While I’m away, readers give the advice.
On the importance of looking out for yourself:
I just found out that for the last eight and a half years my husband has had no desire for me. Since the month we got married, life has been very difficult (job stresses and illnesses for both of us) and I did not want to pile on more stress for him by saying, “Why aren’t we having sex?”
I wish he had cared enough to bring this up or figure out what to do about it. I wish I hadn’t tried to spare his feelings. For eight years we were united in one quest: to spare his feelings. I did not think about my own and I’ve just found out that he didn’t either. This is devastating and incidentally makes me feel like a complete idiot.
My PSA: Even if you’re in what you think is a completely loving, honeymoon-phase (literally) relationship, you have to keep asking yourself if your own needs are being met. If they aren’t, you have to ask why, even if you think it will be painful for the other person. Martyrdom just doesn’t work.
On neutralizing a parent who plays kids against each other:
My mom and uncle had this exact problem with their mother. By driving her kids apart she stayed the center of attention at the expense of their relationship with each other.
They finally came to an agreement: They didn’t call their mom on the issue — she wasn’t going to change anyway. They just told each other, “Hey, if Mom says I said something and it hurts your feelings, call me and ask me if I said it. I'll tell you if I said it and also clarify the context if necessary.” It made it so their mom couldn’t drive a wedge between them anymore.
On helping kids learn to make tough decisions:
When I was raising my four, I encouraged them to evaluate difficult decisions by envisioning what the result might be a year later. This exercise helps them look at problems realistically and with a cool mind.
Email Carolyn at email@example.com, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at 10 a.m. each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.