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August 16, 2013

12:01
P.M.

For the Love of Biscuits: Carolyn Hax Live (Friday, August 16)

Total Responses: 37

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 online Friday, August 16, 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.

Carolyn's Recent Columns

Past Carolyn Hax Discussions

Way Past Carolyn Hax Live Discussions

Q.

Carolyn Hax :

Hi everybody, happy Friday. Remember next week is the First and Possibly Annual Hootenanny of Wedding Horrors. We'll fire up the turntable and laugh at ourselves. Second half, that is--the first half will be questions as usual, as usual. 

Q.

Wife's feelings for another guy

Hi Carolyn, My Wife and I (both in our mid 50s) have been together for 20 years. We've always had a very close and loving relationship. When the economy went bust a few years ago, I found myself unemployed. I ended up taking a second shift job which has caused us to be apart during the week. After talking it over, I recently turned down a chance to go back to days, in order to take a promotion and stay on nights. More money etc. My wife, who is a fairly shy person has been lonely, and she's started to develop a life without me. Going to the gym, attending music functions with friends and so on. I have encouraged her to do so. Last week I was beginning to sense something was different and after some discussion over a few glasses of wine, she told me she was "infatuated with a guy she'd met at the gym. This guy also attends some of the music event she's gone to and they've become friends. She later said it was nothing, just a crush and I should not be concerned. The thing is, I've had to pry this info out of her, and now I can't seem to let it go. I don't think she'd really cheat on me, but I can't shake the feeling that our once close relationship has been compromised.  She assures me that I'm making too much out of it, and that it's all just because she's lonely, but I'm really hurt that she would want someone other then me. Am I making too much out of this? How can I get past it and let it go and get back to how things were? Sad Husband

A.
Carolyn Hax :

You "can't shake the feeling that our once-close relationship has been compromised" because it has. You and your wife spend less time together, do fewer things together, and lean on each other less for emotional nourishment now. 

That is the bogeyman here--which also means, by process of elimination, that your wife isn't the bogeyman, nor is the object of her crush, nor are you, for that matter, for taking a second-shift job. You're all just doing what humans do, which is adapt to the circumstances you're given. You adapted to your unemployment, your wife adapted to her loneliness, the guy adapted to a new person arriving at the gym.

Of course it hurts, but I think dwelling on the upsetting nature of this will be counterproductive. All your energy--and I hope your wife's--needs to be directed at finding a way for your -marriage- to adaopt to your new circumstances. How you do that is up to you, but you have options. You can take the day job, you can develop more of a life together in the hours you share, you can agree to meet each other halfway on the hours (i.e., she slides her schedule where possible to be more on your sleep schedule; this isn't unusual for couples who have crazy shifts to reckon with).

You can also be as understanding as you can muster, and instead of being upset with her for this bad turn of events and her honesty about it, express gratitude that she shared with you, say you miss her and feel a little hurt, and would like to work on getting your closeness back. Also understand that, in her position, you could very easily have had your head turned by a new woman at the gym. This is something long marriages encounter almost as a matter of course.

As I suggested at the top, a lot of this will depend on your wife's cooperation. You'll know whether you're making too much of this based in part on how much she makes of it. I hope she rallies for you. 

 

– August 16, 2013 12:12 PM
Q.

rude questions

Do you think it's rude for people to ask if you are still breastfeeding? I breastfed my children longer than most (more than a year, less than two). While my family and friends knew I was breastfeeding, it's not something I loudly campaign for and I prefer to do it discreetly. Yet, people still feel it's ok to ask if I'm still nursing my 15-month-old. I think it's a question along the lines of asking people when they're going to settle down and get married or when they're going to have kids (that is, none of your darn business). What's your opinion, Carolyn? (By the way, I always answer the question simply and honestly with a yes or no because I'm happy with my choice, but the reactions from people run the gamut, which might be why I'm sensitive to it. Some say "how wonderful" or "good for you," while others are exasperated: "Are you REALLY?").
A.
Carolyn Hax :

"That's kind of an odd question. Why do you ask?" That way you'll see whether you're getting interest from people who are weighing their own choices, or judging yours.

– August 16, 2013 12:15 PM
Q.

Carolyn Hax :

Or you can solve it after the fact: "Had I known you were just looking to judge me, I wouldn't have answered so politely."

Q.

Should I change careers, or...?

Dear Carolyn, I've developed depression for the second time in five years as a result of my career. Both times, I was the victim of serious misconduct on the part of my superiors, and can't report it or even tell anyone about it for fear of career-ending retaliation. This is a systematic problem that's not likely to go away soon, and I'm thinking of changing careers because I don't know how much more abuse I can (or want to) take. On the other hand, I *love* my work, I'm extremely good at it, and I feel like it's something I was born to do and can make a real difference in the world. How do I make a decision like this? The thought of either leaving or staying feels like a knife through the heart.
A.
Carolyn Hax :

Where's the (c) Shift to a related career or different enough location, where your skills still apply but the culture is different? This is where a mentor or career coach can really come in handy.

Without knowledge of your career, I can't really answer you well, but I do believe these things are rarely as either-or as they feel. Make plans to get away from the abuse for sure, since you're already thinking of bailing out and it's obviously to the point of affecting your physical health--just take the extra time to find another good fit for your abilities.

– August 16, 2013 12:23 PM
Q.

"Are you still breastfeeding?"

Of course not! My mother weaned me long ago!
A.
Carolyn Hax :

Nice.

– August 16, 2013 12:23 PM
Q.

Re: underachieving boyfriend

Would your answer change if it's the boyfriend saying he's "stuck", he can't afford to live on his own, but he wants the mortgage/vacations, and he constantly complains about his job?

A.
Carolyn Hax :

Then you just break up because he's a whiner, not a doer. Isn't this version a self-answering question? Take out the "constantly complains" and I might think otherwise.

– August 16, 2013 12:27 PM
Q.

Hootenany

Oooh, can we do wedding shower horror stories too!
A.
Carolyn Hax :

I wouldn't dream of not inviting them. (More gifts.)

– August 16, 2013 12:27 PM
Q.

Moving in-laws

Carolyn, My husband's parents live in another state. They are in their 80s but still quite compus mentis and still play the occassional 9-hole round of golf (more than I can say for myself). Now, after almost fifty years of living in the same house they are moving to an apartment in September. They have done everything necessary to get to this point like getting rid of stuff (huge job), putting the house up for sale and selling it in less than two weeks (!), finding an apartment they love, hire the movers, etc. all by themselves. I have told my husband that it would be good if he went up there to help them get through the actual move. I have told him how stressful and exhausting a move can be even for younger people and that they would appreciate having him there. He has asked them if they want him to come but they have not given a definitive answer. My view is he should just tell them he's coming. I doubt they will tell him not to. I don't want to keep nagging my husband but I feel strongly that he should be there. But they are his parents...What do you think?

A.
Carolyn Hax :

I think you're right, and even though they are his parents and it's his decision to make, you as Spouse have extra leeway to give a kick when needed. "Enough dithering. They need you. I'm through being subtle." If you have kids of your own, you can add: "We'll want our kids to do the same for us when we're that age, so set the example now." 

If you don't have kids of your own or other responsibility keeping you home, then go with him.

As most of you know, I'm not normally of the impose-yourself school of family relations, but this is ridiculous. It is exhausting to move even when you have a professional mover doing a full-service pack-and-unpack operation. Someone still needs to make food runs, meet trucks, manage temporary housing and set up basics.

– August 16, 2013 12:36 PM
Q.

how do you find a good therapist

Carolyn, I've been following your column for a while and really like it. However, you often tell people to find a therapist or counselor for larger issues but don't give any advice on how to do that. My parents have been having communication issues for a long time, and it's turned into family issues over the years. My dad is finally agreeing with me when I say at least my parents, and possibly everyone, needs to talk to a therapist -- but, aside from googling names, how would I go about finding one? And are there red flags to look for? Suggestions for how to figure out if we match or not?
A.
Carolyn Hax :

I'm sorry you've missed the discussions of details. I do go over it occasionally, but talkign about it every week would get repetitive.

The best places to ask are ones either within or related to the same field. If you know any therapists at all in other specialties, then asking them for suggestions is actually the best way to go.

In not, then to get recommendations for a good family therapist, one accessible place to go is to the family doctor. School counselors also are good sources of recommendations for this, because so many children in need of therapy come from dysfunctional families, and so a good number of providers for kids also are trained and experienced in marriage and family therapy. For similar reasons, pediatricians can be a good source of names.

If you come up empty on all fronts (tho I doubt you will), then the next stop is the professional group that governs the type of therapy you want. In your case, the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (link) would be the place to go. It's not a guarantee of quality care, but its members do have specialized training and agree to abide by a code of ethics. 

As for deciding who is the right fit for your family, I suggest you make an appointment yourself as an introduction, stating clearly that this might be a whole-family deal. See  how you feel, and don't be afraid to try several therapists, ask questions, and even ask for referrals to someone else if you're not happy. Easier to type than do, yes, but any decent therapist will roll with this process, and even make it easy for you.

– August 16, 2013 12:47 PM
Q.

Bad guy trying to be the good guy

Several years ago, I abruptly and unilaterally ended an 18-month relationship. I stand firm with my reasons, but my (kind and lovely) ex was understandably upset. We haven't spoken since. I still feel guilty, but that's my cross to bear. Despite a happier relationship since then, I'm pretty sure that The Ex hates my guts. Here's the problem: in a few months, I expect to see The Ex at a mutual friend's event. Being in proximity will be unavoidable. I want to send The Ex an email, saying that I'm sorry how things ended and that I'd like us to be at least cordial at this event, and that I'm willing to keep my distance if they don't want to talk to me. Part of me thinks this is sensible and will allow both of us to enjoy this event without apprehension. The other part of me thinks this email will just sound condescending and melodramatic. What is the kindest way to approach this situation?
A.
Carolyn Hax :

Are you willing to share your reasons? I suspect they might affect my answer.

In the meantime, my advice is just to go without any pre-call, and be polite when you see him. 

– August 16, 2013 12:50 PM
Q.

Breaking mom's heart

I've enjoyed living in the same town as my mother as an adult; we are truly friends, we almost always get along, she is always happy to help with my two young children, and they love spending time with her. We live in a lovely, but very expensive metropolitan area that my husband and I can really no longer afford. He is actively looking into a transfer at work. The problem is, the transfer would be moving us very far away (8+ hours in the car). Because we both have jobs we can do almost anywhere, but that don't have very high salaries, we've talked about making a big move to a place with a lower cost of living since we got married. But now that it might be happening, I dread telling my mother. I know she's going to be sad, and that she'll miss me and her grandchildren (she doesn't have any others, and most likely won't for a while). Thinking about telling her keeps me up at night! I'm really sad about it, too. Mom knows we've been thinking about it, but has kind of tricked herself into thinking the transfer doesn't need to take us that far away. I know adult kids move away from their parents all the time - how do they handle it?
A.
Carolyn Hax :

For this set of details, I advise being even more transparent--at least make it harder for your mom to deceive herself.

I'm also wondering, though, why it has to be this exact set of details. You can't swing a relocation without a transfer? There's no way to move to a cheaper area within, say, a two-hour radius? When you have jobs you can do almost anywhere?

Your mom is obviously important to you and possibly more important to your kids. Yes, adult kids move away all the time, but another thing they do all the time is adjust their lives to allow them more access to people who are important to them. If this job or company is the only job or is more compelling to your nuclear family than extended family is, then go for it, but don't go for it without being sure of the tradeoff you're about to make (at least vs. possible alternatives). 

– August 16, 2013 12:56 PM
Q.

Bringing dirt to other parties

I have an old, but really close friend, who has her own old, really close friend. (My friend "Jane" and I met after college, Jane met her friend during college.) Jane and I are having a fight about Jane's behavior towards me. She's got a bad temper and I think is a bit of a bully sometimes. Meanwhile Jane's old friend "Mary" and I have been becoming better acquainted lately. We've been starting to communicate and talk outside of Jane's presence. Is it unfair to ask Mary about Jane's behavior? They are much closer -- obviously -- having known each other for years. But I think it would be interesting to know if Mary sees the same thing in Jane that I do. I'm not asking her to "weigh in" on our current fight, I just want to know if she has same experience. Mary is a sweet woman and I believe wouldn't run to Jane to tell her I've been talking to her.

A.
Carolyn Hax :

I think it's fine in an "I struggle to understand Jane sometimes, can you help me?" kind of way, but if you;re not certain you can keep this out of the muck of Jane-bashing, then don't even try it.  

Another way of putting it: If you want to fix your friendship with Jane, then understand that what you need to accomplish this are new ways to see the good in Jane, and Mary can help you with that. If what you want is validation for disliking this aspect of Jane, then don't even touch that with Mary. 

– August 16, 2013 12:59 PM
Q.

long distance relationship

My daughter dated a guy in college for two years. Then they broke up. After a year and a half, he joined the army and they started talking again. After four months, he came home and they spent five days together. Now, not quite four months later, they are engaged and plan to marry when he comes home again in November. They want to get married so she can join him at his next assignment. Obviously, my husband and I are completely against this. We've told her our concerns that they haven't spent enough time TOGETHER. Do you have any knowledge of marriages that begin like this and their chances of success?

A.
Carolyn Hax :

There are examples to support every possible outcome--happily ever after, imploding instantly, promising start and slow unraveling, growing and learning together beautifully after a rough start, on-again-off-again hell--so don't even bother to go down that road.

They've made up their minds, so trust them and love them and respect them enough as adults to bite your tongue. If it works, great, if it doesn't, they'll learn from it. You've said your piece. 

– August 16, 2013 1:05 PM
Q.

The Good Guy?

Please, do not say one word. I've received "apologies" like this in the past and they all-without exception-have a "Sorry I through you on the pile of other men I've destroyed" tone and come off as very condescending, rude and awkward. He got broken up with, he was bitter, but now he has moved on. Be prepared that he's actually happier than you are.
A.
Carolyn Hax :

Last line is suitable for bronzing. Not because it puts one in one's place, but because it rounds out the realm of what's possible, and an  open mind is what inoculates against condescension, where assumptions all but guarantee it. Thanks.

– August 16, 2013 1:07 PM
Q.

RE:Finding a Therapist

You could also call your insurance company for recommendations of in-network counselors or psychologists. Also, many employers have an EAP that offers free sessions and they can refer you to someone.
A.
Carolyn Hax :

Right, the EAP is a great resource, and usually so accessible (phone call). Thanks. 

– August 16, 2013 1:08 PM
Q.

Imposing on family NOT boundary breaking?

Ok, when did the pod eat Carolyn? When has it EVER been a good idea for one adult to force their way onto another? The parents, by LW"s own testimony are fully competent adults who can take care of themselves....The husband doesn't want to go....why is LW good to force this on other people...
A.
Carolyn Hax :

Guess my disclaimer wasn't good enough. 

Couple in their 80s are moving, and haven't said a clear no to their son's offer to be there to help. Sometimes, it's really really okay to add 2 + 2, say "I'm coming--I'll stay out of your way unless and until something needs doing" and just show up. If the presence of the more youthful set of hands is genuinely unwelcome, then the hands can just apologize for presuming and go home. (But I really don't see it happening. I've accepted help myself, when I was a decade younger and in the peak of health, in the midst of a full-service move.)

Moving is just different. 

– August 16, 2013 1:13 PM
Q.

Wife's feelings for another guy

i am 50+, married for 20+ years, and I've had crushes myself. The funny thing is, the way (for me, anyway) to make the bubble bursts and see the whole thing as silly is to admit it to someone. My sister and I are the go-to confidantes to admit this, since I don't want to hurt my Dear Husband's feelings. Maybe this did the trick for the wife of the OP.
A.
Carolyn Hax :

Certainly possible, thanks. I don't think this is unique to you, by any stretch. 

– August 16, 2013 1:16 PM
Q.

Re: Moving Inlaws

Any reason why the wife shouldn't volunteer herself to help her in-laws move? Husband can watch the kids, if that's necessary.
A.
Carolyn Hax :

I thought of that, but then thought, "Geez."

Unless wife and in-laws are unusuallyclose, or the wife is super-organized and useful, or the husband would be just another piece of furniture for his parents to worry about, this really is the husband's time to (pardon me) step up.

– August 16, 2013 1:20 PM
Q.

Re: moving in-laws

In addition to all the reasons for going that have already been mentioned, there's the fact that they've lived in this house for almost 50 years. They might (read: will) find it unexpectedly sad to physically leave the house for the last time, and having their son there to mark the occasion, share in the bittersweetness, etc. might really help. It might be good for husband, too, to get a chance to say goodbye to his childhood home. He should go.
A.
Carolyn Hax :

Another reason. thanks.

– August 16, 2013 1:20 PM
Q.

Fear of retaliation

Plenty of people out there have stood up to their employers for engaging in unacceptable conduct and have not lost their careers as a result. You may not want to do that - it requires a huge sacrifice - but don't just assume you'll be a pariah. You might end up being a hero.
A.
Carolyn Hax :

Good point, thanks. Could be worthwhile to try, too, after the Plan B for another career is in place. Then theoretically the pariah part wouldn't be a deterrent.

– August 16, 2013 1:21 PM
Q.

All they see is the alcoholic...

Dear Carolyn: I am dating a very-newly-recovering alcoholic; he's been sober five months. We have known each other for almost two years and share many friends, most of whom knew him when he was still married and witnessed the toll his addiction took on his past relationship (he and I met post-divorce, but I am acquainted with his ex through mutual friends). We have taken our relationship very slow over the past five months. We first became physically intimate the day before he had an incident that would result in his becoming sober. I have not pressured him to make any commitment other than to sobriety. As a result, we recently dropped the "L" bombs and are in a committed, healthy relationship! Here's the problem: our closest friends can't seem to be happy for us! My best friend explicitly told me that our relationship makes her "anxious." His best friend is constantly trying to tell me that I need to be harder on him about this or that. How do I get our friends to 1) stop comparing me to his ex-wife (I know her and feel we are very different in our values and personalities) and 2) stop acting like any moment he is going to go on a drunken rampage and ruin my life? He is in therapy and I am not blind to the possibility of a relapse, but is it too much to ask that people see him for the kindhearted, loving, strong man that he is for me and stop making everything about his alcoholism?

A.
Carolyn Hax :

Would you please, please please, for you, go to Al-anon? It's not your job to change the way people think of your new love, and Al-anon would be an appropriate tutorial not just in recognizing that boundary, but also in preparing yourself for the possible challenges in sharing your life with an addict. Many have been down your path and have wisdom to share. While, again, it's not your job to be your boyfriend's PR shop, it would probably help settle your friends' nerves if they knew you were taking seriously--go-to-a-meeting seriously--the challenge you've agreed to take on.

Their opinions are theirs to have, period, though it also sounds as if they came to them through hard experience vs. reflexive judging. Either way, what will help bring your friends around is your boyfriend's continued health and your continued strength and happiness. Work on those. Appearances take care of themselves.

– August 16, 2013 1:31 PM
Q.

Cheating friend

I was having drinks last week with two girlfriends when one of them said, "I did something awful." She proceeded to tell me and my other friend that she was out at a work event and got very drunk and ended up kissing some guy. She apparently feels horrible about it, but says she will not tell her husband because it was a mistake and she knows she won't do it again. I tried to remind her that honesty is the best policy but she doesn't agree. I don't know her husband that well, but he's a really great guy and he has the right to know. So should I tell him myself?

A.
Carolyn Hax :

Oh for the love of biscuits, no. Egad.

For one thing, "Honesty is the best policy" is a blunt instrument where a marriage is better served by a thoughtful, individual touch.

And, it's a kiss, not an out-of-wedlock child. Proportions deserve respect. If he doesn't know about a single, regretted, drunken smooch, then the marriage can arguably hum along just fine. If instead he finds out about said smooch from a third party, the marriage can be knocked off its pins. If anyone should tell of an oops like this--and reasonable, decent people can disagree on whether she should--then it should absolutely be the spouse who tells. A friend's place, when it's huge enough to demand reporting, is to say, "I can't in good conscience keep a secret this damaging. You need to tell the truth, or I will be forced to." You don't just go freelance, not on someone you call a friend.

And, that "reasonable people" thing: What matters here (the one place we agree) is the husband's feelings, and a good percentage of people in the husband's position wouldn't want to know. Why? Because the benefit of knowing of so minor a transgression might not outweigh the pointless pain of knowing. 

I'm actually agnostic on this myself. If my spouse told me of this in an act of honesty, or chose not to tell me of this in a genuine act of compassion, then I hope I'd recognize either way that he probably feels worse about it than I do, and that life is long, and that drunk long-married people sometimes become smooch-seeking missiles, and that it doesn't have to mean the End Is Nigh. 

And, on top of that, your tattling would be a betrayal of your friend. She trusted you to help her unburden and figure out how to handle this. Earn that trust retroactively, please, by zipping it now. If you don't want to know about such things in the future, or if you would indeed report this or a larger trangression, then please let her know so she can confide accordingly in the future.

– August 16, 2013 1:49 PM
Q.

Bringing gifts to the Hootenany

Will someone be leaking the "per plate' cost of the Hootenanny along with the unsubtle hint that the only acceptable gift to bring is a check in a larger amount?

A.
Carolyn Hax :

I've deputized my chatting party to handle that for me. (Thanks!)

– August 16, 2013 1:49 PM
Q.

Bad guy trying to be the good guy

From the OP: My reasons for dumping them? To make a long story short, I was undergoing a lot of unrelated life-stresses and found my ex was only making me feel worse instead of making me feel better. Unfortunately, I couldn't express that until I had a panic attack and cut all ties. I expect--and really, hope--that Ex is happier than I am.
A.
Carolyn Hax :

Well, that actually is an argument for saying something to him. Not the pre-event ice-breaker you had in mind, but instead the "You never knew why I did what I did, and I wasn't able to articulate it until recently, but here it is now: A bunch of stresses built up, I had a panic attack and fled" letter. The one where you say he deserved better and that you wish you had handled it better, and you want nothing but happiness for him (and don't even expect a response to this letter--it's just stuff he deserved to know). That letter.

– August 16, 2013 1:55 PM
Q.

ultimatum from friend

Dear Carolyn, Long story short: Friend's boyfriend of a few months cheated on her and lied extensively, they broke up, a month later they got back together. Now, a great deal of the time I see Friend, Boyfriend is there too. Friend has made it clear that to spend time with her, we need to accept Boyfriend. Since I don't want to see Friend less, how can I make Boyfriend's presence more tolerable? It's hard to see him as a decent human being after what I've heard about him, and I didn't think he was a good guy even BEFORE the cheating.
A.
Carolyn Hax :

Friend has issues. What's up?

– August 16, 2013 2:00 PM
Q.

Dealing with mom guilt

Hi Carolyn, So cousin #1 tells me in confidence that Cousin #2 had a miscarriage and asks me not to say anything to anyone, which I do not. Fast forward a few months, my mom finds out about Cousin #2's miscarriage and asks me if I knew. I say yes, but that it was told to me in confidence. Mom gets very angry and says that I should have told her because she has a right to know about important things that happen in her family. Cousin #1 is now pregnant and has asked me not to say anything. i know that when my mom finds out, I know her first question will be whether I knew and the same thing will happen. What can I do about this? FWIW, I think she sees my not telling her as her being excluded, but my cousins are like sisters to me so I think it's normal they would share this me and a smaller group first before telling larger family.
A.
Carolyn Hax :

"Mom gets very angry and says that I should have told her because she has a right to know about important things that happen in her family."

Your response, if this happens again: "When I am told something in confidence, I will not share it. Not even with you, Mom. I do understand you feel bad when you're out of the loop. Please know I will treat your private information with the same care."

 

– August 16, 2013 2:08 PM
Q.

Box full o' stuff

Hi Carolyn, this week I broke up w/my partner of three years, and need to send her some things she left at my house (we live ~700 miles apart). My question: should I include a note? It seems rude and unkind to send a box of stuff without a personal message (I would never do that w/friends and family), but I don't know what I would say ("sorry"? "take care"? "thought you'd want your passport back"??)...she's very upset with me right now and I don't want to make things worse. It's silly, but I can't stop obsessing over this!

A.
Carolyn Hax :

You can include a note that says that if she's still missing anything of hers, she can let you know and you'll look for it for her ... followed by a "take care" in the signature, sure.

I.e., indicate that you gathered these things with warmth in your heart vs. a compulsion to purge her from your consciousness. That walks the right line, to my mind, between saying nothing and saying an overly guilty, or even curt-sounding sounding "sorry."

– August 16, 2013 2:16 PM
Q.

Cheating "Friend"

There are clearly other underlying feelings on the part of the supposed friend of the cheater. She either has feelings for the husband or she resents the friend for something. Perhaps, she should spend time exploring that rather than contemplating ruining her "friend's" marriage over a drunken kiss.
A.
Carolyn Hax :

I'm not sure about the either-or (could be some third thing having only to do with her), but on the underlying feelings, I'm persuaded, thanks. 

– August 16, 2013 2:20 PM
Q.

re: New crush at the gym

To some extent, most people are always attracted to people who are not our partners, even when we are partnered up. The key to managing this is by knowing where we hold the boundaries to prevent temptation from allowing it to gradually become more and ending up at an "oops" moment that is later regretted, justified, and desired again. Part of your conversation needs to not hold her guilty for being attracted to someone else, but rather ask her how she is managing the attraction, what boundaries is she enacting to keep it from becoming more. Because right now you apparently doesn't trust her not to let it develop into something more, and with some discussion that might be resolved.
A.
Carolyn Hax :

Well said, thanks.

– August 16, 2013 2:21 PM
Q.

Ending a Casual Relationship

I've been involved with a guy for about a year. It's always been pretty casual, more like a FWB situation. Over the past few months, I've been losing interest in him. In the process of losing interest in the first guy, I also met someone new recently. I'm contemplating completely ending things with the first guy, but I've also noticed that increasingly he isn't as available to get together. I think he might also be losing interest in me. I wonder, should I say something directly to him, or just let things fade away? If I let things fade away, and he doesn't ask what is going on, then I guess I can assume that he also wanted things to end? He's a great guy, but we just didn't have that much in common. So, I kind of don't want to officially "reject" him because I feel like there isn't anything really to say besides we just don't have that much in common, which he probably already know. Any suggestions on how best to approach this?
A.
Carolyn Hax :

I';m thinking a year with someone is a long time to just assume things are over, even if all evidence says the face-saving fade is fully underway.

So what do you (all) think of this:

"Hey, I've been thinking things have run their course between us, but when I tried to see you to talk about it, you were always busy. So does that mean it's mutual?"  

– August 16, 2013 2:32 PM
Q.

engagement surprise?

Hello Carolyn, I've been dating my boyfriends for 1.5 years. We've talked about marriage. I expressed my big dream for an engagement is something big and public. By this I don't mean expensive, maybe just like one of those cute on camera things at a sporting event (say like the "kiss cam"). We only talked once about this and it was 4-5 months ago. My predicament: my dad told me my boyfriend has asked permission to propose to me. And, that he is going to propose at an upcoming sports event. This is a supposed to be a surprise to me. My dad expressed concern that this would cause my boyfriend embarrassment and possible problems at his job. He thinks his coworkers will make fun of him. My dad wants me to tell my boyfriend not to do this. I think my dad is projecting his own concerns onto my boyfriend. My dad wasn't supposed to tell me any of this. Should I tell my boyfriend not to propose in this specific way? Should I let him make his own decision? We are both 30, no previous marriages, responsible professionals.

A.
Carolyn Hax :

I hope your boyfriend is comfortable being told what to do, marrying into this family. 

Tell your dad you've already tugged your BF's strings to get the public proposal in the first place, and you'd appreciate his not tugging the strings the other way.

Or tell Dad that, even if he's right, BF would probably be fine with a little ribbing (that he could easily foresee on his own, no?), but not be fine with having his surprises blown--and that if there's ever another close call between the two, it's best handled by Dad with BF directly. 

b\hjkaqhalhb (forehead, keyboard)

 

– August 16, 2013 2:42 PM
Q.

Ferris Bueller's sister

My charming, irresponsible sibling is getting bailed out again (for totally failing to deal with a problem everyone else has seen coming for years) and I'm furious. There's no solution here. I'm thinking of going with a primal scream. Or ice cream.

A.
Carolyn Hax :

Why not both?

Even if you could live your life the way she lives hers, you wouldn't. Never lose sight of that.

Sorry that's all I've got for you--making out with Charlie Sheen at the police station isn't the panacea it used to be.  

– August 16, 2013 2:46 PM
Q.

How do we submit for wedding hootenanny?

I want to send in my story - do I just submit to the regular chat? Put Wedding in the Topic Line?
A.
Bethonie Butler :

Here is the link to the Wedding Hootenanny chat

– August 16, 2013 2:47 PM
A.
Carolyn Hax :

Submit copiously. I want some serious bride rage. 

– August 16, 2013 2:47 PM
Q.

Bad guy trying to be the good guy

From the OP again: Thank you. That is... reassuring. I actually just teared up a little. I think that might be a therapeutic letter to write, even if he deletes it instead of ever reading it.
A.
Carolyn Hax :

Hope so, for both of you. Thanks for writing back. 

– August 16, 2013 2:48 PM
Q.

Dating Drama

I recently began dating someone I care about very much -- this, after more than a year of deciding to remain single. We are having a great time! The issue is that, in this small social community, I was friends with someone who was in love with him. I did not know her well, but we were friendly. She'd shared with me the ups and downs of the relationship. But what I understand now is that he never saw them as dating, which has me questioning his boundaries, and I understand the fact that she feels used. When he began expressing interest in me, I talked to her about it and was transparent about my thoughts about his interest. At the time, she was finally deciding that she needed to move on from him (realizing it wasn't a healthy relationship for her). I did not expect that anything would happen between him and me, in part out of my friendship with her. However, one thing has led to another. After a tearful-on-both-sides conversation where she wanted me to back off and ... I said i couldn't, I'm left with her behaving as if I do not exist. I don't expect that we'll be friends in the foreseeable future. I can weather her cold shoulder. I guess my question is, did I do the wrong thing?
A.
Carolyn Hax :

I'm sure there's plenty of blame to go around, but it doesn't look like there was any good outcome available that involved your seeing this guy. She's still angry, to the extent that she thinks it's okay to ask you to "back off," when it wasn't her place to ask that. That's the nub of it.  

 

– August 16, 2013 2:52 PM
Q.

Carolyn Hax :

Where some blame might be yours to assume, if you're interested:

Possibly using her is the big one. You say you weren't that close to her, but in discussing this guy you got close enough to her to declare you'd reject him in an act of friendship to her? For just long enought to get all the details on him you wanted? Then ... he got close enough for his affection to have more value to you than hers did? Hmm.

Maybe it didn't happen quite that way, or you didn't mean it to, but surely you can see how it might have looked to her as if you played her perfectly to get the information you wanted--and the guy. 

Q.

Strained friendship

I am friends with a neighbor who has an overly possessive husband. When I say overly possessive I mean he doesn't want her going shopping, going to the gym or doing anything else without him. The best example I can give you is when her first cousin died and he had plans to go on a trip. She didn't want to go, but he made her. I want to be friends with her, but don't want to get her into trouble. I am not the only one who sees his behavior, but she insists there is no way out of the relationship since they have kids. I just feel bad for her and want her to be able to enjoy life. I can't also understand why an hour trip to the gym is cause for concern.

A.
Carolyn Hax :

Would you please give her the number for the National Domestic Violence Hotline? 1-800-799-SAFE. You wouldn't "get her into trouble"--she IS in trouble, as are the kids.

Just say to her, okay, maybe there is indeed no way out of the relationship because of the kids, but the kids are being taught that this is an acceptable way to be treated, and maybe that's worth a second opinion from people trained to advise on controlling relationships? 1-800-799-SAFE. Press it into her hand or help her to memorize it. 

– August 16, 2013 3:02 PM
Q.

Grief

My sibling has been dealing with severe grief when sibling's partner suddenly died in a tragic accident. Terrible dreams, bad self-esteem, unable to make big decisions, feeling responsible, blaming self. Won't go to counseling. I guess there isn't much else I can do? I've listened, am emotionally supportive, etc.
A.
Carolyn Hax :

I'm sorry. What about a grief support group? For many, that's a lot easier to take--and has a lower bar to entry--than "counseling." You could also go with, the first time, even walking to the door and waiting outside.

– August 16, 2013 3:05 PM
Q.

Re: This is a supposed to be a surprise to me.

I'd like to point out that given the level of detail, direction, and other specifics given by the LW, there's absolutely no way this would ever be a surprise to all parties involved. There's nothing wrong with wanting a big proposal, but it looks like this poor guy is getting pushed around by you and your father. Everyone is telling everyone else what to do over something that's supposed to be simple and sweet. I feel like there's no way anyone is going to be happy in all of this.
A.
Carolyn Hax :

Yes, I should have answered bigger then, and will now.

To OP: PLEASE let life happen, vs. trying to direct it into the scene you've always envisioned. It's better that way for all of you, even (especially?) if it means you don't like each other as much in your natural states.

It's better to have your boyfriend show his love his way vs. yours, and for you to love him your way vs. his, unless and until there are small adjustments you can make to your ways that you're eager and able to make for each other and that don't compromise who you are. That way you're not constantly working at being the person the other needs you to be--you can save your effort for pulling your weight, showing kindness, having each other's backs. 

When you feel the impulse to start directing someone else's actions, consciously stop yourself. Wait. See what happens.

If you don't love the result on a reasonably consistent basis, that's not a signal to start directing again. That's a sign you need to make changes in -your- choices, up to and including your choice of mate, friends, career, hobbies, locale, anywhere you seek satisfaction in life. 

Maybe an over-answer, but, there it is, just in case.

– August 16, 2013 3:16 PM
Q.

Carolyn Hax :

Wanted to get that in, even at the cost of a sane ending time.

That's really it, thanks, have a great weekend and type/HOOT to you here next week.

 

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