Ask Amy

The Denver Post - - LIFE & CULTURE - by Amy Dick­in­son

Dear Amy: I have been mar­ried for 33 years. I love my hus­band, but I have to­tally en­abled him — to the point where I am now feel­ing abused. For in­stance, this morn­ing, he was in a mi­nor car ac­ci­dent.

Through my busi­ness re­la­tion­ships, I have an ex­cel­lent con­tact in the re­pair busi­ness, and so I kindly took his car in, gave him mine to use in the in­terim and picked up the rental.

I asked him to drive the rental so I could have my car back and he re­fused. I told him I felt used. He ba­si­cally said I should get over it.

Be­cause of my fam­ily back­ground and decades of be­hav­ing this way, I am now at the point where I feel in­cred­i­bly put upon be­cause of all of the ex­pec­ta­tions, as well as the to­tal lack of grat­i­tude.

At this point I want to try and start pulling back from “do­ing ev­ery­thing” in our house­hold: Mak­ing break­fast, lunch, cof­fee, laun­dry, clean­ing, run­ning the ac­counts, do­ing the taxes, etc.

It is im­por­tant for me to keep har­mony in my house, but I also want to take care of my­self.

I am a suc­cess­ful busi­ness owner. I have a some­what flex­i­ble sched­ule, which con­trib­utes to my tak­ing on too many tasks. How can I change this? — Frus­trated

Dear Frus­trated: You sound like a nur­tur­ing and com­pe­tent care­taker. Per­haps you feel dis­ap­pointed when peo­ple don’t do things as well as you know you can, and so you do more, but then feel un­ap­pre­ci­ated.

I’m try­ing to point out that you have a big part to play in this dy­namic, be­cause in or­der to change it, you’re go­ing to have to learn to back off, and not im­me­di­ately jump up to vol­un­teer your ser­vices — es­pe­cially if you aren’t get­ting any emo­tional trac­tion or re­cip­ro­ca­tion from be­ing so gen­er­ous and com­pe­tent.

This morn­ing, for in­stance. Did your hus­band ask you to solve his prob­lem for him? Or did you know you could han­dle it well and vol­un­teered be­cause you love him and love help­ing him, and be­cause help­ing is an im­por­tant part of your iden­tity?

Cou­ples are sup­posed to help each other. Your hus­band needs to be given the op­por­tu­nity, and the ex­pec­ta­tion, to step up and help him­self, and also help you.

In or­der to change things at home, you’re go­ing to have to risk your hus­band’s dis­ap­proval, as he strug­gles to ad­just. (Now it’s his turn to “get over it.”)

You’ll want to be clear about the tasks you’re happy to con­tinue do­ing, ver­sus those things you’re go­ing to stop do­ing. Let him get his own cof­fee and make his own lunch. Main­tain a neu­tral at­ti­tude. You should make a con­scious ef­fort at the start not to vol­un­teer your ser­vices to take on any task that doesn’t have to do di­rectly with you, and to be more in­ten­tional about your own be­hav­ior. When you change, even a lit­tle bit, peo­ple around you will change, too.

Dear Amy: My hus­band and I were mar­ried last sum­mer.

We re­ceived many gen­er­ous gifts. One of my friends, though, did not give us a gift. She has men­tioned sev­eral times that she “still owes us a gift.”

I am over it and am not risk­ing a friend­ship over some­thing like this. My hus­band, how­ever, jokes about it fre­quently.

When­ever I have plans with her, he says, “Make sure she pays, as she owes us a wed­ding gift.”

Amy, his sis­ter and her fam­ily also did not give us a gift, nor did one of his friends, and yet he never men­tions them. I’d love to re­ply, “Well, your sis­ter and your friend also owe us gifts,” but I know that would be petty. How can I get over this, and help my hus­band let it go, as well? — Ungifted bride

Dear Ungifted: Your hus­band is the one who keeps this go­ing by mak­ing these snide com­ments.

You should fin­ish it. Re­mind him that there are peo­ple in his world who also didn’t give a wed­ding gift, but at this point it is petty and un­kind to con­tinue to bring it up. Tell him you’re over it, and it would be nice if he would get over it, too.

Dear Amy: I was dis­gusted by the let­ter from “Athe­ist Mom and Dad,” as well as your re­sponse. It was quite ob­vi­ous from your sym­pa­thetic re­sponse that you are an athe­ist, too. — Faith­ful

Dear Faith­ful: Don’t tell my Sun­day school class; they’d be quite sur­prised.

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