Ask Amy: Trying times call for trial separation

June 2

DEAR AMY: I am at the end of my rope. We have an 11-year-old son with ADHD who can be very challenging. When our son is being difficult my husband intimidates and antagonizes, yells obscenities and sometimes hits or kicks him unless I intervene.

Counseling has not helped because when the therapist tells him he needs to deal with his own issues he refuses to attend any more sessions.

On top of this stress, three years ago my husband decided to remodel our kitchen. Crowbar in hand, he also decided to remodel the two upstairs baths and the dining room at the same time — no contractor, no plans, no timeline, no budget. We have had a barely usable kitchen for three years and the rest of the house is in various states of remodeling stagnation.

He doesn’t want my help with any of this. He regularly overdraws our bank account paying for materials and tradesmen related to these projects. I have told my husband I cannot cope with both the stress of our son’s issues and having the house in chaos. He thinks I am impatient and a nag.

I would divorce him, but I am concerned about what that would do to our son. Our house is in no condition to sell and divorce would be financially devastating. I am a teacher and my husband makes more than twice what I do.

Should I use the small inheritance I received, face my husband’s wrath and hire a contractor to take over the remodel and end this chaos with the hope that this gets us back on track as a family? Or should I proceed directly to divorce and hope that having my son and me in a more peaceful environment will be worth the cost of losing our financial stability? -- Stressed Out

DEAR STRESSED OUT: Emptying your inheritance to complete this renovation will not really fix the problem because your sensitive husband would feel undermined and find another deep hole to dig for himself (although you should discuss this possible solution with him). He deals with his own anxieties and lack of control by creating chaos (has he been tested for ADHD?).

Most important is his treatment of his son. This is intolerable. You should pursue a trial separation, giving him a chance to complete the work on the house and you and your son a chance to see if daily life without this chaos is more beneficial for all of you.

DEAR AMY: You can’t solve my problem, but I’d like your perspective.

My mother recently died, and my father would like to sell their townhouse. My 58-year-old sister has lived with them for over 10 years. She is a (recovering) addict and works a full-time job but has never contributed financially. In fact, she has guilted them into paying for her to go on family vacations and for other bills.

My father has stated that after the sale of the townhouse he will have to find a place for her to live.

I am somewhat okay with this. I know that she probably would not be able to manage doing this on her own, but I’m disgusted and angry that she has manipulated this situation and that my father feels responsible for her. Please insert a new perspective here. -- Saddened daughter

DEAR DAUGHTER: Here goes: Aren’t you thankful that you are a highly functioning adult? Don’t you feel good about yourself that you are capable, that you make your own way in the world, and that you don’t use and manipulate family members to get what you want?

That’s my perspective. You win in the game of life.

DEAR AMY: I did not approve of your answer to “Bad Son,” who was trying to juggle between his wife and mother on Mother’s Day. It is called “Mother’s Day” because you are supposed to celebrate your mother. Not your wife. You can do that any day. -- Disappointed

DEAR DISAPPOINTED: Some readers agreed with you, but this is the essential problem with these special days: People run themselves ragged trying to celebrate everyone.

Amy’s column appears seven days a week at www.washingtonpost.com/advice. Write to Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribune.com or Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

2014 by the Chicago Tribune

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