Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 14, 2008 12:00 PM
Special Valentine's Day Edition!
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.
Arlington, Va.: Since today is Valentine's Day and all, how about throwing out some advice for those socially awkward guys out there, who have a little trouble approaching women or holding up their end of the conversation or aren't sure how to act during dates. I know if you help them actually solve their problems, then you lose about 40 percent of your audience, but come on, where's the love?
Carolyn Hax: It's here, babeeee ... I know that knowing there are more socially awkward people than confident ones isn't of much comfort, since the problem remains that you actually have to go out and find them. However, when you do, please know that 1. people care less about your awkwardness than you think they do; 2. the more people you talk to the less you'll need any one person to respond well; and 3. the less you need someone to respond well the less awkward you'll probably feel. Go get em.
Arlington, Va.: Hi Carolyn,
Dumb logistical question, but here goes: I bought my girlfriend a gold necklace and I want to give it to her over dinner tonight. It's in a ring box, but I DON'T want her to think it's an engagement ring before she opens it. What do you suggest? We're at the stage where she could reasonably expect a V-day engagement, but she's not getting one, and I don't want to watch her excitement rise and then fall over something I put a lot of thought into, anyway.
Carolyn Hax: Change the box. Seriously. If you can't get to the store today, maybe a nearby jeweler will take pity on you (and you can reward that jeweler with your business when you buy this girlfriend earrings for her birthday, in a box the size of an Oldsmobile).
Ex-Awkwardville: Embrace the awkwardness! It's amazing how doing that can completely disarm people.
Carolyn Hax: This came up last week, too, and I agree--just know it's going to happen and ride it out, and if you're feeling particularly bold, admit that you're feeling awkward.
Washington, D.C.: Hi Carolyn- Wow. I just spent a few minutes on the matchmaking chat and it really depressed me. Not only is the coomentary in ALL CAPS annoying, but the idea that every couple has to have a discussion about marriage within the first six months is just stupid. Does this "professional" approach really work for people? I hate this day.
Carolyn Hax: No! Don't blame the whole day for a bad case of the CAPS KEY. Here, maybe this will be a redeemer. It's my mom's mac and cheese recipe:
1t dried mustard
2.5 cups milk
2 cups (8 oz) grated cheese--sharp white cheddar is the only one I'll vouch for
2 cups dry elbow macaroni (cook for 6 min while preparing sauce)
Melt butter, stir in flour;
Add salt, mustard, milk;
Stir till it starts to thicken;
Add cheese, stir till it melts;
Pour over elbows in a casserole dish;
Sprinkle cracker crumbs over top.
Bake at 375 for 20 min.
Sometimes I mix in cooked peas before I bake it.
I know we aren't supposed to comfort ourselves with food, so I won't call this my favorite comfort food. Plus, you can use lowfat milk.
Not an engagement ring: I'd love it if I unwrapped a CD box and found a necklace inside.
Carolyn Hax: Cool idea.
For Awkward Arlington: It might also be helpful for the Awkward guy from Arlington to try not thinking of himself as part of a group of "awkward guys" who are trying to approach a separate, mysterious group called "women." If he can think of women as people who might also feel awkward, it might help him get over his problems in knowing how to talk to them.
Carolyn Hax: Well said, and I'll nudge it further along by taking a few words away--if he can just think of women as people. Female friends, male friends, old friends, young friends--diversity of people and purpose can really help in this case.
In fact, people who are cowed by dating would be best served by just mingling, and with no purpose in mind beyond talking to different people. Socializing will still be hard for those to whom it doesn't come naturally, but it's getting invested in an outcome that really cranks up the degree of difficulty.
Washington, D.C.: For the recipe -- is "t" short for "teaspoon" or "tablespoon"? Little "t" is teaspoon and big "T" is tablespoon, right?
Carolyn Hax: Right--T for Tablespoon, t for teaspoon
Stupid, Wherever: Hi Carolyn,
I'm recently married to a person I like, who wants us to grow old and have children together. Problem is I flinch every time I think of having kids with him. I'm pro children as such, and he's a good person, but I don't think I'm in love. He believably says that I'm the only person he's ever loved, and that he'd just have to die if I left. He, as I said, is a great person, but has a history of major depression and suicide attempts back before he got on (successful) medication. I'm torn. You're good at giving pointers for thought -- maybe you could help me look at this situations from the outside. Thank you.
Carolyn Hax: Oh my. Did you marry him because you were afraid to leave lest he hurt himself, and were afraid to decline his proposal lest he hurt himself, and were afraid to break the engagement lest he hurt himself?
There will be, there always is, a point when you have to say no if no is your genuine answer--and I think being on the brink of bringing children into this unhappy home is that point.
Meanwhile, I don't care how believably he said it, or--and I don't mean this to be callous--how unstable he may be. It is never okay to lay the responsibility for your whole life on someone else's shoulders. It's extremely manipulative. Just look how well it worked on you--you don't love him and married him anyway.
These observations all come down to one "pointer": Please get into counseling with someone who is sufficiently licensed and trained to help you extract yourself from this life in service of guilt. It has to be someone who's in a position to manage your care with an eye to your husband's illness; "Seeya" isn't an option with someone in fragile health. However, staying when you don't love him doesn't sound like much of an option, either. Get qualified help and get to work.
Now you tell me!: About the no-comforting-with-food thing -- after I bought two of these little heart-shaped flourless cakes for tonight (hey, one for tonight, one for tomorrow night). Oh, well.
Carolyn Hax: You're -celebrating- yourself. With cake. So you're fine.
Help! Urgently in need of Help!: I don't think I love my husband anymore. We've been married for six months, and I don't know what I was expecting from married life, but I wasn't expecting to be the maid, cook, AND have my regular full time job on top of everything else. Don't get me wrong, when we were first married, I loved doing laundry because it was for us, and everything was so nice (cue the singing Disney birds and try not to gag). I liked cooking meals that would be ready when he got home from work-- but after six months of little to no help around the house, I'm seriously thinking about getting a divorce.
Now it's not like my husband and I just randomly met and got married-- we were together for 4.5 years before the wedding (even were engaged once before, which didn't work due to issues with his parents-- we broke up, he grew a pair, we got back together and dated for another year before getting engaged and actually going through with things).
Before we got married, I was over the moon for him -- he was my best friend, my love, etc. (gag, gag), but now, after 6 months in a small apartment, very little personal time, and a husband who follows me around like a puppy when he gets home from work, I just want to scream and run away.
He's a great guy, he really is, and a good person. I feel that my lack of emotion, and lack of feelings, and lack of libido for him will be hurtful if he finds out -- right now I'm blaming my bad moods on problems at work.
I think the problem is with me, mostly, for not asking for help, and letting the resentment build up -- but I don't think I feel anything for him anymore. At what point do I bail out? At what point do I give him another chance? Please help!
Carolyn Hax: Tell him, tell him, tell him. You can cut out the more hurtful stuff, obviously, but the part about how you felt before and how the chore pileup has rendered you into a spokesmodel for "after" are things you have to get out there. You also need to say out loud your very accurate observation that you're to blame for letting this build up. Don't get too carried away there; six months is hardly a long buildup when you consider there are people torn up by this very issue 16 years into their marriages.
So get at this now. To answer your specific questions, I think 6 months is pretty early to bail, but my "when to give up" answer is when you don't have feelings for the person any more, which is what usually makes efforts futile.
Combine the two, and I think you have to give him a real chance here--because of the short time, because you haven't tried -anything- yet (whining about work doesn't count), because he has a history of being receptive to change, but mainly because you took vows. They have to mean something.
You may end up finding things can't be repaired. But it is on you to try everything you can to work with him to create a married life that rewards you both. Since you brought up the singing Disney birds--they often do take cover during the first year people live together. Not all couples adjust well, especially if they, ahem, have things to learn about communicating first, before they can even get to the I-didn't-marry-you-just-for-the-privilege-of-doing-your-dishes stuff.
Washington, D.C.: A while back, my now-husband bought me a non-engagement ring. He put the box in my lap and said, "Don't get the wrong idea."
Carolyn Hax: I feel warm all over.
Stupid, Somewhere Else: What if you married someone whom you do love, but still don't think you want to have kids with them? Not necessarily that you don't want to have kids, but that it wouldn't be the ideal situation that I want to raise kids in/around. Does this mean that, actually, I don't love him?
Carolyn Hax: Not much work is getting done in Stupid today. But maybe that's the norm.
No, not wanting kids with someone doesn't have to mean you don't love him. It means that, together, you create an environment that you don't believe will be good for kids. (Or good for you to bring kids into.) The marriage of a couple of posts ago--the one where the new wife is doing everything? Let's say the housework hasn't beaten the love out of her yet, which is actually pretty common. That would be a situation where I'd easily see her thinking that kids wouldn't be a good idea.
I do think, though, that this is only the first step in your reasoning. The next steps are whether you want to stay in the marriage and just not have kids, and, if so, whether you're sure enough for it to be time to let him in on your thinking.
Hahira, Ga.: When my husband was shopping for my engagement ring a few years back (just happened to be a few weeks before Valentine's Day), there was a guy in the jewelry store purchasing a pearl ring for his girlfriend. His thinking was that maybe the pearl would satiate her for a while. I would still love to hear what happened with them!
Carolyn Hax: This post will be delayed because I took time to rub my face.
Why aren't these couples just TALKING to each other?
I know, I know, there I go again.
Re: "Stupid, Wherever": Carolyn, you've made a bunch of assumptions about the writer's motivation for marrying her husband. You may be right that this is some kind of pity marriage entered into to avoid his hurting himself. But even given his history of mental illness, it's still more likly she married him for the same reason most people who shouldn't get married (and know they shouldn't) do so anyway: Because for some reason, they consider the alternative (being alone, even temporarily) worse than being trapped in an ill-conceieved marriage.
I don't know that this changes your advice to her; counseling is the right thing. But for her to get any good out of it, she's going to have to be honest with herself and her counselor about her reasons for getting married, and her personal contribution to this mess.
Carolyn Hax: I absolutely see your point, thank you. You're right that I assumed.
I would like to say why I assumed, though, because it's a quibble with what you say is the reason "most" people go through with these ill-conceived marriages. That may be why people work a little too hard to try to get a nonfunctional relationship to work, but I think a lot of marriage trains feel unstoppable to people because they can't face admitting to someone's face that they don't want to get married. It is a stunningly common theme in the letters I receive.
Anonymous: Happy VD, Carolyn.
Here's my deal: I consistently date guys that are 8-10 years younger than me, financially unstable, still in their mid-20s party stage, who have no thought of settling down -- all of which is generally fine with me; they're fun! But I had this sudden realization (possibly stupid-holiday related) that I'm about to turn 35 (ok, in 11 months) and had a major panic of OMG WTF am I doing with my life??!!
Perspective check, please? Is it ok to flit through life with the only objective being to have fun?
Carolyn Hax: Only if it's a real objective, and you have a real plan in place to provide you with the things you do need--financial security, social support, purpose, love. Obviously, nobody's "plan" of this sort can ever be foolproof, because life will do what it does, even to those who expect to get their love and security from their secure and loving marriages.
However, if you're as confident in and content with the substance of your life as anyone can reasonably expect to be--i.e., if you're taking good care of yourself, and you aren't delusionally expecting one of these boy toys to fall for, love and care for you a la "Sex and the City"--then why not see the romantic aspect of your life as pure frivolity? It's an interesting idea. It all really hinges on whether you're kidding yourself.
Houston: I'm a woman, and I'd like to propose to my guy. EVERYONE advises against this. "Men propose when they're ready."
Should I care? I'm ready, and I think he might be, and if he isn't, I want to know that now.
Carolyn Hax: Then propose to him. I don't advise against people who go into things with their eyes open. You have a reason for doing this, you know yourself and you know the guy. Presumably, at least--you may find out by proposing that you didn't know him as well as you thought. But, again, as long as that's an outcome you're prepared to deal with, then bombs away. Let me/us know? No pressure, just rooting for you.
Silver Spring, Md. : Hi Carolyn!
I'm 17 and in high school with my first girlfriend. What's something nice I can do for Valentine's Day on a small budget? I would appreciate your ideas.
Carolyn Hax: How cool is she? If she's offbeat and awesome and really really likes you, you can make her a construction paper card and she'll keep it for the rest of her life. If you're not sure how cool she is, I won't set you up like that--way too cornball. Instead, just take a look at what she wears, listens to, reads; whom she quotes; what pictures she posts/frames. People give off a million hints a day about what they like, and all you have to do is read them. Unless what she likes is someone who plans ahead. Then you're toast.
Odenton, Md.: Hi Carolyn,
What do you suggest for someone who would really like to be in a relationship, can't seem to find one, but on the other hand just wants to be happy with herself as a single woman. I just get tired of not having someone that I can really talk to and connect with. Most of my friends are married with kids so I feel like I really can't connect with them at the level that I would like.
Carolyn Hax: The easy answer is to widen your circle of friends, though I know how hard that gets with ever year removed we are from school days. So, I guess it's the hard answer.
Still, I can't see any real choices other than starting to reach out a bit more to new people. What people often do--even the married ones, who get plenty lonely, and also struggle to find friends--is immerse themselves in some-thing- outside the home that they find meaningful, on the theory that the some-bodies- may or may not come along in time, and till they do they'll at least have a greater sense of community and purpose.
For the teen lovebird: Bake your girlfriend cookies! Baking is cheap, does not require days of planning, and entirely adorable. If she's cool enough, ice some ironic pink skull and bones on those suckers. If she's not... sorry.
Carolyn Hax: Brilliant. Thanks.
Frederick, Md.: Im female in my 30s. Out with male in 30s I just met a few weeks ago. Have spent about 6 hours talking to him on phone and in person. We are both single. At end of third encounter, he turns to me as he walks down the stairs and says "See you around."
How would you take that comment?
Carolyn Hax: If it was yesterday, I wouldn't take it as anything. If it was 2.5 weeks ago, I would take it as goodbye.
Something more?: In your opinion are white lies an indication that there's something bigger going on? I'm in a situation where I know the answer, ask the question, and get told a "white lie." It's very possible it's simply evasiveness for no reason, but there could be a much more damaging reason for the lies. I'm not sure how to feel about it. My gut doesn't feel so good however.
Carolyn Hax: I wish I had specifics, but that's probably just morbid curiosity. "Evasiveness for no reason" isn't something to brush off. People are either straight with you 99.9 percent of the time, or you can't count on them, and if you can't count on them, then a close relationship is a bad idea. This is what your gut would be saying if it had access to a keyboard. (Then again, it might just bang its forehead on it. If it had access to a forehead.)
Washington, D.C.: DONT PROPOSE! Not because it's tradition for the guy to do so...but because...if he wanted to he would...and if he agrees now...he probably doesnt REALLY want to. So come on lady, the guy will propose if he wants, all you can do is talk about the subject, let him know you are ready. That's it.
Carolyn Hax: I disagree. If the only answer she wants to hear is "yes," then, okay, she shouldn't propose, based on the way we're socialized. But if she is open to other answers, and this is the way she wants to get to those answers, then I think she should heed that instead of simpering in a corner waiting for her Disney birds.
Nowhere: You know, you can talk about marriage without proposing. People like to have big fancy proposals, and while that's not my cup of tea, I also don't see any harm in it. But you can, and in fact, probably should, ask the person you're with what they're thinking about marriage, and then you can make the decision with that person.
And then one day you can go to a ballgame and get the official, romantic proposal you've always dreamed about via Jumbotron.
Carolyn Hax: Which we'll appreciate, because we like a good life-affirming gack-fest between innings/plays. Thanks.
Re Silver Spring, Md.: You could always get a table cloth and some candles and go to McDonalds. When I was in high school, some guys I know didn't have a whole lot of money for prom and did this. The girls loved it.
Carolyn Hax: Three words: "safety in numbers."
Silver Spring, Md.: I think I love my girlfriend. But I'm not sure. It's almost been a year and our first V-Day together. Should I make a big deal about the day especially since I'm not sure if I love her yet?
Carolyn Hax: No. Dinner, but no JumboTron. To thine own ambivalence be true.
Re: "Something More": Carolyn: I think you missed something in the response here. Why, if you know the answer to a question, would you even bother to ask? This sounds like it falls into "testing a partner's truthfullness" territory, which to me screams trust issues. Maybe I'm reading too much into it.
Carolyn Hax: Around here, that's not a fault, it's a career path.
It looks like you made a nice catch. White Lies person, are you out there? Are you putting someone to a bunch of little tests?
For the record, that would mean trust issues -and- that the other person is not to be counted on. It adds to the problem, doesn't replace it.
"Happy VD?": I need to go home - it took me a few minutes to figure out that this person was wishing you happy Valentine's Day and not a happy STD. Sigh.
Carolyn Hax: No, stay, that's just the kind of thinking we need around here.
Falls Church, Va.: Re: Wife who's doing everything around the house. The langaage of her letter seems revealing: "He grew a pair"; "He follows me around like a puppy." It sounds to me like the husband didn't outgrow his controlling parent, but instead just found himself a new parent, in the form of his wife. He's being infantile, and she's infantilizing him. Certainly, counseling to learn to deal with each other on an adult level sounds like a good idea.
Carolyn Hax: Ding ding ding. Thank you. I was trying to put the puppy and "grew a pair" thing together with the housework, and decided to save it for an adapted column. But, you beat me to it. It makes such sense.
Chicago, Ill.: Maybe it's my sense of Catholic guilt, but I often have trouble with deciphering my motivations for things. While I have good and altruistic reasons for doing something, I fear that there are other motives which are less than pure. For example, I have the chance to study abroad next year. It will be my last chance to do so as a student and I do want to travel and expose myself to different cultures. But there's also a girl there, who I like. So I'm having trouble separating good reasons for doing something and not so good reasons for doing something. Happy Valentine's Day!
Carolyn Hax: Thanks!
When you identify impure thoughts, you don't always have to -do- something about them. It's okay to go abroad, for example, aware of the possibility that you're only going for a girl--and then to make the most of the study opportunity while you're there, whether the girl thing pans out or not. One thing I wouldn't do, though, is bury the impure thought. Make sure it's always out where you can see it, like ... Idunno, an inspiring sculpture. Not so it can hound you at all times, just so you will know it's there and can balance your decisions accordingly.
Also, slightly unrelated, don't chase the girl if she has already blown you off. There are other abroads, I'm sure, where you can expose yourself.
Gut?: What's the diffence between going with your gut and making something out of nothing? Isn't there a possibility that if it looks like a duck and sounds like a duck, it might NOT be a duck? I get confused and end up making the wrong choice half of the time.
Carolyn Hax: That's fine, as long as it's part of the process of calibrating your gut. We develop judgment somehow, right? And one way is to collect all our signals, act on them, find out we drew the wrong conclusion, and go back and have another look at the signals to see what we missed. No one will ever develop perfect judgment, but a realistic objective is to get to the point where we feel we can trust what we're seeing, thinking and feeling.
If you're not getting any better at it, not learning from your mistakes but instead just feeling out-of-sync and lost, then I think the issue is not being able to trust your gut, and the next step there is to figure out why.
Not to suggest that all roads lead to counseling, but when you aren't trusting yourself it can be hard to find a place to start, and a competent therapist can work wonders with this. For those who want to give it a shot on their own, the first step is to look for patterns--in your reactions, in the people you choose, in your family habits. Often the problem is that a pattern or habit supersedes what your own senses are telling you.
The Fraud of Valentine's Day: Full disclosure, I am happily married, and have been for over 10 years. I have never liked Valentine's Day. It seems hokey and manufactured, and reading today's letters, it is depressing for everyone. I feel bad for the people who think they need to be coupled off, or who have to have a specific type of marriage proposal delivered by the man, or who are afraid to give their SO a nice gift just because of the date. People, throw off the Valentine's Day shackles -- it's just another day on the calendar! My 6-year-old made 25 neon yellow (his favorite color) Valentines for his classmates, an effort I completely support. One last thing --- my mother's birthday is today, so whenever I think of Feb. 14, I think of mom.
Carolyn Hax: So why isn't that a sign that it isn't depressing for everyone? You're right that there are still some shackles out there, but you don't have to scrap the whole holiday. You said it yourself--it's just another day on the calendar. What worked yesterday (putting your own mark on whatever you've got) will work today, and what didn't work yesterday (letting Big Outside Forces tell you how you're supposed to feel, think and live) won't work today. You can either hate hokey and manufactured, or you can like a 6-year-old's paper valentines. You can see it as an excuse to bitch, or an excuse to have your discussion on Thursday because you never have Friday off.
Washington, D.C.: To therapy or not to therapy? After kind of a mini-tragic situation this week, I've noticed that I seem to fall for colossal jerks. Ones that make everything your fault and walk all over you for it. I think I know exactly why I do it, I've always been really good at pinpointing the sources of my feelings. I'm wondering if I need therapy, though. Because how weird the government can be with security clearances, I'm afraid to go to therapy for a long time for my man issues if all I need is a good self-help book.
Carolyn Hax: Since your epiphany is recent, you haven't had a chance to road test it yet, to see if it actually affects your behavior. I'd probably suggest that even if you weren't unsure about your clearance, because often just knowing why you do something is enough to get you doing something else.
If after a while you end up back in the same rut, or start to doubt yourself, or otherwise struggle, then I would suggest getting some names of reputable therapists.
By the way, there's no reason it has to be for "a long time"--the course of therapy you need could be one session, three, 10, whatever, depending on the complexity of the problem and on your grasp of it.
Relationship Recipe: You mentioned something in a recent column about someone only wanting (and thus setting themselves up to get) sex and companionship. Is there something more to a relationship than that (and love)? Am I missing something? I have the feeling I am...
Carolyn Hax: Not necessarily. They're pretty good things to have, if (and this is the "if" that pulls out the soapbox) they're based on a mutual respect, understanding and devotion. These are three items on the "something more" list that may be implied by "companionship," but that I don't think people can take for granted. I would also add to that list--and maybe it even stands alone as the third and final item--a sense of partnership, of a shared purpose in life.
It's one thing to talk to someone over dinner, and quite another to know, when you're not saying a damn thing, when you're not even in the same place, that this person is out serving the goals you set together. It's when spouses take the time to do each other's laundry or go to the grocery store or cook the other's favorite dinner. It's not sex, it's not companionship, but it's a really, really big deal.
Re: proposing: I don't know about this one. I have to agree that if she does propose and he says yes there's always going to be a chance that he's just along for the ride and doesn't care. It makes me feel more secure when the guy makes the first move. I used to do it in my younger days but I would always end up with guys who didn't really like me all that much in the end. My longest lasting relationships were always with men who pursued me first.
Carolyn Hax: Can I pull out "in my younger days" and string it in blinking heart lights and hang it over the mantel?
(Most) people grow up. If a guy says "yes" just to go along, he is not a grownup, and the pair was in for rough times regardless of who staged the love ambush. People who both want to be married will want to be married. The indispensable element here is an honest estimation of each other and of the relationship, not a male proposing to a female.
I hate VD (both kinds!): Carolyn,
My husband has been going around telling people he hates Valentine's Day because he doesn't want to be forced to be romantic and he is romantic whenever he is inclined. I try not to pull my hair out and yell "Well pick another day doofus, because forced romance is the only thing I'm getting."
Carolyn Hax: Leave your hair in, don't yell, and say, "We'll pick another day doofus, because forced romance is the only thing I'm getting."
Always call a forehead slapper for what it is.
And, thank you--the (both kinds!) is a thing of beauty. I shall wrap it in a CD case and give it to myself.
Not for Valentine's Day: Carolyn,
I am pregnant with my first baby. I have a co-worker who has multiple times made comments like "you might want to come back sooner" or "staying home might get old" and I've sort of laughed it off, but it's starting to annoy me. I think this is just her issue, that she can't imagine staying home with a baby, but I actually am looking forward to taking every bit of my three months off. Should I address this with her or just let it roll off my back?
Carolyn Hax: Try B, and if that fails resort to A--but in the, "Is there something you're trying to tell me?" way, not in the, "I actually am looking forward to taking every bit of my three months off" way. That's just shaking happy red pompoms at a bull.
You will find that a lot of what you think pre-baby will seem naive post-baby--and while that means a lot also won't have been naive, the people who like to think they know everything will jump knowingly upon the one or two things you did happen to get wrong. Because, I don't know, they're still bitter about feeling clueless when they went through it and when their officemates never let them forget how naive they were.
If this doesn't make sense now, it will after you have the baby (haw haw. Sorry).
I think I live in Stupid too: So often on my way home from work, I think of things I'd like to discuss with my husband. I talk it out and try to see both sides (of course, my perception of his side). But by the time I get home, the issue just doesn't seem important anymore -- I think I was probably just blowing it out of proportion. Except the same issues seem to keep crossing my mind. So, my question, how do I bring up to my husband during the day that I want to talk with him later -- without it sounding ominous -- and thus forcing myself not to talk "me" out of talking about it?
Carolyn Hax: I would love a postcard from there (you write on the front and the picture goes on the back?).
It seems as if you're leaving out a third option, talking about something as it comes up when you're with your husband.
Maybe you need time to process things and don't realize you're upset until well after the fact? But in that case, I would just put a note in your pocket to talk about something, so you have a reminder. Dropping a "We need to talk," while it would force your hand in a way that you seem to want, does potentially introduce a lot of stress in the other person's day.
Dark, Sunless Seattle: When is it time to go back into therapy? I'm unemployed, pregnant, and want to cry half of the time. Some of this is very situtational, I've been job hunting for eight months after my husband was transferred from D.C. and just have had no luck. I've had to start looking in a field I'm good at, but don't like. We've had a bunch of deaths in the family, including my MiL from a probable suicide. Oh, and there are the tons of hormones in my system and the never-ending morning sickness. I suffered from depression for a dozen years in my teens and twenties before finding an awesome therapist. Part of me thinks I'll get better as soon as I get a job, don't like the idea of having to start from scratch with a new person, and feels like a failure if this is a genuine relapse. On the other hand, if I feel like this before birth, what's going to happen after? Please advise.
Carolyn Hax: How is relapsing a failure? You've had depression before, so you know it's not all a matter of the pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps cure. You also know your body is doing funky things while you're using it to grow another person--all kinds of chemicals you're not used to processing. And you know you have some emotionally draining things going on, which you can't necessarily dump all over your husband because he's got a serious emotional drain of his own in the aftermath of his mother's probable suicide. Okay, so you got on top of your depression before, but this is now an entirely new set of circumstances.
Let's say, for the sake of argument, that all of your weepiness, not just some, is situational. What's wrong with finding a safe place to talk about it and sort it all out? Why not get a tune-up? Your husband needs you, your baby needs you, you need you, and that means you need to take care of yourself, and that means you scrape up your courage and ask for help. Thats' success, not failure. Your OB, by the way, is a good one to ask for a referral. Going through someone you know could make the "start from scratch" a little less of a burden.
Parenting Problems: Hi Carolyn,
My husband is a great guy, but he's been a really lousy dad to our 3 year old. His own father and step-father left a lot to be desired. He expects our toddler to act much older and more mature than he's capable of. My husband has never hit our son or put him down, but he does have a really short string when dealing with him. He yells a lot and gets frustrated if my son sings a song or wants a story over and over (as toddlers are prone to do).
It breaks my heart because my son is already working so hard for his dad's approval. It's also affecting my parenting because I'm turning into a big softee to counteract my husband's rigidness.
I'm at a loss. I think my husband has such great potential as a dad. But I don't want this current behavior to affect my son any more than it already is.
Carolyn Hax: Complex problem, simplistic answer, but--parenting class. Do your homework to find a good one (your pediatrician's office and your child-care center, if you have one, are good places to start). This way you'll have a neutral third party making the key points, instead of an emotionally charged you trying to balance love and support with criticism. You don't even have to say he's the reason you're signing up, just tell him it's important to you and do it. If he presses, just say you're noticing you and he have different styles, which you know can be tough on kids.
It may seem like I'm advising you to be evasive, and I guess technically I am, but I'd rather call it being humble. You don't want to cast yourself in the role of expert to his novice. You're just the one seeing that something is off, then you can use the class to help you figure out if you're right and what you can do about it.
Silver Spring, Md.: I knitted my boyfriend a pair of mittens. Is it OK to shove them into a Whole Foods grocery bag instead of wrapping them?
Carolyn Hax: When you knit mittens, you earn the right to shove vs wrapping.
That's it. Sorry for the end-of-session slowdown; got tired on that last answer or two. See youse next week, have a great weekend and thanks for making this VD extra special.
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