Carolyn Hax Live: The joys of multi-generational housing

Sep 27, 2019

Advice columnist Carolyn Hax answers questions and responds to comments about a father caught in the middle, potluck weddings, a son's childcare demands and more. Her answers may appear online or in an upcoming column.

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Hi everybody, happy Friday.

Dear Carolyn, I just relocated to a new city, as did a college friend of mine. She doesn’t own a car, and since we’re often at the same events downtown, she will ask me to pick her up and drive her home. I’ve done so out of obligation a few times, and now I’m worried that this is becoming a habit that will add up in gas expenses and time (i.e. driving out of my way when I have to get up early the next morning for work). I can’t figure out if I’m being totally selfish and should just suck it up and drive her, or if I’m right in feeling a bit uncomfortable with the new status quo. As a non-confrontational people pleaser, how do I tell her “I can’t drive you this time” when there’s no real excuse?

Oh my goodness.

No, it's not selfish to be uncomfortable with being taken for granted.

Please, when you have these can't-figure-out moments, do two things right away: 1. Acknowledge your history of people-pleasing and confrontation-avoidance; 2. Flip the scenario: Is it selfish for the other person to expect you to go out of your way for her and pay for all the gas and parking and car-ownership costs, without any say or compensation?

I hope it's clear from that flipped version, and from knowing your own defaults, that you're not the "taker" in this exchange.

Not that your friend is necessarily doing anything wrong. She is asking, and so you can decline. Your not being able to see it that way--and to say "no" sometimes, like when you have to get up early--is on you.

She should of course be offering gas money, and making it clear she's okay with your saying no. Something like, "I know I've been getting a lot of rides. I'm really grateful, and please don't feel obligated."

Sigh.

Since she's not making it easy for you, and since it's your limit that needs setting, you're going to have to do the hard thing. Either start saying "no" when you can't afford the inconvenience of driving her, or have the conversation--that if this is going to be a regular thing, you and she need to work out a system. 

This, by the way, is the true way to please people. That's because if you keep running yourself ragged while resenting the imposition, then you will stop enjoying this friend's company--and she won't even have had a chance to fix things. If instead you're transparent about your limits, then you give your friend the choice to stay in your good graces.

My partner and his brother have decided to go in on a new car for their sister, who has been driving around in an unsafe jalopy for a while. She can't afford to buy her own for a number of reasons that all boil down to poor financial management. This is really generous and brotherly of them and I would support it, but I've been driving a crappy old car for years and can't quite believe my partner is prioritizing his sister's need over mine. Granted, there is a big difference between unsafe (her car) and simply embarrassing (mine), but there is also a big difference between one's duties to one's sibling and one's partner. Isn't that right, or am I just being a jerk?

Do you and your partner have joint finances, or say in/a stake in each other's spending?

If so, then you have absolute standing to say that while you recognize the generosity of this gift to his sister, you're uncomfortable with his offering it without first discussing it with you--especially so given that your car situation is better than hers by only the slimmest of margins.

Even if you have separate finances, you can make the same case if such a big expenditure affects you both.

Carolyn, When a friend has been angry with you for your behavior, and you apologize for it, should you talk about the 25% of the friendship problems that were caused by them? Or just eat crow and hope for the best?

Not sure "eat crow and hope for the best" is ever the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

But I suppose it is somewhat dependent on how bad your behavior was. The aftermath of causing someone tangible harm is not the best time to say, "And by the way, I hate it when you're slow to respond to my texts."

If you can be genuine in your contrition, *and* not tone-deaf in mentioning you have your own frustrations with the friendship, then it's probably better for your friendship in the long term to air them: "This takes nothing away from what I did, because there is no excuse for my behavior: I was upset, though, that you ____. That I handled it so badly is on me, but I hope we can still talk about ____." You'll either get a yes, a no, or a #$%!. Good luck.

I'm one of those rare people who actually stayed friends with an ex-boyfriend. We do much better platonically than the year and a half we were together romantically and I consider him pretty much my best friend. We now live over an hour apart so we don't see each other as often but we text, DM, or talk on the phone almost daily and meet for dinner several times a month. I knew my ex was seeing someone and next weekend at a party we'll finally get to meet. My ex says that "right now" he doesn't plan to tell his gf that he and I ever dated but wants to break it to her gradually. I don't understand what there is to "break" to her, we weren't engaged or anything and have been over as a couple for years now. This makes me really uncomfortable but as long as I don't have to tell any out and out lies, I guess I should go along with it. Thoughts?

No no no, please be his friend, and badly needed spokesperson for his spine: "Lying to her by omission is a stupid way to start a relationship. Show her enough respect to be honest. If she freaks out that you're friends with an ex, then she's probably not someone you'd want to be serious with anyway, because the friends you choose are about your values.

"Besides--how is she going to like it when she finds out you kept this from her?"

"Gradually." That's unintentionally hilarious.

Really. Don't let him slide into a completely idiotic decision; at least make him actively choose and defend it.

 

My sister and I are both divorced. For several years we've been getting together about once a week to drink wine and kvetch about work, kids, current events. Now she has a boyfriend (we have both dated fairly consistently, but this is the first guy who's gotten a title and a spare key, from either of us), and now they are a package deal. We are in our 50s; I thought the days of joined-at-the-hip couples were behind us. I like this man just fine, but he changes the whole tone and tenor of our hangouts. I have asked her to leave him behind, which she now does about half the time. Our weekly get-togethers were sacred to me, and I'm not sure whether it's time to just grieve for them. I swear I'm not just jealous!

Please just say what you want. "Our weekly get-togethers were sacred to me. Any chance we can keep them going, and make other plans that include Boyfriend?"

As long as you're making an effort to be inclusive and welcoming of her new love, I don't see anything wrong for asking her explicitly for the one-on-ones to remain so. 

Yes, you did bring it up already, but asking her "to leave him behind" with no mention of a plan to include him in other ways was perhaps not as attentive to her needs as you were being to your own. That, too, is something you can say outright--that you're sorry you put it the way you did (assuming your representation here is accurate), and you're all in on getting to know her guy better and sharing in her happiness. You'd just like this one weekly lifeline preserved. 

Dear Carolyn, In my family, it’s customary to live in multigenerational housing. A few years ago, my sister and I really wanted to get into a top school district but we couldn’t afford a home individually. We ended up pooling resources between my sister and her husband, me and my husband, and our mother. We purchased a 4,000 square foot house and we all live here together, 5 adults and 5 kids. We love it, there is enough space for everybody, child care is a breeze because somebody is always around. The problem is that the older kids are getting into junior high and are being teased a lot for this living arrangement. Our neighbors and co-workers make snide comments about it, too. I really don’t know how to handle these, what do you suggest?

O!M!G! What is wrong with people. (Bulletin: *Judging is not a sport.*)

"Are you kidding? It's such a blast." That is the only answer you need. Not that anyone even deserves an answer.

As for the kids, I hope they have enough swagger for: "You should come over sometime. It's so much fun."

 

Everything about having to answer that question enrages me. 

Also be prepared for a new normal. Maybe having him there half the time is the best compromise you'll be able to get from your sister. Her life has changed in a big way, and there's no getting around that. I hope she will be up for seeing you solo once a week, but if not, when you explain how important it is to you that you and she get solo time together, make sure you're willing to be flexible.

Hi Carolyn! I am half a married gay couple. My husband and I are backing out of an adoption for which we've been approved and that was scheduled to go through this winter. When we got married, I was 50/50 on having a child and he was totally on Team "Let's Just Be DINKs," but I began to want a kid more over the next couple of years and so we committed to the application process. Now that we are near the finish line, some things have changed and to put it simply, I don't want a baby anymore. I have come around to my husband's point and would prefer to focus on each other and our careers. That's about as selfish a reason as exists for backing out, but it is the reason, and things are not so far along in the process that we are leaving a particular child in the lurch (we would never do that). We have a number of friends who have not had the same luck with growing our families, and I find myself unable to admit to them that we're backing out, so we are lying by omission to a lot of them. Do you have any suggestions for explaining in a defensible way that we have decided against having a child after all?

Noooooooooo.

(It's exasperation day!)

"That's about as selfish a reason as exists for backing out"

... is just not true. Selfish would be deciding, ugh, we'll look so selfish if we back out! and then going through with the adoption knowing your weren't 100 percent committed to a child. What you did was honest and brave.

Just own your decision with as little explanation as possible. "We're not going through with it after all." It's no one's business beyond that, but if anyone asks, "It just wasn't for us." 

There's also, "Please respect our privacy," as needed for the hard cases. They'll assuredly think your reasons are much worse than they are, but, anyone nosy enough to get this deep into your supply of deflections would probably think up wild stuff anyway, without prompting.

 

Thank you very much to you, Carolyn, and to this commenter who shared insight about chronic complaining in last week's chat: "Q: Re: Why do people do this? ... Because people don't want to feel responsible for their own lives and their own happiness, because that means they're responsible for their unhappiness, too. It feels much better to blame it on external factors (which includes other people), and if they do it long enough they start to believe it." I saw myself, it hit me hard, and I get it now. It's up to *me* to make important changes, and I can't wait on -- and blame -- others who seem like they're in my way. (They're really not.) I can't stop thinking about how powerful this is, and I feel a new confidence in myself. Thanks again!

Don't thank me, I was just the messenger. I agree it's an excellent observation.

Good for you for being open to an unflattering view of yourself. It's not easy.

My husband and I have a whole host of problems, but the one that has taken over recently is my sneezing. I have allergies and usually, I sneeze a few times in the morning before my medicine kicks in. It makes my husband so angry that he curses and yells at me to stop every morning. He'll go on with these speeches about how annoying it is and how if I would stop he wouldn't be so angry. (I've already talked with a doctor, I'm not a good candidate for shots and he thinks I should just stay on my OTC medicine.) I really don't know what to do. It's gotten to the point that I'm yelling back and saying that if it's really so awful he doesn't have to live with me. I know the anger about my sneezing is probably just a stand in for something else but I'm about at the end of what I can handle. It happens with other voluntary things: hiccups, yawns. Or things that aren't so voluntary but also affect him: I sat on his side of the couch, etc. He won't go to therapy, I've asked so many times. What's next? It there something I'm not considering?

Divorce?

You both sound miserable.

He, abusively so.

When I started dating "Tim" all of my friends were very excited. I don't usually date, and I especially don't date long-term. Tim is a great guy, really nice, very funny, and endlessly sweet. Almost too sweet. He constantly over-extends himself, drives hours out of his way after his normal work shift to help a friend of a friend, and because of this, has a hard time keeping plans. He is very well-intentioned, and I trust him. I have no doubts about our relationship. None of this bothers me. It honestly inspires me to become a better person and help out others just like Tim does. However, my friends cannot stand it. They think I'm being strung along, mistreated, overlooked, and ignored. Some have met Tim and are immediately charmed by his charisma and amazing personality/sense of humor. Others are bristly when I even bring up his name. It bothers me that my friends can't just be happy for me. I've always been wildly independent, without a need for a man constantly around, and it truly does not bother me that Tim is busy and is always there to lend a hand, even if it's at the expense of us having some alone time. I guess what I'm asking is, where does the line fall between helping someone else and mistreating your girlfriend? And am I tiptoeing right on it? Is Tim neglecting me, or are my friends projecting on to me the kind of relationship they want?

Q: Are you ever on the receiving end of Tim's big freewheeling acts of generosity? Or are you the dependable uncomplaining source of stability that allows him to freewheel so freely.

Don't ask me how I know to ask this.

And whatever the answer is, are you thrilled to be that part of Tim's life? 

Poster, there are so many readers envious of your living situation. That you have family geographically so close, that you have family so on the same page that you can live under one roof without killing each other, that you have built-in babysitting, that you have so many hands to split the chores... Fine, it's me. I am the envious one. Congrats!

Exactly. Thank you.

A decade or so ago, the editor in chief of the Martha Stewart Living magazine did an op-ed on her and her sister's co-housing arrangement with their spouses and kids. I was very impressed with her description of their arrangement and the photos that accompanied the article. I bet there are plenty of people sharing info about their own co-housing, multi-gen arrangements on line.

I hope so. I actually have a version of it now and plan for more of one when retired. And it's well on the way to becoming a Thing--adult dorms, retiree friends building little cabin communities. The whole living model of a single family home in a car-dependent neighborhood is perfect for some, but not for anywhere near as many people as our housing stock says it is. It can be so isolating. Yet U.S. went all in on the suburb model of living--and now the more economically viable walking/mixed housing and retail communities are $$$ and getting $$$$$.

Anyway. 

 

Dear Carolyn, My parents divorced when I was a toddler. Growing up, birthdays were huge for my sibling and me because they were one of few times all year that we got to hang out with both of our parents at once. Later, when my dad remarried and had another child, they were even more important as a reminder that we mattered to him. But my stepmother was always a huge downer about this. She always actively pushed back against our wanting to have an all-family gathering for birthdays (literally, two days a year!) (one for each of us). There were a couple of dramas and arguments over this. We are now adults. I still like getting together on special occasions like birthdays, and my sibling does too. We have children now, which makes it even more special and fun. My mom is always game and so is my dad, but my stepmother comes and pokes her lips out like her favorite toy has been stolen. She makes snide remarks about what a fuss is being made. These are not regatta galas, they're family-only dinners at, like, pizza joints. She tries very hard to ruin every one of them. At the risk of seeming like a damaged little kid who hasn't gotten past my parents' divorce of 35 years ago, do you think it's okay for me to start UNinviting my stepmother from these events? My dad is very much a look-the-other-wayer.

Have you ever just asked her: "You look miserable. Is there anything anyone can do for you?" If not cheerfully, then at least in something resembling an upbeat tone. 

If this yes-I-see-you honesty isn't enough to nudge her in one direction (speaking in truth vs. snark) or the other (wiping the sulk off her face already), then you will have also laid a foundation to say, next time: "You look miserable again. If you'd like to skip these, then I won't be offended."

Obviously uninviting her is a valid option, as is ignoring her--she can't ruin anything without others' permission, in the form of seeing it as such--but after so many years of this, it seems like it could be very satisfying to dispense with the whole charade.

And no, you didn't sound like a damaged little kid at any point in this letter. You have something you value, you view it as threatened, and you're trying to find a way protect it. What else are we all here for.

I mis-understood Tagalong as the Girl Scout cookie and kept wondering what cookies had to do with the question.

Everything. They had everything to do with it.

Please have you husband talk to a doctor about sensory issues. My son has sensitivities to certain sounds that produce an immediate, involuntary and uncontrollable angry reaction. It took me years to understand how frightening and difficult it was for him to have these extreme reactions to things other people took for granted. This type of problem is starting to be recognized by healthcare professionals and while there is no magic cure, there are management strategies. For my son, just knowing that there might be a reason for his reactions and that there were other people who had the same problem, has helped him. This might not be the case with your husband and he would have to be willing to address the issue with his doctor, but your description of his reaction immediately made me think of my son.

In past relationships, I have hated when people apologize for their behavior then immediately bring up something that they say makes me just as bad [but up until this point they have never mentioned it]. It always seems like an non-apology, a "sorry, but" as the floodgates of a full on airing of grievances happens. If I have a grievance I like to say my apology and unless it's directly related to the grievance at hand wait for the next time they do something to air that grievance.

Right. But if it -is- related, then it's good to say it as part of the larger reckoning. Thanks.

Hi Carolyn! My husband and I got save the dates for weddings that are the same weekend. There's no way we could do both, seeing as they are in different states. These are both very dear friends of ours (both traveled quite a distance to make our own wedding), and I'm so torn up about missing either, especially because both couples live out of state and we only get a chance to see them about once a year. Any good advice for making the decision, aside from a coin toss? For what it's worth, one would be a drive and the other would be a flight, but we had budgeted for two weddings, so the cost isn't an issue.

Each of you could go to one of them. 

You could just tell people that "it didn't work out." If they press you for details, you can just say that you really don't want to talk about it.

That sounds like the kind of relationship role I'd be crazy comfortable in. But then I do have the emotional needs of a cactus and my one deal breaker is "must be able to leave me alone for long periods of time". I could seriously see myself with some scientist in a lab who constantly loses track of the time so I could just leave a bagged lunch outside their door.

I <3 this answer so much it feels like cheating.

Is that a heart symbol, btw, or an ice cream cone.

I was married to "Tim." My "Tim" needed to feel needed. Needed to be "the hero", the guy everyone (but I) could count on. Neede for everyone (but me) to see him as "such a great guy." I am also highly independent and didn't need Tim - wanted him, yes, but needed, no. When my "Tim" said to me, in front of our marriage counselor, "I married you, what else do you want/", I knew we were done. My "Tim" had, at the very least, some very narsiccistic traits. Keep an eye out and really examine your Tim's motives.

If you are thinking long term with Tim: can you count on him to be there, present, for The Big Stuff. When my mother got Alzheimers, one of the first thing my husband said 'you know I've got your back and so have my family'. *This* made me cry. It's one thing for him to call saying he's not coming round that night / doing some DIY he said he would because he's going to be helping a friend. It's another thing if he doesn't put you first when the big stuff hit the ... .

Another way to go about this is to ask for something else that she can help you with - if you prefer not to ask for gas money etc or if that's more useful to you. I also want to touch on the arc of friendship. Yes, she should be offering recompense for you time and your gas etc - but let you tell me a story. I have a good friend who, at one point, didn't have a car in DC for several years. I would often pick him up and drop him home - it definitely was an inconveniece. He never offered anything. Fast forward a couple of years and my father died. He put me on the plane, looked after my bird for two days then drove from DC to Long Island - with the bird - and stayed a week helping our and bing an anchor for mum and me. This was why I never worried - there's an ebb and flow to our friendship. This might not be your friendship with your friend - but it is sometimes there.

This is great, too, thanks.

And it reminds me of another point I was thinking about but I forgot to include in my answer:

They're both relatively new to this city, right? So the carpooling could be a shot of social courage for the friend. If so, then the arrangement/problem/awkwardness might not be indefinite.

Does he also get angry if you are chewing next to him? Popping your jaw? He could suffer from misophonia. An ex had this, and his rage was particularly triggered by chewing or swallowing that was anything greater than silence. Doesn't explain that sofa nonsense, though...

Right. And the anger might be unavoidable, but the expressions of it are something we can manage, right? Even if after the fact.

In just a few short years I have gone from having my own bachelor pad to my current house: I now live with my wife, her mom, her sister, her sister's two kids, and her sister's son's friend who had a rough home life and came to stay with us and quickly became a member of our family. People who knew me as a bachelor frequently ask things like, "How can you stand a live-in mother-in-law?" and "YOU?!? Living with THREE KIDS?!? Who AREN'T YOURS?!?" And all I can say is, "Yeah, and it's awesome." Because it is. If people bring their own judgments to your happy home life, that's their problem that they should deal with.

Crying openly now, when before I was just sniffling that I don't have a box of Tagalongs.

When I was in high school and college most of us chipped in for gas when we'd get rides without being asked. It was common place. I told my son "Don't forget to give whoever is driving some gas money or pay for parking" and he said "No one does that". And when he tried, they wouldn't accept. Is that not done anymore?

"No one can say no one does that because no one knows everyone. Pay for gas."

 

 

Conversely - are their friendships that you could cultivate and make a bit more room for that you haven't because you have been so used to being fulfilled by the weekly get-together with your sister? Could deepening one or more of those replace some of what you feel you're losing with your sister in terms of general support, etc.?

Out of curiosity, how often do you get follow ups from chat questions or letters? There are so many questions that stick with me and I wonder how they are doing. Do you always print the follow ups?

When I see them, but I don't always see them.

When a friend is not contacting you due to a depression, what are the best ways to 'deal' with it, so to speak, in order to keep the friendship strong throughout the absence? For example, an occasional inquiry into well-being or message of support may be heartening, while too many may cause unnecessary emotional burden and guilt for the depressed one. I would be interested to hear from others who have experience on either end of this sort of relationship, and how they managed to regain or maintain ties to others during/after a depression. This friend of mine is long-distance so I do not have every strategy at my disposal.

When you get in touch, specify clearly, "No response necessary." Preempt the guilt the best you can, and make your message closed-ended. "Thinking of you, hope you're okay." You can also send things--a book they might like, a pair of fluffy socks, a funny postcard. You're a good friend.

Is there one where it's easier to make a special trip to see them - and do a late wedding celebration?

Along the lines of today's question: My boyfriend came to our (hetero) relationship with a lot of female friends. I'm uncomfortable with my partners having close female friendships based on a prior history of dating people who were emotionally unavailable to me and were superclose with a female friend. One of those exes went on to marry his bestie, all of which hurt a lot when I was in it and still stings to look back on. I expressed my discomfort to my boyfriend, and he wants me to be happy and adjusted his behavior and engages less with female friends one-on-one. Meanwhile, I'm really trying hard to get better when it happens that his friendships end up in him in one-on-one situations with female friends... but in truth, it still really bothers me. Our relationship is good. I do not want to assume the worst of him because he is a man. I worry that expressing my feelings resulting in his changed behavior is controlling, and he is missing out on friendships he used to be more present in. I also cannot make my discomfort go away so I'm really uncomfortable with the idea of saying, go back to hanging out with your lady friends one on one nights and weekends, no prob. Can't wait to get spitfire roasted in the comments over this, but nevertheless: any advice?

I hope you don't get roasted--you're honest about some things that are hard to be honest about, and roasting discourages that.

Your request that he see his female friends less was a controlling one, yes--because your request was an effort to change him to address something in you. And he is indeed missing out on time with people he cares about, who are in turn missing out on him, when they did nothing wrong.

If he had asked me how to respond, I would have advised him to say no to you, and to say that he really cared about you and wanted to see where your relationship would go, but he wouldn't change himself to make that happen. Doing that is not a good thing for him, or for you, either. The best shot you have at a healthy relationship is in being yourself, and freeing your partner to be himself. Utterly. If that mix is a bad one, then so be it--time to break up.

Please also note that you've left a much easier part of this problem unaddressed: You have "a prior history of dating people who were emotionally unavailable to me and were superclose with a female friend." So, more than one such ex is in your history, and by the sound of it, we're talking 3 or more. Then you choose a new boyfriend who *already had*  "a lot of female friends." 

So you are picking men over and over again who have close relationships with women?  Why are you giving this frailty of yours the "Groundhog Day" treatment, especially given how acutely aware of it you are? 

That's where your attention belongs, not on your BF's behavior. I urge you to find a good therapist and get to work. "Much easier" might not give the right impression, but I describe it that way because it's in you, which means you have some control over how you fix it. Trying to fix your problem through other people's behavior means you're always dependent on others to feel good--which, as I think you're learning, never feels very good at all.

Ask your friend how they would prefer to be contacted. When I was very depressed I told everyone that I wasn't up to phone calls or emails (before widespread texting), but I might respond to facebook pm. Almost everyone respected that and I felt their interest without feeling a huge obligation to participate on their schedules.

+1000 to "no response needed". I'd also add in, please talk about your life and what's going on- good bad or boring, and don't ask after your friend or their mental health every time. Just try to be as if they are holding up their side of the 'conversation'. And on Carolyn's suggestion of sending stuff )socks books etc)- please gauge that based on who you know your friend to be... I have friends who love receiving Things so I send that sorta junk to them (within their tastes & interests I promise), but I hate it (can you tell?) so they return the favor by not sending me anything. We all feel seen & appreciated.

My spouse and I have split 6 weddings in the past 2 years due to this very issue.

That is a wild number of concurrent weddings.

Talk to both friends in advance of making any decision, to me that would be key - don’t decide unilaterally or before talking to both couples first. Hurt feelings may be inevitable, but less likely with full prior communication -

I couldn't drives for 25 years because of a seizure disorder. I appreciated all my friends that schlepped me around, went out of their way, adjusted times of gatherings to account for picking me up. I also made sure that I paid for gas (when I was younger) or sponsored their charity (when I was older) or bought their kid's tagalong cookies.

Not the OP, but I've thought that when CH is away, perhaps a theme of the week's repeats could be questions-that-have-follow-ups. It's always interesting to hear What Actually Happened, and maybe that would prompt more follow-ups in the future. Not sure how the submission database works, though....

Too labor intensive, I'm afraid. 

I suffer from misophonia. Even though I am 100% sure I am totally normal, and I can't imagine how anyone doesn't fly into a rage at the sound of swallowing, I understand that swallowing is necessary to live and sneezing is involuntary and so forth. Sometimes I snap, but that NEVER means berating somebody for a noise they can't control, especially not routinely. There is no excuse for that.

My policy is generally: if you offer me gas money for anything short of a looooooong road trip, I will refuse unless I really need the money. If you never do, I'm asking. It's honestly about the acknowledgement that this is taking my time and resources.

These have been the biggest day brightener!!!! Seriously -- I needed that!

If I get a chance, I'll post some more. 

I'll sign off in the meantime--thanks everybody, have a great weekend, and type to you here next week. 

YES YES YES to divide and conquer! Some friends did this at our wedding and for about a half-second we were sad not to have both of them. But then we realized they loved us so much that even if only 1 of them could be there, they still made it work. It meant so much. My husband and I have also done this. I have to admit that while I love a good time with my spouse, I also have absolutely loved the celebration without him!

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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