Dear Annie: When my husband and I married, we said vows that included “for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health,” until death. I am now 65, and my husband and I are both retired. We have money, but my husband does not want to give me any for any reason, including gas and groceries. I receive Social Security benefits, but my monthly insurance payment eats most of it. My husband also has accounts at different banks in his name only. If something were to happen to him, I couldn’t use these accounts for our household bills.
My husband is facing major surgery soon. Here’s the real problem: He wants some distant lady friend to be at his surgery. I’ve never met her. He only first contacted her a couple of months ago and refuses to tell me her last name. I don’t want this woman here. She is a stranger to me, and I would be uncomfortable having her around. What should I do?
— Very Upset Wife
Dear Wife: It sounds as if your husband met some woman online and wants a little romance. There is no reason for this woman to be present during your husband’s surgery. But worse than a fling is the fact that he is keeping income from you, setting up separate accounts to which you have no access and denying you money for groceries and gas. Controlling the money is a form of abuse. Please call the Domestic Violence Hotline (thehotline.org) at 1-800-799-7233 for information and resources.
Dear Annie: When my husband and I recently visited his sister, her husband said something very racist. He recounted how he had interviewed a black woman for a job for which she was perfectly qualified, but had declined to hire her because he “didn’t want to work with black people.”
I was shocked and disgusted by his racist attitude. I didn’t speak up because I didn’t want to be confrontational, but the incident has been on my mind ever since. I wish I had pointed out that his attitude is not only racist, but also illegal.
I love my sister-in-law, but I am reluctant to bring my children into a household where such bigotry is accepted. How do I stand up against racism without damaging my relationship with my sister-in-law?
— Principles or Family?
Dear Principles: You don’t have to avoid your sister-in-law. You only need to stand up for what’s right in a way that doesn’t alienate her. Should her husband say anything racist in your presence, reply calmly, “I strongly disagree with your position and would appreciate it if you didn’t say such things.” Then change the subject. Later, when you have a private moment with your children, express your views on the subject and explain why you disagree with “Uncle Bob.” You cannot protect your children from every reprehensible thing they will see or hear. The best inoculation is to teach them your values in a way that makes sense to them and will stick.
Dear Annie: I read the letter from “Frustrated,” the president of an organization that has a member who disrupts every meeting. I’ll bet a copy of that letter appears on meeting room bulletin boards all over the country. While the women’s organization I belong to doesn’t have one member with all of those disruptive characteristics, we certainly have members exhibiting each of them. And I have to include myself on the list — I’m too often the know-it-all.
Thanks for printing that letter. I hope your answer encourages some meeting chairs to control the proceedings more firmly and some group members to examine their behavior more closely. I will.
— Small Town Club Member
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