The Boohbah made me do it: Carolyn Hax Live (Friday, June 20)

Jun 20, 2014

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 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.

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Oh hi!

Hi Carolyn, I think you do great work. There's an old chat or column of yours that I really liked, but that I can't find the link for. You listed four types of people, basically four types of attitudes towards people who do things differently, and you ended by saying that one type was more dangerous than all the others, "because they think they know something about you." Maybe your producer or someone else reading the chat can help with the link. Thanks!

This is the chat you're looking for:

Speaking of stages, I think there are stages of perception: 1. When all you know or notice is yourself; 2. When you think everything that you have felt applies to others as well; 3. When you realize that others can go through the same thing as you but not feel the same way as you did; 4. When you can put yourself in other's positions and understand what they feel. Everyone knows Stage 1 is obnoxious, but people stuck in Stage 2 can almost be more so, because they think they know something about you.

I read this stuff as if I'm seeing it for the first time. Is that No. 5?

Hi Carolyn-- Hoping you or the nuts can provide some food for thought on an issue: My husband and I are struggling with a decision and can't figure out how to move forward. We both want a child, but we are also in agreement that we don't *have* to have a child (versus some couples who feel having a child is an essential part of a full life, which is fine, but just not how we feel). However, to do that, we'd have to use IVF, which is something we both don't love the idea of and honestly, before this came up (i.e. before we were even married), agreed was not for us. We're struggling because we can't figure out if our hesitancy is natural or perhaps an indication that this route is not for us. Our impression has been that couples that enter the IVF world do it because they just feel so strongly about having a child that they are comfortable with the means to get there. We honestly feel very torn on the means. Any advice on things to consider in moving forward on this one? Thanks for your time.

Why don't you choose not to use IVF, and then look back in a couple of months to see how well that decision has sat with you both?

Carolyn, My boyfriend of 6 years and I broke up 7 months ago. We have not been in any contact since then and there is no chance of a reconciliation. While we were together, his mother painted a painting and got it framed for me. This is now sitting in my studio apartment. I can't look at it without anger and I don't ever see a future without looking at it without anger. Can I just throw it out in the garbage? Thanks!

Why do you have to destroy it? Return it to your boyfriend or his mother. If that's more than you can bear, then Goodwill or Salvation Army will take it off your hands.  

Hi Carolyn. I'm not sure I agree with your analysis of the facts in the first letter. The writer said his feelings toward his friend's girlfriend were never acted upon but that the boyfriend apparently "noticed." We don't know what the BF noticed. But it seems likely that all the BF noticed was the natural, involuntary behavioral differences that one displays around one's crushes. I have a small crush on someone at work. It will never be acted upon, but it wouldn't surprise me if coworkers noticed that I behave a little differently around this person than I do around other people. So what? So it felt to me like you were chiding this guy without cause. You're not sure if you detected any remorse and wonder if he "feels bad about" his "actions" and "not just their consequences" and warn him about the "price of encroachment." But there were no actions. There was no encroachment. What is the LW supposed to feel remorseful about? Being human? And what is the basis for the friend's prolonged grudge? The fact that another man might also be charmed by his girlfriend? It just seems like the BF is the one being the real asshat here.

A Facebooker or three had the same question this morning, so I'll copy-paste my response:


I'm taking the consequence as proof of the circumstances. The crush has to have spilled over his walls somehow into public view, or else he wouldn't be in this situation.

Hi, Carolyn! My mother-in-law, who overall I like tremendously, has this one habit that really rubs me the wrong way. She has this tendency to engage in a really weird sort of humble-bragging, mostly relating to her work and job performance. For example, she'll complain about how she only got 4 hours of sleep because she was up working so late; she'll mention how she didn't use the bathroom at all for a 14 hour stretch due to work responsibilities. Her comments make it clear that, while complaining, she also expects to be admired for her dedication and hard work. She has pretty severe anxiety and some OCD, which manifests itself most around her job performance. And she also has pretty darn low self esteem, and regularly needs validation and support of the good job she's doing. I'm sure her comments are related to these two facts about her personality... but that doesn't make them any easier to hear! It drives me nuts. I've tried saying straight-out, "That's unhealthy, you should stop," or trying questions like, "I'm sure your other coworkers go to the bathroom more frequently - how do they manage to work it in?" The comments still continue, though. I love my mother-in-law and really don't want to hurt her feelings - but because I love her, it's not easy to hear about destructive choices she's making. Any thoughts?

"Wow--you must have a bladder the size of a watermelon!" 

I.e., neither admire nor nurture. Trying to help her isn't helping either of you, apparently, and you have good reasons not to give her the praise she seeks, so go neutral. "Oh my, you must be exhausted."  Not everything can be fixed.

Last week, my husband was traveling with a coworker when the guys 15yo tried to commit suicide. Coworker stayed on the trip and wife dealt with the situation. Coworker talked to my husband about the situation quite a bit and husband listened. Coworker was going to take this week off from work to help his son but when he showed up Monday morning, husband asked about the situation. Coworker said that boy was fine now and didn't need any more help. Husband asked and it doesn't see that the boy is getting any professional help. We don't know the family really well but I've met them several times and talked to the boy at social events. He's a sweet kid. I try to stay out of other people's business but I'm worried about the boy. If his parents aren't getting him help, is this something that I should call child protective services about?

Call Childhelp's hotline, 1-800-4-A-CHILD. It's a good first step for anyone who isn't sure whether a CPS call is appropriate. The hotline staff can help you figure out what options you have.

This breaks my heart.

When I found out I was pregnant with my second child, it was was without hesitation that I asked my longtime friend to be her Godfather. Flash forward, as my delivery date draws near, and my normally stable, loving, clear-headed friend is dating a hard-core drug addict who is dragging him down with her, and consistently lying/covering for her and generally blowing us off. He knows we aren't happy about her, and he also knows we support and love him, BUT, I believe that a person who is to guide my daughter down the path of faith(regardless of her religion) should be truthful, and living an honest and healthy life, and I have very strong personal feelings about enabling addictions and the example that sets. I am really trying to be non-judgmental, I maintain the friendship and respectful and compassionate when socializing with his girlfriend. Is it wrong that I do not want him to be her godfather? I want to be a role model of compassion for my kids, but I feel like this is a boundary I need to draw.

Then draw it. You can simply have no godfather. You can do this quietly through inaction, or you can tell him you've changed course, spelling out that you can't entrust your child to someone who at the moment struggles to care for himself. Not said in anger, but instead with a note of concern. 

Preemptive note: I know godparents aren't technically the people who care for the child when his or her parents are unable to--that's a matter of wills and state law--but it's the implication of the role that the godparent will serve as guide, if only in a symbolic capacity.


I am a physician who rarely gets the opportunity to read these chats live, but am so thankful I get to today. A number of my patients use IVF, so I have a few pieces of advice: 1. This might sound counter intuitive, but avoid parent groups of others who are using IVF. While these can be a wonderful place for people that are undergoing treatments, they can also be cliquish and pushy. If you are "on the fence" I don't think these groups will help you make an informed decision one way or the other. 2. Get a second opinion on your infertility. Doctors are not perfect and there might be a better fit for you elsewhere. 3. Have faith in yourself to make the right decision for you. I see patients frequently that are so worried about making the "right" decision that they bring unnecessary pressure onto themselves. Follow CH's advice, relax a little bit over the next few months, and see where that takes you.

I'm thankful too. 

I had a similar problem with a framed photograph that my ex had taken. I wanted absolutely nothing to do with her but I didn't want to throw it out. I wound up driving it to her parents' house while they were at work and leaving it between the front door and the storm door. No contact, clean conscious, art preserved for its maker out of decency.

Elegant solution, thanks.

As an artist, I can tell you that your exes mom would absolutely like to have the painting back (rather than pitched in the garbage). Mail it back, no hassle. Unless you absolutely hate her with an immense passion, then trash it and make sure she knows.

This too, as long as we're taking the second part as a revenge-fantasy hypothetical.

Hi Carolyn, I am a 50 yo divorced woman and I have been meeting men online for dating with the purpose of finding a LTR. I had been corresponding with a man for a couple of weeks (no meet up) but I recently broke off communication due to some sexual discussions that made me uncomfortable. He will still occasionally text me and I have not responded. However, since braking off communication I have discovered through the magic of google and social media that he misrepresented his marital status and his age to me. Part of me wants to write him a scathing email telling him what I know and how I know it, and part of me just says to thank my lucky starts we never met up in person and move on. Carolyn, can you appeal to my wiser (I think) side and help me give up the urge to rip him a new one?

Someone you communicated with for a couple of weeks and never met is someone who did you little to no harm.

Had things progressed, or if you were a good friend to his spouse, there might have come a time when you had standing either to be harmed or to try to prevent harm to others, but you're incidental at this point. I pity the people who trust him, if there are such people in his life, but that doesn't mean I'm going to dispatch you to protect or avenge them. 

Chasing him down now would be like following home and seeking justice from someone who cut you off in traffic. Remind yourself of this as needed and now return to your regularly scheduled program. 

And Google people sooner next time (with due awareness of duplicate names and misinformation, as always).

I happen to share my birthday with my Niece (who is preschool aged) Since she has been born, my birthdays have been spent celebrating my niece's birthday , which I have gladly participated in with no ill feelings what so ever. This year I will be having a Milestone birthday which happens to fall on a Saturday. My husband and I thought what a perfect excuse to throw a party at our house, we generally try to have a couple get-together's every year anyway. We are going all out: catered, bartender, invited all our friends, family, and neighbors - all in all it's shaping up to be a great party. That was until my SIL found out. She is also throwing a party for my niece earlier that day and demanded that I change the date. When I told her that things had already been paid for and that I tried to make sure that my party would not conflict ( mine is in the evening and only 3 people, besides my Brother & SIL, have been invited to both parties) she abruptly ended our conversation. My mother just told me that my SIL told her she has to cancel my niece's birthday party because I selfishly decided to throw my party on the same day and my niece is extremely disappointed. My mother is now asking me to change my party to "keep the peace". Now I am just mad.  Am I being unreasonable here? I made every effort to make sure that my party didn't interfere with my neices, is it selfish to maybe want to spend some of my birthday's in the company of adults drinking Wine & cocktails instead of with the Mickey Mouse Club drinking Apple Juice? - Birthday Party Pooper

Remind your mother that the times don't coincide and only three guests overlap, and that you would be very grateful if she helped you with the cause of not hyperventilating.

I also urge you not to make this about your niece or about your compliance with past birthdays. Your line is that this is a scheduling issue, not an emotional one, and stick to it. 


And, hey, happy birthday!

I have been in a long-distance relationship for nearly a year. About six months in, we both agreed that it was going to the marriage place (especially her). But after a series of arguments, I am having doubts. In previous relationships, I felt like the significant other was my best friend, but here, I am realizing I don't know the other person as well as I thought, and I am really missing the pure physicality of being near the other person that nurtures a relationship (particularly after a fight). I am torn about whether to share these feelings with the other person (that I want to put off the marriage timetable till we know each other better) or just end it after our next disagreement. Any thoughts?

What are the chances of your living in the same area but not together, in the not-too-distant future? 

My bf has had a small beard and mustache the whole time we've been dating. But a few months ago, he starting growing it out longer (I'd describe it as "biker gang" rather than "Duck Dynasty). He clearly loves the way it looks, but I don't. He's asked me a couple time if I "love" his beard and I've avoided a direct answer by saying I'm adjusting to it. I don't want to tell him what I really think, because he'll be hurt (which I do understand). But at the same time, I just can't bring myself to lie and gush over something I dislike so much. I keep hoping he'll get tired of it and go back to the old look. He values honestly, but I'm guessing you are going to recommend a white lie.

Nope. I recommend saying that it's not growing on you quite as effectively as it is on him. Heh-heh. Say you wish you loved it as much as he does, because it obviously makes him happy. Say you're patient (assuming you can be) and won't ask him to do anything about it. People tend to feel much better about making small accommodations for others when those others make small accommodations for them.

Hi Carolyn, This morning I was chatting with my relatively new boyfriend, and I mentioned that there's a web site I used to love with cute little cartoon creatures that make endearing noises like, "Wheeeeeee!" I wondered aloud what the name of it was. New boyfriend replied, "The site is called boohbah, and you read about it in a Carolyn Hax chat about 12 years ago. I read Carolyn Hax, too, you know!" Thanks to him, and you, I then spent 30 minutes once again immersed in the wonderful world of boohbah. Just wanted to thank you for helping me to confirm that this guy is a keeper!

This is my legacy. 

I found that starting the steps toward IVF (consulting with two fertility specialists, figuring out what is covered by our health insurance, many many discussions with spouse etc.), helped to clarify my feelings about it. We chose to go ahead, and it was the right decision for us. We have friends who did the same and decided it was not for them. They, instead, chose to become foster parents. Why not take some initial steps (if you have not already done so) and see how it feels? It may help you to clarify what is the best path for you and your husband. Good luck.

Another good thought on this, thanks.


You and your husband might also want to spend some time unpacking your no-IVF stance, too. I've known people who think it's not "natural," or who view it as a bridge too far in pursuit of a child, or whatever. But really, it's no different from any other technology or medical procedure. I had to have surgery to be able to carry a pregnancy to term. Some women have to take blood thinners during their pregnancies. Some women end up in the hospital being monitored for blood pressure issues. There are a lot of ways now to start and sustain pregnancy that weren't available not that long ago, so give some thought to that and to where you guys think that IVF fits on that spectrum.

Anudder, thanks.

What's wrong with the live chats lately? Every one I've tried to read this week appears as size 40 font in all of my browsers. Did the Post buy Geocities?

Hmm. Live chats are pretty much the only thing we haven't updated the look of in the past few weeks (that's an exaggeration, but you've probably noticed the changes to article pages). Are others seeing this problem?

EDIT: And if you write in to say you are, can you also tell me what browser you're on? I know, I know. But that will help diagnose.

The chats are legible, but the regular site looks like it's displaying in 8pt font or smaller. Maybe the original poster increased her font size for the regular site. I'm using Chrome on a Mac, if that helps. (Tech support is my life)

Good first step advice for the large print people. Maybe font size on the browser is set to large or you zoomed in on the site at some point. Hitting Ctrl and - together would adjust that back down.

Thanks everyone who just gave feedback. Investigation is underway as to whether there's a larger issue here (pun not intended, but I don't mind that it happened).

Carolyn, I am a serial monogamist. I love having one person to be active with, go on dates with, be there for, have them there for me and come home to at the end of the day. My relationships have typically not inhibited my relationship with my friends or growth as a person--usually they help me discover things about myself. I am comfortable being single but I prefer having a partner that is more than a friendship. Essentially, this has been my pattern: start dating a man I am interested in, stay with him for a while, and then breakup because something about him starts to rub me the wrong way. Right now I am 24 and have been in a great relationship with a friend-turned-boyfriend for the past seven months. Everything has been great and I really do like him but I just know that he is not going to be the man I will be with long term. He has expressed that he feels that we will be together for a while. Nothing in particular about him rubs me the wrong way but I am worried that if I wait to long to end things I will end up hurting him. When do we breakup? Is it okay to stay with him as long as we are both enjoying the relationship or do I call it quits before we get in too deep? What is a good way to think about this? Some perspective would be greatly appreciated!

As with anything else, put yourself in the other person's position. If you were thinking future, wouldn't you want to know that the other person just saw you as a pleasant but temporary companion? 

Certainly every new relationship has a grace period where you can get to know each other without committing to specific intentions, on the theory that the people you date shape those intentions, to some degree (though I do suggest that you talk to new people sooner rather than later about your general approach to dating, since it's a thing.) But now that your boyfriend has expressed long-term intentions that you "just know" you don't share, it's time to own up. Not break up, just own up. "You say you see us together long-term. Everything's been great and I really do like you, but I don't see myself committing to anyone long-term, not any time soon." 

This will end up hurting him, of course--there's no way around that for two people who want different things. What you're responsible for is not causing gratuitous pain by misleading or withholding information from people.

I'm the boyfriend. Carolyn Hax, Matchmaker. Is that on your business card yet? Boobah!

The Boohbah made me do it. 

Which is the first recorded instance of Boohbah causing anything besides torpor. 

I would submit that while you've done nothing wrong, it wouldn't hurt to check in with SIL beforehand next time. I have two kids who have birthdays within a few days of best friend's small kids. I give my friends a call before I actually schedule (or pay for) my kiddo's birthday parties, just as a courtesy. Sometimes, we end up double-booking anyway (because life's like that), but it helps get that out in front, instead of dealing with after small children build up expectations or you have put down deposits. Obviously, SIL is over the line here, but being proactive helps in this situation.

Assuming the 5 or 10 years till the next milestone birthday are sufficient to thaw the SIL. (Given the facts in hand, I am not optimistic.) Thanks.

For the commenter earlier in the chat who said, "there were no actions, whats the big deal?" Clearly they've never been the odd man out on a "crush" that was never "acted on". I went through this with my last boyfriend, sure, he never actually did anything, but you could palpably feel the attraction between him and my female friend when we were together. There was subtle special treatment that I'm sure they both thought no one noticed, but I noticed, people noticed. And it hurt even more because if you try to point it out, you get the same response the commenter gave, "whats the big deal? nothing happened". So think about it that way, the perception of your crush can be just as painful - so it's nice the LW recognized that he had done something wrong and was trying to make up for it. I'd say the best thing he can do is make efforts to not treat the female friend any differently and even if possible avoid some situations that might put him in close quarters with her, as you said, adjust his social circle.

Other sides always welcome, thanks, and this does ring true.

Sorry for the delay; my feeding schedule is out of sync so I needed to get a snack.

Hey Carolyn: I have a question about a child's relationship with his parents the older they (and he) get... My mother is a fantastic woman and caring mother: intelligent and earnest, she raised four boys to be happy, productive citizens. Her and my father have been married for 40+ years and are starting to enjoy their retirement (and their new grandchildren). All of us have (in our minds), honest, open relationships with her and know how much of a part of our lives' she still is. Lately, however, there's been an issue with her overstepping her bounds in "worrying too much" about us (myself, in particular--I'm the remaining single child). I have a bit more of an adventurous spirit than the other three, and some of my journeys have been, admittedly, on the dangerous side (often solo). As a grown adult approaching 40, I'm wondering where the balance is between caring and overbearing? I realize that she's ALWAYS going to worry about me -- I'm her son, of course! But it's almost reached to the point where I don't WANT to tell her what trip I've planned next for fear of having her consumed with anxiety. Which is a shame...I want to share my successes with her as much as anyone else. What's the best remediation here?

Why don't you talk to her about this? Seems sensible to me for you two to agree that your risk tolerance exceeds hers, and that the time for you to share your adventures with her is after you get home safely.

Of course, maybe she'd prefer to know, in which case you can discuss drawing a line you both can live with between caring and overbearing.

Carolyn, My elderly mom passed away last week after a sudden illness. My father and only sibling died years ago, so now I find myself unexpected feeling alone (I have nieces and nephews, aunts and uncles, and a long-time boyfriend). As it became apparent that she wasn't going to make it, I began getting strong urges to seriously alter my life -- to move back to my hometown, to open a small business or maybe even go back to school. All of these things had been rumbling in my head before mom became sick, but now they're almost overwhelming. I've told myself that I will make no sudden moves for at least a year, but honestly, I'm ready to walk out of my job and sell my house today. My boyfriend is somewhat concerned about what I might do (mostly he's worried over my newfound desire to go to church). My concerns are that I will either do something big and really regret it, or that I won't do anything and really regret it. How do I balance all these impulses?

I'm sorry about your mom.

I won't even try to parse the churchophobia, because it needs context to make sense. But your urges in general are very common and can be both legitimate and productive. People who are a huge part of our lives often, and often without our knowing it, anchor us to a certain way of seeing ourselves. When those people are gone, new vantage points open up--even if we weren't unhappy with the way things were before, and indeed even if we'd do anything to have the lost person back.

It's also true that grief can motivate rash behavior that we later regret--so your concerns seem to be striking a sensible balance. The one thing I'd suggest is to recognize that your boyfriend will be concerned, since he has a lot to lose here, but that you can't stop yourself from changing, be it to please him or to satisfy the cautious side of yourself. Trying to stop wouldn't serve him anyway.

Even as you stick to your decision not to make sudden moves, you can take small, non-binding steps toward the new life you're envisioning. You can pay visits to your hometown to see what it's really like vs. what you've imagined it to be; you can research the type of business you have in mind, etc. Not immediately, since your loss is still very new, but as soon as you feel you've gotten used to this new state of things.

I think, unfortunately, that the chances of us living in the same area without a major commitment from the other person are quite small. For professional reasons, I cannot move for a year, but I feel icky about asking her to move (she is more flexible) without knowing that I will one day almost certainly marry her.

Would you move sans promises for her if you weren't stuck?

If you'd do it, then you can ask it. (Actually, you can ask it even if you wouldn't do it, you'd just have to be honest about that.) "I don't feel right making any decisions about the future without having had some time for us to get to know each other on everyday terms. Since I can't move for a year, you'd be the one who'd have to move, and I feel icky asking you to move with no guarantees. It would have to be something you want to take on."

That's how I suggest doing it, if you think that makes sense--but if these arguments with her are revealing that you don't like her as a person as much as you thought you did, then it makes more sense to break up. I see relocating for someone as having the same sanity bar as moving in with someone: Do it only when you have a lot of info about someone and all of it says "yes." When all the info says "maybe, but I'd like to get a closer look," then it's not a good idea. 

I'm in the same boat, and CH is right. Telling them after the fact is the only thing that works. Sure, my mom insisted that she NEEDS to know and never wants that to stop, but she demonstrated she just cannot handle it without all the anxiousness. (Somehow being married inoculates a person from Bad Things happening so she has no problem with my married sibs.) It's odd because she was never this hyper-vigilant when we were kids. And for those who want to chime and remind us how grateful we should be to have such a "problem"....while that's true, it's also just as irritating to be reminded that my parents can't even trust me to keep a job or get on a plane. For no transparent reason.

Thanks for this.

You didn't ask, but ...

Maybe your mom is this way about you but not your married sibs because she is operating with a vision of how she wants your lives to be. So, in a sense, she sees your sibs lives as "complete" (by her measure) and so she has breathed a psychic sigh of relief that she hasn't allowed herself with you.

If this is what's going on, it's dated and narrow-minded and it devalues a single life, for sure; my typing it out is not an endorsement of any kind. Just throwing it out there as a possible explanation.

I can relate; I think it's a normal thing. When my beloved family member died (and I was alone otherwise), I suddenly felt like I just wanted to settle into that small town, find a husband, and settle into a simple life. Which is nothing like me at all. Eventually, over a few months, I did a lot of self-reflection. It helped me figure out what I was missing, and hone in on what my needs really were. I did not settle into that small town, but I definitely modified my choices in life.

I like this, thanks--treating the impulses not as literal marching orders, but instead as clues.

Carolyn, Thank you for taking my question. The reason he expressed that he thinks we will be together for a while is because I did talk to him about it. He told me three months into dating that he loved me and I told him I wasn't there yet. He understood and since then I have said it back. Not necessarily because I have meant it whole heartedly, but because I look at him sometimes and think, "you know, I really do love this guy". I also did not want to be in the I-love-yous-limbo anymore since I had already not said it back for several months. I am being transparent with him about all of this. He keeps saying he is okay with it and it honestly seems like, for the most part, he is okay with it. I just can't keep help but think, "Is he masochistic?!". I suppose I need to rid myself of the guilt of not being on his level, but how?

By looking back at what you've said, being satisfied that you were as clear as you could and needed to be, and respecting him enough to see that staying is a valid choice for him to make. Some people are less afraid of getting hurt than they are of waking up someday and realizing they didn't give something a good enough shot. So, maybe he's in that camp, or at least is challenging himself to be in it. 

All you can do at this point is live in the moment, as you declared you would, and see where it takes you. If and when your feelings for him have run their course, then you break up.

One exception to this approach: If it comes to your attention, in words or by implication, that he's harboring false hope, then the compassionate thing to do is to break up, even if you're still superficially enjoying his company.

Why would you wait until your next disagreement to end it? If you've decided you're done, I'd say end it on the best terms possible, not while you're already both upset from a disagreement.

Right, thanks.

Dear Carolyn, Online only please. I'm expecting my first child this summer, which will be the first grandchild for both my parents and my in-laws. Everyone's very excited, but my mother has become increasingly jealous of my mother-in-law. We live about 20 minutes from my husband's parents (for both of our jobs), while my mother lives a full day's travel away by plane. Mom resents that we spend more time with my in-laws (even though we're generally not initiating that time -- my MIL will invite us to dinner, for example). Mom's jealousy over this was an issue even before I got pregnant, but I feel like it's shifted into high gear. She told me, for example, that she burst into tears when she received a copy of my sonogram in the mail -- because I saw my MIL in person that day, and she got a copy first. I foresee lots of incidents like this down the road, from "who saw the baby first" onwards. Do you have any suggestions on how I can address this? Or should I just divide the grandchild and give them each half?

What on earth was she expecting with the distances in question?

She's not being rational, which dramatically limits your options. Still, it might help a little if you brought her into any solution-generating: "Mom--I feel for you, I do. It's hard for me having you so far away. But it's just not reasonable to think [MIL] -wouldn't- see us more often when she's only 20 minutes away.

"So here's what I'm thinking: How would you like me to help you feel closer? Would a weekly v-chat session help?" ... etc.

The "etc." is something you can research online, since there are a lot of practical suggestions out there for people who are trying to stay close to someone long-distance.

Once you have a few inclusive plans in place, then it's going to be a matter of riding out your mom's emotions. Feel sympathetic, but not guilty or responsible for fixing her grief. 

Not that I'm telling you how to feel!

Good morning Carolyn - I thought you might like an update on my question, which you published last week. Your advice from the chat, and the subsequent comments from readers, touched on the heart of the issue: I knew he wasn't interested in more but was afraid to ask, because hearing it from him directly meant I would have to give up on any (slim) hope that I was wrong. You were right that if I had confidence he wanted more, I wouldn't have been afraid to bring it up. And knowing that made email seem like an attractive alternative because at least I could cry and eat ice cream in private. I never did email him because it was pretty clear that we were not going to be more than friends with occasional benefits. A few clarifications: many commenters interpreted the situation as only being FWBs, but in reality we had only slept together three times in a six month period during which we saw each other every weekend and spent a great deal of time together just being friends and having fun. The sex was a very small part of that overall. I never intended to stop being his friend; I just wasn't willing to sleep with him again if it was just sex with no possibility of more. So, we haven't slept together again but we are still good friends and I still hang out with him at least once a week just doing the stuff friends do - movies, concerts, dinner, etc. Do I still want more? Sometimes... but I'm also happy to have such a good friend in my life. Thanks for your advice and for holding up the mirror.

You're welcome, and thanks for the update.

For some reason this reminds me of people who avoid doctors because they don't want to hear bad news.

Is it just self-serving to tell a parent they are hurting your feelings if no one is getting actually harmed? I'm all grown up and independent. My parents are long divorced. My dad is getting remarried to someone with two adult kids. His fiancee and her two kids are in significant ways supported by my dad. It's a little annoying to watch, but I was okay with all of this until my dad said he's changing his will to leave his house to the five adult kids between him and his fiancée. Obviously this is his choice 100%, and the difference financially doesn't matter to me at all . But I feel hurt that he is treating my siblings and I (for whom he was not around financially/emotionally for a long time after my parents divorced) the same as two adult kids who he didn't help raise but who seem to take constant advantage of him. I feel like I shouldn't tell my dad he's hurting my feelings by the way he's living his life. That seems unfair. Maybe even mean. So this is something I just need to get over, right? But if so, how? Or should I say something? If so, what? I've long ago given him my blessing for his marriage and try not to give any indication that I'm not a fan of the situation. But that's not without its own costs either.

Seems to me the will change is just a reminder that he's (still) doing what serves him instead of looking out for you and your siblings. And re-discovering that can hurt even more than when you first discover it, because on top of it you also feel bad for letting yourself believe again that he could be a better dad than he is.

It's good you don't need the money. That will make it easier to repeat to yourself, "This is who he is and has always been," whenever you need a reminder.

I'm sorry.

Hi Carolyn, My partner (33) and I (28) have been together for three great years (I have had bad relationships before--this is NOT that). For the last three years I have made the choice--which has made us both happy--to spend nearly all my "home" time at her place. I have wanted to move in together for the last 1.5 years, and we will in September (driven by feelings about relationship, not convenience). I'm super excited because (a) we have found a lovely house that fulfills all of our requirements (b)we will be sharing it with two great people (c) I will have my own room (so will she) and (d) I'm stoked to be taking the step in our relationship. The rub: My partner is in the dregs of stressy blahs about the move, and I'm having trouble knowing if this is a Problem or something she'll get over after the move. She says it's the moving process that stresses her out, not the prospect of taking the relationship step (we each have a little nervousness about that, but I think it's a non-problem amount). Still, I worry that there's a red flag hidden in all the Eeyoring. I'm doing everything I can think of (not talking about it much even when I really want to, offering to pack up all or most of her stuff and move it while she goes out of town, etc), but it's not helping. I don't want to have requirements for how she feels about something that she's willing to do largely to please/be fair to me...but it makes me sad that she doesn't seem at all excited. Help? Advice? Perspective?

How does she usually respond to stress? If her behavior makes sense in context, then take her at her word that she's just moving-averse. If this is out of character for her, then say so. You've got three years of data to work with, so I imagine you know more of what's going on than you realize.

Last year a group of old HS friends (we're in our 50s now) vacationed at the beach. We mostly had a great time. But there was one woman who just made the stay miserable for each of us in different ways. She is a born-again Christian (fine, so is another of the group) but in your face about it and full of passive-agressive ways to make some of us feel bad about life choices. She would button-hole another woman who is now a therapist for free therapy every morning as they were the first to get up. This woman is now very eagerly trying to get us all to do this again. We would love to do it - but without her. How do we manage this? Tell her that she's made folks miserable? Have the vacation without here (sorry, can't do that- all Facebook friends). We're seeking any advice/help we can get here.

Each of you has to make a decision about whether you prefer the beach vacation even if it means having this annoying person around, or staying away from this annoying person even if it means you skip the vacation.

If you choose the vacation, then each of you manages the annoying person on his or her own. The therapist, for example, is responsible either for indulging the attempts to buttonhole her or for setting boundaries. You, for example, are responsible for owning your life choices and/or thickening your skin in the face of veiled criticism of them. Etc.

You also -can- choose not to include the annoying person. You just can't do it without hurting someone.

Thanks for taking my question! Since submitting, I've convinced her to visit friends while I do some packing, the physical move, and her least-favorite unpacking...and that seems to have fixed a lot of it. Yay!

Yay! See next:

Moving is my worst nightmare. I have trouble being organized, so having to make a decision about every thing that I pick up (packing and unpacking) causes me an insane amount of stress. And I'm kind of a normal everyday person (yes, a lifelong depressive but I have coping methods down pat) -- there's nothing abnormal about her reaction, to me. If it helps, my husband and I react to stress totally differently; we are always 180 degrees apart on such situations emotionally. we've made it work for 37 years, though. I would just take her word for it.

Moving is misery--seconding that, thanks.

Okay, that's it for today ... I was going to answer one more but all the ones in my queue seem like they'd tie up my brain for a while. 

Thanks everybody, happy almost-summer and type to you here next week.

Oh, and thank you, Bostonian ...

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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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