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Tell Me About It

Byline: Carolyn Hax

Carolyn takes your questions and comments about her current advice column and any other questions you might have about the strange train we call life. Her answers may appear online or in an upcoming column.

Valentine's Day Tips for Making the Perfect Employment MatchAppearing every Wednesday and Friday in The Washington Post Style section and in Sunday Source, Tell Me About It Baefers readers advice based on the experiences of someone who's been there -- really recently. Carolyn Hax is a 30-something repatriated New Englander with a liberal arts degree and a lot of opinions and that's about it, really, when you get right down to it. Oh, and the shoes. A lot of shoes.

____________________ Carolyn is running a few minutes late, but she'll be here, so stay tuned. -- Liz


Carolyn Hax: Hi guys. Sorry for the delay.

Atlantic City, N.J.: Submitting early ... I have been married for about two years to a man who is a little too honest at times. He told me that his brother (in confidence) tried to convince him not to continue to date me, not to move in with me, and then not to marry me, all the way up to the point where he kept asking him "are you sure about this?" as they were waiting for me to walk down the aisle! To some, it might seem like brotherly concern but my feelings are hurt and I can't seem to get over it. I don't know what I could have done to make his brother so anti-me. I never really liked him before all this (he is pompous and self-centered), but I was always polite to him. I hate family gatherings because of him, so I really need to get over it. Help!

Carolyn Hax: This is high on the easier-said-than-done scale, but it sounds to me like having this guy as your enemy is a compliment.

And if that's too extreme an interpretation, you can still say to yourself quite credibly that you and the brother are very, very different people, who at best aren't going to warm to each other naturally. When he was arguing against you, he was probably seeing you though his eyes, not his brother's (ie, the self-centered vibe you get from him). The persistence falls under the same interpretation--he wanted a different sister-in-law for himself, who better suited his tastes. This happens ALL the time, with self-centered people and non-. All you can do is keep reminding yourself that you wouldn't have chosen him, either, and shrug him off.


Arlington, Va.: About the crappy relationships... is it possible to know it's crappy and end it with out really figuring out the reason you started the crapy relationship? Or is this how the cycle of always seeming to be in bad relationships starts?

Carolyn Hax: Certainly you can let a crappy relationship or two go by without explanation, as long as you're getting yourself out before it becomes a huge life-sucking exercise in indecisiveness. But if the only relationships you find yourself in are crappy ones, then you're in a cycle that I don't think you can end without identifying the source. Unless, I suppose, you luck into the right person, but I think you still need to be healthy enough to recognize that something is (finally) healthy.


Los Angeles, Calif.: I noticed that Dan Savage mentioned you in his column this week. I wonder- is there some sorta Advice Columnists Guild of America, complete with annual gala schmoozefest? Have you met Dan Savage at said event? Is he as ricockulously cool as he is in print? Thank you.

Carolyn Hax: I pity the caterer at that gala.

I've met Dan once, at an editors' conference where we were on a panle together, and he is funny as s---. There's also the occasional flurry of emails when one of us needs something advice-ish.


Concerned, D.C.: My best friend fell for an idiot. They dated briefly and it ended, because he is an idiot. Now my friend is in turmoil over this idiot and I can't understand why? He is, as I have mentioned, an idiot. Any tips on helping move her along in the recovering process?

Carolyn Hax: Whatever you do, don't be the first to use the I-word. And if she ever opens the door by using it herself, don't use it then, either. What you can do next time she airs her turmoil, if you're quick on your feet, is lead her to conclude he's an idiot with carefully worded questions--like, oh, I don't know (being not quick on my feet ...), were you happy with the way he treated you, did you hear warning bells that you subsequently tuned out, did you like who you were with this guy. Stuff like that.


Washington, D.C.: Hi, Carolyn, I wanted to ask a question about about last Wednesday's column (Sept. 7), but I wasn't here last week; I hope you will indulge me now. You wrote that it is "clear that a marriage is more important than a brother."

Do you really believe that? I don't actually have siblings or a marriage, but I don't think I could be comfortable prioritizing a fiance(e) over a brother or sister with whom I had been partnered from the beginning of life. The prior commitment takes precedence, don't you think?

That's not to say that I agree with the brother in question, the circumstances of who is right and wrong may alter things...

Carolyn Hax: Thanks for the chance to elaborate. I gave this a huge amount of thought, and I believe in what I wrote. I also managed somehow--probably through too many rewritings, which is what I often do when I put huge amounts of thought into things--to muddy what I was saying by the misuse of "clear." What I meant to establish as clear is that a brother is more important than a wedding. I didn't mean to extend the certainty to the much grayer issue of marriage vs. sibling.

Even though, like I said, I believe that, too. When you get married (using marriage here to represent all unions intended to be for life), you obviously keep your family and friends, too, but the focus of your daily life, your greatest energy and your future goals has to be your spouse. Or else you're not really in the marriage. That means, when the needs of a sibling clash squarely with the needs of a spouse, and neither party is being evil, the spouse's needs prevail. They have to. That's what the vows are about.

Obviously (and here's where the gray comes in) if the marriage ends in divorce, you've got no spouse and you still have your siblings. But if you're prioritizing your siblings with an eye to the fact that your marriage could end one day, then your marriage is probably going to end sooner than you think.

Hope that clears it up.


Dadsville, Va.: Hi -- just found out I'm going to be a dad. Could use a little encouragement from you and the peanuts on how while this will be a life altering experience, I'm not going to completely lose touch with my old freer self. And that I'll still have time to do "me" things.

Breathing in...

Breathing out...

Carolyn Hax: Slowly, you don't want to hyperventilate.

You will have very little time for "me" things early on. Get used to that idea now. You will need to -make- some "me" time--meaning, block it out on the calendar, plan for it, hire someone to cover it, defend it against duty encroachment--and you will need to take great care to make sure your "me" time doesn't elbow aside mommy's "me" time or your also-absolutely-essential couple time--but we;re talking a once-a-week thing at best here, unless you have a team of grannies or nannies. And it's to recharge you, not to give you your old life back.

At first. In time, you will slowly regain freedom and flexibility. The key is to keep your expectations low and let yourself be pleasantly surprised.

Part of that pleasant surprise, I hope, will be how much you love love love your kid. That's what makes a sacrifice that seems scary now feel automatic and (mostly) ungrudging when you get there.

Really. It's amazing. I swear.


re: marriage vs. siblings: Also, your marriage is something you've chosen to enter into with a person you've chosen to spend your life with. Your siblings are random people you're thrown together with due to circumstances completely beyond your control.

Obviously, we have greater responsibility to the commitment we've chosen to make rather than the one we have no say in.

Carolyn Hax: Rarin'. Thanks.