washingtonpost.com
Carolyn Hax Live: Advice columnist tackles your problems

Carolyn Hax
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 3, 2010; 12:00 PM

Carolyn was online Friday, September 3, 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.

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mid-atlantic mom: Hi Carolyn - Submitting hopefully a quick and easy question a bit early. The other day I was trying to have a casual conversation with my 4-year old about safety around strangers (e.g. "what do you do if someone you don't know asks you to help them find their lost dog?"), but my message didn't quite sink in. Can you recommend any books or other resources about how to communicate personal safety to young kids without scaring them? Thanks so much!

Carolyn Hax: I'm a few chapters into "Protecting the Gift"--Gavin de Becker's follow-up to "The Gift of Fear." I like what I'm reading so far, so I'll make it my heavily disclaimed recommendation. If others have opinions on it or other books, please do weigh in.

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As plain as the nose on your face?: If you tell somebody that if they do X then you will do Y. They agree that not doing X is reasonable and agree to abide by it. You find out that they lied and did X anyway.

Is there any possible conclusion to draw than that this is their coward's way of telling you to do Y even if it means you aren't together any more?

Carolyn Hax: That's one possible conclusion. It's also possible this person truly doesn't want Y to happen, but the pull of X is stronger than his/her ability or willingness to resist it.

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Boston, MA: Carolyn,

Do you have any advice for someone who is living with a person suffering from depression? My husband has depression and I have read all the web site, pamphlets, etc. and so I know what I need to to do to support him. But no one talks about what I can do to support me. I'm naturally a very happy and outgoing person but when he's in the worst of it, by day five or six, I'm a wreck, too. I wind up weepy and sad and feeling like I need a safe, dark place to crawl into. He sees this in me and it only makes him feel worse that he's "making" me sad. Are there any resources to tell family members how to keep the darkness from enveloping us, too? I try not to take his mood personally, but I only have so much resilience and after a while, I feel frayed and worn out, too.

Carolyn Hax: Try NAMI (www.nami.org). It offers support for families of people with mental illnesses.

Less formally, I strongly recommend that you build time into your schedule that you spend by yourself, or with friends, or just doing something you love. Anything that is reliably restorative. Make it a contract with yourself that's unbreakable, and only bendable in the case of a true emergency.

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On Family Loyalty: Hi Carolyn:

I was very close to my brother's wife till about six years ago, when I learned she was having an affair with a mutual friend of all of ours. I confronted her and told her I would have to tell my brother (I mean, he's my BROTHER). She begged me not to, but would not agree to tell him herself, so I did it anyway. He forgave her and they worked through it, but SIL has still not forgiven me.

In the time since that happened, I have finished grad school, gotten married, and had a baby. Brother was minimally involved in all three events and SIL didn't acknowledge any of them. I'm so disappointed at how all this has turned out, but worst of all I don't feel like I deserve to be cut out of the family for telling the truth. What's your advice?

Carolyn Hax: Have you talked to your brother about it? Seems to me he's the linchpin--the one who needs to stand up for you, or, alternately, to give you his rationale for his "minimal involvement."

I don't necessarily think there is a rationale that would make if fair for him to freeze you out. If he has one, though, you deserve to know it, because even if he thinks it wasn't your place to get involved in his marriage, it's pretty clear that you were at least trying to do right by him. That's something you can then argue as grounds for forgiveness.

If I had to guess, though, I'd say he has forgiven you, but that his wife makes it so difficult for him to have you around that it's the path of least resistance for him to keep you at arm's length. Sad, if true, not to mention gutless.

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re: nose/face: That's really hard to take when X is old crush.

Thank you. Kind of.

Carolyn Hax: Meh. I'm sorry.

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For Mid-Atlantic mom: My martial arts school does an open-house kid safety day once a year. We talk about "good strangers" (a mom with kids) vs "bad strangers" (guy sitting alone on a bench) and what to do if someone asks for help finding their dog. There may be martial arts schools in your area who do similar activities, and I'm pretty sure most police departments would have a few events like this at fairs and such. You could probably check with them.

Carolyn Hax: interesting ideas, thanks. FWIW, the stranger distinction you describe tracks with the de Becker advice. He says to tell kids not to go to the police or a security guard when they're lost, but instead to find a mom, any mom. He argues that it's about playing the percentages.

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Pittsburgh, PA: What "rights" do parents have in regards to knowing the personal life/activities of a grown (26) and financially independent child (job with benefits, own my own home). My parents insist they are entitled to know my every move because they are my parents. I think that is both untrue and unhealthy. If I didn't respond to a phone message within 24 hours, they would start calling the police, and if I ever try to withhold the details of my Saturday night, they become very angry and claim I'm disrespecting them and they have a right to know as my parents. This just seems unhealthy to me, but I'm not sure what I can say to effectively draw a line.

Carolyn Hax: You're right, they have no entitlement here. But drawing a line effectively isn't about what you say--it's about what you do. Respond to the contact you think is healthy, and ignore the rest. For example, if they ask how you're doing, then answer them, by all means. But if they ask what you're doing, when and with whom, do not give them the answer. The first time, you say, "I don't think that's your business, and I'm not going to answer questions that are about tracking my movements." After that, you can answer the question you wish they had asked. "I'm doing great, thanks. How's work, Dad?"

As for their calling the police over unreturned calls, you're just going to have to let them face the consequences of their behavior. I am loath to encourage anything that wastes the time of your local police, but yours aren't the first parents to have boundary issues; let the police admonish them for wasting their time. You can't give in to their blackmail. Respond to your parents' messages at your own pace.

Drawing this line won't be fun. You already know they're going to push back, hard. But you support yourself now, so their pressure is going to be solely emotional. Not that that isn't significant, but you can get past that. Good luck.

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Santa Barbara, CA: Do you think there is such a thing as "artistic temperment" and that it is ok to be verbally abusive and disrespectful to people because you have it?

Carolyn Hax: Certainly creative people can come with quirky temperaments and personalities, but to generalize that all or even most of them (a) have unstable moods and (b) use that instability to excuse the abuse of other people is just insulting to creative people. I mean, whoever tried to sell you this cow chip should spend some time with Richard Thompson--artist, creative genius, and one of the most decent, even-tempered people you'll ever meet. Not that one person makes a rule, but he's one person who can put a cartoonishly large hole in the rule you're offering here.

And not to fight generalizations with generalizations, but in my experience, the people who try to hide behind an "artistic temperament" tend to be more interested in creating the persona than they are in creating art.

There's one small disclaimer here, in that there is research to suggest a correlation between bipolar disorder and creativity, but of course even having bipolar disorder wouldn't make it "okay" for someone to be verbally abusive and disrespectful. It makes it "okay" for someone to take great care to manage his or her illness.

So, short answer: No.

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San Francisco: Hey Caroyln,

I've read opine in the past about 'nice guys' who manipulate others by going over the top with favors/ gifts. I understand the danger of that type of behavior, but how do I recognize if that's me? I'm worried it is.

How do I know when one crosses the line from being a nice guy to being a 'nice guy?' And what can be done about it?

Thanks so much!

Carolyn Hax: On the good side of the line, there are people who do favors for/give gifts to specific people because those specific people stir in them the impulse to be generous.

On the bad side of the line, there are people who do favors for/give gifts to anyone who looks like a potential date or friend, because they think that's what they need to do to get that person's attention.

It's giving because you want to (good) vs. giving because you want something (bad).

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Todays cartoon: Not sure that I get what Nick was going for today in terms of the advice...

Carolyn Hax: The reader who said "every woman is beautiful" is looking for a retraction.

I guess this is what we get for going meta.

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Bethesda: Hi, Carolyn:

I just found out a close friend of mine (I'll call her Jade) has been keeping up a major lie for the past two years. (I can clarify if you want, but I doubt it matters.) A few of us suspected she was lying, so another friend used work resources to check it out and confirmed our suspicions. Now everyone knows, but Jade doesn't know we know. I'm utterly freaked out and don't know what to do.

On the one hand, I can't stand the thought of letting her go another day thinking she's fooling us. On the other hand, it has never been our intention to embarrass Jade. I'm worried about her, but I also realize I can't stay friends with someone who could keep up something so dishonest.

Carolyn Hax: Actually, I think it does matter. Some lies you can all agree to play along with (those that hurt no one and, say, give Jade a fig leaf to cover something embarrassing from her deep past), and some lies you can't (say, lies about her present circumstances that require frequent new lies to maintain the facade, or lies that cause collateral damage, like lying about being married while actively dating someone).

That said, if you've decided to end the friendship, then it does appear (from what little you've given here) as if your best course would be to tell Jade privately that you're on to her lie and that, while you're worried about her, you feel you can't trust her to be your friend any more.

But I write that with an asterisk, because I might not believe the same thing once I hear what the lie was about.

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Readers give advice: Just curious how much work is involved to create articles for when you're on vacation. At first glance, it seems that copying and pasting someone else's advice would be easy, but there's artwork to be done, editing, not to mention all the sifting that occurs before you find a great piece of advice you want ot share. So I just wonder if creating these articles create double the work for you prior to your time off. Hope you had a good vacation!

Carolyn Hax: Thanks. Producing the reader-advice weeks is time-consuming, though not as involved as producing a week's worth of columns. I try to set things aside for them as I read mail every day, so the sifting process involves going through the folder of comments that I've flagged. I look for different things--some I want to be provocative, even if I don't necessarily agree with the writer; some I'll choose just because they're beautifully written or moving; some I choose because they bring something to the argument that wasn't covered in a prior discussion of the issue.

Once I have the best candidates, then I edit them down for publication, as needed. Some I barely touch, some wind up being just one great paragraph from a much longer letter. I put these all in one word-processing file and send that file to Nick, who flags his favorites. Using (and very very rarely ignoring) his suggestions, I form them into seven columns and hope you'll at least find them interesting.

Then I go on vacation, which in this case involved not going anywhere.

The end.

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Losin' that lovin' feeling...: Dating GF for 6 months, I'm 39 she's 26. Yes, a big age diff. All's well and talking about getting engaged, etc. Then she says she needs to feel more emotion on her end and is super busy so we should "lose the label" because she doesn't have time for a r-ship. I write her note pouring out my heart. We agree to take a break for a month. She says she has hope for us and does love me. We've seen each other several times since, often at her request, but she barely hugs and pretty much won't kiss or touch me -- acts distant and emotionless. But we talk on phone/text several times a day. She days she's sorry she's not physical and thinks it's because she's tired. I take all of this at face value and tell her I love her and respect that she needs time to work through things and am here for her. Am super confused on how to be...any thoughts? How do we get back to the way things were?

Carolyn Hax: You don't. I'm sorry. The "way things were" is what got you to this exceedingly (it sounds) unhappy point. In one sense, you're not really in a confusing place at all: She broke up with you, even if she still checks in occasionally.

In another sense, I can see why those check-ins confuse you, because she has her out--she doesn't have to talk to you every day, she can just say, "It's over, I'm sorry."

Now, it's certainly possible that there's something in your poured-out-heart note that would explain her unwillingness/perceived inability to cut the last strings--say, if you suggested you might hurt yourself or her, or if you gave more general implications that your life would fall to pieces. If that's the case, then please remedy that huge mistake right now: Tell her you get it, she wants out, and pull the plug on the relationship yourself. I don't care what your circumstances are: Having someone who stays with you out of guilt is worse than being on your own.

If you're confident that you aren't radiating any guilt beams and that she's just being indecisive, then we're right where we started: You're not getting back to the way you were. Your only choices are to go where this is taking you, and that's either to a full-on breakup, or to a relationship with her that's on entirely different terms from the old ones.

I think your best move regardless is to step back and stop talking to/seeing her for a while. Not just because what you describe sounds more like torture than holding on to someone you love, but also because the only way it'll ever work if you do get back together is if you both come back to the relationship freely and as an expression of strength. My mental image of you two now involves two people kind of leaning on each other, staggering.

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Best behavior: Hi, I'm supposed to go to a house party this evening, and I've discovered one of the people on the invitation list is someone I had a falling out with eight years ago. It's possible he'll bring his partner, who was the actual source of the problem. I don't want to skip the party, nor do I want to make this into a big deal. I really don't have anything to say to either of them at this point, but even if there are a dozen or more people there it's hard to completely avoid someone. I'm also pretty bad at pretending to be nice to people I don't like. I certainly don't want to burden the host with this. Any strategies?

Carolyn Hax: Go, plan to be unshakably cool and civil. If you find that you can't hold the front, you can always just leave.

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Florida: Hi Carolyn, I think having a girlfriend is making me lazy. I used to do stuff every weekend (outdoorsy stuff during the day, checking out new restaurants and bars at night), but now my weekend routines are pretty much all the same: sit around at her place on our computers, maybe go out and eat something, come back and watch a movie. I don't think this how she spent her time before we got together, so it's probably the same for her. Any ideas on how we can shake things up?

Carolyn Hax: Is there any reason you aren't doing your former go-to outdoorsy stuff with her?

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Bethesda, the lie: The lie isn't quite as major as your examples, but still frightening because she does in fact have to tell frequent little lies to keep it up. Jade has been lying about being medical school. She talks about it all the time and claims to be starting her third year. We were always suspicious about the details she gave about her schedule (for instance, she never studies), and red flags really went up when another friend of ours actually started med school last year and told us everything Jade said about school sounded bogus.

This is especially frightening because Jade already has a pretty strange relationship with the truth. She has been caught exaggerating or outright lying about being in "relationships" with guys she's only met once. She's also really insecure about the way her looks/social life compare to her friends', even though she's pretty and incredibly funny. She lies so convincingly that I've stopped believing anything she says. I'm genuinely freaked out about all of this and don't know what to do to help her.

Carolyn Hax: Ah. Okay. First, on behalf of anguished readers (and anguished me), thank you for putting us out of our misery.

Second, I can now say my original advice stands. Tell her you know, tell her you're worried about her, tell her you don't trust her to be a friend any more. Yes, she's troubled, and it sucks to cut ties to someone under those circumstances, but she's troubled above the credential grade of any friend who isn't in a mental-health profession.

BTW, unless privacy laws have changed, there was no need for anyone to abuse their workplace access to confirm your suspicions about Jade. If you hire someone, you check their resume items, and that includes calling the registrar's office of any schools a candidate claims to attend/have attended. I've placed such calls myself (for household hires, and so not as a representative of The Post), and such confirmation was readily available.

I've been outrun by changing privacy laws before, though, so I'll just post this and wait for the corrections to pour in.

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Washington, DC: Hi Carolyn, I find myself feeling increasingly angry lately. I find myself resenting my co-workers for asking stupid/seemingly simple questions and acting like they can't something small done without panicking. I find myself wanting to hide from the world. I find myself resenting my roommate. I find myself annoyed with my parents, and ready to snap at my close friends for almost no reason. I find myself worrying about things that are out of my control. Rationally, I know there is nothing I can do, but I still let the emotional side take over and worry me a lot. I haven't been sleeping well. I feel this urge just to snap/scream at someone. I'm tired of getting attitude from people. I'm tired of having to worry about what I say to people and how it will come off to them. I'm tired of having to be diplomatic. I'm tired of worrying in general. What is wrong with me?

Carolyn Hax: That's not for me to say, but your doctor is the first one who might be able to. Get yourself in for a full physical. You want to rule out medical causes first.

If a checkup doesn't reveal any physiological causes, then you start exploring psychological causes. Two strong candidates come to mind here--first, your basic, garden-variety unhappiness, which would point you to making some strategic changes to your life to add comfort/joy and subtract stress. Maybe your job doesn't suit you, maybe you'd be better off living alone, maybe you've outgrown your friends.

It may seem like too much of a coincidence that all of these things would start irritating you at once, and that it's more likely to be a larger underlying cause than something specific--but it is possible that being in the wrong place in one or two key areas of your life can color your outlook on all areas. A miserable marriage has been known to make the sunniest people turn cranky, as have miserable jobs, for example.

The second candidate is depression. If you've checked your health, and if you've tried but failed to identify a broken part of your daily machinery, then do consider that your brain chemistry has put a gray veil over everything you see. If that's the case, it's important to seek treatment, but there are also specific measures you can take yourself that, in many people, start countering the effects of depression quickly. Those include exercise, a meticulously healthy diet and adequate sleep; talk to your doctor if you need help with the last one. The exercise is especially useful (assuming you have no health-related obstacles to working out).

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Tell her you know, tell her you're worried about her, tell her you don't trust her to be a friend any more. : Tell her she needs the help of a counselor.

Carolyn Hax: That, too, thanks. And:

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for lying Bethesda girl: Two words: Mark Hacking.

He faked being in med school and when his wife found out and confronted him, he shot her while she slept.

I'd give this chick a wide berth from now on.

Carolyn Hax: I'd never heard of this, but it's apparently true, not to mention sensational and on point, qualities we don't take lightly around here. Thanks.

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More about liars : Just found out my boyfriend has been lying about being divorced from his wife. They are still legally married because (he says) she won't take the time to complete the necessary paperwork. But he hasn't seen her in months and there is zero chance of rekindling the relationship. Is this a big deal, or not so much?

Carolyn Hax: He didn't hide this to protect your feelings, he hid this because he knew you wouldn't go out with him if you knew the truth. Huge deal? You decide.

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Washington D.C.: After more than 4 years of living together - with fantastic highs and dismal lows - my partner still claims to be "bad at cohabitation." At what point, Carolyn, do I take this to mean that he stays not-so-great at it because he just doesn't want it?

Carolyn Hax: What does it matter? Whether it's because of a choice he's making or involuntary behavior, living with him means you'll have fantastic highs and dismal lows. That's what he's offering. Either take it or leave it, but don't you dare talk yourself into believing that if it's a choice, it might change. You have four years telling you that what you see is what you get.

Actually, they're not telling you, it's more like that scene in "Airplane!" when the passengers line up to get a woman to calm down and get a hold of herself.

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Chicago: I just discovered that the man I'm casually dating lied to me. Not one of those I-don't-want-to-hurt-your- feelings white lies, but a ghastly, pathological whopper. Considering the nature of our relationship there is no excuse for this. We're not serious. Both have busy lives and are chronically unavailable. And while we share the same interests, and I like spending time with him, it is hard for me to be friends with someone who could be so pernicious with his dishonesty. I, on the other hand, overshare. So I don't really know how to break things off with him without saying, "Dude, your pants are on fire." Help.

Carolyn Hax: Hard to believe, but this one came in before Jade made whoppers the theme of the day.

In this case, I don't really see what the problem is:

1. Dump him.

2. If in executing Step 1 you overshare and say, "You told me X when it was really Y, and I have no interest in seeing you any more," is that such a bad thing?

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California: My daughter had a baby, and a month later her fiance left her. She just confided to me that she has never felt so undesirable and that she believes her changed body + being a young mom has permanently ruined her chances of finding a partner. I feel terrible about this and would love to help her, but I don't know the right thing to say. Thanks for any advice you have.

Carolyn Hax: Please encourage her to see that the answers to any questions she has about herself right now lie in the immediate needs of her new baby, and in her own need to take care of herself. Her baby needs love, care, nutrition and patience from her--and a new mom needs all of those things from herself, too. That's more than enough to occupy her for now.

And in doing these things well, she will see her value to the world grow, her body recover, her capacity for love expand beyond what she thought was possible. And that, someday, when she's good and darn ready for them to, will be the woman any potential partners see in her--at least, any partners worth a second look from her.

Being a new mom is really, really hard, and so is being dumped, so she's not going to acquire a beatific maternal glow by next Friday. On the contrary--she's at high risk for postpartum depression, so make sure you know the symptoms and urge her to talk to her OB if you see anything that's even suspiciously like PPD.

Otherwise, though, be sure to counsel patience, and, more important, give her genuine praise for rising to this challenge. That can mean noting something small she does well for the baby, or giving her a general reminder not to be so hard on herself, because what she's doing isn't easy, and child-rearing is a delayed-gratification enterprise if there ever was one.

It also means not questioning her methods or rushing in to correct her, unless it's a genuine emergency. Every parent starts out as rookie, and showing respect is often the most treasured gift new parents can get--especially from their own parents.

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British Columbia, Canada: For the cranky person. It could be depression, it could be general unhappiness, but when was the last time you went on vacation? Two weeks in a nice relaxing location without distractions can clear things up amazingly well.

Carolyn Hax: Can't argue with that, thanks.

And for those who reacted to this suggestion with, "I could never get two weeks," make -sure- that's true before you rule it out. There's some anti-vacation thinking out there that doesn't do us any good.

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Carolyn Hax: I'm still here, I just had to make a run to the kitchen. My blood sugar alarm asked for hummos and pita chips.

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Arlington, VA: How do you tell someone that no one really likes them? When I married my wife we had about ten couples that we were friendly with (2 or 3 were people she knew before we met, the rest were people I knew before we met). We're down to zero. I still do things with the men, but the couples will have nothing do with us as a couple. I've asked a good friend, and she basically told me that she and everyone else think my wife has become nasty, mean, and rude. She told me they always thought that of her, but they were willing to give her time to let everyone know her. It didn't work. In short, no one likes here, and no one wants to be anywhere near her. She's really clueless or in denial and tells me she can't understand why our friends never want to do anything. How do I explain to her that these people are no longer her friends? She doesn't have any other single friends, just a brother who rarely talks to her.

Carolyn Hax: Yoik. Does she turn it on you, or is she nice to you but nasty to others?

If it's the latter, do you recognize the specific behavior that's driving everyone away?

If so, are there ways you can break it down into a few specific things she does--backed by evidence that you show or explain to her--that might help her see what's she's doing clearly enough to work on it, without its becoming an "everybody hates you" conversation that just breaks her?

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Used, VA: One of my friendships has slowly turned into me watching her house and pets once a month while she goes on vacation, and the promises of hanging out fading away. She's obviously using me and I'm okay with losing this "friendship". However, I'd like to know how I should/should've responded to her pressing requests this week. She emailed Tuesday, asking if I'd watch her house and pets this 3-day weekend (1st email in 2-3 weeks). I didn't respond. Two more emails Wednesday (to each of my email accounts). I didn't respond. Then a text to my cellphone Wed evening. I didn't respond. I finally responded this morning with an "I'm out of town, can't do it" vague email. Since I live in a different town than she does, I feel that it's not a lie! Anyway, should I have been more direct, answered her sooner, or ignored her completely? I don't plan to continue a relationship with her, if that affects the answer.

Carolyn Hax: Would it have been tidier--and possibly very gratifying for you--had you just said, "I'm sorry, I've felt less like your friend and more like your pet-sitter lately, so, no, I will not watch your possessions this weekend"? Yes. But, given the circumstances, I can't really say you were under any obligation to respond to her e-mails.

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In defense of one-week vacations: Don't underestimate the effect of even a one-week vacation. I went on a week-long cruise recently and couldn't remember my e-mail password when I got back to the office. That says success to me.

Carolyn Hax: Hey, I'm all for even 1-day escapes, if that's all you can get. I'm speaking only to the oh-no-I-couldn't resistance to taking longer breaks.

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Simple Proposal Question: I know this may seem trivial, but I'm planning to propose to my girlfriend next week. I have the ring and an idea of where to do it. Should I ask before or after dinner?

Carolyn Hax: I'm going to say before, so you aren't all weird during dinner. Good luck!

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Maryland: What's the best way for a guy who's 23 and has never been on a date or in a relationship to begin the process of starting to date and maybe finding a relationship? I'm really at ground zero here with next to nothing for first hand experience. I have some things going for me: I'm independent, I live in a city, and, after a lot of effort and according to friends, I now look half decent. I just don't have any dating skills, which is really unnerving for me, and creepy to anyone who finds out.

Carolyn Hax: Ooh, I'm too late to throw this out to the crowd, so I'll kick it to Hax-Philes for others to weigh in.

I think the best thing you can do is start asking people out with the -expectation- that it won't go anywhere. Just date to date. It might not be the time of your life, but I think the longer you put it off, the more it'll feel like a big deal, when what you want is for it eventually to become ... if not routine, then at least a slightly nerve-wracking known commodity. It may not mean anything to the people you date, but -you'll- feel better for being able to say to someone new, "Yeah, I've dated here and there, but nothing has really clicked." It's the truth without the flashing red light, making it easier to tell. You can save the fuller version for someone you feel you can trust.

In the meantime, work on meeting people through your friends that you don't necessarily date right away. Get to know them, get somewhat comfortable with them (and them with you), and see where that takes you.

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Re: Ostracized Wife: I can't put my finger on it, but I don't like the idea that this guy is hanging out with people who hate his wife, and he's in on it but she's not. Maybe she's nasty, or maybe his group of friends doesn't like anyone who doesn't fit their precise mold.

If the wife is nasty and the guy is decent, why didn't he see this before? If this is new behavior for her, then why isn't he trying to help her? Why aren't "the friends" helping? I don't like it when a group makes a unified decision against a specific person behind her back. This is leaving a sour taste in my mouth.

Carolyn Hax: I ... dunno. That doesn't explain her not having any friends of her own, or family she's close to. That points to her nastiness, not the group's exclusiveness.

And if his wife is rude to people, I'm not sure it's on him to cut ties with all of his friends, just because one close friend spoke candidly about the wife -at the request of the husband.- The more appropriate course would be to try to help the wife see that her public manner isn't kind or productive. What she does with that information is up to her, but it's certainly the husband's place to say something.

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For Popping the Question: And if you do it -before- dinner, you might get free champagne - we did! Congrats! :-)

Carolyn Hax: Agreement from optimists, and ...

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Proposal before dinner: And if she says no, you've likely saved yourself the cost of her meal!

Carolyn Hax: Agreement from pragmatists. Thanks.

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Carolyn Hax: Ooh, that first one should have been, "Agreement from romantics." Damn.

Anyway, that's it for today. Thanks for stopping in, have a great weekend, and type to you here next Friday.

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23 dating: 23 and no dating skills wouldn't creep me out; 33 or 43 might. 23 and a 'clean slate' might be kinda fun. If I were the right age for him. :)

Carolyn Hax: Just thought I'd pass this along to our friend 23.

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Dinner Proposal: "I'm going to say before, so you aren't all weird during dinner. Good luck!"

Laughing here. I chose after, and found out later that my (now) wife thought I'd spent the entire meal on some new Nervous Tic diet.

Carolyn Hax: Just thought I'd share.

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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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