Annie Lane: Husband always picking a fight

Published 9:34 am Saturday, June 25, 2022

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Dear Annie: I’m a professional woman who’s been married for over 40 years and has two wonderful, happily married daughters who live out of state. My husband’s been retired for almost 10 years from a job he loved. His adjustment to retirement has not been easy.

For many years, he assisted our children with our grandchildren but did significantly less during COVID. I’ve worked from home partially during COVID and have come to understand how very little he does and how, during much of the day, he has no purposeful activity. I’m still fully engaged in my career and find my work both challenging and intellectually stimulating. I’m very concerned about my husband’s mental state. He’s lost seemingly all executive functioning and has little to no ability to successfully plan or execute even the smallest tasks.

He’s taken to behaving in increasingly embarrassing ways — for example, wearing a hoodie tied around his face and going into a store, allowing his pants to be so low that they are immodest and acting rudely toward company who visit our house. My daughters are pushing me to retire, but I have no interest in spending every waking hour with my husband and am unsure at this point if I want to remain in this marriage. I sought the advice of an attorney who encouraged me to attempt to make every effort to work it out, which I have been doing for the last several years. We’ve sought marital counseling over the years.

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Financially separating wouldn’t be an issue. We’ve been careful and saved over the years, and our children are very financially secure. The longevity in my family is below the national average, and I wish for some peace before I die. I worry he would be lonely because he is connected to so few people in any meaningful way; his family all live out of town and they have never been very close. I’m struggling with the question of, how much of yourself do you give up to honor a commitment you made at a very young and uninformed age?

— Postnuptial Pressure

Dear Postnuptial: One of my first recommendations would be marriage counseling, which you’ve already pursued over the years — kudos. Individual counseling for your husband is also up there. What’s especially troubling is the change in his behavior. Has he been to a doctor recently? Have you two discussed his behavioral shifts? Does he have dementia or senility? His occasionally silly behavior might be indicative of a bigger problem.

Before making any big changes, ask him to make an appointment for an in-depth checkup. The in-sickness-and-in-health vow might be more important now than ever.

• • •

Dear Annie: I love my wife of 40 years, but we’ve had our problems over the course of our marriage. One of the major problems is that when someone says something insulting to me or something that I disagree with, she seems to not stick up for me as I am defending myself. She will say something like, “Why do you always have to start arguing with others?” instead of taking my side. Most of these are her relatives or friends of ours.

Should I just take an insult and brush it off, or stand strong? Most times, I laugh at the insult, but whenever I don’t, she gets upset with me. What should I do?

— Irritated by Insults

Dear Irritated: Not every comment needs to be met with a response. If you can let whatever is said roll off your back, keep laughing it off. Bigger insults, to your character or the like, are harder to let fly. Choose your battles wisely. It might also be less about what) you’re saying and more about how you’re saying it.

As for your wife, let her know your replies aren’t meant to be argument starters but ways of standing up for yourself. For her to chime in on your behalf wouldn’t mean she’s adding fuel to a fire; it merely shows she has your back, which, to you, goes a long way.

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