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Carolyn Hax: Readers offer advice on navigating relationships


While I’m away, readers give the advice.

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

On envying friends’ success:

1. Get rid of your TV — for mountains of reasons that become obvious when you think about it.

2. Cultivate a few friends who value giving and who believe living lightly on Earth is a better goal than acquiring. There are a lot of us.

(Nick Galifianakis)

3. Focus on what you can do to make the world a better place. Even a tiny improvement helps.

I made the transition 30 years ago and still wake up with a smile every morning.


On having friends disappear on you:

Please, folks who are feeling miffed about plans being canceled, e-mails going unanswered or friends acting funny, please consider they may have something going on in their lives bigger than you, and it’s okay, the friendship is still there.

This smacked me upside the head recently. A friend was acting moody, and I later learned his wife had a miscarriage. Another friend FINALLY showed up for a night with the gang, and he e-mailed later to thank us since he’s been dealing with his ailing father, which we had no idea about. And now I’m pregnant! I’m having to lie like a dog about not drinking and I’m canceling plans that called for late nights (I’m soooo tired). It’s too early to tell them, and it’s none of their business.

But I know we’ll all celebrate when the time is right. Same goes for my other friends. Their struggles are not my business until they’re ready to talk about them, and it doesn’t mean they value my friendship any less.


On being badgered:

I had many conversations with my mother along the lines of, “If you don’t [whatever], you’ll end up old and alone” . . . until I realized I could never please her, ever.

So at the next opportunity, I chirped, “Well, you never know, maybe I’ll die young!” Or, “Maybe there will be a nuclear war and I won’t have to worry about Social Security running out!” Our conversations were never quite the same again.

Truly, if you want things to change, then do something different.


On making a big change in the way you eat or drink:

A couple of years ago, we stopped drinking because we were on a trajectory that looked like it could end badly. A year ago, we adopted a healthier diet. The reaction from others:

1. They seem nervous around us when they drink. Sincerely saying, “Don’t worry about us,” is ineffective.

2. The endless comments about food intake and diet are tedious.

3. Social invitations diminished. Dramatically.

Consequently, we find that friends now go one direction while we go another.


On not becoming a mother-in-law statistic:

My first rule of mother-in-lawing is: Do not meddle. Even when a child-in-law seems to be asking my advice, I always inquire as to whether they are looking for advice or just need me to listen. So far, so good. They talk to me about their lives and relationship while I listen and keep my big mouth shut (not always easy).


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



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