DEAR AMY: I am approaching 70. My wife (71) and I have seen our marriage steadily decline into a relationship more like roommates than spouses. We met while working together in the media. She eventually was laid off (for business reasons) and took it personally. I still work in that industry (and have for the past 47 years). My wife never wants to talk with me about work, because she's still resentful about how she was pushed out years ago. In fact, we talk very little about anything. We have had zero intimacy for four years, and while she sleeps in the bed, I stay on the couch all night because she refuses to stop watching videos on her phone while I try to sleep, despite repeated requests for that to cease. I handle the finances since she refuses to even talk about money. She's not working, nor does she want to anymore, but she spends without consideration for our bank balance (not extravagantly, but enough to put the account into the red too often). I try to show her the figures, but she doesn't want to deal with it. When I asked her, "What about this (marriage) makes you want to continue it?" she said, "We've put in 20-some years" (it's 35). She's only looking backward. I focus on forward. Because my wife only has a meager Social Security income, it would put her in a huge financial bind if I left. I'm not cruel enough to do that. She vowed to never move in with any of our three adult children if I weren't around (death, divorce, etc.). Bottom line: I believe she sees marriage with me only as a suitable alternative to being alone and completely broke.
Mortified Husband in Michigan
DEAR MORTIFIED: If you two split your wife would likely not be left with only her meager Social Security income. Your state is an "equitable distribution" state, meaning that the courts would look at your marital assets (all the assets acquired during your 35-year marriage, including your home, savings, Social Security, and retirement accounts) and decide how to fairly distribute these assets.
You seem sincere in wanting your marriage to change, and your question to your wife ("What about this marriage makes you want to continue it") is a great one. It's a shame her answer wasn't more positive or illuminating.
I assume you are contemplating retiring soon, and this is a huge life change which will destabilize your relationship even more. You portray your wife as completely stuck, but you sound stuck, too. A couples' counselor could help both of you to shake loose your thoughts and feelings in order to make a rational choice about your future.
You (and your wife) should read, "The Relationship Cure: A 5 Step Guide to Strengthening Your Marriage, Family, and Friendships," by John Gottman and Joan DeClaire (2002, Harmony).
DEAR AMY: My husband of 12 years (in his 50s), suddenly stopped using deodorant. He thinks (I believe) that showering and using soap is enough. It is NOT. I have tried gentle nudges, etc., but am frustrated (we sleep in the same bed) and plain embarrassed to be close to him when we are in public together. I purchased a clinical-strength deodorant for him a year ago that is still unopened. Prior to the pandemic, he was a big hugger. Now, mostly shares elbow bumps. This problem has been going on for over a year now. Short of moving out, I do not know what to do. There would have been no second date had I known this would happen.
DEAR FRUSTRATED: Please don't say that you would actually contemplate moving out of the household, rather than risk having a conversation with your husband about his hygiene.
Tell him — "Honey — you absolutely must use deodorant. I'm not sure why you stopped; I've tried to hint and nudge you, but now I'm telling you: soap and water are NOT enough. I'm now asking you directly to please use deodorant. When the pandemic is over, people will want you to hug them again, and I want to hug you now!"
DEAR AMY: A man signing his question "Tired" was seeking equal distribution of household chores, and that you encouraged this, too. However, as he complained of being saddled with the domestic duties, I'm sure I speak for many of the women of the world when I say: "Welcome to our world."
DEAR ALSO TIRED: I'm having the T-shirts made.