Dear Annie: I am 57 years old. My wife and I have been married for 20 years, and we don't have kids. My wife always had nieces and nephews to occupy her time and now spends time with their children. I was self-employed and recently got a lucrative hourly position that takes a lot of my time, even more with forced overtime and travel back and forth.
I have always been swamped with projects, both mandatory house maintenance and updating and forward-looking projects on my properties and a hobby car. Lately, I have been reflecting on my life and where I'm at. I cannot find a single instance of a project in which my wife did anything to benefit the house. I can understand not helping on my other properties, but the house where we both live? Yes, she takes care of the laundry, cooks dinner and mows the lawn, albeit with a push mower that takes her five times as long as the riding mower would.
I have done remodeling and left the debris lying out just to see how long she would step over it before sweeping up. In one case, it lay there for a couple of months. It was her little niece who finally noticed it and immediately grabbed a broom. There's a door to our house that's had tape around the glass for four years. She's been saying for four years she is about to start sanding, staining and varnishing it.
Do I bring this partner along with me into retirement to enjoy the fruits of my labor? Currently, while I am swamped beyond belief with work, she is literally at the park flying a kite with her niece.
Yes, I've snapped at her before. I've told her that a sandwich at noon, at least, would be nice. -- Overwhelmed in Michigan
Dear Overwhelmed: You've snapped, but have you tried speaking? It's possible that your wife has no idea how profoundly this is bothering you; she may even think you like doing home improvement projects. The only way to know is to talk about it. I get the impression that you see your home as an extension of your relationship. Explain that to her, and tell her how when she neglects projects and doesn't pitch in, it feels as if she just doesn't care. Give her the chance to step up and show that she cares.
Keep in mind that you can develop a peculiar type of farsightedness after living with someone for a long time. You have 20/20 vision when seeing that person's flaws but blindness when it comes to your own. So have some more compassion, and recognize the things your wife does do for the house. Step away from the tally board while you try really working this out.
Let go of grudges
Dear Annie: Here is an additional response to "Sickened," the man who became distant with his wife after finding out about relationships she had before they met: The greatest disservice in your unloving attitude to your wife may have been to your son. You wasted a lot of years in which you could have been his greatest role model for his marriage. Instead, he learned from you how to be distant and unfaithful to one's marriage vows. How very sad. It may not be too late. That's up to you. -- Toni
Dear Toni: I was so focused on how he had neglected his marriage that I didn't think to address the way this surely impacted his son. I agree with your suggestion and encourage "Sickened" to make this right. Thank you.