Dear Annie: I'm a 69-year-old retired widow living on a fixed income. I'm paying monthly on a loan to get some repairs done to my home. My problem is my daughter and son-in-law. They both have health problems, my daughter especially. He gets Social Security disability and Medicare. My daughter has applied for Social Security disability and has been turned down. She has no health insurance at all. They are in deep financial debt. They live off his Social Security check, which isn't much. He does pay the mortgage on their home and a few other important bills, but he is a hoarder and buys things he doesn't need.
When they come to visit me, they just have enough money to get them up here and spend some while they are here. When they get ready to leave, they always ask me for money to get them home. I keep telling them that when they come up here, they need to have enough money for all expenses till they get back home. I've also sent money to my daughter several times so she can get her prescriptions filled if she is sick. I've told her it should not be my responsibility to do that. But if I don't, she can't get the much-needed meds.
How do I tell them — and really get it through to them — that they need to take responsibility for having enough money without hurting my daughter's feelings and without causing my son-in-law to lose his temper? I'm being taken advantage of, and I'm tired of it. — Wrung Dry
Dear Wrung Dry: There comes a time in your life when you have to stop crossing oceans for people who won't jump puddles for you. Sit down and have a frank conversation with your daughter and son-in-law. Let them know you can no longer give them money but you can give them advice. Perhaps encourage your daughter to file an appeal to have her application accepted for Social Security disability benefits, and implore your son-in-law to seek help for his compulsive hoarding. Whatever they decide to do, it's not your burden to bear. So cut the umbilical cord and give your daughter a dose of tough love. You have no choice.
Dear Annie: I liked your response to "Snubbed in the South," who was disappointed her boyfriend didn't get her a gift. This year, I was saddened to hear from a few of my female friends that their husbands failed to get them Christmas gifts (even though they had bought their husbands gifts). I have been married for 38 years now. My husband likes to show he loves me by doing things for me — but birthdays, anniversaries and Christmas are special times.
Early on in our marriage, we had occasional "what I need from you" meetings. I told him that when it came to Christmas, what I needed was something sparkly, something that smelled good and something soft. Then I proceeded to give him a few ideas in those departments. After that talk, he had a clear sense of how to please me, and he felt happier, too. We also had meetings in which we listed all household and child care tasks and divided them up.
I will also say that we have gone to marriage counselors for a series of visits roughly every decade. I have made the appointments, and he has begrudgingly gone, but he has always been happier and our marriage stronger for having done it. Clear communication has helped keep us happy. — Sunny in Sarasota
Dear Sunny: Some people are resistant to the idea of plainly telling a partner their needs — but after hearing stories such as yours, you have to wonder why. Congratulations on 38 years of happy, communicative marriage.
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