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Carolyn Hax Live: 'More than 3 billion men'

Feb 28, 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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Hi everybody, happy Friday.

My grandfather died last year and my grandmother was really broken up at first but something came to light that changed her feelings. After my grandfather retired, he insisted that he and my grandmom live real frugally. They ate mainly beans and rice, canned vegetables – that kind of thing so my mom and dad tried to treat them whenever they could to some meat, or even a dinner out when they could afford it. Also, the house was always cold in the winter so my mom made them quilts and bought my grandmom a space heater which my grandfather let her run a couple of hours a day in the winter. They couldn’t visit her sisters and brother because it was too expensive and that really bothered my grandmom because she even missed their funerals. We were the only family near her and my mom, dad and me all tried to make it up to her. After my grandfather died we found out they were worth over a million dollars. My grandmom was so hurt and angry to realize she had been essentially living in poverty, taking things from her daughter’s family, when they could have had the best of everything and been giving to us all along. I don’t think my grandfather was being mean, I think he was just scared of running out of money but my grandmom now hates the memory of him and says she’s glad he died. This has my mom so torn up and she cries after visiting her mom. My grandmom is also spending money pretty wildly – her house is like a sauna and she has steak and shrimp all the time and wants to buy me a car. First question, is okay if I take the car and second, how can I help her get over being mad so she can mourn my grandfather who wasn’t really a bad guy?

Wait a minute, no, do not "help her get over being mad so she can mourn my grandfather who wasn’t really a bad guy." He did a terrible thing to her--"they couldn’t visit her sisters and brother." That's just flat-out awful, without even getting into the hunger and shivering. *He took her family from her,* because he prioritized his fear. It is not your responsibility and, more important, not your place to provide a counterargument for her rage. She earned it, he deserves it, and so if you want to get involved in some way, consider making it an, "Amen, sister, I am so sorry he did that to you. Can I help you with that shrimp dish?"

Take the car, too. She wants to use her agency and she wants to use her money, and better that it goes to safe transportation for you than into the atmosphere from her furnace. Here's how you can keep it from being an enabling "yes": Figure out how much the car payment would be for, say, six years at 0 percent interest. Put that amount in a separate account every month for the next six years. If Grandma rage-spends herself to bankruptcy, start paying her back from the account in monthly installments. If her money outlives her, then you have a nice saving account.

Also, if she's confiding in you, ask if she has taken steps to ensure she has money for living expenses for life, and isn't at risk of torching it all. 

In time, *if left alone to have her rage,* your grandmother may well burn all the anger off and gradually return to a more complicated opinion of her late husband. But the key part of that is letting her have her due feelings and not trying to tell her how she "should" feel. 


Stress relief thoughts when you CAN'T turn off the news? I have to monitor coronavirus news for work and I'm feeling all kinds of anxiety by this point. If this were *just* what's become regular news, I know my prescription would be to turn it off. What do you do when you can't?

Perspective. This isn't the only time things have been rough. We've had worse, or just different bad things to a similar degree, and humanity marches on. Just this morning I listened to an account of the stock market spiral from someone who had reported through w, x, y and z stock market/economic spirals of the past 20 or 30 years, all of which I experienced to some degree, and just that reminder was reassuring to me--even having been hit hard personally. It was like, okay, been there, taken that on the chin, still here, next. 

Obviously the effects of any given crisis are not evenly or fairly distributed. Some people are at the life-and-death end of the scale while others observe from afar and think, "Bummer." But all any of us can do is trying to bring a level of coping that reflects the severity of the threat. That means enough self-care to maintain as much clarity as we can; and energy directed into sound decision-making; and then streamlining our regular daily lives to support whatever decisions we've made. This formula works for crises big or small, concrete or abstract. 

You know you have to monitor the news, so your decision-making can be oriented toward what you do in your down time to keep yourself steady and either gain or maintain perspective. 

Dear Carolyn, My husband works in an emotionally intense environment, and he often brings his work challenges home with him. Right now he's going through a really drawn-out conflict involving a few of his coworkers, who he views as being "against" him. I am just a bystander, but...he sure seems in the wrong to me, and that's despite getting only his side of the story! I'm not sure how to handle it. He may just need support, not advice, and he has not reacted well when I pointed out things I thought he might be doing wrong. It's a frustrating and upsetting situation for him. However, there is no one else in his life who's getting this much detailed information about what's going on, so there's probably no one else to try to get him to see the other side (and that he might be mistreating his coworkers). So, what do I do?

Tough one, because being in the "supportive listener" role for someone who is oblivious to their own culpability is a contradiction in terms. Your silence isn't supportive, it's making things worse.

But as you've seen, speaking up in a way that contradicts his victim narrative is not something he welcomes from you.

One way you might be able to get around this is to wait for a time when he's not unloading his stress on you, and ask to speak generally about the way you and he talk about outside conflicts. Say you want to ask him how to handle a hypothetical: He's venting, you're listening. You hear him say something that gets your attention, where you think he might be misreading a situation or unwittingly making something worse. If and when that happens, how does he want you to handle it? Would he rather you just nod and listen, knowing it means he might go back and keep making things worse--or would he rather you point out the thing you noticed? If it's the latter, is there a way he'd like you to say it that is less likely to put him  on the defensive?

Offer the other side by saying how you hope he will talk to you when you're unloading something on him.

This all may seem disingenuous, since there's nothing "hypothetical" about any of this--except in the strictest possible sense, where you're not actually discussing anything specific so, yeah, it's a what-if. But I actually think all couples and confidant-level friends should have a conversation like this, a clarifying of terms so you can all support each other effectively. It also (maybe a bit late in some cases) can help you get to know each other better and even see how well suited you are to each other, since a "tell me straight even if it ticks me off" person might struggle to get along with an "I expect you to lie to me because you're my friend" person.

If your husband gives you the stiff-arm on truth-telling, then your next best option is to urge him (beg, plead) to seek some kind of counseling or conflict-resolution training to help him function better at work. It's one thing to have the occasional rough week; it's another to bring some sort of drama home every day. 

How soon is too soon to date someone after a breakup? If they say they're ready, I should trust that, right? I'm afraid I'll end up getting hurt when it turns out they weren't ready after all. I wish I could turn off the anxiety and enjoy it while it lasts, regardless of how long that ends up being.

Anxiety blocks your sensors. Your sensors are what will tell you whether someone is "ready" to date or not.

I use quotation marks here because it's too narrow a category, whether there's been enough post-breakup recovery or whatever. What you're really looking for is someone's presence. Is this person available to me, listening to me, sharing with me, honest to me and honest in their feelings. These are qualities that are either there or not, and they can be absent due to any number of things that have nothing to do with how recently someone was dating someone else. 

So. The way to keep anxiety from blocking your sensors is to make a conscious decision to trust yourself to figure it out if something isn't (or is!) working. Most things don't work forever anyway, so, it's not as if an end to a relationship is anything exotic or drastic. Just decide to see a person you enjoy seeing, unless and until you stop enjoying their company or they stop enjoying you.

Keep in mind, too, that anxiety is sometimes a legitimate form in itself of not enjoying someone. Meaning, if being involved with a particular person is more anxiety-producing for you than typical for you, and it gets in the way, then it could be time to see the anxiety is not the problem, per se, but instead a symptom of the problem of being with someone who isn't a good fit.

My brother and his wife have a baby due this summer, and my parents are in the throes of choosing their grandparent names. My dad has settled on "Grandpop" and my mom has changed her mind approximately 592,129 times. My brother and SIL finally told her to stop sharing every idea she had and just to let them know when she landed on something, so she has started vetting her new ideas with me. Her current frontrunner? "Mama." Yes, she wants her grandchild to call her Mama. This seems like a major boundary violation to me and I am almost positive my SIL won't like it. Moreover, I myself don't like it (I hope to have kids someday and don't want them to call another woman Mama!). Is it okay to tell her that she needs to take this option off the table?

Yes, please. "Mom, you're losing it. SIL is the mama, you are the grandmother, and if you did that to me I would not be pleased." Tell her you're telling her this as a public service and she's welcome to be as annoyed at you as she wants, but you're saving her from herself.

Any regulars here know how hands-off I normally am, but this is a Cher slapping Nic Cage,"Snap out of it" moment. Sometimes it needs to be done--before the surface silliness seeps in and causes foundation damage.

Hi Carolyn! I was so excited to see my question run in Thursday's column. The short-term program was a by-invitation weeklong conference for fiction writers (not, as some commenters assumed, a huge course or trip that would leave my husband in the lurch for a longer time). On your advice, we sat down as a family and worked it out. There were definite challenges (money, work responsibilities, traveling/breastfeeding), but I went...and the conference was FABULOUS. Among the many great intangibles that came out of it, it also led to some new friendships and really great opportunities; I've sold a few stories since then and have recouped the money I spent (which I'd definitely spend again even for the intangibles). And my husband and baby came along (the conference was in a fun city where we have friends and family), so it's now a wonderful, happy memory for me and my husband, and a shared success. Aside from my marriage and my kid, the fiction publications have been some of my greatest sources of pride and excitement in this chapter of my life--including one that just came out yesterday! I was so happy to see this column as a reminder of how absolutely okay it was to "grab [my] big moment." It's something I will do again if the opportunity arises--not every day, but when it's possible. Even, yes, as a mom. Life is short and moves fast!

Yayyyyyyyyyyyy, made my week, thank you.

This reminds me of a conversation we were having recently. When the kids were little, our hardest days were the ones that broke our routines--snow days, holidays, school vacations. But it's also now so obvious from the passage of time that these exception days are the ones that stand out in all of our memories. The day we took a deep breath and piled in the car and went to [special thing that seemed too expensive or exhausting to take on] is now family legend.

It doesn't always work out that way, and some of these days stand out for having gone painfully sideways, but mostly they live on as the rewards we saved up for by banking our energy with the stick-to-the-routine days. You need both, I think.

it's not uncommon for people in early dementia to become extremely paranoid about running out of money. Even when state/employer pensions are inflation linked and therefore will keep the heat/lights on and food in the fridge. Just a thought.

Does the young woman with a large head, who appears in many of Nick G’s cartoons along with your daily columns, have a name?


How do you deal with a friend who is a total drama queen, who seems to always have a "crisis of the moment" that fizzles out about 10 seconds later? My friend "Allie" is like this. It seems like almost every conversation we have starts with her SO UPSET about something (at work, with her family, in her dating life) and she needs all this support, but then the next time we talk she has forgotten all about it and/or doesn't want to talk about it anymore. It's exhausting! And I have gotten tired of investing brain space in her dramas that never go anywhere. So what do I say the next time she lays one at my feet? "I'm sorry, but I can't pay attention to this because I know it'll turn out to be nothing" doesn't seem like an option here.

Why not? Maybe those aren't the exact words you want to use, but you can say, "This sounds a lot like [similar recent crisis], and remember that turned out okay when [she did something to fix it]."

I know, a drama seeker is going to drama, so you can expect her not to shower you with gratitude for giving her this perspective. But it's a perfectly civil and friendly way to let her know you are not going to respond as if this is a crisis when you have ample evidence to assure you it is not one. 

You can also just stop offering any kind of suggestion at all, and stop giving them brain space, since her MO is pretty clearly just to dump and feel better. "Aw geez," "Huh," "So then what happened?" "What do you think you'll do?" ... until the 10 seconds of the crisis have passed, then carry on with your day.

This was written for parents, but it seems apt for your situation: LINK. Basically, you're her emotional trash can.

Oh, my. That was me 40 years ago. My then-husband was a perpetual victim of his business partners, and he could not accept that their actions could have had a different context, e.g, not just for the purpose of screwing him. He eventually decided that I was also "against him," and we divorced. Thanks be to God.

This has to be the most heartbreaking letter I have ever read in your column. That poor woman. I hope she's drinking Champagne every night and buying first-class airplane tickets.

And now I'm weepy at my desk.

Go LW! Man, based on my reading of the original letter I thought she was pondering something that would take her away for months and require her to quit her job and ditch her family. The actual week-long course-turned-family-vacation sounds wonderful. I'm so happy to hear she made it work and got so much out of it!

It just seemed like a good time to have some feelings.

Accept the car on one condition---that the two of you do a road trip. Does she want to go back to a high school reunion, or see the leaves change, or do a theater week? Whatever she has longed to do, do it with her---that can be your thanks to Grandma.

Now I'm crying. This is freaking brilliant.

You do realize the kid is going to come up with a name, regardless of what you want, right? My mom's oldest grandson called her "Bop". And Bop she remains, even though he's now graduated from college.

Yeah, this is always where things end up. But it helps not to firebomb all the goodwill before nature takes its course.

May be just a generational thing, but, ladies (and gentlemen), please share the financial aspects of your relationship. Communicate openly.

Not really a question, just feeling very low and frustrated by life and the world. My daughter has been home sick all week. I do some part time consulting from home, but am "lucky" that her being home is manageable. But it's totally messed up my routine which is making me feel so blah. And then I start down this rabbit hole of feeling worried about the state of childcare and healthcare in the US. The role of parents in society. How do other families who don't have the fexibility handle these situations. Why don't we value parenting more? What happens if school here closes for a month and I have both kids home? I know I need to stop spiraling and just focus on today. But I'm feeling really weary.

You and me both. I've been sick for basically February, and have a sick child as well, and work from home, and I'm behind, and I am so tired I need to rest after doing basic chores and I fall asleep watching TV at 8:30 pm, and I too am in the position of ridiculous good fortune in having real health insurance and the ability to be home. So, "lucky," messed up, blah, rabbit hole. Check, check, check.

You're right that you need to focus on today--but. The spiral is also important. It's going to take a lot of people having these epiphanies about the state of things, and broader thoughts about other people's circumstances, for people to get out of their silos and start demanding--or better, getting themselves into positions of power and then implementing--systemic change. So do whatever you need to get your daughter back to health and your energy tank refilled, then please don't forget this moment. Ask yourself, what is within my power to do about it?

My husband is Hispanic, and everyone is Mama and Papa. His mother is Mama Victoria, her mother is Mama Lucy, Victoria's cousin is Mama Patty, Patty's cousin is Mama Isabel, and on it goes forever, probably back to Ponce de Leon. That means I'm Mama Amanda. I actually get more annoyed about my MIL differentiating, because I don't think I knew my parents had names other than Mama and Daddy until I was in elementary school. My point is, it's possible SIL won't mind, especially if she sticks with Mama Liz instead of just "Mama," but she needs to tread very carefully.

Hm. In this context I'd be totally okay with it, would think it was awesome even, so don't you think the context needs to be part of the story?

I guess OP could suggest "Mama Firstname," but there's just something about the whole scenario that says all Mama territory should be marked "there be dragons."

I'm the oldest grandchild, and over the years I've been singled out for a number of special gifts by my grandmother. I am talking about mostly small things with mostly emotional value, like an old necklace that belonged to her mother or a sewing machine during a brief period when I took an interest in sewing. But now I'm getting married this summer, and she is simultaneously getting ready to downsize from a house to a small senior living apartment, and she has identified this as the perfect opportunity to give me a bunch of more valuable items. So now we are talking about china and silver flatware, paintings and a sculpture worth some money, and some other stuff. She insists that this is appropriate because she wants to make sure it goes to a good home, and I'll be the first to have one. I think it's unfair to the other two grandchildren behind me. (One is my sibling.) I am not sure how to handle this -- it's her stuff, I don't have a right to tell her what to do with it. Yet I am uncomfortable about the idea of someday being the only one of us kids with a house full of these lovely gifts. How to handle?

When it becomes your stuff, *you* can do with it as you please. So, give fair shares out to the other two grandchildren behind you. Assuming they even want it. 

For what it's worth, about what all of this is worth: A staggering number of "downsizing seniors" lately have learned there is little market for their "valuable items," in part because tastes have changed and in part because this cohort was very stuff-oriented, collecting this and treasuring that and in the process creating a home-goods bubble that has almost completely burst. If you're going to redistribute things based on value, then make sure you get current appraisals first. If you Google a bit, you'll find much on unwanted brown furniture, unsold "heirloom" china, and pianos going to landfills. Here are a few things just from The Post: LINK , LINK and LINK

Two weeks ago my boyfriend of a year left work early to meet a teenage prostitute who he claims contacted him first on Tinder. Instead of the fun he was hoping for, he got rolled (gun, phone and wallet stolen, new sports car stolen and totaled). The next day he confessed to me, I suspect in part because the girl ended up being underage and now he's worried about being arrested for solicitation of a minor. He said he did all this because he thought we were close to breaking up due to some unresolved conflicts. I thought our relationship was great and that we were working on our issues in a calm and fruitful way. Other than couples and individual counseling, how to move forward and determine if I should give him another chance? And how to rebuild trust? My fury and sadness are beating out my reason and logic and I just don't know how to proceed. For what it's worth, I do think that at least *right now* he truly is sorry and never would do it again.

There are more than 3 billion men in the world. I think you can afford to set this one free to figure his own stuff out on his own time. I am certain there is at least one in your general geographic area who is mature enough not to solve relationship problems with prostitutes.

I won't speculate on the problems he intended to solve with the gun and sports car, since each can be justifiable in plenty of contexts, but I think we can agree the prostitute places him under a substantial cloud of suspicion. 

Can we take a moment to recognize that the problem here is that we have a really considerate beneficiary of largesse who isn't justifying it but wants to make sure others are treated fairly?


My boyfriend moved in with me almost a year ago and everything has been great except for his niece who I’ll call, “Amanda”. To put to bluntly, Amanda is completely out of control. Her parents had a hard time conceiving and call her the miracle child and in her entire 5 years I don’t think she has never heard the word no. At Christmas eve at our house she tried to knock the tree over and almost succeeded, deliberately dumped a cake on the floor, was hitting all of the adults with a toy she got and laughing hysterically when they complained that it hurt but the last straw was when she hurt one of my dogs. This dog is a 14 yo beagle and gentle as a lamb and was chilling in her bed when I suddenly heard her yelp in pain. I rushed in and asked Amanda what happened and she said nothing. We have cameras set up to monitor both dogs and when I checked, Amanda had deliberately kicked my poor dog. Her parents rushed to her defense saying she didn’t understand, meant no harm but I put my beagle in the bedroom and refused to let Amanda near her or our other dog. After that I banned Amanda from our home. For months now, my boyfriend’s entire family has been berating me to give Amanda another chance, to let her come to our house, let “her apologize” to our beagle but I have a responsibility to my dogs to keep them safe and that comes before that kid and her parent’s “feelings”. My boyfriend is now asking me to reconsider since we’re having his mom’s birthday party at our house in April but I just can’t see ever letting that kid in our house again. Am I wrong?

No. Well, a little, but in the same way everyone else is.

Amanda isn't the one who needs to be banned from your home--it's the ridiculous (non)parenting parents who set this whole disaster in motion. 

I'm no fan of the broad-brush, hard-time-conceiving-miracle-child-has-never-heard-no pigeonholing. Careful there.

But you don't need it, given the abundance of facts you have: mainly, that no adults stepped in when Amanda targeted the tree, dumped the cake and hit adults. That means there are a lot of people more culpable than Amanda for the ultimate animal abuse that occurred. The parents are mainly so, but all of the adults present are on the hook. 

And that needs to be named in response to all of these people pressuring you. "This is not about giving Amanda another chance. This is about the adults not saving Amanda from herself. If no adults are going to step in when she does anti-social things, then, no, I am not going to subject my pets and my home to that. I don't understand why I'm the only one willing to say this."

Start with your boyfriend. Say this to him. Ask him to say it to his parents if he'd prefer, or you will. Don't back down. This is a tragedy in slow motion and you're right to hold your line. 

Well, totaled-car-underage-prostitute-"calm and fruitful"-boyfriend story made me stop spiraling for a moment, so there's that.

Glad to be of service.

for longer than I like to admit, I was a high drama person. Somewhere along the line I had taken in the lesson that high drama = interesting person. A few things helped me unlearn that lesson, and continue to help me deal with high drama people lovingly: 1. a few true friends made gentle, loving comments about there always being drama 2. a simple check-in to know if I am problem solving or venting (I have a friend I ask beforehand and he is almost always venting, and knowing that, I hear what he says as a story, not a problem) 3. the simplest questions of why not me (instead of why me) and when would be a good time (for a car to break down, for anything to go wrong...). 4. and finally, the realization that a one-sided relationship isn't actually a relationship, or at least one I don't want With the high drama friend, I finally spelled it out - I wasn't in a place to carry his guana. The breaking point for me was when I thought he was suicidal and dropped everything and he didn't even remember that conversation as significant in any way. Now he is very conscious of any emotional dumping, and I am very conscious of his needing to vent occasionally. That mutual awareness has made all the difference to us both.

Lots of great stuff in here, thank you.

Not to be pedantic (well, maybe a little), in U.S. law, there is no such thing as a teenage prostitute. Any minor selling sex is a victim of human trafficking. So your boyfriend sexually exploited a minor who was a victim herself of a crime (OK, I guess if the "prostitute" was 18 or 19 he's in the clear, sort of).

If you can't be pedantic here, then where can you?

I know a million dollars sounds like a lot, but in retirement terms, it's about $40,000 a year in sustainable income, before taxes. Grandma has every right to be upset, but she needs to make sure she doesn't spend herself back into the same position. I'd recommend she speak with a Certified Financial Planner professional to set up a spending plan before she's broke for real. I'd also hope she can find some way to understand why he acted the way he did (dementia, past history with money, ignorance of finances), not to excuse what he did (it's inexcusable) but to find a way for her to come to terms with it and move on. And she also played a part by not insisting she know their financial picture while he was alive.

Thanks. Lots of comments on how a million in retirement terms is less than it seems--I'm posting this one for the balance and because it covers it all. Because I agree, it's less than it seems, but it's still awful what Grandpa did, and a planner would be a smart move to make up for the not-smart move of remaining ignorant. Thanks for all of it. 

I wrote in last month about how to handle an anxious family member who was overwhelming me with questions and advice during a serious health crisis. Just wanted to share a very good update: I am fine! I am very, very lucky; my life-threatening condition was resolved with surgery, and no further treatment is necessary. I didn't handle the anxious family member with as much grace as I would have liked. I ignored her texts with questions about my surgeon's qualifications (which, btw, were unimpeachable; I was at literally the #1 ranked hospital in the world for my condition) and switched from one-on-one communication to family group texts.

Another happy update, thank you. 

This is going to sound like a question from a high school girl, but I swear I'm in my (late!) 40s. I have this group of college girlfriends I've been getting together with about twice a year for the past 10 years or so at least. Since last year, we've been talking about going away for our 50th birthdays. One of our college friends lives in another state and hasn't really kept in touch. Only sporadically here and there. I've been the only one to really stay close to her. "Erin" asked me to let her know if we started planning a trip in earnest. Before I did that, however, I asked the group in our regular text chat if it was OK to let Erin know about our plans so she can come too. I also mentioned that she'd asked me to do so and that I knew she'd been going through a particularly tough time personally -- though I didn't go into details -- and I thought she could use some friendly faces. Two people said, "sure thing" in the text convo. That was the only response. So that weekend I let Erin know about the trip. Well a few days later, one after another said they didn't want her there. No reason, just that they felt out of touch with her and this was a small group who gets together regularly, and she doesn't. There are 8 of us. I was stunned to say the least. I was told I should have waited longer to tell her. And one even said she didn't want Erin's "issues" to put a damper on the long weekend. I was so disappointed at their lack of generosity. And so hurt that they'd put me in that position of having to retract the invite. I tried to appeal to their sense of empathy but they didn't budge. I asked for concrete reasons, but none were provided. The two who said it was OK started to waffle, saying it was their trip too and they can decide who can go. I was on my own. I had to tell Erin that she was no longer invited. Since I'd already told her, I thought they'd have to make the best of it. But they said I didn't "wait long enough". So I did tell Erin what happened as kindly as I could. And I also told the group I was no longer was interested in going. Did I do the right thing here? Because now I feel like I've made everyone miserable. Is there any coming back from this? As a bit of background, I am the only one of the group who lives out of state, and I've had to make all the effort to maintain these relationships, which I've done over the years. So this recent incident made me feel the relationships were more one-sided than I even realized. I don't want to lose an entire group of friends over this. But maybe I should.

Yeah, it sounds as if this accelerated the inevitable and ended some not-so-great-after-all friendships with some not so great people.

But, just in case someone else spends 10 years seeing a group of friends twice a year and then makes an effort to include another friend and gets the preliminary okay and issues an invite only to get pushback from the group to the point of being asked to disinvite the new person, I will answer your "Did I do the right thing here?" question:

No. I think the right thing would have been to refuse to retract the invitation. To say to them: "I asked around, and extended the invitation to Erin in good faith. If you don't want her there, then you will have to tell her she's not welcome. If you do that, though, then I also won't be coming. Let me know what you decide."

Basically, it's a two-part right-thing flow chart: 1. refuse to be their hatchet person, and see what cones of that; 2. refuse to be part of a group who excludes like this, if that's the choice they make.

They had their chance to nix the Erin invitation when you floated the idea, but didn't. They owned this. 

Again--for um next time. 


My husband and I have been married for 3 years and together for 6, and have recently started trying for a baby. Before we got married we had many talks about parenthood and are on the same page about most things. The one part that leaves me cold is he brought up his need for having paternity tests for all of our kids. Every aspect of our relationship is solid and wonderful except for this. We’ve never cheated on each other nor have had any issues relating to infidelity, but when he tells me he wants the test I feel like he doesn’t trust me, even though he says that’s not the case. He says it’s not “fair” that a mother always knows that the baby is hers while the father can never be 100% sure. I’m completely in love with my husband and want to have a child with him, but this one thing is ruining the entire experience for us. I found out last week that I'm pregnant and I haven’t even told him yet even though I know that he would be ecstatic and would love to know, but I feel as if none of my pregnancy or anything really matters up until the paternity test and then he can finally love our child when he has proof that it is his. I just want to know am I overreacting for not telling my husband and should I just let him take the paternity test or is this an actual issue?



This is hideous on so many levels that I fear for you and your someday child.

First of all, "We’ve never cheated on each other" is just a flat-out nonstarter. In every couple on earth, one knows if one has cheated or not, and the other knows if the other has cheated or not. One can love and trust and feel sure but one cannot KNOW what the other has (not) done. Nothing. Not firsthand. You just don't.

I'm making an issue of this because by making this unmakeable declaration, you're carrying his water for him. Someone as certain as he is that the world is out to cheat him--do you know what that means in a high percentage of cases? That he himself is cheating. That's where his certainty comes from. It's called projection. I obviously don't know if it's happening here but wow all the pieces are in place. Including that he's got you declaring his innocence for him. Perfect cover for all kinds of monstrous acts.

That's before we get to the slack-jawed horror show of his treating you like a cheater *from within the marriage,* like it's a given that you are, doesn't matter who you are or what you have actually done. This is call-the-attorney behavior. I am so sorry you'll be doing this now while pregnant instead of before. 

I don't know, by the way, how you can be "completely" in love with someone who is "ruining the entire experience for us"--not by accident, but by emotional design. That alone is call-a-therapist cognitive dissonance, but the whole thing--including what you do about this pregnancy-- belongs in a therapist's office, SOLO, asap.

And finally, though it's hardly feels necessary at this point, after all the"Get Out" advice prior: Do you think the world is fair? Do you feel as if you are owed fairness by some higher structure or by some other means?

Someone who has such an emotional need to get what he thinks he should get, who is p***ed off at nature for not guaranteeing him fairness, is not well. Seriously not well. Yes, we all want things to be fair, and we go to some lengths to ask employers for fairness, friends for fairness, government for fairness. But this guy has a beef with *nature.* And he thinks he's entitled to treat you like crap just to get the upper hand on biology. It's appalling, and I'm worried about you. 1-800-656-HOPE if you don't have ready access to a therapist to talk to.

Also, here's a threat assessment tool: LINK. Since I highly doubt his control efforts are limited to your uterus.




I was going to sign off and then I saw that.

I think I need a minute.

Remember the MamaGee (MamaG?) fiasco? There be more than dragons.


592,129 times she's changed her mind? You could just play the odds and wait for 592,130.

You would think--but, no, the universe says she's settling on this one.

(Because, as all of us know but one, it's unfair. And has a sick sense of humor.)

I hope she and Erin plan their own trip!

I hope LW and Erin go on a trip of their own!

I say you and Erin plan a trip. Sounds like you two have more in common anyway, like not being mean girls.

Nice minds think alike.

I'm sorry. What a crappy situation, for you and (especially) Erin. I hope you and Erin take a fabulous trip together and enjoy your newfound release from maintaining unworthy relationships.

I think sometimes we feel obligated to "do the work" because that is what we are "supposed" to do. It's ok to just dump people. Not wanting to be with them anymore is enough sans deep therapeutic examination. You don't have to feel guilty because you didn't jump through a bunch of "giving him chances" hoops first.

Please provide a link. This is ringing a hideous and distant bell.

Anyone? I'm too fried.

That was my ex. Who later cheated.

I have nothing to add to Carolyn's answer except that I hope the LW is safe and able to make decisions as to whether she wants to continue the pregnancy, knowing that her husband is such a controlling nut job.

On top of everything Carolyn said, the premise of his paternity test ask isn't even true - the baby could be switched at the hospital, so you never KNOW it's your baby. But, really, there's this: Uncertainty is inherent in parenthood, more than many other aspects of life. I don't think he's given you confidence he could handle it well if, say, a screening test gives concerning results and you're waiting for a definite answer; or the kid shows signs of a disorder that can't be diagnosed until he's older; or any other of a million things.

In case any one is having a bad day and this makes you feel better. The first big batch of sweet rolls I promised my guests for dinner are in the oven and I'm starting the second batch and BUGS! IN MY FLOUR! Should I order pizza for dinner or just cancel?

Pizza. And I don't feel better, I feel like there are fewer homemade sweet rolls in the world. Quick, someone, something ...

I want to read this LW's fiction! Can we get some links? Let's give her writing career another bump!

Okay! Still out there? (I'll post next week if it comes in.)

I think it's this

It is, nice work. (Not a picker-upper, though.)

Psst...I got news for you - the pizza dough is also likely to have bugs in the flour.

But they're only there if you know about them. Duh!

My Dad was in the Navy. He always said you could tell how long someone had been on the ship. New -didn't eat the bread with bugs in it. A while - picked the bugs out of the bread. An old salt - ate the bread bugs and all.

Well, this is going to have to do. 

Thanks everybody, have a great weekend, and type to you here next week.

I don't know the OP can introduce this, but Amanda sounds as though she needs professional help. Deliberately causing pain to pets and people has red flags all over it. I hope that the OP's drawing the line will prompt the parents to start by consulting Amanda's pediatrician, and taking things from there.

Please don't continue a relationship with this man. His behavior is dangerous. He committed a crime, and a terrible moral wrong, expecting to engage in sex with a teenager. He brought a gun! That was stolen and will probably be used in another crime! And, that gun can probably be traced back to him, and the police will show up and ask what happened, when it was stolen, why he didn't file a police report, etc. And if he had the gun illegally, it's another reason not to be around him. If you're not so disgusted that you want to dump him, at least do so for the sake of your own self preservation.

This is not his first visit to a prostitute (teenage or otherwise) and she didn’t contact him first on Tinder. And his blaming the LW for his poor choices would be a deal-breaker by itself.

"I wasn't in a place to carry his iguana." That's how I first read that line of the high drama post. I think it still works.

Original poster here...he was robbed at gunpoint of his phone, wallet, and car. Also, the girl supposedly claimed to be 19 but actually is 17. Finally, his therapist thinks he did this out of some subconscious "acting out" on his frustration with me and our unresolved issues (that, by the way, primarily center on our differing views on recycling!).

Adjusted details, same advice.

I knew I'd seen that question recently! I hate to break it to you, CH, but that was just a top comment on r/relationship advice. (The one from "mandorlas") Looks like a bad actor just embellished someone else's story and submitted it to you.


I know I can't prevent fakes or retreads, so I care only how I answer what I'm sent.

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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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