DEAR AMY: My partner and I have been together for more than 15 years. We are not married, and now we are in our 40s. He developed a serious health issue after we became serious in our relationship. For the past many years, he has had an “apron” of extra weight, and is far over the safety range, worsening his condition. Our families are very supportive of us getting married, especially because he nearly died on us three years ago. Even with all my education, research, and all my dedication to his situation, I have had little influence on what he does, or eats, or if he exercises. I have tried to show him that we can stay together forever, just as things are. But I have also tried to explain to him that financially, we need to be married to secure our retirement. He is on disability, and I have spent the past 10 years working from home to be here for him. Neither of us has a high enough income to make it independently once we hit retirement age. I want guidance on how to motivate him to make good decisions. I have tried to get him to go to counseling, or support groups. He won’t do either, but is clearly suffering from long-term depression resulting from the many problems that his condition has caused. I cannot motivate him. I say the “Serenity Prayer” every single day, but there has to be something else that would work. Do you have any recommendations?
Desperately Seeking Enlightenment
DEAR DESPERATELY SEEKING: I admire your dedication to your partner. However, despite your acknowledgment that you cannot motivate him, you continue to pin your hopes on some sort of magic bullet that will make him seek the help he obviously needs.
Unfortunately, you don’t seem to have fully accepted the “Serenity Prayer’s” central message, which is that God should grant you the strength to accept that which you cannot change.
When we truly love someone, we promise to try to carry our loved one’s burdens. But at some point, you need to explore the idea that you might be part of the problem. In fact, you may actually be removing some motivation to try to take better care of himself. For instance, if you didn’t sacrifice your own career and financial needs in order to be home with him, you would leave the home to work, and possibly make more money for your own retirement, negating the financial need for marriage, and he would have to develop strategies to take care of himself.
This is your reality. Counseling (for you), might awaken you to the idea that you need to take better care of yourself.
DEAR AMY: My husband goes to his mother to discuss issues in our relationship. After discovering this, and discussing it with my husband, I find out that his mother has a few very inaccurate and/or nasty opinions about a few of our issues, and has actually straightened him out on one. Nevertheless, I feel embarrassed and humiliated that our issues are shared with her without my knowledge, participation or consent. Also, why can’t we find our own way? She is meddling, and he is inviting her to do it. Any advice?
DEAR SHUT OUT: My advice is for your husband. He may receive helpful advice or comfort when he confides in his mother regarding his marital issues, but when he does so he creates an untenable situation for you. His mother is not around to see you two resolve issues; she no doubt has a distorted view of your marriage.
Your husband’s most intimate relationship should be with you. If he wants to maintain a peaceful household and extended family, he will have to find someone to confide in who doesn’t have personal or emotional skin in the game. He should help you to have a healthy relationship with his mother by being circumspect regarding problems, and confide in and discuss his marital issues with a friend or a counselor.
DEAR AMY: Thank you for your helpful response to “Heartbroken Mom,” whose 13-year-old daughter was in a “dating” relationship. I only take issue with one thing. At the end of your answer you advise the mother to “scan” her daughter’s social media accounts. I thought you had to be 14 to get on social media!
DEAR READER: One survey I read noted that an estimated half of all 13-year-olds have social media accounts. I think that ship has sailed.