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Hosted by Carolyn Hax
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 18, 2003; 12:00 PM

Carolyn takes your questions and comments about her current advice column and any other questions you might have about the strange train we call life. Her answers may appear online or in an upcoming column.

Appearing every Wednesday, Friday and Sunday in The Washington Post Style section, Tell Me About It? offers readers advice based on the experiences of someone who's been there -- really recently. Carolyn Hax is a 30-something repatriated New Englander with a liberal arts degree and a lot of opinions and that?s about it, really, when you get right down to it. Oh, and the shoes. A lot of shoes.

The transcript follows.

Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.

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Self Help Books: Carolyn, what is your opinion on self help books? I've noticed that when someone mentions reading self help books that you seem to discourage this practice. Thanks!

Carolyn Hax: I'm not a fan, but I didn't think I discouraged people when they brought them up in this forum. (I definitely did in my book, the most self-loathing self-help book ever published.)

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Alexandria, Va.: My ex and I are "friends" and I'm planning a trip to Miami. He is interested in joining me. Is this a bad idea? Our two year relationship just ended two weeks ago because he needed his space.

Carolyn Hax: It's not so much that it's a bad idea (which it is), but that asking him, "What the ****?" would be a better one. The guy has some splainin to do, and any self-respecting recently dumped person will ask for it. Unless you like being jerked around, in which case, bring him along.

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Philadelphia, Pa.: What is your opinion on disinvitations? I was recently disinvited to a wedding. The notification and explanation came by e-mail 10 days before the event. It was a black tie evening wedding at the bride's family house. I own a tuxedo so that cost wasn't an issue but the woman I was taking bought a dress for the occasion. Ostensibly the reason was too many people accepted. The complicating factor in my case (the e-mail said that others had to be disinvited as well) is that I initially declined. Also, I had already sent the gifts when I received the notice. Are they under any obligation to offer to return the gifts? I have talked to about two dozen people about this and only one has ever even heard of something like this.

Carolyn Hax: But I hope all 24 were appropriately horrified. If so, count me in as the 25th.

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Relationshipland: In your experience, have you found that couples' sexual problems are typically caused by other, non-sexual aspects of their relationship? I'm 30, been with my boyfriend (35) for two+ years, and have been increasingly dissatisfied (and irritated) with our ever dwindling sex life (which was really great for the first 1.5 years). I'm trying to determine if there are other things about our relationship that are causing me to feel next-to-no passion, or whether it is just that, sadly, the chemistry has worn off. I'm just not sure how to go about figuring this one out.

Carolyn Hax: I'm not sure, either, since there are so many variables that are just too personal for an outsider like me to judge. I do think there are some universal factors, like the shelf-life of "chemistry" (the initial romantic head rush), which is about two years at best--and the resoundingly unsexy effect of not really liking or, especially, respecting someone. Of course, I doubt it's a coincidence that it takes about two years to get to know someone really well ...

Which is why my generic answer to a question that can't be answered generically is that if you're really still nuts about someone after a couple of years, the sex probably won't drop off as much as it does for couples who aren't as compatible (and for whom chemistry, while it lasted, covered up a lot of problems). That is, assuming neither of you has any external sex-drive killers to blame, like stress, depression, other illnesses, some medications.

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Wedding disinvitation: Okay, conceded that the happy couple are tasteless, self-centered, and ignorant of traditional etiquette (communication about a black-tie affair by email?). But while it would be a considerate and appropriate thing for them to return the gift, a wedding gift is NOT payment for a meal at the event. Whether or not one goes to a wedding has nothing to do with choosing to send a gift to the happy couple. (Let's hope the couple is happy, because they now have far fewer friends to be happy for them.) My husband and I, for example, had a very small, family-only wedding so we didn't invite ANYBODY, but some friends generously chose to send us gifts anyway.

I still think they're jerks. But they don't have to return the gift just because you're not coming, or weren't invited, to the wedding.

Carolyn Hax: You're right, gifts are not quid pro quo. Sorry I blew past that.

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Washington, D.C.: Do you think a 3.5 carat diamond is too gaudy (or not gaudy enough)? I'm 24/she's 22.

Carolyn Hax: Good lord. Skip the ring and buy a house.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Hi Carolyn, I'm a college student about leave for England for junior year abroad. I have been with my boyfriend six amazing months, but everyone tells me we should break up while I am in England. I love him, and though I know the distance will be hard, I don't want to lose him. What would you do?

Carolyn Hax: Break up while you're in England. Call it something better though--call it releasing each other so you can both get the most you can out of the different opportunities you have, with the understanding that it can mean remaining faithful, or dating others, or whatever comes naturally to you both. Tough to do--it takes real faith--but I think it's your best shot.

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Washington, D.C.: What is the opposite of a fair-weather friend? My family seems to respond really negatively when I am doing well. Since I'm no longer willing to put myself in sad situations so that Mommy will be nice to me, Daddy will express concern, or my Brother will spend some time, what do I do?

Carolyn Hax: "I feel great, thanks, how are you?" Let them be mean to you. Long run, it's their loss.

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Carolyn Hax: Oh, and rent "Breaking Away" if you haven't seen it already. The Daniel Stern character might seem familiar.

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Los Angeles, CA: Dear Carolyn
I am undergoing a surgical procedure in one month after which I will need assistance for up to two weeks--including bathing and going to the bathroom, etc. Can have bf or mother care for me. Relationship with mother is strained and have gone years without speaking. Have talked about marriage with bf but are not offically engaged--waiting until after marriage for sex.
Ten year old daughter--I was teenage mother. Daughter knows bf but doesn't know we are dating. Mother had many bfs, difficult growing up. Bf wants to be there for me, has already started assembling things I will need post op. Would prefer bf but want to set good example for daughter. Your thoughts?

Carolyn Hax: I can't think of a better example for your daughter of an intimate relationship than to have your partner treat you with kindness, decency and love.

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Phoenix, Ariz.: My boyfriend of few years has been overseas for the last few months. During that time I haven't been exactly faithful. Should I tell him when he comes back or leave it in the past since I never plan on doing it again?

Carolyn Hax: Hey, thanks for the unwitting backup.

Question: Did you -plan- on doing it this time? This isn't about swearing to mom you'll never be bad again, it's about what you did, and why, and whether you should even have a boyfriend of several years.

I can't advise you or anyone to lie to a mate. It's a little late, but, you have to be Golden: Would you want him to tell you the truth? Treat him as you would want to be treated, and no self-deluding allowed.

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Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Carolyn, thanks for the great read; I've been lurking here for ages. Now I'm hoping to get your advice on something silly that's been bothering me for too long.

A friend got married last fall, and rather than choosing something from her registry, I gave her cash. Four or five months after the wedding, I asked a mutual friend if she had received a thank-you note, as I had not. She had, and knew that others had as well -- however, all of these people had chosen gifts from the registry.

Is it rude of me to directly ask the bride whether or not she got my gift? On one hand, I don't want to seem like I'm giving her grief for sloppy thank-yous or causing her to worry about a potentially long-lost gift envelope. On the other hand, I don't want her to think I stiffed her. What to do? I confess that I hoped my thank-you card queries to mutual friends would filter back to her and solve this, but they have not.

Carolyn Hax: Hello, thanks for lurking.

There is, in fact, an etiquette standard for your exact situation. Because gifts really do get lost in the shuffle--especially cash, but also things that get shipped--you're supposed to ask her if your gift got to her safely. When you hear that it did, though, the proper response is relief, not "Gee, thanks for the note." While it's rude for her not to have thanked you, the world looks sunnier if you just remind yourself that notes also slip through cracks sometimes, just like gifts.

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re: Arizona: One thing to consider is the health risks. If you do not tell him and are intimate with him, you are putting him at risk for a host of STD's without his knowledge. Protection doesn't matter because many are transmitted regardless of protection.

So if you decide to be intimate- either get yourself checked out first and often or come clean.

Carolyn Hax: Thank you. I talk about these things so much that I get lazy sometimes. Maybe I need a program so I can add the disclaimer with one keystroke.

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Washington, Dc: Hey Carolyn,

Love the chats, you give great advice.

I've been seeing this girl for about a month and it was just starting to get really fun. We really like each other and were having a blast. Just recently she got a great job offer in Europe and is taking it. It starts in 3 months, and she will be there for 2 years. My question is, do we cut ties now and avoid inevitable heartbreak later? I mean we aren't serious, but I could see myself getting more attached to her if we spent the next 3 months together. The other part of me says enjoy the time you have with her. Thoughts?

Carolyn Hax: Thank you.

Enjoy the time you have with her. Life is funny; feelings are funnier. I don't have any idea how I'm going to feel in three months. If you do, I want what you're having.

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Carolyn Hax: Actually, I don't. Much more fun not knowing. Even when it sux.

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Blacksburg, Va.: Hello:

I've been wondering lately about people's capacity for change. If a couple has a rocky relationship and breaks up, do you think there's any chance it would work the second time around?

Carolyn Hax: Hello. Depends on who changed what, and why. The right epiphany on the right person at the right time can work wonders--e.g., someone realizes she picked up some selfish habits during her upbringing and she needs to recognize there are other people on earth. If she came to that conclusion herself, through pain of alienating people she cared about, I like her chances of changing.

But a vow to change the unchangeable ("I will stop bugging my girlfriend for attention") made out of fear of being alone (because she's going to dump me if I don't") is useless, unless you want to start your next question with, "I've been with my off-and-on fiancee for 17 years ..."

Age matters, too. If that rocky time was at school age and the second time is years later, you'd be wrong to expect things -not- to have changed.

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Washington, D.C.: Don't ever try to trade buying a "thing" (i.e. furniture, car, house) instead of buying an engagement ring you and your fiancee both like. Furniture, car and house will come & go -- ring is forever.

Carolyn Hax: Eh, I suppose ... but debt and rent can feel like forever, too, especially if you've taken them on because you got into an imaginary pissing contest over the size of the "rock" (cringe).

Addendum to guy who asked original question: If you must buy a ring, buy one you think your fiancee with think is beautiful. It is supposed to be an expression of love, not of wallet, and if you've been told that expressing the most possible wallet is the surest way to show love, I have a nice wall here for you to bang your head against.

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Chicago, Ill.: Hi Carolyn: I'd appreciate your advice on how to handle a situation. I'm getting married in March. We originally set one date, then had to switch it when the place we want to have the reception was already booked. Well, the new date is the same date that a friend of mine got married on this past year. So when I sent out an e-mail telling my friends of the date change, she responded with a message saying how weird it would be to spend her first anniversary at someone else's wedding and that she thinks it really sucks. I restrained my impulse to respond "then don't come" and instead replied that I had thought it was cool, good luck even, that we would have the same wedding date and that I was sorry she thought it sucked. I haven't heard from her since -- this was like three weeks ago. I sent her an e-mail a couple days ago about something entirely unrelated and she hasn't responded. With almost anyone else, I wouldn't care, but it's really bothering me that she's acting this way. I mean, this is someone I've been close friends with since high school -- we're 33 now -- and who cares if its on the same date. My fiance says we should just not invite her, but I don't want to do that. But I'm not sure how to handle it. Any advice?

Carolyn Hax: Act as if you did nothing wrong (my personal favorite approach to having done nothing wrong), and let her be the doink. That means calling her to say hello when you would normally call to say hello, inviting her to things to which you'd normally invite her, following up ignored e-mails with, "hey, did you get my email?"

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Bethesda, Md.: Hi Carolyn and peanuts --
I just got an alarming phone call. A mutual friend called to tell me that my roommate (we're both women) has a stalker who hit her this week, who followed her home at least once, and about whom our other mutual friends are VERY concerned. I'm partly glad to hear about this because my intuition wasn't off about something being wrong and my roommate's stories and behavior not adding up, but our mutual friend has asked me to be protective of her without letting on I've been told about this. For some reason, my roommate seems to think she's keeping it quiet. So the mutual friend didn't give me much info and on top of it has asked me not to say anything specific to my roommate while intimating that once a public attack has taken place (all I know is that she has a black eye) things tend to go downhill rapidly. Apparently my roommate is seeing a lawyer today.

Result: I'm terrified for both of us and REALLY don't know what to do. I've looked at a few sites online but they tend to focus on how to tell if you're being stalked, not what to do for a friend/roommate. Any recommendations for me? Is she in greater danger since some kind of attack has happened, apparently in a public place? Is she safer coming home if I (and boyfriend) are here? Is it better for both roommate and I to sleep elsewhere? Is he likely to try to break in if she's not here? Better question--where can I find some resources to answer my questions?

Oh, and to add a cherry on top, I'm leaving town for two and half weeks tomorrow and if she isn't talking to me there's no way she's talking to our other roommate (a guy, but really on the clueless side, and out of town for the weekend anyway). Sorry, I know this message can't be coherent, but can you at least suggest something? I know you've said a good deal about what to do when you personally are being stalked or abused, but I don't recall you discussing what others can/should do to help. Thanks.

Carolyn Hax: Good for, and grr to, your mutual friend.

You are in danger right along with your roommate. I mean, duh. I won't get into your roommate's reckless judgment in hiding this from you--I'll chalk it up (way too) charitably to her distress over being stalked--but your friend at least should be thinking clearly. S/he was absolutely right to warn you--but the "don't tell her I told you!!!" juvenile BS has me, and should have you, pretty [cheesed]. Think about it: By saying that, the friend shows s/he's more willing to risk your life than the friendship with your roommate.

That is so egregious that I have to believe that if you go back to the friend and explain this, s/he will lift her gag order.

Even if not, though, you need to talk to your roommate openly--with your other roommate present. (To temper your breaking the confidence, don't say how you found out.) And, you need to call the MoCo police non-emergency number and ask to talk to their domestic violence dept. I'm not sure he's still there, but last I checked your county had a really good guy working there. Name escapes me now, but if you want it, email me (tellme@washpost.com) and I'll look it up.

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Somewhere, USA: Carolyn - thanks for taking my question last week (I'm the 17-year-old whose parents prohibit all forms of coed socializing, including chaperoned events). I took your advice and asked my parents why they had so little trust in me, when I'd never gotten into any trouble.

Their response was definitely not what I expected, but it explains a lot. It turns out that they do trust ME to make good decisions, but don't trust other people. My mom told me that when she was around my age, she was raped by a male "friend" -- during a chaperoned school trip. Due to the pain she suffered, my parents decided that they wanted to protect me as much as possible.

I told them that I understood much better now, but that they couldn't protect me forever -- and that I'd have a better shot of being able to defend myself/remove myself from suspicious people and situations if I had a bit of experience with socializing. They actually agreed, and also agreed to relax the rules a bit during my senior year -- I'll be allowed to go on the class trips, and will be allowed to go out with groups of friends (to go to the movies, etc.) even if some of them are guys. Still no dating, and no one-on-one time with guys even if they're not romantic interests, but that's fine with me. To keep my new privileges, I'll need to enroll in a self-defense class and will need to keep my grades up (academics have to remain my top priority).

I feel terrible about what happened to my mom, but I also feel better knowing that their rules had a reason (even if it was a bit misguided) other than an arbitrary desire to keep me home. Thanks again for your help!

Carolyn Hax: I'm a little choked up here. Thank you for the great post.

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Portland, Ore: Just a backup on the lost-present issue. When I got married, my husband and I ended up with a box of gorgeous pottery, sent straight from the artist, with no card enclosed. We were going out of our minds trying to figure out whom to thank, and we were SO grateful when we got a polite e-mail from the gift-giver, asking if we'd happened to receive a package lately.

Carolyn Hax: Thank you for that. Last time I said it was okay to ask about a "lost" gift (print column, I believe, this past winter) I got some snippy replies from brides who thought this was an awful thing to do to them. Thus the head-banging wall.

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Nowhere in particular: Re: Relationship-land and sex-drive killers. Don't forget that external factors can be quite natural. Different people have different drives. Some people may have normally low drives that peak in the first year or two of a relationship and then level back to normal. There's also age. He's 35. It's not uncommon for male drives to wane. I don't imagine it's unusual for people of naturally differing drives to end up together. You may just have to weigh the importance of that part of your relationship -- and even consider how you judge it (quality versus quantity) -- against things like shared values, character, wit, intelligence, etc. There are ways of coming to common understanding, but you'd just need to get to the bottom of the issue first.

Carolyn Hax: Thanks. These are a lot of the variables I was referring to, very neatly put.

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"A Ring is forever": A ring is not forever ever. Malarky!; My mother just lost her engagement ring but she's still got the house and some wonderful children I might add. Oh yeah, and we've still got Dad too.

Carolyn Hax: Oh, right, Dad.

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Cleveland, Ohio: I recently received a misdirected e-mail, intended for my wife, in which she and a guy who has done work around our house share in some explicit banter. (My wife and I have e-mail addresses that differ by only one letter; the guy apparently didn't check the send line.)

Is dirty talk via e-mail the same thing as having an affair? A precursor to an affair? Up until about six months ago, I thought we had a good marriage. But sex has stopped, she's obsessed with her weight and appearance (even though she has always been slim and attractive) and she's very snappish with me, so there are some other factors that lead me to believe something's going on.

Is the best course simply to ask for an explanation of the e-mail?

Carolyn Hax: Whether dirty email suggests an affair or the precursor to an affair is actually irrelevant here, because something is already going on. The three things you list about her--frigid w/ you, self-conscious, snippy to you--snippiness especially, believe it or not--are almost textbook signs she has turned her romantic interest away from you and directed it elsewhere. The rest is mere detail. I'm sorry.

That doesn't mean you guys are a goner, though. It just means you need to get it out in the open and see what happens. Excruciating, but even a bad outcome can't be worse than what's happening now, right?

I'm not sure confronting her with the email is the best course, though, since it might put her on the defensive. I think gently listing what you've seen, and the email, and asking her please to be honest with you regardless of how painful it is, might be more persuasive.

Sigh.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Carolyn,

I'm really worried about my brother who has a serious drug abuse problem which has been going on for over 10 years now. He is still able to function moderately well, but has been getting worse ever since he lost his job due to layoffs last year. I would like to tell him that I think he needs help, but am afraid I will drive him away. He lives several states away and comes to visit every few months, so we mainly communicate by phone. Whenever I try to bring it up, he says he is normal, and that none of his friends or girlfriend has a problem with it, so why am I so uptight? It's true they don't have a problem with his using, but it's also true that most of them use drugs and binge drink several times a week. He has been getting more moody and depressed, and more violent. He got treatment when he was younger, which was only successful for a while. Now that we are almost 30, I think he is losing hope that he will ever be able to carry on a "normal" life and has just decided to party on until he is either thrown in jail or dies. This is destroying the rest of my family and they are all looking to me for an answer. Any ideas on how to approach this?
Thanks!

Carolyn Hax: Al-Anon and Families Anonymous exist for this, so they'll probably advise you better than I could.

But a question about your question: Why is your whole family looking to you for an answer? That just doesn't seem right.

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Falls Church, Va.: Re: Advice about STDs
It may be a little flippant to say that "Protection doesn't matter," although it's true that condoms don't protect against all STDs. What's important is that protection may be more important now, and unless the cheater is willing to explain why she suddenly wants to use protection (only if they did not before), she may have to confess.

Carolyn Hax: I think the poster meant the protection she may or may not have used while cheating. That in fact wouldn't matter when it came to putting her BF at risk now, since she may still have picked something up even if she used a condom.

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For Engagement Ring Guy: He must have missed the recent story in the Post magazine about engagement ring frenzy... can you post the link?

Carolyn Hax: I think so ...

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Misdirected Email: I would forward the email to her, with an inoccuous note that we need to talk. It will give her time to get her thoughts in order.

Carolyn Hax: I'm not sure how I feel about this. I like the decency behind it, in not ambushing her, but at the same time, too much rehearsal can diminish or even change the testimony.

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Carolyn Hax: I've got to stop watching "Law & Order."

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washingtonpost.com: Adding link to that story momentarily... -- Liz

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Beating Your Head Against a Wall: How do you deal with the feeling, which I assume you have, since you've referred to it, of wanting to beat your against the wall -- brought on by some of these sad stories. The latest -- the wife with the behavioral change and the "dirty" e-mail -- made me feel that way. Why do we do these kinds of things to each other? Her snippiness with him, in order to disguise/assuage her own guilt, it's so classic; and, on the more minor side, the obsession with ring size (or any size) -- doesn't it just get to you sometimes? And what do you do when it does?

Carolyn Hax: Walk away. Nuzzle my babies. Apologize to the Boo. Run. Cry. Have a beer. What else does anyone do?

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RE: roommate's stalker: Carolyn~

I've had the unfortunate experienced of being stalked twice--once by a stranger, once by an ex-boyfriend. In addition to contacting the police and being -insistant- that they take the matter seriously, I'm afraid I have to recommend they move to a new apartment. Though I understand the argument that they shouldn't let a stalker force them from their home...it's hard to feel good about winning on principle when you are scared -poo]less to be at home and the creep ends up harming you.

Both of them should also be extremely aware of their surroundings to know when someone is following them. The last time I was stalked, I was told to routinely make three left turns in a row on my way home--there's no navigational reason to do so, thus any car still in your rearview after all three turns doesn't need to be there.

Just my $0.02. It completely sucks to live in fear and I hope they can find a resolution soon. FWIW, when the stranger was stalking me, I didn't tell anyone for over three weeks. I thought I was either crazy or making too big of a deal out of nothing. It was a big relief to tell other people and use their support to make the next moves.

--Been there, lived through it twice.

Carolyn Hax: Scary stuff. Thank you.

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Northern Virginia: Hi Carolyn and Liz,

I've about had it. Over the past couple of weeks I've had a non-stop series of encounters with selfish, rude, totally f-you people. I'm ready to just stay in bed eating bon-bons all day.

Can anyone out there tell me something that's happened to them recently that can restore my faith in the human race?

Thanks

washingtonpost.com: Perhaps this will cheer you up.

Carolyn Hax: I'm posting this blind. How's that for faith.

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Philadelphia, Pa.: Hi Carolyn. I read the first advice column in today's section and I am wondering if I am that girlfriend the writer speaks of in my own relationship. My boyfriend has trouble talking about things that come up -- normal problems that a couple deals with in every relationship. I have begged him numerous times to talk about things, but I become extremely frustrated when we do sit down and all he does is give me one-word answers or doesn't participate in the "problem-solving" discussion the way I feel is necessary to healthy, open-communicative relationship. So I find myself requesting him over and over again to be more vocal. Nothing's changed. Am I being "too demanding" and "high maintenance" or am I simply trying to make our relationship work? I feel that I ask things from him because I want us to work. I am willing on doing things that he needs me to do also. When do you know if you're being too demanding and asking for things the other person can't do or give?

Carolyn Hax: When you can't come up with a good answer to, why do you want this to work? Which is the question in my head the whole time I was reading your question.

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Lincoln, Neb.: Hi Carolyn,
So my future-mother-in law shoots me this e-mail just three days before I am to wed her son. The e-mail says, "Don't tell Mike because I don't want to ruin the wedding for him, but we just found out that his dad has cancer. I just had to share it with someone. Let's keep this a secret from both Mike and his sister for a long time." Okay, I'm both mad and confused. The wedding is tomorrow. Of course I am not going to tell, but it's horrible to start your life with someone keeping such an awful secret from them. Ugh. Any advice?

Carolyn Hax: Shoot back an email that says, "Please don't ask me to start my life with your son by keeping a secret from him. Let's talk about this, please." I see your ugh, and I raise you a [sound of forehead on plaster.]

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Boohbah: Trippy. Thanks, Liz.

washingtonpost.com: Glad you enjoyed it... just some good mindless Friday fun.

Carolyn Hax: Now I can cheer myself up between takes. And you guys thought I was slow before.

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Portland Ore.: Hax, hi!

My wife and I are going back and forth over a problem with her little sister (20-year-old). Her sister has really, really bad taste in men. Her first was a married European professor who was here in the states for two weeks for a conference. Her latest was a 35-year-old divorced guy who broke into her aprtment and helped himself to her food because he was hungry. My wife wants to invite her sister to live with us to add some stability to her life, I say love her, but she needs to grow up and make her own choices good or bad; not to come live with another set of parents. It's starting to cause some friction with us, as my wife says I don't care enough about her family. Any ideas to work this out? Have a great day and say hi to the little jeeblies.

Carolyn Hax: I will, thanks.

Explain to your wife that you're saying no -because- you care about the sister. Two things your wife needs to realize are that 1. having her sister live with you guys will infantilize her, which might even make things worse; and 2. even though leaving her out in the cold to grow up is the best approach, it still may not work. (The last thing you want is to "win" this argument w/ your wife only to have her blame you for the rest of her life for her sister's bad taste in men.)

Actually, there's a lesson three: that loving someone doesn't automatically mean an obligation to fix them--and so -not- fixing them doesn't mean you don't love them. I imagine that's what she;s most afraid of.

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Engagement Rings: Are you going to post the link to the article? I would love to see it!

Thanks Liz!

washingtonpost.com: Not having the easiest time finding it... if anyone remembers any more specifics about it, lemme know.

Carolyn Hax: Anyone? Anyone?

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Re: Lincoln: The writer's future MIL feel very close to the writer if she chooses her to be her confidante with this terrible news. On the eve of her son's wedding, she just found out that she's about to lose her own husband. How about some compassion, rather than sarcastic head-banging? (besides, keeping it secret for now is probably the dad's idea -- classic dad behavior)

Carolyn Hax: I can be compassionate and bang my head at the same time. I feel awful for anyone who gets this news. Telling the bride-to-be was an awful thing to do, though, -especially- if the MIL-t-b feels close to her. I'm sorry to disagree with you there, but I do. The invitation to discuss it can bring out all the germane information, such as what the MIL was after by telling, who wanted the secret kept, etc.

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Carolyn Hax: That came out more irritably than I intended it to, I'm sorry. It's irritation at the whole idea of preceding a bomb with, "Don't tell anyone else, but ..." and it came out as if I should have quit 30 min ago.

So, I'll quit now. Bye, thanks, and have a good weekend.

Oh, and Liz has been detoured but says she'll have that link up soon.

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Philadelphia: No one said the future father-in-law is dying. Cancer is not necessarily a death sentence.

Carolyn Hax: Thank you, I thought I had missed something.

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Engagement Ring Story: I think the article on engagement rings was in the Washingtonian, not the Post: Size Matters

washingtonpost.com: Well no wonder I couldn't find it in the Post Mag. Thanks!

Carolyn Hax: If it talks approvingly of big rings, I'm yanking the link.

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Central PA: Re bride-to-be and FIL's cancer. We discovered my late wife had breast cancer two weeks before our son's (eldest child)wedding.

We told all three children - her decision, I agreed - and asked our son and his intended not to postpone the wedding.

Although she is gone, the family memories of a happy wife and mother at her son's wedding will stay with us forever and no one had to wondere why Mom and Dad were a little more tense than one would expect.

This situation is one in which you really come to understand not just the meaning of love and family, but also what's really imnportant in life.

Hope this doesn't come across as a lecture, but hiding unpleasant realities is rarely a good choice.

Carolyn Hax: It's a good lecture, though, and timely. Thank you.

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