Dear Annie: I finally realized that I cannot change people or their behaviors. I can only change mine. Now, how I react? I am working on that.
The situation: My 52-year-old life partner, “Ed,” assists his 80-year-old mother, “Laurie,” with everything. Ed is not in the greatest shape; he has gone to the ER regarding chest issues and is sore all the time. Still, he will not stop assisting her.
A few weekends ago, I overheard him telling her I was not feeling well, but that if she wanted to, she could come by for a quick cup of coffee. I retired to my bedroom. She came over, didn’t come in and dropped off dinner.
I was furious. I guess, in her view, I am not taking care of him. Trust me, her son is being fed. Why am I cooking and grocery shopping if she’s just going to make his dinners, too? Is there any respect for the fact that he is an adult and someone is already here for him?
Annie, Ed already sees his mom during the week. On the weekends, I just want us to be able to relax together.
Through the years, she’s been overbearing and overwhelming. Lots of times, we could not even go out without her getting upset if we didn’t invite her. I have done years of counseling, only to fine-tune this scenario.
Lately, I am looking to relocate to another town. Ed needs to downsize and needs a change, but he won’t move because of his mother.
I know this is Ed’s business, but it’s impacting my life, too. This grown man needs to decide what he’s doing and maybe put his foot down. And his mother needs to accept that he has a woman who is capable of taking care of him and wants to be out with just him.
— Merry-Go-Round and Round
Dear Merry-Go-Round: It’s all well and good to say that you realize you can’t change other people. The real work comes in when it’s time to act like it.
Instead of assuming you know what Ed needs and wants, sit down with him for a heart-to-heart and ask. Express to him that you’d like quality time with him during the weekends, sans Mom. And see if he’s at all open to the idea of moving, if that’s something you’re serious about (and not just an effort to get him away from his mother).
You two have been together for years: There shouldn’t be anything you can’t talk about. Since therapy was an asset for you in the past, consider giving it another shot (and perhaps inviting Ed to join you).
Also, take a step back and reflect on whether this so-called merry-go-round has warped your perspective. From where I’m standing, someone bringing you dinner while you’re ill is a thoughtful gesture, not an attack.
Dear Annie: I work in higher education with intelligent people whom I have great respect for, but I think many of them need a lesson in the way they speak to others.
My issue is their constant use of the word “right” when ending their sentences during a conversation or meeting. I get that they are doing it to emphasize a point, but I find it extremely condescending and inappropriate.
— When Right Is Wrong
Dear When Right Is Wrong: I’ve noticed the uptick of this tic in recent years. I think for most it’s an attempt at being conversational, but I agree that it comes across as condescending. Some speech trends come and go; some stick around. Let’s hope this is of the first category.
Dear Annie: I read your piece on mourning after the loss of a preterm baby. I have experienced this pain three times years ago. My wife’s friends were very supportive and understanding. However, in no case did anyone ask how I was doing with this loss.
Fathers are supposed to be strong and support their wives or partners. It is often the case that divorce stems from the inability of one partner to soothe the other, which results in a growing distance between the two. Just wanted you to hear from a grieving father’s perspective.
— Grieving Father
Dear Grieving Father: Thank you for your letter and for offering the father’s perspective. You highlight a little-known fact. Fathers grieve as well and need support.
In addition, your conclusion that partners need to support each other in their grief is key. No one else in the world, except the two of you, loved your baby as much as you did. It sounds like you and your wife remembered that and have allowed these tragedies to be experiences that have strengthened your marriage.
Dear Annie: There are many suburban areas where street parking is uncommon, and parking in front of your neighbor’s house is considered poor manners. Many homeowners’ associations discourage extended street parking, and some prohibit it altogether. One’s guests should park in their host’s driveway or in front of their host’s yard, overflowing in front of the neighbors’ yards only when necessary.
There is a family in our neighborhood that has four vehicles, yet the drivers only park two of them in the driveway and garage. There is plenty of room. They have a four-car driveway and a two-car garage. But they park their two older vehicles in front of their neighbor’s yard. That’s just bad manners.
— Not So Neighborly
Dear Not So Neighborly: Thank you for pointing out what is good suburban parking etiquette.
Annie Lane, a graduate of New York Law School and New York University, writes this column for Creators Syndicate. Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.