I have been married five years to a man I truly love. The problem is, he's a "neat freak," and it's destroying our marriage.
I work full time, commute about 100 miles a day, raise two children with whom I spend a lot of time, cook a homemade dinner almost every night, and keep the house clean. It is never enough for him. I walk on eggshells trying to keep the house according to his standards and let my children be children and have fun.
If the kids are going to have friends overnight, I make sure it's on a night when he'll be gone. Our children can't go barefoot in the yard, and our shoes must be removed at the door and kept in perfect alignment. If the children eat cookies at the kitchen table, he complains about the crumbs.
He was gone this weekend. The children and I cleaned the house, picked lemons from our trees and baked him a homemade pie, and prepared a nice dinner for him. When he got home all he did was yell because someone had tracked mud on the porch. He never even said hello. My 3-year-old kept saying, "Daddy, we made you a pie and cooked supper," but he wouldn't stop griping.
Please help. Divorce is not an option because it would destroy the children. How can I get him to realize that his obsessive-compulsive disorder is hurting our family? He thinks it is normal.
At My Wit's End in Texas
Your husband's behavior is "normal" for him. It won't change until you realize that the only thing more destructive to a child than divorce is trying to please a sick parent who is impossible to please.
For their sakes, if not for yours, demand that your husband consult a therapist about his problem. Thankfully, it is one that's treatable.
Please don't wait any longer to assert yourself. Do not back down. When a 3-year-old can recognize that your husband's behavior doesn't make sense, it's time to draw the line.
Every Wednesday I go to a teen hip-hop class to dance and have fun. On one of those occasions, my friend "Tracy" came to class crying. My friends and I asked her what was wrong and she said her dad had hit her. We asked her why, and she said it was because she was on the phone too long. She showed us the bruises on her arms and legs. They looked very bad.
I told Tracy she could come home with me and she said, "No thanks. I'm fine." This week she didn't make it to dance class. If she shows up with bruises again, should I make her come home with me and call the police? Please, Abby, I don't want Tracy to get hurt anymore.
Sad and Confused in San Diego
If it happens again, get the dance teacher involved. It is important that an adult document what is happening, and teachers are required by law to report abuse. You are a caring friend, and Tracy is lucky to have you. It is not unusual for an abuse victim to protect her (or his) abuser. The victim may be afraid that speaking out will cause the abuse to escalate. If Tracy does not return to class, a report can be made by calling ChildHelp U.S.A. The phone number is 800-422-4453.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, Calif. 90069.
(c)2004, Universal Press Syndicate