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Carolyn Hax
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 22, 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 an ex-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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Washington, D.C.: Carolyn,

A month ago I met an amazing woman and since then we've been spending a lot of time together. Soon after we met, she got an offer for her "dream job" on the other side of the country. She leaves town in a month. Any advice on how to proceed and possibly make a bi-coastal relationship work?

Thank you.

Carolyn Hax: You're going to think I've taken one too many blows to the forehead, but my advice is: Don't try. The odds are overwhelming anyway that something so new won't survive the long-distance leap, but they'll become impossible if you try to force it based on a notion that you have to hang onto this or else. Let the amazingness drive it wherever it's going to go.

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Is anyone actuually working?: I have ONE THING I need to accomplish, and then I can leave the office.

Instead, I am playing with the bendy monkeys that my assistant got me. They have tiny magnets in their paws, so they stick to my desk and each other.

I'm 32 and the director of a big team. Thank heaven most people are out today, or they would see me playing with my bendy monkeys and I'd never live it down.

Can I just go home?

Carolyn Hax: I think your assistant earned the rest of the day off, if s/he's still there with you.

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Family Bed - Online Only Please: Hi Carolyn,

If anyone had told me while I was pregnant that I would want a "family bed" after my baby was born, I would have told them they were nuts. I furnished and decorated a wonderful nursery for my baby but can't seem to want to put him in there. It's been four months now and the family bed seems wonderful for me and baby. He is so excited to go to sleep each night and nursing (especially since I had a C-section and couldn't get up out of bed easily) has been so easy. He sleeps through the night and I have not had any sleep deprivation which so many new parents suffer from. My problem is that my husband wants the baby to stop sleeping with us. I know his reasons are valid but I just can't help feeling that I don't want this yet. He's still so little and I love having him with us. Is four months too long to have baby in bed with us? Our sex life has definitely suffered a little because of this. How long is too long to have baby in bed with us?

Carolyn Hax: When your sex life suffers for it.

I'm going to say outright that I'm not going to touch the debate over the family bed--to summarize, it's either Nature's Way or it's a grave risk to small babies, depending on whom you consult (our pediatrician advised strongly against it)--and address only the relationship question here, since I'm not qualified to take on any other aspects of it. To that end, please don't flood me with glowing opinions or horror stories about the practice, thanks.

So--either start your baby's transition to the crib, or start making other accommodations to keep your marriage happy through the family-bed stage. A strong marriage, and the happy home that comes with it, is one of the greatest, if not the greatest, gifts parents can give their kid(s), and I'm not sure how you can have one without both you and your husband showing each other that you're listening and taking each other's wellbeing into account with every decision. That means you hear him out regardless, and ask him to hear you out, and come to a compromise decision together.

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Just Curious...:

May I put this out there? I am just curious. If a woman could choose between a handsome guy with lots of money but with a lousy personality who may not treat her kindly or a less-than-average looking guy who does not have much money but has a great personality and would treat her kindly, which would she choose?

You would think this would be a no-brainer but I asked recently on a list-serv and half the responses actually chose the rich guy! I was stunned!

Carolyn Hax: Which is why "you can't please everyone" is one of the top 5 cliches to live by. Roughly half the people you meet will probably horrify you on some level.

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Not Trying: Actually, I think that advice applies to more than the bi-coastal relationship. Not to say you shouldn't put thought and caring and love into your relationship, but the idea of "trying" to make something work is antithetical, in some ways, to the growth of relationship. It smacks too much of control - necessary for driving a car, not so great when you end up trying to "drive" a relationship.

Okay, maybe I'm just in a Zen mood today.

Carolyn Hax: Blame the Bendy Monkeys.

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Buck up: I could use a little buck up message. I'm not seeing anyone, although I've been going out on dates, but there is someone whom I am actually smitten with (you know it's the only word that fits). I've known her for two years, there has never been anything romantic between us, but more and more I find that I miss her before we even part. There are some possible reasons not to do this, age difference (don't worry we're both adults, well at least by age), no clear sign of reciprocity, but I'm feeling as though I've got to say that I'd like to date her, if only to finally know for sure that she's not interested. Still, it seems like such a loaded moment that I have to admit its daunting. It's much easier to flirt with someone you don't know or that you already know and are comfortable not being with. Ugh, and of course I wouldn't want to ruin her holidays by making her feel awkward. THere see, I'm rationalizing. Can you help me stop spinning.

Carolyn Hax: Most people are in a full spin then they ask- or get asked out, so why fight it? Try and, if you must, fail. If you;re gracious about it then chances are she'll be. That is, if you even need to be. Good luck. Report back.

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The 'Burgh: After 2.5 painful years of divorce court hell, I receive the Decree today. At what point in tonight's celebration should I worry that I've gone over-the-top?

Carolyn Hax: When you're in Vegas saying "I do."

Bring a friend whom you trust to have good judgment, drink a glass of water after every drink-drink, and make fun plans for tomorrow morning so you have incentive not to ruin them tonight. Why celebrate pain relief with more pain?

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Vacation for Two: (Online only please)

Hi Carolyn,

Thank you for your chats - Love them.

We're newlyweds and don't have much money to spend on vacations. Every year, once or twice, we go away with my inlaws and the whole family - and they pick up the tab. The places we travel to are wonderful, and I cannot complain because they are such generous people. But when is enough enough? How do I hint to my husband that I would like to save my vacation time for the two of us(we go on extended vacations with them that burn right through my total vacation/ personal time for the year)...I'm not saying we have to go to Paris, but something small and intimate would be nice just for the two of us. I feel that when I mention the topic he gets offended. I feel like I'm not grateful - please help.

Carolyn Hax: This has nothing to do with gratitude, and when he lays that on you, you need to say explicitly: "This has nothing to do with gratitude." It's about a married couple spending some vacation time alone, together.

If he won't or can't see this, then, sure, we can introduce the gratitude issue--in a form he might not appreciate. You are grateful for the money they lavish on you--it is indeed generous--but you are not grateful for the control this vacation precedent has come to exert on your time and your marriage. And I do mean control; if you don't want it and can't refuse it, it stops being a gift.

You want a modest vacation alone. He married you, not his family. Your marriage is about the happiness of both parties (you and he, not you and his family--in case there's a need to clarify). You have more than accommodated him.

If he throws it in your face that your going to Paris is hardly suffering on his behalf, then I think there's a sympathy breach large enough to warrant marriage counseling.

Of course, I'm presenting it to you this way, but you might not want your dukes up this high (unless it occurs naturally).

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Re: "family bed": Might it be a risk that the husband starts resenting the baby (consciously or sub-) if the baby shares the bed much longer? Potential for messy psychological stuff here.

Carolyn Hax: yes. She could also start resenting him for taking her baby away. This is why it has to be a decision they both come to, and it has to be for the good of the marriage, not for the individual good of either of them.

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Silver Spring, Md.: HI Carolyn:

What do you think? Going out west to ski for Christmas with Mom and Dad. Boyfriend subtly not-invited by mom. When she realizes that he's by himself for Christmas and feels bad and says he should have come with us... Do I call him and tell him to come join the fun (not an impossible thing for him to do given he's in the travel business) or just suck-it-up and shut-up about her change of heart (and have the decency to respect that he will not (nor should he) change his plans at the drop of her hat)?

Carolyn Hax: Please just talk to your mom. "[Boyfriend] could actually join us if that's what you really want--I'd love to have him along but not if you see him as an imposition. As long as it's honest, either answer, yea or nay, is okay." Good luck.

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Re: vacation: Something is going on if she has to "hint" to her husband she'd like to go on a vacation with just the two of them. Why is this such a delicate matter? Does his family come first, before the marriage?

Carolyn Hax: That's what it sounds like to me. It's hard to see how parents who would take along their son and daughter-in-law on multiple vacations a year don't have some boundary blindness. Leave them room to breathe, no? And they're crossing that line with their son's permission. Danger, danger.

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Philadelphia, Pa.: Bendy Monkeys!!!! Had I but known. I bought dog butt leash/coat hooks for everyone.

Carolyn Hax: There's always next year, as every Christmas-resenter knows.

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Round Rock, Tex.: My friends and I are having an ongoing debate about blogging, specifically about writing very personal thoughts in our online journals. On one end of the spectrum, some of them use it to keep friends up to date on interesting day-to-day activities. On the other end are people who pour their hearts out, revealing very private issues about relationships, jobs, medical conditions, etc.

Do you believe that the latter group have issues with personal boundaries? Should a person feel free to write whatever they want in their personal journal? I think it's unhealthy to look for acceptance and validation through a journal, but for some people, it's the only way they feel comfortable expressing themselves. What do you think?

Carolyn Hax: I think they, and you, had best not write anything down that they don't want their future mates, grown children, prospective employers and background-checkers reading.

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Family bed: Maybe the answer is, have both. Get the baby in the habit of being put down on a regular schedule in his/her own bed. Then when baby wakes in the middle of the night, bring him/her back to your bed. If you have the energy to return the baby back to its own bed, fine, if not, that;s fine too. Pretty soon the kid will sleep longer and it will become less & less of an issue.

Carolyn Hax: Thanky.

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Go for less money and great personality...: First husband: wealthier, my salary was play money, left because he didn't respect me or my contributions to anything. Second husband: solid living, comfortable if smaller house, and wonderfully supportive of me and my activities. But yes, when I commented to friends that I moved out at the tail end of $50,000 kitchen and bathroom renovation with first husband, some said I was nuts.

Happy holidays!

Carolyn Hax: To channel Weingarten here, there is only one right answer to that question, and everyone who picks wrong should be embarrassed.

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Alexandria, Va.: Girlfriend asked for space a month before I was about to propose because she said she was confused with her life and did not know who she was or wanted. I gave her the space she asked for after a week of conversations that resulted in no answers. Since then there has been no contact. I told her that she would have to make the first move to reconnect.

I have done everything right according to everyone I speak with or read. I have made sure I took medication for the depression and anxiety as well as see a therapist. I did not allow myself to withdrawal from the world. Instead I have made new friends and stayed close to old ones. Lost 30 pounds though diet and exercise and let myself try new things that have been a lot of fun. I have even started dating someone new which has been much more enjoyable then I ever thought possible. (Don't worry I am taking things slow)

However as Christmas approaches I can't help but wish I had made the break up long and drawn out and as messy as possible. Cause then at least she might still be in my life.

Its not even as if I believe our relationship was perfect. She had a lot of serious issues that I pray she is working out for hr on good. Not mine. Even so I miss the space it filled.

It is almost as if I have a craving for food court Chinese food instead of good Chinese food.

I guess I just need affirmation that I have handled this correctly and that the life I am building now will be different but just as good if not better then the last one.

Carolyn Hax: You have handled this correctly and that the life you are building now will be different but just as good if not better then the last one.

Dragging anything out diminishes not only the people involved, but also the happiness of the memories. And those are rarely considered in a breakup, but they deserve to be handled with care. Even unhappy relationships that got sucked into a Cuisinart had some good moments, or there wouldn't have been a relationship.

And it's not only okay, but important to give them their due credit: "Yes, it ended badly and we're not in touch, but there were some good times that I feel lucky we were able to share." Not something you hear often, at least I don't, but it can really help when it comes time to make peace with things.

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Happy Holidays: So my mother-in-law loves me. Loooooves me. To the extend that last holiday, she hugged me without letting go for about 5 minutes, kissed me repeatedly on the cheek, told me several times that I didn't understand how much she looooooved me (and to say she was close talking here would be an understatement) and then turned and walked out the door without saying goodbye to her -actual- daughter or sons. The general consensus in the room afterward that a firm "stop!" would've resulted in another lecture about how I don't understand what love is and how much she looooves me. And more sloppy hugs and kisses.

Given that we're spending Christmas weekend with the in-laws and she is likely to consume several bottles of wine over the course of the weekend, (the maulings pretty much only occur under the influence), what can I do?? It's lovely that she likes me. But I don't need any more face-licking.

Merry Christmas!

Carolyn Hax: Actually, it sounds like she's beating her kids over the head, and you're the club. not to take anything away from your lovability or anything. If you can find a way to be somewhere else for the second and subsequent cork-poppings, please avail yourself of it.

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Midwest: I don't know if you'll get to this - but my husband has been treated for clinical depression for a year, and it's getting worse. He's medicated and has started therapy again, but he's so mean and then sad and I just don't know how to deal with it. His counselor has now suggested he see a psychiatrist (rather than his family doctor medicating him). What's the difference?

And if you have any words of wisdom about dealing with a person whose moods are wildly fluctuating at Christmas time, I would appreciate.

Carolyn Hax: Please please take the advice and get him to a psychiatrist. Misdiagnosis is rampant in mental health care and can often lead to the prescribing of incorrect, and therefore ineffective or even harmful, medications. There can be a huge difference.

This can help you deal with the fluctuations, too--remind yourself his moods will fluctuate, but he hasn't come close to exhausting his medical options yet.

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Bethesda, Md.: I am uncomfortable with being photographed. It's not because I look like a dork in photos (which I do), I'm not vain in the least and I don't care how the photo itself turns out. I find the act of being photographed very intrusive -- particularly if the person taking the photo fiddles with the camera endlessly, or comes up with a bunch of instructions (Move to your left! Put your arm around Bob!).

So, two questions, 1. Am I weird? 2. How do I get people to either photograph me quickly, or to not photograph me at all?

Carolyn Hax: Cooperate. Fighting only makes the pictures worse and the attempts more numerous to catch a good one.

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Washington, D.C.: My husband is interviewing for a new job. He has a very good job right now and I was just accepted in a masters degree program that I have wanted for a while. We are both presented with great opportunities. The problem is, if he were to be offered a job, we would have to move. None of the jobs are in the area. I -could- transfer to a new school, but like the program I am in and want to stay. He once promised this would not be an issue. now he seems to think if he were offered a job and I suggested staying in the area to wrap up my schooling, I would be unfairly punishing him. In addition, we stand to have to sell our house at a loss, putting us in a horrible financial situation, especially due to the potential that I would not have a job in the new area. I'm very stressed about this and realize nothing has actually happened yet except for the interviews, but how do I prepare myself for a job being offered to my husband? It seems I will be dealt the short end of the stick if he gets an offer.

Carolyn Hax: It seems like you will be angry regardless, since you feel he reneged on his promise that remaining in your program would not be an issue. Please talk to him about it--squarely, firmly, nicely. He seems to have changed his position, and you feel scared about his job hunt, unhappy about the idea of leaving your program, and angry at being put in this position. Air it now before it festers.

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Denver, Colo.: I am loveable and capable.

Carolyn Hax: Wait--you were schoolchild in the 70s? You're wearing your IALAC tag?

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For Midwest: Somewhere under the fluctuating moods is your husband, the man you love and married. These moods are not him -- they are his illness. Tough to deal with, I know, but they are not -him.- He's in there somewhere, and eventually, with a good doctor and the right meds, will emerge, but in the meantime, it might help to keep in mind that the sadness and the meanness are NOT him but are his illness instead.

Carolyn Hax: not only on point, but also comprehensible to those born before and after the 1960s. Thanks.

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Bethesda, Md.: Carolyn,

I love your chats and columns, and often try to speak in your voice when giving advice. I have a problem that I keep trying to solve the way you might tell me to: I'm engaged, I love my boyfriend very much, and yet I have also grown close to a male friend and I think I might love him too. I think your advice would be to consider if there are fundamental problems in my relationship (there aren't) and then distance myself from my friend. But I am finding this very difficult. I haven't crossed any lines but I'm worried I will if things stay the same.

Carolyn Hax: Thank you--that's a nice compliment, even though I've failed you.

Try not framing it as "fundamental problems," but instead as not getting from your fiance something essential to you, maybe something you never really thought about before, that you get from the male friend.

It's not always so easy as, X relationship is broken, but Y relationship is great.

Sometimes X relationship seems okay but it's starving you slowly of something, and you don't realize it until you get it in some other form. (I don't necessarily mean in the form of another person, either--it can be in the form of anything people find fulfilling.)

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Never thought I would be...: Is is okay to be a teensy bit jealous over a gorgeous diamond ring (not engagement) a friend just got for Christmas? I love jewelry to look at, don't wear what I have, let alone need anything new; and if my husband came home with the same ring for me I'd be thinking, "but, we really need to remodel the bathroom".

Yet, I'm a little jealous! What gives?

Carolyn Hax: Because you want your husband to surprise you with a fairy tale gift (that princess residue from little girlhood is tougher than calcium deposits), and still remodel the bathroom?

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Midwest: What about also advising Midwest to get counseling herself? Might help.

Carolyn Hax: Sure! It's Chirstmas.

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Carolyn Hax: A little-known holiday celebrated by atheists with poor typing skills.

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Urbana, Ill.: I'm 27 years old and have been "talking" to this guy for about a month.

A few nights ago, we had our first minor argument. When I called the next day to apologize for my behavior, he told me that I got all "girled-out" on him and that he was ready to not see me anymore.

Do you think it's worth trying one more time with him or should I just move on?

Things were going fine up until this point and now I'm beating myself up over not behaving "appropriately"... but I don't think he handled it very well, either.

What are your thoughts?

Carolyn Hax: You send me "all 'girled-out,'" and you still need an answer?

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St. Paul, Minn.: Hi Carolyn,

My dad gave my mom divorce papers for Christmas. It's going to be messy, and he's still not admitted and apologized for his infidelity (which I had discovered and called him out on).

Mom and Sis aren't talking to my dad and have completely cut him out of their lives. Bro and I are trying to stay out of it for the sake of our own sanity, but get accused of siding with the "other" parent. It hasn't been easy.

I've exchanged gifts with Mom and Dad like always (through the mail this year), because I don't want to be spiteful to either parent. But how do I handle the inevitable fallout from giving and recieving a gift with my Dad? Am I completely out of line to do either one?

Carolyn Hax: No no no, you are not. At the risk of wading too deeply in to muck I don't understand:

1. You are trusting your conscience. There is no other way. You can revisit your conscience as new facts come in, and even chage course as a result, but you can't ignore your conscience and live with yourself. Even in response to wounded maternal pressure.

2. If your mother is punishing you for trusting your conscience, then she is out of line. The innocent don't send others on guilt trips.

3. If your mother in fact sees herself vs. your dad as Innocent vs. Guilty, and is trying to use it (and you and your brother) against your dad, then I can guarantee there is a more complicated story within their marriage than that. Not to condone his lying or adultery, just to acknowledge that there's usually a lot of right and wrong to go around in all battles, and even lying and adultery don't change that.

4. Recap: No one who deserves your loyalty will pressure you to take sides. Hang in there.

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Maryland: Agg. Was just told by my mom that she does not want my fiance (who she and my dad both dislike for stupid reasons, like him being Jewish and not having a four-year degree) to be in the house my parents own and my aunt lives in for ANY amount of time tomorrow before a party (at most we'd be there an hour). Because I was guilted by the "you aren't considerate of our feelings" trip, I agreed. Fiance is wonderful and won't bat an eye if I ask him to just meet me at the house where the party is, but now I'm berating myself for caving to parental pressure (who, by the way, will not even be in town!).

Where can I get the bendy monkeys?

Carolyn Hax: Look down. You are one.

Call your mom back and say, no, you've changed your mind, your conscience won't allow you to treat your fiance this way. Come on.

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Washington, D.C.: is it too late to find out where to get the bendy monkeys?

washingtonpost.com: Would a Pirate Bendy do?

Carolyn Hax: What wouldn't a Pirate Bendy do, that is the question.

Much demand for bendy Monkeys, no supply that I can see.

What was I thinking, sending the assistant home.

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Anonymous: What gives with saying what gives?

Carolyn Hax: I don't know. What do you think gives?

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Meatless, CE: My wife is a nominal Catholic who traditionally does not eat meat on Christmas eve. We're inviting friends to dine with us including one who thinks that salad is what food eats, and won't be happy without something red that used to moo, oink, etc. I suggested something like spaghetti and optional meatballs, but I was wondering if we should just skip the meat and put up with an unhappy guest.

Personally, I have no interest in the meat or the tradition.

Carolyn Hax: It's okay if the only thing that oinks at your dinner is your carnivorous guest. Spinach lasagne, cheese tortellini, stuffed shells, manicotti--I thought all of these had successfully reached the 1950s eater.

Personally, I have no interest in people who bully their hosts.

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Vacation with In-Laws: From a mother who has taken my son and his family on some very nice vacations and hopes to do more: My son and I had "the talk" after a couple of trips. They would go with me sometimes, not others, I was not invited to go along on all their trips, to the beach with the kids, for example. "Sometimes our family just wants to spend vacation time alone." Made perfect sense to me, not a problem at all. If this son can't say that or his parents don't understand, THAT is the problem.

Carolyn Hax: Righto. Thanks.

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Re: Bethesda, Md.: So what happens when you are married and realize you're being starved of something in your relationship? And you meet the man that gives it to you? And you do act on it?

Banging my head on a brick wall seems like a fine option.

Carolyn Hax: You can ... try to see if your husband can in fact provide it if he's made aware of the need ... try to find another source of it outside the marriage that isn't illicit ... learn to live without it ... separate, if happiness isn't possible without it ... there are a lot of ways you can go, and the right one will depend on you and your husband, your family situation, the size of the need, your attitude, so many things.

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Bendy monkey supply: Here

Carolyn Hax: A connection, finally. Thanks.

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Wedding Blues: Carolyn -- I am supposed to be planning my wedding and yet I can't get motivated. Even planning a small intimate affair gives me a headache! I really just want to elope, but my loved one insists that his parents be part of the ceremony, which means that my parents ought to be there, which means something in the way of a ceremony needs to happen. Any advice for motivating, when all I want to do is be done with this already, and possibly eat some cake?

Carolyn Hax: Ask your loved one to plan it, since he's the one who wants it.

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Virginia: I found out that my sister who is married with four kids is now seeing a psychiatrist which we never knew because she is taking Prozac. On top of that she is also seeing a psychologist which we will knew about. Is this normal having two different "counselors"? There is no mental or physical abuse in the marriage.

Thanks.

Carolyn Hax: But whooeee there's some judging going on, isn't there? Does there need to be physical or mental abuse in the marriage for her counseling to receive your imprimatur?

It is not only "normal," but recommended, that people on such medication also receive talk therapy, and it's common for a psychiatrist to handle the meds while a psychologist or social worker handles the talk.

In other words, be glad anyone who needs care is getting it, particularly someone who is responsible for four other lives.

If I misread your tone, I do apologize.

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Would you touch this with a 10 foot pole?: Online only please. Every time I've seen my BIL in the last few months (generally once or twice a month) he's been hungover. He's in his late 20s, he's not a college kid, if that matters. I am not a tee-totaler, and a couple beers wouldn't phase me but regularly drinking till you're ill seems like a drinking problem. And, quite frankly, he's more fun to be with when he's not feeling lousy.

Do I do anything about this, or just mind my own business?

Carolyn Hax: This is a BIL, so someone you're close to--sibling, spouse?--is closer to this person than you are. What does that person say?

I do think someone needs to do something; the question is whether you're the one to do it.

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Darn European Monkeys: They only ship to the UK!!! Help!!!

Carolyn Hax: Help!!

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Boston:

Re: Bendy monkeys:

Here you go, bendable monkeys and a LOT more.

Carolyn Hax: Whew. I was all abunch.

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Bendy monkeys available in North America: Not as cute as the other ones, but these ones can be shipped to North American addresses.

Carolyn Hax: Okay. monkey thread complete. Thanks.

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No meat christmas eve: what about a nice tuna or salmon steak? meaty but not meat...

Carolyn Hax: Well duh. I forgot about that. Thanks.

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Speaking of "smitten": I've been enchanted by this woman for years. For a while I thought it was just one of those tormenting yourself by wanting what you can't have kind of things. But everything about her just amazes me and I do things just to be around her. She's been in a long relationship with a wonderful mand and now they are engaged. I thought I'd simply move on once they engagement happened (you just knew it would happen, sadly they are the so very right for each other and so obviously in love), but now I just feel very sad that it really will never happen. How do I cope?

Carolyn Hax: Enchanting and amazing may be rare qualities, but they aren't unique to her. Don't forget that. And if the only way for you to remember that is to stop having reminders of this enchanting, amazing woman in your face all the time, then it's okay to put some distance between you two.

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Seattle: Most city hall/courthouse weddings allow a small number of guests-the only planning you'll need to do is make an appointment. (This is what I did). Both sets of parents can be present but there won't be any of that wedding stress. Then you can all go out for a nice dinner afterwords.

Carolyn Hax: Cool. Thanks.

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Washington, D.C.: I decided to relocate with or without a job because I am long over due for change. Amazingly, I ended up with an offer after I turned in my notice with my current employer before I moved. Now that things are falling into place I'm really scared about the move. I dont think it's second thoughts -- I just didn't expect these feelings. Are they normal?

Carolyn Hax: New things are scary. That's what excitement is, fear chemicals. Right? Anyway, if you hate it you can move back. "Due for a change" can mean a lot of things--including that you need something new, period, or that you need something new to remind you how good for you the old thing was.

I'm not sure if this will reassure you or scare you more, but since your worst case is more expensive than dire, I'm throwing it out there.

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All Over the Map: Carolyn,

My boyfriend is a champion compartmentalizer. I am the exact opposite. When we get into squabbles, he seems to get over them relatively quickly, while I brood on and continue to work through in my head what went wrong and how to fix/avoid it next time. He doesn't understand how I can turn a small squabble into something bigger and more troubling about us in general; I can't understand how he can just turn on and off his feelings and emotions, as if the squabble never happened. Is there any middle ground for us? How do I find it?

Carolyn Hax: Maybe in the longevity of the issues? If you're fighting about the same things over and over again, you're probably smart to be mulling the long-term consequences.

But if you can't get past the smallest thing without 1. arguing about it 2. revisiting the viability of the relationship, then maybe it's time to mull your own need for perfection, or whatever it is you're trying to achieve between you.

If you try to think bigger and you still end up squabbling, then maybe you're just not right for each other.

I keep thinking about the story a reader sent in about her cast iron pan. I'm going to cut too many corners, but ... she was in a relationship with a guy who wouldn't listen when she explained how to care for the pan, and who kept wrecking it, and they kept fighting about it. They break up for other reasons, she gets into a new, much more harmonious relationship, and she can't give half a bleep about who cares how for the pan.

You probably have to have been there.

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Re: smitten: Also, echanting and amazing sound pretty idealized. I'm sure this engaged girl is smart and cute and kind to kittens, but I bet she also hogs the covers and hates your taste in music.

Carolyn Hax: But he -digs- that.

I think you're right, by the way--it does sound like he's idealized her. Thanks.

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Meat: I've never understood how someone can say that fish isn't meat if the effort is to eat something that didn't once have a pulse. Fish don't often oink or moo, but they are animals. Animal flesh=meat.

I eat 'em all, but if you eat fish you're eating meat.

Carolyn Hax: I think the meatlessness here was an effort to be a good Catholic, in which case the distinction is apt. (I hadn't ever heard of a meat prohibition on Xmas Eve, but what do I know.)

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Denver, Colo.: I am also Enchanting and Amazing (IAAEAA).

Carolyn Hax: And Shut In, Apparently (ASIA).

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Philadelphia: Merry Christmas Carolyn!

Carolyn Hax: Thanks! And to the collective you, too.

This is it till after the New Year. Bye, have a great time, and thanks for all the great Fridays.

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That was me!: With the pan! You made my week by mentioning that old comment I made!

That is still one of the most valuable lessons I've learned. Six years later I'm still happy with the guy who makes me not care about pans.

Carolyn Hax: I hope I did it justice--it really said it all, thank you.

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Enchanting and amazing may be rare qualities, but they aren't unique to her.: It can still be hard not to feel as if you've been forced to settle, and difficult to get over the sense of failure.

Carolyn Hax: No no no. 1. You don't commit to anyone who feels less amazing or enchanting; and 2. it will feel more amazing and enchanting when someone right for you loves you back. Pat, sure, and there's no guarantee anyone will even find this, but it won't be because that one "got away." There was no one, just a maybe, an idea.

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For the photo-phobic person: Please do cooperate and try to smile. My mother hates to be photographed, and in every picture, she has an angry scowl. That's how we'll remember her after she's gone.

Carolyn Hax: THANK YOU.

Goodbye, Carolyn.

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