Baggage Check Live: Dogs are gonna dog

Dec 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.

Want to read more? Read Baggage Check columns.

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Good afternoon, everyone.

Well, I am sad to say that this is the last chat of 2018! Since Christmas and New Year's Day fall on Tuesdays this year, then both print Baggage and live Baggage have to be on hiatus for the next two weeks. Boo! But you'll be able to write in to the one on January 8th after this is over. Be sure to keep an eye out on my author page or the Express homepage for a link.

I want to take this time to give a humongous thank you to all of you who have joined us over the course of this year, whether weekly, for an hour, or for a nanosecond before deciding instead to click on a mulligatawny recipe. Today we hit the one-year mark, and the community we are building has absolutely awed me. We've nearly tripled our weekly live audience since we first began, and are continuing to grow all the time. (Seriously-- the little green men in the computer keep count of this stuff.) Best of all, you guys bring such insight and support and humor that it's truly a highlight of my week, and I think this space is helping a lot of people. Thank you so much for being part of it.

Zainab (who also deserves the most humongous of thank-yous-- a truly Brobdingnagian shout-out to her!) and I have high hopes and big plans for Baggage Check in 2019, and you can continue to be part of helping it grow, with some potential new horizons. Stay tuned! 

So, are you stressing about the holidays? Taking stock of the year? Looking forward to the flipping of the calendar? Just trying to get through a final week of work before people clear out of the office?

And, oh yeah. Today's column! A wife sounding distant in emails, and a LW who should not be facing her abusive ex at their son's graduation party-- but how can son come to understand that?

Okay. Here we go!

I'm someone who both has difficulty forming friendships and is not interested in dating. The former might bother me, and the latter doesn't in a vacuum, but they get mixed with a sense of obligation (e.g., self-talk talk that well-functioning adults should do both of these things). In the past, therapists haven't been particularly helpful in distinguishing between what I see as a problem with myself and what feels like a problem out of self-judging or perceived judgment of others; instead, they treat both as situations that need to be fixed which, in turn, just makes me feel worse. Do you have either recommendations for how to communicate this conflict more clearly in therapy, how to distinguish between problems and non-problems for myself, or to become comfortable with my own nonconventional desires and lifestyle?

I think you communicated the conflict pretty well here!

I am sorry it's been tough for therapists to see that.

So, first-- the dating piece. You grow more comfortable with it by saying it more out loud. By not pretending. By not being set up on dates you don't want or indulging talk from your friends and family that is misleading or making it seem that it is something you should want or need to have. By doing more reading about the whole beautiful, embraceable lifestyle of being happily single (Bella DePaulo-- who writes with me over at Psychology Today-- comes to mind.) And by... here's the rub... perhaps being open to finding a community of like-minded people.

So that, of course butts right up into the whole friendship thing. And from what I am gathering you do perhaps want to explore more in that department, difficult as it may be. So, could this perhaps be another two-trees/one-seed situation? Could you make a goal to meet/befriend/connect with more people who are happily single but interested in a bit of socializing/friendship/camaraderie?

And explicitly identify that as a goal, whether to yourself or to the next therapist that you try?

My question is about normal healthy boundaries between exes. In this case my long time boyfriend is co-parenting a 9 y/o child with his ex-girlfriend (never married). They have remained good friends throughout the time. My boyfriend claims that in his case, maintaining a good close relationship is a priority to him because of his child, which I respect. What concerns me is the attitude of the mother of the child. She has never been in a serious relationship since their breakup (10 years ago), at the beginning of our relationship she claimed to me that she still wanted my boyfriend back and she has always expressed no interest in us establishing a relationship despite the fact that I interact with his kid on a somewhat regular basis. What is making me bring this up today is that she is graduating in a few weeks (graduate school) and my boyfriend is traveling out of town to attend her graduation. This makes me uncomfortable and I wonder if I'm justified to feel uncomfortable. Is it normal and healthy for an ex, in this context to invite her ex to her out of town graduation ceremony? And is it immature from me to have preferred or expected my boyfriend to decline the invitation?

I don't think you'll get far here by worrying about what's "immature" or not.

You feel how you feel. You have a right to it. The question is, can you communicate with your boyfriend about it in a way that feels understanding and respectful to each other?

I am not sure I have a solid frame of reference here about whether the graduation thing is "reasonable." On the one hand, I could see it seeming sort of inappropriate. On the other hand, if it is a huge milestone for the mother of his child that becomes a big family celebration, then it might somehow seem strange for him to not be there-- for the sake of the kid.

But.

The fact that she still wants him back (or at least did at some point, and at least thought it was a-okay to tell you that) and also that she wants no relationship with you is where things veer a little more off course here.

But this isn't about her per se.

It's about your boyfriend's handling of her.

Which brings us back to the beginning. Can you get rid of the worries about how you should or shouldn't feel, and instead talk to him openly and vulnerably about the way you DO feel? And be willing to listen to each other and see where each other is coming from?

The discussion from last week about the poorly dressing boss reminds me of similar situation my wife dealt with at work. My wife is a VP and one of her directors makes some very unfortunate clothing decisions. The director's "style" is really quite unattractive and unflattering. I'm not even sure where she gets her outfits because they are not good looking at all. But nothing inappropriate or not washed, so nothing really odd like the boss from last week who wore the same thing ad nauseum. The director's wardrobe did lead to people not taking her seriously or thinking of her as a bumpkin. It's unkind, but that's the reality of the situation. But in this situation there wasn't really a way for my wife to intervene. She just didn't think it was appropriate for a supervisor to tell a subordinate that she has poor taste. My wife would have been kind about it, but the underlying message would have been that a grown woman doesn't know how to dress herself. Not sure how to handle this kind of thing.

There's no doubt that it's tricky.

But I actually think it's far easier when it's a supervisor saying it to a subordinate. As compared to when we had OP potentially saying it to the BOSS last week.

I do think the conversation takes finesse, in order to steer away from both "You don't know how to dress yourself," and also "You have poor taste." It's somewhere more along the lines of establishing professional norms within a given workplace. Of course, depending on what exactly these mysterious, unattractive outfits were, perhaps indeed it's still really tough.

Bottom line, when people are being significantly harmed by it, though, at some point trying to have the difficult conversation in a respectful way can be a kindness. I truly believe this.

Like telling me quickly and discretely I have a black bean in my teeth rather than LETTING ME GO THROUGH AN ENTIRE LUNCH LIKE THAT, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD.

My partner and I of 15 years have minimal contact with his abusive parents who live across the country, and but we've noticed his mother's mental state is slipping. Sequence of Events A that happened earlier this year suddenly changed to Sequence of Events B, and then to C, and D... it's alarming that she can't remember reality. I'm not talking about her perception of a conversation, but things like "so-and-so said ___ at dinner and I disagreed" morphs in her memory over several months into "so-and-so threatened me with violence" (my partner was there and no threats occurred). We don't think it's intentional lying, since she also seems to be re-writing what happened for things as far back as my partner's childhood. For example, she beat my partner when he was living at home, and now she swears she never struck him. He obviously remembers differently. My partner's father lives with his mother, but either dismisses my partner's concerns or takes his wife's perspective and changes his story of what happened, too. How do we continue our boundaries while initiating care or a check in (doctors or a social worker?), when it's in our best interest and health for us to be away from them?

I guess part of me wonders if her mental state is actually slipping, as in this is a neurocognitive issue, versus whether this is just part and parcel of her being an abusive person, with all the personality dysfunction that goes along with that.

I mean.... claiming that others threatened you when they didn't. Sure, that could be the early stages of dementia-like symptoms. But it could also be the hallmark move of a person who has spent their life creating excuses for why they are going to harm others.

Regardless, though, I admire your desire to make sure that they are okay. But I also want to bolster your instinct to keep yourselves safe and not get enmeshed in a way that will damage your own mental health. (After all, the false accusations could begin to fly against you as well.)

First, are there potential comrades in this? Siblings or aunts and uncles or cousins or family friends or neighbors who might join forces here?

Is there a senior-services department in the community that they live in? That would be the first place I would call for advice. Tell them you live across the country but want to figure out what the resources are for potential help in keeping an eye out for them, given your concerns.

You can also see if they are willing to give you the name of their doctor where you could communicate (perhaps in only a one-way direction, but at least that's something) your worries.

Chatters, anyone been there?

I recently discovered that my partner of 2 years likes to endulge in a controlled substance. He's told me on various occasions that he'll quit, but doesn't follow through. Due to other things and dare I say, slightly controlling issues I've begun to feel unhappy & disappointed in him/his actions. He says he's willing to do random drug screenings and couples counseling, but I'm not sure how to feel about that since I have so many mixed emotions. Will couples counseling offer any hope for us?

It could.

But I'm still unsure if he wants to quit/get clean/however we are going to refer to his not using the substance anymore. (Because I'm not sure if we're talking addiction, occasional use, or anything in between. Truth be told, if he is trying to quit-- or just pretending to-- and not following through, that's not a great sign.)

I think part of what's important here is the "slightly controlling issues."

Assuming that it's you feeling that he's somewhat controlling, you know that that is giving me pause here.

So.... could couples counseling help? Perhaps. But only if he's motivated to go for the same goals you are. And there are some substantial question marks about that, as I see it.

thank you, and thanks to everyone who had coffee and tea with me last week. It meant a lot, it cheered me up, it gave me a boost! Amazing to find a little bit of community online, and I am having a better day and a better week. I decorated the porch, and my kid is coming to watch a Christmas movie and decorate the tree with me. December hugs and hot cocoa to you all! 

I am (quite cheesily, but I don't care) pumping my fist in the air as I type this.

YESSS!!!!

Thank you so much for taking the time to write in with this update. I am so glad you are getting some warmth and some company with your kid, and that you got some here as well.

Hear hear!

This is in response to the person who wrote, two weeks ago, "In my estimation, doing something admirable or noteworthy requires having exceptional skills/knowledge," and concluded that they couldn't do anything obituary-worthy because they lacked exceptional skills/knowledge. There are many very meaningful things people can do that don't require special skills, just a willingness to suffer through some drudgery. For example, if a person is among the 37 percent of the US population that's medically eligible, they can SAVE A LIFE by donating platelets by apheresis. This requires zero skills, just a willingness to lie in a recliner for a couple of hours with needles in their arms. There's a particular need at this time of year, because platelets have only a 5-day shelf life, and many donors are busy with holiday plans. Not medically eligible to give platelets? There are all sorts of other things you can do that are very meaningful. For example, I volunteer with a group in Dupont Circle that sends books to prisoners, including prisoners who have been in solitary confinement for months or even years (which the United Nations considers torture). Although the work I do requires more skill and training than donating platelets, it doesn't require extraordinary skills or knowledge. For example, I may spend time looking up book titles to see whether the books I plan to send to a prisoner are banned by the prison authorities in their state, which is boring but easy. The result is that a person in complete isolation receives a nice package of books, which is VERY meaningful to them. There are all sorts of other activities that are meaningful without requiring special skills. You can pick up litter, or clean cages at an animal shelter. You won't win a Nobel Prize, but your work WILL be meaningful.

Man, I just love this. Thank you.

It is so true. So many times it is the showing up and following through that brings the meaning-- the act of just doing the task that can make such a difference to someone else.  The meaning comes from the fact that you chose to make that difference. That you were there and followed through. And it didn't take years of training or fluky genetics or a special type of education. It just took being willing to do it, to devote the time-- that alone sets someone apart, and therein lies the magic.

I love what you do, and the group you are a part of. Solitary confinement is something I've spoken out against in the past, as I agree that it is inhumane and solves nothing. You are providing those individuals a ray of light.

And the platelet donation information is a really helpful eye-opener.

Are you out there, OP? There's real wisdom here.

Thanks again.

In response to your advice to my question on December 4th. . . But that’s just the thing. I think I use the word controlling because that is the closest negative I can find, but I also have the fear that he’s not actually controlling and I’m just impossible to date. As in… is he controlling or am I just immature? He doesn’t like me wearing extra revealing clothing—but who does? He makes comments about not liking it when I go out with certain friends, but he is correctly basing that on the fact that those friends and I return to our high school mantra of “blackout or backout” when we’re together. He calls/texts 20+ times when I don’t respond, but see above for reasoning. However, the calling and texting does seem unnecessary given that he follows my location and can see when I am safely home. Beyond that, the smaller issues of getting upset with me for not posting enough pictures of him on social media or always having him in my profile picture; losing his shit if we don’t talk on the phone every night (we’re currently semi-long distance); making me smile and say hi to girls I don’t like at parties (I’ve never been a walk in and hug everyone type person); and is very insistent on sex when I’m not in the mood. But I feel as though I just described perfectly understandable responses to dating a girl who likes going out A LOT and doesn’t like to be bogged down with texts/calls. If our roles were switched, didn’t I just describe the typical jealous girlfriend? Which all in all leads me to conclude the main issue is that I’m 24 and just tired of commitment. And that answer scares me because I don’t want to lose him forever just because I may not feel ready right now. I have to grow up eventually, after all. I’m sure a lot of the allure I feel toward being single is the instant gratification of “being wanted” by men. Which I guess just brings me to a rephrased version of my original question: how do you know if you’re just bored/ want superficial validation or if there’s actually something wrong with the relationship? I'd like to trust my gut but what if my gut is just horny?

Okay. I'll see your question, and raise you one of my own:

Do you really think that a guy who pressures you for sex when you don't want it, "loses his shit" if you don't talk on the phone at a schedule he dictates, gets upset when you don't post enough pictures of him, texts you twenty times when he already sees your whereabouts-- oy, I'm not sure I even have the heart to finish this list-- anyway, do you actually think that those things still allow for the possibility that there is NOT something wrong with the relationship?

Look, I see your bigger picture here--  this classic issue of "What if it's not that this person isn't a match, but rather that NO person is? And how do I know whether that's true? And if it is, how do I keep from throwing away a good-enough relationship because of it?" A lot of folks struggle with that, and I don't mean to discount it.

I just don't happen to believe it applies here. Because I happen to believe this guy is definitively NOT a match.

I stand by my original point, which is that it makes zero sense to get bogged down with whether or not there is some pattern that will eventually emerge about your being chronically unsatisfied, when in this particular instance, the sample size of one is enough to be unsatisfied right here, right now. Legitimately unsatisfied. To the point where this psychologist (and I'm guessing some chatters as well) will be driven to say with all their might: that list from a couple of paragraphs ago IS NOT HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP BEHAVIOR. You should be unsatisfied.

I think that answers your question? Perhaps not in the way you wanted.

I am sorry.

I actually submitted this question to Gene for his chat because for some reason I thought it was Wednesday. I am seeking comfort I guess. Yesterday, my loving, cuddly dog whom I got from the shelter 6 months ago snapped at me and bit my nose (not very hard, but still, he broke the skin) because I laid next to him as he was eating his kong full of peanut butter. Normally, I can get close to him when he's eating and he will never snap, but yesterday was odd since we did have a visitor in the home. Regardless, I'm just very upset. It feels like a betrayal of sorts because I've given him everything--my love, food, I even let him on the bed! And then he bites me. Plus, he had a tumultuous beginning with us because he would get aggressive with other male dogs and bite them, so I've been working really hard with him to be gentle and to become friends with other dogs, etc. I cried for an hour last night because I was just so upset and didn't want to be with him. This may sound stupid, but now I'm also second guessing having kids with my husband because I know rationally this isn't the dog's fault per se--he was just acting as a dog would act, but yet I'm treating him and acting like he should have known what he was doing and keeping my distance. What will I do when we have kids and they do something as a three year old that makes me upset? Kids don't know but I'm still going to have to have the strength to be the "bigger person" and I'm not sure I'm strong enough.

You may have still been able to get an answer from Gene about this—his chats are Tuesdays right before this, and he definitely has a way with helping people deal with dog heartbreaks of all varieties—but I want to take a stab at this too.

First, your reaction is understandable. It’s surprise, it’s fear, it’s frustration, it’s anger, it’s sadness. Mr. Doggie disappointed you and hurt you, and if you weren’t upset by that, it would probably mean you didn’t have much skin in the game with this guy. It's the price you pay for caring about him.

Here’s the thing, though—this isn’t the first time that someone or something you love has disappointed you, presumably. So how have you handled it before? No doubt, someone has screwed up or hurt you and you haven’t necessarily always given up on them or dumped them or viewed them as a totally different person from here on out. And in those cases, you haven't even been able to blame it on that someone being a dog or a young child who doesn't know better. Family members, partners, coworkers, neighbors, friends—I am guessing this isn’t the first time that you have had high hopes for someone’s behavior and they have taken those hopes and (at least temporarily) trashed them.

Kids are the same way—they will break your heart. And they'll do it again, when you least expect it and were just trying to brush your teeth. But you will rise again, in part because that’s just what you do. I think with a dog it’s a little trickier because perhaps part of this whole emotional stew is the anxiety-producing question of whether this arrangement is sustainable. Whether—if Mr. Doggie’s behavior gets worse—you will have to give him up. That is heartbreaking and scary and probably lends an entire air of confusion and fear and overthinking to this situation that wouldn’t really apply with child-rearing, because—congrats! With kids you’re stuck with them (pretty much) no matter what.

The other thing that's really important here is that right now your feelings are hot, they're raw, they're so visceral that it's hard to imagine that they will fade. But they will. Feelings don't tend to be permanent. And whether you are a doggie parent or a spouse or a parent of children, your lives together will go on and you will adjust and the feelings will cool off. And then they will do something sweet and you will take a walk in the sunshine and then laugh about something or have a nice meal or a nice hug and you will go back to the big, love-filled overall picture all over again.

So-- don't take this as a referendum on anything about yourself as a person. Something upsetting happened-- and (shocker!) it upset you. Give yourself some time. Hey, you can even frame it as practice for a child-- that this incident will actually make you more adaptable to these situations in the future.

And, finally, as the Mom of a dog who has given me my share of stress (but we love you to pieces, Buster!), I'd be remiss if I didn't ask-- are you getting some support from a trainer or behaviorist in your work with him?

My family asked me to go see a psychiatrist because they thought I might be suffering from anxiety and depression. I had low energy (fatigue), problems sleeping, and was gaining more weight than normal. The doctor put me on LexaPro and some sleep medicine, but also suggested I get a physical since it had been 8 years since my last one (I'm 57). The blood work came back showing that I may have a thyroid gland deficiency, and some of the symptoms are similar to my symptoms. So, how do I know if it is my mental health or my physical health causing the symptoms?

It's a great question, because lots of people have both factors present, and sometime there can be a vicious-circle component where the physical component just makes the mental worse.

It's entirely up to you how to begin figuring this out, but one way to approach it would be to get started in treating the hypothyroidism right away, and see if that brings some relief (and weigh that with what the Lexapro has or hasn't been doing.) Given that you describe mainly physical symptoms and not typical emotional symptoms of depression (sadness, hopelessness, difficulty making decisions, a sense of futility or shame, a loss of interest and pleasure in things that used to bring joy), then I wouldn't be surprised if this was predominantly the thyroid piece causing it. But as long-time chatters know, I'll virtually never talk someone out of exploring the emotional piece! So if you do think there's a component to that-- and again, there may very well be, even if it's instigated by the thyroid issues-- no harm in addressing both angles at once and seeking out someone for therapy, not just medication.

Good luck! And good for you and your doctor for exploring this-- too many people are left in the dark about how everything fits together mentally and physically.

As a woman whose mother divorced her controlling father and still can't be around him 25+ years later and one who divorced her own abusive husband (no kids), I have lived both sides of this. Even growing up knowing why my mom left my dad, I didn't really understand why she couldn't just be around him at events "for me" until I lived it myself. Your son may never truly get it, but if you haven't been honest with him about the abuse yet you should be now. This graduation party is just the first of many events where you will see your ex, and some (like a wedding) you can't go halfsies on. This might be a useful test-case to figure out how you are going to deal with these events. I suggest talking to a therapist about coping strategies for these events. And who knows, maybe facing him could end up being affirming: he has no power over you anymore. Good luck!

Thank you for this!

It's a very helpful perspective. And as much as I don't think LW should be forced to face anything she doesn't want to-- the risk of retraumatization is real-- it may feel hopeful to imagine the long road, where someday he doesn't have as much ability to cause her such anxiety.

I am glad you have been able to get through this... on both counts.

I'm so sorry for the LW with PTSD who's being pressured to attend a son's graduation. I understand her desire not to ruin her son's relationship and that she might not want to disclose things that might hurt his feelings or make her feel vulnerable again in some way. But there's another aspect to this. If your son was old enough to have witnessed interactions (that is, he wasn't a tiny baby when you divorced), he may be growing up with ideas about "normal" relationships that are actually very dysfunctional. So it can actually benefit him to hear at least some broad strokes from you. I grew up comforted by the fact that my parents weren't divorced like the others in my neighborhood, and then as soon as us kids left the house, bam--divorce. I realized that things I thought were "normal" were not OK, such as bickering, different perspectives on money, attitudes towards disciplining us, etc. It made me much more conscious of considering what a good, respectful relationship is and making sure that I'm in one and treating my partner well.

This is a really important point. Thank you.

Done right, this could actually be a healing and illuminating time for son and mother, I truly believe.

This is a trap this person has put themself into. "I have no exceptional skills or knowledge so I will never be able to do anything admirable or noteworthy." CBT, stat!

Exactly.

It's like a pair of mental handcuffs!

It is definitely a thing the supervisor could bring up. I love Allison in Ask a Manager. Just find an opening and be matter of fact. She emphases that tone is important - so zone into your 'looks great, just a few typos' tone. Keep it light. 'I wanted to give you heads up that we dress more conservatively in this industry - more the navy suit and matching blouse brigade (ha). Dressing like the others helps people take you seriously. Ridiculous I know {shrug}. Then you change the topic so it's not awkward - now about John's memo ... .

Yes, this is definitely a potential breezy, respectful way to bring it up when it's a subordinate! Thank you.

This is how my relationship started, and I am near the end of a divorce after an 11 year relationship, 9 years of which involved domestic violence. These are the signs I wish I paid attention to. GET OUT NOW!!! Even after 11 years, it still took me another full year to realize that there would be healthy relationships out there. I still have to deal with my abuser despite the 16 year restraining order due to having a child together. So once again, GET OUT NOW!!

I knew you guys would back me up here! Thank you. Are you out there, OP?

But I am so sorry to hear what you went through.

There is a lot of information out there on line, and there's a National Thyroid Foundation with tons of information, so please do some research as you talk to your doctor about this.

Yes! Very helpful, thanks.

and if you get the post-holiday blues in January, please come back for more hugs and virtual tea! We'll be here.

Yes we will! Thank you so much.

(Sorry, accidentally submitted incomplete last week) So five years ago I moved for my husbands job, halfway across the country from my family (close knit extended family) and friends. I have tried to make the best out here; but I am finding myself lonely. I have made friends, repeatedly, to have them move away. I tried to keep in touch with some coworkers when I left work, no dice (except the one who moved away). I have a few activities, but the other participants are generally 15-20 years older (minimum) and we don’t tend to click in the same way. Right now, there is literally no one I would dream of calling up and saying “It is a crappy week, do you have time for coffee?” I have two small children, but do not want a mom’s group. There are enough children’s shows in my life. I do not want someone in the trenches with me. I want one thing where I am not “so and so’s mom”. I am very sure I would like to move back, which is luckily an option. I have friends who still live there. But I am afraid that I’m falling victim to wishful thinking. Moving would involve a significant increase in cost of living, a less pleasant commute, and extensive hassle. How do I make a careful analysis when I just feel stuck here?

Well, how does your husband feel about all of this? How does he like it where you are? Is moving a wishful thinking pipe dream, or something that he would be willing to do as well, for potential benefits on both sides?

But-- the here and now. Look, I understand your fear about Mom friends. But Mom friends come in all varieties, just like friends (aka people) do. Some of them will want to spend coffee talking about diapers over and over again, and others will be seeking out coffee precisely to not hear a single word about diapers. The truth is, logistics and proximity and like-circumstances are often thing that help friendships get off the ground, and if you write off the entire swath of people who have the potential to have the most in common with you on those fronts right now, then you automatically put yourself at a disadvantage.

However, I get it. If you want to avoid the Mom friend scene, it just means you have to put forth a little more effort to meet friends and get the relationship off the ground. It sounds like you've had a swath of bad luck. (Why is everyone constantly moving? Do you live on an active volcano?) It stands to reason that to the extent that making friends is just a numbers game,  you've just got to keep at it. Build community where you can. Join listservs. Take classes in your interests. Consider frequenting the same gym or park (oops, Mom friends again) or coffee shop. Consider volunteer work. Consider "asking out" some coworkers for a more personal lunch or happy hour. Reach out to spouses of friends your husband may be developing.

The tricky part is, like dating, there's no magic number where things will pay off. But the more you try, the more chance you have. And if the dice are still rolling so cruddily against you, then we're back to the question of.... might a move make sense after all?

Like many others in the DC area, my husband and I are from somewhere else originally, in our case 5 hours away by car. We now have a young daughter but we continue to feel the pull of living closer to our family so she can grow up with grandparents and other family. How do you know this is the right decision? In our particular case, it would also be extremely difficult to find a job in our current career fields. We'd basically need to blow up both of our careers in order to do it. We just don't know what else to do since this area is so transient and our reality has been making new friends every 5 years only to see them move away and we start the process all over again. Living near family seems like it will include stability in that area. This is rambling but we feel so lost and lonely.

I am sorry! Loneliness is a huge deal, and can trickle down to feel like it affects virtually everything within your life.

Getting screwed by friends constantly moving away seems to be a theme today. As a longtime DC-area-dweller who has put down roots and is raising a family here, though, I would say that it sounds more like awful luck on your part rather than a characteristic that is truly across-the-board endemic to this area. (Though perhaps I have just had particularly good luck.) 

So-- how do you know whether it is the "right" answer? You understand that you may never know for sure-- after all, your life doesn't have a control group (unless you believe in parallel universes.) You weigh the potential risks and benefits as well as you can foresee them, you try to take as clear of a perspective as possible to avoid "grass is greener" syndrome, you come up with Plan B and C and even D, and you determine what your boundaries would be-- how long you would give it a try, what parameters you'd need in terms of finances/jobs in order to do it in the first place, what your decision rule would be in order to try to reverse it-- and you decide if you have the stomachs to take the plunge. And you know that there might not be a "right" answer either way, but you take what you have chosen and you make it work... until you decide that it doesn't.

Have any chatters traveled this road?

Well, I say brava to you (and Alex Petri) for holding down the fort today, while the two Genes (old man chat holders Weingarten & Robinson) canceled their live online chats!

Laughing here.

And now I'm really happy I answered the Doggie question!

My husband has worked his butt off for years to succeed in his field. And he is successful. But he said that all he wants in his obituary is, "He tried not to screw anyone over."

That is as admirable as anything!

How have you been interacting with your wife, recently? Is it possible she's treating you like a coworker because you talk at (or more generously, to) her about your work a lot? It's very possible this isn't true, but it's definitely a reason I become communicatively distant with my husband. If I just spent my whole day at my job, and am force to relive his whole day and be asked for advice on how he should handle x situation at his job every evening, well then I'm being treated as and will react as his coworker and not his wife.

Definitely an interesting perspective to consider. Thank you.

Joe, we really want to hear more!

Some of these moms might be soulmates. They might want that one kid-free thing, too, but the mom group is all they have time for. If you can manage to strike up conversations about your interests, that might strike a chord with one or two others and you can proceed from there. Just an idea.

I couldn't agree more. There's such a wide range of Moms out there-- including the Moms who want desperately to connect with others about non-Mom things. Thank you.

I belong to a circle of friends. All of them have grandchildren except me who wouldn't one because my 3 children are all gay (1 girl 2 boys). Whenever me and my friends gather all they talk about are their grandchildren or Facetime them. I feel very awkward around them but I have to go to these gatherings or they might think I’m trying to ignore them. How should I act in those situations?

Well, there's a middle ground between boycotting these gatherings (and "ignoring" them) versus being constantly sucked in to conversations that don't pertain to you or that you can't relate to.

How did you make these friends in the first place? Presumably there were common interests before the grandkids got here. Can you talk about books? Movies? Current events? Travel? Try new restaurants together? Take up a new hobby or a health challenge together? I'm wondering how much have you tried to introduce new topics or signs of life into the conversation?

That's your first step, I'd think. The second step would be to consider trying to build more one-on-one friendships within this group, which may lend itself better to resisting the onslaught of the grandkid-conversation deluge. Perhaps there are individual things that you have in common that you can try to maximize through invitations to various events or activities on that one-on-one level?

Also-- I'm a little confused by your wording there. I get that this is not what you're asking about, but having kids who are gay doesn't rule out grandkids by any stretch. But I understand that the larger point is that in the here and now, you are feeling like the odd (wo)man out.

Hi Dr Bonior, Thanks for answering my question last week in the chat. For some reason I didn't see it until today. The hardest thing for me in life and probably the most useful lesson I have learned in recovery is taking constructive criticism. Hearing what you said hurt a bit (because I wanted to be told I was right) but really, this is an issue with me. I can't tell you how many times I have told sponsees, "Your recovery should never depend on a single person." I have always meant this to mean that if your new sober best friend from rehab relapses, it shouldn't affect your sobriety. But here I am, making the same mistake in a different context. I have spent the time since I read your answer musing about the many good women I have met in AA and have had the privilege to sponsor. Time to get myself to a meeting!

Yes, indeed!

I am so glad that you're able to take a bit of a broader perspective here. And connect those dots so well between what you advise a sponsee, versus what you need to nudge yourself to do. 

Thank you so much for this update!

I'm a dog trainer. Please remember that dogs have limited ways by which they can let you know they don't like something; that it worries or frightens them. Your dog told you something important--that he's anxious when someone he's not used to is near something he values (in this case, the kong) and that heightened anxiety made me react differently. Most dogs have a repertoire of warning signals. In fact, it's why I advise people not to punish their dogs when they growl because a growl is the dog telling you "I don't like this. Please stop before anything escalates." It's possible your dog didn't go from zero to 60 and that there were other signals (freezing, eyes darting sideways, for example) you weren't looking for because you never had to. Or it could be that something in the dog's background made that particular situation especially anxious. But the bottom line is that when dogs growl or snap, they aren't being mean. Most often, they're scared or worried, and they have few ways to tell you that.

So helpful, and this reflects very much what I've come to learn from my own experience and trainers' advice. Honestly, even after spending decades trying to continue to learn the nuances of human behavior, the world of dog behavior and body language was soooo new. But so eye-opening.

Thank you!

Yes - your dog needs to understand your expectations and you might not be understanding your dogs body language. This is a great primer in understanding what your dog is trying to tell you. Be gentle on yourself. https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=2&v=8bg_gGguwzg

So I haven't been able to vet (ooh, no pun intended) this yet, but I'll put it out there on faith.

There is no shortage of solid resources out there for you, OP!

I recently found the Love Letters column and weekly chats by Meredith Goldstein and read her book. One of the things she talks about is the development of a community of readers/chatters online, and then that they started doing local meetups in Boston hosted by Meredith. I wonder if something like that might be possible in DC for the new (and amazing!) Baggage Check group.

That would be pretty amazing, indeed!

I would definitely be up for something like this. The key is getting us to a critical mass where it would not just be me sitting there with a tray of hot spinach dip, wondering where everyone is!

Will definitely keep it in mind as we grow. Many thanks!

Wait...your doctor put you on an antidepressant and THEN sent you for a physical? The physical should have come first. It showed thyroid deficiency, you'd have been put on medication for THAT, and, if no improvement, the antidepressant could have been discussed.

I agree with you, but wasn't quite sure whether to bring it up.

You did my job for me.

I do want to give doc props for at least getting around to the physical eventually, though.

I am trying to deal with a husband who can't seem to grasp the meaning of honesty, and is more than comfortable lying and sneaking around when he could just have a simple conversation about things not to his liking. What gives with this type of behavior? We've been married 28 years and it still is like a punch in my gut when I discover another instance of being played. I feel like a fool once again, and now can't bounce back like I used to. He is not one to share his feelings or thoughts with me, but is Mr. Conversation with his blood relatives. Any advice? Thank you.

So, what would be the point of you bouncing back, only to be deceived again?

You're nearly three decades in to this marriage, and it's unclear to me if this is a change, or if your husband has always been honesty-challenged. But you need to decide how you want to live. Ideally, we trust our spouses more than anyone.

If that's not a possibility in your marriage, how much does it matter to you? That's the crucial question here, especially since it appears it may not matter enough to him.

If he is motivated to work on it, and to care how this affects you, then there is hope.

But if he is playing you about that too, then I'm afraid the question becomes whether you think you deserve to be stuck with a marriage without the most basic foundation of trust.

I had a similar experience to the first letter writer in that my ex-wife, when we were married, had become very distant and formal in her emails and texts (using my first name and signing her name at the end of emails, rather than her previous "xoxo"). She was having an affair, one that I suspected, but which she vehemently denied even long after I had conclusive proof. I would urge the letter writer to speak to the wife, but to also objectively look at what else is going on. There's a good chance his wife may lie about the true reason for the distance and the chance. In that case, objective evidence of things like secrecy (passwords on devices which were previously unprotected, desire to do things "alone" that one used to do with the spouse, unexplained absences, gaslighting, etc.), coupled with newly different behavior, may suggest an affair. For me personally, the gaslighting and lies were worse than the fact of the affair. The husband should also reach out to his close friends and talk about this, both as a sanity check and in case it does turn out that he needs the support. I wish I had spoken to my family/friends about what was happening sooner, as I was clearly in denial about what was happening and they could have provided the voice of reason.

I'm so sorry that this is how it turned out for you. But what you learned from the experience may very well be helpful for OP (as much as I hope that isn't the case!)

Thank you.

I've lived in DC for 9 years, I'm 27, engaged, and super want kiddos soon--but I truly don't know how to...plan? The DCPS systems seems like a disaster to navigate, the local online parenting groups are scary, getting into see an OBGYN means walking into capital women's care and finding an impersonal doc who rushes because they're swamped. I love the city. I'd like to stay. I'm the only one of my friends who's planning on having kids and I'm hoping you (or any local readers!) can provide me with....advice? Anecdotes? Do I move out to VA to get a suburban doctor who knows my name and schools that aren't lottery based? How do people have kids in the city?

This isn't something I can answer from exact firsthand experience-- my knitting obsession alone demanded space a bit bigger than exact District confines would allow for-- but I know and love many people who have had navigated this beautifully and couldn't be happier about raising children in the city.

I think it comes down to finding your groove and your tribe, like with anything else. Like- yes-- the parenting listservs may be scary at first glance, but 99 percent of people reading them are pretty un-scary (and are sitting there thinking about how scary that 1 percent are.) And connecting with them may be easier than you think.

City parents, any specific words of wisdom?

"What will I do when we have kids and they do something as a three year old that makes me upset?" Having been there, I would say what you do is anticipate that you will get triggered and be upset by your children, and you make a game plan and build a support network that you will utilize when it happens. Because it will happen, and it does not mean that you're not cut out for parenthood or will be a bad parent.

Beautiful. Thank you.

Why do we have so many clubs, apps, websites, activities, etc. designed to create romantic relationships and none of these for friendships? I'd like to make new friends too. Why can't I do speed dating for friendships? Or a friendship relationship app? Why isn't this easier? Maybe we need a Facebook group and people can post looking for new friends?

You know, I've been in the friendship-specialist sphere for a while, and it's a question I've asked myself so many times. Arguably friends (or the lack thereof) play an even more crucial role in many of our lives than an individual romantic partner does at any given point, and yet there's so little out there about it, and so little help for such a common quandary.

Though I should say, there have definitely been some attempts to make inroads here. Shasta Nelson, a friend of mine and fellow friendship-specialist, founded Girlfriend Circles to address this problem, and there have been other inroads as well. And a lot of people have had success with things like meetup.com or more specific neighborhood/community listservs for trying to bring friendships into their lives.

Keep trying!

Oh no, honey. He is controlling and borderline abusive. Trust your judgment. Even if you are "impossible to date" (what does that even mean?) no one should treat you like that.

Another vote. Thank you!

How does the graduating son not know his dad is this abusive? (I mean it’s possible but...) Can she not just say “This isn’t about me rising to the occasion. I will likely have a panic attack and no one wants that. Please don’t ask me to be in the same room with him. Instead let’s [have lunch or dinner or whatever]” It may be worth, if the son is local, having joint therapy where she can discuss the son’s father in a way that helps the son understand mom and the relationship so that he doesn’t make these requests.

Good ideas here. Much appreciated.

I can imagine a whole host of perspectives son is coming from, whether it be outright denial, or a lack of empathy, or pressure from (or fear of!) Dad, or anything in between.

Worth exploring.

I'm in!

Woohoo!

I hope you like spinach dip.

I had the same feeling about not wanting to hang out with other moms. I finally got so desperate I did join a moms group and guess what! I found a mom just like me who had no interest in talking about kids or our husbands. That was 15 years ago and we are still friends and share tons of interests. Give yourself a chance and at least give it a try.

Yes!!

This potential really is out there. Do you believe us, OP?

Uh-oh, my husband and I ALWAYS do that, and I can guarantee that neither of us is having an affair because he's retired, I work from home, and we're the ultimate homebody types!

haha!

But that's your normal, so it works. With OP/LW, it apparently represents something of a change from their normal, which is disconcerting....

Hi Dr. Bonior, my mother is in her late 70s, widowed, in okay health, though certainly slowing down. She is generally reticent, thus having any serious conversations is incredibly difficult. Additionally, her financial situation is not the most fantastic. I don't know if Mom has given any serious thought to a plan or ideas regarding what happens when she is no longer easily able to live on her own. Fortunately, one of my siblings lives not too far from Mom, and is looking at larger homes which could accommodate both sibling's family AND Mom eventually. That would mean Mom having to leave the town in which she currently lives and has friends - but those are friends with whom she has coffee and does a monthly book club, not friends who would regularly take her to the doctor or grocery store (among other things, Mom is terrible at asking for help, and of course asking for someone to take you to your cataract surgery once is different than asking for help with weekly shopping!). Do you (or readers) have any tips on how to discuss these things with her? Thank you in advance.

This is such a common issue, that affects so many of us at some point. In fact I don't think I've ever heard "Hey, I had this great, smooth talk with my parents about aging/health/money/estate issues/long-term care/mobility/driving/power of attorney/health care directives, it went just as expected, we were both happy to talk about it, and everything is peachy now!"

If only.

So, just know that awkwardness or discomfort may very well be part of this process, and that's okay. There's not necessarily any way to avoid the tough parts altogether.

But the longer you avoid, the tougher and more cumbersome the conversation gets-- and the fewer options you have, and the less in control your mother may find herself.

So. Think about your Mom's personality and what might go the best. Giving her notice? "Hey, Mom-- Sally and I wanted to talk to you about some logistical issues in terms of long-term plan. What would be the best way/time to do that?"

Or perhaps, if that would make her dig in her heels and summon her best resistance (I don't know just how hard-core her reticence is), then you can bring it up more subtly in the moment. "You know, I was talking with a friend/getting my own estate together, and it dawned on me we've never had a conversation about what you foresee wanting in those days long down the road when you may not be able to easily live on your own."

If she gets reticent again, then that's when you and your sister need to nudge with a few more specific options: "Mom, how would you feel about XYZ?" or "Mom, we've looked into ABC. Can we talk about it?" or "Mom, which would you be more likely to consider, I or J?"

A couple other things to consider-- don't underestimate the power of these book club friends (shout-out to my own!) to eventually take on a more significant role in each other's lives, especially if they are all in the same age cohort. AND-- many communities are developing "villages" to meet precisely this need-- definitely give a look into that concept and see if it's a potential for your Mom. 

I know others have weathered this conversation. Chatters?

I recently had an opposite gender friendship end because my friend was concerned they weren't being a good partner to their significant other. (We were close, but not flirtatious - it would have seemed completely normal if we were both men or women.) It definitely filled gaps for me, so I can see where the concern came from, but for me it was in a way that enhanced my marriage rather than detracted from it. I'm sad at the loss of my friend and also frustrated what's now missing in my life. (Have previously worked on these issues with my partner with limited success.) I don't want to leave my partner but I'm also really sad about the holes in my life... I wish there were a dating site for friends.

You know, it's interesting-- I believe this came in even before our friendship discussion today, but it coincidentally reflects so many of the same frustrations, albeit with a different spin.

Let yourself mourn this friendship-- it meant something to you, and it's sad that it had to end this way.

I do think in your case it's worth exploring exactly what those holes look like, and whether or not there is a little more that you can work on with your spouse in order to fill them. That said, friends are important in their own right, so I hope you will get on that path toward the frustrating but ultimately rewarding numbers game of looking for new connections.

Hang in there.

My beloved mother in law is dying of cancer. She is warm, funny, welcoming and a devoted grandma to our toddler. I cannot praise her enough, and it’s doubly important because my own family is thousands of miles away as I emigrated to be with my husband. Both his parents are fantastic and have welcomed me since the day we met, but his mum is very much the quiet centre of things - the one who makes plans, updates us on the rest of the family and friends. Since she got the terminal diagnosis a month and a half ago, we’ve seen them a couple times (the drive is over an hour so trips are full day affairs at least). It’s been lovely, but also heart wrenching. Watching our daughter play with her beloved Grandma, knowing she won’t remember any of this is the hardest part. Meanwhile, MiL is coping the grace, dignity and a lot of black humour while FiL is a model of marital devotion as he cares for her, manages her meds, takes over the household chores, etc. We’ll be there for a full week over Christmas and I’m honestly not sure how to cope. How do you treasure the time you have with someone and not let your grief ruin it? It just feels so unfair - she’s always been really healthy, looked after herself and comes from a line of women who lived to be in their 90s. We honestly expected her to be around for a couple more decades at least. My heart is breaking, and my husband is certainly not in better shape. How do we manage, make her Christmas lovely, just, all of it?

I am so sorry.

I think one of the reasons holidays have a tinge of darkness for so many people is not just that we have to “celebrate” while we desperately miss people who are now gone (though that part is indeed horrid.) I think it’s also because of the awareness that we don’t really know what next year will bring. That life is uncertain. That darkness can loom. That we can gather and bring light and be merry and be bright and yet…. And yet. We can never truly ward off the darkness. It’s the shadow that follows us, and it doesn’t go off-duty on Christmas. 

In this case, you know the exact shape of the darkness. And it’s horrific and unjust and makes you want to scream and cry and rage at the unfairness of it all. It is grief, crystallized in its purest form—even as your mother-in-law is still here.

But here’s the thing.

I don’t think your grief “ruins” the holiday.

After all, grief is the shadow of love.

So, I say you let yourself feel. You ache. You cry in the shower. You rage at her cancer. You laugh at your gem of a mother-in-law’s dark jokes while wanting to scream “&*%$-you” to the universe. You hold on to your husband awkwardly tight when you can’t speak. You get choked up over something silly, and you have to stop and take a breath.

Your mother-in-law’s holiday will be lovely because she is with the ones she loves. There will be food and warmth and conversation and laughter and a child she adores. (Kids—they’re always good for a be-present-in-this-moment reminder, whether we want it or not.) And one moment at a time, or one carol or gingerbread house or candle at a time, you are all in it together—for that moment, staving off the darkness.

And it can be lovely for you and your husband too, because you choose to be present. Not to turn away, but to be there and be real, through the pain and through the cracks. Those cracks are important. Because—in the words of the incomparable Leonard Cohen—that’s how the light gets in.

And that light is pretty lovely. I don’t think that holidays are special because the darkness is absent. I think they are special precisely because the darkness and the tears make us better appreciate the light.

So just be there, and choose to let it in. The shadow and the light. It’s all part of the same experience. And if you can bring yourself to really be in it, then you will at least be truly together and connecting.

As for your daughter not remembering her Grandma, I look at it a bit differently. Because you will continue to cherish the stories and the laughter and the memories and the warmth, and continue to keep those real for her. Right now, her Grandma is a light burning bright inside her heart, alive and well. And you will continue to keep that lit—it simply won’t have time to go out. Because you will keep remembering, and keep telling, and keep loving.

Forevermore.

So hang in there. But let yourself just be. My heart goes out to you, and I know I am not alone.

And, I promise, neither are you.

 

I wrote in a few chats ago about my husband's attitude and his unwillingness to change. He had recently changed jobs from a very toxic environment, and I had expected his poor attitude to improve, but it had not. You asked if he was still in the stressful part of a new job. We were able to talk in a non-stressed time not around the children, and a frank discussion began organically. I really felt heard, and he asked that I give him a while longer to adjust to his new position. Already he's improved, and I can deflect and re-direct any negative energy. I really appreciate your advice, and hope the best for you and yours in the new year. - Signed, a fellow VB transplant

VB in the house!! Love it. (Mount Trashmore 4-evah!)

Seriously, thank you so much for this update. It really warms my heart, and most of all it says a lot of about the relationship that you and your husband have that you were able to communicate so well even when things were so difficult. That takes a ton of respect and empathy and patience. Very well done-- and all my best to you both in the new year as well!

Well...we did, and everything is peachy, but that's not what you write in to an advice columnist about, right?

haha! Very true.

I should have acknowledged that I am working with a very skewed data sample.

So glad it went that well in your case!!

Sorry, that’s 100% the owner. Normal dogs resource guard (don’t let anyone near their food/toys). . I suggest this person gets to a behavior specialist because they should be disappointed in their own behavior. Not “betrayed” by a dog. Dogs think differently than humans and trying to use human logic on them will just frustrate you. - Vet & Dog breeder, from a family that includes a KPA certified dog trainer.

Well, I'm not on board with OP beating themselves up for their behavior, but I am on board with the ray of hope that comes from knowing that this is not atypical for a dog, and that there is a path forward through learning more. For that I thank you!

I have friends and co-workers who have really like the ob-gyns at the GW practice in Foggy Bottom (and their experience at the GW Hospital). Another friend loved her experience giving birth at Sibley. Schools are still a ways off if you're not pregnant yet....

I'm happy to give plugs (though unvetted) when they provide a ray of hope. Thank you!

This. My great-nieces don't remember their late grandfather when he wasn't failing, so we tell them stories about how funny and kind and interesting he was.

I love it. Thank you.

It really does keep the relationship alive in certain ways, even when the person is gone.

First, thanks for the affirmation to keep our boundaries! So many people we've asked advice from jump to "but your parents! You must be there for them!" without realizing how nasty they are. The tough part is they've isolated themselves for years. They go to a church, but don't spend time with anyone (and lie about how close their family is so no one checks in on them). FIL is open that he has no friends, he's "too busy." MIL has a few off-and-on friends but nothing of substance. They have family in town but haven't been on speaking terms for 20 years, and my partner's sibling is in another state, but we have been estranged from that sibling for longer (court cases involving assault, harassed my partner). See a pattern? I'm not sure if we can get a doctor's name but that's a good idea. We don't want to be around them, but can't stomach the idea that they fall or worse in their home and no one knows. Looking forward to seeing what chatters suggest too.

Thanks for this. I do hope we hear from others!

Yup, your need for healthy boundaries and well-being doesn't end just because the abusive person's health is failing or they are getting older. I think culturally we tend to forget this-- and go heavy on the guilt. But that doesn't help anyone.

Such a moving and profound and lovely answer. You write that off-the-cuff in real time? WOW.

That is really kind of you. Thank you.

That one I did write right before the chat began but-- because of a screwup with my wifi connection-- I had the blessing/curse of having to re-type it, which made me give it a little extra editing/thinking!

I agree with Andrea that having gay children does not imply no future grandkids. Having said that, my MIL had three children. All are now middle-aged, none (to the best of my knowledge) gay, and nevertheless she is 0 for 3 on grandkids. Just no interest from any. LW is hardly alone!

Yes! Thank you.

I really think that not being a grandparent when all your friends have become grandparents, seems to parallel not being a parent when all your friends have become parents, in terms of how it can affect the friendships. It's tough and can be alienating.

But it can be worked through, I am hopeful!

I normally just scroll through and read, but I had to respond to the dog bite chatter. I know what you mean, precisely. I recently had a somewhat traumatic injury and my dog and I were all over the place -- staying other places for weeks where we couldn't be as together as we were used to and I cried pretty much nonstop for weeks, I hinged all my happiness on finally coming home and just spending time with him like normal. When we finally were able to come home, he started really acting out. He tore things up, and reverted back to his behavior from many years ago. I was DEVASTATED. I took it super personally and just felt betrayed by him. Even as I was getting upset, I knew it wasn't rational, I was just so worn out and sad that I couldn't stop myself. But here's the thing. Dogs are gonna dog. As their people, we are responsible for setting them up for the best results. If that means restricting their movements in the house while your're gone all day and getting a dog walker (me) or working on their resource guarding and keeping them away from other dogs as needed (you), we have to do it. A dog company I love has a saying, No perfect people, no perfect dogs, just perfect fits. And that is so true. This is not a referendum on your ability to be a mother.

Oh, this is just great. So well said.

Dogs are gonna dog-- right, Buster? (He seems to agree wholeheartedly.)

Touching submission about dying MIL. I don't have a video camera, and personally loathe being in pictures, but even I (!) suggest: get some video of your daughter (and for that matter yourself & your husband & your FIL) with MIL at Christmas.

An important consideration! Thank you.

I was raised that it was COURTEOUS to address a person by their name whenever ffeasible (i.e., the name they wanted use) when speaking to them. As in, "Ms. Smith, how are you?" or "Johnny, feed the cat," or "I need advice, Dr. Andrea," etc.

True, but I think every marriage has its own norms in terms of how people address each other, right?

If my husband started calling me Dr. Andrea, I think I'd be pretty alarmed!

Seems like this is just an older version of what happens when young friends have their babies and you don't. I went though that in my 20's/30's and now I'm reliving that with friends who have grandkids. We don't get together as often because of "grandma duty" or the conversation is about the latest cute thing that happened or the latest drama in the grandkids life. I just feel like been there, done that, and don't want to do it again. sigh.............

Yes. I am sorry!

Hope you can weather this transition by salvaging some of the connections that still have potential in non-grand-kid-gushing ways, though.

One of the bad parts about dying is the loss of control in life. Can LW ask her lovely MiL what are some of the things SHE'D like to do (or not do) this holiday season? Obviously MiL can't control that big thing (imminent death), but she can still control some of the little things (like living in the present).

So true, and so potentially important.

Thank you.

AUGH! Hot button! One of my dear friends had to join forces with her brother to get their widowed mother to move to assisted living (believe me, it was necessary), and all her mother's friends in the neighborhood and church castigated my friend, insisting that she had to quit her job and take her mother into her home "because you're the daughter." Which increases the anguish by an order of magnitude.

Yes!

People are often all too willing to make assumptions/generalizations about what other people "should" do, or what rules "should" apply in other people's situations that they don't know the real story about. 

Sigh.

Oh I didn’t mean for the owner to beat herself up, just that the dog isn’t likely mentally ill or unfixable, rather the owner can learn how to judge situations and the dog’s response (as a prior comment stated) and work around this. As for dogs and kids: the grown up has to assume they will act like dogs (or kids of a certain developmental phase) and respond accordingly. You don’t treat a college graduate kid who throws food at dinner the same way you treat a year old kid throwing food at dinner :) I think the OP would do well to learn how to adjust to not thinking her dog is reacting like a fellow human adult and it will improve her parenting ability when she can think of her toddler as a toddler (not an uncooperative adult).

Yes, no worries-- that's right. I think your overall point is an important one! I just didn't want OP to keep being hard on herself.

Thank you for this!

Death the final stage of growth She was also the author of the groundbreaking book On Death and Dying, which first discussed The Five Stages of Grief. Elisabeth authored twenty-four books in thirty-six languages and brought comfort to millions of people coping with their own deaths or the death of a loved one. 4.5/5(32) Author: Elisabeth Kubler-Ross The final plan is, well, final.

Thank you. I do really like her work, and the work of David Kessler as well, who co-authored some of those works with her when she was still alive. 

We do so much better when we can eventually come to a place of meaning with someone's death--which keeps the relationship with them and the love for them alive, ultimately. As much as we might hate the fact that the loss of them had to happen.

You've completely missed the point, which was that this form of address was a complete change from the wife's previous habit.

It's definitely the change-from-the-norm aspect that's crucial here.

I work for DCPS (please, chatters, don't yell at me) and I won't deny that the system can be complicated... but it's really not as scary as it seems! There are plenty of good neighborhood schools you don't have lottery into and charters now give you neighborhood preference. Because of DC's universal pre-K initiatives, there are some really great PK3 and PK4 programs popping all over the city. My advice is find some neighborhoods you like and find out when the local schools (both public and charter) are having parent/neighborhood meetings and go. Or contact the head of the school's parent organization. https://dcps.dc.gov/page/parent-organizations My husband and I also just bought a home in DC and are planning on kids in the next few years... so I'm trying to walk my own talk here, too.

Yes! From the trenches. (See, fellow Moms really are good for a lot!) Thank you!

parents also went pretty well. They made the decision on their own to move into a continuum of care place nearer to my brother. There are still issues, but there is reason to believe that Mom might not still be alive if they hadn't moved (she passed out while they were signing papers and was in the hospital/rehab for a month and the health care in their previous location was terrible). BUT, it isn't perfect. It didn't solve all the problems. People bring themselves when they move. The circumstances around them can change, but they don't. At least not that much.

Oh, my goodness-- so glad that your mother was in a place where she could get help after passing out!

Your point is well-taken. This process doesn't have to be perfect, but you just keep moving forward in it.

Thanks.

Wait - and the brother didn't 'have to'. I thought this was 2018, sigh.

Good point.

Speaking of no grandkids (or kids), PLEASE do not give in to the temptation to comment on people's reproductive status! I think the holidays are an especially tough time for people who wish there were babies or grandbabies in their home but don't have them. I miscarried my only pregnancy ever (a fertility baby) over the summer, and my husband's charming aunt told me at a family Christmas gathering that it was a "blessing" that I miscarried. I looked her in the eye and told her it wasn't, and she dug in with her reasoning. This was after many comments from other people about how we don't have little ones yet and how husband's nephew needs a cousin, etc. Just. Don't.

I'm really sorry for the loss that you've experienced.

This serves as such an important reminder-- and I thank you for it.

Strongly recommend joining a PACE mom's group when the baby comes (register before your due date!) 2.5 years later those amazing mom's are a huge part of my life still and you all can talk through the ups and downs of DC city life with kids. I know people who have loved the midwives at GW - I personally didn't love the regular OB practice there. There are both OB's and pediatricians that are smaller offices and give you personalized care (shout out to Dr. DeSouza!) though most of that is in upper NW. Totally worth the drive from downtown in my opinion. Also DCPS isn't as scary as it seems. Sure the lottery system stinks for Pre-K 3 and 4 but as long as you have a backup option you're comfortable with it's not worth getting worked up about. And the elementary and middle schools in DC are becoming really wonderful diverse places that I feel really good about sending our kids to once they're old enough. Every city and suburb has it's own challenges but there are a lot of us making it work in the city and loving raising our DC babes.

More from the trenches! (I hope I'm being ethical in printing these details.)

Thank you!

I have read a couple of statements from ex-spouses (usually women) who left the ex because of abuse, but never tell the child what the abusive parent did. Why is this? It is usually presented as a "boundaries" kind of thing, but I really don't understand it. Especially because if your ex gets unsupervised visits, who are the children going to tell if things go bad? Certainly not the parent who has never said a bad word about the abusive ex and thinks that this is somehow an issue of self-respect. It just seems weird.

I think for some, it is the instinct to not risk upsetting their child, or to not be accused of "turning their child against" their ex, et cetera.

It certainly needs to be weighed carefully, though.

The questions and comments keep coming in full force, and yet I have to end here. That stings double because of the upcoming hiatus!

Take care of each other out there. I send you all light and hope for the year that lies ahead, and look so forward to seeing you back here on the 8th-- and in the comments and on Facebook before then.

Thank you for everything!

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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