Baggage Check Live: "She's having her arsenic-riddled cake and eating it too"

Feb 27, 2018

Licensed clinical psychologist Dr. Andrea Bonior was online to take your comments about her advice column, Baggage Check, and any other questions you might have. These comments may appear in an upcoming column running in Express and online.

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Welcome!! We seem to have a record number of questions waiting, so I'll try to get my fingers moving fast.

Today's column brought out a lot of strong opinions-- what do you do when you and your spouse don't agree about how much to share of your child on social media? And how do you handle a constant one-upping friend?

Let's get to it!

(In response to last week's chat)

OP could also tell Aunts that the only way she can make things work is if they THREE of them spend time together at X time on X date - given her busy schedule, since all three live in the same city, and in an interest to be "fair". (Of course there is the possibility my suggestion could blow up in OP's face but I have a strong suspicion that neither Aunt will be so aggressive about setting up a social event if they knew the other was involved...)

I like this! Is it such a pipe dream that maybe they could actually learn to get along (though it isn't their niece's responsibility to make that happen.) Thanks!

I did not read subject post but did read the replies during 2/20 chat.

(Readers can find the subject post here).

The poster is flirting to feel vibrant and sexy. This is the behavior of a loser. Flirting with married, or even people who are just dating, is selfish/for the flirter’s benefit only. If the man decides to cheat—it won’t be because she is so irresistible that he is willing to risk getting caught. It will be because he had a woman at the ready who wanted to hook up. Who wants to be that woman??? I was married for almost nine years. I never flirted with coworkers because I would not disrespect my relationship that way. I also knew I am attractive and didn’t need the lingering glances or playful instant messages of male coworkers to feel good. The only problem is now that I’m divorced, I have forgotten how to flirt. I’m working on it but I won’t flirt if he has a ring or I know he has a girlfriend.

Thanks for this take! I do think certain people really are drawn to sexual attention like moths to flame. And it can sometimes get them into some serious trouble-- or else on a path of destroying others' lives. Good luck in remembering how to flirt!

I've been enjoying your comments and wanted to reach out to you about my job situation. The leadership at my place of work is horrendous. Now, these people are great people. I can see myself genuinely enjoying their company outside of work. But when it comes to leadership they are completely lacking in respect and consistency. They treat us like high schoolers and have created a work place where we're constantly looking over our shoulders. I wish I were exaggerating when I say they have other managers spying on us to ensure we stay on task and don't have non work conversations. I love my job but I'm getting aggravated. Should I just find a more conducive environment to work in? Thank you!

I can't tell you how much more I am hearing about micro-managing supervisors these days. I don't know what it is-- a paranoid and fraught business/political/governmental climate? A generation of helicopter parents turning their techniques on their underlings at work? An increase in the ability to keep track of every second of your coworkers' movements due to advances in technology? Whatever it is, I don't like it. But you have an advantage here in that these supervisors are "great people." So they should be able to listen to reason in an objective, calm and respectful conversation that you initiate with them about how you feel that your and other's productivity are being jeopardized by the tracking-culture that they are creating. I mean, at some point this is business-- low morale will come back to bite them. So see if they have the foresight to do something about it. (I'm no MBA, but I can't imagine that "Make your workers feel like accused children" is a tried and true method for improving the effectiveness of a workplace.)

Hi Dr. Andrea, I feel like I'm at a cross-roads with my mother. She's always been a fine mother, no abuse or anything, a roof over my head a kid and love and mostly support and the "usual" stuff. But my armchair diagnosis is that she has anxiety and it's always ruled her relationships. As a result I've never felt very "mothered" but I have felt that she does nothing but fret and worry, and as a result I don't really tell her much of anything personal. I've tried to say "When you do (or say) X to me, I feel Y." But she just gets upset, starts crying, and says I'm an unappreciative daughter and that I'll never understand because I'm not a mother (I'm in my 40s and do not have kids). I have literally had (skin) cancer several times (early-stage, not a big deal medically) but not told her because there's no point - she is not supportive or helpful and only adds to my stress during already stressful times. I was separated for a time and asked my sister to tell her because I couldn't deal. My mom's first response to the news was to yell at my sister about not being told sooner. Not asking how I was doing or where I was living. Anyway, do you think it's worth it to try again with the "When you say X, I feel Y, because that would mean I'm a bad person/daughter/wife/daughter-in-law..." conversation? I've given up on wishing for a mother who puts my emotional needs first in crisis situations, but it would be nice to have a peer or adult relationship with her at this point. Thanks for any advice you have.

I am sorry.

There is no shortage of parents out there whose own human baggage gets in the way, day in and day out, of their being a freely loving and supportive presence in their children's lives. Some of them can get motivated to change; for others, it's a bridge too far. I'm afraid that after 4 decades, her anxious perspective is so central to her being that she might have a hard time altering it, but that certainly doesn't mean that you can't continue to try to have those conversations. It could click someday-- I've seen it. Of course, I've also seen nothing change. But continuing to have the conversation-- even in absence of change-- has other benefits as well, as it puts you on record already of having preferred different ways of communicating. So it helps explain your behavior, and removes a bit of ammo about her being shocked or not understanding when you choose to withhold certain news from her. It also lets you know that you're doing everything you can. Where you draw the line of stopping trying can be your choice alone. Good luck!

Sometimes it's just fun and harmless even if you're in a relationship. I have a beyond happily married male friend who flirts with me all the time, online and IRL, and he and his wife both call me his "internet girlfriend". I'm sure if he were the least bit serious about it, I'd be completely skeeved out, but he's not, so we all have fun with it.

Yes, but I'm guessing it's a continuum, no? There's a point that things go from harmless to "Uh-oh." I am imagining this point is different for different people, though.....

Sometimes when something bad happens at work, or on the news, etc., I show my emotion and anger in front of my spouse at home. (Who isn't mad that 17 students were just killed?) Unfortunately, my spouse does not like me showing any anger at all. I have tried to explain that I am not mad at him/her, I am mad at the situation. He/she replies that he/she still feels uncomfortable seeing me like this. How do I fix this situation without becoming a soulless robot?

I'm truly curious how long this has been going on for. Has your spouse always been like this? How long have you been together? It's possible that your spouse is going through stuff that makes them even more sensitive to any emotional highs and lows on your part-- and that should be checked out. (Depression? Anxiety? High stress?) It's also possible that there's something in your dynamic that makes your intense emotions feel threatening to your spouse. But it's also possible that they are setting up a totally untenable and unsupportive way to be within a marriage: let's face it, signing on to a partner for life is pretty much an agreement to push through discomfort when your spouse needs you to, no? So I'm really trying to figure out what's going on here and how and why it could ever be deemed acceptable to cut off (what I see as) basic emotional expression about world events. Might there be more here? Care to elaborate?

(In response to a comment from last week's chat.)

Dear Parent, I've been/am there. I know your sadness. Of course you are sad and distracted, someone you love is hurting! Knowing my child has a plan in place for their development helped. A team of psychiatrist, a therapist, and a support group run by the college counseling center helped them to help themselves. But…what helped me most is a parent support group. For my self-reliant co-parent, It was sanity-saving. There are other parents out there who, like us, are dealing with life-or-death issues on a daily basis. NAMI has some in some areas, and also education programs, but in my area, they only met once a month. And we have daily challenges. Fortunately, a local teens and families therapy center has some pretty intensive programs. They've found whole-family involvement works, and do family counseling, and provide family support group several times a week. Our teens don't have to be going there for us to participate in support groups. Parents help parents with daily issues, listen, really listen, to each other, exchange tips, and help each other not get quite so wound up. Exchanging phone numbers--and calling or texting--helps. We commiserate, but also share the little successes: "Kid left the house by themselves today!" "Kid cleaned their room unprompted!" Kid sent in college applications!" "Kid went to school everyday this week!" "Kid ate a healthy-ish meal!" Can't find a support group? Talk to kid's school or treatment team to see if they'll help start one. Other parents have done that. It also helps me to do some more self care, weekly yoga, daily walks, if only for 5 minutes, good sleep, eating healthy, therapy. Therapy helped me find, establish, and enforce boundaries. It also made it more clear to me that I did not cause my child's issues, and I cannot solve them. Talking openly with my friends, and getting their support, helped too. Some of them have kids in the same boat, and were hiding as well. Getting healthier myself has helped my kid, too. They see me self-care, they are more open about what they need for self-care. They do more self-care. They run in to my boundaries, they figure out a healthier way to deal than relying on me, and find a solution that works for them. Parent, I hope this helps. Take care of yourself, and wishes and light to you and your kids. (note to Dr Andrea: don't use my name please. And thanks for the thoughtful columns.) (note to your tech guy -- I never see comments on this page, but I do on Hax. I usually don't read live, however. Also, can you add a button or note for writing in? I couldn't find it, but I'm rushing. Thanks!

Note from the tech GIRL: Comments do appear on this page, but only when the chat is over. They'll be all the way at the very bottom, so please feel free to add any additional thoughts there! Otherwise, submitting a question the way you just did, using the "Submit" button, is the best way to get an answer from Dr. Andrea. Now, I'll let the real Dr. respond to your comment. - Zainab

Thanks so much for this. Support groups are an excellent suggestion. It really is a testament to the beauty of other human beings-- both formally in groups and in friendships you already have-- that they can be so helpful. It can be pretty amazing. Many good vibes for a smooth road ahead as you continue on this path.

My boyfriend of almost 3 years, ended our relationship without giving me a reason other than he wanted to be alone. I’ve tried getting in touch with him but all he does is push me away. I don’t know what to do anymore!!! Should I just give up?

It really depends on what you want for yourself. There could be any number of things going on with him-- from treatable, temporary things to long-term incompatibility with you and a rather poor way of making that clear. I am sorry. But how high a price-- and for how long-- are you willing to pay in order to try to get something back that might not have been good for you in the first place, and that he might not even be capable of giving? 

If all it takes to break one's vows is a little attention from a flirting co-worker, the marriage was already over.

Sure, I can go for that. But I also think this line of reasoning can get a little slippery. ("If all it takes is my putting constant platters of fudge on that person's counter to make them slip up and eat some, then they don't really WANT to eat healthy in the first place.....") 

I am currently in the process of ending a 40+ year old friendship. I'm not saying one-upping is necessarily grounds for the LW to cut off the friend, but longevity is not a reason to maintain a friendship.

This is a very good point; thanks. Hey, good luck on that breakup-- I know it's not easy.

I starting reading and felt like I could have easily written that letter. However, I did decide to draw my line and quit engaging beyond pleasantries and small talk about the weather. In addition to the crying and accusations, whenever I tried the "I feel X" construction, my mother's immediate reply was always "No you don't." There was no way forward or having a productive conversation with someone who denies someone else's feelings because they are foreign to her or dares call her to account (which no one is allowed to do due to her "rank" as the parent vs child). Good luck to the OP, but don't hold your breath and go about your life with a clear conscience.

Ugh-- I wish the news were better for you. But I fear that in a lot of cases, this is how it turns out. I really appreciate your writing in. Good for you for accepting the limits of what you've been dealt, and finding a way forward through it.

So, as for today's column, does anyone have an opinion on how to bridge the gap between a spouse who wants no sharing of kid photos on social media, versus a spouse who lives for it? Which side do you fall on, and why? I'm guessing there are people with experience on here.....

Hi Dr. A. I recently "discovered" your columns. I read back several years while curling was on! That was a saving grace for such a mind numbing game. I really don't have any troubles or problems to write you about. My wife of 44 years and I had just retired last month and moved. Everything was turning up roses. Until last Wednesday when my wife was diagnosed with cancer--again! Monkey wrench in life for sure. But we will survive--again. Just a pretty medium sized mountain on this long bumpy road of life. My point is this: there is a mountain ahead of us. We know the valley we want to go to is at the other side of this mountain. So we will climb and struggle till we are at the top. We have had other mountains in our life. Sometimes we could not get to the top. Or even see the top of the mountain, it was so impossible. In that case, we took a right turn, went east rather than north. Changed our life. Not an easy thing to do and sometimes there is not a clear path when we made that turn. Nor did we know when we arrived at the next valley. We may have despaired and anguished for a while. But we kept moving in one direction or another. Sometimes there is no answer to a problem. Sometimes acceptance is the only answer. But somewhere there is another valley, maybe not as green and large but a valley you can find a life in.


I should add that this cancer will require much more extensive surgery. So we will not be going over the same mountain to the north. This will take us east to a new valley, not as green and lush as before. Definitely a life changer. But we will accept and survive!

I really appreciate this perspective, and I thank you for it. (You seem like someone who would be particularly good to drink tea with.) I wish you and your wife all the best with her newest diagnosis, and really commend you for the way you are looking at things. Godspeed!

I am a nurse and I work at a clinic in DC. Many of my male patients are very “affectionate”, which I take as a sign of appreciation (questionable), but it has started making me feel uncomfortable. One day, I felt my client’s hands closer to my lower back while he was giving me a hug. On another occasion, I had a patient give me a kiss in my upper arm, and yesterday someone gave me a side hug, and felt up my left side, a little too close to my breast. I do not know how to tell them I hate what they do. Sometimes I think I need to have a flat affect, so that others will not cross the line with me.

I don't even think it's a matter of telling them you "hate" this-- it's a matter of giving yourself permission to stop it right away, in the moment. It doesn't need to be personal, or about them: you most definitely have the right to say, "That's not appropriate," or decide even to cut things off at the pass with, "I appreciate your gratitude! I don't hug my patients." I understand how tricky it can be when there is good will flowing, and I know it's not black and white, but I also worry that some of these patients may be taking advantage of that good will. Might you talk to colleagues about how they handle this? Perhaps they have some stock phrases-- or things they do with their bodies-- to ward this off.


'I show my emotion and anger in front of my spouse at home.' What does this mean? There's vast difference in how people show anger. I have to say, I can have a tone that is far more angry and cutting that I think it is - it's something n Have to work on. also, intense, sustained anger is hard to handle - no matter where it's directed, it's out there in the home. He might very well be unsupportive as Andrea says - but it's worth looking at how you show your anger and how long you vent about something at work.

This is a great point. Yes, I am really curious what the spouse is actually responding to here. There might be a history of feeling very uncomfortable with the OP's anger and for good reason. OP, are you out there?

Thanks for this!

Flirting can sometimes be entirely in the receiver's imagination. I recall being tagged with the scarlet A regarding a married male colleague. I didn't think I was flirting, as I was joking the same with him as I was with my female colleagues. But in that office, telling a joke to an opposite sex coworker was considered flirting.

Oof! I will take you at your word here, and it sounds terrible. I am sorry.

Definitely can be in the eye of the beholder-- in either direction. Thanks.

If Husband wishes to share his joy with his community - perhaps Wife could be happy with a closed family blog type thing? Though not perfectly safe, she could investigate secure ones. This is much less like 'creating the child's online presence for them' and more like that kind of thing people did with family letters.

A possible compromise! This is great. Thank you.

You really have to watch how often you get angry. In my own past experience, my partner would get angry at what seemed random times (since I don't see the triggers or get warnings) several times a week. Then I was always on edge. I never knew if I was coming home to a happy partner or an angry one, or if they would get angry in the middle of a perfectly peaceful evening, because they saw something on TV. None of the anger was directed at me, but I was constantly on edge, never knowing when/if they would explode. It was so draining. I never knew if I would get a peaceful environment I need to recharge or it would be another of anger episode.

This sounds really difficult. Yeah, living in constant threat of explosions is the exact way that people's stress responses can go through the roof, and it really takes an incredible toll on physical and mental health and puts people at serious risk for depression and anxiety. I am assuming/hoping that your situation is better now. Thanks for this take, which is an important one.

I throw large parties (100+). There is one couple I invite because, well, I pity them. They don't seem to have many friends and live very close by. I think the reason they are friend-challenged is two fold. The wife has some mental health issues and does not get out much (she usually does not come). The husband, who is a nice man, is a WAY over sharer. Seriously, he won't stop talking about the most TMI subjects. Also, he does not register social cues and doesn't see when people are just squirming. The response to the recent invitation alone was three paragraphs. My question: how to I manage this person at my party? I want to make sure no other guest is monopolized, but I can't be everywhere with that many guests. And I can only listen to so much. Ideas?

There are limits to your role as host, for sure. It's probably unrealistic that you prevent any single guest from being monopolized by this person, but there is also something to be said for your guests being grown-ups (I assume?) and having to bear some of that burden alone. So, you can keep an eye on this guy with special care-- like whether or not the dip platter needs to be replaced-- but let yourself off the hook from considering yourself his constant babysitter. When he tries to monopolize your own time, of course, you have the best excuse of all, as you are the host, and that dip platter really does need replacing.

(Can I say, though-- I think it's a good thing that you keep inviting him. He probably has a lot of challenges to deal with-- and this may be bringing him more joy than you realize.)

Anyone else deal with a frequent guest that needs a bit of guidance?

I think your advice is good. Marriage is about compromise (I've found). I don't have a baby, but do have a dog I loooove to post pics of on Instagram. Our compromise is my name isn't freely available on the account and the pics are only of the dog, our faces are cropped out.

Thanks! Compromise (when possible) is definitely the name of the game.

Yes, pet pictures are a whole other arena! (Admittedly, I wouldn't have really looked twice until Monsignor Buster entered my life.)

I say "sorry I'm not a hugger" and take a small step back. This tends to surprise people, but it also works. No one has ever got mad at me for it.

Simple and to the point. I like it!

I enjoy a good flirt (I'm married) - and am good at telling where it's just a bit of fun. I would back off if I was wrong of the vibe changed. I'm British and I think Europeans are more apt to have a 'safe flirt' than Americans. I don't think it's something American do very much, if at all - so flirting when you or flirtee are in a committed relationship is dangerous.

Cultural differences-- a whole other angle!! This is interesting. So I wonder if the different perspectives can lead to some ugly misunderstandings.


Does that mean you don't express it at work, with other people, etc., you just save it for when you come home? That would mean you can control when you express it, correct? Maybe stop off at the gym on the way home to flush that angry energy out of your system instead of dumping it on your spouse would be a better way to handle it.

This is an important consideration, thanks. I also think-- at the risk of having terribly ungraceful terminology-- we're not anywhere near sure of the size of the "dumping."

Hi Andrea. I'm really hoping you can answer my question; I told my husband I wanted to get advice from someone objective, so I'm hoping you can be that person! In law school, this girl ("A") was the classic mean girl. Spoke about me behind my back, ignored me even when she was talking to the girl right next to me, etc. I forgave and forgave every time she was ready to be nice but then she would turn around and do the same thing again. She was part of the reason (though not the main reason) why I became depressed and started anti-depressants. It's a few years post law school so we are in our late 20's and I resolved to just stay away from her, which was easy enough. But now we're back in the same city again. I started playing softball with my husband with this team of "free agents" and we all became friendly. Then one of the free agents said "hey! I play this other sport with "A"!" Now the free agents want to play softball again in the spring, this time with "A." Ugh. I want to just not play because I can see her doing the exact same mean girl thing except now with everyone on the softball team. But, my husband and I actually enjoy the softball team and playing. I feel like either way it's a lose-lose. My husband knows her history and is ok with whatever I choose. Can you please provide insight?

Here's the good news-- you get to decide whether you want to give her another chance or not. You also get to decide how long that chance lasts, or whether you decide to play softball and treat her as a non-entity (still civil, of course, but basically pretending that you have no more connection to her-- past, present, or future-- than you do the umpire.) Do you WANT to play in the games? Is it worth it to you? If it were me, I'd give it a try or two, but admittedly part of it would be to see her strike out. And of course that isn't a particularly fabulous building block of team spirit.

I think it depends on what he's trying to accomplish? Show kid photos to his family? get a corporate retweet? If the former, maybe she could live with these rules: 1. He posts under a username, not his real name (e.g., prouddad1492) 2. Kids are never identified by name, team, school, etc. 3. Account is private and followers must be people he knows IRL 4. No hashtags or other links 5. kids are always fully clothed 6. kids are in public areas (outside or and not their rooms, your room, etc., kitchen, etc. would be ok) 7. Photos are not intentionally embarrassing 8. Once the kids are old enough, they get to decide which pics are posted

Some helpful specifics to consider; thanks! Yup, I think the more he can figure out exactly his motivations for doing it, the better they can work toward a solution that won't be unsatisfying for him.

There's also a difference between smiling and batting your eyelashes at the bartender making your drink, and doing the same with a coworker you see everyday.

Is there ever! (Found it out the hard way. Kidding!)

im surprised how many people are responding with "solutions" on how to "compromise" about posting to social media. I read this issue as about trust and honesty, not the actual ACT of posting photos online. It sounds like husband was looking for a loophole to get around his wife's wishes instead of talking to her. so... trust, honesty, AND communication issues are at hand here, right? Who cares if it's about social media or something else...

Yes, yes, yes. I think we can decide to be generous about the husband's duplicity-- viewing it as a lapse in judgment that represented that he was having trouble buying into her viewpoint-- or we can view it as by far the most troubling part of this whole thing! I am hanging out with you toward that latter camp. It was something I wanted to elaborate more on, but alas, that finicky word count....

I work in a (male) prison where the offenders are not allowed to touch staff. Sometimes, an offender might try, and I just say, "you're not allowed to touch staff" or "it's against the rules to touch staff." I'm sure there's a way to adapt that to a different (less restrictive) setting. I typically say it in neutral tone with a flat affect, and I've never had a problem before!

Yes. This is helpful! I'm guessing that the clinic/hospital even may already have a standard policy on dealing with this.

There's some idea and thought that venting (say about something that happened at work) can stoke the flames of your anger and get you all riled up again. It's one thing if you're looking to check your perspective or to get it off your chest - but check that what you're saying is not getting you all hot under the collar again!

Yup, this is so true-- I appreciate it. I think the consensus has definitely come to view venting as a continuum (I know, I know, I view everything as a continuum.) There's a point at which expressing and acknowledging your emotions is absolutely crucial, and there's a point at which-- perhaps in the 47th, more intensified reiteration of them-- you are keeping yourself agitated.

Hi Dr. Bonior, My daughter was "legally kidnapped" from me when I was overseas in the military. My now ex-husband filed for divorce under "abandonment" and rolled custody of my daughter, who was 7 at the time into the court order. I finally won visitation after 7 years of no contact with her. (My ex remarried and decided no contact of any kind was best). What should I tell her at our first meeting? Alien Mom of Estranged Daughter

Wow, this must have been unimaginably difficult. I am so sorry. But also so glad that you are on a path to building a relationship.

There are no magic words here. And in fact, I would say that your ability to listen is even more important than what you say. First, you've got to set your expectations realistically. You may go on to build something beautiful, but it will likely take time, and you have no idea what you're up against. There may be all kinds of feelings that your daughter is struggling with, that may go back a long time. Have a simple message that you want to make sure that you don't leave the meeting without expressing: the indelibility of your love for her, your hopes for the future, how hard you want to build to work on something,..... whatever feels most pressing to you. And then devote a lot of time to just being open. Open to her expressions, her body language, her nuance, her story. Your goal is to convey that you want to be there for her and love her, but it must be at least as much on her terms (if not more) as your terms, at least for now. My heart goes out to you!

Any chatters deal with a long involuntary estrangement from their child?

My friend is bipolar/BPD; meaning she has had episodes of hearing voices and assuming another personality while hospitalized after voluntarily committing herself for a few weeks when her voice was telling her to commit suicide and she felt herself being compelled to listen. Months after being released, she stopped her meds(lithium, lamictal) and was going down a path of heavy marijuana use and moderate drinking. She continues this behavior and claims the marijuana helps in place of the previous regiment she was on. Because it's hard to visually tell if someone is psychotic, or otherwise mentally compromised, are her kids safe to remain under her care. Her ex-husband is a great father, steadily employed, very dependable; and provides as often as possible for his daughter(7y.o.). But i don't know if he has any grounds for petitioning for primary custody of his daughter. Is there anything to worry about when it comes to my friends ability to care for the kids(my friend has one other child which was a result of her manic episode she experienced while married), and they should continue to co-parent equally? Or does the ex-husband have valid concerns that his child is in danger as long as the mother is unmedicated? My friend confides these things in me; and my husband an I have remained close to the ex-husband as he has dealt with alot through this ordeal.

I have mixed feelings on this. But first I think I need to know: what does the ex-husband think? Does HE think he has grounds to get primary custody? Has HE expressed concerns? You are in a difficult place between them here. And I don't think there are absolutes here: is she under the influence when she cares for the kids, or just when they are away? Is she truly getting treatment and managing her condition, or is she just telling therapists and doctors what she thinks they want to hear? Have YOU seen her ever be unsafe while she is with her kids? There is no doubt a lot to be concerned about here, but some of it is hypothetical-- and I think what her ex-husband thinks about the situation is a primary starting point.

When do you recommend is a good time to start addressing these things with your kids? We have three, and I regularly talk to the oldest about them (he's 11), but the other two are 6 and 9 and I 'm not sure how much they are hearing from friends and I don't want to unnecessarily scare them.

Ugh. There's just no answer to this that isn't horribly sad, is there?

I think it really should involve following their lead, but being vigilant and open to the idea that they are likely hearing more than you assume. Do they see things in the background at TV? Do they have friends with older siblings where this information has trickled down? Is there talk on the bus-- that one-stop shop of hearing things you shouldn't-- that you aren't aware of? Might you talk with some of the parents of their friends and classmates to get an idea of what those friends are hearing and talking about?

I think it's safe to assume the 9 year-old is likely hearing something. The 6 year-old maybe not, depending on the grade. Good luck!

Self promoter, much?

I don't know-- should I also be talking about how white my teeth are today? I can try if you'd like!

We both have lots of stress (my job, spouse's status in the country), but none of it is directed at each other, so I didn't understand why my spouse should be upset with me. Your other poster woke me up with this comment. "It was so draining. I never knew if I would get a peaceful environment I need to recharge or it would be another of anger episode." Thanks.

I am glad that that other poster's comment was helpful! Sounds like you might have a new way to think about things, to help bridge this gap between him and you. That is a good thing for sure!

My wife has an interesting relationship with her mother. There is a sense that her mother is in competition with my wife. For example, each time we upgrade or purchase something for our home, her mother will do the same type of upgrade, but takes it a step or two higher. When we purchased a new washer and dryer set, her mother purchased a set a month later that is literally too big for their wash room, just to show she can buy bigger and better. We upgraded our powder room, and her mother upgraded hers subsequently, even though she had recently upgraded her powder room a year prior. There are other examples of this. My wife continues to say that she feels her mother treats the two of them differently, but she doesn’t see anything changing. I try to tell my wife that she should simply accept it as it is and move on. She says she wants to do that, but she keeps going back and talking about the unfair treatment between her and her brother. She feels her brother is clearly her mother’s favorite child. She cites the fact that her mother praises everything her brother and girlfriend to, yet finds ways to pick at things she and I do and nothing my wife does seems to please her mother (in my wife’s eyes). Her mother buys many things her brother has, did the landscaping for his home, babysits his daughter at every opportunity (even though she complains about it to my wife afterwards), and has made comments that my wife and I never let her be a grandmother, but her brother has. I think part of the problem is that she is too frequent contact with her mother (they talk on the phone several times a day) and that her mother likes being in control. Her brother always has his hand out and thus her mother can fill his hand and thus control what is going on with him. What can I do to continue to encourage her to move on? I think that is the only way my wife can be at peace with this.

The way I see it, the constant contact with her Mom is fanning the flames. She must be getting something out of it, so at this moment at least, she is accepting the way things are, by continuing the positive reinforcement of initiating (or at the very least not stopping) these interactions. Hey, she's having her arsenic-riddled cake and eating it too!

Which actually makes me wonder if she really wants things to change, or if this pattern is so familiar to her that it feels comfortable in some way. I don't think she can get "peace" with this on the terms as they are now, since her mother has no motivation whatsoever to change, right?

(Note to my loved ones: if I ever buy a huge washer dryer that doesn't fit in my space just to show that I CAN, feel free to cut off my credit cards and initiate the power of attorney process.)

Sure, but shouldn't we also be talking about how OP set a hard-and-fast limit on her partner's behavior that he(?) clearly disagreed with, refusing to consider his opinion or compromise as an option?

It's a good question. But I didn't necessarily get the vibe that she said it and expected him to follow it unilaterally. It did sound like she felt like he was coming around to her way of thinking. Now, how much duress he was under.... that is a good question.

This sounds less like a decision they made together and more like a decision mom made and forced on dad. He shouldn't have gone behind her back but she can't have 100% of the say in the matter either. They are both the parents of the child.

Yup, there remains a mystery of how much he was forced to follow this edict. At the very least, we know he was not truly on board, whether he claimed to be or not. Thanks.

I responded that way, because I felt like I was asked to address this particular aspect - not the problem with 'loophole', although that is the biggest issue.


Dr. Andrea Bonior So, as for today's column, does anyone have an opinion on how to bridge the gap between a spouse who wants no sharing of kid photos on social media, versus a spouse who lives for it? Which side do you fall on, and why? I'm guessing there are people with experience on here.....

Yes, I definitely asked for it!! You are absolutely right. I think the need for compromise applies to a much bigger swath of people than the specific loophole/deception part, so that's what we were looking for.

Do you know someone who can tell you about Daughter's interests so you can bone up on them and have something to talk about that she's enthusiastic about? Can you start contact now - email, Skype ... before you actually see her? The sooner you can lay the groundwork the better. Do you know what your ex has been telling her about you as that will affect the way she sees you. You will probably have to take it slowly - and take your cues from her.

This is a great suggestion-- the possibility of recon beforehand. I agree so very much about going slowly and taking cues from her. Thanks.

I'm that wife. My husband and I share a baby girl, and he and his ex-wife share a 7 year old boy. They literally posted anything and everything on social media with them and their son. I told my husband since I was pregnant that I was a no go on having our daughter on social media at all. He'd love to post her, but I don't, so in this case the don'ts win. I explained that owning her own identity online will be a gift to her. Not exposing her image to the world doesn't hurt us, the people who love us, and it especially doesn't hurt her. It protects her. Strangers don't know her name, where we live with her, what she looks like, etc. Spammers can't steal her image an use it for anything nefarious (and the dark web for images like hers is a sad and horrifying place). I also don't allow embroidery with our kids names on their bags, clothes, etc. It's just too easy to put images, posts, and tidbits of information together online. Honestly, I'm probably paranoid, but I'll go to the ends of the earth to protect my kids. No one is missing out by my child not being on facebook. The people I want to share pictures of her with I already do. Everyone else can ask.

You lay out the argument beautifully. I'm really curious, though, how he has adjusted to it-- especially given the added wrinkle of his having traveled this road before with a different co-parent. May not have time to post as we wrap up today, but could use it in next week's chat.

I'd say this has been a fabulous chat, but my teeth (it must be the baking soda!) and I have apparently done enough self-promotion for today. I appreciate you all being here so much! Can't wait to see you next week, in the column comments, and on Facebook (and in the comments here, thanks to Zainab's tip!) in the meantime.  Have a great week!

In This Chat
Dr. Andrea Bonior
Dr. Andrea Bonior is a licensed clinical psychologist and the voice behind Baggage Check since its start in 2005. She serves on the faculty of Georgetown University and is the author of the Publisher's Weekly best-seller "Psychology: Essential Thinkers, Classic Theories, and How They Inform Your World" and "The Friendship Fix.”
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