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Life Hax


Carolyn Hax

Should I go down the long-distance relationship road again?

Ar 171209990
Carolyn Hax
Ar 171209990
Carolyn Hax

I’m contemplating a long-distance relationship with a guy I met at an event through an organization we’re both part of. We’ve been texting nonstop for a few months and have had a couple of in-person dates. I’m waiting to decide until after we see each other during a weeklong event we’re both going to for this organization.The issue is we live about eight hours apart by car, and both like where we live in terms of community and job options. I’ve done long-distance before and know that the end result is either we break up or someone moves. I’ve never made final decisions about where to live and what to do based on who I was dating – I traveled a lot because I wanted to, and found a place to settle down where and when I wanted to. I may have considered someone I was dating, but they didn’t hold as much influence.But now this guy seems worth at least contemplating it. Do you have any advice for helping me either make that decision, or to go one step at a time without jumping to conclusions just because at some point that conclusion will have to be made? We’re both late 20s, if that helps.Long-Distance

It’s such a personal thing. One person’s happiness could be hugely dependent on location while another could already be open to a move just to shake things up and so why not? Plus there’s the obvious X factor of how good you two are for each other. Maybe you really, really fit, and maybe you’re just enjoying a pleasant time with someone ... pleasant.

If you pursue this, it’s not just that you will eventually face the who-moves-for-whom decision; you will also have to make that enormous decision without ever having lived in the same geographic area – meaning your relationship up to that point will have consisted of a series of vacations.

That will deny you essential information on day-to-day (-to-day-to-day) life together that you just can’t get from visits. So, one of you will be uprooting everything based solely on a whole lot of what-ifs – and knowing only one person but needing connections of your own outside that to maintain some healthy independence.

You really have to be game for it to pull it off, so that’s what I’d be asking myself if I were in your spot right now.

My daughter has been asked to be a bridesmaid for her boyfriend’s sister. She wants to say “no” because if she doesn’t marry her boyfriend, his sister won’t want to look at her in wedding pictures for years to come. I think this is silly since she and the boyfriend do plan on marrying eventually. What do you think?Thinking

I think this is silly because that’s the sister/bride’s problem to anticipate, not your daughter’s.

I am meeting part of my family for an early Christmas celebration. Five days out, my cousin emails everyone to say she will only be giving a present to her mom and our grandparents. She is skipping our aunt, my mom and me. That is the entire party.We gave each other small inexpensive gifts last year. I don’t know whether they are tight on money or time, or if there is a more selfish reason.I would be very happy with a card. It also hurts my feelings because I put a lot of thought into her gift and it is already wrapped.Do I not give it to her, or ignore the email and give it to her because IT IS ALREADY WRAPPED!? I don’t want to create an awkward situation or come off as passive-aggressive. It is a gift I know will make her laugh, but now it feels weird.Hurt

Generally – very generally – reasons to suspend gift-giving are negative for the giver, like being broke or tired or overextended.

Reply to her email that you already got her a gift and want her to have it anyway, no reciprocation expected. Say the important thing is that you’ll get to be together again in just a few days.

If she pushes back on the gift, then say OK and just UNWRAP and return it, save it for next year or keep it for yourself.

My mother was raised in pretty austere financial circumstances, and for my entire life has equated things with love. My childhood was materially abundant but emotionally austere, so I’m definitely a skeptic of these values.I’m now the mom of two, and I’ve spent the last four years consistently and repeatedly asking my mom to give my children fewer things, for lots of reasons. Some are important – I am trying not to raise materialistic children – and some trivial – we just don’t have space. We have lesser means than my parents but we have everything we need and almost everything we want, too; we just want fewer things than they think we should want. My mom has fairly consistently disregarded my requests for simplicity.While I stand by my own choices, I also don’t want our Christmas morning to seem a disappointment after Grandma’s largesse. Does it seem reasonable to wait until January to celebrate Christmas with my family of origin? I am so tired of having my mother disregard my values as I parent my own kids, but I also don’t feel like having the conversation yet again.Postponing Christmas

You’re not going to win this battle with your mother. You might as well ask her not to love your kids.

And, you’re not going to win this battle against your own childhood by fixing it through your children’s Christmas. I realize this will sound unfair, because you are doing a good and important thing in recognizing and not repeating the emotional deficits in your own childhood. But it’s also very easy to let old grievances grab the wheel while we’re not looking, and trying to push your mother into serving your emotional goals with your kids is a swerve over the line.

What you can do here, within boundaries, is figure out ways to respond to your mom’s excesses that honor your values. You want Grandma in your kids’ lives, for example, so that means her gift philosophy comes in, too. You want an uncluttered house and non-greedy kids, so that means you have to stick to your values in your gift-giving and reduce Grandma’s mountain through returns, donations, specific requests (“If you need ideas, Mom, they love [thing you’d be buying them anyway].”) Work on gift messaging but rely on gift management (and generosity-seeding): For every toy coming in, your kids have to choose one to donate.

There’s a bigger answer here, too. You won’t win this battle now but you will basically win all the battles against Mom where your kids are concerned, because that’s what conscientious, loving, engaged, aware parents do. You are fretting about one episode of gift gluttony per year when you are going to be the beacon for your kids the other 364. Everything you say, do, decide, buy, keep, donate, whatever, will provide a model for your kids.

It’s hard to see this when kids are little, but over the span of years – and assuming your mom remains where she is in a supporting role at best in your daily lives – there will be so many more consistent and profound influences on their lives than a gift-wrap frenzy. You don’t know this, but you’ve got this. No need to push back so hard.

Carolyn Hax is a syndicated advice columnist for The Washington Post. She started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. Email her at tellme@washpost.com.