Carolyn Hax Live: "It beats eye-rolling the bride"

May 18, 2018

Advice columnist Carolyn Hax chats live every Friday at noon to answer any questions you might have about this strange train we call life.

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Neither this chat nor Aaron Blake's "The Fix," also scheduled to start at noon, has begun yet, and it's been a half hour already. We sure hope there's nothing wrong.

There was a problem, but it has apparently been resolved. Apologies to all for the delay and the inconvenience.

Unfortunately, I have a prior commitment today and can't make up the time afterward, as I normally would.

 

As a first-generation college student from a working-class background, I had a similar experience as Wednesday's letter writer when visiting the family of my college boyfriend. When they implied I might be gold-digging, I said, with what I am still not sure was more bravado or lack of tact, "Wow, I am so disappointed that you think so little of "John," that you can't come up with any other reasons why I would like him. I think he's terrific and I will be sure to continue to admire his good qualities that you don't appreciate." It didn't exactly endear me but at least the snide comments stopped.

Nicely done.

You also did another useful thing without realizing it. I got the impression there were a lot of readers who found it hard to believe people still were openly snobbish like that, so, here's another example. 

Carolyn, I have a 5yo daughter who is starting kindergarten in the fall, and I am just a wreck every time I see news about a school shooting. I know that there are daily risks in life (getting in a car, etc) but I am having a really hard time with the possibility that something fatal could happen to her at school. We live in a state where guns are prevalent and concealed carry is legal. I'd love to hear thoughts from you or other parents on how to deal with this anxiety (not looking to start a debate on gun control -- just trying to play the hand I'm dealt given that the laws are what they are).

The way to deal with this anxiety is to throw facts at it, because it is in fact irrational. Something fatal can happen to all of us anywhere. Actually, it does happen to all of us eventually. The likelihood of any U.S. child dying by any cause is very low. When something bad does happen, it is most likely to be the result of an accident; you brush past the "daily risks in life (getting in a car, etc.)" but the numbers are much grimmer for that car trip than for any trip to school.

The school shooting seems worse or more terrifying because it's not part of some routine daily risk tradeoff (i.e., stick only to places you can walk, or accept the risk inherent in vehicle travel?), just as the idea of stranger abduction terrifies so many parents into taking outsize measures to supervise their kids--but really there's more risk in the mundane. 

"The Gift of Fear" and "Protecting the Gift" by Gavin de Becker can help in learning to assess risk based on reality, not blanket news coverage. 

Dear Carolyn, I married my high-school sweetheart when we were both 25--not because we were soulmates or even particularly happy together, but because we were imagination-lacking, codependent and afraid to let go. We stayed married for three years before I cried uncle and filed for divorce (with his agreement that it was the right thing to do). While it was painful at first, we have wound up more or less friends again, and we share a social circle. He is getting married again in four weeks, and I'm invited to the wedding. First marriage for the new bride. I've been perusing their wedding website and maybe this is my glass of wine talking, but I'm having a hard time with all the quotes and hashtags sprinkled throughout that reference "forever." She is so happy they will be together "forever." Don't get me wrong, I hope their marriage works out, but language like that seems ridiculous considering has been married before, believing it would be "forever," and it wasn't. Perhaps I'm just being silly, but this is leading me to rethink attending their wedding--I'm afraid I might scoff my way through the ceiling. Any thoughts to reshape my thinking on this?

Oh, but it's so easy--you guys thought it was forever, but you were "imagination-lacking, codependent and afraid to let go" (now there's a tastefully lettered sign to hang over my kitchen sink!), and this time the couple is mature and clear-eyed and in loooove enough for a lifetime.

Yeah, yeah.

But do you really want to live in a world where hope never triumphs over experience? 

I don't. But if you do, or if you don't but you're not feeling it, and/or if you present even the slightest scoff risk, then maybe it's time to back out. Four weeks out it's not the most polite move ever, but it beats the day before and it beats eye-rolling the bride.

 

 

I want to reiterate what Carolyn said -- this is likely abuse/neglect, but more importantly, these children are probably uncomfortable having these pests living on and with them. Depending on their age, they may experience shame, as well. So if you're able, show them love and acceptance, and do what you can to keep them clean, perhaps showing them how to easily take care of themselves, as well.

Thank you, and now I want to reiterate what you said. Show them love and acceptance. I noticed this some in the comments, that people see the word "bedbug" and just default to "nope." I did my homework and the message was clear, that for people with bedbug "hitchhikers" from an infested home, the remedies are simple. It's the remedies for infested homes that are aggravating, complex and expensive.

The LW says that she and her ex "have wound up more or less friends again," but the letter suggests that "less" is winning out. Skipping the wedding seems like a mercy.

It is all to easy for a child to get nervous about school with all the talk about school shootings - so try and keep your anxiety level and energy on this low and not give this to your daughter, difficult I know. If you need to talk to her about it, then be matter or fact and underscore the fact that this is very, very, very unlikely to happen to her. I worry how much we are traumatizing kids with active shooter drills etc. Cars are hugely dangerous, and often we don't have the control we think we have because of other drivers - we're just used to danger.

Right. Though even with cars, we're safer than we have been in the past. 

Here's the thing, and I'm glad you steered the conversation toward this. If recent studies (and coverage of such) are accurate, young people are experiencing high levels of anxiety and depression, to the point where school counseling offices are overrun. The risk that comes with these mental health conditions is so much more immediate than the risk of a shooter. 

Then there are the risks that come with overprotecting kids. They need to get out in the world, on their own, in age appropriate ways. Otherwise they get launched in the greater world as chronological adults who are functionally still children, lacking in life skills.

So these are two other reasons for parents to force themselves to gain and live by a factual understanding of risk.

I'm sorry I'm moving (even more) slowly on the same day as a delay. I'm choosing my words with particular care given the topic.

My wife is having an affair, and I know all about it. In fact, I knew about it before it even started, as she came to me telling me she was interested in a physical relationship with someone she had just met. Ever since I have been faced with the choice between telling my wife to stop, or allowing it to continue to its conclusion. What I really want is for her to want to stop on her own and, more importantly, to want me in the same physical and emotional sense that she wants her fling. Though my wife denies it, I have always felt like a "check box husband" - the kind who has all the qualities she would write down on a piece of paper when thinking of her ideal husband (though I'm far from perfect). But rarely has she demonstrated the passion or desire for me that I would hope for from my wife. Her affair demonstrates she is capable of such emotion, but maybe not just for me. The affair is the symptom, what do I do about the disease?

Terrible situation, I'm sorry. 

I think it's time to stop thinking about how you want this to turn out, and start thinking about how it -can- turn out.

For example, you say: "Ever since I have been faced with the choice between telling my wife to stop, or allowing it to continue to its conclusion." You actually have other choices besides this, but you don't mention them. Maybe you aren't even thinking about them ... and I suspect it's because these are the only two that allow you your happy ending, where your wife returns  passionately to your marriage. Right? In both of them she stops the affair (at your initiative of hers) and stays married to you, at least, and from there your hope for passion stays alive.

It is a hope, though, that reality apparently doesn't support.

So I urge you to start thinking of options that reality says are possible.

Those include your ending the marriage, of course; or your staying in the marriage as-is, knowing this is as good as it's likely to get (no matter how she denies your suspicions) and adjusting your expectations accordingly;  or staying in the marriage, but doing so as she does--with no compunction about getting your needs met outside the marriage when the marriage itself doesn't meet them.

It's not a great lineup of choices, I'll grant you that--but none of them is going to torment you the way your current and, I'm sorry to say, unsubstantiated hopes are tormenting you now. 

 

My daughter's friend, who grew up in foster care, likes to call me Mom. I don't want to sound like a Meany McMeany, but I only want my daughter to call me Mom. I cringe every time her friend says the M-word, but I never correct her. I have been super kind to her by buying her things, making sure she has food at home and giving her rides from work. Should I just suck it up?

I actually sucked in my breath reading this. 

It is great that you have given material support to your daughter's friend. But this person, who has no family of her own, is giving you the gift of *love.* If you can look at that gift in your hands and seriously feel annoyed that you can't exchange it for a different size or color, and if you think you can pass off this annoyance as an "aw shucks" using cutesy poo McLanguage, then I don't know what I can possibly say to you to change your mind. 

Heart, I should say. To change your heart. 

 

 

 

 

No less than $3,000 and immeasurable stress to get rid of them. You keep acting like it's not a big deal. Ask anyone whose had them how not a big deal it is. The kids can skip my house this summer.

That's your prerogative, but you're conflating two things and in this case doing so unfairly penalizes kids who seriously need love and attention and care. 

Ridding a home of bedbugs is horrible and expensive.

Ridding some kids of bedbugs they carry from their home is not horrible and expensive. It's showers and laundry. 

I recently broke up with my girlfriend, who had been saying repeatedly of our relationship, "This isn't working." She was referring to things like we don't live close enough to each other to make getting together quick and easy, and that our financial and career situations are in very different places right now. When I broke up with her I thought she would basically agree it was the right thing to do, given how she had been repeatedly saying, "This isn't working." Instead, she cried, screamed, and then told me "This isn't working" was supposed to mean, "Just dating isn't working so you should propose." I'm kind of flabbergasted. Does the fact that I didn't pick up on what she was saying mean I have problems with reading people? Or does it mean she has problems with communicating, which is all the more reason I was right to break up?

It means you both have problems with communicating. She didn't say what she actually meant, and you didn't ask her to explain the "isn't working" stuff beyond surface things like commutes and finances. And/or you didn't say, "I'm confused, I think it's working great--I really love being with you."

Now, you might be thinking, you asked and she answered and so you did your part. But if all this time she was really trying to  hint you to a proposal, then presumably the emotional/physical connection was at least somewhat good, yes? And so there was some kind of a gap between that emotional/physical connection and the verbal message of, "This isn't working." Good communication on both sides is what turns a confusing message into a coherent one.

Not for nothing, but I don't get any sense from your letter that you actually love[d] her. If you're looking for "all the more reason I was right too break up with her," then here's one: If you don't feel like a piece of you has been removed with this breakup, then she's not the one you want to marry.

Don't go. No matter how good of a relationship you and your ex-husband currently have, do not attend the wedding. I have a few friends who have attended the wedding of an ex and it always turned out to be a bad idea. Not necessarily because they did something dramatic and embarrassing at the wedding, but because my friends came away feeling like crap. The nature of a wedding is just really not designed to be an event where an ex of the marrying couple will leave feeling good about attending.

Carolyn, I wasn't able to read the last chat in real time. I may be too late, but I wanted to weigh in on the "crazy" sister post. First, thanks for helping to de-stigmatize mental illness. Second, as someone who is battling mental illness myself, I wanted to offer up kudos and a big hug to the sister who went on antidepressants. Even if that hasn't proved to be the ultimate solution for her, it's a big step to take, and is often an extremely difficult step to take. That may be particularly true for the sister who has been labelled crazy and whose parents seem to want to turn a blind eye. In taking that step, the sister is clearly fighting to survive. If I could give her a big hug right now and tell her how courageous she is, I would. I also offer a big hug to the OP who cares enough to write in and to try and find a solution. Clearly this isn't something she should shoulder alone, but she is so compassionate to want to try. What I most want to say is that mental illness is illness. Period. I hope someday we can stop making the stigmatizing distinction between "physical" illness and "mental" illness. The closer one looks, the more that boundary is revealed as false. I hope the sister's family, and other people in general, can challenge themselves to think what would be different if they replaced "crazy" with "cancer." If you found out that your family member was undergoing chemotherapy, what steps would you take? Why is that different from finding out that they are taking antidepressants? "Mental" illness is a deadly disease and deserves to be brought into the light with compassion, and without blame.

Sorry for another blank spot--reading for another Q to answer and the queue is packed with the same few topics that have already dominated the chat. I'll look for another minute or two before I call it a day.

Dear Carolyn, My husband and I will be taking a 3 day trip this summer with our two children, which we never do. We asked his sister and her family if they wanted to meet us for the trip. She agreed but now is worried about money. My family wants to stay in a decent hotel, dine out, and enjoy local attractions.. nothing extravagant. She prefers to pack sandwiches and wants a cheap motel. Any advice on ways to enjoy the trip and compromise? We don’t want to come across as selfish but we want to enjoy our vacation. Thanks

You've got to decide, unfortunately, which is your priority--the accommodations or the company. I'm not judging either way.

If the bigger priority is family harmony, then you revise this trip into something cheaper, and maybe use some of the money you save on sandwich meals to treat everyone for one nice(r) dinner.

Sometimes you want the trip you want, too, and you're entitled to that. If that's the case here, then it might make sense just to say to the sister that you planned the trip as X, Y and Z, and you totally understand if that's not what they want to do, and maybe a different trip altogether would make more sense for the two families? Later in the summer? Or in the fall? So, maybe for the two-family trip you rent a vacation cottage near water, or hiking trails, where the entertainment is built in, and you cook on the grill. 

Short version, it's okay to pull the plug on the joint trip if it's turning into something you don't want, but it would be kind to be ready with an alternative.

Okay, that's it for today. Thanks all, have a great weekend and hope to see you here next week.

I'm getting married in September. Three of my four bridesmaids are my fiancé's exes. Last weekend I was my best friend's maid of honor. My date was my fiancé, her ex-boyfriend. They're good friends. It was a beautiful wedding and we were honored and joyous to be there. I think the original asker shouldn't go if she's not feeling it, but it's by no means a universal rule that you shouldn't attend an ex's wedding. If you're actual friends—not just amicable former partners—you should go if you want to, without worrying that you'll come away feeling like crap.

You're right, but also gloriously entangled, disentangled and reentangledish. Thanks.

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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 washingtonpost.com. She lives in New England with her husband and their three boys.
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