Advice columnist

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn:

Is there any way I can ask my husband not to attend the birth of our second baby? During the first birth, my husband was useless, didn’t do anything I had asked him to do before labor, sat in a chair and basically gawked awkwardly at the painful experience. It made me more nervous and upset to have him there.

I just want to get a doula and show him the baby once it’s out — like in the olden days. Is there a rule that says husbands need to be there for every minute of their wives’ labor?

Anonymous Wife

The only rule that applies here is that life partners need to be able to talk to each other about difficult subjects. Be gentle, be clear, be open to the possibility that he learned from last time. And hire the doula regardless.

Hi, Carolyn:

What is the best way to respond to a boyfriend who doesn’t tell you what he wants, but then punishes you when he doesn’t get it (by pouting, acting distant, etc.)? Is there any hope for working this out? My last attempt — pointing out that I didn’t know what he wanted because he didn’t tell me — was met with by silence.

Anonymous Significant Other

“I’m sorry, I do not want to be in a relationship where I get punished for not reading your mind. I hope you find a way to express what you need, because I do care about you and want you to be with someone who makes you happy. Goodbye and good luck.”

Hi, Carolyn!

My two best friends and I have been out of college for a few years. Friend A and Friend B work in similar fields: A is a very high achiever and is excelling, and while B has experienced some setbacks, she has a steady job and is working hard to get where she wants to be.

Lately, when I talk to B, she tends to compare us unfavorably to A: A is prettier, A will be the only one to get married, and she’ll have to support us when we’re broke and jobless.

I’m proud of where I am right now, and B’s comments are starting to sting. I don’t think she’s doing this intentionally, but when I tell her not to compare us, she’ll say she doesn’t mean it that way, and then it’ll just happen again. How do I get her to stop?

Anonymous Friend

Well, you can’t “get” her to do anything. Hax World 101.

You can respond to her by speaking your mind clearly: “When you put me in the ‘Not as brilliant as A’ club, I feel stung and insulted. I’m proud of all of us. We’re all different.” Apple, orange and . . . kumquat?

Then, when she (presumably) says, “I didn’t mean it that way,” you can say: “What did you mean, then?”

Then you can talk about what’s really bothering her, ideally.

If she just deflects and reverts to form, then you shut it down: “I won’t help you bash yourself.” B’s insecurities might swamp her friendships with both you and A, but you can’t prevent that; you can only give each friend your best effort.

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