Dear Annie: My husband and I lived with a very dysfunctional situation for several years. His children from a prior marriage were encouraged by their mother to tell falsehoods about our home life. She was planning to leave the state and needed full custody in order to take them, and she ultimately accomplished this.
We went to counseling and considered legal action, but realized that even if we won, we no longer agreed on how to parent these kids. The constant discord did some damage to our marriage. My husband put up with a lot of nastiness as long as the kids would see him. I tried to help, but couldn’t tolerate their continuing dishonesty and disrespect. The kids eventually developed problems in their personal lives, school and jobs. Slowly, my husband rebuilt a relationship with them, but in doing so, he allowed me to be viewed as the enemy. I stopped being included in family plans.
Now his ex-wife and grown children treat my husband as if he is single. The holidays are fine, since the grown children spend them with their mother, and my husband spends his with our little family. However, he attends his children’s graduations, weddings and birthdays without me.
I love my husband. He is happy with us and lets us know. Most of all, he thanks us for allowing him to be a normal parent. He has his adult children in his life and sees them once or twice a year, but the situation is becoming increasingly untenable to me. I no longer know what line to draw. Where do we go from here? — The Second Wife
Dear Second: Actually, the line was drawn some time ago: Your husband attends his grown children’s functions without you. This is not ideal, but it also doesn’t have to be cause for constant misery. It would show tremendous grace for you to tell your husband to go and spend time with his adult children, without any residual bitterness on your part. It’s only once or twice a year, and we suspect Hubby would be enormously grateful.
Dear Annie: My husband, whom I love, has sleep apnea, snores loudly and refuses to wear a CPAP. He also won’t see his doctor about alternatives. How am I supposed to get any sleep? I need my rest. — Tired in Nebraska
Dear Tired: We trust your husband is aware of the severe health risks of having untreated sleep apnea. However, you cannot force him to do anything about it, so we recommend that you invest in earplugs or that one of you sleep in another room.
Dear Annie: I’m responding to “Want My Husband Back,” whose married life turned to hell when her husband retired.
When I married my wife, I was very sports minded and adventurous with several hobbies. My wife was not interested in those things. I managed to teach her cribbage, but that was about it. Now, we are both retired and work part time a couple of days a week. I started to explore some “on the edge” sports, and I forgot about her. After she called me on the carpet about it, I realized she had a point. All of my activities were directed toward me, and she was on the outside.
We decided on a course adjustment, and now I’m enjoying the opera while she is learning about extreme sports. She has even expressed some interest in trying one. The best part is, we’re together so much more often that it’s like we went back in time 45 years. And our private time together has really improved.
We have an agenda every day, even when we work. So my advice for retired couples is to call a timeout, make some adjustments and have fun. — Enjoying Retirement in New England
Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please email your questions to [email protected], or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 Third St., Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.