Advice columnist Carolyn Hax answers letters about a boyfriend who doesn't like girlfriend socializing with exes, and from someone still healing from an unhappy childhood wondering if they're ready for marriage.
DEAR CAROLYN: I have cordial relationships with my ex-husband and my boyfriend from high school — the occasional phone call and seeing each other once or twice a year in a group setting. My boyfriend thinks this is really, really, really weird. So weird. And he says all his friends agree with him. Am I crazy?
— Hanging Out With the Ex
DEAR HANGING: You do know my history, right? That my kids from remarriage call my ex-husband “Uncle Nick”?
Of course you’re not crazy. It’s also not crazy to be suspicious of people who treat you like you’re crazy just because your choices differ from theirs.
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Your boyfriend wants nothing to do with exes, fine. But please take very seriously his unwillingness to believe there’s more than one right way to handle exes — or anything else. Life can be very unpleasant with someone who criticizes the way you talk to your mom, celebrate holidays or dice onions because it’s not his way.
You want someone who trusts you enough to trust that you’re both headed toward the same goals, even when you take different paths to get there.
DEAR CAROLYN: I had a lot of problems stemming from a very hard childhood. If I had entered into a relationship right away, then I would have been a “hot mess.” However, after years of therapy and some serious soul-searching (including very lonely moments of realizing how much I needed help), I am now about to get married.
I worry, because I am not completely healed from my childhood — but I am getting there. Is it OK to get married and move on while healing at the same time? My gut tells me to go with it — and take it one step at a time.
— To Be or Not to Be … Insecure
DEAR TO BE: I can’t know whether you’re ready for marriage, but I also don’t believe there’s a magic point where people become “well” or “fully healed” or whatever else we shoot for. Growth is lifelong if you’re doing it right.
That said, here are two things to look for before committing to anyone: the strength to live honestly, and the ability to take good care of yourself and the people you love.
The latter is straightforward, since a “hot mess” by definition can barely manage one or the other, much less both — and, too, meeting your needs and your partner’s tends to be mutually exclusive in unhealthy relationships. Very useful as a DON’T DO IT alarm.
Living honestly is more complicated: If it were easy to spot when we lie to ourselves, we wouldn’t do it so much, right? But, generally, we’re excellent at identifying in hindsight the ways we rationalized doing stupid things (admitting it … different story).
So we can take the memory of those rationalizations — the constant explaining and justifying — and compare that sensation to what we’re feeling now.
Since the whole point of rationalizations is to avoid an unwelcome truth, discarding them is no fun. But it still beats the slow agony of living with choices that don’t fit.
Why just honesty and good care? They’re key to preserving your sense of yourself within a relationship — allowing you to maintain good relationships and escape bad ones. That’s really all anyone needs.