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Carolyn Hax
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 27, 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.

Mail can be directed to Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com.

This Week's Columns: Sun.| Wed.| Fri.

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Re: Engaged in today's column: Oh, how I wish, after all these years this particular problem would GO AWAY! Thirty-one years ago I did not change my name, for exactly the reason Engaged states. Meanwhile, we have raised two fine boys who were never confused by the fact that their mother had a different last name (even though they have been known to call Susie Smith's mother Mrs. Smith when they know she is Ms. Jones), our mail always reaches us, and they can find me on Google for a high school reunion (another topic altogether). I know plenty of other people with the same experience, so most of the arguments people trot out for the name change are bogus. But I nonetheless agree with your advice, she should listen, discuss and decide. But if her fiancee is obdurate and she steadfast and uncomfortable, red flags should be waiving like regatta pennants in a stiff breeze, because it is about way more than the name.

Carolyn Hax: Amen, especially to the bookends--the GO AWAY and the red flags.

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Rockville, Md.:"But please don't ignore it. You owe it to your chosen life partner to act like his life partner, too. And that means respecting the fact that he wants something, learning why he wants it, and weighing these reasons carefully -- and transparently -- before you choose to reject them. He owes you the same. Neither of you should tread lightly, just tread as if you care."

Um, who wrote this for you because it doesn't seem at all like you. My wife and I both thought your answer would be "it's your name, it's your choice." But I guess surprises still happen.

Carolyn Hax: It is her name and it is ultimately her choice, but there is another person involved whose feelings and opinions do matter. I hope my acknowledging that isn't in fact inconsistent.

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Flipping the Bird: I totally disagree that choosing not to take your husbands name is flipping him the bird, I mean really. Is she pressuring him to take her name? Especially since she has started establishing herself in her career he needs to respect that she is her own person with her own career and her own name. I mean whats next insisting she do the housework because she's the wife? Demanding a son and heir whether the time is right for her or not? This IS an archaic tradition. In this day and age when women have their own careers each marriage needs to be defined afresh with its own terms and conditions dependent on the people in the marriage, not predefined gender roles. Like it or not the tradition of changing your name is tied to the symbolism of first being "owned" by your father and then "owned" by your husband. I think the fact he is insisting is a very, very bad sign.

Carolyn Hax: I think you misread the answer. Rejecting the tradition as archaic -without considering his viewpoint- was flipping him the bird. Very different thing.

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Today's column: Am I the only one who almost gagged on that "a man's perspective" remark? I agree that nobody should lean exclusively on their spouse -- it's clearly too much for any one person to deal with -- but there's something awfully condescending in this idea that he can only "care" about her life to the extent that his manly nature will allow.

Carolyn Hax: I did gag. That's why I answered it: The only thing necessary for the triumph of gagworthiness is for gaggers to do nothing. (And, thanks everybody who pointed out that Margo Howard answered the same question yesterday. Memo to advice seekers: Pick one of us. Thanks.)

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From one footwear connoisseur to another : Just wondering--what do you think of Crocs?

Carolyn Hax: I try not to. (Workplace users exempt.)

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Engaged-ville: Besides repeating "marriage is a step along the way, not the mark that all the work is done in a relationship," how can I deal when my fiance and I argue? He has been correcting me a lot lately, and responds that he feels I correct him a lot. The way he argues paints me into a corner and I don't know what to say. I love him dearly but I hate the way we argue!

Carolyn Hax: Then get into counseling, stat. You can try pre-marital solo or group counseling, which you might be able to cheaply, then move on to more traditional therapy if the first try isn't productive. For a list of programs, ask the person whom you intend to have officiate at your wedding.

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Please Answer Online, Possible Danger: Hi, Carolyn,

I'm sorry to put this on you but I don't know who else to go to.

I am eight months pregnant. I have a 13 month old son.

I have been having thoughts, like movies where I am watching from the outside, in which I really hurt my son.

In one scenario, for example, I'll picture us going to the top of the stairs to go down, and I just drop him, on purpose. Then I picture his body at the bottom of the stairs and I freak out, and clutch him tightly, and think that I could never, never hurt my baby.

But I am thinking about hurting him.

I am afraid that if I tell anyone then they will take him away from me.

I am afraid that if I do not tell anyone then I might hurt him.

Please, please tell me what to do.

Also, I am submitting early as I will not have computer access during your chat.

Carolyn Hax: I understand how scared you are and how serious this is, so I'm bringing in outside resources to help. I'll post what I can at the end of the transcript, once I've finished gathering information, but please do email me directly as well--tellme@washpost.com. That way I can make sure you're getting what you need as it comes in.

Two things before I go: 1. If you feel you're in immediate crisis before I'm able to post resources for you, call your OB-GYN's office to ask for help; they should be able to provide you with crisis resources. 2. The worst case is not that they take your son away; the worst case is that you hurt him. Please don't lose sight of that. Take care of yourself and please stay in touch.

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It still doesn't make sense: I still don't understand how rejecting the tradition was flipping him the bird. What about other traditions we now reject? If we reject traditions of our grandparent's generation, is that flipping them the bird? Isn't it just realizing that things that may have made sense years ago, now might be degrading or at least nonsensical?

Carolyn Hax: I still don't see what you don't see, and I'm not saying that to be snotty. I said plainly that she was free to reject the tradition, but that first she had to hear out her fiance's point of view, simply out of respect for him.

Next time I'll try saying it while standing on my head and crossing my toes. (That, I am saying to be snotty.)

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Re: Taking your partner's last name: Just a side note: you don't have to decide right after the ceremony. After nine years of not wanting to have my husband's last name, I decided that I did indeed want my two kids' last name. Even so long after the fact, it was a simple and easy process to change my name.

Here's hoping that eventually it'll be a simple and easy process for the man to take his wife's name, too, should that be the decision. (And while we're at it, a woman to take her wife's name, and a man to take his husband's name.)

Carolyn Hax: Thanks, not a viewpoint I see often.

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Columbia, Md.: Her siblings and several friends have either recently married or are getting married soon. She REALLY wants to get married, too, has marriage fever, and has chosen me. I am considering it but am apprehensive about her motives. Once the excitement and satisfaction of getting married is over with, then what?

Carolyn Hax: Indeed, then what? Unless you met last week (in which case 1. locate exit; 2. RUN ... actually, finding exit is optional, you can always get out a la Wile E. Coyote, by leaving a coyote-shaped hole in the nearest wall. But I digress ...), you probably have amassed enough information to figure out how you feel about her, what kind of marriage you'd have with her, and whether it's one you would want. The trick is believing what it tells you, and acting accordingly.

Hint: Your gut is telling you her motives are more about marriage than about you.

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Imaginary Hurting Kid: Not to downplay the pregnant mom's vivid imaginings of hurting kid -- I have had similar thoughts too -- I think of them as the "lemming instinct" kicking in (like when you stand on the edge of a bridge and can't help but think about jumping) -- For me, this is usually fueled by reading about other moms injuring their own kids, which is way too prominent in the national media. I love my kid and would never deliberately injure him, but the "movie images" happen from time to time.

The difference (and the mom should hang on to this) is that she (and I) go on to vividly picture how AWFUL the outcome would be. People who hurt their kids don't think about this. Yes, she should get some help (she sounds overwhelmed), but she should focus on how much she loves her kid and how much she wants to protect him--

Carolyn Hax: Thanks for the reassuring words.

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Re: Baby in Danger: Another thing to remember, which might perhaps help the writer to seek help - she's not the only one who's ever had such feelings, and there are ways in which she can be helped. Maybe knowing that she's not the only person to have had such thoughts/feelings may make it easier for her to seek the help she needs, and quickly.

Carolyn Hax: Thank you.

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Just Curious: Are there ever times where you simply can't answer a question? I'm asking because I'm often surprised (pleasantly) at how genuine and how thoughtful your answers seem to be--even in this forum, where I imagine you have to think (and type) quickly. Are there ever questions that get passed on to you where you just say "next"?

Carolyn Hax: All the time. I wish I had one in mind that I could cite as an example, but I'm a really slow thinker in that respect. I can say that I often feel I just don't have enough information. I realize I do speculate in plenty of answers, but I try to keep it to one or two "ifs."

Thanks for the nice compliment.

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Finally...: Someone else who actually changed her name. Between my decision to change my name and not to have kids (from previous chats) I was feeling quite unwelcome.

Carolyn Hax: I know I've already done this once in today's chat, but--really? My intent was to stay on the line, on both issues, and treat it as a personal decision for the couple alone to make.

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Indecision: Hi Carolyn,

Hope you can offer some advice. I have been plagued with indecision for years. Almost every decision I have to make turns into a life altering, point of no return choice. I analyze how anything I do will affect some other choice I need to make, and it snowballs and turns into something enormous, leaving me completely paralyzed. So I'm basically choosing the status quo, and that's not working for me.

Although it affects all aspects of my life, the indecision is making me especially unhappy with my career. I'm not happy with my career path at all. In fact, I never have been as I allowed my very controlling parents to choose for me. But when I think back on what it was I wanted when I was younger, I don't think that's the right thing for me at this point in my life. I've got several hobbies, any one of which could turn into a career change if I spent enough time working on it. I could change directions in my current career and go to another branch that's more interesting (would involve going back to school for grad degree). These ideas keep floating around in my head, but I never act on anything because after deciding on a course of action, the doubts creep in and I decide I really want to do something else (or reason that it makes more sense to do something else). I start over, only to quit again and move on to the next thing. I keep going in circles and it's driving me nuts.

How do I start living my life with purpose when I don't know what I want and can't make even simple decisions?

Carolyn Hax: Yours is a situation made for counseling. You were raised to be one way, and now you want to be another, and you're having a hard time making that change on your own (which isn't at all unusual). Please ask for referrals from people you trust--a crucial step, difficult as it may be--and get to it.

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RE: Flipping the bird: Maybe this will make it easier. ANY TIME you do ANYTHING that impacts someone else WITHOUT CONSIDERING THEIR POINT OF VIEW, you are flipping them the bird.

If you consider their point of view but do it anyway, you've done the opposite--shown respect.

Carolyn Hax: Thanks. Nice to know someone's got my back.

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San Francisco, Calif.: Hi Carolyn - I need your help in getting my knickers out of a twist. I eloped with my partner a few weeks back and afterwards we sent out a news bulletin to the world in the form of printed announcements and e-mails. Though many of our loved ones have delighted in the news, I'm bewildered by others' reactions, ranging from inexplicable offense and anger (I guess at not being invited -- but it was an elopement!) to indifference/silence. Partner's father refuses to attend the party we're throwing as "it's a waste of time and money after the fact"; I've heard from none of my family members (who all adore partner); long-standing friends (we're talking decades) seem to have gone missing. We're normal people here, no Pete Doherty and Kate Moss nonsense -- so in your opinion, WTF? I'm baffled and hurt, and don't want to write off all these people, so unless I ask point blank whether they give a hoot, are we to resign ourselves to silence?

Carolyn Hax: Some people see eloping as both romantic and highly convenient/cost-effective. Some people see it as being denied an opportunity to share in one of the most joyous milestones in their loved ones' lives.

If the bride and groom are the former, and the couple's families are the latter, then the bride and groom have some thinking to do--specifically by putting themselves in the shoes of the people they seem to have hurt. And then dealing with them accordingly and openly.

Maybe it'll help to think of it this way. Imagine yourself as a parent, and then project, as honestly as you can, how you;d feel if a child ran off to get married without giving you a chance to be there. If you think your feelings genuinely wouldn't be hurt, then that says something for your integrity; trying anyway to understand those who were hurt will then say something for your sensitivity.

People might be slow to come around even if you do sympathize, but it'll help. For the people who hold a grudge, there won't be much you can do, except the dread agreeing to disagree.

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Des Moines, Iowa: For the mom worried about endangering her child--as an OB/GYN, this sounds a lot like a scary but common symptom of postpartum depression, which is a hormonal/chemical thing and not something someone should blame themselves for. Just get help soon; there are a lot of resources out there for people in your position. A trusted doctor would be a great place to start. There is hope--hang in there.

Carolyn Hax: Thanks so much.

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New York: Online only, please. I am 45 and will be undergoing in-vitro fertilization with a donor egg this fall. It will be the first (and most likely only) child for my husband and I. Our families know what we're doing and are happy for us. Our problem (?) is what to tell everyone else about how the child was conceived -- given my advanced age, some people will surely wonder -- and inquire. One part of me vouches for full disclosure, including the fact that we're using a donor egg. Another part of me says, "This is the child's story to tell" and warns me to be circumspect. We will, of course, tell the child when he/she is old enough to understand. My husband says he'll go along with whatever I want (isn't he great?). What do you and the 'Nuts think?

Carolyn Hax: Please don't reward the nosy with actual information. This is your family's business, your doctors', and no one else's. Where, "Why do you ask?" fails you, there's always, "That's an awfully personal question."

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Chapel Hill, N.C.: A complete stranger yelled at me yesterday. Normally I'd roll my eyes and mutter "idiot" under my breath, but I found myself wondering if what I did was genuinely offensive. Surely, she found it so. The point of contention was a bumper sticker on my car that reads "I really do love my Rottweilers as much as you love your kids." I rescue Rotties and the bumper stickers were part of a fundraiser. Now, without getting into the whole sharing genetic material thing, and understanding that this is really a "Hi" to other dog lovers who see my car rather than a challenge to moms and dads, am I truly being offensive to parents? I thought it was funny, not mean. And I do believe the woman who yelled at me is an idiot, because yelling at complete strangers is never a good way to make a point, but are there other people I'm silently upsetting? What should I have said to her? As it was, I just walked away which just seemed to make her angrier.

Carolyn Hax: I think the complete stranger who felt the need to confront someone over a silly bumper sticker needs to get some more sleep. (BUSH 2004 might be the exception.)

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Carolyn,

I recently moved out on my boyfriend of a year. I had been having doubts and misgivings for some time, and finally decided to act on them. The thing is, I skipped the first step of discussing what I was feeling, and just told him I had to move, which caught him totally offguard. I realize that seems cold, but I wasn't sure I'd have the strength to do it any other way. We've since talked, and are now trying to figure out whether we can work things out. I'm still adamant that I need to live on my own, but he sees this as a selfish act detrimental to us fixing the relationship. He keeps telling me that I'm selfish, and I know I am, but I can't think of any other way that I'll be happy. Am I being completely unfair to him? How do I make sure that I'm fair to him while being true to myself?

Carolyn Hax: You may have acted selfishly in the -way- you chose to move out, but no act of self-preservation, if indeed that's what this was, should ever be labeled as selfish.

In fact, if anyone appears to be behaving selfishly here, it's your boyfriend, for wanting you to set your doubts aside solely to please him. Obviously I don't have his side of the story, but with your expressed fear that you'd lose your nerve if you told him, it sounds like you're trying to get out from under a controlling person's thumb. (Yes, in fact, I would say the same thing if the sexes were reversed.)

Here's what you owe him to be "fair": Honesty, transparency and self-respect. Do what you need to do, be clear about it, and stick to your guns. If he respects you, he will respect that, and if he doesn't respect it then he's free to break up with you. In other words, being true to yourself IS fair to him, as long as you aren't deceptive about it (any more).

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Elopement: It sounds like the folks who eloped informed their close friends and family via mail and email? Maybe they're upset you didn't call to share the news with them...they could think the impersonal delivery of the news compounded their being shut out of the wedding? Anyway, I'm just saying maybe the couple should reach out to the people they haven't heard from.

Carolyn Hax: Worth considering, thanks.

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Alexandria, Va.: Happy Friday Carolyn!!

So my birthday's coming up and my boyfriend of 6 months asked what I wanted. I thought about it and decided I wanted a white gold peridot ring that I could wear all the time on my right hand (so as not to be confused with anything related to marriage). He gave me a price range to work with and had me email him suggestions. Which I did. That night he said that he didn't want to buy me jewelry because of what the Bible says about woman being overly adorned with gold, pearls, etc. Carolyn- - the thing is, I don't wear jewelry as it is!! Maybe fun earrings or necklace, but nothing to the extent those Bible passages are describing. Now I feel guilty for being shallow and like he judging me. What are your thoughts?

Ringless

Carolyn Hax: No no. What are -your- thoughts, on your guilt response; on his citing Bible passages as grounds for 1. his decisions in general, and 2. this decision specifically; and on the way these fit into the context of the past 6 months? You think what you think, you know what you know, and he's either the guy for you or he isn't.

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Move-out: Jeez, Carolyn; it's perfectly natural for anyone of either gender to plead, "Don't go!!!" when being jilted; esp. if it was totally "out of the blue," as the writer herself admits. That's "controlling"???

Gender bias showing...

Carolyn Hax: Bull----. He called her selfish. That is a huge red flag, shifting blame to the person who is having doubts. Reread the parenthetical.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Carolyn,

I live with my boyfriend and a few months ago I damaged his car which we both use. We're both open with each other about our finances, so he knows that I make less than him and have steep student loans (he has no debt). I offered to pay the deductible on the repair to the car and he refused. I offered to pay half, and he said no. I want to pay for the damage I did, but I'm worried that he would feel bad knowing how tight my finances are to begin with. I know if that if the situation was reversed, I wouldn't want him to pay. Any thoughts on a way to go here? Thanks!

Carolyn Hax: Pay him back in kindnesses, small gestures, household efforts that save him money, just by being grateful. Being on the receiving end of one act of generosity doesn't make you a taker.

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Somewhere: Dear Carolyn,

Love the chat! My boyfriend is gregarious, but I don't do too well in crowded social situations, (Especially if there's alcohol - it makes me even more antisocial and moody.) As a result, my boyfriend sometimes goes out with his friends without me. To top it off, I rarely see my own friends (they're too busy), and I work from home, so I have few opportunities for social interaction. I don't want to deprive my boyfriend of his social life, but I feel like I have a choice between being irrational and being miserable, which stinks. How do I stop moping around and feeling lonely when my boyfriend's gone?

Carolyn Hax: You have a third choice: Finding other things to do with your evenings that don't involve big crowds or your unavailable friends. Not easy, but doable if you set your mind to it. Making everything hinge on him isn't fair to either of you.

Fourth choice, talking to him about the current arrangement, particularly to discuss finding ways to spend time with your boyfriend and his friends that you can also enjoy.

Fifth choice, reevaluating your choices--boyfriend, friends, job, social attitudes.

There's always a better choice than moping, and sometimes the best way to stop moping is merely to see that.

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quickie : Carolyn--are you still taking the two-parter questions? The

he-said-she-said ones from two perspectives? Just

wondering as my girlfriend and I might try writing in.

Carolyn Hax: Yes, still accepting, thanks.

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Aspen CO: So you DON'T think its selfish to live with someone, then announce your moving out but won't reveal why? That feels incredibly selfish to me, and I'm willing to bet if the writer's gender was reversed you'd be chastizing HIM for being so selfish as to move out without even an explanation as to why he was doing it.

Carolyn Hax: Rgh.

"I'm still adamant that I need to live on my own, but he sees this as a selfish act detrimental to us fixing the relationship."

I agree that the silent move-out was selfish (unless there was a history of abuse) but this quote suggests that he's calling her "need to live on my own" selfish. That is a huge screaming red controlling-person flag, and I stand by both my calling it such, and my assertion that I'd make the same call in favor of a guy whose girlfriend accused him of being selfish for needing to get away from her.

So please holster your gender-equity outrage; it's the wrong weapon for the occasion.

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M Street, NW: Re: Move out

I'm a guy who was the one who needed to move out. I also called off a wedding at the time. It took my ex by surprise, but in my case I felt it was necessary because of the emotional abuse that I had been subjected to over the course of the relationship. I knew that any "discussion" would invariably be about what -I- was doing was wrong, bad, was unacceptable, etc.

Carolyn Hax: Thank you. It really is a gender-blind problem.

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Chevy Chase, Md.: Just wanted to chime in on the mom who is afraid of hurting her child: this is not uncommon. The Post health section did a story on it awhile ago; it's related to post-partum depression and/or a more severe post-partum syndrome. Get help but don't judge yourself, please. I say this as a mom who occasionally felt like this. And also as the daughter of a woman who was like June Cleaver and Martha Stewart rolled into one, except cool as well, and who evidently dealt with similar stuff as well. I only found out after her death that she'd sought counseling after the birth of one of us kids for just this kind of angst. And this was the greatest mother ever, bar none. So it's not a reflection on you, your parenting skills, or anything beyond the hormones swirling inside you right now. Good luck!!!

Carolyn Hax: Thanks. I'm not sure any more if this has new info or merely underscores what's been said, but I want to make sure it's all out there: get help, check hormones, not uncommon. Thanks to all who have written in.

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The unknowing other woman: Long story short I was recently seeing a guy who it turns out has a fiancee. She called me and left me a voicemail yesterday saying she found out about us and wants answers. I called said guy and he denies that they are still together and she is just being vindictive. I had already cut things off with him but am still bothered by the fact he lied to me. Do I call the girl and tell her everything? Or do I leave this to be something they deal with between the two of them. I know if I were her, I would want answers. I am torn.

Carolyn Hax: Why? If you, in her position, would want you to call back, then call back. Just be careful to share facts, not impressions. You don't know who's telling the truth; you know only what you know.

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Washington, D.C.: Is seven dates too soon to decide? There is physical chemistry and we do have fun but I don't feel any substance yet. Just good times without in depth conversations. Neither of us has said the word "exclusive" yet he's starting to push for sex. I want an emotional connection in addition to the physical chemistry. He may be in it for just one thing and I will probably find out if I say... hold your horses. But, is seven dates too soon to feel some substance or not?

Carolyn Hax: If you're a regular you know I don't believe seven dates are enough to tell you just about anything. If in the course of +/- 20 hours together you haven't had one decent, satisfying conversation, I think it's probably safe to bail.

That said--before you go, you have nothing to lose by going on a date and actively trying to introduce what you would consider to be topics with depth. If he deflects them, then you've got your answer.

Oh, and yes, saying "hold your horses" will tell you plenty, too. Maybe enough.

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East coast: I discovered last week that my husband cheated on me multiple times this spring with multiple people. We have a small child -- 16 months old. Combined, our incomes total much less than six figures. Divorce seems like an unwise step at this juncture, as I can be civil and decent, and he is a wonderful father. He has gone into therapy for what he terms sex addiction. I need to contact a counselor, but have been busy getting STD tests. It seems clear, to indulge in understatement, that our marriage is not going to be what I had hoped. Have any of your readers stayed in a dead, if civil marriage for the sake of their children? If so, what was their experience with this?

Carolyn Hax: I'm sorry. Please go back a few weeks in the transcripts to see some readers' experiences with parents who did and didn't stay in marriages "for the sake of the children." The consensus was that there's no consensus, because the outcomes are too dependent upon the behavior and temperaments of the parents and children involved. Still, something there might resonate for you and help you make this difficult choice.

The counseling will also help, too, when you get to it (and if it doesn't, please change counselors). So will everyone's apparent commitment to face this maturely and head-on. So will the knowledge, I hope, that you don't have to decide anything right this minute.

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New York, N.Y.: Carolyn, how can I stop obsessing about my body? I'm 25 and I've been at a healthy weight all my life (up and down somewhat within the same 10-lb range), but even though I'm now the thinnest I've ever been, all I can think about is wanting to be thinner. It's been this way for years. I'm afraid to eat, and the number on the scale in the morning dictates my mood for the entire day. How can I get past this? I've tried counseling, but my therapist seemed to think that I was okay, since I already knew my attitude was unhealthy, but I can't stop thinking this way... and I'm NOT okay.

Carolyn Hax: Find a therapist who specializes in body image and eating disorders. If you need help, please contact me directly, tellme@washpost.com; you can also ask your therapist to refer you to a specialist.

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Perfect timing...: Hi Carolyn,

I'm getting married tomorrow, and in light of the two letters in today's column, I'm wondering if you and the 'nuts have any advice about married life that you'd like to pass along.

I always enjoy the columns and the chats, and I'm excited that I get to be a part of it today!

Thanks.

Carolyn Hax: Work with what you have, and not what you think you're supposed to have. Congratulations!

And, bye bye. Thanks everybody, have a great weekend.

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re: DC Move-out:"Here's what you owe him to be "fair": Honesty, transparency and self-respect."

Umm, can we add "1/2 the rent for the remainder of the lease to that list". I understand, comprehend and appreciate that financial considerations should never trump emotional well-being, but isn't leaving a b/f (or g/f, for the follow-up poster) in a situation where he/she may not be able to afford the rent on the dwelling the two of you were sharing without any "warning" a large portion of the "selfishness" of the act in question?

Carolyn Hax: Yes, thanks for pointing this out.

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Huh?:"Combined, our incomes total much less than six figures." What does this have to do with anything?

Carolyn Hax: A lot. It's generally much more expensive to run two separate households than it is to run one combined. If that results in severely strained economic circumstances, then it becomes an issue for the child--to cite an unfortunate example, it can mean the difference between a great school district and a bad one. So it has to be part of the calculations, even if it ends up being dismissed.

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"Umm, can we add 1/2 the rent to that list". : Er, the guy-girl left in the apartment has to mitigate damages by renting out the room-space as soon as possible, or subletting the space ... whatever. If it's a one-bedroom, yes, renting out room would be difficult, but in that event I'd only agree to pay half of any early termination penalty on the lease vs. the entire remainder of the lease (assuming sublet not an option). Not legally kosher to expect someone to keep paying half for a place they aren't living in; one must attempt to mitigate damages.

Carolyn Hax: Thanks for refining the point, though obviously I can't vouch for any legal aspect.

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Washington DC: Do you answer questions directly through email? I have a dilemma but I don't want to poste it because the people involved might recognize it, and I don't think they'd be too pleased. But I need an objective voice.

Carolyn Hax: I'm sorry, I can't; too much mail, too little time, not to mention too much explaining to those who agree to air their questions in public as a condition for getting them answered.

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