Mr. ChopChop and Ms. Waffle: Carolyn Hax Live (Friday, October 11)

Oct 11, 2013

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, October 11, 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 forum, home of the Hax-Philes and Hax fans. Comments submitted to the chat may be used in the discussion group.

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Hey everybody, happy Friday.

I feel like we need some comic relief this week. Can we all just agree that if the girlfriend from today's column marries this guy, she will want a purebred dog from a breeder, and he will end up letting the grandkids call her by her first name?

And she won't like it one bit.

I realize you were responding to the letter writer, not his girlfriend, but it felt like she got a pass on crazy. Two year anniversary of ...what? Their first date? And she spends a couple hundred on a gift? It's not just the couple hundred that struck me, it's that she thought he should have been "putting money aside" toward that two anniversary of dating gift for her. I agree with you that gas station flowers don't convey thought, but thinking about the two year anniversary gift at every paycheck so you can put something aside is a little much on the other end of the continuum. Yes, he's spending a little too much time rationalizing not having a gift for her, but her reaction makes me suspicious that even a sweet and thoughtful gesture of a gift wasn't going to cut it. There just isn't enough agreed-upon tradition over something as arbitrary as a second anniversary of dating (DATING) to warrant her anger over his not acknowledging it.

Maybe I did miss a chance for an eye-roll at the dating anniversary--though, in my defense, I did cover materialism and manufactured celebrations. 

Ultimately, though, whether they can figure each other out and make each other happy--or whether they even want to--is still what really matters. 

I'm the original LW from Thursday's column. I thought I'd clarify. To hash out all the things my ex did would take too long so I'll summarize. He was very conflict avoidant. When we had problems, he would always say whatever it took to avoid an argument (including apologizing profusely) and then just do whatever he wanted, including the offending transgressions. For example, we agreed (or so I thought) that we would find a new place together. Then he renewed his lease without telling me. When I found out and got upset, the cycle would just repeat itself. The lying got to the point where he couldn't keep track. Then he would tell me to leave for a few days and then beg me to come back only after one day because he didn't like being alone. He said a zillion apologies. By the end, "I'm sorry" meant nothing to me.  When we split, I cut off all contact. Since he had a tendency to go back and forth, I didn't want any chance of getting sucked back in. I heard from friends that he was loudly regretful and remorseful -- even moreso after I got married last year. So any apology from him wouldn't mean anything because I don't want to go through the awful mental exercise of trying to figure out if he's serious this time. And that's his fault. (And if he really wanted to make it up, he'd pay back the thousands of dollars he still owes me -- something he promised he'd do and never did.) There are just some things an apology can't soothe. That said, I don't understand why we have to forgive everyone all the time. I don't hate him; I don't forgive him; I just don't care anymore. Can this not be a fair option?

Sure. It's your injury, you do with it what you want.

We also don't "have" to forgive "everyone" "all the time." For one thing, forgiveness is not a fixed commodity. It means different things to different people.

And, there's no panel enforcing your forgiveness activities, so you can hold a grudge if you want,* or skip the forgive and go straight to forget, your call.

That you've got a chip on your shoulder about forgiveness suggests you haven't forgotten it as much as you profess, though. (Either that or you have friends in your face pushing you to talk to him. If it's the latter, please feel free to tell them to stuff it already.)

If it's the former, then we get into the reason forgiveness is so heavily promoted: It releases -you- of the weight of the wrongdoing. It also doesn't require you to love the person, or interact with him, or declare that what he did was okay. All you need is to interrupt the flow of bad feeling: "It felt to me as if he went out of his way to cause me harm, but really he's just in bad emotional shape and has no idea how to take care of himself, much less me."

Again--that might do nothing for you, because forgiveness is personal. But releasing someone, however you'd like to, is generally a useful optional exercise.

If he does apologize to you, though, you do get to say, "I'll believe you mean it when you pay back the thousands you still owe me." You've got him there.

*Your friends will thank you, though, if you keep your grudges to yourself. 


My extended family is coming for a long weekend. The party includes my dad, my mom, my sister, and sister's boyfriend. I haven't seen them in a while (we live 7 hours apart) and I'm looking forward to seeing them all. They will be staying in our house. The problem is my dad He is picky eater in ways I don't really understand. Last time he was here, he complained about the farmers market eggs that I bought "the yolks are too yellow", the homemade cheesecake "let's go get fast food soft-serve instead", and he wouldn't eat the pancakes that I made because the only syrup I have is maple. He has always been picky, but I don't really remember what he likes, I haven't lived with him in twelve years. I like cooking and most people seem to enjoy what I make, so it hurts my feelings when he turns up his nose at what I make. It's not like I'm trying to force-feed him liver and kale. I can't afford to take everyone out for every meal and everyone else seems to like my food. Other than handing my dad a map with all the fast food locations starred, how can I deal with him for the next 4 days?

See it as a control issue and let it slide.

And by "control issue," I don't (necessarily) mean he's filed in the classic control-emotional abuse-I must manipulate others folder. 

That, of course, would be an extreme of insecurity--but I'm thinking more that your dad is on the less extreme end of the insecurity spectrum, and is just very uncomfortable so far off his turf. And so he fixes on the differences from what he knows, and vocalizes as a way of shifting the blame for his unease somewhere else.

If it helps, think of the people most commonly heard complaining about too-yellow eggs and desserts that aren't safe and bland enough: little kids. They do it because they're unnerved by a world that feels too big for them to manage, and they want both the comfort of the familiar and the relief of making it someone else's problem.

So, in addition to letting it slide, call your dad and ask what his favorite cereal is, his favorite brand and flavor of ice cream, and a couple of other standby foods you can offer him when your pumpkin pie is way too orange for his tastes.

Your column today got me thinking (I hate when that happens :). I am married to a great man, but giving gifts for holidays just isn't his thing even though it's important to me. I have told him that it really is the thought that counts, and so any gesture be it a card, a special treat, or something very small is fine. I try to talk to him in advance and say 'I'm only doing small gifts this year' or whatever. He always agrees and then the day comes around and he forgot to order the gift or didn't have time to go to the store because X happened.  Early in our relationship he did get me small gifts or cards on holidays so I know he is capable of it, which almost makes it worse. Last time it happened I pointed out that there have been circumstances getting in the way for some time now and that life is rarely going to afford us ample time to do all we need but that I always find time to try and acknowledge him on days that are significant in our lives or relationships. I told him that I didn't know what to do other than surrender to the fact that he just wasn't going to acknowledge holidays and he offered no other suggestions. I think acceptance is my only choice, but I am a little sad thinking that I will never again get a card or flower or gift from the man I love. Anyway, I guess my question is, are there any other options? Or should I just buy myself a birthday/anniversary/mother's day cupcake every year and celebrate myself?

Sure--if you'll really enjoy it, vs. resent it for being a pale substitute for what you actually want. No good cupcake should be a pawn in such an exercise.

Even better, though, I think, would be to ask your husband how -he- likes to express his affection for you. Do you know for sure, or would you be guessing? If you do know, do you accept it warmly, or do you brush it off since it's not really what you want?

As part of that conversation, also ask whether he appreciates the way you show your affection for him.

You probably see the big picture here, but I'll spell it out anyway: Wanting gifts from your husband and being sad that you don't get them is just one edge of a diamond: what you want to receive from him. The other three edges are what you do receive from him, what you give him in return, and what he actually wants from you. 

I don't think you can claim to have a legitimate grievance on one of the edges unless you take into account all four.

I also don't think there's just one right way to satisfy both of you. You might agree to give what the other wants to receive even though it's not naturally what you give, or you might both agree to accept what the other gives even though it's not naturally what you'd prefer. Or some blend of the two. As long as you're transparent and in it for each other, there's a good chance you'll find a solution that fits.

My husband is a federal employee who has been furloughed for the past two weeks. I have never seen him happier. He'd been unhappy in his (stressful, demanding) job for a long time, but I don't think I realized how deeply unhappy until this shutdown gave me a window into an alternative existence. His mood has improved his health, my happiness, our marriage. It's almost to the point where I want to encourage him to quit and not go back -- we could be fine financially for eight to ten months while he looked for a new job. But: I know there are also a lot of unforeseen variables, i.e. it's one thing to be happy about a two week break, but what about after two months? And what if he can't find another job? What questions should we be asking ourselves as we consider exchanging money for (potential) happiness?

I feel a little dense asking this--why don't you suggest that he use this shutdown to look for another job? 

Meaning, instead of using this eureka moment to justify his quitting his job, use it to justify a job search in earnest. then you don't have to worry about the 8-to-10-month financial clock winding down.

Hi Carolyn, Thanks for all the advice over the years - I never miss an installment. I'm in a writing group with a small group of friends; we all met in grad school and decided we'd stick together and keep giving one another feedback (and of course, socializing). As our paths start to diverge (writing, working, teaching), I'm finding myself increasingly irritated by the flakiness of one in particular. The last 3 group meetings had to be rescheduled or cancelled at the last minute because she failed to consult her calendar (when we planned them 6 weeks out!) or something suddenly came up she couldn't say no to. I'm a very planning-ahead sort of person, so I know some of this irritation is my personal rigidity, but I also tend not to make friends with people who flake consistently. She didn't do this during school! How can I approach making plans with her/them without resentment, since I can't exactly drop her but keep the writer's group. Thanks.

Why don't you just hold the group as scheduled and she just misses it? (Another question I feel a bit dense asking.) Not only does it spare your group the hassle of rescheduling, but it might also act as the kind of consequence used in behavior modification. If she cares about these meetings, and her flaking costs her chances to attend them, then she's less likely to flake on them.

Side note on flaking: She might be unusually busy, overwhelmed and/or depressed, all of which can manifest as no-showing. Keep an open mind, keep the appointments and see how it plays out.


Feeling super lousy because my ex, the one I adored so much that I waited around for 2 years AFTER he said he wasn't sure if he ever wanted to get married, is marrying someone else this weekend (thanks, Facebook!). I know the best plan is to distract myself, but any distraction would feel like a poor consolation prize right now. Is it okay to wallow a little bit? Is there a form of wallowing that's actually productive? I'm seeing someone, but it's not super serious yet, and I'm afraid spending the weekend with him might remind me that we're nowhere near where I was with the ex (who's now in that same place with someone else).

Yes, wallow, and also watch "When Harry Met Sally ...," which has the best grasp of the he-balked-at-marrying-and-now-he's-marrying-someone-else phenomenon that I've ever seen. 

Oh--and you don't want to be "[any]where near where I was with the ex," because it didn't take you anywhere good.

Hang in there. He wasn't the guy. 

I'm partial to Haagen Dazs vanilla Swiss almond.

I feel a little dense in responding this way: Since the furlough is a day-to-day thing that could end any moment, I think husband is more interested in clinging to each precious day of freedom rather than using them to start a job search. But yes, that's a good practical suggestion.

No, I get it--if memory serves, I blew my last unexpected time off watching the whole Lord of the Rings trilogy in sequence. Not my proudest 1,079 hours. 

But, he's had two weeks, maybe he's ready.

Did we miss a hyperlink? " Can we all just agree that if the girlfriend from today's column marries *this guy*, she will want a purebred dog from a breeder," The column is linked, so that's clear, but who is the questioner referring to in "this guy"? If it's the guy in the column, where did the dog come from? I've had coffee today, I swear, but am still confused!

This was epic thread tying. 

Here's the dog: (link)

And here's the first-name: (link)

But by all means, get a refill anyway since it's almost four hours till beer time, EDT.


That would be my preference, but since it's such a small group and there'd be no point discussing her work without her presence, we agreed early-on that we'd only hold meetings when everyone could be there (so I wind up feeling like the unsupportive jerk). I know that she is busy, overwhelmed, and uberanxious, but we've given her a lot of support and dedicated time to her work that it seems like she's never able/willing to return. I'll run the consequence model by the group and see how people feel. Thanks you!

You're welcsome. If it helps, you could be, counterintuitively, letting her off the hook. "We're just going to hold the meetings when planned, and if you can come, great, and if you can't, we'll see you next time. Making it here can be a luxury, and not one more thing to stress about." 

I recently came to this realization (figuring out what the other person needs/wants from you) with a good friend - and not just about gifts. I learned that he prefers to give gifts so they can be opened in private, because then there is no obligation on the receiver of the gift to react in any specific way, and that he also would like to receive gifts that way. I prefer to give/receive in person. We came to an agreement that when he gave me gifts, he would do so in person, and when I gave things to him, I'd leave them for him to open in private. The same thing goes for when we are sad. He'd leave me alone when I was sad (because that is what he prefers if he is sad) and I'd offer hugs/companionship/talking about it to him when he was sad (which is what I'd prefer when I am sad). We realized that we needed to do what the other would want when they are sad - so I leave him alone and he offers a hug. It is an interesting process figuring this stuff out and adjusting and in the end, it feels good to give the other person what they need.

I agree, thanks so much for bringing the idea to life. 

I also think it's useful when you find out it -doesn't- feel good to adjust the way you give. That can tell you when something that hasn't worked isn't likely ever to work. 

If your parents are anything like mine, you may be better off asking your mom what you should buy for him. My dad couldn't tell you what he likes/doesn't like, he eats what my mom puts in front of him and has for years.

Good point, thanks.

Asking this to the wind: Is this archetype going the way of the rotary phone, or will it endure in some form or another as long as humanity does? 


Hi Carolyn, Is it fair for me to tell my boyfriend his living situation is impeding our relationship? We have been together for 2 years, and are both about 30. I recently purchased a small condo, which I live in, while my boyfriend shares a townhouse with four other guys. His living situation is noisy, messy, and full of interruptions; we never have any privacy there. He visits me frequently, but sometimes it's undeniably my turn to go to him, and I just can't stand it. It's like visiting a frathouse, something I thought I was done with a decade ago. In my opinion, it's time for my boyfriend to take steps toward a more adult living situation. The slight complication is that he asked if I wanted to move in together last year, but I turned him down--I'd rather wait till marriage. So should I just keep my mouth shut, or is there a real problem here? I can't emphasize enough how much I hate going to his home.

Since you went the "till marriage" route--entirely your prerogative--you don't get to say how he lives in the meantime.

Plus, moving is miserable. If he foresees sharing a life with you at any point in the near future (next few years) then I don't blame him for staying put until then.

Plus, if he gets along with his roommates, then it would be shortsighted to move. He has the rest of his life for a "more adult living situation." Group living with friends tends to be a moment that passes. 

Plus, he'll go when he's ready--and so what better way to tell what he's ready for?

Hi Carolyn, Love your chats and look forward to them every week. Just a question I thought you and the 'nuts might have some insight on. I beat the odds: I graduated from law school in May and found gainful employment as a lawyer. And in a job I'm excited about. I start Monday; I'm psyched. However, as I said, I beat the odds. My boyfriend is working in a temp/contract gig for now, most of my friends are in similar positions, or even completely unemployed. With the move to my new job next week, I know there are lots of changes and excitement in store for me. But of course, i want to be sensitive to the fact that most of my friends - and especially my boyfriend - are facing a lot of uncertainty. And whoa is that scary. Beyond keeping things to myself unless asked and then keeping things tempered when asked, any idea how to be supportive? Especially with my boyfriend. I know this is dragging on him. I want to be supportive of him, and he of me. For those that have been in his shoes before, what helped from a significant other? And what hurt? Saying that I'm sure it will all work out seems hollow. Thanks!


You're right, it would be hollow, because you aren't sure.

Of this, though, you can be sure: You haven't won some finite race and you aren't taking a victory lap. Instead you are enjoying an up moment in what will be a lifetime of ups and downs. The best way to be supportive is to recognize that, which includes recognizing that they might not need your support as much as you think right now--or as much as you'll need their support at some unknowable point in the future. Take the long view. Be grateful and not too comfy. Don't try to help unless asked (though if you think you can help, it's okay to offer--in an, "I might be able to help, is that something you'd want?" kind of way).

Hi Carolyn, My boyfriend of 10 months has trust issues. His previous girlfriend was secretly in touch with her ex while they dated, and he found out they had hooked up multiple times, so I understand why he has issues trusting women. I have taken it upon myself to never do anything untrustworthy, as I know one small mistake could tarnish his opinion of me for good. The problem is, he already uses an accusatory tone with me all the time. I blow it off and am reassuring. This weekend he found out his parents are separated and most likely getting a divorce. They confided that they had both been unfaithful during their 30 years of marriage. So now he has an even worse opinion of relationships, and an even deeper fear of cheating. I have done nothing to lose his trust, but the things he says make it quite clear he doesn't trust me, or any woman for that matter. Is there anything I can do to convince him to trust me? Setting 10 months of example obviously hasn't been enough, and the reassurance is starting to sound repetitive.

"His previous girlfriend was secretly in touch with her ex while they dated, and he found out they had hooked up multiple times, so I understand why he has issues trusting women."

Do you see the unjustified logical leap here? One woman cheated, so of course! he mistrusts all women!

That is such unadulterated bull. It's emotionally lazy, and bigoted, and, in a perverse way, self-aggrandizing: -He- of course isn't an infidelity risk--it's everyone else who is.


You're going to need to wake up and break up, but you're not there yet on your own  logical path, since you're still at the stage where you think it's your responsibility to fix his inability/unwillingness to trust. So we'll start a little farther back in the process.

You have figured out that ressuring him is a waste of breath--and that's good, that's progress. You also get that the mere act of being trustworthy is not enough. Also good.

So, are you ready for the next step? That's in recognizing that the problem doesn't lie in you and therefore the solution doesn't lie in you. And, the next step, where you see that the problem doesn't even lie in the lying, cheating ex, either. Yes, what she did was awful and entirely her fault, but your boyfriend is the one who chose to extrapolate one experience into a view of half the human population. (Well, two experiences; no doubt he picked up more of his family's instability than he realized.) And, he's the one who chooses to date someone even knowing he is unwilling or unable to trust. That's just not fair. 

He has absorbed some devastating blows recently, and so it could be that he just needs some time to find daylight again without dragging a girlfriend through the darkness with him. That's best case. Worst case, he's not on a path that will take him anywhere near daylight, and instead he's looking to blame everyone else for the pain he feels, and to punish them--"accusatory tone" and all. 

Either way, I hope you come to a place soon where you can see that he needs to be single until he's able to 1. recognize individuals for who they are--the accumulation of their own actions, and no one else's-- and 2. recognize human beings for who they are, which is flawed (oh so very!) and capable, all of us, of hurting others, but also resilient, and therefore capable of getting back up and finding joy again after getting hurt. 

Trust isn't about having a spotless record and finding someone else who does. It's about finding someone you understand is good-hearted enough not to hurt you on purpose, and knowing you'll be okay even if not everything turns out just so.



--will go on as long as there are husbands who stand in front of the fridge and call their wives to ask if the milk is still good to drink. While looking at the milk. And the wife is out of the house. True story.

I hope she just said yes.

Carolyn, wind here answering your question about the seemingly old-fashioned archetype: I think people in couples will always step in for each other to try to provide what the other needs. I have a female friend who doesn't like shopping and trying on clothes that much, and her husband sometimes buys clothes for her that he gives to her at home.

Yes, the Pelosi Exception to the rule. So maybe the stepping in will endure, but the stereotypes in the way people step in will fade?

I don't know why this question reminded me of my father (he's far from a picky eater) but I had to laugh. Once when my parents came to visit I made a meatloaf. My dad LOVED it: he had seconds, thirds, licked the gravy off the plate, etc. My mom just blew up: my dad always hated meatloaf and refused to eat it when she made it. My dad insisted my meatloaf was just so much better. The kicker: I used my mom's meatloaf recipe.

Not only is it a great story on its own, but we also get to wonder what your subliminal message was in cooking for your father's visit something he "always hated." 

Your advice on gifts is exactly what is in Chapman's "The 5 Love Languages" book. Point readers to that to help them understand that people give and receive love in different ways. It helped me think about how to better express appreciation not just for my spouse but for parents and siblings too.

Haven't read it myself. And probably won't now, or else I'll have to cite it when giving this kind of advice ... thanks.

Are you nervous or is he going down. BTW he has offered to answer love life questions, how are you at politics? (funny thing, all of DC is either acting like divorcing couples or misbehaving children - maybe you should step in and take charge).

A shutdown to The Fix must be like my Christmas or Valentine's Day, so I can see why he's feeling his oats.

I read a couple of politics blogs a day. However, talking love in a politics blog won't hurt a political blogger while talking politics in a relationship forum could well be the end of me. I'll pass.

The Loop did bring in a marriage counselor for a consult, by the way (link).


That could be one of my friends. I know it's not my job to fix him, and I don't have any expectation that I can make him change, but-- when the conversation heads in this direction, is there any way to redirect it in a way that might prompt more introspection?

There's the one I've beaten to death: that he can't do anything about these other people, but he can take responsibility for his part in things and make changes accordingly. You can also say outright that looking to place blame is a great way to waste a life. It is. 

And, as someone who is a few years older than it sounds like you are: College and grad school are often fairly insulated environments, wherein participants have similar amounts of resources (time, money, etc). What you're experiencing is only the first in a long line of adult inequalities. Right now you're the one with the job. But soon, your friends might be the ones with the better job. Or the romantic partner. Or the kid. Or the flexible work schedule. Just recognizing the fleeting nature of "being on top" will help you keep a balanced head.

Yes, I like the fuller view, thanks.

I had a bottle of red wine and half a pound of chocolate truffles for dinner while watching Project Runway, but to each his own. A piece of advice: sometimes wallowing is in and of itself productive. It's taking the time you need to handle something painful. If you think you have a tendency to go overboard with wallowing, set a time limit. ("I'm going to wallow tonight, but tomorrow I will get and go to the gym no matter how bad I feel..." or whatever you do.)

Also well argued, thanks. And nothing beats a good argument for a half a pound of truffles. 

My husband is Mr. Decision, chop-chop, everything has to be decided quickly and with little fanfare. I am the type of person who moves more slowly, and am constantly being picked and nagged to hurry up and make a darn decision already. A lot of times, I simply feel pushed into making decisions about things and then end up regretting the end result, because I simply think and like to move a little more slowly for surety's sake. So how to find a happy medium, because it seems to drive both of us nuts?

Does he recognize that he's one way and you're the other, as you recognize it? If so, then you have the foundation for an open-eyes compromise where he gives you some unpressured time to think and you agree for that time to be finite. 

If he doesn't recognize it as you do, or if he does and thinks it's your job to change yourself to conform to his way, then it might be time to call in a marital referee. 

Do you think there are people out there who actually think this or does everyone use it as a way to continue enjoying the status quo without further commitment? I've seen it SO often in your column and in my own life that now when I hear it, I think, "Ugh another excuse for selfish behavior from someone who won't [crap] or get off the pot." And if people do legitimately think this, the how on earth do you explain why they marry OTHER PEOPLE later on? It's so insulting to the ex that heard it for years.

One more charitable way of seeing it is that these pot-dwellers actually believe what they're saying--maybe because it's less upsetting for them to think they're unsure of an institution than it is to admit they're unsure of a person they care about (albeit not enough to fuel a lifetime). It's still a bad choice, but not all bad choices are made out of selfishness or malice. Remember, there are also countless examples here of people who think it's mean or selfish to break up with someone. 

How much venting among girlfriends is normal? Do most girls, when they vent, vent about their boyfriends (most of the ones I know, do, and that extends into marriage/wives). I'm female, and between family members and girlfriends, it makes me think there is real value in staying single.

The occasional consult is healthy and necessary, but "venting" is too often treated as normal when in fact it's a sign of a chronic ailment in a relationship.

It doesn't necessarily mean the relationship is doomed--depends on the severity of the ailment--but it does mean it's time for the venter to say to him- or herself: 1. This is a problem; 2. The status quo obviously won't solve it ... 3. nor will beaching about it to my friends, and  4. I've asked the other person endlessly for changes that clearly aren't coming, so 5. it's time to think of some productive way for me to put it to rest already, because 6. I am boring the guts out of the very friends who love me enough to have listened to this for as long as they have.

So, there's real value in choosing a life partner who doesn't leave you spluttering. 

My boyfriend has always made a big deal about how honest he is. Yesterday, I caught him in a blatant whopper. It wasn't about anything bad, is the thing; he didn't lie about drinking or cheating or having a secret child. He lied about where he was, and where he was was at a cool, wholesome event. He told me that he slept in and was hanging out with neighbors, when I talked to him last Saturday afternoon, when in reality he was at an outdoor meetup group. I would have encouraged him to go to this, and had plans of my own on Saturday morning, and he denies it's about meeting anyone (at this point, I'm skeptical, though). He told me that he doesn't really know why he lied. I'm kind of shocked. I guess I understand a lie to protect ones' self, or to save face, or not lose another person; I don't understand blatantly lying about something that doesn't really matter, and then claiming to not understand what the lie was all about. Your thoughts?

Just one--that if your catching him in this lie doesn't send him into an existential rethinking of his "Me so honest" puffery, then it's time for an existential rethinking of this guy.

Okay, two thoughts. I can't see any reason for his lying other than the fact that he felt guilty about going, which meant at a minimum that he wanted to be there as a singleton. The maximum is that he was actually meeting/scouting someone else there, but it doesn't have to be that extreme to be guilt-inducing.

Apply as needed.

Yes! There are. My beloved boyfriend and I have been together for eight years and are 100% committed to being together for the rest of our lives. We also aren't sure about getting married -- the hassle if we do what our families and friends expect, the criticism if we don't, all the weird misogynistic moments at most weddings, the very idea of inviting the government into our private lives -- every time we start to talk about it we decide we're happy with things the way they are. Now, maybe this isn't the typical situation where one person wants to get married and the other doesn't, but it completely possible to be utterly commited to a person and still not sure the institution of marriage is something in which they want to participate.

Maybe what we're really talking about, then, is uncertainty about a life commitment vs an uncertainty about marriage-the-institution.  Fair?

Do couples not notice this while dating? If they do, and it's a deal-breaker, they should perhaps consider not marrying in the first place.

So easy to judge in hindsight, but, the thing is, a person's sense of a deal-breaker changes over time. To Mr. ChopChop, Ms. Waffle might have seemed charming and easygoing, and Ms. Waffle might have found Mr. ChopChop to be so refreshingly sure and confident.

Repeat over X years, and they can both be so worn down by the nuisance of managing their different paces that they struggle to recall what that refreshing charm felt like.


I have three children who all have developmental challenges. Yay for my and my husband's genetics! I adore my children and am so proud of what they've overcome and continue to overcome every day. And of course there are days when it all just seems unfair. Still, I don't want typical children because it would mean I wouldn't have these children, and they are a part of me. My question is really a vent. Do people know how they come across when they brag about their kids on facebook? "I'm so proud of my son who was selected for blah blah blah." Or "I just have to say my daughter is valedictorian of her class!" They have a right to be proud but would they brag like this in person? Its not like I'm going to post "I'm so proud of my son who is now in a mainstream classroom and holding his own!" Though, trust me, I would shout it to the world if I thought the world would get what a big deal that is. Shouldn't there be some ground rules? I worry that I sound bitter and jealous and I'm not. Well, maybe a little jealous.

Short version, your Facebook friends suck. I'm sorry. There are plenty of people who are out there sharing highs and lows and the funnies in between, and some of them aren't even oversharing or humblebragging or embarrassing their kids in the interest of not bragging; they're just keeping a ring of people updated in a way that allows them to remain close across the distance of miles or of separate busy lives. For that to work, the "well, little Gunther's team went 0-25, but, upside, their characters are now fully built," update has to get as much air time as the whoo-hoo stuff.

Meanwhile,  "the world" -does- get what a big deal your son's accomplishment is, at least there's a part of the world that gets it. And while you clearly have a lot on your hands, the luxury I hope you'll grant yourself is the time to cultivate your connections to the people who do get it. (and to block the worst brag-or-nothing offenders.)

A longer answer would include the possibility that your valedictorian-maker also shared some lows with the highs, but you happened not to see them. A hazard of life along the ticker.

Anyway--you write with flair and love about your children. Maybe have a little more faith in your people and trust them to share your joys too? 

Do relationships go through cycles? Like where they're good and then they go to ok, and then they go back to good? I've been in a relationship with a guy for 3 years and I'm beginning to notice this pattern. We're good for a while, weeks, months, whatever span of time, and then we have a bigger than normal fight, and then we're not so good for a while, but never more than a couple of weeks, usually we're a little distant for about a week or less. We do have arguments like any other normal couple. I have noticed that our bigger than normal fights usually coincide with other life stressors (school, work, psycho family). After a bigger than normal argument recently I told my mom about this and how I felt like we were cycling. She told me that it's not normal. But I guess seeing how a lot of other things go through cycles I doubted her judgment and wanted to see what you think.

Cycles, normal, yes--but responding to stress by erupting into a fight big enough to disrupt your rhythm for days or weeks at a time? That's normal, too, to a degree, but not in a good way and not out of necessity.

Add in the "psycho family," and it sounds as if both of you could use some thought and hard work on the way you manage and respond to stress. Deal?

Hi Carolyn, my boyfriend and I have decided we'd like to get married. We've been together for five years and I feel comfortable about it. However, because we are both the kind of people who find talking about our feelings doesn't really come naturally, I would like us to get some sort of pre-marriage books to prompt some conversations. Perhaps after that, if we feel we need it, some premarital counseling, but I would like to wait on that since we don't have a ton of disposable income at the moment. However, I have found that almost all books and counseling I have come across is all based in religion, and we are not religious. A few others seem to have quite old fashion views of marriage, and we want a very egalitarian marriage. Do you have any good recommendations for books we can start with?

This is a weak recommendation because it was merely recommended to me and I haven't gotten to it ... ahem ... but it sounds as if "The Dance of Intimacy" by Harriet Lerner fits your description. To make up for my procrastinating I will also post this to the Forum (link) after the show, as a Hax-Philes, for people to make recommendations. 

Also consider the Unitarian Universalist Church for pre-marriage counseling. That would address your non-religious preference and the money issue. Good luck to you both.

Why not? That would be awesome. Seriously.

It would. And this is awesome too, thanks.

I see Facebook as the highlight reel. The highs and lows. The extremes. The backstage could be entirely different. Also, some folks (self included) don't put up complaints/struggles/etc because it feels (to some) like whining in a public forum. Sort of like erecting a billboard in Times Square to complain - and usually I can minimize and say to myself "it's not that bad" and I try to see the silver lining. So, your friends could just be focusing on the positives even with their struggles. That said, I think you should post positives, whatever they may be as they are Big Deals. Facebook is not a competition and it's not a race.

This too, thanks. And this deserves the wowee highlighter treatment, except it's not working! So I'll make it bold:

"Also, some folks (self included) don't put up complaints/struggles/etc because it feels (to some) like whining in a public forum."

And I'll add that people who treat FB as a competition/race are so esy to block. 


I was in the same head scratching position a few years ago and then had an epiphany out of the blue. These people were mostly happy in their relationships, but when things were happy, they didn't need my feedback or support. They simply didn't need to vent, so I didn't hear about it. I'm not saying they only complained, but that's when details tend to come instead of a simple "Everything is so great between us!"

I like this, thanks, and also see it as different--more like the honest sharing for honest feedback thing (can't remember how I phrased it) than "venting," which to me is blowing off steam about the spouse on a regular basis. Maybe I assumed too much. 

This could be my husband and me, except I'm Ms. ChopChop. The crucial step for me was recognizing that the throat-choking fear I have with not knowing what will happen is the same thing he feels when asked to make a snap decision. Now, it works best for us if we divide responsibilities so I am in charge of nebulous tasks (carpet cleaning, car maintenance, etc.) and he gets the ones with deadlines (taxes, Christmas presents, etc.)

I just love "it works," come by through mutual respect effort. Thanks.

Fair enough, Carolyn, but you have to admit that when one person wants marriage and the other is "unsure," it's not fair to drag out the relationship into infinity over indecision. I remember when my ex kept saying he wasn't sure if he was ready about getting married. Finally, one day I snapped and asked, "What does 'ready' look like?" He didn't even know! That's when I felt like a complete idiot for waiting around. Seriously..if he didn't know what ready meant, then how would ever know if he was or not? Ugh.

No, it's not fair to drag it out, I'm merely saying people can do it without intent. And unfortunately it takes two to drag--one to keep stalling, and one to keep waiting. Bleah. Thanks for clarifying.

As one waffler married to another, all I can say is that one of us being a chop-chop decision maker might have not been a bad thing.


And with that, buh-bye. Thanks for stopping by, have a great weekend and hope to see you here next week. You know, kick some Fix butt.

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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 New England with her husband and their three boys.

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