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Carolyn Hax Live: Advice columnist tackles your problems

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Carolyn Hax
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 6, 2009; 12:00 PM

Carolyn was online Friday, November 6, 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.

Carolyn's Recent Columns

Past Carolyn Hax Live Discussions

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Carolyn Hax: I'm the reason I'm banging my forehead on the keyboard right now. Got this in my mail:

"I thought your advice [on Sunday] was incomplete. I think if she wanted to show REAL growth and maturity, and put the the new 'old' relationship to a true test, you would have told 'Not so vinny' to admit and apologize to the boyfriend she said was gay. M.L."

I can't believe I missed that. Oddly enough, this guy was the only one (so far--it's only Tuesday) to tip me off to this. So there it is, the rest of the advice.

And since a lot of you have been asking, I made a conscious decision not to take the writer to task specifically for saying the ex was gay. Here's why: It could have been a homophobic comment, yes. But it could also have been a (lame) way of rationalizing his lack of interest in her. So I gave her the benefit of the doubt and put it under the umbrella criticism of ugly words and immature actions.

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Chicago -- Dad Hax's Christmas poem?: Last year I missed any mention of your Dad's Christmas poem tradition. Are we in luck this year, please? --"Auntie Mame" Wannabe

Carolyn Hax: You were in luck last year, and you will be again this year. What does everyone think of Dec. 4?

That is, presuming Pops will have his manuscript ready by then. Otherwise Dec. 11.

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washingtonpost.com: Happy Friday 'Nuts! Carolyn's answering a few questions now, and then will rejoin us at 1:30.

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Chevy Chase, Md.: Hi Carolyn - longtime reader, first time submitting a question. I've been dating someone for five years who is 16 years my senior. It's been serious for awhile and we've talked about marriage. He and I are a great match, though I do at times wish the age difference was less significant.

The awkward thing is, people often refer to him as my father, like "Oh, it's so nice to meet your father" or "Is that your Dad?" I can understand it, but it bugs me to the point that sometimes I find myself snapping "BOYFRIEND. Not FATHER."

Part of the problem is that I love him, but the difference does make me feel self-conscious (I'm not a particularly self-confident person anyway). Stereotypes don't help either. I always feel like people think I'm dating him for money, etc. but that couldn't be farther from the truth. The old sugar daddy with hot chick thing. In fact, I've had people over the years assume this.

Can you suggest a better way for me to deal with judgemental people and be a little easier on myself as well? I do have supportive friends that we enjoy spending time with...it's just the other people that really get to me.

Carolyn Hax: The best way to deal with the (apparently, at least in some cases) innocent mistakes people are making, and to deal with some of the other possible problems you mention, is to face the biggest problem you mention: your low self-confidence.

Speculating here, of course--and I realize I'm treading close to the stereotype line myself--but when I see someone profess to low confidence in a letter about having a significantly older mate, it just screams, "I'm feel better with someone taking care of me."

That in itself isn't a problem, as long as you're fine with who you are and you're fine with this configuration--I've said that all along, it's all fine with me if it's fine with you.

But your bristling at the comments suggests you're not fine with it. Self-consciousness is the universal flag for "I'm not comfortable in my own skin." And that's an indication of a couple of things. 1. Your current romantic arrangement is a band-aid for an underlying problem; 2. The conditions upon which you might base a marriage are not themselves permanent, but still in flux.

So please take some conscious and concrete steps to address your shaky confidence--a complex process to be sure, but one that you can kick start either with therapy, a concerted effort to join/start/focus on things you enjoy and knwo you're good at, or a combination of the two.

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Anonymous: I was successfully treated for breast cancer two years ago and consider the episode past history. But I have a friend who won't let it go. She brings it up a lot, poking into how I am doing and making comments about future health crises. When I was undergoing chemo, she was a great support, but she doesn't seem able to let this go. I feel like she thinks I'm a walking time bomb. I guess I need to tell her gently that I don't wish to hear these inquiries and comments regarding my health?

Carolyn Hax: You said to us what you need to say to her, right here:

"When I was undergoing chemo, you were a great support, but now, when you keep asking questions, I feel like a walking time bomb. I appreciate your concern, but I don't wish to hear these inquiries and comments regarding my health any more."

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Carolyn Hax: Hey everybody. I had hoped to answer more questions before I had to go, but now I have to go. As Jodi said, I'll be back at 1:30. I am so sorry for the back-to-back disrupted shows. The reasons are unrelated, just straight-up coincidence and bad timing.

Thanks in advance for your patience, and enjoy the Hootenanny transcript.

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washingtonpost.com: In case the 2008 transcript wasn't enough, here's Carolyn's 2007 Hootenanny. Enjoy!

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Carolyn Hax: Hey everybody--back sooner than I thought. Given how far off I was in my estimate with the pediatrician run last week, I thought I'd be extra conservative.

This week's interruption: I had one shot to see my dad today, who's in town for less than 24 hrs. I thought it would be after the chat, but it turned out to be smack in the middle of it. Once again, my apologies.

Off we go.

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Washington, D.C.: Last year, my husband of 20 years admitted to a brief affair with a women in another city. After a year of counseling, crying and a lot of work, things are going very well and I hate to say it, but we are closer than ever. One problem, he refuses to completely cutoff this women as a friend. He even wants me to meet her so that I can see that "we can all be friends." He is considered one of the most honest, trustworthy, stand-up guys and I do trust him. But, I have a real problem with this. Is it possible for people to go from an affair to "just friends." What do I do?

Carolyn Hax: How have your conversations on this issue played out? Specifically, how have you expressed to him that you would like him to cut off this relationship? And how has he responded to your request(s), and/or how does he justify his decision to remain friends with her?

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New York: After six weeks with our newborn, my wife informed me she could not follow through with our one-year maternity leave plan and that she had to go back to work. I know we're a team in this, so I rearranged my whole career to stay home with the baby. However, it quickly became clear that I'm not going to get very far telecommuting indefinitely. (Have already been passed up for a promotion and am missing out on many important elements of the office culture.)

Not to trivialize my wife's job, but even she says it's not a "career" and it pays very little. If she needs to be out of the house for her sanity, I understand that, but I have to succeed at work for our family to survive. However I feel like to insist that she reconsider this arrangement would be oppressive or borderline abusive. Please help.

Carolyn Hax: There is room between insisting your spouse do something, and just doing whatever your spouse insists that you do. It starts with finding a calm time and place to talk to your wife about this. Especially when theres a baby in the house, the timing matters: You don't want to compete for attention, get interrupted, add more stress to and already stressed person, or introduce something big just as she thinks she's going to lie down for some rest. Plan a time to talk--put the baby in the stroller for a long walk this weekend, or even get child care if you have to.

Then, you let your wife know that this setup where you stay home isn't working out as you had hoped, followed by specific reasons that it isn't. (My superiors are agreeing to it only as a temporary measure; I can't do my job from home as well as I can in the office, because of X, Y and Z; the reasons they gave me for passing over me include my being absent from key meetings ... lay out whatever solid evidence you have.)

Then ask her whether she has any thought on how to solve the problem.

(more)

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Carolyn Hax: Here's the part that will make this more than an insincere, leading question:

There (most likely) isn't just one solution, that you go back to the office and she stays home. Just with the handful of movable parts in the ways people work--full-time, part-time, telecommuting, changing jobs, entrepreneurship--and in the way people care for children--day care, nannies, nanny shares, relatives, co-ops--there are few cases where parents are absolutely locked in to either-or.

So, open your mind to other ideas, and invite your wife to give her ideas, and hear them out, while also offering your own.

Should it come down to your having no choice but to become the full-time, off-site, primary breadwinner while she becomes a stay-at-home mom again (availing herself of co-op day care, maybe?) then at least it won;t be something you handed down by fiat, but instead something you both concluded together. I would be surprised, though, if it came to that.

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Philadelphia, Pa.: My husband and I live with another person, whom we did not know before we moved in. She put the gas and electric utilities bills in her name. This month we found out that for the past two months that'd we've given her money for gas/heating, she hasn't paid the bills and the money went who knows where. She also hid the bill from us. How do we approach her about this? As it gets colder I don't want our heat to turn off, but I also don't want to be giving her anymore money if she's not paying the bills.

Carolyn Hax: Can't you pay the utility company your share directly?

Even then, it's a temporary fix to a problem that isn't going away--you're living with someone dishonest and irresponsible. That's the thing you have to work on now, finding a new place to live, but in the meantime you do want to keep the heat on.

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Swine Flu: Hi, hope your kids are feeling better.

Carolyn Hax: They are, thanks--all three went down, all three popped right back up.

Now I'm dragging, but in denial.

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Intercourse, Pa.: Carolyn,

I've been dating a nice person for three years now. Do you think people can just date indefinitely? I don't want to get married. I like dating. We go on vacations together and spend some weekends together and I like it that way. I don't want to live together, either.

Do you think this is wrong?

Carolyn Hax: I just did a Google Maps "street view" of Intercourse, Pa., and I have to say it wasn't at all what one might expect.

I think, yes, people can date indefinitely, but nice people let their indefinite dates know of their intentions. It's not the romantic goal that matters, but instead that the goal is mutual.

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Chicago Pregnant Lady: Hi Carolyn. I'm eight weeks pregnant! My husband and I are thrilled. We are trying to figure out when to tell our families; it's our first pregnancy. They are lovely and supportive people and if anything is to go wrong, I know they will help us through it. But I'm not sure when I want to tell them. We will be seeing them this weekend (everyone lives locally).

We had our first prenatal appointment on Wednesday but didn't get to hear a heartbeat or anything. Our first ultrasound is the week after Thanksgiving.

When is the right time to tell/announce? I won't be drinking on turkey day which both families will notice and say something (my sil commented that I didn't have any wine a few weeks ago and I deflected with some excuse). We want to tell them but I feel a little conflicted for a couple of reasons:

1) It's kind of fun to have a secret! And 2) once we tell anyone, we don't really have control over our news or who our families tell (like their friendly neighbors who may be sworn to secrecy, friends, etc.). We are going to wait to tell our friends until after the ultrasound (when I'll be at 12 weeks) but should we wait to tell our families?

If I miscarry, I want to have to break the news to as few people as possible (though, to be honest, I would probably tell our families/friends that I miscarried if asked. I just don't want to hear "congratulations" after a miscarriage).

When do most people announce? Now that I'm pregnant I feel like I can't ask my friends or sister who have done this before because I'm afraid they'll ask point blank if we're pregnant!

Carolyn Hax: You have a lot of scattered thoughts and words, but I'm going to answer with a single suggestion:

Parenthood is a state of life that reminds you, sometimes every minute of every day, that there are firm limits on how much say you have in what goes on. You can't make a kid sleep who won't sleep, you can't make a kid eat who won't eat, you can't make a kid poop who won't poop (all these barring medical intervention, of course, which I hope will never be an issue, of course).

These are the big three of babies, but the message they teach applies to your situation as well: You make the best choices you can, and then make your peace with fate.

You can try to control your pregnancy message, but you can't account for sharp-eyed relatives or nosy Parkers or, if all goes well, the belly that eventually speaks for itself. So tell people with whom you're excited to share the news, when you're excited to share it, knowing only that a perfect outcome might not be the hand you;re dealt.

Congratulations, and best wishes to you both.

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Chevy Chase, Md. followup: Thank you for your advice. I'm a little confused as to why just because someone is older than me, it means he takes care of me? We're both hardworking adults and take care of each other. Past relationships have always been people my age, but I happened to fall in love with someone older, not because he is older, but because he's a wonderful person. You can't help who you love.

My problem is not so much needing to be taken care of. It's how to deal with people who assume the stereotypes like the one you (admittedly) feel my relatinship falls under.

Why is it politically incorrect to judge people in same sex relationships or interracial relationships these days, but just because I'm with someone older than me and feel a bit self-conscious of what people think, I'm looking for someone to care for me?

I agree with you that I do think it would help to take some steps to help my self-confidence, but that still doesn't help me deal with other people's ill-informed assumptions about my relationship. Or are you saying that if I'm more self-confident I simply won't care what other people think?

Carolyn Hax: I am saying that if you're more self-confident you simply won't care what other people think.

I am also saying that being in a relationship while you also lack self-confidence puts that relationship on shaky footing. That would be true if your guy were your age or younger, too. If you're fearful of speaking up on your own behalf, or if you routinely question yourself, or if it feels more comfortable to defer instead of challenging, then it's easy for a schism to develop: Your relationship on the surface goes the way of the more willful partner, and your heart stays on the path you're choosing not to declare.

And I am saying that people who lack self-confidence need to be particularly open-eyed about the predispositions they bring to a relationship when they're with someone significantly older. While it does happen, plenty, that the older half of a couple dates younger people because of immaturity, and the younger ends up being the de facto caregiver, it's also fairly common for much-olders to assume a paternal/maternal role over their much younger mates. And when that younger mate admits to insecurity/self-consciousness/dependency/other such vulnerability, then it's acting sensibly, not stereotyping, to be on alert for the paternal/maternal dynamic.

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PA city names: Having grown up in southcentral Pennsylvania, I was always amused that Intercourse, Pa., is not far from Blue Ball, Pa.

Carolyn Hax: Many of you will be happy to know that you can get from Blue Ball to Intercourse in 16 minutes, without traffic. If you get there by way of Bareville, it'll take you an extra six minutes.

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Arlington, Va.: Re: Lady who lost a lot of weight and went from one size (6) to another (2). I recommend that she say thanks, and go on to another subject. Speaking as a guy, though, women's dress sizes are meaningless since we guys use many different sizes when we go shopping for apparel and shoes. Can you educate us guys about women's dress sizes so that we can understand you women better? Thanks.

Carolyn Hax: Women's dress sizes are widely variant from brand to brand, and the ideal size and weight vary widely from woman to woman, so don't waste your brain space on it.

But on saying thanks and changing the subject, amen.

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RE: Mom with six-week infant who needs to return to work for her sanity: I'd suggest the mother get screened for post-natal depression. Not every Mom who finds infancy challenging is depressed, but it happens often enough it is worth looking into...and if she is depressed, returning to work is not the answer.

Also, there are plenty of families where both parents are working from the time the baby is two-three months old. There are good daycare options. Neither parent has to stay home if doing so entails personal suffering and/or career damage.

Carolyn Hax: Yea to both, thanks.

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No Drinking Excuse: Snort some Tabasco to make your nose run and tell them you can't because you're taking cold medicine that day.

Carolyn Hax: The good sense of doing something you've resisted doing is inversely proportional to the lengths you'll go to avoid doing it.

In other words, if you're snorting Tabasco, then it's time to just admit that you're pregnant.

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Anywhere: Carolyn, I just found out my boyfriend of three years has begun dating a friend of ours (she was my friend before he and I were together) less than two months after our breakup. I feel totally and completely betrayed, like someone is repeatedly punching me in the stomach.

I really never thought that he (or she) would be capable of this. It's left all of our mutual friends horrified, disgusted and bewildered. Any advice on how to proceed from here, how to trust people ever again, or how I can best navigate this situation?

Luckily I don't live in the same city as them anymore, so I don't have to see them. The interesting thing is that we all work for the same small organization--they work in an office together and I work in another one, so I will have to deal with them at work--moreso with him than with her.

Carolyn Hax: Maybe they are in fact heartless jerks (in which case, "Buh bye! And, hey, good luck with each other!!). But sometimes inopportune feelings happen to perfectly decent people. If that indeed happened, maybe I could argue they should have waited a decent interval before dating. But given the impossibility of defining "decent interval" to everyone's satisfaction, and given that you don't even live in the area (and thus their going out won't mean being right in your face with it), their going out might just be the honest if painful expression of their feelings.

I don't mean to be their apologists; I just don't think there's necessarily a "good" way for their falling for each other to play out.

I also think your "horrified, disgusted and bewildered" but well-meaning friends are doing you a disservice. They're validating the idea that you have some say in this, or some claim on your ex-boyfriend, when you don't. What you have here is a bummer, no more, no less. The sooner you can accept what has happened, re-grieve the possibilities of your relationship that didn't come true (which is essentially why this hurts so much), and then get back to the business of your own life, the better.

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Des Moines: What to do if you don't like your best friend's kid? She's abusive, spoiled and obnoxious, and yes my friend helped her get that way. (I do see that the kid is suffering too.) I live on the opposite coast, but still I think my friend notices that I don't take an active interest in her child (12 years old), who is the center of my friend's universe. I don't want to hurt my friend, but--?

Carolyn Hax: The opposite coast is your answer here. Ask polite questions, let her talk about her baby, then move on to the topics you enjoy more. There will probably be a dent in your closeness because of it, for the reason you gave--a good friend is going to notice a polite question vs. a show of genuine interest.

But you just don't have any better options. Not only is it not your place to weigh in with your opinions of the kid, it's not what friends do to each other. You check the points of known (or even just understood) disagreement at the door, and you enjoy each other for what you both bring to the conversation.

If she asks you outright, that's a different answer.

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Washington: I'm dating a man with two grown daughters. I have a son in high school. We are planning on getting married and moving in together, but probably not until after my son is in college (hopefully two years from now). My husband's daughters don't live anywhere nearby and will of course never live with us (even though my son will definitely return to our home in between school years and maybe after college). My question is, what (if anything) do we need to do to broker a relationship between these future stepsiblings? If they will never live under the same roof and will have minimal contact for the rest of their lives, how important is it that they meet and embrace each other before we get married?

Carolyn Hax: Well, it would be nice if they embrace each other, but you don't have a lot of say in that. Don't force the issue, don't badmouth anyone, and hope the kids each of you raised have blossomed/are blossoming into mature adults.

As for how important it is that they meet, I'd say very important--along the lines of how important it is for couples a generation younger than you are to meet each other's parents, and to have those parents meet each other. These are significant people in both of your lives, and they not only say a lot about you as people, they also are your permanent community on this transient corner of the earth. Even just meeting his stepsisters-to-be would help your son know his stepfather-to-be.

Meanwhile, if you get infirm or ill, if you lose all your money, if some unforseen somethingorother happens, who's going to be involved, even coordinating, the emergency response? Most likely, it'll be the kids. And what a relief it will be then (to all involved) if they've already met and gotten along under much less trying circumstances.

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Anonymous: I wrote to you desperately depressed and am working to get help (thanks for your advice). I picked a psychiatrist out of plan list. I saw him and he prescribed some medicine. I'm now sort of stuck with him, with follow-up appointments. But during our first (and to date only) appointment he asked me to describe what I do. I mentioned that I volunteer with an animal organization and he went on and on about this funny cat story he had read; he even pulled it up online and read parts of it to me. I wanted to say--hey can we get back to my issues (I had told him how major this all was to me), but then I thought--is this some psychiatrist test to see how I will handle this? Finally my question--do you think his behavior is odd and if so, what should I do about it? (The only good thing is that it is giving me a laugh just thinking about it and I have not laughed in a long time.)

Carolyn Hax: Please push yourself, if something like this happens again, to say, "Hey can we get back to my issues? I told you how major this all is to me." Don't underestimate the effect it can have on your emotional health to be able to: 1. form a clear and coherent idea of what you want from a relationship; 2. express that desire; and 3. make the future of the relationship contingent upon your getting what you want. The relationship with your doctor/therapist (often different people, which I'll get to in a sec) is a great place to start learning to take this kind of control.

If you don't get what you want here, then ask him for the name of another doctor--or just find one your own way, make an appointment, see if s/he's an improvement, and cancel your appointment with the original doc. Meaning, you are not yoked to this doctor. You are in charge of your care.

In the meantime, too, please also get back to your referral network and find yourself a psychotherapist. Your psychiatrist is treating you with medication, not with talk therapy. Talk therapy is often a separate component from the medication--and it seems to me your doctor is treating it that way. That's another question worth summoning the voice to ask this doctor, if you're not sure. You can even ask him to refer you to someone who's skilled at talk therapy while still keeping him as your medication resource.

And last but not least, a big fat "way to go!" on getting yourself some help. That's a towering step for anyone fighting depression.

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Re: Pregnant: Just go ahead and tell family and friends. My first pregnancy I was super-secretive - didn't even tell my mother. Then I miscarried at 8 weeks and of course I wanted my family's support. So I had the pleasure of announcing to my mother in the same phone call, "I've neglected to tell you I've been pregnant for 6 weeks" and "That pregnancy just ended."

And yes, my mother blabbed it all to her co-workers, most of whom I've never met. But in the end that turned out to be a good thing, because my mom learned that other women in the office had miscarried too and that helped her understand the situation.

So tell those you'd want by your side if something sad occurred. Wait on the mild acquaintances. Believe me, if the worst occurs (which it probably won't) you don't want to go it alone.

Carolyn Hax: This is the conclusion a lot of people come to, and it is what I have often advised--tell good news to the same people you'd tell any bad news. But even that can be subject to intrusions of fate and nosies.

Over the years I've heard a few versions of the same telling-related horror story, and it's not common, but it's the one we all know about already: telling the whole world about the pregnancy the moment the pee hits the stick, and then having to issue a painful retraction to the whole world when something goes awry.

The much more common story I've seen here in my queue is of great stress in trying to stage-manage the release of the news. Don't tell the world right away? That's easy. Tell the world exactly what you want to tell, exactly when you want to tell it? That's well nigh impossible.

So I'm back to, don't blab, but don't stress about it, either. Share when moved to, and enjoy the ride.

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Silver Spring, Md. : My new husband comes from a big family (eight siblings, 14 nieces and nephews) whom we see very often. I'm an only child, so I find it all very exciting. However, there's one sister of his I know exists (the others refer to her name often) but have never met. I know she isn't dead and I know she lives in-state, but the very mention of her name often casts a pallor over the whole day. My husband clearly doesn't want to talk about her, but after knowing each other for years and being married for months, I feel like he should feel comfortable confiding in me about whatever it is that makes this one sister the family outcast. At this point my curiosity is getting the best of me. Would it be wrong to just ask another member of my husband's family (something I've been trying not to do)?

Carolyn Hax: How about, "I feel very uncomfortable being married to you and not knowing the story about your sister. I have no doubt it is a painful subject for you, but my not knowing the truth doesn't keep it from being true. It only keeps me from being a full partner in your life."

Usual disclaimer, these dialogue suggestions are best spoken in your own words, but that's the idea I would want to convey if I were you.

Good luck.

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Friday: Just wanted to say these Friday chats are the perfect start to the weekend. It helps with the afternoon "tick-tock waiting for 5-o'clock can't get here soon enough" syndrome. Hope everyone is healthy again. Also, do you have a facebook fan page?

Carolyn Hax: Why, how good of you to ask: You can get my shameless self-promotion here.

If that link works, too, Jodi is going to faint.

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Bird-in-Hand, Pa.: Everyone knows that you're supposed to announce you're pregnant at someone else's wedding shower. Duh.

Carolyn Hax: Clearly I am coming down with something. That's the only explanation for my missing this.

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Re: Husband's Affair: I'm curious what the writer meant when she said, "He is considered one of the most honest, trustworthy, stand-up guys." Who "considers" him this? Is he or is he not honest, trustworthy, and stand-up? It just caught my attention as kind of an odd way to phrase it, and I wonder if it means something.

Carolyn Hax: I'm still waiting for the rest of the story on this, because there's no way there isn't a rest of the story on this. Jodi, anything come in?

(Or, original poster--if you did send something, can you now beam us a message with a keyword we can search? It gets pretty hairy in the question queue, especially by this point of the chat.)

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Arlington, Va.: Dear Carolyn,

My wife and I have spent the past two years trying to get pregnant without success. I like kids but am not desperate to have children of our own, so my wife is really the one who is suffering in this. For the past two years I have been accused repeatedly of not understanding what she is going through. I understand that she wants a baby, but I don't understand how it can be making her so miserable. Is there any way I really can understand this, or is there any way I can support her without understanding?

Carolyn Hax: Off the top of my head, the best I can offer you is to imagine a need/urge of yours that you would call primal. It's such a personal thing for people, but, outside of pregnancy/childbirth/nursing/nurturing, I can really only equate it to an artist's or writer's urge to express, or a musician's impulse to make and hear music, even just drumming a table, or an athlete's yearning to run. Something that's both physical, emotional, and visible to anyone in the course of day-to-day life, and denied to some people. Not all women have this primal urge, but your wife apparently does, so you have to think in primal terms. To sympathize on the level you want, you'll need to think of that something in your life, and imaging doing without it.

But to sympathize on the level she needs, you may just need to look at your wife and see that the person you love is really, really hurting--having to part with her vision of herself. It's not like she's failing to achieve a lofty dream, like winning an Olympic gold. She's surrounded by people who have gotten (and sometimes don't even want, or loudly complain about) exactly what she wants by absolutely non-spectacular, even accidental, means. That's crazy-making stuff. And a husband who sees her from a detached place as a bit of a mystery? That ups it to hyper-crazy.

I say this as no fan of the "you have no idea what I'm going through" accusation; that's just shoving someone to arm's length away, instead of bringing them in.

It is urgent that you she do find some mutual understanding here, if only because, two years in, it's time for both of you to start exploring the "what's next" question, even while it's way too early to give up on trying to conceive.

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Carolyn Hax: By the way, you also might want to look around at resolve.org. That's a Web site that comes well-recommended for people dealing with infertility.

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Rockville: My 13-year-old son just informed me that he is gay. I want to be supportive, but I have a hard time believing a 13-year- old knows ANYthing definitive about his sexuality yet. I had decided to just say "Okay" and carry on as if nothing had happened, but a friend of mine says it would be incredibly demeaning not to treat my son's outcoming(?) as sincere. What do you think I should do?

Carolyn Hax: I agree with your friend. A 13-year-old knows A LOT about his sexuality. Think back to when you were that age, and think what was zooming around your mind. Maybe you don't have the same, say, friends as you did then, but you were still you, no?

A few things I imagine your son would like to hear--even now, after the fact--are that you're proud of him for telling you this, since that can't have been easy (there's no way it was easy); and that you love him, always have. Your love presumably has never been contingent on who he loves, so why start now? And, reassure him that he can come to you, since the road from 13 to independence is hard for everyone, and this news doesn't change that, either.

Parents and kids are both in the business of finding a comfortable and stable emotional place in the world, and any time they can be each other's allies in that quest, both are that much better for it. This has nothing to do with anyone's sexual orientation.

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Last Week City: Don't know if we want to bring this up again, but I've been holding on to a comment about last week's chat - specifically, the fiance who felt uncomfortable with his fiance's grad school hook-up. I've been through something like this, and it's not always an issue of maturity or hypocrisy. She mentioned that she's inviting the guy to the wedding - if I was the fiance, I would feel uncomfortable too. Who wants to walk down the aisle and see someone who's been intimate with the person they're about to commit to? I know I wouldn't. I think his little comments are his ways of telling her he's uncomfortable with this - and I think a lot of people who aren't immature or hypocrites would be as well.

Carolyn Hax: "Little comments" are like teenage suitors chucking pebbles at a girl's window. He's about to marry this woman; if he has a problem with having an ex bedmate of hers at their wedding, then he needs to go to the stinkin front door. "I have no problem with your being friends with Ex--I am friends with and ex of my own--but I do have a problem with having an ex bedmate of yours at our wedding. I am not inviting mine, and it would mean a lot to me if you did the same by not inviting yours."

Not that I agree with that, just that grown men should act like them.

Likewise, if (as many believe) the real problem is her hedging on telling the truth, then he needs to say: "I couldn't care less about having some ex bedmate of yours at the wedding, since obviously the relationship didn't amount to anything. What chaps me is that you hid it from me, and now I have this seed of doubt, and I'm really resentful of that."

I know, it's easy for me to get the words just so--I'm at a keyboard, not in the middle of an argument, and I think of this stuff for a living. But still, it is not that hard to make the decision to SAY what we MEAN. If the ex at the wedding bugs you, then it's on you to say so-not on your betrothed to read your mind.

Finally, on that same topic: I probably under-emphasized this element of my answer. It is -exceedingly common- for the mates of jealous people to get into the habit of buffering the truth about their exes. yes, those mates need to suck it up and stop buffering, but that fact remains that people do it, and last week;s question had that ring to it. Here's why: Couples who really are okay with each other's exes are open about it. There was no mention of, "He's okay with my other ex(es), just not this one." It's always possible that was omitted to slant the question, and it is possible she's hot for this ex and tried to cover it. but it just makes more intuitive sense that the cover up was jealousy bypass.

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washingtonpost.com: So close, Carolyn! Carolyn's shameless self-promotion.

Carolyn Hax: The sad thing is, all I'm doing is copy-pasting. And yet Ive managed to screw up every element of it--I leave a space in here, I backspace over a quotation mark there ... today I decided to hand-enter the URL and forgot the HTTP. I'm a cornucopia of minor, preventable errors.

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Up the river without a paddle: Carolyn, how could you hide Canoe Girl's resolution of her oh-so-difficult-dating-dilemma only on your Facebook page? Sharing is caring!

-- Pasty skinned one

Carolyn Hax: That's where they're all going. I prefer it because I can go there when I have something and only when I have something, and let other people weigh in whenever they want, whereas on the Post site, I'd have to feed it more regularly to justify the editorial space.

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Re: My 13-year-old son is gay: "I have a hard time believing a 13-year- old knows ANYthing definitive about his sexuality yet."

I've never understood that response to a young person self-identifying as gay. I mean, if the same kid said, "I know I'm straight," you wouldn't even question it.

Carolyn Hax: Zackly. Thanks.

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13 year old gay son: Mom might want to check out some of the resources at PFLAG to help her understand her son a little better.

I would also just add that a number of the gay men I know, including my brother-in-law, say they have known since they were 5 or 6 that they were gay, even if they didn't have the word for it. It's not uncommon for kids to come out in middle school now.

Carolyn Hax: Another good one, thanks.

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To tell about the pregnancy or not...: From an old wife's point of view, I'm positive this newly pregnant woman's relatives noticed she didn't drink the last time they were together and didn't buy her excuse. They know already. They are very politely waiting for the announcement and will act surprised and pleased. But trust me, they know, they have told, and the secret is out.

Carolyn Hax: Well done, old wife. Thanks.

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Carolyn Hax: Time for me to stop monopolizing Jodi's time. Thanks everyone again for being patient with today's delay, and see ya next week, I hope, when I regain command of the reins on my schedule, I hope.

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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.

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

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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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