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Hers has never been a typical advice column. From the start 15 years ago, countless readers of The Washington Post and about 200 other papers have turned to Carolyn Hax for refreshingly frank, at times funny, and always heartfelt words of wisdom. Clever cartoons by Nick Galifianakis drive home her insights. We talk to the duo about their unique collaboration, and the challenges and rewards that come with writing and illustrating an advice column.
Credit: Carolyn Hax for The Washington Post. Reprinted here by permission of The Washington Post. All rights reserved.
A person whom I’ve known a long time, and with whom I used to be close, doesn’t get that I don’t want to rekindle our friendship. I have ignored some contact, delayed in responding, answered that I was busy to multiple invitations. Is there more I can do? I’ve been pinned down with the, “Have I done something wrong?” inquiry, to which I didn’t know how to respond (since the answer is “No, I’m just not feeling it anymore”).
Let’s (Not) Be Friends
When pinned down, you need to tell the truth. “No, you haven’t done anything wrong, but I feel as if we’ve grown apart. I’m sorry.”
I’m engaged (I asked him) and planning a summer 2012 wedding. The problem is, I don’t want a wedding at all. I want to either elope or just have a small ceremony with close family and a few friends.
He wants a bigger wedding, as he has a large and fairly close-knit family. Fine, we’re trying to budget and do this cheaply, as we are paying for everything ourselves.
My problem is when I ask his opinion on anything: He seems indifferent and says it’s up to me. Well, if it were up to me, I wouldn’t be planning any of this! I’ve told him how I feel, but we’re still about in the same place. Any suggestions?
Why are you even planning it? If you want to plan a big wedding as a gift to him, then fine — but if that’s not what you intended and this all just fell to you by default, then you have a problem that’s not going to go away when the thank-you notes have been mailed. Will housework and child care be your jobs, but will he decide how you do them? Will he get to decide how much effort he puts into your life together, while you absorb the rest?
It’s time for you to say kindly and calmly that you’re not going to plan the big wedding he wants just because it’s supposedly the bride’s job (you are female, yes?) to plan the wedding. Explain that you see the two of you as partners, and in a partnership each of you has an equal role. If it falls to you, then it’s going to be a trip to the courthouse. If he still wants the big wedding, then you will help him plan it, but he is going to have to take the lead — just as you will take the lead when your preferences are the driving force.
Hi, Carolyn: I have a bit of an open-ended question. When I’m unhappy, I tend to want to change everything — job, relationships, etc. — at once. It’s hard for me to decipher where I’m unhappy and what the best ways are to change things, rather than blow up my whole life. Are there ways to start to unpack all of this?
Time to Leave?
When you have the urge to blow up everything, the most prominent common denominator is you, right? So, the question waiting for an answer is, why don’t you feel like you’re living the right life for you?
Big stuff. That’s why, absent an epiphany, the best place to start is with small steps toward getting healthy. Are you getting enough sleep, being conscientious about any health issues, eating well, making an effort not to be sedentary?
If you’re maintaining your physical health, then move on to your emotional health: Are you putting effort into the people who are good for you, and distancing yourself from takers, criticizers, enablers or those who otherwise bring out your worst? Are you saying yes when you should, and no when you should? Are you showing up when you say you will? Are you using time productively? Are you playing to your own strengths?
If your physical and emotional habits are solid, then move on to temporary rut-busting: vacation. Or, a weekend road trip, or even a day trip, or just lunch with a friend you haven’t seen lately. Give your eyes a new place to rest. Familiarity can limit your thinking.
If you have an antibiotic-resistant strain of the blahs, then it’s time to weigh the big, external pieces of your life, such as where you live, what you do for a living, whom you befriend, date and trust.
But even then, start small: Can any of these be tweaked, vs. blown up? If tweaks don’t work, are there any changes that can be easily made or reversed? Can you walk away from anything temporarily, via sabbatical, temporary reassignment, trial separation, “a break”?
Should you get this far without relief, you’ll still have information toward understanding why demolition is your first impulse when you’re unhappy. After all, the blow-up solution pretty much assures that you can avoid facing that thing, whatever it is, you so badly want to avoid — whereas a methodical approach, honestly executed, will take you right to its door.