Tell Me About It

Carolyn Hax
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 12, 2006; 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.


Washington, D.C.: Carolyn:

I know you have space limitations for the print column and all, so you can't address every possible issue, and that you really can't dabble in speculation, but I think you missed something in today's column. A 21 year old college student who would rather stay around campus on weekends to have "dinner with her aunt or uncle" than travel to visit her boyfriend? That ranks on a level with "my term paper's late because my grandmother died" in the pantheon of college student excuses. Dude, she has another boyfriend at school. Ask the question, expect a non-answer, then move on. As much as it hurts, it's the only real-world resolution left.

Carolyn Hax: Wish it were that simple. The boyfriend and the family all live near each other, and she's traveling to see them, and taking the boyfriend with her to the family events. Some of that may have been lost to editing.

It could still be a hint. She wouldn't be the first to try a passive breakup, or even one better--a subconscious passive breakup. Also known as a breakup by high defenses, or a breakup by lame excuses.


Midwest: I told my boyfriend to leave my house the other night. Every comment out of his mouth was negative, and I didn't feel like hanging around someone that was being so mean. He was angry at me because earlier in the evening I told him that I don't think we should hang out as much. We spend time together nearly every day. And I need some alone time, which I rarely get since I'm a single mom of a pre-schooler. Anyways, back to him being negative. First it was the hot fudge sundae was too small. And then he started calling a friend of mine a moron -- a friend he had just met that night. So that's when I said leave.

So the boyfriend calls me yesterday and was appalled that I asked him to leave. He said that I should never just tell someone to leave -- is that what I would do if we got married, just ask him to leave? He thinks that we should have talked about it. Honestly, I'm not the best communicator. I tend to clam up, and he just wants to talk, talk, talk. So it was easier for me to ask him to leave. I didn't want to argue. And I didn't want to be hanging out with someone who couldn't say one nice thing. Was I wrong to kick him out? I have a feeling that he wouldn't have been so negative if I had been more open with him earlier in the evening and explained more about my feelings. I truly HATE talking about how I feel.

Carolyn Hax: There's a lot here, so I'll try to get to all of it but may miss some things. I'm also going to send it in takes so there isn't a bunch of dead air.

1. You were not wrong to kick him out. You may have been wrong in the way you phrased it--"May I please cut this short? I really need to be alone tonight," is a lot easier to swallow than, "Leave my house"--or even, "Please leave my house." But even married couples have to be able to ask for, and grant each other, some time alone. If you were married, you'd do exactly the same thing, but you'd just excuse yourself and go to another room or take a bath or go to bed or something.


Carolyn Hax: 2. Yes, your boyfriend is entitled to a discussion with you about what's going on--but it's unfair to you and even counterproductive for him to insist upon having that discussion when he wants it but when clearly you're in no state to have it. You guys have different ways of communicating, and that's going to lead to some conflicts, but there are ways to resolve conflicts that accommodate both of your styles.

For example, using this situation:

You: "I need to be alone tonight."

He: "First you tell me you want to see less of me, and now you're throwing me out without explanation."

You: "I will explain, but not tonight, please; I need the alone time to sort things out."

He: Has no choice. "Okay, then. I'll talk to you tomorrow."

And tomorrow, you give him the discussion he wants.


Carolyn Hax: What that allows is for both of you ultimately to get what you need by giving the other something. He gives you your space, and you use that space to summon the will to communicate with him.

Should it be this hard? You know my bias--I don't think so. But I also don't think it's this hard when two different people know, love and accept each other's differences and consciously choose to make the extra effort here and there, both to understand and accommodate the other. The difficulties you two are having, I think, stem from the fact that neither of you has reached the point where you're willing to work a little harder to understand and accommodate. He's pushing you to talk when you're right in the midst of a major introvert moment. YOu're refusing to talk right after you drop an emotional bomb on his lap.


Carolyn Hax: So, I think you do need to talk about exactly that--how, if this is going to work, you both need to recognize and respect the other's nature, and whether that's even possible or desirable for either of you.

Hope that covers it.


Oxford, Miss.: With regard to "Midwest" I'd just like to note that from the other person's perspective, her behavior can seem pretty erratic and unnerving. That is, when a person who "HATES" to talk about their feelings and normally doesn't do so suddenly says they need some space and then tells you to leave the house, it feels like a bomb has dropped.

I think you're right to say that the boyfriend shouldn't expect to talk about it all on his terms, but neither do I think the girlfriend should expect him to just shrug and take it when she comes out from emotional hiding and demands something out of the blue that is strictly what she wants.

Carolyn Hax: You didn't wait for the whole thing! But if I didn't cover this, pls write back.


Toronto, Ontario, Canada: IS the guy in today's column attending these family events with his "sweetie"? Was this what was lost in editing?

In that case, IMHO, she IS spending her time with him. In a totally appropriate way. If he's as lame around her relatives as he was in that question, I hope she gets this feedback about him from them!

Carolyn Hax: He IS attending with her, and therefore of course she IS spending time with him, but I don't agree it's "totally appropriate." For a couple of their ages to spend virtually all their together time with other people of her choosing, I think it's a sign of something.

A sign of what, I don't think we can know without hearing both sides of the story. But what we do know is that he hasn't raised the issue with her yet, and nevertheless has plotted out her motives, frailties, future actions and certain accomplices entirely in his own mind. That is not the way to handle whatever problem they're having, and that's not the way to treat one's mate with respect.


Washington, D.C.: I find it funny that the guy in today's column wants his girl friend to "find an identity outside of her family" by spending the entire weekend with him. Maybe she needs to break-up with him and find her own identity with... herself. Just a thought.

Carolyn Hax: But wasn't that thought one of the things that I did manage to fit into the column?


For Midwest: One thing you didn't address was the other underlying issue. It seems that what set her off was his negativity and hyper-criticism, first of a sundae (that he had bought or that she had made?) and second of one of her friends. That sounds like a subject for another conversation (assuming the relationship survives the first one).

Carolyn Hax: Right right, thanks. It sounds like that was his way of expressing anger at the way she was withdrawing from him, which of course is as bad a communication tactic as the withrawal that got him so angry in the first place.


Northeast for Midwest: Carolyn--for Midwest, I know she said her boyfriend prefers to talk things out, but the fact the he complained about the size of an ice cream sundae (that she made since they were home?) and called her friend a moron -- sounds a little on the edges of controlling/abusive. Am I being too sensitive?

Carolyn Hax: Not necessarily. Mishandled anger (see above) is a major feeder to controlling/abusive behavior. The issue of alone time will tell her whether that's at work here. If he refuses to respect her need for it and grant it without a guilt trip, then she needs to get out (and still work on her hangups, on her own behalf).


In need of support: A good friend of mine from college is marrying an AWFUL woman this weekend. My husband is in the wedding, so I have to attend a $30K bash (did you know the shrimp cost $300 a platter? I did, 'cause I was only told, like, 4,000 times). It's gonna take every fiber of my being to not run out of the church screaming. Got any last minute words of advice... mostly on how to keep my head from exploding?

Carolyn Hax: Thirds on shrimp.


Anywhere: My husband of 16 years is being treated for clinical depression. He was going to a therapist for a while then stopped, (but is still on meds) but we had a fight and I told him he needed to go back to the therapist. So he did, and now he's set up an appointment for me to go by myself, and then we'll go together.

I've never been in therapy; I don't know if you can say that this is doing it, I'm going so the therapist can get to know me and stuff. How do I prepare? So far I've made a list of examples of things I don't like about my husband's behavior, which I suppose isn't the most productive thing to do. Any ideas?

Carolyn Hax: Don't prepare, except to be honest. Sounds like this will be a great opportunity to clean out the emotional garage of 16 years' worth of accumulated stuff.


Carolyn, I think you're sending a mixed message: "...But what we do know is that he hasn't raised the issue with her yet, and nevertheless has plotted out her motives, frailties, future actions and certain accomplices entirely in his own mind. That is not the way to handle whatever problem they're having, and that's not the way to treat one's mate with respect."

Maybe he did raise the issue with her, and every time he did, she told him she didn't want to talk about it then, that she needed some alone time and they could talk about it later. Which, if it happened over a period of time, could lead him to feel that his feelings were being discounted and subjugated to her feelings.

Carolyn, you can't have someone in a relationship being the decider all the time about when they're going to talk about what, which is pretty much the power you're handing to the woman who doesn't like to talk about her feelings (or listen to her boyfriend vent about his feelings).

If it's all about treating one's mate with respect, then the woman who doesn't like to talk about her feelings or listen to her mate vent about his is not treating her mate with respect and she needs to be called on it. Part of a respectful relationship is realizing that sometimes you have to talk about things (and LISTEN!) when the other person wants to have the talk, not at some time in the future when you want to talk about it.

"I don't want to discuss it now. We'll talk about it tomorrow." is not, IMO, a respectful way to deal with a loved one.

Carolyn Hax: Actually--and clearly by my answers so far--I disagree with this. No, no one partner should have the power to determine when all discussions will happen. Doing it your way--having the discussion Right Away, when she doesn't want to--gives the power to him. Putting it off and putting it off and putting it off gives the power to her.

If the college woman were putting today's column guy off, the answer for him would be to break up with her. But she's not putting it off. "If I confronted her more directly about it," he says. He may have dropped some hints, but he hasn't yet spoken up. I advised him to speak up and hear what she has to say.

The way I laid it out in the chat answer you cite--for her to state clearly when she's too emotional to talk, and to follow through on a promise to talk at the first opportunity after she has calmed down (i.e., tomorrow) shares the power. He gives a little (accepting they can't talk NOW), she gives a little (accepting she can't just refuse to talk). I think my message has been consistent.


Negative Guy: I think calling him controlling/abusive is way over the line. Let's consider another option -- maybe he was having a really bad day or week and that leaked over into his feelings about everything -- ice cream, the moron friend he doesn't like (lets face it, it would be abnormal for us to like ALL of our significant other's friends), the jerk who cut him off in traffic, his alarm not going off, etc., etc. While it does not justify taking out your feelings on another, it can explain why someone might be overreacting to something as simple as the size of a sundae.

Carolyn Hax: Breathe ... breathe ... it was raised merely as something to watch for, not as a certainty. I even suggested the way a person could find out "whether" this was the case.


Bethesda, Md.: For --- Please, please also go with an OPEN MIND about your husband, yourself, and your relationship. The fact that you would even think of "preparing" by compiling a list of everything you don't like about your husband-when you haven't even met the therapist yet-is scary. Sounds like you may need to consider changing some of your behaviors, too.

Carolyn Hax: Rarin'.


A request: Can you put a general moratorium on answering questions where anyone uses the term "sweetie" to describe another adult?

Pretty, pretty please?

Carolyn Hax: No way! The guy laid himself bare in seven letters. If I could, I'd publish only questions from people who capture themselves so concisely.

Besides, you didn't want the rest of that muffin anyway.


TGINWCAD: T.G.I.NitpickWithCarolynsAdviceDay.

Carolyn Hax: Actually, I see it as delve-deeper-into-a-subject day. THIS is nitpicking:


Sorry Carolyn: You didn't quite say it was ironic that he wanted her to be independent of her family in favor being not independent with him. You said she should be independent of his expectations.

Just a little nitpicking here.

Carolyn Hax: Finishing my second plate of shrimp, and heading for thirds.


Double Standardsville, USA: Hi Carolyn!

So, I need your practical advice on how to get over a double standard I have. It really, really bugs me that my boyfriend talks to his friend about our fights and issues. I know you've said before that it's completely normal and healthy for your SO to vent to his friends after a fight, but I HATE knowing that his friend knows those personal kinds of details about our relationship.

Granted, I don't know exactly what they talk about or how much my SO tells him...and I trust him enough to know he wouldn't embarrass me. And we don't even fight that often, so I guess when we DO, I'm sensitive about it. I just worry that when I see that friend, he's thinking judgemental thoughts about me because he's only gotten a one-sided version of what happened.

But I do the same thing and vent to MY friends, so why can't I just accept that it's normal and probably healthier for my SO to do the same? Anything I can do to keep my paranoia/frustration in check?


Carolyn Hax: Yes, although I'm not sure how practical I can get. I think this is about your self-image, not about your boyfriend. Obviously we all want to be liked, but there are important distinctions in the degree of that want. In the healthy middle, people care a lot about the opinions of those they love and/or respect most--but they can live with it if this or that friend-of-a-friend doesn't like them. Whatever.

For some people on a more extreme end, it crosses over into a need--a need to have everyone's approval in order to feel good about themselves. It sounds like you're somewhere toward that end. You feel you need to control your image so that only the flattering stuff is visible ...

Because you have your own doubts that you'd be likable if they saw the rest? Does this sound like you? If so, the general answer would be to make some peace with the rest--the lumps, the frailties, the stupid things you say when you're fighting. It's a process, not a switch-flipping, but one way to start on it is to take a look around you and see how many people are really great while also being really flawed. And how managing those flaws with a little style--e.g., being sensitive to other people instead of unleashing one's flaws on the world without apology--is really the difference between likable poeple and un-. It's not about being seen in a perfect light at all times.


Carolyn Hax: And if that's not how you're feeling, I hope that was at least useful to somebody ... that was a long way to go on a hunch.


Wish I were that prolific: "Carolyn Hax: No way! The guy laid himself bare in seven letters."

Was I the only one who at first read that to mean he'd written in seven times and you finally gave in and answered him?

Carolyn Hax: Eek. In case you weren't the only one, here's my humble reminder that e-mailing me seven times is NOT the way to get an answer. (Though submitting to subsequent chats is fine for a few weeks, since I don't actually see the majority of the questions I get during a live session.)


Limbo: I'm a seeing a new woman, but I'm still attracted to and in touch with my ex. I can't forget all the reasons why I think we can't work it out, but I can't stop thinking about how great and hot she is. Why can't I just forget about her? Is it just that we went out for so many years and she knows me so well? She tries to talk me sometimes about how it seems like there's unresolved feelings between us, but I'd rather just put all that stuff behind us. It didn't work, we tried, I want to move on.

Carolyn Hax: Sounds like the putting-that-stuff-behind-us isn't working too well, either. It might be in your best interest to try to talk to your ex--or to stop being in touch for a while, if you really feel you have talked it all out--and, either way, in the new woman's best interest for you to be single until you're a little less preoccupied by a great and hot other woman.


Open mind: In the wife's defense, she might just not have been clear about what she meant by preparing a list of behaviors she doesn't like. That could also mean specific examples of behaviors that show how her husband's depression manifests itself.

If that's the case, there's nothing wrong with it. The therapist will want to know things like that because it provides real examples of the depression's effects. I had to do this recently in a family session for a relative and ahead-of-time preparing was both helpful and necessary in order to include everything I wanted to in the short session.

On the other hand, if she really did mean a list of faults, I drop my defense of her.

Carolyn Hax: Well put, thanks.


Re: Bare in Seven Letters: I just want to know where Seven Letters is, so I can go oogle the guy who laid himself bare there. Sounds like fun.

Carolyn Hax: It's just south of Seven Figures, the real estate market formerly known as Washington, D.C.


Washington, D.C.: My friend has decided to break it off with the woman he was seeing because he's not physically attracted to her. He thinks she's overweight. He wants to be honest with her and tell her that's why. I say that will just crush her and serves no useful purpose, but he contends I'm telling him to lie. What should he do?

Carolyn Hax: Learn the difference between lying and tact. She absolutely does not need to hear the specifics of why he's dumping her, be it her weight or her conversation style or education level or anything else into which a person's ego is normally invested. He can be perfectly honest and still say he likes her a lot but doesn't feel a spark.


Midwest: Hi Carolyn,

Got a concern from a previous chat regarding checking others email.

My husband and I both know each other's passwords. I exercise rigid control in NOT going into his, mainly because I'm not sure I can stop myself from checking it out once I start. However, I'm now trying to find middle ground, because he's job hunting and occasionally asks me to check his personal e-mail account when he's hoping for a response from people and he won't do it from his job. I'm not especially thrilled to be doing this for him, which he knows, but I don't feel I can refuse to do this for him. I guess he's trusting me. So I guess I've just answered my own issue here. He's trusting me and I have to have the same faith in me that he does. Thanks for the answer Carolyn!

Carolyn Hax: Okay, everyone. Try taking issue with my advice on -this- one.


Forgiveness or not: Dear Carolyn,

This story goes back 18 years. My older sister got married and had children straight out of high school. When I went to see the baby for the first time, I made the stupid comment that I was glad I did not have children, and hoped never to get pregnant. I realize now it was insensitive. My sister still remembers it and has told a some family members about it. I have apologized and am sincerely sorry for the remark.

Fast forward to the present. I am married and going through fertility treatments. It does not look like biological children will be possible for me. At the last family dinner, my mother asked about what was going on and I told them. My sister then mentioned that it looked like I had gotten my wish. I was so stunned I couldn't even speak. So many years have passed. All I feel is anger that she could hold this against me for so long. But there is she is, happily ensconced with husband and kids, not knowing how hard I have worked to prepare for kids, and how bitterly disappointed I am. It just seems so unfair.

Carolyn Hax: It is unfair. I am really sorry.

I think you need--for YOU--to raise this with your sister and explain how devastating her comment was, given that your original remark was not only the work of a teenager, but also regretted and retracted. For her to come out with this at all at her age, much less while you're processing news that's devastating on its own, is inexcusable.


Mixed Msgs Mix Me Up: Carolyn,

Am I nuts to find this confusing? My old boyfriend has been raving about the new woman in his life -- and giving me compliments in his mind, in telling me how like our relationship this new one is. And he's specifically said that "that was a compliment" when I've been quiet in response. This from the guy who left me saying he no longer wanted to spend time with me.

It took me a long time to get over this guy, and trying to figure out a friendship we can both handle has been a challenge (I moved away, so we talk on the phone every few months or so). I'm happy for him to be happy, and no longer want him back (clear on that one, with hindsight), but this sort of thing is still confusing.

What can I do for myself to help clarify things as they come up? And what, if anything, does one say to someone trying to give a compliment that leaves me feeling sad and confused? The way he's been talking, he may be proposing soon and I just don't want to hear about it in the context of how she's great in the ways I am. I know it's another indicator of why things between us wouldn't've worked in the long run, why does it still send me in circles and leave me speechless?


Carolyn Hax: Because you're still taking his calls. Friendships after a breakup can be great, but the ones that send you in circles and leave you speechless are entirely something else: Unnecessary. Spare yourself the agony and let the voice mail pick up next time. If you feel you've been close enough to warrant an explanation, then that's fine, too. (Just don't expect the on-second-thought-let's-not-keep-in-touch conversation to be satisfying.)


Seattle, Wash.: We've been talking about "cutting off contact" in the past few chats, and I wanted to throw this in. I was once accused of doing this, when actually, I had numerous conversations with my then-boyfriend, first, about why it wasn't working for me, and then when things didn't change, why I was breaking up with him. He just didn't think my reasons were valid. I finally cut off contact, and I was accused of doing so "with no warning." I would encourage those who think their exes cut off contact without warning to really think about whether or not there was zero warning, or if there were actually things they just ignored.

Carolyn Hax: Good point to add to the thread, thanks.


Controlville, USA: Not a question, but a comment...

A good friend of mine is "trying not to spend so much" because her boyfriend knows her online banking password and "checks her balance every day." None of our other friends were alarmed by this...who ARE these people?

Carolyn Hax: Under-alarmed.


Boston, Mass.: Over the last year or so, I've caused friends and family considerable distress by refusing to acknowledge that my eating issues had gotten out of control. It wasn't until my boss raised the issue that I finally accepted the problem, but I've since been going to therapy, doctors, etc, and am now medically stable. Now a few of my (well-intentioned) have asking my weight, grilling me about what I've eaten each day, and even telling me what to order in restaurants (including flagging down the server to change my order on my behalf) or insisting that I take seconds at meals. How do I decide where to draw the line? I feel like I don't have the right to object, given the worry I've caused in the past, but lately I'm feeling more like a child (I'm 24) and less like a peer when when I get together with friends.

Carolyn Hax: You -do- have a right to object. This is your health. And since they are, however misguidedly, only trying to safeguard that health, you and they would both benefit from a frank and well-informed conversation about what is and isn't helpful to your recovery.

By well-informed I mean you should sit down with your doctors and/or therapist and develop a set of basic guidelines for your friends to follow, including things to look for, questions to ask, appropriate settings in which to ask them, people they can call with their own questions and concerns, and finally suggestions and settings that need to be strictly off-limits (like flagging down the server and changing your order). The professionals treating you know that treating any tenacious condition--eating disorders, addictions, depression--will necessarily involve friends and family, who can either help or hurt immensely depending on how well-intentioned AND informed they are.


Alexandria, Va.: I'm getting married next week, and while I'm thrilled about getting married, I'm getting really irritated with the wedding.

None of our friends are coming. And really, not a lot of our family members. We're nice people, honestly, but if we lose any more of our "yes" responses, we'll be below a 50 percent "yes" rate.

It's been me feeling this the most (as the person in charge of the response cards), but now my fiance has had two sets of friends change their responses to "no" and he feels pretty bad, too.

I don't really need advice, maybe just some comforting words?

Carolyn Hax: If you can get past keeping score and holding things against the "no" people, it will be a great story when you're ready to tell it. Really. It could even make the wedding better--the few, the proud, the guests at your wedding. Imagine the camaraderie.

I can see how this would be a terrible month for acceptances. My calendar is full and I'm a virtual shut-in.


On the Clock: My boyfriend has no concept of time. Lovely in all other ways. I was raised to never leave people waiting for you. He often lets hours go by past when he said he'd be home -- without calling.

We've talked and it's really truly an issue of him not thinking about the time. He has no idea what time it is. Yes, I've bought him a watch. He doesn't look at it. It's a problem for him in other areas -- not just with me.

My feelings get hurt if he doesn't call -- or I start to worry something has happened to him. I feel like a nag or as if I don't trust him if I have to call and say "are you really coming home when you said you would or should I make my own plans?"

I don't want to treat him like a child but in the spirit of knowing and adapting to your partner's differences -- what's the best thing to do here? He has said he wouldn't mind if I called to check in. Maybe I just have to get over the idea that it's condescending to do so. Where's the middle ground?

Carolyn Hax: Treat him like a child. It'll calm all the bees in your head, and he said he didn't mind. Try it at least--it's the simplest solution to a problem that actually might not have any other solution. If it turns out that he resents being babied, or that you resent having to call all the time (a la the people who resent having to ask a less-housework-aware mate to do the dishes, fold the laundry, etc.; it can start to feel like an extra part-time job), then that'll tell you your differences aren't reconcilable and it's time to break up.


The Virtual Confessional: Going on eight months ago I broke up with a woman in what probably the most craptastic move I've ever made in my life. I was mad at the time about a situation that I completely misunderstood and was, well, quite frankly, cruel about it. Honestly, I don't think contacting her and apologizing would help her (though it might make me feel better), and we don't have any friends in common. I still have this confused mush of residual anger and attraction, and ongoing guilt going on inside and I don't know what to. I'd start saying Hail Mary's or going to confession, but I'm an atheist, so I'm running out of options.

Carolyn Hax: You're right to consider her feelings here in addition to yours, but why wouldn't it help her? If I were on the receiving end of what turned out to be someone's apogee of craptasm, I might appreciate an "I'm sorry."


Sterling, Va.: I just need to vent. My husband has a chronic illness that has been acting up the past six months. So I've been taking on more housework and trying to keep up at my job and be a good caregiver to him and I'm just tired. I've tried so hard to keep up a postiive attitude for him because the stress of this illness is really getting to him. He is usually so active so this is hard for him. But lately I've been selfish and just been thinking how much this sucks for me. I'm 25. I'm wore out, I'm worried as heck about the future if he doesn't get well. I have more in common with my grandma caring for my sick grandpa than my friends my own age. Everyone is focusing on bringing his spirits up but meanwhile I'm breaking under all of this. So am I just a selfish jerk here? Gosh I just want someone to say I'm sorry for all of this... Thanks I'll go beat my head on my desk now and realize I should just be happy for what I have.

Carolyn Hax: And when you're through banging your head, start planning a few days off from caregiving. It is well-established that the people who care for ill loved ones are themselves susceptible to illness, mainly depression but also whatever else can come with fatigue and therefore a suppressed immune system. The only way you can care for your husband properly is to work some kind of relief into your schedule.

The "everyone" you mention is a great place to start. Ask them if they'd be willing to pitch in to give you a weekend to visit ... your mommy, or and old roommate, or someone who knew you when. And, for the long term, also see if you can't assign some chores or delegate some of the care--say, have someone come over every Wednesday night so you can take yourself to a movie or whatever.

I can't promise this without knowing the illness, but often there are nonprofit organizations that provide support to people with particular illnesses (the ALS Association I mention so often is one of them), AND specifically provide relief to exhausted caregivers.


Anonymous: Dear Carolyn,

How can you tell if someone is in a relationship with you just to avoid being alone? I don't mind some periods of alone time myself, but some people have a pathological fear of it. Thanks.

Carolyn Hax: You can usually tell after a while when someone is more into the idea of you than into you. Not really "getting" your quirks, not really trying, stuff like that.


For Alexandria, Va.: This is a busy time of year -- there are tons of graduations going on next weekend. Maybe some guests already had other events they were obligated to attend.

The people who are closest to you will be there. Have fun, and congratulations!

Carolyn Hax: Graduations, reunions, other weddings, Memorial Day getaways--much pent-up celebrating after many cold months.


Shrimp plate: Pretend you're a sea lion. Mostly just sit there, but every now and then do a neat trick (like smiling and pretending you're really excited to be there) and you get some shrimp in return!

Carolyn Hax: If the exploding-head wedding guest barks and claps at the $300 shrimp plate, I want video.

Nowhere to go from here, so I guess that has to be it. Thanks everybody, and see ya next Friday.


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