DEAR AMY: My partner of three years and I are very happy together and love each other. We are in our mid-20s, live together and have discussed future plans, although neither of us feels ready for marriage yet. We both agree that in the next five to 10 years, we'd like to be married with kids. My qualm is this: He doesn't think that a lifelong commitment is realistic. He thinks that after an unspecified amount of time divorce or unhappiness are inevitable and that no two people can sustain a happy relationship "forever." I almost want to ask if he sees himself married (to anyone) and keeping separate retirement accounts -- but he might actually think that's a good idea. Can you suggest a more level-headed approach? I want to know if I'm wasting my time with someone who does not want the same future I do. There are good reasons people split up, but I think making this commitment with an exit plan creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. What do you think?
DEAR ANXIOUS: Your guy has one thing right: Unhappiness is an absolute guarantee -- in life and certainly in marriage. If he is freaked out by the mere prospect of unhappiness and planning to bolt (or be abandoned by you), then he has a problem bigger than mere pessimism.
There is what you call "exit-strategy" planning, and then there is planning for the downside. The downside is inevitable, but an exit is avoidable. If you fully intend to marry this man, then yes -- separate finances and separate saving for retirement is definitely called for (although wealth you accumulate during the marriage may already be considered shared marital assets).
More important is the question of why you would cast your lot in with someone who has declared his own self-fulfilling prophesy.
Sometimes, all that holds a marriage together is the belief in the commitment you and your spouse share and your devotion to the institution, itself, along with your own memory of the optimistic and loving attitude with which you both entered it. If you two do move closer toward marrying, you should both commit to premarital counseling, big time.
DEAR AMY: I'm pregnant with my mom's second grandson and feel hurt that she only wants to come visit me two or three times a year, even though she lives an hour away. I have offered to visit her numerous times but she either lies to me that she is away or says she busy. I'm getting resentful. I constantly receive texts from her that she loves and misses her grandson and me, but I just don't buy it. She divorced my abusive alcoholic father in 2011 and since then seems to live a secluded, destructive life drinking and smoking alone in her apartment. I have even received worried messages from her co-worker about her drinking. I feel like maybe she avoids me because she can't get loaded while visiting me. Am I wrong to assume? I'm at a loss as to what to do or say. I feel hurt and helpless to help her and our relationship is suffering!
From Sad Daughter
DEAR SAD DAUGHTER: Given the details you provide your take on your mother's behavior makes sense. If her addictions are calling the shots, then you and the children (and friends and work) will take a back seat to her immediate needs.
When you receive texts from her telling you how much she misses you -- believe her. Respond, "I know -- I miss you too, Mom. I wish we could see one another. Please let me know if there is ever a good time." Because of both of your parents' alcoholism, you are at heightened risk. Part of your self-care should include attending Al-anon meetings, if possible. Also read, "Perfect Daughters: Adult Daughters of Alcoholics," by Robert Ackerman (2002, Health Communications, Inc.).
DEAR AMY: Regarding your suggestion to "Torn," whose obnoxious friend invited him but not his wife to his "special" birthday party, I would reply with, 'I'm glad I'm important to you. But my wife is far more important to me than you are."
DEAR JO: Great response. I wish I'd thought of it.