Carolyn: Why did you not suggest to the husband that his wife should be screened for depression or another medical illness?
Good question, thanks. I've also been asked why I didn't point out to the husband that the wife is showing signs of being controlling and potentially abusive, and why I didn't flag the pressure that one half of a couple puts on the other in not having outside friends, and why I didn't come down harder on the LW for spending so much time with buddies.
The explanation is in the size of that list: All of these are true or potentially so, to some extent. What I hoped to accomplish with my answer is to get them onto the first step of the ladder, and into counseling if they can't even get there.
An unsatisfying answer, that.
I don't use Facebook but can still reach the Dear Prudence page. Unfortunately, I prefer the Hax page...
We're working on that. No one warned us that, when I switched to a Subscribe button, the page would disappear for those who haven't signed in. Had I known that was coming, I would have held off till they fixed it. It has also given the FUBAR treatment to my daily feed, which means subscribers have to opt in to Twitter posts to see my columns. These are two problems I wish Facebook had foreseen. Someone at The Post is working on the former and I'm exploring options for the latter, so I hope to know something soon.
For those on Facebook who allow Twitter feeds, this system is actually more reliable than HootSuite was--the columns are there like clockwork. It's just needlessly limiting, and that's what I'm trying to fix.
Sorry for all the housekeeping.
My boyfriend and I have been dating for going on four years, almost two of which were varying degrees of long distance. For the past year, we'd had an agreement that he would move to my city when his temporary contract with his dream company was up. Contract ran out, he got an OK job offer in my town, was offered the dream job by the company he was with and took the dream job. I don't know what to do: stay with him, because we love each other and want to have a future, but knowing that we have to do another year of distance and then I have to move? Or realize that he's made a choice about what matters to him, and walk away? Possibly relevant information: We're 24-25, so still getting started in our careers, and knew this was a possibility, albeit not the one I'd prefer.
Take a break and see how you feel. Or, carry on as you have been and see how you feel. I'm being wishy-washy for two reasons: 1. I can't decide for you, so I can only suggest you try on both ideas and see how you sleep at night, and 2. If I were your boyfriend, I probably would have stayed put for the better job.
I don't doubt it hurts, and you probably feel like the runner up. But not knowing either of you allows me to be pragmatic: Especially at 24/25 years old, the better job is the better bet, especially since he was able to look at it not as choosing a job over you, but instead as choosing a job and you, with the "you" part coming a year later than he had hoped. Taking a blah job has always been less than ideal, but given the difficulties recent grads are having in their quests for meaningful work, the fact that he has a solid position with a company he already knows has unusual value.
And this is where his relative youth matters: Because the chances you and he go the distance after meeting at 20 are even at best, he's got a bird-in-hand situation.
Remember, I can only say this stuff because I don't know you. He does, so he can't say "I gotta go with the sure thing" without blowing up the relationship.
I am a 42 y.o. tenured college prof w/a pretty good life, but I recently started seeing a therapist to deal w/some leftover issues from childhood and young adulthood. I like her, but she doesn't answer my questions, just turns them all around. If I ask how I should handle something, she says, how do you think you should handle it? I don't know -- that's why I'm asking her! Is this typical? She says I need to sort through my own issues, but I think I need help.
Try rephrasing the question. Instead of asking how to handle something, say you like examples of ways you could handle it, or examples of different approaches, because you don't even know how to start.
If that doesn't produce more specific guidance, then try one more time to spell it out" I agree I need to sort through my own issues, but I've tried that on my own. I'm here because I would prefer to have some concrete launching points." If she won't engage in a conversation about methods, or adapt to your satisfaction, then you might need to say you're not satisfied with the way things are going and would like to talk to another therapist. I can't say this enough, finding a therapist is a process. You need to feel comfortable telling the truth about yourself, and not everyone is going to bring that out in you.
My boyfriend of about 1.5 years has come to rely solely on me for emotional support. He has had a tough year (illness, employment issues, family issues) and I can be supportive and understanding to a point. How do I help him find other outlets besides myself? I find that I am drowning in his sorrow. Depressed's Girlfriend
You don't help him find other outlets besides you--that's just further entrenching his dependency on you.
-You- need to find other outlets for -you.- Framed for him as follows: "I can't be your everything, nor you mine. That I've let it go this far is a disservice to you. I care about you, I'm here for you when you need me, as you know--and right now you need me to be somewhere else a few days/nights a week so you can use that time as you need."
If he mopes and moans about it, don't cave. "That you believe you need me so badly just proves my point. Yes, you've had some really bad breaks, but you can still [2 or 3 productive things he is able to do with his time]."
Consider too what trait of yours left you open to this kind of codependency. Do you like to feel needed, do you fear losing people if you say no, do you have a sweet tooth for drama ...? Not a complete list by any means, so take it as a start, not an accusation. If you do have an emotional need that supporting him filled, then there's a good chance you'll end up here again, with him or someone else.
I've got a friend who is smart and funny and who understands certain things about me that most others don't. I like her a lot. But the problem is that we seem to clash constantly. In once sense it's "not bad" in that whatever we're arguing about is usually quickly defused, and we seem able to understand where the friction came from and move on. But the thing is... it keeps happening. All the time. And I'm starting to feel a bit tired of it. But I love talking to her when we're not arguing! Any thoughts?
Stop conducting your part of the argument and see what happens. This is part thought experiment, part actual trial, and I suspect the results will be interesting.
My boyfriend seems to hit it off with one of his female friends. When I go out with them, I tend to be ignored as they talk about anything and everything. I confronted my boyfriend about this on numerous occasions and he simply states they are friends and nothing more. We're both in our late 20s and have been together for 2 years. Am I acting immature and overreacting? Or should I be concerned that something might be going on behind the scenes (I have accidently come across messages in which she tells him how much she misses him). thanks!
If they have the kind of rapport you want to have with your boyfriend (this one or any other, doesn't matter), then the most direct answer here is to break up with your boyfriend. That's because it would render moot the issue of whether he likes her as more of a friend. Platonic or not, they really hit it off where you and he don't. You have open proof. And don't you want to "talk about anything and everything" with your partner?
I've heard you describe a certain type of person as a "taker." I think I may have married one. With the understanding that everyone is more than the sum of his/her faults, do you have suggestions for how to best manage my situation?
Pay particular attention to what your spouse gives. By that I mean anything you have because of your spouse, so don't limit yourself to the things you would identify as generosity from this person.
Just by way of example, think about the way of life you share and what s/he brings to that, the interests you share, the family you spend time with at holidays, the industry his or her profession exposes you to, etc. Of all things, the movie of "The Fantastic Mr. Fox" comes to mind. I realize almost no one saw it, which is too bad, because it's brilliant. And it makes my point for me: Mr. Fox is a classic taker, but life with him is a fantastic ride for those who choose not to hold his taker tendencies against him.
Thanks so much. That jibed pretty much with what I was thinking. We've been taking a break while I clear my head, but I think I want to go for it and see how I feel -- long distance has been pretty stressful the past few months, but that was mostly due to uncertainty over his job situation. For what it's worth, he says he still believes in our future and wants to be with me, although he understands he's hurt me. And if I were in his position, I would have made the same choice -- and would have been 100% confident he'd support me and go along with it. Thanks.
Last sentence says it all, no? Even if things don't ultimately work out between you, your seeing his choice as the one you'd have made is your inoculation against regret for giving the relationship a chance.
That's actually the key to getting past so many things with someone: Even if you don't agree with what the other person did, can you sympathize with the reason s/he did it? I bet if there were a survey on this, the results would track closely with "yes" and the relationship makes it, "no" and it fails.
Anyway, good luck, and check back in sometime.
I have a somewhat similar situation. My husband just got his dream job 1,000 miles away. He's insisting that he'll regret it for the rest of his life if he doesn't take this job. I asked, "What if I absolutely refuse?" and he said "Then I'll go without you." I'm kind of shocked by this. My husband really wants this but I just don't know if I'm ready to uproot myself. My husband has sacrificed his career in the past so we could live here, near my family, and he says he just can't do it this time. What do we do?
By your own argument, you've had your turn, and it's his turn now. So why aren't you sacrificing for him now, willingly? That's everything here, and I can't answer you without it.
Hi Carolyn - I wondered if your answer to today's letter about the husband who enjoys going out more than his wife would change if the husband did have an alcohol problem? I have this same problem with my live-in boyfriend, but in his case, he does have a problem. Not a hitting/driving/anger problem, but some lesser bad things have happened when he drinks. We haven't addressed this head on because his dad is a recovering alcoholic who injured himself really badly while drunk, and so boyfriend is extremely defensive about any insiutation that he has a problem as well. The going out is the one way I've been able to curb the drinking.
I'm going to skip the run-up and just urge you to get some good counseling solo. Your boyfriend has a serious problem that he won't even talk about and that plainly perpetuates a pattern that wrecked his family. You need to explain this to the therapist you choose, and say you want to know why your response has been to rearrange deck chairs instead of trying to plug the leak or dive for the lifeboat.
And if you don't want to know this, then that's where you start: "This is what some advice-harpy said I should be wondering about, and that didn't even occur to me."
"I love him" isn't a good enough answer, by the way. He needs to hear that you believe he has a problem (have examples handy), and that his refusal to talk about it is both part of the problem and a troubling problem of its own. Then say you you'd like to know what he's going to do about it. Don't threaten him with leaving, but if he continues to deny a problem and get defensive at any mention of it, you will need to move out. The people you love, and who love you, are the ones who most need your courage.
The poster said: I asked, "What if I absolutely refuse?" and he said "Then I'll go without you." I'm kind of shocked by this. Don't be shocked. If you mean it, and he does, then you're two people saying the same thing: he's refusing to stay and you're refusing to go. You're both choosing job/location/whatever over the other person. Recognize that you're doing the same thing that he is, and it'll be easier to start the conversation about compromise. Trips home? 5 years with an option to renew? Whatever. But don't phrase this as him leaving, because it's just as much you staying.
Well said, thanks.
Do you think all people who can't "talk about anything and everything" with their partners should break up? I think my wife and I have a good marriage, but I would also say that I have easier, more free-flowing conversation with some of my friends. That doesn't mean I like those friends more, it just means conversation flows more naturally with them. I don't think it means I should end my marriage.
I don't if you don't. That's the simplest answer. The defensive answer is that I did preface my answer with, "If they have the kind of rapport you want to have with your boyfriend ...." The answer that reflects my experience with this column over the years is that the couples who have the talk-about-anything rapport have more of a cushion against challenges to other parts of their relationship, albeit not a silver bullet. The answer that reflects my worldview is that different types of relationships suit different types of people and I'm not going to tell anyone that they should leave one type because the another would be better (unless those types happen to be "abusive" and "non-abusive"). Just anecdotally, I've seen plenty of hetero people who prefer the friendship company of their own sex, and so a marriage like yours is by no means an anomaly.
Then, finally, there's my ground-level, put-myself-in-that-place answer: If I were watching a boyfriend really hit it off with someone who wasn't me, I'd anticipate thinking two things: "I want that" and "It's not going to be with him."
We've moved on average every 3 years for the past 20 (academia, not military). I enjoy the adventure, and have been lucky as the trailing spouse to find interesting and meaningful employment. I know everyone is different, but I am completely baffled by folks who vow they can never move with spouse/partner away from X-region regardless of the why. Even today, a friend asked me if I 'minded' having moved so much. My response - I like my husband much more than any single place. What ever happened to "home is where the heart is"?
That's a wonderful way to think, and I'd guess a lot of reluctant movers wish they could have your attitude. But, just as there are people who thrive on change and adventure, there are those who are very much of their place, and it's not fair to suggest that their love for a spouse isn't as strong or as valid as yours. The spouses' temperaments (including adaptability to new places and ability to make new friends), the locations themselves, the reason(s) for moving so much--these all come to bear on how adamant a spouse is going to be when faced with uprooting.
Hi Carolyn, Thanks for taking my question. I love to cook and my family usually loves what I cook. I've cooked on occasion for my new boyfriend, and he always says the same thing "this meal wasn't bad" or "pretty good" but rarely does he fully compliment it. I know I shouldn't be fishing for compliments about my food (which is exactly what I'm doing) but I'm extra sensitive because his ex-wife was an amazing cook. Should I cut back on how much I cook for him or should I just pass the comments off as benign?
Think more broadly, please. Is he stingy with warmth, support and/or kindness in other contexts? And if so, does it bother you then, too, or are you just sensitive on this one topic?
That's the responsible answer. The one my keyboard typed out when I banged my head on it: Ask him to move the stick slightly to the left, because then he'll have room to stuff his "pretty good" where it belongs.
So my wife has a habit of sabotaging her own birthday (which is today). But she came up with a doozy last night. She got so drunk that she fell down (Not quite sure how because I was in another room) on her face. She has a black eye, fat lip and a very bloody nose. She did all of this in front of our three year old, who came and got me. I don't know that i can say that she is an alcoholic because she doesn't drink all the time. But when she does, she does to excess. We have three small kids so I can't imagine leaving. But I'm getting tired of her drinking problems. Plus I'm already tired of everyone looking at me like we went five rounds last night. "I fell" sounds lame to me even if it is the truth. Any suggestions?
That you skip me and go straight to the book on dealing with an alcoholic (copy-pasted from the FAQs for the General Public provided by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA):
If an alcoholic is unwilling to get help, what can you do about it?
This can be a challenge. An alcoholic can't be forced to get help except under certain circumstances, such as a traffic violation dor arrest that results in court-ordered treatment. But you don't have to wait for someone to "hit rock bottom" to act. Many alcoholism treatment specialists suggest the following steps to help an alcoholic get treatment:
Stop all "cover ups." Family members often make excuses to others or try to protect the alcoholic from the results of his or her drinking. It is important to stop covering for the alcoholic so that he or she experiences the full consequences of drinking.
Time your intervention. The best time to talk to the drinker is shortly after an alcohol-related problem has occurred--like a serious family argument or an accident. Choose a time when he or she is sober, both of you are fairly calm, and you have a chance to talk in private.
Be specific. Tell the family member that you are worried about his or her drinking. Use examples of the ways in which the drinking has caused problems, including the most recent incident.
State the results. Explain to the drinker what you will do if he or she doesn't go for help--not to punish the drinker, but to protect yourself from his or her problems. What you say may range from refusing to go with the person to any social activity where alcohol will be served, to moving out of the house. Do not make any threats you are not prepared to carry out.
Get help. Gather information in advance about treatment options in your community. If the person is willing to get help, call immediately for an appointment with a treatment counselor. Offer to go with the family member on the first visit to a treatment program and/or an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.
Call on a friend. If the family member still refuses to get help, ask a friend to talk with him or her using the steps just described. A friend who is a recovering alcoholic may be particularly persuasive, but any person who is caring and nonjudgmental may help. The intervention of more than one person, more than one time, is often necessary to coax an alcoholic to seek help.
Find strength in numbers. With the help of a health care professional, some families join with other relatives and friends to confront an alcoholic as a group. This approach should only be tried under the guidance of a health care professional who is experienced in this kind of group intervention.
Get support. It is important to remember that you are not alone. Support groups offered in most communities include Al-Anon, which holds regular meetings for spouses and other significant adults in an alcoholic's life, and Alateen, which is geared to children of alcoholics. These groups help family members understand that they are not responsible for an alcoholic's drinking and that they need to take steps to take care of themselves, regardless of whether the alcoholic family member chooses to get help. (See the question 19, "How can a person get help for an alcohol problem" for referral to support groups.)
You can call the National Drug and Alcohol Treatment Referral Routing Service (Center for Substance Abuse Treatment) at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) for information about treatment programs in your local community and to speak to someone about an alcohol problem.
My bf and I are trying this. He is (surprise!) on the fence about marriage even though he's proposed. (That's a whole other kettle of mixed messages.) Every time, we take some time apart, after 1-2 days, he's begging me to come back. But when we're together he still can't seem to get his act together. Although, I do stay away for days at a time, he's still begging. It seems like this 40 year old Peter Pan just doesn't want to make a decision. I'd tell him my patience is wearing thin, but that'll probably just more pressure on him so I don't know what to do.
Move on. The pain will spike early, and then begin to recede as you notice how free you feel without the drag of his indecision on everything you do.
And accept this imaginary plaque for "kettle of mixed messages." Genius.
Assuming for a second that it's not about the rapport between him and the friend, but rather the lack of consideration for the girlfriend when they're all out together (ignoring her, talking about topics she can't take part in, etc), would your answer change? I'm curious mostly because my former BF did the same thing with one of his female friends; I don't think they had a better rapport, but it still ticked me off royally to go out to dinner with them and sit in silence for two hours while they traded inside jokes, gossiped about mutual friends and reminisced about college, and just made no attempt to include me. (Before you ask, yes, I did attempt to include myself, but they would always cut me back out within a sentence or two.)
That would change my answer. If it was just on occasions when you and he went out with just this one friend, and if this friend only popped up in your lives occasionally (few times a year, say, vs. few times a month), then I'd say to write it off and just stay home when they see each other. Not every friend has to be adopted into the couple as a friend to you both. If instead this friend was in your circle of friends and you were regularly treated to two-hour freeze-outs, then I'd say this BF had a rudeness problem.
This is of course assuming there was nothing sketchy going on. That would be a third answer.
Hi Carolyn. I love your chats! What are your thoughts on giving a guy an ultimatum? Do you think after a certain period of time with somebody, the idea of living together or marriage should be brought up and if not, some sort of ultimatum given?
Thanks for the kind words.
My thoughts on ultimatums are overwhelmingly negative. Why would you want to marry someone you have to threaten to go along with it? And why would you want to pressure someone you love into anything (stuff that falls into the tough-medicine category excepted)?
If you want to marry someone, then that must mean you want to spend the rest of your life with him, right? If you've come to that conclusion, then do some more thinking on the topic before you say anything to anyone.
First, are you really at the point in your relationship where that makes sense? Have you seen each other through different things, have you taken note of the way you and he solve problems, are you good for each other, have you outlasted the headrush of initial attraction? If so, then, next step:
Would you be okay with "the rest of your life" remaining as things are? Presumably no.
So, next, what about your status quo do you want to change--do you want to share a home, have kids, make things right in the eyes of God, get your naggy Aunt Mae off your back, secure the legal protections offered by marriage ...?
Then, when you've accounted for what you want next, consider all the possible ways to get what you have. Presumably marriage is one of them, but are there others? Are any of those acceptable to you?
Once you've thoroughly explored all of these ideas, and lined up what you want, believe is best for you and hope is best for him, then you talk to him. You lay out the way you'd like things to be--for example, you want to go through life with him, you want to have children with him--and see whether he shares your vision.
The conversation could end there, of course, but if he does share your vision, then you say that you see marriage as an important step in this process for X or Y reason(s).
Should his plans diverge with yours at any point, you'll have to at least consider what he wants and the reasons he gives. If you think he has a point, then you do things his way. If you don't want what he's offering, then you break up.
100 percent truth, no ultimatums. No fun to start the conversation, but there's no "no fun" like a marriage entered under pressure.
My friend had a baby a year ago- and is really unhappy with her husband. Most of the "mommy blogs/sites" as well as her friends, say this is normal. We didn't think a wedding was going to happen when we drove to the quaint Inn for the ceremony- and the last minute preps were out of character for her. She was physically sick on the way to the Inn, and had to counsel the family the day of the ceremony. She had a baby a year later, but not as planned, and is suffering now as returning to work, but at a lesser job than she should be doing. I am worried about her, as her husband seems to be more and more controlling as time goes on, and she doesnt want to be a SAM. We did the test, he is controlling, bordering on escalating/abusive, and now I don't know what to do. She cannot financially leave him now with a one-year old. Now what?
She needs to get qualified guidance on the abuse issue, ideally from a provider that offers comprehensive services like financial and legal advice, and ideally counseling for him if he'll agree to it. 1-800-799-SAFE or 1-800-656-HOPE are two worthy choices for her first call. Not leaving because of money is a non-starter. the reason to stay is that intervention solves the problems and she and the baby are safe; problems that don't respond to intervention mean it's time to go.
The writer should also begin to document this incident, and any others in which his wife hurts herself. A wife who shows up to the PTA meeting with a face that looks like she was beaten up and what sounds like a transparently lame excuse invites well-meaning bystanders to take matters into their own hands. Contacting the family physician to speak confidentially about this issue would be an excellent place to start, as it would give the writer both a valuable resource as well as someone credible to back him up in case a friend or teacher decides to call social services.
Good point, thanks. Likewise, someone who is being knocked around by a spouse needs to document those incidents in case the abuser is lining up witnesses just as you suggest.
Yay thanks for the prompt response! I should have prefaced my question with background on him - he is completely loving/supporting/warm in every other way imaginable. I'm only sensitive on this one topic, and I think your response helped me process my expectations and his reactions in a different light. Since he very honest/forthcoming with his compliments in other areas, I'm guessing his "pretty good" was just as honest - maybe my cooking isn't as good as I thought it was. I'm okay with that - I'd rather him be honest than give me a fake compliment.
Okeydokey. For what it's worth, anyone who goes to the trouble of cooking for me gets a heartfelt thanks, because cooking for someone is the equivalent of a handmade gift. I get that you don't want insincere praise--but if he chooses not to give high praise that isn't sincere, why couldn't he instead be effusive in his gratitude?
If you're asking him whether he liked it, then I take that back somewhat, since he's cornered.
I know it's way late in the chat, but whenever I see a question like this I always wonder why the woman doesn't just go ahead and propose to the man (I use the gendered language because the vast majority of the time it's a woman writing in). What's the downside?
I used to answer that way, but I've changed the way I look at it. While I remain an enthusiastic believer in breaking out of the man-always-proposes rut (an especially problematic one for lesbians), I think that gets at only the surface of the problem. The root of it is in the question, why is marriage so important at this time, and to this person--who, given the nature of the quesiton, we all know is showing no signs of wanting to marry you?
I don't necessarily know that it's the problem in any given question, but the whole "I have a timetable" problem is such a big one that I advise for it regardless: Make sure you aren't gunning to marry this person because s/he's the one you happen to be with when society tells you it's Marriage Time. Think, think, think, and question everything in your reasoning that resembles an unchallenged assumption. It can't hurt and it can save you from feeling deeply stuck seven years from now.
Thanks for taking my question. It was a welcome slap in the face. So I gave her a kiss, told I loved her and that she has to stop this. She cried a little and agreed. So fingers crossed. And as far as people accusing me of abuse, I know she has my back. And I tend to be the one doing all the school and PTA type stuff. What her office mates think of me? That may be another story.
Fingers crossed here, too. Your doing "all the school and PTA type stuff" suggests you've been absorbing this more than you've realized.