DEAR AMY: My wife and I have been married for 31 years. We have four adult children — the oldest is 30, the youngest is 22. Over the course of the last year, my wife has changed drastically and dramatically. I do not know if the cause is menopause, or the change in our relationship, but the one thing that has been causing me angst is her declaration that she finds all of our kids annoying and that she doesn't want to talk with them anymore. She goes to DEFCON 1 over the slightest thing. My children have all expressed dismay at this change. When my wife and I talk about this, she says she just wants to concentrate on us, and no longer cares about the kids. This has resulted in a lot of walking on eggshells for the kids and me. She has told me that she doesn't want to go to counseling. I know I am going to have to go by myself. My concern is that this might break up the family, as I cannot satisfy her and our children. I want to save our family.
DEAR HURTING: You mention menopause and "the change in our relationship" as possible causes for your wife's extreme behavior. I'm going to assume that all four kids have left the nest, and you and your wife are now alone. Together.
Your wife may want to distance herself from the children, but if she tries to control your relationship with them, this is an emergent red flag and you should react quickly. Do not let her isolate you.
It can't feel good to her to be at DEFCON 1 so often (this is military terminology describing the highest level of alert and readiness).
This drastic change in temperament is worrying; she should get a thorough medical checkup as soon as possible. Yes, maybe her behavior is hormonally charged (there is a reason menopause is often referred to as "the change"), but an underlying illness or brain disorder could be the cause of this extreme behavior. For now, definitely pursue counseling on your own. It might be safest for you to temporarily separate.
DEAR AMY: This past winter, my cousin and her husband joined me and my girlfriend in a shared condo for a ski vacation. Each party was given their own bedroom and bathroom. My invitation text to my cousin (a month before the date) said: "We have a room available if you'd like to join." Given that we had skied (but not stayed) together before, this was not unusual. Prior to their arrival, we asked about diet restrictions and provided a list of what we had bought to eat/drink while in the house to which they responded: "Looking forward to it!" During the trip, they shared our food and beverages, kept theirs to themselves, complained about someone in the household who snored, and never offered to chip in for the condo or food expenses, let alone offer a thank you meal to the group. Everyone being around 40 years old, and being well-paid working professionals, I assumed my cousin and her husband would contribute. They have not. Clearly, I erred by not making my expectations explicit. While I can afford to bear the cost (which I suspect to be their reasoning), I don't believe it's fair to assume. I'm starting to feel resentful. I'm not inclined to issue future invitations. Do you suggest simply moving on, or is there benefit to engaging in an uncomfortable conversation? If we engage, how do you suggest we do that, and what would be the best outcome?
DEAR SKIED OUT: The best outcome would be for you to continue enjoying a cordial relationship with your cousin and her husband, while never sharing a vacation with them again.
They hit the four benchmarks of anti-social behavior: Stingy, entitled, complaining, and ungrateful.
Yes, you definitely erred when you sent your invitation text. In the future, be very clear: "Would you like to join us in a sharing the rental on a condo this winter? Let me know if you're interested, and I'll shoot you the details."
DEAR AMY: "George Wants Pastrami on Rye" described an unfortunately typical office bullying episode, with a co-worker who always used his public sandwich orders to exclude George. Food is often used as a way to exclude co-workers. I faced this in my own workplace.
DEAR ALSO: Managers should be aware of this, and step in to stop it.