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Carolyn Hax: Don’t pick a fight; pick marriage counseling


Adapted from recent online discussions.

Hi, Carolyn:

Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. The column includes cartoons by "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis -- Carolyn's ex-husband -- and appears in over 200 newspapers. View Archive

I know I’m being unreasonable, but I also know there is a deeper issue here and I need help separating the two.

My new husband announced to me that he is going to the beach with his parents for Memorial Day weekend to hang out and help them get their place ready for the season. He has a history of making plans on inopportune days, like Valentine’s weekend and our first anniversary.

I asked him to do it another weekend because I want to do something together for the long weekend. I should note that I don’t get along with his father and can’t, for reasons of sanity, go with him.

I am very upset, and I know rationally he should go and it’s not that big a deal. However, we do most everything together and he would be very hurt if I left him hanging in this way. In fact, I hang out much less with my friends now than I did before him, which is a separate issue.

To make this all worse, I thought we had agreed he would move it to another weekend and just found out he was planning all along to go and was trying to go around me to avoid the conflict. He’s not big on conflict. I see this as the much larger problem.

Sooo, which parts of this fight do I pick and how do I handle this rationally?


As I read this I started forming an answer about his making plans at times that are inopportune for you or your marriage . . . then I mentally chucked that and started forming an answer to the fact that you both center your plans on him . . .

Then I crumpled that up and started a response to his flat-out cowardly tactics for getting his way . . . and lit that on fire because of the bit you tossed in at the end about his conflict-aversion.

So here’s my answer now: marriage counseling. (Or seminar/workshop. With the usual disclaimers — find someone reputable, capable, compatible.)

And over Memorial Day weekend, go away with these friends you don’t see as often anymore. You need the perspective that comes only after spending some time with your old self. See what she thinks about the patterns emerging from this marriage of yours.

Hi, Carolyn:

Long-term relationship ended badly several years ago. He was an alcoholic who hid his addiction for a very long time, until he was no longer able to. The lies and manipulations that came from that: numerous and destructive. I got professional help, did a lot of hard (and painful) work, and thought I’d grown from this and moved on.

Recently a relative of his, whom I stayed friends with, passed away and I find myself back where I was years ago. Angry, hurt, wanting amends and apologies that I never received. How to move past?


Be a little easier on yourself, please. Moving on doesn’t mean you’ll never feel bad about something again. While relapses aren’t inevitable, they are normal.

If you have access (by phone, even) to the same counselor who helped you out of the fog last time, then consider some “tune-up” appointments to remind you where you found peace before.

Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or Subscribe at



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