Carolyn Hax Live: No longer obligated to help?

Jun 05, 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. Hope you're doing okay.

My 17-year old nephew is staying with me for a couple of weeks. He wanted to go down to the protests last weekend, so we went on Sunday afternoon and joined a peaceful group in Lafayette Square. We had a great afternoon and I think nephew learned a lot and was really engaged. My sister found out I took nephew and was livid. She didn't approach me, but went to our mother to complain. My mother emailed me and was angry I took nephew. No one indicated what the concern was, whether putting nephew in danger or the subject matter. My sis is not know for her open-mindedness and is a staunch Trump supporter. At no point was nephew in danger, and we left when the tides started to turn (although to my surprise and pride, nephew asked to stay because he felt white people needed to be in between black protesters and the cops.) I am adamant that I did nothing wrong and nephew was never in danger (acknowledging things could have gotten out of hand, we wore appropriate clothing, etc.) My feelings were also hurt that they may have thought that I would put my nephew in any danger. Was I that far out of line? I did call my mom before we went and would have mentioned it (mostly because I didn't think we were doing anything wrong), but she wasn't home when I called.

Your nephew, at 17, could have gone without you. You did nothing wrong, and owe no explanations or apologies. Please don't get sucked into explaining yourself. 

For the four years my SO and I have been together - I am female, he is male - it has, by and large, fallen on me to take care of 90-95% of the household chores. On the one hand, I know this is cultural conditioning. He does help when he's asked, most of the time. But he demands that he must be asked first, and sometimes I'm just too tired to delegate tasks out rather than just do them myself. He also seems to resent it regardless, even though I've been the primary breadwinner for the past two and a half years and thus worked the most hours outside the home. Now he has snagged a lucrative position that calls for him going into work a minimum of five days a week, sometimes six, usually about nine hours. It's very time-consuming, but the paychecks will - supposedly - be big. He has made it clear that now that he is going to be working so much, he is absolutely under no obligation to do anything around the house. His solution is either A) wait under we've paid off all our financial obligations (we've been struggling for a long time) and then just hire someone to do everything; and/or B) it's just my problem because I'm clearly the only one who cares about whether or not we have a sink full of dirty dishes, until, of course, he needs a clean one. I just hate looking at them, but I guess that's just my problem. I'm exhausted already. I already do so much. Even if we hire someone, what happens if the floor needs to be swept mid-week and they're not due to come until Saturday? I'm tempted to just say, "I'll clean my own dishes and you can just buy the paper ones for yourself", if he's so insistent that he's not on the hook, but it does seem unfair. I feel selfish since he is, in fact, working more hours than me.

I have a lot of words I want to use to describe your SO, but I'll just stick to this one: burden. His utter lack of respect for your time, labor and human value means he is a burden on you, with very little benefit that I can see in your letter. And he'd burdening you not just with the physical work of household chores, but also the emotional work of feeling imposed upon but not empowered to say so or correct it.

Why is he so special that you have to do the chores of basic living for him? Why are you so insignificant that your exhaustion is okay with him?

The only advice I have for you in good conscience is to get out before your self-worth is so depleted that you don't feel able to leave. That you can describe all of this and come up with a diagnosis of *your* selfishness says counseling is in order, too. Not couples counseling, but solo, for you, to help you restore your sense of self-worth.

...really need to compare notes. She ran today's letter last month.

Why? We've been over this. People submit to multiple columnists. We all file in advance. None of us reads all of the other advice columns.

I've actually told my editors not to bother alerting me when there's a duplication. 

Dear Carolyn, My cousin is now the only one living in her immediate family. Her parents, brother, and sister have died. Her sister died just one year ago. She is divorced and has a daughter that lives several hours away. I am her only cousin and I live 8 hours away from her. She has been struggling with depression and is in therapy and on medication. I have been reaching out by calling her, texting, etc and I get a response about 25% of the time. At one point I was so concerned that when we spoke I asked her if she thought about harming herself. She denies any suicidal thoughts and says she is feeling somewhat better. My question is how much do I keep texting, calling, etc? I get somewhat frustrated when I don't get a response or when we set up a time to talk and then it is suddenly inconvenient for her. I want to be patient and understanding and I know that grief mixed with depression is an awful combination, but sometimes I take it personally and question if she really wants to keep me in her life. I don't want her to feel guilty so I haven't asked her about how much contact is too much. I try and touch base about twice a month, but often this takes multiple texts before I get a response. Should I persevere or back off? I love her and want to do what is best for her to heal. Thank you, Concerned Cousin

Your heart is clearly in the right place, and depression is really scary for loved ones, even when you live close by--but it sounds as if your expectations are reaching too far into decisions that are solely your cousin's to make.

Please take her messages to you at face value: She will respond on her schedule, not yours. Period. 

Therefore, any projections you make into whether her silence is a personal affront or a sign of trouble or a natural side effect of her grief and depression are just your mind trying to fill in the blanks, and ultimately not helpful to you. Or her.

Any guilt you'd impose on her is also a projection: I actually think it would be appropriate, even a good idea, to ask her directly how much contact she'd prefer. Just make sure you don't make it about the non-responses. Instead, just say you don't want to make a nuisance of yourself--is checking in every couple of weeks okay with her? Would she rather you call or text?

If your gut says she wouldn't appreciate that specific a query, then just keep up your contact schedule as is, and ease off on the expectations: "No need to respond, just saying hi. If this is a good time to call, I'm free till 6."


I just was sent a screenshot from a friend of my boyfriend on a dating app. We've been together, and lived together, for years, and the photos in his profile are recent. This is clearly an active account. This is not the first time that he has been caught on a dating app during our relationship. He doesn't believe me when I say that this time is different and I am done with the relationship and the lies (he's still claiming that it's an old account and he's not cheating, as opposed to taking any accountability or being honest). How do I end this relationship, which involves kicking him out of my house during a pandemic? And how do I get over the sense of foolishness for giving him multiple chances and having him not change? And for still questioning my resolve to actually end things right now? Why am I not stronger?

As far as I know--and some I know firsthand--people have been able to buy and rent new places and move into them, pandemic notwithstanding. It's harder but not impossible.

So ask him to leave.

Then, reframe the patience you misspent on him into a virtue: You chose to see the good in someone. Is that really so terrible? That he proved himself unworthy of your patience, and unworthy of the benefit of your doubts, and unworthy of the effort you put into your relationship--that's about his lack of character.  

As for questioning your resolve, here's the thing. You can actually stay with someone who cheats on you. There's no relationship law that says he has to go. *You're* deciding that. *You're* deciding you've had enough and he doesn't deserve to share his life with you. If you want to change your mind on that, then, go ahead--but do it knowing he will be unfaithful to you throughout. 

The point of this thought exercise is clarity. If you decide to stick with your decision not to share your life with someone unfaithful, then there's your resolve: It's not, "Hmm, maybe this time he'll stop cheating"--it's, "Hmm, maybe this time I'll decide I'd rather be with him even if he cheats the entire time and lies to me about it." I think once you say out loud to yourself what you're actually agreeing to by staying with him, your resolve will hold up just fine.

Hello Hax, People always mention DV when it comes to romantic relationships but can DV apply in family relationships? I moved home 6 months ago to help take care of my dad - he and I have always had a difficult/complicated relationship. But our time in quarantine has turned him into a monster who is now emotionally abusing me who refuses to communicate at any basic level of human decency. Unfortunately, I am living at home with him in the most expensive area in the U.S. and am isolated in an area with no other family friends or even access to a car. What can I do? I can't take very more of this.

Of course it can apply in family (and non-romantic non-family) relationships. There are entire networks for addressing child abuse and elder abuse to name two; the exploitation of power is, unfortunately, a common human side effect of emotional sickness. I mean, the whole reason Americans are in the streets every day now is to protest widespread and centuries-long abuses of power.

So, the first thing you can do is stop doubting yourself that this is an abusive situation. You feel stuck and your father is using that as leverage over you. That's abuse.

Another thing you can do is recognize you are not stuck. Even if you are broke and don't have access to a car, you can find a way to leave, to get yourself to a friend's home if you can or a shelter if you can't. Even if you decide that staying where you are is your only reasonable choice, that is still a choice--which is the first step to recognizing that you can do things on your terms, not your dad's.

Another thing you can do is call for help. 1-800-799-SAFE and 1-800-656-HOPE are DV hotlines that also are equipped to guide you through an emotional abuse situation. 

If necessary, you can also look into other care options for your dad, assuming he's a senior citizen, here: LINK

Please make the call(s) and start exploring your options. 


I also admit that at times I allow myself to get over-irritated with him, due to the stress of quarantining and lack of money, and he's admitted he's done the same with me too. Everyone is snappish. We do communicate well, generally, and when we don't, we have a cool-off period, come back, and THEN communicate well. I have to admit, the idea of just having someone drop by once a week to clean the place up does sound luxuriant, but when I think about having to do everything, everything, everything week after week until that happens, I just think....I'm so tired. So tired.

You haven't even addressed the central issue: He's fine with your doing all the work. He is a close-up witness to your misery--which is a direct consequence of his choices--and feels no inclination to make any effort to ease it. How is that not a deal-breaker?

No housekeeper can clean up toxic entitlement or an utter lack of respect. 


As someone who has been there, my heart goes out to you. You ARE strong enough to kick your boyfriend out but for me it was so difficult because I just wanted to see the best in him. My brain kept tricking me into doing the easy thing which was to not deal with it. You have to dig up that resolve and say "I am worth more than this." Repeat it in your head 10000 times a day and ESPECIALLY the second you feel yourself wavering or as he tearfully tells you "this is the last time." And yes, apartment complexes are renting and people are moving in/out during the pandemic even in my highly COVID-19 impacted area.

Perhaps "concerned cousin" could keep the tone of the conversations a bit lighter? Maybe CC could text a silly photo of the two of them when they were younger, or ask DC whether she wants the heirloom Wedgwood because if not, CC is ready to cart it all to Goodwill. Something like that might get a response, over "are you sure you're not suicidal?" or whatever. Who wants to have *that* conversation?

Hi, Carolyn. TGI-flippin'-F if ever there was one. Struggling with all the heartlessness out there lately. I'm the first to remind myself (and my kids) that every story has x number of perspectives -- each borne from nature, nurture, and personal experience and polished by all that baggage we carry around brushing up against it -- and we have no right to judge one another. Just feel like this crazy year is playing whack-a-mole with our hot point buttons and we're just about screwed as a human community. Finding myself running thin on empathy, and really OUT of energy to deal with the badmouthing - from any side. The greatest shock is hearing (online and in person) the raw hatred and blind bias and vicious 'us vs them' rhetoric from people I've known and enjoyed as friends for 40+ years. I made a half-joke to get out of one confrontation ("Geez, two weeks ago we were talking about baking bread for the first time since we were kids! How's YOUR yeast doing?") and got an in-my-face, wide-eyes "how can you NOT see what *they* are doing?" rant. Ugh. And blegh. I guess I'm looking for a trick to see past the vitriol to the people I cared enough to be friends with to begin with.

Why do you want to "see past" someone using the "they" construct in this moment, if I understand your implication correctly?

Even if this doesn't actually make the cut of some schoolkid's U.S. History timeline 50 or 100 years from now, there's nothing stopping each of us from having our own inflection points, where we decide to stop abiding some viewpoints and changing the subject to yeast.

My family. We so wish we had had that conversation with my late brother. Especially his adult daughter with small children.

Fair point. I should have appended this: "Who wants always to have *that* conversation." 

Because it is an essential conversation in emergencies, but problematic in bulk--to the point of being counterproductive, since its' so important to keep communication lines open and a person might be moved to close them down if pressed constantly to respond to, "Are you okay?"  That's part of why depression is so difficult for its sufferers and its witnesses. 

I am so sorry for your loss.

This is NOT an excuse and you still need to do what you can to make yourself safe. As a saying I love says - don't set yourself on fire to keep others warm. That said, if he was not abusive when you were younger I would mention it to the doctors managing his care. I'm assuming he has some since you said you went home to care for him. Things like dementia can drastically change someone to where they can do something like this. But, again, you don't deserve nor have to stay even if there is more of a reason than him just being a glassbowl.

Thank you for your response, and for the back-up support from a commenter. I am not ok with a life knowing that I am being lied to and cheated on, and I do deserve more. Part of the struggle, which I just have to get over, is that I am 41. And really wanted a different story for my life at this point. But I won't get that different story with this guy.

What's with seeing your life as a story, though? That's so much pressure to put on yourself. It suggests you are somehow an author, and if things aren't funny or romantic or interesting as you'd expect them to be in a book, you've somehow failed. 

Think of life stories that are actually stories: obituaries. First of all, they can be that because the lives they're about are over. There's no story till there's an end--everything till then is just scraps of paper on a bulletin board. And, on top of that, obits are only interesting due to the person illuminating and connecting the events--the events themselves (or achievements, or milestones reached, or people befriended or birthed) are just list items and utterly dry. I actually suggest you start reading obits as a habit if you don't already. They're not depressing, mostly, and are often inspiring, and serve as excellent reminders to get yourself out of the ruts of your own (or society's) expectations.

And now, I give you Mary Oliver (RIP):

I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?


That's the end of "The Summer Day," if you'd like to check out the rest.

"Why do you want to 'see past' someone using the 'they' construct in this moment"? Given the way it was written, I took it to mean that the wild-eyed reactions are coming from farther out on the same side of the political divide that the LW is on, and she's concerned that she's not being a good ally. If these reactions were coming from the other side of the spectrum, she wouldn't be in this confusion.

Ah. I can see that, yes, thanks. In that case (or maybe in the other, I'd have to think on it more), I suggest asking questions. "Why do you say that?" is a good opener, because it's an opportunity (aptly) to see whether you're understanding them or just jumping to your own conclusions.

There was literally a point last summer where I probably started or ended 1/4 of conversations with my boss by saying "no suicidal ideation!" I was going through a rough time, and he knew it. I think it's okay to say, "just tell me, if /when" and only raise it again when things seem particularly bad. I also wanted to mention that a friend cross country also fights depression, and we pretty much leave it at: I know you love me, I know you'll call when you have energy and I can call if I need you. We don't beat ourselves up for not having a picture perfect friendship.

Thank you for this.

Yes to the silly photo, no to the Wedgwood decision. When my depression is bad, I can't even decide which shampoo to use, if I can even make it out of bed. Please don't make her have to engage with you, especially to make a decision. And don't take it personally, she is not depressed AT you. Think about giving, giving, giving with absolutely no need to take - no responses required, no acknowledgement of your effort, no decisions. On the surface it may seem like she is being really selfish, just taking everything you give without giving back, but just realize that she can't give back. Not right now.

When he says "he is no longer obligated to help" listen to what else he is saying he is no longer obligated to help with in addition to the cleaning. he is saying, he is not obligated to help you in your life, your relationships, your career. He is no longer obligated to care how you are doing, what you are thinking, how you are feeling, who you are. Now that he thinks he has enough money to do so, he is attempting to buy off being any sort of real partner to another human being they consider an equal. He's trying to buy a housekeeper that also sleeps with him.

If his argument is he doesn’t have to take care of the house or chores because he now will be earning or working more, why was he also unwilling when LW was the primary breadwinner? This is just sexism and entitlement, not adults adjusting roles based on individual circumstances (for instance, a SAHP taking point on housekeeping temporarily).

Hi Carolyn, I have a friend who, every time we have a fight (which isn’t often, but when they happen they’re significant), brings up all the times I’ve ‘wronged’ them in the past (I use quotes because some of these were truly my mistakes, but others were (as other friends have weighed in) unfairly perceived wrongs that (because I tend to assume I’m at fault) I’ve apologized for anyway). How many times do I have to say sorry before it gets through? Will it ever get through?

Stop re-saying you're sorry for things you've already apologized for. 

Instead, when the past wrongs come up again, start asking questions:

"I apologized for that when it happened, as you may recall. Do you believe my apology wasn't sincere?"

Get at the root. That question will force her to say either that she believed it was sincere, thus putting the issue to rest, or that she believed it wasn't sincere, thus allowing you to say, "I'm sorry to hear that. I don't know how you can stay friends with me believing I'd lie to you like that."

This is her reckoning to have, not yours. Make that clear and step away to give her a chance to figure it out. What you're doing now, the apologizing and re-apologizing every time she demands it, allows her to weaponize this vulnerability of yours against you in a fight. It doesn't speak well of her.  




As someone who is depressed I think this is true. If you bring it up every single time you give the impression of trying to hurry someone to get healthy, or even that you are angry at them for not being mentally healthy. Which you could be, but it's not helpful. What is helpful is having friends contact me with no strings attached. It means a lot because it means someone was thinking about me and shows me that I matter to them, without it feeling stressful. I LOVE your idea of offering "I'll be available until X time if you want to chat." That's the kind of thing I would eventually respond to. When you add something stressful to the conversation it feels like you're saying "why aren't you better yet" and that I owe you an explanation about why I'm not.

Also step away from allowing your sister to communicate through your Mom or your Mom to carry tales to you, whichever it is.


Bigger picture, your sister tattled on you to Mom and she's the one calling you, and the one you're discussing it with.

Tbh, in my experience, to just have someone do *something* when asked is a huge thing. He doesn't make a huge deal out of it, just kind of...doesn't like it, but doesn't loudly complain. Which seems to be a winning deal in the case of many men, according to the many, many, many women I know and have known in my life. I remember once dating a guy who seemed to think I'd be genuinely, fall-to-the-floor-in-a-swoon impressed because he vacuumed his apartment. Lately he's been leaving for his new job at 7:30 AM or so and isn't home until 8:00 PM, or later, and I didn't realize it would be so late, but he's doing some side work in the evenings to bring in a little money. And I feel bad because that's a long time to be out of the house, and for someone who was home by himself and sleeping late for a long time before this, it's a huge adjustment and I get it and all that. But then this morning, we both woke up at the same time, since he had to be at his new office at 8:00 AM, the same time I had to be at work, and I asked him to let one of our three dogs outside (the one that needs to stay on her leash, b/c she's nervous and has anxiety issues) while I got her food and medication ready, after I'd already let the other two out and fed them, and I got a response about "Well I don't wanna be late for work!" while he marched out the door. Well, I don't wanna be late for work, either, but I guess it's all my problem. He does realize things eventually, if I point them out to him, but he's in such a delicate spot right now. We've been struggling with money so long, I want him to get on the right track job-wise.

I;m thinking this was supposed to precede the other follow-up? I'm just seeing it now.

And I still think he is entitled and will wear you down to a nub of your once glorious self. (Seriously--think of yourself as a child, your view of the world. Did you ever draw a stick-figures-and-rainbows image of doing someone else's chores because you were seen as the person whose time was less important?)

Please, please recalibrate: It is NOT a gift for someone to do one part of their share only because you asked.

A gift is for someone to do more than their share. A "huge thing" is for someone to do far more than their share, because you need it or especially when you don't and they just do it out of love. 

There is no different set of rules for men and women. There is just the workload, which is then divided into fair shares. 

Stay away from people of either sex who use their energy to justify ways to get out of their fair share, whether they're dumping the extra work on you or somebody else. It's a moral failing and it will cost you eventually. 

I went through this fairly recently. Once he's out of the house block him on all social media and his number. Tell him that if he really needs to get in touch he can email you. My ex also didn't take me seriously when i told him we were really over this time. He was so insistent on "being friends" afterwards. Which I know was his way of proving to himself that he wasn't such a bad guy. I thought blocking a phone number would be a pretty extreme measure. When I finally blocked his number it was like a huge weight off of my shoulders. I had wished I had done it sooner.

My daughter came out to me and my husband this week. We are so thankful that we have a relationship where she felt comfortable to do so. One of her biggest concerns is what her grandparents will think. (They tend to be old-fashioned, and my mother actually said that young people are choosing to say they are gay and trans because it's trendy. In fairness, my mother also reprimanded my father when he tried to say "the gays" brought all the pushback on themselves, when they came out of the closet and wanted their lifestyles to be mainstream, because back in the 50's they didn't have this discourse. - You get the jist of their mindset.) Our response was that we will stand by her in any and all situations. I told her that if she did not feel comfortable telling them, but that was her choice, and that I thought that that was okay because it's no one's business who you date, but I wanted to be very clear and told her we are not keeping this from them because it is a secret or we are ashamed, we would keep this from them because it's just not their business. She's just now at the age that she would start to date, so this is not a situation where we would suddenly stop mentioning a relationship. Anyway, should I be doing something different? Or more? Thank you.

It sounds as if you handled it with love and compassion.

The only thing I'd add is that what her grandparents think is actually irrelevant.

I understand, she wants her grandparents' love, and that matters--but your daughter's sexuality is not a matter of opinion. It's fact. So they can either accept this fact logically by recognizing their granddaughter is exactly the same person she has always been, or they can be illogical and resist this fact.

You can tell your daughter that if they choose the latter, the illogical fuss, then that will be hard for her in that she won't enjoy her grandparents' company the same way she always has--very unfortunate--but it will reflect only on them. Not on her. And you will back her up on that to your last breath.

This is not a promise, just a precedent, but: So many who fuss initially do come around when they start to see for themselves that the person they always knew is exactly the same, it's just their awareness that changed.

For someone who is unhappy with the situation you sure do spend a LOT of time making excuses for him.

Hi Carolyn, Not to mince words here, but the nephew at 17 is a minor, and if the aunt is going to take him to ANY activity with more than the typical amount of risk, his parent should be consulted. While I am passionate about the BLM movement, I think that's irrelevant. If a relative were to take my 17 year-old rock climbing, white water rafting, etc., I would expect them to confer with me first to discuss the level of risk and mitigation steps. In this particular case, what is your plan if violence erupts, are you taking public transportation, what if it get's shut-down, and so on. He's not yet an adult, and while my daughter at a similar age participated in the 1% protests, we discussed all these matters prior to her participation.

This raises an interesting point.

There is taking to, and there is going with. If someone were to *take* my 17-year-old *to* something he wouldn't go to otherwise and couldn't go to under his own power (transportation, waivers, expenses), then I would want to know. Absolutely. 

If instead it were something my kid could already do without this other adult, and was planning to do whether the other adult went or not, then I'd appreciate the courtesy heads-up but wouldn't blame the adult for "taking him" to that thing. Because even a minor child has some ability to move about freely, especially past driving age. 

It's actually not a factor of the danger so much as the accessibility. 

As it happens, one of my actual 17-year-olds just went to a BLM protest solo, and the permission asked was for use of the car, because it was understood the rest didn't require our permission. 


Can we stop excusing bigotry as "they're just old-fashioned?" I'm close to 70; I was raised in a racist, sexist, homophobic, judgmental environment where I was taught that I wasn't a racist or sexist and that the people I judged were the cause of their own suffering. Some of those attitudes are hard to shed and they're still inside me today. But if I let them control my behavior, I'm not being old-fashioned. I'm being a plain old bigot who refuses to change and should be called out as such.

Friend, when I was off taking care of my dad at the end of his life, my boyfriend texted me that he'd gone to my apartment - where he did not live - and washed every dish he could find, and did I want him to take some or all of my laundry back to his place and run it when he did his own? Yes, I married him. I'm just hoping to contribute to your counter-list of what actually constitutes a "winning deal."

Just made me cry. Thank you.

Yeah, the second one was actually submitted first. I do admit you're right. I mean, he's great in a lot of ways, he really is. I feel like I should print this out, show it to him, and just say: Look, what's up? This isn't tenable. This isn't okay. It's not about you not having time or not wanting to do something or thinking something is a pain to do, i't's also about me and my life. I have a fear of confrontation, especially confronting men, because of my childhood- my dad wasn't a really nice guy. And he (my dad) just expected women to just, like, do things, and god help us if we stepped out of line by asking him for anyithng because his work was always by defintion harder than ours. I've heard that people tend to develop ideas about the opposite sex and their own sex from parental models, so while SO definitely isn't my dad (thank god), it could still explain a lot - why I just do things, step away before I ask too much, am afraid to bring up anything that might even mildly upset him, even if it turns out it won't, etc. I'm in therapy btw.

Stay in the therapy, then, and get out of the relationship, please--this or any--until your ability to stand up for what you want is equal to the task of obtaining what you need. Right now, there's a huge gap: You want equality but your ability to insist on it isn't strong enough to get that for you, and the person you chose isn't morally equipped to give it to you just because it's the right thing to do.

So the healthiest place for you emotionally is on your own. 

This is not a sad thing, this is an aaaaahhhh thing. 

If your current therapist can't get you there, then they might not be a good fit. But I don't know this, just floating it as a possibility.

He spends all day away from you, and he doesn't make you happy when he's there. I think it's past time to show this SO exactly how "non-obligatory" it is for you to have him in your life.

I think that maybe the excuses are coming from him wearing her down into thinking he has a good point. He doesn't. He didn't step up when she was the primary breadwinner; it doesn't sound like he values her contributions to the home.

In your latest response, you called him "delicate", and you wrote that you felt sorry for him because he's had to change his routine from sleeping late in the mornings and having the house to himself to having a job with long hours. You live with a spoiled child. I'm sorry to keep piling it on, but like all of the other responders, I'm appalled by your SO's attitude, and on your side, really.

I am so sad for this poster. She is working so hard to make us all and herself believe that her situation is just like everyone else's. But, its not and her husband is acting like a jerk.

I'm hoping SO means not-husband. I may have lost track at this point.

It's rather surprising you missed that the OP (aunt) is (and likely has been) in a political battle with her sister and now the aunt has brought her nephew into it. After reading her post, and seeing that the aunt feels no remorse and can't even see her sister's side, well, it sounds like the aunt is not taking responsibility. It's interesting to see you take the aunt's side without even taking her sister's feelings into account. Also perhaps the sister called their mom because the aunt often does things she knows will upset her sister and the sister is tired of not being heard by the aunt.

No, I see the battle. But 17 is old enough for freestanding opinions. If the son disagrees with his mom politically, then that's between him and his mom, not between mom and aunt. 

And yes, I'd say this if the 17-y-o were marching for a cause I found abhorrent.

I do agree I should have called out the aunt for her half of communicating with her sister through their mother. 

Why isn't the nephew dealing directly with his own mother about his decision to go to the protest?

Exactly. Another question I should have asked, thank you.

Why don’t you want a SO that *wants you to be happy?*

Last word there, I'm thinking.

Thanks everybody, have a fascinating week, and I'll type to you here next Friday.


When our daughter came out in the mid 90s, we had decided not to tell her grandfather because of the usual reasons. What a mistake that was! Because she couldn't really talk to him anymore about what was important to her, they became increasingly distant and hardly talked at all. I finally realized what was happening and it just wasn't fair -- here he was, thinking maybe he had done something wrong because his grand daughter didn't want to talk to him. So we told him that his granddaughter was gay, and there was no problem at all, I think he was relieved to know that there was nothing wrong between them. So this is also something to keep in mind.

Another last word, great stuff, thanks.

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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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