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Carolyn Hax Live: Is It Just a Rough Patch? plus Disaster Girl, Nervous Boyfriend and Dating a Political Opposite

 Carolyn and her mother, Liz Hax (family photo)
Carolyn and her mother, Liz Hax (family photo)
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Carolyn Hax
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 5, 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, September 5 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 tellme@washpost.com.

Carolyn is raising money to treat and defeat ALS, the disease that took her mother's life. If you'd like to make a contribution to the ALS Association, click here. Or, spend time with Carolyn and your fellow peanuts at the Walk to D'Feet ALS in Washington on Sunday, October 12. Click here to join the Hax Pack.

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

Carolyn's Recent Columns

Carolyn Hax Live Archives

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Carolyn Hax: Hi everybody. I'd like to start by sending out a huge wave of gratitude to everyone who pitched in to the ALS cause last week. In one weekend, you brought us almost a fifth of the way to our goal--and that was a holiday weekend.

So, let's see what we can accomplish this weekend with more of the usual crowd in attendance. I've had Elizabeth post a photo of me with my mom, so you can get a more immediate idea why I'm doing this. Anything you can do would be appreciated.

If my mommy isn't a cause that moves you, I understand--and offer another thought. People who have served in the military are at nearly a 60 percent greater risk of developing ALS (a k a Lou Gehrig's Disease). It is always fatal, there is no cure. Researchers are on it but they still haven't been able to figure out why people get this, and why veterans in particular are vulnerable.

Thanks again for last week's rally, and thanks in advance to anyone who's like to join in.

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washingtonpost.com: A programming note - next week is Wedding Week 2008 here at washingtonpost.com -- including daily live chats, with something for everybody, whether you're planning a wedding or never want to hear the Wedding March again. Check it out. - Elizabeth

Carolyn Hax: Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

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DC: I BLEW it. I finally got together with a boy I've liked for many months, my recognition of this fact being a trigger to having recently broken up with my boyfriend of a year and a half. I was positively gleeful about it working out with new boy, and have had nonstop butterflies for the two weeks he has been away since then. HOWEVER. Last weekend I was at a party at this new boy's house, thrown by some of his roommates. And fueled by too much to drink and a sort of reckless post-relationship abandon, I EVER so unwisely made out with one of the roommates. Woke up horrified with what I had done -- the fact that the 2 live in the same house is the killer. Is the thing with new boy who I still really really like now hopeless? What is the best route to damage control??

Carolyn Hax: Classic. I don't think anything but straight-up reality will be credible at this point. If you really do like this guy, and you're not just (ahem) in hurry-line-up-the-next-guy mode, then I would tell him the truth: that, drunken idiocy notwithstanding, you really do like him, but obviously are in no state of life to be seeing anyone at the moment.

That is, if you feel you have to say something. Depending on how involved you and he were, skulking off into the sunset might also a viable option.

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Seattle, WA: This is so awkward. The guy I'm dating came over, used my bathroom and saw something really embarrassing that belonged to me. I lied and said it was my roommate's. If things keep progressing between us, he will eventually learn that I lied. Should I just come clean?

Carolyn Hax: Unless it's so exotically embarrassing that you're the only one in Seattle who uses it--unless it's your signature feminine/masculine hygiene/amusement product--I think you're safe calling it by its name here.

Pending such notification, I'll try to answer, but regard it as only a general guess: Tell him now that you panicked and covered. If he's good people, he might pee himself laughing, and you'll be more or less even.

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Kudos to Nick!: I've noticed that his artwork has really been maturing over the last couple/few years. Not that it was lacking anything before; it just looks as though it's getting more and more sophisticated as time goes by. Very nice!

Carolyn Hax: Thanks! He'll be so happy you noticed. Those cartoons are a labor of love for him.

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Re: Reckless post-relationship abandon: The unusually articulate nature of this question, coupled with calling men "boys," is an interesting combination. The writer may want to wait until she's a woman wanting to date men before attempting to sort out who's who while she's under the influence.

Carolyn Hax: It's always a close call to read into a single word choice. But there's another, similarly interesting juxtaposition: "sorting out" and "under the influence." Would be interesting to see whether future vocabulary changes track with the waning of the urge to get smashed.

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Minneapolis, Minnesnowduh: Carolyn,

Hello. Been a fan for years and I am so glad that I can for the first time watch a live discussion. Here's the story, ended a 14 month toxic, long distance relationship. I am over it. About a month ago, I met a man that is just very interesting to me. His attitude is quite refreshing to me. I told him that we can't date since he is starting school, is a father to three kids and financially in trouble (no job for now and about to lose everything). I have been very supportive of him and have helped in ways that are possible. I want him to succeed and I told him he does not need a woman hanging on his neck when he already has his hands full. I am so scared to fall for him. It does not help that we talk all the time and spend time together. People have told me to just "live in the moment." Am I overly cautious or should I run for the hills?

Always Confused

Carolyn Hax: Thank you, and welcome. Now you get to see how long I take to write these answers.

Did your toxic former relationship have a rescue element, where you felt good about helping? If there was anything even close to that going on, I would suggest you extract yourself from this tempting new pile of quicksand--and make a note of your self-defeating attraction to unstable surfaces.

You say you're "always confused"--does that mean you have a series of bad choices? And if so, is there a pattern? People may all be different, but that's often in the details. Generally, we all need food and shelter, and we all seek emotional sustenance. If you're continually going after something that's emotionally bad for you, then it's not going to get better unless you recognize that, figure out why you do it, and learn some new ways to work around it.

I don't mean to get ahead of myself, just trying to give you an idea where this might be going.

If the new guy isn't part of a discernible pattern, I'd still be careful--since it's still possible you're trying to boost some flagging, post-bad-breakup self-esteem by playing superhero. Unfortunately, that usually brings a temporary boost, followed by long-term depletion. I'm not saying you necessarily need to run, but you do need to give him room to find his own feet. Rescuing him isn't even a good thing for him.

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Seattle again: Herpes stuff--oral medication and a topical cream.

Carolyn Hax: Oh, yeah, definitely you have to tell him now. That's not the kind of embarrassing I was thinking, at all (obviously). But it does explain the part I forgot to ask you, which is why he felt it was okay to inquire about embarrassing things in your bathroom.

If you wait, he will eventually have to know (or he should have known by now, if you're already sleeping together), and then you'll have to contend with a charge that you not only lied, but you took his health lightly. I know it's not much of a consolation, but at least this gives you the words to start the awful conversation.

I'll also say it here for anyone who finds him- or herself at the other end of this particular revelation from someone who hasn't had sex with you yet but would apparently like to: While you're certainly entitled to make your own decisions about your health, it's also important to keep things in perspective. Being with the right person is a life-changer, while herpes is largely regarded as a nuisance. This has been a public service announcement.

Oh, and for anyone who relies on rumor and/or reputation to educate them on sexual health--the Denial Corps, you know who you are--please go to http://www.ashastd.org/and have a good long read. Thanks.

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Re: The writer may want to wait until she's a woman wanting to date men before attempting to sort out who's who while she's under the influence.: Hello, disaster "girl" here. I must say that mistakes like the disappointing one I committed last weekend are precisely the ones I need to make in the process of becoming that "woman" who is ready for a relationship with a "man." Waiting would perhaps be less painful, but ultimately useless...

Carolyn Hax: Hm. I'm not so sure about that. I do agree with the premise that it's hard to learn from mistakes if you don't make any, however, that's not the same thing as license to go make mistakes. Certainly you can back off the idea of having a boyfriend right now, without setting your education back. You're not dropping out of school.

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Vocabulary?: I'm a woman in my 30s. I would never have written "I'm a girl in my 30s." In the workplace, I work with men and women. But on Friday night, I'm going out for dinner with the girls, or some girlfriends. And if I meet a man, I'd tell my friends "I met a boy" (meaning a man my age) or "I met a guy." I don't think I'd say "I met a man." But I'd ask my friends, "What are you looking for a in a man, or a relationship?," not "What are you looking for in a boy?," which just sounds icky. What does this mean? Or am I just overthinking this?

Carolyn Hax: No, I think you're illustrating persuasively why context is so important in language. (And why sometimes it's appropriate, and sometime it's silly, to extract an entire character study from one choice of one word.)

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Decatur, GA: My significant other and I come from pretty different backgrounds and have very different political beliefs. It is almost funny how different we are (opposites attract) but this political season has been very hard on us. I probably take politics more personally than I should, and he loves sparring intellectually (which to me seems more like bombarding me with talking points) so it feels terrible. In general, we communicate very well and are respectful and loving toward one another, but sometimes I really worry that our underlying values and worldviews may be incompatible. Your thoughts?

Carolyn Hax: I hesitate to make too much of something that's cyclical and may well be temporary (we do seem to be at a foaming-at-the-mouth point politically). At the same time, I hesitate to encourage glossing over something that could be exposing you two as incompatible.

It might not be the word views that are the problem--it might be that you have different ways of enjoying an intellectual challenge. If you prefer to talk in a non-confrontational way, and he likes to spar, that could come back in a lot of ways that have nothing to do with politics. That's where I'd concentrate your attention right now, on figuring out whether you're good long-term companions for each other in general, and not just on this specific issue.

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Germantown, Md: I have met a man who adores the ground I walk on. He is well read, rich and a truly human being.. I like him a lot but he is not good looking.. In the bigger picture how much do looks matter?

Carolyn Hax: If you get to know and love him and a physical attraction follows, one that casts his appearance in a new and flattering light, then looks don't matter because the beholder can very well change.

If you get to know him and no attraction develops, then you'll find that looks, as an insurmountable hurdle, matter very much.

But, hey, at least he's rich!

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Not Sure: Carolyn, please help me out. I'm in a place where I'm trying to find out the difference between a rough patch and it being the end. So many people go through rough patches but make it out. Then again, so many people just stick around and remain miserable for the rest of their lives, believing it is just a rough patch. How can I really know the difference and not feel that I'm wasting time or trying hard to work through things in vain?

Carolyn Hax: What are you trying to work through, and what are each of you doing toward making things work?

These are the details that distinguish coming through a rough patch better than you were before, and just filling your pack with rocks and walking uphill for the rest of your life. Barefoot.

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To disaster girl: (by the way, that would be a great Super Power Persona. Life going well right now? Never fear! Disaster Girl is here!)

You can also learn from other people's mistakes. The lesson may have to be more general, but it's still applicable.

Carolyn Hax: Yeah, but where's the fun in that.

I am either going to be Disaster Girl for Halloween, or that's what I'm naming my band.

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Washington, DC: Hi Carolyn -

I turned 30 this month, and, though I've technically been an "adult" since age 18, I'm having trouble adjusting to this very palpable sense that I now really have to really be an adult - i.e., be financially responsible and not run to my parents (via phone) every time something goes wrong.

I am happily married, but my husband has a very stressful job, and sometimes it's incredibly trying to help him sort it out. Add onto that my increasing feelings of homesickness - how do I deal with all of this? More and more I'm bringing up the idea that we move closer to my family, and my husband sees it as a crutch so that I don't have to deal with being an adult. I see his point, but I also have realized that although I thought I was a city-girl, I think I'm more of a small-town girl after all, and also that my family is one of the most important elements of my life, so why am I living thousands of miles away from them?

Every time I bring this up with my husband, he either shuts down or says that, although he would -hate- living anywhere that I've been suggesting, he would do it because he loves me. In this whole morass of figuring out how to be an adult, how do I grow up yet still work towards a happiness that I thought I had relinquished?

Carolyn Hax: Being an adult doesn't mean you force yourself to walk through this cold cruel world all alone. Certainly it involves accepting that you are ultimately responsible for your own decisions and your own well-being--but why can't one of your grown-up decisions be to live your live in proximity to people who make a difficult day just that much more pleasant to live through?

(I just typo-ed that as "to love through." awww)

I actually had reservations about getting "involved" here and answering your question, because it does seem possible that both sides have a good point. Your side: You're lonely. Hard to argue with that, especially if your husband himself would agree he that has a stressful job (i.e., is not as "available" as a less strenuously employed spouse would be) and that he leans on you to help support him in his work. If so, the least he could do is make his support system happier while he's at work all day.

His side: Your heart is still with your family, which has kept you from committing fully to your marriage. I think that's a common enough problem for most of us have witnessed firsthand, so it, like your loneliness, can't be dismissed. And if you are over-invested in your family, then the least you could do is make a conscious effort to invest yourself in your married life.

Which brings us to the problem that has to be reckoned with before you can deal effectively with anything else: the gap between your and your husband's perception of your lives together. It may be that neither of you will come around to the other's viewpoint, but it also may be that each of your -willingness- to see things the other person's way will tell you all you need to know.

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Not Sure : We definitely argue and I don't think fight fair. Some times are really great and we talk about the future and plan how to get there. However, other times there are fights and he seems patently incapable from seeing things from another perspective. He has told me I'm defensive/stubborn and that it is frustrating to him. I've worked on dropping arguments and objections and on admitting I'm wrong. I don't seem to see similar growth on the other side. My request is to disagree without being disrespectful and to realize that if someone has a different outlook from you, it doesn't mean it is automatically bad. I see stories of drug addicts/abusers/cheaters who work through it and come out stronger and just consider it a rough patch when those seem reasons to me to leave. Thanks.

Carolyn Hax: Looking to addicts/abusers/cheaters for examples of how to fix your relationship is like asking oranges how to be apples.

Generally when people are reaching far and wide for answers, it means the answers are right in front of them and they just don't like them.

If you're not happy with the way things are, and you don't see anything changing, then it's time to pull the plug.

If you're not ready to pull the plug, then get back to changing the one thing you can change: You. You say you've already tried to be more open-minded, which is never a wasted effort, even if the relationship doesn't make it. Now--and, again, this is only if you don't think leaving is the right thing--the next thing to change is your expectations of him. Accept that he will always be "patently incapable of seeing things from another perspective," accept that he will always argue the way he argues now. Spend some time figuring out whether you can live with that.

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State of confusion: Carolyn,

I'm 31. Last weekend, my parents told me that my dad is not my biological father; he's infertile, and I was conceived via artificial insemination. This is blowing my mind. Do you happen to know of any resources for someone in my situation? I've tried google with little success. It's the kind of thing that doesn't matter and matters hugely at the same time. Thanks.

Carolyn Hax: I've heard good things about RESOLVE (www.resolve.org) from people dealing with infertility, and it does address the issue of talking to children who were conceived through alternate means. The site includes listings for local help lines; that might be a good starting place for locating resources for kids in your position.

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Alexandria, VA: So I finally dumped an abusive mother and several other family members from my life. After years of verbal and emotional abuse it just clicked and I said enough. So now what? I have a wonderful husband and one or two close friends. I've come to realize that many of my friendships never worked because I chose the wrong people, probably because of my family experience. Do I start slowly building a new foundation of friends or do I maybe take a break and just "be" for a while?

Carolyn Hax: I would say neither one, because both involve a decision--"I will try to make friends," or, "I will not try to make friends." I think the healthiest post-epiphany mind-set is to go about your business and see how you feel.

That in itself feels really good, I imagine. Just the state of not being beholden to anyone.

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"He is well read, rich and a truly human being.. ": A truly human being?

I'm hoping she forgot to type a word in there, but given the focus on money, I'm not so sure.

Carolyn Hax: If one has had too many encounters with, say, truly reptilian beings, then it makes perfect sense the way it is.

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Beantown:5 year wedding anniversary is coming up quick. Under normal circumstances, I'd do something great for us in celebration. but 3 months ago we had a "rough patch". The crux of it was that wife wasn't forthcoming on some stuff, and was caught in a lie on top of it. We've talked it to death, and I'm better about it, but not great. I'm trying to be my old self, the happy, confident, loving romantic husband. and yet, I'm not over this situation yet.

I don't know how to resolve this without ruining what should be a great time. I've told her maybe she should do the planning on this one. But even that doesn't solve anything.

Carolyn Hax: What would you need--be specific--to be over this situation? This is really, really important. You're holding out for something before you'll declare your marriage back "on," and in the interest of not torturing either of you, you need to know that that something is.

Fifth anniversary issue is just the flare. Well-timed, too, it seems.

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nervous, guy: Carolyn

I am dating a wonderful, hilarious, great guy. We have a lot of fun together. He, however, gets nervous when things get physical, and it is becoming a problem. I have tried being patient, I have tried asking how I can make him more comfortable, and he always just says it will get better with time... but it hasn't. This is by no means my first physical relationship, but it is the first time I've been with someone who is so nervous. Everything else is great, and I'm willing to wait it out, but I don't know what I can do to help or make things easier? I am not aggressive with him, and we are taking things VERY slowly...

Carolyn Hax:"I am willing to wait, but it's important for me to know why I am waiting." You and he may or may not be able to overcome a sexual problem, but you definitely can't get over an unwilling-to-tell-an-uncomfortable-truth problem--especially not if it's paired with a sexual problem. Say it kindly, but you do need to say it.

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New York, NY: Hi Carolyn, Really love your chats/columns; they're the best! I've got a question about my family. My dad got sick about a year ago with an illness that may be treatable but probably chronic that requires that he have full-time care. My mother is basically in charge of his care, which I think she's handling well, all things considered. They all live about a 15-hr drive away. My problem is this: my mother and I have always had a very fraught relationship. She's a very lonely, needy person, and so if she, say, asks to come visit me and I say it's not a good time, I often get a long teary rant about how she never goes anywhere and if she doesn't come see me she will be so unhappy, etc. Before my dad got sick I was doing pretty well, I thought, with managing her manipulations. I realized that even if I did everything she asked, I wouldn't be able to fix what was making her so unhappy. I was working on setting my boundaries at a place that felt pretty comfortable and was getting better at saying no. I even thought she was learning that she couldn't control me forever. But then my dad got sick, and her demands ramped up, and now I feel really guilty all the time and like it would be cruel of me to tell her no when she asks (demands) me to do something that's tough for me. It doesn't help that my sister's in the same city as my family, so I'm basically the "unhelpful sibling" (my words, not theirs explicitly). What's more, my father and I have never been close, so I can't focus on filial affection to ease my resentment. Any thoughts about how to maintain boundaries with my mom in such changed circumstances? I don't want our relationship to get even tougher because I'm angry at her. If it helps, I'm in my mid-twenties, in graduate school.

Carolyn Hax: This is just one small tactic, but it might help alleviate the extra strain: Every time you have to say no to your mom, immediately offer a "yes" to something else. For example, "Sure, you can come visit--this isn't a good time, but the second or third weekend of October would work." That way you can continue to enforce your boundaries while avoiding the triggers for her needy behavior. If you get into a situation where you don't have a "yes," at your fingertips, don't say no--say, "Let me check a few things and get back to you." Then line up your yes and your no, and call back.

Sounds exhausting, doesn't it? But probably better than being the target of teary rants.

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me again, with the nervous guy: So do I say it while things are happening? That seems kind of like a sucker punch to him, no? I am not too uncomfortable asking the uncomfortable question, just don't want to push him even further into nervous land...

Carolyn Hax: No, I would pick a non-sexual moment to talk about it.

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Beantown: Me again.

I guess the trust has to be back again. And that doesn't happen overnight. And through the daily work/parenting/routines, it doesn't come to the front of the line in terms of issues du jour.

Then, an anniversary shows up, and I'm reminded of the issue.

Carolyn Hax: Makes sense. What will it take for you to trust her again--three more months of her not getting caught in any more lies? Six? A year?

In other words, do you believe her explanation/rationale/apology, and is that enough for you to feel comfortable that she is truthful, or is there some area on which you find her less than persuasive?

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What would your response be: to a friend who says "how do you think it makes me feel when you're telling me about this when I have no prospects of getting pregnant anytime soon?" after you've just told her you're really worried you might have trouble conceiving. You're both in your thirties. Friend is single and not in a serious relationship. You're married. You've known this friend for 15+ years.

Carolyn Hax: You ask, "I didn't realize this was a sensitive subject for you. Would you like to talk about it?"

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Boston, MA: Is the picture of you and your Mom (great pic!) in Cape Cod?

I'd recognize that wood and dark red trim anywhere.

Carolyn Hax: Good eye. East Orleans.

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St. Paul, MN: Hi Carolyn,

I'm headed to a friend's wedding later this month and have had to shell out a ton of money to go - airfare, hotel, rental car, the works.

The groom has been my friend for almost 10 years, so I'm looking forward to sharing his big day, but unfortunately he's clueless enough that he might seat me with my obsessed ex-roommate at the reception. He knows I'm not totally comfortable around her but he doesn't know all the reasons why, which are many and really creepy. I'd rather not be made to play nice with her AGAIN when I've paid sooo much money to be there.

Should I just come out and ask him, just in case he was thinking about it, to seat me somewhere else? Or is that too much to ask of an already busy groom? I suppose I could just hang out at the cash bar, anyway...

Carolyn Hax: Normally I'd say not to bother the couple, but I think creepiness warrants an exception--especially since the wedding isn't tomorrow or anything. Just be prepared for your request to get lost in the shuffle.

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DC: As my dad aged, I had to figure out how to deal with him - we hadn't had a great relationship, I'd had to deal with it therapy, etc. So, my sympathy is with the poster with the teary mom.

But one thing popped out at me - the people actually there on the ground have a terrible row to hoe, regardless of whether they get along with your parents. Really. It can be awful. My family had 3 siblings in town and two of us away. I always figured listening to rants on the phone was my contribution - at least I didn't have to run over for every real or perceived emergency, like my sister did.

Carolyn Hax: Good point, thanks.

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Me with the nervous guy, last time: Thanks. I'll give your advice a try. I feel like a b--ch for complaining about this when I should be thanking my lucky stars for finding such a great guy, but it has been nagging at me for months now.

Have a nice weekend.

Carolyn Hax: No, establishing intimacy (of the sharing-your-feelings kind) is not bchy. It is a simple statement that you want to live your life in the open, and an invitation for him to join you there. He can choose whether to accept or decline, and then you can decide what you need to do from there.

Meanwhile, have a look at this:

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Good luck with the nervous guy: I married the nervous guy. No matter when or how I bring up the subject, he freaks out. It's to the point that if I even breathe a word on the topic of sex, he sighs and says "We were having such a nice evening."

We've had sex four times in a year and a half, and I initiated three of those times. The fourth happened the day after I told him, gently, that his lack of desire for me made me feel ugly and alone.

Just saying, with some people there is no way to bring it up.

Carolyn Hax:... which is a truth about someone best discovered sooner rather than later. Thanks.

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Houston, Texas: re: New York, New York w/caretaker manipulative mom.

also start researching assistance where your parents live. See what their insurance will cover and what services they may qualify for in the way of occasional or not so occasional at home care as a way to ease your mother's burden. This can give her the chance to get out of the house and socialize. Impress the importance of your mother making friends so you aren't her only social contact/outlet.

also look into the gift a maid service or a catering service to help your mom with everyday housework and meals.

you get to keep your boundaries and still help her. win-win

Carolyn Hax: Nice, thanks. Often a specific illness will have an advocacy group dedicated to it--such as, ahem, the ALS Association, which offers support groups for patients and also for just their caregivers; information on local resources, like clinics; access to free or low-cost medical devices that these particular patients need; and in many cases respite care so a caregiver can get a break. many of these things are offered at no cost, so insurance isn't even an issue.

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Re: St. Paul : Cash bar? CASH BAR!!!??? That's reason enough right there to skip this wedding. Jeez, people, come on -- don't you realize that weddings are almost always boring and we NEED to get tanked simply to endure them?

washingtonpost.com: Don't forget Wedding Week 2008 is coming up - plenty of opportunities to chat about weddings!

Carolyn Hax: I can't BELIEVE I read right past that. Forget getting tanked. YOU CAN'T CHARGE YOUR GUESTS FOR YOUR HOSPITALITY. Yeargh. If you can't afford it, downsize somewhere else.

This has been another PSA.

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Re: State of Confusion: I went through the same thing at 24 - finding out that I was the result of artificial insemination. On one level it feels like a tremendous betrayal of truth by your parents, and I was particularly put out that my father seemed to think it would make me feel different about him - it made me wonder whether he felt like I was less of a daughter to him because of it.

I'm 32 now, and it's become a non-issue. My dad is my dad - his desire that the truth be hidden intensified over the years because he was terrified of losing me to it. He's also an emotional doofus, so go figure. He was a great dad, and I remain very close to him.

It would be very difficult to trace my biological father even if I had the desire. Knowing about him though has answered many questions I've had about my life and who I am. A lot of stuff gets chalked up to my "Dixie cup dad" as I like to call him (like where the heck my rather bodacious caboose came from). I like not knowing what half my ethnic heritage is - it's strangely freeing. The only time it bothers me is when I wonder about what my health risks might be - diabetes, heart disease, cancer etc.

But what I do know is that I was a very wanted and loved child.

It's now just something that I keep under the list of "Fun Facts" about myself - it didn't change anything about my life or who my family is.

Don't worry: You will get through this, and it will be just a weird story to tell your friends after your brain adjusts to it. Your parents waited too long to tell you, but people are flawed and they were in an unusual situation. 31 years ago, sperm donors were a strange concept.

Carolyn Hax: I love this. Thank you.

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Carolyn Hax: Sorry, guys, I just started and answer to a question that I then decided would be better for the Hax-Philes. Chapel Hill, look for your question there, if not today then Monday. I think the many different viewpoints will be more helpful than just my one, particularly from adults who were in your daughter's position back when.

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ALS Walk: If we'd like to donate our money to the Hax Pack can we do that or is it only to the walk itself?

Carolyn Hax: Donations are what really get things done, actually. The walk is just to say, "Yay, we raised a bunch of money"--and to show anyone who might be in a position to make decisions (on Cap Hill, for example) that there is a constituency here.

Thank you so much for your interest.

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re: AI Children: Thanks for posting the comments from the grown children of AI. We are a lesbian couple deciding to use donor sperm to start our family. We struggle with the fact that our children will never know half of their biology. Our children will obviously know that we are not both their biological parents, but still, I can't tell you how comforting it was to hear from the well-adjusted child of AI.

By the way, the Donor Conception Network (dcnetwork.org) has been a great resource for us and may be helpful to poster who just recently discovered this about herself.

Carolyn Hax: Thanks, I'll put it out there.

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trouble with parents: What is the issue that people have with their parents they consider them toxic? I think sometimes it is people's perception. My 20 year son won't talk to me and I think it is because other people have put ideas into his head. I bent over backwards to do right for my kids growing up; losing my marriage along standing ground to protect the kids. At least I wish my son would talk to me about what he is angry about with me or why he may view me as toxic.

Carolyn Hax: This is a great question, thank you, because I am inundated (as in, more-of-these-than-wedding-questions inundated) with questions about family estrangement. I'm not saying that it isn't necessary sometimes. However, people who choose to stop interacting with their parents or children, or who remain present but yield nothing in the way of information or affection, really need to state their case clearly for doing such a thing.

And, in return, people who are on the receiving end of such a declaration need to -listen- to it.

Unfortunately--on to the answer to your question--toxicity is most often defined as someone who is abusive (usually emotionally or verbally, because physically is so black-and-white), or needy, or controlling, and who fails either to acknowledge this behavior or make an effort to remedy it.

So, it's almost a setup for the estranger to say, "I told you exactly why I withdrew but you never listened," and the estrangee to say, "S/he refuses to speak to me and I have no idea why."

It's extraordinarily difficult for anyone on the outside to tell who's inflicting the egregious wrong upon whom.

It's also achingly sad.

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Carolyn Hax: Some interesting takes, before I go, on the nervous-about-sex guy:

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A "Nervous" Guy: Speaking as guy with, ahem, similar issues, and who has seen this come up before on various forums: you have taken the right approach and it hasn't gotten you anywhere. If it's not just a one-time or physical problem (doesn't sound like it) it is unlikely to get better on any kind of timescale that won't drive you insane waiting. And that is doubly so if he won't even discuss exactly what the problem is. Has he had any other partners?

If you can manage, I wouldn't hold it against him too much, he is probably incredibly frustrated at the situation. And there is a pretty good chance he had some fairly traumatic events in his past. But it would probably be best to let this one go for now and check in again a few years down the line.

Carolyn Hax: That is, -if- he won't discuss exactly what the prob is. I think it's important for a partner to at least try before bailing. Tx.

More:

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I was engaged to the nervous guy: Until I talked to him about it a time when we were both fully clothed. Talking about it was as much a relief to him as it was to me, and now he's so not-nervous.

Carolyn Hax: Thanks. And:

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Re the Nervous Guy: He's probably dating someone else and sees you when she's busy. It's happened to me.

Carolyn Hax: And:

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for nervous, from experience: my long-term hs/college boyfriend was exactly this way -- he is happily in a relationship now with another man and I'm sure is not nervous at all

not to jump to conclusions, but there it is

Carolyn Hax: And there it all is. Thanks everybody.

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Carolyn Hax: I'm losing my resolve not to answer your political Qs, so I'm going to go. Thanks everybody, have a great weekend and type to you here next week.

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