By Amy Dickinson
August 21, 2014
Dear Amy: I have been married for more than 20 years to a very nice man who is a good father. We get along, but we don’t have much of a romantic relationship.
It has always been this way. He works hard and is devoted to his career and children, but I feel like our relationship is not that important.
For the past few years we have spent very little time together as a couple. It has gotten to the point that we don’t have much to do or say to each other.
I feel very lonely and can’t seem to find any comfort with him. We have been to marriage counseling, but our issues were never resolved (at least to my satisfaction).
I feel like we are friends but not lovers. As I get older, I wonder what will become of us and how I will deal with the loneliness as our children move away. Do you have any advice?
— Friends Without Benefits
Dear Friends: Thoughtful parents and partners try to keep the relationship fires stoked during the kids’ younger years by having date nights, going away together occasionally and overall putting the marriage at the center of the family.
In your counseling sessions, are you only looking for ways for him to change? Are there things you could do differently to try to inspire a shift in your marriage (and other relationships), thus easing your loneliness?
You two have to spend time together. Simply put, you have more to talk about when you’ve done things together. Traveling, hiking, bike riding, going to concerts or working on a home project are all places to start.
Meanwhile, you should definitely continue with professional counseling on your own. Your loneliness could have deeper roots than your marriage alone.
By Amy Dickinson
August 18, 2014
Dear Amy: My 24-year-old college-graduate daughter has been dating a young man, “Reggie,” for three years. He is still finding his way, as are most millennials at that age.
He is starting graduate school in the fall to get a Master of Fine Arts, hoping to be a writer, but he is willing to teach until he achieves writing success. They are talking about marriage, which bothers my wife immensely because she sees Reggie as lazy, directionless and not good enough for her only daughter.
I try to be a peacemaker, trying to point out his good qualities to her while trying to advise him and my daughter on how to prove the wife wrong by demonstrating these qualities.
This constantly puts me between my wife and my daughter. I imagine group counseling is needed, but they’ll be living a 10-hour drive away, so that won’t happen. Should I suggest counseling to my wife so she can learn to accept Reggie for who he is?
How can I help calm the family strife?
— Caught in the Middle Colorado
Dear Caught: Based on your narrative, “Reggie” is guilty of the following: Being accepted into a (presumably competitive) MFA program with a plan to teach to support himself; having the ambition to become a writer (oh, the horror); and loving your daughter enough to consider marriage.
If she loves this young man and they have a balanced relationship, then I suggest that your wife is the only one who needs an attitude adjustment: If she doesn’t like this guy, then she doesn’t have to marry him. You need to step out of the middle and say to her, “I trust our daughter’s judgment and will embrace the person she chooses. Beyond that, I am not going to mediate between you. If you can’t learn to tolerate him and they do get married, then you are going to be very lonely.”
Cease all mediating. The other players in this drama need to do this work on their own.
By Amy Dickinson
August 14, 2014
Dear Amy: I live on a wonderful street with my husband and two children. We love our street and everybody that lives on it.
Our next-door neighbors have a privacy fence surrounding a portion of their backyard. The bottom half of one of the panels is broken off, and it’s big enough for my daughter or the neighbors’ children to kneel on the ground and put their face up to the fence.
Sounds crazy, but this has become an intrusive problem. We have had company over, dinners outside, and a lot of playtime interrupted by their children. Either they stare at us while we’re playing or eating, or they call my daughter to the fence constantly and order her around (she’s younger than they are). These kids even call over to us from the fence and invite themselves over!
There have been many dinners and playtimes interrupted by my daughter being called over to the fence because the neighbors’ children are staring at us. Sometimes we don’t even want to go outside when we know these kids are out and will come over to the fence.
I would love to fix the fence or put a board over the broken piece, but it is not our fence and it is not on our property. What should we do? — Frustrated in my Backyard
Dear Frustrated: In a world gone mad, I take some comfort in the idea that your domestic life is being ruined by children peering through a broken fence. Life must otherwise be very tranquil for this to qualify as an unsolvable problem.
These are your neighbors. You say you are close to them.
Here’s the first thing you do (use your “outside voice”): “Kids — KNOCK IT OFF. Get away from the fence, please. You’re driving us bonkers.”
The second thing you do is to say to the parents: “Could you do us a favor and repair your fence in the back? The kids are playing Tom Sawyer back there and driving us crazy. I’d be happy to repair it myself, if you want.”
By Amy Dickinson
August 11, 2014
DEAR AMY: Several years ago a co-worker I was friendly with suggested we get together on a day off and barhop, shoot some pool and drink some beer. We met at a bar we both knew about and then left in his car.
He said he needed to stop by his house for something and invited me in. While inside and with no warning he proceeded to backhand his wife across the mouth in front of his two small children. His daughter burst into tears and his son looked like he wanted to kill him. I was dumbfounded.
As my mind raced through the options I couldn’t decide what to do. I could have beat him to a pulp, spoken up, walked out of his house, etc. But the fact remained that he would again see his wife and kids without me or anyone else around — and then what? I also would have to see this so-called man at work.
I did nothing and acted like everything was fine the remainder of the day but then declined all further invitations to spend time with him.
To this day I don’t know what I should have done differently.
— Conflicted in Iowa
DEAR CONFLICTED: The sheer audacity of the man who would strike his wife in front of his kids and a visitor is an indication of how arrogant and dangerous he was. Obviously you were caught completely off guard and given all of the circumstances you mention, you were paralyzed.
Beating this man to a pulp in front of his family exposes everybody to an unacceptable level of trauma, but you could (and should) have reacted by yelling, “Whoa. Hey! What the hell?! Stop it!”
The reason to do this is so this man’s wife and young children — especially his son — could see another man standing up and expressing, “This is unacceptable. This is not right. This is not how men should behave.”
Instead, what the children witnessed was the worst combination of human behaviour: their father’s brutality and another man’s silent passivity.
At the first chance, you should have called the police and/or “hotlined” him by calling the local department of children’s services and reporting the violence.
I have received many heartbreaking testimonials from adults who witnessed domestic violence and/or were abused themselves as children and realized that other adults (neighbours, family members, etc.) were aware of it and did nothing.
Frankly, this seems like a time when seeing dad taken out of the home in handcuffs might have been a good thing.
Photo credit: dailymail.co.uk
By Amy Dickinson
August 1, 2014
Dear Amy: How can I convince my motorcycle-riding mom to wear a helmet?
She wears an armored leather jacket and other protective gear, but she says that a helmet is too inconvenient and takes away from the joy of riding. She said that if anything happens to her, I’ll be well provided for. Even if that’s true, I want my mom around for a long time. Could you give me an answer that I could show her?
Dear Terrified: Worse, perhaps, even than dying from a motorcycle accident would be the prospect of your mother surviving a motorcycle crash with a traumatic brain injury.
No amount of providing for your family in advance could possibly prepare family members for the years of devastation (not to mention expense, etc.) in caring for a family member with a traumatic brain injury.
I checked statistics compiled from over 100,000 motorcycle crashes published in 2009 by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ( http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/pubs/811208.pdf). Share this chilling report with your mom. As motorcycle helmet laws change and are relaxed from state to state, statistics show that deaths and injuries from crashes rise proportionally.
From another NHTSA report titled “Motorcycle Safety Program”: “While 20 percent of passenger vehicle crashes result in injury or death, an astounding 80 percent of motorcycle crashes result in injury or death.”
Motorcycle crashes and fatalities are rising each year, with the most dramatic increase being in the over-40 age group. Helmet use is directly related to fatalities and brain injuries requiring long-term medical care.
I hope your mother has purchased not only life insurance but also long-term care insurance.
By Amy Dickinson
July 31, 2014
Dear Amy: My older sister is getting married. Her fiance and his family are a very Christian conservative family and mine is extremely liberal.
I am gay. I received an email from my sister saying that she did not think it was right for me to attend her wedding. They say they do not agree with my “lifestyle.” OK, it is her special day. I am fine with her choice.
When my mother learned I wasn’t invited, she was outraged and extremely offended.
I don’t know if it is so much just my not being invited or that my mother feels that our family traditions and beliefs are not as important as my sister’s fiance’s family traditions and beliefs.
My mother also is hurt that my sister would treat me like that. Now my family will not attend my sister’s wedding, and my sister and her new fiance say that it is all my fault.
What can I do to convince my family that they need to go to my sister’s wedding and also let my sister know that the real problem is that she is losing herself and that this (not my sexual orientation) is the real issue?
— Gay Brother
Dear Gay Brother: I can completely understand your family’s choice to not attend this wedding out of solidarity to you, because denying your attendance seems to be a denial — not only of your family’s values, but of you.
Your sister and her almost in-laws are excluding you and now blaming you for the drama your exclusion is causing, and now your gayness is really getting in the way of everybody’s good time.
Your graciousness is commendable. E-mail your sister: “I realize this is your special day and understand completely that you feel strongly about me not being there. I completely accept your choice and have told other family members this. However, I feel like this choice doesn’t reflect the values we were raised with. I hope you don’t change your core values to suit your new family. I’ll never stop being your loving brother and wish you and your fiance all the best.”
Don’t bother talking your mother into attending. When you’re a parent, you’ll understand how she feels.
By Amy Dickinson
July 30, 2014
Dear Amy: My ex and I have a long history, and I guess we are (sort of) friends. We both loved each other very much but we fought way too much, which made the relationship impossible.
I have moved on to someone else, and I am pretty happy. However, I feel as if my current relationship isn’t as fun and passionate as my old one.
I think my ex has noticed this and is trying to get close to me once again. He recently invited me to the movies as “just friends.”
Should I go? Or is it a bad move?
— Ex and Friend
Dear Friend: Let me answer by referencing a favorite quote from one of my favorite movies — the 1975 summertime classic, “Jaws.”
"This is not a boat accident.”
What I’m getting at is that if you are Richard Dreyfuss lifting a severed arm out of a stainless steel pan, you get to call it like you see it, by pointing out the obvious.
In this regard, I’m Richard Dreyfuss, your nascent “friendship” with your ex is the severed arm and your trip to the movies is like swimming with a giant, man-eating shark.
Potentially exciting. Very risky.
By Amy Dickinson
July 29, 2014
Dear Amy: I have had an especially horrible week. I received a low performance appraisal at work, which blindsided me because I’m extremely dedicated to this hard (and, apparently, thankless) job.
The same day I logged on to Facebook to see that my boyfriend is in a relationship with someone else. After more than a decade together, this is how he voices his desire to “see other people.”
Then, one of my best friends declared she doesn’t want to be friends with me anymore because I’m friendly with a woman she dislikes. I’m not completely surprised — I was one of her few remaining friends — but I am hurt.
Oh, and I’m also turning 30. It’s supposed to be a huge milestone, but what do I have to celebrate? I’m a wreck! How do I even begin to get my life together?
— Worst Week Ever
Dear Worst Week: No question about it: Any one of the items on your “worst week” list could take down a rhino. This is “bad things happen in threes” to the max.
I prescribe giving yourself some time to self-medicate with soft-serve ice cream while binge watching “The Mindy Project.”
After you crawl out from under the covers, you should take another look at the one thing you can do something about: your job situation. It’s important to follow up on this job appraisal. Stay calm and focus on discovering what things you can do differently. A second look at your evaluation may yield information that you didn’t understand fully at the time because you were hyperventilating too much. A mentor at work could help you strategize on how to turn things around.
Write yourself a mission statement. Turning 30 is the perfect time to take a long and broad look at your future. Other than rewinding the past week and having it play out differently, what are your larger dreams and goals? What is your vision? What is the big picture?
Every successful person has a “worst week” story, and many look back on these tough times as important turning points. Your worst week is in the past. What you choose to do next is the only important thing.
July 28, 2014
By Amy Dickinson
Dear Amy: I am a 50-something devout Catholic who has been divorced for over 20 years.
Since my petition for annulment through the church was rejected, I am not in the position to remarry. Accordingly, I fully accept the church’s teaching that permits sexual intimacy only within the marital bond.
Given these facts, I can only offer women platonic friendship, which I disclose early on whenever there is a mutual attraction.
Without fail, women become disinterested — although they remain very friendly in future encounters.
Is there a reason why a woman would not be interested in having a healthy, nonsexual friendship with a man? — Devout
Dear Devout: Speculating here, but a woman might not be interested in a relationship with you because she wants one or both things you must deny: sex and/or marriage.
Your best bet might be to connect on a Catholic matching site, such asCatholicmatch.com. Other devout single women who remain “married” but without partners because of the church’s rules might be interested in a longer-term, chaste, platonic relationship.
Otherwise, do your best to develop all kinds of friendships with all kinds of people.
By Amy Dickinson
July 10, 2014
Dear Amy: My boyfriend and I have been together for five years. We were long distance for four years, and then last year I moved to Florida to be with him. He has always said he doesn’t want to live anywhere other than Florida.
Initially, I didn’t think that would be a problem but now I’m wondering. My family lives thousands of miles away, and I miss them terribly. I resent that he’s unwilling to compromise about things — like where we live, for instance.
To top it off, I don’t feel attracted to him. Sometimes I feel attracted to women. I’ve never been with a woman, but these feelings really confuse me. I’m 34 years old. If I were gay, wouldn’t I have known it before?
People are beginning to ask us if we will marry, and the thought makes me feel queasy. My parents had an acrimonious divorce, and I thought I was opposed to marriage because of this. Now I wonder if there is more to consider.
I worry that I run away from good things when I have them. Despite the fact that I’m not always happy here, sometimes I am, and my boyfriend is incredibly supportive and loving. I love him, but I’m not sure I’m “in love” with him.
We live together, I have a job here and any real change would have to be a big one. What should I do?
Dear Unsure: In the news business, we call what you just did — “I’m not sure about moving and by the way I might be gay” — “burying the lead.”
So let’s go back to the part of your narrative where you wonder about your sexual orientation. This is the part of your story that is truly about you.
There are no rules about sexuality. The current thinking is that sexual orientation happens along a wide spectrum. You can discover or uncover different aspects to your personal and sexual identity at any point in your life.
You have a lot to sort out, ideally with a therapist’s help. You need to peel this onion, be ruthlessly honest with yourself about each and every layer, and make some changes (perhaps even big changes) — knowing that in life the thing that matters most is not whether you make mistakes (or change your mind about things), but whether you act with integrity toward yourself and other people.
By Amy Dickinson
July 9, 2014
Dear Amy: My mother has been using Facebook more frequently in the last few months, and I think that’s fine. Unfortunately the majority of the pictures that she posts are of me. Her profile and cover photos are of me.
I am not her “friend” on Facebook, but if I look up her name I can see dozens of photos of me all over her page. I really don’t want her plastering my picture everywhere, especially if her privacy settings are weak and anyone has access to the photos.
My personal page is very private, and I only have friends that I actually know on my page.
I have asked her to take down many of the photos but she refuses (or lies to me and says she did). I told her she could post one picture from my graduation but instead she posted 20.
I understand that she wants to post pictures for family to see, but many times she does it just to show off and brag. I don’t feel comfortable when I look up her page on Facebook and all that I can see is my face attached to her name.
Will she ever respect my wishes? Or because she is my parent does she “own” images of me? Am I overreacting? I am legally an adult. What should I do?
— Technically Frustrated
Dear Frustrated: Facebook seems to have created a reverse metric in how generations use it.
Generally speaking, the generation you are a part of, which grew up sharing on social media, seems to have grown much more circumspect about how you conduct yourselves on Facebook, while adults in your mother’s and grandparents’ generation don’t seem to have caught on.
I have seen unintentionally hilarious examples of parents leaping over boundaries on Facebook while their young adult children comment: “Mom, NO!”
I agree that (at least the way you describe it) this is a deliberate breach of your privacy.
However, realistically you cannot do anything about this, other than avoid your mother’s omniscient camera at family events (by the way, she “owns” all of the photos she takes, even if they are of you).
You should tell her, “Mom, this is an incredible breach of my privacy, and I’ve asked you to stop. This is disrespectful and you either don’t get it, or you don’t care.”
After that, avoid her lens and stop checking her page.