Carolyn Hax: Boyfriend’s dislike of exes is sign of distrust

Carolyn Hax
Columnist April 10, 2012

Adapted from two recent online discussions.

Dear Carolyn:

Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. The column includes cartoons by "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis -- Carolyn's ex-husband -- and appears in over 200 newspapers. View Archive

I have cordial relationships with my ex-husband and my boyfriend from high school — the occasional phone call and seeing each other once or twice a year in a group setting. My boyfriend thinks this is really, really, really weird. So weird. And he says all his friends agree with him. Am I crazy?

Hanging Out With the Ex

You do know my history, right? That my kids from remarriage call my ex-husband “Uncle Nick”?


Of course you’re not crazy. It’s also not crazy to be suspicious of people who treat you like you’re crazy just because your choices differ from theirs.

Your boyfriend wants nothing to do with exes, fine. But please take very seriously his unwillingness to believe there’s more than one right way to handle exes — or anything else. Life can be very unpleasant with someone who criticizes the way you talk to your mom, celebrate holidays or dice onions because it’s not his way.

You want someone who trusts you enough to trust that you’re both headed toward the same goals, even when you take different paths to get there.

Dear Carolyn:

I had a lot of problems stemming from a very hard childhood. If I had entered into a relationship right away, then I would have been a “hot mess.” However, after years of therapy and some serious soul-searching (including very lonely moments of realizing how much I needed help), I am now about to get married.

I worry, because I am not completely healed from my childhood — but I am getting there. Is it okay to get married and move on while healing at the same time? My gut tells me to go with it — and take it one step at a time.

To Be or Not to Be ... Insecure

I can’t know whether you’re ready for marriage, but I also don’t believe there’s a magic point where people become “well” or “fully healed” or whatever else we shoot for. Growth is lifelong if you’re doing it right.

That said, here are two things to look for before committing to anyone: the strength to live honestly, and the ability to take good care of yourself and the people you love.

The latter is straightforward, since a “hot mess” by definition can barely manage one or the other, much less both — and, too, meeting your needs and your partner’s tends to be mutually exclusive in unhealthy relationships. Very useful as a DON’T DO IT alarm.

Living honestly is more complicated: If it were easy to spot when we lie to ourselves, we wouldn’t do it so much, right? But, generally, we’re excellent at identifying in hindsight the ways we rationalized doing stupid things (admitting it . . . different story).

So we can take the memory of those rationalizations — the constant explaining and justifying — and compare that sensation to what we’re feeling now.

Since the whole point of rationalizations is to avoid an unwelcome truth, discarding them is no fun. But it still beats the slow agony of living with choices that don’t fit.

Why just honesty and good care? They’re key to preserving your sense of yourself within a relationship — allowing you to maintain good relationships and escape bad ones. That’s really all anyone needs.

Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or tellme@washpost.com. Subscribe at www.facebook.com/carolynhax.

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