Original "Tell Me About It" columns will appear in Sunday Source while Carolyn is on maternity leave. The following are excerpts from spring 2003 live discussions on washingtonpost.com.
My husband and I are both young, mid-twenties, but we've both been very lucky in life professionally and make a pretty good living. We have some friends we're very close to and value highly, but I always feel like they hold it against us that we make more money than they do. They bring it up all the time -- telling us what they make, how much their condo cost, etc.
My husband and I both try very hard never to discuss money at all when they're around, but somehow it seems to come up. For example, we're buying a house and we are reminded constantly that when they bought their condo they were not able to get something they really loved, that they don't really like their place, etc.
Basically, I'm starting to get tired of being made to feel guilty for having what we have. At the same time, I love these friends and I do want to be conscious of their feelings. So, my question is, how can my husband and I talk about things like our house or anything else exciting in our lives without making our friends feel bad or seeming like jerks?
-- Somewhere, USA
Isn't it possible they're not holding it against you, and they're just talking about the usual trials of being mid-twenties, and your guilt is internal? If you're happy about something, try being happy about it and see how that flies. To feel you must downplay everything out of consideration for the less fortunate is the most thoughtful kind of condescension.
I am feeling jealous because my boyfriend's ex from years past is visiting and I won't be there in person. He will be out with a big group of friends who know each other. I have a fun night planned anyway, but please help me get my mind off focusing on the thought of him cheating!
-- Washington, D.C.
How's this: If this is all it takes for him to cheat, then hope he does before you two get any further along.
Oftentimes those who don't trust their significant others not to cheat have been cheated on in the past. I feel cheating is common enough that it's not unreasonable to be cautious, especially toward the beginning of the relationship. Trust often needs to be built.
1. That's so unfair to the new SO, to punish him or her for the sins of the last one.
2. The caution should come upfront, in the selection process, so the person shouldn't even be an SO without at least some level of trust.
3. The caution shouldn't be caution (negative) so much as curiosity and attentiveness (positive). Paying attention to the signals someone gives off -- e.g., their honesty in other, non-ex-girlfriend-related situations -- should tell you most of what you need to know, before you even think to get paranoid about cheating.
The benefit of doing things that way is that, when you do come across something that strikes you as fishy, you're probably right to be concerned, which sure beats freaking out over every unsupervised trip to anyplace s/he might meet someone else.
Write to Tell Me About It, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or firstname.lastname@example.org, and join Carolyn's live discussion at noon Fridays at www.washingtonpost.com/liveonline.