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Life Hax: My ex loves cocaine and strip clubs

Ar 180919848
Carolyn Hax
Ar 180919848
Carolyn Hax

Life Hax: My ex loves cocaine and strip clubs

Carolyn Hax

For a few years in high school, and a few years again in our late 20’s, I dated a man who my family – and I – love. He’s still my best friend, but we’re no longer romantically involved. In total it was probably six years.But he likes strip clubs and cocaine a bit too much; I broke up with him because of it, and his last girlfriend did too.My family thinks I’ve broken up with him because I’ve gotten together with another guy in the past two years (!?), and they keep harping that I need to get back with No. 1, because that’s who they know.He’s my best friend. I know his best and worst things – my family only knows his best. How do I proceed?A.

Why are you even having this conversation with them?

I won’t talk about this specific guy, tempting as coke and strippers (!?) may be. This is just about adult relationships, period, every one of them:

(1) They consist of two people.

(2) Those two are the only ones with a vote on the relationship’s fate.

(3) It takes two votes to be in a relationship, but only one to get out.

So you decided this guy isn’t for you. That’s the end of it, and that’s how you proceed: “He wasn’t for me.” Period, and entertain no further discussion. Don’t mistake the fact of follow-up questions with an obligation to answer them.

My 27-year-old daughter recently broke up with her live-in boyfriend. Now she wants me to tell her I’m on her side of every dispute.It’s her life, she’s an adult: Got it. But should I really be expected to tell her she acted well when she didn’t? She was needlessly cruel, and she doesn’t care at all that she insisted we welcome him as family for three years – no problem, we loved him – and now we’re supposed to forget him. I dread seeing her again. Help.Mothering an Adult Who Wants to Be Told She’s Right

I hope I can say without sounding like an utter twit that you’re about 26 years, give or take, past the ideal time to put up this emotional guardrail.

If you have indeed held to your principles all along against her emotional strong-arm tactics, then please accept my apologies – and my sympathy, too, for wanting a break from her. Some personalities just won’t be denied.

“Dread,” though, is so strong – devastating, really – that I suspect you haven’t kept a healthy cushion between yourself and her drama.

Either way, it doesn’t affect your path now, just your relationship’s prospects: Be loving, be principled, be firm. You can recognize and respect that she’s in pain and offer your support accordingly; you can also do this while acknowledging that her behavior was not above reproach. Yes, it’s her right to leave this relationship, and yes, he’s no doubt partly to blame for their unraveling – but there are still kind and unkind ways to get out. You are capable of loving and supporting your daughter with your whole heart while still retaining sufficient objectivity to know unkindness when you see it. Say this to her outright.

If she doesn’t like your assessment of the situation, then she can respectfully disagree like an adult, or lash out or go silent like a child. Up to her.

How she acts/reacts doesn’t affect your position; that’s the beauty of principled choices. Careful thought + loving action (equals sign) the power to withstand pressure. It’s difficult, but it’s not chaotic the way a life submitting to an emotional blackmailer tends to be.

As for the closeness she “insisted” on and the forgetting you’re “supposed to” do, please see the who-demanded-what as outside the scope of your concern. You welcomed her boyfriend into your life because you chose to, when your daughter welcomed him into hers, and he won’t be a part of your life now because they’ve parted ways.

This is just the business of kids and their friends, and it isn’t appreciably different from when she was 6 and refused to play with little Dana anymore even though you thought Dana was a cutie and you and Dana’s parents had become friends. You respect her right to choose her people at any stage, for any reason, and you adapt your role accordingly.

Certainly some ties among exes and families can survive beyond the primary friendship or romance, but those are exceptions, not rules, anchored to a family’s core of trust and respect.

I just got off the phone with my sister, who is married and has a 9-year-old daughter. Her husband has been having an emotional affair with his high school sweetheart. My sister knows because she has been going through his phone; apparently, he sends the sweetheart text messages and emails with lots of heart and flower emojis and has said that she (the sweetheart) is his “queen.” Ick.My sister has a high-pressure job. She makes more money than her husband and is fiercely independent. She has always made work a priority, sometimes at the expense of her family. She realizes this and has started to try to be more present when she’s at home, realizing that her husband is probably feeling emasculated and in need of attention. She has a session scheduled with a counselor. Any other steps you can advise?Sib

For her, no (except to get out of his phone). She’s apparently doing the hard work she thinks she needs to do. I expect that will eventually have to include her telling him what she knows, but this is her trail to blaze, not mine.

If it were: I’d take exception to the “emasculated” line of reasoning. Money earned is (literally?) a paper-thin way to define masculinity. And everyone, not just the representatives of one gender, craves relevance, which comes in as many forms as there are people.

Plus, she is who she is. Playing a role to flatter his ego is not anyone’s long term solution. I hope.

The part about attention, though, is as valid as it gets. Not being present in a relationship is lethal to it, no matter where it is you’ve misplaced your attention – be it on a high-powered career or baking bread from scratch all weekend for the 12 children you home-school during the week.

Or did you mean, any other steps for you? Not much there, either. Just listen to her and encourage her to be true to herself, no matter how she chooses to approach this. That’s the only way it’ll work.

On my wedding day, my best guy friend – who was in the wedding – came up to me afterward and told me he loved me. I could tell it was very emotional and meaningful for him to say that, but since he told me this after the wedding, I assumed he just meant he was happy for us.It’s years later now, we’re both happily married to other people, and I’m quite curious what he meant by that. Is there harm in asking him what he meant? His answer wouldn’t change anything, it would just satisfy a long-held curiosity I’ve had. On the other hand, best to let sleeping dogs lie, right?Probably a Dumb Question

Right.

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.

Ar 180919848

Carolyn Hax