Dear Annie: I've been married to a narcissist, controlling, antisocial man for 15 years. I am "Frank's" third wife, and he is my second husband. He has two adult children on their own, and I have two children still in college.
Our married life has been a roller coaster, with many downs and very few ups, and it has been exhausting. There are way too many episodes throughout my marriage to even mention, so I'll just focus on the most recent.
Frank usually goes to bed around 9 p.m. or so. Last night, I chose to stay up with my 24-year-old son who was home for the weekend. We were chatting and watching a movie, when Frank came downstairs in just his underwear, turned on the light, and asked what we were doing. I told him we were watching a movie.
He went upstairs to put clothes on and came back down and told — not asked — my son to move off the couch. He sat there silently watching TV with us. He then created a big blowout in the kitchen, in front of my son. He ranted about how I should go to bed when he goes to bed.
This is just the latest episode in many years of controlling behavior. And each of those instances, I've documented in writing. I honestly can't remember a single day that he didn't play a mind game.
He's been going to therapy, but I don't think he's going for the right reasons. It's been more about talking about me and getting justifications for the way he treats me. He tells me that his therapist said that I should act more like a wife.
I'm feeling so stagnant. I thought about leaving, but I'm so fearful. I'm 51 years old, and I know I have much more to live for. He makes me feel like all problems exist because of me, and he's always telling me that "everyone knows (I'm) crazy." — Married to a Manipulator
Dear Married: It's time to step off this roller coaster and into the rest of your life. While I normally encourage married couples to try counseling before divorce, that advice doesn't apply in cases where there is abuse. I can't state conclusively that Frank's toxic behavior is emotionally abusive, though I get that impression. Making a partner think she's crazy, controlling what she does and controlling her relationship with her family — those are all common tactics of abusive partners, according to the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Visit https://www.thehotline.org or call 1-800-799-7233 to discuss your situation with a trained advocate and to get help planning your next steps.
Dear Annie: I would like to weigh in on the subject of elder scams. My in-laws were victims of a scam in which they sent $65,000 dollars to a scammer in order to, they thought, release their grandson from a Mexican jail. They fell for the scam, which has jeopardized their retirement comfort.
What became clear to my husband's family is the need for professional oversight of their elderly parent's estate. Establishing a power of attorney, hiring a financial adviser and having a relationship with bank managers early on could have made this tragedy avoidable.
I strongly suggest that all families with cherished elders have a discussion with them. Cognitive decline is very subtle in many individuals, rendering them vulnerable to scammers and other abuses. — Concerned DIL
Dear Concerned DIL: It is appalling that anyone would take advantage of another person, especially an elderly person, in such a way. But it is, unfortunately, a fact of modern life and one we should be mindful of as our loved ones age. Thanks for your letter.
"Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie" is out now! Annie Lane's debut book — featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette — is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to [email protected]