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Too much togetherness tries hen-pecked man’s patience

Staff Writer
Brownwood Bulletin
Jeanne Phillips

DEAR ABBY: Since the coronavirus lockdown began, my wife and I have been cooped up together all day, every day. Though we have lived together for 35 years, she's now discovering that I "don't cook vegetables correctly." (It goes without saying that I'm no longer allowed to prepare the entrees.)

I don't sort the trash the way she thinks it should be, so I can't take out the garbage without her first inspecting it. Not only do I not wash the dishes properly, I don't even wash my face right. Thus far the only thing I seem to be able to do is go to the restroom without her supervision, but I lock the door now just in case she decides to kibitz.

I realize that during this tense time, people feel a loss of control over their own lives and try to compensate however they can. I'm able to hang on to my patience almost all the time, but occasionally I want to either scream at her or look for an apartment of my own. Do you have any advice for either or both of us? -- KEEPING CALM IN THE WEST

DEAR KEEPING CALM: You are far from the only spouse who is experiencing this. Your comment about your wife's hypervigilance and fault-finding being her way of coping with her anxieties is perceptive. If you haven't talked with her (calmly) about how her behavior is affecting you, please do it before you explode.

Being cooped up together all day, every day, isn't healthy for either of you. You both should be getting out separately for at least 30 minutes of walking (60 could be even better) and sunlight every day. The exercise and change of scenery would not only be healthy, but may lower both of your stress levels. However, if that isn't sufficient, the two of you should discuss what's going on with her physician

DEAR ABBY: I am instinctively tight-fisted with money. It's also necessary because my brother and I have been in business for ourselves for only a few years, and we are just now starting to turn a decent profit. My girlfriend earns a good living as a nurse. She is pretty thrifty, but not when it comes to food.

My question is, how much of the bill should I be expected to foot for an expensive dinner I didn't want to go out to, or an overpriced breakfast burrito from some snobby food truck? If I don't look enthusiastic about the prospect of going to one of these places, she says not to worry because she'll pay for it, which makes me feel insecure. Any tips on how to handle this? -- PROUD GUY IN WASHINGTON

DEAR PROUD GUY: Yes. You appear to be an old-fashioned guy who is dating a contemporary woman. Accept her generosity and quit tying your masculinity to how she chooses to spend her own hard-earned money. That said, if you are thinking of marrying her, it would be in both your interests to have premarital counseling to ensure that disagreements about money don't cause serious problems in your marriage.

DEAR ABBY: My husband's nephew passed away last week. He was only 26, and it was a complete shock. No one realized he was using drugs. My husband is attending the funeral (a nine-hour drive) and will be gone for four days. We have two children, ages 7 and 9, and because of the pandemic, we've decided I will stay home with them.

I'm writing to you because my husband doesn't want to tell our kids that their cousin has died -- ever. We don't see his family often -- maybe once every few years -- but the kids remember their cousin, and I'm sure they will ask about him next time we visit.

I think we need to tell them, but he is adamant they never know. Should I fill them in while he's gone or wait until he's ready to break the news? -- FORTHCOMING IN MAINE

DEAR FORTHCOMING: I do not recommend going behind your husband's back with a parenting decision like this one. He may be trying to shield the children from the reality that not only old people but also young people are mortal.

When he returns, approach the kids together, and in an age-appropriate manner, explain to them separately what happened. Many young people experiment with drugs because they think that addiction and death won't happen to them. Knowing what happened to their cousin could ensure it won't happen to either of them.

DEAR ABBY: I have been in a relationship with a guy for a year and a half. We don't live together. During the pandemic, his regular job shut down. He finally got another job and bought lawn equipment to keep in my shed.

His behavior has changed, Abby. I haven't heard from him in weeks. He says men don't call women anymore, and if I want to talk to him, I should call him. How do you know if you are in a relationship if there's no communication? Plus, he gets irritated when I bring it up. -- NOT RIGHT IN THE EAST

DEAR NOT RIGHT: When someone's behavior suddenly changes, there is usually a reason. What that reason may be, I can't guess and neither can you. The dynamic in your relationship with this person is definitely different.

Call him and ask him if his feelings for you have changed. It may be that he is depressed. It may also be he now has a job and is busy. That he becomes irritated when you have tried to raise the subject tells me he is defensive. And that's a red flag.

DEAR ABBY: Is it OK for 70-year-olds to get engaged? Both of us are widowed after long marriages. My wife died two years ago. Her husband passed more than three years ago. I am 77, and she is 75. We are both active and feel lucky to have found love again. We have been a couple for seven months now. I could find nothing about it on the internet.

Also, how long should we be engaged? Could we announce an engagement without setting a wedding date? Should I give her an engagement ring? I am not experienced. My last engagement was in 1961. That marriage lasted 56 years. -- IN THE DARK IN NEW MEXICO

DEAR IN THE DARK: I assume you and this lady are already discussing marriage. While you are doing that, ask her if she would like a ring and whether she would like to join you in selecting one or would prefer to be "surprised." You can announce an engagement without mentioning a wedding date, but because you have been a couple for only seven months, consider formalizing your union on the anniversary of your first meeting.