Q. My wife has always been very bad at relaxing. She says she doesn’t want or need to relax, but she expects others to share this value. She overbooks our weekends and constantly wants our teenagers to do stuff with her. She thinks they should wake up with her and hike, work on the house, etc., and I think they need downtime, and I see them starting to resent her. We used to joke about it; now it’s like there’s a drill sergeant in the house. How do I get her to see this? —We’re All Tired
First, you figure out exactly what it is you want her to see. How she comes across? How your kids’ temperaments and needs are different than she may realize? The emotional effect she has on you and the mood of the house? All of the above? If you frame this conversation as a fundamental disapproval of the way she is, that’s neither fair nor helpful. Make it clear you don’t need her to change her personality, but you do need her to adjust her interactions — something we all need to do if we live with humans we love. Help her find ways to get her high-energy needs met without forcing others — especially teenagers with different circadian rhythms and emotional priorities — to follow suit, and come up with family activities that meet in the middle (maybe a monthly nature outing? Or a regular after-dinner walk?). Your kids should have input as well. In short, it’s not about making her someone she’s not, but about working together as a family to find ways for everyone to fit together smoothly.
The father who drifted away
Q. My husband of 16 years and I have two kids. We try to avoid disagreements because of his explosive personality. Since his mom passed last summer, he has been very distant, pushing me away, eventually getting a work assignment abroad for several months. I feel like he left me and the children to fend for ourselves. I’ve had to apply for financial assistance, with a potential move to affordable housing. He says he needs to figure out what he wants out of life. I’m on the verge of leaving the relationship, but would like to know if it’s still worth saving. —Heartbroken
I’m worried about you. You have a potentially “explosive” partner who has logistically and emotionally checked out of the marriage, at least temporarily, and the roof over your and your kids’ heads is in jeopardy. The death of a parent can throw anyone for a loop, but he needed to at least have a plan in place to figure things out without — at least from my perspective — abandoning his family. Now is the time for you to stabilize your and your children’s lives as much as you can by gathering your support system, including friends, family and requisite professionals (like lawyers, therapists and guidance counselors). That way you will be ready for whatever may come — whether it’s your choosing to leave, or his choosing not to come back.
Send your questions for Baggage Check to Dr. Andrea Bonior at email@example.com. She may answer them in an upcoming column in Express or in a live chat on Tuesdays at 1 p.m. at washingtonpost.com.
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