Carolyn Hax Live: Namesakes, raising a dog in Chicago, zombie pigs, therapy-shy SO's, the grass is always greener, more

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

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.

Carolyn was online Friday, July 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

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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Carolyn Hax: Hi everybody.


Germantown, MD: Carolyn, in both the original chat and this week's column about the favored/disfavored child, you assumed that the children are brothers. I, on the other hand, assumed the disfavored child was a sister; and I know whereof I speak. I'm a woman and have 2 younger brothers. We are all very close in age. When I asked my father for money for grad school, he turned me down, saying, "the boys might need it." Sure, I can now say I made it on my own, but why should I have had to struggle when they did not? I know life isn't fair, but sexism is a particular type of unfairness that really sticks in my craw. Just sayin'.

Carolyn Hax: Actually, I didn't assume anything--a reader who posted a response used "he," even though there were no pronouns in the original post that supported the assumption.

In both cases--in the chat and in the column--I made a notation that I was using "he" because the writer of follow-up post used "he," and that no sex was indicated in the original.

I.e., I was really, really careful, and yet you're blaming me. I think your craw may have been stickied by your parental unfairness, and it's maybe catching a few to many things. Maybe sign of a shoulder chip--not for sure, but something worth considering.


Tampa, FL: My SO is miserable in her job, but there aren't any options because of the economy to find a better position. The boss makes her feel awful about herself, co-workers are no help. She feels trapped. Neither of us want to move due to geographic and emotional closeness of family and friends, so that's not an option. How can I help her? She's depressed, doesn't feel like a doctor or a counselor will help. What can I do to help? So far all I can do is listen.

Carolyn Hax: Partners need to be really careful about declaring, "Counseling (or whatever other kind of professional help) won't help me," and then dumping an unending stream of misery on the significant other. It's not productive, and it's not fair. Either you do something to fix the problem, or you find a way to stop the misery stream on your own.

In this case, your SO owes it to you to get some kind of help. If she thinks psychotherapy is beside the point (debatable--a good shrink could help with strategies for dealing with the boss, since boss doesn't "make" her feel anything), then it's time to consider professional career guidance. One way or the other, it's on the SO to take active steps to deal with the hopelessness beyond just bringing it home every day.

The come-home-and-bitch plan is a bad idea not just because it keeps your SO from progressing out of this rut. It also lays on you a burden that you're not necessarily equipped to handle. You're presumably not an expert on depression, or office politics, or cognitive behavioral therapy, or in your SO's career field, or whatever else could crack this problem. You can listen, as you say, and you can be sympathetic, and maybe you have good enough conceptual thinking (and communication) abilities to help her see a bigger picture even when you can't speak to specifics.

However, now that she is essentially (by your description at least) at a standoff with her lousy circumstances, that's her cue that the problem has exceeded both of your abilities to solve it. When that happens, a person has two responsible choices: Find a way to make peace with the standoff, or call in outside help.


Frederick, MD: My extended family (parents, sibling's family) would like to go on a vacation together with my family of four. I love them very much, but I can't imagine using my vacation time or money on a vacation with them. We have completely different interests and we already see them all several times a year. They think I'm being unreasonable. Am I?

Carolyn Hax: Your time is your own, of course. But there are factors here that are worth considering. Would this vacation be good for cousin bonding, or is it an imposition on them, too? Is it a one-shot deal? Are your parents getting to a point where this kind of vacation might not be possible for them for much longer? Could you accommodate this vacation by cutting back on the "several times" you would otherwise see them this year? Do your parents have significant nostalgic hopes riding on this, and would those hopes be satisfied by doing this one thing for them? Or would it be their style to then ask for an annual family vacation to be blocked out on the calendar in perpetuity?

It sounds as if your objections are more along the lines of, "It's not my idea of a vacation," vs., "I have significant moral arguments against going." In the first case, when it's family, it's always worth stepping back to see the big picture before you make up your mind.


FL: Hi Carolyn,

My boyfriend's marriage ended before I met him. I just found out the reason is he was carrying on a very long affair with a younger woman--the affair was more than half the duration of his entire marriage. Needless to say, I find this very unsettling, and I'm especially not thrilled about the fact that he does not even seem remorseful. He wants to get more serious with me, and I want a guarantee that what happened to his last wife won't happen to me. Can you think of anything we can do that would help convince me this relationship is safe?

Carolyn Hax: If you want a guarantee, then find someone who is genuinely thoughtful, remorseful and open about his past mistakes. Though that's not a guarantee at all, since no one knows his own future--so how can you possibly see into someone else's future? But the decency of the person you choose is at least a bit of insurance that you'll be treated with care, no matter what turns your relationship takes.

If this guy isn't thoughtful, remorseful and/or open, then I'm not sure what kind of guarantee you're looking for--a signed statement that he won't run around on you? Which you can then curl up with at night when you're home alone and you're not entirely confident that he's really out bowling with the guys?


NW: Carolyn, My boyfriend has many traits that lead me to believe he has adult ADD. He agrees as well, but is worried about what getting on medication will be like. In the meantime, we have been living together for over a year. Get along great, but the stress of some of him "ADD Ways" is really getting to me: disorganization, hard time following through w/projects, inability to have any sort of routine. Additinally, he is a teacher and during the school year, he gets really down on himself because he feels he is not doing a "good job". I think getting on some medication would help him be more successful at work. BF very sensitive to subject, but we have gotten to the pt where he was going to see a psychiatrist to get diagnosed this summer so he could try meds while off work. Anyway, it's basically August and no appt even made. Should I bring it up again? I've always told him it's his choice, and I dont want to nag, but I think he would be happier and relieve some stress I feel from living with him.

Carolyn Hax: I think you're both over-emphasizing medication. While it might help him, and ideally he'd be open minded about it, it's hardly the only arrow in the quiver of someone who is adept at treating adult ADD. And your BF has no excuse for not exploring the possibilities at every step right up to the very edge of where medication would be consumed. Does he think he's going to get stuck with a syringe the moment he steps into a specialist's waiting room?

This is -adult- ADD he suspects he has, and so this -adult- needs to live up to the designation by doing the homework to find the 1 to 3 leading local authorities in the field; calling these offices to find out what the procedure is for getting screened; getting screened by the provider that best suits his schedule/location/insurance limitations; writing out a list of questions and concerns to raise during the appointment, including one on getting second opinions.

Now, I realize that this kind of systematic approach is, in many cases, exactly what lies beyond the reach of a candidate for ADD. However, it's not impossible to have the desire to explore the problem and find a solution, and even to talk about the solution that scares him. If he can take it this far on his own, then the people close to him--you, for example, but not just you--can get involved with the logistics to help him pull it off.

So while you're right to be concerned about coming off as a nag, the bigger concern is that he's not taking steps to help himself. It's time to present your feelings to him: You're feeling very frustrated that he hasn't made this call. Explain that you will happily make it for him, and stand by him as he goes through the process, but first you do need him to -want- to do it, to -want- to take this strain off both of your lives. Trying meds may be scary, but asking a doctor questions about meds has zero effect on the body, ya?


DC: Can you explain the difference between dating and relationship? I'm a me dense.

Carolyn Hax: Oh stop with the "me guy me dense" stuff. Women in general may talk about relationship minutiae more than men do, but you don't have relationships with generalizations, you have them with people.

"Dating" means you make appointments to see someone with romantic intent, even if that romance never quite catches on.

Some people say "in a relationship" to mean they're dating exclusively, but a relationship is your connection to another person, and can be friendly, romantic, adversarial, professional, neighborly, criminal, incidental, whatever.


Washington, DC: I have a compulsive problem with comparing myself/my life with others. It's really rearing it's head right now. I have several friends and relatives who have pretty glamorous lives, while I've settled into typical suburbia, complete with husband and kids. I can't stop fantasizing about what life would/could have been if I had stayed single, not followed such a predictable path. My marriage is good, and I love my family, but I still feel regret for the road not taken. Is this a midlife crisis? Any suggestions on how to handle this?

Carolyn Hax: "It's a Wonderful Life" handled this better than I can (or than latest Shrek could, for that matter), so maybe a refresher viewing is in order. And, a good hard look into your kids' eyes, since they'd go poof if you went back and made different choices.

You imply this is a chronic problem; if that's the case, you might want to talk to someone about.

And whether you do or not, I strongly urge you to get more engaged with your family life, in new and more adventurous ways. it doesn't have to be earth shattering, just involving more conscious decision-making and more thoughtful involvement. For example, starting to explore local bike or hiking trails, or adding an all-fam volunteer commitment to your weekly calendar, or planning a family trip with the kids' input, anything that gets you too busy (and eventually too happy) to keep looking over your shoulder.


St. Paul, MN: I was diagnosed with ADD as an adult (age 30), and instead of medication, I was given exercises that helped me focus at work and to give people my full attention (as much as possible). My ADD has MUCH improved since high school and college.

Medication is an option, but there are other options to consider and try, either at the same time or prior to considering medication.

Carolyn Hax: Thanks--this is just one example, too, of ways to address ADD that don't involve taking a pill.


DC: Hi Carolyn- I've been thinking about your column from this weekend quite a lot. I'm in a somewhat similar situation -- ending a 20 plus year marriage because my husband has a secret life as a gay man. (It wasn't a storybook marriage and I caught him, he didn't confess.) The problem is that his career depends in large part on him appearing to live a clean cut church-going life -- rather than one spent cruising gay bars and posting internet sex ads (with photos even!). I could support myself if I had to, but any damage to his career would have devastating effects on the lives of our children, especially their educational prospects). So I say nothing. To anyone. I don't have anyone I can confide in without worry that it will get out to the wrong people. I am slowly realizing I just can't continue to live like this. But what do I owe my children when their lives are blown apart? The impending divorce has been hard enough on them and now I destroy their future plans? I just don't see it as an alternative but I can't go on this way. And yes I am in counseling, but all the talk and drugs don't change the fact that I'm the one who's really in the closet now.

Carolyn Hax: Sounds as if it's time for you to point out the obvious to your husband: With so much riding on his career, and with his career riding on this secret, and with so many possibilities for this secret to be blown wide open, it's time for him to consider a career change. Quickly. Not as a threat, since you've shown him you'll stay quiet, but as a "doh!"

As for your children's "educational prospects," I may be jumping to the wrong conclusion, but if it's just private school money that's on the line here, then I think you're putting that disturbingly high up on the worry list. The "especially" devastating blow would be to their ability to trust their dad, who is very publicly purporting to be one thing while being very clearly another--and abusing not only his family's trust, but apparently also the public's trust in the bargain, no?


Carolyn Hax: Gentlemen and woman, start your parlor-game engines. Sigh.


Miserable at my job: My husband could have written the post about me. I've been hesitant to try therapy for a number of reasons, but think I'd be more willing to give it a shot if I knew what to expect. Will I sit there an answer questions. Lie on a couch like people do on TV? What will the therapist do to help me work through my issues?

Carolyn Hax: You will sit there and tell your story, prompted by the occasional leading question.

And if it isn't exactly like that, then what you can be sure of is that you won't be bound or gagged, so you can say, "This makes me very uncomfortable," "I'm not sure I want to answer that question," "I have strong doubts about this process," "I feel stupid admitting this." And you can walk away if you don't think is helping.

However, you can't get help if you don't walk in.


DC again: So what do you call it when you're dating one person, not exclusively?

Carolyn Hax: Well, if you're dating just the one person, then you're dating exclusively, but I get what you mean--you would be dating more than one person if there were more than one person in your life whom you were interested in dating. It's not as if person you're dating has driven all desire for others from your mind.

Anyway, you'd call that "dating." You and X are dating.

If it becomes exclusive because you aren't interested in seeing anyone else, even if someone else comes along, then you're seeing each other.

But at this point I'm just yanking your chain.


Today's letter: I'm always amazed at the letters and questions you get from women who want to be validated by the decisions they make for their weddings, but I was kind of on the side of the bride-to-be today. Now granted, I don't think it was a very smart decision for her to try and have a fall wedding knowing that her fiance's family lives for football, but she picked a date around the fiance's brother's game schedule. The fact that the brother is going to miss his own brother's wedding for a non-critical game is ridiculous IMO. A wedding is a one time (hopefully) occurence.

Carolyn Hax: Team commitments aren't ridiculous. One of the main arguments in favor of team sports for young people is that they drive home the importance of following through with what you said you'd do. You're all counting on each other to succeed. Obviously this understanding gets abused when it's used to justify poor herd behavior, like hazing, but I don't think it's getting abused here.

That's because a wedding might be a onetime occurrence, but it can be held at any time, any where. Because the bride and groom made an effort to accommodate the football schedule, and it still didn't work, then I'd like to see the groom's family pitch in for any lost deposits. But I still think the one who can move here is the one who has to move. Or, the brother just misses the wedding, which is not the end of the world. It's just not.


Chicago: How difficult is it to raise a dog? I live in a very dog-friendly city (with many parks and beaches and dog-oriented services such as dog walkers and doggy day care). I have friends with dogs, I've dog-sat before, so I have an idea of what it's like to raise one. My boyfriend seems to think I can't handle it (I did have cats before...didn't work out, I gave them to the Humane Society when they were still kittens, but to my defense I was only 23 and definitely not ready). I'm in a different place right now, emotionally (now 27) and physically (didn't live in Chicago several years back), and I would love a puppy. I don't need my boyfriend's approval but I'd like him to be on-board with my decision, since we are planning on getting married. Any thoughts?

Carolyn Hax: First, don't get a puppy if you're not sure. They're much more difficult to have than adult dogs.

And, you might want to consider fostering first. A lot of rescue groups place dogs in temporary homes (a) because it's better than being in a pen at a shelter, and (b) because most rescue dogs need some TLC, either because of medical issues or just because they need some basic training (housebreaking, obedience) to make them better candidates for adoption.

So, you could narrow down your breed preference--or just figure out your best size and temperament fit--and approach rescue groups as a volunteer. There will likely be some screening involved--there's less red tape in having a baby (0) than there is in adopting an animal--but you can get that process going today.

BTW, is it possible your BF doesn't want a dog, or doesn't want the hassle of your having a dog? Suggesting you can't handle it is a remarkable lack of faith, and I wonder what his justification is for that.


Dating and relationships: You know the old analogy about involvement vs. commitment? The chicken that laid the egg you had for breakfast was involved with breakfast. The pig the bacon came from was committed.

Dating is the chicken, relationship is the pig.

So simple, yes? ;-))

Carolyn Hax: What's divorce, then--a reanimated pig?


Also on the Bride's side: The brother also committed to being the best man and to that date. So while agree that his team is counting on him to play in the game, his family (brother and future sister-in-law) is also counting on him to be in the wedding. Why is that commitment all of a sudden not worth anything? The wedding date was decided to be on a day that he didn't have a game, now that he does, he should tell his couch, sorry I already made plans.

Carolyn Hax: His committing to the wedding was conditioned on his not having a game that day. he now has a game that day.

Another poster rightly pointed out that there might be scholarship money riding on the brother's team commitment.

Even if none of this is persuasive, and even if we argue this all day, it still doesn't change the basic point: The groom's family has made its position clear, not just after the game was added, but from the very beginning. The couple now has a choice: make a huge stink--which is sure to do more to ruin the wedding than the brother's absence--or accept that reasonable people can disagree on the right thing to do, and make the best of it.

Since my cliche count is getting up there, I'll part with this: The bride's best move is to make lemonade, not war. No one is acting with contempt or malice, after all.


DC again-: I guess I emphasized the educational future of my children (and yes it's private college money and possibly even public university money) since in my mind, this is one area I can control by keeping silent. They will be more devastated by their father's lies but mentally I consider that a done deal. I can't do anything about it but I can try to keep my mouth shut and let them get through college.

Carolyn Hax: I get it now, thanks. But there's a fine line between hoping there's at least a good education waiting for your kids at the end of this long, sacrifical road, which is admirable, and selling your soul so your kids won't have college debt. Obviously this situation is bigger than just education money and it's very, very complicated, but your initial post suggests you've reached, on your own, the point of wondering whether this has become a Faustian bargain.

Still, I don't have the answer besides my initial one: Even if you don't waver on keeping this secret, the secret is essentially already out for anyone to see--it's just that nobody besides you and a few discreet others have actually stumbled across it yet.

If your opinion carries any weight with your ex, then it's time to use that weight to impress upon him that it's time to stop pretending he can keep living his life this way indefinitely. There needs to be a Plan B.


Chicago again: He has grown up with dogs his entire life (golden retrievers) and loves them but thinks that if I get one, he's going to end up doing most of the work and he's not ready for that just yet. He also doesn't think it's right to have a dog in the city (his condo is small, no backyard) and wants to wait until we move to the suburbs (Barf. I hate the suburbs. But even so, that's not for a while anyway, maybe several more years). He also thinks I'm a bit whimsical in nature, which may be true, but I have been thinking about this for a while. But I think volunteering/fostering might be a good first step.

Carolyn Hax: Sounds like fostering makes sense on a lot of levels. Having experience with goldens does matter, but the breed of a dog makes a difference. There are dogs with all ranges of exercise needs, and unless he had extremely mellow goldens, he's used to dogs that need to get a good workout. (Retriever = working dog, no matter how commonly they're seen as family dogs; same goes for border collies, shepherds, pointers, hounds, etc.) There are excellent breeds for city life, and some research will point you to them.

Now, many rescue dogs are also mutts, and even the veteran shelter staff can be mystified by some of these guys--but they aren't mystified by the temperaments they see. That's another argument for an adult: You won't be guessing about final size or mood. What you see will be what you get.

This was going to be more about relationships than dog breeds, but I got carried away. Sorry.

Anyway ... (more)


Carolyn Hax: I balk at the idea of your "proving" anything to your boyfriend, since your last post makes him sound awfully patronizing. You're your own person, and while you're right to consider the future, it's still time for you to do with your life what you think is right. If he really has so little faith in you, then it will be important for him to see whether his prediction bears out. I just hope that, if you do flake out on him, he makes up his mind one way or the other, to break up with you or love you (and his new dog responsibilities) as-is. Trying to have it both ways, to keep someone close while also vocally doubting him or her, is a well-tested recipe for misery.


Therapy Saved My Life: In response to "what is therapy like?": I finally went - twice a week for several months, then once a week and now not at all for the past few years. I am a different person - FAR happier, FAR more patient, actually content in my life, and when people ask me what changed I am unable to explain how therapy helped me. It seems like I did most of the talking. She would occasionally ask, "Have you ever thought about ______ this way?" No pressure, just a suggestion. When I would give it a try and find it worked, it made me go back the next time, etc. To summarize: I went through therapy, it helped me solve my myriad of issues that had built since childhood and I have been happy, truly happy for several years now. Just go!

Carolyn Hax: There are bad therapists, of course. But any competent therapist will do just what you describe--essentially, hold something up for you, so you can look at sides of it that you might not have been able to see before. You're the one doing the looking, and interpreting, and, essentially, teaching. You're training your mind to think in new ways, instead of the old ones that you've worn into a rut.

It's actually what I try to do with the answers in my column. Instead of saying, "Do this," I look for interpretations of the same information that the questioner might not have considered.

When you can stop and think about things in several different ways, it's not useful just for understanding things that might have eluded you to this point. It's also useful on a basic level for slowing you down.

Every minute you spend thinking through possibilities is a minute you don't spend popping off with angry accusations. And often, if you can stay calm through the first few minutes of the onset of difficult emotions, you can stay calm, period.


re:divorce?: Silly, divorce is the pig's funeral.

Carolyn Hax: Okay then, remarriage. What's -that-?


Zombie Pig!: The new Bridezilla.

Carolyn Hax: There you go.


IT's not black/white or all/nothing: We tend to see in black/white extremes in tough situations. Poster thinks either she lives a lie so her kids can go to college or she lives the truth and they get no college education? No, kids with messed up parents go to college. Kids with criminal parents go to college. Kids with unemployed parents go to college. People with real career crises evolve and find new routes. If this guy starts living an authentic live he will find a new vocation and his kids will go to college.

Carolyn Hax: Like I said, I think it's probably more complicated than that, but you're absolutely right--in tough situations, it's natural to hang onto one thing that seems clear. The poster even said it--it's something she can control (in circumstances that seem out-of-control).


Chicago & Dog: I'm waiting for your more response....but didn't the "he wants to wait until the suburbs and her saying yuck - bring up a red flag?

Seems like they aren't on the same page in other areas either.

Carolyn Hax: Yeah, I was going there when I said he sounds patronizing; their being together does seem to be predicated on his being right about things, like when it's okay to have dogs, when it's time to move to the burbs, and when one deserves to be taken seriously. I hope she asserts herself here, if only to make it clear who she is.


New York, NY: Carolyn,

Love the show! My bf and I are going through a rough time. Every time I say, "let's talk" he says it's an inopportune moment. He won't pick a convenient time, he won't try to suggest an alternative, but he refuses to break up. If we don't try to come up with a solution to our issues (mainly poor communication, obvs), I can't stay. We're 28/29 and been together 4.5 years. Please help me figure out a way to discuss this with him. Thanks for listening.

Carolyn Hax: How can he "refuse" to break up? If there's one thing either half of a couple can do unilaterally, it's end the relationship.


Namesake Name Stakes: My brother and I are both expecting children this December. His is 2 weeks ahead. He is having a boy. I am finding out next week what I am having. He has told my mom that he's going to make sure to get his name decided just in case I have a boy too so he gets the name he wants. For the record, I have no idea what name that would be, but am guessing it's some family name or another. Since he's being so weird about it, I'm tempted to name my child the same thing he does whether girl or boy. Or at least telling him so. What do you think? I mean, clearly I'm just going to see what happens because I'm not crazy like he is, but in the mean time...

Carolyn Hax: Great. A bunch of babies having babies.


Anonymous: Carolyn, I have a toddler who's almost 3 and another one who just turned one. My one year old has been high needs from the start and is a very bad sleeper. I get less than five hours on an average night. I have been finding lately that as my 3 year old begins to test her boundaries by not listening or refusing to do something when asked or even simply take a nap, I am losing my patience more and more easily. I hate the mother I am becoming to her. My husband helps as much as possible, but even though his job could be flexible, his boss is not very supportive of the idea that fathers take an equal role in parenting, so much of the daily grind is left to me. I don't know if it's lack of sleep or something that is inherently wrong with me, but I really need some tips to control my temper.

Carolyn Hax: What you need first is help. Overnight help so you can sleep (husband can do that, no?), relief help during the day so you can breathe. If you don't have family or friends available to pitch in, then you'll have to get paid help--which can get expensive, granted, but it doesn't have to. You can look into a nanny share, or cooperative day care, or just hiring a neighborhood student as a mother's helper to come in for an afternoon or two a week.

Once you have an opportunity to collect yourself, then you need do learn some strategies for dealing with your 3-year-old that don't involve escalating all of her willful behavior into a power struggle. She's going to see each of those battles as must-win--her emerging sense of self is riding on it--and so you're going to lose either way, either by folding or forcing your daughter to bed to your will.

Again, it's hard to do when you're exhausted and stressed, so make sure you're getting some relief built into your routine. Then, plan ahead some age-appropriate ways to outmaneuver your toddler. Give her choices, for example; instead of saying, "Put your shoes on so we can go," say, "Which shoes do you want to put on, the red ones or your sneakers?" And etc--I won't get into all of them here, but it's really about being on your toes vs. back on your heels. I've had doctors/early childhood specialists recommend a few books over the years for raising difficult kids, including "1-2-3 Magic," "The Happiest Toddler on the Block" (and it sounds like you could also use the "Happiest Baby" version, too), and "The Kazdin Method" come immediately to mind.

Also, make sure you're in close communication with your pediatrician on this, both with your baby and your toddler. It's hard sometimes for doctors to tell when a kid isn't just a regular ol' handful and instead has a health condition--they don't live with the kids, after all--and you don't have their training. So, you have to work together, and bring good details of your situation to their attention so they can apply their training.

I haven't even gotten into the unsympathetic boss issue, but there could be a whole answer there, in ways your husband could present a flexible schedule that wouldn't cost him professionally. Worth running by a workplace expert.


Re: Namesake : Word of advice...if you've decided on a baby name don't tell anyone ANYONE what it is. Don't mention it until the name is on the birth certificate or it's a done deal. You'd be surprised at how brazen some people can be. This might appear to be a petty issue to some, but to those of us who spent time and great care picking out something, it's kind of a slap in the face for someone else to snork up in 5 seconds.

Carolyn Hax: True, and I second your advice heartily--yes, heartily! But just know that sometimes people snork up your beloved, distinctive name even after you've used it. Just one of the howlers that turns up in my inbox from time to time. It can be a friendship-killer.


Forget names, count your blessings: For people fighting about baby names: just be grateful that you are having a baby that is wanted. Many people can't have children at all, and some people are totally unprepared/unwilling to be parents. I would be happy to name mine Percival Plotz if I could just have one.

Carolyn Hax: You're even more right than the last person.

My apologies to Percival Plotz.


Refusing to break up: Ha, you caught me. I guess I interpret refusing to talk as tantamount to saying, "I'd rather break up." When I say, then let's just end it, he doesn't want to. I don't either, but we cannot stay together without communicating more, better, etc. Our relationship discussions go something like: Me: I feel very lonely when you refuse to talk to me. Him: I'm not refusing. (silence)

Et cetera. Anyway, I would like to help him open up, but he's not interested, despite his claims otherwise. I do not want to leave him, as he is a good man, but my feeling is that he'd prefer to remain stoic while I want a partner who seems interested and excited to see me. We have moments of (emotional) intimacy, but for the most part, the relationship has been static for a long time. I guess I want him to want to work it out, but he feels like things are fine the way they are. Is that fatal to the relationship?

Carolyn Hax: Like I said, I try to avoid definitive answers, but if you're saying that you can't abide the status quo, and he's saying (in word and deed) that he sees no reason to change the status quo, then I can't see what you're sticking around for. Epiphanies happen, I suppose, but waiting for one that shows no signs of arriving doesn't sound like a plan. I'm sorry.

That said, he is exposing a flaw in your wording (a mistake I've made myself, in this forum). You're talking about your feelings, which is good, but you're predicating them on an assumption about his intent. Maybe he isn't "refusing," to talk to you, he's just choosing not to. Or whatever. It has to be about fact: "When you come home and go straight to the TV/When you spend 4 of our 5 hours together online/When you speak in one-word answers (or whatever--as long as it's fact-based), I feel ..."

Doesn't change the fact of the status quo, but there it is.


Washington, D.C.: For "wants a dog in Chicago": if she couldn't even take care of cats, how does she expect to take care of a dog? Dogs need much more care and attention than cats, not to mention the multiple walks per day. If you feed the cats and make sure their litter box is clean, they're pretty much good to go.

Carolyn Hax: I think the point was, that was then, this is now. The BF is taking the past miscalculation as evidence that a dog is a bad idea, but that doesn't mean we're free to jump to the same conclusion. A dog is a bad idea only if the circumstances that led to the cat reversal are unchanged, and if she doesn't fully appreciate what having a dog involves vs a cat. A foster situation would be illuminating on both counts. And if her daily schedule is such that any agency would say she's not a fit for a dog, then that will tell her a lot, too.


Re: Naming: Seriously, this whole baby naming business gets crazy sometimes. We picked out a baby name that was normal and that we enjoyed, and when we told the rest of the family they said they didn't like it and were going to call the baby Jake regardless of his real name because that was a better name. Um...thanks for confusing my kid?!

Carolyn Hax: Ah, families.

Just noticed it's 3:15. So, er, bye! Thanks and see you next week (or tomorrow, at the Newseum, 2:30 ...)

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