Carolyn Hax: Readers offer advice on marriage and resenting siblings

Carolyn Hax
Columnist March 2

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 confessing (or not) an attraction outside the marriage:

Early in my marriage, I was attracted to someone not my husband. I grappled with whether to ’fess up to him and ultimately came to the conclusion that it was vital to our marriage if I could unload my burden on my best friend, to help uncork the guilt and distress that I was keeping inside (and that was affecting my marriage). I knew that if I didn’t share this “armchair affair,” then the attraction would likely become that much more powerful, since secrets and fantasies are inherently powerful.

So I told my best friend, my husband, and he handled it beautifully. He neither took it too personally nor panicked, but proved a worthy sounding board. He took it as a good sign that I wanted to unload, and by the end of our discussion, I was already feeling lighter, more free and, um, more than a bit sheepish. It was humiliating to admit my deepest, darkest feelings, and his steadfast understanding was exactly what I needed to see the fantasy for what it was — a cry for more intimacy in our marriage.


(Nick Galifianakis/For The Washington Post)

Incidentally, it helped that we had made a pact before we got married that we would seek out marriage counseling if either of us ever felt the need. In retrospect, that was so wise. It’s as if our honeymoon-stage selves made a plan to carry our future post-honeymoon selves through the thickets of marriage.

The whole incident ultimately fortified our marital trust, rather than destroyed it.

15 Years Married and Counting

On resenting siblings who received better treatment from your parents:

My siblings are 18-21 years younger than I am, and for most of my childhood, my mom was pretty neglectful of me. My siblings are all teenagers now. They don’t have to work and buy their own clothes, they get to play instruments and be in sports, their parents go to all their games, they live in a nice house (as opposed to couch surfing with friends and relatives for half their childhood).

Any time someone asks if I’m jealous, I say, “Of course not!” And explain how I realized, when jealousy first started to creep in — following that train of logic — that for me not to be jealous would mean they were neglected as badly as I was. BAM. Jealousy gone.

I love them so much and could never wish that on anyone. I’m so grateful my mom grew up and got her [act] together. I’m so happy my stepfather learned, on me, how not to treat people (I’m strong, I can handle it) and learned how to be a good dad to them. I love the people they’re growing into and feel blessed that the story has a happy ending (so far, knock on wood).

I have a good relationship with my mom now, too, which is still weird and foreign sometimes, but nice.

In general, I’ve found, “Let’s follow this to a logical conclusion” is an excellent strategy for realizing that jealousy makes otherwise decent people silently hope for ugly things. I don’t want to wish ill fortune on others to make myself feel better.

L.

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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