Carolyn Hax Live: 'That road you're on? Leads to nowhere.'

Jul 13, 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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Hi everybody, happy Friday.

Hi Carolyn - Before we got engaged 5 years ago, my husband took some time out to decide whether or not we were a long term prospect. He decided to go for it, and we’re now married with 2 young children. I recently came across an email he sent to himself at the time, which was essentially a pro / con list and a list of ‘what I want that I don’t already have’. It didn’t make happy reading for me, including because “pretty” was on the latter list. I’m not going to discuss it with him, but is there a way I can come to terms with this? Thank you.


I'm sorry.

I think the best way to come to terms with it is to recall your mental list about him, which you no doubt compiled to some extent, and which no-doubt-at-all-not-even-a-shred contained a few items that weren't positive about him. Right? You chose him because he was A, B, C and D, which made it easy for you not to worry about X, Y and Z. 

That at least will help you process the fact that the problem is seeing the list in black-and-white, not that it exists, because such a list exists on every imperfect being ever taken as a life partner by another imperfect being.

I'm not sure you shouldn't say anything though. "I found this. If you ever write another one, I suggest you delete it."

Carolyn, My youngest sister is 14. She recently spent 10 days at my house visting and we had a wonderful time. She is a little over weight and concerned about how to fix it so I spent this week teaching her how to workout, get active and make healthier food choices. She is enthusiastic about wanting to change and get healthy when she gets home but is concerned about my mom. Our whole family is overweight except for myself. There is history of heart attacks, blood clots, diabetes and other health issues in our family. My sister and I desperately want to avoid these issues. My mother refuses to buy healthy food, thinks that working out is manly and women shouldn't have muscles or "be skinny" (which is not what I'm advocating) and that taking care of your body is sinful and making it an idol. I don't live at home and am able to buy my own groceries and workout. My sister obviously doesn't have that ability yet. How do I make my mom see the real risks she is putting my sister in by fighting her attempts at getting healthy?? I don't want my sister go through hell with her health or have a poor body image and hate herself like I did. Any Advice? - Healthful Sister.

My mother refuses to buy healthy food, thinks that working out is manly and women shouldn't have muscles or "be skinny"  and that taking care of your body is sinful and making it an idol.

I think this is the very definition of a lost cause. Because, wow. Ignorance, you can fix through education--willful ignorance, though, is the choice of a true believer in something counter to fact, and that's not a matter of education or even persuasion anymore. It would take deprogramming--and that's if it's even possible or practical or your place.

Your sister doesn't have the time for this. She needs a way to take care of herself that she can manage under (and over and around) your mother's rules. 

So please help your sister figure out how to eat wisely through: thoughtful portion sizes, information on nutrition labels on whatever your mother does buy, seized opportunities away from home (school lunch as blessing), and stealth health foods like convenience store trail mix. Help her get her exercise through daily activity--walking, gardening, work around the house--and in her moments to herself. She can do planks in her room, no? Just as an example.

This can benefit your sister starting today; there is no productivity date in sight for the Make My Mother See project.


A few years ago, my wife and I made a lot of new friends. There was one Main Couple that brought the whole group together and was really the center of our social universe. Sadly, Mrs. Main Couple died last fall from a valiant fight against Breast Cancer. Our friend group had rallied hard for two years and her loss was a devastating blow. Just the mention of her name still brings tears to a lot of eyes. Mr. Main Couple has quietly established a new relationship. It started in March and last month he slowly started introducing her to a few key friends (my wife and I included). She seems nice enough but I’m just not ready. Main Couple’s house was our group’s hangout and has a lot of her still around (including her urn in the living room). It’s been hard enough to go back into the house without her but now there’s a new person spending weekends there. I completely agree with my wife that Mrs. Main Couple wouldn’t want her husband to stay alone forever. My wife is 100% right that dating a new woman doesn’t change the love our friend had for his wife. Mentally I know that it doesn’t tarnish a legacy or lessen our loss when our friend moves on. But I still can’t deal with it. I know I’m a bad friend but I don’t want to get to know this person. I’m still sad about the loss of our friend and want our social group to just remain status quo for a little while longer. I know I’m being selfish, so what can I do to fix it?

I'm so sorry for your loss. 

And I understand your not wanting to know this new person. It's a normal way to feel.

I don't think it would be fair, though, to act on those feelings. Not to the extent you want to, at least. It wouldn't be fair to her, of course, because she has done nothing to hurt you. It wouldn't be fair to Mr. Main Couple, because he, too, did nothing wrong, but more so is grieving in his own way--since it's certainly possible to love one person while grieving another. It's not fair to your wife, because keeping yourself out of this reconstituted circle of friends will affect her ability to connect with it, and she too is dealing with a loss.

And finally, it serves you least of all, because it isolates you from your friends most of all. At a time when you are obviously still emotional about this loss.

So what does this mean, to feel something normal but not act on it the way that comes normally to you? It's a matter of balance, really. I don't think you should just pretend you're fine!fine!fine! and hang out with the new woman as if nothing ever happened. But don't stay away entirely, either. Instead, find the middle path, where you make small efforts to get to know her followed by small retreats to your comfort zone. So, go to an event where she is present, and say your polite hellos, have a little small talk, and then go talk to someone from the old guard. And/or, decline 1 invitation of every 3, so you can pace yourself in adapting to the new reality. Talk to your wife about it and figure out ways to wade in slowly, ideally ones that will be subtle enough not to offend your hosts, who are, like the rest of us, just trying to figure things out.


Hi Carolyn! Ever hear back about the elusive towel dilemma? I've been on the edge of my seat all week...

Two weeks of seat-edge living! Sorry about the ill-timed vacation.

So, yes. I did hear back after the chat. Seems this guest was there one night, and was going to be back several days later without anyone else using the towels in the interim, and "she put the towels out specially to *notify* me that she wanted them washed."

This guest also wanted to leave her kids there for a week so she could go on a trip, and for the hosts to take personal days off work to provide this child care. So there was indeed more to it.

I think the advice is to stop opening your home to someone you clearly dislike, and, if unavoidable for some reason, change the terms in every way possible to make it more bearable to you.

Since she just spent 10 days at your house, I'm guessing you live somewhat far apart. Could you have a regular skype/facetime call with her where you do yoga together, or schedule it while you're both walking - be virtual exercise buddies.

My husband is broken - there is no other way to put it. Multiple health problems with years of chronic pain lead to multiple surgeries with extended hospitals stays. Physically and mentally he is worn out. He hasn't worked in 2 years, so he's also financially tapped out and relies on me for everything. By some miracle, he is getting better. He is determined to return to his prior job, which he loved but is very physically demanding and most likely, unrealistic. Our bank account - and my emotional bank accounts - needs his contribution. I want to be supportive and encouraging, despite being very, very tired of being his cheerleader. I think there is a chance he could get his job and life back, but it will be very difficult and a long road. I feel like putting all the cards on the table. We survive on hope and prayers, yet I think we have to admit - out loud - that he is broken, weak, traumatized, and far away from where he wants to be. Any suggestions on how to broach this subject without being mean? Any suggestions on how to tell him he needs to put his long-term goals aside and take a menial job to help out, instead of trying to achieve everything at once? Again, I want to be supportive but I feel we need to be honest, realistic. And I feel he owes me basic contribution instead of reaching for the stars.

I think we have to admit - out loud - that he is broken, weak, traumatized, and far away from where he wants to be.

Why? And how would that help him get stronger, or at least strong enough to start contributing again?

Seems to me the truth that needs airing most right now is that *you* are broken, weak(ened), traumatized, and far away from where you want to be. At least in your own way, emotionally and even financially. No? And I don't mean to say you're at fault in any way for that. You have been under enormous pressure to carry the household and take care of him. Obviously he has had the worse of it, but his mandate all along has been to get well. Big, draining, painful, but also very clear and clearly defined, with no pulls in any other directions.

Now that "by some miracle, he is getting better," he can turn his attention to other things. This is an amazing development, and it can benefit both of you if you approach it that way. He needs to build himself back into a bigger role, and you need your role to contract a little for your own well-being.

That's the thing I hope you admit out loud: that you are so happy he's looking to get back to his old job, and will do what you can to support that, but hope it's also the right time for you to ask for a little relief in the bargain. Can he start smaller? Please? Is he open to discussing ways to work at a less demanding job while he regains his strength? Because the financial strain is starting to affect you, and his full recovery to the old job won't happen next week, but becoming an earner again can.

I had something similar happen when I was the writer and my husband was the reader, and I've also been on the receiving end of something similar. Husband had come across some posts I made on a members-only parenting forum when I was a new parent and having a really hard time, and I said some things about him that upset him when he read them. We had pretty poor communication at the time and he did not realize I was suffering terribly from PPD, and he was so angry and resentful it nearly destroyed us. For whatever reason, he didn't want to admit what he'd read, and he said nothing but took out his frustration on me in subtle and cruel ways until he just looked at me with contempt and snapped at me all the time, and I had absolutely no idea why. He finally said something in a therapist's office. I felt awful about hurting him, and he never gave me a chance to apologize for it by keeping it to himself. His resentment just grew and grew. Don't let your own resentment go that far. Please tell him what you read and talk to him about it. Give him a chance to tell you why he chose you and why he's still there. It was a long time ago now, but by talking to him, you can take the power away from those words that tend to fester in your mind if you treat them like a dirty little secret. Don't assume that this is his "real truth" and he's been hiding it from you for years. People use very different words/language when they're working through big things on their own, so just let it out, and it'll lose its power and you can move on if you are otherwise living the life you want.

Great stuff, thank you.

Carolyn— My boyfriend and I have been together for two years; he’s a few months shy of 28 (I’m 30). It seems that the only clothes he wears are t-shirts, gym shorts, and Chucks, stuff I would consider vastly more appropriate for someone in their late teens or early twenties. If it was just around the house or for quick errands, I wouldn’t really care, but this extends to going out to dinner or for public events (I put my foot down for an occasion at the Kennedy Center). Is it unfair to expect him to start putting a little more care into his dress at our age? I try not to nag, but it’s a little embarrassing to stand out so much from the other patrons of the typically reasonably nice restaurants we frequent in image-focused DC.

Say it once, out loud, clearly, and then listen to his answer, and then make up your mind whether it's the hill you want to die on.

"If it was just around the house or for quick errands, I wouldn’t really care, but your wearing t-shirts and gym shorts and Chucks when we go out to dinner or for public events is embarrassing to me, since we to stand out so much from the other patrons of the typically reasonably nice restaurants we frequent. Is it unfair of me to ask you to start putting a little more care into your dress, since we're not teenagers anymore?"

Here's why it matters, when it appears to be just about clothes and appearances: To make choices that reject norms is bigger than just a t-shirt. He is certainly entitled to do that, but you are also entitled to decide that someone who rejects norms that way isn't the person you want at your side through life. You can decide that respect for the norms of your surroundings is a form of respect for the institutions and the people maintaining them---for the people working at the restaurants, for the people running and performing at the theater, etc. Different values are the single most valid reason to decide someone isn't for you.

My boyfriend and I are going to visit some friends who have invited us to join them at their lake house. A few months ago, my friends told me that my boyfriend is "tough to like." I realize his sense of humor isn't for everyone, but his direct candor - while harsh - is one of the traits I find attractive about him. I'd like to buffer any difficulties with my friends, but I don't want to tell my boyfriend not to be himself, nor do I look forward to telling him he isn't completely liked. Any suggestions on how to approach this?

No no no no no. 


Do not, ever, take on the role of buffer for someone in a relationship. To quote Finn in "Adventure Time," "That road you're on? leads to nowhere."

When you are with someone, the combination you create has to stand or fall on its merits, and that includes with your friends, your family, your home life, your professional life, your personal habits, your hobbies, your values, your goals, all of it. It's not always going to be perfect, obviously, but if you have to exert a special effort to curate scenes and manage personalities and schedules just to keep the whole thing from blowing up, then you're going to exhaust yourself--if not now, then over time for sure--and it's Not Going to Work. 

So if this is the right guy for you, then he will be the right guy in unvarnished form with your friends--or he will cost you these friends and be worth losing your friends for. Or he's not worth losing friends for and you break up. Those are your healthy choices.

Take your consequences upfront. 

Dear Carolyn, My parents always told us they were taking care of us in their will and their house was full of valuable antiques. I’m executor of the estate and when all is said and done each of my siblings and I will get around $7,000 each. Which is nice, but not what they lead us to believe for a long time. I’m fine with this, I wasn’t really expecting anything huge. But one of my siblings is expecting a windfall to put his kids through college. We are meeting tomorrow to go over this and I have to break the news. I need some guidance on how to tell my sibling this and how to explain the situation when they get upset.

Careful documentation is your friend. Explaining will sound like explaining, which to someone inclined not to believe you will come across as backpedaling and excuse-making and spin. Offer it up as something that surprised you as well, and didn't square at all with what your parents had led you to believe, so you checked the numbers many times over.

Then show them and let them see what you learned the same way you learned it.

Good luck.

You're one of many sisters so I thought you'd be able to help. I ruined my sister's life the day I was born, which was cute back then, but we're almost 50 now. Starting with childhood, most decisions I make (hair, clothes, musical instrument, sports, college, career, house, etc.) somehow ruins her day. She gets visibly upset, highly critical, and accusations of jealousy fly. I'm not sure why she's like this, especially considering my decisions have zero effect on her life. She lives her own life, and I'm happy for her. (Really!) We've never been close because my existence seems to annoy her. Although we fought as children, as an adult, I'm tired of it. I rarely see her, but when I do, I know another rage-filled mood swing is going to get hurled at me. Time for estrangement? I think I'm there, but what do I tell my aging parents who really want us to be close?

You tell your parents you're sorry you're not able to give them this one thing they want so much. You will always keep trying, though--that will assure them and it's not unreasonable to promise. Because ...

trying can take many forms, one of which is to keep your distance and use that distance as part of your effort. See her on logical occasions to see her, and plan ahead of time that you won't stand for any tantrums. Be pleasant, be friendly, be kindly interested in her life, and when she turns on you, say, "I'm sorry you feel this way. However, I won't be treated like this," and leave. Every. Single. Time.

Let her fulminate at an empty room or the back of the door you just closed. 

A kind and calm embrace of her when she's being civil, and walk the *second* she gets ugly.

Repeat, repeat, repeat. 

Reward the good and starve the bad. It might not work, but it's the only good shot you have, plus it keeps your integrity intact. (Not coincidental.)

Hi Carolyn! I've been reading your column since high school (I'm 23 now) and I could use your guidance. I try to keep informed with politics and the state of the world, but I'm getting so, so tired. I have depression and anxiety and struggle to deal with my daily first-world issues - how do people deal with watching the world fall apart? I want to do something to help, but I can't afford to donate and protest crowds give me panic attacks.

It's okay to take a break. Even the most engaged politicos and activists would tell you that you need to take breaks to be effective--at anything, for sure, but certainly something as stressful as watching your world take a turn that threatens values you cherish or depend on.

So figure out what you need to take care of yourself--both your need to be engaged and your need to disengage and rest.

As for what you can do when you don't like what your elected officials are doing, and can't donate and won't march, then start calling. Calls to offices calmly stating your position are a key element of pressure for change. Write yourself a script (you can find examples online for specific issues) and get to it. Or, volunteer for a cause you care about. Or for a campaign to unseat someone you don't like.

Again, within the limits you need, as part of a broader strategy to live the best life you can. So: You want to stay informed, so do that; you need breaks, so take them; you will feel better if you're able to do something concrete, so make X calls a day/week, or volunteer X hours per week, or whatever seems doable. 

About three years ago my husband and I (no kids) went on a big family vacation with my husband's parents, sibling, and sibling's spouse. I *really* wasn't interested in going but his mother had been pushing for a family trip for a long time, his father had just gotten over cancer, and it coincided with a somewhat big anniversary for his parents. I told my husband I was happy to do it this one time due to these circumstances. We went, it was fine, but afterwards I maintained that I had no intention of making this a regular thing. Well now the an even bigger anniversary approaches and tentative discussion for the trip has started as though it's already a given. His parents were just over and the three of them happily batted around potential locations. I don't want to go! I do terrible with group travel and I didn't feel comfortable the whole week we were together. Before we left on that trip I mentioned my fear of never getting alone time but husband promised me that we would do our own thing as much as we wanted. Instead we ate every meal as a group and if we ever hinted we'd go off to do something alone then everyone else would tag along anyway. The last time the topic of family travel came up between the two of us we fought when I said I wouldn't do it again. He said that I was being selfish. So now I don't know what to do. It's far enough away that I don't have previous commitments as an excuse, plus I know they would happily work around any schedule barriers I put up. How do I make it clear to my husband that I'm not going on this - or any - trip? Also just want to note: we all live near each other so it's not like this trip would be an excuse to spend quality time together.

Well wait--what did he say about the broken promise of some alone time?

I realize this is macro and I'm going micro, but couples with different social and family needs do manage to make these things work *when they find ways to compromise.* And, it should go without saying, when they honor those agreements in the moment.

You agreed to go on this past Big Trip with the understanding that you;d need some alone time, and you didn't get that alone time in large part because he didn't intervene on your behalf to preserve the time for you. (It was in smaller part due to your failure to insist as well, he just gets more of the responsibility as the one best positioned to tell h is folks you were doing this "something alone" as something alone.)

So, now, with a new Big Trip looming, you have that as a practical matter to discuss with your husband. You made it clear what you needed on the last trip, ahead of time, and it evaporated. So of course you're reluctant to do it again. And being called "selfish" after he reneged on a deal to have your back is not the right tone to strike.

You can also make a reasonable offer here, though I wouldn't make it if he sticks to his selfishness charge:

You go on the same terms as the last trip, but you are going to take your alone time on your own when you need it. I.e., you're not going to count on him to make it happen. Have access to transportation built in--your own rented car, bike, kayak, unicycle, anything. And consider doing half the trip, too--you arrive late or leave early, also built in.

In fact, this is the kind of offer that works best as a concession you make willingly out of thanks for his understanding and letting you off the hook. He says, hey, I know you hate group travel, I'll just go solo--and you say, thank you so much for understanding me, and in return for giving me a pass I'll agree to go on every other trip ... or half of each trip ... or some such.

If you can present it to him as such, without fighting, and if he can see the value in that offer to your marriage, then I like your chances. If-if, but still.


Carolyn, I could use another perspective on an issue that's come up in my relationship. My significant other connected with a ride share driver recently. As described to me afterwards, the driver and the driver's partner have certain interests in common with me and my SO ("Dave"). Though Dave told me about meeting the driver and suggested some sort of double date, I didn't express any interest in following through and didn't think much of it. Later, I learned that Dave had exchanged email messages with the driver, and they were trying to schedule a get-together, presumably for the four of us. I explained to Dave that I thought he was pursuing his own interest in the driver, and that I wasn't interested in making new friends under those conditions. A couple of other factors that inform my reaction. First, Dave has engaged in similar flirtations in the past, and been called on it. Second, Dave would never approve of my engaging in a private correspondence with a near-stranger. I'm hurt, but am trying not to overreact. I'd appreciate your thoughts, and commentary from the 'nuts.

I feel like we're missing a lot of information that could swing the answer one way or another.

However, that's not really important if what you say at the end is true: Does Dave really have different standards for your behavior than he does for his own? If so, then Dave's a jerk. An other who needs to become insignificant as soon as you can swing it.

Is there a date yet?

Nope. How does Aug. 31 sound?

Is is possible the sister could talk to her school nurse? Maybe there is a program at school or she can qualify for a healthy weight loss program at low cost or no cost through her school? Then maybe the mother won't be able to object.

Worth an ask, thanks.

Offer to buy him new clothes. My now-husband was like this too when we first started dating. Turns out he was terrified of shopping. I started buying clothes for him, he would wear them: win/win.

I hope that's it--so easy. Thanks.

Quoting Finn? Oh my glob, that's awesome.

That whole episode, "The Suitor," was like seeing my advice in "Adventure Time" form. I was giddy. 

One remedy is to not fall into the 24/7 news cycle, but commit to one way to find news and then move on. For example, you could only watch the nightly, 30 minute national news broadcasts on ABC, NBC, or CBS -- then you are up to date on what's going on but you are less likely to be sucked into a ton of negativity and despair. Plus, many of those broadcasts end with an uplifting story. Or follow one daily news summary (I like the Post's Daily 202). I have stopped trying to be updated on the absolute latest on everything because it is impossible and it is exhausting.

Agreed, thanks. Pick a *reputable!!!!*  uncherrypicked fact-based source or three and cap it at a tolerable dose. 

Something underlying this that's worth noting is that you've been an involuntary caregiver for 2 years under extraordinarily trying circumstances. Caregiving in general is hard, but the involuntary type is often soul breaking, with epidemic levels (95%+) of depression. It won't make the many issues around your husband go away, but if you've not been screened for it, it's certainly worth a visit to your MD as getting it treated can help you clarify where both of you are and proceed from there.

this may not help the poster, but I was executor of parents' estate. I kept my siblings constantly updated through the process, and they had a basic idea of the $. I also got their support when I had to make a decision immediately, and sought feedback along the way.

For Politics Burnout, remember the the world's that falling apart is made of individual people. Making a difference by even just being kind to someone today has an impact on a real human who could use your kindness here, now, today!

So true, thank you.

Another possibility: Your friends will grow to like your mate. Two of my closest friends married men that irritated the heck out of me. But they treat my friends wonderfully, are a perfect match for them, and make them wildly happy, so I sucked it up and spent time with them. And now, while they still grate on me, I see the great qualities that my friends see in them, and have grown to like them independent of my original friends. Hopefully your people can get to that point. (Did that subject line make anyone else thing that this post was going to go in an entirely different direction?)

(Ha. Yes.)

It's important to your other possibility, too, that the OP not try to buffer the guy: If OP and he are a good match, OP needs to let them see that by acting naturally with him. Thanks.

The executor should send the estate accounting to the siblings before the meeting. Give them a chance to think about the documents, and internalize their meaning. Springing the documents on them during the meeting will only create problems since the sibs will be confused about information that they have just received and don't understand.

How did the wife happen to "come across" and email the husband sent to himself? Snooping, perhaps?

I've gotten a ton of responses like this, and, well--maybe? But there are a ton of other ways spouses run across each other's stuff. I'm surprised at the volume of jumps to this conclusion.

The writer should know he's not a bad friend. The fact that he's worried about how his feelings could hurt his friend, and is asking for advice to keep that from happening, makes him a good friend. A bad friend wouldn't care about his friend's feelings. This letter writer clearly does. Feelings don't make you a good or bad person; how you act on them does.

Is it that making such a list is bad? or having the other person accidentally see it? Because such a list is exactly something my analytic brain would do if I was trying to work out a relationship issue. I wouldn't mean it as something hurtful, it would just be a way of me putting things down in black and white to focus myself on what the real issue was.

Lists aren't unwise, saving them is.

any suggestions? is there a website where there are ratings available or something?

Ask your regular doctor for names of people s/he knows who get good results with the type of concerns you have. That's the best place to start. 

Dear Carolyn, I would like to add that wealth and value can mean different things to different generations. I've had to come to understand that the messaging intent and outcome of wills are often far apart when it comes to hard numbers.


Carolyn— Am I weird? I left him—he’s not a bad man but our foundation wasn’t great and eventually it cracked. We didn’t have kids. I still look great—especially for “my age.” I get lonely but I don’t feel ready yet. Then I read about a widower moving on in your chat and think I must be weird.

Rule No. 1: We all move at our own pace.

Rule No. 2: We're all weird.

Apply as needed.



She can also send her sister gift cards for healthy eating options, whether it's for a healthy grocery store or for meals out where she can select healthy options for herself.

There is such a thing as "caregiver trauma/stress/burnout". This sounds like what is going on with LW, and that they are dealing with it, while also facing a long road ahead while husband tries to rebuild. LW could maybe do an online search for resources (books, forums) that could help them understand what *they* are going through, and put it into words for their husband, so they can come up with a plan that is doable for both of them. Or even find a local support group, counselor LW can meet with to vent what they are feeling, and talk about coping methods to make the road ahead a bit less daunting.

We've had a family member in the same position. Please seek out a caregiver support group, you've earned some time with people who understand and can help support you as well. There is no need to ever go through this alone.

Has there been any discussion of applying for disability? It can be a bit of a process in some states, but the payout can be a game-changer for your household. Don’t worry about him “not being disabled enough” — if he hasn’t worked for two years, he is. And in most states, it would not preclude him from taking part-time work, or later returning to work full time. — on Medicaid with 2 masters degrees

I've been in chronic pain since I was 13 and I assure you your husband already believes all those things about himself. It will do no good to confirm his deepest, most painful thoughts.

I see all these people afraid to have tough conversations with their spouse/partner/significant other. If you can't talk about any and everything, what kind of relationship do you have? My DH (who isn't always so D) and I talk about any and everything. We're committed to one another so why let minutiae get in the way of a healthy relationship?

About the husband who is recovering from a physically disabling condition, and hasn't worked in two years. I would also suggest that the writer contact her local government vocational rehabilitation people. There are services available to help him get where he wants to go, and finding interim employment suitable to his current physical abilities.

I really feel for the 14 year old and wonder how much control she could have over the portions she eats. Mother sounds like she probably does the serving and also belongs to the “clean your plate or else” club. I hope the young woman does have healthy choices at school and will have the chance to participate in active sports as well. Perhaps she could participate in dance which would appear “unmanly” to Mother unlike say running or tennis. How lucky she is to have a supportive sister and if she can hold out to 18 perhaps the sister can be her sponsor to further school or a job away from home.

I love the dance suggestion, thank you.

Although good nutrition is important, especially for growing teenagers, it is possible to lose weight eating any foods - you just have to keep the total daily calories under "maintenance" level. There are several good apps and other resources on the internet to help a person learn the right way to count calories, as well as explain why it's important to know how many calories a person needs based on their activity level. Are intramural sports an option? Also, as a teen, if she's only slightly overweight it truly may even out over the next couple of years as she grows. I was a chubby kid at 14-15, but by 17 my part time job and activities helped lean me out naturally. I just wish I'd known then what it took to stay that way!

Any advice on how to talk to a college bound kid about the drinking when his parents are both alcoholics?

Please look into the literature for Adult Children of Alcoholics, and also Al-anon/Alateen. 

And don't underestimate the power of: "You're the child of two alcoholic parents, so you're at high risk for alcoholism yourself. If you're open to it, I would like to share some resources with you. Just so you can make informed decisions. "

you would be amazed at how many exercise apps are out there, many of which are designed for people who don't have access to weights or other equipment.

Yikes, look at the time. Thanks everybody, have a great weekend and type to you here next week.

With attitudes like your mothers are generally the tip of the iceberg of dysfunction. My concerns would be assuring my sister had enough emotional support, knew how to access adult support through school counselors, teachers, friends’ mothers etc. If you push too hard you may create problems for your sister or make her feel as if she’s in the middle. She needs to know how to seek multiple areas of support in case one is taken away by your mother. BTW, she’s very lucky to have you.

One more--and BTW I agree.

It might be worth remembering that people can grow more attractive as we get to know them. I can't tell you the number of guys that I liked where I originally didn't think they were that cute but as I got to know them all of their quirks added up to make them attractive to ME.

Last one, really. But so true.

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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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