DEAR CAROLYN: I’ve been divorced one year after a four-year marriage. We shouldn’t have gotten married, I knew that at the time, and I accept that I made a huge mistake when I full well knew better. I’m intent on NOT repeating that mistake.
– Color Blind in TN
DEAR COLOR BLIND: Trust this reflex, don’t try to override it.
Why? Because if it’s a red flag about the guy(s) you’re dating, then the reason not to override it is obvious.
I realize I advise this to the point of self-parody, but please find you before you go looking for someone else.
More broadly, though: Learn to hear your inner voice, to heed it, to look back to see whether it was right, and to tweak your understanding of it accordingly. In the meantime, learn to inhabit the life you have.
DEAR CAROLYN: I’m 17 and I need help with how to respond to my father, who has an “interesting” personality quirk.
He does not deal well with unexpected loud noises. I’ve already learned to warn him if I’m going to do things like turn on the vacuum, hair dryer, blender, etc. But God help me if I accidentally drop something and it makes a loud noise or I maybe clank two plates together loudly! It will definitely result in a critical comment.
I’d like to let him know that I don’t need to be chastised for something I did not intentionally do and for which I apologized, but I also don’t want to come off as disrespectful or sarcastic. (Sarcasm doesn’t go over well with him either.) When this kind of thing happens again (and I’m sure it will), would it be disrespectful or sarcastic to just say, “I don’t need to be chastised for something that was accidental”?
– Just Trying to Get Along
DEAR TRYING: Heightened sensitivity to sound is a health issue; his nastiness about it is a personality issue.
It’s also something best not addressed when his neurons are still clattering with the latest crash. Instead, talk to your dad at a calm and quiet time, in a calm and quiet way: “Something’s on my mind lately. I understand you’re sensitive to loud noises, and I’m happy to warn you when I’m about to use the blender. I’m human, though, and sometimes I drop things. When you then criticize me for that, especially after I’ve apologized, I feel angry/resentful/frustrated.”
That is neither disrespectful nor sarcastic, nor does it challenge him just as his nerves are up in arms.
If he still snaps? Then see this as a lesson on difficult people: You can’t make anyone join you on the high road, but you can remain there yourself.