Carolyn Hax Live (Friday, Jan. 27)

Jan 27, 2012

In her daily column in The Washington Post Style section, Carolyn Hax offers readers advice based on the experiences of someone who's been there. Hax is an ex-repatriated New Englander with a liberal arts degree and a lot of opinions and that's about it, really, when you get right down to it. Oh, and the shoes. A lot of shoes.

Carolyn was online Friday, Jan. 27 at noon ET, taking your questions and comments about her current advice column and any other questions you might have about the strange train we call life. Her answers may appear online or in an upcoming column.

E-mail Carolyn at

Got any of Carolyn's answers or readers' questions from the past year stuck in your head? Submit them for next week's Best of Hax 2011 chat that will take place while Carolyn is on vacation.

Got more to say? Check out Carolyn's discussion group, Hax-Philes. Comments submitted to the chat may be used in the discussion group.

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Hey everybody. 

If the best friend just lives a couple doors down, why is it that the fiance is always there and not the other way around? The LW might want to ask herself why it is the fiance and his friend don't want to spend time at their house, and then she might want to ask her fiance the same question.

Definitely worth asking, though, sadly, the first thing I did was assume, "Bigger/better TV."

Or squishier chairs, or better deck/porch. or ...

Meaning, there are just some houses that are hang-out houses and some aren't. The warmth of the people living in them does factor in, though, as does the relative permissiveness, so that makes it worth asking.


Hi Carolyn, When we first got married, my husband was really supportive of my career. When we had a baby with serious medical problems, he took paternity leave to stay home with her for the two days a week I work. Now we have two preschoolers and he quit his steady but boring job for a challenging job that requires him to be gone for two weeks every month. I quit my part time job because it was too stressful for the kids to have both parents gone (my job also required travel). My husband is thrilled to have me at home more, and my kids are doing better with me at home, but I am angry my husband couldn't wait another year to have his dream job. Both kids will be in school next year. His side is that this is a once in a lifetime job and it's worth the travel. I don't know how to get past the feeling that my husband is choosing his career over time with his kids. The kids cry every night he isn't home to say goodnight, and it's been 6 months at the new job.

Did you voice your objections before he made the switch?

That matters a lot, because it's possible from what you wrote that you're upset only after the fact, now that you're seeing the consequences of his choice.

But while some of these consequences were foreseeable (e.g., your needing to quit traveling),  others weren't. It's not fair to get angry at him about the consequences neither of you predicted.

I'm speaking mainly of the crying at bedtime; I think most parents would have expected, reasonably, that the kids would have some teary adjustments to make at first, and then settle in to the new routine.

Meanwhile, another issue was the availability of this job a year from now. I think any couple trying to look into the future might reasonably have been concerned that this opportunity might not come around again, at least not any time soon.





So, you take the things you both reasonably could have expected--that there'd be more pressure on you; that this job was a bird in hand; and that the kids would have an adjustment to make in seeing less of their dad--and to me it looks like his decision was at worst a close call, and not the big career grab your anger makes it out to be.

Also: You did say your kids will be in school next fall, right? So you're six months away from the time it would have been okay for him to seize this opportunity?

Given all this, and given just how darn hard it is to be home with two preschoolers without a co-parent around, I'm thinking that the fatigue you're feeling from the current arrangement is the primary problem here--plus the absence of your part-time job, which was work but also an adult outlet for you, and it's manifesting itself as anger at your husband, because he's getting what he wants.

If this thinking is close to the mark, then I have soem suggestions:

1. When you're starting to get upset,  force yourself to think long-term. What seems grueling and pointless at day-to-day level now can make sense when you get through the toughest part.

2. Don't forget those early years. Your husband really came through for you, so really come through for him. It's normal for couples (who are fair to each other) to trade off the heaviest workloads, in an effort to best serve any children you have and to make sure there isn't just one of you who back-burners everything to do that.

3. Mentally review the process you and he went through to make this decision. If your husband just decided for both of you, then that's an issue (and a source of legitimate anger) that you have to deal with honestly. State to him calmly that you're having a hard time with the workload as it is, but it's particularly upsetting since you had little say in the decision. Say you realize it's a done deal now but you do need him to recognize the unfairness, and promise you it won't go down this way again. Again--this is if you had no say in his taking this job.

3a. If you did have your say, then you need to accept that you -both- made this choice, and if you're going to be angry about it, then you need to be angry at yourself, too. (and then, since that anger isn't productive, you have to deal with it, possibly on the path I suggested: by accepting the problems were ones you didn't see/couldn't have foreseen.)

4. Start rallying when your husband is away. This will come across as blaming the victim, but there's no value in assigning blame here. Just: Suck it up and look cheerful, because the angrier you are at your husb for his travel, the longer your kids are likely to keep crying for him when he's gone. Brighten up the bedtime routine and make it something you and your kids will look back on fondly as something that was yours and yours alone. It'll likely feel like you're faking it at first, but once it gathers momentum the joy often becomes very real.



I think that was about two columns' worth. 

Is it grounds to forego an invitation to a bachelorette party (I am a future sister-in-law of the bride) because I do not approve of a certain invitee (the live-in girlfriend of the bride's future brother-in-law, who is also my brother-in-law). All the other invitees are bridesmaids (close friends or sisters-in-law of the bride). I object to being placed in the same category as the live-in girlfriend.

I don't get it. What do categories have to do with this? If you like the bride and you want to/can afford to go to the party, then you go to the party. If you don't/don't want to/can't, then you don't go to the party. And, not that it matters, unless someone is harming someone else, I disapprove of disapproval.

Hi Carolyn: My girlfriend and I have been together for about 5 years. Shortly after we met, I met her best friend, Dan, who had just started a relationship with Rachel. Rachel became very moody as the relationship progressed, and seems very temperamental and controlling. At the same time, Dan seems more withdrawn from our group of friends. My girlfriend does not consider Dan a close friend now because of Dan's withdrawal from social activities and proclaims to our friends that she does not consider Dan a friend anymore. I am confused as to what I should do. I do not usually say anything when my girlfriend starts saying things about Dan, but I just wonder why she would feel the need to announce the status of her friendship with Dan to other people. I have asked why she is so angry about the situation with Dan, but she says it is because Dan has said he would make more of an effort to socialize and keep in touch, but has not done so. Should I be concerned about my girlfriend's behavior, or is this within the range of normal that she would announce the status of her friendships when it has not come up in conversation?

I do think you have grounds to be concerned, on two levels. On the more superficial level, even if Dan were a jerk to her, why does she feel the need to shame Dan publicly? On the deeper level, it sounds as if Dan's snubs aren't about your GF at all, and in fact may be a sign that Dan is in trouble and needs his friends to show some compassion and courage.

So. Why don't you say to your girlfriend, "You keep throwing Dan under the bus, but it looks more to me like he's in trouble: He's got a controlling girlfriend, right? And one thing controlling people do is isolate their boyfriends from friends and family? Maybe Dan need you and the rest of us to make more of an effort to stay in touch." I think it'll be an interesting test of her maturity, to see whether she can stop the me-centric blaming for a second and consider another side.

Father helped send two sons go to law school, though they still have sizable student loan debt they'll be paying for decades. Father has much younger step-daughter. The sons are not particularly close with father's "new" family. Step-daughter plans to go to medical school. Sons suspect that financial support for her will be greater than they received. Should they insist the step-daughter receives the same? Less? Don't sons have right to better treatment?

Ugh, no, stay way way out of it. First of all, "sons suspect" is not the same thing as "sons know," so treating their suspicions as actionable facts is a bad idea to begin with. So is interting themselves into a transaction that isn't their business. 

Second, a nickel-for-nickel way of accounting fairness is arguably not fair. Father helped, presumably, as much as he was able to when his sons when to law school. As an older man supporting fewer children now, maybe wnat he's "able" to do has grown. Would it then be fair for him to help his stepdaughter less than he is able to?

Why--because she's not really "his"? I imagine stepchildren would have a lot to say about being treated as less worthy of love and support than ... what's the adjective you'd use here, "real" children? "Biological" children? What about adopted kids, are they less worthy too, then?

Seems to me the more reliable path to a full heart and a warm life is to be grateful for what you've been given, and not to go too far out of your way to gather facts toward begrudging what others receive.

I.e., these sons benefit from any doubt about their father's finances and new family. Though I could argue it's time for them to get to know this "new" family better, since their fates are linked in many ways, especially as the father starts to fade. (And wouldn't a doctor and two lawyers make a nice team when that time comes?)


Dear Carolyn: I just started renting a room from one of my close friends and her husband, a married couple. The whole arrangement initially seemed too good to be true (low rent, good company), but now I'm worried that I was right. I would like to hang out with my friend sometimes (we were roommates in college and grad school, and I find her very easy and fun to live with), but I always, always feel like I am intruding on her quality time with her husband. We already had one very awkward conversation where I asked her to let me know whether there were certain times when I should plan to give them their space, and she basically told me that I should just interpret any closed door as meaning they wanted to be alone. I feel like an interloper but don't know whether I'm overreacting; should I move out?

Moving out seems like an overreaction, especially since you might be the only one who's worried about intruding. 

Before doing anything drastic, find out whether this is one of the many problems that a good schedule can fix. Try to think of a mix that would give you time with your friend and also give her time with her husband. Out of five weekdays, for example, consider staying home in your room one night, staying home in the common areas two nights, and going out two nights. On weekends, clear out for as long as possible one day, and putter around at home on the other, making sure you're busy with your own things for the bulk of it. And, any time you're home and using the common areas, make sure you include at least one helpful gesture--cook them dinner one night a week, for e.g., do dishes on another, always clean up after yourself, etc.

Again, this is all just an example--there are so many factors that determine what combination will be workable/realistic. The point is that keeping track like this will keep you from becoming The Person on Their Couch.


Hi Carolyn, I've implemented most of your advice in a similar situation, and the response to #3 (call your finance when they are late for the movies or whatever), has been no answer to the phone plus "Holy crap you are controlling." At that point, then it's really time to decide whether you just never want to make plans with your fiance, or you want to find someone who can keep plans. Or am I missing something?

No, I think when you take reasonable steps to spend time with a loved one, only to have them thrown in your face, then it's time to realize that being single is actually a lovely way to be. What's missing from this is the backstory that could inform the use of "reasonable" here, but, really, when serious accusations are being made but changes aren't, that's a pretty safe sign things are over. 

What would you advise the girl who is in love with a guy who won't defend her from his hyper critical mother? His response is always to ignore her, but her judgmental and hurtful comments really sting. Is it fair to expect someone to choose between mom and girlfriend?

Ooh, don't fall into that trap. You can declare that your way is right and fair and soaring among the angels, but if he simply  doesn't do something that you can't be happy without, what then?

So. In the interest of due diligence, try coping with his mother the way he does. Watch his methods, learn them, road test them.

Then, see if you can conceive of doing this in perpetuity, and, more important, of not getting angry at him for refusing to do things your way.

If at the end of this process you truly see and embrace the wisdom of his approach, then, mazel tov.

If at the end of this process you're still thinking he needs to stand up to his mother on your behalf, then ask him to again, plainly: "You asked me to ignore it, and I've tried, sincerely. But that didn't work, and now I'm asking you to stand up for me, because I don't believe what she's doing is right, and I don't believe ignoring it is right."

If he declines, then you break up, knowing you did all you could. 


Please tell me why it shouldn't bother me that both of my husband's ex-wives both kept his last name. The name is unusual and we live in a small town, so it's common that I am mistaken for one of the other "Mrs. ABCD"s.

Why: Because when you're the third Mrs. Doofenshmirtz, living with ghosts is part of the deal. 

I try to be friendly to others, I really do. At work, I am on the quiet side but I consider myself friendly. It bothers me SO much when I think that someone does not like me. My sleep is disrupted and it becomes all I think about and it really brings me down to where I feel depressed. The other person probably has no idea about how I feel. I am in my mid-40's and I thought this should not be a factor at my age. I don't want to care what people think about me but I do. How do I get over this?

This might be going for a bug with a sledghammer, but have you been screened for anxiety and/or OCD? Worth a look, if you haven't.

Why not? Presumably he's an adult like the rest of us. Your actions have consequences. Sometimes those consequences are negative. If you choose to treat someone badly, face those consequences. If you can't handle public shame, then why don't you just be a good person in the first place?

But why can't the consequence be merely that she withdraws her friendship from him? Why does she have to announce it? That's just vengeful, and childish.

...the person on their couch is that she is paying them rent. If they didn't want someone sharing their space, they shouldn't have a roommate.

I see your point, but among equals (all roommates renting), the Person on Their Couch becomes the Person on the Couch, and it's still a problem--as it is with a grown or mostly grown child. Imagine the kid who comes home from college and just occupies couch space the whole time. The entitlement is equal, as you say it is in this case, but that doesn't mean it's not an annoyance or an imposition. Anyone who's worried about being a welcome member of a household would do well to put thought into what makes someone's presence welcome. Be friendly, be helpful, be involved in some group things and some independent things, etc. 

Two weeks is a long time, but gone doesn't always have to be gone. Can he Skype a couple of times a week? Pre-record favorite bedtime stories that can be played while he's away? That would lessen the bedtime burden on the poster and make the kids feel more connected to Dad while he's away.

Love the Skype idea, thanks.

Maybe you can do things to ease the bedtime routine. Like have husband call at that time (or skype, whatever). Put a framed photo of him on their nightstand so they can say good night to him. Whatever you can do to incorporate dad into the routing in spite of his not being home.

... and more, thanks.

Though, now that I think about it, the Skype needs to be part of the routine, and not part of the problem. If he can swing it every night at the same time, then that works. If he can't be consistent, then maybe only planb it for a set night where he knows he can come through--Mondays or Wednesdays or whatever. the last thing a settle-down routine needs is a setup for disappointment.

Oh, my, I just had such a happy-sad memory. My old friend Murph, who died in the World Trade Center, was also away working on many nights. He used to call his daughter every time and read her "Goodnight Moon." (After the first 10 or so times, "read" became "recite," of course.) It became such a touchstone for them.



Isn't an easy answer not to take his name to begin with? break the trend! Don't be Mrs. ABCDIII. Be Joan WXYZ like you were before you met him.

That comes with its own issues (like when they call her Mrs. ABCDIII anyway) but it is one way to downsize the problem a bit. Thanks.

I thought there was something else in the OP's questining of his GF's behavior that you didn't address, which is, why is she so obsessed with Dan? They were "best friends" and now she feels the need to publicly denounce him out of the blue because he's withdrawn from the social circle? I'd wonder whether she doesn't harbor some unhealthy feelings for Dan herself. At best, she's hurt by his withdrawal to the point where it's affected her social judgment, and at worst she is taking it waaaaay to personally that he's focused on his own GF and not her.

Entirely possible, thanks for the catch.

OK, I'm the older daughter who watched my dad buy a Porsche, then tell me he couldn't help with college -- then watched years later as he fully footed the bill for my half-brothers. I get it. But you're conflating "treatment" with "money." You have the right to his love; you do not have the right to his money. Life isn't always fair -- and fair doesn't always mean "exactly the same." If this is about his love or the way he "treats" you in everyday life, talk to him about that. If this is about "I didn't get a free ride, why should she?" shut your mouth long enough to listen to exactly how selfish and entitled you sound: you're willing to hurt both your dad AND your sister (who has zero say in this), simply because you're jealous that she got a better lollipop than you? You really want to be that guy? You can approach life one of two ways: you can operate on the assumption that you are the less-favored child; or you can operate on the assumption that your dad loves you and did the best he could with what he had. Either way, you will find plenty of evidence to support your world view. So: which one is going to make you happier?

Sitting and typing that I'm standing and clapping. Excellent. Thanks. 

Carolyn, you wrote: '2. Don't forget those early years. Your husband really came through for you, so really come through for him. ' To be fair, he really came through for the kids...and it's the kids she feels he has ditched with the new job. She doesn't 'owe' him for coming through for their children, because that's what fathers, and mothers, are supposed to do.

mmmmm I don't agree entirely. She started with how much support he gave her career, and then noted that he took leave to care for the kid(s) on the days she worked. So, I think it's appropriate to say he came through for her, even though, yes, the upshot is that they were both coming through for their children, which is what mothers and fathers are supposed to do.

My point in my answer was, and remains, that when two parents are coming through for kids, it often involves unequal efforts and unequal sacrifices--sometimes by choice but often not, and often even the choices are driven by the fact that 50-50 arrangements aren't something nature supports. We're not putting flour in measuring cups here, we're balancing jobs and time and skills and money and whatever else.

So, one way many parents deal with this is by taking turns giving up something of value. X back-burners a career for a few years, then, when X gets a great opportunity, Y goes to the back-burner for a while. There's no one arrangement that's right, but I do think it's helpful to look at any one circumstance in the context of what the two parents are trying to do for their kids. Remember, this was just one year the LW was angry about. 


It might be worthwhile for her to ask her guy how he is or will approach it. In the same situation, I had no idea that my boyfriend was defending me strongly after all - he just wasn't doing it in front of me because he knew it was better to deal with her under specific circumstances, like when I wasn't there and she couldn't attack me directly as a result of his stating his opinion. After a while and some serious discussions, he realized that I needed to know that he was standing up for me and, while I don't recommend it for everyone, shared some of the gory details so I'd know he was trying to defend and protect me from her barbs and accusations. He even got his father involved to help her realize how awful she was being. Eventually, they started getting through to her, and she and I still aren't friends, but we get along okay most of the time, and I know that my now-husband and the father of our child is doing his best by us in his own way with his own knowledge and tools.

Good perspective, thanks.

Hi Carolyn, I am 25 and getting married this August, absolutely no problems there. I am marrying the best guy ever. But there is, of course, family drama. My father is in the middle of his second divorce (still legally married) and living with his 25 year old...mistress. He brings her everywhere. My sisters and I are beyond nice and polite to her when she is around. I don't care if she is around when we are involved in events in his life (dinners at his place, etc..), but I feel that his choices should not affect my life. My mother, step-mother, and future mother-in-law are uncomfortable with the idea of her being at the wedding (not to mention it would be a spectacle), and neither my fiance nor I think it is appropriate for her to bring his girlfriend (FWIW this is a small wedding, even cousins have been cut from the guest list). We have told that she is not invited and he always says things like "time may take care of this problem" (he claims they will be engaged in a few weeks, but as he is still legally married that is about as meaningful as gum on the bottom of my shoe) so my question is: what do we do if he brings her to the wedding?

You manage. The more you fight this, the greater percentage of the wedding gets dominated by your dad's immaturity. The other choice is not to invite him, but, again, that means he'll automatically become a bigger deal than he needs to be.

I know I'm not advising them, but the closer your mother, stepmother and FMIL can get to ignoring the sideshow that is your dad, the better things will turn out--for them and for you. 

I'm in a similar situation with my long distance girlfriend. And I don't know the people she's hanging out with. I know I need to internalize your advice today and trust her judgment but what advice do you have in our situation. I've asked her to make the relationship more of a priority than socializing, whether it's daily phone calls, being available on IM, and a once a week "date" night. Is that controlling or is that the minimum you can do between visits for a LDR to survive? Any advice on books on maintaining a LDR?

I don't know of a book offhand, but my advice on maintaining a long-distance relationship is to live your own life as much as possible and put as few restrictions on each other as you can stand. Think of the time apart not as the relationship itself, but as the time you need to get through before you're together. So, enjoy each other as much as you can in the ways that are available to you, and ride it out. Since "I have to drop everything to reply to this IM/have a Skype date/etc." is rarely enjoyable, no matter how much you enjoy someone's company, I don't advise asking that of your girlfriend.

Another thing: Call her or IM or email her only when you have something you want to share, vs. when you want to validate/confirm the connection. The latter contacts start to feel like a chore, which marks the beginning of the end. 

My husband never defended me against his mom and I could never understand it. After some discussions about it with him I realized he was totally cowed by her. Afraid of her to the point of becoming jelly. It helped me to realize that years of living with her had done a number on him. Now I just ignore her the best I can, and actually, that seems to have slowed her down. Without a reaction she's got no incentive.

Maybe I've just seen too many of these stories end badly, but beyond your valuable insight into your husband (and adult children like him), there's also huge value in your forgiveness. You get it, and you aren't holding on to anger at him.  

Lately you just expect us all to turn the other cheek and allow people to get away with bad behavior. Are you just getting fatigued by everyone else's problems? Because I feel like everytime someone writes in about dealing with toxic people you just tell them to deal. And you used to not do that so often.

That's not fair--I don't tell them to deal, I give very specific explanations of how to deal. Over the years, it has become very clear to me that when people choose to have difficult people in their lives, their best course for dealing with them is to minimize fuss. Starve the beast of attention. And distress, shunning, arguing, confronting, telling off, revenge, whatever else, these all constitute attention. 

Now, when people decide not to have someone toxic in their lives anymore, after putting a good effort into finding a way to coexist peacefully, I support that. But so many people write in who aren't ready for that step yet. If, to use today's example, the LW were ready to tell Daddy not to come to the wedding, then she (right? she?) would have answered her own question without writing to me. But she's not ready--which means choosing not to invite him will suck so much of her emotional energy away that it will likely be worse than if the new woman showed up.  

So, if you're going to take a reductivist* view of my advice, make it "Don't feed the beast," vs "Just deal."


*that's a word, right?


Think of the Dad's insistence on bringing her as the gift that keep on giving. He has managed to unite your own mother, step-mother, future mother in law against a common enemy.

Wow, I didn't see that--and it's a beautiful thing. Thanks!

And in a few years, after the zygote that will become his fourth wife reaches adulthood, the club may even add a member.

My ex (who lives in another state) married a woman with the same first name as me. Before he got married, he asked me to go back to my maiden name, saying it would be confusing to people that the first wife and the second would have the same name. I told him that he should of thought of that before he started dating another [my name], and that you couldn't pay me enough to date another [ex's name]. Granted, it wasn't very big of me to say that, but he never brought it up again.

Thanks for sharing.

You gave this advice to the long-distance BF: "Call her or IM or email her only when you have something you want to share, vs. when you want to validate/confirm the connection." Is that something you advocate in all romantic relationships? Isn't validating or confirming a connection important?

What an interesting question.

I want to say that if waiting till you had something to say meant the end of regular contact, then you might be with the wrong person--but that might be too pat an answer. Let me think about it.


It would probably help if there was an end date situation. Like the previous mom who only has six more months to ride out, if you know the relationship will drop the LD in the R, then the distance is easier to stomach. The most miserable LDRs were the ones that had no end date in sight or those with no plan on how to end up in the same city.

"What are you doing?"

"Nothing really. What are you doing?"

Enough to scare anyone out of an indefinite LDR, I hope. Thanks.

Every time my boyfriend and I hang out with his new found female second cousin, the two engage in conversation without acknowledging I"m there. I expressed my concern about this with him, he's not emotionally supportive. I've told him it makes me uncomfortable to be the third wheel on what seems like a date (even though it's his cousin and I know they're not interested in each other). He hasn't been very emotionally supportive about this and says I need to try harder. But how can I try when neither one will make eye contact with me when they are conversing? I don't know what to do about this anymore and it's really bothering me. I know she's going to be around a while....

"(even though it's his cousin* and I know they're not interested in each other**)."

Um. You do realize, any correlation between * and ** is imaginary? They could be fiercely interested in each other. 

As opposed to what? The idea that someone is "letting" another person get away with bad behavior suggests that there is some way to control that other person's behavior. Options really are limited, and adults instructing other adults on how to behave is what controlling people and bullies do--not something to try to emulate. If Dad is going to behave like an azzz, then that's who Dad is, and plan accordingly. If BF's mom is going to behave like an azzz to you, that's who she is and your have a small choice of options, but changing her into a non-azzz is not one of them.

"Reductivist," maybe not a word. "Azzz," officially promoted to word. Many thanks. 

There was a bomb threat at my kids' high school last week - got an automated msg from the principal saying the threat had been made, the students had been moved to another school and the building was being checked out. There was nothing about the building being closed or classes being cancelled. Shortly after that, my kids started bugging me (via txt and calls on classmates' phones) to check them out of school, because everybody else's parents were. I refused and said in several txts that just because other people were idiots, it didn't change the reality that school wasn't cancelled. Well, it turns out that 80% of the kids' parents were "idiots" that day, and, I found out just now, that one of my very good friends was in the 80%. I could barely look at her during lunch, knowing that I lumped her in as an idiot. Should I tell her what I said to my kids and apologize? I feel like I really have wronged her.

Tell her of a rather minor wrong she's likely never to know about, that was never about her to begin with, just so you can apologize for it? 

I'm going to go with "no" on that.

But. You do owe it to your friend to tell your kids of your comeuppance, and that you regret having called people idiots who you now realize were just trying to do what they thought was best. Apologizing wouldn't do much for your friend, but modeling humility would arguably be great for your kids.  

I'm still here, just reading reading reading ...

Why doesn't he know who she's hanging out with? Husband and I did 4 years of LDR before moving to the same city and then marrying 2 years later. We made a HUGE effort to visit each other, not to hide a hotel room all weekend, but to meet each other's friends and see the day-to-day life. I met his roomates, friends, co-workers; saw the coffee shops and bars he liked to hang out at. It made the mental imaging so much easier and gave us more to talk about. Yes, it cost money and vacation time, but if that person is enough of a priority for you to bow out of your local dating scene, then get yourself to her city ASAP and meet her friends.

Love this, thanks. 

Never thought this would be such a big deal till it happened to me. My sister is pregnant with her first baby, and she just emailed asking me how I would feel if she used the name I have been saving in the event I have a son. I mentioned the name to her a few years ago. My husband and I have been talking kids in the next few years and I really, REALLY want there to be an acceptable way to ask my sister to choose a different name. Am I the one being the baby here?

Well, she's asking you how you'd feel. So, take her intentions at face value and talk to her about the way you feel. Say honestly that you feel a little protective of the name and sad that she might use it, and ask her how strongly she feels about using it. For all you know, it's not as important to her as it is to you, and she'll see that and and back right down.

If she does feel strongly, then tell her you aren't going to be a baby and make her pay for this, but you probably will use the name yourself if you have a boy. (Assuming you will.)  

Definitely don't pitch a fit if she forges ahead, because if you do dig in, you're virtually guaranteeing that you'll have all girls and feel like a doofus for taking a stand.  

Also note, I said "talk." DON'T have this conversation by email. Too much room for misinterpretation. 

Also worth considering: While the trend now is to go for uncommon names, one of the trends preceding it was to choose family names, resulting in tons of cousins all named the same thing. It's usually less of a big deal than people think it's going to be.

And, finally: A reminder that if you're attached to a certain name for a someday kid, especially it's unusual, DON'T TELL ANYBODY. Any time you feel the urge, watch the "Seven" episode of Seinfeld.

I've never understood why lovers get more leeway in these things than friends. If you had a friend who was consistently late, and frequently blew you off for another group of folks - how long would that person stay your friend?

A couple  of things about this. First, I'm not sure there is more leeway, necessarily. With some friendships, yes, but not with friendships where there's a heavy investment of years and shared experience. Those tend to be approached with the same, arguably excessive number of mullligans and second-chances and hopes that if you just phrase it the right way it'll all be okay again.

Second, there's also the communication element. While this certainly varies from person to person, in general people are more willing to be completely blunt about their needs with friends than they are with lovers. Imagine these two scenes and see if they ring true to you:

Scene 1: Friend 1 cooks dinner for friend 2, who was supposed to come over at 7. Friend 2 isn't there by 7:30, so Friend 1 calls and says, "WTF?" Friend 2 say, "I know, I know, I'm sorry, I'm a complete jerk, but I'm almost there."

Scene 2: Lover 1 cooks dinner for Lover 2, who is way late. L1 starts to get steamed but decides not to call, since  L2 gets  defensive and it's not worth it. L2 finally shows up and L1 says, "Did something happen? I thought we agreed on 7." L2: "Oh, yeah, but I got caught up at work/talking to ----." L1: Angry, but decides not to say anything because it's going to ruin the nice evening s/he had planned."

Granted, these are huge generalizations. But there is a general tendency to treat a friendship as tough enough to take it and a relationship as something that needs to be handled gently--when in fact relationships would last longer and be healthier if poeple threw the truth at them as hard as they do their friendships. 

It's a theory.




A theory that took me way too long to type.

Anyhoo, that's it for today. Thanks all, have a great weekend and type to you here next week.

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Carolyn Hax
Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997 as a weekly feature for The Washington Post, accompanied by the work of "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis. The column has since gone daily and into syndication, where it appears in over 200 newspapers. Carolyn joined The Post in 1992 as a copy editor in Style, and became a news editor before turning to writing full-time. She is the author of "Tell Me About It" (Miramax, 2001), and the host of a live online discussion on Fridays at noon on She lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband and their three boys.

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