Dear Amy: Many years ago, I was married to “Annie” for about 10 years. Our divorce was amicable, and since we had no children, we have not had any contact since our divorce.
A couple of years after my divorce I met and married “Bea.” We’ve now been married for over 30 years.
I have an album of photographs. This album consists of childhood photos, photos of my parents, siblings, and me through high school and college. The album includes three photos of Annie — nothing suggestive or racy — these are just reminders of the good times from my youth.
Bea strenuously objects to me keeping the photos of Annie and wants me to destroy them, while I think that they are harmless souvenirs of my life, and that destroying them is an irrational attempt to erase the past.
Am I nuts?
Dear Charlie: You sound like a perfectly normal person with a perfectly normal past.
I have a knee-jerk and negative reaction to the idea of destroying photos. As we move into an almost thoroughly digital age, these material objects are visceral reminders that we exist in the world, in many splendidly awkward settings and posed alongside people we no longer know. And yet — there we are!
At the risk of angering your wife, it would be thoughtful for you to scan or copy these photos and send copies to “Annie.” (Do not post them on social media.) I would think that anyone would enjoy a tangible reminder of their much-younger self.
It might help you to lean in toward your wife’s reaction if you understand that behind her anger might be regret that she wasn’t ever young alongside you.
Because you two met later, she missed a period sharing your life that might always be a source of some sadness and regret for her.
Meet her with affection and understanding for the youthful period you didn’t get to share, but gratitude for the adulthood you’ve been granted together.
Dear Amy: When I am sad, especially about a situation relating to my boyfriend (but also when I’m just stressed out), I tend to cry.
I try to explain to my boyfriend what’s wrong, and he does not comfort me.
He doesn’t put his arm around me, he doesn’t say he understands what I’m saying, he just watches and listens from the other side of the room.
This makes me feel lonely, sad, and embarrassed. I end up trying to explain again why I’m upset, in a desperate attempt to get comfort. It never works.
I talk myself in circles, and he watches, sometimes saying that he’s sorry I’m sad.
When he leaves, and I’m by myself, I recover because I’m no longer upset by the lack of comfort. When I’m alone I can make myself feel better.
What should I do?
On several occasions I’ve said, “You should go, I’m sad and it isn’t helping me to feel better to have you watch me cry,” but then he stays anyway.
Should I leave the room? I don’t want to act angry, but it’s hard to be physically with someone and yet feel so alone.
— Alone Together
Dear Alone Together: The best time to discuss your boyfriend’s reaction to your strong emotions is when you aren’t experiencing such strong emotions.
As it is, when the tears are flowing, you are conveying that your boyfriend’s actions have made you cry. He may conclude that if his behavior has made you cry, then he should respond by retreating.
Talk about this during a calm moment. Tell him, “When I’m upset, I have a much easier time if you will sit near me, hold my hand, put your arm around me, and comfort me.”
You should also ask him how he feels when you are in tears. He may tell you that he feels confused, bewildered, hopeless or manipulated.
Obviously, you should also examine what about this relationship is bringing on these storms, and whether experiencing this sort of emotional imbalance is healthy for you.
Dear Amy: Your answer to “Upset Dad” was astoundingly, bewilderingly wrong.
“Dad” mentions that his brothers are childless, as though this justifies his expectation that they should step in to provide regular free childcare.
Other peoples worlds do not revolve around one’s children!
— Disappointed in YOU
Dear Disappointed: “Upset Dad’s” son has special needs. According to his question, his brothers seemed unsure of how to be good uncles to their nephew.
He was appealing to his brothers not for childcare, but for connection.
(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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