Baggage Check Live: Would you say that to "The Rock"?

Aug 28, 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.

Want to read more? Read Baggage Check columns.

Follow Dr. Andrea on Facebook here.

Hi, everyone! It's so great to have you here.

What's going on for you this week? How are all the DC-ers handling the sauna outside?

Today's column-- wowzers. I'm sure we won't have ANY opinions at all on the person who prefers to be with unavailable guys.  

And LW2 is constantly watching their teenage son be lovingly teased by LW's sister. What's a Mama Bear to do?

Bring it on!

For the woman who loves being the other woman. All I can say is WOW! But that creme of life that you are enjoying now is fattening in many ways. It will also run out at sometime in your life and you will have nothing.

It definitely comes with a price to be paid off later on. Thanks!

The only way she derives pleasure from a relationship is if someone else is harmed? Oddly enough, she's the only one who is hurt by this and I think she knows that. I believe that's why she wrote in.

Well, I'd argue she is not the only one being hurt by this-- not that the guys don't have culpability too-- but I completely agree that she knows on some level this is not good for even her.

My oldest child is in 4th grade and currently spends about an hour in her school's aftercare program before being picked up. Aftercare will only be an option through 5th grade so we are starting to consider when and how to transition her to coming straight home. We've done trial runs of leaving her home alone for short periods (say 20 minutes) and she gets anxious. Do you have any suggestions on how we can build her confidence so that we can overcome this?

This is a common issue-- in fact I may have even had my own focus group of 3rd, 5th, and 7th graders just now who gave their own opinions about the relatability of this-- and so the first thing is to not make your daughter feel like she is wrong to feeling this way. It's a perfect opportunity for the growth mindset (done right) over fixed mindset-- help your daughter conceptualize this as a skill to be built up, like a muscle. That it really will get better with practice. That's how practice works.

And the practice will be more effective if it can be targeted toward exactly what she's anxious about. Houses simply sound different when a parent is not home. Is that part of it? Are intruders a worry? Is she concerned about fires or not knowing what to do if someone comes to the door? Is she lonely? Bored? All of these things can be targeted in specific ways to keep her from sitting in silence, over-focusing on the creaks she hears upstairs. Maybe you can rehearse certain situations that she feels anxious about-- a knock on the door, the land line ringing, the sound of a siren outside, issues with your pet (if applicable.) There could be a very clear Plan A, B, and C if emergencies happen-- in addition to calling on a trusted neighbor if need be.

She can also start to identify how she feels the anxiety within her body, and work with that. Belly breathing, a glitter jar for mindfulness, some yoga moves-- different kids respond to different things, but the more they can identify how the sensations of anxiety affect them in particular, the more we can help them come up with a plan to target them-- behaviorally, cognitively, and physically.

Finally, maybe consider that 20 minutes is a little too long for now. Can you build up to it a bit more gradually (giving her the opportunity to have little triumphs to start her off, like 8 minutes at a time)? That beats re-conditioning her to be anxious each time, making her think she "failed."


Really? How on earth is she the only one hurt by her behaviour?

I would enjoy more elaboration on that as well... though perhaps OP is thinking "If these dudes are prone to cheating, then they'd just find someone else anyway." Which I don't necessarily buy, but.... OP?

Yes, I think the LW is seeing a glimmer of how she is hurting herself. But more to the point, she is also hurting the family of the man is is seeing. The family may not realized it in real time but the guy's resources are being used elsewhere. Whether it is time or money or emotions, she is usurping what rightfully belongs to the family.

For sure.

And I know I'll hear from plenty of people who say it's the guy's fault too. Of course it is. But that doesn't mean LW isn't contributing to the pain.

Some instances of sexual harassment are so blatant that any reasonable person can recognize them for that. But where does our society draw the line between a mere amorous pass and harassment? The line seems unclear in some of the cases I've read about in the news lately.

It's an interesting conversation, and I think context matters immensely.

An amorous pass at a bar may not be inappropriate. An amorous pass at a board meeting may very well be.

It also comes down to respect. Do you respect a person enough to not make assumptions about the their being comfortable with something in the gray area? People's comfort levels with this type of stuff are on a bell curve. Even if we are unable to draw an exact line between appropriate and inappropriate, why is it so hard just to err on the side of assuming that the person we're dealing with is on the end of the spectrum that is not okay with something like this? Why take the risk? Why default to assuming that it would be a-okay?

People can make mistakes, for sure. But they should learn from them. I think some of the cases we are hearing about, the problem is that that is not anywhere near happening.

(In response to today's column.)

I think part of the problem is that the son doesn't know how to stand up for himself without being rude to 'an adult' - how could he? He needs role playing and to develop some scripts - with mom hopefully. This will give him experience and the trill of agency. My mother did this with me all the time growing up from a. making information seeking phone calls - like phoning Paddington Station to ask for train times (1970s - main way to get info) to b. working though something like being 'teased'. It made a huge difference. Not only did I have tools and things to say in my back pocket - I had already 'used' them in the role playing. Admittedly, my mother is very good with people so it came naturally to her - but this would be very helpful for the poor kid.

This is a great point-- love the role-playing-- and a large part of what I was hoping to establish with my answer. It's really a great opportunity for Mom to help guide him toward standing up for himself.

You bring up another point entirely which I've been known to complain about-- one major issue of land lines declining for the sake of cell phones (especially when kids have their own) is that kids no longer have to initiate conversations with adults NEARLY as much. Now either the adults set up playdates or kids text each other. Long gone are the days of the daily "Hi, Mrs. Smith, is Sarah there?" phone calls. And it's really a shame because kids need all the opportunities they can to get used to speaking up to adults-- including standing up for themselves-- in respectful and appropriate ways.

Kids these days. Get off my lawn!!!

You know there is a fine line between teasing and bullying and the sister may be crossing it. If the bulk of conversation is 'teasing' about every aspect of the kid's life then the kid probably feels bullied. The outcome is he will never want to be around the aunt. Why can't the sister take a interest in the son, have a pleasant conversation about what is going on without having to get in a 'dig' every sentence?

Yup-- I'm hoping LW can guide her sister into taking that path. She is sabotaging herself and her relationship with her nephew without even realizing it!


Try making that time when she's alone "special" in some way. For ours, they are normally pretty restricted with screen time, but if we have to leave them alone for short periods of time they are allowed (actually encouraged) to watch TV or a movie. It actually helps our anxiety a little bit, because the possibility of them hurting themselves or doing something dangerous is lessened if I know they aren't being active monkeys in the house.

Totally. Great idea.

Coincidentally, that also works well when you are still IN the home but, say, have a live online chat you need to attend to.

I think that going from never being at home alone except for the odd 15-20 mins to home alone for at least an hour five days a week is a huge leap. Do you think that's part of the problem - it would have been for me. Can you find some things for her to do after school for a one or two days a week to break it up? Can she have a once a week standing date at a schoolfriend's house? Can she go to some sort of activity - piano lesson, ballet, track one day a week. I think this might make a difference.

Oh, good point, for sure. I was assuming that when middle school rolls around that they'll find a way to have at least some of that time be filled with activities. Luckily they've got a bit of time, though.

Doesn't the letter say the child is in fourth grade and aftercare is available through fifth? So she won't need to be home alone after school until sixth grade? That's -two years- from now! I'm sure she will do a lot of growing up between now and then. She'll be in middle school; she'll be horrified at the thought of day care or a babysitter. I mean, I started -smoking- at that age! (which, actually, would be a pretty good reason -not- to leave her to her own devices at home, but the point is she'll probably be glad to have the house to herself at that age. Don't push it now.

I can see this perspective, though I do think SOME progressive buildup is necessary. Because we can't assume that age alone will mean that her anxiety goes away... and it might be way more anxiety-producing for parents and child to have her needing to stay home out of desperate necessity and no other options compared to practicing now when they can decide to put the breaks on for a while if it doesn't work out.

Laughing here that maybe if she gets too anxious, she can have a cigarette to relax!! (Kidding, kidding, kidding!)

I didn't change my last name when I married, largely because I did so during my first marriage (my ex really wanted me to) and I sorely regretted it. I felt homesick for my identity, I hated the hassle, I felt erased. A few years into the marriage, my ex told me he'd made a mistake pushing me about my name, and offered to help me change it back (we divorced instead, but I still appreciate the gesture). So, years later, I told my now-husband when we got engaged that I would not be changing my name and why, and he seemed fine with it. Except once or twice a year, when we're hanging out with friends, he randomly pouts about it. "Oh, well, you respected your first husband enough to change your name..." in this jokey-but-sulky way. It drives me up the freaking wall - I've never told him what name he has to use, nor should he have the same say over my name. I usually change the subject to avoid awkwardness, but it grates. If I bring it up, he says he was only kidding.

This is interesting-- that it comes up only when he is around friends? I find that part telling.

I think it's time for my "I statement" backup singers. Tell him that you know that he thinks he is joking, but it has X affect on you. That you're not sure why he still does it because it grates on you and you're not sure if he really understands that or not. That it might seem silly and jokey to him, but that for you it is a weighty subject. If you're lucky, you can maybe get him to explore why he is prone to doing this.... is he feeling insecure among friends? Is there some general dynamic there within those gatherings where people rag on their spouses? (Umm... not fun!) 

The key here is framing this clearly- its effect on you, getting him to empathize that sometimes what seems a small deal to one person is a big deal to another, and part of marriage is knowing when to listen to that difference and make changes accordingly.

Because men are taught that a no is the woman being coy and women read literature where they are pursued and say no until the find out that they really want to say yes so the absorb that model. This really muddies the water. I remember reading somewhere a guy talking to his teenage son who liked a girl in his class and wanted to ask her out. When he did, she said no thanks - politely. The father said - so what are you going to do next? The boy said - ask her again. The father said - no, don't do that leave it open and up to her. But 'the girl is being coy and the boy just needs to preserve to win her heart' is pervasive in our society and our literature. And it affects men and women.

Ugh, ugh, ugh. There is so much truth in this, awful as it is.

We are responsible as parents for not perpetuating this narrative into the next generation. It is crucial, if we want ever to change things. And yet we have a very steep hill to climb, as pervasive as this mindset is in books, movies, beer commercials, etc.... and as implicitly ingrained as it is in so many of us already, without our even realizing it.

But yeah, you are so right.

A good rule of thumb is if it's in any kind of work setting (in the office, or at a work event like an office party or even if a bunch of co-workers go to a happy hour together) it's harassment. You should treat a female co-worker exactly as you would a male coworker, and vice versa. People should never have to worry about being "hit on" by someone they work with.

Yes, thank you. I like this.

I saw someone say not long ago that for a guy on the fence about saying something to a woman at work, ask himself whether he would be okay with another man saying it to him in a prison environment! Now that might be the kind of metric we can use!

When I said "Only One", I meant her attitude of seeking married men. It's not good for her in addition to the harm spouse/family of who's she cheating with.

Got it. Thanks for the clarification.

"I usually change the subject to avoid awkwardness, but it grates. If I bring it up, he says he was only kidding." This is the textbook definition of gaslighting. I didn't mean what I said; you just misinterpreted it.

Yup. Now if it only happens on this one issue and at that only a couple of times a year, I'm less concerned. But, it's worth considering, OP-- does this occur in other ways?

Hi Dr. Andrea! I am an Atheist living in my family's Catholic household. It has caused much tension with my mother since I renounced my faith. Being an Atheist has made me the happiest I have ever been yet my mom believes this is just a"phase"I am going through & will come back to being a Catholic. (I'm not)How do I convince her that despite our different religions, we can get along peacefully?

That's tough. But this might end up boiling down to accepting her lack of acceptance.

She thinks it's just a phase. You know it's not, but can you find a way to accept that that's the lens she looks at it through? And at some point it's not really about you-- it's about her upbringing or her faith or the culture of her religiosity or her fear or the rest of her family or whatever. But the point is that you may almost be giving her views too much power by assuming that they can or will change-- or that they even need to.

So, you convince her that you can live peacefully with each other by modeling that. You don't fight her views; you move past them. She brings it up; you respectfully change the subject. You have a stock answer: "I know you feel that way, but I'm the happiest I've ever been, so I'd rather talk about my job/our pet/this new Instant Pot."

You continue to be the person you are, true to your values, living out your life in ways that show collaboration and love. Over time, she'll either let up or she won't-- but part of this process is accepting that that part is not your responsibility.

Have other chatters dealt with this?

Is there a nice way to respond and cut off the conversation when people (90% of the time other women; sometimes men) comment on the size of my pregnant stomach? I think it comes from a nice place but I truly just don't wish to spend time engaging with them on the size of my stomach every. single. day. Or maybe I don't need a response, I just need a way to not be as annoyed with it!

Well, I think those two things go together. When you come up with a good response, it usually helps cut off the person from annoying you further, and offers some satisfaction in its own right.

Some people use humor; some do some subtle semi-shaming; some simply shift the topic altogether. What style do you think you would lean toward? Then I know we can come up with something!

Chatters, any preliminary responses that worked well for you?

(Having a traumatic flashback here to the day the bank teller said I was "about to pop"-- and yet I was barely halfway along in my pregnancy!)

It's been my observation that a lot of adults don't know how to talk to young people. So they make things all awkward by interrogating young children ("where do you go to school? what's your favorite subject? who is your favorite teacher?" ad nauseam), or, especially with older kids, they resort to teasing. My guess is that the sister hasn't spent much time around kids or teens, so she's being awkward but thinks she's bonding and being the cool, funny aunt. In which case, OP could try saying, "I notice you peck at Son a lot. I'm sure you mean well, but it's kind of uncomfortable. Have you tried just talking with him like he's a fellow adult?"

Exactly. Well said, thanks.

I changed my last name to make my husband happy, not because I really wanted to. We'd had two discussions about it, and he got upset (read: mopey) when I told him I didn't want to change it. I did it on my own accord as a surprise and I completely regret changing it and will be changing back to my maiden name as soon as I get the time (it's a TON) to do all the paperwork. My husband used to make comments (not in front of others), and I asked him: how are we any less married because we don't share the same last name? That might not work in your situation, but worth a try! After I asked that, he understood and has been encouraging me to change it back.

Wow-- he got it! Thanks for this.

OP, might framing it in this way help the conversation?

I have also seen "would you like to walk up to and say that to Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson?" which I find hilarious


Another useful decision rule. Let's empirically validate these questions and make them official psychometric assessment tools!

Why is it not good for her? Don't get me wrong, I disapprove of her behavior, but she's getting what she wants.

For now, yes, but don't you think she's cutting herself off from certain other things that-- while she may be an extreme outlier-- generally help bring satisfaction and meaning to the human experience?

It's like the addict getting what they want in the moment, but ultimately doing themselves a disservice, no?

My 9 year old daughter has a couple of school/neighborhood friends who have formed a "club". My daughter desperately wants to join but the timing of the club meetings is incompatible with our evening schedules. Even if she could make the meetings, I really don't want her involved in this. The organizer expects my daughter to pay dues and to clean up the trash from their meetings until she has a higher status in the club. I know this sort of thing is normal. I just don't like the whole "queen bee" and hierarchy situation. Do you have suggestions for how I explain this to my kid without putting her friends down?

Oof. What's the old saying? "I don't want to belong to a club who will have me as a..... sole dues-payer and trash-picker-upper?"

Yes, this kind of stuff sounds normal at some point. But that doesn't make it unworthy of a conversation-- this could be a big learning opportunity. These kinds of discussions go best when there is less "explaining" and more listening. You can plant the seed of what your daughter can and should expect out of friendship. What is it that appeals to her about the club? How does it feel to want to fit in? Does she think those rules are fair? Would she treat a friend like that? How do you define friendship? What do you do when you want to fit in but aren't necessarily being treated fairly? What are other ways to feel part of something where you are more comfortable, and not running the risk of feeling taken advantage of?

All of these questions can make for some interesting conversations-- which will allow you to hear her perspective. And best of all, it will allow HER to think about what kinds of boundaries she wants to establish for herself, what kind of standards she wants to have within her relationships. Ultimately, she's got to form her own compass in these things. So this type of conversation doesn't have to villainize (a word? I thought so, but my spell-check's not happy) these girls specifically at all, but rather get your daughter to start to wrestle with the types of ways she wants to go about having relationships, and get her thinking about these types of decisions in general. A good thing if there ever was one!

As you said, Andrea, "She brings it up, you move past it." It's the only way. "Taking your sails out of her wind" is another way of expressing it that I love. It puts the ball back in her court.

That's a great expression!! Love it. Thank you.

It makes a difference if the OP is 14 or 24 (or older).

Great question. For some reason I assumed young adult, but that was an assumption I have no right to make (like the fact that clear deodorants won't work.)


A faint unsmiling sigh as you change the subject should make it clear that you're sick of the topic.

Subtle but often effective. Thanks.

I'm six months, and oh, man, the comments. I'm petite and carry small, so I get the "you can't possibly be pregnant, where is your belly" interrogations. My instinct is to be prickly and sarcastic ("Oh crud, I must have left my belly on the bus again!"), because holy cow do I not like to discuss my body. But I also don't feel like going through life elbowing stickybeaks in the face. So I pretend they're being concerned about my well-being, not nosy, and politely say, "I was a bit concerned too, but I checked with my OB and everything is fine. I just carry small."

So glad that has worked for you! For sure, sometimes The Stickybeaks (which may be the name of my next band) can best be redirected by erring on the side of kindness, letting them think they're being helpful.

the word is "vilify" but I like villainize, with its parallel to "demonize."

Yes! I like that vibe better too. It seems like we vilify behavior, whereas we can villainize (there goes spell-check again) people.

The OP sounds a bit young and like an enthusiastic new "convert" to atheism, particularly since he/she is still living in the parents' household. Of course parents want to chalk this up to a rebellious phase, just like goth clothes or purple hair. Having "come out" as an atheist in college, it was easier on me seeing family only a few times a year. My mother's response was "no you're not" and proceeded to act like I never said anything. At first that bothered me, but later I recognized it was her insecurities and her inability to understand that other people have different views and preferences than she does. I would advise the OP just to give things time and not to try to "evangelize" her family and to have some scripts in your back pocket to shut down conversations (I respect your right to believe as you choose, please respect mine.) There is no need to convince family of anything, simply live your life.

I really like this. Not turning it into a debate each time, not feeling the need to convince anyone of anything.

I'm glad things got better for you with this realization. Thanks.

I'm about 20-25 years into quitting the Catholic church. In retrospect, the biggest mistake I made was in trying to convince my mom that I was right and she was wrong. She was no more going to reject her faith than I was going to embrace it so we had years of fights. Yes, it hurts to know that what you feel in your heart gets treated as a youthful phase. I'm now well into my 30s and my mom and I really never talk about this topic. I think we've mutually agreed it's not something we can productively discuss. I can at least tell you she has never harassed me about baptizing my kids which I consider progress.

That is definitely progress. I'm glad for you that it's gotten better in this way.

I really do think with things as ingrained as one's faith, it really does help at some point to let go of the expectation-- on either end-- that the other person's mind can be changed, or even that they can see your side of things in the same way.

Thanks for this.

I just read this book, and identified which "languages" best refill my tank (acts of service combined with occasional gifts and spending time together). So... how to find a guy who fills that tank without dealing with the "submissive" types and milque-toast creeps, while also not sounding like a golddigger?

Well, part of dating and finding a guy is going to involve "dealing with" a lot of different types. It's part of the nature of looking around and finding people. If you set the goal of avoiding these types of folks altogether because they would automatically be a waste of your time, then I think you're setting yourself up to be resentful. Each person can be a learning experience in its own right.

That said, you know what you want, and so you of course need to take steps to heed that and narrow the pool accordingly. So, you weed out. Someone isn't assertive enough, or is too passive or not putting in enough effort, you cut it off. I must admit I'm wondering if there's something between the lines here. It's one thing to not want someone submissive (the person who wrote in last week about the wishy-washy plan-maker comes to mind.) But why would that make you a gold-digger? You want occasional gifts. But do you need them so significantly and so early in the relationship that that is a problem in and of itself?

When we were engaged, and I told my husband I wasn't changing my name, he made noises about wanting our names to match. I told him he could take mine, and he started talking about his family, his heritage, professional reputation, paperwork, etc. I said, "And why are those things different for me?" and he claimed to get it. I think he always had in his mind that he'd have a mailbox that said, "The Husbandlastnames" and so forth, because that's what usually happens. I think we've been married long enough that he should have let go of his disappointment by now, but I guess it niggles at him from time to time.

Yes. No doubt there is a lot of baggage about changing names.... the weight of expectations, assumptions, culture, life-long visualizations on mailboxes (I'm really not trying to be crass here.) And the more that people can hear each other out and empathize, and understand where their own feelings are coming from, the better off the couple can work through the issues.

I do love the very stark way you were able to frame it for your husband!

Ask him to change his name to yours!

It's a perfectly reasonable point!

My wife has a beautiful maiden name and I urged her to keep it or at least hyphenate. She refused as she's more traditional than me, and of course it was her choice in the end. But I wish she had done so, would have been nice to have made our children's middle names her maiden. She nixed that too.

Now there's a less common spin on this discussion!

Please use it!


In my case, nobody was ever accusing me of having too-small a belly. Instead, I think some people assumed I was having quintuplets.

General use phrases I found useful while pregnant: 1. Thanks for your concern; I'll take that into consideration. 2. My OB and/or husband and I have everything under control. Just counting down until our little one arrives! 3. Yes, we are so excited! So, how about those Nats... 4. Thanks for your interest - we are so excited! How did you decide on your child's name/nursery theme? (if applicable; most people, ultimately, like to talk about themselves).

So, so true! Very helpful.

I just said "Please don't comment on the way I look." It offended some people but the ones I had to see frequently (co-workers, etc.) knocked it off.

To the point. Sometimes that is best, for sure. Thanks!

"A mere amorous pass" is kind of a loaded phrase. Why jump straight to an amorous pass when a polite enquiry about availability should be the first, if any, move?

Very true.

Especially when "amorous" to one person means quoting poetry and to another it means slobbering in another person's ear.

My father was about 12 when he quit believing in Catholicism, but he was too small to defy his father in the matter of getting confirmed (on pain of harsh corporal punishment), so went through the motions with no feeling of sincerity, in order to save his hide. A couple years later he attained his height and athletic build, and was thereafter able to defy his father. Of course, once I was born, the relatives were all up in his and my mother's business about raising me Catholic. But my father made sure it didn't happen.

Ugh. Corporal punishment lends a whole other angle. I'm so sorry your father had to go through that-- but glad he was able to be assertive and protect his kids in ways he found appropriate for his family.

This is confusing. I thought the daughter wasn't in the club.

I'm guessing either they had some impromptu "meetings" that the daughter had already attended-- or that expectations were being spelled out accordingly.

Why did you change your name - I think that's at the nub of his problem. I'm a woman who didn't change her name on marriage (everyone else in my husband's family does and they're all a lot younger than me! - married late 20s to my marriage in mid 40s only six years ago). But if I was your husband I would want to feel secure about the reason you did change your name the first time and not the second.

It certainly could be helpful to address this angle.

But I also feel like "I did it the first time and really regretted it and learned it wasn't right for me" is a totally legitimate response.

Interesting about the age and name change data! It does seem we see this practice in cycles, I think, rather than a long trajectory one way or another.

He's not ordinarily a gaslighter, and we have a good marriage overall. It's just this one issue that seems to stick in his craw, and he feels he has to get in a dig every now and then.

Good to know-- that was my assumption (and my hope.) Should make it much easier to deal with-- good luck!

Every woman in my husband's family changes her name - I didn't. When his father joked about it I said - we did think Husband's first name my last name had a nice ring to it ... '. The nice thing is, his mother is big on cards and for my birthday and our anniversary she always uses my last name - even though it's not something she's at all used to. They are very nice people.

hahah! I love that response.

And I love that your in-laws have adapted to your choice.

Maybe some age-appropriate training might help with the anxiety, if it stems from not knowing what to do if something happens? Something like the Red Cross Babysitting courses, which covers some basic first aid stuff and emergency awareness (among other skills that are less useful in this situtation, of course) and can be taken as young as 10 or 11, if I recall correctly.

That is absolutely true.

You know, I was frustrated a few months ago because I was looking for something exactly like this for my own kids-- and surprised that every single thing is always tied to baby-sitting. Baby-sitting is fine and good, but why isn't there a basic and universal training for kids about first aid and emergency awareness that involves taking care of THEMSELVES, not just others?

I have three daughters from 15 to 20, have seen a LOT of crap and have never seen clubs with dues and cleaning up. Dood. That's some whack girls. Do their parents know about that? One of my daughters is very political and I would have been completely livid to hear she was treating another person like that, and trust me, I heard some boundaries she was pushing with friends. For crying out loud.

It's definitely worthy of discussion.

Unfortunately, I have indeed seen the "pay your dues" mentality fairly frequently!

I don't think you understand how many people meet their SOs at work.... you're accusing a lot of people of being married to a harasser (I met my wife in college so I'm not included in this) ...

Yes, but don't you think there's a dance in those cases where BOTH parties are giving signals, but they remain subtle and respectful?

I think a lot of the situations we're discussing involving someone acting with ZERO existence of that dance. Taking a shot in the dark, so to speak.

Truly appreciate people chiming in with responses - I lean toward humor/shifting the topic and have a lot of new ideas to try out!


I think I mentioned this in my original question - my ex pressured me to change my name, I gave in, and I really regretted it. My ex realized he'd been out of line, and said he'd support me and even help with the paperwork if I wanted to change it back.

Ah, yes. I remembered the regret but had forgotten the pressure. Even more reason why you have nothing to "justify" in terms of this decision.

By sixth grade, I was thrilled to be left home alone for an hour or so at a time (my parents had built up to it with shorter periods of time).

Yes-- for many kids it does seem to go to being worthy of worry to worthy of celebration over a short year or two!

Everyone has a right to choose their last name (and first name for that matter), but you should know that this likely affects the way in which he is seen by other men and the the way he sees himself. It's not a matter of right & wrong but emotionally and culturally it will be seen as a very public act of disrepect to your husband. That's ridiculous, of course, but it doesn't change the emotional reality he experiences. If he's a guy a mentions it do you twice a year, he's likely thinking about it almost every day.

Hmm. I really think this sounds extreme.

It depends on the culture, of course, but in the micro-culture of the DC-area I feel a part of-- the Dented Minivan Caucus-- I would not at all say that it is seen anywhere near a "very public act of disrespect."

My husband very much wanted to change his last name to my last name (he wanted to make a feminist statement). We ended up with a hybrid last name that we made up together. Names are important to people (men included) and so it's worth exploring what's important to them (and WHY), what's important to you (and WHY), and if there's a middle ground to be found. Sometimes there are creative ones (like hyphens, middle names, both changing to a new one, both changing to the wife's) that might suit both your needs.

This is a great point-- the options aren't all black-and-white.


This might be the time for the girl's parents to withdraw her from the "club," whether she likes it or not. Sometimes being the adult isn't easy, but turns out for the best in the long run.

Well, it does seem like already she is not going to be a member due to those (how unfortunate!) scheduling conflicts.

"Yes, but don't you think there's a dance in those cases where BOTH parties are giving signals, but they remain subtle and respectful?" I don't think something can both be a signal and also be appropriate to the workplace. I think saying that there were signals means that someone who was not interested would find that first signal off-putting. Rather than signalling, why not ask directly? Amazon has a rule that you can ask out a colleague one time (and one time only). Anything other than a yes (including "I'm busy") is a no and you can never ask again. I like the rule.

Sounds like a reasonable rule. And you make a very valid point.

But I guess I am coming from the fact that the first of these signals I would view as wanting to get to know each other better platonically. Showing more interest in someone in a non-sexual way, but more of a "Wow, we both want to talk about the state of Stephen Strasburg over lunch each day; maybe we will also instant-message about it sometimes" way.

Sounds like OP's husband is suffering from FME Syndrome (fragile male ego syndrome). In all seriousness, don't let him dismiss it next time: "If you were kidding, the joke is old - what is *actually* bothering you?" Maybe OP can help her husband learn how to free himself from the grip of perceived emasculation and The Patriarchy.

I suspect I might get in trouble for posting this-- but then again, I have a new acronym to blame it on!

I do think a frank discussion about it is necessary.

This WaPo story is worth reading, about the perils of being a women who asks to be left alone, and the risks that often come along with that. If a woman wants to be left alone, she should just be able to freely say so, without fear of being groped, verbally assaulted or even killed. But unfortunately, for some men, hearing no leads them to doing horrible things. How can we teach them to stop? Sometimes it feels helpless.

Yes. I had this bookmarked to read. Thank you.

It does feel helpless sometimes, but I do strongly believe that the more we have a conversation about this in our culture-- in big ways and in small-- the more that we will start to see a change.

My ex and I are both dark haired. Our son is a blue-eyed redhead. People would ask about it, and Ex would say "the mailman is a red head". I asked/told him to cut it out. He didn't. So, next time someone asked, I piped up with "the mailman is a red head"... That stopped it. As you probably noted, he's "EX"...for many reasons...

Ahh. I am sorry. Surprising that he would be so bold to say that himself when clearly what was good for the goose was not good for the gander!

Knowing that society disapproves of her behavior is nothing like having even a vague idea that she should quit for her own good. She has her cake and is eating it, too. She might just be thinking, "Should I change this and if so why?"


But having worked with people with these type of behaviors, I do think there's a part of them that tends to press the fast-forward button and realize that looking back on their life, there will be some pretty serious regrets if they stayed on this path. Even if those regrets are still self-serving, like "My married-to-someone-else-94-year-old-boyfriend is not going to be able to drive me to the doctor."

What if I really am busy but would like to get together?

Then you initiate asking for the next time, right?

We need to teach our boys as well as our girls. The emphasis is still on teaching girls to 'be safe' - we need to step on more on not teaching our boys to respect everyone's autonomy and choice to be left alone , including their own (no, you don't have to accept a kiss from Aunt Jo).

Oh, I am right there with you.

(And I've got the hate mail from this piece to prove it!)

I did not change my name when I got marriedbut my grandmother sends me cards that are addressed to "Mrs. HusbandFirst HusbandLast". It makes me want to scream but my husband and I try to laugh about it too (he was 100% cool with me not changing my name because he is down with The Feminism... we're millennials). It's clearly generational and think Generation X (sorry, I'm making assumptions about OP's age) are bearing the brunt of this cultural shift.

Well, I do think plenty of Boomers bore the brunt of it as well-- and imagine what THEIR grandparents thought!

That's great you can see the humor in it, though.

More ideas: Be a broken record ("thanks but we're happy with our decisions. thanks but we're happy with our decisions. thanks but we're happy with our decisions.") if someone gets pushy and won't take a hint. Eventually they will give up. Also, I really didn't feel comfortable "zinging" coworkers and other folks I see regularly who I need to maintain good relationships with, so I erred on the side of thanking them and changing the subject. When I got asked some really personal questions I had good results when I would say, cheerfully, "Hm, I don't really want to get into that! What I AM interested in talking about is ___."

A really helpful way to walk that fine line. Thanks.

Did you ever meet him? I'm saddened by his illness and death, even though my politics were somewhat different from his.

I never met him, unfortunately, no.

I do think a lot of people are feeling sad, though. Even people who didn't see eye-to-eye with him-- and yet I think that's the very testament to why it is sad. I think it is difficult not to see that he represented something that seems really, really lost (or at the very least, seriously in jeopardy) in American culture and politics right now.

I hope it gets us thinking and talking about progress.

Oh, dear-- I have just noticed the time! What a great discussion today.

Thanks so much for being here. See you here next week, same time, same place, and in the comments and on Facebook in the meantime!

Be well, and may no one force you to pick up their trash OR change your name.

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.”
Recent Chats
  • Next: