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Posted on Thu, Dec 29, 2011 : 5 a.m.

Moving for a spouse

By Carolyn Hax

While I'm away, readers give the advice.

On moving for a spouse (or becoming a stay-at-home parent):

I moved almost every two years for 20 years because of my husband's job opportunities, the last 10 years in foreign locations where I couldn't work. When he finally attained executive status, he wanted to see other women. I went through three years of trying to fix our marriage.

In retrospect I was the only one trying to save it, because I was the only one invested in it. He promised many times I wouldn't have to be alone trying to support myself, and then resented a divorce settlement that would have provided adequate support. I turned 50 with few job skills, in a community with few job opportunities, taking care of an elderly mother and wondering how I will make it to retirement age.

I don't mean to sound bitter, but it takes a lot to start over later on in life. You do not get a "do over" to take care of yourself.

Make choices that will help you survive in a worst-case scenario. Know what you need from life and make sure you can provide for yourself. I'm not talking about being selfish and not sacrificing. Marriages require that to survive, but don't be the only one making the sacrifices, and don't pin your security and well-being on someone else's promises or "good character." You are the only one who will take care of you.

-- B.

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On a mother with recurrent cancer who isn't following doctors' orders:

If the woman wants to eat chocolate every day, so what? Bad habits are not going to kill her, the cancer will. I have recurrent ovarian cancer. My life will be shorter than I expected or wanted it to be. I want to enjoy each day, and so if I feel like having a drink, I do. If I feel like having a greasy burger, I do. No one should judge someone who is terminally ill. Give the woman stress-free support and love. That will truly make her life better.

-- Walking in her shoes

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On parenting in "the good old days":

I had two children in the 1960s, then two more in the 1990s, a generation later, and noticed in wonder that I was a different kind of father. With my first family, I was a fairly typical parent for the times. Thirty years later, I was also a pretty typical parent for the times. The change, though I was aware of it, happened unconsciously. I was not imitating or trying to be like anyone else but had adapted, it seems, to a new parenting environment, responding to new cues.

-- A.

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On the strategy of waiting to divorce until the kids leave for college:

I was a high school teacher for many years and saw several couples wait until the kids went off to college to split up. This was actually rather cruel: The child is having difficulty enough leaving home and parents, and to realize that there isn't even going to be any home there anymore just adds to the pain.

-- Retired teacher

Email Carolyn at tellme(at), follow her on Facebook at or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at

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