Carolyn Hax Live: Advice columnist tackles your problems (Oct. 8, 2010)

Carolyn Hax
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 8, 2010; 12:00 PM

Carolyn was online Friday, October 8, 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

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.


Grumpy: So, I'm in a terrible mood today, but I can't go hide from the world. Any tips for "turning my frown upside down", or at least not biting off anymore heads?

I'm thinking ice cream.

Carolyn Hax: Never a bad choice, except when you're gloomy about being overweight and/or milk products give you gas.

You could always call someone you like. Playing favorite movie clips often works for me; I think I already mentioned once that the "Wedding Singer" scene where Robbie plays the song he wrote after his breakup has turned around some of my suckiest days.


Tormented: I'm in love with my married boss. I thought it would get better with time but it's getting worse. We had two minor physical encounters about four years ago, decided it was a bad idea, and returned to our just-professional relationship. My own personal life has been a mess since then and I know it's because the way I feel about him makes it impossible to date anyone else meaningfully. Please help.

Carolyn Hax: Obvious things first: Have you looked for another job?


Anonymous: Dear Carolyn- I've been with my boyfriend for two years, and a few months ago I was ready for us to be engaged, but now I'm not sure. That's almost a non-issue, though, because while he has said he intends to marry me, the timing isn't even up for discussion. He says he's not ready, thinks it's too soon, doesn't like the idea of growing up, thinks married people are boring, and - at age 29 - claims he's too young to get married. He runs pretty hot and cold in general. Some days he's affectionate and supportive; some days he barely speaks to me-- and we live together. He has a lot of great long-term qualities, practically speaking, like being financially responsible, successful professionally, and also a fun companion when we're out and about. But Lord, the mood swings at home! How do I sift through all of this and figure out if this relationship is really the one I want to be in for the rest of my life?

Thanks- -Anonymous

Carolyn Hax: You already have figured it out. When your desire to marry someone declines the more you get to know him, the only way the truth could make itself more obvious is if it put on a cheese head and a tutu and danced onstage at the Super Bowl halftime show.

Money is nice. People who generate killer cocktail-party banter are nice.

People who are unable and/or unwilling to contribute to a stable, warm and welcoming environment at home are hell on the people who live with them.

You already know this. You also probably can deduce that 75 to 95 percent of your time together will be spent in the mundane circumstances of home life, and 5 to 25 percent of it "out and about." The high end of that percentage is likely to come true only as you start making an effort to avoid seeing him at home--a stage that precedes the stage where you don't even want to be with him socially, either.

Of course, he may have an unforeseen emotional growth spurt and realize that everything he has uttered about adulthood and marriage is self-important drivel, and that being hot-and-cold with someone you love/who loves you isn't interesting, it's infantile and self-indulgent. But if you don't see any signs of the onset of such maturity, I strongly advise against even hoping it will happen. Trust your gut and save your heart for someone who has the "great long-term quality" of knowing how to treat others with respect. And have a hard look at what you're looking for in a mate.


Anywhere, USA: My husband's estranged father is back in his life after nearly two decades' absence. I have just learned this man is a convicted child rapist (mostly boys, including my husband's now-dead brother--suicide) who spent a lot of that time in prison. We have two tween boys and I don't want them ANYWHERE NEAR HIM. I pleaded with my husband to let sleeping dogs lie and not establish any sort of relationship with this man at this point, but he seems drawn to him in a way I can't comprehend. I am close to threatening separation if my husband doesn't end all contact with his dad. Do you think I'm being unreasonable? Husband suggests it shouldn't matter as long as we keep the boys away from him.

Carolyn Hax: Counseling, now, with someone who is very reputable and who specializes in treating child sexual abusers and their victims. Go through the American Psychiatric Association ( and/or the American Psychological Association ( to get names of local providers.


Silver Spring, Md.: OK, last time to submit because decision time is here: My much-younger sister - 22 - is pregnant by her cheating ex. She dumped him when she walked in on him with the other woman, and was a wreck for a few weeks. She had just gotten back to an even keel when she found out about the baby. It knocked her for another loop. Meanwhile, my husband and I had been talking about adopting kids since we're both guys. About a week after she found out, she asked us if we wanted to adopt her baby. If not, she's planning on getting an abortion. We need to decide soon, and we're torn because of how much she went through after he cheated on her. Also, how would we explain it later that the kid's aunt is actually his/her mother? We have a big extended "adopted" family of close friends, so the child would have several aunts/uncles/grandparents who aren't actually related, but this seems hinky in a different way. We're having a hard time figuring out what we should be considering when we make this decision. It feels selfish to adopt the baby when we know how much pain this whole thing is causing my sister, and when she has a fairly low-paying job that has no health insurance and requires her to be on her feet all day.

Carolyn Hax: The way you phrase your question, it sounds as if you're trying to talk yourself out of adopting this baby. That's exactly what you should do if you're not ready to be fathers, with all the complexity that entails. ("How would we explain it later" is barely a blip on the complexity radar.)

If your unexamined opinion is that you want this baby, then then the things you need to consider/examine are whether this would be good for the baby, and whether it's the right thing for your sister.

The former has two parts--whether you think you can be good parents, and whether your lives are at a point where you're either stable or able to stabilize in a few short months (with the key areas of stability being your relationship, your finances, your housing; doesn't have to be sparkling, just non-chaotic).

The latter is something you can know only if you and your sister are honest with each other. Remember, she's the one who approached you--after she had a week to think about it. It's quite possible that she's just as afraid to say, "I really want you to adopt this baby," as you are to say, "We really want this baby."

Instead of just being fearful of making the wrong decision---which is the way you sound now--try to balance out your thinking into more objective pros and cons. Your discussion here of the down side for your sister sounds strangely speculative, as if you haven't actually asked her any of these questions or plumbed any of these possibilities. Ask them, and work from there.


Tormented: The reason I don't want to find another job is that I've worked incredibly hard at carving out THIS job, which is very meaningful to me. I provide ob/gyn services to the underserved at-risk population and my boss is the chief of staff the clinic. After delivering hundreds of babies I don't want to just leave, I have many repeat patients and I know how tough it would be for them to find someone to replace me at a paygrade much lower than what these services are worth.

So no, I can't just leave.

Carolyn Hax: Okay, next obvious question: Have you gotten any counseling?

I realize this is eminently pooh-poohable (the H is silent), but hear me out. Counseling could just turn out to mean paying someone to hear you talk about your lovesickness, but it could also help you see why you're so hung up on one person, and maybe even why you're hung up on -this- person. Could be you have fears or doubts that are expressing themselves in your pining for what you can't have. Could be this guy fills a perceived need in ways that you never fully realized, and figuring that out will enable you to address the need and at least weaken your attraction to him.

Even if that doesn't turn out to be true, talking to someone can help you figure out some creative alternatives to resigning yourself to this fate. That is pretty much what you've done here; you've accepted that you can't have the guy, can't move on and can't leave the job. I count two "can'ts" that involve choices, and that right there is room to maneuver, and room to improve.


For Potential Adoptive Dads: What happens if the sister gets over the current hurt from the ex and wants to parent her baby? How will her brother and his partner react then?

Carolyn Hax: That's certainly one of the questions they need to talk about.


To adopt or not: Many, many children are raised by aunts, uncles, grandparents, and other family members. There is nothing hinky about a mother who cannot raise a child having another family member raise the child. With the mother in the family, the child can have relations with the mother as she is able to handle such relations. As Carolyn pointed out, the main issues should be, whether Silver Spring and husband are ready to be parents and whether the sister is ready to go through a full pregnancy. It sounds as if sister would only go through the pregnancy if the baby would stay in the family (otherwise she'll abort), to it definitely sounds as if she wants this child to live.

Carolyn Hax: That's the way it sounded to me, though the omission of placing the child for adoption outside the family seems odd, if her main desire is for the child to live.

Either way, you're absolutely right that there's nothing "hinky" about having a relative raise the child. Thanks.


Psychiatrist: Hi Carolyn, I'm not the original poster who you referred to, but I checked it out because I've been thinking some therapy could be a good thing for me. However, I couldn't find anywhere on the site to find a list of providers in my area, which your earlier response implied, at least I thought that's what it implied. Am I looking in the wrong place? Thanks!

Carolyn Hax: It's buried in there--sorry about that. The site has been redesigned since I last used it:


Carolyn Hax: Shoot--as I hit "send," it occurred to me that I sent you to psychologists when you were looking for psychiatrists. Just a sec, I'll check the other site too ...


Carolyn Hax: Here's the listing of local chapters. You can call to ask how to find someone in the specialty you need:

Your regular doctor is also a good person to ask.


Safe-sex patrol: My friend told me she and the guy she's quasi-dating are having unprotected sex. She's on the pill and he seems like a nice guy, but he lives several hours away and they've only been seeing each other for a short time. And even nice guys can be sleeping with other people the other 6 days of the week or have STDs. I said my piece once -- that I thought it was really risky and tried to be grave in stressing that she hasn't known him that long. She brushed it off. Part of me wants to keep nagging about it. The other part of me knows it's not my body or my relationship. Do I just shut up now that I've said my piece?

Carolyn Hax: Yes.


Turning a frown upside down...: I sit in the car and sing along with my favorite songs as loudly as possible (i.e. screaming).

Carolyn Hax: The best part is, you don't just cheer yourself up--you also amuse everyone in the cars next to you at red lights. On their behalf, thank you.

_______________________ American Psychiatric Association


Orlando, FL: Hi Carolyn. I love your chats and columns. I find that I often apply a lot of your advice to others to situations in my own life.

However, at the moment, most of my life is a shambles. My husband of 16 years has been unemployed for the last 2-1/2 years. We had a baby earlier this year, never dreaming when we got pregnant that he would still be unemployed. We've just moved in with his mother, who is 83 and deaf as a rock, forcing me yell at her to have a simple conversation and leaving me unable to sleep for more than a few hours at a stretch until her blasting TV wakes me up. (She won't consider a hearing aid, because "they're a waste of money and don't work.") I'm dissatisfied with my job (although thankful I have one) and looking for an opportunity to move on.

The one bright spot in my life is my daughter, who is my joy and my passion. However, I went through quite a trauma during her delivery (ultimately spending two weeks in the hospital), and I haven't quite gotten back to myself. I'm venting a lot at my husband, who already blames himself and is being treated for depression. I make sure I apologize, but I am mad at him and tired of being mad at him. (I've told him this too.)

People keep asking me how I'm doing and how I'm adjusting to all the changes. I try to minimize how bad I'm feeling about everything or try to put a humorous spin on my angst, but really I'm just tired of dealing with it all. I just want to curl up some place calm and quiet with my girl and ignore the rest of the world.

I have a dr. appointment this afternoon, and I plan on bringing this up with him, but I was wondering if you had any words of wisdom or advice before then.

Thanks you for all you do for us.

Carolyn Hax: Thank you, too, for the kind words.

As I read your question, I was looking for the terrible, and what I saw was mostly annoying and stressful. Your husband's unemployment is, of course, the linchpin, and you're both going to feel stressed unless and until there's some kind of resolution there.

However, you have shelter, you have your income, you have each other, you have your beautiful baby, you have at least the promise that your health will return in due time.

Put all that together, and the most terrible thing I see is that you're not sleeping. That one area of deprivation has the power to drain you of the resources you need to deal with the other stresses and annoyances, be it showing patience with your MIL, taking the long view with your job, being supportive of your husband, healing from childbirth.

Please direct the energy you have--or, better, some of the energy your husband wishes he were taking to work every day--and address the blaring TV problem. Can you sleep with earplugs? Can you change rooms so that you and the TV are farther apart? Can you put the TV on a simple timer so your MIL can fall asleep to it without its blaring all night?

Brainstorm till something works. Because if you can get something to work, then you'll be able to think more clearly about your circumstances. The unemployment issue may seem like it's just about getting your husband back to work, but his being out of work means he has time, and having time means he has opportunities. For what? That's the question you want to answer, when you're rested and ready to.


Silver Spring, Md.: It's also possible the pregnant sister is trying to get somebody to bail her out of the decision-making to have an abortion. If she's ambivalent, she shouldn't have one, and if you're ambivalent about adopting her baby, perhaps you can assist her in finding a third way -- to an agency who can assist her with her pregnancy and adoption by another couple.

Carolyn Hax: Ooh, I missed this back when we were on the subject--point well made, thanks.


Nashville, Tenn.: Thoughts on dating someone (male) significantly shorter than you (female)? Is it just vain to consider this as a factor in whether you are interested in dating the other person when you are already attracted to them?

Carolyn Hax: I think it's a terrible reason to rule out someone who might be a source of enduring happiness. But, it has to come from your heart, not mine.


Blaring-TV Town: If you can afford to throw even a LITTLE money at the problem, wireless headphones for the mother-in-law might be a nice gift.

Carolyn Hax: Worth a try, thanks.


Carolyn Hax: I just, er, "misplaced" the question I was answering. Please bear with me while I try to figure out when I got so old.


Upsidedown frownage: I apologize in advance for the off-color nature of this approach, but I find when I mutter f-#%adoodledoo! to myself at random intervals, I just can't stay grumpy. It's especially helpful when you're looking for something that appears unfindable, or are toiling at a task that seems unending.

Carolyn Hax: Something to ponder while I try to find that question.


Seattle, Wash.: Hi, Carolyn, how are you? As one who serially dated only married men, and then married the last one (yes, I had issues), I can only say, in retrospect and imho, I was in love with impossible relationships as a way to dodge reality/my independent self-worth/responsibility for my choices. Being needed was one way of rationalizing that I was was justified in staying in situations that were not healthy (passing up grad school twice, not moving to the city of my choosing). It's just a sign of being disconnected from one's self and purpose. I wasted a lot of years that I would give anything to have back. The movie "Singles" is an excellent treatise on this :-) Tormented, I hope it all works out for you.

Carolyn Hax: "disconnected from one's self and purpose"--I really like that. It's another angle on the idea of her resigning herself to her fate. When you stick to the idea that nothing about your situation can change, you don't allow yourself to think about what you actually want, what you actually can do, and which among your realistic and available options you'd like to pursue. It's a very self-defeating way to think.


Michigan: Hi Carolyn, I made the mistake of peeking into my 12-year- old stepdaughter's journal, where I learned she does not like me as much as I thought she did. She calls me names and says she hates me in her journal; in the real world, she is unfailingly sweet and enjoys helping me care for her infant brother. This girl is a bit of a chameleon; it's tough to tell what she's really thinking and all were surprised at how well she seemed to handle the tough transition of her father's divorce and remarriage. Do you think I should tell her what I saw in her journal, or let it alone?

Carolyn Hax: NOOOOOOOO! Don't tell her! Gah!

Please please please instead pay more careful attention to her, armed with this new information. Is her sweetness deceiving you into giving her more child-care responsibility than a 12-year-old should have? That's the first thing that came to mind. Sometimes kids really like to have a responsible role in the family, but it can go wrong quickly if it becomes too much; kids still need to be kids, and they're not little adults in the sense that they feel they can just speak up when they're feeling put-upon.

Given your circumstances, she might be afraid to upset or anger you, or she just might not feel comfortable enough with you to say no to a chore you ask her to do. Try to think like a 12-year-old, and give her plenty of room to figure out who she is, so be a parent-pleasing little girl while also carving out a private persona that's separate from her home life. That's the fundamental dramatic tension with any child at any stage, but 12 is when it's starting to hit its peak, and will stay at that peak till she's 15, + or -.

Also factor her nature into it, and start thinking of her as a pleaser--i.e., someone who would rather hide her frailties than risk letting someone down. Be liberal with the reminders that it's okay for her to make mistakes, it's okay not want to babysit sometimes, it's okay to be crabby.


Washington, DC: Hi Carolyn - I'm 32, was married for six months before my husband said he just didn't think we should be together, and now the separation period has passed and we're working on papers. He's got a lot of issues, so I try to remember that it's not me, it's him. But lately I get really frustrated. I go out and I have fun - I do fun things. I meet a lot of people. I love and live life to the fullest. I'm a friendly, fun person. What I can't get over is why he wasn't able to have fun WITH ME. And - months later - it continues to upset me. What can I do to shake it?

Carolyn Hax: You are -your- idea of fun. That's great for you (self-acceptance is nothing to sneeze at), and great for the people who know you and share your idea of fun.

You'd think that someone who loved you enough to marry you would also share your idea of fun, but it doesn't always turn out that way; often, time just exposes fundamental differences that exciting new love can cover but comfy old love can't. It's sad for the people involved, but there doesn't necessarily need to be significance beyond that; two perfectly good but very different people made a go of it, and it didn't stick.

It's certainly worth looking over your shoulder to see whether there were signs of this unraveling that you missed or ignored--but once you've done that bit of reckoning, it's okay, and normal, just to be sad for a while as you adapt to life without someone.


To stepmom who read stepdaughter's diary: Please don't tell her you read her diary. I was that 12-year-old girl, and I put on my best face in the wake of a divorce and was a people pleaser who knew that if I was nice to stepmom, my Dad and stepmom would be happy, but inside I was a roiling mess (Outside too - anorexic). My only safe harbor to vent was my diary. And my sister read it and told my Dad and stepmom, who were shocked. Then I felt as if I had nowhere to be myself and got further reinforcement that even showing my real feelings in private was dangerous! What that taught me was, make a thicker mask.

Please don't take what she wrote as a sign that she is lying or conniving and instead see it as a way to reexamine how she reacts to things. Realize that she needs you to proactively look out for her, rather than have her wait to tell you something bothers her.

My stepmom was incredibly nice but I still resented her, because I hated the whole divorce and upheaval and she was the easy target - the outsider. But now as an adult I appreciate how she bent over backwards to be nice to me even when I wasn't the best stepchild, and we are now close.

Carolyn Hax: Spot-on, thanks.


Re: Michigan Step Mom: And don't look at her journal again! You might be tempted, seeing as you found some "useful" information. But, this is a betrayal of her trust at a time when you really need to be earning it.

Carolyn Hax: Right right. And:


Old at age 12: When my brother and I were in upper elementary school, our parents added two more kids to the family. As the girl and the oldest, I wound up with way too much responsibility for the kids (as Mom edged closer to a nervous breakdown). A 12-yr-old can babysit and cook and clean...but she should be a kid most of the time and her contribution to the family should be warmly acknowledged. That would have made a huge difference to me all those years ago.

Carolyn Hax: Nothing beats first-hand perspective, thanks. And:


Journal: A few years ago I found the journal I kept in 8th grade. In one entry, I wrote about my English teacher. I remember reading the terrible stuff I said about him. And... I don't remember ever thinking these things. What I do remember is having the BIGGEST crush on the guy. I think he was 23 or something at the time and I was so nervous around him.

Who knows what I was thinking when I decided to write those things... they were the complete opposite of how I felt! I don't know what your stepdaughter could be thinking, but please don't tell her. What she's writing may not be the truth.

Carolyn Hax: I think this covers it. Thanks everybody.


On Tween Diaries: Mine had little bearing on reality - it was where i went to vent. My mother read mine and let me know it once - I felt so incredibly violated it was unbelievable. She SHOULD have been reading my diary, btw, because I was a very depressed kid. But telling me about it unnecessarily was just breaking down the wall of protection I thought I had around me - she didn't find anything problematic, just that I wasn't very happy with her. The only time a child's diary entries should be discussed is if the parent discovers something like drug use, unsafe sex, thoughts of suicide, etc. Otherwise, let them have that illusion of privacy. And parents should only read a kid's diary if they suspect there is a problem.

Carolyn Hax: Okay, one more--I think the other side of the don't-read-the-journal argument needs to be made here, thanks.


Washington, DC: How do I deal with sister who is constantly mad at me about my having a boyfriend? I am close with sister who is in area but she resents my time with him - a few dates a week. He is nice but not overly friendly type of guy. The three of us have done stuff together a few times over last few months, but that does not help either and just stresses me out. Any suggestions?

Carolyn Hax: Sounds as if there's something here that neither you nor the sister is talking about honestly. Do you know -why- your sister is so bothered by the guy? Is she upset about something in her life that she feels she can't share with you now? Does she just not like the guy? Do you suspect it to be one of these things, and is that a problem for you, to the point where you're trying to rationalize that it's the other?

If you are indeed close, then you can make it clear to her that you won't punish her for telling the truth, no matter what that truth is--then ask her to tell you exactly why she's so upset with you lately.

Then you really really can't punish her. If for example she says she can't stand your BF, then you need to thank her for trusting you enough to say that, then ask her to give specifics. Whether you agree with it or not, her opinion could be very valuable to you.

If it's not about the guy, and she's, say, upset about something in her life, and wants to stake a claim to more of your time, and is angry that you didn't figure that out on your own, then--again--you don't yell at her for wanting you to read her mind or for begrudging your happiness or whatever your reflexive response may be. instead, you tell her she has your attention now, and you talk about whatever it is.


Going Alone: I am miserable in my marriage. I want it to work but was having a hard time communicating with my husband about what was wrong without nagging and/or screaming. This ended up causing so much stress that I started having anxiety/panic attacks. I found a therapist and am working through the anxiety and my the therapist is helping/guding me open up to my husband. Although he hasn't rejected what I have been saying he isn't totally on board and doesn't know where some of this is coming from. I haven't told him I am seeing a therapist. Is that wrong?

Carolyn Hax: It's certainly an obstacle to your establishing any kind of intimacy or trust with your husband.

It's also something you should be talking about with your therapist. If you haven't told him/her that you've concealed your therapy from your husband, then you also need to think about what else you're withholding during your treatment--and you need to think beyond your marriage in addressing your reluctance to communicate.

Just as I don't want to just say, "Yes, tell your husband" without knowing anything about him or about your relationship, your therapist doesn't want to try to help you knowing only the parts of the story you've chosen to tell. Spill it all, then piece together a solution from there.


La Jolla, Calif.: I got pregnant 5 months ago, a huge and welcome surprise. Husband had a vasectomy before we even met. Now, despite all the literature I have shown him about the fallibility rates of vasectomies, he stubbornly, irrationally chooses to believe there is no possible way this baby could be his. He's left me with no choice but to have a DNA test done, which I resent deeply and may never forgive him for. Can this be fixed?

Carolyn Hax: Well, the resentment is already fully in place--it's not as if the DNA test will change anything emotionally for you--so I think your best course is to let him know plainly what his doubts are saying to you. Then, you work from there.

What he says in response to your statement will be important, for example. Let's say he says, "It's not that I don't trust -you-; I wouldn't trust anybody in this situation. I wouldn't trust myself. The one thing I trust is the fact that no one knows anyone or anything until the facts are in. And if I don't have the facts, I'm going to think the more logical thing happened instead of the 1-in-whatever-thousand long shot."

Now, to a lot of people, making that argument would be just as awful as his insistence that the baby wasn't his. But to others, that might be a reminder that, oh right, they married linear thinkers, and it's possible in a linear person's universe not to adapt a response to the obvious emotional demands of the situation.

There's also the possibility that he sees the results, sees that it's his, fully appreciates what he accused you of and put you through, and spends the rest of his life trying to make it up to you. In that case, I hope you let him.


Carolyn Hax: Of course, there's also the possibility it isn't his; I'm assuming the truth because there's little incentive to lie here (I never rule out the self-deception incentive).

And there's the possibility you're both right, that you didn't cheat and it isn't his, but we'll save that for a Law & Order SVU episode.


New to the World: Any book suggestions for a first-time, new nanny now helping a single, divorced dad raise two little girls? He's got primary custody in a nasty battle with the mom, who has BPD among other things. I need some things that can help me to deal with them when they're being witches (lots of temper tantrums), because I want to give them structure and know that their anger isn't really directed at me. Help!

Carolyn Hax: Unfortunately, I'm wondering why a dad in such serious circumstances hired a novice. But, since all new mothers and many stepparents are novices entering stressful situations, I know intellectually it's not the worst thing; it's just an added layer of stress for him, for the kids and for you.

There's also the possibility that one child or both children also have bipolar disorder, in which case your job just got even more complicated.

Still, you need to get reading, fast, so here are some titles recommended to me by pediatricians, teachers, child specialists and other parents: "1-2-3 Magic," "The Kazdin Method," "How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk," "The Happiest Baby/Toddler on the Block." Oh, and "Nurture Shock" is good for combating certain herd-embraced ideas that actually don't work.

I doubt you want to read all of them, but you can skim them at the library or bookstore and see which ones make sense for your situation.

I will also kick this to Hax-Philes so readers can weigh in with their ideas.


Carolyn Hax: Oh, and "Parenting With Love and Logic." I had to check my notes for that one.


Welcome surprise != vasectomy: 1. He had a vasectomy before they met. Usually accepted this equals no desire for kids. 2. She knew this and she married him. Generally accepted that this equals accepting that he doesn't want a family. 3. She is now seeing being pregnant as a "huge and welcome surprise."

Mayhap there's another marital strain here besides a DNA test?

Carolyn Hax: Certainly, but an entirely different one. If denying the possibility of his being the father is the way he's saying to her that he doesn't want to raise this child, then that's on him.

Likewise, if she is forging ahead with this pregnancy without listening to and responding to his objections, then that's on her.

I can only hope they've been open with each other on the issue of raising the child, and the issue is limited to DNA.


SVU?: Carolyn, what did you mean by the SVU comment? It seems like you were making light of sexual assault. I always agree with you, but I am kind of surprised by that comment. Unless I misread how you meant that.

Carolyn Hax: Ack, not what I intended--I was making light of the scenarios on that show, which has turned into a shark-jumping clinic, allowing for a story line here of someone being unwittingly impregnated. But I see what you mean, and I'm sorry--I never intended to make light of assault.


Therapists: I notice that a lot of people mention that they haven't told their therapists about something. I hope people realize that, for the most part, they are not going to tell their therapist the weirdest/most disturbing/most mind-boggling thing the therapist has ever heard.

I don't say this to minimize anyone's issues, but to remind them that the therapist can handle it.

Carolyn Hax: Right, thank you--the consequences of sharing may seem terrible, but they're usually just perceived; the consequences of withholding are real.


re:BPD: Bipolar disorder? or Borderline personality disorder?

Carolyn Hax: Oh, duh--thanks for catching that. Doesn't change the answer, but it does change the degree of difficulty.


Carolyn Hax: More for the nanny coming, then I have to go ...


Vienna, Va.: BPD is borderline personality disorder, which is a HUGE deal, especially since it can go hand in hand with parental alienation.

There are a lot of good books out there on the subject of how to deal with a borderline in the family -- even books on borderline mothers specifically. Nanny, PLEASE educate yourself. This will be a real struggle.

Carolyn Hax: Thanks. Specific resource in the next one:


To New to the World: Carolyn, the BPD she refers to is probably Borderline Personality disorder. As an attorney who specializes in high-conflict divorce cases, I strongly recommend as a resource for dealing with BPD and working with kids who have a parent with a personality disorder.

Carolyn Hax: Will check it out myself, thanks. One more:


For New Nanny: New nanny also needs to remember that her job is to take care of the kids, not to provide emotional support for the dad. The way she talks about the ex makes it sounds like he's been unloading and drawing her in to his custody issues. Being a professional means being able to set professional boundaries.

Carolyn Hax: Something important to consider. For nannies, this is such a tough call--you're a professional doing a job, but the job is to nurture, care about and blend in with the family.


Carolyn Hax: That's it for today. Thanks all, have a great weekend and type to you here next week. Oh, and I'll send that question to Philes.


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.

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