DEAR AMY: I am dating a guy who is close to 50. He has a son (age 11), and a daughter (13). My kids are grown and on their own. His ex-wife is very obnoxious and loud. She tries to be very organized but is a bad communicator. She still tries to run her ex-husband’s life! She sends constant reminders about activities. She was coming into his house at her own discretion until I put my foot down. She plans birthday parties and other events on the weekends when he has the children. She plans the summer without his input. Amy, he has allowed all of it! Just because he doesn’t want to ripple the waters! He is a “yes” man and doesn’t want to question anyone. He’d rather pay the wrong price than ask someone to correct it, for instance. I, on the other hand, am not shy. I make sure everything is correct and don’t mind asking someone to get it right. He gets embarrassed. He tries to pretend he isn’t a people-pleaser, but he is! I’m not stupid. How should I handle this?
At the End of My Rope
DEAR AT THE END: At the risk of poking the dragon, I’ll make the observation that your guy has a “type.”
The way you describe his ex-wife, she is controlling, overwhelming and doesn’t respect boundaries.
Like you — your nemesis is “not shy.” Your guy, on the other hand, seems to let assertive women run his life.
You two are dating. Your job is not to change him, but to see if you two are a match. A couples counselor could help you both to navigate some of the more practical issues regarding the running of his household — but it is HIS household, and he has the right to run it the way he wants to.
A counselor might also coach you to appreciate some of his qualities, so that you will stop trying to run him, and start being more of a partner to him.
For an assertive, proactive person like you, being a stepparent — who should really function as the backup parent to the two primary parents — would be extremely challenging. Relinquishing any control would be a tall order. You seem to have elected yourself your guy’s gatekeeper, and of course, the more of this you do, the less he will do — increasing your frustration. Your obvious contempt for him does not bode well.
DEAR AMY: I have been with my husband for 12 years. Recently he has been telling me that he thinks he has autism or Asperger’s. He claims he is socially awkward, and he has oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) because he dislikes taking orders from anyone in a position above him. He refuses to get tests done to find out if he truly needs any help. How can I convince him to see someone to help him improve his day-to-day life? He won’t see any professionals because he thinks he is already set in his ways, and there’s absolutely no way to change who he is (even though he is frustrated with who he is). I just want to get him help if he needs it.
DEAR WORRIED: You don’t mention where your husband is getting his information, but one hazard of researching one’s own personality online is the tendency to self-diagnose.
Take oppositional defiant disorder, for instance. This is a potentially serious diagnosis. But doesn’t everyone dislike taking orders? This tendency does not necessarily mean that he is “disordered,” but — human.
Autism and Asperger’s occur along a wide spectrum, and responsibly researching these syndromes could give your husband some insight, and inspire him to pursue a professional diagnosis. Receiving a diagnosis can be life-changing, not because the person finally has a label that sticks, but because a diagnosis can lead an individual to pursue professional or peer coaching for the healthiest ways to manage. Be gentle and encouraging.
You could start by reading (and sharing) “The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome,” by Tony Attwood (2008, Jessica Kingsley Publishers).
DEAR AMY: Thank you for your stance regarding the status of “step-grandparents.” As a child of divorce, both of my parents and also my grandparents, I was blessed with six grandparents and three great-grandparents growing up. I would never think of labeling any of these loving people as anything other than, “grandparent,” even though not all were blood related. I don’t care what stance Webster’s may have on the issue.
DEAR LOVED: Bingo.