January 22, 2012 in Features

Carolyn Hax: Be patient with family’s concerns

Washington Post

Dear Carolyn: I am divorced after 24 years of marriage. My ex-husband dropped out of life over 10 years ago, refusing to work, using drugs and doing nothing around the house. I stayed for the sake of our children until it became clear a year ago that he was doing more harm than good.

Now, I wake up every day and feel happy! I can appreciate my children, home, job, friends and extended family more without the pressure of a miserable marriage on my back. I love my life.

The fly in the ointment is extended family and close friends who keep pressuring me to “not close myself off from love.” They encourage me to date, to try to meet men. I am not a recluse. I have a very full life with lots of activities with friends and family.

I do not feel any lack by not having a man in my life. My parents asked me recently, “Do you want to spend the rest of your life alone?” After soul searching I can honestly say my answer is “Yes, happily alone.” How do I tell them how happy I am without sounding preachy or defensive? How do I ask them nicely to leave the subject alone? – Joyfully single mother

Since your nearest and dearest seem fixed on the idea that you’re unhappy, telling them to butt out will only assure them they’re right to worry.

Instead, unfair though it may seem, your best bet is to summon all your patience – and newfound lightness – and respond to their concerns with brief, upbeat, open-ended bulletins of truth. Imagine you’re a kindly alien and they’re curious about this strange visitor to their paired-off world.

They: “Do you want to spend the rest of your life alone?”

You: “I hope I’m always this happy, thanks.”

They: “Don’t close yourself off from love!”

You: “I feel a lot of love right now, thank you.”

They: “You should date, try to meet men.”

You: “Don’t worry – when people interest me, I spend time with them.”


When this grows tiresome, too – quickly I imagine – trust the foundation you’ve laid and start answering with a smile, a “You’re sweet to worry” and a crisp change of subject. While it is not as satisfying as telling busybodies to step off, being happy while also kindly and consistently denying them traction has the power to frustrate your meddlers away.

Email Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ carolyn.hax or chat with her online at 9 a.m.each Friday at www.washington post.com.

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