Carolyn Hax Live

Sep 02, 2011

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, Sept. 2 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 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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Hi everybody, and say hi to Levi, my interim producer. 

I've got a headache that has added a nausea element in the last 30 min or so, so if head conditions keep deteriorating I might have to call this one early. Just an early warning. 

He *was* having an affair! Now are living apart, our teenaged kids are *not* destroyed, I'm *not* just living on my paltry salary (he's providing some funds). After initially refusing my request to end his infidelity, he's changed his mind and sez he's ended it. I'm in with a new counselor, actively seeking to resolve my feelings about the affair and about the future or our marriage. He left a msg. for his old counselor but doesn't have an appointment yet. Sooo ... here's my question: What questions are OK to ask my husband about the affair? I've already asked how long it went on for (2 years), because I figured my ob/gyn would want to know that when I asked to be tested for STDs. Is it OK to ask if he's been tested recently? What about asking him to be tested, if he hasn't been? We've had joint financial accounts for 25 years ... is it OK to ask how much of *our* money he's spent on her? What about asking if they were already hooked up when we sat with her and her husband at a dinner with a large group of acquaintances ... if they were already together when she encouraged me via Facebook to go to her church's Greek festival? ... and ... Do I need to burn my bed?

I'm both sorry it turned out this way and relieved on your behalf, because it wasn't looking like it could be anything but an affair; at least you've got the truth now and you're both dealing with it openly.

As for what to ask, I'd advise asking technical questions that have a direct impact on your health and finances (e.g, STI checks, money spent on affair), and avoiding the questions that provide nothing useful and leave you with new ways to relive your past (e.g., were they together at this dinner, that festival, etc.).

I'm speaking only to you, obviously, but you both need to resist the temptation to add crazy to this scenario. It's tough enough as it is, and if you take a just-the-facts-ma'am approach, i think you'll get to the other side faster and in better shape all around (emotionally, financially, parentally). 

Please explain today's cartoon by Nick. Who's speaking?

The guy on the far left is the wingman, speaking to his friend, the yin, while eyeballing the comely yang. 

Carolyn, I know this is out of your usual bailiwick, but I thought I would try. I have several baby gear items that my child has outgrown and that another baby could use (a Pac-n-Play, baby Bjorn seat). I could sell them, but I'd rather give them to someone who needs them - a mom living in a shelter, for example. Any thoughts on places where I could donate these? I live in Bethesda, but anywhere in the DC area would be OK. Thanks so much for any advice. I'd love to help someone out, even in a small way such as this.

Martha's Table and S.O.M.E. are two worthy organizations that spring to mind. If people would like to offer their suggestions, then please do so via my Facebook page:

Non-FBers can email me at, and I'll post for you.

Also--since you're going to be producing a steady stream of outgrown stuff, also consider Freecycle. Both donating and Freecycling keep stuff out of landfills and get it to people who can use it, it's just a matter of which method suits your schedule.

I've just learned that my fiance, a 28 year old up-and-coming associate at a major DC law firm, has been driving on a suspended license, which means, of course, that he also has no insurance. If he's stopped for any reason, or is involved in an accident, he could be arrested or jailed! I think that it could also get him fired. He says this is "no big deal;" all his violations were speeding tickets (no DUI's or other more serious offenses) and that this is a "rite of passage" for many men his age and younger. I am so horrified that I am thinking of ending the engagement. (Fortunately, the wedding is still over a year away.) While I don't plan to report him to the authorities, I also won't let him drive my car, nor will I be a passanger in his when he is driving. Am I "seriously overreacting," as he claims? I was completely stunned to learn this.

I suspect there will be a lot of disagreement on this, but I'm on the side of taking this very seriously. His casual disregard for the law, as well as his responsibility to other drivers, has me wondering what else he thinks he's too important/special to care about. If I were to pull together a list of things to watch for in people, it would include this  entry: Trust humility; don't trust casual arrogance. 

Sorry if this should be obvious but -- Why wouldn't he have to buy her jewelry?

Because she's a shape, not a person? 

My wife and I want to have children. However after a year of trying we haven't been able to conceive. Now we have a philosophical impasse. In my mind this means perhaps we are meant to be childless or else we have to keep on trying for another 1, 2 or 5 years. For my wife this means we need help and we should see a fertility doctor. I'd like to have a child but it seems like biology is telling us no. I believe this is our fate; my wife thinks this is something we should actively change. How do we bridge the divide?

Which is it more important for you to please, the Fates or your wife? 

This is not meant to be a complete answer, just a thinking point.

Try an ice pack. It helps my migraines.

I don't have one of those tam-o-shanter ice bags, so I'd have to strap it to my head with an Ace bandage. A good look for me, I predict.

Hi Carolyn. I started seeing someone about a month ago, but I feel like my image of him/us is getting ahead of reality. I need a mantra that would get my perspective back. Please help! I'm walking around with lovesick puppy dog eyes and probably making people want to upchuck.

Well, that's your right; i'm sure your friends, etc,  have done the same to you plenty of times over the years.

For your own sake, though, you might want to impose sanity rules on yourself. Plan things to do that don't involve Him, at least once a weekend; start projects that have historically been absorbing/rewarding for you; call your friends and family to check in; and just in general invest energy in strengthening the non-guy part of your life. It won't change how you feel, it'll just slow you down and give your perspective a fighting chance.


The wife of one of my good friends is so unbearable that things are reaching a tipping point. She's passive aggressive, offensive, and insulting to pretty much everybody - including her husband - but she's sensitive when someone responds in kind. Our group of friends is partially to blame since this isn't new behavior and we either ignored or laughed it off in the past. Our friend knows his wife is like this but is fine with it. It's now to the point that our group of friends dreads them showing up at things because of her. Some have stopped inviting them altogether, others scheme to create events where only he can attend because of scheduling or type of event, and still others cancel if they find out she's coming. I'm at a total loss for what to do here. I have no idea how to raise this without him getting defensive and protective, hurting his feelings, or hurting her feelings. After all, this is his wife. Is it best just to not say anything and let it play out?

That's what I'm thinking; he knows who he married. If he comes to you looking for answers, then I hope you're honest with him, and I also hope you make a sustained effort to keep your friendship with him going. He may be fine with the way things are now, but life with difficult people has a way of going off the rails, even after things seem "fine" for years.

Speaking as someone who's been a similar place to the one you find yourself in and who, ultimately, decided to stay in the marriage, I agree with Carolyn that the place to start with questions is with the ones that have practical implications -- your health, your financial rights. But where you go from there is a very personal path. What you need to know to recover emotionally depends on a lot of factors that are true for all of us but that only you can know for yourself, starting, of course, with whether you want to stay in the marriage or not. For myself, one thing I needed to know in order to decide whether to stay with him was whether he understood how intimately he had violated me, and one clue to that was whether he appreciated that he needed to answer my questions even when they made him uncomfortable or "violated" the privacy of the other woman. I needed to ask some questions that would make this clear. At the same time, though, I was able to recognize that asking for too many sordid details would accomplish nothing other than to create pictures for me I didn't want to see and humiliation for him that would make it impossible for us to heal together. In the end, we decided to heal together, and the fact that I didn't burn the bed helped to make that possible. Also, since you have children (as did I, although mine were much younger), you can't burn the bed too brightly without making them bystanders to the bonfire -- something to consider as well even if you decide to part ways.

I like it all, thanks. Well said.

"this is a "rite of passage" for many men his age and younger" As a now 40 year old man, this was never a rite of passage for myself or anybody I know. From his statements, I would think he's not an "up-and-coming associate" but a "soon-to-be-indicted associate"

Thanks. More coming.

If her boyfriend has a suspended license and is a licensed attorney, depending on when he was admitted to the bar and when his license was suspended and the nature and age of those tickets, he would have been required to provide that information during his bar application process. If he did not report it, as required, and it is discovered, he could be facing a whole host of other issues, including disbarment and unemployment.

Thanks. And:

Take this VERY seriously. If he drives your car and hurts some one you are liable. If he's caught it's possible he could be disbarred. Yes then he'd lose his job. Do you want to be with some one who has this little regard for others and the law? Run!


You're right - it's a big deal and a red flag. But I'm a lawyer and I've known alot of lawyers who think just like this guy, so I suspect he might be getting the green light from his peer group. She might want to look more closely at who he's hanging out with. But yeah, he's crazy dumb for doing that. Being an associate at a major DC firm means he's making big money, which means he's going to be paying big money if he ever gets in an accident. He's risking their financial wellbeing if nothing else.

And one brave witness to the peer group. Thanks all. 

Has biology told you "no" before? Think about things like wearing glasses, using an inhaler for asthma, taking medicine for pollen allergies, etc. Or even things like being able to fly in an airplane or taking a car instead of walking somewhere. Would fertility treatments be much different than ignoring biology''s "no" vote in those cases?

Ding ding ding.

I'm not sure I entirely buy this. Is there a small part of you that's secretly relieved to have a "no" decision made for you? I say this as the end result of my parents' painful years of fertility treatments.

Great question. You still there, Fate Guy?

Have you thought that maybe it's fate for you to get fertility treatments? Maybe the doctor you'll choose is someone you're destined to know, or the ordeal of going through this will give you and your wife strength you'll need later, or... the possibilities are endless. Who are we to decide when our free will end and fate begins?

A: We're people who want to invoke a higher power to back us up because that's easier than defending our choices and preferences on their merits.

But that was a rhetorical question, wasn't it.

My girlfriend broke up with me last Thursday. Essentially she got drunk and some guy she admits to having a crush on kissed her. I think the original break-up was an overreaction on her part, as she struggles with some self-esteem issues even though she is an amazing person - she constantly tells me she doesn't deserve to be with me, I treat her too well, etc. She is in therapy and addressing these issues and some others. We've been talking a lot the past week - some very painful, tearful conversations - and I think we're getting back together. We both love each other and want to be with each other. I really, really want to make things work with her, but I'm concerned there are hazards ahead that I'm unaware of. Is there anything particular we need to be on the watch for in getting back together? I know it won't just be waving a magic wand and that we have issues to work through.

I realize this is ridiculously easy for me to say, from out in the ether with no feelings for either of you beyond a we-are-the-world love of humanity (try typing that with frozen peas on your head), but: It sounds as if she'd be better off navigating through her issues without the added complication of maintaining a relationship. Discuss.

I don't think someone is necessarily looking for an excuse to not have a kid. If I couldn't get pregnant, I wouldn't have a kid or would adopt. It's just personal preference. Not everyone wants to go through that process and it's that simple.

Fair enough, but sometimes the obstacle to pregnancy is a minor one, and "that process" ends after a routine office visit. It's not a simple either-or, either you get pregnant within a year or you spend $40,000 over years of IVF. There are a lot of possibilities for both obstacles and treatments, and when half of a couple wants to bear children badly enough to want to check with a doctor, then it seems to me the other half owes at least an open mind and an office visit.

If you'll be around for a while, please announce your name, so we can appropriately thank you.

As Carolyn said, my name's Levi and I'm here on an interim status for the moment. Looking forward to it, though, and happy to help both Carolyn and the peanuts.

really, but some of the people on your chat and in your reader columns seem a little preachy these days. I get that my husband and I should strive to treat each other the way we want to be treated, that people shouldn't drive with a suspended license, etc but in the end people make mistakes and go through bad times, and most of a person's character comes out in those rough times. I'm sure this woman realizes that her fiance shouldn't drive with a suspended license, but shouldn't she judge the entire person?

Wait a minute. This isn't a "rough time," this is a pattern of behavior. This man is not only unrepentant, but also cavalier with the money, vehicles and health of total strangers. 

So, to answer your question, yes, she sould judge the entire person--using the speeding-ticket arrogance as a window into the character of that entire person.

If we were talking about someone who had renounced his old ways and embraced his responsibilities, I would agree with you, and say the suspended license was not a dealbreaker, but instead cause for watchful waiting and little more. I'd also be less excited about it if he were bending a rule somewhere that didn't put people at risk.

"It sounds as if she'd be better off navigating through her issues without the added complication of maintaining a relationship." I've heard this from two or three people in the past week and I'll be honest as to being a bit confused by what it means. Isn't having a supportive partner helpful when dealing with these types of issues?

Depends on what the issues are. If she has medical issues, say, depression that's not stemming from a traumatic event, then a supportive partner -can- be a plus; even then, it would still depend on her personality and the relationship, and whether the companionship energized her or drained her.

But if her issues are relationship-based--say, stemming from unhealthy patterns in her family as she was growing up--then having to bring her energy to two emotional fronts at once could be overwhelming, and delay the progress of both efforts. 

Carolyn, Can you go over one more time, or can the editor point me toward a chat where you've discussed how to find free or low-cost counseling? My insurance won't cover it. I live in Fredericksburg, so all the cool city stuff is too far away.

The places to check are:

1. Hospitals and universities. Clinical mental health care providers in all disciplines/degree progams have to learn somewhere, and seeing someone in supervised training is one way to get low cost or free care.

2. Call the professional associations--the American Psychological Association, for example--to inquire about low-cost providers. There are a bunch of them, so Google is your friend: searching "mental health care professional organizations" turns up a few lists to get you started.

3. Consider the clergy. Many get degrees in social work or other counseling fields.

4. Clinics offered by reputable organizations--again, hospitals and universities, but also nonprofits like the Women's Center. If a search comes up empty, crisis hotlines can help, b/c they're plugged into these resources. Just make sure that call is your last resort.

You are not a wildlife rehabilitator. Your job is not to fix this person. She probably does love you, but that doesn't mean she's at a place in her life where she's ready to be your girlfriend. Let her work through this stuff and then come back when she's done. And if she doesn't realize she owes it to her partners to not be a hot mess, she's definitely not ready to be in a relationship.

I'll see that, and raise you one: If she doesn't realize she owes it to herself not to be a hot mess, and that she needs to get herself together more than she needs a boyfriend, then she's not ready to be in a relationship.

Again, it depends on what kind of stuff she's sorting out, but it sounds like low-self-esteem stuff, which points to being single through the sorting process.

My good friend has recently lost a lot of weight, and I am happy for her for her accomplishment and all the hard work it's taken her to get there. However, I can't escape the sense of jealousy I have when our mutual friends constantly applaud her on how great she looks, and how it annoys me to read her daily updates on Facebook on how far she's run or what skinless boneless healthy meal she's cooking up for dinner. I suppose part of this jealousy stems from the fact that despite my best efforts (keeping up with a 5-day-a-week rigorous exercise regimen and restructuring what and how much I eat), I have gained weight. Also, I used to be "the skinny one" out of the two of us, so that's probably affecting my attitude. I guess I'm asking how I can keep my jerk tendencies in check while I'm around her and not lose it (my temper, that is). I'm frustrated and want to be happy for my friend, but I feel like a failure compared to her.

Couple of things here. First, I don't think annoyance with someone's "daily updates on Facebook on how far she's run or what skinless boneless healthy meal she's cooking up" is an ailment in need of a cure. It's a symptom of the ailment of having a friend who has lost all perspective on what is worth sharing about one's day.

You do seem particularly susceptible to annoyance on that topic, and that is a problem worth addressing. That you note you "used to be 'the skinny one,'" that you're measuring your worth against hers and that you're jealous of the attention she's getting all suggest you've got a self-image that's pegged to weight to an unhealthy degree. That, in turn, could be affecting not just your weight-control efforts, but also your general health and also the health of your friendships.

If you're able to see this about yourself, then maybe just putting that awareness at the front of your mind will be enough to get the process underway of detaching your self-worth from your food intake. 

It's notoriously difficult, though, to redirect one's thinking after food has stopped being yummy fuel and started being a vehicle for comfort/control/one-upsmanship/whatever else--especially if one or more of your key relationships has that preoccupation as a foundation. If you find that you're not able to overrule your impulse to measure yourself through dress size, willpower and compliments, then an exploratory conversation with a therapist who specializes in eating and body-image issues might be a productive hour to invest. 

Some workplaces may offer this too (mine does, for free).

Oh right, duh. That;s the first thing to check, to see whether your benefits include an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Thanks for the catch.

You HAVE to let her go. I was *just* like her and did everything I could to sabotage any relationship with any nice guy. My now-husband saw this from the day we met -- and decided to just be my friend. During that time, he showed me more respect and kindness than anyone I had ever met -- and I tried to push that away, too. BUT, the way he treated me made me realize I *did* deserve it and pushed me to work REALLY hard in therapy. Once I was in a good place, I asked him out and we've been together ever since. Being just his friend to start with --- and not having sex in there to complicate everything --- was the best thing I could ask for. Recognizing that you've already done the relationship thing with her, it might be a little bit more difficult, but she'll never get better unless she can step away and get some perspective and realize she does deserve to be treated the way you treat her.

Interesting take, thanks.

Dear Carolyn, Love your column and chats. I have a bit of an ethical dilemma. I recently got married, and my godmother was unable to attend. A week or two after the wedding she found out her job is being eliminated. Because of her age and skill set, it will be difficult if not impossible for her to find more work, and her recently deceased husband left her pretty much nothing to live on. Just the other day we got a wedding card in the mail from her with a sizable check. I can't in good conscience cash it; I know she'll need all the $ she can save at this point. But I also know it would offend her deeply if I sent it back, and she'll notice if I don't ever cash it and will worry about it. What can I do here? I feel like any version of "We can't accept your gift" will be hurtful. Thanks!

If you cash it, you don't have to spend it on yourself. You can deposit it into an account that you use to help her out--for example, by buying her a gift card to a buy-anything-type big box store on her birthday, xmas, anniversary, mother's day, etc.

That's one choice. The other choice is to tell her that you feel funny cashing her check knowing that she's going to be looking for work soon. You know her, I don't; will saying that (once) offend/hurt her? Or will she be okay with it, and just insist, "No, no, you keep it, I'm fine"? If it's the latter, then do offer to tear up the check. Either way, if she insists you keep it or if you choose not to refuse it, do go with saving it for her, quietly, for emergencies.

I have a job that pays me extremely well (a blessing in these times). I hate it . . .I have hated it for many years, but am now realizing that it is not just the place but the career. I am miserable in this job/career and am lashing out at everyone. I am very fortunate that my husband does very well and I could stay home with our kids if I chose. But I feel guilty . . .why do I get to quit my job when my husband still has to work? Its not fair that he has to work longer until retirement because I am miserable and want to quit. But I am so miserable that literally, I would do ANYTHING to quit. My husband and I have started to talk about it and he is (understandably) scared and overwhelmed (as am I). I guess my question is . . . how do I get past my guilt and feelings of unfairness?

Recognize that they're not useful to you (or to your husband right now) if you just feel them without responding to them. Instead, take those feelings as a hint that quitting to stay home indefinitely isn't the right solution to this problem, for you or for your family. 

The question becomes then, what should replace staying home indefinitely? Training for a new career? A job hunt while you're still at the old job, in a related but different field? A part-time or volunteer job in a field you'd like to explore but aren't ready to commit to? It's important that you keep talking and include realistic, concrete next steps in the conversation. It's great that you recognize the fairness issue, and keep that momentum going by making sure you put  yourself in your husband's and your kids' shoes at every decision point you reach. You've got powerful self-interest pushing you in one direction over the others.

Also--now that you've identified the source of your unhappiness, please put the full force of your willpower into the effort not to lash out at everyone. Crappy jobs do wear down our defenses, but that's an explanation, not an excuse.


Carolyn, luv the chats. Do you ever feel that your life's story was influenced or affected by the mid-90's sitcom? The sitcom has some similarities with you that raise eyebrows.

Thanks. I never watched that show, actually, so any resemblance is purely coincidental.

Strong father, strong college boyfriend, I felt no sense of myself. Nobody can help with that! She is screaming signals to you and will eventually sabotage this relationship one way or another. I had to "force" my boyfriend to finally break my heart, despite my pleas to take me back, and I HAD to be on my own for 5 years, until I could finally hear my voice. PS we're now in our 50s and long since happily married to each other - could not have happened any other way, and we both feel so lucky to have wound up together!

I realize I've posted a lot on this already, but I believe this is a much more common phenomenon than people realize--not so much the sabotage, but being under the influence of someone else. When we tell ourselves somethign, it's always in our own voice, so it naturally seems like our idea. But even someone who isn't naturally strong can be in a position of strength; a parent is the classic example. Leave the sphere of influence of the parent, and sometimes you get an "aha" moment, where you start to form your own ways of looking at things ... and sometimes you get into a relationship with someone who resembles the parent in a lot of ways. Then the "aha" moment is postponed, that's one consequence, -and- you think you've left your comfort zone but haven't, that's another consequence--possibly more significant. You think you're your own person, but you're really not yet.

Since it's a process of non-awareness, there's not much you can do except pay close attention to the signals you're sending out; that's where the sabotage comes in. When you;re feeling aimless or suffocated, or saying or doing contradictory things, or running hot and cold on someone, or when you're doing rebellious things when emboldened by circumstances (drunken makeout session was the one in the original question, right?)--these are "screaming signals."

This is what IMDB says about Caroline in the City: Caroline Duffy is a successful cartoonist living in Manhattan whose comic strip "Caroline in the City" has become a huge hit. The strip is based on her own life, and the people in it - her occasional boyfriend Del and her best friend Annie. Aside from her career, however, Caroline's life is a mess, as is proven when she throws fruit out the window onto the street in a pathetic attempt to meet men.

Duly noted, but I think I'm missing an offense switch. I give plenty, but rarely take. 

Dear Godmother, Wow; that's some hunk of bucks you very kindly offered to us for our wedding celebration, and we are very grateful! We feel funny about taking it, however, and would like so much more instead to spend a whole day with you; I would like very much for you and my husband to get to know each other better, and of course I cherish the time that you and I spend together. I will call you in a week or two, and hope you will think this over. It's not that we don't appreciate the money, but we'd like your presence so much more than anything it might be spent on. With much love, Goddaughter and new husband

Nice, thank you.

What shoes go with the headwear?

A demi-baguette slipper. 

where is nick's cartoon? link please

Here's the latest column. Is that the one you're looking for?

I had well paying job that I really liked. I was laid off and became a stay at home dad while my wife, who also has a well paying jobs continued to work. At first, both my wife and I felt that I would not be able to contribute as much to our household as I did when I was working. Just the opposite has happened. Our marriage is better, our home life is much happier, and I have realized that I am working just as "hard" as I did when I was working. My response to the OP is that you are not necessarily being unfair to your husband to be a stay at home mom. It is something how reduced stress can lead to a better life for all, even if there is less money.

Love this, thanks. It's just SO important that both parties invest themselves fully in their share of the responsibilities AND in the idea the both are contributing equally. I actually think this arrangement is ideal for families when it works; I've just seen too many attempts at it go off the rails when, for example, the working half resents the home half for having it easy, when the home half cuts corners and watches TV instead of putting effort into (literally) home economics, when the working half decides to ditch the marriage without regard for the home half's lost footing in the working world, etc. If the respect for each other -as equals- is not there, then the whole thing is deceptively high risk.

yep. thanks.

You're welcome! Glad I could help my first official day here.

"as is proven when she throws fruit out the window onto the street in a pathetic attempt to meet men." I'm going to be without TV for the next week. This makes me feel so much better about that.

At least then it was fiction. Now it's a real person's pathetic attempt to get a spinoff reality series out of a stint on an ensemble reality series. I need a fresh bag of peas. (Thawed bag is going out the window, heck yeah, but dramatic impact will be blunted by my being in a first floor room facing my back yard.)

Is there a way to make someone want to marry you? I mean after 3 and half years of being together are there any guarantees short of giving an ultimatum?

better question: Is there a way to make a good marriage out of a coerced proposal? 

Marry someone who, after spending years getting to know you, is eager to take whatever initiative is necessary to be your partner in life. Otherwise, pass.


No no, MEN should. After they've been struck in the head with fruit.

to the godmother. When I was going through a tight time I gave my sister a for-no-reason present just because I wanted to and thought she'd really like it, and I was so embarrassed when she told me years later that she felt uncomfortable about it. Yes, I ate Ramen that week; but I wanted to, and as an adult it was my choice to make. I can't imagine how hurt I would have been at the time if she had thrown it back in my face. Carolyn's first advice was best. Deliver a heartfelt thank-you for her generosity, cash the check, and turn it into gift cards and/or surprise visits with groceries in hand.

Thanks for the other side. This is one of those things that depends so much on the person involved--what's perfect for one person will be offensive to another. Since the OP expects the godmother will be hurt by any mention of not taking the gift, then that's important to heed. Someone who doesn't offend easily can be approached with other ideas. 

Hi Carolyn. We are having a small wedding in a few weeks in NYC. Our families are all over and we thought it would be a fun, convenient place for everyone to get too since we all have to travel anyway. Because everyone is paying to travel to the wedding we have not registered. Also, we are in our 30s and have everything we need (with zero room to spare.) Now people are hassling us about what we want for a wedding gift and won't take no for an answer. Is there a good way to get them to accept that we truly just want them to be there and that is all?

No, that just means they'll guess at your tastes and get you something. If you can think of something you'd like that you won't have to store (i.e., something you can consume, like wine, or something that fits on a piece of paper, like photgraphs or recipes, or something you can use and pass along, like books), then suggest that.

Hi Carolyn, Found out last weekend that BF of 1.5 yrs has been cheating on me the whole time, despite talk of marriage and babies. It appears that he is actually a compulsive liar and lied about just about everything. I'm hurt and angry and devastated. He is begging to come back and saying I'm "the one" and he'll do anything--right now, of course, that is out of the question. But I do believe in general that people can change. Is there any point to telling him to go get treatment and come back if he's ready to have a fully honest relationship? Or are compulsive liars/cheaters a doomed prospect no matter what?

That's my question for you, actually: What is the point of telling him to come back when he's honest? yes, sure, people can undergo all kinds of wonderful transformations, when they want to and put in the effort, but I don't see why you need to hang any kind of hopes on the possible transformation of this one guy. There are over three billion men in the world. Surely you can find happiness with one of them.

BTW: Wonderful transformations tend to happen when people look at themselves and feel disgust at what they see. From your description, this guy looked at his life and saw that it was about to become less comfortable. Not quite as persuasive.

When did we as a society start expecting to love our jobs? I would venture to say that for centuries people have worked and hated it but done it anyway, and looked for enjoyment elsewhere. I know several people that claim to be miserable in their job, but even more who are truly miserable not having a job. It seems to me that if you change your expectations, i.e. you recognize that work isn't necessarily supposed to be enjoyable, it's something you do anyway, then you can deal with a job that perhaps doesn't fill your life with rainbows and lollipops but instead fills your life with a mortgage payment and groceries. Which is good, in my book.

I think this is a great persepctive-shifter, thanks. I think it should be qualified, though. For people who are doing jobs that demand skills that don't come naturally when other skills do, or that involve moral/ethical qualms, it's important to consider there are more suitable ways to fill your life with mortgage payments and groceries than the way you've chosen.  

What she did last week was amazing and fund and above and beyond.

Hope she's lurking--thanks for the standing O.

And thank you Levi, and everyone who stopped by today, for sticking with my slightly gimpy endeavor today. I'm off to put a cold washcloth on my face. Have a great long weekend and type to you here next week. 



But shapes can't talk or date. Why would Wingman be telling a shape that it can date another shape and not buy that other shape jewelry? Wingman should seek professional help for his delusions.

That's shapist.

We faced the same thing and realized that what we love are 'experience gifts' of dinner, movie, theater - often with the giftgiver!

Right, yes, forgot these, thanks.

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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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