Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Question: On occasion, the spouse and I travel separately (for work, weekend with mom, etc.). The last couple of times, when spouse has returned from a trip, she has immediately gone into "stress mode": Why isn't such-and-such clean? What is this doing here? Did you just sit around the whole time I was gone? This is accompanied by lots of sighing, groaning, muttering under breath, etc.

I've tried to get the place cleaned up or have a meal ready in anticipation of spouse's arrival the last couple of times, but nothing really works. I also try to be forgiving, because travel is stressful. The air is usually clear by the next day, but it ends up being quite stressful for me.

We have another bit of separate travel coming up. Any ideas?

Answer: Consider talking about it now, when neither of you is in the travel throes: "I've noticed, the last couple of times you've come home, you've been really stressed - about the condition of the house or whatever else. Is that just travel fatigue, or do you have expectations we should be talking about? I've actually made a concerted effort lately, to no avail. So if there's something I've missed, it would be really helpful to know."

One of the things you can suggest is to make yourself scarce while she decompresses and settles back in. Alone time is a gift many people don't feel comfortable asking for, and not having it when needed is a common cause of stage sighing and other put-upon theatrics. An explanation, not an excuse, of course.

Question: I have been dating a wonderful man for five years, and we both hope to marry soon. However, kids are a huge issue all of a sudden. We both want them, but his job currently keeps him away five days a week. I've told him that when the time comes to have kids, I need him there daily. I can't do it myself.

He will not promise me that. He says he'll be there whenever he can.

But what if we get married, have kids, and I'm left to raise them on my own because he's gone all week? It's unfair, and, honestly, a fear of mine. He says he doesn't want to "waste the next five years to find out I don't want to have kids." He doesn't believe in marriages without kids. He says that I'm not supportive and that I need to say, "We'll figure it out." But can we?

Answer: He's gaslighting you. End of the line on this relationship, no?

tellme@washpost.com. Chat with Carolyn Hax online at noon Fridays at www.washingtonpost.com.