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Carolyn Hax Live: Pregnant And Having An Affair, Boyfriend Is Too Flirty With Other Women, Hubby Relies on Humor In the Bedroom and Much More

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Carolyn Hax
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 15, 2009; 12:00 PM

Carolyn Hax was online Friday, May 15 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.

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Past Carolyn Hax Live Discussions

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Follow-up on Brother with Gun: Carolyn, I wrote to you last week about my little brother in whose room my mom had found a gun. I'm happy to report that either Mom misspoke or I misunderstood: he doesn't have a gun, he has ammo that he bought to use as currency when the apocalypse comes. He's still a (lovable) nut, just not as nuts as I'd thought. And apparently the threats to hurt Mom/Dad were more theoretical than I'd thought at first. It's still not a great situation, but less scary than it seemed.

Carolyn Hax: This is good news, thanks. Just because it's not a crisis now, though, doesn't mean it won't become one, and just because he's "lovable" and "not as nuts as I thought" doesn't mean he isn't in a terrifying place. I mean terrifying for him: Someone who's stockpiling for the apocalypse is someone for whom the disconnect between him and reality has created a lot of confusion, uncertainty and fear. He needs help and he needs his family to help him.

One place to start would be NAMI (www.nami.org). It's an organization that helps educate and support people with mental illness and their families.

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Anonymous: My husband and I have a very rocky, borderline abusive relationship that has gotten worse and worse over the past few years. We also have four children, two of whom were conceived accidentally. I desperately want things to work out between us and to be able to provide a stable home for the kids. My husband refuses to consider counseling and constantly badmouths me to the kids. He curses at and is violent with me every day, treats the older kids like crap and neglects the younger ones, yet never controls himself to avoid making more of them.

Last month when I thought I was pregnant for the fifth time (I wasn't, phew), I asked my husband to please get a vasectomy. He refused, saying he doesn't know for sure that he won't want to have children with someone else someday. That told me everything I needed to know about the long-term chances of the marriage working out, but now I don't know what to do. He won't leave and I don't earn enough money to support myself and four kids if I do. What do I do? I'm afraid to call CPS on him, because anything I say will implicate me, as well.

Carolyn Hax: 1-800-799-SAFE. Tell them the whole story, so they know you need comprehensive services -- protection, counseling, legal aid, shelter, everything. Your kids need you to do this, and you need you to do this.

It's very dangerous, though, so please do it by the book: Use only the resources you find through the National Domestic Violence Hotline, and don't withhold information from the people helping you.

Take care, and please check back in -- tellme@washpost.com

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Portland, Maine: My husband and I just got married with a civil ceremony that involved just us. This was the perfect choice for us and we're really happy with it. As a compromise to both our moms, who would have wanted to participate in the wedding itself, we are having a small, family and close friends only reception in a few weeks -- about 60 people. We're all excited about a night spent with people close to our lives and with good food and music to boot.

The complication is my father. My parents are divorced and my dad wants to bring a date to the reception. This is an ex-girlfriend who I met very briefly on one occasion. I feel like he just wants to bring her so he can have a date (although my mom won't have a date so it's not like he'd be alone on that count) but hasn't considered that we will have to seat her at the family table, where my parents and my in-laws will essentially be meeting for the first time and the non-girlfriend will just be this other person at the table with minimal connection to me or my husband that people have to pay attention to so as to not be rude. If he were actually in a long-term relationship with her then I would be okay with it, even if I didn't know her well, but I feel like this is different. What do you think?

Carolyn Hax: He asked, right? So you could certainly say no. However, I suggest you just let him do what he wants and wipe it off your screen of concerns. Adults are expected to behave themselves, and if they don't, then it reflects poorly on them alone.

I realize you're having this reception to celebrate a milestone, and you don't want something petty or ugly to smudge your memories. But no matter what propaganda the engines of the bridal-industrial complex churn out, you can't stage direct your memories. You can only plan the party and hope for the best.

That said, one small tweak to your party planning might head off the worst of what you imagine: There's no need for a "family" or head table. For every wedding I've attended with a head table, I've been to another wedding that has a finessed alternative to hierarchical seating. It can be done without much upheaval or fuss.

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One last time re: brother with gun: Carolyn, you're right: the fact that he's preparing for (at least financial) apocalypse tells me that he's ready to give up on the world the way it is. And that scares and saddens me. I'll try NAMI, and I'll try to be there for him and the rest of my family as much as possible.

Carolyn Hax: Thanks for writing back. Keep reading for more on NAMI:

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Fairfax, Va.: NAMI has a "Family-to-Family Education Program" which is a 12-week (once per week) class for family members of people with mental illnesses (bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, depression, borderline personality disorder, anxiety disorders, OCD). It is a GREAT class and well worth the time, and it's free. I highly recommend checking it out. (I worked for NAMI and with this program several years ago -- I had a brother with severe schizophrenia and depression).

Carolyn Hax: I've heard good things about this program from a few sources, thanks.

And while I'm here ... I always appreciate firsthand accounts from people who use public resources to get help for a problem. Not just the resources I suggest, either, but all kinds. The more I hear back, the more complete and up-to-date my referrals can be.

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Washington, D.C.: Any ideas for bringing the spark back to a relatively new marriage? We both want it to be there, but are SO tired from working full-time, raising our baby together and handling other obligations (primarily extended family). The only time I feel like I have enough energy is mid-day -- which is when we're in different states for work!

Carolyn Hax: 1. Schedule at least one night a week for you to do something together, without the baby. Find a good sitter and make it a standing arrangement -- every Saturday night, Sunday night, whatever. Make it the absolute last thing you sacrifice for other obligations, as opposed to the first.

2. See this arrangement not as the solution, but instead as the baling wire that holds you together until you're able to start living some approximation of a normal life. The last thing you need is another ambitious goal on top of all your other ambitious goals. Calmer times will come, so it's okay to set your goal at the nice low expectation of just getting through the storm without forgetting you like each other.

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D.C.: I have a friend whose child has had to be hospitalized for mental problems (depression, suicidal thoughts, cutting, drinking/smoking pot to cover, etc.) and other than feeling so incredibly sorry for all that she and her child are going through and expressing that, any advice as to how I can be the best support I can be to my friend as she helps her child through this?

Carolyn Hax: Don't judge, don't pity, don't disappear. I could go on at length (and you all know that's no idle threat) but those three pretty much cover it.

If you get this but you're lost about the specifics, I would suggest reading up on depression, cutting, etc., so you're an informed audience, and also paying close attention to your friend, so you can pick up on things she might need. When in doubt, go with bringing freezable dinners, and offering to run errands.

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Uncomfortable: Thanks for taking this question if you can! My boyfriend is quite a flirt and an all-around fun guy for everyone. When I feel good and comfortable in the company we're keeping, this personality trait does not bother me. But other times, I might feel left-out or ignored (OR that his behavior is too-attentive and someone is getting the wrong impression) -- and this makes me seriously question his understanding of "too far" and whether I want to be with him. It's hard for me to articulate this to him -- mainly because I don't know if I'm being an overly-needy person or if my concerns are valid. I have never dated such a social man and I don't know if I can handle it! I guess another question here is how much is too-much attention to another person when you're in a committed relationship?

Carolyn Hax: Next time you're out with him and feeling ignored, try -- just as your own little private experiment -- ignoring him back. Don't think of it as a spiteful thing, just a resourceful one. Act as if you're there alone and it's up to no one else but you whether you have a good time.

It may be that your BF is a jerk, or it may be that you're better suited to a less outgoing companion, in which case your experiment won't bring about any magic change of perspective.

However, some people appreciate gregarious mates, because they, too, enjoy the dual benefits of flying solo and having a steady companion. The experiment gives you a chance to see whether it works for you.

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Portland, Maine again: Actually, he didn't ask! Just more proof that he's a doink I guess. You're right, we wanted as low fuss a wedding as possible so just ignoring this fits in with that intention. A follow up out of curiosity -- what do you think this means about the non-girlfriend? Isn't it a little weird to accompany a father to his daughter's wedding when you have no relationship to her?

Carolyn Hax: Eh, I wouldn't read too much into her decision to go with him. We all do some pretty strange things when a friend comes to us asking for support, even when we'd rather not and even after trying to talk the friend out of it. The favor he's asking her doesn't involve anything immoral or illegal, just a little weird.

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Alexandria: Hi, Carolyn. Another wedding question -- I know -- gag me. My fiance and I, after 5 months of planning a large, 'traditional' wedding, finally decided that that wasn't at all what we wanted. I told my parents, who are generously funding the celebration, on Sunday. They acted fine, are trying really hard to support the new idea, and put to rest the disappointment they feel at now not having what they think is a true celebration of a wedding -- huge reception, traditional events (cake cutting, bouquet, etc.). I just feel so guilty for taking this away from them, but I felt worse these past few months knowing that an absurd amount was going to spent on something that I just wasn't into. How do I get over this guilt? I feel like I've broken my dad's heart.

Carolyn Hax: Puffy eyes, sneezing and general spring misery -- is it really pollen, or is it the byproduct of wedding planning gone airborne?

If you didn't want the big "traditional" hootenanny, then all you've denied your family by canceling is an opportunity to waste money on a sham. You say they're "trying really hard" to support the idea, and that tells me they get it -- that even if they wanted the hootenanny, it wouldn't have been any fun unless you guys wanted it, too. So, save your guilt for when you do something really wrong, like compromise your integrity or abuse somebody on purpose or buy someone puppies as a surprise gift.

If the guilt is something you just can't shake, then channel it productively by including your parents as much as you can in the planning of your low-key hootenanny alternative.

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Los Angeles: I have a friend who's been going through terrible stress with her daughter's mental illness, too. One piece of advice: yes, it's good to read up on the problem, but remember that you're not the expert. So don't spend a lot of time telling her about the miracle cures you've read about and this great program that scares kids straight or whatever. Your friend is already doing that research. Listen to her, bring tissues, tell her stupid jokes she can laugh at, let her know she can call in the middle of the night if she needs to, and do the shopping once in awhile.

Carolyn Hax: Great point, thank you, and I am SO sorry I left that door open: The reading-up is NOT for the purpose of offering opinions, informed or otherwise. It's to help the supporting cast understand the size and scope of what this family is facing.

Thanks again for catching that.

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Bachelor party resentment: Carolyn, My fiance's friends are planning a four-day bachelor party for him. Undoubtedly a lot of drinking will be involved, and if past bachelor parties are any predictor, a visit to a strip club is inevitable. Personally, I find strip clubs abhorrent (and yes, I've been to them) and the need to get drunk and pay someone to arouse you as a way to kick off your lifetime commitment is deeply depressing to me. My fiance knows how I feel (this was almost a deal breaker for me in the past), but I suspect will choose to go along with the crowd anyway.

Meanwhile, I'll be at home all weekend taking care of our 16-month old baby, and I'll be lucky if my friends (pretty much all moms) and I find a night we can get together for dinner as my "bachelorette" party.

I'm feeling resentful and I'm not sure of whom or why. The egalitarian in me is angry that the men seem to get a free weekend pass when it's all the women can do to get a single night out. The feminist in me is disgusted by the strip clubs (which I call the "dollars for dignity" program). And the "it's not fair" six-year-old in me wants to have a weekend-long party where I get to act inappropriately while my fiance is the responsible parent. How can I get past this resentment and enjoy what should be a special time?

Thanks!

Carolyn Hax: He gets a four-DAY party, when he's already the father of a 16-month-old? How about this: The grown-up in you is unimpressed that he's even interested in that kind of self-indulgence. Just about the only argument for choosing "to go along with the crowd" is that asking him not to behave like an adolescent leaves you with the same problem you had to begin with: that you're about to marry an adolescent.

Think carefully, please, before you sign up for this particular life.

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Ravening Dog Here: I declare a state of unfairness.

First we had Schmuckville. Then an update from Schmuckville. Then there was Jersey Guy and a follow-up from Schmuckville. Then a follow-up from Jersey Guy. Then a complete update from Jersey Guy and a floater question from Schmuckville's Ex about telling her side of the story.

It's been 2? 3? weeks now. It's her duty to come back and talk to us dammit! She can't leave us hanging like this. No Fair. No Fair. Can we text her and see if she answers?

washingtonpost.com: I've been watching out for her, but nothing since she sent that last post. Sorry! - Michele

Carolyn Hax: She sent an e-mail to my address, fulminating at being used as a chew toy by a bunch of ravening dogs. So, I think you can cross "waiting for Schmuckville's ex" off your to-do list. Sorry.

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no laughing matter: Hola Carolyn,

My husband is very funny -- all the time -- and 99% of the time I love him for it. He is also, always, a comedian in the bedroom, and well, sometimes I just want a little passion. I have told him this -- which usually results in a Pepe Le Pew type performance, again for laughs. I realize this is not much of a problem in the scheme of things, but was wondering if you, or the gallery, have any ideas as to how I can get a little hot and heavy lovin' every once in a while. Happy Friday everyone.

Carolyn Hax: Well, ahem. If he's as insecure as he sounds, then it is much of a problem. Humor is the oldest intimacy-deflector in the book. You never risk looking stupid if it's all just a joke.

I also don't think it's likely to change much, though. Maybe things will get a little better with time, either as you present him with such an abundance of evidence that you love him and aren't leaving, or as he just gets tired of keeping up the front. But you might have to say something to him, about the way his constant joking has you feeling like you're always at arm's length.

What I wouldn't do -- probably should have said this first -- is not make this about sex. Confronting someone who's already insecure on the exact subject that represents almost everyone's greatest vulnerability is not a great idea. Make it just about loving his humor 99 percent of the time and wanting some softness for 1 percent.

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Uncomfortable, again: I have attempted that at one point -- though I will try again (with a more resourceful attitude vs. spiteful) because I do want to help the relationship. I have noticed that even though I entertain myself -- often away from the situation -- I still feel sick when he's chatting up some other lady. FWIW, I am gregarious around people I know, which is probably why I'm okay in that situation. Around people I don't know however, I clam up and get anxious. It takes a while!

But wow, though. If it boils down to that I just am never going to be comfortable with a gregarious man, how will that come off when we break up? "I love you, but you're too nice to other people."

Thanks much! Ha.

Carolyn Hax: No no no, it's just, "I love you, but we move at different speeds." If in fact you do move at different speeds.

Obviously there's no such thing as a perfect match, but you do want -- and shouldn't be afraid to hold out for -- someone who works well with your temperament, and who takes care of you as well as you take care of him. A gregarious A can be part of a happy couple with the introverted B, provided both A and B ungrudgingly go out of their way to make the other comfortable without compromising themselves so much that they drop from emotional exhaustion.

But if you're going out of your way to support his way of socializing but he's not going out of his way to support yours, then that creates the kind of mismatch that doesn't work. Nothing to apologize for, because nobody's "wrong" -- it's just two people who want different things.

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Washington, D.C.: I just found out my boyfriend and his ex girlfriend -- they dated five years ago -- have been emailing every so often, prompted by my boyfriend.

I told him it made me uncomfortable and he's stopping. So why do I feel slimy?

Carolyn Hax: Because it was either harmless, and you seized control of a corner of his social life for no other reason than your own insecurity -- or it wasn't harmless, and their cease-e-mail does nothing to change the fact that they were e-mailing in a non-innocent way.

That's why you feel slimy. You crossed a line and have nothing -- no truth, no assurances -- to show for it.

I would suggest you go back and (if you haven't already) find out why he was reaching out to her. Let him know you want the whole truth, not just the bits of it that he thinks you want to hear.

He may still withhold information to protect himself, but if you have an open mind and pay careful attention (instead of throwing up a bunch of must-save-this-relationship defenses), I think you can get a good idea of whether you can trust him any more or not. If you can, then there's no reason he can't send an occasional email to the occasional ex. And if you can't trust him, then you need to be the next ex in his contact list.

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Today's chat vibe....: Is it just me, or is there a definite "I used to like this side of my husband/boyfriend, but now I want him to change" vibe in today's chat?

-- The girl with the "flirty" and outgoing boyfriend, traits that no doubt attracted her to him in the first place but now doesn't like.

-- The woman with the selfish jerk fiance going on the 4-day bachelor party.

-- The woman with the "funny guy" who doesn't want him to be funny anymore.

Although I can't speak for all guys, I will:

We thought you liked us for who we were; it's not fair to ask us to change just because you don't like that aspect of us anymore.

Carolyn Hax: You can't speak for all guys, but I'll be happy to let you try to speak for all people: "We thought you liked us for who we were; it's not fair to ask us to change just because you don't like that aspect of us anymore" is a statement any of us could make.

There are very few crappy things one sex does that the other sex doesn't also do, and those few exceptions are strictly matters of plumbing. Please don't forget this.

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Apology from Schmuckville: Carolyn,

As many writers may tend to do, I wrote about my problems from my perspective. In the comments section of your April 9 column, I was even more one-sided, making her seem stalkerish. She is not.

I apologize to you, your readers, and most especially to her.

Carolyn Hax: Hope it helps, thanks.

Normally the only risk of being one-sided is that you don't get the answer you need. Instead, you get the answer that's based on your own wishful thinking, which defeats the purpose of asking me -- or, when you throw in nutterati feedback, asking us.

That's usually the extent of it because this forum's anonymity and geographic reach allow the other party/parties involved to remain unwitting. In this case, somehow, the object of the discussion realized she was the object of the discussion. Oops. Unfortunate but I guess it's inevitable that it would happen once in a while.

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Humor as a defense mechanism: Hi Carolyn: It's mine. the humor. I was once told as far as defense mechanisms go, that one isn't all that bad. Could you weigh in on the potential dangers? I suspect it's not the healthiest thing, but I don't know where else to go with it.

Carolyn Hax: I agree it isn't all that bad, as defenses go, but any defense is going to keep you from getting close to people. Constant jokes send the message that you don't take anything/anyone seriously, so how do you show you care about someone? How do you show appreciation that someone cares about you?

At some point, you need to show real concern for someone, and that can't be done with a joke. Sometimes, you have to show real gratitude for something or someone, and you can't do that with a joke.

That's the danger.

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Bachelor Party, Again: Hi Carolyn, Yes, you're right, I do feel like it's totally adolescent. And yet, other than the ridiculousness of the once-every-couple-of-years bachelor party, my fiance is a fantastic dad, a loving partner, and an utterly responsible person. He's the last of his friends to get married and they want to celebrate with a guy's weekend, like they have for all the others. I get that, and wouldn't feel right asking him not to go.

So I guess what I'm struggling with is reconciling this (thankfully rare) reversion to adolescence with the terrific person he otherwise is. Any more advice?

Carolyn Hax: Sure. Let him know the idea of this weekend is really bugging you, and that you'd feel better if you had these two things: 1. A weekend of your own. If your friends can't go, go by yourself, or visit someone you miss. 2. A promise from him that he won't forget himself on his weekend.

If these aren't enough to make you feel better, or if he resists either of these ideas, then I'm back to asking you whether this is marriage is really a good idea. A "fantastic dad, a loving partner, and an utterly responsible person" will have no trouble sympathizing with your distress. And by using the phrase "forget himself," you're showing that you do think he's a good person, but you're also realistic about how things can get out of hand.

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Uncomfortable, again: I'm sure this will sound defensive (my apologies, all)... but most people have a good few months of "honeymoon." In my case, I wrongfully assumed he was good friends with the people he flirted with (and at that point he was probably more interested in flirting with me).

But yeah, on some level, you hope that as the relationship gets more serious your SO will become "more serious" or look at you as a life-long commitment and not just a current girl/boyfriend.

Carolyn Hax: I have an idea. Any time you (and I mean the collective you -- I'll even do it myself) are about to use the word "hope," replace it instead with "wishful thinking" (noun form) and "think wishfully" (verb form, clunky as it is). Then see how well your current frame of mind is working for you.

I suggest applying this to practical matters; for matters spiritual, hope works fine as it is.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Carolyn

I cheated on my girlfriend because I was selfish and immature. We were planning on getting married next year. I'm doing the soul searching thing and I keep coming back to one conclusion: things would be better if I were no longer here. Yes, people would be upset at first, but people also move on. I'm losing hope by the minute and am not resisting that loss. It seems inevitable to me. Time heals all wounds, right? I'm feeling that this wound I've opened up for her and myself is irreparable.

Carolyn Hax: You've got it backwards, I think: The cheating wound will heal, but if you hurt yourself, the wound your loved ones feel will not heal. The toll-free, 24-hour hotline of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-TALK. Please call.

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Des Moines, Iowa: Dear Carolyn,

What's the best way to involve my husband in my pregnancy so he doesn't feel left out? He's a very hands-on type who loses interest in anything he can't sink his teeth into, and I'm afraid he won't believe we're really having a baby till he or she is actually born.

Carolyn Hax: Is there anything wrong with that? You say "left out," but I'm not sure how one can both lose interest and feel left out. It sounds more as if he'd just not be interested -- meaning you'll feel a little lonely. Isn't that more the dynamic you're worried about?

If you have practical reasons for wanting him to be involved, then those are the things you can ask him to "sink his teeth into." If you'd like his emotional support, then you probably just have to voice your concerns when and if they come up. As in, when he has a non-reaction to something you hoped he'd react to, you can say you're feeling a little lonely in this.

Still, it sounds as if it will go away when it counts (when the baby is born) and it's something you understand as part of his character -- and that's why I asked whether it's really something to worry about.

I know it's getting late, but if I've read your question wrong, please write back.

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Rockville, Md.: I am five months pregnant and having an affair. I know the baby is my husband's because, while I have been seeing the other man, "Gavin," casually for several months, we have only been sleeping together for about the past six weeks. I am beginning to feel unbearably guilty about my double life, but I don't know how to begin unraveling it and I am afraid of coming clean to my husband because I don't want to destroy my marriage right before welcoming a baby. Gavin and I have talked about the future, and I believe he might want a long-term commitment if I leave my marriage, but I'm afraid to rely on that because of his spotty track record with relationships. What should I do?

Carolyn Hax: You already have destroyed your marriage, don't you see?

End the affair, get into counseling to figure out what you're trying to accomplish and why. Then, once you've figured out what you're trying to do, start the process of building a solid foundation for your baby -- whether by staying in your marriage, or leaving it and having your ex-husband raise the baby, or leaving it and sharing custody, etc.

These aren't decisions you get to make alone, of course, but every mess is easier to clean up after you've stopped the thing that made the mess in the first place. The clean-ups also go better when there's someone there who's thinking clearly and independently, thus the counseling suggestion.

As for telling your husband, I can't tell you what to do. I would want to know, and I think he has a right to know. I've heard enough over the years, however, from people who resent having been told, that I can't pretend there's only one way to go.

Get help, get straightened out, start doing the right thing. No hole we dig for ourselves is ever so big that we can't just start doing the right thing, right now. You can always make your next step a decent one, and the one after that, and the one after that. It's the only way back out.

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"must save this relationship defenses": So how do you know the difference between throwing up these defenses and really being able to trust? For example, my husband cheated on me. He's owned up and doing the soul searching and counseling and we've both grown a lot. I still don't fully trust him and I wonder if I ever will again. We have lots of great things in our relationship. Is that enough? Will I be able to trust again, or am I just trying to save the relationship?

Carolyn Hax: If you think the trust is coming back but it's going to take some time, then I think you need to ask yourself what it will take for you to trust him again. In other words, is it a clear goal he can actually achieve? If you hit the one-year mark and you haven't seen any suspicious behavior, will that do it? Three years? Five?

If it's just a matter of waiting for the other shoe to drop, then it doesn't sound as if you can see yourself trusting him again. Staying in the marriage in those terms wouldn't be fair to either of you.

Since the question in the first paragraph is actually a trick question -- there is no such achievable "goal" -- I would argue the person you need to trust is yourself. You need to trust your judgment that you've married a good person; you need to trust your ability to recognize when and if you're being deceived; you need to trust your ability to prioritize truth and fidelity.

Let me explain that last part, because it's the heart of this issue. You seem to be saying here, by your actions and your distress, that being told the truth and having a faithful spouse are among your top priorities. Is that the right call -- not for society, but for -you-?

Anyone who has been cheated on (and I would argue, anyone who enters a marriage) needs to ask him- or herself whether infidelity is the end. Obviously it wasn't the end for you, but would another infidelity seal it? Is there room in your idea of marriage for a complicated set of tradeoffs? Lots of great things, with the understanding that he might stray?

Every culture seems to have its own view of fidelity, and that alone suggests there's room for each of us to give the idea some creative thought. Getting your thoughts, ideals and expectations straight will give you a better understanding of what you need, and what you can expect, from your marriage. That in turn spares both of you of that waiting-for-the-other-shoe suspense, and establishes your marriage as either on or off.

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re: Bedroom Humor: The original poster may be married to my ex-husband. To this day, he's the funniest person I've ever met. When I think of things I miss about him, his ability to make me laugh (outside the bedroom) is at the top of the list. I don't, however, miss the slapstick nookie. As you said, it's a way of dodging intimacy and projects insecurity. Not hot.

Carolyn Hax: I'm just posting this for "slapstick nookie." Thank you for that.

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Atlanta, Ga.: Dear Carolyn,

My husband and I are "bidding" for a closed adoption through our church. The birth mother is a 17-year-old girl who already has a child. She is currently considering us as well as one other couple. This process involves a lot of waiting and is really fraying my nerves. We are the "better" couple -- higher income, more childcare experience, a son who can't wait to be a big brother, and we live in the suburbs (while the other family has a condo in the city). We have not yet met the mother, but the other couple has apparently established a friendly relationship with her. We hope to do the same over the summer, to help her decision process.

My problem is I cannot come to terms with the fact that the choice will ultimately rest with this girl, whom I've never met. On paper, my husband and I are the easy choice. Nothing against the other couple, but I believe if it were up to an objective party, anyone would choose us. But the process is designed so that the girl has the final say, which I can't understand. Why should it be her decision? She has already demonstrated questionable decision-making capabilities, and she will never know anything about us besides what she learns over a couple of casual lunches. We hope to make a good impression on her, but I am really going to pieces over the thought that maybe there are factors we won't be able to influence. Why is this okay???

Carolyn Hax: If I were the mom, your quickness to dismiss both the other other couple and my right to make decisions for my baby would disqualify you without so much as a follow-up "casual lunch."

What I see are two families who want a child, and who both may well be in a position to give a baby a wonderful home -- neither "better" than the other, just different. And I see a mother who got herself in a stupid spot but who is doing her best to get out of it (see the physics of digging out of holes, above) in the way that best serves her child.

If you can't get over yourself long enough to see that this isn't a competition, it's a community effort to save a life, and that any good home is a great outcome, even if the home isn't yours, then I hope you'll recuse yourself from the "auction" altogether.

-- City-Dweller

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Re: Rockville: She should tell her husband, if for no other reason so that he can get tested for STDs. "Gavin" does not sound like the most stable partner and the phrasing of the question indicates they are not practicing safe sex (only knows the baby is not "Gavin's" because they started have sex three weeks ago).

Carolyn Hax: Righto, great use of the evidence, thanks. But the more urgent issue is that she get tested, since she's putting the baby at risk. It's my understanding -- please check with an OB or even www.ashastd.org and cdc.gov, I'm not a pro -- that herpes, for example, poses a serious threat to the baby if contracted during pregnancy -- i.e., too late for the baby to acquire mom's antibodies.

_______________________

Carolyn Hax: Okay, I have to go fall over. Bye, thanks, and type to you here again next week, I wishfully think.

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Des Moines, Iowa: I'm just afraid he will detach, when I am hoping he will be here for me and join me in celebrating the milestones, etc. To give an example of a time when he did this previously, about a year ago I wrote a short story that was published in a reputable anthology, and I tried to involve him in the ceremonial stuff. It was my victory and not his, but I expected him to at least buy me flowers or something. He didn't even read the story because fiction isn't his thing. I don't want this to be that way, but already he is backing out of important stuff (early doctor's visits, telling the family, and so on).

Carolyn Hax: Okay, I just saw this.

Humor me, please, and consider marriage counseling. This makes it sound as if you're in this marriage alone. I'm hoping there's more to it, that he's fully engaged in you at times and not just involved when it's about him -- but even then, at best, you have a gap between your expectations and the reality of your husband that could lead to serious problems when the baby arrives.

_______________________

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.

E-mail Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com. Have more to say? Check out Carolyn's discussion group, Hax-Philes. Comments submitted to the chat may be used in the discussion group. Want more to read? Check out Carolyn's Recent Columns.

Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.


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