Dear Annie: I resembled the woman who wrote to say that she was staying married for the sake of her son. My then-husband quit his job shortly after the birth of our fourth son, and it took me seven years to realize that honor, marriage, family and commitment mean partnership — not martyrdom.
I worked full time, went back to grad school to enhance my earning power and did nearly all of the housework while he remained unemployed. As time wore on, the environment grew toxic, as I was constantly angry and worried.
One night, I came home in tears at 10:30 p.m. because I had gone to the grocery store after night classes and could not afford to buy basic groceries. Somehow, I suddenly realized I was not being a good role model for our sons. I asked myself what advice I would have for a stranger in the same situation. I found an attorney. I gave my husband 60 days to land a job — any job, even part-time — or I would file for divorce.
After 30 days, I reminded him of my ultimatum and said that I was still serious. At 60 days, I said I was going to the lawyer today. He asked for counseling. I said it was too late. I checked out as soon as the 60-day timer went off. Staying for the sake of the children is noble in thought, but not worth it for anyone involved. — Been There, Got Out and Lived Happily Ever After
Dear Been There: You were really being taken advantage of, and your resolve is admirable. Sounds like your husband pushed as far as he could, figuring you would cave, but you did not. If you really are living happily ever after, more power to you.
If, on the other hand, you want to allow your husband back into your life, his willingness to enter counseling could be a healthy first step toward reconciliation. The good news is that the decisions about your future are up to you, and not anyone else, because of your strength of character. Thanks for sharing your story. (c) Annie Lane @ Creators.com
Hmm. Really, Annie Lane?
I think Annie Lane is sort of high on the prospect of counseling. It must be her golden elixir, her pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Here we have a man who refused to do anything to help the family, either financially or domestically. She told him to get a job already within sixty days. He didn’t cooperate. And when she called him on it and prepared to leave, he made a pitiful last-ditch offer of attending marriage counseling. And after she rightfully refused his pitiful offer, she signed her letter: Been There, Got Out and Lived Happily Ever After. Now, does that sound like someone who would consider going back to this louse? No!
If you really are living happily ever after, more power to you. If, on the other hand, you want to allow your husband back into your life…
Huh. Does Annie Lane not believe the letter writer, or does Annie Lane think that this guy deserves another chance? Because that’s sort of alarming.
Her other letter today was equally disastrous.
Dear Annie: I feel the need to provide a different view to the “Grieving Grandmothers” who wrote in saying that their daughters-in-law keep their grandkids and sons away from them.
First, your son is a grown adult who can make choices for himself, so maybe start taking the blame off the daughter-in-law. Second, maybe reflect on yourself to see if there are reasons your son does not want to attend gatherings with you or have their children around you.
I’m sure my mother-in-law could write in saying all these things about me, but it is not the truth. My husband finds his mother and immediate family unhealthy and toxic. He prefers attending gatherings with my family and doesn’t trust his mother to be around our children.
We ended up in marriage counseling because the weight of trying to deal with all of it was affecting our marriage. It was our therapist, not me, who suggested to my husband that he create boundaries with his own mother. My husband always knew the dynamic was unhealthy, but it wasn’t until we were married that he felt he had a safe space to distance himself from his immediate family.
While it is easier to blame someone else, it may be worth looking inward to see what we are bringing to the problem. — Family Scapegoat
Dear Family Scapegoat: Self-reflection is always a good thing. I’m glad that your husband was able to create boundaries with his mother, but try not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Just because she is not perfect does not mean you don’t have to show her some respect and compassion.
Grandchildren intuitively love their grandparents, and anything that helps them get together, with the oversight of the parents, is a good thing. Boundaries set by the parents can promote harmony — provided they include entrances and exits for the grandparents.
Oh, Annie Lane. While I’m all for giving grandparents visitation rights, if they’re toxic and/or abusive, then all bets are off. Sure, if they morph into wonderful people while playing the roles of grandparents, and if visitation can be arranged without distressing the letter writer or her husband, then why not? But it seems unlikely; from here, anyway. Also, there’s this:
[My husband] prefers attending gatherings with my family and doesn’t trust his mother to be around our children.
So… his intuition and parental protective instincts should be overriden? Well, maybe Annie Lane is suggesting that they arrange for the grandkids to visit the grandparents in the presence of the letter writer and her husband. But then the boundaries aren’t being observed at all, because that makes the letter writer and her husband (not to mention the grandkids) directly vulnerable to the toxicity.
Just because she is not perfect does not mean you don’t have to show her some respect and compassion.
Annie Lane, setting boundaries is neither disrespectful nor uncompassionate. It’s all about keeping people out of reach if they’re harmful (in this instance–I think it can be about getting people to respect your personal preferences, too). It’s not about punishing people or being deliberately hurtful, nor did the letter writer imply as much. Quite frankly, I think the letter writer’s a saint for letting the counselor suggest the boundaries. If I were married to a man with toxic parents, I’d be all up in his face to put up boundaries. Well, not in an obnoxious way, but you know what I mean. I just don’t deal with toxicity well. In-laws would probably be the death of me. [Nods sagely.]
I believe it was Socrates who married a shrew of a woman, Xanthippe, under the belief that if he could get along with her, then he could get along with anyone, gosh darn it. I just hope for Xanthippe’s sake that that sentiment wasn’t included in their wedding vows.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My boyfriend has a horrible habit of calling out my name when we’re in public. If he’s looking for me in a store, instead of walking around a bit, he just starts yelling my name!
When we were meeting up at a store once, he was coming down an escalator and called my name out to get my attention — from across the store! He said he didn’t want to scare me by just walking up to me.
When I was trying on an outfit one time, he went to find me a smaller size. Instead of waiting until I came out (with another outfit on to show him), he started yelling my name into the dressing room — just to tell me they didn’t have the size!
It’s embarrassing! People stare! He’s 33 years old! Am I overreacting? I’ve tried to mention it but he just doesn’t seem to care!
GENTLE READER: Bet he would if you did the same in the men’s locker room.
But Miss Manners is not in the business of revenge. At least not the overt kind. Perhaps instead, if you had the stomach for it, you could just yell back, in response, “JEREMY WATKINS, IS THAT YOU?” If he questions it, you could say, “What? I thought this was our volume now.” (c) MISS MANNERS
Oh my gosh, there aren’t words for how self-conscious that would make me. I’ve actually experienced worse things. This is hilarious. Well, not really. Around… maybe twenty or twenty-five years ago, I took Granny Smith to the bookstore. Now, Granny Smith was old and confused. So I was wandering around the bookstore when I heard on the intercom, “PAGING MEG KIMBALL. PAGING MEG KIMBALL. PLEASE COME TO THE HELP DESK TO COLLECT YOUR ELDERLY GRANDMOTHER.”
Apparently, she couldn’t find me, and she panicked, darn it. I tried to have a talk with her and explain that she was allowed to wander around the store, and that I wanted to wander, too. (I’m not all that talented with the elderly.) And she seemed to understand. But then it happened again, so I took her home.
In retrospect, it seems funny. It’s making me laugh right now. She was a good grandmother. Very supportive and loving. She was always saying that you could do whatever you put your mind to. She wanted to live a long time, and by golly, she did. She was almost 94 when she died.
But I digress. If I were the letter writer, I’d seriously consider ending the relationship. If extroverts can’t have more respect for introverts than that, then they’re not considerate extroverts. Hmmph.