DEAR AMY: My wife and I have been married for 25 years. In most respects we continue to have a very solid relationship. We enjoy talking and doing things together, and we have a lot in common. We have been semi-retired for 10 years. We spend a lot of time together. If there is one challenge that never seems to resolve itself, however, it is my wife's claims that I have either not listened to her, or that I have misinterpreted something she says. She stores away every instance of my "failures" in this area, so that each time I miss or forget something she has said, she becomes frustrated and upset. These miscommunications usually involve minor issues relating to house maintenance, shopping and scheduling. This happens every few weeks. In my view, considering how much time we spend together, these episodes are not serious enough to evoke her building frustration, which then spills over. I have apologized often, but have also told her that I am human and am going to forget things on occasion or misinterpret what she says. She invariably says that these situations are examples of a lack of respect for her. I feel I am under a microscope and that she is growing intolerant to the point that it poses a threat to the marriage. She insists that there is no other underlying grievance involved. I would like to try to improve things before recommending marriage counseling. Any advice?


DEAR CARING: Holding onto grievances is a terrible habit, in part because your wife's feelings and outbursts then become the focus of your communication. If she wants you to continue to work on controlling or changing your own habits, she should work on her own.

You two should have regular family meetings where you review household matters. Even though you see one another all the time, sitting down with intention will be good for your relationship.

Always close these meetings the way a good journalist closes an important interview: "Is there anything important we haven't discussed? Is there anything more you'd like to tell me?"

And before you two part, look her in the eyes and say, "Honey, I'm flawed. I make mistakes. But I appreciate you." Does she deserve this response? Maybe not. But do it anyway.

Leading with a loving reaction should disarm, charm, and inspire her to behave differently.

DEAR AMY: For the past 10 years I have had a difficult relationship with my younger brother, who lives in Germany. Things got very bad when I found out he had molested his daughter for most of her teen years. He vehemently denied this accusation. My niece is not physically or emotionally strong enough to bring her father to justice, and now my brother has no relationship with her at all. He also wouldn't let me see our mother at her house. My mother became very afraid of him when he began to run her life, so in the end we could only spend time together by going to a restaurant. She passed away 5 years ago. I received an email from my brother, saying he wants to try "one more time" to have a relationship since our family has become very small, and we are getting old. He says we should just forget about "the little differences." I don't even know this guy anymore. He has never been part of my life, and has never visited me in the U.S. in the 40 years I've lived here. I feel like I will be betraying my niece if I have a relationship with him; I think he is a monster and should be behind bars. I have not replied to his email and am waiting to hear what you have to say.


DEAR WONDERING: Responding to a "bid" is not the same as having a relationship. I think you should respond very briefly and simply and see what he wants, and why. This could be the opportunity to you to very honestly tell him what you think of him. You have the right to confront him over these "little differences," which don't sound little at all.

DEAR AMY: "Wayward Dad" described his anguish over his distant relationship with his son and grandchildren, who lived 3000 miles away. My husband and I dealt with this by leaving our town and our friends, picking up and moving to be near our family. We treasure our closeness to the kids, and now travel great distances to see our pals.

Works for Us

DEAR WORKS: A great solution.

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