Dear Annie: I have been married to a special man for 23 years. The problem is, he has too close of a relationship with his mother. It doesn’t allow the two of us to have any adult space.
We didn’t entirely get along under one roof because he would say critical and hurtful things to me. About 10 years ago, I moved down the road into my own space. Since then, we have gotten along better and are much kinder to each other. The problem, however, is my mother-in-law. She insists on calling my husband and talking for several hours every Sunday. I used to talk to her, too, but grew bored with it because I had nothing to say after 20 minutes. He loves small talk.
I wanted time for the two of us to have an occasional weekend alone, but he always had this obligatory hours-long phone call. I decided to tolerate this and took a Sunday job so I’d keep busy. But gradually, the calls encroached on the rest of our week. Every time we took a trip together, she’d call multiple times while he was driving to be certain he hadn’t crashed. She somehow manages to call every time we are intimate. And of course, the real problem is that my husband answers these calls or lets the answering machine pick them up so we can hear her message. She is amazingly loud. How am I supposed to be passionate when I can hear her booming voice in the background?
Annie, I’ve tried everything. I asked him to phone her before my visits so we could have some time alone. I’ve asked him to let her know we need time to ourselves. But I’m worn out. I’ve stopped asking. I rarely visit him these days.
My father-in-law was recently diagnosed with terminal cancer. Am I being small-minded now that she has real worries and fears? — Phoenix
Dear Phoenix: The fact that your mother-in-law is going through some difficult times means you should be kind and considerate, even helpful when possible, but not a doormat. If you could periodically phone or visit her to see how she’s doing, or offer to bring groceries or stay with her husband so she can have a break, those would be kind gestures. But your husband has chosen not to limit his mother’s phone calls even though it interferes with his relationship with you. That is unlikely to change, especially now.
Dear Annie: I do not have a dishwasher. I wash all of my dishes and silverware by hand. I place my silverware in the dish drain rack with the handles down and the eating end up. I think it makes sense that the water drains away from the eating end, making it more sanitary. And the bottom of the drain can accumulate all kinds of detritus. Why would I want my fork tines in that?
My friend disagrees and says it should be the other way around so that you don’t catch your hand on a knife while emptying the dish rack. What do you say? — Em from Indy
Dear Em: We’re with you when it comes to forks, spoons and butter knives, but sharp knives should be placed facing down in order to avoid injury.
Dear Annie: This is in response to “Less Generous.” I, too, consider myself thoughtful and generous. For years I sent cards, gifts, photos, etc., for every occasion. My efforts seemed to go unappreciated, so I stopped. I now focus on the people who do respond to my efforts, and I cultivate those relationships.
I am teaching my 7-year-old daughter to write thank-you notes. She says, “Do I have to?” I say, “Yes. If someone made the effort to think of you, then you need to acknowledge their effort.” I hope it sticks. — Still Generous
Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please email your questions to email@example.com, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 Third St., Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.