DEAR AMY: I want out of my marriage, but I have a darling 5-year-old daughter and don’t want to ruin her life by leaving her dad. I am also terrified at being financially ruined, since we live in California, a community property state. We have been married for eight years. After we were married, I bought a house (encouraged by him — he is a carpenter and said we should get a fixer-upper). It’s in my name, and I pay the mortgage, insurance and taxes. The house is in my name because he has a low income and high debt. I thought our arrangement wasn’t fair and asked him to contribute more. He simply said no and walked away. He refuses to fix our own broken faucet. When I try talking with him about raising our child or managing our house, he says “no,” changes the subject or becomes hostile. I have visited divorce lawyers for three years in a row. I’ve always changed my mind because I believe that to raise our beautiful child, I will have to figure out a way to communicate with him anyway. We live in a silent house in which we ignore each other. He loves his daughter, but doesn’t spend much time with her. I insisted he come to couples counseling, and we went once. He never mentioned it again. I gave up. He is not there for me emotionally, physically or financially. I work full time; his income is inconsistent. Under California law, I might have to pay him alimony, share part of my pension or sell the house and share the profits. How do I get out of this marriage without sending my daughter a message that I am giving up?
DEAR WORRIED: You are very worried about the finances, but your husband’s share of your pension will be less now than later, and alimony will amount to less now than if you wait.
There are many families that simply can’t afford to divorce. If so, then you’ll have to stay together, or at least cohabit.
I don’t think divorce universally sends a negative message about “giving up.” Sometimes, it is simply an unavoidable casualty of a broken relationship that cannot be fixed. If you and your husband don’t give up on your daughter, then that is what will be most meaningful to her.
Many parents communicate better after they split, when there is less tension rising from cohabiting. You communicate about your child, and that’s all. You don’t have to passively try to negotiate your way into getting your spouse to do something he doesn’t intend to do (plumbing, for instance). You just do everything yourself.
DEAR AMY: My husband, who is generally loving and good-humored, has become a snarling, rage-filled, red-faced, frustrated guy over the political shenanigans of the current presidential race. He is not (nor has he ever been) violent toward me, but he is so obviously angry that it is affecting our lives. We are retirees and spend a great deal of time together — but it is not very enjoyable. Any advice on coping with his outbursts and maintaining a pleasant home?
Tired of it Already
DEAR TIRED: This is a more common dynamic recently, as the current political climate excites and enrages people.
One suggestion is to be very intentional about media use in your household. You cannot control what your husband reads and watches, but you can (and should) discuss ways to lower the media temperature at home.
Your husband’s venting may seem benign to him because it is not about you, but remind him that it is directed toward you and that it affects the way you see him.
You should not quietly tolerate behavior that is intolerable. The next time your husband rages, it might be best for you to leave the house. Tell him to get in touch once he has simmered down.
DEAR AMY: “Wondering Parent” touched off a firestorm with her assertion that washing a child’s mouth out with soap is abusive. I can’t believe you agreed with this nonsense. No wonder our younger generation is so useless — their parents have never disciplined them! I did this with my kids and they survived. They were and are well-behaved and they seem to like their parents.
DEAR DISGUSTED: A child who is well-disciplined won’t need soap shoved into his mouth. If you had been a different kind of parent, you wouldn’t have felt the need to resort to this ridiculous punishment. Children survive all sorts of treatment. “Survival” sets a low standard.