Q. I’m 64, but retirement is the last thing on my mind because I dread being trapped at home with my wife. I had thought that when the kids were grown, we’d have the joys of doing all the things we kept deferring. But now she says we’re too old for sexual intimacy, and all she wants to do is eat, sleep and take care of the grandkids. She’s traumatized if she’s away from the house for more than a few days and always ends planned vacations last-minute with “Why don’t you just go on your own; you’ll have more fun.” I’ve tried counseling and even joint sessions, but she bails just when progress is being made and says “I’m fine with the way I am.”  I get really depressed imagining living with her lifestyle choices. But I can’t bring myself to end the marriage of 43 years out of fear what it would do to her. Won’t Have Golden Years

I’m sorry to hear this. Anxiety or depression may have your wife in its grip. How gradual was this change? It is a good sign that she tried therapy, but she clearly got scared and was not yet motivated to overcome it. But dreading your retirement years is no way to live; it’s time to get real.

She may be fine with the way she is, but you are not, and the very foundation of your marriage — mutual interests, affection, collaboration, shared activities — is falling apart. Is she willing to work with you to save it? Can she commit to a certain amount of counseling sessions — joint or individual — without bailing, or to a small list of changes that you can both agree upon? Can she generate ideas of how you could help her break out of this rut? Give her time and some more chances but let her know that, ultimately, her efforts will determine her fate — and that of the marriage.

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Thanks for the advice, ‘friend’

Q. A close friend recently “confided” in me that I come across as very judgmental and harsh in conversations with people. This floored me. She said she was doing it as a favor to me, that she couldn’t not say something anymore. I asked her for examples and she was not good about coming up with any. I feel like she just threw a grenade into our friendship, and I am angry but then I feel like I am just playing into what her complaint was about me. —Upset By This Disclosure

Ah, the ol’ “I’ll be helpful in a harmful way” confrontation. Fun! You were right to ask for specifics; perhaps she was ill-prepared, so give her another chance.
Tell her that you’ve been thinking about what she said and the feedback is important to you. You want to be better, but you need something to work with. What, exactly, should you be doing differently? If she continues to stonewall, look for a larger pattern: Is she herself a troublemaker who creates drama? Have you ever gotten this feedback from others? Most helpful of all: Do you have a mutual friend who can give you a reality check?

Send your questions for Baggage Check to Dr. Andrea Bonior at baggage@wpost.com.

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