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Carolyn Hax
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 2, 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.

The transcript follows.

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Where is today's column?: Thanks!

washingtonpost.com: Today's Column: Tell Me About It

Carolyn Hax: Hi, everybody, and sorry you had to play Find the Column.

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Reston, VA: Regarding the Maid of Honor: Your advice was very good. However,if they're "best friends," the bride-to-be already knows her pal dislikes her fiance - we women are tuned in enough to each other for that. It shouldn't be too much of a surprise for the writer to say that it's the bride's big day and her attendants should include only those who are truly enthusiastic about the wedding. (Assuming there are such people.) Of course, this does risk losing the "friendship" for the - possibly short - duration of this marriage!

Carolyn Hax: Or much, much longer. I think the heartbreak of a loved one's bad taste in mates has three stages: 1. realization (often instantaneous) you don't even want to be in the same room as your friend's/family member's new guy/girl. 2. slow-dawning horror that the problem isn't just the awful mate, but also deep, maybe never fully admitted differences between you and the loved one; 3. resignation and polite conversation at reunions/holidays.

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Carolyn Hax: Well, that was jolly, wasn't it.

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Philly: My boyfriend is really active. I noticed the other day that he has hiking boots, work boots, gym shoes, court shoes, tennis shoes, cleats, four different casual shoes, four different dress shoes, Tevas, and even dive booties. All totaled, he has more shoes than I do. Is that a bad sign?

Carolyn Hax: Only if he wears the dive booties while having a torrid affair with your best friend.

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Texas: Online only please. Two years ago my 45 year-old (ex)husband began an affair with a 17 year-old girl. I suffered a total emotional meltdown that left me incapacitated for more than a year.

Two years later, I'm mostly past the pain, and my life is almost back to normal. I haven't seen my ex in over a year.

The problem? My step-daughter is getting married soon. It would mean a lot to her if I were at the wedding, but my ex and his teenager fiance will be there too.

I've spent five months trying to convince myself that I can do this. I even have a very handsome male friend who has offered to go with me for support, but I just don't think I can go through with it. The anxiety attacks I have just thinking about it are monstrous. I'm afraid actually trying to go could put me in the hospital.

I know this is completely unfair to my step-daughter, and I wish I could get past it, but I just don't think I can. She was very kind to me when I was at my worst, but as she's become more used to her dad being with a girl younger than herself, her communication with me has dropped off. However, she will notice that I'm not there to share her happy day.

How do I tell her that I can't go?

Carolyn Hax: You send your regrets the old-fashioned way, without elaboration, and follow up with some other gesture of gratitude and affection, like inviting them over for dinner or going to visit them. If showing up at a wedding were the only way to show appreciation for someone, a lot of us would be in big trouble.

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Fairfax city: Big deal or no big deal.... I don't like to sleep in the same bed as my husband. It is not because of any issues we are still..um very intimate after 10 years and spend time reading together or watching shows downstairs before bed. I just can't sleep in the same bed anymore.

What do you think?

Carolyn Hax: If it is, my telling you it isn't won't help; if it isn't, my telling you it is won't change what led you to this decision, and so likely won't dent your resolve.

All couples have their ways of making things work. I'm confident you already know whether you're making it work or quitting. As long as it's the former, you're fine. (You can be fine with the latter, too, as long as you admit it and deal with it.)

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Portland, Oregon: Carolyn, Two friends of ours are getting married. We're friends with the groom but I've been spending a good amount of time with the bride recently. She's mentioned to me instances I would describe as emotional abuse; when he's angry, he calls her worthless, curses at her, calls her trash, says she doesn't deserve him, that she embarrasses him. These fights usually revolve around totally unwarranted jealousy on his part. She's told me these things rather casually and has, equally casually, remarked that she's thought about them and decided they're not deal-breakers. If she were a better friend, I'd have no qualms about telling her how deeply concerned I am about her marrying him. As it is, though, as I'm certainly not one of her closest friends and in fact know her through him, I don't know if it's my place. Surely other people are talking to her about this. How would you read this situation? What are my responsibilities? Their wedding isn't until September.

Carolyn Hax: It's your place. Tell her you're deeply concerned.

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RE: Bridesmaid in Column Today: I was once the girl marrying the wrong guy, so I'm looking at this from the other direction.

My best friend was in my wedding because she's my best friend. She would never have said no, despite her dislike of which I was well aware. She was there to support me, not him. The truth is, this event isn't about you or how you feel about it...it's about your friend and her potential husband. And if she really is making the wrong decision (as I did and am now divorced) then she is really going to need you. Don't turn your back on her. If she wants you to stand up there in an ugly dress, then you need to do it. And if you haven't already told her how you feel about her potential husband, please don't wait until a month or a week before the wedding. Tell her well in advance and then leave it alone. She will make her own decision no matter what you say.

Also, have you ever considered the possibility that you might be wrong? Her marriage might work and then you've potentially ended a friendship over a non-event, or at the very least, an event you cannot possibly predict.

Carolyn Hax: Thanks for the other side.

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Chicago: How do you get back to dating after a messy divorce?

Carolyn Hax: You wait till it doesn't seem weird or forced. I.e., you wait till you meet someone you would like to date. Takes care of itself that way.

If you're holed up so deeply you're not even meeting people, you can choose to come out of your hole just for the sake of seeing daylight, and not necessarily for the purpose of Meeting People to Date.

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Virginia: Hi,

I was recently diagnosed with MS and have been suffering some blindness because of it. Needless to say I haven't been working or driving and have been stuck at home during the day for about a month now. My problem is that almost everyday my mother-in-law and/or her sister call me to talk and "see how I am doing". I think this is very nice and was surprised at the level of caring for me. However "see how I am doing" usually results in reminders that there is some way that I can get fired and lose my health insurance, queries as to the possibility that I will EVER get better, and general miserable thoughts/questions. Even worse they are both planning fabulous vacations and continually complain about the planning/money spent/general bad things that could happen. Some times I just don't answer the phone but then there's the "Oh my god, she fell down and can't get up" and they bother my husband at work. My husband has taken to also not answering the phone but I don't like the possibility of a random ambulance showing up at my door, so I answer the phone. So my question is do you have any suggestions on how to field the depressing questions/comments?

Carolyn Hax: Have you tried being a diplomatic version of frank with them? Say, telling them you appreciate their concern, but that their daily calls have the unintended effect of underscoring what's sick about you, vs. what is healthy and independent, which is what you choose to think about these days?

Or you could ask straight out that they not call your husband or an ambulance if you don't pick up, because sometimes you are busy and choose not to answer.

Point being, there's no reason you should have to be hostage to people who at least tell themselves they mean well. Call their bluffs, and give them clear instructions for how you'd like them to show their concern.

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Falls Church, Va.: The reader who had a year-long breakdown over her sleazy ex's relationship with a teenager, and who still has anxiety attacks over him to the point where she can't attend the same wedding as him, is crying out for counseling. Maybe she's gotten help, but her letter doesn't specify this, and I think you should urge her to get the therapy and treatment that she needs. It sounds like the issues may go deeper than her ex's choice of girlfriend, and a trained professional can help her figure all that out.

Carolyn Hax: Thanks. You're right; I took away the impression she had had counseling, but if that was an assumption on my part it was a mistake. I haven't gone back to reread the Q so I'll take your word for it. Thank you.

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Alex, VA: Carolyn, one of your recent columns regarding in-laws hit a little close to home. My husband's stepfather is pretty grouchy, and has a very harsh sense of humor. His wife, my mother-in-law, is a lovely, easygoing person and takes his behavior in stride, even though she is often the butt of his jokes and I really don't think he treats her very well.

When my husband and I spend time with them, I find that my husband's personality starts to shift, and he starts treating me like his stepfather treats his mother. This drives me nuts, but he claimed for ages to have no idea what I'm talking about. I have been on a quiet campaign to point out to him all the ways that I think his stepfather's behavior toward his mother is not very nice -- assuming that if he could recognize the behavior, he'd cease mimicking it. This has been so successful that now he is pretty down on his stepfather, and seems irritated at his mother for putting up with it. This was not my intent. I am happy that he doesn't treat me in ways that I find unacceptable, but I am now bummed that he seems to be judging his mother -- who is truly a wonderful person and deserves a little slack.

Any thoughts on how to reign in this beast I created?

Carolyn Hax: Don't rein it in, just finish the job you started in educating it. You got your husband to recognize how an abuser behaves. Yay, great. Now keep going, and help him recognize how a victim behaves.

It is complicated stuff--it isn't just a matter of insults flying at someone who moronically chooses to stand there and take them. It's gradual, insidious, hard to recognize at first--which means the revelation comes (if it ever comes) to someone so weakened by years of abuse that the victim often blames him- or herself for making the abuser soooo unhappy s/he has to say these negative things. It's inexplicable from the outside and, from the inside, as logical as basic arithmetic. See if you can't get him to read about this; we've established that Peace at Home's Domestic Violence: The Facts handbook still lives on in cyberspace. If you can't turn up a copy, email me and I'll find you one.

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Re: sleazy ex: By having an affair with a 17-year old didn't this guy commit a felony? Whatever you think about statutory rape laws, a man in his 40s (or 30s!) dating a junior in high school is just bad news! I guess his daughter is fine with it but seriously, yuck!

Carolyn Hax: I don't think accepting it and being "fine with it" are the same thing. I obviously don't know this family, but when people are confronted with the choice between resigning themselves to something yucky and effectively losing a parent, they often put up with some seriously yuck situations.

And, FWIW, it's not what we "think" of statutory rape laws, it's what the law is--or isn't, and in many states it's younger than you may realize.

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DC:

I'm pregnant. Pretty far along. I'm getting very disgusted over some of the VERY personal questions that people are asking me re: the baby. I realize that some are well-meaning and just curious. For the most part, I try to suck it up and be polite. However, I am finding such nastiness when it comes to one issue: breastfeeding.

I am not breastfeeding. I've looked at it from all angles, discussed with my husband and searched myself. For many reasons, it is just not for me. The amount of judgmentalness (is that a word?) and outright nastiness and hostility I feel from people -whether they know my decision or are just opining on what I should do- is really surprising. But also, it angers me greatly.

I don't understand why people cannot understand the people make different choices. Lecturing me and being really hurtful will not affect my decision. It will only make me like that person less. I have found that this issue, more than any I've ever encountered in pregnancy or out of pregnancy inspires the most nastiness and vitriol I've ever seen.

How to deal with this? I've done well so far but am quickly losing my patience and ability to be polite.

Carolyn Hax: People are incredibly judgmental, on a lot of things, but you're right that a pregnant belly seems to generate its own gravitational pull to every idiot opinion within a two-block radius.

Not that being pro-breastfeeding is an idiot opinion. On the contrary. But it becomes one when the idiot who holds it chooses to impose it on someone who didn't ask.

The way to deal with it is to realize 1. It's not a pregnancy thing, it's a fact-of-life thing, and your belly just makes you a visible target. 2. As a life issue, it needs a life solution: Find a graceful, comfortable, you-like way not to share your personal choices with people whose opinions you don't care to have.

It won't be perfect; you'll slip or stop caring or feel rude excluding certain family members or whatever. Sometimes you just have to smile and nod and say, "Thanks, I'll think about that," and let people think they're changing your mind. (Trust me, it's easier than taking on an argument every time.)

But while giving birth will reduce the number of judgments you attract, little kids also attract them, plus you;re sensitized to it now and you'll spot it surrounding choices that have nothing to do with your kids. So I think you will need some longstanding approach to keep from losing your mind, and in that sense, biting your tongue and deflecting nosy questions does generally work.

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Re: Sleazy Ex: FWIW: The woman indicated she was from Texas -- the age of consent in Texas is 17.

Carolyn Hax: Thanks. I was going to look it up but didn't want to make all you nice people wait.

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Washington, DC: I'm pregnant for the first time at 38. I have been amazed at the reactions from people, including my MIL-to-be saying "I didn't even think you could get pregnant" with her face frowned up...

Carolyn, trust me, it was the last thing I expected too, but my fiance and I are happy because it's a blessing we never thought we'd experience together. I haven't even told my job yet..and my supervisor had something stupid to say when I told her I was getting married, so I know she is going to say something stupid when I tell her I'm pregnant. Can you give me some suggestions on how to respond to the comments I know I am going face? People amaze me! When you are 38 without kids, they look at you with pity, and when you are 38 and get pregnant they look at you with pity. Why can't folks just be happy that you are happy whether you choose to have children or not?

Carolyn Hax: Because people fall into three camps: 1. the people who need to put down others so they can feel good about themselves; 2. the people who really are happy for you but manage, somehow, in all situations, against all statistical probability, to find the worst possible thing to say (they're usually seated next to people from camp 2b, those who seek insults as if they're imbedded in everything, like Waldo); 3. people who are happy for you and say the right thing. If you're marrying a representative from Camp 3, that's all that really matters. Congratulations!

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Peace at Home pamphlet: http://www.peaceathome.org/pdfs/dmviolen.pdf

Carolyn Hax: Thanks!

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Washington, DC: Good afternoon,

Both I and my boyfriend are very sarcastic people, and usually give each other a hard time in a friendly way. But now it's really started to bug me. He constantly makes fun of me about every little thing, and even though I know he's mostly joking, it's really starting to get aggravating. I, on the other hand, have pretty much stopped my behavior in this way. I've brought it up to him that this really bothers me, but he says that it's the way he is, and always has been. He has a point, but I just can't take it anymore. What do I do?

Carolyn Hax: Break up with him, I guess. For what it's worth, I think you can be this way all your life ... until you reach a point where you grow up and want to be kinder to people, and occasionally say something really warm and complimentary and supportive (while not completely swearing off the occasional and particularly tempting zing). But this is the kind of intimacy that serial wisecrackers are usually out to avoid, and so if he doesn't get it or feel ready for it, then you have to take him at his word and act accordingly. Otherwise I think you'll just feel lonelier and lonelier with him.

One way you can find out for sure if he is ready or does get it is to explain to him the emotional/thought process that brought you to your decision to lay off the snark. See if he sees it, too.

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anywhere: This may be blindingly obvious, but the woman who is not planning on breastfeeding should discuss it with her OB/GYN, not just her husband. Otherwise she's likely to be hit with a big old mess at the hospital if her health-care providers are not aware in advance.

Carolyn Hax: Not a huge mess, but maybe a bit of explaining when she's in no mood to explain. Although, in my experience, at least, nurses were nonjudgmental and treated it as an A or B question.

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Texas: I'm in counseling. The girl's age was a huge issue for me, but I knew him more intimately than others did, and I knew he didn't have her best interests at heart.

I think I'll take my step-daughter and her fiance out to a special dinner. I know she will enjoy that. Thank you for the advice.

Carolyn Hax: Thanks for writing back.

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New Haven CT: In the mail yesterday, I received an invitation to a baby shower. I should be delighted to participate, happy for the couple etc, but I'm not. Although money is not an issue, I feel, probably unjustly, that I am increasingly being shaken down for gifts be it for weddings, showers, wedding bbqs etc. I am single, childless and planning to stay that way, and I know that I can send my regrets. That said, I feel like they would know why and regard me as that stingy weird girl - especially for the invites from coworkers. Any advice?

Carolyn Hax:"I have a conflict that day." It can be true eight days from now or eight months, and it can be no other conflict than that you've planned to spend that afternoon not being shaken down for gifts.

About the shakedowns: Some people are grubbing, sure, but many aren't and are either marching unquestioningly along the path society tells them to march--which is why it's often older couples who skip the showers/bridesmaids/etc., or who regret not skipping them way back when. Or, they're not keen on extracting gifts but there's a relative behind the scenes for whom their doing the whole official dance is very important.

So, I think all you do is add this stuff up, decide how much you care about the newlyweds- or parents-to-be, and accept or decline accordingly. And if you do accept, the gift never need be expensive--favorite recipes, photographs, it's okay to get creative.

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Sarcasm: For what it's worth, the current term "sarcasm" takes its roots from the Greek for "to rip or tear flesh."

Perhaps this is a good chance to rethink the value of sarcasm as a general way of relating to people...

Carolyn Hax: Do you think?

Sorry. It's just who I am.

(Thank you.)

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saying the wrong thing: About Washington DC, who's getting all these insults, please consider that some people are just terrible about expressing themselves. As a long time resident of camp 2, I have what my friends jokingly refer to as "foot-in-mouth disease" (for example, I congratulated my cousin on turning 18 by stating he could be tried as an adult now). My friends and family just laugh when it happens, which seems to help us all.

Carolyn Hax: Actually, that was a great line. I'm going to file it away. Thanks.

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Seattle, WA: Oh, no, just found an acquaintance's boyfriend on a dating site. She is a friend of a friend, and I don't know much about their relationship. For all I know, they could have an agreement and an open relationship. Most likely, they don't. Should I tell?

Carolyn Hax: You don't know enough and you don't know the people enough. I'd stay out of this one.

And that includes an embargo on talking about it with other people, since that would only mean that, if he is in fact cheating on her, it becomes a big fat open secret being kept from her.

The exception would be, MAYBE, if your friend were very close to this acquaintance and you were very close to your friend. E.g., if it were my sister's best friend, I would tell my sister so she could tip off her best friend if needed.

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Washington, DC: My husband hates his job. Hates it. It makes him miserable and I suspect that he's crossed the line into full-blown depression. He isn't interested in looking for another job because he feels that any other job will be just as miserable. That in itself sounds like depression to me. Any suggestion I make about getting screened for depression is dismissed immediately. I've taken to avoiding him when he's in a bad mood because interacting with him usually ends badly. I feel guilty for not being miserable, too, and am tired of being snapped at. How do I handle this? Is there anything I can do, or do I just need to stay out of his way, help when he allows me to help, and hope something gives?

Carolyn Hax: I don't think letting the situation fester until it's unbearable serves the health of either of you. Unfortunately, you can't make people get help when they don't want help, but NAMI might be able to help you appraoch it and him in an informed way that draws from the experiences of people who have been in your position, but that's specific to your situation--www.nami.org

Holy mouthful. Sorry.

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MD: the boyfriend could have a profile up on the site and have forgotten about it. I know I did - BOY was that a hot discussion when someone "kindly" pointed it out to my boyfriend.

Carolyn Hax: Yah. Thanks.

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Falls Church, VA: My father is in hospice dying. My sister-in-law is pressuring my mother to have him buried in a National Cemetary because he is a WWII vet. They are too far away, and my mother wants something close to home in a private cemetary. Also, my sister-in -law wants a reception after the funeral at my mother's house. My mother wants a reception in a reasturant. I want to tell sister-in-law that when her husband dies she can make all the decisions, however, my mother does not need any additional stress or pressure now.

Carolyn Hax: Please do, but only after you talk to your mom and ask her if that's what she'd like you to do. One of those, "Just say the word and I'll take care of it, Mom," conversations. That is, assuming you aren't already certain she'd want that. I would tell you just to go for it, but people are funny--sometimes they really want that kind of intervention on their behalf, and sometimes it really upsets them.

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Virginia: Carolyn: I'm 29 and have recently gone 6 months without a job. I did it intentionally because I have some savings that allowed me to do this. I was unhappy in my job and am in school so I thought I deserved a break. I've had a job since I was 16 and have paid my own way through everything and thought I deserved it. The problem is everyone is acting as though I am going through a crisis and having a breakdown because I am not working. My father dies a few years ago and I have no other family and although this does affect me, I reallt just wanted a break. Is it possible I am having a breakdown and do not know it?

Carolyn Hax: If you're going long on sleep, short on showers and you're one with daytime TV, then maybe "everyone" has a point. But if you feel together and good and you can't point to any obvious depression symptoms, objectively (www.depression-screening.org), then tell people thanks but you feel fine. It also wouldn't hurt to ask one or two of them why they're concerned, if these are people close enough to you and whose judgment you respect.

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Cant be happy about it: My older sister is a deeply troubled woman (mid 30s, 3 divorces, drinking problem, manipulative,etc). Recently she has been saying that she's in therapy and uses a message board for single parents to help her figure out why she has such loser taste in men (controlling, heavy drinkers, etc.) My mother is super-thrilled sis seems to making movements toward mental health.

However, I can't even feign enthusiasam b/c I think this another one of my sister's superficial attempts to "reform" simply to set my family up for another monetary request. She's been in therapy before and lied to the therapist to avoid making herself look bad or facing her problems. She's also well known for starting up little "projects" for self-improvement then stopping after a couple of weeks when her problem don't miraculously disappear. I also have a very strong suspicion my sister isn't a "single parent" and is still seeing the man she left hubby #3 for, whom she claimed physically abused her, but still allowed him around her 2 small children.

I don't want to rain on my mom's parade that sis might actually finally be doing something to address her massive issues...but I also can't pretend I'm taking this at face value as my sister hasn't said a single honest thing to my family in over 10 years. Basically, if she's talking she's lying.

Do I have to suck it up and feign belief and ethusiasm to my mom when she gushes about the steps my sister is taking to get mentally healthy? I talk to my mother at least 3 times a week and see her at least once and my older sister is a favorite topic of conversation. If I ever say something like "I'll believe it when I see it" my mom gets annoyed and says i'm not supportive of my sister. Why should I be? She hasn't done anything to earn my trust or support. Why am I expected to give it away just b/c she's claiming for the millionth time to be trying to address her problems but still ACTS same as ever?

Carolyn Hax:"I hope you're right, Mom," and "Yes, that may be promising" are a lot less judgmental, but just as show-me-the-money, as "I'll believe it when I see it." You can change your tone out of respect for your mom, and still not buy into a lie.

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Babyzilla: I have a very dear friend who is expecting her first child. This very dear friend has identified sixty-five of her closest friends that she would like invited to her baby shower. As one of her closest friends, I am part of the group of people responsible for preparing food for this event. I am extraordinarily happy for the expectant mother and am pleased to participate. However, I cannot stop thinking about how this event has morphed from the welcoming of a child to an event being run like a corporate office in the acquisition of baby gifts. Have baby showers changed since I last attended one? I just can't believe that no one thought "maybe I should ask my friends if they are in a position to prepare food and plan a three hour long event for sixty-five people?"

Carolyn Hax: Is anyone throwing this thing close enough to her to say, "65 people is going to make you look like you're fishing for gifts"? If the answer is no, and/or you're all too afraid she'll respond by getting nasty with you, then that there is your problem.

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husband hates his job: This doesn't touch on the depression - but one of the best things I did for my marriage was to give my husband permission to quit a job he hated. (basically I said - quit your job or quit your whining) Of course at the time we had no kids, no mortage and that's what I told him - do it now - 10 yrs from now we'll hopefully have both (and we do)and won't have the freedom to live on one income. He quit, went back to school and is much more satisfied. But he was so miserable he couldn't do any of that in the situation he was in.

Carolyn Hax: Thanks. Worth a try.

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compromise: To the family with conflict over going to the widow's home after the funeral or going to a restaurant: a lot of churches are now offering their meeting hall for cookies and punch (or cold cuts) after the funeral to ease the burden on families. They don't have to clean the house and have 100 guests or face the expense or public exposure of a resturant at a difficult time.

Carolyn Hax: I hope they take advantage, thank you--anything to make this even a little easier.

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Durham: My cousin just lost her baby 3 weeks before her due date. Although we were close when we were young, we now live on opposite coasts and I only see her about once a year, last time at Christmas (when we talked about her baby!). I want to do something for her, but I also don't want to be like one of those people who come crawling out of the woodwork when bad things happen. How best to support and love right now without intrusiveness?

Carolyn Hax: Send a card or note. Coming out of the woodwork is not parasitic, it's a loving service people perform to remind others at times of loss that they're loved and their grief is shared. It says, "You've touched my life and I care about you," which is quite possibly the only consolation available to the inconsolable.

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Arlington, VA: Re: taking time off from work for six months -

Wow, I can tell you that many of us are jealous, and would love that opportunity. Perhaps your "concerned" friends are just judging you through their own narrow framework of what life should be like. I'd let them know that you are focused on school (you mentioned you were in school), and wanted to enjoy life a bit in the process. If a friend of mine were to go through that, as long as there was some sense of action during that time (for example, traveling, volunteering, focusing on the school project, etc.), I might go so far as to commend him/her.

Carolyn Hax: Thanks. It's a tough call from where we sit because s/he might be just fine and getting judged by the narrowminded, and s/he might be in trouble and using us to justify tuning out people who have cause to be concerned. So, no, there is no inherent calamity in taking time off, and in fact it can be a sign of strength, both financial and emotional. Which is why any calamity would lie in this person's mental and emotional state, which is why s/he needs to parse people's concerns by way of doing an honest how-am-I-doing? check.

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Arlington, VA: Hi Carolyn,

I am in my early 30s, am single, never married, and do not have children. I am very happy with my life and am fairly successful in my career. A friend of mine has known me since we were in high school. I was a bridesmaid in her wedding 2 years ago and she is expecting her first child in a few months. I am genuinely happy for her and have always been supportive. She recently made a remark to me that I found to be quite hurtful. This was not the first time she did something like this. Her remarks basically revolve around her opinion that my life lacks meaning or happiness because I am not married. My gut says to take the high road but when do I decide to just end this relationship? Thanks

Carolyn Hax: After you say to her, "When you say things like X and Y, I feel really angry, because it sounds like you're saying my life lacks meaning or happiness because I am not married." and after she responds in a way that doesn't make you want her friendship any more.

If she responds well, then, great, you have this nagging doubt behind you.

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SOS: Carolyn,

I have an acquaintance who I turned down politely, stating I had not enough time to date. He's in a very depressed state anyway and it's been a few months since I turned him down and he's back trying to run into me again. I can turn down nicely or get more aggressive, but my problem is that he seems so emotionally crazy/depressed that I feel I might set him off in a bad way. Should I continue being nice but firm, or try to avoid at all costs (which I'd like to do) or be mean?

Carolyn Hax: Don't be mean. However, "I don't have enough time to date" isn't nice but firm; it's an open invitation to keep asking you, becuase, who knows, maybe now you have time, right? So, yes, avoid him when possible, but, more important, be genuinely nice but firm when you can't avoid him--"No, thank you, I do not want to go out with you." If he presses, ask him please to stop contacting you. After that, screen calls, ignore emails, dont' answer the door.

Time for a "Gift of Fear" plug, I think--by Gavin deBecker, about how to deal with unwanted advances, particularly from people you're afraid to set off because they strike you as being ... how did you say it? "Emotionally crazy/depressed."

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Durham, N.C.: I'm sorry, I didn't get to read the transcript until Sunday night.

For the woman whose husband is applying to business schools: I felt the exact same way this time two years ago. My husband was looking at schools from Chicago east, so I had no idea where we'd land. My industry pays half what my husband made, and the thought of being the sole bread winner was scary.

The good news: Many MBA programs have partners networks that can help you find a job and offer advice on finding a place to live (neighborhoods, etc.).

I've heard that business schools operate with the same mentality as companies that transfer people overseas--if the spouse isn't happy, the student isn't happy. So don't be afraid to ask for some advice.

The schools will soon have admission weekends for both of you. Go to as many as you can. They should have sessions for you on job seeking, and tours of different apartments and housing in the area for both of you.

If your husband has already been admitted to programs, he may have access to incoming students' web sites that may have links to the partners' organization and housing information. You may want to ask him about it.

Paying for school: Student loans are scary, I know, but if I could pay them when I was single and living on a reporter's salary, anyone can. Your husband will probably be making much, much, much more than that after he graduates.

Hang in there. For me, the idea of seeing a new part of the country kept the whole thing interesting, and it's been a blast.

Carolyn, I know this post is late, but if you could add this to the chat, I'd appreciate it. I bet many spouses are feeling the same way.

Carolyn Hax: Here it is, posting it on my way out the door. Thanks, to you and everyone else for stopping by. Type to you next week.

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