Please note: Hax's chat archive has moved to a new page here.
Tell Me About It
Friday, July 29, 2005; 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 Bæfers 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.
Rockville, Md.: I'm sure you've gotten about 19 billion questions on this, but: in Gene's chat on Tuesday, your name came up as someone who thinks having a mom (parent?) stay home is best (your column from July 4, 1999). Would you say your opinion has changed since having kids, or your reasons why people work versus stay home?
Carolyn Hax: Yeah, some of you guys tipped me off about that, thanks. Jean misrepresented my position when he used stay-at-home mom instead of stay-at-home parent, but he got the rest of it right--for 1999. My opinion has definitely evolved since then, but not necessarily since having kids. I'd get into exactly what has changed and why, buuuuut ... I already did so for an anthology of essays that's not due out till spring, and if I scoop it here, that wouldn't be a great way to score points with the editor, Leslie Morgan Steiner, or the publisher.
washingtonpost.com: Gene's Update.
Carolyn Hax: Sorry for the stalling--I was trying to find the anthology title on some of the paperwork, because I've drawn a complete blank.
Ann Arbor, Mich.: This is a follow-up to an issue in last week's chat, about how parents' marital problems can affect their children's subsequent relationships and marriages. One poster wrote that her boyfriend's parents had a terrible relationship and ugly divorce. She said that, as a result, her boyfriend "responds to every little disagreement or difference of opinion as though it signals the beginning of the end." She also noted that since her own parents had a good relationship, she was better able to ride out the bad times.
This made me chuckle, because that phrase - "responds to every little disagreement or difference of opinion as though it signals the beginning of the end" - fits me to a T. When trouble rears its head in my own relationships, I am notoriously bad at maintaining my perspective and reminding myself of the good things, and find myself in a panic and ready to bail out at the slightest disappointment. What made me laugh is the fact that I've often suspected that this was because my own parents had (and still have, after nearly 60 years) such a wonderful and loving relationship that it created wildly unrealistic expectations on my part, and made me unwilling to "settle" for less than the perfect union I thought they had. Thankfully, my wonderful therapist has been able to help me see, understand and begin to conquer this way of thinking.
Anyway, I guess my point is that people find their "gestalt moments" in very different places, don't they?
Carolyn Hax: Indeed. Thanks for the reminder. I think watching any relationship, good or bad, and learning from it accounts for only about half an education. The rest of it comes when you learn not just to apply what you've seen and learned to your own life, but actually to adapt it. You are different from your parents, and anyone you're with will be different too, and the trick is to make sure your desires and expectations are rooted in the actual people involved and not some perceived or imagined standard.
If that makes any sense. Not something I should be formulating on the fly.
Saying Goodbye in Boston: Okay I'm not sure if I need advice or I just want to vent, but I don't know what to do so I guess I want advice. I have to go to a going-away party for a guy I used to date this weekend. Our courtship was sweet but brief and ended awkwardly when he lost someone close to him. Long story short, I wanted to be there for him and he didn't want me there anymore, so eventually I backed off. So while there was never any animosity between us, there was never any closure either. Despite my attempts to reach out and stay friends, since then he avoids me as much as possible, its like we've become strangers. Which would be ok except for the fact that we are in the same grad program and have a lot of the same friends, so seeing him at social functions is always hard. And even though I've spent the past year trying hard NOT to think about him, this week all of the lingering feelings I had suppressed are resurfacing. On one hand I'm relieved that he's leaving because that means that I'll no longer have to avoid him avoiding me, and I'll no longer have to pretend that I don't care. But there's also a part of me that's sad, because any chance of reconciliation will be gone once and for all. So on one hand, there is so much that was left unsaid, but I know that getting this stuff off of my chest will probably serve no purpose. But a simple, "bye, good luck!" seems inadequate given our history. Any advice on how to handle this gracefully? I'm torn between drowning my sorrows in the rum punch or staying stone cold sober and leaving early so I don't do anything stupid...
Carolyn Hax: No need for extremes, of rum or anything else. "I'll always be sad and a little perplexed that we became strangers." It's kind, it's true, it's not a question that he's forced to answer.
Langley, Va.: Hi Carolyn, I really enjoy reading your advice. You were very fair to Wednesday's high schooler who wanted to switch schools, but I still felt badly for him/her. I was lucky enough to have parents who allowed me to leave home early to attend one of North Carolina's specialized boarding high schools.
The parents' reasoning of wanting to have him/her at home for two years fell a little short for me. My dad said the same thing almost 15 years ago when I was a high school sophomore, that he wasn't done raising me, and my mother told him that if I hadn't taken in their values and training by age 16, I never would, and two years wouldn't have made a difference.
I'd advise Raleigh to ask her parents to clarify their reasoning, and maybe start a productive discussion on their fears about having their child attend. Have they visited the school? That made all the difference in the world to my parents. They were impressed with the facility and the faculty they met. The school made all the difference in the world as to my later schooling, and even later career, something I could have held off on until college, but it sure was nice to have the edge when I got there.
Carolyn Hax: Thank you. I know I could have advised the student to ask one of the school's guidance counselors to talk to the parents, or to try your good suggestion, or to reopen the issue with the parents to see if it was a money thing or a fear-of-the-new thing or a bias-against-the-arts thing or whatever. But I had three (I think) reasons for not going that route. 1. There was a lot we weren't told. Did the parents know and approve of the audition, or was it a stealth undertaking? Had the issue been opened and reopened, or did the parents rule and close the subject? 2. If I took the letter at face value, the parents' objection was to the idea of a boarding school. That is certainly something to which a reasonable, fair, loving parent could object. I wasn't going to send a distressed kid back to fight what could very well have been a sound decision. 3. As you may have noticed over the years, I do not send teenagers back to argue calls with the ump, unless it's clear there's room for negotiation. That is not my place, for one. It's also not good for the kids. Best to accept when the decision isn't theirs to make, and find a constructive way to cope.
I felt bad for the student, too, which to me seemed all the more reason not to stir up any false hopes.
Baltimore, Md.: In your response to the student who wished to attend a state boarding school for the arts, I believe you minimized the impact on his life losing this opportunity could have, and dismissed his parents' responsibilities to assist him in achieving all he can in his life. Who knows, maybe his parents want him to stay home for selfish reasons - keeping the marriage intact, babysitting siblings, they will miss him, etc. It wasn't clear from the letter why the parents were saying no. Also, he obviously showed initiative in applying and getting accepted to what is a very competitive environment. Why shouldn't someone be allowed to succeed.
Twice in my educational life my parents thwarted my advancement - once by refusing to allow me to skip a grade and once by refusing to allow me to attend a boarding school. These things changed my life. Am I still a very successful, happy woman with a long list of achievements? Yes, but maybe it would have been easier, and I would have achieved more, earlier, had these decisions not been made the way they were, and my best interests were given more weight than my parents' convenience.
Carolyn Hoax: You are a very successful, happy woman with a long list of achievements who is still PO'd at her parents. Let it go already. You could have flamed out at boarding school and still be struggling back to your feet. Your whole argument is based on a "maybe": MAYBE it would have been easier, and I would have achieved more, earlier, had these decisions not been made the way they were." Yeah, and maybe not. And maybe, when you were an adolescent, your parents really did know you better than you knew yourself and were trying to look after your best interests. Maybe they blew it. Whatever. Next.
Richmond, Va.: After 2 and a half years, the honeymoon period between my girlfriend and I has ended.
We have not been getting along at all for the past couple months. We live together and pretty much share everything. We argue over the most petty things. She has been pressuring me about marriage but I'm not even sure if I want to be with her anymore let alone marry her. I feel trapped.
Carolyn Hax: "We argue over the most petty things. You have been pressuring me about marriage but I'm not even sure if I want to be with you anymore given how much we fight. I feel trapped."
Then you will probably fight some more, but this time it'll be about what's really going on instead of the way you wash the cast iron frying pan. It'll be worth it. Good luck.
Washington, D.C.: Hi Carolyn,
My fiance, who I adore beyond words, is constantly putting down my male friends, the idea of bachelor parties, and so on... This really hurts me yet I have a hard to expressing that in a way that has made any difference. She had an abusive Dad who is now out of the picture, and I can't help but this has something to do with her mistrust of men. We've dated for almost 3 years though, and now we are 3 months before our wedding and these issues are becoming more and more prevalent. Part of the problem I think is one two many boys nights recently, and a couple of bachelor parties back to back. I can understand that. But how can I get her to understand how much it hurts me when she puts down the people I care about the most, with the exception of her and family?
Carolyn Hax: Same issue, deeper into the relationship:
"I adore you beyond words, but you are constantly putting down my male friends, the idea of bachelor parties, and so on ... This really hurts me. I think the problem may be that I've gone on one too many boys nights recently, and a couple of bachelor parties back-to-back. I can understand that. But how can I get you to understand how much it hurts me when you put down the people I care about the most?" (You guys are saving me time today, I can just cut and paste.)
Meaning, you feel these things, so SAY them. Adoring beyond words should not be literal. You don't want to be in a marriage without trusting that you can say how you feel without having the whole roof cave in.
What you don't feel, per se, is that this comes from her abusive-male issues. That's your speculation about what she's feeling, and that's not constructive at all. Your job is to 1. let her know how you feel and then 2. let her speak for herself and then 3. LISTEN.
Good luck, part doo.
It takes one to know one: OK everybody knows that those of us involved in the performing arts come from very dysfunctional families. Couple of more years in that environment could win the kid an Oscar down the road. I'm just sayin.
Carolyn Hax: See, now that I should have said. Thanks!
Confused, Md.: Carolyn, I don't have anyone to talk to so I need to ask you.
My wife of almost 3 years told me a few days ago that she is not happy. Part of it has to do with her feeling that she was put on this earth to raise a family, something we have not been successful at. We have tried fertility treatments with no luck. She said she basically wants to "be alone."
Last night she told me she wants to try marriage counseling. At the same time she told me that she doesn't want me to call her at work, she doesn't want to know where I am when I'm not at work. Basically, she wants to see if she will be able to "live" without me in her life, a trial separation.
I agreed to abide by her requests but it left me thinking. By doing so, I feel it will cause us to drift apart, making things worse than they are. I also feel that by not abiding by her requests, that will push her further away from me.
I love my wife. She is the reason I wake up in the morning. I don't want to lose her but I don't want to push her away. What should I do?
Carolyn Hax: I'm sorry. I suggest first that you follow through on the marriage counseling, even if you end up keeping the appointment alone. And, ask if she'd please talk to a counselor herself, or her regular doctor, to get screened for depression. There's no string attached to a visit like that. She won't have to undertake any treatment she doesn't want; you're asking only that she run her current state of mind by a trained professional.
I think you're going to have to respect her request for the "separation," but you can let her know that you're doing so because you love her and you'll do whatever it takes to help her through this.
That said, keep an eye on her. Get informed about depression, specifically as it relates to infertility (the infertility specialists you were seeing should be able to direct you to good resources). To the extent that you can, try to see that she doesn't isolate herself to the point where no one will notice if she's in real trouble.
Wish there were more I could do.
Sweltering, Fla.: You said in an earlier response:
"...the trick is to make sure your desires and expectations are rooted in the actual people involved and not some perceived or imagined standard."
I agree with this, and this has been my philosophy for awhile, and to go a bit further, this means that as we go through life and meet/date/marry someone our expectations will need to be tweaked. My friends disagree with this, saying nobody should settle. I'm not saying one should settle, or majorly change their desires/expectations to fit their current partner, but it is unrealistic to think that anyone could meet all my preset desires/expectations. Do you agree?
Carolyn Hax: I agree, and to make the argument to your friends, I would say only that they need to leave room to be surprised by someone, and especially to surprise themselves. People are too complicated to satisfy perfectly some pre-determined list of requirements, unless those requirements are as broad as, say, treating themselves and others with respect, handling pressure well, having an open mind.
Arlington, Va.: Hi Carolyn -- submitting early; I hope you can help. My younger brother is in a funk over a failed relationship (believe me, it is for the best) and I am at a loss on how to help him. He's feeling lonely although he's got lots of friends. I think he misses the companionship of having a girlfriend. Work is also running him ragged. Can you give me some great words of wisdom or pieces of advice? Thanks.
Carolyn Hax: Relationships fail, jobs suck, stuff happens, people get in funks. Unless he's in danger of harming himself, the process of getting back out of the funk is usually better than never having gotten into one in the first place.
That said, there is a place for people who care about a funk-ee, and that is to let him know that you hate watching him struggle and that if you could assume even a small part of his burden for him you would. Whether you use words to say this, or warm cookies, or a well-timed offer to take him to a movie, that's up to him and to you and to your relationship. But the rest is really up to him.
Confused: My husband was recently diagnosed with an STD. I don't understand how this can come up now when we've been together eight years and I'm very confident that he's been faithful to me, and I have never had an STD myself. Is there a good resource to get information on this?
Carolyn Hax: Two Web sites, from the American Social Health Association (www.ashastd.org) and the CDC (www.cdc.gov/std/default.htm), are excellent sources of information, as is the CDC's hot line, 1-800-342-2437. Short answer, many of these infections can present themselves well after the fact.
Toronto, Ontario: I'm so sorry to hear about what Confused, MD and his wife are going through. We've had infertility issues for five years now, no pregnancy yet. It has been so rough emotionally and even physically what with all those hormones wreaking havoc with my body. I've found infertility support groups to be a help. I think most cities have them, and there are some on-line as well. I hope they can both find some peace in this really difficult and emotionally draining situation.
Carolyn Hax: Great suggestion, thank you.
Lost: Carolyn, how do you build back someone's trust, when the deservingly took it from you?; After years of being a dog and cheating on my girlfriend, she found out and broke up with me. Eventually she was willing to try to work on things, slowly. I feel like I've grown so much that I don't recognize the dog (also a--) I used to be. She sees it too, but has told me she questions whether this is a temporary or permanent improvement. I hate myself for how bad I hurt her, but I have no clue how to show her that. I've told her such, but I can see in her eyes that she doesn't know how to react
Carolyn Hax: There's no way to show it other than to be true to yourself, and then to her, and then to be patient. For her to believe you she's either going to have to see something in you that makes your conversion make sense to her, or observe you over more time than you could conceivably fake a new leaf.
She has a part in this, too, albeit secondary. If it starts to emerge that no amount of time will suffice, and that she will always be holding back a part of herself or punishing you in some way, then she needs to be admit that and free you to start over with someone else.
re: Confused Md.: Confused said that they have tried infertility treatments to have kids, but why is this the only option? Have they thought about adoption? There are lots of kids out there who need homes.
Carolyn Hax: You're right, but that's something she already knows, that every infertile couple already knows, and therefore doesn't need to hear from even the best-intentioned outsider. She will need to come around to it on her own.
Washington, D.C. : (online only, please!)
Carolyn, you're always urging us to talk to the significant other about what is bothering us. What do I do with a spouse who just won't talk? When I bring up issues, either he gives me a cold stare until I give up and walk away, or he says "I can't talk about this right now, let me think about it and we'll talk later." (Repeated ad infinitum) He agreed to try counseling, but this normally obsessively punctual guy was 30 minutes late for the 45-minute session and refused to go back. What can I do? The cold stare is the worst. I go off by myself and cry. I think he knows I do that, but he never mentions it, natch.
Carolyn Hax: There's an upcoming column in which the questioner calls something "textbook passive-aggressive"--and your husband is SO much better than the alternate example I provide of textbook passive-aggressive. Wow.
Which is why I strongly recommend that you either go back to that therapist, or choose another if you weren't happy (like you could tell in those 45 anxious minutes), and talk over strategies for dealing with a noncommunicative, passive-aggressive spouse. That's the one advantage to having a clear problem; there's clear precedent from which to draw some suggestions.
Twin Cities, Minn.: I know this is totally out of context but one of my fiancee's explanations for cheating on me while I was in grad school was "I thought I could get away with it." We're trying to work it out since we have 3 years and a lot invested, but that total disregard of me and even just my health and safety really burns. Am I missing a big sign here that I'm investing a lot more into this than he is? Or can someone really be sorry and start treating the relationship as it should?
Carolyn Hax: Of course "people" can be sorry, but I'm not sure this guy is. Apparently he's honest, which I guess is something, but honesty about being dishonest probably isn't what you had in mind when you were setting up your list of heartfelt-but-not-too-specific list of expectations from a mate.
Or: Years, shmears. Save it if you want to save it, period. No other incentive means squat.
Dallas, Tex.: I love your column!
I told my boyfriend when we first started dating that I hated guns. I grudgingly accepted the fact that he has 2 (army issued, he's a reservist recently back from Iraq), and that he safely keeps them and safely trains and practices with them, even though I still hate the idea. But now he's planning to get his concealed handgun license.
I know it's most likely a difference in cultures (TX is pretty much its own country, if you've never been here before) but I cannot understand the apparent need for him to roam around the city with a loaded handgun in his glove box. I told him that I really think that might be a deal-breaker for me; he thinks I'm being irrational.
Am I? Do I just need to trust that he's smart and safety conscious and start believing that whole "guns don't kill people" stuff? Or do I have a point that I've been open-minded up to this point and that he needs to respect my strong feelings about this? Any thoughts would be appreciated!
Carolyn Hax: You need to respect -your- strong feelings on this. Everything else is optional.
Ivory Tower: Carolyn: I have slowly come to the horrifying realization that I'm a snob. I tend to think lesser of those who have not achieved as high a professional situation as I have (administrative staff, as opposed to management staff). I don't treat administrative people in any kind of haughty way, it's more insidious--kind of like they're not as smart. I honestly didn't realize I was like this until someone called me on it recently. I denied it, but have been thinking about it for some time, and now realize it's true. I'm disgusted with myself, but how do I end this habit of feeling/thinking about and treating people this way?
Carolyn Hax: I'd be very surprised, after a genuine session of self-loathing, if you ever thought this way again. Write back if you do, I'm very curious now.
Charlottesville, Va.: Hi!
I promise I'm not just repeating the plot of a Meg Ryan movie, but I just accidentally answered a friend's personal ad online because I didn't know it was he. I figured it out later and fessed up, but now I'm interested for real. Anything to be done aside from waiting to see how it turns out? Thanks!
Carolyn Hax: Saying, "Let's go out anyway"?
St. Mary's City, Md.: Short but complicated question: How can I stop feeling afraid and unworthy when anyone gets angry at me?
Carolyn Hax: Does it work if you think about times you've been angry at others, while also never questioning their worth? Simplistic exercise but sometimes a little perspective-flip is all it takes.
The longer fix is one you might want to try with a pro, and that is to figure out when, how and why you were taught to believe that relationships were so fragile that they couldn't withstand the pressure even of routine conflict.
Arlington, Va.: Hey there - If a past friend (you occasionally see - kind of like going to church only on holidays) has a roommate you see often, but don't like, do you treat that person like anyone else you don't like, or do you give that person a "pass" because of her roommate?
Carolyn Hax: How do you treat people you don't like? Courtesy from arm's length seems to suffice for all.
For Ivory Tower: How to end the habit: start a new habit of treating every person you encounter with dignity and respect. It's not hard. Say good morning. Look people in the eye. Listen to what they have to say. Return their greetings and pleasantries. If context permits, engage in conversation, and be interested in them (if at first you can't BE interested, ACT interested and eventually you will find yourself meaning it). Realize that every human being in the world sleeps, wakes, eats, dresses, makes a living, returns home, and repeats the cycle - you're not any more special than anyone else, and a lot of people work harder than you do.
Carolyn Hax: They should teach this in school. Thanks.
New York, N.Y.: Carolyn: Online only, please. Ten months ago, I confided some highly personal information to one of my best friends. She told someone who told someone... you get the idea. I said to her, "Remember that bit of info I confided in you last September? Well, it got back to So-and-So. How did that happen?" She attempted to blame a third party. I pointed out that I didn't confide in that third party, I had confided in HER. Then she got really angry, and said, "Well, then don't tell me anything!" We had not spoken since. Last week, she called me up, saying she missed me and wants to get together for lunch sometime. I told her I was cool with that, but now I'm not so sure. I've missed her, too, but don't think I could ever confide anything in her again. She never apologized for betraying my confidence, and told me not to tell her anything. So what the heck do we talk about when we get together for lunch?
Sad and Mad
Carolyn Hax: The weather, until she's had sufficient opportunity to apologize for her indiscretion. And if she hasn't apologized by then, you say, "I've missed you, too, but it really bothers me that you never apologized for betraying my confidence."
It's Cut and Paste Day.
Manassas Park, Va.: Carolyn,
I'm in the National Guard. The Army doesn't issue weapons that soldiers are permitted to keep at home, even if they just came back from the war. The Texan's guns are his, not the military's, and I think there's more to the story...
Carolyn Hax: Way beyond my ken, so I'll just post this and duck. Thanks.
Sunken cost: A lot of people do it the justification of -- I have invested X number of years, so we should save the relationship. But it really makes sense because the time frame ahead of you is much longer. Yes, the writer went out for her fiance for 3 years but is it worth the next 50 years of headache?;
Of course it's easy for me to type on the outside, but is it so tough to see when its me/you,etc/
Carolyn Hax: Yeah, but so easy to see when you spell it out that way. Works for jobs and family conflicts and ill-advised grad schooling and debt and any other items that chafe. Thanks.
Help: How do you handle someone that threatens suicide? My younger brother lives across the country and is struggling. He has no job to speak of, although he has a degree, has no money and claims to be severely depressed. He has a therapist he sees several times a week. I seem to be the only person in our family that he will talk to and calls me and cries and says he thinks about killing himself several times a week. The other side of this is that these calls usually come when he is in dire financial straits and in the past I have responded by bailing him out because I fear for his life. I am unable to support him financially (I am raising two kids) and my mother, who has a very limited fixed income has taken on this task. He feels entitled to taking what little money she has because of his 'rough childhood' that he feels owed for and I seem to be unable to call him on his incredible selfishness because I live in fear that if I do, he will do something drastic (i.e. suicide) and I will feel responsible.
FWIW, it is impossible to have a rational conversation with him. He is extremely defensive and hostile to any question of his motives...
Carolyn Hax: Please talk to a professional about how to handle this kind of manipulation. www.psych.org is a good place to start. You do not need to bear this burden alone and untrained, not should you.
Washington, D.C.: So Baltimore could have achieved more, quicker, faster, easier if her parents had sent her to boarding school? When did life become a race? If you're feeling like you can never catch up because of something that happened when you were 16, then, yeah, you lost the race. Sorry.
Carolyn Hax: Probably b/c shoulder-chips aren't aerodynamic. Thanks.
Baltimore, Md.: Hi Carolyn,
I was in a short relationship with a man who fell fast and hard for me. He treated me well, but when I realized that he was unstable, dishonest, couldn't set boundaries, and "couldn't live without me", I got out.
I was a little scared of him, and I made the mistake of the "it's me, not you" excuse to break up. It seemed easier then telling him, "you're crazy and I can't be with you".
I tried to be friendly with him, but finally I had to tell him to stop contacting me because he wouldn't let go. He didn't take that well, and started showing up in places that he knew I would be, emailing, and calling me constantly. I responded only twice, only to tell him to leave me alone. I have not responded to him since.
That was at the beginning of May, and he's started contacting me again. I have ignored all of his efforts, but he doesn't seem to get the message. And I don't want to respond to tell him AGAIN to go away.
Normally you tell us not to send mixed messages, which I'm not doing. Am I doing the right thing by ignoring him? And should I be concerned that this will escalate into something else?
Carolyn Hax: Please read "The Gift of Fear." If you get to a library or bookstore today, you can be well through it by the next unsettling contact.
And, yes, ignoring him is considered the safest thing to do.
And keep notes of his actions.
And call the local police if you feel threatened.
Old Town Alexandria, Va.: I've been dating this girl for a few weeks and we get along great. We're both recently out of college and working in the city. We talk a lot and go out a lot. However, when it comes to being physical she seems distant. Whether my arm around her or in holding hands, it's as if she feels uncomfortable being at all physical. Should I discuss the issue with her, or just let the relationship progress naturally and hope things resolve themselves?
Carolyn Hax: A few weeks is pretty early for a big-D discussion, given the subject, since physical hesitation can have roots in things that people don't like to talk about unless/until there's a sense of safety and trust. But it would be very appropriate, when you sense she's uncomfortable, for you to say, "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable." If she wants, she can treat that as an easy opening to say something. And if she doesn't, then yes to letting the relationship progress naturally, albeit at a slightly slower pace physically.
State of Confusion: I'm a (female) contractor working at a very male-intensive company.
I am beginning to wonder if a couple of men at my work are leading up to asking me out. They tend to ask about my weekends and one has asked what I like to do for fun. I like them. Fine, except for a whole host of reasons that really aren't important, I'm not available for dating but not in any obvious way such as a wedding band. I'd be happy to spend time with them outside work because I enjoy our chats, and I'm not SURE that they're proposing to ask me out, just wondering, and I've been right before when I've wondered. I'd make an overture myself if I were sure that it would not be taken as a date.
Short version: is there any way to express that I'd be happy to do something with either or both outside work, but it's not a date? Without having to spell that out?
Carolyn Hax: I can't believe I'm going to type this, but I think you should stay away from outside stuff with these guys. Not unless it's way blazing 20-20 clear that they find you completely without merit as a romantic interest.
Unrealistic expectations: Dear Carolyn,
I don't think I have unreal expectations about what I want in a romantic partner - nor more so than with friends (I have lots of casual friends but only a few very close ones that have developed over lots of time). That being said, I rarely meet guys I want to date but meet a couple of people every year that I want to become closer friends with. Is it normal to meet less people with romantic potential as you get older (early 30's, for example)? Or might I be fooling myself about the expectations? (I'll add - intelligence, humor, willingness to try new things are things I'm a fan of in anyone).
Carolyn Hax: I'd be stunned if you found you were meeting more romantic prospects as you got older, assuming you didn't have a dramatic change of life circumstances along the way somewhere, like taking an ill-fated three-hour tour and getting washed up on the Island of Mature Unmarried Men.
Most people meet fewer people overall, of all kinds, as they get older--again, barring changes of circumstance, like joining a club or something. Part of it is the natural settling-down of people's social lives, but also it's a natural settling-down of one's tastes. Are you really going to work to find romantic potential in someone humorless and closed-minded? You might have given it a shot when you were 22, thinking you didn't want to be closed-minded yourself, but age gives you permission to say "ugh" and never look back.
So, yes, it's normal.
Blazingly clear?: Usually when you give advice, you also give your rationale behind it, which is how I learn the most from you and am able to apply it to my life.
So...that said...why did you suggest to this particular woman that she stay away from these guys?
Thanks for the insight...always...
Carolyn Hax: Thank you. Here's the rationale: She has to work there, and it's a predominantly male environment, and there's an excellent chance she's getting hit on (especially since these men are, flip side, not meeting a lot of women at work). So there seems to be much to lose (in exchange for little gain) in exploring the possibility of platonic "dates" with her co-workers. This is a job, be professional and then go home. Again, unless she's given the safest of alternatives, like, the boss invites the whole department to dinner or a colleague invites her to join him and his wife/girlfriend and a few other people on a hike this weekend.
Realistic Expectations?: So I'm a thirty-something single guy -- and I keep meeting more people I'm interested in. (Although to date, none appear to have been particularly interested in me.) Getting older not only gives you the right to say "ugh", but also to realize that someone you might have said "ugh" to at 22 is now just what you're looking for.
Carolyn Hax: Great and true, thanks. Unless you're panicking, in which case, scary and true, thanks.
San Francisco, Calif.: I know there's no answer for this but it's still an irresistible question: I'm dating someone who is 5 months out of a 20 year marriage. Everyone tells me that I am the transition woman so I'd better not expect too much. We see each other often, real dates, great conversations, great sex, things seem right where they should be. I know that relationships need time to evolve and neither one of us is pushing anything so why is the conventional wisdom so negative about the long-term success rate of us "re-bounders".
Carolyn Hax: Conventionally, the first relationship out of a breakup is an emotional blammo that burns out fast. But that doesn't mean this is one of those, just that there's more of a chance than usual that it might be.
I do wish Everyone would learn to butt out, and I don't just mean your Everyones.
But then what would we talk about.
Till 2:31! Eek. Bye. Thanks, and type to you all next week. And let me know if Ghene talks shneesh about me again. Thanks.
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