While I’m away, readers give the advice.
On the destructive power of the anonymous note:
Thirty years ago, I’d taken a part-time job at a shopping center to supplement my income. I really enjoyed it and the people I met through this job. I was married with three children and I’m not inclined to engage in affairs.
An anonymous letter turned up in the mail one day accusing me of “fooling around” with the people at work.
Even though my husband was unemployed at the time, I immediately quit the job because he felt someone there had sent it.
He immediately became distrustful and accusatory. No matter what I said or did, his trust in me was shattered. He then escalated to emotional abuse, drugs and bad checks, and developed a criminal record.
After several years of this, I could stand it no longer and left him. To this day, I have absolutely no idea who might have sent this letter. My now-former husband died about five years ago.
On being religious and in love with someone who is not religious:
What is more important than being outwardly religious is how someone lives his life. When I contemplated remarriage, it bothered me at first that my fiance did not seem to be as religious or spiritual as I am. But although he had left the Catholic Church, he truly lives his life by the Golden Rule, and how he treats people every day would make Jesus proud.
So even though he has no outward trappings of faith (and goes to church on high holidays only to please me), his moral center is strong. And our child sees this, sees how he helps others no matter how inconvenient, how patient with children he is, how dutiful with his elderly parents. He just quietly and steadily does the right things, which includes respecting my needs, spiritual or whatever.
I can see now that I should have respected his choice also way back when. We’ve been happily married now for over 20 years, and mutual respect for each other’s choices is bedrock to what we’ve built.
Walks the Walk
On expecting grandparents to want to babysit:
Young parents are often unaware of two things: how much more physically difficult it can be to care for children when you are in an older body, and the “multiples effect” of having more than one family asking for favors that, to each family, seem reasonable.
I once taught 20 children in a 20-day-long day camp. No one thought it unreasonable to be late picking up their kid one time. However, each parent was late on a different day, which meant the staff had to stay late, for no pay, every single day of the 20. Reasonable request upon reasonable request equals the unreasonable.
On dealing with a gossip:
A woman in my apartment building is a famous gossip. One day I said to her, “Jane, I heard someone gossiping about you, and I think that’s terrible, so I said, ‘Jane is a friend of mine, and I think you should talk directly to her when you don’t like something.’ ” At first Jane was very surprised, and then “recovered” and said, “Well, they have to talk about someone.”