Dear Annie: I am in my late 40s, have a good career, am well-respected and well-educated, and have many friends and acquaintances. I keep in reasonable shape. I love my son, my siblings and my mother, and always want to do the best I can.
The problem is “Janice,” my 41-year-old wife of two years. She criticizes me constantly. I can’t wash the dishes, empty the trash, drive a car, eat my food, buy the groceries, sleep or blow my nose without her berating me for doing it wrong or irritating her in the process.
Her criticism extends to my 11-year-old son from my first marriage. He is a great kid who does as he is told without talking back or giving any attitude. He gets good grades and is never in trouble. He stays with us every other weekend. When he is here, I know my wife will be moody and unfriendly toward him.
Janice also gossips negatively about my friends and their wives, and then wonders why she isn’t invited to their social events. My wife has a terrific career, but whines constantly about her job. Other than her sister, she doesn’t have close friends.
Janice seemed warm and fun when we first began dating. Now I wonder how our relationship evolved into this mess. I have thought about counseling, but when she barks at me, I can only think of running away. What do I do ? – Tired of Walking on Eggshells
Dear Tired: You must first protect your son from Janice’s criticism. Insist she treat him with kindness and decency. Otherwise, quite frankly, you’d be better off if she left the house on those weekends so you can spend time with your son. Counseling is still a good idea. It can help you verbalize your frustration instead of becoming too angry to be effective. It also can help Janice understand how her constant negativity and criticism undermine your relationship. Please try it.