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Carolyn Hax Live: Naming Help; Starting Over

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Carolyn Hax
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 8, 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

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Carolyn Hax: Hey everybody. I'm going to be starting a discussion group soon, and I need to tap into your creativity again because I can't seem to find a name for it that doesn't make me cringe. To give you an idea, some of the other groups on the site are E.J.'s Precinct and Mr. Robinson's Neighborhood. Carolyn's Corner I think is the current front-runner but it's a bit precious for my taste, "hangout" is in the name of another group, and alliteration isn't necessary (in fact, it might be the problem). Enjoy.

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Carolyn Hax: Yikes. I was chattering with my cubemates and lost track of the time. I'll have something in a second.

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re: discussion group...: Might help us to know what you'll be discussing.

Carolyn Hax: The usual angst.

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Lonely, ME: How soon is too soon to start over? I left my marriage last summer, and last month ended my first "rebound" relationship. I'm getting offers for dates, and I'm happy to have the attention, but I'm afraid of getting too involved before I'm emotionally ready to take another hit. Even worse, I'm afraid things will go well and won't know what to do.

Carolyn Hax: I could say your whole question says you shouldn't be dating anyone, but that leaves open the question of what would indicate that you are ready.

So I'll try it this way instead: When you find a person interesting, vs. a person's attention interesting, then please feel free to date that person. I think that covers everything.

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Texas: How do you deal with being considered the "strong one" when everyone around you is cratering and you don't feel strong anymore? My best friend is having a severe family crisis involving false accusations which may result in criminal charges against her. My beau is battling an unreasonable ex in a bitter custody dispute that continues to get worse. I will be subpoenaed and deposed in both of these matters. Having never dealt with serious legal proceedings before, all of this is out of the norm for me and the people I am surrounded by, and it scares me. My mom is having major health problems, and it is the busiest and most stressful time of the year at my job. None of this drama is really MY drama, but it affects me just the same in terms of time and energy drains, lost sleep, stress...I'm tired and scared and not feeling strong. But all these people are depending on me to be so.

Carolyn Hax: It's what I'd recommend if you were in the position of one of the troubled people you're helping: Strip your daily life of everything but the essentials, and use whatever tiem you save toward taking meticulous care of yourself. Eat healthfully, get some fresh air and/or exercise, get plenty of sleep, set aside time for non-harmful pleasures, confide in someone you can trust to be comforting. It can be a very effective way of marching yourself to the other side of a very difficult time.

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Exasperated on the East Coast: Carolyn,

I'm too old (early 30s) to be having this problem, but here goes. I have a less than stellar track record when it comes to men -- not only romantically, but I've never truly had male friends. It is so incredibly pathetic that anytime a man is friendly to me, some stupid little voice in my head say, "OMG! He likes me!" My imagination gets carried away, and invariably I end up acting like an idiot (babbling away, and the like). How can I shut up that little voice in my head?

Carolyn Hax: It may not be true for you, but in general it seems like a conscious effort to silence the nervous voice only makes it worse--like trying not to blush.

That doesn't mean it's hopeless, it just means you might be better off if you just accept that it's going to happen and try to minimize its effects. For example, trying to meet people cold in a looking-for-a-date-type situation will probbaly never bring out your best. Once you know that and accept it, you can 1. go into them knowing you're going to say something goofy, and hoping the conversation goes on long enough for you to get past it, or 2. not go to these things, and instead do your searching in lower-key environments. Concentrate your attention on people you see daily, cultivating not necessarily romances, since the vast majority of people around you probably aren't even remotely candidates, but simply contacts, acquaintances, coffee-break partners. The more practice you get at being yourself on purpose, the less conscious you'll become of just being yourself.

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Philly: How does the discussion group differ from this?

Carolyn Hax: This is live; the discussion group would be more of a bulletin board. I'd post a topic for everyone to discuss, and you would all weigh in over the necxt day or so. Akin to the way the column now has a comment area, except the starter wouldn't be a column but a question or opinion for all of you to address.

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Finding a Doctor: How do you know when it's time to find a new OB/GYN doctor? Mine is very good and has an excellent reputation, but he rushes me through appointments and doesn't seem to have time to address my issues. I'm going through a few different medical issues right now and feel very alone in navigating proper treatment. Then again, finding a new doctor seems like a daunting task that I'm just not up for right now.

Carolyn Hax: What you describe suggests it is time to find someone new. If you feel rushed, then you're not getting good care. You can of course say this to your doctor, but, then, I tend to believe that idf you felt comfortable speaking up, you wouldn't be feeling rushed.

It might not be as daunting as it seems to find someone new, since for an OB-GYN recommendation you know exactly whom to ask--any female friend or colleague whom you wouldn't feel uncomfortable asking. I have asked and been asked, and it's just one of those things where people seem to get it--it's not like going to the grocery store and having a clerk hold up your [embarrassing personal product here] and yelling to someone five registers away, "What's the price on [embarrassing personal product here]?"

If you really can't think of a friend, try asking another doctor, starting with your primary care phys. You can also ask your current OB-GYN to suggest some names, though that might really be more than you're up for.

And finally: Now is as good a time as any to make an effort to find your voice in these situations. As the patient, -you- are the one in charge of your care. It's a role each of us needs to find the strength to accept, for our own good.

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For the Strong One: First, try on the idea that not everyone is counting on you to be the strong one, that it's -your- expectation.

Second, sounds like you are being handed one, great big lesson in not being so overly involved in other people's stuff. Yes, you can sympathize, lend an ear, offer words of encouragement, but losing sleep over someone else's crisis? You are too involved.

You need to learn to care but with some healthy detachment. Look at it this way, it's like saving someone from drowning - you are much more effective to you both if you stay on the sidelines and throw them what they need than if you try to jump in and join the struggle with them.

All except your mom's health problems, because facing losing your mom, -is- your issue. Even if it's not a rational fear, I go through it every time my dad has a health blip, so I can understand that freak out.

Carolyn Hax: Excellent, thank you.

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Anywhere: Any suggestions on how to extract myself from a very long relationship I no longer want to be in. We live together (I own the house) and I am struggling with finding a way to separate. She currently is not working (and frankly I'm not sure she's looking). That aside, us not being together anymore is going to require a major lifestyle adjustment for her, which I know is going to make her unwilling to leave. I'm not opposed to measures to help her move out (read: paying her) but that seems like a slippery slope.

Carolyn Hax: The problem seems to be that your feelings have died because she has ceased to be an independent being--and yet you're hesitating to break up because she has ceased to be an independent being.

You do realize you are going to have to do something. That something is break up, give her time to find her own place, and provide whatever assistance of a closed-ended variety that accomplishes the extraction humanely. Since I don't knwo the details, I can't be much more specific, but I do wonder if she isn't depressed, in which case connecting her with some kind of treatment can be part of the plan.

As far as offering her money to move out, I'm not a big fan of slippery slope arguments in general. You have control over your actions, you do have the power to say "yes" up to a point and "no" beyond it. Think through what you're willing to do beforehand, then have the this-isn't-working conversation, then listen well to her response, and see what measures the situation dictates. It's all you can do.

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Washington, D.C.: I feel like I've been trying so hard for so long to change the two things in my life that are causing the most unhappiness - my job and my lack of a romantic relationship. And I feel like no matter what I do, I keep getting rejected over and over again. In relationships, I've been told a number of time that I'm great, so easy to get along with, we have so much in common and we get along really well, but...I just don't want a relationship with you. On the job front I get second interviews, told how much they enjoyed talking to me, my qualifications are great, checking in to see if I'm still interested, then... sorry, you didn't get the job.

I feel like this constant rejection is really taking its toll. Especially since I'm actively trying to improve both of these areas of my life (we're talking going on five years here), and I feel like these are the two things that are responsible for my unhappiness. I feel like I'm at the end of my rope. If neither of these things can change despite me actively trying to change them, what chance do I have to be happy?

Carolyn Hax: Both of the things you describe involve direct input from other people. As such, you will have only up to 50 percent control over your own level of satisfaction. As you;ve discovered the hard way, that's not good enough.

So now I would suggest concentrating on changes that have a higher percentage chance of rewarding you. You can't walk a block nowadays without hearing something about good choices, exercise, healthy eating, saving money, giving back, i.e., clean living to the point of gagworthiness, but each of these things has a common denominator: 100 percent of the benefits go to you. They are sure deals, every one of them.

Each of us has an individualized set of sure deals, too. Artists create, butterflies socialize, families keep in touch, neighbors help neighbors, worshipers gather--whatever works for you. Even if yours don't have 100 percent returns, even 90 or 80 percent will push your life in a more satisfying direction.

"Job" and "mate" are big elements, I'm not going to blow smoke at you, but they're also the result of pretty linear thinking. If this thinking had paid off for you, that would be great, but since it hasn't, push your thinking a little harder toward higher-percentage life choices. are you in the right career, is there one where you'd be more in control of your job satisfaction, would working toward that make sense for you, woudl it put you in the company of more like-minded people ... this is cut one direction you can take this, of an infinite number of choices.

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Cubemates?: I thought you worked from home?

Carolyn Hax: Sometimes. Sometimes I need cubemates. Hard to talk about relationships when your primary relationship is with a screen.

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Washington, D.C.: Wait a minute. She said she was going to be deposed in two nasty court cases affecting people she loves. How is that not her crisis? How could she be less involved? Refusing to testify isn't an option even if she didn't feel a responsibility to the parties. Her stress is absolutely hers and absolutely legitimate.

Carolyn Hax: You're both right, I think. It's not less involved that she needs to be, it's less -invested.- And while it may seem cold even to suggest that when someone's freedom is at stake--in that one case, at least, these are clearly higher than day-to-day stakes--there nevertheless is a limit to how much anyone can do to help someone.

That limit may be very high, and leave room for testifying, hand-holding, attorney-hiring, lobbying, whatever--but there's still a limit. Thinking one's way to the limit, and figuring exactly where your involvement leaves off (whether you like it or not), can be a constructive way to keep from getting sucked in. And, not gettign sucked in can be the most helpful thing you can do for someone; it often also goes by the name of "staying strong."

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Not Wanting Baby #2 from the other week: Are you out there? Doing ok?

Carolyn Hax: Putting it out there, thanks.

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Lawrence, Kan.: Carolyn,

Need your clear-eyed perspective.

We've been together more than four years. We're best friends, the sex is fantastic, we share common values, when we're together everything is wonderful.

But her -grown] children think I'm 'not good enough', that 'she could do better'. She raised them by herself so they're quite close; until now my solution has been for her to see them on her own and that's been OK with me. Now the oldest is getting married and doesn't want me at the wedding. Since it's 'her day' my gf isn't pushing the point. she comes home from seeing her daughter full of excitement and plans for a big day that I won't be part of.

Any hope that we can overcome this?

Carolyn Hax: It depends. Can you accept these terms indefinitely, or do you need her to stand up for you? And if you do need her to stand up for you, and she comes back by saying she's unwilling to strain her relationship with her kids, then what will you need? Can you live with that answer, or is that too high a price for ... "best friends, the sex is fantastic, we share common values, when we're together everything is wonderful"?

If instead she does stand up to her kids, and strains the relationship, and suffers mightily from the estrangement but sticks to her right to insist her kids treat her mate with respect, can you live with that?

The first step of any answer is yours. You need to figure out what you need, what you don't, and how much you're willing to give up to satisfy those needs.

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The Answer Clearly is...: Carolyn's Cubicle

Carolyn Hax: Well duh! Even the alliteration isn't cloying somehow. What do the Nuterati say? (I would have proposed Nuterati, but I figured no one would know what it meant.)

Or do you want me to post other candidates? I've been inundated, but I didn't want to turn the discussion over to it.

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For Exasperated: Yeah, totally been there. What happened to enable change? I lived for a while with a guy who saw what my true worth was (even if the relationship was a disaster) and treated me as a partner rather than a "girl" (we would build things and visit the junkyard together, that kind of thing - and yes, I found that fun). And then, after that relationship ended on a nice note, got a job where I was constantly dealing with men. Between the two experiences, I kind of got desensitized to my own awkwardness. Now most of my platonic friends are guys. Go figure.

I'm not saying shack up with the first overtly manly guy you meet, but put yourself in situations where you meet and deal with men. A part-time retail job at anyplace but a woman's clothing store for example. A hardware store might be ideal, although I worked at a bookstore. It might help your romantic relationships too, because then you start dealing with them as if they were the same species rather than visitors from Mars.

Carolyn Hax: Thanks--I've been flogging the proximity point for years, but I always struggle to come up with new, practical examples of it. Retail and rooming are two really good ones.

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Chicago, Ill.: My sister died suddenly and tragically a little over a year ago. When my mom called to tell me what had happened, I had just gotten home from the grocery and was getting ready to make dinner -- in other words, an ordinary day. Ever since then, I get a little flutter of panic every time the phone rings. I imagine that it's my mom calling to tell me that my other sister is dead, or the hospital calling to say my boyfriend has been hit by a bus. My mom called a few months ago to tell me that her dog had died and when I answered she had the same tone in her voice, of someone who'd been crying a lot, and I immediately assumed the worst about my younger sister. Of course it was a relief that it was just the dog (but man, I loved that dog, I cried for hours), but my panic at phone calls seems to be even worse since then. I know rationally that everyone has to deal with the reality that your life can be completely turned upside down at any moment, when you are least expecting it. But I don't think that other people dread it quite like I do. It's not like it consumes my every waking moment, but still, I don't like it and don't know how to stop it. Any advice?

Carolyn Hax: Did you get any grief counseling at the time? not that it's an answer to everything, and not that everyone needs it, but consider the fact of PTSD for a moment. There can be clear physical fallout from emotional stress, right? It's something everyone knows at least a little bit about, and yet I think people commonly think they're supposed to be "okay" (whatever that means) at a certain point after a major loss.

Well, you suffered a major loss, and your little flutter of panic is your body telling you that you suffered some damage from it--especially since the dog call reinforced your worst fears, possibly at a time you were starting to trust the phone again not to upset you.

Is it serious damage? Probably not, but it's still something you suspect hasn't healed quite right, so why not check it out. Obviously you can;'t expect to return to a pre-bad-news state of consciousness, where the possibility of bad things never even crosses your mind (and in many ways you probably don't want to; you may be more open with your affection, for example, in the year since the loss of your sister). But there is some room to treat the panic, rebuild your sense of, I don't know, cosmic trust, so you can get a little more joy again from a normal day.

I'm so sorry about your sister.

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Bridezilla: It is really, really rude not to invite the long term partner of any guest to a wedding. Trying a power play on your own mother is even more despicable. Rather than sticking up for her daughter, that mother should be embarassed at her behavior. What neither mother nor daughter seems to have thought of are the number of times other guests will ask where the Mom's boyfriend is. It's not like he's a secret, right?

Does that bride also plan to berate people for the quality of their gifts?

Carolyn Hax: More coming.

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For Lawrence, Kansas: I dunno, I feel like maybe you should have been more explicit. Unless this guy is actively abusing his girlfriend, has a substance abuse problem that is affecting others, or has a more sordid than average history (y'know, prison record for violent crime or registered sex offender status), his girlfriend is telling her nearest and dearest that it is all right to treat someone she supposedly cares about with less than the basic standards of courtesy. He's excluded from the wedding because she can do better? Ummm, the above exceptions mentioned, it sounds like this woman raised some Class A self-entitled brats. And she's not putting her foot down. I've dated people my family didn't like, and they always treated them with respect out of respect for me.

Sounds like her family doesn't respect her, and she's asking the poster to accept similar status. Who needs that?

Carolyn Hax: It's an easy question to ask rhetorically, but people make their own deals, a lot of them mystifying to others, and this guy has to make his own calculations. You both make great points--all this can be useful in determining how much he's willing to pay, emotionally, to be with this woman, which is still the decision he has to make.

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Group Name Vote: Can you compile a short list of your favorites and then we can vote on them?

Carolyn Hax: Compiling is too labor intensive. I'll throw a bunch out toward the end.

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Group: Gene W. has been talking about a group discussion too. Will you and Gene's regular discussion still go on? I'd rather talk to you then the whole world.

Carolyn Hax: Can't speak for Gene, but I'll still be live as usual; this would merely be expansion of the site presence.

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Peanuts: I'm pretty sure it should be Nutterati, because Nuterati sounds like a bunch of eunuchs.

Carolyn Hax: Not that there's anything wrong with that.

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But I don't think that other people dread it quite like I do.: I don't know. I don't think it's that unusual. My friend died unexpectedly a few years ago. Ever since then, whenever someone is late showing up for something I assume the worst. It's a horrible feeling.

Carolyn Hax: I don't think it's unusual, either, -among people who've lived through the premature death of someone close.- I think you have to add that condition, though, because it really is a matter of being on the other side--there's the "before" side, where the percentages apply to your life and bad things don't happen to people close to you. But then a bad thing happens to someone close to you, and you're on the "after" side, where the "this almost never happens" argument is a no-sale. You've seen it, you've felt it, you never want to feel it again, you never shake that it's possible.

The question is often where the line is, between having a normal realism about death and having an emotional condition that needs treatment. I think all you can do is look at your ability to live your day-to-day life, and if you see something impeding your ability to return to the mundane, then you consider treatment.

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Washington, D.C.: I have a friend who has always been a tad dramatic. A few months ago she experienced a truly awful medical crisis -- serious, legitimate, tragic drama. I'm trying to be as supportive as I can and to let her talk it out, feel what she needs to feel, etc. But sometimes she does seem to be over the top about even this. I know that she's dealing with this in her way, and she's not at all a stiff upper lip kind of person. And I feel really bad, but sometimes I almost think she's getting overdramatic about her loss. Thoughts on how I can keep being supportive without getting exasperated?

Carolyn Hax: One way is to recognize that someone overdramatic can still get overdramatic even when the situation is legitimately serious. This is similar to a thread we had years ago, about someone despicable who was diagnosed with cancer. Well, cancer is a terrible thing and it's terrible even when it strikes someone despicable, but it doesn't magically make the person likable, or good, or even sympathetic.

In your case, all you can do is handle this situation, and this friend, by doing what you believe your friend needs while also remaining true to yourself. You wouldn't be the first genuinely loving and supportive person to roll your eyes at a genuinely ailing friend.

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For the rejected person: I'm wondering if this person has contacted any of the job prospects to ask for feedback. If she/he has progressed to 2nd interviews, something is good about the application and person. In any case where some small rapport was established with the HR dept or other interviewers, I would write or call and ask for feedback to improve my application package or presentation. I'm sure not all will reply, but perhaps enough will to help move forward.

Carolyn Hax: Great suggestion, thanks.

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Alexandria: Carolyn: I finally realized why I have trouble making career and financial decisions for myself, but I don't where to go from here. I grew up very poor and what mattered most was doing whatever you had to to make ends meet. Well, I worked all through high school and out myself through college and now make ends meet very well. However, I always let people treat me badly in the workplace because I feel like I should be thankful that I even have a paycheck, but I am in a different place professionally and financially now and could find a job, even friends, that respect me. Instead I keep my mouth shut and feel guilty for trying to make my life like I want it. I'm not even sure this makes sense to anyone, but FWIW my family now thinks because I have an education and a professional career that I am "too good" and need to learn my place. What's going on here? I feel half city mouse and half country mouse.

Carolyn Hax: You've just laid out an argument--and nearly a job description--for a mentor. Is there anyone ahead of you in your professional life who might be able to identify with your experience? And if no one comes to mind, do any of your schools offer professional networking resources? Does your profession have an association or affiliated interest groups through whcih you can get to know others in your field? It might be a slow process but it will have the incidental benefit of pushing you to expand your knowledge of your field and of the people in it, which in turn will help you build confidence even before you find someone willing to mentor you. Do stick it out, though, and try to find someone who can give you guidance, ideas and an ear while you try to figure out where you belong professionally.

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Wilmington, Del.: Carolyn:

I've never seen this issue discussed. My problem is that when I go on family trips with my children, they literally make me sick. It's not that they infect me with some germ that they've caught at school (they're 6, 9 and 11); they're completely healthy. Instead, it appears that they somehow stress me out to the point where I literally can't get out of bed. They're great kids, and I love them completely, but I can't continue to sacrifice my health on the alter of family vacation happiness.

We have traveled as a family all over the world ever since my first child was born, but I feel that I just can't do it anymore. We returned Tuesday from San Juan, where I was so sick that I cried the entire way home. My husband told the kids that he can't take them on our planned trip to Costa Rica this March by himself, so they are angry that I'm going to ruin their trip. Is there a solution for me other than boycotting family vacations? I don't get sick like this when just my husband and I travel, and the kids don't make me sick when we're at home.

Carolyn Hax: Who is pushing for the ambitious travel? There's a reason the yellowed and beloved family vacation lore of our society includes cranky kids in the back of a station wagon asking every 5 minutes if we're there yet. The short hop in the car allows for unscheduled stops, early returns home, a home base for dumping stuff that doesn't have to be cleaned and packed up--and yet it still offers a change of scenery for people who need it.

And not to get too Gen-X on you, but if I had pouted to my mom about a lost trip to Costa Rica to which I had felt entitled, I would have had nightmares for months about the look she would have given me in response. (I doubt she would have wasted the syllables on an actual answer, unless HA HA HA count as syllables.)

And we didn't have booster seats! And our playgrounds were paved! And we rode on the hatch of the car with our bare feet hanging toward the road! And we were fine! Okay, had to get the rest of it out of my system.

If your husband isn't backing you up here, along the lines of, "Show your mother a little gratitude," then I think we're on to a significant element of the problem. I also think stress so serious as to leave you bedridden demands at least a call to your doctor. IN addition to the downsizing of your vacaton ambitions, not in lieu of it.

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Northern Virginia: Is it normal during wedding planning to fantasize about something happening to force my fiance and I to elope? I'm not going to get pregnant on purpose or anything, I think I'm just stressed from the planning.

I'm trying to do the most simple wedding possible, but it's still driving me crazy (my "special day" and "visions for your wedding")

How can I stay sane?

P.S. I love my fiance more than anything and I can't wait to start our married life together.

Carolyn Hax: Then get radical and change the wedding plans. Don't necessarily exclude close friends and family--eloping is great for some people but it's not for everyone, and being impulsive is more likely to create hard feelings and regrets--but if you're this miserable with the process then it's time to revisit the process. You really can plan something in one week, and spend a few thousand dollars, and still have that be your "vision" of your "special day." Don't buy into any of it.

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Abused in Philly: Hi Carolyn,

The guy in today's column could have been me. I was in an abusive relationship, got out, cocooned for a while, and definitely used to wonder when I would be ready. I agree with your advice to him to get out of the relationship, and the way I see it, practically speaking, it kind of doesn't matter which reason (his not being ready or his feeling blah toward her specifically) is the real reason. I guess what I wonder is which reason to give her.

You have said soo many times that one is ready to date when one finds someone he or she wants to date. Today's guy asks "whether I'm not into her, or it's just my emotional state right now." Pick either one, result is the same.

However, in telling her he needs to bail, you said be honest, that she's great and he's not ready, which may be mostly true and partly to spare her feelings. My question is what to do when you lean toward the "not into THAT person" side. In my case (which admittedly may have a aspects that today's guy didn't have) although he was great in many ways, including being physically attractive, in addition to my not feeling much chemistry, the guy I started seeing had some personality traits that raised some flags for me. More complicatedly, I believe I would not have been bothered by these qualities before my abusive relationship but, being a different person now, they bothered me from him (e.g. certain kinds of teasing). Although he always would say he didn't mean it "that way" or was "just kidding," I do believe that these personality traits/his kind of humor is not ok (and several of my friends agree). Still, in looking inside myself AND explaining it to him, it was difficult to separate what I know for sure to be increased sensitivity on my end from qualities in a partner that I think are hurtful/damaging.

Again, in the end, it kinda didn't matter--the situation/relationship was a no-go for me. I ended up splitting the difference in explaining why it wasn't right for me, saying I need some space from him, that it may be because of my being abused, but that certain aspects of his personality and behavior made me uncomfortable , etc.

My question (finally) is this: Although I know he cares about me very much, hates that I was hurt and very much wants me to heal and be happy, he definitely walked away with the idea that it was all my issues that stood in the way, that I am a basket case for not being able to take a "joke" etc. This makes me a little uneasy, kind of like I am not being true to myself. Part of truly healing from my abusive relationship needs to be remembering what is ok and not ok in how I let people treat me, and somehow letting him think that I am the one with problems for not liking to be "jokingly" put down feels bad.

It's a moot point in the case of this particular guy, there would be no point in revisiting the issue with him, but if I were to go back, how do you think I could have handled it to feel better about myself? Or was the path of least resistance ("it's not you, it's me") the best in this case?

Thanks, love the chats.

Carolyn Hax: I think one point on the arc from being someone else's person (childhood) to being your own( adulthood) is a letting go of the need to explain your decisions in detail.

And I think that is what, down the road, will serve you best when you realize a relationship isn't working--that instead of choosing this fact or that shading when you break up with someone, you just break up with someone. "This isnt' working out." And when you're asked to explain, stick to the fact or facts that stand out most prominently in your mind. "I don't appreciate your way of teasing, and while it may be fine it isn't fine for me, and I don't see that changing." It's about reaching the point where legitimacy -to you- suffices as legitimacy, period.

It is after all your life that you're steering here. You may not be able to say yes unless you have the consent of others, but full veto power is yours.

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Friends only: Hi Carolyn,

About two montsh ago I met a guy through a good mutual friend. I was/am attracted to him he is not attracted to me. I'm therefore ok with the fact that we are just friends. However, every once in a while he jokes about the fact that I hit on him when we first met and that I am ttracted to him. I'm not sure why he does this but it hurts my feelings and I've asked him to stop. Most of the time when he is doing this he has had a few beers first.(friday night happy hours ect) So how do I get him to stop hitting on me when he is drunk if he is going to reject me sober and I still want to be friends with the sober version of this guy?

Carolyn Hax: I can already here people typing the accusations that I'm overracting, but tough. When someone uses the cover of a few beers to humiliate you on a regular basis (two months?and you can already describe the typical conditions when it happens?), after your having asked him to stop, then that's not someone worth your friendship. Back away. The attraction will pass.

Either that or he'll finally get that it isn't funny, but I wouldn't bet anything bigger than a quarter.

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Cary, N.C.: A friend of mine recently found flirtatious emails sent between her husband and a woman. She then found out he has gone out with this woman numerous times and lied to her about where he was going. She believes he's having an affair, but he denies it. I have two questions for you. Should she seriously consider the possibility he was seeing this woman but not sleeping with her? (I mean, is that something guys do?) And what characteristics in a man and a marriage are necessary for a relationship to be saved after infidelity? (He keeps telling her she's overreacting and actually offered to take her shopping to make it up to her.)

Carolyn Hax: At this point, I don't see any difference between his sleeping with the other woman or just dating her. He's married! And dating!

If there's such a thing as cosmic justice, your friend will take the new wardrobe, sign the divorce papers and meet someone who treats her with a little respect.

To answer your specific question, the necessary elements for reconciliation are: truth, remorse, respect, effort. I don't see even one of these here.

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Carolyn Hax: Okay, I'll post a few of your name suggestions before I go. This is about volume, not an endorsement of any of them.

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Discussion group:"The Usual Angst"

Carolyn Hax:

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Or...: The Carolyn Hax Experience.

Carolyn Hax: eek.

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Malden, Mass.:

Hi Carolyn; some chat names to consider:

"Mixed 'Nuts"?

"Keyboard Concussions"

"Smacks from Hax"

"Oh my god, what is wrong with you people?"

Carolyn Hax:

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Name game: Message: "I Carolyn.":

Carolyn Hax: under a full-screen mock-Warhol of me!

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Discussion group: Carolyn's co-mingling

Carolyn's Blend

Tangle with Carolyn

Carolyn's Mix-up

Carolyn's Chit Chat

Chew the Fat with Carolyn

Carolyn's Yak Rap

Carolyn's Have-A-Chat

Carolyn Hax:

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Discussion group: Hangin' With Hax

Hangin' With the Hax

Tell Me No Tales

Hax's Hayride

What the Hey With Carolyn Hax

Carolyn's Cranks

Carolyn's Curmudgeons

Carolyn's Crybabies

Snap Out of It!

Wake Up and Smell the Coffee

Carolyn Hax: Ann Landers, call for you on the red phone ...

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RE: Discussion Group: Why not just the Peanut Gallery?

Carolyn Hax:

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Discussion : Group Therapy with Carolyn

Carolyn's Type and Gripe

Carolyn's Universe

Carolyn Hax: is there anything bigger than a universe? I want that.

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Discussion group: Carolyn's co-mingling

Carolyn's Blend

Tangle with Carolyn

Carolyn's Mix-up

Carolyn's Chit Chat

Chew the Fat with Carolyn

Carolyn's Yak Rap

Carolyn's Have-A-Chat

Carolyn Hax: I'm changing my name to Butch.

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Carolyn's Cubicle: I like it.

Carolyn Hax: Some for this, some for The Usual Angst, some for Peanut Gallery.

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Discussion group:"Less Chat, More Hax"

(a take-off of Homer's line "Less chat, more splat" in the Simpsons)

Carolyn Hax: Any Homer Simpson is good.

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C'mon, don't rub it in.: Can we have a pact where you don't publish letters from people who say "the sex is great." I've been married 20 years, and I've almost forgotten what sex is. How did I get here?

Carolyn Hax: And this person doesn't care about the group at all. Not a bit.

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Carolyn Hax: Thank you for playing. I'll let you know when it's about to launch.

Or, "about to lunch," which is how it looks when you're as hungry as I am. Bye bye, thanks, type to you OH WAIT: Next Thursday is Valentine's Day, so in deference to all things artificial, I'm moving the chat up a day. I'll type to you Thursday the 14th at noon. Have a great weekend.

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