Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Dear Carolyn: My husband has had to travel for the past several weeks. We have young kids. I haven’t missed him at all. Not as a partner and not even helping with the kids, since he doesn’t do much. He is a good dad, but he and I constantly bicker when we are together (both of us are to blame for that). Maybe we could improve our marriage if I could find a way to bring this up to him, besides “it’s easier not to have you here.” But marriage counseling is not going to help because he can out-talk any therapist.
Carolyn says: That’s some heavy contempt you’re nursing there — a toxic emotion in a marriage. (Check out John Gottman’s work at gottman.com.)
You can get counseling on your own to work through this, and to find some ways to tell your husband how you feel that aren’t hostile. You can also work on some strategies for addressing the division of labor so that you can cross it off the list of reasons to resent the man who is supposed to be your partner (and whose relationship with you is the primary model you’re providing your children).
Short version: less bitterness, more work to make it work.
Even if your differences are irreconcilable, finding a more respectful, cooperative, positive tone will bring dramatic improvement to the example you set, no matter what next step you and he decide to take.
Re: Don’t Care:
Huge red flag. I still remember that feeling after a business trip over 15 years ago. I wasn’t “happy” to see my boyfriend at the airport. Did I do anything to fix the situation? No. Married him and then felt that same feeling years later after he’d been away. Eventually divorced. The truth will follow you around. It’s mean like that.
Carolyn says: Well said. I do think the marriage and the children mean the letter-writer has to work at getting past that feeling first, before answering to it. Thanks.
Just say no
Dear Carolyn: Several months ago, I was placing an order through my Amazon Prime account and a co-worker asked if she could order some things as well. Since I had my items coming to the office, I said it was fine for her to add some things to my order — at least it would save on the number of boxes coming to the same location. Now she regularly asks to use my account so she can get the free two-day shipping. A one-off when I was ordering something as well seemed fine to me, but now I feel like she’s taking advantage and I’m enabling her to cheat the company. Having allowed it, though, how do I put a stop to her use of my membership?
Carolyn says: “This was fine for a shipment or two, but I’m not comfortable with it as a regular thing.” Because choosing not to let people take advantage of you is something you’re allowed to do.
E-mail Carolyn Hax at firstname.lastname@example.org, or chat with her at 11 a.m. Friday at washingtonpost.com.