Carolyn Hax Live: Advice columnist tackles your problems

Carolyn Hax
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 22, 2010; 12:00 PM

Carolyn was online Friday, Jan. 22, 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


Carolyn Hax: Hi everybody. I've got a few depression resources that I meant to post last week. People sent me these in response to a column earlier this month, and since this is such a common struggle for people, I thought I'd share.


Carolyn Hax: It was the Jan. 6, 2010, column, by the way:

"How You Can Survive When They're Depressed: Living and Coping with Depression Fallout," by Anne Sheffield

"The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression," by Andrew Solomon

"The Beast: A Journey Through Depression," by Tracy Thompson

... and if anyone has any others to contribute, I'll kick this to the Hax-Philes so there's an easy-to-find record.


Dumped, Va.: Just having been dumped myself, I'm having trouble with the idea that one is supposed to be gracious about it (as you suggest in Thursday's column). You yourself use the word "dumped" as opposed to "broke up after honest explanation of what is not working". I suspect a gender imbalance.. are women usually the ones being dumped, having to put up with male ideas of control of every situation? I refuse to accept that I have no say in this. Which brings up another comment you made in an earlier chat: you advise against asking WHY the other person has had enough. Why should it be impossible to communicate that? thanks for explaining!

Carolyn Hax: I'm sorry you got dumped. That doesn't justify gender-baiting, though--you know as well as anyone that the jerk gene does not discriminate.

As for why one is supposed to be gracious, I'll explain it by way of describing -how- to be gracious.

Decent and/or mature people give a reason for breaking up with you--so, people who drop you without explanation are choosing not to behave in a mature and decent way. While it's not okay for people to treat others badly, you can't just make them treat you better--by, say, asking for an explanation. You can certainly try, but make sure before you do that there's no guarantee you'll get any kind of satisfaction.

So that leaves you with a pretty limited, fairly standard set of options: You can ask once, plainly and without fanfare, in hopes that your calm demeanor will rub off; you can pester the person in hopes that it becomes apparent to him or her that you won't go away until you get a satisfactory answer; you can try to find ways to punish the person for being a jerk; or you can take the person's behavior as a complete answer unto itself: s/he wasn't happy any more and didn't have the parts to say that to you directly, which, while painful and obnoxious, nevertheless means that it's definitely over and it's a good thing that it is.



Carolyn Hax: So now let's look at what each of those choices is likely to produce. The ask-once plan--again, given that you're dealing with someone who drops people abruptly--is a low-percentage shot. However, as shots go, it's not one you can expect to do serious damage to your sense of self-worth: You're collecting yourself, standing tall, and requesting information you feel you deserve. Low risk + low percentage = worth a try.

The second one, launching a pressure campaign to be heard, may be more likely to get you an answer--may be--but how reliable will that answer be, if someone's just trying to get you to go away? Meanwhile, there's a very good chance you'll be screened/blocked/ignored. As for damage to your self worth, the risk goes up, because you're essentially choosing to make a spectacle of yourself. And, you're giving the very clear message, "You meant a lot to me, and I can't handle the fact that you dumped me, while it's clear I didn't mean anything to you." Not good for the soul, you know?



Carolyn Hax: Next, there's the revenge option. We've all seen the stuff people try--sleeping with the ex's best friend, keying cars, spilling secrets, ratting them out to their new squeezes, spreading nasty rumors ... and, really, has there ever been a case where this didn't make the revenge-seeker look pretty, immature, damaged? There's zero chance of satisfaction here, and a 100 percent chance you'll come out of it thinking less of yourself than you did going into it, except in the rare cases where you're so messed up inside that you think you actually "won."

Finally, there's the do-nothing-because-I-already-have-all-the-information-I-need option. Right now, you know it's over, and you know the person who dumped you has either one or a combination of the following traits/capacities: immaturity, cruelty, inability to articulate feelings, cowardice.

With that pairing, you pretty much know it's over; it's not going to be rekindled; you wouldn't want it to be anyway; and you have good cause to be skeptical of any explanations you were given even if you were given one.

This is a high-percentage shot as far as getting satisfaction--100 percent, in fact, because you're not dependent upon anyone to get your information. And it's a high-percentage shot on coming out of it feeling good about yourself: "I got a bag of flaming [poo] left on my doorstep, but now that I have unexpected free time, I think I'll plant a flower garden with my new bag of fertilizer."

So, that's why, and that's how. Because you don't have any say in whether someone disappears without explanation, no matter how angrily you refuse to accept that.


Tell me more, tell me more: A good friend of mine who lives out of town worked in my city over the summer and started dating another good friend of mine. Fun for all of us, we went on lots of double dates. At the end of the summer, they agreed to see where things went, and Friend A moved back home. I talk to both of them often and I know that while Friend A is hoping to keep a long-distance relationship going, Friend B is happily dating other people. A has scheduled many visits to see B. They hang out together, sleep together, A goes home, B breathes a sigh of relief and goes back to enjoying the single life.

A is getting frustrated that there is no talk of a major commitment. B is more than content with things the way they are and has no compelling reason to change. A occasionally asks me for reports on what B is doing with whom. B occasionally asks me to lie to A about same.

At what point am I allowed to be upfront with both of them about what I know to be their conflicting motivations?

Carolyn Hax: You got to the point already and ignored it as it whizzed by your ear: When B asked you to lie, the answer was, "No."

And when A asks you for reports on B, you say, "This is between you and B, I'm not your lookout."

Fortunately, both are likely to give you another chance to get it right next time. And since B is possibly putting A's health at risk, and since B is a close enough friend to confide in you, please suggest to B that what s/he's doing stinks.


To Dumped: "I refuse to accept that I have no say in this..." Ack! You absolutely have no say in this - in deciding whom another person chooses to spend their time with. That is their decision alone. And she talks about men being controlling?

Carolyn Hax: Indeed.


Anonymous: I slept with someone else less than one year after marrying my husband. I was so desperate for him to forgive me that I told him he could do the same if it helped even the score. He said he would not, but ever since then I cannot stop worrying that he will. I guess this is the classic cheater problem. Are we so far off the rails we can't be helped?

Carolyn Hax: This isn't the classic cheater problem, it's the classic desperate problem. I can't say what it is all the way out here and with so little to go on, but you say enough to make it clear that something inside you is churning. You're not settled/centered/at peace/comfortable in your own skin/whatever version of said best fits your emotional vocabulary.

That explains why you married when you still had doubts or unfinished business, why you cheated, why you whiplashed into must-do-anything-to-save-marriage mode, and why you're so freaked at the idea that he might now cheat on you.

Whatever lies at the source of your inner unrest, it needs your both calm and clear-headed attention, and whatever strength you can summon to face it down. If you don't have any idea where to start, or if you know exactly what it is and you don't think you have the strength to take it on, then finding a really good counselor is probably a good idea. For you alone, to start.


Rockville, Md.: How does one deal with a narcissist? We are in the same field, so cutting him out of my life completely is not possible.

Carolyn Hax: Present as hard and smooth and cool and impenetrable a face to him as you can muster. Steel comes to mind. What you're after is to give this person no access points to you feelings. That's where narcissists latch on to other people.


Washington, D.C.: The guy I am dating is liberal on most issues but is staunchly pro-life. I believe both sides of the issue have merit, but full disclosure, I had an abortion not long ago in another relationship. My current boyfriend doesn't know. The march downtown today reminded me to ask you, do you think I owe him this information since I know it would probably matter to him?

Carolyn Hax: Interesting. Just as you say you can see merit to both sides of the issue, I can argue in favor both of telling and not telling. On the one hand, it's your private business. It was another relationship, it was your decision, you're in the best position to decide what's right for you, and abortion is legal. There's nothing he needs to know.

On the other hand, true intimacy is a rare thing, because it means you aren't holding back information just because you think you might get punished if the other person knew about it. You can hold things back because they're yours and only yours--say, the way you felt during your first crush--but you can't fully trust yourself to someone if there's a suspected deal-breaker lurking in the back of your mind. Even if that dealbreaker is just, "S/he'd never look at me the same way if s/he knew," that's a real wall between two people.

Since you refer to him as "the guy I am dating," it doesn't seem as if that kind of intimacy is even relevant yet. But if you're ever on that path, then you need to decide how intimate you want to be, and how capable both of you are of handling that kind of closeness and all the truth that comes with it. That's where your decision lies, I believe.


Arlington, Va.: I'm getting married in a few months. I'm a big proponent of the simple wedding - justice of the peace at city hall and a celebratory dinner for a small group of family and friends. My wife's father has insisted that we have a big wedding. My wife said she could go either way and did not push back. I told her how I feel and also argued that we don't have tens of thousands of dollars to spend on a lavish wedding. Her father said he'd take care of everything. Now that the bills are coming due (at least deposits), her father is asking us to pay for most of the wedding. The total cost will be more than $30,000. We both just finished graduate school and don't have anywhere near that kind of money. They've told us we should just borrow the money from credit cards if we can't afford it now. I told my wife that we need to go back to plan A - the simiple wedding, but her father and mother are furious at the thought of that. They've even threatened not to attend if it's not up to their standards. This seems crazy and I can't get my wife to talk with them. I absolutely will not go along with a plan where I need to put more than $20,000 on a credit card that charges almost 20% interest for a wedding I don't even want. Should we just have the simple wedding and let my in-laws stew in their own bile?

Carolyn Hax: Yes, absolutely, because that's the only way to deal with completely unreasonable people who insist on lighting afire not only all the money you have, but also your would-be savings for years to come.

The problem is, for this to work, your fiancee (whom you call wife ... sneaked out to city hall already, perhaps?) will have to align herself with Team Sanity, and it doesn't look as if it's a sure thing that she will.

If she doesn't, then your only play is to say, no, you won't get married the way her parents demand, you're very sorry. If nothing else, then you'll see whether she's ready to stand without any domineering-parent scaffolding around her, which is always good stuff to know.


I hate planning my wedding: I just learned that my fiance's cousins, their kids, and maybe _their_ kids are planning a huge long-distance family trip to attend our wedding. We had not planned to invite anyone but the first cousins; however, my fiance failed to tell his mother that -- though he said he would -- and his mother encouraged the trip without knowing our plans. Our seating chart is overfull as it is. Which is worse: (1) withdrawing the "invitation," which is our right but will embarrass his mother and ruin the family trip, or (2) giving any spare spaces to the cousins rather than my fiance's friends, who would have received any seats freed up by declined invitations? I'm a fan of (2), but I'm peeved at my fiance just now.

Carolyn Hax: You know it has to be (2), but you also have to do something with your anger/frustration. If it was a onetime memory lapse on your fiance's part, then I'd urge you to let it go--normal human error, of relatively minor consequence (get it? relatives? minors?). All part of the story you tell someday, albeit not to these cousins, unless they have extraordinary self-confidence and senses of humor.

If on the other hand you've got a passive-aggression problem on your hand--i.e., your fiance wants no part of wedding (or whatever other) responsibilities, and his way of telling you that is to "yes" you while never actually doing anything he says he will do.--then that has to come out NOW. Including: examples of what you've witnessed, how you feel about it, and a request for some kind of satisfactory response. Not getting one would mean some exuberant-road-tripping cousins are the very very least of your worries.


Forcing teenagers to go to church: Your advice was spot on the money this week. I only wish my own mother would have been the one writing to you when I was a teenager. I knew I was at least agnostic (turns out I am atheist) in my mid-teens, yet she forced me to go to church every week regardless. This was a small town and there was a lot of attention paid to others' perceptions. I still struggle with the gap between our religious beliefs, and I think it all boils down to the days I really fought with her on going to church. I don't resent the exposure I had to church before I was old enough to decide for myself. We're not close today and this is the primary reason.

Carolyn Hax: Thanks. Besides being told I'm ground zero for the decline of American values, I was also told by other readers that I should have called the letter-writer out on her kids' bad manners.

I can't speak to the first type of criticism, but I can to the second, and the critics were correct on that point: The parents had a responsibility to tell the kids their sulking was rude, disrespectful not just to the officiant but also to fellow worshippers, and therefore was unacceptable--and that when they attended church, no matter how they felt, they were expected to behave themselves.

Once they toed the manners line, then it was appropriate (I still believe) to let them choose not to come, for all the reasons I said in the column, plus one a few other readers added: that they'd be much less likely to find their way back to church someday if it weren't forced upon them now. But the way it went down, the girls were rewarded for acting like doinks. Not what I meant to support.


Secretly Pregnant: About one week after I started a new job, I found out that I was four weeks pregnant. This was welcome news since we had been trying for nine months. Pretty soon, I'm going to have to say something to my employer and I am fearful of the reaction because I love (and need) this job. Do I come out and answer what people in the office will be wondering (i.e., was I pregnant before or after I started) or is that TMI/irrelevant/not helpful? I don't want to be the subject of gossip.

Carolyn Hax: Don't dwell on it. It happened the way it happened, and you love your job, and you have no apologies to make. If you do your job well, then your employer will be happy to have you, maternity leave notwithstanding. So, do your job well, and share your news when it's appropriate to share it--either when it's becoming obvious, or when there's some medical need to get more time off than "doctor's appointment" can account for (which I hope there won't be). Congratulations.


St Louis, Mo.: The holidays must really be over... now it's all mewling about fiancees, weddings, break ups and hook ups... are the spring bridal shows in town already?

Carolyn Hax: Advice seasons might be why I've grown so fond of sports seasons. Football's wrapping up, hockey's heating up and pitchers and catchers have to be starting up soon ...


Washington, D.C.: Regarding your column in today's paper, if the daughter would really "gladly go" for counseling, there are plenty of places she can do that with a sliding scale for payments. If the mother wants to help, perhaps she should do a little research and give her daughter some names and phone numbers, instead of money. Then she can see if the daughter is sincere.

Carolyn Hax: Absolutely. I wrote that answer thinking the mom had a line on insurance for the daughter, and therefore had some idea of what "half" would mean--but realized too late that the mom could also just have no clue that the costs might be prohibitive. In that case, yes, getting a counselor lined up, and even using her money to pay for the sessions for a while, would be another, more accessible way for the mom to kick-start her daughter's climb back to health. Thanks.


Froufy Marriage Question: Carolyn -

Just a really quick question. I've never really considered myself the girl who will not take her future husband's last name. I have always thought that I would. However, I'm engaged to be married and my husband's last name is a slightly different spelling of my first name. Will the jokes pass, or will I forever be subjected to the people who will think they are the first to point out this fact to me? Thanks muchly!

Carolyn Hax: If posts along these lines to this forum are an accurate reflection of what you'll run across, then you'll be hearing about your funny-ha-ha name for the rest of your married life. But, then, even if you keep your last name, people will eventually meet your husband, turn to you and say, "Hey, you could have been Taylor Tailor!" So, well, I hope you really love him.


Carolyn Hax: On a useless note, that made me think of Corky Sherwood Forrest, which is the first time I thought of the show "Murphy Brown"--or Dan Quayle--possibly since the mid-90s.


Atlanta: Carolyn: to expand a bit on the vasectomy decisions of the past weeks...after our third child was born four years ago, my wife had to have bladder-suspension surgery. As part of this, her doctor recommended sterilization via Essure (a device which blocks the fallopian tubes, preventing fertilization). We had no qualms about this; three children is the number we wish to have.

Despite this, she feels that I should have a vasectomy, because "it's only fair." She insists that the procedure is low-risk, to which I respond that "low-risk" is not the same as "no-risk." I cannot understand why she would want me to undergo an unnecessary and uncomfortable surgery. How can I address this when she brings it up?

Carolyn Hax: How about, "I would never ask you to cut into your flesh for no other reason than to humor me."

Two disclaimers: I am assuming that you haven't in fact asked her to cut into her flesh to humor you; and I know nothing about Essure and therefore about its reliability.

As for your possibly rhetorical question about why she'd want you to do this, I'll try to answer that, too: Either she thinks you're capable of fathering kids outside your marriage to her, either through cheating or re-pairing-off after a divorce or her death, or she's a bean-counter of unusual and punitive intensity.

Obviously, I'm having a hard time ascribing sympathetic motives to her request--especially since the truly sympathetic (say, she has proof that you're cheating) is something she should either express to you directly, or use as grounds for divorce--so if someone out there has an idea that makes sense, please send it along.


Arlington, Va.: re: Froufy Marriage Question

....or how about Julia Gulia, from the movie Wedding Singer

Carolyn Hax: How could I forget. When I was putting together a list of movies that also serve as good advice, that one was near the top of the list--and, when I'm in an intensely bad mood, I play the video of "Somebody Kill Me." It's magic.


Carolyn Hax: In fact, I'm playing it right now. Heh.


Tell me more, tell me more (cont'd) :'s not like I haven't done what you've suggested more than once. At first I did a really good job of staying out of it. Then I found out sometimes A would float seemingly innocent questions my way ("So what did you do this weekend?") in order to confirm/deny B's reports. I have no plans of ever knowingly playing agent to either one, but you're right that B is seriously playing around with A's emotional and physical health. Are you saying "If you don't tell A, I will" would be the right move here?

Carolyn Hax: So you've said point-blank, "I'm not going to lie for you," and B still asks you to lie? I can't say either of them sounds too appealing right now (bad relationships do have a way of bringing out the worst in people, don't they) but if B is still trying to recruit you as cover story, that makes B a special case.

Either way, if you plan to remain close with A and B, it does sound as if you're due for, "If you don't tell A, I will." But there's an argument to be made for washing your hands of both of them till this thing sorts itself out. Not cutting yourself off from both, per se, but just okay-whatevering--when A asks what you've done this weekend, you answer straight, without regard for whether A is fishing or just being friendly. And when B tries to recruit you for something, you decline and go about your other business. There are ways out of the drama that don't push the drama in any one direction. You just step back and let it be their problem. I wouldn't suggest this if A were innocent of game-playing, but it sounds now as if A has a good idea what B is up to and is trying to deal with it through you (and possibly others) instead of just dealing with it straight on.


Tit for Tat: A wife who wants his husband to have a vasectomy since it's "only fair."

A wife who told her husband to cheat on her to even up the "score."

C'mon people. Why does everything in your relationship have to be equal?

Carolyn Hax: Please note, that's nursery-school equal, where there's the same number of squares on this side as there are flowers on that side. Grown-up equal does not count one necessary surgery and one unnecessary surgery as equal. I feel like we're falling down last Friday's rabbit hole again.


re: Froufy marrige question: What does that mean "the girl who doesn't take her husband's last name?" Is there one type of girl who doesn't change her name? Do people see women who don't change their last names as "the girl who doesn't take her husband's last name?"

Carolyn Hax: Nice catch.


Daughter in need of counseling: But if the daughter doesn't have health insurance and starts counseling...and later GETS health insurance, the counseling will still not be covered by insurance because the issues will be considered 'pre-existing'. So the mother's plan to pay half of her daughter's insurance is probably the best approach to 'insure' she can get help.

Carolyn Hax: Remind me why changing the current system is so controversial?


But, really, this does make me want to tear my hair out.

The mother should buy the insurance if she can, but if she can't, springing for counseling should not be ruled out just because of what might happen down the road. She needs help, she needs help.


Regarding Vasectomies: When it came to discussing the vasectomy, I told my husband that for the vast majority of our relationship I had been the one responsible for birth control in addition to being the one who had carried and cared for our children most of the time (including blood draws for every office visit of my second pregnancy). It wasn't an ultimatum or any sort of heated discussion, I just felt very strongly that it was his turn to medically "take one for the team." It took a while, and I was patient with him and let him work it out for himself but he ended up doing it and has no regrets. Honestly, I don't understand the husband's refusal to even consider it.

Carolyn Hax: You mean today's husband, or last week's? Today's doesn't need one, which is a great reason not to get one. For last week's, this applies--and you can add to it that the surgery for women is more involved than it is for men. Thanks.


St. Louis, Mo.: I'm getting married in June and am going through the whole wedding planning process. My parents and my grooms' parents are paying for the wedding although neither side likes the other. My father is so infuriated with the wedding that he won't talk to me much at all. I haven't really spoken to him in a month or so. The question becomes, if this doesn't change do I have him walk me down the aisle as was originally planned and always imagined or do I just have my mom do it?

Carolyn Hax: Too much we don't know here. Do the hard feelings arise form bad behavior, or misunderstandings? And if it's bad behavior, who's responsible?

And finally, is there any reason you haven't called off the plan and started over--i.e., killed the wedding to save the family?


King of Prussia, Pa.: re: the Vasectomy guy, I think the wife's "only fair" comment has to do with the fact that since she's now sterile, it's "only fair" that hubby be sterile too, despite the fact that her procedure was medically necessary, while his isn't

Carolyn Hax: It is a more informative way to look at it, thanks, tho still strikes me as needlessly bean-county and punitive.


Waldorf, Md.: Carolyn, can you recommend a hotline I can call if someone in my family is seriously abusing alcohol? There are a bunch of resources online but I don't know how to tell which are going to give me good advice. I'd rather it not be a government agency and Al-Anon doesn't appear to have a nationwide hotline. I don't want to go to meetings; I just want an experienced ear to talk to.

Carolyn Hax: Try the Hazelden Foundation,


Last names: "Girls" who take their husbands' last names are likely Traditionalists; "girls" who don't are likely not. And yes, I'd say that's how people see them. Those who differ on this MAY have important differences in their thinking about the nature of marriage, so I'd suggest that any couple that finds themselves disagreeing--or just surprised that they disagree--take a look at their philosophies of marriage before the big day.

Carolyn Hax: I agree with the second part, and I kinda agree with the first part--but I think the part of categorizing that rubs me the wrong way is that it leaves out the pragmatists. Those are people (men and women) who decide when they get there, based on variables like which name they like better, how it sounds, whether they plan to have kids (and whether they care if everyone has the same name), where their careers are when they're making the decision, etc.

As the number of people making non-traditional choices makes the whole term "non-traditional" sound dated, the politics become more of a yawn than a controversy, which puts ever more people into the "pragmatist" category. And so I don't think "that's how people see them," not automatically any more, except perhaps in "traditional" strongholds.

A fine development, I think.


Staunchly pro-life date: : Do you think that the person dating the pro-life guy should let the guy know about the abortion before they become "intimate"? -- Or at least let him know that she is strongly pro-choice (that is, any unintended pregnancy just might wind up being aborted)? I think that because the guy doesn't really have any control after the fact, he ought to be fully informed while he has the chance to make 100% sure that no child of his will wind up aborted (ie, by not sleeeping with her).

Carolyn Hax: That would be much more easily accomplished (and may have been already, since they discussed it) by her saying that she's pro-choice.

And, for the record, no man can be 100 percent sure of that even if a sex partner declares herself to be adamantly antiabortion. Just a consequence of the equipment.


Married name: I changed mine because I wanted to. I got flak. My friend didn't out of tradition (yes, these traditions exist in other countries) - got flak. My other friend didn't because she felt strongly it was her identity - got flak.

There's nothing you can do to please everyone, so just please yourself. It's another topic to file under "People need to mind their own business," but the cabinet's already too full.

Carolyn Hax: There's that, too, thanks.


Md.: How do people create equitable visits with family in this day and age? We have 3 sets of parents between the two of us and the only grandchild for all of them (very new grandchild at that). All of our vacations seem to be traveling to visit them or having them come here. Before we had kids we spent Thanksgiving with one set and Christmas with another (splitting it up so that the divorced set of parents were every other year but that we each saw family for at least one holiday). Now my family doesn't travel well (old age and disability), one part of his family is financially strapped and is struggling with bouts of a recurring illness and we are also trying to squeeze in all of the great grandparents too (3 sets). Plus, everyone lives hundreds of miles away! I am losing my mind! Suggestions?

Carolyn Hax: I just answered something like this ... was it last week? Anyway, just sit down with a calendar and decide how often you're willing to visit family. Don't think of fairness, think of what you and your very new family need. Whether you decide you can travel once a month or once a quarter or whatever, make the decision, and work from there without backpedaling. X out the weekends you are willing to travel. From there, figure out who can come see you, and schedule that. Then see if it's conceivable to have any non-travelers come to you if you pay, make the arrangements, etc.

Then, put all the guaranteed non-travelers on a list, and visit them on the X'd-out weekends in the order they appear on the list.


Pittsburgh: Hi, Carolyn:

My baby was stillborn in December. Up until three days before the birth he was fine and active. I am still devastated and feel like the last year of my life was a dream or missing time. I feel like the people around me (husband, mother, sister w/two healthy kids) are pushing me to move on and "try again," treating my loss as an early miscarriage or something less awful than losing a child. I think they all got together and agreed on this approach. Should I be grateful for this or can I assert that I'm NOT OKAY YET and still need their support?

Carolyn Hax: Oh. I'm so sorry. That's not a miscarriage, that's a nightmare.

Please assert that you're NOT OKAY YET and still need their support--starting with your husband. If you don't get through to him that you're grieving, please talk to your obstetrician about resources that can connect you to the support you need, both for grieving and for talking to your family in a way that helps them understand how unhelpful their seemingly unified "try again" front has been.

Please take care.


Idaho Falls, Idaho: Hi Carolyn. I'm 24 and just got engaged over the holidays, and am planning a summer wedding. My fiancee is a wonderful, sweet, kind man, and we've been together for five years. We;re best friends and happy together. However, I am getting so nervous about getting married that its affecting my sleep. I dont think I'm nervous about getting married to HIM as much as just getting married. Both our parents had rocky relationships.I'm starting to wonder if maybe I'm too young to get married or we're making the wrong decision, but the thought of calling off the engagement is horrible. Any advice? Am I experiencing normal pre-wedding jitters or is this a bad idea?

Carolyn Hax: Pre-marital counseling would be a great idea for you now. I don't mean couples counseling with a therapist, I mean the classes. Some churches offer them and have forever, but there are also more secular ones, and the point of both kinds is, (in general) to teach couples things about marriage and relationships that they may not have thought about or picked up from their parents, or that run counter to what popular culture suggests. I've got the name of one group somewhere ... lemme dig for a second ...


Carolyn Hax: Okay, these have been recommended to me, so it's secondhand, but the site is it lists courses and resources. Look particularly for PREP and Relationship Enhancement.

If anyone has more to add or an opinion on what I've posted, fire away.


Engaged, D.C.: I am getting married in May and my fiance and I are resisting a wedding party only because we have been in so many parties before and don't necessarily want to reciprocate. How do we handle not having former brides/grooms in our wedding party if we were in theirs?

I mean, its out wedding, but we want to be sensitive to others feelings...

Carolyn Hax: I don't think a grownup will view it as a one-to-one responsibility, but, that said, the no-wedding-party answer seems obvious. Why have anyone, really? If you want people with you at a brunch or getting dressed or whatever else the attendants do, invite the people to join you for whatever the purpose is, sans title.


Pre-Wedding Counseling: Engaged Encounter is Catholic, but it was very thorough. Having dated for 4 years, we discussed everything pretty well. But EE made us really talk in detail. I would highly recommend it. It was not preachy or pro-life.

Carolyn Hax: Excellent, thanks.

I just realized it's 3 p.m., so I'm signing off, but if more come through I'll post them next week. Till then ... thanks, and hope to see you here next week.


Colorado Springs: If my husband WANTED a vasectomy after I'd gotten a tubal, I'd be wondering if he had something planned............

Carolyn Hax: yes, there's that ...


Permanent implant to save him from a vasectomy? Really?: I was on his side until I realized that he's asking his wife to keep a foreign object in her body for years (decades probably) at least, and possibly the rest of her life, so that he won't have to have a vasectomy.

He didn't tell us his wife had no side effects, there were no risks, or that this approach was well-studied over decades and many women (I'm thinking that last one's impossible, reason alone for a cautious woman to have second thoughts).

Maybe his poor wife did what the doctor said, and now realizes it may not have been a good choice, and would like to reduce her (unknowable) risk by exchanging her implants for her husband's vasectomy.

If that's any part of it, yeah, it's his turn to do something. A vasectomy is small potatoes compared to any of the female-oriented options.

Carolyn Hax: He also didn't quote her as saying that she wants the foreign object out and this is why she's asking it of him--so either he's twisting the situation dramatically by presenting only the less relevant information (possible for any post that comes to me, but I can't think that way or else I couldn't answer anything), or this isn't about her wanting to reverse her procedure.

All of which is to say, yes, if that is any part of it, then it's his turn to do something.


Stillborn post article:

Carolyn - a Post reporter wrote an article about his and his wife's devastating stillborn's a link to the info on the archives page The article: Even Doctors Avoid Talking About Stillbirth, The Washington Post, July 7, 2009

Carolyn Hax: Yes, I read that at the time, very moving. Thanks for producing the link.


Carolyn Hax: Another one coming before I go ...


Pittsburgh again: Thanks for taking my question, Carolyn. Just wanted to add this: I actually have been in counseling since right after I delivered. That's where I found the empowerment to even admit to not being okay yet. My family is very pooh-poohy about mental health stuff (husband will not come with me to counseling) and I also realistically know I have been a crappy daughter and wife for the past month. I am willing to stop talking about it all the time, but I am not ready to go back to work (what my husband wants) and certainly not ready to talk about getting pregnant again (mom and sister). Before I felt so connected to all of them and to the baby and now I just feel so alone because of how they have reacted to the counseling.

Carolyn Hax: Please don't call yourself a crappy daughter and wife. For one thing, your husband won't come to counseling? Really? Even if he pooh-poohs it, you're his wife, you lost a baby, and you're asking him to go. He can't get over himself for one hour to hold your hand? What does that make him?

I realize you don't need another wedge between you now, and I'm not trying to put one in. I'm only trying to point out that your feelings are your feelings and you're entitled to respect--and when you're grieving, your needs take priority over his need, or your family's need, to hew to their beliefs on mental health.

It is terrible that you're feeling alone right now, as well as totally understandable that you're feeling alone. You've just discovered the hardest way possible that your beliefs diverge, significantly, from the beliefs of those closest to you--at a time when you need to feel they're right by your side. This is a whole other layer of grief, and I think it's important that you recognize it as such.

And, it's important to find a way to say this, with your counselor's support.

Last thing--growing is never bad, even when you find that it takes you in a lonely direction. Hang in there.


clinical psychologist: Yes! Look for a place to do PREP! Well researched and great.

Carolyn Hax: Great to see, thanks.

Now I'm really gone. Bye all.


Stillbirth link: The link you posted goes to a paywall, though probably not for you. Here is a free link:

Carolyn Hax: Cool, thanks.


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.

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