Annie’s Mailbox for Jan. 24, 2011: Husband’s illness could be abusive |

Annie’s Mailbox for Jan. 24, 2011: Husband’s illness could be abusive

Dear Annie: I believe my husband of 19 years is suffering from some form of mental illness. I need to know where to go for help — not for “Steve,” because he doesn’t think he has a problem — but for our teenage children and me.

It breaks my heart that our kids despise their father. I’m not sure they will ever forgive him for the damaging things he has said and done since they were little. The worst was the time Steve threatened to kill himself. When I picked up the phone to dial 911, he told me he’d take all of us with him if I didn’t hang up. They will never forget that night, yet he says stuff like this is part of life and to “get over it.”

I have explained to the children that their father is sick and can’t help the way he treats us. But I am beginning to feel tremendously guilty for standing by and letting it happen, watching Steve’s behavior get worse and worse over the years.

Steve says everything he has ever done and all the sacrifices he’s made have been for his family, but we’d gladly give up the cell phones, the weekend trips, the sports camps and music lessons if he would just be nice to us on a daily basis.

When I suggested counseling, even just for the kids and me, he said we couldn’t risk having people in our small town find out. Sometimes I wonder if he is simply manipulative and cruel. I don’t know how much more of this I can take. Please help.

— Emotionally Drained

Dear Drained: Even if Steve is mentally ill, his refusal to seek help makes him abusive to you and your children. You can be sympathetic without putting yourself in harm’s way. Contact the National Alliance on Mental Illness ( at 1-800-950-NAMI (1-800-950-6264) and ask for help. We also recommend you contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (1-800-799-7233) and consider safely removing yourself and your children from the home environment.

Dear Annie: I have been married to “Chester” for 10 years. For the past eight, he has avoided sex. We are both in our late 40s, and Chester’s health problems make performing in the bedroom nearly impossible. Consequently, he refuses to so much as touch me for fear I might expect more.

Chester won’t ask his doctor about it, which isn’t fair to me. I have stayed with him because I still love him. I try to ignore the lack of intimacy, but I’m not sure how much longer I can do it. Any advice?

— Feeling Alone in Illinois

Dear Illinois: Many men are embarrassed to discuss erectile dysfunction, but rest assured, the doctor has heard it all before. Talk to Chester, explain how sad you are that he isn’t willing to consider your happiness, and ask him again to see his doctor. Let him know that simple cuddling would be an improvement.

You also can ask your gynecologist for suggestions. It’s possible that, due to Chester’s various medical problems, there isn’t much that can be done, in which case, we hope there are other aspects of the marriage that make it worthwhile. Sex isn’t everything.

Dear Annie: I read your response to “Very Unsure,” the woman whose husband was seen having lunch with a female in a cozy booth on the edge of town. The husband’s calendar indicated he had a dentist appointment.

You said it could be “an innocent flirtation.” Since when is it innocent for a married man to meet another woman for a private lunch where he holds her hand, kisses her goodbye and lies about it? It is cheating.

— Call a Spade a Spade

Dear Spade: By “innocent,” we mean he is not necessarily having an affair, and the cozy meeting could have been all there was to it. But the lying is disturbing, and it’s time for “Unsure” to have a long discussion with her wayward husband.

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