The Power of Neurosis

By Margo Howard

April 27, 2012 4 min read

Dear Margo: I am engaged to a wonderful guy who has multiple sclerosis and uses a wheelchair. He can no longer work due to his condition and is home all day. He helps take care of the house, the pets, etc., and I work full time. This arrangement is fine with me.

The only problem is: I have absolutely no time to myself. He expects me to be home and with him every second that I'm not working. If I go into another room to be alone for a while, he'll come in to see what I am doing. Occasionally, I make time to see my friends. He always wants to come along, which is fine most of the time, but sometimes I just want "girl time." This always leads to an argument, as he is absolutely miserable when I come home. He insists that I call him (on speakerphone) while I am driving to and from work, and he wants to talk to me for at least 15 minutes of my half-hour lunch break.

Unfortunately, most of his friends have disappeared since he's been in the wheelchair, so I do feel bad for him. But how can I make him understand that I need time to myself? My nerves are frayed, and I find myself getting snappy with him. I'd hate to break up over this issue, but I feel smothered. — Frazzled

Dear Fraz: Consciously or not, your fiance is using his illness to control you. You need to have a serious talk where you lay down new guidelines. While I understand where his demanding behavior comes from, it is not healthy, and you need not put up with it.

Tell your wonderful guy that you're sure he'd want to be treated as a normal boyfriend, and not as someone who's ill; therefore, you are no longer going to let him dictate to you. The demand for talking while driving is not only pushy; it's dangerous. And setting a 15-minute talk at lunch is nuts. Tell him if he does not adjust (perhaps with therapy) to your having "girl time," as well as time for yourself at home, you will have to rethink the relationship. If you continue this way, it will eventually wear thin and fall apart. — Margo, normally

Marrying "Up"

Dear Margo: Our family is Midwestern and middle-class. We were raised with what we needed, but there was not money for luxuries. When I married, it was to a guy from a similar background. We are very happy and are raising our two sons as we were raised. My sister, however, got a scholarship and went east to school. She married a boy from a rich family, and now her husband is in the family business, and they are living high on the hog. Or should I say "high on the horse"? Their country place is a horse farm! She seems not to remember where she came from or understand that we can't do what they can. She asked if we wanted to go with them to England for a horse auction! How much of a discussion should I have with her? — Just Plain Old Me

Dear Just: Ah, yes, I know the type. She is trying her hardest to seem to the manure born. As for a discussion, I think a simple sentence will do it. "We really don't have money for that." If your sister is clueless now, it will probably only get worse. You'll know she is in full-blown dowager mode when she sees a pile of autumn leaves on your lawn and says, "How beautiful! Where do you get them?" (Old joke.)

Your sister's situation is not unheard of. Some people remember where they came from, and others would just as soon forget. I hope your understanding of what's going on takes away the agitation. — Margo, earthily

Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers' daughter. All letters must be sent via the online form at Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.

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