March 20, 2017
My girlfriend and I keep having the same fight over and over. It comes out in different ways, but it’s always basically the same damn thing. We say the same things to each other, and end up not talking for a couple days until we blow it off and move on like nothing happened. We seem to be okay for a week or so, but then it comes back again. I love her, but I have to say I am sick of this. Can you help me?
Dude is Almost Done
Dearest Almost Done,
What you are describing is known as a Pattern. You lovebirds aren’t solving anything with the silent standoff followed by sweeping under the rug. Your rug must be halfway up the wall by now with all the crap underneath it. You need to talk, really talk, either in a “calm” phase or with a recommended couples counselor. You need to talk about what is behind the Pattern, not the details of who said or did what. This is like stabbing yourself with an epi pen while standing on a beehive. It’s time to move; time to discover the source, not just treat (or ignore) the symptom. Neither of you are getting your needs met, and you’re both rather pissed off about that. You each need to: Figure out what your needs are, be a grown up and start taking care of your own needs, and figure out how to communicate your needs to each other – specifically and kindly. Once you start taking better care of yourselves, you will be able to take better care of each other.
If either of you are unwilling or unable to address this from a deeper, more mature level, you can then decide if you truly are Almost Done.
Put on your Big Boy Undies, Dude-
I am divorced and have two teenage children. I just took them on a fabulous spring break trip to the Bahamas, trying to create some memories for us as a family. While we were there, they basically stared at their phones the entire time and were moody. I ended up with a huge hotel and airfare bill and not a lot of memories. I’m fed up.
Mom of Ingrates
Dearest Mother of Ingrate Spawn,
Stop giving yourself away.
Teenagers will be moody and ungrateful – especially if you keep treating them to nice things in spite of their rudeness. Take a big step back. Take care of yourself for a while. If they don’t come around anytime soon, at least you will have more money in your wallet and less frustration in your heart. Surround yourself with healthy, reciprocal, joyful friends and make sure you aren’t expecting your children to fill your cup. That is not their job. It’s yours.
Good luck Bahama Mama,
My parents expect me to find a job this summer. If I don’t find one soon, they say they will find one for me. They are totally trying to control me. I work hard at sports and school all year long and I just want to take a break in the summer, sleep in and have fun with my friends. I see how miserable they are with work, and I don’t want to be them anytime soon.
Just wanting to be a kid
You’re right. Back in the day we got to have long, lazy, boring summers. Sometimes kids would mow the grass or work at a Dairy Queen. Our parents didn’t expect as much from us, but (and here’s the kicker) we didn’t expect as much from them either. We didn’t assume we would get a car at 16, have gas money, expensive extracurricular activities and tutors, college visits across the country, ACT and SAT prep courses, nice vacations, iPhones with unlimited data plans, and regular meals out with our friends. My guess is that you probably have all or some of that?
If so, get your ass out there and get a job.
Times have changed and so should you,
My youngest child is about to graduate. My husband asked for a divorce after Christmas and I found out he is shacking up with a young woman from his office. I am at an all time low. I can’t sleep. I have no appetite. I have gray roots and don’t give a shit anymore. I am starting to ignore my friends because I can’t snap out of it and I know they are tired of my dark cloud. It’s just not fair, other couples are having fun making empty nest plans and I just see lonely days stretching out ahead of me as far as I can see. I can’t even enjoy my daughter’s senior year and now even she is starting to want to stay at her dad’s house (with the office slut!). She says it’s more fun over there. Oh God.
I literally cannot take it.
I am sincerely,
Oh honey. Come here. You need a hug. I’m so sorry.
Next, you need a swift kick in the ass. Hear me out. I say this with love.
You are clinically depressed. You have a right to be, but it’s time to turn the corner before you reach a dead end. Here is what you need to do, right away: Go see a therapist and set up a weekly appointment. Do not miss your appointments. Go see a psychiatrist and get on some antidepressant medication, at least until this season passes. Your appetite and sleep will return to normal, and eventually, so will you. You cannot get this time back with your daughter – Do Not Miss It. Tell her how you feel and let her know you are going to figure it out. Try to have some fun with her. Call your friends back. Find a way to serve others; helping someone else is the quickest way out of our own misery. Try to remember what you used to love to do and take steps to find a way to do it – as a profession or pro bono. Exercise three times a week, it does not matter what you do – just move.
And for the love of God, go get your hair colored.
An empty nest does not mean an empty heart.
You can (and will) get your groove back,
January 15, 2017
I have a lot of things in my life that need to change. Every January I make a long list of resolutions, things like lose weight, go to the gym, be a better husband and father, make more money, and be more patient and less stressed. I start off with all kinds of big plans, but by the end of the month I’m back to my old ways and don’t accomplish any of them. What’s wrong with me? How can I stay on track?
No Follow Through
Dearest No Follow Through,
You are a classic, dare I say clichéd, example of late January burnout. I always chuckle when I find it so much easier to park at the gym in February.
There’s nothing wrong with big dreams or ideas, in fact they’re great. I think your problem is that you try to swallow the whole enchilada without first cutting it into bites and dipping it in guacamole. Then when you gag, you quit.
Notice how none of your resolutions have anything specific or measureable about them: Lose how much weight? Over how much time? Go to the gym how many times per week? Make how much more money? How will you do it – take on another job, or try for a promotion?
General things like being a better father or husband, or being more patient or less stressed are awesome intentions, but you need to be more precise so you can tell if you’re making progress in the right direction. Will you take your wife on a date once a week or twice a month? Take your children out to breakfast on the weekend, or shoot hoops with them one evening each week?
Regarding patience and stress, perhaps try something like: I will take time out in trigger moments, and restore calm before responding in any way; or I will go to yoga once a week. And to make it measurable, after two months ask your family members or colleagues if they see a noticeable difference. Maybe decide to monitor your blood pressure, or note if your sleep is deep and regular. You could record how many times each week you feel overwhelmed or snap at people, and then work to reduce the numbers each month.
There may be nothing wrong with your follow through, you may just need a little clarification on exactly what you’re following through on. Try it and let me know how it goes.
Go kick 2017 in the ass,
There’s a guy I’ve always liked but he’s never been available. His wife recently died (such a sad story) and now he’s alone raising his kids. I’m divorced raising mine. Our kids have some sports and activities together so I see him around pretty often. How can I let him know I’m interested without being pushy or weird? I don’t want to wait too long, because it’s slim pickings around here and I’m sure he will have plenty of suitors after him.
Feeling Like an Ambulance Chaser
Dearest Ambulance Chaser,
If his wife did indeed die recently as you say, then you need to hear me now that you are being pushy AND weird. Give the man some time and space to grieve! Let him get his bearings and focus on his kids right now. You are being an ambulance chaser, or maybe even a funeral crasher. Good Lord, settle down. The one thing that pairs very poorly with grief is desperation and you smell a wee bit desperate to me.
If your kids are friends or at least acquaintances, conversation can happen organically at their events or at school. Be normal and talk to him, be open and friendly without an agenda. When he’s ready, if he’s interested, he will know who you are and how to find you. In the meantime, focus on your own life and your own happiness so you stand out (for the right reasons) in a sea of suitors.
It may be slim pickings, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have your pick – if it’s meant to be, it will be.
It’s winter so please try to chill,
Is it possible to get Seasonal Affective Disorder in Austin? I know we aren’t like Seattle or Minnesota, but the winter weather is really bringing me down. I feel depressed after the holiday break and have no motivation to do homework or work out, or even hang out with my friends. All I want to do is stay in my apartment, binge Netflix shows, eat Phish Food and sleep.
Sista Needs to Get Her Groove Back
Dearest Lost Groove,
I can’t tell from here if you need a weekend in Mexico with a little sun and fun (and tequila) to change your vibe, or if you need a therapist. And since depression, seasonal or otherwise, is not to be trifled with, I think you should see a therapist and rule out anything more serious than post-Christmas funk, or a foul, lazy mood.
January and February are generally not the most fun months – cold weather, post-holiday blah, return to work and school, and worst of all, cedar season. I’m actually kind of depressed now, thinking about all that. Anyway, it’s natural to have slower rhythms and lower energy at one time of year versus another, so don’t be too hard on yourself. But, please, do go get an expert to check you out so you’ll know if you need more than some sunshine.
It seems like something is phishy.
Keep your chin up, Sista,
November 17, 2016
My extended family is gathering for Thanksgiving. They are a good ol’ South Texas family who went squarely red in this election. They keep sending post-election jabs via political articles, glorifying their candidate’s POV. We can’t even plan who brings what to our turkey dinner without them sneaking in a comment or two into the emails and texts. I mean, come on people, your candidate won (kind of), give it a rest. I want to try and have some good, open, respectful dialogue when we are together over the holidays. Do you have any suggestions on conversation openers, and how to have productive, healing dialogue? Is love thicker than gravy? Sigh.
Like you, I am ready to stop talking politics. Enough already. It’s time to move on.
Assuming they know that your candidate did not win and they truly are trying to provoke you, could you possibly address the email jabs directly before everyone is gathered around your table? Perhaps a cheeky poem retort could do the trick:
Dearest family, I love you, and I await your good cheer!
Our Thanksgiving gathering is drawing quite near.
It’s time to pour wine, watch football, and eat some good food.
But if we keep talking politics, it will spoil the mood.
The time is nigh for unity, not for division.
Let’s feast on stuffing and cranberries, and forego the derision.
We need a sorbet and some fresh attitude –
So let’s toast our family, our country, and sweet gratitude!
(If that doesn’t help, you can always guzzle wine and pass out while watching Fox News.)
Remember, at least I am thankful for you,
I am divorced and dating a wonderful man – we’re in love! Things are normally easy and open between us, but the holiday season already feels awkward and uncertain. I want us to make our plans together, as a couple, but we aren’t actually married or engaged. He wants to be with family, and yet, it’s becoming rather obvious that I’m not really his family. How do we navigate kids, parents, siblings, relatives, expectations and holiday stress?
A Cracking Wishbone
Dearest Cracking Wishbone,
Welcome to holiday hell.
You knew this was coming, you were married once before. This should come as no surprise.
You aren’t married yet, so give both of you a holiday gift and let him go. You will be free to make your own plans and be responsible for your own fun. And he will appreciate the release from the tug-of-war. Family time always wears thin after a couple days anyway, so ideally, he will miss you very much. Maybe so much that he will decide he wants things to be different next year? You’ll never know if you don’t let go.
Play your cards right and maybe things will feel better under the mistletoe next month.
Instead of cracking, make a wish,
My wife’s family is coming in town for Thanksgiving. Her mother smokes and even though I politely tell her to please smoke outside, she will sneak smokes in the bathroom or in the kitchen before we wake up. I walk in to get my morning coffee and it smells like an ashtray in an old bar. I cough and wave my arms and she acts oblivious. I tell my wife she has to handle this before I go ballistic, but she just says her mom is old and I can deal with it for a couple days. I am dreading this.
Any help appreciated,
Dearest Black Lung,
I hate smoking with squinty eyes and spite. I feel your pain. I would probably go stay at a non-smoking five star hotel until the clouds lifted, but I understand that not everyone can be as ballsy as me. Your wife would probably kick your ash if you did that anyway.
I would set an extra smoke alarm on the kitchen counter, another in the bathroom and post a few No Smoking signs strategically around the house. You can always get some lung cancer pamphlets and leave those next to the toilet. Set some ashtrays outside on the back patio.
Do your best to survive and find your gratitude. If she keeps this up, she won’t be around for many more holidays.
Take a deep breath (while you can),
I try my best to be healthy. I go to the gym, I run, I do yoga, I lift weights, and I ride my bike to work. The problem is, when I go home for holidays, my family is so unhealthy that I start to feel sick. All my mom wants to do is feed me. Everything is fried or covered in sauce or gravy. Other than eat, everyone just sits around and watches TV all day long. They think I’m a freak when I say I’m going jogging, but I have to get out of there.
How do I not go crazy?
Soon-To- Be Fat Son
I recall my own snowed in holiday where I felt like a caged animal, buried in food. I would escape to the local gym where treadmills stretched as far as the eye could see, with televisions blaring and a blizzard swirling outside the windowed wall. It was torturous.
Bottom line – do what you need to do to take care of yourself. Bring your running shoes, your yoga mat or your bike. Choose whatever food you can comfortably eat and say, “thank you Mom, for a delicious meal.” She wants to feed you because she loves you, don’t forget. But remember, you can stop eating when you want, because you love yourself.
Maybe try inviting everyone on a post-meal stroll; it will do all of you some good.
Also know, it’s okay to rest – you won’t become Fat Son after a few days of decadence.
Try to enjoy your time as a (mashed) couch potato,
November 2, 2016
I have the WORST co-workers and boss and I’m the only female at my office.
The boss is the biggest liar; one co-worker clocks OT, even though he’s lazy and only works 5 hours a day; the only one I can actually tolerate has blocked me from all social media, but we get along great in person; and another co-worker, whom I rarely see, is brilliant and enjoyable, but his breath is so bad, I can’t stand an actual conversation! The rest are disgusting, gross and/or pervs.
I LOVE my job, but hate the environment. Any suggestions???
Another Rough Day at the Office
Dear Another Rough Day:
I’m having a rough day too, trying to figure out how you could possibly LOVE your job when you’re surrounded by liars, sloths, pervs, and halitosis??? I’m cringing for you.
Working from home sounds like a good option, although your boss might lie and tell you it’s okay, then fire you. If there are any job openings at your office you could try recruiting some fun, smart, decent-smelling women to infiltrate the ranks. Or, you can make a list of everything you like about what you do then try finding another job someplace else that meets those requirements in an environment that makes you happy.
Finally, you can decide that what you do is so enjoyable that it outweighs what isn’t enjoyable, then simply focus on the task at hand. Do it so well that you eventually replace your shady boss and hire whomever you want.
For now, put some breath mints in a bowl in the break room.
My lady likes to go on long walks by herself and is very independent. I almost bought her a knife the other day, but stopped myself. Wouldn’t a knife make a woman feel more secure when walking alone, or is this something she has to get for herself?
I’m not sure what you mean – does she have to get the knife for herself or feel more secure for herself? You’ve clearly found yourself a ballsy gal, someone who takes long walks alone. I hope she doesn’t go alone at night????
As to the knife … no bueno, Dude. Unless she is a ninja, a knife could be easily turned on her in a scary situation. Better to get her some mace or a badass looking dog. Or, she might like some martial arts or self defense classes, which would give her something else adventurous to do at night besides wander the streets.
Ixnay on the Knife-ay,
I’m recently divorced and my ex-wife and I cannot stand each other. This would not be a problem except that we have two young kids. She has the nerve to bring her new boyfriend to some of our son’s soccer games. I tried telling her that we need to go to alternating games so we don’t have to deal with each other, but she said she’s going to attend any games she wants. It was bad enough being married to her, but now this?
When will it end?
Dear Worn Out:
I hear you.
However, now you’ll have to hear me.
If you get divorced and have no kids, it’s over and adios. But if you have kids, you need to realize that you will be in a relationship with this woman for the REST OF YOUR LIFE. Whether you are married or not, whether you hate each other or not.
Yep, it’s time to face the facts: you are going to have to figure out a better way to live.
If you can’t muster the will for yourself, you have to do it for your kids. You have to find a way to stop hating each other and attempt some level of peace and tolerance. And if she isn’t going to lead the charge, you must.
A therapist said this to me, now I say it to you: if your kids have to look into the crowd at a game or scan the audience at a performance to locate the fragments of their family – get your sh*t together! If you say your kids mean the world to you, act like it by getting over yourself. You can sit or stand near each other and be decent for periods of time that are not about you.
It won’t be easy, but the sooner you start reclaiming your peace, the sooner you will start really living your new life. Fake it ‘til you make it, brother.
Peace be with you,
Each night I look through my teenage daughter’s social media accounts, just to make sure everything is okay. Recently I found a photo of one of her friends licking a banana. I was appalled!! I took a screen shot of the photo and sent it to all the moms I know with boys in that grade, just so they could tell their sons to stay away from this inappropriate and possibly dangerous girl.
Now my daughter is furious with me. Help!
What is the World Coming To?
Dear What is the World Coming To:
I cannot imagine why your daughter is furious with you. (Insert sarcasm here.)
Let’s be clear: you had no business screen-shotting or sending that photo to any boys’ moms. If you want to spy on your own daughter, that’s your business, but it is not your job to label this banana-licking young girl a harlot. She may have just been goofing-off, you have no idea what the context was. Inappropriate? Immature? Sure. But so were you.
Who are you, the morality police?
If you have an issue with something you find while spying, you need to talk to your own daughter. Or, if it’s something serious in nature, consider contacting the mother of the girl you are worried about.
You actually owe your daughter, the girl in question and her mother, an apology.
You slipped on the peel,
October 8, 2016
My daughter is young for her grade in school and all of her friends are starting to go through puberty, though she is nowhere near such milestones. I know she has lots of questions, and I’m unsure how to approach the topic without scaring her off.
Dearest Tween’s Mama:
These are not easy times. I have found it to be one of God’s finest jokes that puberty and pre-menopause are timed together for true mother-daughter bliss and harmony. Not.
Try to answer your daughter’s questions as directly and simply as possible. Do not elaborate and risk going too far. Do not creep her out with a barrage of technical terms. No one uses or likes words like: breast bud, areola, mons pubis, vulva or the like. My friend’s daughter was terrified that a vine was going to grow out of her nipple after being told that her tiny boob lump was a “breast bud.”
Try to remain calm and be glad she still wants to talk to you at all. When she really hits puberty, she will only hiss, eye-roll, slam doors and stare at her phone.
It takes great faith to part the Red Sea.
Tie a knot in your tampon string and hang on for dear life,
I love my BF, but how can I make him stop wearing hideous, very short, white tennis shorts to my kids’ sporting events? He showed up in them again at my oldest son’s 7-on-7 tournament this past Saturday, with a Columbia button-down fishing shirt … not a good look! Help??
In love with a fashion-challenged man
Dearest In Love:
I can deduce from your brief letter that you are divorced with kids and dating your current boyfriend, oui? Okay. If you really do love this fashion-impaired man, consider this angle. He is not your husband at the moment. This means he runs around town single and sans ring. The bad outfits you describe could be the saving grace that keeps him off the radar from other hunting divorcees. When he decides he likes it enough to put a ring on it, you can slowly alter his fashion. Once you marry, clean his closet and fill it with sexy, attractive outfits. Make a mistake and bleach the white shorts to oblivion. This fashion situation is not a bad thing. After all, if you both really love each other, you are the only one who knows how good he looks without those bad clothes.
My new mother-in-law is making me feel like a guest in my own life. She comes to town without warning and stays as long as she pleases. Because she basically set up my husband’s house for him when he moved in (before we met), she thinks everything is hers. Literally. “Where is my Pyrex baking dish?” or “I can’t find my bagel slicer.” Meanwhile, I want to slice her. HELP ME.
Dearest Losing It,
Good Lord, girl, you have got yourself in quite a triangle – more obtuse than acute. Your MIL is a total nightmare. She has clearly been allowed to steamroll your husband for many years and this will not change overnight, maybe not ever. The only person who can set some boundaries without penalty of death is your husband. Talk to him about how you feel, as calmly as you can, without blaming or insulting anyone. Tell him he needs to establish you as the Lady of the Manor. He needs to start with a new boundary that says visits are by invitation only, not drop in. When she does visit, for infrequent, short stays, schedule her at the spa with many treatments for at least one full day. This will get her out of the house and no one can say you are anything but a kind and generous DIL (wink). Reorganize the kitchen, your way. It is, after all, your kitchen. His mom might be a good cook and know his favorite recipes, but you’re his spouse, and you deserve a mature man, not a mama’s boy. When he sets a boundary with her, let him know how much it means to you. This will inspire him to set more boundaries, and want more alone (and very adult) time with you.
Now get busy,
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