While I’m away, readers give the advice.
On failure, shame and selfhood: A letter-writer who was first in the family to divorce, saying, “I feel like a failure,” struck a chord with me. My favorite quote (and philosophy) is from The Wizard of Oz:
Dorothy: “Oh — you’re a very bad man!”
Wizard: “Oh, no, my dear. I — I’m a very good man. I’m just a very bad Wizard.”
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Everything is relative. Everyone is usually a success at being what he is — and often fails miserably at being what he’s not, from students at the wrong college with the wrong major to gay men trying to fit into a straight lifestyle.
As for being the first to divorce, I wonder how many weren’t, but wanted to be – and should have been.
On a kiss that’s just a kiss: Our first kiss was chaste, but I was very aware that I wasn’t enjoying it. I just let it happen, feeling strangely disengaged.
He was a good man and I thought I was being kind, even generous.
Subconsciously, I think I felt that way on my wedding day, too.
Thirty years and four children later, I am much wiser. I thought I was being selfless, but I was robbing him.
I am still with that good man, that good, deserving man who, because of my “generosity,” will never know what it is to feel loved by a woman truly attracted to him.
I ultimately did find myself feeling a profound connection with another man. I didn’t act on it, but it made me realize for the first time what I might have had with someone else. I felt a real sense of loss, even more for my husband than for myself.
We should all take our time in relationships and give ourselves permission to feel what we feel without judgment. We owe it not just to ourselves, but to those who believe we might be right for them.
On balancing introversion with a need to get out: If I used, “Was it better than staying at home?” as my benchmark for nights out with friends, I’d be a hermit. Probably 50 percent of my (approximately weekly) nights out are better than staying home, but if I didn’t get out weekly, then nights out would be more awkward and distant, and I wouldn’t enjoy them, either. And if I didn’t get out regularly, I wouldn’t have friends, and that would be very bad.
On giving the infant their say: Babies can represent themselves, thank you. It’s funny how new and even old parents forget to include “the baby” as a factor. Babies begin communicating immediately upon seeing light. Loudly. It works or we would not be here to talk about it.
The parents respond. Babies soon smile and coo. And the parents respond.
Not recognized is how much the first baby “teaches” the parents this way, rather than the other way around. It explains why the second child has it so much easier than the first, and why the parents for the second time are so much more laid-back. Ignore the child’s point of view and as parents you will suffer right though their adolescence. Listen and learn and you will enjoy it so much more.
Email Carolyn at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow her on Facebook at facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at washingtonpost.com.