Carolyn Hax Live: 'A person actually said that!?'

Feb 15, 2019

Advice columnist Carolyn Hax will be online to take your comments about her current advice column and any other questions you might have about the strange train we call life. Her answers may appear online or in an upcoming column.

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Why are we silent?

Because we have nothing to say? I have noon exactly on my clock.

Hi everybody, happy Friday.

"more attention paid to the marriage and not the wedding" I had a wedding, and I can assure you I always paid and continue to pay more attention to my marriage than the pomp and circumstance that preceded it. Fun fact: regardless of what kind of ceremony you have, you're still vulnerable to marital problems and divorce. Please don't think you're in better circumstances because you're not baptizing yourself in tulle and Jordan's almonds. (I never did those two things either, and we've still had our fair share of issues.)

Seems we need a refresher on this: LINK. Don't make me sing it.

"A team member’s job is not to let down the team." Yes, that's technically correct. But it's also a team's job to make sure everyone gets to play, everyone gets some of the coach's attention, everyone participates regardless of skill, everyone feels included, etc. It's supposed to be a two way street, but in reality that rarely happens. When I was a kid, I had zero talent so naturally coaches couldn't work with me and didn't play me. That's why I had no qualms blowing off team stuff because I was only part of the team on paper and pictures, not reality. (I eventually quit altogether by middle school.) Your child should also be evaluating these questions too. There's no sense in maintaining an obligation to a group that doesn't give you that same consideration. I knew this on a very basic level as a kid, but boy oh boy did I get taken advantage of a lot and didn't figure out to ask "What's in this for me?" as an adult. I don't want to see my child suffer the same fate as I did.

I could do an entire chat on this--and I suspect it would wind up reading like an accidental Hoot.

What you're talking about are basically elements of the coaches' jobs, which are outside the scope of the question. ("Don't be insane" applies there, too, though.) I'm sorry you got the wrong end of it all.

I love my fiance and up until recently thought we had a wonderful partnership. We’ve been living together for almost 8 years and he makes more money and works longer hours so I do almost all of the housework. He’s not only kind and thoughtful but always seemed appreciative of the work I do around the house. Recently I was hospitalized for 2 weeks for what should have been a short stay but there were complications. When I came home I found he had never once walked our dog – just let the poor thing out into our tiny yard and he didn’t clean up the yard. The house was an absolute wreck, he didn’t cook or clean anything, left pizza boxes stacked on the kitchen counter, and the dirty laundry piled on the laundry room floor. I was still recovering and that was kind of a nightmare to come home to. I asked my fiance why he didn’t do anything while I was in the hospital and he said that he’s no good at that stuff and knew I’d want to do it “the right way” when I got back. We moved in together right out of college so he’s never taken care of a place by himself. I asked him if he wanted to learn but he said he doesn’t see a real problem with the shape the house was in. Would you consider this a big enough issue to delay our summer wedding over? I’m still in shock about this.

Uhhhh yes?

Yes, I would consider it a big enough issue that you're looking at 100 percent housework for the rest of your life with this man and, worse, his utter comfort with your exerting yourself on your mutual behalf while he does nothing, believing ... can you hear my print voice rising as I type ... it's a favor to YOU that he does!

And the poor dog, suffering such neglect. Is it one of those dogs that likes the poop scooped in a certain way that your fiance just isn't good at?

I was actually leaning sympathetic to the guy at the start, expecting him to have been under duress with you in the hospital and with maybe too much going on at work--and certainly that will stress a partner out significantly. It's hard to do housework when you're wearing a groove between your office and a loved one's hospital room. But "he’s no good at that stuff and knew I’d want to do it 'the right way' when I got back"??? A person actually said that!? To a recently hospitalized person?!

I'm torn between the Maya Angelou quote (it is actually hers, right, and not one of those specious attributions?): "When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time," and a straight up Oh Hell No.

I hope you're feeling better soon.

Dear Carolyn, My parents started a college fund for each of my kids when they were young. I am incredibly grateful for this generous gift. My husband and I have saved some money but not a lot because we are both teachers. When my parents set it up, they said it was so my kids would have the opportunity to go to any college of their choice. My mom passed away two years ago and things seem different with my dad. My oldest daughter got into college A and college B. She really wants to go to college A but my dad now says she can use the money only if she goes to college B. My dad thinks college B would provide the best opportunities. I want my daughter to be able to choose the school she likes best. It would make life easier if she would be able to use the money but my dad is adamant about this. Would it best to seek out other options? Reston

I have a serious problem with the very idea of choosing college B just because a boundary-challenged grandfather will otherwise withhold this financial support.

But I also know how education debt can drag down young adults for decades, and even impose disadvantages that stay with them for life--such as, delays in saving, delays in investing in homes and further education, etc. It would be inappropriate of a disinterested third party like me to brush off that financing as if the principle of the thing is all that can possibly matter.

One more thing to consider--if I understand the rules correctly, which is not a given--is that this is your oldest, and the money your father doesn't provide to her could be shifted to cover the expenses of the younger child(ren), assuming your father either approves of their school(s) or gets over himself. It's still up to your dad, of course--he could just withdraw the money for himself and pay the penalty--but worth keeping in mind.

So pulling all these threads together, I think my next step, if I were in your place, would be to talk to my daughter to make sure she understands all of the implications of her two choices--basically between two kinds of servitude, to debt or to Grandpa. To get an idea of the latter, imagine if she chooses B and things don't go so great freshman year (which is typically a guarantee for just about every freshman at some point). Won't she feel resentful that she chose that school under pressure? Certainly a kid can withstand that--it's still a subsidized education, a problem many would like to have--but feeling beholden to and controlled by someone changes the emotional chemistry of our experiences.

Give her time to think, and to see how she feels about the choice. If she's leaning toward A-plus-debt, then make sure she has done her homework on the schools and has a few key points she can argue in favor of her choosing A. Then urge her to have a conversation with her grandfather, directly: 1. "Thank you so much for looking ahead to this time." 2. "I understand it's your choice whether to support me." 3. "At your convenience, I'd like to explain to you why I would prefer to attend A vs. B. I have given it a lot of thought and don't come to this preference lightly." Certainly he can stick to his decision, but that will be a lot harder for him to do in the face of a granddaughter who stands up for--and defends in an informed way--what she believes in.

Oh, and I almost forgot: Have her talk to the financial aid office at A to see whether they can increase her award, given the circumstances. A lot of schools will kick in a little more when asked. 


That took wayyy longer than I thought it would. I hope everyone had a sandwich handy.

Hi Carolyn! One of the most frequent recommendations I see here is to find a good therapist (or other iterations of that). For the third time in my life, I'm seeking out a therapist, to work through what I think is some situational depression and some now exacerbated anxiety. My question is: how do I get the "most" out of therapy? I want to start feeling and living better ASAP, and I know it's a process so I'm trying to be preemptively patient. But in the other times I've visited therapists (two separate times, for several sessions at a time, three years apart) I feel like everything I never talked about in childhood jumped to the surface. While probably good to talk about, none of it was relevant to what I was experiencing at the time. I'm in a pretty low place right now, and don't want to spend the first three sessions crying about my family dynamics. However, I'm the patient/client and therefore not the expert! Should I just trust that the therapist will be able to navigate through the childhood stuff to the root of the problem now?

The best way to manage your therapy experience is to say stuff like this out loud to your therapist in a session. If you get knocked off your point easily when the conversation changes direction--common problem--then either say it upfront in a session, right when you sit down, or write it down and hand it over. It's okay if that feels weird. It's therapy! It's the room where it's safe to be weird. 

And you probably know I'm going to say this, since you kind of did yourself, so apologies in advance, but if this past stuff is jumping to the surface when you try to talk about now, then there's at least some chance your current distress -is- somehow connected to the cry-worthy family dynamics. Certainly don't "trust the therapist" to know intuitively where you are and where you want to go int hat regard; be vocal when you're discussing the course you'd like this treatment to take. After that, yes, do trust the therapist to find a path for you. With check ins, regularly, if you're not sure where something is headed. 

Last thing, though it's more a general comment than for you since this doesn't seem to be your problem: One of the most common ways people undermine their own therapy is by holding stuff back. Tell! The! Truth! 

Good for you for getting the help process started. That can be the hardest step.



Put me in coach!

Okay! Remember: This is your time. Now go out there and take it!

It didn’t even occur to him to perhaps hire some household help and a dog walker and have a bouquet of daisies waiting for you? Has this selfishness never manifested itself in any other way during the past 8 years? Even if not, there are some moments which reveal the next 40-50 years to you so clearly, you just have to sit up and take notice, and, at the very least, hit pause. What would happen if you were sick again, and had children who needed diapers changed, etc.?

Yes to "there are some moments which reveal the next 40-50 years to you so clearly, you just have to sit up and take notice"--thank you. Here's the 20-year fast-forward:

Left my husband, two pre-teens and two dogs for my first ever business trip - 8 days away. Came home to a wreck of a house: dishes piled in the sink, the fridge still full of the ready to eat meals I had prepared ("we ate out, it was easier) and - odd - random towels on the floor in the rarely used living room. ? "One or both of the dogs were sick. I didn't know how to clean it so I covered them up." A man with an advanced degree to whom I had been married to for 20 years left multiple piles of dog puke to sit on the carpet for however many days because he said he knew he'd clean it up wrong and that I knew the right way to do it. We were already seeing a counselor but it took me a year after that to file for divorce. Don't ignore those red flags.

Hey Carolyn! So I'm currently living with a boyfriend of about four years; we've had ups and downs, broken up and gotten back together a few times. We moved in together over the summer, and for me at least I knew it would be instructive in understanding if there's a future in this relationship. As it turns out, I'm sure that I don't see a future with this man. We have different behaviors (I'm social--typically want to see friends at least once a week; he will go months between happy hours or other stuff), different priorities (I'm a believer in traveling/experiencing things now, he's much more of the "save now, play later" school), and even want to be in different places (I just took a great new job and like where we are, he is ready to move to a state with a lower cost of living ASAP). I also find him a generally negative person--I get a little tired of hearing about terrible things around the world basically every night when I come home. (To be fair, he might accuse me of being Mary Sunshine. I wouldn't disagree.) Our lease is up in early summer. Would you recommend ending things on the now-ish side (and have a few months where we're either living together awkwardly or someone ends up paying for two apartments or whatever), or whenever the lease comes to us for renewal, ending things then? I can survive through the spring; I'm not at physical risk at this point. I just want to be considerate about this.

You will have a few months where you're either "living together awkwardly" or paying double if you break up now, yes--but if you wait to break up, isn't that also "living together awkwardly"? With a lie of omission on top?

With very few exceptions, the time to break up is when you know you want to break up. It'll be hard, I'm sorry--but if you can afford a few months of extra rent, I suspect it'll feel like money very well spent.

My ex-husband died recently and to get this out of the way, I’m not sorry. When we were married he was drunk and abusive and he hurt my dog deliberately, which I could never, ever forgive him for. But my pre-teen son and daughter don’t really remember that time. After I left him, he didn’t see the children at all for three years until he finally cleaned up his act. And for the last six years he was clean and sober and tried to be a good father to them as far as I could tell. I avoided talking to him as much as possible and never saw him if I could help it. The problem is that my son is obsessively asking me if I’m glad his father is dead, if I thought he deserved it (his health never really recovered from the drugs and alcohol and he died of a sudden heart attack.) I’ve told my son honestly that I’m sorry that my children lost their dad, I’m sorry my mother-in-law had to bury her son, everything I could think of to side-step the question but he keeps asking; I’m not sure what he’s looking for. Should I admit that I’m not sorry he’s gone? Should I lie? I just don’t know what to do.

Can't you say to him, honestly, that people with addiction are sick? And the things your ex did to hurt you and others can be traced to that addiction, so you are a place now where you understand he never deserved to be sick in that way in the first place. That your feelings for him are of course complicated but that you are not glad this is how things turned out for his dad. 

Remember, your son's questions aren't just about you and his dad. Especially at his age, he's going to see this through the lens of his own life and self-worth and place in the world. You need to answer truthfully *through a filter of love for your kids.* If you're not sure how to do that and my suggestions aren't words you can say truthfully, then I suggest you talk to a therapist who has good results in treating the fallout from alcoholism in families. I'd do that anyway now, just to establish a therapeutic relationship with someone you can check in with as questions and problems crop up. This is the one you're facing now, but there will be others like it along the way--it's true for all families, really. 

Dear Carolyn, I have a sister who is fabulous. She went to a very well known university, followed by an exciting and lucrative career. She’s married to a very nice guy and they have 2 kids. They travel internationally at least twice a year. Two years ago they moved into a multi million dollar home so obviously they host all family gatherings now. My life is far more average. I went to a state school and entered a normal career. I got married, but was struggling with infertility when my husband died suddenly. I spent years in a volunteer organization and was recently offered a great job working for them full time with great benefits. I was at a family dinner last week when I told my family and immediately on the heels of my news my sister announced that she is going to be acting director of her company while the CEO takes a leave of absence. I feel like I finally got something positive and exciting to announce and my sister blew it out of the water. Again. If it was any one thing, I would be able to brush it off. This is a cumulative effect of 20 years of being happy for her. I don’t wish harm on her or her family, I genuinely love them. I just wanted for once to feel special in my family, like I was doing something interesting. My nieces birthday party is in 2 weeks and I am thinking about skipping it but then I feel incredibly petty. My sister will never stop being fabulous and I shouldn’t expect her to and I don’t want her to, really. I just need to know how to handle being second fiddle with grace.

This may sound stupid and off the point, but: You do realize there's a whole population out there that would rather be you than your sister? 

I'll speak only for myself, of course. But if you offered me, right now, on the spot, the acting-company-director job and the full-time gig with a volunteer organization, then I'd take the nonprofit. If I had the spare cash to cover two international trips a year, then I'd put it somewhere else. Okay, maybe I'd travel big once every two years.

And I'll take the fabulous house, sure, as long as someone else is paying for it and maintaining it. 

Why all this? Because the Sister option sounds like taking on more work and stress than I care to take on, in a job, in my leisure and in my home. It's all great, of course--*for her.*  And for people who share an interest and aptitude for life at that speed.

The reason I introduced this detour as possibly stupid and off-point is that it's all about trappings, and what seems to be at the heart of your story is a pair of profound, sequential losses. The infertility and the sudden death of your husband each are tough things to overcome alone, much less together. And given the effects traumas like these can have on people, you might as well see your life and your sister's life as parallel worlds. What you know, what you've felt, what you've witnessed--it is, I'm guessing, as alien to her as a multi-million-dollar home is to you. And in this case again there is a whole population out there who would rather be you, in an emotional world where everyone knows what this means (Leonard Cohen was so good at this):

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack, a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in

Please see your value as within you, in the light, and not in the trappings. 

Maya Angelou, Herb Brooks, Leonard Cohen. If I can quote Grover next, I'll call it a day.

I’ve recently moved in together with my boyfriend and a habit of his that I’ve noticed before is really starting to bother me. He can’t seem to understand that when I make a request, it’s not a demand that he drop everything and do that thing right then and there. Let’s say we’re making a meal together and he’s slicing vegetables. If I ask him to pass me a spoon, he’ll get annoyed because I’m asking him to do two things at once. I’m not, I just want the spoon when he’s done. I’ve even taken to tacking that phrase on to the end of every request but he doesn’t seem to hear it because he immediately responds, “Can’t you see I’m busy?” It also happens if I mention something that needs to be done, but in the future (and not necessarily by him!) For example, the other night I said that I thought the front walk would need to be salted before we left for work. Cue snippy comment about how he’ll rush right out and do it in the dark. I’ve explained that my comments aren’t orders and he seems to understand but the next day he’ll go right back to doing this. What really worries me is that his dad is like this only much worse. He’s a hothead, always angrily accusing his wife (my boyfriend’s stepmother) of nagging him, asking the impossible, etc. and he’ll ignore everything that needs to be done because, “I can’t do fifty things at once.” Is this the way my boyfriend is going to end up? Is there anything I can do about this?

"Is this the way my boyfriend is going to end up?" Apparently he already has. "Cue snippy comment"? Life is both too short and too long for that s---.

"Is there anything I can do about this?" You can thank the cohabiting process for doing its job and showing you exactly what life with your boyfriend is like, and you can act on this information as you see fit based on what kind of life you hope to have.

I could get into the what-ifs of mentioning "the front walk would need to be salted" instead of just (a) salting the walk or (b) asking him to salt the walk, but that's just going to muddy up the simple clarity of what you've presented here: 

You're not happy. Attempts to produce happiness seem effective but "the next day he’ll go right back to" producing unhappiness. 

What more information do you need?


My high-school senior daughter has a friend in a troubling situation. This hardworking, smart kid's mother died three years ago. The father is a gambling and alcohol addict who lives in the same town, but not in the same house. The 17-year old in question and their 16 year old younger sibling live with their 80-year old grandmother. Who has a minor stroke and ended up in the hospital last week. My daughter's friend came to stay with us for the night, the younger sibling went to another friend's house, and thankfully, the grandmother is home and seemingly has no ill effects from the mini-stroke. My question is- what about next time? These kids are minors, working minimum-wage jobs, doing everything possible to take care of themselves and their grandmother - grocery shopping, etc, without having to drop out of high school, but how do we get them some help? WIC help, medical care, etc at the minimum, help figuring out better work paths, help with higher education, etc best case?

Good for you for looking out for these kids.

The school, presumably, can't talk to  you about them for privacy reasons, but it can help to connect you with social services on their behalf, if they want.

So: Tell  your daughter first that you intend to get more involved--I'd say to ask, but, really, is that your daughter's decision?--then talk to the friend to ask if she's comfortable with your getting more involved and making arrangements should her grandmother have another medical emergency. If the friend says yes to that, then talk to the grandmother about your plans, and then approach the school. Going through school and social services will connect you not only with benefits, but also get you started on legal guardianship issues, should it come to that.

If the friend says no to your stepping in, then at least say your home is open to both of them when they need it--assuming you're prepared to make good on that.


To the searcher of "present for special anniversary,"  thank you so much. I'm verklempt.

My boyfriend used this sort of communication all the time. "The kitchen needs cleaning, the mail needs sorting, this room needs some uncluttering." To me, it always felt as if I wasn't doing enough and as a passive-aggressive way of asking me. To him, it meant that it needed to be added to the list of things to do. Once we sorted that out, there was a lot less misunderstanding and fighting about these tasks. So now, when he states one of these tasks, I ask him how and when he sees him/me/us tackling it, and that has really helped.

I think the final straw should be if you tell him about this bad habit and he does nothing about it. Every couple has annoyances about each other. The ones who make it work listen to their partner and work to change bad habits that negatively impact the relationship. He he doesn't want to or can't change, then that's the dealbreaker.

I'm almost like that fabulous sister. Except even with my "fabulous" life, I've gone through post-partum depression and other problems that were horribly difficult but hidden, because, well, I felt I had to keep up appearances, especially to my family who expects me to be perfect. "fabulous" doesn't mean happy.

I was at a friend's Christmas party a couple of months back, and some of our mutual friends were all there. Like your sister, the host couple have a fantastic home, make enough to travel with family often, and have "awesome" jobs. The host was on call for work, but still in attendance. Another friend's wife made the comment, "Well when you have great responsibility, you have the money to pay the bills" and looked at me with an ever so slight angle down her nose. Ten years ago, I would have analyzed this and came up with every angle she could have meant by that. Over time I've realized, my life is not theirs, and their life isn't mine. I have constructed a life I'm very proud of. It's not without its challenges, but truly I'm content with all I have, and I look so forward to what I can build in the future. I truly empathize, and I'm sorry for your losses. I hope you come to some conclusion that "comparison" is the worst. You can do without it.

I was you, once, and engaged too. I remember feeling like the energy required to break up was more than I could muster. All the wedding details to unwind, moving apartments, the heartbreak of the actual breakup. I remember feeling like I just didn't have the power to stop the gathering momentum. The way I solved it was just saying the words out loud, first to my mom, then to my fiance. "I don't want to get married." And then the rest, it just happens. Hard, yes, but possible. Just saying this in case it helps someone muster up the courage to make a hard choice.

This is so helpful, thank you.

I'm so sorry you're having to go through this. FWIW, have you asked your son why he wants to know whether you're glad? He might be struggling with that part of his identity that comes from his dad. He may or may not be old enough to know that this kind of illness is hereditary, but somewhere inside he knows that he is part his dad as well as part you, and he may be anxious about the extent to which you see -- and dislike -- that part of him?

Certainly possible--and even if the source of anxiety is different, you're probably right about the fact of anxiety as the motivation. Thanks for the insight.

What do you most want your therapist to do for you? To give you practical tips for riding out anxiety/panic attacks? To help you recognize disordered thoughts that contribute to your depression? To simply lend a sympathetic ear and unburden yourself of current stressors? (Can you tell I’ve done a lot of work in therapy?) Lead with this information! When there’s something I want to make sure I talk about in a session, I email my therapist ahead of time. A good, compatible therapist will be able to organize sessions around your priorities, or provide you with a good explanation for why revisiting past events will help you now.

One of our kids wanted to go to College $$$. We had told them we would put up enough money to pay for College B, an in-state school, and would not borrow money on their behalf...and didn't recommend they borrow any, either. We discussed graduating without debt v. with debt. We discussed the fact that 90% of college is what you make it. We discussed the fact that they could change schools after the first year if they hated College B. They picked College B. They got involved in clubs and sports. They LOVED College B!

My husband struggles a lot with this, too - he has an incredibly intelligent brother who's off at (Big Name University) getting his PhD. His cousins? One's getting her doctorate from (Big Name INTERNATIONAL University) getting her PhD and traveling to farflung countries all over the world for her research. The other works in politics and jets all over the country to work for high ranking senators. He's married to me and doing contract work. And he's happy! Until he stacks up his accomplishments with theirs. I don't have a perfect answer, and I know it sucks big time to have the family spotlight always on Sis and never on you. But can your friends help pick up the slack? Can you make your announcements during phone calls, when there's only one person listening to you and no Sis to upstage you? Can you announce your successes in a VERY HAPPY EXCITED VOICE to your dog while they jump up and down and wag their tail for you? Grab your fulfillment and recognition where you can get it - and try to be glad you don't have the stress of an entire company's operations on your back.

The second this chat is over, I am going to announce my successes in a VERY HAPPY EXCITED VOICE to my dogs. Or my screwups, depending on how the next few minutes go. You guys are the best. 

You are a survivor, who we love because you help us, give us wonderful experiences, and are there when we need the (organization). It's about time our (organization) gave you a great full time job with great benefits.


My husband is the same way in terms of thinking everything I request has to be immediate (he is much nicer about it, though!). In his case, I've realized it's part of his ADD; it's common for people with ADD to think of time in terms of "now or never." His brain has trouble holding the idea of "right now I am chopping vegetables and when I am done I need to hand over the spoon." It makes him feel like everything is urgent. Just throwing it out there in case that helps explain the boyfriend - although, of course, he could react more kindly to what she says.

You aren't the only one to connect this with ADD/ADHD.

And I agree the lashing-out is a reaction in need of re-programming. Thanks

In about 30 minutes I head to the hospital to pick up my wife, who has been there since Monday, when she underwent a bi-lateral mastectomy and rebuild. I can't imagine a better Valentine's Day gift than having her alive and home.

Aw. My best to you both. (And for the love of love, make sure you throw away the pizza boxes first.)

Bottom line: The OP is now walking on eggshells, i.e., rewording requests so as to avoid snippiness. That right there is a red flag.

Stop. Please stop. You are not average and your sister is not fabulous. I'm "that" sister in my family - financially well off, great kids, big house, vacation house, host most family events" - and trust me, my life is far from perfect. I don't talk about the fights with my husband, the problems with my kids, the amount of wine I drink just to get through a week and the number of times I've almost called a divorce attorney. Do yourself a favor - offer to host some family events and do it on your own terms; don't try to copy what I always do. Find things to do that you are passionate about - your happiness will be apparent. But for goodness sake stop using me as the "perfect yardstick".

Brave stuff, thanks. 

So ... what are you doing to take care of you? Please do something. Talk to someone, laugh with someone, drop the wine volume by half. Sit in a good friend's kitchen and cry.

This may be kind of obvious, but if he's like this now, and if you want kids, prepare yourself to take on even more if you stay with him. Parent/teacher conferences, boo boos, homework, extracurriculars, getting them to and from school/daycare, sick days and doctor visits, double to triple the laundry, cooking, clutter and dishes, because he will not suddenly start helping just because he's fathered a human. You are standing at the edge of the abyss.

That last line, though. Thank you.

I'm sorry that he had such a difficult life - where his addiction made it difficult for him to appreciate all of us who wanted to love him. I know that he loved you and your siblings as much as he could and that's all anyone could ask. I do think, though, that he had a lot of regrets for his mistakes, and I imagine it would be very hard - living a life filled with regret. I'm glad he doesn't have to continue that way anymore. I'd like to think he's at peace

I'm a therapist. Tell them what you need. If they think the only way to deal with the present is a long psychological study of your childhood, then they are not the one for you. Sometimes those come up, and can be looked at in context of current issues, but there are plenty of therapies that are solution-focused for the here-and-now. It's definitely not a one size fits all profession.

Go for gold (and for truth, too) - all comparisons are invidious, but I’d rather have the poster’s life, too - but not as much as I want my own. Even with siblings, you may only be seeing the surface, too - especially when it’s as shiny as this one appears to be, and I strsss”appears.”

If you stay, you will be near. If you go, you will be far. Near. Far.

omg! There's no way I can top this. Plus, I'm cry-laughing too hard to keep going.

So--bye! Thanks everybody, have a great weekend, and type to you here next week. (Which I just typed out as "type to you here next weekend" ... I blame Grover.)

RE: the end of the next to last sentence: "I'm not at physical risk at this point" strikes me as a red flag that didn't get addressed in your response. Just a thought in case you wanted to address. Thx.

Can I offer the obverse side of that coin (since I am that side)? Could it be that the husband has been told repeatedly over many years that the way he cleans dishes, laundry, etc is not the right way to do it so he has given it up to keep the peace?

I was suicidal for my entire life, until one day I suddenly realized that my mother wanted me dead. As soon as that thought hit my gut, the suicidal feeling stopped. I had internalized her desire to kill me into my "desire" to kill myself. 20 years of therapy with two highly recommended therapists (one famous) addressed a lot of other issues, but didn't budge the core issue, my being suicidal, an inch. Because all the current stuff really reflected one core, deep, yet-to-be-realized issue. If you start talking about your childhood the moment you get to the therapist's office, stop trying to force therapy to deal with "current" stuff. What's current is whatever is blurting out of you the moment you get to talk. I can't tell you how much everything else changed the moment I realized "she really wishes I were dead." Not even 20 years of working on what "needed" to be worked on helped. That one sentence solved it all.

Yikes. I'm so glad you're on the good side of this chasm now, but also sorry it was there for you to cross in the first place. And thank you for sharing your experience to help someone else.

If your daughter gives into him now, what else will he be so "adamant" about? Her major? Who she dates? If she has to have a job while in school? Internships? Trust me, I lived under the thumb of someone like this, and in the end I chose to deliberately go into credit card debt because of it. Yes, debt sucks, but being indefinitely beholden to a benefactor is worse. At least the loans have an end date, and they don't harangue over your personal choices.

If daughter had gotten into college B but not college A, would she have gone happily to B with her grandfather's money? If so, that might be an argument in favor of choosing B now, even though it's galling.

Over the holidays, my good friend was told by her parents that 1. they would not be paying for their grandhildrens' educations after all and 2. their financial advisor told them if they didn't slow their spending, they themselves would be broke in 3 years. So now my friend, with a senior and junior in high school, has no savings for college and is staring down the barrel of possibly having to finanicially help out her (formerly very wealthy) parents. Moral of the story: don't count on other people's money.

Don't even get me started on college debt. The biggest scam around. An undergraduate degree it not worth $40K - let only 80 & 160k. My kids first (and only) loan helped her go to the school of her choice. However, I gave an ultimatum and said that I would not cosign any more but would pay for the state school. Long story short, daughter decided she didn't want 160k of debt and transferred to the state school. She still regrets her initial decision and still has $20k of the original loan left to pay.

For the ranting husband, who I presume is not a person of color: he probably won't want to hear it, but maybe you could gently ask him to think about how the ability to rant at people on social media and then go back to his comfortable life is actually a privilege of being white. To help the people who have to go through their days being reminded they are black (or Latino, or Asian, or Jewish) and not entirely welcome in this country, he could really get off his butt and do something.

The OP's husband is apparently purporting to combat viewpoints that serve to minimize other humans and perpetrate fear and violence. Great! Except he's doing the very thing he's claiming to combat. He's making his wife feel intimidated. He's controlling her by deciding who can be in her life. He's spreading anger and alienation. He's doing it under the guise of "woke" vs. "non-woke" as opposed to "white guy" vs [women, racial minorities etc], but the effect is the same. Perhaps he needs to think about what being "woke" really means (connection, commonality, humanity, communication, exploration, reckoning, humility...) Right now, he's just another angry white guy using his point of view to control women, instill fear and foster divisiveness.

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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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