Ask Amy 1-21-10
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“bELieve”

Since: Jun 09

Location hidden

#1 Jan 21, 2010
Dear Amy: My aunt has struggled with alcoholism, depression, medical problems and financial problems, and is in the throes of a bitter divorce.

She does not have any children, and when I was a young adult, she and I were close.

I have always done my best to be supportive of her, and a year ago I traveled to help her out when no one else in the family would.

During that trip, she lied to me and was at times verbally and emotionally abusive. Nonetheless, because she is family, I have continued to help her out from a distance.

I know that she has continued to call me names and say mean things about me to other relatives and friends, while to my face she pretends to be kind and nice.

I really don't want to have much to do with her anymore, and prefer to keep her at arm's length by sending cards and e-mails.

This is apparently not "good enough," however, and she insists on talking by phone. She has no boundaries on the timing and length of her calls, which are an imposition on me.

She now says she has a New Year's resolution to "keep more in touch" by phone.

How can I get her to stop calling me?— Fed Up

Dear Fed Up: You don't say if you have ever given your aunt the benefit of hearing how her behavior affects you.

You should do your best to draw firm and honest boundaries with her.

If she doesn't respect these boundaries, then you will have to adjust how much contact you are willing to have with her.

Explain that your own New Year's resolution involves you spending less — not more — time on the phone.

After that, screen her calls. Let her leave a message, and return the contact when (or if) you choose.

Dear Amy: I have been married for 17 years and we have two great kids, ages 9 and 11.

I fell out of love with my husband several years ago.

I have not told him this because I don't want to hurt him, and I don't feel right about ending the marriage right now because it would hurt the kids. But every day I have an ache inside me because I know I'm not happy in this marriage.

I would be willing to try counseling, but we actually get along fairly well.

I'm torn between sparing my family any pain and my secret sadness that I'm not living an authentic life.

There must be other people out there in this situation.

Is there a solution, or does it just come down to a choice between being selfish versus being unhappy?— Secretly Unhappy

Dear Unhappy: I venture that your feelings of dissatisfaction and ennui are common — certainly at midlife.

Your desire to live a life you see as "authentic" is laudable.

So is your concern about how your choices will affect your family.

However, aside from leaving your marriage, you don't seem to have a goal in sight.

Therapy may not bring you back into love with your husband, but talking with a compassionate therapist would definitely help you to explore the terrain of your life and map out your future.

Therapy will also help you to frame ways to discuss this with your husband.

You should start by seeing a counselor on your own.
liner

Bronx, NY

#2 Jan 21, 2010
LW1: Remember, caller ID is your friend.
Glen

Crete, IL

#3 Jan 21, 2010
Letter 1 - Good start Amy.

Letter 2 - See a therapist and DO NOT stay in it just for the kids. You have at least 9 years until they are out of the house (at least away at college) and that is a lot of time for resentment or other negative emotions to build up. And at some point your feelings will come out. You'll think you're hiding it well, but it will start to show bit by bit. Plus you husband has a right to know how you feel and to, if he wants, find someone with whom he's on equal footing.
Bee

Jacksonville, FL

#4 Jan 21, 2010
LW1: Put her on speakerphone each time, she'll hate that.

LW2: Ask your husband if he'd be interested in an open marriage.

“A Programmer is not in IT!”

Since: Feb 09

Neda, stay with me! Charlie

#5 Jan 21, 2010
LW1 Why do you think this train wreck want to get closer to you??? BECAUSE YOU PUT UP WITH HER CRAP! Nobody else does, they all divorced or shun her, your the only game in town.
People who are verbally and emotionally abusive, depressed and alcoholic are toxic wastelands.

LW2 Go see a counselor and figure out how to be a better wife. If your gonna stay in it for the kids your husband deserves that much. Remember you denying him a chance to be happy too.

“Joy is the shadow cast by pain”

Since: Dec 08

Twin Cities, MN

#6 Jan 21, 2010
L1: How kind of you to give her permission to treat you like dirt. Send her a lovely parting gift: A case of booze.

L2: "I would be willing to try counseling, but we actually get along fairly well." Actually, you should try counseling BECAUSE you get along well. You are just as responsible for your marriage as your husband. You two need some serious help -- and it's possible you can rekindle things, but it will take work and time. Do it for your kids. You have to at least TRY for your kids.

“An Apple a day”

Since: Jun 08

nil carborundum illegitemi

#7 Jan 21, 2010
LW1. Al-Anon may help the LW deal with aunt.

LW2. Counseling.

Since: Aug 08

Location hidden

#8 Jan 21, 2010
LW1: Tell her you gave up talking on the phone for your New Year’s resolution.

LW2: Difficult position to be in. I don’t think therapy can make you fall in love with someone or fall back in love with them. It is there or it is not, and it really is that simple.

In this situation, I think the thing to do is to be honest to the husband. He deserves to be with someone who loves him. She also deserves to be with someone whom she loves. There is no bad guy. Things just happen and falling out of love is sometimes one of them.

So true for many it seems:

“I was always taught that boy meets girl,
fall in love get married and forget the world.
Nine months later sweet baby's on the way
Kiss 'em on the cheek and life's okay

I don't feel no pain
I don't have no time
to listen to conflicting points of view, oh.
It's a crazy world to live alone.
A ball and chain I call my own;
a-ba-na-na-na-na whooo

People listen up don't stand too close,
I've got somethin' that you all should know:
holy matrimony is not for me,
I'd rather die alone in misery

Cuz I was always taught that boy meets girl,
fall in love get married and forget the world,
nine months later sweet baby's on the way.
Isn't that what they used to say?

with a girl you knew,
and the bonds that we grew,
turned into a ball and chain, mmm.”

Since: Jun 09

Madison, WI

#9 Jan 21, 2010
L2: I feel for the LW, but I also wonder if she has unrealistic expectations for her feelings. I wonder if she's not looking for excitement and passion and just isn't finding them in her marriage. I think she should seek counseling on her own first to make sure she has a handle on her feelings, then be honest with her husband. Maybe she has fallen out of love or maybe they just need to rekindle the romance. Only she and her husband can determine that, and I think they will need the help of a counselor to guide them.

“reign in blood”

Since: May 09

Canton, IL

#10 Jan 21, 2010
LW1: I think Amy gave pretty good advice. Caller ID basically solves this problem.

LW2: You need to communicate this with your husband. You never know, he could be feeling the same way. Who wouldn't get bored with tasting the same pie afte 17 yrs? Maybe you could snazz it up a bit. Try swinging or having an open relationship. I'm sure that would be less trumatic to your kids than a divorce would be.
Stina

Saint Petersburg, FL

#11 Jan 21, 2010
LW1: Screen your calls. Also, tell her what you told Amy and tell her you'll be willing to talk to her when she gets herself together.

LW2: I feel bad for you. I also think that what you are feeling is more common than you realize. I'd venture to say happy marriages are NOT the norm, as people like to believe. Kudos to you for recognizing how you feel and (presumably) not doing anything rash that you can't undo. Counseling for yourself and as a couple. At least this will help you decide the best course of action for both of you.

Since: Mar 09

Miami, FL

#12 Jan 21, 2010
AngelaMN wrote:
L2: "I would be willing to try counseling, but we actually get along fairly well." Actually, you should try counseling BECAUSE you get along well. You are just as responsible for your marriage as your husband. You two need some serious help -- and it's possible you can rekindle things, but it will take work and time. Do it for your kids. You have to at least TRY for your kids.
Exactly.

And LW1, ever hear of Caller ID? Or the phrase "I have to go now" and hanging up the phone? Don't play the victim because you let yourself get roped into long phone conversations. Also, what RACE said.

“Bene Gesserit”

Since: Oct 07

Lincoln Park

#13 Jan 21, 2010
lw2: Is she not physically attracted to him anymore? did he get fat, balding and start wearing glasses.... smell like feet and mayonnaise? I think she has issues with not having goals in life (bored).

Since: Jan 09

Location hidden

#14 Jan 21, 2010
RACE wrote:
LW1 Why do you think this train wreck want to get closer to you??? BECAUSE YOU PUT UP WITH HER CRAP! Nobody else does, they all divorced or shun her, your the only game in town.
People who are verbally and emotionally abusive, depressed and alcoholic are toxic wastelands.
LW2 Go see a counselor and figure out how to be a better wife. If your gonna stay in it for the kids your husband deserves that much. Remember you denying him a chance to be happy too.
ITA.

I love how she says she doesn't need counseling because "we actually get along fairly well." He's not your roommate, he's your life partner. Put some effort into getting the spark back FIRST before assuming you just have to slog it out until the kids are grown. There isn't anything actually wrong...just a classic case of mid-life crisis.

Since: Jan 09

Location hidden

#15 Jan 21, 2010
AngelaMN wrote:
L1: How kind of you to give her permission to treat you like dirt. Send her a lovely parting gift: A case of booze.
Hah!
AngelaMN wrote:
L2: "I would be willing to try counseling, but we actually get along fairly well." Actually, you should try counseling BECAUSE you get along well. You are just as responsible for your marriage as your husband. You two need some serious help -- and it's possible you can rekindle things, but it will take work and time. Do it for your kids. You have to at least TRY for your kids.
Absolutely.

“bELieve”

Since: Jun 09

Location hidden

#16 Jan 21, 2010
LW1 - Y'all have covered it perfectly.

LW2 - Marriage actually takes work. I don't know of anyone who has had a long-term, successful marriage without putting any effort into it. Sounds like you have been watching too many romantic comedies.

Try counseling for yourself. Talk to your husband about your feelings. Go on date nights or take a mini-vacation without the kids. The worst thing that will happen is that you end up in the same place you are now, but you won't be able to say that you didn't try.

Since: Aug 08

Location hidden

#17 Jan 21, 2010
Jess in NJ wrote:
LW2 - Marriage actually takes work. I don't know of anyone who has had a long-term, successful marriage without putting any effort into it. Sounds like you have been watching too many romantic comedies.
Try counseling for yourself. Talk to your husband about your feelings. Go on date nights or take a mini-vacation without the kids. The worst thing that will happen is that you end up in the same place you are now, but you won't be able to say that you didn't try.
Neither my wife nor I would say that a marriage takes work, at least not in our case. At least we don't perceive it to be work. I never understood that. Maybe we are just lucky.

I think if you have the physical attraction aspect down, that is one component. The other component is mutual respect and having fun.

Having fun does not require date nights. It does not require vacations. My wife and I are lucky to get out 2 or 3 times alone for dinner and what not during the year without our children. We also have had one weekend getaway alone together, since we first had children almost 8 years ago. Our children come with us when we vacation EVERYTIME (although we are hoping to get away sometime this year, ALONE). We still have fun (they go to bed at 7:00 generally; so we always have the nights together alone). We've been married over 9 years too.

We both think our marriage has been easy and has flown by. She makes me laugh (usually cute stuff that she does makes me laugh and she is a good sport about it too). I make her laugh (actually "she said this morning how did you get so funny, but you've always been funny"). If you can make a woman or man laugh, you are so ahead of the game in any relationship. This is what makes it fun and not work.

It is the little things in life that make all the difference. The little things are not even material things or even going to special places either. If you need material things or special trips to make you like your mate, I’d say at the core there is something fundamentally flawed.

At the core it is positive verbal interaction and mutual respect that matter. If you have that and physical attraction, it is really quite easy it seems. These are my observations after 9+ years.

Since: Jun 09

Madison, WI

#18 Jan 21, 2010
Sublime1 wrote:
(they go to bed at 7:00 generally; so we always have the nights together alone).
This alone may be part of your success. Jeez, my daughter sometimes fights bedtime until we are all exhausted. Even when we take her to the gym and she's falling down with exhaustion, she will get out of bed and bang on the door wanting mommy. We have tried everything, but she just doesn't seem to need much more sleep than we do. Bedtime is 8:00, and we are lucky if she's asleep by 8:30, then she's awake at 5am. That's a successful night. So, my wife usually gets up at 4:30-5 to take a shower and have a cup of coffee (gross!) before being disturbed. Also, my daughter doesn't like when we talk in such a way that she can't understand and will sometimes start acting out if we do. While we often either ignore it or punish the behavior, it's really disruptive. It's really a challenge to have an adult relationship in the wake of an angelic terrorist.

Since: Mar 09

Miami, FL

#19 Jan 21, 2010
Sublime, I think you're defining "work" differently than how Jess means it in her post above.

Jess, correct me if I'm wrong, but....

The type of work that is involved in a marriage doesn't mean going out on date nights or vacations, or gifts or any kind of material things. You said this in your post as well.

Work in a marriage is making yourself care about the other person's feelings and needs even when you're mad. It's doing little things, or a kind word, or a smile even when you've had a tough day and you feel like punching the wall. It's making the other person a priority in your life instead of getting complacent and taking them for granted.

Since: Aug 08

Location hidden

#20 Jan 21, 2010
cycle003 wrote:
<quoted text>
This alone may be part of your success. Jeez, my daughter sometimes fights bedtime until we are all exhausted. Even when we take her to the gym and she's falling down with exhaustion, she will get out of bed and bang on the door wanting mommy. We have tried everything, but she just doesn't seem to need much more sleep than we do. Bedtime is 8:00, and we are lucky if she's asleep by 8:30, then she's awake at 5am. That's a successful night. So, my wife usually gets up at 4:30-5 to take a shower and have a cup of coffee (gross!) before being disturbed. Also, my daughter doesn't like when we talk in such a way that she can't understand and will sometimes start acting out if we do. While we often either ignore it or punish the behavior, it's really disruptive. It's really a challenge to have an adult relationship in the wake of an angelic terrorist.
Oh, it most certainly is. Because, really, at some point in time, the day needs to end kids wise. We need to be alone and have time to ourselves.

It has never been hard, because, well, it is just the way it has always been, since they were born. On rare occasions, they might go past 7 and even simetimes until 8 or 8:30 (especially if we are ot late). When we stay at my folks, all bets are off, because my neice and nephew don’t have an official bed time unless it is a school night and even then it is probably 10:00 or so.

Also, when I say bed time, I don’t mean to imply they always fall asleep at that time. In fact, they often don’t. While they each have their own bedroom we frequently let them all sleep in one room (which helps and maybe why you have more difficulty; time to crank another one out cycle, ha, ha) and they watch cartoons together.

So, what I mean by bedtime is once they have been tucked in, there is no playing or rough housing with each other (if they do, I’ll make them sleep in their own room, in the dark, with no TV and yes, I’ve done it on occasion after multiple warnings, and they don’t like that; they cry like you would not beleive, but sometimes you need to show them that there are consequences for misbehaving), there is no coming down stairs (which is where our master bedroom is), and there is no calling mommy and daddy unless it is an emergency or someone is really misbehaving.

The effect is the same, however, in that generally at 7:00 or thereabouts, our day is over in terms of kids and it is alone time.

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