Dear Annie: How much can a woman take before she finally gets enough guts to leave? My husband and I are older (60) parents to 19-year-old twins. Things were OK for the first 15 years we were married. Then he got cancer, which was tough. He went through chemo and is now in remission. But two years ago, he fell down a flight of stairs and had trauma to his head, and he has never been the same. He is on disability insurance. I work 50 hours a week.
My youngest twin moved out because my husband is so controlling. For example, she was working late one night to get caught up. She called and said she would be home at 12. At 12:10 a.m., he called her place of employment and demanded she come home, embarrassing her in front of her peers and boss. He calls the other twin lazy, even though she works two jobs. The usual fight between us consists of him calling me fat trash and the worst mistake he had ever made. When I say that I am leaving, he gives me a sob story about how it's his concussion that makes him this way. I want out but can't afford to leave; he controls the money. Am I overreacting? — Worn-Down Wife
Dear Worn-Down: No. Your husband's behavior is unacceptable. The name-calling and constant insults constitute verbal abuse. If leaving feels like the healthiest option for you, then I encourage you to do so.
This situation is complicated, though, by the fact that his personality only changed after he suffered the trauma to his head. It is true that concussions can have lasting effects on one's brain functioning. There are some treatments that can help with this.
Neuropsychologist Dr. Celeste Campbell notes, it "is not unusual for the person with a brain injury and/or his or her family to need some counseling or therapy to understand this new identity, personality, and emotional reaction style." Campbell says that the person who suffered the traumatic brain strategy may learn strategies to "better express emotions, avoid those situations likely to be particularly frustrating, read signs of emotional distress, and react in a calmer manner to emotionally charged situations." You and your husband might want to talk to his doctor about potential treatment plans toward this end. If your husband is willing to seek that help, perhaps your life together can be manageable again. I'm sorry that you've had such a difficult few years, and my heart goes out to you and your girls.
Dear Annie: Here in my hometown, several women's groups at parishes knit weatherproof mats for the homeless from donated "plarn" — i.e., plastic yarn, from recycled plastic grocery bags. They are good for the person, as they keep them dry and can be rolled up and carried with an attached handle. It takes about 600 bags to make one mat. If you are a knitter, then maybe you can make one of these mats yourself. Besides helping your fellow man, you are keeping these bags out of landfills. Instruction videos for making these can be found on YouTube.
If you're not a knitter, then you can still help with the process by making "plarn" and donating it to local groups that are making mats. There are instructional videos online for how to make the plarn, too. It's very simple. I make the plarn as I sit and watch TV in the evening. It makes the time go by, and you are helping others from the safety of your own home. — Plarner
Dear Plarner: I had never heard of this endeavor before. What a smart idea. Thanks for writing!
"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]