Dear Annie: We live five hours from our daughter, “Barbara,” her husband, “Seth,” and their two kids. We visit them once a year.
Seth completely ignores us. The last time we arrived, our daughter and grandchildren hugged us, but Seth sat with his back to us. He didn’t even say hello. When my husband went to talk to him, Seth walked out of the room. Each time we go there, he becomes a little worse. We send him birthday and Christmas gifts, and he never responds. We have no idea why he hates us. When he does talk to us, he mostly discusses his new hobby: shooting defenseless animals. He knows we are repulsed by this, yet he prattles on about how he plans to take his daughter with him on hunting trips.
He seems to be a good father, although he is very condescending toward our daughter. Barbara claims that Seth is a terrific husband, and she loves being a stay-at-home mom. But she looks pale and thin and rarely smiles. We are worried about her.
Maybe Barbara doesn’t want to ruin things for the kids, but honestly, we think she’s delusional. We love her, but don’t know how to change Seth’s attitude. Any ideas?
— Sad Grandparents
Dear Sad: The fact that Seth likes to hunt is his business as long as he has the proper licenses. We don’t recommend you debate the issue, because you are unlikely to find common ground. We agree that he is rude, but unless Barbara can convince him to be more polite, it’s best to lower your expectations and ignore his behavior.
The more pressing issue is Barbara’s health. Is she truly too pale and thin, or are you projecting? If you believe there is abuse, report it to the authorities. Meanwhile, please reach out to your daughter without denigrating her husband, which will make her defend him. Ask how she’s feeling. Talk to her often. Invite her to bring the kids to visit you, with or without Seth. See for yourself what’s really going on.
Dear Annie: I can’t remember the last time my wife and I were intimate. She even refuses to snuggle in bed. It’s not about sex. She pushed me away so many times it put a knife through my heart. I finally gave up. If I try to talk about it, she becomes angry and refuses to discuss it. She refuses counseling, too. We get along fine in other areas, but I guess that’s only a front. I tried counseling on my own and was told to decide whether to stay or move on.
I have now found someone else. I talk to her online every day. We’ve hugged and kissed. I have fallen in love, and she says the same, but neither of us wants to destroy our families. Please tell all spouses, male or female, that sex doesn’t have to be the only part of intimacy. Show your spouse you love him or her. My heart is broken that I had to find someone else to fill that gap, but I have no intention of letting her go now.
— No Name
Dear No Name: We appreciate your honesty, although cheating is not a satisfactory solution. Would it help if you told your wife exactly what she is risking? If she won’t listen, show her this column. Explain that you will not ask for sex if she will simply show affection. (We realize this is not ideal, but it’s an improvement.) Women often don’t realize how much men need a physical touch to feel loved.
Dear Annie: Many years ago, I was in the same position as “Busy Mom,” with five children, farm chores and a huge garden. My house looked lived-in, to say the least. One day, my wonderful aunt said to me, “Don’t worry, Marg. It’s clean dirt.” Bless her heart.
— Manitoba, Canada
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