Dear Annie: I have been married more than 10 years. “Chet” is a great father to our kids but not such a terrific husband. For the past five years, I have been emotionally neglected and put at the bottom of his priority list. When I beg him to pay more attention to me, things will change for a couple of weeks and then I’m back to being neglected again.
I have spent these years trying not to hurt anyone. I have sheltered my kids from my pain so they wouldn’t worry. After years of pleasing everyone else, I finally have decided I deserve to be happy.
I asked Chet to move out. He acted surprised, as if I’ve never mentioned our problems before. I gave him all my reasons again. He says he wants to change and I should give him another chance. But he’s had dozens of chances. How many more do I have to give him, knowing it never lasts? How many years do I have to be miserable before it’s my turn to enjoy life?
Chet refuses to leave the house and says he has nowhere to go. I won’t leave without my kids, and they need the stability of staying in their home. We have grown so far apart that I no longer have the energy to work on this. I went for counseling, but stopped when Chet said he was “too busy” to try the counselor’s suggestions. My family is acting like I’m out of my mind, but then, I don’t tell my family everything. How do I convince them this is the right thing? How do I make my children understand that Mom and Dad can still be friends even if they are not married?
— Finally Getting Happy
Dear Finally: When young children are involved, splitting apart the family is often traumatic, and it will take time for them to adjust. We recommend counseling for your family, preferably with Chet, to help you better prepare the children. As for the rest of the relatives, simply ask that they not be overly involved in your decisions. If you are truly making the right choice, they will eventually see it.
Dear Annie: You’ve suggested deflecting unwanted hugging by offering to shake hands. What should I do if it’s the handshake that’s the problem?
In the past several years, my arthritis has gotten worse. I can still work, and my job requires me to meet many people every day. Naturally, a handshake is mandatory. Many people have bone-crushing grips that would probably be painful even without arthritis, and they can be excruciating for me.
There’s no way to avoid a handshake when customers offer a hand, but is there anything I can do or say so they know not to squeeze so hard?
— Feeling the Pain in Ohio
Dear Ohio: Try grabbing their arm or wrist instead of their hand, and explain that your arthritis makes shaking hands terribly difficult and you hope they understand. Readers? Any other suggestions?
Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please e-mail your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, P.O. Box 118190, Chicago, IL 60611. 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.