Carolyn Hax Live

Sep 23, 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. 9 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.

Think you know a thing or two about giving advice? Enter the Post Magazine's @Work Advice Contest and tell us how you'd deal with that annoying co-worker or overbearing boss. We are accepting entries through September 18.

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.

Hello Carolyn, I love your chats and read them religiously. You've often recommended reading The Gift of Fear, and I was wondering if you think everyone should read it. I'm happily married to the nicest guy in the world, have a wonderful family and no creepy friends or exes. Should I still read the book? Thanks! No complaints.

Why not? It's a good read, it'll satisfy your curiosity, it'll change the way you look at a culture of 24 hour news, particularly in the way it deals with mass shootings, and it addresses situations in the workplace, at schools, in public life, all of which bring people with no complaints into proximity to people the book does apply to.


I hope this synopsis will make sense: I have a younger sister who has had emotional and practical problems her entire life. She's very smart and well educated but has never been able to have a stable existence. When she has had jobs with benefits (and she has had many good jobs, because she's very good at getting hired), she gets medical care and seems better for a while, but then she creates a crisis and quits and is back where she was. We have all been worried that eventually her depression would take the form of a serious suicide attempt, and this finally happened a few weeks ago. She didn't die only because a neighbor checked on her. She was in the hospital for a week, and now has a $30k medical bill on top of everything else (with no health insurance). I've been talking with her on the phone, and after the, can I say buzz? of the initial crisis (the medical drama, the attention from everyone, etc.), she seems to be sinking again. The hospital wanted to send her to a psychiatric rehab but she refused and hasn't seen a doctor since she checked herself out against the hospital's advice. Not to get into all the family dynamics, but basically another sister has taken it upon herself to be the caretaker over the years, bailing her out of various down times and giving her money and support on a number of occasions. This sister went and stayed with her for a few days last week and then arranged for the neighbor to help her out as needed for the time being (we are on the other side of the country). Younger sister and I are both in our 50s, so no spring chickens here. I'm willing to help but don't want to get sucked into the maelstrom to my detriment, either (I've had my own issues with depression). So what is the best thing to do in this situation?

I'm sorry, this is a wrenching (and scary) situation for all involved. I'm going to steer you to NAMI, which offers support to families of the mentally ill. Among the offerings are a help line (800-950-NAMI), support groups and a course for families.

Dear Carolyn, How do I grow up and not have hurt feelings about being relegated to non-bridesmaid status in the wedding of a close friend (who was actually one of my two maids of honor)?

Why shouldn't your feelings be hurt? That's a perfectly normal reaction to finding out you consider her a closer friend than she considers you.

Fortunately, validating the hurt feelings isn't where this ends. Think of the message you just got from her as akin to a bank statement; it just says what you have with her at the moment. And like a bank statement, it can be different--for a lot of different reasons--in as little as a month from now. While it's not likely to change that quickly, it's actually common ... heck, let's call it a norm ... for people to lose touch entirely with some of the most prominent people in their wedding parties. And, some people who "didn't make the cut" (gack) grow closer to the bride or groom over the years. You just don't know where all of this is going. You don't even know where you'll want it to go; in time, you may find yourself less interested in her friendship. 

All of this is to say, yes, this stinks and you have every reason to feel bad, but bad in a way that will soon pass. If you care a lot about her and her friendship, then square your shoulders and be that good friend. 

Hi Carolyn, A few months ago I let a friend use my credit card info to make an emergency online purchase. To my surprise, I just started noticing a steady stream of unfamiliar iTunes purchases on my statements. After a little bit of sleuthing, I asked her and found out that yes, she has been using my card info --unauthorized-- to make occasional purchases for one dollar each, which she did not think I would mind (or notice, perhaps). Is there any way this could EVER be okay, or did I just lose a friend?

Door No. 2. What a jerk. If it helps, it sounds as if it cost you under 50 bucks to find out what a jerk she is, in which case you should consider yourself lucky. 

You have called the credit card company to get a new number, yes?

My child, no longer a child but 28 years old, comes across as very needy with employers. Always asking confirming questions that are very basic in nature, seeming very unsure. I am concerned that this will lead to firing, as s/he is still in a probationary period. How can I help end this behavior? The person is aware of seeming needy, but can't seem to stop. THx

um. Cut the cord? Please?

Suppose you ARE the vault-like friend who receives the info. from the guy, and yet you're also a friend or at least acquaintance of the wife? Other than preempting anyone who says "I have a giant secret to tell you..." [do we *ever* get such warning, or do we just get "I'm leaving Missus the minute Sonny turns 19."] and hopefully avoiding being in the middle of anything this big and hateful, what do you do; how do you look the wife in the eye for the next two years, regardless of what actually happens between them after that time passes?

When you're the vault, you at least have an opportunity to make your case. E.g.: "I think it's unfair that you're asking me to carry this around while your wife--my good friend--is oblivious. I also think it's wrong that you're deciding this without her and not giving her a chance to do anything about it in this time. Even if you're absolutely sure that, say, counseling won't change your mind, you could still be giving her a chance to get her finances in order, start saving money, focusing more on her career as her soon-to-be primary source of income, etc."

In other words, you advocate for the oblivious party, forcefully.

And enjoy not being a bridesmaid. You can wear your own clothes, go to the cocktail hour, and enjoy the wedding rather than being part of the show. Seriously, after being in a few weddings, I'm grateful when I don't get picked.

I like it, thanks.

Yes, please contact NAMI. They offer support groups for family members. One practical matter - please also contact the hospital about the bill. Non-for-profit hospitals should have sliding scale/payment plans etc for individuals without insurance, but they often won't tell you that unless directly asked.

Worth a try, thanks.

Dear Carolyn: My Husband and I have been married for 12 years. My husband has always worked, and I'e always been a dedicated homemaker. I consider this my "job". Recently my husband was laid off from his job, and he accepted another position that pays significantly less. Now that my sons have are middle-school aged, my husband wants me to consider working part-time for extra money, because I "have so much free time during the day". I find this extremely disrespectful. I feel like he thinks I just lounge around all day. How can we compromise on this issue, and how do I show him the importance of everything that I do? --- Already-Employed Wife

You can compromise by allowing that both of you are right. Since you're a homemaker, you do all the jobs that two working parents would  either have to divide between them or hire someone else to do, and you also are able to get involved in your kids lives (particularly schooling) in ways that parents who work full-time are often unable to. So, yes, you save the family money, and bring added value to all members of the household.

That said, your family apparently needs cash now more than it needs your hands-on attention to the household, and that's legitimate, too. 

Please let your husband know that you took the "free time" comment as a slap, because you take pride in the way you've used your time to support him and your kids.

After you get that off your chest, though, you'll need to set aside your impulse to take this conversation personally, and instead undertake a serious accounting of what housework and childrearing a part-time job would displace, and do your best to attach a money value to it. The whole point isn't to send you to work as a ceremonial gesture, it's to enable more financial stability. Figure out where you can best be deployed for the family good, and get to it.




Carolyn, please help. After my divorce, I moved a short distance away and started attending a different (smaller) house of worship than the one my ex and his new bride went to. That was the same one all our longtime mutual friends attended. I'd thought I'd stay friends with them by getting together outside, but they've embraced my ex and his new wife, which really hurts. They aren't rejecting me -- it's just easy to see them every week, and very few make the effort to see me separately, though I try. Meanwhile, my best friend passed away suddenly and my other best friend moved to Paris. I've tried volunteering, but everyone just goes home afterward. In just four years I've gone from partnered and surrounded by our friends and my friends to alone and struggling to have any friends. I'm kind of stunned at having almost nobody. Any advice, please?

I know this requires a bigger answer, but have you considered going to your old house of worship--just for one service, just to see what happens? I appreciate that this idea might seem too painful, but I can also envision an outcome where you go, and it's not -that- bad, and you go again, and you get over that initial sick feeling and start mingling among your friends again. I can also envision an outcome where you go back once and realize you've let these friends loom larger in your memory than they ever did in your life, and that would allow you to move on a bit emotionally.

Just something to toss around in your mind.

I am really sorry about your friend. That and the divorce are no doubt bringing an element of grief to your struggle, when the starting over part is hard enough on its own. Have you considered grief support?


Carolyn, Help! I'm dating a great guy and I'm worried about sabotaging this 2+ months old relationship. He works with his ex (dated a year) and I can't seem to shake concerns that they'll get back together. I dissect our dating until it pops up in conversation with him. He assures me that he likes me, that there isn't anyone else and that we're more than ok. Asked and answered so I don't want to dwell on my insecurity. How can I just let go and enjoy this amazing guy who I like more every day?

You cant control whether he gets back together with his ex, so that's not a productive thing to dwell on. Instead, try steering your thoughts to what you would do if he did get back with his ex. 

Chances are, you'd have a stunned-sick-feeling phase, a crying and ice cream phase, an I -hate-this-guy-for-what-he-did-to-me phase where you relive all the chances you gave him to tell you he was still into this ex, and a phase where you decide you're sick of being sick about this. Then you start noticing it doesn't hurt as much and/or you don't care as much as you thought you did, and you'll go for spells where you don't think of him at all, and you'll even get your laugh back, and you'll be surprised by how long it took you to realize it was your first real laugh in days/weeks/months.

In other words, you'll take a hit but you'll live. So, is that really something to be so afraid of that it's worth letting your dread seep into the good times?


When is it ok to ask a partner to change a behavior to make you happy, and when does it cross a line into asking them to change? My partner and I are discussing this honestly and caringly because we have some differences in how we prefer to be treated, and while we both want to make each other happy, we aren't sure what is the line between compromise and changing our "selves" (whatever that is!).

It's okay to ask a partner to treat you a certain way. The partner can then say no, or try to accommodate you and see how that goes. Then either one of you can say it's not working and suggest something else.

There's no one formula to it, there's just trial and error, seeing what you create together and how that makes each of you feel. If one of you feels uncomfortable with the treatment you're receiving or being asked to provide, you just say so and move on to the next step. Sometimes the next step is to try something a little different, or even to accept that things aren't changing and to make a concerted effort to try to like them the way they are; sometimes the next step is to break up, because  it would take an unrealistic amount  of change to make things work. As long as you're kind, straightforward and willing to treat the other's needs as equal to your own, you'll figure it out without needless collateral damage.

When two expectant parents CANNOT agree on a baby name, what's a good way to compromise that doesn't involve...compromise? I feel strongly that neither of us should have to settle for a name we don't love, but without a miracle we may not have a choice!

In all the names in all the world, you can't agree on one? I find that hard to believe.*

You both owe it to each other not to push for a name that one of you hates. So, try going to one of those huge name lists online and start reading them off. When one of you hates it, it's out--no lobbying or eye-rolling. As you move through the list,  keep a "possible" list of names neither of you hates. See if something great happens.

This has the advantage of making the name source an impersonal one. This might not be true, but it certainly sounds possible that your standoff has reached the point where the fact of the other's suggesting it is enough for you to say no.* (Yes, Congress, I mean you.)

Another, less tedious way to get the same effect is to have a bunch of people close to you write name ideas on slips of paper, and you and your fellow parent can draw them out one-by-one and discuss the possibility. Just don't ask friends who would write Slappy and Creamcheese, which I have to add because that's what I would do, or ask friends who are movie stars.




How long does it take for a family to get its groove back after losing a member (to college, not death)? Our daughter just started college and my husband, son, and I are missing her tons. Not sure how to establish new routines that don't include her, we are instead just kind of counting the days till Thanksgiving.

Poor Molly. The pressure! It's nice to be missed, but who wants to be wholly responsible for her family's groove?

Please find something the three of you can do together, something new, ideally. It's okay even to think of it as something you'd like to introduce Molly to when she's home on vacation; it is, after all, nice that you miss her, and you also can't just pretend that you don't. But if you use that as motivation to get you out of the house and out of the Where's Molly routine, then at least you'll be out of the house and out of the old routine. Right?

One of my teen-aged kids, obviously a daughter, revealed that she had been raped over the summer. She will not reveal the attacker's name. She also said she held back on saying anything because she did not want me to determine the identity of the attacker, get the police involved, and pursue criminal charges. She only revealed that the attacker was another minor with whom she will not have to have contact (not a schoolmate). She reported the rape to her counselor and OBGYN, who are working with her. Given her fragile state, I am respecting her wishes by not seeking the identity of the attacker or getting the police involved. Do you agree with this approach (this is unchartered territory for me)?

Yes, you have to follow her lead--especially since she is working with professionals she apparently trusts to help her deal with this. You too can consult with a professional, someone trained to answer your ongoing concerns as you figure out how to support your daughter. The DC Rape Crisis Center is a good organization if you're in the DC area, and if not, RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network) has a hotline that will connect you automatically to local resources: 1-800-656-HOPE.*

I may be reading more into your question than is fair, but the reason you say your daughter gave for withholding information from you hints that  she sees you as one to try to step in and run the scene, and if that's the case, then you need to take particular care to respect her boundaries. 

Thanks. I did go back to the church, which was rough. People were nice, but it was more a polite "good to see you" nice than a "you're one of us" nice. I went to a picnic where it was very obvious that people were having a lot of parties my ex and wife were going to and I wasn't. I haven't tried grief counseling per se, but I've gone to a regular counselor, who's encouraged me to volunteer, date online, go to Meetups, etc. I have, but it's baffling to have no traction at anything. Am I missing something, or is this normal at this age?

I think it is normal, though people have different experiences, obviously, based on their natures. But if you were the quieter, or more introverted, or harder-to-know half of your ex-marriage, then your experience is definitely one just about everyone in your position has been through. 

And it does, unfortunately, take some extra work right when you feel like quitting. You need to push yourself out socially a bit more than you'd prefer, for example, and consider bigger changes than you feel like undertaking, and start anew at things you  thought you'd have settled by now. The point of rallying, though, is to give yourself more chances to find something that fits. You might just have picked a new house of worship and a new volunteer opportunity that aren't quite right for you. 

As for the polite "good to see you" that you got, I feel your pain. Sometimes a friend cohort will stick with one half of a divorced couple vs. both halves because -they- arent' comfortable being around exes, even when the exes themselves are comfortable around each other. Socially, it's the shortest distance between two points: Pick one ex spouse to stay in the group. If there are any people in that crowd whom you particularly miss, then try making an extra effort there---but, if there aren't any who fit that description, then maybe the lack of a strong attachment goes both ways.

If that's the case, then the most productive idea to explore might be that you're not quite sure what you're looking for, and you're just trying to duplicate what you had when you were married. Maybe you need to ask yourself what  is fundamentally -you,- and then really put your shoulder into that.


If your new place of worship isn't giving you friends, you may need to find a friendlier place of worship. Synagogues (where my experience lies) differ tremendously in level of friendliness to new people, and I'll bet that churches do too. This won't replace your best friends immediately, but it might be a new start

Good thought, thanks.

Also, if you can afford it, go visit your best friend in Paris? It would be great to reconnect with someone who really knows you well, and beautiful sights and new experiences can be very restorative. It's not a long-term solution, but it could work wonders as a disruption in your loneliness.

Agreed--seeing a great, rarely seen friend can really bring into focus what we like about ourselves, especially when that vision has gotten a bit fuzzy. Thanks.

Whoa, there. I hate to be the "but what about the men?" person, but teenaged boys get raped, too. And I think it's worth calling out, because I think believing that "obviously" the raped child is female is a hint of a fairly black-and-white, "all rape cases look like X" attitude toward sexual violence that might explain part of why the daughter is reluctant to share details, particularly if dealing with date rape or incest.

I totally missed that, and you're right, thank you.

I thought the obviously referred to the heading, but on a second look your reading of it is the one that makes sense. 

I was my family's "Molly". As much as I enjoyed time with my family, the sort of phone calls I got from my mother only made me want to increase the distance. That's a gigantic psychological burden you're putting on your daughter. Molly's trying to grow up, she needs space, not unnecessary pressure from her family. Please, please try to get a handle on it without drawing Molly into it.

Thanks, Other Molly. 

And PLEASE understand that it is more likely than not that when Molly comes home for Thankgiving, she is going to want to 1) sleep until noon; 2) hang out with her friends; and 3) get some money (and a little conversation) from you. Don't be offended, roll with it and don't make her feel guilty that Mom and Dad are sitting with their faces pressed aginst the window, waiting for her to come home.

Right. When you see her coming, rush to different places in the house and act busy.

I came home from college my freshman year at Thanksgiving and found a new family portrait on the wall with just my parents and younger brother. One of those "matching shirts" pictures. My mom insisted it was because it was the free one they got with the new church directory. I was hurt at the time but think it is funny now

Was your bed gone from your room, and exercise equipment in its place?

One thing to remember about your daughter - regaining control after something like a rape is going to be very important for her. She trusted you enough to disclose this to you, which is huge - many victims do not - so you need to trust her enough to make these decisions. I know it's painful to think her attacker might get away unscathed, but reporting it can feel/be very, very traumatic too, so that needs to be up to her.

Well said, thanks--puts the perp-needs-to-be-stopped concern in the proper perspective.

I am in a new relationship (6 months) with someone who was and still is unemployed. As time has passed I have avoided dispensing any job advice for fear that they reject me and the advice. I love this person and truly want the best for them. Any advice on how we can proceed through this tough time?

Give advice when asked, and don't when not asked, unless you're in a position to see something of consequence that the other person can't and you have enough self-discipline to say it once and back off.

Please also rethink any course of action you're taking because of fear. That is such an unhappy path, because you'll travel it thinking the whole time that you should be doing something else. If instead you choose your path based on what you believe is right, you'll feel purpose-driven and strong--even if it happens to be the same path you had initially chosen out of fear.

My name actually is Molly, but I never liked it; I am now strangely inspired to start calling myself Slappy Creamcheese.

I'm hurt that you're calling my inspiration strange. 

91% of rape victims are female and 9% are male, with 99% of the offenders being male. Cut her some slack; she just found out her daughter was raped. 9 out of 10 raped are women, so yes, what she said makes statistical sense.

How do -you- know the parent was female?

I actually appreciate your point about cutting slack, I'm just being a jerk. 

Also, appreciating your point doesn't change the fact that the other poster made an excellent point about the possibility of an "'all rape cases look like X' attitude toward sexual violence." While the assumption that a rape victim is female makes statistical sense (I'm taking your word for it on the numbers), the word "obviously" plants a firmer flag than, say, you do in your assumption. 

So, since both challenging assumptions and cutting slack are excellent values to promote, I'm planting my flag with both. Thanks.

I have been reading your chats forever, and I still cannot figure out what "ex-repatriated New Englander" means. So if you were once a repatriated New Englander, you were born there, went away for a bit, and came back? If you are an ex-repatriate, then you left again? Please solve this mystery for me!

I don't have to! You did it yourself. When I started these chats, I referred to myself as an ex-New Englander, because, well, I guess home does that--becomes part of the way we define ourselves. 

Then, in 2001, I went back. Bio changed, "repatriated New Englander."

Then, in 2006, I left again, for DC again. Then the bio writers got punchy, and thus we have today's ex-repatriated New Englander.

My age used to be part of the bio, too, but every year it was wrong for months after my birthday as changing it sat on the bottom of someone's priority list. Then, finally, someone decided to be wrong only once a decade and changed it to "thirtysomething" (true back then), at which point I got accused in a couple of reader emails of being unwilling to admit my true age. Fehhhhhh

I'm just glad "strange train called life" has survived in at least some places. That appeared in the late 90s--another punchiness episode, no doubt--and has somehow weathered my relocations and aging.


Thanks for your advice and for the links. You read it correctly -- she was concerned that I would take control, particularly since I am a lawyer with experience in the courts and working with the police. As planned and as you confirmed, I will respect her boundaries and let her make the decisions on this.

You're welcome. I know you won't do this, but I'll say it anyway--just don't step so far back that you miss something. She sought out the care of professionals, and that's important both to her emotional recovery and the issue of prosecution, but that doesn't mean these people will do their jobs well. Follow your daughter's lead, but watch carefully.


"for fear that they reject me and the advice." Rejecting the advice is not rejecting you. If they reject you because you insist that your advice was right for them although they disagree, they'll be rejecting you because you're a nag, not because they didn't like the advice.

Important distinctions, thanks.

Thanks to the follow-up poster for saying what s/he said. I'm a guy who was sexually assaulted when I was a minor, by a minor, and it adds to the pain of the assault when you are seen as someone who COULDN'T possibly be a sexual assault survivor. For the mom of the daughter who was raped: For what it's worth, it means a lot that she told you. There's a lot of trust and love in that alone. It's been over 15 years since my assault, and to this day, I've never told either of my parents, because I didn't (and don't) think I could trust them to (1) believe me and (2) not blame me. I wish the both of you the best of luck in assessing the resources that will help you through this very difficult time.

This hit me in the gut. Thank you. I hope you've felt safe enough to talk about it with someone, if not your parents. 

If the mom is seeking general information on how help, one other good source of information that's been overlooked would be the the daughter's counselor and the OBGYN. In general, they are prohibited by law from telling the mom anything the daughter doesn't want disclosed - and given the daughter's concern over mom's overreach here mom is going to have to be very, very careful in asking her daughter's acceptance in even getting permission to contact them - but they are also professionals that can guide mom towards 'here's the best resources, and here's how we recommend helping your daughter.' On a more pleasant note, Carolyn, isn't it fun becoming a true Red Sox fan again?

Good call on getting even limited permission to talk to her caregivers, thanks.

By "true Red Sox fan," you mean watching them fade while the Yankees clinch? Fehhhhh



You age? I thought you always were and will be "thirty-something".

I am and always will be, I will just look worse and worse for my age.

I am unexpectedly (but not unhappily) pregnant with my second child. They will be 18 months apart. I'm a working mom and while it's not easy, I mostly do well with this. But TWO of them? Two LITTLE guys? Oh dear. All I am looking for is someone to say, "Oh, after the first three months, it's a breeze!" Can you say that?

The first three months will be a breeze, and then you focus for a while on how durn cute they are and try not to believe the days are actually endless, then suddenly you'll realize you're laughing at their jokes because they're funny, not because you feel you have to. Congratulations.

Carolyn, For the last couple of months I've been dating a wonderful guy, and we're both happy, infatuated, etc., etc. The problem: For professional reasons, I'm moving halfway across the country in January. What to do? We've talked a little about him moving with me, but it just seems crazy to consider that when the relationship is still so young. We could date long-distance for awhile, but it doesn't really give the same sense of regular couple-dom, and I'm still afraid he'd eventually move out and the relationship would go sour. Or do we end a potentially great thing when I move just because the timing was bad? How do we decide?

You don't. You go with it, whatever "it" happens to be when you get there. Hard advice to follow, but, most of it is, or else people wouldn't write in looking for alternatives.

My boyfriend compliments me a lot, but many (if not most) of his compliments are followed by what I perceive as an implicit 'but'. "You're gorgeous, you just need to dress more alluringly." "You're so smart and talented, you just need to accomplish more in your life." "You're very charming, it's just that you..." You get the idea. I've told him that these kinds of comments don't do great things for my self-esteem, and he apologized and said he was only trying to help. Most recently I noticed he was flirting very overtly (climax jokes!) with another woman via twitter (he told me they met at a party and she has a crush on him), and when I told him I didn't think it was very respectful, he said that if I was more secure he'd be less inclined to flirt with other women. Part of me wants to end the relationship, but the other part says he's earnest in his desire to make me a better person/partner. I want to be good for him, but how do I know when that requires too much change?

Oh my, I just answered your spiritual twin last week. Here's the advice I gave her for understanding her charming but overly critical boyfriend. Condensed version: Run.

I have an update from "Bad at Cards," in fact, and will post it to my Facebook page.

Can we give the new empty nesters at least as much validation as the girl who doesn't get to stand at the front of the church in a hideous dress? They've basically gone through a break up - someone who has been in their house probably majority of days for her whole life is now not there every day. They're going to feel unsettled and will take some adjustment. But every day will be a little easier and little by little, new things will fill in the hole that is there now. They should still give poor Molly some space and not put the pressure on her, but it's ok to miss their kid.

Well, no, I won't give them that validation, because it's not the same thing. The non-bridesmaid is dealing with an unexpected bit of rejection by someone she counted as one of her best friends. A child who leaves for college isn't rejecting anyone; Molly's departure was an expected step in her natural progression toward adulthood.

Anyway, I offered validation in my original answer: "it is, after all, nice that you miss her, and you also can't just pretend that you don't." It's just that what they're choosing to do with their feelings is problematic.


Feh is what you get when you add matzo balls to pho.

This took me a second. Nice.

Ok, so I have been living a lie for a long, long time. My life's a financial mess, I am about to be foreclosed on, car repod, the whole nine yards. I have borrowed more money to keep up the facade but the whole house of cards is collapsing. How does anyone cope with being such a huge failure? How do you face your friends, your family when youve been a total asshat for two decades of so-called adulthood?

You stop hiding, you build nothing but truth on the smoking landscape of your oldlife (wait till it cools), you pay back the money you borrowed or die trying, and you don't flinch when it's time to be accountable.

Also get whatever help you can manage with sorting this out--try the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.

There will always be those who aren't big enough to acknowledge the strength of what you're trying to do, and instead will always want to drag the conversation  back to your comeuppance. But there will also be those, too, who appreciate how hard it is to execute a mid-life self-renovation, and will back your efforts to live with integrity. Find these people, and invest in them. 


I just went to your FB page, and didn't see where the update from 'Bad at Cards' was. Can you help direct me?

It's coming, I just need to sign the heck off from this.

Doing pretty good these days, thanks for caring. Have been in counseling, told my close friends, and told my wife. All were very supportive, very caring. I'm a really lucky guy. Sucks that there are so many of us who've had to go through this, though. Sigh.

Agreed. Lots of people wrote in with their concern, so thanks for this.

Okay, I'm signing the heck off. Bye, thanks, and type to you here next week. 

"Oh my, I just answered your spiritual twin last week. Here's the advice I gave her for understanding her charming but overly critical boyfriend. Condensed version: Run." -Is there a book you would recommend for recognizing and dealing with this type of controlling person? Thanks.

"Gift of Fear," of course, but also "The Verbally Abusive Relationship" by Patricia Evans. I think this is brilliant, too: it's Merrill Markoe's dissection of narcissism. It's a 2,100 word "aha" moment. Enjoy. 

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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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