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Wife with debilitating illness get little help from husband

Brownwood Bulletin
Jeanne Phillips

DEAR ABBY: I am a young woman who has battled rheumatoid arthritis and Sjogren's syndrome for the past eight years. My aunt passed away from complications of it at the age of 43, and I'm getting close to that age.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, I have become increasingly disabled. I can barely get out of bed without being in pain and cannot sleep. Household chores have become impossible, and I can get things done only near the end of the day when the swelling in my joints goes down.

I saw how this disease robbed my aunt of her livelihood, but I also saw how my uncle helped her with almost everything. I love my husband, but he seems to think that I can just take a pill and instantly and magically be fine, which is not true. He has unrealistic expectations of me that I cannot meet.

I have tried to get him to understand this is a chronic disease that will be with me for the rest of my life, and I have given him material to read, but he dismisses it. At this point, I feel like packing up and leaving because I'm a burden to him and I don't know what else to do anymore. Advice? -- FULL OF PAIN

DEAR FULL OF PAIN: Packing up and leaving right now is not advisable. When couples promise each other they will stick together "in sickness and in health," situations like the one in which you find yourself is what's meant.

Does your doctor know the degree to which your health has declined in the last several months? If not, put the person on notice! Schedule a consultation, if possible, and when you do, your husband should be with you so he can fully understand what's going on and help you if you need it. If he isn't capable of doing that, you will have to make other arrangements for your care and for the housework you can no longer manage.

Please stop beating yourself up over this. You have done nothing wrong. Your husband could just as easily be the unwell spouse, if fate hadn't decided otherwise.

DEAR ABBY: My friend just ended a relationship with her boyfriend of over two years that had progressed to them moving in together. About eight months ago, she found out he was having an online relationship, but they talked it out and decided to give it another try. Now, after learning he has another woman on the line, she kicked him out.

Abby, he is working to get her back, and she seems to want to give him another chance. I think it's a losing game for her and more disappointment down the line. My question is, how honest should I be about my unwillingness to go along with giving him a third chance? It seems like this leopard won't change his spots. -- CRYSTAL BALL IN MISSOURI

DEAR CRYSTAL BALL: If you haven't already expressed your feelings to your friend, and she asks you for your opinion, be fully honest regarding your concerns about her ex-boyfriend's character. I agree that having cheated on her not once but twice, the likelihood of him doing it again is almost guaranteed. That said, you can't live your friend's life for her, and some people are slow to learn.

DEAR ABBY: I am unsure how to handle a co-worker who is constantly on their cellphone (hidden between their legs) during their four-hour work shift. I have reminded them to leave their phone in their car since they have a hard time not checking it or texting during work hours. We have spoken several times about this unacceptable behavior, which improves for two days and then reverts back to using their cellphone as usual.

Is this generational acceptable behavior that I am missing? I'm in my mid-50s, and I can live without texting friends and family while I'm supposed to be working, but they seem to need to have their phone in their hands all the time. The manager ignores this behavior, so that's not an avenue I can pursue. Please help. -- PEEVED IN PENNSYLVANIA

DEAR PEEVED: Is there a policy in your employee handbook that forbids the use of cellphones during business hours? If there isn't, this may be the reason your manager is ignoring your co-worker's behavior. Because your manager refuses to discourage what the person is doing, you have no choice but to ignore it and concentrate on your own tasks at hand. I only hope that your jobs aren't collaborative, which would impede your productivity.

DEAR ABBY: I need your help. I've been dating a guy for a while now, and our relationship is good except for his extreme jealousy. I told him at the beginning of our relationship that I have guy friends, and he was OK with that. Well, I thought he was. It feels like he's trying to control me. I have let friends go because he would assume the worst.

He doesn't want me to have any male friends, but I don't think I should have to give up people I care about to make him happy. He always suspects that I'm cheating. He looks through my phone. He doesn't want me to delete any of my messages. It's like he wants to find something to prove himself right. -- LOST GIRL IN THE SOUTH

DEAR LOST GIRL: This "guy's" jealousy is not rooted in love for you. It is a symptom of his own insecurity and not something you can fix for him. You could delete every single male friend from your life, and he would still look for signs that you are cheating.

Your relationship is very unhealthy, both for him and for you. Men like this become increasingly controlling and then move on to become abusers. Please end the relationship before he harms you emotionally or physically.

DEAR ABBY: I live in a triplex. I'm on the second floor, and my son and his wife and three children live on the ground floor. Every Sunday, I have a family dinner with my sons, their children, etc. My daughter-in-law does not come unless her best friend, who is my other daughter-in-law, comes. So three times out of four, her children come with her husband for dinner but not her. I think it sends a bad message to the kids. What do I do? -- INCOMPLETE IN CANADA

DEAR INCOMPLETE: First you ask this daughter-in-law why she does this. Does she feel she needs a buffer? Then tell her -- and your son -- what you wrote to me. After that, if nothing changes, drop the subject.

DEAR ABBY: My older sister, "Olive," moved to the West Coast three years ago. My parents, my two older siblings and I live on the East Coast. During this past year, Olive has grown more and more distant from us. She always has an excuse when we try to set up a group Facetime or even a phone call. This has happened dozens of times now.

Most recently, our extended family set up a Zoom call with about 30 of us. Everyone was able to make at least a portion of it, including all my cousins and aunts and uncles. Olive, however, said she will "be there next time" because she needed to do some mulching around her house and wanted to start limiting her screen time.

My parents, siblings and I have each talked with her directly about how blowing us off is hurtful and painful, yet she continues to do it. At this point, everyone is fed up, especially Mom, who got hung up on twice while trying to address these problems with Olive. What else can we do? We cannot seem to get through. -- FED-UP BROTHER

DEAR BROTHER: Do you know why your sister moved to the West Coast? Was it job-related, or could it have been that she needed space and didn't feel she could have it if she lived geographically closer? Because her withdrawal has become increasingly overt over the past year, it's important that someone understand what is driving it.

A relative other than your mother (who got hung up on twice) who is close to Olive should give her a call and, in as gentle a manner as possible, explain the family is worried about her and ask if anything is wrong that any of you can help with. She may be having a difficult time emotionally, or she may simply be craving some space. But you won't know until someone can get a straight answer.

DEAR ABBY: My husband's sister is morbidly obese, and we are very concerned about her health. We know her weight is a delicate topic, but if she were drowning in a lake instead of in fat, we would try to throw her the same kind of lifeline.

We feel compelled to express our concern about her health. We know that how this is approached can make a big difference. We both feel she would benefit by seeing a counselor to confront life issues that may have caused her overeating. Can you please suggest a way to phrase it? We love her and want her to live a long and healthy life. -- SCARED FOR SISTER-IN-LAW

DEAR SCARED: Your sister-in-law is well aware that she is dangerously heavy, so this is a subject you can address only once without causing a rift in the family. The message might be accepted better if it came from her brother, and it should be phrased something like this:

"I hope you know how much I love you. My wife and I are deeply concerned about your weight because we're afraid we might lose you. If there are issues that have caused this, would you consider talking to a counselor about them? If your doctor can't refer you to someone qualified, we can ask ours for some names. And if what I have said is hurtful, I sincerely apologize and hope you will forgive me. I won't bring up the subject again."