Carolyn Hax: Family can’t move on from broken engagement

Carolyn Hax
Columnist August 13, 2013

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Hi, 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

My engagement fell through months ago for a variety of very good (though still very sudden and shocking) reasons that just weren’t clear before we were engaged. I’ve since relocated and spent a good bit wallowing, but then turned the corner. I have great friends, family, health, education — life’s good. I’ll be okay.

I managed to reconnect with an old friend who seemed interested in more, and he’s just an incredible person. It’s possible it’s the best rebound ever, or there’s a whole lot more here. I’m trying my darndest to take it day by day, go pretty slowly, be honest. Fingers crossed no one gets hurt. Fine.

The problem? As much as I’m trying to get over the engagement, my family’s really not. They’re still angry and a little bitter (mostly at the ex) and dealing with their own feelings of loss and change, and even months later there’s no way I could bring New Dude home.


(Nick Galifianakis/The Washington Post)

It seems fast, I agree, but I’m very close with my family and it seems weird to manufacture distance in the name of more time, or to not really disclose how much I like this guy. There are also a few events coming up that would be great ways for New Dude to meet my extended family. (New Dude knows my back story. I also have no idea if he’d even be up for a big family gathering, another good question.)

Why is this so hard? Am I just rebounding? And should I leave the family out of it? They’ve had enough heartache, too.

On the Rebound?

So this is mostly about not wanting to spring the new guy on your family, for your family’s sake?

If I’ve read this correctly, then my advice is to carry on with your life on your schedule and let your family manage whatever they need to manage. It is not your job to present your life to them in a way that orchestrates their feelings just so.

Introduce New Dude to your family, bring him to events if you want, deal with their concerns or questions respectfully but from a proper distance. It’s not their life, it’s yours.

The subtext of your question seems to be concern about rebounding, but you’ve already answered that as well as it can be answered. Move slowly, maintain a healthy skepticism, be transparent, see where you end up.

Hi, Carolyn:

I really don’t like dancing — at all. I inevitably end up at parties or weddings where people incessantly try to get me to dance, and they tend not to shut up about it. Then it gets awkward. Any tips?

Hate Dancing

Every once in a while I’ll be pushed to do something I don’t want to do, and I’ve found it helps to envision someone you know who wouldn’t get pushed like that. Even if it’s a sneering fictional bad guy like Col. Jessup in “A Few Good Men.” Channeling some of that back-the-bleep-off quality can be surprisingly effective.

Or you can explain to them that given a choice between listening to their incessant badgering or just getting out there to dance, you’ll choose the badgering. That has to count for something. Good luck.

Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or tellme@washpost.com. Sign up for Carolyn Hax’s column, delivered to your inbox early each morning, at http://bit.ly/haxpost.

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