DEAR AMY: I just came back from a long walk. The walk started out alongside my husband. We were talking about the same old gripes we both have, and it all descended to him saying, "You are a piece of [expletive]" I walked ahead of him and continued walking without him. I've been here before. I don't have any passion for him, and to be honest, I don't know if I really was ever in love with him, even at the start. We have beautiful adult kids (they are happy and have great jobs). There is a long history between the two of us. He was unfaithful because he didn't get the love he wanted from me. He drinks. His family is terrible. I, on the other hand, am disciplined ("controlling" as he describes me), and frigid. My husband is my first and only. It's true that I'm not comfortable with intimacy, but over the years, I have successfully worked on that. But yes, because he is unkind toward me, I struggle to say, "I love you." I want to leave him, but it's easier to stay together, in terms of finances and the "family." I'm not perfect, but God, I can't talk to him. It's like we're stuck in a pattern: we fight and then make up, over and over. Is this normal?
DEAR LOVELORN: I seem to remember an advertisement from back in the day that used this catchphrase: "Normal is what's normal for you."
So yes, this pattern of anger, disrespect, unmet needs, and ending your walks alone is your normal. No doubt other couples interact in similar ways.
Applying a "normal" framework to relationships might slap an "abnormal" label on those relationships that are weird, wacky, challenging, unusual — but happily functioning, anyway. Yours is not. How do I know this? Because you said so.
You and your husband are cycling in a toxic loop. That is your unfortunate norm, and you should try mightily to change the norm, by engaging a professional couple's therapist and making heroic efforts along with your husband to engage with one another in a more positive and peaceful way.
And, if that doesn't work, you should take the long view, asking yourself, "Is this what I want for the rest of my life?"
In the future, do you want to look back and say to yourself, "I stayed in a mismatched and unhappy marriage because, well, it was easier?"
DEAR AMY: I am in a house with my mother, two dogs, my rabbit, and my sister. Since quarantine started, arguments have gone up, and sometimes they are caused by petty things. We never get physical, but the constant arguing is getting to me and my family. The only way I keep myself in a good mood is by hanging out with my animals, but even they are stressed out. Any suggestions?
DEAR STRESSED: You and your family should schedule your days more — working in more alone-time for each family member. You and your sister should take on household chores and put a chart up in a public place, to establish some clarity about who is supposed to do what — and when. This will cut down on some of the tension.
Mindfulness and meditation can help; there are many YouTube videos directing meditation for teens; tips on mindful.org can help you to get started. Do this with your animals!
Make sure you spend some time outside with your dogs, every day. Even if you are only walking around the block (COVID-safe, please), being outside will freshen your perspective and lower your blood pressure.
Your observation that pets feel the stress and tension in the household is astute! They need peace, calm, and predictable routines just as people do.
DEAR AMY: I have had cash, numerous items — and nearly my identity — stolen by a family member during a holiday visit. Please remind readers to get their free annual credit check before the year runs out, and to safeguard all financial information before travel or hosting. This includes mail and medicines. LOCK up your life before guests arrive. Holiday visits provide the opportunity for ID theft and fraud, and it's almost always carried out by a family member. If you have a family member stealing from you, please press charges. You may be the ONE person who gets them into the system where they can get help.
DEAR BEEN THERE: Holiday visits are down this year, but this is good advice at any time.