Q. My son and his wife have been married for 11 years, and my daughter-in-law, age 31, has struggled with alcoholism, depression and anxiety for the past six years. She’s also attempted suicide a few times in the past three years. She is under the care of a psychiatrist. But who knows whether she is telling him the truth? She also is a shoplifter. My two young granddaughters know that their mother does this. I’ve spoken with my granddaughters about this, as has my son, and they both know it is wrong and have asked their mother to stop.
She shoplifted again yesterday while we were shopping with my 9-year-old granddaughter. While my granddaughter and I were alone for a few minutes in the store, we discussed what to do if Mommy were to be caught going out the door with the stolen items. The plan was to just keep walking to the car. I did not want my granddaughter to be subject to that. But yet again, my daughter-in-law got away with it.
I’ve not broached this behavior with my daughter-in-law. I did not want to confront her in the store and cause a scene. Any suggestions on how to handle this with her and how to continue the conversation with my granddaughters? – Concerned for Granddaughters
A. It’s not just Mom’s shoplifting that these girls are dealing with. Even if they might seem too young to understand what’s going on at home (alcoholism, anxiety and clinical depression), I’d wager they’re picking up on more than you realize.
Broaden the conversation to be not just about the shoplifting incidents but also about their lives and feelings in general. Include your son in these conversations. You might privately suggest to him that he set up an appointment with a child psychologist. If they’re internalizing the stress of their home lives right now, it could impact their development and have lifelong effects.
Dear Annie: I have a friend who has been married for many years and is in a loving relationship with his wife. For some reason, over a decade ago, his wife ended their physical relationship. There was no reason for this abrupt change. There was no argument or medical reason for this.
After a few years, he casually mentioned to his wife that he had noticed that there had been no physical contact for a while. She began to cry and promised to “do better.” It was a very short conversation, with no recriminations, no questions as to why this had occurred, just acceptance.
Years went on, and there was still nothing. For some, infidelity, counseling or even divorce would have been the next step. None of those was acceptable to my friend. Instead, he unilaterally decided that his wife was no longer his wife. He would now spend the rest of his life living with his former wife, now his newly discovered “long-lost sister.” He still loved her just as much as before, still enjoyed living together as friends. It was a “no mess, no fuss, no bother” relationship-salvaging solution.
His solution may work for couples facing similar circumstances. It avoids so much pain. – Hope This Helps
Dear Hope This Helps: Partners can enjoy a strong sense of companionship without physical love. If this arrangement is truly working for them, great – though I’d be curious to hear the wife’s perspective. In marriage, a decision “unilaterally” made is not unilaterally felt. I’m not clear on why counseling was unacceptable to your friend, and I’d encourage other couples facing intimacy issues to talk about it, whether on their own or with the help of a licensed therapist.
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