Carolyn Hax: Focus on the new beau and stop worrying about what the friends think

Carolyn Hax
Columnist February 26

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

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

After a year-and-a-half relationship that many expected was going to be long-term, we broke up, and I was surprised to find that many of our friends were not surprised, claiming that they “supported our relationship” but thought we were too different and they didn’t want to say anything while we were in the relationship.

Now, four months later, I’m in a wonderful relationship that has the potential of being very long-term. I understand it’s the “honeymoon” phase, but I know when I’ve found something really good.

Everyone thinks he is an amazing guy, but I don’t get any sort of enthusiastic reaction from friends and family, which I believe could be because of my past relationship. Is there anything I could say to these people that would help them understand that I would prefer they would be as happy and supportive as my previous relationship?


(Nick Galifianakis/For the Washington Post)

The Reaction Factor

Nope. It’s not worth it, nor is it your place. It’s possible they think it’s too soon after your breakup, it’s possible they think it’s another mistake, it’s possible this is what approval actually looks like (since, remember, the last approval you experienced was fake). None of this matters now.

What does matter is that you proceed with this relationship at a pace that reflects good judgment and incorporates your experience, recent and otherwise. If you and he progress to the point where friends and family (and you) can reasonably expect to know this guy well and you’re still getting a lukewarm reception, then ask one or two particularly trustworthy people what they think.

Otherwise, please stop scanning the crowd for reactions. Check out how many times you look outside your relationship for opinions of it: “that many expected”; “many of our friends were not surprised”; “Everyone thinks he is an amazing guy”; “I don’t get any sort of enthusiastic reaction”; “I would prefer they would be as happy and supportive.” And it’s not a long letter.

One could speculate (not I, pshhh) that you’re dating not to please yourself, but your audience, which all but assures a mismatch.

Forget what they think — how do you feel?

Hi, Carolyn!

As the first in our immediate group to have a baby, I’m left wondering about proper protocol on when to bring him along. I’ve tried to just guess and been wrong about people’s preferences in every way: we left him home, hosts asked why; we stayed home because we couldn’t get a sitter, host wished we had come instead; we brought him only to realize that wasn’t the host’s intention.

I often e-mail and ask, but is there a better way to handle it? I’m not trying to impose my baby on anyone else, but if I can bring him, I’d often prefer that.

First Friend With Baby

“Should I bring the baby, or call a sitter?” That suggests you’re fine with either option, where, “Okay if I bring the baby?” sounds like a preference and might come across as pressure.

You might be misunderstood from time to time, or told what people think you want to hear vs. the truth, but if overall you’re respectful of hosts’/organizers’ wishes, you’ll get a straight answer from most.

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

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