Carolyn Hax Live: How Do We Tell Our Estranged Families We're Expecting? plus Post-Cheating Trust Issues, Mismatched Communication Styles and Type-A Mom vs. Type-A Boyfriend
Thursday, March 5, 2009; 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 Thursday, March 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.
If you forgot that Carolyn's chat was early this week, and once you've read the transcript you're looking for more chat satisfaction, check out Dana Milbank, John Kelly, Lisa de Moraes and our other Friday all-stars.
E-mail Carolyn at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Got more to say? Check out Carolyn's discussion group, Hax-Philes. Comments submitted to the chat may be used in the discussion group.
Happy Thursday!: You chatting today means that I get tomorrow off of work, right? Thanks!!
Carolyn Hax: Of course.
Hi everybody, and thanks for stopping by a day early.
Miami: My long-term boyfriend has developed a friendship with another girl that has me confused. She's a former colleague who lives far away, is not physically attractive and doesn't have a boyfriend. But they email constantly, text each other night and day, and I get the sense that she knows many many details of his life and vice versa. He says they are just friends. I am positive no physical cheating has gone on, but could this be emotional cheating? How would I know? What would I do if I found out it were? Does it matter?
Carolyn Hax: Sure, it could be an emotional affair. It could also be that he and this other girl are compatible, and you're seeing them interact with an ease and pleasure that you and he have never really shared.
If that's true, I'd call it an extension of a common problem--when people treat dating as this separate entity from all their other relationships. There's a tendency to recognize physical attraction, act on it, and then file it under "romantic relationship" without even questioning whether you're able to generate good conversation.
The getting-to-know-you stuff doesn't count toward that, either, since it's usually just a stepladder to the physical payoff. I'm talking about conversation that's a reward in itself. If you and he never really had that and he has that with her, then it might be dawning on you that you and he are with the wrong people. Just because she isn't traditionally "hot" doesn't mean she isn't a catch, or that your BF isn't drawn to her.
Carolyn Hax: By the way, I say that matter-of-factly. If he does fit better with this other woman, it's not a poor reflection on you. Hard as it is to pull off, try to step back and look at it all objectively--in particular, try to override the jealous/protective reflexes and see what the best, most sensible outcome would be for you here.
Baby-ville: So I'm pregnant. Twelve weeks. So-far-so-good. And this is significant because we've been trying for 18 months and I had three miscarriages in 2008 (one at 12 wks). Today is the day to "tell" people, as only my spouse and I know. No one knows about the miscarriages. This is complicated by the fact that both of us are partially estranged from our parents AND living 1500-2000 miles from them. So it would be telephone or email. Our friends will be easy, but we just can't figure out how to call and tell family (since we don't call them and they don't call us). And I don't know how they'll react. Any advice?
Carolyn Hax: 1. Congratulations, will keep fingers crossed.
2. What kind of relationship do you want with your semi-estranged families? I.e., what are you hoping to accomplish by sharing your news? Would you like to make overtures toward warming up the relationships, or are you just trying to avoid total estrangement, which is essentially what you'd have if you didn't notify them of grandchildren?
I think the answers to these questions, as well as the reasons for the semi-estrangement, would shape the approach you take with your announcement.
I feel like I'm caught in the middle of a bloody coup. My mom and my boyfriend are both dominant, type-A personalities, and I can't reconcile the two.
I live with boyfriend. Mom wants to come visit for the weekend, but says she won't if he's there. (Power play on her part, right?) Talked to boyfriend; he agreed to vacate for the weekend. Mom made plans, spent money. Boyfriend reneged on promise -- now says he won't leave, Mom can deal with it. (Power play on his part, right?)
What to do? Who to side with?
Carolyn Hax: I'm sure you can see me coming from a mile away, but ...
When it came time to choose a boyfriend, why did you choose to reproduce your relationship with your mom? Was it conscious, does it make you happy, would you do it again knowing what you know now?
This doesn't answer your question, of course, but nothing will unless you know your role in these two very similar dynamics.
Really????: "Just because she isn't traditionally "hot" doesn't mean she isn't a catch, or that your BF isn't drawn to her. "
Please develop this thought.
Carolyn Hax: Are you serious? You essentially just said that non-traditionally beautiful women can't be attractive. My keyboard already has PTSD.
Miami re: potential emotional affair: Thanks for response. Makes sense. We did/do have the ability to have great conversation. The beginning of our relationship was certainly based more on that than a physical thing. But now we live together, work busy jobs, etc., and it honestly didn't quite occur to me that he was interested in exchanging flirty emails all day long -- and he never initiated that with me. Suppose I should take it as a sign that he makes time to email with her. Or -- maybe I am hoping against hope -- does he just have a friend? I email with my friends who live far away during the work day too. They just happen to be women.
Carolyn Hax: If can equate your e-mailing with friends to his contact with her, one-for-one (e.g., you correspond lightly, daily and in an inside-y way with the same person), then I think it's okay to trust that. And if you can't equate it--if you just don't find any of your these friends as magnetic, or the communication as compulsive, as you're seeing in him, then it's okay to trust that, too.
And, it's okay to point out what you see, and ask whether you're right to draw these conclusions.
Boyfriend-Mom battleground (the movie version): Clearly this problem could be solved by booking herself a nice sunny vacation while Mom's in town and not telling either one of them she's going. When she gets back either one of them will be in jail or they'll have fallen for each other.
Carolyn Hax: Your agent's phone is ringing ...
DC: After months of being stuck as mediator between two feuding friends, I've finally persuaded them to sit down and work out their issues between themselves. I'm relieved to be out of it, but I'm having a hard time letting go of the go-between role. ("What are they saying to each other? What if they mess it up because I'm not there to smooth things over?") Any tips for stepping back, aside from chanting the mantra of "boundaries, boundaries, boundaries"?
Carolyn Hax: Being the mediator does plump a person up a bit--it makes you the necessary one, the mature one, the diplomat. So while it was probably all subconscious, it might help you to identify the ego-supply line consciously, cut it, and figure out something else you get from the friendships that doesn't feed off their conflict.
Miami re emotional cheating: Agree with YOU re: non-traditional beauty! That was probably a dumb thing to include, but I guess I was trying to say that it made me less likely to jump to conclusion that it was a physical affair or was heading that way. Oy.
Carolyn Hax: That's okay. I'm painfully aware of how some of our private mental calculations seem when they're typed out loud.
Alexandria, Va.: For the woman on Sunday who didn't want to tell her husband about her miscarriage: In addition to the number of very good reasons that Carolyn gave in favor of telling, you should also consider the possibility of recurrent loss. I hate to say this, but it's not impossible that you might lose your next pregnancy, as well. And the next. It's a terrible thing, but it happens, and when it happens, and when your doctor sends you and your husband for testing, it will be impossible to continue to conceal this from him.
Hopefully you are not destined for this hell. But please believe me that if you are, you will be making it that much worse for your husband. This is an important part of your medical history; it could also be an important part of his medical history. You don't have the right to keep it from him.
Carolyn Hax: Good point, thank you.
Trustville: Hi Carolyn! I have trust issues. I had a boyfriend who cheated on me, and the reassuring things I used to tell myself when I had doubts with the men I dated now are useless. It's been four years and I've dated several people in that period, none of whom have cheated. I think I have a pretty good idea now of when someone is lying to me. I'm about to start therapy because I don't seem to be getting over it. Does everyone have these nagging thoughts that their partner/spouse/boyfriend/girlfriend is cheating, and they just learn to not say anything? How does one bring this up in a new relationship? I don't seem to be able to talk about it in a constructive way with new boyfriends, and I always feel like I come off sounding nuts when I do talk about it.
Carolyn Hax: I'm not sure I can answer your question without knowing--what were "the reassuring things" that don't work anymore?
As for the rest, no, not everyone has these nagging thoughts, and no, learning not to say anything is not (not! not! not!) the way to deal with nagging thoughts, and no, it's not as bad as you think to come off as nuts when you talk about difficult things with somebody. (Well. It can be, but often it's not as bad as you think, and it's better than pretending you're cool when inside you're a mess.)
I'll save the rest for when I have that last piece, thanks.
Baby-ville again: We need to tell because we have to. I can't imagine hurting our family (which is what the "not telling" would accomplish). The soap opera follows: Spouse's parents are divorced and his mom stopped speaking to him 7-8 years ago when we married. No explanation. We don't know her phone number or address. His dad dislikes me because (and I'm paraphrasing here) I am a "money grubbing wh-re" out for his (my FIL's) money. Funny, since I'm a doctor and make triple what he makes. My parents were upset when we moved away from them and then were unable to join them on multiple vacations (that they arranged without telling us). More than that, but basically we don't do what they tell us to.
They will be happy (except his mom - we have no idea how she'll react), but I know their behaviours won't change and may get worse. His dad will make comments about money and "are you sure its yours" and my parents will demand to move in and then tell us we don't know anything about babies and to let "the experts take over" (which is what they did to my sister). I'm afraid that pregnancy hormones will make me say what's I'm truly thinking, which is "butt out and let us be happy".
Carolyn Hax: 3. Congratulations on your partial estrangements.
Wow. So, I'm thinking a businesslike approach with his family--your husband does the honors, and either calls or e-mails his dad (yes, e-mail is cold, but, given the circumstances, deserved), and asks if he can either get word to his ex-wife or provide you with contact information.
With your family, you probably don't want to be that clinical, but you might want to have a couple of intrusion-deflecting remarks handy so you're not caught off-guard or speechless. Maybe, "Thanks, I'll think about that," or, "There will be plenty of time for all that," or, "Don't worry about us," or even, "So, how's [relative's name here] doing these days?"
Chances are you'll replay the exchanges in your mind afterward and feel dissatisfied with them--something else to prep for--but at least that part will be over. Good luck.
boyfriend vs. mom girl: Oh jeez. I did NOT see you coming from a mile away on the recreation of the relationship with my mom thing, and now I'm floored. But if I could do it all over again, I'd probably do the same thing, with very minor adjustments.
So now what do I do? Seek therapy, since I'm apparently dating my mom with male genitalia? And in the short term -- I have to tell one of them to buzz off on this weekend visit situation, so how do I pick which one?
Carolyn Hax: You tell them both to buzz off. Your mom had no right to ask your BF to vacate, and your boyfriend had no right to back out on his promise. Seriously--is there something else you can do this weekend, just for you?
As for the therapy, might not be a bad idea. Unconsciously recruiting people to be decisive for you is one way to end up in a life that you realize--in 10 years? 20? when you're 65?--isn't the one you really wanted.
Chantilly, VA: My fiancee and I express our feelings differently. She's very open and can say what she's feeling, whereas I am the opposite. The problem is that she takes the fact that I express my feelings differently to mean that I don't have them. How do I explain to her that my form of expression is not wrong, just different?
Carolyn Hax: You just did. If, "my form of expression is not wrong, just different," hasn't opened her eyes, then her eyes are the problem, not your words.
I say this with one caveat: There is a fine line between healthy reticence and unhealthy withholding (just as, to be fair, there's a fine line between healthy expressiveness and BLAH BLAH BLAH). It's not fair to characterize the latter as the former and expect someone to take your word for it.
So, if she has specific, thought-out quibbles with the way you describe yourself, then at least weigh what she's saying. But if she just refuses to see that you and she are wired differently, and if she refuses to adjust her expectations to meet what you are wired to provide her, then we're back to her being the obstacle.
For that, I would suggest a conversation as specific as the one I'm typing out for you here--or, if that doesn't yield anything, acceptance of the fact that she's not going to accept your way. Then, it's a matter of decided what you want to do next--stay or go.
for baby-ville: Why have you set on telling family today? I'm totally on board with everything Carolyn said, am just wondering why, if telling your families makes you apprehensive, you are signing up for the stress at 12 weeks...is there something wrong with waiting 'til 14-16 weeks? Sorry if it's an inappropriate question, will also keep my fingers crossed for you and your husband.
Carolyn Hax: Seems like a sound suggestion, actually, in the form of an excellent question. Thanks.
I'm afraid that pregnancy hormones will make me say what's I'm truly thinking, which is "butt out and let us be happy".: Carolyn, please tell us what would be wrong with that?
Carolyn Hax: Nothing, if she's pushed to that point. But there's a risk here of being needlessly confrontational. The relationship is already strained nearly to the point of oblivion, and they're miles away, and this would be a telephone conversation. There are, in other words, several tall barriers to parental butting in. Because of that, it would make sense to trust those barriers to do their jobs as boundaries, and let the verbal boundary setting be more gentle.
Re: Boyfriend vs. Mom: Boyfriend reneged. He pays for Mom's hotel room. Mom demanded that to which she had no right. She sleeps in a hotel. Girlfriend starts making them both accountable for their controlling behavior. Win-win-win.
Carolyn Hax: And then she goes away for a spa weekend?
I mean, you're right, but, still.
Trustville, Again: Reassuring thoughts were just reasoning out what the guy could be doing when my initial feeling was he was with another girl. Such as, he's probably out with his roommate, don't jump to conclusions until you talk to him. Or, if I ask casually how his night was, and he mentions going to a bar, even if he didn't mention with whom, I could generally be calm about it and not jump to conclusions in the past. So I guess my reassuring was just not assuming the worst, and giving myself some ideas of potentially harmless things a boyfriend is doing when I don't know the full story. If I'm honest with myself though, I don't remember even being suspicious of these sorts of things before I had the boyfriend who cheated. So it's sort of new for me to even try to go through these steps, and I'm wondering how exactly to address thoughts that I consider to be overly jealous and somewhat paranoid. And I wonder if I'm having these thoughts because now I feel like I have to question everything, since my younger self apparently didn't question enough. It just does not feel like a healthy reaction to me.
Carolyn Hax: I would agree with that, but the fact that you're uncomfortable with it, questioning it and seeking treatment for it is great. The truly unhealthy will justify their jealousy to the bitterest of ends, and insist that keeping people on short leashes is the only way you can ever trust them. You're nowhere near getting sucked into that particular vortex.
Here's the fault in your logic where I'd concentrate my attention: "since my younger self apparently didn't question enough." That's not necessarily true. You did get deceived, yes, but that's not your fault. The way you thought before--"I don't remember even being suspicious of these sorts of things"--was normal, healthy, fine. Your lack of suspicion didn't -cause- anyone to cheat.
Now, if there were signs that became obvious to you in retrospect, then there's nothing wrong with recognizing you may have been delusional or naive. There are ways to correct that, though, that don't involve paranoia, which is an over-correction. But know that correcting it doesn't prevent people from cheating.
Going back to your pre-cheating I-don't-even-think-about-it mindset probably isn't possible, at least for a while. That's why I think the path that works best after you've been duped is to accept that dupe happens. (No, that's not my first choice in phrasing.) Some people cheat, some don't, some catch on to that, some don't. All people can do is choose their companions well, treat them well, trust them in both fact- and gut-based increments, and then accept that that's all they can do. As you know, cheating hurts terribly, but you're still here--life does go on.
Expressing feelings: One more caveat, he does need to at least explain to her how he -does- express his feelings so she knows what to look for. I'm very verbal and oblivious to the non-verbal. Until my boyfried told me exactly what to look for I thought he was just stonewalling me. I was willing to try really, really hard to understand him, but I just didn't know how to start.
Carolyn Hax: Great idea, thanks.
Chicago, Ill.: Carolyn,
I guess I need some relationship advice. I have been living with my girlfriend for 3 years. I absolutely love her, but I'm unsure that the relationship will work. I pay for just about everything (rent, utilities, food, entertainment, dining out, etc.) and she pays a very small sum. It is in no way equal, more like 80/20. Furthermore, I do all of the house work and she spends more time at her hobbies than with me. She gets home most nights around 10-11 pm. She also just took a 2 and a half month trip without me (I couldn't go because of work. But I will be supporting her when she gets back. These are just some of the things, as there are other problems.
The kicker is, I love her. More than anything else in the world. When we're together, it's amazing. She is a truly great person and not malicious. She is just kind of clueless about how her behavior affects me. And yes, we've talked about it. She still doesn't change. I'm not sure she will.
I'm thinking of breaking up with her. I know I'm rationally nuts to stay with her, but I love her so much. Everyone I know looks at the situation and says I should end it, but I'm not so sure. Can love overcome all of the negative things in a relationship?
Carolyn Hax: Only if the love supply is greater and more enduring than the frustration supply. Since you have already figured out (but may still need to get your mind around) that she's not changing, it's now a transaction. Is she worth, to you, what it's costing you to be with her?
If the answer's yes, then you need to do your best to be objective, even pessimistic, and answer this: Will you feel the same way 5 years from now? 10?
Most people will probably agree with "everyone I know," but your opinion is the only one that counts.
Emotional Abu, SE: My girlfriend's mother is emotionally abusive. What can I do to not hate her? She's skilled enough that she appears to not do it in my presence. However, she actually pulls gf aside to say hurtful things and then act like all is hunkydory. When called on her actions, she will deny deny deny, and it's possible that in her mind, the event never happened.
I believe she will be a destablizing force in our life and our relationship. I believe she already has.
Do I have obligations to be in her presence? What can I do to get some emotional distance? What can I do to support my gf without feeling like I am enabling abuse? Whenever I listen to her and offer a shoulder on which to cry, I just get angry. Gf has lately made sure to shield me from her feelings about mom and I appreciate it.
I feel that gf should not have a relationship w/mom but I also feel that may not be a fair thing to feel. Gf and I have tried discussing the situation repeatedly and it's never productive. It only makes us feel distant and inadequate.
Sorry if this is long and rambly. Have a great weekend everyone!
Carolyn Hax: Lots of stuff here, will try to get to it in the right order.
Whether you hate your GF's mom is mostly beside the point. Ultimately, you will be more helpful to your girlfriend if you understand the mom, and the only way to understand her is to acknowledge her humanity, but this isn't the primary issue and will matter more when you get the first step out of the way.
The first step: is not for your GF to shield you from her mom or from her feelings about her mom. The first step is for your girlfriend to get some help. You can listen and offer shoulders and support without enabling and all that good stuff--or you can stick your head in the sand, if that feel better--but none of this will accomplish much unless your GF is empowered to act as her own advocate, to deal with her mother productively and to inoculate herself against the abuse.
Is it a perfect system? No, but this is well-traveled family territory, and a competent family therapist can help your GF develop basic strategies for dealing with her mom.
Unless she does this, you're right--the mother will be a destabilizing force. So it's important that your GF be -willing- to do this. That will show that she's ready to take the controls from her mother and run her own life. Then, she won't need to hide her mom-sickness from you, because there won't be any (or, realistically, as much).
I'm in an exclusive relationship with another divorced parent who lives 2 hours away. Meaning: limited time together.
Between visits, I'm fine with one communication a day (email, phone, or text) but she seems to feel neglected if we don't communicate several times a day. I end up calling to make her happy, then being irritated that I feel compelled to do this.
Yes, I get that she is more "into" this relationship than I am. I ended it once due to this difference in depth--I didn't want to be leading her on. But she convinced me she could be "patient."
If I'm fine with it "as is," am I a schmuck for continuing the relationship, as long as I'm honest?
Carolyn Hax: You -think- you've been honest, and maybe you really have, but she's acting on different information than what you suggested is the truth here.
So when she said she could be "patient," did you explain to her that it's not a matter of waiting--that you may not ever feel about her the way she feels about you? "Patient" means she's on a string, and your communicating several times a day when it annoys you to do so tells her you care more than you do, while actively making you care less.
It may be that she's using a mental filter to make sure she hears only what she wants to hear--and that is her mistake, her responsibility. However, when you know her to be missing part of the truth, I think it's on you to fill in the missing pieces. She needs to know that pushing you to communicate more is having the exact opposite effect of what she hopes to accomplish. Not that I envy you that conversation, but, there it is.
Oh, and if you don't see this relationship going beyond where it is now, then she needs to know that, too.
Wheaton, MD: Hey, can Chicago tell me what is it that's so special about his GF that he puts up with that behavior? Cause after 30 years working, and long hours during tax season, I'd like to take a month long vacation and have someone pay 80% of my bills, clean my house... Is this person a student? How does she pay for health care, car, etc?
Carolyn Hax: When you put it that way ...
Jilted Blues : Today is my first day not wearing my engagement ring, and it seems like everyone at work has noticed. I completely understand the curiosity among my casual work friends, but I am tired of giving the two-sentence explanation every five minutes. (As recently as Tuesday I was chattering blithely about caterers.) How tacky would it be to mass email everyone who might care with a brief explanation and a request that no one else ask about it?
Carolyn Hax: This is going to sound cruel, but I don't mean it to.
When you chatter blithely about caterers, then you're going to have to answer questions every five minutes when the ring disappears.
I know you're in hell, and I'm really sorry your engagement went off the rails. People will stop asking questions soon--office chatter will pick up and spare you a few two-sentence recitations--and you will get back to this new version of office normalcy. Then you can make a conscious decision to leave more of your home life at home.
It's a hard lesson almost everyone learns first-hand.
Re: Emotional Abu, SE, but not about that: Thanks for your response. I think it was helpful.
You've often mentioned the importance of acknowledging someone else's (and our own) humanity. Can you elaborate on what that means and how to achieve it? It's always been a weakness of mine.
In this context, I understand that gf's mom is human... a human who treats her like crap and who often ostensibly feels no need for basic human decency. I suspect this is not what you meant by acknowledging humanity. I hope it's not, because it's neither a fun nor helpful attitude to have.
Carolyn Hax: GF's mom did not get this way in a vacuum. Did her own mother/father/siblings treat her like this? Did they acknowledge her enough for it to be considered "treatment"? In a more general sense, what kind of life has she known?
When people become adults, they are, of course, responsible for their own behavior. But if you look closely at someone who behaves badly, often you'll see explanations fall into place. Say, someone who's too emotionally stunted to connect that she's doing exactly what her parents did to her. Or, someone who's so afraid--of losing people, of being wrong, of his own shadow--that he barrels through life insisting on having everything his way, as if that will somehow prevent scary things from happening. The most despicably selfish people are often, upon close inspection, feral--they're consumed by self-preservation, and don't have the courage to take the emotional risks that are the hallmark of civilized behavior.
Giving is a risk. Loving is a risk. Kindness is a risk. All demand that we drop our defenses; all allow the recipients of these gifts the opportunity to hurt us.
So, this is what I mean by acknowledging people's humanity: It's training your eyes to see not just the offenses, but the frailties those offenses are intended to cover up.
This isn't to say that you should handle the feral without gloves. Sometimes the best thing to do is to have nothing to do with them. But that's a decision people should come to only after seeing the whole person, and seeing whether there is a way to communicate with that person that bypasses (or at least keeps you arm's length away from) these bad behaviors.
This is what people mean when they say they've come to terms with someone, or learned to deal with someone, or made peace. It's a matter of adjusting your own expectations ("This is the way she is, this is why, and this is why it won't change ...") and then adjusting your behavior ("... so now when I visit, I stay no longer than two nights, and I don't discuss my weight/job/relationship.")
Oy...: ...when will we all learn that "love" isn't just some magical fix-it faerie dust that shoots out of unicorns' horns and stamps out all the ugliness in relationships... Loving a butthead doesn't make them any less of a butthead...
Carolyn Hax: Sent to me, but I believe it's addressed to Chi-town.
Cleveland: I am getting divorced. My husband met someone new and moved in with her. In the meantime, he has not told his parents or any of his relatives. In fact, he is avoiding telling them. I had not mentioned this to his mother who calls me regularly because I figured it was his news to tell. But now I feel I am withholding vital information from her. How do I tell her that her son is a cheating SOB?
Carolyn Hax: (Face-rub break.)
She's not your mother, but it's your soon-to-be-ex-marriage as much as it is/was his--and, the mom's calling you. Please feel free to tell her that her son left you. If she wants details, explain that you feel they should come from him directly.
Schmuckville again: We've had a lot of these conversations, especially during the two weeks were were "broken up" and she kept calling asking for explanations.
I've told her that at this point I am not thinking of remarriage but that I am not categorically against it, in theory. That I am not going to cohabitate (kids) and that I can't see moving in the next 3 years.
When I do get annoyed by the amount of contact and increasing clingyness, I "get distant" and she backs off.
She just now texted "XOX." I'm not responding.
Carolyn Hax: That's still dodging. She has told herself that you will move close to her in three years, and marry her shortly thereafter.
Tell her where your heart is and where your intentions are--not to put her out of her misery, but to put yourself out of your own. Which maybe I am just projecting, but getting unwelcome, and therefore clingy, texts all day sounds like its own level of hell.
Re: Jilted Blues: It may be past this point for JB, but in the past when I've broken up with someone I've usually informed one person and told him/her that it's OK to pass on the news, so that co-workers/friends don't have to feel like a total ass when they casually inquire about the ex. I'm sure the every-five-minutes conversation was awkward on the other end of things too.
I do agree that wedding chitchat at work could generally be reduced, though.
Carolyn Hax: It's a great way to approach it, thanks.
Chicago, IL: I have no answer to that question. It's a really great point and actually stunned me. I never thought about it that way.
Carolyn Hax: The right decision looks right from all angles, so here's to finding new ways to think about things.
Downtown D.C.: I need to end a relationship that just isn't going to work out. We're not right for each other, and, no matter how many changes we make, we're still not happy.
But I'm having so much trouble pulling the trigger. I say the relationship doesn't work, he begs for another chance, and we keep limping along. And I know it's an awful situation and it's all my fault. I just hate to feel like I'm letting anyone down.
I know, of course, that I have to break things off completely. What I really want to know is this: why am I being so hard on myself? Not every relationship is cut out for the long haul.
Carolyn Hax: It's his fault, too. Why does he want to be with someone he has to beg to stick around? Might be worth asking him that, though not in so many brutal-ish words.
Washington, DC: Hi Carolyn,
My husband and I split up because he wanted to have children and I didn't. My family supported me but did not understand my position, so for several months I was very defensive and unpleasant with them and made a lot of really nasty, unnecessary comments about the "breeding mentality" (basically just rationalization of my not wanting babies). I then found out my younger sister is pregnant and has very hurt feelings about this. She is due to deliver in the summer and we have spoken very little since my divorce two months ago. I desperately want to broker peace and be part of the new baby's life, but I don't know what to say that won't sound hypocritical. Can you help?
Carolyn Hax: You explain that you were nasty and defensive, and in being so you committed the very sin that you found so objectionable in others: You saw everyone's world view through the prism of your own. Then point out that being an emotional wreck (as you surely were) may be an explanation for this kind of lashing out, it's not an excuse.
So, basically, you avoid being hypocritical by stating what has been true all along, despite your fulminations to the contrary: To each one's own. You get that now.
And, say you're really happy for her, and are excited to meet your new niece/nephew.
Carolyn Hax: Time to go. Thanks everybody, and type to you next week, when we return to the usual Friday spot.
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