Husband still hasn’t found his niche in life

I’ve been with my husband for 14 years. I have a career and make good money with excellent benefits.

Dear Annie: I’ve been with my husband for 14 years.

I have a career and make good money with excellent benefits. But “Ben” hasn’t found himself quite yet. He is now in his early 30s and has studied architecture, business, machining, personal training, mechanics, computers and more. He has started a few businesses, all of which fizzled. He has trouble making decisions about a career, and whenever he gets close to finishing what he starts, he second guesses himself and starts a new path. None of the men in his family are particularly confident. I believe he is afraid to fail.

Ben’s mother has always been the family leader and is extremely critical of her husband and children. Anytime he begins a new endeavour, she shoots him down. I try to give him praise to counteract her, but it isn’t enough. While I don’t mind bearing the load financially, I really want to see Ben come into his own. I think it would help our marriage and set a good example for our children.

We recently had a baby, and it’s looking as if Ben will be a stay-at-home dad. This is fine with me, but I wonder if he will ever find a career and thrive in it. Is there anything I can do to help him along, or should I just accept the way things are? Am I crippling him because of my success? Everything else about him is perfect. — Married to Undecided

Dear Married: You are not crippling him. Ben’s problems may stem from attention deficit disorder, his parents or some combination of psychological issues. It would probably take a bit of therapy to unravel the causes and work on changing the way he approaches his life. If the two of you are willing to invest the time and money, suggest he talk to a psychologist.

Dear Annie: A few years ago, I had my first name legally changed. I never liked the one I was given at birth. Had I known how easy the process is, I would have done it when I was 18 instead of waiting until age 29.

All of my friends call me by my new name, as do my co-workers and in-laws. However, in my immediate family, only my sister acknowledges the change. It would mean a great deal to me if my parents and aunts and uncles would call me by my chosen name instead of my birth name, but they refuse, saying, “We have been calling you this for almost 30 years. Don’t expect us to switch now.”

They read your column every day. Perhaps if they see this they will understand and change. — Kentucky

Dear Kentucky: Don’t count on it. We suspect it is a bit hurtful to your parents that you changed your name from the one they gave you. For them, we’d recommend tolerance, pretending your old name is a “family nickname.” But if that isn’t possible for you, try helping them out. Pretend you don’t hear your old name. Give them a minute to remember the new one. Remind them gently when they forget or refuse to use it.