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Carolyn Hax Live: Advice columnist tackles your problems

Carolyn Hax
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 13, 2010; 12:00 PM

Carolyn was online Friday, August 13, 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: Hey everybody. Sorry for the late start. The clock I was watching is apparently slow.

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Washington, D.C.: I am friends with someone who, from time to time, I am quite attracted to. This issue first emerged when we first got to know each other a couple of years ago, and in our own subconscious way agreed to just be friends. And we are now, which is great. However, I still have these lingering feelings that I can't shake. Well ... how do I shake them? And move on to someone else?

Carolyn Hax: Is it absolutely necessary that you shake them? If it's mutual, then you just described the early days of some of the happiest couples out there.

It's a big "if," obviously--but that's why it's important to know whether/why it's necessary that you rule out becoming more than friends.

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Baltimore, Md.: Hi Carolyn! I'm in my late 30s, female. I've lost touch with a lot of my old friends recently, especially my college friends, as they really only communicate through Facebook. Carolyn, I greatly dislike Facebook. It's a giant time suck, and I work on a computer all day long and can't imagine coming home to devote more hours to it. I've missed some news, like pregnancies, because they are announced on Facebook, and when I ask why they at least didn't send out an e-mail, I get a snotty "Join Facebook!" reply. I tried it and I don't like it. I feel like I have something else to maintain, and I'm a pretty private person. Am I wrong here?

Carolyn Hax: The purist stance would be to stick to your guns and stay off Facebook, and to compensate for what you miss, go out of your way to keep in touch regularly with certain reliable sources of information. Call X friend once or twice a week, for example. If you have a friend who's willing to cooperate, you can even ask that friend to ping you whenever there's news of greater import than "I just ate a bagel."

The impurist (if it's not a word, it should be) stance would be to enlist the help of an adept Facebooker, and find out how to set up a profile that (a) exercises every privacy option available, (b) contains almost no information about you, and (c) sends you an e-mail to notify you of activity by your friend. That way your page will keep you in touch automatically without your really having to sign on.

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How do you deal with....?: The people who always feel the need to top a story or an event or do that thing where they make your legit gripe seem like a "my tiara's too heavy" kind of problem. I guess it's two distinct issues, but I imagine there's a good response that fits both. Example of the first: when you say something or tell a story and your conversation partner needs to top it somehow with a story that is better, worse, more egregious, whatever. Example of the second (of which my mother is a master): you say something about a hard issue you're dealing with at work and the response is, "well at least you have a job, look at all these people who can't find work." Yes, I feel bad for them, but that doesn't make my micromanaging boss go away. I feel like I am always kind of at a loss for the socially graceful way to handle these things, so would love a pointer or two. I don't think your "wow" really works here. Merci!

Carolyn Hax: I think this is a two or three parter, so bear with me.

When you're dealing with a one-upper, I don't think there's a uniform approach that works. That's because sometimes a one-upping is just sympathy that lands with a thud. Let's say, for example, you're complaining about the other-worldy traffic you hit coming in to work, or the scare you had on a recent flight, or something to that effect. It is a natural, congenial reaction for people then to be reminded of similar nightmares they experienced, and to share them. If the response nightmare is clearly worse than yours, that might just be incidental, and not a reflection of competitive intent. In those cases, the best response is to go with the conversational flow. Even a "wow" would work, but used in the sympathetic sense: "Wow, I thought I had it bad."

If instead you have reason to believe it's an intentional one-upping (usually by virtue of precedent; a competitive person will be the one who -always- has a better story), then what you actually do won't differ much. A, "Gosh, I thought I had it bad," gets the job done just the same--only it's a different job. In this case, it's both a conversation-ender, and a polite, "Okay, you win, I'm going to go talk to someone else now." Extra points if you can remember that this is a competitive person and train yourself out of expecting anything but one-upsmanship.

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Carolyn Hax: Which brings me to Part 3: Your unsympathetic Mom. Without knowing her, I can't be sure about her intent--she could be trying (and failing) to make you feel better, or she could be telling you to suck it up.

Either way, though, if coming out with deflating responses is a skill she has elevated to an art form, then it's time to realize that Mom isn't the shoulder to seek out when you need even a minor cry. Maybe she's great at figuring out practical solutions, or being honest with you when no one else will, or one of countless other ways people can support each other--but if she's no damn good at the empathic pat on the back, then do yourself the favor of not expecting her to become miraculously good at it next time you're ticked at your boss.

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D.C.: Do you have any advice on how I can relax and be myself around the guy I just started dating? I'm very attracted to him and like him as a person but I get so nervous around him. Help!!

Carolyn Hax: Those nerves are part of you, too. So, the only way to "be yourself," in the truest sense, is to be a complete dork for a while as you get your bearings.

If you had a magic wand, you would probably wave that phase away--and if he fell in love with that polished version of you, then it would be a mistake.

That's because you'll still have those nerves come out at other times, like when you meet his boss at an office party, or something like that. And so the guy you want is the guy who finds your dork phase endearing.

In a way, that answers your question on how to relax: Trust that the qualities in you that you believe are good, -and- the ones you believe are bad, both have a role in attracting and filtering out the most suitable people for you. It's just not always as pretty a process as we may envision when we met someone nice.

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Facebook Friends: Facebook is only a time suck if you let it, and you only have to reveal as much or as little as you want about yourself.

I don't understand the reluctance to join Facebook. It's just a communication tool like e-mail, phone, and letters are. Of course you can go overboard with it, but you can do the same with texting or chatting on the phone (and some people do). For example, if your friends were emailing back and forth, and you didn't have an email address, you would have to choose between Carolyn's (a) or (b) as well.

Carolyn Hax: I actually do get the hesitation, as someone who also stares at a screen way too much. Having to go to a site to have a conversation just adds an extra layer nuisance when I'm trying very hard to remove nuisance layers--and when calling, emailing and texting don't require any extra signing on or navigating, beyond what I'm already doing.

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Facebook: Oy. I agree with the first poster. My oldest stepdaughter created a charming blog about her two little boys, and has maintained it for a couple of years. It is very accessible, and I enjoy reading it. When I asked why she hadn't updated it in a couple of months, she replied that she posts all of that on Facebook now. I don't want to go there, don't want to create an account, keep up with FB's ever-changing intrusive privacy practices, "friend" anybody, divulge anything about myself, nada.

Carolyn Hax: I don't want to sound like a shill for the site (disclaimer: www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax, AND Don Graham is on the board!), especially given what I just posted, but a bunch of the things you said you don't want to do are things you don't -have- to do. Your profile can say next to nothing, it can be invisible to people searching for your name, and you don't have to friend anyone except your oldest stepdaughter to get right back into her charming blog.

I'm all for saying "no" to things on principle, but it doesn't make sense to me to give something the Heisman based on impressions vs. facts--especially when it's costing something that clearly seems to improve the quality of your life.

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Cat's Out of the Bag: Ten years ago, before our daughters were born, my husband and I had a stillborn son. When my now-7-year-old daughter was 4 or 5, I made the mistake of telling her about her brother. I did it for a reason I now see was selfish, relating as it does to my own grief over the loss. It seems hearing of her brother has left a deeper and sadder impression on her than I anticipated - she recently cried her eyes out during a Disney movie in which the main character thought her two brothers had died (they were fine in the end). After the movie, my daughter told me she "wished God could bring my brother back to life" because she was sad at never having known him. This is not the only time she's been upset about him, but it was the most traumatic for her.

I never should've laid such a burden on her at such a young age. And I realize now I shouldn't have let her watch that movie. (I thought it was safe because it's Disney - another mistake.) I know there's no point in continually beating myself up over this, but do you think I've screwed her up over the long term? I'll consider the counseling option for her if it becomes necessary, but wanted your personal opinion as well. Thanks.

Carolyn Hax: Upfront, I'll say that I'm answering this without the ability to discern whether your daughter is expressing normal emotions in a healthy way, or is showing signs of trauma.

That said, my initial impression is that you're overreacting to your daughter's tears. What if you had lost your child after she had been born--when she was 4 or 5? You would have had to share the truth with her then, and nurture and educate her through it, and encourage her both to express her feelings and put them in a larger context.

Death is part of life is part of death. Losing a child is among the most devastating of losses, but nothing lives without dying. Even families who have an astonishing run of health and good luck will eventually have to bid farewell to a grandparent, a pet, an older teacher or staff member, a neighbor. Death doesn't wait for kids to grow old enough to understand it, or handle it smoothly. It comes when it comes.

So while you don't want to declare, "Eh, everything dies, even you," to a dewy eyed 2-year-old, you do need to consider it part of your parental responsibility to teach life and death in an age-appropriate way.

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Carolyn Hax: I'm not sure you can do that effectively while you continue to beat yourself up for telling her the truth about her brother.

Please instead accept that the truth is an immutable fact of your lives, and concentrate on helping your daughter develop her own emotional strength. When she cries, hold her and say you still feel sad about it, too. Then say you love him and he will always be in your heart--and tell her it's okay for her to keep him in her heart. That's how she can be with him. Then say how happy you are to have her.

In other words, don't feel you have to block out or chase away these feelings she has. They're there no matter what, so let her know it's okay and normal to have many different feelings at once--sadness about what you've lost, gratitude for what you have, happiness for time you have with each other.

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Carolyn Hax: As it happens, this is why there's no such thing as a "safe" Disney movie--at least not the classic ones, both the first and second waves. (Seen "The Lion King"? "Bambi"? Yikes. Even I can't watch "Dumbo.") These are movies that allow kids to be exposed to some very difficult emotions, including fear, grief, shame, loneliness--and give them kid-friendly guidance for finding their way back from the dark places. As my sister once astutely pointed out, if kids' movies aren't scary in some way, they're boring and the kids won't watch them. There's a reason for that, and it's the same reason that makes roller coasters such a big draw after they emerge from the Disney movie phase.

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Bethesda, Md.: Facebook is just like any other 'thing' that explodes in popularity, it becomes a Fad to "Not want to have anything to do with it" since most everyone else does have something to do with it. Remember the time when people said they "hate talking into phone message machines?"

Carolyn Hax: Snort.

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Upper Midwest: Hi Carolyn, happy Friday! Wondering if you or the 'nuts might have some insight into a pretty "fluffy" problem, been married three months and my husband's wedding ring seems to cause pain and swelling in the knuckle above it. Neither of us has ever heard of this and can't figure out what might be causing it so I was just wondering if by chance anyone else has had this problem? I don't want him to be in pain, and I don't mind if he doesn't wear it all the time, but of course I'd be happy if we could find a solution. Thanks!

Carolyn Hax: [commitmentphobe joke here]

He could be allergic to the metal. It's not uncommon. Remember, the k system with gold tells you how pure the gold is, which means that almost all of it is mixed with other metals, like nickel. Worth looking into.

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Without knowing her, I can't be sure about her intent--she could be trying (and failing) to make you feel better, or she could be telling you to suck it up. : It could be that Mom is just sick of hearing the constant complaints. Some people's only form of conversation is to complain. Maybe it's not the poster's case. I'm just saying it's a possibility worth thinking about. I know because I used to be a pretty bad complainer.

Carolyn Hax: Yup, could be that, too. Thanks. Though if that's true, I wish Mom would come out and say it: "It's getting to the point where complaints about work are almost the only thing we talk about now. Maybe it's time to talk about some other ideas for dealing with it."

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Nowhere: I am going to be leaving my wife. There are good reasons but I would rather not give them here. I feel I should do this so it causes the least disruption to our children but I know it will be very difficult no matter what I do. I will try my best to be fair and keep it amicable but she has in my view let me no choice but to end our marriage. I cannot afford a therapist or counselor in addition to an attorney. Do you know of any resorces I can use to guide me in making this as easy I can on my daughters? I plan to seek joint custody but it is most likely that they will be living with my wife during the separation.

Carolyn Hax: My suggestions are:

1. Keep showing up for them. It will be painful at times, but it's a pain you have to walk through, not avoid.

2. Be honest. You can't tell them everything, but you also can't lie.

3. Prepare answers beforehand to any and all questions they may ask you, especially the awkward ones. That will help you accomplish 2. without telling a panic lie or throwing your wife under the bus.

4. LISTEN to them. It's a natural impulse to want to keep their worlds and your conversations as normal as possible. However, having a parent move out is not normal. They will want to talk about what's happening, so let them. They will also -not- want to talk about what's happening, so let them do that, too. Meet them where they are, which means, again, LISTEN.

5. Treat your wife with care and courtesy. Until they're mature, kids see themselves at least partly through the filter of their parents. If you and your wife start treating each other like crap, you're sending your kids a message that they're at least 50 percent crap. You can't make their mom be nice to you, but you can be nice to her.

You asked for resources, so I'll throw this out to the crowd. For some reason I'm drawing a blank on book titles, even though I know I've done this before.

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Fluffy problem: My husband has the same issue, it seems to be a circulation one. So he wears his ring on his right hand, instead of his left, where it isn't a problem. Just another possibility other than metals allergy.

Carolyn Hax: Fanks.

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Sad Sister: In response to the lady with the stillborn baby, there were two in my family (prior to me). I knew about them for as long as I can remember. My parents always said things like ..."xx is your guardian angel." It was just a part of my life. It wasn't until I got older (mid-30's) that I realized how terribly, incredibly hard and sad it must have been for my mom. Don't know what I mean to contribute to the lady, except don't beat yourself up about telling your daughter the facts. It's part of who you are as a family.

Carolyn Hax: Thanks. You say so much.

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Bedford Falls: "Give it the Heisman"? Is that like give it the heave-ho?

Carolyn Hax: Do a Google Images search on the Heisman Trophy.

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Remarkable Weight Gain: Hi Carolyn,

I'm hoping you can give me some insight on this situation. A close relative, Jane, has gained a lot of weight recently. She had always had a nice figure, but she has put on quite a bit in her middle age. I have always been overweight, and Jane has always been loving and supportive of me and my efforts to lose. An elderly female relative made some rude remarks to Jane about her weight gain, and even grabbed her physically, at a family gathering a few months ago. Jane was understandably upset by this incident. We are due to attend a family reunion soon, and Jane and I both have expressed our hope that this same relative will keep her comments and her hands to herself. Would it be wrong for me to call this woman and ask her not to do this again? She is rather old, but not senile. She's never had a weight problem, and, like too many people, she thinks a fat person needs to be told they are fat (as if they didn't already know). I think she would understand and hold her tongue, but I don't want to open up a can of worms. I'd just like to enjoy the family reunion without wondering what she might do or say that might hurt Jane's feelings.

Carolyn Hax: I appreciate your concern and compassion for Jane, but if Jane is an adult in good emotional health, then it's really up to Jane to handle the nasty old bat.

I'm more concerned about how invested you are in Jane's feelings than I am about Jane's feelings. Would worrying about Jane really affect your ability to enjoy your reunion?

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Like, wherever: Carolyn -

I have a coworker who talks like a valley girl. I have to sit very close to her in the office and she talks...a lot. Every sentence usually contains at least 3 "likes" and 2 "you knows," and she talks very fast. It is starting to drive me crazy.

I am also a young, female professional. (we are about the same age.) I like this girl. She is very nice, and as far as I can tell, good at her job, as long as she is not talking. I would even like to be friends with her, possibly outside of work, but despite the fact that I find her stories/life/company interesting, I cannot stand to listen to her for more than 30 seconds. I don't catch any other words that come out of her mouth because my brain unconsciously goes to the repetitive "likes." It's very distracting in meetings. Sometimes I miss the jist of what she is saying completely.

Ladies of the world, give up the teeny bopper speak!!!

On the one hand, I am VERY conscious of my own speech these days, and I have almost completely eliminated the extraneous "likes" and "you knows." But I still have to sit near her and listen all day. Any advice on how I can 1) learn to hear what she is actually trying to say through the fog of poor word choice or 2) kindly and tactfully suggest she notice her bad habit? (is there a way to tap into her subconscious?)

Carolyn Hax: My inclination for helping you understand her better would be to make overtures toward friendship, but I can't advise that knowing she drives you nuts. in most cases, liking a person will help you get past (or at least regard with more forgiveness) the traits that drive you nuts, but this is a next-door colleague; if it doesn't work, you'll have to back out of a friendship with the person sitting next to you. Too much at stake there.

And, unless you're her boss and responsible for the way she represents the company, i don't think it's your place to coach her out of who she is.

(As proof that I'm losing my mind, I can cite an episode of "WKRP in Cincinnati" to back up the wisdom in letting colleagues be themselves--the one where Jennifer tries to dress Herb tastefully.)

So, in essence, I'm not giving you any advice at all except to do nothing and try your best, within professional boundaries, to get to know her and become fluent in her language (understanding, not speaking, I beg).

But maybe just posting this will be a PSA to anyone who, like, uses "like" in lieu of commas.

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For Nowhere: The Women's Center - they are not just for women. I first heard about them through Carolyn's chat, and it was a LIFE SAVER when my ex-husband left me. They have lots of options to pay for therapy, and some VERY useful workshops for those going through divorces (affordable, but worth every penny). I attended a couple of them with my mother (for moral support), and each time there were multiple men at the programs. They're located in Vienna, VA and DC.

Carolyn Hax: Right right. If Nowhere isn't in the DC area, then it's a moot point, but this is useful information I don't think I've mentioned lately. Thanks.

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Arlington, Va.: HI Carolyn!

So my beloved twin sister is getting married this fall. I'm happy for her, but extremely sad for me. I plan to put on a happy face during these last few weeks of wedding planning, and of course at the big event. But here's my question -- do you think that I should discuss my feelings with her. I'm used to being able to tell her anything: If I'm feeling irrationally bad about breaking up with a boyfriend, if I had a bad day at work, or any of the other major and minor things that come up throughout life. What do you say? Just let is be, or talk to her?

Carolyn Hax: Talk to her! Make it clear this isn't about begrudging her happiness--instead it's just about your fear of the unknown. Explain that you're used to being able to tell her everything, and that you're not sure how that's going to work once she's married. It'll really help, I think, if you can say that you know things will change and you're okay with that, you're just jumpy about how much.

One caveat: You don't want to make your problem into her problem just as her wedding preparations start to pile up--but you do want her to know that if your smile isn't on straight, it's not something serious, like hating her fiance or something. It's just about missing her in advance. If you can go into this with the sense that you'll deal with any changes in your relationship together, your happy face will be a lot more real.

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Weight Gain: I totally understand where she is coming from. Not only have I had what happened to Jane happen to me I can explain why it invest the writer's feelings into the enjoyment so much. When you're overweight (and are extremely self aware like most of us are) and one person gets picked on in front of a group about their weight, they are essentially picking on you too. Especially when it's someone you care about and identify with. Not only is it rude, but it puts a negative damper on the events. If it was your sister being singled out would you laugh it off and still enjoy the party? I doubt it. I'm sure you would be steamed and want to say something to granny too.

Carolyn Hax: This is interesting, because it stumbles across an important distinction. I really like your example about having a sister singled out--it brings it home and helps me see that, yes, I couldn't just laugh it off and go back to the party (even tho I never suggested laughing it off, for the record).

But I also wouldn't place a pre-emptive call to the offending relative on my sister's behalf. That still feels to me like getting too invested, and having someone else's feelings for them.

What does seem perfectly appropriate is speaking to the relative at the event where the offense occurred, and saying, "I can't believe you just grabbed Jane and called her fat. That was totally out of line." Feeling their pain is one thing, but feeling a fellow adult's dread to the point where you consider trying to alter the course of events takes it to another level.

The "fellow adult" part is key; adults feel a child's dread almost as a matter of course.

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Reformed valley girl: When I was a young professional, a colleague suggested I joined Toastmasters. After my first 5 minute speech I was presented with my count of "likes" (6) and "you knows" (18). My evaluator nicely and supportively suggested that my verbal ticks were getting in the way of people taking me seriously. I broke my habit in a few months thanks to the support of my club.

Perhaps going to a club with a co-worker might be a nice way to build a friendship and receive some professional development.

Carolyn Hax: Ooh, I like this. They both go and both benefit. Thanks.

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Also for Nowhere: Great advice from Carolyn. If I may offer my own - don't be too specific if they ask the reason you are separating. Kids should not have the baggage of knowing their mother/parent is lazy, a cheater, can't manage money, a murderer, what have you.

A simple statement, which was in essence what my father said to me, will do, "Your mother and I have grown apart and realize we don't want to be together. It has nothing to do with you because you are the joy in our lives, but sometimes it's better for a family if parents aren't together if they don't want to be. We'll always be there for you as much as we can and will always love you." My mother didn't live this statement but my father did, and I will always think better of him for it.

Carolyn Hax: Thanks--a report from the front always resonates more.

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DC: Thanks, Carolyn. Now I'll have the WKRP song going through my head all afternoon...

Carolyn Hax: HOO ha haaaa

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Two more months: My wife is pregnant, and rather uncomfortable. At night her feet get extremely hot (not swollen). We put icepacks on them every night, sometimes she has to put her feet in an ice bucket. Sometimes she wakes up because her feet are so hot. The doctor doesn't have any good ideas beyond just keep icing them. Anyone else?

Carolyn Hax: Since I assume you already Googled it, I'd go with a second opinion.

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For Nowhere: If possible (if your wife agrees to it and your reasons aren't due to abuse or other extenuation circumstances) Try to do divorce through mediation, you and your wife and both your lawyers agree to certain ground rules, and it prevents everything from getting nasty. Makes it much more bearable for the kids when the parents are treating eachother with respect.

Carolyn Hax: yes, I've heard good things about mediation, thanks.

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Cherry Hill, N.J.: This is for Nowhere - I would suggest he try to contact his company's Employee Assistance Program EAP) if they have one available. You and your family can receive 5 free sessions per issue which means you & your family can get a start toward healing. Our EAP department also provides references for divorce attorneys and also divorce arbitration who charge reasonable rates. If you wanted to take one last stab at saving your marriage I would suggest reading 'Divorce Busting' or 'Divorce Remedy' by Michele Weiner-Davis.

Carolyn Hax: Right right, another one I'm due to mention again, thanks.

Checking to see if your employer has an EAP is a great first step for people who want counseling.

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Sure, share your sadness with your twin: But wait until AFTER her wedding! Let it be about her, it's the only day folks get that. Then, once she's back from her honeymoon, had a good twin-to-twin heart-to-heart. Don't burden her with this if it will spoil her wedding even one iota. Remeber, her wedding is not about you. Let it be about her and then let a later day be about your special twin bond.

Carolyn Hax: Hmmmm I'm not so sure about this. A twin is probably going to be able to tell that all is not rosy with her sib. In that case, talking sooner rather than later will take away the opportunity for the bride's imagination to start working on what's wrong with her sib. The truth isn't bad news, it's I-love-you news.

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St. Paul, Minn.: Hi Carolyn,

My husband and I have been married for 5 years. I really don't like keeping non-utlitarian stuff around or things that we don't really use, even though we don't really have too much "stuff" between us. However, I think we can always do with less, which brings me to my current problem.

My husband is pretty upset that I'm trying to donate my wedding gown and sell some camping gear. I've tried reminding him that I always intended to donate my gown, and he's never once used the camping gear I bought him. I'd love to camp with him but have given up on coaxing him outdoors or believing that he'll go someday.

How can I make this purge easier for him when I'm set on getting rid of this stuff?

Carolyn Hax: Keep it. Hanging on to two things that mean a lot to him isn't going to undermine in any serious way your commitment to streamlining. Seriously--is it really worth upsetting him over these two things? If it becomes a tug-of-war over every empty yogurt container, then you have grounds to make it in to a bigger issue of principle, but what I see now is a guy with a couple of sentimental attachments--pro-you attachments at that--and you're digging in to get your way regardless. Have a heart.

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Germantown, Md.: For the lady with the stillborn baby - also, remember that 7-year-olds often tend to be a little dramatic - mine is occasionally very mournful about the cat that died when she was a baby. She doesn't remember the cat, but it gives her a reason to be sad when she's looking for one. Some of your daughter's reaction might just be a normal 7-year-old thing.

Carolyn Hax: Yes, yes, yes. This is something that's so important not just about 7-year-olds, but all kids, and even adults to some extent. Feelings build up. Something triggers a release, and out they come.

As people get older, they have more--but still not complete--control over this process, and more understanding of the source of the emotional well. Kids are less able to identify, much less articulate, why their feelings are building up, and it can be confusing. Having a reason to let it all out is often a relief to them, and a source of confusion to the local adults, who find themselves wondering when their kids started caring about X or Y.

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Carolyn Hax: Another this-reminds-me-of:

A kid who shall go nameless once burst into tears during Buzz Lightyear's existential crisis in the first "Toy Story." It was Randy Newman's "I will Go Sailing No More" that did it, I have to think.

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"The truth isn't bad news, it's I-love-you news.": That's still making Bride's wedding all about sis. It's not all about sis, it's about the engaged couple.

Carolyn Hax: It's not "all" about either of them. It's about being people with real and complex feelings, and including each other in a period of transition for both of them.

I categorically reject the whole premise of going on a several month fake-it spree just to preserve the facade of one overblown day. If the relationships with the people closest to her aren't right, then "her" [gag] day won't be right. Two sisters who are very close should be encouraged to stand by each other through this big change in both of their lives--and that means they share what they're feeling. They can both avoid the appearance of making things all about themselves by being interested in each other, not my biting their lips and pretending to be ways they're not.

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Twin getting married: I don't get it. When someone is wedding planning, does she lose the ability to have a conversation about anything non-wedding related? Does the bride have to be showered with stories of rainbows and unicorns in the weeks leading up to her wedding, lest her Big Day be tainted? My goodness, you're feeling sad about a breakup or whatever, talk to your sister. Life still happens, even when a wedding is being planne.

Carolyn Hax: Rarin.

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For twin bridesmaid: I think it will also help if you liken it to high school graduation. Not 100 percent parallel, since you aren't both graduating, but still apt. Graduation is a good thing, a natural part of growing, something to be celebrated. It's also a time of loss, to childhood, to childhood friends or at least not seeing them every day. Just because you are sad about the loss doesn't mean you don't want to graduate.

You may be surprised - your sister might have some of the same feelings. It's not uncommon for brides (grooms, too, I guess) to have feelings of loss about getting married. It's natural, if you think about it. Any major life change - even exciting, happy ones - involve losing something.

Carolyn Hax: I like this, thank you. So much ... fuller.

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Washington, D.C.: You included an official definition of "passive aggressive" in a previous chat. I recognize that exact behavior in my husband (and to be frank, his entire immediate family). He then gets mad/annoyed if I mention to him that I'd rather he tell me upfront that he doesn't want to do something (instead of just not doing it, doing things to make me late, etc.) He also uses the silent treatment when he's upset about something - at times going two weeks without speaking to me. The behavior gets worse the more stressed he is. When he's not stressed out it's barely noticeable and so I wasn't aware of this during the three years we dated before getting married and having a baby.

This is learned behavior and it's the "normal" way to act in his family, but how do I get the message across that the buck stops here? I learned some unattractive traits during my upbringing (like yelling during arguments) that I have addressed and irradicated. He doesn't seem to think that he needs to change, especially since I used to yell during arguments (I stopped over two years ago). I do not want our child growing up this way.

Carolyn Hax: I was about to sign off, but my eyes fell on this: I would urge you to talk to a gooood therapist, to explore ways (a) to deal with this on your own, and (b) to frame the problem for your husband in a way that will resonate vs. alienate.

Because you're invested and likely impassioned about it, you're not the best messenger right now. A disinterested third party, especially one who has led countless other couples past this very same obstacle, is less likely to trip your husband's defenses--which, from they way you describe his upbringing, must be towering. And, s/he is also likely equipped with language that is effective in getting this particular point across. Go to counseling solo at first, and work from there.

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WKRP: Now I'm remembering the "turkey" episode, and I am unable to maintain my dignity and professionalism.

Carolyn Hax: Now I'm getting misty. Thanks, everybody, have a great weekend, and see you here next week, I hope.

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Divorce and Children: The best thing my parents did when they got divorced (I was 12) was get a child advocate. Divorce makes you crazy, even with the best of intentions, and I can't even express how helpful, comforting, and stabilizing it was to talk to an adult who was there just to advise on our interests. She made sure our needs were taken into account on things like school district, custody, and religious education, and she gave us a packet of info on divorce and parenting. The most valuable thing in that was The Child's Bill of Rights (which you should be able to google and just print). My Dad lost it one evening, and I quietly left it out on the table while I hid in my room. When I came downstairs, he was reading it - and then he apologized. It was easier to speak up afterwards too - just having a list of things it was ok to ask for helped.

Carolyn Hax: Awesome, thank you.

Bye again.

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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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