Baggage Check Live: "PARENTS these days"

Sep 18, 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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Hi, all! Thanks for being here today. How's your week going?

Today's column saw a person dating someone they really like, but who's cramping their workday style a bit-- and a person who is likely getting the silent treatment from their mother-in-law after being caught in a not-great moment.

And today's columnist saw a really hard-core spiralizer arrive on her kitchen countertop, as a super-impressive add-on to her new blender. Anyone want a 10-foot-long zoodle? This thing should come with a warning that it is habit-forming.

Whatcha got today?

When I finally ditched my "Dan" for good, the hardest thing to hear from my friends was "I never liked him anyway." I loved Dan for many years, their hostility towards Dan felt like a judgement of me. Not fair to them, but in my emotional state that's how it felt and it was an added weight. So treat your friends gently, even if your feeling is utter relief that Dan is finally gone.

I'm sorry for this. And I think this is a really important point.

I think friends have this instinct to reinforce their friend's choice to leave by saying "He was never any good" or the like. But there are other ways to do that that aren't nearly as invalidating. I'm thinking something like "I am so glad to see you making this positive choice for yourself. You were not being treated how you deserved. I know it must be hard, but we are all here to support you as you make this change-- it is really, really good for you."

Other things you'd have wanted to hear?

(In response to last week's chat). 

The facts of your physical body and your sense of yourself as male/female/both/neither are completely neutral. Who cares whether you pee standing up or sitting down? Who cares whether you wear pink or blue? Who cares whether you like football or ballet? All of that is a social construct, with no effect on your character or value as a human being. To quote Shakespeare, there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so,

Well, let's start with the obvious-- a heck of a lot of people in this culture indeed DO care whether people conform/align with the traditional cultural trappings of masculinity and femininity.

And it creates huge problems for all of us.

I see the point that I think you are getting at-- that in theory everyone should be what they want, no expectations stuck on them due to their biology. And I agree with that for certain. But I also think that is an oversimplification in many senses. I think that some people really feel that there bodies do not fit them; that in every sense of the word their brains and their hearts and their souls do not match NOT JUST the traditional gender roles that their individual culture has prescribed them, but also their bodies themselves.

It's a complex issue, no doubt-- with an interplay of all different aspects of biology and environment and psychology and culture.


(In response to last week's chat).

so, if the adult has started a visual transition (hair, clothes, etc) and wants to add medical options, but also has a mental health diagnosis Like BP, BPD, or GAD, how do the support people in their lives support and protect?

I think first, by continuing to love and respect and listen to that person, for who they are, not the labels that are stuck on them. For being willing to listen to all the different ways that they are being affected by things they are going through, without making them feel like they are less than or broken. And by continuing to convey a message of hope about what they are going through, not just in their gender transition but also in the other aspects of their lives-- making sure they know that strong therapeutic and medication options are out there for the alphabet soup of disorders that you listed. Offering logistical help to make it easier to get to appointments of various sorts. Not second-guessing them about what they may choose at any step of the way in terms of their transition. Knowing that they are still themselves and always have been, and conveying that you want to really support that above all else.

It's really a matter of human to human at some point, right? No matter what gender identity there is, what mood or anxiety or personality disorder there might be.

I still don't get a link to today's column on the advice page. Maybe ask your tech people to check where the readers of your column came from today, vs where they came from two months ago. would be interesting to see!

Oh, no!

Yeah, the column comment numbers still seem to indicate that not everyone is back to being able to find us. I am sorry for this (and am flummoxed myself.)

Zainab worked so hard on this issue with the tech folk.... perhaps she can gather some more intel.

Thanks for this heads-up!

I am seeing all the columns under advice, but let me look into this!

Nope, your columns are still not there, only the live chats, so you have to click on the live chat, then click on read the columns. Really???? Come on WaPo, if you have room for 3 live chat links for this columnist, surely you could make it 2 live chat links and one current column list!

I see, you're referring to the Baggage Check cube at the bottom of the Advice page. If you click on the title of that cube, which is "Baggage Check," as opposed to the live chat links, you get to the Baggage Check landing page that includes all columns and live chats. Alternatively, you could click the "Baggage Check" header at the top of the "Advice" page, which will take you to that same page.

Thank you, Zainab! It seems your work is never done.

I hope this is the issue?


Could you compromise and do one or two day dates a month? Relationships are very much about compromise.

It's a good question!

Dr. Andrea, I have a wonderful relationship with a wonderful guy. He protects me fiercely, supports me, takes care of finances, surprises me with gifts, loves both of our families, etc. The problem is that i’m not physically attracted to him. I’m in my late 20s and sex is a chore with him, because he doesn’t really want it. I feel like i’m constantly pushing him to do something he has told me he has little interest in, and after a full year of this, cuddling just isn’t cutting it. I find myself feeling really guilty because I love sex and he just doesn’t. My question is: Is it worth staying in a nearly sexless relationship if everything else completely works? Is there a remedy?

There's no easy remedy, unfortunately, and this issue is surprisingly common.

I'm actually a little startled because you mention "I'm not physically attracted to him" as the initial problem, but then go on to say (if I'm understanding you right) you would love to have more sex with him but he's unwilling.

To me those are two problems, not just one. Are you actually physically attracted to him, truly?

Let me assume that you actually DO want sex with him-- that's the way the rest of your letter seems to go-- and that the physical attraction is just hard to keep up because of the lack of sexual chemistry.

Does it have to be a dealbreaker?

No, not for sure. But it also depends on what's going on for him in terms of the lack of desire. Is it the result of a physical issue (hormone deficiency, medication, depression, weight/health challenge) or is his low sex drive just who he is? Actually, any of those issues I mentioned could just be who he is-- and so the one simple thing to figure out is if this is ever something he would want to TRY to work on.

That's the only possible way I see a potential remedy-- and even then, depending on what's behind the low desire, it may or may not be realistic for things to change.

Most couples have some sort of discrepancy in their sex drives-- and no, it's not always the pop-culture-driven-stereotype that the man wants it more, as your letter shows. But the size of the gap, and its relative importance to the people involved, is what matters most. There's no objective point at which it becomes an incompatibility-- it's all about what you personally value and are willing to sacrifice.

I suspect we have some chatters who have been in your shoes.

Anyone willing o share their experience?

Hi Andrea, I'm looking for some guidance/advice on when it's the right time to move in with an SO. For context, I'm 34, she's 30, and we've been together about 5 months. I have plenty of friends who've moved in at 6-7 months of dating which always seemed so FAST to me -- but now I get it. I love her and we're always together, and I want her to move in with me (I own, she rents) and she wants to, too (we've talked about it in general but not specific time frames). My question is, what things should we be asking ourselves and each other as we consider this next step? I want to make sure we're making the right choices (and not getting swept up in new relationship energy). I haven't dated much, so I feel excited and happy but also like I don't have past mistakes to learn from, you know? How do we know when it's the right time? (PS I can't join the chat live.)

First, a disclaimer-- those who know me know that I need to put on my professional hat for this question, rather than my personal one (though the personal one's supposed hastiness struck absolute gold.)

There is research that people who live together before marriage have a higher chance of divorce once they do marry. BUT, I tend to think those findings are pretty well explained by two main factors that don't necessarily apply here. The first is that people who are unwilling to live together before marriage probably are more likely to have beliefs that they should not divorce, unhappy marriage or not. So they would be more likely to stay married.

The second main factor is more germane to your situation. There's a reasonable argument to be made that living together too early can make a relationship get more serious and committed than it should be at that particular point in time, and that joining your lives in terms of possessions, leases, groceries, and mutually used moisturizer can make it harder to leave a bad relationship. That you're pressing the accelerator on a relationship when it's not ready for it. That it's sort of a passive slide into a permanent commitment-- getting serious by default, rather than being mindful about it. And then waking up married one day and still unhappy.

But since you ARE being mindful about it, then I'm guessing this is another factor of why you're less likely to fall prey to the statistics. So, first step. Ask yourself why you'd be doing this. To test-drive marriage? To see if you're really compatible? To save her money on rent? To finally share your lives in the logistical way that you've been wanting to for a while because it feels like you are already sharing your lives in the other ways that matter? To spend as much time with her as you can?

Naturally, some combo of these is probably the answer-- though I'd hope it's FAR less about rent and far more about sharing your lives-- but you can use that as a guide. How and when will you know if your "experiment" is working? What are you hoping to have happen as an outcome? What will you do if it's NOT working-- do you have a clear escape plan, and how will you protect against the inertia of "She has no place to go, and her toothbrush lives on my counter" from keeping you from breaking up if that is what needs to happen? Do you both have a reasonable timeline about further official commitment-- when and if it should happen?

Now, perhaps most important, you've got to be able to communicate about all of this, with as much honesty, respect, and listening skills as you can muster. You might have slightly different motivations and timelines and that's okay. But it's the awareness and discussion and coming to decisions together that's key.

In general, I am Pro- Excited and Happy, and Anti- "I wish I had more screwups to bruise me and make me more cynical going into this." So, think carefully and deliberately (as my professional persona says) and then, enjoy!! (That was from my personal one.)

When you go to the Advice page itself - with Carolyn Hax, Ask Amy, Miss Manners etc the baggage claim part only has direct links to the Live Chats. You have to click on Baggage Claim to get to the page with the Column.

Yes, if you click on the title of the "Baggage Check" cube, as opposed to the live chat links, you get to the Baggage Check landing page that includes all columns and live chats. Alternatively, you could click the "Baggage Check" header at the top of the "Advice" page, which will take you to that same page.

Talk about stereotypes! Two (evidently heterosexual) men were just dismissed from a New York ballet company for sexual harassment of a female ballerina.

I don't know of that case in particular, but I think even beyond that, it's important to note that a sexually uncomfortable or hostile environment can be created by ANYONE-- regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation.

Certainly not everyone who sexually harrasses is doing it because they're attracted to the person they're harrassing. Sometimes it's about asserting power.

In my opinion, no. Sex is a basic component of relationships and it's just about impossible to live with that big a disparity in your drives. Your resentment will only increase. Also, you might very well outgrow the "being protected" part of the relationship, as you mature. Just some factors to consider here.

Great insight-- thanks.

I think it may seem especially impossible for OP to live with it, given that it does seem to be something that's important to her and that she truly needs and enjoys.

Except that the preferences are not equivalent. Presumably the BF's day dates do not disrupt his day's work or cause him anxiety about work left undone at the end of the day.

Good point.

Compromise has to take into account not just the outward behavior but also what it costs internally as well!

Slow Down! You're in your late 20's, been together only a year and he supports you financially? I think you have a bigger problem than no sex. This relationship is wrong on many levels. When did you start taking money from him? Before or after you knew he wasn't very sexual? First off taking any money from a guy after less than a year is a red flag on you. in the year 2018 it's not at all appropriate for you to be financed by a guy you've been dating for only a year. I have a big issue with this. Let's talk about the sex issue after we talk about the money issue.

Well, this is interesting.

Granted, I have been known to read a little too quickly, but I took "supports me, takes care of finances" as meaning that he is a supportive person emotionally and also has his proverbial house in order in terms of paying his bills, being conscientious about debt, etc. Perhaps because I seem to get a ton of letters where that is not a given.

But you are taking it to mean that he actually gives her money.... that the "takes care of finances" was in reference to the supporting, rather than just another descriptor.

So.... OP?

Or this time or year HoCo proposals (homecoming proposals). A friend of my daughter was just surprised with a very public invite to homecoming from a very nice young man, but not one that she is interested in and she was totally unaware of his plans to ask her. The girl in this scenario already had plans to attend with a group of girlfriends. The boy asked her in a very public place with a sign and flowers, and his parents were there to film the whole thing as well, so it is documented on social media. The girl felt boxed into saying yes, due to the public nature of this but doesn’t really want to go. The boy I am sure is excited to have this date. In addition, the boy is on the autism spectrum, though I am not sure if that matters at all. Any suggestions for her about how to handle it now? And bigger picture, why are young people being encouraged to do this to each other? It puts the askee, usually a girl, in a bad place where they are either perceived as cruel for being honest and hurting someone’s feelings publicly or they go along and do something they don’t necessarily want to. Thanks.


Yeah, it probably comes as no surprise to you chatters that I find these things to be THE WORST TREND EVER.

Well, maybe not the very worst, since there still exists the word "synergize."

But still-- you highlight all the reasons why these are just bad. Asking someone out in this way is sort of pre-blackmailing them into saying yes. It throws true consent out the window-- you're pressuring someone into saying yes because saying no would be terribly awkward and hurtful and would cause a scene and make them feel like they'd look bad. Umm.... yay?

The fact that the boy is on the autism spectrum means, to me, that his parents had a duty not only to not let this happen, but CERTAINLY not to be there spearheading and documenting the whole thing. And presumably posting it to myriads of people. I feel like his parents really screwed this up not only for your daughter's friend but their own son as well.

Good friggin' grief.

Your daughter's friend should decide truly what she feels best doing-- separating it from the pressure and expectations of others as much as she can (though of course totally separating that is impossible)-- and being true to herself about how she wants to spend the night and what will make her feel her best self about it. If she decides to decline after the "yes," she should do it with kindness and respect, knowing that he may be hurt, and trying to soften it for him as much as possible-- but also knowing full well that she was put in a situation that she didn't deserve and should never have been put in, and she has a right to choose for herself whom she goes to homecoming with, without the presumed audience of 400 of some boy's parents' friends and work buddies online.

I just can't stop shaking my head about this. (And it's not even "Kids these days," but PARENTS these days as well!)

Okay, judge-y rant over.

Early stages of dating an ex-boyfiend - he was just turning up at my home almost every evening. (This was the Nineties, Oxford student and not easy to call on the phone). I really liked him but it was too much. I remember trembling as I said to him 'I think you're great and I like where we're going but I feel like I'm on the intensive 'get to know John' course. It's too much - I need to ratchet it back a bit'. And he was open to it and we did.

Yes! It was scary and awkward and you did it-- and you gleaned the rewards.

It provides such a truly great opportunity to be able to see if the person is willing to hear your needs and feelings and respond to them and adjust their own behavior accordingly.

So glad it worked for you.

OMG! This is me right now. It’s early, but it just feels right. I know that when we’re ready to sit down and really talk about the logistic and emotional aspects of it, I’m straight taking your response - printed! - to make sure we cover as much as we can.


It's funny how "it just feels right" is sometimes a pretty decent reason for doing things (shhh!)-- and yet I will forever have a knee-jerk reaction against advising it as any kind of metric.

I would NEVER encourage my son to do this spectrum or not! UGH! I find so many parents in middle and high school to be completely tone deaf to the realities of the kids today. This is wrong on so many levels. And schools need to ban this practice. Frankly posting something on social media of under aged children without parental consent is just wrong!

I am your choir, for sure. Preach on!

Dear Andrea, In the Sept. 11 chat, a LW asked for resources for dealing with her mother’s Borderline Personality Disorder. I agree with your recommendation of ‘Stop Walking on Eggshells’, and I would like to offer the links below, as well: these two videos helped me understand my loved one’s BPD better than anything else ever has, and helped me regain some hope for the future, given that it is now really considered treatable. Plus the videos helped me re-find my compassion for my family member instead of just feeling hurt and victimized by them. I did not know anything about DBT and now I am so hoping my family member will try it out, maybe they can finally get some relief - which could help me, too. (Ahem). Plus I would recommend to the LW that she try to find a support group for people whose family member has BPD, or at least a support group for family members of people with depression or mental illness issues, and/or get some therapy themselves - just as those living with an alcoholic can be helped by Al-Anon, so too could some support for the LW’s own struggles with her mother be incredibly helpful to her. I wish her the best as she struggles with this - it is really hard and my heart goes out to any child who’s been parented by someone with BPD. Here are the videos: 1. 2.

Thank you so much for this. I am not yet able to check out these videos but I will pass them along since they have been so helpful for you.

I feel like Borderline Personality Disorder is one of those disorders where there are so many painful ripple effects within the loved ones that it is often very, very hard to be able to see the disorder for what it is, and not just see the person with BPD as being a hurtful and difficult person (or worse yet, see the person with BPD as somehow being correct in their poor treatment of you and that you deserved that emotional abuse. Like a child growing up thinking they are not worthy of love because their parent with BPD was so on/off and hot/cold with it.) But it is, of course, ultimately a disorder. And the more we can understand about the disorder the better able to anticipate its effects and cope with it, and develop more healthy boundaries and expectations and have some semblance of a functional relationship with the person who has it.

Your suggestions of support groups are spot-on, and indeed Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) shows some real promise for folks with BPD.

But WHY should we need 2 clicks for this column, when all the others, you go directly to the column from the advice page! One click should be enough!

If you are clicking to get to the column through the chats, then it is two clicks. But if by clicking the "Baggage Check" title at the top of the Advice page, it is just one click that takes you to Dr. Andrea's author page, which includes all her columns. Same if you click "Baggage Check" on the cube, and not the chat links. 

Unfortunately, these site issues are out of my direct control (I just moderate this chat!). If this continues to be an issue, I can try to track down the right tech people to populate columns on the cube. 

And this applies to the annoying parents of 'five year old Jane and Jack are boyfriend and girlfriend - ahh, isn't that cute'.


There are SO many ways that 5 year-olds are cute that don't need to evoke forced child marriage (which is a true and real problem in too many parts of this world.)


I will admit to always wondering if my friend's doctor did something wrong while he was transitioning. We were very close in college. My friend was always a bit politically conservative in some issues, but after the transition he got super into disaster prep, really right wing conspiracy theories, and stockpiling guns. I tried to stay supportive but we ended up having this huge fight after another friend was hurt in a mass shooting and never really stayed close after that. I just have to wonder if the testosterone could explain some of the aggressive behavior. Very selfishly, I miss who my friend used to be. I know that is wrong of me and so would never, ever say that to him. Part of me does wonder about some of the doctors however. If you are considering transitioning I think I would read really carefully before picking a doctor.

I'm sorry to hear about this.

Yeah, the truth is, hormones-- whether the ones that are coursing through our systems as is or the ones we may be supplementing with, whether because of a gender transition or not-- really do impact our moods, personality, and behavior.

So it's an area that deserves an extra round of support and caution from a medical and psychosocial standpoint if the levels are changing or being changed. I'm sorry if your friend's care fell short.

My husband's ex-wife (they were married for 6 months and got married very young) recently messaged him when I was out of town to see family. When I came back, he was acting very distant.

One night when he was out with a friend I saw his iPad on his bed (I don't always look through his stuff) but this one time something had told me to look. I was scrolling through his FB messages and discovered that his ex messaged him "How are you?" And from there he opened a can of worms that he shouldn't have opened. He had said things to her like "at times I wish we could be together," "I'll always have love for you beyond this world if you know what I mean" and "like I said, I'll be back in town in November/December we should meet up for lunch " I was livid and disgusted, how could the man I married not be over his ex?

I called him out on it and he said he said he didn't mean it and that "this just makes him realize how much more he does love me and this will bring us closer together"

I am getting over it, but he still doesn't think he did something wrong since it was just messaging. That made me even more mad. I know that people can always love someone and not be in love with them but this makes me wonder what will happen in the long run.

I now have a a guard up to protect myself. I want to move on and forgive him, but I will not forget Do you think this is a bad sign down the line? Should I be more alarmed?

Well, as signs go, it's not fantastic-- I'm sorry.

The main problem I see here is that he "doesn't think he did something wrong since it was just messaging."

I don't really know where to begin with that. No, we need not demonize him, or equate what he did with having a full-on affair.

But if this attitude of "I didn't touch, so you have no reason to be upset" continues, you could have one heck of a headache over the rest of your marriage.

It's simple, really. Is he willing to acknowledge that he hurt you? Can he admit that it is reasonable for someone to be hurt by their spouse literally professing "beyond this world" love to their ex? Is he able to understand and convey what is or was really going on there?

And are you willing to admit that the "something told me to look" factor is not only a troubling excuse but also means that there was already a trust problem in the first place?

Ugh. My 11 year old announced yesterday that she has a crush on a boy who said he had a crush on her last school year. These kids are required to have computers at home and school and last year in the midst of his "crush," he sent her approximately 10 emails in a 5 minute period, including one where he said he was standing outside her window at 9 pm (he wasn't, but STILL). After she told him she didn't like him he acted like a jerk, including one incident where my husband was present! I *really* want to discourage this crush, but I also *really* don't want to alienate my daughter to the point where she starts to think she needs to hide things like this from us. Help!

First, I do think it's good that she's communicating with you about her feelings, and so I share your concern with not wanting to push her away from doing that.

So, I would view this as an opportunity to plant seeds and listen, rather than to actively discourage something enough that it seems like a "ban" that she may reflexively turn against you on.

Go heavy on the hypothetical and open-ended questions. "What do you think is a reasonable way to treat someone?" "When someone acts in a jerky way, how do you know whether to forgive them?" "What's a way of someone showing that they respect your feelings?" "Sometimes crushes can make us do things we wouldn't normally do, or overlook things we would normally not like. How would you know if that were happening to you?"

Of course this all sounds very stilted, but the key is planting those seeds for her to think about. You're not telling her what to do, but getting her to develop her own decision-making tools-- hopefully with good factors to consider.

I don't know how this started, it was not a thing when I was in HS 20+ years ago, but if a kid is going to do it, do it for your LONG TERM GF only. Certainly no one should ask out someone they've never dated before in this manner. Yikes on the parents for helping orchestrate that or heaven forbid encouraging socially awkward son to do it.


I really, really don't get it.

Another way that the lure of social media "likes" might be running roughshod over sound and reasonable judgment.

For medical reasons my I went on HRT in my thirties. My body had been getting about menopausal amounts. When it was upped to a normal in-your-thirties dose, my emotions were intense and all over the place fora while - it was epic!

It's really amazing (and startling) how much this stuff can matter.

Glad you were able to adjust!

I think the rent vs. own dynamic could be important here. It may feel easy to you because she would move in to the place you own, and you can't be forced to have to move out if something were to happen. I would talk specifically about that issue. It also means that she would (I assume) pay rent to you personally and not a faceless company, which could cause friction. I think it makes sense to set up an "escape plan" if things don't end up working, because that burden would fall 100% on her.

These are all really great points.

Not particularly romantic to talk about-- but that perhaps makes them even more important.


At the beginning of this summer--May, specifically--I felt a general down-ness that didn't go away until about a week ago, where I'm feeling a general up swing in my mood again. I feel like this happens pretty often, where for a few months at a time, I'll feel down but then in a few months, I'll feel up. My life circumstances are still the same, if not more stressful than when the downward streak started. Is there any psychological meaning behind this or biological?

It really could be both. We're truly just scratching the surface on how certain biological factors (from the obvious ones like sleep, nutrition, daylight and exercise) to more subtle ones (inflammation and gut bacteria, anyone?) can affect our moods in significant ways. So I do think that could have been playing a role.

But I also think that these subtle shifts can be psychological, too. A certain negative thing you told yourself that became an inner voice that stuck. A new way of comparing yourself to others that makes you feel less-than. A more pessimistic outlook on something, or learned helplessness setting in.

It's worth exploring further if you want to-- because the more you can understand what factors are contributing, the more you can begin to work toward adjusting them.

He needs to be hit over the head with all those articles about emotional affairs.

For sure!

I can't tell you how many people I've worked with who felt more betrayed by their partner's emotional intimacy with an affair partner than they did by the sex piece.

Re: living together question - the thing that caught my eye was the "I own, she rents," which sounds to *me* like - we want to save money. I moved in with someone for a similar reason (though I didn't admit it at the time). TERRIBLE idea. We ended up staying together for longer than we should have because it was too hard to decouple. Plus, you're still in the honeymoon period. You should wait AT LEAST a year. Re: sexless relationship. GET OUT. I was in a sexless marriage and it slowly ate away at everything - no trust, no communication, no willingness to engage on anything at a substantive level. I'm now in a relationship with a very healthy sex life and it's the most intimate relationship (emotionally & physically) I've ever been in. We communicate well in and out of the bedroom and are totally at ease with each other. It matters, ESPECIALLY if you like sex. Just my two cents.

And I really appreciate these two cents-- thank you!


It would be great if they had their daughter's back by requesting that the social media posts of the promposal be removed. And pointed out to those crazy parents what an impossible situation their daughter was put in.

Yes. There's definitely a potential role here for the daughter's parents, if they want to take it on.

The poor daughter might feel so uncomfortable about the whole thing that she is confiding more in her friends than in her parents, though.

Dr. Bonior - I am in my early 60s and feeling increasing driving anxiety. I watched my grandmother and mother succumb to this (couldn't believe my mother was afraid to drive a 4 lane highway she had driven tens of thousands of times). But it may be happening to me. It's perception - when I am going down a steep hill with curves, I feel my car is going to go spinning into space, and I can't stop myself from braking, even though reasoning with myself ("look at all the cars around you doing fine, etc.") I am already afraid to drive in real mountains, and less and less comfortable on superhighways. What can I do? It's psychological, but would balance training help? an AARP course? I've driven safely for 45 years, why would this be happening now?

The fact that you saw your grandmother and mother suffer from this does indicate that there's probably a genetic component here-- but bear in mind you also watched this happen to them, so it's impossible to fully tease out how much of this may have imprinted upon you a bit through your experience as well.

And it's not like it's that rare for this to happen as we age. In general, anxiety about certain aspects of safety can increase, and it also gets slightly less comfortable to drive and feel completely in control as strength, flexibility, vision, reaction time, and hearing may not always be as good as they used to be. So yes, for that last piece, I think balance training could potentially help.

But I also think you'd be a good candidate for some structured Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) that works very quantifiably with systematic desensitization techniques. It would involve reconditioning you to be less anxious through planned "exposures," gradually getting you to combat the fears through different relaxation exercises and pushing through them with triumphing through small goals.

The more you can stave this off, the less you'll succumb to that cycle of inertia that makes you avoid it more and more-- and makes you more and more anxious once you finally do it.

When my little sister was in kindergarten, she came home to say she was engaged to one of her classmates, complete with dime store ring. My mom put the ring in the goldfish bowl, never mentioned again, and she does not even remember this. In fact, she hasn't seen him since the early grades as his family moved to a different school attendance area. Oh, and she is 60+ now.

I love the visual of your Mom just going ahead and making this a non-thing, leaving it for the goldfish to sort out!

No doubt kids love to mimic adults in some of these things, but I think as adults we have to be very careful about what we choose to reinforce.


My boyfriend (now husband) moved in with me after about 8 weeks. It worked for us, but I readily admit to others that it's not the most conventional or widely accepted norm. I've seen it not work for others and go horribly bad. We both had exit plans had it not worked out, and we never needed it. Weigh your options/red flags/pros&cons and do what's best for your relationship!

Yes! There are so many factors at play in any given relationship; it really can be the death blow for one and a natural and wonderful thing for another.

Glad yours was in the latter!

Dr. Andrea, My husband and I have been together for 8 years and we both think we have an extremely happy marriage overall. He has two children from a former marriage who are now 15 and 17. I don't have children of my own and will not. We are having a growing problem as the younger child, in particular, (the girl) is becoming increasingly rude to me. This past weekend she escalated her bad behavior even more. I've read all about the "loyalty bonds" that children of divorce tend to have with their mother and realize this is likely why the teen girl is repeatedly picking on me. It still hurts, but I will try to manage my expectations for these relationships and not take it personally. I can't say I'm successful with this yet. My bigger problem is that my husband, to date, has not said a word to his daughter or son about their unpleasantness towards me. My husband has two issues that prevent him from supporting me in this - he has guilty dad syndrome as the non-custodial father and he's conflict avoidant. We've discussed all this at length and I believe he wants to support me; he wants his daughter and son to be polite people. But his lack of actions so far frustrate and sadden me. He is really struggling with the fear that if he speaks up to them, they will retaliate by wanting to spend less time with him. The virtually non-existent and poor relationship he has with the children's mother doesn't help with any of this. Do you have any suggestions for how we can improve this situation? Sad Stepmom

This is really difficult, I am sure-- it is something I have seen so often.

Here's the thing, though. He is married to you, and you are the children's stepmother. At some point, he has to be prepared for "retaliation." He's got to choose to stand up for what is right-- draw the line in the sand about what is an acceptable versus unacceptable way for his daughter to treat his wife-- and let THAT guide his behavior, rather than his fear being his guide.

No one says that your stepdaughter has to be lovey-dovey with you. No one says that blending families should automatically be easy (or that anything should be, especially with a 15 year-old girl.)

But, is he willing to stand up for his wife?

Is he willing to establish that "picking on" people he loves is not to be tolerated, and to set that as a strong moral example in his family-- to benefit everyone?

It could be that he is being black-and-white here-- that he knows that you may not end up BFFs with his daughter (at least for now) and so he wants to give up entirely, and not have to sacrifice an inch of his relationship with her.

But, he needs to be willing to establish a baseline of civil behavior, not just for your sake, but for the sake of the entire family.

He needs to start with some baby steps, by practicing what he can say to intervene in the moment, truly getting a script down. "Emily, please don't use that tone when you're speaking to Sarah." or "I don't think that was kind. Can you please try that again?"

Once he starts flexing his muscles against the conflict avoidance, then he can perhaps build up to a larger, private conversation, where he once again spells out that his daughter is free to feel how she feels and have or not have a relationship with you as she wants, but that there is a bare minimum of civility that needs to exist in your home.


We are expecting our first child in a few months, and I'm flummoxed over what to do in the first few days/weeks after the baby is born. I'm worried if I set rules "no visitors in the first week", "please call before you visit", etc. that I'll change my mind and be lonely and really want friends and family to stop by. I would say 80% of our combined families have normal boundaries and 20% would need stricter rules, but I'm really unsure. I've looked online, but there don't seem to be any hard and fast rules.

Trust me, you certainly don't NEED hard and fast rules.

And you don't really want them either-- promise.

You are allowed to wait and see! In general, you can let people know beforehand "I'm not sure how I'll feel right after the birth in terms of visitors and my and the baby's health, so I will let you know after baby's here when you might be able to meet them." You can have plans for the most supportive folks (who are hopefully in the 80 percent with the normal boundaries) to play some role early on that you've decided, but is also open to adjustment.

In short, you and your partner get to make the "rules"-- or decide that there will be no surefire ones and you'll adjust as you go along. Imagine that!

I graduated high school 23 years ago from a school in Utah, but promposals were the norm. Not only is that how we were asked to every dance (which were monthly), it's also how we answered. Maybe because we had so many dances, getting asked by the "wrong" person wasn't so much an issue.

Wow. I didn't realize that 23 years ago (that's nearly my time!) these things were the norm ANYWHERE.

I'm guessing the "Utah" and "monthly dance" piece are the important variable here.

...that are not only full of good advice but can get you an insurance rate reduction. I recommend it along with the CBT and any other therapy you undertake. Andrea's post had some great suggestions.

Very great to know.

Thank you!

I'm glad your daughter is doing that. Perhaps you can zoom in on TV shows you're watching together where someone puts up with bad behavior in a relationship and that lead to a talk about stars in the eyes, how to assess how you're being treated ... . This doesn't have to be a romantic relationship either. Watch together and talk about the characters reactions. My mother had a habit all my childhood of chewing over with me what was going on with her friends, in an age appropriate way. The good and the bad, the difficult decisions. This engaged me on the complexities of relationships where it wasn't personal. So smart - it seemed natural to me to come to mum with my own relationship quandaries and excitements.

This is wonderful.

Great idea, and great inspiration from your mother.


Anyone thinking of moving in with someone they've been dating needs to think about where all of their other relationships were at that stage. I, personally, thought all of my boyfriends were wonderful and potentially "the one" at 5-7 months. A year later, we had broken up after calming down and realizing we were not great matches. By the time you've dated for 18 months or so you have a better idea if your politics, childrearing, finance goals, vacation likes, pet preferences, decorating styles, and sleep schedules--to name a few important relationship points--match.

It's a really good point, to think about whether you've felt this way about others that turned out most certainly NOT to be "the one."

In this case, OP hasn't had that much relationship experience, of course.

When we had a newborn I wish I had felt less pressure to "host" people when they came over, and felt more empowered to ask for help. It's ok to keep visits short and/or low-key; people should understand.


And for those who won't speak up for their own sakes, consider it the first practice in speaking up for the sake of your baby.

Why is he sexless? Is he asexual? Does he struggle with some physical aspect of performance? Is he just much lower drive, so it’s good when it happens but it’s just too rare? FWIW, I’m higher drive than my husband, who was originally much closer to me in terms of drive. He has health/fitness/body image issues that make sex difficult for him. He is unwilling/unable to change. He manages maybe 1 time a month (after we had nearly a full year dry spell and I explained that compromise meant we needed at least *some* sex). He’s wonderful and we have kids and I know I can manage even if it gets worse. I am not resentful, so it’s not eating at the heart of our marriage. Your situation may be different.

All good considerations here.

I am glad that in your case, you've found a way to mostly make it work.

Dating in midlife OP from a previous chat, here. I've been feeling rather unmoored lately. We've been narrowing down the correct diagnosis for my illness and it's leaving me numb. I'm walking around both completely present and as disconnected as possible, simultaneously. Absolutely apathetic and so invested in finding the answer both. There is so much energy behind this. I was misdiagnosed for well over a decade. Part of me thinks it's been taking a while so I can get used to the idea. I don't want to be in pain for all the lost years when I finally hear the answer. I want to be able to rejoice and feel grateful. And have gratitude for my life. Take the pain and transmute it to something better. I just feel very lost. Unmoored is the perfect description. I don't know what to do with myself.

I am so sorry.

But I also wonder if you are getting ahead of yourself-- "narrowing down the correct diagnosis." To what extent do you have medical support here? And to what extent are you catastrophizing, with perhaps a little help from your own research (or google?)

This is not at all to minimize what you've been through. It's a lot, I know. But I want to make sure that you aren't over-preparing for an eventuality that isn't actually happening.

It's okay to be unmoored. It's okay to not immediately be able to summon gratitude. It's okay to not have an exact path forward.

Sometimes there is calm in being able to take a breath and recognize that in that particular moment, it's okay to not be okay.

I do think therapy can help with this. Keeping up the structure of your daily life enough that all does not feel totally lost and foreign if you were indeed to be hit with a devastating diagnosis. And being able to search for the deeper purpose of it all, and keep yourself on track on a daily basis to do things that align with that purpose.

My heart goes out to you. Please do keep us posted.

My husband and I were staying with each other so much that at about six months we moved in together. For me, I felt different about this relationship than past ones (more secure, more trusting, etc.) and so I was okay with it. Fast forward 4 years and we're about to have our first child. Each relationship is different. It sounds like the OP is asking good questions and being conscientious. I would say if you're both comfortable moving forward then go for it!

Another vote! Thank you. And congratulations!

And hey, 6 months sounds like a lifetime for some of us (ahem!)

20 years ago my good friend was "ambushed" the same way by a boy in our class who had Downs Syndrome. She said yes b/c she felt cornered, but she was very upset b/c there was a boy she really wanted to go with. She decided the kindest thing to do was to stick with her "yes," and go with him. All these years later that act of kindness is still one of her fondest HS memories, and no one can even remember who the other boy was.

Thanks for this. I do think that every situation is different.

And choosing to respond positively to a genuine, heartfelt declaration from someone-- especially someone who may have special challenges-- to me is a much less nauseating situation than being what feels like a pawn in a pre-calculated, pressurized performance piece being stage-managed by someone's parents!

I think your third paragraph of that answers sums it up perfectly and I don't think there's a set timeline for when you should move in together. For my husband and I, it was about making our relationship permanent. Frankly, moving in together was (almost) a bigger deal than us getting married. (and we did move in together before marriage)

I appreciate the kind words!

I do think that people SHOULD view moving in together as a big deal, one that possibly is as big as marriage. Because the truth is, it probably represents a bigger day-to-day life change (and runs the risk of starting the slippery slope toward more serious commitment in a bad relationship, as we talked about.)

Consider who you’d want to see you exhausted, painful, and grouchy. Invite those folks ;) The people you have to put in your happy face for can wait until you’re in a happy face place longer after the birth. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or have trusted people watch the baby while you nap/shower/do whatever recharges you. People are usually honored to be included

I love it! The "Exhausted/Painful/Grouchy" metric.


Some things that helped me come to grips with the fallout from growing up with a mother with borderline personality disorder: Understanding the Borderline Mother by Christine Ann Lawson is an unbelievably thorough and empathetic look at different ways BPD plays out between mothers and children. It took me 2 weeks to read it, because I had to keep stopping to take notes (and sometimes cry), but it made an enormous difference in my understanding. The discussion forum at Out Of The Fog. You're not alone. Other people get it and can help you figure out how to manage. Unfortunately, my experience is that a parent with a personality disorder will likely get more difficult, not less, with age. So I also highly recommend a book called Coping With Your Difficult Older Parent by Grace Lebow and Barbara Kane. Good luck, and remember: you are not doomed to turn into your parent.

Wonderful to have these recs. Thank you.

Your last line is especially important!

MUCH longer. Anyone who isn't going to pitch in and help new parents (by, say, dropping off a casserole or offering to vacuum and scrub the bathrooms) doesn't get invited, and gets turned away at the door if they come over anyway. (yes, I'm a hardnose about this.)

Sometimes a hardnose approach is needed when you're in charge of protecting a soft newborn!

My niece is engaged because her fiancé's mother thought it was time! Yuck. Clearly she is too young, but I am staying out of it.


I presume that Mom filmed her son's promposal years ago as well.

I'm sorry.

Stepmom should try to take a step back from the situation and see if stepdaughter is being rude/mean to her out of dislike, or if it is general teenage rudeness. I mean, the things some teen girls say to their bio-moms are pretty rude and mean. But Mom has a well of love for the child to draw from to handle these situations that step-mom may or may not. It's still fine to say "that was rude and is not the way we speak to members of this family" but it may not be personal to step-mom.

It's a great point.

Sometimes with teenagers, the lowest common denominator gets pretty low.


Great questions keep coming in-- but my clock keeps moving on. Boo!

Thanks to all of you for being here today. Can't wait to 'see' you next week-- and in the meantime, as always, in the comments and on Facebook.

Take good care!

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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