While I’m away, readers give the advice.
On the importance of looking out for yourself: I just found out that for the past 8 1/2 years my husband has had no desire for me.
Since the month we got married, life has been very difficult (job stresses and illnesses for both of us) and I did not want to pile on more stress for him by saying, “Why aren’t we having sex?”
I wish he had cared enough to bring this up or figure out what to do about it.
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I wish I hadn’t tried to spare his feelings.
For eight years we were united in one quest: to spare his feelings. I did not think about my own and I’ve just found out that he didn’t, either.
This is devastating and incidentally makes me feel like a complete idiot.
My public-service announcement: Even if you’re in what you think is a completely loving, honeymoon-phase (literally) relationship, you have to keep asking yourself if your own needs are being met. If they aren’t, you have to ask why, even if you think it will be painful for the other person. Martyrdom just doesn’t work.
On neutralizing a parent who plays kids against each other: My mom and uncle had this exact problem with their mother. By driving her kids apart she stayed the center of attention at the expense of their relationship with each other.
They finally came to an agreement: They didn’t call their mom on the issue, she wasn’t going to change, anyway. They just told each other, “Hey, if Mom says I said something and it hurts your feelings, call me and ask me if I said it. I’ll tell you if I said it and also clarify the context if necessary.”
It made it so their mom couldn’t drive a wedge between them anymore.
On accepting the ex when you’re the new partner or stepparent: Many years ago, I was resentful that the ex-girlfriend would attend all family events with the kids. But I had to suck it up. It was hard and it took years! We didn’t become BFF, but we genuinely like and respect each other for the sake of kids we both love.
I didn’t realize how important that was until one day I was listening to the 9-year-old girl talking to one of her friends about how her mother and I were going to do something together. The friend expressed shock that her mother and stepmother got along.
My blessed stepdaughter told her, “There are only problems between a mother and stepmother if there is jealousy. If there is not jealousy, there are no problems.”
That made me feel so good inside and made all of it totally worth it! Kids really pay attention to these things.
Email Carolyn at email@example.com.