washingtonpost.com
Tell Me About It

Carolyn Hax
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 21, 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.

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

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Carolyn Hax: Hi everybody, happy Friday. Before we start, I wanted to mention that I've finally (about two months after I should have and now only a month before the event, ahem), set up the online enrollment page for my walking team for the Walk to D'Feet ALS. The walk will be Sunday, Oct. 21, in D.C. If you go to www.alsinfo.org, you can click the link to the walk to either sponsor or join our team. I'll post more detailed instructions if needed. My team page is a work in progress but the important things are there. Please walk with us! It's a great cause.

Oh, and you can post here to propose a better name than Team Hax, since every one of my ideas is more tortured than the last. Thanks.

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Arlington, Va.: The guy in today's column probably needs to adjust his view of D.C. Sure, it can be very power-oriented and all of the other not-nice descriptions. However, I've always made more than my boyfriend and if we stay together, will continue to make more than he does. My career involves lots of elbow rubbing and his involves lots of elbow grease. But, he's happy, I'm happy, we share values and people who meet us for the first time are sometimes surprised, but no one in my high-flying world has ever looked down on me for my partner choice. In fact, those who expressed the most surprise (again, VERY few people even do that) also say that it's great and not something you see very often. OK, this got far too long and I just wanted to say that this relationship can work and I think the money part was talked about for about two seconds several years ago, but then it ended.

Carolyn Hax: Thanks for weighing in. I agree that view of D.C. exaggerates only a small fact of life here. There are a highly varied bunch of lives being lived in this city, at almost all possible speeds.

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Washington, D.C.: Online only, please. So you didn't answer my question last week and now the Red Sox have lost four in a row and are only like 1.5 games ahead of the Yankees. Clearly, there's causation/karma at work here. So for the good of the majority of New England, I think it's in everyone's interest for you to answer this.

I long had a crush on a close friend (I heard that groan!) and last fall, the way she acted around me started to change i.e. flirting with me a lot. I got the courage to ask her out, but she turned me down and basically we've been in very limited contact since then. I care about her a lot, as a friend and more, but I know the more isn't going to happen. I'm just having a hard time transitioning back to being friends with someone I thought could have been more. The times we have talked or been together just aren't like before and I can understand why she would want it that way, but it isn't as special I guess. I'm sorry this is so long and confusing, but I'm pretty confused right now and have been for awhile. This person is very important to me and I want her as a part of my life, not just some superficial friend, but I don't know how to do that.

Carolyn Hax: You and Sox both may both be beyond help.

You really have two choices with this girl. You either stay away on the theory that not having the "and more" element will only torture you and keep you from finding someone who will reciprocate your feelings; or you push through the awkwardness to restore the friendship on new terms. It's really a matter of how you feel about the friendship--good thing, or veiled attempt to get her to fall for you? Former is worth trying, latter is worth admitting so you have the presence of mind to avoid it.

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Washington, D.C.: Regarding the letter from Wednesday, the man whose wife had done a 180. I suggest the counseling and the trial separation BEFORE you have children, so don't put off any tough decisions--make them now. I am separated from a man like that (don't get me started on what he thinks a wife/mother "should" do--I get endless lectures even though we are separated). He will ALWAYS be in my life because of our two small children. I feel ENORMOUSLY guilty because I brought two lives into his disfunction. And I KNEW he was kind of off before we married, even. Talk to people, ask for advice and TAKE IT! Now, what do I do? How do I protect my children from his controlling nature and depression. He has already driven his older child (from a previous marriage) away. Rhetorical. I am in counseling and am working on me so that I can be strong for my children. Just my two cents for that guy.

Carolyn Hax: Thanks, always worth mentioning.

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Taken for Granted in Washington, D.C.?: I've been going through some tough times lately, mostly work and money-related. I'm stressed, headache-y, and cry easily. I'm normally a very upbeat person.

I feel like my boyfriend could step up to the plate a little bit. When I'm upset, I want to feel a bit pampered. I need to feel like somebody cares. I want him to bring flowers, or cook dinner, or surprise me somehow.

But he's same-old, same-old, and has also been a bit unreliable lately.

I've decided to talk to him and explain that I'm feeling down, and would like him to do something special for me and cheer me up. I just want him to make an effort. I'm sick of him coasting his way through the relationship in general, and the stress I'm under has exacerbated the problem. I've been feeling taken for granted lately, and being upset just makes it worse.

So how do I explain to him that he needs to try a bit harder, without coming across as accusatory and demanding? I don't want to threaten him, but I feel like he's slacking off and I don't want to be in a relationship where I'm doing most of the work. If he can't step it up, I'm not inclined to stick around.

Carolyn Hax: All fine thoughts, but you're right to worry they'll come out as accusations and demand--because they've come out here as accusations and demands.

"He needs to try harder" and "I feel like my boyfriend could step up to the plate a little bit" are demands; one is padded with "I feel," but that doesn't change anything. On the other hand, "I would really like your support right now" is a request.

Likewise, "I've been feeling taken for granted lately" is an accusation, again padded with, "I feel ..."; an actual expression of a feeling would be, "I feel overwhelmed," or lonely, or resentful, or some other actual emotion.

If you can express your concerns to him in the form of feelings and requests, even if you get a bit emotional you're doing your part to express yourself without cornering him. Whether you get the desired effect on your relationship is a bonus; the objective is to give him a chance to understand how you feel, and to give yourself a chance to see how he will respond.

Before you get into it, do keep in mind that a lot of people just don't know how to handle someone who's stressed and weepy, so they withdraw. Before you chuck him out as hopeless, give him a chance to learn how to handle it. Maybe he'll be relieved to have your help here.

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Alexandria, Va.: He did it again today. I threw out something and found it mysteriously back where it was before I threw it away. This is making me insane.

It happens even with toothpaste containers -- I'll throw the empty one out and put out a new one. That evening the old one will be right back up on the sink. Every time I'm told, "I thought it was there by accident".

He's a pack rat, his parents are pack rats. They're somewhat neat about it, but it's still there. I'm all for recycling and saving things that may be of use later, I've gotten used to boxes of cereal with a table spoonful of product put back on the shelf, but finding used straws melted in the dishwasher is sending me over the edge.

Help?

Carolyn Hax: This is going to sound ridiculous, but as a quick fix you might want to replace any open trash cans with the ones that have hinged "doors" on top, like in fast-food restaurants. What he doesn't easily see maybe he'll leave alone.

As a longer fix, if you end up needing one, you'll need to do your homework. It may seem like a family habit passed along by nurture, but I wouldn't rule out that it's a family trait passed down by nature. Have a look into the "pack rat" phenomenon.

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San Francisco, Calif.: CH:

Love the chats.

I started dating someone (yay!) -- and she shared with me that she suffers from anxiety disorder. She now takes medication. It's great that she trusts me enough to share with me, and I want to be a good, supportive partner. I have done a little research online just to know more about it. Is there anything else I should do? (i.e., how do we talk about it -- I don't want to pester her for details but I don't want to unintentionally add stress to her life)

Anything you can add will be great.

Thanks.

Carolyn Hax: I think the best way to talk about is to ask her what you're asking me: "It's great that you trust me enough to share this. I'm wondering now how you want me to handle it--I don't want to pester you for details but I don't want to unintentionally add stress to your life." It's a sensitive, well-thought-out question. Most important, though, is that it's easy to answer, because it implies you're receptive to answers from, "I don't want to talk about it," to, "What would you like to know?" It shows you're ready to follow her lead and not judge. Yay.

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Laurel, Md.: Hi Carolyn I hope you will take my question.

My husband and I are having our first child next month. In talking with my husband's father a few weeks ago, he asked if it would be convenient to come visit the new child around Thanksgiving. Given that the calendar was wide open, and he asked, we agreed.

Couple days later, my husband mom, divorced from his father for eons now, sent us an email requesting to come visit at the exact same time frame that my father in law and his wife want to come. After informing her of the schedule conflict, she sent my husband a really nasty email claiming that she always has to fight for his time, and that my husband's father usurped the time that is "rightfully hers as his mother". Turns out that she was already going to be in the area for a conference, so it would have been convenient for her to swing by. However, it appears that it never occurred to her that she may want to include us in the planning of her planning. So all in all, she asked too late and the time is booked.

I am having a really hard time dealing with her sense of entitlement. This is simply a schedule conflict that could have been easily corrected if she just told us ahead of time that she wanted to come on those dates because of her conference. In failing to inform us, and when told there was a conflict, she throws a tantrum. What if it were another family member that booked the time? Is it because it is her ex-husband that she's overreacting?

I'd like some advice whether I should confront her about this, or leave it to my husband to deal with. The last thing I want is WW III to be started at my house after I give birth...

Carolyn Hax: Don't confront. Just treat it as the most natural thing in the world that there will be conflict sometimes--in other words, the way you wish she had handled it. "I'm so sorry we were already booked the weekend you wanted to come. Can we hold another weekend for you so it doesn't happen again? It doesn't really matter whether you deliver this or your husband does; what matters is that you don't concede any part of the "time that was rightfully hers" argument.

If at all possible, try not to be too angry about it, either. Obviously there is deep and ugly history there. It's not your job to referee it--your job is to acknowledge you weren't there to see how it all developed, and so to decline to take sides.

Also, don't let this freak you out when you have so much else going on. It is okay to let your husband absorb most of it, and the fury of it all will lessen with time. New babies are like weddings, they bring on white-hot flareups of old family ills.

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Re: anxiety sufferer: I also suffer from anxiety (and depression), and one of the absolute best things that my husband has done - and does - for me is to just simply ask me "How are you feeling? Are you doing okay today?" and genuinely mean it (which means patiently and nonjudgementally listening to the answer). Just allowing me to talk talk talk and get it all off my chest while he listens is SO important and gives me SO much relief.

Recognize that it is a disease, that if she acts in ways that drive you crazy it's because she can't help it - if she had a choice, she wouldn't be like that.

Carolyn Hax: Thanks.

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Columbus, Ohio: How do I handle a situation when someone tells me they've already bought tickets to an event and they want to treat me. I have no interest in the event, and feel like they're manipulating me into going. It's hard to say "no" when they've already bought an expensive ticket.

Carolyn Hax: You can still say you won't be able to go. Someone who hasn't asked about your schedule can't claim a spot on it by virtue of nonrefundable money spent.

You probably know this, and are just chafing that you're in this uncomfortable guilt spot--but, really, there is no magic way out of it other than saying "no." That's why it's manipulation--it's making you the bad guy when you've done nothing except to exist. So call the bluff, be the bad guy.

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Follow-up to earlier question:"There are a highly varied bunch of lives being lived in this city, at almost all possible speeds."

I'm not the original poster, but how does one actually slow down in this city. (Serious question). That's what I want -- just having trouble making it happen. (work, mortgage, commute, etc. etc.)

Carolyn Hax: Tradeoffs. That's true anywhere, but the crowds and expense force a few more here than just about anywhere else. That means, foremost, that you have to want what this city offers badly enough to be willing to make those tradeoffs.

Assuming you do, then you start working on the mortgage/commute thing, which really are the same issue, since they're about housing. How much space (outdoor and indoor) are you willing to give up to be able to afford living closer to work? If you have kids, how many amenities would you consider enough for their schools to be considered adequate?

And if you're running into a brick wall with your preferences--you want all the 0000s in your sf count inside and out, and you want schools with big playing fields and new equipment, then you look at the job. Can you get a different one closer by? Are you willing to earn less?

And if you hit a brick wall there, too, then you get into your car one morning and challenge your choices again as you sit in traffic.

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New York: Dear Carolyn:

What is or are the benefit(s) of geting married these days? This is a serious question. I would like to know because the divorce rate is alarming so I wonder who is not taking marriage seriously or is marriage not a serious act these days?

Thanks.

Carolyn Hax: You know what? I believe the marriage failure rate has probably been roughly the same throughout time, but now that divorce is possible--legally, socially, economically, pick your variable--people avail themselves of that option instead of toughing it out in anger or silence or bickery resignation or upping and leaving.

If you believe this represents societal progress, then marry someone who agrees. If you believe this represents societal decay, then marry someone who agrees. If you don't have someone who wants to marry you who makes you want to get married, then don't get married.

If you want I'll still talk about the benefits and the seriousness.

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Tickets: Its a shame Columbus feels manipulated. I often buy two tickets to something, without having invited anyone specific. Sometimes I hear about something and want to get tickets before they are sold out. Other times, especially with certain music groups, I know I can find someone that wants to go. Then I start asking people. I hate to think they resent me for that! (Besides, I have a sister I can always call if I can't find anyone else...)

Carolyn Hax: I may have been reading into it, but my impression was that these tickets were bought with one person in mind, and that one person was feeling pressured. What you described is not at all manipulative.

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washington, dc: It shouldn't be that hard. So many questions you get suggest a lack of communication between partners/people in relationships (friend or otherwise). My relationship isn't perfect, but it's great because I can say "I feel X and need Y, so could you please help me out with that?" He does the same. It is great, because we don't necessarily know how to help, but we want to and that kind of direction is much appreciated.

No one can read your mind, so why not just share with the person you're supposed to trust to have your best interests at heart? If that trust is lacking, then that is another problem entirely. But jeez, aren't we supposed to be able to share joys and sorrows with the people we love? Start sharing already.

Carolyn Hax: I agree, especially with the part that it shouldn't be that hard. My concern is that some people think they're sharing their feelings, but they're really accusing--the letter because that's all they've ever known, because that's how their parents talked to each other, because that's how their parents' parents talked to each other, and so on up the dysfunctional tree.

So for some people it takes a bit of spelling out, and the "Taken for Granted" post was a great example of that. I don't know if the "he needs to do better" comments represented the way she talks to him, or if that was just for us. But it is definitely how some people talk to their partners, and then they're understandably mystified that every time they try to express their feelings it turns into a fight. They don't realize they've put the other person on the defensive.

Point being, the sharing of joys and sorrows is a learned skill, that's all.

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Re: Laurel, Md.: Hax:"I'm so sorry we were already booked the weekend you wanted to come. Can we hold another weekend for you so it doesn't happen again?"

Me: I might be reading into what you said way too much. But really, why should they have to tell her it won't happen again? It makes them sound like they're assuming the blame for booking that weekend with the FIL. It's their weekend to book, and it should be on a first come, first served basis for any family member that wants to come over. The new parents seem to be adopting "a more is merrier approach", and the MIL needs to learn how to share. MIL doesn't get the weekend she wants, so they have to bend over backwards to accommodate her? Once the baby comes, they won't have time for any of these games, anyway.

Carolyn Hax: I think you are reading too much into it, because by "again" all I meant was, "the next time you have a specific weekend in mind." But if I'm being dense, by all means they can change the language, to, say, giving the mother dates that are currently open, so she can choose one. Thanks.

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Benefits of marriage: Married couples who want to be each other's life partners receive better legal protections than committed couples who want to live together, gay or straight. These fall into a few broad areas:

1. Next of kin (medical and legal power of attorney issues, primarily)

2. Ownership of property

3. Inheritance taxes

4. legal rights of children

5. dissolving the relationship

For better or worse, the law sees married couples as an economic and legal unit, and presumes certain things about the way decisions are made or the unit functions. For example, you are presumed to be your spouse's next of kin, and the one who can make crucial decisions about medical treatment or end-of-life care. Without a mass of legal documents, which can never be as strong legally as a valid marriage, there can be ugly legal battles with angry family members of the ill partner, no matter how long you have been committed to each other or lived together.

The best place to get arguments for legal marriage are on web sites in favor of gay marriage, such as www.freedomtomarry.org

Carolyn Hax: Thanks for saving me a lot of typing.

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Re: They've already bought tickets: You might emphasize how inappropriate it was to buy an expensive ticket for you by saying, "I wish you'd asked me before you bought the ticket. I really don't like X, so I don't want to go." Don't get out of it by pretending you already had plans that night, because then this person might keep doing it.

Carolyn Hax: Excellent, thank you.

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It shouldn't be that hard: And if you're feeling defensive about something your s/o said, admit it. It stops the escalation and lets us get on with things, at least for us it does.

Carolyn Hax: This is an excellent specific point, about behavior at a very specific and crucial turning point in a conversation.

I'd also like to add that it makes a great general point, too--that admitting your awkward emotions is disarming, where just acting on them can be inflammatory. Even if it's too late and you've already acted out, you can still admit the emotion behind it; there's no faster way to cool off the argument, in fact.

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Raleigh, N.C.: Dear Carolyn,

My ex-boyfriend and I had a very acrimonious split about a year and a half ago. I wanted to end things and he didn't. He made the breakup and following months very tough on me. He now claims he has moved on, living a better life than he ever had with me and has been dating someone else for about eight months. He still, however, includes me on group emails with updates on his life when we don't communicate and haven't seen each other in over a year. Why can't he just leave me alone?

Carolyn Hax: It's sounds like he's just saying, "See? Now don't you wish you didn't dump me?" But even if it's something else entirely, it also sounds like all it would take for him to start leaving you alone is for you to block his email address.

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Dating someone with anxiety disorder: The best thing you can do is to not diminish any of her anxieties; e.g, never say "Why are you worrying about that?" or "Don't stress about that, it's not a big deal", etc. Very very frustrating because, to the person with the disorder, yes it IS a big deal.

Kudos to you for wanting to understand.

Carolyn Hax: Thanks. For what it's worth, even people who don't have anxiety disorders can find it frustrating to be told "It's nothing" when they're upset about something.

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Benefits of marriage: As someone not legally allowed to marry the woman that she loves, I've been forced to think about this a lot.

I have a will, but marriage would mean that if I died, she wouldn't have to go through probate court to inherit the car that's only in my name because owning joint property is harder if you're not married. Marriage would mean she could inherit my Social Security benefits. Marriage would mean I wouldn't worry they could keep her out of the hospital if I got sick.

It's true that lots of marriages end in divorce. But you know what? Having been married even means that when the relationship ends, there's a legal structure to protect both of you, divide up your joint resources, decide custody, etc. If you don't or can't get married, no protections there either.

It just burns me up to no end to hear straight folks whining about how marriage is meaningless. It's only meaningless if you've never really thought about what it would mean if you coudldn't have it.

Carolyn Hax: Nice, thank you.

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Benefits of marriage: Marriage is an act of religious as well as social and legal commitment for some. It's inherently serious if you view it that way. (Which is not intended to imply that you can't take your marriage seriously if you're not religious.)

Carolyn Hax: Or that you can't take a commitment seriously if you aren't married. Which is where I was going to go with the seriousness issue--it's what each of you puts into it. I don't subscribe to the notion that a drunken marriage in a Vegas chapel cheapens the brand. Considering a brand cheapens the brand.

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Takoma Park, Md.: Re marriage:

I heard something on the radio this past week that put one thing that I believe about marriage into words well. Someone had done some research into how our brains work, and they said something like, "before you have committed to a big decision, your brain shops for ways why it won't work. After you commit, your brain shops for ways to justify that decision to yourself/make you feel like it was the best possible decision."

Carolyn Hax: Interesting, thanks.

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Connecticut: It looks like my boyfriend and I are about to break up. I haven't been happy for a while but I'm not sure if its because I'm insecure or if he's just not the right person for me.

We have a long distance relationship and I love a lot of his friends but I never felt like I totally fit in with his friends or family. But maybe it's because I felt like I didn't fit in with him?

We were so in love, things were great for about 8 or 9 months and then things kind of fell apart.

I'm really worried that I'm just not capable of having a long-term relationship and I really want to have a family.

Carolyn Hax: Everything you list--the insecurity, the awkwardness with his tribe, the fade after 8 or 9 months, the falling apart--can easily be attributed to dating long-distance. And your concerns about having a family can explain why you set your expectations so high from a such low-percentage situation.

Not that your problems can't also be attributed to you, but before you go doubting your capabilities I think you'd need a lot more to go on than this one relationship. Do you have a history of these things, or was this the first time? If the latter, then just tend to this relationship, give yourself time to recover and see how you feel after that.

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Buckeye State: For the Pack Rat's Wife:

I hope you don't have kids because you need to run away and don't look back. If both he and his parents are pack rats and he's fishing USELESS things out of the trash, he is only going to get worse with age. You can try to get him diagnosed with OCD, but be warned that this is not an easy or a quick fix and once hoarding is begun, it is almost impossible to stop it. You've only seen the thin edge of the wedge so far. If you want to be trapped in a house with 56 cats, rotting food and feces on the floor, picking your way through piles of trash, then stay with him. You probably can't save him from being found mummified under heaps of toppled newspapers, but you can save yourself from this life of misery.

Carolyn Hax: We don't know if they're married, do we?

Anyway, you're making the argument that I made my point too delicately. You're right. I'm not sure if the poster is staring at a case a severe as the one you describe--the parents were "somewhat neat about it"--but the getting-worse-with-age issue is a concern I should have flagged. Anyone in this situation should just search "hoarding" on the Internet, pick the reputable sites and get to work on the next step in dealing with it. Thanks.

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Washington, D.C.: Perhaps this is somewhat related to today's column. I'm dating a great guy who is in his mid 40s (approx 10-years older than me) and he earns about half of what I earn. And I don't earn six-figures.

The relationship is still young... but I can tell that he would love to have kids. And I have never had any baby-urges but think that he would probably be a great parent. While I haven't ruled out kids completely, if this particular relationship progresses, I think I would be less inclined to have kids because of our combined income in addition to our mutually wandering life aspirations.

I haven't said this to him (nor have we discussed) but am I a complete JERK for having the money thing be such a big factor? Or a really good excuse to back up my lack of maternal instinct?

Carolyn Hax: You're not a complete JERK; money and temperament matter.

However, just because they matter doesn't mean you couldn't find a way to raise kids well with a low income; the wandering life aspirations could be a problem, but only if you're talking about someone who's flaky or unstable. If a person is responsible enough to keep a kid's life stable, then any career dabbling within that is fine for the people who crave it. If both of you crave it, that's tougher, but it's still something you can commit to working around.

I'm not even sure I needed to get into this, though, because your lack of maternal instinct needs no excuses. As long as you're open to the possibility of having kids then you're right to evaluate partners as potential fathers, but you can certainly pass on motherhood for your own reasons, too. If that's the case, though, he needs to know.

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Chicago: I love my job. I just learned that my boss is leaving. What I like about my current boss is that he allows me a great deal of latitude, and while I think my next boss will, too, I don't know that for sure. Sometimes new bosses feel like they have to change things for the sake of change. Is there anything I can do to head that off at the pass?

Carolyn Hax: Do your job well. It also couldn't hurt to lie low with the latitude for a while as you establish how well you do your job. Not to say you should set a precedent of being someone you aren't; just that any exercise of latitude that might appear flagrant to an outsider might be best saved for when you have a better sense of where you stand.

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Carolyn Hax: Which now gives me a mental image of "flagrant exercise of latitude" at one's workplace.

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Long distance, D.C. -- Online only please: How do you know how long to stay in a long distance relationship/when to call it quits? It has been working for the past few months okay but as time goes on the quality of our relationship has deteriorated a bit. We're facing long distance until at least next fall and then hoping to find a place we can settle in together. I love this guy and really want to hang in there but I also am afraid that the stress of distance will end up destroying our relationship before we have a chance to be together again. FWIW, we're both recent college grads so are unable to move until then because of financial limitations. I wonder whether to allow him the freedom to date other people now and try to get together again later or just stick it out. When we're together it's great but that's few and far between. Thoughts??

Carolyn Hax: Do -you- want to see other people? Offering it to him is a cop out, if you think about it, so now stare down whatever you were avoiding by looking at it that way.

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Regression Analysis: I think I'm regressing in age. A lot. After living life as an upstanding citizen, I'm now trying to re-live my 20s and do all the stupid, rude things I never did. Not quite a mid-life crisis, but pretty darn close. It's surprised me how liberating it is to just cut loose.

Should I be worried about this personality shift, or is okay to just ride through and enjoy it?

Carolyn Hax: Just as long as you aren't riding through anyone's yard while you do it. Fun is ageless, but so is consideration.

I'd argue the same for dignity, too, but I'm guessing that bus left the depot.

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RE: Anxiety disorder:"Recognize that it is a disease, that if she acts in ways that drive you crazy it's because she can't help it - if she had a choice, she wouldn't be like that."

How much slack do you give someone, though? At what point are certain things just plain bad behavior? I have a friend who has several issues along those lines and she goes to therapy and takes her meds but still does things that make me (and others) wonder what the hell she's thinking. And if confronted, she'll retreat behind her diagnoses. It's never her fault or her responsibility. I know that many things are out of a person's control but that's no excuse to just act on every impulse without thought or care as to how it affects themselves and others.

(I know that's probably not what the poster was trying to say but I read the above statement as a forever "get out of jail free" card.)

Carolyn Hax: A reader answered this--just a sec:

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Re: Anxiety: First I want to say that the dude writing in with the girlfriend with the anxiety disorder sounds awesome. However, I took issue from this response from another reader:

"Recognize that it is a disease, that if she acts in ways that drive you crazy it's because she can't help it - if she had a choice, she wouldn't be like that."

I have an anxiety disorder. Yes it's a disease, but I don't think that's an excuse for driving anyone crazy. Someone with cancer has a disease, but they have a choice as to whether to undergo treatment or simply complain about being so ill. In the same respect, I do have an anxiety disorder, but that doesn't give me to liberty to leave it untreated and drive everyone around me insane with my anxiety. I go to talk therapy once a week and take medication. I've learned to deal with my anxiety in a way that it doesn't affect those around me negatively, with the random bad day here and there (which we all have). I feel like the original poster was making excuses for herself. I do like her advice about asking the person how they're doing, I just felt this need to be said.

Love the chats, BTW!

Carolyn Hax: Love the way you answered this, thanks.

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Carolyn Hax: Okay, marathon over--I was stalling while I scrolled around trying to find those last two questions, after I realized they went well together. Like a game of concentration.

Anyway. Thanks, bye, type to you next week, and please see if you can walk with us Oct. 21. Fighting ALS is a great cause, and we need more troops. I'll try to get the page looking a little more friendly.

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