Direct Answers – Column for the week of July 29, 2002
A few months after my divorce I started seeing a friend of my ex-wife. She told me I really needed a person that would appreciate me. We had a great sex life, and she told me anytime was fine. I told her I never heard that before, but she said she was different.
After a year she asked when we were going to buy a house. I said, “If you want to, we will.” I used my money to buy the house, and our sex life changed as soon as we moved in. Her life is now centered around her young son from a previous marriage, and when he goes to bed, she goes to bed.
This has been going on since we bought the house four years ago. We never would have bought the house if our relationship was like this before.
Kennan, you knew how important a vital sexual relationship was for you. Some part of you sensed it was too good to be true. When you questioned her, she allayed your fears, but those fears have come to pass.
Time complicated the situation. After four years your girlfriend is likely to feel nothing but anger when you confront her, but confront her you must.
What really is the issue? Is it sex, or is there not enough love between the two of you for physical intimacy to be a natural part of your relationship? If there isn’t a connection which allows intimacy, there isn’t a connection which allows this relationship to continue.
Breaking With Tradition
I have a problem with my husband’s grandmother. From the beginning, I welcomed and accepted his grandmother openly. I did not question her motives and accepted her for who she is.
The problem is this woman is the source of gossip in the family and dwells on pitting my husband and his brother against each other in petty competitions. This carries over and includes the wives.
I am a born-again Christian and the peacemaker in the family, and I am tired of it. I am tired of petty competitions like who gave the best birthday present. I told each and every woman the gossip must stop!
Life is too short to spend on negative issues and fighting. How can I teach my children healthy conflict resolution if this woman continually hurts us and starts fights? She is in her 70s and too late to change I guess.
Josee, your desire to teach your children healthy conflict resolution is excellent. It is a much needed skill, but it assumes at least a minimal willingness on the part of the other person to play. Sometimes that just isn’t the case.
So it is with your husband’s grandmother. She has been doing damage to her family for decades, and barring some profound event like a near-death experience, she isn’t likely to change.
Dealing effectively with her is more like housebreaking a puppy than conflict resolution. A behavioral approach is what is called for. Behaviorism has strong overtones of manipulation which we don’t approve of, but with intractable behavior it can be the only answer.
Perhaps you will choose to praise her when she makes positive comments, and remain silent and ignore negative comments. Or perhaps you will simply let her know you and your children will promptly leave in the presence of infighting or negative comparisons.
Whatever you decide, keep to your plan as faithfully as if housebreaking a puppy. You might also look for a book on behavioral analysis, especially one dealing with the rules for shaping behavior.
Many people marry into toxic families. Spending less time with them and more time with people who value what you value will make your life more enjoyable. Even more importantly, it will give your children the opportunity to see the difference between productive, mature behavior and its opposite.
Wayne & Tamara