Dear Annie: I am 40 years old and have been married to “Rick” for 19 years. We have four beautiful daughters.
For years, Rick wanted a son. I thought he had accepted that it wasn’t going to happen, so I didn’t protest when he formed a friendship with a 10-year-old fatherless neighbor boy. “Drew” is now 13, and he’s a great kid – kind, respectful and helpful.
Rick and Drew are always doing things together – going to ballgames, riding bikes, playing basketball. At first, I thought it was great, but now I have some major concerns. About a year ago, Drew started stopping by on his way to school to get his “morning hug” from Rick. I used to think it was cute, but now it’s just annoying. Then Rick insisted on including Drew in every family outing. When he wanted to invite him along on our vacation this summer, I put my foot down. Rick sulked for a week.
But here is the real problem: Two weeks ago, our oldest daughter said that she and her sisters believe Dad loves Drew more than he loves them. She said she’s been spying on her father, and he is always hugging Drew and kissing him on the mouth, and that sometimes when I’m not home, they go into our bedroom and lock the door.
I confronted Rick, and he admitted to the hugging and kissing, but said Drew is just very affectionate. He even confessed to taking Drew into the bedroom and locking the door, but insists they were only talking.
Frankly, I don’t know what to think. Something is not right. Is it possible that my husband and this boy are having sex?
– Worried Wife
Dear Worried: It is more than possible. It is likely. Even if they aren’t sexually involved, this is a worrisome situation and not healthy for anyone. You must insist that Rick and Drew separate physically, as well as emotionally. No more morning kisses, no more outings alone, no more trips to the bedroom. The two of them cannot be left alone, even for one second. This may be traumatizing for Drew, so Rick can explain, in your presence, that he needs to spend more time with his daughters. You also could contact Big Brothers Big Sisters of America (bbbs.org) so Drew can find a more appropriate father figure to fill the gap.
If Rick refuses to cooperate, are you willing to turn him in to the authorities as a suspected pedophile and let them investigate? (You can do this anonymously.) Would Rick be willing to get counseling as a condition of remaining in the marriage? (We’d insist on that.) We know such a reality is hard to face, but please act on this immediately. You may be the only person who can protect that boy.
Dear Annie: My wife and I are in our late 60s and have been married for six years. We were both widowed. We have a great deal in common and are happy together. Our one bone of contention is her daughter. “Justine” is in her late 30s, married and living overseas. Yet every time she visits, she expects to get picked up and dropped off at the airport, despite the major problems that driving both ways can cause for us. Hints that she might want to get a taxi are blissfully ignored.
When she comes without her husband, she reverts to being an irresponsible teenager, treating the house and its contents as if she had never left. She comes and goes as she pleases, helps herself to the fridge contents, takes over our cellphone, uses our car without filling the gas tank and hogs the computer to carry on long, loud conversations, all without a thought for the disruption she is causing.
Her mother apparently doesn’t see anything wrong with this. Justine has just left after a two-week visit and did not put her hand into her purse once the entire time, not even at the coffee shop. I hate to see my darling wife taken advantage of like this. Do you think I am being too old-fashioned? How can we change this before we have a major argument that will benefit no one?
– Cranky Canadian
Dear Cranky: Please talk to your wife about some boundaries regarding Justine. Make concrete suggestions (Justine will take a cab from the airport; she will have restrictions on the use of your computer, cellphone and car, etc.), and ask your wife to agree to enforce these conditions for Justine’s next visit. But we warn you: Unless your wife is willing to put her foot down, nothing will change. If that is the case, please tolerate these visits as best you can, because getting between your wife and her daughter is a lose-lose situation for you.
Dear Annie: Forty-two years ago, I married a kind, gentle, caring man. Over the years, however, he became hateful and mean. I spent the past 20 years trying to make it through one more day without spurring his anger, often unsuccessfully.
Finally, I asked his doctor to check my husband for depression. His kind doctor prescribed a mild antidepressant. What a change I am seeing! I love my husband like I did 40 years ago and look forward to growing old with him. Please continue to encourage people to see their doctor about depression. Things can be better.
– His Wife
Dear Wife: Thank you for the testimonial. Sometimes, depression manifests itself as anger, withdrawal, mood swings or other behavioral problems that are not recognized as depression.
We are glad you could communicate the problem to his doctor, who listened and took action that helped.
Dear Annie: Our son is married to a beautiful woman from India, who also happens to be bipolar. They have an adorable 16-month-old boy, and we love them all so much. While our daughter-in-law’s mother had a problem with her marrying outside their culture, they now love our son as their own.
I understand quite a bit about mental illness, as I suffer from depression, and my mother was bipolar. Before she was diagnosed, I was the target of her rants over the years. Now, it seems that I am the brunt of my daughter-in-law’s rants. She doesn’t discuss things that bother her. She simply goes off on tirades, with nonstop talking, and recently she called me a terrible name. I am so deeply sickened over this, I can’t even begin to tell you.
My son and I have always been close, and I have no desire to interfere in their marriage. I help only when asked. My son is also close to his sister, who also has been the target of his wife’s rages. My son knew about his wife’s bipolar disease before they married, and when she takes proper medications and sees her psychiatrist, she is better.
I understand that sometimes the extremes of personality still come through, in spite of medication. My question is: Can people with this illness filter what comes out of their mouths? Can they learn not to insult and lash out at the people closest to them? Or is that impossible to control?
They have been married only three years, and I can’t tell you how many times this has happened. The hurt just keeps piling up, and it’s harder and harder to forgive. Are we going to have to keep our distance from our son’s family to stay sane ourselves?
– So Sad
Dear Sad: This must be a terribly difficult situation for you. It is possible that your daughter-in-law simply needs to have her medications adjusted, and you might suggest that to your son. In the meantime, please contact the National Alliance on Mental Illness (nami.org) and ask about their Family-to-Family program and other resources.
Dear Annie: I have a very rude and inconsiderate neighbor who thinks nothing of mowing her lawn at 5:30 in the morning and waking up the whole neighborhood. What can we do?
– Lancaster County, Penn.
Dear Lancaster: Can you speak to your neighbor directly and explain that her early-morning activities are disrupting your sleep? She may not realize how loud she is at that hour. If you asked her politely to mow her lawn later in the day, would she comply? Would someone in the neighborhood offer to mow it for her at another time? Of course, if she refuses to find a better time, you should look into the noise ordinances in your area and, if necessary, report her to the appropriate authorities.
Dear Annie: My husband had an affair for three years. I had no idea this was going on until he told me and filed for divorce.
We have two teenage children, and I haven’t talked very much with them about the situation. I’ve never mentioned his girlfriend. I don’t even know whether he is still seeing the woman.
My daughter, who is 18, told me that she’s been asked by others whether one of us cheated and that’s why we are divorcing. I skirted the question and asked how she replied to this, and she said, “I told them it was none of their business.” She never asked me outright whether this is what happened in our case, so I didn’t tell her.
I don’t know whether or not I should say anything. Should I tell them to ask their father? After all, it’s not really my information to share. What happens if it comes up later and Dad decides to bring his girlfriend to a family event? That would devastate me. I think it would be good to have all of the information out in the open before that happens.
My daughter has a great deal of disdain for people who cheat on their spouses, and I don’t want to hurt the excellent relationship she now has with her father. The two of them have become very close since we separated, and I’m glad about that. Part of me wants to tell my children now and get it out of the way. I don’t want my daughter to think I’m giving her information in order to “get her on my side.” But I also don’t want her to be angry with me for withholding information that other family members know about. What do you say?
Dear Worrier: If your daughter asks directly whether one of you cheated, you should be honest without sounding bitter. But it seems as though she may not actually want to know. If her fears are confirmed, she may feel forced to distance herself from Dad. Should she find out later from other relatives and blame you for withholding the information, simply tell her that you didn’t want to damage the close relationship she had with her father, which is a commendable stance to take. We think she will forgive you.
Dear Annie: I read your column every day and have felt the pain of so many parents whose children are estranged. When my wife and I separated a decade ago, my daughter refused to communicate with me. Birthday cards and gifts were returned unopened.
I finally received a terse reply to an email, saying she does not want anything more to do with me. She will not tell me her reasons. She also won’t tell her mother or brother so they could pass the information on to me.
This has been hurtful, but I have accepted her decision. I honestly believe the children who treat their parents or grandparents this way are the losers. I am now happily remarried to a wonderful woman and have two great stepdaughters who love me very much. My life is wonderful.
– A Happy Old Man
Dear Annie: I was an army medic who served two deployments in Iraq and saw more than two years’ worth of war injuries. Seeing injured soldiers, many of them young, maimed and seriously wounded, while also being concerned for your own life can have an impact on you long after you are out of the situation.
After my second deployment, I relocated to San Francisco for a fresh start. It turned out that the busy city, with its noises and crowds, was extremely difficult, and I started feeling depressed and anxious, having panic attacks if people got too near.
When a homeless man tapped my shoulder while I was waiting for a train, my reaction was so strong that I nearly threw him on the tracks. When a bus I was riding turned a corner and a can rolled by, the sound made me think I was about to be impacted by an IED explosion. Even the humming noise of a lot of people brought back memories of mass casualties, as did certain smells.
I eventually secluded myself in my home, unwilling to risk the pain that reliving the memories of war caused. After a particularly bad panic attack, I sought help. I’m happy to say that therapy and mindfulness techniques worked well for me, and I hope others in my situation will seek help, too.
June 27 is PTSD Awareness Day. Anyone can take the first step toward healing by taking a free, anonymous PTSD self-assessment. Nearly 70 percent of people have experienced a trauma in their lifetime, and about 20 percent of them later experience PTSD. Service members, veterans and their families can take an assessment at MindBodyStrength.org, and the broader community can visit PTSDScreening.org.
I want people with PTSD to know they can get help. Sincerely
– Elijah Ochoa
Dear Elijah Ochoa: We appreciate your service to our country and your openness about sharing your experiences. We are glad to know that you received the help you needed and deserved, and we hope others will take advantage of this free resource. Thank you for writing.
Dear Annie: “Smothered in California” resents that her in-laws invite them to dinner once a month and want to attend all of the kids’ activities. She sounds a bit self-centered.
My in-laws babysat my kids whenever I needed help. I invite them to all of my children’s sporting events and school events. We dined out with them once a week when my boys were little. We spend part of every holiday with them.
I never had a close relationship with my grandparents and took great pains to ensure that my sons did. My oldest is now 21, and my youngest is 16. I can’t get my boys to clean their rooms, but if the grandparents call and say they need help, it’s a done deal. The in-laws won’t be around forever. They obviously want to be involved. Be glad it’s not the reverse.
– Grateful in Western Pennsylvania
Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar.
Dear Annie: I am the thrilled stepgrandmother of a wonderful grandson, age 3. I’ve had the privilege of taking care of him twice a week since he was born. I decided to post his pictures on Facebook because his extended family lives all over the country and appreciates the updates on his outings and activities. I also enjoy having a computerized photo book not only for myself, but to share with my housebound mother.
The problem is, one family member seems to post only negative remarks about him. Her comments have included criticisms of his baby blanket, his potty training and the length of his hair. She never compliments the boy or makes any positive comments at all.
Today, she annoyed me so much that I deleted her comments from my page. I know that was petty and probably rude. Is there any kind of etiquette regarding Facebook posts? What about polite responses to unsolicited negative opinions about one’s grandson?
Dear Wondering: We have to wonder what would prompt anyone to make disparaging remarks about a 3-year-old on Facebook. (The most obvious reason is jealousy.) You can “reassign” this relative so that she no longer sees posted pictures of your grandson unless you specifically include her. You also can block her comments. Both solutions are acceptable. However, if you wish to address this with her, please do so with a personal phone call, asking whether there is a problem that can be fixed. It is the shared, public aspect of what should be a personal dispute that makes it especially rude.
Dear Annie: You’ve printed letters about parents who are estranged from their children and have responded that neither side should let slights fester until it’s too late. So tell me, Annie, what about a child who has been treated poorly for her entire childhood? I’m talking about my daughter. My husband led a secret life of sex and drugs and passed two STDs to me. He neglected his family to the point of emotional abuse. We are now getting a divorce after 33 years.
My daughter is getting married soon and has no intention of telling her father. This pains me, because I always hoped they would reconcile. I don’t want her to live with regret. While I am sad for my daughter, I understand why she wants nothing to do with him, and she seems to be better off without the pain he caused. What do you think she should do?
– Betrayed in Virginia
Dear Virginia: We think this is your daughter’s choice. Yes, it is possible that she will someday regret not having Dad at her wedding, but she should not feel guilty for excluding him. And keep in mind, your soon-to-be-ex also could reach out to find out what is going on in his daughter’s life. The best thing for you to do is not vilify her father or provoke her to recall her bitter experiences. We hope someday she can forgive him, not for his sake, but for hers.
Dear Annie: A co-worker of mine sent a wedding “Save the Date” card addressed only to me. I’ve been married for eight years. When the invitation came, my name was the only one on the envelope, and the response card was already filled out, marked for one person attending. Obviously, my husband is not invited. After speaking to a few other co-workers, I realized I was not the only one. All of the other invitations were the same: no spouses.
My husband has decided it is too awkward for him to attend this wedding. The consensus among my co-workers is that this is quite rude, and a lot of people’s feelings have been hurt. The bride is only 24. She’s been here a year, and I have to continue working with her. I’m not sure how to proceed. What should I do?
– Minus One
Dear Minus: It is rude to invite half of an established couple to a wedding. But let’s be generous and assume your co-worker doesn’t know any better. She undoubtedly figures that co-workers are in a separate category and she doesn’t need to include their spouses. One of you might inform her that she is incorrect and has unintentionally created some ill-will. Other than that, however, it is your choice whether or not to attend. When the festivities are over, please say nothing more about it. Your work relationship does not need to be affected by her poor manners outside of the office.
Dear Annie: Your advice to “Spinning the Wheel in Pennsylvania” was so right. I have a daughter, and my twin sister has a son. They are a few months apart. Even though my daughter was four months younger, she was ahead of her cousin, but my sister and I understood that girls are a little more advanced than boys at that age.
We were disgusted by how family and friends compared the children constantly, as if my nephew had to prove himself to them. Of course, we were there to reassure both of our children how awesome they were. Today, my son and my niece are college graduates and super-successful.
Never hold back a child in order for them to move at the same pace as another child. And when anyone, be it family or friends, compares the kids, back up your child!
– Twin Moms
Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Email questions to email@example.com or write to Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 Third St., Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.
To find out more about Annie’s Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
Dear Annie: My husband of four years insists on keeping a picture of his cat as the screensaver on his cellphone. Occasionally, he’ll switch it out for a photo of one of his kids, but the cat always comes back as the “top dog.” It’s never a picture of me.
”Fluffy” also enjoys the top priority in other areas of our life. For instance, the day I had major surgery, my husband dropped me off at the front door of the hospital and then took Fluffy to the vet and spent the day with her. I am not ranting about some minor grievance. I was in surgery for seven hours, so this was serious.
The cat gets better treatment than I do and a lot more affection. If it weren’t for my allergies, Fluffy would be sleeping with us. Even so, I’ve awakened to find the cat’s rear end next to my face. I find this disgusting. I even have to wait to use the bathroom to get ready for work, because my husband and Fluffy are having “bonding time.”
I do not feel this is normal behavior. I think it’s an unhealthy relationship with a pet. I have attempted to discuss this with my husband several times without success. He has had Fluffy for six years and obviously prefers interacting with her to spending time with me. Why he needs a wife, I haven’t a clue. Any suggestions?
– Fluffy’s Competition
Dear Competition: We agree that this seems to be an unusually close attachment. The screensaver is the least of your problems. The fact that your husband would rather console his cat while you are undergoing a seven-hour surgery indicates skewed priorities. And the “bonding time” in the bathroom is raising all kinds of questions. What, exactly, are they doing in there that you cannot use the room? In any event, your husband is more attached to Fluffy than he is to you and values her companionship more. This is unlikely to change.
Dear Annie: I read the letter from “Feeling Helpless,” whose friend screams at her husband nonstop. That could have been me. I yelled at my husband at the top of my lungs because he made me so angry and frustrated. The reason was that he would check out every woman he saw. It didn’t matter that his teenage children were with him. I finally survived by ignoring his behavior. I just considered that he was a jerk (and still is).
– Hope for the Helpless
Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or write to Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 Third St., Hermosa Beach, CA 90254. To find out more about Annie’s Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
Dear Annie: I believe my husband is having an emotional affair with his employee “Tina.” All the signs are there.
My husband’s office phone accidentally dialed me while he was talking with Tina at work, and I overheard their conversation. He called her terms of love. I started snooping and discovered that they text each other hundreds of times a month. He lets her know when I’m away from the house so she can call him directly. Tina is the first person he calls on his way to work and the last person he calls on his way home. It used to be me.
We’ve been married for 18 months, but we are not kids. We are in our 50s. I’m stunned by his behavior. When I confronted him, he said he isn’t doing anything wrong because nothing physical has happened between them. Since then, he’s become more secretive and won’t discuss it at all.
I am so saddened by this. He is giving to Tina a part of him that is meant for me, his wife. I am going to therapy, and that helps. But I have reached the point where I no longer have the feelings of love for my husband that I used to. I’m upset with him all of the time. Tell your readers that an emotional affair is just as damaging as a physical one – maybe more so.
– Heart of Stone
Dear Heart: Some partners mistakenly believe that if there is no sex, there is no affair. But giving your emotions, your heart, your innermost thoughts to someone other than your spouse is also cheating. It creates a bond with a third party, allowing that person into your marriage. We are glad you are getting counseling, but if your husband does not understand the damage he is doing and makes no effort to change it, we worry that your marriage will not survive. (You also might point out that he is putting his career in jeopardy by becoming involved with a subordinate.)
Dear Annie: “Can’t Please Mother” said Mom never was happy about any gift she received from her kids. I have a different perspective.
My sons have given me electronic devices, but never took the time to show me how to use them, so they sit in my dresser under my socks. When my grandchild was born, I received a cup with her picture. It was the best gift ever, and I said so, yet I never got another one.
I once visited a woman who had shelf after shelf of “stuff” she couldn’t use, and all she did was dust it all every week. People should listen to what others truly want.
Dear Annie: After my parents died, my sister, “Estelle,” moved into our old family home. Three siblings own the house, but Estelle and her husband have lived there for the past six years, rent-free.
There were always a lot of cats in our neighborhood, and my mother used to put out food for them. Estelle now does the same, and it seems every cat in the area has migrated to our property. There are at least 30. My sister has named them all and spent a fair amount of money on veterinary bills. Worse, she now lets the cats inside the house, and they are everywhere. The backyard is one big litter box. Her husband doesn’t care. He’s at his office all day.
Estelle spends her entire day feeding and cleaning up after these cats. I worry that they will pick up some disease from the skunks and raccoons that hang around the yards. I recently noticed that she has covered the cooktop, and I don’t think she uses it anymore. She showed me a picture of a dozen cats roaming over the kitchen table. She thought it was delightful.
I have talked to both of my sisters about giving the cats to a shelter, but they refuse. I know it costs a lot of money to feed and house these cats, and Estelle doesn’t have a lot. I guess I enable her, because I often give her money. I feel like a pushover, and my husband resents it. It’s hard to visit her and too expensive to stay in motels and eat out every night.
I think Estelle is depressed. She complains about feeling gloomy. Her children rarely visit. When I think of my old homestead, it makes me sad. It’s as if my family home was stolen from me. What can I do?
– No Cat Lover
Dear No: Estelle seems to be an animal hoarder. We are surprised her husband isn’t more bothered by this, and perhaps you could enlist his help in limiting the presence of the cats. If you believe Estelle is not taking proper care of the cats that are living with her, you can report the situation to the ASPCA. You also could tell Estelle that you are worried about her health and the condition of the family home. Otherwise, unless you and your other sister decide to sell the house, your choice is simply whether or not to visit and how often.
Dear Annie: I totally agree with “Just One More Day,” whose family members have all died, and she finds it difficult to listen to co-workers gripe about their relatives.
My mother and three sisters have passed away, and I am only 36. I live next door to my 82-year-old dad and treasure my time with him. My only brother lives almost 3,000 miles away, but we make sure to call each other regularly and visit once a year. Families need to stop holding grudges.
– Nicole in Pennsylvania
Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Email questions to email@example.com or write to Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 Third St., Hermosa Beach, CA 90254. Visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
Dear Annie: Last Memorial Day, I visited the grave of a relative to pay my respects.
I looked up and saw a group of people walking by with their dogs – right over the graves.
The cemetery has a sign saying no dogs are allowed.
On a holiday like Memorial Day, the groundskeepers aren’t there to say anything.
I gave them a stern look, as I certainly didn’t want their dogs to relieve themselves on my relative’s grave.
They just looked at me and laughed.
This undoubtedly will happen again. How can I deal with it without losing my cool?
I find this disrespectful and disgusting.
– Anywhere USA
Dear USA: Those cemeteries that do not permit dogs will post a sign, as yours did.
Those who bring their dogs in spite of these signs are trespassing and should be reported to the cemetery owners, as well as the police.
In cemeteries where dogs are allowed, considerate owners will not permit their animals to relieve themselves on a grave, but will direct them to other areas within the cemetery and will clean up after them.
Dear Annie: I would like to respond to “Different Gods,” the Pagan who doesn’t want to attend church with her boyfriend’s family at Christmas.
I have been a practicing pagan for 30 years. Though I am devoted to my religion, I am still able to celebrate with family and friends.
Holidays are about the season, the sharing and the joy in being alive.
“Different Gods” should embrace the holidays as a way to show her love for her boyfriend and his family.
Maybe then he might be more interested in attending some pagan festivals.
Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column.
Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or write to Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 Third St., Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.
To find out more about Annie’s Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
Dear Annie: I sent my children to a Christian school so they could get a quality education along with faith and good values. Sadly, it hasn’t been the experience I was wishing for. This school has more bullying than a public school. Bullying is not just saying horrible things to each other or hitting. It also is being left out and not feeling welcome. Kids at this school who are not sports stars or whose families don’t have money are outsiders. The saddest part is that it is not only the students. There are also parents who refuse to acknowledge the less well-off parents at school events.
Many children have transferred out of this school because of the bullying. I was taught that you treat others how you want to be treated. Each child is an individual and should be respected as such. I am sure other parents have these same concerns, but no one speaks up. I ask that all parents set a good example for their children and pay attention to what they may or may not be doing. Is your child being a bully? Are you teaching them to judge others by what they look like or how much money they have? Is this your school?
– Sad Parent in Nebraska
Dear Nebraska: No school comes with a guarantee that the behavior of the parents and children will be exemplary. Bullying occurs everywhere. It is important that you teach your child how to deal with intimidating behavior from others and that school administrators and teachers are aware of the problem so they can address it. Ultimately, parents must do what is best for their children, and sometimes that means moving them to a different school where they can prosper.
Dear Annie: I am 13, and my parents are divorced. I moved in with my father eight months ago, but soon realized that Dad is an alcoholic. We lived in a nice apartment for a while, and he seemed to be doing well, but I had no idea how addicted he was until the landlord evicted us. I moved in with my aunt and will have to move back in with my mother soon.
Dad is not my biological father, but he raised me. He’s the only father I’ve known. But I think he’s trying to buy my love. He never leaves me alone and is always telling me how much better things will be. But he’s lying to my face. I happen to know that when he tells me he’s at work, he’s drinking at a bar.
I don’t want to discuss it with him. If he wants to be in my life, he has to quit drinking. Otherwise, I’m done with him. Am I wrong?
Dear Nevada: Please understand that giving up alcohol is not an easy thing for your father. We are certain he is struggling with it. Nonetheless, you should not be living with him until he can provide a stable, healthy home environment. Please look into Alateen (al-anon.alateen.org) for kids whose parents have alcohol problems. Alateen will provide information, as well as support.
Dear Annie: My husband and I are both in our 60s and have had a mutually loving and enjoyable sex life. We were intimate once or twice a week. Until now.
“Bill” recently was diagnosed with prostate cancer, and we have elected to do nothing aggressive. The doctor suggested “dutiful watching.” Bill has some erectile dysfunction, and so he has all but eliminated sex from our bedroom. What used to be once a week is now less than once a month.
All I need is the cuddling we used to have and the touching and caressing. But I can barely get him to hold my hand. Sometimes, I wake up during the night and find that Bill is also awake. But he won’t respond to my sweet caresses.
Bill refuses to talk about it. How do I assure him that I love him from the inside out? I don’t care if we don’t have sex. I just want the affection he used to show.
– Sleepless in Seattle
Dear Seattle: So many of our readers have this same problem: Their spouses withhold affection because they fear it could lead to an expectation of sex. But lack of affection only makes one’s partner feel unloved and unwanted.
Men who suffer from erectile dysfunction often feel stressed about their sexual performance. And undoubtedly, the prostate cancer is weighing heavily on Bill’s mind. According to the American Cancer Society (cancer.org), survivors and their wives have greater success reviving their sex lives when they go through couples therapy (online or in person). Please suggest it to Bill.
Dear Annie: I need to get this off my chest. I am stunned at the number of events to which my husband and I are invited by folks who live in the same town but who have never once had the courtesy to offer a drink or a meal that didn’t involve our bringing a gift. These “friends” ought to ask themselves, before issuing an invitation, whether they have ever welcomed us into their homes for so much as a cup of coffee.
Right now, we are being inundated with graduation invitations and announcements, and we are putting down our collective foot. Obviously, these people think our pockets are deep and that we are unaware of how insulting this is.
– Jaded and Voting with Our Wallets
Dear Jaded: We understand your aggravation at being invited to events for people to whom you are only marginally connected. When invited to a graduation (or sent an announcement), your only obligation is to send a card of congratulations. Anything further is up to you.
Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Email questions to email@example.com.
Dear Annie: My adult stepdaughter doesn’t want to work. Her main goal in life is to drink, smoke pot and pass out naked on the beach. She inherited two family homes and essentially threw them away by not paying the mortgages and having parties with the money she collected as rent.
This woman falls off the face of the Earth until she needs something. Her father and I are just getting our finances back on track after a series of layoffs. She had no idea we had moved out of state for new jobs. My husband is retired now, and we absolutely cannot afford to house a 43-year-old woman.
This girl needs some serious help. When my grandmother became too drunk to manage her own affairs, we put her in a rest home. Could we do this with my stepdaughter?
– No Drama, Please
Dear Drama: Not without her consent or a court order saying she is incompetent. We doubt you’d get either. We assume this woman doesn’t have a job, but she is still your husband’s daughter. Is he willing to cut her off financially?
Would she listen to him if he offered advice or suggested job counseling? We don’t recommend you let this woman land on your doorstep. She has to understand that there are consequences to her irresponsible behavior. Still, you cannot do much without Dad’s backing. And if Dad enables her profligate behavior in any way, it only prolongs the end result.
Dear Annie: I’ve always known that my niece, “Norma,” takes advantage of people, but now I think she’s gone too far.
Norma is a single mom who lives in my mother’s rental. I recently discovered that she has not paid rent for nearly a year. Norma also convinced my mother to shell out $8,000 to have the yard professionally landscaped. My mother is 82 and doesn’t have this kind of money. But Norma has Mom wrapped around her little finger.
This has made me so angry. I work full time from home. I pick up Norma’s daughter from day care and watch her for two hours. I do this for free. If I refuse to continue, I assume she will have to pay someone to do it. I’m thinking of telling her “no more,” but I worry that she’ll get my mother to do it, and Mom can’t handle a toddler.
Should I try to force Norma to find an alternative?
– Unwilling Aunt
Dear Aunt: You are under no obligation to continue babysitting for Norma, but it’s likely that she will get your mother to take over. Can anyone convince Norma to stop taking advantage of Mom? Is your mother capable of making these financial decisions on her own? You might discuss with Mom the possibility of moving control of her bank accounts to an unbiased third party, perhaps her attorney or financial adviser. Mom might actually appreciate having this taken out of her hands so she cannot be manipulated by Norma or anyone else.
Dear Annie: An old friend of more than 50 years recently died. Despite his bipolar mood swings, I was a good friend to him. But I hadn’t seen or heard from him in months and didn’t attend his funeral.
I have since received calls from a few of the mourners, some critical about my absence and others curious as to why I wasn’t present. I did a great deal for this friend while he was alive, and I feel this compensates for my skipping the funeral. Also, I was present at his mother’s funeral nearly 15 years ago in order to be supportive. Should I feel guilty?
– Old Friend
Dear Friend: The point of attending a funeral is to show your respect for the deceased and offer support to family and friends. You chose to visit and support your friend while he was alive, which is a perfectly valid decision, although it does seem as though you were a bit upset with him in recent years. We hope you’ve managed to forgive him for whatever wrong may have occurred, and that you can forgive yourself for not attending his funeral. In any event, you do not owe others an explanation.
Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dear Annie: I work at a regional medical center, and friends and family often ask me to recommend a doctor or a physician’s group for them. For a while, I didn’t mind giving these people a few names, but I have grown reluctant to do so.
My reluctance is not because I don’t trust in the knowledge and care provided by the doctors I work with. It’s because of the negative feedback I get after these people visit the specialists I recommend. I am tired of handing out the names of good, hardworking practitioners to people who refuse to listen to the advice given to them. They don’t want to take the prescribed medications or regimens, nor do they follow through with the therapy as ordered. Then they complain to the entire community about what terrible doctors I told them to see.
I feel as if the doctors are judging me each time they see my name as a referral. Yet when I decline to give suggestions, people react as if I am being a snob. How do I keep my sanity, as well as my career?
– Please Stop Asking Me
Dear Please: Medical professionals are accustomed to patients who disregard their instructions, but you certainly can ask directly whether they would prefer that you not refer your friends and family to them. We suspect they are glad to know that someone who works closely with them thinks highly of their skills. But either way, you are under no obligation to give out recommendations. It’s OK to tell people nicely that you no longer make referrals because you don’t wish to mix your professional and personal lives. If they don’t like it, too bad.
Dear Annie: My 85-year-old aunt, who was quite active, recently underwent extensive abdominal surgery and ended up in the hospital for six weeks. During this entire time, she was not bathed by the overworked nursing staff except for the times we complained about the smell. There wasn’t even a washbasin in her room.
Eventually a friend of hers who is a retired nurse came in regularly and bathed her. This was in Florida, but I’ve heard similar stories from friends and family in other states. I think this is absolutely disgusting.
When I was a student nurse in the 1970s, my textbook dedicated 20 pages to the importance of bathing, not only for physical health, but for psychological well-being. Florence Nightingale said that nurses who allow sick patients to remain unwashed are interfering with their healing. This lack of care did not occur where I worked. We bathed our patients daily and gave them back rubs to increase circulation and prevent bedsores. Since then, nurses aides and LPNs have practically been eliminated.
My aunt is now home, but she is still weak from fighting off infections. It’s no wonder. I would like to see the doctors and medical staff running the hospitals again and not the insurance companies, which seem to know nothing about human dignity. This kind of care is appalling.
– Disgusted in New York
Dear New York: Health care costs have skyrocketed since you were in nursing school, and it is unfortunate that in some cases the level of care has deteriorated in an effort to save money. We, too, wish there were a better solution.
Dear Annie: My wife of nearly 55 years has had a negative attitude for a long time, but it has gotten worse in the past few years. She has become very critical. For instance, she doesn’t care for a local hospital, and in social settings, she proceeds to warn everyone about a long list of grievances she has heard from a secondhand source. She ignores the fact that those to whom she is speaking are not interested in the information.
She endlessly criticizes all family members about everything they do, and not in a constructive way. Every communication includes her high-handed disapproval of their activities to the dismay of everyone within earshot. How can I stop these critiques of everyone and everything?
– Tired of Listening
Dear Tired: Some people, as they get older, become more negative and critical. Often, they don’t realize it’s happening. We suggest you gently tell your wife that she is coming across as a bitter person and surely she wouldn’t want others to think ill of her. Perhaps you could work out a silent signal to let her know when her conversation is sliding into the dark side, so she can control it.
Dear Annie: If you want one of the most excruciating pains you’ll ever have, keep smoking. I did for 63 years. I led a physically active life and never thought I’d suffer such horrible ill effects.
Then one day out of the blue, doctors had to do emergency surgery on my right leg due to massive blood clots. After nine days of wondering whether I would ever walk again, I was released. My right foot and thigh are still partially numb, and walking is uncomfortable. Mind you, before that, I led an active, physical life. I’ve had multiple stents put in and an angioplasty. There are better things to do in life than lie in a hospital bed where the nurses come in at 4 a.m. to draw blood.
After my last bout with my leg, I finally kicked the butt habit. It’s been six months, and the smell of cigarette smoke now nauseates me. I never realized how bad it smelled to others. I burned up many thousands of dollars on cigarettes over the years. I was addicted, but thankfully I can live without cigarettes now, although I still get the urge – but all I need is the reminder of the pain in my leg and the fear of having it amputated. Friends and family had urged me to stop for years, but I didn’t listen. It took an event of terrible pain to make me pay attention.
If you’re young, don’t start. If you’re already a smoker, save yourself the inevitable and quit.
– Pt. Charlotte, Fla.
Dear Florida: The addiction to nicotine is tough to break, which is why giving up cigarettes can be so difficult. There are plenty of programs to help (try the National Cancer Institute at smokefree.gov or the American Cancer Society at cancer.org). We are glad you finally quit, and we hope others won’t wait until they are in the hospital – or worse.
Dear Annie: Thirteen years ago, my son met “Nadia.” She became pregnant and brought my first beautiful grandchild into the world. After they married, I did many things for her and enjoyed her company. They now have another child, a son who is 8.
Nadia was fired from her job after breaking some rules – I don’t know which ones – and hasn’t worked since. She also doesn’t cook, clean or do laundry. My son does all of these things after a full day at work and then helps the kids with their homework and bedtime routines.
I’m a former private investigator. A few years ago, I caught Nadia cheating and discovered that the other man lived with his mother and had custody of his child. I didn’t want my grandchildren to have divorced parents, so instead of telling my son, I called this man’s mother. I told her to end things, or I’d inform her ex-daughter-in-law about the affair and she could gain custody of those kids. The affair ended.
Last year, I noticed that Nadia was paying a lot of attention to my granddaughter’s horse trainer. A mutual friend told me that Nadia has been sleeping with this man for two years. Nadia texted graphic details to this friend, which she forwarded to me.
The friend told my son about the affair, and he sent Nadia packing. But she convinced him that the friend was lying, and he took her back. Annie, I have the proof in those text messages, but I don’t think my son can handle it. Their home life is a disaster. My grandson has stress migraines, and my granddaughter is angry.
It upsets me terribly to see my son treated in such a degrading way. Do I share the truth or wait until the children are grown?
– Grandmother in Distress
Dear Grandmother: We understand your concern, but you are already overly involved in your son’s messed-up marriage. Please don’t put evidence in front of him, forcing him to confront a situation he is trying to deal with in his own way. The very best thing you can do is encourage your son to get his family into counseling. Explain that it is for the children’s sake. They are truly suffering.
Dear Annie: Thanks for printing the letter from “Saddened.” I am so relieved to know I am not the only husband with the same dilemma. It’s hard for a male to confess he has these feelings and needs without sounding like a nag. I wish there was an answer.
Everything the writer said is the same at my home, including my deep love for my very uninterested wife of 44 years. I would show her this column, but it would only start tears. If she would just initiate holding hands or give me an occasional kiss, that would be so cool. I know she truly loves me, but she feels no need for physical intimacy.