Annie Lane: Late husband’s family is bothering me

Published 6:30 am Saturday, January 9, 2021

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Dear Annie: I’m a 39-year-old mom of four. My husband recently passed away, in April of this year.

His family was never very kind to me when he was alive, and they haven’t changed now that he’s gone. I’ve been dealing with their judgment and hostility. They find any little thing they can to criticize me and gossip about me. And I’m just wondering how to stop them from talking about my life when they have no idea what they’re talking about. Please help!

— Mrs. Fed Up

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Dear Fed-Up: I am so sorry that your husband died and that your in-laws are making life harder for you. I’m going to pass along something that someone once shared with me: What other people think of you is none of your business. That’s not an admonishment. It’s a mantra. They’re entitled to their opinions, and you’re entitled to ignore them. The more you can accept that, the lighter you’ll feel.

Reach out to friends and family who shore you up rather than giving any weight to the opinions of people who would tear a grieving widow down.

• • •

Dear Annie: For six years, I’ve been with a man — let’s call him “Ben.” We have one child together and one on the way. I’m frustrated because I do all of the housework even though we’re both employed. We divided up expenses. He pays for the house payment and the babysitter when we need one, and I pay for all of the utilities and groceries. I also do most of the childcare tasks.

I don’t feel like I should have to ask for him to get off his butt and help; I feel like he should naturally want to help and just do it. I’ve noticed that when we are around his family, he jumps to help them with anything in a split second. He seems like he would just rather be lazy when it comes to our own home life, expecting me to do all the domestic work.

I’d try talking to him about this, but he’s not a talk-about-your-feelings type of guy, more of a sort-your-own-laundry type of guy. In the past, anytime I’ve brought up anything remotely uncomfortable, he seems to register it as a threat and says something negative directed towards me and not at all helpful to resolving the issue. Advice?

Unheard Girlfriend

Dear Unheard: I empathize with your hesitation, but to give up on honest communication is to give up on the relationship. When you don’t feel you can express yourself, resentments will continue to pile up, like so many unwashed dishes.

Try finding a time when you’re both relaxed, and casually ask if he’ll help you make a list of priorities around the house. This will help you both better understand which tasks the other feels are important, and it will give you the chance to talk it out and compromise in areas where your views differ. Approaching it with a spirit of collaboration is different that exhaustion or resentment. Hopefully, he won’t go into defensive mode. If he still shuts down, then you might ask him about attending couples’ counseling together. Addressing the underlying communication issues would help with the housework issue as well as all other aspects of your relationship.

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