Carolyn Hax: Solitude isn’t a disease

Carolyn Hax
Columnist March 25

Hi, Carolyn!

I like to have a good set of casual friends from work, church, etc. and a couple of close friends, but my wife only wants one or two very close friends.

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

Since we move around a lot, I tend to have more casual friends and struggle sometimes to find close friends, but she has no friends other than me.

I don’t think this is healthy for her, but I’m not quite sure what to do about it. It also makes me feel guilty for going out with my friends and leaving her behind; she has made it clear that she does not want to come along. She works from home, which makes it even worse for her. Any thoughts on how to work this out?

Different Ideas


(Nick Galifianakis/The Washington Post)

Are you sure there’s a “this” to work out? Would she agree this is unhealthy/“even worse” for her?

While I agree such isolation isn’t ideal, I defer to her on what suits her best. As long as she isn’t pressuring you to stay home, or trying to guilt you into denying your nature, and as long as she’s at peace with your current arrangement, then arguably there’s nothing for you to fix: She happily meets her need for solitude while you meet your need for companionship.

In this scenario, the solution to your guilt would be to cut it out; she’s okay with it. Enough said.

There is an obvious flaw to this arrangement, though, one you don’t name: Presumably you enjoy her company (thus the whole marrying-her thing), and so it must be sad for you to go everywhere stag.

If that’s the accurate scenario, then your problem, not hers, is the one that needs working out, by broaching the idea of her joining you more often to see friends — but not from your letter’s I-worry-about-you-because-this-can’t-be-healthy perspective. Instead, show your respect for her needs by making it about yours:

“I respect that you’re a homebody — and accept it 90 percent of the time, but I also miss you and want to go out with you. Would you humor me by coming out . . . once a month?”

If this doesn’t give you a satisfying result, or if you are indeed worried about her — if she’s not at peace, if she’s depressed or clingy — then you do need to express your chronic discomfort. Just treat it as a first step vs. an answer. A rut that deep, be it for her or for your marriage, calls for competent professional help.

Dear Carolyn:

My ex-husband and I have learned to co-parent very well and are supportive of each other.

He recently remarried. I commented on how much his ring looks like his “old” one. That’s when I was hit upside the head with, “Oh, it’s the same ring!”

Huh?!?! He said he hadn’t told his new wife. The ring has a very personal inscription inside.

Should I bring this up to her? I don’t want to cause problems between us or between them. I’m just VERY uncomfortable with this situation.

Ex-Wife

You divorced him already; his marriage isn’t your problem.

Your primary responsibility now is of parent. In that role, egad, you leave the boat un-rocked — except, perhaps, to urge Romeo Einstein to have the inscription removed.

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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