Carolyn Hax Live: 'Sit on your biscuit'

Aug 10, 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. Sorry about two weeks ago when I was supposedly off but really on, and last week when I was supposedly on but really off. Completely unrelated situations that of course lined up in successive weeks.

My boss and I formed a very close friendship, which turned into me having feelings for him. I told him around the new year. He confessed that he questioned his feelings, but ultimately he is my boss. He is my boss, but we act like business partners with me supervising the staff. Some of our staff call us Mom and Dad. I put up some boundaries since he rejected me. We strictly work together and don’t go out as friends. I desperately miss our friendship, and I would love to have that back. It’s been seven months since he broke my heart. I almost talked to him about wanting to renew our friendship, but then I realized he is dating someone. And it hurt to hear that. Because truthfully, I am still holding on to hope. And I am incredibly angry at him for giving me hope. Had he simply rejected me and not held my hand while he told me that he has questioned his feelings for me, I probably would have moved on. But here I am. A 40+ year old women with a crush on my boss. How do I move past this? Can I ever be his friend? I’ve looked for other jobs, but I love my work.

You can never be his friend.

Your feelings will not be returned.

If you want a romantic partner in your life, then you will need to look for one in someone other than this man.

A no with a flicker of "maybe" in it is just as much of a no as a simple rejection.

I am sorry for all of this. It is obviously way more nuanced than these four statements say it is, certainly for you and maybe even for him, but nuance that brings you nothing is not worth exploring. The face of it is all you need to see: No you can't; no they won't; he's not the guy.

And possibly most important: If your feelings were mutual, then you two probably would have found a way to be together. 

Keep loving your work, keep looking for work elsewhere, and keep reminding yourself that the problem isn't that he is your boss, it's that he's not the guy.

Hi Carolyn, I just found out (through social media, and then confirming it directly) that my ex from over a decade ago is expecting a baby with his lovely, perfect wife. He and I are friends at this point, but I have never been able to stop comparing my own life with what's going on in his. This is the next piece of great news in a long parade of it for both of them--beautiful wedding, beautiful home purchase, major career promotions for both of them, now this. I am not unhappy in my own life--my husband and I have a beautiful new baby whom I would not trade for anything--but I am frustrated in my career and I'm not well-dressed like his wife and we're nowhere near being able to buy a house and part of me just can't believe they managed to do everything in the correct order and still have it all. And for further context, he dumped me (we were young then, though). I'm trying to fight through some really ugly feeling so I can enjoy my weekend and be fair to my husband and baby. Any advice, beyond just to stop looking at social media? (Though I am due for a cleanse.) Thanks

"lovely, perfect wife"? Is she a specimen in a lab? Because if there's human perfection loose in the wild, I need to meet this person to see for myself.

I'll confess something here. I've typed and deleted a few opening sentences for this paragraph, and the problem is that I'm having a really hard time taking seriously that anyone seriously looks at anyone and sees "beautiful wedding, beautiful home purchase, major career promotions for both of them, now ... expecting a baby with his lovely, perfect wife." I guess the more surprising thing to find in the wild right now is a human who has zero skepticism about the exquisite glory of someone's life as depicted on social media. Seriously? You're buying the whole story down to the last sip of Veuve Clicquot?

Credulity like that seems more like something you (on some level) want to have vs. wish you didn't. Meaning, there's something you get from this emotionally, this self-flagellation via ex, this comparative self-loathing. It strikes me as on the same spectrum, albeit the mild end, as cutting--where looking in on this ex's life is your way of giving shape and voice to your pain.

So, yes, definitely go for that social media "cleanse." But also consider giving that "really ugly feeling"  the respect it deserves and get a health screening with the ultimate goal of getting an appropriate form of treatment. You're down, on the inside, and it's ultimately not about what anyone else has going on on the outside. Please be fair to yourself now and start taking care of you.

My boyfriend had suggested weeks ago that we should start looking for engagement rings. I was overjoyed and started doing research, and we talked again this weekend about checking out rings. Today, he tells me that he isn't ready to propose or get married yet. He wants us to live together for at least a month (most likely he would stay at my place for that month). I was floored. Who would suggest looking for a ring if he was not yet ready to get married? His response was that I misunderstood him, that he wants to get married but doesn't think we are quite there yet. Am I overreacting? I never dreamed that anyone would suggest ring buying if they weren't actually ready to get married. Any advice? I don't know whether I should continue this for another month and hope he's more clear with his feelings and ready to commit or bail.

This is all talk of logistics. What about the feelings? The life plans, and the emotional honesty behind them?

What do you actually think of each other, feel for each other, need from each other, see in your future with each other, believe of each other?

Why is it up to him to propose? He decides, you merely consent? What's that about, letting someone else run your life like that? (Seriously--it withstands roughly zero scrutiny, that tradition.)

Rings, like any symbol, can be lovely. But it'll come be a symbol of how mindlessly you two walked into marriage if you don't start talking honestly, stat.

Hi Carolyn, Any light, quippy suggestions for when I'm out with or spending time with someone who's on their phone a lot, DH included? Thank you for all you do!

Thanks!

My favorite is, "Would you please put your phone away?" Thank you."

Anonymous re the not-for-publication follow-up: Your news breaks my heart. I am so sorry. Thank you for letting me know, and I'm glad this column's comments section was a place you could turn for thoughtful suggestions. Best of luck with the next step, and please do write again sometime with an update. 

This hurts for me even to read. I had a different but similar situation, but with someone who liked me but not enough to continue dating me. We tried later on having it open-ended but he finally called it off because it was clear I still loved him and still had hope. It's been several months since it ended for good and I did counseling which helped, but inside I still miss him, his friendship and him as a lover and person. Less so now, but the way I feel about him remains the same. Life and love are deeply unfair. I'm sorry to the letter-writer.

I recently had a friend comment that he was jealous of my life. When I inquired what he meant, he primarily cited photos posted on social media. I explained to him that I use social media (or at least non-anonymous social media) to showcase the best moments in my life. This allows me to relive those moments whenever I open an app, and it allows my friends and family to see (and hopefully get a little bit of joy) out of those moments. I don't post photos of sick days or arguments with my wife and children or rough days sitting at my desk at work. I don't want to relive those moments and nobody wants to relive them. That doesn't mean my family doesn't have our fair share of awful moments. It just means that I choose to remember and share the good ones. I assume the same is true for most of my family and friends on social media. That doesn't mean that what I share on social media is a lie, but it's only part of the truth - the part that I wish to share with friends and family. I assume the same is true for many others.

Well said, thanks.

Send as a text message, of course.

Touche.

We adopted a 1 1/2 year old dog 3 months ago. It's our family's first dog. She's a wonderful, sweet, mellow dog. My youngest son, 8 years old, is rather rough with her. He "hugs" her but almost squeezing, he pats her, but almost like hits, etc. etc. All of his interactions with the dog are not this way, but a lot are. She does not like it and sometimes we find her hiding in the house. We remind him to be gentle. We don't know if he is regressing because he was the "baby" in the house. I think he genuinely loves the dog; he's just rough with her. I feel like a broken record, though. "Be gentle. Be gentle. Be gentle." Any thoughts?

Bring son and dog to a doggy obedience class. Son is the handler, you're just the driver. Tip off the instructor that son is a bit rough with the dog. Supervise as well as you can in the meantime.

Over the weekend I attended family “reunion” out of state. Everything went beautifully until I got home and received a text stating that I owed $50.00 per person. My husband and I received the invitation several weeks ago and there was never any mention of a fee on the invite. It’s NOT the money!!!! I strongly resent being told, Not asked to contribute. Should I send the money and not say anything, or make a fuss? Note: my husband an I hosted a weekend for my relatives and paid all costs for 3 restaurant dinners and NEVER charged anyone. Ticked off.

If they had passed a hat during the party would you have been annoyed? "Hey, we split up the food and venue costs and it's $50 per person"--would that have rankled? What if someone had sent this around via email beforehand?

You absorbed those costs yourself once, but is everyone in a position to do the same? Did everyone want or expect you to pay or would they gladly have paid their shares?

Is everyone who does have the means to afford it all obligated to pick up the tab? As quietly as you did? 

Point(s) being, a reunion with a lot of people (yes?), especially one that involves people traveling from all over, doesn't just happen, and the food and space and other accommodations for a large group don't just materialize. Sometimes it gets expensive and messy and sometimes the people running it don't do everything gracefully.

If you see all these points and it's just the way you were asked that would motivate you to make a fuss, then please see how pointlessly negative that fuss would be and pay the hundred bucks.

My former best friends treated me horribly in the year after my divorce and stopped speaking to me completely several months ago. I have heard through the grapevine that they would like to apologize, and I would like to hear them out, but I'm not sure what I want out of it. I miss them terribly, but I am still really hurt and I'm not sure it's possible to go back to "the way things were." I am scared that they will hurt me again. They are still very close with my ex, who was emotionally abusive to me, and it stings quite a bit to hear about vacations they take together. How do I decide what I want out of the relationship and how to move forward?

There is no approach or apology to navigate here. Grapevine developments are not developments.

If they do approach you, then listen to what they say. Maybe your response to them will be so obvious that any time spent preparing a response in advance will have been wasted. This could go both ways, too--that their words are so enlightened and healing that forgiveness and acceptance are automatic, or their words are so self-serving that you look at your watch and ask if that's it.

If it's in between and you're not sure, then thank them and say you need time to think.

Really, though--this is all an answer that's still waiting for its question to happen.

You can't go wrong with living your life as if it won't happen, and then being pleasantly surprised when it does.

Or, I suppose mildly annoyed or amused when it does. Stepping back a bit, doesn't this all seem a little more highschooley than befits people old enough to be married and divorced? "They" would like to apologize? You "heard"? What, after they all go to the bathroom together at the dance?

 

Soooo after 5 years of joking that I thought my 65 year old mother was having an affair, I’ve confirmed through some snooping that she actually is. Honestly, after a week of mulling this over, I still really don’t care about her getting her rocks off after my dad’s prostrate cancer most likely left him unable, but I do deeply care about my dad finding out. He’s a pretty oblivious, trusting person, so I can’t see him doing too much digging, unlike me, but I’m concerned that my mom will get more comfortable with this as time goes on and will screw it up somehow. We are not people who talk about things. The running joke is that as a kid, we didn’t discuss what happened below the waist and above the knees. So I have no idea how to tell my mom to make sure she keeps this on the uber DL. I’m at their house now while they’re on vacation and considered leaving a fairly cryptic but obvious note in her journal. What am I supoosed to do with this potentially earth shattering information?

Stay out of their marriage, and get out of their stuff. 

How in the world do people figure out their life's purpose?

Luck, convenience, delusion, necessity, a delusion of necessity.

A purpose is nice to have, and I encourage it. At minimum it's something to hang onto when things feel overwhelming, and at best--when it's a great match of purpose and person--the world gets better for nearly everyone.

But the whole idea of a purpose in itself is really more like those audio-tours at museums. You may miss a few things without a little headset on, but you don't necessarily need one to get something out of the whole experience. 

So, if a purpose eludes you at the moment, then it's okay just to appreciate the good stuff around you. See what you see.

I'm willing to bet that your neighbor is aware of who sent her the "anonymous" letter. A number of people in my neighborhood received anonymous letters of complaint - and we all know who sent it.

I hope so.

They really are awful.

Hi Carolyn: I’m burned out. Between work, my commute, working out every night and trying to lose weight, trying to get everything else done that needs to be done, and trying not to spend the summer in front of the TV... I’m exhausted. Every Monday, I begin the countdown to the weekend. And when the weekend arrives, I try to rush through everything and even the fun stuff can be daunting. All I want to do is sit on my biscuit. Even if I do manage to get a day to myself, it’s never enough. And the thought of doing this for the next 30+ years? Ugh. I need some perspective.

No, I think you need some down time. All of this rushing around for a future version of your life means you're not living the present one in any kind of satisfying way.

That can be fine, certainly--we all have tough phases of life--but yours doesn't seem to be a contained cultivation season toward a defined harvest. It's more like drudgery ever after. And that's not emotionally sustainable. 

You need to give yourself permission to sit on your biscuit (a new one for me--do they hatch?) every third day. Or whatever. You need to make that "working out every night" commitment into something that brings other dividends than weight loss. Can you change "working out" to "dancing" one or two nights a week? Can you pick up a sport that has a community around it? Can you add a soul workout of some kind--a volunteer gig or a faith-based commitment or a yoga/meditation practice?

Can that "get everything else done that needs to be done" list be cut? If not immediately, then over time with strategic changes? A lower-maintenance life sounds pretty good to me.

My wife, now in her 70s, has never been particularly social. She had a circle of 3 friends. Two died, and the remaining friend and my wife had a falling out over 30 years ago and have not been in contact since. My wife avoids her cousins, even though I maintain friendships. I have a moderately active social life - I have lunch with friends and go to arts activities when I can. When I do these things, I always invite my wife along and she always creates a reason why she can't and then sends me on a guilt trip. It's not what I want my life to be. I do love my wife dearly. I invite friends in, which also upsets her. I don't do this without consulting well in advance. Last weekend, I had four friends in for a dinner party. My wife treated all of them rudely, did not come to the table until dining was in progress - we waited over 10 minutes - and then berated all of us for our rudeness. A note - our children won't come to the house anymore because of her behavior. I'm open to suggestions. She refuses to join me for therapy. She says it's a trap.

This is a much more serious problem than her being "non-social." This is antisocial. And 1/3 of her total friend count hasn't been in her life for 30 years! Her *children have fled.* That's not "a note," that's a skywriter over your house putt-putting a wavy WAAAAKE UUUUUUUP.

You say she "refuses to join me for therapy"--not surprising, of course. But I hope it means you are already, actually in therapy yourself, because that's where my answer was going to send you all along. Solo. It sounds as if your wife came into your life already with a difficult personality, and she has only picked up more difficult and even abusive behaviors with age--possibly because that's just what people do, becoming more intensified versions of themselves, and possibly because there's an element of diagnosable illness and/or decline.

It's possible she has been an abuser all along and you've minimized it, with the best of intentions of keeping a family intact.

If this is all true, then ongoing professional guidance is your best source of suggestions. Whatever the substance of it, please know it's going to be necessary--and it's okay--for you to make room for your social life. Around her, in spite of her, but not subject to her guilt trips. And make sure you keep the lines open between (just) you and your kids.

My BF and I have been dating for 4 years and we're pretty serious. He talks about when we're married and retired (we're both in our 50's) all the time. He tells me often how much he loves me, etc. The problem? He plans to leave everything in his will to his 2 grown sons... refuses to leave me anything. He has a middle class home and about $150K in bank now. I also have a home and will have about $100K in savings, I expect. This sticks in my craw and I just cant stop thinking about it! I would prefer to give my 2 kids half (to split) and give him half in my will. I don't know what to do? I fear that I have to break it off with him.

Sticks in your craw, why?

If you ever share a home, then its reasonable for your wills to make sure the survivor can live out his or her days there, but otherwise it's actually pretty common in later-in-life (re)marriages for assets to be set aside for children.

What makes a person unyielding? I'm trying to find compassion for my wife's stubbornness, so I can figure out how to save our marriage. For example: if we go to brunch with a couple and I say something to embarrass her, she'll never go to brunch with that couple again. No matter how much I apologize for a mistake, she believes I’ll do it again so removes that activity from things she'll do with me. After 8 years the "never again" list is... growing. She refuses couple therapy - says I'm the one screwing up - so I'm seeing my own therapist. In the meantime, how can I see this from her perspective? All I can guess is 18 years of violence from her parents, bullies, and Catholic school made her highly adept at avoiding missteps (whereas my own abusive childhood seemed to leave me hesitant and more prone to error). Thanks in advance!

Again, this is relationship abuse that's flying under a different name--in this case it's "stubbornness."

The level of control your wife insists on having in your marriage is abusive--at least as you've described it here. I hope you'll talk about this possibility with your therapist, especially given your history of childhood abuse, which opens you to the influence of controlling people.

As for your general question, yes, a person who has been abused can feel vulnerable and out of control, and that person can gravitate to rigid ideologies to find security, and respond to feelings of vulnerability and fear by trying to impose extreme control on her surroundings. You could be doing the same by staying with her, making her your "rigid ideology" of sorts.

Compassion is admirable, since it does sound as if she herself is a victim, but it's one thing to understand this. It's another to recognize that saving yourself and saving your marriage might be mutually exclusive. Take good care, and proceed with wide open eyes.

You are not alone. My commute has been terrible for the past year and I have basically worked-watched tv-slept for the past year. I’m moving to telework soon, but if I couldn’t do that I’d have to change something else because it’s just not sustainable. Good vibes your way!

Hi Carolyn - just read a few of the questions and it seems today's theme is "be the subject of your own life, rather than the object of someone else's".

Nice, thanks.

I should say, works for meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.

I need one of Nick's Brunhilde drawings here, but the Googler let me down.

If you and he work for a corporate entity, I.e., he's not the company owner, he may have more exposure in terms of company policy violation, sexual harassment charges, etc. He may be mindful of all of this, doesn't want his career to hit the rocks, and is also just not that into you. If you want to test this theory, leave for another job. If he reaches out to you then, there may be some romantic future for you two. In any case, leaving may be what you need in order to move on emotionally.

Workplace Romance's phrasing shows that she is putting the blame on him, and it's true that he should have been more careful about getting so close to a subordinate, but she has a lot of stuff that she needs to own, and maybe working to try to own it will help in processing the pain. Any relationship is a gamble, and much more so in the workplace.

The situation could be standard jealously and lingering anger about being dumped by the ex, but since the LW also has a new baby, maybe a screening for post-partum depression would be a good idea?

Always. When anything is amiss in a new mother's mood. Bears repeating: PPD is ridiculously common and potentially devastating. And, there's a lot of stuff cracking various news cycles on how childbirth changes a woman's brain. 

LINK LINK LINK and LINK. For starters.

 

 

 

We once received an anonymous note complaining about our dog barking. We didn't have a dog.

I hear that in Steven Wright's voice.

The situation between your son and dog is dangerous. The dog doesn't like the interactions and is scared of him and hiding. There is no such thing as a dog that won't bite, and your dog's attempts to avoid this situation aren't working. Please educate yourself and your son about safe ways to interact with this dog. Most dogs hate to be hugged and patted (versus petted) even when it is done gently. In the meantime, the dog and your son should never be alone and you should absolutely stop and redirect any interactions that the dog doesn't seem completely comfortable with.

It sounds like it's time for a vacation! Hopefully you have the time off and the inclination to go somewhere awesome. I find having a trip to look forward to makes the grind way easier. I also have done a couple of "healthy" vacations to parks where the hiking was my exercise and I was able to cook my own meals. They were still super relaxing and I didn't backslide on my (modest) fitness goals.

Yeah sure you embarrassed her once. That's on you. But if you do it again, it's her fault because you already demonstrated what you were capable of. This may seem rigid, but I have so much egg on my face from giving people second, third, fourth chances that I could make a frittata that could feed a small village. She is the one who looks stupid and naive for giving someone a second chance. What's rigid to you is her self-respect and self-preservation.

Oh dear. No.

When your spouse does something to embarrass you, you deal with the spouse, period. You find out if you heard correctly and/or drew the intended conclusion. You find out whether it was accidental or intentional or accidentally intentional. You find out whether you reacted appropriately or whether you reacted out of old sensitivities. You find out whether you are able to get past it. You find out whether this is a one-off or indicative of a problem in your spouse's character.

If it's the former, then you work on the other parts of your own reaction that you can, and you stay in the marriage and let the incident go as a matter of human frailty.

If it's the latter, then you dig more into the character question for the purposes of deciding whether to stay in the marriage.

There is not one branch of a response that involves cutting off the couple you were out to dinner with because they were present for this embarrassing thing. 

As for "so much egg on my face," I just feel sad. If you are staying with people who hurt you, then that's not a matter of looking "stupid" to anyone. What people think is the least of the problem, and irrelevant anyway. What matters is that you learn from experience--or, where that falls short, reputable counseling or self-help--what signs people give you that they are or aren't worthy of your trust.

"Lifeskills for Adult Children" (Woititz/Garner) is one source of such self-help. 

I once got a call from a workman that one of my cats got out. I don't have any. ("Um, thanks. How many are still inside?")

Gotta let out my cat. Bye all, thanks, see you next week.

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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