Carolyn Hax Live: Advice columnist tackles your problems (Thursday, February 14)

Feb 14, 2013

Note to readers: Since it's Valentine's Day and Carolyn loves you, she will be online to take your questions Thursday, Feb. 14 at Noon ET instead of Friday. She will resume her regular day next week. Thank you!

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 Thursday, February 14, at Noon ET, taking your questions and comments about her current advice column and any other questions you might have about the strange train we call life. Her answers may appear online or in an upcoming column.

E-mail Carolyn at

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

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Hello, everybody who knows this is happening today instead of tomorrow. Happy Valentine's Day.  I just did the most romantic thing I could think of, which was to empty the dishwasher.

Dear Carolyn, My sister has just been diagnosed with emphysema at age 43, after nearly 25 years of smoking/insisting those of us who tried to convince her to stop were overly worried. How do I get past this frustration and this monstrous urge to tell her I told her so? Obviously that's the last thing anyone wants to hear, least of all while dealing with a life-threatening illness, but...I told her so! For 25 years! Honestly, I want to scream at the unfairness of this.

I want to scream on your behalf, at the awfulness and the frustration, and at the anger, too, right? Since she took such lousy care of someone you love?

I'm not sure where unfairness comes in, though. This is 2 + 2 adding up to 4. Because of that, you don't need any I-told-you-sos; it's all been said for you. Channel your anger as harmlessly as you can on your own time, then bring your best to your sister. 

Hi, Carolyn. I just looked back at my calendar, and I'm EIGHT wedding gifts behind. It's not like I was unable to afford gifts at the time; I have no excuse other than always being bad at responsibilities and deadlines. 2 of the weddings are now more than a year in the past, and I don't know if it's "too late" to do anything, but I at least want to do something about the other 6. But what to do? Just send cash? Ask them awkwardly what they still don't have from their registries in my price range? (I doubt that, if I can even find links to old online registries, they still reflect what the couple wants and doesn't have.) Take the local ones out to dinner? I guess I have this problem even for future weddings, where no reasonable gift options seem meaningful (I'm bad at gifts in general), but it's even worse when they're in your past and weighing on you. Thanks for your help!

Take the local ones out to dinner, send a check and a nice card to the out-of-towners, laugh at yourself, and dedicate some thought right now to the idea of a go-to gift that means something to you, so you aren't right back to stalling again when the wedding season 2013 comes around. Cash really is okay, by the way--it's asking for it that leaves a grimy film. 

You also don't have to give a gift at all, but it seems as if you want to, so by all means do.


Hi, Hax chatters! I just want to take a moment to let you all know about a new feature we have for you: The Hax forum. This is a place where you can go and discuss all things Hax related whenever you'd like.  It is completely run by you - Hax fans!

Here are a few things you can do:

- Start a discussion thread with other readers about anything Hax related

- Ask advice from and give advice to other readers

- See the latest Hax Philes post (This is where the Hax Philes will be posted from now on)

- Discuss the most recent live chat or column

- Share resources, like your favorite self-help book or website

So when you get a chance, visit the forum and start posting. Remember: You run the show.

(And here's an Ask The Post piece about it)

What's your take on a guy I've been on 5+ dates with (so not super serious yet), who completely goes AWOL at the first mention of Valentine's Day? I asked if he wanted to go out to dinner tonight; three days later, he still has not responded to my message about V-Day but has texted about random other things. I guess he figures we aren't "there" yet, which is fine, but so irritating--it's not like I asked him to marry me.

I've got a strictly wait-and-see take on this. It could be nothing; it could be that his being spooked by a silly holiday will turn out to have been the first sign that even his issues have issues; and it could be something in between. Let the V-Day thing pass without comment and see what else he has to say for himself over time.

Hi Carolyn, I have quite a dilemma. I'm afraid I'm seriously crushing on my close friend's boyfriend, who happens to be close friends with my boyfriend. We all hang out a few times a week. My boyfriend and I have had quite a rough patch and so have they. I've noticed that I've started developing feelings for him and I think the feeling is mutual. We haven't said anything about it or crossed the line into inappropriate conversations, however, I feel like when we are in a group setting we just respond to each other more than anyone else. A few comments over the past few months during a conversation just between him and I plus some physical things (hugging goodbye, which we have always done in front of my boyfriend, but his arm lingers a little too long on my back). I know I sound like a high school girl, but it's gotten so bad that I've started dreaming about being with him. I have cheated before, on my first serious boyfriend when I was a teenager, and I don't want to do it again. What can I do to curb these feelings?

I can see why you want to curb your feelings out of respect for your close friend--but why are you still with your boyfriend? Rough patch + feelings for someone else - life commitment usually = sign that it's over. No? 

As for how to curb the feelings, distance is the only reliable way. It'll be hard when your precedent is to see them almost every other day, but do find a way bto pull back a bit. Dealing with your boyfriend is a perfectly good explanation, for now--you can tell your friend that you've got a lot to figure out w/ Boyfriend and you're going to lie low until you do. That process can include one-on-one time with your BF and also some  good stretches of time alone to sort out your feelings. 

Wait--I had business to mention but of course forgot to put it into my intro.

To make the Hax-Philes easier to find and discussion threads easier to start, I now have a Hax Forum page (link). It won't replace the column comments section, but instead allow a good spot for the off-topic conversations. 



When my husband and I were dating (we did not live together before marriage), we loved being around each other so much, what we DID was less important than the fact that we were together. I think I actually remember saying, "I don't mind if you watch SportsCenter!" Just so long as I'm with you." Now that we're about two years into our marriage, I am bored with just sitting around. I sit all day at work, and the last thing I want to do when I get home is plant my butt on the couch. Also I think it's really unhealthy. When I let him enjoy his screen-time while I do constructive things around the house, or go out on my own, he is hurt that "I don't want to spend time with him." Do I need to redefine "quality time" to match his understanding? Or is it reasonable to make that time valuable for the both of us?

What have you said re: "I sit all day at work, and the last thing I want to do when I get home is plant my butt on the couch." I.e., does he know that you're all for the together time, just not all the TV? 

You'll need to give a little on his understanding of quality time, and leave him ungrudgingly to some of his couch nights. Ideally, though, he also will give a little--both by making an effort to get off the couch some nights, and by leaving you on others to your "constructive things" without guilt-tripping you for not spending time with him.

If you can think of it roughly in thirds, his way/your way/separate ways, then you might both be able to find more satisfaction in your marriage without changing a whole lot. It all starts, though, with communicating and not judging.




... and acknowledging that your "I love SportsCenter as long as I'm with you!" declaration was a bait-and-switch--a crime of passion, though, not premeditation. 

Dear Carolyn, My sister-in-law, 6 months pregnant with her third child, has gained barely any weight and is rail-thin. She only recently moved near us, so I don't know whether she gained more weight during her first two pregnancies. From what I can tell, the way she manages her diet is incredibly strict, and while I'm not a healthcare professional I am not convinced she's getting enough nutrition. However, her kids are healthy, so I wonder whether I should keep my concerns to myself and cede to her experience - believe me, the last thing our relationship needs is for me to be seen as "judging" her.

Then don't. There are other people in a better position to get involved in her food choices. (Doctor, spouse, her immediate family and close friends come to mind. She does have prenatal care, yes?)

Just to get it off my chest: here's my thing about Valentine's Day. Most coupled people went to bed on February 13th, and many nights preceeding it, warm in a bed with someone they love, who they can share their thoughts, hopes and fears with and who's with them through thick and thin. I did not. I do not, and rarely have. I know how precious a gift that is and I miss it and I'm increasingly frightened, on a daily basis, that I'll never have that luxury. Then you wake up one day and all these jerks who take for granted what I consider a precious gift up and collectively, publically and superficially, celebrate that they've got something others don't, that thay don't actually really fully appreciate the other 364 days out of the year. Then at best you're considered a scrooge for not playing along, but mostly a considered a pathetic, jealous loser. Insult, meet injury.

Fair enough--I see your point. 

I also think it's just one angle. People who are warm in a bed with someone they don't love are legion--and often see independence or solitude as a precious gift. I also suspect, but can't support, that a lot of the people you describe--the ones who are "warm in a bed with someone they love, who they can share their thoughts, hopes and fears with and who's with them through thick and thin" -are- in fact counting their blessings every day, and aren't bunched up about roses on Feb. 14. 

My point--and I do have one that isn't about stomping someone who feels stomped upon--is that the happiest people don't come in any one household configuration. They're just the ones who've figured out a way to "want what they have." 

I'm a junior in college and I'm taking a public speaking class. We had our first speech on Tuesday and I performed my speech to the entire class. During my speech, a girl sitting right in front of me, had her phone out and was texting and doing whatever on her phone for almost the entire speech. I really wanted to say something about it like, "I really don't like that fact that you have your phone out, please put it away," to her in front of the entire class, but I didn't. Would that be appropriate for me to do the next time I speak and she does this, or should I simply inform my instructor and let him handle it? It just really bothered me that our instructor taught us how to listen to public speeches and this girl is just texting right in front me while I'm speaking.

It's a great question to bring up in class, no? [Raise hand] "How do you suggest dealing with people who sit right in front of you and spend your whole speech texting?"


Hi Carolyn- I cheated on my boyfriend. I was going through a hard time with my boyfriend, and felt lonely, so I did the unthinkable and had a one night stand with my ex. I truly love my boyfriend and want to spend the rest of my life with him. I feel guilty and wanted to know your thoughts on either coming clean or never telling him-- as it was a one time thing.

Tell or not tell is one of the great polarizing questions. Some people think that telling is absolutely the right thing to do, and some people think not telling is the absolutely right thing to do. Meanwhile, you're the one who has to make the decision, yet it is the other person's preference that is the relevant one.

So good luck with that.

I'm curious, though. It might just be that you condensed things to make your question chat-friendly, but it comes across as if you jumped from hard time/lonely to bed to "I truly love my boyfriend and want to spend the rest of my life with him." Was there some real reflection in there about why things went wrong with your BF and why you feel/felt lonely with him? Why you sought the type of comfort you did, from the person you did? Why you're so sure now that your BF is right for you? That stuff has the power to render the tell-or-not question moot.

If you're sure-sure that you know your mind well on this, then the tell-or-not question comes down to this: What can you live with, and which camp do you think he's in--absolutely tell or absolutely don't?

My boyfriend's mother has started introducing me to her friends as her "daughter-in-law." There's a long history of her discomfort with the fact that her son and I aren't married (yet/ever?), and I'm not sure how to address this new wrinkle--should I just leave it alone, since it's relatively harmless and probably makes her feel better in her social circle, or speak up and correct the inaccurate label?

What has your boyfriend thought/done about it? This is his move before it's yours. (And I hope he greets it with, "Mom, please cut the crap. Thank you.") If she's doing it when he's not around to hear it, then I suggest speaking up to her afterward, in private. "I have no problem with that title, except it's not true--and it leaves me with  two awkward choices: to correct you or to deceive others. I hope you'll understand that I'd rather not do either one."

If the first part isn't true, then just start with, "Calling me that leaves me with two awkward choices ..."

Obviously I disagree with the "relatively harmless." What she's doing is manipulative and wrong--bullying, really, under a veil of propriety, family and apple pie.


My new gf was emotionally abused by her husband. Her husband took his own life over a year ago. One thing that he did was pick fights: he'd do something she hated, over and over, until she got mad, then a terrible row would ensue. She learned to deal with this by not reacting, which made HIM mad, but seemed to work better for her. Now, it seems she's "turned off" the reaction mechanism. If I do something that would bother most people, either inadvertently or in fun, there's no reaction. I wonder if this is a red flag, whether it's a sign of other problems or whether this is GF 2.0 and her way of growing.

Why would you "do something that would bother most people ... in fun"? I get the inavertently, but the other sounds as if you're baiting her to see whether and how she'll react. Wanting to know is understandable, but actively trying to provoke her is not cool, if that's what you're doing. 

To the larger question, the only thing that feels right is to say that if your GF hasn't gotten therapy in the aftermath of abuse and suicide, then I fervently hope she does. That is a lot of messed up stuff for one person to process.

It's not, however, a gimme that her not reacting is a bad thing. I (and plenty of others) devote a lot of electrons to the cause of acting vs. reacting, because I believe a whole lot of relationships would be more rewarding, and trusting, if the people in them didn't act on their first emotional response to every little thing.

What you're really looking for here is whether she has learned to be calm or has defensively gone numb. That's usually pretty easy to spot in how giving a person is; it's difficult to shut off just one type of emotion, and so if she's just calm, then I'd expect her to be very loving and calm. If she's numb, then I'd expect her "turned-off" ways to extend past anger and into the positive emotions, too--affection, joy, enthusiasm, etc.

I sympathize with V-Day Blues and suspect what he/she said resonated with a lot of others. And I definitely feel blessed to be sharing my life with someone wonderful. But, before I met my husband, and even now, I came to think of Valentine's day as a chance, collectively, to remember how much we love others -- our parents, children, siblings, friends, whomever it might be. And, even now, I don't think even a big box of candy from my sweetheart beats that excitement of receiving valentines in my shoebox in elementary school ... and those days well preceded any romantic associations with v day.

Love this mightily, thanks. Though I just realized that the dudes and I forgot their valentines--and they're in the last of the shoebox days. Damn. 

It could also be a great passive-aggressive speech to give. Give a speech about the trending lack of respect as our world becomes more mobile.

Perfect--and interrupt it midway to check messages. 

So when OP would rather go out alone than sit on the couch with her husband, she "doesn't want to spend time with him." But the husband would apparently rather sit on the couch than go out with the OP -- doesn't he want to spend time with her?

It's a great habit to get into--to turn manipulation around on someone, to make the point that it's not productive to guilt-trip people. Thanks.

This works for anyone and any budget. Choose a container (gift bag to nice basket), buy a gift certificate for Netflix ($7+), fill the container with snacks (popcorn, candy, wine), and add anything else for fun (wine glasses, snuggly blanket, gift certificate for pizza delivery). Who doesn't like a cozy night at home watching a movie??

Mrs. SportsCenter?

I just wanted to say I sympathize. My mother smoked for 46 years and it was a source of major contention for us. She constantly argued it wasn't going to kill her or harm me (secondhand smoke). Then she died of lung cancer when I was pregnant with my first child. I know I still have some anger and bitterness because sometimes I dream I am yelling at her for smoking and dying so young (59). But one thing she did say to me is she knew it was important to acknowledge that I had been right about the smoking and so she would say it once and then didn't want to talk about it again. It took a lot for her to say it. Your sister might say it too, if you give her the space and don't initiate the conversation.

Nice thought, thanks, and I'm sorry about your mom.

Interesting range of answers on the ignored Valentine's Day text. I'll post a few without comment. 

And you've been on 5 dates. Maybe he's telling his friends: hey, you won't believe this but this girl I only just met wants to go all out for Vday!!! I mean - I'm sure you were just low key and he just took it to mean something else, but just let it slide, you don't know what he's dealing with - but if the 5 dates went well so far - don't spend too much time worrying about it at all...just keep going. if there's an issue - you'll find out about it, and if it's just a misunderstanding - a few more dates/or whatever, will bear that out.

If she was inviting him out to dinner and expected to pay, she deserves an answer. If she was just suggesting an activity for Valentine's Day, she deserves a response of some kind, even if it's him saying it's too soon and that would make him uncomfortable. Maybe he's a bad communicator, but this is something she needs to know earlier rather than later.

I've found that if you don't set yourself up for any expectation on emotionally charged days or holidays, you are very rarely disappointed. (I'm not an Eyore type person, I am a very positive person.) I have been pleasantly surprised on many occasions. I think she got her answer already about Valentine's day. It's been 5 dates (!) so I'm not sure they are in "Valentine" territory yet.

Maybe he's seeing other people. Have you had an exclusivity talk? It sounds like a new enough thing that it doesn't make sense to assume.

Far be it from me to suggest giving this holiday more weight than it deserves, but what's wrong with a direct question? He's been texting you about other stuff. Why not a direct (call or conversation, I think, but it's up to you): What's the deal with ignoring my suggestion for dinner on V-day? Better yet, what about, "So you don't seem to be interested in going out on Valentine's Day. Want to grab dinner on Friday?" Ignoring the text is, to me, a subject for separate conversation-- not a mature way to handle conflict.

It was rude of him not to respond, but he might just be aware that V-Day is the most hellish day in the calendar to go out to dinner. Restaurants are packed, backed up, and very rarely get it right, whether it's because of the extra load, or they let all the experienced staff take the evening off, or what, but it's the reason we haven't been out for a V-day dinner for 20-some years.

So, it's an (un) important thing that must (not) be addressed. We good?

Just so you know, I was thrilled to get a check from an aunt almost two years after my wedding. We went out to a very nice dinner that weekend. But, I always like getting late gifts, they're more of a surprise.

I'm thrilled to get checks, too (an unusual amount of consensus today).

Hi Carolyn - love your chats! I often feel like you are the big sister I never had. Anyway, my question is half Valentine's and half work-related. I am a relatively new (2nd year) faculty member at a mid-west university. I'm not from this part of the country, so I often don't quite know the social conventions around here. Anyway, I just got a delivery (sent to the department's main office) of roses from my husband. He's a super-sweet guy, and loves to get me flowers (although this is the first time he's ever sent them to work). When I went to the office to pick them up, the secretaries and other faculty members were ooh-ing and ahh-ing over them. One secretary mentioned that I was the only faculty member ever to get flowers delivered (it has happened one other time, and the flowers were from my mom). She then corrected herself and said, "Well, actually, so-and-so also gets flowers, but she always leaves them in the main office for everyone to enjoy. [Awkward pause] It must be so nice to get flowers." So, the question is, do I take my flowers back to the main office and leave them there? Or do I keep them in my office, which I do not share with anyone, and feel like the Valentine's Day grinch? Honestly, if they are in the main office, I will almost never see them - I go in there, at most, three times a day (for a total of 5 minutes). But others would get to enjoy them, instead of just me. Do I have, as the secretary implied, a work-place responsibility to share my "good fortune"? I know this is a very trivial question, but Valentine's Day is such a loaded issue that I feel I need some help navigating. Many thanks! And Happy Valentine's Day!

Keep your flowers, cheez. But, on the first day that feels like spring, buy a bouquet for the main office. Deal? Repeat as the spirit moves you. 

I've been out with a guy a few times. We seemed to have really awesome chemistry (I know, I know. Everyone always thinks that), but he cancelled our last two dates, citing what seemed to be very legit reasons. He also said he wouldn't be able to get together for the rest of January because he was behind on work, but that he was looking forward to seeing me in February. Now it's Febrand I have heard nothing. So my dilemma: do I text and ask what's up and risk seeming too eager? Or do I let it go and assume he is not that into me?

I can argue both sides with conviction here. 

In favor of getting in touch: Who cares if he thinks you're too eager? You just want to know what's up, and if he thinks that makes him Don Draper, then that's his problem.

In favor of not getting touch: You already know what's up. At least, as much as you need to know. 

Hey, I should make this into a poll. Haley, can I do that?


I'm on it!

Happy Valentines Day to you. My partner is a serious hoarder. I have tried my best to help him, but after researching treatments, etc, he never followed through. A parent of his is a hoarder and very miserly, common for most hoarders. It's been getting worse and I don't know what to do. I love him and want to help him but don't seem able to get anywhere, as he doesn't think he has a problem. What should/can I do? Thanks.

You've researched treatments, so that tells me you've located some reliable resources. Presumably you've also seen the sections dedicated to the loved ones of hoarders? And the pathways to finding mental-health specialists who treat OCD and hoarding? 

These are where you need to turn your attention--do a little more homework on what progress has (and hasn't) been made for people who have a hoarder in their lives, and find a good therapist to give you personalized attention as you figure out your best course of action. 

Hax! Help! I'm a single guy who has met two great girls recently. The first lives in LA- I live in Chicago. We met on a brief trip I took there and hung out again when I was back in town a month later to visit friends. We really hit it off; since then we text daily, Skype a bit, chat otp sometimes. She's coming to visit this weekend. BUT... a gf of mine has been trying to set me up with a friend of hers (that lives in Chicago) for a few weeks. Finally met up with her Friday in a group setting; seems like an awesome person and there's definitely chemistry. Met for drinks last night; went great! Neither of us had plans for tonight so I figured why not ask? We have plans tonight to play trampoline dodgeball and grab dinner afterwards. I'm not one to sleep around and I do not want to treat anyone poorly. Haven't been intimate with either but there's been some making out (wow, do I feel silly typing "making out"). My gut says just be honest & open (tactfully, not obnoxiously) and let each of them decide how they'd like to approach it. I guess I just feel crappy hanging out with one when the other is flying in the next day. Thoughts/suggestions greatly appreciated!

Now I want to know, how is your gut planning to phrase it?

On the one hand, I think it's reasonable  for anyone who is this early in a relationship to assume the other person is also seeing other people.

On the other hand, someone you're in touch with every day who is flying out to see you deserves to have this spelled out. As does someone who will probably expect to see you this weekend when you're in fact hosting a woman you communicate with daily and who flew out to see you.  

You have no reason to feel crappy, except perhaps for your embarrassment of riches. An "awkward disclosure--I do see other people and assume you do, too" should cover the issue of fairness.

(Still want to know what you were planning to say, and other scripts from the audience welcome.)

Is it manipulative to use a formal term for an informal relationship? I used to refer to my (now, really, truley) step-mother as such when she and my dad were co-habitating. It was mostly for simplicity's sake but also to introduce her in relation to me, and there was no other good term for it. Dad could call her any number of things, but all I had was "Dad's live-in girlfriend," which felt impersonal, or "step-mom."

Checking with the person you describe this way is such an easy way to get around any problems. If you're close enough to formalize what is informal, then you're close enough to talk openly about this. (In your case, a child could easily be too young to feel comfortable--but that doesn't aply here.)

Remember, too, "There's a long history of her discomfort." That points to interpreting this not as a sweet gesture of acceptance. 

I work weekly with kids in a creative writing group. Last night the activity was poetry and I brought a few supplies to let them put their poem on a valentine if they wanted to give it to someone. One of my kiddos raided the supplies ("nine girls and five boys!!") he said and was racing to make valentines for every kid in his class. My first instinct was to insist on one valentine per person and try to redirect him to the writing activity. Two years ago that's probably what I would have done. But shoebox days are too short, and it was the night before valentines day, and it makes my heart warm that he remembered every kid in his class and hand made (if super hastily) a card for each of them. That's what it's about. I'm glad he reminded me!

Aw. This got to me a little. Thanks.

Well, yes, discussing how to handle a rude texter could be a good learning opportunity. But isn't bringing it up in front of the whole class that way a little passive-aggressive?

If the texter were a friend, maybe, but in this case it's a legitimate, on-topic academic query. It wouldn't just be an oh-snap for this one incident; it would actually make the class better. 

And if the texter were a friend, I'd say to have the WT[H] conversation directly, and include a warning that you're bringing it up in class (no names mentioned)--not to be snippy about it but to get an answer to a legitimate question this situation raised.

Having been in a relationship that was terribly emotionally abusive, and learning that non-reaction was the only tolerable choice when being baited, one becomes very careful about acting on one's first emotional response. I know I still overreact internally to things, especially early on in a relationship when there is little to base a partner's behavior on except past (terrible) partners. I don't think that makes someone emotionally numb, just cautious, and I wouldn't be surprised if new GF was seriously debating whether she wants to be with someone who tries to mess with that caution "for fun." So tread lightly. Be nice.

Be nice--easy thing to forget. I imagine the rest will be very useful to the OP, thanks. 

Ooh! Can we have these as a regular chat thing? Haley, hope it's not a hassle!


Not a hassle at all! In fact, you can create them yourself in the Hax forum. Just go to the subject area you're posting about (columns, chats, etc) and click "new poll" at the top.

Hi Carolyn, I moved cross country almost a year ago to be part of my kids' lives (divorced and ex, who will be working abroad next year, has custody). Before I moved out, I had been with a guy for nearly 3 years (living together for 2), but we kept things pretty casual: no labels, no discussion of the future. I'm sure a lot of this was due to my own issues with my divorce and being away from my kids. When I moved, it seemed like a natural separation point. But I still kept in touch and saw him occasionally (all instigated be me). I figured he might start seeing others, but didn't ask . On my last visit, I saw he'd taken some pictures of another woman (part of a collection of photos in a slide show). Again, I didn't ask and he didn't talk about it. Even if whatever he's done with this other woman is completely friends-only, it made me realize that I still want to be with him. I'm at a loss whether (or how!) to say anything because I'm committed to staying out here until summer 2014 at least and I've already been here for so long without having brought it up earlier. I'd *like* to say something, but worry that I'm selfishy hoping for a declaration of love and afraid that I won't get it. Any thoughts would be appreciated.

Having hopes doesn't seem like a reason to stick your head in the sand. You want a declaration of love, yes, but aren't there other things you can achieve by saying you miss him? First, you're telling someone you love that you love him. That's an end unto itself. And, you'd be apologizing, in a way (a clear way, I suggest): "I'm sorry I never really talked with you about my leaving; I just assumed, and then left." (That's accurate, right?)

And, you're making it clear where you stand, which confers benefits to you in the form of pre-empting future what-ifs. And, you're giving him a chance to re-commit to you, if that's what he wants, be it now or in 18 months.

I write all this with one big caveat: You need to do some hard soul searching first, to make sure your interest in him isn't about the whiff of competition. It's not fair to take someone for granted unless and until you feel your ability to do that is in peril. This has to be about him--not her, and not you.

So, um...tell me again why folks post on FB crap like, "Happy Valentine's day to my darling wife, Poopsie. You and our precious baby mean the world to me....blah blah blah." Um, they live together and no one is traveling. Why the need? Don't you say this when you are together? It strikes me as cheesy and dorky and like they need to prove something. I need to prove to our friends that I care and we have a loving relationship. On FB. Ew.

Some people like to shout from the treetops, some don't. Some people shout to compensate for something, some just wear their hearts on their FB pages.

Might as well use this as an excuse to indulge in a favorite human pastime: loving the behavior of people we love, and getting annoyed by the behavior or people who annoy us, even when the behavior is one and the same. 

Dear Carolyn, Love your chats more than I love chocolate! I'm a festive person in a 3-year relationship with a guy who hates Valentine's Day. He resents its artifice, the fact that it confronts him with the expectation of spending money, and the fact that he's set up to fail if he doesn't shock and amaze a woman. I could not feel more the opposite. I love festive holidays, I love that this one comes at the right time to brighten up the dead of winter, and I consider it almost a "freebie"--i.e., with any participatory effort whatsoever, he could melt my heart. I have offered to plan it entirely, this year and last, and his response both times was that he felt like I would still be expecting him to somehow surprise me at the last minute. I guess this is partly a communication problem, in that I can't seem to convince him I really mean it when I say I just want to celebrate the day with him and don't care whether I'm wowed or surprised by anything. Am I being really shallow? I can't help it--I do love the hearts and the candy and the flowers, and I hate feeling like a single person on V-Day when I'm in an otherwise very happy relationship.

If he's good about other occasions, it sounds as if the best thing you can do is drop it--write it off as one of those weird things about a person that's just not worth the energy.

If instead he has an anti-festive streak--or worse, a purist streak, where he approaches all occasions with suspicion that it's all a setup for him to fail--then please consider you're with the wrong guy.

I know that sounds draconian, but I do think this is an opportunity to think more broadly about his capacity to share your joy, or just be a good sport about it.

Think fast--entries due by Feb. 17, 2103.

How can I help a friend who can't seem to move on and is so angry and bitter around valentine's day? The one and only boyfriend she ever felt comfortable enough to bring home during college broke up w/ her just before this holiday and ever since this time of year she posts angry things on Facebook and it's been over 15 years now. Sure she doesn't really have much of a chance to meet anyone in real life - she teaches elementary school and the only adults she meets are fellow teachers (mostly married) and student's parents (also usually in a relationship). She's tried joining groups/clubs and all the other things people suggest to meet others but nothing ever happens. I'm tired of all the bitterness she seems to think I share.

Could be the 3 o'clock empty-tank syndrome, but the only answer I have for this is Red's line in "The Shawshank Redemption": "Get busy living, or get busy dying."

Not sure that will resonate with someone who has apparently built her life into a tomb for this one youthful insult--assuming you've represented things fairly--but I sure hope it does.

Carolyn, I'm on Day 4 of the silent treatment from my husband of 20 years. While this doesn't happen often and is usually short-lived (a day or less), over those years he has kept this up for days and even weeks on a few occasions, and I'm seeing signs that this will be another long-haul. I am exhausted with the walking on eggshells routine and he won't even acknowledge that I've spoken to him, so discussion seems out of the question. Complicating things is our 14-year-old daughter who is certainly old enough to see what's going on when it goes on this long. She is rapidly losing respect for him, and for me, too, for putting up with him. While counseling is probably the answer once he's speaking to me again, how the heck do I get him to that point? I'm ignoring the elephant in the room right now and trying to give him space to deal with his anger and disappointment, which is aimed at both me and daughter this time. Any other potential avenues you can recommend?

You are running out of chances to show this 14-year-old how important it is to advocate for yourself, and to seek help when something is beyond your ability to solve. Counseling with someone skilled and reputable is the answer now, for you, to guide you through both this current silent stage and the stages that follow. 

A. Don't have sex with the woman tonight. B. Honestly, I wouldn't say anything to the woman tonight; she's not making any big commitment, she's just hanging out with you. I'd see how the weekend with the other woman goes; it could be that attraction to the local lady is cold feet about the LA lady, or it could be something deeper than that. C. Don't have sex with the LA lady until you have a sense of whether you'll be flying out to LA two weeks from now.

Remember "The Far Side" about what a dog actually hears? "Blah blah blah Ginger blah blah blah"? 

I think this guy's going to see this answer as "Blah blah blah Don't have sex blah blah blah."

I do agree with you though--it's the right approach on all counts. 

I don't have a script for the OP, but I would suggest talking to the LA lady *before* she flies in. Also, I really want to play trampoline dodgeball now.

Not sure about but still can't argue with the former, dead certain on the latter. 

So surprise HIM with hearts and flowers and candy if that's what you want to do. Tell him you (and you better mean it) that you really don't expect anything from him, but you love the holiday and you want to celebrate it, so you're giving to him. You get one shot at this - if it makes him cranky and uncomfortable, don't do it again next year because that would just be rubbing dirt in the wound. But this year - you have a shot at proving to him that you mean what you say. You don't need it from him, he isn't being set up to fail, you just want to express your happiness and love with the holiday.

Yep, thanks.

re: Husband's response when I invite him out to "do" stuff with me. He often sites tiredness as a reason to abstain. And it's hard not to be judgmental of this excuse because he is an artist who is able to keep his own hours- which are not as long as mine. And I'm supporting us. And maybe this is more about me not liking what I see as his laziness?

That's part of it, but part of it is his unwillingness even to try things your way while showing full willingness to give you crap about not doing everything his way.

The fact that you're supporting him and he has shorter hours, and that you bring up these things, suggests you're madly peeved at him and he's going the passive aggressive route for showing his resentment of you. Chicken, egg.

I.e., this needs to be a much longer conversation than "I'm through loving SportsCenter." Possibly with that skilled, reputable therapist as a special guest star.  

Because that's what Facebook is for? Proclaimations. "Look at this baby I made!" "Happy Birthday to you!" "RIP Grandpa Joe!" "Happy Valentine's Day, Poopsie!" Etc, etc. If you don't like it, get off Facebook.

Or, go to my FB page, where we dissect these things (link). 

Okay, I'm like so done. Bye everyone, thanks for stopping by today, may your shoeboxes overflow with love of all kinds, and I'll type to you here next week. 

And take the inaugural poll (link), which sounds like something presidentially painful.

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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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