Auto Load Responses: 
Font Size: 

January 10, 2013

11:54
A.M.

Carolyn Hax Live: Advice columnist tackles your problems (Thursday, January 10)

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

Attention readers: Due to a scheduling conflict, Carolyn Hax will be chatting on Thursday, January 10. She will resume her regularly scheduled Friday chats next week. Thank you.

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, January 10, 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, and thanks for rolling with this schedule change. Just so happens I've got another sick feller home from school today, and he just announced he's hungry, so I might be a minute or two late getting started.   

Q.

Is love enough, w/o commitment?

Let's see if I can make this simple. I'm about 40, divorced 4 years ago, no kids. Been dating the same great guy for 3 years (didn't mean to so quickly go back to a LTR, it just happened; we live together now). He's not perfect, neither am I and neither of us are "perfect" for each other. But I really love the dude. A lot. He loves me too, though not as demonstatively so and not as willing to say declaritively -- this is it and I'm going to try my hardest to make it work. I don't want to get married again and I don't have a burning need to have kids. Is it wrong/a bad idea to stay with someone who is loving, but not necessarily comitted, when I am very much so? Something about the imbalance seems off to me, but I can't quite convince myself that it is enough to make me walk away from someone I love. Thoughts?

A.
Carolyn Hax :

I realize this is a lot tougher than just flipping a switch, but I think it's really helpful to stop trying to convince yourself of anything. When you're trying to talk yourself into leaving, or staying, you instantly get selective about the information you look for. You want to be in a position to see your day-to-day life for all that it is, good and bad.

At the moment, for what it's worth, you seem to be seeing enough good in it to warrant staying. There may be a point where you start thinking there's enough bad to warrant leaving, but as long as you're being honest with yourself it's okay to decide you'll deal with that problem if and when you get there. 

 

– January 10, 2013 12:08 PM
Q.

Visiting

Is there a less awkward way to say, "By the way, while my boyfriend and I are visiting you, please don't put us in the same bed because we don't sleep together" than just saying it? If it's relevant, because the person I'm visiting had many many children who have now moved out, his house is enormous, so there won't be a space issue of separating us.
A.
Carolyn Hax :

Assuming this is your friend, not his, I don't see what the big deal is; you can address this before you go, via a quick call or email. "We'll be staying separate rooms, thanks--just letting you know beforehand to avoid an awkward moment." 

– January 10, 2013 12:17 PM
Q.

Virginia

Is there a statue of limitations on reaching out to an ex of roughly six months when you have decent proof he cheated on? We were together for a few years and the break up has been...rough but no one is going out of their way to harm the other person and we've both maintained contact with friends, some relatives etc. We have not spoken to each other at his choice but I respect it and don't reach out to him. This past weekend, I found out from various reliable (and unreliable) that he cheated on me during a vacation that I could not attend. I am actually quite stunned by this as it doesn't fit with who I knew him to be. I have been wavering about reaching out to him to find out if it's true or not. A good portion of the brain says to just let it go but I keep coming back to it. I do have an appointment with my doctor to rule out any possible medical issues as I'm not a complete moron. But I would appreciate your thoughts.
A.
Carolyn Hax :

What would be the point of finding out? It's not a rhetorical question; I think the value of talking to him hinges entirely on what you hope to get out of the conversation.

Without that information, this looks like a sleeping-dog situation.

– January 10, 2013 12:19 PM
Q.

Carolyn Hax :

I do also wonder at the motives of the person(s) who chose to tell you about this now. (Unless it came out unintentionally in the course of conversation.)

Q.

Marriage problems due to workaholism

My brother-in-law of 20 years has all the symptoms of workaholism. He's in denial, and my sister, his wife, seems to finally have had enough. She hasn't left him yet, her pleas for him to work less and be more available to her, he continues to spend 14 hour days at the office, 7 days a week. He's in denial that it's a problem; in fact, he seems to get a real high from being there. She's starting to pull away---losing her extra weight, dressing sexy, going out with friends for drinks, and flirting with guys at work. I love both of them very much and want them to be happy together. Is there anything I can say or do as a concerned older sister to get them to seek professional help?
A.
Carolyn Hax :

No, for two reasons: 1. Unless one of them asks you for help, it's not your place to get involved; 2. You have an agenda, apparently. You want them to be happy together. To be a good helper in any situation, I think you need to bring no other allegience except to the best outcome for those directly involved.

That said, if your agenda is out in the open, you do get one chance to  butt in without an invitation: "I can see you pulling away, and for my own selfish reasons I hope you'll get into marriage counseling before there's no going back." This will go over a lot better if you wrap it up with: "I get that it's your life and I just want you to be happy, so I'll shut up now and stay out of it."

– January 10, 2013 12:32 PM
Q.

Letting go

How long? A former good friend stopped speaking to me two years ago. I know why and, although I don't agree with her reasons, I respect her feelings and am fine with her decision, although it hurt like hell at the time. People who knew/know both of us sometimes bring her up around me and then look at me apologetically. How do I let them know that I'm really fine with her as a person and as their friend and they don't need to tiptoe around her name in my hearing? They're acting almost as though we were married and now we're divorced. I don't want it to be awkward but I also don't want to have to go through the "Really, I'm fine" conversation every bloody time. FWIW, I never spoke ill of her even at the time and was not overly emotional or accusatory at the time. For those that asked, I just told them we weren't really in touch any more. For those that pried (or close friends who wanted an explanation), I told them I had no problem with her and she felt the way she felt and so be it. Two years, people. We're not friends any longer, but I hold no ill will. Let it go.
A.
Carolyn Hax :

I was mentally composing an answer as I read, and then you jumped in and wrote it for me: "Two years, people. We're not friends any longer, but I hold no ill will." In response to the apologetic looks, that's perfect.

– January 10, 2013 12:35 PM
Q.

Reality Check

Hi Carolyn, We have a friend who throws himself elaborate birthday parties that are really fun. Here's the thing: he expects the guests to provide all the food. It's not like a normal party where you might be asked to bring a salad or dessert - we've been assigned the entree for up to a dozen people. Are we crazy or is this out of line? This guy is a good friend, so we don't want to just not attend. Would we be out of line to explain that asking a guest to bring the entree for a dinner is outside the bounds of pot luck? (In typing this, I think I figured out the answer - still, I'd like your perspective)
A.
Carolyn Hax :

To a good friend, you can say, "WT[H]!?," and I hope you do. 

What was your answer?

– January 10, 2013 12:38 PM
Q.

What to say about a toxic mother at her funeral?

Hi, Carolyn. Longtime fan here who's been debating asking you this question for years, but it's never seemed to rise to the level of the serious problems you tackle. But since today might be a bit slower than usual due to the chat's timing, here goes. I'm a middle-aged gay man, one of two sons raised by a widow with physical (and mental, I suspect) health issues that filled her with rage which persists to this day, though she does function better. Or maybe I'm more inured to it, I'm not sure. Anyway, two close friends of mine lost incredibly loving parents in the past month, and that has gotten me to thinking about what I could possibly say about mine in a eulogy. (I'm not sure my brother would even attend the funeral, and her current husband is considerably older and almost certain to go first.) Somehow I've turned out semi-sane, and I'm sure I could cobble together a few vague sentences about how she did her best for me and I will always be grateful. That's actually true as far as it goes, but as you can imagine, I feel a lot of other emotions that would not be appropriate to express. And I also have trouble imagining I'd be able to shed any tears I know this is a comparatively low-intensity problem, but I'd welcome any insights you can offer for how to cope with such situation. Thanks for all you do!
A.
Carolyn Hax :

A mother with rage issues is about as serious as it gets, no? But I get what you're saying--it's mostly behind you, you "turned out semi-sane," etc., and all that's left is the period at the end of the sentence. (That image works on two levels, doesn't it.)

Surely what you're really after is a way to reconcile your conflicting feelings about her, a quest likely prompted by watching your close friends grieve in a pure way that you know you never can. So why don't you really try writing a eulogy for her? It might never be something a congregation hears, and instead serve more of an exercise in exorcising, but, who knows, you might find enough peace in it to use it if and when the day comes that you need to say a few words.

"Need" being loosely defined here; you certainly have every right to decline to eulogize her.

 

– January 10, 2013 12:47 PM
Q.

How do you avoid love but not commitment?

The "love, but not commitment" situation resonates with me, because that's exactly the kind of situation I want to avoid once I'm ready to start dating again. I have no interest in a relationship that doesn't involve commitment and would love to make that clear as early as possible to avoid falling in love with someone with no interest in commitment. But, at the same time, I realize that you can't expect someone to know early in a relationship if they are interested in commiting to that relationship. How do people navigate this balancing act?
A.
Carolyn Hax :

I see that as an integral part of the getting-to-know-you process. Or, to use your image, any relationship with anyone is a balancing act and I don't think you can separate the willee-wontee-commit part of it from the rest.

Whether someone sticks to things in general and sticks to you in particular are two different things, of course--since someone can be fine with commitment and just not want to commit to you, right?--but both types of information are available to you incrementally. Just look for evidence that someone says what he means and means what he says, and trust the rest to sort itself out. Or, to paraphrase another well-worn saying: When people tell you who they are, believe them.

– January 10, 2013 12:56 PM
Q.

Biological Clock Ticking

I suppose I'm quite the stereotype. My boyfriend and I want children very much. We're talking about getting married. I'm thrilled and want to, but part of me wishes I was in my 20s again with more time. (I certainly did waste it back then anyway.) I feel rushed into this, but at the same time if I don't make a decision, nature will make it for me. Or I risk something being terribly wrong with my kids and I'd never forgive myself. (I just turned 35.) How do I sort this out? FWIW, getting married will include a job change and a big move. I'd be leaving behind my life of over a decade.
A.
Carolyn Hax :

I feel for you. On the one hand, time pressure invites bad decisions. On the other, you can't ignore the fact that your time to have biological children will run out. (There's more than one way to be a mom, of course, but the ways get a lot harder once you've ruled out having them the old-fashioned way.)

The time issue is not so germane as to mean you have to figure everything out by this weekend. You also don't know whether you have a decade of fertility left, or whether the window closed for you years ago (assuming it was ever open). Certainly talk to your gynecologist about this if you haven't already, so you don't miss anything you could be doing, thinking about, planning for; in particular I think it's important to discuss the risk of "something being terribly wrong with my kids" due to advanced maternal age. You want to be weighing real risk, not perceived. 

With all of that in mind, I think it's best to use this info you gather to shelve the time issue as something that doesn't effectively change the decision you have to make. If you think of your yea-or-nay decision on marrying this guy as one you probably want to have  settled by this time next year, give or take, then it starts to look like one with no real time pressure at all. For people who are old enough to know their own minds, and who have been together long enough to be talking marriage, a year is a lot of time to try on the idea of a life partnership.

It's enough time to get a good answer to the question, for example, of whether you'd want to marry this man even if you couldn't or didn't have kids. It's enough time to see whether this is someone you'd want as a co-parent, whether everything goes well (marriage/kids/health), or your marriage fails and you have to work together from separate households, or your child has health issues. (Which obviously can happen when the parents are 24 and 26.)

In the end it's like so many other decisions, where you have to accept that you can only guess at what's to come, and you can only trust what you've seen for yourself, and you can only take the time you need and hope it's the right amount. 

– January 10, 2013 1:21 PM
Q.

Carolyn Hax :

Sorry that took so long--I was fighting multiple distractions and it's a complicated question, so I decided to, er, take the time I needed ...

Q.

Abuser Engaged

Long story short, I wasted five years of my life in a violently abusive relationship, that included broken bones, mental and sexual abuse and a host of other unpleasantries, including having to wait for an HIV test after finding out he did not just cheat but also frequented prostitutes. It has been about 4 years since I finally cut him from my life. I am married with a beautiful little girl and have used therapy to get past a lot of my pain and anger, but I recently found out he is engaged and teaching elementary school. Because of things I know about him, including his sexual attraction to children, this horrifies me. I don't know how to handle the anger and worry I am facing. Part of me wants to send him a cruel and angry letter venting my feelings, part of me wants to notify his place of his employment, part of me wants to contact his fiance, and the rational part (I think) tells me that none of these courses of action would really be effective, helpful or productive. Where do I go from here?
A.
Carolyn Hax :

The part about "his sexual attraction to children" and, egad, teaching elementary school makes this a situation where you must go the official route. I suggest you call Childhelp, 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453) to find out what you're legally able to report, and to whom. Childhelp is a nonprofit so it can't get involved for you, but the hot line staff can answer your questions before you take any action. Even if there's nothing you can do without proof, finding that out is still better than wondering what you can or should do. 

– January 10, 2013 1:30 PM
Q.

an emotional child

My 2nd grade son was upset yesterday because his best friend at school (also a 2nd grader) told him to toughen up (in response to my son's crying over something) and also told him that he was not one of his best friends anymore. What do I say to my son?

A.
Carolyn Hax :

He's probably over it already, as is the friend, but either way it's hard to go wrong with the 1-2 plan of acknowledging his feelings--"I can see you're really upset, I'm sorry"--and directing him to come to his  own way of dealing with it--"What do you think you can do about it?" It's important to walk the line between validating his feelings and not living and dying with every social obstacle in his path. Second graders say horrible things to each other, they just do, and while it is going to hurt, it's also not going to be a serious problem unless there's systematic unkindness that the school either doesn't recognize or doesn't address. 

A good book on this topic is "Best Friends, Worst Enemies" by Michael Thompson et al. For the issue of talking about hurt feelings, try "How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk,"  Faber/Mazlish. "Parenting With Love and Logic," Cline/Fay, is also good on the argument for showing sympathy for kids' problems but not trying to fix them all.

– January 10, 2013 1:44 PM
Q.

Re: Finding out Ex Cheated

Long ago, in another lifetime, I found out that an ex had cheated on me about two months after he broke up with me. Good friends bought me a few drinks and told me themselves, before I found out from others, which I appreciated. I never confronted him about it, and have never regretted it. I just don't know what it would have accomplished. I moved on, and he married the woman he cheated with; word is they have been super happy for years and years.
A.
Carolyn Hax :

That's right where I am--wondering what it would accomplish. Thanks. It also helps with the reason for tipping off a friend after the relationship is over.

– January 10, 2013 1:47 PM
Q.

eulogizing horrible mother

Just curious: What is the harm in being honest about a toxic parent after their death? It seems like whatever LW would say wouldn't be malicious or vindictive, but rather honest and sad. If funerals are "for the living," why not share some version of the truth: that if you alienate those closest to you in life with rage and bitterness, you will leave in your wake a legacy of resignation and sadness where purest love should be. It's not what you're supposed to say at a funeral, but it's not mean-spirited and it's something we all need to be reminded of.
A.
Carolyn Hax :

The potential harm I'm concerned about is to the person giving the eulogy, since there's a fine line between being honest and settling a score. If the latter is the ulterior motive, even an unacknowledged one,  such a eulogy could leave a nasty film of regret for stooping to that level.

If it's an honest reckoning for the purpose of coming to peace with someone whose life seemed dedicated to making that an impossible task, then I'm with you; it even has the potential to be very healing the way a whitewashed script never could. 

– January 10, 2013 1:52 PM
Q.

re: Abuser engaged

Definitely do not contact the man directly. If he has any inkling that you are trying to get him away from the kids, he'll start preparing a defense to make you look like a liar. Don't give him any warning.
A.
Carolyn Hax :

Thanks. My hope is that Childhelp will cover such details. 

– January 10, 2013 1:53 PM
Q.

I'm not sure my brother would even attend the funeral, and her current husband is considerably older and almost certain to go first.

Problem solved. Don't hold a funeral. Seriously. We've all seen the "services were private" notice in the newspaper, as well as the "no services will be held." You can do it.
A.
Carolyn Hax :

Ah, right--there's that too. Thanks.

– January 10, 2013 1:54 PM
Q.

RE: IS LOVE ENOUGH?

So he's not demonstrating or declaring his love but she knows he loves her? How? Is it possible that he doesn't love her and that's what her intuition is trying to tell her? Hence, the niggling feelings?
A.
Carolyn Hax :

Certainly possible, thanks.

– January 10, 2013 1:55 PM
Q.

sister with the workaholic husband

Shouldn't LW be more concerned with her sister's happiness? If I had to watch my sister be ignored and tormented by her husband's bad priorities for two decades, I'd be singing hosannahs if she suddenly started losing weight, going out with friends, and imagining life without her husband. Why is LW so invested in what has been a painful, unchanging situation for her sister?
A.
Carolyn Hax :

This was knocking around in my head as I wrote the answer, but you pinned it down, thanks.

– January 10, 2013 2:00 PM
Q.

Dealing with my mother

My mother has been chronically ill for the last 30 years. She's always "been" her illness - it's all she can talk about. It's got worse since she was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Yes, yes, it's horrible but it's like she has been given a "cate Blanche" to be as nasty as she wants. She makes horrible racist comments in front of my non-white children (their father wasn't white & isn't in the picture). Yet she always deflects blame. I'm worried if I say anything, she will cut me out of her will. She's not rich but my father left her with enough $ so that I could pay off my house & set aside money for the kids' school. Any suggestions?
A.
Carolyn Hax :

This is so mercenary I've tried three times to write an answer supporting it, and I've backspaced all of them. (Sorry for another way long pause.)

At the same time, I do see the poetic justice in funding the educations of your biracial kids with the savings of their racist grandmother. 

Please make sure you're protecting your kids with more zeal than you're using to protect their college accounts. If you get to the point where you can't do both, then save the kids. What you say or don't say to your mother in this whole awful process seems moot to me. 

– January 10, 2013 2:17 PM
Q.

Dealing with children vs your own child

I've never interacted very well with kids. I'm not a playful, young at heart type and I find it hard to reach out to them on their level. It can be exhausting. But I do think a part of it is I just don't spend a lot of time with them. My close friends have all had kids in the past two years, and I do feel better around the ones I spend more time with. But then when I see how my husband interacts with them, I'm flabbergasted. He gets so into it, he's right down on their level and there's just no awkwardness. He really wants a kid. I've never had that burning desire, but I do think I could be happy raising a kid with him. But although I can get excited about the whole idea of raising and teaching this little child and passing on my knowledge of the world in general, the idea of spending so much time playing with them makes me tired. How big of a deal is it if my husband's the one takes part in the majority of play time and I'm not as involved in it? I guess I'm just afraid this will create some environment of me being the no-fun parent. I'm fun, really - but I realize things I find fun are boring to kids and vice versa.
A.
Carolyn Hax :

It's actually pretty common--arguably inevitable---that one parent will be better at some aspect of dealing with kids than the other. If anything, what's unusual is that you can see so plainly where that mismatch will be before you've even had a child. Most of these issues I think emerge after the kids have already arrived, and you see in front of your face that one of you has no skill at ... what else is there ... discipline, say, or multitasking, or tantrum prevention while the other just glides in and does it. 

Each of these is hard in its own way, because not only do you get to watch someone manage easily what frustrates you no end, it also affects your relationship with your kids. That your husband has "the touch" with kids is one of the toughest, because any kids you have will likely LOVE him to the point where they choose him over you, right in your face. I mean the "NO I WANT DADDY!!" kind of in-your-face.

It's not a deal-breaker, though, in my opinion. You'll have your strengths, too, and also  your stock will go way up when having a "playful, young at heart type" dad will embarrass your kid(s) at a cellular level. They're not play-on-the-floor age for long.

I also don't think it's terrible at all that his being so good at the kid-play thing means you'll have a lot less of it to do than another mom would. You will have to go out of your way to nurture your own bond, yes, but it sounds as if you're excited for that.

Maybe I should have disclosed upfront that I have a spouse, a sister and a couple of babysitters who I got to watch be better with my kids than I am. I'm still Mommy, though, yknow?

 

– January 10, 2013 2:32 PM
Q.

No Pets

Any suggestions on how to deal with family members who treat their pets like children? I have a no pet policy in my home because my husband is allergic. I also hosted Xmas dinner which was more dramatic than it should have been because my doggie cousin wasn't invited. This isn't a huge deal, so please deal with the real problems first! Just wondering your take. Thank you!
A.
Carolyn Hax :

You're saying doggie problems aren't real?! harrumph.

Actually, this is a people problem: People who can't leave their dog home when a relative has allergies are problem people. You did the right thing by excluding the dog--I mean really--but next time feel free to treat this not as a legitimate source of drama, but as a closed issue. "Nope, sorry, can't. How bout those Caps?"

– January 10, 2013 2:36 PM
Q.

Doggie doo

Hi Carolyn, I'm yesterday's LW1. Thanks for taking my question!. I also appreciate the feedback from the 'nuts, and some of their insights cut a little too close to the quick. I just wanted to clear up the accusation that I'm attracted to jerks--that's not the case. Sure, sometimes I ignore some warning signs and that's on me. but it's really amazing how otherwise nice guys can suddenly just....stop being nice. But only to me. The incident that was fresh on my mind at the time I submitted that was that I'd been stood up by a "nice guy"--someone I was specifically spending more time with because he was UNlike my jerk of an ex in his (early) treatment of me. And by "stood up" I mean, specific plans, time and place, confirmed just an hour previous. Left me waiting alone in public for hours without returning attempts at contact. The excuse later was he ran into another woman he's friends with (we were in early stages, pre-exclusivity, I was doing the same thing so the "other woman" wasn't an issue) and went out with her instead. Then thought I was overreacting when I was upset and didn't want to see him anymore. I don't see him anymore and have rejected his every attempt. I'm not seeking out or settling for jerks. I just seem to inspire that kind of behavior in /solicit that kind of treatment from men and it's getting really hard to not take it personally.
A.
Carolyn Hax :

Thanks for writing back. i'm sorry about the stand-up; that's pretty egregious.

i'm looking at this new letter with an eye to the answer I gave you, and I guess where I'm stuck is on the ... "But only to me." How do you know that this guy who stood you up, just for example, didn't mistreat other people as well? 

I don't have enough to go on, but I'm wondering if you're in the same boat with men as the Monday letter-writer was with money--seeing a cosmic conspiracy where there was only a series of discrete events. I know my advice is often to look for a pattern, but it is possible that looking for one gives the illusion of a pattern where none exists. Is that fair?

– January 10, 2013 2:43 PM
Q.

Possible Wife Abuse

My husband (mid 40s) told me he's starting to wonder if his co-worker (mid 50s) is being abused by her husband. He said she's had various bruises and what nots over the years, always with the typical excuses (I tripped, ran into a wall, etc.) Her role is primarily solo, so she doesn't work with a team of folks, and my husband thinks she may talk to him more than anyone else in the office. Should he address this with her, and if so, how? Thank you very much.
A.
Carolyn Hax :

"I'm concerned--you've had a lot of these bruises over the years. Are you okay?" He can't rescue someone who doesn't want help, but he can open the door. One such remark can also make someone in denial have to work a little harder to stay there.

Now, it might be that she has a health problem, and not a marriage problem, but if it is the latter and she does admit to it, then 1-800-799-SAFE is the place for her to call.

– January 10, 2013 2:48 PM
Q.

Doggie not welcome

Me, my parents and my brother are real dog-lovers. We take our dogs on vacation, (unless it's an overseas trip or other type of vacation where having a dog really isn't feasible) bring them along when we visit one another's homes, etc. My sister and her husband (who moved out of state) don't feel the same way about dogs and don't want us to bring our dog along when we visit. As a result, we've never been to her house since she moved there a few years ago. Her rule against dogs is weird to me, since we grew up this way. Our dog has separation anxiety, so we don't like to kennel her. I feel like I need to choose between my dog and my sister.
A.
Carolyn Hax :

That's your choice, though--not one imposed upon you by your sister. And you're clearly choosing the dog. As long as you can own these two elements of the situation, then you're fine.

But if you maintain the blame belongs with your sister, then that's not fair. Just because you grew up in a dog-friendly home doesn't mean her husband did--and even if he did, that doesn't mean either of them is obligated to make their home together that way. You just can't assume a dog is welcome and then see the alternative as an imposition. What's fair is to see it as a no-dogs world, and be pleasantly surprised when they're included. This is all from a dog person, remember. 

And now the unsolicted-advice portion of this answer: I hope you're treating your dog for her separation anxiety; it's rough on dogs to freak out like that, for one, and it's also often unwittingly fueled by their owner's behavior. You may have done this already, so apologies if I'm reinventing the wheel, but a good behaviorist can work wonders. And finally ... a good (no-crate) boarding situation can be great for a dog with anxiety, as long as she's good with other dogs. 

– January 10, 2013 2:58 PM
Q.

Re: Dealing with children vs. your own child

I had the same concern as the poster. My husband is also great with kids, like the poster's husband, so I was making similar calculations when we were deciding to have a baby. I have never been interested in other people's babies or kids and as a teen, babysitting bored me to tears. I was worried that when I had a baby, I'd be so annoyed to have to play with him and entertain him. Nothing could be farther from the truth. When it's your baby, they're so much more interesting. Not saying he's fascinating 24/7, but it's not nearly the issue I was afraid it would be.
A.
Carolyn Hax :

Yes, there's definitely that bonus, that one's own baby is more far interesting than anyone else's. But I still found a lot of baby play to be stultifying. (Sorry, dudes.)

And, might as well put a warning label on it: We all know people who assumed that finding their baby fascinating meant everyone else would, too. Agghhhhhhhhh.

– January 10, 2013 3:06 PM
Q.

Doggie Doo

Hi Carolyn - it might just be the LW has a few very ingrained personality traits to which she equates "love" from another. FWIW, I speak from experience. I thought I had broken a pattern of choosing jerks and until I really looked closely with the help of a therapist, I wasn't able to connect the dots at subtle behaviors attributed to someone that subconsciously attracted me. Happy to report I broke the pattern and am now engaged to a fabulous guy that is NOTHING like any of the others.
A.
Carolyn Hax :

Helpful, thanks, and congratulations.

– January 10, 2013 3:07 PM
Q.

The no-fun parent

I'm the no-fun parent. I don't play with my kid. And you know what? He has learned to play by himself. It's good for them to not play with adults all the time, to give them their own space. The best advice I ever got before child-raising was: "Incorporate the children into your life and family. Don't make a life and family that revolves around them." This doesn't mean you don't adjust your life when you have kids - of course you do. But this leads to a family where your children are not the center, and this leads to better marriages, more independent self-sufficient children, and a mother who has an identity besides that of her child's. Besides, you might surprise yourself and get into play occasionally. I never truly enjoy playing with trains, but I do delight in watching my son get excited about the prospect of moving a toy train into a tunnel. His world is full of possibility and it makes me rethink how mine can be the same.
A.
Carolyn Hax :

Well said, thanks. 

– January 10, 2013 3:08 PM
Q.

" then save the kids"

And teach them compassion at the same time. With a big hug and (depending on age) "Grandma's very sick and I think it's affecting her heart and soul as well. She says things we don't agree with but we have to pray/hope/believe she'll find some peace."
A.
Carolyn Hax :

Also well said. 

– January 10, 2013 3:08 PM
Q.

Carolyn Hax :

Okay, that's it for today. Thanks again for stopping by on a Thursday, have a great weekend and see you on the usual Friday next week. 

Q.

 

A.
Host: