Carolyn Hax Live: Why Did Dad and Stepmom Fight At My Wedding? plus To Date or Not To Date, Groom-To-Be With Cold Feet and The Zing Is Gone

Carolyn Hax
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 8, 2008 12:00 PM

In her daily column 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.

Carolyn was online Friday, August 8 taking 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.

A transcript follows.

E-mail Carolyn at

Got more to say? Check out Carolyn's brand new discussion group, Hax-Philes. Comments submitted to the chat may be used in the discussion group.

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Carolyn Hax: As promised, here are the URLs for the Hax Pack in this year's ALS fundraising walk. All balances are at zero--you can be the first! My page is and the team page is

Because most people aren't familiar with ALS, the community of people affected by it bear a heavy responsibility for getting the word out and the money in. I will talk more about it in the coming weeks, but here's an idea: It leaves its sufferers unable to use any voluntary muscles--imagine for a moment being unable to swallow--but it leaves their mental faculties intact, so they can anticipate, and then witness, every increment of the disease's progress. There is no cure, which is why money and awareness are so critical. I'd appreciate anything you guys can do.


Carolyn Hax: Hi everybody. I'm here, I just had to restart a frozen computer. (Time for a new one, apparently.)


Washington, D.C.: I have a lingering issue. I love my friends, but one group of my friends is very close-knit. If I bring around someone I'm dating or a new friend, these people are downright rude in that they will not talk to the new person. However, if they bring friends, boyfriends, girlfriends, I am expected to, and do, talk to these new people and try to make them comfortable. The problem is that I don't like apologizing for my rude friends, and don't know how to call them on their behavior. They always say things like we'd love to meet so and so, but then act like such dillweeds when they do meet so and so that I never bring the friend by again. Should I just resign myself to this, since we're all in our late 20s/early 30s?

Carolyn Hax: Why can't you just say this?

They: "We'd love to meet So-and-So."

You: "I'd love for you to meet So-and-So. But the last few times I've brought around someone new, the new person has felt shut out."

They: I'd be curious to hear.


Anonymous: Carolyn -- I read this from Friday 8-1-08's transcript and I swear I could have written this! So I am helping to remind you to please finish your answer this Friday 8-8-08, because I'd LOVE to hear your take on this. I feel exactly like this person, 100%. (With me, most of the time I feel like, what was I thinking? But that's not til later; in the midst of it, I think I am in love. So I guess I don't trust my feelings. There was one guy, though, who I probably still harbor feelings for.)

VA, 22181: So, I know that dating multiple people, non-exclusively, casually, and keeping it PG (i.e. not sleeping with any of them) is supposed to be the healthiest, most mature way to date as an adult, but I'm finding more and more, as a 28 year old independent single woman, that I -hate- it. There always ends up being one guy out of the 2 or 3 I'm seeing that I like most and the others are just kind of stand-ins for when that one guy is on a date with some other woman or otherwise busy.

I tend to fall hard, and fast... and while I've learned to put the brakes on feelings that start careening out of control before it's warranted as I've gotten older, I still feel it. And wow, knowing that a guy I'm dating is out with some other woman, whom he must like enough to want to spend that time with her rather than me, stings so bad I can barely handle it. It levels me.

I try to adhere to the don't-ask-don't-tell policy, but I find myself always trying to keep conversations vague with men I'm dating so as to not inadvertently stumble onto the knowledge that they, say, spent the entirety of last weekend with some Malibu Barbie. Or be forced to tell them that I wasn't around Saturday because I was out with another man. That's always a fun conversation.

This is a double-edged sword -- I feel like I'm closing myself off and have my guard up so high that no man can get to know me, yet I'm so insecure about how I measure up to these other faceless women, that I almost don't want to talk about a guy's day/week/life. Instincts say, "ok, well don't date anyone that makes you feel this way" but, it's bound to keep happening, right? Everyone has the right to date multiple people casually, and I don't think I'd -want- to date someone that would demand to be exclusive with me after 2 dates... so how do I find peace and patience in this? Do I dump everyone that's not a serial monogamist and live my life alone? I feel like I'm pushing away the one man I really like because I like him too much and thus, am an insecure psycho. How can I just enjoy his company in the moment when I have it?

This feels hopelessly lonely.

Signed, "I like you too much, so please ---- off."

Carolyn Hax: Argh, terrible thing to do, but I'm going to have to stretch this to next week. Because I have a question for you: What happens to your feelings for these guys you single out as preferable to the others? Do you eventually lose your feelings for them, to the point where you wonder what you ever saw in them? Do you still harbor feelings for them, even when something else forces you apart--say, his ultimate choice to commit to someone else? If this has happened, is there any pattern?

What I'm driving at here is, how well can you trust your feelings for these guys you come to prefer?

Somebody, if I forget to bring this up again next week, remind me please.

Carolyn Hax: If you generally come around to wonder what you were thinking when you fell for someone, then that's an argument to resist the impulse to spend all your time with the one guy who pulls ahead of the pack early.

In fact, I'd take it another step, and suggest that, while the dating around idea might seem to be the right accommodation to your tendency to rush, you in fact need to accommodate even further and stop dating. Maybe not altogether forever after, but stop seeing it as a means to find a mate. Instead, concentrate on your life, your interests, your friendships, your goals. It'll not only strengthen who you are and so, by extension, your faith in your own judgment, but it will also put you in natural proximity with people who share your interests. As opposed to dating, which is highly unnatural proximity, which seems to be your (and maybe the original poster's) problem.


wedding, 20009: Hi! Please shine some of your wisdom this way.

My fiance, S, and I are getting married in September.

Last night, I learned that my sister's husband refuses to come to the wedding because our friend, A, will also be at the wedding. My sister and A dated casually for a few weeks several months before my sister and brother-in-law met. Brother-in-law (BIL) feels that, as my sister's husband, it is "disrespectful" for us to invite A. As a way to explain his absence at the wedding, BIL says he will be truthful -- he will tell our parents it's because my sister dated A. And he suggests the same explanation be given by my parents to their friends (sis and BIL recently eloped so my parents' friends haven't met him yet; 60% of my guest list are my parents' friends).

S and I adore A. We see him about once a week, and enjoy hanging out with him.

I am annoyed that BIL is making my sister feel bad about having slept with someone WHILE SHE WAS SINGLE. Also, I'm annoyed that my parents will have to explain to their friends why BIL is not at the wedding. Also, if I'm honest with myself, I'm also annoyed that S and I are paying for this wedding ourselves so that everyone can have a great time -- and, BIL's solution is to have, at least a part of the wedding be, "why isn't BIL here? your sister dated A?" Also, my parents will probably pressure me to disinvite A. Not cool.

I really don't want to cater to this close-to-40 y.o. man who, due to his age and life experiences, has the maturity to see the effects of his decision.

But maybe I'm not seeing his side fairly. Could you explain the situation to me so I can see an easy solution (that doesn't involve not inviting one of our good friends?).


Carolyn Hax: Easy solution: Invite A as planned, and let BIL carry on with his plan to make a complete ass of himself.

I'm sorry to say there will be some reflected stupidity in this for your sister. But she chose this guy, and the sooner she sees what he's costing her, the better.

Congratulations, and please don't let this micro-drama take on any more significance than it deserves.


New place...: Hi Carolyn,

I just moved to a new area and I finding it a little hard to deal with the isolation. I'm a pretty independent person, but moving to a place where I know nobody is harder than I expected. I'm sure with time I'll get to know people on at least a casual basis (I am, after all, stunningly cool), but any thoughts for how to cope in the meantime?

Carolyn Hax: Try two things that are likely to get pushed aside when your life starts to fill up with people: 1. Take meticulous care of yourself. Since this generally means exercise, fresh air and fresh, local food, the pursuit of good health will get you out and moving in your neighborhood on a daily or near-daily basis. 2. Be a tourist in your new place. There is always something for the local chamber of commerce to brag about. See it all, in outings spaced out over consecutive weekends. This too will give you, if not the close connections you crave, then at least some regular human interaction, which can do a decent job of mitigating isolation until you get to know people better.


Stop Dating, D.C.: So.... your advice to a single woman about to turn 30 is stop dating for a couple years because it's difficult? Sister, if you think dating in your late 20s is hard -- try it again in your mid 30s!

I basically took 3 years off when my engagement fell through, and while it was the right (only) thing for me, I would warn women that the chances of you meeting a man who's interested in spending his life with you decreases significantly as you approach 40.

Fair? No. Is this a without-exception rule? Of course not. But a real concern? Absolutely, and I would never advise someone to stop dating without seriously considering the realities of the situation.

Carolyn Hax: Not because it's "difficult"--because it's not working. When people have lost faith in their own judgment, what's the point of continuing to try try try to the point of desperation? It brings to mind Einstein's definition of madness: doing the same thing repeatedly, while expecting a different result.

Deciding not to date is not the same thing as deciding not to meet people. It's a decision to do something different amid abundant indications that it's time to do something different. It's concentrating on oneself when that self just seems a bit lost.


For "New place...": For the writer who just moved to a new place and feels isolated, point them to the Hax Files (I'll make the shameless plug for you). One of the first threads was " Shortcuts to Friendship," about how to make friends. This sounds like it would fit the bill for this LW.

Carolyn Hax: I;m all for shameless plugs (except when they involve hair). Thanks.


Colorado: While not exactly a Frankenfather, my daughter's dad can surely be described as "over-involved." He'll clean her room because he "can't stand to look at the mess another minute." My response? Close the door. He'll leave work hours early and drive half an hour to pick her up from school. My response? Here's bus fare. Have a great day!

When we were dating I had no idea he'd be this much of a micro-manager dad, judging from his relationship with his two older kids (good, btw). I suspect this is him trying to do it better the second time around. How do I mesh our differing parenting styles? I don't want to swing too far the other way, but I believe in teaching kids to take care of their own needs, so that when they're out in the world on their own they can actually do the job ON THEIR OWN.

Carolyn Hax: How old is she? (I.e., how long will this be your problem, and how much of a participant can she be in the solution?)


just married: I just got married about a month ago to the man of my dreams. My mom paid for the wedding and my dad was not willing to help. They divorced about six years ago and barely communicated. My dad remarried to the woman he had an affair with. After the ceremony, my dad and step mom got into an argument while the bridal party was taking photos. She was wagging her finger at him and he put his head in his hands. All I heard from her was, "do not do this to your daughter, it's her day."

After we got back from our honeymoon I sent them multiple emails and left messages telling them about our photos. I finally got a reply. I asked my Dad why they got in an argument and he said that he is not allowed to talk about it, she said it was not an argument but a 'conversation.'

Do I drop it? Or bring it up?

Carolyn Hax: What would you hope to accomplish by bringing it up?

It's answer a question with a question day.


Anonymous: Carolyn, I've been seeing a guy for about 2 months. Last week he went out of town to see family for the weekend and was supposed to come back Tues. That got pushed to Wednesday, which got pushed to today. In the meantime, I've had a pretty stressful week- a lot of anxiety, feeling overwhelmed- and I wished he had been here for me to lean on a bit. My friends have been great, but I'm having problems not being resentful. Logically, I know this is dumb; I would probably have extended my own family visit had I been able to. And it's not like he really knew I was stressed- I can't be mad at him for not being a mind reader.

Part of this is that it has felt like our whole relationship is about him- his social obligations, ending one job and finding a new one, finding him an apartment, helping him move, etc. And now when I wanted him to be there when I went through a rough time, he wasn't, but I don't think it was intentional. So now he's coming back tonight, and before I could say "Hey, I really would like some quality time with you to catch up and relax, cause I've had a rough week" he's planned for us to go see a play that some of his friends are in. I am really not excited, I'm drained, and I'm getting even more resentful b/c it feels like it's one more thing that's about -him- and what he wants to do instead of anything involving us. Argh. I know I'm being unreasonable, but I need some sense slapped into me.

Carolyn Hax: Since it's entirely possible he's being a jerk, and it's entirely possible you are, I'll stick to what I can identify as fact: "two months."

If we assume an expected lifespan of 78, that's 78 x 12 =936 months of life. Two months would then represent 2/936 = .002 or .2 percent of your life. I wouldn't call that a meaningful sample.

Take several consecutive deep breaths (careful you don't hyperventilate), tell him you need to skip the play because you're pooped (said without rancor, please) and see what the next .2 percent brings before you draw any major conclusions.


just married again...: When I asked my Dad about it he said that he could only discuss it with her there. I thought that was odd...I asked him to email me and he said that she does not discuss things of this matter via email and that if I cared to know the answer that I could come by their home.

I guess I am just curious and a bit irritated that they always cause problems and in return stress.

Carolyn Hax: But you are the one insisting they share the contents of a private argument with you. Why? That's what I'm trying to understand. What is the outcome you want?


Wife of not-quite Frankenfather: Our daughter is 15, so yeah, this has been going on for a while. Seems to be a bit worse lately, as said kid is pushing her boundaries (healthy) and in order to do so must push dad away (not healthy?). This only seems to make him try harder, despite his knowledge of the situation. I don't want the job of referee, since I actually WAS one (no kidding, tennis).

Carolyn Hax: Okay. Since you have three different voices here, all with a legitimate say in the proceedings, I would concentrate on who's voice takes precedence in each situation. For example, there will be times when your daughter clearly needs to be the one deciding what she wants. This will be when you intervene on your daughter's behalf. There will be times when the parents clearly need to set limits. These are the battles you choose to fight for your own beliefs.

And, there will be times when, even if you think NQFFather is wrong, the potential consequences are likely to be of little or no significance. This is when you choose to walk away.

If it gets to the point where there's more friction than family, it might be time for family counseling, but try this parental-authority triage plan first.


just married again and again...: I think they were arguing about me and I want to know if I did something to offend either of them. It seemed to me, considering they left before the cake was cut, that they were irritated enough to not hide it or stick it out for me.

Carolyn Hax: I do see why you asked now, thanks. I wouldn't have advised it, since digging into other people's stuff is no way to get back into their favor. But now that you've asked, and they've chosen not to answer, it's time to drop it.

I'm sorry they staged a drama in the middle of your wedding. Think for a moment, though--how many weddings have you been to without one? Self-consciousness runs high at these things; they're emotional milestones as well as family milestones. And so people who aren't quite where they thought they wanted to be in life often find these doubts right at the surface where before they'd been stuffed in a closet somewhere. And so it doesn't take much for at all to come spilling out. A drink too many, a perceived slight, an ill-chosen word, and, flooie.

If you'd like to find out if there's something you did to upset them, or can do to make it better, then, if we could rewind time, I would suggest you limit your lines of inquiry to these. Since we can't, then I'd just apologize for anything you might have done to offend them, and ask if they;d please let you know if there are any amends you can make. -Then- drop it.


Washington, D.C.: I wrote in to Carolyn a few years ago about being tired of trying so hard to date, etc. She advised me to stop doing it - stop pushing myself into unnatural situations, just relax and spend time doing things I like to do (i.e., spending time with already-established friends and with family). It didn't mean I had to close myself off to dating people, but that I gave myself permission to And I did. Ended up figuring out that one of my friends should be more than just a friend, and now am happily married with our first due in a few weeks. So she isn't saying not to date - just to give yourself permission to not HAVE to date.

Carolyn Hax: Wow. You choked me up. Congratulations!


Perspective for Just Married: Quick assessment based on minimal facts provided: Dad had an affair, divorced mom, married other woman. Refused to contribute to wedding expenses. During pictures, second wife says, "do not do this to your daughter, it's her day."

Hello?!?! Dad was going to cause a stink about placement in photos or placement in wedding in general and the wife stopped him. Does this new bride understand how wonderful this woman is?

Carolyn Hax: Or at least how misguided her campaign was to get involved after the fact. Thanks.


Miserable, Minn.: Hi Carolyn, I need help. I look for happiness outside myself instead of being happy with myself. I've struggled with depression in the past and it's much better now, but I can't seem to get past this part of it. When I'm happy with my boyfriend and happy with my job and family, I'm happy with myself. Lately I've been bickering with the bf and my job has become a nightmare, and I'm miserable. Why do these outside things have more control over my life than I do? I'm sure counseling wouldn't be a bad idea but isn't there anything I can do by myself to learn to deal with this problem? I do try, and sometimes succeed, to be positive but lately I just feel so defeated and rejected. I'm wary of counseling (tried it in the past) so I'm willing to try anything on my own, I just don't know what. Do you have any suggestions??

Carolyn Hax: A couple of things, in no particular order. -Most- people are miserable when they hate their jobs and they're bickering with their mates. In fact, that's not the only causal connection here--often they bicker with their mates because they're miserable at their jobs and they don't recognize how much they're bringing their crap home with them. Or, they're changing somehow--maturing beyond their old choices, for example, or feeling trapped and resentful in them while they watch everyone else outgrow them--and that's making both the relationship and job chafe in a way it never used to.

So please resist the urge to roll up a bunch of unrealistic expectations and beat yourself with them. Your past depression says you have a diagnosed glitch in the relationship among your actions, feelings and surroundings. Because of that, I would strongly recommend giving counseling another shot. I always advise choosing your provider carefully--getting names, checking reputation, interviewing in person--but in your case I would say be particularly firm in seeing only someone who puts you at ease.

If you're determined to try to get at this on your own first, then the exercise you might want to try at home is to figure out where the perception breakdown is at the moment. Are you misreading your circumstances as bad, when they actually aren't? Are you misreading your feelings as inaccurate, when you actually have cause to be feeling a bit down? Do you have genuine cause to be down, but is your distress just out of proportion to what's going on?

You're right that happiness has to be internal to some extent, to help you through uneven times. However, to expect to be chipper when everything around you is difficult is, I think, expecting too much of your psyche.


Reston, Va.: Okay, I'm happy for the mom-to-be that she found her guy and is now blissfully happy. Really I am. And I agree that forcing yourself to date, date, date isn't good. Taking a break can be great!

But... that post came a little too close to "he's right around the corner" or "you'll find someone when you least expect it."

Not everyone finds someone and that's okay too. I'm 35, my last date was before 9/11, am I always happy about this? No. Am I okay with the possibility that I'll be single my whole life? Yes, better than okay even.

What's my point? Just that taking a break from dating can be great, but it doesn't necessary lead to happily ever after.

Carolyn Hax: I share your objection to the, "Just stop looking and you'll find him!!!" advice, anecdotes and mind set. However, it would also be pretty strange not to post a testimonial just because it had a happy ending. It -can- cloud the point, sure, especially if you;ve been hit too hard and too often with the aforesaid advice (and haven't we all). But the point is still that forcing yourself out of a rut can help you see things you may otherwise never have noticed. For some people, that "other thing" happens to be a mate, but since the whole point is to break the fixation on mating, I think the more important goal, and happy outcome, is just to have a broader vision of life. And that brings rewards no matter what your romantic status.


Paramour is Wonderful?: Just because the other woman stopped a scene at a wedding makes her wonderful.

I can't believe I read that.

Carolyn Hax: Would you rather she embroider an A on her dress? Okay, so maybe one wonderful thing doesn't automatically make her wonderful. However, likewise, having done an un-wonderful thing doesn't automatically make her un-wonderful.

We know not a whit about who did what to whom, when, why, or how anyone felt about it. Judgments are therefore simplistic.


re: Miserable Minn: As someone who has depression and has been successfully treated for over 10 years, I'd like to mention that one challenge of this disease is learning the difference between "normal" bad feelings--that is, feeling sad or angry in proportion to circumstances--and bad feelings related to depression, which tend to be out proportion. If Miserable isn't there yet or isn't sure, then I second the "see your doctor" advice. Sometimes, especially early on, you just need someone to remind you that it's normal to feel bad when bad things are happening.

Carolyn Hax: Thanks, well said.


Positively Fourth Street: You're a Dylanhead?

Carolyn Hax: I'm not an Anybodyhead. I just like all kinds of music. Well, a lot of them.


22181 OP: Hi Carolyn, me again, original poster. On my end, the problem has been that I've been so NOT dating for 5 years, that I realized I just wasn't finding relationships... I would never get involved. So now that I'm consciously making the effort to go out to places where there are single people, and admit to myself that I'd really like to be involved with someone, I'm finding being part of a guy's casual dating harem far too painful. But I don't think I can willingly go back to being alone/not thinking along "dating" lines. When I do that, I hang out with my married friends, don't go out much on weekends, stay home and watch movies etc which I'm very happy doing but... not a good way to not sleep alone. :-/Someone needs to start a mail-order boyfriend service.

Carolyn Hax: Got it. Is there a third option here, that isn't home with movies and isn't out as member of casual harem? I'm not sure I have any fully formed thoughts on it myself--it's part we're-just-friends-until-the-harem's-down-to-one, part branching out into a group or interest that meets regularly, so you can also be encouraging new friendships and other connections instead of just new pairings-off.


The loving aunt: A few weeks back, I wrote you about my sister punishing me by withholding access to her kids (who I love as my own)? Hope you remember.

My niece is college age, and we have kept in touch by her cell phone and email. Here is my dilemma. As you recall, I have no relationship now with my sister.

The family is planning a trip to Costa Rica starting this weekend. My niece knows she can tell me "anything" because I will never tell her mother (because we are not speaking).

The kids (my nephew is 16) will have one room, the parents the other. My niece told me last night that she intends to sneak out in the middle of the night with her brother and go get drunk with him.

She says she can tell me because she knows I won't tell "mommy." Um... drunk in a foreign country with her underage brother?

Apparently her parents don't mind that she has been drinking at college (I am opposed to drinking at all), and according to my niece, my sister doesn't consider a person drunk unless they are vomiting. Be "altered" in behavior is not, to her, "drunk."

In any case, now that I know what she intends to do, I am like freaking out. Should I worry? If I tell my sister, my niece will never tell me anything again, and likely my sister will get mad at me (1) for telling, or (2) for not telling, if she finds out later that I knew.

I am in a bind. Is this very unsafe to do in Costa Rica? Advice? Hurry, they leave on Sunday...

Carolyn Hax: Too much information is a horrible thing, isn't it. I think your best bet is to call your niece and tell her you're worried sick. Remind her that any time she loses control of herself, she's essentially handing herself over to the mercies of whatever stranger happens by. This is true in college and at home, not just overseas (though it does take on superstupid proportions then).

This also isn't true just because you're opposed to drinking. It's true because it's true and it has nothing to do with personal preference. She's over 18, presumably, so she can make stupid decisions on her own behalf, but any stupid decisions she makes on her brother's behalf will have the power to haunt her.

This will, of course, make you sound like the noodgey, out-of-touch, Puritanical old person you'd least like to be, but sometimes you just have to be that person. Sometimes just so you can live with yourself.


Preggo Cravings: How do I get the orange from Cheetos off my fingers? I've washed my hands and my fingernails are still orange. I don't want the whole world to know I ate something incredibly unhealthy for my little one (but they were SOOOO good)!

Carolyn Hax: Smear some orange on your face and get back to work.

Tell me the Culture of Shame is cresting now, please.


22181 OP:"it's part we're-just-friends-until-the-harem's-down-to-one, part branching out into a group or interest that meets regularly" ... yes -definitely-.

I mean, that's the ideal right? I guess I felt like I was losing guy friends that I wanted to be more than friends with because I wasn't "taking it to the dating level" and they didn't know I was interested. I just can't figure out how to non-exclusively date someone and not end up sad and competitive with other women. Bleh. Thanks so much for hearing me out though... really. I'm sure the guy I'm currently torn up about will realize, as soon as I'm over it, that I'm wonderful. Haha... hmmm. -sigh-

Carolyn Hax: You know what? The guy might not pop onto your screen the moment you stop looking--I think we see that for the canard it is--but I do feel comfortable saying that the right guy will be the one who realizes what he has in you. And unless/until that happens, you've got your own life to pursue.



Rosslyn, Va. : I'll keep it short. I asked my girlfriend to marry me. She accepted and is proudly wearing the ring. Two days later, I freaked out and changed my mind but didn't say anything, thinking the feeling would pass. Two months later, I'm still freaked out and am thinking the only thing to do is to call it off. I know if I do that, I'll lose her. I also feel guilty for not having done it sooner. (She has spent weeks on wedding preparations.) Do it or don't do it, those are my only options. Right?

Carolyn Hax: Well, no, your only option is to be true to your feelings.

So, toward that end--do you have any idea what those feelings are? "I want out" isn't a feeling, it's a panic. Tell me what's underlying the panic.


Cheetos: Solution to the orange fingers...put them in a cup and pour them directly into your mouth!

Carolyn Hax: The fingers? Gross.


Last-minute wedding invites: Would you accept this note from the other side about those last-minute wedding invites? My boyfriend and I are getting married in a few weeks, and the invitation thing has caused ridiculous stress. Space and budget constraints, combined with family obligations ("We have to invite your cousins and their kids. Yes, all of them. Yes, even the ones who don't believe in birth control.") meant that we couldn't have all our friends there, no matter how much we wanted to. It can be so stupidly arbitrary to decide who is and who isn't -- you find yourself eliminating coworkers, or people who don't know both of you well, or people who don't know your families, or... whatever. Now that RSVPs are coming in, and some of the bajillion cousins have declined, it has been a serious delight to extend those last-minute invitations. So basically, though I can't speak for every engaged couple -- if you got a last-minute invitation from me, it's because I really wanted to party with you but my madly procreating family put a temporary damper on things.

Carolyn Hax: I got a few of these--that it's often when the obligatory guests say "no" that the desired guests make the list. Maybe that's enough for the guy to give himself permission to go and have fun. Thanks.


Loving Aunt again....: Sorry, Carolyn, I typed too fast to say everything I meant clearly.

The reason I said I don't believe in getting drunk was info to you, to distinguish my views from my sister's (her husband is a closet alcoholic, BTW). To my niece, I have always told her what you are saying here: that alcohol impairs judgment, giving her specific examples of how. So we have had that conversation, many times. From 1000 miles away over the phone, I can "see" the eyerolling.

If I call her too often she gets mad (inherited from her mom). But I will email her, and mention the consequences that could happen to her brother.

Can you give me more specific examples--such as jails or laws there? Or any other concrete example I have not covered (I usually stress the date rape aspect).

I adore this kid and would lie in front of the airplane's tires if need be.

BTW, at holidays, the father has pushed drinking on the little brother--which he seems to relent because he adores his father more than out of desire. I have nearly gotten in fistfights with my B-I-L From Hell over this.

Carolyn Hax: This is the thing I never like to pull out, like the Cheeto-orange shirt that signals it's time to do laundry.

Sometimes you have to accept that people are going to do whatever stupid things they set their minds to do. I would say in some cases you have an obligation (moral? legal?) to report the threatened behavior, but your niece isn't making death threats, and it sounds as if the parents are encouraging outings like this, not stopping them.

Meanwhile, you have apparently made it very clear to your niece that boozing is dangerous, and that you love her, and have a mother's impulse to protect her, including/especially from herself.

Now I'm afraid it's up to her. Tell her to have a great trip, and beg her not to do anything irreversibly stupid. Then, when she gets beck, ask her kindly not to give you such specific details of her party plans, because knowing too much means you don't get any sleep.


Md.: Rosslyn better do something NOW one way or the other, for the sanity of every woman in the area reading this who got engaged two months ago, or there are gonna be some FIGHTS tonight.

Carolyn Hax: (Sound of forehead-to-keyboard contact.)

If you have to ask, then you have a problem, whether it's your fiance who sent that in or not.


Rosslyn again--why the panic : There have been points throughout our relationship where I've looked at her and thought I couldn't love any other woman that way. There have also been points when I just didn't feel that zing. I chalked it up to the normal ups and downs of a relationship. I had felt that way consistently for a long time before I proposed. Now I have consistently felt the other way.

When I say it this way, it sounds like I'm indecisive/not mature enough to be marrying her anyway? I can't really explain it, there are just some days when she isn't everything I want and I can't in good conscience imagine committing the rest of my life to her.

Carolyn Hax: Good start. A couple of specifics would help (and I promise I'm not doing this for identification purposes, especially since you're going to talk to her very soon yourself, I imagine): How long had you known her when you the zing moments stopped coming? Was anything else going on at the time?

And, how would you describe the "everything" that you want? Is it a list, or a feeling, like butterflies?

Possibly most important: Why do you feel you can't be yourself with her?


In the Lab Waiting for Something to Happen: How long should you wait for chemistry to occur with someone?

I've been casually dating a guy for about two months. I see him about once a week, once every other week. He's sweet, polite, funny and we get along marvelously.

But I can't bring myself to kiss him. I don't think I find him physically attractive.

I've read articles lately saying that women should just settle on a good guy rather than someone who gives us "butterflies" and "sparks". With the divorce rate as high as it is, I understand this theory. This guy hits the nail on the head in almost every other area. What should I do? Settle for a less sparky relationship or pass a good guy by in hopes of a total package in the future?

Carolyn Hax: You'll have to work on the phrasing yourself, but if you could find some way to keep the friendship and make it clear that's the only place you see it heading, then you're in a good place: up one friend, down one nagging source of pressure. In the context of friendship, you can enjoy the "get along marvelously" part--it's not something you run across every day, so why should you have to chuck it just because you like him best with his clothes on?--and if something else comes of it, well then, so be it.

Which is what I hope those articles were trying to say. Talk of "settling" that involves a pretense of romance make me foam at the mouth.


Specific examples?: Jeez, does Carolyn have to do your Googling for you? Look up "Costa Rica, laws drinking underage State Dept."

Carolyn Hax: Snort.


Clarendon, Va.: But how do you know that Rosslyn asked two months ago? Maybe it was six, but he's throwing the real fiancee off the track???

Or maybe he really lives in Ballston, not Rosslyn???

Or maybe "he" is really a "she", and "she" is a "he" OR a "she"???

Carolyn Hax: Trippy.


Palo Alto: I have been recently diagnosed with depression. I have been placed on medication and am seeing a therapist. (I am slowly starting to feel better ...) My question is, my wife is obviously very concerned (and supportive) but after my therapy she wants to know how it went. I don't want to hide anything from her, and I know if I delay the discussion I will lose some of the details, but it feels like I have two long draining experiences one after another.

Two questions - I want to share all the details with her, is there a better way to do it?

Should I be drained after a session?


Carolyn Hax: Yes, it's actually a good sign that you're drained. You're working hard. An emotional workout does feel like a physical one.

So, please just explain this to your wife when you're neither on your way to or coming home from a session. Let her know you do want to include her in the process, but it might take some time and collective patience for you to figure out the best way to do that.


Rosslyn pt. 3 : We've known each other for about 5 years (met at the start of grad school). I had a big, unrequited crush on her at one point, it died away, it flared back up when she started liking me back.

The "everything" I want is kind of inexplicable, but the most uncomfortable issue for me is that she is anti-procreation. A major reason I waited as long as I did to propose was that I wanted to make sure I could envision a family that consisted of just me and her forever.

I know it sounds wrong, but if she's going to be the mother of my children, I can live with less than a constant zing. If we're going to be each other's sole focus forever, I'd rather we knock each other's socks off.

Carolyn Hax: You didn't answer my specific Q--how many years had you known her when the zing died. It actually matters, I swears it.

As for the other stuff, it's starting to sound as if you imagined her to be something that she turned out not to be--those big crushes, they are mind-[benders]--but the reality took a long time in chipping away at the relationship that had formed in your mind. Close?

Finally--raising kids together is actually a fierce argument in -favor- of the zing. Especially when the kids are small and round-the-clock draining, you and your partner need every ounce of that zing to stay lovingly able to take turns getting up in the night, hearing each other out over differences, staying attracted when you haven't seen a shower since Tuesday.

If she's not it, she's not it. Here's a good reader suggestion for how to start:


For Rosslyn...: For what it's worth, I wouldn't start with "I'm freaked out... I want out".. I'd start with, "I'm confused, I want to figure this out..." or something like that ..she'll be super upset, yes, but if you really want to work this out and don't want to lose her, try approaching it as "I need your help with this" not "I need out of this" - unless, of course, you really do want out and you know it. If that is the case, definitely let her know now. Please.

Carolyn Hax: Thanks.


Wheaton, Md.: So. I loveeee reality TV shows. Boyfriend hates them. This is normal - but whenever I turn them on he just says "This is trash," gets mad, and goes into the other room.

Like I should feel GUILTY that I am watching something that, while not exactly educational, really helps me unwind at the end of a long day.

It's getting frustrating, and he's doing it with other things as well. Last night I dropped my clothes on the floor and got in bed, and he freaked out because I didn't put them away. I just wanted to go to bed. I'll take care of them in the morning. I feel like I'm being bickered at constantly.

Carolyn Hax:"You used to think our differences were cute"--I'm assuming here--"but lately they seem to be making you angry. [Examples of reality TV and clothing pile here.] Is there something you'd like to talk about?"


Rosslyn--oops : Zing revved up for the first few months after I met her, died about a year into our friendship. Developed again exactly six months later.

Carolyn Hax: And then died again ... when?

The suspense is just killing me.

If it was at two years, give or take, it's not a-comin' back. I actually have a real problem with actual numbers when it comes to relationships. Number of dates before you should feel attracted! Number of days between calls! Number of people you should date before committing! Age you should be before you marry! Number of years before you should know whether this is someone you should marry! They're all crap, every one of them.

However, I've seen over the years an eerie reliability to the number of years it takes for the last of the newness to go. Two years. And if the zing is gone then, then your zing was based in newness, and it's not coming back.

Given my distaste for numbers, I urge everyone to be skeptical of this one, too, even though I'm talking it up. But put that skepticism to work, too, and ask around, examine your own life, put it to the test.


To Preggo Cravings: Just walk around with a takeout bag from a sushi restaurant. Everyone will be too focused on that to notice your fingers...

Carolyn Hax: You are evil. Love it.


"Everything" : Am I cynical, or is it a bit naive to expect someone to be "everything you want"? Not to be mean to Rosslyn, just truly wondering...

Carolyn Hax: Well, if your idea of "everything" is realistic, there's nothing wrong with it. "I want someone pleasant to talk to, who's nice to me, who's responsible and who wants to raise a family with me." If that's "everything" someone wants, that's hardly asking for the moon. Just an example, of course.


Anger/jealousy: Maybe it's obvious, but I've come to realize that I get angry/jealous/pissy with a significant other when I know the relationship is on the way out, (failing for whatever reason), and I just can't accept it, yet. I am never/rarely angry (or especially jealous!) when the relationship is strong. I'm noticing a jealous streak in my current relationship, so I know we need a tune-up conversation.

Not really a question, but it seems that some clarity could help people.

Carolyn Hax: I'm sure it does. People pick fights when they want someone else to do the heavy lifting of ending the relationship--or when they just want to pile up justification for doing it themselves, because "I just don't like you" seems so cruel and selfish.


Carolyn Hax: Speaking of cruel and selfish, time to let Elizabeth go. Thanks everybody, hope to see you here next week.


Two years: I'm curious what the answer is if the zing went away -after- two years? Can the loss of zing be chalked up to other factors (not loss of newness) that can be worked on?

Carolyn Hax: Other factors, maybe, some of which can be worked on, some can't. You can make each other a priority again, if you've merely drifted, but you can't make your bodies young again, if you've got, say, health issues. You can also grow to dislike each other at any point; as life offers new twists, you get to see how the other person handles those twists, and that can change your respect for someone dramatically--up or down. We could go on all day with this.


Re: Rosslyn: Sounds to me like the real issue for Rosslyn is that his bride-to-be doesn't want kids, and he does. Now that he's talked himself into a future without kids, he's essentially expecting her to make up to him (via way of the unexplainable "zing") the sacrifice he believes he made in giving up his dream of children in order to marry her. It's not fair to hold her to a higher standard than she'd be held if she wanted to bear his children. My sense is that unless he can somehow stop seeing her desire not to have children as a flaw in her character that needs to be made up in other areas of her life, this will not be a long-lasting marriage. He'll end up with someone who wants kids, and she'll end up with someone who doesn't.

Carolyn Hax: Rosslyn, will you come back next week? We're all caught up in this now. (And of course we're your topsiest priority ...)


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