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Carolyn Hax
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 8, 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.

A transcript follows.

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Suburbs: Hi Carolyn:

Just found out an hour ago, from a trusted fourth party, that my husband and sister slept together a little over a week ago. They "plan" to tell me, but haven't yet because they're "still working on the logistics of who should be the one to tell." Because apparently being the one who doesn't tell is somehow vilifying. In case the affair isn't bad enough.

I was told over the phone and I haven't opened my office door since then. I've been sitting at my desk thinking a thousand thoughts, and I don't know where to begin. Can't decide who to call first, or whether to wait for their logistically sound little plan to finish unfolding, or just leave the house and stay in a hotel until my nerves settle.

Sis and I have a lunch date tomorrow for her birthday. We planned it weeks ago.

Oh, and I'm five months pregnant. Baby boy seems mad at me today.

Carolyn Hax: Wow. I'm not sure which to tackle first, the affair or the fourth party who thought it was a good idea to tell you this over the phone while you were at work.

If you can get out early, please do so.

When you leave, step one is deep breathing. Step two is to talk to your husband to relate to him what you've heard. Step three is to take what comes with as much grace as you can muster. When you need a stabilizer, concentrate on the baby.

FWIW, assuming all you've presented here turns out to be true, your husband gets a special cowardice medal for thinking there's even a discussion to be had about who tells you. I hope he has the presence of mind to recognize and admit this himself.

I'm sorry.

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D.C.: What can I do about a friend that takes everything personally? The latest time this happened, she invited me to join her on a vacation and I had to say no because I can't afford it. She insisted I was lying about the reason, told me I was not being a good friend, and ignored me for a few days. This is typical of her and even though we have fun together sometimes, I'm at my wits end over this. I never know when the next attack will come. Is there anything I can do to help her or just for me to deal with it?

Carolyn Hax: You can go two ways. You can try explaining your perspective -- that you would expect a "good friend" not to accuse you of lying -- or you can accept that your friend has bigger issues than you can solve, and just start building in slack for her poor reactions to things.

I'd like to support the first way, since people who "attack" like this are usually just trapped in a me-centric box (lotsa possible reasons, from depression or other disorders, to insecurity, to garden-variety self-absorption), and so it would be ideal if both friends could help each other see things from a different perspective. It sounds as if this friend's vision of herself as victim is on the extreme side, and so might be extremely tough to dislodge.

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Behind a desk: I'm a little older than your usual crowd, not married, no kids, etc., but that's not my problem. Up front, I don't hate my job or my workplace, but I'm tired of working. Just tired of having to take a shower at the same time every weekday morning, being pleasant when I'm in a bad mood or tired (I work with good people whom I wouldn't want to subject to my moods anyway), soothing insecurities (mine and others), juggling too much work, or filling time when there's too little because I have to be here a set amount of time no matter what. You get the picture. I can't believe I've got another 30 years of this. I'm relatively successful in my career, people like me, I've moved up and around, so I haven't been in the same place for 20 years, but the basic bones of working never change and I'm tired. I would take a year off, but I'm not sure I can score affordable health-insurance on my own and COBRA is outrageous. Okay. I guess there's really nothing you can tell me, other than maybe "try to marry rich," but thanks for letting me whine.

Carolyn Hax: No! There is something to say. Your obstacles to taking a year off are substantial but not insurmountable. Start researching your options with health insurance, and, meanwhile, start saving for possible COBRA payments if it turns out that's your best option. So you can't drop everything this very second -- you can start this very second to put yourself in a position to drop everything in June 200X. Even the process of figuring out what expenses to trim can help focus you and lift your mood, since it'll be a concrete step toward something you value.

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Goodness: After reading the first question I forgot what I was going to ask you.

I'd cancel that lunch date with the sis. If you got her a gift, donate it. Let her celebrate her birthday alone.

Carolyn Hax: Thanks.

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Washington, D.C.: Carolyn,

Love the chats.

How come when I go out west (San Francisco, Vancouver), smart/attractive women are very interested in me; but here in DC, it's a no hitter? I feel I am as relaxed/putting out positive vibes here as when I'm out West.

Any ideas?

Carolyn Hax: I dunno. It might not be that big a mystery- - someone who looks perfect at a rodeo would be almost cartoonish in a Manhattan boardroom. Different places appeal to different tastes. Maybe you just suit the tastes of people who find the West appealing.

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Rockville, Md.: My marriage with my wife is and has been on the rocks for many years. We have spent a small fortune on marriage counseling. I'm trying to decide if I can last any longer. One thing she has said to me over the last year is she married me feeling like she didn't love me, and since being married she has never fallen in love with me. Who do I deal with this, when my marriage counselors say we need to re-kindle the love?

Carolyn Hax: Do you have kids?

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online only please: Hi Carolyn --

When my fiance and I got engaged over a year ago, we asked our best friends to be our only attendants. They have been married for more than 10 years -- happily, we thought. Now our own wedding is a few weeks away, and they are in the midst of separating, for a lot of reasons we hadn't been privy to. We're trying very hard not to take sides and be supportive of both. We still want them to be in our wedding, as our closest friends, but is this just being selfish? It will force them to be together at a very painful time, at a wedding no less. No one else knows what is going on.

Carolyn Hax: Ask them how they'd like you to handle it, making it clear that you still want them to be in your wedding.

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First Question: That's a doozy. Before I canceled the lunch date with the sister, I would make sure that it is true (by speaking with the husband). Possible that the reliable fourth party isn't as reliable as she thinks.

Carolyn Hax: Right right -- I had them in mind as sequential but I see now that wasn't clear. Thanks.

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Soon to be ex-patriated Washington, DC: Dear Carolyn,

My husband was offered a transfer to Europe. It is something we have always said we wanted, and are both very excited about it...but now that the reality is here, I think the reality has set in, and I am really scared. I don't know the language, and won't know anyone there except my husband. I may not be able to work, and I have been told by the company that the No. 1 reason these ex-pat assignments don't work is an unhappy spouse, which I feel puts pressure on me to be happy. I've moved around the U.S. a couple of times, but this feels different, bigger, and I fear I am being consumed by my fear rather than embracing the opportunity and being excited like I thought I would be. How do I stop this?

Carolyn Hax: The concrete-steps advice applies here, too, I think. Since you obviously have to quit your job before you go, quit a week or two earlier than planned so you can take one of those intensive language-training programs. Alternately, you can sign up for one offered in your new country, so you can both learn the language and get some structure to your early days there -- and maybe even pick up some acquaintances to get you started. Or, what the hell, do both. I think the important thing is to use this fear to motivate you to dive in, vs. retreat. It's happening, so make it happen. Then if it ultimately doesn't work, you'll at least be able to say you gave it your best shot.

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RE: Rockville: Why does it matter if he has kids. I think my parents' best parental move was to get out of a loveless marriage and move on to other people that they love - it showed us kids what a real relationship is supposed to be (rather that setting an example of what a marriage is not supposed to be). There was no fighting, no hysterics, no cheating...just no love.

Carolyn Hax: Because what they do and how they do it would have to have the kids at the center, whereas being childless means it can begin and end with their needs. I'm not saying they Have to Stay Together for the Kids. But it always, always matters whether there are kids.

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1st question: The question I had suddenly doesn't seem important after reading the first one. And I don't mean it sounds trivial and I feel bad posting it when other people are dealing with more serious stuff, but more like the problem has resolved because it no longer feels like a problem when I could be in a situation where my husband and sister just slept together. I cannot think of anything worse. I am so, so sorry for her pain. The fact that she is able to be at work, even with the door closed, and type coherently makes me think she is very strong and will get through this but, geez, why does she have to?!

Carolyn Hax: I appreciate your post, but, ah, there is always worse. This is a fact of the human condition. I don't think I minimize the mom-to-be's pain when I point out that she has a job, her own health, an as-far-as-we-know healthy baby on the way, and I thought palpable presence of mind, and, I swear I'm typing this with a straight face, a husband and sister who sound as if they love her. They just happen to be screaming morons. She has a real chance to come through this just fine.

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Arlington, Va.: Carolyn,

At the end of '06, my boyfriend of six months broke up with me. I was devastated, but more so because it was just another failed relationship. Ever since then, I have been reticent at best to date. I just feel "dead" in that way -- not interested in dating. Just defeated. I joined eHarmony, but I find myself ignoring it. Thing is, I turn 36 this July. I feel like I'm running out of time, especially since I want kids. What do you suggest to get over this what seems to be a psychological roadblock?

Carolyn Hax: Enjoy it. I know I'm a broken record (scratched CD?), but your dating hiatus could be a problem, or it could be some unbudgeted free time with no strings or expectations attached. Which viewpoint sounds like more fun?

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To the DC guy: I have the same situation. No hitter here in Boston but I meet friendly/smart/attractive guys all the time when I travel. My theory is that I'm more relaxed, laid back on vacation than I am at home so I'm giving off a different vibe than I do when I'm home. Maybe the same thing applies to you. Not that it does either of us any good but it's just a thought.

Carolyn Hax: Fine thought, thanks. And if it's accurate, it will do you both good. Knowing it means you can address it.

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Lincoln, Neb.: Lately I've been in a real funk. My husband had cancer four years ago and is doing well, but I'm scared to live life and look forward. Today's first letter gave me a real reality check. There are worse things than want I'm going through.

Carolyn Hax: Thanks. This is an interesting thread, I think. When your husband was sick, there were also people going through worse things. But what did that matter? You had your bad thing to deal with and your job, your all-consuming job, was to deal with it. That's normal and right.

Now, your job has changed. What is it, though -- to get through the day? To get the most from each day? To help people through their bad times? This is all stuff to help you form a way of looking forward.

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For the soon-to-be ex-pat: Look for online communities of English-speaking (don't have to be American) ex-pats living in the same country. Best case, you'll find yourself a social network. Worst case, at least you'll have someone to ask all those "Where on earth can I buy a spatula?" type questions.

Carolyn Hax: Thanks.

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Portland: Carolyn,

I want revenge. Is that okay?

Years ago (yes it's petty), a friend told me that my forgetfulness was a personality flaw. At the time I had two young children, she was single. Now she has a small boy, and what do you know, forgot about an appointment we had. With anyone else I would understand, but I want to mock her instead. May I?

Carolyn Hax: Only if you want to laugh with and not at.

But clearly you want to laugh at. So what's the history here, that makes her more obnoxious than "anyone else"?

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Washington, D.C.: For the D.C. guy:

It's because the women know you're only there temporarily. They don't feel the pressure/awkwardness that comes from being with a guy where it might lead to something (whether they want it to or not). They feel more relaxed because they know next week you'll be gone. (It's true for men, too). You're safe to flirt with.

Carolyn Hax: That didn't come close to occurring to me. Great thought, thanks.

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Washington, D.C.: My husband is taking my 2-year-old daughter to see his mother without me. I'm throwing a bridal shower, and my husband thinks he is doing me a favor by picking a weekend I can't go. His mother and I don't get along.

Instead of being grateful, I'm angry and worried. I don't trust his mother with my daughter and don't trust my husband to stand up to his mother. I'd like to have a nice relaxing weekend alone for the first time in two years, but instead I'm a wreck.

And just so you know, I leave my daughter with my husband with no problem. And I tend not to be an overprotective, worrying mom.

Carolyn Hax: Bottom line. Do you really think your MIL will do something to harm her grandchild?

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New York, NY: Maybe D.C. guy and "To the DC Guy" girl should get together? Or maybe they should meet out of town first and hit it off, and then date back in town.

Carolyn Hax: It does sound like the beginning of a beautiful long-distance relationship, if there is such a thing.

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For the soon to be ex-pat: Carolyn, We were went overseas several years ago by my husbands employer. We had 3 small children. The apartment they rented for us was a large room with couch, dining table, bed, a loft for the 3 little ones and a small kitchen with no oven and a dorm style fridge!!! There will definitely be a culture shock! She needs to expect about 6 weeks to settle in. Then...take advantage of every moment there. Europe is easy to travel around in, mass transit, nearness of other cities etc. There is so much to see and do. Our year flew by quickly. The tough part was just hanging in there the first 6 weeks. Get out among the locals. You will learn the language. Ask folks back home to send you reading material in English if you won't have a computer. Sorry this is so long but we had a great experience and I recommend it for everyone to try.

Carolyn Hax: Thanks.

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Washington, D.C.: I don't mean to come off sounding bitter or cynical, but I'm so tired of people telling me to enjoy being single. It's been 10 years now since my last relationship. I have some great friends, I take amazing trips, I go to museums and restaurants and I enjoy all of it. But at the end of the day, I am longing for someone to share my life with. So even though I'm doing what I want, my single life has become harder and harder to enjoy. You can surround yourself with great friends all you want, but you are still alone. Sorry, but that's how I feel about it.

Carolyn Hax: Okay. Then be miserable. What can I tell you.

I agree that being told how to live your life can really grate. But the way to get people off your back isn't to teach them all not to give unsolicited and unwanted advice (though if you can make any headway there, go for it, for the good if us all). It's to stop throwing off grains of misery everywhere you go. How? I don't know. It's your life. It's your happy to find.

But I will float this out there, since it's Comparative Misery Day: People, in general, are biologically programmed toward mating. Yes. They are also biologically programmed to have four limbs, and five senses, and enough wits and coordination to fend for themselves in the world.

So what of those who are either born or robbed of one of these basic things? Does it suck for them? Yes. Are they then stuck with a life of lesser joy, love, accomplishment, worth? To suggest that would be, rightly, appalling.

So you have what you have. What you do with that has nothing to do with the "people" who tell you whatever it is they're telling you.

And, for what it's worth, I still maintain that someone unhappily paired is more alone than the alone.

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MIL: Unless your MIL in dangerous, get over it! I wouldn't choose my MIL as a friend (she follows me around, is overly effusive and talks constantly), but she is great with my kids.

And I know my husband bites his tongue with my mom (who talks about almost nothing except who died and herself) because I love her and she's my mom.

And please note that your husband IS doing you a favor -- and be appreciative of it.

Carolyn Hax: This is sort of where I was going to go with it -- not exactly, but it saves me half of my typing. Thanks!

The other half would be, even if she isn't great with your 2-year-old, it's the rare grandma who will truly endanger a grandchild. Some will give forbidden sugary foods or make awful TV choices or even undermine the parents' authority. They are all rotten on their own and they're worth some attention at some point. But for one weekend, with a parent present? Then you just throw your shower.

That is, if you don't have other reasons to think your child is in actual danger. Then you have to listen to that little voice.

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To the anxious mom: Either you trust your husband to take care of your daughter or you don't. With his mom, at the zoo, wherever.

And please let your daughter have her own relationship with her grandmother, for good or ill. There are plenty of people who are lousy parents or in-laws who are nevertheless good grandparents. And I say this as someone who had an extremely difficult grandmother, and who is very grateful that my parents let me develop my own relationship with her.

Carolyn Hax: Great point, thank you.

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Bride-to-be: Hi Carolyn,

Love your chats.

Quick question. My friend wanted to throw me a bridal shower but was adamant that it wasn't "run of the mill." No problem with that, but when I found it it would be a pay-your-own-way shower at a fancy restaurant ($35 head), I told her I was honored that she wanted to do something but wasn't comfortable with how she wanted to do things, and asked that she not do this (besides, several friends told me they could not afford this). She canceled the party, but now won't speak to me. It's been over a month, and my attempts to contact her have been ignored. The wedding is less than a month away, and I'm stumped. She saw nothing wrong with charging guests an entrance fee to a party, and says I broke her heart. Do I just have to wait for her to get over it? I feel like I've done everything there is to do at this point, and the ball is in her court. I'd hate to lose a 13-year friendship over a stupid party, but it seems like that's the only option right now. Any advice?

Carolyn Hax: Thanks. I'm with you. You've done all you can do (and you did the right thing by pulling the plug, though it doesn't sound like you have any doubts). People who go the not-speaking route don't leave any appealing options. Which is, of course, the point; if they don't let you talk to them, then they can never find out they were wrong ...

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Re: Arlington: I agree with you answer about changing perspective but I wanted to throw another possibility out there. Maybe the writer needs to speak to a professional. He/She seems to tie a good amount of self-worth to relationship-status. Maybe this is an issue to look into. Or maybe he/she keeps picking the wrong guys. Or needs to talk to someone to learn how to thrive on solo for a while.

Carolyn Hax: It's funny, the whole math behind a counseling suggestion. The truth is, every answer I give (with, I suppose, a few shoe exceptions) could end with, "... and if you find this doesn't help, consider counseling." Because that really is what counseling is about -- finding underlying causes for your unhappiness that you haven't been able to find or remedy on your own.

So it's always an issue for me whether to suggest it, or to trust that the suggestion is implied. Just to make it fun, when I leave it out, people post to suggest counseling, and when I put it in, I get, "You always suggest counseling."

Okay. Enough about my problems. Thanks for the post.

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Sacramento, Calif.: Hi Carolyn, I need some advice. My boyfriend of four months broke up with me. It's been about six weeks since the breakup and I've followed the unwritten rule of no contact. In the meanwhile, I've done a lot of introspection and thinking, and I really think he's right about a lot of things that led to our breakup. I've recognized this and am truly working on it (not for him, for me of course because this just makes for a better me). After so much time apart and a lot of thinking, I still feel like I really want to get back together with him. What is the best way to approach this? I don't want to overload on him about how great I now am and how much work I've done on myself, which could either drive him away or make me look a little crazy. On the other hand, I really want to tell him how I feel and ask him to give us another shot. But that could just make him feel overwhelmed too. How to handle this? This guy is the best thing that's ever happened to me, and I don't want to mess this up!

Carolyn Hax: Either he's an easily overwhelmed kind of guy, or you're hyperventilating. It's hardly a pressure campaign if you invite him to lunch and tell him thanks, he was right about a lot of things.

However. You went out four months? And he's the best thing that ever happened to you? I would get the hyperventilation under control before you undertake even a thank-you lunch. Give the whatever-you're-doing more time to take hold, and at least try not to think of what you're doing in terms of how you'll be a much better girlfriend to this guy now. Assume it's over and work from there.

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Re: Revenge: I had a friend with three perfect children. At that time I just had my son, who was a challenge. We had door locks, gates, every safety lock, our electronics were on top of the entertainment center. He still got into everything repeatedly. She would say "just redirect him." I had anxiety attacks before playgroups at other people's houses. Her children would play and I would chase mine around keeping him out of cabinets, garbage cans, refrigerators, etc. She had a fourth child that was nothing like her first three and everything like my first one. We have had the best time laughing TOGETHER about how she couldn't understand my situation until she lived it. She borrowed all my gates and door locks. I never held it against her, but I really love hearing the stories about her fourth child. Give your friend a break and laugh together. Everything looks easier until you live it.

Carolyn Hax: Thanks. Not only a good story, but also a neatly stated example of a fact that I don't think is really "out there," that temperament plays heavily into the whole parents-of-small-kids thing -- kid temperament, mainly, but parental too.

I know this isn't what you're talking about, but it's on my mind from all the mail I got from the column about stay-at-home moms (thank you all, by the way, for all the responses). It's mostly assumed that the empathy dividing line falls between People With Kids and People Without. But I don't think that's true--I heard from some parents who wondered what the fuss was all about, and one even suggested there was no excuse for a parent to be harried (!). And there were plenty of childless people who were empathetic just from seeing their friends or siblings try to keep up with difficult kids.

And here's where we bring it back around to your point:

If everyone had your no-scorekeeping attitude, we'd all be holding hands and singing Kumbaya right now. Thanks for advocating it.

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Biologically Programmed for Mating: I CAN'T BELIEVE YOU SAID THAT SINGLE PEOPLE AREN'T HUMAN!

(Sorry; I felt the chat wasn't complete until you got at least one of these.)

Carolyn Hax: Thank you. I feel complete.

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I'm a thief?: Carolyn,

While I agree with most of what you told the woman dating the bad credit risk, to lump everyone with a bad credit score in with common thieves or to assume that a credit score is a numeric character reference is pretty disappointing. Be dumb in college, overextend yourself one time for a special occasion or, God forbid, a family emergency, your credit goes to heck and your score takes a tumble. Does that make you a bad person? If you run into bad luck (job loss, family emergency), even if you pay off every penny of the outrageous interest rates and punitive fees stacked on top of what you owe, your credit score still gets dinged. In fact, the system makes it better for you to go into bankruptcy (and truly walk away from the debt) than to pay off the debt. Yet you lump people with low credit scores in with thieves? Wow. Thanks.

Carolyn Hax: Actually, you're lumping my credit score comment with my thieves comment, which I tried to make as specific as possible: people who -knowingly- borrow more than they can pay. I agonized over the wording of that column, the whole thing. Credit scores as character witnesses, for example: You are absolutely right that innocent people can get bad credit--through identity theft, job loss, bad behavior by their mates, endless configurations. And these innocent people then dig themselves out of the hole and they do build their credit back up. Just the moment the curve points back up, a positive story is being told about that person.

I never meant to catch people other than the abusers in my net. I didn't agonize hard enough.

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Bethesda, Md.: Hi Carolyn,

It seems like my guy is never content with the amount of time we spend together. Either we don't go out on enough dates, or our dates are too short, or he wants to spend the night, or the whole next day if he spent the night, or the entire weekend together...and so on.

I see him often, 4-5 times a week, minimum. But, as I've explained, I'm tapped out. I work full time, go to school part time and want to keep up with friends/family. I simply can't and won't commit to all weekend every weekend. If I don't have plans for a particular day, but also won't commit to plans with him, he gets upset with me.

This Sunday, for example, I told him I might go do something with a girlfriend but hadn't decided yet. He got snitty and asked when I would know so he could plan his weekend accordingly. It was only Tuesday. I had spent the last 5 days with him and we have plans to go to a concert tomorrow night. But now he's really upset that I didn't agree to spend Sunday with him. Is this normal?

Carolyn Hax: No. But that doesn't matter. You're unhappy with it, so you need to do something about it. Your job is to do what's right for you. A good relationship is one in which doing what's right for you has the benefit of making the other person happy -- up to and including that making him happy makes you happy. You don't seem to have that here, and your efforts to get there don't seem to be working.

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Revenge: an alternative: This is obviously something that has been eating at the poster, which I can totally understand. I don't think just saying "Remember a few years ago when you told me my forgetfulness was a personality flaw? This is why that really hurt my feelings." would be all that out of line.

Carolyn Hax: Agreed. I just get the sense that this is a competitive friendship in general, with a lot more stuff than this.

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Sorry, you're wrong on this: Carolyn, you said:

"What of those who are either born or robbed of one of these basic things? Does it suck for them? Yes. Are they then stuck with a life of lesser joy, love, accomplishment, worth? To suggest that would be, rightly, appalling. "

It's not appalling; it's true. Even people who have found joy, love, accomplishment, worth -- they'd all want to have all four limbs (to take that example), if it were possible. Meaning they would have even more joy, etc., if they had the missing limb. Meaning, by definition, they are "stuck" with a life of "lesser joy," etc. (Okay, love does not fit this equation.)

None of us has everything we want. Life is about making the best of things. But let's not be all Pollyanna about it, because that's what really ticks people off.

Carolyn Hax: I'm not saying they wouldn't want their limbs back. Hell, I want my mom back. Every day. But losing her brought other things, and I'm not sure I'm ready to say I'd trade those things to have her back, if it meant I had to revert to my pre-Mom-sickness state of mind. It's all so incredibly complicated, and so that's why the only thing I feel I can responsibly advocate is to reject comparisons, take what you have and live it as well as you can. Which is, oddly enough, essentially the same place where your differing opinion brings you.

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No no no Sacramento (please post): DON'T get back in touch with him. I've seen this happen in other relationships; the dumpee does the internal work, which was needed anyway, then goes back and hounds the dumper, saying, "But I did everything you wanted me to, why can't we get back together?" and then goes off the deep end when that doesn't happen.

You CAN kill love, and you can't necessarily revive it. Just regard it as a lesson learned.

Carolyn Hax: Well said. No hounding. Thanks.

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Is D.C. Friendly?: What amazes me is when I go a'traveling how friendly random strangers are in other parts of the county. Why not D.C.? My little contribution to the solution is to launch a one-person crusade to Be Friendly To Strangers. (Except tourist groups. They deserve no quarter.)

Not sure it's working, but what's the harm?

Carolyn Hax: Except for the guy who nearly took us all out when two of my kids and I were walking through a parking lot yesterday (I'm sure it was a very, very important call he was on), I find D.C. to be friendly. Friendlier, maybe, than farther northeast ... but even if I'm wrong, your crusade will probably work.

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Arlington, Va.:"Biologically Programmed for Mating: I CAN'T BELIEVE YOU SAID THAT SINGLE PEOPLE AREN'T HUMAN!"

No, no, Carolyn is saying that GAY people aren't human!

Sorry. Thought I'd keep the game going.

Carolyn Hax: Thanks. Nice work.

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Capitol Hill, D.C.: Carolyn,

I need help moving forward. I would like to quit my job and start my own business, but I'm afraid to make the leap from employee to self-employed. How to I deal with my fear so that I'm no longer immobilized by it?

Carolyn Hax: Store a lot of acorns for winter first. That alone should make you a lot less fearful.

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Re: Bethesda: Isn't that controlling behavior? Or at the least, a sign of incompatibility?

I dated a guy who was the same way. We had conflicting schedules to begin with, and then he would throw a fit if I didn't want to spend every spare moment with him. He still gripes about this one time I went to the pool with friends instead of seeing him for an hour WHEN WE DIDN'T HAVE PLANS. He mumbled to himself all the time about how I didn't care, I ignored it because I thought I was right and didn't see the big deal in spending time with friends. We broke up for this reason alone. BTW, we're still great friends 2 years later, and he STILL brings up that pool thing. I could not have lived with that too much longer, no matter how great a guy he was otherwise.

Carolyn Hax: It is seriously controlling. But I have the same problem with pointing that out as I do with suggesting therapy. It could find a place in almost every answer I type.

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For Rockville: Yes, the decision must have the kids at the center--but from someone whose parents didn't love each other, and didn't divorce until sis and I were in our 20s, please, PLEASE don't think staying together for the kids would be healthier for them than leaving. There are many other factors, yes, but your kids deserve to see that people can be happy and loved, both in and out of relationships.

Carolyn Hax: Someone somewhere in the queue (couldn't find it on first try) was asking how kids feel when their parents are in a loveless marriage. So, here's one. I've also gotten posts from people in the past who feel differently. Maybe people can weigh in next week on this?

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Time is Flying: I've noticed you're always saying, "Whoops, I had no idea it was so late." My husband is one of these people, too, and I just don't understand how that happens. Can you fill me in before you sign off?

Carolyn Hax: I get absorbed in what I'm doing. Sometimes, when I start late, it's because I was writing a column and the last time I looked at the clock--say, at 11:00--seemed like it was 15 minutes ago. And then I see that it's 12:03. I think some people shut out background stuff and some don't.

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Tired of being the ear : Online only. Best friend in her 30s has been having an affair with a married man, and I can no longer tolerate being supportive ear to her. I've tried just listening, I've tried to offer advice about moving forward, even tried to be hopeful with her when she thought he'd be leaving his wife. Bottom line, in my opinion, is that she wasting her life chasing this dream (his possibly getting a divorce and getting full custody of the kids). She wants a family and kids and time is ticking for her. She's been seeing this guy for years and he hasn't left his wife yet. She won't even consider dating anyone else and breaking it off so that eventually she can meet someone who will be good to her and who she can have her own family with. I'm definitely not morally rigid, but how do I tell her I can't be there anymore for her anymore on this.

Carolyn Hax: She doesn't want marriage and kids, she wants something else, and this relationship is giving it to her. Or else she wouldn't still be in it. I don't know how much of this you're ready to say to her out loud, but I think you need to think it first, just so you can understand what's going on here. I'm guessing that when you change your perspective on it, you'll find yourself saying something other than advice on moving forward.

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Carolyn Hax: That's it (and thanks to the person who reminded me of the time). Bye, thanks, hope to see you next week.

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