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). She is on Twitter, @carolynhax, and Facebook. Here are resources for getting help and frequently asked questions about the column. Carolyn lives in Massachusetts with her husband, three boys and medium brown dogs, Billy and Auggie.

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Nick Galifianakis

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CAROLYN HAX COLUMN

(Advance for Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2021, and thereafter.)

(For Hax clients and FOR PRINT USE ONLY)

For Print Use Only. Minor change to answer to first question

By Carolyn Hax

Dear Carolyn:

My son is getting married to a wonderful young lady of a mixed-race background. She has a teen daughter.

I mentioned that I was excited to welcome another grandchild to the family. My husband said this teen was not a grandchild to him. He said this because she looks more Black than her mother.

I was shocked. I said she is now family. He said I am not to argue over this, and left the house. What am I to do?

-- Grandma

Grandma: Divorce him. This isn't just saying bad things, it's being a bad person.

If he has some quality that makes a case for him as a good person, then, try me -- but I can't think of any that would make views that evil welcome in my inner circle any longer than necessary to get the separation agreement drawn up.

Now: It's unclear whether he's your husband's son or stepson. If he stepped up lovingly to accept the two of you and your clearly different world views, then grant him a day to remember this better version of himself and retract his remark in horror.

But even then, on some level, you will always know he felt justified in dismissing a human being as unworthy of love for having darker skin. And wows just don't cut deeper than that.

Ultimately and obviously you have to decide for yourself what your principles are and how much material and emotional discomfort they're worth. I won't ask you to bring hardship upon your life to serve my principles.

Do know, however, that your needing him on some level doesn't redeem him of poor character; that's something only he can do for himself. I hope for everyone's sake he pulls off that miracle soon.

- - -

Dear Carolyn:

Over the course of the pandemic, our daughter has gained significant weight. She's always struggled and yes, I wish she could maintain a healthier BMI. That's NOT what this is about.

I love her in any shape and at any weight and she's perfectly capable of determining for herself what that should be.

My quandary is, how can I offer to get her an entire new wardrobe without being misinterpreted as saying, "You're fat"? She and her husband don't have a lot of disposable income and her old clothes don't fit, at all.

Honestly, I'm fat too, and we both know exactly where we are with our bodies. I'm not entirely sure she also realizes the clothes she's wearing are NOT flattering. So there's that. I truly believe she would feel better about herself in comfortable and flattering clothes. Any advice?

-- Anonymous

Anonymous: If you can afford to finance her entire new wardrobe, then you can also give her a no-strings-attached cash gift of the amount you intended to spend on clothing, so she has that elusive disposable income.

She can then buy new clothes if she wants them, versus you wanting them for her. Or she can tend to other priorities wearing her tight old clothes, which -- even if she doesn't look better for it -- will still make her life appreciably better, which is presumably all you're hoping to do.

- - -

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.

CAROLYN HAX COLUMN

(Advance for Saturday, Oct. 2, 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 just was sent a screenshot from a friend of my boyfriend on a dating app. We've lived together for years, and his profile photos are recent. This is clearly an active account. This is not the first time he has been caught on a dating app during our relationship. He doesn't believe me when I say this time is different and I am done with the relationship and the lies. He's still claiming that it's an old account and he's not cheating, as opposed to taking any accountability or being honest.

How do I get over the sense of foolishness for giving him multiple chances and having him not change? And for still questioning my resolve to actually end things right now? Why am I not stronger?

-- Done

Done: Reframe the patience you misspent on him into a virtue: You chose to see the good in someone, you chose to trust again. Is that really so terrible?

That he proved himself unworthy of your patience, of the benefit of your doubts, and unworthy of the effort you put into your relationship -- all are about him, not you.

As for questioning your resolve: You can actually stay with someone unfaithful. There's no relationship law that says he has to go. (BEG ITAL)You're(END ITAL) deciding that. (BEG ITAL)You're(END ITAL) deciding you've had enough and he doesn't deserve to share his life with you. If you want to change your mind on that, then, go ahead -- but do it knowing he will be unfaithful to you throughout.

The point of this thought exercise is clarity. If you decide to stick with him, it's not, "Hmm, maybe this time he'll stop cheating" -- it's, "Hmm, maybe I'd rather be with him, even if he cheats on me, than break up with him." I think once you say out loud to yourself what you'd actually be agreeing to if you stayed, your resolve to leave him will hold up just fine.

Carolyn:

Thank you for your response. I am not OK with a life of being lied to and cheated on, and I do deserve more. Part of the struggle, which I just have to get over, is that I am 41. And really wanted a different story for my life at this point. But I won't get that different story with this guy.

-- Done again

Done again: What's with seeing your life as a story, though? That's so much pressure to put on yourself, to be an author, and therefore if things take an unplanned-for turn, you've somehow failed.

Think of life stories that are actually stories: obituaries. They can be, because the lives they're about are over; till the ending's written, it's all just scraps of paper on a bulletin board. Plus, obits are interesting only due to the person who lived, illuminated and connected the events -- the points on the timeline themselves are utterly dry. So my actual advice now is to start reading obits, and their excellent reminders to get out of the ruts of your own (or society's) expectations.

And give yourself the gift of seeing this life as exactly what it's supposed to be -- mistakes, unmet expectations, successes, decisions to coast a bit, decisions to shake it all up. Be game for wherever 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.

CAROLYN HAX COLUMN

(Advance for Friday, Oct. 1, 2021, and thereafter.)

(For Hax clients and FOR PRINT USE ONLY)

For Print Use Only.

By Carolyn Hax

Dear Carolyn:

I am in my 70s and recently learned my sister and my ex-husband had a sexual relationship 50 years ago. My ex and I were separated at the time and my sister was 16. While I was separated, my entire family strongly pressured me to go back to him because he was "such a good guy." I had married very young and realized he was not right for me, but under pressure I did go back. It lasted only eight months. I am now happily married to my current husband of 46 years.

Besides the fact the ex was/is guilty of statutory rape, she is guilty of a profound betrayal. In all the years since then I have supported her financially and emotionally and am still sending her money to help make ends meet. She has had a tragic life and I've felt sorry for her hardships and tried to be there for her.

However, knowing she had this relationship with my ex, failed to warn me about his horrible behavior and allowed me to return to him, well, it's made me very angry. It's become harder and harder to support someone who lied to me all these years. I cannot believe I thought she was my best friend my whole adult life.

She is physically and emotionally impaired now, so would probably crash if we "had it out." At the same time, I would just as soon sever all ties with her. I'm that hurt and angry.

-- Sister Betrayed

Sister Betrayed: Please, please connect these dots: Your ex is guilty of statutory rape, therefore your sister was raped. She is a rape victim. She cannot be both a rape victim and "guilty of a profound betrayal."

Not knowing the circumstances surrounding her health issues, I can only speculate that her rape was either the catalyst or a compounding factor in her struggles as an adult. But please also include this possibility in your reasoning that both her rape and her having to carry this heavy secret her whole life have profoundly compromised her mental health.

None of this means you are not a victim yourself. It's just that you're not (BEG ITAL)your sister's(END ITAL) victim. Your ex harmed you -- both of you, terribly. As did, to a far lesser degree and unwittingly, your family, with their inappropriate involvement in your marital business. Think about it: Your sister no doubt heard them insist repeatedly what a "good guy" he was, and she had to live with that cognitive dissonance -- and whatever seeds of self-loathing it planted -- for the next 50 years.

I'm connecting other dots here, and guessing she never got appropriate care for her emotional injuries. I can't speak to 50 years ago, but 40 years ago I was a teen, and can vouch for how little support there was. Nothing compared to now. For bearers of secrets? Zip.

One support she has had is you. Maybe the only. Lifelong.

Ideally your sister would have refused your ex and tipped you off, yes. But it's a rare 16-year-old with that presence of mind, especially one 1971-equipped and already shaped by family dysfunction.

My advice: Apply (BEG ITAL)all(END ITAL) past realities toward present forgiveness. And if you can't, then talk to someone, please -- 2021, for all its faults, is better equipped for this.

- - -

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.

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). She is on Twitter, @carolynhax, and Facebook. Here are resources for getting help and frequently asked questions about the column. Carolyn lives in Massachusetts with her husband, three boys and medium brown dogs, Billy and Auggie.

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, and dip into her archives.

Nick Galifianakis

See more of Nick’s artwork

Links