Bolster sister’s confidence; stay neutral about marriage

Dear Annie: My sister, "Jenny," and her husband have been married 10 years and have two children. For nine of those years, Jenny has been miserable. The two of them fight constantly, and normal conversations turn into disagreements. They are so loud the neighbors can hear them.

Jenny and her husband never do anything as a couple, including vacations, dinner out, etc. He has never complimented Jenny, never told her she looked nice or cooked a good meal. My sister, after years of complaining about it, finally told him she wants a divorce, but her confidence is so low, she doesn’t have the courage to actually leave him. There is always some excuse. Twice she went to counseling but hasn’t gone back. She sounds and looks depressed, and the kids are beginning to notice that something is wrong. Her counselor suggested her husband come in to talk, but he refuses. He sees nothing wrong with the marriage.

I want Jenny to go back to counseling. She’s beautiful, smart and talented — something her husband doesn’t appreciate. I’m hoping she will see this letter in your column. Please, Annie, tell her to go back to counseling. She deserves to be happy. — Worried Sister

Dear Sister: It’s hard to stand by and watch someone you love make choices you feel are wrong, but Jenny may have other reasons to stay in her marriage — including two children whose lives will be turned upside down by a divorce. We agree if she is miserable, she should go back to her counselor and work on this. Meanwhile, try to remain neutral about the marriage while building up Jenny’s confidence by letting her know how terrific you think she is.

Dear Annie: My husband and I have been married 20 years. It is a second marriage for both of us. We each have grown children from our previous marriages.


My children come regularly for visits. We even take vacations together. We try to include my husband’s kids, but they always say they have other plans. My stepchildren have not been to our home in over five years. We travel to see them, but only on their schedule. Last time it was barely three hours, because they had to attend a birthday party — for their daughter. I told them we would love to come along, but they insisted we wouldn’t enjoy it.

I have asked if we have done something wrong, and they always say they love us but are just busy. My husband has been quite ill and has problems walking. It’s hard for him to travel, but it’s the only way he can see his children.

How can I help them understand how much their father would appreciate a visit or telephone call? — Hurting for My Husband

Dear Hurting: We assume your husband is divorced from the children’s mother. Loyalty to her could be one reason they avoid him and don’t include Grandpa in birthday celebrations where Grandma is likely to be present. Call your stepchildren, tell them their father has been very ill and say he’d love for them to visit. Divorce can create rifts that are hard to bridge, but we hope neither of you will give up.

Dear Annie: I’ve noticed you’ve printed several letters regarding loved ones who exhibit emotional instability through temper tantrums, hatefulness, spitefulness, etc. I’ve been one of those people.

It turns out I had a thyroid problem, despite "normal" test results. An unsuspecting thyroid problem (at any age) can be the cause of unhealthy behavior, as well as mental and physical distress. Proper diagnosis can be a lifesaver to the sufferer and loved ones alike. — A Recovering Underactive Thyroid Sufferer

Dear Thyroid Sufferer: Thanks for the reminder that some personality issues are indicative of physical problems.

Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. E-mail questions to, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, P.O. Box 118190, Chicago, IL 60611.

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