I am 100% sure I don't want kids. Is it worthwhile/fair for me to pursue a relationship with the woman of my dreams, who as luck would have it does want them?
That's an excellent question to ask her. Have you and she talked about it?
If it's too soon to have talked to her about it, then it's also too soon for you to be calling her the woman of your dreams.
And by the time it isn't too soon any more, then she also wouldn't be the woman of your dreams any more, she'd be a particularly fortuitous reality.
Can you tell "... of my dreams" is not the concept of my dreams? And exactly how far off the subject am I at this point?
My husband and I are considering couples counseling to improve our communication. We typically get along swimmingly, and always share openly with one another. However, when we disagree, we don't argue constructively, and resolutions are either unreached or unsatisfying. Before going to a counselor, I thought I'd ask if you have suggestions for books/online resources that we could use as "self-help" tools to work through this ourselves. We do agree that we need to improve our communication, and we're both open to trying anything that might point us in the right direction. Thanks! And I love the chats.
Thanks! Try Gottman, "Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work." (And lemme know how it turns out?)
Dear Carolyn, I cheated on my wife about three years ago with one woman, a coworker. Two isolated encounters followed by immediate regret on both our parts, a decision to end things, and her transfer to another state. I have not seen or heard from her since then. This year, temptation got the better of me again and I got involved with another woman, a friend of a friend with connections to my wife through various organizations. I realized this week that I will need to tell my wife what happened to avoid massive issues down the road. My question is this: When I tell her about this, do I need to discuss the other woman too? Something tells me I will be uncomfortable discussing one affair but not the other, even though I had previously decided to take the first story to the grave.
The only argument that ever makes sense for keeping an indiscretion secret (and it's certainly debatable even then) is when the indiscretion is an isolated case, when there's no risk to the partner's health, when the perpetrator likely has been shocked back in line for good, and when said perp has non-delusional grounds to believe the partner would rather not know. I.e., when the disclosure helps the cheater more than it does the cheatee.
Your case may once have fallen within those narrow parameters (again, debatable), but it doesn't any more. What you have now is a nascent pattern, and representing your infidelity as a onetime thing would not only be a lie, but also give your wife a misguided confidence that this was an isolated incident.
For what it's worth, if you have a conscience, then you'll be uncomfortable discussing both affairs, neither affair or one affair but not the other. It's not an area to go looking for comfy conversations. So, don't think in terms of discomfort levels, think only in terms of what you owe your wife.
And speaking of uncomfortable discussions, I urge you to have at least a couple of them with a competent therapist. The way you describe it, you're acting against your own interests, so that suggests it's time to figure out what's causing these self-destructive impulses.
Hi, Carolyn -- I asked you about this last week, and sadly, not much has changed (on my end). I need to break up with my live-in boyfriend because I don't see a future together. We have different ambitions, interests, backgrounds, etc., and -- I hate this part -- I'm not in love with him. I don't know how to do it, though. Do I sit him down in our own home and tell him to move out? (He can't afford the rent alone, and I can.) Do I pick a fight? Do I do it after the holidays? Before Christmas? I've never broken up with someone I lived with. I don't want to hurt him, because he is the nicest and kindest guy -- just not the one for me. Thanks.
You sit down with him as soon as possible and you say that he's a wonderful person, but you've come to believe that you and he aren't wonderful together--"different ambitions, interests, backgrounds, etc." You let him ask the questions he needs to ask, and you and he decide together who stays of moves where.
That's all another way of saying, please don't "tell" him to move out, or pick a fight, or string him along till Jan. 2. Just treat him with the frankness and decency you hope others would bring to their treatment of you.
It's going to be awful for a while, but then it won't be any more.
I am in 2 bands with a man who I have gotten to like quite a bit over the past 2 years. my husband is also in one of the bands. the other man is very outgoing and tickles my funny bone immensely and I love the attention/fun. he is also married. our relationship has grown more personal in (seemingly innocent ways) over time -- we text daily (nothing romantic/sexual, just jokes, band stuff, likes/dislikes, observations), and play on-line games together. we communicate every day and sometimes at some length. we acknowledged that we like each other recently, but have not acted on anything and I don't think either of us want to blow up our homes. is this unsafe? how does a woman proceed when another man fulfills an important need in her life and not get into trouble? is it possible to maintain such a relationship and not ruin 2 marriages?
"I want to have my cake and eat it, too.
A: No. Not possible.
Here's a thought exercise for you. If your husband were asking me this question about a woman in the band:
1. would you be worried about losing him and upset about the emotional infidelity? Then you need to cut it out with this guy and use your emotional energy to stoke your marriage.
2. would you be relieved that he has someone else, thereby freeing you to have guilt-free feelings for this other guy? Then you need to think carefully about your "I don't think either of us want to blow up our homes"--both as it applies to your marriage and the other guy's.
Carolyn I found your article about parents/money this morning to be spot on, in fact I posted a few weeks ago about it (I am the person who is in a position to help). My parents aren't the only ones with issues. My brother inherited their financial perspective. Their wants drive their budgeting, not the other way around. Thank God they have actual incomes - at least that hasn't been harmed yet. My parents haven't asked for help (yet), but my brother has. I told him I would only consider it if he helped himself by shedding unnecessary items. I was gobsmacked when we went over his monthly bills. HE didn't even know what he was spending, just that the month extended past his money every time. That bothered me more! He took some advice (bought a beater car with great gas mileage, cheap car payments, the idea being to dump the spendy car when the lease was done) but when the lease came up he decided that the dealer was "railroading" him with lease fees and decided to buy the vehicle. IE piling back on again. Would your advice be different about a sibling? Brother has a job (thankfully). Thanks.
A sib certainly has more time to correct any financial mistakes, so you can explain to him (it does seem as if the subject comes up) that you're happy to help him now with his budgeting but you won't help him later if he fails to plan for his retirement years.
If you think of overspending as falling on the habit-to-addiction continuum, then it's easy to see that someone trying to get well could easily relapse, so you could frame it that way when you talk to him. "If you really want my help in changing your habits, then this car has to be a temporary relapse, not a precedent." Getting out of any habitual indulgence is really hard, because a body gets used to immediate gratification (IG), and the whole point is to convert to a system of delayed gratification (DG). People like you who have been on a DG system for a long time are already receiving steady benefits from long-ago discipline. The new convert from IG to DG has to go through a long dry spell before the DG kicks in--all while having nerve endings that are conditioned to expect pleasure NOW.
So, take that into account, and even help him find small pleasures and/or quick-payoff changes that will help tide him over.
Again, this is all assuming the subject comes up.
If it doesn't come up, then you'll have to be more diplomatic. "About that car. Do you still want my help with your finances, or have you had a change of heart?"
Hi Carolyn, Long time reader I have never disagreed with you before, but I feel like your answer was more black and white than it needed to be. Does the husband talk to female work friend (FWF) an hour a day on the phone each day while he is home? Or, does he talk to her throughout his work day? The letter writer didn't mention the exact details, but your answer alluded to something else. Does it matter? I am a married woman, honestly couldn't get through my day without chatting with my work guy friends through the day to discuss actual work, and to take a break (eg lunches, coffee breaks). And, my husband has many female work colleagues. They chat on the phone all the time (about work, whatever)--I am usually in hearing distance. I think that the FWF is a strawman, and that the LW misses her best friend. I guess, ultimately, I do agree with you. Thanks.
If you took all of what you describe (chatting with these "work guy friends through the day," your husband's "many female colleagues" who chat "all the time") and plugged numbers into a spreadsheet, I'd be stunned if either of you were talking to one of these opp-sex pals for an hour or more almost daily. What you're talking about is a bunch of people having a bunch of ties to others. That's quite healthy. The column was about one strong, time-consuming tie that was concurrent with a dropoff in emotional intimacy at home. Sometimes, black and white are the predominant hues.
If OP and the band-guy weren't into each other and just texted daily and enjoyed things that their partners didn't give (outside perspectives, or just different personalities) would that still be an emotional affair? I've never understood these things--sometimes it seems like you're saying that it's not okay to be good friends with anybody except your spouse.
See above. Or, think of it as playing in the waves while your mate hangs out on the beach. It's just fine, most of the time--but if you start to feel an undertow, don't rationalize that it's still just fine because you're excitied by it and you want an excuse to stay--respect the danger, stop playing in the waves and go hang out on the beach with your spouse till it passes.
My boyfriend and I are both in our late 20s and have been together for three years. I'm ready to marry him, not in a particular rush, just ready to move forward. He has a list of about five goals he wants to meet before getting married. As I see it, that could take years. I know that waiting a reasonable amount of time is necessary and the right thing to do. At what point does it become -wasting- my time? I don't feel this way yet, but at some point if he were to break up at me I'd be resentful of the years I could have saved.
Would marriage stand between him and any of the five goals? Also, how hard is he currently working toward those goals? are they realistic and clearly defined?
It's hard to answer completely without knowing these things, but it does strike me that if spending his life with you were a goal he valued, then he wouldn't be sticking to an arbitrary deal he made with himself.
This seems so silly but is turning out to be such a big deal. My fiance and I just moved in together. I am a person who is always cold--I bring sweaters to work even in the summer. He is a bigger guy and gets hot easily, especially at night. It is impossible for us both to be comfortable and the temperature wars quickly changed from funny to snipe-inducing. I don't want to keep having these arguments until I hit menopause. How can we live together if one of us is always miserable?
At night, what about a zoned, heated mattress pad? (Assuming they're safe; not something I've ever used.)
As for daytime, you heat/cool the house so that he is comfortable in a T-shirt and shorts, and you are comfortable in non-Michelin-person layers. If you're still cold despite being a ball of fleece, you increase the temp enough for you to be able to remove enough layers to restore your semblance to human shape--and if it's a little hot for him at that point, then he sucks it up and deals with it.
I.e., you both agree to a slight level of temp-related discomfort for the pleasure of being together. If that small sacrifice is more than you think the future with the other is worth, then I hope you kept the boxes b/c it's time for one of you to move back out.
2011 has been nonstop hell for me, starting with the death of a cat I've owned since high school and ending with a still-fresh breakup after a lot of relationship ups and downs. Through it all my best friend has basically done a disappearing act. How much support am I entitled to expect in an adult friendship?
I'm sorry. Three possibilities:
1. Your friend is going through her own annus horribilis and you've either failed to notice each other's misery while so consumed by your own (and she's off somewhere else typing, "I'm in hell and my best friend has vanished ..."), or she has tried to be thoughtful and chosen not to tell you, given that you have your own stuff going on;
2. You've elevated a series of bummers into an annus horribilis and she's feeling less sympathetic than weary of your self-pity;
3. Your friend isn't as good a friend as you thought (bleaker view)--or (brighter view), she was once a great friend, but you've grown apart in a perfectly natural way, and it wasn't until you really needed her that you were able to notice the distance between you.
If you think it might be 1, ask her how she's doing, and tell her you're sorry you've gone AWOL while dealing with your own stuff.
If you fear it might be 2, make a list all the things you're counting toward your conclusion of "nonstop hell," compare these with other things you know many people deal with regularly, and see whether you need to toughen up a bit.
If it's looking like 3, then paint a silver lining on it by deciding that if you were going to get this bad news, it might as well come on the top of the stinking pile of it that is 2011, and take comfort in the fact that life is cyclical and things will get better. Plus, you'll be a more resilient person when those good times come, because you'll have the knowledge that you were able to process several painful losses at once and still keep trudging along.
Thanks, I didn't see that--but I did have people sending me the link to Free-Range Kids. Synergy, man. Up with reasonable risk management! My catchy new slogan.
Dear Carolyn, My fiance and I are eating crow in a major way. My parents were paying for most of our spring wedding, but we were butting heads over certain things, such as their insistence that we invite a number of irrelevant family members and acquaintances of theirs instead of our own third-tier friends. We had a falling-out last month that ended with me saying we would plan and pay for the wedding ourselves. They backed off. Well, as it turns out we cannot swing it ourselves. Not even close. Fiance is neutral but I'm torturing myself trying to decide whether to grovel for help and accept the strings that come along with it.
Please please please please PLEEEEEEASE greet this challenge by having the wedding you can afford, and not one frill or bubble more. It can be intimate and beautiful and a love letter from each of you to the other, which is what a wedding ought to be anyway, at least at its heart. SO much cooler than groveling. Even though I'm groveling to you. But that's different.
Carolyn, the question about breaking up made me think of a question that I've always meant to ask about the subject: would it be fair to say that the single most important aspect to breaking up with someone in the frank and decent way you propose is to fully accept your own responsibility for a decision that may be awful for them? That is, you don't try to dodge the underlying fact that what you're doing may not be in their best interest - or even fair to them (at least over the short run). Hence, you don't suddenly create a fight to give you an excuse, don't say they'll be better off with someone else, don't do so over the phone or text or post-it note which cuts off their chance to ask the questions they need to ask, don't drag things on long past an expiration date, and such. Is this a fair way to look at it?
Yes, and I'm wishing that's how I'd written it. Though I don't think the phone is the worst possible thing to do. For long-distance relationships, for breaking up with someone who would want the privacy, for breaking up with someone potentially violent, and possibly other scenarios that escape me at the moment, a phone call is an entirely defensible option.
Why is your answer biased on the side of making the 'cold' person comfortable at the expense of the other person? It's always possible to put on warmer layers but at some point you cannot shed anymore. Also, anyone who is so chronically cold needs to be evaluated for medical conditions, such as chronic anemia, thyroid issues, etc.
I'm sorry, I don't understand your objection--I said the warm person wears a T and shorts (i.e., pretty minimal clothing) and then chooses a comfortable temperature for him, and the cold person adds layers until comfortable ... up to the point of stupidity. The cold one has every right to say "enough" when--as I stated--the number of layers necessary to stay warm gets so silly that s/he stops looking human. Then the thermostat goes up enough for cold person to remove a layer. I don't see how this favors the cold person at all. If anything, the warm person has the far easier go of it because wearing a lot of layers at home is a pain in the butt.
As for the checkup, no harm in that, thanks.
Peanuts are dying to know what those goals are?!? Having a week-long men's only gambling and drinking event in Vegas? Going skydiving? Buying a house? Losing 50 pounds? Ohhh, sooooo neeeeed to knooooowwww!
Did you skydive at the end of that pooooooooooooooooooooost?
Hi Carolyn. I really hope you'll take my question today because I really do not know what to do. My Dad's mother is dying. She's not expected to live through the weekend. I only found out because my brother happened to see a Facebook post from our Aunt. I am estranged from my Dad and haven't spoken to him in almost a year. While I would like to at the very least pay my respects, I know that if I go anywhere near this, my Dad will become overly dramatic (as he is prone to doing) and think that all is magically forgiven and forgotten (as he has done repeatedly in the past). Complicating matters a bit further (or perhaps eliminating one of my choices), my grandmother suffers from the advance stages of Alzheimers, so I am very doubtful that she would recognize me if I went before she passed. Any suggestions whatsoever?
I'm sorry. These decisions, where you have strong feelings and only one shot at getting it "right," are almost too personal for outside advice. I say "almost" because there is a general standard that, while speculative, can be helpful for just about anyone:
Think of it in terms of what you'll wish you had done 10 years from now. Set out all ofyour possble options for paying your respects, and see which satisfies your need to do the right thing. I say 10 years because by that time, any surmountable obstacles--money, Dad's drama, missing an event, etc.--will have been reduced to blips by then, and the insurmountable ones will have lost none of their significance.
Chances are, since it's obviously a difficult situation, there's a voice somewhere teasing you with the idea of an easy way out. You want to tune out that voice in favor of the voice that says, "This is what I feel I need to do."
I'm 26, with an expensive law degree, and I just flunked the bar exam. Of course that's not the end of the world (only missed it by a few points, and will retake in February), but it's a tremendous blow. You know all those articles about '80s babies whose identities were built on all the praise they received for being brilliant? Yeah, that's me to a T--to fail at something for which I couldn't rely entirely on my wits is an utter embarrassment. In the meantime, I'm working at a job that is well beneath my qualifications, and living at home while I search for something better. I have supportive parents, a great boyfriend, and friends who don't judge me (mainly because they don't know where I'm "supposed" to be), but I still feel like the universe is judging me. It's gotten to the point where I hate meeting new people or running into people I already know because I dread the whole "What do you do?" line of questioning. At this time a year from now, when I'm hopefully settled in the beginnings of a career, I will feel like a whole person again. In the meantime, how do I walk around with my head held high, in spite of the fact that my life is at a standstill again for at least the next 3 months?
Great timing, since this fits the one-decade-out plan in a different way: Ten years from now, these three months will be a blip.
That is, unless you use them memorably and well. You say the universe is judging you. I say the universe doesn't give a poo; it's your life to care about, to learn from, to harness into something worthwhile.
Whenever circumstances plant you somewhere you don't want to be, it's okay to have a poor-me moment--as long as you have the heck out of it, and then stop having it, and move on to the moment where you say: "Okay, what can I learn from this, get out of this or turn to my advantage?" In your case, I can think of two quick things to take away: "1. I'm wicket smaht and I still need disciplined study habits"; and 2. I probably needed to get over myself at some point, and now's as good a time as any."
One more possibility-- her life is going great, like really great, and she doesn't want to hurt you more by how great her life is while your life sucks. Is it the best/most mature reaction, no. But as someone who has been on the friend's side, it is really hard to be supportive and not feel guilty when to share the great stuff going on in her life when the topic of conversation turns to you.
Interesting take, thanks.
aka Marriage vs Choosing to spend your life with someone The OP needs to figure out if she cares more about being married than whether she wants to spend her life with this man. Way, way, way too many people focus on getting married without understanding what that really means. If being married means more than being with this man, then she should get the bridezilla train out and let the guy down easy.
Yeah, but this goes two ways. If the other person is postponing the decision whether to make a life commitment, and is avoiding the conversation by hiding behind the "five goals"--and even is minimizing the importance of being decisive about commitment by scoffing at the "bridezilla train"--then who's the one who doesn't understand what it really means?
What I was hoping to hear from the five-goals poster was how open they were being with each other about their future. People who want to be together and mean it will find ways to be together, through marriage or some other means. And, people who are comfortable with the status quo but want to leave their options open won't commit--which is fine if they're honest about it. It's not fine if they're, again, kicking the conversation down the road by drawing this or that arbitrary line.
Just as important, people who want marriage need to ask themselves whether they want the person they're marrying, or the institution. One way to find that out is to ask themselves the question in almost exactly that way: "If I couldn't have the party and the 'wife' or 'husband' label and the societal imprimatur they offer, would I still want the person? for life?"
"Reasonable Risk Management" is totally my new band name. I can hear us now: CLEVELAND! Are you ready to listen attentively?
I'm getting married and I've been with my fiance for one year. My mother thinks I am rushing, and I have considered her point of view. I always thought I would date someone for at least 2 years before marriage, but my gut tells me it is okay - that there is no right or wrong. I don't think everything is perfect - I just think we are wonderful together. I want to spend my life with him - the good and bad. I don't think us dating and waiting another year will change that. Am I missing something?
I don't think there's one right way to make a successful decision. Sometimes, it happens when all the important things are in place. Sometimes, it happens when all the important things are carefully weighed, but a few of them are confident guesses. Sometimes it happens when all the important things are in place, then gathered up hastily and thrown out the window in favor of a whole other set of things you never realized were important until you just knew they were.
The two biggest mistakes people make during big decisions are: lying to each other, and lying to themselves. Don't do that. The rest will take care of itself.
How's the search for a Hax badge (for top blog posters) coming? Will Nick design it?
Yes, having a family (and theoretically me as a part of it) is one of his longer-term goals. Before that, though, he would like to spend at least a year living in the city of his dreams (we have plans to move there in a few months), hold a certain job title and a higher salary, do some traveling on his own, etc etc etc. It's not that he couldn't do these things with a wife, it's just that I think he envisioned extending his "single" life a bit longer. Also he believes that our age is too young for anyone to get married, regardless of how long they've been together.
Hm. Do you really think he can achieve that goal while living with you? I realize that will sound snarky, but it's not--I mean it as dead straight. Is it possible for him to be a single guy in a way that satisfies him? Seems to me that one of the paths you need to discuss is breaking up so he can get out of his system whatever he feels he needs to, and seeing where you both are and how you both feel about each other when he feels sufficiently ripe.
I love reading your columns and chats, so I'm hoping you might have time to get to this question (it's late, I know). I'm very very tired - my husband and I have an almost 4-month-old and spend all waking moments at home taking care of him. He's wonderful and I can't wait to see and hold him when I get home/wake up in the morning. But I'm noticing that I'm so tired that I'm just not communicating with my husband anymore. I bring up "how about that 10-year reunion next weekend?" and he says "no, I don't want to do that" and I just shut up, because I'm too tired to discuss. From a much more experienced parent to a brand-new one, how does a happy couple get through the first few months of being parents intact? "Date Night" is laughable - another one of those immediately shot-down ideas when posed to husband. Thanks so much.
I have to wrap this up, but there's danger of alienation here so I want to answer you: Is there any way you can find occasional relief from the fatigue? Someone you trust to watch the baby in your home on some weekend afternoon while you both nap? Once rested, you can then both take the baby out in the stroller, which is a fine time to talk--baby is cared for but not consuming all of your attention.
If you're not to the point yet where you have a trusted sitter, now's the time to start building one: Ask around for candidates, then hire the best one ("Protecting the Gift" can give you ideas for screening people)--not to be a sitter yet, but instead a parent's helper. I.e., you have the person caring for your child while you're there and, say, cleaning the house, which allows you to watch how the caregiver is with your baby. Have this person come regularly while you supervise the care over successive visits. -Then- you get into allowing this sitter to spell you a bit, providing fatigue relief--then you start trying to reconnect with your husband.
When will the "Work Advice" winner's columns start appearing?
Why, they start appearing today. Here's the first of contest-winner Karla Miller's four @Work Advice columns.
So that readers work really hard to earn the favor of Carolyn and her producers? So that producers can cull from these favored posters, which might save them work but might also tilt comments toward the worldviews of a handful of people? BARF. Much of the appeal of these chats is that any one of us can chime in with something insightful and have it posted. I already feel alienated.
And I wouldn't want to take that away from you, but the badge wouldn't be for the chats. It would be for the comments section for my columns. And, we're hoping to set it up so that commenters can nominate each other (firstname.lastname@example.org, if you want to get started now) instead of making people suck up to me or to producers.
Cool, thanks. It's such a big issue right now, for obvious reasons. When I was working on that column, I learned that there are laws in some states holding adult children responsible for their parents' care; they're just rarely if ever enforced. I've heard from a couple of readers since that some jurisdictions are weighing and even beginning enforcement as a way of passing along costs they (the jurisdictions) can no longer manage. I haven't had a chance to confirm this, but it makes sense and is something everyone with financially-teetering parents ought to look into as part of the due diligence I've advised in the past--financial planner, lawyer, local Bureau on Aging.