While I’m away, readers give the advice.
On marriage after infidelity: My husband and I have traveled the long, hard road back from infidelity. Though very painful, this path was also achingly tender and deeply humbling. Did I mention long?
But it is the best thing we ever did; it is our warrior secret. So I guess I want to say, don’t give up. It’s messy. Sometimes morbidly funny. It takes time. But the regrowth of gladness, spontaneity and trust IS possible. Happiness is possible.
On becoming a better person for your child: When my son was born (he’s 24 now), I was very socially awkward and frightened by social interactions. I would become so nervous that my head and neck would visibly tremble. Fortunately I knew I needed to fix this for my son’s sake.
And did. In fact, now no one would ever guess at how stifled and frightened I felt in social situations.
It became a lifelong lesson for me: For your child, you fix things in yourself that you wouldn’t address for you. It is my favorite unintended consequence of parenting – getting back much more than I gave.
On getting to know people who make themselves hard to know: Best practice is to start with the outermost circle of their lives, and allow feelings to reveal themselves.
Ask about how their town has changed, where else they have lived, what grocery stores were like when they were little, what team sports they played, what the worst weather event was that they can remember, stuff like that. Once they get going on a topic that is comfortable for them, they may reveal far more than if they are asked directly to articulate their feelings.
Admire the things they have created, the choices they have made, ask about the history of their community. Talk about actions and things, offer them an opportunity to brag about their lives, and don’t make them nervous about being judged.
Sometimes, actions speak louder than words.
On needing help with a partner who needs help: A while back I went through a series of ordeals – depression was but one of the results. And yes, I worked with a psychologist and a psychiatrist.
While my wife didn’t have to endure what I did, she had to “soldier on” for the household and its stability. My deepest regret from that period is that I didn’t realize just how much she had to go through.
I wish more people had recognized that it was just as hard on her. Love is a beautiful but dangerous thing because it makes us invest of ourselves in others. When they suffer, so do we. When we suffer, so do they.
Been There, So Has My Wife
On planning on intending to expect to get married: If people want to live together it’s no skin off my nose, but what makes me crazy are the people who say “we’re planning on getting married.” Unless you’ve picked a date and started making arrangements, you are not.
And I’m NOT saying people should rush into it, but they should own up to their truth. Nothing wrong with saying you’re not ready to make that decision yet.
26 Down and Eternity to Go
Email Carolyn at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at 10 a.m. each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.