Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.
DEAR AMY: For much of our marriage (25-plus years), my husband worked 60-plus hours per week. While I admired his work ethic, it came at a cost to both his health and our relationship, culminating in an affair (his). After a near-breakup of our marriage, he reduced his hours and finally devoted more time to us. It took more than two years with counseling to repair the damage, but in the end it was worth it. I had never been happier, and the domestic chores were more equitably split. We had time to actually talk to each other, eat together as a family, take walks, bike and hike together and travel. Now, after six years, he is back to working six days per week, plus playing basketball two nights. He is the owner of a successful business and could hire more help if he wanted. In addition to working a full-time job, I am back to taking care of everything else at home, just so we have one day a week together to play. I make as much money as he does, so fully contribute in that area. I do all the cooking, cleaning and laundry. The yard work is hired out. I also exercise for five hours per week and spend one evening a week helping my elderly parents. He expects me to handle everything else because he works so many more hours than I do. This weekend he felt the need to talk to me about the time I waste watching TV. He didn’t have a suggestion for how to fill the long, lonely evenings and was unsympathetic to the toll his absence is taking. Four nights a week I eat dinner alone. After all the work we did to put our marriage back together, our relationship is right back where it was. I’m lonely and tired. Am I asking too much?
DEAR LONELY: Your desire to have a close marriage is natural and laudable. However, you are married to someone who seems unwilling to change his lifestyle in the long term. He seems to have seen your marital breakdown as a problem to fix, after which he reverted to his natural state, which is to do what he wants to do, and not what you want him to do.
You should proceed with the assumption that nothing will change. You should alleviate your loneliness by getting involved with organizations or developing passions that stretch your capabilities, make you laugh, learn new things and bring you joy. Downsizing might make you feel less burdened (so would hiring a cleaner). And yes — if you enjoy watching TV (one of my favorite pastimes, too), then you should definitely do that.
The point is that you have one life. Don’t live it waiting for your husband to come home to “play” with you.
DEAR AMY: I live with my grandparents in a rural town. They are in their late 70s. Whenever we go out together, my granddad always has to drive. As soon as we get in the car, Grandma begins to yell at him about his driving. I think she complains because she is anxious. To make matters worse, Granddad never drives the speed limit. If the speed limit is 55, he will drive at 45. Often we have a long line of cars behind us. Granddad does not drive dangerously and has not had any accidents. However, impatient drivers who pass him unsafely have almost had a lot of accidents. He says he prefers to enjoy the drive and does not want to rush. I have volunteered to drive for Granddad. He always says no. I have talked to my mom about the slow driving, but she does not seem to care. She wants her parents to be independent for as long as they can. Is driving slowly a sign of impairment, or is it a prerogative of being old?
DEAR CONCERNED: Driving slowly is common among older drivers, and it can be dangerous to do so. I hope your grandfather sticks to back roads.
AARP offers a helpful refresher course for older drivers. Taking it can lower the cost of your grandfather’s insurance. Check aarpdriversafety.org for more information.
DEAR AMY: “Lost Little Girl,” is a 44-year-old who is reconnecting with her somewhat estranged dad so she can hit him up for some serious wedding cash. Here’s a suggestion for how she should have signed her letter to you: “Greedy, Manipulative, Conniving, Thoughtless, 44-Year-Old Grown Woman.”
DEAR STEVE: Harsh, but possibly accurate. Thank you.