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Carolyn Hax Live: Advice columnist tackles your problems

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Carolyn Hax
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 14, 2010; 12:00 PM

Carolyn was online Friday, May 14, 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. A couple of items of business before I start. First, The Washington Post is hosting a "Voices of Style" town hall forum this coming Wednesday, May 19, from 6-8 p.m. at The Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H Street N.E. I will be on the panel with other Style writers and editors, including Deneen Brown, Amy Argetsinger, Dan Zak and others. Please come ask us whatever you'd like to know about what we do here in Style.

There's more information on the town hall on my Facebook page, www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax, which I'm back to updating--that's the other bit of business. I'm going to have to dig a bit to find the updates I missed over the past couple of months, but they'll be going up (I hope) steadily as I track them down.

I think that's it. Thanks.

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Chat Anonymity: I've heard that when you switch to the new WaPo chat format, questions will no longer be anonymous--that you'll be able to see if not the sender, at least from where it was submitted (i.e. a workplace). Is this true? What safeguards are in place to protect people's privacy?

washingtonpost.com: I checked on this with our Live Q&A Editor, and here's his response: "We'll be able to require registration for some shows, but we won't require it for Carolyn's." So, your questions (and privacy) are safe!

Carolyn Hax: I knew there was one more thing, and this was it. Thanks.

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Bay Area, Calif.: My girlfriend and I recently started a long distance relationship in the hopes of moving in together this summer when we have both graduated college. She had befriended my ex before we had started dating, and my ex-recently told that I was cheating on her. I have been faithful to her, but now my girlfriend refuses to talk to me and my ex has cut off all communication so I can't set the record straight. Is there anything I can do to prove to her that I have been honest? Or is our relationship doomed from the beginning?

Carolyn Hax: You can't do or say anything if your girlfriend won't see or listen to you, so there's nothing you can do ...

Except, I suppose, write a really good letter stating that you're innocent, that you're disheartened that your ex would do something like this to both of you (since your GF was almost as ill-served by your ex as you were), that you're even more discouraged that she would have so little faith in you, and that her lack of faith means you and she are finished, even if she eventually reconsiders her rush to judgment against you.

Then you seal it, let it sit while you decide whether to mail it, and then--regardless of your decision--you get on with your life without her. That's where this is going no matter what.

Whether you were doomed from the beginning is crystal ball territory, but if your girlfriend's actions are part of a general willingness to base her actions on an incomplete set of facts, then certainly things were going to go south for one reason or another. One essential element to healthy relationship endurance is the ability to postpone judgment/action/emotional reactions till all (or at least enough) information is in.

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Washington, D.C.: It has been a rocky few years in my life culminating in a terrible last year when two family members died, I was laid off, and had some medical issues. I'm finally healthy and will be starting a new job, I thought reaching this point would make me feel like my old self again, generally positive, happy person. However, I feel like I've changed. I am more cautious with my feelings, my trust, and my belief that things will turn out ok. I want my old self back, how do I get it?

Carolyn Hax: Your old self was built on a foundation of ignorance to the power of grief, fear, illness, and general vulnerability to terrible things, so that old self isn't coming back. You've been through hell; of course you've changed.

That's not the worst thing, even though it may feel that way now. Once you know the power of terrible things, you can still be a "generally positive, happy person." You just need to build on a new foundation, one where you understand completely how bad things can get and how fragile good times can be.

The stuff of that foundation is all around you right now: You're healthy and you have a new job--which are two solid reminders of human resilience. You now know that the bottom can fall out of your world, and you can catch yourself, hang on for dear life, and eventually find a new place to stand. That's powerful stuff--a much better source of strength, confidence and optimism, in my opinion, than ignorance of terrible things.

Just because it's powerful doesn't mean it's magic or its effects instantaneous; it takes time to start trusting this new version of yourself and events. Your caution is normal.

If you find yourself several months or even a year or so into this new phase and still struggling to trust that anything good will last, though, or even now if you're having nightmares/sleep problems or appetite problems or crying jags, then it might be something worth discussing with a good therapist.

I'm not saying you have PTSD--I'm not a therapist myself--but the fact that there is such a thing as PTSD says there is always the possibility that your natural optimism won't bounce back on its own, and would benefit from professional help.

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Lonely Family, Va.: A lot of the things I said I'd "never" do, I've done. One was to not marry someone whose family didn't like me (after having 2 long-term relationships where we all got along great and one where his mother was evil to me & swore I wouldn't go through that again). Now I'm years into it and realizing how much this is wearing on me. I think because I'm faced with watching my own parents age and mother is in very ill health and knowing that after they're gone, we've got no one. And yes, his parents are actively hostile. Therapists have told us to stay away from them because the grandparents won't acknowledge our child's health diagnosis. My husband is supportive, but I'm still struggling with not having any real "grandparent" presence in our lives. Any suggestions? I'm sure others have gone through this.

Carolyn Hax: Too many to count. And while I encourage them to write in with their suggestions, I'll start with two of my own.

1. Stop looking back. You chose your husband because you loved him and thought he'd be a good mate, right? And he is, apparently, since he's backing you up through possibly the most difficult 1-2 punch in married life: a sick child plus unsupportive in-laws. You gain nothing now by second-guessing your decision to overrule yourself on his parents' hostility. What's done is done.

2. Start looking around. I realize it's going to sound weird to advise you to start looking around for surrogate grandparents, so I won't, but I will suggest you give the non-family people in your life a chance to serve in many of the roles that we normally assign to family without much thought.

What is it grandparents (and uncles/aunties) do, after all? Primarily, they're just people who aren't you who will love your kids. That's so powerful. They're also keepers of a piece of your history. So if you have extended family or good, old friends who love your kids, consider making them a bigger part of your life. There's nothing that says "Auntie X"--a k a, your old college buddy, or some such--can't come to milestones like recitals and school ceremonies.

Even if no one like that is local to you or even leaps to mind at all, that doesn't mean it's impossible. Give it time, and be open to the idea, and remember that "we've got no one" is actually not an uncommon predicament for people, for all kinds of reasons.

There might be someone in your orbit now who also "has no one," and who would be a wonderful addition to your holiday celebrations, or whatever else has you feeling a void in your life right now.

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London, UK: I recently had a fight with my girlfriend. We were on our way to a works do (mine). She asked me to detour past her friend's house so the GF could drop off some stuff from work. I said, OK but don't take long. 20 minutes and two unpicked up calls to her phone later and she still wasn't out. So I left.

She says that was controlling and rude. I say I'm sick of being late. This isn't the first time. Anything I want to do she always wants to come but she's always late.

So who is right? Was I really so out of line - it wasn't like I abandoned her in the bad part of town or anything. Or should she try not to make me late ALL THE TIME.

Carolyn Hax: Leaving her after 20 minutes seems perfectly fine to me. That she complained about it, vs apologizing for letting you cool your heels for 20 minutes--especially after you asked her not to take long--says she has no plans to ... ah, "try not to make [you] late ALL THE TIME."

So the question here isn't whether it was controlling and rude of you to leave, but instead whether you'll ever figure out that your girlfriend's perpetual lateness is controlling and rude. And permanent. Stop thinking she'll change, start thinking of her actions as a reflection of her character, then decide if you still want to date her.

I'm going to bring back some of my past advice here: Recurring fights are never okay, or justified, because they mean two people are making the same mistake over and over again. Figure out the mistake you're making to contribute to said recurring fight, then fix it.

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Boston: Wife had an important meeting on Wednesday. On Wednesday morning, she realized she had no business suit which fits her. (She recently went back to work after second baby.) She proceeded to spend $500 to buy two suits right before the meeting.

Husband flipped out. Demanded that wife plans her clothing purchases in the future. Said that wife couldn't possibly like the suit that she bought.

Wife is upset that husband flipped out and isn't supportive. Husband thinks she should get over it because the suddenness of the purchase stunned him, and his feelings matter in this circumstance.

Other circumstances: Wife makes a great income at a firm where proper business attire is taken seriously. Family can afford the purchase. It's rather the perceived lack-of-foresight involved in the purchase which bothers husband.

What are your words of wisdom?

Carolyn Hax: Not sure I have any, because I can't think of anything that justifies the husband's flipping out. If there were money issues, okay, but without them, I've got nutt'n. For an emergency-shopping high-income office worker in a place like Boston, $250 a suit is actually pretty frugal.

If this script is accurate, then his next line is to apologize profusely for the mind-loss and either (a) express mystification at cause of outburst, or (b) express true underlying cause of outburst (stress at work, hidden gambling debts, fears about new child care arrangement, whatever).

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Brookyn: Hi Carolyn, My girlfriend likes to make plans in advance. I like to see how I feel day-to-day to decide what I want to do. How can we keep each other feeling happy and secure while having fun, spending at least some of our time together, and not driving ourselves crazy. This is a new-ish relationship, and I know it's not the most serious problem you're gonna get, but I want to figure out how to do this right before one of us starts to seriously resent the other. You seem to have good tips for this sort of thing. Thanks!

Carolyn Hax: Sounds as if both of you could benefit from an agreement to try things the other person's way for a set amount of time. Normally I'm not a fan of anything that could be mistaken for bean-counting, but in this case--since it's a new-ish relationship and you seem to want to make it work--I would suggest parceling things out 50-50, based on how often you tend to see each other. If it's twice a week, then one time per week, she gets to plan something to which you accompany her, and one time per week, she agrees to wing it with you.

If you find value in the kinds of events that require tickets purchased in advance, for example, then you might surprise yourself by being open to a little structure. And she might enjoy some spontaneity for a change.

Or you both may hate it enough to realize you aren't right for each other, and you can break up without the "what-ifs."

The only way this works is if you're both good sports about trying. If either one of you kvetches about having to go against your own grain, then just pull the plug.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Carolyn,

Do you or the chatters have any advice on how to rekindle the romance with my husband? We both work FT and have a three-year-old son so we have very little down time, especially during the week. It seems like we've settled into a work/home/dinner/bedtime for son/watch a movie/sleep routine. I want to reconnect but am having a hard time taking the first step. Thanks.

Carolyn Hax: First step, set up a standing date--hire a babysitter to come the same night every week so you're essentially forcing yourselves to get out. Dress up a little. Try a new place.

Second step, see the tunnel, if not the light at the end of it. Your circumstances now are special and they're fleeting. You may be busy for many years, but you won't be little-kid busy, and so you won't be as wiped out, and so you won't need as much mindless regrouping time at the end of the day.

Third step, for when you're ready (seriously--it doesn't have to be on your to-do list for another couple of years): Make sure you and your husband continue to share, and ideally continue to cultivate, interests that bring you together and supply you with things to talk about that are outside the kid/household/extended-family axis.

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Surrogates: As a woman who will never have biological children, but very much enjoys other people's kids, I would love it if some of my friends let me take on more of a surrogate aunt role to their little ones. Granted, some families have plenty of real grandmas and aunts, but quite a few don't.

Carolyn Hax: Thanks for speaking up. You might be able to signal your interest by offering to babysit, or (if they or you aren't ready for full immersion yet) to help with a birthday party, or express an interest in seeing the kids' soccer game/school play. Another way to show an interest that a lot of parents would appreciate is to ask if there are any volunteer activities at their school that could use some extra hands. This being school fair and therefore bake sale season, if you were to offer to bake for various things, you might be sainted on the spot. Good luck.

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Bethesda, Md.: With the new internet dating culture so prominent these days, how can one tell if the other party is simply killing time or is in for a long term relationship? My obervation has been that people might not actually be trying to cheat other party out but rather are very suspecious and protective of themselves. Hard to pass over that roadblock at times...

Carolyn Hax: Online dating might make it easier for people to "kill time," but weighing someone's true intent has been difficult since the dawn of dating. Using is not new. Suspicion is not new. Having high defenses is not new. All you can do is take a good, hard look at yourself, to make sure people are in good hands when they're on a date with you, and be cautiously receptive to what the other person is telling you about him- or herself, both verbally and non-.

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Subconsciousville: I'm guessing the "true underlying cause of outburst" was that his wife was buying expensive suits in a bigger size, making her baby-weight gain seem more of a permanent scenario.

Carolyn Hax: Gosh I hope not.

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Boston Flip-Out: I think what he is really saying is that she should have asked his permission to buy the clothes. Just, Wow.

Carolyn Hax: Gosh I hope not, Part II

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Re: Brooklyn: My boyfriend of four years and I strugged in the beginning because I'm a planner and he is not. It just worked itself out for us because I continued to make plans for us or with my friends, and he figured out that if he wanted to spend time with me, he had to get on my schedule. Meanwhile, I started to get influenced by his attitude and now we'll plan to hang out, but like you suggested, maybe what we're up to is more spontaneous.

Although there is an irony about planning a time to not make plans...

Carolyn Hax: No, there's planning in planning a time not to plan. But as long as he isn't on to that, you're good. I won't tell.

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Biological Children: I've pretty much come to the conclusion that I will never have biological children. I'm getting older, my body (according to my obgyn) is not a great incubator and I have yet to find the baby's father. It makes me incredibly sad and I've not shared it with anyone. My best friend is pregnant with her second child and is currently miserable about the pregnancy, about her toddler, her husband. I'm having a very difficult time relating to her and I think it's become obvious. How do I get past my own self-pity and try to be supportive?

Carolyn Hax: Can we interweave threads here? Can you be the "auntie" we've been talking about, that (truly) so many parents wish they had for their kids? And can you be fulfilled in an unexpected way by a close bond to this toddler and soon-to-arrive baby? And can your friend see the joy of her children through your eyes, as well as a little relief from the considerable pressure of a toddler, a pregnancy and a husband who may be letting her down (or who may just be the place she's dumping her frustration)?

If you and the kids are a good personality match, this could be win-win-win-win.

Maybe, just maybe, there's a 5th win in it, where you can share some of your very real and as-yet-unshared sadness. Maybe it seems like your friend wouldn't want your problems on top of all of hers, and maybe your instincts are right--but it's also possible she'd like to know how you're feeling, and would like to be a good friend to you, and would like to know why you've withdrawn a bit instead of being left to wonder what's going on. In a way, getting past this might be a matter of giving other things, and other people, and ultimately yourself, more credit, and more of a chance.

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Arlington, Va.: Hi Carolyn,

Some months ago, my good friend's boyfriend came on to me in a really gross way. It made me feel violated,and my friend feel betrayed. When I told her about it, we said we still wanted to be friends, but stopped.

The whole incident really upset me, as she had been my closest friend. She and her boyfriend have since gotten engaged. She tried reaching out once, but I was really busy and still was feeling a lingering ick feeling. I'm ready to reach out now; how should I go about it? And how do I deal with the fiance?

Thanks

Carolyn Hax: Call, invite her out for coffee or a drink or a walk or whatever, and tell her you miss her but are still struggling with what happened. Might as well lay it out there.

Unless of course what you're ready to do is resume the friendship and pretend there isn't a fiance-shaped elephant in the room, in which case, you tell her you miss her and you're ready to resign the unpleasantness to the Bygones pile.

Your call, based on what kind of friendship you're ready/hoping to resume.

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Boston Suit Flip-Out: Is it possible that this was about the 1000th time that Wife has dealt with an "emergency" that need not have been an emergency? Maybe Wife has been chronically flaky, and this was just the last straw. This doesn't excuse Husband's flip-out, much less his demand that she plan her clothing purchases better, but it might explain it. (Planned or not, she clearly would have had to spend a significant amount of money on new work clothes anyway.)

BTW, I'm in Boston -- where'd she go for those $250 suits?

Carolyn Hax: No kidding on the suits.

And as for the possibility of chronic flakiness, that's certainly viable--but I would file it under "true underlying cause of the outburst." Thanks.

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Chicago: What about wife who ALWAYS buys new (and often expensive) new clothes that are two sizes too small? Essentially, wife refuses to acknowledge that her weight gain is "permanent". (This has been going on for 10 years.) Wife deserves great-looking clothes, but great-looking clothes that FIT.

Carolyn Hax: We had this question last fall, I think--and I suggested then that you set up, as a gift (and if it works, a semi-annual one), an appointment for her with a really good personal shopper, at a department store that built its reputation on clothing women of your wife's general age/stage in life. Ask around--they all have target demographics. When you figure out the place, you can then talk to the personal shoppers yourself, to let them know what you're after.

It's not a guarantee, but it's a chance for your wife to hear the opinion of a disinterested third party with taste, skill at sales and a high motivation to make both of you happy.

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Advance Planner vs. Wing-It: Might I suggest they trade off weekends rather than days? Might be easier to do and a tiny bit less bean-county.

Carolyn Hax: Sure, or whatever works with the way they see each other. Mine was an example only, to illustrate my point.

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Boston Flip-Out : I don't think the husband was out of line in getting upset about the clothes. Even if they are fine financially,$500 is still a lot of money to spend in one morning. She should have given him a heads up to let him know what she was doing. It's not about the money, but rather, that she made a major purchase without telling him.

Carolyn Hax: On the day of a big meeting, prompted by an "Oh, [bleep]" in the closet that morning when nothing fit? I disagree completely. Like I said, if they were broke, okay, but it's actually neither a major purchase by the standards laid out in the initial post, and it's not a call-for-a-consult circumstance when the clock is ticking and professionalism is on the line.

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Pregnant friend: Please, please tell your friend, even if its just a short version (I'm happy for you but sad for me, so my heart may not be in another talk about your baby troubles). I was the pregnant friend in a similar situation (although my husband was great, I feel the need to say) and I had no idea I was being such a doink until my friend's husband pulled me asideand told me that had serious fertility issues. If you don't have the heart to say it, maybe you can find a good intermediary.

Carolyn Hax: Well said, thanks.

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Today's column - 'thanks to her dad': I take issue with today's letter writer's seemingly blithe willingness to blame her daughter's father for her low self esteem. Hey mom, you were there too. You were part of the home in which your child was treated badly ... whether you abused her directly or not, you let her grow up thinking that she was not worthy of better treatment. You're going to have a hard time helping her if you can't be trustworthy to her, and she's (rightfully) not going to trust you if you put all the blame for her bad childhood on her father. I was like your daughter, at about the same age and I didn't trust either of my parents because they had both let me grow up miserable. The good news is, I got away from the abuser, eventually.

Carolyn Hax: Excellent point, thank you.

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Still on the Roller Coaster?: I'm currently in a relationship that's definitely had the hallmarks of emotional abuse. I think it stems mostly from a deeper issue my husband has with depression. Recently, things have been changing in my husband's life, and it's made him seem to be a bit more reflective about the way he conducts himself. He's made (small) efforts to change, including promising to help a bit more around the house, and wanting to get in better shape. Both of these things could vastly help his own emotional state, potentially changing his personality for the better. I know that people with a history of emotional abuse have their ups and downs, including periods of relative calm and happiness. I'm a little worried these recent efforts are just part of one of those "ups." What's a reasonable amount of time to give someone to prove they're really making changes for the better and will stick with them? I fully expect there will be difficult moments and downfalls, but that can happen even in earnest situations of change.

Carolyn Hax: Have you gotten any counseling on your own? I really think you'd benefit from having a steady hand to guide you through this, a place to talk where you don't have to polish things up before you present them. A good, reputable counselor can help you answer questions as they come up, about your husband's health and behavior, about your response to those things, and about forming realistic expectations.

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So I left her there.: My god! What if that was your daughter? Whould you like someone abandoning her on the street at night? That is not right, no matter how late she was. That is not how mature people deal with late people. It sounds highly aggressive to drive away, leaving your girlfriend. That woman is better off without that passive aggressive jerk.

Carolyn Hax: I totally disagree. The GF wasn't on the street, she was at a friend's house. The guy called twice.

If that were my daughter, I'd be horrified that I raised her with such a sense of entitlement.

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Dating: I started dating a guy about a month ago. I like him (and spending time with him) a lot, I'm attracted to him, and on paper we match up very well (similar views, similar senses of humor) - but I don't feel with him the chemistry that I've felt with other guys in the past. I don't mean "I can't keep my hands off you" chemistry, I mean "I can't wait to see you and talk to you and see what you think about this" kind of chemistry. That kind of chemistry is rare, but it's come quickly and effortlessly to me in the past with certain guys I've dated and with my closest friends. How much weight should I put on not having it? Can it still grow if it isn't there yet?

Carolyn Hax: What happened with the guys who had that chemistry with you--satisfying relationships that ultimately didn't work for specific, impersonal reasons (different lifestyles, goals, etc)? Or rocky relationships that ended bitterly or badly?

To understand the importance of chemistry now, I think you need to see where chemistry has led you in the past, and whether it's something you should trust, or treat with a great deal of skepticism.

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Husband Flip-Out: Here's a husband's perspective on this: perhaps the husband manages the family's finances and monthly budget. If so an unexpected, large expense can actually be a problem - even if you have a lot of money. We keep hardly any money in our checking accounts - just enough to pay our monthly bills and such. The rest of our money is kept in saving and money market accounts. If my wife were to just go off and write a large check we could easily end up overdrawn. Ironic I know but it has happened more than once. I've repeatedly told my wife to LET ME KNOW if she needs to write a large check on the account so that I can be sure there is money there to cover it. But very often she doesn't do that, which has caused more than one argument. I can easily imagine being the husband in today's post where the 1500th time it happened he just lost it out of frustration.

And FWIW - I've encouraged my wife to take a more active role in our finances (e.g., transferring the money in there herself) but she always comes back to wanting me to do it. Which I am fine with - but then she needs to pay attention to what I've asked her.

Carolyn Hax: Again, I would file this under "true underlying cause of outburst"--and I'd put a copy in "anachronisms." Writing a check!

The good arguments for the purchase as outburst-worthy, so far, are all chronic problems. If that's the case in Boston, then the husband needs to spell out that this is not just about two suits, but instead about the chronic problem these suits typify.

Boston, we good here?

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I haven't seen this point raised: The husband insisted that the wife can't possibly like the suits she bought. That strikes me as a major factor in this relationship.

Carolyn Hax: Yeah, I didn't know what to make of that. It could speak to the dismay at the emergency purchase--meaning, "You dithered yourself into a corner, and the only way out was to buy inferior things because you left yourself no time to shop thoughtfully"; or it could be the fumings of a very controlling person.

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Chicago: Back Again - We've gone down the personal shopper route (several years ago). She was offended at the sizes selected for her. For what it's worth, when she buys me a new blazer or sportjacket (which is rare, as I typically buy my own clothes), she will buy my clothes at least one size smaller than I tell her to buy on my behalf. I have to fight with her to buy the correct size clothes for ME: "Oh honey, your're a Size 42." (I'm at least a 44.) I'm completely at a loss. I hate seeing her friends and acquaintences snicker into their fists when her NEW clothes are strained at the buttons. (Plus, the waste of money on ill-fitting clothes makes me want to tear my -remaining] hair out!)

Carolyn Hax: has -anybody- told her straight on, "Your clothes are too small and make you look 20 lbs heavier than you are?" (which is, as you see, a veiled compliment--you are so small! Why would you make yourself look so big?")

Or, has -anybody- taken her measurements and showed her a size chart?

Did you prep the shopper beforehand to the problem?

The fact that she was offended by the personal shopper says your wife is in deep denial and has towering sensitivities (and, as always in these cases, the defenses to match). Which then says that she's never going to change. But I thought I'd throw out a Hail Mary or two.

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For London...: with the late girlfriend, next time, you both might want to be clearer in your expectations. "Don't take too long" depends on what a person's definition of "too long" is. "If you're not out in X, I'm leaving without you" is simply fair and straightforward.

For what it's worth, some people just can't ever get it through their heads that lateness is rude (and there are also people who are needlessly obsessive about arriving to things Right On Time). The only "right" answer is whether you personally want to continue on, knowing it may never change.

Carolyn Hax: Right. My answer was about that night and about her behavior, but you make a good point with what to do in the future. If he does want to stay with this girlfriend, there's nothing wrong with setting out---nicely, not angrily--firm wait-around limits. When they're meeting somewhere, he can make it clear he'll wait 15/20/30/whatever minutes, then he'll leave. Or when they stop over somewhere, he can say, "I've got 5/10/15 minutes, but that's it." This is the work-around for a lot of couples who have one prompt half and one tardy half.

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Sad in D.C.: I was dating someone who I was friends with who was about six months out of a really long term relationship. When we got together, he said he was ready to date again, but he just wanted to take it slow because he didn't want to get his heart broken again. Things were going well; he's a super sweet guy and would always say things like, xoxo tell me I was his favorite person, he missed, me etc. We broke up this week because he said he just wasn't ready for another serious relationship. That I can understand, but I just don't understand why he would say things if he didn't mean them. If you don't have those feelings, don't say them- no one's forcing you to!

Carolyn Hax: He could very well have meant them at the time. Feelings aren't linear. The semi-recent breakup, his friendship with you, the newness of dating you--all of these things have their own push and pull, and sometimes all that pushing and pulling just feels like too much. You can feel ready and discover you aren't, you can feel infatuated and discover it's fleeting, you can feel urges for companionship that morph into cravings to be alone. I'm sorry you got swept into a current, and I'm sorry it didn't take you anywhere.

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Miserable Pregnant Woman: I am a very unhappy pregnant woman and friends/family seemed to be bothered by that. I actually had a friend practically give me a lecture the other day saying that I was ungrateful.

I love children and am really looking forward to bringing a child into my family. But why do I have to be happy about being pregnant. So far it's been about getting fat, being bloated, restricting what I can eat and drink, feeling sick, etc. I would gladly adopt five kids over having to do this again.

Any words of wisdom to get me through this?

Carolyn Hax: Find a few outlets whom you know won't mind your complaints, and save your complaints for them. Whining about a pregnancy is very tricky business, as you've found out for yourself. It's akin to complaining about all the hangers-on who appeared after you won the lottery--to people who struggle to pay their bills, you sound thoughtless. Find other lottery winners and kvetch away.

And, as annoying as this suggestion will sound, please try to find some good in what's happening to you right now. Sickness, okay, there's nothing to sing about there. But your "fat" and "bloated" is some people's "holy crap, I'm growing a person!"

The whole pregnancy business is plagued by extremes--the Miracle of Life extreme (but if it's such a miracle, why are there 6 billion of us?) and the Fat and Miserable extreme (but if you aren't awestruck by feeling those little kicks, what exactly do you find joyful?). The trick is, for your own peace of mind, and for the goodwill of the people around you, please give at least a sporting attempt at finding the space in between.

What's happening to you is a big, fleeting deal; a moment. Your discomfort is real, for sure. But to reduce it to weight gain and (frankly, minimal) food restrictions strikes me a tragic waste of that moment.

Just the opinion of someone who has never lost the weight.

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Chicago: Perhaps he shoudl buy her some nice items in the size that he thinks she is and remove the size labels. She will get lots of compliments about them without having to feel like a the size makes he fat

Carolyn Hax: Sneaky! I like it.

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Two sizes too small: It may be time for desperate measures: http://tlc.discovery.com/fansites/whatnottowear/geton/

Carolyn Hax: Another clever one, if a long shot, thanks.

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Seattle: I used to be chronically late and keep my husband waiting, sometimes up to an hour to 45 minutes. And I was late to meet everyone.

Then I read somewhere that chronic lateness indicates that you either 1) value your time more than others and it's a display of power or 2)you subconsciously don't want to go/ resent the invitation.

After taking a hard look at myself I realized that I had an inflated sense of self- importance because of my early career success. (Which was total bs and the economy put me in check.)

I'm now usually early. And if I don't want to go to something, I say no, instead of saying "yes" and showing up an hour late.

But I still see this in other people. They don't really know the message they are sending.

Carolyn Hax: Well said, well said.

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Carolyn Hax: Speaking of lateness, lookie at the time. That's it for today--thanks all, and type to you here next Friday.

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Carolyn Hax: Oh, and remember to check facebook.com/carolyn.hax for updates ... oh and Nick and Zuzu say hello ... we need to get them on again for a chat ...

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If that were my daughter, I'd be horrified that I raised her with such a sense of entitlement. : They agreed she'd drop off the stuff AND have one drink. 20 minutes is reasonable for that (in fact drinking a drink is less than 20 minutes makes you too drunk). She was just doing waht they agreed (which he obviously didn't want to do from day one since he wouldn't go up with her for the drink. Imagine invited your freind and her beau over for a drink and then he won't even come in your house, just sits out in the car fuming. I'd get that message loud and clear. I think he was the one who acted entitled in thinking he didn't have to be civil to his GF's freinds even though she was going to his work function with him (a classic and fair trade off in the world of couplehood: "Ok I'll have one drink with Fiona if you come with me to the Peterson dinner.") He thinks he gets all the favors and doesn't have to give any in return. THAT'S entitlement.

Carolyn Hax: "One drink"? That's complete fiction--there's nothing about that in the question, it's just about dropping something off. I find it fascinating what people read into these things.

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re: Miserable Pregnant Woman: I was a miserable pregnant woman for my last two pregnancies (second of four was a late miscarriage). I don't know if it was because of the late miscarriage, but in retrospect I believe I had some form of pre-partum depression. I felt instantly better the minute the babies came so it's not an indicator of how you will be as a parent. But if you are really miserable it's worth talking to your doctor about.

Carolyn Hax: Interesting take, thank you.

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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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