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Carolyn Hax Live: Grammar perfectionists, Bad co-parents, 'Fixer-upper boyfriends,' Twitterpated about life-partners and much more

Carolyn Hax
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 11, 2011; 12:00 PM

Carolyn was online Friday, Feb. 11, 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. I was busy typing away at my first answer when I realized I forgot to say hello.

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Washington, DC : What if two people work great as partners but not as co- parents? My husband and I have a fantastic relationship that goes back 15 years, but we cannot seem to get it together when it comes to parenting our 10-year-old son, "Ethan." We disagree on everything from where Ethan should go to school, to whether it's okay to spank Ethan (lightly), to how much fast food Ethan can consume in a month before we're bad parents. Worse, we feel equally strongly about our opposite viewpoints on just about everything, so nearly once a week we have these knock- down, drag-out fights that lead to nowhere, and the choices ultimately fall to Ethan himself. It has been suggested that we take parenting classes, but we're both positive the classes would just confirm our personal stances. Meanwhile Ethan is stuck in a school that's no one's first choice, getting away with things right and left because no one wants to resort to discipline without agreeing on it first.

Carolyn Hax: Your fighting is worse for Ethan than going to the wrong school plus whatever junk food he eats in a month plus whatever else you're over-/under-indulging him with as a byproduct of your mutual inability to act like grownups.

I won;t include the spanking in that because Ethan is TEN YEARS OLD. Whatever highly debatable benefits you were able to embrace with spanking, you can now achieve by actually talking to the kid.

And this is about being grownups, both of you, because you're both putting your desire to win or be right above your child's well-being on your priority list. Otherwise you both would have realized that not getting your way here and there would be for the greater good. Instead, you're not only duking out every week and leaving Ethan to his own devices, but you're also digging in against parenting classes before you've even set foot in one. Please.

Get your butts there, immediately, and if you have any free time, start drafting your apology to your kid.

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California: When is a young couple ready to live together? We're both 21, we've been together for one year and we feel we are ready. Our parents feel we are not. I want to live with him, and we have enough money to pay for a place together, but I don't want to if it's going to stunt my growth as a person.

Carolyn Hax: The main problem people run into when they cohabitate is that they find it very messy to leave (logistically and emotionally) when they realize they're not in love with the person any more. Some people have the strength to get up and go anyway, but the rest stick around long past the point where they would/should have left, all the while rationalizing their way into staying, many to the point of marrying the person. Never underestimate the power of the status quo.

To avoid that trap, my general advice is that you're ready to move in with someone when you fully and mutually intend to spend the rest of your life with that person.

That's not a guarantee you -will- spend the rest of your life with the person, nothing is, but it will at least (if you're being honest with yourself) hold you back from moving in because you're in love and excited to set up and share a home with someone. That pull is hard to resist, but it's well worth resisting.

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Just outside DC: Hi Carolyn, I'm worried that I'm stuck in a pattern-- every guy I've dated seriously has turned out to be what you could nicely call a fixer-upper. They seem okay but the issues don't really come out until well after I'm invested in the relationship. I am too old (32) for wasting time-- what is the best way to avoid getting into relationships with these people in the first place? How should I 'tune my antennae' to spot trouble early and run?

Carolyn Hax: This is interesting, because when you say that "every" guy is a fixer-upper, that leaves room for interpretation. It could be that all of the men you've dated have been messed up, but it could also be that your idea of "turnkey" (opposite of "fixer-upper") is unrealistic. So I'm not sure I can advise you in a way that covers both possibilities completely, besides suggesting that you bandy about some ideas with a really good therapist who is open to ideas and likes to dig.

I can take a treating-the-symptoms angle, too, and suggest you try to slow down the progression of your relationships into Relationships, and keep them at the friendship stage for as long as possible, thus allowing you to know the person, good and bad, before you commit.

I also think you might want to look around at other people in your life--friends, family, colleagues, neighbors, etc., both men and women--and try to imagine how you'd see them through the lens you use to view these guys you dated seriously, It can actually be a fascinating mental exercise: Have you ever set up one friend with another? Doing that forces you to look at both parties as potential romantic partners for someone, and you really see them differently that way. That awesome person who sticks by you and shares your sense of humor and makes amazing zucchini bread suddenly becomes the one with a patchy employment history and mother issues.

The point of doing this is to, in a sense, calibrate your radar. Think of these people people in decidedly non-romantic roles in your life, and ask yourself who you'd regard as great catches. Then see what attracted you initially to the guys you dated who turned out to be bad choices, and look for (in)consistencies in what you date and what you admire.

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attraction: Hi Carolyn,

How important do you think sexual attraction is in a marriage? Have a friend that is considering getting engaged to a man that she thinks is perfect except for the fact that she is not very physically attracted to him. She is in her 30s and feels like he is the best man she has ever met but she is worried she is going to end up with a sexless marriage. I believe she feels like if she doesn't marry him she won't meet anyone as good as him in time to have children. I don't really know what to say and feel at a loss. Just curious if you have any advice.

Carolyn Hax: Ask your friend if she wants to be one of those people I hear from almost daily, who loves his/her kids and likes and respects his/her spouse, but feels stuck because there's no love in the marriage, they're more like roommates. The roommate feeling makes the idea of staying this way unbearable, but the like, the respect and the kids make the idea of leaving unbearable.

And those are just the ones who haven't met the so-called loves of their lives while married to Mr./Ms. Goodenough. Many of them do, and then what?

How bout if the child they create has intensive needs. It happens; you don't get to decide whether your kid has, say, autism. How will her choice sit with her then?

Probably not last and definitely not least, she has the heart of the man she might marry to think about: Does he see her as the best he can do in a pinch, too, or does he really love her? If it's the latter, then using him for sperm is cold, cold stuff.

Your friend is currently trying to choose between two worst-case scenarios: sexless marriage or childlessness. Please urge her to broaden her thinking to include the various other worst-case and just-not-ideal case scenarios--not so she can choose among them, but instead so she can see that choosing away from negatives is an exercise in futility. It will be far more productive for her to look at each choice in this way only: "Is this what I really want?" The answer to that is either "yes" or "no"; "no, but ..." won't take her anywhere good.

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Washington DC: Carolyn- Do you think suicide is ever rational? Particularly if someone is not in severe physical pain or dying already of an incurable disease? I guess I have a hard time convincing myself that it's necessarily irrational, when I very much want to do it even when I'm perfectly sober/lucid/clear-thinking/etc. If someone really believes that life is too painful or difficult, and it is unlikely to get much better, why should they have to continue to go through with it? And although this option is undoubtedly selfish in that it hurts family and friends, isn't it also selfish to continue to make bad decisions and live an unhappy life, which can be also traumatizing to family and friends, when they try to help but cannot, and just have to watch someone live an unhappy life?

Carolyn Hax: "It is unlikely to get much better" is not the same as "It won't get any better" (e.g., the dying of an incurable disease you mentioned), so, no, I don't think suicide would be a rational decision for you. I also don't think you can equate the pain you allegedly inflict on your fam/friends by making bad decisions to the pain you'd inflict by killing yourself. When you make a bad decision, the clock starts ticking immediately on your opportunity to make your next decision a good one. When you kill yourself, the clock stops on all hope. That is something loved ones struggle with indefinitely.

You have people who can talk to you about this rationally--1-800-SUICIDE--and who know firsthand that people who have been in positions they thought were hopeless are now living testaments to the ability to get better. Sometimes it takes hard work and trial and error, but people get there every day. Give yourself that chance, please.

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somewhere much too cold: How does one know when they have reached emotional maturity? Problems still exist, pop up when well thought out groundwork has been laid, emotions arise, even unexpected....when does when know it is a safe bet to rely on ones choices?

Carolyn Hax: Emotional maturity doesn't mean that unpleasant or unwelcome emotions are erased completely. It just means that you're able to hold yourself back from acting on them, and wait till your calm before you speak out or make consequential decisions.

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Washington, DC: There is a big difference between 'not very attracted' and sexless. I married a man who had all those great qualities but was not the most attractive guy I dated. Plus I am influenced by the same pop culture that makes you think everyone else is having super hot porn star sex 24 7. He's an awesome dad, a great friend, my family loves him and surprisingly, we have been not sexlessly married for 14 years. Turns out when you are old, those great qualities are a lot more attractive than when you were 25. And he looks pretty hot in his responsible businessman suits...

Carolyn Hax: See, I regard what you're describing here as very different from "not very attracted." It sounds as if you're quite attracted to your husband, and you're talking about his being "not very attractIVE," at least in a pop culture sense.

If the friend in question has a good physical relationship with this guy and is nuts about him as a person, but just doesn't swoon when she looks at him as she might a more attractive guy, then my answer changes dramatically.

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Attraction vs. love??: The letter writer said her friend is concerned because "she is not very physically attracted" to her boyfriend. Your response was "Ask your friend if she wants to be one of those people I hear from almost daily, who...feels stuck because there's no love in the marriage." The letter writer didn't say anything about the friend not loving her boyfriend. Surely you're not equating the two?

Carolyn Hax: Not equating, conflating. With emotional and sexual attraction, when you have one but not the other, over time you commonly end up with neither.

The exception is when people feel a strong personality-based love and a once-absent physical attraction kicks in as a result. But I wouldn't advise anyone to make a life commitment and have kids based on the -possibility- that might happen. Wait to see if it happens, and then if it does, go for it.

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Yes, I watch Oprah...: I saw on Oprah the other day (hear me out) that "if your partner REALLY loves you, they want you to do what makes you happy." This was her explanation for why it wasn't okay for a husband to object to a wife taking a job she wanted, and I know she's said it in reference to other relationships on the show as well.

It makes perfect sense, but I'm not sure how to apply it or why it's not happening organically in my relationship. For example, what if my husband wants to go out with his buddies, and I want him to stay home with me - we can't both give each other what we want, and we can't both have what we want. Is it just, whoever loves the other one more gives in?

Carolyn Hax: Oh dear. No, it's not whoever loves the other one more gives in. That's scorekeeping, and that's extremely corrosive to relationships.

In the example you gave, the way you both could show love for each other is to take each person's needs on that night into account. If you've been sick or stressed by a project or unusually busy and you had the thought of this one night at home with your husband to look forward to, then he tells his buddies he'll see them another night. Or, if your husband has been there for everyone who has needed something from him, you included, and he's overdue for a night with his buddies, then you suck it up and tell him to have a great time.

It's always possible, using the case-by-case method of looking out for each other, that you'll hot points where both of you need a break on the same night. In those cases, I think it's helpful to think in terms of the possession arrow in basketball. When you both have a legitimate claim to the ball, the ball goes to the one who didn't get it last time.

Unfortunately, if both of you aren't trying your best to be fair--which means being ready to accept that you don't always get what you want, and being ready to speak up when you think things are out of balance--then this method can also devolve into scorekeeping.

What really makes the difference is genuinely wanting your spouse to be happy. If one spouse doesn't get out much, the other should feel bad for denying him/her a chance to get out. And if one spouse is always out, then s/he should feel bad for saying no to the one who wants to stay home. It's about looking out for the person who looks out for you.

(All this verbiage when I just needed to plagiarize an Isotoner ad.)

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Anonymous: Not a question really - just a comment on the poster who was wondering about marrying someone they are not attracted to physically. It is pretty well documented that looks eventually fade and sexual feelings cool. And forget for a moment that it would not be fair to the other party, who it is assumed, loves and is attracted to the poster's friend. The friend only needs to ask herself one question - if my spouse becomes incapacitated, do I love this person enough to do whatever I can to care for this person? Because if she can't honestly answer that question first, then she shouldn't be contemplating marriage to him at all.

Carolyn Hax: This actually came up last week as a minimum standard for marrying someone:

"Marriage and 100% certainty: Was I 100% certain before I married? No. But, I asked myself this question, 'Would I still want to marry him if he got hit by a bus tomorrow and spent the rest of his life incapacitated?' And the answer was yes."

.. and I got some comments that it was a weird/freaky standard. But I totally embrace it. You have no idea what's coming at you in life, and sometimes you are -the- person responsible for the care of someone completely dependent upon you (and not just in the young-child stage, which all parents-to-be expect). That dependent can be an older child, a parent, a spouse. And if you imagine your boyfriend/girlfriend in a dependent-spouse position and think, "Yes, I'd want to be the one who takes care of him/her," then you have your answer. (As long as you're not still twitterpated, which really mucks up one's judgment on such things.)

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New Jersey from last week: Hi Carolyn,

I wrote in last week about my baby's father, T., who doesn't approve of my relationship with my boyfriend, M. Toward the end of the chat you asked whether T has a thing for me. I have to answer honestly that he definitely did at one point -- but I thought that was behind us because we have both dated other people since then. Your question made me start to notice other things that add up to the same conclusion you seemed to reach. Unfortunately I don't share those feelings, if T really has them. I'm happy with M and I want to keep these relationships as uncomplicated as possible. So what should I do if your hunch is correct?

Carolyn Hax: Talk to T. "Does your opinion of M have anything to do with your feelings for me?"

T's response could go one of a few ways, anywhere from admitting that you're right to accusing you of flattering yourself. For anything short of a full confession, be prepared to say, "Okay, I'm glad to hear it--I just felt I had to ask." It's more important that you get T thinking about the possibility than it is to start some kind of soul-baring conversation (though one of those would be helpful, too).

Even if it's just an idea you plant in his mind, that's the first step in his challenging his biases, which is the first step in his taking a more cooperative approach to you, M and the child.

It might take a while, though, so be patient. Loving your child's parent when said parent doesn't love you back is grief multiplied, since it puts a person away from child, loved one, and idea of home. Ouch.

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Anonymous: Will you be at Politics and Prose with Nick tonight too? Very much looking forward to seeing you both in person!

Carolyn Hax: Yep. Thanks for reminding me--it was going to be in my hello post that I forgot to ... post. Tonight, 7 p.m., other details here:

http://www.politics-prose.com/event/book/nick-galifianakis-if-you-loved-me-youd-think-was-cute

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More on life partners...: Although it can be a difficult thing to contemplate, but you also have to face the fact that there are many reasons why some couples do not or can not procreate. You also need to ask yourself...if after trying, we cannot have a child...would I want to share my life with this person? If we do not meet eye to eye on alternative child-bearing (including adoption), will I be happy to be married to this person? And don't just say you can divorce the person. Many people find that divorce can be difficult for many reasons...and besides, you don't want to set yourself up to be another of that growing statistic.

Carolyn Hax: I was with you right up to the "you don't want to set yourself up to be another of that growing statistic." There are significant social, emotional and financial costs to divorce, and so it's nuts to treat "you can just divorce the person" as a shrug at the end of a life plan. But I don't think I've ever lost a wink of sleep over the concept of being a statistic of any kind. Assuming I've read you correctly; maybe that's not want you meant by bringing up the statistics idea. And yes, I wink in my sleep. Very stagey.

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Twitterpated: Speaking of being twitterpated, I'm old enough now to realize that's it not a precursor of future happiness. But since I'm in that state, can I just enjoy and see where it goes, as long as I'm not ignoring any red (or yellow) flags and have my eyes open?

Carolyn Hax: Yes, yes, enjoy it! Just don't sign anything legally binding.

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Alexandria, VA: I don't like the person my girlfriend is when she's around her friends. Her personality changes and she suddenly needs to be the center of everyone's attention. It's like she's playing the role of the "fun crazy girl" at the party and I'm sure lots of guys interpret her behavior towards them as flirting, whether or not she means it that way (she says she doesn't). She says I'm trying to change her when I tell her how I feel, but really I'm trying to get her to be HERSELF instead of this alter ego. How can I get her to stop putting on a show for her friends? And if she doesn't stop, should I stay with her?

Carolyn Hax: How do you know you're seeing the true person and not the alter ego? Why can't it be that she's putting on a good-girlfriend show for you when no one's around--i.e., when it's easy for her be that way, because no one's around to derail it?

That's a rhetorical-questiony way of saying that you need to stop trying to stop her from being whoever she is. Since other people can't get into our heads and experience what we're thinking, we are, for all practical purposes, nothing more than the sum of our behaviors. Your girlfriend is the sum of her behaviors. If you don't like a lot of what she does, then you don't entirely like her. And if you don't entirely like her, then you need to be honest with yourself about that and decide whether this aspect of her is bothering you more or less over time. and if the answer is "more," then, time's up.

By the way--I'm hoping this isn't just about your feeling possessive when she's flirting. If you're fine with a little flirting but feel she's taking it way too far, then you need to see that as a significant enough difference of opinion to qualify as a difference in values. If instead you just think any flirting by someone in a relationship is wrong, then you might want to try softening that opinion a bit before you take any more definitive steps to end the relationship. Maybe she just happens to be very charming and very faithful--and maybe it couldn't hurt to try on the idea of being the lucky guy who takes her home at the end of the night.

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There's probably a grammatical error in this question...: My girlfriend is always correcting me when we're out with friends or family. It is EXTREMELY annoying. She corrects my grammar, pronunciation, even minor facts in stories. I've asked her to stop but she says she can't help herself, it's just instinct. I told her it can't be instinct because she only does it to me, and she said that it IS instinct with just me because I represent her. I guess that makes sense? I don't even know what to do with this. Help?

Carolyn Hax: "It IS instinct with just me because I represent her"? Barf.

I upchuck not at the idea that your behavior reflects on her, and vice-versa, because that's axiomatic; the people we choose, including friends, say something about us.

Where my lunch tries to make an encore appearance is at the idea that your reflecting on each other means it's her responsibility to gussy you up for public consumption.

No, no, no.

If you are a high-quality person who occasionally gets a fact or inflection wrong, then people will see your value through those minor frailties, and will give her due credit for her excellent judge of character.

If instead your errors are significant enough to suggest you're a liability to her in the eyes of others, then the eyes of others will take that all in, even when--especially when, I should say--she rushes in to correct you.

So, correcting you doesn't really accomplish what she apparently believes it will as far as making her look good--and, in fact, it works against both of you. She's actually calling attention to your flaws/mistakes, which makes you look worse than you would if she left you alone, and she's publicly humiliating you, which makes her look worse.

It's almost as if she's trying to say to the people she wants to impress, "I know he's not perfect but I see it and I'm working on it." That's the battle cry of the insecure, announcing that she sees mistakes and is correcting them before anyone else can spot them, because she hates the feeling of being the one who didn't know something.

I'm not explaining this well, but I'm taking forever, so here it is.

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Party girlfriend: Age could be a factor here. Workin in an office with a lot of entry-level turnover, I noticed that 22 year olds would come in just after college with the obnoxious group mentality of high school/college kids. Then 3 years later they would move on to another job, like themselves rather than a member of the adolescent herd, and clearly relieved to have that phase out of the way. Girlfriend may be in the middle of this transition, with old friends on one side and boyfriend on the other.

Carolyn Hax: Works for me. If that's the case, then I still think the boyfriend needs to stop trying to force the transition, and instead make decisions for himself based on who she is now.

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NYC: This is an embarrassing one. My long time significant other, with whom I share an otherwise amazing life (we both have great careers, a wonderful home together, tons of shared interests and values), has periods of what he'd describe as obsessive preoccupation with having meaningless sex outside our relationship. The way he describes it, it really strikes me as an addiction (though I admit I thought Tiger's "sex addiction" was absurd). We're sort of at a fork in the road right now and he finally seems willing to seek professional help and maybe get himself on some sort of SSRI. Where to start?

Carolyn Hax: Start by 1. seeing whether there's an untreated, underlying disorder at work here; just for example, hypersexuality is often a symptom of bipolar disorder. That wouldn't make the meaningless sex indulgences okay, but it would explain them and make part of the problem treatable (it would still have to be paired with his genuine desire to rein in his behavior). SSRI seems to be jumping the gun, unless you know something official about his condition that you haven't mentioned here.

And 2. getting some care on your own, both a full checkup to make sure your SO didn't bring you any meaningless-sex souvenirs, and good counseling to help you figure out what you'll put up with, for how long and why. You need to know your own mind, and particularly your limits, on this.

I'm deliberately not weighing in on the possibility of sex addiction because addictive behaviors and drives are real (thus the link of hypersexuality to mania, which is without question a legitimate condition)--but I'm not in a position to comment on whose are legit and whose are hooey (whooey?). That's for the licensed professionals who treat the person in question.

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Grammatical Errors: I'm not sure I buy your rationale as to why someone would correct her boyfriend's grammar (privately or in public). Rather than stemming from some deap-seated need to impress others, can't she just be a person who values precision? I'm not suggesting that constantly correcting others isn't an annoying habit, but I don't think it necessarily has the negative animus you seem to attribute to it.

Carolyn Hax: If she "values precision," why doesn't she also correct other peers? They're never wrong?

And I never ascribed ill will to her impulses, just insecurity: palpable discomfort with the thought that others might think she missed something.

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Manhattan, NY: Hi Carolyn,

I'm finally going to see a therapist about my trouble communicating. The problem is that I'm really uncomfortable talking about myself, although I gather that sort of has to happen at therapy. I'm afraid I'll start crying or something embarrasing. What can I do to prepare for this?

Thanks.

Carolyn Hax: Expect to cry, and go cry. Break that ice early. Make the weird barking sounds people make when they try to talk through sobs. It's just not that bad, because it's a closed room with someone who's never going to tell. And besides, the therapist expects it, and has seen it before in just about every form humanly possible. People at peace with their emotional states don't turn up often in their offices.

In fact, if anyone has ever been in a therapist's office where tissues weren't in plain view, then please write in with the story. I expect crickets.

You can also look at it this way: Part of your trouble communicating is your fear of looking stupid, so prepare by reminding yourself as needed that you can't look stupid in your therapist's office. It's a dork-free zone.

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Re: Grammatical error guy (I assume guy): So what should he do? He's asked his GF to stop correcting him; she's apparently not even willing to try to restrain herself. Is there any way to stop her? Should he break up with her?

Carolyn Hax: Depends on context. If he can build a case that she's tougher on others than she is on herself, then I hope he makes a clean getaway. If instead he sees signs that she has residual knowitallisms that's fading with age and maturity, then maybe it's worth waiting to see.

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Grammatical errors: I spent years as an editor, and I don't wander around correcting people's speech. My husband repeatedly misuses "nonchalant." It makes me want to bristle every time, but don't correct him--it's just not that big a deal, particularly considering what a great guy he is. I have too much respect for him to try to belittle him in that way.

Carolyn Hax: Ding! Ding! Ding!

or, just for you:

ding Ding!Dng!

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Corrected boyfriend: Next time, he should respond "Correcting someone in public is bad manners. I wouldn't do it myself, but after our discussion I'm afraid the others will think I don't know that you're being disrespectful when you correct me like that."

Carolyn Hax: I like it, thanks. And:

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Who values precision over people?: Even if, for argument's sake, the girlfriend "just values precision"...I accept that as a reason to openly disregard the discomfort she brings upon her SO by indulging herself in this way. If indulging something you value means hurting someone you care about, it's time to take a serious look at what your moral compass's needle says about you.

Carolyn Hax: Right right.

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22 year olds: Did you intend to be so agreeable to this statment? "22 year olds would come in just after college with the obnoxious group mentality of high school/college kids." I seiously doubt that every young person in that office was obnoxious. And I also think it's pretty offensive to state that all high schoolers and college students are also obnoxious.

Carolyn Hax: If I come across as agreeable to anything, it's usually a mistake.

Badum-bum.

I would have phrased it differently, but I think the point stands, that people on a maturity seam often have behaviors from both sides, and that the GF in the question could very well be on such a seam.

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For "Grammatical Errors": should end "to which you seem to attribute it."

Carolyn Hax: I'll salute that. Then, I'll leave: Bye, thanks for stopping by, have a great weekend, type to you here next week, hope to see some of you at Politics and Prose tonight, and, one word: plastics.

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On Purpose Grammatical error guy: If I were constantly having my grammar corrected in public, I would be getting an urge to conversate more badly, speak bigger badness in my grammaterial iffyness.

Carolyn Hax: absomolutely.

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Wheaton MD: For Manhattan: My first visit to a therapist was a conversation-free zone. As soon as I opened my mouth to speak, I started to cry and cried for an hour. I kept going back and was soon able to express my anxieties/whatevers and got the assistance I needed at the time. Completely a nnon-judgmental environment.

Carolyn Hax: For all those afraid to start. Thank you.

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Please don't go!: I'm dying to know how to misuse "nonchalant."

Carolyn Hax: Now I am too. Maybe she'll come back next week (she, right?).

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for Grammar Girl: I was once told that you tell a lot about what someone is trying to hide by the way they're trying to hide it.

While likely not always true, it likely -is- true for the grammarian girlfriend. She's worried her friends and family will think her boyfriend is not smart enough -and- that by extension she's not smart enough, or not good enough to get a smart boyfriend. It has insecurity all over it.

Aside from the grammarian girlfriend though, I do find the adage useful as a gut check for myself. If I find myself engaging in protective behaviors on behalf of a grownup (in the absence of abuse), I ask myself what I'm trying to hide. The answer can surprise yourself if you're honest.

Carolyn Hax: The second paragraph is exactly the way I wish I could have said it when I was struggling to write that answer. Thanks.

And I really like the idea. Great question to ask, "what am I trying to hide?"

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Corrections...: I learned - which may have even been in this chat - that if you correct an adult when you know what they mean even if they said it incorrectly, then all you are doing is being an ass and making the other person feel bad, because whether correctly or incorrectly - they did in fact communicate what they wanted you to know.

Carolyn Hax: No, it wasn't in this chat ... kidding.

Thanks and bye for real.

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Just have to say...: We all have our garbage, but most of it pales in comparison to what's been happening in Egypt the last few weeks. Peaceful people power -- wow!

Carolyn Hax: Wow indeed.

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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.

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