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Carolyn Hax Live: Advice columnist tackles your problems

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Carolyn Hax
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 30, 2010; 12:00 PM

Carolyn was online Friday, April 30, 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.

Good news! Carolyn's archives have been updated. Check out the sidebar on Carolyn's archive page to find even more transcripts from past Hax chats.

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Carolyn Hax: Hi, everybody. I have a full coffee mug, a Bob Dylan song on that I don't really like, and a new computer that I'm not comfortable with yet. This should be fun.

Oh, and I was wearing a Caps shirt, since I'm on to next year in spirit, but it got drooly at the dog park and I had to change.

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Please please help : "Gabe" and I have been friends for years. In that time, we've slept together a few times--no more than 20, always when both of us are single. It has never developed into anything more, though I've long had fairly serious feelings I doubt he would return. Well, we rolled the dice one too many times and I just found out I'm 9 weeks pregnant...by Gabe. He dates more often than I do; he's seeing someone semi-seriously as of the past month or so (NO overlap whatsoever). We are both in our early 30s. In my perfect world, I would confess the pregnancy and my feelings at the same time, he would sweep me off my feet and we would become a family. In the real world, the one where I'm crying at my computer while I ask an advice columnist whether to get an abortion, I'm sure Gabe will be 100% lukewarm about all of this and will probably encourage me to get rid of the baby. With the understanding that this is largely my fault and the result of a series of huge mistakes, please help me figure out what to do.

Carolyn Hax: The baby and Gabe are two entirely different people, and it seems to me that the only way to make decisions you won't regret is to think about them separately.

Do you want Gabe, yes/no? If yes, are you ready to admit to that knowing you might not like the answer, yes/no?

And then:

Do you want to have a baby, yes/no? If yes, are you ready to be a single parent, yes/no?

If you decide you want the baby, Gabe or not, then you're going to have to tell Gabe, which means the conversation will include a combination of both issues. But that won't necessarily be a problem if you go into it having thought both issues through separately.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Carolyn,

Last week someone asked about over-analyzing relationships. Was there ever a follow-up? I'd be interested from both a scab-picker's and a scab-picked's perspective to hear your thoughts.

Carolyn Hax: I didn't see a follow-up, not even when I went through the outtakes later. If the original poster is out there: Did you send something? Would you mind re-sending? Thanks.

If we don't hear back today, I'll pull out the question from last week and try to answer it, either later today or next week.

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Carolyn Hax: Oh, speaking of next week--I have a conflict. Jodi, can we move to Thursday at noon?

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Rather be a daughter than a girlfriend: Is it possible to break up with my boyfriend "Eli" but keep a relationship with his family? My relationshp with Eli has gotten terrible and turbulent, but his family is the family I've always wanted. His parents treat me and talk about me like I'm their own daughter, I hang out with his sister and brother, I'm included in all their family events, and I spend lots of time with the parents and siblings even when Eli's not around. I know I need to break up with him and I know he won't move on from me unless I cut him out of my life at least for a good long while, but I can't even IMAGINE just cutting off my relationships with the people I've really come to think of as my family. Don't people who divorce stay in touch with the other family? How can I make this work? I don't don't don't want to lose the people I love. I'm 22 years old, if it matters, and I've been with Eli and his family for 2 years.

Carolyn Hax: Where's your family?

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washingtonpost.com: Abuse Cycle Column, The Washington Post, Dec. 22, 2009

Carolyn Hax: While I'm thinking of it, here's the column (finally) that came up two weeks ago and that I kept forgetting to track down. Thanks, Jodi.

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Boston: Is it rude to have a small wedding ceremony with just immediate family, and then a reception later in the day for more people?

This option is the one that best suits my fiance and me, since he feels strongly that he wants a private, intimate ceremony and I feel strongly that I want our families and friends to be part of our celebration. However, I would be mortified if people thought we were trolling for gifts, or that they weren't "good enough" to be part of the ceremony. I would be grateful for any advice you have.

Carolyn Hax: As we've seen over the years here, people who are looking for offense will always find it. And, even those who aren't looking for a good righteous grumble will hold widely varying views on what is polite and what is rude. Many people try to inoculate themselves against offending people by hosting vanilla weddings, but even those can ruffle feathers because one culture's vanilla is another's vindaloo.

People like you who want to try something a little different can reasonably conclude that you're doomed to annoy somebody. In way, though, that can be liberating: You're not going to make everyone happy, so you're free not to try.

What you can try for is to make each decision a sensitive and thoughtful one. You want an intimate exchange of vows? Okay--then keep the guest list for that SO rigidly small that people can't feel left out. For example, have just immediate family. Then you'll tacitly be saying it wasn't a popularity contest. Or, have one close friend each, plus family. That works if each of you has a clear "best" friend. If you don't, then open it to your clear friend, period; if either of you has a group of friends, the whole group comes or the whole group doesn't. You get the idea.

As for the reception, don't call it a reception. Call it a party. Consider having it on a different date, even. "Come celebrate our marriage with us." That's more welcoming than, "Come to the reception following a wedding you can't attend," which is how any phrasing will sound.

As always, what really matters is that you and your fiance are able to accept and accommodate each other's differences without resentment.

Good luck, and congrats.

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Minneapolis: I hope you can find time to answer this. My fiance's father and stepmother (SM) are coming to visit us in a few weeks. The SM likes to drink a few beers every night and then becomes a little nasty to her husband and my fiance. My fiance and I drink rarely and don't keep beer in the house, so my question is whether we need to have beer ready for the SM or if we can politely ask her to not drink while she stays with us. Your thoughts are greatly appreciated.

Carolyn Hax: You can, of course--your house--but that's not the issue. The issue is whether you realize the potential consequences and are ready to accept them. Will it cost you your husband's relationship with his dad, for example? Will she just ignore you and drink anyway from her own supply, and be extra abusive as punishment for trying to shut her down? Will she comply during the visit, and then take her wrath out on her husband when the trip is over?

Any time you're trying to decide whether to hold the line on someone, it's important to know your priorities first. In this case, you need to ask yourself, is changing the beery status quo worth what it might cost you? It's imperative that you talk about this with your husband before you do anything, and if he agrees it's a line worth drawing, then he should talk to his dad first.

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Betrayed: Carolyn,

My boyfriend betrayed me. It wasn't something unforgivable (like cheating), but significant enough to dramatically change my level of trust and sense of security with him. I've forgiven him and am trying to get that trust back. The problem? We are long distance and it seems impossible to me to build trust without seeing his actions on a daily basis. Can trust really be built over the phone and on occasional visits? I wonder whether I'll ever trust him completely again.

Thanks.

Carolyn Hax: Is his explanation for what happened credible? Is his remorse credible? Is his proposed resolution credible given who he is and what he's capable of doing or being?

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My experience, for "Please Please Help": I was where you are now, only 20 years ago.

Please please make your decision FIRST, before you tell Gabe. In my case, I was madly in love with the father, and hoped for that happily ever after scenario.

What I got was one angry male who strong-armed me into an abortion. I was very vulnerable, and he turned into Mr. Hyde instantly.

Please please think over this decision very carefully under the premise of dealing with this as a single unattached person, and make your decision from there.

Because remember, this guy is not your husband. You are essentially a friend with benefits, and you will so become a NOT friend and the benefits will be a liability to him once you make your announcement.

Either way, I know all about those tears and this horrible decision. Go easy on yourself no matter what you decide.

And ask yourself: what can I in my current life give to a child. Make your decision with that in mind.

Carolyn Hax: This just makes me sad. Thanks, though, and I think it will help.

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Undisclosed location.: Ugh.

Cheated on my wife for the first time last week.

But after reading the first two questions on your chat, I feel like a low priority.

Carolyn Hax: No, you're not off the hook that easily.

Why'd you do it?

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Fairfax, Va.: Carolyn, that snippy answer to "rather be a daughter" was not what we've come to expect from you! How about answering her question respectfully?

Carolyn Hax: It wasn't snippy, and it wasn't an answer. It was a plainly worded request for information without which I can't answer the question. The reason for the attachment to another family is significant.

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Gabe Situation: Does Gabe get a say in the baby's fate?

Carolyn Hax: A say, sure, but not the deciding vote. That goes to the person carrying the baby.

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Gabe: This may or may not be obvious, but I want both (Gabe somewhat, the baby very badly). What I don't want is to trick myself into thinking things will work out with him BECAUSE of a baby, and I don't want him to feel pressured into raising a baby we did not plan. I would like to make I could single-parent as well as possible, but I think my feelings for Gabe would complicate it, which would probably mean I'd have to end our friendship and most contact unless he really wanted an active role in the baby's life.

Carolyn Hax: Why are you even talking about abortion if you want the baby?

You tell Gabe you're pregnant. You tell him you want this baby and you're keeping him/her. You tell him you hope he will be actively involved, but that it's obviously his decision. Then you let him say what he's going to say--be it, "I want no part of this," or, "Yay." Let him say whether he's going to fight against paying a nickel or propose to you. Don't ask for anything, not in the announcement conversation.

You're going to need to figure out, preferably before you say anything to him, whether you're going to ask him (to the point of suing for) child support, but actually saying anything about it is for another conversation. The first talk is about the fact of the baby, and about learning Part 1 of where he stands. I say Part 1 because he'll need time to process what you're saying and his answer might change after he's had time to think.

The whole issue of whether things work out with Gabe b/c of the baby has to be banished from your mind. It's a person, not a bargaining chip. And as far as pressure goes, you can choose not to apply any. if he pressures himself, well, that's not something you can prevent. You can just watch carefully for gestures made out of guilt vs. gestures made out of guilt., There generally not hard to tell apart.

As for your feelings complicating your efforts to be a good mom (I think that's what you're saying), you really just have to realize this isn't about Gabe anymore. He's not the most important here any more.

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Rather be a daughter than a girlfriend : My family and I are in a rough patch right now...in fact, they don't care for Eli at all and are pretty upset at how much time I spend with that family. We have a pretty turbulent relationship and I know that's probably the root of my reluctance to give Eli the boot...

Carolyn Hax: Ding Ding Ding. I figured there was some refugee stuff going on.

Which means, of course, your attachment to Eli's family isn't as purely wonderful as you make it out to be. You're seeking shelter in them; you're not coming to them in strength as an equal. Any time there's a need being filled by someone, it may feel good at the moment, but the need is still there., lurking, not getting better (or actively getting worse).

Better to address the need head-on--this is where counseling comes in--and then worry about the relationships later. I have a feeling that if you figure out what the issue is with your family, you'll feel the loss of Eli's family less acutely. And yes, you do need to break up with Eli. In fact the turbulence of that relationship underscores the neediness that's driving your emotional connections right now. Please see this, and start taking better care of yourself.

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Anonymous: Carolyn, my son plays with some cousins (girls) almost weekly. They are nice girls but super competitive and sometimes aggressive. They will push, shove, scratch and hit when playing or when they get mad (kids are ages 7-11). My son is competitive too, but not outwardly so. I'm afraid he is going to either become a victim here or a bully too-but they generally seem to have a good time together so I don't want to be a helicopter parent and monitor every move. He and his little brother will argue, sure, but I don't let them get too physical when they're angry. FWIW their mom says it's just a family trait...doesn't seem to see anything wrong with it.

Carolyn Hax: Nothing wrong with having her kids "push, shove, scratch and hit"? I don't like hyperbole or generalizations, and this makes me fear for society.

You either have to end these MMA play dates or be a helicopter, at least for a while. You need to be close enough to the action to say, "No, stop, that is not okay," when someone shows physical aggression. You'll be most effective if you don't scream--you are calm calm calm--and if you don't flag every little thing. Physical play is okay, after all. You're just drawing the line at angry or retaliatory violence.

If you're not sure what you're seeing, don't be afraid to ask. The phrase in our house is, "Is this silly or angry?" If -anyone- involved responds, "angry," then we break up the game long enough for tempers to cool off--and we say as much, so they know they've got to calm themselves or no game. Passion may be a family trait, but youthful crimes of passion don't need to be.

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I was "rather be a daughter": and it was because his family was what I always (thought I) wanted my (much more dysfunctional) family to be. A few thoughts: 1) He is a product of this family. I realized that some (not all) of his issues stemmed from them, and that changed my perspective. 2) Build your own family (of friends), so you never feel in the position of not wanting to break it off with a guy for his family. If you have a strong support network, an awesome family will seem like a pleasant (but expendable if necessary) bonus in a BF, and not a requirement.

Carolyn Hax: All good stuff, thanks.

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To Undisclosed Location: "I cheated on my wife for the first time last week".

Makes it sound like you already know that their is going to be a 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, etc.

Carolyn Hax: I know, I thought the same thing--but want to give benefit of doubt, and chalk it up to unfortunate wording by someone who wanted to make it clear this was an aberration.

Still waiting for the "why," by the way ...

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Gestures Made Out of Guilt?: I'm finding it hard to tell apart what gestures made out of guilt vs. gestures made out of guilt means. Rhetorical device or typo?

Carolyn Hax: Thanks for the catch--should have been, "gestures made out of guilt vs. gestures made out of enthusiasm." A cut-and-paste snafu.

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For the Gabe situation: You say, "I don't want him to feel pressured into raising a baby we did not plan." Unplanned babies happen to people who are happily married, unhappily married, and virtual strangers. The situation is a huge game-changer and unexpected responses occur. My point is that the possibility of him responding positively to this surprise shouldn't be discounted just because you aren't married. He might feel obligated to stay with you, and that might turn out to be a great thing. But even if you were married, an unexpected pregnancy brings unexpected results, positive and/or negative. You've got a new, unpredictable situation. Try to stay very tuned in to your instincts and go with them and hope for the best. Good luck.

Carolyn Hax: More good stuff, thanks.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Hi Carolyn. How often do you think the average "young" married couple has sex? I have long thought that my husband and I have sex too infrequently - about twice a month. We are both in our thirties, in decent shape, attractive, otherwise physically healthy. I have heard from other friends that they are intimate about 4-5 times a week. I am not trying to be average for the sake of being average, but I am not satisfied with twice a month and, frankly, am SHOCKED that my husband is. I always assumed that men wanted to have sex as often as their partners were willing, but I find myself asking (and honestly, sometimes begging) for sex and being told that my husband is "too tired" even if its been weeks since our last time together. When we do have sex, its very enjoyable and satisfying. Is this worth making an issue out of? We get along fine in every other aspect of our relationship. Thanks for your thoughts.

Carolyn Hax: What's "average" matters only a small bit and only in the extreme, when you're facing the possibility that someone's sex drive (or lack thereof) is more pathology than personal quirk.

What you have is strictly about having more libido than action, and, yes, you do need to speak up. Be careful not to make it about, "You're letting me down," or whatever along those lines--the object here isn't to get him defensive about his manhood or his husbandhood. It's to say, Okay, it looks like I want sex more frequently than you do--so is there some way we can make me happier without making you unhappy?

In other words, yes, make an issue out of it. It is an issue already, and if you don't get it out in the open in a thoughtful way now, it'll blast its way into the open in some other way, some other much messier way.

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Hopefully a different undisclosed location: I wish Undisclosed location would tell us why he did it!

Carolyn Hax: Done:

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Undisclosed location. Again.: Bored, I guess. Not really feeling as physically appreciated as I used to.

And I don't know if this makes any sense...but I always said that I would tell her when she got so big that it was bothering me. Well, the conversation is not worth it. Crazy as it sounds, I chose to fool around with someone and risk getting caught rather than tell her she got big.

Ahh, it probably won't happen again anyways.

Carolyn Hax: Awfully cavalier.

I get what you're trying to say, but you made a lot of decisions for another person here.

Please just say to her, "Physically, I need more." Let her in on fixing it.

She doesn't need to know what you did, but she does deserve a chance to prevent your next indulgence ("probably" ain't exactly reassuring), even if she doesn't know precisely that those are the stakes. You want her to get back in touch with her own body, and back in touch with yours; it's a fine thing to ask that doesn't involve any use of the words "too" and "big."

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Refugee Daughter: I don't know. We have a refugee daughter in our family. Years and years and years ago, my mother's cousin was engaged to a girl. Her family was dysfunctional and she became close to our family during the engagement. Ultimately, the engagement ended, but she stayed close to the family and now, about thirty plus years later, she and her husband (whom she met after she and our cousin broke up) and their children are our "cousins" and everyone, including her former fiance (who's also married to someone else) are very happy about it. Her children and I have known each other from birth and grew up all playing together. Our family is unusual, I realize, but it can work.

Carolyn Hax: Fair point. But it worked because your family and she both decided to stay close. This refugee can't make that decision for Eli's family. If they express an interest in staying close to her, great--if they don't, it's a moot point. Either way, it couldn't hurt for her to work on the issues with her own family. That they're feeling upset at their replacement by Eli/his family says it's an open and ongoing concern with, probably, a fair amount of gray area.

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Unaligned Sex Drives: I am just curious 1) if this is new, and they had more sex before; 2) they did not have sex before marriage (and how much sexual contact they had)? I think both these are relevant to the situation.

Carolyn Hax: I didn't think to ask, because it's so common for couples to get a lively start and then, after a while, settle into what they see as a comfortable routine. Be it once a day, once a week or once a month, it's just whatever the drive demands--and it's fairly common for people's drives to be set at incompatible levels.

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Where the Stork Comes From: Speaking of unplanned babies. I'm 40, been with my boyfriend a year and a half. We love each other and we argue kind of a lot. We both want children. We are having sex without protection. My therapist thinks I should be more deliberate about choosing to commit. (He is willing to get married tomorrow if I want.) Is my behavior going to hurt us badly, only a little, or possibly even not at all? I think I want "a baby" to be the reason for him to become more responsible, as opposed to "constant nagging and negotiation from/with me."

Carolyn Hax: Stop it! He is not going to get more responsible, he's just not. Deal with it. Either commit to him as he is, or leave.

And please stop seeing yourself as some sort of arbiter of responsibility. You're the one poised to use a potential kid to solve your problems, knowing full well it won't work and what you'll have is a kid with two fighting parents. So patently unfair. And that doesn't even get into the nagging, which is not responsible behavior by any stretch. All you do when yo unag is make your wishful thinking into someone else's problem. Cut it out.

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Re: Undisclosed Location: Okay, seriously, did you cheat on your wife because she doesn't want to do it with you or because you don't want to do it with her? There is a difference between not feeling "physically appreciated" and not feeling attracted to her because she's too fat. Be honest with yourself before you try to say anything to her because right now you sound like you're trying to lay the blame on her (she doesn't appreciate me, and she doesn't keep herself up so I'm attracted to her), when this is your failing in the fidelity department.

Carolyn Hax: Zing. Thanks.

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Hopefully not from an undisclosed location: I'm certainly heading to the gym tonight. And suggesting some nookie after that.

Ugh!

Carolyn Hax: Couldn't hurt for anyone in a committed relationship to keep in mind (1. tend to your bod; 2. tend to mate's bod), but I do wish we had something better to serve as inspiration than a worst-case scenario.

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Baby shower brewhaha (misspelling deliberate): Two of my adult children and I are hosting a baby shower for my third child and her husband this Sunday. They are big sports fans, so the shower is planned for late morning at a location that will allow any guests who wish to do so to join the parents-to-be at a sporting event nearby afterwards. By their request, it is a co-ed shower and there will also be four children (10, 9, 6 and infant) attending. We have worked hard to plan what we think will be a nice and fun event with an appealing variety of food and drink. Now son-in-law is planning to bring a cooler of beer because, he claims, it will be a "draw" for the guys. Have not yet heard a reaction from one of my co-host children, but the other co-host child and I are really having a problem with this for several reasons. One, beer just is not appropriate for a baby shower and the guests should not be expecting it will be served. Besides which, we specifically decided not to serve alcohol. Two, it is just rude to bring your own refreshments to a party someone else is hosting (unless asked to), especially when you are the guests of honor. Three, anyone who can't make it through a 2-hour party, particularly one on a Sunday morning, without some beer has a drinking problem. That's not getting into any potential liability issues. So what to do? The co-host child who let us know about this today has tried to talk them out of bringing it, with no luck in changing their minds.

Carolyn Hax: You, the top parent, need to say no to the cooler. Say it's because starting a day of drinking before noon isn't the example you want the grandkids to see. Make it clear you you won't budge. Three of these kids are at ages where they'll take note of the behavior of the adults around them, and file it away for when they're looking at a cooler of beer.

It's on the parents to set an example they'd want their kids to take, but if they abdicate, then it's on you. A beer with a meal, okay. A beer at a ballgame, okay. Beer in cooler at an evening barbecue, okay. Multiple beers before noon at a baby shower because, hey, more than one person in one place is a party? Uh, no.

You've been kinda coy about which child is married to Mr. Beer (or I'm just reading too fast), but that child needs to hear from you that you're planning to nix the cooler before you tell Mr. Beer.

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Unaligned Sex Drives: : Another thing to keep in mind, if your husband says he's tired, is that some people just need more rest than others. I typically sleep 4-5 hours a night, my husband sleeps 6-7; and I've almost always got more energy than he does at the end of the day. For a while, I found that frustrating ("Hey, if anyone should be tired, I should be tired!"). But after a while I realized that it's not his fault he tires more easily than me ... we're just wired differently. It's not a sign that he loves me less; he's just tired.

Carolyn Hax: Something to consider, thanks. It's part of why the conversation is good to have before the libidoed one gets desperate. If it's just a matter of, "Please ask me before x p.m.," then that's a problem easily solved.

You'd be surprised at how many people have sex issues just because one goes to bed early and one stays up late.

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Betrayed Again....: Yes, he has been remorseful like crazy. He hates that I don't trust him like I used to. I've been with him for years and this is completely out of character for him (which is part of the reason it is so upsetting). But even if he acts amazingly over the next several months/years, how do I allow myself to trust him again, if I have limited contact?

Carolyn Hax: If you believe him, and believe in him, you can trust him. When you have those, then you don't need to see him every day to prove anything.

It would actually be worse for you if you kept distrusting him, kept waiting for proof, and slowly let the relationship corrode, than if you just chose to trust him only to get betrayed again.

If the latter happens, then it hurts, but you know: This is over. If the former happens, it's also over, but then you get to wonder: Would it have worked if I had just trusted him in the first place?

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Undisclosed location.: "Awfully cavalier"...yeah, I deserve that.

Sigh...there is a big difference between, "I need more" and "you need to lose 15 pounds."

Argh....blah.

::headdesk::

Carolyn Hax: Yes, there is, but the difference is more in the delivery and intent than in the end result.

Focus on the 15 pounds, and you tell someone, "You're gross"--and there's no promise that removing the 15 pounds will make your physical lives any better.

But presumably the 15 pounds come from a sedentary lifestyle, along with some over-consumption. Both of those put people out of touch with their physicality--which can kill their own sex drives and their enjoyment of sex. It's not just about a desirable appearance.

So if you can make it about getting moving, being more active, feeling more youthful, chances are the unmentionable side of it will take care of itself in the process.

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Both Sides of the Story?: Am I the only one wondering if Unaligned Sex Drive and Undisclosed Location are each other's partners??

Carolyn Hax: No, you're not. If nothing else, they could be, which is enough to be a kick in the pants to people who aren't happy with current bedroom conditions.

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Tell Her!: As someone who was TOLD she was too big (I am and am working on it), being told that was actually exactly what I needed hear in order to start making changes I knew I needed.

Most importantly, I knew I was still loved. We waited long enough to talk about it that I thought the issue was about whether or not we were in a relationship at all.

It was handled in the right way (I am worried about you, I love you, I am not attracted to you physically right now) and was a welcome relief because I didn't want my relationship to end.

Carolyn Hax: Thanks for this. I know of someone who had a similar experience, and was similarly grateful for the truth. It's such a touchy thing, though, that I have to underscore that the context is important. If the person saying it has a history of being insensitive, or even says it in a thoughtless way or at a thoughtless time, it can be inexcusably harsh. E.g., two months postpartum is not the time to get on a woman about her weight, nor is it to charge ahead with a fat intervention with someone who has struggled with disordered eating. If someone is made to feel in general as if s/he's merely an ornament, and isn't listened to, respected, taken seriously, etc., then calling that person fat is awful, too. There are other exceptions, but these are some examples.

When it works is when, like you said, it's clear the love and respect are there, it's just that the weight is killing the spark.

Thanks again.

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Heavy Spouses: Re Undisclosed location, your wife probably already knows your feelings about her weight.

My husband feels the same way about me and it comes out in all kinds of little ways in how he treats me. He's all kinds of angry that I've gained so much weight because he feels that it reflects badly upon him that he made a poor choice in a spouse (i.e., my lack of discipline in terms of food and exercise). He hasn't given me a compliment in years. When a college friend told me that I looked beautiful in my Facebook profile picture, I almost cried.

So, even if you're not having "the conversation," your wife is probably already aware of your feelings.

And I went to the gym today, so I'm attempting to do something about myself.

Carolyn Hax: A living example, instead of my hypothetical. Thanks for the brave words.

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Carolyn Hax: I have to go a bit early today (as in, only 30 min late instead of 60 ... is it lost to the ages that was conceived as a two-hour chat?), so this is goodbye. Jodi says okay to moving next week's chat to Thursday at noon, so I hope to see you then. Thanks and have a great weekend.

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What Chat Am I In?: He had sex with another woman and you are suggesting that he invite his wife to go on a hike?

Are we just going to cross our fingers that no STDs are involved?

My head is spinning.

Carolyn Hax: It's not that simple, never is. A startling number of people who have found out about a spouse's infidelity have also expressed regret that they were even told. If it's the first step toward ending the marriage, or if it was an affair (vs onetime fling), or if there were many women, or if it was high risk sex, then the cheated-upon partner needs to be told, absolutely. But one stupid slip as a wake-up that there's a problem in the marriage? That's a much closer call, and often the compassionate thing--is in, not cheater's-butt-saving thing--to do is to start investing purposefully in the marriage.

Hope that stills the head.

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Heavy Spouses: Can I just say I am a little ill from all the women writing in to say that their horrific treatment by their husbands/partners is justified because they put on weight? I too have struggled and am now a healthy weight and a size 8 so I do understand the struggle.

However, putting on weight is NEVER a justification for another human being to verbally and emotionally beat you down that you CRY when someone pays you an honest comment. I am sorry, but for me, the problem is not her - it is him. He is a jerk - plain and simple. Her going to the gym is never going to fix that he is a -glass bowl].

Carolyn Hax: Where did the "Heavy Spouses" post say the husband's cruelty was justified? I didn't take that away at all.

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Weight talk: All this weight talk has made me terrified of future relationships. I gained seven pounds because of a new job (more stress + less exercise + less sleep), long term bf told me he was not as attracted to me because of it, and I showed him the door (in part because of this and in part because of other things). I get having to stay attractive to a partner, but there's some reasonable leeway right? I also speak as someone who had a different partner who lost 20 pounds while we were together (I was in love with him either way, attracted to him either way, though more so the latter, so I guess I expected the same treatment going forward from others)

Carolyn Hax: I think it's a matter of quantity (of pounds) and quality (of relationship). A good relationship will weather 7 lbs, or 15 for that matter,or any other form of physical change, for that matter--and the great ones will withstand a lot more than that. "Great" means the connection between the two people is primarily on the inside.

But there will be a point when the connected-on-the-inside people start to notice a physical turnoff, and I think it's when these people speak up that it's an okay, even welcome message.

It's not welcome when it's clear the connection is on the surface. That just hurts twice, since you're being told you're fat, and that your main value to your mate is, like I said, ornamental.

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Carolyn Hax: Hope that closes some interpretation gaps. Bye for real, and thanks.

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Philadelphia, Pa.: re: Undisclosed:

Carolyn, the 15 lbs might come from a sedentary lifestyle or overconsumption, but it might also be the result of, say, having children? Getting a bit older and having her metabolism slow down? To expect a partner not to change as they grow older is unrealistic.

And if he talks to her about health and moving more, I guarantee she'll understand what's not being said.

Carolyn Hax: True to both, but with the latter, you've got to give people some avenue to express their feelings/desires, since my saying, "Become less superficial," isn't useful advice.

And, once the person gets even the coded message, that person is free to respond however s/he wants, from "Okay, I get what you're saying, and I'm glad you said it" to "Stuff it."

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Undisclosed location. Again.: Don't know if you will get this.

But I do give my wife compliments. She is quite beautiful.

I actually get few in return, hence my not feeling appreciated comment at the top.

It ain't like I don't TRY. I just got sick of trying there for a minute. Lost my bearings and all that.

Carolyn Hax: Putting it out there, as I leave, I swear.

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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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