Baggage Check Live: Happy Medium backup singers

Feb 12, 2019

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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For two years after college, my now-husband "Jake" and I were living apart in different cities. Jake's work friend was Brad, who he had lunch with often and occasionally they did happy hour. I knew of Brad but since we saw each other on the weekends, I maybe hung out with him just a handful of times over several years. They eventually both switched jobs and Brad moved away but kept in touch via text. The times we met, Brad was the NICEST FRIENDLIEST guy. But then as a high school AP Psychology teacher I was teaching about sociopaths and that night I had a dream that Brad was actually a sociopath and his charm was a facade. The dream came out of nowhere, because at this point Brad was in another state and I hadn't heard his name in months. I got such an eerie feeling that I tried to dismiss and didn't mention it to my husband. Flash forward a year and Brad has moved back to our state. It turns out his engagement ended when he revealed he was hiding alcoholism. He went to rehab and is starting over. Jake and Brad now like to hang out all the time and often hike together. I am so unnerved now by Brad and my husband has no idea. I know telling him that my feelings stem from a dream is the most ridiculous reason to dislike someone. But whatever the cause, I have a strong gut feeling now that this guy is bad news, and finding out about hiding alcoholism from his live-in fiancee adds fuel to my intuition. I had decided awhile ago that I would limit my time with Brad but not interfere with their friendship, and that had been working fine. Now Jake and I are about to plan a vacation and we want to invite friends along. Of course Jake wants Brad to be invited and I would not be able to keep a week-long poker face, nor do I want to spend precious vacation time with a guy who I get such a bad vibe from. Again, Brad is extremely friendly and personable, it's just my gut reaction now. Should I say this to my husband?

You can work through this gut reaction, though. It won't last forever if you replace the negative association with newer, more positive ones. But you can only do that by giving him a chance, not by reinforcing the conditioned behavior of avoiding him and thinking he is a demon.

Let's be clear-- alcoholism is not sociopathy. You're a psych teacher-- so we're straight on that, right? People struggling with substance abuse tend to hide their substance abuse. Period. That's the nature of the beast. It doesn't make them dishonest people or connivers. It makes them someone, um, struggling with substance abuse.

So-- I have empathy for Brad. He's a long-term friend of your husband's (would your husband blindly be BFFs with a sociopath? If so, that's a different issue), he's had his share of struggles, is now trying to get his life together, and he's never been anything but friendly to you.

So-- I can't get on board with boycotting his presence. Sorry. Now of course it's also true that you shouldn't have to spend a vacation with someone who makes you uncomfortable. But if the meat and potatoes of his making uncomfortable comes from the fact that you had a DREAM about him-- well, is that really a hill you want to die on?

I am the chatter who reached out a week or two ago regarding a therapist that became difficult to contact following a period of my being unable to attend sessions due to a medical issue. I reached out again to her last week via text (previous contact attempts were made by email) and I am incredibly sad to report that I didn't hear back. So now I suppose I have to begin the incredibly difficult process of finding someone new. I am trying very hard to be grateful for the good work I was able to do with my previous therapist and move on with grace, but man, is it hard.

Ugh. I am really, really sorry.

I still hold out the possibility that something incapacitated her from fulfilling her professional duties-- although, scratch that, because it makes me sound like a sadist-- but my point is that there still could be some explanation here that is not her totally dropping the ball. But now it's time to let go and reckon with the fact that you'll likely never know.

I'm sorry you have to begin again, but there are lots of really solid, really good therapists out there. Good luck in finding one.

How do I tell my daughter’s therapist that she hasn’t got a connection with him and wants to change therapists? And will she lose her place in the CAMHS program?

Google tells me that CAMHS may be overseas, so I can't pretend to have any logistical knowledge of that and don't want to talk out of turn about what may or may not happen with your daughter's place in the program.

BUT-- from a clinical perspective, being straightforward is best. You have nothing to apologize for or feel bad about. A good fit with a therapist is paramount-- it's not like hiring a plumber-- and you owe it to your daughter to try to make sure that she's connecting with the one she has.

A brief message like "Thanks for the work you've done with X. We do appreciate it, but are going to be exploring some other options that align a little better with her needs" is all you have to do.

We have been married for just over 20 years (with kids). We have had our share of ups and downs over the years, but we've always gotten through them and overall it has been strong. Recently, however, my wife has been asking me to seriously consider turning our relationship into an open marriage. Without going into details, I understand why she is asking this and why she feels that it would make her happy and would strengthen our own relationship, but I honestly do not think that I could handle this, mainly due to my own feeling of insecurity and fear that she will find (and leave me for) someone who is, well, a better match. She says that I would be able to see other women (she admits that it might be difficult for her at first for me to be with another woman, but she believes that she would be able to accept it). But I don't want to be with anyone else but her. She also insists that she would keep any outside relationship strictly sexual and that she would always be open and honest and communicate with me about what's going on. However, she is also a very empathetic person, and I strongly doubt that any relationship she entered into could be limited to "just sex" (by the way, I have no reason to believe at this point that she has someone in particular in mind, but ...?) I have been gently but firmly pushing back on her suggestion, but I am deeply worried that at some point she may go ahead with this on her own. She is not receptive to counseling, so I have to figure out a way to deal with this. I know I haven't really given you a specific question other than "What do I do?", but I would greatly appreciate any, ANY input, advice, guidance, etc. that I can get.

So, your wife is pushing for a fundamental, seismic shift in the very foundation of your marriage-- a complete alteration of your vows--- and yet she is expecting you to acquiesce to this, to plow through your misgivings, while she's not even receptive to talking it through with a professional?

And you're guessing that if she doesn't get you to agree to what she wants, she'll just go ahead and get it on her own, secretly, anyway?

Ummmm..... where is the part where she actually earns the "very empathetic" moniker you so generously bestowed upon her?

Look-- I can't presume that every marriage needs to be the same, or that every couple has to have the same arrangement, or that an open marriage is going to lead to human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria, etc. BUT-- for any given relationship to work, there's got to be mutual consent and comfort. Not one person steamrolling the other. Your hesitations about an open marriage are not only understandable, but realistic and sound. From the stories I hear, it is NOT an easy thing to pull off, especially after two decades of monogamy. And in order to have even the slightest chance, you'd have to have at least a decent amount of enthusiasm on both sides.

Which brings me back to square one. At some point, this isn't even specifically about an open marriage. It's about one spouse wanting something that significantly alters the foundation of the relationship, and the other one not. Is she willing to do the work to talk it through? To understand your concerns? To try to find alternative solutions that work for you both? Or is she just wanting what she wants, no matter what?

If so, then this isn't an open marriage/sex issue. It's more general-- and serious-- than that.

Ugh, ugh, ugh. I realize the dynamic with my parents is likely very different than what's happening to the LW, but this sure struck a chord. My parents have my whole life been dismissive, completely lacking empathy, and quick to offer unsolicited advice, but their stance in recent years - that I am "unhappy in life" (I am not), and "oversensitive to perceived slights" is absolute poison to what relationship we had. I don't think they are very nice people, and their values no longer reflect the ones they raised me with (gee, want to guess who prompted that change?). My taking an issue with all that does not make me "unhappy" or "oversensitive." Thanks for letting me vent!

Vent away!

Yes, I really wanted to tread as carefully as possible with that one. Oversensitivity is often in the eyes of the beholder.

I am sorry that in your case it's been so tough.

Did you even read what you wrote there, Mom?!? Maybe you should think about the fact that many people manage to "have conversations" that don't include criticisms of one of them.

I do think there is a wide range of what can be considered "criticism"-- from both the receiver and the giver! Hopefully Mom is able to take a big picture perspective here.

This absolutely won’t be as bad as you think it will. If you tell him there was an original misunderstanding, you missed the chance to correct it and then didn’t know how, but you want to clear the air now, the vast majority of people will be understanding. It doesn’t sound like the job he thinks you do is even that different from your real job, which helps. Honestly, I promise it’s not a big deal. It’s not like you’re lying about being married or what your name is or something huge. It will be all turn out ok!

Well, LW did have a P.S. in there that didn't make it through editing. Turns out they ARE lying about being already married, as well.


Points well taken-- thanks!

2 observations: 1) if there is any information about your job online, your bf may already have figured this out by googling you. A version of this played out for me when I first started dating my spouse. 2) why do you think that he would view you differently (outside of being upset about the lie)? You might be putting way more pressure/guilt/shame on yourself then necessary. Unless of course he thinks you're a surgeon but you're actually a skilled assassin that uses a scalpel.

ha! That last line was great.

Good points!

My son, who's now a very happy, self supporting 29-year-old, went through a period of serious depression as a very young adult. I remember wanting to work with him to fix things so badly, so that every conversation turned into him feeling picked at and me feeling frustrated. After a while I realized that if we talked about things we both enjoyed, he would feel comfortable talked with me. Eventually he would talk more about his life and how he was feeling when it was right for him. Please try to just chat with your daughter so she can feel confident that you are a haven for her and not a minefield.

Well said.

I am so glad that your son has come out of it. You sound like you knew just how to meet him where he was and be supportive. Thanks for writing.

Nooooo! Don't invite ANY friends along. That way this problem's solved.

Could be the perfect solution-- or could be throwing the baby out with the bath water! OP?

so you might want to consider that you had a one-time Medical Student Syndrome episode, where you think you have the symptom you're studying. Maybe a one-time talk with a therapist could help you get over your 'bad vibe" about Brad.

Yup, so lessee, this would be Medical Student Syndrome, Single Episode.... by proxy!

Where to start if I want to seek for therapy? Is there a trusted website/data base for beginners?

Good for you for looking out for yourself and exploring the possibility. To get your feet wet about the process, you can search out the American Psychological Association's Help Center.

For actual searchable listings of therapists, I recommend Psychology Today's therapist finder, and also Good Therapy. Neither of them are objective rankings, and therapists do pay to be listed there, but they are both such common and popular listings for therapists to advertise on that they offer the most options, and best of all, they have individual detailed profiles where therapists can talk in their own words about their specialties and experience, rather than you just getting a list of names.

Good luck!

When I don't hear back from someone for a while I always phone Main Number and see if they're away from their desk for a while or on holiday. It's a stretch - but is that something you can / want to do?

Could be, but with so many therapists in solo private practice, their number actually IS the main number.

Is the poster completely sure she has the correct contact information for this person? Has she actually called her office, reached her assistant or her voice mail, and left a message? If it's important, has she tried actually putting ink on paper and mailing it to her? Yeah, everybody texts today, and even email is becoming old-hat, but they aren't foolproof.

Yup, technical difficulties could still exist here-- though I had the recollection that she had indeed called at some point.

She thinks it would be fine if she just slept around and told you about it?? Wow.

I know, right? Sounds totally fine and dandy to me!

I'm having a hard time accepting that a therapist can just disappear -- poof! -- into the ether with no explanation or even just replying to a patient trying to make contact. Does the therapist not have colleagues? Can the OP not contact hizzer state board of the healing arts, or licensing authority...or something? I'm asking because I'm a freelancer and the few times I've had a client disappear on me without paying, I've ferreted hizzer out via colleagues, conferences where the client presented, professional associations...there's got to be something, hasn't there? Seems to be that at the least the OP can report the therapist for unethical behavior, no?

I'd be hesitant to tell someone to report a therapist when I don't have the full facts-- and most important, I am not necessarily sure that is even in OP's best interest in terms of moving on. But I do share your concern that if this was just an irresponsible lapse on the part of the therapist, it is not acceptable. While perhaps not technically abandonment, it would certainly be unprofessional and highly disappointing.

My guy friend of 5 years, who has always wanted a relationship with me and is married but has had difficulty getting divorce because of unforeseen reasons has put us in a relationship so to speak and asks me constantly if men and what men are texting me and whether I’m texting them also.... he recently became homeless and I offered him to stay in my home until he could get on his feet, this was going fine until he decided to rummage through my personal and private things and found out I had been responding to past male friends of mine through texts but I didn’t tell him when he asks if other guys were texting. So now he says I lied and true I did but I’ve tried to tell him that I didn’t think anything of it nor does he have a right to be upset because we are not in a relationship... can you please help me with this confusion because right now, I am at a complete lose over the whole episode cause I don’t think personally it was my place to tell him who I was texting but he claims different???? Thank u in advance!


No, it is absolutely NOT his right to demand that you tell him whom you were texting.

Nor is it his right to rummage through your things.

This is like the prequel to a controlling relationship-- and you're not even in a relationship.

Please get some space from this guy, soon.

LW from today's column is blowing up the problem and making it a bigger hurdle in her mind, which is getting in the way of her dealing with it. Thinking of it as a small thing may help. "You know, something I said when we first met lead you down the wrong road about what I do for a living, and I did not correct that since I did not know we would ever see each other again. What I actually do is Y. Sorry I let that linger for so long." Could that cause boyfriend to break up with her? Sure, but so could a lot of other things she hasn't even thought of yet. There is always risk in a relationship be it friendship, dating, marriage or even family. But putting off straightening up a miscommunication that has grown into a lie may be a bigger risk than just dealing with it.


I too am hoping that this has grown into a far bigger "thing" in her mind than it will actually be when she faces it and tries to straighten it out. But the longer she waits, the less likely that is to be the case. 


How do you get over a 3 + year betrayal by your spouse who chose to be in an emotional affair with a single woman? He then lies about what his feelings were for her so you wonder what else he is lying about.

Well, I'm not sure to what extent he's actually lying and how you're exactly sure-- but I think it will be impossible to "get over" this until it is all in the past. As long as you are continuing to think that he is actively and presently lying to you, then you don't know the exact shape of what you have to "get over"-- and you are still living it. So-- is he willing to really work on this? How was his betrayal discovered-- and how did he handle it? Does he seem to have a handle on why it happened, and what he needs to do to help rebuild? Is he willing to seek out help with you to do it?

Those, to me, are the variables to figure out, first and foremost.

Can you own up to the dream? In the style of "I had a dream we got in a blowout fight and rationally I know we didn't but some of the adrenaline is still going." It might take the weight off just to acknowledge it. Along the lines of "I know it's a dream, but it's still real to me."

Good point.

This seems like a classic "Gift Of Fear" situation where her gut instinct is telling her there IS something wrong and she should listen to it.

I dunno. OP seems to say their main discomfort comes from a dream, not instinct.

And, as much as dreams can occasionally be helpful, God help us all if we start using other's behavior in our dreams as an indictment of their character!

Open Marriage OP here: My original post may have given the wrong impression - you asked "Is she willing to do the work to talk it through? To understand your concerns? To try to find alternative solutions that work for you both?" The answer to all of these questions is yes - the mis-match between our needs has been an issue that we have both been working hard to address throughout our marriage. We have discussed various alternative solutions over the years, so the open marriage idea is being brought up more in that context, not as a sole option. And if (and that's a big "if") she were to go ahead on her own, it would not be secret. Finally, as to resistance to counseling, she has had bad experiences with therapists in the past (as you and others have already noted, finding the right fit can be difficult)

Got it. I really appreciate the followup and the clarification.

I guess I just can't get around the counseling refusal, though. She's not willing to try, and to me, a skilled couples counselor's office would be the ideal forum to sort some of these things out and see if there are solutions that can actually work for both of you. I get that she has had bad experiences in the past-- but how does that small data sample of a couple of particular therapists dimiss the entire idea of getting professional guidance and support?

So... may I ask, what was wrong with some of the other alternative solutions, and how would an open marriage be better? I am taking it that there is a sexual needs mismatch here. Are introducing other living, breathing, human beings into your intimate lives the only way to address that?

Why would you even consider a relationship with someone who is looking to cheat on his wife?

Wow-- good catch! Did I really just completely gloss over and miss that extra little nugget?

Perhaps I was distracted by his other fabulous qualities like snooping and being totally domineering!

But what the OP would be acknowledging is years of obsessing over this dream. I don't think telling the husband is the answer.

It would have to be presented in a way that didn't make Husband think that she was obsessing about Brad, for sure.

I do think it's tricky all around.

It sounds like questions about who is texting whom are the least of your problems.

Yup-- there is a "tip of the iceberg" factor at play here, I think!

No, no, no!! This guy is not your friend. Dr. Andrea is totally right, this is a controlling relationship waiting to happen. Please get him out of your house immediately. You are strong enough to ask him to leave. If you think he will get angry and/or violent have a male friend or even the police there when you tell him. P.S. beside the main point, but, of course he can get a divorce, he's choosing not to.

I always appreciate how well you guys back me up on these particular issues. Thank you!

He's homeless, too...

It would make for quite a profile, that's for sure.

I should go back and reread... because now the "doesn't have a home" isn't exactly jibing with "but also has a wife somewhere."

Did you really just tell her to ignore her gut? Yikes. I totally think gut feelings are worth exploring. He MIGHT be a great guy. But why why why tell somebody to replace their gut feeling with something else before figuring that out?

But I think that's exactly what I want her to do-- explore her feelings about him. How better else to do that than by not closing herself off to him? I don't think I told her at all to replace her gut feeling, but rather to give him whatever chance she is open to.

The way I read it-- though perhaps I should reread-- she is bothered by the fact that he has struggled with alcoholism, and that she had a particularly disturbing dream about him. That is different than having a gut feeling that something isn't right.

Thinking back to the poster the other week who had a weird sex dream about ... was it her friend's husband. I'd just had a similar weird sex dream so it made me shudder a bit. Thank goodness dreams aren't true or portents. Though sometimes they are informative.

Yes indeed.

I always look at them as our brain taking out the trash-- which is literally what it is doing, on a neuronal level. Sometimes, your trash can can tell you some important things about what was going on with you. Other times, it contains a chewed-up piece of a kumquat that wasn't even yours.

I was ready to retire back to my hometown but when I recently visited, it wasn't the same but it seemed easier to start over where I started. What do I do now?

Just because it isn't the same doesn't mean it couldn't be a potential good place for you.

But I think you need a lot more concrete parameters here. What does "starting over" mean? What are you looking for, socially, intellectually, culturally, logistically? Are you moving toward something, or trying to avoid something else? Do you have to spend some time mourning the ways your hometown-- and perhaps the world at large-- has changed, before you will truly be able to open your eyes to the positives out there?

I would also urge you to open your eyes up to gradations of possibilities and moves that aren't necessarily permanent. Can you take extended trips or trial rentals before committing to totally uproot your life? Can you explore other areas? You need not push some giant, irreversible lever that determines a permanent relocation. Explore, think, consider-- and then explore some more.

Please have him leave - and make sure you know the rules regarding if or when he could gain tenants rights and you'd have to evict him. Get him out now - he sounds unpredictable.

He needs to go. Thanks.

I feel this is important and at the cru of the matter. I suspect there's more to the backstory than meets the eye. I don't think you should be steamrolled into an open marriage - but without gaining some of the understanding you have of where she's coming from, it's hard to know what to suggest about moving forward.

Yes... I am very curious about the backstory as well. Thanks.

Hi, My husband and I have two kids, one school-aged and one pre-schooler. It has become clear to me that he is practically incapable of functioning under times of stress, chaos, or even just noisiness. If both kids are being loud in the car he has a hard time driving. If our routine gets disrupted or if things are messy it can upend his whole day. I try really hard to keep things sane but these are kids--it's going to be loud and messy and chaotic sometimes. I am not sure how best to support him or how to ask him to work on this--you can't demand your spouse learn how to multi-task, you know?

Yeah, this is tough.

So part of me feels like this will get better naturally with time-- because it has to. After all, we tend to get desensitized to certain things with repeated exposure, and if there ever was "repeated exposure" of chaos and stress, it comes in the form of young children.


When there's underlying anxiety, sometimes irritation grows and grows, and instead of desensitization, nerves just get more and more exposed and traumatized. Is he prone to anxiety, rigidity and negativity in general? If this was him writing to me, I would recommend some strengthening of his coping mechanisms-- breathing exercises, expectation adjustments, visualizations, not to mention the possibility of broader lifestyle changes like more sleep and more exercise, etc. And you can look at the big picture like maybe there DO need to be stricter rules in your family about noise levels in the car, for instance, because it's a special sensitivity of Dad's. This is part of families being kind to one another. But at some point the kindness needs to extend in both directions, with Dad making some effort to be more flexible as well.

Which brings me back to-- he is not the one writing in for advice here. So, does he see it as a problem? If not, can you gently bring it up in a quiet time after the fact, like "I know how hard that car trip was for you, and it bothers me to see you so stressed. Do you think it's something we can work on as a family? I want to be supportive here because I see lots of noise and chaos as being part of this whole child-rearing gig and I want to make sure we're handling it as a team as well as possible."

To what degree is -- or should -- practical skills training be part of therapy? I had a completely useless experience with therapy at a time when I was having trouble in college, and I think retrospectively what I needed most was some help with things like time management, preparing for exams, etc. Chattering about my family dynamics didn't help me finish my papers on time, but I didn't know what I didn't know. I would imagine there might be similar issues for someone, especially a younger, less experienced person, in the workplace regarding getting along with varied co-workers, placating abusive managers while protecting rights, etc. Sometimes behaviors and feelings are a direct response to actual facts and experiences, and you can't make a choice you don't even know about. Do you, as a therapist, recognize that sometimes people just don't know how to do what they need to do, or don't even understand what they can do, and either teach them yourself or send them to someone who can? And that's before you even consider the extremes, like assaults by teachers, coaches, bosses or spouses. Have you ever told a client "You need to talk to a lawyer" or "You need to call the cops," or better, "I'll go to the cops with you?"

It's an important question. I don't think I've ever told a client something in those exact words-- usually I'll broach something first, and we'll explore it together ("Some people would seek legal advice in this situation. Have you considered the idea of talking to a lawyer?")

There are wide ranges of different styles of therapy-- and different personal styles of therapist-- and I do think that some therapists run the risk of being too passive (whereas some run the risk of being too direct and intrusive with advice.) No two situations are alike, but in your examples at the end, where legal/criminal justice guidance could be necessary, I think the therapist should err on the side of being overly active. And in the cases you bring up in college, I am sorry that you weren't served well. Sometimes, for sure, a therapist needs to be a more direct coach in terms of the practical nuts and bolts of daily living. In general, CBT therapists will be more prone to doing this-- and I would hope that if that is not a therapist's style, they would be willing to see that gap in what they're providing versus what the client is needing, and get them hooked in with someone else.

I wrote in a while ago about how hard online dating was for me as a plain woman at the invisible age. Well, I deleted Tinder the weekend I got several matches in one day, but each "gentleman" immediately unmatched me rather than message me. Too many jerks on that app. I still have a profile on another app, but that is fruitless as well. So, just an update that online dating sucks unless you are a beautiful, thin woman in her 20s.

Ugh. I am sorry that it has been so tough for you. But I would urge you not to get too black-and-white about this. Although the stories from the trenches do sound pretty hair-raising, there ARE good guys out there. I hear from them as well. Hang in there!

I wrote about my controlling Fiance last week. I finally gave him the ultamatium that either we see a pre-marriage counselor or we don’t get married. It didn’t go as planned, but he did agree to go. I got in touch with the counselor and actually we are scheduled for next week. However, he wants the counselor to be married, have kids, and a Christian (he brought that up to me today). As far as I know therapists don’t have to disclose that information.

Hoo boy. Is he just looking for excuses to negate whatever this counselor says?

I am still concerned, unfortunately. Please keep us posted.

Several years ago, a mutual acquaintance of my nephew's parents and me confided that my nephew had been diagnosed with Autism. This didn't shock me as I had noticed a number of red flags early on. He didn't even try to communicate before going to an intense speech therapy program at age 4 and has a host of other quirks. The thing is, my nephew's parents have never shared this information with anyone on either side of the family as far as I know. They don't openly acknowledge his quirks and get noticeably uncomfortable if anyone else happens to make a comment that remotely implies anyone else notices them. He's 13 now and it's pretty obvious that he's different than more typical kids. My own children who are a bit younger than my nephew are starting to ask questions about some of what their cousin does. If this were some kid at school, I'd simply talk about how some people's brains are wired differently than others and that changes their behavior. This is different though because I don't even know what my nephew has been told about himself so I fear that whatever I say to my kids could get back to him and/or his parents. How am I supposed to talk to my kids about this stuff in this case?

It's so good that you are being sensitive and thoughtful in this situation.

But I wonder if you're over-complicating things here. Doesn't the "some people's brains are wired a bit differently" explanation still apply? It's not like we live in a world of Those with Autism versus Everybody Else. The world is full of all kinds of different brains and quirks and abilities and challenges and personalities. You need not be armed with a full-scale DSM diagnosis in order to give a sensitive and compassionate explanation to your kids that their cousin is a unique person who does some things differently than they're used to.

How about something like "Yes, Bobby is different than others in certain ways, isn't he? The world has all kinds of people in it, and Bobby may struggle with certain things that come more easily to others. But I think it's great that no two people are the same, and we can show our love for Bobby by just accepting who he is, and not making him feel any different in the ways that matter."

Am I being naive here?

The angel on my shoulder is telling me to not neurotically check ParentVue (the software where my kid's grades are updated) and that our relationship will be better with less fighting over grades, and that in 10 years, neither of us will remember his grade for his 7th grade science project, but the devil on my other shoulder is saying to do it, that this is when good work/study habits are formed.... I'm aware of the dangers of helicopter parenting, I'd love to try to read a good book about it before trying to go to therapy myself. Maybe this is a question better suited to the parenting chat, but do you (or your chatters) have any suggestions?

Where are my Happy Medium backup singers?

Yup, there's got to be one in there-- it just takes trial and error to find it. You don't say how your son tends to be doing so far-- if he's the type of kid who totally forgets about the science project, or if he's generally on it-- but I think 7th grade is the time where you let them learn to fly on their own, realizing that the damage of their mistakes won't be that devastating, and can be used as fodder to correct their course later on.

And remember-- the whole "this is when good work/study habits are formed" is also an argument to let him form them himself-- because part of those study/work habits involve learning to be responsible for his own time and efforts!

So... I'd say, you don't automatically check grades, and then you see what happens. If he does okay, you decide that maybe that works just fine. If he does poorly, then you specifically troubleshoot with him and temporarily zoom in for more direct supervision, all the while helping him learn to put things in place himself that will help him do better.

I've seen so many different styles here, personally. But I think we do need to remember that just because the technology is there to hover and scrutinize constantly, does NOT automatically mean it's the more helpful thing to do.

Any book advice out there, chatters?

Open Marriage OP again: Regarding other alternative solutions, various alternatives that we tried did not work because they would invariably end up placing a much bigger burden on one or the other of us, no matter how hard we tried to keep it balanced, or they would end up "mechanizing" that aspect of the relationship. Regarding counseling, the problem has been how to find someone who is actually skilled in this, and I will be going carefully through everything already posted here about finding a therapist. Two big hurdles, though, are (1) how much (if any) would be covered by insurance (we're doing ok, but don't have much extra in the way of financial resources); and (2) I am in a very "DC" field where - despite platitudes to the contrary - any indication of the need for counseling or therapy in my personal life could have professional ramifications - not fair, but there it is.

Got it. As for that last line, though, where would that indication come from? Is your workplace going to be sifting through your health records, in violation of HIPAA? I do understand the general concern, but I also think sometimes people forget about their privacy and confidentiality rights here.

I do actually know of a therapist who may potentially be an excellent choice about this matter in particular. If you email me directly, I can give you the name.

First off - well done for drawing that line, it can't have been easy but good on you for being strong and doing that. But yes - keep your radar up. He might keep dragging is heels in this way undermining everything.

Yes. Thanks.

I should have praised that more, OP. You took a stand that was very important. Keep at it!

I just asked my family doctor for a referral. He knew me, and he knew the therapist and thought we'd be a good fit. It worked out beautifully --- until the therapist got sick and ended up ghosting me. Not his fault, I know, but there was no effort at all to "re-home" me to a colleague. Good thing I'd made a tremendous amount of progress before this happened and was able to carry on, but I've always wondered about his other patients. Did he really ghost us all, or was it just the ones like me he figured were going to be OK? Still, even though it ended badly, it was probably life-saving, and I still am grateful to the family doctor for the referral.

I'm so sorry.

I know that life happens and in practical terms, constant continuity of care is not always possible. But I also have had fears of "abandoning" patients driven into me from such an early stage of training that it's something I take so, so seriously. If I am in a car wreck tomorrow (let's hope not-- an unfortunate glue gun accident is much more likely) then there is something in place where my clients will get notified.

"However, he wants the counselor to be married, have kids, and a Christian." It sounds like he is looking for a proxy that will agree that he's right, and will tell you what to do.

My concern as well.

He could also be looking for a pre-marital counselor who espouses the particularly toxic view of men are the head of the household to continue controling the fiance. Not that all christian counselors are this way, but I saw a friend's fiance do this. And now anytime he doesnt get what he wants, he says god led him to the decision and she has to listen. Its ugly and control under the guise of religion.

Ugly indeed.

I am sorry for your friend.

Oh please. "my wife won't give me a divorce" is so 1950s.


Let's throw it out permanently, like the corset!

Your fiance is gaslighting you into thinking he is "compromising" while instead he is still attempting to control your life. Get out now while you still can. Think of it this way: if you two are meant to be, the universe will find a way to bring you back together. but if you don't leave now, you are putting yourself in serious, very real danger.

I understand this perspective, for sure.

I am hoping that since she drew one line, then this was a really big step for her, and she can continue to draw more.

Hi Dr. Andrea! I have a question that I've had a hard time finding any advice for on the internet. I made two friends about two years ago when I moved to a new city. The three of us got close quickly and after about a year, I started realizing I wanted to put some distance in the friendship. I'd like to stop seeing these friends but because we've always hung out as a threesome and plan around our schedules, telling them to get dinner without me or otherwise coming up with an excuse isn't going to work. The actual truth is that they get on my nerves and I want to focus on other friends I have more in common with. How do I extract myself from a small group? I realize there may be some hurt feelings that result.

There might be. And accepting that is probably the toughest hurdle to get over.

You owe them kindness, respect and civility, but you don't owe them continued time together if it's just not a good fit for you. Usually in these situations, I recommend a "slow fade" at first-- you gradually say "yes" to fewer invitations, you don't respond as quickly to things-- BUT that only works if they mutually back away as well and don't seem distressed or confused by it. Otherwise, it is very cruel and just like ghosting.

In the latter case, then you have to be more direct. No, you don't have to tell them they get on your nerves. But you can say something like "I know I haven't been able to hang out as much lately. To be honest, my life is pulling me in a bit of a different direction these days and I don't see being able to get together like we used to. I am sorry! But I didn't want you to wonder what was going on."

Any chatters have some case studies with this? It's not pretty-- there's no way for it to be-- but it beats them wondering why you disappeared.

On 2/8/19, WaPo columnist Carolyn Hax recommended using a twelve step program. Suddenly, this comment appeared,"12 step programs are terrible. They have worse average results than no intervention at all. AA, NA, and other such Anonymous groups use a model of addiction that the field knows to be false." The poster recommends cognitive-behavioral therapy and watching a Kurzgesagt video about addiction. Then other posters said that 12 step programs were useful. Since you have no horse in this race, what are your thoughts on 12 steps vs. cognitive therapy? Is it a tempest in a teapot, a matter of opinion, or something else ?

My horse is the people struggling with addiction.

I think addiction is a terrible beast, and we need as many tools as necessary-- especially since different things work for different people. It drives me up the wall, this idea that we should be limiting the amount of weapons we have in the fight, especially when that idea is embedded with false generalizations. I am not at all aware of data (even though data in general is hard to come by for the 12-step programs) that says that they are worse than no intervention at all. Now, that's not to say it hasn't slipped by me recently or something, but-- reality check here. I call bogus, and even worse-- I call bias and someone speaking with an agenda. No two people arrive at addiction for exactly the same reasons, so why must two people's treatment paths align exactly either?

Biological treatments, individual CBT, basic support groups, 12-step programs, inpatient rehab-- I say, let's keep trying until the person can stay clean and sober. I've seen 12-step programs save people's lives. And I've also seen 12-step programs that are cult-like and harsh and try to dissuade individuals against things that might be lifesavers in their own case (agonist treatments). No two AA or NA groups are alike-- which is another reason why it's disingenuous to try to speak in such broad statements. In my ideal world, the person gets access to everything and tries it all.

The problem is far too formidable-- and the stakes too high-- to limit our options when all of them can have potential benefits.

I feel for the poster - unfortunately, I have personal experience in this area. How your spouse reacts to the discovery is very telling. Is he/she willing to immediately get help? Are they willing to have the tough discussions about how they got to this place and made these poor decisions, and are YOU willing to do the tough work with them to discover issues in your own marriage and how to move forward (whether together or separately?) Not gonna lie, it sucks. But you will likely feel an immediate sense of relief if you book an appointment a couples counselor (or go on your own). Believe me, the counselors have seen it all and they can help you process this shock.

I am hoping that you came out of this better off-- no matter what that looked like on the surface!

Thanks for your insights.

Well, yes, you can. That's how people learn to become parents; they learn to multi-task. If you are always negating the kids' needs in favor of the intolerant dad's, what is that going to teach the kids? Let alone the stress it puts on you.

It's true. There's a point where "Dad doesn't like loud noises while driving in the car; let's try to be respectful of that" becomes "Keep yourself tucked into a needlessly restrictive box to keep Dad happy." The latter can do some serious damage.

Reading between the lines I'm betting husband is having some form of sexual dysfunction and wife is not ready for that part of her life to be over. She'll find a man that can make her eyes roll back in her head. And really this is more of a bigger issue. I don't believe this couple is capable of having difficult/emotional conversations. The wife suggests, he shuts up and withdraws.

That was a potential takeaway of mine, as well.

Though I don't necessarily think he shuts up and withdraws as much as you think he does-- I really am hopeful that they can get think outside the box here and find something that works for them both.


Wife seems to want this - a lot. The reason, as mentioned, may be in the backstory. I think if she goes through with it, ultimately it will be a marriage ender. Just my 2 cents.

I've certainly seen it happen. There's some data to back up your 2 cents. Thanks.

whereas being in an open marriage wouldn't? I don't think I believe that.

ha! Good point-- though I'm guessing most people in an open marriage aren't exactly blathering on about it in the break room!

Just to fill in, I have gone to her for about a year and a half. She doesn't have a receptionist -- she shares a space with another therapist, but they have alternating days, so I am not familiar with the other doctor. They only share a waiting area, and each do their own billing, etc. I have called her number that I have always used (and used several times while I was unable to physically come in). That was her cell and I have called and left messages, in addition to texting her. I also emailed her. I was injured this fall and unable to make it in to appointments, so we had a couple of phone sessions, and I planned to get back there this winter. I haven't not heard back from her now since December. I suppose I could contact the other doctor in the space, but I am honestly not sure to what end other than just knowing.

Yup, this was how I took it. Thanks for confirming. A lot of us out there in private practice are-- ultimately-- pretty solo when all is said and done.

I am just really sorry that this happened. But I'm hopeful that the sooner you can find someone new, the sooner you can start moving on.

Did he specify gender of the counselor, or denomination? Some "Christians" only think that their own denomination is Christian, and the original Christians aren't Christians. So, I recommend a female counselor that fits his "requirements."

Good points!

I just talked to my fiancé and he is agreeing to go to the pre-marital counselor next week! I’m really hoping she can help us to fix some of these issues in our relationship. I truly do love this man and I think he is a great person, we just need some help in communicating effectively and compromising on some of the bigger decisions in our lives.

I am keeping fingers crossed that this can be a satisfactory outcome. Please do keep us posted!

Just because you can check every single score your kids get by going to the parent portal online, doesn't me you have to. Even if the district/principal/teacher encourage it. Did your parents know literally every single pop quiz grade? I mean, they still send out quarterly report cards, and possibly mid-term progress reports, right?

I agree. Never before has there been such a great example of "Even if the technology lets you do it, it doesn't mean that it's actually a good idea to do it"!


An earlier post referenced a man living with her who was experiencing homelessness - and a subsequent poster wrote in that being homeless would make him undate-able. Just wanted to say there's no reason to (futher) stigmatize homelessness which can be due to a huge variety of challenges. The snooping/cheating this man is doing are completely separate from that issue and lets not mingle the two together.

I absolutely hear you-- and it crossed my mind as well-- and I certainly don't want to stigmatize homelessness. But in this case the homelessness may very well be connected to still being married and being kicked out by his wife... which most certainly is a problem.

For dating while unattractive - do you feel like you are putting your best self out there? Finding a mate is a lot like finding a job - competitive. Just as your resume speaks to your skills and accomplishments, your dating profile should provide insight into your personality, sense of humor and other great qualities. Wulie it's not all about looks, it may also be worthwhile to invest in a professional photo to help project your best self and be competitive.

A very straightforward way of looking at it!

I went to a wedding a few years ago where the couple met online. And I was sat at the table where every couple had met online! I decided to give Match one more month, and met my now husband (who ironically, did the same). I was almost 35 and he was 36, so don't give up. Neither of us had been married before.


OP, there are lots of stories like yours-- and plenty of those who are far older, even.


She mentions apps, and specifically Tinder. There's a difference between apps and sites, i.e.,, e-harmony, okCupid. Why is a middle-aged woman who seeks a serious relationship on Tinder?

Good point.

I used to think of Tinder the way you do, but I do think it's changed over time, and I've known several clients to use it when they indeed are middle-aged women looking for relationships. So OP is not alone.

Perhaps that's part of the problem, though!

Not to be gruesome here, but if the shrink had died, would you know? You may as well at least call her office-mate and ask if she's still paying rent.

It's a valid point-- gruesome or not. There was something that made me think this had been ruled out, but I'm not positive.


Hmmm. Nuclear weapons come to mind. Probably there are others…but it's 2:02PM <smile>.

haha! Very true.

I suspect we could have a whole chat about this!

True, but a lot of people manage to find out (or have it thrust on their notice) that Someone Is Sleeping With Someone Who Isn't Their Spouse, even outside DC.

I could believe that!

I'm sorry, but your description of his controlling nature makes me doubt that he is a good person, never mind a great one.

Yeah-- there were, absolutely, reasons for concern. My fuzzy noggin was worried about conflating the various "controlling" characters we've had on this chat as of late, so I didn't want to speak out of turn, but OP should most definitely not let their guard down.

I can empathize to some degree: I really like schedules and keeping things organized. but... what exactly did OP's husband expect with children? I feel like there was a huge conversation here that was missed pre-children. It doesn't matter how many times OP can say "let's try to be respectful when dad is driving", a toddler is going to scream until the end of time if they want to. Sorry Dad, welcome to parenting....

I do think some people just don't realize the level of potential chaos until they are living it-- and it is breaking a jar of jelly on the floor while running around naked-- right in front of them.

But yes, it's for sure worth a larger conversation.

What's the difference between "...chose to be in..." and "had"?

A whole lot, in terms of perspective-- very true!

I have a son who I've always thought got outraged at slights I couldn't even see, let alone intended. I begged for more communication (why are you getting so mad? What do you think I meant when I said ....?) and he would just flail out and accuse me. He's a teenager now, and we've been revisiting some old drama, calmly, with him first and foremost knowing that I want to understand. There really was miscommunication. He'd say something offhand that I paid no attention to, and 15 minutes later, with that most important in HIS mind, he saw me being critical. If he said "I don't like it when you...." trying to help me with my communication style, I would respond "Well, I didn't mean it that way" and continue with the same style. He, of course, felt his needs were being ignored and shut down more. I am a lot more careful now, which in a tiny way, I hate. I wish I could just talk with him without measuring my words so carefully. On the other hand, he has the reassurance that his reactions are important to me, and in the long run, that's where I want to be with him.

Yes. It's not easy, for sure-- but your being responsive to his needs in this way is going to pay off later.


When I was a kid, long before the computer era, I was required to bring home and show my mother every single exam, quiz, graded homework, etc.

Hmm. Required by whom?

Your parents, I'm guessing? Or did schools actually do this?

Open Marriage OP (again): Ok, lots of speculation has been posted, so here's some more info. Yes, it is a sexual mismatch. I am not dysfunctional, but have an average-to-low drive while hers is very high. Yes, she is not ready for that part of her life to be over, and yes I am afraid that she "will find a man that can make her eyes roll back in her head" and that will be that. But we have always (and still do) discuss this deeply and closely. I do not withdraw and am actually very engaged when we talk - but that still hasn't gotten us to a solution (if there even is one).

Got it. It makes sense.

I really do appreciate this continued clarification. Your situation is the one I've seen most often-- and it's what I would have guessed.

You'd be far from the first couple to deal with a sexual needs mismatch-- and again, there are potential other options besides introducing other people into the relationship when it's not necessarily something you BOTH are on board with, fully and truly.

Our school doesn't even send out report cards, so looking online is the only way to see grades. I ask my 13-year-old about once a month "how is it going" and he pulls out the I-pad and gets the grades up for me. Granted, he is doing fine, and is proud of his achievements (as am I).-- The school should be providing tools (for example an agenda notebook where he writes down assignments, etc.) and if they're not, it would be worthwhile to talk generally with your kid about how he tracks assignments and organizes his work. But yes, it's a weird world, where my kid's science and English teachers send out group texts daily with the assignments-- the temptation to hover is there (I refrain from asking "how's science going" more than once a week-)

Great points.

Sounds like you've got a balance that works well for you and your son!

Why do these go faster and faster every single week? Probably because there are more and more of you-- which I am beyond grateful for!

Thanks so much for being here. I look forward to next week already-- and in the meantime, I'll see you on Facebook and in the comments! 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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