Dear Annie: My husband comes from a family with a history of manic depression, mood disorders, suicides, addictions, etc. He self-medicates by overeating, gambling, watching too much TV and wanting a lot of sex. It is exceptionally bad in the winter, and I am on edge all the time, not knowing what kind of mood he will be in.
I go to therapy to cope. I have repeatedly told his cardiologist, family physician and sleep disorder doctor about his behavior and his family history, but they ignore me or say they can’t do anything if my husband won’t admit he’s depressed. He does, of course, put on a good front to others.
Why do all the experts say “tell your family doctor” about a loved one’s problems when the doctors refuse to deal with it? Do you have any suggestions? — MSFM
Dear MSFM: A doctor can only do so much. If your husband refuses to admit he may have mental health issues, he is not likely to accept help from anyone. The best you can do is get help on your own, and you already are doing this. Discuss the situation with your therapist so you can determine whether there is any aspect of your husband’s behavior that you can work on at home and, if not, what the best course of action is for YOU. Also contact the National Alliance on Mental Illness (nami.org) at 1-800-950-NAMI (1-800-950-6264) for support and suggestions.
Dear Annie: Recently, the parents of two of my closest friends have divorced. This has caused me to look at my own parents, who have been married over 30 years. Mom and Dad are wonderful people who gave my brother and me a loving childhood. Yet, I’ve seen a growing strain in their relationship.
Whenever they talk to me, they end up griping about the other one at some point in the conversation. I realize venting frustration can be healthy, but I honestly can’t remember the last time either of them said anything positive about the other. For years, I have suggested they talk through their problems and grievances instead of sweeping them under the rug, but they don’t listen. They continually throw themselves further into their separate lives as the rift grows wider. Most of my mother’s friends are in unhappy marriages, and I’m afraid she believes this situation is normal.
I want to talk to them about their marriage, but I don’t know how to do it. Both of them are very poor communicators. I’m afraid talking could make it worse and they will resent me for bringing it up. Neither of them would consider marriage counseling. I want them to be happy. How can I help? — Worried Out West
Dear Worried: Some long-married couples get into the habit of griping, and you shouldn’t jump to the conclusion that they are looking to divorce. But the next time Mom disparages your father, ask “Are you unhappy?” The question alone may force her to think carefully about the relationship, and more importantly, make her see the impact her complaints are having on you. (You can do the same with your father.)
Dear Annie: This is for “The First Wife,” who asked if the relationship between a parent and child suffers when the parent abandons the marriage. In my case, divorce was a godsend for the relationship between my ex and our sons.
Before the divorce, my husband would refuse to come home at a reasonable hour and basically ignored the boys. Once we divorced, he actually made an investment in the time he spent with them. It forced him to be a “hands-on” father when he used to believe parenting was all “women’s work.” He actually started coming to their ball games and school functions. — Happier Ex-Wife
Dear Ex-Wife: We’re sorry it took such a huge knock in the head for your husband to wake up, but better late than never.
Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please e-mail your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, P.O. Box 118190, Chicago, IL 60611. To find out more about Annie’s Mailbox, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
Published in The Messenger on 11.21.07