A look back will help you move forward



I’ve been separated from my husband who wants to reconcile. However, he doesn’t want to go to counseling (and I’m in counseling myself), so I’m increasingly frustrated. He has substance abuse issues and is in denial. I’m feeling trapped and sad right now because I love him but he needs help. How to get on with life when you hit a wall?

— Anonymous

Tell Me About It

Carolyn Hax offers advice based on the experiences of someone who's been there.

> See her column

 He has hit a wall, the wall of addiction.

You have gotten on with life: You are separated, which is progress; it at least appears you won’t reconcile as long as he remains in denial, which is progress; you are in counseling — as in, you recognize you have your own work to do here — which is the kind of progress that promises more to come. Please see how far you’ve come.

None of this means you won’t be sad. Your heart is being broken in two ways, by losing the companionship of someone you love and by watching that loved one unravel. Consider adding a support group, Al-Anon or otherwise, to your self-care routine. These are hard things you’re facing.

But you’re facing them. We don’t feel the earth move, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t spinning around the sun, making our way toward spring.



I’m a nose-to-the-grindstone type with a steady job, on track with savings for a comfortable retirement. I have a very dear and close friend who’s kind of the opposite — flits from job to job and career to career, lives hand-to-mouth, and is barely making it. She dreams of striking it rich someday with a brilliant entrepreneurial coup.

When she comes to me with Yet Another Brilliant Idea, what is the role of a friend? Encourage her to chase yet another unicorn, or try to bring her back to (my conception of?) reality? I’ve tried both ways, and neither feels right.

— Odd Couple

Have you ever asked her?

I can think of 40 ways to broach this topic, about 39.5 of them some mix of awkward and patronizing. However, if your motive is genuinely to be the best friend to her that you can be, then trust your tone and your fondness for her to carry you through.

Maybe: “I never know how to respond to your ideas when you present them to me. We have such different styles — I plod, you leap. Right? So I always see your ideas from the perspective of a plodder, and think, ‘No way!’

“But, obviously, you’re not me, so I’m left groping for something to say. Do you want me to share my perspective? Or would you rather I just nod and listen?”

Now, it’s possible she’ll welcome your grounding influence in theory only to resent it when the practice of it hits. At that point you can add 2 2 and go back to nodding along. Think warmth, not perfection.

However, having talked about it before will give you the language to address it again, if you think that would help keep you close: “I know you said you wanted my killjoy perspective, but I get the sense it’s not as welcome as we had planned. What do you think?” Your differences push you apart, yes, but openness about them gives you ways to be in that together.

E-mail Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com.


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