Carolyn Hax Live: 'Regrets are very common...but self-hatred is not'

Jul 20, 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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Hello, everybody.

This couldn't have come at a more opportune time! I'm planning a trip to some friends and my boyfriend loves to "tease" them about their strange cats. If I know my friends, they don't take it very well, but they open their house to him because they love me. I was planning on telling my boyfriend to be a little more sensitive to my friends' sensitivities, but you advised not to act as a buffer between my boyfriend and friends. Not even a gentle comment- "hey, please don't put my friends' hackles up about their odd cats"- to smoothe this one particular situation? I'd want to be told I was causing friction with his friends, but you have me re-thinking how I should approach this. Thank you!

Aw geez--you can certainly warn him that your friends hate the snark about their cats. 

And if he persists, you can point out that he's acting like a complete doink.

The advice about not being a buffer was about accommodating personality in general. There's always room for common sense on an issue that crops up here and there.

I've recently started chatting online with a considerably older man (closer to my parents age than mine). When I swiped right it was because I thought he was attractive but I didn't really expect to ever meet up with him. A few weeks and many deep conversations later and I realized I feel a real connection with him and as odd as it sounds I can see a potential future for us. We've already talked about what that may look like... he even brought up kids and we are on the same page. It's way too early to know whether this will really go somewhere or not but despite our strong connection the age gap has me wondering if I should end this before I get any more invested.

If you have a problem with it, then it would make sense to end it before you get more involved.

If you think other people have a problem with it, then it would make sense to ask yourself why you would change the course of your life to avoid (what would likely be) some initial awkwardness with other people.

There are challenges to consider, of course. Think of every life stage you might have ahead of you, and then imagine navigating it plus an age difference and all that potentially entails.

Which isn't to say it's the main thing to worry about. Like anything else, it's a matter of tradeoffs, and of potential vs. certainty. Some people, for example, don't hesitate to choose the certainty of loving a certain person over the higher probability of becoming that person's caregiver and eventual longtime widow/er someday. 

If you can't figure these things out with any confidence yet, then that's fine, too. It's okay to date someone now with the intent of learning as you go. That's what dating is for. The preemptive breakup is for when you're sure something isn't for you.

 

Hi Carolyn Longtime reader. I’ve been in therapy for a very long time to get past some terrible decisions made during a certain period of my life. I have done a lot of work on myself but still can’t get past self hatred and regret. I think that, perhaps, these feelings are just the consequences of my past actions that I will just have to carry with me for the rest of my life. I can accept that, but sometimes these feelings are overwhelming and keep me anxiety ridden and sleepless, even all these years later. How do I learn to keep the past in the past and move on?

With the usual caveat that I'm not a mental-health provider of any kind: Have you tried treating it not as a matter for talk therapy so much as one for specialized treatment? Repetitive thoughts can be a symptom of something else, like anxiety or OCD, and the treatment would differ accordingly. Or, there could be an element of PTSD, which would indicate a different treatment approach as well.

Worth bringing up with your therapist -and- with your internist. Two opinions, always, on something this significant to your well-being. If not three or more, especially if you're getting different answers.

I do think regrets become part of us to some degree, because bad things tend to stick in memory and because they're useful when they shape and motivate us to improve. But our brains also protect us by re-framing, re-shading and putting away old stuff so we can move forward--so when you're stuck the way you describe, there's a good chance there's something going on that a proper treatment could reach.

 

 

are their any games on this thing

Only mind games. Or foolish games I guess--both discouraged, though. Reindeer games are discussed endlessly here but not actually played. Kind of like SportsCenter for socializing.

My husband does not want to spend alone time with me and it has left me feeling frustrated in my marriage. I’d love your advice and perspective. We have two very young kids and both work high pressure full-time jobs. We both are desperate for more time with our kids and try to maximize any opportunity we have to spend with them but it never feels like enough. We never get time for ourselves either but have sort of given up on that for right now. I’d like to spend some rare time alone with my husband. He does not. I recently asked for a lunch or dinner every 3 months but it was clear he did not want to commit. He wants to spend time with me, just with the kids too. He says he feels connected to me with them there and doesn’t want to miss out on time with them. I don’t want to miss out on time with them either but I want a separate relationship with my husband. We haven’t been out alone together in over a year – and that includes our 5 year wedding anniversary because he wanted to spend it with the kids. I could basically force him to go out with me but it is clear he doesn’t want to and honestly, it doesn't feel great to be on a date with my husband who doesn’t want to be there. I’m a total cliché but yes, I want him to want to spend time alone with me which I know I can’t control. Where do I go from here? Thank you!

I know you asked a specific question about alone time with your spouse, but all I could think as I was reading this was, are you going to look back on this life you've built and think you took good care of yourself, of each other, and took advantage of the best life has to offer? 

I wrote this three different ways before this one because I don't want it to sound shamey. I intend it only as a prompt for you to stop everything, take three steps back, and look at the whole picture of your current day-to-day life. Ask your soul to look and have it report back.

That your husband won't go out with you alone even once a quarter is a significant marriage problem, and you're right to be upset and alarmed by that, of course. But I don't think you can fix this just by addressing it as a marriage problem. And, not facetiously: How would you put marriage counseling  on your schedule if you're both already feeling "desperate" to be with your kids more? Would that hour-plus-transportation commitment after work even be conceivable?

I wish I were talking to you both, because both of you created this runaway-train life together and both of you, from the sound of it, are stressed and exhausted by it.

My advice is to insist, flat out, that you and he go on some kind of retreat together, alone, so you can find the brakes. Before it crashes, before your marriage does, before the kids get hurt.

Regrets are very common and we all have them. But self-hatred is not. Have you worked with your therapist on forgiving yourself and learning to love yourself? If he/she isn't helping you work on those things, it may be time for a new therapist.

My wife and I have a beach house, which we enjoy very much. When we bought it 12 years ago we established one firm rule – no one could ever use it when we’re not there. And we’re very cautious about inviting relatives or friends to stay with us; no one gets invited for more than 2 days. When we bought the place, my wife suggested these rules since she saw how people took advantage of her parents’ vacation home when she was growing up and the rules have served us well. The thing is that my younger sister is getting married soon and she and her fiancé have a very limited budget. They’ve asked to honeymoon at our beach house for a week and I’d like to make an exception for them. My wife is dead set against it, saying that if we make this one exception, the dam will break and we’ll be pestered by everyone. I have a very large family who have asked over the years why we’re so “stingy” with our second home but I think we can make this one exception and still hold firm with everyone else. My wife disagrees. We’ve reached an impasse and we’re sick of arguing about it so we’ve both agreed to ask you and stand by your advice. What do you think we should do?

Normally I'd side with your argument here, because I think gifts are lovely and flexibility even lovelier; rigid rules and ideologies that allow no room for discretion are my Voldemort.

However. Your "very large family" has spent "years" calling you two "stingy," and it appears to me that your wife has a legitimate concern that you're inviting a fresh new years-long cycle of abuse as thanks for this one kind gesture. And it also seems possible, if not probable, that she's already worn to a nub by the 12-year effort to "hold firm" under pressure. 

So, I'm on Team No.

Unfortunately, the fact that they've asked and will be rejected will likely circulate and touch off criticism and pressure anyway.

I bet there's a creative solution available here, though. Would it be worth it, for example, for you and your wife to write a nice check for their honeymoon fund? Do you know anyone else outside the family who owns a vacation home they can use, which you can obtain for them through barter of your home with this other person's? I'm just throwing these out as examples--and doing so with full knowledge that it's not your responsibility to give this couple a honeymoon. I suggest it only because sometimes it's worthwhile to buy your way out, principle be damned, of an otherwise no-win situation.

 

After years of living with hand-me-down furniture we got in college, my husband and I recently bought a house and invested in some nice furniture. And now he is obsessed with keeping the furniture pristine. I'm all for good furniture care, but it's really irritating when we sit down to eat dinner or watch a movie and his attention is focused on some perceived scratch or something. I've tried asking him in the moment if right now he could just focus on dinner/the movie/me, but he seems unwilling or unable to do it. He also keeps bringing up handprints he thinks he sees on the leather couch, which he thinks are due to my sunscreen, but (1) I've started showering as soon as I get home to deal with the sunscreen issue, and (2) I can't even see these handprints. I'm starting to feel lonely and alienated because it feels like he cares about the furniture more than me. What to do?

Say so to him explicitly.

And consider this investment (and/or this stage of life?) has triggered anxiety in him--maybe that has been there all along, but not so severely that either of you noticed and that he couldn't compensate? The narrowness and intensity of the preoccupation points that way, at least, and you make no mention of his being like this in any way before.

If he won't cooperate--with talk, with screening and (where appropriate) with treatment--then your options are limited, unfortunately, but you do have a lot of room to make clear to him what the stakes are for you emotionally. 

And if you're still shopping for some pieces, make them low-maintenance or intentionally distressed. Maybe even swap out a few? Not a real solution to anything except the need to sit down in peace as you sort the rest of this out.

I’m leaving my job to head to graduate school and at my goodbye party, a group of my superiors chipped in and gave me a $500. This feels strange. Of course they didn’t say it came with any strings. Can I take this gift?

If they gave you a watch or something more traditional, then you'd accept it, right? And write a nice thank-you note? This sounds to me like a particularly useful substitute for an office goodbye (or good luck or happy-retirement) gift. Accept and enjoy.

Hi Carolyn, I'm a widow in my 50s; my husband died nearly two years ago. I have found that after the first year, people seem to be focused on me "getting back out there." After 30+ years of marriage, I'm trying to get used to living and viewing my life on my own. I have no interest in dating and absolutely none in going out to try to meet men or signing up for matchmaking apps. Zero, at least for now. My problem is that people don't seem to believe me although I express myself very clearly. I have a close friend who is recently divorced. She's ready to dive right into the dating pool, and more power to her. But I'm very tired of telling her that we're not going out together to try to meet men. I guess my question is how to get her and others to hear me and stop being so damned delighted at the idea of me doing something I've told them I have no interest in doing.

With the "and others," I suggest asking vs. talking: "I've said I'm not interested. Is there some reason you've chosen not to take me at my word?"

With the close friend, you know the answer already, right? She wants a wing-person. You have a couple of choices in that case. You can go out with her as wing-person only, with no interest in meeting men yourself--or you can respond to her overtly: "*You're* the one who wants to mingle, I'm not. Call me for anything but that." Or just an adapted version of the question: "I'm weary of this dance. What will it take for you to accept I'm not going out to meet men?"

By the way, you may feel alone in your position, but you're part of a trend (unless it has taken a turn since the last time I looked it up). The social momentum is toward women remaining single on purpose after a divorce or a spouse's death.

So the topic of adult friendship is a common one on your columns, and I'd like to get your advice on my personal twist. I am chronically ill but work full time and am literally able to do little else other than work and take care of my home. Socializing is exhausting for me, doing it out of the house more so, and even when it is wholly limited to weekends, too much means I can't go to work on Monday. I've lost nearly all of my friends due to this --- even a woman whose wedding I was in just under two years ago now rarely calls. You spoke in Thursday's column about not letting your social muscles atrophy too much -- how does one do that when people don't really want to be friends with someone who is ill and often housebound?

I'm sorry you're in this position, and your friends haven't been willing to accommodate you more.

Or maybe they are but you haven't asked for that explicitly? It happens often, that we think we've been clear on what we need but haven't, and so people who would help us out don't even know we want that from them, much less in what form.

So that's my first suggestion--talk to your friends, with clear ideas handy. Follow up by inviting them to things you can do, when you can do them. It's cosmically unfair that the person with the illness would have to take on extra work to get others to socialize, but I think the reality is, people just default to the nearest and easiest thing. Especially people who are busy or stressed with their own stuff. So, anyone who doesn't fall in the nearest/easiest part of the Venn diagram often has to figure out what works in their circle and then make the effort (on some manageably regular basis) to invite people into it.

If you've tried that, then Suggestion 2 is to try to reallocate some of your limited energy to reflect friendship as a priority. Work is probably a fixed commitment, but what about "take care of my home"? Can that be a place to cut back? If not immediately, then long-term, with a lower -maintenance setup?

 

Is it ever okay to talk to your independent adult child about their direction in life – or lack there of? My son, “Ron” is 27, works part time at a low-pressure, low paying job. He has a 4-year college degree that my-ex wife and I paid for and he graduated with honors but has never worked in that field and currently shows no interest in doing so. He lives independently because his well-employed girlfriend, “Ann” pays most of their bills. When he visits with me and my wife I do occasionally have to give him some gas or spending money, but it’s not much and it’s not like we can’t afford it. My wife is very concerned that if he and his girlfriend broke up, he’d have to move in with either us or his mother and her husband. I don’t see signs of him breaking up with Ann, they seem very happy together and I really think if it came to that he’d go live with his mother, as her house is enormous. His mother comes from a very wealthy family and I really hope Ron isn’t waiting for his inheritance but that might explain what he’s doing. I thought we had raised him to have a strong work ethic like we both do but now I admit it doesn’t look that way. When he first graduated he told us he needed some time to figure things out but it’s going on 5 years now and there hasn’t been any movement. Still, he’s living on his own and making his way one way or another and I’m inclined to let him live his life his way. My wife thinks it’s time for a serious father/son talk while I think I should continue to trust that we raised him right and he’ll eventually find his direction in life. Or maybe this is the life he wants and that should be okay – not everyone needs to be a CEO, right? Should I talk with him or not?

Not. Not your business. 

 

Dear Carolyn, My husband and I got married and had kids relatively young, especially for his family’s standards. Our kids are now in middle and high school and doing well. His sister is only 2 years younger than him but has a 6 month old baby who is absolutely adorable. However, I find myself being that annoying other parent. It’s hard because the parents are both highly educated in their 30’s and they are just overthinking every single thing, and reading every parenting book known to man and taking them all extremely seriously. It’s a little hard to swallow. My husband is much better than me at just nodding and smiling but I find myself struggling with not giving unsolicited advice and telling them to calm down. Any tips for me? We are spending this week with them on vacation and I really don’t want to be that parent, or that in-law.

Good! That's a great and important impulse.

If you have to walk away or abruptly change the subject or break into song to keep yourself from commenting, then so be it. It'll be worth it.

The only tip I have to offer is to equate your impulse--to intervene toward the cause of relaxed childrearing--with their impulse to read everything toward the cause of responsible childrearing. Either way, it's a matter of dog and bone: Each of you is just a different dog with a different bone.

Thinking of it this way might help you feel more viscerally how invested they are in doing things their way, and therefore how futile it ultimately is to try to swing them your way.

Plus, you were new at this once, too, even if you were too young to be as self-aware about it.

 

 Good luck.

Three sisters, all in mid-40s, just a few years apart in age. We all live in the same city within hours of each other and are generally very close. I, as the older sister, like to plan twice a year "sisters retreats" where we all travel together to somewhere fun. Lately, the middle sister seems to be "not feeling" these outings. We all initially agree when and where we want to go, and then at the last minute she flakes out with some flimsy excuse and says she really doesn't want to go to that particular place. I've ask her why didn't she just let us know that at the beginning of the planning stage or suggest someplace she'd prefer, but it seems she feels she has to go along with us and can't just say she's not interested. And it's not just with our retreats, lately it seems that if she's not initiating the plans or event, she's not really interested. Yet, she expects us to show up at whatever event she plans. This is getting frustrating and I don't know how to vocalize my frustration to her without hurting her feelings or turning it into a big deal. If my other sister and I don't reach out to her periodically, we hardly ever hear from her. We're starting to think she may be depressed or hiding something that she's feeling. How can we break the ice and get her to open up to what she's really bugging her?

Maybe it's just bugging her to be bugged about this. 

If she's not happy with the "older sister"-directed status quo, and if she's trying to change direction a bit, then that will involve some trial and error, but will generally look like this: her saying no to stuff you plan, and inviting you to stuff she plans.

Since that's apparently what she's doing, it might just be that. You are in a Plan A habit, one you might not even see, and she's more a Plan B type. And maybe she isn't being as simple and declarative about this preference with you because she has been met with resistance in the past when she wanted to do things her own way.

This isn't to defend the flake-out-last-minute method; even if it's painful or awkward to, adults need to act like adults. I'm just offering a way to explain it.

And a way to mitigate some of the frustration. If this is the way your sister is feeling, then:

1. Don't vocalize your frustration or break the ice or open her up. Just, accept where she is right now and meet her there, to the extent she lets you. Birth orders aren't marching orders. Let her take the lead for a while.

2. Or, ask outright: "Do you want to plan the next retreat for us? Or, rethink them? Or suspend them for a bit?"

3. Or, take the facts at face value and resist the interpretations:

No: "she expects us to show up at whatever event she plans"

Yes: "She invited us to [plans]"--then either go or don't go as you wish.

No: "If my other sister and I don't reach out to her periodically, we hardly ever hear from her"

Yes: [thinks of middle sister.] [calls middle sister.]

It's a completely different way of thinking, and so is deceptively difficult. But it's doable and rewarding--and so respectful of autonomy that you might find she's more present the less you plan for her to be.

Carolyn, I think it might have been better to say, instead of "NO," that he should try to get to know his son better and listen to him, rather than "have a talk" with him. It might be enlightening (might not), and be more useful in the long run.

True, thanks--and widely applicable too.

One thing you can do on the vacation is demonstrate with your actions your lower-key approach to parenting. One of the joys of vacationing with family is giving each other an occasional break. You in-laws may appreciate a break from Baby Everything and enjoy a board game or a round of body surfing with your older kids, and you can pitch in on the infant cuddling/feeding/diaper changing and general Baby Entertaining which is fun as an aunt but can be mind-numbing as a parent. I have nieces and great-nephews who are only a couple of years apart in age, so I totally get the two-generations-in-one family thing. As long as you respect their choices and keep your dukes down, they are likely to appreciate no-judgment, loving help.

What about ending the practice of giving him gas and spending money? The fact that you can afford it seems beside the point. If your concern is that your son, a highly educated, able-bodied, grown man, has decided it's OK for other people to pay his way through life, then Carolyn is right, there's nothing you can do or say about that. But you can decline to be an enabler in even a small way, right? Declining to ratify his worldview is not the same thing as butting in. Just a suggestion.

I thought of this, and deleted a paragraph on it, because I wanted to know more about the scope first. Who is asking, for example, and how often, and under what circumstances, and how much are we talking about? If it's significant enabling, then it's time for a talk. If it's peanuts, I think there's actually more to gain by not shaming him--and of course not all refusals = shaming, but in this case it would be very hard for it to appear otherwise.

And I've seen so many situations where the person asking knows full well that seeking 20 bucks for gas is not a good look on an educated and capable 27-year-old, so there's no need for it to be said out loud. If in fact the son is aware and awareness is Step 1 in getting up off this floor, then the parent's choice -not- to bust chops about it can be a gift as opposed to a parenting lapse. 

So it's complicated.

I agree that ability to afford is irrelevant. Completely.

My husband is nineteen years older than me and we met after having both spent considerable time living independent lives. We knew what we had found with each other was special and profound. I am 47 and was recently diagnosed with a rare, extremely aggressive cancer. It is very, very unlikely I will outlive him. While it can be easy to assume how life might go and that the younger partner will be the caretaker of the older, real life could have no bearing on that assumption. Choose who you want beside you as you walk down any path and season of life, whatever may come.

Hear, hear, and take care--I hope you beat your odds.

I was the social linchpin of every group I was in - the one who had dinner parties, planned outings, threw showers, took newcomers to lunch, brought food to potlucks. Then I was struck with chronic migraines - literally 28-out-of-30-day migraines - and could barely keep going to work. Almost all my friends dropped away b/c i couldn't even concentrate on a phone conversation anymore. But here's what worked: a Bible study that met at my home once a month. The people in the bible study did everything: they brought the dessert, they assigned and prepped the readings, they cleaned up after themselves, and on days when I was too badly off I didn't even listen in. But at least I had the opportunity to be part of the group, and something to look forward to. And the people in the group had the opportunity to check in on me, maybe volunteer to bring a meal later in the week or run an errand to the drugstore. Another thing that worked for me: asking friends to come for short visits where, again, they hosted themselves - changed the sheets on the bed, made the dinners, planned activities I could join in and didn't get upset if I couldn't. Your friends really want to help - just be really clear about what you can't do and welcome them anyway.

Sounds to me like if Ron and Ann are happy, then he's assumed the role of "house-husband" with a side gig in a job of his own choosing, and that's a perfectly valid choice. How does that not equate to a "strong work ethic?" I consider it antiquated thinking that someone with a four-year degree must be on a career path in the field they obtained the degree in or it was all a waste, as it seems you imply. And how relevant is your ex's wealth in the situation? She could be lavishing gifts on him and it still wouldn't be your business. You (and your wife especially, since she is the one pushing for the heart-to-heart) need to take a step back and realized Ron is 27 YEARS OLD, not 17; if he wants opinions and advice on his life, chances are, he'll ask.

Has the OP ever thought that twice a year is just a little too often. My sisters and I go on what we call our "sister trips." They usually happen every 12-16 months. Just enough time in between to be interested in doing it again. I can't imagine doing it more often due to just living our normal lives. Also, we rotate through who is responsible for planning so everyone gets a chance to do something they like to do.

I've been divorced for 10 years now...turning 50 this year...dated on and off and am not currently interested in dating either. Agreed, her friend wants a wing-woman! I've taken the low stakes route with my girlfriends who want to mingle. If the place they want to go is interesting or I just want to see them too, I'll go. If not, or I just don't feel like socializing, I decline. It's kind of fun to watch the mating game in real life, and I've met some interesting folks along the way, had some fun evenings out. It has been my experience that men are far less aggressive in real life than they are on dating apps and at the date-app first meeting. If a man starts "hitting on her" she doesn't have to give out her number, and can signal pretty easily that she's not interested. I'll come right out and say, "I'm not interested in dating or a relationship right now."

Are any other women in your/your friend's circle single? Starting dating again after you've been in a very long-term relationship can be very daunting. I imagine she's just looking for someone to go through it with. Which, of course, doesn't mean you have to start dating again too, she just might appreciate a single female friend to get involved in new activities with, go bar hopping with, or whatever else it is people do to meet people. Even if you aren't looking to start dating, if you join her in some of these activities it'll probably help you in your self-discovery too.

Hi - hopefully this will help with your peace of mind. It sounds like I am kind of in the same position as your son. I was all set to go off with my high GPA and 4-year degree and Be Successful in Life. But you know, I just didn't have any interest in doing that - for many reasons that I won't unpack here. But basically I did a 180 and went into a creative field and yes I make less money that I would have but I have no regrets on changing direction. And it took me a while to figure it out, but I did. But still every time I see my dad he feels the need to have the "you have no ambition and we really expect more from you" heart-to-heart. And you know what that's done? Nothing. I still live my life my way. And my dad wonders why they see less of me. So stick to your thinking - you're right to trust your parenting and trust that this is the life he wants. (And if it turns out it isn't the life he wants he'll figure that out, too.)

Thanks so much for this. 

Something else your comment brought to mind: The life of an ambition-track kid (hope that's evocative enough for the socioeconomic group I'm talking about) is so structured lately, and front-loaded with grades and activities and programs and scores and OMSBD* the Expectaaaations! And if an adult isn't holding a clipboard to record the progression of excellence, then he or she is snarking about participation trophies and safe spaces. And so if a highly decorated current young adult is in the midst of a crisis of the Point of It All, then welcome to the freaking club.

Therefore, in this scenario, it's a bit rich for the probable source of such pressure to be mystified as to its lingering effects. 

Not that this is what happened in the original scenario, just that it's a scenario that's entirely realistic right now.

 

*oh my sweet baby deity

I read it as she pouts if other sisters don't turn up for her plans. That would be annoying in this context.

Indeed. But the answer still is to go when you want to/can, and don't go when you don't want to/can't.

Renting a house for a week is not prohibitively expensive; I'd do that for another beach house before opening these flood gates. The wife is right about the consequences.

Depends on the beach and the house, but, point taken.

Man, that is super stingy.

You would think, unless you were in the position of being asked relentlessly and seeing your property treated carelessly. It's a real problem for people with second homes, who often don't say it out loud because they get called stingy and first-world whiny.

So think of it this way: Do you ask other people for their money so you can spend it on yourself? No?

That's the same thing as asking to use someone's vacation house.

Okay, that's it for today and then some. Have a great weekend, and I'll type to you here next week.

Wish I'd been online to answer the woman in yesterday's column who asked if there was some kind of tradition about not having a big "do" for your 3rd(!) wedding. Yes there is. When my aunt married again 5 years after her husband died she wore a pale green dress and had a very simple wedding. Queen Victoria may have started the tradition of wearing a white wedding gown but it soon became a symbol of the bride's purity. And someone getting married a second time was no longer "pure." If you think that is something way in the past just watch episodes of "Say Yes to the Dress" where mom or sisters insist that the bride wear a snow white gown (even off-white won't do) to show the bride's purity. As someone who thinks huge weddings are a waste of money (mine cost about $1500 total, including the dress I made myself and the groom's new suit) I find the idea of flouncing down the aisle in a "stunning" white gown by a third time bride a bit much!

Then RSVP no. Easier solution than trying to change the couple's plans.

In This Chat
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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