Dear Amy: My wife and I have been together for 44 years.
My wonderful wife used to be generally happy and positive.
Then came four years of politics, which seems to have scarred her permanently; she now worries about everything, is (at times) hypercritical, and has a decidedly pessimistic outlook. Negativity abounds.
During the Trump administration she would obsess daily about the latest outrage/headline/scandal to the point where I suggested, and she accepted, trying therapy. She “didn’t like it.” (She has done therapy before, and we both had counseling together years ago. Both experiences were positive.)
In suggesting therapy recently, I contrasted how each of us is likely to live out our “golden years.”
My high school yearbook described me as “happy-go-lucky,” a pretty accurate assessment; my father kept a smile on his face to the end, a trait she admired. Her father, by contrast, was Archie Bunker: railing at demons, scowling, always critical, forever unhappy. She doesn’t want to be like that, but even she admits that’s the path she’s on.
Is there a remedy other than “therapy” that I might suggest, or a more convincing way to position it to get her (or us) to try it again?
Neither of us is religious, we are financially secure, and we are very much in love. I’d like to course-correct to the way she used to be, and she agrees!
What to do?
(We read your column every day in the Washington Post.)
– Concerned in DC
Dear Concerned: I appreciate the fact that you read the Washington Post; I believe that this may actually provide a clue about your wife’s state of mind.
Events during the previous administration may have triggered her anxiety and negativity, but actually living in or near DC, surrounded by politically engaged and concerned fellow citizens, as well as being in physical proximity to protests and the insurrection following the election, could be keeping her in place.
Negative thoughts tend to be “sticky,” leading to rumination.
Your wife might have inherited her father’s basic temperament, but the fact that she wants to change her perspective means that she can.
My suggestions for her are: Disengage completely from social media. Within the first 24 hours, she should notice a change in her basic outlook.
Turn off the TV and spend some time each day reading a novel and/or poetry.
Read up on mindfulness and meditation and start and end each day with a deliberate choice to list three things she is grateful for and spend time quietly thinking about each one.
Spend as much time as possible outdoors, preferably in nature.
Volunteer! The Smithsonian has a cool project where any citizen can help to transcribe documents from their huge historical collection. Check transcription.si.edu for information on how to get started.
See her physician. Her stress could cause health problems, but an undiagnosed medical issue might also contribute to her stress.
And yes – therapy! Good therapy, like a good marriage, is all about the right fit. Keep trying.
Dear Amy: I am currently filling out divorce papers, due to the simple fact my husband lies so much. Our 16 years together feels like a lie.
He lies about being at work when he isn’t.
He has disappeared more times than I can count – I’m talking total MIA.
He sold our living room furniture but told me they were stolen.
He accuses me of cheating with his friend, who I barely know (but he hangs out with him).
I found three pre-paid money cards he used to get sex, but he said he never did — he just got robbed.
I don’t understand why he lies about stuff that is obviously not true.
I’m confused as to why I allow this crazy nonsense.
Is this stuff gaslighting?
Dear Disgusted: Gaslighting isn’t your husband lying about selling the living room furniture. Gaslighting would be if he convinced you that YOU had sold the living room furniture.
No, this is you losing 16 years of your life to a pathological liar.
Now go get your life back.
Dear Amy: “In a Quandary,” described a couple who had postponed their separation due to their daughter’s mental illness.
I think it is important that when they tell the daughter, they are very clear that the split was in the works before her mental health crisis began. If not, she is likely to surmise that her situation contributed to the split, which would be detrimental to her continued recovery.
– Mom in CT
Dear Mom: I agree – and thank you.
(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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