The Washington Post

Carolyn Hax: Her hostile reaction to misfired introduction shows lack of trust


Dear Carolyn:

Last night, my boyfriend of seven months introduced me by his ex-girlfriend’s name, then hurriedly corrected himself. I stated very calmly, “You just called me ‘Rhonda,’ ” and he denied it. I left the bar and began to walk home.

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

He feels bad but says it means nothing. He does not seem as contrite as I feel he should be, making it worse.

A few days ago, I asked him to remove the 100-plus pictures of her on his Facebook page, and put one of me up. They have been broken up for quite some time. He put one of me up but didn’t delete the pictures of her. He has since deleted them, but it feels like it is too late.

Some of my friends think this happens all the time, and I should just get over it. Others think it clearly shows that in the back of his mind he still considers her his girlfriend. She has been a point of contention in our relationship for a long time.

(Nick Galifianakis/The Washington Post)

Although he was initially sorry, hours later he fought with me about it. I feel like he should not only not be fighting with me but also making some sort of gesture to show me how much I mean to him. A cheap card or flowers would suffice. What should I do?


Marry him. Then sit back and relish his calling you by your kid’s name, your dog’s name, and occasionally just, “Hey.” Or marry a divorced guy and, every time he accidentally uses his ex-wife’s name, buy yourself fabulous shoes.

Obviously I think your “get over it” friends are wiser than the others, but, well, if only that were all there was to it.

His denying it, your stomping off in a huff, his later fighting you, your photo counting and the whole idea of “cheap card or flowers” as proof of devotion just give the advice lobe of my brain a throbbing pain.

If he’s good to you in ways that matter — listens to you, shares with you, takes your feelings into account before he acts, treats you as an equal, stays true to his word, is kind to you even when he doesn’t want something from you — then quit the stomping and just trust him.

Which really means trusting yourself to handle it if not every minute with any partner fits your precise definition of devotion to you. Make sure the big stuff is there, yes, absolutely — but recognize that takes time to develop and will come to you as is for you to take or leave, “shoulds” be damned.

Also recognize that each of us has many ties, and even severing them completely doesn’t render them unimportant — thank goodness. Not all ghosts are threatening.

Also recognize that if the big stuff in your relationship isn’t there — the respect, the intimacy — or if the ghost is truly disruptive, then no amount of photo-deleting or stripey carnations will fix it. You can’t insist on respect; you can give it only a reasonable amount of time to develop — mutually — and break up if it doesn’t.

During that time, what do you do? Like each other. If you “feel” that part “should” be better, then why are you sticking around?

Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or Sign up for Carolyn Hax’s column, delivered to your inbox early each morning, at



Success! Check your inbox for details. You might also like:

Please enter a valid email address

See all newsletters

Show Comments
Most Read



Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Your Three. Videos curated for you.
Play Videos
What can babies teach students?
Unconventional warfare with a side of ale
A veteran finds healing on a dog sled
Play Videos
A fighter pilot helmet with 360 degrees of sky
Is fencing the answer to brain health?
Scenes from Brazil's Carajás Railway
Play Videos
How a hacker group came to Washington
The woman behind the Nats’ presidents ‘Star Wars’ makeover
How hackers can control your car from miles away
Play Videos
Philadelphia's real signature sandwich
Full disclosure: 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, 1 ghoul
Europe's migrant crisis, explained

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.