Dear Amy: I am married to a wonderful woman. We just completed 20 years of marriage and have two fantastic teenagers. Our life is fairly blissful.
Unfortunately, we are cut off from our families. My wife only gets along with her mother; no one else. She has not talked to her brother in years.
She barely speaks to my family when we visit them every other year.
I feel like I have eloped with her to a distant island.
She expects everyone to behave in a certain manner and if they don’t, she holds grudges against them forever. She will not forgive and move on. She brings up stuff from years ago that no one even remembers. Even a mention of anyone from my family leads to a fight and a chronological list of gripes.
I would like my children to meet their relatives, but she just refuses to budge.
Every few weeks, she will select something, pick a fight and be grumpy for a few days.
My family members are eager to move past any disagreements.
They have also apologized for things they might have said or done years ago, but since the apology was not word for word like my wife wanted, she refused to accept it.
My mom and dad have both died, but that does not prevent her from berating them in every fight she has with me
Aside from this issue, everything else is bliss. She is a stay-at-home mom and fulfills those responsibilities very well.
After years of fighting, I am feeling very constrained.
I can’t speak with my family without her taunting me about it.
She also will throw in a taunt every couple of days, for no specific reason.
I am so tired. I just want to get past this.
— Tired Husband
Dear Tired: I don’t want to burst your bliss bubble, but the behavior you describe is abusive. Through her controlling behavior, your wife has managed to create a near-total estrangement from all of your relatives. She then continues to punish and isolate you, and sometimes taunts you — just because she wants to.
I’m going to take it as a given that the grievances which sparked this estrangement are not serious, and happened many years ago. Apologies have been offered and rejected.
A skilled couples counselor could help you two to change the way you communicate, but dominating and abusive people tend to reject therapy — because their behavior serves their own purposes.
I highly recommend professional counseling for you.
I also suggest that you should seriously consider defying your wife.
You should contact your family members as often as you want to, and visit with them if you are able. When your wife tells you, “It’s my way or the highway,” you should calmly respond: “I’m taking the highway. And if you love me and want to build a healthier relationship, you’ll come with me. Things need to change.”
Dear Amy: Every year for Christmas and my birthday I have one friend that gives me a gift that I don’t want or can’t use.
The gifts that she gave me last year have been in the trunk of my car since she gave them to me in December (my birthday is December 27).
I usually end up trashing the gifts because I would be too embarrassed to even regift them to anyone.
How do I tell her not to buy me anything this year without hurting her feelings?
Dear Gifted: First of all, you should not “trash” any item that might prove desirable or useful to someone else. Donating these gifts to your local Goodwill or rummage sale would at least keep them out of the landfill and would respect (in a minimal way) your friend’s generous intent.
This year, you should say, “Because my birthday is so close to Christmas, I feel overwhelmed with gifts. Can we start a new tradition? Instead of gifts, I’d love just a card. And let’s plan to do something fun together. That’s the only gift I need.”
Dear Amy: I have meant to write to you since the pandemic started.
I just wanted you to know that reading your column every morning was something to look forward to and just seemed to give me a sense of life still going on for all of us.
It’s hard to explain, but I want to thank you for that daily affirmation.
Dear Andrea: Thank you so much! Doing this work during the pandemic was a lifeline for me, too.
(You can email Amy Dickinson at [email protected] or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)
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