Carolyn Hax: Parents need to respect a son’s right to enlist — and chart his own life

Carolyn Hax
Columnist September 30, 2013

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

Our son wants to join the military, and his dad is vehemently against it. It is causing a lot of anguish in our household.

Our son agreed to attend college for a year and postpone talking about it. That school year is up, and he still wants to join. He is a legal adult now, and we all know it.

I know my husband’s attitude is rooted in fear for his child, and I share that fear. However, I think my son should be able to make his own choices and live his own life. It is very stressful for his siblings (he is the oldest) and it is straining our marriage. How do we get across this bridge with our family intact?


(Nick Galifianakis)

Torn Between Husband and Son

Why hasn’t your son just enlisted?

If your husband would be willing to consider it, I suggest marriage counseling, or a reputable marriage seminar, for you two. While I can understand any parent’s strong feelings about what’s best for a child, and certainly strong fear of harm, this fight — about a kid who is committed to an honorable path and is no longer a minor — is in its second year. That I cannot understand, because it has become a serious boundary problem.

One thing you can do, while marital help is pending, is explain the following to your husband: Husband had his say and secured Son’s cooperation with a cooling-off year. The only emotionally healthy response for Husband at this point is to thank Son for waiting, reiterate any remaining concerns and assure Son that Husband will support Son’s right to make his own choices, even if Husband objects to the choices themselves.

Dear Carolyn:

A years-long relationship with a man I was sure would be my husband ended badly. Badly, as in, one day he just never spoke to me again. At all. No cheating (that I know of), no huge fight, nothing that would’ve merited that treatment. I’d spent holidays with his out-of-town family and vice versa, we’d been on vacations together, hosted parties together, you name it. It crushed me, to the point that I sought counseling.

Out of the blue, I started hearing from him via e-mail/text many months later. No real apology, no genuine interest in my life — just references to old jokes and memories. He knows very well how much he hurt me.

My instinct is to cut this communication off completely, since it doesn’t seem like a sincere effort to be kind or express regret. It’s much harder than I thought to do this, because I haven’t completely moved on despite trying very hard, and he was truly my best friend — until one day he wasn’t.

I think I know the answer to this question — but nothing good can come from entertaining this communication, right? I’m amazed at how long my heart wants to hold on to the notion that a miracle could happen and change that — and enjoy the witty banter in the meantime.

Post-Breakup

Cut it off, please, for your own health, and say you’re not interested in staying in touch unless and until he’s willing to explain what he did. That’s his invitation to provide answers, one I hope he accepts.

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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