Tell Me About It
Friday, July 9, 2004; 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 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.
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.
Oh, and P.S. -- Welcome back and congrats, Carolyn! You've been missed.
So a milestone anniversary is coming up for my parents this summer, and my siblings and I would like to plan something special. The problem is my parents barely speak to each other and when they do, they fight, which sort of rules out us getting them anything just for themselves. We are even hesitant to draw attention to the special day, since they are clearly not excited about it. Any pointers on what we should do for them that won't rock the boat?
...how does one forgive... I mean REALLY forgive, and not just SAY you're forgiving someone and then have it STILL bother you?
2. Consider what you have to do if you can't forgive--sever the tie--and see if that's not better for everyone than insincere assurances + grudge-holding.
3. If forgiveness is, to your mind, the only option, try to see the transgression from the eyes of the transgressor. Most of the time, people who screw up are just being human in exactly the same ways you are also human. Look for something, anything you can relate to.
4. And if you try and try and still find nothing but a person you don't like doing things you can't abide, see 2.
What exactly classifies as a rebound relationship? Not too long ago I got out of a 5+ year relationship. Not soon after, I met a great guy who I like -- a LOT. After being part of a not-so-great relationship, it feels really good to be in something that's fun and easy with a guy who I think is just wonderful. Friends are telling me that I'm rebounding, but disagree. I'm genuinely happy and have real feelings for him that make me think he's what I've been missing. We're both on that the same long-term wavelength and everything is great - except for the skepticism of my friends. So what gives? Am I bound to dump this guy because it's a rebound? I don't know what it means to have a rebound, I guess, so I'm confused.
Problem with dismissing all relationships like yours as rebounds is that sometimes, there aren't big emotions after a breakup; sometimes you've seen it coming and you're fine with it and you're in as good a position to date someone new as anyone else is. Even better, if the breakup helped you see what you do want.
So tell your friends you'll make a deal: You'll promise to refrain from doing anything rash if they'll promise to put a sock in it.
On a related note, how do you prove yourself worthy of forgiveness, when you know that you screwed up and accept responsibility for what you did?
Good to have you back! I just broke up with my girlfriend and I'm sad, depressed, and confused. I'm wondering if I did the right thing. There were things that were wrong with the relationship, but I keep remembering the good times and wonder if I'll ever be able to have those times with someone else? Perhaps I could've overlooked the bad parts in the relationship... or perhaps they weren't as bad as I may have thought? Anyway, are these feelings normal?
Yes they're normal feelings. But think about the most miserable couple you know, and I'll bet everything in my pocket that they're together because they're both secretly thinking, "I just need to overlook the bad parts of this relationship because if I leave I'll never feel X again."
Instead of going back to your girlfriend, start doing whatever it is you have to do to make your own company preferable to the company of someone difficult. Then, you'll never wonder again whether someone is good for you or not. Really.
I find that a lot of people believe that an apology means automatic forgiveness. Is this the right thing to assume?
But some hurts do take a little more repair--e.g., the victim needs time to be sure the offender intends to keep certain promises--so there's nothing wrong with a less-than-instant forgiveness. I do think, though, the burden is on you to say explicitly that you need more time. Otherwise, you get into the gray blob of re-punishing someone who has already admitted, regretted, sorried, etc.
(P.S. I married my so-called "rebound" person after we dated for four years.)
So. By your P.S. did you mean that you were a happy ending, or still afraid of being alone four years later?
I've never submitted a question, but have read the archives voraciously. I hope you know that your advice reaches much farther than those who receive your direct responses. Your perspective has impacted me tremendously, and thanks for that.
My question: I committed what may be a common mistake in that I married someone who I respect and love greatly, but who I am not in love with and probably never have been. We were friends first, and in my frustration with the process of dating the wrong people, getting hurt, etc., I took what I thought was the safer route and began a romantic relationship with a friend who I knew had always been interested in me. We dated for several years, and now have been married for several years. I have always had doubts (which, in retrospect, I should have heeded), but now know for sure that our relationship will not ever be satisfying to me (no intimacy/affection/attraction). I know what I need to do, but have no idea how to bring myself to do it. The prospect of leaving is emotionally and logistically overwhelming to me. When I think of that on top of dealing with the everyday stresses of career, life, etc, I feel paralyzed. I find myself making excuses to delay the inevitable, and I don't feel good about myself for doing so. Any advice or words of wisdom? Thanks in advance.
Good timing with the whole rebound thread, though I appreciate that being held up as an example is probably not your idea of a lunch break.
Advice: Talk to your husband. Out with it. Force out the first words, and the rest will follow. You will panic, cry, feel overwhelmed, all those things, but you will also feel relief from your burden like only those with a secret can feel. Also know that this unspoken burden of yours is intensifying whatever life or career stresses you feel.
Who knows. Maybe being able to speak of this with your husband will create an intimacy between you that you never thought possible (which could even trigger the affection and attraction). Definitely, though, your -not- speaking of it is alone enough to prevent your ever being able to achieve intimacy with him.
Good luck. Check back in when you do it, if you're up to it.
You wrote "...since all an offender can really do is apologize."
Not true. Sometimes an offender can apologize and also make restitution of some sort. If someone has taken something from or somehow messed up someone else's life, the offender can apologize and ask for forgiveness, but the offender should also do whatever might be possible to make things right again. Example: If you steal $50 from someone, it's not enough to apologize and expect forgiveness, you should also make every attempt to repay.
I wrote to you a while ago about my mom's alcoholism--she and my father live across the country, and neither my brother nor my sister live near either. After several interventions, an inpatient program, an outpatient program, and lots of therapy -- she's still binging regularly, losing days upon days where she won't answer the phone or get out of bed (but yay, still drives, apparently). You had recommended Al-Anon. I went. And hated it.
It works for some people, I'm sure but -- the emphasis on Al-Anon is on not giving advice. And everyone else there lives with their alcoholic family member, or nearby, and I just couldn't relate. And again, I'll say it works for some people but... damn it just all felt so whiny.
I don't know what to do, or how to relate, when I don't actually live with (or even near, geographically) my alcoholic parent. And I really want to hear some "this worked, this doesn't" kind of advice from others in a similar situation, just to give me some ideas of how to hold a phone conversation, much less see her or not see her. Although a step by step manual would be nice, I understand why there isn't one. Just some ideas that I can accept or reject as I deem appropriate in how to deal.
The kicker is we have a big family vacation coming up, where everyone is going to be converging in my hometown this August, and I just feel a knot in the pit of my stomach. Is there any resources out there? Self-help books? Anything?
But if you're just shopping for a different answer--different from, "Your mom drinks and there's nothing you can do about it"--then you're going to be disappointed. It may be that you need to accept that about her, and approach all the things you mentioned with that in mind. How, for example, do you hold a phone conversation with her? You call, you find out whether she's able to communicate, and when she isn't, you hang up. "Mom, I won't talk to you when you're like this." Click.
As for seeing her or not seeing her, it's a matter both of what you hope to accomplish--nothing beyond seeing her, I hope, since you can't make her stop drinking--and what you can stand.
If you aren't ready to see her this way, maybe individual counseling is the way to go, with someone experienced at handling children of alcoholics. It is an entire, established field.
I say this having been on both sides of it. I know how scary it is to have to divulge something that may not place you in the best of lights. However, so long as we hold on the illusion of a life I think we are doomed to live shallow unfulfilled lives. I personally believe that is why there are so many break-ups/ divorces etc. All of us are conditioned to want an image of a relationship based on who we are, our families, our cultures etc. Maybe to varying degrees, we are not so capable of freeing ourselves of those illusions. I don't know just a thought.
But thank you for "illusion of a life." It's something Ive been railing against in this job since I can remember but I feel like, Idunno, a short kid with a pinata. Maybe I just needed the phrase? Anyway. Nice argument for speaking up.