Carolyn Hax Live (Friday, June 1)

Jun 01, 2012

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, June 1 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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Hey everybody, happy Friday. Before we start, a call-out from my colleague and former (*sniffle*) pod mate, Monica Hesse:

"A few weeks ago, I took over the Web Insites column for Sunday Style -- the column about Internet culture and life online. Occasionally I'll dedicate the column to answer a reader question related to Internet etiquette.

"I wondered if, in your next chat, you might be willing to let readers know that I'm open for business and would be happy to tell them who they are allowed to unfriend and how, or the politics of tagging photos, or what to do with the forwarded emails from your wingnut relatives. Just have them e-mail me at, or submit to my weekly chat."


Click here for one of the columns. 


LW#2 from today's column might get farther with her friend if she didn't call it "giving up easy sex," which seems to betray her own adherence to the double standard and/or the milk-cow thing. What I would say is something like this: There are plenty of guys out there who are interested in a relationship. Those guys will be willing to spend some time getting to know you (because that's part of establishing a relationship) before having sex. There are also plenty of guys who don't want a relationship, but do want sex. Most of those guys will lose interest if they have to wait for the sex. So spending some time getting to know a guy before you have sex with him will screen out a lot of guys who don't want a relationship. Or, go on and have sex with whoever you want, whenever you want, but realize that it means having sex with a lot of guys who don't want a relationship and won't stick around before you do with one who does and will. (I say "guys" because so far, all my experience has been with guys.) It's not about leading the guy into a relationship by withholding sex; it's more about figuring out if sex means the same thing to him that it does to you before you do it.

Makes sense to me, thanks.

Dear Carolyn, My fiance suddenly died about six months ago. Needless to say, I was emotionally a mess immediately following his death. In the past few months I have been getting myself together and trying to move on as best I can. His family was always inviting and gracious to me when we were together, and continue to this day. Like a lot of young people, my fiance did not have a will and since we were not married yet his estate was murky. My fiance's parents and I essentially split his belongings, but they gave me a big ticket items: his car (which was significantly newer and much nicer than my heap). The title to the car has been transferred to my name and I carry the insurance on the car. But every single time I get in it I think of him. My therapist gently suggested that I get rid of the car, that it is a constant reminder of him that I could be without. But I don't want this gesture to look like I am throwing their generosity back in their face. I also do not want to sell it without telling them -- shouldn't they be able to make the first offer? I love your column and was hoping you could suggest a way to handle this delicate situation.

I am so sorry, that's awful.

It sounds as if, mercifully, you have a good relationship with his parents, so I think the best way to handle this is just to tell the parents you're feeling freshly heartbroken every time you get into the car. Then say you didn't want to take any actions without letting them know first, and offer to return the car to them if they want it--otherwise you will trade it in or sell it. 

I.e., I don't think offering to let them buy it back from you is the way to go. It was essentially a gift, and so your choices are to return the gift or get their blessing to handle it as you choose. 

Another choice is to hang on to the car and let time do its thing. I realize you're still feeling fresh grief when you use that car, and it does't appear to be abating, but it will abate over time--that's just the way we're wired. I doubt you'll ever get to a point where you don't associate the car with him, just that it will feel less acute. This isn't my recommendation so much as a Plan B in case you don't feel comfortable approaching his parents. 

How do you deal with parents that do not respect boundaries? I am going to be meeting up with my sis and her BF on an island in Europe for two weeks this year (they live in Europe, I live here) and I will have to invite my parents (also live in Europe) because if I don't my mom will cry and be sad to no end. She lives through her daughters. I see them about once or twice a year but they call me every day. My sis' vacation apt will be too small so I am planning on booking myself into a hotel but I know that that also will cause guilt trips and family discussions and stress to no end because my parents are likely to get a place and ask me to stay with them and I will decline because it would be too stressful. Is there a better way to handle this?

Sure. Go see your sister for 10 days vs two weeks, without inviting your parents, and then travel to see your parents for four days.

Or whatever. The point is to let the tears flow and do what you think is right, vs. take your marching orders from the tears. The real issue is, are you ready to take that stand?

I was out with the girls last night and on my way to meet them I called home and left a message for my husband about my plans and what time I thought I'd be home. When I got home around 10 pm the blinking light on the answering machine which is located on his desk told me that he had not listened to the messages. Of the 3 messages, 2 were for him. When I asked him about why he didn't listen to the messages he said that once he listens it stops blinking and I would not know that I had a message. I said that's when you leave me a note about my message, like I do for him when I hear a message for him. He informed me then that if I want to leave him a message, I should call his cell phone - which doesn't have a blinking light by the way. I was a little hurt that he wouldn't check messages knowing I was out at night with the girls - just in case something happened, etc. His response was - call his cell phone. What do you say about this? I was trying to be considerate about my plans.

I say, next time call his cell. 

Dear Carolyn, I just started a new job, where I'm in frequent contact with the last person my fiance dated before me. I don't consider myself a petty or insecure person, but being around her shakes my confidence. Any suggestions?

The old standby from "The Brady Bunch," to picture intimidating people in their underwear, would probably backfire here, so go with the other old standby: saying to yourself in your head, "I am so sick of my own crap--enough already," next time being around this woman gives you the yips. Poke holes in your own fear. It can be strangely satisfying. 

Hi, My uncle is schizophrenic and used to rely on my grandfather for everything (money mgmt, rides, help finding places to live after he trashes his current apt, and cleaning up his messes etc). My grandpa is getting old and doesn't want to do it anymore so he dumped it on my mom, the most stable of his children. She now receives and is responsible for his disability checks, rent, medicine administration, etc etc etc. He does not respect any boundaries and calls my mom anytime (like 6am on Saturday because he wants her to bring him a pack of smokes). My mom is getting incredibly stressed. My grandpa has set a precedent for uncle getting whatever, whenever because of his guilt/pity. How can I support my mom? Are there any services that can help my mom manage her stress? My uncle can be downright abusive when he isn't taking his meds and yes, his doctors know all of this, but can't do anything unless he is a danger to himself or others. I am afraid my mom is going to crack under the pressure from uncle/grandpa to bow to his every whim. Online only please

Please have your mom call the NAMI help line, 1-800-950-NAMI. She can get some help over the phone, but I think she'd also benefit from one of the programs, like Family-to-Family. 

Hi Carolyn - My brother and his now-fiancee "ruined" my wedding day by (her) causing a huge scene at my reception (and her consequently getting tossed out by my new husband). I (we) never received apologies, and have heard from other family and mutual friends that they tell people we exaggerated about what happened that day, and that we're just as much to blame (completely false). Since then, my brother became engaged to this wretched woman, and now wants favors from me to help him prep for his big day next year. We haven't spoken much at all since my wedding. I can't get over that there was never an apology from either, and it hurts that they won't even acknowledge their wrong-doing. My question is: At what point do you forgive/forget and "move on"? It feels as if that would be saying to them: What you did is OK. All is forgiven. I ... just ... can't. I want the (extremely close) relationship back with my brother that was there before SHE entered the picture. But at this point, I feel all hope is gone.

I certainly don't know enough about "this wretched woman" to do much more than say, "Hmmm ...," but I think it's important to point out that what you're seeing (major attention-seeking behavior, disinformation, your brother's withdrawal from a close sibling relationship) could easily be the spectator's-eye view of his relationship with an abusive woman.

So, while I get your sense of hopelessness, and your reluctance to essentially lie ("What you did is OK. All is forgiven"), I do think it's important to try to establish some sort of communication with your brother. Does he live close enough for you and he to have lunch? Where you just ask him how he's doing? And gently poke around the huge scene she created?

I recently broke up with my SO after what became a rocky two years. I'm young (26) and it was my first relationship. There were several Big problems that led to the breakup, but one that really poisoned everything else was our inability to communicate well. We avoided tough issues and when something finally boiled over, we would deal with it for only a little while before letting it sink below the surface. My question is: now that I'm single, what can I work on by myself to keep this from happening again? To be able to communication with a SO better? I think on some level I knew the Big issues were dealbreakers, and I wanted the relationship to work so I avoided talking about them.

Well, there's a huge piece of it right there--getting so invested in Saving the Relationship that you lose sight of the fact that you're not even happy in it. Don't blame it on being a rookie; it's just a classic mistake, period. It's so much easier to ignore the mild, day-to-day discomfort of a blah relationship than it is to smash up everything. So, often the best thing to work on is never forgetting that the pain of a breakup always looks worse from the "before" angle than it does from the "after."

I also think you can start working right away on your communication. Treating your relationship communication as entirely separate from your communication in a friendship, with family, at work, etc., is another extremely common mistake. Are you completely honest with your friends and family (within the bounds of civility, of course)? Can you see differences between the way you talk to your loved ones and the way you dealt with your ex? If you can honestly say you're more "yourself" with friends/family, then that's something to take with you next time you're in a relationship, in the form of a question: "Am I being me, or am I shape-shifting to please someone else?" And if you have to admit you're not entirely yourself/at ease with your friends and fam, that's the place to start in learning to let down your guard. 

As you can guess, "being yourself" may be a direct cause of getting dumped, if the way you really are doesn't please your current love or friends or even family, but that's just the way it goes; better to get the false relationships on more genuine footing, even if it means no relationship at all, than to force a multi-year relationship with someone who likes  the front you're presenting better than the real thing.


Three weeks ago, I received a text from my boyfriend's ex-girlfriend (she took my number from his cell phone). She indicated they were having sex during the first two months of my relationship with him. At first he denied it, then said "it was only twice." I knew him for a year before we dated. He knew that I have serious trust issues because of past betrayals, yet he did this to me anyway. I feel reasonably certain he would not betray me again. He had told friends that he would like to marry me someday. I love him and I feel sad for him (he is quite despondent), but I just can't get past this. Part of this is my pride. Ugh, that woman is a beast. You should see her mug makes Nick Nolte's look cute.

That beast did you a favor.

Not because she exposed your BF as a liar or cheater, but instead because she got to the edge of a less black-and-white view of fidelity and trust. Can you take the last steps on your own and enter that realm?

The first thing to consider is that your boyfriend "did this to me." Without the power to read your boyfriend's mind, I still feel confident saying he didn't sleep with his ex with hurting or betraying you in mind--or with you in mind at all. A lot of relationships trail off, vs end abruptly, kind of like addictions. Even the ones that are over over over now often got there after a relapse or two or four. Can you live with that?

The next thing to consider is that villifying the ex is middle school stuff. Instead of getting into her motivation for texting you or her access to your BF's phone, I'm just going to advise taking the humanity high road. She's got her stuff and you've got hers. Any further dwelling upon her is a distraction. Besides, your BF loved her once, and unless you want to imagine being the next beast his next girlfriend despises, you're better off on a more charitable train of thought.

Next, pride is an even more useless distraction. Do you trust your boyfriend or not? Do you value your relationship or not? If you can produce an ungrudging, unqualified "yes" to both, then what his ex thinks of you doesn't amount to a gob of spit. 

So. If you can look at your relationship and all you know about it, and say, "Count me in," then go to your BF, say this isn't how you would have scripted it but you're nonetheless glad you know the truth now--and, speaking of, has he told you everything you need to know here? Then see how you like the air in Gray World.

(If it turns out you don't, or if there's something about his story or the ex or whatever that just doesn't seem right, then you need to be honest with him about that and not drag things out.)

Stop expecting an apology. It won't undo what happened, and making that the hill you choose to die on is unproductive.

Excellent point, thanks.

My brother lives a few minutes away. I've offered to get together for lunch, but since I recently refused to help him with wedding prep, I think a chance for reconciliation is gone. What's worse: I've known this woman for 6 years, he's known her for just over a year (they met at a party I took him to). I've seen her mentally/emotionally abuse other men, and before my wedding I warned him that she would "act out" at the wedding (since she had at my rehearsal dinner and bachelorette party). Everyone thought I was nuts, that she would know to behave. But if it ain't about her, she has no class. I know divorce is in their future, but he'll need to learn the hard way. I realize that the more I push him away, the tighter grasp she has on him.

Just because you think a chance for reconciliation is gone doesn't mean it is, or that it's not worth trying. There's just too much of a "harrump" tone to that--with a pinch of I-told-him-so. That you warned everyone about her disrupting the wedding, and were pooh-poohed, and were proven right, is really a side issue that's too much about how you've been wronged. 

The central issue is your brother's well-being, and the relevant side issue is your relationship with your brother. Put in a call to him, to the effect of, "Look, you might not want to talk to me since I said I wouldn't help, and maybe I shouldn't have said that--I'm still upset. What I really want is to talk to you. Meet for lunch?" 

A k a, restrained, conciliatory, open-minded. Be the sib he can talk to honestly without fear of touching off a crapstorm. 

Carolyn, you didn't say anything about this part "have heard from other family and mutual friends that they tell people we exaggerated about what happened that day, and that we're just as much to blame". Maybe the woman really is overreacting?

Always worth considering, thanks. And even if it's not true, the mere exercise of considering it seriously would likely dispose her brother to view her as more of an ally. The power of being willing to consider your own culpability is immense--even if you genuinely don't see any.

My parents gave me my twin brother's car after he died. (I'd had a car accident just before he died and did not have a car.) Yes, I thought of him every time I got in. I cried a river of tears in that car. And I held on to a bag of peanut M&Ms he'd bought and left in the car for a ridiculously long time. But almost 20 years later, I know that I would have cried a river of tears in any car. Eventually the car became a comfort, and then it became my car. And yes, I gave it back to my parents when I bought a new one. Please know that his parents value every thing they have left of him, even that car. In one way, it's all they have left of them, and they gave it to you for safe keeping because you loved their son too. Carolyn's advice is spot on. Talk to them. Don't just sell it or trade it in.

This is so useful, thank you, and so heartbreaking.

Not saying this is the right approach But embrace that the car reminds you of your fiance. It's a way to remain warm and close as you create a new life. It can be a space where you have permission to remember the good times and perhaps feel sad about his loss too. The car could, conceivably be therapeutic. It might not be, then Carolyn's advice is definitely the way to go.

Nice way to look at it, thanks.

Hi Carolyn, In reading today's column, I find myself like letter writters fiance. At times I get extremely jealous and insecure. For instance, the other night my BF was getting text messages from a female co-worker due to work, which was fine and understandable. However, when she sent a text at 12:30 am I began to question her motivations and felt that she was crossing a line. I got mad at my BF for allowing her to text so late at night, when she could have easily e-mailed the information. He said it was nothing like that but told her to please stop texting and she did. From reading today's column, I feel like I am a controlling abuser. How can a person tell the difference between extreme jealousy and "Normal" jealousy (if there is such a thing). FWIW I have been cheated on before by my ex-husband and felt that I overlooked his seemingly innocent contact with female co-workers that lead to his cheating.

"I got mad at my BF for allowing her to text so late at night"? Do you see you blamed him for someone else's actions?

There's nothing wrong with acting on an alarm that something isn't right--and that's what jealousy is in an emotionally healthy person, an alarm. But when your alarm is so so sensitive that anything can set it off, when you're blaming the wrong person for things, when you're crossing the line into orchestrating how other people live their lives, then you've got "extreme" (i.e., unhealthy) jealousy.

Look at the language you used in discussing your ex-husband. You say you overlooked " contact with female co-workers that lead to his cheating." But that's not how it works. What led to his cheating was his decision to act on his impulses to cheat. A person who doesn't have those impulses won't cheat, nor will someone who has them but chooses not to act on them. And cheaters, tempted-but-restrained people and DNA-level faithful people all have one important thing in common: They are all going to have contact with people who are available for cheating, and thay are all going to have opportunities to cheat of that's what they want. You can't can't can't prevent cheating by keeping people on a leash.

What you can do is live with intergity yourself, so you set a clear example, and choose partners who also live with integrity. You can also be realistic about the inability of any human being to be perfect (people who are more forgiving of human frailty seem to be the victims of it less than those who are rigid or intolerant; just an anecdotal conclusion I've come to). You can be respectful of your internal alarms that something's wrong--and you can also be pro-active in dealing with an alarm that's too touchy by getting into therapy. Too often people with "trust issues" make them the other person's problem instead of recognizing the issue as their own to wrestle with. 

Finally, you can realize that if you constantly have doubts about someone's trustworthiness, but stay in the relationship anyway, routinely expressing those doubts and using them to justify imposing stricter and stricter limits on your partner, then you are in fact abusive. If you're able to admit that, that takes guts. The next step is to admit the same thing out loud to someone who is qualified to help you. 

BTW, none of this means something -wasn't- up with the late-night texting. Sometimes alarms are right. The point of my answer is that you have to treat any excessive jealousy/trust issues as your own, separate problem before you'll be able to trust jealousy as a legitimate cue. 


Dear Carolyn, I am a female and am on the path to ordained ministry in a mainline Protestant denomination. I am secure in my call to ministry and to becoming a pastor. But I was recently at an event where I met an older gentleman who is from a more traditional and conservative branch of Christianity. Throughout our conversation, he said 3-4 times at least (always trying to pass it off as a joke) that I shouldn't be a pastor because I am a woman, that I should rethink my career... I can respect his beliefs even though I think he is fundamentally wrong. But how can I extricate myself politely from this situation? I know that I will encounter this attitude again, and I want to be better prepared to handle it.

"Obviously I disagree. Shall we talk/joke about something else?"

Would that do it?

Hi Carolyn--i just got news that I did not get something that I was running for, and I am truly ok with the results and not having more on my plate of non-work activities. That said, i had to network and campaign for this, so had to tell a lot of people I was up for the position. How do I handle all of the aftermath discussions--Do I just thank people for their support and say that I am sure the other person will do a good job? It's fascinating to me how little I am disappointed (which is a sign i was probably stressed that it was too much), but because I am the type of person who, right or wrong, very much cares what people think of me and value my professional reputation, I'd like to handle the aftermath of the news in the most professional way. Thanks--and how fortunate I got this news during the chat!

Um, I'm sorry? Congratulations?

Anyway, how about talking about it only when others bring it up, thanking them for their support, and saying "I'm strangely okay with it." That covers the gratitude, the disappointment and the fact that you surpised yourself be being relieved.

BTW, if you really want to unhook yourself from being "the type of person who, right or wrong, very much cares what people think of me and values my professional reputation," don't prepare any response beforehand and just let the "aftermath" take care of itself. Public bad news is pretty common, and the speed with which it passes is in inverse proportion to the urgency one feels to have it pass.  

I very foolishly lied about my sexual history to the person I'm currently dating--I told him I was a virgin because I didn't want to tell him the only sexual relationship I've ever had was with another woman. The lie eats me up inside. Would it be more damaging to tell him, or not tell him?

I can't see how perpetuating a lie would be the less damaging choice when "[t]he lie eats me up inside." Please let the person you are dating know who he is dating. (For reasons see "I Need to Use My Words!," above.)

Dear Carolyn - I have three sets of parents, two of which are mine and one of which is my husband's. Only my husband's family has money, and this is a source of tension with my family (since, to them, it seems that my affections for my in-laws were bought and paid for). My mother-in-law really wants to take us to Europe, not once, but twice this year. I feel like I keep telling her "no" because of either leave or it being the other family's turn for Christmas or whatever, but this year there is no convenient way to get her to scale down. How in the world can I strike a balance between all of my families when one set seems to hold all the cards?

The way you frame this, there's no "you" anywhere. The entities making all the decisions are the three sets of parents, your workplace and the holidays. 

What do YOU want? If you want to go to Europe twice, then go to Europe twice, and find some way to show your love for your other parents that seems fair to you. If there's no way to pull that off, then say no to one of the two trips to Europe. "I am so grateful for the opportunity, but going twice would mean I don't see my parents at all this year, and I won't do that to them." Or whatever.

And I haven't even gotten to why "I keep telling her 'no'" vs. "we." Both you and your husband seem curiously absent from the meeting to plan your own lives. Figure this out, together, and then present a kind, decisive and united front on how you want to use your vacation and family time.

One of my closest friends is getting married soon, and I am getting married a few months after. We've had a save the date card for their wedding for many months now, and it's been on the fridge since we got it. My fiance apparently forgot the date, or didn't care. My fiance's friends have planned his bachelor party for the same weekend, because he didn't check to see if there were any conflicts that weekend. No reservations have been made, no tickets have been bought for this 5 day long bachelor party, but when I ask him to think about changing it, he makes a statement like "you don't want me to have this bachelor party anyway!" I could not care less if he has a bachelor party or not, I just don't know how to bring it up without his getting defensive over it, because he doesn't believe me that I'm fine with him having a bachelor party. Any ideas on how to communicate that?

"I want you to have your bachelor party on this weekend, this weekend, this weekend, or this weekend, but not this weekend." (Best executed with a calendar in your hand.) And if he goes to his "you don't want me to have this bachelor party anyway!" line again: "Stop making this about me. We have other plans on the weekend you chose, so please suck it up and ask your friends to choose another weekend." 

That has to be what's holding him back--the dread of telling his friends that his woman is making them pick a new date. Unless they're going on a five day fishing-and-camping trip, the planners of that extended a bachelor party might not unreasonably be seen as ... well, as guys who will give a very hard time to a guy whose fiancee is asking them to change the date of their bachelor party.

You could also throw your hands up, go to your close friend's wedding solo and see how much you miss your fiance. Flexibility is at the root of many a-ha moments. 

Thank you so much for taking my question and the subsequent answers. After reading what is written here, I've decided to give it another few months and see how I feel. If I am still at odds with the car, I will return it to his parents. Despite his early passing, the real gift here is how wonderful his parents were - and are - to me. Also, for the young people out there, please make a will. Even the blank forms at Office Max are better than nothing.

Sigh. Thanks.

Suggested response - You are absolutely correct, but I wanted to be certain of my calling before scheduling the sex change surgery.


She screamed at him obscenities because he was on the dance floor with everyone having a good time, and she chose to pout at the table. That's fact, no exaggeration. People who didn't know her or her history came by to say "Your brother's girlfriend is screaming at him at the bar." ... and away went the night after my husband asked her to leave (and my brother chose to stay, btw, and keep on dancing). The only problem is: the next day, they made up.

That sounds pretty open-and-shut, thanks. Please, though, do try to keep the channels open to your brother. Antagonism from you just feeds her and makes her stronger--because then she can credibly say to him, "I'm the only one on your side," and, "Where's your sister? Oh wait--she blew you off," etc. Don't make it easy for her to isolate him.

Carolyn, Good answer to the young lady seeking ordination. I, too, am a female member of the clergy and have struggled with this throughout my career. The best answer I have come up with for folks that has some integrity and seems to satisfy their need for a theological discussion (while also ending it) is, "My call to ministry is between God and me, and my church has recognized and encouraged it." Good luck to her!

The thought you put into it shows, thank you.

People include this detail - "s/he KNEW about my trust issues and cheated on me anyway!" - all the time in letters here (and elsewhere), but I think it's a completely meaningless point to dwell on. Maybe it's just me, but I'd rather not have the monogamy in my relationship stay intact solely because the other person thinks "ah, that's right, she has trust issues so my cheating on her now would really be mean" in the critical moment. If that's all you've got to rest your monogamy classification upon, you're in a relationship with someone who doesn't share the same ideas about that relationship.

You know how bartenders ring a bell when they get a good tip? I'm stealing that. [ding]

Hi Carolyn, Thank you so much for answering my question. I truly appreciate your insight and plan on going back into therapy and apologize to my BF.

You're welcome, and thanks for writing back. I want to underscore, though, that your alarm might not have been off about the wee-hours text--and not even in the broken-clock-is-right-twice-a-day kind of way. The possessiveness and control reflex you had does warrant a closer look at your own emotional patterns, but the that doesn't mean the thing that triggered the unhealthy reflex wasn't in fact a little off as well.

There's probably context to this colleague of his, and that's where you need to look to figure out whether you're being smart or paranoid. Does he often work by text with others? Late at night? or is she the only one who communicates so intimately with him? Have other things about her/his interactions with her seemed sketchy? Do you get jealous of a lot of different people in his life, or just this one? It can feel frustrating to have to take such pains to separate real from imagined, but that's part of the process of getting your alarm to work as it's supposed to. 

Carolyn, thank you SO MUCH for taking my question. "The entities making all the decisions are the three sets of parents, your workplace and the holidays." - This is exactly how it works. My husband and I haven't gotten to go on a vacation alone since our honeymoon over three years ago. And we do make decisions together, but since I am better with communication than he is, I am the one on the phone to his mother trying to explain why we can't do such and such a trip. I guess the question needed to emphasize how to deal with the jealousy created by the money. Even though it's my in-laws' year for Christmas, I know that my families will see us going on a trip and make an assumption that we would have hated spending Christmas with them, at home (not at all true). But I don't want to deprive my mother-in-law of a fabulous trip that she wants to plan, so I'm between a sighing rock and a jealous hard place.

You are not responsible for your parents' feelings, or your MIL's. If the trip isn't right for you, then don't go; she'll manage.

You are responsible for your schedule. So, schedule a trip just for you and your husband, and then check the calendar for three other times you can dedicate to each of the sets of parents. Once you have some dates, work with everyone to get a solid plan on the calendar. That way, if you do the Fab European Xmas, then you'll at least be able to say, when anyone keens about the awful time you'll have with them in Not-Europe, "I can't wait to see you in March," or whatever. That it's a  vague non-sequitur  is part of its charm (and impact). 

Ms. Hax, Briefly, have overweight young adult child; result of incredibly difficult divorce. young adult has never dated - ever - tho longs too. No inspiration to health/fitness. I feel I failed in formative middle years to turn the tide on this. Their loneliness kills me. The guilt keeps me awake. "Sins of the father" etc. Is there *any* appropriate action to take here???

How are you with biking, hiking, climbing ... ? Seems to me a young adult child who has been through such hell might benefit nicely from some dedicated time with Dad (that also happens to get both of you moving).

Okay, this is a horrible way to say it, but it's stuck in my head and it actually is an apt image: Physical activity has been proven to work as a kind of emotional laxative. People who tend to hold things inside or feel uncomfortable talking to, say, a concerned parent often will start talking once they get moving. That's why taking a walk with someone can be such a powerful thing. It also takes away the eye-contact pressure that can come with talking to someone across a table or in the living room hot seat. 

Note that all of this is about benefits aside from weight. That's a symptom, and while it's not unreasonable to think that lessening the symptom would help her confidence and by extension her romantic prospects, that's actually a lower-percentage approach than addressing the emotions directly. Plus, treating it as a weight issue is likely to erode her confidence further. 

I just wanted to add that there are indeed social services that can take on this type of responsibility (e.g., receiving disability checks, paying rent, and giving spending money) for your uncle in place of your mom. I have a schizophrenic brother who receives those services in NC, and I would recommend your mom consider taking advantage of them. It would mean that your mom does not have to be the "bad guy" when she manages your uncle's money. She can still be part of his support system but with a lot less stress. Hopefully NAMI can point her in the direction of those services wherever he lives. Wishing your family the best.

Thanks, hope so too. (and if it doesn't, OP, please let me know? Thanks.)

A family member plus the groom ruined mine too. Ruined like fist fight and cops and wedding spent night alone in a beautiful hotel room. The apology did NOT help at all. (they just weren't sorry enough). And then I realized that I was focused on the event being ruined as opposed to the outburst. "My" Wedding instead of "our family event". Then I felt really sorry for the family member instead. They have to live with what they did which is far worse than how I felt. Because really, I had a great time until that carriage turned in to a pumpkin. Separate the event from the outburst and reach out to your brother.

Such a mind-opening way to look at it, thanks.

I agree that the wife should just call the cell phone, but there seems to be more going on here. Not only is he not getting the messages from her because he refuses to just listen to the blasted machine, he is also implicitly making *her* responsible for all of *his* incoming messages because he won't bother to listen to the machine and so she's the only one listening and then has to pass along all his messages to him. Seems inconsiderate and selfish to me. It seems to be simple courtesy that this work both ways. Whoever gets home first, listens to the messages and leaves a note for the other if they should listen for their own as well. Or just a different colored post-it for each person--if you see yellow (or pink, or green, whatever), you check messages. Sheesh, it's not that hard!

Plus, the added complication of her looking to all this as proof that he does/doesn't care about her, and not as proof that he has a messed up way of dealing with messages. 

So, yes, more here, thanks. I shouldn't have punted, and neither should they. Perhaps some  communication training for them? is a resource for seminars and classes that comes well-recommended.

My best friend just announced they're expecting their first child. I'm pretty sure I reacted with appropriate enthusiasm and support, but selfishly I'm totally crushed. In my experience, married friends having babies is where friendships with their single friends naturally get put out to pasture. Do I: (a) continue to feign happiness since this is something they're genuinely thrilled about and maybe it'll all be fine; (b) tell my friend and try to work through this (which ends up making their news all about my drama); or (c) slowly withdraw from this friendship so that it doesn't sting as much if/when I do end up grazing in a pasture? The first option seems the most adult, but honestly the last option is what's happening already and seems most likely.

Oh my goodness. Feigning? Drama? Pre-emptive dumping?

Keep caring about your friend, stay involved in her life, and adapt the way you do that to the changes that are coming in her life. She will be centered on her child, yes, and less available than she is now, but parents don't suddenly stop wanting or needing friends. 

They just need and want friends who understand that they (in most cases) have the change the way they conduct these friendships. There's little stuff, like needing time to plan ahead where spontaneity used to be okay, and there's big stuff, like having your heart and mind immersed in this little helpless creature. If you value this friendship enough to be willing to make some sacrifices, then you can make plans to go with them to the park or the zoo (you and friend talk while pushing Bubbles in carriage/stroller); to have dinner with her (wait till after Bubbles' bedtime, bring the food, be aware that a last-minute cancellation is possible); to meet her for coffee (with possible need to go ambulatory if Bubbles is fussy and you need to employ carriage/stroller). 

If your friend is not a weenie, she'll recognize that you're going out of your way to adapt and won't take you for granted. You can even say things like, AGH no more talk about POOP. If she is a weenie, well, then you're off the hook.

Yes, little kids can be a pain in the butt and socializing with their parents can become that way as a result, but if you're patient, forgiving and take the long view--and, again, if this friendship is a keeper--then there's a place for you. And chances are, if you end up in this same place a few years from now, this friend of yours will return the favor. 


I should also say, and if you don't go on to have kids (and this friend isn't a weenie), then she'll return the favor someday by adapting to whatever course your life takes.

"Plus, the added complication of her looking to all this as proof that he does/doesn't care about her, and not as proof that he has a messed up way of dealing with messages. " Yep, that's exactly it. I totally do that. How to not do that? Cause, I mean...isn't at least a little bit about the caring?

By your standards, maybe, but if his are different, then it isn't. A lot of people don't think at all about the check-in call--giving or receiving--in the course of a routine night out. If you're paired with one of them, then you're bound to be frustrated by the nonchalance, and, worse, take personally that which isn't personal.

We've been playing some advice-giving songs...

I know, I miss it too. But i found it really distracting. 

Is THAT why they ring a bell? I thought it was for all the poor wingless angels!!

Well, them too. Win-wing.

Which is exactly why it all comes back on you and your shoulders. Not being good at communication with HIS OWN mother isn't fair to you. Sorry but from where I set it reeks of laziness. He's using you as a shield when it comes to the fallout of your joint decisions. You make a decision together? You face the consequences together. Fair is fair.

Yeah. YEAH.

If walking together is not enough of an incentive, combine it with yet another activity -- like photography. That way there is not jus tthe hike, but an opportunity to share photos online with friends and possibly create a positive feedback loop from peers, so less loneliness overall. Makes non-relationship lonlies more bearable.

Like it, thanks. And there are so many other possibilities.

I was in almost the exact same situation: my oldest childhood friend got married about a month before I did, and my (now) husband's bachelor party was scheduled for that weekend. I was disappointed that he scheduled it on that day at first, but then I realized that it was the only weekend that the key members of his bachelor party could make it (i.e. his brothers and his oldest friends), and that it would be a very special weekend for him. He has always participated in my friend's events with enthusiasm, so this was a one-off- and made sense to me! I went solo to the wedding and had a great time. Unless he generally makes a point of ignoring events you organize with your old friends, I'd let him go and have fun! It is rare that a group of friends can get together for five days!

Context. It's the new black. Thanks.

Good reaction and advice from Carolyn. But but but... it feels like friends with kids get taken totally off the hook with good friend behavior. I find that in order to maintain these friendships, I have to do all the adapting (talking about poop, never seeing them without kidlets, always going to their place because it's such a hassle to bring kidlets to my neck of the woods, etc. etc. etc.). When my life changes in various ways (change of jobs, city, spouse, whatever) I do at least half the heavy lifting of making sure my life change doesn't end my friendships. Why can't parents do the same?

Many do; some just are using all their arm strength. In the latter cases, if you're willing, I suggest taking the long view--like, a decade long. You can stop investing if you're sick of it, but thnk of it as hitting "pause" instead of "stop," and lodge in the back of your mind the idea of reconnecting after the kid crazies have passed. If you're already thinking of ending the friendship, then why not? 

I realize it's not a satisfying answer, but the more validating one--"Yes, these parents aren't doing their part, and they shouldn't get away with it"--doesn't get you anywhere except down a few friends.


That's it for today. Thanks all. Sorry again about disappearing from Turntable. I've actually put together a playlist that I can write to on Spotify--the selection is kind of random, but unified by its (to me) soothing but creative (i.e. not sleep-inducing) properties. Called Hax's Writing Soundtrack. There's also a second one of other people's suggestions of similar music, called the Human Algorithm. 

have a great weekend, and AGH almost forgot: Next Friday, due to kiddie event, I have to push the chat back to 1:30 pm. Last adjustment for a while, I think. Thanks again and buh-bye.

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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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