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Carolyn Hax Live: Lawyer looking for new career; New girl in town; Bad communicators; Happy hour spouse; Lying 8-year-olds?; Baby shower cryer and much more

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Carolyn Hax
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 14, 2011; 12:00 PM

Carolyn was online Friday, January 14, taking your questions and comments about her current advice column and any other questions you might have about the strange train we call life. Her answers may appear online or in an upcoming column.

E-mail Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com.

Good news! Carolyn's archives have been updated. Check out the sidebar on Carolyn's archive page to find even more transcripts from past Hax chats.

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Carolyn Hax: Hi everybody, happy Friday.

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Nomansland, DC: Hi Carolyn, Any suggestions for how to generate ideas for a new career? I've read books and talked to a career counselor, and still nothing. I am currently working in the soul-sapping profession of the law as the stereotypical miserable attorney, and I want out ASAP (I've wanted out for a couple of years now). I love my salary, but I would gladly give up a quarter of it (if not more) to find a fulfilling job that tapped into my life's purpose (whatever that may be). Help!

Carolyn Hax: It would take me a while to look it up, so I'll throw this to the lawyers in the audience--does anyone have handy the name of the organization that helps coach/place lawyers into new careers? Thanks.

Next time I ask for help, I'll try to make it billable.

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Silver Spring, MD: Hi Carolyn, Love the chats! Are you planning to hold any public meet-and-greets/discussions any time soon. Have you ever thought about publishing a book. I'm a big fan!

Carolyn Hax: Thanks! I don't have anything planned for the near future, but Nick does, and I'll probably go to some of those. Check the Politics and Prose schedule for his appearance, and also watch this space for details on Nick's book tour, which is coming soon.

Oh, and I do have a book, but I don't like it much, and haven't had time for another.

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New Girl In Town: I moved to a new state over the new year to begin a new job on January 3. Earlier this week, during the work day, I had severe back pain and went to the emergency room. The doctor gave me an IV with a pain killer, informing me that I needed someone to drive me home. Knowing no one, I felt incredibly awkward and selfish, but I sucked up my pride and called my co workers to coordinate getting me home -- one to drive me, and one to drive my car to my apartment from the hospital. This took an hour of their day. I am incredibly grateful, but do not know these people -- what is an appropriate way to show my gratitude?

Carolyn Hax: A handwritten thank-you note is all you need. If you'd like to do more anyway, then you can also give them a small gift, but now knowing them means you need to keep it really generic--of the fruit-basket variety. I'll field ideas if anyone wants to weigh in.

I feel your pain, by the way--in both senses. Tough call to place.

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Babysitting Age?: Today's column cited a mom who thought a 14-year-old was too young to babysit. Was the age really her only concern? I started babysitting at 13, young babies, too. I learned how to change a diaper because my neighbor needed to run out, and she just showed me quickly before she left.

The mom has every right to decide who to leave her kids with but I think my 14-year-old neighbor is more than capable of watching my son.

Just wanted to make sure I'm not crazy. I think "mother's helper" is more the 10-12 range.

Carolyn Hax: We made some 16-year-olds jump through the mother's-helper hoop. In part that was about the inexperience of the sitters; we've gone out of our way to have male sitters as well as female, and more of the boys came to us as novices with small children. The other part of that was our having three kids very close in age who are all ... er, "high energy" (maniacs), so we figured everyone would benefit if we handed over the reins gradually.

My point being, it's about the number/temperament/age of the kids, it's about the experience level and competence of the sitters, and it's about the parent's comfort level. In the letter today, it was clear that the mom had a low to nonexistent comfort level with this 14-year-old. That could be her issue, that could be the vibe the 14-year-old gives off, and it could be the weirdness of the situation, where the dad is forcing the issue. (I have a feeling that could have been a whole column unto itself, if I had been given just a bit more information.)

Anyway, all things being equal, I'd agree that 14 is fine (history is filled with 14-year-old moms, right?), but not all things are equal.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Carolyn! I have serious trouble with communicating. It's now destroyed two of the best relationships I have ever had. I'm aware it's a problem and try to tell myself that I need to be better but I'm so good at making up excuses to not bring up problems-cause I want to work through it on my own, it's not that big a deal, i'm worried about looking needy, etc. Is it time for professional help, and if so what kind? Or is this something I might be able to get past with a self-help book?

Carolyn Hax: Since your problem stems from a deep-seated resistance to asking for help, I think getting yourself to counseling in itself would be a groundbreaking achievement for you. Then, once you're there, you'd have to form the words you so urgently don't want to form, and that would be another shove toward your goal.

The type of therapy I'd suggest is basic talk therapy, and if you want a menu item, I'd say cognitive behavioral therapy, but I'm typing that only if you promise not to lock yourself into that idea. I realize there's an intimidating range of approaches and titles and etc., but if you ask your regular doctor to name a couple of talk therapists s/he recommends, then you'll at least have a means of starting the conversation.

Also, if you envision getting into someone's office and finding it impossible to say what you really need to say, then write it down beforehand; you're off to a decent start in describing your problem here. Bring that written account with you to your intake appointment and, silly as it sounds, hand it over if needed. You want to be accurate, not elegant.

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New Girl In Town: How about taking them each to lunch? It's a thoughtful way to say thank you AND a great way to get to know them better.

Carolyn Hax: It has to sit right with New Girl, of course--I have no reason for saying that besides the fact that none of us, NG included, knows this office environment well--but it's definitely worth considering. Tx.

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New Girl in town: Cookies or some other treat for the office. As a mark of being thankful to be part of a workplace where co-workers are willing and available to do this in such a bind. Can leave a BRIEF note with the cookies in the breakroom or wherever cookies should be left for access by all.

With a note of appreciation on the desks of the specific co-workers who stepped up.

Carolyn Hax: Another nice idea, thanks.

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Baltimore, MD: Last week, my husband became furious at me for flinching and backing up when he came near me during an argument. He screamed at me for ten minutes that it's not fair for me to react that way, that people will think he's abusive, and that he can't be with me if I think he's capable of violence.

I tried to explain that the flinching was reflexive, and that I didn't think he was going to hit me, but he can be very uncontrolled (screaming, gesticulating wildly) when he's angry and I didn't want him to touch me.

He says he only gets angry when I act afraid of him; I say I am afraid because he gets so angry. We're at an impasse and I don't know what to do. I am reconsidering whether I should stay in this marriage. Am I wrong in thinking that it's unacceptable for him to lose control like this no matter how upset he is?

Carolyn Hax: Your body is telling you something.

So is his response: He gets -angry- when he sees signs of fear in you?! Think of times when you've scared another creature--maybe caught an adult off-guard, or spooked a dog or cat, or spoken firmly to a child. You probably put your hands up in an "It's okay, I'm not going to hurt you," gesture. That's the healthy response, at least, for a person who makes the sudden calculation that s/he has all the power.

Instead, your husband 1. thinks of himself ("people will think he's abusive") 2. gets more aggressive with you.

I urge you to talk to counselors trained to handle situations of abuse, to get a more detailed assessment of your situation. Nat'l Domestic Violence Hotline, 1-800-799-SAFE or RAINN, 1-800-656-HOPE. You need to be especially careful if you decide to leave, or even just approach him on counseling, since it's clearly a rage trigger--and because he's likely going to feel very invested in keeping you away from any venue that he thinks would out him as an abuser. This is a dangerous situation for you, and you need to take the appropriate precautions (starting with those hot lines).

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NH : I'm incredibly embarrassed - I had a major meltdown at my baby shower last weekend. In front of all my close friends, I started crying so hard that my mom had to come rescue me and then handle the resulting awkwardness at the party.

If that wasn't brutal enough, I have now received correspondences (texts, emails, phone calls) from basically every friend who was at the party, asking what they can do to help. Understandably, they all think I'm overwhelmed and/or unhappy about becoming a mom, and their words of comfort had the effect of making me feel like dirt. How do I move past this incident?

Carolyn Hax: I could give a generic answer, but the range of possibilities is so huge--from just being hormonal and emotional to being overwhelmed and unhappy (with the pregnancy, with your relationship, with your or the baby's health ...)--that I'm not even sure a generic answer would fit.

So, why did you melt down? There's also the matter of how much you want friends to know, and why. Any info appreciated.

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Georgetown: Hi Carolyn,

Thanks for taking my question. Is there a good way to find the line between being a kind and helpful person, and being a pushover?

Carolyn Hax: I think so. First try figuring out where your lines are that you don't want anyone to cross. You'll give money but not time, say, or time but not money, or you need X amount of time for yourself per day. You can be less definitive, too, by saying to yourself, e.g., that you'll be happy to help someone out as long as it doesn't take time away from [my hobby/my kids/my mate/my job/the place I choose to volunteer]--or that you'll help people who show signs of also helping themselves.

Another way to go at it (if a little less productively at first) is backward: When you find yourself feeling resentful of the way people take advantage of your kindness/helpfulness, then you need to back your way out of your over-commitment until you're more satisfied with the balance.

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ack!: Hi Carolyn, I need to finish writing an essay to apply for a fellowship before I leave the office today at 4:20. While I am perfectly capable of explaining what I want to do to a colleague, I can't seem to write any of that down in a coherent way. Do you run into this as you write? How do I finish plowing through this? And, for future reference, how do I break my need for chocolate to get me through?

Carolyn Hax: Can't help you with the chocolate, but I can with the writing. The only time I get writer's block is when I'm not exactly sure what I'm trying to say. There are two ways to move that along: first is to just blabber-write your way to some sort of a point, and then discard all the blabber, and the second is to concentrate on the main point you're trying to get across. If you do this fine when talking to a colleague, then it seems like a natural choice just to pull someone aside or place a call to someone who can just listen for a few minutes, and take notes.

A middle solution is to try outlining your essay in duh form.

"These are the points I need to make:

"1.

"2.

"3. ..."

Also, look for a theme statement to emerge (one you can build your essay around) but don't fall in love with any one sentence or graf. Sometimes you have to throw your "best" stuff away to make your point best.

Good luck.

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Philadelphia: My 8-year-old son had a very traumatic experience last month. On a visit to his father, he got in trouble for lying and his father and stepmother exploded, telling him he's never invited to visit again. My ex is now trying to alter our custody arrangement. How do I guide my son through this time so it's not devastating and hurtful for him?

Carolyn Hax: There's no way your son isn't going to be devastated and hurt by being banished by his father. What you're after here is for this hurt and devastation to faced, and worked down to a manageable size so that it doesn't damage his ability to trust people, his ability to form intimate ties as he grows.

To get there, you need someone to guide you as you guide him--and, your son needs a safe place to talk about things he might not feel comfortable saying or even able to say to you. Eight is old enough for him to have strong verbal skills, but that doesn't mean he's capable of identifying and expressing his feelings.

These should be the same someone, a child specialist who is experienced at therapy through play. Talk to your pediatrician and to your boy's school; both should (I hate that word) be plugged into a network of counselors who get very good results with helping children through trauma.

I don't mean to represent therapists as superheroes or saviors, but there's just no substitute for a good one when the [] hits the fan.

And [] like this is hard to imagine. I'm sorry.

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Angry Husband: I used to be an angry husband. I think before I met my wife I had kind of a short fuse. I once got very angry at my wife. Nothing physical, I just got angry and started yelling and screaming. After I had calmed down I realized how I had hurt her with the things I said and there really was no reason to get angry. I vowed to never yell at her again. In 10 years of marriage I think I ever only raised my voice -at all- a few times. It was a conscious decision.

Just thought you should know from another person who used to get angry too.

Carolyn Hax: Hope this helps, thanks.

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Fairfax: As another relatively "new girl" in town, I agree with the suggestion to take them out for lunch, coffee, after work HH, etc. (but thn, I work in an office where socializing is normal). Which brings me to my question- being relatively new in town, my closest friends are my roommate, boyfriend (both of which I met in college) and older sister. Older sister has been a peach to me- until she barely acknowledged my birthday earlier this week. I'm probably not being fair- she called to wish me happy birthday, is planning to come out to a celebratory dinner this weekend (which I suggested rather than the day-of since it fell on a weeknight) and no doubt has a gift for me. But roommate and boyfriend went over the top on my actual birthday- had a surprise dinner and dessert waiting when I got home from a stressful day at work. I was kind of annoyed at them for not inviting sis, but more unreasonably annoyed at sis for not coordinating with them or heck, just showing up with a surprise cake or something! It was one of those moments where I felt like I was discovering who my true friends really are. Am I being petty and unreasonable?

Carolyn Hax: Thoroughly, with a chance of irredeemably.

I'd say that even if she forgot your birthday.

Birthdays are for kids, except in the rare case when friends go "over the top" for a fellow adult's birthday, in which case it's to be enjoyed strictly as the little life bonus it is. As in, it's not an entitlement.

The lone exception is with the one (possibly even two) most significant relationships of your life. If you care about your birthday, then it's okay to expect them to care, too, as long as they've been duly warned that you care. And even then, innocent and regretted forgetting is still to be quickly forgiven.

That's how it is on my planet, at least. And unless you want to tick off the inhabitants of your planet (thoroughly, with a chance of irredeemably), then I suggest you embrace your sister's more-than-adequate--heck, I'm coming right out and calling it thoughtful and, if it includes a call, a gift and dinner, bordering on excessive--means of celebrating your birthday.

Yeesh.

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Poor kid..: What could an 8-year-old possibly lie about to be banished? Unfortunately, right now, he's devastated. In the long run, it sounds like he's better off being separated from his father and step-mother. It also sounds like they were looking for an excuse.

Carolyn Hax: That's the way it sounds to me, too. All kids lie! They're trying it on. This is one of the reasons "Nurture Shock" is such a useful book--it has the research on child lying (they all do it) and it explains the developmental reasons they lie. It also demonstrates good and bad parental responses to lying.

This one was so bad it was probably beyond the scope of the study.

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Shunned in Divorce: Carolyn,

Since I announced my split 6 months ago, a group of my friends have all but ignored me. We (4 of us) have been close since high school and though it's a little tougher with families and stuff, we have been there for each other through everything. I'm stunned by the complete lack of support (even contact) from all of them. I've done my part - called or emailed and either don't get called back or email replies go no where. I miss them, but at the same time, I keep thinking I'm the one going through hell right now, why am I making all of the effort? Is divorce such a stigma that they don't want to be near me?

Carolyn Hax: I don't know what their reasons are, and I'm sorry they've shut you out when you need them most. However, as sad as it is to let go of of people you've known for so long, it's in your best interests to release them all. No need to say anything, just, carry on with your life without them.

This may sound counterintuitive, but now is a good time to let go, while you're in full upheaval already. They're not being good to you, so they're not the rock you can cling to until the turmoil passes, right? So, use the turmoil to sweep them away, and use the fact that you already have to start over to start over without them.

Take the energy you don't spend contacting them and wondering, and use it to be good to the people who have been good to you.

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For Philadelphia: Dude, is your ex actually -allowed- to disown an eight-year-old child? Seriously--that man needs counseling, too. Is there anyone in a position to intervene before he does something insanely stupid? Your former mother-in-law, an old friend, anyone? If one of my brothers tried to do something like that, my entire family would line up to -metaphorically] slap him. And the child would still have the support and affection of the rest of the extended family.

Your ex may be out of touch with his adult responsibilities (I'm sure there's a reason he's your ex) but perhaps there's someone, if only the family court judge, who can talk him down out of this unspeakable and harmful idiocy?

Carolyn Hax: You're right about all of it, but you're talking about a functional family. It's possible this guy's out of touch with his "extended family." Likely, even, given his behavior with his son.

And if all we have left is a family court judge to talk him down, then there's the problem of the environment for the kid after his dad and stepmother had to be forced to see him.

That is, assuming the father even complies with a court order. Plenty of parents don't, leaving the other parent to wonder at the wisdom of more court action, and the long-term impact it would have on the kid if it came to that. Sometimes the custodial parent's best course is to make the part of the world s/he controls as loving and welcoming and safe as possible. (And to give the child a means to identify, process and dispose of any residual anger.)

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New Girl in Town: ...and be prepared to jump right in for a colleague who's also in a real bind. Cover phones for a dad who has to rush off early to pick up a sick kid; help stuff envelopes in a pinch to get a hugely important mailing out on time; drop someone off if their car died in the parking lot. Pay it back, when asked.

Carolyn Hax: Right, right, thanks.

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Yelling: I let loose and yelled at my 2.5 year old daughter yesterday in the car and I am now feeling pretty crappy. This is probably the 3rd time I've yelled like this, and each time it makes me feel so terrible and so small I vow I will not yell again. But I do not know how to get her attention. When I ask her to do something, anything, there is a huge battle of wills. She will run way, laugh at me, repeat what I'm saying with a smile on her face, say "no" while laughing at me, or whine non-stop. I try calmly repeating my request several times so she'll have a chance to comply, I try time outs, I try taking away a privilege that has immediate consequences, and nothing works. I am getting so tired of every interaction now being this stressful. Sometimes I just want to give up trying and lay on the floor and cry. I love her and don't want to be a screamer. My mom was a screamer and I hated her. What can I do differently?

Carolyn Hax: There's no shame in getting some training. Four books that are trusted by people I trust:

1. 1-2-3 Magic

2. How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk

3. Parenting with Love and Logic

4. The Kazdin Method

Some if not all have Web sites, too, so you can browse to see which one appeals to you most before you invest the reading time.

And, classes can be really helpful, too. Talk to your pediatrician about a good provider in your area.

All parents (or just about) lose their cool sometimes, so don't beat yourself up about it. Instead, acknowledge it to your daughter: "I'm sorry, I handled that badly in the car, and I'm going to try to do better next time." Even better, if you have a more productively worded response ready, you can say you'd like to try it again, and say what you wish you had said.

The do-over is nice but not necessary; the important thing is that you demonstrate your regret. That way your daughter sees both your frailties and your positive/compassionate/responsible way of handling them.

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Stupid question: My husband invited me to happy hour with some of his coworkers. I didn't feel like going, but I went because (a) I wanted to spend time with him (b) he's relatively new on the job, so I felt this was important for his office etiquette, etc and (c) why not?

Turns out the people we went with are perfectly pleasant, nice people. Just not the types I'd choose to hang out with. Different sets of values, etc. We got home last night and the topic did not come up in conversation about why I wasn't having a good time. I didn't want to bring it up to him because I don't want to be seen as interfering with his work relationships a la "That woman is irritating and drove me up a wall!"

So -- the next time this happens (they've already set a date), do I politely decline and encourage hubby to go, or do I keep my mouth shut, buck up and go?

Carolyn Hax: Buck up and go, give them a second chance.

Then, don't pass up on the chance to talk to your husband afterward. For one thing, that is, to me at least, the bestest part of an evening out--comparing notes on the way home with the members of your inner circle who attended with you (spouse, close friends, sib, etc.).

And, it gives you a chance to ask, "What do you think of X?"-type questions. Don't do it just as a pretext for saying your piece, though that's how it might feel at first. You do want that opening, but, more important, you want your husband's take on these people. Does he like them, feel he needs to like them, not care one way or the other, etc. If nothing else, this information is key to a decision to blow off future happy hours.

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Possible lie that is THAT bad: The only justification that I could imagine is a threat by the child to make an unjustified claim of child abuse, especially sexual abuse. Given the difficulties in disproving it (esp. on a boy), and the potential harm to one's career/liberty/life, if I were the stepmom/father, I'd want nothing else to do with the child either. Which sounds harsh, until you consider the possibility of being labelled a sexual predator.

Carolyn Hax: Depressing, but, okay.

In that case, I might not want the child in my home without supervision--I agree, too risky. However, I don't regard having "nothing else to do with" him as an option, not with a child so young and obviously (hypothetically) troubled. The father and stepmother could remain actively involved by trying to get the child the necessary help, through the court if nothing else. Washing your hands of your own 8-year-old is not right.

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re: happy hour: why does it feel as if this woman is afraid to talk to her husband?

Carolyn Hax: I had the same inkling, but it didn't seem well supported. Happy hour spouse, you still here?

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Carolyn Hax: I just spent a couple of minutes skimming through the suggestions for the lawyer who wants to change careers. I didn't see any with the organization I was looking for, but there are a bunch of constructive suggestions. I'm going to compile them after the chat's over, and post them to my Facebook page. www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax

So far I've been able to see the page without signing in, so I imagine others can, too.

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Santa Monica, CA: Happy hour lady - why does she need to go? What's wrong with letting your spouse go out with his colleagues and not go if she doesn't particularly like them? He may need to bond with his coworkers, but she doesn't.

Carolyn Hax: True, but she felt she had a good reason to go to the first one, and so why not go to just one more? If anything, I think the bad-ish impression is more a reason to try again than it is to stay home. Not going pretty much puts the bad impression under glass, to remain unchanged.

After that, if she doesn't have a good time, I'd suggest she not go most of the time, but still show up occasionally. Good for the marriage to show you care, etc.

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Facebook: I don't belong (and therefore never sign in) but I can see your page.

Just a real-world confirmation for you.

Carolyn Hax: Thanks. I just never know when the policy will change. Sigh.

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Carolyn Hax: Sorry for the delay; I just started to answer a question and then changed my mind just as I was wrapping it up. Will try to move quickly on next one ...

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Happy Hour Lady -: I'm in the same situation...and I say: GO!

As the HH lady pointed out, these coworkers are perfectly lovely and fine (no one is a baby-killing bigot).

I sucked it up and went to my husband's work HH, and while I didn't end up becoming BFFs with most of them, at the same time, I became decent friends with some of their spouses (which made the HH much more fun). Also, it became a semi-support group...the industry my husband works in demands long work hours (sometimes on a holiday).

Finally, when my husband was on a major project deadline (career making/breaking)and our baby became really sick - these coworkers all pitched in to help my husband out (they all ended up burning the midnight oil for a week, so my husband could be at home with the baby and I), because they really liked us and our family.

Just small things. As long as these coworkers aren't awful - what's 2 hours out of your day every few weeks/months?

Carolyn Hax: Good points all, thanks.

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Hax-files please?: A suggestion that you might want to post follow-up stuff to the Hax-files as well as facebook. My company and agency (gov't contractor here) have facebook blocked.

Carolyn Hax: Sold.

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Carolyn Hax: ... But do email me a reminder if you don't see it there soon. I'm feeding enough forums right now that I lose track sometimes. Thanks.

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Facebook: Dear Carolyn:

I am so proud of myself. I am not a FB member and have so far avoided even trying to go on it (though my kids have begged me to join). I just went on and saw your page. Maybe I'll join now. Thanks for helping me over the hump.

Carolyn Hax: Baby steps. And take the time to hand-select your privacy settings.

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Career-changer: I did this a few years ago and the most helpful advice I got was this: There must be at least a couple of things about your current job that you actually like. What are they? Do you like the hours, the commute, the pay? What about your actual job duties? For lawyers - do you like the research, the reading, the writing, the idea of helping people (obv. depends on the type of law you practice), etc.? I found that focusing on what I LIKED about a job that I "hated" really allowed me to make an honest assessment of my strengths and weaknesses, and focused my search for a new career in a way that I couldn't have done otherwise. Six years later I'm still in that 2nd career, and while I might occasionally "hate" my JOB, I still "love" my career.

Carolyn Hax: Makes such sense, I'm posting it now. Tx.

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Happy hour spouse: Still here.

I didn't bring it up for two reasons -- it was late and we were both tired after a long week (lame excuse, I know, but there you have it) and I have a rather bossy, assertive (abrasive?!) personality that I'm trying to keep in check. I don't want him to perceive me as telling him what to think/with whom he can hang out/etc. Especially at a new job where he's still trying to figure out the office politics - not something I have a lot of insight myself.

But mostly, the former. We were tired.

Carolyn Hax: Fair nuff.

When you do venture into conversation about his new colleagues, two suggestions: Where possible, ask vs. say, and also tell him why you're holding back, as you did here. It will give your husband a chance to say where he stands--"Thanks for that, I appreciate it," or, "Actually, don't hold back, I'd like to hear what you think"--which is a key part of getting the balance right between you.

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Sharing job news: I work for a small company (10 employees, just under $2M in sales) and am ecstatic here. Taking it was a step off a fast-paced career track and definitely the right move; I've been here 3 years and wake up happy to go to work every day.

My boss came to town this week to take me to lunch (we're all virtual, work from home) and said he wants to open up a couple of new divisions and make me president of the existing company. I'm flattered, excited, have a TON of concerns, but that's for another post. My issue is that I haven't told my husband.

My husband is somewhat self-absorbed, his first reaction tends to be "how will this affect me." He's also not terribly happy at work but somewhat stuck - he makes more $ and has benefits, and also burned some bridges in the past in a small industry so has few options.

I know eventually he'll be happy for me but I've hesitated telling him because I know his first reaction won't be "wow congratulations" but something about the imposition on our family. I just don't want to be rained on. BUT, the longer I don't tell him the more deceptive I feel. Plus I feel like I'm condemning him for a reaction he hasn't actually had yet. How do I navigate this (he knew my boss was coming in to take me to lunch but - see "self-absorbed" - forgot and never asked about it). But it's been 3 days and is feeling more awkward.

Carolyn Hax: "Hey, [spouse], I've got news. My boss offered me a promotion, and I'd like to talk to you about it before I do anything else."

Your letter already suggests your marriage is in need of a tune-up; you're all but cowering from him. But if you phrase your news in this or some other way that shows you're mindful of how this might affect him, and he still can't hear that his needs will be taken into account, then it's more than a tune-up you need.

In other words, deliver your news, tonight. If he asks when you found out, tell the truth. Say you anticipated that he wouldn't be pleased, and in readying yourself for the announcement/potential fallout, you let time get away from you. If he takes the news well, apologize for underestimating him. If he takes the news badly, apologize for taking too long to find your courage.

Either way, at some point, I think you need to say you've been struggling to communicate with him lately, and would like to do better. Start the bigger conversation.

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Cure for yelling: When I was a young mother, I vowed to quit yelling at my kids. I finally started wearing a big rubber band around my wrist, and I pulled it, or the kids did, when I raised my voice. Change came very quickly. Just a thought.

Carolyn Hax: Thanks. One more, then out ...

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Washington, DC: Yelling -

When my child behaves in the way described, I found what works best for us is for ME to take a time out. The trick was catching myself before I lost it; now it's habit and not so difficult. I tell my child that I'm getting upset and that I'm going to take a time out so that I don't yell at him. Then I walk into another room for a few minutes. If we're in the car, I tell him that I'm upset and that I'm not going to talk to him for a few minutes. When my time out is done, I calmly explain to my son why I was upset and very specifically how I would like him to behave in the future. Then I listen (without interrupting) to what he has to say. This works probably 90% of the time, and my child does try hard not to repeat his behavior.

Carolyn Hax: Both good ideas.

As is quitting--that's it for today. Thanks all, see you next week, and I'll post the lawyer stuff as soon as I can.

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Carolyn Hax: Eeek--just saw the follow-up from shower-meltdown poster. Will try to get it on FB, Philes soon, and if not will re-post next week. Sorry I missed it.

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In her daily column in The Washington Post Style section, Carolyn Hax offers readers advice based on the experiences of someone who's been there. Hax is an ex-repatriated New Englander with a liberal arts degree and a lot of opinions and that's about it, really, when you get right down to it. Oh, and the shoes. A lot of shoes.

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

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