Carolyn Hax: It’s hard to quit and provide support

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Hi Carolyn, A close family member needs to quit smoking for serious health reasons and is finally ready to do so. Except I already stopped them cheating. I know it’s really fucking hard to quit. I have never smoked and my “stimulus” too often turns out to be guilty for this person, which doesn’t help, I know. Any advice on how to support this relative in a way that really supports them?

Encouraging: Not only is it “really hard to quit,” but “cheating” is so common that it’s arguably part of the quitting process. Most people need several relapses to break a habit, even humans, like a bad relationship.

Meanwhile, you’ve never smoked, but you’ve had to retrain yourself into better habits somehow, haven’t you? So you know.

So call on both when offering support: “Okay. You’ve been doing great, and I know how much you want this.” Gentle optimism reminds us that our next decision matters most and is a habit worth adopting.

Dear Caroline: I’ve been a widow for two and a half years and I’ve been dating a widower for almost a year. He says that he loves me and that he treats me well. I like her a lot, but I don’t think she’s in love yet. Am I treating you fairly?

I’m not sure about anything: That may be my favorite signature of all time.

Soft transparency is the height of fairness: “I enjoy what we have but I’m not ready to call it ‘love.’ I hope you’re okay with that, but if not, I’ll understand.” Justice is for each of you to know where she stands, as much as anyone else can.

Dear Caroline: How do you handle siblings at a funeral who didn’t help care for a parent when their help was needed?

Anonymous: With every molecule of grace and forgiveness you have left.

The funeral is for sorrow, not for grievances.

Imagine your siblings as children again, if necessary, if that helps, or at whatever age you’d like. Embrace them as they are in these memories.

Take a broader view of your family as a whole.

Make everyone’s decisions towards your sick father as what each of you needed to do to stick together, for whatever reasons, with any consequences that will largely pay off naturally over time. NO ONE goes unpunished.

That is, you personally are not the one who must deliver these consequences. Not today, not at the funeral, not ever, if you don’t want to. Instead, keep close to what you did for your father and why you felt you had to do it. That’s what you have. That’s what matters.

If any of these calm your mind, then adopt it as a mantra. Anyway, the funeral will pass quickly. The calmer person you are after will be better able to say what still needs to be said.

Dear Caroline: My 9-month-old daughter has a first name and then a nickname that has lots of spellings (think Katie/Katy). We chose one spelling, then realized most of the world assumes it’s different.

I would like to switch to the more common spelling. Since it’s a nickname, this doesn’t require any legal paperwork; it’s mostly a matter of, “Whoa, this grandma monogrammed blanket doesn’t work anymore,” and emailing everyone, “Hey guys, Katy is going to be Katie now.”

Is it silly that you’re considering changing it, or silly that you haven’t already? I should, right?

— Katie/Katy’s father

Katie/Katy’s father: Right, because whatever is dumb, if anything, will get dumber over time. Except for the monogrammed blanket, whose story will get better with age.

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