Carolyn Hax

Washington, D.C.

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. Besides the daily column, Carolyn has a weekly live online discussion (noon Fridays), the Hax Philes forum and a Facebook page. She also has a policy of saying yes when NPR calls but avoids TV like something forgotten in the back of the fridge; the feeling appears to be mutual.

Carolyn lives in Massachusetts with her husband, three boys and medium brown dog, Billy, but sees D.C. as “home.”

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Nick Galifianakis

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Hax Philes

Hax Philes are your place to weigh in and help your fellow Haxies. Share your thoughts on dilemmas that came up in recent chats and columns. Or comment on one of the Hax Philes Open Threads, where we discuss anything and everything that's on your mind.
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  • Tell Me About It: Lying, Sulking, Getting Fat ... and 56 Other Things Not to Do While Looking for Love
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Recent Articles

CAROLYN HAX COLUMN

(Advance for Saturday, April 24, 2021, and thereafter.)

(For Hax clients and FOR PRINT USE ONLY)

For Print Use Only.

By Carolyn Hax

Adapted from an online discussion.

Dear Carolyn:

I am a surgery resident training in a prestigious program. My wife was recently diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer, which was diagnosed after she saw (at my behest) my program director who happens to be a cancer surgeon with a national reputation. She has since met with the multi-disciplinary team and started on chemotherapy.

The surgery part of her treatment won't happen for a few months, but here is my problem: My wife does not want my program director to be her surgeon! She thinks he is a "cold fish," and wants to ask a younger woman -- whom she has met through departmental social events only -- to do her surgery. The woman is also fellowship trained in surgical oncology, so there is not an issue of her competence.

I have tried to explain to my wife this would be an affront to my program director and would make things awkward for me, but she is pretty adamant. Please help.

-- Surgeon

Surgeon: So, a recap: Your wife is fighting for her life, and you're worried about the cost of insulting Mr. National Reputation to your "prestigious" career.

Yeah.

Even if your rationale weren't jaw-droppy, it's still Her Body. Find a way to make it not awkward, and give her what she wants without making her fight you for it.

Or just be awkward. Sweet Cheez-Its. She gets the surgeon she wants.

Make something up as a reason. "She wants a female surgeon." You can craft some verbal fig leaf for the program director -- assuming you even need to say anything.

This is traumatic and scary for both of you, so I'll offer the grace of considering that this is your way of feeling like you can control even one small part of a traumatic and scary thing. But overruling your wife on her care preference is not the place to assert your power. Keep your focus on supporting your wife.

I'm sorry this happened, and hope she's OK.

Dear Carolyn:

I've been having panic attacks and severe depression due to retirement, health issues and my husband's health issue. I started seeing a therapist, but I don't seem to be making any progress. We go over the same issues and he has good suggestions, but I just can't seem to break out of my "stuckedness." Should I look for a different therapist?

-- Stuck

Stuck: Maybe, but first be clear with your current therapist that you feel stuck. Be very specific with him -- especially about what you see as his good suggestions. You're trying but it's not working, so is there some other way to approach them?

It could be that you do need a different therapist, but it could also be that you need ideas on how to act after a long period of fear and inaction -- include some practical, step-by-step, how-tos for putting his good advice into action. Therapy brings change and change is hard. A suggestion can seem good to you and still feel pointless or impossible the moment you leave the office. Tell him you need help with first steps, then see how it goes.

- - -

Email Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.

(c) 2021, Washington Post Writers Group

CAROLYN HAX COLUMN

(Advance for Friday, April 23, 2021, and thereafter.)

(For Hax clients and FOR PRINT USE ONLY)

For Print Use Only.

By Carolyn Hax

Hi Carolyn:

I'm a 27-year-old grad student who, during undergrad, was in a relationship that ended due to trust issues. I met a guy a year ago who has all the qualities I want and need. He is kind, honest, comes from a great family, treats me like a queen and my parents love him.

My parents are "get it done" kind of people. My mom has a college education but stopped working and became a stay-at-home mom and was always there for us, supporting us and making sure we were safe. My dad still works 12-hour days and has unbelievable drive, energy and passion to do the best he can for his family.

My guy, who has all the qualities I love, has little drive. He has a low-paying job with a retail chain and no desire to move up, do more and earn more. I have talked with him about all the qualities he has and how great he would be in a different position and he always commits to seeing what else is out there, after this or that happens. He never moves forward.

What can I do to help him understand that he is the guy, but he needs to step up? We want a family and the ability to enjoy our children like our parents did. I am also happy to work and contribute financially to help make that happen, but I fear our different levels of drive, to do the best we can, will eventually come between us.

-- T.

T.: 1. If he is the guy only because he is the opposite of undergrad guy, then he's not the guy.

2. If he is the guy only so long as he serves a role in your kids' childhood home identical to the role your dad played in your childhood home, then he's not the guy.

3. If he is the guy but [anything], then he's not the guy.

Any item from Column A is an answer. Or choose one from Column B:

1. Your guy has an inalienable right to advance his career not an inch further. His life, his prerogative to live it within the bounds of small-er-ish paychecks.

2. If you do coerce him into advancement, assuming he stays with it -- he may dislike it, sag under its weight, think less of you and himself for the coercion.

3. If he advances under your pressure to "step up," would the "passion" to provide be his, or a transplanted version of yours? And if it's yours, will he quit? Will his body reject the transplant?

Or, Column C:

1. A kind, honest man who treats you well could become a warm, loving, laid-back, steadfast and utterly (BEG ITAL)present(END ITAL) stay-at-home dad. Not saying he will, just could. He'd have to outgrow the empty promises. No guarantee. And no obligation to wait.

But: You would have to outgrow the parent-worship, too. And, for any man to be the right partner, you'd have to love (BEG ITAL)his own(END ITAL) version of "the best he can" -- not just accept it grudgingly, or think it's less-than (yours, Mom's, Dad's, whoever's).

You can learn from your dad's example without auditioning or pressuring men to play exactly his role. Envision a future with someone as-is, and (BEG ITAL)want it(END ITAL) -- or accept he isn't the guy.

- - -

Email Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.

(c) 2021, Washington Post Writers Group

CAROLYN HAX COLUMN

(Advance for Thursday, April 22, 2021, and thereafter.)

(For Hax clients and FOR PRINT USE ONLY)

For Print Use Only.

By Carolyn Hax

Adapted from an online discussion.

Dear Carolyn:

How do you deal with a friend who is a total drama queen, who seems to always have a "crisis of the moment" that fizzles out about 10 seconds later? My friend "Allie" is like this. It seems like almost every conversation we have starts with her SO UPSET about something -- at work, with her family, in her dating life -- and she needs all this support, but then the next time we talk she has forgotten all about it and/or doesn't want to talk about it anymore. It's exhausting! And I have gotten tired of investing brain space in her dramas that never go anywhere.

So what do I say the next time she lays one at my feet? "I'm sorry, but I can't pay attention to this because I know it'll turn out to be nothing," doesn't seem like an option here.

-- Exhausted

Exhausted: Why not? Maybe those aren't the exact words you want to use, but you can say, "This sounds a lot like [similar recent crisis], and remember that turned out OK when [she did something to fix it]."

I know, a drama queen's gonna drama, so you can expect her not to shower you with gratitude for giving her this perspective. But it's a perfectly civil and friendly way to let her know you are not going to respond as if this is a crisis when you have ample evidence to assure you it is not one.

You can also cut off the validation supply, just stop offering any suggestions at all, stop giving them brain space, since her MO is pretty clearly just to dump and feel better. "Aw jeez," "Huh," "So then what happened?" "What do you think you'll do?" ... as you fold laundry, file your nails, scratch the dog ... until the 10 seconds of crisis have passed.

Readers say:

--This was written for parents, but it seems apt: https://nyti.ms/2k9vKRG. Basically, you're her emotional trash can.

--For longer than I like to admit, I was a high-drama person. Somewhere along the line I had learned high drama (EQUAL SIGN) interesting. A few things helped me unlearn that lesson, and continue to help me deal with high-drama people lovingly: 1. a few true friends making gentle, loving comments about there always being drama 2. a simple check-in to know if I am problem-solving or venting (with venting, I hear it as a story, not a problem) 3. asking myself why not me instead of why me -- and when would be a good time for anything to go wrong? 4. and finally, deciding a one-sided relationship isn't actually a relationship, not one I want. With one friend, I finally spelled it out -- I wasn't in a place to carry his guano. Once, I thought he was suicidal and dropped everything -- and he didn't even remember that conversation as significant in any way. Now he is very conscious of any emotional dumping, and I am very conscious of his needing to vent occasionally. Mutual awareness has made all the difference.

--"I wasn't in a place to carry his iguana." That's how I first read that line. I think it still works.

- - -

Email Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.

(c) 2021, Washington Post Writers Group

About
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. Besides the daily column, Carolyn has a weekly live online discussion (noon Fridays), the Hax Philes forum and a Facebook page. She also has a policy of saying yes when NPR calls but avoids TV like something forgotten in the back of the fridge; the feeling appears to be mutual.

Carolyn lives in Massachusetts with her husband, three boys and medium brown dog, Billy, but sees D.C. as “home.”

Sign up for Carolyn Hax's column, delivered to your inbox early each morning.

Chat with Carolyn

Tackle your problems with Carolyn every Friday from noon until she falls on her keyboard. Plus dip into her deep archives.

Nick Galifianakis

See more of Nick’s artwork

Hax Philes

Hax Philes are your place to weigh in and help your fellow Haxies. Share your thoughts on dilemmas that came up in recent chats and columns. Or comment on one of the Hax Philes Open Threads, where we discuss anything and everything that's on your mind.
Books
  • Tell Me About It: Lying, Sulking, Getting Fat ... and 56 Other Things Not to Do While Looking for Love
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