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Carolyn Hax Live: Advice columnist tackles your problems

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Carolyn Hax
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 8, 2010; 12:00 PM

Carolyn was online Friday, Jan. 8, 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.

E-mail Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com.

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Carolyn Hax: Hi everybody. Still digging out from the holiday break, but glad to be back in the routine.

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Lansing, Mich.: This is in reference to today's column, and I submit this knowing full well the peanuts might rip me apart.

I'm of Hungarian descent, and I had always liked a particular family name for a boy. Yes it's fairly unique. I say this, knowing that everyone thinks their kids' names are unique. Anyway, my best friend from college just had a son and guess what? She and her husband "took" the name. No, it's not a coincidence.

Sure I just broke up with someone and have zero baby prospects. Yeah no one "owns" a name. But still... part of me is severely bugged. I mean it's so obvious to me, especially when we'd discussed this 15+ years ago. She knew it bothered me and claimed innocence.

I'm being petty, right?

Carolyn Hax: Actually, I think this is different. You're not living today's column, you're living the "Seven" Seinfeld episode. Grabbing a unique name from a friend who you know hopes to use it someday is a crappy thing to do. I'm sorry. With any luck, your two little Sevens will never share a playground.

Unless that's what you've always wanted, but I have hard time imagining that now.

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Washington, D.C.: Last week, many of my husband's cousins asked excitedly how thrilled my 4-year old was because Santa was on his way. We're Jewish. After 10 years, I don't expect them to remember that their cousin converted and we're happy to celebrate their holiday each year with them. I just don't know how to answer the question. I certainly don't think it's appropriate to pedantically correct them but it started me thinking. Is there ever a time to not just laugh it off/evade the question and actually (nicely) say that we don't believe what you believe? I have a tendency to downplay everything but want to strike the right balance next year when it'll happen more because my 5-year old will be of prime age.

- My dad was a dentist, I never believed in the tooth fairy either

Carolyn Hax: I don't see why correcting them is necessarily pedantic. "Remember, Max converted to Judaism? So, no Santa." If I made the mistake with a family member, I'd be grateful for a non-huffy correction.

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For the peanut gallery: Meteorite wedding band - hokey or unique?

Carolyn Hax: At first I thought you meant the music would come from meteorites.

Anyway, I think going out of your way to be unique is hokey. Get whatever makes you smile. Everyone else can stuff it.

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Santa Monica, Calif.: Lansing needs to get over this, if she wants to keep this friendship. My young cousin named her new baby after her recently deceased grandmother, causing a serious rift between her another cousin, who said she had dibs on the name. Now they're not speaking, and family members are taking sides. It's so sad an so unnecessary. Who says there can't be two Sevens?

Carolyn Hax: I agree she needs to get over it if she wants to keep the friendship, but the anecdote you cite to back that up is actually more along the lines of the column today than of the Seven episode.

No one owns a name, of course. But there's a difference between using a name that's from your own family (a la your story and the column), which I regard as fair game for everyone in that family, and using a distinctive name that you know about only through some unrelated person, and that you know the unrelated person plans to use someday. To me it's a huge difference. One is public domain, and the other is akin to someone's intellectual property.

And my opinion of this is not abstract; my sisters chose two family names for their kids that I always had in mind for someday. When they used them, it didn't even occur to me to get bent out of shape because they were theirs to use as much as they were mine.

Over time I came up with another name, non-family, that I wanted to use, and to this day I don't share it with people, even though I didn't get a chance to use it with my kids (girl name) and the chances I'll ever use it are minuscule to none.

Speaking of, I should have added to my previous answer the following caveat: If you have a name you hope to use for a future child, don't breathe a word of it to ANYbody. Seriously. Solves the problem before it happens.

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Santa: My 4-year-old also doesn't believe in Santa, also because we're not Christian. This past Christmas he told some playmates he doesn't believe in Santa and their parents were mad at me. Do you think I need to tell my son not to say that?

Carolyn Hax: Really, they don't have better things to get mad about? Let's come up with a list for them.

He's [stinkin'] 4 years old. Even if you do ask him not to talk about it, there's still a good chance he will. (I can see it now: "My Mommy/Daddy said not to tell anyone that I don't believe in Santa.")

In fact, if he phrased it as, "I don't believe ... ," then he was saying something relatively mild and easy for the PO'd parents to finesse with, "Some people believe, some don't." We've been using that approach for years, with Santa, God, the Tooth Fairy, and anyone/anything else that's a matter of faith or opinion.

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Washington, D.C.: A question on giving advice! My best friend just emailed with the invitation to her 30th birthday party--cocktails at her place at 6:00 followed by a trip to a salsa club, but, she announced, the men "aren't welcome" for the dancing! It was jarring, to say the least, and her closest male friend is pretty offended (maybe others too but he's the only one who's spoken up). Now she wants to know what I think. Is there a "for your 30th birthday, I will lie and say what you did wasn't rude" clause in the Official Advice-Givers' Handbook?

Carolyn Hax: She asked what you think, so she must care about your opinion--lying completely defeats that purpose. "I thought the 'no men' thing was jarring, and [Closest Male Friend] was offended by it."

I suppose it's possible she doesn't want your opinion and is merely seeking to be reassured, but in those cases--assuming your "wants to know what I think" represents her word choice accurately--I believe the best thing to do is to give people exactly what they ask for. If she's feeling bad and wants reassurance, then next time she ought to phrase it that way.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Carolyn, The holidays are over, but not behind us! My fiance is really angry and offended because my sister did not get him a xmas gift. He and I hosted Christmas day for my family (after my other two sisters hosted Christmas Eve). My third sister, the non-gift-giver, showed up at our home with gifts for everyone except my fiance. I can agree that that is rude. This sister, however, never has any money and has a history of mooching and generally not pulling her part. She hasn't paid rent in over six months; she just asks people if she can stay with them for weeks at a time. She wasn't even planning on getting anyone presents until one of my other sisters basically told her it was expected, as everyone else had been planning on exchanging gifts. So she went out on Christmas eve, bought a few DVD's, and wrapped them at my home xmas morning. Fine, nobody is expecting anything more than a token of thoughtfulness from her, and she did come through with that. However, when I asked my fiance if she got him anything (because it didn't seem like she had), he realized she didn't and got pretty upset. His reasoning was that it was completely disrespectful for her to come to our home and give everyone else gifts while completely ignoring him. He said she should have at least fessed up to it or just explained that she was low on cash this year (every year, but whatever). Furthermore, he is now P.O.'d at ME, because he thinks that I should stand up for him and not allow my family to treat him this way, and he wants me to confront her. I explained my theory, which is you can never expect gifts from someone and to do so is rude. I refuse to tell someone off for not bringing a gift, because no one is ever required to bring a gift. I'm not excusing her behavior--I think it's pretty lame. But I also don't think this is something to get so upset about. He said, "No one ever stands up to her and tells her how selfish she is." I get it, but I just don't feel comfortable bringing it up with her--just seems really petty. I feel stuck.

Carolyn Hax: "Really angry and offended"? Really? Because he didn't get a perfunctory DVD?

The much bigger issue here is in fact the one he identified--that your family seems to be a unified team of enablers for your messed-up sister--but his personal stake in this verges on zero. If you can, ask him what his personal stake is in your sister's selfishness, because you are(okay, I am) having a hard time seeing it. If it's a cumulative thing, and he's tired of being overlooked by your family or something else like that, then (a) it might make more sense and (b) it will be easier for you to deal with the problem.

The other thing that I think needs flagging is telling your deadbeat sister she had to go out and get gifts for people. All that accomplished was to drain her apparently limited resources in return for a very mild flick on the wrist. It sounds as if someone needs to ask her the general, "How long do you plan to live like this?" question. In the meantime, if you want to make the point with her that she needs to contribute at family gatherings, then ask for it in the form of helping out vs. spending money.

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Delaware: Carolyn, I'm having trouble with my live-in boyfriend of five years. We're both in our mid-twenties and have talked about marriage. The problem is that he snaps at me often over what I see as trivial issues. Today, he mentioned that something in our kitchen looked like it was going bad, and I asked him if he'd used it or if he'd just noticed it. He raised his voice slightly and said that he was just letting me know, stop pestering him with questions, and he doesn't want to have a discussion about it. This is just one example. I was away on vacation with my family last week, and in the less than 24 hours since I've been home, he's said something sharp to me five or six times. It's jarring to come back to an emotional roller coaster. I admit that I can be critical and a little controlling, but I do see my own faults and actively work to improve my temper. I don't know if our relationship is normal or if most couples are always nice and pleasant to each other. I thought that I would marry this man but lately I've been having (overwhelming) thoughts of how we would divide up our stuff and whether I'm strong enough to live alone. He treats me well most of the time and we love each other. Am I overreacting? I called him on his behavior and he apologized, but I'm not sure that I can keep living like this.

Carolyn Hax: This isn't just to you, but to everyone: Either someone treats you well all of the time, or you need to leave the relationship. -Do not- settle for "most of the time." You can have a raging disagreement with someone and both of you can still treat each other with respect at every stage of that disagreement.

Meanwhile, to you specifically: You've said two things that are hallmarks of emotional abuse, whether it's happening already or well on its way to happening. One is your boyfriend's hot-and-cold treatment of you. The hot keeps you there, and the cold keeps you in line. Classic.

The other is your questioning--both your ability to handle living alone, and whether most couples "are always nice and pleasant with each other." People always ask, why do people stay with someone who is mean to them? You've just answered that question: Because they rationalize that they're better off with someone than without, and that being with someone different would bring more of the same.

Listen listen listen to that voice that's telling you how to divide up your stuff.

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Philadelphia: I recently learned that my long-deceased grandmother had a sister who is still alive and lives about 30 miles from me. I have a vague memory of seeing this great aunt when I was a child, but really all I know about her is that most of my family dislikes her. Do you think I should reach out to her?

Carolyn Hax: I have no idea, because it's entirely about what you want. Are you just curious, or hoping she might be a link to your family history? Sure, try it. If she's still lucid, she might be able to tell you stories. If you want to fill the emotional hole left when your grandmother died or something like that, then you might want to wrestle your expectations down to a more realistic level before you do anything.

And it might be worth knowing why the rest of the family has chosen estrangement, if you don't already know.

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Washington, D.C. - deadbeat sister: The other red flag in that question is the fiance who didn't get a gift was really, really over-reacting...and that may be a sign of future problems. It sounds like he's using this situation to test your loyalty between him and your sister, and he feels he needs to win. Watch out for that, in a big way.

If my instincts about him are correct, your sister gave you a much better gift than any crummy DVD.

Carolyn Hax: I did point out the overreaction, but the possibility of its being a loyalty test is an interesting idea. Thanks.

Even if it's not about loyalty, a need to win is in itself a trait to be avoided. If it turns out there is no cumulative frustration and he doesn't back down on his outrage/show some sign of perspective on the perfunctory DVD, then it's time to check the context carefully for other signs of ... what's the word I'm looking for ... stubbornness, but that's not quite it ...

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Washington, D.C.: I have a hard time admitting to a problem: I'm not attracted to my husband. I never really was but I discounted it's importance. This, unsurprisingly, has lead to a sexless marriage. I consider sex to be an important part of a relationship.

Is leaving someone because you don't want to be intimate with them ridiculous or necessary?

Carolyn Hax: Once again, the full answer demands that I speak for other people, which I can't do. Your husband could be hurt and angry and confused by your lack of interest in him, or he could be relieved that you aren't pestering him about his low sex drive, or he could be grabbing some on the side without compunction.

I can, however, speak to what you claim here. I take it by your "hard to admit" opener that you realize the extent of your judgment error, in marrying someone who you knew all along didn't provide something you "consider ... to be an important part of a relationship." But it's still about you, when I can't get past the guy you deceived.

When people marry, they tend to think the person they're marrying is really into them. When you're less than excited about them in some way, that's a serious breach of trust that, routinely from where I sit, doesn't get the consideration it deserves. It's so often, "Will this [your doubt here] be a problem for me if I marry this person," when the question should also include, "Will this [your doubt here] be a problem for the other person if we get married?"

I realize there's some risk of presuming her, since you can't fully know what would be good for someone else. But you can make a pretty good guess, say, that a guy who appears to enjoy a lively sex life would probably not be excited about a bride who doesn't find him physically appealing. When it comes to marriage, you have to do that kind of thinking about the other person's needs.

Preferably before you marry.

But now that you're sexlessly married and wondering what to do next, you still need to do that kind of thinking. Does he approach you for sex a lot? Did he used to, but finally quit? Or has he always been hands-off, or content to cuddle, or whatever?

There's going to have to be some kind of reckoning here, since you're so unhappy--but the way you go about it, I believe, should originate not just in your needs, but in your understanding of his as well.

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Splitsville, USA: This in re: Delaware

My fiance-turned-new-husband-turned-soon-to-be-ex-husband started acting this way, and I uncovered his secret sex addiction. He was lashing out at me for --nothing-- when really he was covering up his shameful behavior. He took his self-disgust out on me. Check his computer history. Better to find out now and good luck.

Carolyn Hax: The sex addiction is awfully specific and might not apply, but the dynamic of being nasty to someone when you're hiding something is pretty common. It's a way of shifting the blame: You vilify someone else, and those uncomfortable things you feel or do become the vilified person's fault. It happens in couples where one has found someone else, or when one is abusing drugs or alcohol, or when one is stealing from the other, or when one is doing any number of shameful things--and also even when one has just lost interest in the other and is having a hard time facing that.

Thanks for opening the door.

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Norfolk, Va.: My daughter graduates college this year and is going to attend grad school. We have told her that we can not pay for graduate school as we still have two more years of school to pay for her younger brother. She is so angry over this and asks if we will help pay for anything. I have explained more than once that we just can not afford it. In addition, I believe that she needs to work and support herself (she has always disliked work) Any advice as to how I can get her to stop asking.

Carolyn Hax: She has always disliked work? Please tell her I said good luck with that.

You can't "get" her to stop asking, but you can hold your ground, and eventually she's going to have to live her life without your money, or die complaining about it.

You can also find the nicest way possible to explain that your refusal was initially about the money you had available, but it's quickly turning into a point of principle, now that she's reacting so petulantly to the idea of managing her own adulthood. But make that a last resort, since this could get ugly.

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Carolyn Hax: "er," I should say. ugliER.

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Re: Fiance who didn't get gift: Did fiance/host buy a gift for the sister, or did his fiancee just sign his name to her gift ("from John and Mary") although she did the shopping and choosing? I'm not sure why he expected a gift, or whether perhaps fiancee created the expectation that he SHOULD have gotten one by asking if he DID get anything. Seems like you could argue it's gift-for-gift between the sisters and he shouldn't have expected anything.

Carolyn Hax: Interesting. Even if he did give her a gift of his own, he'd still be overreacting (let's ALL chip in to buy him a DVD). But the shaky leg his argument rests on would be even shakier if he didn't knit her any mittens. Thanks.

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PCville: I have a friend, "Terry," who likes to make pithy, sarcastic jokes about suicide a lot. Nothing serious, just things like "I hate my job, I'm going to kill myself if I don't get a promotion" and stuff like that. Terry doesn't know it, but I lost a close friend to suicide in college and I find his woe-is- me jokes remarkably unfunny. Would I be a total jerk if I turned PC police on Terry and asked him to quit making that kind of jokes? (For the record, I have absolutely no belief that Terry is a suicide risk.)

Carolyn Hax: Again, like the person who was afraid to be "pedantic" in clearing up a mistaken impression, I don't see why flagging something that upsets you is "PC." If you're doing it all the time, okay, then you need to ask yourself to let a few little things go. But if it's just this one thing that he does, and it really dredges up bad feelings, then you'd be within your rights in telling him how his careless words affect you. And you'd possibly be doing him a favor, because the "joking" sounds pretty lame to begin with. You hate your job! That's soooo hysterical! Yah.

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Gender-town: Dear Carolyn, This sounds so stupid and sexist, but here goes: How do I become ok with the fact that I'm having another boy? I love my son. He is a wonderful and lovely 18-month-old. But I really cherish the close relationship I have with my mother, and now that I'm faced with the possibility of a life with only sons I feel I'll never have that kind of close adult connection with my own children. What's the saying, "A son is a son till he takes a wife, a daughter is a daughter all her life." I keep telling myself, "You give birth to a person, not a gender," but I'm not feeling it yet.

Carolyn Hax: It's not stupid to be sad when you have to resign yourself to not having something you value. You have a great thing with your mom, and saw yourself having that with a girl of your own. Totally normal, and for such positive reasons. It's something you can file with such resignations as, "I always thought I'd live by the ocean," or, "I always saw myself as a doctor." The way we envision ourselves has about a million ways of not happening.

That's the start of an approach to your disappointment: This was just one way your vision got derailed, and there could have been a million minus 1 others. If you had a daughter, there's no guarantee you'd be close, for, again, countless reasons. If you had a girl and just butted heads all the time, and your closeness never happened, that would be even more heartbreaking than this, wouldn't it?

Which leads us to ...: There's also nothing that says your disrupted vision is a bad thing. You know you're great with your mom, but you could have a different, just as great closeness to your sons. To bring back the examples I just used, maybe you don't live near the ocean because you found happiness in the mountains, and you're not a doctor because you got sidetracked when you would have been going to med school, and that side track took made you rich.

What you have here is an unexpected change of direction. You're not going to be "feeling it yet" until you get used to your new direction. Your little boy will have a lot to say about that. The chances are overwhelming that once you get to know him, you won't be able to imagine having wanted someone else.

What you can do now is open yourself to that idea. After you snuffle a bit about your non-girl, if that helps. It's an old story, though: You can't imagine it, until one day you do.

BTW, the saying is the one really sexist thing here. Bleagh.

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Re: parents and grad school: Did you tell the daughter before she applied for grad school that you wouldn't pay? Or has she already been accepted and was making plans for the next stage in her life and then you suddenly told her you're not paying?

It doesn't change the fact that you cannot and do not want to pay (and should stand your ground on that). But it might explain a little bit of her reaction and color how you might explain your response to her.

Carolyn Hax: Actually, I think this explains it on its own, without any situational help:

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"She has always disliked work.": Sometimes there just aren't keyboards - or foreheads - big enough.

Carolyn Hax: Alas. Thanks.

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Bitter, Tattoo: Does anyone have directions for getting oneself out of Bitter? I've tried therapy, volunteer work, and lots of neurology books. I have great friends, family, job. While there's been improvement, I'm still spending more time in Bitter than I'm comfortable with. And it's a pretty brutal place. I tried mapquest and it came up blank. I'm thinking of embracing it and just getting a back tattoo that says Bitter in copperplate font, but then I'd be permanently stuck here... ideas?

Carolyn Hax: What are you bitter about? Presumably is fits into this sentence, more or less: You expected _____, and you got ____.

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Bethesda, Md.: Hi Carolyn,

I'll try to make this as short as possible. One of my close friends got married about seven years ago and for her wedding I got her a rather expensive gift. I could easily afford it, I adore her and so it was an easy decision to make. Fast forward to now. I recently got married and my friend got us a very expensive gift, a case of expensive wine and I know she can't afford it. She has two kids and another one on the way and has always been pretty open about how "poor" they are. Being a little older, and not having kids, my husband and I are relatively well off and can afford most of the things we want. I feel so guilty she just spent all this money on us when she could have used that money on her family.

So what do I do? Thank her and pretend like she didn't just spent way too much? Buy a ton of baby clothes and other things for her kids to make up for what she spent? Offer to babysit every weekend until they all turn 18? I'm at a loss. I don't want to potentially offend. I think she's fabulous.

Carolyn Hax: What a great problem to have. Say thank you, and accept the gift without comment (neither spoken, implied, nor pity-eyebrowed) on her ability to afford it.

Do the other stuff, too, but because you can and want to, not because you feel you need to pay her back.

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Re: Deadbeat sister: The overreacting part of the story could be my boyfriend as well. I'm not sure if it's just personality trait differences, but he will get upset with me if I don't match his level of indignation. Example: we were having a loose gathering of friends over the house for New Year's Eve, and two days before one of my couple friends decided they couldn't come because one of their family members were coming into town. Ok, I'm a little miffed at being dropped but I get it. They are otherwise good friends. He, however, was incredibly insulted and picked a fight with me when I wasn't equally outraged and insulted and couldn't understand why I didn't call them up and yell at them. I suspect he will refuse to hang out with them in the future.

Are these personality clashes deal breakers? We have an otherwise healthy relationship.

Carolyn Hax: I just find that hard to get my mind around, that you have an "otherwise healthy" relationship. Anger is -so- unhealthy. It's necessary at times, of course, as an alarm for when something is wrong. But anger over little things, chronic anger, anger spewed inappropriately (call them and -yell- at them? really?), anger deflected from one source onto other people, anger from things taken personally that aren't in fact personal--all of these actively work against a healthy and calm day-to-day state of mind. And by "calm" i don't mean without passion, just without gratuitous conflict. The level of conflict you describe here just sounds tiring.

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Parent of future grad student: My daughter knew all along that we would not be funding graduate school. She just refuses to listen. We gave her this information two years ago. Also while her younger brother has worked every summer, she has not.

Carolyn Hax: Wow. If ever a financial plug needed to be pulled. Good luck.

I do wonder--is her brother the favorite, or even a not-openly-acknowledged golden child? Easygoing, easily liked, gifted but not in anyone's face about it ...? It's just a wild hunch, but the way you describe your daughter and this little sliver about your son, I wonder if the grad-school-money snit is just the tip of a cosmic-justice-seeking iceberg.

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For wedding band person: Meteorites can be radioactive

Carolyn Hax: Better than a radioactive bride or groom, I guess. Though maybe this explains some of the marriages I'm reading about today.

(BTW, I don't know if this is true about meteorites, I'm just the messenger here.)

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Word for deadbeat sister's fiance: Intransigence?

Carolyn Hax: An improvement on stubbornness, thanks. (I should say--as a word choice, not as a quality in a mate.)

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Deadbeat sister who DOES give gifts: I only -WISH- my deadbeat sister-in-law didn't give me a gift. As always, she's short on cash, and so this year, she decided to give me a large painting for Christmas.

It's the size of a small pony and looks like a 3-year-old puked all over it. She (and my wife - who also hates it, but doesn't want to hurt her sister's feelings) is expecting us to hang it up in our new house (and no, the laundry room or guest bathroom aren't "acceptable").

Tell your fiancee that he should be doing the happy dance that he didn't get anything...because next year, he may get something just as heinous as this picture I'll now need to stare at until I can figure out a way to set it on fire. "Accidentally" of course.

Carolyn Hax: Ahhh, thank you. I feel like you've taken some of today's suffering upon yourself, and lightened our burdens. Empathic toddler puke.

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Bethesda, Md.: I couldn't disagree more about your advice related to couples always being nice to each other.

I've been married 25 years and there are times that my wife and I -- who love each other dearly -- are downright nasty to each other. We're human and we give each other right to be human and not always walk on egg shells in what we say. The key is letting things roll of your back -- forgiving and forgetting -- and getting back to the business of loving your spouse. We usually conclude our nastiest arguments in the sack.

Carolyn Hax: I disagree that the alternative to being nasty to a spouse occasionally is to walk on eggshells. As I've said many times in this space, we all make our deals, and if your deal with your wife is that you're both okay with getting "downright nasty to each other," then it's not my place to tell either of you what you "should" be doing.

However, while there is no alternative to a misspoken word or a mistaken impression, there is an alternative to saying nasty things on purpose: Not saying them. Because the person who puts up with all of one's accidental/immutable/unintended crap really ought to be spared the deliberate crap.

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Radioactivite Bride/Groom: If they are alive, the bride and groom are radioactive. All human beings are, mostly thanks to naturally-occurring radioactive potassium. In case anybody was wondering, men are usually more radioactive than women.

That is all.

Carolyn Hax: Great, now I'm going to be called out for man-bashing.

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Re: Meteorites are radioactive: But so are bananas. Because they have so much potassium, they contain high enough levels of naturally-abundant potassium radioactive isotopes that they set off Geiger counters.

Carolyn Hax: And banana-bashing.

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SIL gifts: Pls. post pic of pony-sized puke pic, pronto.

Carolyn Hax: I've got to go soon, but will be here next week. Pls send photo to tellme@washpost.com

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Anger and "otherwise healthy": Carolyn, I understand how it hard for you to get your mind around it, but really, many many many folks grow up in dysfunctional families, with friends from dysfunctional families. We don't know what normal is. So when we find something better than what we grew up with, we think its great. "Yeah! He doesn't beat me! He just gets angry and insults me." (Don't laugh, I'm not being funny) So please, please, please realize many people did not grow up around healthy relationships and don't know what one is yet alone how to have one. My husband is wonderful. He has angry fits. So do I. His father was an absentee alcoholic and his mom played mind games (which son do I love better...). My dad beat all of us and mom played mind games too. We are doing the best we can. We recognize our short comings and we try to be better spouses to each other. Many people are like us. The best we can do is recognize our faults and try to be better people.

Carolyn Hax: This is great, great, great, thank you, and not just because it's a great point well (movingly) made.

It also points to the difference between normal frailty that we accept in people we love, and frailty that ought to be a dealbreaker. It's in your self-awareness. That's what reduces pathology into humanity. What bothered me about the post you reference is that the boyfriend (right? boyfriend?) who was angry at the late-scratching couple was trying to recruit the poster into his level of indignance. To me that says the awareness isn't there yet. I could be wrong about that, but now with your insight I can add to that answer: if the BF angry about the cancellation is aware of his own tendency toward disproportionate anger, and is trying to work on that aspect of himself, then that's the way the GF (right? girlfriend?) should approach him and the situation.

Thanks again.

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Re: Bananas: Brazil nuts are more radioactive than bananas, because they concentrate barium, and radioactive radium chemically mimics barium. Brazil nuts are the most radioactive food out there. I love them. So tasty.

Carolyn Hax: On that geektacular note, I'm going to sign off. Thanks everybody for stopping by, and for the especially lively contributions. I'll be on the lookout for a pony-size toddler puke painting jpeg in my inbox.

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Bethesda has it right!: Your comment that "Either someone treats you well all of the time, or you need to leave the relationship" is extremely demanding and unrealistic. Sure, it's something to aspire to, but thereality is,none of us are going to achieve that sort of perfection. Forgiving and forgetting are necessary for the success of any long-term relationship.

Carolyn Hax: Obviously we need to pick this up again next week--to get into the distinction between accidental mistreatment and the deliberate kind. The former is normal and forgiveness is necessary--the latter is overlooked at a person's real peril come mating time.

Maybe that's enough of a distinction right there, but if not, pls come back with this next week.

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Calgary, Alberta, Canada: With pony (or failing a pony, adult human) beside it for scale, please.

Carolyn Hax: Of course, thanks.

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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.

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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