Carolyn Hax Live: Advice columnist tackles your problems

Carolyn Hax
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 5, 2010; 12:00 PM

Carolyn was online Friday, Feb. 5, taking your questions and comments about her current advice column and any other questions you might have about the strange train we call life. Her answers may appear online or in an upcoming column.

E-mail Carolyn at


Carolyn Hax: Hey there--sorry I'm late. Had to do a snow-related school pickup and thought I could get back by 12.


Somewhere, Va.: I'm the daughter in this morning's column, and my ex has "friended" all my friends, my parents, siblings and anyone else in my life.

He's busy telling his story to them while I remain silent about my side of the story. I thought that was the way polite society conducts itself. The end result is my parents are puzzled by my silence and my old "friends" all assume they know what happened. Do I really have to talk about it? How can I get the message through that there are two sides to the story and I think both sides of the story are private?

Carolyn Hax: You didn't disclose anything private in this e-mail, and yet it seems pretty clear to me from just a few well-chosen lines that you had a very good reason for breaking up with this guy.

Have you said to these people in your life--your parents in particular--exactly what you've said here?


Carolyn Hax: I haven't re-disappeared, I just bailed on a question and am starting over.


Philadelphia, Pa.: Tips for getting over it when a nascent romantic relationship with a friend fails to pan out? I think if I carry on as if nothing happened (his default), I'm just going to pine (which is miserable for me and likely will indirectly kill the friendship), but if I say I can't have anything to do with him, I worry it'll extinguish any last vestiges of common ground. I.e., definitely kill the friendship.

I'm especially hurting because I actually wasn't the primary enthusiast of this plan in the first place--he was interested in me, I spent a bunch of time and energy trying to revise how I thought of our relationship, ended up feeling pretty invested in the new version... only to have him go AWOL.


Carolyn Hax: If you keep treating "the friendship" as if it's some kind of independent organism, unrelated to the two of you and your feelings for each other, then I think you're going to drive yourself crazy. Just take what you have right now, and figure out what you want to do with it, starting with: the time you spend together. Are you enjoying it? Yes/no. If the answer is "yes and no," then ask yourself, is the good outweighing the bad?

I can see why you'd want to think strategically; when you have a history with someone, it's natural to factor that history into whatever's happening right now, in an effort to make the best long-term decision. But when your feelings are raw, it's better just to accept that you're not in a position to think strategically. Deal with the raw feelings in whatever way makes the most sense to you--for most people it's to take a little time off from the other person, but that's not true for everybody--and then, once your feelings about him are a little less chaotic, you can get to work on the friendship. If of course you decide you still want that.


Love my Hair!: I got my hair cut recently and I love it. I'm also seeing my MIL this weekend. She hates my hair short and always takes the opportunity to remind me that I look terrible. Can I use the "Wow." response to her mean comments? I don't think I can pull off a "That's such a rude statement" or have the heart for a "I love it and hope you'll learn to like it".

Carolyn Hax: Sure, "wow" works, but because it's so egregious and because she's in your life for the long haul, my vote is for dealing with her straight on. "I love it and hope you'll learn to like it. But if you never do come around, I hope you'll at least consider my feelings before you criticize me."

Really, do people ever regret standing up for themselves in situations like this, even if doing so doesn't solve the immediate problem?


Chicago: How bothered should I be that my SO is seriously judgmental of my taste in music and movies?

Carolyn Hax: Define "seriously judgmental." Direct quotes if possible. Thanks.


Got dumped right before V-Day : Had a great outing planned, salon appointment the day before, bought a new outfit. Now feeling lower than low and have no idea what to do with all the anticipation I felt building up to the day. What do sad people do on the holiday for couples?

Carolyn Hax: The same thing sad people do, coupled or un-, on the more routine days of the year: Figure out what they can do to make themselves feel better--specifically, things that don't depend on any one person coming through for them--and do it.

I'm sorry you got so theatrically dumped, especially when you were so theatrically entwined. There's so much romance in the mundane, though, that I hope when this acute distress is behind you, you'll take a closer look at those mundane things. Maybe I'm just a bitter old hag, but my anecdotal and personal experience with all things storybook is that they lie at the heart of the most crushing disappointments I've felt or witnessed. It's the stuff we tend to push aside for our dream choreography that yields the greatest rewards.


NW D.C. : How do think a person knows when they've "moved on" from a past relationship, i.e., are ready to date again without being unfair to potential partners?

Carolyn Hax: True on-moveage is when you wouldn't take person back, even if s/he came begging.


Chicago: OK, it's Super Bowl Sunday. Party time! My girlfriend and I are going to be with her friends this year, and there's one guy( a spouse of my GF's good friend) in the group that, no matter how I try to avoid him, always tries to get conversations steered to religious and political arguments. He'll say really inflammatory things, and then get all bent out of shape when the flames ensue. If I try to avoid or deflect, he digs in deeper, and if I confront he gets all offended. He's more infuriating to deal with than a zit on prom night. I'd rather just enjoy the game, the guacamole and her other friends (who are great!)My GF asked me not to confront/engage him, to be the bigger man, etc., and I'll try. I'm just wondering whether shoes or flowers work better for an apology after I fail?

Carolyn Hax: Shoes, but that's beside the point. Don't fail. You have it in you to:

1. Walk away;

2. Say, "How bout those Saints?";

3. Say, "Can I get you anything? I'm going to get some more guacamole," after which you don't go back to the conversation;

4. Say, "I'd rather just enjoy the game," as many times as you need. The 20th is a statement unto itself.

Really. Refuse all bait. It's possible.


Re: Love my Hair!: You could try "Would you like me to leave so you don't have to look at it?" (works well with big innocent eyes, meek and apologetic if you can carry it off)

Carolyn Hax: Like it, but still as a follow-up to the definitive ground-standing.


Seriously judgmental: On movies (from a fight we had this week): "I don't think you're shallow, but in general I think it's shallow only to like [particular sub-genre of movies I like] and not challenge yourself intellectually, so I'm surprised you do."

On music (paraphrased from every discussion we've ever had): "There's more to music than how easy it is to remember the chorus, but I know not everyone appreciates that."

In general, he's really serious about Art and Film and he looks down on me for not using my preferences in those areas to access my deeper emotions and challenge my philosophies on life.

Carolyn Hax: It's taking everything I have not to type RUN! RUN! RUN!

Oh, wait.

1. Who says you don't access your deeper emotions and challenge your philosophies on life? Is this his opinion, or yours?

2. If it's his opinion, do you agree?

3. If you agree, do you also agree that it's his place to try to make you better? Or do you think it's your business how you accomplish that?

4. If you agree you need to dig deeper and you agree that capital-A Art and capital-F Film (glad I had a light lunch) are the best path toward self-improvement, have you and he agreed on an emotional and philosophical depth level that will qualify you as his equal, or is he just going to rule on that when you get there (or fail to)?

5. And finally, if you don't agree with him, if you're fine either with the way you are or the way you've chosen to challenge yourself, then why are you putting up with this crap?

There's another offended party here, for whom I feel I must speak: There are people who take art and film seriously and aren't full of themselves. Sheesh.


Boston: Carolyn, how do I get better at sticking to things? I'm great at starting out, very enthusiastic and committed, but over time drop everything I start. I'm not talking about external stuff like jobs or school, but stuff for myself, like exercise, eating right, hanging up my clothes at night, etc. I start to feel trapped at "having" to do something I decided on. I'm great for long stretches - can work out regularly for six months at a time before it falls off completely - and I go right back to where I started.

If I add in that when I was a kid, my mom used to say that I was great at starting but terrible at continuing, you'll think this is pretty deep-seated and tied to my relationship with her right?


Carolyn Hax: Thanks, ma.

I think the best way to stick to things is to choose things that most closely track with your individual strengths, habits, tendencies, preferences, etc. Nobody's ever going to find a perfect routine, because something is always going to feel like a chore, but if you make it your goal to get as close as possible, you're likely to have more success than you're having now.

When you're trying to figure out your natural tendencies, be as brutally honest about yourself as you can be about things like whether you're a morning or night person; whether you work better in 15 minute increments or whether you're obsessive once you get started on something and will stay up all night if that's what you take to finish; whether a rigid schedule works or you need flexibility built in; whether you tend blow off things that are off your path between work and home; whether you feel better solo or with company, everything.

As for the feeling "trapped," there does seem to be an undercurrent of authority resentment, which is possibly some residue from childhood, but I don't necessarily think that's the whole issue. Too many people struggle with this to some degree for it to have such an individualized cause.


Not Chicago: But, my SO was seriously judgmental of my taste in TV. In fact, he said the mindless TV show I watched was "everything that is wrong with America." He felt the need to berate it every time I watched it, too. I am comfortable with my TV choice, so it got to the point where I calmly said "You have made it perfectly clear how you feel about this TV show. I will continue to watch it, it is just a TV show. Your constant berating has started to feel personal, and it hurts my feelings." After I said that, he got it, and he stopped the berating--after all it wasn't a moral difference he had, it was just a taste preference, and he thought he was being funny, he was NOT trying to hurt my feelings. Divergent opinions and tastes are to be expected in a relationship, and are nice quite frankly. But you have to have open communication, especially when someone is hurting your feelings. Everything is fine now, I still watch my TV show, and he reads in the bedroom. Just my story.

Carolyn Hax: Thanks for sharing it. You do have to have open communication, I agree, especially when someone's hurting your feelings.

But you need more than that to get the happy ending you two seem to have reached. You need two people who aren't going to get invested in each other's tastes. I could tell a story with the exact same beginning as yours, but instead of a guy who drops the issue and reads a book, it stars a someone who thinks it reflects poorly on him or her to have a mate who watches mindless TV. And then you have and ongoing battle about how shallow your TV tastes are and how you are denying yourself a chance to be deeply emotionally challenged.

Oh, wait.

So maturity and healthy/realistic expectations, and respect for a person and that person's autonomy, and communication, are all wrapped up in the process of getting it right.


Morristown, N.J.: Have you noticed that people use Facebook to allow themselves to brag shamelessly? "5 days till Mexico!!!" ... "4 days till Mexico!" or "Just got the most amazing job at [insert company name here]" I don't think people would say these things if FB didn't exist. Am I just being super sensitive (and envious, I guess)?

Carolyn Hax: Really? My first thought is to be super bored. Professional PR is darn near unreadable; for the do-it-yourself variety, you can skip the "darn near."

And yes, I agree, many people use social networking to brag, but I don't agree that they wouldn't have done it otherwise.


Somewhere, Va. (again): Not sure if that was a rhetorical question, but yes, when my parents told me they had been contacted by my ex, I let them know that I didn't think it was useful to share details about what had happened. They know I was in therapy and spent months trying to come to terms with the situation before I decided to call it quits. They're the best parents a girl could hope to have.

Your column this morning didn't address all of the others out there who have disappeared from my life based on a half truth. I've been sitting here thinking about what I want and channeled your answer:

"You can't change anyone but yourself. Find new friends to replace the ones who disappeared and forget about the rest."

How did I do?

Carolyn Hax: That wasn't a rhetorical question. I think--with someone as close to you as your parents--you can be very blunt about what's happening while still not giving up the private details. E.g., "He's contacting everyone I care about, recruiting them to sympathize with him--I hope that in itself helps you see that I made a very sound decision here."

As for how you did with the channeling, great ... if you're already at the last step, writing people off. There may be some relationships you can salvage, though, either through a little more pointed honesty, as in the example above, or just by waiting it out.

You fell for him enough to get into a pretty serious relationship; it follows, then, that some of the other people in your life will fall for him, too. If they eventually come around to the same conclusion you did, and come knocking in an effort to be your friend again, I don't think it's necessarily fair to punish them by not taking them back as friends. (Though that will depend on the quality of the awareness and apology, as always.)

Yes, a really good friend would trust you implicitly and not take sides against you, or would just trust the cosmos and not take sides at all--but not everyone gets that right the first time.


Fairbanks, Alaska: Re: Seriously Judgmental: OK, it is annoying when someone acts all high and might and tries to shove their intellectual ideology down your throat. But you know what else is annyoing? EVERY gag-worthy Kate Hudson Rom-Com and Britney Spears single. I'm not saying he should be judging her personally based on her entertainment choices, but it doesn't sound like he his. the quote "only like" implies to me that she refuses to indulge in his "more sophisticated" tastes in films. If this is the case, and my SO ONLY wanted to rent vapid crap (don't get me wrong, there is a time and place for TrueBlood!) I would be very annoyed. Maybe they should strike some kind of 50-50 compromise with rentals and radio where she watches a David Lynch film every once in a while if he's forced to endure -gasp- a fluffy movie every now and then.

Carolyn Hax: This makes a fine argument for the high divorce rate.

You are not comparing apples with apples; shoving ideology down someone's throat is not the same thing as wanting ONLY to rent vapid crap. The vapid-crap renter is not, in your scenario, insisting that anyone else watch it, appreciate it, develop shallow new philosophies rooted in it. It's just one person devotedly watching crap. I'll defend to the bitter end a person's right to do that.

As the earlier poster demonstrated, it's possible for a crap watcher to make peace with an art lover. They just need to make their individual tastes clear, and give each other enough space and respect for each to enjoy his own stuff.

And if both of them go a step further by making an effort to appreciate the other's stuff, or just to join the other at a crappy/hoity movie every once in a while--your 50-50 compromise--that's even better. But anything that involves forcing the other to join in on a certain kind of cultural consumption, just because that's what you do when you're part of a couple, is the kind of reasoning that brings people together even though they don't respect the other's taste or right to choose. And it brings in grudging sacrifice or compromise where it's certainly possible (and far far preferable) for people to embrace each other's differences as a part of the lovable whole.

In other words, if they aren't willingly and lovingly tagging along for the other's preferred art form, or if they aren't willingly and lovingly granting each other time to enjoy that art independently, then I don't like their chances.


Non-mover: I've been a terrible long term boyfriend and moved out 9 months ago. We still see each other once a week, but I'm told I'm a friend (which I suppose I should be grateful for)...I'm not moving on. I will marry this girl. Other then patience and bringing up the conversation once a week/month...what do I do?

Carolyn Hax: Stop saying "I will marry this girl," because that's just creepy. It's not your decision to make, wasn't before, and won't be in the future. You own 50 percent of that decision, and not a dust speck more.

Given that you're hanging around and pressuring her once a week, the only thing I can advise is that you stop seeing her once a week, stop being patient, and stop bringing up the subject permanently. Go get your own life without her, and mean it. If you were ready to be her one and only, you would have done it prior to the 9-months-ago meltdown, not in response to it.

Because of that timing, I don't think you can say for sure whether you miss her, or whether you miss being in a relationship with her. These are two different things. One is about her, and who she is, and how much that means to you, and the other is about liking yourself in a particular role.

But as relationships progress and as people age, their roles in relation to each other shift and change and evolve. What you always have is who she is, and who you are.

That's why your only move right now is to figure out who you are, and to do so without her in your life to serve as the tent pole to your self-image. Figure out why you're stuck on her now, why you blew it before, and even why you think it's okay to say, "I will marry this girl" when it is so obviously something two people decide together or not at all.

When you've got that figured out, -maybe- then you can start to think about why she's so special to you that you basically stopped living your life in order to wait for her. I say "maybe" because it's possible she represents something so unhealthy for you that you can't both progress and look back. When you're ready to be with someone, the strongest impulse is usually to get fully immersed and invested in life, not to check out of it.


re: Moved on: I think its more complicated than that. I was dating a guy - I broke up with him because he was starting to show abusive tendancies (throwing things, really controlling, etc). I wouldn't have taken him back if he begged, won the super lotto and we could live in separate time zones. That being said, I still wasnt ready to move on for a while in a way that was fair to the other person - lots of stuff to work through.

Carolyn Hax: Ah, right. I was seeing it as a matter of being attached to a particular person. But you're right that there's another way to get over a relationship that can be independent of the person.

For that other aspect of moving on, I would say the milestone you want to reach is the one of accepting what you learned about yourself in the process of the prior relationship and its demise. That pertains mostly to the ugly stuff you learn about yourself, but also to the more flattering stuff. It's normal for both to feel so weird and raw and new that waking up every morning includes a process of recalling what happened and, almost, recalling who you've become. Once that phase has passed, and the new stuff is fully incorporated into who you are, then I'd call that having moved on.

Finally--the question (I think) was about what defines moving on, but there's also the part I've said before about when it's the right time to date after a breakup. Always, the "right time" answer has to include, "when you've met someone you want to date." Dating to date too often winds up as a demoralizing experience.


Bad Axe, Mich.: Carolyn -

What about a GF who INSISTS that you try her meal at a restaurant; and INSISTS that she try yours? My SO seems to think that my reluctance at being agreeable to doing so means that "we're not truly a couple" because I won't "share". She also seems to think that if I don;t try her meal, I'm rejecting HER. That's not it at all, I just don't want to try her food. (If I did, I would have ordered it myself.)

Frankly, it's behavior like this that I attribute to her penchant for devouring sappy Rom-Coms. Those movies give half the US population the idea that unattainable romantic ideals is the norm . . . .

Carolyn Hax: Really? You've got your cause and effect backward, I think. If I had to guess, I'd say the sappy entertainment products don't train their audiences so much as validate them.

I also think what you're talking about isn't an unattainable ideal--certainly plenty of couples share bites at restaurants--it's a -rigid- ideal. (And illogical.) I.e., the reasoning that if some couples share at restaurants, then the ones who aren't sharing at restaurants must not be close.

So, as with the couple who started all this, the rom-coms aren't the problem; it's the INSISTENCE, stupid.

I do hope you let her try your food, though. Unless she has a knack for taking half, allowing a taste is just being a good sport.


Re: Not taking the bait: My husband has a friend that always wants to start some political or religious debate. My way of ending the conversations with him is that when he says something boneheaded I look at him and just say "cool" (a cousin phrase to the word 'wow') and then get back to talking about something else. I've found these types of people are only looking for a reaction. Fail to give them one and they may try harder to get one for a while, but eventually they'll give up. My 1st grade teacher once told me "if you stop running, the boys will stop chasing you. They don't want to catch you, they want to make you run away." THis has been one of life's best lessons

Carolyn Hax: I'm stuck on the thought that a first-grade teacher told a first-grader something "once" and it stuck.


Washington, D.C.: Happy Snowapocalyse!

I am 35 and recently moved back with my parents who live in a not-so-far suburb outside the city. I commute in for my job (fully-employed professional), go out with my friends in the evenings, spend a few weekends away - but...I don't pay rent. This move originally happened because I had a two-month gap in my housing situation, but my second apt fell through. Now, I'm perfectly happy in my situation. I'm not feeling any need to move out and my parents have been awesome. They generally are happy to have me around and I try to do my best to give them space and be respectful of their time (they know when I'll be home, etc).

I'm just wondering why I'm not feeling any real need to move out. Nothing, nada, zip. I lived on my own for 12 years, so this isn't a regular thing for me. And outside of feeling a little awkward on first dates when I explain where I live, I generally don't care that I'm living at home with my parents. Am I weird to be super okay about this - even happy about this? I am thrilled to be saving money and I like having people to come home to at the end of the day.

Carolyn Hax: As long as you can trust that your parents would tell you if they felt a loss of privacy and wanted that privacy back, I think the whole arrangement sounds ideal. Dependence is when you can't live on your own; you can certainly be independent and choose companionship, cheap living conditions and freedom from societal norms.


New Jersey: Dear Carolyn,

I am 33, single and about one iota of certainty away from deciding to get artificially inseminated. The only thing that's really stopping me is that absolutely no one in my life supports this decision. Their reasons for opposing it range from "You're too young to give up on finding a husband" to "You're too busy to raise a child alone." I have thought about this for a long time and feel relatively sure about this decision, but the fact that everyone who loves me is so against it really bugs me. Anything you can say to help me separate the valid dissent from the less valid stuff?

Carolyn Hax: All you can do is take each dissenting opinion, see if you have an answer to it that isn't a rationalization, and make your best decision from there.

Obviously it's very difficult to spot our own rationalizations, because we're the one's we're trying to snow, which usually makes our efforts particularly effective--but it can be done. Look for specifics vs. general ideas. E.g. "You're too busy," they say--so, what's your response? Is it specific--"I spend two hours in the gym when I can easily quit after 45 min, or work out with videos at home"--or is it, "People always find time when they need to"? Is it, "I can cut my 2-hour commute to 30 min if I move to the places I've researched that are close to my office and 12 child-care providers," or is it, "The commute isn't as bad as people say"?

You get the idea. This isn't to knock down that last iota--you need to heed that far more attentively than you do any outside criticism (or support, for that matter)--it's just about a way to weigh what people say as objectively as you can.


New York, N.Y.: My roommate, who is a great person, is the only child of two late-in-life parents, one of whom has passed away and the other of whom is very, very sick and living in a nursing facility in her home state. As far as I know, she has no living relatives who are looking out for her, and she's become the sole executor of her parents' estate. She visits the living parent occasionally, but aside from mentioning that she's "going home for the day," she never talks about it or indicates how she's feeling.

I have inferred that he's getting worse, and that it's really weighing on her, but she doesn't see a therapist or make any move to discuss it with the people close to her. I'm really worried about her, especially as she seems to be self-medicating with excessive amounts of alcohol (on occasion she has been too hungover to visit her parent on a weekend). I want to tell her that I think she should consider a therapist or at the very least let herself vent to friends, but because she NEVER DISCUSSES THIS and our relationship is pretty casual/jokey, I can't figure out how to give my two cents without making the situation worse. Any help would be appreciated, I'm very worried for her - mentally and physically as she has hurt herself badly on nights when she's been blackout drunk.

Carolyn Hax: Contact a local hospice provider (this site lists a bunch in New York: to see whom they recommend for grief support services. Then, write down the contact information to the one or two nearest where you live, and hand them to your roommate. Just say something along the lines of, "I know this is your business," and then add, "but I'm worried about you," or even, "but you don't have to be alone," or, "but there's a lot of help out there if you need it." Whatever you think will show the right balance of concern and respect for her privacy.

The blackout drunkenness is a serious problem, and that's what obligates you to intervene, if only in this (necessarily) limited way. I believe that approaching it as a grief issue is going to make you a little harder to tune out than approaching it as an alcohol issue, because grief has a lower shame profile than alcohol abuse. Neither should have one, of course, but "should" is not helpful here. Good luck.


Carolyn Hax: I'm going to post a whole bunch of thinking points for the woman who's an iota away from single parenthood. Just from glancing at it, it looks as if plenty applies to anyone considering parenthood.


Re: New Jersey: I'm 31 and two weeks away from my due date after being artificially inseminated. My family has been more supportive than I expected, actually, but I fully imagined them raising many of the same objections that NJ mentions. For me, the point when I knew I was ready was when nothing else mattered to me as much as having a child - not my family's possible reactions, and not the prospect of making changes in my career and other parts of my life in order to accomodate my child's needs.

Carolyn Hax: More ...


For the inseminator: Have you talked to or done any research on what adult children think of this? From everything I've read, on the whole, they have a huge sense of something missing and are left wanting, because they have no information and no way of getting information. There are websites where they are desperately seeking information on their fathers and each other.

Like all prospective parents, you need to go in this with your eyes wide open on what you are actually doing to your child, not just what you want for yourself.

Carolyn Hax: More ...


for New Jersey Sinlge-Mom-By-Choice-To-Be: I could have written your post when I was 33. I'm now 50.

You have no idea what you're getting yourself into. Children don't necessarily need two parents, but every child deserves to have one sane parent at all times. It's impossible to do that when you're raising a child alone. It's not a matter of being organized or having accomplished a lot because you're really Type A. Take your money and spend it on a competent and experienced therapist to figure out why you haven't found a good life partner yet, and be prepared to learn some hard things about yourself. I did that, and was able to make better choices than I would have (and had done)in my 20s and early 30s. I now have a great husband and a wonderful kid. It took a lot of hard, painful work with two competent therapists, but I'm glad I did that rather than having a child by myself. It's hard enough with a committed and fully engaged partner.

Carolyn Hax: More ...


Artificially inseminated?!: The reason people think it's a bad idea is because it's a bad idea unless you've got that mythical village around you. Parenting is the most unrelenting job on earth. I love my son more than anything, and yet I promise you I would be desperately miserable if I couldn't hand him to my partner for a few hours at the end of the day.

This is a two person job. Don't kid yourself otherwise. The people who make the best go of single parenting have supportive families, friends committed to babysitting (NOT "helping when you need it"), flexible day care with extended hours, and ideally another adult life form in the house.

If you're about to walk into a situation where it's -just you- during the febrile seizures, busting a lip on the edge of the tub, puking and attacks of diarrhea for both you and the kid at the same moment, and the days where nothing goes right...

Carolyn Hax: ... and I think that's it.

Obviously these lean negative and verge on biased, but I'd argue that's what makes them useful. Thanks everybody for weighing in.


Potential Dates-ville: "Always, the "right time" answer has to include, "when you've met someone you want to date." Dating to date too often winds up as a demoralizing experience."

What about dating to meet new people, practice your dating skills, get out of the house and kill two birds with one stone (socialize and meet potential dating partners)?

My job keeps me very busy and I wish I could meet someone to eventually settle down with. Moreover, most of my friends are coupled and I don't really have time to incorporate new friends into my life. I would, however, make time if there were romantic potential. FWIW, I've taken your advice for the last five years (been open to friendships and hoped something more would develop eventually), but it never did. Are you saying I'm setting myself up for disappointment by actively trying to date "to date"?

Carolyn Hax: Not necessarily. You're talking about "dating to meet new people, practice your dating skills, get out of the house." If you mean that, then go for it. This applies to everything, not just dating: When you're in it for your reasons and you control the outcome, then there's very little down side. All the things you list are up to you.

When you're in it for reasons that depend on someone else, then you're vulnerable to disappointment--which is fine, disappointment is a fact of life--and, over time, soul-drain. Not fine.

The difference between your feeling good about this and setting yourself up for frustration is your honesty with yourself about your expectations. Also true of everything, not just dating.


Re: New Jersey: Book rec (I gave it to my mother when I was done with it): Choosing Single Motherhood, The Thinking Woman's Guide. Can't think of the author right now and I'm trying to get this in fast, sorry.

Carolyn Hax: Posting it fast too. Hope it's useful ...


Re: New Jersey:: Carolyn, you did a great job of addressing the "too busy" criticism. But what about the "not to late to find a husband" concern?

I think it's important to make sure that she will not resent the child or regret her choice AT ALL should she find that dating as a single parent is harder than she thought. (Assuming she is even interested in dating and getting married. I'm assuming yes because she didn't dismiss that concern out of hand.)

Carolyn Hax: Oop, forgot this one. Thanks.


Let's Quit Demonizing being Single: From one of the posts against artificial insemination - "Take your money and spend it on a competent and experienced therapist to figure out why you haven't found a good life partner yet, and be prepared to learn some hard things about yourself."

I am glad everything worked out so well for this woman, and that she now has a "great husband and kid," but, seriously, can we stop acting as if everyone who is single has something "wrong" with them which is preventing them from find a "good life partner"? And automatically assuming that marriage is the sign of sanity, responsibility, having nothing wrong with you, etc.?

Carolyn Hax: Because we've all seen plenty of evidence to the contrary. Whooie.

Thanks for calling this out. It's one of the ones I had in mind when I was flagging bias, but that wasn't good enough on my part.

I posted it anyway, though, because the idea of a tune up with "a competent and experienced therapist" is a provocative one for anyone considering becoming a parent.


Carolyn Hax: Ooh, meant to say at the beginning, I've posted a few updates since I last mentioned my Facebook page:

There's an especially gratifying one from Worst Bridezilla Ever's now-former bridesmaid, but there are others, too.

Just a refresher in case you missed the previous mentions, I'm putting all updates from past letter-writers on a Facebook page so people know where to look for them. If I just drop them into transcripts, they're easy to miss.


Carolyn Hax: And wow is it late. Time to go hunker down with my hard-won milk, bread and eggs, which is the mandatory diet of DC'ers in snowstorms. Please keep a thought for my shovel, which is being held together by hockey tape, and which I could not replace because I was the 41st person in a 40-person line for the last 40 shovels in the entire mid-Atlantic region.

With that--seeya later, and thanks for stopping by.


Maryland: My husband was really disturbed by the birth of our first child; he passed out at the sight of blood (etc) and our sex life took a huge dive. We worked past it, more or less, and are now expecting our second child. He claims he wants to be there for the delivery, but I really don't want him to, given his response last time. Who gets to make this choice?

Carolyn Hax: Have you asked him why he wants to be there? I'm going to kick this to Hax-Philes, given the lateness of the hour.


Parenting in Pittsburgh : Hate to add to the pile-up on single motherhood, really, but as the parent of a special needs kid I feel a need to point out that kids don't always come made-to-order. I am in a good relationship with a healthy partner co- parenting my SNK but I have had to give up literally EVERYTHING else in my life to provide for my son's daily care. It would be impossible to do this as a single person. Please don't think that being artificially inseminated protects you from this possibility. There aren't tests for everything. Yes, there are places to warehouse SNKs for people who don't have other options. But they are nowhere you'd really want your kid to spend his/her childhood. If you have piles of money, you can make single parenting work. If you don't have that and/or the village or are so uncertain that you're writing an advice columnist, well, continue to think on it...

Carolyn Hax: You aren't piling on, you're posing a question every every prospective parent should answer: Am I ready to get what I want, or am I ready to get what I get? The former is dreaming, the latter is parenthood.

Thank you for writing.


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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