Carolyn Hax Live: Dating after Divorce, Parenting Advice, and Green-Eyed Monsters

Carolyn Hax
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 28, 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, 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.

A transcript follows.

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Carolyn's Recent Columns


Austin, Tex. (transplanted from Alexandria VA): Just wanted to say I'm really enjoying the new while-Carolyn's-away columns, using feedback/input from readers. This method provides good info, and makes Carolyn's absences much more endurable.

Carolyn Hax: Thanks, glad you like them. I've been enjoying and learning from readers' insights for years, and I haven't had an outlet till now. I plan also to use them when we start the online forum.


Twin Cities, Minn. : Carolyn - Missed you this week! But I did like what you did with your columns while you were away. This is petty but I'm hoping you'll humor me since I'm pretty bothered by it and just don't know if I'm in the wrong or not. BF of 4 years and I rarely have set plans for a Friday night but always end up doing something together (dinner, a movie, renting a movie and lounging, etc.) but last night he informed me that after work today he'll be going to a buddy's house and hanging out there all night. Ok fine, I just would have liked a "hey, is it alright if I do this tomorrow night instead?" as opposed to "this is what I'm doing, see ya" especially since I'm not one to say no unless I have a real legitimate reason. But he doesn't want to feel like he has to ask me before he can do something else. No big blow-out, but I'm a little annoyed and he's annoyed that I'm annoyed. So am I too controlling or was he a little rude? I'm really not sure in this case so I'd love to hear Carolyn's Unbiased Opinion. Many thanks!

Carolyn Hax: It's not about getting permission, it's about acknowledging that you have an unspoken, standing Friday night date. "I hope you don't mind, I told a buddy I'd go to his house tomorrow after work." It's neither asking permission nor "see ya," just a little respect for the institution of couplehood.


Alexandria, Va.: Carolyn, My wife and I live in the D.C. area and we've been pretty frustrated by our quality of life lately. Bad traffic, people seem to be pretty rude, and we work very hard at demanding jobs yet don't feel like we are getting ahead. I keep wondering whether we should relocate to somewhere sunnier and slower. When I watch TV shows set in Florida and other places in the South, I wonder if they are on to something. But I don't know if this is a "grass is always greener" mentality. Plus I've always been a Northeasterner and wonder if I could handle some place different. Any thoughts? Thanks

Carolyn Hax: I wouldn't even try to extrapolate a quality of life by watching TV shows, or else we'd all be in NYC wondering why we can't afford great clothes and apartments from our income as coffee-shop waitresses.

I also think it's important, before you make any big moves, to figure out your contribution to your qualify-of-life frustrations. Did you choose housing that demands a nasty commute? Did you have other choices? (The classic one, cramped, old, urban and close-in vs. new and airy and out there.) I think in DC those are the top 2 questions. Also, obviously, it's certainly possible to get a demanding job that takes you nowhere in any locale on earth. Did you choose a career path that doesn't suit you?

Once you sort out the impart of your choices, then you move on to identifying trade-offs. For example, a lot of people will put up with big-city expenses and crowds because in return you get big-city cultural resources. It can be tough to get to a major-league sporting event, too, from a slower-paced section of the map. Some people are here because their professions dictate it and they love their work so they put up with the Beltway.

If you're not taking advantage of the area's strengths, though, and you feel the high people-circulation doesn't add to your life education, and etc., then it's definitely worth weighing flight to an "easier" region.


Baltimore, Md.: Arg - I was reading your recent columns and realized that I'm someone who gives advice to pregnant women. I always kick myself afterwards but never realize I should shut up at the time. In my favor, I'm making it a project to become a better listener in all areas (I need it!). But can I tell my one really good parenting tip here if I promise never never to give it again unless asked?

Carolyn Hax: Sure, but, full disclosure, I think the best parenting tip is to shut up and give kids room to figure most things out for themselves.

Okay, your turn.


San Diego, Calif.: Is there something wrong with me that I don't feel any urge to start dating after my last disastrous romance? It's years past, but I find myself alone and rarely minding that. But I worry that my next step will be a cat and stacks of old newspapers.

Carolyn Hax: What's wrong with a cat and a stack of old newspapers, if you're content with it?


Re Twin Cities: It's also about showing his GF enough respect to give her plenty of time to make alternate plans with her own friends as well. Unless... what, he expects her to sit home while he's out? Now that speaks to a bigger problem.

Carolyn Hax: I agree in theory on the respect part, but, two issues in practice. One, in this case, he gave her a full day's notice, and two, what's wrong with a night at home alone?


I know this is silly but...: I've recently started dating this great guy. He's smart, funny, etc. and we have an amazing time together. I think this relationship could become really serious. The problem is that he's a terrible kisser. When he kisses me I feel like I'm being attacked by a wild animal. How do I talk to him about it without hurting his feelings?

Carolyn Hax: Just a whoa, slow down. Not even a grown up will enjoy getting stopped and educated, no matter how gently, but only a child will get all huffy about it. (Which, as always, tells you it's a bigger problem than psycho-smooching.)

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Washington, D.C.: I am in a funk and feel like a twit for being in this funk. I am dating a recently divorced guy, and have been telling myself that it's fun, we get along, we'll see how it goes. Earlier this week, he, out of the blue, feels the need to make it achingly clear to me that he (1) is not looking to get married any time soon and (2) is still enjoying hanging out with me. He went on a little rant about the risks of settling, etc. I asked: Do you think you're settling with me? Answer: absolutely not. I asked: are you just messing with me or do you have actual feelings for me? Answer: actual feelings. I don't want to marry him today, tomorrow, or anytime in the foreseeable future. I am not sure I want to get married at all at any point in my life. So why is my nose so out of joint about what he said to me? My gut tells me it's because everyone wants to be wanted and no one likes options being foreclosed for them. My other part of my gut tells me that I don't like the idea of the fairy tale whirlwind romance going away. How do I make both my guts shut the heck up and realize that I am lucky to be with someone honest, that I am dating a guy that I really like, and to be happy with that? (BTW, if it's relevant, I'm almost 30).

Carolyn Hax: It could be that his pointing this out to you revealed two things you recognized but were blocking out: 1. You're not content any more to "see how it goes," and 2. He is. And so his "little rant" was both insulting to the intelligence, and humiliating.

But it may well have been necessary. There isn't anything wrong with that, as long as you're up to admitting to yourself anything that needs admitting.

And if I'm wrong, if you are really honestly truly not invested in any happy ending with this guy, then your explanations are certainly enough to explain a bad feeling.

It's simplistic advice, but worth a try: You might just need to take a couple of days away from the situation, to get perspective on him and your feelings for him. Don't make a big deal of it, just let a couple of days more than usual elapse between now and your next date.


Chicago: Carolyn,

For religious reasons, my boyfriend and I are not sleeping together. Though I'm not a virgin, it was a decision we came to after a lot of consideration and I truly believe that it's the right decision -for us-. The problem is that I don't know how to react to some of my friends' comments. Either it's, "we'll see how long that lasts" or things relating to how I'm already not a virgin and it's not like we don't stay over at each others places and have physical intimacy other than sex. What bothers me the most (or makes me the most uncomfortable) is when they make jokes about how I must think they're all sluts for their own sexual activities. I truly don't, I just know that this is the right thing for me. How to react?

Carolyn Hax: Just don't engage, let it all float by. Both reactions you describe are from people who aren't comfortable with themselves in relation to your choice--some feel the need to be know-it-alls, some feel like they're being judged, both come from the same insecurity tap root. Neither is about you. "To each his own" is a good, pre-fabricated response to any sort of unwanted commentary. It covers both "I'm not going to explain myself" and "I'm not judging anyone."


Higher Ed, USA: (Online only) Hubby and I are both at the very end of our PhDs. (Yay!) We're not in the same field, so it has been easy to be non-competitive...until now. I'm starting get some really great results and my job prospects are looking good. In contrast, Hubby is a few months behind me and still in the horrible phase of self-doubt, depression, frustration, and anxiety. I know how it feels because I was recently there myself. However, I find myself hiding my excitement and positivity from him because I don't want him to feel bad or become jealous. I think I would feel that way about any good friend who is the dumps. I wouldn't smash my successes in his/her face, and I don't want to do that to Hubby. Thing is, we're -married-, we're best friends, and we usually tell each other everything. What should I do?

Carolyn Hax: Trust your instincts and do your touchdown dance when you know he can't see you. You're lying low not because you think he's a failure or can't handle your success, but because you know what he's going through and you take seriously your role as supportive spouse. Sometimes that means you set your needs aside temporarily for the greater household good.


Baltimore, Md.: Well, it's not a big thing, and maybe it's obvious, but it made an impression on me. And it's a story, really.

When I was working as a preschool teacher, there was one family that I knew was having a really hard time (serious illness, new state, new jobs, etc etc). The parents had every reason to be stressed out and in a hurry, esp at pickup time, 6 pm (also dinner time, errand time, traffic nightmare time...) But when the mother came in the room to get her daughter, every time she would kneel down, give her a big hug, and say with a smile "Suzy! I'm so happy to see you! Tell me about your day." and then she would sit down and listen intently for some minutes before leaving. Focusing only on her, taking that time.

Even in my 30s I would love to have someone look so delighted to see me every single day just because.

Carolyn Hax: That's a great story. The best way to package it as advice, I think (since you didn't ask my advice, ahem) is to demonstrate it, just as this mom did with you. If you don't have kids or if they aren't around, you can do this with friends' kids, too. Get down to their level, say hi, ask what was their favorite part of the day today.


Another perspective on Chicago: The question for Chicago, is why is it anyone else's business what choice she and BF make in the bedroom? Perhaps the best course is to stop discussing in public the choice that two adults made in private. If she doesn't air her business to her friends, then she doesn't have to worry about their reactions.

Carolyn Hax: Agh, I always miss that element of it. Yes, it is too much information, thanks. In some cases, as with close friends, she might raise it in the context of an issue that she wants to be able to discuss with her friends--but then that calls for a different response. Along the lines of, "I'm sharing this to get your help, not to judge or compare myself to anyone else."


D.C.: Ugh. The recent question in your do-you-own columns about being with a partner who isn't your intellectual equal really hit a nerve.

My boyfriend of two years is quite loving and wonderful. But I'm terrified that we will end up together and I'll be just like that poster - intellectually lonely. Should I simply accept that he is who he is (more interested in sports, less interested in books)? It's something I worry about frequently but have NO idea how to raise without really hurting his feelings.

Carolyn Hax: I don't think it's something you raise, it's something you see as clearly as you can and decide for yourself. Just because someone is more interested in sports than books doesn't mean he's less interesting, or less able to contribute intellectually. You know what he contributes to conversations. Is it coming up short, or is he able to enlighten you on things you don't see well for yourself? That has nothing to do with reading Sports vs. the A section, it's about mental agility, perspective and depth.


K St: The recently divorced DC guy who is telling his girlfriend he isn't ready to get married again may simply be discovering that he is developing an attachment to her and it scares him. It may be a very positive sign that he doesn't want her to get hurt but he's not yet sure he can promise a future with her.

Carolyn Hax: Also true, thanks.


Washington D.C.: Caught the guy I'm dating lying to me. Maybe the situation would not have been such a big deal, but because he was lying made it seem like it was something more than it was. Decided to try and work things out. Here's the problem- I'm still having issues with it (with trusting). . How long do you wait to see if the trust comes back? Maybe I'm not giving myself enough time but I keep thinking if I tell myself he's really into me, that the whole thing was sort of blown out of proportion by his desire not to get me upset by hanging out with her, I should be able to move on quickly. I'm not. How long? How do I work on trusting again? When should I say "this constant worry you that you are lying to me is not worth it?"

Carolyn Hax: Well, a lie rooted in "his desire not to get me upset" is a very big deal. That tells you that he's not mature enough to accept that decisions come with consequences, that other adults will not impose consequences for genuinely innocent decisions, and that hiding just means you'll get your fallout magnified and later instead of now and in proportion.

So, you know he's childish. To know whether there's more to it than that, you need to look at the context in two areas, about which only you know. First is his behavior. Do you have other things feeding this distrust? They needn't be outright lies, either--just suspicions, things that sounded "off," that suddenly took on significance when you busted him in a lie.

Second is your behavior. Do you have a history of insecurity, bad choices, controlling behavior, jealousy, and other gems from that family? Then your main concern needs to be straightening out your own judgment, which is, as we've covered here at great length over the years, a matter of developing an awareness of your own reactions, tracing their origins and addressing any underlying damage.


Cincinnati, Ohio: Sigh. Do men really push women away because they're "scared" by their feelings of attachment? Always thought that was something we women told ourselves to explain away a guy's jerky behavior. My experience has always been the opposite: If a guy tells me he doesn't want to get married, it's because he doesn't want to marry ME -- or, in one case, because he already was married. Maybe I'm cynical.

Carolyn Hax: Some do. Women do it, too. But since some men and women also say exactly what they're thinking, I think it's best to take people at face value (vs. the explaining away you describe) and trust them to say or show it themselves if they meant something different.


I've become a green eyed monster: My husband and I have been struggling a little bit about one of his female friends, who I think he has too flirtatious a relationship with. We've talked about it and he agreed to take some of the flirting out of their interactions, but that he would continue to see/e-mail/talk to her as he would any of his friends (for background, this is a guy with any friends).

Well, even with the new approach, I find myself being this very ugly, insecure, jealous monster. Our relationship has always been based on a lot of trust and both parties having independent relationships, so I feel as though I've changed the rules in the middle of the game and am not being fair to him. So in addition to being jealous, I'm beating myself up for feeling this way and making him feel bad for being who he is. I feel like such an ugly person and that I don't really deserve him to love me anymore.

I've been crying every day and when he kept plans to see this woman earlier this week, I was so disappointed that he didn't just say, hey, I know I could go see her, but instead, I want to be with you and help you feel better.

I'm terrified that I've flipped some sort of ugly switch in my brain that I can't turn off and I'm systematically destroying my marriage in the process.

What should I do!?!

Carolyn Hax: First, I would strongly recommend giving yourself a little credit and laying off the self-loathing campaign.

You said yourself he has a lot of friends, and this jealousy is something new. So why is it you're automatically the one who "changed the rules in the middle of the game"? Why can't your reaction instead be a sign that something is amiss with this one particular friend?

We've talked a lot about jealousy here, but here's the main theme: Jealousy is like anger. Both are valuable warning signs that something is wrong. If you feel one of them chronically or regularly, that's a sign that something fundamental is wrong--either with your relationship or your judgment or both. When it flares up on rare occasions, it's flagging a specific personal violation of some kind. If this woman triggered your alarm system, then please respect that.

Then, when you've summoned a little confidence, ask him to respect it, too. Make him walk the logic path with you: You have never been jealous before, right? And he has had lots of female friends, right? And so you're asking him to respect you on this point, and distance himself from only this friend--or at least explain to you why she is so important to him that she's worth upsetting his wife to see, his wife who never before has set limits on him or has gotten upset.

If he still insists, then I think you're not getting proof that you're a monster, you're getting validation that your alarm is dead on. For that, unfortunately, you need a lot of deep breathing, patience, and trust that you'll be okay even if your worst fears come true.


Don't Get It: I'll never understand why/how people can be freshly divorced or out of a long term relationship and jump right back in to the dating pool. Then when they start seeing somebody steadily they have to freak out like DC did. Shouldn't they really save the drama and keep to themselves for a while. If you don't want to be serious or lead someone on then don't date.

Carolyn Hax: People don't reduce so neatly to formulas, unfortunately. People can be "fresh out of" a relationship and their wounds can be old, healed, and long since dealt with, while some people don't start the healing process till they've been broken up for a year or two. So, the former may be ready to date right away, and the latter still not ready after a perfectly acceptable amount of time has elapsed.

Add to these variables the variables of self-awareness--some people think they're ready and aren't, some think they're not ready and are--and you're going to get the usual array of oopses when people change direction. Given what we all witness every day in the field of human behavior, I would find it harder to understand if everyone got it exactly right the first time.


About Baltimore's tip: That tip isn't just a parenting tip, IMHO -- it's a great tip for improving any relationship. If my ex had done that with me while we were cohabiting, I suspect we would still be together.

Carolyn Hax: True. Thanks.


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The chat is moving too slow!

You were way too hard on that -fill in appropriate subject here]; I've seen you be way more sympathetic to (circle one) alcoholics/smokers/diabetics/brides/grooms/men/women/reindeer!

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Carolyn Hax: Beep-beep!

In the spirit of a commercial break, I'll be back in 2 min--need a glass of water.


For the soon-to-be dual-Ph.D. couple: Why does it have to be all about the husband? Not that the wife should be insensitive to his feelings as he plods along through the morass that is his dissertation research -- but doesn't he have an equal obligation to share in her elation over her success? Isn't it a sort of shared success, in the sense that they're a team? Besides, her situation should be offering him a light at the end of the tunnel, that ere long he'll be in that place as well!

Carolyn Hax: True. But unless she's on the professional poker circuit, that light is leaking out of every pore, no matter how subdued she's trying to be. If he can't even pretend to be happy for her, then that is an issue, I agree, but one still best raised when he's out of the tunnel.


Re: Green Eyed...: So, Carolyn, in your response to the green-eyed monster: I'm her husband's female friend. In the last several months, I've had two of my married male friends, both of whom I have never dated, had a relationship with, etc...tell me their wives are uncomfortable with our friendship and have effectively ended it. I have known both of these guys for many years (between 10 and 20) and I knew both of them well before they met, dated, and married their respective wives. I am not one to stand in the way of a marriage, so I felt I had no choice but to gracefully bow out, but how do I get over the anger, disappointment, and confusion - and not hate the green-eyed monster who put a stop to two of my most valuable friendships?

Carolyn Hax: Well, if you knew these wives and understood them not to be jealous, then you need to look at your own behavior. If you've known since they met these women that they had possessiveness/jealousy issues, then I think you have a right to say, once, for the record, how much it stinks that you lost two great old friends because they have dubious taste in women.

In other words, there are several common threads that could be running through this--the main two being 1. that sometimes opposite-sex friends declare themselves to be harmlessly Platonic when in fact there's some attention-seeking going on beneath the surface, and 2. that people who are in poor emotional health can get along okay while they're single, but will make disastrous marriage choices (finding comfort in domineering people, caving into them, marrying them, allowing themselves to be isolated) that will effectively undo the few things they were doing right.

From where I sit, I can't judge which of these is in play here, but maybe you can.


Re: oopses:"and you're going to get the usual array of oopses when people change direction."

I agree with you to some degree. I just wish that some people who clearly shouldn't be in relationships get help or get over whatever before they start messing with peoples' hearts and heads.

Saying oops doesn't make me feel any less pain. It just makes me think the other person is a jerk who should have gotten his priorities straight before he started dating me.

I'm not a litmus test. I'm a human being.

Carolyn Hax: Of course. I never meant to suggest the results weren't real or painful.

But you're talking about people who are so messed up that they're messing with others' heads, apparently with impunity--and the truth is these are usually the exact people who don't get help.

So, the better way to avoid being their roadkill isn't to send them mind-beams to compel them all into therapy, it's to proceed slowly enough to give yourself a chance to recognize whether someone is too messed up to be dating again--before you get too deeply invested. Counting on other people's judgment is necessary to some degree, but everything up to that point is on us.


Overwhelmed: Hi Carolyn,

I am completely overwhelmed. My job is super stressful right now (but they agreed to get me an assistant!), my home life is very stressful with a terrible two controlling everything. I do the majority of the housework while working full time outside the home.

Love my husband, but he is the only one who is not noticing how stressed I am and will not do anything to help. And I'm not talking about me dropping subtle hints that he's not noticing. I'm talking about me saying "I am so stressed out I'm about to crack" and his reply is "That sucks, it'll get better."

Besides clobbering him, what can I do? I'm on anxiety meds to help me sleep, I'm losing my hair. Do I really need to have a nervous breakdown to get him to vacuum?

Carolyn Hax:"Yes, it will get better, but only if you choose five things from this list and do them daily/weekly without my having to ask." I'm sorry that you have to get specific on his [butt], but clearly this is someone who doesn't get it without a diagram.

And if he doesn't get it even with a diagram, then I would suggest two survival moves: 1. figure out what amount of relief would actually help you, and make it for yourself--by hiring someone, by scheduling a night off for yourself ("I'm going to start working out every Tues/Fri night, so you can cover Toddler, right?") and/or by just dropping some of your less-necessary chores. His laundry, for example. 2. Schedule marriage counseling. Simmering rage works like acid on a marriage.


Austin, Tex.: How do you handle the close friend who disappears once she gets a new boyfriend? How do you shake the feeling of being disposable?

Carolyn Hax: Well, technically I suppose you are, but it really isn't personal. It's not that she doesn't like -you-; she'd do it to anybody. The way to deal with the hard feelings is to turn them off yourself, and start figuring out how you feel about her.

There isn't any one right answer, by the way. Some friends do part ways over this, and some just say, "eh, this is how she is" and take is as an unavoidable but not deal-breaking part of the whole. All you can do is what feels right for you.


Kidsville, US - and not mine: Hey Carolyn,

(Online only please) As a mother, perhaps you can give me some advice and perspective. I have no kids - not even particularly fond of them, to tell you the truth. But I have a friend with multiple kids. This friend has been wonderful to me since I moved to a new city and truthfully, as far as kids go, hers are very well behaved and very easy to hang around with. Well, I was asked to watch them tonight and I said yes - I have helped out in the past as well. On the one hand, she is a great friend and I want to help her out, but on the other hand, I feel obligated to say yes because she is such a great friend and when the time comes for me to come over, I get kind of cranky that I'm giving up a Friday night to hang out with someone else's kids. She always tells me to say no if I don't want to - and I know she wouldn't be mad if I did - but I just feel like I can't. That said, I know that the evening won't be that bad, but I dread it anyway. Can you please knock some sense into me and remind me that helping a friend with her kids when she can't get the regular baby-sitter should not be enough to make me cranky - especially because she's such a good friend?

Carolyn Hax: You CAN say no. SAY NO.

This issue is edging its way up my list of peeves. When friends or family ask you for a favor, you can always, -always- say no. That is built in to the favor transaction. In many situations, I've noticed people feeling the need to point out that "it's okay to say no" --as your friend did. And since that is plainly redundant (this was a request, not an order), I see it as a signal that she knows you're not comfortable saying no. And that actually strains the friendship more than saying no. She -wants- you to decline if this is something you don't want to do--because the alternative is your stashing away resentment without giving her a chance to prevent it, apologize for it, listen while you vent it. If she's as good a friend as you say, I'm sure she'd rather miss an event than be a burden to her friend.

I imagine some people are thinking, well, if this mother knows the friend can't say no, then she needs to be proactive and stop asking. But that's problematic, too, because then she's putting a higher priority on her own assumptions about someone than that person's ability to speak for herself.

All of this is, obviously, for next time--you've agreed to do this so you need to follow through. All I can suggest for that is to find a way to have fun with it. If it's not too late, arrive with a bag of stuff to do--pre-measured ingredients for baking, CDs you can dance to, your favorite game or book as a kid (but only if you trust your sense of what's right for their ages).

And next time, SAY NO. You can return her great friendship in some other way.


crossing the line (female/male friends): I can tell you my breaking point with my husband's female friend/co-worker came when she started calling in the evenings to chat when we were watching TV together. I was quite upset because they worked together during the day and the evenings were "my" time.

In other words, if spending time with a single friend is taking away from time that the wife is expecting the husband to spend with her, that can be a breaking point.

And that isn't the other woman's fault, per se, but it is the husband's.

Carolyn Hax: Thanks, good point.


For the female frie, ND: I'm the wife without jealousy issues. OK, just that one time, but she was really out to get him. I will tell you what my husband's female friends do that derails the jealousy (at least for me). Befriend the wife. Call her, invite her out, too. That always worked with me.

And to the wives, trust your judgment. But if you're jealous of all of them, you might be going a bit overboard.

Carolyn Hax: Another good thought.


Re: Green-eyed Monster: The "crying every day" statement in there threw me a little. If that keeps up, regardless of what's going on with her relationship, I think she should probably talk to someone.

Is she crying when she thinks about her husband? The friend? Her disappointment with herself? A daily crying jag seems like an outsized response to her issues.

Carolyn Hax: Actually, it sounds like depression, which could be either a proportionate result of her issues, or an underlying condition that's magnifying them. Either way it points to a checkup. Thanks.


Friday?: It sounds like the people down the hall are having a tickle fight.

Carolyn Hax: I guess one can't really join in one of those. (Unless you're looking to end it abruptly.)


Washington: Hi Carolyn, Long-time fan here. Curious as to why you stood and clapped for the man who wrote a rather ho-hum 'I couldn't tell ya' accounting of why marriages last. Didn't pop for me. Read more like a letter to his son -- and not an illuminating one at that. (FWIW, my parents were happily married for 38 years and I could write a much better letter about why it worked -- from a view outside the marriage, obviously, but inside the family).

Hope you had a good vacation.

Carolyn Hax: I did, thanks.

I'm sorry you didn't like that guy's portrait of his marriage. I thought it was beautiful--because of the humble materials he used to create it, not in spite of them.

To each his own, I guess.


Anonymous: Hi Carolyn,

Online only, please.

How do you deal with people who treat you like crap but won't even acknowledge that they treated you like crap? I'm not talking about apologizing or explaining their actions, but simply acknowledging the facts. I know I have contributed to this problem by playing along with their attempts to act like events didn't happen and not correcting them when they reveal that their version of events does not include their not so good treatment of me.

Well, now I have a little backbone and I'm standing up for myself by just repeating that x is what happened (with x being something that happened recently, not how they've treated me in the past). Well I don't get the acknowledgement, instead I get them alluding to me being crazy or just making the whole thing up.

Based on previous chats/columns, I would think that your advice would be to move on, since my value system seems to differ greatly from theirs, but this isn't a problem I have with one person, and some of these people are family members. So any additional insight you can give would go a long way.


Carolyn Hax: All you can do is stop looking for them to stop, or apologize, or even acknowledge the facts. Stop seeking anything from them that they haven't already proven they will provide. That's only going to make you more crazy, frustrated, upset and ultimately diminished by their behavior.

Think of them instead as an unchanging whole: They are X. They do Y.

Then, think of yourself as whole entity independent of them. I am A. I do B.

Then, when you see them--when you can't or don't want to avoid them--anticipate X and Y and remind yourself as needed that these have no relation whatsoever with A and B (except the one you grant them).

Tough at first, but people do get the hang of it.


D.C.: Carolyn, when is it okay to contact an absentee father whom mom says was abusive to her which is why she had to leave him? Do I wait until I need someone to walk me down the aisle (happening in the next 8-24 months) or do I just not contact him at all because it could be dangerous? I haven't seen him in 17 years, and I'd just like some closure, and to meet my half-siblings.

Carolyn Hax: I can't see why you'd want an absentee father who abused your mother to walk you down the aisle. Let your mother do it; she raised you. Or, another prominent figure in your upbringing. Or, walk yourself. Traditions are an optional guideline, not marching orders against all reason.

As for when you contact your dad, if you choose to contact him, I would say do it when you know why you're doing it, and when you're ready to handle whatever comes of it, even if it bears no resemblance to what you had hoped. I also think you need to make some peace with your mom--reading between the lines, it sounds as if you're skeptical of her abuse claims. Whether you do it after talks with your mom or exploratory sessions with a reputable counselor or both, I would make the Daddy call as one of the final stages of putting all these old issues to rest, not the opening stage.


Carolyn Hax: That's it. Thanks everybody and type to you next week. On my way out, I'm posting two comments that illustrate why no one can decide for anyone else whether and where to relocate:


For Alexandria: Ten years ago, I relocated from Fairfax County to Tampa, Fla. The grass is eternally greener here, believe me. I still work a demanding job, but I come home to paradise every night. My fiance went through a similar move 7 years ago, and agrees with me that he won't move away for any amount of money. We've since had several friends visit and decide to move here. They are very happy with their decisions as well. My suggestion is to plan a visit, and tour the area. See the housing, the night life, check out the job market. Also, talk to some locals. Most are very happy to share their opinions of living here, nice and down to earth as most people here are.

Carolyn Hax: And ...


Tampa, Fla: For Alexandria:

The grass is not greener. I live in the Tampa area, and I can't wait to get out -- I've lived multiple places, and I've never disliked anywhere this much. If you want to avoid bad traffic, it's the last place on earth you should move; there are nearly as many cars on the road as D.C., the drivers are far worse, and forget public transportation. You need to figure out what's important to you (nature? culture? work?) and then choose where to live based on that, not on tourism ads.

Carolyn Hax: Snort. Thanks again, and buh bye.


Milford, Conn.: Why did the question with all the X's and Y's have to be "online only"?

Carolyn Hax: I have no idea. I noticed it only after I answered, and same with the two other OO's today. Bleah. If any of you is willing to reconsider, please do. Thanks.


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