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Carolyn Hax
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 30, 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

Germantown again: Thanks to you and the peanuts for responding. I tried to keep my original post short in order to get one aspect (getting her to accept changes) of my situation answered.

First let me kill the notion that my wife enjoys misery. That is not at all the case. We have been together about 10 years and until the last few months have been one of those always happy couples that make some people sick. To Carolyn, no she is not someone who makes demands to keep me off balance. If anything I'd say she hasn't made enough demands, or hasn't made the gravity of them clear enough since when I ignored them, she didn't say much (until now).

To "Husband who made lots of changes," I think that phase was a little while ago and she got tired of being angry so instead she shut down, stopped asking, and, I don't know, maybe gave up on ever seeing those changes realized. Re: Carolyn's response, I absolutely do not expect everything to be perfect after a week or 2 of changes. It will take time, I know that. But in order for me to feel encouraged to keep up with these changes and not feel like all this effort is a waste, I need to see her at least starting to embrace the changes.

Re: Carolyn's original response, she is rightfully upset that it had to get this bad before I realized "oh wow, she is -really- upset over this stuff." Perhaps I misread her enthusiastically going along with all of my activities as indication that things were OK, rather than an indication that she is fantastic when it comes to supporting my interests. I also thought that all the other things I do to support her and make her happy compensated for the things that I don't do. They did, to some extent, but apparently I misjudged how much.

As I said, there is blame on both sides. I have not been a jerk but as noted I have not done my best (ignoring change requests). She has done things too, but I wouldn't choose "anger" as my main emotion; I just miss her and miss the easy flow we used to have.

Carolyn Hax: As promised, here's a return to this question from last Monday.

Two things, Germantown Guy, jump out from your follow-up: First, you refer to the possibility that all your effort might be a waste. That is a huge blind spot that I believe will keep you from seeing real progress, regardless of how your wife responds. If you don't see your changes as a larger effort to be a better person, a better spouse, a better listener, then you're going to fail. You can't connect to a mate by doing as you're told. She won't feel gratified by it because she won't believe it, and you'll always feel resentful on some level, because it'll always be an effort undertaken by force for someone else's behalf.

If you instead internalize what you're doing, and see it as the result of a needed and appreciated education, one that will improve your relationships with everyone--even if you and your wife don't make it--then I think you'll stop being so concerned with how your wife reacts. Of course you'll care, but think of it as if you're getting into shape after years of sloth. You'll like the way your wife looks at the improved you, but you'll also move better, sleep better, digest better, shop faster, think more clearly, etc.

The second thing that jumps out is your parting lament for the "easy flow we used to have." Please know this: You neither can go back to what you had before, nor do you want to. From what you wrote, that "easy flow" was achieved by a two-pronged effort by your wife, first to bust herself to please you and second to eat whatever anger was building up over your failure to work as hard to please here.

I don't mean to hold your wife up as a martyr here--she should have worked less hard, and been more open about her needs. This is what she needs to work on with you and for you, to be, essentially, more real with you, even if that means she's less accommodating, since I think you'll agree it's better to know she's not interested in something than to have her convince you she is and then be pissed at you a year later because you didn't return a favor you didn't even know you were getting ...

But, I digress. The point is, if you and she are going to make it, you need to make something new, something much more honest than the old, and something that hinges on both of your abilities to use this experience to grow into stronger and more open -individuals-, which in turn will make you better partners.

Oh, and hello everybody.

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Washington, D.C.: I've been a bad friend. I've dropped of the face of the earth and not replied to emails, calls, etc. I was depressed and am starting to deal with it and get better.

Is the best option just to say exactly that when getting back in touch? Now that I feel human, I want more social contact, but am aware that I was rude.

Carolyn Hax: Yes. Admit you were rude, assure people you didn't mean any harm, explain what happened. It's never as big a deal as you think it's going to be (except of course to the people who are bigger doinks than you knew them to be). Congratulations on digging yourself out of the rut.

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Los Angeles, Calif.: I recently moved across the country by myself. It is a great opportunity for me, and I am really excited about the change. I am a quiet and reserved person, and it takes me awhile to feel comfortable with people. I knew when I made the decision to move that it would take time to meet people and make local friends. I have found ways to take part in activities that I enjoy and are also social, so that I will hopefully start to see some of the same people regularly and eventually become friends outside of that activity.

The problem is that people often ask if I'm meeting lots of people and making good friends. If I say I haven't, but I'm doing X and Y and Z which are fun and where I hope to meet people, they get uncomfortable. I think I sound upbeat when I say it - but does this response make me sound needy? Or awkward? Would most people have a list of 10 new best friends they've made after living in a new place for two months?

Carolyn Hax: If they did, I think they'd be more socially skilled than the people who are asking you after two months if you're "making good friends."

I also, in general (since it seems peevish to channel all the blame at people who are just trying to be nice), I think if you're getting more than one bad reaction to something you're saying, the easiest thing to do is to change the way you say it. Instead of, "No ..." followed by an explanation of all your efforts, just say, "Yes, I'm meeting a lot of interesting people." If they then follow up by asking whether you are in book groups with them and meeting them regularly for lunch and coffee, or if you're just deflecting the question by using "meeting people" as a slick substitute for "don't have any friends yet," then you can go back to blaming the prying questioners without feeling peevish at all.

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Twin City suburb, Minn.: Hey Carolyn, missed you live last week but caught up afterwards and was a little disturbed by the thread about the man who's wife couldn't seem to appreciate the "new" him. Specifically the poster who mentioned that some people look for reasons to be upset, I'm wondering if I might be one of those people. Could it possibly be an insecurity thing? My boyfriend of 3 1/2 years is wonderful but I feel like I am constantly picking at him for some reason or another. He has pointed this out to me too so obviously it's a problem. We recently got through a patch where we just seemed to be butting heads constantly and it seems I still have my dukes up and am looking for reasons to be annoyed. I feel like if I stop he'll slip right back into the habits that caused the head-butting in the first place but I know if I don't stop I'm just making us both crazy. This is a 2-way thing, we've both agreed that we have faults that we'd like to change that will benefit the relationship, but the difference is he's giving me the space and confidence, and I'm being doubtful and insecure. He's been very patient with me so far, but I know I've got to relax, it sounds so simple but this is something I've struggled with a lot and it's stressful for both of us. How do I get and keep control over this?

Carolyn Hax: What were "the habits that caused the head-butting in the first place"?

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Confrontationville : Hi Carolyn --

Love your chats. I think I need to confront one of my closest friends, but I am really, really bad at it. I keep losing my nerve. Basically she's dropped off the face of the earth, and I would really like to know why. When I do hear from her, it's all about her. She no longer seems to care what is going on in my life and stopped making any effort to keep in touch months ago. I'm hurt and bewildered (this is a 20 year friendship!)and admittedly I have been stewing over it for awhile now. Any advice on how to confront her in a reasonable way? I just miss her terribly and don't feel she misses me at all.

Carolyn Hax: What you just said makes for a pretty good way to get the message across. You're hurt, you miss her, you feel like you don't register with her any more. If for some reason you think you're going to get all tangled up when you try to say it, write it out first as if you're sending an email. You don't have to send it; just use it to organize your thoughts. A lot of what you're going to need to do, though, is listen--once you've found a plain and clear way to state your case, the weight of the "confrontation" will be on her response.

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re: bad friend: But don't overexplain or feel guilty about dropping off the face of the earth. You're human, you hit a rough patch. A phase of being a bad friend doesn't make you a bad person, i.e., don't be too hard on yourself and keep feeding the thought patterns that led/lead to depression.

Carolyn Hax: Thanks.

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Pittsburgh, Pa.: I'm recently transplanted out of D.C. and a long-time reader of yours, and I unfortunately now have a reason to actually write you.

I visited my brother over T-day and witnessed a household falling apart. My sister-in-law rode his butt the whole time I was there, and his children did the same. The poor guy couldn't get anything right, and he just put his head down and walked away time and again. My wife and I have our moments when we disagree and so did my parents, but we don't put it out there for everyone to see and especially not our child. My sister-in-law has always been demanding but nice but after what I saw during my visit the nice is gone.

I really want to cheer him up or help, but I don't know where to start. How do you keep someone's spouse from beating them down and keep the kids from seeing and learning it? I don't know where all of the disagreeing is coming from, he has a great job and their house is nice and the kids do okay in school. I'm lost here.

His kids are 6 and 8.

Carolyn Hax: It sounds to me as if he needs someone to talk to more than anything else. The bigger problems tend to need longer-term solutions, and the success of those hinges on the strength of the person or people tackling them. So, your brother will need strength to find his way out of this, and who better than a concerned sibling to help him remember who he used to be? Obviously, you can't pounce on him with that, or it'll just be one more thing he's doing wrong. That's where the talking comes in--get him to feel comfortable and safe, and see where it takes you.

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Seattle, Wash.: Carolyn,

Please help.

My girlfriend of five years broke up with me after snooping and finding an e-mail she shouldn't have found. Because I was in the wrong, I've never confronted her with the snooping, since I didn't feel I had standing to complain. We'd been living together and have each just signed year-long leases on separate places. I've been doing work on me--therapy, 12-step, listening to her (sorry for the psycho-speak, but 'respecting her process'); but she doesn't seem to be moving ahead at all, she just wants to go over and over it, and each time I apologize again, explain that I can't change the past, but that I'm doing everything I can do to mitigate the damage and change myself. No excuses, no complaints.

If it were a clean break and she said "I never want to see you again" I could deal with it; instead she vents her anger and pain (which I accept lovingly) but then calls me the next day and wants to come over. I love her to death and want her back, but the limbo is killing me.

What can I do?

Carolyn Hax: You want her back, how--as the same person who snooped and has not owned her own (even if only secondary) culpability? Or do you want her back after she completes her "process"?

Because if it's the latter, then I think you need to include in your reckoning the possibility that to her it isn't a process at all, but instead she has settled into the role of victim for the long haul.


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Charlotte, N.C.: Could you clarify what seems, on the surface, to be a contradiction in the advice you gave the long distance relationship person in today's column? You've said similar things before, and in this case I certainly agree that when two thirds of your dating history has been away from each other, you don't give up a life-long dream to move.

But you specifically said "if he's the one for you at 23, he'll be the one for you at 25" or something to that effect. Romance novels aside, people do have lives during these intervals, and proximity has its benefits. Meaning, he may very well find that his neighbor or cube mate or whatever is great, they hit it off, love blooms, etc. Ditto for her, back home. This is consistent with something else you've said, that romantic notions of THE one are just that, romantic notions.

So, how to reconcile "there really isn't a mystical The One" with "if it's meant to be, it'll be waiting in two years"?

Carolyn Hax: Ah. I didn't say it'll be waiting in two years. I said he'll still be right in two years, if he's the right guy now.

I'm trying to combat the idea that if she doesn't commit to him now then a great thing will be lost, forever and ever and done; that seems to be the way he's thinking, at least, and I wanted her to try to make her decision without that pressure on her.

If (as in your scenario) they both move on to meet, enjoy and happily commit to other people, then, great, he wasn't right for her--the right person turned out to be someone local, who didn't force her to give up something important.

If instead she found that her choice of continuing with her pursuit left her hollow, she could then seek out the old BF. If she finds him still pining for her, then it was the right thing after all. If she finds him happily in a relationship with someone else and isn't swayed by her return, then he wasn't right for her. It's actually ruthlessly practical, the anti-mystical One.

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Arlington, Va.: 20+ year friend whose dropped off the map here!

My reason for distancing myself from someone who used to be my best friend stems primarily from my realization that she has and is making REALLY bad decisions, detrimental to herself and her son, and nothing I have said, can say, or plan to say has or will make any difference. The real crux of her problems is her control-crazed husband, but to see her justifying, even defending husband's decisions re: their child has really strained our relationship.

For example, husband will not let son (now age 11) go to anyone's house unless he (the husband) stays. Son is not allowed to participate in any sports (might get hurt/hear bad language) even tho the kid is totally sports mad. When my friend mentioned casually that son no longer begs to go to sleepovers (which were banned), she asked me if my son gave up sleepovers at that age (10 - which to those not in the know is when sleepovers seemed to become part of the weekly regimen).

I have told friend EXACTLY what I think is wrong and why, to the point she dropped me for a while. Now she is e-mailing and calling saying she misses me, etc.

So, what do I do? I miss my her, too, but realize I miss my old friend, who never would have tolerated anyone like the guy she married. I have responded in a tentative way ("things here are fine") but hesitate to re-establish with a friend I know is never going to heed what I say. So, am I making this about me and is my ego getting in the way, or is there really a point when you should say "when" and not feel guilty?

Thanks!

Carolyn Hax: She is seeking you out. Please, please tell her again EXACTLY the reason you dropped out: "I can't enable your defending your husband's decisions when they are detrimental to your child. But if you're ready to take on this problem I am here for you." You have her attention, and the friendship is already blown.

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Genuinely Curious: Yes, she snooped, but she must have suspected that he was cheating on her. If she asked, and he lied, but she had "evidence" (like a fragrance on his clothes, credit card receipts, lots of time out of the house,) I might have accidentally peeked at email too! I admit it! Yes, snooping is wrong. Cheating is worse. Lying about cheating is worse than worse! If they get back together, they'll have serious trust issues on both ends, I'll imagine.

What would you suggest to the person who feels she has been cheated on, lied to, and could find out for sure if only she clicked "open" on the email icon? Does it make a difference if she asked him and he responded with, "You're crazy. Of course I'm not cheating." Makes her feel like an idiot for questioning his loyalty?

Just curious.....

Carolyn Hax: ajrhg arlkfh lkRGN GARGNRKLNG LHRGKnL

Forehead, keyboard. Keyboard, this is my forehead.

If you snoop and your snooping turns up proof of a far worse offense than snooping, then you still have to take responsibility for snooping. The worse offense doesn't wipe out or justify the lesser one.

If you snoop and prove a worse offense and the worse offender responds by lying about it, and if you feel this justifies your snooping because you would then have no other way to trust the person, then I am going to see how well my forehead types GET OUT OF THIS RELATIONSHIP. Sheesh.

The need to snoop is telling you the trust (and therefore the relationship) is already blown. Proof not necessary.

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Friend with Husband: Dear Carolyn: It just sounds like husband might be hyper-aware of abuse potential, and wife might know the reason and would understandably defend her husband. The friend could maybe relax a little, and see some of these differences in parenting styles as less critical (really, banning a child from sleepovers is harmful?)

Friend/wife just apparently is dealing with a lot, and please have some understanding for her.

Carolyn Hax: Holy enabler. Banning participating in sports teams because he might hear dirty words? If the father has reasons for being wound that tightly, then the mother needs to have the spine to help him get help, not help him play out his neuroses on his kid. I'll agree on this, the wife is dealing with a lot, and understanding always applies in that case. But the friend has the right, and I would argue the duty, to take the position openly with her friend that this kind of control isn't okay.

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Woodbridge, Va.: Carolyn:

This is my daughter's first year in college. She has stated many times in the process of getting into college that this wasn't the right thing for her. She was always a hard worker in High School, but I can't help but think that this is my fault as well as hers. Because my husband and I are very protective of our children, we made sure to have our daughter apply to colleges around us, and only that. Now, I feel that she could've been accepted to a better college, but it is our fault for this choice. My daughter has made sure not to blame this on us, but I still think it's our fault. What can I do to make my daughter feel better about her decision?

Carolyn Hax: Free her to transfer to the college she really wants. A choice to go will allow her to own her decision, and a choice to stay will allow her to own her decision. Either way she's going to feel better about it. She's a hard worker. She's earned some say in her own future.

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Snooping: But what if you snoop, turn up nothing and do some soul searching as to the need to snoop, then learn from your mistake? Sometimes the truth will never come out unless you snoop. At least if you snoop you know the truth one way or another and can figure things out from there. Now endless spying/snooping is wrong, when you hope to 'eventually' catch them doing wrong.

Carolyn Hax: No no nonNONONONONONO. If in the act of snooping you realize you've hit bottom, and if you cease snooping at that very moment, then use this epiphany as your motivation to confess your bottom-dwelling and completely reexamine not only your relationship but your entire notion of trust, then, okay, snooping was "necessary."

Otherwise, I'm not buying. The only time the "truth" needs to come out that way is when the problems are out in the open, you know you're dealing with a liar and you just need to clear up the details of how many credit cards he opened and maxed out, or how much money she has siphoned out of your accounts, or whatever. It is not a means of communication between people who have expectations that things might work out.

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Uptight Husband: Really - if anything this guy seems to fit the profile of an abuser: isolating his wife and kid from others.

Carolyn Hax: Precisely. The friend needs to throw her another life preserver. One of these times she may grab it. Thanks.

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Transfers: I think you might be underestimating how difficult it is to transfer. Not the process necessarily, but going to a new school and not being able to bond with freshmen hallmates, so that much harder to meet people. You typically get crap housing, too.

Carolyn Hax: No, I do know how difficult it is--I've known transfers who didn't fit in, and I've also known some who did and so I got to see how hard they had to work at it. But this is an unhappy kid whose parent has admitted to holding her back. She needs to use her wings. Even if she's going to stay put, it needs to be her decision to stay put.

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Friend abondenment: Dear Carolyn: I've just spent the last several months, along with others, taking care of a friend whose boyfriend of a year broke up with her. We all supported her, and spent extra time with her (she felt the need to have every minute planned and occupied). Now he's coming around again, and I find myself in the position of being pushed aside, as upcoming plans for New Years and other holiday festivities are now shelved in favor of the ex, soon to be not ex.

When they were together the first time, everything revolved around what he wanted; good friends only met the guy twice in a year. Grumble. Grumble.

How to deal?

Carolyn Hax: Take off the rescue goggles and see her for the needy person she is. The biggest source of attention has been, is, and always will be the best, and the details aren't going to count. see it now before you get sucked in again.

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Re: Woodbridge: You said, "She's a hard worker. She's earned some say in her own future." So, are you saying people who don't work as hard have to take their marching orders from others?

Kidding. But honest to god, I have a friend who does that all the time. No matter what you say, she'll find a way to turn it into an argument. Is this something hardwired into certain brains that makes them good lawyers or debaters or whatever but lousy conversationalists? Is this an instance where "wow" would work as a response?

Carolyn Hax: Funny way of leading into it. (By the way--yes! People who don't work as hard do have to take their marching orders from others ... maybe not to a person, and maybe not because The Organization of Hard Workers tells them they have to, but in general it does tend to work out that way, doesn't it? Anyway.)

I think what you describe works well with the spirit of "wow," since your only choice is really to decline to enter the debate. I also think over time you just end up less close to people like this, since it's a basic incompatibility. People who seek out confrontation will want others of like/restless mind, too, and think just about everyone is boring.

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Transfers: Transfering is no harder than staying at a place you hate for four years.

Carolyn Hax: AND it has the promise of betting better, which, no matter how hard it is to pull off, sounds a lot better than marking time in a hopeless situation.

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Maryland: oh come on. MANY people transfer from a two year to a four year school EVERY YEAR and manage just fine.

Carolyn Hax: By the way, anyone transferring into a school should check out the numbers of and resources for transfer students. Some places are markedly easier to crack into than others.

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Chevy Chase, Md.: What do you do with a 7 year old who thinks he knows everything, can do everything without practicing, and while an incredibly fabulous kid, risks really being insufferable as he grows older? At some point, he won't be cute and precocious. How do I get him to try things and stick with them?

Carolyn Hax: First and most important thing you can do is make sure there is little to no reward for him in being cute and precocious. You don't want his emotional digestive system to get used to a steady diet of praise and attention, which is akin to refined sugar--quick fuel, no substance--because he'll go seeking it well into adulthood. What you want is for his diet to be heavy in a sense of accomplishment, which is the product of hard work, prolonged attention and effort, obstacles faced and surmounted--i.e., the complex carbs and protein--so he can develop a habit of sustaining himself emotionally.

How tortured is my metaphor? Let me count the ways ...

Practically, this means steering him to, encouraging, praising, and modeling focus and hard work. It's, "I love that you stuck with it" when he works to get something right, vs. "You're so smart!" when he pulls of a parlor trick.

If you're having trouble thinking of or incorporating specifics, it would be worth a conversation with a child-development specialist.

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Re: Friend of abused: When I married my ex-hubby, my best friend sat me down and told me everything she didn't like about him and told me he would be an abuser if he wasn't already. Then she backed off. She would call me and talk to me about the latest movie she'd seen, or who pissed her off at work that week. She invited me over for girl's nights. She stayed part of my life without pushing and when he did hit me, she was my first phone call. Stay in her life. She may just pick up the phone some day.

Carolyn Hax: That is a best friend. Thanks.

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Carolyn Hax: By the way--I hope you realize that it took you a lot of guts to stay friends with her after she said what she did. The typical pattern is for the on-track-to-be-abused person to cut out of his or her life anyone who delivers a warning.

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New Jersey: Having the daughter take charge and look at what she really wants will be a good idea whether she transfers or not. Way back when I was in college at a state school, I got the notion that it was too easy and I really should be at a more rigorous school in science. When I went to the dean to initiate a transfer, he challenged me on my course choices and asked what I wanted - and said I could make whatever curriculum I wanted, take graduate courses, get into independent research, take more hours than the rules said, take courses without the prerequisites - I could make my experience the way I wanted it to be. Which I largely did, and ended up not transferring after all. So I would encourage the young woman to think about what she really wants and look for ways to get what she needs. A transfer may be the way, or maybe not, but it is really exhilarating to take charge of your life, I highly recommend it.

Carolyn Hax: A dead-on testimonial, thanks. Hope the parent is still out there.

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Privacy/Boundaries and married sibs: Here's a question:

Sometimes I'd like to talk with my sibling and not the spouse about something. Sometimes it's about sibling's thoughts on a proposed gift for said spouse (who is a beloved in-law). Spouse reads email for both parties. Spouse usually answers the phone and is the one to carry a cell.

How do I ask for private conversations with the sibling without sounding like I'm attempting to exclude the spouse?

I want to know how sibling is doing from my brother, not have his wife fill me in except when needed. I don't much care what Bro relates to sisinlaw (except when it's about surprise gifts!), sometimes I just want to talk with him or hear whatever it is from him first.

Sisinlaw is not remotely interested in managing the relationship with me and Bro, is in no way controlling, but is following her family's patterns. Her family has defacto gatekeepers, seemingly by practice rather than design, and I'd rather not have to go through one.

Carolyn Hax: I had to read this twice to figure out who is keeping whose gate, but it sounds as if you need to tell your brother that you would like to be able to talk to him without having to go through his wife. Make it clear it's not for nefarious reasons, but only so you know that if you do ever need to contact him privately--say, for a gift--it won't require special maneuvering.

I write this with the full knowledge that it might not work--people get set in their ways, or feel threatened in ways they don't even admit to themselves, or panic about being left out--but you do need to say something. Often you don't know when you're going to need a private channel until you actually need it, and often then it's too late, because you're trying to introduce it into a charged situation, and you've lost any chance at passing it off as neutral.

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Boston, Mass.: Carolyn,

(am submitting LONG question super early because if kid doesn't nap I'll miss your live chat)

My father-in-law is visiting this weekend and I need some advice on getting through the weekend. The last time he was here he lost his temper (long back story but inl-aws were upset that when they came to see the baby at three months old I stayed in the room most of the time and was not social -- we explained PPD and breastfeeding to them.) They dismissed it as me being rude/drama queen and proceeded to insult me, my family, my husband and say some pretty abusive and hurtful things, all very loudly and all in front of my 10-month-old. Then he spent the rest of the day locked upon his room and the next day pretended like nothing happened. We were shaken to the core and really didn't know how to handle it. My husband later shared that this was pretty common in their family while they were growing up and things were routinely swept under the rug after an outburst. We have had NO contact with his father since that last visit until he e-mailed and said he was coming in town for a conference and would be staying with us for the weekend. I am really angry at him for the things he said and how he treated us and I don't know how to handle this weekend. Help, any suggestions? [Husband] has been evasive each time I bring up all my feelings regarding this matter.

Carolyn Hax: There are a few ways you can deal with the father-in-law--being absent, being coolly civil, throwing yourself into the fiction like it's some kind of social experiment, whatever gets you through the days. But none of them will head off the damage to your marriage that's coming if you and your husband can't talk about this freely between you. I don't want to jump too far to a conclusion without hearing his side, but it's possible his evasiveness means he has retreated to the familiar pattern of sweeping this under the rug with you. Find a nice way to call him on it. The more unruly the feelings, the more important it is that you and he are able to air them.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi, Carolyn,

My husband and I were talking recently about how I don't really have close friends. He thinks it's sort of abnormal, and thinks that some of the things I talk to him about would be better directed at a girlfriend. I do have friends who e-mail me, ask me out to gatherings, who I like and they like me back. But I do not have anyone who I call to talk about my life, and I don't do one-on-one things. I used to have close girlfriends back in college, but I've more or less dumped them or grown apart from them. Anyway, I don't think I need close-friend relationships because my close relationship with my husband fulfills my needs. In addition, I think I avoid relationships because I don't want any added pressure in my life to keep up the relationships. Sometimes I start thinking that maybe this is weird, and that I am unfeeling, however. Having friends is supposed to make happier people, but I think I'm happy enough. So fine, right?

Carolyn Hax: Right, unless your husband feels responsible for being your only social support. How you view his role and how he feels about it are best kept out in the open. If, for example, you'd be fine as a loner but are grateful that you have him, then that doesn't put a lot of pressure on him. BUt if you do count on regular interaction and he's it, then he might be to the point where he feels guilty just staying 15 minutes later at work to talk to someone. In that case you owe it to him to circulate a little more.

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RE: Privacy/Boundaries and married sibs: What, when the SIL answers, you can't chat for a sec and then ask for your brother? That's what most people do.

Carolyn Hax: True, but for reasons won't get into (time to go) i think it's essential to have at least one way people can get to you without going through someone else first. It cedes too much control to someone else, even if that someone else is benevolent.

Thanks everybody, and type to you next week, for the ho ho holiday melee. Fri. Dec. 7, be there or be somewhere else.

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Carolyn Hax: Twin Cities: I just saw your follow-up. I'll pick it up next week, sorry about that. (First hour will be for regular angst--melee will be in the second.)

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