Dear Abby: I have been married to “Duane” for 41 years. Between us we have five children. I had three sons; he had a son and a daughter. All of them are grown now. Over the years, the relationship my husband has with my sons has deteriorated. They feel he treats them like they are still young children. Duane feels they should let him know what they are doing and be available whenever he needs help with something.
Duane has some health issues, but some of these chores he could still do if he tried. My sons don’t like his attitude. Duane also doesn’t think I should have a private conversation with my sons, nor should I meet one of them for lunch — or anywhere — without him. Because of this I cannot talk to them unless it’s in secret. If I do, he claims we are “keeping secrets.”
He doesn’t have a close relationship with his son either, but they do talk on the phone. His relationship with his daughter is good, but she talks to me more often because we have developed a close relationship over the years. Sometimes Duane gets an attitude if he thinks she has talked to me more than to him.
Also, he tells my sons that if they buy anything for me, they must purchase something of equal value for him. My sons do not like this at all. It’s not that they don’t want to give him anything, but they resent the way he reacts about what they do for me. I feel I should be able to talk to my sons or meet them someplace and not always have to invite my husband along. Am I wrong?
Mom in the Middle
Dear Mom: No, you are not wrong. Duane appears to be controlling and desperately insecure. While his declining health may have made him more dependent, he should not “demand” your sons be available at the drop of a hat. They have lives of their own and schedules they must maintain.
Frankly, your husband sounds like a handful. Demanding to monitor your phone calls and visits with your sons is off the charts. However, having gotten away with this for 41 years, he isn’t likely to change. Because he insists on being present during “all” of your conversations, schedule some with a licensed psychotherapist to help you figure out if there is a middle ground.
Dear Abby: I want to share with your readers the best advice I received as a grieving widow. It was, “Say ‘yes’ to almost every invitation you receive, and GO, even if 99% of you does not want to.” I found it very helpful. I say this because, in time, your grief will lessen and you will feel “ready.” But, by then, you may have been forgotten if you don’t stay connected.
Feeling Better in Florida
Dear Feeling Better: While true friends will not forget and desert you, I agree that as awful as one may feel after suffering a loss, it’s a mistake to isolate. Depression feeds on isolation. Even if we are not feeling our strongest, there may be an opportunity to make someone else feel better. And that is an opportunity that shouldn’t be missed because it can boost your own spirits when they are below the waterline.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.