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Carolyn Hax
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 16, 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 day in The Washington Post Style section and in the Sunday Source, Carolyn Hax offers readers advice based on the experiences of someone who's been there. 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.

Carolyn's Recent Columns

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Turkeyday, U.S.A.: How do you convince a really kind person that you really are fine being left to yourself on a major holiday?

I'm a single grad student balancing work and writing a dissertation. Since our immediate families are across the country, this year a friend and I decided to forgo the Thanksgiving hoopla by cooking what we wanted, watching movies, and doing crafts. I've gotten lots of other invitations, but when people hear my plans they all seem jealous.

My friend was rounding up other strays who might want to join and has gotten us invited to another family's shindig. I don't want to go--I know and like these people even, but I want a quiet crafty day, and I've turned down many similar offers. But if I say so then she won't go either (even if she really wants to) because she'll feel bad about leaving me on my own. And I promise I'm not going to be sewing little Christmas outfits for cats.

Carolyn Hax: You know what? Even if you do stay home to make Christmas outfits for your cats, your friend will be the one with the problem.

Probably too harsh a word to cover what are probably good intentions, but if she declines an invitation to something she really wants to attend, just to keep you from being lonely when you really wouldn't be, then that is her decision. She is the one choosing not to take you at your word--in fact, choosing not to allow for the possibility that you would even prefer to be lonely than to drag her down.

Certainly if she's going to project all these needs on you (that she must then satisfy by denying her own needs), the best answer isn't then to deny -your- needs just to make her happy. Then it becomes some Oxygen Network "Gift of the Magi."

Stay home and sew. Your friend will do what she thinks is the right thing, which will make her feel better than doing what she technically wants anyway. Look at it that way.

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Maryland: Carolyn,

I'm faced with a terrible dilemma right now. I'm in a relationship where my partner just doesn't have the time for us anymore, courtesy of a major promotion at work that's taken up every last minute of her time. We care about each other very much and feel that our relationship has the potential to be strong and lasting, but if she's so consumed with her work that she doesn't have any time to devote to us (like not even a phone call just to say hi, let alone see each other), do I wait it out (like I have been) or throw in the towel and look for someone who DOES have the time for a relationship?

Carolyn Hax: How long have you been waiting it out? If you can still make the argument that the promotion is new and she's still learning and adjusting to the new demands, then that's a strong argument for waiting it out. The bigger the change and the bigger the responsibilities, the longer it's going to take for her to learn the new position. Remember--the first time you, say, use new software, a routine task takes you an hour. The fortieth time you do it, it takes five minutes. How much of "every last minute of her time" is spent riding a steep learning curve?

If it has been, say, a year, or you have some other reason to believe she's no longer facing anything new, then you have the is-there-a-point-to-this? conversation. Just don't go into it with your mind made up. Lay out the facts--"I'm sharing my life with someone I never actually see"--and see what comes of it.

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Anytown, USA: I don't drink because I have depression. My friends know this. When they go out, though, I often find myself being excluded from the conversation. I try to engage with them, but I always seem to get stuck at the end of the bar just sipping on my Coke. When the night comes to a close, I feel worse than when it began. Nights out seem to be about the only time we spend together because we're all in the post-college, still getting settled phase, so a lot of other options seem to be off the table. What should I do?

Carolyn Hax: I know it's natural to go to the depression and teetotaling when you;re trying to figure out what's going wrong, but it may just be that socializing in a crowd is against your nature. Some people just hate it, aren't good at it, don't get anything out of it--and have a lot easier time admitting that to themselves because they're not struggling with an illness that makes them question themselves. Give yourself the benefit of the doubt, and try gradually to set up some things with people one-on-one.

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Rockville, Md.: From today's column, these seems so contradictory to me:

"I love his parents"

"a passive-aggressive, controlling mother and an aggressive father"

"his mother has a way of throwing what I call a "roadside bomb" in my direction."

and you didn't mention this at all. Something left out in the edits?

Carolyn Hax: No, it just seemed like too much to take on. I tried to cover it by calling him on the need to assign roles to everyone, which I think covered the inconsistency in his opinions. I.e., he is the Good Guy so of course he accepts the parents, but they are the Bad Guys so of course they don't accept him.

That;s the funny thing about treating people as caricatures: It seems like the easy way out to ignore the complexity of other people, but once you start doing it, it actually ends up harder, because it's almost impossible to be consistent. Someone is a monster, but, oops, the monster does something good, so you either have to ascribe the goodness to some evil ulterior motive, or you have to scrap the monster opinion and embrace the person as good--when it's easier and much more realistic to start off seeing the person as flawed and, maybe to you, not terribly appealing, but also capable of some great things. Then whatever happens can find a way to fit into your image, or you can tweak your image just a bit to fit what just happened.

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Rockville, Md.: For the first writer in today's column whose coworker is determined to convert her, she could go to her boss or HR rep. What her coworker is doing is against so many HR rules and laws it's ridiculous. She could cost that company a lawsuit, it's a matter of time.

Carolyn Hax: Actually, the stuff the writer quoted--crediting God for her ability to score some shoes?--didn't meet what I understand to be the definition of harassment. I didn't see any signs that there was a literal effort to convert her, which would make for a much better argument. Anyone wondering whether workplace behavior qualifies as harassment should either talk to HR about what is and isn't actionable, or have a look at a site I've found to be quick and concise--http://www.fcc.gov/owd/understanding-harassment.html

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Washington, D.C.: Carolyn,

A good friend asked me out two months ago. I'm not attracted to him at all, but wanted to let him down lightly, so I said "I just got out of a relationship, don't want to date anyone, sorry but it's not going to happen, etc." Recently a mutual friend told me that the guy is still holding out hope. Rejecting him was painful enough the first time, do I have to do it again?

Carolyn Hax: When and if he asks you out again, make it a kind but unconditional no. "I'm sorry, I'm not interested." You also have the ability to telegraph your lack of interest in the meantime, both by just being your not-interested self, which will speak volumes in body language, if he's paying attention, and also by minding yourself carefully for any encouraging signals. A lot of people succumb to the temptation of easy attention from people they know are attracted to them. It's really unfair to do that to someone, so, don't.

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Gaithersburg, Md.: Met first wife at 16. Married at 21. Divorced at 30. First wife was controlling (I now realize I allowed it). Went to college and left with zero friends because I was isolated the whole time. Missed out on a lot. Married again at 32. Great wife. I am spending time learning social skills I missed, like hanging out with guys, playing sports etc. Don't want to leave new wife lonely by being out too much, but feel this is important for me. I'm loving life now, and my wife is NOT complaining at all about it. I just don't want to be that middle-ager who tries to be cool with the kids and acts immaturely because he missed things in his youth he should have done. Is there a point when I just say, "sure, you missed some things, but grow up already" to myself?

Carolyn Hax: have you talked to Great Wife about this?

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I love it: "That's the funny thing about treating people as caricatures: It seems like the easy way out to ignore the complexity of other people, but once you start doing it, it actually ends up harder, because it's almost impossible to be consistent. Someone is a monster, but, oops, the monster does something good, so you either have to ascribe the goodness to some evil ulterior motive, or you have to scrap the monster opinion and embrace the person as good--when it's easier and much more realistic to start off seeing the person as flawed and, maybe to you, not terribly appealing, but also capable of some great things. Then whatever happens can find a way to fit into your image, or you can tweak your image just a bit to fit what just happened."

That's a great response! But how do resolve the labeling when it takes place in your relationship? It seems we've both backed each other up into corners by ascribing labels and motives that may or may not be true. Unfortunately, saying "let's put down our dukes" hasn't worked since I'm the only one who does it.

Carolyn Hax: Thanks. Is there any compelling reason you need to try to make this relationship work, when you have solid grounds to believe that some broken parts of it won't get fixed?

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Rockville, Md.: How to respond? I have a family member I've been incredibly close with, but just received an email that is so hurtful I can barely get out of my chair. What I though we were talking about was holiday plans. What I got back was how selfish I was to even want to ask if I could stop by, didn't I understand they have family they need to focus on. But what broke my heart was all kinds of accusations about how I wasn't doing the right thing by my father, who is my best friend, by not being with him Christmas Eve and trying to pawn off responsibility. I don't even have words to describe how out of left field this is but I honestly don't know that I'll ever be able to get past the hurtful things that were said. I know you'd have to take my word for it, but it's just not true. What I thought was a simple conversation somehow became a seven paragraph e-mail where lines were crossed that you just can't ever take back. What do I do?

Carolyn Hax: Get off email and call. The written word can be an incredibly useful tool for saying difficult things with the benefit of a backspace key or trash can, but it can also create enormous misunderstandings when you write something with one inflection or tone in mind, and someone reads it with another. "I am so hurt by what you wrote."

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Seattle, Wash.: My boyfriend of two years and I just broke up this week. We've been growing apart largely because he just hasn't had the time for me due to his busy life circumstances. I've continuously reached out in an effort to make more of our fading relationship, but this has been answered with minimal effort on his part, largely due to his level of stress with his life outside of me. Anyways, it's resulted in me feeling drained, insecure, and I think a little resentful. I've been short with him and upset/ mad when I shouldn't, because of this larger picture. The point is we haven't been bringing out the best in each other. Anyway, we could not come up with a solution to change the way it's been and it seems inevitable that we will ultimately cycle back to the place of discontent, so it ended. It feels terrible and I know we're both a mess over this and questioning our decision. I can't help but think that we're giving up on something that could be a great relationship because there are so many factors working against us that we can't seem to resolve. Any thoughts, I'm at a complete loss right now.

Carolyn Hax: You just broke up, you're supposed to be at a loss. Wait it out, tend to your emotions, let them settle down a little. Then you can think about whether you made the right decision. Questions you can ask: Was he responding with minimal effort, or were you looking for more effort than his life circumstances would ever allow? If you were in his place, how would you have treated you? Would you ever have been in his place?

Again, don't expect any answers now--at least, any that you'll trust. Even if you do get the right one, you'll probably second-guess it, and then get mad at yourself for second-guessing, and I'll quit there because I'm just typing what everybody already knows. Commit yourself to nothing right now but being a mess and maintaining vital functions.

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Food at Work: Hi, Carolyn,

I'm wondering if I'm overreacting, or if a simple MYOB is all that's called for in this co-worker situation. I work closely with a team of three other people: one is obsessed with exercise, one is in the process of giving up all meat and dairy, and one is a raw-food devotee (if he pigs out, he's -still- vegan).

Not a day goes by when someone doesn't try to have a conversation with me about their food habits, or make some kind of comment about what I'm eating. The one who's giving up dairy .. well, it's all she can talk about. She tells me how jealous she is if I'm eating cheese and crackers. The exercise nut goes onandonandon about working out for four straight hours, then segues into complaining about how much her shins and knees hurt and how we should be sympathetic. (Surprisingly, the raw-food/vegan is the least preachy, and I'm grateful for that.)

I'm a little fed up but don't know how to tell people I work with to get their noses out of my lunch bag. Or my Chinese leftovers. Or my FunYuns.

washingtonpost.com: Hahaha --- "fed up."

Carolyn Hax: Liz is part of the problem!

This does sound like a hostile eating environment, but, optimist that I am, I can't help but think a deadpan somethingorother--"I'm going to eat my food now, if that's okay with you"--repeated often enough, will beat the zombies back at least far enough for you to eat in peace occasionally.

Welcome to zealot day.

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Colorado: This may be more of a Gene question, but you're live right now. I just had a less than ladylike moment--I belched quite loudly in my cube. I was mortified when it happened. Everyone else in the cube farm hushed in stunned silence. I was too chicken to say "Excuse Me". Now I'm the girl who burps loudly and doesn't have the couth to excuse herself. How do I face my officemates? Right now I'm considering barricading myself in here until everyone goes home for the day!

Carolyn Hax: You can go at this two ways. You can remind yourself that if your cubemates are ladies and gentlemen themselves, they'll say nothing to each other or to you and graciously rid their minds of your unfortunate moment of raw humanity; or you can give notice, leave the time zone and find work where your cube fellows have enough of a pulse to laugh at you.

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Washington, D.C.: Dear Carolyn,

Any advice on how Moms can survive their daughters' teenage years? I don't want to be too controlling, but I don't want to give too much freedom, either.

My daughter is 14 years old and in the ninth grade. Should she be able to hang out with her friends for a couple of hours after school EVERY day? Am I being unreasonable to ask the names of the friends with whom she is "hanging" -- including their LAST names?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Unsure Mom

Carolyn Hax: Where is she hanging out, with whom, under whose supervision? Is her schoolwork finished when she does this, or is it getting pushed back, or is she doing it later but well? Having a rule where you must know these things to isn't controlling her, it's doing her a favor. When all the requirements are met to your satisfaction, then she earns her freedom. The mistakes people make, I think, are in setting conditions that can't ever be satisfied; in setting up conditions but not enforcing them consistently; or in not setting any conditions at all. So set high but meetable goals, reward her when she meets them, restrict her when she doesn't, and duck.

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Laurel, Md.: To TurkeyDay USA,

When asked about your holiday plans, you need to frame it differently. If you answer with, "I've got some plans to stay home and pamper myself" or "I've taking care of something special for myself that I haven't had time to do for a while" then you'll probably get fewer offers to do other things.

Regarding your friend, stand your ground and just keep reiterating the points that you are happy even if alone, that you won't be lonely even if alone and that you really truly want her to do what will make her happier whether it is going to the other event, staying with you or option C whatever that may be.

Carolyn Hax: Actually, I like your first approach to the second problem: "Are you kidding? This is pampering I've been looking forward to for weeks. Don't skip this other family's dinner on my account."

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Normal, USA: Dear Carolyn,

I usually end up in relationships with total jerks. Emotionally unavailable, cheaters-the whole nine yards. I have gone to therapy to deal with this. I never seem to have an attraction to the nice guy. So, recently I met the nice guy again, and I am trying to steer clear of my old, negative dating patterns. This guy is so thoughtful, available and attentive. One exception--he really doesn't have a lot of interests, other than football and his work. I am the opposite-read all the time, heavily engaged in current affairs and culture. He doesn't keep up on current affairs, read books or the paper. So, lately, I feel that our conversations have been lacking. I enjoy his company, but am not wildly attracted to him, and lately find myself being a little uncomfortable around him. Could it be though, that I am un-attracted and uncomfortable with his niceness and availability, which I usually don't have in relationship? Or -- is it him? I can't tell, and don't want to end things just because I may be uncomfortable in a "normal," stable relationship?

Carolyn Hax: Seems to me that unless you're certain this is the only nice guy you'll ever date, you don't have much to lose by acting on the belief that this one isn't right for you, and seeing what comes next.

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Richmond, Va.: My boyfriend of two years and I are going in different directions, and he doesn't want to accept it. I've been pointing out how his interests and mine are just too different. He likes the "small talk in a bar" social scene with pals, or watching sports in the evening. I like a DVD or a book, and an occasional friend over for dinner. In the beginning we were much more open to the other's lifestyle. Over the past six months we've "doing our own thing" more and more. The hitch is that we live together (in my condo) and he says things like "people need their own things," etc., rather than admitting that maybe it's over. What should I say to be more clear? It breaks my heart because I care for him deeply but don't see any future for us.

Carolyn Hax: Be more clear by breaking up with him. The hitch is a hitch, but it isn't a reason to keep the relationship going.

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Rockville Again: Thank you so much for answering my question. What I'm struggling with is how to even have the conversation. Unfortunately what was written isn't open to interpretation -- it literally says you are selfish, you aren't doing this right, etc. So I'm so stunned that I don't even know how to respond in a conversation. It's someone I've bent over backwards to help with challenges they've had this year, so it just literally feels like a knife the to heart.

Carolyn Hax: I think I was unclear in my answer, and now I see that I'm not clear on your original post: Did this nasty email come in response to an email of yours, or did you have a spoken conversation to which you received the nasty email reply?

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Washington, D.C.: And, for the poor mom of the 14-year-old--remember, she's 14. Her whole point in life is to push back and test her limits, often by yelling at you about how they're unfair! I know I did it, and mom probably did too

Carolyn Hax: Isn't it great? Diapers, then you spend your whole adolescence in a losing popularity contest, then you spend your kid's whole adolescence in a losing popularity battle, then diapers again.

Sorry, I'm not giving up cheese and crackers for this.

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Richmond, Va.: I've been dating a great guy since September -- total of six or seven nice Saturday night dates. He has always picked me up which I like very much. Everything is awesome -- the fit, the chemistry, etc. but still very casual fun. He has asked me to dinner at his place for this Saturday. I'm fine with that, but he emailed me directions. I have to admit it makes me feel like a cheap, "booty call" to just deliver myself to him. I"m inclined to email back and ask in a lighthearted way if he'd pick me up.

Too high maintenance?

Carolyn Hax: .skj;al;JSBagk; jbBS/BJbsNlk

Been a while since my last forehead-to-keyboard contact.

He could be assuming you'll drive because you're capable of it and it makes complete sense, whether in terms of gas burned or time spent on the road that he had planned on spending in the kitchen.

And you could be assuming when it's possible to confirm. If you arrive to find a dinner prepared for you in earnest, or a dinner party, then you can laugh at yourself and resolve to give the guy a chance next time. If you arrive to a feast fit for a cheap booty call, you can decline to offer yourself as such.

And finally ... any time you decide to "ask in a lighthearted way," you are giving another person grounds to say, "If you have something to say, just say it (and if you aren't sure, then please see for yourself instead of fishing." Maybe he works on this level--to each his own--but to many, probing little hints are as subtle and pleasant as running a wineglass through a blender.

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Feeling like a loser: A few weeks ago, I found out that the guy I was dating is known as a player. We broke it off before I found out. I'm at loss of words here. So this is how it feels to be played by someone? I'm humilated and angry, not just at him but at myself also. How could he let me make a fool of myself? How am I supposed to feel about someone that duped me? It does kinda explain his past behavior and certain things make sense now. But why would someone say 'I love you' and at the same time, plays with me? Often, I sit at my desk and stare at the computer screen, thinking about him and the memories are bittersweet for me now. Thankfully, I've not talked to him since I found out. What do I do with this new information? Pretend it didn't happen and go on with my life?

Carolyn Hax: No no no, pretending pain away never works. First, you go right to the sorest spot, and figure out what you did wrong to get into this position. Then, ask yourself why.

Then, armed with that bit of awfulness, you give yourself a hard-earned break by using it to remind yourself what you -didn't- do to get into this position, and therefore that he did. Then, ask yourself why.

Then you put all this information in your pocket, stand up and brush yourself off like any other disaster victim who still has pockets and is still able to stand up and brush herself, which in itself is a bit of good news. Then you remember what's in your pocket next time you come anywhere near a similar disaster, ideally in time for you to avoid it entirely.

Extrapolating from your letter, I'd guess your mistake was ignoring those certain things that now make sense, for the simple reason that you've never run across someone who would take advantage of you so you were a little naive--maybe too a little too eager for the attention (not always true, but often). His responsibility was for using you, and the "why" there can only be a guess--but it's usually, beneath whatever layers of delusion and/or bravado, just an insecure person who needs the cheap high of a constant stream of attention and approbation.

And so now, when you're feeling less humiliated and more angry, and then less angry at and more pitying of this guy, you'll get out there with newly installed confidence that you'll see the next one coming.

yes? no?

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RE: too high maintenance?: OMG. You're only a booty call if you offer booty. If you were a "booty call," you'd still be one no matter how you got to the venue. You are his dinner date. All this label sensitivity is going to kill our ability to propagate the human species.

Carolyn Hax: Vote: Good thing, or bad thing? Or (c) Case by case.

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Washington, D.C.: Not only is booty call girl way too high maintenance, her plan doesn't even make sense. If she doesn't want to make herself seem too available, why would she want to end up at this guy's house with no easy way to get home?

Carolyn Hax: Doh!

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Divorce: I have decided to leave a bad marriage. It was after years of denial and excuses of why not to.

I don't know how to tell my parents. Or friends. I am afraid of being judged and afraid of being shunned.

I also want to take the high ground and not go into details. But because a young child is involved, I think people will think (and tell me) that I didn't give it enough.

Carolyn Hax: Let them. You have to take care of your child, and you have to take care of yourself. It's worth noting also, I think, that -not- on the list of things you have to do are "Justify yourself to bystanders" and "Perform according to expectations."

Any reversal of any decision--ANY--is going to make a person feel a little sheepish. So, go ahead, feel sheepish. Just know that it isn't going to help your cause to let this sheepishness govern any of your decisions. In fact, deferring to that shame is at least partially to blame for the fact that you're leaving years after you believe you had a good reason to. Without shame, you wouldn't have felt the need to deny and excuse just to preserve the marriage.

So. Acknowledge your shame only to expose it and alert yourself to its power. Then, square your shoulders, tell your parents, tell your friends. You'll be better for it all.

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Gaithersburg, Md.: Yes, I have talked with her and she says she is fine with it. However, I know it is easier when I am home at night -- helping with the two-year-old, etc. (I'm out 1-3 nights per week with work or sports) I guess as long as there's no problem, why make it one, right? But how proactive do I need to be to keep the relationship solid and not one day wake up saying I should have done things differently?

Carolyn Hax: I'm picking this up way after the fact, but I didn't see your response till now.

1. Have a weekly date night. I get the if-it-isn't-a-problem-don't-make-it- one-idea, but you also don't want to find out something has become a problem months and months after the fact. Feed your marriage. The good stuff, too, not cheap-booty-call food (unless that's what you're into).

2. See if your wife wouldn't want a regular night on her own, either when you're home with the 2-year-old or on one of your nights out, with coverage from a babysitter. She may really not want it--having a spouse out of the house can be a mini-vacation for even happily married people--but the fact that you're thinking of her, too, could go a really long way.

I guess the short answer is, you do have to be proactive, but just that is often enough.

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Divorce - Oh, I know this one!: Oh, I know the answer to this one!!! You have no idea what people are thinking. I stuck it out because I was afraid to fail in the eyes of my friends and family. When I finally did ask for a divorce and tell people, my friends all said, "Oh, thank god. We were wondering why you were sticking it out so long!" My parents, who had never said a bad word about my husband, literally jumped for joy!!! Only one person was disappointed and I think it was because divorce is against her religious beliefs. Even so, she's thrilled for me now that I'm happily married to a great guy.

Carolyn Hax: Happens a lot more than a lot of people expect. Thanks.

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For Divorce, from someone who's been there...: I got divorced a while back, and was worried about what friends and family would think. My ex and I had agreed not to bash each other to mutual friends or make anyone choose sides.

Thing was, everybody knew I was unhappy, and why. People are often more observant than you think, and will be supportive no matter what. So carry yourself with dignity and the rest will sort itself out.

Carolyn Hax: Another excellent point, thanks--even if they don't dislike the spouse, they can see the strain on you.

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Re: dating a player: So what do you do when you know you are dating a total player but have resigned yourself to the situation because you fell in love with him long ago, before you were intelligent enough to know better? Now that you do know better, walking away seems to hurt too much. And you know enough about this person to have an idea of why they are the way they are (cheated on by ex-wife, bad family situation, a possibly sex addiction) and sometimes you see glimpses of a really great stand-up guy. Basically, I'm in too deep and it seems impossible to get out. So do I hang on and hope for him to work through his issues and eventually really see me? Or is there a way to get out without it hurting like hell because I'd be losing my best friend?

Carolyn Hax: Is he even trying to work through his issues? This could be a long answer, but it's all wasted typing if he isn't trying (but you're still hoping).

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Anonymous: Two years ago boyfriend and I moved cross country for his job. Agreed that we wanted to get married and wanted to be engaged within a year (when we were more settled in new location). Fast forward to now. Boyfriend is happy in new location, but I am not. I have had trouble adjusting, have not made many friends, had difficulty finding a job, and generally miss old life. Also, I am not engaged. I find myself totally depressed all the time (hope it's just situational), and really disappointed about everything. I feel stuck, but I am not sure how to get out of it. I love the boyfriend but I feel like we talked and therefore I expected one thing and now nothing including being engaged has turned out like I thought it would. For the record, I moved out here because I thought we had the same life goals, including marriage, and now I am not so sure that is the case. How do I start to tackle this situation so that the sadness does not destroy me?

Carolyn Hax: Would it be realistic to get away for a week or two? Home, your old town, someplace that is a touchstone for you? I'm aware of how this will probably appear, like advising a Band-aid for a tumor, but I really think your eyes need to see something else and your voice needs to have different conversations and your lungs need different air for you to be able to think straight. Really.

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It's so much worse: to stay in a bad relationship, than to have to tell the one person who will give you crap for divorcing that it's none of their business.

If you are confident that your decision is the right one, most people will think so too.

Carolyn Hax: well, when you put it that way. Thanks.

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Minneapolis, Minn.: Situation is my SIL has been hitting her son (not a spanking, hitting). He's three, baby daughter is 14 months (she over-babies her, holds her all day). Now SIL has been part time substitute teaching in a public grade school. The family wants to "handle" the abuse internally (they are not). I want to call Social Services and report her. Now she teaching school. What should I do? She has hit him in the head hard enough to knock him off couch, MIL has witnessed her pinning him in a corner and hitting him. She told MIL to MYOB. My daughter and niece (13 years) witnessed it. The boy has severe separation anxiety when his dad leaves.

Carolyn Hax: Call social services. ASAP.

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Somewhere: Each week Ms. Hax, I come back hoping to get my question(s) answered. But each week it just doesn't happen. Who said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result? Sigh, maybe next week!

Carolyn Hax: I don't even see the majority of questions I receive during my appointed time. It's not personal.

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Thanksgiving Pie-related question for Liz: Cool-whip, or real whipped cream?

It's important.

washingtonpost.com: Soy whip. (But I'm not pushing this on anyone else.)

Carolyn Hax: Gack. Real. Or I'm not coming, even if you come to pick me up, and I'm going to say horrible things about you to people.

I love the smell of holidays in the morning.

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Carolyn Hax: That's eet. Bye everyone, thank you muchly, and please remember that next week's session is MONDAY, since Live Online is going appropriately dark for Black Friday. Get some work done now so you can blow off another two hours.

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regarding "somewhere": It's interesting to see the people who complain about not getting their question answered usually get their complaint posted...

Carolyn Hax: Cruel, isn't it?

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