Family Is Rarely a Zero-Sum Game

By Marcy Sugar

By Kathy Mitchell

March 1, 2012 5 min read

Dear Annie: My spouse and I are in a 40-year same-sex relationship. Seven years ago, we had a legal marriage, but my family refused to recognize it. My brother's wife went so far as to write letters to the local newspaper urging repeal of the law. My youngest sister said, "We were ordered not to deal with you any longer." Needless to say, I ended all relationships that did not accept my new husband.

Following retirement, my husband and I moved to another state. I recently heard that my mother is in very poor health. Since I was always the one who helped and organized things in my family, I feel the need to assist. But, Annie, I struggled for 30 years to be able to say "I do." Their lack of recognition makes it hard to have anything to do with them until they first apologize to me and, in particular, to my husband.

Should I take the higher road and contact my mother, or hold to the firm ideal that my spouse is more important and I must put him first? — Gay and Proud Son

Dear Proud Son: There is no reason this must be a zero-sum game. You already have put your husband first. It doesn't mean you cannot stay in contact with people you love (and who, presumably, still love you) within limited, controlled boundaries. If visiting Mom with your husband is not possible and visiting without him is not acceptable, you do not have to see her. But please call. You may not get another chance, and you shouldn't have any regrets.

Dear Annie: I've been married to "Ralph" for 30 years. His hearing has gotten worse, and the TV is so loud that I end up with a headache every night. I have told him this, but he says I'm exaggerating. Yet, in the summer when the windows are open, we have had complaints from the neighbors.

Every mention of his hearing ends in a fight. He gets defensive, says he's being picked on and generally acts like a 5-year-old. Our 23-year-old daughter is in the process of relocating, and instead of staying with us, she prefers to sleep on a friend's sofa. Ralph is up late every night watching TV. I use earplugs, but our daughter can't use them or she won't hear her alarm. We even bought him a cordless headphone set for the TV, but he tried it twice and stopped.

Even the suggestion of hearing aids sends him into a frenzy of denial. He reads your column. Maybe he'll see himself. — Stressed Out from Loud TV

Dear Stressed: Many people are in denial about their hearing loss. It makes them feel old and unhealthy. But it is a common problem — even rock stars have it — and refusing to address it won't make it go away. You might tell Ralph that the longer he waits to deal with his hearing issues the harder it will be to adjust and the more isolated he will become (and the more irritated you will be). If you would provoke an argument by suggesting he check out the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (asha.org) or the Hearing Loss Association of America (hearingloss.org), leave the information on a piece of paper taped to the TV.

Dear Annie: This is in response to "Kansas," who is not interested in sex with his wife because she has gained 100 pounds. My type-A husband also withheld sex from me because of my weight gain.

I told him my weight was the only thing about me that he could not control. When he backed off and accepted me as I was (for better or worse), our marriage was much better, and our sex life improved greatly. I even started losing weight when I felt he loved me for the person I am instead of how I look. — Just Sayin'

Annie's Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please email your questions to [email protected], or write to: Annie's Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254. To find out more about Annie's Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

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