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Be Famous With Dear Mrs. Web


A national womenís magazine with a circulation of 1.8 million has a column used to solve real life couple conflicts.  In the column a couple explains their relationship problems and three experts offer advice. The publication has contacted Dear Mrs Web looking for couples under the age of 45 who would be willing to participate and be photographed. Email Dear Mrs Web and we will forward your name to the editor involved in this project.

Dear Mrs. Web,

My husband wants to go on a dangerous expedition. I am so afraid he will never come home. He has always been an outdoor lover and has taken many trips but this trip will tax him maximally. People have died. He says he wants to go now before we have children. What can I do to stop him?

I am not sure you can. You knew he had this tendency when you married him. People do not give up the things they do just because they get married. No wedding ring has turned a roamer into a faithful husband or a dare devil into a cream puff. I applaud his wisdom in understanding that once he has children these expeditions are history. Children need security. Wives, on the other hand, usually know what they are getting into.


Dear Mrs. Web,

My wife is prickly and angry most of the time. She takes her anger out on our seven-year-old daughter and me. We have not had a decent conversation in months; all the words between us are either about running the household or words of disagreement. My wife is under a lot of stress at work but I am so tired of her angry tirades I just want to leave.

How sad. Well Dad, your first responsibility is to protect your daughter, and leaving isnít an option. No child should be the brunt of or witness to a parentís ongoing anger. (A very occasional blow up teaches children we all are human and make mistakes. Of course, then you show them how to use regret, sorrow, and humility to begin to repair the damage caused by the angry words.)

Your work here is to take charge and get your entire family into family counseling. The first work in family counseling should be to put immediate brakes on your spouseís lashing-out behaviors. Nothing can change unless that is controlled.



Dear Mrs. Web,

My husband is a computer engineer and I am a writer and artist. He calls me random access and he is so sequentially oriented that I am crawling up the wall. We have been married less than a year and we are arguing and frustrated with each other.

Most "random access" people marry "sequentially ordered" ones. Most quiet people marry loud people, solid, square set, people often marry will oí wisps and so on. There is an old saying about the rocks in his head fitting the holes in her. It applies here.

We tend to choose mates who compliment us rather than copy us. It makes for balance. The down side of course, is that opposites need to be respectful and negotiate a lot. When we discover this in a marriage that other pithy saying comes to mind: "the honeymoon is over". All old marrieds will tell you both that this is where the marriage really begins. How you both learn to handle your differences will over time set the tone for your marriage, and your family. Most couples will agree it is a life-long process.



Dear Mrs. Web,

My wealthy in-laws have once again offered us money to finish another part of our unfinished house. I appreciate their offer, but feel as an adult, both my husband and I should be able without their help to financially support ourselves and our two children. My husband expects them to pay for a variety of things he wants and depends on them to bail him out of financial situations. This is an area where my husband and I strongly disagree. I would rather not accept their money (knowing that if we truly had a crisis, they could be a possible resource). My husband and I usually butt heads over this matter. Am I just being stubborn? Should I graciously accept their offer and let it go? Or should I stick to my guns and encourage my husband to be a responsible, independent adult?

I personally think it is wonderful when family members help each other and the occasional gracious financial gift from parents to their struggling adult children is just fine. Patterns of dependence, however, running deep into a marriage tend to undermine the solidarity, intimacy and cooperative work needed by a husband and wife to sustain healthy family life. Because of the dependence, in some ways your in-laws are in the middle of your marriage.

On the other hand, you are involved with a man who has a long-standing dependence on his parents, something that you may have ignored or thought would change over time. This issue is a core value difference. It may lead to your family living beyond its means or having expectations that do not line up with the reality of your earned income.

A major factor in this problem is that your husband apparently sees no problem with this dependence. Changing long-term core issues is difficult, even when the changing person desperately longs for things to be different. Your husband sees no real problem (except perhaps you) about this issue and has no interest or motivation for the changes you want. Plainly put, your encouragement to change is of little use.

You have a family. You are going to need to negotiate a place of comfort for yourself with respect to your husbandís dependence on his parents. A place that meets some of both of your needs instead of you alternately giving up or getting mad. Graciously accepting gifts from your in-laws, but also living within a budget may be an acceptable negotiation as well as good modeling for your children.



Dear Mrs. Web,

I am getting married next spring to a man with a ten-year-old daughter. Should she be in the wedding as a junior bridesmaid?

I was always under the impression anyone the bride wanted could be in the wedding party, including future stepdaughters. If she is interested, it could be a nice touch for her that day. If she is not interested, I would not insist.



Dear Mrs. Web,

I have been so unhappy in my marriage. My husband has, in the past, treated me meanly and every time I think of it, I get so hurt and angry. I just cannot get over it and move on.

Meanness is a part of the human condition. People act as if it is unexpected, but it is always an option. Marriage is a place where meanness can really cut loose, for we can often treat those closest to us poorly.

 Overcoming the hurt and anger engendered by meanness can take some work. I would recommend finding a good marriage and family therapist or pastoral counselor.



Dear Mrs. Web,

A few days ago, you talked about commitment in marriage and starting over. What does one do when there is no commitment? When there is no connection, no kids, and no ties, just dead air. And when the spouse refuses to work on anything? Should I continue?

Sometimes marriages are irretrievably broken. When someone describes his or her mate as you have described yours, though, I think there is one good final effort. I would tell him or her to look at the alienated, non-participating spouse with the eyes of compassion. This could be hard when one is asked to become softhearted about that cold, belching lump in front of the television.

I think it is a good exercise to list out the reasons that your spouse is stuck. In addition,  spend a set period of months, treating your spouse with the compassion you have developed.

You will start seeing the things that annoy you in a different light: his withdrawal, her anger, his spending habits, her fears. The different light on your spouse will cause you to treat him or her with a different attitude. Attitudes can rub off. Movement can be discerned and faltering steps toward rebuilding can be taken. This is not a guaranteed method, but it is a possibility.

There also are marriage building and marriage saving intensive five and seven day workshops available for couples at the end of their tether. Good luck and let me knowÖ



 Dear Mrs. Web,

My husband and I married rather late in life, in our early forties. He lived at home caring for his parents before our marriage. I work in health care and my husband works in the insurance industry. I put in a ten-hour day five days a week. Then I come home to all the house work and meal preparation. We live in his parents old home and it is a big one. He does nothing towards upkeep except yard work and maintaining the car. I have had long talks and big arguments with him. Nothing works. His selfishness is driving a big wedge into our marriage. What should I do?

I would hesitate calling your husband selfish. Untrained would be a better word. People do what they are used to doing and no more. Most women have been trained from childhood to see and respond to chores. Many men have not had that training.

Solution? Clearly stated expectations. If I were in your shoes, I would spend several coffee breaks listing out all the chores in your establishment. Then I would sort them into daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual lists. Sitting down with my husband, I would then ask him to pick one from each category. Then I would do the same. Alternate until all the chores are picked. Show your husband how to do the chores. You would be surprised how little people know about household chores.

List the chores where you both will see them and expect that they will be done. Donít remind. Just have both check-off what they have done. A reward for each day of completed chores is a great incentive. Pick something he would like: Five dollars towards that island golf and beach tour you both wanted to take. Or towards a bass boat. This solution may be initially expensive but the wear and tear on your nerves and the marriage make it money well spent. In a few months, these good habits will be ingrained and how you both decide to reward that is not Dear Mrs. Webís business.



Dear Mrs. Web,

My husband has been a recovering alcoholic for about a year. He is in AA. He walks around here making pronouncements about our lives. In the middle of arguments, he begins chuckling and laughing at me, shaking his head and walking away. I didnít like him drunk but I sure canít stand him sober. He is insufferable.

A problem with alcoholics is that as they become sober they become the people they really are. That is sometimes not a very attractive human being. All those years of drinking have not improved their maturity or their character. They can act like obnoxious fifteen-year-olds who have been to an encounter group. In between sobriety and the twelfth step, there are the steps that will help your husband mature in his sobriety. Done with commitment and good guidance, your husband will achieve sobriety and gain a better character. It takes time though. Try Al-Anon. It is a group for the spouses and families of recovering alcoholics. It will help you detach from his behaviors.



Dear Mrs. Web,

What do you do when you donít love your spouse anymore? When there has been nothing except struggle. When all that keeps you there are the children, and you feel like you are dying inside? There is no respect, honor, or love in our marriage anymore. How does it ever get fixed?

Questions donít get much tougher than this one. How to fix the shattered, the irreparable, or the disappeared? You donít. There are things that cannot be fixed. Instead, they must be cried over and mourned. You and your spouse cannot fix your marriage. You can only start afresh. 

The fact that you are still together tells me that you both have commitment. That sliver of commitment is enough of a place to stand to begin again. You must think I am insane to tell you that one can start over with something this broken.

 Nevertheless, it has been done, many, many times. It is a time of courage, soul-searching, and honesty. It is a time to bite the tongue until it bleeds, and listening through tears. It is time for both of you to submit to that third entity in your lives that you have been ignoring, called the Marriage.

Someone far wiser than me said that love is not a feeling, but instead, love is a decision. Find a counselor committed to restoring broken marriages. Find some friends or family that can be supportive. Both of you hug your children close to you. Hold onto that family. Out of ashes, people have used determination, love, forgiveness, and grace to grow the best of families.



Dear Mrs. Web,

We are leaving on a trip next week. I would like to leave our dog at a kennel but my wife insists that we pay for a dog sitter to stop by two or three times a day to care for it. She thinks a kennel would be too traumatic for the dog. I think it will do just fine.

There are very few situations less worthy of your time and energy than this one. To get all crumpled about where your dog spends your vacation is just asking for a miserable time. My guess is your wife likes the dog more than you do. So, let Puppy have its sitter and focus on having a relaxing time.



Dear Mrs. Web,

My wife left me last month with the children and ran off with a man who works with her at the real estate office. He has been divorced three times and is smooth. Sally just got into real estate last year to help us out financially. The children and I have been walking around shell-shocked. Sally called last night to ask whether she could visit us. Sheís left the guy and the office and is living in a motel. What do we do?

It sounds like your wife and the mother of your children got seduced. I am not taking any responsibility away from her, but there is a big difference between a spouse who has a pattern of stepping out and lying, and someone who has temporarily gone crazy. 

I would invite her over and listen. There is a lot at stake here. Talk to your minister, rabbi, or priest about a marriage counselor who is committed to healing broken marriages.



Dear Mrs. Web,

How should men and women treat each other?

Two very old fashioned words come to mind, honor, and respect. Men should honor women, which means they should not look at women as sexual releases. Women should respect men, and not use underhanded or dishonest means of winning their hearts.



Dear Mrs. Web,

My husband hasn't touched me sexually in years. We have been partners in child rearing but have had no sex life. He just faded away in that department about ten years ago. Today I found that he has an extensive set of Internet porn files and chat emails. I am stunned and feel soiled. What do I do?

I think you need to get help.  Internet porn had become increasing problem. A marriage and family therapist with experience with counseling about Internet porn issues and sexual addiction issues would be a good start. Ask your doctor or minister or rabbi.



Dear Mrs. Web,

Is there a way for me to win back the trust of my wife? I did some foolish things at a party while drunk last week. Afterwards she packed and is staying at a friendís house. She doesnít even want to see me. What should I do?

I am going to leave those "foolish things" to the imagination. In the meantime, if I were you I would beg for a meeting. At that meeting I would grovel for forgiveness, heap ashes, and coals on my head (figuratively) and outline a plan that would include how it will never happen again. I would emphasize what a dumb thing it was that I did and that I take full responsibility for my actions. These are the beginning steps to righting a wrong.



Dear Mrs. Web

My wife died two years ago today. I still miss her very much. Life has lost its light with her gone. My daughters and their families are busy. They do tell me to come visit. I am fifty-nine and have been offered early retirement. But I can't imagine what I would do at home alone all day.

Losing the beloved is most difficult. It is hard to imagine rebuilding a life without her. But now you have new responsibilities - grandchildren. There is no better job than to be involved in their lives as they grow up. What a wonderful opportunity for them. Also, when you put your time and commitment toward others you will find your life opening up in ways you never expected. Bank on it!



Dear Mrs. Web,

This evening my husband asked for a divorce. He says he doesn't love me any more and wants to be free. We have been having a hard time for a while but I thought it was the stress of work and part-time school and children. We have two children, a house with a big mortgage, and two cars. What do I do? How do I tell the kids?

When you have two kids, you don't roll over when your spouse asks for a divorce. You negotiate some counseling, if you are connected to a church, you call in your minister or rabbi. If you have family members on either side who are pro-family or commitment, call them in too. 

People marry publicly in front of the state or church but are allowed privacy to inflict all sorts of atrocities on their families and slink off during a divorce. Talk to a lawyer too. Find out what the legal separation statutes involve in your state. Begin there.



Dear Mrs. Web,

My husband just told me this morning that he thinks I drink too much and that I should get help. What do you think?

Well, he is the one who lives with you. He should know. Be open-minded.  When someone gives you new information about yourself, consider it.  Go to a dozen AA meetings, listen, and get expert second opinions.



Dear Mrs. Web,

I just ran into my ex-husband after ten years. We are both remarried with kids. Although we had a miserable marriage I found that we still have that old attraction for each other. I am not sure what to do.

What to do? What should you do? You have a spouse and kids and so does he. You should RUN away from this one. If I were you I would take my PRESENT husband away for a vacation alone to someplace wonderful.  A little romance does wonders for one's outlook.



Dear Mrs. Web, 

My husband is on Social Security for depression and I think it has made him worse. He sits home all day long watching TV and has gained weight and has no motivation to do anything and is becoming quite lazy. I try to get him to do things like mow the lawn or help in some way around the house and he always makes excuses so I end up doing it and resenting him. He has no hobbies and I am out of suggestions for him.

If the man is clinically depressed and it is a disability, he must be seeing a psychiatrist. Has he been re-evaluated? Has he been monitored as he changes prescriptions? Talk to his doctor about some suggestions for occupational therapy while he is going through this hard time. Clinically depressed people have a disability not an unwillingness or laziness.



Dear Mrs. Web,

My wife has been acting oddly recently. She has been flustered and out-of-sorts. When I talk to her she seems preoccupied. She has been writing herself notes, too. This morning I picked one up she had dropped, thinking it was a to-do list. It was a note about going to the store. It listed: take keys, take purse, close door, car in garage, start car, back upÖwith detailed instructions telling how to get to our local store. I am not even quite sure what this means.

It sounds like your wife might have a memory problem. Perhaps she is taking a medication that is reacting poorly with her system. Perhaps it is something else. Make her an immediate appointment with the family doctor and bring the note. Tell the doctor every thing different you have noticed.



Dear Mrs. Web,

My husband is a Democrat and I am Republican. We are actually arguing about the elections. I am afraid for our marriage.

The subject neither one of you are allowed to talk about to or in front of each other for the remainder of the year is politics. Not a word. The election loser must buy the election winner dinner and the winner must treat the loser to dessert.



Dear Mrs. Web,

I have just met a wonderful guy here at college. I want to get to know him better. He is not my race and I don't have a problem with it and neither do my friends. I asked my mother what she thought and she said it is difficult to be in a mixed relationship. She also said that we would face a lot of prejudice and that we should think twice about bringing children into that situation. I would love to have children. I am afraid but he is the nicest person I have ever met.

Well your mom is right, sort of, crossing boundaries does take work. Not everybody is happy about mixing races (or ethnic lines, for that matter). 

My observations and experience tells me you will have a more restricted life in some ways for there will be areas on both sides of any color line where you will not be welcomed as a biracial couple. And there are also lots of places that it won't matter. Biracial babies do have the problems (and advantages) that come of having a foot in each world. And it is certainly a growing phenomenon. There are over 50,000 biracial babies born each year in the United States. That's the equivalent of one small city. I don't think you need to be afraid, but you do need to weigh what you are willing to live with, and live without. Books such as Biracial Voices may help.



Dear Mrs. Web.

My husband is an alcoholic and sneaks his drinks. He has been in and out of AA for three years. He has been driving drunk at times with the kids in the car, without my knowledge. I keep telling him to stop it but he just keeps doing it. I am afraid they will get hurt.

Driving drunk? With your kids in the car? I would sit down with him and very clearly tell him that if he comes home with the car drunk that you will call the police and have him arrested for drunk driving. You know with addicts you can't just tell them to stop it. You got to back it up with some major consequences. Try your next local Al-Anon meeting for other ideas and information.



Dear Mrs. Web,

My husband says that I am on the web too much. I work at home and most of my work is accomplished on the web and on the phone.

You will have to evaluate his statement with his help. People who work at home sometimes don't make a clear delineation between home and work and their family gets shortchanged. Work starts creeping in. Of course there are those rare gotta take it phone calls, but not every day. Keeping regular hours is important not only to your job, but also to your family. So, when the spousal-unit says you're away too much, even if it is down the hall, in front of the screen, you need to listen. Be prepared to negotiate.



Dear Mrs. Web,

Our neighbor (also my good friend) was recently divorced. He is well off and doesn't work. He comes over to our house much more often now which I don't mind, but he has also been spending time at my house while I am at work and my wife is home. I trust both of them, but I feel funny about it and I don't like it. I don't know how to say something to either of them without sounding jealous or accusing.

I don't think one has to be jealous or accusing in this situation, but one can be concerned, or even deeply concerned. When any two people spend time together emotional intimacy can escalate and at times, so can physical intimacy. These intimacies are reserved only for the marriage partner and when a third wheel gets involved; the perimeter of the marriage needs to be reemphasized. 

Bluntly put - it is inappropriate. In your shoes, I would speak to your wife and tell her your concerns about this third person who is sitting in the middle of your marriage.



Dear Mrs. Web,

I hope you can help me. I recently got engaged to a wonderful woman. I know we will be happily married. The problem is GETTING married! I want only a small, perhaps even a non-denominational wedding (eloping would be fine with me). However, my bride-to-be is insisting on "The full Monty"-big wedding in a church and a large reception, etc. I know that I should be flexible, but the idea of a big fancy wedding makes me uncomfortable. I believe the money that would be spent on such an affair could help to help start our family and be used in a more practical way. Should I just suck it in and go along with her wishes for this one day?

You and your beloved are having the first test of your marriage. How well you both compromise and resolve this issue I think will determine the tenor and success of your marriage. In resolving such issues a good rule to remember is that no one's needs should be sacrificed for some one's wants. After the needs of both parties have been addressed then compromise on the "wants." Negotiate with love and a wish to honor your spouse-to-be.



Dear Mrs. Web, 

My husband has an Internet problem -- he has been sneaking "online affairs" and is on the net when I am sleeping, or away from home. He has even called and met some of these women in the past and I have tried everything from taking the computer away from him -- changing passwords, even taking out the modem but I cannot "baby-sit" him 24/7. The Internet is everywhere now! I am about ready to give up - do you have any suggestions? 

Ahem. Madam, your husband doesn't have an "Internet problem." He has a fidelity problem - it's missing! You are not expected to monitor your beloved day and night. He is supposed to be able to manage on his own in this department. I would make an appointment as soon as possible, with a marriage counselor who also has experience in helping sexual problems.



Dear Mrs. Web,

My husband is fifty-two years old. He has had a fairly good career in a technical field and has done pretty well. It has been stressful work and he really hasn't kept up technically. He had just been going through the motions for about the past six months. I thought he would snap out of it. Last week he was laid off along with a dozen newer people. He doesn't seem to be able to get out of his own way. Won't get up in the morning with me and won't even look at the classifieds. Heck, he won't even look at me. I have an ok job but it takes two incomes to pay our expenses and retirement plans. I am really beginning to worry.

Your husband sounds depressed. He's boxed into a nasty situation and there is no easy way out. Sounds like he needs to be seen by your family doctor for an assessment for depression and appropriate medical intervention. Then you both can realistically plan for the future.



Dear Mrs. Web,

My letter is about my husband. I love him dearly, but he is, to put it kindly, lazy. He makes Dagwood Bumstead look ambitious. He never does the dishes and even getting him to do the smallest household chore is like pulling a tooth. For instance our small lawn needs to be mowed but he has put it off so long that I have had to hire someone from the neighborhood to do it. He has a good job and says he is just "too tired" when he gets home. I work too and feel like he is not pulling his load. He gets defensive when I bring this up to him. Do you have any suggestions?

Perhaps it is time to sit down with him and put all the chores and all the finances on the table. Discuss with him what he feels he can handle and what needs to be hired out. Talk about what you could use for help too. Negotiate! A housecleaning crew could be in your future!



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