Dear Annie: I have been married to the same man for almost 40 years. We have two beautiful children, who have happy lives and their own careers and families. My husband is highly successful and respected in his profession. He has some wonderful qualities. For example, he’s hardworking and a loving grandfather. However, over the years in our marriage, he has frequently been verbally and emotionally abusive to me, and at times, he’s been physically abusive. He does not like my family members and resists any of my efforts to get together with them. He really has no desire to do anything with anyone – family or friends – and only wants to stay home and do what he wants to do. He talks very little to me, except to tell me what to do or point out what I have done wrong. I look ahead to the next 20 years with this man with great sadness because of his desire to isolate us and limit our access to other people – even our own family.
I want to end my marriage to him so badly, but then I wonder whether this would be the right thing to do to our family and to my husband in the long term. However, my children would understand if I did end the marriage, as they have witnessed their father’s behavior over the years. I guess I wonder whether a divorce would just be a selfish act on my part so I could do what I want to do freely. I have been seeing a therapist over the years about my marriage. I am just wondering what your advice would be. I admire your insight always. – Conflicted and Anguished
Dear Conflicted and Anguished: Abuse – physical, verbal or emotional – is never acceptable, and it is not OK for your husband to isolate you from your family and friends. His refusal to see them should not prevent you from seeing them. You can travel alone and go out with friends without your husband.
It is commendable that you have been seeing a therapist over the years, and your balanced perspective is one of the results. In the interest of leaving no stone unturned, consider seeking marriage counseling with him. This would give you a safe place in which to tell him what you love about him and what you don’t. Ideally, these sessions would help your husband recognize his toxic behavior and put an end to it. And if it were not to help him do that, it would at least give you a more definitive answer about what to do next.
Dear Annie: I have a new co-worker whose constant sighing is putting me on edge. It’s an “open office” format, and our desks are adjacent. I hear her sighing many times throughout the day – too many to count – and once or twice a day, I hear her whispering swearwords to herself. I get secondhand stress from it. I tried putting on headphones, but I keep the volume relatively low because I don’t want it to be so loud that everyone can hear my music. (It’s a quiet office, if you couldn’t already tell.) Any tips for how to handle this? – Nervous Desk Neighbor
Dear Nervous Desk Neighbor: Your new neighbor probably doesn’t realize how vocal she’s being. You can bring her attention to it next time by asking – gently and genuinely – “Is everything OK?” If she asks what you mean, explain that she seems upset or frustrated. Additionally, seeing as she’s new, you might invite her out to lunch to get to know her better. Once you two have talked more, you’ll most likely be less bothered by her talking to herself.
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