Carolyn Hax Live: Cutdown Abbey

Feb 14, 2020

Advice columnist Carolyn Hax took your comments about her current advice column and questions about the strange train we call life. Her answers may appear online or in an upcoming column.

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Hello, happy Friday. 

Before the end of the chat, can you give us a rough total of how many "I just know my boyfriend/husband/SO is going to disappoint me again by not reading my mind and making V Day perfect for me" submissions you got?

No, because that's a sexist trope that needs to die.

I'm in the fairly early stages of seeing someone who is currently going through a divorce. They are in the process of splitting assets, selling the house, etc. While I know the marriage is over, I feel guilty for doing this before the papers have been signed. I know I'd be livid if the roles were reversed and I found out my husband was already seeing someone else. However, she ended the marriage and has been telling him he's free to do what he wants. I also didn't expect us to get this close this fast but we have history (pre-marriage) and it's easy to get comfortable, but I've been resisting somewhat and sending mixed signals. Any word of wisdom?

Would you really be livid if the person you dumped and were in the process of divorcing--and gave your blessing to start dating again--took steps to find some happiness? 

I'll wait for that answer before I answer the rest of your question.

I’m 24 and in my third serious relationship and I recently asked my boyfriend for a break. Basically all three of my relationships seem to have followed the same pattern: me being very affectionate and loving towards my boyfriend, them being less affectionate, not as interested in me or as loving towards me, then over time after issues and arguments, my feelings dwindle while theirs seem to increase. It's not like I don't communicate issues either, I always bring up issues when they come up. And I always discuss issues after a disagreement so they’re truly understood and put to rest. I always tell my boyfriends that I want them to be more affectionate, but usually it doesn't happen until way too late and I've slowly gotten over the relationship. My first two were worse in the sense that their expression of more affection later on only served to hurt me, because it feels like "I would have been way happier had this happened months ago". This is the third time it has happened. It ends after I'm fed up and my boyfriend is more in love, more affectionate with me and I can't return it back anymore. What’s wrong with me, and why is this a pattern?

This is not intended as a substitute for the advice I'm going to steer you to in my last paragraph.

But: It sounds to me that you go all in right away, intensely, before you know these men well, while they're following a slower get-to-know-you trajectory--and so they're naturally less affectionate at first and more so later. They're having fun, sure, but they don't really know you yet, haven't fallen for you yet, so the intensity you want from them upfront is something they're not capable of giving you until later.

If this is true, then you haven't had three serious relationships with three men, but instead one intense on-and-off relationship with the novelty of someone new.

Whether that's a good guess or a terrible one, your problem is begging for some sessions with a therapist. It hits the top three qualifications: 1. You have a pattern; 2. You don't understand it; 3. It's making you unhappy. If you need a refresher on how to find a good therapist or how to get help when money is an issue, please write back.

I have a way, sometimes, of speaking too quickly and/or being impatient that can sound so rude. When it happens, it just comes shooting out. I am afraid I will lose all my friends and I know it hurts my husband. I hate myself when it happens, and even though I vow, time and again, to be patient, to be kind (and I am a kind person, I do not at all have a hurtful heart), it happens again. It just happened last night when a friend was over watching a movie and didn't understand the plot. I am not personally insulting in these moments; it's just a tone that I hear and I feel ashamed of. I wonder if you've come across this and have any thoughts, or if I should just move to a monastery and be silent for the rest of my life.

Do I have any thoughts.

Do *I* have any *thoughts*?

If anyone who knows me IRL is reading this, enjoy.

(By way of explanation: An old friend of mine has marveled on more than one occasion how fast I can get someone off the phone. Like, he feels the breeze from my hanging up on him--I did say old--the millisecond the necessary information has been exchanged.)

It's up to your friends whether you lose all your friends, of course--but you have precious awareness of your tendency to do this--and, even better, you *hear the tone,* which means you're aware of it as it's happening, yes? That means you can say in that moment that you're really sorry your dark side/mean streak/evil twin just took over. Even if it's 10 minutes or an hour before it dawns on you, you can still say, "I just realized I was an impatient jerk to you over the [whatever]. I'm sorry about that."

Your husband deserves the higher-end version of this, where you have the larger conversation--if you haven't already--about your being aware that you slip into this terse persona sometimes reflexively, and you don't mean it personally and don't mean to hurt him. If he can help you figure out what tends to come before these episodes--fatigue? hunger? frustration?--then you can train yourself to catch them before they come out instead of after, which is ideal. 

This isn't to say you can't talk to your friends about it generally, too--to say at a neutral time, "I know I can sound short and impatient sometimes, and I'm sorry about that--I know it's  not okay and I'm working on it." It's just that it's required for your spouse, vs. merely thoughtful and recommended with others.

BTW if you went into a monastery, then you'd probably be the exact same way, just via glare.


Dear Carolyn, I work on a team of 5 with a supervisor. Another member of my team is habitually condescending, many times she went out of her way to explain things to me that I already knew. In the spring I complete my MBA and our boss made mention of it. My coworker launched into a lengthy explanation about how degrees are just a piece of paper and nothing can replace experience and age. After I get my MBA I will be in a better place to ask to change teams or get a new job. I know this is a relatively short term problem, but I could use some coping skills dealing with this coworker for the next few months.

Sounds as if it's not so much a personality conflict as an unfortunate alignment of insecurities. This problematic team member sounds really fragile--with an ego in high need of fuel to keep it out of free fall. So, she over-explains this or badmouths that to keep herself feeling important.

You, meanwhile, are unwittingly a perfect foil for her neediness. You're not so fragile that you need to wave your superiority flag over the rest of your group, but you're not so solid yet that you can either find your colleague's efforts amusing/pathetic, or just shut them down. She gets to you.

This is just a hunch built on what you gave me, obviously. But if it's correct, then these months will go by faster if you can see her game for what it is and opt out of playing it. Even better, if you're up to it, is to look at it from a leadership perspective: She feels insecure--so what can you do as her colleague to help her feel included and supported as a teammate?

For anyone who read today's column and thought "Okay, but only children are lonely/spoiled/unusual/etc.": I can't stop you from thinking that, but please, please, please, don't say those sort of things to or around your own kids. In elementary school, I had so many kids say mean things to me about being an only child which they had heard from their parents. I know this, because one girl told me "My mom said only children are weird." That was over 20 years ago, and I'm sure she doesn't remember saying it, but I'm still flabbergasted that she would say something so rude that her mother clearly had given her permission to think. Don't give your kids a license to be mean.

Yikes. Thank you.

This expands to fit just about every issue parents can mutter about around their kids without considering what the effect of those words and ideas might be.

I have to have a difficult conversation with my doctor next week. Due to my mix of frustration, worry, and the fact that I will likely not be wearing pants, I am almost certain that I will start crying. I really don't want to cry - I am justifiably angry and don't want this doctor's comfort and reassurance, and would don't want my concerns dismissed as over emotional. How do I stop a lifelong habit of crying during confrontation in the next week?

I am so sorry you're in extended fight-or-flight mode! That's stressful and exhausting. 

Two things to try: 1. Rehearse what you're going to say. If you have a friend laid-back enough to role-play this with you, then there's your plan for an hour this weekend and a tuneup the night before; if you don't have that friend (they're pretty rare, in my experience), then spend some time feeling ridiculous in front of a mirror. Work on the phrasing, write down the key points.

2. Make this the first thing you say to your doc: "Warning, I cry when I'm angry, upset or stressed, and during most confrontations. Please ignore it because I don't want the distraction."

So, short version, do what you can to preempt the tears, then make room for them if they show up anyway. Trying too hard to fight them often just makes them worse.

You didn't ask about this, but, in the meantime, make sure you have a lot of distractions lined up for your free time between now and the appointment. Even if you were totally fine with crying, there's still little to be gained from perseverating your way to next week. Hope the appointment goes well.

I had my son, “Mark” at age 15. I kept him and raised him with enormous help from my parents and the father’s parents, the father not so much but that’s not why I’m writing. I’m very proud of Mark and love him so much but I admit I often don’t tell strangers how old he is if I can help it because I get harshly judged. And it’s not just a feeling – some people say the cruelest things about it and somehow think they’re praising me. I took a new job recently and I like a lot. My last job was not a good situation and it took me 3 years to get out of there so this new job is very important to me. I do talk about the fact that I have a son, am a single mom, but have been very vague about his age. People have asked to see pictures and I keep saying I am having trouble with my phone and they just assume he’s very young based on my age. I eat lunch with several of my colleagues almost every day and it getting to be very awkward to avoid the fact that I have a teenage son. My boss, who is in her 50s, was talking about her son getting his learner’s permit and I almost slipped and said my son would be getting his too. How do I go about introducing the fact that my son is almost 16 years old without it making it seem like a big deal?

You show the pictures as you would of any child of any age. You say, "My son is getting his permit, too!"

I.e., you do exactly what you've been suppressing. Sooner was better--as in, immediately, as if you had nothing to hide--but you can only work with what you've got, so now is better than later.

I'll spell this out in case the implication is not clear: You DO have nothing to hide. You had a child young--so what. It's not our situations that define us, it's how we handle them. You've hung in there and raised your child, and seized your chance to do so surrounded by a loving extended family. Anyone who would judge you for that is an ass.

And the people who "say the cruelest things about it and somehow think they’re praising me"? They're giving you a choice: Hear the cruelty, or hear the praise. For the sake of expediency, I suggest you take the praise.

If you haven't already, give your husband and good friends permission to tell you, when you do this without thinking, "Hey, you just did that thing where you're rude and impatient." If they feel free to say that every time, without an angry tone of their own and without you getting defensive and maybe even sharper-tongue, that might help your brain learn that it doesn't want to be called out every time and therefore it will gradually learn to slow down/soften up.

Yes, yes, thank you. Code phrases help. "Heeeere's Johnny!" 

Thank you. The thought of figuring out what precedes it is extremely helpful - I think it is often when I am tired and/or frustrated. It doesn't happen at other times. That is the first time I feel I have a handhold to try to fix it so thank you for that. I have thought of having the conversation with my husband, and even with my friends, but I am afraid to. I am afraid if I bring it up (and of course, with my husband it has come up), i.e. point it out, I will get pummeled and will lose everyone anyway. This makes me teary to say. But I know it's a good suggestion and after the sting of last night has worn off I could try it.

Please don't be afraid. Vulnerability is the most precious gift you can give the people who love you. 

You mentioned not wearing pants -- you might've been joking, but I've found that conversations with my docs honestly do go better if I'm dressed. In fact, my gyn won't have conversations in the exam room. He always has me get dressed and come into his office for the post-exam chat. Can you tell your doc that you'd prefer to do it that way? It would also give you a few minutes to compose yourself and think about exactly what you want to say. It's maybe a small thing, but it is a way for you to regain a little control over a situation that might seem totally out of your hands.

Another excellent suggestion, thank you.

Just sayin'. No pants days are good days.

Losing my bearings here.

This chat is shaping up as a useful set of rules for living. What I have so far:

1. Don't be a butt

2. Don't be a butt

3. Slow the erf down

4. Don't be a butt; when you are one anyway by accident, apologize

5. Don't take the person being a butt personally

6. Don't be a butt

7. Talking to yourself is underrated

8. Be yourself

9. Let people tell you when you're being a butt

10. Wear pants

11. Don't wear pants

You bring it up and friends will be so impressed by your realization and your apology (because you'll apologize) that they'll be kind to you. Anyone who pummels you for a confession and apology isn't much of a friend.

^^ That. Thanks.

I don't agree with your response to the OP. The behavior described is bullying, and it's particularly problematic because it's in front of team members and the supervisor. The supervisor should have redirected immediately ("Please don't minimize the accomplishment of an advanced degree.") in front of the team and also privately spoken with the offending team member. Because redirection was not done, and because this is a continuing behavior, I can only assume the private discussion was also not done. The OP should bring the workplace bullying to the attention of HR.

Any chance you have some underlying anxiety? I find myself unable to stop the snapping when I'm wound up.

Two ends of the scale on the divorce Q:

Just wait until the divorce is final! Please! I'm not old fashioned, but it seems logical to steer clear of this situation. Let him land on his own feet. Then start on a clean slate.

Divorce in some states can take a very long time (ie 3+ years in NY, for example)) under the best of circumstances, which can be lengthened by significant assets to divide, etc. The fact that they are both moving on, dividing assets, working with lawyers, and he has her blessing to move on, should be the important factor, not whether they have had their court date and a judge has, years later, decreed their asset split (and any custody issues) fair and legal.

... but I'm really more intrigued by the hypocrisy built into the question, and wondering if it survives the extra self-scrutiny.

Hi Carolyn, Ever consider a Valentine's Day Hootenany?

I kind of have one 7 days a week and 40-ish Fridays per year.

Hi there -- so how do you help a kid navigate getting cut, as a senior, from a club sports team he's been on for 10 years? He's shy, and this was basically his only social venue as well. Obviously, this is a first-world problem, but we're trying to help him deal with the unpleasant feelings appropriately, and figure out ways to find a new activity (and balancing his newness with the fact that he'll be one of the older kids) Thanks.

Funny, I was just talking about this with friends--about how HS years are when most sports careers come to an end, like it or not (usually a hard "not"), and how that can rattle kids who've invested years and years of hard work.

Far and away the best answer (my friend's, not mine) for what to say that will set the right tone and navigate him in the right direction: "I'm so proud of you."

Followed by how you watched him work so hard, and invest so much of himself in the team, and you hope he feels good about the fact that he did everything he could to get there. Even though he fell short of his goal in the last year, having given it all he had means there's nothing to regret. 

As for "ways to find a new activity"--how long has he had to process getting cut? I wouldn't advise pushing for the next thing right away. You say he's shy, and I don't want to connect that automatically with other emotional fallout. Keep an eye on him and see how he's faring before you jump in to help.

BTW, almost all of these stories end with getting cut, riding the bench, etc. Part of the package deal.


My parents are divorced, and both live in small towns in prairie states. I like visiting them because I like -them,- but as vacation destinations go, their towns are the pits. My in-laws, on the other hand, live in a lake house in a touristy part of the country. And, with limited money and time, I can't help it. Visiting them, and tooling around on a pontoon boat or walking to an adorable ice cream shop, feels more restful and rejuvenating than driving with my mom to the failing Food Lion. Truly, this is not about love: I phone both of my parents multiple times a week and love spending time with them. It's just about location. Is it bad if we see one set of parents more than the other, or do we owe them equality, location be darned? If any of us had more disposable income, we'd offer to fly my parents to more picturesque settings for reunions, but unfortunately, none of us are in that position.

Sigh. Are you in a position to be more creative about where you see your parents? Nothing picturesque within a few hours' drive of them? Are the only choices flying them somewhere or pits-town?

I find this Q so depressing. 

I think you owe it to your parents not to let the imbalance get huge. And to yourself, since time with them is the point, and you run a high risk of feeling very bad later on if/when time with them is no longer an option. 


Write it down! Seriously - make notes now, when you have your pants on (or in bed in your pjs, or whatever) wherever you're calm and thinking clearly about what you need to say/bring up/symptoms you're having/etc. And then TAKE YOUR NOTES WITH YOU and REFER TO THEM OFTEN, even if you have to read from them verbatim like you have a script. Whether this is on paper or on your phone, I rarely trust my brain to remember everything I need to tell the doctor (or even the vet) - it is an inherently stressful environment with a fundamental power imbalance. And taking the time to put your pants back on as someone else mentioned, YES.

No one can possibly judge you for having a young son if they don't know both of your ages. Your coworkers don't have a right to know how old you are. If you say that Mark is 16, and then people say "You don't look old enough to have a 16-year old," you can just say, "Oh, I was very young," and don't say anything else. You don't have to give them details about your age, or for that matter about your parents, the father's parents, or the father. That is for friends, not coworkers. If you keep the rest of it to yourself, most of them will think you are a young-looking 37 or 38. (Some of them will admire you and some of them will hate you, but they won't be judging your life choices.)

I can also speak thoughtlessly or in a tone that doesn't convey my true feelings. In addition to Carolyn's excellent advice, what worked for me is: 1. Meditating--over time you're better able to find some space between annoyance and speaking. And, sometimes the annoyance doesn't even happen. 2. Therapy--a good therapist can help you identify the feeling/moment BEFORE you speak. Identifying that then gives you the choice to do it or not. And, certainly, speak with your friends. They already know this about you they just havent discussed it with you. Knowing that this is something you struggle with, and don't intend to be hurtful even though you recognize it is, often makes a world of difference. Blindly carrying on as if you're not rude to your friends is a recipe for disaster.

I can't post this link enough:

I have a feeling I said I'd vet this but still haven't vetted this. Thank you for posting.

Instead of feeling a little lonesome, how can I value having a relationship with myself? Or just have a date with myself on this day?

How about doing something for others? It's short notice, but if you can think of a way to spend your time being useful or generous, that can feel better than any date with oneself, and certainly take the edge of loneliness.

Nothing wrong with a self-date, though. I just can't really help you plan it because the whole thing hinges on what you enjoy, what makes you feel good, what helps. Maybe make a schedule for your evening: Something healthy for you; something useful to others; something indulgent. So, if it were me: Yoga; shop for a food bank; binge-watch a show.

And remember, it's just a day. Any meaning beyond that is optional.

I am a surgery resident training in a prestigious program. My wife was recently diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer, which was diagnosed after she saw (at my behest) my program director who happens to be a cancer surgeon with a national reputation. She has since met with the multi-disciplinary team and started on chemotherapy. The surgery part of her treatment won’t happen for a few months down the road, but here is my problem: my wife does not want my program director to be her surgeon! She thinks he is a “cold fish”, and wants to ask a younger woman (whom she has met through departmental social events only) to do her surgery. The woman is also fellowship trained in surgical oncology, so there is not an issue of her competence. I have tried to explain to my wife that this would be an affront to my program director and would make things awkward for me, but she is pretty adamant. Please help.

It's her body. Find a way to make it not awkward--or just be awkward. Cheezus. She gets the surgeon she wants.

"She's adamant about keeping this separate from my career." Or, "She insist on a female surgeon." You can figure out something to say to the program director, if you even need to say anything.

This is traumatic and scary for both of you so I'm sure this looks like an aspect of  it you can control, but it's not where your attention belongs. Keep your focus on your wife.

I'm sorry about this, and hope she's okay.

I love being on my own - I take a book, head to a high end hotel bar, and order a glass of bubbles. I have absolutely no responsibility to please or accommodate anyone else.

My favorite self date? An afternoon at the Portrait Gallery/American Art Museum and then an early dinner sitting at the bar an Jaleo's.

Whenever I am feeling down and lonely, I buy supplies for the local woman's shelter (after calling to see what they need, sometimes I get to get fun stuff that no one else donates, that is more than bare-bones need, but nice lotions, shampoos, etc.). Somehow that seems especially appropriate on Valentine's Day. Hope this helps you. I think I might do it today just because.

Does he still like the sport? If he does there's likely opportunities to continue once he's out of high school/turned 18. If he goes to college I know a lot of them have intramural sports. And my city has some sports leagues for adults with various sports . It seems to be a combo of people who liked the sport but we're good enough for the next level and people just wanting to have fun.

Oh, friend. I feel you. My parents retired to a total hellhole, not so much as a nearby playground, that requires a four hour flight. My mother in law lives an hour's drive away and is within walking distance of two parks, dozens of charming restaurants, and world class museums. And I don't get paid leave through my job, so every minute I spent unable to sleep in on a crappy air mattress was a minute that was literally costing me money. I told my parents they, as the retired people with infinite time, needed to start coming to me and we could split the airfare. See if you can pull the same trick?

I find it impressive that someone who has a child at 15 worked through that difficulty to get to where she is now. Sure, I think wow that’s young, but I also think wow, way to go to raise your child. Even with help from the parents that couldn’t have been easy. People might judge her, but she also might be surprised that the judgment is positive not negative.

I was a young looking mom. My son was born when I was 22 but as a teen many people thought I was his girlfriend when we were together. When people hear I have a son his age (now 33, but at whatever point in his life) I always just laughed and said I was a precocious kindergartner and left it at that. No one needs to know your age.

I've been having panic attacks and severe depression due to retirement, health issues and husband's health issue. I started seeing a therapist, but I don't seem to be making any progress. We go over the same issues and he has good suggestions I just can't seem to break out of my "stuckedness". Should I look for a different therapist? Stuck

Maybe, but first be clear with your therapist that you feel stuck. Be very specific with him--esp about the good suggestions. Could be you need a different therapist, but it could also be you need ideas on how to act after a long period of fear and inaction. A suggestion can seem good to you and still feel pointless or out of reach. Tell him you need help with first steps.

You can also invite your parents to you - and offer to pay. They might like to get out of their "failing" towns as well.

Is it? Is having something you devoted a decade of your life to coming to an end and feeling adrift because of it solely relegated to those of us in the developed world? Have teenagers never struggled to find a sense of belonging in 3rd world countries? I must've missed that memo.

Thank you, I meant to flag this and got distracted. People who have all the material things are still susceptible to emotional pain. F-WP is another tired trope. 

That said: We could all stand to keep the phrase, "No whining on the yacht," within easy reach. As in, give yourself a quick privilege screening and check your audience before you start to complain. 

You and your husband have to travel to them, right? And that costs money. Can you look at what else you could do together with that money? Is there something that ends up with the same cost? What about a home swap with one of your homes to cut down on hotel costs? Or getting them to travel to you every now and again?

I realize this may be a "love it or hate it" type of suggestion - but when I was cut from a team, I became one of the team managers. I wasn't playing, but still had the chance to hang out with all my friends, and feel like I contributed to the team that I had invested my time in. I realize for some people this may feel like rubbing salt in the wound, but for me it worked as a consolation. (As it happened, later that year several people left and I was actually brought back on the team, but that was mostly just luck.)

You know, I though of this and wobbled. You're right to bring it up, thanks. 

HS Senior is old enough to get into coaching or refereeing younger kids who are still learning his sport. I'm long past high school so I'm coaching my own kids' teams, but it's fun and very rewarding when any kid gets better because of something I said.

Why does he need a replacement activity. Maybe some down time for the next few months before graduation would be welcome. I mean, its February, and graduation is in what - May or June? So he only has 3-4 months until he's on to the next phase. Sounds like a great time for some downtime.

If you press your tongue against the roof of your mouth it will keep you from crying. Don’t know why, but this works. Of course you can’t speak either but it will buy you a couple of seconds to get a lasso on those tears.

Huh. I need to road-test this one, thanks. 

Honest question from mom of preschooler: why do we spend so much money and time on kid sports when they, as you said, end in bench riding or being cut? I’m baffled why more parents don’t help their kids select activities that they can develop and keep loving throughout life—martial arts or skiing or archery or swimming or so many things that people love as adults. I just don’t really know that many people who play avid Rec league ball sports in their 50s but a lot who still swim or bike or ski.



For me (my childhood, not my kids'), the draws were the team environment and the competition. Couldn't get enough of it. Until I did get enough and quit.

For my kids, it was their parents' idiocy in letting them see Ovechkin play.

But they also still bike and ski and swim and (used to) shoot at targets. So these activities are not mutually exclusive.

I suspect the issue lies partly in the cultural priorities of the moment, and partly in your "help their kids select." Have you ever tried to get kids to love doing something they don't love to do? 

My older son (of two) just asked me why he wasn't "enough" for me, why we had another child. Turned out an only child had told him her parents said one was "enough" and now he's wondering why he's not. Can we just agree on - every family is different and everyone turns out different.

I hope you told your kid that anything an only child says is to be summarily dismissed because they're all weirdos.


One of my friends stopped referring to all family trips as “vacations” (even when visiting San Francisco, for example) and instead referred to them as “meaningful family interactions.” Perhaps a little reframing might help, if the other suggestions aren’t feasible -

Plus, that's hilarious.

Budding actors fail to get cast all the time, it's part of the craft. The ones who are really committed take a few days to cry, then join the pit orchestra, or the costume team, or the tech crew -- whatever they are qualified to do to participate. Not only does this show true commitment, it keeps them involved with their friends and part of the show. Just a suggestion.

Oof I was also cut from a lifelong sport (soccer) in HS and remember being devastated. I ended up joining Cross Country bc a close friend was doing it and I didn't know what else to do. Many many years later, it's still a hobby I engage in and they were some of my fondest team memories. Maybe try to reframe their thinking on it and encourage some exploration once they've digested the blow? Maybe test out some other hobbies they may want to explore more if they're going to a university? I also agree with the earlier comment about timing and graduation: could be a good time to just relax and reflect on what's next.

As someone who will quite literally be spending tomorrow on a yacht (and dreading aspects of it for various reasons I won't go into) this made me laugh out loud.

Perfect. You have special dispensation to whine.

Okay, I'm all out of ... whatever it is I've been running on. Thanks everybody, have a great weekend, or at least make it count. Type to you here next week.

If they are still in need of something to do, the local Animal Shelter would be a great place to go. Imagine all the love that is right there just waiting...

If your program director would perceive this as an affront, that's a mark against HIM, not your wife. Personal/professional boundaries. He should be thick-skinned enough to not take this seriously or personally.

OMG Deal with the damn awkward. Just deal. Your wife is dealing with Aggressive Breast Cancer, Dude. She gets to pick her surgeon. Capiche?

My ex-husband and I separated in mid-2018. We STILL aren't divorced yet. The paperwork takes FOR EVER. We both started dating within two months of the separation.

Thanks for your answer. And I think you're right -- I need to be considering longterm regrets over shortterm pleasure. I am sure that with some creativity and planning, I could organize better trips to my folks'. Unfortunately, creativity and planning are not my strong suits. Some people love seeking out cute towns, B&Bs, activities, scenic hikes, etc -- I hate it. Planning stresses me out. The benefit of inlaws place has always been that you just show up and you're already on vacation. But I owe it to my parents to do better.

Glad you wrote back. Maybe you can crowdsource? Post a request for ideas in X region and see what you get. 

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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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