Carolyn Hax, John Rose­mond col­umns

Adapted from a re­cent on­line dis­cus­sion.

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - METRO - Carolyn You can send an email to Carolyn Hax at tellme@wash­ You can chat with her at noon on Fri­days at Wash­ing­

Dear Carolyn:

My fam­ily has been un­der sus­tained stress for the last five years — moves, job losses and med­i­cal is­sues with our par­ents and grown sib­lings. My husband doesn’t fight fair — he gets nasty and makes per­sonal at­tacks. I have been at a loss about how to han­dle this con­struc­tively.

My ther­a­pist re­cently rec­om­mended a book called “The Seven Prin­ci­ples for Mak­ing Mar­riage Work,” by John Gottman. It is a bit repet­i­tive, and sort of self-help-y. But it has been re­ally ef­fec­tive at help­ing me rec­og­nize what is rea­son­able to say and do in these sit­u­a­tions, and more im­por­tantly, how to nur­ture the re­ally good parts of our re­la­tion­ship while we face these is­sues. Just wanted to pass that along.

— Un­der Stress

Thanks! The Gottman In­sti­tute has been on my radar for years. The break­through in his/their work is rec­og­niz­ing that con­tempt is what breaks a mar­riage (even when the cou­ple tech­ni­cally stays to­gether). I haven’t seen any­thing in my years of mail-read­ing to con­tra­dict that.

I’m glad the book has been ef­fec­tive, and grate­ful for the chance to men­tion it — it has been a while.

Re: Fight­ing Fair:

Could you of­fer some in­sight as to what fight­ing fair en­tails?

— Anony­mous

Short ver­sion: Fight­ing fair means dis­cussing the area of dis­agree­ment ver­sus at­tack­ing the per­son you dis­agree with. “You al­ways ... ”; “You never ... ”; “What are you, stupid?”-type at­tacks are anath­ema to in­ti­macy. Here’s the link to Gottman’s site: Har­riet Lerner’s “Dance” se­ries also is well re­spected: http:// www.har­ri­

Re: Fair Fight­ing:

Do you think po­lit­i­cal par­ties could take a few lessons on fight­ing fair? — Timely Ha­ha­ha­ha­ha­ha­ha­ha­ha­ha­ha­ha­ha­ha­ha­ha­haha. Ha­haha. Ha. (Cough.)


Dear Carolyn:

Do you think some of your ques­tions are fake? I’ve got­ten that vibe a cou­ple times. I didn’t re­ally mind, though, be­cause even if I thought it was fake, I also felt it raised an im­por­tant is­sue, and you an­swered it well. — Real Ques­tion

Thank you. I think it’s im­pos­si­ble that I’ve done this for 20 years with­out pub­lish­ing any fakes. I de­cided a long time ago not to worry about it — in part be­cause I can’t pre­vent it, but also be­cause, like you said, if it brings up an is­sue that’s rel­e­vant to some peo­ple, then it doesn’t mat­ter where the ques­tion came from.

Funny thing — some­times I sus­pect I’m read­ing a fake be­cause some­one’s fiercely held po­si­tion just seems too out­there to be real, but I an­swer it any­way be­cause it’s com­pelling. Then, boom, I get a wave of peo­ple de­fend­ing the “out-there” po­si­tion just as fiercely as the orig­i­nal writer, if not more so.

For ex­am­ple, this res­tau­rant ques­tion ( BadTip­per) about only tip­ping 10 per­cent seemed sus­pect. I an­swered any­way, and out­rage let­ters poured in de­fend­ing the let­ter-writer’s be­hav­ior as per­fectly ac­cept­able. (No, it wasn’t.) Af­ter years of this, it’s rare I see any­thing as too aw­ful for at least some peo­ple to de­fend.


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