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Carolyn Hax Live: Caught Between Mom and Fiancee, Struggling in a Sexless Marriage, Coping With Suicide Threats, Flea-Ridden In-Laws' Home and Go, Red Sox!

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Carolyn Hax
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 17, 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, October 17 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.

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: Hello everybody. Just wanted to let you know the Hax Pack has pulled in over $28,000, and most of it came from you. Thank you for that. We had a great day for the walk, too.

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East Coast: Hi, Carolyn.

I work at my alma mater, and a large part of my job puts me in contact with other alums. For the most part, this is great, but as I am more involved with outreach to classes in my own era, I find myself getting self-conscious. It's not like I was a crazy person in college (well, no more than anyone else), but I worry that people will judge me on who I was then instead of the job I am trying to do now. Any suggestions on getting over myself?

Carolyn Hax: Two suggestions, one general and one specific. Just about everyone has traveled at least some distance from their youthful selves, and a good deal of that distance was probably painful. These things are pretty safe to assume. In fact, I could argue it's the people who were at their peak from ages 18 to 22 who have the greatest cause to be self-conscious when running across former classmates. If you go into it with a sense of relief--internal, doesn't need to be spoken--that you've come a long way, then I think you'll hit a note that resonates with the people you talk to. This is why reunions can be such a blast--that collective, unspoken relief.

Now the specific suggestion: Consider that it could be worse. You could be me! I was a nightmare in college, and here I am, hanging out there for all to see. If I can do it, you can, too.

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Wednesday's child: I agree with your advice in Wednesday's column, but I think you missed one part. The LW's desire to impress her choices on the party. She is the guest of honor, not the host or hostess of the event. Although she is welcome to request certain guests be invited, it is truly uncouth for her to exclude people from the guest list unless she has grave cause. I think she is being rather childish herself trying to exclude children (especially relatives) that have already been invited. It would be appropriate to express her thoughts like "Oh, I thought that the shower at the winery would be for adults only." But then, it should be up to the host/hostess to set the rule. It's just rude to try to force people to have the party of her choice when they are already being extremely kind in actually hosting the party. When the bride wants to throw her own party and pay for it, she can set any rules that she wants. To impose rules such as excluding family members is just rude and smacks of being a Bridezilla.

Carolyn Hax: I actually chose to skip the specifics of the event for the bigger point, that this lacuna where the fiance should be is going to create problems that put the winery spat to shame. Here's why: Just as she could have chosen a better battle than to exclude a child from a party she wasn't even throwing, the groom's family could have handled it in a far better way than hurling guilt trips and ultimatums.

If you look at the answer again, you'll see that I didn't say the fiance needed to back his bride. I said he needed to make up his mind one way or the other. If he chose to say to the bride, "Hey, my family is hosting this thing, so you can't come in after the fact and disinvite someone," then that would be a more promising outcome than his abdicating the way he seems to have so far. Standing up to his fiancee or to his mom, either one, would show he's willing to embrace principle, vs. just pander and deflect in the presence of strong emotional pressure.

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Anonymous: Re: "If your friends had more productive things to do than swap shame stories, that might help the cause, too"

Wow. This is all my friends do. I mean, as far as, discuss the friends that aren't present at the time. I have noticed this is multiple unrelated groups. There are groups of people that don't do this? I didn't realize that I was so deeply entrenched in something that most people don't do (or aren't supposed to do).

I've always hated this but just thought that people as a group generally discuss others in the group. Like it's human nature or something......

Carolyn Hax: Sure, people are going to talk about each other. You care about each other, for one. Plus, people are fascinating anyway, and the tabloids are certainly proof that people are more fascinating/ed as the foibles start to pile up. However, do you really want all your news to be brain candy? Or do you want to be smarter, better informed, and able to take part in conversations that challenge your assumptions? The same applies to friendship. If all you do is talk about each other and extend the lives of each other's worst moments, then it just seems as if the friendships will wither for lack of sustenance. So, yes, to answer your question, there are groups of friends who talk about things they care about or have in common besides each other.

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Carolyn Hax: Did that come out snotty? I didn't mean it to.

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Carolyn Hax: This time.

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Re: Groom in the middle: Or he can not "pick" a side if he thinks they both have valid points and say "I think you're BOTH out of line. Come talk to me when you're ready to talk about this and not just so stuck on getting your own way". He may want to be slightly more tactful than I just was.

Carolyn Hax: The tact is less important than its being a clear position of principle, which this would be, if it reflected his beliefs. Thanks.

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Oklahoma City, OK: Carolyn-

I find myself in a bit of an itchy spot, so to speak. I'm a newlywed and a new dog mom. We enjoy visiting my in-laws and my husband's siblings, who live an hour and a half from us. And we need to bring our puppy with us, as he's only 8-weeks and isn't ready to spend 8-hour days alone yet.

The problem is that my in-law's house is infested with fleas. When we've brought the puppy with us, each time he's come home covered in fleas. Since he's so little, the treatment options are limited. And since he's not yet fully immunized, I'm afraid of what the fleas might give him. Plus, who likes the idea of fleas in their house, their car, on their dog, etc.

My mother in law is against any chemical method of getting rid of these fleas. She insists that using a lightbulb and a dish of soapy water will get rid of them, despite evidence that the house is clearly infested and that more serious action is required.

She has two small grandchildren (1 year and 18-months) plus our puppy spending significant time in the house.

At this point, I'd rather not bring the dog to her house and I'm worried that this is going to cause friction in our relationship. My reluctance to bring the puppy to their house means few, if any, visits until I am convinced that their house is flea-free. But we can't seem to convince her that this is a real, serious problem and that she needs to do something real and serious about it.

HELP!

Carolyn Hax: Get a puppy sitter.

Of all the mother-in-law material that has come my way, I believe this is the first mother-in-law who has fleas. To extend the gratitude theme, thank you for that. Those poor grandchildren, though.

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Boston, MA: I feel like I've come a long way in my current (4 year, long distance) relationship. In the not-so-distant past, I would try to impose my values on my partner in different situations, instead of listening and supporting him. I'm a little stuck now, though, on a difference in values that only comes up rarely, but bothers me. I'm not expecting or asking him to change (finally!), but I haven't figured out how to accept it fully yet. How does one learn to accept these differences in their partner? I think it's possible, since I see how I've changed my approach in other situations to be a better partner, but am stuck now.

Carolyn Hax: It may be possible in past situations, but that doesn't mean it's possible or even advisable in this one. The way you "accept" something depends completely and absolutely on the substance of what you're asking yourself to accept.

There are two ways to use "accept," in fact, and it's important not to confuse them for each other. There is the acceptance of the fact of something, and there is the decision to embrace that fact in someone. For example, if you come to learn that someone is habitually dishonest, it's important to accept this fact of someone, as opposed to deluding yourself that you can believe what s/he says. However, you don't want to shrug and say, "This person is dishonest and always will be," and then go ahead with the wedding. Accept the truth, but don't embrace it--use the truth as a sign that it's time to break up with this person.

So this thing that comes up rarely. Is it a big, moral deal, or is it a mosquito in your ear? This is the assessment you have to make before you decide whether you can live with something or not.

And if you decide you can live with it, then that often gets you most of the way to accepting it: You've decided it's not a breakup-worthy issue, you know it's going to come up sometimes, and so when those sometimes come, you adopt a coping strategy or two to get you through it.

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MIL With Fleas Again...: So, if my pup getting fleas isn't enough to convince her to de-flea the house, how do we convince her to do it for the sake of the grandchildren?

Carolyn Hax: See next:

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Fleas: She should also consider talking to the parents of the grandchildren and asking how concerned they are, then perhaps as a unified front they discuss their worries about everyone's health in the house, and say that you have agreed to pay for an exterminator as a gift to her - since the young'uns (puppy included) really are YOUR responsibility, not hers.

Carolyn Hax: That sounds good to me. However, it is still her house, and there's a fine line between unified fronts and ganging up on someone, so please do your homework beforehand on eco-friendly flea eradication. That would provide the crucial indication that you respect her wishes in all this.

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DC: Okay, I am a rude Yankee and my mom's family is from Oklahoma, so I understand that this might not be received well there, but geez, if my MIL's house was flea-infested, we would stage our gatherings elsewhere. If she wanted to know why we didn't go to her house, my husband would say "Because you have fleas, Mom! Now, what time do you want to meet up at the Eat N Belch?"

It seems to me that they can meet elsewhere, be honest about why they don't want to go to MIL's house, and do it all without generating a lot of drama.

Carolyn Hax: Well, I must be rude, too, because that solution sounds normal to me. (And I'm sad there's no Eat N Belch in my neighborhood.)

I think there is drama here, and the it's-gross-but-we-still-have-to-go-and-pretend-we're-okay-with-it setup sounds like the kind of contortionist accommodation that arises from a long history of drama. The professed enjoyment of the visits notwithstanding.

Of course, MIL could just be eccentric.

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Boston, MA: This isn't really a question, but I'd like your opinion. I've been married for 5 years. We have a 1-year-old baby. I'm generally happy, but lately, I can't shake the feeling that I could have done better choosing a spouse. My husband has a lot of great qualities (funny, laid back, patient, supportive), but some infuriating ones (lazy, not very ambitious). And now I'm a working mom and primary breadwinner--a position I'd not anticipated for myself. I'd never leave the marriage, but sometimes I wonder, what if I'd waited for someone else?

Carolyn Hax: You'd have married some other unanticipated shortcoming?

Or not, but it's really not a productive line of daydreaming, no matter how natural it may be.

Talk to your husband about other breadwinning/childrearing configurations that might work for your family, and your personalities. People who "have done better" choosing a spouse sometimes just do better, by luck or hard work, in finding a distribution of responsibilities that plays to the best in each other's natures and avoids the worst as much as possible. The alternative, toughing it out amid resentment, usually has a final score of Toughing It Out 0, Resentment 27.

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Carolyn Hax: I wanted to write TIO 8, Resentment 7, but, too bad, it didn't quite work thematically.

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Paramus NJ: Carolyn,

Online only, please. When my husband gets depressed, he threatens to kill himself and talks through elaborate plans. He has a therapist who he sees every 3 months; his therapist seems to think that I'm being dramatic when I keep bringing this ongoing threat to his attention. I have never told my husband's parents or siblings about this behavior. Can I get them involved the next time that he makes this threat? I'm concerned that bringing his family into the picture may cause my husband to do something stupid.

Carolyn Hax: Please get your own therapist (do your homework, find someone reputable and who you feel is a good fit for you) to help you handle this enormous and difficult responsibility you've been handed. I'm not suggesting that your husband's life is your responsibility; it's his. However, you have this information, and you are responsible for finding the best way -for you- to deal with it, and with him. You have to be able to live with yourself no matter what happens, and that will come from making the best choices for both of you under the circumstances. It's easy to forget that taking care of someone includes taking care of yourself.

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Speaking of Resentment: I could say the same about my wife. Great mom, good wife but she has the sexuality of a stick in the mud. I've made it very clear how I feel about the fact that she treats sex as a chore less desirable than laundry, but it hasn't gotten better. And she won't go to a therapist.

We have two young kids so I won't divorce her, but I have told her point blank that it may come to the point that I find another sexual partner. I can't go the rest of my life with bad sex.

Any suggestions (besides divorcing her when the kids are in college)?

And yes, I'm a productive dad and husband who does more than my fair share of taking care of the family, house and all other chores.

Carolyn Hax: What did she say to your point-blank statement?

And, on a completely different tack, what would she say to ... idunno, dance lessons? I'm under no illusions that it will transform her into a wildcat, however, a good mom and wife with two young kids is a creature who quite commonly finds herself disconnected from her physical self. Anything you can do to help her use her body for pleasure again, specifically non-sexual pleasure, would have to help even a little bit on the sexual end. I don't like to generalize on the sexes, but I'm not sure it occurs to some men that some women can forget or even fail to recognize their physical selves.

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Suicidal Husband: It may be just me, but a therapist dismissing a spouse's concerns about suicide, when the therapist only sees the husband once every 3 months, is out of line. Considering a new therapist for the husband might be a good idea.

Carolyn Hax: It does seem out of line to me. However, since the husband didn't write to me, I can't know that he'd even be willing to get into more intensive therapy. Getting the wife into the office of a reputable health professional can be the first step in addressing all the other problems.

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Fairfax, VA: My boyfriend and I have what I thought was a running joke. Apparently I took it too far and he hung up on me. I think hanging up on someone is the height of rudeness. He thinks he's justified because of my sarcasm. I don't want this to fester but I don't want this to be the sign of something bigger. It REALLY bothered me and I feel like I'm keeping a running list in my head of other things about him that bother me. I know this is probably not as deep as other issues you deal with but I could use some of your no-nonsense advice. Thanks

Carolyn Hax: No no no, it's diminishing the importance of just such conflicts that puts people deep into relationships that weren't healthy for them from the start.

You pushed it too far. You need to think about whether and where you failed to recognize that you had crossed a line.

He handled it badly by hanging up on you. I throw my full support behind doing this: "You've pushed this too far"--followed by, "I'm hanging up now," and hanging up, if you kept pushing after the first clear objection. Then, if you called back and wanted to talk about it but he didn't, he would be within decency bounds to say, "I'm too angry to talk right now, I need time to cool off." He would then need to call you back in a matter of hours, not days, in the interest of not torturing you.

I hate that this sounds like a script of The One Right Way to Do It, but being in a relationship and asserting the right not to talk about something demands walking a very fine line.

As for your running list of things that bother you, you have to take it seriously. When we like people, we cut them little breaks all the time. If it's a pleasure to do so, it's fine, even essential to happy companionship. When it stops being a pleasure, then you have to consider whether you've been rationalizing away a big problem through all these little breaks.

TO be fair, you also have to consider that you're rationalizing your own mistakes/shortcomings by piling a running list of blame on him.

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RE: TIO 8, Resentment 7: I figured there was some baseball end-of-season final four thing happening with the Sox behind that comment, but you made me go do actual research on the Sports page. God Carolyn, you're so cryptic. Even though I love you, I've always hated that about you. By when can we expect you to change your behavior? I mean, you're here to please us, right?

Carolyn Hax: Nice.

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To the Wife of Suicidal Husband (online only please): I'm almost afraid to post this because I'm afraid to type it, but I know how this husband feels -- I was there 6 months ago.

Even though I didn't "believe" in it, enough people were concerned that I went to a therapist to appease them -- and then the therapist was concerned enough that I started medication, something I have always been strongly against. Even though I'd rather be w/o meds and stop therapy, I look back at 6 months ago and compare it to now -- the world (even w/the crisis, etc.) looks so much different to me now. Please tell him how concerned you are -- get him to do it for you -- he may not care about himself, but he probably cares about you. Anyway, that's what worked for me.

Carolyn Hax: Thanks for typing it. Good stuff. I hope it works for the husband, too, though of course everyone's receptiveness to such entreaties is different.

And since we can differ from ourselves sometimes, as circumstances change, you might consider writing down a longer version of what you noted here--specifically, your best description of the way you felt six months ago. If you're worried about recording such a personal thing, consider finding in published writings a description of feelings that parallel yours. There is no shortage of depression memoirs, writers and writing being what they are.

The purpose of this exercise: When you get some distance from that time, your mind might reshape the memory of it enough for it not to scare you any more. If you have documentation handy, you can read it to remind yourself not to stray from your course of treatment.

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Re: Speaking of Resentment: She said: "Fine, go ahead." This is usually at the end of another heated discussion.

I hear what you're saying about the two young kids thing and sex. But she was like this before the kids. In fact, she used to say sex would be better after we were married, then after we had kids (Five miscarriages - so that was a difficult time). It isn't. And I feel like I've been sold a bill of goods.

We also have a nanny and because I work out of a home office, I'm the one who takes the kids to the Doctor, to Tae Kwon Do, to playdates, etc. And then makes up the work hours at night. Did I mention I also cook dinner because she gets home late? (and, by the way, we both make the same amount of $ - People don't respect the whole home office thing).

As far as the dancing (we actually did take lessons before we got married), she would ask how much it cost and when would we have the time.

Carolyn Hax: Ah. Okay. So how is she a good wife?

By the way, maybe you were sold a bill of goods, but that means you bought a bill of goods. Not to point fingers--really. It's just that piling all the responsibility for this on her isn't really fair to either of you. "The sex will get better after we're married" is something someone believes when s/he wants to believe it. Owning that will help you understand, I suspect, why you wanted this marriage badly enough to suspend your disbelief on an issue of such obvious importance to you--and that might help you understand the good things you're getting out of the marriage. Or, conversely, it'll help you understand the bigger picture of your marital problems, which are in no way just about sex. Think holistically about this, please, including the division of labor and the mix of temperaments and the messages you're sending to your kids.

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Washington, DC: Geez, after the suicidal spouse, my own question seems downright silly, but I guess I'll toss it out there anyway.

I've got a friend (and a fairly close one at that) that always seems to arrive with extra people orbiting him. I know that some people live by the philosophy of "there's always room for one more" - but my own reality tells me that I can't just conjure up another chair or three out of nothing, or twitch my nose and have six homemade dinners turn into ten. Restaurants are generally understanding when our party climbs from four to eight with no warning, but it often pushes our reservation back quite a bit. Aside from the practical considerations involved in accommodating additional guests, sometimes people just don't mesh well.

Because this is by no means a new phenomenon, I try to prepare as best I can, planning and purchasing for more guests than are invited, and everyone who has arrived at my home has been treated graciously and warmly, of course. When it makes things more difficult on myself or other guests to have extra, sometimes drunken or boorish, people around, I just view it as a challenge of hosting. But it's starting to make me not want to invite this friend to anything I have a hand in planning! It'd be one thing if I got a simple and timely message like "Would it be okay if I brought X with me?" - but more often it's "I'm bringing X, and I told Y and Z to come, too" or "look who I ran into on the way over, person W!"

I there a polite way to go about solving this? I can't bring myself to extend invitations with explicit strings attached (i.e. You, and only you, are invited to my dinner party), and I hate excluding people, so I'd like to be able to continue including this friend. Is there a solution here that I'm just not seeing?

Carolyn Hax: Limits? Either invite this person only to things where extra people will not be a huge issue (happy hours, etc), or bring yourself to say something: "I appreciate your philosophy that there's always room for one more, but when I'm planning a sit-down dinner at my house, there isn't always room for one more. Please either give me 24 hours' notice, or come on your own."

It's important to be polite, sure, but when you're so worried about being polite that you don't say anything to someone who's being horribly rude, then the relationship is way out of balance. Don't apologize for reclaiming your turf and letting him know where your boundaries are.

--Stuart Smalley

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Suicidal husband: I'm trying to understand why you are so resistant to suggesting that the writer try to help her husband. Instead, you suggest she get therapy for herself and, presumably, if her therapist recommends she take the actions some readers have suggested, that would be ok to you. It is so obvious to me, and others apparently. I understand she has to take care of herself and I understand he might not be receptive, but why the reluctance to offer it as a suggestion? You seem overly preoccupied with the writer taking care of herself when the person in trouble is her husband.

If this came across as harsh, I certainly don't mean it to be. I'm just trying to get this in in time and am genuinely interested in understanding your thinking.

Carolyn Hax: I'm not resistant to the idea. It's just that there's no clear suggestion I can make for her to help her husband, because there's so much we don't know. Is he being dramatic to get attention? Is he having ideation but taking no steps to plan a suicide? Is he oppositional, and likely to respond to his wife's entreaties by digging in against more aggressive treatment?

I believe that with serious health issues, trying to help someone without the benefit of your own professional guidance amounts to making a layman's diagnosis. The best advice I can give the wife--the most responsible advice--is for her to get someone in her corner who is qualified to advise her on an ongoing basis on dealing with this. So I am advising her to try to help her husband, and at the same time I'm advising her against trying to wing it.

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re: guy resenting his wife: After the first post, I though, gee, the wife is probably just overwhelmed from the kids. However, after seeing the second post, I don't see how there's really any hope for this relationship. However, I don't blame her that he doesn't like the situation he has now. He clearly let this happen. He knew the deal when he married her, and married her anyway, who knows why? So, he's got what he's got. She's not changing, so he needs to figure out what he really wants. Good sex or his wife as-is. She ain't changing. If she really means it that he can fool around, that will only fix the problem until he's validated by another woman and falls in love with her instead, and then what? If the sex is that important, get a lawyer and get divorced and get on with your life. If not, keep it in your pants because if you don't, you'll just have a much messier divorce and a less of a chance of getting custody of your kids having been cheating on your wife.

Carolyn Hax: I'm with you on most of it, but it does seem to me there's wishful thinking on both sides about the deal they both agreed to.

Someone else wrote in incensed about his seeming lack of concern for the five miscarriages, and while I don't agree that mentioning it as an aside necessarily equates to his dismissing it, I do think a long, emotionally draining ordeal like that can certainly lead to the kind of estrangement here.

While your zip-it-or-leave-it suggestion has its merits, I'd like to put in one plug for the suggestion in my second answer--at least trying to see why they both wanted this marriage badly enough to, basically, lie to themselves and each other to get it. Those feelings are essential to understand before anyone does anything drastic. I don't think rekindling those feelings is realistic--ever, really, but especially not after they've traveled a pretty rough path together. However, understanding them can help them trace what happened to them, and knowing what happened to them can be really informative when it comes to figuring out what they have now, and whether it's worth saving.

Sorry, guy, to talk about you as if you aren't here. Just easier in the 3rd person.

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Extra Peeps, OK: I would totally go with the "You, and ONLY you are invited to dinner." accompanied with a smile and a hug.

It's not like this person is unaware of his orbiting extras, is it? It's probably been the source of several amusing stories and is a charming, though sometimes frustrating character trait.

I've got a friend visiting next month who will come for a week and stay for a month sometimes. I've already told him he has a chore list and on Day 8 rent starts being assessed. He's coming to visit anyway.

Sometimes things don't need to be so fraught. Say what you feel with a hug and a smile.

Carolyn Hax: And people who get snippy about it can [buzz] off. Right?

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Anonymous: Dear Carolyn,

I'm searching for a new house. My parents like to be involved in my life, so I sent them a Web site of a listing that I'm going to look at soon.

My mom, instead of just providing her opinion, started freaking out about how there wasn't enough room for this and that, how the basement is dark and "prisony" and she would hate it there, how I can't buy this house because then I would have to do such-and such with certain pieces of family furniture, which would be a shame, etc., etc. Now she won't drop the subject, and I'm afraid to send her any other listings.

I need to communicate to her that I appreciate her thoughts and opinions but not the hysterics and the judgmentalness. What I need are words that are kind but firm.

Please help!

Carolyn Hax: tell her that you appreciate her thoughts but that such detailed judgments are premature and, ultimately, distracting, when you haven't even seen the house. The Web is a peek at a house, not even close to (and not meant to be) a final verdict.

Then don't send any more listings.

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Carolyn Hax: In other word, boundary. If your parents like to be involved and you're okay with that, swell, but when you stop being okay with it is when you HAVE TO speak up.

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My wife and my mother? I'm tired of them both!: As a husband, I just have to say that I am damned tired of needing to be the referee between my wife and my mother. I don't have my wife confront her father every time he insults my favorite football team. Why can't two grown women talk about an issue without dragging me into the middle of it? I personally don't see why you'd have a 7-year-old at a bridal shower and definitely not at one at a winery. But if her parents are OK with it, I am not going to bust a gut over the issue. Why do I have to step into these petty power struggles just to prove to my wife that I am on her side? Why do I have to take my mother's side if I decide I think both of them are acting childish and petty and I'd rather not step into the fire over such silliness? If the issue were that my mother was threatening my wife or stealing things from the house or slapping her around while my back is turned, then yes, I need to take action. But the majority of stuff wives want their husbands to confront their mothers over (and mothers want their sons to confront their wives over) is real silliness. Is the price of love really stepping into this nonsense?

Sorry, but can't they just get along?

Carolyn Hax: Dude. You're the one who married your mother. Don't blame all womankind for that.

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Re: Speaking of resentment: Guy here...again,

I wasn't going to write again, but...

First of all, as far as the miscarriages, that was a horrendous time for both of us. I was not trying to make light of it. I was simply trying to include all the relevant facts without writing a novel. Simply saying we had two kids without mentioning all that went on would seem like a cheat.

As far as why she's a good wife? She's my best friend. She's funny, smart, thinks I'm the world's funniest guy (except in bed), and we share the same values.

She is an excellent mom and our issues don't bleed down to the kids. The discussions we have are after hours, and out of earshot. We present a united front to the kids. And I'm proud of her career success as well. With the glaring exception of the sex, she's an excellent wife. (Did I say glaring?)

But you're right. I did buy a bill of goods. The ironic thing is that sex was better then, but still not very good. So, I guess I talked myself into believing her.

I still don't think that means I should be sentenced to forty years of bad sex. But, right now, the kids come first so either this improves or I wait till the kids are older.

Carolyn Hax: Okay then, why not sentence yourself to 40 years of trying to figure out how to get even a little bit of the good stuff to translate?

I swear I'm not being punitive, naive or prudish. I just can't help but think of how many people--somewhere between most of them and all of them--are making good lives out of less than they had hoped they would get. Many people are doing without something they had thought was absolutely essential--right up to the time they didn't get it, but instead got something else they value, and realized they weren't willing to trade the new great thing for the erstwhile-essential thing.

In other words, what you're saying here puts you on a course to surrender your best friend (and a pretty darn good home life, it seems) for sex. Sex is a huge, huge deal. I just hope you really know what you're doing.

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You're the one who married your mother. Don't blame all womankind for that. : Huh? I'm not the original poster but your comment makes absolutely no sense. Why can't a son have a relationship with his mother and not expect his wife to constantly cause fights and vice versa? Too much drama, if you ask me, doesn't mean he's "married to his mother," maybe it means having a relationship with his mother. Not everyone has a dysfunctional relationship with their parents like many on this chat do. Jeez...

Carolyn Hax: "But the majority of stuff wives want their husbands to confront their mothers over (and mothers want their sons to confront their wives over) is real silliness."

This is a hideously sexist generalization, as well as an attempt to shift the blame to others for the predicament he got himself into.

Make sense now?

If he doesn't like their fights he can, as suggested in an earlier response to a different question, let them know where he stands on principle--wife's right, mom's right, both wrong, combination thereof--and decline further involvement.

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Carolyn Hax: Must go flop on couch. (Note to MLB: 7:05 starts. Thank you.)

Thanks all, have a great weekend and type to you here next Friday.

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