washingtonpost.com
Tell Me About It

Carolyn Hax
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 9, 2007 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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Boston, and boy, do I have a bone to pick...: Can we drop the snarky and condescending attitude towards people who choose to have a traditional wedding ceremony?

Great... we all get it, you think they are a waste of money no matter how much the various parties are in agreement, enjoy the day's unfolding, talk about it for years to come, are religious, are sentimental etc. You've made this abundantly clear to us all on a regular basis and it's getting really old. Please also drop the "Miss Manners" and "Peggy Post" act because you are neither and most of your advice directly contradicts the basis of American ettiquette (and I'm not talking about the financing angle).

People should just do what is meaningful for them, what they can reasonably afford and pay off, and accept what people are willing to contribute as funds or gifts. Guests should be on their best behavior and give some small token minimally in recognition of the milestone. Period.

For the reference, yes, I got married 1.5 years ago in -gasp- a pretty typical, about average American cost wedding, that people still talk about...it was worth every penny and meant a lot to us both. Not every wedding ends in divorce or is bound to end in divorce EITHER...its a half failure rate which means the other half stays together.

Your argument that the money could be spent on a house, emergency, etc, is true for basically anything in this life including picking up Starbucks everday to going to the movies to going out to dinner to buying designer shoes. It is her money and it is NONE of her parents business, so long as she doesn't hit them up for a loan when said emergency comes up. She may even have reserves and no debt, did you think of that?

ENOUGH. I have read your column since its inception and am an advice column junky. You've even answered one of my questions once. I'm getting to the point where I might not tune in anymore since you basically call into judgment a rite of passage that pretty much everyone near and dear to me has undertaken and is the subject of many happy conversations and memories.

Carolyn Hax: I would love to defend a snarky and judgmental attitude, since my head hurts anyway and your post did its best to nudge me the rest of the way into that kind of mood. Instead, I'm going to suggest you read the column again. Thanks.

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Curious, US: How do you know if you're in love with someone?

Carolyn Hax: Good question, 10 million answers. Mine, today, is that you know you love someone when their happiness feels as important as your own, and you know you're -in- love when you fit the love definition and you also want that person in your life every day. We'll consider the rare I-don't-want-anyone-anywhere-near-me-today exception to be built into that definition.

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Chantilly, Va.: Hi, Carolyn. I always go for the wrong men. They are always unavailable, whether they be married, uninterested, or 3,000 miles away.

What's wrong with me and how do I fix it?

Carolyn Hax: Naval-gaze till you see what it is that attracts you to these people (adrenaline? natural barrier to intimacy that you can blame on them instead of yourself? the high degree of difficulty of getting their attention acts as a boost to your low self esteem? ... ).

If you've tried and tried and still can't make anything out, or you see but you don't know how to go about changing your pattern, or if you aren't in a DIY mood, find a reputable, comptetent, compatible therapist and go for it.

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Falls Church, Va.: Hi Carolyn --

Last week, "Arlington, Va." wrote in asking for your thoughts on what she (I think) called perceived to be a destructive attraction. Your responded, "Get involved with him, intensely, so you can burn off any interest in him as soon as possible and keep him from messing with your head 10 years from now when you're perfectly happy and with someone nice and you have the bad fortune of running into him at the mall some Christmas and getting knocked off your feet."

I was in a similar situation, but am now in the knocked-off-my-feet-at-the-mall stage (except that I lack the "someone perfectly nice," and have for quite some time). There's no option of getting involved. What now?

Thanks.

Carolyn Hax:1. Please note that I meant the get-involved advice to be facetious. 2. Be glad there's no one "perfectly nice" to make you feel guilty or conflicted about dwelling on the impossible attraction, and then 3. let yourself dwell on it till you get sick of it. We can't sustain intense feelings. Feel them and get them out of the way.

I advise this with the emphatic disclaimer, that if you feel yourself spinning out of control with mood swings or depression, then "get professional help" supersedes the "feel it, baby" advice.

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Re the first post: I swear I didn't write it, though it sounds exactly like I would have said.

She's right though. You do tend to pooh-pooh any argument for having a wedding/reception no matter how much it costs. As a matter of fact, I signed in to ask you what kind of wedding you had and how much it cost.

I mean, they wanted to be married before the fiance deployed. I think that's a perfect reason to get married quick and have the "performance wedding", as you called it, after. It's not like they had the wedding they planned for and decided that they wanted a do-over because they didn't like the choice.

I can see the mother's point of view, but please, there's nothing wrong with having a second wedding. I personally know of two couples who each had four for various legal, cultural, and religious reasons.

But you're grump and not feeling well today, so cranky answers are acceptable.

Carolyn Hax: You get the same advice: Read the column again. I didn't pooh-pooh her wedding/reception, I pointed out reasons her parents might (she did ask). Then I advised her to think about and be prepared to articulate her reasons for having a big party, and stand by them when she talked to her parents. Hardly the firebomb for which you're crediting me.

For my now wishing I had thrown the firebomb, I'll blame my sinuses.

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Naval gaze?: Look at boats? Look at hot sailors?

Carolyn Hax: Exactly.

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Washington, D.C.: Happy Friday to everyone! Carolyn, I'm in a relationship that I think is great in so many ways. The one problem I'm having is that we have been fighting a lot over stupid things. The problem is that I think we're having a battle of wills. We both are stubborn and like to be in control -- this I think causes us to have stand offs, instead of resolving situations. He feels like I take a bossy, controlling, condescending tone with him -- most of the time I have no idea what he's talking about. I feel like he's constantly feeling like I am "attacking" him when I am not, and then he attacks back and says mean things. I also feel like he is very immature in our discussions, kind of that "i'm rubber, you're glue, what bounces off me, sticks to you" attitude. It makes me crazy. My question is -- how do two people resolve a situation like this when they see things so differently?

Carolyn Hax: Get off his back and see what happens. Are all these things you're asking of him or criticizing him for really important and necessary? And if they are, why are you with someone who does so many important things wrong?

Control is so overrated. Running one life seems to put more than enough on the to-do list.

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Washington, D.C.: Carolyn,

How does one go about finding a "reputable, comptetent, compatible therapist"? I am looking to find one, but keep getting stuck at the "just look at the list and pick one" response you get from the insurance company.

Carolyn Hax: Talk to your regular doctor. If you're in an organized religion that supports counseling (can I get any more careful?), talk to the priest/rabbi/pastor/etc; it's not uncommon for church leaders to have training in social work and/or psychology, and/or a list of good clinicians. If you live near a university or hospital that trains therapists, that can at least cover the "reputable" and you can figure out the competence and compatibility with an appointment or two. You can also go through your EAP, talk to the person they assign to you and ask that person to look at your insurance company's list. Or you can do the same--show your list--with someone in the local chapter of a professional association such as the American Psychiatric Assoc, Amer Psycholog. Assoc., Amer Assoc of Marriage and Fam Therapists, etc.

If you aren't shy, you can ask your friends.

There are other paths to try, too, but these should get you started.

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Falls Church (Again):"We can't sustain intense feelings. Feel them and get them out of the way." You're facetious about getting involved, but you mean this sincerely?

Carolyn Hax: I do. The second part is the root of the facetious comment. So, let;'s call it semi-facetious. It is a known element of human emotion that intensity doesn't last. True of crushes, grief, terror--the body freaks out at first but then eventually adjusts to the new set of circumstances. More or less, we'll say, since everyone responds to things a little differently.

So, if you push your feelings away, they're more likely to keep coming back, demanding to be reckoned with. If you just deal with them, in whatever non- or just minimally-destructive way available, you'll be better able to leave them behind.

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Seattle, Wash.: Carolyn, I just figured out that sometimes newspapers edit your column, and your full answers don't always make it in. I wonder if that happened with the wedding question the two posters wrote in about, because it was clear to me what you were advising (now I always read the column in the Wash Post online, which always posts the whole thing).

Carolyn Hax: That does happen, and it drives me nuts. Since I can't follow what appears every day in every paper, I do appreciate it when people call my attention to it so I can sic my syndicate on the offending papers. If it did happen here, someone, please let me know. Thanks.

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Love, USA: Carolyn, if you love someone, why on earth would you want to take a break from them, and why would you have a really hard time deciding if that break is final or if you're willing to give it another try? Maybe you're not IN love?

Carolyn Hax: I don't think it's that simple. You can be in love with someone and still suspect the relationship isn't good for you--e.g., it makes you feel needy or it wears you out or it denies you something you suspect you need. Sometimes it's hard to get that clarity without stepping away from it for a while.

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Washington, D.C.: My wife is a wonderful person but she has the tendency to put things off, thereby causing us unnecessary financial harship. I spend a lot of time trying to rectify some of the problems as well as repeatedly asking her to take care of things so that we can avoid these difficult situations. In the end she resents me for constantly riding her and it is affecting our relationship because I now feel more like a father-figure and less like a husband/partner. However, if I back off and let her do things like she requests, she again just procrastinates to the point that the problem persits and sometimes progresses. What should I do?

Carolyn Hax: It seems like the problem isn't the procrastinating, it's her insistence on having control of things that she then chooses not to control.

It's probably too much to hope for, but the least messy solution would be to sit down with her and work out a realistic division of labor, one that assigns each of you a fair share of the household workload but that removes from her list the stuff that gets her in trouble, and assigns to it things she's either good at or can let slide without dire consequences.

I'm pessimistic about this only because it seems if she were willing to relinquish control of these particular things, she would have already without argument. But it's worth a gentle try.

And if it doesn't work, then it might be best approached in marriage counseling, to tease out any underlying Stuff.

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Working from home: I quit my job and have been working from home as a freelancer for the last three weeks. It's going well, I'm staying productive and I'm loving it.

But other people who have worked from home have told me that it gets isolating and that it's nearly impossible to stay productive. Do you have any advice on how to avoid such pitfalls?

Carolyn Hax: Build opportunities for human interaction into your routine, ones you're liable to stick to, because it is isolating. But I had never heard that productivity was a problem. I always felt it either suited someone or it didn't.

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Washington, D.C. -- MIL: Hi, Carolyn!

Happy Friday. I have a question regarding how to handle unwanted financial questions. My (relatively new) mother-in-law frequently asks how much my husband and I spent on [fill in the blank]: the caterer for our wedding, my tuition for graduate school, how much we lost when we sold our condo, etc. I don't want to answer these kinds of questions, and I am looking for a way to politely and lovingly and smoothly either change the subject or let her know that I don't want to share that kind of information with her. Any suggestions? Thanks!

Carolyn Hax:"I'm not entirely sure." "I'd have to look that up." "I don't trust my memory." All can be followed with, "Why?"

Now my question. Have you talked to your (relatively new) husband about this?

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Alexandria, Va.: I'm 39 weeks pregnant with our first. Appointment yesterday revealed that baby will probably not be coming imminently, I may even go overdue. I am so, so incredibly uncomfortable and have only gotten a few hours sleep in the past week.

That being said, this pregnancy was hard fought after losing our last one in the second trimester and also experiecing infertility. Every time I complain about being uncomfortable, I feel so guilty because this is something I've wanted for such a long time. Any advice to get me through these last few days? I know I'll miss it when it's over. But egads, how do other pregnant women do this?

Carolyn Hax: You can still feel lucky while also feeling uncomfortable. One is abstract, one is immediate, and both combine to make a good old-fashioned complicated feeling, which is pretty much the only kind life offers, except in those rare peaks and valleys when everything feels great or awful without exception. Parenthood is an unrelenting mixed feeling. You can put your sleepless nights to good use by learning not to be so hard on yourself.

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One Freelancer to Another: For Working from Home: First of all, congratulations!

I actually had the reverse experience of the people who said it's nearly impossible to stay productive -- for the first few weeks, I blew stuff off, procrastinated, and generally goofed around. Then I just got sick of it; there's only so much daytime TV you can watch without wanting to scream. After that initial period, I really haven't had any trouble with being productive or meeting deadlines.

As for human interaction, I agree with Carolyn about planning it into your day. Arrange occasional lunch dates with your office worker buddies or other homeworkers, go to the gym, work at a coffeeshop with wifi if your work allows it. Also, my husband and I got a dog shortly after I went freelance and she has added a LOT to my life. One of these days, I want to get an Employee of the Month frame and put it up in my office with her picture.

Carolyn Hax: Aw.

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Washington, D.C.: Since we're now all clear on the fact that you don't hate weddings: how do I keep myself from going crazy the last few days before the big day? or, on the wedding day itself? I just feel like there are a lot of details in our relatively simple day, and just want to make sure we enjoy it without too much stress.

Carolyn Hax: WHAT KIND OF MORON SPENDS MONEY ON A WEDDING?

Heh.

1. Things will go wrong.

2. The things that go wrong will be your best stories.

3. Since you're now eager to have things go wrong, hand off details to someone who offers to help. (That'll teach em.)

4. I'm going to fine you a fiver every time you use the term "big day." Honor system, obviously, with fines going to your local ALS Association. (Yours is www.alsinfo.org)

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Falls Church, Va.: Valentine's Day has always been a source of dread for me, because it seems like that's so often the time that an SO decides to dump me, or an ex-SO decides to try to come back. Please tell me that other people hate this "holiday" as much as I do. Horror stories welcomed.

Carolyn Hax: Meh. It's a day. Either enjoy the excuse to eat chocolate, drink champagne and buy yourself flowers, or leave it in its proper place as a day.

Unless you adopt the phrase, "Beware the ides of February." Then you can bring on the dread.

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Fat: My boyfriend, who is very active, although not the sveltest specimen on the planet, seems to be preoccupied with my weight. He said to me that he knows I haven't been working out as much as I used to, and I don't seem as fit as I was a year ago, it's just my health he's worried about.

He said all this in the same tone of voice, and with the sort of wording that you always suggest to guys who write in saying "my girlfriend has gained 10 pounds over the past year, and I know it bothers her because she keeps asking me if she looks fat... what do I do?"

To which I replied- WTF? OK, well, all my clothes still fit exactly the same, I know I'm eating more heathily, and I'm not a waif and I have no intention of becoming a waif. He said, well, how about six-pack abs? No -- OK, then a four-pack? I told him that he needed to take me as-is, or not at all.

I look exactly the same as I did a year ago when I started dating the current guy (with a better haircut). Why do so many men think that women should all be rail thin? What the hell is up with this one? It was so tempting to smack him. If not for all the other wonderful qualities he has, and that this is the only sign of idiocy he has shown over the past year, I would have ditched him on the spot. But I mean, what if we get married and have kids, or when we get older? Has he realized that people don't stay young and smooth-skinned forever?

Thanks. Sorry you're sick. I'm just baffled by this.

Carolyn Hax: My words are being used for evil, not good, I'm so sorry! Agh! If he wanted a sixpack, he should have thought of that a year ago. And then smacked himself in the forehead.

While you were absolutely right to make your take-it-or-leave-it stance clear to him, I wonder what would have happened if you brought up to him all the stuff you just brought up in your post (assuming you didn't). What a great conversation, one that I hope would answer at least some of your legitimate questions, the best of them being, what about when you're no longer young? It sounds like you're in wait-and-see mode, which is fine, but there's also nothing wrong with voicing what's on your mind.

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Wedding hysteria: Why is it that the subject of weddings brings out the worst in people? Some folks are HUGELY defensive of the choices that they make, and just can't seem to live and let live (which indicates to me some internal doubts about said choices, but maybe that's just me). When I got married (like the first poster, also about a year and a half ago), we chose to have a simple ceremony that was a fraction of the "usual American wedding cost." I had an enormous amount of pressure from friends and acquaintences who insisted that I HAD to do one thing or another because it was "traditional" or "etiquette demanded it" or whatever. This same reason was used to argue everything from having to have a unity candle (we didn't), having to have a bridal bouquet (I didn't-- I carried a prayer book that belongs to my mother, which she carried in her wedding), having to have a first toast (we didn't) and having to have a first dance (we didn't). I finally resorted to telling all of these folks, "You know, I really don't HAVE to have any of those things in order to be legally married. I know. I looked it up. The laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia do not require a first dance in order to complete the marriage license."

Weddings make people crazy, and not only the bride. It is a very strange phenomenon.

Your first poster and her supporter need to seriously chill out. Your response was a direct answer to the question you were asked. You did not attack their personal choices. I'm sure their weddings were lovely. Although I can't resist pointing out that the only weddings that my family and friends still talk about are the ones where something went horribly wrong or was way over the top-- flaming bridesmaid hair is much more memorable than generic fluffy white dresses and yet another rendering of Pachebel's Canon in D

Carolyn Hax: You're persuasive and sane and you're sticking up for me and I'm really only posting this to get "flaming bridesmaid hair" into the permanent record. Thank you.

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The Ides of February...:...is actually the 13th. Also known as the Parentalia. I

promise, I did not make that up.

Carolyn Hax: I know. m-w.com:

"the 15th day of March, May, July, or October or the 13th day of any other month in the ancient Roman calendar; broadly : this day and the seven days preceding it"

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Southwest Washington, D.C.: OK, I get not living your life according to timetables but what can you do about biology? My husband says he wants kids but that there is plenty of time. I'm 32, almost 33. We want two kids. I want to start trying now. He says he doesn't feel ready.

Before getting married we discussed kids, agreed we wanted two, and agreed that we wanted to wait a couple of years. That was four, nearly five years ago.

Carolyn Hax: Tell him that if he's going to stall you into a higher risk of not being able to conceive, he needs to do better than "not ready," especially since conceiving tonight would give him until Halloween to knit himself a daddy costume.

I wouldn't normally advise being so muscular about it, but on-the-fence parents-to-be are notorious for holding out for some vague something, and some need a wake-up slap.

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Carolyn Hax: He at least needs to know he is potentially denying you something he promised you and that you care intensely about. That doesn't mean he shouldn't ultimately say no if he doesn't want kids (dunno about you, but I wouldn't want to have been the kid my dad "owed" my mom), but it does mean he has no right to be self-indulgent at your expense without damn good cause.

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Wait and See: How long do I wait and see if things get better before dumping my boyfriend? We've been together about eight months, and things were good until about 2 months ago, when he found out he was losing his job. Since then, he's been distant, stressed, down-in-the-dumps. And I've tried to be supportive and understanding. But I'm getting to the point where I want to say "I get it that you're stressed, but be a little supportive of me too!" Then I feel guilty because I'm not going through anything bad (except having a distant boyfriend), while he's losing his job ... am I doing the mature thing in standing by him despite not getting what I need out of the relationship, or am I being a doormat?

Carolyn Hax: Good question, and one I can't answer from where I sit, because it's all in the details of what you do, what you say to each other, what you expect.

I think it is fine to see this as his way of dealing with stress, and to put it into the mental file of things you know about him

I think it is fine to say, "I appreciate that you're going through a rough time, but I feel like it's my rough time, now, too--which would be fine if I had your companionship to help me through it," if indeed that's how you feel.

I think it's fine for him to respond to that with affection or the bird, if that's how he feels, because then you'd at least know where he stands.

I think it's fine to change the tone of your support, if what you really want to say is, "I understand you;re stressed and down--what do you plan to DO about it?"

In a way, anything goes, since it all goes into the getting-to-know-you process, and in fact accelerates it. And, as always, if you;re ever unsure, remember there are no deadlines. You can just wait it out till you are sure (or you get so sick of being unsure that it becomes a certainty unto itself).

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Burlington, Vt.: Hi Carolyn,

I don't know whether I need help or a smack to the forehead but I hope you can help.

I'm a 35-year-old professional female and just found out that I need surgery to remove a large, potentially cancerous mass.

Freaking out issues aside, my main problem at this point is my mother. I'm not particularly close to mom -- frankly she drives me up the proverbial wall. Her reaction to this has been to assume that I am five, that my long-term live-in boyfriend will not take care of me (not true -- he is my rock), and that this is really all about her. Without asking or consulting, she bought a plane ticket and plans to stay with us from four days prior to my surgery until two weeks after. And has assured me that she can extend her stay as long as necessary.

I actually would like her with me for the surgery and the immediate aftermath, but her actions are already starting to make my skin crawl.

Should I let it go and be grateful she cares? Or somehow assert myself enough to remind her that this is about me and what I need and that I am actually a fully functional, capable adult with a very good support system?

Carolyn Hax: If you think you can feel good about letting her do what she needs to make herself feel better--since her reaction is pretty clearly about her--then let her.

If you think it'll get in the way of your recovery to have her imposing herself on you, then figure out what you do want her to do (everything--arrival date, length of stay, level of involvement) and set it out to her as a kind request backed by an offer to pay any penalties for changing her ticket.

Either way I think it'll make you feel better to -decide- what you want and then act on that decision, instead of just sit there and be decided upon; it's just a matter of what that decision will be, to indulge or to set limits.

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Carolyn Hax: Good luck with the surgery, too--I was too quick on the button there.

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Washington, D.C.: I disagree with one thing you said to the girl with the boyfriend who's afraid of marriage.

You said that you can't know if you'll love someone ten years later. I agree that you can't know if you'll FEEL loving towards them, but I know that you can CHOOSE to love someone. You can choose to work on things and be intentional in your actions and thoughts and behaviours in ways that keep things going, even when things are unhealthy and scary and altogether disagreeable. You can still choose love.

Carolyn Hax: Ugh, I got so many of these. Yes, of course, you can choose loving behavior and loving indulgence and loving effort and loving looks the other way. And every marriage that works will have a few periods where it really feels like a decision to keep going.

But if someone is making you miserable, is not choosing to do the same for you, or even is making these same choices but in ways that are so against both of your natures that it's work just to hold a conversation, then the mindset you offer is one that morphs with little effort into judgment of people whose marriages fail. It lays it all on the shoulders of one person's "choice," when in fact it's two people, plus a bunch of details only they know, plus a bunch of unquantifiables--which I'm sure everyone has seen give rise to the 60th anniversary celebrants who bickered themselves from the first buffet line to the last. I think that model for "successful" marriage deserves to live in the past.

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I am the first poster...: And can prove definitively that there was no flaming bridesmaid hair at my wedding. In fact, I didn't even pick out the bridesmaids dresses. So, if you don't like them...don't look at me!!! Happy to provide a link...

My wedding had plenty of disasters (long story short,I got two hours of sleep the day before because of said disasters) but they made me realize I'd picked the right one (hubby stayed up the whole night). We look back and laugh now. I think people loved the ceremony because it had some very poignant notes.

I did read the column online, so no need to sic the syndicate on anyone. I take issue with the word "performance" and the fact that the accompanying cartoon calls it "a waste of money." At best, its judgmental and we can't even begin to identify with her circumstances. I can't fathom what it would be like to watch my husband go off to war and wonder if I'll see him again. If he comes home, they deserve whatever happiness they can grasp.

Carolyn Hax: Which is essentially what I told her. I used the "performance-married" phrasing explicitly to provoke her into defending her choice, so she could test her beliefs before she went after her parents. It's all right there.

And the cartoon? IT'S A CARTOON.

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Madison, Wis.: Long story short: My husband and I got married last March. In October, his mom left his dad (after 35 years of marriage) and his dad killed himself. My husband is the one who found him. I love my husband with all my heart, and he is an only child so he doesn't really have any one else to share this with, and I feel so helpless when he cries because he misses his dad or when he gets mad about how his mom handled things when she left his dad. I have absolutely no experience with this type of thing and I don't know what else to do except to tell him I love him and hold him when he breaks down. Is there anything else I can do? Are there any magic words I can say to make things better?

Carolyn Hax:"Please talk to someone about this." Even if this tragedy weren't enough to trigger some major grief, confusion and anxiety on its own--which it clearly is--the major issues that were likely knocking around long before, and no doubt contributed to, the split and the suicide beg for further exploration. People don't just up and leave, and don't just up and kill themselves. There was something there, something your husband needs to find out to the best of his (and a reputablecompetentcompatible therapist's) ability what that something was, so he can finally find some peace.

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re: Mom's visit: The flip side of the coin is that some of us would love to have a chance for our moms to drive us nuts by treating us as though we need caretaking.

Mom is very much alive, but isn't very good about caretaking even under the most extreme of circumstances (being widowed, for one) when I've told her I really need help. I just don't look for it anymore.

Carolyn Hax: Yeah, but that's not her coin. I agree we would all be better for finding the good in things that bother us (I'm a closet Buddhist), and in fact I could answer just about every question in this forum that way. But sometimes, "Just be glad you're pregnant!" isn;'t useful advice for women who are 39 weeks pregnant and haven't slept in a month, and, "There are people starving in China!" is not the answer for someone who hates Brussels sprouts. Sometimes you want to know why a nap and a carrot have suddenly become so exotic that you can search the earth and not have them. And you want productive ideas for getting along without them that don't involve stoicism or mind control.

But you did throw in very useful advice at the end. "I just don't look for it anymore." Which I guess is mind-control-lite, but I could also call it learning--that there are some hopes and expectations that can actually hurt you. And so you create new ones based on what you know to be true, instead of what you hope.

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Laurel, Md.: This morning before I got on the train to head to work, my BF hands me this card and says, read it when you get on the train. I figure this is fine because I'm going out of town with some friends tonight and he has to work this weekend.

So I open it up and it's one of those Hallmark Singing cards, and he wrote a nice little poem on the side with the last question of Will you Marry Me?

I just can't at this point in our relationship see us getting married. I'm almost at the point where I want to tell him that back by card, since he was too spineless to ask me in person. And I'm also thinking that maybe it's just time to call the whole thing off.

Carolyn Hax: Sure sounds like it, but I do feel bad for the guy. Talk to him, please, nicely. Maybe point out the part about its possibly telling you both something that he needed to lean on a card.

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X, Y and Z: Help. A while back I was having a lot of trouble (emotional, etc.) and thought it was because of X (person). Now I've been to the doctor and found out I have "Y" which can make me feel like everyone else is the problem. I've been pushing X so far away and am not even sure if X is the problem or if Y is. The only thing I trust about my judgement now is that I feel like crap.

Carolyn Hax: I'm sorry. Sounds like the best route is to get into treatment for Y, and worry about X when you feel better.

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Carolyn Hax: That's it for today. Thanks everybody, have a great weekend and I'll type to you next week.

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re husband who found his dad: Last year, I found my sister who tried to kill herself. The doctors later told me that she was thisclose to dying, and that a few more minutes and we would have lost her. The visual shock of finding her pale, stiff, and possibly dead still gives me nightmares. I am so sad and sorry for the woman's husband who actually lost his father to suicide. Please understand that I am not equating my experience to his at all. Just wanted to share that I really appreciated friends who let me vent all my varied feelings, and told me that I am ok and lovable even for feeling those feelings. Some days, I felt like putting on a brave face, and some days I felt like being strong, but other days I felt like I couldn't ever go on. I felt ugly and mean for not feeling like I was strong enough to carry my sister, family, and friends through this. I am forever grateful to my very best friends who told me again and again that I am good and kind and normal for feeling all my feelings. So, maybe the wife could just be there for him, and remind him that he can let his guard down and get lost in his feelings and it's okay. Good luck. My heart breaks for you and your husband.

Carolyn Hax: Thank you. One more:

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washington, DC: In response to Madison, WI: Grief associated with suicide is unlike grief from any other death, and finding the body is an added horror. Continue being there for your husband. Do some research about the effects of suicide on those left behind to help you understand how he may be feeling. And know that it may be a very long time until he can fully come to terms with the impact his father's suicide has had and will have on his life. Suicide survivors often look for reasons and answers and often cannot find adequate resolutions. A resource that may be of use is a listserv for adults who have lost parents to suicide: SCOLOS@yahoogroups.com.

Carolyn Hax: Can't vouch for the listserv, but I do appreciate the info, thanks.

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Re: Weddings...: NO one loves your wedding as much as you (maybe your family), nor should they. It's not about them. Why can't that be enough for some people?

Carolyn Hax: Snort.

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