Carolyn Hax Live: Stealing the Spotlight; Not Ready for Baby No. 2

Carolyn Hax
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 1, 2008; 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


San Diego, Calif.: Carolyn,

Would your advice to today's writer change if the mother was old and in bad health? My mother in law is very sweet, but grates on my nerves for similar reasons as today's writer. My husband doesn't make me feel bad about it, but I do -- she always means well, and doesn't realize that she lacks some social graces. I dread her visits and find myself inventing reasons to get out of the house when she's here, but I doubt she has that many more years of visits left. Should I just try to suck it up?

Carolyn Hax: Sure. You'll probably feel so much better afterward for making the effort, even if you're miserable during it.

Don't feel you have to rally every time, though. For one thing, the less often you try the better your effort is likely to be, and I doubt she'd be too excited about your companionship if you had the face of someone on mile 21 of a marathon. Also, the mother might want some time alone with her son. It's so important with these "obligatory" visits that you stop to consider how others might feel obligated as well.

And so, finally--yes, my answer to you is a little different, but the change has nothing to do with your MIL's age or health. It's all about the fact that your husband "doesn't make me feel bad about it." I really choked on the part of today's letter where she said the boyfriend can't believe anyone doesn't like his mother. More proof, as if we needed it, that 6-year-olds shouldn't date.


St. Louis, Mo.: Today is my birthday. Tonight I am hosting a big party, which I have been planning for a month. Yesterday, a close friend told me she is pregnant, and she's planning to announce at my party. I'm pretty hurt by this, even more so when she joked about making this an impromptu baby shower. "Just kidding!" I'm very hurt but can't really confide in anyone since they all know her and know how long she and her husband have been wanting this. I want to be happy but I just feel like not going at all. Is my reaction disproportionate? Was she out of line? I don't really know what to do.

Carolyn Hax: She makes her announcement, it's over in 5 minutes. I can expand on this one of two ways: I can say, cheez, she's your friend and she's excited, and she has a bunch of mutual friends in one place so why wouldn't she tell? You'd want her to stay quiet in order to keep all attention on you?

I can also say, cheez, welcome to the first day of the rest of your friend's baby-centric drama.

I'm not picking one because there isn't enough context here to tell me which one is right. Could be one, could the other, could be both, could be neither.

So, back to my first answer: Your friend is happy, what a nice birthday present for you. Let her have her five minutes.


Still Jealous: Hi Carolyn,

In Thursday's column you said that jealousy is a deal breaker. I find myself getting jealous of things my boyfriend does from time to time, even though I know they're perfectly innocent. How does one handle feelings of jealousy they know are unwarranted but nevertheless are still there?

Carolyn Hax: Get to the root, I think. Break it down to its most basic elements, and you have two choices: You're the problem, or he is.

If you're the problem, then you're letting your own insecurity color the way you judge his behavior. Would you say you were insecure? Have you been burned in the past, or have you always suspected people didn't like you? Or that you had to be perfect at everything for people to like you? Are you preoccupied with not being made to look stupid? These are all examples that suggest you arent' comfortable in your own skin, which would explain why you see your boyfriend's behavior as a threat to your relationship (read: stability)--which is what jealousy is.

If he's the problem, then take everything I just said, and add to it a mate who has picked up on your insecurity, and is using it to mess with your head. You realize you're insecure, and he knows you know it, so he manipulates you into telling yourself that he's innocent and you're just being paranoid. When of course he's the one setting off your alarm bells by cheating on/lying to/whatevering against you.

So, the way to handle your feelings is to understand them. Trace the source, and let the results tell you your next move.


House Hunting Help: Carolyn, dear husband and I are house hunting. We have looked at around a billion properties and just when we get set to make an offer, his priorities change ("I want a guest room," then "the kitchen is no good," etc.) and he decides he doesn't want to proceed.

Am getting super frustrated and testy with this behavior. Any advice on how to deal?

Carolyn Hax: Ask him if there's something bothering him that he isn't telling you. Sounds from here as if he's scared--afraid you're spending too much, afraid one of you will lose a job, afraid you'll move in and he'll regret that you sacrificed X for Y ... for whatever reason, he's afraid to commit. Talking about it and, even better, doing something to prevent his worst case, can really help.


Carolyn Hax: Oh, I left the biggest one off the list--if you and he aren't getting along for some reason. That could be getting in the way.


Re: Birthday Girl: Are you serious? You don't want your friend to announce her pregnancy because it'll take the attention off your birthday? If you were 8, that would be different, but you're an adult, so GROW UP! Who cares if you're not the center of attention for every second. The guests are still there to celebrate your birthday, they're not going to forget about it, and if she does try to command the group's attention for more than a couple minutes, it'll make her look bad, not you. Again, GROW UP!!

Carolyn Hax: I've gotten a few of these, and I was getting discouraged, until I saw this:


Washington, D.C.: What is up with adult people feeling like developments in their lives warrant making large announcements? "I'm pregnant!" "We're getting married!" "We're almost done paying off our credit cards!"

People, please. Seizing the floor at a group gathering is what I expect from my four-year-old daughter in her sparkly tutu. If you're pregnant, engaged, debt-free, whatever, yay; I'm glad for you. But trust me: you come off a lot better if you just tell people in the normal course of events (or even making a special phone call) than you do if you hold a press conference. Especially at someone else's party. Sheesh.

Carolyn Hax: Thank you, thank you.


I want to be happy but I just feel like not going at all.: I don't think sulking is going to improve matters, no matter who's at fault.

Plus, there's that thing about noses and cutting and faces.

Carolyn Hax: The end. Thanks everybody.


Online only, please: So it turns out that a guy I had been seeing actually didn't break up with his girlfriend like he told me, they were still together and she's moving with him to a new job across the country.

I'm still hurt and angry at his lack of honesty, and willingness to cheat on his girlfriend. While part of me wants to tell her what he did, I also know that I just need to drop it and walk away.

The guy, however, wants to "remain friends." I tried to explain that I was very hurt and upset, and also that since he's staying with his girlfriend, there's no way that could ever happen.

How would you suggest I continue to handle this? Try to explain to him, or just drop it and walk away?

Carolyn Hax: Tell him a friendship is a great idea, and ask for his girlfriend's phone number so you and she can get to know each other, too, so you can all be pals.


Arlington, Va.: Dear Carolyn,

Regarding platonic friendships: Your answer to "Optimistic" was excellent. I didn't ask the question, but I needed to hear the answer too.

You did, however, ignore the comment on the difference between women's and men's views: Women generally are willing to sacrifice the sex to preserve the friendship aspects of a relationship, whereas for guys it's all about sex all along. Which is an important thing one should remember from the outset...


Carolyn Hax: Thanks for the kind words, but I don't think it's that simple. I've gotten hundreds of letters from guys over the years who've chosen to sacrifice the sex to preserve the friendship.

Or maybe they're just keeping the friendship in the off chance it'll lead to sex someday, even though she has already made it clear the answer is no ... but even in those cases, they've demonstrated a level of patience (if only with futility) that makes it clear it's not about the sex all along.

I get that men and women have different hormones and socialization that makes them behave differently, but even where there are documented differences on the gender level, that hardly translates to differences on an individual level. You have to take each person and each situation on its own merits.


Baby Announcements: But isn't seeing friends and sharing news when you see them, at a party or elsewhere, part of normal course of things? I agree that it's probably not appropriate for the friend to make a big pregnancy announcement at someone else's birthday party, but is there any reason for her to withhold the news during the course of party small talk with people she knows?

Carolyn Hax: I thought that post made it clear that sharing it with people in course of conversation was part of the normal course of things. It was the "big announcement" trend that had him/her putting forehead to keyboard--whether it was at someone else's celebration/on someone else's JumboTron or not.


Carolyn Hax: Hey guys. I just wrote a long and involved answer that I'm not sure I'm going to post. I need to think more about it. In the meantime, I'm starting another Q and A to post. Sorry for the delay--the hazards of live advice-o-tainment.


San Antonio, Tex.: Any tips on a friend who inflates his life, makes you feel about one inch tall and insists his life is better than yours? In addition, he gets his nose into your past (without invitation) present and future. He is overbearing and insensitive. I am just about to give up on our friendship. And FWIW - I have tried to talk to him about this type of stuff and he just blows me off - insisting that he isn't the one with the problem.

At what point do you just let go of a friendship?

Carolyn Hax: This point.


Bethesda, Md. : Hi Carolyn- I just bought my first home. And I'm happy about it, I suppose. Part of me is really excited that I now have a place that I can do whatever I want with without having to ask a landlord for permission. The other part of me is sort of blah about the whole thing. I've been trying to think about why, and the best I can come up with is that it's because I never envisioned taking this giant a step in life alone. I thought I'd be starting a family at my age (28), not buying real estate alone. I know, I know. That's a backward attitude, but I can't help it. My frustration is that everyone I know keeps asking me if I'm excited and how I want to celebrate, etc. I don't want to offend anyone with a callous or less-than-enthusiastic response. But the strain of pretending that this is the best thing that ever happened to me is wearing thin. Any thoughts on how I should move forward with this? I want to be that super-excited, "oh my gosh, this rocks" person. I just can't.

Carolyn Hax: Then don't. Just tell people you have mixed feelings. You don't have to elaborate.

As for those mixed feelings, it sounds like you need to have them, if only so you can get past them. You're walking around with an idea of the way your life should be. The sooner you dismantle that the better; lives never conform to the patterns we dream up for them, and so your disappointment was going to come, if not now then later. This time and these circumstances--a first home at a good age to invest in one at a good time and a good town--are pretty upbeat ones to have as a backdrop. It may hurt to chuck your old view of the future, but, when you're ready, it'll be fun to make up a new one. Congratulations.


New York, N.Y.: Hey Carolyn,

Love your chats -- I'm hoping you can help me on this. How do you get over the need to have everyone (or if not everyone, most people) "like" you. I'm usually afraid to make waves or risk alienating people, even for good reason, because I'm always worried that this person will become resentful and besmirch my fair name among my social circle.

I think there's some good in restraint, but I feel like the fear of reprisal is too strong for me to deal with in general and then I end up feeling trod upon.

Advice, please? Thank you in advance!

Carolyn Hax: Pencils out, pop quiz:

Do you like everyone? Yes/No

Does your dislike of someone impinge significantly on his or her ability to lead a fulfilling life? Yes/No

Are there some people you dislike so much that their favorable opinion of you would be an insult? Yes/No

Do you think it's a realistic goal to be universally liked? Yes/No

Do you think it's a desirable one? Yes/No

Can you conjure one person who is universally inoffensive? Yes/No

If yes, has that person ever made you laugh so hard you spit your drink? Yes/No


The point of this quiz being, everything you feel comfortable believing about other people's (dis)likability applies directly to your own. It's okay, certainly survivable, and in many cases desirable, to be distasteful to some people.



Having it all?: I'm 29 and have been married for 6 years. I'm in a competitive career that takes a lot of schooling such that I have just finished school and am in the early stages of my career. I've always loved what I do and have been single mindedly focused on it. However suddenly I find myself desperately wanting to settle down, have a house, start a family. These are things I've never really wanted or thought much about before. My husband and I are several years from being able to make this a reality. How do I continue to enjoy this time in my life when it's no longer what I really want. How can I work towards balancing my life to make the ideas of both career and family possible. I feel so unsure about what I want.

Carolyn Hax: Believe it or not, those "several years" are not an outsize length of time to spend feathering your nest, for lack of a less gagworthy phrase. Certainly people can and do pull off a settle-down-house-family maneuver within a few months of learning of an unexpected pregnancy. But you have the benefit (repeat, benefit) of time standing between you and what you really want. Start saving money, researching neighborhoods, and easing yourself toward what you ultimately want.

There is a risk of going overboard--no stockpiling diapers, please--but it's hard to think of a risk of saving every nickel you and your husband can spare. It will not only give you more freedom to do whatever it is you choose in a few years (and who knows how your minds and circumstances may change), but it will also give shape and purpose to the work you're currently questioning. If nothing else, it may get your heart back into it--in Buddhist terms, I believe, it's called learning to want what you have.


Oops...: Carolyn,

Now I'm worried. Recently, my husband announced our (well, my) pregnancy at our friend's cookout, It was a gathering of about 15 college friends we only see once every few months, and the announcement was made toward the end of the get-together, about 5 minutes before we left. With our other, closer friends (those we see more often/live near), the news has just come up in normal conversation, but we just thought since everyone was there...

Did we goof?

Carolyn Hax: Please don't over-think it. A spontaneous, "Hey, everybody ..." is one of the joys of the group gathering (provided the group is, as you say, close). Not everyone will love it, but, come on, not everyone loves beer, ice cream and potty humor (freaks). It's the orchestrated unveiling that risks leaving the audience cold.


Seattle, Wash.: Hi Carolyn, I have a dilemma. My boyfriend's roommate (who I like and is all in all a good guy) is cheating on his girlfriend. In a really, really bad way. Like sleeping with this other girl and lying about (or not saying) where he's been or who he's been with bad. I think it's because he's having a "quarter-life crisis" and has been kind of depressed, and also their relationship hasn't really progressed to that next level. I'm not close to his girlfriend but I just can't believe this is going on. I'm not going to say anything to her but it really bothers me that he's doing this. And if she ever finds out, I'll feel awful for knowing and not saying anything. Thoughts?

Carolyn Hax: What does your boyfriend say about it, both to you and to his roommate?


Among meanies in Chicago, Ill.: (Submitting early because I have an appointment) New to the area, I'm swimming with sharks at this new job where many sharpen their teeth on newcomers. I'm navigating OK without being beaten down and without becoming as mean. As a result, I'm happily finding a few people who help me get my job done by doing theirs with professionalism, a smile and none of that superiority attitude. There is no co-worker-"way to go"-program like there have been in other places. Other than saying "thanks" as situations come up, how do I show appreciation for the non-sharks? FYI, it's not about making friends or kissing up as much as it is an expression of gratitude (and me being me despite the abundance of mean people). I should add that I'm not Molly Sunshine who sings sentences and bakes everybody's birthday cake. Also, I've been in this field almost 10 years and have never seen people be so nasty. Killing them with kindness is half tempting.

Carolyn Hax: Then do it. As far as a method for showing your appreciation for the good people in the office, it seems like the environment has given you an obvious one: Return the favor of doing your job with professionalism, a smile and none of that superiority attitude. I say that not only because it seems like the currency that counts in your office, but also because I have no idea what a "Way to go" program is.

I will, however, start singing my sentences, effective today.


McLean, Va.: Hi Carolyn,

This spring I am taking a trip with my husband's family. Seven people, one bathroom, small unit, five days. Yikes. Most of the family and I get along well, but everyone, all inclusive, gets irritated with my mother-in-law at the drop of a hat. She is a bit rough around the edges: judgmental, controlling, given to spewing insults of her children to them.

However, it makes me extremely uncomfortable the way her children (my husband included) bash her behind her back. I can see why they have a hard time with her and feel sure there is a lot of pent up aggression from childhood things I'll never understand/know.

As an outsider and a nice person, I can barely stand to be there as this circus of negativity occurs. What do I do? I will be trapped. Do I speak up? It's not really my place I know, but where is the line between minding your own business and doing what's right?

Background: husband and I have been together approximately 6 years, but this is the first "family trip" like this. Help!

Carolyn Hax: This is their family, their venom, and quite possibly their way of coping. It could also be their cherished way of bonding. Wrong, sure, but I'm not convinced a finger-wagging sister-in-law is the answer--and I don't think you are, either, which is the decisive vote. I would vote instead for your taking a good book with you, and mentally checking out as needed. If the opportunity presents itself, though, I don't think you'd be crossing a line if you were to ask, out of curiosity, why the family trip if it makes everyone so unhappy? Or, maybe more apropos, why not a place with two bathrooms?


Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C.: Hi Carolyn,

I'll try to skip most of the drama, but I ended my relationship with my fiance about a month ago. After I broke up with him, he hacked into my e mail accounts and is convinced I was cheating on him (I wasn't). Now he won't talk to me and we have a lot of loose threads to tie up, such as what to do with the ring, etc. He lives across the country so I can't confront him in person, and I tried calling him once and e mailing him once and he won't respond. Can I just pawn the thing? How long do I have to wait for him to stop ignoring me?

Carolyn Hax: Send the ring back to him insured and with the requirement that he sign for it. Use similar methods for tying the other loose ends, thus rendering toothless his tactic of ignoring you. Really--not giving a [pick your favorite] is the express lane to the last word. Then, don't look back. Oh and change your e-mail address.


Beware Baking!!!!: Someone who worked in a male-dominated field once advised other women in the field: Never cry. Never bake.

A well placed "hey I picked up cookies" is one thing. The frequent homemade baking can actually put you in a pigeon-hole so many professional women try to avoid. If you aren't careful you end up in charge of anything remotely social, including shopping, setup, and cleanup, because, well, you're a woman.

If you're in an office with mostly women, it can be even nastier if folks are looking for a way to demean you.

Carolyn Hax: I find this thoroughly depressing.


Meanies in Chicago: Another way of saying thanks is to acknowledge their assistance in meetings or in other communications that in which senior management are present/copied. That gives the employees needed recognition for their contributions in front of people who write their reviews.

Carolyn Hax: Great, thanks.


Depressed I am Pregnant... Again: I have an eight-month-old and just found out what I thought was the flu is ANOTHER BABY. I am not happy, can't stop crying and am not ready for another one so soon. I was on the pill too! I am really horrified about having to take attention away from my sweet little one so soon to focus on another. Is this normal? I am not ready for a one year old and a newborn. Ugh.

Carolyn Hax: Talk to your OB/midwife and pediatrician, find out if they have resources for moms who need someone to talk to. I don't think this is something you'll solve in the form of one piece of advice; it's something you need to air to someone who is there to see you through it, offer ideas and discuss your choices in a way that isn't freighted with guilt.

I'll tell you one reason this strikes me as so important, that has nothing to do with choices: Miscarriage is not an unusual result of any pregnancy, and hard for almost all moms--but an ambivalent mother can go through a special kind of hell if it happens to her. Another reason: Parents are surprised every day when they find they have as much love for another baby as they did for a first. Some, though, don't get that feeling, and don't love the sibling as much, and I can't imagine you'd want to be that baby, so it's a huge incentive to start sorting your feelings out now.

Please also don't feel bad about feeling bad right now. Some people use every bit of the length of pregnancy, and even some time after, to adjust to their new circumstances.

It;'s an already difficult process made more difficult by a fact I'm sure you know--that people are unusually willing to share their biases and judgments with pregnant women. You do not need to hear them. So, find someone who makes you feel safe to talk about whatever you need to talk about.


Washington, D.C.: Hey carolyn:

My husband has a tendency to either lecture or provide a history lesson of past occasions when X has happened. His style off communication when we are in disagreement is really off-putting. I often cut him off before I cut my head off to put myself out of misery. Should I expect him to change his style or should I work on staying tuned in to hear him out. He often never gets to the point -- perhaps the perceived scolding is the point. Do you have any ideas on what I could do or say to change this communication dynamic?

Not 12 anymore.

Carolyn Hax: Just going on what little you have here, I wonder if you wouldn't both benefit from talking about X when it isn't presently an issue and your blood and defenses aren't up.

Sometimes understanding a recurring argument, and realizing neither of you is going to change, is enough just to put it away.

And if X isn't any specific recurring argument, then shift that to a talk about your tactics. "When we disagree, you often bring up several similar incidents from the past to make your point. This makes me feel like [your feeling here], even when I am the one in the wrong."

He may not see it, or care to talk about it, or lecture you about his right to lecture. If that's the case--if he's unwilling or unable to take a step back from himself--then it's up to you to take a step back to try to understand his way of communicating. Does he always need to win? Does this apply in other areas of his life? Or, along a different path, does he often have difficulty organizing his thoughts, and is it possible the words aren't a scolding/lecture but instead his way of thinking something through?

It may be this is an issue for counseling, so an objective and competent third party can help you understand and then change the dynamic. But even that effort will be better, I think, for an initial effort to get him to talk about what he thinks in these situations, when you're not actually in the middle of one.


Depressed I am Pregnant... Again: You forgot to mention that pregnancy termination is a legal option.

Carolyn Hax: I also didn't forget but didn't mention that her placing the baby for adoption is a legal option, too. I put "choices." She has them. She should talk to someone about them.


Washington, D.C.: Do you answer questions privately as well? I mean, do you e-mail people a response that never gets postedor printed? If so, I was wondering why you posted about the new mom who is pregnant again, it doesn't seem like there is going to be many people out here that are facing that problem, so why not just reply privately to her. Doesn't seem like an interesting question to post, even.

Carolyn Hax: Are you serious? I don't know which point to address first. It does happen to people, more than you'll hear out loud; Liz and I both agreed there is incredible pain, humanity and therefore interest in that question, even for those who never face that situation themselves--I mean, how can any of us not be better for exploring a not-often-copped-to angle of the human condition?

And finally, I couldn't answer people privately in this discussion even if I wanted to, since it's an anonymous forum; I also have a full-time job answering for publication. Not only is there no time to add more to my job description, but if I did offer private answers, few people would choose to make their questions public.


Swimming with sharks in Chicago: The way that you give appreciation to those people who are above the flotsam of sharks is professionally. When someone behaves professionally and courteously in business, you do the appropriate thing. For something small, you send them an e-mail (or drop off a hand written note in their office) of thanks. For something that took time, you send such a note in writing cc'ing their supervisor. If it was a major big deal, you can do so in writing and cc supervisor and HR. Professional courtesy demands professional courtesy in return.

Carolyn Hax: Thanks for covering it all.


Washington, D.C.: Hi Carolyn, in regards to the 28-year-old who just bought their own place, I just don't see how your advice is practical. I understand rethinking your internal timeline (i.e., married at 28), but I think its more about moving forward on big things (owning a home) in your life when you aren't making progress on the ones that are most important to you (having a family). So I totally get the mixed feelings, and I understand that its ok to express that to friends, but I don't understand the internal reconciling.

Carolyn Hax: Why? And who says s/he isn't making progress on having a family? Explicit expectations for one's life just encourage narrow thinking like that. To me, the alternative to embracing this different life path is to continue treating it as the booby-prize path. Not only is that a guaranteed way to end up bitter or unhappily married or both, it also takes credit away from a really great thing--being 28, being beholden to no one, being on track to a secure future.


Atlanta: Speaking of faulty birth control - I have been taking it religiously and this morning found out I am pregnant. I love my boyfriend of a year and we have talked about a future together. However he has expressed that he doesn't really want kids while I am on the record that I do. I don't know how to tell him and convince him I didn't orchestrate this. Help!

Carolyn Hax: If he accuses you of orchestrating it, please see that he is not a good person on whom to build your future. What a hideous accusation. Don't even begin to try to declare your innocence. State the facts, face the response.


Falls Church, Va.: Re: Seattle boyfriend's roommate cheating. Didn't you address this in Wednesday's column? This seems like another "distant third-party" situation, where the letter writer should stay out.

Carolyn Hax: Well, that's why I was asking about the boyfriend. He is friends with the guy he knows is cheating. That means he can say to his friend, "Cut the [your second favorite version here]." and also, if that doesn't work, "It's your life, but I won't cover for you." He's the one with the standing to say that, and I really hope he does, for the cheated-on girlfriend's sake.

The person who wrote the initial post can also say something if and when the drama overlaps with her life. What she says, though, has to be fact, not what she has interpreted from the facts.


New Daughter-In-Law: Carolyn,

I really need some advice. I was married a month ago. Before we got married, we had some serious issues with his mother. She made it very clear that she didn't like me and refused to support our wedding. He was convinced she would come around, and she made an attempt as the wedding got closer. I had major doubts about marrying in to that family because his mother is really terrible. She screams and yells and degrades all of the people around her. She told her son that I wasn't smart enough/pretty enough. Anyway, he promised he would talk to her, she wouldn't come between us, etc. Well, she has. She was terrible to me at the wedding, tried to talk him out of it at the rehearsal (in front of the bridal party) and pretty much went out of her way to ruin it for me. She did. I didn't enjoy the weekend at all, and now I'm really having doubts about my marriage. He thinks we should just get over it, and wants to visit them this weekend. I can't stand the thought of going and putting up with her being rude. How do I fix this mess!

Carolyn Hax: Speaking of facts, I think you need to lay them out for your husband--not spitefully, but as calmly and objectively as you can:

1. His mother has shown no signs of coming around.

2. Her harsh words about you have hurt your feelings terribly.

3. His wanting to visit them this weekend says, to you, that it is acceptable to him for his mother to talk about you like that.

4. You do not believe her behavior was acceptable.

You fix this mess by listening to his answer, and finding out whether he is going to commit to his marriage, or his mother. I'm sorry.


Alexandria, Va.: that family trip sounds like the definition of hell to me. I'd love to know why they were doing it and, yes, why on earth such a small space? If only one bathroom, not sure there will room for the poor woman to check out anywhere, book or no.

Carolyn Hax: If people can check out on a packed subway train, they can check out anywhere. Might be a particularly apt comparison if she doesn't have a place to sit.


For McLean, Va.: My husband and his eight siblings used to regularly bash my MIL for various reasons. She is a little hard to get along with sometimes but I couldn't stand how they would do this behind her back and not speak to her directly. I told my husband that I was no longer willing to listen to this and he's stopped the complaining as well. We just walk away when it starts. Family gathering have been a lot less stressful for us since then.

Carolyn Hax: Thanks, good solution.


Out West: My college roommate and I are not close. We are in different programs and barely interact and honestly because both are pretty intense we're barely in the apartment together. But sometimes, I'll be walking to the bathroom or something, which is right outside his door and it's like he bursts and let's out everything that's been on his mind. I would interrupt, but he just keeps talking in one long incredibly unbroken sentence, moving from topic to topic. Last week, not gonna lie, he went on for about 20 minutes about how McDonald's was a wonderful corporation. For the sake of my kidneys, please help!

Carolyn Hax: Use the timeout signal from football--hold your hands right up to his eye level. Use only when bladder is maxed, though. He just sounds like an awkward person who could use some roommaterly patience.


The quitter from two weeks ago: Hi Carolyn, thought I would update you on what happened after I overheard my bosses talking smack about me and I contemplated quitting. (To be clear, I had already been offered partnership and the conversation we were about to have was to hammer out the administrative and financial details. Contrary to what a couple of people thought, I don't believe they were deliberately testing me.) The biggest decision I had to make was whether to raise what I overheard, or pretend it didn't happen. In the end, I raised it ("I'm sorry to say I inadvertently overheard part of your conversation..."), and suggested that we needed to have a different conversation: not hammering out details but revisiting whether we wanted to form this kind of relationship with one another in the first place. To make a long story short, they were impressed with my courage in raising the issue, we got a lot of stuff out in the open that hadn't been before, and we are now in further conversations to decide how best to proceed, and what kind of working relationship will make the most sense for everyone. Among other things, my bosses said that my raising the issue confirmed for them that they were right to offer me partnership. Thanks for all the advice and input from you and the peanuts. I think in the end I tried to handle it "as a partner would" which is I think the main advice you gave me. Thanks!!

Carolyn Hax: Thanks for the update. Cupcakes all around!


Fairfax, Va.: How do you determine whether someone is a Mama's boy or not?

Carolyn Hax: I'm sure there are a lot of things I could cite, but the quick one that comes to mind might cover it all: A guy who is unwilling either to consider that his mom might be wrong about something, or to stand up to her when she is. It's particularly applicable when the party who's in the right happens to be his wife or GF, but that isn't necessary.


Anywhere, Md.: I'm the person who submitted a story a couple weeks back about the friend who chose IVF over adoption. Since that was published in the paper the other day, she saw it, and then found the original chat online. She then e-mailed me, cc'ing several mutual friends, and told me, "Even Carolyn Hax thinks you should shut your damn mouth." She then proceeded to list faults of my late adopted brother, listed faults of her own adopted sister, and finished by saying they prove how dysfunctional adopted kids are. Several of the people she cc'ed also wrote to tell me I'm scum, and the rest said nothing.

So, thanks a lot, Carolyn. I've really enjoyed finding out I have no friends. This is going to make my bank account very happy since I'm now a social pariah and have no need to spend money going out.

By the way, I now not only stand by my original remark that her children would be demon spawn, but doomed to life as jerks because their mother is apparently going to teach them adopted children are evil. Infertility is nature's way of saying this woman should never have children to corrupt. But thanks to the miracle of modern medicine, she's going to bring a whole new generation of ugliness into the world.

Carolyn Hax: The amount of hostility both of you generate is astonishing, and more depressing than the Real Women Don't Bake [your third favorite substitute here].


Raleigh, N.C.: Carolyn,

What is a good and non-confrontational way for me to find out if my boyfriend is a monogamous commitment-phobe?

He's 32, I'm 30, and we've been together three years. His previous relationships have all been long-term, 3-4 years, which indicates yes, there might be commitment issues. His main reason for waiting is that he wants to get out of debt before any engagement or marriage. That was first mentioned a year ago, when I started talking seriously about wanting to get married.

He's made some progress on the debt, but it's still there. I want to say come on already, we'll handle the debt together. As a Hax fan, I'd be prepared to propose myself. Except... since he never has taken the plunge, and might be prone to commitment issues, it would mean a lot more to me if HE proposes, than if he just goes along with it b/c he's afraid of losing me if he says no. Does that make any sense at all?

I just want to know if he's serious about a real future, and if so, what's the holdup? I don't know how to ask that without "pressuring" him.

Thanks - I love your chats and columns.

Carolyn Hax: Thanks.

Ask him straight out how he envisions his future. Asking once isn't pressure; in fact, it isn't even research. The advice you recall, to propose to him, is of an older vintage. These days I'm more of the mind that you know his intentions already, all too well, and anything else, even this conversation I just advised about his vision for the future, is merely confirmation.


Sacramento, Calif.: Hi Carolyn:

Long time lurker. I just love your columns. You are just great. I hope that you will put this in discussion on Friday because I am at a total loss here and I need the advice for Saturday morning. A little background info.

I just heard on the news that one of my former bosses' husband was murdered in the doorway of his family home. (Shot in the head and died later at the hospital.) She is/was a friend of mine outside of work, but we have slowly lost touch through the last 3 years since we have both moved on with our careers. She has twin 3 year old sons and a two month old daughter.

I read in the paper that there will be a memorial service this weekend with a private internment (understandable) to follow. I only met her husband once at the baby shower for their twins and I only talked to him briefly for a couple of minutes.

Given this information and the fact that we have not spoken to each other for about a year and a half, would it be all right to attend the memorial service? Just to show some support for her? I don't know what the etiquette for this type of situation would be. No one that I have talked to seems to have an answer either.

I am still in constant contact with some of our other former co-workers who may not know about her husband's death. Would it be a faux-pas to inform them about the memorial service? The information was published in the newspaper, so it is not an immediate family only function.

With all that she has been through lately, I don't want to add to her distress. Losing a loved one is bad enough, I can only imagine that it would be worse when one loses a loved one from a violent crime. Please help.

Carolyn Hax: Oh my goodness. Yes, yes, go to the service, and tell others. And renew your acquaintance, too, if it was a warm one and faded only due to circumstance. She needs all hands on deck here. Not necessarily right away--different people grieve different ways, and some want a crowd while others want peace. But after the crowds thin she's still going to have three very young children and some very fresh grief. She needs dinners brought, errands run, laundry folded, children read to and baby-sat, everything. She needs everything. And while she may have people closer to her who can help, those people also will have limits to how much they can provide. Please offer whatever you can--be specific, not, "If there's ever anything ...," which is an offer almost never accepted--and follow through if she's even remotely receptive.


Africa: My husband and I both live overseas in a fairly isolated area. Recently, he has seemed more and more depressed, until visiting friends and family members have commented on it. He has spent weekends without getting out of bed and has started missing work, very different from his usual behavior. While he acknowledges that there is a problem (depression also runs in his family), he refuses to talk about looking for medical help. There's not many options where we live- no counselors or doctors he would be able to discuss this with. I've been cooking healthier foods and trying to encourage him to exercise and get out more but I'm racking my brain trying to think of some way to be supportive. I don't want to get to the point of being frustrated with him for something that is not his fault but I can't think of anything else to do. Already, I'm doing all the housework, making sure meals are ready, etc. and I'm reaching my limits as well...

Please answer this! Love the chats!

Carolyn Hax: Can you get him out of there? I know that may sound extreme, but this may be extreme. You obviously have internet access--please go to and and scour the info and resources. Find someone you can talk to--even if only online or by email--about your husband's condition and what you can/need to do about it. He won't go to a pro, but you can. Also, email me at; that way if someone emails me a good resource, I can get it to you.


Carolyn Hax: Wow I've got to go. Thanks everybody, have a great weekend, and go Pats ... I mean, go Giants ... what's a CT girl to do ...


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