Appearing every Wednesday and Friday in The Washington Post Style section and in Sunday Source, 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.
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I am dating someone I have feelings for, but there is one looming problem. He is deeply insecure. He doesn't like that I am friends with some of my ex's. He can't stand it when he finds out I hung out with a male friend of mine. When he hears something like that, he'll ignore me (once he stormed out of a date in progress) and then suddenly come back later and apologize for ignoring me. I can't help that I have some feelings for this guy, but at the same time I wonder what I'll do next to upset him. Part of me wonders if maybe I am too close to some of my male friends. Is there any hope for this relationship?
Carolyn Hax: No.
I'm tempted not to explain any further, in case you use any of it as justification for giving this loser a chance.
But I'm not in the mood to be slammed for a dismissive answer, so:
Even if you were "too close" to some of your male friends, the proper response from him would be to articulate that with clear examples, not stomp it out on a restaurant floor--and, if unresolved, to stop dating you, not keep throwing infantile hissy fits. I mean really.
And if you have any doubts as to the corrosive nature of his insecure, yes, but also immature, controlling and manipulative behavior, all you have to do is look at your own reaction to it. You're already tiptoing around him for fear of the next blowup, and, yoo-hoo, questioning your judgment in conducting your friendships. Get out before any more of your self-worth erodes.
Can you tell an ex that you still have very strong feelings for that her boyfriend is no good for her? He seems to thrive on drama, and she is the kind off girl that definitely doesn't, and she seems very unhappy(there are other reasons for her unhappiness as well). I really think I'm being objective and telling her as a friend, but also realize that I might just deluding myself.
Carolyn Hax: Probably both. If you're going to say anything, you have to cop to your strong feelings first. There's not other way.
And to inoculate yourself against easy accusations of jealousy, stay way clear of the subject of the boyfriend, and mention, just once, that you're worried about her because she seems unhappy. Specific examples, again, are paramount--ones that don't overtly implicate the guy, though, which will only make her defensive. ("Sex and the City" just had a great example of what not to do, in fact, if you watched this week's installment.)
Confused at the card store:
Maybe I'm a grinch, but isn't Valentine's Day supposed to be about romantic love? While the number of "husband" and "wife" cards were limited, there were cards for your parents, your stepmother/fahter, your kids, nieces, nephews, aunts, grandparents -- you name it. I didn't look, but there were probably money envelopes for the mailman, paperboy, and doorman. Sheesh. Ahem. Thank you for listening to my rant.
Carolyn Hax: You are a grinch. I loved getting valentines from my parents.
So what do you do for Valentines Day when you have a small child, a messy house, and no desire to do anything but order in pizza and watch videos in your jammies. Husband said it was fine with him, and it is great with me, but boy, does it feel strange not to want to do anything.
Carolyn Hax: Since when are pizza, jammies and video not anything? You just savaged one of the great romantic evenings.
I know you will be getting a lot of questions about Valentine's day today, so here's something a little different: how does someone become an advice columnist? It seems like a fantastic job and I'm just wondering how you "break into" the business.
Carolyn Hax: I have no idea. I already had a job at The Post (not even as a writer, though) when I suggested it as a joke. It's not an easy career path to duplicate.
Re: Card Confusion:
Please!; The less fakey-forced "romance" associated with 2/14, the better. Give-everyone-you-know-chocolate is a way better concept for a holiday anyway...
Carolyn Hax: Why restrict it to holidays?
No City, No State:
Any advice for a woman married to the best husband for almost seven years who has come to the realization that married life isn't for her? It's not the husband, he's wonderful and treats me like a queen. I just need independence. I travel a lot for work, and when I come home find myself craving time alone even though I've been alone in my hotel all week. It wasn't always like this, just in the past six months or so.
Carolyn Hax: Hm. I'd start with counseling, on your own, to see if you can figure out what has made the past six months so different from the preceding 6.5 years. You don't mention anything specific or even any suspicions, so I'm assuming you don't know, just that you feel solitude cravings.
If you do know why and you're sure, and you don't see your feelings changing, then a trial separation comes next. But, really, I mean it about the confidence in your reasons. You give scant details but they amount to a long good marriage until a short dramatic change, which makes your current feelings seem like an impulse--and acting on impulse is not a good idea where best "husbands" and seven-year marriages are involved.
Leiby just slammed you in his chat. He slammed Gene last week (or the week before?). Just thought you should know.
My question: is he as much of a jerk as he appears to be?
He didn't slam you. He merely illustrated how his advice style might differ from yours.
Carolyn Hax: Guess I'm slow, because I didn't see it as a slam. It's exactly what I do with my questions, at least when properly caffeinated. And I like Leiby, going way back to my copy editing days, which is saying something, because working on the copy desk is a job not unlike waiting tables--you're in a vulnerable spot, so you really find out who the jerks are. Though I appreciate your watching my back.
I'm glad you made me look over there, too--I actually did answer that guy's question. It's in an upcoming column. (Speaking of slow--I think it's slated for late March. It didn't seem particularly time-sensitive, so I put it in one of the advance cols I'm writing for when the next baby comes.)
A trite and obvious question:
But one I want to ask, even if I'm not the first one:
How often do you follow your own advice?
Carolyn Hax: I don't advise what I haven't done or wouldn't do myself. Keeps things neat. I do fall short sometimes, humanly and to my great annoyance, but it's funny--having the specter of imagined peanutterly judgment hanging over my head often pushes me to go back and correct myself when I otherwise might not have bothered.
To which I have one thing to add.
GET OUT OF MY HEAD.
I really need an impartial viewpoint on this whole
I am dating a man and have told him from the
beginning that I'm not in a good place to be
exclusive or in any kind of relationship. He has
been absolutely amazing and I consider him one
of my best friends. However, he's always told me
that the one thing he has the biggest problem with
is people cheating on him. The other night I
brought it up and told me that I can do whatever I
want but if he ever finds out that I've done
anything with another guy (even going on dates),
he will never talk to me again. I told him I thought
that was incredibly controlling and he said that I
could do whatever I want I just need to either
show self restraint or accept the consequences of
I have no idea what to do now. I want this person
in my life but I feel trapped now.
Carolyn Hax: Wow, two in one chat.
"Never talk to you again"? Hello, you do not want to play in this guy's sandbox any more. If everything you say about establishing your non-exclusiveness is true, he's way, way out of line.
What the spork. Peanuts condescend to read another chat on your dime!;?
Carolyn Hax: Eh. No hard feelings. They've got to do something to amuse themselves when I'm pecking out "War and Peace" with a chopstick.
Hi, Carolyn... Do you have any advice for two people with a completely involuntary, shared, and unfortunate physical attraction to one another? We work for the same firm -- he is a married and a real jerk, I am single and not interested in him in any other way at all, but the physical attraction is palpable and very quirky. We are both really freaked by it.
Carolyn Hax: Ignore it. His real-jerkness will smother the flames eventually (I think I even talked about this in a column within the past week) and, when it does, you'll be SO glad you didn't act on it.
New Brunswick, N.J.:
I'm not sure what to do. I've moved far away for graduate school, and I'm miserable. It's my second year; I was told by everyone that the first year is terrible, so I sucked it up, and now -- well, it's still terrible.
I haven't met anyone. I'm in a small program, and though I like everyone there well enough, none of them share my outside interests. And I don't like getting drunk or using drugs, which cuts out another possibility.
I've tried everything. I've gone to more activities than I can count. I volunteer. I've seen a therapist, I've gone on medications (which make me very sick), I go to a gym. I'm absolutely miserable. I hate where I live; my entire life is spent planning for how often I can leave it.
I love what I study, I love doing it, and there's realistically only 3 other places I could study this, and I would be farther away, which I don't think would help. And I would not be happy with myself if I just quit (which I think about, regularly).
Do you have any suggestions? Do the peanuts? I'm desperate.
Carolyn Hax: Look into the three other possible programs. Just doing that should help somewhat, since it would introduce a measure of hope that doesn't involve trashing your hard work so far, and you'll also see whether another place could be more appealing, just on the surface.
Also, try talking to career counselors at your currect school. Maybe there's a way, if you don't like the three other schools, either, that you can quit without quitting--ie, see if there's a career field out there or another, less restrictive academic program where the work you've done so far would be of some use. There's persevering, and there's toruring yourself. You seem to be in the later stages of the latter.
...speaking of "just dating":
I love the concept of dating more than one person at once. Why comfine yourself when you're not sure if the person is right for you?
That being said, I think that I am very up front with dates about us both having the freedom to date around unless we've had the conversation around otherwise... by which I mean I say the above to my dates, repeatedly. However, I still get some flack from them - or worse, they don't beleive me and then get upset when they "find out" I'm dating other people (from me as well). What gives?
Carolyn Hax: All part of the filtering process. Hang in there.
After 2 years at an NPO, I think I'd like to be a copy editor. Seems like challenging work I'd be good at. I've asked the career/job chat people over and over again about how to break into the biz, but they, alas, have ignored me. I was a theatre major in college; will I feel like there is no creativity left in my life? Do I have to intern (because I don't want to intern again ever.) I need to be a big fish in a small pond. Should I just apply at a rural daily/weekly and learn the ropes as I go? I'm dying for a challenge and I'm organized and detail-oriented.
I know this isn't necessarily an advice question, but I know you're a nice person. Please help!
Carolyn Hax: Actually, I'm a real bitch, but I do know how to become a copy editor. If you have the skills--excellent grammar, an eye for detail, the ability to think clearly under pressure--then you can probably find someone willing to give you at least part-time work and train you on the job. People who like that kind of work and are well-suited to it are always in short supply. Often the pay reflects that, which is nice.
That is, though, in part, because it can be a thankless job, and the creative opportunities tend to go to the people who are writing the copy, vs. cleaning it up when they're finished. But you are at least part of a creative process, and headline writing is usually part of the job, which is creativity with time AND space pressure.
I'd inquire at all the smaller publications in the area, starting with the ones that cover the arts--your training could help you there. Even informational i-views with local big-paper copy-desk chiefs wouldn't hurt. You also might get a start where you are now, if your nonprofit (or one like it) has in-house publications that you can work on for a few months, to help you ease into it.
Okay, no more career advice, I promise.
So, Carolyn, I know this isn't a TV chat, but I really want to know -- what do you think happened on "Sex and the City" this week that is a great example of how not to talk to someone?
This week's episodes has sparked a LOT of interesting conversations for me so far with my friends. Everyone seems to have a different opinion of whether Carrie is making the right choice. The only thing people concur on is that Steve is awesome...
Carolyn Hax: Miranda should have pointed out to Carrie how miserable she seemed at dinner, how quiet and embarrassed by her friends, instead of going after The Russian--which only made Carrie defensive and angry.
What is so suffocating about not wanting one's dating partner to go out on dates with other people? Sounds pretty normal to me.
Carolyn Hax: When she has established upfront that she does -not- want to be exclusive? And when the consequences he threatens her with are dropping her and never speaking to her again? Sounds like your idea of normal needs revisiting.
For New Brunswick, N.J.:
What if the grad student didn't quit but took time off? Schools are pretty good about helping people with illnesses sit out for a while. She can go somewhere she is happy, even if it means crashing on a friend's couch for a month and watching soap operas because she can't afford a big adventure. If she gets a semester or two behind, it's no worse than knowing your work quality will eventually decline because you're miserable. Who knows? Maybe in time off a better opportunity would present itself or she could talk someone she likes into moving where she is.
Carolyn Hax: I don't know about luring someone to a hellish place, but great suggestion otherwise, thanks.
Falls Church, Va.:
I'm visiting my parents for the weekend and won't leave until Mon. My mom has already started talking about all of us going to church. I haven't gone in four years, and she knows this. She always tries to convince me to go whenever I visit, I don't, and then she gets upset. Any advice on how to avoid having the same argument for four years and how to get my mom to respect my decision not to go to church?
Carolyn Hax: Either suck it up and go, or sit down with your mom and ask nicely, "Mom, how can we avoid having the same argument for four years and, ideally, get you to respect my decision not to go to church?"
Embarrased in Virginia:
Aaaak. My Dad and his wife showed up unannouced this evening with a bouquet to say Happy Valentine's Day and I was not enthusiastic at all because I was embarassed that my house was so messy. I know I made them feel unwelcome and probably unappreciated, but gosh, it really was messy and I felt sooooo uncomfortable. I will apologize, but I wish I had been able to welcome them rather than feel so obviously awkward. Any suggestions? (and yes I am more of a clutterbug than not)
Carolyn Hax: Embrace the mess, I guess. You're not going to change, right? So who cares who sees it?
I suppose you could also keep a big blanket chest or lidded basket in your living room, so when you get dropped-in upon you can grab an armload or two of crap and dump it in there for a 30-second cleanup job.
And apologize now, not later, if you haven't already.
Hot mama or great white whale?:
Not that I don't believe it's possible, but how many guys actually find a very pregnant woman's body attractive? Beautiful? Sexy?
-- One week to go
Carolyn Hax: A lot, from my understanding. (A lot don't, too, but I think they're missing out.) It's the postpartum body that really seems to scare the horses.
Not what you need to hear right now, I suppose, but maybe it's better than hearing it from the mirror.
Good luck, and enjoy the whirlwind.
Plus, to talk about "betrayal" when those were the conditions up front? Who is this guy?
Carolyn Hax: Zackly.
I am engaged to an amazing man. Totally in love with my fiance! Have always had a strong connection with a co-worker which escalated about six months ago into a physical relationship. Do you believe it's possible to have these feelings towards another person but still be totally content with my decision to get married?
Carolyn Hax: No.
I have immense respect for your wisdom, in pretty much all your advice. And also for your tolerance, and sensitivity, and your general view that frank conversation often is a smart tactic. And I mean that very sincerely. Which is why I have a question about your response to the woman who wrote in about the insecure guy. It has struck me that, when it comes to insecure men (and maybe insecure women, too), that this seems to be one topic about which you are pretty condemning. We can't tell from her note how old he is, how much experience he has with women, what his family background is. (Mightn't these make a difference?) Yet your advice is to run, instead of to talk with him frankly about his behavior. You seem much more sensitive about other human frailties, like alcoholism, depression, indecisiveness, anxiety, etc. So is it possible you are being too quick to suggest she reject a relationship with someone who might otherwise be wonderful? And equating the word "insecure" with "controlling" and "immature" seems pretty harsh, too. Maybe a bit like equating depression with "lack of self control." Anyway, this question isn't intended to be argumentative, just curious: What if we rejected everyone who was insecure? That wouldn't leave much of the human race, would it?
Carolyn Hax: Thanks for the thoughtful criticism. Here's my take--we are all insecure to some degree about some thing or another. It's how we -handle- the insecurity that says so much about our characters--and so much about how I'm going to approach an insecurity question. If a person really believes it's okay essentially to blame other people for his insecurities, and therefore inflict them on other people--either by making demands or giving the silent treatment or, egad, stomping out of a date in progress--then that's a person I;m going to advise readers to avoid like the plague. I don't generally advise flight from the one who turns inward and tries to fix the problem.
I think I'm pretty consistent on that, in fact, through this and other frailties. People who accept responsibility, good; people who make others pay, bad.
Do you think there is any appropriate/effective way to suggest to someone that they get psychological help? Regardless of whether their problems seem like temporary, reasonable, life-based depression, or like long-term social and mental disorders, who is the proper person to make that suggestion? It seems like a family member or loved-one is too close to the situation to present an objective stance, but people outside the situation don't have enough knowledge or incentive.
Carolyn Hax: Actually, I think the family member/loved one is in the best position to intercede, and in fact that's why it's so nice to have fam members/loved ones. Just be judicious in the way you say it--maybe that the person seems to be suffering, but doesn't have to since X is commonly a sign of an illness that can be treated. Good luck.
For Washington, D.C.:
I'm curious how it seemed like a good idea to sleep with someone other than your finace.
Carolyn Hax: Wondered that meself. Though, of course, if the poster really believed it was okay, then she would have had no trouble telling the fiance. Right?
I recently found out that the girl I have gone out with a few times is an 18-year-old high school senior. She had led me to believe that she was a 20-year-old college student. I am 26. We both have a lot of fun going out together, and I we would like to continue seeing each other. But is it totally inappropriate for me to continue seeing someone eight years younger than me?
Carolyn Hax: High school senior, dude. You tell me.
Ack! It happened again. I got a compliment from a nice guy yesterday ("You're so smart.") and I couldn't just accept it. I said something along the lines of "I don't know about that." Why can't I just smile and say thanks?
Carolyn Hax: Because you were uncomfortable? It happens. Hardly a flogworthy failing, seems to me.
Met new guy and have been dating for three weeks. We usually see each other a couple times a week and have spent the last two Saturdays together. He has called every day since we met, but still hasn't asked me out for Valentines Day. I would love to spend Valentines with him, but I don't want to give him the impression that it's OK to make plans "last minute" on a special day.
Does it seem silly to tell him I already have plans if he asks on Thursday or Friday? Don't want to play games, but I know that it's important to set ground rules in beginning of a relationship. Please help!
Carolyn Hax: Agh, you used the R word! Agh, ptuh, ptuh.
If you don't want to see him tomorrow, make other plans. If you want to see him tomorrow, ask him out.
Do you want to go to her prom? Seriously, she already lied to you about her age, what else is she going to lie to you about?
Carolyn Hax: Prom! Genius. Thank you.
Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.:
Doing a Public Service:
Won't you please acknowlege for readers that women, as well as men, can be CONTROLLING. Seems that your column is full of this topic from a one-sided point of view. Let's equilibrate.
Carolyn Hax: I just answer the questions I get. When men ask about their manipulative girlfriends, I happily put the shoe on the other foot.
--Rancho Santa Shoe
Why are so many people trying to justify insecure guy's behavior? Since when does anyone have the right to tell someone else who they get to be friends with, who they get to hang out with, and what they do with their own time? Puh-lease. I'm a guy and no girl or guy or priest or mom or dad or dog or mouse is going to tell me who I'm going to be friends with. If you don't like who I hang with, buh-bye...
Carolyn Hax: Something else I wondered meself. Thanks.
I wrote a couple of weeks ago--I'm the one who is expecting, has a horrible job with horrible hours and fantazied about just walking away from my life, at the risk of hurting so many people. I just wanted to say thanks. I did two things. Got back in touch with my therapist and talked to my husband about how moody, emotional I feel and we agreed that I'd take at least a year off work. We both decided that having to scrimp a little was worth my mental and emotional health and welcoming our baby happily and joyously. Two small things and even though the work sit. hasn't changed yet, just knowing that it will gives me a much better frame of mind. To anyone else out there struggling with feeling overwhelmed, sad, depressed, I'm living proof that even the smallest change in the right direction can start a big change of improvment in your frame of mind. Thanks!
Carolyn Hax: I second the yay--and phew. You had us worried, you know.
Re: 18... or is she?:
Dude, she already lied once telling you she was 20. How do you know she's not 17, which means YOU go to jail.
Carolyn Hax: Another excellent point for the dude, thanks.
I am inherently distrustful of people who show a chronic inability to take compliments. It reminds me of an old saying: "To refuse praise is to seek praise twice." It smells vaguely of latent aggressiveness, somehow.
Carolyn Hax: Now that's a bit harsh. Granted your take is one possible explanation, but some people do just get embarrassed by praise and stammer out something stupid.
Responses to "you're so smart":
Some responses to "you're so smart" instead of "thank you"
1 - aw, shucks
2 - I know (with a smile, like you are kidding)
3 - why does everyone keep telling me that? I'm kidding
Carolyn Hax: Which reminds me--"You're so smart" is hardly, "Hey, nice shirt." It's sounds like an extremely difficult compliment to accept gracefully. A bit much, y'know?
My dear friend wants me to meet her married boyfriend, but I'm not interested because I don't want to support what I see as a bad decision on her part. So far I've avoided meeting him without letting my friend know why. Throughout their relationship, I've tried to be supportive and avoid judging my friend, while steering her towards looking at herself and the decisions she's making. She was abused as a child, and I suspect this unresolved issue has influenced her decision to date a married man.
Their relationship has lasted to the point where I can no longer plausibly avoid meeting him. I want to be the best friend possible because in the past she's such a good friend to me. What should I do?
Carolyn Hax: Take off one of your layers of kid gloves (you can leave the other four on) and say you'd love to meet any boyfriend of hers, except one who's already married.
Hi Carolyn. I was wondering if you could give your opinion on living with a significant other before marriage. I'm thinking about moving in with my boyfriend (we both have divoriced parents, so we don't want to rush anything). But I've been reading all of these articles lately about how couples who live together before getting engaged have weaker unions, etc.
A HA, that's what we need -- a stronger union. I'm callin the teamsters.
Carolyn Hax: While Liz is in negotiations--I will give my opinion, but short form, since I've given this one to death.
Do not shack up as a test to see if you want to get married. I believe a strong component to the stats about shack-up marriages failing is the dread, horror and resignation a lot of people feel when they realize they're not entirely happy but can't face the idea of breaking up, and all its logistical nightmares. My mail alone says there are a lot of people out there who have doubts about marriage but don't have the will to resist. Ugh.
Do shack up if this is the guy and you're the one for him and you both believe, with good reason, that you'd both be perfectly happy to be shacked up ever after. If your views on your future are 1. as clear as you can reasonably hope for and 2. solidly aligned, then mazel tov.
BTW, the articles are valuable only if you can see the causes they discuss, not just the effects, and then see through any denial you may be in to apply them objectively to your situation.
Please help me. I am falling in love with my doctor. He is single and lately he has told me too much about himself. Given the doctor patient relationship/boundaries I have just been giving cold responses to his signals. But deep down I admire the man. So what should I do?
Lost in thought.
Carolyn Hax: Get another doctor, tell him so, and ask him out?
A man confesses to his wife on three different occasions that he's cheated on her with the same woman and the third time he cheated he got the other woman pregnant. What's your opinion about this guy? What about his wife?
Carolyn Hax: Sad and sadder. I hope she has enough self worth left to get out and start over.
Hi, Carolyn. Can you tell me to just snap out of it? I have been moody, snappy and pissy because of the whole V-day (another one on my own) and am trying to fill up myself with food. Tell me to stop. Thank you.
Carolyn Hax: Good lord, it's just a big commercial cash grab. Either beat it--make calls, right now, to find a way to start giving your time and energy regularly to a place that could really use it, like an animal shelter or senior center or children's hospital--or join it, by going to a store and buying cornball cards for your friends, parents, siblings, nieces, nephews, everyone at the local senior center. I hear there's a great selection.
Re: married boyfriend:
I was in a similar situation last year, and I simply told my friend the truth: that I wasn't comfortable with meeting him, but I would always be there for her no matter what. She understood, we are still friends, and I was able to still be there for her when the relationship (inevitably) came to an end.
Carolyn Hax: Well done, thanks.
Can you sing me a song real quick-like? I have the horrible Quizno's sub commercial song stuck in my head. It's been there since about 9 this morning. Slow, but effective, torture!;
Carolyn Hax: Oh, sit right back
And you'll hear a tale,
A tale of a fateful trip ...
After reading your column and discussions for a few years now, I've just come across the first bit of advice that I really disagree with.
A doctor who makes passes at his patients sounds like he's abusing the doctor-patient relationship, and scares me. What am I missing?
Carolyn Hax: Eek--I didn't see it as a pass. Did anyone else?
Thank you, BTW. I'm not sure I agree with me that much.
From girl with insecure guy:
Thanks for your advice. Thought you might want to know what happened... He ultimately decided that I am too untrustworthy for a relationship. (Me, of all people, someone who is known by her friends for being very good and honest.) He said it is because I have close male friends, which include ex's of mine. He said he doesn't have close female friends and doesn't think it is proper anyway for someone with a girlfriend. I told him I wished him well in finding a well-rounded girl who has absolutely no male friends in her life.
How ya like them apples?
Carolyn Hax: Like to throw them back into the bin. What a maroon. But there's a girl out there for him ... unfortunately, right now she's busy telling her fiance that his best female friend isn't invited to the wedding because he made out with her 15 years ago in front of her locker in junior high.
ANYway ... gotta go. Thanks everybody, and type to you next Friday.
Pass on the Passes:
For the record, you're not the only one
who didn't think the doctor was making a
pass at his patient. Telling someone too
much about yourself can be boring,
inappropriate and a time waster, but it's
not generally a pass.
But she did also mention giving the cold
shoulder to his "signals" -- so maybe
there was more there, but it didn't really
sound like it from the tone of the post.
Carolyn Hax: Thanks. If the patient suspects it was a pass, she should pass. If he was just being chatty, she should get a new doc and give it a try. Howzat.