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Carolyn Hax Live: Advice columnist tackles your problems (Oct. 1, 2010)

Carolyn Hax
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 1, 2010; 12:00 PM

Carolyn was online Friday, October 1, 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.

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Carolyn Hax: Hi everybody. Since Style today seems to be unusually Facebooky, I'll start with a reminder to check out my page, www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax

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Albuquerque Auntie: Dear Carolyn,

My sister's husband was having not one but two affairs, and when my sister found out, she asked him to leave and he left. I never would have expected her to be able to do something so tough, and was very proud of her.

She has decided not to tell her 25-year-old daughter the reason for the split because she doesn't want her to hate her father. I am quite close to my niece, and when I last spoke to her it was clear she blames her mom for the split (they have a rocky relationship anyway). She seems so angry. I'm writing to ask your permission, so to speak, to take my niece into confidence and tell her the truth about the separation. I do not want her to hate her dad, but it seems royally unfair that she should blame her mom, the victim.

Carolyn Hax: I don't know how I feel about your telling outright; even though you'd be doing it to protect your sister, it still seems like betraying a confidence to me. I'll have to think about it more.

In the meantime, I think it's totally appropriate to say to your niece, "Any time a couple splits, the responsibility is shared. I also happen to know, though, that your mom is not the one who is primarily to blame. I suggest you reserve judgment for when you have more information about what happened."

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20th high school reunion: My spouse can't understand why I don't want to go back to my 20th high school reunion. He/she is very sociable, but I am more shy and really disliked the whole high school experience because of the way many people acted. Conversely, my spouse loved his/her reunions and doesn't understand why anyone wouldn't want to attend. But I just don't want to relive memories that weren't good in the first place. Fortunately, we are far away, so I have a built in excuse for the reunion organizers, but my spouse knows the real reason. So the real question is, how do shy people tell sociable people that they really don't want to be around 200 people that they barely like or know?

Carolyn Hax: Um. How about pointing out that not everyone in the universe thinks and feels as s/he does? Surely your spouse isn't so self-absorbed as to believe that just because s/he likes something, there's no such thing as a legitimate argument against wanting that same thing ...

Or maybe s/he is. If so, then getting your point across about a reunion is a blip. The real problem is being married to someone who so lacks empathy as to have no grasp of his/her spouse's personality and temperament.

Not that there's an easy fix to that, but here's some suggested phrasing to start making a dent in the wall of cluelessness you married: "I understand that from your perspective, reunions aren't to be missed. My perspective is different, though, and I hope you'll try to see it through my eyes--or, if nothing else, just to acknowledge that my take can be completely different from yours and still be no less legitimate."

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Carolyn Hax: It doesn't sound this way from your phrasing, but the facts leave room for the possibility that your spouse -is- aware of and sympathetic to your viewpoint--and just thinks you're closing your mind to something based on the impressions of a high-school-age version of yourself. There's a legitimate argument to be made there: that pushing past your shyness and doubts and going to this reunion could help you put some of your bad memories to rest.

It's not always true, but it is often true that the people you found so awful in high school have grown into decent people, and you wind up talking to all kinds of people you never even spoke to when you were students. If that's the basis for your spouse's enthusiasm for going, then it's still ultimately your call, and s/he shouldn't keep pushing, but it would be worth hearing him/her out nonetheless. This would make your spouse's position an informed and pro-you argument, vs. the argument of someone who has no idea s/he's married to an introvert.

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Betrayal: Hmmm...I think even saying what you suggest to the daughter is likely to be a betrayal of what the aunt promised the mother. I think the aunt needs to go to her sister and tell her frankly that her decision not to tell her daughter any details is backfiring and as a result her daughter is blaming her and angry at her for disrupting their marriage. Tell her that she at least needs to tell her daughter what you said. Then leave it to the mother to handle. It is the mother's life and not the aunt's and it really isn't the aunt's business.

Carolyn Hax: Thanks for the opposing view. Will mull that too.

I do still think it's okay for the aunt to say that it takes two people to get married, and two people to end a marriage. In fact, the 1st and last lines of what I said don't tip anyone's hand: "Any time a couple splits, the responsibility is shared. I suggest you reserve judgment for when you have more information about what happened."

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Smoker's dilemma: Carolyn,

Quickie: I smoke, SO doesn't. Never light up in front of SO. SO still says dealbreaker, wants me to quit. SO knew I smoked when we started dating, but I guess neither of us were thinking of getting serious, now we are. Neither of us wants to budge on "principle." Honestly, I'd quit if SO were willing to curtail the habits I despise, but there's been no success on that front, so it just seems controlling. Any way around this?

Carolyn Hax: What's the nature of the habits you despise?

I get your point about controlling, however, you have a habit that's both nearly impossible to defend, and also a legitimate potential burden for a mate. The obvious one is that you're choosing a path that routinely leads to a premature death (often after a long-drawn-out, expensive horrible illnesses), but you're also acquiring bad smells, wrecking your skin, yellowing your teeth and nails, limiting your ability to be active later in life, and lighting an astonishing amount of money on fire. If there's any talk of your having children, that adds a whole new raft of problems that smoking is proven to cause.

Smoking is legal, yes, but I suspect we wouldn't be having this conversation if, say, your friend were telling you that the marriage was off unless his/her betrothed kicked an addiction to illegal or prescription drugs, or to alcohol. Wouldn't be you advising your friend to make sure the problem were under control before taking any vows?

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Carolyn Hax: Those were all issues on top of a fundamental, underlying problem: You're not unwilling to quit, you're just digging in as a statement of power. That's exceedingly immature of you. Either you love your SO and appreciate that there are dozens of reasons to quit smoking that have nothing to do with your relationship--in which case you quit smoking--or you don't trust yourself or your SO enough to undertake a shared life. In that case, you need to articulate what you think is wrong with the relationship, and ways that you think each of you can adjust to make it better. Defining a battle issue and then digging in is a foolproof recipe for antagonism, and that's the perfect opposite of what makes a couple happy: looking out for each other as extensions of yourselves.

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Warren, NJ: Hi Carolyn,

When I was in college, a friend told me that my eating habits were 'atrocious'. Ok, she could have been a little nicer about it, but in the end, I am so grateful for her preventing future embarassment for me.

I chewed with my mouth open, talked with food in my mouth, and smacked my lips. Now, I try my best not to do those things.

However, my sister (34) and mom (65) still do. My mom is thinking of dating again and I think this would help her (ok I am a little selfish too - it is irritating listening to someone with food in their mouth). I've tried to ask them to not chew with their mouth open but they either make a big sigh and do it or get defensive.

Am I doing the right thing? Or do I live and let live?

Carolyn Hax: The transaction of good advice has two parts: someone who is willing to give constructive criticism despite the risk of offending someone, and someone who is willing to receive constructive criticism without taking offense. Back in college, you were lucky to have a completed transaction. Now, you've got only half of the deal; in resisting your efforts so far, your mom and sister have let you know that's as far as you're going to get.

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Arlington - With regard to "Betrayal": Why dance around the truth? Why not allow the 25-yr old to deal with her mother and her father's actions with at least the basic facts? It seems the mom is way overstepping her boundaries by not wanting her daughter to have to deal with the truth. I agree that the aunt shouldn't violate trust, but certainly go back to the mother and tell her "either you tell her the truth in the simplest of terms, or I will". I don't mean to badmouth the dad but to simply offer facts. The daughter will figure things out, as she needs to.

Carolyn Hax: This is part of the reason I wanted to think about it some more. It's a lie of omission, and Mother has made Aunt complicit. It's a matter of who owns the truth. I could argue that the details of a marriage belong to the two people in the marriage, but when that "detail" is as consequential as this one is, and is already known to some people outside the marriage, and seriously affects some of those outside people, then the truth arguably becomes bigger than just the couple's.

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No City: I had a "best" friend for 15+ years. We went through a lot together but as the years went on I discovered we weren't quite as alike as we thought. I often found myself at a crossroads, feeling like it would be easier to just let things drift apart than to work at a friendship that was not working.

In the past few years, I was blessed with children. At the same time, she and her husband discovered they will not be able to have children without medical help. We tried to talk about it but she resented me and it got in the way of any conversation. She ended up closing me off for more than a year.

Then she "rediscovered" me on Facebook and wanted to be besties again. She sent an email to apologize for avoiding me (and avoiding meeting my children) for so long. When I was cooler than she expected, she sent another email asking if we could start over. I ignored it.

Now I'm wondering if I should have ignored it. After 15+ years, do I owe her an explanation? Do I tell her how much it stung that she cut me & the two most important people to me out of her life because of envy? Is it even worth it at this point?

Carolyn Hax: I can't answer that for you. Seems to me, though, that you've got nothing to lose by seeing her and talking to her. If the conversation reinforces all of your doubts about her, then you don't have to see her again after that. But refusing to respond is tantamount to saying you refuse to allow for the possibility that she has grown up over the past couple of years--and, in a way, that's saying you refuse to grow up, too.

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Ending a relationship: It does take two people to get married, but sadly it sometimes takes only one to end the relationship. One person can be abusive, alcoholic and refuse to change, constantly dismissive of spouse's needs, absent mentally or physically...the list is endless. Or one spouse may just have fallen out of love and want a divorce and the other spouse has no recourse. The responsibility for ending a relationship is not always evenly shared.

In the case cited, the niece could even decide it is her mom's fault that her dad had affairs, sadly.

Carolyn Hax: I didn't say -evenly- shared, just, shared. There's a big difference.

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Preemptive holiday question: My brother-in-law was in a bad car accident this summer, and the disfigurement to his face required a lot of cosmetic surgery. His scarring is significant.

My two small children haven't seen him since then, and I'm nervous about the holiday get-togethers coming up over the next few months. The kids are at an age where it's almost impossible to predict what things they will and won't find worth mentioning (my older child mortified me by asking her dark-skinned Indian teacher why her skin was so dirty). The little one is certainly too young to respect any warning I might offer about his uncle's new face. This is a very depressing time for my BIL and I don't want to make things worse--should I find a way to put off the kids' seeing him till they're a little older?

Carolyn Hax: Treating him like a scary monster and keeping your kids away is not the way to help a loved one through a depressing time. That may not be your intent, but that's what you're doing.

Yes, your kids are going to say what they'll say, since it's impossible to filter kids completely. But it sounds as if both your kids and their uncle need each other right now. He could use some of the sweetness and natural acceptance that kids offer, and the kids could use a lesson in accepting differences in people.

To make their initial encounters go as smoothly as possible, warn your kids that their uncle looks different on the outside but is the same Uncle Whatsis on he inside. And, warn your brother-in-law that your kids are going to be curious and might say out loud some things that adults never would. No doubt he knows that, but a reminder couldn't hurt.

Make sure you supervise and teach during their first couple of encounters--give factual answers to your kids' questions where warranted, or encourage your BIL to, and let them know gently when a question is impolite.

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For No City: Your friend was going through something devastating when she and her husband found out they wouldn't be able to have children naturally. You didn't deserve to have it taken out on you, but it doesn't actually sound like she was cruel to you or your children - it sounds like she distanced herself from a situation that she was unable to handle in the face of her own hardship. She's apologized for losing touch, and it sounds to me like she's in a healthier place now - if you value the friendship at all, I'm not sure why you would be ignoring her like this.

Carolyn Hax: A few others wrote in to make this same point, but this is the most charitable.

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Re: No City: I have been good friends with someone for nearly 30 years (since college) and we live around 34 miles from each other. I am getting divorced (will be final today) because my husband deserted the family. Meanwhile, she has a sick daughter and a husband who lost his job but has found a new one recently. She doesn't have a full time job but has 3 kids st home, including the ill child. I really need to see her just to have some continuity in my life and because I like her and think she's having a hard time too, but she has made it clear that she doesn't have time to slot me in. All I'm asking for is dinner or brunch. I'm feeling like she's really not there for me. I told her that was fine & that I would be her friend whenever she has time for me, but I'm really not feeling it. What do you think? Is this friendship kaput?

Carolyn Hax: Would you be willing to spend time with her in a way that helps her?

"Dinner or brunch" takes her away from responsibilities that, from the sound of it, she has to prioritize over you. Yes, she might be able to get a babysitter, but the lost job suggests money problems, and if she has "free" care (a relative nearby or a neighbor willing to trade off with her occasionally) she might be hoarding those opportunities for when -she- really needs them, not for when someone else needs her, no matter how legitimate that need.

If what you want is just this friend's companionship and the continuity that affords you, tell her you're ready to bring the friendship to her on her terms--be it to tag along and help out as she runs errands, or to babysit for two kids while she runs the third to the doctor, whatever she needs. As an added benefit, that might get you out of your own head for a day, a place you've no doubt spent a lot of time during this difficult phase of your life.

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Estranged Sister: Hi Carolyn, I have 3 sisters and 2 brothers; generally, we're close even though we live in different states. One sister, the youngest of the family, is the quintessential "baby". You know--spoiled rotten (when none of the rest of us were), selfish, got away with everything growing up, knew no responsibility, etc. Even as a young child (think 4 yo) she was manipulative and would do her best to get others in trouble, especially myself. Since I always -was- in trouble-for other reasons-it always stuck, and as we grew up, I came to resent her. Her behavior as an adult has continued--i.e. manipulative, drama queen, etc. It got to a point a few years ago where I now really dislike her. We have not been in contact for a few years, even though she has recently (w/in last year) tried to establish contact. My life has enough stress in it, I really don't wish to add more--so I have ignored her efforts.

Although I feel justified in not staying in touch, I do wonder if -I- am now being the selfish one to not at least contact her. At what point does one decide that you are not being a charitable, forgiving person, even to someone who has caused you so much pain?

Thanks for your thoughts!

Carolyn Hax: Interesting. I read your description of your little sister, and all I could think was, this poor kid. You say "spoiled," I say "neglected"--i.e., parents were out of energy and let everything slide when for you guys they held the line. (Holding the line is a gift to children, make no mistake.) You say "selfish," I say, "left to her own devices." You say "drama queen," "manipulative," and "would do her best to get others in trouble," and I say, "lonely," and "begging, screaming for attention."

For every child who brings these negative behaviors into adulthood, there's a point when adulthood kicks in, and the responsibility becomes theirs. This isn't a pardon for all obnoxious people.

However, it sounds as if you, for your part, have yet to turn an adult eye to your sister's--and your--childhood. Maybe she was just as ill-served by you as you were by her--and maybe all of you are still carrying around biases formed in a household that spun a bit out of control.

Re-position yourself to view her with a bit more sympathy, and return her effort to get in touch. Maybe you're both ready to bring out better sides of each other than you have in the past.

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Re: Dinner or Brunch: Carolyn, I think that the writer who wants to see her friend for dinner or brunch not only wants to get together, she'd like a pleasant escape from her problems. I wouldn't think she wants to run errands or babysit. Maybe if she could offer to treat?

Carolyn Hax: I get that she wants an escape, but this friend is not Fantasy Island. She's Reality Gulch. If that's where the letter-writer expects to find solace, she's looking in the wrong place, even if she springs for brunch and a sitter. That's putting the friend in the position to be nurturer and sympathetic ear--when this friend could clearly use some nurturing and sympathy herself. She's giving on three, possibly four different fronts: small kids, sick kid, struggling spouse, a possibly a part-time job of her own.

Now, I don't think that busy/emotionally preoccupied people are incapable of caring about others who don't top their priority lists--but it's a situation where the best way to their hearts may be to offer a chance for you both to lean on each other. That's what I was suggesting.

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D,C,: Regarding the scarred face and children: Get a picture. He's an adult; he knows he is scarred; he can probably understand that the children need to be prepared. Use the picture to prepare the children - it will allow them to ask all the "embarassing" questions and make the "inappropriate" comments before they see him.

Carolyn Hax: A simple and elegant solution, thanks.

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Regarding the disfigured uncle: I second you on your response, Carolyn. Once, in a shoestore with my kids, there was another customer with only one eye; the second socket was just skin. My younger son went up to this man and asked him why he had only one eye. The man said, "Let me ask you something: are you six years old?" My son, surprised, said he was. Then the man turned to me and told me that it was almost always and only the six-year-olds who spoke to him directly. And then he explained to my son that his eye had to be removed, but he was fine. It was really touching to see how well this man dealt with my child. Clearly he had developed his response over time, and it seems to me that it would be a loving gesture to the LW's BIL to have his own little relatives help him start to develop his response.

Carolyn Hax: Aw. I'm a little snuffly now. Thanks.

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Alexandria, VA: I cheated. My spouse suspects/ed that something happened and called me on it. I denied it plausibly. The problem is I am beside myself with guilt. I will never do this again. My guilt and shame is so bad that I can't/don't participate in my own marriage. We are very far apart. If I admit to it, we are probably over (too many lies). If I continue this way, we will grow farther apart since I am "not there." What do I do? Do I throw myself on the mercy of the court or do I float along until we get divorced because we have destroyed anything we have in common? I read that letter about the daughter hating the father, and I'm scared out of my mind about our children too. I know you say it is sometimes okay to forgive yourself, but I can't and my spouse didn't deserve this. I was being selfish and I put everything we have in jeopardy by sleeping with somebody who reports to me. I don't fear for my job any more, but I could easily have been fired. It was a close call because I was reprimanded (not for sex) for an inappropriate relationship. This is not a life lesson I would ever repeat but shoving it under the rug feels very wrong.

Carolyn Hax: Go back and tell the truth this time. Your plausible denial didn't just keep your spouse from learning about the bad mistake you made--it's now keeping Spouse from knowing that you have a conscience that's killing you, a desire (right?) to become a participant in your marriage again, a hard-won conviction that you'll never do this again.

And, it's keeping your spouse from finding out s/he isn't crazy. If Spouse were oblivious, this might be an entirely different answer, but that's not the case. So, you have to know what kind of bad thoughts and stress led to the decision to confront you. Coming away from that conversation empty adds another level of unhappiness.

Telling might spell the end of your marriage, yes, but the marriage you describe is ending anyway, even if it lasts on paper. Letting honesty back into the relationship is your best chance no matter how it turns out.

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Sister Act (Part 2): First, thanks for taking my question, Carolyn. All I can say is "WOW". I (nor any of my siblings, I would guess) would have ever thought of your take on the situation. I mean, sure, we knew that our parents "ran out of gas", so to speak...but since she always got lots of attention and reinforcement for her behavior when she was young, I (we) have tended to view her current behavior as her problem, not as one caused by our parents. Interesting to have a different viewpoint, and one I will give serious thought. As an adjoiner, through our adult lives (we're both in our 40s), I have tried to reach out to her -- traveling to a diff. state to help her with her housework and young kids, take her kids for a week at a time in the summer, look into sources of help for her in her community (when her first marriage got really bad) and for help with finding schools she could attend to learn a trade, etc. But her manipulative behavior just got to be too much for me to deal with. So I feel I -have- tried to reach out. But your point is well taken, that perhaps she has changed...and that I need to make a sincere effort to change my thinking, as well. I appreciate your comments and will take them to heart!

Carolyn Hax: Thanks for writing back. She may not have changed/grown since you were last in touch, and ,I'll reiterate, there comes a time when an adult becomes responsible for her own behavior, regardless of its origins.

That said, though, -you- can come to her as the one who has changed since you were last in touch. Just seeing her in a more sympathetic light can change the way her annoying behaviors affect you. It won't make them a party to be around--expecting miracles never helps--but it can help you last until Day 4 without going out of your mind, where you used to start losing it at Day 2. And, it can soften your attitude toward her throughout your interactions, which can in turn soften her defensiveness/need to control things.

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RE: to lean on each other.: That might be therapeutic for both of them. Sometimes the best way to make yourself feel better is to step out of yourself and help others. I discovered that after my divorce when I started helping out at my church's soup kitchen. I got so much more back than what I gave.

Carolyn Hax: Well said and done, thanks. If it turns out that the friend just isn't in a position to help, even mutually, then the just-divorcee could also use your insight as the beginning of a beautiful volunteership.

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Imminent break up?: Dear Carolyn,

Things have been going downhill with my SO for a month or so now. We're both taking some time to think things through. I'm going on with my day-to-day activities, which include taking good care of myself, regular volunteer work etc. I know (intellectually), that I'll be fine no matter what the result of this relationship is. I'm a resilient person and I have spent enough time without a partner to know that I'm a happily single person. However, my gut just REFUSES to go along with my rational thinking, and I have a nasty feeling in the pit of my stomach every day. Am I asking too much to be completely calm and at peace during a time like this?

Any words of wisdom would be greatly appreciated.

Carolyn Hax: Yes, you're asking too much to be calm and at peace. Being in an unstable position with someone you love is just extremely difficult, and the nasty pit in your stomach the normal symptom. It will pass no matter what, though, because the situation will stabilize one way or the other. You'll either resolve your differences, or give up trying to resolve them and break up once and for all.

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Carolyn Hax: My dad and I, when we watched football together, used to play Cliche Bowl, where we'd have to respond to portions of the game with just the right hackneyed bit of broadcaster-speak. "That could come back to haunt them," for example, for a missed extra point. "Football is a game of inches" for a hard-fought 4th and 1.

My last answer would win a round of Cliche Bowl. It really took it up a level.

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Anonymous: I hate myself for writing this, but I am one of those parents who is "out of gas." I don't know what to do. I am trying as hard as I can, but I am just so tired. I get plenty of outside help, but I know I'm not doing a good enough job and I don't seem to be able to pull it together to do any better.

I've been letting my kids get away with more and more because I'd rather kill myself than have to listen to any more hours-long tantrums. I have an autistic child and toddler twins, and I don't think I can take much more. My husband has had to cut his work hours to help more at home, and that only makes me feel worse.

I suspect my kids would be better off if I went back to work and hired a nanny who might have some energy, but I've been out of hte workforce so long I'm not sure how to get back in, and I'm not even sure what I would do.

Carolyn Hax: Please get some expert help. Use the "outside help" you cite to free you up for some sessions with a really good child psychologist who is a veteran at helping families with autistic children, and who promotes research-based techniques for child-rearing. Bring your husband into it, too, because you'll both need to adopt whatever strategies you choose to get your household back in order. Once you're both in agreement on an approach, you can then train any caregivers you've hired to maintain consistent approaches to and expectations of your kids.

Also build restorative activities into your schedule. Having outside help may seem to be an answer unto itself, but it doesn't help much unless you use it effectively. Draw up a schedule that allows you to get relief at the points of the day when your energy and willpower nosedive, and position "carrots"--i.e., things you always look forward to--at mood-lifting intervals.

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Cliche Bowl: Carolyn, Your answer was just what the doctor ordered. No two ways about it. Don't beat yourself up. You played with all your heart. You came to win. You got the job done. Any win is a good win.

Carolyn Hax: You're right. I just have to put this behind me and get back to the fundamentals.

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Washington, D.C.: OK, so my husband isn't a big communicator -- at least with me. But he and a female co-worker are constantly in touch. He calls her. He texts her. And just the other night, I noticed he was Skyping with her. If I ask about it, he says there's nothing going on. But I can't buy that. Am I wrong? I'm just tired of feeling so alone in my marriage.

Carolyn Hax: have you told him that, exact words?

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Imminent break-up person: Is this even a real question? I mean if you are breaking up you should have some feelings about it. I think the bigger issue is putting an expectation on yourself that you need to be 100% A-OK no matter what life throws at you. Breakdown, have a cry, FEEL the feelings!

Carolyn Hax: I think the fear of big, painful emotions is in not being able to see what's next. It's like when you're carsick, you can't imagine ever not feeling carsick, and you impose that queasy feeling onto everything you're supposed to do that day, like eat or sit in a meeting or go out to see friends or care for a pet or a child, and you feel almost panicky. Then, boom, the sick feeling is gone.

Sometimes people need a reminder that horrible feelings pass. The body can't sustain them. Even in the worst case, when somebody dies, the pain lessens with time despite the fact that the loss remains constant.

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washington: My mom just recently passed, after a brief illness (six weeks from diagnosis to death). We were exceedingly close. How do you deal with the unbearable pain, other than pushing it to the back of your brain? I cannot seem to deal with her death, at all.

Carolyn Hax: I hadn't seen this when I answered that last question, but it's on point.

I'm so sorry about your mom. There are going to be times when you have to push the feelings "to the back of your brain," because you have to function, even if you've reduced your responsibilities in the wake of your mom's death. (Though if you haven't streamlined things temporarily, I urge you to; it's important that you be fair to yourself and lower your expectations of what you can accomplish through fresh grief.)

There are also going to be times when you can't push the feelings away, and you're going to feel them all at once. The more you push aside the feelings, the less control you're going to have over when the emotions come on. I don't think it's realistic to hope for full control, but if you give yourself time and room to grieve fully, and if you accept the full awfulness of the way you feel, then you'll find yourself returning slowly to your old self. You'll be changed, for sure, but you'll get back your ability to laugh, to think of something else, to dream of your mom without sobbing, things like that.

The best way I can think to describe it is in terms of crying. When you have to cry but stop yourself, the impulse to cry stays with you, and you're more likely to keep tearing up throughout the day. If instead you have to cry and just let yourself cry, in big loud sobs, the impulse eventually passes and you stop crying on your own. That's the micro version of what you're going through with your grief. Find safe times to let yourself have big loud sobs, and you'll feel yourself start to heal.

Grief support is ample, too, so if you find yourself feeling stuck, don't be afraid to get help. The Wendt Center for Loss and Healing is a DC area mainstay.

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It' 3:07...: Stop typing and start your weekend so I can focus on finishing my own work!

Carolyn Hax: I know, I know. Bye everyone, thanks, and type to you next week. Oh--and anyone interested in joining my ALS walk team, I've moved the info to my Facebook page this year.

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Carolyn Hax: Eek almost forgot--Nick passes along his thanks. A lot of you saw the cartoon of Nick and Zuzu last week and sent him nice notes of acknowledgment. Too many for individual responses, I think, so here it is.

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Return of Cliche Bowl: You've really given 110 per cent today, Carolyn.

Carolyn Hax: You too, everyone--you left it all on the field.

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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.

Have more to say? Check out Carolyn's discussion group, Hax-Philes. Comments submitted to the chat may be used in the discussion group.

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.

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