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Annie's Mailbox

Ask Amy column

Q. My husband and I have been married for three years, and we have a 2-year-old son. I’m to the point where I have emotionally checked out of the relationship.

We have had several talks that have led to arguments about problems in the marriage, including drug use and his not helping out more around the house.

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After both fights, he would apologize and say he would help out more or stop smoking weed, and he would — but only for about a month.

I understand he works long hours and is helping out at church, but I also work all day and then come home to deal with the dog and our son by myself for four days out of the week.

I’m tired of talking to him! I want things to change so we’re happy again, but if after two previous discussions, is it even worth a third talk?

A. Your letter will be read with recognition by couples who have survived these extremely tough early years and can look back and say, “We’ve been there.”

So, yes, your marriage and your family is worth a third conversation. It is worth a fourth conversation and more beyond that. This is the toughest period of the family journey. Please be kind to yourself. Find ways to be kind to him.

Ways of being kind are to find little moments of personal respite in your daily life, punctuated by longer moments of privacy and positive experiences with your husband. (I assume you are both being the best possible parents to your toddler.)

Here’s what I see in your husband, even though you don’t present him in a positive light: He is listening. He wants to change. He’s a hard worker.

The strongest couples always describe themselves as a “team.” You and your husband need to find ways to reconnect and discover — and act upon — your shared goals. If you do, you will both change in ways that are lasting and profound.

Perhaps your church offers family nights or marriage workshops. If so, attend. I recommend the book “Ten Lessons to Transform Your Marriage: America’s Love Lab Experts Share Their Strategies for Strengthening Your Relationship,” by John M. Gottman, Julie Schwartz Gottman and Joan Declaire (2007, Three Rivers Press).

Q. “Wondering” was an older woman preparing her personal memoir, asking if she should disclose incidents of sexual abuse that had happened to her as a child. Your advice to her was excellent.

As a professional personal historian (and a past president of the Association of Personal Historians) who encounters such questions from both my clients and those I teach to write their own stories, my advice is always that the individual controls how much of the “truth” to share.

A good question to ask is, what is the benefit in writing/telling? If the revelation will explain something about the individual, it can be important to share, such as “This is why I was always so overprotective about my own children” or “This is why I was never able to truly open myself to others.”

But be aware: When the perpetrator is not living (which would open a whole different legal can of worms), I urge people not to disclose the name of that person, as we must be aware of the potential ramifications on the living family members of the person named.

A. Thank you for sharing your expertise and additional advice.

Send questions via e-mail to askamy@tribune.com or by mail to Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60611.
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