Carolyn Hax Live: Advice columnist tackles your problems

Carolyn Hax
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 10, 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, September 10, 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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Past Carolyn Hax Live Discussions

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.


Carolyn Hax: Hi everybody. Just tried to buy Caps tickets to bring the fellers to a game--over $450 for the five of us, upper tier, row O, without so much as buying a weenie and chips. Don't think we'll be catching a Caps game this year. Then again--at the football game we brought them to last weekend, two of them (independently of each other) said to me something along the lines of, "I don't want to watch football, I want to play it." Amen, dude.

Anyone else with something to complain about? I'm all fingers.


Falls Church, Virginia: Hello,

I am a brand-new reader of yours who became aware of your column when my wife cut out this past Sunday's and read it aloud to me with tears in her eyes. Like the letter- writer, I am a first-time dad-to-be who has not been very involved. However, it's not because I'm too busy or because I'm not excited to have a daughter, I just honestly had no idea there was anything I could have been doing differently. My wife is due in January and for the past several months we have talked about almost everything but the pregnancy, so I know almost nothing about it (except the gender and the due date). I hate to think of myself as a checked-out husband. I would welcome your suggestions on where to begin cleaning up my act.

Carolyn Hax: As always, I'll start with this: You've already accomplished a lot by being willing to admit you did something wrong, or at least could be doing better. A mind-boggling number of people can't even get there, and instead put their dukes up: "What do you mean I'm not involved, you're being ridiculous, it's your hormones talking." Music to divorce lawyers' ears.

The next, most-wow-for-the-buck show of support you can make is by going to her prenatal appointments with her. I can't say enough about what this does to prepare both of you as individuals, and the two of you as a couple, to become parents together. It's a time when you both can be focused, excited, scared, inquisitive--you're centered on the little person in the room just be being there.

You can also ask your wife to tell you when cool things happen. Kicks, cravings, anything.

You can start thinking about what's important to you as a parent, what values you want to teach, what drove you nuts as a kid, etc. Warning, a lot of this will be laugh-out-loud funny to people who've had kids, and eventually to you when you're a year or so into being a parent--because if you manage to stick to 1/10 of what you say you're going to do, you'll be ahead of most people; the reality of babies has a way of undoing even the loosest of plans. But, thinking about this stuff is a good exercise--not just for getting you involved, but also for anticipating things you might not agree upon. Is one of you a planner and the other a seat-of-the-pants-er? That's something to consider now, while you have the luxury of being able to finish a sentence.

I'm sure others will have ideas, so I'll post this as just a start.


dc: Carolyn, I am surprised to read that you cannot afford $450.

Carolyn Hax: Affording is neither here nor there; doesn't it seem like a lot of $ for two hours?

_______________________ Carolyn Hax: Dissing pregnant wife was just his first mistake


Fort Worth : My husband has Babylust, the only case I've ever known to affect a male. Because I always assumed I'd be the one with the hankerings, I have no idea how to deal with this. He asks on an almost-daily basis whether I'm still on birth control and I have to keep reminding him it was -his- idea to wait till we'd purchased a house.

It's kind of sweet, but it's very high-pressure; on the other hand, his case is milder than any one of my female friends'. Worth making a stink, or no?

Carolyn Hax: Wait a minute. Do you want a baby, or not? If you do, then you ask him whether he's ready to go ahead with trying to have a baby before you've bought a house. And if you don't want a baby right now, then you need to own that choice, not push it off onto him. You guys really, realy need to talk.


Alexandria, VA: An uncle died recently. We weren't close, but it looks like family is expecting everyone to show up. As an agnostic, I'm not overly interested in a nearly 5 hour round trip. I also can't easily get away from work right now.

If we'd had a buddy-buddy relationship, maybe I'd feel better. But I'm mid-40s and haven't really known him for more than half my life. I haven't even been close with my cousins, his kids, as an adult. Some of them recently friended me on Facebook, but that's it.

So am I a bad nephew if I don't take time off I can't really justify? It's not like he was ever a Best Friend Uncle. He's just my dad's last sibling, the only reason I may consider going home for a few hours.

If it makes a difference, I'm gay, gay-married, and my family has been loathe to accept my truth. For some family events, I've been told I can't bring my husband, so I don't go (and tell them why). My husband's family is totally welcoming, so we go there (locally) for most holidays.

So do I really have an obligation to go to a funeral for an uncle I really was never close to?

Carolyn Hax: The issue is whether you feel it's important to support your father by showing up. The rest is clutter.


Getting Scared : Hi Carolyn,

This year my husband and I have not had sex. This is his decision, not mine. At this point it seems normal to me. But, I know it's not.

He is currently in the midst of a job negotiation and if all goes well, he'll accept a position which will make him very happy. It will require us to move and leave me geographically isolated from friends/family and in a town which greatly limits my professional options.

I want us to work out. I want to be the person that he wants to be intimate with. But, am afraid this move would lead to an awful situation. My family has let me know that they will support any decision I make and that I am warmly wanted by them.

I don't quite know what my question is. I just know that they way we're living is striking fear in my belly.

(We have no kids or property fwiw)

Carolyn Hax: What reason has he given you for not sleeping with you?

I'm not entirely certain it matters; ultimately, your choice hinges on the health of your marriage, and if you and he aren't actively trying to fix what's broken, then the prognosis isn't good. Right now, above all else, you need to be honest with yourself.

However, his reason could be useful in sorting out what you could be doing to repair the marriage and why you aren't trying that now (assuming nothing is being done).


Oh, my gosh: Her -husband- wants a baby? Now I've seen everything!

Carolyn Hax: Yeah, I know, I almost said something.


Job Woes: I know that working full time takes the burden off of my husband, allows us to do things like travel, and provides us with great health benefits, BUT I hate my job and the 9-5 sitting behind a desk lifestyle. I miss being a mom, cooking dinner, driving the kids here and there, along with many other things that full-time work limits (seeing friends, exercising, etc...). Am I being selfish if I quit and take a lower paying part-time job?

Carolyn Hax: Yes, if you do it without working out the pros and cons with your husband. Likewise, he'd be selfish to refuse to consider a plan B that allows you to cut back your hours.

The unselfish, let's-strike-a-balance-we-can-all-appreciate path is one you'll have to negotiate. You and he need to sit down with your financial information to figure out how much of your full-time salary (and the frills it buys) you could cut out without really missing it, and at what point the lost income would really start to hurt. Then, you figure out whether there's a part-time opportunity that fits your income target. It's a bunch of ifs, but these are complicated decisions.


Re: Falls Church (Pregnancy and Dads): Doesn't the wife bear any responsibility in the case of the poster in today's chat? He said they talk about everything but the pregnancy. Has she ever brought up anything about the pregnancy? Tried to initiate conversations about how she's feeling, kicks, cravings, etc.? If not, he may not realize there's much to talk about at all, other than the fact that a baby's coming on such and such date and she can't be upset that he doesn't seem interested. If, on the other hand, she has tried to initiate such conversations and he doesn't say anything or changes the subject, then he does need to be more attentive to his wife and their pregnancy.

Carolyn Hax: Something for him to consider, thanks.


Today's column: Carolyn, I was surprised that your response to today's question didn't mention that it is rude to break plans, even if it is for family.

I would understand an emergency or for an important event like graduation, wedding, etc but this person has made plans and has rsvp'd for another event.

In previous discussions it's been said by you and other chatters that it's rude to change your response if something better comes along. Isn't this along the same lines? Her host/hostess is expecting her to come and then is told she can't make it b/c the family finally got their act together. If I was the friend I wouldn't count on this friend ever coming.

Carolyn Hax: I saw no indication that they had made plans with other people; it just said "cancel prior plans." That could mean travel, theater, sporting event, etc. ...


San Francisco, CA: I was just informed by one of my co-workers that the rest of them are "annoyed" about my upcoming maternity leave. I am taking more than half of my leave ahead of the birth, for health reasons, but people appear to think that I should work until my water breaks. I'm taking much less leave overall than the norm. I'm hurt and angry. Any suggestions for how to deal with this?

Carolyn Hax: Do you trust the informant? S/he could have an agenda, too, and not be giving you an accurate picture of what the rest of your colleagues think.


Columbia, MD: Dear Carolyn,

What's the best way to contact you about an invitation to a speaking engagement?

Thank you!

Lisa from the library

Carolyn Hax: E-mail:

I have a hungry spam filter, so re-sending never hurts, and I am often slow to respond. I don't have a lot of time but I do like to be able to say yes, and 1 + 1 = waffling, I'm ashamed to admit.


For Falls Church: Find a book (my husband liked The Expectant Father by Armin Brott)or online articles for fathers-to-be, and read a little bit. Then tell your wife about what you read... if you thought it was interesting, silly, scary, whatever. My husband's not a huge reader and not always very communicative, but it meant the world to me when he'd take initiative to read and start a discussion with me. Probably only happened a few times during the pregnancy, but it made a difference.

Carolyn Hax: Nice idea, thanks.


Re: Getting Scared: I think what Carolyn said is right. All these surrounding reasons don't make any difference, and I think you're just citing them to distract yourself from a bigger problem. He doesn't want any physical intimacy. You'd better find out why and fast. This will be a great help in deciding what to do about your marriage.

By the way, Dan Savage calls this sort of thing emotional abuse. Albeit a bit dramatic but as a victim of it myself he's right on the money.

Carolyn Hax: Agreed. If there has been no communication AND no effort to address whatever underlying problem has led to the decision to avoid sex, then it's forcing estrangement on someone while also denying them the freedom to find love somewhere else. The recipient of this chilly package has only two lousy choices: Leave the marriage, or remain lonely inside it.


NOVA: I am unhappy. Plain and simple. I cry about one-two times a week and want to talk to someone to help me get back to the person I used to be. Problem- health insurance. Are there any free or super cheap alternatives?

Carolyn Hax: Call The Women's Center (which serves men and women): 703-281-2657. It's based in Vienna, Va., and there's also a D.C. branch. You can get that number plus other information at

I also suggest, if you're physically up to it and if you can find even 30 min. in your daily schedule, that you try to get some exercise. Just taking a walk can be useful. Don't skip the depression screening and recommended treatment, but there's a proven link between exercise and improved moods--and, it's something you can start doing while you figure out how you're going to get and afford help.


New Dad: I wanted my baby. Just because the majority of advice-seekers are women trying to convince their husbands to have kids, or the majority of male Hollywood characters aren't interested in fatherhood, doesn't mean that every father had to be tricked or browbeaten into it. Just sayin'

Carolyn Hax: Not for nuffin, but a lot of people are writing in to defend the idea of men as eager fathers, when in fact it was just one person who expressed shock today at a man who wanted to have children. This view does not represent the views of anyone at Carolyn Hax(TM), formerly Tell Me About It(TM), or any non-Hollywood or non-stereotypical entity of which or whom I'm aware.


New York: How do I stop myself from drawing conclusions about my ability to be in a relationship from the fact that my two older siblings are both single and don't date much and are in their late 30s, early 40s?

And my mom really wants grandkids (and I'm reaching ticking clock age but not sure if I want kids) and I've been basically celibate (not by choice) for about 3 years.

Carolyn Hax: First thing I suggest is that you stop dwelling on things that have nothing to do with anything. What your sibs do is irrelevant here, as is what your mom wants.

The circumstances of your life, on the other hand, are relevant. So, next step: Taking only what you can control (where you live, how you care for yourself, what you do for a living, how you spend your free time, how you treat the people you care about), ask yourself, are you living the life you want to live?

If yes, is there something you'd like to add to that picture to increase the likelihood of your finding a mate? And if it's not the life you want to be living, are you taking concrete steps in a more desirable direction?

These are your primary concerns right now, and tending to them is your best chance at answering your bigger questions about relationships, believe it or not.

It's when such attempts to get your life in order confuse you, or lead you to unforeseen dead-ends, or otherwise fail, that's when I'd suggest you consider enlisting the help of a pro. Even then, the focus needs to be on what -you- feel and what -you- want--though your mom and sibs will probably be useful in figuring some of that stuff out. It's just important to keep them in their proper perspective.


Balto, MD: Carolyn, love your chats and column. Here's my question: husband and I split up and it's been ugly on and off throughout separation and divorce process. My family has been super supportive, of course since they are my family but also because we all discovered he was cheating so I am now looking like innocent victim... except I wasn't so innocent either during the marriage. Do I tell them I gave as good as I got? Or just soak up the sympathy?

Carolyn Hax: (a) Tell them you gave as good as you got.

You don't owe them any details--marriage is private--but you do need to remedy the emotional fraud you're committing by soaking up their sympathy. You'll have to say it in your words, but here are mine, just to give an example of the points to cover: "Listen, I appreciate your rallying to my side, but I am not comfortable with vilifying Exie. The problems in our marriage went both ways, and it feels unfair of me to go along with this narrative that it's all his fault."


no complaints dept.: I'm sitting on the lawn watching a kitty bask in the sun and a bunny chew on leaves/have a turf war with a squirrel, before I go to meet an old friend for brunch, before starting a new job this afternoon (after being un-/underemployed since mid-Oct) at a place I really wanted to work (after they offered me a job without my even asking).

So...I'm trying to come up with a complaint but maybe that will have to wait a few days...I guess I -am- having a birthday this weekend and I -am- getting just about too old to have a child with no partner in sight. Meh...somehow that doesn't bother me today like it did yesterday....have a great day, and thank you!

Carolyn Hax: No no, thank you. My heart's with the bunny, but cash is on the squirrel.


Washington D.C.: I could really use some help. I couldn't sleep last night because my heart was pounding so fast and I felt like I was going to throw up.

I had had a phone conversation with my boyfriend that culminated in him telling me he can't do this anymore. That sounds like an open-and-shut case I'm sure, but to me it's not.

We got together 5 months ago and it was perfect. I had never been as happy in a relationship as I was with him, and I was convinced I found the perfect guy. But after two months he graduated college (I graduated a year earlier) and traveled all summer. He started graduate school in a state 8 hours away by car in August and I visited him there.

That was the first time we saw each other in almost three months, and we had struggled in the interim to keep things together. I told myself we just hadn't gotten enough time together in the beginning to get a strong footing, but that we would with more time.

Since my visit, things have been going downhill for other reasons. He has been adjusting to school and finding it difficult. I have been wanting to be there for him, but I have been stewing over my own issues that I have tried desperately to fight but yet they keep popping back up, each time with more force.

I have done long-distance twice before; third time around, I thought I could handle it better than previous times, which were very hard, because he is so special to me. But I feel more vulnerable than ever before partially because I'm more scared than ever of losing him, partially because I've only seen him that one time and partially because I am panicking with how downhill we seem to be going, when we were so high in the beginning and shared such promise.

I know we have amazing potential, but we have been arguing for weeks about whether to be together or not. Mainly it has been me flip-flopping, and now he has told me enough is enough. But I want to be with him so badly. I just need to be stronger.

I want the past few weeks to be just an adjustment period that we pushed through. He agreed we'd talk again about this because he doesn't want to break things off (despite what he said on the phone)but I know I have pushed him to the limit and he's scared I'll flip to the other side again.

But I know what I want and it's him. I just need to figure out how to be better at long distance, to be strong and independent and secure. Please help me. I don't want to lose him, and at this point, I think there's a good chance that I have. But if he gives me one more chance, I need to do this right.

Carolyn Hax: Strength, independence and security come primarily from you, and they're qualities that are almost impossible to cultivate while you're actively depending on someone else to provide things for you to feel happy about.

For that reason alone, extracting yourself from this long-distance mess would be the biggest favor you could do for yourself right now--preferably if you follow it up with a firm commitment to yourself not to get into a relationship until you find a way to live on your own, drama-free, and without a sense that you're missing something by being on your own. Deep breathing, soul searching and possibly a therapist are other items to consider.

There are other, significant reasons to walk away from this now, though.

First, there's the fact that you barely know each other. Five months together - three months apart = very little information about and knowledge of each other. It's no wonder that your relationship consists of conversations about your relationship; that's the bulk of what you have in common.

Second, you're both barely out of college, and he at least has just embarked on something very new, very far from you. If you love him, set him free--not because he'll return to you, but because he'll get the most out of graduate school if he doesn't have strings attached to him that cross 8 states. You, too, will gain far more from relationships you form and nurture locally.

Third, you're in your third long-distance relationship? And this relationship is the happiest experience you've had? I realize this is an offshoot of my main point, but you're sitting amid abundant evidence that you're chasing happiness in the form of inaccessible people. Please see that as a sign that there's some unhappiness in you that you're trying to outrun. The adrenaline rush of passion and separation and teary phone calls is all temporary, and when it's over, there's you. Please turn your attention to doing whatever is necessary to make that "you" phase something you appreciate, not fear.


Carolyn Hax: I didn't proofread that, so i hope there weren't any howlers.


Anywhere, USA: My husband suffers from depression and is currently hospitalized due to a recent (this week) suicide attempt. He is schedule to come home soon and I am looking for support for me in how to deal/cope with all of this. I thought you might know if there was a group (I am thinking Al-Anon) for family of people with depression. Thanks.

Carolyn Hax: I;m sorry--this must be such a scary and exhausting time for you both.


Narcissist?: How can I tell if my boyfriend is a narcissist or just really busy?

He talks a lot about how people at work admire him and compliment him; he seems to somewhat obsess over keeping his weight at a certain level; and he is always telling me of "good things" he's done for others.

With me, he seems to parcel out his time and emotions. Some days he is extremely affectionate and open with me, but other days, he seems oddly distant and keeps the conversation at a superficial level.

I just overall get the sense that he tries to "manage" me. I feel like he wants me to think highly of him, so he tells me only positive things with regard to his feelings for me. He has actually told me that he doesn't share negatives with me because he doesn't want me to feel badly, or because he doesn't want to mar a happy day we are spending together. But that seems like an odd way to conduct a relationship.

Carolyn Hax: Have you said that to him?

And, more importantly, do you like being with him? If this isn't the kind of relationship you want, then whether he's a narcissist, really busy, controlling or the most positive man on earth is irrelevant--he's just not the guy you want to be with.


Chicago, IL: Re: Job Woes

Carolyn -

Would it be selfish of him to ask her to commit to working full time so he could take a break and do the full time dad gig? At the risk of being politically incorrect, my husband's uncle once told me "Women have options. Men have responsibilities." That really hit me, and made me re-think my expectations of my husband. Thoughts?

Carolyn Hax: No, it wouldn't be selfish--he has just as much of a right to ask for family time as she does. And if they both want it, 1. Yay for those kids, right, to have both parents wanting to be available to them? 2. Both of them will have to figure out, together, what makes sense for each of them specifically and for the family as a whole.

Which, you'll notice, is exactly what my answer was to the original question. the genders do not affect the answer, in my opinion--not unless you're willing to accept other assigned gender roles in other areas. Integrity counts.

Your husband's uncle was helping to perpetuate a stereotype--but it's one I've seen women as well as men embrace. There are plenty of mothers who are their family's primary breadwinners, who encourage the fathers to be stay-at-home dads, etc., but I've seen my share of questions from women who are frustrated with, even disgusted by men who get a little too comfortable in the househusband role--just as there are plenty of fathers who see a mother as the one who needs to back-burner a career on behalf of the kids.

To add another layer of complexity, there's plenty of resentment, too, for the home spouses--male or female--who ask for or agree to the role of housespouse, but who wind up not doing a whole lot to benefit/support the spouse who spends all day at work. Once the heavy lifting of small kids is behind these parents, and the exercise-and-see-friends phase is well under way, it's really important to actually -do- the cooking, planning, chauffeuring, etc. that was offered as initial justification for cutting back on paid work.

And in any of these cases, when something seems unfair/out of whack (yes, whack), people need to SAY something. So many of these resentment-cancers are quietly growing out there.


Chicago IL: Hi Carolyn! thanks for the chat. I hit the big 4-0 last year, took a big self-inventory and made a bunch of changes. I've dropped 40 pounds, re-connected with some friends I lost touch with, spend more time with nieces/nephews, got out of a dead relationship and find that I have absolutely zero interest in dating. Like I'd rather have root canal than spend three hours getting to know someone else over an overpriced meal. I'm perfectly happy. But of course my family/friends find this weird, try to set me up, and find my reluctance annoying to the point one SIL said she was worried about me. So how do you convince people that care about you that you're fine when they don't think you are?

Carolyn Hax: You don't. When they say they're worried about you, you just smile beatifically and say, "You'll be okay." (Odd pronounage intentional.) And when they suggest things you don't want to do, you smile and say, "No, thanks"--and for the pushy who don't accept that, "Thanks, I'll keep it in mind." Smiling! You just ... float. They'll think you're weird, which is okay, but more important, by giving them zero traction, they'll eventually back off---which is great.

Congratulations, btw,


Narcissist: Wow, I think you are dating my ex. IHMO, he should become your ex too....

Carolyn Hax: IHMO--"I holler most openly"?


"He has actually told me..." : "He has actually told me that he doesn't share negatives with me because he doesn't want me to feel badly, or because he doesn't want to mar a happy day we are spending together."

Thus leading you to overanalyze every nanosecond you spend with him. If he's not manipulating you, he's neurotic himself. Run.

Carolyn Hax: or,

He's talking rot. Run.


RE uncle's funeral: This question was posted early on. Amen to your response that cut right through the clutter, Carolyn.

However, I really, really hoped you'd find a way to respond to this line: "As an agnostic, I'm not overly interested in a nearly 5 hour round trip." HUH? From now on, I plan to use "As an agnostic" as a preface to any statement I make about what I do not want to do.

Carolyn Hax: As an atheist, I'm not comfortable parsing his travel preferences.


Carolyn Hax: Getting punchy here, Boss.


State College, PA: How do I stop wasting time? I spend too much time on the computer and not enough time doing things that are going to enhance the lives of those I love. Please. Give me some motivation.

Carolyn Hax: Well, could be one of a few things:

Could be you need to make lists, and stay off your computer (the stuff you want to do) until you cross of X number of things on your list. Work, reward, work, reward.

Could be you're agreeing to do things (enhancing lives and all that) or thinking you should be doing things that ultimately aren't that rewarding to you. People procrastinate the stuff they don't want to do. If it's cleaning the bathroom, then, okay--not too many people want to do that, and most have to. But if the thing you're avoiding through procrastination is spending time with family and so-called friends, or working on hobbies, or doing career-development stuff, then maybe you've chosen friends/hobbies/a career path that isn't as suited to you as you've led yourself to believe. Not being passionate about the -optional- parts of your life is a cue to take a closer look at your choices.

Could be you've got detailed lists and fulfulling passions, but you're overextended and need to sleep more, and more regularly, before you have any hope of being productive. Fatigue is a time- and motivation-killer.

And, could be you've got detailed lists and fulfulling passions, but your brain chemistry has you Web surfing for five hours and then scrambling to salvage your day for the last hour and a half.

Only you are in a position to spot the winner.


Re uncle's funeral: I'm guessing he meant as an agnostic, the funeral rites aren't a big deal to him, so why bother with 5 hours in the car.

Carolyn Hax: I know, but you have to admit, it read funny.


IHMO: It is "Yoda-speak" for: "Is humble, my opinion..."

Carolyn Hax: Of course, silly me.


Narcissist: She could be dating MY ex, too. (Who, when he became well known and wealthy, started denying he had a girlfriend and lying about everything from feeding the cat to infidelity.)

My two cents: How does he respond to criticism? Narcissists often turn it around on the person raising the issue, and make it a fight to mask what the person is saying. I don't mean that you're actually criticizing him -- but when you raise any sensitive issue, even if it's "It upsets me when this happens" or "I am sad when this happens," does he perceive it as criticism and shut down? That will tell you everything about whether you had a future. I could never ask for anything to change, because it would result in his yelling at me or shutting down -- a total persecution complex. Good actual narcissism disorder makes a relationship almost impossible to survive.

Carolyn Hax: This appeared in my queue right after this one:


RE: Job Woes: Hi Carolyn, I have recently discovered that talking with my partner about my concerns about our financial situation (not job situation, but similar issues) was not met with anger, denial, or any other bad reactions that I've gotten in the past. She was concerned, too and has been working her -ss off to get more clients (she's self-employed). I felt so -heard-! I guess I was so used to being dismissed or told that my feelings were "wrong." I'm so glad I picked a "good one" this time! I can see why people find it hard to bring up difficult topics, but if you can't, then (as harsh as this sounds), you might be with the wrong person. But please, try talking about issues with your partner!

Carolyn Hax: ... and together they make an eloquent, first-person, pain-forged case for making SURE you can talk about difficult things with your partner before you make any kind of commitment. It's the difference between feeling safe with someone, and not feeling safe.

Big thanks to both of you.


Chilly Package: Lovely: I suppose that's what I am. No interest anymore in sex with my (lovely, loveable) husband of a decade. Not really sure why but feeling like an awful person about it makes it worse, I can assure you. We--I--am not doing anything to fix it, not because I don't want him happy and me unbroken and us together, but because I can. not. see. paying a stranger for me to tell him/her all about my sex life. Just can't. So: can this marriage be saved?

Carolyn Hax: Have you talked to him about it? That was half of the equation--that you're open about both your absentee sex drive and your guilt/despair at not being there for him in this way. Once you've talked about it, then you can move on to figuring out what, if anything, you're willing to do about it.


re the "narcissist": Hi Carolyn,

Well I don't share some of the characteristics of this guy - I don't go around emphasizing how people say I am wonderful etc - but the part about not sharing negatives hit home. I have a tendency to find it very hard to share negative thoughts and probably do get distant rather than speak up about what it bothering me. I've had this problem for my whole life and I know it is not productive, and am trying to work on it. But it doesn't come out of wanting to manage or manipulate anyone. It is out of fear of not being loved if I am not perfect. That may also be true of the "narcissist" boyfriend. Just a thought.

Carolyn Hax: You had me until you wove the possible narcissist back in at the end. That person had a lot more going on than just an unwillingness to share negative thoughts--including, but not limited to, a professed desire not to make the other person feel bad. That's a boundary violation among other boundary violations, all pointing to a guy who feels it's his place to control the way others perceive him. The red flags have red flags.

What you describe is very real, and something else. (Related, maybe, but there's a lot of distance between you on the spectrum.)

I don't know what you're doing to work on it, but aside from the standard choices--therapy, consciousness of your patterns--I hope you'll take a hard look at the people you've chosen as companions. If you're drawn to people who are moody, sensitive or unforgiving, then you may be re-creating the environment that taught you to keep all your bad news inside. Seeking out people who won't punish you for your frailties can be a revelation.


Re: Wasting Time: What do you suggest if it's the brain chemistry causing the procrastination/rush?

Because that's the winning answer for me.

(Not the Original Poster, but still interested)

Carolyn Hax: Get screened for ADHD--or, postpone that step and try to apply some of the behavioral adaptations recommended for people with ADHD, and see if that helps. If it doesn't help or just doesn't help enough, then you can make an appointment.


re: chilly package: Sounds like this person is averse to seeing a therapist regarding her lack of sex drive, but it could be physical/medical, e.g., side affect of medications (or really, almost anything could cause it). Has she talked with her OBGYN? It struck me that she immediately thought it was a problem that required therapy...

I have a similar issue and talking with my OBGYN helped. We're switching up medications to see if it has an effect, but most importantly, she made me realize it's very common and gave me some good phrases/tools to use when talking about it with my husband, which I know have helped him understand my side and what I'm going through.

Carolyn Hax: I think that's an excellent start, thanks. If it turns out that it isn't physiological, then this doctor visit plus the talk with her husband I hope will break down some of the resistance to getting therapy.


Oh no!: "And, more importantly..."! You must be getting tired! ;) I almost never see any usage or grammar errors in your writing, which is amazing, especially because you must write very quickly for these chats!

Carolyn Hax: Well, now that you mention it ...

I'm outta here. Thanks all, have a great weekend, and type to you here next week.

And since tomorrow is tomorrow: Here's to you, Murph, you're sorely missed.


Re: Chilly Package: Okay so consider this.

You "can't see" yourself telling a stranger a bunch of intimate details, but you don't have any problem rejecting your husband and pushing him away. Okay so you feel bad about it, but not bad enough to want to alleviate the pain and alienation he feels. Have you ever thought about thinking about things from his point of view? Can you even fathom being rejected from the one person who is supposed to love you and care for you and care ABOUT you?

Why is it okay to treat an unnamed, yet-to-exist stranger better/differently than your husband?

You keep that up he may not be your husband for much longer.

Carolyn Hax: Needed to be said, thanks. And:


Kensington MD: I love the question about how to spend less time on the computer. Asked in a chat. Irony abounds.

Carolyn Hax: And:


Classic example of turning criticism around: Maybe my college roommate was a narcissist. She borrowed a pair of earrings my mom gave me for Christmas (without asking), wore them out, and lost one. When I complained, she said, "Well, I guess I'm just not as caught up in material possessions as you are."

Carolyn Hax: Just things that seemed importantly to share. Bye for real.


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