Dear Carolyn: My mother-in-law told me she questions her son's (my husband's) paternity. She claims her ex, his father, doesn't know. She said she wanted me to know in case something happens to her and there's a medical reason to know such information.
She didn't want to tell him because she fears how it might affect her relationship with him.
I feel like I'm keeping a secret from my husband. I don't think it's my place to tell him though. Do I just carry the weight of this information and not say anything? Do I tell her she needs to disclose this to him or I will?
— Carrying the Weight
Carrying the Weight: Explain to her, calmly and kindly, that you understand her concern that telling him might affect her relationship with her son.
However — and unfortunately — your having this knowledge and keeping it from him has already started to affect your relationship with her son.
And you can’t have that. You can’t hold her secret — one you never asked for — in your marriage.
Once you spell out the problem for her, then, yes, you say she needs to tell him or you will. I’m sorry you’re in this spot.
Dear Carolyn: I have a chronic health problem I've been dealing with for a couple of years now. I can't eat a whole bunch of things and had some weight loss. A lot of people, even good friends and family, can't just say they're sorry I'm suffering, they have to comment, "You look great!" or even, "I wish I had that problem!"
I never wanted to lose weight! And they seem to think I should be happy about this. And the cultural pressure to be slender is so strong that I can't complain or just get really mad at them for this "compliment" . . . it's infuriating. I don't believe in commenting on people's weight — good, bad or indifferent. And having them comment on my weight as if it's supposed to somehow offset my suffering is so infuriating. Any clever suggestions?
Infuriated: Clever, no, but meet my buddy “frank”:
“The sickest thing here isn’t me, it’s that our preoccupation with weight is now so profound that my sickness is seen as a blessing.”
I realize you have much bigger battles to fight than our society’s warped values, but if you ever feel up to it, then, please, take a good swing at it.
Otherwise, have this handy: “I know you mean well/are just joking, but comments about weight aren’t helpful to me.”
Dear Carolyn: I know how you feel about snooping, but now that I have snooped, I don't know what to do with the disturbing info.
We have been married 30 years and have two grown children. To the outside world, we are "perfect."
He is very attentive and we have an active sex life.
But . . . you knew something was coming. He had been communicating with a woman. Naked pix from her. It seems she is the aggressor, but he is an active participant.
He denies anything but friendship. He is not aware I've seen the texts. I know my choices, really, but just need someone to talk to.
Help: Then really talk to someone. Your concern for “the outside world” (which it probably doesn’t deserve, but that’s a separate battle) suggests you talk to a therapist for the confidentiality alone.
A good therapist also can help you figure out what to do next, why you’re here in the first place — including what drove you to snoop — and how to tell your husband what you did. “Soon” is what I recommend, unless he’s abusive, in which case safety displaces integrity as your top priority.
But that leakproof room is what I recommend most: In it, you can practice saying difficult things — out loud, when you need to say them — instead of sneaking in through the back door.
Dear Carolyn: I am an 82-year-old woman in good health and living independently. I have two grown kids living 15 to 20 minutes away. We all have a good relationship, but I see them infrequently, and they call maybe once or twice a week. I want more. I have friends and a fairly active social life, but I want more from my kids.
I think it is not too much to ask that each one make it a point to see me once a month. I have dropped hints but nothing has changed. I have not come right out to ask for what I want because I think if they do not visit willingly it will cause resentment, so what's the point. Your thoughts?
H.: One thought: By waiting for them to read your mind, you’re getting the resentment anyway, without any visits to show for it.
Just say what you want, please: “I’d love to set up a standing visit — say, every first Sunday. How does that sound?”