Tell Me About It: Responding with grace
While I'm away, readers give the advice.
On being called out for bad-mouthing: Many years ago, while staying with my mother-in-law and brother-in-law, I overheard them saying negative things about something I had done. Later in the afternoon, I told my mother-in-law that I had heard them. I was close to tears but explained myself. I also said I didn't want this to come between us so I thought I should tell her that I had heard her.
Who knows, there may have been truth in what they said, but the part of the story that's important was my mother-in-law's answer: "Please forgive me." No excuses, no snarky remarks, just that.
We went on from there and I will always remember how classy that remark was and that she took my hand and looked me right in the eye when she said it.
I'm a lot older now and I have had the opportunity, with a sister-in-law, to use this woman's wise answer for a hurtful thing I said. I think it was the only appropriate response.
On dating someone with an untreated illness or disorder: I am married to a man who (I suspect) has conditions that were never formally diagnosed. Ninety-nine percent of the time he is kind, loving, and considerate, but that 1 percent of the time, say, when the car gets dented or the kid throws a tantrum - his mean demons come out. He says hurtful things, throws things, slams doors, and once or twice has even punched a wall. The dormant anger is always capable of erupting.
My advice to anyone facing this while still dating: Consider your children. Not only how this prospective parent would be with them in the midst of their meltdowns, but how their own temperaments may turn out. One of our children is a magnified version of him. She has had dramatic meltdowns since her toddler years, progressing into anxiety, rage, and tempestuous displays of door-slamming, stuff-throwing, spitting, pushing, and shoving. She threatens to kill me on a daily basis.
Her tantrums set off his tantrums, so he models bad behavior for her on a regular basis. We've tried therapy (with minimal success) and my husband refuses to allow her to be medicated. It's an ongoing struggle.
Please consider what life might be like with one or more children who have the same diagnosis as your loved one.
Chat with Carolyn Hax online at noon Fridays at www.washingtonpost.com.