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Carolyn Hax: Readers talk about amicable breakups, perfect parents and what is hip


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 remaining friends with exes:

My girlfriend is still friendly with her ex-husband, still talks to him regularly, and still expresses concern for him, because his life became pretty messed up before, during and after their split. When I compare this with my own divorce, which ended amicably after far too much childishness and spite along the way, I appreciate my girlfriend’s maturity and kindness.

An amicable breakup that keeps a friendship intact shows that both people respect the others’ individuality, freedom and choices. That is not something my ex and I have.

(Nick Galifianakis/For The Washington Post)

So, I have never felt worried or jealous about my girlfriend’s relationship with her ex. Rather, it’s a signal that I’m with the right kind of person for me.


On discomfort with having a baby shower:

I was reluctant about having a shower, opted for a small book-themed shower, and was incredibly and unexpectedly moved by the feeling of community. And it was so much fun to think of people over the years as I read my daughter the books.


On dating a workaholic:

My ex worked hard, my partner works hard. I definitely see my partner less than I saw my ex. It bothered me with my ex but doesn’t with my partner, because, deep down, I knew my ex didn’t really love me, value me or appreciate me, and I know my partner does.

I think sometimes people focus on things that they feel indicate some sort of lack of consideration — the classic socks-on-the-floor thing — when it is really a lot more fundamental than that.


On feeling unfit to be a parent:

I learned as we struggled through our first child’s infancy: I’m not really a baby person. Once my son, then daughter, reached about 3 years old, parenthood became so much easier and even fun.

There also was not the pressure to be such a perfect mom back in my day (late 70s to mid-80s). We just muddled through, without comparison to those perfect moms who post their triumphs on Pinterest.


On being the “hip younger aunt”:

Nobody who calls herself hip is actually hip.


On helping a child’s teacher who has suffered a loss:

After my father passed suddenly, a parent collected a small amount of money from each student and purchased two “memorial books” for the school library. She chose gardening as the topic, as we had stated in the obituary that Dad had loved to garden. It was such a touching tribute, one that I could revisit for comfort.

Retired in Pittsburgh

On meeting people after hearing terrible stories about them:

My adult daughter has personality disorders too complicated to mention. One of her apparently favorite things to do is tell people who don’t know me well what a horrible person/mom I am/was.

Give others the benefit of the doubt, especially if they are close to their families (I am), have friends and interests (I do) and are attempting to hold their heads up. They deserve compassion. If they turn out to be raging [unmentionables], everyone will find out soon enough.


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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