Dear Annie: My husband and I are trying to figure out how to emotionally support our adult daughter, who is 40 years old. She is going through a very emotional period in her life.
She has been married for about a year, has “major issues” with her spouse and is not certain she can “stay in the relationship.” But from our conversations with her and what we’ve observed, the issues she describes seem to be all “her.” For example, she expects her spouse to give his undivided attention to her all day on his day off from work. She is not even willing to allow chores such as mowing the lawn or doing the laundry to interfere. She doesn’t want him to be reading, talking on the phone or checking emails — just paying full attention to her. Her sister is extremely concerned about her as well.
Her behavior is wacky, and she is highly offended that we are not “supporting” her when she obsessively describes arguments with her spouse. We are all concerned about mental health issues but are at a loss.
We’ve encouraged her to seek therapy, which she has started, but she is already looking for a different therapist. Her sister is going to ask her own therapist for advice on how to be more supportive. We’ll do the same.
But we can’t bring ourselves to agree with her that the spousal behaviors are abusive, because they simply are not. This opinion is based on what we’ve observed firsthand; not by what she says about what happens. We can say, “we are so sorry you are unhappy,” but this is not the affirmation she is seeking from us. This family dynamic is new to us and is stressing us all out. Any advice? — Stressed Out Family
Dear Stressed Out Family: It does sound like your daughter could be suffering from a mental illness, or maybe just extreme insecurity or narcissism. Regardless of the diagnosis, which hopefully her new therapist will be able to make, you are also suffering. The best thing to do is to consult a professional yourself about how best to support your daughter during this difficult time of her life — and yours.
Dear Annie: You recently published a letter from a person whose father had died, and whose sister refused to tell her 6-year-old child about the loss. There is a resource that would be useful to the sister: ChildrensRoom.org. — Sympathetic in Boston
Dear Sympathetic in Boston: Thank you for your suggestion. I hope this brings her more comfort.
Dear Annie: I was in a similar situation as “Grieving Grandmother” but just the opposite. My grandmother and parents did not like my choice of spouse, so we were uninvited to family gatherings. At first, I was hurt, and then I thought, “who cares?” So for the last 30 years, my holiday gatherings on Thanksgiving and Christmas have been filled with my “new” family. Seniors whose children don’t have time for them. Young people whose parents cut them off because they are LGBTQ or different. Widows and widowers, and other various “forgotten “ people. They are not forgotten in my house. For the last 30 years, my life and home have been filled with joy, laughter and happiness. My advice to that grandmother is to write those so-called daughters-in-law off and surround herself with others that will love her and want to spend holidays with a woman who loves and wants to host them. She won’t regret it. — Grandfather to Those Without
Dear Grandfather to Those Without: Surrounding yourself with supportive and loving people is always important, and will make you feel more supported and nourished.
“Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie” is out now! Annie Lane’s debut book — featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette — is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to email@example.com.