Annie's Mailbox

Annie's Mailbox

Dear Annie:

I’ve spent years watching my youngest brother tear my family apart, and now I need to make it stop. Coming into high school, he was bratty, angsty and entitled, but he was also the baby of the family and, let’s face it, a teenage boy.

Fast-forward to four years later, and he is never sweet, never thankful and never kind. My parents both work multiple jobs to keep our family afloat and are nothing but kind and understanding. All they want is their son back. But he is a nightmare, both in and out of the house. He won’t keep a job. He won’t do his schoolwork. He won’t respect my parents. He takes money from my mom’s wallet and has been caught with drugs and alcohol. None of their punishment has ever worked; he just refuses. They’ve even tried therapists and counselors, but that hasn’t made a difference. 

But now it’s coming to a breaking point:

He turns 18 in a month, and his principal just called to say that if he makes one more mistake, he’ll be expelled. How far can rock bottom be? My sister moved away because she can’t handle it, but I can’t watch my parents’ hearts and spirits break any more. What can I do to fix this mess and keep my family sane? 

— If He Only Had a Heart

Dear If He Only Had a Heart:

The first thing you can do is to take that enormous burden off your shoulders. Though I commend your kindness and concern for your brother’s behavior, it is in no way your responsibility. The last thing your parents need is two unhappy children. Perhaps you could stage an intervention in which each of your family members writes your brother a letter saying how much he is loved but firmly laying out how he is hurting himself and the family. If drugs are the problem, he may break down and ask for help. Worst case is that he will have to hit bottom before seeking help. But knowing that he has a loving family is a major plus.

Dear Annie:

I’m a man in my 30s who is a nudist at heart. Though I enjoy doing things clothes-free, my wife, “Jamie,” does not. Jamie has gone with me to a nude beach — and “participated” — only once, and that was as a gift for my quitting smoking.

Jamie reluctantly allows me to attend one nudist event a year, but I have found myself wanting to do more.

I know that Jamie would not want to go to any nudist events herself — though I would love it if she changed her mind — so I’m trying to figure out how best to broach the topic of my wanting to go alone.

The problem is that she, like so many others, mistakenly believes that naturism is a sexual thing. For me and the vast majority of nudists, it’s not. I simply enjoy the freedom of being able to be outside naked. 

How should I let my wife know about my desire to go to more nudist events?

— Free Bird

Dear Free Bird:

If being a naturist is that important to you, I would say to continue this dialogue with your wife about why you enjoy it and what the benefits are for you as an individual. Marriage is about compromise and seeing things from the other perspective. Continue to talk to her about the importance of it to you, and be grateful that she does not object to your annual nudist event, especially because she has no interest in participating. You can never force someone to do something she does not want to do, but you can continue to communicate to her about why it is so important to you.

Dear Annie:

My wife of 30 years moved out of the home a year and a half ago and into our adjoining apartment. We had not been getting along for a while. But she is always angry with me, and it seems I can’t do anything right.

Originally, our plans were to eventually sell our house, retire and travel. My thinking has changed over time. I love my wife. But it seems very unrealistic to consider selling everything to retire with someone who doesn’t like me and can’t even live with me under the same roof.

I feel our relationship needs to be fixed before there is any discussion of retirement and selling the house, especially because I love where we live. She is angry with me for changing our plans. I am confused and frustrated. We’re seeing individual counselors and a couples therapist together. The couples therapist says my wife is full of wrath. I would appreciate your perspective.

— Blamed and Alone

Dear Blamed and Alone:

My perspective is the same as your counselor’s. Your wife’s profound unhappiness wasn’t caused by your marriage and certainly won’t be fixed by it. She needs to decide for herself that she’s tired of being miserable and really commit to treatment. I think you’re wise to hold off on selling the house. If you were to travel the world together with all this resentment in tow, it would weigh you down so much that it would be the only thing you remember about the trip. Continue with counseling, and take your own self-care seriously.

Dear Annie:

If anyone could ever die of a broken heart, it would be me at 77. I have been a faithful, loyal wife for 60 years. My husband, whom I’ve always thought was wonderful, and I have always been godly people. 

He had chest pains earlier this year, and while in the hospital, he revealed that he’d been having sexual affairs our whole marriage. He said he’d cheated on me with 50 women. I went into shock and ended up in the hospital myself for a week. I am so devastated. I’m sick to my stomach. I am underweight, nervous and heartsick.

He is in a nursing home and says he has done no wrong. He just says, “I am sorry you’re hurting.” I can’t undo any of this. I want to forget, but I don’t know how. What now? How do I go on?

— No Name

Dear No Name:

Your husband’s revelation was so out of the blue and his callousness so out of character that I’m concerned about the possibility that he’s suffering from cognitive decline and not really aware of what he’s saying. Talk to his health care providers about having him evaluated for dementia. Whatever the case may be, you’re experiencing a tremendous deal of stress. I implore you to seek the help of a licensed therapist. Your physician can refer you to one if you’re not sure where to start. I know you’re hurting, and my heart goes out to you.

Your husband’s revelation was so out of the blue and his callousness so out of character that I’m concerned about the possibility that he’s suffering from cognitive decline and not really aware of what he’s saying. Talk to his health care providers about having him evaluated for dementia. Whatever the case may be, you’re experiencing a tremendous deal of stress. I implore you to seek the help of a licensed therapist. Your physician can refer you to one if you’re not sure where to start. I know you’re hurting, and my heart goes out to you.

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