Carolyn Hax Live

Oct 14, 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, Oct. 14 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. I just spend my lunchtime trying to figure out a bunch of medical claims. Apologies in advance if any of the resulting hostility leaks out during this session.

My partner of 15 years recently came into a large sum of money. We are in the process of buying a house together. Am I wrong to think it is unfair for me to pay half?? We were planning on the purchase prior to the money. This money is causing problems in our relationship. I know it is a cliche, but true. Please help.

What is the legal status of your relationship, and how were you handling the finances before the ship came in? Did you have separate accounts, for example, and pay your own ways for vacations, or did you work from a shared account, or some hybrid of the two? And/or did you have a precedent of dividing the responsibilities loosely (e.g., one pays this time, the other pays next time and you assume it all evens out)?

What I'm getting at here is that even though I can make a (good) argument that, given the durability fo your relationship, you can reasonably have expected to share in some of your parter's good fortune, there's also the fact of your history to inform you. If it was telling you all along not to expect big sharing, then don't look at this as a new problem.

If this is a matter of protecting assets (I don't know whether, say, your partner has kis from a previous relationship, which is one reason even devoted partners are hesitant to blur financial lines), then I wonder why said partner doesn't just buy (and fully own) the house at this point. 

My 26 year old son's girlfriend -- of 4 months -- is pregnant. I have very mixed emotions about this. Mainly because he just met her, and Ido not know her. They work and live across the country. I am disappointed in their behavior. How do I tell my friend the news?? I am embarrased.

What was their shameful behavior--sleeping together within four months of dating? Then half the country needs to hang its head in shame. At least. And if you're ashamed of their sloppy use of contraception, no method is perfect except abstinence (see above).

Time to shake out of your head any  ideas of the way things should be, and start making room for the way things are. Plenty of happy families have gotten off to worse starts, and even if the two of them don't make it as a couple, there's still a baby on the way (they are keeping the child, yes?), one who had no say in his or her origins and will need loving and accepting family.

Tell your son you stand ready to help however you're able, and fly out to meet the mother as soon as you get word that they're making a go of raising the child as a couple, be it married or just living together. (Clear it with your son first, of course.) Actually, make sure you can do so without putting on a thin-lipped judgy face, since no one misses that signal, and you don't want to get off to a bad start at the grandma gig.

As for your friends, tell them, yay, you're going to be a grandmother! There really is no need for you to elaborate, not even if a recipient of your news acts scandalized. Just say, "Hey, it's my son's life, and every baby's a joy."

Friend A is a little careless/carefree in her shopping and often buys things she later decides she does not want or need. Friend B casually mentions in conversation that she's thinking of buying this or wants to try that, and A then offers to give their previously-purchased but now-unused this & that to B. What does B owe A for these items?

What you would have been willing to pay for them (in their current condition)? A nice dinner out? Tickets to something you know she'd enjoy?

Since they're a gift, you don't -owe- Friend A anything, but  giving something in return is the decent thing to do.

Dear Carolyn, How do you know when a relationship has become too much work? My boyfriend of a few years ( ~3) wants to go to couples counseling and while I am willing to try and work out problems that we've had, I am not optimistic about a couple that has had problems for almost half the relationship and already needs counseling. I love him, he loves me, but I am questioning if counseling is the answer or if we should just move on with our lives. We've both been through a lot in those 3 years and have been a great support for each other. But I feel like the relationship has suffered a great deal and the thought of going to counseling for this simply feels both more exhausting and more stressful. Any advice would be great. Thanks!

These can go either way. If you both function pretty well in general--i.e., if your relationships with most people are satisfying and drama-free--then it probably doesn't make sense to work extra hard to stay with someone who brings out the drama in you. On the other hand, if you both bring different unhealthy patterns to the relationship, and if you like each other enough to want to remove obstacles to intimacy, then (good) counseling is a great way to help each of you recognize and break the bad habits that undermine your efforts at intimacy. Individual counseling is probably called for at some point in these cases, but unless one of you is controlling, it's fine to start out with couples counseling.

For examples of these bad habits, you can look at just about any of these chat transcripts--a need to control things, a quickness to take things personally, a fear of admitting fault, an unwillingness to get a diagnosis or treatment for a chronic illness, a tenuous relationship with truth-telling, a fear of admitting true feelings, the usual suspects.

Hi Carolyn, I hope you can take my question since it's rather timely... My boyfriend of 5 years is going to a major family function and didn't invite me. So, I made other plans while also considering how exactly to approach this with him -- it is very much his personality. Then, last minute (literally), he asks me to go because some friends decided last minute to attend the function. I said no, but I'm hurt and even more upset than I was before. It's the principle of it -- I'm only invited if other people we know go as well? I don't even know where to start a calm and rational discussion.

Why are you with him? Not a rhetorical quesiton; I'd really like to know what you're getting out of this, since it doesn't sound as if he keeps you close to his heart.

i was initially really interested in this content - entered and wasn't chosen, but i'm sure you all were flooded with excellent entries. I would have liked to see a discussion thread or chat about the contestants to talk about their answers etc but can't seem to find one. Is there an existing discussion, similar to HaxPhiles, where people are chatting? It's becoming less compelling to vote without any back and forth on the what the finalists are saying. Also, I would have appreciated a more complete written summary on the latest round. One of my work problems? Not allowed to watch videos . . .

Glad that you're liking the @Work Advice Contest! The poll for Round 3 has the best and most current discussion on it (and some of the contestants have left comments with the transcripts of their videos, as well).

In Virginia, inheritances are the property of the heir only, not their spouse.

I'm not talking about legal expectations, I'm talking about emotional ones. If my partner of 15 years came into a large sum of money and didn't -want- to use even a little of it to make my path through life a little less steep, I'd be stunned. I'd certainly share with my intimate partner if I were the heir--unless I had heirs of my own to consider, as I said. And even then I'd still share, just less, and with more legal assistance in safeguarding it.

Is this large sum of money enough to retire on comfortably or is this large sum just enough to pay off student loans, old debts, etc., so that partner can go into this house purchase (50/50 seems fair) with a comfortable cushion. There is no marriage so I'd say he/she is quite right in protecting his/her assets.

In that case, yes, I can argue for 50-50, so the amount of money does matter. Thanks. I was seeing it as an I'm-rich-now amount, perhaps reading more between the lines than there was to read.

Then you wouldn't really be partners, would you? A partnership shares responsibilities. I think if you want him/her to pay 100%, then you have to change the dynamics of the relationship: it's not a partnership anymore, but a subordinant/dominant relationship.

No no no. Equal partners remain so routinely, despite many--heck, most--bringing unequal amounts of money to the partnership. We are talking romantic partnership, right? 

And, the 100 percent way my suggestion--the newly monied half buys the house and owns it all (therefore can sell it, will it, etc.), and the other partner lives there and pays a -proportionate amount- toward utilities, maintenance, taxes, insurance. As long as the homeowner doesn't treat the partner as a houseguest, then there's no "subordinant/dominant relationship"; reflecting their needs and their abilities, they can be two people pulling equal weight toward a common goal, just in different ways.

Again, this is like most other romantic unions. Splitting 50-50 without regard to what each can comfortably provide is, in my opinion, the outlier. 

Hey Carolyn, I love reading your columns and chats and this is the first time I'm writing in. I'm with you on your take for the grandmother-to-be, but I do have to put my two cents in on how she deals with it. There isn't just one reaction to having a baby (whether you're the parent or the grandmother), and there isn't one set "good" reaction. My friends had an unplanned baby and for the first half or more of the pregnancy, they were dealing more with getting used to the fact that they're having a baby rather than putting on a brave face and acting like they were super-excited and happy to have an unexpected arrival. They kept the baby and are very happy, so obviously they felt some positive towards the child. My point is that the grandmother shouldn't feel like she HAS to be happy about it. It's okay to be reluctant or have some not-so-excited feelings about the child. What matters is that she (and possibly the parents) take the remaining 5 months to get used to the fact and be prepared for when the child DOES come to show it all the love it deserves. J

Thanks for the kind words, and for weighing in.

There's an apples-to-oranges flaw in your argument, though: Your friends were the ones -having- the baby, so they have the standing to be ambivalent and to work through it without apology to others who would want them to respond according to a script.

The question at hand, though, involves the grandma, and there's a lot less flexibility there. Internally, yes, she's free to be true to her feelings and work through them at the pace she needs. Outwardly, though, her options are limited, unless she wants to jeopardize her relationship with the parents and therefore the baby. We can certainly argue that the expectant couple owes it to extended family to be forgiving of their initial reactions and not hold grudges for insufficient displays of joy, but for practical purposes, the grandmother needs to operate with the understanding that expressing dismay at a pregnancy sometimes sears itself on the memories of the parents, and can be really tough to forgive. 

So, there actually is one way to react publicly to news of a baby--"Congratulations!"--unless it's just so openly complicated that mixed feelings are expected (see, "Steel Magnolias").

Hi Carolyn, I'm the OP from last chat who had read some info on divorce or not and how it affected kids. I was able to back track and find the references--here are 2, I'm pretty sure the one I read is the second one below. I sent the references at the end of last week but not sure they made it through. Obviously there's lots more info in the article than the overview I gave, but, that's what I got out of it... Booth, A. & Amato, P. 2001. Parental pre-divorce relations and offspring post-divorce well-being. Journal of Marriage and Family, 63, 197-212. Amato, P. & Booth, A. 2001. The legacy of parents' marital discord: consequences for children's marital quality, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 81, 627-638.

There's my weekend reading assigment. Thanks. 

I still haven't found the chat where I posted a bunch of reader submissions on their firsthand experiences with children and divorce, either as parent or child. If anyone has even an inkling when it ran, please give this memory-challenged professional navel-gazer a chance to track it down:



Dear Carolyn, Thank you for taking my question! My boyfriend and I function well day to day together, it's just that in the process of us both going through a lot of stress we've grown apart. This has manifested itself in the form of me feeling disconnected, especially during times when we're intimate. We're both very drama free, with friends and with each other. But during the course of that very stressful period in our lives, I began to wonder if he and I were right together. He's great with no egregiously bad behaviors, but it seems like we just grew apart. He thinks this can be fixed with counseling. I am having trouble getting over this "it doesn't feel right" feeling that I keep having. Is this a legit feeling or do I just try to move past it? Thank you again!

You can acknowledge the feeling as legit (which you must) and still give counseling a try. It's not as if it leaves a scarlet T on your pinafore; you can go, see what therapy has to offer, and still decide it's just not a relationship you want to work any more to save.

More importantly, how pregnant is she? If she's been a girlfriend for 4 months, one presumes she can't be more than 4 months pregnant, probably only 2 or 3. Without wanting to be a complete Debby-downer, there's a reason you don't tell people you're pregnant until after the first trimester, right?

I maintain the "how pregnant" point is moot. Even if she conceived from first-date sex, is the grandmother then justified in shunning her/them? Home tests pickup pregnancies very early; she can be all of a few weeks gone. So, why bother with all that? Deal with the facts of the from-now-on variety. They're the the only useful ones.

Dear Carolyn: Why is it that some people are incapable of responding to an email invitation? Some friends and I recently put together a reunion of our old firm. We sent out several emails, even left voice messages, and about 10% of the people did not respond at all even though we asked them to. (All of the emails went through and mutual friends confirmed that they received the emails. It was about 8 weeks from the first email to the last so they had plenty of time to respond.) So my question is why? Are people too lazy to respond? Is it too difficult to type "I'm not interested?" Were they afraid they would look bad if they said they had other plans? I was really surprised that people were that inconsiderate. On the flip side many of the people who did respond were generous with their time and money and that was a very pleasant surprise. Thanks for letting me vent.

You're probably just venting, but I'm going to offer an explanation anyway.

Some people are inconsiderate and there will always be inconsiderate people. There are also people who'd be horrified or ashamed to be in the non-responding  minority. I think it's an increasingly common phenomenon for people to have emails pushed off their screen, literally, through sheer volume of incoming mail--so if they read the invitation and have to check the date against other commitments, and if that doesn't happen right away, the email gets set aside and, for all practical purposes, lost in the inbox.  

Wow, was I way off on the date. I was scouring 2009. My eyes thank you for the reprieve.

Oh, there is no excuse for shunning her son at all. The OPs question was "How do I tell my friends," and my point was that she really SHOULDN'T tell her friends yet anyway.

Ah, I totally missed that. Thanks.

I'm with him because he makes me laugh, we share common interests, and we enjoy being together. He's kind (this instance notwithstanding) and generous. It's also the most drama free relationship I've ever had. He's not the best at emotional intimacy; I've accepted that sometimes that's the way he is and we've worked through various aspects of it as it goes past my tolerance level. I know he loves me, but I thought we were past this stuff.

Thanks for writing back, it helps.

You're past it when you can say, "You're not inviting me? WT[H]?"

When you're quietly fuming, you're not past it.

Please be honest with him, say how you feel about this whole debacle --or genuinely let it go, by accepting that being in a relationship with someone intimacy-challenged means you're going to be on the receiving end sometimes of some stuff that seems really weird and cold, but is more often than not just the result of cluelessness. That you will have fun with him, but with tradeoffs.

Those are the only two non-crazy-making options. 

I had a similar situation with my brother...he announced his girlfriend in a very less-than-perfect relationship was pregnant. Our family had a lot of reservations but accepted the situation...and the mother and her daughter from a previous relationship...unconditionally. Bottom line, while we were right to be concerned and the relationship did not last, my nephew has been a total joy, my brother is a wonderful parent, and we remain close to my nephew's mother and half-sister. It is what it is, which can be a delightful surprise worthy of celebration.

Well said, thanks.

After several years of really bad behavior (including drinking too much, sleeping with several married men and general promiscuity, dabbling in drug use, and generally not being a good person), about six months ago, I finally managed to stop all of this cold turkey. I can't make up for what I did, but I plan to spend the rest of my life working to be a better person and making better choices that don't hurt people, one day at a time of course. Leaving these old behaviors behind has freed me to form much more healthy (non-romantic) relationships, perhaps for the first time in my life. The problem is that people who are meeting me now think I am some kind of paragon of virtue. I am hardly holier-than-thou about my new lifestyle, but it's pretty obvious to those who spend any significant amount of time with me that I don't drink, "party," date, or even curse. My question is - what do I owe my new friends (who are much better for me than my old enablers) in terms of an explanation regarding my past? I don't want to lie but also don't want to potentially create drama by revealing too much information, especially to those I am just getting to know.

There are a million ways to rid your new friends of any illusions without showing them your party videos. Cliches, for example, are your friend: a well-placed "been there, done that" can say everything you need it to when someone registers surprise that you don't drink. If someone comments on your upstanding nature, note that it's "a recent development." Etc.

I'd like to think people will generally have the good sense not to opine on your values, but I'd also like to think I can get toned and fabulous sitting at a computer eight hours a day, and that's still pending. 

Hi Carolyn, I really would like your advice. My husband and I have been married for 10 years. He has an exgirlfriend who took our relationship very hard. She professed her undying love for my husband and tried to break us up on numerous occasions. I recently found out that she named her newborn son after my husband, and yes, she is currently married. Should I tell my husband he has a namesake? Should her husband be clued in to who his son is really named for? Am I insane or is this completely abnormal?

This is completely insane, and the less you keep yourself apprised of her progress through life, the better. Whatever your connection is to this information, please sever it, block it, or tell it to put a sock in it. And, say nothing to anyone who might be inclined to do something with the information.

Don't forget to vote in our latest round of the @Work Advice Contest. Our contestants offered their advice via video this week to three people with very cool jobs. Watch the videos at and then vote for your favorite before midnight tonight.

It's our halftime commercial break! 

That doesn't look as if it will do linky things, so you can also click here to get to the video-smackdown round of the @Work Advice Contest. 

Are there transcripts of the challenges, too? When I looked, there didn't seem to be any, so I haven't been back. Not interested in watching videos when I could read a transcript in 1/4 of the time.

Yes, our candidates provided transcripts in the comment thread here. They are responses to a comment from StudioGate.

I'm in college now, but I have two sisters who are still living at home with my father and stepmother. My Mom died a few years ago after a long, drawn-out battle with cancer. This was extremely hard on my sisters, who were only seven years old at the time. What made if more difficult is that my Dad was married again within six months of the funeral. My stepmother had a conversation with us when she first moved in and told us that she was not our Mom and would not be raising us. She told me, as she thought of me as an adult at the time, that she doesn't like kids and wanted nothing to do with me or my sisters. I told my Dad about this and he shrugged it off and said she'd come around. It's been a few years and nothing has changed. My sisters tell me that she won't even acknowledge their presence when in the same room. I've tried to talk with my Dad about this and he says it's between him and his wife. Is there anything I can do for my sisters?

Wow--at the same time I want to cry and kick somebody. This is awful.

My first thought is, do you have any other relatives who would open their hearts and homes to your sisters? Or is there another responsible adult in their lives you can approach? Whenever I get a question like this, I always put myself in the position of a potential guardian, and I think yes, I'd accept, the responsibility--or else I couldn't in good conscience advise it.

The second thought is much harder and riskier, since it involves your becoming their guardian. You'd obviously have to weigh the benefit (for them and for you) of a loving but immature/unstable environment against the benefit of their staying in a more stable but loveless one, but there would be no harm in your just -exploring- that option, if you're willing, to see if it's even realistic to try-financially, legally, emotionally.

As a student, you likely have access to counseling services through your school. Please make an appointment either way and talk to someone about what's going on. Also, try placing a call to the Childhelp hot line, 1-800-4-A-CHILD (422-4453). This is a great source for a reality check on whether your sisters are better off staying put and, if so, how you can help them in that case.

Obviously both of these rest on the assumption that your father would surrender custody, but that doesnt' seem like a stretch.

What's your opinion on how to stay connected to kids who are off at college without being a helicopter parent? I want to let them gain experience in independence, but sometimes it's hard to hold my tongue when they do something that seems dangerous--(1) travel abroad to some countries during junior year abroad without being able to be in phone or blackberry contact or (2)wandering around NY late at night after indie rock concerts. If I've blown it with these two, I have another one who will be in college soon!

You see danger, I see paths exceedingly well-traveled by generations of young adults (and some old ones). The vast majority of them were fine, and the minority who met with some sort of injury would likely not have been saved by speedier invention of the BlackBerry. Let go, Mom/Dad, let go. 

I could use some advice on how to get through mine. I don't know why but this year it suddenly hit me that I'm over 40 and I can't help but wonder if I'm supposed to settle down for some reason, as in stop having fun so younger people aren't looking at me with pity while I'm obliviously having a good time. Do I really have to stop dancing and singing karaoke and going to rock concerts? Even when I shop for clothes, I'm starting to wonder if they're "age-appropriate".

Depends. Do you care how people look at you? If you do, then take the Hawaiian shirts to Goodwill. If not, then, keep on bobbin' that graying head of yours to music you still think is cool. 

Thank you, Carolyn. I completely agree with you. The information came to me when she sent a baby announcement to a family member. She has not let go and we would like our peace, once and for all.

I can imagine. I know I'm repeating myself, but do make sure to tell this family member not to pass anything along about this woman. From now on, she doesn't exist to you.

When he does something like this I do try to bring it up as soon as possible. In this case, I just assumed I would be going, and then he bought his tickets without mentioning anything about me also attending so I chalked it up to his cluelessness. I didn't want to make it seem like I was forcing him to take me, and I didn't want to ruin his experience, so I made my peace with it. It's was the, "it's ok for me to go now that other people we know are going" aspect of it that got to me, because that seems more like a deliberate decision to not invite me rather than cluelessness.

Then you need to spell that out--again, if it's still under your skin. That's your best meter.

And if you find that something gets under your skin on a regular basis, it's time to admit you can't roll with his weirdness as you had hoped, and therefore it's time to go.

You worry about your college age children because they might be out of cell phone range -really? I'm barely in my 30s and NO ONE had cell phones in college - and kids still wondered around NY and Europe and were perfectly fine. And I say this as a parent - if you are expecting your adult child (because that's what they are) to be able to have contact 24/7, then you are being a helicopter parent.

That's actually a great, meaningful typo--"wondered around NY and Europe." Thanks.

What the writer described sounds like emotional neglect...both on the part of the step mother and the father who is ignoring the problem. She might want to consider a call to child protective services, although I would discuss this with a counselor first. And short of taking them in herself, she can certainly play a key role in the lives of her sisters. Kids need adults who are crazy about them and who love them unconditionally, and you don't need to live with them to do that.

The Childhelp call is a good interim step between doing nothing and calling CPS, which is a daunting step for a lot of people.

What's the right thing to say when you start going to a friend's church but then decide it's not the right place for you, but they've done a lot to try to make you feel at home there? Thanks.

"I've been touched by your effort to include me, and if it were just about you I'd stay, but as you know it's more complicated than that. I just don't think this is the right place for me ..." philosophically/in your heart/whatever tactfully reflects the truth. As with any awkward situation, treating people with respect--i.e., as if they can handle the truth--is best in the long run. 

I was interested to read about A New Leaf's dilemma. I wouldn't say I have the same story as him/her but it resonates with me. I have my own problem. A new friend (met through volunteering) has invited me to a Halloween party. It's BYOB. I have been sober for about 1 year and the thought of being at a party where everyone else (or most others) is drinking makes me angry. I guess I am angry because I can't drink - it's a process for me. Giving up alcohol saved my life but I still miss it. Anyway, this is the second invite I have to turn down because of booze. I feel like I'm taking myself too seriously. I know I can be around alcohol without drinking. Am I being a big baby? I feel like I will always be turning down social invites and I am already on the reclusive side so I wonder if I am just making more excuses.

As you said, it's a process--so why not think of each invitation as a case-by-case decision, instead of The Way Things Shall Ever Be? 

I'm not suggesting that you will someday be able to drink again, but instead that your sobreity will sit better with you at some times than at others. So, right now it's not sitting well with you, and that's fine--you're just about a year in, after all, and Halloween parties tend to be on the wild side anyway. The next invitation might seem like a safer one to accept. Wait and see.

In the meantime, if you have a sponsor or a counselor helping you through this, questions like these are what they're for. If you don't have someone you're comfortable confiding in, then maybe it's worth looking into.

One of my friend's emails inconsistently ended up in my spam folder, which I hardly ever check. When I finally did check the spam I found a bunch of e-mails from her. During the same time period other e-mails from her did get through to my inbox. She probably thought I'd just been ignoring her occasionally. But I'm also guilty of meaning to respond to an e-mail, then forgetting because something else comes up. This especially happens if I'm taking a moment at work to check personal e-mail, then some work related emergency comes up while I'm reading something and I close out and switch gears. When I check my e-mail again later at home I've forgotten and now that e-mail that I meant to respond to his no longer marked unread so I miss it. Yes it is rude not to respond but I would say that it's an honest mistake and not meant as a slight. I always appreciate a follow-up e-mail reminding me that I need to respond.

Sums it up, thanks.

Honestly, I would disregard a bulk e-mail invitation for "a reunion of our old firm," too. Maybe I'm reading it wrong, but that wording and the phrase "generous with their time AND MONEY" sounds to me like the firm is trying to drum up business, and I think it's perfectly acceptable to disregard such solicitations. I wouldn't reply to that e-mail anymore than I'd call someone back who left me a voicemail message soliciting money for a cause I don't believe in.

Worth considering, thanks.

And without the solicitation angle, other people are saying that the bigger the guest list and/or the less personal the invitation, the more likely people are to skip it without response. Not taking a side here, just passing that along to potential organizers of big events.

Hi Carolyn, I need some social advice. My husband's new job requires a lot of us socially and being an introvert I'm just not that great in social settings. My husband is gone a great deal for business but I am still expected to attend these functions. His company is kinda old school expects the spouses to attend charity events, luncheons, etc. I'm attending my third one this week tonight and am dreading it. I've heard many times," just be yourself", but "myself" just isn't social and if I were to truly be myself I'd stay home. I don't want to hurt my husband's career but these outings are stressing me out. Any advice?

I think it's completely fair for you to figure out with your husband how many of these things you can go to without being (unduly) miserable. Three a week would be too many for a lot of people with their own jobs and responsibilities, for example, so why not set it at one a week? You're there waving the flag on a regular basis, you're never invisible for long, but you get 165 hours a week to be you, and you give 3 hours of sppousal career-building in return. Tweak the balance as needed.  

I'm struggling with whether to buy a house with or without my live-in boyfriend. I earn double his salary, and my credit score is high. He has zero savings and mediocre credit. I know I want to buy a house now: I am 35, have lived in an apartment for 15 years, and want the suburbs and some space. I'd buy a place where I could afford the mortgage on my own, but do I ask him to pay half? Ask him just to cover home repairs or property taxes? Worse, I'm trying not to feel resentful that while my married friends are buying their second homes, I'll be forced to buy a tiny starter home on my own or with someone who can't contribute equally.

There are some small homes that are awesome, be they cute or cleanly designed or located in lively parts of cities/towns--even suburbs--where big properties don't make sense. I can think of a few developments off the top of my head that have small (and relatively inexpensive) individual homes that have deeded access to sprawling community parks, pools, rec facilities, etc., made possible by the collective buying power of the residents. 

Translation: Make your circumstances an asset instead of a disappointment.

Then, buy something on your own; his poor financial condition is a deal-breaker. If circumstances change in favor of pooling your assets, you can always add him to the deed later. In the meantime, talk to him about what contribution you both think is fair. 

As for the resentment, remind yourself that you made the choices you did for a reason, and getting what your friends have--i.e., what you think you want--likely involved their making choices you wouldn't make even if you had a shot at a do-over.

"I'm a recovering [bad person]."

Nice. Also works the other way, especially if slurred from under a table.

Not that I endorse that, of course.

Cool! Tonight I'm going to let my husband know I am his master since I make more than he does and I contribute more money to our expenses. What should my first demands be?

Foot rub. no wait--cold-beverage fetching, then foot rub, after he warms his hands from the beverage-fetching.

I became pregnant when I was in my mid-30's with (through?) a boyfriend of about 6 months. Still married after many years and have 2 teenage children. My mother was very unhappy, and I never quite forgave her for her behavior and the effect it had the engagement and wedding. We were two adults with good jobs and the pregnancy speeded up a marriage that would have very likely happened anyway. My husband's parents were very happy about the whole thing. My dad was, I'd say, neutral (I suspect he was pleased but didn't want to cross my mother). My advice to the soon-to-be grandmother is to be as positive as she can -- for the sake of her relationship with her son if nothing else.

This. Thanks. 

How should I deal with friends who offer unsolicited advice on how to improve my love life? The problem is that their advice is tailored to what would work for them, not me. I don't need any more lectures about how I need to conform to "reality", i.e. change my behavior, speech, appearance to what works in the dating scene, and their attempts to convince me only succeed in making me uncomfortable with myself. I figured out long ago that I'm a one in a million sort of oddball that tends to appeal to a select few like myself (and I'm perfectly fine with that) and trying become more "normal" will turn off the people I want to attract. So what's a nice way to get these friends to STOP.

"But if I acted like that, I'd attract guys like [name of friend's mate]." 

If you don't want to be searching for new friends and a date, then just say, "I like my oddball self, and I'd rather be single than change." Say that once, and then when they meddle ever after, just say, "Thanks! I'm walking away/hanging up/changing the subject now!" and do it.


Good luck with it, by the way. You sound like a fun underdog to root for. Even if your taste in friends is suspect.

Hi Carolyn, hypothetically speaking, if you were involved with someone, and everything was going very well, you had no reason to distrust this person, but somehow you found out that their past (the past 20 years) was riddled with infidelity and lies, would you run for the hills? I have been very happy with him, but I recently found all of this out, not via his own admission, and I'm pretty disturbed by it. Thoughts?

How'd you find out, and how good is the information?

I think it really depends on the degree of parental involvement after the divorce. When both parents continue to be a real part of the kid's life, they adapt. It's when one spouse checks out, and sometimes starts a "new family" that people get really messed up.

Don't forget the degree of parental comity. When anger is the main currency of one or both exes, it poisons the kids, even when both parents remain actively involved in raising the kids. Sometimes they remain involved at deliberate cross-purposes with the other, and wow that is not pretty.

I could even argue that in those cases, the kids are better off if one bio parent checks out and a devoted stepparent checks in, whether there are new babies added or not. 

The only blanket statement I'll dare make is that maturity saves the kids of bad marriages, and immaturity puts them even more at risk.

My husband and I were married for 15 years before we unexpectedly got pregnant. Our son is now 5, just started Kindergarten, and we are constantly on the go with school, homework, work, after-care, sports, etc. Oh, and a new puppy. We are exhausted and have actually admitted to each other that it's a struggle to be responsible parents. We get the occasional break from our son when we hire a sitter, but I feel like the worst mother in the world for not wanting to help my child with his homework or take him to soccer practice. What is wrong with me? Do other parents feel this way? I love my son dearly and his being born was a miracle, so these conflicting feelings really concern me. Any insight? Thanks. Really enjoy your columns and chats.

I love, love Dan Savage's "It Gets Better" project, so please know I am not trivializing or mocking it when I say to you:

It gets better.

It -is- a struggle to be responsible parents, or there wouldn't be such things as child abuse, orphanages or foster care. Raising kids is a demanding job and some people just aren't up to it. You love your son dearly, get him to school and activities, provide him with a puppy (tip: adult shelter dog ... for next time), feel responsible for helping him with his homework? You're at the top of the parent heap, and voicing that it's a struggle doesn't earn you demerit points.

Keep taking the occasional hire-a-sitter breaks, re-think some of the activities (this will be fall-off-your-chair funny to people who know my circumstances), and give yourself permission to see the exhaustion as completely compatible with the joy. Soon enough, you will get more time to sleep, your boy will look to you less and less as a source of entertainment and homework help (to and then through the phase where he'd rather burrow underground than be see with you), and the peak struggle time will seem so brief in hindsight. Swearsies.

It might also help if the poster and her husband developed friendships with another couple or two from his office in the same situation so you can attend these functions with someone you are enjoying getting to know better. It's a way of breaking the big scary social whirl into digestible and enjoyable bit-sized parts.

Idea greatness, thank you.

For anyone who isn't currently in the "parent of an infant" stage of life, a gentle reminder: The coworker recently returned from maternity leave who, instead of joining you for coffee at break time (like she used to) is heading into a windowless conference room by herself, is not "withdrawing a bit" because she " is just a little overwhelmed at being back" and will most certainly NOT appreciate you "just popping your head in to chat". That DO NOT DISTURB sign? Actually there for a reason, thanks ever so much. Signed, the involuntary flasher

Since I can't possibly add to this, I won't. Bye everyone, thanks for stopping by, and type to you here next week, since I need to keep these svelte fingers in shape, after all.   

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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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