The Washington Post

Time to cut her losses?


Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear 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

Please help. My husband of three-plus years and I are in our 30s. Around this time last year we hit a rough patch, but with some counseling and a year of working really hard, I thought we had gotten to a much better place. I was really proud of us.

When I brought up buying a house and having a child — subjects discussed before the rough patch — he admitted he was still unhappy. He doesn’t want to split but he also doesn’t want to move forward.

He’s back in counseling, which started as couples counseling but the therapist said he just wanted to work with him. I’m at a loss. Do I continue to stay and hope things improve? Or cut my losses and move forward? I love him and want to be with him but can’t continue to be responsible for his unhappiness. And I want to start building the family and the future we both at one time wanted.

What Now?

I’m sorry.

I don’t usually like to get this specific, but have you thought about a trial separation? Your husband clearly has some stuff he’s working on, and he’s not including you in the process, so there could be somewhat counterintuitive value in stepping away to let him deal with his stuff without also having to negotiate day-to-day life in a marriage. It could have the added benefit of helping you think more clearly about what you want, what’s possible and what you’re willing to wait for.

It might be that you’re not ready for this, and that’s fine, but if you’re at the point where you’re seriously willing to “cut my losses and move forward,” then a separation would be a less drastic step.

Dear Carolyn:

My boyfriend and I have both left troubled marriages in the past year and are beginning to build a life together. Our exes are really good people who we respect, but the marriages just weren’t healthy for anyone involved.

I am five years younger and significantly thinner than his ex-wife. While I know those facts play little role in our relationship, several of his friends, and even members of his family, have made “trophy wife” comments about me. Some of the comments have been in a congratulatory tone, others have been really snarky.

These comments leave me feeling defensive of my worth beyond being thin, but also hurt for his ex, who is a really wonderful woman.

I guess I should let it go, but I want to let people know that comparing us based on looks is insulting to everyone involved. Thoughts?

“Trophy” Wife

This is a perfect case for a “Wow.” Followed by, as needed, “That’s incredibly insulting, to both of us.”

A decision to “let it go” might make sense if it were just your value and your feelings that people were slapping around — brushing off insults is one of many possible demonstrations of strength — but they’re also slapping around someone who isn’t around to defend herself. On behalf of the ex-wife, please throw a flag on this “joke.”

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



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