I have been married to "Rick" for 25 years. When we first married, Rick's mother welcomed me into the family and gave me a lot of attention. I enjoyed it initially, but soon, it became smothering. She often came into our home while we were at work, and would clean the refrigerator, rearrange the furniture, set aside items to be given away, straighten out my lingerie drawers, and replace my husband's underwear. She also went through our mail. We were nice about it, and said she didn't need to work so hard, but that made no difference. She tried to give us money, but we told her we wanted the pride of our own hard work. She then bought us gifts we could not return.
After tolerating this for too many years, I told her it was impolite to go through another person's dresser drawers and closets and that we valued our privacy. She was hurt, and claimed we didn't love her or need her anymore. Since then, she no longer visits us or allows us to take her out to dinner. The only time we see her is when she comes to visit the grandchildren.
Ann, the children are teenagers now, and my mother-in-law spoils them rotten. She gives them money and gifts, does their homework, buys them cars, and takes their side in all arguments. She says they should not have to do household chores or be given curfews, and that they should "enjoy their childhood." Of course, the children think she is wonderful. When we tell Mom to please knock it off, she claims she is having chest pains and can't take the stress. Is there a solution to this problem, or are we . . .
-- Trapped in D.C.
Rick's mother has been in control for 25 years. You and Rick are going to need counseling to learn how to deal with her, because it is apparent that you have been unable to do it on your own. She is wily, shrewd and manipulative. Please get some professional help on a continual basis, because Grandma is going to fight you every inch of the way. Be prepared.
I have been married for 22 years and have three children. My husband and I love them dearly, and they know it. Unfortunately, my husband and I do not love each other, and never have. I don't know why we married.
"Cliff" and I have been in this loveless arrangement since the wedding, and we haven't had sex for the last 10 years. He was never very good at it. The sex part doesn't bother me. I actually prefer it this way. I've been sleeping in the guest room because Cliff snores and I need my rest.
Divorce is not an option right now--I simply cannot afford to be a single mother with three children. We barely manage our mortgage payments and have no savings. I am envious of my friends who seem to be happily married. On my birthday, a male friend gave me a hug, and I still dream about it every night, even though I know it meant nothing to him.
A marriage counselor won't help, because there is no love to recapture. Cliff once told me I was the ugliest woman he had ever seen. I am no beauty, but I do try to look nice and keep my figure in good shape. I'm only 47, Ann, and don't want to wait forever to find love and happiness. I am utterly miserable, and don't know what to do. Please, please, give me some advice.
-- Stuck Forever in Kentucky
You need outside help. Your notion that marriage counseling can "recapture love" is a false one. Counseling can, however, help people mend the broken places in relationships and learn to cope with the hand life has dealt them. I urge you to seek this kind of assistance. For openers, it might help if you'd get out of the guest room and try to thaw him out a little. That would be a good place to start.
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