Hi Carolyn, I just wanted to thank you for posting that resource for checking your alcohol intake today. I'm not the original writer, just a longtime reader. I didn't think I had a problem (just a social drinker) but went to the site on a lark because yes, I do have a history of alcoholism in my family and I have been wondering about my drinking habits lately. Yes, I'm in the high risk category and I'm glad to see it confirmed. It makes me feel a lot more empowered to cut down on it. So thanks. That's all.
You're welcome, and good for you for being so honest with yourself. You're now in for the next stage of the quiz, which is to find out how hard it is to cut back. Best of luck with it.
My husband is going on an annual four-day weekend trip with his male friends in a few weeks. We have a small baby, so this will leave me to all the baby duties without a break or a chance to do the restorative things I typically do on the weekends like go to the gym or sleep in one morning (we live far from family). I appreciate that husband is lucky to have a group of friends that still make the effort to see each other every year, but I can't help really resenting this trip. The resentment is affecting how I treat him. And for what it's worth, my girlfriends don't have the the time or resources to do a trip like this, so it's not a situation where I can take my own weekend later on. How do I cool down my resentment since I do think it's good for him to go on this trip and maintain these friendships?
A few good ways to cool resentment are to air the sources of it fully, and to find creative and constructive ways to address these sources.
For example, if you haven't told your husband the full truth about the way you're feeling, then you need to. Say you think it's good for him to go on this trip, but you're still struggling with how bad it is for you, and you'd like his help with that--not necessarily in the form of his canceling the trip, but at least in the form of helping you figure out, and then supporting, similar opportunities for a break.
If he can't or won't sympathize, then it's a good bet your restentment has sources deeper than this weekend.
I realize your baby is still "small," but your status as new parents far from family means you owe it to all of you--baby included--to establish and/or widen your circle of help. You and your husband shouldn't do this alone,or expect each other to.
So, can you recruit one or three of your friends to come spell you during this weekend, even just to take Baby out for a stroll while you shower or nap? Does any of them have children, and therefore a babysitter you can "borrow" this weekend (a strict no-poaching rule has to be explicit). Does your gym have child care or, if not, is there one that does so you can be a guest there for a day?
Hi Carolyn, We will soon inherit some money and want to help our adult children. We want them to use the money toward newer cars (or paying down student debt). They all need a car. We can't give enough to buy a new car, but hope to give between $10-$15K. We are afraid one of them might use the money for something we consider an unnecessary (and dangerous) luxury. Yet we feel that she will be insulted if we give conditionally. What do you suggest we do? Give it and say that we hope she will use it for a car or loans? (By the way, she is married. They are smart young adults, but I think sometimes they spend more than they should on vacations and extras.) Or should we hold it back and say, "When you are ready to buy a car, we want to help with this much money?" I'm leaning toward option 1, but am not sure. Thanks for any help! Mom and Dad
Option 1 is actually the one that rubs me the wrong way. Plus, it's the least pragmatic: You get the appearance of trying to control them without any actual control.
So I suggest you go all in or all out. Either give them the money with no strings, or keep it and say, "When you're ready to buy a car, let us know when you've picked one out and we'll make the down payment to the dealer/seller."
You parenthetically refer to Option 3, which sounds pretty good, too, and would help you avoid the messiness of the car thing. Make a big payment on their education debt.
Option 4, which might make the most sense, is not to give the money at all, and instead set it aside for them to use in case of emergency. None of you knows what's coming, though everyone can reasonably expect, at some point in life, to face a big financial challenge, be it job loss, serious illness, divorce, a car accident, a tree through the roof, a lawsuit, whatever. Wouldn't it be something if you had 10 to 15K parked and ready to go.
You don't have to be able to structure an identical trip to have your own weekend later on. Is there one friend you can go visit, or meet somewhere? A hobby-related conference? You could even do what I (try to) do annually - take a Mom Sabbatical. Book a long weekend for yourself somewhere you can rest, relax, do a few fun things, and get some quiet. You'll be amazed how much even two nights away could recharge your batteries. And do find a (few) babsitter(s). You need at least one name, and preferably three, you can call for reinforcement - both for weekends like this one and so that you and your husband can go out together. Please don't overlook this part. My husband and I did for a long time, and our marriage suffered greatly for it. Kids are amazing, but their constant needs have the inadvertent talent of sucking the marrow out of their parents' relationships. To that end, instead of resenting your husband's weekend away, applaud it and emulate it. When he gets back, go out for a really fun date.
Well said, thanks.
Hello, Carolyn: Every so often, my husband and father fight with each other about money. It's always little, stupid stuff like how to split restaurant checks. This is really embarrassing for me and upsetting for my mom, who just wants family unity at all costs. How do you suggest I/we approach the situation when the guys go at it? Our existing approach (wringing our hands and exchanging awkward looks) isn't getting the job done...
That's it? Neither of you has said anything to your spouses? No one has said at the table, "Ugh, would you two listen to yourselves? Mom and I are going out for a walk while you two make a scene."
When hand-wringing and glance-shooting is your go-to strategy and your mom "just wants family unity at all costs," that says there's a foundation of unhealthy communication underlying this problem. You've given me so little to work with that i can't offer much beyond that. If this is just one of many situations where you find yourself feeling embarrassed and wanting to fix things for the sake of appearances, though, then it might be time to treat this as a larger issue.
This is reaching, but: Getting caught in middles and finding it hard to speak up are two common symptoms of growing up in a family that has boundary problems, often stemming from an authoritarian model where their business is theirs, and your business is theirs, with "theirs" being one controlling parent, two controlling parents, a controlling sib, etc. Again--this is a reach given how little you provided, so please treat it as a launchpad for further thought vs. any kind of definitive statement.
Dear Carolyn, I've never had a very good relationship with my husband's (nearly) 20-year-old daughter, something I've spent years trying to change. She's soon to leave for her third year of college and has asked her parents for money to help her purchase a used car. Her mom is very much against it (she believes that, since she and my husband are already helping with tuition, it's up to Daughter to find a part-time job and save up for the car) and my husband is indifferent, but not thrilled at the idea of turning over thousands of dollars for an unnecessary gift. I have the money and have been thinking of giving it to Daughter, but I worry that this would read as (1) trying to buy her love or (2) going against her mom's stated wishes (another long-standing issue in our family dynamic). Daughter's birthday is around the corner and I can't tell you how many times I've vacillated on whether or not to slip a check into the card. What do you think about this? Would giving her the money be a huge mistake? (FWIW, she has legitimate reasons for wanting a car--it would help her get to and from school and would actually make it more possible for her to get the part-time job her mom so believes she should have.)
Would you be able to please all by making your "gift" a no-interest loan to your stepdaughter? That way she gets what she wants (car), Mom gets what she wants (a show of financial responsibility), Dad gets what he wants (keeps his money), you get what you want (show your stepdaughter that you really do have her back). You'd have to clear it with the other adults, of course. I also think the payments should be laughably low, so that a part-time job can cover it with room for her to have spending money.
And, I think you'd have to prepare yourself not to get paid. In your mind, treat it as a gift, so that if a payment doesn't come, you just ignore it. This is not worth doing if there's a chance it could come between you and your stepdaughter.
Hi from Bethesda! Carolyn - I have a group of about eight girl friends - I am closer with some more than others (and some are closer to each other than others in the group too) - and some aren't crazy about others, but mostly keep it to themselves. One of my close friends is planning a vacation and not inviting everyone - particularly the newest member of the group (who is an old friend that dropped off the planet when she had a boyfriend for 3 years, but now that they have broken up she wants to hang out all of the time) - who she is doesn't like very much. I am planning on going on the vacation, but feel guilty that she isn't being invited, particularly since if she finds out one of us have done anything, she whines about not being included. I personally don't want her to go because she would add a layer of stress to the vacation, but I am not sure how to handle the guilt I feel. I want everyone to get along, but they don't, and I am not the one in charge of the vacation. We are all in our late thirties, with our own busy lives, yet I feel like I am in junior high. Any advice for how to handle this?
My kids' ex-school has a good strategy for these things, because small classes made birthday parties challenging: Invite either the whole class, or less than half of it. The exclusions that hurt the most are the ones where, to use your case, 6 of the 8 are included. That's a sure recipe for both hurting two people badly and messing with the chemistry of a group.
Since you're pushing 40 and not in 1st grade, the group chemistry might be a casualty that all who are going on the vacation are willing to accept, and that's your prerogative--I merely advise against kidding yourselves that leaving 1 to 3 people out won't have consequences. Either accept them as a possibility, after putting yourself in the shoes of the people left out, or don't go.
Nothing bothers the adult child more than to hear "We'd *like* you to do X, but you go ahead and do what you want..." Either make a condition or don't. Don't play games.
My father (close to 90) has done this to me for years. I'll take him and my mother out ("my treat") and he grabs the check. It's a power play for him, and insisting only leads to really ugly scenes. Even setting up payment beforehand with the restaurant doesn't work, because they always bring the bill to the man at the table, not the woman with the high-paying job and the name that matches the credit card I previously gave them. FWIW, I never return to the restaurants that do this, and I talk to the managers the next day.
Makes sense and it's on point, thanks, but I do hope you're working on a different way to spend time with your parents, if that's possible.
Am I the only nut who thinks the OP deserves to be a little bit resentful? Assuming their baby was not adopted, she was pregnant for nine months, gave birth, perhaps breastfed/is breastfeeding, and it's her husband who gets to go on his annual trip for a break while they have a small baby? That really sucks----and I'm kind of angry on her behalf that her husband is going.
It's tempting, for sure. But the answer isn't to take away something of long standing that he values and that happens once a year; the answer is to figure out fair distribution of valuable things.
My mom is almost ninety years old. Another one of her good friends just passed away. I'm so worried about her; my stomach hurts. She is a strong, fiercely independent, New England-er, who rarely loses control of her emotions. How do I help her through this time?
Has she lost control of her emotions? I'm not sure I understand your question. Thanks.
You've run a number of columns on people having cold feet and the relationship failing. Common knowledge says the first variable automatically means the second variable occurs. But what about having cold feet and the marriage works out? I ask because my mother (and other ladies in her generation) scoff at cold feet. She told me that my dad had it, and she just "let him" freak out. He got his act together after a few days, and she married him. They've been together 50+ years. My aunts tell me that a couple of my uncles did the same, and these women just brushed it off! It all worked out for them too. During my bridesmaid days, I remember a friend or two completely freaking out -- the "What am I doing? Why am I marrying him? I don't want to do this. This is a bad idea!" sentiment. Those worked out too. I've seen accounts where people claim they had cold feet after the relationship collapses. But that's so easy to say in the afterthought! My friends don't remember saying that stuff, but I bet if they got divorced, they would. What do you say for those who have cold feet but end up happily married decades later?
I don't like the term "cold feet." It's vague and can mean something different to every person who feels it, which opens up someone with legitimate doubts to false assurances of, "Oh, everyone feels that, and then stays happily married for 95 years." Not only are the seeds of doubt highly individual, but so also is one's definition of "it all worked out." Does that mean they were genuinely happy, and it wasn't just a facade--or does that just mean they didn't divorce? Some pretty miserable unions manage to go the distance, and to my mind that's not something to celebrate or emulate.
When someone expresses doubt, I hope the people trusted with this information have the compassion and presence of mind to draw the bride or groom out a bit, and then listen. It also helps to pay attention to the context, since some people are prone to "completely freaking out," and others aren't. Even the vague stuff, like, "What amI doing!?" can be clear in its way.
I think all of the "cold feet" sufferers, even the ones who just are nervous about the significance of the commitment, should hear someone they love say that it's okay to face their doubts, whether the episode lasts an hour or two or preempts the wedding itself. The only wedding that has to happen is the one the couple enters freely and unburdened.
I'm not sure that answers the question, but that's my answer.
Dear Carolyn, About a year ago, a good friend and I both lost our grandfathers due to illness. My friend is having a very hard time coping with this death. Every event, large (a wedding) or small (routine trip to the grocery store) will reduce her to tears and a story about her grandfather. I am worried about her because this grieving process seems a bit extreme. I gently approached her about this last week on a walk in a park (someplace neutral that I am almost certain her grandfather never went) and asked her if she has felt her grief wane as time passes. She lashed out at me, claiming that I didn't understand grief, that I never loved my grandfather and that 'people are trying to get her to get over this too quickly.' I understand that, with grief, nothing is normal and people need to process things in their own time and pace. But on the other hand, her fixation on this seems like it might be damaging. She has not picked up any of my calls since our walk. I am worried about her. Do you have any suggestions for what I should do next? Was I totally out of line to bring this up at all?
No, I don't think bringing it up was out of line, but I think it's easy for concern about one's grief to be taken as a criticism of it. She's right that "people need to process things in their own time and pace," but you're right at after a year of grocery-store breakdowns, it's time for her to get some help with managing her feelings. Note, I didn't say change her feelings, or forget her feelings, or minimize them--but -manage- them. That is a legitimate, nonjudgmental goal for a friend to suggest in the face of her difficulty with this loss. You can reiterate that it's not about wanting her to "get over this" faster, or at all, since that is indeed personal, and it's also fair to say that the absence of someone you love is something you get accustomed to, not "over."
You don't give a location, but if you're in the D.C. area, the Wendt Center for Loss and Healing is well-regarded (link), and if you live elsewhere, a local hospice group will be able to recommend resources for grief support.
Since she's not taking your calls, try email. Assure her that you weren't trying to say she was doing something wrong, just that she might benefit from more formal support. If that doesnt' fly, then you need to back off ... unless she shows signs of dangerous depression, but we're probably getting ahead of ourselves there. (NAMI.org, just in case.)
I'm 30 and have been perpetually single my entire adult life until last weekend when the man I have been dating for the past several months and I decided to see each other exclusively. However, during our talk he did state that the thinks our relationship has a shelf life and that we probably won't last long-term. I have been extremely happy since we talked and really feel like this is the right situation for me right now. He is great and is the only person I want to date at this moment. I also feel like the relationship is low pressure we can have our own lives and I can stay a "me" and keep some aspects of my single lifestyle. My friends think I am selling myself short and I should look for someone who sees a future with me. Part of me thinks they are right, the other part of me wants to spend the next few months with someone who makes me happy rather than going on lots of mediocre dates. Having said that I am 30 and I would like to get married some day, is this relationship a waste of time?
This all depends on your temperament. Can you have fun while it lasts and then walk away, and do you have the history to prove it, or are you just telling yourself you can handle it when your history says the end will bring on two years of wisful what-ifs and self-flagellation?
It has to be about you, because for one person, the few months of happy could be a useful window into your own needs in future relationships, and for someone else it could be a painful obstacle to finding what you want.
If you don't have enough relationship history to read through for clues, then broaden the scope and look back for any signs of kidding yourself and/or knowing yourself pretty well.
FWIW, your friends are right and you know it. The issue is not whether you can do better, since you clearly can, but whether this detour is one you'll regret or be grateful you took.
Hi Carolyn, Your column from earlier this week about middle schoolers with lousy table manners at home really struck a chord with me, and all I wanted to ask is: will you please please please tell me that the version that happens at your house involves a near total inability/unwillingness to control burping? So that it's not just my kids?
Add the farting and the exalting of, and you've got it.
It's not just the car, it's the gas, upkeep and insurance. Stepdaughter needs to sit down and figure out how much she can earn at a part time job and how much the car is going to cost her. This will help her in the process of becoming an adult.
Right, yes, thanks.
Others have pointed out that it also can't be about buying affection, also correct. It has to be about providing the car to help s-d toward worthy goals, like getting to a job.
Hi, Carolyn. My mother died a few months ago. My children, who are in their 20's, adored her. They do not know that she was abusive to me and my sisters when we were growing up. I don't really want to disillusion them, but it is really hard to listen to them talk about how awesome grandma was. Is there anything neutral I can say? Thanks.
By neutral, you mean something you can say that would tell your truth but not upset them?
If that's accurate, then that sounds like a vestige of your abusive childhood: Instead of living honestly, you're living with keen attention to the potential cost of living honestly. That's a legacy no one deserves.
If you were my parent, I would want you to tell me the truth of Grandma as you knew her. I would want you to look me in the eye, say you held this back so that I could have my own relationship with her, and explain that you did this without fully appreciating how much it would hurt you to watch this plan succeed. I would also hope you'd be patient if I react emotionally, and trust me to come around to gratitude for knowing. I'd also want you to be ready if I tell you that Grandma also was abusive to me, but that I was too young or unaware to share this with anyone, or even understand it till now.
If you have grounds to believe your kids won't receive the news this way, then I suggest you postpone telling the truth until after you've established a rapport with a good, reputable family therapist. If there's any chance of fallout--if experience tells you that your kids don't handle gray areas well--then exploring your options with a trained guide is a reasonable exercise in self-care, the value of which you apparently learned the hard way.
OP here. She hasn't lost her emotions, which means I don't know how she is feeling. And, so I don't know what she needs. How do I read her mind? How do I support her through this time since I can't read her mind?
I don't know your mom, obviously, but I've known my share of hardass New Englanders who get impatient with those who refuse to accept that they're fine and aren't suppressing their "true" feelings. Some people really do handle their grief by squaring their shoulders and getting back to business.
Since it is possible, of course, that she is in crisis and is too stubborn to let you know, my advice is to hedge your bets and maintain a steady, non-intrusive presence in her life. Call at regular intervals, ask occasionally how she's feeling but don't harp on it, visit when you can, and treat things as normal unless and until there's a sign that "normal" has left the building.
If anything, I'm more concerned that you'rehaving physical symptoms from worrying about someone who is, quite possibly, just fine. Old, certainly, and amid the challenges of age, including the loss of her friends. But that doesn't automatically mean she needs special help or attention through this time. She needs to take reasonable precautions at home if she's living on her own, yes, and needs attention from loved ones that's respectful of her wishes, yes, but otherwise, it's possible you're projecting your emotional makeup on her and seeing this loss as you would if you were in her place. It might make sense for you to talk to someone about the extreme worry you're feeling. Loss is part of life, and your relationship with and acceptance of loss might be the one that needs attention.
One of the things I made clear to my daughter is that even though my mother was abusive towards me, it didn't mean she wasn't a terrific grandmother to her. I'd like to believe that my mother recognized her awful behavior and made my daughter's life better by being part of it. Telling the truth about your history doesn't have to change your children's perspective of their grandmother unless you are forcing the issue.
Love this, thank you.
It's also possible for a person to be a terrible parent, and then mature/reform and become a really great grandparent. I've seen it happen often enough. I guess I don't understand the point of bringing this up now, if you didn't want to raise the issue while she was alive. If you didn't think it was important enough to address it when it might have been useful information for your kids (because grandma might have been abusive to them, also), what's the point in doing it now? I can't see one.
I can. This will help them understand their parent, possibly for the first time ever. It's huge, and important, and not just about Grandma. It's also possible to think at one point of your life that something is better left unsaid, then decide at another point of your life that it's better to say it. Our relationship to the world and to each other is fluid, not fixed.
I had them. My girlfriend and I had been together for about a year, we'd been introduced to each others' families, loved one another and I wanted to spend my life with her. Proposing, on the other hand, was something else. That period up to the proposal was a tough one for me and I got a little squirrely. Our life together was great and I was nervous about changing that. I fortunately had a close friend who gave me some great advice (set a date for when you're going to propose and then don't worry about it). After that, I settled down. The challenging matter for anyone is distinguishing between natural nervousness about a big change and grave doubts about making a lifetime commitment. Know thyself is easy to say and difficult to do.
Also well said and apt. Nice work today, everyone.
Perhaps the LW should consult George Clooney's exes.
Maybe the LW -is- George Clooney's next ex.
I made it explicitly clear to my husband - in front of witnesses, including his family who are really happy that I am in his life, that he could back out any time he wanted to. Yes, even at the altar. Because he was less sure than I was at points and I didn't want him to marry me if he didn't want to be married to me. Dead stop, no matter when he came to that conclusion, I didn't want him to do it unless he wanted to. He didn't back out, and I'm not saying we'll never get divorced and we don't have our issues. But right now, we love each other, we enjoy each other and he's the person who is actually more committed to staying married than I am. Because it was his choice and he knew I would back him if chose otherwise. There's a lot of value in letting somebody who is freaking out make their own choices and accepting it as a facet of who they are and not anything personal.
I think this is a good thing to make clear even if one of you isn't "less sure." I've said for years that no one does anyone a favor by committing just because it feels like it's too late to turn back, but that's just the WAH WAH-WAH WAH of the grownups in a Peanuts cartoon. When your partner is the one who's saying it, it's a stepladder over the worst of the hurdles: starting the conversation.
As a hospital chaplain, I wanted to say that the woman worried about her fierce New Englander mom isn't alone-- adult children often have a harder time than anyone witnessing their parents go through hard emotions and dealing with grief. The stomachaches, too, make me think this might be more about the adult child being scared and overwhelmed than the mom being in trouble. OP: Do you have people you can talk to about what you're feeling (preferably outside the family)? Does your mom have people to lean on who aren't you (even if "leaning on" people is new to her)? It sounds like you might not be the best person to help your mom through-- and that's very normal, and it's OK.
Good stuff, thanks.
I say give the money, no strings attached, and accept that they will live their lives as they see fit. It's not really your place to judge how your kids spend their money, or whether they really need new cars for that matter. The kids may like their beater cars, or may be trying to get away from owning a car (popular option if they live in a city). Maybe they could use the money for a downpayment for a house, or pay down credit card debt, or save for a rainy day, or take the round-the-world trip they've been hoping for all of their lives. And, it's their money once you give it to them. You may think that they are too extravagant, but you don't (I hope) know how much they and their spouses make. (By the way, I'd like to know what the feared "extravagant (and dangerous) luxury" is. Cocaine? Cave diving?) It's nice to give them a financial boost, but it would also be nice to respect them as grown ups.
Much interest in the nature of the dangerous luxury. As the name of a rock band (pop?), though, I have dibs.
Since the OP mentions "student loans": I recommend Option 5: pay them down/off. Michelle Singletary would approve!
Such a good option, that it's now Option 3 and Option 5. It's starting to sound like a Monty Python list. (There is no Option 6!)
On a recent trip with the kids to visit my parents in New Jersey, the informed me that their days of coming down to visit us in the DC area are numbered. My parents are only in their early 60s but act as if they're in their 80s and are STILL resentful of the fact that I moved to DC area -- it's been over 15 years! I make it up there once or twice a year, but find the visits extremely stressful (probably why I left in the first place). Plus, we have two school-aged kids, dogs (not allowed to visit even though they bring theirs here), activities; while my parents are retired. What this says to me is that they are not that interested in maintaining a relationship with their grandchildren. Do I need to be the one to bear this burden? Can I just invite them down for holidays or random weekends and leave it at that? I think the once or twice a year to visit them is the best I can manage. If that.
Just hold your course. Keep trekking up there "once or twice a year," as long as that seems right. You might decide to increase or decrease the number someday, but right now you're not sure what to make of their decision, so don't change a thing until you are sure (if ever). Also keep inviting them down when it makes sense to, and let them say no.
FWIW, I've found that the northeast corridor, particularly NY, D.C. and Boston, are too much for some people, even those who tool around just fine on their own turf. Traffic, aggressive driving, road construction, plus the expense of all of it. While it's still a slap for youthful grandparents to blow off seeing grandkids, I think it's worth recognizing that Jersey to D.C. travel is taxing.
My boyfriend of two years hasn't told his family about me. The reason is that my religion/culture/race does not match theirs, and they are pretty dead-set on him marrying someone who is more like them. He's never told his parents about anyone he's dated due to this issue. He hasn't gone out of his way to hide his relationships, but they just don't want to know. Now that he and I are talking about marriage and moving in together, he's looking into getting some help (therapy) to be able to address this issue with them. Am I crazy to stay with him given this situation? I want to be with him and have always sympathized with him on this issue, which has caused him great grief. But sometimes I wonder if the fact that he hasn't been able to be honest with his parents about who he is (he is in his late 20s) should be a big fat warning sign to me.
Sounds as if you're contemplating surrender just as he's showing a willingness to face this very shortcoming. Why not see whether and how he follows through?
PLEASE pay my student loan debt, Dad!
(Oh--and wear a helmet.)
OP here. Grandma taught us to hide who we are. However, I thought your advice was very good. Thank you.
I'm sorry Grandma did that to you. I can only imagine what she was taught. Here's to surviving such legacies, and consigning them to history.