Dear Annie: My husband and I have been married for 42 years, with no children. We are both born and bred New Yorkers. After we retired from very high-pressured careers, we decided it was time to settle in a nice, quiet community.
This was more my husband’s idea than mine, but I agreed to make the move. In 2016, we relocated to Florida. I love it here and would never go back to New York. I think my husband misses the city and some of his friends. But that is not reason enough to go back. Both of us have lost our parents over the years, but we did leave siblings behind, which was heart-wrenching.
My husband’s sisters visit us frequently, along with nieces and nephews. I have one older brother who swore he would never move here. However, last year, he and his wife (they have no children either) decided to sell their house and move to Florida.
I was thrilled and so was my husband, at first. We found them a nice little house in the same community and helped get them settled, and they have acclimated wonderfully. They always tell us they could have never done it without us.
However, since my brother has moved here, it seems that my husband wants no part of them. He has this “thing” with my sister-in-law, saying that she is a know-it-all, and she doesn’t budget correctly.
I can’t figure him out. He always tells me, “We saw them once a month, if that much, up north, so why do we have to see them so often now?” Mind you, we don’t see them often at all. They’re alone; we’re alone.
It would be nice for all of us to get together. I’m not even suggesting it happens regularly, but at least once every couple of weeks. He always has something negative to say, or he rolls his eyes. Even if they stop by he’ll say, “What do they want?”
I don’t know what to do, and it is causing a lot of dissension because he doesn’t think he is doing or saying anything wrong.
Discussing it with him is a total waste of time. Sometimes I shudder if I have to bring them up or suggest we go to dinner or have them over for dinner. I can’t live like this. It always ends in an argument. We don’t have many friends down here, but we’re OK with that because we enjoy our home. We don’t travel much anymore for a lot of reasons.
How can I handle this situation? It is upsetting me, and I think my brother sees it, too. I appreciate whatever advice you can offer.
— Change of Heart
Dear Change of Heart: If discussing the situation with him is a total waste of time, and bringing it up at dinner is causing you great distress, it is time to seek the help of a professional therapist.
Your husband married you, and with that comes your family. Ideally, he should accept and love your brother and sister-in-law with open arms. If he wants to put up a big fuss about them coming over, then tell him to go somewhere else when they visit.
Ask your husband if there was a particular incident that caused this change of heart. If your sister-in-law, in fact, acts like a know-it-all, that is an annoying trait; however, I imagine it’s a trait she would work on were she to know how it’s causing a rift. And opining on her budgeting is frankly none of your husband’s business.
He sounds like he might be depressed or miss his friends. Unhappy people tend to be some of the most critical people. When you get to the root of it, it is because they are unhappy with themselves.
Let’s try and find ways to make your husband happier. A professional therapist sounds like just the person for the job. Best of luck to you, and don’t give up!
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— A native Californian, Annie Lane writes her Dear Annie advice columns from her home outside New York City, where she lives with her husband, two kids and two dogs. Her debut book, Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie, features favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette. Email your Dear Annie questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.