Wife’s request gives him writer’s block

Baltimore Sun - - ENTERTAINM­ENT -

Dear Amy: For al­most 30 years, I’ve been mar­ried to an elo­quent, thought­ful writer whose ev­ery writ­ten word is care­fully cho­sen. He turns mun­dane sub­jects into in­ter­est­ing reads.

He’s smart and funny; he’s a great per­son, hus­band, and fa­ther.

Be­fore Christ­mas, he asked what I wanted. I said that more than any­thing, I wanted him to write down his feel­ings for me. For a writer ac­cus­tomed to evok­ing warmth and pas­sion, I thought this would be a small task (and free).

Oddly, he pushed back. I backed off. For Christ­mas he gave me a card with the web­site ad­dress writ­ten on it for plan­ning a va­ca­tion.

Amy, I’m hurt. I’ve come across mini-nov­els that he wrote back in the day about ex-loves or lovely things he’s writ­ten to ex­tended fam­ily mem­bers.

I adore him and bend over back­ward to show him how much I love him. I don’t ask for or ex­pect a lot, but now I feel de­jected.

Re­cently I asked him to take out the word “love” and tell me how he feels about me. He went on about what a fun evening we’d had to­gether. This lack of be­ing able to ex­press feel­ings for me led to an ugly ar­gu­ment.

I can­not un­der­stand. I know that he loves me, but this makes me feel like I’m not the love of his life. I would like an ex­pla­na­tion.

I’ve tried and failed to let this go. How should I deal with this? Dear Hurt­ing: Let me try to de­scribe the dy­namic of be­ing a writer and get­ting an emo­tion­ally loaded as­sign­ment: Even read­ing your (rea­son­able) request for your hus­band to cre­atively ex­press his love for you gives me writer-hives.

I sus­pect that he has cre­ative paral­y­sis brought on by per­fec­tion­ism, com­bined with a mea­sure of pas­sive-ag­gres­sion. He is not go­ing to give you the thing you ex­pressly ask for, as long as you ask for it in such a spe­cific way.

Fur­ther­more, when he did try to com­plete an as­sign­ment for you, you didn’t like it enough. “Yikes,” he thinks. “I’m be­ing edited!”

You and your hus­band have been to­gether, mainly hap­pily, for 30 years. Must he prove his love for you with­out us­ing the word “love”?

If you let up on your “asks,” he might be in­spired to sur­prise you. He might not. Ei­ther way, you get to be with a good man, hus­band, and fa­ther who is also a gifted writer with a deep flaw: Words some­times fail him. I hope you can for­give him for that.

Dear Amy: The other day, I was wait­ing at the ser­vice desk in a store. The woman be­hind me in line was chat­ting with me, ba­si­cally flirt­ing with me. Dur­ing the course of this flir­ta­tion, she kept touch­ing me.

Per­son­ally, I don’t care. Maybe I was even flat­tered. BUT if I touched HER the way she was touch­ing me, we’d be in trou­ble. What do you think about this dou­ble stan­dard? Dear Won­der­ing: You don’t men­tion how (or where) this woman was touch­ing you, but many peo­ple (women and men) do not want to be touched by strangers. Oth­ers don’t seem to mind.

If men and women were on a level field, this would qual­ify as a dou­ble stan­dard. But women who don’t want to be touched by strangers some­times feel in­tim­i­dated by the size dif­fer­en­tial (with men). Women are also af­fected by so­cial convention­s about ex­press­ing their pref­er­ences and hav­ing them re­spected. Un­for­tu­nately, say­ing “no” some­times seems to in­vite an es­ca­la­tion rather than a re­spect­ful re­treat.

The im­por­tant thing is to learn to read ba­sic so­cial cues and body lan­guage, and to ac­tu­ally lis­ten to peo­ple when they in­di­cate that they don’t like some­thing you are do­ing that per­son­ally af­fects them.

Dear Amy: I was up­set by your ad­vice to “Young Widow in NY,” who said she had been stuck with an ex­or­bi­tant fu­neral bill.

Did she even sign a con­tract? You should have sug­gested that she see a lawyer! Dear Up­set: Hun­dreds of peo­ple con­tacted me with sim­i­lar feed­back.

Be­cause “Young Widow” reported that she was re­spon­si­ble for this large bill, I as­sumed that she had signed a con­tract. I should not have made this as­sump­tion and, yes, be­fore tak­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity for this debt, she should def­i­nitely seek le­gal ad­vice.

Copy­right 2019 by Amy Dick­in­son

Dis­trib­uted by Tri­bune Con­tent Agency

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