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Carolyn Hax: My wife is a roller-coaster boss and it’s driving me crazy

DEAR CAROLYN: Over the years my wife has supervised dozens of employees. By all accounts, she has been a good boss and her employees like her.

Carolyn Hax

But here’s the rub. It seems like every employee has “disappointed” her in one way or another and it has been my misfortune to have to listen to her endless tirades about them. She starts out being very excited about the new hire and within a few weeks is bitterly disappointed they aren’t turning out like she expected.

I suppose I should just smile and nod, but after 20 years I am beginning to dread going home after work, listening to her hash and rehash the failings of these poor people. Is there anything I can say?

Glad I Don’t Work for My Wife

DEAR GLAD I DON’T WORK FOR MY WIFE: I’m the wrong person to ask for smile-and-nod validation.

One huge benefit of longtime companionship is its combination of knowledge and security. You know your wife as well as anyone does, and you’ve stayed — so you’re uniquely positioned to flag an unhealthy pattern.

Just mention it outright, if you and she communicate well. If she leans defensive, then I suggest walking the horse to water without actually calling your wife a horse:

“May I butt in?” Pause for permission. No ambushes. Admit the intrusion and proceed only when invited.)

And then: “You put yourself through this with most new employees. You’re so excited and then so let down.” When you frame it as a matter of her tormenting herself, you position yourself as her sympathizer, not accuser. It has the benefit of being true; her expectations are the problem, not the employees.)

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And then: “Have you noticed this?” Then you wait for her response. Inviting her to respond signals conversation, not lecture.)

If the horse wants no part of said water, then back off; your observation combined with the years of evidence to support it will likely stick. Plus, her being a good boss “by all accounts” says this is more nuisance than emergency.

As for the nuisance aspect, it’s OK to decide you’ll listen to the hash but not the re-. “I find it tiring to do work and then come home to discuss work. How would you feel about trying a different routine?”

DEAR CAROLYN: I am very much in love with my boyfriend, but it seems he no longer shares those feelings.

When we attended my sister’s wedding, we got engaged and he promised me we’d be married next, as soon as we found a place to live together.

I was thrilled, but he’s been saying ever since, “Let’s give it more time,” and refusing to talk any more about it. We’re living together now, but it’s been six years, and he just won’t tell me why we’re not married.

I’m losing my mind here. I don’t want to leave him, but I don’t know what I can do when he won’t talk to me.

Desperate Bride

DEAR DESPERATE BRIDE: You can leave.

Why stay? That’s the prevailing “why,” and it’s for you to answer, not him. Put yourself in control.

If you agree that “losing your mind” = time to go (please!), no matter how badly you want to be married, then just arrange a new place to live. Hurt now so the healing begins.

“Tell Me About It” is by Carolyn Hax. Send your questions to tellme@washpost.com or fax 202-334-5669.