First Put on Your Oxygen Mask First

By Annie Lane

September 1, 2019 4 min read

Dear Annie: My stepfather loves to volunteer for community work. He spends almost all of his free time working booths, going to meetings, serving at soup kitchens and generally helping in many ways. But it leaves the house chores to my mom.

My brother and I help when we can, but we're also swamped with school and work. My mom works, too, and I can see that she's torn about my dad's involvement. She supports him because she understands his needs, but she is completely overwhelmed with cooking, cleaning, organizing and yard work. I can see that she is starting to resent my stepdad for not helping around the house more. He thinks that it's not enough that we take care of ourselves; we need to help in the community. I see both sides. — Torn in Tallahassee

Dear Torn in Tallahassee: It sounds like your mom should start her own charity — a group that is focused on helping overworked and neglected moms with house chores, cooking, cleaning and yard work. Maybe then your stepfather would get the picture. While it is commendable that your stepdad volunteers for the community, he needs to help out his own family first.

It's time to have a straight talk with your stepfather. Perhaps he likes to be assigned tasks. Give each member of the family a list of chores that they are responsible for. You can have fun with it. The other option would be to ask your stepdad to organize the list and assign the chores, and make sure he includes himself in some of them.

Dear Annie: A friend of mine doesn't seem very happy in her long-term relationship. I often hear her complain about her boyfriend, and it's rare that I hear her say something good about him. They've been together for seven years, so my guess is they're used to each other and staying together out of familiarity and convenience. But that doesn't seem healthy to me.

I've gently prodded my friend, saying things like, "Hey, if he ever crosses a line, you let me know!" She's laughed these comments off. I want her to know that I'm here for her — and more importantly, that she deserves better, that she deserves someone who treats her like the extraordinary person she is, who shows her how lucky he feels to have her in his life.

Is there anything I can do to help her realize her worth and stop settling for this less-than-awesome guy? — Concerned Compatriot

Dear Concerned Compatriot: Your concern is touching, and she is lucky to have a friend like you — provided you don't go overboard. Wishing your friend well, and seeing the good in her, is one of the nicest things you can do for her. However, if she is happy in her relationship — happier than she seems to be by her comments — then you need to back off and drop the subject.

Instead of guessing why your friend is with this guy, why don't you just flat out ask her if she is happy in the relationship? Listen carefully to her response. We never know what goes on behind closed doors. You may be surprised to hear about some of his incredibly positive qualities. Of course, if you hear of any abusive behavior, I encourage you and her to contact the police.

Your letter addresses an important issue for everyone, which is that it is common for friends to complain about their partners, only sharing the negative with others. And this type of complaining is toxic for relationships.

"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 for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to [email protected]

Photo credit: stevepb at Pixabay

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