Dear Annie: How do you deal with a cold, indifferent, dysfunctional family?
I was attracted to my husband, “Chuck,” in part because I thought he had a warm, loving family. Boy, was I wrong. In 21 years, they have never embraced me or made me feel welcome.
My widowed mother recently passed away. She was sick for many months, and Chuck’s family was updated daily on her condition. The week she died was rough, and having my in-laws’ support and love would have been nice. At no time did any of them call to offer words of kindness.
My husband specifically asked his mother to call me because he felt I could use a friend, but she couldn’t bring herself to do it. When Mom passed away, my husband’s aunts and uncles found out from other friends because my mother-in-law hadn’t bothered to tell them. It’s been a week, and neither my husband’s mother nor his sister has called to offer sympathy. They sent me a card in the mail.
These people are emotionally disconnected. I have never understood why they don’t want a relationship with me. This last incident has hurt to the core and is causing problems in my marriage. What is wrong with these people? How do I move on? — Insignificant in the Midwest
Dear Midwest: Some people are so uncomfortable with illness and death that they cannot bring themselves to be a source of comfort. And there are others who are simply emotionally closed off. We know your in-laws have been a disappointment to you, but you are not likely to change them, and your grief is making it difficult to let go of your bitterness. This hurts your marriage, which exacerbates the problem with the in-laws. Please ask at the hospital for the name of a grief counsellor. You need to take this one step at a time.
Dear Annie: I think my husband has some kind of compulsive disorder. I’m a frugal person and buy only what I need. My husband, on the other hand, buys without thinking. He used to stock up on pants and shirts that he never wore. Then it was videos that we ended up giving away in their original packaging. Now he is spending hundreds of dollars on DVDs and CDs that he neither watches nor listens to. He puts the collection in a cabinet to show off to friends and family. He also saves newspaper clippings, old greeting cards, invitations, etc.
Our home is getting really crowded, and I hate to see so much money wasted on things neither of us uses. What can I do? — Canada
Dear Canada: It is not unusual to have a DVD collection, but if your husband is keeping old greeting cards and newspaper clippings, it could be an early manifestation of hoarding. Assign one area of your home where he can keep his latest collection. Every month, the two of you should agree to go through the rest of his accumulated odds and ends, decide what is worth keeping and get rid of the rest. If he refuses or is unwilling to part with anything, it may be time for professional intervention.
Dear Annie: You missed two very important points in your response to “Kay,” who was fired without a reasonable explanation. Companies don’t usually hire novices to “thin the ranks.” And more importantly, businesses often fire senior employees because of their age.
Kay’s situation sounds like a good candidate for an investigation into age discrimination. If she is being replaced with a younger worker, she should contact an attorney who specializes in unlawful terminations. It happens every day, and businesses get away with it because their victims don’t fight back. — Pennsylvania
Dear Penn.: When someone says “in all my 18 years of working,” we figure she must be under 45 and age discrimination is not likely. But you are right that it happens often enough, and those who believe they have been dismissed due to their age should seek legal counsel.