While I'm away, readers give the advice.
On the chronically punctual: Chronic lateness is a personality characteristic just as much as smiling or shyness or empathy or mothering or woolgathering to name a few of the more benign.
None, but none, of these characteristics is changed lightly or, usually, at all in a lifetime. I know, I have struggled with lateness the same way others have struggled with more blatantly damaging qualities. I know when I am hungry and when I am full. I know what drink must be the final one. I have a terrific sense of direction. With all of these, of course, over a lifetime I have wondered why others do not - gee, it's so easy.
It is not at all straightforward. I have been tyrannized by the absolutists just the same as they think they are inconvenienced by the late-arriving. How often I have arrived - punctually - at a meeting only to think, "I rushed for this? I could have driven more cautiously, not been so rude to that old guy, not have indigestion, edited my e-mail more thoroughly, read that article."
I often find people are more concerned about the schedule than the occasion, somehow desperately fixated on that aspect of the event. And, I often wonder why we have created a society that values punctuality amidst frenzy.
Now that I am retired I try, oh try hard, to set an engagement between 11 and 11:15 a.m., to make appointments for later in the day, to announce clearly that I wish others would start the meeting without me if they are not "on a retirement schedule."
In fact, whatever direction these "beliefs" move, they are only beliefs. I suggest some tolerance both ways. I will try to tolerate your absolutism, if you will recognize my right to believe differently. I will try to accommodate your beliefs - even though I do not share them. I will not ridicule your "god" if you do not denounce my apostasy.
On falling out of love with a life partner: A piece of advice from the other side: Please, please, please tell him in the safety and confidence of a counselor's office that you feel like you have fallen out of love. I am sure he would much rather hear it than not hear it.
My wife decided she couldn't confide something like this in me and just assumed the marriage was broken and done for. To ensure it, she went off and started a new relationship with someone else.
In the end, at least give someone you're married to the benefit of hearing something they would not like to hear before you judge whether the indifference toward him is something you can overcome. You may be surprised what a degree of openness may unfold for the both of you.
On dealing with a messy child: When we were young and irresponsible and would discard items willy-nilly around the house, my mother would pick them up and put them in a box. (She never picked up stuff from our bedrooms.) Then, once a week or so, she would haul out the box and "allow" us to purchase the items back as-is. Unredeemed items got dumped or donated and we lost them.
Chat with Carolyn Hax online at noon Fridays at www.washingtonpost.com.