Mom may have many good rea­sons for hid­ing the iden­tity of her child’s fa­ther

The Washington Post Sunday - - BOOK WORLD - Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Wash­ing­ton, D.C. 20071, or tellme@wash­ Get her col­umn de­liv­ered to your in­box each morn­ing at­post. Join the dis­cus­sion live at noon Fri­days at wash­ing­ton­ con­ver­sa­tions. Carolyn H

Dear Carolyn: My mother says she will not tell me who my fa­ther is and will take the se­cret to the grave with her. Is there ever any good rea­son for not telling some­one who their fa­ther is?

D. If she doesn’t know for sure her­self.

If he com­mit­ted crimes so heinous that she fears they would change the way you see your­self.

If he was and is still mar­ried to her sis­ter, cousin, best friend.

If re­veal­ing his name would re­veal some­thing em­bar­rass­ing about her or her past choices or the cir­cum­stances of your birth.

If she promised him she would take the se­cret of his iden­tity to her grave.

If he’s a sperm donor and she thinks there’s some­thing wrong with ad­mit­ting that. Of course there are oth­ers. Are any of th­ese good enough to jus­tify se­crecy? That I can’t say, be­cause that de­pends on you, your mom, and the se­cret. How­ever, it sounds as if it might ease your (thor­oughly jus­ti­fied) an­guish to try on the idea that your mother has her rea­sons — and that even if they aren’t good enough in your eyes, they’re good enough in hers or she wouldn’t do this to you.

Even if you ul­ti­mately don’t ac­cept that, then at least you’ll be able to say so di­rectly to your mother as the calm re­sult of care­ful thought, with the goal of mak­ing peace with it some­how — vs. lash out at her in hopes of forc­ing the an­swer out of her.

This doesn’t guar­an­tee you the truth you’ve been aching for — not even close — but it is the path to un­der­stand­ing each other, which is how you and your mom can avoid los­ing each other as you both try to find what you need. Dear Carolyn: My step­daugh­ter is in her 40s, never mar­ried, no kids. She would re­ally like to be in a re­la­tion­ship. But, she says she doesn’t like be­ing around fam­ily be­cause ev­ery­one is paired off. We in­vited her to a fam­ily va­ca­tion but now she’s talk­ing about not go­ing be­cause she’s the only one who is sin­gle. Other than sug­gest­ing coun­sel­ing (which she has done in the past), is there any­thing we can do to make her feel more in­cluded?


To sug­gest coun­sel­ing at this point would only iso­late her more, don’t you think? In­clu­sive would be to treat her sim­ply as good com­pany, com­plete unto her­self.

To that end, you can — all of you cou­ples — shake up the group­ings so that it isn’t cou­ple-plus-step­daugh­ter go­ing to the store, cou­ple-plus-step­daugh­ter go­ing for a walk, etc. In­stead, a hus­band from Cou­ple A, wife from Cou­ple B and step­daugh­ter go for a walk. Com­pan­ion­ship vs. com­pan­ions.

And you can en­cour­age her to bring a friend with her, be­cause you all do.

And you can mix up your va­ca­tions. Make them girls’ week­ends oc­ca­sion­ally — the boys get their time, too, of course — and you’ll all be on the same foot­ing for a few days.

Be­sides be­ing a show of good faith to your step­daugh­ter, th­ese ef­forts to break out of cou­ple-y lock­step can strengthen other bonds within the fam­ily, not to men­tion serve as an im­por­tant les­son to kids that solo isn’t a sen­tence; it’s just one of many ways to fly.

Dear Carolyn: Do you be­lieve in “The Five Love Lan­guages”? My hus­band and I def­i­nitely think about and ap­proach things dif­fer­ently. I’ve had a few friends rec­om­mend this book, but be­sides be­ing a bit overly pros­e­ly­tiz­ing, it also seems sim­plis­tic. “Do X and it’ll change your mar­riage (vir­tu­ally overnight)!” Forty­five years of habit, plus new habits formed in 12 years of be­ing to­gether, do NOT change overnight, no mat­ter what. But can they re­ally change, and is it re­ally as sim­ple as just speak­ing to them in the lan­guage “that makes them feel val­ued?”


I don’t be­lieve any one ap­proach works for ev­ery­one, es­pe­cially not “(vir­tu­ally overnight)!”

I also don’t be­lieve in blow­ing off a dif­fer­ent ap­proach with­out even try­ing it be­cause you’ve al­ready fig­ured out ev­ery rea­son it shouldn’t work. Es­pe­cially when all you’d be try­ing out is think­ing be­fore you speak out of re­spect for the per­son you mar­ried. Hi, Carolyn: I’m inmy late 20s and I’ve been with my girl­friend for five years longdis­tance. We have plans for her to move to my town into an apart­ment.

My prob­lem: I’m just not sure I love her. I en­joy our time to­gether, but I don’t feel deeply at­tracted or pas­sion­ate to­ward her. I’ve never cheated but find my eyes wan­der­ing.

I feel like I can’t fairly al­low her to move, but won­der if fi­nally living near each other would al­low our re­la­tion­ship to grow.

Is it dumb to end things right be­fore we have the chance to be to­gether?

Long Dis­tance

You don’t make some­one move to find out whether you still like her. You just don’t. In­form her of your doubts, so she can do what­ever she needs to take care of her­self.


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