating without carbs, meat, or alcohol

Dear Carolyn, My husband of 6 months has sworn off all added sugars and grains after being diagnosed as pre-diabetic. I totally support him in this choice. Mostly, this hasn't been a problem. But this will be the first year we're spending Christmas together, and without other extended family. I'm one of those people for whom food, particularly baking, has been integral to celebrations, and it's one of the ways I show love for people.This might sound really dumb, but I don't know how to make the holiday feel special without cooking the kinds of foods I usually do (cookies, mashed potatoes, stuffing, etc). It doesn't help that I'm vegetarian - so fancy roasts are out. I realize this isn't an earth-shattering problem, but I love your advice and that of the 'nuts, and any suggestions you have would be welcome.
A.
Carolyn Hax :

As part of the Cooking Show world takeover, the quantity and availability of diet-specific recipes has exploded. Get online and start searching for non-grain, no-added-sugar desserts, and start cooking a new set of special things. The nutterati, I imagine, will have all kinds of sites to suggest. 

– December 15, 2011 12:08 PM
Q.

mismatch in libido and counseling failures

Dear Carolyn, My boyfriend and I were seeing a relationship counselor for problems with our sex life. He is not happy with this aspect of our relationship, and neither am I. Part of this problem stems from some other relationship issues we've had, namely, that I find him difficult to talk to, and hence, difficult to talk to about our sex life. The counseling was unsuccessful in that I was incredibly stressed out during the entire process and we ended up taking a break from the therapist. I found the counseling so stressful because my boyfriend repeatedly expressed that the problems were all something that I had to work on, and that he's done all he can. It's hard to "work on things" in the midst of all of this. I love him, but it's humiliating in a way for him to tell me that I'm the one who is not trying hard enough in the relationship, especially with regard to something so personal. Now I feel like we're stuck. Should I seek out counseling alone? For the record, I don't feel like I am irrationally stressed out on a regular basis. I have a stressful job that I handle very well, and have gone through more difficult things than this relationship. For some reason, I just feel so trapped in how this relationship has turned out. Thanks for reading.
A.
Carolyn Hax :

Why didn't you include breaking up among your choices? Seems like such an obvious one that I'm wondering why solo counseling, "work on things" and being trapped are the only paths you mention.

– December 15, 2011 12:12 PM
Q.

remedial break up

Hi Carolyn, I'm in my first relationship since my divorce and am feeling...remedial. I want to break up with him for no bigger reason than it doesn't feel right. I can't quite find the words to say. Any suggestions? And yes, some of this is a lack of Christmas balls.
A.
Carolyn Hax :

"I thought I was ready to date, but I'm not, I'm sorry"--because you did, and you aren't, and you are. 

– December 15, 2011 12:15 PM
Q.

Friend with controlling boyfriend

My friend is dating a man who her family and I believe is emotionally abusive and controlling. She's become very depressed and anxious but doesn't appear ready to break it off, or even slow things down. I'd worry greatly for her future if she stayed with him. What to do?
A.
Carolyn Hax :

Pelt her (gently!) with literature. "The Gift of Fear" by Gavin de Becker (bookmark Chapter 10 for her), plus its companion, https://www.mosaicmethod.com/, and Domestic Violence: The Facts, the concise and life-saving booklet by the no-longer-with-us nonprofit Peace at Home. Then be patient--and available--while she works her way to the point where she's ready to get out.

– December 15, 2011 12:19 PM
Q.

To be or not to be...insecure

I read today's column and I saw myself from the past. I was never in a serious relationship, but I had a lot of problems stemming from a very hard childhood. If I had entered into a relationship then, I would be a "hot mess". However, after years of therapy and some serious soul-searching (including some very lonely moments of realizing how much I needed help), I am now about to get married. I am a much healthier, happier person. But after reading the column, I worry because I am not completely healed from my childhood but I am getting there. Is it okay to get married and move on while healing at the same time? My gut tells me to go with it - and take it one step at a time.

A.
Carolyn Hax :

I can't possibly say from here whether you're ready for marriage or not, but I can say there's no magic point where people become "well" or "fully healed" or whatever else we might be shooting for. Growth is lifelong if you're doing it right, and as long as you're 1.   living honestly and 2. committed to taking good care of  the people you love (yourself included), then you're in as strong a position as anyone has a right to ask. Good luck.

– December 15, 2011 12:24 PM
Q.

Self-Sabotaging Friend

Hi Carolyn, A close friend of mine was just reamed by a guy she rejected. She was told she sabotages her love life like she sabotaged her career and the rest of her life. She says he's totally wrong and then asked me via email if I agreed with him. I TOTALLY AGREE WITH HIM (though his delivery was mean). Should I be honest and tell her (nicely) that yes, I think the dude hit the nail on the head?

A.
Carolyn Hax :

Yes, but not by email, please. 

– December 15, 2011 12:25 PM
Q.

cooking for (pre) diabetics

I highly recommend that the pre-diabetic, and the person who cooks for him/her, attend a Diabetic Education class. Health insurance should pay for the class or it may be free. Check out www.diabetes.org for them. Back in the day, diabetics had many dietary restrictions. Now, they might need to limit their carbohydrates, but not eliminate sugar, grain, bread, potatoes, etc. Basically, their food pyramid is the same as anyone else's. Our bodies need carbs for brain function and energy, to name a few things.

A.
Carolyn Hax :

And if it's not covered or free, it can be a gift from his spouse, as another reader suggested. Thanks.

– December 15, 2011 12:27 PM
Q.

Resource for Friend of Friend in Abusive Relationship

I also really highly recommend this book: To Be an Anchor in the Storm: A Guide for Families and Friends of Abused Women by Susan Brewster. It's a great resource for the person being supportive. I've found it very helpful (and am so relieved that friend finally got divorced from her abusive ex!) Good luck!
A.
Carolyn Hax :

Thanks. I don't know of this book, though I'll have a look ... and where are the resources for the families and friends of abused men? I'd be surprised if the approaches didn't apply to all types of abusive relationships--and maybe it addresses the reason for directing it at women upfront--but still.

– December 15, 2011 12:31 PM
Q.

Family Christmas Gifts

My husband's family puts together "Chrismas lists" so that people know exactly (and I mean exactly) what they want, where they can get it and the price. They ask us for ours, and seem nonplussed when we say we don't have such lists. Are we old fashioned? We get gifts ahead of time when we see things we think they will enjoy, and this seems to eliminate the joy of giving and of getting something special you had no idea existed. We've thought about just sending a check,since there are no surprises and they're obviously picky, but maybe we should just agree not exchange, in which case everyone could buy exactly what they want and skip the charade of it being a "gift".

A.
Carolyn Hax :

Why not make flexibility your gift? Keep giving to them in the way that suits you, and indulge them by playing along with their customs when it comes to their buying for you.

Specifically, give them short lists with general guidance, e.g.:

1. kitchen gadgets and/or a selection of your favorite recipes

2. biographies, especially political but anyone interesting will do

3. dark chocolate

4. red wines

5. anything with [alma mater/pro team] printed on it.

Not so hard, really, once you make the choice not to  judge them or their ways. 

 

 

 

– December 15, 2011 12:39 PM
Q.

Silver Spring, MD

Dear Carolyn, I work in a job that is basically volunteer (very low pay), but that is very important to the community. I almost always have a coworker who is down on her luck and needs a place to stay. Right now I have two such coworkers, and both are staying with me as a stepping-stone to apartments of their own. One has a 13-month-old baby, and the other one is very sensitive to noise. Many nighttime fights have happened. Please tell me how you think I can best keep the peace between these two guests without saying "Suck it up--you're both living here rent-free."
A.
Carolyn Hax :

Why can't you say that? Backed with an offering of the cheap pinchy-type earplugs for the entitled, noise-averse one.

– December 15, 2011 12:41 PM
Q.

Bridal Party

Hi Carolyn, I'm in the process of choosing my bridal party. I'd like to have a handful, but don't have a particular number in mind. So far I've got two definites and am working out the others. My fiance has taken issue with a few of my choices. Towards the beginning of our relationship, a few of my friends were less than warm to him for various reasons, some openly hostile. Things have gotten better over our years of dating, but he still doesn't feel comfortable having those women in our wedding. I respect his opinion and am not going to do anything to make him unhappy, but I wanted to hear your take on this. Does consistent support have to be a prerequisite when choosing bridesmaids?
A.
Carolyn Hax :

For your own sanity, and many other reasons, stick with the two definites and call that your bridal party.

As for the initially non-receptive friends, you need to validate his dismay at the ones who were openly hostile and, in return, as long as they are now good to him (vs merely tolerant), he needs to treat it as a bygone under the bridge of sleeping dogs. (Somany cliches, so little time.)

– December 15, 2011 12:44 PM
Q.

Scared Mom

How do I convince my wife that she needs to let our kids participate in life and to stop smothering them. She's terrified that her children will be physically or sexually abused if they're out of her sight (and no, she does not have any history of abuse herself). She home school's our 7-year-old and refuses to allow him to play Little League baseball or any other sport - especially since the Penn State scandal. I've even offered to coach my son's sports so that I'm with him at all times, but she's afraid an assistant coach will do something while I'm not watching. This is unhealthy for her and my children. She refuses to go to therapy saying there's nothing wrong with protecting your children. She says her Mom and friends think she's doing the right thing - I don't agree.
A.
Carolyn Hax :

You need to go to therapy since she won't, to explore ways to create a healthy environment given your wife's extremely unhealthy approach to her fears.

All parents have the possibility of harm to reckon with, and only a small fraction of them keep their kids so close that they never lose sight of them. Some af these parents are reckless, sure, but does your wife really believe all of them are who send their kids to schools and who let them play team sports? Yet she won't even admit she's an outlier.  

Fear is normal; building your kids' lives around it is not. Please find a skilled therapist and get to work on this, asap. 

– December 15, 2011 12:49 PM
Q.

Dating woes

I'm a 33-year-old straight woman; I'm smart, funny, reasonably attractive, and I have my life together. I love my job, volunteer, exercise, have great friends, and have enjoyable hobbies. But my dating life sucks. I don't meet people in real life, despite all my best efforts (see above hobbies, volunteering, job, friends, etc.). And in the past three years or so I've been out with close to a hundred guys online, none of whom I've really clicked with. At this point, it seems like I must be doing something wrong, or else I'm seriously deluded about how awesome I am. How do I keep my hopes up and keep trying?
A.
Carolyn Hax :

You have a wonderful life, by your own account. Please get off the Dating Hamster Wheel of Despair (DHWD)--it' s not every day I get to dust that one off--and free yourself to enjoy that wonderful life without the dating asterisk.

If at some point you find yourself wanting to go on a date with someone, then by all means, go ahead--because then you'll want the date for its own sake vs wanting it as a means to an end, which is where  you're getting into trouble now.

I don't think you're necessarily deluded about how awesome you are, for what it's worth. I just think you're working so hard at something (a hundred guys?!) that you've lost perspective, which happens all the time, not just in dating. 

– December 15, 2011 12:56 PM
Q.

a few of my friends were less than warm to him for various reasons, some openly hostile.

What were the reasons? If they were "he's butting into our group," they shouldn't be validated. If they were more along the lines of "she's not herself around him," that's a different story.
A.
Carolyn Hax :

I agree the reasons matter, but I just want to be sure what I wrote wasn't misread--I said to validate his feelings about their hostile reception to him, not to validate the hostility.

– December 15, 2011 1:00 PM
Q.

Flowers for a Guy

I'm a woman and I'd be similarly flummoxed if someone gave me a large plant that required a lot of special care that I might not know how to provide and equipment that I might not have. And surely you've met at least one old war veteran who's decided to spend his retirement defending his prize rose bushes? This doesn't sound like a "flowers are stupid gifts" issue; it sounds like a "my partner gave me a gift that reflects her preferences but not mine" issue. Have you tried just asking her why she thought it would be a good gift for you?
A.
Carolyn Hax :

It was a sunflower! No special care required besides a pot of water--but even if it were high-mainenance, it would still be best to let it go vs. go down the what-were-you-thinking road on her gift selection. And I say this while agreeing with your take that it is a what-were-you-thinking issue, to some degree.

But I also maintain that the bigger problem is that she took offense to his not appreciating it to her specifications.  That's in violation of Item 1 in the Gift Giving Code: If it has strings attached, then don't call it a gift

 

– December 15, 2011 1:04 PM
Q.

re: Parenting by Fear

Sadly, one of my very good friend's wives was this way with her kid. Poor kid. My friend, her husband, fought it lovingly but vigorously, went through therapy, both alone and jointly, but Mom never swayed. They are now going through a terrible custody fight and divorce over the issue, with this poor kid in the middle. She won't let him play in the yard, or throw a baseball, but it's ok to tear his poor little heart out with court dates, and spend his college fund on lawyers. It's so sad to watch, and is tearing my friend apart. Control is an illusion, and a harmful one at that.
A.
Carolyn Hax :

Nothing to add except, damn. 

– December 15, 2011 1:07 PM
Q.

Celebrating without <insert food here>

As a person with a severe food allergy, I don't expect everything on the holiday table to be dairy-free. The non dairy stuff is just kept away from the dairy. You will want to make sure there are things that he can eat, but you should be able to have a few of your regular holiday staples as well. He's an adult, he can refrain from eating things he's not supposed to.
A.
Carolyn Hax :

Agreed, and this will apply someday when they're sharing holidays with friends or extended family, but the letter suggests it's the two of them this year. Having a roast for him and cookies for her wouldn't make much sense, in that case. 

– December 15, 2011 1:10 PM
Q.

Loss of income and depression

My husband is being laid off and after years of being unhappy at work this is going to be a blessing. Going to 1 income will be very hard but with my income we can swing things. The problem is my husband HATES change and doesn't cope well with it. I've tried to get him to do his resume (he won't), or to start looking for a new job (he won't) or to talk to a therapist (he won't). I think he's expecting a new job to just fall into his lap even though he doesn't network etc. How am I to cope with a husband who just won't do anything to find a job and has no desire to do anything but watch t.v and play videogames and then complain that he's bored.
A.
Carolyn Hax :

Unfortunately, when someone chooses to dig into an unreasonable position, it forces a partner to draw lines as well. Are you willing to put up with this indefinitely? If not, how far are you willing to go when it's time to stop putting up with it? You're going to have to do some hard thinking to figure out both where your limits are, and how you want to convey to him what they are and what you plan to do when you and he reach them.

It's treacherous territory, especially given its proximity to threats and ultimatums, but you certainly have standing to say you don't see TV as a long-term plan.

– December 15, 2011 1:21 PM
Q.

For Dating Woes

Oooooh, that was me! The only self-help book I've ever read that did me any good was called "if I'm So Wonderful, Why Am I Still Single?" which talked about the barriers we put in between ourselves and potential partners, including those that make us appear unavailable (emotionally or otherwise) while engaging in all the great activities of our lives where we might meet guys in "real life." I found just practicing the art of being welcoming did wonders, as well as getting over the fear of doing "couple" type activities (going to concerts and movies, day trips, etc.) on my own. I made several friends along the way. And in the end I met a guy in a total chance encounter on one of those solo jaunts, and now we've been married for 15 years, two kids, etc. Hang in there!
A.
Carolyn Hax :

Another book I haven't met, but since this issue is a perennial, I'll throw it out there. Thanks.

– December 15, 2011 1:23 PM
Q.

Dealing with a spoiled nephew

So my nephew, who is seven, is unquestionable spoiled and I'm having a hard time being around him. Sadly, I think he's taking after my sister is always been an I want, I want. With Christmas coming around I honestly feel like getting him squat. He has so many toys he doesn't appreciate them. I asked him the other day to stop throwing his toys in the bin they're break and he goes "who cares I'll just buy more". I bought him a spontaneous gift once. He asked me to return it he wanted something else. Between his I want behavior and crying whenever he doesn't win he's getting harder to be around. Sad thing is he gets so excited to see me. My nephew has a twin who is a complete angel, never wants anything, does everything he's asked, and so it makes his brother look more like a monster to me. My question is how do i deal with a spoiled seven year old and what do I get him for christmas instead of what i want to do which is nothing and explain there are kids in the world who would appreciate all he has.
A.
Carolyn Hax :

If possible, please get each of the brothers an experience gift--tickets to something you take them to, one on one, or solo day trips to a 7-year-old-friendly place, like a children's museum, or out to a "fancy" dinner--again, one on one, which gives you an extra shot as teaching manners in a memorable format. That way you're giving each child your time, and mostly bypassing the whole issue of spoiling.

Plus, if you make a habit of this, you could do some good work against the possible underlying problem here of competition between your nephews. There's no down side to your developing your own relationship with each , independent of the other. This isn't just a twin thing, either, but applies to all sibling configurations.  

– December 15, 2011 1:30 PM
Q.

Rebound...?

Hi, Carolyn! Long time reader, first time caller...er, writer. So, long story short, I met this woman w/ whom I am infatuated. I think she likes me, too. The problem, however, is that only a few short months ago she broke up w/ her boyfriend of 4 years. I am looking to develop a long-term relationship, she said she is not ready for that yet. But, she still wants to keep in touch with me. Is it ever prudent to wait around for someone or is it just fruitless? I have been hurt in the past by wanting someone who was unavailable, so I feel scared about getting hurt again. I think she's a good person and so is not intentionally keeping me on the hook, but still, I am worried about that stabby feeling in my back. Any advice?
A.
Carolyn Hax :

The only sure chance you won't get hurt is never to care about anyone again. 

If what you're worried about is getting hurt in an exact replay of past hurts, then you do have something there, but you also have your experience to inform you. Are there signs already that this is a do-over, some familiar warnings that you may have ignored in the past and shouldn't ignore now? In that case, then it's fine to say to her, "Sure, we can keep in touch," and then let her be the one who comes to you, with confidence in your assessment that pursuing her wouldn't be in your best interests.

But if you're not having familiar sensations of being on someone's hook, then go ahead and cultivate the friendship, with the awareness that it's best to proceed slowly, make sure your efforts are being reciprocated, and keep your expectations in check. You may still come out of it empty handed, but probably not with " that stabby feeling" in your back. Taking care to read her intentions, instead of just your own, will leave you much less vulnerable to deception--to the point where if you are deceived, then you'll be in a shame-on-her position, not shame-on-me.


– December 15, 2011 1:38 PM
Q.

Christmas with the family

My boyfriend of two years is coming to my family's house for Christmas. He and I had different upbringings, his a large family with not much to go around and mine a small one with - eventually - with a lot, and Christmas has admittedly gotten out of control with us. We have fun with it, but last year was one for the record books and we have sworn not to repeat it. This year I am giving my boyfriend an expensive gift, but it's one with a purpose, and I think he will be okay with the amount given that we are open with our finances at this stage. I just found out what my mother plans on giving, which is modest and nice by our standards, but I worry about how my boyfriend will take it. It's really not a lot of money, but he has been taken aback sometimes by more expensive gifts - really anything over $25 , I swear he almost hyperventilated when I gave him his birthday present - and I am not sure if I should warn him. I honestly like the idea of spoiling him a bit since it is a new experience for him. Am I just worrying over nothing? It would not be the first time.
A.
Carolyn Hax :

Hm. Why are you so intent on "spoiling him a bit" even knowing he's not comfortable with it? Obviously I'm just seeing a sliver of this story, but a large part of your question is rationalization for over-spending, and it sounds as if your family's gifts to him aren't about him, they're about you. If that's the case, then please reconsider.

– December 15, 2011 1:43 PM
Q.

Eating

Carolyn, I have food issues. I binge when no one's around (like, a whole pizza) and hide the evidence. When people ARE around I get really weird about when they comment on what food I'm eating, feeling judged even when it's something as innocuous as "oh, those fries smell good". I'm otherwise healthy, not obese, etc. Have a fairly healthy body image. Is this just a weird quirk or a real problem? The guilt after the binges is starting to get to me.
A.
Carolyn Hax :

The binges also pose a threat to your health, even if you're not seeing the effects right now. Please regard this as a real problem and seek treatment. The National Eating Disorders Association makes the first step a whole lot easier by offering a toll free, confidential Helpline (M-F,  9 to 5 Eastern):  1-800-931-2237. 

Even if it turns out that it's just a "weird quirk," it's better to assume it's something and find out that you were wrong than it is to assume it's nothing and find out that you were wrong . 

– December 15, 2011 1:54 PM
Q.

All over my face

Despite my best efforts, I really don't like my mother-in-law. Each time we visit, she gives me new reasons to remember all the things that have stung over the years. She loves to push buttons, I am a hospital-corners kind of girl. The larger issue is that it upsets my husband that we don't get along better. I make huge efforts to be pleasant, ignore, walk way, etc.,whatever I can in the moment, but he says that it's all over my face when I'm uncomfortable about something she's said or done. We're preparing for a Christmas visit and yes, I'm getting tense, because I feel like she's on the offensive and he's watching my reactions. Rock/hard place. Advice?
A.
Carolyn Hax :

Does he agree that she pushes your buttons on purpose, or do you disagree on this fundamental point? Because if you don't have his support,then that's your problem, not your MIL.

– December 15, 2011 1:55 PM
Q.

Twin nephews

My niece and nephew, also twins, also feel into the good/bad divide for a long time. I think one of them will always be a more-pleasant person, but the less-obviously-lovable one is now, as a teenager, much less self-absorbed and greedy than he was in grade school. I think the right sort of attention from adults helped a lot, so yes, do the experience present, not the loot present.
A.
Carolyn Hax :

Thanks for weighing in. This reminds me of a past chat topic (Sept. 9) which is going to be a (now extremely redundant-feeling) column on Jan. 3, on how favoritism plays into this dynamic.

– December 15, 2011 2:00 PM
Q.

To Dating Woes - the geographic solution

That letter could have been me 2 years ago - doing everything "right" but still no boyfriend. After several long-distance relationships I finally took the plunge and left DC for the SF Bay Area, which is a much better cultural fit for me. Almost immediately I was flooded with great, interesting, single guys. DC is a tough place for women to date given the male/female imbalance. Moving doesn't always solve things, but sometimes it really is external factors, not you.
A.
Carolyn Hax :

Definitely pay attention to how comfortable you are in your environment--because, for example, plenty of women have a great dating experience in D.C. Macro statistics don't automatically translate to micro experience.

– December 15, 2011 2:03 PM
Q.

Girlfriend's brothers

I am going to meet my girlfriend's six older brothers for the first time at Christmas. She has repeatedly warned me, "They're going to give you a hard time," but whenever I ask what that means she doesn't really have a firm answer, just, "Oh, you know, they can be protective older brothers." How much of a "hard time" am I supposed to tolerate?
A.
Carolyn Hax :

Six older brothers! It's like a premise for a Southwest "Wanna get away?" ad.

Anyway.

A well-meaning hard time, you put up with all of it; mean-spirited, none of it--though even in the latter case, what will matter more is where your girlfriend does and doesn't back you. 

And while I realize this is nearly impossible, try not to go into it with all of your dread engines running. Assume it'll be a perfectly bearable time, laughs had by all, even at your expense--because that's overwhelmingly how these things go. Getting defensive or shrill serves no one, you least of all. 

– December 15, 2011 2:12 PM
Q.

Philadelphia

Any advice for how I can get through my first Christmas since my Dad died? He was a Christmas Eve baby and he always made the holiday special. My mom and brother don't seem interested in keeping up with the traditions we've done our whole lives. I hate that everything he loved is going to be ignored and forgotten because he's gone.
A.
Carolyn Hax :

I'm sorry. "Everything" doesn't have to be "ignored and forgotten," though. Please pick a tradition or two that you can carry on without cooperation--a favorite food, movie, story, music, trip to see lights, whatever--and carry it on. If you absolutely need the cooperation of others, even consider recruiting different "others" from among friends, even neighbors. Don't make yourself crazy trying to get it just so, of course; just aim for the spirit, for you. 

 

– December 15, 2011 2:16 PM
Q.

Marriage/Relationships

Do you think that there is any reasonable explanation for a spouse to spend 7-10 hours a week on the phone/texting with someone of the opposite sex that they met on-line? Dear spouse has several three-hour phone calls a week, and texts when the rest of the family is not around (deletes history...). I've asked about this several times, and expressed my concern that there is more than just a friendship brewing, but have been shut down, and told not to invade em's privacy. Not sure what else I can do.
A.
Carolyn Hax :

Assume the worst. What would you do in that case? 

– December 15, 2011 2:17 PM
Q.

Engagement ring help?

My live-in boyfriend of 3 years is currently saving for an engagement ring. We are in our late 30s. I am debating about offering to take on a little more of the household bills in order to help him save for this purchase. How incredibly selfish would this be? I know part of this comes from my eagerness to move forward and start a family. But I don't want to offend him. Should I just chalk this up to a crazy idea and let it go?
A.
Carolyn Hax :

How do you know he is saving for a ring--i.e., what have you actually discussed? 

Seems to me that if you've had the conversation, then you're in a fine place to say, "I want the marriage more than I do the ring, if that's okay with you."

 

 

– December 15, 2011 2:20 PM
Q.

Dating woes OP

I love DC, actually--and I've met a ton of smart, interesting, engaged men here. And while I agree that maybe I've gone overboard online dating, I don't know how to do is reconcile wanting a relationship with not taking active steps to pursue one, like going out with lots of people. Whenever I've taken time out to regain perspective, what I inevitably learn is that while my life is pretty great as it is, I can't deny that I do want a relationship too.
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Carolyn Hax :

But you've just seen for yourself that going out with lots of people will not produce a relationship. That's the most black-and-white reason I can imagine for not doing it any more. It didn't work--and you don't feel good about it. Two good reasons.

When you do back away from online dating, you will free up a lot of time, from the sounds of it. Finding fulfilling ways to use that time--even though you feel as if you've been there done that--is still the best of the not-great ways to approach your frustration with not having a relationship.

This is the greatest challenge we all face, reconciling ourselves to the absences or disappointments that aren't entirely in our control. And I think it might help you with your unease in "not taking active steps" if you look at a relationship (among many other things) as something that isn't entirely yours to bring about, even with all the active steps in the world.  

– December 15, 2011 2:33 PM
Q.

"hard time"

The ex boyfriend of mine my extended family still loves is the one who totally rolled with my cousin's then seven-year-old son grilling him on when he and i were going to get married while we were all gathered around the dinner table. A good natured spirit gets you so far with people's families. As does just being kind to their loved one.
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Carolyn Hax :

Hear, hear.

Plus: The FBI and CIA should use 7-year-olds for all of their interrogating. They're in the gap between onset of advanced language skills and onset of awareness of social propriety, making them potent agents for candor. 

– December 15, 2011 2:36 PM
Q.

Carolyn Hax :

A few good suggestions have piled up on a few topics, so I'm going to post a bunch of them. Hang on ...

Q.

Re: Dating Woes

Also something to think about: Make sure you leave yourself open to the possibility that someone will work out. A few years ago, I was in your shoes-- going on tons of dates, and none of them worked out. And because none of them worked out, I almost closed off the possibility that one of them would. I had to start thinking of each person I met as a whole new coin flip-- not part of a series.
A.
Carolyn Hax :

... 

– December 15, 2011 2:38 PM
Q.

Dating hamster wheel of death

Been there, and seriously, get off. I think it has little to do with misperception of awesomeness and more to do with inability to judge what will translate to chemistry through a computer screen. Maybe find other activities that expose you to more (and different) men than those you're already doing. I've found that I actually love watching and playing soccer and there are tons of men around. Skiing/snowboarding is also high yield for y chromosomes
A.
Carolyn Hax :

...

– December 15, 2011 2:38 PM
Q.

To dating woes

This was me to a T a few years ago. I finally went to see a therapist. I figured that if I was doing something wrong, I'd find out what and how to do something different. If it wasn't anything I was doing, then at least I'd know I'd done everything I could. Turns out I was putting up certain barriers. Barriers lowered. Met a nice guy. Now very happily married.
A.
Carolyn Hax :

...

– December 15, 2011 2:38 PM
Q.

RE: First Christmas after Dad died

My husband died on 20 December. 3 years ago next week. Please remember that doing all the traditions that he loved will remind your family that he is not ever going to be here again to enjoy them. THis is a very painful set of emotions and some family members probably need to avoid the triggers so as to keep going. It's tough being in this somber mood, remembering, when the media and outside world seem to think that we should all be happy and joyous. Retreating into oneself is an acceptable response--so long as the retreat isn't permanent.
A.
Carolyn Hax :

... 

– December 15, 2011 2:39 PM
Q.

which gives you an extra shot as teaching manners in a memorable format. That way you're giving each child your time, and mostly bypassing the whole issue of spoiling.

Can I add something? Be the cool aunt who doesn't lecture them but teaches by example. I was an angry and quiet kid. The adults who got through to me were the ones who were just there for me and who listened to what I had to say. They did not yell, label me, or lecture. They DID give me gentle advice that made me think, but not in a way that I felt it was pushed upon me. I guess they made comments that helped me draw my own conclusions so that I could work out problems myself. Does that make sense? Anyway, those adults made a huge impact on me possibly without realizing it.
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Carolyn Hax :

That should do it. Thanks, everybody.

– December 15, 2011 2:40 PM
Q.

To loss of income person

A couple of years ago, I was your husband. When everything came crashing down and I finally went to therapy, I got a name for what I'd been feeling - generalized anxiety disorder. I hated change, used books/tv/internet to avoid all the feelings of failure and depression. Tell your husband that therapy isn't admitting defeat or shameful or whatever, it literally saved my life, my career options and my relationship with my family. Tell him if you let something like this go unexamined it only gets worse and worse. Now I know what thoughts and behaviors of my past (and sometimes present) are destructive and how to best defeat them.
A.
Carolyn Hax :

Nope, one more, with the caveat that you were able to see you needed help (yay you!) and this husband is not. But, maybe having this vocabulary will help her talk to him, thanks.

– December 15, 2011 2:41 PM
Q.

Counselor and the sex, it's all your problem therapist

Where is your counselor in all this? Perhaps you need a new counselor? I can't imagine a counselor agreeing that everything is your fault. Be careful of the 'selective hearing' too. I had an ex boyfriend who was very wary of counseling because 'he was always told he was right but nothing changed'. This seemed strange to me. A friend of ours mediated in a discussion. Boyfriend said he appreciated the friend saying he was right. Pause - I said 'you did hear him validate met too, didn't you?' Nope - that part zipped right by him.
A.
Carolyn Hax :

One more one more. Thanks.

– December 15, 2011 2:43 PM
Q.

Siblings alone?

Your comment about alone time between siblings intrigued me. My husband and I have 2 kids, 18 months apart (3 and 2). We both work full time, and on the weekends, we tend to do everything all together rather than split up. Is this a bad idea?
A.
Carolyn Hax :

Not necessarily. Your time together as a unit is also extremely important, since both deep familiarity and shared memories are what will keep you close to your kids and your kids close to each other when they're grown. It can also be really helpful logistically when they're small, since it's always easier when two adults are on duty.

It's just that family time is not above the laws of too-much-of-a-good-thing. You want to develop one-on-one bonds with your kids just as you want to keep them strong with your spouse. Occasionally taking one child to the store with you while your husband stays home (or goes on a different errand) with the other is a small, relatively easy way to see (and encourage) sides of them that don't come out in the group outings. You don't even have to force it now, if you're happy with the way you're doing things now. As they get older, you'll get plenty of natural chances to see each kid alone--like when they have separate activities and it's just you in the car with one or the other. That's priceless time. 

– December 15, 2011 2:50 PM
Q.

Carolyn Hax :

That's it for today--this was a nice break from my deadlines, but the nasty little suckers didn't go away as I'd hoped. 

Thanks again for rolling with the date change, and type to you as usual next Friday. 

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