Snack Bar Floor Advice: Carolyn Hax Live Friday, July 12

Jul 12, 2013

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 be online Friday, July 12th, 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 forum, home of the Hax-Philes and Hax fans. Comments submitted to the chat may be used in the discussion group.

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Hi everybody. Starting a little early today because I'm working away from home, and want to hedge against technical problems.

Hi Carolyn! Thanks for your wonderful column. I've been dating my wonderful boyfriend for almost two and a half years. We met online. I recently discovered that he (unlike me) has kept his online profile this entire time. I used his computer to look up a recipe since it was on the kitchen table and I saw that he still receives emails from the site recommending matches- and he reads them! I don't he believe he is actively using the site, and I know he's not cheating on me. We're very happy together. But am I wrong to be a little weirded out by this?

I appreciate the kind words, though the meaning of "wonderful" is somewhat in play. "Know" is also open to interpretation, but I'll get to that in a second.

You are not "wrong" to be weirded out by this. It's a feeling based on a fact and so denying or correcting yourself would be an early step in ignoring information just because it's negative. Bad precedent to set.

What matters now--and where "right" and "wrong" are valid--is what you do with the information. It would be wrong to come out, accusations blazing, and corner your boyfriend on the profile and the emails. The right thing to do would be to tell him what you saw, tell him how you feel about it, and pay careful attention to the way he reacts--body language, emotions, words.Then you decide whether this is something, and he is someone,  you need to worry about.

That's the right way in part because it serves him, you and the relationship best by giving each of you the best chance to see what's going on. If instead you jump to conclusions, you're likely to introduce anger and defensiveness, both of which are notorious for making the truth harder to tell and detect.

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Saying you "know" someone is not cheating is also a step toward closing your mind to negative information. You may be confident he's not cheating, or not worried that he's cheating, or etc., but you don't "know." No one knows about anyone but themselves, and the sooner we get comfortable with that, the better we handle the vagaries of any relationship. (And, too, the better our BS detecters become.)

My girlfriend (20) of four years recently left me (19) after a few months of slow decline in our relationship (changing expectations, etc). I'm heartbroken, but trying to be rational about the next steps. We had been living together during the past school year (we're both students), and while I am spending the summer at my parents' house, we have signed a lease together with my (our) best friend starting in August. I still love her deeply, but I also know that she's with someone else now, and would want to bring him over and such, which would be very painful for me. She is willing to compromise on this, but I don't know how much. The new flat is a two-bedroom, with another room that can be repurposed as a bedroom if needed. My question is this: do you think it's worth trying to live together, and if not, who should leave? If it won't work, I lean towards her, as she knocked the house of cards down; she says if I'm uncomfortable, I should get out. (Whoever leaves needs to find a subletter, obviously.) --Homemaker

Sorry about your kick in the teeth.

I could try to put together a thoughtful answer on who owes what to whom, but I think it will turn out to be beside the point.  Her saying, "If you're uncomfortable, you should get out" sounds  like an unequivocal "I'm not leaving" to me.

Just for the extra typing exercise: If she actually is open to a who-should-leave discussion, then my opinion is that she should leave, since she broke up with you (assuming she wasn't the one who hunted for, found and arranged for the apartment--then she'd have first dibs).

Where is she "willing to compromise"?

Hi Carolyn, Over the past four years, I've watched my Mom turn into someone I barely know. She's always been a bit sensitive and emotional and depression runs in our family. I treated my own depression with therapy and anti-depressants in my 20s, so I know how valuable those two tools can be to help you deal. My Mom has become SO sensitive that you can barely talk to her--if you say one thing she doesn't like, she goes into a major passive aggressive snit or cries hysterically. My Dad, brother and I feel like we have to tiptoe around her, but if we bring up our concerns for her well-being, she says we blame her for everything and refuses to talk to us. It's greatly affected our relationship. Where we were once really close, our conversations are now mostly superficial. She is just so angry and unhappy. I've tried to talk to her about getting help, I've offered to research therapists for her, but she won't budge. It's affecting her marriage, her relationship with her children and I don't know what else to do. It makes me unbearably sad to think about how close we used to be but I have to keep boundaries up now for my own sanity. Is there anything else I can do? Missing my Mom.

Talk to your dad, see if he's willing--and how willing he is--to take up the cause of getting her some help. Also try the NAMI Helpline, 1-800-950-NAMI. If you find it helpful, then you can both apply their suggestions and urge your dad and brother to call.

Hi Carolyn, I got married pretty young (22, which I'm sure many would consider TOO young), and have spent the past decade putting great effort into keeping my marriage fresh and growing. Our kids have reached an age of some independence, which helps, so I'm able to focus more on my husband than I was a few years ago. However, my husband has told me that he has been developing feelings for an attractive, single coworker. He has not acted on his feelings and doesn't plan to, but (he says) he felt like he was being dishonest by not talking to me about this. He sees her every day. I appreciate his honesty and don't want to punish him for what are, right now, just innocent feelings. But what exactly am I supposed to do? It would be hard to give him MORE attention”we already have fairly regular date nights and a good sex life. Some trusted friends have suggested that all he's looking for is a new challenge, so what I should do is withdraw from him a little bit to give him back the feeling of pursuing me. I'm afraid that might be equal to standing by while my marriage dies. What do you suggest?

I think your trusted friends are partly on to something, though the part I disagree with sounds like a disaster on a plate. (Or at least potentially one, but that doesn't sound as punchy.)

Right now, his impulse is to chase this other woman. If you withdraw a bit, then the space you create may well be filled with thoughts or attention outside the marriage. Now, obviously, you can't fill in all the space between you, or else you'll smother him and defeat your own purpose. Think of it this way: There are two common conditions that abet marital infidelity: Growing distant from each other, or growing sick to death of each other. If you've found an attentive but non-smothering place to be in your marriage, then do stay there.

The part I agree with is the "new challenge." Everyone needs those in life. What you don't want is for the new challenge to be a new woman for him, but there's no reason a new challenge has to be emotional or sexual.(That's often just the most tempting and available choice.)

This will sound like it's from left field, but researchers into bullying have learned that the most effective way to combat it among kids is to get all kids--bullies, victims, bystanders--working together toward a group goal, where it's strongly in the bullies' self-interest to work not just peacefully, but supportively with others.

Apply this to your situation, and I think you can help your marriage by figuring out something you and your husband can pursue together. The "what" is wide open, since it doesn't matter what it is except that both of you are fully aboard. That will turn your attention to each other while also scratching the itch for something new.

That your husband told you the truth and is cooperating with you is HUGE. Huge. It says you're true partners, that he trusts you, and that he takes your trust in him seriously. Good luck.

Before calling NAMI, wouldn't it be helpful to call her doctor? Depending on the mom's age, this sounds a lot like what happened to my mom during menopause. She didn't get treated, my dad didn't try to get her to go, and now my sisters and I have VERY strained relationships with my mom. It's easy to look back now and realize what was happening -- and why she seems different now, but at that point all I knew was that my mom was capricious with a wicked temper and weird sensitivity to anything that might possibly be negative. (I am terrified of this happening to me when I hit that magical age...!)

The call to NAMI is about finding ways to talk to the mom that  have the best chance of connecting Mom with doctor. So, yes, you're right that she needs to talk to her doctor, but it sounds from the original Q that the mother is unwilling even to consider there's something wrong. The staff at NAMI will have seen this before, will be able to hear the details of the mother's behavior and any changes to it, and then will be able to suggest approaches her family can take that will keep the conversation from ending up in the same "you blame me for everything!" ditch.

Just in general, the reason I suggest hot lines as often as I do is that they're a step you can take that involves virtually no commitment--no money, little time, no obligation. So the whole mind-set of "before you call the hotline" makes no sense to me, because it's not this bad thing you need to avoid. Call. Learn something. Make that next step, whatever it is, with a little extra information from someone who has seen your problem before.

Can I just say, it sounds like they have an incredibly solid marriage. His willingness to be open about his attraction to the other woman, combined with her generous reaction to the info (not blaming him) sounds like a recipe for success in addressing this matter.

I'm not sure when would be the right time to do it, but at some point you should involve the third roommate in these discussions. For one thing, your breakup means that a room that would have been a common room is now going to be a bedroom. For another, if they signed on to live with one of you and the other came along as a bonus, they might not appreciate if their intended roommate leaves and they end up living with someone they never planned on.

Excellent point, thanks.

About the common-room-now-bedroom, for what it's worth, that's the risk any friend takes on when signing a lease with a couple. There's more than one roommate here making direct forehead contact with a keyboard these days.

Dear Carolyn, My sister has an 8-year-old son who is severely overweight. My sister and her boyfriend are both very heavy as well; they would argue that it's in my nephew's genes, while I think it's clearly the direct result of the fatty, fried, zero-variety food they feed him. He will be spending a lot of time under my supervision this summer, and I don't want to waste this opportunity to help reshape his eating habits, but I don't know whether a few short weeks is enough time (plus, I dread the whining and complaints I'm going to face from him). How would you advise I handle the food issue while he's in my care? Thanks -- love your chats and columns.

Speak only with food, not words. Purge your house of anything unhealthy, serve a variety of healthy foods, and let nature take over. He will get hungry, and he will eat what is available.

It is not your job to "help reshape his eating habits," by the way. Your obligation is to care for him to the best of your ability when he's under your supervision. That's it. All kids can benefit from seeing the way others live, but that works best if you're merely a warm and firm representative of your way of life.

I took my almost-3-year-old to her first dance class this morning. I was horrified at how vicious another mom was towards her toddler daughter. She took the girl out of class into the hall and yelled at her that she was making "ugly faces." Back on the dance floor as the little girl cried, the mom's demeanor grew colder and more controlling, telling her where to go, what to do, and to stop crying. The little girl was looking for a hug, and the mom brushed her off like the girl was dirt. My heart was breaking for the girl, who looked to be about 2-and-a half. I feel like I should do something, but I have no idea what. Should I say something to the mother? The whole class, she had...well, talk about pulling an "ugly face" -- the mother looked so angry the entire time. It was a little bizarre, as all the other parents and kids were acting appropriately gleeful, and then there was that awful scene in contrast. It was like watching Mommy Dearest. Advice please!

This is terrible.

A couple of things.

First, there's a chance you caught this mom at her worst. While it sure sounds as if her worst is indeed abusive, I don't think any parent honestly can say they be proud of their actions 24-7-365-childhood. It's a class, so you'll get another look, presumably next week. It's okay to hope things will be better.

Second, while hoping, it's important to plan ahead. Your impulse no doubt was to run away or shun this mom, but it might be better for the little girl if you actively and kindly engaged. "Hi!!" to the toddler, and, "You have a beautiful little girl, how funny, mine faces faces too sometimes," etc., to the mom, can disarm a parent who's in the grip of toddler-rage.

Third, if the next class is as bad, talk to the teacher. The village can help, and as the person with the most authority, the teacher has the opportunity to, for example, call up a couple of the littles and have them dance with her ..., etc.

Last ... hotline! Childhelp--1-800-4-A-CHILD--can give you more specific suggestions for defusing these tense and terrible situations, and for possibly reporting this mom if the abuse continues.

I'm a single woman and am horrified to learn that there is still a good extent of game-playing in marriage based on this post. She needs to "withdraw a bit so he can get the old feeling of pursuing her??!!" My goal is to meet a solid partner and leave this nonsense in the past when I get married. Am I being naive?

If it tells us nothing else, the 40-plus-percent divorce rate tells us that the imperfect people before marriage, game-players and otherwise, are the same ones who end up in marriages--to other imperfect people. There's no junk-cleansing rubicon you cross when you get married. You choose the highest quality person who fits well with you, and you go humanly about the business of marriage.

Especially if--but not exclusively or automatically if--you both make the effort, and if you personally renounce "nonsense," then there's a decent chance it'll work out.

If you imagined anything different, then, yes, you're being naive.

I know you get versions/variations of this question all the time, but PLEASE help. Been best friends with guy since we were thirteen. I am happily married with daughter and my husband loves my best guy friend, and is extremely supportive of our relationship. Suddenly, best friend decides to start dating a girl we have all known a long time who is emotionally disturbed and abusive, and he drops friendship like the proverbial hot potato. I am trying to give him space, as I am not overly jealous and understand the concept of adding more people to your life equals less time for the ones already there. But he literally went from daily contact/weekly visits to barely a blip on my radar. Is it wrong to be angry that he seemingly feels fine about throwing away over 17 years of friendship for a girl who treats him like a doormat, or should I simply give him his space and hope he comes around? I have a hunch he was told by her to have no contact with me.

And I have a hunch you're taking personally what is really not about you, but instead about his being in the clutches of an abusive woman.

Try trading your wounded anger for concern and patience--will yourself to do it--and take whatever steps you feel position you best to support him and give him a safe place to go when the relationship gets spiky. If and when he does get in touch, for example, don't greet him with anger--be unfailingly happy to hear from him. (No little "It's about time" jabs, either.) When you get in touch, don't plead or accuse, just say, "Hey, just checking in, nothing urgent, call when you feel like it"--even if you haven't heard from him in months. If you see the two of them together, no shooting eye daggers at her. Be friendly, be nonthreatening, be the safe place at all times. A reader-advice letter recently makes the point well that you can combine this with letting your friend know that he can count on you (link).

It will feel rotten and you will want to scream, but that's what the patience is for.

 

Dear Carolyn, I am a stepmom and also a professional sex educator. Oh, and I'm pregnant! My 5 and 8 year-old stepkids know nothing about reproduction and or even the real words for their genitals (they've been taught to say ridiculous things like ding-dong and hoo-ha). I am anticipating they might have some questions once we tell them I'm expecting. I feel strongly that all children need age-appropriate, accurate information about bodies and sex, so butting out doesn't feel like an option. But I also don't want to overstep their parents' roles. Should I push their parents to talk more frankly about their bodies and where babies come from? (I've expressed concern before over the hoo-ha thing with my husband and he sort of sheepishly defers to his ex wife, who came up with the idea.) Answer their questions myself? Buy them a book and sneak it onto their nightstands? (Kidding.) Any thoughts? --Sexy Step

Tell your husband you're very uncomfortable with the ridiculous-words approach--and also are uncomfortable interfering with the parents' roles. Then say you've thought of a compromise: You'd like another expert or experts to interfere on your behalf. Ask if he'd be willing to read a book on the topic so that he can at least make an informed decision on something this important to his kids, vs. a default one.

Given your profession, you probably have a book or books you prefer for educating parents on education kids, but for the benefit of others reading this, I'll say that I find Deborah Roffman's work the be accessible and persuasive on the topic.

Hi, Resubmitting early in hopes you can answer. You gave a really thoughtful response to a friend a while back who felt like she was missing out on celebrations of her milestones as her same-aged friends passed them a few years prior. I would love your take on how you would deal with this when it's family who's not reciprocating. My husband is the youngest of five kids and our two children (aged 5 & 4) are the youngest grandkids -coming 13 years after the first born (of 6 total: 18, 17, 15, 13, 5, 4). Our children's births/birthdays/Christmases weren't/aren't similarly acknowledged as were their older cousins'. (My son's birthday hit at the same time as his elder cousin's graduation. Party and gifts for the latter, no acknowledgement of the former. We had a small kids' party for his pre-school friends). I understand that 13 years makes a huge difference in terms of age and energy of the grandparents (they are much different at 75 than they were are 62) and the aunts and uncles are now raising teenagers which have completely different needs. Should I just not be comparing the treatment of those grandkids who came first? Do I just accept the fact that we're having a different experience? Thank you!

Yes, exactly. The world is a big place, and your kids' worlds are bigger than the world of their extended family. Where your husband's family isn't jumping in with the experiences you were hoping for, you can jump in with a different experience for your kids.

If you're really feelin' it, this can be liberating. For example: Christmas for the older cousins used to be a big multi-family melee, right? Which was great for them? Which is why you want it for your kids? All true, but those melees also become an expectation which becomes an obligation. Curling-ribbon handcuffs. With the family in a different place now, you're free to take your kids to _____ for Christmas, just because. Think of it as Lemonade 301 Honors.

If it helps, people with small or far-flung or deceased families do this all the time. The only difference is that your extended family is right there and therefore seems like an option, which then sets you up for this disappointment. If instead you see them as just a different form of unavailable, I think you'll unlock more possibilities as well as preempt a lot of the hard feelings.

Thanks for the link to and kind words about that past answer. I don't remember it and didn't click it, so if I've said the same thing here then, er, oops.

 

Hi Carolyn I wrote to you at the start of the year about my then boyfriend and I considering eloping. Well we did it, and the day went better than expected. The nutters in my family took it well, except for some that got upset. but they will get over it. My in-laws took it very well, and although there were some hurt feeling in both sides of the family, the fall out was less than expected. Right now everyone is focused on helping us settle into our new place (as we were not living together) so that is keeping people distracted. And soon we will host a picnic to celebrate my husband's grad school graduation and our marriage. Thank you for the advice, it was the gentle push I needed to be ok with the plan. 

Congratulations!

Also have him help plan and prepare meals. Without it being a "lesson" show him where his meals come from. Take him to a local farmers' market where he can pick out the tomatoes that will go in the salad and the peaches for dessert. Does he know how heavy a watermelon can be? Bet he'd want to show you how strong he is by carrying it to the car. Ask him for suggestions for the picnic basket when you're going to the park. Kids love to help.

Brilliant! (In my head, this was said with a Monty Pythonesque enthusiasm and British accent.)

Battery emergency ... no outlets where I am. If I vanish that's why, but I'm off to find a nice filthy floor to curl up on.

I am on the floor of a snack bar at a hockey rink. That's all I have to say.

Would it also be acceptable for the LW to say to her husband, "If they ask me anything about the pregnancy (etc.), I'm going to tell them an age-appropriate version of the truth, and I'm going to use the correct words"?

I think so, yes, though their having the truth is not as important as her having her husband's blessing to do that. Thanks.

As a doctor, the correct anatomical term we use with my 3 year old is who-who. She goes to a (loosely) church-associated school and would say the Virginia word all day long if I taught it to her.

We all do what we think is right. That's our prerogative and imperative as parents.

Mine: All my kids went to three religious day cares/preschools (yeah, yeah--one was Episcopal and two were Jewish), and all their questions were answered using correct anatomical terms, and all of them took great pleasure in using new words of all kinds with compulsive frequency. 

I'd be concerned about the school that was concerned about a child showing age-appropriate curiosity and language.

My first husband was an emotionally abusive jerk. He was barely around when our daughter was born and does the bare minimum visitations with her now. After years of therapy and soul searching, I met and fell for a wonderful man. He is kind and caring, and while he is nervous about becoming a step-dad (he has no kids), he's been great with my daughter. To the point that my daughter says he is a better dad than her real dad. While arguably true, I don't disparage her dad and encourage a relationship between the two. I'm just at a loss on how to respond when she talks like this.

Don't shut her down, but don't tacitly agree with her, either, through your silence. One possible way to do this, step by step:

1. Validate: "I hear you." "I understand." "I can see why you're saying that."

2. Elicidate: "I find it easier, though, when I don't compare people to each other."

3. Encourage: "You have a good relationship with Stepdad. I'm happy about that, for all of us."

 

How does one support another person who is at the end of the marriage rope (with kids) without being "instructive"? I see that the other person in the marriage is a freeloader who just makes the partner feel worthless by pointing out every single action as a mistake and not standing up to their responsibilities as an adult.

Either: preface your "instructive" outbursts with, "Would you like my opinion," or, "Are you asking me, or just venting?," etc.; or butt in gently and infrequently with, "I realize you probably just want to me to listen, but I really think things have gotten to the point where a marriage counselor would be the better person to vent to."

Or, both, judiciously applied. Good luck.

My MIL consistently refers to my daughter as ,"my baby." As in, "Oh, here's my baby." or, "I was so happy when my baby was born." At times she will walk around the house carrying my daughter saying, "my baby, oh my baby" to her repeatedly. My daughter is now 7 months old. I've been gritting my teeth and ignoring it. However, it eats away at my relationship with her because it makes her presence annoying to me. This makes me unenthusiastic about her visits and want to avoid her. Obviously, she's going to be in my life and in my daughter's. There is a little more to it, one time when she visited she gave the nanny the day off without asking me first. Another time I was hanging out in another room to give her time with the baby and she walked right out of the house and down the street without any notice. I think she must have some awareness that I don't like it when she says, "my baby." Should I speak-up? Any ideas of what I might say? I do want to have a happy relationship with her going forward. Say My Name

Please know before I say this that I get it, I get it, and your territorial impulses are raging from the undertandable provocation.

But.

Children's lives are so much richer for the attention of people who love them. Unless and until your mother-in-law crosses a harmful line, vs. merely a nuisance one, you need to get out of your own way by getting our of hers. Let the "my baby" go--again, for now, unless and until--and save your intervention for setting reasonable ground rules. E.g.: "You're a mom, so you know how it feels when you don't know what's going on, even if it's just because she's on a walk with Grandma. Just give me a quick shout when you two are going outside/when you're sending the nanny home." Openly acknowledge your maternal impulses as something you and she share. It might not make you the bestest of friends, but it'll help open things up between you, with surely will help. If nothing else, it'll make it much more likely that she works with you vs against you in developing a bond with your kid.

A calming technique as you work this out: You're the mom. You "win." All of this is just a matter of negotiating the victory terms.

We have always turned to our friends and our own sense of festivity to forge traditions around our son's milestones (given both some mild unequal response syndrome among hub's family, and the fact of smaller/nonlocal extended family). My son notices nothing other than his own delight in our own rituals -- if anything, he feels sorry for friends who get stuck with "family parties" on their birthdays instead of having big, fun bashes with all their friends like he does. If you don't act like your kids are being deprived, they'll never know differently, and if you go ahead and forge your own ways of celebrating without the extended family, they may even press their faces up from the outside and ask to participate.

Amen, thanks.

I did something really bad to my boyfriend. No I did not cheat on him or hit him, but I said some very verbally abusive and controlling things to him. I regret it extensively and we have talked about it a little bit and come to a resolution, but he is still pained by what I said. He's been distant towards me over the last couple of days and I think I have broken his trust of me. I have been controlling to him before and while things eventually go back to what they were before, I guess I'm wondering what I can do to gain his trust back, and not be so controlling towards him so that we don't have to go through this hurt all over again. We are considering marriage eventually so it's kind of a big deal that I not be the controlling witch in his life.

Then show you mean it. Instead of trying to get him back, try to get well, with the understanding that 1. it might be in his best interests to end the relationship, and 2. the only way to establish your non-controlling bona fides is to do what is in his best interests, vs. acting solely to protect your own.

Do you have access to counseling?

If you don't think you do, then please call 1-800-799-SAFE (Nat'l Domestic Violence Hotline) to find out whether there are low-/no-cost counseling resources in your area.

If you come up empty, then give "The Gift of Fear" a read, to help you see the mechanics of controlling behavior. That you're willing to admit something's wrong says this is a good time to apply what you read to what you've experienced in your relationship, and to see where you can make (and look for) healthy changes.

A coworker from a previous job sadly passed away this week at the (way too young) age of 44 from cancer. She was always very kind to me but I hadn't spoken to her in almost 3 years. She has a young son -- age 9 and she and I used to talk about our children (my daughter is 6) in the office frequently. My heart breaks for her family however we never had an out of office relationship, I've never attended an open casket funeral, and am very uneasy around death and funerals in general. Still, part of me thinks it would be nice to show my respects to her family to attend. How does one go about determining when to attend to a funeral or not?

I can't say it any better than this: Listen to Deirdre Sullivan's "This I Believe" (link). There's also a reader-advice piece on it (link)--second letter.

Short verstion: Go to the funeral.

Grandma has no right to send the nanny home -- she's not the nanny's boss, after all -- and I hope the OP had a talk with the nanny about it, too.

Right, yes--good catch on talking to the nanny.

I am getting married tomorrow and both my fiance and I got emails from the online service we met on today (we have also gotten them several times a month for the past 3 years). He left his profile up, but stopped subscribing and has never logged on. I deleted mine, but still get emails. They appear to be read because when I click on it to delete it, I open the message. It could be innocent, so I would talk to him about it before jumping to conclusions.

Right, forgot about the possibility that just resting a cursor on it changes it to "open." Thanks.

Hi Carolyn, About a month ago I started dating a guy I met online. At the beginning we were both casually going on dates with other people and then gradually started only seeing each other as things fizzled out with other people. Last night he brought up "the talk" and mentioned that he wasn't ready for something serious. Since we both got out of long-term relationships in February he felt it would be best if we had an "open relationship." My gut told me this is a terrible idea yet I was so caught off guard that I quasi agreed to it. I hate drama and playing games and I know an open relationship would lead to that. However, I really like him and still want to see how things develop down the road. To my knowledge, I have not pushed him for any sort of commitment that would make him suddenly rear back and ask for an open relationship. This entire thing has caught me completely by surprise and made me wonder if I should even consider dating him now that I know this about him. Is this going to be the first of many red flags? Weirded out in Washington

Well, if he hasn't met someone else, then he is either planning for the possibility, or concerned that there isn't someone else because he's not ready to be in a relationship just with you. Since these hit the range from "You're a day away from being dumped" to "You're in a healthy place with someone who has the sense to recognize that a month is way too soon to know anything"--much less for things to start, show promise then fizzle with other people, holy treadmill--the best I can advise is for you to treat this as a nudge to keep your eyes and options open and calendar full.

BTW, open relationships may lead to drama and games, but openness, as in truth-telling, leads to the opposite. Please reread your post to see how reactive you're being, and, again, how early you are in the process with this guy. Breathe, breathe, breathe.

Hi Carolyn, I'm in my mid-30s and in a new relationship. My dating standards have relaxed some over the past few years -- I no longer need to date the handsomest, flashiest guy with the biggest personality; I prefer someone kind, funny, and stable, but until this guy, everyone I dated had, at minimum, a college degree. My new boyfriend has a job that's extremely physical and relies on his being healthy and strong at any given moment. Am I out of line/a snob for feeling uncomfortable with this? It's not exactly his lack of education (although I'm beginning to realize I value that more than I thought I did); it's that looking through a long-term lens, I can't imagine what he's going to do when his body turns on him (forcing him to retire sooner than someone in a more cerebral job would have to). He's in his early 40s, so we could be talking about anything from a few months to a few decades from now -- there's just no way of knowing. Am I a jerk for feeling this way?

Why don't you just ask him what his plan B in case he's ever physically unable to work? I realize you run the risk of appearing as an athropologist studying this curious species known as the manual laborer, but you can temper that a bit by recognizing that so-called knowledge workers also run their own risks of disability and unemployment. Everyone needs a plan B.

This answer probably also needs a disclaimer, because I wrote it even knowing it's likely a moot point, where I didn't answer the previous moot point (the who-finds-subletter-after-the-breakup question). Why answer? Cuz I felt like it. Why moot? Because "(although I'm beginning to realize I value that more than I thought I did)."

School hasn't said anything. I guess it's just that: 1) At work I never let embarassment keep me from doing anything: suppose I should apply more rigorously at home 2) just got her into new school we really like and she is showing her "high spiritedness" 3) Mommy and Daddy occasionally let bad words slip and boy does she pick up on them

That nevereverever happens in my house. 

Snack Bar Floor Advice

Excellent, thanks for playing.

Sorry you're missing the game! And those rink snack bars can be really grotty. - Ex hockey-dad w/ 200K miles on Suburban...

Nope--about to catch it, actually. Having it here was to prevent my missing it. Plus, I just love to sit in old popcorn.

...or else it's the best band name, ever: "Junk-Cleansing Rubicon"

Another entry, thanks much, and I'm sure Bethonie appreciates not having to write it. Keep em coming.

Aaaand that's it. Thanks everybody, have a great weekend and type to you here but not here-here, for the love of floor grit, next week.

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

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