Dear Annie: I have been married to “Tom” for five years. We had a shaky start, and now it is just horrible. Tom makes decisions for his own benefit, his job is out of town, he works night shifts, and when he gets home, he is a growling bear. I have a son from my first marriage, and Tom treats him terribly. He barely notices our baby. But our 4-year-old is the spitting image of his father, and Tom spoils him rotten.
Tom and I no longer have anything in common. We have spent no time together in the past eight months. He has even set up his own bank account and deposits his paychecks into it. I have no access to that money.
We tried counseling, but Tom didn’t like it and never went back. We have done Bible studies, read books and attended marriage retreats, but nothing has helped. I am a Christian, and there is so much pressure to stay together. I love the Lord, but I do not think Tom wants to be married.
I want to be able to enjoy my children and not be berated all the time and told that all of our problems are my fault and my responsibility. Tom is overbearing, controlling and apparently doesn’t like a single thing about me. I think we would be better off living separately. How do I keep our kids from getting hurt?
— Never Enough in Canada
Dear Canada: Your children — certainly your oldest son — are already being hurt by living in a home where the parents dislike each other and the children are emotionally mistreated. Go back to your counselor, alone if necessary, and work on ways to create a healthier environment for yourself and your children, even if it is separate from Tom. Before doing anything, however, make sure you talk to a lawyer and protect yourself financially.
Dear Annie: I belong to a birthday club that meets each month on one of the members’ birthdays. The birthday girl picks the restaurant, and we all bring cards and socialize.
This started out as a small group of eight. Lately, different members have invited others to join. The club has now grown to the point where we take up a long table and you cannot carry on a conversation with anyone except the person next to you. In other words, the reason I joined has been lost.
I’m starting to dread going, and I resent wasting an evening when all I do is buy dinner and I can’t talk to my friends. Would it be petty of me to stop? I would hate it if my friends were angry with me.
— Crying Carol
Dear Carol: You can separate yourself from this group without creating ill will. Simply tell your friends, with sincere disappointment, that it’s become too difficult for you to attend. You are not obligated to give a reason, and there’s no harm in letting them assume it’s the economy or other obligations. But if you tell them the truth, you might be surprised how many agree with you.
Dear Annie: This is for “Used and Neglected,” who is the caregiver for her mother, and whose other relatives don’t help or include her in their gatherings.
It is a hard and often lonely journey for caregivers. After all the excuses from other family members for why they cannot help, we have decided we are the angels our parents deserve to have at the end of their journey. “Used” should cultivate the friends she still has and the new ones she makes, get to know her neighbors, keep sharing pictures and updates with her family, and find local resources and use them.
And “Used,” know that when your mother leans over to tell you a secret “I love you,” you are the one truly blessed to be with her.
— Caregiver of Four Years