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July 19, 2013

12:02
P.M.

(Not) Waking Up Perfect: Carolyn Hax Live: (Friday, July 19)

Total Responses: 34

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 New England with her husband and their three boys.

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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 be online Friday, July 19th, 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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Way Past Carolyn Hax Live Discussions

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Q.

Carolyn Hax :

hey everybody. Thanks for stopping by.

Q.

Carolyn Hax :

A bit of business first: Next week, I'll be chatting on Thursday at noon instead of Friday. One-time thing. Thanks.

Also, the Hootenanny of Wedding Horrors is on. Aug. 23. Snark your calendars. 

Bethonie, can we set up a link early, so people can start depositing their stories in advance?

Q.

Re: Today's Column

Hi Carolyn, I had a couple of thoughts about today's column that I thought I'd share. The first is that I'd think about the boyfriend's reaction to her family over time. Some people throw themselves into relationships with their significant other's family, others take a slower approach and wait to see where the relationship is headed before they get too involved. It's possible the LW is the former, and her boyfriend the latter. Has he been steadily increasing his time with her family as they've gotten more serious? Have they talked about how they see family relationships factoring into their future? The other is personalities, both theirs and their families. Is the LW an extrovert and her boyfriend an introvert? Is his family warm and welcoming and hers more standoffish? Neither of these things solves the problem of what to do about this particular situation, but it does give some useful context to consider.

A.
Carolyn Hax :

Agreed, useful context, thanks.

– July 19, 2013 12:05 PM
Q.

Trust vs. clearing your browser history

So, last night I stumble on my husband's browser history (honestly, I was looking for a link to a rug I viewed earlier in the week) and sure enough: tons of craigslist postings were staring me in the face from just a few days ago. And not "this is too stupid to believe" ads you look at for fun, but genuine bona-fide personal ads from women our age in our city and surrounding cities within an hour drive or so. I've made it clear in the past that I don't care about porn, etc. but these are real, live people who live near us. To me, that's actual shopping around -- not a mistake, not an accident (he actually tried to spin it that way when we talked _yelled_ about it this morning). We have two young sons, we're under contract on a home purchase -- this is nuts. I know this requires some serious counseling because I've had trust issues with him for some time now. Simply put, he's a chronic liar. About everything, even little things of no consequence. It's prevented me from being intimate w/him and we've discussed it at length. I'm totally in crisis mode with the house and everything. I have no evidence he's actually gone through with anything, but it really makes no difference to me. 

A.
Carolyn Hax :

There's no question here, but I'll offer advice anyway: The craigslist vs. porn, too-stupid-to-believe vs. genuine, whether he's followed through or not--these are all Titanic deck chairs. 

The only thing going on here, only, is, "He's a chronic liar." The counseling needs to be asap and for you alone, oriented on protecting yourself and your kids. As in, not on fixing him or your marriage. Call an attorney, too, also asap given the house contract. 

I'm really sorry you're in this mess. 

 

– July 19, 2013 12:11 PM
Q.

Failure at therapy

I have some issues that I've been trying to work through for several years, and I thought seeing a therapist would help. But I think I'm a failure at therapy or doing it wrong or something. I've seen four or five different ones for at least several sessions each, and I never felt like I made any progress. I always left the sessions feeling like I didn't get to talk about what I really wanted to talk about. If it happened once or twice, you could say it wasn't the right therapist. But when it's happened so many times, obviously the problem is on my side. It seemed like with every session with any of the therapists, I could never get the conversation around to what I wanted to talk about it. I'm willing to try again, but I don't want to start without having some kind of idea of how to do it "right".
A.
Carolyn Hax :

Have you tried writing down what it is you think you never got to? Now, when it's on your mind and you're not on the spot? 

If you felt particularly comfortable with one of the "four or five" therapists you tried, and if your attempt was fairly recent, then it might make sense to go back to that person, say you felt like your last go at therapy didn't work, and you 'd like to try again. Say that you wrote down what you hoped to get at--it'll be a great starting point. The foundation of your earlier meetings will be there, too, so you don't have to start all over again.

If you didn't feel any comfort level worth mentioning with any of the therapists you saw, then consider calling some of them for referrals to others. It will feel weird for you but it's normal for them.

Last thing, before you embark on this again: It can take time to get at what's bothering you, so don't get discouraged if you're not leaving your appointments with an Ahhhh feeling the first weeks, even several weeks. Do, though, prepare yourself to -say- this to your therapist in your appointments: "I still don't feel as if the conversation is getting around to what I want to talk about." This will help you both guide your therapy better and promote understanding between the two of you, which is key to getting somewhere. 

 

– July 19, 2013 12:19 PM
Q.

cancer support for an introvert

Hi Carolyn, I'm an introvert dealing with breast cancer. It's not pleasant, but it is temporary and there is no doubt that between the two of us, cancer will lose. My support system has been amazing. Meals, rides, flowers and understanding at work and other obligations are simply appearing. I'm so grateful. But, am almost paralyzed by an inability to respond to people. Texting is my best communication option, but it's not enough for some people. Answering the phone is almost impossible. I'm overwhelmed by gratitude and don't want to alienate people during this time. I also still really need alone time, more than ever, but am swamped by requests for visits, which I also need, as they do wonders at breaking any hovering depression. Can you, or the peanuts, offer advice on how to effectively communicate gratitude and a need for space?

A.
Carolyn Hax :

Sorry about your health, but congrats on your attitude. "Not pleasant" is not the way I typically see cancer described.

I think the shortest distance to a solution here is a trusty Spokesfriend. If you have someone in your orbit who gets what you're talking about, wants to help you and communicates well with others, then you ask him or her to get the word out that you're grateful beyond words but easily drained. "Text is the easiest way to communicate for her" is another bulletin this friend can circulate. If there's a system your friend can implement for you, then all the better. E.g., "She can handle X visits a day/week, and so I'm setting up a Google calendar ..." or something that sits right with you.

Good luck with the fight.

– July 19, 2013 12:26 PM
Q.

The DC Doldrums

Hi Carolyn. I quit my stressful job and have been unemployed for nearly a year. I am looking for a new job and am fine financially, so that is not a concern. What is killing me, however, is the boredom. I have organized my home (and reorganized my home) and have completed all of the home projects I had on my to do list for years. I read nearly every day and frequently volunteer, but I am still incredibly bored. I know people say that they would kill to have extra time on their hands, but I have never been one of those people. I love working (I don't want to change careers and simply want a job that is less stressful) and like to stay busy. So, this downtime is particularly maddening to me. Any advice for how to get through this period without losing my mind? The boredom is starting to lead to depression, which I know is occurring only because I am not working. The bout of the blues still makes it hard to wake up and face the day nonetheless.

A.
Carolyn Hax :

It sounds as if you need a more project-oriented form of volunteering, instead of just the two-hours-of-pitching-in volunteering. The easiest way to look at it is, does your career involve a skill or service that a charity could use, but otherwise couldn't afford? Essentially you'd be getting a new job, just unpaid. 

If that's not possible and/or would put compromise your ability to get paid work in your field, then the next step is to consider something that would require daily, sustained involvement, like running or contributing to a fund-raising drive or event-planning committee. If you want or need emotional involvement, then your volunteer gig could involve direct care, like working in a homeless shelter or animal shelter, or getting qualified to provide foster care to children or animals, or becoming a big brother/sister or Best Buddy. 

I probably should have avoided specific examples, since doing that can make the answer both obvious and limiting, but my point is just, push yourself harder. Think bigger. It doesn't seem right that someone with time, money, a work ethic and skills is essentially going to waste for lack of connection to the right opportunity.

– July 19, 2013 12:37 PM
Q.

Craigslist guy

Speaking from personal experience only - you describe your husband as a chronic liar. So was mine, maybe even pathological. I got caught up in lies/in-law involved house sale and purchase/young child. Instead of listening to my inner voice, I went with the flow instead of leaving. That resulted in many years of regret, sadness and slow extrication. Get out now. It will be hard and probably costly, but not nearly as costly as wasting years of your life. I wish you the best of luck.
A.
Carolyn Hax :

Thanks for the moral support.

– July 19, 2013 12:38 PM
Q.

for Failure at Therapy

My husband is a clinical psychologist and did his clinical training at the best freestanding psychiatric hospital in the country. He is fond of saying two things: one, that most therapists don't know their elbow from their glass bowl. Many are happy to take your money and let you talk aimlessly without ever establishing what success in therapy means to you, an outline of their proposed treatment, and a rough timeline. That is what you should expect and demand. Second, he likes to say 'the patient is always right.' That basically just means that it's the therapists job, not the patients, to monitor how therapy is going and to know enough to push harder or back off accordingly, and that if something goes wrong, it is NEVER, EVER the patient's fault. It's totally conceivable to me that you could have gone through five crappy therapists. It is NOT your fault.

A.
Carolyn Hax :

Another helpful perspective, thanks. 

– July 19, 2013 12:39 PM
Q.

Follow up on "the other spouse"

I wrote a few weeks ago, asking whether I should contact the husband of my husband's mistress, letting him know what was going on. I have taken your advice and am leaving the situation alone. What I would REALLY like to thank you for is your response. For some reason, your phrasing really resonated with me: "All forward. All tomorrow. All you." is my new mantra. I wrote it down on a bunch of sticky notes and I have them in my car, my office, all over my apartment. Saying them out loud can pull me out of my darkest, saddest moments. I realize I'm gushing, and it's a bit weird. But I wanted to let you know what your answer has meant to me (even if it wasn't your intention to write a motivational phrase of the week.) Thanks again.

A.
Carolyn Hax :

Aw. Choked me up, thank you.

And, good for you--whether it's your fate or my words or anything else, it's not what you get, it's what you do with it that counts. 

– July 19, 2013 12:43 PM
Q.

Nervous about meeting my daughter - birth mom

Hi. I am meeting my daughter, who I gave up for adoption 17 years ago tomorrow. I am really anxious and worried that she won't like me or that she won't want to continue to have a relationship with me. I have been waiting for this day since I gave her away and now that it is here, I am more worried about what's next. We have communicated over the years through letters, emails and Facebook, but this is the first live conversation/meeting. Any advice?
A.
Carolyn Hax :

It sounds as if you're framing her in your mind as having all the power. Remember, you're fully grown and much more prepared for this than she is, so it might be helpful to remind yourself that she's going to be a bit of a mess, too. You're coming at this as virtual equals in vulnerability. Understand that, and be ready to give both of you copious breaks and liberal amounts of forgiveness.

Also, I urge you not to go into this with any set expectations. Wanting her to like you and stay in touch with you is natural, but it also reduces this meeting to a transaction with a beginning, a middle and a fixed outcome--which it isn't. It's the beginning of a new phase of both of your lives, and it could have several different outcomes over time. She could decide against seeing you again, now, then in 10 years reconsider. Or vice-versa, or something else entirely.

Since you are a mom, think like a mom: The joy of children isn't in their turning out as you hoped, it's in seeing them turn out as they are, whoever that may be. Adjust your expectations to, "I want to see who she is," if you can. That can't go wrong. 

 

– July 19, 2013 12:52 PM
Q.

Thereapy failure again

Thanks for your response. The thing is, in the first session with a therapist, I do lay out what my issues are and what I want to talk about etc. Then in the following sessions, I can never seem to get the conversation back to those subjects. It's on my mind when I'm in the office, it's not like I forget it or can't think of it. It's just that the therapists seem to take the conversation in different directions, and I don't know how to take control to steer it back to what I really want to talk about.
A.
Carolyn Hax :

The way to do it is to say explicitly, "I feel as if we're going in a different direction from the one I stated in my first session. Is there a map here that I can follow?" Some therapists won't have the skill to work clearly toward a goal, I agree with the post about that, but it's also possible the therapist is getting to know background stuff and context with your stated goal in mind. The answer always comes down to: Ask. And if you don't like the answer, then it is time for another therapist.

To improve your odds of finding someone good, ask for referrals from people as close to the center of that professional world as you can. Family therapists know addiction specialists; school counselors know child psychologists; internists know medical specialists; etc. 

– July 19, 2013 1:00 PM
Q.

Pregnant friend, I'm not so lucky (yet)

Hi Carolyn, a friend of mine has recently announced her pregnancy. I have been trying for a few months to conceive, haven't been successful yet. I'm dealing with the inner "what if you're infertile" thoughts, but its rocky. I don't think I'm at a point yet where I need to panic, but I'm a worry wart, so my emotions are fragile. This friend and her husband have semi-invited themselves to my house for a weekend. It seems that they want to celebrate their happy news...and while I want to do that with them, I'm also jealous and upset that it hasn't happened for me yet. I am able to deal with this from afar, but a weekend of them in my house? Friend is also commenting/liking all of my pictures/status' on social media, as well as making hints about her little one to me without solicitation. I don't want to be a grouch or a downer. Any tips on rebuttals when the "oh don't worry, you're next" and "I can't drink, for obvious reasons" comments come?

A.
Carolyn Hax :

You haven't told her yet that you're a few months into trying, with no luck, and are happy for her but also jumpy about it yourself? As a way of explaining why you might not appear as thrilled as you genuinely are for her?

Maybe you're afraid that's grouch behavior, but I see that as the way friends look out for each other--being transparent and taking it from there. 

Please write back if there's more to this--e.g., if you feel this friend would not take your truth-telling well--but otherwise I think the straigh-ahead answer is the right one here. Talk to her.

BTW, you're right, a "few" months is pre-panic territory.

BTWx2, unsolicited advice division: Worry-wart tendencies tend to come into full flower when there's a baby to freak out about. Do you have strategies for keeping them in check? 

– July 19, 2013 1:09 PM
Q.

Getting over a crush

I have a massive crush on a friend who is also a coworker. We spend a ton of time together outside of work, and until a few months ago were friends w/benefits. While that part has stopped (not on my account) we still spend a great deal of time together. I want more. I don't think he does although I haven't confirmed this. Even if he did, I'm not at all sure he'd be a good match for me as a partner. You've given people advice before about getting over a crush - can you remind me what it is? I'm sure it will include not spending so much time with him outside work, but is there anything else? This is making me crazy.
A.
Carolyn Hax :

Ehhhhhhhhhh ... please reread your letter with a mental highlighter for all instances of wishful thinking. I count three:

"I don't think he does" (you know he doesn't, or he wouldn't have pulled the plug on the benefits)

"I'm not at all sure he'd be a good match for me" (going through the motions of intellectually ruling him out treats him as a legitimate possible partner, when his actions have told you he's not)

"is there anything else" (you know the answer is to get away from him, but you don't want to, so you're shopping for an answer that allows you to keep seeing him).

So, my advice is to stop allowing yourself to think wishfully. Stand up, take the gut punch and walk away. I'm sorry.

 

 

– July 19, 2013 1:16 PM
Q.

Expectation of Announcement

Dear Carolyn, My wife and I have been married about four years and something about her personality has really been highlighted over the past few months. She takes great joy in planning creative ways to tell people big news. For example, when we purchased a house about a year ago she gave our parents copies of the key and a card about how they are always welcome in our home. These are nice gestures that seem harmless. But she is eight weeks pregnant and is planning a creative way to tell people we are expecting and then a creative way to reveal the gender in a few months. My parents have already insinuated that these gestures make them feel uncomfortable, and I understand why: because when you hear big news like that, you typically want to hear it straight out, not in a clever little box. Also, I think my wife put so much emphasis on these gestures that it puts pressure on those around her to react in a very specific way. I feel this takes events that are exciting and important and makes them ceremonial -- which not everybody knows the proper reaction. My wife and I have a strong marriage, but I'm not sure if this is worth communicating to her. My instinct is that the "big news" days of our lives are limited and in a few years there will no longer be these kinds of events, so maybe it is not worth it to discuss. For what it's worth, I think sites like Pinterest and Facebook really feed this, but I don't know what to do about it, or if it is worth doing anything about.

A.
Carolyn Hax :

"My instinct is that the "big news" days of our lives are limited and in a few years there will no longer be these kinds of events": Ha! You're funny.

An event-izer will always have events. This is a fixture in your life that you need to learn how to accommodate.

And even if it weren't, I'm not a huge fan of the grin-indulgently-until-it-passes approach to having different methods of dealing with things. If you know her well enough to know she'd rather be blissfully ignorant when her little presentations fail to move you or your parents, then, yes, I can see just grinning indulgently.

But if her intent is to share joy and bring people in, then it's worth talking to her about this in a way that is respectful of her ways and your differences. 

(more)

 

– July 19, 2013 1:26 PM
Q.

Carolyn Hax :

First, though, you need to address a couple of your assumptions. You say, "because when you hear big news like that, you typically want to hear it straight out, not in a clever little box." That's not right, either--that's the way you like your news, and that's the way your parents apparently do, but it sounds as if your girlfriend and like-minded others would be disappointed with the just-say-it school of sharing.

Plus, you also say your parents "insinuated" that these gestures bother them. That's not the same as knowing, so talk to them. "I got the impression you were uncomfortable with the keys-and-card way of announcing our new house. Did I read that correctly?" If yes, then ask them how much they care. Just by typing a two-part answer, I'm probably already making too big an issue out of a small problem, and you don't want to make the same mistake.

Where this could be a bigger problem is where you're not assuming, but instead intuiting.

(more)  

Q.

Carolyn Hax :

This: "my wife put so much emphasis on these gestures that it puts pressure on those around her to react in a very specific way" gets at something worth a little extra attention and thought. Orchestrating the grand gesture does flirt with control, since you're right that implicitly obliges others to respond the way she wants them to. 

So, the conversation I suggest, should you decide that the intimacy of your marriage demands it, is about your concern about the pressure these presentations put on others. Show respect for the differences in your preferred way of receiving news vs hers, and show appreciation for the effort she puts in--just say that you're not as comfortable with these presentations as she is.

And, if she does have other control-ish tendencies, now's the time to take those on, especially since there's a baby coming. 

Q.

Wedding anniversary etiquette

Is it rude NOT to acknowledge a friends wedding anniversary? I am a 53-year-old female and have always been single, so wedding anniversaries just aren't a part of my world. But I don't want to be rude to my friends who are in long marriages. I never send anniversary cards. I don't even know exactly which day of the month they were married, even though I attended and sometimes served as maid of honor at their weddings. Maybe some of the married nuts out there could give me some perspective.

A.
Carolyn Hax :

I've never had a friend acknowledge my anniversaries--not unless I was standing in front of them saying, "It's our anniversary tonight, so we're going out to dinner." Never noticed till you mentioned it, or cared. Anyone else? 

– July 19, 2013 1:44 PM
Q.

Getting resentful

Hi Carolyn, I live with a close friend who is a teacher. We get along great. There's just one thing. I always do most of the cleaning tasks in the house. I usually don't mind - I enjoy a cleaner living space and am happy to keep it tidy. The problem is, I'm finding myself resentful in the summertime. Of course he deserves to enjoy his free time after a challenging year at school, but with some more extra time on his hands, why can't he unload the dishwasher, take out the trash, or do some cleaning? I'm in no way trying to say that he's got it easy with a summer off - he keeps busy with travel, friends, and a once-weekly part-time job. I'm just curious, with more free time available to him in the day, why am I always the one that has to take care of the living space? I'm not suggesting he take over. I'm just looking for some help.
A.
Carolyn Hax :

Have you said this to him yet? If not, then why not, and if so, then what was his response?

– July 19, 2013 1:46 PM
Q.

re: Expectation of Annnouncement

My husband and I of 29 years could be you and your wife. And although he has improved some over the years, I cannot begin to tell you how crushed I have been on a number of occasions over the years, because of his non-reaction to something creative I did. Listen to what you wrote. You are on the edge of calling her silly (as compared to you and your parents who do things the "right way"). Is it really so hard to appreciate her for wanting to go an extra step or be creative? Can you not see the joy in her as she does these things? WHY is it so important to make her tone down or stop something that she enjoys-that is not hurting anyone? You say you have a strong marriage. Can you imagine how much stronger it would be if you appreciated her for who she is instead of worrying about restraining her?

A.
Carolyn Hax :

I am torn about this. One the one hand, yes, there's a strong argument to be made for accepting her as she is and staying out of the way of her joy. I get that, and advise it often.

On the other hand, I get the discomfort he's talking about with being handed an orchestrated release of news. When it's someone else's big reveal, I can say, okay, yay for them, but wow am I glad I'm not being proposed to on a stadium Jumbotron. When it's my news too, though, and I;m uncomfortable with the way it's going down, then I do have a right to speak up--not to "tone down" or "restrain" my partner, but to explain that I'm not comfortable with spotlighting and so can we find some way of accommodating both our styles here?

The right answer for this and any couple is probably a mix of both. Both need to accept the other's nature--just as you needed to accept, after the first couple of crush-ings, that your husband was not wired to appreciate these things you so badly wanted him to appreciate. He could just as easily be writing to me asking why you keep setting him up to fail you with these big creative gestures instead of accepting him as he is.

His discomfort is real, and her impulse to orchestrate is real. They need to talk, understand, work together.

– July 19, 2013 1:56 PM
Q.

For DC Doldrums

What about taking a course? There are tons of free options online, or if money isn't an issue, at a university or community college. Could be career-related, or not. For me, learning something new can pull me out of the worst moods when nothing else works.
A.
Carolyn Hax :

Oh duh, of course. (Ar ar.) I've always imagined this if I'm ever in this position--a language especially.

Since it has been only theoretical with me, though, I've also always wondered if I'd be motivated to follow through, without necessity kicking my butt over the finish line. 

– July 19, 2013 1:59 PM
Q.

For Getting Resentful

I am very lucky to be married to a man who does more of the work around the house and doesn't mind doing it. It's gotten to the point where some days I don't even think about doing those things anymore because I've gotten used to him doing them. There have been times where he has been busier than me, but it's not on my radar to pick up the slack. I then do a mental head slap and take on some of the tasks (and give my husband a big thank you for what he normally does). Which is to say, your roommate just may not have those items on his radar since you normally take care of them and do so without complaint. If you haven't said something to him, that should definitely be your first step.

A.
Carolyn Hax :

Good call on the step-by-step process of taking someone for granted. Thanks.

– July 19, 2013 2:01 PM
Q.

RE: EXPECTATION OF ANNOUNCEMENT

How about you tell your folks big news in a way that feels right for you, and she gets to tell her folks in the way she likes?
A.
Carolyn Hax :

One logical and possible compromise, thanks.

– July 19, 2013 2:02 PM
Q.

Carolyn Hax :

Actually, I shouldn't have said "possible"--it's up to each of them to make it possible.

Q.

Re Pregnant friend

Also, if you're not ready--if your friend semi-invited herself, you can tell her that it turns out it's not a good time. And then YOU invite her when you're ready. Whether it's a semi-self-invitation or a full-blown self-invite, it's your home, you aren't a hotel. It may seem rude, but it's not, and if you're not ready to be "on" for a house guest, then politely and kindly put her off.
A.
Carolyn Hax :

Saying No 101. Thx. 

– July 19, 2013 2:03 PM
Q.

Re: Dealing with Crushes

I've always found the best way to deal with a crush is make a note of the things that annoy me the most in a romantic partner and then, whenever I find myself daydreaming about the crush, to instead imagine them doing all those things that drive me up a wall. It's a nice little injection of reality into fantasyland.
A.
Carolyn Hax :

This is remarkably effective, I've found--and used to advise fairly often. Somehow I've gotten away from it. Thanks for putting it back in mind.

– July 19, 2013 2:07 PM
Q.

broken up over breaking up

Hi Carolyn, I broke up with my fiance four months ago, and although it was my decision (based on differing values, etc) and I'm confident in it, I'm having trouble moving on. I still care deeply for him. He put a lot into the relationship- moved into my house, other various things that one does when they believe they're completely committed to someone... and I'm hanging on to guilt about all of this. I feel like I expressed a lot to him during the breakup, and some things he understood, some he didnt, but I constantly think about how I could have handled things differently during the relationship and breakup- what I could have/should have done. I've also been thinking about emailing him to let him know I'm thinking of him (we haven't spoken in 2 months), because it feels so harsh to have no contact (not sure if he'd want it-hasn't reached out to me either), but I don't want to make things more difficult/confusing... Please let me know how you think I should handle this... thanks in advance.

A.
Carolyn Hax :

You just described, with painful emotional accuracy, the awful feeling that can stay with you when you break up with a good person you care about but recognize isn't right for you. It's a kind of awful that's hard to anticipate, and I think it partly explains the impulse to vilify exes in the breakup process.

When the ex is bad bad bad, then you're the freshly liberated hero of the story. When the ex is good, you have to live with essentially saying to this good person, "I don't want you anymore." And while it's certainly no picnic to hear that from someone, I think most people understand on some level that even the best people get dumped, it's usually not their fault, just a difference of opinion(s), and they deal with it.

What we're not used to thinking is that even the best people say seemingly heartless things to the people they care about, kick them out of their houses, and stop calling them. Of course you feel like a bad person for doing that. In time, though--and intellectually, right away--you'll realize you're not terrible, you're just doing what's necessary to find the right life for you, and this is the least-bad way for that to happen. 

As for getting in touch with him, I think there's no right answer. An "i'm thinking of you" missive could make things more difficult and confusing, but at the same time, it could also be okay to say just once that it feels weird to be so abrupt about not talking anymore. The trouble starts when you start calling regularly, share your problems, condescend ("Are you okay???"), send mixed messages, etc. The length of that oops list points toward not emailing, for what it's worth. I also think it depends on how close you were as friends, and how likely you are to run into each other. 

– July 19, 2013 2:25 PM
Q.

Anxiety about son's 1st birthday party

Hi Carolyn, I'm prepping for my son's 1st birthday party (next weekend) and battling anxiety about wanting everything to be 'PERFECT' It's going to be at our house with mostly family (they are all crazy and stress me out) My husband keeps telling me to chill and enjoy myself...easier said that done. Any advice? Thank you!
A.
Carolyn Hax :

Oh dearie dear.

Nothing is ever perfect. This party will not be perfect, and perfection won't beat back the crazy that your family brings. Your son won't be perfect, your marriage won't be perfect, your outfit won't be perfect (as you will notice in the pictures afterward, not in the mirror beforehand), your home won't be perfect, not for guests and not for the entire time you live there, except perhaps (if you own it) for the day of your first open house when you sell it. Shall I go on?

Your husband is right, of course, but wrong in thinking that telling you this will be of any help. If you could merely decide to chill, then you would chill.

So, how can someone in your position chill? By recognizing, before the planning starts, that your temperament and your family are a combustible mix that doesn't go well with parties. Please do yourself, and husband baby, a favor and work -with- your strengths and weaknesses instead of against them. If there's a social setup that doesn't stress you out, that brings out your confidence, then that's where you put your time and energy and that's where you score your family points. 

I realize this advice is too late for next weekend, but also keep in mind that having no birthday party is a viable option--especially now when he's too young to remember, but also for any age. There are alternatives that pre-empt crazy. One-to-three best friends at his favorite place works at 3 years old as well as it does at 14. Often it's better for the birthday kid than the stress-fest of 30 guests and sugar and noise.

As for next week? See Paragraph 2. Aim to have your family present and fed. Anything else is dyed-blue icing.

 

– July 19, 2013 2:37 PM
Q.

Pregnancy...

All this pregnancy talk...I'm six months pregnant, and we found out a month ago that our daughter has several serious congenital heart defects. The best cardiologists in the country are thinking that she might not live beyond 48 hours after birth (if she makes it that far). I'm very obviously showing now, and strangers make kind comments about being excited, blah blah. I put a smile on my face and appreciate their kind sentiment. For all the worrywarts - what my husband and I are going through is EXTREMELY rare - but I want to say that it put things in perspective. A month ago I was agonizing over the "best" stroller and wondering if I'd look fat, and complaining to my friends that my husband wanted to use his christening gown, and not the one I had used. Now I'm thinking a nurse will have to do a quickie baptism in the delivery room. This is all to say that if you know someone with a healthy pregnancy, even if you're going through difficulties, try to be happy for them. People w/experience had told me that every healthy pregnancy is a blessing, and now I see the truth of that statement.
A.
Carolyn Hax :

Just yesterday, I was listening to someone on NPR describe so perfectly the experience of devastating news, that in one moment you get pulled from the only life you know and dropped into a completely different one. 

I hope you come out of this darkness sooner than you dare hope, and second your "try to be happy for them." Thank you.

– July 19, 2013 2:47 PM
Q.

Early in the relationship, but disagreement on kids

I've been seeing a great guy for about three months now. We're both 30, and seem to be a good match for each other. But there's one issue: I don't see myself ever wanting to have children, and he has mentioned that he absolutely does. We didn't have a "serious" conversation about this, it just came up briefly in passing about a month into our relationship. We've only been dating for three months, nowhere near long enough for me to really yet think about marrying this guy, but the issue nags at me. On the one hand, our relationship is new. Why not enjoy it for what it is right now without having premature discussions about the "serious" question of kids? But on the other hand, why waste each other's time, as much as we enjoy one another, when this issue will get in the way of a long-term future? (If it helps, I get the sense that he doesn't understand how much I really meant it when I said I don't see myself having kids. Great for others, just not for me!)

A.
Carolyn Hax :

Have the "serious" conversation. If you are unwilling to consider having kids, no matter who wants you to have them and no matter whose companionship it will cost you to decline to have them, and if he is the same in his certainty about having kids, then it actually would be best for you to stop seeing each other. 

The only reason I'm spelling out the terms of the "if" is that your word choice is oddly equivocal for someone who seems to be asserting certainty. You don't say, "I don't want"--you say, "I don't see myself ever wanting." Twice. And I say this as someone who agrees that the whole "Just you wait, you'll change your mind!" attitude toward people who don't want kids is presumptuous bordering on offensive. 

– July 19, 2013 2:57 PM
Q.

Anxious about 1st b-day thought

Nick's cartoon about waking up perfect! Totally fits!

A.
Carolyn Hax :

Totally! Thanks.

– July 19, 2013 2:57 PM
Q.

quick! re: 1st birthday

The first birthday is for you. Yay! you made it through the first year of parenthood. Relax and enjoy. No stress.
A.
Carolyn Hax :

There you go. I always wanted a party when my youngest turned 5--a, We made it through the little years! party. 

I've postponed it till he turns 21.

 

– July 19, 2013 2:59 PM
Q.

Carolyn Hax :

Of course, I hit "send" on that, and immediately worry that I've done something terrible by assuming both of us will be around then.  I hope this attribution is correct, since I'm trusting the Internet for it:

“Making the decision to have a child -- it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. ” 

― Elizabeth Stone

Q.

Carolyn Hax :

That's it for today. Thanks everybody, and hope to see you here Thursday.

Before I go for good, I'll post a couple of good comments.

Q.

RE: DOLDRUMS

Exercise!! It's great for fighting off depression, you can do it daily on a schedule (which it sounds like you need) and you can choose fun to you activities from a million options. And if I were in your position, I'd go to a ton of Nats games.
Q.

DC Doldrums

In addition to volunteering, consider looking for a part-time job just for fun. When I worked at a large bookstore chain part-time (and thus didn't have to deal with too much corporate BS), I had a blast, expanded my intellectual horizons and met an incredibly diverse group of friends. It was impossible to be bored.
Q.

Re: Cancer

Hi Carolyn, When my husband was fighting cancer, I sent a group email to all our friends apologizing in advance for not being responsive during his treatment, thanking everyone for their continued support, and stating how best to reach out to us. I also sent out a blanket request to those who offered to help (can someone interview housekeepers, someone help me clean our office, etc). People completely understood and their support was perfect. I guess in some ways I was the "supportive friend" but I was also in the fight with him and couldn't cope with social expectations at the time. My very best wishes to the LW!
Q.

re: birth mom

I'd take Carolyn's advice one step further - admit up front that you are nervous, don't know what to expect, etc. I'm sure she feels the same, and opening up the dialogue sooner might relax things. This is a unique situation that you'll both need to navigate over time - admit that, together. And don't discount your previous mail/electronic interactions - she wants to meet you after years of being in touch - it's a good sign!
Q.

advice for worry wort of pregnant friend

Carolyn, you are kinder than I would have been. Lots of people write in upset that their friend/sibling/coworker has something that they want but don't have (getting married/pregnant/good job or big house). I think sometimes people need to take a deep breath and calm down. Yes, not everyone gets things at the same time. If it's a friend, be happy for them, and either share that you want but don't have the same thing, or don't share it. I try to be conscious of not going on about things that would be touchy for others - if a friend's mom is dead, I try not to kvetch about annoying things my mom has done -- but really, we all have things in our lives that are good and that are bad, and sometimes they don't match up with our friends' good and bad things, but we're supposed to be FRIENDS. That means we support each other when it's appropriate, but also tell each other when there's a sensitive spot to steer around. OK, I'll go calm myself down now!
Q.

For Broken Up

Right now, you feel guilty over all the things you took away from your fiance by breaking up with him. But don't forget about the gift you gave him by doing it now - freedom from a marriage where he was set up to fail. If you weren't a good match, there's a reeeeally good chance things would have fallen apart at some point in the future. After the wedding, maybe after kids, when all this is a lot more gut-wrenching. That happened to me (sans kids thank goodness) and I have a lot more guilt for keeping the relationship going longer than I should have than I think I would if I had been honest with myself about it early on. Good for you, you did the right thing, even though it's hard.
Q.

Meeting the Birthmother

I met my birth-mother eight years ago, and have been lucky enough to have developed a relationship from that. However, I had read a lot of stories about adoptees and birth-parent's meeting that suggested she would not be as welcoming as I had hoped. As a result, I walked in with no expectations, and every additional interaction has been a gift. Best of luck.
Q.

Carolyn Hax :

Oh--any chat-name ideas? Quick, send em now.

Q.

 

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