Carolyn Hax: Readers’ advice on adultery, late-life parenting and more

Carolyn Hax
Columnist December 23, 2012

While I’m away, readers give the advice.

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

On something you’ve heard plenty about, but probably not this well-said:

I’m 44 days out of a three-year affair with an old flame (who I always thought was the love of my life), somehow juxtaposed with a fantastic husband and amazing kids and a good home life.

Here’s the thing: Life will never be perfect. There will always be a void. And when you have two kids, and someone you’ve now spent 10-plus years with, there is a total appeal of having someone who doesn’t have to deal with your day-to-day [bull], or you with theirs, who can just see the version of you edited exactly how you see fit, who therefore thinks you’re perfect (when every other section of your life is far, far from it). And yes, the sex is always better.


But. Ask yourself, when you get ready to send the next e-mail, or make the next call, or set the next clandestine meeting: “Is my family worth it?” — and not just the big overarching question. Picture living in a separate apartment — away from your kids. Picture him telling your in-laws what you’ve done. Picture having to tell your parents. Picture having to divvy up the next Christmas between morning and evening. And when your kids are old enough to really get it, picture the judgment of you they’ll always have. You’ll be the one who did this.

Hard to picture all of that until you’ve been caught, I get it. But you will get caught. Or he will (and then you have the spiteful wife to deal with). — 44 days out

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On having to care for a child when your children are grown, and resenting it:

I think it’s tiresome for people to think that at some point, “Well, I did my work, I don’t have to worry about anyone else anymore.”

We seem to think we can compartmentalize our lives: Right out of college I can go drink and play if I want, then when I want to settle down, well, by gum, there should be someone to marry RIGHT AWAY and then I should be able to have kids on my schedule, then my career should work this way, then I’ll be done with kids, etc.

Life is complicated. People come with stuff. Deal with it. We can’t get what we want when we want it.

I get that as people get older, they see things certain ways; I see people over and again thinking they will actually make their end-of-life decisions (they probably won’t). And I know it freaks them out — I’ve seen it. But you don’t have control, and you never really did. — Tired

* * *

On saving people from themselves:

Many of us seem to want to save our friends and family from ever making any mistakes. We somehow want to buffer their lives so they feel no hardship.

It’s an understandable impulse, but not a wise one. The hardships we experience in life help us to become better, stronger people, capable of greater empathy and perhaps even more gratitude for what we have. That doesn’t mean we should watch our friends lie down in front of moving trains, but it does mean we should stop trying to buffer any bruises. — Anonymous

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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