Hax: Listen to your inner voice – in dating and beyond

The Washington PostSeptember 22, 2013 

Dear Carolyn: I’ve been divorced one year after a four-year marriage. We shouldn’t have gotten married, I knew that at the time, and I accept that I made a huge mistake. I’m intent on NOT repeating that mistake.

I’ve recently attempted dating again, and the issue is that if a guy says anything my ex-husband could have, would have, or did ever say, I completely lose interest. They could be otherwise amazing, and share just one unacceptable view with my ex, but as soon as the words come out of their mouths, I’m done.

Am I being too hard on myself, and everyone else, looking for someone who has absolutely nothing in common with my ex? Or is any flag a flag, even if it’s more pink than bright red?

COLOR BLIND IN TN

There are two possible origins to such reflexive rejections: Either these men are revealing key similarities to your ex-husband, and therefore you’re right to stop seeing them — or you’re overreacting to perfectly innocent statements because you’re still not fully healed. Two possibilities, but they point to one piece of advice: Trust this reflex; don’t try to override it.

Why? Because if it’s a red flag about the guy(s) you’re dating, then the reason not to override it is obvious.

And if the red flag is about you, then it might be tempting to try to “fix” it, to talk yourself into being more rational about — and fair to — the men you date, before you’re ready for that.

Weigh what these men have said, yes, to see why you reacted so strongly. More broadly, though: Learn to hear your inner voice, to heed it, to look back to see whether it was right, and to tweak your understanding of it accordingly.

Dear Carolyn: I’m 17 and I need help with how to respond to my father, who has an “interesting” personality quirk.

He does not deal well with unexpected loud noises. I’ve already learned to warn him if I’m going to do things like turn on the vacuum, hair dryer, blender, etc. But God help me if I accidentally drop something and it makes a loud noise or I maybe clank two plates together loudly! It will definitely result in a critical comment.

Even if I say, “Sorry,” he’ll still respond with, “Whatever,” and say something clearly conveying he was disturbed.

I’d like to let him know that I don’t need to be chastised for something I did not intentionally do and for which I apologized, but I also don’t want to come off as disrespectful or sarcastic.

JUST TRYING TO GET ALONG

Heightened sensitivity to sound is a health issue; his nastiness about it is a personality issue.

It’s also something best not addressed when his neurons are still clattering with the latest crash. Instead, talk to your dad at a calm and quiet time, in a calm and quiet way: “Something’s on my mind lately. I understand you’re sensitive to loud noises, and I’m happy to warn you when I’m about to use the blender. I’m human, though, and sometimes I drop things. When you then criticize me for that, especially after I’ve apologized, I feel angry/resentful/frustrated.”

That is neither disrespectful nor sarcastic, nor does it challenge him just as his nerves are up in arms.

Email tellme@washpost.com. Chat online at 10 a.m. Fridays at www.washingtonpost.com.

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