Carolyn Hax Live: Advice columnist tackles your problems (Friday, June 22)

Jun 22, 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 22 at Noon ET, taking your questions and comments about her current advice column and any other questions you might have about the strange train we call life. Her answers may appear online or in an upcoming column.

E-mail Carolyn at

Got more to say? Check out Carolyn's discussion group, Hax-Philes. Comments submitted to the chat may be used in the discussion group.

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Hi everybody, thanks for stopping by. Before I start, I'd like to send out a valentine to public libraries. I'm chatting from one today because it was the only way I could get my kids to and from their afternoon camp on time without messing with the chat times. I forget sometimes how spoiled we are by this resource--I'm in a/c, on free wifi, in a comfy chair and staring at stacks of great books.

Down side, I'm at metered parking, and I have only 2 hrs and 45 min left. If I forget to end at 2:45, please holler so I don't get a ticket. Thanks.

Hi Carolyn! I see where you are coming from in your response regarding weekend time to unwind with Partners A and B in today's column, but don't you think the answer depends a little bit on the ages of the children Partner B is a stay-at-home-parent with? If they are little ones, not yet in school and with B practically all day, then I wholeheartedly agree with your answer. But speaking as a SAHM of two kids in school, I really believe it is the working parent who deserves more time to unwind on the weekends when kids are in school the majority of the day. I used to be an attorney, became a SAHM when I had kids, and when they were little, yes, my job was just as stressful at home as it had been at work. But with them in school full-time now, it just isn't. Yes, I do housework, laundry, etc., but I will be honest, I have a lot of down time during the week. My husband does not, and I take this into account in our weekend planning. So depending on the ages of the children, I think you may have been a little bit harsh towards Partner A.

You are absolutely right about the small kids vs. big kids thing, and if I did assume the kids' ages (I may have mindlessly cut that out of the letter; will go back to look) I shouldn't have. Thanks for pointing this out.

I will say, though, that one part of the equation doesn't change when the kids are older: Especially with Parent A living in their home with them, they're going to want some sign that P.A. wants to spend time with them. I don't think I was too harsh on that account. Going from long work days to long weekend days of kid-free leisure sends them an afwul message about how much P.A. values them. 

My boyfriend of two years has a daughter who is getting married soon. We really do love each other's children so I feel a little like the evil step-woman, but I was just told by the bride that my role at the wedding will be to hold the dog. I'm not kidding. We have a dog that is part of the family and she wants him in the ceremony. I love the dog too and I will put his little bowtie on him. But I'm feeling a lot of resentment here right when I don't want to. A lot of it stems from her father not making marriage plans with ME... should I swallow my pride with a glass of champaign or go to the beach for the weekend?

" A lot of it stems from her father not making marriage plans with ME... ": This. Deal with this. Whether you hold the dog is a separate issue for you to decide on its own merits. Me,  take that job, gladly. Dogs not only make excellent company, they also make great excuses to go for a walk in the middle of a wedding ceremony. 

I also thank you for this question for selfish reasons, because now we can add "designated dog-holder" to the lexicon when we're referring to people who are not being granted the status they feel they deserve.


My boyfriend and I live together and need to make a decision about housing before his lease is up, but we have completely opposite requirements for what we need in a place to live. He wants somewhere inexpensive and close to where he works out in the sticks, which means a house shared with two or three other people. I need a place where I can work from home and not be bothered by noise, and near the metro, so I can get to the research library in the city. The equipment I need to work from home is super-expensive, so I don't trust people I don't already know well as housemates. Why can't I get an apartment of my own, chip in for his place, or take out insurance on my stuff? I have to maintain a residence in another state, and that eats up my meager income. Why can't he just get the place he wants? If it doesn't work out for my work or I don't feel comfortable, I won't live there, and I'll go back to my residence in the other state. Neither of us has a good idea of a way forward, and we're both getting angry and resentful. How can we move forward?

Look at your own phrasing: "He wants," "I need." If that's accurate, then he's concerned with convenience while you're concerned with your livelihood, and you win that tug of war. If he doesn't agree or prioritizes his convenience over your livelihood, then that, not a housing standoff, is your problem. If instead he has a real need and you've dismissed it as a want, then that's the real problem.

Either way, the answer is in parsing, fairly, the "need" and "want" for both of you. Pen, paper, quiet evening, two open minds. Can you two at least agree on these four terms?

Hello, I was wondering if you, or anyone, had a suggestion for a support group for the death of a parent. My mom died of colon cancer last December and I find that generally I am doing okay, but I do have occasional bouts of extreme sadness (which I think is normal, it has only been six months). Anyway, I was looking for a group that I might be able to join just to talk about some of these feelings. My brother is too busy/not the right person to engage in these conversations (he's a doctor and tends to approach these conversations more clincally than I would like). Thank you

Wendt Center for Loss and Healing (link). I'm sorry about your mom. 

My husband insists that meticulous plans are necessary before embarking on anything -- but he hates to plan himself. I require only a moderate amount of planning before taking action. Here's how it plays out in our relationship: Me: How about we go to Annapolis this weekend? I'll find a B&B, ask some friends for restaurant recommendations, and get a dog sitter. Husband: What else will we do there? What are the hours of the museums? The admission costs? Is the dogsitter insured? The dogsitter has to be insured. Are you sure we should drive our car? How would the cost of public transportation compare? What about Zipcar? Have you read all of the Tripadvisor reviews for this B&B? What if it rains? What is the contingency plan? Husband feels that, if I want him to be involved in something then I should be willing to undergo the extra research that it would take to make him comfortable enough to participate. I believe that I have already undertaken a sufficient amount of planning -- and that if he needs more, he should put on his big boy underwear and do it himself. I feel like I'm married to someone who had never before boiled water, but who criticizes the chef if the souffle is slightly flat. It's set up a dichotomy in our marriage where he thinks I'm flaky and flighty, and I think he's critical and neurotic. What advice do you have?

I think the only fair response to his barrage of questions is: "I've planned it to my satisfaction. If you'd like more assurances, then you're welcome to do the research; I won't be insulted and I won't stand in your way."

Unfortunately, it sounds as if you've already taken this position, so your option list is short and unpleasant: keep holding the line against his pressure to perfect his souffle, or treat it as a Bigger Deal and take it to couples' counseling--and also to the office of a mental health professional who is qualified to screen him for OCD, anxiety, ADHD and the other usual suspects that produce an unquiet mind.

In other words: His position is completely untenable, that "if I want him to be involved in something then I should be willing to undergo the extra research that it would take to make him comfortable enough to participate." It's so easily turned around to, "Unless he's physically incapable of dotting i's and crossing t's, he has no right to expect someone else to do not just all the vacation planning, but all the extra work to make those plans meet his exacting standards." If he were doing all the planning or even if you were dividing it 50-50, then he'd have standing to ask you to take his needs into account. Since he, by your account, isn't doing anything, he has no right to lodge special requests, much less to blame you for not fulfilling them. 


I think what should determine the dad's girlfriend's feelings is not how SHE feels about the designation as wedding dog walker, but how the DAUGHTER sees it. My husband was the dog designee in his only and much beloved sister's wedding because my sister in law could literally think of no higher honor than to be the caretaker of their cherished dog. And my husband, who also considers our dogs to be part of the family, accepted it in the spirit it was accorded. Dad's girlfriend could easily have been left out of the wedding for the "evil step-woman" awkwardness that she jokingly refers to - even without knowing the people involved, I suspect this role is a genuinely warm gesture to make her feel involved and part of the family.

Nice take on it, thanks.

Dear Carolyn, My mom and I are incredibly close and we talk about EVERYTHING. However, we kind of clash about one BIG thing; who she dates. The issue is that when she talks to me, she tells me all about what kind of guy she likes and how she wants a man who complements her lifestyle (classy and adventurous) yet she keeps bringing home losers (there's really no better way to put this). I mean, these guys are everything she said she doesn't want, like if my boyfriend were like this, she would have nothing to do with him; they're typically way older than she is, not adventurous at all, not class AT ALL, not nearly as intelligent or attractive as she is, and they generally just don't complement her AT ALL. Example: She dressed up for a date, and one time the guy wore WINDBREAKERS. The thing is, I would care a lot less if she was just casually dating and calling it that, but she keeps talking marriage and getting serious with these guys and then talking about how much of a loser each of them was and how she was the best thing that ever happened to them after they break up. In the past, I've been very forthcoming about my feelings and it would hurt her, so my new method is to stay out of it. But I'm worried that if I don't tell her something, she'll end up marrying one of these guys and then will end up unhappy (signs she shows while they're dating). I'm really not sure what to do here... -Painfully Honest

I started an answer, but backspaced because I need to say this first: The windbreaker example is a terrible one if your intent is to prove these men are "losers." All it says is that the man is casual where your mom likes to dress up, and, okay, that's fine to flag as a compatibility issue, but, are you really judging the character of these men by such superficial standards? If so, then I'm going to suggest as kindly as I can that you and your mom perhaps share a people-reading disability, where you're drawing conclusions about people that aren't accurate reflections of who they are. And that could indicate a disconnect between what you understand to be a sign of, say, class, and what really is a sign of class--something that could easily stem from a family's emotional pattern, and could easily explain why your mom is in this pickle to begin with.

And, too, there's also this: Your mom apparently wants to date James Bond, and, unfortunately for you and your mom, he's fictional. Your mom may just be dating the men reality provides for her, and putting her hopes in them because she has these hopes and they need to go somewhere.

Anyway, it sounds as if your stepping back from this topic with your mom is a better choice than getting up in her grill about every guy she dates, but there's one more choice available to you, if you haven't tried it yet: Instead of a conversation about This Guy or That One, talk about the bigger picture--that with every guy she has chosen lately, she has reached the point where she decided breaking up was the best thing that ever happened to her. Calling attention to the pattern vs. the guy--and, ideally, putting your own romantic choices  on the scrutiny table as well, if applicable--means you won't be cornering her into defending her current choice, and that gives you a better chance of starting a productive conversation.

One caveat: You get to do this once. Dwelling on it beyond that, unless she invites you to, is a boundary violation. This is your mom's life and it's not your job to prevent her from marrying one of these guys. It's just not. 


It sounds like the problem here is less about the planning and more about his attitude that he will only attend said vacation if it is planned to his liking; i.e. it cannot be planned to his liking because he doesn't want to go. That's the real issue. It sounds like a very one-way relationship. She is to please him, and he will decide whether he is pleased. The therapy, if they go, should be to ask: what is his role in/ commitment to this relationship?

"She is to please him, and he will decide whether he is pleased." Well said, thanks.

Or go on that trip with a girlfriend to that nice-sounding B&B, have fun, and then let husband know how it all went. Surely a first-hand report would serve as the best answer to his questions. Maybe he can interview dog-sitters while you're in Annapolis checking it all out and picking up leaflets.

I was thinking along the lines where she just says, this is the trip, you're welcome to come along or not--but I like your version better.

This is true. Part of the sticking point is that we have such different views on roommates that it's hard to find common ground. I'm not completely opposed to roommates, but the stakes are so high for me that I would only trust someone as a roommate if I came to know them well over a long period of time; vetting strangers off of Craigslist makes me profoundly uncomfortable. He has chosen roommates well in the past and thinks that we should have no trouble finding someone who meets our needs. I've offered to make compromises, like agreeing to someone I haven't known previously if I can conduct lengthy and probing interviews with them and their references along the lines of what The Gift of Fear recommends for babysitters. But, he doesn't want that, because he thinks that would be a faux pas or drive away all the prospects. I'm not sure what to do here.

Why doesn't he just let you try, and if you drive away all the prospects, then go to Plan B?

I say this hoping we can all agree that even the de Becker treatment is not a guarantee of the perfect roommate.

I really sympathize with the LW from June 19, as I am married to an extravert. He had a hard time understanding that the social activities that gave him a boost in energy would actually drain me. He used to think that I just didn't like his friends or family, but it was really that I'd run out of steam and want to go home while he was still going strong. It wasn't until we were doing Weight Watchers together that I finally figured out how to explain it to him. WW assigns points values to food, so once you're out of points for the day, you're basically done with eating for that day. So introverts have "social points": a limit to the amount of social interactions they can endure in one day. Time alone or a good nap can replenish the stock of social points, just like how exercising earns you more points in WW. And now that my husband understands the nature of being an introvert, we've been able to work out compromises to balance our social needs. He gets to spend lots of time with friends and family, and I get to take breaks as needed, with no judgments attached.

Hey, whatever works. Thanks for the idea.

The idea of a committed couple sharing a home with 2 or 3 others just for the sake of keeping costs down makes me wonder just how committed these two are as a couple. You're required to be a resident of another state, and you're putting your finances in jeopardy by living with your boyfriend, when what you should be doing is finishing school (not mentioned specifically, but in-state tuition is the only reason I can see why you HAVE to reside in a particular state). This all just seems way too much way too soon for these two. You have plenty of time - you don't have to live together just because you're having s*x. Do what you both need to do for the right reasons and when it's really time to live together, hopefully you'll be on the same page about what it means to live and have a life that is truly together and truly about what you BOTH want & need.

Oh I like this much better. But you can say "sex" out loud around here.

Just for the record, I grew up with a father who acted like Partner A, and a mother who behaved like Parter B. My parents had a contentious divorce when I was in my 20's. I am still super close to my mother. Without my mother greasing the social wheels with my father,however, I only speak to him twice a year. It's not a contentious relationship, we just... don't have a relationship that exists outside of my mother's influence, because he always chose his own work, and then his own leisure time above time spent with us. We don't have anything to say to one another. Both my sisters feel the same way. I would never want that for my children (I have three), and have structured our work/life balance very differently, for precisely that reason.

This is a sad story and a familiar one. I posted this (link) on my Facebook page yesterday, and I'm sharing it again here because it's an important examination of a work culture that keeps parents away from their kids. Too many fathers have been sucked into it for too many years, and when women started entering the work force in great numbers, instead of making real changes in the culture to accommodate personal time, for men and women, women too have either gotten sucked into the long hours, found their way to jobs where they control the schedule (yours truly) or they've just partially or fully dropped off their career paths. 

There will always be parents who find ways to avoid spending time with their kids; "time macho" isn't solely to blame. But, I wish we could see that dads and moms, and childless people, single and married, deserve personal time, and putting in 80 hour weeks should be filed under "pathologies," not "paths to the top."

An advice columnist can dream. 

Carolyn, A few months ago my sister moved to this area to start a new job. She's young & just starting out, so my partner & I agreed she could live with us while she got her feet on the ground. So far it's worked out great: sis is a great houseguest, helps out, cooks, doesn't impose. I've enjoyed spending more time with her & she gets on really well with partner. Problem? My partner won't have sex while she's in the house. I've explained that she's a grown up & she knows we have sex, but he says he feels too weird about it. At first it was kind of exciting planning assignations when we knew she'd be out, but the novelty has worn off and I miss Saturday morning sex, or sofa sex. Partner won't budge. To get my sex life back, do I have to ask my sister to move out? And if so, do I have to tell her why?

Apparently, and please don't.

Hi Carolyn, Is there anything worrisome about someone keeping tabs on someone else (through the internet & mutual friends) when it's all public information? What if this is someone with whom a relationship didn't end well, so there's definitely a grudge but no contact in the 10 years it's been going on?

So jilted party has tracked ex online for 10 years? At best it means jilted party is not in good emotional health, and at worst it means the ex is in danger. The difference is in the actions jilted party takes, wants to take, feels justified in taking. 

Dear Carolyn, My boyfriend of 2 years and I are talking more seriously about spending our lives together (we're in our late 20s). With most things, we have shared values, goals, etc.; we have strong communication and self-awareness, and we love each other deeply. However, while I've always imagined marriage for myself, he doesn't believe in it (I believe this is sincere, not a commitment evasion). I've thought a lot about an alternative arrangement for us, hoping that if we really loved each other and our relationship was right, we would find a good "format" for us. But I've just ended up wanting marriage even more. My boyfriend has expressed that he could consider legal marriage, but his tone really suggests it could be difficult for him. So, what gives? How do I talk to him about my desire for marriage without delivering an ultimatum? Do you think can we work through these ideas? I get so frustrated that we want the same things out of our relationship, but instead of opting to define marriage for ourselves, he objects to the history and institutionalization of marriage (which I sometimes think these are covers for the trauma of his parents' still-recent, disastrously messy divorce).

(which I sometimes think these are covers for the trauma of his parents' still-recent, disastrously messy divorce): Have you said this out loud--not as an accusation, but as a gentle query? E.g., "When someone whose parents recently had a messy divorce says he doesn't believe in marriage, it's logical to connect the two--and understandable, I think. Is that fair?"

And, on the topic of fairness, I think it's also fair to suggest examining your now "wanting marriage more,"  since it's possible both of you are now distracted by the institution of marriage--his avoiding it and your securing it.

As for "How do I talk to him about my desire for marriage without delivering an ultimatum?"--I think you've already done it. Once you've addressed the "covers for the trauma" topic, I suggest you drop the subject for a while, and just live your life, enjoying his company. While you don't want to drag things out into a decade's  worth of indecision, it sounds as if taking a little time off the topic might do more to help you answer your question, at this point, than would discovering just the right words to say.

Carolyn, I think that what has not been said on this article yet is that some men don't really want children, but feel they are "supposed" to. My dad is one of those that if society didn't tell him he was supposed to have children, he would not have. He is not good with kids (or adults), but thank goodness my mom was and is. I wish we would make more strides towards a society where you only have kids because you genuinely want them - not because it is "the thing to do".

Another great point, thanks, though women aren't immune to it by any stretch. I think people in this position make up a lot, but not all, of the ranks of child-avoiders, the ones who go from work to play to errands to anything but a home full of kids--or who are there, and bark at the kids all day for trangressions real and imagined. (The rest are those who thought they wanted kids but realized afterward it was a mistake, or who were just in societal lockstep and had kids just as The Next Thing They Were Supposed to Do.)

Carolyn, I'm really surprised that you applauded the response to 'he wants, I need' that suggested the real problem is that the LW needs to finish school. I understand the criticism that finances should not be the sole reason to move in with a SO, but this commenter is making an awful lot of assumptions. "in-state tuition is the only reason I can see why you HAVE to reside in a particular state" -- oh, I don't know, if the LW is doing research on high-tech equipment maybe that person is a PhD candidate in later years where you do not have to be in a classroom daily to finish the program. Or maybe there are other extenuating circumstances that could necessitate the primary residence. How about "you don't have to live together just because you're having sex"? At what point was that mentioned? A cohabitating couple can be in a loving and committed relationship for many reasons, not just the convenience factor. As a neutral observer on the chat, the extremely judgy tone (which you agreed with) of this comment left me with a bad taste in my mouth.

Interesting--I didn't read it that way at all. I saw it as, "Since this is such a huge and difficult undertaking, why not stop trying to force it, and wait till the conditions are more favorable?" I.e., I read it as pragmatic. If the way you read it is the way it was intended, then that's not something I endorse.

From my read, despite what she says, I think they should live separately. There are just too many I can't have distractions, I can't insure my own stuff, etc. I don't think these are justifications for living with a boyfriend especially since he doesn't seem to be considering all of these factors that sounds like huge barriers for her.

A similar take without the undertone, thanks.

It also brings up another important issue: They're both looking to protect their own interests, vs. looking out for each other's. That's non-invested behavior. 

The commenter is right that I'm in school-- I'm starting my dissertation and on fellowship, so I can make progress anywhere there is a quiet place for me and a good research library. The two of us managing a household have gotten along very well together, which I know because the two previous housemates are barely here and almost never pitch in on cleaning or maintenance. It's just now that the lease is up that we're having problems-- on one hand, I need to impose really strict requirements in order to live here and get my work done, and on the other hand, I can't really be an equal partner in the housing situation because I can't pitch in financially for a while (numbered in months, not years at this point). It really is too much too fast from that standpoint, but seeing each other a few days a month for two years at great expense isn't really tenable any more, either.

It just sounds as if you have a choice: Make compromises on where and how you live, or don't live with your boyfriend. If he's not meeting you at least halfway, and you him, or if he's not recognizing that your needs are equal to his regardless of who's paying--and if you're not looking to be as flexible as possible--then that says it's a relationship problem. If it's just a math problem, then you'll find some way to solve it.

Have you talked about kids? That's what did it for my bf. He wasn't big on marriage for couples, but was all for marriage for families. When he realized he wanted kids, he realized he wanted marriage. Fwiw, we're getting married in November and all this realizing happened before we ever met. For the LW, if you want marriage and he doesn't this is going to be difficult for one of you (or both if you break up). If it's something you can't see your future without, you owe it to him to just be clear about that.


Thanks so much for taking my question, Carolyn, and to the nuts for following up. If this were just a matter of vacation-planning, it wouldn't be such an issue. I'd just say, "Here's the deal, come or don't." But vacation plans are only a part of the issue. It happens with everything -- last night we got in a ridiculously long argument because I suggested having the neighbors over for a cookout, and he freaked out about having people to the house without having planned for contingencies A -- Z, each contingency being more and more ridiculous. I do think he might have some sort of anxiety disorder, but refuses to see a therapist. Knowing that I can't make him, I'm trying to figure out how to live my life without getting sucked into his panics.

Oh my. It's time for you to talk to a therapist, I'm afraid. And the long arguments need to stop, because you are not going to reason your way through something that very likely originates in illness.

Carolyn, this really hit a chord for me -- I'm 32, and my husband is 33. We've been talking about having kids for some time now. And yet that hurdle -- of me going off birth control, of preparing for 9 months of pregnancy and childbirth and everything that comes after -- feels incredibly daunting. How do you know that you REALLY want kids, that you're ready to become a parent? At this point I'm finding the "you should only have kids if you want them" people almost as annoying as the "but you would be such good parents!" people.

Well, with any luck, I can chart some whole new territory of annoying with my answer here.

If I had to pick one quality that would serve as a reliable way to sort the pile of undecided people into a  do-have-kids pile and a don't-have-kids pile, it would be ... flexibility. As in, if you're comfortable with the idea of living the life you get vs. the one you've always had in mind, then you have the potential to find great joy in a life with children. If you feel you work better in a landscape of known quantities, then opt out--without apology, since you're also bound to run across the "Childless people are selfish" people as well and it's always good to be prepared. 

For the record, I said I wasn't the marrying type for years. Then I met my husband and became the marrying type. Sometimes you don't see yourself as the marrying type because you haven't met the person you want to marry. I had loved the boyfriends from before, but I realize now that our relationships were missing that X factor. I think some people aren't the marrying type genuinely, but some people are like me.

Straight out of "When Harry Met Sally ..." and so very true. Thanks.

I live in a duplex; we share one trash can with our neighbors and have separate recycling bins. The neighbors always take out the trash to the curb and usually also grab our recycling bin--their front door/parking area is convenient for this, whereas for us it means a special trip out the back door. Neighbors are childless, I have a toddler and a newborn and my husband is out of town for the summer (not sure they know this). Which is to say that I really, really appreciate them taking out the garbage and recycling. How can I thank them without making them feel obligated to keep doing it? We are moving out in a couple of months--should I wait until we leave, then thank them profusely for making my life easier and give them a nice bottle of wine or something?

What a happy problem to have. Do something nice for them now without specifying that it's a thank-you for the trash assist. A bottle of wine is fine, but baking something also works, since it's more casual--it's, "I was baking these for us and brought you a few," vs. "I was breaking into this case and brought you one." Then, when you move out, thank them specifically, with wine or bubbly if you want.

Thanks--we have talked about kids. Neither of us have a strong desire for kids, but we also both agree that we'd be extremely devoted if we became parents--and have a similar parenting approach. And family means a LOT to both of us (I think the divorce--it's not even finalized yet, actually--has really impacted the way he sees family)... it's an ongoing conversation, and I definitely want to give him time, but I don't want to do that and forgo what I want forever.

How old are you two? 

My niece and her BF have announced they are NEVER getting married because they are both opposed to it. She is happily pregnant, and they are talking about all the future children they are going to have. I am ridiculously annoyed with these two young idiots for rejecting the most basic protection that society offers them. I've talked to them about all the legal documents they need (powers of attorney, normal and medical, for each other and for the children, wills, joint ownership papers of all the property, etc). to have instead of the one single piece of paper (a marriage license). I've talked about real-life situations where not being married has presented financial hardship when one person dies -- no social security, no survivors benefits, families swooping in and stealing everything not nailed to the floor. I don't get it. I get not wanting the hoopla of a wedding. I get rejecting a church/religious wedding. But that one piece of paper can make such a difference in their lives. Does the "history" of marriage really outweigh the protection that it genuinely does offer? Oh, and his mom is throwing a big "We're not Getting Married" party for them; they've registered for gifts, but I am not going to give them a non-wedding gift. Am I just a hopelessly outdated curmudgeon?

Depends. Are they getting the documents they need? If they're being responsible, then you need to back off, but if they're willfully ignoring the issue of legal protections because it doesn't fit their narrative, then your annoyance is well-founded.

With the usual disclaimer that that and a nickel will probably not buy you even a minute of street parking.

Speaking of ... 25 mins to go. 

There was another question about this awhile back where Carolyn said (paraphrasing here) that some people are better-positioned to contribute to the world -- i.e. have more to offer -- by not having kids. I don't know if it affected anyone else the same way it affected me (I decided then and there that I was going to stop feeling bad about wanting to write books and not make babies), but it was so impactful that I feel it deserves repeating.

Thank you! Of course I just Googled for it quickly and couldn't find it--I can't even quote myself. Hopeless. Update: Here's the link

Late 20s.

I hate to make this about age, but the angsty marriage outlook was sounding very early to mid 20s to me. I.e., still  not sure who he is or what he wants. Not that it's bad when it takes a while, we all have our own timetables. It is bad, though, when we're still not sure of ourselves -and- we're not able to see that in ourselves, at least enough to articulate to a boyfriend or girlfriend, "I'm all over the place right now and I don't know what I want."

Which is all to say, late 20s is pushing it. I.e., does this person want you--want this, the committed life--or not? And if he genuinely doesn't know, is he strong enough to say that, knowing it might cost him his relationship with you?

I'm a fairly nosy person with lots of downtime..."Facebook stalking" for me is about the "oh, what is so-and-so up to now" and less "I MUST KNOW AND MAKE THEM LOVE ME AGAIN." Every few months is it weird to check in and just see what's going on? Is that bad emotional health when doing it/info revealed doesn't affect any area of my life?

Not when you put it that way, but when you check up on someone every few months for 10 years--that was the time span in the original Q, right?--that's a lot of caring about someone who's (way) out of your life.

Baked goods are always nice, as is asking them when you're on your way to the grocery store if you can pick up anything for them. Or if you're making a casserole, make a second one for their freezer.

I miss casseroles.

--60s-70s child

Hi Carolyn, I have gotten so much out of your columns over the years. Can you suggest a book that I might give to my boyfriend to help with his constant and overwhelming worrying? He won't see a therapist (at least not now) so I thought this might be a good intermediary step. He read the chapter in "The Gift of Fear" about worrying and got it on an intellectual level but it didn't really penetrate. I'd love to see him be freed from this constantly hanging over his head, and I *think* he'd like that too. Thank you so much. ~New Mexico

I'd rather hear his answer to this question: "You don't feel well. If a tooth were aching all the time, you'd see a dentist. If you felt nauseated all the time, you'd see a doctor. So now that you're worried all the time, why won't you seek treatment for that?"

Hi Carolyn, I'm 7 months pregnant, my retired mom and I go to lunch weekly (she picks me up from work) and I guess I never noticed until now, but she talks on the phone ALOT while driving me around, which makes me VERY nervous because I'm pregnant. These aren't quick Hello calls, but long, rambling communications. She's made wrong turns, ran yellow lights, and almost gotten into wrecks while yakking away. My REAL issue is she wants to be my primary childcare once the baby comes, and honestly I think she would be a fine Gma, but how can I keep her from risking my child's life behind the wheel? I'm sure if I try to mention it, she will claim she NEVER talks on the phone and drives...what then?

Yikes. You're in the car with her! Tell her that she needs to hang up or you're going to get out at the next red light. (Assuming she stops.) 

And, when the time comes, if you haven't seen any epiphany on the car-yakking thing, explain that she can't drive your child anywhere. It has to be that simple.

Is the ex the ONLY PERSON the OP is stalking on facebook? Because I still stalk my college ex on fb (even though we broke up 8 years ago and I'm getting married in two weeks), but I also stalk people from time to time I used to live with in the dorms, the ex boyfriends of some of my friends, old coworkers...etc. Sometimes you're just curious....and bored.

Good point, thx.

And a good exit point, I hope. Bye-bye and thanks again for stopping in. Have a great weekend and I'll type to you here next week. In the meantime, check out my Facebook page (link) for links and rants and whatever else, or follow me on Twitter for a daily feed of the column. 

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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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